Volatile Compounds
©2009 gekizetsu

Rain on the ground in a space
God has grown…
Alone, ‘til a man, looking glass in his hand
He is holding up to you
What you see
What you see
What you see is human.
--Dave Matthews Band, Minarets
________________

NCIS/SPN crossover. Early in season 4 for Supernatural and season 6 for NCIS. If you’re not familiar with either, the following may be utterly unamusing to you. This is mainly for GGj, who caused it to germinate in my brain in the first place.

The Winchester boys are used to just cranking out fake IDs and getting access to anything they need when they’re hunting something. They’ve rarely come across anybody in law enforcement who’s truly competent. It really, really sucks when they do.

Dean and Tony are quoting dialogue from ‘A Few Good Men’ at each other every chance they get. Supernatural fans know why that’s so damn funny. And? Thank you, superwiki, for ep details. <3. All mistakes are mine. The case Sam and Dean worked in Baltimore was 2.07, The Usual Suspects; DiNozzo was a detective in Baltimore before coming to NCIS.

Gen, PG-13, ~18,000 words. Humor, angst, drama, violence, cursing and crack. Like usual.

________________

-|-

“I got one,” Sam said.

“Sorry to hear that,” Dean said. “I’ve always had two. Guess that explains your crap sex drive.”

Sam shook his head. “Not even dignifying that,” he said.

They had been in Buckhannon, West Virginia for two days looking for a possible rawhead and coming up with nothing.

“Naval base in Anacostia, DC. On-base housing. Six naval officers dead, all on the same night. All while in their quarters.”

“How long ago?” Dean said, leaning in to look over his shoulder.

“Last night around midnight,” Sam said. “But it’s not being covered up. This is a blurb off the AP. ‘Evidence of extreme violence.’ No suspects, no signs of forced entry, nothing on the security cameras.”

“Don’t give me that whole fucking ‘locked room’ bullshit,” Dean said, throwing himself backwards onto his bed and linking his hands behind his head. “It’s a military base, dude. Somebody knows what happened. Someone went crazy, gets revenge for a hazing or some other insult. Lots of weapons on hand, lots of combat training, close quarters, you get your Cheerios pissed in and you go Halo on the place.”

Sam twisted in his chair to look at Dean incredulously. “What, being in the military just brings out the worst in people?”

“Military’s like a cult, Sam,” Dean said in a voice that he believed he was explaining everything. “Takes a certain aggressive mindset to get anywhere near joining up in the first place. They all get on the same Borg wavelength, drink the Kool Aid, and the ones who can’t take the pressure snap.”

Sam’s tone was edged with a rebuke. “Dad was in the Marines,” he said.

“And Dad had no problem taking the training, and using it to figure out how to do something real with it, like killing stuff people should actually be afraid of. Not just doing what he was told, and then wandering around trying to figure out who the imaginary enemy was that week.”

“Dude, you’ve never even known anybody in the military but Dad,” Sam said impatiently. “Where do you get half your ideas? TV?”

“I didn’t say everybody in the military is a crazy asshole,” Dean said. “Chill. I’m just saying, there’s a type. You get any group of people together and sooner or later, somebody‘s crazy side comes out.”

“Well, they were in different rooms, and they all apparently died at the same time,” Sam said.

Dean squinted at him.

“They’d have been able to figure that out because of how fast the blood dried, probably,” Sam said with a shrug.

“Where do you get your ideas, Sam?” Dean said. “TV?

Sam openly ignored him. “Too focused and methodical for a poltergeist. Possession, transformation, any of that would leave evidence behind. We’d have to go look at the scene ourselves to get much more than that.”

“You’re okay with wandering onto a military base,” Dean said flatly.

Sam rolled his eyes. “You’re the one who had the Homeland Security IDs made. This isn’t any different. Place‘ll still be crawling with feds and military types, enough that two more won‘t matter.”

“And if we figure out what this is?” Dean said. “Not a lot of privacy to kill it.”

“So the time we cleared a prison for Deacon, that was fine, but you don’t think we can walk on and off a military base,” Sam said.

“We had Deacon to let us frickin’ escape,” Dean said.

Sam smirked. “So ask Cas to spring us if we get caught.”

Dean sat up to glare at him. “Last thing we need is to start trusting any of them.”

Sam shrugged. “Just a suggestion.”

“Big place, lots of worked up people, something’s gonna happen, whether it’s a spirit or some douche with a bone to pick. Can’t really ever clear everything outta a place like that, just like the prison.”

Sam looked at him again. “Did you just compare a military base to a prison?”

Dean flopped down again. “What’s with all the patriotism, Sam?”

“What’s with your crap attitude toward the armed forces?”

“Let’s just say I’m no longer big on anything supposedly organized, with a lot of authority,” Dean said. “They tend to make shit decisions.”

Sam sighed and went back to the laptop. Getting messed with by Heaven after being pulled out of Hell had had an effect on Dean that Sam couldn‘t label as unreasonable. He couldn’t really fault him.

“Still,” Sam said. “We do this, it would be great if you kept from blowing our cover by snarking at everything that moves.”

“So who’d have jurisdiction in this case?” Dean said as if Sam hadn’t spoken. “Feds?”

“Yes and no. Navy and Marine Corp law enforcement issues go to…NCIS. Naval Criminal Investigative Service. Federal agents, yeah, but not FBI or anything.”

“So, basically, the military CSI,” Dean said. “All we need is a repro of an ID, and we’re in.”

“We’d also have to let Bobby know which number we’re gonna use,” Sam said.

“We’ll just tell him we’ll use the FBI line for NCIS for a little while,” Dean said. “Find out where all the dead…what are they? Soldiers?”

“Naval officers,” Sam said. “All part of a…uh…they were all explosive ordnance disposal techs.”

“Bomb squad? Cool. Find out where they’re from, so if we get questioned, we can drop the name of that office or station or whatever. Won’t seem worth digging into.”

“Chief Warrant Officer Lacey Orielle was from the San Diego area,” Sam said. “There’s an NCIS office in San Diego. I‘ll find out who‘s in charge.”

“Some of the officers were chicks?” Dean said.

“Yes, Dean,” Sam said, disapproving tone back. “Chicks, in the military.”

“That’s not what I give a rat’s ass about,” Dean said, sitting up again. “Chicks add ‘love triangle’ to an already long list, that’s all. Bad night with a Ouija board, pact with the wrong spirit, whatever it is, if there was that much of a mess, then the people involved were connected somehow or the carnage wouldn‘t have stopped there. How far apart was everybody living from each other?”

Sam smirked at him. “That’s one more thing we’d need to get in to find out.”

“We can be there by morning,” Dean said, sliding off the bed and heading for his duffel. “Pack up. We can come back for the rawhead if we have to.”

-|-

Security in three places checked their badges and let them by without question.

The quarters of the murdered officers were spread out among floors, none adjacent. Two to a room, doors marked with crime scene tape and biohazard warnings. Plastic on the floor of the corridors; there’d obviously been trouble with tracking blood in and out no matter how careful the ME’s office had tried to be. The first room was taped off but there was no one around it, so getting in was quick and easy. In the second room, two floors down and one section over, cleanup was well underway by a group of jumpsuits with NCIS lettered on the back that had scattered when ordered to by a couple of guys in suits with badges.

No one came along to challenge them, so they took their time with each room. It was the same in each case - there was nothing left for the EMF meters to pick up. Too much time had passed. The positions the bodies had been found in were marked with tape, and in two cases, that was in parts on opposite sides of the room. There were bone chips on the ceilings that said even more than the insane amount of blood splatter.

“Something went whole hog in here,” Dean said. “The can of whoopass must have been the ten-gallon Costco size.”

“No sulfur on the windows,” Sam said, checking the scattered, ruined contents of the desk up against the far wall, trying to avoid what dried blood was still left on the floor.

The mix of aging gore and fresh industrial cleaners was a cloying sting in their nostrils.

“Room to room, or all at once?” Dean said.

“Well, AP said nobody got up in time to see the killings in action,” Sam said. “No witnesses. Everybody next to, further down and across from each room heard everything, but by the time they could get the doors open, it was all over. So, yeah, all at once, I think.”

“What the hell does that?” Dean said.

“Something that really didn’t like anybody in these three rooms,” Sam said. “We gotta get out of here, before someone starts asking questions. There’s not much else we can get out of this.”

Dean shrugged. Would have been good to get at least some residual readings out of the place, but as violent and concentrated as the thing had been, it had been gone too fast and too long. And it had been the same thing, based on how identical the carnage in each room was. Whether there was only one…well, they hoped there was only one.

“Who you suppose they’ll end up blaming this on, when they don’t figure it out?” he said, mostly to himself. “Some poor schmuck’s gonna be cooling his heels at Gitmo.”

-|-

“DiNozzo.”

Tony answered his phone by rote without looking at it. He listened for a moment, then said, “How long were they there? Anything missing?” He listened for another moment, then smirked. “Owe you one, man.” He hung up and stood, whipping his suit coat off the back of his chair and shrugging into it, glancing around the bullpen. Ziva was ignoring him, typing away at something, and McGee shot him a look to see what he was up to.

They’d been working the case at Anacostia without a break since it had been called in, and so far, were getting nowhere. Abby was downstairs driving herself nuts over the lack of forensics telling them that there had been anyone else in those rooms but the six who’d died. No one walked into rooms, killed everyone inside, and took off without being seen or leaving behind DNA of their own. The security cams hadn’t picked up anyone entering or leaving, and the windows had been locked from the inside in each case.

Gibbs was in one hell of a mood over it, too. They all hoped he was out getting coffee, because every so often that turned shouts into mere growls.

“Probie, we need to tap into the feed at Anacostia again,” Tony said. “Hack it if you have to, I don’t care. Two guys were just at our scene flashing NCIS badges, and they weren’t our guys.”

McGee’s eyebrows shot up, and he turned his attention to his keyboard, tapping out a quick succession of commands. “Another office would have checked in with us, or told us they were coming,” he said. “Maybe they only told Gibbs or Vance.”

“Let’s find out,” Tony said, leaning over McGee’s shoulder. Ziva appeared at his other shoulder a few moments later.

“How did you find out?” she said.

“I asked a guy on the cleanup crew to keep an eye out for anybody checking on the scene,” he said. “Mostly just because other agencies have been stepping on our scenes when they feel like it, and, hey, sometimes the perp comes back to the scene of the crime.”

He’d wanted to say the goddamn FBI rather than other agencies but he didn’t bother. He didn’t have to.

“This is the view down that corridor right now,” McGee said. “Just the cleanup, still. How far am I rolling it back?”

“About ten, fifteen minutes,” Tony said. “Looking for two guys in dark suits. They left by the South E corridor checkpoint, so I want the parking lot view over there, too.”

“There is little chance of still raising the flag and catching them,” Ziva said. “Why did he not call you sooner?”

“He didn’t have my number right on him,” Tony said with a small smile, not bothering to correct her chosen idiom. “He had to go through the switchboard. And we all know how expedient that can be.”

“Here they are,” McGee said.

Two guys. Tall, well built, acting like they knew exactly where they were and what they were doing.

“Can you get in tighter on the badges?” Tony said. “They’ll have flashed them at one of the entrance points, too, so we’ll have a second chance at that, right?”

McGee was able to enhance the badges well enough that they came in clear as standard NCIS ID.

“Recognize either of these guys?” McGee said.

Tony clicked his tongue. “Nope. They’re not Norfolkies. If they’re ours at all.” He leaned back. “Get face shots of our looky-loos down to Abby, see what she can do with them,” he said, already heading for the elevator.

Ziva and McGee glanced at each other. It would be good to have a lead, no matter how small.

McGee got a shot of the same guys leaving the base and sent it all to Abby.

-|-

Abby was twirling one ponytail in her fingers, leaning on her elbows on her rack of computers, looking morosely at the display that was showing her the results of several different blood samples. She started speaking before Tony was all the way into her lab.

“Maybe they had some way of goofing with the cameras,” she said. “That has to be it. But even then, no way they got out without leaving footprints anywhere. No footprints in the blood, at all. No way. Not even if they had a magic carpet, or a mini hovercraft.”

“How about if I cheer you up a little?” Tony said. “McGee’s sending you a present. Might be a lead.”

She didn’t perk up, but she did stab a few keys and stare at what McGee had sent down. “Who’re these guys?”

“That’s what we need to find out,” Tony said. “They have NCIS badges, and they were poking around our scene.”

“I’ll run them through the facial recog program,” she said, straightening. “Hey, they’re both kind of cute.”

Tony rolled his eyes. “Nice, Abs.”

“Hey, just telling it like it is,” Abby said, eyes locked on getting a good set of standard nodal points off both faces for the program.

Tony watched in silence for a few moments until the doors opened and Ziva and McGee entered.

“Got the car, Tony,” McGee said. “Couldn’t get the plate, but it’s not gonna be that hard to spot.”

He moved to another computer and brought up the capture from the security cameras on the larger screen in the back of the lab.

Tony whistled low. “’67 Chevy Impala,” he said. “In collector’s condition, too, but obviously not just for sitting around and looking pretty. That baby’s got some mileage on it. Damn. Not an agent’s usual ride.”

The others glanced at him, then each other with amusement. Tony, and his knowledge of all things cool.

“What?” Tony said. “Probie, BOLO that car, call the Norfolk office and all their satellite offices, see if they’ve officially or unofficially been out here looking around again. These two might not go far, and that car sticks out, so I’m - ”

“I’m driving,” Ziva cut in.

“Oh, hell no,” Tony said.

“They may try and make a break for it, and I will be able to catch them,” she said coolly, folding her arms.

“We’re trying to sneak up on them, first, not warn everybody for miles that we’re around,” Tony said.

Hey!

Everybody glanced up as Gibbs walked in looking thunderous. “We’re in the middle of a case, and I got an empty bullpen. This better not be the social hour.”

“We got something, Boss,” Tony said. “Maybe. Sort of. It’s more than we had, anyway.”

“Two guys posed as NCIS agents and got into our scene at Anacostia,” McGee said, ignoring the venomous glare Tony shot him.

Gibbs’ eyes narrowed and his hand tightened on the fresh cup of coffee he was holding.

“I’m running their faces now,” Abby said. “Pretty, pretty faces, actually.” She smirked.

“The car they’re driving isn’t exactly standard issue,” Tony said. “Shouldn’t be that hard to find. And we’d better do that, because if they got onto the base that easy, then they could’ve walked in here the same way. I think we all know how much that can suck.”

Gibbs slapped him in the back of the head. “Find that car, find those idiots. I want them in here before the end of the day. I don’t care how you do it, just do it!”

-|-

Ducky heard the doors open behind him and knew immediately who was there. Bent over the remains of one of the more dismembered officers from Anacostia and examining the shattered skull more closely, he began speaking without looking up.

“Nothing new, yet, Jethro. Even someone with super strength resulting from the right dose of any number of synthetic drugs would not be capable of this. The physical capabilities of the human form have limits, regardless of the overabundance of any muscular and adrenal stimulation. Surely, there are documented cases where frantic mothers were able to move vehicles or other large objects to save their children, but that is a very short lived phenomena, and this was a sustained attack of exceptional proportions.” He paused. “There aren’t even fingernail marks to give us anything additional, and to cause this kind of damage must have required a strong grip. The trauma is singularly blunt force, but not indicative of a particular object. The force seemed to come from…everywhere at once.”

He finally glanced up at Gibbs, who stood staring at the remains with an unusually inscrutable look on his face. “Doubtless I’m stating the obvious, but this is very troubling, Jethro. I have nothing for my report but disturbing facts that lead us nowhere.”

“Just stick to those facts, Duck,” Gibbs said. “Never done you wrong before. Can’t dispute what you can prove.”

“The facts are giving me the idea that something unexplainable occurred in those rooms,” Ducky said.

“Everything’s explainable,” Gibbs said with a small, tight smile. “It’s whether someone wants to hear it that makes the difference. We’ll get…whoever did this.”

Ducky watched him go, knowing full well that Gibbs had been about to use another word before he’d paused.

-|-

It didn’t take long to find out that the one thing each of the deceased had in common was that they were all members of Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) Group Two, based out of Naval Amphibious Base Little Creek, Virginia.

“So what the hell were they all doing stationed here instead?” Dean said, eating more fries.

Sam kept his eyes on the laptop that was propped in front of him on the table, his own BLT temporarily ignored. Not the best conversation to be having in public, but they were both still too keyed up to be stuck in the room. “How much does that matter? Lack of space, temporary assignment, whatever. They were all just getting back from an assignment in Iraq, near Kuwait, eliminating booby traps, weapons caches, and performing mine clearance operations. They also clear a lot of IEDs - you know, improvised - ”

“I watch the news occasionally, Sam,” Dean said. “I know what an IED is.”

Sam pitched his voice a little lower. “Just didn’t want you getting it confused with IUD, the thing you usually deal with.”

Dean smirked. “Yeah, nearly cleared a few of those in my time. That’s ordnance that can be pretty dangerous but necessary.”

“That wasn’t the whole group, either,” Sam said, ignoring him. “There were four others in Group Two, and another dozen in EOD Mobile Unit Two, deployed together, stationed together. All still assigned at Anacostia.”

“And still alive,” Dean said. “I kind of doubt that thing just wanted six of the group, don’t you?”

“Could just be something that only those six were involved in, either here or in Iraq,” Sam said.

“Not without the rest of the group knowing,” Dean said. “Sam, there’re no secrets with these guys, and sure as hell not anybody destroying explosives as a group. Gotta have some trust going on, or at least not wanting to get blown up. If they were all deployed together, and worked the same area together, then they all know what this is about. And with six crushed like grapes within seconds of each other, nobody’s gonna be able to say anything without sounding all PTSD or like they’re hinting for a discharge. Got some fucking scared folks hunkering down at that base, now, wondering when their turn is.”

“Whatever happened took a lot of energy,” Sam said, leaning back in the booth. “So maybe it’s recharging. The others get scared enough, they’ll talk to us. And I’m not going back on that base.”

“Then we have to take the risk of hoping some of them will wander off base, or make a break for home, or go AWOL,” Dean said. “If this thing followed them home from Iraq, then it can find them anywhere. If it originated on base, then there have to be records of something bad going down there, and we gotta find it.”

“We still haven’t gotten around to talking about how we get rid of it once we find it,” Sam said. “We’ll need to be a little more subtle than salt and symbols all over the place.”

“The military loses whole truckloads of weapons, Sam,” Dean said with the same why am I explaining this to you tone he’d already used once too often on the trip so far. “You really think they’re gonna notice us, coming and going, or drawing shit under the carpets to ward something off? They can’t even notice when someone shows them fake ID and wanders around a base. In DC. We got this handled.”

-|-

Gibbs’ phone rang at his desk while he was going over the first set of photos taken, examining the uniformity of the destruction, the holes in the drywall from the impact of heads and kneecaps. In one case, a kneecap had stuck.

“Yeah, Abs.”

“Sam and Dean Winchester,” Abby said in his ear with audible glee. “Like the rifle. FBI’s most wanted, Gibbs, for involvement in an attempted bank robbery in Milwaukee and like seven hundred other things you’ll love. These guys are brothers, and they were practically the new Bonnie and Clyde of this century.”

“Were,” Gibbs said.

“The FBI caught them in Monument, Colorado, and they were awaiting extradition when they were killed in a helicopter explosion. That was just before the sheriff’s office the FBI had set up as a temporary jail to hold them exploded and killed everybody inside. We have dead guys on camera!”

“Who declared them dead?” Gibbs said.

“Special Agent Victor Henricksen,” Abby said. “Deceased, in the line of duty, via same explosion that destroyed the sheriff’s office. He called it in about two hours before he was killed.”

Gibbs remembered that case. There had been too many bodies, all too incinerated and mixed together to get much info out of. The whole thing had been a mess. The FBI’s Deputy Director had gone down in that disaster.

“Last known residence of the Winchesters,” Gibbs said.

“Lawrence, Kansas, 1983,” Abby said. “They’ve been moving around their whole lives. I’ll send up the FBI file, it’s awesome.”

Gibbs took Abby’s enthusiasm in stride. No reason to dampen it about the supposedly awesome Winchesters; he already knew they weren’t the killers. But they were around for something, and they were using NCIS IDs, which was more than enough reason for him to roast their asses the moment he got hold of them, regardless of what else they were wanted for.

He skimmed the FBI files and the summary within. Profiles on both men; their father, his military career; school records on all three. Sightings, interviews from people who had run across them, and a full list of pending charges.

Grave desecration. Murder, credit fraud, evading capture, impersonating…everyone and everything, including the FBI, Homeland Security, forest rangers, cops, anything that got them access. And they’d obviously been successful. They’d escaped custody several times, and never stayed anywhere more than a few days, except for the four years the younger brother had been at Stanford.

He’d had the files for all of ten minutes when Fornell came stalking into the bullpen.

“I want these two yahoos,” Fornell said. “We had them first, we get jurisdiction.”

Gibbs was unmoved. “Which yahoos.”

“You know damn well,” Fornell said. “You have new intel on the Winchesters, and we get them once you pull them in.”

“When I’m done,” Gibbs said evenly, without looking at him.

“They’re likely responsible for the deaths of several FBI agents, including the former Deputy Director,” Fornell said with an audible edge to his voice. “At the very least, they were there.”

“Like I said, when I’m done with them, Tobias,” Gibbs said. “You can have what’s left.” When Fornell stalked off again, he picked up his phone. “Check all local motels for any two guys registered under the names of either…” He squinted at the file again. “…classic rock musicians, or popular movie characters. Do I sound like I’m joking, DiNozzo? Yeah, Star Wars, whatever. Get on it, put all that weird pop culture trivia to use. Trap them but do not engage until I get there, and don’t let the LEO’s get involved. FBI wants these guys and we get them first.”

He reached into a desk drawer, slammed the magazine home on his sidearm, and left the bullpen.

-|-

It was just after dark, and they were back in their room, still running the list of candidates for which kind of entity caused the level of damage they’d seen while Sam kept trying to hack into base personnel files to get the names of the rest of the unit.

There was a scuffle of a shoe on cement, then several footsteps moving quickly, and both Sam and Dean were on the floor beside the bed furthest from the door before a foot took the door in.

Sam shot him an I told you so glare as armed agents spilled into the room.

“Yep,” Dean said. “Dedicated. Like a goddamn cult.”

-|-

Tony had spent very little time acquainting himself with the full file on the Winchesters because he’d basically devoured it, and he was displaying the same type of enjoyment that Abby had. He toned it down in front of Gibbs, naturally, but he wasn’t hiding how impressed he was. The video they’d gotten hold of from Baltimore PD from 2006 of Dean’s interview after the Giles murder was priceless to him, because he knew the detectives involved. He hadn’t realized that Detective Sheridan’s shooting so soon after had had anything to do with that, and he’d never cared much for the guy anyway; no surprise he’d turned out to be a bad cop, and less of a surprise that his own partner had had to put him down. Detective Ballard had always been a favorite of his, and this was just a good excuse to give her a call and find out what she’d really thought of the whole thing with the Winchesters.

The interview footage was priceless.

My name is Dean Winchester. I'm an Aquarius. I enjoy sunsets, long walks on the beach, and frisky women.

Cocky little bastard. Tony couldn’t help but like and hate the jackass a little at the same time.

Then, the ‘bank job’ in Milwaukee? No attempt made to take anything, and there had been a lovely young hostage insisting she’d been saved by the guys in security tech jumpsuits from something that had tried to ‘pretend to be her.’ The dead woman near one of the back rooms was identical to the hostage right down to her DNA, which didn’t even happen with identical twins. The Winchesters had taken out most of a SWAT team by themselves, and none of them had been hurt seriously. The brothers had chosen not to shoot their way out.

Dean, the older brother, had already been declared dead once, in St. Louis, temporarily ending his warrant for murder. And the autopsy photos there were a dead ringer.

“We’ve got a couple of guys who are brilliant when it comes to evading the hell out of the law,” he said. “A string of unusual deaths occur, these guys show up, the deaths stop, they disappear again. That’s gone on for the last four years, ever since Sam left Stanford after his girlfriend died in a fire in their apartment. FBI tried like hell to catch them, and when they finally did, within a day, the agent in charge declares them dead. Place blows up, cause of the explosion can’t be identified, and everybody who’d be able to clue us in on it is nothing but ashes. Hell of a lot of pieces missing, Boss. These guys aren‘t getting away just by being smarter than anybody who catches them.”

Gibbs sighed and kept staring at Dean through the glass of interrogation room 4. “Where is Corporal John Winchester now?”

“No sightings or record of him for the last three years,” McGee said. “Likely dead.”

“So we’re left with six dead EOD techs, no evidence of who killed them or how, and no leads but these two, showing up after the fact,” Gibbs said. “With ID that easily got them on base.”

His tone was accusatory and annoyed. Tony and McGee shared a glance.

“Boss, you want me to start with the younger brother?” McGee ventured.

“No,” Gibbs said. “Let’s let him sit for awhile. This right here is the one we need to focus on.” He jerked his head at Tony.

“On it, Boss.”

-|-

“I’m sorry, I was expecting someone older.”

Dean’s voice had the quality of someone who was quoting dialogue. Tony let his mind settle on where he’d heard that before. When it clicked, he smirked. Let the guy quote one of the best movies of all time at him; that would work. “So was I.”

Dean returned his smirk.

“You use rock gods or movie characters for fake names,” Tony said. “Nice.”

Tony was circling the room like he was touring it. It wasn’t bothering Dean.

“Works,” Dean said. “No one ever pays attention.”

They were eyeing each other with some kind of bemused aggression, as if they were sharing an inside joke but remained on opposite sides.

“Zeppelin?” Tony said.

“Mostly,” Dean said. “Beats the majority of the crap they call music now.”

Tony nodded. “‘The rest is just smoke filled coffee-house crap’.”

“‘Cutie-pie shit’.”

They smirked at each other again.

“If someone told me right now that they were related, I would believe them,” Ziva said behind the glass.

Gibbs quirked a brow.

“No permanent address, nothing registered in your real name - not even your car.” Tony paused. “Cherry ride, by the way.”

Dean inclined his head.

“Trunk’s full of weapons that aren’t legal, and even the ones that are aren’t registered,” Tony said. “Not to mention the crossbows and machetes and …EMF meters? Seriously? Not out actually robbing banks or scamming old ladies, barely making any kind of living at all, if you can call it living. You were out doing this with your dad long before your brother’s girlfriend died, so it’s not about distracting Sam - not four years later. Why show up here and bother with this, unless you knew someone involved?”

“You’ve got six people dead, and you have no idea how,” Dean said. “And you’re not gonna know, either, because you’re just looking at what makes sense. Nothing human did this, and if your forensics folks haven’t said something close to that to you by now, they’re not worth keeping.”

Gibbs thought about what Ducky had said, and nodded a little to himself.

“But I suppose you know what did it,” Tony said, jeering, circling around behind Dean.

“Not yet,” Dean said. “If you guys quit posturing and let us do our fuckin’ job, we might. There aren’t many things that can do this kind of damage without being detected.”

Tony snorted. “See, what I still can’t figure out is how you got Sam to go along with all of this, for so long.”

Dean’s shoulders tensed visibly and his expression flattened into something insolent.

“He gets out of it all and gets himself through college, starts living a sane life, moves on. It’s the complete opposite of how he grew up. As soon as he could get away, he did, and he didn’t even look back. No contact, nothing, just a whole new life, law degree on the way, nothing but praise from his professors, no more credit fraud or sawed off shotguns in the trunk. Chasing something real, something that actually exists.” Tony braced his arms on the table across from Dean and leaned in a little. “He’s headed for an interview for graduate school, he’s at the next step to the rest of his life, everything’s going to get even better, and…you showed up. Two days later his girlfriend of two years dies in a fire, just as mysterious as the one your mom died in. Suddenly Sam’s left school, tossed everything away to road trip with you with no end date in sight. Sucked right back in, like he never left. How’s that look, Dean? What’s it take to turn a guy like Sam right back into a transient thief, after he’s spent years getting away? Couldn’t let him go?”

“Keep wasting time psychoanalyzing me, wiseass,” Dean said, shoulders still tense.

“What’d she do?” Tony said. “Maybe she was in the way, so your dad decided to get Sam back into the fold, pay her a little visit while you had Sam off on some errand after not seeing him for almost four years. Having her go the way his mom did would have been a real mindfuck, right? Right above the bed he shared with her, just like his mom died in his nursery?”

A year earlier, Dean might have been up, might have made a physical move toward the cop in the room, even if it got him a beat down from the dozens of cops that would come in after him. But things had changed. He was too tired, and what anyone but Sam or Bobby thought of it all didn’t interest him anymore.

“You’ve been looking at all the files,” Dean said. “You tell me. Funny how the ignition point was the ceiling. Funny how there was burned flesh and cloth on the parts of the ceiling that were recoverable from the debris. Funny how there was no evidence on Jessica’s arms or legs that would show how she’d been pinned to the ceiling. No evidence of accelerant.” He glanced up at Tony. “Not many places to go, to get away from something like that.”

Tony held his gaze, expression blank. He’d read the file, but suddenly had the urge to have Abby go over it. “So the best thing to do is get him to buy back into your delusions and investigate ghost stories?”

“Somebody’s gotta kill what can’t be arrested,” Dean said. He leaned back in his chair. “Oh, and while we’re here, why don’t we talk about how easy it was for me, some delusional hick, to copy an NCIS ID and get on base? Nice job, keeping the country ‘safe’ from ‘terrorists’, douchebag.”

Tony grinned at him, but it was unfriendly, too many teeth. “’I represent the government of the United States without passion or prejudice’,” he quoted.

“‘This code of honor of yours makes me want to beat the shit out of something,’” Dean shot back. “I’m here to kill what you can’t. So keep hashing up old shit, and trying to figure me out, and screwing around, charging me with twenty things that’ll never matter. While we’re sittin’ here, your monster is probably gearing up for another run, once it gets enough energy back, and you’ll have another hazmat mess on your hands and no one to blame it on but yourselves.”

“You keep telling yourself that,” Tony said. “You’re not going anywhere, and I’m pretty sure we can figure this out without you and your imaginary hoodoo.”

“Good luck with that, Galloway,” Dean said. “Go Patriot Act yourself.”

Tony walked out and around, joining Gibbs and Ziva behind the glass.

“Why did he call you ‘Galloway’?” Ziva asked.

“He was calling me a girl,” Tony said. “Movie reference.”

Gibbs cleared his throat.

“He believes it,” Tony said to him. “He believes everything he’s said.“

“Likely brainwashed by his father,” Ziva said. “He was convinced that there was something here that only he could do. His pattern of behavior supports his statement that that was all he was here for, to find out what happened.”

“If he’s psychotic, then he’s fully functioning,” Tony said. “Rare but not unheard of. He’s got himself convinced there’s a mission to complete, and he’ll do it regardless of the danger it puts him or his brother in.”

“So we need to find out what it is that he believes will complete his mission,” Ziva said. “You had instant rapport with him.”

The look in her eyes was mildly suggestive.

He smirked at her. “Hey, guy appreciates the same things I do, doesn’t mean I get him.” Something uneasy passed across his face, and he glanced back into the interrogation room at Dean, who had his hands folded on the table and was staring down at them.

“He believes it so hard that he could probably convince damn near anybody of it, if he can keep his temper down,” Tony added.

“It’s the rapport that’s the problem,” Gibbs said, walking away. “Guy’s the type who only responds to genuine authority.”

Tony tried not to take that personally. He contented himself with making a face in the glass.

-|-

When the older, silver-haired guy with a cup of coffee in one hand walked in, Dean knew he was a little more screwed than he had been. He felt his spine straighten by instinct and cursed himself for it. He was a good judge of character, of assessing people at a glance, and this guy was higher up the food chain than the wiseass who’d been in earlier. The last guy had been a cop. This guy was military. Maybe not anymore, but he had been at some point.

Ingrained habits died hard if they ever died at all, and he was fairly sure that one never would: the impulse to respect anyone who reminded him of his dad, or how he’d carried himself. He knew real authority when he saw it, something way above the typical power-play bullshit of small town cops or blowhard political types.

The look on the guy’s face told Dean he’d noticed.

He sat across from Dean and eyed him. Dean feigned a profound boredom.

“I’m Special Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs,” Gibbs said.

Dean’s eyes showed a hint of humor, but there was no trace of a smirk. He didn’t dare.

“What’s the end game, Dean?” Gibbs said.

Dean quirked an eyebrow. Great, more of the first-name thing. “With this case, or with everything?”

“Go ahead and run through both for me.”

Dean braced his forearms along the table, folded his hands, and leaned over them a little. “This ends with me figuring out what’s killing your people, and getting rid of it,” he said. “Whether you want me to or not, whether you’re in the way or not. Then you never see me or Sam again. Sooner or later, maybe a few years from now at the best, I run into the wrong thing, and fu…screw up, and I’m gone for good.”

“Ooh,” Ziva whispered.

“Yeah, ‘ooh,’” Tony echoed. “Can’t even swear in front of the old man.”

“You’re very confident that you’re getting out of this,” Gibbs said mildly.

“It’s not this I’m worried about,” Dean said. “I got other things I’m never getting out of.”

Gibbs stared flatly at him.

More than a damn minute passed.

There was really only so much Dean could take.

Dean kept his hands folded and leaned into the table a little more, looking like he was gearing up for something. “I was raised by a Marine,” said. “An obsessed, dedicated, no-nonsense Marine. I recently got back from Hell. There isn’t anything you can do to intimidate me, Agent Gibbs.”

“I don’t need to,” Gibbs said. “All I have to do is finish booking you and transfer your ass over to the FBI, let them finish what they started with you a few months ago. Delayed trial, good long time in prison, and not a chance of seeing Sam, maybe ever again.”

Dean paled, but he held Gibbs’s gaze all the same. “Somebody’s got other plans for us,” he said. “Someone way higher up than you. Go ahead and threaten me with whatever you want. That won’t change anything.”

Gibbs smiled at him a little.

“Religious fanaticism?” Ziva said.

“Doesn’t fit the profile,” Tony murmured. “He’s not coming straight out and launching into the required diatribe about which God he’s answering to, and how we‘ll all be sorry for not repenting when the brimstone starts falling.”

“The tattoo - ” Ziva began.

“Is a reproduction of an anti-possession talisman,” McGee said, stepping in from the corridor. “Supposed to keep demons out. And the amulet is some sort of bull god, possibly Egyptian or Mesopotamian in origin, for protection.”

Tony stared at him. “No religious symbols, just a protection talisman around his neck and another tattooed on his shoulder. That’s paranoid.”

Gibbs kept on staring at Dean, who managed not to fidget.

“Abby thinks they may be legit,” McGee said.

“Our pretty, pretty Goth princess?” Tony said with a mixture of fondness and amusement. “Well, hold on while I faint from shock.”

“So of the few things capable of this, which do you think did it?” Gibbs said finally.

Dean stared back for a long moment, then finally let out the smirk he’d been holding. There was a gleam in his eyes that Sam would have known too well, a I’m about to see how much shit you can take gleam. He had nothing to lose; not if the damn angels were serious about using him to stave off Armageddon.

“There was no sulfur on the windows or any other surface in there,” Dean said, falling serious again. “It wasn’t demonic activity, and demons prefer hosts before they carry out anything physical, so you’d have evidence, fingerprints, someone to pin this on by now when the demon left, if it left the poor schmuck of a host alive. Too focused to be a poltergeist, because whatever this was knew exactly what it wanted to accomplish and it wasn’t just throwing a tantrum. I’ve never met a spirit that could take out more than one person at a time because of how much energy and concentration it takes to hold a corporeal form, so it’s not just some pissed off dead soldier. The quarters were all separated, and it had to go find them all. They‘d all just come back from Iraq.”

Gibbs didn’t confirm or deny, just watched with a steady blue stare.

“They had at least that in common,” Dean said, caught up in what he knew, what he could solve. “They probably had other things in common, too, things their commanding officers and families didn’t know about. If they lost shipmates or whatever the hell it is you guys call it, then that narrows the field further. Something blames them for something, and it’s so pissed off that it’s shredding them over it. Could be a curse, but you guys would have found the hex bags by now. You can’t be that incompetent.”

Tony, Ziva and McGee were glancing at each other, waiting to see what Gibbs was going to do with all that.

“It seems to be more than just a hobby for this guy,” Tony said.

Gibbs kept staring. “That all?” he said.

Dean narrowed his eyes a little. He’d never been humored before, not by someone bent on pinning something on him. If the guy wanted to play along, fine.

He just wished he could get his spine to relax a little.

“My trusty geek sidekick is in another interrogation room,” Dean said. “Not much more I can give you without checking with him and his research. We didn’t get that good of a look at the room. But we probably got enough.”

Tony snorted and slapped McGee’s shoulder. “Aw, he has a McGeek of his very own!”

“Like you said, not many things that can pull this off,” Gibbs said. “Last time I saw anything like this, it was an afrit.”

Everyone froze. It was Dean’s turn to look at someone from NCIS like they were nuts, finally, and the agents behind the glass were staring at the back of Gibbs’ head like they weren’t sure who he was.

Ziva gripped the sleeve of Tony’s shirt for a moment in tense reaction, then quickly walked out. Tony and McGee looked at each other.

Tony broke first. “What the hell’s an afrit?

“Now, that’s a first,” Dean said. “You’re going way off the reservation to try and get to me, aren’t you? This how you try and get on my good side?”

“I don’t need your good side, Winchester,” Gibbs said, pausing to sip his coffee. “I served in Iraq. Men who die by extreme violence can occasionally bring it back to the living, if they‘re angry enough.”

“Yeah, and an afrit is an Arab legend for a reason,” Dean countered. “Because they exist in that part of the world. You’re not going to find one over here.”

“Americans have been fighting in the Middle East long enough by now to bring a few legends back with them,” Gibbs said. “Plus, there are enough people from that region of the world living in the States to make it possible. There shouldn’t have been a Wendigo in Colorado, either.”

Dean glared to cover his surprise. How the hell would this guy even know? Did the goddamn FBI actually use the word ‘Wendigo’ in their file? “Let’s assume I’m playing your psych-out game, here. If the unit or whatever our afrit was in had any survivors, then they’ll be getting it soon. And it’s not gonna take no for an answer. Might wanna ask them who they lost over there, who might have died feeling like they didn’t have his back, maybe blames them for the way he bought it. I’ve never dealt with one of these bastards, so if that’s what it is, you’ll need Sam for that, unless you have some big ideas based on the one you supposedly saw.”

Without turning, Gibbs said, “McGee. I want you and Abby on it. Now.”

Dean kept staring at him warily, waiting.

Gibbs got up and came partway around the table, bracing his left hand on it and leaning close over Dean.

“I don’t humor petty criminals,” he said softly. “I wouldn’t be wasting my time with some survivalist conman, even one fucking stupid enough to pass himself off as NCIS on my turf. You’d already be gone, buried so deep in the system that no one would find you, if you weren’t my best chance of saving the rest of those EODs.”

He walked out.

Dean barely suppressed the urge to drop his forehead down on the table.

-|-

Gibbs!

Ziva was nearly chasing him down the narrow, pumpkin-orange corridor outside of interrogation.

“Officer David,” Gibbs returned deliberately with a note of warning as she caught up.

“You cannot be serious. An afrit? You don’t get funny about that kind of thing.”

“Where did you get the idea I thought this was funny, Ziva?”

“Then tell me you understand what it takes to create such a thing,” she said. “This is not one of the ghost stories that America takes so lightly, and it should not be discussed just as a means of humoring some delusional - ”

Gibbs stopped and turned in the corridor. She stopped short with him, looking up into his face, looking genuinely worried for once. Whatever she saw there caused her to cease all further questioning.

Tony came out into the corridor, and he waited at a distance, looking slightly wary.

“That kind of rage would exist while the person was still living,” Ziva said finally. “It would be noticed, no matter how careful they were. I will pull the records of anyone who was lost from either unit, or transferred from it and was killed elsewhere.”

She walked away.

Tony glanced between them but didn’t say anything, just fell into step behind Gibbs when the older man passed him. For once, something was going on that he knew he didn’t want to understand.

-|-

“I had it on my short list,” Sam said. “It‘s not exactly something you just Google.”

He was standing, cuffed, in Abby’s lab while Abby and McGee worked from his laptop.

Part of the investigation, suddenly, but not exactly working alongside. It was still a hell of a lot better than sitting in that damn interrogation room without anyone bothering to come in and interrogate him.

After pulling the records of all the current and past members of EOD Group Two and Support Unit Two, there were three candidates for violent death - two by explosion and one by an insurgent sniper - but it remained to be seen which of them had carried one hell of a grudge to the grave. They would need to interview the remainder of the group, and quickly, to see who fit.

“What we’ve got on this kind of thing is really limited because there’s only so much written, and nothing recent. The stuff on the internet is mostly wrong.”

“Because there is no reason to speak of it anywhere,” Ziva said.

Sam glanced at her. Dean had already been staring between her and Abby like he couldn’t decide who was more amazing to him, and Sam was praying that Dean just didn’t say anything to either one. Abby, the first scientist he’d seen with black ponytails and blacker eyeliner and a collar, was staring between them with a wicked little smile that said she knew something no one else did.

This was not standard operating procedure, and Sam was always glad of situations like that. It cut through the bullshit.

Ziva - he hadn’t heard her called anything else yet, so he had to just go by ‘Ziva’ - had some sort of Middle Eastern accent, and her tone and stance about the whole thing was defensive and maybe a little worried. He could tell that she didn’t really usually do ‘worried’. She seemed almost as hardass as Gibbs. He wouldn’t cross either one unless he knew he was right, but Dean, similarly cuffed, was practically flirting with everyone in the room.

“If you have any other ideas, I’m happy to hear them,” Sam said. “Because you guys must have already figured out that nothing human did this, and you can’t just hope it doesn’t come back.”

Ziva was looking at him almost bitterly. “Hope has very little to do with it.”

“I wanna hear ideas, and nothing else,” Gibbs cut in. “Figure out what the next step is.”

“The basic lore says you drive an iron nail into the ground where the person was killed,” Sam said.

“And since we don’t know exactly where he or she died, that’s a dead end,” Dean added. “Even if we knew those things? It was Iraq. And no one’s gonna run around out there driving nails.”

“Then you find another way,” Gibbs snapped. “Isn’t this what you do? Quit bitching about the problems and find a way around!”

“So you guys can just try and toss us down some hole where we’re done?” Dean said, dropping his voice into a range that meant he was no longer worried about who he was talking to. “Yeah, that’s a great deal. Like everybody who gets shipped over there isn’t gonna get killed sooner or later anyway.”

Gibbs moved so fast that no one even had a chance to flinch until after Dean’s back had met the wall behind with enough force to audibly drive the air out of him.

With a forearm braced against Dean’s throat, Gibbs spoke in a low, calm voice that raised the hair on the back of Dean’s neck quicker than a shout would have.

“You’ll do it because your dad would have insisted on it,” Gibbs said deliberately. “And I just bet you still have things to make up to him, don’t you?”

Dean paled, eyelids lowering to half mast, nose wrinkling in a mix of snarling rage and guilt. He was, suddenly, officially off his stride. “You let Sam walk out of here free and clear, and we’ll talk.”

Dean, Sam said.

“You don’t have a position to negotiate from,” Gibbs said.

“That’s not gonna stop me from trying,” Dean said, voice still just as low. “Sam hasn’t done anything that deserves jail.”

“I’m not leaving you here,” Sam said.

“That’s not for you to decide,” Gibbs said to them both. He dropped his arm but didn’t step away. “Figure this out, Dean. Now!

Knee jerk reaction to obey a tone of voice like that.

“It’s a goddamn naval base, there has to be iron everywhere,” Dean said. “Get a hell of a lot of iron.”

“The basis of the lore will still be solid, even if we can’t use the finer points,” Sam said. “Drive nails into the spots where it killed the others, then stake out the rooms the remaining officers would have slept. It’ll come, but it’ll be limited in the area it can travel. Instead of salt, we’ll trap it with iron.”

“It’ll need more than that,” Abby added. “Shouldn’t we, maybe, use iron filings or rods or something? We could make a configuration that’ll be hard for it to get out of.”

Sam and Dean shared a look.

Gibbs smirked a little and let Dean go the rest of the way, backing up a step.

“Abby, McGee, Ziva, take Sam and come up with a plan we can really use. Fast. Dinozzo, Dean, you’re with me.”

There was a moment of silence while they all stared at him in amazement.

“Someone wanna tell me why you’re all still standing here?”

Everyone scattered. Even Sam and Dean.

-|-

Tony rounded up the survivors in quick order via phone and had them transferred from Anacostia. Dean sat on the other side of the desk and watched him do it, smirking at him, occasionally reaching to touch something and getting shooed away with impatient motions and a glare. Dean ignored him and satisfied himself with getting the stapler as if that was a real coup.

There were a million ways back out of there, easily, but they had a job to do. Kill evil first, pull a fast one on the cops later.

He used a paper clip to get himself out of his cuffs.

-|-

Gibbs used one of the interrogation rooms to go through John Winchester’s journal, page by page.

He hadn’t expected to feel quite so much dread, after.

Or hope.

-|-

“Master Chief Petty Officer Sprau and Chief Warrant Officer Heckert,” Tony said, gesturing at the two officers standing stiffly in the bullpen near Gibbs‘ desk. “They’ve been pulled from current duty and advised that we’re going to be keeping them in protective custody along with the other two survivors from EOD Group Two. And they’re thrilled to death.”

“Well, go get ‘em,” Gibbs said, and gestured for Dean to follow him.

Dean jumped up and followed Gibbs, making a face at Tony as he went.

Tony watched them go. “He can handle that kid,” he muttered. “No big deal.”

He sat down in Gibbs’ chair like it was a daily occurrence. “You guys need anything?”

Identical no, sirs followed. Tony didn’t correct them about sirring him.

“Your last assignment was in Kuwait,” Tony said. “Three were killed, but your overall mission was completed. Of the three in your unit that died, who would you say was the most…dissatisfied?”

“Sir?”

“Bent out of shape, annoyed, pissed off, a fifty cent cab ride from offing all of you,” Tony said.

They stared at him.

“Off the record,” Tony added.

“Warrant Officer Morea, sir,” Sprau said.

“He was a liberty risk, sir,” Heckert said.

“How often did he engage the locals?” Tony said.

“Every time, sir,” Heckert said. “He seemed to lose it, every single time. It didn’t take much to set him off. The stress might have had a lot to do with it.”

Everybody knew what a liberty risk was. It was Navy slang for someone who couldn’t behave while on leave or off ship or base. Drunk and disorderly, picking fights with the locals, endangering the goodwill of the mission. Anyone like that was usually given some insane number of tasks to complete before they were eligible for leave again, some insurmountable level of chores that could not be completed in time to allow the offender to get loose again in time. Apparently it hadn’t worked.

“Did it make him even more pissed off to find himself stuck doing chores while the rest of you took off?” Tony said.

“He didn’t seem any angrier than usual, sir,” Heckert said. Something in the way she said it hinted at more, at something she really didn’t dare come out and say.

“Then he was always that angry?” Tony said. “C’mon, don’t make me pull teeth, here.”

“He seemed to maintain a fair level of aggravation on a constant basis, sir.”

Tony sighed. “What exactly happened the day he died?”

“There was a disagreement on how to approach a known IED,” Sprau said. “It wasn’t the first time, but there was something different about this one - I was in charge on that mission, and I didn’t like it. His method was shot down, and Lacey - Chief Warrant Officer Orielle - took over. When she approached, she used all approved procedures, but instead of an initial explosion, there was a chemical discharge. Lieutenant Morea was hit dead on at his position.”

“It caused a Delpha fire on impact,” Heckert said.

It took Tony a moment to remember that a Delpha fire was one that burned exotic materials. “In this case, that meant - ”

“His armor,” Sprau said shortly. “We still don’t know what kind of chemical it was - this wasn’t anything we’ve ever run into before, and it burned so hot that we weren’t able to get a sample. We survived the explosion that took place moments after, with minor injuries, but the explosion seemed just for show. It wasn’t nearly as strong as it should have been. If this is some new type of chemical warfare, no one else has witnessed the same type of IED yet, so we’re hoping it was an experiment or just…an accident. It seemed very intentional, though.”

Tony glanced at the official report of the incident and the notes McGee had added to it. “It wasn’t some type of acid?” he said. “Hydrofluoric acids has been known to cause that type of reaction when mixed with specific types of volatile compounds, even metals, or organic materials, or - ”

“I wouldn’t know about that, sir,” Sprau said. “All I know is that it didn’t cause a fire once it hit the air - only when it hit Lieutenant Morea.”

Tony blinked.

“We’ll be in touch,” he said.

-|-

Dean sat in the passenger seat of Gibbs’ car.

Gibbs drove like a fucking maniac.

Dean didn’t really mind all that much.

They stopped at a Starbucks, got coffee, got back in the car without a word. Not a single word.

Dean began to wonder if it was his last coffee, if Gibbs was going to take him out somewhere remote and plug him. Cops and cop-types had tried that before. Either that, or he was being put through some kind of test. No telling, with this guy.

They went back to the Yard.

They went straight to Abby’s lab. Abby, of the hot legs and mischievous eyes and smoky voice. And Sam was down there. Of course he was mainly thinking of Sam. Not the Goth, tattooed Abby with the boots and the dark lipstick. Damn.

“Hi Dean,” Abby said as if he was there just to amuse her.

“Hi Abby,” he said. Oh, man. If he had a type, it wouldn’t usually have been her, on the surface, but wow. There were seven kinds of something going on in that pigtailed head, and he wanted to know what.

A quick eye-check with Sam told him everything he needed to know.

-|-

“I want a plan,” Gibbs said. “The rooms we’re looking at are a floor apart.”

“The idea is to trap it once it’s in one of the rooms,” Sam said. “It has to fall for the trap first, though. We have to get it to want to come in.” He glanced at Dean.

“We replace the officers who were supposed to be bunking there,” Dean said, keeping his eyes on Sam. “Clear out the rooms on either side, too, so we have more room to work and no one gets caught in the crossfire. It’s already gotta know who’s bunking where, and it’s just waiting now. It’s not a thinking monster, it just pinpoints and acts. So it’s probably already focused here somewhere, waiting for enough energy to pop in and finish up. It’s not gonna look twice.”

“You can’t know that,” McGee said.

Dean tossed a glance at him. “I’ve seen things just as pissed off before,” he said.

“I meant, that’s what we were just…talking about,” McGee said. “How’d you - ”

“I’m psychic,” Dean said. “And, I know Sam.”

Sam rolled his eyes with a sigh. “We use iron in triangular patterns, and leave one side open,” he said. “Against each wall. And when it comes in, slide something made of iron behind it, if we can.”

“And then what?” Tony said. “What the hell do we do with it then?”

Sam and Dean glanced at each other.

“There is no way to kill an afrit,” Ziva said with finality.

“There’s a way to kill everything,” Dean shot back.

When she came closer, he stood a little taller even though he hadn’t meant to, and let her stand and stare up at him. “They do not leave until they are through,” she snapped.

“This one’s through and doesn’t know it yet,” Dean said, tone mildly goading. “You all ready to give up, sweetheart?”

It wasn’t Ziva who bristled at the diminutive; it was Tony. Dean saw it in his peripheral vision.

“You are going to end up killing members of my team with your carelessness,” she snapped. “Giving false hope? So confident?”

“Unless you’ve tried to trap or kill one of these things before, you don’t get to crap all over my plan, cupcake,” Dean said. “Maybe you should just go back to the office and make coffee.”

He didn’t even see her move when she hit him one-handed somewhere around the solar plexus. It drove the air from him but didn’t drop him, and he knew immediately that if she had wanted to drop him, he’d have been down awhile.

He leaned against the wall a little, trying to find the breath to laugh. Sam stood with his face tilted back to the ceiling in sheer exasperation, and Tony was wearing a grin of pure smugness while McGee stared between them all like they were losing it.

“There’s the chance we might not succeed, so you gotta have the balls to do this and not dance around it,” Dean said a little breathlessly.

“I will have yours in addition to my own,” Ziva said softly.

Dean grinned at her. “Run away with me,” he said.

She turned her back on him.

“What we do after we trap it depends on what state it’s in,” Sam said. “Chances are it’ll be even angrier that it’s been trapped, and it’ll put all its energy into getting out and killing whoever’s around. I’m betting it’ll be solid for that. If it can’t cross iron, then pinning it with an iron stake or two aren’t going to do it any good. Something that volatile is going to be pretty short lived anyway, and nailing it dead center with iron might just burn it out the rest of the way.”

“And if it doesn’t?” Ziva said.

“Then we go on killing it as long as we need to,” Dean said.

“You are an idiot,” Ziva said with finality.

“You’re hot,” Dean replied.

Ziva walked away.

Dean clicked his tongue behind his clenched teeth.

Tony looked like he really wanted to say something, but Dean figured it would come around at some point as physical retribution, so he didn’t bother worrying about it at that point. DiNozzo was one of those jock guys who waited until you weren’t looking.

The loud metallic clatter only feet away made all of them jump, and all hands went for sidearms before they realized that Gibbs had walked up on them unnoticed and dumped an armload of iron rods onto the floor.

“You schoolgirls gonna get to work on this, soon?” Gibbs said.

Dean let out a breath. Dude was like a ninja, coming and going without anybody realizing it. And that much iron had to have been heavy, but Gibbs hadn’t even broken a sweat.

“I get to be in on this,” Dean said.

“What you get is back out of here, or you’ll be in a cell,” Gibbs said, glancing at Tony. Dean had noticed that they seemed to do some sort of eye-conversing on a regular basis like he and Sam did, except it was a lot more about one telling the other what to do.

“That thing knows where its victims sleep,” Dean said. “It knows who’s here, who’s in what room, and it’s trying for certain people. If the beds aren’t all occupied, if it can’t sense who it’s after, it might hesitate. And we don’t need that. Worst that happens is you get to pick my guts off the cheap-ass paint job.”

Gibbs looked at him hard for a long moment. Dean didn’t back down.

“We wear their clothes if we have to, we put ourselves in their places,” Dean continued. “You want these people to die, then fine, ignore me. But you need me. You can’t kill this thing without me and Sam.”

Gibbs kept staring at him.

“You gonna risk your team doing something they’ve never done before, when me and Sam are pros at this?” Dean said, dropping his voice into a close approximation of his father’s. “That’s nuts.”

Gibbs shifted his weight and Dean flinched automatically, figuring he was going to get hit, but all Gibbs was really doing was…shifting his weight. He got a raised eyebrow over the flinch.

Dean winced internally. Not scared of the goddamn afrit, but freaking out over some goddamn military guy he’d insisted he wasn’t intimidated by. Great. Sam was giving him an eyebrow, too, but his was a little worried.

Gibbs examined him a moment more, then jerked his head at DiNozzo. “Pack up. We’re headed to Anacostia.”

-|-

Vance was unimpressed. “Even if they were crazy enough to go for that, you’re still not giving me enough of a reason.”

Gibbs usually only walked into the Director’s office to give him a rundown after something was already over, or to get him to clear the way for something. He was aiming for the latter; the rooms they wanted to use weren’t part of the original crime scene at Anacostia, and he wasn’t about to explain himself to anybody.

“It’s not going to disrupt the place any more than six murders already have,” Gibbs said. “We need the rooms the rest of Group Two was staying in, and we need the rooms on either side cleared. We have reason to believe the murderer will be back for them, and that it knows where they were assigned.”

Vance eyed him speculatively. “It?”

“As a matter of speaking.”

Vance squinted at him.

“Time’s wasting, Leon,” Gibbs said.

“Fornell’s petitioned me twice about the Winchesters, already,” Vance said.

“I need them as bait,” Gibbs said shortly. “I’m not gonna risk blowing this in a pissing contest with Fornell, or bureaucracy with Anacostia, or anything else.”

“The only reason I’m going to go along with this is because you need to give me something out of it all,” Vance said. “So far, we got nothing but a hell of a lot of trigger happy Naval officers sleeping with their lights on up there and SecNav thinking there’s some elite terrorist strike force capable of getting in and decimating our best people without leaving any trace behind. So go ahead and stage a sleepover, Gibbs, but there’d better be answers at the end of it. Someone needs to go down for this.”

Gibbs nodded. He heard the emphasis on someone, and knew where it was all headed: they already had two wanted men to fall back on if there was no one else to blame.

-|-

They set up the same configuration in both rooms at all four walls, not knowing which way the thing was going to come in. They put the furniture into the center of each room and lined the rods up in wide triangular configurations pointing into the center, offset from the identical set up on the other side of each wall by several feet, and then fixed the rods in place with iron nails. It was going to end up being like an obstacle course for the thing if it lost its mind and started bouncing around. It had to be precise by inches to avoid entering any triangle, and if Dean was right, it wasn’t going to be operating at a mental level that would allow that.

One iron rod was nailed above each door.

Extra iron rods were left next to all the beds. Just in case.

Sam and Dean watched their NCIS shadows warily.

“Got iron bullets in the car,” Dean murmured.

“We’re not getting our guns back anytime soon,” Sam said.

McGee had retrieved the EMF meters from the Impala at their request as it was; they didn’t want to push it. Yet.

When they were done, it was nearly four.

“Everybody go get something to eat,” Gibbs said. “McGee, DiNozzo, no Winchesters running loose.”

Tony smirked at Dean. “You heard ‘im,” he said. “Back into the cuffs for you.”

“You gonna slam me into a wall first?” Dean said. “Can you get Ziva down here to do it instead? She’s more my type.”

Tony did slam him into the wall, then, face first, while he put the cuffs on.

Gibbs shook his head and walked away.

Sam and McGee looked at each other with long-suffering weariness. Sam held his hands out in front of him, and McGee put cuffs on him carefully.

“You are a kinky bitch,” Dean said to Tony. “Last time I was cuffed like that, it was a cop in Baltimore. He did it better, though, and even leaned on me before and after.”

Tony shoved Dean in front of him down the hall. “I know what happened in Baltimore, asshole.”

Dean shot Sam a confused look over his shoulder. He kept track of the monsters, but not the cities; Sam made the connections more often than not.

“The death omen,” Sam supplied.

“Ah, right,” Dean said. “And the awesome cop we saved from her crazy ass partner-boyfriend. I remember that one. She was pretty cool.”

“Cooler than you deserved,” Tony said. “So shut up, and maybe you get something better than bread and water for your last meal.”

“Pizza,” Dean said. “Dude, order in pizza.”

-|-

“Detective Ballard.”

“Diana,” Tony said, having found a quiet corner to use his cell. “It’s Tony - ”

“Tony DiNozzo,” Diana said immediately. “Oh, my God, how are you? You jackass, you never call.”

Tony grinned. “Hey, but I think about you.”

“Flirt,” she said. “How are you? What the hell is going on? Nobody jumps from here straight to NCIS, ever, and then you never call. How is it in the big leagues?”

“Big,” Tony said. “I heard…about things that were going on, and I never called you then, and I’m sorry.”

“About Pete? Well. You know…the less said about that, the better, Tony. That was all really…I wish I could say there had been some other way.”

“The guys that were there at the time, that escaped…the Wi - ”

“Have you seen them?” Diana said suddenly, cutting him off. “Oh, Tony. Tell me you don’t have them.”

Tony slumped against the wall.

Getting the rest of the story from her made him want to bang his head against it.

-|-

While they waited for pizza, Tony and Dean argued for ten minutes in one of the empty rooms they were commandeering. Initially it was about what kind of pizza was best, and then how it should be eaten, and with what. And then what movies were best to eat pizza in front of, and which demanded Chinese food instead, or just snacks, and which snacks, and what beer went best with each.

Ziva stared at them from an extra chair as if still comparing the two. Sam sat close by and watched as well for a little while, then turned to her. “Gibbs told you what we’re doing, right?”

She nodded. “I still don’t approve.”

“Because it’s nuts, or because you really know it might not work?”

She looked at Sam carefully. He’d phrased his question just so, to try and draw her out. He seemed sincere. “I once knew someone who dealt with an afrit,” she said. “It was not after me, or I would not be here.”

“Maybe you thought you should have been able to do something about it,” Sam said. “But unless you’ve had a lot of practice dealing with things like it, like we have, it’s not something that seems possible. Everything has a stopping point. I’ve killed other things I didn’t really think could be killed, but there’s always a way.”

He had such an earnest way of talking without being patronizing, and the eyes helped him quite a bit, Ziva thought. There was something endearing about the very tall young American. She thought about the FBI file again and wondered how much he truly missed his ’normal’ life, or what sort of lawyer he would have made.

“I will be happy to stand up to it,” she said. “And if your methods do not work, it will be a quick death.”

Sam had to sigh a little. “At least you’re practical,” he said.

“Probie,” Tony said to McGee. “Tell this jackass that the original King Kong had a lot more heart than the stupid remake.”

“Um…Peter Jackson directed the remake,” McGee said, frowning a little.

“Okay, yeah, Elf Lord, but Peter Jackson still isn’t God,” Tony said.

“No remake is ever better than the original,” Dean said. “Losers. That wasn’t even the point I was trying to make. I don’t give a rat’s ass about the remake. All I said was, Fay Wray didn’t flash enough of the goods.”

“Let’s eat our take out in one of the other rooms,” Ziva said to Sam.

“I’m okay with that,” Sam said.

-|-

Gibbs broke it up at nine.

He jerked his thumb toward the ceiling, indicating the second room they‘d set up, one floor above. “Dean, you’re with me.”

Tony tensed immediately. “Boss - ”

“Keep an eye on Sam and Ziva, DiNozzo,” Gibbs offered shortly. “McGee, you get the hall outside our room.”

Tony balked. “Boss.

“You heard me the first time,” Gibbs said.

Tony watched Gibbs walk away, then got right into Dean’s personal space. Two pair of hazel-green eyes narrowed in challenge at each other.

“You let anything happen to him, you’ll go pretty damn soon after,” Tony said.

“You let anything happen to my brother, I’ll bring fuckin’ Armageddon down on you, asshole, and that’s a guarantee,” Dean said.

Sam rolled his eyes so hard that it was nearly audible.

Tony and Dean kept their gazes locked a moment longer, then smirked in unison before splitting up.

-|-

By ten p.m., it was lights out in both rooms.

The doors were left unlocked and both rooms had open-line radios for quicker communication. McGee tried not to pace outside the room Gibbs and Dean were in, focusing solely on the door and waiting tensely for anything to be out of the ordinary. Well, besides what was already way out of the ordinary. McGee wondered how Gibbs had gotten the area cordoned off, and he really wanted to know what had been said and how it had been taken.

Or maybe not.

He kept watching the door.

-|-

Gibbs sat on the bed to the north of center of the room, leaning up against the headboard, lost in thought. Dean couldn’t seem to get comfortable on the other bed and kept shifting around, folding and unfolding his arms, rustling and fidgeting. Gibbs had the urge to order him to keep still, but held off.

Willing to die over people he didn’t even know, willing to throw himself under the bus for his brother, talking about hell and meaning it; he wanted to put his fist right into Dean’s mouth for being such a goddamn smartass and flipping attitude everywhere he went.

But.

Underneath it all was a scared kid with an over-inflated sense of duty. And one hell of a lot of courage. He knew it when he saw it. It was in the faces of his own team on a daily basis.

He couldn’t bring himself to revile that, no matter what else the file said about what Dean had supposedly been up to.

Sam would not have stuck around for anything short of duty, either. To his brother, to whatever they were ultimately trying to do, to avenge what had already been done to his family. There was something ruthless under Sam’s often placid expression that had to be watched out for.

Dean had not been about to make a break for it earlier during the coffee run. Chances were, it hadn’t even crossed his mind. He wouldn’t leave without Sam.

Neither kid was hard to read.

“Tell me what really happened to your dad,” Gibbs said.

Dean was silent for a long moment.

“Winchester,” Gibbs said.

“We’re on a case,” Dean said shortly. “Don’t need that kind of distraction.”

“Guy’s on the road for twenty years killing everything he can find that isn’t natural, so don’t you think the one that finally got him would be noteworthy?”

“I can tell you’re not the talking type,” Dean said, voice a little tighter. “So what’s all this, just curiosity?”

“Been around long enough to know an FBI file doesn’t tell me everything about a person,” Gibbs said.

Dean was silent again. Then he said, “My dad was one hell of a guy. There wasn’t anything he couldn’t kill, no connection between clues he couldn’t make. No regular thing could have taken him down. He offered himself to something in my place. That’s the only reason he’s gone.”

Gibbs nodded to himself. What he wouldn’t have given, to offer himself in Kelly’s place. “So what happened to Agent Henricksen?” he said.

There was less of a pause that time, but still enough of one to have import.

“He was a good man,” Dean said. “He did what he had to. We shouldn’t have left him behind.” He paused. “He’d have made one hell of a hunter. Wish we’d been able to find out how good.”

“What did happen?”

“You’re not gonna….”

Gibbs clapped his hands together once, sharply, and the sudden motion and noise had Dean in a posture of readiness even though he hadn’t moved from the bed.

“Try again,” Gibbs ordered.

Dean stared over at him with a mixture of wariness and resignation. “What the hell do I care, whether you believe me or not?” he said. “Demons overran the place. We found a way to drive them off. Henricksen started out a nonbeliever, but he was with us by the end. And he was alive when he watched us walk away. We had no way of knowing there was a backup plan, that something else was following us. He died hard, but…with eyes open. He was ready to fight. Anything.”

“He let you go,” Gibbs said.

“Yes.”

Gibbs was silent, back still against the headboard.

“There is a whole ‘nother war going on under what Joe Six Pack can see,” Dean said. “I mean, it’s still political, trust me. But it’s the whole world at stake, all at once, not…whose dick’s bigger this week.”

The last was said like he was expecting some sort of rebuke, like a teenager trying out his boundaries. Gibbs had to smirk.

“We need everybody we can get,” Dean said. “And it still might not matter.”

It was silent after that.

-|-

Tony paced around the end of the hall, listening. Jacket off, shoulder holster on display, two other sidearms tucked away out of sight. Shooting the damn thing wasn’t likely to do more than piss it off, but it made him feel better to be armed. Sort of.

Diana was completely sane and had never bullshitted him, about anything. She had been one of the bright points of his time in Baltimore, and one of the only things that had caused him to hesitate when Gibbs had decided to steal him.

If she said the Winchesters were the real thing, then…

He wouldn’t have been entertaining thoughts about their killer being a thing if he hadn’t seen the rooms soon after it had killed six, and if Gibbs hadn’t been essentially endorsing it with the way he was acting. He’d seen Gibbs humor suspects before, but the Winchesters were…lunatics, who should have been locked up already.

He shrugged. Gibbs was Gibbs. Tony wasn’t going to argue when he got that look in his eye, the one that said he was about to take care of something.

-|-

Sam sat on his bed, cross legged, trying to keep from having his back fully exposed to any one wall. Ziva was stretched out on her bed, hands folded behind her head, staring calmly at the ceiling. He could make her out a little in the light coming in the windows.

If it came in through the ceiling, they were screwed, but it was a little late to worry about that. No reason for it to come in through the ceiling. And if it wasn’t coming on the first try, he wasn’t relishing the idea of spending any other nights there, but they’d get the job done regardless of what it took, assuming Gibbs didn’t change his mind and just lock them up. He still wasn’t sure what the plan was, ultimately, because despite the occasional handcuffing, they weren’t getting treated in a way that any federal agent should have treated them, which meant a dark hole somewhere and no chance of seeing daylight again. Ever.

He remembered Dean’s low, amazed we went to get coffee as if the incident had been more shocking and disturbing than anything they’d tracked or killed in the last few months. Dude took me to get coffee, that’s all.

Sam snorted.

“What is it?” Ziva said.

“My brother’s trapped in a room for the night with your boss,” Sam said, unable to keep the amusement out of his voice.

“Why is that amusing?”

“I can’t remember the last time anyone…shook him up like that,” Sam said, leaving out anyone human. Demons, angels of the Lord, sure, Dean would say anything he liked to any of them, but some NCIS agent could shut him down?

If things got bad enough later on, maybe Gibbs would end up with his own post in Heaven’s army. If Heaven could be trusted, which was getting less likely. Maybe they’d just be their own army.

“Gibbs likely reminds him of your father.”

Sam froze.

Ziva seemed to sense it. “There might be a similarity in how they approach things. Your father was a Marine, right? It’s simple logic.”

“I hadn’t thought of it that way,” Sam said hesitantly.

“Does Gibbs remind you of him?”

“No,” Sam said. “But I didn’t do well with the Marine bullshit.” He cleared his throat. “I mean, I didn’t…hang around for it.”

“My own father is very strict, and military as well,” she said. “Absolute loyalty was required. And still is.”

“Which military?” Sam asked carefully.

“My father is the head of Mossad.”

There was a long stretch of silence.

“So you really could have killed Dean earlier,” he said finally.

“I could have hit him in such a way that he would die suddenly an hour later,” she said.

Wow. “Could you teach me something where I hit him and he quits being a jerk for an hour?”

Ziva smiled. If it was a little sad, no one was the wiser.

-|-

Midnight came and went undisturbed.

One a.m. did not.

-|-

Sam recognized the sound of the EMF meter and was on his feet with iron in hand when something crackled near the north facing wall and seemed to push the available air in front of it like a barrier. There were visible sparks when it came up against the configuration of iron on the floor against the wall, and a lapse in the pressure when it bounced back out with a shriek of rage so high-pitched and violent that it traveled between floors even without the radios.

It tried the same thing with the eastern facing wall and received the same result, bouncing between the patterns of iron from their room to the rooms on either side as if caught in an obstacle course, getting progressively louder and angrier as it went.

-|-

Dean vaulted off his bed and went for the door, staying low despite the fact that he was a floor away, running full out with an iron rod in one hand and hitting the stairs with a downward leap that easily could have put someone in lesser shape out of commission. Gibbs was right behind but didn’t duplicate the leap, shouting for a startled McGee to follow.

-|-

Tony took the door in with one well-placed foot despite the fact that it was unlocked, gun at the ready.

In the light from the hallway, the first thing he saw was Sam lying face up in the middle of the room between the beds, where Ziva had knocked him. She sat astride Sam’s chest, gun raised in both hands, following the sound as it went.

The afrit quit playing pinball among the iron traps right about then, slipping out between one of the slight gaps, and it bounced into the room.

Tony was the first thing it saw.

When it solidified, it was only passingly humanoid, and what was solid was only a concentrated center with an unseen corona of energy ribboning off around it.

The center put Tony through the wall between studs into the next room in a shower of drywall and plaster.

With the little breath that hadn’t been knocked out of him, he shouted for Sam and Ziva to stay down and opened fire on it, the bullets passing through. The iron that had been against the wall was out of pattern by then and scattered all over, but it still hindered the thing from using its energy to turn the room into a blender for the three of them. It went on shrieking, still focused on Tony and trying to navigate the iron.

Tony picked up two of the iron rods and ran out into the hallway, still shouting for Sam and Ziva to stay down, leaving the door of the room he’d been thrown into open so that it could still see and hear him.

He wasn’t bothering to waste any time trying to process what the hell he was up against - all he knew was that he was up against it.

He got a look at it when it came out into the hallway, burning without giving off any visible light, featureless except for a gaping mouth; it was a shifting, humanoid mass that was hard to center on, the air around it bending and warping like heat rippling off asphalt in the dead of August. He placed one iron rod flat across the hall floor, winding up on the other like a baseball bat, threatening it.

It kept screaming at him as it tried to get past the rod on the floor, slowed by the iron and the amount of energy it had already bled off.

Rather than wait for it, Tony went after it with a yell.

I hope my kneecaps don’t end up in the walls, he thought.

Dean skidded around the corner shouting for Sam, one rod at the ready, and encountered Tony on the floor of the corridor with both hands trying to hold onto a piece of iron that was jammed through a writhing, orange-red rippling mass and into the wall behind. It was stretching and leaning out over the agent, trying to reach him, shrieking and twisting and too enraged to realize that all it had to do was thin back out to get free. Dean doubted it was capable of rational thought anymore, anyway.

Lucky for them.

He vaulted Tony with a yell and used both hands to aim the piece of iron he held like a final sword thrust, nailing the afrit dead center and pinning it even harder into the wall.

A shockwave of energy spun outward, throwing him into the wall behind and cracking Tony’s head against the floor. Neither of them let go.

It was Gibbs, running up behind with a third strike, that made the difference; he came in from the side and slid iron in down and across, making contact with the other two rods already pinning the thing in place, and it was the last straw.

The concentrated energy went into a feedback loop, and had to go somewhere. It had already held onto its form too long.

The remainder of the energy blew outward from the center, slamming Dean back against the opposite wall with enough force to crack the drywall, knocking Gibbs down and leaving a bizarre mix of scorch marks and a splatter of some orange-colored, viscous material all along the walls and ceiling.

There was a long moment of ear-ringing quiet punctuated only with the sounds of harsh breathing.

“He slimed me,” Tony said finally, sprawled flat out on the floor, goo spread up along his front and in his hair.

“You’ll be okay, Venkman,” Dean said, climbing slowly to his feet and offering Tony a hand. “Dude, you held that thing off by yourself for a minute.”

“No worse than that one midshipman on acid we had a couple of years back,” Tony said casually. “Right, Boss?”

Gibbs didn’t answer, checking Tony for a concussion with a wry twist to one corner of his mouth.

Sam stood with his hands braced on either side of the doorframe with Ziva just in front of him. She still had her gun out, but it was pointed at the floor, and she was staring openly at the damage after spending a moment making sure her teammates were okay.

Dean scowled at Sam after giving him a visual once-over to make sure he was fine. “I thought you said it would burn out.”

Sam huffed an impatient sigh. “What’s this look like to you? It’s dead, either way.”

“Will it come out of my hair?” Tony said.

Dean squinted at him. “Nope. Shave your head, dude.”

“It’s just ectoplasm,” Sam said. “I think. A little vinegar and vodka will get it out.”

Tony squinted at him, but nodded. “It’s great that you know that.”

“Use the cheap stuff,” Sam said. “It’s like paint thinner anyway.”

“Makes your hair fall out,” Dean added.

“It doesn’t,” Sam said.

-|-

Giving even the most rudimentary explanation of what had happened to the scores of security guards and LEOs that showed up within minutes was unwise at best. Bubbled, scorched paint, holes in the walls, stuff dripping from the ceiling, bullet holes all over the place; it was a small but valid war zone. It was McGee who saved his nearly giddy cohorts with a long, drawn out dissertation on thermodynamics and Delpha fires, to the point where Gibbs stepped in and told everyone it would be in the report; call Director Vance if you don’t like it.

-|-

Gibbs walked alongside Dean on their way out.

“You trusted me to handle this,” Gibbs said.

It was an open ended statement.

“Your people would die for you,” Dean said shortly. “No one gets that way overnight, or just from being told what to do. That’s…love.”

He ducked his head as if he hadn’t meant to say it.

Gibbs was careful not to respond. Not externally, anyway.

-|-

It was a strange ride back to the Navy Yard, from Gibbs’ uncharacteristic care at the wheel to Ziva starting a singalong to the Marine’s Hymn.

From the Halls of Montezuma,

To the shores of Tripoli;
We fight our country's battles
In the air, on land, and sea;
First to fight for right and freedom
And to keep our honor clean;
We are proud to claim the title
Of United States Marine.

They had beaten something they almost had no right to, and had done it relatively intact. It had bonded them all a little closer. A moment or three of revelry was due.

Gibbs finally joined in, trying not to laugh. It wasn’t quite over.

-|-

Fornell was waiting for them when they got back to the bullpen. Two dark suited agents approached Sam and Dean with cuffs.

“Sam and Dean Winchester, you are under arrest,” Fornell said deliberately.

“All yours, Tobias,” Gibbs said, heading to his desk.

He wasn’t sure what was more predictable - Sam’s weary lack of surprise, or the look of utter and complete betrayal on Dean’s face. Never mind the surprise and concern on the faces of his own team. Tony was openly struggling not to say something, eyes darting between him and the Winchesters, hands making pointless gestures of confusion.

Gibbs was careful not to really look at any of them.

“I knew it,” Dean said. “I knew it. You sonofabitch.”

“But Gibbs,” Ziva said. “This - ”

“I need your initial report within the hour, Ziva,” Gibbs said, already focused on booting up his computer.

Tony, Ziva and McGee stood frozen for a moment as Sam and Dean were led away by the FBI, looking too much like a group of kids who were about to rebel at a perceived injustice.

All of you,” Gibbs warned.

His agents scattered, and once the Winchesters were gone, the silence was heavy with a stunned disapproval.

Tony emailed Ziva and McGee almost immediately.

[He’s got something planned. He has to. He didn’t do this to make Fornell happy.]

Ziva’s response was doubtful.

[There are only so many things that can be explained away, and not even Gibbs can just happen to lose two wanted men. He has few options in this case.]

McGee agreed with both.

[He has to follow protocol, but he’s always been fair. We’re missing something.]

Tony’s next email was to Ziva only. [So the way you were straddling Sam back there - that was how it was taught in the Mossad? Is that a technique you can show me?]

Ziva deleted it with a small hmph of annoyance.

-|-

The something McGee insisted they were missing became apparent before sunrise.

Gibbs looked over the reports he got, and had to admire how inventive his people were. Tony, with God knew what from that thing still in his hair, had taken the info the remaining members of Group Two had given him and made a plausible explanation for the mess at Anacostia out of it. McGee had run with the ‘security cameras were tampered with’ angle, and Ziva had apparently managed to either pick up on gossip from SecNav’s office, or had been tapping Vance’s office again, because she was using the ‘retribution via elite strike force’ hypothesis Vance had voiced earlier.

All three of them insisted that Sam and Dean were undercover informants that would go unnamed for national security reasons.

He had gone so far as to go into the elevator so he could laugh over that. He had one hell of a team.

All three reports were useful, in part.

He walked back into the bullpen with fresh coffee.

“DiNozzo, Ziva, McGee, you’re with me,” he said, and kept walking. “No gear necessary.”

They came after him without question, falling into step, glancing at one another. Moreso once they realized they were headed for an unmonitored conference room on the fourth floor.

Gibbs let them in, then locked the door behind them.

The FBI hadn’t taken Sam or Dean very far; they sat at the large conference table on either side of Fornell, still cuffed.

Dean refused to look at any of them, and Gibbs held back a smirk, figuring the cold shoulder was a bigger insult than anything that could actually come out of that smart mouth.

He tossed everyone’s reports onto the table and motioned for his team to sit down.

“Let’s get this worked out,” he said.

-|-

“The Winchesters are dead, just like it says in the late Agent Henricksen’s last report,” Gibbs said, tossing his own report on Vance’s desk.

Vance rose from behind his desk and looked like he might actually throw something.

Gibbs and his team had written some of the most creative reports of their careers, and filing them had taken some extra effort; the truth was still told, but in terms that were more generically acceptable.

Fornell had always had the full story. The FBI had a damn file designation set up for that kind of unexplained crap. He’d just wanted the Winchesters so he could fill in the holes.

“Then who the hell were those two idiots posing as agents?” Vance said.

“Undercover, out of the San Diego office,” Gibbs said. “Orielle was one of their own. The murders were a revenge job for something that happened in the field, and we didn’t want anyone knowing we’d called specialists in, in case it turned out to be an inside job. It’s all in the report.”

Vance’s scowl was fierce, but he sat back down and began flipping through. “Perpetrator committed suicide with an unknown chemical that caused an explosion in the corridor,” he said. “Similar effects to the chemical attack in Kuwait that caused the death of Warrant Officer Morea, per sworn eyewitness accounts.” He glanced up. “We dealing with some sort of advanced biological warfare?”

“Might be,” Gibbs said easily. “No traces of any chemical were found, or we’d all still be in quarantine.”

“I don’t like personnel from other offices posing undercover without checking with me first,” Vance said.

Gibbs held up a scrap of paper between two fingers. “San Diego will be happy to listen to your concerns,” he said.

Vance waved him off.

Vance didn’t realize it was the number to Bobby Singer’s ‘FBI line’.

Gibbs figured the Winchesters had yet to think about what might come of NCIS having possession of their phones and their father’s journal for any length of time.

As he left Vance’s office, he smiled. What they didn’t know wouldn’t hurt them, as long as they kept their noses relatively clean.

-|-

When he came down, the younger Winchester was shaking Ziva’s hand and saying something he didn’t catch, but Ziva looked almost approving as she watched him walk away. Despite his height, Sam had a way of blending in quickly and easily, and Gibbs knew it was part of why no one had looked beyond the forged badges. Kid would have made a good agent, in another life. Tough, smart, and already trained in the basics; that, plus all the unconventional skills could make for something amazing. Good to the bone, despite what else he was mixed up in, and Gibbs had an idea of what that really involved.

The Winchesters were now part of his team without realizing it.

He glanced around, then paused by Tony‘s desk. “Where’s Dean?”

“He’s down in Abby’s lab,” Tony said. “Wanted to say goodbye.”

“Someone tell me why he’s wandering around in here unsupervised,” Gibbs said.

“Because he can just make a fake ID and get around anyway?” Tony said.

Gibbs leaned over and slapped him upside the head, but it was followed up with a pat on the shoulder.

“Abby could take him out with a well-placed combat boot,” McGee said, ducking a little.

Gibbs huffed a sigh and headed for the elevator.

Dean came into the bullpen just as the doors closed, having taken the stairs. He went straight to Ziva’s desk.

“Well, I’m out of here,” he said, wiggling his eyebrows.

She ignored him.

“You can hit me again if you want,” Dean said, looking at her hopefully.

“That was only a little tap,” she said without looking at him.

“Love tap?”

Dislike tap,” she said.

“I’ll hit you again,” Tony said, suddenly appearing at Ziva’s right shoulder, showing Dean way too many teeth again and doing that creepy not-blinking thing.

“I’ll save you both the trouble.”

A hand met the back of Dean’s head in an open slap that was just enough to ring Dean’s bell a little. When he turned in annoyance, he came up short against Gibbs, who was staring at him kind of hard but not hard enough to be mad.

He didn’t get that guy and figured it was probably just as well.

“Shouldn’t you be out of here?” Gibbs said. “Your window of opportunity is closing. Fast.”

Dean cleared his throat. “Just…tying up a couple of loose ends.”

“You use NCIS badges again to get to anything, without checking with me first, all bets are off,” Gibbs said. “We clear?”

“Yes sir,” Dean said automatically. He was solely focused on the checking with me first part of the conversation.

Gibbs leaned in a little closer, right into Dean’s space, nearly chest to chest, lips closer to his ear than Dean would have liked. “Don’t forget that I know where you sleep.”

When he leaned away, Dean met Gibbs’s eyes for a long moment. Some sort of understanding passed between them, and Dean lifted his chin a little. Gibbs inclined his head slightly.

Dean backed away, and kept backing, letting his eyes stray over Gibbs’ shoulder.

“Carry on, wayward son,” Tony said with a smirk.

Dean flipped him off. “Thanks, Danny. I love Washington.”

Dean didn’t run, but he walked out of there pretty damn fast.

Ziva looked at Tony. “Why did he call you Danny?”

“Because now I’m the good guy,” Tony said.

“Movie reference, I assume.”

“Damn straight.” He went back to his desk.

After a moment of looking around, he said, “Where the hell is my stapler?”

-|-

They were an hour out of DC before either of them spoke.

“The iron wasn’t cold,” Sam said. “That’s why it only slowed it down, at first. We’re dealing with people who don’t think like we do, Dean. We didn’t mention the cold part because it didn’t even occur to us that we had to. So it wasn’t as effective as it could have been.”

“Nobody’s dead, Sam,” Dean said. “Nobody new, anyway. Everything else is just…stuff.”

They drove in silence for several long minutes. Then Sam said, “Did Gibbs remind you of Dad?”

Dean whipped his head around to look at Sam reprovingly. “What? No. No way. Where are you getting that from?”

Sam shrugged. “Just something someone said. Never mind.”

“Dad would have eaten these guys alive,” Dean said with finality.

Sam shrugged again, looking out the passenger window.

Dean began to hum the Marine’s Hymn under his breath.

-|-

They found Morea’s grave quicker than they’d thought. It was still fresh, lacking flowers, but someone had left a small American flag on the newly installed granite headstone.

They looked down on it for a few minutes in the beginning of a drizzle of rain.

“Poor bastard,” Dean said finally.

They walked away, hands in pockets.

-|-

It was nearly nine before Gibbs got home.

He knew when he opened the front door that his house wasn’t empty. He’d never regretted leaving it unlocked, and he wasn’t about to start, so he pulled his sidearm and cleared each room without much trepidation.

When he reached the top of the stairs to the basement and flicked the lights on, he could see a dark-haired figure in a suit and trench coat standing close to his latest boat.

He sighed and tucked the weapon away before he descended the stairs.

The man turned to look at him expressionlessly.

“So, which one are you?” Gibbs said.

“I am Castiel.” It was said with a minute nod.

It didn’t mean anything to him, so Gibbs raised his eyebrows, waiting for more. “And?”

“You allowed the Winchesters to go free,” Castiel said.

“I’ve been at this far too long not to realize when I’m looking at the good guys,” Gibbs said. “And while their methods are shit, the Winchesters are the good guys. Even Sam.”

He got a quirked eyebrow for that, which was more than he usually got from any of those guys.

Castiel turned his attention back to the boat. “The design is clever.”

“Yeah,” Gibbs said. “Not many 3D devil’s traps around like this one.”

Castiel kept staring at it as if it was some sort of puzzle. “What Dean told you is true.”

“I know,” Gibbs said. “Kid couldn’t lie decently to save his soul.”

Was that the beginning of a smirk on the angels’ face?

First time for everything, Gibbs thought.

“You will likely cross paths again,” Castiel said.

When Gibbs glanced back toward the angel, he was gone.

Gibbs sighed again and shrugged out of his jacket. He was going to be awake for a long time after a conversation like that; might as well get some work done on the boat.

-|- -|- -|-

Epilogue