The Mile High City Affair

by Sammie

ATF crossover with "NCIS"

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"What have we got on the FBI agents?" Chris asked shortly, for the third time in an hour.

Tony was not happy. "Not much. Gibbs is on the phone with Fornell in your office." 'For the third time in an hour,' he added in his head.

"I know he is," Chris snapped, his temper growing short. "What do you mean, not much!"

"Brother," Josiah replied soothingly--the man had the patience of a saint and then some--"we've been over those files several times. As we said, the only agent with any disciplinary problems is Tim Bickerstaff."

"Then go over them again!" Chris slammed the chair he was using into a nearby desk and headed to his office.

"That man is worse than Captain Ahab," Ezra muttered.

"Standish, shut up and get back to work!"

The agents watched out of the corners of their eyes as the door slammed shut behind the frustrated senior ATF agent. They exchanged looks over their open files before JD complained, "Chris gets so obsessed about Hopewell. We're on the case right now with nothing more we can do and he's still glaring at us."

"He's persistent, JD," Buck corrected shortly. Even the usually fun-loving explosives agent was getting short-tempered.

"No, he's obsessed," JD insisted. "Fixated. Possessed. Consumed. Fan--"

"We get it, JD, ya got Ez's thesaurus," Vin cut in in annoyance. "Just let Chris alone."

"It makes him trigger-happy!"

"He's ALWAYS trigger-happy," Vin snapped. "Let him alone. It'll blow over."

+ + + + + + +

"All right. Yeah." With that, Gibbs hung up.

"What did you get?" Chris replied shortly.

"Fornell gave us everything." Gibbs gathered up his papers. "He has nothing else."

"And you believe him?" Chris snorted. When Gibbs just turned to look at him, he got toe-to-toe with the other man, his green eyes furious. "I want Hopewell's hired shooter on that slab downstairs."

"And I don't?" Gibbs snapped.

Chris' voice lowered, hissing, "No mother and child are going to risk their lives for your screw-ups."

Gibbs narrowed his eyes ever so slightly. He paused a moment, and then his voice came, quieter than ever: "As long as I'm alive, that boy will never live without his mother." He turned around and headed out, the door slamming behind him.

+ + + + + + +

"He's got target fixation," Gibbs said the minute he was back in the bullpen. When the rest of the agents turned to him, the ATF agents eyeing him warily, he shook his head. "Larabee's going to get the rest of us killed," he muttered as he sorted through the files, apparently uncaring of the dark looks he was getting.

"Takes one to know one," Kate retorted quietly from her corner seat. Apparently it wasn't as under her breath as she thought.

Vin watched as the NCIS team boss straightened as he turned, stepping right in front of her until they were only inches apart. He narrowed his eyes down at her; Kate was slightly taken aback but didn't falter. "I'm just saying Chris isn't the only one with target fixation problems," she said firmly.


"That's his name, Gibbs," Kate shot back in a low voice, her eyes flashing. "And you saying he's got target fixation is true, but don't you think that's pot calling the kettle black?"

Vin's eyes flickered to the other two NCIS agents. McGee was trying to look busy from his seat next to JD, working much faster now on his PDA...probably to avoid a tongue-lashing when Gibbs was finished with Kate. (The Kid was, unfortunately, watching the exchange with his mouth slightly open.) Just a few feet from his boss and his colleague--and moving away as discreetly as he could--was Tony; Vin saw the carefree agent grimace. He busied himself with the file papers, but both he and everyone else knew that they wouldn't get anything more out of them.

Out of self-protection, the other agents grouped at the other side of the room, pretending to work and mostly out of hearing range. Kate's voice had dropped, but Vin's sharp hearing could pick up the whispers even as the others pretended to head back to work. "You know who I'm talking about."

"Ari shot me and kidnapped three people--you twice."

"You shot him and we didn't know until Fornell said it just a few days ago!"

"He kidnapped you and let his men smack you, and you're defending him? You have something to tell me, Special--Agent--Todd?"

"That is not the point. want to...gnaw at some old bone like a dog, you're entitled to your...old dog bone--"

"...DOG bone?"

"--and Chris is entitled to his. He lost a wife and a son, and now he stands to lose someone very close to him and see a little boy get orphaned. He might not be the most fun ballgame around, but you're not exactly a bed of roses, either. You can't--"

"We're done with this," Gibbs cut it off abruptly and headed downstairs.

Kate stood there, even more annoyed. "We were," she muttered.

+ + + + + + +

"Maybe if you'd saved our work the first time around--" JD snapped.

"We wouldn't have needed to save if if your teammates hadn't kept interfe--" McGee interrupted.

"That's because my teammates actually had pertinent information, unlike--"

"Hey!" Kate suddenly shouted, pointing a file folder at the bickering agents, ending the sixth fight that day. "All right!" She looked at them, who were looking at her with a slightly chastised expression. Several feet away, Josiah smiled into his papers. "What is wrong with you? We've got holes in our plan--"

"--a huge, honking big hole," Vin muttered.

"--we're not going to go bouncing off the walls about it when we should be concentrating on what else we can do," Kate continued, ignoring him. "So let's break this bickering pattern." They stared at her, slightly dumbfounded. "I'll start. I'm worried for Mary. I'm worried for the Travises. I'm worried that if something goes wrong, Billy will be an orphan. Permanently. I'm worried about everyone here--that one of us won't come out of this assignment alive. There. I said it. ... I got it out, and I can move on with my life and the case."

Some of the other agents looked at Josiah pleadingly, begging the one agent who hadn't done any bickering to intervene. They were not going to participate in some bonding session.

"I know Mary's apparently got a huge...glaring" Kate paused, thinking about the ATF boss "--literally--sign on her that says 'all men keep away', but it's perfectly okay to say you're worried about her. And about the director. And about each other."

"About each other?" JD exclaimed, now looking at the woman like she'd grown three heads. "You mean, like them?" he asked, waving a hand at his teammates.

"Yes. Two seconds, get it out. Larabee doesn't know, Gibbs doesn't know, we'll never discuss this again. This is a safe place for us to...voice our concerns."

"Huh," Buck muttered. "In my world, we call that a bar."

+ + + + + + +

"Chris, that's ridiculous. You can't expect to take over the entire security detail at the dinner," Orin argued. "They'll suspect something is up."

"I agree with the Director," Standish finally spoke, ignoring the glare coming his way. "This is merely an appreciation dinner for the art gallery. I hardly think the assassin will attend, and even if he does, I suspect the speakers will bore him to death before he is able to do anything."

Orin blinked and then looked down at the Southerner. "I have to speak tonight, Standish."

"...and even if the assassin attends, I am sure the speaker will so enrapture him with his words that he will forget the task at hand."

"So what do we are we going to do?" Orin cut in, bringing the subject back on topic.

"I would be delighted to offer my services as an attendee, a dabbler in the fine arts," Standish replied.

"I'm sure you would," Orin muttered. "But I think Ezra has the idea. At most we will bring two, three agents as additions to security, and no one else so as not to raise suspicions. Anyone else will have to go as guests, such as Ezra. I personally plan to go armed tonight. Standish can come along--at least he can BS his way through the art." He turned to Kate. "Could you come?"

"I'm not sure I can pretend the art talk."

"You draw fine," Gibbs pointed out.

"I only know a little, Gibbs. I draw. I don't do modern art. Some people play the piano but can't name every one of Wagner's operas."

"You might come with me," Standish offered, smiling mischievously. "Your knowledge should be enough for us to supplement each other in conversation. And I would be honored to have such a fine lady to escort."

Kate laughed, then looked up at Tony, pointing to Ezra. "Watch and learn, Tony." She nodded to the Southerner. "I'd be delighted, Mr. Standish." She smiled, her eyes laughing. "How are you not married?"

"Ah, 'had I but world enough, and time....'" Ezra replied with a small mock bow. Orin looked at Ducky, shaking his head but smiling as the ME laughed.

"All right, all right," Orin finally cut in, suppressing a smile as he turned to the others. "I suppose you gentlemen will be going along also." Gibbs and Larabee nodded. The AD then turned to Nathan. "Nathan, I want you there."

"Me? Why?"

Orin sighed. "Chris is going. Ezra is going. We will need a doctor there, and I suspect you have more 'mean face' to turn on them than Ducky does." There was laughter, and then Orin turned to the ME with a worried expression, the request unspoken.

Ducky nodded assuringly at his old friend. There was no way he would allow Billy out of his sight.

+ + + + + + +

"How're you guys holding up?" Buck asked as he and Tony came around to three sitting in front of the monitors.

"We're good for tomorrow's gallery ceremony," McGee replied. "We've got a feed into the museum and the camera across from Hopewell's compound."

Abby pointed over at the table. "These are for you," she pointed out to JD. "You and Nathan and Vin." She held up two tiny earpieces. "These are for Hopewell's cars." She held up a few flat bags of GPS locators. "You should be able to slip them under your clothes when you go in." Suddenly she added, "Oh, and Chris said he wanted to see you--something else he wants you to do with the cars and the GPS locators."

"What else would he want us to do?" JD puzzled. "And what about that dinner tonight? What's the plan?"

"The dinner won't be anything," Buck reassured him. "As for Chris, we'll have to sit and wait. Don't worry about tonight. Tomorrow's got enough trouble of its own."


Kate felt a tug on her dress, and looked down to see the Travis boy smiling up at her. "Hi, Billy."

"You look real pretty," Billy said, his tone a little awed as he smiled up at her and touched the soft material of the dress again. She smiled down at him, and he beamed. He suddenly seemed to gather his thoughts. "I mean, not as pretty as my ma, but second--"

At that, the men in the family room roared in laughter. "Billy, quit while you're still ahead," Buck chortled. "Trust me. With women, best to keep your mouth closed." At that, they roared even louder.

A puzzled Billy looked up at Kate, who was glaring at them before she crouched down to his level and asked, "Billy, is your ma pretty?"

"The prettiest in the world!" Billy announced.

"Well, then," Kate smiled at him, "I'm glad you think I'm second only to your ma." Billy beamed up at her.

"That doesn't work on my dates," Tony commented with a grin, to more laughter from the men.

"Tony, you're five times Billy's age," Kate retorted as she straightened.

"Ready to go?" Orin came to the door, Mary and Evie close behind. Chris and Gibbs appeared, adjusting the shoulder holsters hidden under their jackets. Ezra was complaining about the ATF budget not giving him a good enough suit, and Nathan was rolling his eyes.

Mary was talking to her son, who was beaming at her. She hugged him and they were about to go when Billy's face suddenly fell. He stood alone in the hallway, looking forlornly at all the adults: his mother, his grandparents, Chris, Nathan, Ezra, and the two NCIS agents. His eyes flickered nervously, and he opened his mouth to say something, then shut it. "Billy?" she asked gently. "What's wrong?"

The party turned, watching the child's eyes move nervously among them, and he asked fearfully, "Do all of you have to go?"

Kate looked up to see the expressions of the Travises and of the two team leaders, who stood there dumbfounded for a moment, the boy's fear etching pain in their faces.

"Sweetheart," Mary began gently, gathering her son up. "We're just going to the dinner." Billy frowned and clung more tightly to his mother, burying his face in his mother's arms. "Nothing will happen to me, Billy."

"Do all of you have to go?" came a desperate, muffled voice. Mary looked up helplessly at them, stroking her son's hair.

Chris could see that she was going to decide to opt out, and while he hated to go to these stupid things himself, she had to keep up appearances. If Hopewell was going to be duped into thinking that they weren't on to him--that they were just looking for Garcia's killers--then she had to go.

He watched the small child's arms tighten even more around his mother and exchanged looks with the Director and his wife. Gibbs' words flashed briefly in his head. "Billy, come here." The boy turned but didn't release his hold. "I want to show you something." Motioning to the others, he led them into the kitchen, where a surprised Ducky looked up at them. Chris just shook his head slightly, and the ME remained silent.

Ducky watched as the blond set Billy on top of the kitchen counter, reassuring him quietly. Chris then carefully lifted his black dinner jacket, revealing his holster around his waist and then a small shoulder holster. He pulled up a pants leg to reveal a small weapon strapped to his ankle. His two agents and Gibbs followed suit.

"Even Agent Todd is armed. Look," Chris consoled the boy, pointing to Kate, who lifted her slit-less dress which hid the weapon strapped to her calf. The boy nodded, now visibly more relaxed, and looked up at his hero again. "Billy. I'm not going to let anything happen to your ma or your Grandpa and Grandma, okay?"

The boy nodded trustingly and tightly hugged the ATF agent, who picked him up and set him on his feet on the kitchen floor.

"Come, Billy," Ducky finally spoke from the corner. His heart warmed when child's face light up, obviously having forgotten about his 'gran'uncle' who wasn't going to the dinner and wouldn't get hurt. "Would you like to spend tonight with your Uncle Ducky and the boys?"

Billy beamed, having been set to rights, and slipped a hand into the older man's. "Can you tell me stories?"

"Of course," Ducky replied gently as he knelt to the boy's level, and Orin looked at him gratefully. "We're going to have more fun than they are. They gotta listen to stuffy old speakers and dance with girls," the ME teased in a stage-whisper, and the boy properly looked horrified. "You stay with me, and we'll have a ball here at home."

"There's only one rule," Kate interjected in a serious tone. Stepping up close to the boy watching her attentively, she turned him to look into the testosterone-filled living room. "You be a good boy and don't listen to anything Tony tells you, okay?" The twinkle in her eyes was matched only by the amused chuckle from Gibbs.

Billy looked up at surprise at Kate, and then over to the men, who were arguing--this time, in banter--and had no idea what was going on. Puzzled, he conceded. "Okay."

"Don't you worry, Billy, my boy," Orin replied with a gentle smile at his grandson. "Everything will be quite fine."


Buck watched discreetly from the corner as Billy's eyes again drifted up to the clock. He exchanged a worried look with Josiah and Dr. Mallard.

They were supposed to have been back over an hour ago, and there was still no phone call. By now, a green ogre had saved a sassy princess--or vice versa, depending on how you looked at it; round green peas 'march'ed around a walled city, if one could call it marching; a yellow, pants-wearing sponge cheered when he saw David Hasselhoff--stupid sponge, Buck thought; and Jonah the Asparagus was currently being spewed up on the beach by the big fish who swallowed him.

The men had silently agreed to leave off the radio and the TV. Travis' short talk with them--as the one this morning--had made them more worried about the dinner event tonight than they had been. It was supposed to be a dinner--what could go wrong? But Travis' own caution made them nervous something might happen, and they didn't want Billy seeing it.

Besides, it could hardly hurt to leave off news of more murders, deaths, and scandals for just one night.

Ducky ever so slightly tightened his hold on his best friend's grandson, trying to reassure the child. Billy had been quiet all evening, and apparently the movie that often had him giggling hours after it ended was not doing so well today.

Buck's cell phone began to ring, and all three looked up as the tall agent answered. "Wilmington." There was a long pause. "Okay." His face went hard for a moment, and then he nodded. "Okay. We'll see you there."

"Where's Ma?" Billy blurted immediately in demand, only his wide-eyes showing his fear.

Ducky could tell from Buck's expression that their "tell Billy nothing" policy was rapidly going out the window...he doubted the big-hearted man could resist the child's worried look.

"Your ma's fine, Billy," Buck said gently. "She's just fine. We're going to see her now."

Billy paused a minute in relief before he frowned, his voice now small. "How come Chris isn't bringing her home?"

At that, all the men suddenly turned to the ATF agent, their own questions evident.

"Some...people got a little hurt," Buck tried. "It's not that bad, Billy, it's really not. But right now everybody's at the hospital, and Chris thinks it would be safer for us to meet all of them there." Buck paused, then added quickly and decisively, "Your ma's not one of them. She's fine."

"Oh." The boy furrowed his brow. "Did Ezra get hurt? 'Cause Chris and Nathan said they were gonna be really mad, and Nathan was mutterin' about tanning britches and Chris said he was just gonna shoot 'im."

Buck chuckled slightly. "Ez's is a little beat up, as are Gibbs and Chris, but otherwise they're fine." At that, Vin frowned, his forehead creasing, and Buck responded by saying quietly, "Billy, why don't you go with Josiah to get up a little bag of books or something to take along to the hospital, okay?"

Billy looked up at Ducky and Tony, then at Josiah, who reached out a hand to the boy. The boy smiled at his grandfather's old friend, who returned it, and left the room with the older agent.

"It's one of ours, isn't it," Tony said quietly.

Buck nodded reluctantly. "Kate took a shot to the stomach and one to her leg. From what Chris said, though, seemed like the bullet did a lot more damage internally."

"Stomach?" Ducky paled. A gut shot. He paused and tried to get his bearings. "What happened? Anyone else hurt?"

"Someone attempted to go short-range, and Kate stepped in between him and Mary just as he was drawing." Buck sighed. "She got it the worst. Ezra got grazed and dislocated his shoulder, but Nathan popped it back in; he's just going to be a little sore. Chris and Gibbs got banged up in the chaos after the shooting, but Kate is.... Let's just get over there."


Chris looked up just as the sliding doors opened, and Billy came in, running at top speed. "Ma! Ma! Mommie!"

There were a few trace, but grim, smiles as the woman swept her son up, tightly hugging him. She had changed into blue scrubs, obviously lent to her by the hospital. Behind him came the medical examiner and the two ATF agents.

Chris didn't stop to exchange pleasantaries but went straight Ducky. "Kate's in the ER right now. She needs blood, but only Ezra's her blood type, and he lost a lot of blood when he got nicked in the head--Nathan prefers he not give any. McGee said you're her blood type."

Ducky nodded, biting back the comments about Chris' battered appearance. If Larabee looked like this, he hated to think what Jethro looked like. 'A little banged up, my foot.' And if they looked like this, well, what of Caitlin? "What did the doctor say?"

Chris shook his head. "Gibbs is listed as her next of kin, so the doctor told him stuff, but he won't talk to us; Nathan hasn't been able to get the doctor to crack, either, because she's not my agent. I got out of the nurse that she's critical but will probably be fine. They're over there." He motioned behind him. The ME started to leave, when Chris called firmly but quietly, "Doctor." Ducky turned to look at him. "A favor."

If it had been at any other time, Ducky was sure he would have laughed. The mighty Chris Larabee, asking a favor? And by the expression on his face, it wasn't something he did often. "Yes?"

Chris came over and lowered his voice even more. "I would be the last one to say anything if Billy weren't here." He paused a moment. "Try to convince Gibbs to change. The hospital left a pair of scrubs for him, but he's just ignoring everybody. He's got Kate's blood all over him, and I don't want Billy to get more upset than he will be when he notices Kate isn't in the waiting room."

Ducky nodded. "He'll change out of those clothes, if I have to do it myself." He was just about to go when he felt a small tug on his sleeve. Both men looked down to see a cherubic face smiling up at them, and Billy hugged Ducky. "Thanks for staying with me, Uncle Ducky."

Ducky knelt down to his level. "It was my pleasure, Billy, my boy." The boy smiled wider. "Now you be good for your mother. I've got a few things I have to do, all right?"

Billy nodded solemnly. Ducky smiled at him, then straightened and started for the ER. Behind him, he could hear Billy's childlike prattle to Larabee, and suddenly the question: "Where's Agent Kate? And where's Agent Gibbs? How come they're not here?"

+ + + + + + +

Ducky rounded the corner to the ER waiting room, where a young couple was sitting in the corner, warily eyeing Gibbs. The silver-haired agent had a foul expression on his face, looking like a caged animal. A set of scrubs lay folded on a nearby chair, untouched.

It was worse than Chris had said. Besides the slowly forming black and blue bruises similar to those Chris was sporting, Gibbs' front side from about mid-chest to his waist was covered in blood; his hands were clean, but blood spattered on his sleeves indicated that his clean hands were merely from having washed them.

His shirt was probably sticking to his skin.

Ducky approached quietly, but Gibbs heard him and looked up. "All of you okay?"

"We're fine," Ducky said quietly and sat down in a nearby seat. "But you look terrible. You really should change, Jethro."

Gibbs' scowl deepend slightly, and he made no move to take the clothes or the scrubs. "I'm not wearing scrubs again."

Ducky sighed. He had been hoping he wouldn't have to bring out the big guns right away. "Jethro, Billy is here. Just as I got in here he was asking about you and Kate. The last thing he needs to see is your clothes looking like that." Ducky knew it was a low blow, but there wasn't much else he could use to hit home fast. "I will wait here."

After a moment, Gibbs took the scrubs and left for the bathroom.


Kelly muttered a small curse as he rounded up his agents, his cell phone still pasted to his ear as he listened to Larabee. "Okay." He snapped the phone shut and turned to his team, who was looking at him concernedly.

"Mary Travis and Kate Todd are going to a safehouse tomorrow," he announced. "Larabee wants us to lead, and Tanner's contacted his old boss at the US Marshals to get us a good team to help us. Billy and Evie Travis are coming too.

"Tomorrow morning we bring Lawrence in to headquarters. Then we divide up--half of us are going to cover Lawrence and the other half to the safehouse. Dismissed."

Kelly tried not to yawn as he grabbed his bag to go and nearly crashed into one of his junior agents. "You're awake for this time of night."

The agent held up thick folder. "You remember that whole thing about the Stephen Travis case? You told me to look more closely in it."

Kelly paused and shrugged. "Yeah. Lynn Koschesky was the lead on that case. She's working this one, too."

"That's not everything to that case, boss."


Ducky went up into the small donation room, where he saw Ezra sitting in a chair, a needle in his arm, and the medic glaring darkly at him.

The elderly ME chuckled quietly as he sat down nearby. "Agent Standish, I am of the same blood type as Kate. You needn't give blood, now. I'm afraid from the looks of you that you don't have much to spare."

Nathan huffed at Ezra. "That's what I keep telling him. The fool never listens to me. You work on him, Doctor." He left.

Ezra just shook his head as Ducky moved to sit next to him. "I was only grazed."

"By the looks of it, a head wound. You must have lost a lot of blood."

"I'm fine, doctor." The Southerner clamped his mouth shut, a determined look on his face.

Ducky nodded as the nurse came by with a kit to draw his blood. "What happened?" he asked quietly.

"I had seen this suspicious-looking character and had moved to engage him," Ezra said quietly. "Apparently he was quite the oblivious fool. While I was gone, an elderly little lady approached Miss Todd and Ms. Travis. She had a small weapon up her sleeve--it took her mere seconds to have it in hand. Miss Todd stepped in between the shooter and began to wrestle the weapon from her hand; it discharged into her leg. The shooter shot her as she fled--I suppose, to kill, but Miss Todd moved in time and was shot in the stomach."

Ducky nodded quietly, not saying anything as the undercover agent detachedly finished the story. "It was not your fault." Just as he suspected, there was barely a flicker of response from Standish, but the older man had caught it. "I have been in the world of the undercover agent longer than you suspect," the ME replied with a slight smile. "I know the tricks. Whatever you may say, Agent Standish, I disagree with what you're THINKING--you are not to blame."

"I saw her," Ezra muttered, a tone of frustration emerging. "I saw her walking towards them and I thought, 'she's just a harmless elderly woman.' And I remember seeing her arm come up. I wear a small weapon up my sleeve. How could I not have noticed it?"

Ducky shook his head. "But Kate did. That's enough." The nurse finished up, and Ducky nodded his thanks. "What happened afterwards?"

"We went after the shooter--Director Travis, Mr. Larabee, and I. Ms. Travis and Mr. Gibbs were with Miss Todd--trying to stop the bleeding. We lost the shooter, and none of us got a decent look at the woman, either--except perhaps Miss Todd."

"This wasn't your fault, Agent Standish," Ducky replied gently. "No one blames you, and that includes any of us at NCIS, including Kate and Jethro."

The undercover agent turned an inscrutable look on the ME, after a pause, he said quietly, "You didn't see his face when he saw her bleeding on the floor, Doctor."

+ + + + + + +

The two men headed downstairs, where they were met by a sea of grim faces. A few nodded, acknowledging their arrival. Ducky saw his friend in the blue scrubs. "They don't look so bad on you, Jethro," he commented, trying to lighten the mood a little.

The NCIS agent looked down at the scrubs. "Eh. Maybe in another lifetime."

The ME looked faintly surprised at the half-joking response. Vin looked up at him, his clear blue eyes twinkling ever so slightly. They flickered to the ICU sign, and Ducky smiled a little in reply. So they had finally taken Kate out of surgery; safely, it seemed.

The sniper then unconsciously pulled his slouch hat even lower over his eyes and explained in a low voice,"There are some Fibbies out in the lobby; they want to know what happened to Kate."

"They don't want to know that," Nathan snorted.

"Is Kate awake?" Ducky asked, but doubtfully. She most likely wouldn't be awake for awhile. His suspicion was confirmed when Gibbs shook his head.

"No one gets to Kate," Chris replied firmly. "I already told Kelly--they're going to take Mrs. Travis, Billy, Mary, and Kate to the safehouse tomorrow morning, as soon as Kate can be moved."

"She needs medical care," Nathan said for the thousandth time.

"She needs to be alive," Gibbs said shortly. "Ducky, can you go along?"

"Of course."

"If we're keeping any information from leaking out--and making sure the shooter doesn't get away--no one else can get access to Kate," Tony said pointedly. "Honestly, people are going to crawl over coals to get to her and get information. She's an easy target for everything. How are we going to prevent that, short of her dying?"

The agents exchanged looks, and then a slow grin spread over Chris' face. "So let's kill her off."