A/N - This is a sequel to my last NCIS story "Loose Lips Sink Ships" altough it took a while to get around to it. It would probably put the story in context if you read that one first but I am trying to write it so that it will also stand alone. Hope you like it! Thanks also to Diane, my fab BETA.
Special Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs stood outside the decorative oak door, his nerves jangling. His right hand felt for his weapon out of habit, his usual preference to allay his fears, but it wasn't there. He checked his watch. It was time. He reached for the handle and slowly opened the door. Nervously, he entered the room.
"Ah, Jethro, you're actually on time," she said, turning to welcome him and sounding surprised.
"Yeah, just thought I'd keep you on your toes," he smiled, as he walked to the couch beside her.
Dr. Hilary Redmond sat with her slender legs crossed and her spectacles perched low on her nose. She had an open file on her lap and a pen in her hand.
"So, how have you been since we last met?" she asked him, sociably, but also in her professional capacity.
"Good," Gibbs replied typically.
Dr. Redmond was Gibbs' counsellor. Ducky had recommended her to him, to aid his recovery after he had been kidnapped and tortured while in Mexico several months previously. Ducky, being the sort of friend that he was, was concerned about the effect such a harrowing trauma could have on his friend. The physical effects were fading but it was the psychological ones that bothered him. Gibbs had hated the idea of going to a therapist but Vance, the NCIS director, had made it a condition of his return to active duty that he attended counselling. So between Vance and Ducky, he was left with little choice. Much as he hated to admit it, it was working out quite well. He found that talking to someone was actually helping him, especially being able to open up about the physical and mental trauma he had suffered at the hands of Raul and Estella Hernandez, the son and daughter of a man he had killed many years ago, the man who murdered his family.
They had subjected him to horrendous torture and had almost killed him. If it hadn't been for Tony, Ziva, McGee and Ducky, they would have succeeded. Then months later, when Gibbs was finally well enough to return to his suburban Washington home, Estella Hernandez turned up on his doorstep. She had nothing but revenge on her mind. She made a good attempt at finishing him off, almost killing Abby in the process. Luckily for both of them, the team got there in the nick of time and McGee ended up shooting and killing Estella.
Gibbs was glad that the whole episode was over. He was back at work and glad to be there. His physical injuries hardly caused him any trouble any more. His hip ached now and again and felt stiff if he stayed sitting in one position very long, and the headaches were becoming far less frequent. His team had finally stopped treating him with kid gloves…. well, almost. Outwardly he appeared to be back to his old self. However, underneath he was still struggling, finding it hard to sleep and when he was able to steal a couple of hours, more often than not, they were haunted by nightmares.
Gibbs never spoke about his therapy and his team were unaware that he was attending. Only Ducky and Director Vance were in the loop. That was the way Gibbs wanted it to stay. The sessions with Dr. Redmond had really helped and he was starting to enjoy the time he was spending with her. She was a very attractive woman, about ten years younger than he with burnt auburn hair and pale features. She was definitely his type. He found it effortless to relax in her company. Her smile put him at ease and allowed him to open up. She had a certain quality; he couldn't quite put his finger on it, but whatever it was, he liked it.
He removed his coat and settled back into the couch.
"So, where did we finish up last time?" Dr. Redmond asked, her eyes meeting his. So began another session. For the next hour they talked like old friends, Gibbs revealing to her things that he would never tell another living soul. As their session drew to a close, he felt a pang of disappointment. What he really wanted to do was ask her to dinner that night, but he knew that she only saw him as another patient and decided against it.
Gibbs left Dr. Redmond's office and hurried over to the Navy Yard. He stopped for his mandatory coffee fix before continuing on to the office. He arrived later than usual and by the time he got there, his team were all at their desks.
"Morning, Boss," DiNozzo and McGee piped up almost in unison.
"Good morning, Gibbs," Ziva said cheerfully, as Gibbs sat down behind his desk. As usual, the only acknowledgement they received was a quick nod of the head from their team leader.
"Everything all right, Boss?" DiNozzo asked bravely. It was unusual for Gibbs to be late in the mornings although Tony had noticed it happening on a few occasions since his return from injury. He presumed it was something medical and couldn't help but worry.
Gibbs looked up and threw a cutting glare in DiNozzo's direction. Tony knew better than to push it any further and put his head down and started typing feverishly on his keyboard. Gibbs allowed himself a wry smile at Tony's dramatic retreat. He secretly got a kick out of winding him up.
Gibbs was sipping his coffee when a voice boomed from the walkway above.
"Agent Gibbs! My office, now!"
Gibbs looked up while everyone else in the office turned and did the same. It was Director Vance and by the sound of it, he wasn't in a very good mood. Deliberately, Gibbs paused, took another long sip from his coffee cup before stiffly getting to his feet. His hip, where Estella had shot him, still niggled in the mornings. He started up the stairs to the first floor, a slight limp evident, and was watched every step of the way by his team. As he vanished from their sights, they couldn't help but comment.
"What do you think that's about?" DiNozzo asked, curiously.
"No idea but it sounds like the boss is going to get chewed up," McGee replied.
"Whatever it is, the director sure sounds mad," Ziva pointed out.
"I'd hate to be in Gibbs' shoes right now," Tony quipped. The others nodded in agreement.
Meanwhile upstairs, Gibbs entered the office of NCIS Director Leon Vance. Vance was standing staring out of his office window, with his back to Gibbs. Gibbs shut the door and approached his director. As he did so, Vance turned and let a deep sigh before removing the toothpick from his mouth. Gibbs mentally braced himself. He had no idea what was bothering his superior but knew it had to be something major to rattle him like this.
"Sit," Vance ordered, motioning him towards the chair across from him.
Gibbs sat in silence, waiting for Vance to fill him in. Vance took up position in his own leather chair and placed his elbows on his desk and leaned across towards Gibbs.
"I've just got off the phone with the State Department. It seems that a former NCIS agent has got himself arrested…..in Mexico…..," Vance said, watching for Gibbs reaction. As usual, there wasn't much evidence of a reaction in his stony face, so he continued. "….for murder, no less!"
"Franks?" Gibbs asked, pretty sure he now knew why Vance was bringing him in over this.
"You've guessed it. Former Special Agent Michael Franks no less," Vance confirmed, with a hint of sarcasm.
"So who did they say he murdered?" Gibbs asked.
"Well now, that's what's disturbing me. It's a twenty-year-old murder. You might recognise the name, Pedro Hernandez?" Vance enquired, knowing right well that Gibbs would know the name.
He watched as Gibbs' face paled slightly and his forehead creased. He knew the name. Of course he knew the name. No man could forget the name of the person responsible for the death of his family. Vance knew this. He also suspected that Gibbs had exacted his revenge on Senor Hernandez, but could never prove it and had no real desire to do so. However, news of Franks' arrest disturbed him. He feared it was going to open up a whole new can of worms.
"Where is he?" Gibbs asked, unflinching.
"Franks? He's being held in Chihauhua until his arraignment. It's due to take place this Thursday," Vance informed him.
"When do I leave?" Gibbs asked confidently.
"I'm not sure it's a good idea that you go at all, Agent Gibbs. You didn't exactly make any friends on your last visit," Vance reminded him.
"He can't stay locked up, Leon. He's innocent," Gibbs told him strongly.
"I know he is. I also know that JAG will be sending a lawyer to represent him," Vance explained. "He'll get him out."
"I need to be there, Leon. Mike's sick and I'm all he has. I owe him," Gibbs told Vance openly.
"I know you feel close to Franks, Gibbs, but you need to stop and think about this. Did it even cross your mind that this may just be a ploy to get you back in the country? It would certainly give Raul Hernandez the opportunity to finish what he started," Vance pointed out.
"I won't let my friend take the fall for me, Leon. I'm going to Mexico. Now I can go it alone, but it would be a whole lot easier if I had your backing on this," Gibbs said, hoping his boss would approve it.
Vance looked at him seriously.
"You know, Gibbs, I'm regretting it already, but okay. Go! But you take DiNozzo with you as back up. I don't want you or Franks coming back in body bags, agreed?" Vance declared, looking Gibbs straight in the eyes.
Gibbs just nodded. He got to his feet and turned towards the door.
"Send DiNozzo up," Vance called after him as he walked away.
Gibbs returned to the bullpen area his expression no different from when he left. His team watched as he walked back around his desk and sat down. He looked over at Tony and told him that the director was looking for him.
Tony scampered up to the director's office, trotting past Cynthia, his secretary, and let himself in.
"Agent DiNozzo," Vance said, motioning the young agent to the seat in front of him.
"Director," Tony said sitting down. His curiosity was pricked and he was anxious to know what was going on.
"Agent Gibbs is going back to Mexico and …." Vance began, before Tony interrupted.
"You're kidding, right?"
"I wish I was but as I said, he's is going back to Mexico and I need you to accompany him and, well, for want of a better phrase, keep him out of trouble," Vance said, seriously.
"Can I ask why he's going back?" Tony asked, astonished that Gibbs was returning and, not only that, but with the director's blessing.
"Mike Franks," Vance replied, sounding exasperated. Tony looked at him, waiting for him to elaborate. "He's been arrested for the murder of Pedro Hernandez."
"Pedro Hernandez? Isn't that the guy who ….?" Tony began before Vance interjected.
"Exactly!" Vance replied. "So you see my concern."
Tony saw all right but couldn't understand why Vance wasn't ordering Gibbs to stay out of it.
"So why are you letting him go then?" Tony asked, trying not to sound disrespectful.
"Do you really think I could stop him?" Vance replied, by way of explanation. "This is Gibbs we're talking about. At least if I okay his trip he'll have you as back up."
Tony knew he was right. The last time Gibbs got in trouble in Mexico, he was alone and it almost cost him his life.
"A JAG lawyer is taking a flight at 9 pm. I've arranged for the two of you to join him," Vance informed him.
"Okay then. Better pack my sun block," Tony quipped, as he stood up to leave.
"And DiNozzo," Vance called him back. "Don't let him do anything stupid."
Tony laughed nervously.
"Ha, ha…. like I could stop him," Tony replied and then closed the door behind him. He scurried back down the stairs to the bullpen. He noticed that Gibbs was no longer behind his desk.
"Where's the boss?" Tony asked McGee, as he reached his own desk.
"He left shortly after you went upstairs. He didn't say where he was going," McGee explained.
"Mexico," Tony replied, as a matter of fact.
"What?" Ziva exclaimed, hoping her ears were deceiving her.
"Yep, south of the border," Tony informed them.
"Why?" Ziva asked, a tinge of worry permeating her voice.
"Mike bloody Franks," Tony stated. "He got himself arrested for murder. Vance has asked me to keep an eye on Gibbs."
"Seriously? I mean the boss won't exactly be impressed if he hears you're the babysitter," McGee pointed out.
"Ya think, McGee? Well maybe that's why I'm not going to mention that," Tony replied cynically. "I gotta go and pack. See you guys when we get back."
Tony grabbed his backpack and headed for the elevator. He knew Gibbs had more than likely gone home to get ready. Tony planned to throw a few things into a bag and to head over to Gibbs' house after that. Road trip with the boss...uncomfortable to say the least.
A/n - Changed a confusing line or two since the original post.