Previously on: "A Matter Of Life And Death" (Gibbs bringing bed ridden Tony up to speed on the "Ari" case)

"So far here's where we're at, after the hospital gave Abby full use of their lab so I could keep an eye on all of you, she's already been able to detect some of the more rare components of that damn spray that Ari doused me with. Kate and McGee did some digging and found that the only way to obtain a couple of the more rare components, is though underground channels. Once they track down who sold or purchased some of the rare components recently - we can make some arrests and force them to lead us to Ari. I will use them as bait if I have to!"

"Wow, that's . . . that's pretty good progress boss." Gibbs instantly detected the hesitancy in Tony's voice and the shadows of doubt clouding his face. Either he was just down because he wasn't able to help more with the case or he didn't believe this was enough of a lead to track down someone as cunning as Ari. He decided to continue, vowing he would figure out the real reason for his injured agent's dire mood later.

"Yeah well, you know and I know - Ari's not stupid - so I highly doubt he would be that sloppy when it comes to leaving any kind of trail or falling for that kind of bait. We need more time to think this through but unfortunately, we don't have time. It's not a question of whether or not Ari will make another attempt to bring harm to one of us - it's a given."


A Matter Of Life Or Death

Part XVI

DC Business District Office Park – McGee & Kate. . .

Kate and McGee had worked diligently, using Abby's brilliant leads they were finally able to track down one of the sellers of the illegally obtained chemicals that were part of the spray used on their boss. Now it was up to them to bring the main suspect in while Gibbs remained at Tony's side, protecting him from further harm.

They had followed the suspect as he arrived at a small business park that consisted of multiple small individual buildings labeled A through E. Chou drove past the first couple of buildings arriving at building C where he has his own private office that he solely used as a cover for his underground and highly unethical dealings.

Jong Wai Chou - had a degree in chemistry and was a borderline genius. Having spent years creating new combinations of drugs using his chemistry talent as well as his vast knowledge of rare Chinese herbs – he had eventually been approached by some questionable sources seeking use of some of these deadly combinations. In dire need of money, it hadn't taken much effort on their part, to persuade Chou to accept the dangerous agreement almost immediately.

Kate and McGee wasted no time approaching the man near his vehicle in the moderate size parking lot that was surrounded by beautifully manicured landscaping. Trees and other nearby buildings. They knew they needed to get to him before he entered the building which would have increased the risk to other people if Chou tried to get away from them or worse yet grabbed a nearby employee to use as a shield - or as a captive.

"Excuse me – Mr. Chou?" Kate stated firmly as they got within a few feet from the man. Both she and McGee whipped out their badges raising them in the air on clear display alerting the evil man to the seriousness of their visit and hoping like hell he wouldn't bolt.

Once Jong saw the badges of the two NCIS agents in front of him it was all he could do to control his rising panic. Deciding to play it cool on the off chance that they weren't there to nail him for his illegal associations, he portrayed a exterior calmness that contradicted with the internal overbeating of his heart and sudden acidity of his nervous stomach.

After hearing them state the reasons behind why they were arresting him he did his best to convince them they had been given bad information and that they had the wrong man – all of which fell to deaf ears as both Kate and McGee could only think of Tony and Gibbs and how close both of them had come to being killed – Gibbs attack directly related to this man's criminal doings. This very man's misguided talents had played a large role in the most recent attack on Gibbs and it took every ounce of will power and strength that Kate and McGee had, not to take out their anger on the demented and greedy criminal.

Kate was angrily reading Chou his rights just as Tim had begun to cuff the man planning to bring him to NCIS for interrogation when suddenly out of nowhere, a shot rang out and all hell broke loose!

Tim ducked down behind their suspect's Volvo- simultaneously pulling Chou down with him seeking cover. Kate following less than a second later, reacting out of sheer reflex from being fired upon. Tim rose to a semi-squatting position, peeking up over the trunk of the vehicle as he pulled his weapon and quickly scanned the area all around them, including any nearby rooftops. He was hoping to spot the shooter either trying to take another crack at them – or trying to get away. Not seeing anything he made fast work of getting the other cuff on their suspect before he took advantage of the new distraction and tried to bolt himself.

"Kate, you okay?" he finally hollered suddenly worried about his teammate, realizing he hadn't heard her react at all.

"Uhhh, Ma-Gee?" Kate responded weakly, her voice lacked its usual firmness.

Tim immediately glanced over and the first thing he noticed was a fast growing splotch of red appearing on the white silk sleeve of Kate's left arm. The second thing he noticed was her just staring at the wound in disbelief and seemingly not feeling the pain of the hot lead that had just passed all the way through her upper arm – 'Damn, she's in a state of shock!' Tim realized.

"Oh my God, KATE! Are you alright? Did you get hit anywhere else?" He asked, suddenly forgetting they had only heard one shot. No response.


While Tim fumbled to get his cell phone out of his pocket to call for a back-up team and an ambulance he barely registered the Asian man going on and on about mistaken identity and how he was going to sue NCIS since he was almost killed while being detailed by them, blah, blah, blah. Tim tuned out the rest of the man's rants completely.

Hanging up his phone he turned his attention to helping Kate, kneeling down, he still had his weapon out and kept it pointed at Chou while he used his free hand to push Kate's hand away in order to get a better look at the wound.

He breathed a heavy sigh of relief when he saw both an entry and exit wound, Though it would bleed more for obvious reasons, at least there wasn't a bullet still wedged inside to cause more damage. Realizing he couldn't cover both holes using one hand he acted quickly and grabbed Kate's cuffs off of her slim belt and after looking around he spotted a steel bike rack that was bolted firmly into the cement. Grabbing Chou by the arm Tim hoisted them both up to a standing position and dragged the feisty suspect over to a bike rack that was just 4-5 feet away from the car. Using the second set of cuffs he locked the still complaining Chou to the solid rack which was so low to the ground that the man had no choice but to sit down on the cold cement curb.

Running back to Kate Tim re-holstered his weapon and used his free hand to quickly flash his badge to the growing crowd of onlookers and yelling out an announcement that they were NCIS agents and that he needed everyone to proceed inside the building in case the shooter was still in the vicinity. They would have to question the bystanders later seeking witnesses to the shooting.

As he got to Kate whom he found was now sitting down on the sidewalk, he pulled off his expensive suit jacket – using it to wrap around his partner's shoulders for warmth and hoping to keep her from going into shock. He made quick work of unbuttoning his dress shirt, thankful for the t-shirt he had worn underneath today. Ripping his fairly new midnight blue dress shirt in two he quickly tied it in place around her wounded arm and effectively slowing the blood flow, much to his and Kate's relief.

By now sirens could be heard as back up arrived at the scene as did the eagerly anticipated ambulance that would to bring them back to the very hospital they had just left a few hours earlier. While medics were getting Kate onto a stretcher, ignoring her demands that she doesn't need the ambulance – her words were drowned out by an explosion loud enough to cause all of their ears to ring!

Everyone ducked for cover before slowing rising back up and looking over to the office building C, the one located closest to them. As the smoke and debris settled and fire rose up from the blown out windows, the silence that descended over the scene momentarily was broken yet again as Jong W. Chou yelled out in a shaky and traumatized voice -

"My office!"

Hospital ICU – Tony's Room . . .

Tony was sleeping yet again after the morphine seemed to have crept into his very being within ten minutes of his pressing the button on the 'self serve pump' as he had started calling it – the strong narcotic pulling him down until he slid under the rim of consciousness.

Gibbs had taken to pacing back and forth across the room, mulling over every meeting, conversation and confrontation that had taken place between he and Ari, stemming all the way back to the first time they had met in Ducky's autopsy lab. By doing so he had hoped he might be able to detect some minor slip up, unknowingly made by the Israeli but all his reminiscing had managed to do – was raise his blood pressure and royally piss him off.

His cell phone rang from its place on his hip, startling him out of his trip down bad memory lane – or rather the quick aisle. Grabbing it with the speed of a top gun shooter he cursed himself for not having McGee show him how to put the damn thing on vibrate. As he answered, he stole a sideways glance towards Tony's bed, checking to see if the phone had roused his healing agent. To his relief Tony hadn't moved a muscle and from all outside appearances, seemed to remain in deep slumber.

Putting the phone to his ear he answered, "This better be good!" Gibbs whispered – somehow still managing to sound like he was yelling.

Tony laid as still as possible in his bed, awake but unmoving solely for the purpose of eavesdropping on his bosses call. He knew it wasn't the smartest thing he had ever done but he needed to know what was really going on with the case and the team since he knew Gibbs was keeping a lot of it away from him in order to keep his weak blood pressure from suddenly shooting up in the opposite direction and causing him both physical as well as mental duress.

He justified his actions by telling himself that this sneaky, unnaturally stoic behavior – was definitely something Gibbs would do if he were in Tony's shoes.

"WHAT! When?" Gibbs continued speaking in a whispering bellow.

"How bad?"

It was killing Tony not to just raise his automatic bed up and demand to know what was going down. He would wait until he heard as much as possible before he announced his conscious presence.

"You tell her I will be in the Emergency Room within in three minutes!"

Snapping his phone shut, it took all of his self control to stop himself seconds before he was about to throw his phone against the nearest wall. Realizing he had to make sure Tony was protected before bolting out of there, he looked over at the man's bed - shocked yet again to see glassy green eyes staring back at him with worry.

"How much did ya hear DiNozzo?"

"All of it. Doesn't tell me squat though Gibbs and you know it. What happened? Who got hurt?"

When all he got in return was his bosses' most intense glare Tony continued pleading his case.

"Look boss, you may as well level with me. You knowI will find a way to get answers on my own - and that will be much worse."

'Dammit all to hell' Gibbs thought,he knew Tony would do just that – he would not give up on this until he knew every detail.

"Alright but I don't have time to tell you everything right now but I promise, I'll come back and bring you up to speed on all of it later. Right now I have to get to ER. But you gotta promise me something in return Tony."

"Anything." Tony agreed.

"Ya gotta promise me that you will not let anything I tell you, cause you any kind of set back! You stay calm and let me handle everything – ya got it?"

"Yeah, I got it boss. Now who was hurt?"


To Be Continued . . .

Post chapter A/N - There it is! I hoped you liked it as I made sure to kick up the danger and excitement a couple of notches.

I know you expected Gibbs to say KATE at the end but I thought of a great twist to perk the story up at this point. You have my word that I will update this story for SURE within 7 to 10 days max just so you don't have to wait weeks to find out what happened. See below . . .