Ree (triskellion) wrote,
Ree
triskellion

Home: Murder at Home

Title: Murder at Home
Series: Home
Author: triskellion
Rating: R
Word Count: 5645/37,000+
Spoilers: None
Warnings: It's slash, but you won't see that here
Disclaimer: They're not mine, pretty as I find them. Go to the producers if you want to talk money.
Summary: AU but following canon events: A series of thefts around Virginia and Maryland may prove to be something far more deadly and dangerous.



Abby's call was a life saver. Tim was about ready to put his head through his monitor in sheer frustration. Everything had been so slow today, and yesterday, and the day before. The office had been dead ever since they'd sent Ruby home and finished interrogating those two wannabe Iraqi terrorists. If he had to call one more pawn broker to try and get a break in Gibbs' pet cold case, he was going to go postal. Tony had given up on both research and phone calls and started playing computer games an hour ago, even though Gibbs was sitting across the way. And that was after the senior agent had run out of pawnshops in Peoria and Philly to call, or at least that's what it had sounded like. He'd done Baltimore yesterday. Ziva had started making phone calls in foreign languages right after lunch, and while he had no idea what she was saying, Tim had a feeling they had nothing to do with the cases they were all beating their heads into.

So when Gibbs put the phone down saying, “Abby has something,” the whole team was more than ready to follow him into the elevator.

“Gibbs, Gibbs, Gibbs,” Abby cried excitedly when she heard the team come through the door. Tim and Tony shared a smile as they watched the forensic tech launch herself at their boss.

“What'cha find Abs?” Tony asked in a tone one might use on a hyper dog, clapping his hands excitedly in time with Abby's bouncing.

“Behave,” Gibbs snapped generally, but it was Tony he slapped on the back of the head. “Abby?” he added, drawing everyone's attention away from Tony's exaggerated pain and back to the forensic tech.

“Ok, well I was bored ,” she babbled at full tilt. “Things are slow for every team, so I was going back over all the evidence on your home invasion cases, and I dug up a few more that other teams caught that look similar.”

“Send McGee the file numbers,” Gibbs ordered, and Tim made a note in his PDA to follow up with Abby.

“Right, so, I was comparing the evidence, of which there is a disgusting dearth,” Abby complained. Tim groaned softly. That exact dearth of evidence was what he'd been ready to beat his head into his computer monitor over. “Whoever this guy is, he's really careful.”

“If it is the same person,” Ziva interrupted.

Tim glared at her. That had been the big argument for the last few months, and he did not want to hear it started up again, not now.

“I've got evidence that says it is,” Abby said proudly.

Tony began making an odd noise that Tim finally identified as a drum roll, or at least something like it. It made Abby happy anyway.

“The most recent case used the same gun as the one six months ago that Agent Bollman's team caught,” Abby announced at the end of the drum roll. “And the one before that used the same gun as the case three months ago that Agent Cassidy caught.”

“But not the same gun for all four?” Gibbs asked for confirmation.

“No,” Abby agreed.

“Well, then we know there were two people who did home invasions twice, or the guns are being handed around the gang,” Tim said.

“Or the killer is cycling through his gun supply and just started over,” Tony suggested.

“It's enough to ensure all the cases are turned over to us,” Gibbs announced. “I need a formal report for the Director.”

“I need an hour or so, but you'll have it before end of business,” Abby assured him.

~o0o~

Tony was half way to Jeanne's when Gibbs called. This meant he was ten minutes in the right direction to go to the crime scene. Unfortunately, it also meant he was fifteen minutes the wrong direction from all his gear. Explaining this did not go over well with Gibbs, at all.

“It's all the undercover work,” Tony tried to explain. “It's just been safer not to keep any gear in the car, just in case it's searched.”

“You do have your badge and gun?” Gibbs snapped, his words more of a demand than a question.

“Of course,” Tony replied sharply. He wasn't so far gone that he'd leave those at home. He just didn't have his backpack kit.

Gibbs sighed harshly. “Crime scene. Now,” he ordered, the sound of an engine starting in the background. “I'll see you there.”

Before Tony could ask for clarification, the connection was cut from the far end. He knew on one level he should turn back, get his backpack. Turning up at a crime scene without even his NCIS jacket and cover would not fit regulations and could get him in a world of trouble if the Director found out. On the other hand, he had his orders.

At the next light, he turned south.

~o0o~

Tim was at home when the call came, blissfully, peacefully at home. In front of his computer. With nice hot takeout and everything.

But when Gibbs called, no was not an option. Which was how he found himself driving to Potomac Hospital to collect evidence from what might be their first surviving victim in this string of home invasion robberies.

After getting finger and boot prints from the paramedics who brought the victim in, Tim was directed to wait in the family room, Gibbs' directive to “Get the bullets by any means necessary,” ringing in his ears. He was not warned, however, about the company he found in the family room—a young woman, covered in blood, who was only sitting upright because that was the military trained default position of her spine.

“Excuse me, I'm Special Agent McGee, NCIS,” Tim said politely as he came into the room. “Are you here for Gregory Peck?”

“Yes,” she said firmly, looking over with eyes glassy with shock. “I'm Lance Corporal Amanda Daws, his son's fiancée ...” Her voice cut off as she swallowed hard, tears building in her eyes. “Or I was,” she said with heartbreaking finality.

“I'm sorry,” Tim said softly. “I don't know the whole situation. I was just sent directly here. Forgive me, but, how did you get all that blood ...” He trailed off, trying to figure out a polite way to say it.

“Greg was still alive ...” Amanda said into the silence. “I've got some medic training, did what I could until the EMTs arrived.”

Tim stared for a moment, uncertain of what action to take next. He could thank her, but to do so would require exposing information about the case, and Gibbs would kill him. He could keep her company, but he needed her clothes as evidence. Gibbs did say to get all evidence at the hospital and to stay until he was sure he had every scrap.

“Can you wait here a moment?” he asked, realizing the right plan of action. She just nodded jerkily, but that was enough for now. It only took a few minutes to find a nurse in the halls, and Nurse Brenda was more than willing to help out the lovely girl that had come in the ambulance.

“Amanda?” Tim called as he came back into the family room. “I'm sorry, I need your clothes as evidence. But Brenda here says they have some scrubs that you can change into, and you can use the locker room to clean up.”

Amanda looked down at her blood stained hands, the red patches beginning to flake around the joints, and stifled a sob. “That sounds good,” she said. “Will you be here ...? Mary should be arriving soon.”

“Mary?” Tim prompted.

“Greg's wife,” Amanda said, her eyes tearing up again. “I called her from the ambulance. It's her bridge night ...”

“I'll come with you to get your clothes, but then I'll come right back here and wait for Mary,” Tim assured her.

~o0o~

When Tony arrived at the address Gibbs had given him, his boss was standing next to his car pulling something out of the open trunk. Dodging the emergency vehicles that were funneling out of the street, Tony pulled up his car as close as he could to his alpha and walked quickly to Gibbs' side.

“Boss ...” Tony began, but was cut off when Gibbs shoved an NCIS jacket into his arms. His NCIS jacket, actually. Tony recognized the singe on the left sleeve where he'd brushed it against his gun too soon after firing a few months back. He glanced past Gibbs and spotted his backpack kit sitting in the open trunk.

“Thanks, boss,” Tony said, pulling on the jacket even as he wondered just how fast the older man had driven to swing by Tony's apartment and still beat the shifter to the scene.

Gibbs plopped a matching cover on Tony's head before jerking his chin towards the house that was still swarming with local cops. “Let's go.”

Tony grabbed his bag and slammed the trunk closed before following.

The outer layer of people let the two NCIS agents past with only a simple glance, but the man standing at the door to the house blocked their paths.

“Special Agent Gibbs, NCIS,” Gibbs said, flashing his badge and ID.

“Detective Coltrain,” the man replied, sounding frustrated. “I guess you'll be wanting jurisdiction.”

Gibbs just nodded sharply. Tony caught a dark look in his alpha's eye that caught his curiosity.

“What do you know?” Tony asked politely, sensing Gibbs wasn't inclined to play politics and the wrong word was going to set off Coltrain's strained temper.

“Two victims,” Coltrain answered. “Someone called 911 reporting a GW. When the ambulance arrived, one man was still alive.”

“I was told he was taken to Potomac,” Gibbs commented.

“I believe so,” Coltrain said. “The second was pronounced dead on the scene. Unfortunately, to get to the living man, the paramedics had to go over the corpse. He fell right in the doorway.”

Tony winced. A crime scene that medical personnel had wandered through was always compromised. One where they'd had to travel over the remaining body, probably disrupting the body position in addition to knocking around any other evidence was a nightmare. Ducky was going to throw a fit.

“Get your people out of the house,” Gibbs ordered. “We have to preserve as much as we can at this point.”

“I'll need finger prints and shoe prints of everyone who's been inside,” Tony added politely, though he could tell it would do little good. This was not going to be a polite collaboration.

“We IDed the dead vic immediately. His tags were visible outside his shirt. My people stayed out of the house,” Coltrain insisted.

“And shoe prints for those who've been circling to eliminate them too,” Tony countered. He caught a hint of a smirk on Gibbs' lips, which left him feeling better than he wanted to acknowledge, but he kept his face impassive. During a jurisdiction dispute was no time to show weakness.

“Fine,” Coltrain snapped. “DB is Lance Corporal Richard Peck, USMC. Survivor was identified by the caller as Gregory Peck, who owns the house with his wife.”

“Has Mary been contacted yet?” Gibbs asked.

“Who?” Coltrain asked, brow furrowed in confusion.

“The live victim's wife,” Gibbs answered gruffly.

“Hospital probably contacted next of kin,” Coltrain said dismissively.

Tony watched how Gibbs glared at the cop and wondered just how well his boss knew the Pecks.

“Thank you, Detective Coltrain,” Tony interrupted before Gibbs could get really angry. “If you could ask your people to meet me over at the driveway ...” He gestured towards an empty, flat area and started moving that way, hoping he had enough equipment in his backpack to tide him over until Ziva arrived with the truck. He was more relieved when Gibbs followed him instead of staying to argue with Coltrain.

“Who is Gregory Peck to you?” Tony asked once they were out of earshot.

“Saved my life in Kuwait,” Gibbs replied softly. “Richard used to come over and play with Kelly.”

“Shit,” Tony hissed, turning to stare at his alpha. “Are you going to be okay with this case?”

“You think I'd let anyone else take it?” Gibbs snapped back, his eyes boring into Tony's. There was fire burning within, and it almost hid the grief.

Tony kept hold of his alpha's eyes for a minute before dropping his gaze and tilting his head slightly, not as much as he would if they were alone but enough to show his submission. “Let me know if you need a break,” he said softly, turning to greet the first of the men Coltrain sent over.

~o0o~

Amanda returned to the family room before Mary arrived, looking wan and pale in her borrowed green scrubs. She looked cleaner, but more fragile without the blood splatter. Tim took her arm when she came in the door and guided her to a couch.

“Thank you,” she said softly.

“I wish I could do more,” Tim said honestly. “Unfortunately, what I need to do now is take your statement ... if you feel up to it.”

“Of course,” Amanda said flatly. There was an eerie edge to her voice, but Tim recognized she was falling into that military vocal pattern so often used for reports.

“What were you doing at Mr. Peck's home?” Tim prompted.

“Richard, my fiancé ...”she began, then paused and shook her head gently, squeezing her eyes tight for a moment. “Lance Corporal Richard Peck spoke to his father this morning. They always have breakfast together on Thursdays when Richard is in town. He offered to take Greg out for dinner, since Mary would be out. We arrived about eighteen thirty. Richard went in while I stayed in the car. It makes Greg more comfortable about getting into the car if we aren't both hovering over him.”

“Forgive me, but why is that?” Tim asked hesitantly, not really wanting to interrupt.

“You really don't know much about Greg,” Amanda said, almost sounding amused for a moment.

“I'm sorry. I'm sure the information is waiting for me in the office, but I was called in from home,” Tim said.

“Greg was a Sergeant in the Corps until a bomb in Iraq five years ago,” Amanda explained. “He was thrown into a pile of rubble ... his spine was damaged. He's in a wheel chair now. Most of the time he manages fine, but sometimes he gets a bit ... tetchy.”

“Understandable,” Tim assured her. “So, you waited in the car.”

“Something wasn't right. I knew that quickly,” Amanda said, tears filling her eyes again. “I couldn't really see, not from my angle, but the door never closed behind Richard, and I thought I heard something. I gave him a minute, a chance for things to be normal, then I got out of the car ... Richard was lying just inside the door ... two bullets to the chest ... dead. I checked his pulse and he was ...” She began to cry, sobs cutting off her voice.

Tim did what he could. He touched her shoulder, offered her the box of tissues he'd found when he was alone earlier, tried to be supportive. He felt like a world class ass, asking this poor woman questions when she'd just found her fiancé dead in his father's doorway. But being an NCIS agent was never easy. He'd come to understand that long ago.

Amanda's sobs began to ease, and she forced out words between heaving breaths. “I saw Greg in his chair, just down the hall. He was breathing, I could hear ... so I called 911 and did what I could.”

“Did you see anyone else in the house?” Tim asked softly.

Amanda shook her head. “I didn't look. The killer must have gone out the back while I ... I hesitated ... not much of a marine, am I?”

“Nonsense,” Tim insisted. “If you'd gone in any earlier, you'd probably be dead too. We've had other cases that look similar ...” Tim cut himself off. You weren't supposed to talk about the case with others, not without Gibbs permission anyway. But if it would help her grief. “There have never been survivors before, and in some cases it did look like some of the victims had just come in the door. I'm certain that pause saved your life.” He'd sort it out with Gibbs later if he had to.

She smiled sadly at him. “Thank you,” she said, patting his hand kindly. “It doesn't help much now, but I appreciate the sentiment.”

Tim was rescued from further bad attempts at sympathy by the arrival of an older woman. Amanda threw herself into the newcomer's arms as they both broke down crying.

“I'm sorry,” Amanda sobbed again and again.

“You did what you could,” the new woman assured Amanda.

Tim gave them a few minutes to wind down before clearing his throat sharply and introducing himself.

“Mary Peck,” the newcomer said, guiding Amanda back to the couch and settling down with her. “Greg's wife.”

“I'm sorry for your loss,” Tim said formally, not sure what else he could say.

“I'm sure you are,” Mary said dryly, but tears were glinting in her eyes. “Have you heard about my husband yet?”

“I'm afraid not,” Tim said. “Forgive me for digging right now, but where were you this evening?”

“Don't worry, son, I understand,” Mary assured him. “You have a job to do, and since I want the bastard who killed my Ricky caught, I'll help. I was at my bridge club. We meet every Thursday. Names and numbers are in my Rolodex at home. You can have your team mates collect it and confirm everything.”

“Thank you, Mrs. Peck,” Tim said.

“Oh, call me Mary, son,” Mary insisted. “I still think of Greg's mother when I hear Mrs. Peck.”

Tim cracked a grin at that, and the older woman matched it with glee even as a tear rolled down her face.

“Who's your boss?” Mary asked, surprising Tim. “I'm not sure who'd be assigned a case like this.”

“Do you know a lot of NCIS agents?” Tim countered.

“A few,” Mary said, a touch smugly. “So, whose team are you on?”

“Special Agent Gibbs,” Tim admitted.

“Jethro Gibbs's team?” Mary asked, sounding pleased.

“Yes, ma'am,” Tim replied formally.

“Good,” Mary said, her eyes fixed on the door and her tone rather vicious. Uncertain what to make of that, Tim let the silence of waiting fill the room. Maybe the doctor would come soon. It had been several hours.

~o0o~

When Ziva arrived at the crime scene, Gibbs and Tony were having some kind of staring contest. She'd never quiet understood how they could say so much to each other with a few looks, but it always seemed to settle things between them. None of her research into their backgrounds had provided a satisfactory explanation to date.

Ducky was just behind Ziva in arriving and so she followed him to the house.

“Who's been trampling all over my crime scene?” Ducky cried angrily.

Ziva didn't have an answer, but she was also upset at the degree of disruption clearly visible in the entryway of the house. The body looked to have been shoved over, the limbs in an unnatural tangle.

“Paramedics,” Gibbs said, coming up behind Ducky and Ziva. “Live victim was in the hall.”

“That's ... a poor excuse,” Ducky muttered kneeling next to the young man's body. “I'm so sorry, young man. I assure you, I'll treat you with much more respect.”

“Ziva, take DiNozzo more supplies for collecting prints, then photo and sketch the interior,” Gibbs ordered, crouching down next to Ducky. “We know both victims were in the hall, but look for other signs of disturbance.”

Ziva looked down at the body as Ducky rolled it over, revealing the two clear shots to the heart. “You think this is another of those home invasions?” she asked.

“I think you're supposed to be finding out,” Gibbs snapped, sending her quickly on her way.

~o0o~

“Was that really necessary, Jethro?” Ducky asked once Ziva was out of earshot.

Gibbs just grunted. He was running on a high level of frustration because of the identities of the victims in this case. If it turned out to be connected to their string of home invasions as well, he couldn't make any promises for his mood.

“What's upset you so?” Ducky asked perceptively. “It isn't like you to be quite so angry right off the bat. Unless one of those detectives dropped your coffee already.”

“Didn't have time to get one,” Gibbs snapped, glaring at his empty hand. No, he had to run to Tony's apartment, the first time he'd been inside since he left for Mexico save that one talk once he started to remember, and still make it to the crime scene first. It had been far too long since his last cup if they were going to be pulling an all-nighter at this scene. “I know the victims,” he added before Ducky could dig further.

“Oh?” Ducky prompted, deftly inserting the liver probe.

“Richard used to play with Kelly,” Gibbs answered simply, gesturing at the dead body.

Ducky frowned at the young man before him and then looked at Gibbs with sad eyes. “Ah, Jethro. I'm sorry. This must be very difficult to face.”

“Be harder if Greg doesn't make it,” Gibbs replied gruffly.

“Greg?” Ducky prompted gently.

“His father,” Gibbs replied. “Saved me after the explosion fifteen years ago. If this proves to be the same as those home invasions around Quantico, I ...”

“You'll solve it,” Ducky said confidently. “This just makes that result more of a certainty.”

“I'm not omniscient,” Gibbs snapped, but he was more angry at himself than anything else. These cases had been coming in for over six months, and they'd only just finally connected them together for the first time. How many more had to die before they solved this one?

“No, just a stubborn SOB,” Ducky said playfully. “And young Anthony has been just as determined to solve these since the first one came across his desk. Between the two of you, I have faith.”

Gibbs resisted saying 'thank you,' but had a feeling his old friend could read that in his eyes. “TOD, Duck?” he said instead.

“Not long. Within the last two hours,” Ducky replied. “He's barely begun to cool. With the disruption, there's not much else I can tell you until I get him on my table.”

“Take him home then, Duck,” Gibbs ordered. “You'll do the autopsy tonight?”

“Of course. I'll have the report by morning,” Ducky assured him.

Gibbs rose stiffly from his knees and with a nod to Ducky went to check on his agents.

~o0o~

As soon as he'd printed the first officer, Tony had begged the man to run to the nearest coffee shop and buy the biggest cup of black coffee he could get his hands on. It had taken a twenty dollar bribe and brought Detective Coltrain back down on him for abusing the local officers, but the look on Gibbs' face when Tony handed him the steaming cup made it all worth it.

It was a good thing he got that look because Gibbs certainly didn't say thank you. “Process the exterior of the house,” was Gibbs' order once he'd taken the first gulp, after which he stalked off check on Ziva and see Ducky off with the body.

There wasn't much for Tony to process. It looked like the killer had hopped the back fence from the alley beside the yard, picked the kitchen door, and gone back out the same way. He took pictures of the rubber smudges on the back fence and of the back door before taking samples of the former and printing the latter. There were no footprints in the well-grown grass of the yard, and he had a bad feeling the prints on the back door would all come back to the family or friends of the family. That's all they ever got with these cases.

Exterior dealt with, Tony went inside and assisted Ziva with the arduous and ultimately useless process of printing the interior of the house. This guy always wore gloves, always stole a few small items, and always killed with two shots to the heart. After nine months and twenty-one dead, Tony was beginning to wonder if they'd ever stop him.

~o0o~

Tim's prayers weren't answered for another hour. When the surgeon finally stepped wearily through the door, the tension in the room was thick enough to cut with a knife.

“Gregory Peck's family?” the surgeon asked.

“I'm his wife,” Mary replied, standing. “This is his daughter.”

Amanda looked ready to protest, but Mary hissed something at her, putting a comforting hand on the younger woman's shoulder until she settled down.

“And you?” the surgeon asked Tim.

“Special Agent McGee, NCIS,” Tim explained.

“Ah, I've got some bullets for you,” the surgeon replied, turning back and calling down the hall for the evidence bags.

“Now, I'm Dr. Horace. I worked on Mr. Peck,” the surgeon continued. “The news is good. Mr. Peck is a very lucky man. If he hadn't had situs inversus he would have died instantly. With Mr. Peck's heart on the right side of his chest, not the left, the bullets missed his heart. He has a punctured left lung and the second bullet grazed the pericardium, but I believe we were able to repair the damage in good time.”

“So he's going to be fine?” Mary demanded.

“Recovery will be slow, but he's in good shape,” Dr. Horace said. “We'll keep a careful eye out for complications related to his previous injuries, but I think, with time, he should make a full recovery.”

“Thank God,” Mary whispered, her fingers clenching a pendant that had been hidden under her blouse, probably a crucifix.

Amanda was not as relieved. Tears began to roll down her face again. “And to think I used to be glad that Richard didn't have situs inversus,” she choked out. “Used to tease him that the doctors had an easier time with him than his father.”

“Don't think that,” Mary insisted, grasping the younger woman's shoulders and shaking her lightly. “If they'd both had it, you'd have had to make a choice. I'd never wish that on your shoulders. This way God chose. Let it rest on his shoulders.”

Amanda let out a great wracking sob. “But Ricky's dead,” she cried.

Mary pulled Amanda into her arms, holding the younger woman tight as she cried, whispering into her ear.

Tim stepped around them, trying to provide a measure of privacy as he approached Dr. Horace. “If I could just get those bullets, I should go,” he said softly once he was in reach of the surgeon.

“Of course,” Dr. Horace agreed. “My nurse has them just outside.”

“When do you expect we can speak with Mr. Peck?” Tim added.

“Tomorrow afternoon at the earliest,” Dr. Horace said apologetically. “He's just had some pretty major surgery, and it will take time for him to come out of the anesthesia.”

“We need to talk to him as soon as possible,” Tim insisted. “He's the first person to survive what we fear is a string of killings. Any information he can provide ...”

“Of course,” Dr. Horace assured him. “Leave your card with my nurse and I'll make sure you're contacted as soon as he regains consciousness.”

~o0o~

It was going to be a very long and very frustrating night. It was long past midnight, and Tony and Ziva had just finished printing everywhere downstairs they could think of. They started on the bedroom upstairs, since their thief often went for jewelry and picture frames, when Tony's phone rang.

“DiNozzo,” he snapped into the phone.

“It's McGee. Are you still at the crime scene?” Tim asked.

“Probie? Where are you?” Tony demanded, ignoring the look of bemusement that Ziva was shooting him.

“I just handed over the evidence from the hospital to Abby. Chances are good that Mr. Peck will survive.”

Tony let out a soft sigh of relief. “Gibbs'll be glad to hear that.”

“Why?” Tim asked perceptively. “The wife was oddly glad to hear that Gibbs was leading the case.”

“Old friends,” Tony replied simply.

“Friends or ... ah ... friends?” Tim asked, putting an odd emphasis on the second time he said friends that could be interpreted any number of ways. Tony was pretty sure Tim didn't mean anything with sex.

“They knew his first family,” he replied, letting Tim take that as far or as simply as he wished.

“Shit,” Tim hissed. “Should I come down?”

“Shouldn't you be asking Gibbs that?” Tony asked, now admitting to his curiosity as to why the probie had called him instead of the boss.

“I ... ah ... he was kind of grumpy when he called me in,” Tim stuttered. “I thought you might be safer.”

Tony laughed. “Probably. He's been like a bear with a sore butt all night.”

Gibbs, who had walked over to catch up on his team's progress, slapped Tony on the back of the head for that one, the audible smack translating down the phone line.

“Then you should have known better than to say that,” Tim taunted.

“Doc says Mr. Peck is looking good. You want Probie here, boss?” Tony asked, ignoring Tim and rubbing the back of his head gingerly.

“Get him started on a background search,” Gibbs grumbled, but with a bit less venom than he'd been using all night. “I want to know how this guy is picking his targets,” he called as he stalked off to another room.

“You hear that, Probie?” Tony asked into the phone.

“On it,” Tim replied. “Grab the rolodex while you're there. We need it to confirm the wife's alibi.”

“Probably irrelevant from how things look here,” Tony commented.

“Rule eight: Never assume, always double check,” Tim countered. “This is the first case we've seen in a home not owned by a currently military family.”

“Maybe because Lance Corporal Peck was living in bachelor's quarters?” Tony suggested.

“I'll check if he and his fiancée had requested married quarters,” Tim said, the faint rattle of computer keys audible in the background.

“He was engaged?” Tony asked, unable to hide how his stomach sank at hearing that.

“She was in the car,” Tim replied gently. “She heard the shots as the victim entered the house, came in a minute later and saved Mr. Peck's life, helping and calling 911.”

“Wait, that doesn't sound like he was expecting Lance Corporal Peck to be there,” Tony said thoughtfully, separating his logic from his emotions like a good agent.

“What are you two talking about?” Ziva asked. Tony quickly summarized what Tim had been saying and put his phone on speakerphone mode.

“If our dead man was not the intended victim, this is the first time a non-military figure has been targeted,” Ziva commented.

“Gregory Peck is a retired marine,” Tim pointed out. “That's not really non-military.”

“Retired means that if his son hadn't been killed, we'd never have been called out,” Tony pointed out. “What if there have been other former military families targeted, and we never added it to the pattern because we weren't told.”

“Abby's been checking our bullets against cases in jurisdictions all over the country,” Tim said.

“But he's only recently started to reuse guns,” Tony said.

Ziva interrupted, “If it's all the same person.”

“Noted,” Tony said gruffly but otherwise ignored her. He had heard that argument from her time and again, but something about this case told him it was all the work of one man. “But if it is, then we might be missing half the pattern. Ask Abby to check for similar looking cases in Virginia, Maryland, and North Carolina. There's a lot of ex-military families in the area who settled in before getting out and then stayed.”

“Can do, Tony,” Tim said, sounding a little excited. Tony didn't blame him. This was the first time they'd felt like they'd had the slightest lead on this case.

“And check in with Ducky on his progress,” Tony added. “I think we're going to be here most of the rest of the night, so call with updates as they come.”

“Especially if it might put Gibbs in a better mood,” Tim said teasingly.

“Got it in one,” Tony agreed, then hung up.

“You are taking charge again,” Ziva warned. Tony just shot her a glare and went back to printing the dresser. “Gibbs is back. You should not be receiving the calls and updates.”

Tony sighed and kept his eyes on his work. “I'm behaving like a competent senior field agent, fielding minor matters and referring the big decisions to my boss.” She had no right to complain as long as Gibbs didn't. And it wasn't like Tony had asked Tim to call him; the probie had made that decision all on his own. Buffering for a grumpy alpha was part of the beta's job. Tim got that.

“Perhaps Gibbs will think you are getting too big for your trousers,” Ziva needled.

Ziva did not.

“It's britches,” Tony corrected. “And until Gibbs himself complains, I'll keep on doing what I do. Are you done printing that side of the room?”

“Almost,” Ziva said, sounding almost apologetic for not doing her work.

Tony pulled the last print from the surface of the dresser and secured it in his kit. “Good. I'm going to update Gibbs and then print another room.” He walked out without waiting for a reply. Sometimes he wondered if Ziva would understand pack dynamics even if they explained it to her.

Tags: fanfiction, home, ncis, writing
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