Chapter 1: Prologue
‘Cholent. Slow cooked beef with potatoes and beans. It wasn’t bad.’ Tony rubbed at his chest as Gibbs’ words repeated in his head. He still couldn’t believe it. She’d misled him. No, she had lied to him. She had given him the impression that it was only Tim and Palmer whom she had made dinner for. She had intentionally not told him that the rest of the team had been invited as well. None of them had said a word. He knew what cholent was. It was slow cooked for at least twelve hours. It was not a spur of the moment invitation. She’d invited all of them at least a day before. They all knew. None of them had said a word to him. His hands tightened around the steering wheel, his knuckles white from the pressure. He wanted to close his eyes, but driving made it impossible, instead he tried to concentrate on the traffic around him.
Tony groaned and grabbed his chest. He leaned over the steering wheel and was grateful that the traffic light was red. Something was wrong and it had nothing to do with the fact that he had spent almost an entire day locked in a shipping container, or how cold it was for his lungs, or the volume of smoke he had inhaled due to the fake money they had burned. Neither did it have to do with the fact that he had a deep bullet graze on his upper arm due to Ziva’s erratic shooting. No, it felt like an elephant took a seat on his chest, but the elephant was still not quite comfortable. It used its large body to trample on him in an attempt to get comfy. Tony found it more difficult to breathe by the second. His heart thumped in his chest. His face was covered in a thin sheen of sweat and he knew, should he remove his hand from the steering wheel, it would not be steady.
A car honked behind him and it made Tony realize that the light had changed over. He pressed down on the gas and the car moved forward. Another stabbing pain made him gasp for air and without even using an indicator, he pulled off to the side of the road. His hands trembled as he reached for his phone. Tony was dimly aware of the fact that the call got answered. He struggled to loosen his tie around his neck as he continued to gasp for air. His left arm felt heavy and the one elephant on his chest became ten.
Tony wasn’t sure if he ended the call. His eyes felt heavy and even with the stabbing pain over his heart, he didn’t want to do anything else, except let the darkness take him away. He closed his eyes and everything faded.
“BP is 90/60 and dropping.”
“Come on, Tony. It’s time to open those eyes of yours. You’ve been ignoring us now for far too long.”
Tony scrunched up his face and groaned as the voice continued taunting him, but he didn’t want to listen to it. He felt sort of floaty and just wanted to sleep a bit longer. He tried to snuggle deeper into his pillow and frowned. It didn’t smell like his pillow, it smelled like bleach, not the light lavender scent he used on his bedding. The sheet around him felt scratchy and the mattress beneath him lumpy. Tony groaned. He really didn’t want to wake up, but it seemed he had no choice, not if he wanted to find out what was wrong with his bed and get that annoying voice to stop. Finally, he opened his eyes. He had to blink a few times before things around him moved into focus. “Brad?” he asked with a gruff voice.
“You with us?” Brad took his friend’s wrist between his fingers to check his pulse.
“Brad?” Tony asked, still confused.
“That’s me. Can you remember what happened?” Brad asked as he kept an eye on the different monitors that surrounded Tony’s bed.
Tony shook his head. He closed his eyes and tried to remember what (HAD) happened, but his mind remained blank. He couldn’t help but to panic slightly. A sound next to his ear made him turn his head. A monitor started beeping at an increasing volume.
“Easy there, Buckeye. Calm down.” Brad moved closer. “Look at me, Tony,” he ordered quietly. Brad waited for Tony to open his eyes. “You’re doing all right. Take some deep breaths for me, Tony. Follow my lead.” He didn’t want to sedate Tony again, but his friend needed to calm down. He kept on taking deep breaths and released his own breath in relief as the monitor stopped blaring out its alarm. “Feeling better?” He asked with a smile.
Tony nodded. “What’s going on, Brad? What happened?” Tony’s eyes grew large and he pushed himself upright. “My team, Gibbs!” Even as he said the name out loud, his memories assaulted him from what transpired earlier. His breathing hitched and he gasped for air. Numerous monitors started going off around him. Tony flinched at the harsh sound. His head pounded and the feeling he experienced of not being able to breathe returned in full force.
Brad cursed and even as the nurse rushed into the room he barked out orders. He didn’t hesitate as he plunged the syringe into the IV port. It had an immediate effect as it evened out Tony’s breathing, but unfortunately also sent him back into the sleeping world. He helped the nurse settle his friend properly in bed. “Any luck in getting hold of Agent Gibbs?”
“No, Doctor. I’ve tried several times, but no success,” the nurse replied with a sigh. She hated it when they couldn’t get hold of a family member of a patient or even the medical proxy of a patient.
“Thank you, Nurse Gamble. I will try myself as well.” Brad looked on as the nurse exited the room and then reached for his own phone. He didn’t know Agent Gibbs very well, but he knew the man had a thing about always being available. Tony had told him more than once in their three-year friendship about that being one of the major rules. He was going to give Gibbs a piece of his mind when he got through to the man.
10 Hours later
Brad looked on as his friend and patient slept on. He frowned. Something was wrong and he had no idea what it was. Tony experienced all the symptoms of a heart attack, but now hours later it was clear that he didn’t have a heart problem. All his arteries were in good condition, there were no problem with the heart valves, and although the heart muscle itself was weak, that was merely because of the heart attack Tony suffered. The cardiologist on call had diagnosed Tony with Takotsubo cardiomyopathy, also referred to as TCM. With rest and some Beta blockers, Tony would be as right as rain again.
Brad closed the medical journal he had on his lap. Tony was going to go crazy when he explained to him what happened. He himself had heard about the condition before, but never seen a case in all of his years as a medical practitioner. Brad got to his feet as Tony started to get restless. It had been a long night, and Brad knew that getting Tony to talk about what happened was going to make it an even longer day.
“You are all right.” Brad spoke up the moment Tony opened his eyes and focused on him. “You know where you are?”
Tony frowned and looked around. “Hospital.” He swallowed and licked his lips.
Brad reached for the small glass of water and helped Tony to take a few sips. “You remember what happened?” He placed the glass on the night stand and kept an eye on the monitors that still surrounded Tony’s bed.
Tony nodded. “Unfortunately.” He tried not to think about it too hard. Already he could feel his chest tighten up. He pinched his nose and hissed as his arm throbbed at the motion.
“How did you get that bullet graze on your arm?” Brad decided to take the long road, if there was one.
“My partner decided it was a good idea to start shooting while we were in a closed container. Ricocheting bullets and wooden crates do not make for a good combination.”
“And you made it out to be a mere scratch.” Brad looked intently at his friend. He knew that Tony would milk something like a paper cut for hours on end, but the moment it was something more serious, he had the tendency to ignore it. As if the injury would heal on its own. “Well, we did have a look at it. You got yourself a few stitches, luckily no infection. It shouldn’t scar.”
“I don’t care about scars.” Tony sighed. “Thanks.”
“Mm,” Brad got to his feet. “You’re not going to ask me what’s wrong with you?” Tony was avoiding the issue and Brad knew he would have to push.
“Stress. Nothing I can’t handle. It’s been a busy few months.” Tony responded sourly. He hated to talk about his life and Brad knew it very well.
“Tony, don’t do this. Not to me, but more specifically, not to yourself. What happened yesterday?”
“How do you know it happened yesterday?”
“Not everything happened yesterday, but I would say that yesterday was the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back.” Brad stepped closer to the bed. “Talk to me, Tony.”
Tony closed his eyes. He felt extra tired. “Let’s just say I thought I was part of a family, but it turned out it was only real in my mind, and leave it at that. It’s behind me, I’m moving on.” Tony turned on his side, away from Brad’s gaze. “I’m tired.”
Brad pressed his lips together. “This is about more than you thinking that you were part of a family.” Brad placed his hand on Tony’s shoulder. “Talk to me, buddy. You know I will always listen.”
Tony kept his eyes closed. “They lied to me.” He opened his eyes and turned his head to face the man right next to his bed. “I’m supposed to be trained investigator, but I didn’t pick up on this. I know I play too many jokes, but hell, Brad, in our line of work, if we don’t joke, we’ll go mad. We deal with so many bad characters on a daily basis that I only wanted my teammates to experience a bit of laughter.” He shrugged. “Maybe I am just the fool and nothing else.” He closed his eyes again. “I can’t help but to wonder how many other times they’ve lied to me. Times where we discussed our weekend plans, while they did something together as a team and left me out in the cold.” Tony took a deep breath. “I’m really tired.”
Brad squeezed Tony’s shoulder. “Get some rest. I’m still trying to get hold of Gibbs. I’ll inform you when I do.”
Tony groaned and shook his head. “Stop. Don’t... don’t call him.” His breathing sped up and one of the monitors whined above his head.
“Tony, calm down.” Brad pressed a button on the monitor so that the wailing noise died down. “You know the drill, some deep breaths.” He took one himself and smiled in encouragement. “There you go, just like that. Keep on taking some deep breaths.” He continued to breathe with Tony until his friend had his breathing under control. “Feeling better?” he asked as he took Tony’s wrist between his fingers. His eyes scanned the readouts behind Tony’s head.
“Fuck.” Tony squeezed his eyes shut and dragged his hand across his face. “What’s wrong with me?”
Brad countered Tony’s question with his own. “Why don’t you want me to contact Gibbs? He part of this whole mess?”
Tony snorted and turned his head so that he didn’t have to look at Brad. He remained quiet.
“Tony?” Brad dragged the chair he occupied earlier closer and sat down. “Why not Gibbs?”
“He was supposed to have my six. I thought we were friends.” Tony didn’t add the fact that he was still head over heels in love with the older man. Brad knew that he was the only one that knew Tony’s secret.
Brad could feel his own heart aching with Tony’s words. The way Tony spoke made him realize that the man in the bed would not be talking about what happened between him and the team he’s been with for the past five years. “About fourteen hours ago you phoned me and complained about a severe pain in your chest. You remember that?”
When Tony nodded, Brad continued, “You presented all the classic signs of a heart attack.” He pushed Tony down when he tried to rise from the bed. “Take it easy. It wasn’t a heart attack per se.”
“Then what?” Tony asked with a frown.
“According to Doctor Falco, the attending cardiologist, Takotsubo cardiomyopathy.”
“Cardiologist? Is there something wrong with my heart? Is it a result of the plague?” Tony inquired with trepidation.
Brad shook his head. “No, it’s not as a result of the plague. Have you ever heard about the broken heart syndrome?”
Tony nodded. “It’s not real. What does it have to do with me?” He frowned. “Is it real? Do I have it? How is my heart broken? Then it was a heart attack.”
“Easy, Tony. Let me explain.” Brad sat down on the edge of Tony’s bed. “Takotsubo cardiomyopathy is when the patient suffers from such an emotional upheaval that it causes the heart muscle to become stunned and the left ventricle changes shape. It mimics all the signs of a heart attack. But, the moment we run tests, it’s only the heart muscle that’s contracting, while the arteries, valves and the heart itself is in a healthy condition.”
“So it’s treatable?”
“Totally. You’ll be on some beta blockers for a few weeks, and at the same time you need to take it easy. We’ll keep you here for tonight and release you tomorrow. You need to take off from work for the next week, and after that, another week on desk duty.”
“I resigned.” Tony’s voice had a note of finality to it.
Brad sat up straighter. “Okay.” He never thought that Tony would do something like that. He wanted to explain more to Tony about his condition, when Tony spoke up again.
“I’ve had enough. just had enough.”
By the tone of Tony’s voice, Brad knew Tony had reached his end. “Okay, Tony. Get some rest. We’ll talk later.” Brad clapped Tony on the knee. “You’re not alone, Tony. I’ve got your back.”
Tony looked on as his friend exited the room. He had thought his team had his back, he had thought Gibbs had his back. But he was wrong. So wrong. Tony closed his eyes as he rubbed his hand over his aching chest. There was nothing he could do about it now. Later he would make plans. Plans to start over – again.
Brad’s apartment: Following afternoon
“This all right?” Brad asked as he handed Tony a cheap cell phone. He still didn’t agree with what Tony had done, but his friend had been adamant. He’d looked on as Tony got rid of his phone and tossed it away. Tony wanted to go and buy a cheap phone himself, but Brad drew the line. Tony gave him the last cash he had in his wallet and he quickly went to buy the phone.
“Thanks.” Tony took the phone and switched it on. It needed to be charged, but with the battery power available he’d still be able to phone. He pulled the sheet of paper closer on which he jotted certain numbers down and entered the first number written on it.
Brad frowned when he heard who Tony called. He’d never thought Tony would be calling a realtor first. He remained quiet until Tony ended the call. “You’re really going to disappear into thin air.”
“I need a clean break, Brad. I can’t do it here.” Tony came to his feet and walked towards Brad’s tiny kitchen.
“Where will you go?”
Tony shrugged. “That’s the one thing I haven’t worked out yet. “Maybe I’ll get myself a hotel room for the next week and then head out.”
“You will not stay in a hotel. My spare bedroom has always been available to you, Tony. You can stay here for as long as you need. But, I do have to ask again. Are you sure you want to do this?”
“It’s time, Brad.” Tony straightened his shoulders and stood up straight. “I was stupid to think I can stay here for so long. I never had the ability to stay in one place for more than a few years. Maybe this time I’ll be lucky enough to find what I need.” He didn’t add that he had been stupid to think that there might have been a chance to get Gibbs to love him, as well.
Brad sighed. He could see that nothing he’d say or do would make Tony change his mind. “I’m off for the next three days. Since I don’t want you to drive, I’ll act as your chauffeur. And don’t argue with me, Buckeye. It’s me driving you around, or your ass in my spare bedroom, going nowhere.”
“Thank you again.” Tony replied solemnly. He stared down at his hands. The life he built for himself here in Washington D.C. had just come to an end.
Chapter 2: Chapter 1
Portland, Oregon - Tony’s home: 9 months later
“Fuck!” Tony’s back arched as his orgasm slammed into him, making his toes curl. He dragged his nails over the strong back that’s above him as Kyle slammed into his body again before the man found his own release. The larger man’s arms gave way and he landed heavily onto Tony, making Tony groan. “Comfortable?” he asked with a smile as he pushed the man to the side. Both groaned again as Kyle’s cock slipped out of his body.
“I was until you pushed me away,” Kyle replied with a grin as he pulled Tony closer to his side and kissed him hard. “What were we discussing before you distracted me?” He placed his hands behind his head and leaned back against the headboard.
Tony snorted as he pinched Kyle’s nipple. He grinned when the man next to him hissed, but he didn’t even try to pull away. “Me, distracting you?” Tony shook his head. “I’m fairly sure I was busy working before you arrived and started kissing me before you decided to fuck me senseless.”
“Mm, you’re right. It did happen like that. But, it’s still your fault.” Kyle’s eyes traveled down Tony’s body. The thirty-three year old ex-federal agent was in top shape. Defined arm and chest muscles with a tight stomach made his cock twitch just at the sight he took in. When he noticed Tony’s frown, he shook his head. “You really don’t realize just how gorgeous you are. Especially when you stand in front of that white board of yours concentrating on your work. You are a sexy man, Anthony DiNozzo.”
Tony blushed. “You’re not bad looking yourself, Detective Kyle Thompson.” He patted his lover on the stomach and then stretched out. “Speaking of working, we need to get up. I’ve got a killer to catch.” He tossed the sheet off and got up. “Going to take a shower with me?” Tony asked with a grin. He still couldn’t believe how lucky he’d got. With the help of Tom Morrow, he had started up his own firm, strictly working cold cases. He got his work through different sources. Either a family member would contact him to solve an old case, or sometimes even different police departments would contact him to help out with a cold case. Unfortunately, the latter happened very rarely. But, it was due to one of the few occasions he worked with the police that he met up with Detective Kyle Thompson. They had clicked immediately. They shared their love for movies, classical music, jazz and the blues. Both spoke Italian and Spanish and loved to cook. They had the same sense of humor and after playing pranks on each other for three months, they finally had to call a truce. They made a good working team; both men had each other’s back when it was necessary.
“You still heading to Bethesda tomorrow, meeting with Brad on Friday?” Kyle asked as he got out of bed to join his lover for the intended shower.
“Yep, layover in Atlanta for three hours. Gives me enough time to hold a meeting with a potential client, and then on to Washington for my next checkup, and then drinks and dinner. You still on a later flight?” Tony reached for Kyle’s hand and led him to the bathroom. Once there, he let go and turned on the water. They both took their showers steaming hot.
“I’ll be there around eight on Friday night. I’ve confirmed our booking at the hotel.” Kyle replied and stepped into the shower with Tony. He smiled. “I don’t think we’re dirty enough, at least not for a shower.” He lowered himself to his knees and took Tony in hand.
“Kyle,” Tony gasped as the heat of Kyle’s mouth engulfed him. Thereafter he couldn’t string a coherent sentence together, except to beg for more.
Bethesda Hospital: Friday afternoon
Tony cursed as he waved through the chaos in the emergency room. There had been a ten-vehicle pileup on one of the major roads. Bethesda was overflowing with causalities. It meant that all of the roads were backed up and it made him late for his appointment with Brad. Due to the heavy inflow of injured people, even Brad ended up in the ER doing duty. Tony made his way over to where he saw Brad finished stitching up a young girl and quickly got his attention. Knowing that Brad was busy, he only told him that they would meet up later at the Jazz club and then left. It was then when he saw the one man he wasn’t ready to see. Not even nine months later.
Gibbs had his back to him, but Tony knew it was him. The way his hair was cut, his stance, it screamed out Marine, and when the man barked out an order, Tony nearly tripped over his own feet. He looked on as the NCIS agent turned. It looked like Gibbs was involved in the pileup. He had a large gash on his forehead, a bandage was slapped over it, but Tony could see it was still actively bleeding. He had a girl in his arms and Tony looked on as medical personnel took her from Gibbs’ arms. A sturdy nurse managed to steer Gibbs himself to an empty cubicle and made him sit down on the narrow bed. Tony lost sight of the older man when the nurse pulled the curtain closed and he made his way out of the ER. He knew the team would show up at the hospital the moment they learned that Gibbs was there. He didn’t want to see them. It might be months since he’d last seen any of his former colleagues, but he still wasn’t ready to see them.
Blue grass Jazz club: 5 hours later
“Penny for your thoughts,” Brad spoke up as he shifted in on the bench next to his best friend. “Sorry I’m late, unfortunately you know the reason why.”
“Mm,” Tony took a sip of his bourbon. “I understand.”
“You all right, Buckeye?” Brad placed his arm around his best friend’s shoulders. “What’s going on? You feeling all right?” He couldn’t help but to let the doctor inside of him come out.
“Why didn’t you tell me he looked like shit?” The glass in Tony’s hand spilled as he shoved it away from him.
Brad frowned. “Where did you see Gibbs?”
“The ER.” Tony turned and faced his friend. “Why didn’t you tell me?”
Brad cocked his head. “What would you’ve done, Tony? When you left here, you were in a bad place yourself. You didn’t trust any of them, especially Gibbs. So, just when did you want me to tell you that Gibbs wasn’t taking care of himself? And, it wasn’t as if I saw him on a daily basis. Especially not after that first encounter.” Brad sighed.
Gibbs had cornered him on the Monday morning after Tony’s release and it was clear the older man was on the warpath. It seemed like he finally got around to listen to his phone messages. Brad had already promised Tony that he wouldn’t tell Gibbs, or any member of his team, where he was. Gibbs was in a fit of rage when Brad told him he had no idea where he could find Tony. The fact that he refused to discuss Tony’s health with Gibbs made the other man nearly attack him. He tried to threaten Brad and reminded him that he was Tony’s medical proxy. That was until Brad showed him Tony’s medical file. Brad was the medical proxy and not Gibbs. It had left Gibbs speechless and he left.
“Thereafter, I only saw him three more times. All work related. We never talked outside the hospital. The last time I saw him I did try to inquire if he was okay, but you know Gibbs. He brushed me off and there was nothing I could do.”
Tony bowed his head. “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have taken my frustrations out on you. It just came as a shock to see him looking like that. I can’t understand why no one at work has done anything about it.”
“Do you think he would let them?” Brad sighed again. “It’s Gibbs we’re talking about, Tony. Until that stubborn man decides to do something about his health himself, there’s nothing anyone else can do.”
Tony’s shoulders slumped. Brad was correct. He just hated seeing the way Gibbs looked.
“You’re still not over him.”
Tony shook his head. He didn’t need to fake ignorance with Brad. His friend knew for just how long he’d been head over heels in love with his ex-boss. Tony made sure no one else knew about it, especially not the man in question. Brad was the only one who saw through that particular mask and had confronted him about it in their first year of friendship. “I don’t think I’ll ever be.” He straightened his shoulders. “But, it’s in the past. Seeing him today was a shock, but I’ve got something good going on with Kyle and I’m not going to jeopardize it by moping over Gibbs.”
Brad nodded in agreement. He liked Kyle and it was clear that the detective was good for Tony. “Speaking about Kyle, I thought he’d be here this weekend?”
“His flight got delayed and that meant he missed his connecting flight. He’ll be here tomorrow.”
Brad smiled as he saw the smile on Tony’s face. It was clear that his friend was thinking of his boyfriend. “I assume he had some choice words over that.”
Tony burst out laughing. “You can say that again. But, at least by now he will have calmed down. It’s a sight to behold when he loses his temper, but once he blows he calms down pretty quickly.”
“And he’s nothing like Gibbs,” Brad couldn’t help but to add.
“Whose nothing like Gibbs?” a voice sounded up behind them.
Tony turned around at the question. “Still so curious I see, McGee. And yet, it’s got nothing to do with you.”
Brad looked as a mask he was so familiar with slid across Tony’s face. It pained him to know that his best friend instantly guarded himself against someone who he had at one stage, called his friend and even trusted with his life.
“No need to be rude,” said a woman. Brad groaned when he saw who it was.
“I’m not the one interrupting a private conversation, Ziva.” Tony clenched his fists.
Brad placed his hand on Tony’s forearm. It wouldn’t help Tony losing his cool. He knew it would have no effect on the man and woman who stood before them.
“We were just walking by, Tony. We were certainly not elves dropping.” Ziva lifted her chin and looked down her nose.
“Still haven’t mastered the English language, I see. It’s eavesdropping, Ziva and I promise you, it’s got nothing to do with elves.” Tony got to his feet. “Now, as much as I would love to stay and correct your English, I’ve got better things to do.” Without any further word he walked away.
“Why did you leave, Tony?”
Brad was surprised to hear Tim’s question. He turned his attention to where Tony had come to a stop. Tony stood ramrod straight. He didn’t turn back. For a moment Brad thought that he would not answer.
“It was time.” Tony started walking again.
“And you showed all of us just how big of a coward you really are.”
Brad’s head snapped up as he heard the words. He immediately focused his attention on Tony. Tony slowly turned around. He didn’t look at anyone else, except the man who had uttered those words.
“Must be the first true thing you’ve ever said to me, Gibbs.” He had to keep his hands at his side. The gash on Gibbs’ forehead was cleaned and stitched up, the area around the injury bruised. He wanted to ask if he was okay, but the words didn’t want to form in his mouth.
“So you admit it?”
“Shut it, Ziva.” Gibbs’ voice sounded harsh through the lounge. “Get out of here.”
“Why?” She sneered.
“Ziva, let’s go.” Tim was the one who stepped closer to pull her away.
“No,” Ziva stepped back out of his reach. “Why must we go? He can leave. He doesn’t belong here.”
“Ziva,” Gibbs growled.
Brad looked on as Tony turned to face her. His friend had turned pale. He could see the small vein thumping on the side of Tony’s temple. He stepped forward as Tony spoke up.
“Still trying to throw a tantrum whenever you can, I see. It’s a free country, Ziva. I don’t need your permission, or anyone else’s permission to be here.”
Brad placed his hand on Tony’s shoulder. He leaned in. “You need to calm down.” He squeezed Tony’s shoulder as the man in front of him took a deep breath. “You want to talk to Gibbs or walk away?” Brad knew he had to give Tony the chance to make a decision himself. “Either way, Buckeye, I’ve got your back.”
Gibbs closed the distance between himself and the other two agents. “Let me make it an order, Ziva. Leave.”
For a second Brad could’ve sworn he saw resentment in the woman’s eyes before she nodded and then moved away. She still didn’t let Tim touch her. Brad stood and watched as McGee looked back at the three of them before he disappeared from their view. He turned to watch the two men who stood staring at one another. Brad could feel the tension building up with each second that passed.
Brad cleared his throat. When both men focused their attention on him, he smiled. “Want to join us for drinks, Agent Gibbs?” He pretended not to see the look of shock on Tony’s face at his suggestion.
“No,” Gibbs responded and at the same time closed the distance between himself and Tony. “I don’t know why you’re here in D.C.” He shrugged. “Hell, I don’t even care. Just make sure you don’t stay too long. You’re not welcome.” Gibbs turned to walk away.
“Yes, I know. I was just a bit slow on the uptake the first time around, Gibbs. But, not now. I’ve learned my lesson.”
Brad cringed at Tony’s words. Even a casual observer to this conversation would be able to pick up on the bitterness in Tony’s voice.
“Just what the fuck is that supposed to mean?” Gibbs spun around and stormed Tony. He came to a halt directly in front of the younger man. “I recruited you. I wanted you here. You were part of a family. We had your back, I I had your back. But, what do you do? You disappeared into thin air. An email to Shepard and a one-page letter on my desk informing me that you’ve resigned. Thank you for the opportunity, blah-blah. And then nothing. You made it clear that you didn’t want to be here. Do not come and blame us for you leaving. You did that on your own.”
Brad found himself moving forward before Tony could respond. “You had his back? Don’t fool yourself, Gibbs. Tony had his own back, no one else did. He took the brunt of your foul temper. He made sure that first Caitlyn, then Tim and even Ziva knew your rules. He was responsible for their training, while still doing all of his own duties and most of yours. Not once did he complain. He didn’t complain when Ziva started questioning his experience or his ability to lead in your absence, or when Tim jumped on the bandwagon with his little snide remarks. He didn’t say a word when Abby and Dr. Mallard thought of him as mere comic relief more than a fully trained agent. But, you know what was worse? It was the fact that through all of that, all you did was to slap him at the back of his head, growled and him and told him to do his damn job.” Brad bristled with anger. He continued to speak even as he saw how red Gibbs became. “And the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back? Do you know what that was?” He shrugged. “Of course you don’t, because you don’t care a fuck. You had a wonderful team dinner, bragged about it in front of the one team member who wasn’t there. You didn’t even make sure that the bullet wound he’d sustained on his arm got taken care of. No, it was more important that the colent was well cooked.”
“Brad.” Tony shook his head. “Leave it.” He didn’t look at Gibbs as he turned around to walk away.
“He was invited. He had a hot date.”
Brad sneered. “Let me guess, Ziva told you that.” He shook his head. “You never got it, did you?” He sighed. “Tony would’ve dropped any hot date he had, to spend time with the team. He wasn’t invited and I have a feeling that if you asked anyone of your so-called family, they would tell you that they were aware of that. And in your subconscious, Gibbs, you also knew that.” Brad squared his shoulders. “I miss seeing my best friend on a daily basis, Gibbs, but you know what? After this interaction I’ve witnessed between you and your so-called family and Tony, I am happy that he moved. He’s finally happy and whole again. Something that he hasn’t been for a very long time.” Brad turned away, placed his arm across Tony’s shoulder and led him away.
Gibbs residence: Saturday morning 06:00
Tony placed his hand on the handle and instead of turning the knob he leaned with his head against the door. He was dead on his feet and didn’t get any sleep in the previous night. He couldn’t believe what he was doing. He knew that if Brad saw him here, his best friend would look at him like he’d lost his mind. Maybe he had. Tony knew he had to talk to Gibbs. He couldn’t leave things as they were. He thought he could, but he thought wrong.
Tony took a deep breath and then opened the door. He didn’t knock. He didn’t want to take the chance that Gibbs might ask who it was and not let him in. The couch in the living room was already made up. He could smell the coffee from the kitchen and without thinking about it twice, he headed towards the basement stairs.
“Thought you didn’t want to be here.” Gibbs voice drifted up from where he worked on his latest project even as Tony descended the stairs.
“And you’re still a bastard,” Tony replied as he made his way down the stairs. He came to a halt on the second-to-last step and sat down. He looked at where Gibbs sanded something down.
“What do you want, DiNozzo?” Gibbs didn’t look up.
Tony shrugged. “I thought I knew when I made the decision this morning to head on over, but now I’m not sure.” He looked down at his hands. “I never thought it would end like that, Gibbs.” He didn’t flinch as the wooden item that Gibbs was sanding flew past his ear.
“You never thought it would end like this? You left like a thief in the middle of the night, DiNozzo. You offered up no explanation, nothing. But, at the same time, I got these frantic calls on my phone telling me to contact Pitt, and when I do, I’m told that it was a mistake. That I should forget about it.”
Tony noticed that Gibbs hesitated, as if he wanted to add something else, but he had no idea on what it could be. “You always had my back and then you didn’t.” It wasn’t what he wanted to say, but it was the words that left his mouth. Tony looked on as Gibbs’ body jerked at the words.
Gibbs spat, “I had your back up until the moment you resigned, DiNozzo, and you knew that.” His hands shook as he reached for the mug of coffee that stood on the side of the workbench.
“Did I?” Tony got to his feet and walked over to the man he had followed and, in a way, worshipped, for the last five years. The punch came out of nowhere and hit him squarely on the jaw. The force made him stumble backwards, but he managed to keep to his feet. Tony’s first instinct was to hit back, but he didn’t come here for a fistfight. He came here for something else, even though he couldn’t name it himself.
“What?” Gibbs sneered. “Not even going to fight back? Never pinned you for a coward, DiNozzo.”
Tony rubbed his jaw. “The first one was free, Gibbs. Don’t even think that the next one will be free as well.” Tony lowered his hand. “You had my back, Gibbs, but then things changed. And, unfortunately, it didn’t change for the better. Brad summed it up perfectly last night. You stopped seeing who I truly was and you believed the mask I wore to fool others. You got yourself fooled. Or, maybe I should say that I was the fool in thinking you knew the real me.” Tony sighed. He tried to relax the tensed-up muscles in his body. “You started not caring. You went from where you ordered me not to die after the plague, to that last night, where you had to see the blood on my jacket sleeve. You were walking away when you asked if I was okay. Not even checking with your own eyes. I’m not saying it was your responsibility to make sure I got medical treatment, but the least you could’ve done was give me a second of your time. Instead, McGee was filled with glee when he told me what you told him. Something in the line of finding us before I blew both my arms off.” Tony slow clapped. “Job well done in showing a junior agent just how competent you felt I was.” He ducked the next punch and delivered a solid hit himself. It was his turn to catch Gibbs right on the jaw. With satisfaction, he looked on as Gibbs stumbled back. “I told you the first one was for free. I will not let you physically assault me, Gibbs.”
“Didn’t know you still needed coddling, DiNozzo. I really thought you were a big boy, my mistake.”
Tony saw red and with a growl, he slammed his body into Gibbs and both of them stumbled backwards. Evan as Gibbs tried to push him away, he brought his arm up and caught the older man on the side of the head. He followed it up with another hit and ducked as Gibbs lashed out. Tony was quick enough to dodge the first and second blow, but the third punch landed solidly in his solar plexus and robbed him of his breath. Tony didn’t have time to catch his breath as Gibbs’ next blow rattled his teeth enough to make his eyes tear up. He knew he should stop, but all the anger and hurt of the past nine months, the past year, surged to the surface and he threw his next punch. He felt the cartilage of Gibbs’ nose give way beneath his fist as blood exploded from his broken nose. Tony didn’t care. He turned his body and the next punch made contact with Gibbs’ kidney. It was with satisfaction that he heard the pained grunt from the man he had believed in for so many years. Tony miscalculated the speed with which Gibbs moved and was unprepared as Gibbs crouched, caught him around the middle and body slammed him into the stairs. His legs gave way and he tried to bring up his arms to knock Gibbs back, but Gibbs pinned his arms to his sides. He sagged heavily against the older man. Both men wrestled with each other, the need to land punches fueled by anger and frustration.
Tony gasped as Gibbs yanked hard on his hair and pulled his head back before devouring his mouth in a searing kiss. He found himself unable to push the older man away. Instead he relaxed, the fight going out of him, and he responded to the kiss. He moaned as Gibbs deepened the kiss even more. Gibbs tasted like coffee mixed with bourbon, and it was the most intense taste he experienced in a long time. It made him want more. “No,” Tony whispered as Gibbs pulled away. He looked up. Gibbs’ eyes were blown with desire. His nose was bleeding, but not too badly.
Gibbs smiled and wiped the blood away. “You mean yes.” He didn’t give Tony a chance to respond but leaned forward and kissed him slowly. He loosened the hold he had on the younger man, his hands cradled Tony’s head instead of gripping it hard.
Tony grunted and pushed hard at Gibbs’ chest. Gibbs stepped backwards. “No.” Tony wiped his hand across his mouth.
Gibbs looked him up and down. “That’s not what your body is saying.” He looked down at the noticeable bulge in Tony’s pants.
Tony groaned out of frustration. He grabbed Gibbs by the shirt, and pulled him close. He slanted his mouth over Gibbs’ and kissed him hard. Both men battled for domination, but Gibbs won as he forced Tony hard into the stairs again, making Tony gasp for air. “Fuck me,” Tony breathed and rolled his hips, his cock pulsating within his trousers.
“Planning to.” Gibbs responded by twisting Tony around so that his face pressed against the banister. “Gonna fuck you right here, DiNozzo.”
Tony shivered as Gibbs managed to pull his trousers and boxers to the floor with one tug. He grunted when a finger was pushed in his mouth and sucked on it without being prompted to do so. His hips bucked as Gibbs nipped at his ear.
“Nice and wet, DiNozzo, I don’t have any other lube down here.” Gibbs pushed a second finger into Tony’s mouth and continued to grind his hips against Tony’s ass.
Tony sucked and slurped. He couldn’t help but imagine that the fingers inside his mouth was Gibbs’ cock. For a second, he gagged as Gibbs pushed his fingers deeper into his mouth, but he swallowed and he felt Gibbs hardened against him as the digits slipped down his throat. He moaned as Gibbs removed his fingers, nearly whimpered at the loss, then he gasped as a hand between his shoulder blades pushed him forward, making him bend at the waist before a single digit got pushed inside of him. It burned and he grunted at the intrusion. He pushed back – he wanted it to burn. He needed to be stretched, filled with Gibbs’ cock. “Fuck me,” he grunted again as he widened his stance as much as he could with his trousers around his ankles.
The second digit joined the first and Tony hissed. The spit on Gibbs’ fingers was already drying, the digits entered him almost dried, but he pushed back, needing the pain, like the air he needed to breathe. A nail scraped over his prostate and made him buck forward. “Fuck!” A slap landed on his right buttocks and he gulped for air. He wanted to respond, but the blunt head of Gibbs’s cock prodded at his puckered hole and before he could breathe, Gibbs pushed in.
It burned and he tensed up, but the man behind him held him steady. A hand sneaked underneath his shirt and pinched his nipple hard. Tony screamed and bucked as Gibbs continued to press forward, rocking ever so slightly until he bottomed out. Tony sagged against the banister and moaned as Gibbs rested all of his body weight against him.
He could feel Gibbs’ cock splitting him open and throbbing inside him, but he wouldn’t have it any other way. He pushed back. “Move, Gibbs. Fucking move.” He grunted as Gibbs accepted the command and Tony had to grab and hold on tight as Gibbs pulled out and then thrust forward hard. Tony screamed again and begged for more.
Tony woke up slowly and for a moment he was confused. He could smell the sex on him, on the sheet beneath him, but the man next to him wasn’t Kyle. He groaned as his body ached and the memories flooded his mind. He’d slept with Gibbs. His breathing sped up and he swallowed hard. Now was not the time to panic, and he pushed the feeling down. Panicking wouldn’t help. He lifted his head and took in the sleeping figure next to him. It was strange to see Gibbs so relaxed. Even with the injury over his eye and a nose that stood a bit askew, he looked younger – unguarded, and Tony’s heart ached. He brought his hand up and rubbed at his chest. They could’ve been good together, but a few rounds of heavy sex in the sack wasn’t going to change anything. He had lost his trust in the team; in the man asleep next to him. He’d also started to build a new life. Kyle, Tony lowered his head into his hands. He’d cheated on Kyle. On the one man who would do anything for him. He wanted to scream out of frustration, but didn’t want Gibbs to wake up. Getting out of bed without waking Gibbs up would be a challenge on its own. He had to get away. This had been a mistake. His new life was in Portland, with Kyle. Not here, and definitely not with Gibbs.
Tony couldn’t help but look at Gibbs once again. He’d been in love with the gruff man for so long. But he needed to move on. He needed to put this behind him. Gibbs was part of his past. This needed to be part of his past. Tony got out of bed and quietly got dressed. He was surprised to see that it was nearly four in the afternoon. He had intended to be there when Kyle arrived at the hotel, and now he’d messed that up. He definitely hadn’t intended to have sex with Gibbs when he’d come to his house to confront him, but there was no turning back the clock. Tony found a pen and a piece of paper and scribbled down a few words. He left it on the bedside table next to Gibbs’ head and then exited the room quietly. This had been a mistake. It was time to go home.
Gibbs stared long at the words on the note he found on the bedside table. He’d heard Tony moved around in the room, but didn’t think for one moment that the man would gather his clothes and slink away. Now, the only thing he had left was scratch marks and hickeys that decorated his body, and a note that made it clear that Tony thought it had been a mistake. Maybe Tony was right, but his gut told him otherwise. Letting Tony go now would be the real mistake. Maybe this time he should fight for what was his. He regretted losing his temper and hitting Tony. It was his responsibility to make things right.
Gibbs picked up the note and read it again. ‘Ziva was right, I don’t belong here.’ He shook his head. “No, I was wrong. You do belong here.” Gibbs folded up the note and placed it back where he found it. It was time to get Tony back and he knew just where to start.
Bethesda Hospital: Staff cafeteria
Brad sighed as he placed his fork down and pushed the tray away from him. “You’re not going to give up, are you?”
“No. I want to know where he is.” Gibbs remained standing, his hands tucked into his coat’s pockets.
“And as I told you the last ten times, I am not going to tell you.” Brad got to his feet. “You’re starting to act like a stalker, Gibbs and that’s unbecoming of you. Let it go. Tony doesn’t want anything to do with you.”
“Like hell he doesn’t.” Gibbs growled. “You don’t have the right to decide for him. Tell me where he is.”
Brad shook his head. “You’re right, I don’t have the right to decide for him, but he told me straight. He doesn’t want anything to do with you. Accept that, Gibbs, and move on.” He grabbed his coat and pulled it on. “I’m running late. Please excuse me.”
Gibbs reached out and grabbed hold of Brad’s wrist. He yanked him closer, hard enough to make Brad stumble. “Tell me where he is.”
“What the hell? Let me go.” Brad tried to loosen the grip on his arm.
“Not until you tell me where he is,” Gibbs hissed in anger.
Brad jerked his arm away. “Fuck off, Gibbs.” He started to move away, but Gibbs grabbed him from behind. “Hey!” He shouted out and pushed at the older man.
Gibbs stood his ground, but grunted as a body slammed into his, and before he could react he found him pinned to the wall. “Let me go. I’m a federal agent.” He turned his head to get a look at the person behind him.
“I don’t give a fuck who or what you are. You’re under arrest.”
Gibbs growled as the man slipped cuffs around his wrists and he felt them clicking shut. “Let me go.”
The man scoffed. “Like when Doctor Pitt asked you to let him go and you refused. I don’t think so, buddy.” The man grabbed him by the elbow and pulled him away from the wall. He took him to where Brad stood, rubbing his wrist.
“You all right, Brad?” The man asked even as he took out his badge to show to the security that came scurrying into the cafeteria. “Detective Thompson. Portland Police.”
“You don’t have jurisdiction here.”
“And you being a federal agent doesn’t give you the right to assault another person. Even if I don’t have jurisdiction, I still have the right to make a citizen’s arrest, and if that is what it takes to get you away from here, then so be it.” Thompson turned back to Brad. “Let me ask again, you all right?”
Brad nodded his head. “Thank you, Kyle. I’m all right. Agent Gibbs here was just leaving.” He saw the detective’s eyebrow lift. It seemed like Tony had told Kyle about Gibbs. He only hoped that Kyle wouldn’t say anything about Tony. Not in front of Gibbs in any case. Brad sighed in relief when Kyle merely nodded.
“You want to lay charges against him?” Kyle looked at the man next to him. Finally, he put a face to the name. A name Tony didn’t speak often, but he knew that this man meant a whole lot to Tony once upon a time.
“No,” Brad shook his head for emphasis. “I think he’s got the message. You can let him go.”
Kyle cocked his head and reached for the cuff key. He unlocked it, but kept hold of the other man. “I don’t give a damn who you think you are, Agent Gibbs, but if I see you bothering Doctor Pitt again I will arrest your ass. Do I make myself clear?” He pushed Gibbs back against the wall and kept him there. He only released him when he felt Brad’s hand settle on his shoulder.
Gibbs glared at the two men and then nodded tersely. He had seen the look that passed between the doctor and the detective. He had a feeling this Thompson might know Tony, and if he knew Tony then it meant that Tony was in the Portland area. He just got a new lead where Tony might be. Without looking back at the two men Gibbs made his way out of the cafeteria. He didn’t even pay attention at the two security guards that still stood around hoping to be part of the action.
Gibbs replaced the receiver of his desk phone and leaned back in his chair. The bullpen was empty. He’d sent the team home more than an hour ago. Luckily, Portland was three hours behind them and he had found someone willing to give him the information he was looking for.
Detective Kyle Thompson was a highly competent homicide detective and has been working in Portland for the past six years. Both OF THE men with whom Gibbs had spoken to thought highly of the man. It also came to his attention that Thompson had been helping out a private consultant for the past six months, and with a few questions he found out who the consultant was. He shouldn’t have been surprised, but it still shook him to know that Tony now had his own consulting business where he helped out different police departments and private individuals with old cases. Tony also had a knack in solving the cold cases. It was right up his alley. Now the only thing he had to do was get hold of Tony, and find a way to get him back here where he belonged.
One week later: Portland Police – Detective Services
“You are either very stupid or very brave. I’ve yet to decide which one it is.” Kyle said as he came to his feet. He made no effort to greet the visitor, but did nod his thanks towards the desk sergeant who had brought Gibbs through. Kyle indicated to the chair next to his desk. “Have a seat.”
Kyle snorted. “At least you come straight to the point, so I will return the favor, Agent Gibbs. Tony’s whereabouts has nothing to do with you. I would suggest you head back to the airport and take the first flight back home. You’ve got no reason to be here.”
“That’s not for you to decide.”
“No?” Kyle cocked his head. “If Tony wanted you anywhere near him, he would’ve told you where he is. More importantly, you would’ve had his telephone number. I can rightly say that he doesn’t want you in his life.”
“He left so quickly from my home that I didn’t have a chance to talk to him. There’s some things we need to sort out.”
“Don’t try to bullshit me, Agent Gibbs. The last time Tony was at your home was before he left D.C. You had ample time to talk to him before he resigned. You chose not to do so.”
“He didn’t tell you.” Gibbs smiled. “Seems like you don’t know everything about Tony, Detective Thompson.
“Tell me what?”
“When Tony was in D.C. two weeks ago, he came by my house. We spent the night together. After he left I realized that I was in the wrong. I need to make things right with him.”
Kyle swallowed hard. He didn’t like where this conversation was going. He was also not going to give the man before him the pleasure to tell him about it. “Yet, I can only tell you again. If he wanted to have contact with you, he would’ve made sure you had his numbers. He didn’t and you need to leave. I’ve got work to do.” Kyle reached for his coat on the back of his chair.
“He begged me to fuck him harder and screamed my name when I finally offered him release.”
Kyle heard the words and it took a moment for them to sink in, but then he saw red, and with a growl he tackled the man before him hard and they both stumbled backwards. Gibbs hit the desk hard with his back, but even before Kyle got the first punch in, Gibbs clipped him so hard on the side of the head that his head spun. He got his arms up and pushed Gibbs away. He was aware of his fellow officers storming closer to break them up, but he had to get one hit in. He let his left hook rip and with satisfaction felt Gibbs’ flesh gave way underneath his knuckles before someone grabbed him around the waist and pulled him back.
“What the fuck is going on here!”
Kyle tried to break free from the hands that kept him away from the man he wanted to smear on the floor. When he heard his captain’s voice he calmed down. Before he could answer, Gibbs spoke up first.
“Just a misunderstanding, Captain.” Gibbs straightened his jacket and gently touched his jaw.
“Who the hell are you?”
“NCIS – Supervisory Agent Gibbs.” Gibbs took out his credentials and handed it over to the captain.
“I did not know that it was inter-departmental procedure to attack one another, Agent Gibbs? I thought it was all about cooperation.” The captain handed the credentials back.
“As I said, Captain, a simple misunderstanding.” Gibbs returned his badge and ID to his breast pocket.
Kyle nodded his head. “As Agent Gibbs says, Captain. A mere misunderstanding, nothing serious.”
“Good. Then get on with your work.” The captain left the rest of the detective squad standing around as he retreated back to his own office. He did not see the two men glaring at one another.
“I think it’s time that you leave, Agent Gibbs.” Kyle spoke up through clenched teeth. “If you’re in a hurry to get back to the airport, I can have a black-and-white escort you.”
Gibbs nodded his head. “I’ll find my own way.” He straightened his coat and walked towards the exit of the detective squad room. At the door he looked back and grinned. The moment he hit the pavement, he took out his own phone. “You got anything?” He listened intently and smiled. His plan had worked, but he also knew now was not the time to act. For now, he had to be patient. And patience was something he had in abundance when it was something important he sought. In this instance – Tony. He would be taking his time to find the man. He would only have one chance and he was not about to mess it up.
Tony’s home: Later the same day
Tony got to his feet and went to Kyle the moment he stepped into the study. “What’s wrong? You sounded weird over the phone.” He had been worried the whole morning.
Kyle didn’t answer, instead he looked around at the different boards Tony used to keep his cases sorted out. It seemed like Tony had made some inroads into the case he was working on. Instead of accepting the welcoming hug, Kyle stepped away, and ignored the flash of hurt he saw on Tony’s face. Instead, he focused on the task of pouring himself a stiff drink.
“You gonna tell me what’s wrong, or just get drunk? If that is what you plan to do, then I would suggest you go and do it somewhere else, I’ve got work to do.” Tony indicated to the white boards.
“Why didn’t you tell me?” Kyle asked as he took a big swallow of his drink.
For a moment Tony had no idea what Kyle talked about, but then things clicked into place and his knees grew weak. “How did you find out?”
“You’re not denying it.”
Tony bowed his head. “I’m sorry. I should’ve told you.”
“You think?” Kyle closed his eyes in an attempt to calm himself. “How long have you been in love with him?”
“From the first time I tackled him in Baltimore. I never acted on it.”
Tony nodded. “What did he want?” He reached for the tumbler of bourbon himself.
“He came to the precinct. Wanted to know where you were.”
“Did you tell him?”
“Do you think so little of me? I would never tell him where you are. But more than one police officer knows where you stay. He only had to ask one of them for your address.”
“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean it like that. I know you would never tell him.” Tony placed the drink down without taking a sip. “Did you get a shot in yourself?” He reached out to touch Kyle’s temple, but when the other man moved away he dropped his hand.
“I threw the first punch.” Kyle cleared his throat.
Tony lowered his head. He owed Kyle an explanation. “Being with you, took that ache I felt for him away.”
“Only until you let him fuck you,” Kyle responded bitterly.
“I’m sorry.” Tony repeated his earlier words.
Kyle nodded. “I know you are.” He placed his glass on the side table. “I’ll come and collect my stuff tomorrow.”
Tony nodded numbly. He wanted to beg Kyle to stay, to give him another chance, but he knew it would be unfair to the other man. To both of them. He looked up in surprise as Kyle wrapped his arms around him. He lowered his head against the other man’s chest.
“I’ll still have your back, Tony. That will never change.” Kyle hugged him hard, placed a lingering kiss on the top of Tony’s head before he backed away. Without another word he left Tony in the study and made his way out of Tony’s house.
Tony’s knees gave way and he landed hard on the carpeted floor. He slammed his fist hard against the floor. The pain radiated up through his hand and wrist, but he couldn’t care. He didn’t have the energy to get up from the floor but stayed there kneeling for a very long time.
Chapter 3: Chapter 2
Tony’s home office: 2 months later
“Fuck!” Tony screamed out of frustration as he flung the marker against the white board and dragged his hand through his already disheveled hair. He reached behind him and picked up the phone. Tony didn’t even bother to check out the time. He waited patiently for the call to be answered.
“Director Vance, Tony DiNozzo. I’m going to keep this short. You’ve got a serial killer in D.C. and he moved from targeting civilians to Navy and Marine personnel. I’ll send you all that I have on him and I’ll be at HQ by tomorrow afternoon, early evening at the latest.”
Tony started gathering all his notes and piled them in a box, ready to go. He had several sets of every case he worked on. The moment he booked his flight, he would send Vance an electronic copy of the whole case. He stopped gathering his notes when Vance’s voice reached his ear. The tone of the man’s voice made his hackles rise. “With all due respect, Director, I am still a trained police officer and I was a federal agent for almost six years. I still have my security clearance and I’m credited to work together with all the alphabet agencies. The only reason I haven’t worked with NCIS before was because I didn’t want to. I still don’t want to, but this monster needs to be caught. He’s responsible for the death of thirteen men and women, and if I’m right, the last two cases Agent Gibbs and his team picked up can be linked directly to him. I would suggest that you take your fragile ego and shove it aside. I’m really not interested in dealing with your tantrums. If you don’t believe what I told you, go through the files I’ll send your way and while you’re at it, speak to Deputy Director Morrow, he will vouch for me.” Tony ended the call and started getting everything together. He had no time to waste. He would phone Brad from the airport, hopefully he’d be able to crash at his friend’s place. He wasn’t in the mood for staying in a hotel. Tony purposefully did not think of Gibbs or the last time he’d seen Gibbs. Unfortunately, his memories had other ideas.
Tony’s house: 2 days after the breakup with Kyle
Tony brought his SUV to a stop and reached back to grab the files before getting out. He didn’t notice the man until he made his way to the front door. Tony nearly tripped over his own feet. “What are you doing here?”
“I’m here to see you,” Gibbs answered as he straightened himself out.
“Then I’m sorry that you made the trip for nothing. I don’t have anything to say to you.” Tony tried to brush past Gibbs but halted when Gibbs placed his hand on his elbow. He looked up and wished he hadn’t.
“That’s good, because you only need to listen. No need to talk.” Gibbs had kept the hold he had on Tony’s arm and guided him towards the front garden. There was a bench that looked out into the woods that surrounded Tony’s house. He made Tony sit down and then took a seat next to him.
“I never realized what you meant to me until you left. Suddenly, I had this huge gaping hole right in the middle of my chest and I couldn’t understand where it came from. In all honesty, I didn’t want to deal with it. You know I don’t do emotions very well, so I tried my utmost best to forget about that hole which I could feel got bigger by the day. I was angry towards you. You left. You left without saying a word and I decided that everything was your fault. But, although things got more bearable at the office, that feeling, that the integral part of my team – my life – was missing. I tried to look for you, but you’d disappeared into thin air. Until that night at the jazz club, I never thought I would see you again.”
Tony huffed. “And yet, you made me feel so welcome at the club that night.” He shook his head. “No, I’m not buying this.” He came to his feet. “Please leave.” Tony started moving towards his front door.
A hand on his arm yanked him backwards. Before he could demand from Gibbs to let him go, Gibbs kissed him. It was not a kiss that could be described as soft or welcoming. It was a kiss filled with pent up frustration, anger, but more important – lust. It filled him completely and he turned. He pulled Gibbs to his chest and returned the kiss with everything he had within himself. Both men groaned, their teeth and tongues clashed against the other. Tony’s knees buckled as Gibbs bit down on his bottom lip, the sting he felt travelled directly south and he grabbed hold of Gibbs’ hair and tugged it hard. Tony gasped for air. “Stop.” He took a step backwards.
Gibbs grinned and instead of staying put, he closed the distance between them again. “Once again, your body is not agreeing with your mouth.” He didn’t wait for a response but pushed Tony back against the wooden wall. Gibbs pushed his leg between Tony’s. His hard thigh pressed against the bulge in Tony’s trousers. He slanted his mouth over Tony’s and kissed him again – hard.
Tony gasped as Gibbs’ hand pushed between their bodies and cupped him. He could feel his cock harden even more as Gibbs kneaded his cock through his pants. He found himself grinding against Gibbs’ hand. “Fuck,” he moaned as he widened his stance so that Gibbs could rub him harder. He groaned when Gibbs removed his hand and wanted to whimper at the loss before he realized that Gibbs was busy undoing his belt and pulling down his zip. Tony’s cock pulsed with need and he groaned as the older man pushed his hand down his pants and boxers to take his cock in hand. His hips bucked forward and he shuddered as Gibbs’ thumb brushed over the mushroom tip.
“Gonna make you cum just like this, Tony,” Gibbs whispered in his ear before he nipped at the lobe while at the same time tugging at Tony’s cock. Tony was unsure on how Gibbs managed it, but he found himself standing against his own house’s wall, pants and boxers around his ankles, while Gibbs pumped his cock. He tried to push him away, but his hands refused to adhere to his commands, instead, they pulled Gibbs even closer. He whimpered as Gibbs smeared the pre-cum that covered his tip over the head. He could feel himself leak and Gibbs used every precious drop to slick his cock for it to glide smoother through Gibbs’ fist.
Gibbs’ hand moved up and down his shaft, he twisted his fist at the tip and tugged once, twice before moving down again. His hand went lower, cradled his sack, rolled his balls between his fingers and tugged at them gently before he fisted Tony’s cock again. “Gonna cum in my hand, Tony, and then you’re going to clean it up really good with your tongue, to show me just how much you loved it.”
Gibbs’ voice sounded hypnotic in Tony’s ears. Tony arched again as Gibbs’ tugged at his balls before his hand moved up and down his shaft. He could feel his balls tighten up, he was on the brink of exploding. “Gibbs!” Tony shouted as Gibbs’ hand tightened around his shaft and pulled his orgasm from the deepest part of his body. He looked down to see the white pearly strings of seed spurt over Gibbs’ fist, it landed on Gibbs’ wrist, his shirt and he looked on as it landed on the ground between their feet. Tony’s knees gave way, but before he could sink to the ground, Gibbs pulled him against his chest, his hand still working his cock, milking Tony through his release. Only when Tony whimpered did he let go.
“Clean me up,” Gibbs brought his hand up to Tony’s face and without hesitating, Tony lapped at Gibbs’ hand that was stained with his release. He tasted weird on Gibb’s skin, different from how he tasted on Kyle’s skin. It was that thought that brought him to his senses. He pushed hard at Gibbs. “Fuck off,” Tony growled. He slapped Gibbs’ hand away from his face and grabbed hold of his trousers to pull them up. “Fuck off, Gibbs. Fuck off!” He didn’t look back as he managed to storm past the man before him and made it back to his SUV where he got in, put the large vehicle in reverse and drove off. Not once did he look back.
Dulles Airport: Following afternoon
“You look like shit,” Brad said as he hugged Tony hard. He kept him against his chest. He could feel the tension in Tony’s shoulders.
“You’re just jealous,” Tony managed to grin. “It’s a practiced look.” He slapped Brad on the shoulder and stepped away. “Thank you for picking me up and letting me crash at your place – again.”
Brad shook his head. “You know that’s no problem, you’re always welcome.” He indicated to Tony’s bag. “That all?”
“Yes, I couriered everything else to Vance. I hope they started going through it. It’s a lot of information and I don’t have time to spoon feed them.” Tony lifted the strap over his shoulder. “You sure you don’t mind dropping me off at HQ? I can still get a cab to take me.”
Brad scoffed. “Don’t be silly, you know I don’t mind. It gives us time to catch up in any case.” He gave Tony a meaningful look.
Tony sighed. “I already told you, Brad. I fucked up. I can’t be angry at Kyle for ending it with me. I cheated on him. Other than that, there’s nothing else to talk about.”
“And then what about the fact that you will be working with Gibbs on this case?”
“What about it?” Tony shifted on his feet. “It’s not as if I can choose who to work with. He has the lead on the last two cases.”
“What are you not telling me?” Brad took Tony by the elbow and guided him to the nearest coffee shop. “Don’t argue, I know you haven’t eaten anything on that plane and I also know the moment you set foot in that building you will not eat anything until you’ve either solved the case or get a major breakthrough. So, sit down, let’s get a quick bite to eat and then I’ll go and drop you off. It won’t take us more than forty minutes.” He pushed Tony down on a chair and took the one opposite him. “Start talking.”
Tony groaned. His shoulders slumped forward and he lowered his head in his hands. “It happened again.” He quickly explained to Brad how Gibbs had showed up at his place two days after he’d broken up with Kyle. “I haven’t seen or heard from him again after that.”
Brad bit down on his bottom lip. “I don’t think what the two of you are doing is healthy.”
Tony nodded. “I know that, Brad. I know that better than anyone else and each time I start off by saying no, but…” He shrugged. “He totally robs me of my senses, Brad. He makes me drunk with lust. I’m an addict around him and I want more. I crave more.”
“So the question is who will be jumping whose bones first?” He shook his head. “You’re a grown man, Anthony DiNozzo, and I can’t tell you what to do, or what not to do. All that I can do is to ask you to be careful – please.”
“I promise.” Tony smiled and leaned back. He looked around them and took a deep breath. Even though they were still in the airport, there was something in the air that smelled like home. He missed this place. He pushed the thoughts down that he didn’t miss Washington itself, but just one man – Gibbs.
Tony couldn’t help grinning as he exited the elevator and took in the orange walls. It was still as horrible as always. He was aware of the agent who escorted him up but ignored the man behind him as he walked deeper into the open-shaped office. Ziva’s voice was the first thing he heard.
“If it is indeed a serial killer, then we don’t need his help. We are capable of doing our jobs. If he’s been working the case for more than two months and still hasn’t caught the guy then it is clear that Tony is incapable of doing his work. Something I’ve been saying all along.”
“And yet, Ziva, Anthony had made more progress in this case than any other police officer who dealt with the case before. Also, please keep in mind that it is clear from Anthony’s extensive notes that this killer had been terrorizing Oregon for more than two years and now seems had moved to D.C. It would be unwise, even foolish not to listen to Anthony on this matter.”
Tony waited calmly for Ducky to finish talking. When he left, he’d been angry, not only at his team, but also with Ducky and with Jimmy. He had felt betrayed even by them. Both men had reached out to him through Brad and it took him more than three months before he returned their calls. He had yet to see either of them again, but he had spoken to Ducky on the phone a few times and he and Jimmy have been emailing each other on a weekly basis. Tony stepped into the grouping of desks. “Thank you, Ducky, but don’t worry, I can fight my own battles.” He nodded to the older man but ignored the rest of the team. He could feel both Ziva and McGee glaring at him. Gibbs stood behind his own desk and Tony made eye contact with him. “Gibbs.”
Gibbs looked at him with not a trace of emotion on his face. Not that Tony thought that Gibbs would show any emotion, but it would’ve been nice if the man cracked a smile, or even nodded his head. Noting that Gibbs was not going to respond, Tony turned to the screen behind him. “Are these the latest two victims?” He asked no one in particular. Tony made sure that the surprise did not show on his face when Gibbs was the one who answered.
“Private First Class Simmons on the right. He was stationed on the USS Bainbridge which is currently docked in Norfolk. He was twenty, single with no dependents. He’s survived by his mother. She resides in Kansas. His finances checked out. Private Simmons was found a week ago in a motel room. The room was not registered in his name and was wiped clean from top to bottom.”
“He was not killed there.” Tony spoke up. He kept his gaze on the screen.
“Indeed not.” Ducky spoke up. “He died as a result of manual strangulation. Suggillation present in Private Simmons’ back indicated that he was killed while in a supine position, while he was found tied to the shower head in the bathroom, naked.”
“Tied up with rope?” Tony turned to Gibbs. When the man nodded, he continued. “Solid braid cotton, also known as sash cord. A hundred percent cotton and used for different purposes. Commonly available at any hardware or craft store.”
“And it’s the victims tied up with the rope that makes you say this is a serial killer?” McGee spoke up from his desk.
“Yes, I do.” There were other reasons as well, but Tony did not elaborate. He was not here to state why he thought it was a serial killer. He was here to catch a serial killer. There was a huge difference and he didn’t have the time to explain it to a federal agent. “Who’s the second victim?”
“Second Lieutenant Masters. Stationed at the Marine Barracks. Age twenty-six. Divorced for two years. Her ex-husband emigrated to Australia at the end of last year. No minor children. She was found in a scrap yard two days ago. Tied to a forklift. She was also naked.” Gibbs used the remote to switch off the screen. “Cause of death was exsanguination. Her femoral artery was cut. There was no blood at the scene. The same rope was used to tie her up. Abby confirmed it.”
“Did you take a look at the case notes I couriered over?”
Ziva snorted at his back. “We don’t have time to read your notes, Tony. We’ve got our own work to do.”
Tony turned and smiled at her. “And that’s why you will always be one step behind the rest in catching the bad guys, Ziva.” He shook his head. “Our killer is in his early to late thirties. He is highly organized with great impulse control and a high level of sophistication. He’s patient and most likely has a military or law enforcement background. He would be in a position of authority in his workplace. I would classify him as a narcissistic sociopath as he kills because he wants to. He is a perfectionist in everything he does.”
“And his shoe size?”
“Ziva!” Gibbs barked and Tony looked on as his former boss stepped around him and went toe-to-toe with the Mossad agent. “Unless you’ve got anything positive to contribute to this case, I don’t want to hear from you. You either work within this team or you go home. Pick one.”
“The rest of your notes have been set up in conference room 2. There’s more space to work.” Gibbs turned away from Ziva and came to a halt next to Tony again.
“Thank you.” Tony nodded his head and then took the stairs to the mezzanine where the conference room was situated. He was aware that both Gibbs and Ducky followed him. He couldn’t care less what the two junior agents did.
Condemned shopping mall: 1 week later
“Gunnery Sergeant Lewis, reported missing by his ten year old daughter after he failed to return home two days ago. Stationed at the Pentagon. Widower after his wife died in a freak accident three months ago. Just the one minor child, Lucy.”
Tony circled the body as McGee read the information from his smart phone. Although Ducky had yet to arrive on the scene, he had a good idea on what the cause of death was. Poisoning. Lewis was tied to a mannequin doll in what looked to be a dancing position. The mannequin was secured to the floor by bolts drilled through its feet.
“Still no indication on what links all of the victims together, except that the last ones are all navy,” Tony spoke out loud to himself. He didn’t care if anyone else heard what he said. It was not as if any of the others would’ve listened to him in any case. He looked up as Gibbs entered the empty clothes store. He nodded at the older man. Words between them had been few, both ignoring the other.
“Why did he change, DiNozzo?” Gibbs spoke up next to Tony as he took a closer look at the scene.
It didn’t surprise Tony that Gibbs’ line of thinking would be the same as his. He shrugged. “Something must’ve triggered the change, but I don’t know what.” Tony dragged his hand across his face. He could feel the stubble that decorated his chin. It was time that he took a razor to the fuzz, he felt scruffy. When Gibbs only stared at him, he continued. “He had been active in the Oregon State now for more than three years, his main focus had always been Portland. Now, for one or other reason he left his natural habitat to come and kill people here. But, not just any random person on the street. Instead, he now focuses on Navy personnel only. I don’t understand why.”
The single word spoken by Gibbs rocked Tony’s world. He couldn’t help to stumble back. “Fuck.” He went down on his haunches. He never even thought of bringing himself into the equation. He knew that since he’d started working on the case it had gotten more media attention, but nothing in the extreme. Gibbs’ word placed a whole new spin on things. “He’s taunting me.”
“I would say that too.” Gibbs remained where he stood.
“Fucking bastard,” Tony grumbled and got to his feet. “I’m not stepping away from this case. I will find him and put an end to these killings.”
“And how many other innocent people will have to die in the mean time?”
“I think it’s time that you leave here, Ziva.”
Tony was surprised to hear the ice in Gibbs’ voice. He didn’t turn to face either one as he stood with his back to them. He imagined Gibbs glaring at Ziva, while the woman looked at him as if butter could melt in her mouth. Tony heard her huff and then she moved away quickly. He could hear her mumbling as she walked off, but he couldn’t make out what she said. When the store grew quiet around him again, Tony turned around. He was surprised to find it was only himself and Gibbs that were left. He didn’t even realize that McGee and everyone else had gone.
“I should’ve thought about that. The media linked me to the case fairly quickly. Especially in Portland.” Tony ignored Gibbs’ remark. “I had to get the media involved. The cases were growing cold. I needed someone to come forward, maybe someone saw something and they didn’t realize it.”
“If I can only find the link between all the victims. I mean, from a newly graduated college student just starting out in life, to a retired teacher age eighty and everything in between. They had to have something in common, something that is so fucking obvious that I’m totally missing it.”
Tony jerked and pushed Gibbs away the moment the older man touched him. “Damn it, Gibbs! I thought I was over her and her snide remarks.” Tony raised his hand in a gesture of apology but didn’t utter any words.
“You’re not to blame, Tony.” Gibbs reached out and this time not only touched Tony, but pulled him into his arms. He held him against his chest. “If there’s one person that can find this killer then it is you. In that, I have no doubt.”
Tony relaxed against Gibbs’ chest. He didn’t want to, but fuck, he was only human and he missed Gibbs’ smell. He missed the man himself. Tony closed his eyes and took a deep breath. He then stepped back. His emotions firmly under control. “We’ve got work to do.” He took out his phone and started recording notes to himself. He ignored Gibbs as he continued to observe and walk the scene.
NCIS: 3 days later
“DiNozzo!” Gibbs yelled as he took the stairs three at a time to where Tony sat and worked in the conference room. Tony refused to take a table in the bullpen, saying that he needed more space to work. Since he no longer worked for NCIS or for Gibbs, there was nothing he could do about it.
He came to a halt when the younger man appeared in the door. “Grab your gear, we have a lead.” Gibbs didn’t explain further but turned around and headed down the stairs again. He was positive that Tony would follow him. He met up with McGee at the elevator and before the doors could close, Tony slipped inside.
“On the rope?” Tony asked as he slipped his firearm into the shoulder holster before he dragged his jacket over his shoulders.
Gibbs nodded. After they returned from the scene of Gunnery Sergeant Lewis’ murder Tony had immediately started to phone around. It took a call or two before Gibbs got clued in on who Tony was phoning. He contacted all the police precincts with a simple request. All the beat cops should leave Tony’s information at all the hardware, and or craft stores in their area. If any person came in and bought a spool of the specific rope, Tony should be contacted. It seemed like the request paid off. It also seemed like his skepticism over Tony’s idea was for nothing. “A hardware store owner contacted a beat cop with info and the call was placed through to me.” He handed Tony the piece of paper on which he scribbled the information down just as the doors to the elevator opened up and all three men stepped out. Gibbs stopped Tony as he peeled off to go to his own car. “I’m faster.” Gibbs tried not to smile as Tony rolled his eyes at him, but at least he nodded and they jogged together to Gibbs’ official car. Gibbs cleared his throat as McGee headed for the front passenger door. He delivered a head slap as the young agent sighed a bit too loudly.
The trip to the hardware store didn’t take long. The silence in the car stretched out, but didn’t break. Normally Gibbs had no problem with no one talking, but he missed hearing Tony’s voice. Unfortunately, he also learned that Tony rarely spoke up unless it was case related when anyone else was with them, especially McGee and definitely not Abby. Gibbs grimaced at that thought. When Tony arrived almost two weeks back, Abby was on leave and she only returned four days ago. The first time she saw Tony she’d slapped him across the face. Tony had looked at her and turned. When she grabbed his arm, he had turned quickly and overpowered her. He’d pushed her against the wall without hurting her and even as she ranted and screamed he refused to let her go. Gibbs had looked on as Tony had leaned in and whispered something in her ear. Abby’s head was in the way so he couldn’t lip-read what Tony said, but it had an instant effect. Abby had gone still and quiet. Tony had let her go and this time he walked away without her trying to stop him. Abby had not spoken one word about what had been said between herself and Tony and Tony remained silent as well. Now Abby ignored him and he ignored both her and McGee.
Gibbs found a parking place right in front of the store. He got out and headed inside. He wasn’t surprised that Tony entered the store even before he could. He found Tony at the counter to the side of the store. An elderly man stood behind it. For a moment it looked like his own father and his heart ached. Gibbs made a mental note to phone his dad. It’d been a while since he’d last spoken to Jackson.
“Do you sell a lot of the hundred percent cotton rope, Mr. Barns?” Tony asked as Gibbs looked around. He was disappointed when he found no cameras in the shop. It would make it more difficult to identify their possible killer. Gibbs listened as the man spoke up.
“Not at all and that’s why I remembered the instruction so clearly when Officer Stone came in at the beginning of the week and told me to keep an eye out for someone wanting to buy that specific rope.”
“Did he leave a name?” Gibbs asked before Tony could.
“No,” Mr. Barns shook his head and Gibbs wanted to scream out of frustration. “Was it a cash sale?”
The shop owner shook his head.
“Is there a credit slip?” Gibbs was losing his patience.
“No,” Barns spoke up and continued before either man could ask another question. “I told him that I was out of stock, but that it would arrive this afternoon and I made an arrangement with him to come back at two.” He grinned. “I always wanted to help the police and I thought that whatever this man did was important enough for the police to be here to arrest him.”
Gibbs shook his head. He looked at his watch even as Tony spoke to the man further. It was just after one, hopefully they still had time to catch the bastard. He caught Tony’s eye and knew the man next to him realized the same thing. He wasn’t surprised to see Tony leading the shop owner to the side. Gibbs indicated to McGee to step closer. “Clear the front, make sure the LEOs know we’re here. Gibbs shook off his NCIS jacket and removed his own holstered weapon. He rolled up his sleeves and walked in behind the counter. Gibbs smiled. A Remington 11-87 was fitted against the side. It first came on the market in 1987 and this one was still in near excellent condition from what he could see. Gibbs also knew it was loaded. He only hoped that Mr. Barns had the necessary permits for the shotgun. Gibbs looked on as Tony came back. This time without the store owner.
“You can’t play the part.” Tony spoke up and Gibbs raised an eyebrow.
“Not because you don’t know what’s going on in a shop, because obviously you do, but because of me. If the killer really is taunting me, he would know about you. We can’t take the risk with him identifying you and getting away before we get the chance to arrest him.”
Gibbs huffed in annoyance. Tony was correct, it was not a chance they could take. “Who then? I’m not risking Mr. Barns.”
“He’s already on his way home. I told him we would lock up the shop and bring his keys to him.” Tony showed him the set of keys he held in his hand. “What about McGee?”
Gibbs was surprised at Tony’s suggestion. Something must’ve shown on his face because Tony continued.
“He’s got that innocent look going for him and he’d lost weight. He doesn’t look like a police officer or federal agent. I think he can pull it off.”
“What about the link to you?”
“Every high profile case we did, your name popped up or mine. I can’t think of one case where McGee’s name or photo appeared in it. We still have enough time to double check. It won’t take him long to google his own name and see what he comes up with. If you feel it’s too risky, we’ll have to think of another plan.”
“Google?” Gibbs shook his head. “I don’t want to know.” He came out from behind the counter. “McGee!” He called out to the agent and looked on a McGee jogged over. “You need to…” he made a rolling motion with his hand and looked at Tony with a frown.
“You need to google yourself, McGee.” Tony grinned.
McGee frowned. “Why?” He directed the question to Gibbs.
Tony sighed. “Because it’s an order from your supervisor?” He shook his head and held up his hand. “Sorry, not my place.” Tony took a deep breath. “We need someone to play the shop owner, but because we think the killer might be taunting me there’s a great possibility that he will know about Gibbs. You’re still a junior agent, hopefully he will not be on to you.”
McGee nodded at the explanation as he took out his phone and did the required search. He handed the phone to Gibbs.
“What does this mean, McGee?” Gibbs frowned. He looked at the different headings which looked like articles, but none of it made any sense to him.
“He’s clean,” Tony answered as he peered over Gibbs’ shoulder.
“Then you could’ve told me that.” Gibbs shoved the phone back to McGee. “Get in behind the counter.” He looked at his watch. Their time was running out.
“Got it, Boss.” McGee took off his own field jacket and folded it neatly and placed it on a shelf behind the counter. He got rid of his own side holster and then stared at the two men before him. “What now?”
“Oh, for fuck sakes,” Tony moaned. He grabbed a magazine and opened it up. “Read this, look bored. Just don’t act like a federal agent.” He looked around the shop and found the perfect place to wait for their possible killer to come in. On purpose he didn’t look back at either Gibbs or McGee as he went to the hide himself.
Gibbs looked on as Tony moved away. “Let’s get this guy.” He nodded at McGee and then went to find himself a spot to hide, but at the same time to be in close range should anything go south.
They didn’t have to wait long before a man entered the store. He walked with slouched shoulders, his clothing ill-fitting and he dragged his feet as he walked. He wiped his nose on his sleeve as he neared the counter. Tony looked on as the man stared at McGee for what felt like a long time before he spoke up.
“Did the rope come?”
“You’re looking for the hundred percent cotton rope?”
“Yeah, that’s it. Did it come?” The man reached into his pocket and Tony tensed up. He could see from his vantage point that McGee had tensed up as well.
“It did. Want to come with me and we can go and get it?” They wanted the man away from the front of the store.
“I’ll wait.” The man wiped his nose with his sleeve again and snorted hard.
McGee nodded and came out behind the counter. He had his right arm behind his back. Tony silently walked forward. To his side, he could see Gibbs moved towards them as well.
Just as McGee gave a step forward the door behind him opened and a woman screamed. From there everything erupted into total chaos. The man charged at McGee, tackling him hard, sending him flying through the air and the young agent landed hard on his back. This made Tony run towards them, his own weapon in hand. He was aware of the fact that Gibbs was right next to him.
“Hey, stop!” He yelled as he leveled his weapon at the man. He looked on as the man closed the distance between himself and the woman. He grabbed her around the waist and yanked her hard against his body. From somewhere he produced a knife and he held it against her throat.
“Back off! I’ll kill her, back off!” He yelled.
Tony came to a halt but didn’t lower his weapon. “Let her go. We’re not here to hurt you, we just want to ask you a couple of questions.”
“No! No! No one asks questions with a gun in their hand. You’re here to kill me. I’ll kill her first, I will, I will!” He pressed the knife harder against the woman’s neck. Blood dripped onto the blade. The woman whimpered, her whole body shook with fear.
“No,” Tony replied with conviction. “Look at me. My name is Tony DiNozzo. I’m a liaison officer, working with NCIS. I need you to lower your knife, let the lady go so that you and I can talk.”
The man shook his head. “You want to kill me.” He took a step backwards.
It was Tony’s turn to shake his head. “I only want to talk to you.” He took a calculated risk and lowered his own weapon. “See, I only want to talk.” He slowly tucked the SIG into the back of his trousers and raised his hands to show that they were empty.
“What did you want to talk about?” the man asked, his whole body shivered as hard as the woman in front of him. He kept the knife pressed to her neck.
“I told you my name, how about you tell me yours?” Tony was aware that Gibbs had moved in behind him and he took one step to the right. Nothing huge, just to make sure Gibbs would have a shot if he couldn’t take it.
“Andrew, Andrew Scurry.”
“Nice to meet you, Andrew.” Tony smiled. He ignored the woman in front of the man. He didn’t want to, but he couldn’t give any attention to her and alienate Andrew. Especially, if he wanted to convince Andrew that it was all about him. Tony frowned. The man before him did not meet the profile of their serial killer. This man was insecure, fueled on by fear at the moment. He had no pride in what he did, especially not in himself and Tony was sure he didn’t have the patience to murder someone and to stage a secondary scene without leaving a trace of evidence behind like their killer did. He was also too jittery and looked like he did drugs. “Do you have any hobbies, Andrew?” He managed to keep his voice light.
“Hobbies?” Andrew asked with a frown.
“Yes, something you like to do in your spare time. I like watching movies.”
“Andrew shook his head. “I don’t have spare time. I work. I work hard.” He pressed the knife harder against the woman’s neck. “You’re making me late for work.”
“Easy, Andrew. I don’t want anyone to get hurt. Especially not you. Ease up a bit on that knife, okay?” Tony looked on as Andrew’s hand flexed around the knife. He didn’t remove it, but he didn’t press it any deeper into the woman’s skin and for Tony that was a win.
“I’m going to be late for work. Just give me the rope and I can go.” Andrew looked around him as he shuffled backwards to the door.
“What work do you do, Andrew?” Tony moved forward. He had to keep the man talking. Had to keep him from killing the woman in front of him.
Andrew shook his head. His hand tightened around the knife and his breathing sped up.
“Look at me, Andrew. Straight at me.” Tony kept his movements steady. “Take some deep breaths, everything will be all right.” He stepped forward once more. “I don’t want anyone to get hurt, and neither do you.”
“Just let me go,” Andrew whimpered. He looked back over his shoulder and screamed.
As Andrew jerked his hand upwards and the knife went into the soft flesh of the woman’s neck. Blood squirted out as Tony grabbed his pistol, brought the SIG up and pulled the trigger. The single shot echoed through the store. He looked on in slow motion as both Andrew and the woman fell to the floor. “No, no, no!” Tony couldn’t help to shout as he closed the distance between him and the fallen couple. He had no idea why the man screamed. There was nothing behind the man that could’ve spooked him. Tony came to a halt next to them and knelt down. He had no idea on what to expect as he placed his hand on the woman’s neck to feel for a pulse. Already two puddles of blood coated the floor around his feet. “Come on, come on.” He closed his eyes and concentrated on any movement beneath his fingertip. There was nothing. Tony bowed his head. He wanted to scream out of frustration. He leaned back on his haunches. He became aware of Gibbs next to him and he looked up. He shook his head. “What the fuck made him scream like that?” His voice sounded gruff in his own ears.
Gibbs shook his head. “Nothing I could see.” He squeezed Tony’s shoulder in a show of support and when Tony got to his feet he kept right at his side. He looked up at McGee. The younger agent did not look injured from where Andrew had tackled him before. “You all right, McGee?”
“Yes, Boss.” McGee looked at the two bodies before him. “What happened?” He looked up at Gibbs.
“That’s what we need to find out, McGee. Get me an ID on the man. Find out everything you can about him and find out from Mr. Barns if this was the guy he spoke to earlier.” He turned to Tony as McGee nodded. “What do you have?”
Tony gently removed the driver’s license from the discarded purse. “Amanda Burke, age twenty-nine. She’s from Alexandria.” He put the license back and got to his feet. “He’s not our perp, Gibbs.” He didn’t add that the man gave no indication or reacted in any way to say that he knew who Tony was, or why he was at the store.
Gibbs nodded. “My gut says the same, but we’ll still need to go and check it out.” He slapped Tony lightly on the shoulder. “You gonna be all right?”
“Even after so many years I still hate to take that shot.” Tony looked on as the first police officers entered the shop. His shot was justified, but he would have a mountain of paperwork to complete and at least two interviews to go through, if not more. He just hoped he’d be able to get a look at Andrew’s home before he got called in for the shooting.
“It was needed.” Gibbs responded. “I’m gonna need to take your SIG. You have your backup?”
Tony removed the magazine from the pistol, made sure to eject the round from the chamber and handed both the magazine and the pistol over to Gibbs. He looked on as Gibbs placed it in an evidence bag. “I’m limited to only one weapon on the plane, so I don’t have a backup, except my knife.”
“I’ll get you a backup. I don’t want you to be unarmed.” Gibbs wrote the seal number of the bag down and handed the sealed bag over to McGee. “Since this is still an active NCIS case, I’ll let Mike Balboa take your statement and do the interview. You know it’s standard.” Gibbs watched as McGee started taking photographs of the scene. He’d seen McGee take a photo of their deceased perp on his phone and knew McGee send it to Mr. Barns to verify. The moment they had a positive ID on the man and an address he and Tony would go and check it out. Gibbs looked on as McGee took out his phone and had a quick conversation. At the same time the smart phone Tony had in his hand beeped to indicate that they had a possible match on their perp. “McGee?”
“It’s the same man that came in earlier, Gibbs.” McGee placed his phone back.
“Good. You’re in charge of the scene.” Gibbs turned and look at the screen. “Andrew Scurry. Thirty-eight. Address in Riverdale. List of priors, including possession of drugs and assault. Let’s go and check it out.” Gibbs didn’t wait for a response, but headed towards the door.
Tony would describe the apartment more of a hole than an apartment. It was in the basement of the four-story building and the building itself could barely be classified as such. There was no source of light to help them down the stairs and he was grateful that his phone had a build in flashlight. The stairs were sticky underneath his feet and he was glad that he couldn’t exactly see what he stepped in. The stench that greeted them when they neared the door made him gag and he pulled his shirt over his mouth and nose in an attempt to breathe better. “Something’s rotten down here.” His voice sounded muffled through his shirt.
Gibbs didn’t respond, passed Tony and rapped with his fist against the door. “NCIS, open up!” They had no idea if Scurry stayed alone. When he received no answer, he tried the door handle. It was locked. Gibbs reached for his lock picks set and quickly opened the door. The stench became ten times worse.
“Fuck,” Tony gagged and swallowed hard. Now was not the time to lose the contents of his stomach. They entered deeper into the apartment. The first part looked like the living room slash kitchen. There was not a single space that wasn’t filled with rubbish. From newspapers and magazines, to empty boxes of cereal, microwave dinner cartons, dirty plates, overflowing ashtrays and different kinds of drug paraphernalia. Cockroaches the size of Tony’s index finger scattered around. Some hurried into darker corners, while others stayed put, their antennas twitching as if they tried to communicate.
“Shit, if that is the size of the roaches here, I don’t want to meet a rat.” Tony stepped forward gingerly. He could make out a couch underneath all of the rubbish and what looked like a sheet was bundled up at the one end. The thought of sleeping here made him shudder. Tony had Gibbs’ backup revolver in his hand. They quickly cleared the first room and moved on to the first of two closed doors. Tony assumed one was a bedroom and the other the bathroom.
Tony counted off from three and then opened up the first room. He went to the left, Gibbs took the right. “Fucking hell!” Tony looked at the scene before them. It was supposed to be the bedroom, but now it was something else. A twin bed was pushed to the wall, the frame without a mattress. The rest of the room was lined with large white boards, almost the same as what he used. Every board had different photos attached to them. Tony looked in silence at the photos. His mind whirled at a thousand miles an hour. Nothing he saw made sense. “It can’t be.” He shook his head.
“Let’s clear the last room and then get back to this.” Gibbs eyed the room once more but kept his gaze longer on Tony. He hadn’t expected what they saw in the room. It was clear that Tony hadn’t expected it either.
They left the door open and proceeded to the last door. Even with the door closed, they could taste the stench that came from the other side. It was the smell of death. Tony once again counted off and then pushed the door open. He gagged and managed to step outside into the hallway before he lost the battle in keeping his stomach contents inside. He heaved hard. Tony was aware that Gibbs stood behind him. He could hear the older man breathing hard. Even Gibbs was affected by the smell and what was in the bathroom. Now he knew what Andrew used the rope for. It was definitely not for making hammocks.
“You all right?” Gibbs asked at his back and Tony managed to nod.
“I’m calling this in.” Gibbs patted Tony on the back and then made his way to the front of the room.
Tony used his sleeve to wipe his mouth. He would make a plan to rinse his mouth out as soon as possible, but he wasn’t touching anything in this place. He looked at the bathroom on his right and the bedroom on his left. Both held different types of gruesomeness, one in photos, the other in animal parts, but for him the photos were worse. He stepped into the room again and looked at the whiteboards. It seemed like he was wrong. With what he saw here, Andrew had to be their killer. It would take days, even weeks to sort everything out, but he had a feeling that this case would be classified as closed.
Chapter 4: Chapter 3
Tony’s home: 3 months later
Brad let himself in using the key Tony had given to him when he first bought the place. He grinned when he thought just how excited Tony had been when he phoned him and told him about the house. Tony couldn’t stop talking about the house and the first time he’d seen the house himself he could understand why. It fitted Tony to a T.
“Tony!” Brad called out as he closed the door behind him. He had not seen Tony for three months. They’d only spoken on the phone and the conversations were strained. Since the last case ended, he was concerned about his friend. That concern grew on a daily basis until he couldn’t take it anymore and he decided to fly out. He didn’t even let Tony know that he was coming. “Tony!” Brad called out again as he made his way deeper into the house.
The living area and kitchen were deprived of life. He looked up the stairs but didn’t go up. Instead, he walked to the last room on the ground floor. It was Tony’s study and the one place you could find him most of the time. It was the placed he worked, but also relaxed. Brad had found him here often with a thick book in hand, curled up in his overly large chair to read. The door was closed and he knocked once. When there was no answer, he pushed it open. “Tony?”
Brad sighed at the sight he found. “I think it’s time you took those off, don’t you?” Tony was seated in his oversized chair, but instead of reading he was staring. Staring at the different whiteboards with all the photos and other information on the serial killer case.
“He wasn’t the killer.”
Brad did not sigh. He picked the book Tony was reading from a chair and sat down. “You found more than enough evidence to say otherwise.”
“I know that, Brad. I’ve seen it with my own eyes, but there’s still something that’s not adding up.”
“Because he was messy?”
“Where do I start? He didn’t recognize me at the scene and if he was our killer he would’ve. He was unstable. He had no formal education. He didn’t even complete middle school. He was addicted to drugs. The ME confirmed he was so high on drugs when he died, it was no wonder he hallucinated. He had a low level job. He had no ambition in life. He didn’t fit the profile.”
“Then how do you explain all the evidence you found in his apartment if it wasn’t him? You told me about the whiteboards you found. It had photos of all the victims. From where they were just captured and alive until they were all dead. Tied up in their different poses. You found the rope used to tie all of the victims up. The blood found in the bathroom was a match to Masters.”
“I know, Brad. I know.” Tony got to his feet. He ran his hand over his face. “There’s just something that I’m missing, but I don’t know what.”
“Talk it out.”
“I still have no idea on how he picked his victims. There was no evidence at his apartment, or in any of the photos to show that he had any prior contact with any of them. Not one piece of paper with a name or an address scribbled on that belonged to anyone. The photos started from when they were already captured. Why couldn’t we find any photos of them prior to that point? The chances of him not taking photos of them earlier is nearly zero percent. Especially if you take into account just how detailed the rest of the photos were.” Tony started to pace as he continued. “The rope was indeed the same used on all of the victims, but there was no DNA of Scurry found on it. And I had every inch of that rope tested. It was clean. How did he handle it? He wasn’t organized enough to use gloves each and every time he touched that rope. That rope was cleaned. Except for the blood that belonged to Masters, there was no other evidence found that belonged to any of the other victims. Not a button, not a hair, nothing. We still don’t have the primary kill spot for any of the victims. Scurry didn’t have a car, how did he transport the victims from the killing spot to where he dumped the bodies? How did he get to Portland, because remember, that’s where the killings started. It’s not adding up, Brad.”
“Okay, so what are you thinking? Was he set up, or is there a second person involved here?” Brad leaned forward in his chair.
“Both.” Tony stopped pacing. “The killer knew I was on to him, that’s why he started taunting me. That’s why he started going after military personnel.”
“But then why did he set Scurry up? What’s the purpose in taunting you just to set someone else up for the fall? And, more importantly, what’s the connection between him and Scurry?”
“I don’t know. I still need to work that out.” Tony sounded defeated.
“I also have to ask, if it wasn’t Scurry, why have the killings stopped?”
Tony shook his head. “He went to ground. I don’t know why. Maybe he set Scurry up to take the fall and then left. Taking a break. I really don’t know.”
Brad rose to his feet. “You need to take a break yourself. Take down all of this. Forget about it for a while. You know yourself. You’re fixating too much on this case and you’re not thinking straight. Let it go.” He placed his hands on Tony’s shoulders. “Go and do something fun, even if it’s just for a week.”
Tony’s shoulders sagged. “And what would I do?”
Brad grinned. “Come to D.C. and spend some time with me. Come and spent some time with a certain older man who works at NCIS.” He wouldn’t have suggested it, but he and Gibbs had been in contact as well. Not only had the Marine apologized for his behavior, but he confided in Brad that he was concerned about Tony. Gibbs had tried to reach out to Tony after the case, but Tony shut him out. He wanted Tony in his life. Brad had a feeling that Tony needed Gibbs in his life as well.
“That’s not a good idea.”
“Because I don’t want to,” Tony replied curtly as he took his spot again. “And I’m busy.”
Brad managed not to growl, not really in any case. “You’re not busy, you’re obsessing. Give it a rest, Tony. Start living again. I mean, you haven’t even realized that I’m here. I flew out all the way from D.C. to check up on you. I am worried. Gibbs is worried.”
“I’m worried as well.”
Both men turned around at the voice behind them.
“Kyle?” Tony asked, surprised. He hadn’t heard or seen the detective since the day they broke up.
Kyle smiled. He closed the distance between himself and Tony and hugged the man tight. He held on for a few seconds before he stepped back. He reached out and clasped Brad’s hand in greeting. “You look like shit, Tony.”
Tony snorted. “It’s good to see you too, Kyle.” He grinned at Brad. “I’m sorry. I haven’t greeted you properly as well.” He hugged Brad tight.
“Finally.” Brad sagged against Tony’s shoulder. “Kyle’s right. You do look like shit. You’re not taking care of yourself, Tony.”
“I know. I’m just so frustrated.” He dragged his hand through his hair. Tony looked around. “Coffee?” He asked his two friends as he made his way through to the kitchen.
“Sounds good,” both men answered together and all three men made themselves comfortable at the large table.
“I heard what Brad said about D.C.” Kyle spoke up first.
“I’m not going there.”
“Why not? You’ve been in love with Gibbs for so long. It’s clear he had feelings for you as well. Why are you torturing yourself like this?”
“You want me to go to D.C.? You want me to be in a relationship with Gibbs?” Tony sounded perplexed.
“I want you to be happy, Tony. You know that,” Kyle responded kindly. He reached out and grabbed Tony’s hand. “Go and finally get that happiness with Gibbs. I have his number, I will arrest his ass if he ever treats you badly.”
Tony smiled. “Will you look after Kate for me?” He referred to the goldfish. Her bowl decorated the middle of the table.
“You know I will.”
“Good, then you can come back with me.” Brad grinned from ear to ear.
Tony shook his head. “I still need to sort out a few things, but I’ll be down there by the end of the week.” He also had to phone Gibbs first. He didn’t want to show up and then the man didn’t want him. Tony couldn’t help to feel a bit nervous at the prospect of seeing Gibbs again. He would’ve been lying if he said he didn’t miss him.
“I promise.” Tony smiled. “I will even make sure you have my flight details to come and pick me up.”
“You better.” Brad nodded. “At least I know I’m good enough to come and pick you up at the airport.” He laughed and ducked as Tony threw a dishtowel at him.
Brad’s house: 1 week later
“I swear, Tony, when I get hold of you, I’m going to kill you. Where the hell are you? I’ve been trying to get hold of you the whole week. Phone me, please. I’m getting worried.” Brad ended the call and placed his phone on the coffee table. Something wasn’t right. Tony was supposed to let him know when he’d be coming through, but he hadn’t heard anything from the other man. He looked at his phone. He needed to find Tony.
“Hi, Brad. You and Tony miss me?” Kyle’s voice sounded through the phone.
“Hi, Kyle. So he left Portland?”
Silence sounded over the phone. “He left two days ago, Brad.” Kyle sounded surprised.
“Shit. I can’t get hold of him. I’ve been trying this whole week. His phone goes directly to his message service. Did he give you his flight details?” Brad got to his feet and walked over to where his laptop was. He opened it up.
“Yes, he sent it to me. I wanted to take him to the airport, but he said he had to go and see a client and that he would leave from there. I also know he had some problems with his phone. It was one of the things he wanted to sort out before he left.” Kyle’s voice disappeared for a second and then he came back and provided the details to Brad.
Brad checked the flight details. “Flight landed last night just after seven. But, I can’t see if he was on the flight.”
“I’ve got access to that information. Let me check and I’ll get back to you. Have you spoken to Gibbs?”
“I wanted to check in with you first. Maybe he’d arranged with Gibbs to pick him up and just forgot to let me know. Let me phone him and I’ll let you know.”
“Do that. In the meantime, I’ll see if he boarded the flight. Let me know if you hear anything from Tony.”
Brad ended the call and looked Gibbs’ number up. He closed his eyes. Something was not right.
“Gibbs, it’s Brad. Do you know where Tony is? I’ve been trying to get hold of him for a week, with no luck.”
Gibbs lowered the sandpaper he used and gripped the phone harder. “Was he supposed to contact you?”
“He was supposed to come down to D.C.” Brad’s voice grew quiet.
“What are you not telling me, Brad?” Gibbs reached for his coffee mug and headed towards the basement stairs.
Brad sighed over the phone. “He wanted to come and see you as well, Gibbs. He didn’t phone you?”
“The last time I spoke to Tony was before he left here, Brad. Did he book a flight?” He placed his empty mug in the kitchen and headed towards his safe to retrieve his pistol. He had a feeling he needed to get to the office. His gut had turned the whole week, but they had a nasty case they were dealing with and he thought it was about that. He should’ve known better.
“Kyle gave me the flight details. I’ve already checked it. The flight landed last night. Kyle said he would check if Tony boarded it.”
Gibbs ignored the comment over Kyle. He had no idea if Thompson and Tony were still together. Tony hadn’t said a word about the other man when he was here. They didn’t even speak about what happened between them either. Gibbs really thought they would talk after the case was finalized, but Tony just left. He wanted to reach out, but he also wanted to give Tony space. That was the main reason why he contacted Brad. Now, he wanted to kick himself for not phoning Tony himself. “Where are you now?” He grabbed the truck keys and headed to the door.
“At my apartment.”
“Meet me at NCIS.” Gibbs ended the call and jogged to his truck. Something was wrong and he needed to find Tony. The sooner the better.
The scream echoed through the large space, vibrating against the walls before it faded away. The next scream took its place and filled the silence with pure anguish once again.
“Scream, Anthony, scream! You were born to scream. Just listen how your voice fills the air!” The masked man stepped away and with his arms raised high circled the room. “So beautiful. Magnificent.”
“Go fuck yourself,” Tony grunted and swallowed. He had tried to be stoic, but couldn’t keep it up. Not after what felt like being tied to this chair for weeks. In reality, it might have been only one week, maybe even less. The last thing he remembered was requesting an UBER from the airport. He wanted to surprise Brad, but then he woke up tied to this chair, naked as the day he was born. The chair was bolted to the concrete floor and except for the chair; the only other item in the room was a large cabinet with rolling doors that stood against the wall. It was too far for him to reach.
The man before him was over six feet, but on the lean side. He had an accent that sounded European, but Tony couldn’t be certain. He had no idea if he was Caucasian or of color. He couldn’t even see the man’s eye color. In the beginning; he had tried to get the man to talk, to find out what he wanted and where he was, but without success. Tony tried to buy time, hoping that he would be rescued, but now his time was running out. He could feel it. It made him brazen and he did everything in his power to anger the man.
“Such language. You really shouldn’t curse like that, Anthony. It’s not proper to use words of such a nature.”
Tony laughed. “You are worried about my language. What about the fact that you’ve kidnapped me and are now torturing me?” He had to keep the man talking. His body needed the rest. Even if it was only for a few seconds at a time.
The man shook his head. “No, no, Anthony. There is a huge difference between the filthy language you use and my work. My work has purpose. Your words have none.” He came to a halt before Tony again and cocked his head. “You are such a stunning specimen of a man. Beautiful hair, wonderful skin, and those eyes. Really intense eyes, especially if they look at me filled with hate.” He leaned in. “And the best thing? You’re all mine to use, to hear your voice scream for mercy. Even if it is only for a little while.” He sounded disappointed as he stepped away. “Now, where were we?” He picked up the cattle prod he had placed to the side and showed it to Tony. “What do you say, let’s make you scream some more.”
Tony frowned. “Wait, wait!” He yelled. “What do you mean? What do you mean, only for a little while? Explain, what the fuck do you mean?” Tony yanked at the restraints. He had to find out what the man meant.
“I do apologize. That was a slip of the tongue. But, fear not. It will not happen again. Now, let’s proceed. Let me hear your voice, Anthony. Scream for me.” He pressed the cattle prod against Tony’s thigh and laughed as Tony screamed.
NCIS Headquarters: 3 days later
“What do you have for me, McGee?” Gibbs asked as he entered the bullpen. His blue eyes showed no emotion, but by the lines on his mouth everyone could see that the normally resigned man was troubled.
McGee looked up from his computer and quickly came around his table. “Detective Thompson made contact. The Portland police found a burned-out vehicle late last night on the outskirts of town. They are still busy processing the scene, but they are of the opinion that the burned-out car was Tony’s SUV.” He looked down at his notes. “Thompson said that he would stay on scene and get any first-hand information he can from their crime scene investigators, but so far there’s no evidence and also no remains found in the vehicle, which is a good thing. He will let us know if they find anything.”
“What else?” Gibbs looked up when a shadow fell across his desk. “Ducky.”
“When was the last time you slept, Jethro?” Ducky asked in concern. He had come up to hear if they had received any news. He still could not believe that Anthony had disappeared without a trace.
“I’ll sleep when I’ve found Tony, Ducky. Now, there’s no time for sleep.” Gibbs came to his feet. “What else, McGee?” His voice rose. He was aware that people around the bullpen stared at him, but he couldn’t care less.
“I found something, Gibbs.”
Gibbs turned and nodded as Abby stepped closer. He was surprised to find her here. When he came to the office with the news that Tony was missing Ziva had laughed and said that Tony must’ve found a skirt to chase after. He had nearly exploded with anger. He didn’t hold back, but told her exactly where she could get off and went to Vance. He had no idea where Ziva went. All that he did know was that she was no longer on his team. Abby had been furious at him, but he ignored her. He hadn’t been in a mood for her temper tantrums. “What do you have for us, Abby?”
Abby wiped a stray tear from her cheek and then nodded to Gibbs. “We know Tony’s phone is off and it can’t be traced, but with his phone’s IMEI number, which I managed to get hold of, I tracked his phone on the day of his disappearance.” She clicked the remote and a map appeared. “According to Brad, Tony lives in the neighborhood of Eagle Creek. From the information drawn, he met with a client in Montavilla, which is approximately twenty-five miles from his home. From Montavilla to the airport is another seven miles. But, although I can trace the phone to Montavilla, I could get no further information from it to indicate that Tony went to the airport.”
“Do you have an address in Montavilla?”
“A motel.” She handed him a sticky note with a name and number on it. That’s all I could get.”
“You did good, Abby.” Gibbs placed a kiss on her temple. By the look in her eyes, he knew she understood that they still had to sort out a lot of things. At least now it looked like she finally got her head out of her ass and was willing to help.
“Find out what you can about this, McGee. If need be, get on a plane and go to Portland and ask around.” Gibbs knew he could ask Thompson, but he’d rather have McGee follow up on the information. “I know Portland Police might have found Tony’s SUV, but Abby, can you track Tony’s SUV like you tracked his phone? Can you give me an indication where the vehicle was these last few days? Don’t all the new models come out with a standard navigation system?”
“On it, Gibbs.” Abby turned away and headed down to her lab. Gibbs stayed put in front of the plasma screen. “Where are you Tony?”
Tony struggled to breathe. He could hear the rattle in his chest and it was not only due to his broken ribs, but the damp, cold air was not helping with his already scarred lungs. Every breath he took made the stitch in his side ache worse and he could no longer ignore it. He’d tried to shift position, but he was bound to the chair in such a position that he couldn’t move. Tony tried to take another breath and moaned as the pain flared up again. He knew he had to take deep and even breaths, but he found himself breathing shallow in an attempt just to get some oxygen into his body.
The darkness evaporated instantly as the one set of lights switched on. His tormentor would switch it on and off at no regular interval, leaving him in the dark for what felt like hours on end before it would be switched on again. It quickly made him lose the ability to figure out what period of time had passed. Tony groaned as the harsh light assaulted his eyes. He tried to close them, but the brightness seemed to burn even through his closed eyelids.
Tony screamed as the second set of lights went on and the first went off. The strobe lights, set on a fast flashing rhythm, started flashing and it didn’t matter if he closed his eyes, he could see the light flashes. And then the heavy metal music would start. It was so loud his ears pained from the continued noise. He couldn’t really make out the music, but Tony thought it might be a mix between Enter Sandman and Thunderstruck. It was played at more than a hundred and fifty decibels and although he had no way of knowing how much time passed, it was played at more than an hour on end. It made his ever-present headache flare up and pulse in rhythm to the noise. But, that was not the main reason why he screamed, he screamed because of the pain that would come with the flashing lights and the heavy metal music. The moment the lights flashed and the music started his tormentor would start to assault him with different kind of weapons. Tony knew his right kneecap was shattered by what he believed to be a baseball bat. It was the same object that broke his ribs. Something like a blowtorch was used to burn the soles of his feet and the palms of his hands. A bag was pulled over his face until he passed out and when he came to the lights still flashed and the music still played and the bag was donned over his head again and again.
He immediately braced his body for the pain to start. Tony could feel his breathing speeding up as the time dragged on without the pain coming into play. He didn’t want to relax, he didn’t want to be caught off guard. He tried to look, to see through the flashing lights the shadow of the man who would bring him the pain, but the lights were too bright and too much. He screamed, he wanted the pain, he needed to know when the pain would start, because at the end there would be silence and although the silence was worse than the noise, the silence didn’t bring pain.
Tony sobbed as the flashing lights continued and the music raged on, but he remained pain free. He could feel his body tremble, his pulse racing. It felt as if his heart wanted to climb out his chest. And then the lights went out and the music went quiet. Tony gasped, temporarily deaf, he had no idea what would happen next. His body jerked and he screamed as something touched his shoulder. “Fuck!!” He tried to move away, but the hand, (he was sure it was a hand), clutched his shoulder and dug into his skin.
“Not a fan of the music are you?” Tony could barely hear the words, but by the warm breath he felt on his chin, he knew the man spoke directly into his ear. “Luckily, I don’t care.” His shoulder got squeezed again and then the pressure disappeared. The lighting in the room went from dark to dim and he could now just made out the features of his torturer. The man still wore a balaclava and an extra mask to cover his face. His arms were covered with what looked like a tight fitting jersey and as before, he had gloves on his hands.
Tony looked on as the man walked away from him. He couldn’t clearly see what he took out from the cabinet but knew he would find out rather sooner than later. Tony tried to steel himself. He watched as the man came back and he swallowed hard. His body started to tremble and he had no control over it. Tony pulled at his restraints, but without any success. He heard himself whimper in fear and couldn’t stop the sounds that escaped from within him.
His tormentor cocked his head. “What? Scared of this?” He laughed. “If I knew that, I would’ve started with it.” He shrugged. “But then, I also know myself. If I started, I wouldn’t end and then we wouldn’t have had all the fun we had so far.” He walked around Tony and came to a halt on his right side. “Now, I never really understood why we have so many fingers. I mean, unless you’re English, you really don’t need that pinky. It’s just horrible how they hold it in the air as they drink that pissy tea of theirs. I know you drink tea, Tony, but I also know you don’t raise your pinky in some sort of salute to the tea, so you would have to agree with me, you don’t need it.” He laughed again.
“No, please, no, don’t, please.” Tony begged and struggled against his restraints, but it didn’t help. The man lowered the small hatchet and placed it against the last joint of Tony’s pinky. He tapped it lightly and then swung the axe up and brought it down hard. Tony screamed.
Gibbs had no idea what woke him up, but he went from fast asleep to wide awake in seconds. He automatically reached for his firearm, which, since Tony’s disappearance, he kept with him at all times. Without switching on a light, Gibbs made his way through the darkened house. He checked the back door and the basement before he headed to the front of the house. He opened the front door and stepped out onto the porch. There was a small packet on the mat in front of his feet. For the moment he ignored the parcel, cleared the front yard before he returned to the porch and looked down at the parcel. He left it on the porch and made his way back into the house. He fetched a pair of gloves and returned to the porch. He gently picked the package up. It was lightweight. He took the package inside and gently removed the note with his name on from the front.
‘Thought I’d share something of Tony with you. I know you miss him like crazy.’
Gibbs closed his eyes. He had no idea what the package contained, but he had a feeling he wasn’t going to like whatever was inside. With steady hands, he managed to open the package up and it was only his years of dealing with the gruesomeness of the world that stopped him from losing his last meal and throwing the package against the wall. Gibbs sagged down onto the chair. “Tony,” he whispered. And for the first time since Tony was taken, Gibbs broke down.
Ducky removed his gloves and sighed deeply. He looked over to where Gibbs sat against the wall, his knees drawn up to his chest. “It is the left pinky and it has been removed with a smooth blade that was extremely sharp. I would guess an axe of some sort due to the fact that there are no sawing marks in the bone itself. At the time it was removed, Anthony was still alive.”
He could see how Gibbs cringed at his words. None of them wanted to believe that it was Tony’s finger Gibbs brought in, but after they ran fingerprints on the single digit, it was confirmed. The severed finger belonged to their missing friend. Both Abigail and Timothy were now looking for any lead on where the package had come from and who could’ve possibly sent it to his friend. A further aspect also came to light. Where they initially thought that Anthony was still in Portland, he might actually be in D.C. and that took the case in a whole different direction.
“Can he bleed to death?” The worry sounded clear in Gibbs’ voice.
Ducky sighed. “It is quite possible for him to bleed out, yes. But, I do think whoever has Anthony did not send you that finger just for Anthony to bleed to death. We can only hope that whatever medical attention he does provide will be adequate enough until you find Anthony and get him the proper attention he will need.
Gibbs stared up at his longtime friend. “I never told him I loved him. I wanted to, so many times, but…” Gibbs lowered his eyes. “I was a fucking fool.”
“Are you then doubting the fact that we will get Anthony back, Jethro?” Ducky walked over to where his longtime friend sat. He wanted to sit down next to him, but at his age, it had become difficult to get up gracefully from the floor.
Gibbs shook his head. “We will find him, Ducky. But, there’s so much doubt in my mind. We went through all the cases he worked on, going as far back as when he started here with us, and nothing. The motel lead we had led to nothing. Tony’s burned out SUV didn’t give up a single clue. I don’t know where to look for him, Ducky and that is what is scaring me the most.”
“Do not give up on your team, Jethro. They will find something.” Ducky replied. “And when you do find him, you need to sit down and talk. Talk about the two of you. Talk about what happened that made him leave, because I know that is one topic you still have not talked about.” Ducky cleared his throat. “We have all wronged him, Jethro. At least between myself and Mr. Palmer we have started to make amends with Anthony, but you, Timothy, Abigail and Ziva all need to do a reality check on yourselves and get your respective relationships right with him again.”
“You know I will, Ducky. From what I’ve seen from McGee he’s also willing to make an effort. Up until now that Tony went missing I didn’t think Abby would, but now I suspect she’s willing to take that step to make amends with Tony. As for Ziva,” Gibbs shook his head. “That ship has sailed, Ducky. I know I’m partly to blame for that when I played them up against one another, but I never thought she would come to loathe Tony so much.”
Ducky hummed. “Jealousy is an evil thing, Jethro.”
“Jealousy, Ducky? Of what?”
“Are you so blind, Jethro? Everyone outside your team would think that Abigail is your favorite, and once upon a time she was, but things changed when Anthony came into the picture. You have always been extra hard on him in an attempt to keep him at arm’s length, but everyone on the inside of your team knows that your first priority has always been Anthony. Ziva wanted that kind of attention for herself, but although you treated her like a daughter, she wanted more. She tried to alienate Anthony from you and unfortunately, she had succeeded in it and it drove Anthony away. Now, that you have talked to him again and took his side, so to speak, when he was here, she had tried again to drive a wedge between the two of you, but this time it did not work and she finally realized that she had failed and that had hit her hard. It is also something that she needs to work out for herself. No one else can help her with that.”
“Fuck, Ducky. I really need to find him. I need to make things right with him.” Gibbs leaned back with his head against the wall.
Ducky wanted to respond when the automatic sliding doors to autopsy slid open and Timothy nearly tripped over his own feet to get inside. “Easy there, Timothy. You do not want to break a leg on this floor. Why are you in such a hurry?”
McGee took a deep breath. He had taken the stairs down to autopsy instead of waiting for the elevator. He nodded his head at Ducky’s question. “I’ve found something, Boss. I have a lead on Tony. He’s here, in D.C.”
“What!” Gibbs bellowed. They’ve been looking for Tony in Portland and Oregon not here in D.C. He couldn’t believe what he was hearing. Gibbs got to his feet even as McGee stormed back out. He was aware that Ducky was on his heels, but he didn’t wait for the older man. He could only think of one thing, Tony was here in D.C.
Tony struggled to remain awake. His body was cold to the touch, and he no longer shivered. It didn’t matter that he got hosed down once a day with cold water. It didn’t even take his breath away anymore. His head throbbed, worse than his hand. He was nauseated and couldn’t dare to turn his head even a few degrees or he wanted to hurl. He wheezed continuously although he tried to keep his breathing as even as possible. He’d started coughing and each time felt like a thousand knives pierced his lungs until the fit passed. Tony knew his time was running out, and although one part of him wanted to give up, there was something inside him that screamed at him every second to keep on breathing and to keep on fighting. Tony chose to listen to that part of him more because he didn’t want to die. He wanted to see his friends again. He wanted to play one-on-one against Kyle and go to the movies with Brad. He wanted to sit down on the second last step in Gibbs’ basement and look on as the man worked the wood with his hands. He wanted to find out who the bastard was that kept him captive and he wanted to solve the puzzle of the serial killer. He wanted to grow old.
The bastard that held him captive had just left and Tony knew he would be alone for at least a good few minutes before the next round of torture would start. Struggling hard, Tony worked his hand in the restraint. He bit on his tongue not to pass out from the pain, again. After his finger was amputated, the man cauterized it with the blowtorch. It was that pain that made Tony pass out in the first place. But, because of the daily water bath and coupled with the fact that Tony had gotten very little to eat and lost weight, the restraints on his wrists were loser then what they were in the beginning and he knew that there might be a possibility of him wriggling free, but only if he had enough time.
Tony turned his wrist from side to side as far as he could. The straps slowly gave way and with a final tug that took most of his depleted energy, Tony managed to free his left wrist. He wanted to scream out in celebration, but his vocal cords gave in earlier and no longer worked. Even when he screamed as the man tortured him, he couldn’t be heard.
A bolt of pure adrenaline shot through him the moment he freed his left wrist and although his hand throbbed and trembled even harder Tony managed to get the second cuff undone. He looked at the door to the room he was kept in and prayed for two things. One, that it stayed closed until he was free and two that it was merely closed and not locked, because if it was locked, he had no idea if he’d be able to escape.
Tony took a deep breath and then got to his feet. His body protested against the action and for a moment the floor wanted to rush up towards him, but he closed his eyes and took as deep a breath as he could before he gently took one step forward. A silent scream tore from his throat as his legs gave way and the floor rushed up to meet him. Tony tried to stop his fall with his hands and he screamed again in pain as the impact of the floor jolted through his injured left hand. He sobbed and wanted to curl up in a fetal position to try and forget the agony he was in, but he knew this was his only chance so he started to slide towards the large cabinet. He needed a weapon, any weapon and then he needed to get out of there.
He sighed in relief when he found that the cabinet was not locked. Tony opened the door and looked around. His breath hitched as he saw the hatchet used and he quickly diverted his eyes. He knew how to throw knives, but not an axe and taking the axe meant he had to get close up to fight his tormentor. There was no firearm in the cabinet, just a bunch of scalpels, the baseball bat and the cattle prod. Tony took hold of the object and pulled it out. It was fully charged and would be perfect. He knew from personal experience that one zap would take the man down. It would not render him unconscious, but he’d be able to use it on him again and again. If he was lucky enough, he’d be able to press the prod against his chest and if he did it right over his heart, he’d be able to kill the man, he was almost sure of it. Tony gripped the prod tight in his left hand as he still had to use his right to help himself to slide forward. He had no idea on what he’d do when he reached the stairs, but Tony didn’t try to think of that – not yet, in any case.
It felt to Tony like it took him ages to drag himself across the floor to the bottom of the stairs. His body protested every move he made and Tony was grateful for the fact that he no longer had a voice as he screamed out of frustration each time his body refused to move forward. Tony managed to right himself up against the wall and leaned back. ‘Only the stairs to go, Tony. You can do it.’ He mentally gave himself a pep talk as he looked up at the next obstacle he faced. Tony took a deep breath as he turned his body so that his back faced the stairs. It was a very vulnerable position to be in, but he wouldn’t be able to get up the stairs with his bum leg in any other way. Tony placed the cattle prod next to him on the bottom step. He used his arms and even though it felt like he was going to pass out from the weight he placed on his forearms and hands, he managed to pull himself up one step. He reached for the prod and placed it next to him again and then he repeated the whole excruciating process of getting up the next step again. And all the time he slowly moved upwards he prayed that the door at the top stayed closed.
For once, luck seemed to be on Tony’s side as he finally made it up the stairs and collapsed against the wall. The cattle prod was in his hand, ready to use. Tony looked up from where he sat at the door. It was a normal lever handle, with no keyhole on the inside. If it was locked, he was screwed, because he wouldn’t be able to pick the lock even if he had something to pick it with.
Tony reached up and gently touched the lever. It felt cold against his skin. He pulled the lever down as he held his breath. Tony wanted to sob out in relief when he managed to pull the lever down all the way and the door clicked open. He held his breath. He still had problems with his hearing after the hours of music torture, but it sounded like classical music played in the background, other than that he couldn’t hear anything else.
Tony knew that he needed to get up from the floor. He was just too vulnerable to stay in his current position. He wished he had something to splint his knee with and something else to use as a crutch and extra weapon at the same time. But, wishes would not be of assistance right now so he slowly moved himself into a standing position. He would have to use the wall as a crutch and hoped he made it to where he could get out. Tony had no idea how he would fight if he met his tormentor face to face, but he would go down fighting, of that he was certain.
With small shuffled steps Tony made his way from the basement and into a room what looked like a mudroom. He could see the door leading to the outside and a doorway leading deeper into the house. Tony had to make a decision. He could either go deeper into the house, or try and leave and get away. The problem was he had no idea where he was. If he was in the middle of nowhere with no help nearby, the man who kidnapped him would find him easily and kill him. He had no way to know if the man had any mode of transport nearby, or if he was paranoid and hid his car in an attempt to make finding him even more difficult. It meant he only had one choice if he wanted to get help. He’d have to find the man in the house, take him out and find a phone to get help. At least then he’d have the time to look for a possible vehicle and get himself to safety. With the resolve made, Tony squared his shoulders. He found a broom next to the wall and managed to remove the head. Now at least he had something he could use as a walking stick and a weapon. He took another breath and winced as he wanted to cough, but at least the feeling passed and he knew it was time to move onwards.
Tony shuffled forward, the broomstick helping a bit, but it was still difficult putting any weight on his right leg. He managed to get to the doorway that led deeper into the house. He looked right and left. The music was louder now and it came from the left. Tony turned left.
He had taken not more than five steps when a roar sounded at his back and even as he turned a body slammed hard into his. The broomstick got lost as they fell to the floor, but Tony managed to keep a hold on to the cattle prod. He tried to bring it up, but a blow to his jaw made him see stars and he had to block the second hit before it nearly took his head off. Tony managed to roll his body, catching his attacker off guard and dislodging him from him. He tried to get to his feet, but found it impossible as his knee refused to cooperate. The man got to his feet and reached for something at his back. Tony wasn’t surprised to see it was a weapon. Almost all the killers in the world reverted to a firearm when they are cornered or in a position to end everything permanently. For the first time, Tony got a proper look at the man who’d tortured him. He was older than what he’d sounded and totally unfamiliar. He had a head full of dark brown hair, spotted with gray hair in between, and a goatee. For one or other reason, Tony’s gaze fixated on the facial hair. He never thought that someone with a goatee would be responsible for his death. When his attacker cocked the weapon, Tony regained his focus and as the man aimed the pistol, Tony brought up the cattle prod and jammed it hard into the man’s groin. He could feel the shock vibrations through his arm, and the result was instant. The man’s hand jerked upwards and the shot went wide. He lost his hold over the pistol and it clattered to the floor. He took a step towards Tony, but he was unsteady on his feet and as the current surged through his body, he crumbled to the floor and landed hard at Tony’s feet. Tony removed the prod and as the man wriggled in agony, he pressed it against the man’s lower leg. The man screamed and Tony couldn’t care less. He managed to get himself into a somewhat seated position and jabbed the prod against the man for a third time. The man started to spasm uncontrollably and Tony could only look on. As his tormentor’s body stilled, Tony leaned back against the wall. He was trembling himself and knew he was at his end. He would not make it if he had to fight another person. Tony tossed the cattle prod to the side and reached for the gun. It felt good in his hand. Tony shuffled away from the unconscious man. He had to find something to tie the man up and then get help. Tony shuffled backwards again, he didn’t even try to get to his feet.
Tony’s vision blurred and he had to blink a few times before the objects before him came into focus once more. He had finally made it to what looked to be a living room. It was spacious and on any other day he would have appreciated the décor style. When he reached the large couch, Tony knew it was time that he got to his feet. It would be difficult for him to look for something like a phone if he continued shuffling on the floor. Tony reached up and placed the pistol on the back of the couch. He could no longer see the man from where he was and with his hearing compromised Tony knew he would be in a very vulnerable position until he got help and could get somewhere safe. Tony gripped the back of the sofa. The plush material made it possible for him to grip the cushion properly and then he heaved himself up. His body throbbed once again as he got to his feet. Automatically he kept his weight off his right leg and just leaned against the back of the sofa to catch his breath. He lifted his head after a few moments and looked around. Tony couldn’t help to smile as he saw a cell phone on a small side table next to a very comfortable looking chair. “Come on, Tony, you can do it.” He voicelessly mumbled to himself and gently gave one step forward.
The distance between himself and the side table got smaller with each step. Tony only concentrated on putting one foot in front of the other. Although putting his right foot in front of his left was not really how things went. Instead, he dragged his leg and bit down on his lip the whole time. Finally, he was close enough to reach out, but as his hand touched the phone, he saw movement out of the corner his eye and he instinctively brought his arm up to block the blow. Tony felt the bone break in his arm and at the same time he lost his footing, but kept the hold over the pistol and as he stumbled and the man raised his arm again, Tony pulled the trigger. It was the man’s turn to stumble backwards and Tony fired again. The man landed down with a hard thud, but didn’t move. Tony heaved as he lay on his back. He cradled his left hand against his chest. His right hand still gripped the pistol. He had to check if the man was alive, but his body refused to work. It felt like no air made its way into his lungs. He could see the dark spots that danced before his eyes. ‘Can’t give up, DiNozzo, not now.’ Tony mentally talked to himself and with a huge effort he managed to sit up. He leaned heavily to his right side, but at least he didn’t fall down and he counted that as a win. He could see the fallen man clearly from where he sat. It was clear that he wouldn’t get up again and Tony felt the tension drain from his limbs. ‘Get help.’ The thought ran through his mind as he looked around for the phone. He’d seen it fall to the floor when the man attacked him, but he had no idea where it landed. Tony spotted the phone underneath the side table. It was not within reach and he wanted to sob out of frustration. Tony lowered himself to the floor, he knew he wouldn’t get up on his feet this time around and since the monster who had him was dead he could slide to where he wanted to be. He took a breath and started to move. Every time he slid forward it felt like his body would explode in pain, but he didn’t give up. He just kept on going. Finally, he was in reach and he picked the phone up. It was an older model, but still good enough for his needs. He pressed the buttons from memory and held the phone to his ear. When he call got answered, Tony said only one word and then the world around him turned black and he knew nothing more.
Chapter 5: Chapter 4
Bethesda Hospital: 1 day later
“Any news?” Kyle Thompson asked as he entered the waiting room and found most of Tony’s old team sitting around.
Tim looked up and shook his head. “Brad said he’ll let us know.” He didn’t add that things didn’t look too good for Tony. He was still in shock to realize that Tony was still alive. Tim shuddered. He didn’t want to think about the past twenty-four hours, but also knew he just couldn’t ignore it.
NCIS: 24hours earlier
“What did you find, McGee?” Gibbs asked as he stormed into the bullpen.
McGee indicated to the screen. “Something bugged me about the package, Gibbs. It was placed on your porch by the killer or someone who knew the killer, because what other sane person would leave a package on the doorstep of a Federal agent at two in the morning?” He didn’t give Gibbs time to respond or even to glare at him as he continued. “It took me a while to work through all the camera footage surrounding your neighborhood, but I finally picked up on a dark colored sedan cruising the streets surrounding your block for a few times before it stopped and an unknown man got out. He’d parked a block from your home and although I lost him once or twice I picked him up right here.”
A shadow of a man stepped out from beneath the trees. He looked around and then quickly made his way to Gibbs’ yard. Without hesitating, he walked up to the porch and placed the package down. With hands in his pockets and a hoodie pulled over his head, he quickly disappeared again.
“Through the traffic cams, I picked him up and followed him to this location.” McGee clicked and an image appeared on the screen. It looked like an all-night convenience store. A vehicle stopped next to an older model SUV and a man got out from the SUV and made his way to the stopped sedan. A short conversation took place before the sedan left. The SUV followed shortly. “I found the sedan abandoned at a shopping mall. The owner is an eighty-four year old lady who hasn’t driven the car for more than five years. She didn’t even know it was stolen until I sent the locals to her home. The registration number for the SUV lead me to this guy.” McGee clicked the button on the remote.
“Raymond Portiere, age fifty-one. He’s been sought in connection with several shady business deals. It includes a partner or two over the years that has gone missing, and the unsolved death of a male lover, but nothing in their disappearance or the death itself could be linked to Portiere. From what I understand, all the agencies were under the impression that he had left the United States. None of them thought that he’d be in our own backyard, so to speak. I’ve searched the databases for a possible address, but that’s not giving me anything. I managed to follow his SUV until it went out of range of the cameras and then I relied on satellite imaging to help out. If he kept on route, there are several remote residences in the area and he could be at any of them.”
“Get to the part where you know Tony is in D.C., McGee,” Gibbs demanded.
For the first time since Tony disappeared, Tim snapped. “If you’ll give me a chance, I’ll get to it, Gibbs. If I just jumped to the end you’ll be telling me you don’t follow, so just keep quiet and listen.” McGee didn’t look at Gibbs as he pointed to the screen again.
“We checked Tony’s name on all the passenger lists on the night of his arrival and found nothing. But, we also know that there can be glitches in data files so I went ahead and ran a facial recognition scan. It picked Tony up.” McGee showed the clip of Tony exiting the domestic arrivals gate. “He came in three hours earlier.” McGee, Gibbs and Ducky looked on as Tony tried his phone. From his facial expression, you could see that he was having trouble with his phone. Finally, it looked like he got something right as he pushed the phone into his designer jeans pocket. They looked on as he waited patiently for someone. An older model SUV stopped at the curb and a man climbed out.
“That’s Portiere.” Gibbs stepped closer to the screen.
“Yes, he is a driver for the UBER company. I’m waiting on them to get me an address. I would bet my life on it that it’s in the same vicinity where the cameras lost sight of Portiere’s SUV.”
McGee could see the many questions that ran through Gibbs’ head. The same questions he had thought of, and still lacked answers. “The S.W.A.T. team is on standby. They’re waiting for your call, Gibbs.”
“Good job, McGee.” Gibbs looked at the facial shot of the man who might have Tony.
McGee also looked at the man. He looked like an ordinary middle-aged man. There was nothing about him that screamed kidnapper or murderer. He was about to speak up when Gibbs’ phone rang. He looked on as the Supervisory Agent pulled out his phone and answered it in his brusque way. McGee saw how the blood left Gibbs’ face and something inside him shouted to trace the call. In the end it was Tony who led them to where he was.
Tim looked on as Thompson took a seat next to him. The man had only arrived this morning and he looked a bit rough around the edges. Not as bad as what Tony did. They had found Tony in Portiere’s home. He was barely breathing. He had a grade three concussion. A burst eardrum, with possible permanent loss of hearing in his right ear. They already knew about his left pinky, but unfortunately, that was not the end of his injuries. The radius in his right arm was broken. His right kneecap was totally shattered. He had three broken ribs, one had pierced his lung. He had severely infected second-degree burn wounds on his soles and his palms. Sepsis had set into the amputated finger despite it being crudely cauterized.
Bethesda Hospital: ICU
“Don’t you dare give up now, DiNozzo. You kept yourself alive for more than a week, you can do this easily,” Gibbs pleaded as he gently dragged his hand through Tony’s sweaty hair. A fever raged through Tony’s body. He was already intubated and there were signs of kidney failure. Brad was also concerned about Tony’s heart. At the moment it was beating at more than a hundred beats per minute. It seemed like Tony previously suffered from something called Takotsubo cardiomyopathy, but he had no idea what it was.
“Gibbs.” Brad’s voice made him look up.
He could see by the look in Brad’s eyes that things were not good. “He’s worsening.” Gibbs made it a statement.
Brad nodded. “Yes. I’m sorry. You need to give everyone a chance to say their goodbyes. I’ve managed to get hold of his father as well.” Brad swallowed hard.
Gibbs shook his head. “No. I’m not giving up on him. He fought until now, if he can fight then we can fight.”
Brad lowered his head. “Don’t you think I know that? I’m the first one in his corner and I’m the last to leave, but his body is shutting down. He’s in a coma. He’s on his second blood transfusion. He’s on every broad-spectrum antibiotic I could think of, but his body has not produced any urine in the last eight hours, despite all the fluids we’ve been pushing into him. You can see he’s swollen up, his color is already changing from the toxins building up inside him. I’ve scheduled him for dialysis, Gibbs but…” Brad shook his head. “I don’t want my best friend to die, Gibbs. I really don’t.” He took a deep breath. “Make time to say goodbye, Gibbs, please.” Brad turned and left.
Tim hugged Abby against his chest as the Goth sobbed. Ducky stood to the side with a very subdued Jimmy next to him. Kyle stood the closest to the door the expression on his face didn’t give anything away, but Tim knew he was hurting as well. Gibbs came to them and told them it was time to say goodbye. Tim couldn’t believe it. He could see that Gibbs also couldn’t believe it. Now, they’ve all spent a few minutes with Tony and there was nothing more left to do than to wait.
He pulled Abby closer to his chest and maneuvered them so that they could sit down on the hard-plastic chairs. He always wondered why some hospital rooms always had these hard chairs. Wasn’t it enough to suffer on news of a loved one, now you also had to sit for hours on end on a chair that was never comfortable, but merely made your ass numb. Tim wondered with whom he should speak here at Bethesda to get that changed.
Tim looked down as Abby sniffed against him. He smiled as she looked at him. Her eyes were full of tears and he could see the grief so clearly in them. He was certain she could see the same grief in his eyes. He wanted to tell her that it was going to be okay, but Abby’s number one rule stood in the way. Never lie to Abby. The thing was, he would also be lying to himself if he for one moment thought that things would be okay. They wouldn’t be. He had asked Tony for forgiveness, but had no idea if his friend and mentor heard his words or if he was indeed forgiven. He had no idea how life would be without Very Special Agent Anthony DiNozzo in it.
Tim closed his eyes and said a silent prayer. He kept them closed. He didn’t want to see the grief of those around him. Not now.
Gibbs remained seated, Tony’s right hand clutched in his. He had not left Tony’s side, except to give everyone a chance to say their goodbyes. He didn’t want to leave, but it would’ve been unfair to the others if he remained seated and heard their final words. He didn’t have any final words. He didn’t want to let go, he couldn’t.
He lowered his head onto the bed. He wasn’t there when his mother had passed. He wasn’t there when Shannon and Kelly died. He’d seen more than his fair share of deaths, but this, this shook him to his core. “Tony,” Gibbs looked up. “I love you. I love you with all my heart. And I will say it to you every day if you only wake up. I know you can hear me, Tony. You’ve always listened to me. So, listen to me now. I love you, Anthony DiNozzo. I love you with everything inside of me. I will love you to the end of days. And even beyond. Please, give me this chance to prove it to you. Please.” Gibbs lowered his head again and then smiled. “Way to go, Tony. You can do this.” He reached for the call button and when the nurse entered, he showed her what he saw. He squeezed Tony’s hand as she scurried from the room. “Keep on fighting, Tony. Don’t give up. I love you.”
Bethesda Hospital: 3 weeks later
“You want to try that again?” Gibbs asked louder than usual as he leaned against the door and watched Tony with a fond smile on his face. Tony came out of his coma just over ten days ago and since then his health had improved steadily. He had been moved to a private room four days ago, which meant that he tried to do too much and already tried to sign himself out AMA twice. Luckily, both times Brad arrived just in time to put an end to that idea.
Tony just glared at him, but didn’t say a word and Gibbs’ heart ached. Tony had suffered greatly this time around, but the thing that hit him the hardest was not the fact that he would walk with a permanent limp or that he now only had nine fingers, but the fact that he lost 40 decibels of hearing in his left ear and 80 decibels in his right. He’d shut down and even refused to talk. He would speak to Gibbs, but only a few sentences and nothing more. He’d also refused to see any of his former teammates and Gibbs knew how hard it was for both Abby and McGee to stay away, but they respected Tony’s wishes.
Gibbs stepped into the room and closed the door behind him. He walked over to Tony’s bed and held out his hand. He waited patiently.
“I don’t want to stay here,” Tony spoke too softly even as he handed the new set of AMA papers over to Gibbs. Gibbs knew Tony was talking softly, because he was afraid that he was doing it too loudly. It was something that he would have to work on, but not right at this moment.
He folded the papers and placed them in his pocket. He lifted Tony’s head so that Tony could look him in the eye. Gibbs spoke a bit louder, but clearer. He knew Tony hated it, but it was something Tony had to get used to for him to be able to read lips. The sooner the better. “I know how you feel about hospitals. But you have been very ill, Tony. Brad said that if he is satisfied with your progress you can go home at the end of the week. That is only three more days, Tony. Just three.”
Tony nodded and moved a bit to get comfortable. His right arm and leg were both in casts and he knew using crutches until his arm healed would not be an option. He was going to be stuck in a wheelchair for the foreseeable future. At least the nauseating headaches he suffered from had tempered down. “You promised me you’d tell me.”
Gibbs nodded as he sat down in his usual chair. They’d managed to wrap up Tony’s abduction case. It seemed like Portiere caught sight of Tony when he visited friends in Portland and became obsessed with him. They’d found photos of Portiere’s dead boyfriend and Tony could’ve been the man’s double. What made it even stranger was the fact that the dead boyfriend was also named Anthony.
“They found photos of Portiere’s boyfriend. Photos where he’s already dead. We don’t know why he killed him and with Portiere’s death, that question will remain unanswered.” Gibbs stopped.
“How did he know you’d be coming to D.C.? You told us you took an UBER from the airport; how did he know you’d do that? You changed your flight to an earlier one. There are just too many things that are not adding up. The case is deemed to be closed, but I’m still not satisfied,” Gibbs answered truthfully.
“Like Scurry,” Tony replied.
Gibbs looked at the younger man. “You feel like there might be something connecting the two cases?”
“In all honesty, no.” Gibbs wanted to kick himself. He should’ve considered a possible connection. “How long have you been contemplating that?”
Tony groaned as he tried to get into a better position. “Since I was conscious enough to think.”
“You’re getting tired. I should let you get some rest.” Gibbs rose to his feet. “I’m also in need of some more coffee.”
“I’m not tired,” Tony mumbled even as he gave a huge yawn.
“Yes, I can see that.” Gibbs smiled. “Get some rest. I’ll be back in a while.” He leaned in and gently kissed Tony on the mouth. “Love you, Tony.” He looked on as Tony returned his smile. He’d been telling Tony that he loved him from the first day Tony woke up and was conscious enough to understand his words. They still had to talk about everything, but Gibbs knew Tony wasn’t strong enough yet for such a conversation. Gibbs looked on as Tony closed his eyes and drifted off to sleep even before he could step from the room to get some coffee. Tony’s concern about the serial killer case and this case had Gibbs worried. He was glad that Tony didn’t see the look of worry on his face as he took out his phone and started dialing people. If Tony’s life was still in danger, he needed to know about it. He needed to keep Tony safe.
Gibbs home: 1 month later
“Stop touching them,” Gibbs spoke up as he signed the words at the same time. Tony had been released a week ago, having spent almost five weeks in the hospital. He didn’t get discharged as early as Brad thought he would. As a result of the sepsis, Tony developed secondary pneumonia, which made him violently ill yet again. It didn’t help that he hallucinated so much that he ended up trying to escape out the second-floor window with his arm and leg still having the casts on. He’d managed to reinjure his arm and they had to reset it for a second time. They had to use restraints to keep Tony in bed as the sedatives kept on compromising his breathing ability. The restraints had led to Tony becoming more withdrawn and not talking to anyone, not even Gibbs. At least now that he was in Gibbs’ home, he started to come out of his shell again.
“I’m not used to them,” Tony replied. He finger-spelled his words even as he talked. Due to the fact that Tony’s hearing loss would grow progressively worse, they’d decided to continue teaching Tony sign language. And, as with everything else Tony took one, he progressed very well with his sign language lessons. He was fitted with his new hearing aids earlier, having worn them for a few days before they were finally correctly programmed especially for his needs. He kept on touching them as if he was sure they were going to fall off, but Gibbs knew within a few days Tony would be totally comfortable with them.
“You know they won’t fall out. I mean, Samantha nearly made you stand on your head to show you they would stay in,” Gibbs said with a smile. The only reason why Tony didn’t stand on his head was because he still had a cast on his leg and his right arm wasn’t strong enough to take his weight.
Tony moved the crutches to the side. Since he had been fitted with a lighter brace on his arm, he was no longer dependent on the wheelchair. It suited him just fine. “When are your guests coming over?” He signed. He felt the trepidation in his stomach, but kept any emotion off his face.
Gibbs cocked his head. “You don’t want them here.” He closed the distance between them and cupped Tony’s face. “If you don’t want to see them, then we can cancel. They will understand.”
“Would they?” Tony didn’t bother to sign and shook his head. “I’m sorry.” He placed his fist against his chest and with a circular motion signed the word.
“You never have to say sorry. I know I’ve been a bastard about it before, but those days are over. They have, we’ve all caused you great amounts of sorrow and that is not something that can be fixed overnight. If you’re not ready to accept their apology then they just have to wait and if you can’t accept it at all then they will have to deal with that. It’s not about them, Tony. It’s about you.” Gibbs placed a kiss on Tony’s forehead.
“Are they going to apologize or make excuses?” Tony sounded hurt. He absent-mindedly rubbed at his chest.
“They both spoke to me, Tony. I think they realized they’ve been in the wrong. But, as I said, if you don’t want them here, then we can cancel.” Gibbs took Tony’s hand from his chest and squeezed it hard. He finally cornered Brad and asked again about Tony’s heart. Brad had written down the terminology for him and he went to look it up. He’d asked Balboa to help him Google the term. He was devastated when he learned what it meant. It had taken him half a bottle of bourbon to sort it all out in his head. He then went and sat Tony down and they talked. They talked until Tony fell asleep on his chest and when he woke up they talked some more. Gibbs was under no misconception that they still had a lot of things to work out between them, but they’ve made a good start.
“We’ve made all the food. We can’t let it all go to waste,” Tony answered in an indirect manner. He knew he couldn’t put them off forever. He could only hope things would work out.
Gibbs home: 2 months later
“I need to go back to my home,” Tony spoke up as Jethro came into the bedroom.
Gibbs tried to keep his face emotionless, but it was hard. He’d enjoyed having Tony with him. Sleeping together and waking up in the mornings with Tony curled around him. Their relationship had grown, at least that’s what he thought. Now it looked like he was imagining it. He looked on from where he stood as Tony continued to talk.
“I can get along on my own now. My whole life is in Portland.”
“And what are we? Chopped liver?” Gibbs couldn’t keep the bitterness out of his voice.
Tony shook his head. “You know that’s not what I’m saying, Jethro. But I’ve made a life for me in Portland. I can’t just drop everything and move back here. I’ve been away for almost four months. How would you like it if I uprooted your life and moved you to another place?”
“First of all, this is not another place, this is home and secondly, you’ve never asked.” Gibbs stood with his arms folded across his chest.
“What?” Tony huffed. “You have everything here, you won’t pack up and leave. But you expect me to do that.”
“I never said that, Tony. You’re the one who made the comment that you can get by on your own and that your whole life is in Portland. Sounds to me like you’re ready to go back and forget about us.”
Tony rose up from the bed and reached for his t-shirt that he pulled over his head. “You say this is home. Well, guess what? D.C. stopped feeling like home a very long time ago.”
“You’re unhappy here?”
“You don’t get it.” Tony tried not to growl. He shook his head. “Just leave it.” He sighed and reached for his hearing aids and took them out for the night. He placed them on the night table. “I’ll take the couch.”
Gibbs wanted to yell out of frustration. He reached out and caught Tony’s hand before he left the room. He immediately started signing as he talked. It was light enough in the room for Tony to watch both his lips and his hands. “I know you have to go back to Portland, but I thought we’d discuss it. I didn’t expect you to announce it like this.”
“It was not an announcement, I just stated that I needed to go back,” Tony spoke too loud, but Gibbs didn’t let him know.
“It sure sounded like one.” Gibbs stopped signing. “May I come with you?”
“I was planning on asking you to come with me. I know the team is not on call this weekend. I thought you could take a few extra days and stay at least a week.” Tony smiled. “I’m sorry. I’m getting angsty sitting around here doing nothing. I just need some normality around me and at this stage, I need my own home. Please, I’m not saying you’re not important in my life.”
Gibbs smiled. “Looks like both of us jumped the gun on this one.” His smile grew bigger and he pulled Tony against his chest. “Was this our first fight?”
Tony laughed. “I know what you’re thinking, Jethro.” He leaned in and kissed the older man. “And yes, it was our first fight, so makeup sex is so going to happen.” Tony shrieked as Jethro picked him up and dumped him in the middle of the bed. He made a sign that had Tony blushing before he opened his arms. “Bring it on.” He laughed as Jethro landed on top of him. He opened his legs so that Jethro could settle between them and then they started to pleasure one another until they were both flying high with ecstasy and their fight all forgotten.
Tony’s home: 72 hours later
Tony sighed as he lowered himself into his favorite chair. He smiled as Jethro cocked an eyebrow at him while he looked around in the large study. It was filled with books and more books. A small sound system in one corner, but other than that, there was no evidence of any electronic gadgets in the room. This was his thinking room. He looked at the whiteboards that still stood where he left them almost four months ago. He and Jethro had discussed the two cases on several occasions. Both men now agreed that they were indeed linked. Unfortunately, they were still unsure how, except to say that Tony was the common denominator. It also meant that the original serial killer was still out there. It was for that reason that both men carried their weapons. Tony had drawn the line when Jethro suggested he get a bodyguard.
“You still amaze me every day.” He took a book from the shelf and gently opened it up. It was a biography on Pope John Paul II titled Witness to Hope. Gibbs knew he’d have to search long before he’d find a fiction book. But then he barked out laughing. The next book was called Hondo, by Louis L’Amour. “Did you read this?” He held the book up for Tony to see.
Tony blushed faintly and shook his head. “I bought that book for you. Remember on the Pratts matter when you broke your ankle and had to stay at home? I bought it for you then.”
Gibbs flinched slightly. He remembered that case. Tony came to his house and he was irritated and an extra hard ass bastard. He’d told Tony to go. In fact, he’d chased him away. “I was a real bastard to you that time, Tony.” Gibbs placed the book back.
“You can read it if you want to.” Tony didn’t comment on the bastard comment. He and Jethro talked about it before.
Gibbs hummed as he took the book and placed it on a side table. He would read it later. “I never saw the rest of your property. Do you mind if I have a look around?”
Tony shook his head. “Go ahead, just leave a trail of pebbles if you get lost.” He added with a smile.
Gibbs laughed. “Very funny.” He walked over to Tony and kissed the man long. He rested his forehead against Tony’s when they broke apart. “Don’t work too hard.”
“Need to catch up on emails and stuff. I’ll try not to.” Tony took his seat behind the desk and started to work. He didn’t add that he was going to go through the serial killer files again. He’d also managed to get a complete copy of the Portiere case file. He needed to put his skill to work and find what they’d been missing. Tony first concentrated on his emails. He deleted all the crap, and then concentrated on the emails left that were clearly work orientated. He created three folders for those and then divided all the remaining emails into those folders. He would look at them later. Tony could feel his whiteboards calling out to him and finally he gave in. Tony rearranged all the boards to his liking and went to collect another two. He collected the new files from his luggage and then pinned them to the boards. He hated that most of the photos on the boards were of him. When it became too much he turned them around before he pinned them to the boards. He’d made a short note on the back of each photo so he knew the image on each photo. His leg burned and he looked at his watch. “Fuck,” Tony cursed as he hobbled over to his chair. He had been working for almost three hours. He looked around and wondered if Gibbs had come back and he hadn’t even noticed it.
Tony hobbled over to the kitchen area and found it to be deserted. Not even the coffee was disturbed. “Jethro!” He called out and waited patiently for the older man to appear. Tony had to smile. Since they started living together when he’d call out to the other man, Jethro would never answer him. Instead, he would come to where Tony was. Tony appreciated the small notion.
Tony checked his phone and frowned. It showed no signal. That was strange. He had acquired a signal booster for his home and it was the first thing he’d checked when he’d entered the house. It had been plugged in and working perfectly. Tony turned to the living room to check on the booster. His hand reached for his pistol as he looked down at the empty socket. Someone was in his house. Tony took a steady breath as he found himself to be furious. This was his house. No one had the right to come in here uninvited. Tony started searching the rooms one by one. He kept on praying that his lover was all right.
Gibbs strolled through the woods. The ground cover was thick with no clear trail leading him anywhere. He kept a leisurely pace. Tony’s property sloped upwards towards the mountains and he used the contour lines to move up. At one stage there was a beautiful clearing as some old trees had fallen over and cleared the area to create a stunning view down to Tony’s home. Gibbs turned around, found a spot on one of the fallen trees and sat down. He could see clearly into Tony’s home. In fact, he could see where Tony sat behind his desk in his study, working away on his laptop.
Something out of the corner of his eye caught his attention and he rose up from his spot. Gibbs walked around the log and crouched down. It was something metal and the sun had made it shine for just a moment. Gibbs gently removed the leaves that covered it partially and cursed. He quickly got to his feet, his hand rested on his firearm. He looked at the bullet in his hand. It was a 7.62x51mm cartridge used in sniper rifles. The hair at the back of his neck stood on end. He looked around and spotted what looked like a shallow hole. Gibbs used his hands and opened it up. It was filled with cigarette butts. He immediately realized what it was and started making his way down the slope back to Tony’s home. Someone had been watching Tony. He would even wager that stalking would be the right term to use. Gibbs’ gut churned. Tony was in danger.
He ran full speed, jumped over large rocks and small branches, but not once did he slow down. He jumped over a fallen tree and then the earth gave way beneath his feet. Gibbs fell, he tried to grab onto something, but he fell too fast. With a heavy thump he landed at the bottom of the pit. He felt the air leave his lungs as he landed hard on his stomach. Gibbs bit down a scream as something pierced his left side. Immediately nausea threatened to overcome him and he kept his eyes closed in an attempt to gain control over the pain. Gibbs opened his eyes and the blood drained from his face. The bottom of the pit was lined out with sharp spikes. Any doubt he had that this was just a hole he’d stumbled upon and into was now displaced. This hole was man-made and it was not a trap to catch a wild animal. This trap was made to catch and kill any human falling into it.
He tried not to move as he took stock of what was going on around him in the pit. Just because it was filled with stakes didn’t mean it would be deprived from any other life forms. He didn’t want a confrontation with an angry snake or something just as sinister. Gibbs slowly looked around. In the dim light it looked to be only him and he could feel some of the tensed-up muscles in his body relaxing. He swallowed hard. The pain in his side was building up to a high crescendo and he knew that he wouldn’t remain conscious for long if it kept on increasing. Without moving much, Gibbs gently moved his hands and arms. He was able to use them without any pain, so at least he didn’t break them when he fell. He wiggled his toes, which wasn’t difficult. He bent his right leg at the knee, but kept his left leg as it was. Gibbs had no idea what the pain would do if he tried to move that leg. With slow movements he reached out to feel where the spike went through his body. What made things more difficult was the fact that he landed on his stomach and he couldn’t turn around. Gibbs tried not to flinch when he reached his injured side. The spike went through his body, just above the left hip bone. He could feel his flesh around it. He moved his hand upwards and frowned. Where he initially thought that the spike went right through, now he knew better. He couldn’t feel the spike at his back. It was definitely not protruding from his back. Gibbs counted that as a blessing as he knew the sharpened piece of wood at this stage acted as a cork. It kept all his blood on the inside. But, he also knew he couldn’t stay like this. He was a sitting duck, but more importantly, Tony’s life was in danger and he had to get out.
Gibbs reached out and took his sidearm out his holster and brought it up so that it was next to his face. He removed the safety and placed it in such a position that it would be easy for him to reach. It would be difficult for him to fire from the position he found himself in, but at least he was armed. Next, he reached for his knife. It was in his right pocket. His fingers found it and he brought it up before he flipped it open. He looked at the wooden stake right in front of him. He had to find how deep they were buried into the ground. If he wanted to get out of here, he had to dig the one embedded in his body out and keep it in his body as he got out of this hole. Gibbs had no idea on how he would get out, but that would come later, first he had some digging to do.
He pushed the pain from his mind and evened his breathing out. Lying on his stomach and not being able to move much placed pressure on his lungs. His hands trembled, but he managed to keep the knife and started digging the spike out. It took Gibbs longer than what he thought it would, but also much shorter than what it could’ve been. Finally, he held the stake in his hand. It was possible to dig it out. Gibbs placed the spike to the side and then lowered his head to the ground. He was lightheaded and he could feel the ground underneath him dampened with his blood. He also knew he couldn’t give up. After resting for a minute or two, Gibbs took the knife and reached backwards. He couldn’t take a proper look at the injury so he used his fingers to draw a mental map for himself and then he carefully started to loosen the soil around the piece of wood.
When he finally could feel the base of the wooden stake, the next stage of getting up from the ground became his next priority. Gibbs knew he would have to keep the stake embedded in his body. He would have to tie it properly so that it didn’t move and cause more damage to his body. But, first, he had to be able to free himself and turn over. Gibbs took a deep breath and then wiggled his fingers beneath the base of the stake so that it rested against his palm. He didn’t even try to remain quiet as he pain rippled through his body when he for all practical reasons shoved he piece of wood deeper into his own body. He tried to keep it as straight as possible. When he finally had the stake in hand, he could turn over, but he couldn’t just turn over and think that everything would be all right. He would have to do it slowly and not lie on his back, but try to keep to his side until he could sit up.
Gibbs screamed again as he turned. It felt like several dozen hot pokers sliced through his body as he turned to his side. He wept in anguish as he moved into the position he wanted to be in. He reached for his SIG and placed it next to him again. He’d thought of firing a shot, but he didn’t know where the bastard was that was stalking Tony. There was also the possibility that Tony might not hear the shot. He would not place Tony’s life in any more danger.
Gibbs looked down at the wound in his side. He could finally see the damage and he had to swallow hard. The whole left side of his jacket and shirt was covered in blood. He could see the blood seeping through his fingers where he held the stake against himself. At that moment he was extremely grateful that he was still alive. If he’d landed in any other way he would’ve been killed instantly. Gibbs looked up. The sides of the hole were steep, but he could see several roots that dangled from the sides of the hole. He’d have to use them to pull himself up and out of the hole. It was for this reason alone that he had to get in a position to use both his hands. Doing that one handed wasn’t an option.
Without letting go of his side, Gibbs took the right cuff of his NCIS jacket into his mouth and pulled it over his hand. He then changed the grip on his side by pressing with his forearm against the wound and used his left hand to clutch the sleeve tight and then he moved his right arm up into his sleeve until he finally freed his right arm. He panted hard. The dark spots that threatened to overtake his vision crept closer. Gibbs reached up and over his shoulder and moved his jacket to the left side of his body. The next part would be a bit easier and then a hell lot more difficult. He moved his left hand and replaced it with his right hand, then just as he did before he pulled his sleeve over his hand with his teeth and managed to get the jacket out. He leaned forward as far as what he could and heaved hard. Yellow bile coated the hole’s floor. He tried to push it out of his mind, even as he was grateful that it didn’t contain any blood, but where he thought he was in pain before now he knew better. The movements he made to rid himself of the jacket, as well as the fact that he just puked, sent new tsunami waves of pain through him. His whole body shivered, his ears rang and his vision dimmed before it stabilized again.
“Come on, Gunny, keep it together,” Gibbs spoke out loud for the first time since he landed in the pit. “Marines never give up.” He took a deep breath and then with trembling hands started to roll the jacket up that was still attached to his side through the stake that impaled him so that he could bind it around his waist and keep the wooden piece from moving. He screamed again as he pulled the ends closed to make sure it was tight against his body. He then took his pistol and tucked it against his right side. Gibbs shook his head and ran his hand over his face. It was covered in sweat, but he shivered hard. He knew he was going into shock. He had to move faster.
Now, he had to get to his feet. He couldn’t turn onto his hands and knees and then push himself up. He wouldn’t be able to swing his legs behind him and then get up from his knees. He looked at the wall of the hole. Gibbs then turned so that he leaned against the wall with his back and then brought his right leg towards his chest. He then bent his left leg as far as he could before pain became too much and then pushed with his back against the wall and hoisted himself up using the side. He had to keep his hands on the wall as things got dizzy the moment he stood on his feet. What felt like ages, but was only a minute, Gibbs could feel things stabilizing and he relaxed. He then reached out and took the first root in his hand and gave it a strong tug. It held fast and that gave him hope. He used both his hands and the roots which were plenty and started to hoist himself up. He quickly became aware of another problem; he couldn’t stop moving because there were no foot holes for him to rest. He found a bit of a rock sticking out just where his right foot was and he used that to heave himself up. Gibbs screamed as the root in his right hand snapped and he found himself dangling from the root in his left hand. His body slammed hard into the side and the ground gave way. It caused a mini avalanche of rocks and soil, but at least the root he held on to didn’t break away. He held on for dear life before he finally was able to move upwards again.
The rim of the hole came into sight and Gibbs sobbed with relief. He was going to make it. He swung his right hand out of the hole onto the solid ground above and then heaved himself out. Immediately he turned on his side as not to place pressure on his wound. He found a large branch of a fallen tree right in front of his face and used that to get his whole body out of the hole. He groaned and shivered. He was nauseated, but he swallowed. He knew if he started to puke now, he wouldn’t stop and with all of the moving he did now, he wouldn’t be surprised if he had internal bleeding and he didn’t want to see the blood if he did throw up.
With determination Gibbs rose to his feet. The jacket around the wound was now also soiled with blood, but he didn’t dare stop. He had to get to Tony. He jerked as he took a step forward and his body protested at the movement. But, he had no choice, he wouldn’t give up. When he took the second step forward a shot sounded. It came from Tony’s house. Gibbs placed a bracing hand on his wound, holding the base of the spike steady through the jacket and then quickened his pace.
“You!” Tony exclaimed in shock, but kept his weapon raised.
“Indeed, me.” The killer smiled as he crossed his right leg over the left and made himself more comfortable in the big chair.
“Get up slowly and keep your hands where I can see them.” Tony ordered as his heart beat loud in his chest. He mentally stabled his hands as they wanted to shake.
The man smiled again. “No, not yet. You and I still have unfinished business to take care off.” He did raise his hands. “As you can see, I’m not armed. So, do me this one favor and let’s talk.”
Tony shook his head. “We have nothing to talk about.”
“I have to disagree with you. There is still plenty for us to talk about. You’ve always had such an interesting mind, Tony. Not a day went by since I first met you that I haven’t been intrigued by it. You’re one of the few people in the world that really has the ability to think outside the box. And I’m not talking about doing it once in a while. You, you do it on a daily basis. In every scenario you come across you do that.”
Tony remained silent. He didn’t want to engage this man in any sort of conversation. He wanted him out of his chair, his house and his life. “Get up and place your hands behind your back.” He repeated his earlier order again.
The man cocked his head. “You really did damage your ears badly or you’re just being stubborn. And you know I hate it when you’re being stubborn. So, no. I’m not getting up from this chair until we’ve talked.”
“Well, we’re done talking, so get the fuck up.” Tony released the safety on his firearm.
“Again, no. You will not shoot me, Tony. Not an unarmed man, never mind how much you hate and despise me right now.”
“You want to bet?” Tony growled, but knew the man seated across from him called his bluff and won. He would never kill an unarmed man. Tony shifted his gaze for a moment and looked out the large window into the woods behind his house. He couldn’t help but to wonder where Gibbs was. Dread settled in his stomach. “Where’s Gibbs? What did you do with him?”
“I haven’t seen him. Maybe he’s lying around somewhere?” He shrugged.
Tony growled. “If you laid a hand on him, I swear I will kill you.” He raised his weapon higher, but remained where he stood. He wanted to attack the smug man and kick the shit out of him, but he had to stay in control not only of the situation, but also of his emotions.
The man merely laughed as he ignored Tony’s threat. “You remember the first profile you made of the serial killer?” He slowly lowered his hands and placed them on his lap.
“The one that fits you to a T?”
“Yes, that one. I remembered the exact time you figured it out. I was here in this room. When you turned and said those words, I thought you had it all figured out. But you didn’t see what was right in front of your eyes.”
“That’s why you moved from ordinary innocent civilians to Navy personnel.”
The killer shrugged. “They were not that innocent, but that’s not what matters now. Now, I can say in all honesty, I wasn’t ready to stop yet. I loved seeing you in your element. It made me harder than anything else in the whole world. I wanted to see what you’d do if I up the game. And you responded perfectly.”
“You became a murderer by proxy.”
“Close enough. You see, when I chose my next victims, I knew I had to choose them carefully. They had to grab your attention. And what better way to do that then to target Navy or Marine personnel. I’ll confess, it wounded me to end their lives. I have the highest respect for our Military personnel. But, no one else would’ve done the job.”
“Why did you choose Scurry?”
He smirked. “Because I could? He laughed. “Why do you think I chose him?”
“Because he was mentally unstable, uneducated, easily manipulated and he had no idea that you were just using him. Now that I know your identity, I will find the link between you and Scurry. He thought of you as a friend, his only friend I would say. He never questioned why you put those boards up at his place or why you brought the rope and the blood. He never raised an eyebrow when you told him to go and buy that specific rope. He trusted you and you used him as a scapegoat.” Tony cocked his head. “You left me clues on your identity, but I didn’t see it. Very subtle, I’ll give you that.”
“And what was that?”
“The whiteboards. I should’ve realized it earlier. The bedroom couldn’t be described as clean, but it was neat. Nothing out of place. Not even a single piece of paper on the floor. The whiteboards were lined up in perfect rows, each one a continuation of the next. You were in that room. I don’t think Scurry was allowed in there. He never knew what you placed on those boards or even why. You used an innocent unstable man. You set him up knowing that there was a huge chance that he would die and for what? Did he outlive his usefulness, or did you just grow tired of him?”
The killer shrugged again. “In all honesty? He bored me. Trust me, it was nothing personal.”
“Nothing personal? An innocent woman and man died because you were bored. You are a real fucking psychopath.”
“True, but I’ve known that for a very long time. I like it.” He grinned. “I have to confess, Tony. I am truly sorry for the way Portiere treated you. If you hadn’t manage to kill him, I would’ve found a way to do it myself.”
It was Tony’s turn to laugh. “Are you fucking kidding me? Are you listening to yourself? You found a guy, I still don’t know how, got him obsessed with me and then orchestrated it so that he kidnapped me. He fucking tortured me. Because of you I’m almost deaf in my one ear. I will walk with a permanent limp and I still have fucking nightmares. And now you want to say you’re sorry? For what? Me surviving? Or Portiere not killing me?”
“You really don’t understand, Tony. I did it all for you. Your skills are so unique, you needed the exposure, you needed to be recognized. I got bored with the killings. It no longer posed a challenge for me so I wanted to hang up my gloves, but then I met you and I decided that you were worthy of catching me. But, I couldn’t just hand myself over on a silver platter, I still had to show the world your skills so I killed again and it worked out perfectly.”
“And now you’re going to give yourself up peacefully, just like that?”
“No, Tony. I can’t make it easy for you. We both know how this will end. Either you will kill me and you’ll be recognized as the greatest hero of all times, or I will kill you, but you’ll still be known as a hero. I of course will fade into the background. As I said, I no longer want to kill.”
“They will know it’s you.”
“Of course, but they will never catch me.” He came to his feet. He didn’t even flinched as Tony pulled the trigger and the shot went off right next to his foot.
“That was the warning shot. Hands where I can see them.” Tony warned the man in front of him.
“No, Tony. Not as easy.” With quick reflexes the man stormed Tony down and tackled him to the floor. They landed hard and the SIG fell from his hand and slid across the floor.
Tony gasped as they landed on the floor. He had no idea where his weapon landed as a sharp pain shot up his barely healed leg. He put the pain out of his head and concentrated on the man above him. He knew the killer would not go easy on him. He managed to bring his leg up and had enough leverage to push the man off him. Tony tried to scramble to his feet, but his leg refused to cooperate with his actions and he stumbled to the side. The man was on him again in an instant. Tony drew back his right arm and landed a solid punch on the man’s jaw. He stumbled backwards, but stormed Tony down again for the third time. Tony’s breath left his lungs as he was tackled hard against the wall. He got in a short jab, hitting the killer right on the kidneys. The man grunted out of pain and Tony brought his fist down for a second time.
The second jab hit its intended target and Tony followed it up with another uppercut. At the same time he placed all of his weight on the forefoot and shoved the man away from him. He hunched forward and with his shoulder, he stormed the killer. He hit center mass and the man grunted in pain. Tony drove them both hard against a bookshelf. The shelf shook and some of the books landed on their heads. Tony grabbed the front of the man’s shirt and slammed his head into his face. He could feel the man’s blood on his head as he broke the killer’s nose. He yanked him forward again, brought up his fist and hit him hard again.
The man grinned as the blood streamed down his face. He managed to twist out of Tony’s grip and held him in a choke hold. He held Tony’s body flush against his. “I’ll make it as painless as possible, I promise.” He tightened the grip he had on Tony’s neck as he lifted his head so that Tony couldn’t get to his eyes. He didn’t mind the scratches that Tony’s nails left behind on his arms.
Dark spots formed in front of Tony’s eyes. He struggled getting air into his lungs. He tried desperately to free himself from the hold, but with no success. Tony twisted and turned, through his blurred vision he spotted his pistol and knew that if he wanted to survive he had to get to it. He took a step forward and his attacker followed him. Tony gasped for air, but couldn’t get anything into his lungs. He stumbled forward and when it looked like he might be in range, he stopped struggling and went limp.
His action had the required reaction as the killer released the hold he had over him. Tony stayed limp as they descended to the floor. His hand touched the pistol and with a single move, he brought the pistol up and over his head and pulled the trigger. Once, twice. The man stumbled away from him and Tony turned. He looked on as the man gave one more step backwards before he slid down the bookcase. “Thank you, Tony.” He tried to take a breath, but blood gurgled from his mouth. “I love you.” His eyes glazed over as he released his final breath.
“Kyle!” Tony sobbed as he landed on his hands and knees. He crawled over to where the slain man was and stopped just out of touching range. He turned and sat down on the floor. He brought the gun up and held it steady in his hand. He wanted to lower the weapon, the danger had passed, but his hands refused to move. He kept staring at the dead man before him, his weapon at the ready.
Gibbs had still no idea of how far away he was from Tony’s house when he heard two shots in short succession. It chilled him to the bone and although he couldn’t walk in a straight line, he stumbled forward. He could feel the blood running down the inside of his trousers. He’d stopped checking on the wound what felt like hours ago. There was nothing more that he could do, except to push forward.
He stumbled over a loose rock and nearly lost his footing, but managed to stay on his feet. Gibbs looked up and saw the house in front of him. He could see no movement from where he was, but he also couldn’t just storm in. He took out his firearm and gripped it in his hand. It nearly slipped from his grip as he trembled. Gibbs took a deep breath to steady himself. Gingerly he crept closer. He used the trees for cover to hide himself from view until there were no longer trees in front of him. He could see the back door from where he stood. He listened intently, but couldn’t hear anything coming from the house. Making sure that his weapon was ready, Gibbs stepped out behind the tree and as quickly as possible made his way to the back door.
He had to lean against the doorframe as the ground threatened to rush up to his face. Gibbs closed his eyes and concentrated on his breathing. His side pulsed in agony and he knew he would have to get help rather sooner than later. He tried the door handle and when it opened, he silently slipped in. He listened intently, but could hear no sounds. Gibbs cleared the open kitchen-dining room area and living room. He could see the door to Tony’s study partly closed. As he first had to pass by the stairs, he decided to go up and clear the top floor. Each room was deprived of life and he made his way back down the stairs. He cursed silently as he noticed the trail of blood he left in his wake. But, there was nothing he could do about it now. There was only one room left and Gibbs gut churned as he neared the room. He reached out with his bloody hand, weapon at a ready and pushed the door open. Gibbs nearly stumbled at the scene before him.
Gibbs kept one eye on Tony while he cleared the rest of the room. He lowered his weapon and placed both his hands over his throbbing side. He took a step closer to Tony, but made sure he was in Tony’s line of sight the whole time.
“Tony?” His voice sounded strange to his own ears. He cleared his throat and tried again. “Tony?” The man on the floor gave no indication that he heard him. Gibbs took another step forward. “Tony?” He looked down at the body. It looked like Tony shot the man twice. One shot hit Thompson through the neck, the other through the chest. He would’ve bled out in mere seconds. He refocused his attention on Tony. He had to get the weapon from Tony and secure it.
Gibbs looked around and spotted Tony’s phone lying in the corner. It must’ve fallen out of Tony’s pocket at some point. He had no idea where his own phone was. Gibbs slowly made his way over to Tony’s phone and nearly screamed in pain as he had to bend over to pick it up. Droplets of sweat coated his skin as he managed to pick the phone up and straightened out. He frowned when he saw there was no signal. He remembered Tony said something about bad reception, but that he had a thingy that sorted the problem. Gibbs knew he had to go and check on the thingy, but he also didn’t want to leave Tony alone. He slowly made his way back to Tony’s side. The younger man hadn’t moved an inch.
Gibbs leaned forward and placed his hand on Tony’s shoulder. “Tony?” he asked again, but the younger man remained unresponsive. Not wanting to do it, but not having much of a choice, Gibbs removed his hand and then slapped Tony pretty hard against his head. It had the required effect, but even though Gibbs expected it, he wasn’t totally prepared.
Tony came out of his stupor, swinging. His hand with the pistol connected with Gibbs’ injured side. Gibbs had tried to stop the swing from landing, but with the blood loss and on the verge of exhaustion, he was too late. Tony’s fist connected on the stake. Gibbs thought he could hear himself scream, but then everything around him faded away.
Chapter 6: Chapter 5
Portland General Hospital: 2 weeks later
“You ought to be more careful, Jethro. You had a harrowing experience. As you are well aware, you nearly died. In fact, it still astounds me that you are alive and well,” Ducky said as he entered the hospital room. The sharpened piece of wood embedded in Jethro’s side had missed everything vital. It had acted as a stopper and Jethro had not bled out. He had some muscle and nerve damage and struggled with an infection because of the wood, but other than that he would suffer no lasting effects.
“Yes, Ducky, I know. You’ve explained it to me numerous times before. I get it.” He struggled to get his trousers on.
“Yes, my dear friend, but it does require me to repeat it more often. I know you very well, know that the first chance you get you will do something reckless.”
Gibbs growled. “Damn it, Duck. If you were younger, I would’ve slapped you against the head. Believe me, I know how close I came to dying. Now, are you going to stand there and lecture me, or are you going to help me get dressed. That is the reason you came here, right?”
“Yes, you are right and I do apologize. But, you also have to understand my concerns.” He came closer and without hesitation he helped the other man to get his trousers on. He placed a steady hand on his friend’s shoulder when Gibbs swayed to the side. “Are you sure this is wise?”
Gibbs closed his eyes and waited for the dizzy spell to pass before he opened his eyes again. “What else did you want me to do, Ducky? Let him be?” Gibbs slowly shook his head. “I’m sorry, I can’t do that.”
“I am not saying for one moment that you should let Anthony be, Jethro, but are you sure you are the right person for this?”
“Just what are you implying, Duck?” Gibbs squared his shoulders.
“I am saying that I think that Anthony needs a professional to talk to, Gibbs. Someone that is independent of the matter.”
Gibbs snorted. “I’m sorry, are you saying Tony should talk to a shrink? Have you forgotten what happened when the hospital tried to do that? Or should I remind you, that not only did he go ballistic, he signed himself out AMA after two days and if it wasn’t for the fact that I made him promise me he would tell me when he left Portland, I wouldn’t know where he was. None of us would’ve known. To answer your question, Ducky, no, it’s an absolute bad idea to let Tony talk to any head shrink. Unless, you want him to disappear again, Ducky.” Gibbs sighed. “I will talk to him, Duck.”
“And I will go with you.” A voice sounded from the door and both men looked around.
“Bradley,” Ducky greeted the man friendly. “When did you get here?”
“Landed late last night and just in time it seems.” He held out his phone. “Just received a call from a club here, which Tony frequents. He’s there right now and from what I understand from Steve, he’s drunk as a skunk.”
“Did the club phone you?” Gibbs asked as he wiped the sweat from his brow after he managed to get his shoes on. He grimaced at the fact that it was barely ten in the morning and Tony seemed to be drunk already.
“Yes, but that’s just because Steve is an old college friend of mine and the club belongs to him. Tony didn’t have his phone on him so he phoned me to find out who he could contact to come and collect Tony.”
“And so you have decided to inform Jethro.”
“Ducky,” Gibbs spoke up. “I knew Brad had landed last night. I’m the one who called him to come here. He knew I’d be discharged today.”
“Oh, I did not know.” Ducky looked wounded.
Gibbs decided to ignore the look. He didn’t have to tell Ducky everything he did. Especially not when it came to Tony. Brad was far better equipped to help with Tony than what Ducky would ever be. Even if Tony called Ducky a friend. “I’m ready.” He addressed Brad.
“Good, then we can go.” Brad turned and faced Ducky. “I also heard what you said about Tony seeing a psychologist, Doctor Mallard, and I have to side with Gibbs on this. It is not a good idea. Not now. Maybe later, but definitely not now.” Without anything further the two men exited the hospital room, leaving a dumbstruck Ducky behind.
Tony didn’t look up from his drink when someone took the seat next to him. He continued to swivel the golden colored liquor around in the tumbler.
“I thought you would’ve called me for drinks.”
Tony shrugged. “Lost my phone.” He slurred his words.
Brad looked at his friend. “You want to tell me what’s going on in that head of yours?”
Tony remained quiet as he took a swallow of his drink.
“Tony,” Brad spoke softly. “Talk to us, please.” He placed his hand on Tony’s bicep and squeezed it gently.
Tony pulled away. “Don’t.” He hugged the tumbler tight in the palm of his hand.
Brad withdrew his hand. “I’m sorry.” He nodded to Steve, who came to stand behind the bar. “Thanks for calling.”
Tony huffed. “You snitched on me.”
“Yes, I did. And I will do it again. I know you, Tony and this is not you.” Steve placed a sealed bottle of water in front of Tony.
Tony raised his head and looked at the bottle of water. He let go of the tumbler and snatched the bottle. He raised his hand, but before he could launch the bottle, a strong hand encircled his wrist and held it to the bar counter. Tony looked up. “Let go.”
Gibbs shook his head. “No. Not letting go. I’m never letting go. I’ve got your six, Tony.”
Tony lowered his gaze.
“Let’s get out of here.” Gibbs pulled Tony up, but didn’t release the grip he had on Tony’s wrist. He tucked Tony against his chest when the younger man stumbled forward. “I’ve got you.” Gibbs nodded to Brad and the man whom he assumed was Steve. “I’ll take it from here.”
“You have everything sorted out?” Brad came to his feet. When they’d left the hospital, Gibbs told him he had something to do. They arranged to meet up at the club and Gibbs left in a cab.
“Yes. I’ll contact you later,” Gibbs replied. He released Tony’s wrist, but took his hand. “Let’s go, Tony.” He took the bottle of water and then helped Tony out of the club.
Steve looked at the pair of men. “Do you trust that guy?”
Brad smiled. “The answer to that is simple, Steve. Tony trusts that guy.” He sighed. “I think it’s time for a drink myself.” He handed over his car keys. “You’ll make sure I get back to my hotel room.”
Steve passed him a drink. “I will.”
Brad tossed the drink back and grimaced. He nodded to Steve for the next one. This one, he didn’t swallow in one go, but took it slow. It was time that he also mourned someone he once called a friend.
Gibbs helped Tony into the rental and then made his way over to the driver’s side. He knew it wasn’t a good idea to drive, but Tony was in no condition to do that. His side ached, and he felt a bit wobbly on his feet, but first he had to take care of Tony and then he would get some rest himself. He climbed in and helped Tony with his safety belt. He handed him the bottled water. “Drink this.”
Without a word Tony took the bottle and drank from it. He placed it between his legs. He leaned back against the headrest.
“Finish the bottle, you’ll get dehydrated otherwise.” Gibbs pointed to the water. “I’ll stop along the way and buy some more.”
“Where are we going?”
Tony’s head snapped back. His pupils dilated in angst. “Not my house.” His hands shook as he brought the bottle back up to take another sip of the water. It spilled.
Gibbs reached out and squeezed Tony’s thigh. “Not your home.”
Tony visibly relaxed. “A bit far to your cabin.” He took a deep breath.
Gibbs smiled as he left his hand on Tony’s upper leg. “Old Marine buddy of mine became a forest ranger. He has a private cottage right on the edge of Deschutes National Forest. He’s been nagging me for years to come and visit. I phoned him and took him up on the offer.”
Tony frowned, tension crept back into his body. “That’s about a four-hour drive. And I don’t think I’m in the right state of mind to be good company, Gibbs.”
“He’s not there. He went to visit his grandkids in Vegas. His place is ours for as long as we need it.”
Tony nodded. His body stayed tense as he emptied the bottle and placed it at his feet. He turned and stared out the window.
Gibbs looked over at his passenger, but remained silent. He could see how stressed Tony was. He hoped that the alcohol in Tony’s system and the silence in the car would let him nod off. He’d noticed the dark circles under Tony’s eyes. He knew that Tony didn’t sleep well. Gibbs shifted in the seat to get more comfortable and then concentrated on the road. At least they were heading out of the city and the traffic wasn’t congested. He drove in silence and when he heard Tony snoring softly, he looked and smiled.
Deschutes National Forest: 5 hours later
Tony groggily got out the car and looked around. The view was amazing, but he found himself not being able to appreciate it as much as he was supposed to. He looked over his shoulder where Gibbs remained seated in the driver’s seat. He frowned and made his way over to the driver’s side. He looked inside and then wanted to slap himself on the back of the head. “Fuck,” Tony cursed as he opened the door. “I’m sorry, Gibbs. I’ve been a right ass. You were just discharged from the hospital and then I made you drive five hours. Let me help you out.” He held out his hand and waited patiently.
Gibbs frowned. “You didn’t make me drive anywhere, Tony. Yes, it was stupid of me and I know I overdid it, but I’ll be all right.” He took a deep breath, grabbed Tony’s offered hand and then slowly got out the car. The first two hours hadn’t been too bad. He then stopped for an hour, got Tony to eat a small lunch before they drove the last stint. Normally, it wouldn’t have been a problem, but the injury to his side did not make things easy at all.
Tony only nodded. “I didn’t ask before, but what about clothes and stuff?”
The slap against the back of his head was feather light and in the end, Gibbs left his hand there and pressed his forehead against Tony’s. “I collected everything from your hotel room, Tony. Including all of your weird creams and stuff.”
Tony huffed. “Thanks, I don’t know why I doubted you for a moment.” He pulled away and looked around. In the distance, he could make out the Cascade Mountains. It was breathtaking.
“I can do with coffee. Let’s get inside.” Gibbs took Tony’s hand and pulled him along to the cabin. They’d made a quick stop in Bend and picked up the keys to the cabin from the Rangers’ office so he had no problem getting them inside.
“Fuck,” Tony exclaimed as he looked around. “This is a bit creepy.”
Gibbs chuckled. “Martin is an avid taxidermist. It’s been a passion of his since I got to know him.”
“I’m not eating in here.” Tony looked around. Different stuffed animals stared at them. There were several beavers and even an otter or two. A large black bear stood on its hind legs in the one corner. What looked like a parliament of owls decorated a large mantelpiece to the side.
Gibbs grunted in agreement. He hoped that the animals were limited to the living area and nowhere else. “Martin said the bedrooms are upstairs.” He looked on as Tony nodded and took hold of the two bags. The younger man disappeared up the stairs and Gibbs started looking for the coffee. An earth shattering scream had him reach for his weapon even before the sound died down.
“What the fuck! There’s a stuffed dog in the fucking toilet.” Tony’s voice sounded down from the top floor.
He holstered his sidearm and slowly made his way up to the top floor. He found Tony in the doorway to the bathroom. “That’s Bravo. Martin loved that dog.” Gibbs made sure not to look too long at the dog. It remained creepy.
“I don’t give a shit what it was called.” Tony closed the door and shuddered. “There’s a full bathroom down the hall across from the main bedroom. It’s free from any signs of animal life – dead or alive.”
Gibbs smiled. “Good, we’ll use that one.” He turned around and headed down the stairs again. “I still need coffee.” He could hear as Tony followed him and silently smiled as he thought that although the different animals were definitely something to get used to, it lifted Tony’s spirit in some sort of a way. In his opinion that counted as a win, even if it was only for a little while.
Gibbs looked on as Tony sighed and leaned back against his chest. They were sprawled out on the large bed after having dinner that consisted of baked potatoes, salad and cowboy steaks. He’d thought it would be hard for Tony to share a bed with him again, but they settled in comfortably.
He watched as Tony moved so that he could get a better look at him. He saw Tony’s eyes rest on the surgically repaired wound in his side. It was still bandaged, but Tony knew how it looked beneath. He had let Tony dress it after he showered. He could see the cogs turning in Tony’s head.
“You know it’s not your fault,” Gibbs spoke up and Tony raised his head.
“You could’ve died because of me.”
He delivered the head slap with more force than the one earlier in the day.
Gibbs shook his head. “No, no if’s.” He moved a bit so that he could see Tony better. “Thompson was a psychopath, but to you and to Brad he was first a friend and later your lover. You…”
Tony had gone stiff in his arms and then abruptly stood up from the bed. “I need air.” He didn’t wait for a response, but stormed from the room.
Gibbs sighed. He should’ve known it was too soon, but he didn’t want to see Tony drown in the guilt he carried with him. He got out of bed and made his way down the stairs. “That won’t solve the problem, Tony.” He looked on as Tony cracked the seal and brought the bottle of bourbon up to his lips and drank straight from it.
Tony looked up. “That’s what you do, so why can’t I?”
Gibbs held his tongue. It did sound hypocritical coming from him. “Because, I can tell you that even after more than ten years, the pain doesn’t go away and it doesn’t matter just how much you drink. The pain always comes back, a bit numb in the beginning, but it always returns with a vengeance.”
Tony snorted. “Leave me be, Gibbs. I’m not in a mood for a lecture.” He took the bottle and headed to the back porch.
Gibbs pinched the bridge of his nose and counted to ten. He knew he had to be patient. This thing with Thompson had a larger impact on Tony than what he could imagine. He knew that the friend – turned serial killer, played a very important role in Tony’s life. He’d met Tony after Gibbs, and the rest of the team, kicked Tony to the sideline and left him there. Things were worse, because knowing Tony, he was also guilt tripping himself. Not only for the fact that he had to kill the other man, but also that he didn’t pick it up sooner and tried to get Thompson help. The thing was, people, monsters like Thompson, they didn’t want any help. To them, they were perfectly fine. He sighed and then headed into the kitchen area. Gibbs made himself some coffee and then headed out as well. He didn’t say a word to the other man, but merely sat down on the bottom step next to Tony and waited.
He looked up when the bottle hit the wooden porch with a thud. It was just under half. Gibbs rose to his feet and headed back into the cabin. He returned with a bottle of water and placed it next to Tony’s hand before he took his seat again. Neither one said a word.
“He left me a letter.” Tony cleared his throat. “I think he wrote it after he found out that we fucked.” He reached into his back pocket and removed a creased piece of paper. He kept it folded up. Tony sniffed hard and wiped his face. He took a deep breath and looked at Gibbs. “He loved Frank Sinatra.” Tony smiled. “He always threatened me, saying that if I told anyone, he would tell everyone that I ship Drarry in Harry Potter.” Tony snorted. “And now he’s dead, and I killed him.”
Gibbs frowned. The first part of what Tony said made sense, but the last part he didn’t understand at all. He decided that now wasn’t the time to ask questions. He shifted closer and pulled Tony to him. When Tony rested his head on his shoulder, Gibbs felt himself relax.
“He made me feel alive. He made me believe in myself again. He made me realize that me playing the clown wasn’t good for me. That I was selling myself short and that I deserved better.” Tony stopped talking. “And then he turned out to be a serial killer. One who manipulated those around him. He was a pathological liar, had no remorse for any of his actions and killed innocent people because he wanted to. How the hell can I believe anything he said to me? How can I profile anyone if I couldn’t even spot a psychopath who was more than just a friend? It means that what I believed about myself and what you and the rest of the team believed of me, was true. I’m shallow. I’m the joker with narcissistic tendencies.” Tony stumbled to his feet. “It’s so fucking messed up, Gibbs! I don’t know what to do, what to think, or to believe anymore. I just want to close my eyes and never wake up again.” His legs gave way and he landed hard on the ground. He sobbed with the clutched letter still in his hand.
Tony’s words made Gibbs’ gut turn. He never knew Tony contemplated dying or even taking his own life. As Tony fell to the ground, he was next to him in a second. His injured side protested as he kneeled next to the man. Without hesitating, he pulled Tony up from the ground and held him against him. Tony cried in silence. If it weren’t for the fact that his shoulders shook, Gibbs wouldn’t have known that he was crying. Time passed and he had no idea on how long they stayed in that position, but finally, Tony moved and sat up straight. It was Gibbs’ cue to move. He managed to get to his own feet and pulled Tony up. Gibbs guided Tony into the house and up the stairs. He covered Tony’s hand with his and when Tony opened his hand, he took the letter and placed it on the night table. Gently he made Tony sit on the side of the bed and stripped him of his clothes, before he took off his own and settled them both in bed. He gathered Tony against his chest, but remained silent. He would talk to Tony in the morning. Now, both of them needed to sleep.
Gibbs awoke suddenly. For a moment, he had no idea where he was before he remembered. He turned over and frowned at the empty bed. He placed his hand on the sheet and found it to be cold. Gibbs turned his head and listen. He couldn’t hear any sounds coming from downstairs. He looked around the room and noticed that the clothes Tony had on the previous day were no longer where he’d folded them. Something wasn’t right. Gibbs got up and grabbed his own trousers. He struggled to get them on, his body stiff from the long drive yesterday and lugging Tony around last night. He looked around, the letter was no longer on the table and Tony’s bag he brought in was gone. Gibbs hurried from the room. “Tony!” He called out, but received no answer. “DiNozzo!” He could hear the fevered pitch in his voice as he took the stairs three at a time.
The bottom half of the cabin was devoid of any life. Gibbs headed towards the door when his eye caught something on the kitchen counter. He grabbed the note and opened it. It was short and to the point. He placed it back on the counter and sat down. It seemed like Tony decided on what to do, but this time he would wait and when Tony returned, he would make sure Tony knew that he was indeed loved.
Thank you. I’ll be in touch. Watch your six.
‘I can go where life leads me and somehow I know I’ll be strong’.
I need to find my own strength.