A/N: The initial idea of this story belongs to a friend of mine, who's another big fan of hurt!Tony; I hope she likes it.

This story happens in season 10, but goes AU from there. (Possible minor spoilers for every seasons, nothing major, though.)

* It's totally Tony-Centric; consider yourself warned! (Since apparently I need to give a warning for that!)

AND I was reminded that I should warn Ziva and McGee's fans here, as well; let them know that this probably is not their story. So, if you love McGee and Ziva (especially Ziva) and don't see anything wrong with their behavior, I respect you and your opinion, but please turn around and look for another story.

Hope you enjoy it. :)

. The Most Important Rule .


They were all tired.

No, scratch that. They were all exhausted; spent; drained. The case they had in hand was a big one and they all had been working on it for two weeks straight and were still no closer to making a breakthrough.

At least Ducky and Abby weren't as busy as the rest of them, which wasn't exactly a comfort if you thought about it; because that meant there were not much evidence to work on and not enough evidence meant no lead. So, the ME and the Lab Tech. were mostly working for the other teams for the moment as the members of MCRT tried their every resources to find something useful for their case.

The latest thing that they'd come across was that more than one gang of gun dealers was involved in what at first seemed like a simple case and that the FBI had at least one undercover agent in one of those gangs. But so far, they had been unable to find any solid lead.

But because of the two dead sailors that had come their way, Gibbs wasn't about to let go of the case; he was determined to solve it at any cost.

And like the pressure of the case wasn't enough, Tony had to deal with some personal problems, as well. Checking his cellphone for the hundredth time that day, he was startled when it started to unexpectedly ring in his hand.

Everybody looked up as he answered the phone, thinking that it might be something related to the case. But when Tony stood up and left the area to answer it, they knew it was personal.

Two minutes later, a grief-stricken Tony came back and sat down heavily, unaware of the suspicious looks that his team was sending him.

"The case too boring for you, DiNozzo?" Gibbs growled from across the bullpen.

"Boss?" Tony looked up, confusion clear in his eyes.

"We don't have time for you to take personal calls." Gibbs glared at him one last time before leaving the bullpen for more coffee.

If Tony acknowledged his boss' comment, his face showed nothing and feeling disappointed at the lack of expression on Tony's face, Ziva and Tim went back to their own works.

Half an hour later when Gibbs finally strode back into the bullpen and sat down in his chair, neither Ziva, nor McGee were there as they'd left to get some lunch.

Approaching Gibbs' desk, Tony stood there quietly.


"Boss, I need-"

"Whatever it is, if it's not related to the case, can it." Gibbs growled, not letting Tony finish his sentence.

"But I really-" Tony started to protest but was once again interrupted.

"Did I stutter, DiNozzo?"

Tony blinked in shock, but decided to try once more. "It's important, Gibbs. I need-"

"I don't care what you need, DiNozzo." Gibbs all but shouted, causing Tony to take one step back. "Either get back to work now or don't bother coming back tomorrow."

Dejectedly, Tony staggered back to his chair and sat down; staring blankly at his computer screen. Finally after two minutes, he shook his head to clear his mind and clicked a few times on his mouse and then started to type something; after a few more clicks, he went to print out the form.

He didn't care what Gibbs said; he couldn't care, to be honest; he really needed some time off, two days at most, but he did need it; so when Gibbs ignored him and refused to even listen, he decided to take it to the Director. He wasn't sure that Vance would accept it, either- they were in the middle of something big, after all- but at least the Director would listen to his reasons.

Ten minutes later, Tony walked down the stairs and found the bullpen empty; Ziva and McGee were probably still off for lunch and Gibbs, Tony thought, must've gone for another coffee, most likely angry at him, again.

Shrugging, Tony decided that he had more important things to be worried about; he'd tried to talk to Gibbs, first; he really didn't want to get around him by going to Vance, but the older agent, once again obsessed with a case, hadn't even bothered to let him explain. So, Tony grabbed his stuff, wrote a note, put it on Gibbs' desk and left the office.


Friday morning saw Tony walking in the bullpen with steps lighter than when he'd left the place two days ago.

Sitting behind his desk, he booted his computer up and in the meantime started to check the notes on the case. He inwardly cringed when he saw that during the two days that he'd been absent, they'd made no progress at all.

'Great.' He thought to himself; no progress would've most definitely led to an even grumpier Gibbs, which was just what he needed after taking off without being able to explain things.

Right on cue, Gibbs strode into the bullpen and if he was surprised to find Tony there, he showed nothing.

"Oh, I did not know that you were still working here." Ziva's sarcastic voice filled the area and Tony looked up to see her entering the bullpen and sitting behind her desk. "It is very nice of you to join us. I was sure you have decided you could not take the pressure anymore and have run off and I was not surprised at all; you are not made for this job. You are just deadweight all the time."

Tony was momentary speechless; he, of course, had heard those words being said behind his back before, but to his face? Man, she was getting way too full of herself. He needed to find a way to put her in her place and for good, this time.

"She's right." McGee was suddenly there as well and Tony realized that he'd been so shocked by Ziva's words that he hadn't noticed when the younger man had arrived. "But I told her that you haven't taken off just like that." If it wasn't for the smirk on his face, Tony would've thought that at least his Probie knew better. "I told her that you've probably gone behind our back and taken another undercover mission."

"What the hell is your problem?" Tony growled. "I don't have to explain it to you whenever I need some time-off."

"Is that so, DiNozzo?"

'What? Gibbs, too?' But he'd tried to explain it to him. "Boss-"

"Save it, DiNozzo. Nobody cares."

"Yes, Tony. We do not care. You should have just stayed gone. You are not needed here."

"Yeah, that's why you've made so much progress in my absence." Tony couldn't help but retort sarcastically.

"At least, everyone else is committed enough to think about the innocent people more than themselves."

That last comment from Gibbs brought malicious smirks to Ziva and McGee's faces, while it filled Tony with dread. Did Gibbs really think like that about him? After so many years, did he still think that he wasn't devoted to the job and was so selfish?

If that was the case, Tony didn't have anything to say. Not there and then, at least. Gibbs wasn't ready to listen; so there was no point in wasting his breath. He decided that he'd go to Gibbs' house after work and would explain everything to him.

Tony didn't care about everyone else's opinion; it didn't matter to him what they thought about him. It was obvious that they still hadn't seen behind his many masks and if that was the case after so many years of working together, then there was no way Tony could make them see that now and he didn't give a damn, either. He just needed to clear the air with Gibbs, because he was aware that what the older agent was saying was solely because of his anger over an unsolved case.


It was almost half past nine when Tony arrived at Gibbs' house. To his surprise, Gibbs wasn't in the basement.

"Hey, Boss."

"What the hell do you want, DiNozzo?"

Tony winced; 'OK, so he's still angry.' "Look, Boss. I didn't mean to go behind your back-"

"Then why did you?"

"I tried to talk to you, but you wouldn't even let me open my mouth."

"And I had a good reason. We're in the middle of an important case; a case in the middle of which you decided that you were too good to waste your precious time on it."

"What?" Tony frowned. 'That again?' "Would you just let me talk? I actually can explain. I didn't take any undercover job, as McGee said and you know it wasn't about the pressure of the job or that kinda of BS. I needed the time because my-"

"I don't give a shit, DiNozzo." Gibbs spat angrily. "I told you that before you took off, too. What makes you think that things have changed? I don't care what you need or want. Nobody does. You're being paid to work and you'd damn better do that or you're off my team. I'm fed up with your slacking."

"Slack-" Tony was rendered speechless again. During the years, he'd seen Gibbs pissed, a lot, but it'd never been like this; the older man had never said such cruel things to him and it seemed like they all were hell-bent to prevent him from explaining the reason behind his actions. Would it kill them to actually talk to him like a normal human-being? To ask him what was going on instead of jumping to conclusions and treating him like crap? Would it kill them to actually let him explain when he was trying so hard to do so?

"Gibbs, you don't understand-"

"No, I don't. I don't understand what's possessed me to keep you around for so long." The older man said icily.

That was like a knife to the chest. Tony took a step back and clenched his fists in order to keep himself from inhaling sharply and showing how much that had hurt. Maybe it was time for a change of scenery. He was getting tired of orange walls anyway.

He was about to open his mouth to say something back and leave when suddenly the door to Gibbs' place was busted open and before they knew what was happening, a group of men with ski masks had them surrounded.

Both Gibbs and Tony had their guns pulled, but they were outnumbered and there was no way they could take out all the invaders; that didn't mean they didn't try, though; despite their earlier argument, they exchanged a look and with an almost invisible nod they opened fire; Tony managed to bring down three men before he received a blow to the head while Gibbs brought down two. He was hit in the head as well and less than a minute later, they were both taken to a van outside; leaving Gibbs' living room covered with blood and five dead bodies on the floor.


"Who the hell is this? I told you to bring me the Leader." A bald man with black eyes and a goatee said as soon as the door to the van opened and revealed Gibbs and Tony tied on the floor of the vehicle.

"He was there when we arrived." One of the masked men replied and Tony noted his accent. "He killed three of us. What were we supposed to do? You said we were not to shoot anyone."

"You bastard." The bald guy spat angrily and grabbed a hold of Tony's hair and pulled him out and dropped him to the ground; kicking him in the gut.

Tony growled behind the gag around his mouth and vaguely registered an angry growl coming from inside the van.

"He's your right-hand man, isn't he?" The bald guy asked Gibbs and all he received was an angry glare.

He chuckled. "Well, we don't need him but we can use him to make you talk." He then looked at one of his men and with a weird Spanish accent said, "Mátalo!"

"What?" The other guy with bad English accent jumped in before the order could be carried out. "You said you wanted to use him to make the old man talk."

The bald guy rolled his eyes. "And that's what I'm gonna do." He smirked impishly. "This way, he'll know we're serious." He then bent down and once again grabbed Tony's hair and forced him to his feet and then pushed him into the van.

Just as Tony was done struggling to pull himself to a sitting position, the bald guy pulled a gun from his waistband and pointed it at Tony's chest. "Hey, old man." He addressed Gibbs. "Keep your eyes open, you don't wanna miss this."

And just like that he pulled the trigger, once; twice and watched with morbid fascination as Tony's blood sprayed over Gibbs' face and chest; both agents looking shell-shocked.



... TBC ...

A/N: Share your thoughts with me?

Like my other stories, this one circles mostly around Tony and Gibbs; but you'll learn about the case and what Tony's problem had been.



All mistakes are mine.