This is a piece of fanfiction and is written purely for entertainment purposes. I do not own the characters of Gibbs, Dinozzo, Kate, Ducky, Abby or McGee, nor do I own the backstory of NCIS, this story is written as an homage to the clever creators and writers of a series I enjoy, and no infringement of copyright is intended.

Summary:- Tony is injured but no one knows how or why? That's bad enough but why doesn't he want help, who or what is he covering for?

Caught Between a Rock and a Gibbs

Tony tried hard to lengthen his stride and lighten his step as he entered the NCIS offices but the pain and stiffness were just too powerful to ignore. He'd hoped that the painkillers would have more effect but he'd barely made it in from the parking lot, there was no way that he was going to make it through the day without drawing attention to his injuries. He should have gone with plan B, which was to call in sick with stomach flu or something equally innocuous, but then, he had been fairly sure that Gibbs wouldn't buy that, and if he happened to send someone over to check up on him. . . Well that was what had made plan A seem that much more attractive. All he had to do was claim that he had fallen down the stairs, play down his injuries and hope that they didn't get called out on anything energetic, like interviewing little old ladies for example.

Tony scanned the area around his desk, the good news was that Gibbs wasn't there yet, so he might make it to his seat without too much trouble. Then, all he had to do was pray that he just got research assignments all day, not much chance of that, he really hadn't thought this through properly. Kate was there but she looked like she was engrossed in something so he took the chance and continued to shuffle forward towards his desk. He froze as she looked up.

"Hey Tony," she began, ready to start off with some of their usual banter, but taking in his appearance her face registered some concern. "My God, what happened to you?"

Tony swallowed, "I. . er. . .had a run in with some stairs and I think they won." He paused, pasting on his best smile, "But I gave them a good fight and they look almost as bad as I do."

"Stairs Tony?" Kate questioned, "I thought you lived in a ground floor apartment."

Tony smiled enigmatically and raised his eyebrows, "I didn't say the stairs were at my place," he stated, beginning the slow shuffle forward again.

"You're sure that some jealous husband didn't give you a hand with your 'fall'?"

Tony was about to reply when familiar but unwelcome tones chimed in from behind. "You been upsetting some jealous husband Dinozzo?"

Tony looked heavenward, briefly questioning his boss's usual ineffable timing before directing his glare at Kate. "Er.. no boss just a little fall is all." He waited until Gibbs was fully past him and focussed on taking a sip of his coffee before starting forward again, he moved as quickly as he could, aiming to sit down before Gibbs got himself settled, then he might not notice. . . .He stopped and gasped as a sharp pain lanced up from his lower back, pulling his focus from everything else.

Gibbs had reached his desk and turned, "Dinozzo?" Gibbs questioned, "are you sure that you are fit for work today?" He paused, taking in Tony's pale complexion and traces of a mark just around the hairline. " 'Cos if you can't give me 100 per cent then you're no good to me."

Tony took in a deep breath and tried to relax as he willed the pain to subside. "No, I'll be OK I just need to sit down for a while, it's just a few bruises and I'm a little sore," he stated, forcing another smile, "I can still use my computer though, I can still be useful here."

Gibbs took another sip of coffee to cover further scrutiny. "Now what makes you think that you are ever useful?" He stated, dropping into his chair and picking up the first of the reports from his desk.

Kate grinned, enjoying the barb that was so expertly aimed at Tony's insecurities, but her smile quickly turned to a frown as she watched him resume his slow shuffle round to his own seat. It looked like more than a little stiffness from where she was sitting. "Tony, did you perchance do something sensible like visit the Emergency Room after your little dispute with the stairs? Get yourself checked out?"

Tony stopped once more and turned to look at her, the ER was the last place he could afford to go with his injuries, too many questions would be asked. "Ahh Kate, better not ask questions like that, people might actually think you cared, besides, I told you I'm fine, just bruised."

"Well its not that I actually care." Kate stated, "It's just the last thing we need is you sitting there grimacing and groaning at us all day so I think it might be an idea if you go and get yourself checked out."

Tony reached his chair with a mixture of relief and triumph. He had made it this far, and even that had seemed a little uncertain at one point, with a bit of luck he could get away without moving for the rest of the day. He gripped the desk and gently lowered himself into his seat, stifling the sharp intake of breath, he forced himself to respond to the friendly banter. He was working on damage limitation now. He should have gone with plan B, he'd known that since climbing from his car, but even at that point he had been committed, too many people had seen him to just turn tail and run. Maybe if he kept things as normal as possible they'd cut him some slack. "Hey, I haven't groaned once since I got here, and I wouldn't know how to grimace. That sort of facial distortion is reserved for people like. . ." he swivelled his chair round to look at Gibbs, who gave him one of his 'go on I dare ya' glares. Tony quickly switched his attention to the junior agent behind him. ". . .Mcgee."

'He's trying way too hard, something's wrong,' the thought made Gibbs frown, he knew Tony far too well, if he had hurt himself the way he said, then he would be doing his best to elicit sympathy and licking his wounds, not trying hard to pretend that there was nothing wrong with him. His injuries were also clearly worse than he claimed, time to find out exactly how bad. He threw his pen down onto the floor in the gap between the desks. "Hey Tony, I dropped my pen, could you get that for me?" Gibbs asked looking at him pointedly.

Tony drew in as deep a breath as he could manage, the deliberate gesture wasn't lost on him, he glanced over at Kate and then at McGee, so much for not drawing too much attention to himself.

"Your pen boss?" Tony asked, stalling for time as his mind tried to work out the least painful way to do as he'd been asked.

"My Pen," Gibbs confirmed.

Tony looked down at the object on the floor, it was about six feet away but it felt like there was a chasm between him and it. "You'd like me to pick up that pen from the floor?"

"Did I just start speaking in some foreign language without realising it Dinozzo? Yes, My pen, and preferably before I grow old waiting."

Tony forced his best smile, "Sure Boss," he said with false confidence, bracing himself before pushing himself to his feet. It took far too long and far too much effort, and he was acutely aware that all eyes were on him, He took a step unable this time to hide the grimace as another pain lanced through his back.

McGee exchanged a worried glance with Kate, "Er, why don't you let me get that for you," he directed his comment at Gibbs, standing nervously. He could see how much pain Tony was in and it went against his grain to see anyone struggling like this.

"Sit down McGee," Gibbs tone was commanding, leaving no room for argument, McGee sat. His tone then softened as he tilted his head slightly. "Tony said he would get it for me, didn't you?" The challenge was clearly there.

Tony nodded, the thin sheen of sweat clearly visible now, he concentrated on taking the next step but again the knife like pain took his breath away. He forced himself to ignore it as he pushed his foot forward 'just gotta take the next step'.

Gibbs eyes never left the younger man as he carried on his visual assessment, and he didn't like the conclusions he was beginning to draw. Kate had been right it didn't look like Tony belonged at work or even at home resting, he needed medical attention. He idly wondered how far Tony would push himself to cover whatever it was he was trying to cover, no matter, the time had come to bring this charade to a halt.

Tony was almost in position to bend to pick up the pen when his knees buckled, his focus had been entirely on his objective and he hadn't noticed Gibbs coming round his desk, but he felt the strong hands that caught him and pulled him back to standing, felt his arm being draped over a firm shoulder, and tried to process the other sensations as the nausea hit. The edges of the world grayed and then swirled before he pulled it back into focus.

Gibbs reacted swiftly as he watched Tony's legs give out, "Dammit," he uttered softly, acknowledging to himself that his test had gone too far, he should have realised how bad things were without pushing. He caught Tony and was relieved to feel some strength and not just a dead weight, so he turned him and provided the support needed to keep him on his feet. "Kate, give me a hand," the order was terse, "McGee, get on the phone to Ducky, tell him we've got a patient for him and we're on the way down."

Kate came up on the opposite side of Tony and took some of his weight as she draped his other arm over her shoulder. Gibbs barely waited until she was in position before he started the three of them moving.

"Tony," Gibbs tried to get the younger man's attention, the uncharacteristic use of his first name signalling his concern, but he didn't respond, he tried again. "Come on Dinozzo talk to me?"

"Sorry Boss," Tony managed to mutter as he attempted to force his breathing to slow, "Didn't get your pen." His lower back seemed to be on fire, dulling the rest of his pains to insignificance, there was more agony with every step, he did his best to focus his thoughts, to try to figure a way out of this. There was no way they were going to believe his story once they got a look under his shirt. He lamented again the fact that he had not just stayed home and taken his chances. "Should've gone with plan B," he mumbled, unaware that he was thinking aloud.

Gibbs strained to hear him, he had caught the apology but not what followed. He looked across at Kate. "What was that?"

"Something about a plan B, I didn't catch it all." Kate stated, worried by the way Tony's head was beginning to loll forward and the pasty pallor of his skin.

"Tony?" Gibbs tried again, but there was no indication that he had been heard.

By the time they made it into the elevator, they were taking more and more of Tony's weight as he became weaker, so it was a relief to be able to lean back against the walls and let it take some of the burden.

Gibbs exchanged another worried look with Kate, Tony's eyes were clenched shut and sweat now rolled down his face, from this close he could see what looked like traces of blood, still concealed by the hair, there had been an attempt to clean it, but part of a cut was visible. He let out a frustrated sigh, 'Dammit Tony what happened to you and why don't you want me to know?'