Authors note: This story was written after watching the movie Sleepy Hollow. No headless horsemen appear, however. Celestial1 was again most helpful in her suggestions, and whilst I have followed them, I am not sure it has worked out as well as I wanted it to. Still, if I fiddle with this anymore it is going to implode, so I will now post it and hope for minimal cringing. Yeah, its a little cliché. Everyone's entitled to some of those, right?
And now for the warning. Ooh how ominous. Celestial1 gave me a head slap from the other side of the world for this, lol. I have gotten a little homicidal (a little? haha), and it will become apparent quite quickly who will be doing the dying. What is it called in this place? Character death. Thou art warned.
He ran as if his life depended on it, and in one of those horrible realisations you get when you least want or expect it, he realised it did. If he stopped, if he faltered, he was dead. His eyes would close to this world, and having little to no opinion on the presence of a higher power, he thought, perhaps not open to another.
He could see nothing but masses of tall green stalks in front of him, around him, behind him. He pushed them aside as he ran. Above him was a blanket of stars. He had lost track of where he was what felt like hours ago. He could only run, and hope. Hope that his tired legs would keep him going. Hope hat the pounding footsteps behind him would fade. Hope that Gibbs was out there in the night somewhere too, looking. And then, as they caught up to him, as he stumbled and fell, as he felt a fire burn its way through his stomach, he didn't just hope Gibbs was looking for him.
He hoped that he would find him.
As his eyes swept over another empty room, Gibbs felt the frustration growing inside of him. He was angry with the people they were chasing, he was angry with DiNozzo, for letting himself get into this situation, and he was angry with himself. He had underestimated people, something he never allowed himself to do.
He had never lost an agent, and he sure as hell wasn't going to lose one now. If something happened to Tony, he would kill him himself. He didn't even let the thought that he could already be dead develop fully in his mind. DiNozzo would not die. He wouldn't dare.
Running out of the dilapidated house, their aggravation growing after such a fruitless search, Kate and Gibbs stood for a moment, catching their breath, both thinking through all the possible places Tony could still be. He was here somewhere. They knew it.
Then, out of the darkness, somewhere beyond the edge of the massive field of corn that stood huge and imposing in front of them, two shots were fired.
Gibbs was running as soon as he heard it. Kate wasn't far behind. They were about to enter an impossible labyrinth and they would probably get lost, probably spend hours searching. They didn't think about that, though. They could only think of those shots, echoing around them like thunder.
Cold water touched his face, and his eyes snapped open, to see rain falling around him in a fine, misty curtain. Then, realising his eyes had been closed, he sat bolt upright, crying out at the pain. How long had he been asleep? He couldn't sleep now, he had to stay awake, had to listen in case anyone came looking for him. No, Gibbs was looking for him. Gibbs would find him. He always did.
Lowering painfully back to the ground, he waited until the pain reduced to a dull ache and he could breathe again. The rain continued to fall, feeling like little pins of ice, and the pain faded to the back of his awareness as the cold took over. His body was shaking of its own accord.
He was running out of time.
"DiNozzo!" Gibbs stopped running, unable to stay quiet any longer. They may as well have been going in circles.
Kate was looking around them, the worry and fear in her eyes obvious. "Gibbs, if they're out here and they hear you…"
"Then they hear us. This is futile. We could spend hours searching, and Tony doesn't have that kind of time."
Kate considered this; following as Gibbs took off running again, before calling out as well, her voice swallowed up by the dark that surrounded them.
"Tony!" Hearing nothing but the rain and the soft thumping of Gibbs shoes as an answer, Kate could feel the cold hand of defeat begin to steal its way into her soul.
As he once again drifted closer to the conscious world, he heard something which could have been his name. But then there was the feel of his blood warm against his hands, and he decided he must have been dreaming.
His eyes began to slide closed, and he heard it again. His name. Someone was calling his name. He tried to keep his eyes open, tried to focus. He knew he should be trying to do something. Trying to do anything that would help them find him. He had to do something. Had to…
Summoning up what little energy he had left, knowing this was his last chance for survival, he tried to call out. His voice sounded weak and hoarse, and he knew that it would take a miracle for anyone to have heard him.
Just before the darkness claimed him completely, an anguished sob escaped him, and he prayed for death to take him swiftly.
Gibbs stopped so suddenly that Kate would have run into him if she hadn't stopped herself. They had both heard it. Before Kate could even blink, Gibbs was moving, heading in the direction of the noise, and Kate was once again forced to stay far enough behind that the plants he shoved out of the way didn't swing back and hit her in the face.
He was running so fast he nearly missed it. In the meagre space of what counted as a clearing in this place, he saw it. The moon reflecting off the pale skin of someone's hand.
Dropping to his knees beside the body, Gibbs pressed his fingers to the cold neck and held his breath as he waited for a sign of life. As Kate pushed her way through the foliage and dropped down opposite him, phone in hand, he felt the faintest flutter against his fingertips. In lieu of anything else to use, he pulled off his jacket and pressed it to the bloody mess that was his agent's stomach. Kate grabbed his cold hand, looking worriedly at Gibbs.
"Tony?" All she got in response was a groan.
Gibbs took hold of his shoulder, squeezing gently. "Time to wake up, DiNozzo. You can sleep later."
His eyes scrunched up, obviously not happy with that suggestion, and despite the situation, Kate found herself laughing. "Come on sleeping beauty. You don't want to miss me begging, do you?"
Lashes heavy against pale cheeks fluttered, pain laced green eyes blinking slowly, before finally deciding they could remain open. "You…you'd never beg" The whispered words ended in a painful sounding cough, and blood, bright on his skin. Kate made the futile gesture of wiping it away. She brushed the hair back from his forehead, keeping her palm resting on the unnaturally warm skin.
"Don't talk, Tony." Gibbs lifted the edge of his jacket slightly, pressing it back down when he saw that the flow of blood was starting to slow.
"Why'd you…wake me…then?" That said, his eyes slipped shut again, his breathing evening out.
"Gibbs, how are we going to get him out of here?" Kate dropped her voice to a whisper, not wanting Tony to overhear, if he could. An ambulance had no way of reaching them here, and having barely any knowledge of their own location in the midst of the huge field, they could hardly expect anyone to be able to get to them anyway.
"We'll have to walk out."
"Tony's in no condition to walk!" She kept her expletive to a loud whisper, but she was looking at Gibbs in disbelief.
"I realise that, Agent Todd. If you have any better ideas now would be the time to share them."
"Maybe a helicopter? If we wait…"
"Waiting is something Tony can't afford right now." Kate bit her lip, nodding. She knew he was right.
Running her hand through his hair, she tried to coax him back to awareness. He managed to open his eyes, but obviously decided there was too much effort involved, and they slid shut again. "No Tony…you have to stay awake."
Gibbs mind was racing. They had to get Tony out of here, had to get him to hospital. There was no alternative, and the only way that was happening was if they made it out of this god forsaken field. "Tony," Gibbs placed a hand on either side of Tony's face as he spoke, "Come on DiNozzo."
His eyes were barely open before Gibbs kept talking. "I know you're tired, and I know it hurts, but we have to get out of here, and you have to help us. You got that?" He knew it was cruel, but he also knew Tony would rather gnaw his own foot off than disobey an order. Direct or not. Getting something which looked vaguely like a nod, Gibbs moved from his knees to his feet.
Once Kate had done the same, they both stood, pulling Tony up with them. He cried out, knees buckling, but between the two of them they managed to keep him standing. He ended up leaning heavily on Gibbs, breathing heavily.
They had made it maybe twenty metres when Tony's foot caught on something unseen, and he tripped forward. Unprepared, Kate and Gibbs went with him, landing on their hands and knees, Tony lying face down between them.
Cursing, Gibbs rolled Tony onto his back. His face was twisted in pain, dirt smeared across his cheek. He reached up and grabbed Gibbs arm in a weak grip.
"Boss I can't…I..." His sentence was finished prematurely by more coughing, which ended in a pain filled sob. Gibbs looked across at Kate, and he could see in her face the same defeat he was feeling in his gut.
Running a hand through his messy brown hair, Kate gripped the hand she held that little bit tighter. "Its okay, Tony…you're going to be fine."
"Always knew you were…a bad liar."
"Who's lying, DiNozzo? You're going to be fine, like she says."
"Boss, we're in the middle of a giant…corn field. If I had to choose a place to die…well, this is impressive enough. Reminds me of that movie…"
Kate laughed at that, pushing the hair back off his face again. If there was ever a time she was going to put up with his odd movie references, it was now. "Yeah? Which one?"
Gibbs gave her an irritated look, but she just shook her head, silently begging him to let her do this. It didn't matter, though. The weak grip on her hand had gone slack, and when she looked at Tony's face, she saw that his eyes were closed, his face peaceful. "Oh, god…"
Gibbs didn't say anything, reaching forward and pressing two fingers against the cold neck. When he couldn't find a pulse, he moved his hands to Tony's chest, starting compressions. As soon as he stopped, Kate shifted forward and placed her mouth over Tony's and blew, pushing air into the motionless lungs. She had the quick and unwarranted thought that he would be getting a kick out of this.
After several minutes had passed, Kate sat back, tears in her eyes. Gibbs didn't stop, regardless of Kate's inaction. His movements had become more forceful, less accurate. "Don't do this to me, Tony."
"Gibbs, it's not…it's not working." When he ignored her, Kate reached out and grabbed his arm in a surprisingly strong grip. "Gibbs!"
Hearing the desperation in her voice, Gibbs finally stopped, looking down at the pale face of his senior field agent. He was eerily still. Tony was never supposed to be that still.
Sitting back on his knees, he looked across at Kate. Tears were running down her face, and she wasn't making any attempt to wipe them away. For the first time in a long time, he had no idea what to do, or think. Tony couldn't be dead. This was not supposed to happen.
A gut wrenching sob brought his attention back to Kate. In a move filled with desperation, she pulled Tony's upper body off the ground, holding him against her in an awkward hug, falling back off her knees to sit heavily on the ground. Her sobs continued unabated, stealing her breath. It was the first time Gibbs had seen her break down this completely, showing so much vulnerability.
Tony was the one person on his team that Gibbs felt he could depend on, no matter what. He trusted them all, sure. But with Tony…there was something different. Something innately trustworthy about him. Gibbs never felt he had to question his loyalty. And now that was gone. He felt like the frustration would consume him.
Kate didn't put up any resistance as Gibbs pulled Tony from her arms, lowering his body gently back to the ground. Holding the limp hand in his own, he stroked his callused thumb across the cold skin in a repetitive motion, willing himself to hold it together. "Damn it, DiNozzo." His voice was choked and he closed his eyes angrily when he felt tears forming.
He didn't cry. He wouldn't.