Disclaimer: NCIS and its characters do not belong to me and I am making no money from this.
Thanks to Mr VP for the Beta, any remaining mistakes are mine
This is the end this time! Thank you for reading, I hope that you enjoy this chapter.
Gibbs paced the operations centre, his patience wearing very thin. Still in his combat fatigues he was waiting for a report from the recovery team that had been sent out to find DiNozzo. He had landed back at base over an hour ago with the rest of the squadron. Kate and he had processed the paperwork on Dafelmair and he was currently being held in a holding cell on the base until DiNozzo had been recovered. Gibbs wasn't about to leave one of his own behind.
Defelmair had had to be segregated from his former team mates once they realised that he had killed Fuentes. If he sported a few more bruises than when he had set out Gibbs was not of a mind to care. He pushed away the thought that the man may also have been responsible for the loss of his agent, that was not a path he wanted to follow.
"Have you got a fix on his tracker yet?" Gibbs voice was dangerously quiet to those who knew him, unfortunately for the operator he didn't know Gibbs at all and didn't know to be wary.
"Not yet Sir, the storm is causing interference."
"You do realise that Agent DiNozzo has never jumped before and just may have got into trouble," Gibbs voice remained silky smooth and Kate stepped over before the hapless operator landed himself in trouble.
"Perhaps we could have Abby tracking it as well Gibbs," she suggested. "I'll get on it," she hastily continued at his look, quickly getting the frequencies from the operator and calling the lab tech.
Tense minutes later Gibb's cell rang and he whipped it up to his ear. "Gibbs," he listened intently for a moment before continuing. "Good work Abbs, patch it through here." He closed the cell even as he looked over at the marine operator.
The man nodded silently, wisely refraining from commenting on the success of NCIS over his own work. "Got it Sir," he said moments later and indicated the plasma screen on the wall which was now showing an interactive map of the area.
"How far?" Gibbs asked brusquely.
"A couple of hours by road Sir," the man offered, shrinking back in his seat at being the bearer of bad news.
Gibbs looked at him blankly for a moment before barking out. "Get me Captain Faul."
"Can I help you Agent Gibbs?" the man in question chose that moment to enter the room. "Are we any closer to finding Agent DiNozzo?"
"We have a fix on the tracker, finally." Gibbs' look would have frozen water. "We need a helo to get there quickly."
"Now come on," the Captain began but Gibbs interrupted before he could even get started.
"Captain, my agent has never jumped before and has now been out of contact for nearly four hours. Couple that with the fact that one of your men was fronting a drug running operation and has already been responsible for the death of a fine marine. My gut is telling me that time is running out."
Captain Faul backed up slightly at the tirade; he knew an immovable force when he met one. Deciding that perhaps the man had a valid point he ordered the helicopter to lift off ASAP and silently asked Gibbs if he wanted to accompany the flight. He wasn't remotely surprised when the man practically marched out of the door.
Gibbs sat back in his seat and collected his thoughts. He had never had any trouble thinking during a flight, despite the noise. It felt better to be doing something; his gut was telling him that DiNozzo was in trouble. He hated that it had taken them so long to pick up a signal. He had an agent down there, one of his team, alone in the dark, possibly injured, way off the expected flight path and to top it all off the weather was filthy. He had no doubts about DiNozzo's ability to look after himself under normal and indeed many abnormal circumstances. The man was an excellent undercover operative; he could assume a new personality at the drop of a hat. Gibbs smiled slightly, who was he kidding, Tony masked his personality every day, gave everyone what they expected to see but behind the mask lay an intelligent, sensitive and insecure personality. One who meant a great deal to him and one he would get back.
Tony rolled his shoulders trying to ease the sharp ache between his shoulder blades. The ropes binding his hands behind his back were tight and biting into his skin. He tried, surreptitiously to loosen them as he watched the activity in front of him. Three of the men continued to load the truck with boxes that had been concealed in the hayloft while his original captor kept a close watch on him, his gun held loosely in his hand. Outside Tony could hear the rain falling again, drumming on the roof of the barn, the cavernous space making the sounds echo slightly.
Casting his eyes upwards he could make out two more boxes but the rest of the shadowy space seemed to be filled with hay. He shivered, his wet clothes clinging to him in the cold air. Time was running out, he could almost see the cogs turning in the Spaniard's head as he tried to decide whether it was worth the risk to trust his captive or not. It looked as though Dafelmair had been working alone at the base so they would need a contact there to continue the distribution. If they did trust him it could be worth staying undercover for a bit to try and bust more of the chain. That was fraught with problems though as all of Dafelmair's unit and many other marines had seen him during the investigation. DiNozzo looked over at his captor again, knowing, in his heart of hearts, that he was only deluding himself. It was easier to imagine going undercover than to think about what was most likely going to happen to him just as soon as the boxes had all been stowed. This time when he shivered it wasn't from the cold.
Five minutes later the last box was secured in the truck and the door slammed and locked in place. The three men got on board and looked expectantly at their leader. The Spaniard turned towards DiNozzo with a quiet smile and raised his weapon. Tony locked eyes with him, forcing himself to stand upright until the last moment when he figured he would dive to his right towards the pitch fork and at least try to defend himself. He was still watching the Spaniard's eyes for the first hint of movement when the man seemed to wilt in front of him and slip to the ground.
Belatedly he realised that the room was resounding with gunfire and he threw himself down behind the scant protection of a hay bale on the ground. The battle was brief. The drug dealers tried to escape in the truck but quickly found themselves with four flat tyres. With no transport and surrounded by silent marines with semi automatics common sense left them dropping their own weapons and surrendering.
Tony lay quietly letting his heart rate slow down to a breathable level. He tried to roll onto his knees, cursing as first his rib and then his knee protested the move. Strong hands gripped him from behind, freeing the restrictive bonds before helping him gently to his feet.
"You alright DiNozzo?"
Tony turned slowly, smiling at Gibbs, not in the least surprised to see him. "Sure thing Boss," he replied, willing the ex marine to keep a hold of his arm, standing seemed to be taking much more effort than it usually did.
Gibbs obviously realised his problem and silently tightened his grip, sliding his arm beneath the younger man's elbow to offer more support. "You hurt?" he asked quietly.
"Twisted my knee when I landed," DiNozzo risked a half truth. "You should try it Boss," he enthused. "I mean, apart from the getting stranded out in the rain and captured by drug runners bit it was great."
Gibbs smiled, his eyes reflecting his relief. "I look forward to reading your report," he said wryly. "Only you, DiNozzo could land yourself in quite this much trouble in one evening."
"Now, come on Boss that's not fair," Tony protested, wondering just how he was going to explain being captured not once but twice by the same gang. "They were expecting Dafelmair and they mentioned a base in San Fernandez."
"That's good work Tony," Gibbs complemented the younger man, narrowing his eyes as he looked at him more closely. "Where's your tracker?" he asked.
DiNozzo grimaced. "In the back of the truck I think, that's where I threw it."
Shaking his head Gibbs lifted Tony's arm around his shoulders, he could feel the younger man shaking slightly beneath him whether from cold or reaction he wasn't sure. Either way the rest of his story could wait until he was back in the warm. "Come on," he instructed, "there's a helo waiting to take us back to the base. I think we can let Captain Faul look after the details here.
Tony was quiet during the helicopter ride back to base and Gibbs let him be, he didn't really want a report shouted over headphones anyway. When they arrived he arranged with Captain Faul for a relief team to go out to the farmstead and transport the drug runners back by road. He wanted to get his team back to the Naval Yard and put the case to bed. He also wanted Ducky to take a look at Tony, he hadn't been fooled by the younger man's innocent expression earlier and his continued silence rather than his usual exuberance spoke of exhaustion if nothing else.
By the time they reached the car ready to drive back to headquarters it was nearly 04.00. They had collected Kate and Dafelmair who now both sat quietly in the back and Tony had changed into his own clothes, thankful to be dry for the first time in hours. The young man looked a little grey around the edges and was limping still despite the strapping around his knee. Gibbs had already called Ducky and the ME would be waiting for them when they arrived. Abby, vastly relieved at Tony's safe return, was beginning the work on tracing the roots of the drug running operation. She had sounded her usual breezy self despite the early hour and was starting with the names supplied by Dafelmair and those that DiNozzo had overheard. Gibbs smiled to himself, all in all a good job done, he decided glancing at a subdued Dafelmair in the rear view mirror and across at DiNozzo who appeared to have fallen asleep. Yeah, a good job.
Tony squirmed under Ducky's gaze, the ME's gently probing fingers had elicited a sharp intake of breath that he had been unable to contain. Mind you, once you got a good look at the bruises covering his chest there really was no way to talk himself out of anything anyway. Not that he wasn't grateful to the elderly physician, he did feel like crap and wanted nothing more than to get to bed and sleep for a week, but Gibbs was standing watching and he hadn't been entirely truthful earlier. He smiled ruefully over at his boss.
"Something you forgot to mention DiNozzo?" the question lacked its usual bite.
Tony tried a smile and his best innocent expression.
This time the "DiNozzo," was more forceful.
"Sorry Boss," he really was too tired and sore to push it. "The guy with the gun thought it would be a good way to warn me off the first time."
"The first time?" Gibbs' voice was taking on a hard edge.
"Um, yeah. They were expecting me; well they were expecting Dafelmair at any rate. I didn't get a chance to say anything; they had me lie on the ground while they had their little chat. Very informative by the way," Tony continued quickly at Gibbs' look. "Anyhow I realised I was going to have to talk my way out but he didn't give me a chance, just kicked me a couple of times and told me to , "Get the hell off my land."
Gibbs shook his head and looked over at Mallard. "Duck?" he asked.
"I'll do an x-ray but I'd say he broke a rib Tony and you have some nasty bruises which will be sore for a while. You were right about your knee though, a sprain which I know you've had before so you know what to do with it. Lie back for a moment while I get the x-ray machine."
DiNozzo did as he was told and waited, he knew what was coming and Gibbs didn't disappoint.
"And the second time DiNozzo?"
Tony smiled over at the older man, he may have sounded like a bear with a sore head but he could see the concern in his eyes. "I waited until they had all got in the truck to go then I threw my tracker into the back and ducked down. I figured they'd get a nasty surprise when you caught up with them." Tony's eyes lit up as he said that and Gibbs smiled with him.
"That left you without any means of contact," he reminded his agent.
"I couldn't just let them get away; I knew you'd find me, even if I had to wait until morning."
Gibbs shook his head, taken aback by the level of trust Tony had shown him. "But you decided to follow them," he began.
"No way Boss," Tony interrupted, "I took off in the other direction, couldn't move that fast the ground was uneven and it was dark so I had to walk for quite a while. Eventually I saw a light, could just see a person open a door. I knew I had to be careful but it was pretty cold by then so I thought I'd just take a look. Guess I got careless," he admitted. "Sorry Boss."
Gibbs shook his head again. "You didn't get careless Tony," he said, "you got unlucky. Thanks to you we have a lead on a much bigger operation than we expected. You did good," he finished simply.
"Thanks Boss." Tony smiled at the rare praise and lay back wearily, content finally, to let his guard down, knowing that Gibbs was there to watch his six.