Disclaimer: NCIS and its characters do not belong to me and I am making no money from this.

Many thanks to Mr VP for the Beta and to Cold Ember for making sure this isn't too 'English.' Any remaining mistakes are mine.

Outside the basement the storm raged, it made a soothing counterpoint to the rasp of the plane and Gibbs sighed deeply, content to relax after the rigours of the day. The ringing of his cell brought a grimace to his face but he picked it up immediately nonetheless and barked into it, glancing first at the caller ID, DiNozzo. "Gibbs."

"Your package is waiting outside." The voice was deeper than that of his senior field agent and carried no inflection at all. Gibbs' frown deepened even as he hurried up the basement steps. "Hello?" he tried, realising the futility as he heard the dial tone. Pressing his speed dial he got through to Abby. "Abbs, put a trace on DiNozzo's cell, get back to me." Hanging up he could imagine the frown on her face but he had no time to worry about that. His gut was on high alert. Pocketing his cell and drawing his Sig in one smooth motion he approached his door. He peered through the spy hole but saw nothing. Taking a deep breath he whipped the door towards him, gasping as he recognised his 'package' huddled on his front doorstep. Taking a protective stance over the package he quickly swept the area. There was no movement but a muddy footprint caught his eye and he instinctively covered it with the doormat for later. Right now he had more pressing concerns.

Looking again at the bundle at his feet he muttered "What have you gotten into now?" His voice full of concern and his fingers gentle he felt for a pulse on Tony's neck. The man was soaked to the skin and blue with cold, his face lit by the light from the hall was covered in cuts and bruises. Finding a steady beat beneath his fingers Gibbs gently tapped the younger man on the face. "Tony, come on DiNozzo, wake up." He was rewarded with a low moan and a flickering of eyelashes. "Can you tell me where you're hurt?" Gibbs coaxed. He didn't want to cause more damage by moving Tony but was very aware of how vulnerable they were on the doorstep. When no further response was forthcoming he took hold of his agent's shoulders and pulled him as gently as he could inside before quickly shutting and bolting the door.

Without wasting a moment he darted through to the kitchen and secured the back door, calling McGee and arranging for backup and an ambulance as he did so. He then grabbed some clean towels and blankets from the hall closet and returned to DiNozzo. The younger man was stirring slightly, pulling his knees up into a foetal position. Gently Gibbs pulled his hands away and quickly unbuttoned the sodden shirt which was all Tony wore from the waist up. The cloth was ripped in places and clung to the damaged skin beneath his hands. He eased it away as carefully as he could and wrapped his shivering agent in first towels and then blankets. DiNozzo was covered in bruises and Gibbs grimaced as he recognised a boot print on his side. Moving to Tony's legs Jethro realised that he wore nothing on his feet which were icy cold to the touch. He reached for the belt of DiNozzo's pants but stopped when he saw a piece of paper sticking out from the waistband. Not wanting to waste time with gloves he took the corner of a towel and eased it out carefully, dropping it to the floor where it flapped open leaving its stark message in plain view.


Gibbs barely spared it a glance as Tony groaned beneath his ministrations, struggling towards consciousness. "Take it easy," he urged, pulling the blankets more tightly around his shivering agent, putting himself in the way of the draught from the door.

"I'm sorry," Tony whispered so quietly Gibbs had to strain to hear him.

"Nothing to be sorry for Tony," he soothed, unconsciously stroking back the strands of damp hair from his agent's forehead.

"I won't do it again, I'm sorry."

"What won't you do again?" Gibbs spoke more loudly, worry evident in his voice.

Tony opened his eyes slowly, squinting against the light. "Boss?" he whispered, confusion in his face. "What happened?"

Gibbs realised that the younger man hadn't been talking to him, had perhaps been reliving something from his past, he filed it away for later instead asking in turn. "You tell me Tony, what do you remember?"

DiNozzo closed his eyes and took a careful breath. "I remember leaving the office. I think I got home."

"You were going to get a pizza on the way, said something about Mario's."

"I think," he paused, wincing as he shifted slightly, "yeah, I did, Mario threw in some of Gina's sweet cakes," Tony smiled around a split lip at the memory.

"Did you take them home?" As he spoke Gibbs removed the last of Tony's sodden clothing and wrapped him carefully in the rest of the blankets. His mind was working overtime, he couldn't shake the feeling that trouble was still lurking around the corner. THIS TIME I MAKE THE RULES.

Beside him on the floor Tony nodded slightly. "I did get home, I put the pizza on the counter, I remember kicking off my shoes and jacket, was just about to go eat when there was a knock at the door. It felt wrong so I took my Sig, looked through the spy hole," he frowned faintly, remembering. "Apparently I took too long to answer the door, they kicked it in. I tried Boss," he sighed regretfully, "I landed a few but there were too many of them." He let his head fall back exhausted.

"Do you remember how you got here?"

"DiNozzo shook his head slightly, immediately regretting the movement. "I have vague flashes, outside somewhere, it was wet, a train maybe. Sorry Boss, I'm really not sure, think I must have lost consciousness."

I'm not surprised, Gibbs thought, but kept it to himself. He looked at his watch, what was keeping that ambulance? DiNozzo's face looked pinched with pain and cold but he seemed more alert for which Gibbs was grateful, the younger man had some deep bruising around his left eye and may well have a concussion. Grabbing his cell he called McGee again for an update.

The young agent answered on the first ring. "Sorry Boss," he began, bringing a frown to his supervisor's face which he must have been aware of for he hurried on quickly. "There has been an explosion down town, all available crews are involved. Ducky's on his way to you now."

"Good work McGee," Gibbs acknowledged, thinking quickly. "I need you and Ziva to head over to Tony's apartment, he was attacked and dumped on my doorstep." He ignored McGee's quick intake of breath and hurried on. "Tell Abby and Palmer to stay at NCIS, no-one is to go out without backup. As soon as you process Tony's apartment drop the evidence off with Abbs and then both of you head over here, there's a footprint that may be relevant." He hung up and dialled Abby. "Abbs, where's Tony's cell?"

"It's switched off Gibbs, I'm all set to go as soon as it comes on again. What's up?" she sounded worried.

"Tony was attacked, he's with me," Gibbs gave her the shortened version. "McGee will fill you in but I want you to stay where you are. Something's hinky," he added for her benefit.

"Is he alright?" she asked nervously, picking up easily that Gibbs hadn't mentioned her friend's condition at all.

"He's been beaten Abbs, he'll be ok but right now I need to look after him and I need you to stay put."

"You just take care of him Bossman."

"Good girl," he said hanging up and turning back to his charge. "Ducky's on his way."

"Good, don't want to go to the hospital."

"That's up to Ducky," Gibbs countered, taking in the pale face with the darkening bruises. Hearing a car outside he quickly reached up and turned off the light before grabbing his Sig and going to the door. He peered through the spy hole and, satisfied, opened it quickly to let the elderly Medical Examiner inside. "Thanks for coming so quickly Duck," he said, watching as the ME knelt down beside Tony.

"I left Mr Palmer finishing up on the Grieves autopsy, "Mallard stated as he shone a penlight in DiNozzo's eye. "He knows not to go home. What's going on Jethro?"

"Not sure yet Duck," Jethro indicated the note on the floor with his head. "Look after Tony for me and then we'll see."

"Of course," Ducky replied kindly, carefully pulling aside the blankets and towels to look at DiNozzo's torso. "Dear me, Anthony," he continued, "that must be painful hmm, let's see about making you more comfortable."

Ten minutes later Mallard straightened up and helped Tony into a sitting position. He had bathed the wounds on the younger man's face and body and wrapped his ribs, one or two of which he suspected were cracked. Now he wanted to move them to somewhere warmer and more comfortable so that he could suture the cuts around the eye and cheek bone. He looked over at the stairs and found Gibbs waiting with a set of sweats in his hands. "These should fit him Duck, I've put the fire on in the living room. Stay away from the window."

"Excellent Jethro, help me get Tony to the sofa and then I think something warm to drink and not strong coffee for us please," he added with a smile.

Positioning themselves on either side of DiNozzo they gently helped him to his feet and into the living room where they settled him on the sofa. Tony breathed heavily and was shaking still as Ducky helped him dress in the borrowed clothing. Wrapping the blanket tightly around him again the ME swiftly sutured the worst of the cuts on the young man's face. He was worried that shock might be setting in and took the offered cup of soup gratefully when Gibbs handed it to him. "Here you are Anthony," he encouraged. "Try a little of this."

DiNozzo obediently snaked a hand out from beneath the blanket and took the cup, sipping gingerly. He winced as the cup caught his split lip before swallowing another mouthful. "Something's wrong Boss," he said simply.

"Ya think DiNozzo?" Gibbs usual caustic reply lacked some of its customary heat; privately he applauded his senior agent's instincts. His gut was screaming at him but Tony only had half of the story. Silently he held out the note, now safely tucked into an evidence bag. "Anything said about leaving me a message?" he asked.

Tony closed his eyes, trying to piece the varied images in his head into a coherent whole. Faces swam before him, angry and dark. He heard them cursing Gibbs but nothing specific came to mind. "I can see four men Boss," he said slowly, "one face I could pick out if we have him on file. They talked about you, forcefully. I'd say it's personal."

"Then they should deal with me personally."

"Do you have any idea who it could be Boss?"

Gibbs had been pacing the room but now threw himself down on a chair sighing. "No," he shook his head. "There's something nagging at the back of my mind, we're missing something here."

DiNozzo leant his head against the back of the sofa, it was aching abominably and he was struggling to keep his thoughts straight. Fleeting images continued to pass through his mind and his body recoiled at the remembered hurts. A hand gently took the cup out of his hand and he felt his pulse being taken by cool fingers. "You need to rest Anthony," Ducky spoke softly, tucking the blanket around him again. "Everything will become clear in time."

Tony closed his eyes and allowed himself to drift off. He had just about dropped fully into sleep when the world erupted into a cacophony of sound around him.