Notes: Well, it's the end of the ride! Thank you all for reading and reviewing!
He wasn't in his own bed. He didn't know where he was, but he knew that he wasn't home. The noises were all wrong, and the smells. Air, cool and controlled, forced its way up his nose in a steady stream and there was incessant beeping. He also thought he had a full body ache going on. It was difficult to tell, because he also had a full body numbness going on. He felt a little like he was drifting on a river. No, it was more like he had been drifting and was now being pulled slowly to shore. It all struck him as familiar, like he'd experienced the same feeling recently. Maybe even repeatedly. He opened his eyes and saw white and grey and metal. There was nothing familiar about those things. He'd half expected to see…bars.
And then he heard murmured voices, and a face appeared above him. He blinked a couple of times, trying to clear his eyes of their sleep-fuzziness.
"You staying awake this time, DiNozzo?"
"What?" he said stupidly.
Tony blinked a couple more times. Gibbs' face disappeared from above him, only to be replaced nearly immediately by several people he didn't recognize. There was poking, prodding, pain starting to upstage the numbness and then there were some questions that clued him in that something bad must have happened. Well, duh. He knew his name, his birthday and other basic information, but he apparently answered incorrectly with the date, as the moment he spoke he got frowns all around. He frowned back. Apparently he'd been unconscious for a while, so it seemed reasonable to him that he didn't know the date.
"What?" he said again, to Gibbs and not to the medical entourage. "What day is it? What happened?"
"We were hoping you could tell us that, Tony." McGee was a bodiless voice, somewhere off to Tony's right. He lifted his head, put it back down after half a second. His head had to weigh about forty pounds. Maybe that was what happened. He'd suddenly become The Man With the Giant Head. Sounded like a B-movie title and plot. He would have laughed, but McGee moved closer, into his view, and the guy looked worried. "At least the details."
"Of what?" He couldn't be the only one already tired of hearing him say that. He moved an arm about a quarter of an inch to the side, and regretted it. "Ohhhh, man, I feel like crap."
"He seems lucid," one of the medical people – a doctor? – said. "Would you folks mind stepping out for a few minutes while we do a more in depth check on him?"
Gibbs frowned, his face full of creases, and looked like he was going to refuse. Oh. Whatever had happened, it had been bad enough for Gibbs to worry too. Real, actual concern. After a moment, though, Gibbs backed away. Tony only paid partial attention to the doctors and nurses, concentrating instead on remembering anything at all that might have happened to him to make him end up lying there in the hospital with everyone looking at him like he might explode or something. He glanced down, saw a nurse changing a bandage. The wound…he closed his eyes. In his mind, he saw teeth and nails, and felt hot breath. Pain.
"Mr. DiNozzo, are you all right? Is this causing you discomfort?"
That was as stupid a question as the asking him the date. The numbness had nearly vanished entirely now, and he was left with a dull ache all over, sharpness wherever there was a bandage. He opened his eyes and stared down at himself. There were lots of bandages. Teeth and nails and hot breath.
"It tickles a bit," he said. "And you can call me Tony."
"If it gets to be too much, let us know, Tony. We're not going to put you on a self-regulated drip."
As they kept up with their examination, Tony started having more definable flashes of memory. They came at him fast and furious. He remembered Dean Winchester, from Petty Officer Bowman's home, and from somewhere else. Somewhere worse. He remembered the bars he had half expected to see upon wakening. He remembered weakness, pain, pain and then some more pain. He remembered the story Winchester had told him about vampires, and thinking it was crazier than all get out. But a second later Tony also remembered teeth and biting and the strength and speed of his captors that was just plain uncanny. Unnatural. There wasn't much else. No, wait. There was…Bigfoot. None of it made much sense, but he had this strange feeling Bigfoot had saved his life, and that in a way so had Dean Winchester.
"They say you're back with us for real this time." Tony looked over toward the door, and at Gibbs who stood at the threshold. He hadn't realized the medical staff left. His boss moved over. No one followed him, and Tony wondered where McGee had gone. "No more interesting talk about the scary, evil women with pointy teeth and sharp nails, and the reality of Bigfoot's existence, huh?"
"You weren't very coherent, Tony. I have to say your imagination is pretty vivid, even when you're at death's door. You might consider collaborating with McGee, write a book or something." Oh. Death's door. Gibbs had a small smile on his face, teasing him about whatever he'd rambled about while delirious, but the smile didn't make it to his eyes. Tony cringed. "So I need to know for sure. Are you with me, DiNozzo?"
"I'm with you, Boss," he said, automatically. "Kind of. I'm a little confused."
"Confused is better than dead." Tony blinked again. Those lines on Gibbs' face were deep, his eyes piercing. He figured that was as close as he was going to get to an "I was worried" and that was okay. He knew. Gibbs leaned down close and studied him. "I know you have a lot of questions. So do I. I have answers to some of yours, but first I have something to tell you, and I have to make sure you understand. Understand?"
"The FBI are going to want to talk to you about what happened, and about their suspects for Petty Officer Bowman's death. They believe their suspects had you. They also believe their suspects are responsible for the deaths of at least fourteen other people."
"Okay?" He took it back. He didn't understand what Gibbs was talking about, but he did understand there was urgency in his boss's words. His heart started thumping a bit harder, and he thought of teeth and biting and cold, unfeeling laughter. Fourteen people dead. Dead Ned. And, oh shit, the cops on Bowman's scene? That was only five. Six, with Bowman. Tony lied, "Got it so far."
"I know you don't remember anything, but that won't stop this Agent Hendrickson guy from pressing. He's going to want as much information as you have on someone named Dean Winchester. Ring any bells?"
Oh, boy, did it. Tony quickly glanced up at Gibbs' face, then looked away from the intense gaze. Even in his confused state, he started piecing together Gibbs' odd behavior and questioning. The kind folks at the good old FBI were planning to pin this on all on Winchester for some reason. Could he be sure they weren't wrong? He didn't hesitate in answering his own question. Yes. Absolutely. But he couldn't tell anyone why. He knew that as intrinsically as he knew Dean Winchester was not guilty of kidnapping, torture and murder – definitely in his own case, making it highly improbable in the others. He thought about Dean explaining how people misunderstood him and what he did. Tony really got that now.
"Winchester didn't do anything to me, Boss, or anyone else."
"Yeah, I figured," Gibbs said in an offhand way. "You remember something?"
"You really wouldn't believe me if I told you, Gibbs. I don't know if I believe it myself." Gibbs clenched his jaw a couple of times, looked displeased with that particular non-explanation. Unfortunately, it was the best Tony could do at the moment. Maybe later he'd be able to tell the real story. He doubted it. "I just know Winchester was as much a prisoner as I was. I don't know much else, but that I do know. Well, that, and I have this strange feeling someone else helped us."
"It's not so strange. I'd say it was a fact."
Gibbs was being coy. Gibbs knew something he didn't know.
"You know who it was."
"Let's just say I'm pretty sure I know why you kept talking about Bigfoot when you were still out of your head."
Tony furrowed his eyebrows, tried to figure it out. It didn't take long. He thought it was ultimately the reason why the whole thing happened.
"The brother," he said slowly. A little brother who was very, very large and as good as Dean had claimed all along. Tony wished he could actually have met him, thanked him for the apparent rescue. "There was a brother."
"You had a couple of visitors while you were still in la-la land," Gibbs said. Gibbs reached out and proffered something to him. Tony reached up, and damned if his arm wasn't as heavy as his head. It didn't matter that he didn't have the energy to lift it up to see. He knew what it was the instant his fingers touched the material. "They came by to check on you, and one of them left this for you."
"My tie." He remembered taking it off, being stupidly concerned with keeping it safe where the rest of his clothes had been ruined. He remembered blood and pain and terror. And through all that, Winchester had managed to keep Tony's tie in pristine condition. He laughed softly. "That was very thoughtful."
"And very stupid."
"Gibbs, Winchester didn't do anything," he said again.
"I know that, DiNozzo." He did? Tony glanced up. Gibbs was looking at him with an inscrutable expression. He had a feeling he was missing some very important pieces to the story. He really hoped Gibbs planned on sharing them at some point. "The FBI doesn't. From what I've been able to information-gather, they also don't seem interested in considering contradictory statements regarding the entire Winchester family, and there are a lot of very odd contradictions. Sharp teeth and pointy nails kind of odd."
Tony couldn't help it. His eyes widened, and the heart monitor he was attached to gave him away. Gibbs didn't pay any attention.
"So it's really too bad you have absolutely no recall of the last twenty-four to forty-eight hours. This Agent Hendrickson guy will be disappointed you don't have anything to offer. He's on his way over to talk to you right now."
Tony gave his boss a slow if confused smile. Maybe it was the pain medication making him fuzzy, or maybe it was that the pointed way Gibbs spoke was so out of character. Oh. Gibbs was telling him to lie, which made him uncomfortable and yet relieved at the same time. That explained the clandestine nature of this discussion. McGee couldn't be around to hear this, even if it was just insinuation and hinting. The fewer people that knew he knew anything at all, the better.
"Yes, it really is a shame I won't have much useful information to give to him."
It wouldn't really be a lie. It wasn't like Tony could tell the truth as he saw it without risking the possibility of losing his job or maybe even being thrown in a psych ward somewhere. Because as crazy as it was Tony now believed vampires really existed, in that same, fundamental way he knew that he'd been saved by the brothers Winchester.
And Tony wasn't going to be the one that kept them from saving more people from whatever other creatures might be out there going bump in the night.