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. Any remaining mistakes are mine.
Thank you for reading and for your wonderful reviews they really encourage me to write. I hope that you enjoy the last chapter.
Fenner whirled around and ordered the ship to action stations just before all hell broke loose.
"Incoming," the calm report echoed around the bridge momentarily before Fenner ordered an emergency turn.
DiNozzo listened to the report in some disbelief. Sure he had been under fire before but never like this, this had an air of unreality about it. He looked around taking in the tense posture of the men around him, they were all professional, all highly trained for the job in hand but each showed signs of unease in their own way. Some in the tautness of their muscles, others around the eyes or in the restless movements of their hands. Tony looked to Gibbs beside him and felt reassured. The older man was behaving as he always did when under fire or preparing to enter a suspect building. The very familiarity allowed Tony to relax slightly and to realise what was really wrong. "I hate this," he exclaimed, not realising that he had spoken aloud until Gibbs turned to him, eyes questioning.
"This," DiNozzo gestured, "being on the sidelines, having nothing to do."
"Yeah," Gibbs muttered before grabbing the younger man's arm as the Gonzalez began a rapid turn to starboard. "Guess they're not waiting to find out who's holding Surreptitious."
Tony winced as he stumbled slightly against Gibbs, his usual poise deserting him courtesy of blood loss and exhaustion. Smiling in apology he pulled himself upright and widened his stance against the ship's roll.
Suddenly an almighty explosion echoed aft and they were both thrown to the deck as Gonzalez rocked violently, hit somewhere towards the stern. Somehow Fenner had remained on his feet, practise Tony supposed and watched as the captain calmly ordered a counter attack while the XO ordered damage control and medical teams aft.
"Any attack on Surreptitious?" Gibbs asked, already pretty sure of the answer. The enemy wouldn't want to sink Surreptitious but clearly didn't give a damn about Gonzalez or the people on board her.
"None," Fenner shook his head grimly. "Only one missile fired at us too, they may just want to disable us."
"Not if we're able to identify them."
"Good point," Fenner conceded briskly, looking over briefly at the two NCIS agents still on the deck. Gibbs was tending to his agent who was pale and sweating and Fenner remembered the difficulty the younger man had had in climbing down Surreptitious' casing one handed. "You need help there Gibbs?" he asked.
Gibbs shook his head, easing DiNozzo back to his feet, the fall had been painful for the younger man but it didn't look as though any further damage had been done. He'd make sure he got checked out properly at the first opportunity though. He noticed that Gonzalez had continued to turn and listened attentively to the reports coming in.
"We've lost control," he muttered to DiNozzo, not wanting to disturb Fenner further.
"Lucky shot, took out the propeller shaft," Tony added, watching as Gonzalez continued her turn, slowing all the while. Out of the corner of his eye he caught movement and realised that Surreptitious was submerging again.
"Captain Root is going to shadow us, go down just a few feet below us to merge his signal with Gonzalez," the XO spoke quietly next to them and Gibbs was grateful to Fenner for keeping them in the loop.
"Roosevelt has launched her birds, give us an over view," Commander Jackson said, at Tony's puzzled look he continued. "The newer Arleigh Burke class ships are equipped with two sea hawks; maybe they can at least take some shots to help us identify these guys."
Gibbs nodded thoughtfully, looking at the deep cloud cover overhead. Satellite images were out for the moment but with a helo they may get lucky. It all depended on just how determined their attackers were and how realistic. They must be aware by now that Roosevelt was almost back in company with her sister ship and that Surreptitious was clearly not going to join them so she couldn't have been captured. He thought further continuing aloud so as to get Tony's input. "They must have been expecting Surreptitious to join them," he said. "The attack on Gonzalez was probably just a cover to let her break contact. Damn it," he slammed his fist against the wall. "We're going to lose them."
Tony nodded. "They're going to cut and run," he fumed, already moving over to Fenner who had been listening and was asking for a sonar report.
"Two contacts have changed course Sir, moving away rapidly."
"Inform Roosevelt," Fenner ordered. "Tell her to make best speed to follow." He looked back to Jarvis. "The third contact?" he asked.
"Gone Sir, it was one of the surface vessels, we hit her with our attack."
"And now she's heading to the bottom of the deepest ocean in the world," Gibbs muttered, his frustration showing.
"May still be survivors Boss," Tony put in.
"Possible but not likely Agent DiNozzo if she went down that quickly."
Tony glared at Jackson, he knew that well enough, he also knew how to manage Gibbs' moods and diversion was a tactic that had served him well in the past. Fortunately Jackson himself was distracted by the damage reports coming in and he left the bridge at a run to deal with them.
Time seemed to slow again as some of the tension left the bridge and Tony quietly moved towards the screen, ostensibly so that he could look out of the window at the damage control teams but, in reality, so that he could have something to lean against. He knew that Gibbs wouldn't be fooled and that soon enough he would be forced below to visit the ship's doctor. Truthfully he would be thankful to do so but not before he knew what had happened to the enemy vessels.
He could feel the frustration coming off Gibbs in waves as the older man came to stand beside him again, looking at him questioningly.
"Roosevelt's helos got some pictures but also came under fire. They got off some shots but had to retreat. I've had them send copies to Abby."
DiNozzo blinked. How had he missed that? He must have been more out of it than he thought. He stole a glance at Gibbs who was looking at him knowingly and Tony felt a flush on his cheeks. Judging from Gibbs' smirk he'd noticed it too.
"Roosevelt's pursuing but unless they encounter problems she won't catch them, they'll lose themselves by tonight," Gibbs sighed, his eyes bleak.
Tony looked over, sharing his boss's frustration. "And Gonzalez?" he asked.
"We're listing slightly and unable to get underway but no-one was seriously hurt. Enterprise will be here by morning, Roosevelt too probably."
"Back where we started," Tony mused, referring to Surreptitious' condition when they arrived.
Gibbs nodded. "Yeah, except this time Enterprise is coming to us." He stood up straighter reaching a hand out towards Tony. "Come on; let's get you patched up, again."
An hour and a half later DiNozzo sat sipping hot chocolate in a borrowed cabin, his eyes drooping. The throbbing in his shoulders had eased down to a dull ache thanks to the medication he had been given and he watched as Gibbs set up the laptop that had been recovered from Surreptitious. She was keeping company with them until repairs could be completed and they could all head home.
Fortunately the storm had now moved away and Gibbs was able to establish a satellite link with Abby. The young Goth looked as perky as ever as she appeared on the screen but a frown quickly developed as soon as she saw Tony. It took several moments of reassurances from both of them before they could persuade her to give her report. With a final, 'He'll be fine Abbs, now tell us what you've got,' from Gibbs she relented.
"I was unable to get anything on the sub, she was too deep for anything from the pictures and we couldn't see any sign of survivors in the water," she began, talking quickly, glancing at McGee who was next to her nodding in agreement with her words.
"Her escort?" Gibbs asked.
"An old Knox class frigate, it looks like the USS Miller. She was decommissioned in '91, sold as a hulk to Turkey in '99."
"She was supposedly sunk as a target in a naval exercise in 2001," McGee put in. "But there seems to be some confusion in the records.
"Five years?" Gibbs exploded, "why the hell haven't we heard about this before?"
"Um, Boss," McGee sounded a little unsure of himself. "I had to, um, 'look' pretty deeply to find anything."
Gibbs sighed, recognising the younger man's euphemism for 'hacking.' He met DiNozzo's eyes seeing the same resignation in them he was sure was reflected in his own. "A cover up?" he said.
"Looks that way," McGee agreed. "I'll keep digging Boss but we may never find out."
After a few more moments discussing when they would be back Gibbs closed the laptop and looked once again at DiNozzo. The younger man was examining the stylised elephant on his empty mug and looked about to drop.
"It's an elephant DiNozzo," Gibbs said patiently.
"I know that Boss," Tony's voice was quiet. "But what's it doing here?"
"Probably never know the answer to that either," Gibbs said ruefully, taking the mug from DiNozzo's hand and steering him towards the bunk. He watched carefully as Tony laid back and closed his eyes, sleep claiming him almost immediately. Only then did he sit down in the chair and settle down to keep watch, a small smile hovering round his mouth until his own eyes closed in sleep.
AN: I wrote this in response to a challenge from my daughter. At the time I wanted to write but had no ideas, she gave me three words; submarine, kidnap and elephant. I struggled with the elephant but it slipped in there eventually, hopefully it wasn't too contrived. I know that there are a few unanswered questions but this has taken me a long time to write and it's cut its dash for the moment. I have other ideas in the works. Thanks for reading. VP.