Disclaimer: I don't own NCIS. I do have a dog called NCIS, but technically I stole him off my neighbour, so i don't think he belongs to me either. Dangit.
Rating: Varying degrees of PG-13 and M throughout the story. Survival themes, sexual innuendo, possibly and probably more. Also a few f-bombs scattered around, so i'll stick in 'language' as well. Don't say you weren't warned.
Spoilers: As we go. No spoilers in this chapter. Big fat 'N/A' right there.
Note: Following the running gag of Tony's vast film knowledge, every chapter is the name of either a movie, TV show, TV movie or some other sort of film-related title.
(Before the Devil Knows You're Dead (2007))
Jamésie Region, Nord-du-Quebec, Quebec, Canada
Jamésie Region, Nord-du-Quebec, Quebec, Canada
The plane's wings were thrown up and down by the air currents, causing all three occupants to lurch violently into their seatbelts. Despite having some level of experience when it came to plane flight, Ziva couldn't help but feel cheated out of the comfort she'd assumed came with the territory.
This was a pressurized cabin, the air was clean and crisp and yet still she felt herself being thrashed about like a fish out of water. Turbulence be damned- she'd been in the middle of hard air currents before and it was nothing like this, like being smashed repeatedly up against the iron wall which was Tony's shoulder.
Tony gasped and thumbed the strap across his chest forward in order to allow himself some more breathing space. Every jerk of the plane pressed him hard against his seat belt, which was already too-tight and further restricted the passage of air through his lungs. Consternation and frustration welled in his gut with every subsequent jolt and Ziva's petite frame was surprisingly painful when pitched against his tensed flanks. She had more muscle mass than he gave her credit for, he decided silently amidst the chaos.
"Jesus, man! Fly your plane straight!"
The pilot resolutely kept his eyes on the sky for the moment, face stern, ignoring Tony's laments. Ziva supposed it was best- she would rather have a pilot concentrating than actually sympathising to her partner's whinging. Tony had a hereditary gift for distracting people and it was all too likely that the young senior agent would get his re-assurance, just to see the Cessna curling itself neatly around a street lamp.
"Don't worry, sir, it's just some turbulence. This storm is a little stronger than I anticipated."
"A little stronger?" replied Tony with a dry bark of a laugh, holding on tight as a particularly strong gust of wind caused the entire plane to jump and shudder.
And now he felt so consoled; as if the word 'turbulence' was supposed to soothe his distress. It was the magic word amongst magisterial pilots piloting their own planes. He'd be better off rattling off something along the lines of 'hypoxia, nasal cannula, cabin depressurisation.'
I don't give a damn about turbulence, You are flying in a goddamn cyclone, I've battled the pneumonic plague and my lungs are indefinitely scarred so you'd better drop your bumpy ass 1000 feet or so before I personally throttle you. A little stronger?
"Like, guns are a little deadly?"
"Shut up, Tony," snapped Ziva tersely in response, fingernails biting into the seat as the plane's nose swung wildly to the left, then back to the right. Something in her tone hinted to the fact that he would face some dire consequences if he didn't shut his mouth and Tony was suddenly relieved that he'd gone with the snappy come-back rather than the angry monologue. Three cheers for self control?
Tony and Ziva had been dispatched to St. Pierre & Miquelon, a small group of islands just sitting off the Canadian coastline. In all technicalities, it was a part of the French European union, so Tony's jokes about Canadians really didn't hold any merit. They'd been following a lead on one of NCIS's most wanted, Elijah Jacob Ruffin, who was registered to a French fishing boat here. The man was wanted for something heinous; rape, desertion, murder, something like that, the usual. Tony could hardly even think about that right now.
As it happened, it had been a flop anyway. The man had flown back to Washington five days prior to their arrival, apparently because the captain of the fishing corporation had cut his pay to barely liveable wages. The bad thing about being an employed Fisherman, as Tony had mused to Ziva. It was always best to work by ones self in a profession like that. Not that life as a fisherman was particularly endearing, in any case.
As it was, Tony was a little disappointed he wouldn't get the satisfaction of ordering a big red cross to be placed over the man's ugly mug when they got back to Washington. He'd been getting sick of seeing that face sneering over at him from the 'Most Wanted' billboard all day.
NCIS's flight agents had booked tickets home from St. Johns through to Washington. But it was a tedious process and they'd have to catch a boat back to the mainland before they could even sneeze at an airline jet in the first place. And even when that happened, they'd need to fly en route through Montreal… Vancouver… Montana… Idaho… Hawaii… Australia… Jerusalem… Mount Olympus… god knows where, really. There were four or five stop-offs along the way and that in itself was enough to drive them both insane, no matter how many stale airline muffins they were force-fed or how many times Tony got to feel Ziva's ass against his knees as she shuffled past him in order to get to the aisle. As it happened, a strapping young Canadian pilot had offered them a flight express to Washington (for a fee) which would cut the trip by a significant margin. Idaho be damned; they'd both agreed wholeheartedly and mused smugly about Gibbs's reaction when they arrived back way ahead of schedule.
It had seemed like a good idea at the time. But now, flying precariously through a thunderstorm in a flimsy piece of metal, those airline muffins seemed less stale and more delectable, and Tony could think of nothing better than Ziva shuffling past him on a nice, cool, pressurized, cloud-skimming jet airliner. They could be drinking Champagne, turning up their noses at the assortments of cheese and caviar, Or, thought Tony devilishly in the pits of his imagination, joining the 'mile high club' as it was so affectionately called by its patrons. He wasn't sure Ziva would be so open to that suggestion, though.
Bang! A flash of light in the air, uncomfortably close to the plane, caused their biggest tremor yet. There was a vicious creaking, like metal on metal, and the nose of the plane dipped wildly before correcting itself, narrowly avoiding a dive.
"Jesus christ!" yelled Tony once again, lurching against his belt and correcting himself in his seat. He couldn't see through the sleet on the windscreen, and the pilot was squinting out the window with what looked like great difficulty. That wasn't very reassuring. Where was the man's GPS? Why was it so dark? Why on earth had they agreed on flying across two countries in a freaking Cessna?
"If we don't die on this flight," said Ziva over the noise of the storm, "I will kill you!"
At first Tony thought she was speaking to the pilot and grinned malignantly before he realised that her eyes were locked on him. He grimaced unpleasantly. He had enough on his plate than to deal with Ziva's megalomaniacal homicide tendancies. Hopefully she had no paperclips handy.
"Me? What did I do?"
"You were the one who agreed to put us on this hell-bent plane!"
"Excuse me? If I recall, it was a mutual agreement, Ziva!"
Ziva wasn't listening. Her eyes widened, staring at something ahead of her.
Tony followed her line of sight and saw a dark shape looming sharply out of the rain. It took a moment for the pilot to react- he hit the controls sharply and banked to the left. The nose turned on an angle but it was too late- the sound of metal compacted wood and the plane jolted, the noise of ripping rending the already noisy air. The exterior of the plane peeled back and there was a cry of pain from the pilot as wood protruded sharply into the forefront of the plane and forced the panel back. Tony brought his arms up to protect his face and instinctively leaned to the right, protecting the left side of Ziva's body.
By the time he'd realised it was a tree, the plane was already curled around it.
Tony was flung violently against the strap that was holding him in place and coughed sporadically. He felt odd, suspended, as if he were in an awkward position in the air. His head was suddenly immensely heavy and his legs flopped horizontally forward. After a moment he realised that the Cessna had angled itself downwards and that he was being held in by his seatbelt. He coughed again- it was immensely hard on his lungs, as if his ribs were being compacted by his own weight.
A moan from his right side alerted him to Ziva rousing herself, blinking drowsily and straining against her seatbelt, slowly and daintily as if making sure she weren't injured. Tony's throat was dry with driving, uncontrollable apprehension. Apprehension? What was he kidding; it was fear, the sort of fear he hadn't felt for a long while, the fear of the unknown, something he could not control. It was the same fear that Kate had pointed out long ago when he'd been lying in that hospital bed, staring blankly at blank walls, coughing up blood, slowly dying. She'd been right then. Tony had never found the balls to admit it to her. Eventually Ziva's voice interrupted his reverie, dulcet and throaty as if she'd just woken from a deep slumber.
"Tony. Are you alright?"
Was he alright? Hah. He paused a moment to assess his own condition, despite himself. The plane had veered to the left, so the right side of the plane had been most affected. He was seated on the left. Apart from the bruising on his chest and legs from the crash, he didn't feel particularly worse for wear.
"I'm fine. Are you?"
"Uh," Tony watched Ziva pause and wiggle insecurely in her seat, "Trapped. My ankle is caught between the wall and my seat. And my ribs are hurting. But otherwise… fine. More than I can say for our friend up the front there." She inclined her head to the front of the Cessna. Their Canadian man was well and truly screwed- dead, as far as Tony could tell. That assumption was stomped on wholeheartedly a moment later when a gurgle from the front of the Cessna stopped their interlude. The pilot wriggled, shifting futilely in his seat. Tony held his breath and winced for him. His legs were mangled amongst the foot pedals, the bottom half of his body pinned securely by the plane controls. He was bleeding heavily from his torso. The yoke was lodged somewhere up in near his ribs, pressing down on his sternum, and the throttle was pinning one of his calves down on the rudder pedals.
"Oh, god. Oh fuck, it hurts," moaned the man, his voice catching in his throat.
Tony's heart leapt in sympathy for the main and he gingerly felt down to his seatbelt, unclicking it, and holding on to dear life to the back of his seat so he didn't go falling forward through the windshield. He wasn't one for pity, or even compassion. He often found that when he let himself go emotionally in a case, he ended up being trampled on significantly if things went awry. A tendril of thought went out to Ziva and Lt. Roy Sanders, and with it an ounce of compassion.
Tony edged forward, fingers cold but clamped tightly onto the metal bar above the injured man's seat.
"Hey, man," said Tony, holding onto the pilot's seat and sliding down the slope towards him. "Are you alright?"
He knew as soon as he'd said it that it was a stupid, redundant question. Still, the man laughed and coughed weakly. Blood welled in his mouth and he coughed again as it dripped down his chin.
"I'm fucked, son. Kill me, god. Please. Shoot me."
"Don't be an idiot," said Tony, though it was evident to all that there was no hope for him. He was dying, slowly, and intensely, with a great deal of pain involved. The best doctors in the world could not help him. "Where is the first aid kit?"
"Un.. Under my seat. But… god, you can't help me. Kill me… mate."
"Listen to me," said Tony, his voice beginning to take on an authoritative tone. "Close your eyes and relax, okay? Breathe. I'm going to get you some Valium, Morphine."
The pilot closed his eyes tight, occasionally whimpering in agony, occasionally coughing blood up onto his T-shirt, arms trembling.
Tony made no moved to get the First Aid kit. Ziva watched as he slowly and silently drew his gun from it's holster at his belt. Tony took a brief look at the SIG's magazine- this was his last bullet, but it would be a bullet well spent. He thumbed back the hammer and, coughing sharply to cover up the sound of the firing pin, slid it into place.
He brought the SIG Sauer up, while the man had his eyes closed in ignorance, and pulled the trigger. The gunshot echoed in the enclosed plane and Ziva closed her eyes as the blood blowed back onto her torso from the bullet now lodged in the man's head.
"That was noble, Tony," she said a moment later, as Tony grimly replaced the gun at his holster. It would have been a most horrible way for him to die, writhing in agony, or worse, watching as a strange man shot him out of mercy. The pilot hadn't anticipated the gunshot. His death had been quick and relatively painless.
"Now, please, help me out of this seat. I am caught."
Tony turned away from the man's blissfully lifeless form and felt his way over to Ziva, who was looking pale and ill suspended against her seatbelt. The plane was creaking against the tree's boughs. Even a light plane like the Cessna had a significant amount of weight to it and he wouldn't be surprised if it went crashing through the wood to the ground. It would ignite and send them up in flames, if the plane hadn't already been set alight.
Tony had taken a survival course on his inception into Baltimore, but his brain couldn't really bring up vivid memories. He did recall, however, something about the dangers of hanging upside down. Blood pressure to the brain could kill you.
Tony grabbed hold of the steel bar underneath Ziva's chair and braced himself against the slope. Her foot was pinned diagonally against the metal wall and her metal seat. Tony pushed down the adjusting lever and peered up at Ziva's pale face.
"Brace yourself, okay? I'm going to push your seat back."
Ziva nodded and grabbed a hold of the cushioned sides of the seat.
Tony pressed down the bar and heaved back her seat. Ziva let out the slightest strangled mew of pain as her ankle was grinded briefly against steel, before the chair rolled away from it. She kicked away from the wall, sighing in relief.
"Thank you, Tony."
Ziva unbuckled her seatbelt and staggered out of her seat, underestimating the slope. She tripped as she attempted to find her balance and went sailing gracefully backwards towards the cockpit. Tony caught her by the waist with one arm and hauled her back, holding on to the back of her seat in order to keep them there.
Ziva winced as his arm tightened against her bruised ribs but was thankful of his assistance. She smiled gratefully, the colour beginning to return to her face.
"We need to get out of here," said Tony briskly as he steadied himself, taking a tentative step towards the gaping hole created on the left side of the plane.
His weight disturbed the Cessna's already precarious balance. There was a prolonged creak and an abrupt snap. The plane turned slightly, angled into the gale, and a shrill whistle of driving wind sounded through the opening. Both of them stumbled unsteadily as the plane bowed slowly downwards, until they were practically vertical and dangling from Tony's grip on the chair. Then it continued forward and downward, and with a peculiar feeling of freefalling through the air, the plane turned completely upside down until the floor became the ceiling.
They both dropped and landed on the ceiling of the Cessna, on their feet. There was an odd feeling of solidarity as if the nose of the plane had touched the ground. Feeling steadied, Tony regained his balance and stood straight, tilting his head towards the opening in the plane's metal frame.
"Wait a moment," said Ziva, reaching upwards and feeling awkwardly on the underside of the pilot's seat. With a flourish, she pulled out the Survival & First Aid kit that was secured on the bottom of the cushioning.
"Yahtzee," she said grimly with a sombre sort of smile, before carefully edging after Tony.
Another sudden jolt of the plane caused Ziva to stumble forward into the open air and Tony followed suit. Ziva took a few steps forward away from the plane before her gut began to churn. Something was horribly wrong.
No, it couldn't be…
Tony stepped out of the wreckage after her and she could hear his breath slowly released in a horrified exhale.
It was all snow. Miles and miles of rolling, unblemished snow. The sleet which had been so prevalent higher in the atmosphere while they were flying was clearly not as liquid as they'd presumed. The blizzard was still wailing through the air and the snow was settling on their head and shoulders. Ziva was already shivering, teeth clicking together as a result of the plummeting temperatures.
"Maybe…" Ziva paused a moment, shivering violently, usually tanned skin suddenly looking rather pasty in the cold. "…Maybe we should to stay inside the plane, for a while. I am wearing heels, and I do not fantasy frostbite."
"Fancy frostbite, Ziva," corrected Tony, though without his usual relish. He had crossed his arms too, and was staring out across the endless expanse of white. They'd been able to see towards the horizon before, but now the blizzard was picking up strength. Even the plane, mere metres away from them, was difficult to see. Soon they would be stuck in a complete white-out, which was deadly, dressed as they were.
Tony nodded after a moment and stepped towards the plane. Ziva looked satisfied and stepped after him, but faltered. Her injured ankle gave way and she half-collapsed into the snow, catching herself with her forearms and good leg before straightening up again, a faint grimace evident on her face.
She didn't realise Tony was there until she could feel his arm snaking around her waist and holding her up, and his concerned green eyes swimming into view. In comparison to her freezing skin, his hands were like a warm fire and she gratefully pressed herself into his warmth.
"Holy cow, Ziva. You're as cold as ice."
Tony shuddered, because of how cold she was, and how close she was. Even in the middle of a crisis like this, he couldn't help but think liberally with his 'downstairs brain.' It might be cold and uncomfortable, but she was still utterly female, beautiful, and pressed up against him. Mmmm. But considering the circumstances…
Tony briskly shook away his looming libido and assisted her as she stepped back into the crashed Cessna.
It was still cold in here, but nothing in comparison to what it was outside. The engines were still hot and their shared body head didn't take long to significantly warm up the cabin.
"I wonder if this plane has a radio," said Ziva speculatively, staring into the upside-down cockpit. Neither of them could look at the mangled pilot still hanging dead in the front seat. It was a horrible reminder of how mortal they really were.
"Mmmm," said Tony, tilting his head in response, venturing slowly towards the controls. "Good thinking, ninety-nine. If this plane has a transponder, we might be able to call in with a mayday."
"The pilot made no effort to radar in during the blizzard. A transponder? I highly doubt it."
"It's worth the look," he replied in his grumbling bass-baritone as he searched around the controls for anything resembling an XPDR. Ziva was right, though- his search yielded nothing.
"I told you," she purred in his ear, making him jump and curse under his breath. He hated it when she did that.
"So; no radar," said Tony with an indignant huff, leaning back and placing hands on either side of his waist, tired and sore and hoping desperately for an answer. "But! I spy a radio."
Ziva followed his line of sight to a small black box below the cracked, battered pilot's seat. It had been pushed forward on impact, and now was looking oddly protuberant, poking into the cockpit.
Ziva reached up and hit the 'on' control.
To their delight, there was the faint flicker of green on the screen as nonsensical numbers flicked up on the screen. Then there was the buzz of static and then nothing- no voices, no heavenly choirs. But at least they had a radio.
Ziva reached up and played with the knob, searching for a frequency where she'd be able to hear other people. Nothing.
She hit the transmission button.
"This is Special Agent Ziva David, calling in with a mayday."
Nothing. Just the persistent buzz of static.
"I'm calling from an unknown location, we have a… Cessna 340 which has crashed, one fatality."
Again nothing, and the noise of the static was grating on Tony's nerves. Ziva twiddled with the receptor on the radio and tried again.
"This is NCIS Special Agent Ziva David, we have a crashed plane in a blizzard, two injuries, one fatality."
Again nothing, and this time Ziva seemed to give up. She huffed exasperatedly and gave the radio a curt smack, before turning and prowling away.
"The blizzard is interfering with the reception. We can try afterwards."
Ziva rubbed her own arms and huffed. Tony could see she was shivering.
And no wonder. She was wearing a halterneck dress, and heels. Good god.
"Go put some clothes on, Ziva," hissed Tony, taking note of the goosebumps across her neck. He moved away from the cockpit, resolutely refusing to look at the pilot.
Ziva seemed to be thinking along the same lines and moved past their seats towards the tail end of the plane, where their luggage was stored.
Tony watched as she hauled out her suitcase and propped it on one of the seats, unclipping the latches and pushing it open.
A whole assortment of goodies met his eyes and he slunk closer like a wayward hyena, drinking it all in, wide-eyed. Boylegs, pantyhose, skimpy-cut, Elle Macpherson… Ooh! Was that Victoria's Secret?
He was snapped out of his unabashed underwear-perving by Ziva, who was staring coldly at him. He stiffened and took a step back with a sheepish grin.
"You're… You, ahh, are going to get dressed. Right. Yeah. I'll turn around."
With a self-gratified smirk, he slunk away and sank down onto the floor near the nose of the plane, listening as she dressed herself. The only thing that indulged his fantasies was the 'snap' of bra underwire snapping apart, which meant she was now totally naked behind him. Oooh, hah! He wondered how she'd react if he made up some very important excuse to turn around right now? He could inexplicably catch a whiff of spilling petrol, or say he heard a fuse ignite... hey, they were perfectly logical pardons, particularly if he saved their ass from not-so-spontaneous combustion...
Tony shook his head, trying to get those images out of his soiled imagination. Surely every man had those same fantasies. They were inexplicable, creeping up on Tony when he least suspected it. But it wasn't his fault. Sex was like an abyss, dark and warm and safe and nice and… meaningless. He did have to admit. Perversion was every man's secret indulgence. Maybe if there was any beauty in life, it was in the climbing out.
A scathing voice in the pits of his mind said 'oooh… deep, Tony.'
…What was he thinking? Feeling slightly emasculated, he promptly went back to picturing Ziva naked, eyes closed tight and a strange expression of satiety on his face.
"Alright, Tony. I'm done."
Already? Tony got to his feet and turned around.
Ziva was now decked out in winter regalia. She had a weatherproof jacket over the top and he could see several layers of sweaters underneath, along with her trademark trousers and scuffed boots.
Ziva tossed Tony his wool-lined winter jacket. "I brought out yours, also."
Tony caught it in one hand and gratefully pulled it over his grey sweater. "Thanks."
"You are welcome. In the meantime; do you have your gun?"
"Yeah, but I'm out of ammo."
Ziva sighed wearily and brought a hand through her luscious dark hair, massaging her temples. "As am I."
"I doubt we would need our guns right now, Ziva. All the bears are hibernating and whatnot."
"Bears are not the only predator in existence, Tony."
Bang. There was a sharp ripping noise and the 'crack' of metal colliding with the ground outside. Neither of them needed to look- they both knew the half-mangled left wing of the Cessna had just fallen off.
The weight of the Cessna now was resting entirely of the nose and the plane creaked ominously under its own weight.
"Shiiiit!" said Tony, making a mad dash for the opening in the plane's ripped body.
"Ziva! Get out, get out, now!"
Ziva didn't need to be told twice. She ran after him as fast as her injured ankle would allow, the survival kit still clenched in her fingers.
She literally leapt out of the plane, freefalling towards the snow outside. She landed on her back, feet losing purchase on the cold, wet ground. The snow was oozing through her fingers and though she tried in vain to get back on her feet, her injured ankle stopped her and she had no time to get herself in a position where she could scramble away. Desperate, she pushed herself backwards with her raw hands, breath heavy on the stale air. Tony stumbled past her and turned sharply, instinctively coming to her aid. Ziva tried valiantly to get to her knees.
No time. Without hesitation, Tony seized her arm and heaved her backward, muscles contracting violently in his arms. Ziva felt light, even puny, in his grip. He hardly grunted while taking the entirety of her weight onto his own arms.
For the first time in a long while, Ziva appreciated Tony's brute strength. He handled her as if she were a ragdoll.
A moment later, the tail of the Cessna, suspended in the air, went crashing to the ground.
Three things happened simultaneously. The first was the tail hitting the ground with a resounding 'bang,' loud enough to send a tremor through the snow and shake them both where they crouched. The second was the fire that immediately ignited in the Cessna, and burnt furiously for a few moments before it brushed the plane's half-filled petrol tank, and there was a tremendous roaring noise as a minor explosion went off, engulfing the plane in a red-hot flame and twisting the metal around as if it were made of playdough.
The third thing, and the most horrible, was Ziva realising that they were now without spare clothes, shelter, weaponry, radio, or hope. They were stranded in the snow, already shivering violently, and nobody knew there they were. There was barely any chances of survival for two inexperienced idealists stuck in the wilderness in the frost. This place was secluded, bare, cold, brutal, and while savagery was one of Ziva's strong points, Mother Nature was an adversary she had yet to conquer. She could hear by Tony's broken exhale that he was thinking the exact same thing.
"Well," said Tony quietly but poignantly as they watched the plane burning, the flames lighting up the surrounding snow as wind continued to batter them and the blizzard coated them in wave after wave of whiteness.
"…We're pretty fucked."