I don't own any of the characters from NCIS. As this is my first NCIS story, and my first story in several years, please be kind!

Tony could no longer be positive of what was real. His fevered dreams and glimpses of reality had no definite boundaries. If he could have thought rationally he would have taken comfort in the fact that his awareness of his pain had lessened as well, but instead of thoughts he knew only fear and confusion. His awareness of changes from piercing light to suffocating darkness was minimal at most. Tony ceases to exist; if consciousness of oneself is to be considered existence. Ziva may be painfully aware of Tony's labored breathing, but for all intents and purposes Tony DiNozzo was dead to the world.


One Week Earlier

Tony watched as the little boy ran around with a plastic grocery bag tied to a string. The wind cooperated and filled the bag so one could almost imagine it was a balloon. Almost. Tony felt a pang of guilt because of his own lavish childhood, but the boy seemed happy, and all Tony could remember were empty rooms and quick glances, so maybe this kid wasn't that bad off.

Tony's focus shifted as another uniformed, gun-toting soldier passed him on the sidewalk. Where was Ziva? He wondered. He didn't like her going off by herself, but she was very protective of her 'sources'. It started to sprinkle slightly, but it was a warm rain and Tony didn't even attempt to find cover. He just sat on the bench sipping at his coffee.

"You are getting wet," Ziva's voice came from behind. He hadn't even heard her approach.

"Did your source give you anything?" Tony asked in response. He resented Ziva's super skills and decided to simply ignore them. Ziva gave a sly smile and held up a slip of paper with two fingers.

"An address," She replied, drawing out the words which gave her such obvious pleasure.

"Good, let's call Gibbs." Tony stood up and threw one last glance at the running, smiling little boy before he turned to follow Ziva.


"I have a bad feeling about this," Abby muttered under her breath. She turned to McGee who was working beside her, attempting to pull up a satellite picture of the address Ziva had given them.

"They'll be fine," McGee answered mechanically, only the slightest of annoyance apparent in his voice.

"McGee!" Abby whined, giving him a soft slap on the shoulder. "If you haven't noticed, Venezuela and the US aren't on the best of terms! If they get caught snooping around for a suspect to question, who knows what will happen?"

"They're not questioning a suspect. They're questioning a witness. Plus, Ziva can handle herself in a Venezuelan jail," McGee responded. Abby glared at him. A few piercing seconds passed before McGee haltingly added, "And so can Tony. But that doesn't matter because nothing's going to happen."


Tony and Ziva moved casually towards the apartment building. Tony's fair skin and eyes attracted a little attention, but not enough to cause them any worry. They pushed the intercom button for a random apartment. A voice called out "¿Quién es?" to which Tony responded "Cartero." A buzz promptly sounded and Ziva pulled open the door. They headed up two flights of stairs before reaching Apartment 11, which belonged to a distant relative of Lt. David Santos with whom, according to Ziva, he was staying.

Tony's hand made an unconscious motion towards his hip but was unable to find the gun it was looking for. He groaned softly and muttered "I feel so naked." Ziva chuckled, giving Tony a sideways glance and crooked smile as she reached up her hand and gave three quick raps on the door.

The door slid open a few seconds later. A clean-shaven, short haired man stood looking at them. He appeared tired but not surprised to see them. "You've come a long way," he stated wearily.

"Special Agent DiNozzo, NCIS. This is Ziva David, our liaison from Mossad. We'd like to ask you a few questions." Tony gave the man a fleeting look at his badge.

"Look, I can't testify to anything. I never saw anything." Lt. Santos replied.

"You left the states rather suddenly," Ziva prompted.

"Well, I wasn't feeling very safe. I had to get away," Lt. Santos sighed then added, "Can we talk about this somewhere else? I don't want to get my cousin involved."


Lt. Santos sat on a tattered bench while Ziva and Tony stood in front of him. The slightly wooded area contained several other benches but no more people. Lt. Santos seemed to visibly relax.

"Why can't you testify?" Tony questioned bluntly.

"It's too dangerous. It goes too high up, you could never convict them." Santos voiced resignedly, rubbing his eyes with his hand.

"Haven't you ever seen A Few Good Men?" Tony scoffed. He was smiling slightly, playing the movie in his head. "I love Jack Nicholson!"

"Tony!" Ziva hissed sharply drawing Tony out of his reverie.

Tony's smile faded and he turned quickly. He could almost feel both Lt. Santos and Ziva tensing as four men approached them dressed in military greens with black and red scarves covering the lower half of their faces. One carried an assault rifle while the other three sported handguns. Tony realized how very isolated they were, and how very close to Colombia. "ELN," he whispered to Ziva. She nodded slightly.

The men were running now, mere seconds away. Tony saw Ziva reach for the knife he knew to be hidden across the small of her back. "Ziva, no!" Tony rasped. But it was too late; the knife was already out and the four men were upon them. The men quickly separated, clearly following a plan. The man with the rifle held back, controlling the scene, the other three picked a target and headed for them.

Ziva slashed quickly at the man who reached out to grab her. The slight gash to his hand surprised him and he dropped his gun. As Ziva swiftly kicked the man in the gut Tony saw the assault rifle being quickly aimed. Without thinking he lunged at Ziva, pushing her aside. He hit the ground before he even heard the shot.