A/N: This is my first attempt at an NCIS fic, as well as my first attempt at writing after almost a year, so please bear with me folks, lol. This fic was beta read by Andrea, for which I'm really grateful. All mistakes remaining are solely mine. Now, go off to the story before you fall asleep - grin -
It just wasn't his day, Tony thought when he finally made it to work, tired and a little shaky and it wasn't even lunchtime yet! Not far from it though, he realised when he looked at his watch. He wondered if Gibbs hadn't called him to say that he didn't need to come to work anymore because he'd been fired, for the moment happy that he hadn't his phone. True, he was late only by an hour, but still…Gibbs was Gibbs. And it wasn't like Tony didn't have a damn good reason. The elevator door opened and Tony stepped out, ready to face the music. He made it as far as Ziva's desk, when three pair of eyes turned to him, scrutinizing.
Surprisingly, it wasn't Gibbs who was the first to speak, but McGee.
"You're late, Tony," the probie pointed out snidely, glad he had one up on DiNozzo. He still hadn't forgiven him for his latest stunt, when Tony somehow got hold of the keys for McGee's car and parked it at the other end of the parking lot, making Tim think that it was stolen.
Ziva was also ready to say something, but then she frowned and her nose twitched.
"Why do I smell smoke?"
Tony paused, a frown on his own face as he sniffed at his shirt, then with a resigned shrug headed for his desk.
"That's probably me. Sorry for being late, boss. Won't happen again," he croaked and then cringed at the quality of his voice. True, he hadn't tried speaking to anyone other than the medics, and he had figured his voice would recover once he got some fresh air. Guess it didn't help; he sighed, then stifled a cough that tickled at the back of his throat.
"Just why do you smell like smoke, DiNozzo?" Gibbs asked, eyes sharp as ever taking in Tony's appearance and noticing the dark smudges on his shirt and pants, as well as a little dark spot on his neck, which he hadn't noticed when he was cleaning himself up. When he saw his agent hesitating with the reply, Gibbs walked over to him and leaned against Tony's desk, then said in a voice that didn't leave place for discussion: "DiNozzo! I want to hear what happened and I want to hear it now! No bullshit! Is that clear?"
"Yes boss," Tony rasped out and Gibbs rolled his eyes.
"McGee, get the man some water," Gibbs barked and with another 'yes boss', McGee leapt out of his chair and went to fetch some water. When he returned, Gibbs was still leaning over Tony's desk and Ziva was now standing next to him, throwing DiNozzo concerned looks while he was busy hacking up his lungs.
"Here." McGee pushed the bottle of water into Tony's hand. They all waited until Tony stopped coughing, and took a swing from the bottle, then turned to Gibbs.
"Do you need Ducky?"
"No boss," Tony quickly protested, shaking his head. "The medics said I'm fine. It's just a little smoke inhalation."
Gibbs raised his eyebrows.
"Hmm. And did you mention to these medics that you've had a previous acquaintance with plague?"
"Um…kinda forgot, boss," Tony admitted sheepishly then glared at McGee and Ziva, who exchanged an eye roll.
"Yeah, I thought so," Gibbs said sharply and his eyes glinted. He reached out and Tony flinched, anticipating a head slap, but instead Gibb's hand just brushed off the smudge on his neck.
"So, care to explain why you were in such close proximity to a fire?"
Tony glanced at all three of them and noticed that several of the people around them had also stopped working and were listening. Gibbs noticed it too and threw a quick warning look to those who weren't fast enough to pretend that they were working. Like magic, there was a rustle of papers and clicking of keyboards coming to life and Gibbs smirked, turning back to Tony.
"Report DiNozzo, now!"
"Yes boss. Uh..." Tony cleared his throat, wishing for another sip of water, but thinking it would be best to just get over with it. "I told you about that new guy that moved into an apartment next to mine two weeks ago, right?"
"The one that was drilling holes in the wall at six in morning, on Sunday?" McGee piped up and Tony only nodded, an annoyed look on his face.
"Well, he was totally into the home improvement stuff and all that crap," he shook his head disapprovingly. "I still don't get it how someone can get so gung ho about it-"
"DiNozzo," came the warning and Tony leaned back in his chair, rubbing the back of his neck to try and ease the tension there.
"Right, well, I'm just saying that guy was nuts. I'm not sure what he was trying to do in the middle of the night...but whatever it was, he blew it. Literally. One moment I'm sleeping, the next kaboom! And half of my bed is lying on top of me." Tony grimaced at the memory. He'd been dreaming when the explosion hit, and groggy with the remains of sleep, the dream and the confusion of his abrupt awakening, Tony had a sudden flashback to another explosion that had taken Paula's life. He still felt the pain inside his chest and the trouble he'd had breathing, still heard his first words in the deafening silence that followed, calling out Paula's name. But that wasn't something Gibbs or the others needed to know.
"When I finally realised what happened, there was already smoke coming from the living room."
"Your living room?" McGee asked, puzzled.
"Yeah. My living room was right next to the guy's living room, which he obviously used as a workshop, or whatever. When it blew up, the shock wave demolished the wall. Some pieces of whatever exploded were on fire and it spread. The smoke alarm went off even though it wasn't much use, I'm sure the explosion woke up everyone in the block. I grabbed my gun and some clothes and got the hell out of Dodge. I still wasn't sure what happened. People were running out from their apartments and it was quite chaotic for a while. When the firefighters arrived, our floor was already evacuated. That was around five in the morning," Tony said, his voice threatening to give up, so he took few more swallows of the water.
"Why the hell didn't you call, DiNozzo?" Gibbs asked and Tony flinched in surprise at the angry tone.
"I couldn't find my cell, I think it's still somewhere under the bed. The whole building was evacuated, everybody was running around. Then I got caught up with the medics and couldn't get away."
In fact, Tony was still a little unsure of how he'd managed to slip out of the ambulance. Most of the morning's events were still a little hazy. He remembered helping some of his older neighbours to get out of the building, then everything went black and he woke up in the ambulance, gulping down a hefty dose of O2 through the mask and trying to push away the offending light that was piercing his head in two. He started arguing almost instantly, because the last place he wanted to go was the hospital, but the medic only pushed him back down onto the stretcher. It was his lucky break that due to a big car wreck there was only one other ambulance, so the paramedics needed to treat several other people before they could drive off. Tony used the moment when the medic was trying to assure an old lady that the cat that was in her arms was fine and wasn't in any immediate danger, and that she should rather take it to the veterinarian, and slipped away.
Of course, he wasn't about to tell this to Gibbs or the others, just as he wasn't planning to tell them about how he managed to sneak back into his apartment an hour later. The fire had been put out by the firefighters and now the place was swarming with the CSU guys, inspectors and cops. When he realised he knew one of the guys, he'd had no problem persuading him to let him in to get some stuff.
Once in his apartment, he grabbed an overnight bag, and stuffed it with his clothes from the wardrobe that thankfully had withstood the blast as well as the fire. Then he took out some cash from the little safe in the wall of his bedroom, his spare gun and his badge. He took a quick sad look around. His DVD collection might've survived intact, but the same thing couldn't be said of his tv or stereo. Heck, his whole living room was an unsalvageable mess. Not to mention the hole that was glaring at him from the wall. No way that he would be sleeping in that apartment anytime soon.
"Huh?" he blinked and looked up into the concerned faces. "Sorry, just thinking."
"Right," muttered Ziva with a smile that said 'that explains everything'. Tony would've glared at her, but he noticed the scrutinizing look Gibbs was giving him, and he nervously cleared his throat.
"That still doesn't explain why you didn't call us and why you're late, DiNozzo. I doubt the paramedics kept you for five hours."
"Um, no. But you know how it works, boss. There were some people that needed help-"
"And I bet they were all hot chicks," Ziva muttered and McGee snickered, but stopped at Gibbs' glare.
"I wanted to know what the hell happened, so I waited while the firefighters let in the forensics guys and tried to get some info."
"What did they find?"
Tony shrugged, then took another sip from the bottle.
"Not much. Looks like Mr Casper was messing around with some glues and stuff... he had several buckets of it. It was a little unstable. They weren't sure but there's a chance that he was smoking when it all blew up."
"Idiot," Gibbs uttered with a head shake. "Did he survive?" he asked after a moment and Tony's look sobered when he answered:
"When the fire brigade got there, he was already dead. Burns on ninety percent of his body. Bastard was probably lucky he didn't survive," he added with a sigh.
Gibbs straightened up and looked at Ziva.
"Agent David, I believe you are still due with that report for Russell's case file," Gibbs stated and earned a surprised look from Ziva. It looked as if she wanted to protest, but she thought better of it and returned to her desk, pretending to work on the computer, while she kept an eye on DiNozzo.
"McGee, find out who is the head investigator in that explosion. I want his report on my desk before the ink can dry and I want Abby to check in with the CSU that are investigating it, to look over the evidence."
"I'm on it, boss," McGee answered with a curt smile and sat behind his computer, already picking up his phone.
"DiNozzo, you're with me."
"Boss?" Tony asked, but didn't get a reply because Gibbs was already halfway to the elevator. Tony jumped from his seat to keep up with him, but stumbled and had to catch himself on the desk, blinking.
"Tony?" Ziva asked, frowning.
"'m okay, just a headrush," Tony mumbled then quickly walked after Gibbs, who was eyeing him from the elevator.
"Where-" he started to ask, but stopped when he saw Gibbs push the down button, to autopsy. Tony let out a frustrated sigh and looked defiantly at Gibbs.
"I'm fine, boss."
Gibbs only raised an eyebrow and Tony huffed, looking away, knowing that this was a lost fight.
"Okay, whatever," he said, resigned. They were riding in silence, but Tony was getting more and more restless. He knew Gibbs didn't talk much, but the silence was getting unbearable.
"Do you really think there's something hinky about that explosion?" he finally asked and heard a sigh from Gibbs.
"I don't know. But I don't like it when things explode near my people. It might've been a fluke accident, or something else."
"Like what?" Tony pressed. True, Casper had moved in only a short time ago and despite his home improvement obsession, or maybe because of it, he should've known better than to work with chemicals in a closed space while smoking. It was an idiotic mistake, even in Tony's book.
"I don't know, DiNozzo. That's why I want to take a closer look."
If Gibbs wanted to say more, he didn't, because they reached their floor and the elevator door opened with a ding. Tony stepped out, following Gibbs with a pained grimace on his face. It wasn't like he didn't like Ducky, he sure as hell preferred the older man before some unknown doctor at the emergency room, except maybe Dr.Pitt ...but there was just something wrong about being examined on an autopsy table by a pathologist. Tony shivered.
"You plan on standing there all day, DiNozzo?" Gibbs growled and Tony quickly followed.
"Would it help if I say that I will take it easy today?" he asked, realising that he sounded probably like a whining kid, but the only answer he got was a slap on the head. True, it wasn't as hard as usual, but still stung. "Guess not, huh."
When they entered the autopsy room, Ducky and Palmer were working on a body laid out on the table before them.
"Ach, young Anthony and Jethro. You're just in time. I'm just finishing up with ensign Perett and I can only confirm my earlier diagnosis. This poor young boy died of blunt force trauma to the head. My bet is on the baseball bat you found under the bed of his roommate."
"Abby is already checking the DNA and the blood on the bat, Ducky. The ensign is waiting in the interrogation room. As soon as Abby confirms the findings, he's ours," Gibbs said with a grimace. The case was one of the easiest and maybe one of the stupidest too. It was one of the oldest stories, a love triangle. Too much alcohol on one side, a lot of testosterone running around and a moment of rage led to two ruined lives. One of the dead ensign, the other of the killer who quickly sobered, but it was too late.
"But we didn't come for the report, Duck. Maybe you could find some time and take a look at DiNozzo. He had a little run in with an explosion and a fire, and my guess is, he was stupid enough not to let himself be checked out by the EMT's."
"Boss-" Tony protested, but quickly shut up.
"Explosion? Fire? What happened to you now, dear boy?" Ducky asked with concern and not waiting for a reply, turned to his assistant.
"Mr.Palmer, I think you can finish with Ensign Perett. I'm sorry my boy, but the living take precedence over the dead, I'm afraid," the doctor said to the corpse, then turned to Tony.
"Well, why don't you make yourself comfortable at the table, Anthony, while I clean up a bit." Ducky nodded towards the empty autopsy table and Tony headed to it with a grimace, mumbling under his breath.
"Make yourself comfortable, Anthony," he parroted the doctor's voice. "Duh, as if that's even possible." Someone snickered behind him and he didn't even have to turn around to know that it was Palmer. Though if he had've turned, he would've seen the grin on Gibbs face.
To be continued