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.
The first time he woke was to pain, confusion and total darkness. His hold on consciousness was slight and he slipped away again almost immediately.
The second time he was more aware. Aware of the pain, the cold and the complete lack of visibility. He had no point of reference and, despite his best efforts, Tony DiNozzo slipped once more back into the semi-lucid world of his dreams. Nightmarish images assaulted him, flashes of light and dark, angry faces, whispered voices but none of it made any sense to his fevered brain and eventually he succumbed completely, his energy gone.
The third time he was woken by something nagging at his consciousness. The dreams had returned as nebulous and unrelenting as before and he fought to get away from the voices. He knew they were raised at him, could see angry intent on the faces but he didn't know them, didn't understand why.
The nagging persisted and gradually he became aware of a constant drip running wetly down his face as it lay on the ground. He focused on it, letting it drive the faces away and fought to open his eyes.
Tony couldn't understand why it should be so hard. His left eye stubbornly refused to move at all but, eventually, he managed to open his right eye a crack and breathed a sigh of relief as the blackness cleared slightly. He was lying on a stony surface, it was wet and uneven, he could feel something sharp beneath his cheek but the thought of moving was beyond him at the moment. Instead he concentrated on forcing his eye to open a little further until he was able to make out a blurry image in front of him. It was still dark but eventually he realised that he could see a little because the moon was shining.
"It's stopped raining," his foggy brain supplied after a time as he gradually realised that his clothes were sodden. Somehow he knew that this should matter to him but, for the present his mind barely registered the constant shivers of his body, nor did he have the energy to question what he was doing lying on rocky ground in the moonlight.
Time passed. Clouds flitted quickly, blocking the light then releasing it again to shine down on the man who lay, still unmoving, on the ground.
Tony opened his eye again as awareness returned once more. Vaguely he wondered at the blurry shape in front of him. He felt that he should know what it was and suddenly it became important to him to find out. He squinted at it, trying to focus his vision. A sudden shaft of moonlight as the clouds cleared revealed the twisted stump of a tree. Cheered by his small victory he smiled slightly and moved his hand on the wet ground. Feeling leaf mould beneath his fingers he belatedly wondered just why he was lying in wet leaf mould in the middle of the night.
His mind supplied no answers only more questions. Coherent thought eluded him but a nagging sense of his predicament gradually began to make itself felt. He did know that he was cold. He was shivering constantly, the shivers aggravating the aches throughout his body. Gradually he realised that his head was doing more than just aching and belatedly he wondered if maybe that was why he couldn't think straight.
Taking a quaking breath he tried to take stock. He was lying face down, he thought on a slope, his legs felt lower somehow than the rest of his body. He could make out at least one tree trunk and still felt rain dripping onto his face. The wind was blowing fiercly but, try as he might, he could hear nothing above it. Gradually he realised that he needed to move, staying put just wasn't an option. Concentrating hard he moved his right hand nearer to his body. His fingers were stiff with cold but eventually he brought his hand up to his face and gingerly felt around his eyes. The skin on his forehead was tender and, he thought, swollen. Certainly he still couldn't open his left eye and his head felt too heavy to lift.
Changing tactics he turned to his left hand. He couldn't feel the fingers but tried moving them anyway. It was nearly his undoing as the movement sent a blinding pain along his arm. He screamed, his voice coming out in a rasping echo of its former self, his breath coming in short gasps. Sweat broke out along his forehead warming him momentarily before being cooled rapidly by the wind.
Long moments passed as he fought to remain conscious, breathing through the pain, dreading the thought of trying again. What the hell was he doing here anyway? Had he been rock climbing? He didn't think so; he didn't remember setting out to climb. Trying to distract himself he thought back but his mind remained blank. He found that he could focus on the practical more easily so he used his right hand to feel around gingerly for any sign of his climbing gear. He wouldn't have gone out for more than a ramble without ropes and he certainly wouldn't have gone climbing in a suit. His fumbling fingers halted as he realised that the wet cloth he was wearing was clearly not jeans and sweats. Now that he was concentrating he could feel the restriction of a tie around his neck. Not rock climbing then. Back to square one. Work? Had he been working? More than likely he reasoned dressed the way he was. He tried to think back. He knew who he was, could picture the bull pen, Gibbs, McGee, Ziva. Didn't have a clue what day of the week it was.
Closing his eye he tried to picture his desk, the plasma, anything that might give him a clue as to what he had been working on, what might have brought him out here. He froze. Had he been alone or was one of the others nearby, trapped as he was, or worse? Sighing in frustration he realised there was nothing he could do about it. Unless. Of course, his cell. If it was working it would be in his pocket.
Slowly he inched his hand down towards his pants' pocket, trying to control the shivers. His head swam with the slightest movement and his left arm and side throbbed unmercifully since his abortive attempt to move them. Finally his questing hand reached his pocket. He struggled with the wet fabric then nearly cried with frustration. His cell was not there. Weakly he slumped further into the ground, exhausted.
From off to his left, somewhere among the trees, the sound of a cell phone ringing broke across the howling of the wind. Tony stirred, pushing vainly down with his right hand but try as he might, he couldn't force his ailing body to turn. His cell might as well have been a hundred miles away rather than the scant hundred yards for all the good that it did him.
"Come on Tony, pick up." McGee tapped his fingers on his desk impatiently, watching as the sky lightened over the DC skyline. He had been trying, unsuccessfully, to contact DiNozzo for the past five minutes. It was high time that his friend checked in whether he had caught up with Moroney or not.
"Still no answer?" Ziva looked up from where she sat at her desk, rubbing a tired hand across her face.
"Phones ringing, he just won't pick up," McGee answered, a touch impatiently.
"Maybe he's in a poor reception area," Ziva reasoned.
"Should have checked in before he moved,"
"Give him a few minutes then try again."
"Gibbs isn't picking up either."
"I thought they'd caught up with each other last time they checked in?" McGee could sense the undercurrent of worry in Ziva's voice, hell, he felt it too. Something was wrong. "They took a car from the pool yes?" she asked.
"I'm on it." Tim reached again for the phone on his desk calling Abby for a track on the lowjacked vehicle.
"Where were they headed last time they checked in?"
Both agents turned to greet the new arrival, neither of them in the least surprised to see Ducky at such an early hour. He always seemed to have a sixth sense when something was wrong with the team.
"Tony had spoken to Fielding's father and Gibbs had tracked down his step mother," Ziva replied at once. "Neither had seen him since last week but Tony said that the father gave him a lead to Moroney. They were going to check him out together."
"Did they give you an address?"
Ziva reeled off an upstate address. "It checks out as a store registered in the name of Frederick Moroney but we don't know if they made it that far." She too reached for her phone.
"Wait a moment," McGee held up a hand to stop her. "If there is a problem we don't want to tip him off. We should head up there; Abby is trying to track the GPS locator in the car."
Daylight, such as it was, made driving a little easier but visibility was poor as the rain began again in earnest. McGee concentrated on the road and drove as fast as he dared. He had a bad feeling. Beside him Ziva was talking to Abby.
"No sign of the car yet," she updated McGee as she put her cell away. "Let's head straight for Moroney's store, see if we can pick up their trail there."
"Try calling them again," McGee suggested. "We may get lucky."
Ziva got out her cell again but, like McGee, she didn't expect to get an answer.
The insistent ringing woke Tony from an uneasy rest. The rain was cold and his shivering had intensified. He knew that he needed to move and tried to force his sluggish mind awake. Lying on his stomach as he was he couldn't see any way of turning over without jarring his left arm which he was pretty sure was broken. He suspected that he'd bust some ribs on that side too but couldn't be sure. Either he had to push up with his right hand, which was bound to also push on the left, or he had to tuck his right arm in and try and roll over which meant lifting his head. Grimacing he settled for the latter, bringing his legs up to try and help. The pain was excruciating and he only succeeded in turning his head partway into the mud. His stomach reeled threatening nausea as his head spun. Forcing himself over onto his back with a final effort he lay gasping as the waves of agony gradually localised. His arm lay limply across his stomach, swollen and bloody. His ribs were on fire and his head felt as though an army was hammering to get out.
He had no idea how long he lay there, he became aware that the ringing had stopped and hoped vaguely that his cell hadn't died on him. It had to have been on all night and needed charging. Focusing slightly he clung to that thought trying to remember how or why he was so sure about the cell.
Suddenly he had it, the picture clear in his head. He was in the car with Gibbs, had finished talking to McGee and looked at the screen. He only had a couple of bars of power left. He'd said something about needing to charge it tonight. Gibbs had looked at his watch but it was still daylight outside the car windows.
The picture faded and, although he could call it back, he couldn't see or hear any more. Aside from the daylight he could see nothing from the car windows, could remember nothing of his conversation with McGee. Sighing in frustration Tony brought his attention back to his injuries. Although it hurt to breathe he could take a deep breath if he tried so he didn't think a rib had punctured his lung. Rolling over had confirmed though that at least one rib on his left side was broken. He remembered the fierce stabbing pain all too well from a previous fall. His arm too, despite the rain there was blood on his hand and careful probing with his fingers revealed the swelling. He could move the fingers of his hand though so he decided it best to immobilise the arm as best he could and then try and forget it. He laughed hollowly, his voice sounding strange to his ears over the wind and rain and carefully eased his arm between the buttons of his shirt to lie against his chest.
There was nothing that he could do about either his ribs or his head so he tipped his head back gingerly and let the rain wash some of the mud and blood from his face before opening his mouth and savouring the cool liquid.
He looked up at the canopy above him, the trees were more scattered than he had realised. He lay amid a small copse on a hillside. The slope didn't look too stable, small flurries of scree were being blown down the hillside by the wind. Tony knew from experience just how easily those flurries could escalate into full blown landslips.
He had no idea where he was and attempts to crane his head far enough back to see up the hill left him seeing stars and breathless with pain. He would have to stand up. Tony grimaced, it sounded so simple. Best not to think about it, he decided, pulling his legs up a little. They were shaking with the bitter cold but he thought they would hold him up. Pushing down with his right hand he eased himself onto his hand and knees, pausing to calm his breathing. Squinting he crawled lopsidedly closer to the nearest tree, biting down on his lip to keep from crying out. With a shaking hand he reached out for the trunk, gripping as best he could before forcing himself to his feet. This time he couldn't keep from calling out, his cry soon lost to the biting wind.
Tony stood on unsteady legs while he gathered his resolve. He couldn't make out the ridge of the hillside nor did he know exactly where his cell was other than somewhere off to his left. Then again, his cell may be out of power. Sighing he tried to decide.
In the end the decision was easy, he simply couldn't make it to the top with a broken arm and ribs, the slope was too steep and muddy to even contemplate. So was the trek across to his cell if he was being realistic but that, at least, might be possible. With one last breath he pushed away from his tree and stumbled towards the edge of the copse praying that his luck was about to change.