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.
AN: Thank you all for your support with this story both through writing reviews and putting me on alert. I hope that you enjoy the ending. VP.
There, stood rock steady in the middle of the stream, was a man. The pistol in his hand aimed unwaveringly at them. The look on his face was impassive but DiNozzo couldn't stop the single word that passed his lips.
Gibbs stiffened beside him as he too recognised the man looking little different than he had up on the plasma in the bullpen. He was taller than he had appeared on the screen but, given his son's unusual height he supposed that wasn't surprising.
Gibbs felt Tony straighten up as he muttered, "I should have known, I did know you weren't telling me the whole truth, that's why we went to see Moroney together."
"Yes, thank you for that," Fielding Senior smiled. "I wasn't too sure how I was going to track down your partner here."
"Where's your son?" Gibbs asked, loosening his hold on Tony's shoulder, instinctively preparing to put some distance between them to split Fielding's attention.
"Served his purpose," Fielding sneered. "Never thought the little runt would actually go through with it."
"Not another one," DiNozzo muttered. "You know I'm pretty sure that fathers aren't supposed to act like that, at least that's what I've been told."
"Damn straight they're not." Gibbs squeezed Tony's shoulder firmly, hoping that both of his messages got through.
He needn't have worried, at the signal DiNozzo used his good arm to help propel Gibbs over towards the left bank whilst at the same time diving forwards himself using his right arm to reach out towards Fielding. He missed but the distraction was enough to stall the tall man momentarily, allowing Tony to force his aching body out of the water and behind a boulder.
Gibbs wasn't so lucky and found himself once again with the pistol pointed at his head. Fielding had lost a little of his composure but it was clear that he had recognised something in the relationship that the two federal agents shared.
"You've got ten seconds Son," he sneered, "or I'll shoot your partner."
"Gonna shoot me anyway," Gibbs said calmly, stalling for time. "Didn't come all the way out here just to gloat."
"True enough," Fielding agreed, eyeing the older man.
Behind the rocks Tony worked frantically at his belt, cursing as the leather refused to budge. His fingers, stiff with cold, finally seized on the knife that had saved his life more than once and he fleetingly cheered that he had taken the time to put it back after treating Gibbs. At the time the effort had been almost too much but now he doubted if it would have been safe in his jacket pocket. Mentally weighing his options he made his decision and reversed the knife in his hand. He knew its balance was good and he figured he had a much better chance of hitting Fielding with it this way than by trying to get close enough to stab him. Readying himself he listened, waiting for Gibbs to give him an opportunity.
In the end he almost missed it. Fielding had obviously tired of the cat and mouse game and DiNozzo barely made it to his knees as he heard the sharp crack of the gun being cocked over the noise of the wind and the blood rushing in his ears. Desperately he raised his arm, took aim and threw in one smooth motion.
Afterwards he would never be sure what had happened first, the shot being fired, Fielding's lost look as the knife hit him squarely in the shoulder forcing him to his knees, or Gibbs falling back onto the river bank.
Frantically he forced himself forwards, stumbling into the water as his battered body refused to co-operate. The gun was still in Fielding's hand and the man still conscious, he had to reach him before he could fire again. His vision narrowed, focused only on the gun in Fielding's hand and the look in his eyes. He saw the moment the man's focus shifted to him, saw his arm move, finger tightening on the trigger, knew that he wouldn't reach him in time. Almost without conscious thought he tensed, ready to throw himself sideways, praying that he had the energy.
The voice startled him, such had been his focus and he leapt anyway only registering the shots in slow motion as his exhausted mind shut down. Fielding seemed to hang in the air as his body was flung backwards, the resulting splash soundless to his ears.
He came back to awareness to find himself lying next to Gibbs, tightly wrapped in a thermal blanket. Gibbs' eyes were shut and Tony tried to push himself up only to feel a gentle hand on his shoulder.
"Take it easy Tony," McGee smiled down at him. "He's going to be fine."
"But he was shot."
"Not shot DiNozzo," Gibbs' voice was soft but Tony could hear the frustration in it. "I slipped; damn leg gave out on me."
DiNozzo started to laugh but couldn't stop the coughing fit that assaulted him. Quickly McGee supported him from behind but, despite his gentleness, the sudden movement caused waves of pain to wrack his abused body. With a final glance to check on Gibbs he allowed his eyes to close as he gave in to his body's demands.
Beside him Gibbs watched in concern until the younger man's breathing evened out and the lines of pain eased on his face then, he too, relaxed into sleep.
Hours later Tony woke again with an unfamiliar sense of calm. He was warm he realised and pain free which, now that he came to think of it, was a blessed relief. He hadn't realised how much the constant agony had become a part of him over the past, he tried to think how long but drew a blank. He turned his head carefully and quickly decided that the pain was only gone so long as he kept still. Closing his eyes against the dizziness he listened and became aware of gentle snoring off to his right. Smiling, he opened his eyes again to confirm his suspicions, thankful that he had already begun turning his head in that direction. Gibbs lay, sound asleep on the next bed, which, now that he thought about it made sense. They were obviously in a hospital somewhere; if he squinted he could see an IV line attached to his hand. It was daytime too he noticed, finally registering the sun streaming through the window. Experimentally he moved the fingers of his left hand, relieved to feel only a dull ache and the stiffness of a cast restricting his movement. Looking at Gibbs again he registered the cage keeping the blankets from touching his leg but his sudden fears were immediately quashed as his squinting revealed what could only be both feet sticking up at the end of the bed.
Resting his head back with a sigh he was only slightly surprised to hear Gibbs speak.
"You finally awake then DiNozzo?"
Lacking the energy for a witty reply he merely answered with a heartfelt, "Good to see you too Gibbs," which the older man acknowledged with a wry smile.
"How long have we been here?" Tony asked belatedly a few minutes later.
"Got here yesterday afternoon but you slept through most of it." This time the smile was obvious in his voice.
"Had some beauty sleep to catch up on Boss."
Gibbs snorted and Tony sighed in contentment at the familiarity of the moment.
"How much do you remember?" Gibbs asked after satisfying himself that the younger man was indeed going to stay awake this time.
"I remember Fielding Senior showing up with a gun and I can remember McGee saying that you'd be fine. Gets a little fuzzy after that," Tony admitted.
Gibbs nodded. "He and Ziva tracked us into the hills outside of town. Seems that Fielding and his son were the ones who attacked us at the store but they hadn't realised that there was a witness.
"To Moroney's murder and the attack on us. Young girl who worked at the store, McGee said that she was terrified but helpful, recognised Fielding Junior and us from photos. They used Fielding's picture for a BOLO which was used to identify his body in a motel room in Harrisonburg. He'd been shot in the head."
"I'm guessing that was the work of Daddy Dearest," Tony put in, more bitterly than he'd intended.
Gibbs looked at him intently, recognising the hidden pain that the younger man usually masked behind his flippant exterior. "You were right you know," he added finally.
"When?" DiNozzo was puzzled.
"When you said that fathers weren't supposed to act like that," he held the younger man's gaze. "Most fathers take a pride in their children's accomplishments and love them for who and what they are."
Tony frowned at the unusually emotive declaration from his generally taciturn superior but Gibbs' next words warmed him deep inside. "I'm proud of you Tony." The words were softly spoken but DiNozzo was left in no doubt as to Gibbs' sincerity, the look in his eyes spoke volumes.
Before either could reach the stage of embarrassment they were interrupted by a quiet tap on the door followed by a much more exuberant voice. "Move aside McGee," Abby said enthusiastically. "It's time they were awake."
Tony braced himself for the onslaught as Abby launched herself in his direction in full hug mode but she was surprisingly gentle as she leant forward and kissed him softly on the cheek before repeating the action with Gibbs whom she had clearly spoken to earlier.
"He's awake," she announced as McGee, Ziva and Ducky followed her into the small room making it seem rather over crowded.
"What did you find Abs?" Gibbs asked once they were all settled.
"There were no prints from the motel room it had been wiped clean," she began. "But Ducky extracted the bullet from Fielding's head and I was able to get a match."
"You found the slug?" Gibbs was incredulous, "it went wide as Tony's knife hit Fielding's shoulder. Didn't think it would be traceable."
"Didn't find that one Boss," McGee took up the tale, "but we did find the one that hit you. It was in Tony's pocket, EMTs found it when they took off his wet clothes."
"It's a definite match Gibbs," Abby interrupted again. "Which means that the person that killed Fielding Junior used the same gun that shot you and McGee's witness recognised Fielding Senior from his picture. We've just heard back from Lieutenant Roberts."
Gibbs smiled at her enthusiasm but there was one more thing.
"We recovered the ciphers too Gibbs," Ziva read his expression easily. "Fielding was carrying them in his back pack, along with his passport and an air ticket to Brazil."
"Just one?" DiNozzo asked.
"Just one," Ziva replied, not missing the significance.
Ducky caught the look that passed between Gibbs and DiNozzo and got to his feet. He knew something of Tony's family history and could imagine that the recent revelations had hit a little too close to home. In his opinion the best person to bring comfort to the lad was Gibbs, albeit his methods were often unorthodox. "Come along everyone," he said, raising his voice slightly. "Let us leave our friends to their rest."
They filed out slowly saying their goodbyes with promises to return the next day. Throughout neither Gibbs nor Tony said a word both caught up in their own thoughts. Gibbs knew that the younger man needed reassurance but it was not in his nature to be overly demonstrative.
DiNozzo for his part was feeling weary beyond words which made it hard to ignore the painful memories that he usually kept deeply buried. He glanced over at Gibbs and recalled the look on his face when the ex gunny had told him that he was proud of him. Gibbs wore the same look now as he stared intently at him and almost immediately Tony's heart lifted and he pushed the memories of his father back where they belonged, in the past. His present and future were right beside him and, finally, he smiled.