Title: Trouble Always Finds a Way
Disclaimer: I only borrowed them to satisfy my slightly sadistic urges.
Spoilers: None, really, except for maybe brief flashes to Chained.
Summary: As the darkness falls, will they find him in time?
A/N: Ah, I decided that I needed to do a bit of Tony whumping. :) He's just so much fun to play with, and I love the way Gibbs reacts when one of his team – especially Tony – is in danger in any way. o:)
"McGee, bag and tag. Ziva, photos. DiNozzo, see if there's anything else. And move it. We're working with a limited amount of time."
A chorus of "on it, Boss" was his reply and he watched as his team set to work. He didn't help them with their appointed tasks, opting, instead, to discuss the body with Ducky.
"Any ideas, Duck?"
"Even I'm not that good, Jethro. No, you'll have to wait till we get her back. Come, Mr. Palmer, we have a job to do."
Moving away from the victim, Gibbs surveyed the crime scene, taking in the deepening shadows and roiling clouds hanging low in the sky. All in all, the scene was relatively quiet, as McGee moved around gathering evidence and Ziva snapped pictures from various angles, noting measurements so the scene could be recreated later. Glancing around, Gibbs realized that his senior field agent wasn't in sight. Squinting slightly as he tried to see through the shadows, he felt his gut clench with foreboding.
Something was going to go horribly wrong, very soon.
Tony glanced up at the sky as he pulled his collar tighter around his neck. Over the past few days, the area had been experiencing some intense storms, at least for that time of year, and the ominous clouds overhead were surely the heralds of another. Shaking his head, Tony moved faster, watching the ground now, not sure what he was looking for but alert for anything not normally part of the terrain.
He'd been moving steadily around the scene, farther and farther out, when he finally noticed the footprints. Pulling out his camera, he prepared to capture the image for Abby to use later. As the flash popped, he noticed the next prints, all leading in a southerly direction away from the scene. Torn, for a moment, he looked from the prints to the scene; Gibbs would want to know if they led anywhere but, with the storm threatening, Tony didn't really want to get to far away. He knew what his boss would say, though, so he followed the prints, ears trained on the sounds of nature as his eyes were trained on the ground.
When the first ominous cracks echoed through the forest, he was so caught up in tracking the prints he didn't place what they meant. Seconds later, their meaning became, literally, painfully clear as a good sized tree branch came crashing down out of the canopy above him. He stared up at the branch, caught in the knowledge that it was coming right for him, feeling the rain sting his face as the clouds let loose.
His last thought before the branch met his body and his body met the ground was that, damn, he had bad luck.
McGee and Ziva had just finished loading the last of the evidence into the truck when the heavens let loose, soaking them all in a matter of seconds. Gibbs cursed, still searching the surrounding woods for signs of his senior field agent's return, the feeling in his gut weighing on him, keeping him from seeking shelter from the storm. As the winds picked up and the thunder rumbled, he heard Ducky call out to him as the ME climbed into their truck.
"Anthony shouldn't be out in this storm long, Jethro. The cold and damp are bad for anyone, but especially one with his medical history." The ex-Marine cursed again and nodded to Ducky, waving a hand to send him back to headquarters.
"Ziva, McGee, in the truck," Gibbs said as he pulled out his cell phone and followed them. "Come on, DiNozzo, pick up." Something in him wasn't surprised when there was no answer and the call dumped to voicemail.
"Do you think he is lost, Gibbs?" Ziva asked quietly, wary of his tightly strung nerves.
"He'd answer the damn phone if he was," Gibbs growled, dialing Tony's number again, hoping – though not expecting – an answer. He wasn't disappointed. "McGee, can you track his cell phone?"
"Uh, I should be able to." He turned and grabbed a laptop, his fingers flying over the keys while Ziva watched and Gibbs glowered at the surrounding trees. "He's, uh, about a hundred feet, uh, that way," McGee said finally, pointing through the windshield.
"Okay, you two stay here. I'm gonna go get DiNozzo."
"Boss, it's not entirely accurate. He could –"
Gibbs cut through McGee's warning, not caring if the reading was a mile off. "I'll find him."
"Are you sure you do not want a hand?" Ziva asked, knowing the answer, but offering anyway.
"No, just stay put. I don't wanna have to go find you two as well."
He didn't wait to hear their responses, reaching around for a flashlight before jumping out into the tempest. Careful to pay attention to where the truck was parked, he set off in the direction McGee had pointed, making use of the flashlight in the early darkness. As he walked, the situation reminded him forcibly of when Tony had been lost before, chained to Jeffrey White. The same sense of danger had hovered then and he'd barely been lucky enough to find his agent in time. Now, though, here in the woods, he had no idea what sort of danger DiNozzo had managed to attract.
He swept the light across his path, squinting as it was swallowed up by the rainy darkness. Glancing at his watch, he was assailed by a new urgency. He was more than aware of Ducky's warning and the thirty minutes he'd walked so far, on top of however long DiNozzo'd been stuck in this weather, was too much time, in Gibbs opinion.
"DiNozzo!" Gibbs barked, hoping that his ordinary frustrated tone would be enough to get a response from the missing agent. He swung the light in front of him again, then paused and shone it ahead of him. As he realized what he was seeing, he broke into a jog, immediately understanding why there had been no response.
As he drew closer, the flashlight's glow illuminated the crumpled form of his agent. Gibbs bent down and rolled him over, taking in the pale features and the trickle of blood rapidly being washed away by the rain. The younger agent's camera lay a few feet away, underneath a tree branch the same thickness as Gibbs' arm. Quickly deducing what had happened, he shook Tony's shoulder, trying to rouse him. The only response was a groan, followed by a hoarse cough that immediately sent Gibbs' gut to clenching for completely different reasons. He needed to get the younger man out of the rain, and soon. He reached out and grabbed Tony's arm, pulled it over his shoulders and hefted the young man to his feet. Tony's head lolled onto Gibbs' shoulder and he groaned again, this time actually coming alert enough to realize what was going on.
"Boss?" he asked groggily, swaying slightly but managing to keep his feet.
"Come on, DiNozzo. We gotta go."
"Boss, m'head hurts," he mumbled, shaking said aching appendage.
"I know, Tony," Gibbs replied absently, reaching down for the camera, looping the strap around his wrist. "Let's go."
"M'kay," Tony mumbled and Gibbs pulled him forward, trying to keep the younger man conscious.
Setting off in the direction he'd come, Gibbs was more than glad when the rain finally started to thin some, allowing the glow of the truck's headlights to show him the way back to Ziva and McGee. Despite being slower than he wished, they eventually made it back to the truck, just as Tony's knees gave out, another hoarse cough rattling through his chest.
"Ziva, help me get him in the truck," Gibbs called as she jumped down out of the cab. Together, they hefted him into the back and Gibbs climbed in after, while Ziva ran around to the driver's side. As quickly as possible, she got them back into the city, then broke every speed limit she came across to get to the hospital.
Standing shivering in the bright lights of the emergency room, a place he felt he had become much too familiar with in the past few years, Gibbs pulled out his cell phone and called Ducky.
"Jethro, did you find him?" Ducky asked, by way of a greeting.
"Yeah, I found him. Tree branch fell on him, knocked him out."
"Thank goodness. I'll tell Abby she can quit pacing now. She's been quite worried for dear Anthony."
"The doctors wanna keep him overnight, something about observation and monitoring his lungs."
"Yes, I imagine so. I take it you're staying there tonight?"
"Yeah. Ziva and McGee are heading back to log the evidence."
"I'll see if Mrs. Cook can stay with Mother and I'll be up there shortly, Jethro. Please try not to strangle any of the doctors before then." Gibbs snapped his phone shut as a nurse came up to him, knowing that Ducky would understand.
"Are you here for Tony DiNozzo?" she asked him, a clipboard in her hand.
"Yeah, I'm his boss."
"He's being moved upstairs. Room 232, if you want to see him."
He moved past her to the elevators, not caring that she looked affronted, and slid into the car just before the doors shut. A short trip later, he arrived at the correct floor and quickly walked down to DiNozzo's room. As always, seeing his agent in a hospital bed, tubes and wires connecting him to machines, made something in his chest clench. And, no matter how many times he saw it, it never got any better. Shaking his head and rubbing a fist against his sternum, Gibbs entered the room, quietly making his way over to the chair placed near the bed. He sat in silence for a while, wondering when Ducky'd arrive and where he could find a decent cup of coffee, when the man in the bed finally stirred.
"Boss?" he asked, his voice clearer this time, and Gibbs turned to meet questioning green eyes. "What happened?"
"Tree branch, DiNozzo. Knocked you unconscious." The older man chuckled then. "God, you have the worst luck I've ever seen. Only you could get in trouble at a deserted crime scene."
Tony grinned back at him. "What can I say, boss? Trouble always finds a way."