Chapter Six (Tony)

I can't sleep.

How am I supposed to sleep at a time like this?

I can't believe I was attacked like that.

I'm no stranger to physical violence, but usually I go into such situations with my eyes wide open. Last night, though? I was totally, completely, humiliatingly blindsided. And it was my own damn fault that I walked right into the trap my assailants set. Whether the trap was meant for me specifically or not, I don't know, but it was definitely designed to catch someone like me. Someone who stupidly goes racing headlong into danger instead of away from it.

I'd prefer to think of it as bravery, but tonight it really was plain old idiocy.

For one thing, I knew I wasn't in fighting shape. I felt more than a little woozy and my vision was kind of swimming. For another, I didn't follow protocol to call for backup. There wasn't time! I heard…or at least I thought I heard someone calling for help. So, ignoring every damn bit of training and throwing all caution to the wind I ran blindly into the situation.

Stupid, stupid, stupid!

My gut instincts had told me that I had no time to waste, that I had to rescue the victim. Unfortunately, my fickle gut didn't fill me in on the whole story or warn me that the victim was actually me. Or that an attacker was just waiting for me to round that corner. I was on the ground, bag over my head before I even knew what was happening.

My stomach roils as I try not to think about what happened next.

Damn. I can't sleep.

And if I just keep lying here, I'll drive myself crazy. Thinking about everything I did wrong. About how close I came to…I don't want to think about it. I need to get up. I need to do something. I shouldn't be here. I should be…I don't know. I can't go home; I can't be part of the team that goes through my apartment searching for evidence. Not that they're going to find any. Gibbs already tagged and bagged my wallet and keys. And when we found my car parked out in the lot, he called and made arrangements for it to be towed in to the Navy Yard to be gone over.

I can't believe they drove my car! I don't let anyone drive my car! I feel so violated!

I feel sick to my stomach as I consider how really violated I almost became.

I don't want to think about this. Not now. Not ever. I know I'll have to when I give my statement, but for now…I just need to get up and do something. Get my mind off of everything, even though what I should be doing is writing it all down, making sure that it's all still fresh in my head. I should have done that immediately. I should've stayed awake and told Gibbs every stupid little detail. How could I have fallen asleep?

Oh right. The drugs.

I can't believe I let myself get drugged.

Stupid!

Yeah, this isn't helping anyone. I need to get up. Find a piece of paper and a pencil. Start writing my statement while everything is still relatively fresh.

I throw back the covers and roll from the bed. There's no desk or even a dresser in Gibbs' guest room, which isn't terribly surprising considering the rest of the house.

I pad out to the living room.

I can't believe anyone lives like this. The place is so clean it could be a museum…except that it doesn't have any exhibits.

Perhaps it's like the Gandhi Museum of Minimalist Habitation.

Seriously, Gibbs leaves absolutely nothing out on his coffee table. Or on his fireplace mantel.

Which brings me to his living room. If you can even call it that. I mean seriously? A lamp. A couch. A rather uncomfortable couch, I might add. But no TV, no DVD player. Not even a VCR! For some reason, it wouldn't surprise me to find the guy has a BetaMax hidden somewhere, though. Probably lurking somewhere in the basement that he expressly declared off limits.

Really, Gibbs? Off limits? Like I'm a little kid or something?

What do you expect? Sometime in the middle of the night I'll sneak down there and get myself completely soused on your secret stash of expensive wines? Or maybe that's where you keep your real furniture. I mean, come on. Who lives like this?

It shouldn't surprise me, I suppose; Gibbs doesn't really strike me as the type who entertains a lot of company. Or, considering the lack of seating--there's only one chair sitting at his perfectly square dining table--perhaps I should assume that to be any company. His guest room was in a pretty sorry state, too. Bed was made to military perfection, of course, but the layer of dust covering the thin blanket spoke volumes about the last time it was actually used.

And my gracious host's response to that?

"Shake it out, DiNozzo." In a rather annoyed voice.

I guess I should probably feel a little honored about the fact that he actually let me into his house at all. Never mind that I'm probably only here at the cajoling of Ducky and his insistence that someone check every once in a while to make sure I'm not dead. Which, he hasn't actually done. I'm feeling the love, really.

Okay, so the man was obviously tired. It'd been a long day for me and probably more so for him; I'm betting he's probably the type who gets up at some ungodly hour to go to work early. Hell, it's 4:30, so it's probably nearing his waking hour about now. But still, you'd think he'd have at least a little sympathy for his injured houseguest. He could've offered me a clean blanket or use of the Master bedroom for the night or something. But no, just "shake it out, DiNozzo," and then disappears into his own room. Where he's probably actually sleeping.

I sigh as I make my way into the kitchen, hoping I'll find a notepad by the phone. It's a no-go, but it was a nice thought. If I were paper in this house, where would I be hiding?

The basement perhaps?

The "off limits" basement. I glance toward the forbidden door and am tempted, but for the moment I hold off.

A kitchen like this is bound to have a junk drawer, I figure. I begin trying to discern which one it might be. The first few drawers I try, though, are filled only with proper eating utensils.

Which reminds me that I haven't eaten yet. I never got over to Pat's for that pizza.

I should probably call him and let him know what's going on. Then again I told him not to expect me until morning. I doubt he really did stay awake waiting for me to call, so I'll give him a few more hours before bugging him.

That aside, though…I'm really hungry.

I make my way to the fridge and pull it open, wondering what kind of leftovers Gibbs might be hoarding.

I'm not sure why it surprises me to find his refrigerator to be mostly empty, but it does. I groan as I eye the half loaf of bread. With no signs of lunch meat to be found.

Maybe there's some peanut butter somewhere?

I begin opening the cupboards, which are rather sparsely "filled" with canned soups and vegetables. Beets? The guy has canned beets but no peanut butter? I open the next cupboard.

"DiNozzo!"

I jump at Gibbs' sharp bark.

Oh. Crap.

I plaster on a smile as I turn to face him. "Good morning!" I greet as casually as I can.

His eyes squeeze shut. "What are you doing?"

"Couldn't sleep, so I thought I'd grab some breakfast…"

"Not that. What. Are. You. Doing?" His eyes remain firmly closed as he motions toward me and I realize what has him so bothered. Right. Probably should've gotten dressed before coming out here.

"You said to make myself comfortable…" I remind him.

"That's a little too comfortable," he growls, rubbing his temple as though alleviating a headache. "I need coffee…" he grunts as I duck past him and head back to the guest room to grab the ridiculous NCIS jumper Ducky had graciously provided me when they'd taken my own clothes as evidence. Once we'd found out that my assailant had been in my apartment and that it had to be declared a crime scene I hadn't been allowed to grab any of my own clothes or anything else for that matter. Gibbs even took my regulation Sig into evidence even though my lockbox hadn't been disturbed and was completely secured. I know it's procedure, but that doesn't mean I have to be happy about it. With my wallet currently being held as evidence I don't even have money to go buy a fresh change of clothes or replace my weapons.

While I'm certain he's not about to help me with the latter, maybe Gibbs has some clean (and less tacky) clothes I can borrow. I'm a couple inches taller, and he's a bit stockier, but still his clothes have to fit me better than Ducky's.

I make my way into Gibbs' room, toss the jumper into his laundry basket, and grab a sweatshirt and a pair of jeans from his drawers, and a belt from his closet.

"DiNozzo!"

I probably should have asked him first.

I plaster on another smile as I turn to him, ready to explain myself, but my mouth snaps shut as I see the infuriated look on his face. I gulp. "I thought these might fit me better than…" I start to explain, but when his glare doesn't lessen I know it's time to backpedal a little. "…But these are probably your favorites, so…here." I hastily thrust the small pile of clothes into his hands and turn to fish the jumper back out of the laundry.

"DiNozzo," Gibbs stops me, sounding weary. "Take them. They're yours," he insists as he presses the clothes back into my hands. I see him rubbing his temple again as he turns to give me enough privacy to get dressed.

He should really see someone about those headaches…

By the time I've dressed and returned to the kitchen, Gibbs is sitting in the lone chair and savoring a cup of coffee. Though there isn't a place for me to sit, he does have a mug set out for me on the counter. I pick it up and take a big gulp.

It takes all of my willpower not to spit it right back out. What the hell? Does the guy drink battery acid? I swallow as best as I can. Maybe some cream and sugar will help. I pull open the fridge and search the shelves. No cream, but he does have some milk. Skim. Better than nothing. As I start pouring some of it into my mug I realize that Gibbs is staring at me.

I probably should have asked if it was okay, first.

I offer a weak smile and he rolls his eyes but nods.

"Don't suppose you have any hazelnut creamer?" I ask. I take his blank stare as a resounding 'no'. "Sugar?"

He raises an eyebrow, and then motions toward a canister. I eagerly dig into it, scooping out several spoonfuls, hoping it will help cut the excessively bitter taste.

I take a test sip. And add a few more spoonfuls. And make another test…

Much better.

I turn back to Gibbs to find that he's looking at me as though I'm some sort of alien.

"You usually up this early?" I casually question Gibbs as I take another sip of the "coffee". He raises an eyebrow at me again, looking rather disgruntled. I'll take that as another 'no'. "So I was thinking, since we're up, we should probably take the evidence to Abby and…"

"You ready to give a statement?" Gibbs asks.

"Right now?" I hedge.

He smiles faintly. "Thought we'd wait for the interview room."

I take a calming breath before answering, "Yeah. I'm ready."

It wasn't entirely true, but there was no point in putting it off.

On the way back to the Navy Yard, we stop at a convenience store where I pick up a couple breakfast burritos, an apple, and a blueberry muffin for breakfast. Gibbs eyes my stash, but says nothing as I set it on the counter. I eye the fruity punch drink that he's buying. I never would have pegged Gibbs as a fruit punch sort of guy, but I say nothing. At least not until I realize that I don't have any way to pay for my own items. Crap. "Seems I left my wallet in the other evidence bag…" I inform Gibbs, hoping he'll take pity. When he only stares back, I sigh and start to gather the items back up to return to the shelves. Gibbs' hand flicks out and slaps mine. I grin as he fishes out his wallet to pay for my breakfast.

Once we arrive at the Navy Yard, Gibbs drops off the evidence we picked up at my apartment--and the fruit punch--with Baker to take down to Abby to process. And then Gibbs leads me to an interview room and immediately starts the recording process.

"This is Special Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs conducting an interview with…" he nods to me, knowing I know the drill.

"Detective Anthony D DiNozzo," I speak into the microphone. When he doesn't prompt me with a question I admit, "I don't know where to start."

"Do you have ulcers?" he asks me, and I blink at the complete randomness of the question.

"What?"

He smiles faintly. "Abby wanted me to ask."

I can't help but grin a little bit at that. She's worried about me.

"Do you take any anti-anxiety medication?"

I quirk an eyebrow. "Abby want you to ask me that, too? Just tell her that I'm a perfectly healthy boy; mentally and physically…"

"Found traces of a drug in your system; just want to be sure you didn't take it yourself."

I sober quickly. I already figured that I'd been drugged, of course, but having it confirmed was another thing entirely. "No. I don't take any drugs. But I must've been slipped something. I started feeling a little…'off'. Right before we were going to leave the club."

"Tell me about that."

I nod and take a deep breath, steeling myself to tell the tale.

***

"See you later, Kid," Pat acknowledged me as he got ready to head out. I didn't miss the way he nodded toward Abby with a 'wink, wink, nudge, nudge' conspiratorial expression on his face. I rolled my eyes slightly at his blatancy and shook my head. Like that would ever happen. Not that I wouldn't be up for it; Abby's fun, she's smart and sassy and adventurous, and she's damn hot. So yeah, even though I never would've pictured myself with a gothy girlfriend, I'd go out with her in a heartbeat. Unfortunately I really don't have anything to offer her and she's made it pretty clear that I'm not even remotely her type--even with the collar on. Besides, she's far too smart to waste time with a guy like me. Such is life.

Still, that didn't mean we couldn't have a little bit of fun before calling it a night. I needed to blow a few minutes to give Pat a chance to pick up the pizza, anyway.

"Don't suppose you want to dance a bit more?" I suggested. The look of discomfort on her face should probably have been a blow to my ego, except that I already knew she wasn't interested. "Just as friends," I assured, letting her off the hook a bit. And then because I can't resist flirting a little, I add, "Okay, and maybe a little to make all the other guys jealous."

"Ooh. Flattery will get you…well, maybe a dance or two," she agreed gamely and allowed me to lead her back out on the floor. It took only a few moments for us to fall into sync with each other and the rhythm of the music. And for just a few minutes, everything else just seemed to disappear as I got lost in the beat, growing dizzy with the hedonistic effects of dancing with Abby.

Although I was having fun, I was relieved when Abby finally decided it was time to stop. We may have stopped moving, but it seemed the floor was still spinning just a bit.

"I should probably go," she announced, though I was pleased to hear at least a hint of reluctance in her voice. The DiNozzo charm may not have won her over completely, but at least she wasn't entirely immune to it. "Gibbs is going to want a report early in the morning."

I nodded, regretting the movement when I was hit with a wave of nausea. Whoa. Yeah, good thing we were calling it a night. Strong as it was, even the DiNozzo charm lost its effect once I vomited in front of a girl. I hadn't even had that much to drink! Maybe I was coming down with the flu or something.

***

"Sorry to interrupt," Piggy apologizes, his face turning bright red as he hovers in the doorway, looking unsure of his welcome. Then again, a glance at Gibbs tells me that the lab assistant isn't particularly welcome at the moment.

"What do you need?" Gibbs asks testily.

"Sorry, it's just Abby needs Detective DiNozzo to sign this…" he limps into the room and thrusts a pen and a clipboard toward me. "It's just a chain of evidence thing, and a release form for some of the testing…" he explains hastily, avoiding Gibbs' gaze.

"Couldn't wait until we were done, Pigotti?" Piggy's blush deepens at Gibbs' scolding. I rapidly sign the forms and hand them back to him.

"Abby hasn't been home and she wants to get a little rest, but she can't until--"

Gibbs cuts him off with a wave and a nod, his expression lightening considerably at the explanation for the interruption.

Once Piggy is out of the room, he turns back to me to continue.

"I thought maybe I was coming down with the flu or something…" I pick up where I left off.

***

"I'll walk you to your car," I offered to Abby.

"Ooh, a gentleman," she cooed.

"Hey, it's for my own protection. Dark alley and all," I replied haughtily, offering her a grin as she raised her eyebrows at that.

"I should at least let Fi know I'm going."

"I could use a bit of fresh air." Although I didn't begrudge Fi or Grant, or their budding romance--they were probably a much better fit than Fi and I would ever have been--I wasn't really in the mood to face them. Besides, I really was feeling light headed. And my vision was kind of swimming a bit. And graying at the edges. If I didn't know better, I was about to pass out. "I'll wait right outside."

There were surprisingly few people hanging around outside when I got there. Apparently I was the only one who found the club to be kind of hot and stuffy. I leaned against the railing to steady myself as my vision once again went completely out of focus.

That's when I heard it. A soft mewling coming from the alleyway. At first I thought maybe it was a cat, perhaps a kitten that had strayed from home and was lost. I glanced toward the club; Fi and Abby both struck me as women who would totally mother-hen a lost kitten.

My attention was drawn back to the alley as I heard a yelp that sounded far more human than feline. I blinked a few times, trying to clear my vision as I cautiously made my way toward the alley. I should call for backup. Grant was just inside. I just needed to get my cell phone from my pocket and--

--then I heard the soft muffled cry, "help!".

Most definitely human. There wasn't time to think. There wasn't time to call Grant. Whoever was there was in trouble and I was the only one in a position to stop it. I had to stop it.

I broke into a run, rounding the corner into the alley. I made it only a couple of feet before I felt someone tackle me from behind, taking me down before I had a chance to catch my balance. And just that fast something--a bag of some sort--was thrust over my head. Blinding me. I started to reach up to rip it away when I felt someone grab the collar around my neck and yank it hard, choking me as they dragged me further into the alley.

I struggled to get my feet under me so I could get a little bit of leverage, lessen the pressure on my throat so that I could breathe, but I was being hauled too fast and my feet failed to make purchase. Frantically I began trying to claw at the collar, but it was no use. I couldn't breathe! Worse, I could feel all the strength rapidly depleting from my body and knew I was fading fast. I couldn't even call out for help. In a matter of moments I would be unconscious and completely at the mercy of my assailant.

Instead of feeding my panic, with that realization came a complete calm. Don't try to pull away from an attack, a piece of my training came to mind. Step into it; use the momentum to throw your assailant off balance.

No longer trying to gain a foothold I instead used every bit of my remaining strength to push off from the pavement and throw myself at my attacker. I gulped in air as his hold on my collar slipped just enough to give me a few moments of reprieve. Not giving him a chance to recover, I pushed off the cement again, taking him down this time.

Unfortunately my upper hand wasn't nearly as upper as I'd hoped it would be and before I could even roll over and try to subdue him he rolled us both over and I found myself pinned beneath him. I felt all the wind being knocked out of me as he slammed me hard against the pavement. Once again I couldn't breathe as he bore down with all his weight, grinding my chest and stomach into the rough cement.

Momentarily unable to fight, I forced myself to relax and let my body go limp. I needed a moment to regroup. Let him think I was giving up and maybe he'd let his guard down. At first, I thought it was working as he slowly eased off of me. He gripped under my arms and started to lift me to my knees. As tempted as I was to make a move, I knew I needed to wait just a little longer, let him feel more confident about my cooperation.

The hair on the back of my neck raised and I became aware that we weren't alone in the alley. It took all my willpower not to flinch as I heard someone moving toward us and then into my personal space. My heart pounded as my brain frantically scrambled for a new plan. Two against one wasn't necessarily a problem; I'd faced worse odds before. Being blinded, however, pitted the odds further against me. My best chances of getting out relatively unscathed would still be to catch them off guard, make them think I was cooperating. So for the time being, I forced myself to remain submissive.

That was the plan until I felt the hands on my belt. It took a few moments for it to register what was happening, but as I felt the buckle being undone I began to panic, realizing where this assault was likely leading.

NO!

That couldn't happen. I began to struggle against my captor, redoubling my efforts as I felt and heard my zipper being undone.

I leaned into the man holding me, using him as support as I lashed out with my legs, kicking the second assailant away from me. The tactic granted me only a few seconds reprieve before the goon holding me bodily lifted me and then slammed me hard to the ground again, this time on my back.

I couldn't completely contain the yelp of pain, but I'd barely gotten out a sound before a hand brutally slammed over my mouth. I could taste the bitter coppery taste of blood as my teeth cut sharply into my lip. A knee planted firmly in my diaphragm, preventing me from getting in enough air to even try to call out.

And then the second man was back. I thrashed my body as I felt his groping hands roughly dragging at my jeans. The man on top of me lifted his knee just long enough to jerk my shirt up a little bit before bringing it down again, jabbing painfully into my gut before he moved lower, knees digging sharply into my thighs as his hands cruelly bore down on my hips.

When I felt the sharp prick of a needle penetrating my skin I knew I'd just crossed into a life-or-death situation. Adrenaline flooded my body with an intensity I'd never experienced in my life. I lashed out desperately, trying to knock the hypodermic away before whatever drug they intended to give me did its damage.

I didn't allow myself to celebrate my victory as I felt the sting as the needle was ripped from my skin and I heard the slight echo as the syringe hit the pavement and rolled away. I didn't know how much, if any of the drug had been injected; I wasn't sure how much time I had before I became incapacitated…or worse.

I didn't have time to think, only to act. I thrashed wildly, swinging my fists and striking as hard and as fast as I could, not caring where the blows landed so long as they forced the man pinning my legs to go on the defensive. It quickly became apparent that even with my adrenaline rush I was at a significant disadvantage. And my strength was waning. Brute force was not going to work in my favor.

Which left fighting dirty.

I uncurled my fists and began clawing at the man holding me down, blindly seeking to gouge his eyes. I felt a feral satisfaction as I my fingernails tore through the skin on his face. If nothing else, I was going to make sure that if someone found my body they'd be able to find all the evidence they needed against my attackers. I recalculated my aim and took another swing.

The assailant on top of me grunted furiously and shifted his body, letting go of my hips as he tried to grab hold of my arms. For just that moment I knew he'd be off balance and used it to my advantage, using every ounce of my strength to buck him off of me.

Momentarily freed, I scrambled, stumbling as I tried to launch myself to my feet. Almost immediately one of them was grabbing me again and I was spun, my body shoved backward against the brick wall of the building. I swiftly ducked to my right, knocking into something; a garbage can, I recognized from the feel and the sound it made as it bounced off the wall.

And that's when I heard Abby calling out my name.

***

"And that's when I heard Abby calling out my name," I wrap up my statement.

Gibbs peers at me for a few moments, and I can feel the weight of his scrutiny. I hold his gaze, refusing to let myself buckle. "And they just let you go."

"Pretty much."

He smiles wanly. "Define 'pretty much'."

I shift uncomfortably. "We…struggled a little bit."

He looks at me expectantly.

I purse my lips, and close my eyes, absently running my hand across my forehead. Much as I don't want to talk about it, I know it is important. Not the details, but the implications. I shove aside any feelings of embarrassment and focus instead on my anger at what my near-kidnappers likely had in store for me if they'd succeeded. "If these are the same guys as the other cases…and I think we can be pretty sure that they are…I'm at least partially right about their motivation." I glance up at Gibbs, gauging his reaction. He remains silent, and keeps his features carefully schooled as not to influence me. I take a deep breath and continue. "I wanted to call out to Abby, but before I could…"

***

I wanted to call out to Abby, but before I could, one of my attackers barreled into me, knocking me back against the wall. He clamped one hand over my mouth as his other arm wrapped around my waist. I felt the weight of his entire body pressing against mine, crushing me against the bricks.

"I thought you didn't want to meet me in a dark alley," I heard Abby's voice again as she called out bravely, only the slight wavering of her voice hinting at any fear. She sounded like she was moving closer. On one hand I was relieved; her arrival would be a game changer. On the other, if she got hurt trying to help me, I'd never forgive myself.

I bit down on the hand covering my mouth, needing to signal to Abby that she should run. My assailant cried out in pained anger as he flinched away. Before I could call out, I felt the collar once again being pulled tight to my throat. Instinctively I began to claw at it, trying to lessen the pressure, but within only a few moments I could feel my body giving out. My legs suddenly seemed too weak to hold me up.

My captor hissed under his breath and I felt myself being dragged further down the alley. Dragged toward a fate I knew I didn't want to experience. I had very little fight left in me, but what I had I used. I jammed my elbow back into my assailant's gut. He lost his grip on my collar and I took the opportunity to put a step between us. I laced my fingers together and swung my arms as if I were swinging a bat. I took great satisfaction as I heard him grunt as he staggered back.

"Just so you know, the police are on their way!" I heard Abby calling out, sounding as though she were miles away.

I didn't want to lead them to Abby or put her in further danger, but since my attackers seemed to want to force me further down the alley I also knew I didn't want to go that direction. So I scrambled, fumbling blindly as I sought something solid and stationary that I could latch onto. Finding what I guessed to be a fire escape ladder I quickly wrapped my arms around it and tucked my head down, bracing myself for another attack.

When I once again felt arms wrapping around my waist and pulling, I clung to the ladder, refusing to be taken. I grit my teeth with feral pleasure as my attacker let out a frustrated growl. My stomach twisted, though, as he tried a different tactic to get me to let go.

I shivered involuntarily as I felt his ragged breath against my skin as he pressed against me and used his legs to lock mine in place. I could feel him getting…excited as he trailed one of his hands lightly across my belly, chuckling softly as I flinched at the gentle contact. Much as all my instincts screamed at me to push him away, I knew I couldn't let go of the ladder; there was little to no chance that I'd be able to fight them off me again. It was either hang on and endure the molestation now or let go, get kidnapped and...I couldn't let my mind go there. My best chance was to just hold tight and hope that Abby was right about the police.

***

I bristle as I recall just how incredibly powerless I'd felt in those next moments. How completely helpless I'd been to do anything to stop my captor's horrifying invasion as his hand slid lower…

I don't realize that I've fallen silent until Gibbs speaks again. "You okay, DiNozzo?"

I force a grin and a small shrug. "Yeah. Not like anything...really happened," I pass it off, as though it was no big deal. It wasn't. So I got groped a little. It wasn't a big deal. It wasn't.

I shift uneasily in my chair and try not to think about how I cringed as I felt something wet brush against the back of my neck and realized that it was his tongue. Even now I feel goosebumps rising on my skin when I think (don't think) about it.

"I guess they must've finally realized that I wasn't going to go easily, that even if they could get me loose I'd do everything in my power to slow them down. So, if Abby was right and the police were on their way…" I sum up the rest of it, glossing over the unpleasantries. "I should've gotten the bag off faster, tried to get a look at them, but…" But I was afraid to let go of the ladder. Just in case I was wrong and I wasn't hearing them running the other direction.

Gibbs doesn't comment on that, though I swear that I can feel his disapproval. Still, he only gives me a small nod, his expression not betraying it if he's really thinking it. "Did either of them say anything?"

I shook my head. "Only when I thought I heard someone call for help." I scowl as I have to admit, "I don't think I'd be able to recognize the voice, though. He purposely muffled it."

Gibbs scribbles a few notes before closing the folder and reaching for a fresh legal pad.

"Wait," I stop him, reaching out to flip the folder back open. "I didn't see them, but I can still tell you at least a few things about them."

Gibbs raises an eyebrow, but settles back into his seat.

"The first guy, the one I had the most…contact with. He's really close to my height, I'd say somewhere between 6'0 and 6'2 at most. If I had to guess, I'd say probably about 210-220 pounds," I estimate, adding a solid 40-50 pounds to my own weight. "No beard, but a little 5'oclock stubble going on. Probably shaves in the morning, but didn't before going out at night." I can't help but smirk a little as I add, "Has a few deep scratches on his cheek this morning." Sobering, I continue my observations. "His hands…they're strong, but not very rough. He likely does not work in any sort of manual labor position. He was fairly proficient at subduing me," I reluctantly admit, "so if I had to guess I'd say probably works security or in a similar field."

Gibbs studies me for a moment. I can't decide if he's impressed, or if he thinks I'm making it all up. I prefer to think he's impressed. "Anything else?" he prompts.

"That wasn't enough?" I shoot back, hoping that I'll lighten my mood.

Gibbs offers a half smile. "And the other man?"

"I didn't have much contact with him..."

"Try," Gibbs encourages dryly.

I think for a few moments before shaking my head. "I can't say for sure. For the most part, he was pretty hesitant to get too close to me. I'm not sure why, but I have the feeling that he was shorter…" I raise to my feet and pace for a few moments before an idea hits me. "You're what…6'0?" I guesstimate, motioning for him to get up.

He nods and rises to his feet. I lean back against the wall and raise my leg as though I'm kicking at him. "I hit pretty much soft…he's on the pudgy side." I note where my foot would've hit Gibbs had he been my assailant and make a few mental adjustments. "He's shorter than you," I figure as I lower my leg. "Maybe 5'10, or so. Smooth hands…He seemed to want to stay away from me as much as possible, so I'd say he's far more likely to have a desk job, or possibly since he was pretty good with the needle he's in the medical profession somewhere?" Or a lab tech, I almost say the words before I realize the implication of that.

There's a suspect right here in the building. An unlikely suspect, though…right? I mean come on, Piggy was hardly a threatening man. On the other hand, he did have the socially awkward creepy stranger vibe going for him. And he was at the scene only a few minutes earlier. What would've stopped him from pretending to leave only to lay in wait? I almost blurt out my theory, but…I don't want to accuse one of Gibbs' men without at least having something more substantial to back it up. I shake my head. "That's all I've got." It's actually more than I thought I'd be able to give.

If Gibbs is impressed, though, he keeps it to himself.

For what seems like hours Gibbs has me go back over my statement again and again. I'd be annoyed except that I know it's standard procedure. Each time someone tells their story, they may think of things they forgot to mention, and possibly reveal details that may turn out to make or break the case.

I'm exhausted by the time Gibbs finally wraps up the interview and turns off the tape.

When he catches me yawning, Gibbs suggests that I go back to the lab and lie down for a while.

"The lab?" I ask as he begins escorting me to the elevators.

"Abby has a futon…or you could go to Autopsy. I'm sure Duck has an open table for you," he proposes wryly, smirking at my visible discomfort at that idea.

"Or I could go home…except that home is a crime scene." I still can't believe they actually invaded my home. Yet another way they've violated me. I frown as I consider that for a moment. Something still doesn't add up, but I can't quite put my finger on just what. Maybe after I get a little rest it'll come to me. "I should call Pat," I realize aloud, wincing as I realize that I still haven't gotten around to doing that and it's no longer morning. "He can probably put me up for a few days."

"You're under NCIS protective custody," Gibbs informs me, clearly not leaving any room for argument.

"Oh. So…I'm going back to your place?"

Gibbs lets out a small amused huff and shakes his head. "Don't think so, DiNozzo. Got a safe house in mind, though. I'll send Baker and Fiora down to get you when it's set up."

When I get to the lab, I find that Abby's futon is already in use.

"She didn't go to bed last night," Piggy excuses her as he catches me looking down at her.

"Yeah…I kinda kept her busy," I reply breezily. "Why doesn't she go home?"

Piggy shrugs. "She said she was too tired to drive. I just have to run a couple more tests and then I'm going to take her if I can wake her up. She sleeps like the dead. Uh…literally," he adds, and I suspect there's supposed to be a joke there somewhere, but it's just awkward. I glance at him questioningly. "Um. She…uh…sleeps in a coffin."

Right.

Okay, then.

"Maybe you can wake her? I just have to…" he nearly topples over as he stands up. I quickly reach out to steady him. He smiles nervously. "Thanks."

"You okay?"

"Yeah. Just…hurt my knee," he explains, limping across the lab to check on one of the machines. "Last night when your friend knocked me over."

I decide not to correct him about Bobby's 'friend' status. "So…anything I can help you with?"

He frowns as he considers. "Well, I do need to go pick up a few things from evidence...except that you can't do that because you're not on the approved…I'm just not sure I can carry it all in one…maybe if I take a bag…" he awkwardly babbles as he picks up a backpack.

"I can go with you and help you carry it back," I put him out of his misery.

"Would you?" he sounds as though I've just offered to paint his house or something.

As he leads me to the evidence lockup, Piggy's limp gets visibly worse. I can sympathize. I totally blew my knee out in college. He should probably be wearing a brace, using crutches. "Here," I offer to let him lean on me. "You should probably stay off that as much as possible."

I try not to cringe as Piggy takes me up on my offer of support and I realize just how bad he smells. And I'm actually afraid he might leave sweat stains on my shirt. But it's too late to rescind the offer. I'm grateful for a short reprieve as we reach lockup and I have to stay back while he exchanges his forms for the items he's there to pick up.

It's probably for the best that I didn't mention my theory about Piggy's involvement to Gibbs. There is no way that man could have been as close to me last night as my attacker was without me *knowing* it was him. He has a very…unique and pungent odor about him. I blink a few times to make my eyes stop watering.

Once he's signed for the evidence and has it packed into his bag, I take it from him for the trek back to the lab.

Abby's still fast asleep when we get back. She hasn't even budged. I can't help but smile at how cute she is when she sleeps; looking so young and innocent with her pigtails still tied.

"Why don't you just go ahead," Piggy suggests as he catches me watching at her.

I blink. "What?"

"Abby won't mind sharing the futon. You can't have gotten much sleep last night, either."

"Oh," I let out a small chuckle, feeling slightly foolish for the completely inappropriate thoughts that had popped into my head at his first words. I consider for a few moments. Abby might not mind sharing with one of her coworkers, but I'm not so sure she'd like waking up next to a guy she's known less than a day. Then again, I really am tired. And Abby does strike me as someone who honestly wouldn't think twice about it. I'm careful not to wake her as I stretch out beside her.

Sleeps like the dead, indeed.

"DiNozzo!" Baker sounds really irritated as he wakes me some time later.

"Ungh…" I grumble as I force one eye open. Yep, he's irritated all right.

Downright furious, it seems. "Get up!" he growls as he grabs my arm and pulls me to my feet.

"What?

"You can't just…" he motions to where Abby is still sleeping soundly.

"Oh! Baker!" Piggy cuts him off. "Sorry! I told him he could; you know Abby--"

Baker scowls but waves off Piggy's explanation. "You ready to go, DiNozzo?" I pretend to look around for my belongings. Oh right. I don't have any. Baker rolls his eyes. "Let's go, then."

"You need help getting that stuff back to lockup?" I ask Piggy.

"Hmm? Oh…no. I was feeling a bit better and I already took it back," he replies, his face pinking a little bit at the odd look Baker was giving us. Piggy turns and almost goes down as his knee twists. He face pinks more as he catches himself on the desk.

"You really should stay off that leg."

Piggy agrees, "I will, once I get home." He glances at his watch, then wistfully at the futon. "I promised I'd take her home, but I really do hate to wake her…"

"Oh for the love of…" Baker reaches down and gives Abby a little shake. "Abby! Wake up!"

She makes a small gabbling sound, but otherwise doesn't respond.

"Abby? You okay?" Baker sounds slightly panicked as he taps her cheek lightly.

"She was up all night and has only had one Caf-Pow! today," Piggy informs us, as though that will explain why she's so dead to the world. "She usually drinks about twelve of them," Piggy enlightens me about the significance. Baker rolls his eyes.

"C'mon, Abby," Baker tries again to wake her.

"Wha?" she murmurs, her eyes opening just slightly.

"Time to go home."

Her eyes open a bit more as she groggily sits up. Her eyes flit from one machine to the next. "Guess it'll be a couple more hours before any more results are ready…" she assesses before accepting Baker's outstretched hand to help her up.

She yawns as she takes a wobbly step. I quickly lurch forward to catch her before she goes down. "My hero," she pretends to swoon as she curls her arms around mine and leans her head on my shoulder and smiles sleepily.

It's impossible to miss the evil eye Baker is giving us, but Abby doesn't seem even slightly fazed by it. Then again, she's probably even more familiar with his moodiness than I am.

"Still want me to give you a ride home?" Piggy asks nervously.

"Yeah…I'm too tired to drive." Abby frowns. "Looks like I picked the wrong week to give up caffeine."

"And sniffing glue," I agree, grinning as she lights up a little bit at the shared Airplane! reference.

Piggy hoists his backpack over his shoulder, but when he staggers I reach out, offering to take it from him. I feel slightly guilty that I don't offer to assist him walking, but…I'd far rather help Abby out to the car. And she seems quite content to let me.

Once we see Abby and Pig off, Baker directs me to his waiting car. It's not until I move to get in that I realize that I still have Piggy's backpack. Crap. I'm sure Baker can get it back to him in the morning, though, I guess.

"So, where are we going?" I ask as I climb into the passenger seat.

"Safe house," he answers simply as he climbs in. I roll my eyes, but I do know the drill.

Still, I can't resist attempting to break another rule of protective custody. "I should really call your brother; you got your cell on you?"

Baker only glares at me in the rearview.

"Fine, but you get to be the one to deal with him when he gets pissy about being stood up. Again." My stomach rumbles. "Don't suppose we could swing by his place and pick up last night's pizza?" Yeah, okay, from the look he gives me, I figure that's not happening, either. My stomach rumbles again.

"Can we stop at--"

"No!" Baker snaps. "I don't know why the hell Gibbs thinks you need to be in protective, but since you are, I'm stuck with you. You will follow the rules because I am not risking my job for you."

I hold up my hands in mock surrender and settle back in the seat and wait for him to visibly relax before suggesting, "How about a drive-thru?" I can't resist needling him just a little bit.

The murderous look he gives me convinces me to stay quiet. At least for a couple minutes.

"So…just you and me tonight? Pat's going to be jealous, you know."

Baker gnashes his teeth, but answers, "Fi's waiting at the safe house."

"Rrrooow," I purr, purely to rile him. And, like a charm, it works.

"You stay away from her," he growls threateningly. "I swear to God, DiNozzo, if you so much as--"

"Relax!" I cut him off. Knowing that I've pushed him as far (and possibly a little farther) than I should I back off and admit, "There's nothing between Fi and I." He doesn't look any happier, so I extend the proverbial olive branch a little further. "And there isn't going to be," I assure him seriously.

For a few moments he remains silent, as though he's waiting for the punchline, but then he visibly relaxes.

"Uh…for real, I'm starved. Any chance of picking something up?"

Baker smiles a little bit, but shakes his head. "Sorry...gotta go straight there. But after you're settled I'll go pick something up, okay?"

It'll have to be.

"How do tofu burgers sound?" he asks, grinning slightly as he catches my startled expression.

"Wait. So…you do have a sense of humor?"

"Shut up, DiNozzo," he replies, though for once it doesn't sound like he actually means it.

We ride in amicable silence the rest of the way to the safe house, and true to his word, once he officially turns me over to Fi's custody, Baker heads out to pick up dinner, leaving Fi and I alone.

"So…we're going to be sleeping together and it's only our second date," I break the awkward silence…by creating an even awkwarder silence. Turns out Fi and I really don't share the same sense of humor.

Fi shifts uncomfortably, and reaches up to sweep a lock of her hair behind her ear. "Um…Tony? I…" she stammers.

"It's okay," I swiftly let her off the hook. "Grant's a great guy."

She smiles shyly and nods. "I never meant to…"

"It's okay," I reiterate, and it really is. I'd have to stay on my best behavior at all times with her, and that wouldn't last longer than…well…the one "date" we already had.

"I kind of got the idea you two might've hit it off last night," I add with a wink. I feel a little bad that once again Baker isn't going to get the girl, but to be honest, the two of them would make a horrible match anyway. At least it's not me who's standing in his way. "So…where's your first date going to be?"

She blushes.

"Make him take you to Pasquale's," I suggest as I kick off my boots and settle onto the sofa as I look around the room, mentally taking inventory and locating all possible exits and attack points. And oooh. The big screen and DVD player; if I'd known that'd be here, I would've had Baker pick up a few flicks when he went out.

Turns out he came up with the idea on his own. Rather, I suspect my partner foisted the idea on him when he apparently decided to take the cheap way out and went to pick up the leftover pizza from Pat. Fi wrinkles her nose as she peers into the boxes, but selects a piece of my pepperoni-sausage anyway. She picks at the one piece while I devour three myself.

Pizza and a movie just isn't the same without Pat around to join me in a running commentary. Every time I started to offer anecdotes or behind-the-scenes info, Fi chews her lip, as though contemplating whether or not to ask me to be quiet. And Baker, though he surprisingly doesn't tell me to shut up, doesn't seem to be paying even a slight bit of attention, which takes all the fun out of it.

I sigh as I quietly watch the movie, trying not to let boredom seep in. I've seen the flick a few times before, and without all the jabber, it's just not really all that interesting. So I'm not disappointed at all as I get drowsy and start to drift off.

"Think I'm going to turn in," I inform them, yawning and stretching as I get up. "Which room's mine?"

Baker smirks, "You're in it." He tosses a pillow at me and motions to the blanket draped over the back of the couch. "Make yourself comfortable!"

I groan as I realize that he means I'm relegated to sleeping on the sofa. I glance pointedly toward the bedroom.

"Sorry. You're under protective; there's only one bed in there and I'm not sharing it with you," Baker gleefully turns down my silent request.

"That's okay," I reply, smirking as my eyes flit over to Fi. And then I remember that she just doesn't share my humor at all. I stop leering and give her a real smile. "Couch it is," I resign myself to the idea.

I wince as I struggle to get my shirt off, irritating all the bruises and sore muscles.

"What are you doing?!" Baker balks.

"I can't sleep in these; I don't exactly have anything to change into, do I?" I can't resist tormenting him slightly and lie, "I'm already going commando…" and I reach for the button on the jeans. Fi's face turns bright red and Baker springs to his feet, looking ready to pummel me.

I dismiss him with a roll of my eyes as I drop my pants and revealing that I am still wearing my boxers.

"Jesus, DiNozzo!"

"Don't be such a prude; there's nothing wrong with the human body," I inform him. "Especially one like mine…" I add, unable to resist irritating him. I grab the blanket and wrap it around myself before dropping back onto my bed for the night.

I'm still drifting between consciousness and sleep when I hear Fi's voice coming as though from miles away. "Did you hear that?"

"Hear what?" Baker drowsily replies.

"I think…"

I struggle to wake as I see Fi rising to her feet, drawing her weapon. I hear Baker clambering to get up as well.

"Stay here," Fi hisses at him. "Stay with Tony!"

Crap.

We're under attack?

But I can't…I can't seem to make myself move.

I'm just so tired…my eyes drift closed.

I force them open again as I hear what I instantly recognize as a gunshot. I try to throw back the blanket so I can get up and follow Fi. I know it's her job to 'protect' me, but someone needs to cover her six, too, and Baker can't leave me behind to do it. I try, but I'm so exhausted that my body feels as though I've gained about 600 pounds.

Something's wrong.

My adrenaline should be…

should be…

I can't keep my eyes open.

Something's not righ…

I try to call out, but my tongue…it's so big…I can't…I can't talk…around it...

Have to…concentrate for…just a minute longer.

"Baaeer," I slur as I manage to fling one arm free of the blanket.

"Stay down!" I feel his hand on my hip, holding me in place.

"G…"

"Shhh."

"G…o," I manage to choke out. "Fff..."

I can't even finish her name.

I'm just so…

My eyes won't open.

And I'm…

I'm…

Gone.

Christ. Something's wrong.

Shots have been fired. Fi could be dead or dying. And I'm sleeping?

I can't…wake up. I shouldn't be…sleeping. I should be…

I unsuccessfully try to force my eyes open as I struggle back toward consciousness.

It takes a moment for me to realize that I'm not on a sofa.

I'm…in bed.

And I'm not alone, there's someone curled against me, an arm flung over my waist, a face buried against my neck.

What the…hell?

Whoever it is against me seems to realize that I'm waking and shifts.

"Tony?" her voice is miles away.

And then it's not, "Tony?"

I manage to open my eyes a slit and see Abby's green eyes peering down into mine.


A/N: I profusely apologize for how long it took me to update! I just kept getting distracted with stories that had deadlines, or that just wouldn't leave me alone until I wrote them! And then to make matters worse it turned out that I had a whole lot more to cover in this chapter than I realized when I plotted out the story...and so 22 pages in (*facepalm*) I started going all OCD and got stuck in a loop of writing and rewriting and nitpicking and...anyhoo, I've decided that the story's been on hold for far too long and am just going with it and haven't let myself go back and make any more changes. And I hate to admit that I decided also to forgo having a beta-reader because I knew if I didn't post now, I'd probably just keep tinkering and never get this thing back on track. So...erm...yeah I'm babbling. Sorry again for the delay, hope you enjoy! I'd love to know what you think. And since it's unbetaed, I would really appreciate it if you catch any glaring errors if you PM me and let me know!