Author's notes: This is a little one-shot based off of two paragraphs I wrote off of speculation about the season finale (Aliyah) and where season 7 could start. It's spoiler-ish for what's been said about the rest of the season and the start of next season. My take is that Tony gets left behind in Israel, with Gibbs and the rest of the team told he's dead. Ziva gets reclaimed by Mossad, and is actively involved with the interrogation – but only up to the point where it gets nasty. Then she runs to Gibbs – and Gibbs goes to Vance … and here we are.
This scene … well, it kinda demanded screen time. They don't belong to me, never will. Rated T, I suppose, for implied torture and gore. It's more or less a one-shot, though … there may be a hospital scene coming later.
Oh, and for the fans of "Do Not Go Gentle": I have not abandoned it. Check my profile for updates. Real life – IE, writing for a living – has kind of demanded a lot of time lately. That story, plus another, are both in the works. When I get far enough ahead to know where everything is going to fit, I will post.
Gibbs didn't wait. He hadn't shouted as a courtesy call, and certainly not as a warning. He shouted to hopefully distract the man – hunched menacingly over a figure tied to a chair in the center room – from his work, just long enough to gain an advantage.
The man – tall, broad, absurdly serious looking – spun just enough for Gibbs to get a clear shot, a double tap of the trigger on his Sig Sauer, two bullets right through the heart. The man collapsed to the floor, dead before his brain even processed the threat, the serrated knife in his hands clattering to the floor.
Jesus, the blood. Gibbs paused just long enough to take in the situation – two bodies, unmoving. One dead on the floor, the other … still enough to chill Gibbs to the bone, a sharp rush of fear and anger gathering in his stomach. Three quick strides and he had crossed the room, an extra half-step taking him down to his knees beside the hunched figure in the chair, an economy of movement bringing one hand swiftly to the man's throat to check for a pulse.
The first sign Gibbs had that Tony was even alive was when the still form Gibbs checked startled under that first, tentative touch. Gibbs sagged into his knees, relief flooding every conceivable corner of his body.
"DiNozzo." He let his hand drop to the younger man's shoulder, a gentle touch of reassurance. "You with me?"
No answer, just a shiver – an involuntary measure of cowering – that sent anger boiling into Gibbs' stomach.
"DiNozzo." He kept his hand where it was on Tony's shoulder, and felt the full-body flinch. Quickly, he moved his hand to Tony's chin and lifted it up, praying silently to anyone listening that DiNozzo was still cognizant enough to look him in the eyes and see that this ordeal was over.
Bleary eyes, blinking sluggishly, met his reluctantly. Tony tried to turn his head, pull away from the touch, but Gibbs never let his grip slip an inch. He saw the indecision there – the doubt, damn it – before Tony closed his eyes and muttered softly.
"Not real. Not before, not now. You don't…you won't get me to –"
Now as frustrated as he was frightened, Gibbs did the only thing he could think of. He let go of DiNozzo's chin, reached around the back of the younger man's head, and cuffed him lightly across the base of the skull.
"Hey, DiNozzo! Get with the program." His most authoritarian tone evident, Gibbs prayed this would work as he dropped his hand and let it settle on Tony's back.
He was rewarded instantly with Tony's eyes blinking owlishly, then focusing on his face for the first time.
Gibbs couldn't help it; he tilted his head back and let out a light chuckle. The absurdity of the situation, coupled with the relief of finally getting his senior field agent back in HIS hands, made him giddy with relief. He looked forward again, locking his gaze with DiNozzo's.
"Yeah, Tony. Who else?" One short assessment of the numerous cuts and bruises on DiNozzo's face – along with an obviously broken nose – quelled any mirth Gibbs felt, fueling the anger in his stomach once again. When this rescue was over with, Gibbs expected some fallout between the Israeli intelligence community and his own country. He expected his team would feel some of that fallout.
But he would greet it with open arms if it meant getting everyone out alive. Sacrificing one man – one good man who never deserved ANY of this – for a politically convenient alliance had never made sense before and didn't now. Which is why I'll never be Director, thank GOD. Gibbs slipped out his knife, intending to cut Tony loose.
What he didn't expect was DiNozzo to flinch and jump at the sight of the weapon in his hands. The chair skittered in place for a second, then Tony stilled, his face turning white as he grimaced and started coughing.
The gut-wrenching spasm went on too long for Gibbs' liking, but he couldn't – didn't dare – stop to listen. With Tony preoccupied, he hacked through the bonds at the younger man's ankles, sawing through them with a desperate fury he hoped Tony couldn't see. As soon as those bonds were cut, he went at the rope around DiNozzo's arms, seething at both the rope burns covering the exposed skin and the awkward angle that the ropes had held his agent's arms. He knew without looking that the shoulders and elbows had taken as much abuse as Tony's face during this farce of an interrogation.
"Interrogation, hell. This is torture." Gibbs muttered to himself as the last of the rope snapped free and DiNozzo sagged forward. He dropped his knife and made a mad grab to catch Tony before he crashed to the floor. Judging by the dead weight now slumped in his arms, Gibbs wasn't even sure the younger man was still conscious. He rolled Tony over, and found the younger man's eyes wide open, his face a cross between a smile and a grimace.
"Ya…ya think, Boss?" Tony choked back a cough, and spit unceremoniously on the floor, a combination of saliva, blood and snot. "They told me you'd left…that Vance…Vance wouldn't…wouldn't let you come. That, that I'd…" Tony's head dropped slightly. "I'd die here."
If there is any room left in Hell, I am sending Eli David there. Personally. "No one's dying here, DiNozzo." He let enough anger bleed into his voice to make it sound like a command, knowing from experience – hard, brutal experience over 18 years ago in Iraq – that he could show no weakness. And ordering DiNozzo around let Gibbs hide behind the gruff exterior he knew his senior field agent couldn't – wouldn't – question. "Vance'll just have to live with the consequences. You got me?"
Tony nodded, his head resting precariously on Gibbs' shoulder. "Yeah…I'm …good…" Tony coughed, then continued. "Good to go."
Gibbs got his arm around DiNozzo's waist, then shifted the younger man's left arm up and over his shoulder. The whimper escaping Tony's lips left no doubt about the pain and abuse he'd been subjected to, and it took every inch of resolve for Gibbs not to holler out for McGee. He'd had assurances from Vance – who Gibbs didn't trust farther than the nearest bomb-driven pothole in the Israeli streets – and from Ziva, who he'd forced himself to believe, with years of evidence bucking the recent trend, that Tony's injuries weren't life-threatening. They had both sworn Mossad had gone into this looking for information, not for the kill.
But now he had evidence to the contrary staring him right in the face. Tony's words scared the shit out of him. "I'd die here." Gibbs shivered once, then viciously slammed his emotions behind a brick wall. They needed to get out of here and instinct told him that Tony needed to leave under his own power, to take some measure of control of the situation – even if it did hurt like hell.
So he did the only thing he could. Gibbs took as much of Tony's weight as possible and shifted onto the balls of his feet, slowly and surely rising until both of them were mostly upright. Gibbs let loose another silent thanks when DiNozzo's feet stayed under him and the younger man pulled enough of his weight away to balance on his own.
Then he started walking, letting DiNozzo set the pace and making steady progress toward the door. When they reached it, Gibbs saw McGee there, his gun drawn and his eyes steadfastly scanning the hallway for any possible danger. Further down, Gibbs had entrusted Ziva with guarding the hallway and dispatching any danger between them and their exit. She'd made a choice, too – one involving loyalties and political conundrums deeper than even he'd ever guessed ran between her and her father. She'd chosen her team, running when things had gone too far and trusting Gibbs to save the young man they both cared about.
Gibbs tightened his grip on DiNozzo, ignoring McGee's look of panic and alarm as he got his first sight of the senior field agent.
"Boss, are you sure he should be –" Gibbs cut him off, his voice resolute.
"He's on his own two feet, McGee, which you won't be if you don't move." Gibbs didn't have time to let McGee question anything, much less anyone's strength and resolution. So he plowed over the objection and started moving again before anyone doubted so much as a fraction of this hare-brained rescue.
But DiNozzo…damn it, DiNozzo came to a stop next to him and Gibbs found himself bearing more of the agent's weight than he'd expected. The words that reached his ears were both unexpected and utterly infuriating.
"Shouldn't have…" Tony's voice sounded weak, exhausted, like his words were barely making it past some vast barrier of time and effort. The younger man sagged against him, all pretense of strength gone. "Shouldn't have risked it. Not worth it."
Gibbs heard McGee gasp in disbelief, but ignored it. Instead, he shoved DiNozzo firmly up against the wall beside them, using the cool, smooth concrete as a brace and a barrier. Caught between a rock and a hard place, Gibbs knew Tony would listen. He had to; he had no choice. Gibbs got one hand free, grabbed Tony's face, and forced the man into eye-to-eye contact.
"DiNozzo, you listening to me?" In spite of the bleary look in the younger man's eyes, Gibbs saw understanding communicated as Tony nodded against the firm hand. "Good. You. YOU. Are one of mine. No one gets left behind."
He saw a flash of emotion in Tony's eyes – disbelief, fear, doubt. Gibbs tightened his grip and kept his voice level and controlled, even as his own emotions threatened to overwhelm him. Too many hours without sleep, too many hours of bad coffee, of believing he'd lost another member of his team because of some back-room political bullshit had left him in this situation. He needed DiNozzo to hear him – and hear him good – as much for his own well-being as Tony's right now. "I do not, WILL NOT, leave my men behind. EVER. You got me?"
DiNozzo locked eyes with him for a long second, searching for a reason to believe. And when the words sunk in, Gibbs could see the doubt and the fear disappear, replaced by relief and pain and sorrow, all battling with each other for control. When DiNozzo spoke, Gibbs felt like he'd been slung backward in time five years.
"I got…I gotcha boss." With a will of effort, Gibbs could push away the memory of blue lights, of harsh breaths, of the feeling of death and helplessness. He struggled with it all, swallowing hard as he felt Tony make an effort to bear some of his own weight again.
And then came the words that gave Gibbs his first hope in the long, long week that had sped past, ever since this whole mess with Michael Rivkin had begun.
"On…on your six, boss. Let's go."