The Truth is in the Sodium Thiopental

By: Mahiri Chuma

Rating: T

Disclaimer: I don't own anything NCIS related – though I really wish I did, and *if* I did, oh the whumpage there would be!

Summary: Ten hours was an awfully long time to be stuck on a plane with a concerned Gibbs while under the influence of truth serum. Tony/Gibbs non-slash - Hints of TIVA, S7x01-Tag.

A/N: Like many of you, the Season 7 premiere left me wanting more! So, this little ficlet was born. I know Sodium Thiopental does not last too long, as it is often used as an anesthetic in higher amounts, but seeing that Salim said he combined it with a few other drugs, I thought, why not. Let's torture Tony a little and throw in some good ol' angst, a slash of humor and an inkling of romance. I hope you enjoy this one!

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Tony leaned his head back against the cool metal of the aircraft's interior, trying to block out the irresistible urge to talk. They had been in the air for over an hour and with nine more ahead it was bound to be an uncomfortable journey. He had attempted sleeping but found it nearly impossible as his muscles tensed unmercifully and his jaw clenched so tightly he was sure he was about to shatter a few teeth.

He had really hoped the undesired effects of the Sodium Thiopental would have worn off before their long flight home. Whatever Salim had combined with the Thiopental was doing a good job of increasing the length of the drug's effects.

He had already, much to his embarrassment, professed his amazement at Gibb's sharpshooting skills, admitted to Ziva his incredible concern, complimented the pilot's hair and told McGee he was a fine man and a damned good agent. He wasn't sure he could handle anymore humiliation.

A few feet from him, Gibbs shifted in his seat, turning towards Tony. Tony prayed that the other man wasn't about to address him as he was uncomfortably unaware of what would fly out of his mouth.

"DiNozzo." No such luck.

Don't say anything stupid, Don't say anything stupid ... he chanted in his head; his new mantra for the remainder of the journey.

"Yeah, Boss?" He nearly had to bite his tongue from continuing, ready to rant and rave about anything that came to his mind. And with what was currently occupying his thoughts, that probably wasn't a good thing.

"You feeling ok?" Tony shook his head and looked up, squinting at the dim light overhead.

"No, you know, I've got a killer headache and my hair style is feeling a little, meh," his hands turned in and out, making a 'so-so' gesture, "I don't think desert sand is the shampoo for me. And I'm about ready to lose that protein bar I had two days ago ..."

Gibbs watched his senior agent's face as he clenched his eyes shut before opening them again, looking as though he was trying to hold back any further thoughts. Two days ago ... the two agents had only been held captive for three but it was clear they had not been fed, or had refused to eat, and had a very limited supply of water.

Gibbs handed the the other agent a cool canteen full of the precious liquid.

"Drink." Gibbs said in a voice that implied it was more an order than a request.

Tony took the canteen and fought the urge to cringe. They had been given water as soon as they had boarded the plane, Ziva an I.V. to which she was still hooked to, and he had greedily gulped up the proffered water before promptly throwing it back up.

"Thanks Boss, but I rather not. I'm not as good with the hard liquor as you are and I don't think my stomach can handle-"

Tony grimaced, clearly forcing himself to stop mid sentence. He never admitted the pain of his injuries nor feeling ill. Not ever. The mere fact that he couldn't control these responses was adding insult to injury.

"Did I ask, DiNozzo? Drink."

Tony took a tentative sip and gagged, forcing himself to swallow the small mouthful.

"Thanks, Boss." Tony handed the offensive bottle back to Gibbs, hoping it would give the man reason to leave him alone. He really didn't want to talk right now. Well, no, that wasn't true. All he wanted to do was talk, thanks to the drugs coursing through him, but he certainly wasn't willing to divulge his feelings.

"No, you keep it, DiNozzo."

"Yeah. Thanks, Boss."

He was trying so hard to monitor his speech but it only came out in awkward, clipped sentences making his current predicament all the more apparent.

Gibbs tilted his head and eyed his agent. Tony wished he could have excused himself, but where the hell would he go?

Perhaps he could say, 'Excuse me boss, this is my stop', and leap from the plane. Was that reasonable? A part of him wished it was.

They sat in silence for a moment and before Tony could stop himself he spoke.

"That sniping action was pretty impressive boss. You reminded me of that scene in Saving Private Ryan, the one where the sniper shoots the German soldier through the eye."

He felt a rush of blood reach his cheeks and could only hope the dust on his face would cover the remnants of his embarrassment.

"And when you were standing at the end of the hall? You were like the Angel of Death." did he just compare his Boss to an Angel?

"How'd you get down there, by the way? One second, bang through the window, then bang again," Tony made a gun fire noise with his mouth, "and next thing you're there."

Please stop. NOW.

"Everything okay, Tony?" His voice was low, keeping the conversation between the two of them.

"Well, not too Peachy. Why do you think they say peachy? Why not apple-y? Or Kiwi-ey? Or maybe just fruity, well actually, I can see why that one wouldn't work too great."

He gave an awkward chuckle and shook his head. What had he just said?

He felt the muscles in his jaw twitch. He should have known Gibbs was going to take advantage of his current state.

He was somewhat grateful Gibbs had chosen not to bask in his praises and had stopped him there but he knew what was coming. He knew what he was asking.

He sighed and glanced over at McGee who was snoring lightly, his chin on his chest in a painful looking position. If Gibbs was going to ask these questions he didn't want anyone hearing the answers. He gave Ziva a passing glance, not trusting himself to not site there and simply stare at the woman he thought had been dead.

His stomach had done a flip flop when that horrid black bag had been pulled over her head. His throat had closed up when her eyes showed the shock of recognition and he was, for a moment, rendered speechless, despite the Thiopental, when her dulled eyes filled with tears.

She hadn't spoken a word to him since they had met Gibbs in that dust filled hallway at Salim's base, miles behind them in Africa. A place he would do his best to forget.

His eyes passed over her figure sitting exhausted, slightly slumped to the side opposing her usual straight posture. The dark circles under her eyes stood out in the dim lighting of the carrier. He couldn't tell whether she was asleep or simply resting but he didn't dare look any longer.

It simply hurt too much. He had admitted to her, his voice thick with a sincerity he didn't know he could muster, that he hadn't been able to stand life without her around and she had done nothing but frown at him and muse why, of all people, it had to be him to find her.

His throat tightened painfully as his thoughts begged to be voiced. The Thiopental making it harder to resist with each second he chose to keep silent.

He had tried to catch her gaze upon boarding the plane. She muttered a small, 'Excuse me,' to the air as she pushed past him before settling on the aircraft's long passenger bench.

His heart clenched painfully.

"It hurts." he muttered aloud. He looked away, suddenly aware of to whom he had just said that.

Well, if that wasn't a conversation starter he didn't know what was.

"What does?" Gibbs said quietly and in a voice that was far to gentle for his reputation.

His mouth twitched as he fought to regain some control. He had quickly learned that he couldn't lie directly, no that proved impossible, but he could, however, redirect his truth telling by telling it about something else, completely different that was in fact true and still somewhat relevant.

"Sorry, Boss." He swallowed hard as the semi-truth formed in his mouth, "my head, it's killing me and I didn't get much sleep. You know how interrogations are, all that attention and no time to sleep."

He grinned, or hoped he was grinning. His face had been doing a great job of betraying the truth as of late.

"But then I shouldn't complain," can't stop..., "I mean I was the most popular person at camp Salim, so what can you expect. I'm thinking of planning a return trip, maybe get a massage next time, maybe hit the buffet, I'm still unclear to whether they serve pizza, ol' Salim never got the chance to tell me."

Tony grimaced and looked away, desperate to stop ranting and give Gibbs even more evidence that something more was going on.

"But then again, the accommodations weren't too great and as James Bond as the whole experience was I wasn't offered a single cocktail and I definitely didn't get the girl."

Stop, stop, stop ...

He managed to bring the one-sided conversation to a halt and cleared his throat giving his boss a weak smile.

"You done, DiNozzo?"

He nodded slowly.

"I hope so."

"Good. So are you going to tell me whats really going on?" Gibbs blue eyes burned into his own and a wave of nausea gripped his stomach.

"This isn't an interrogation, Tony."

Tony nodded. He knew Gibbs wouldn't press him further should he really become too uncomfortable. He forced himself to remain still and fight the urge to run, Gibbs deserved to hear some of the truth at the very least.

"If-If it weren't for me, Boss," he paused, the guilt becoming overwhelming as the word were said aloud, "If it weren't for me none of this would have happened."

Gibbs nodded his head thoughtfully but remained silent. He had dealt with similar feelings concerning Kate and though it had been years he still struggled with it from time to time.

"I shot to kill, Boss. I shouldn't have - If I -" He looked away, struggling with his choice of words, "If I cared about her, I shouldn't have - this wouldn't have happened."

"Maybe. But that's not what happened, DiNozzo." A flash of guilt moved through Tony's features as he shook his head and needlessly cleared his throat.

"It shouldn't have been me. It should have been anyone but me, I don't know what I was thinking."

He closed his eyes, fighting further nausea as Ziva's face appeared in his mind. He would always remember her eyes. She looked shocked, her eyes showing she certainly hadn't expected this. But they were also filled with other things. Regret. Fear. Anger.

Disappointment.

"It should have been McGee, Boss. It should have been you."

He remembered winking at her, assuring her of the fact that they did indeed have an escape plan. He remembered her face blurring strangely in front of his face as her brows furrowed, telling him that the odds were against them.

"DiNozzo, if it weren't for you, she would be dead."

He could remember the way the knife glinted, with disturbing clarity, in the sunlight that poured through the filthy window as it was pressed against her neck. How she readily gave them the information they wanted, ready to die.

"She wanted that. She was -" he choked on the words as the painfully fresh memories continued to assault him, "she was ready, Boss. She said she was ready."

"Maybe she thinks she was. But that doesn't mean you didn't do the right thing."

Out of everyone in the world who could have found me, it had to be you ...

"You didn't see her, Boss."

You should not have come.

"I see her now, DiNozzo. She wasn't ready."

Tony gulped, the disbelief in her voice when he had told her of the rescue to come told him a different story.

"You didn't see the way she looked at me." He nearly whispered while looking down at his bruised wrists.

He couldn't imagine anything hurting more than what she had said to him in that room. He couldn't imagine feeling anymore guilt than he felt now.

He thought of all the preparation that had gone into the rescue, the giddiness he had felt when they began their research in silence, the ache he felt when he learned she was dead. The world had become darker, he couldn't hear what people were saying, he couldn't feel anything anymore. He didn't want to feel anything. He wanted revenge.

And then there she was, a living ghost.

He glanced over once more, despite the pain he knew was to come. It shouldn't have been him, he told himself, but he would never regret it.

No matter how much she hated him. No matter how ready she had been. He would never regret it.

"Listen, Boss. Ziva deserves to be happy and -"

"And you don't, DiNozzo?" Tony ignored Gibbs statement and continued shakily.

"I really messed up. And I, uh, I think - I think it would be best if, when we got back, I filed for a transf-."

Gibbs eyes narrowed and Tony felt that previous urge to speak fall back into pure voluntary silence.

"Do you really want to finish that sentence, DiNozzo?"

"No?"

"I didn't think so. Listen," Tony fought the urge to flinch as Gibb's arm reached up. Instead of a headslap, however, the man's hand came to rest on the younger agent's shoulder.

Tony froze.

"Listen, Tony. You made a few mistakes, what happened with Rivkin shouldn't have happened."

Tony dropped his head and nodded, unable to look at Gibbs, his hand's presence on his shoulder making him afraid to say something stupid.

"But today is what matters. You saved Ziva. It needed to be you, Tony."

Out of everyone in the world ...

"You needed to save her."

Tony's throat constricted painfully and his head throbbed in unison with his pounding heart. He wanted to believe what Gibbs was saying, he wanted to be able to forgive himself but it just didn't seem possible. If Ziva couldn't forgive him, how could he forgive himself?

"You did good today, Tony." He squeezed the younger man's shoulder. Tony tried to smile, tried to grin, tried to say something, anything. But for once, in the past four or so hours, nothing came.

Instead, he stared straight ahead his eyes shifting around the room, avoiding the reality Gibbs was trying to present.

"Look at me." Tony turned his head, his hazel eyes thick with pain and uncertainty as his Boss got closer and in slow, pointed words said something that shook Tony to the core.

"You. Are. A. Hero."

Without another word, Gibbs stood, gave a quick glance at his other two agents and made his way to the front of the plane. He needed to give DiNozzo some time. The young man rarely opened up like that, though he wouldn't call this completely voluntary, and he knew that it was bound to make him feel a little vulnerable and uncomfortable.

Tony took a deep breath. A hero? He looked over at the apparently sleeping Ziva, saw the frown that marked her features, even in rest.

"Hero," he said quietly, his voice hoarse with fatigue and overuse, "right."

He sighed and closed his eyes, the effects of the Thiopental seeming to have begun their decline. He still felt terrible, no doubt from the drug hangover to come, but no longer was there this indescribable urge to speak without reason. Verbal diarrhea, McGee had called it.

A small part of him wished that Ziva would have asked him more, that they would have had more time alone in that room. He didn't think he would ever have the opportunity to be that honest and though it hurt him to admit those things, he couldn't help but wonder what would have happened if she had only asked a few more questions.

He heard her sigh heavily and his eyes were drawn to her once again. It didn't matter. He would never know. He did know one thing, though. He would never hurt her again. And though she might not want it, though she might want nothing to do with him, he would always protect her.

And that was enough for now. He lay his head back again and tried to find the quiet of sleep as, unbeknownst to him, a tear made it's way down Ziva's cheek.

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I just loved truth serum Tony, just like i love painkiller Tony and captive Tony. I hope that wasn't too sappy at the end, I was just so heartbroken by Ziva's reaction to her rescue ... I hope you enjoyed this little vignette. Rookie Mistakes will be updated hopefully this weekend and I implore you to leave any comments/suggestions and what not in the form of a review. It would be most appreciated! Asante Sana!

"A hero is no braver than an ordinary man, but he is braver five minutes longer."