A/N: My plan is for this to be a team friendship story, slightly Tony-centric (obviously my favorite kind) but not to worry. There will be plenty of team bonding, adventure and whumpage for all! The usual disclaimers: of course I still don't own NCIS or any of its characters, and I am by no means an expert in law enforcement or anything of that nature. Please let me know what you think of my latest attempt, I thrive on your thoughtful reviews and they give me the motivation and inspiration I need to keep writing! -abby
The case had started out like many others. A young petty officer, Erik Lange, had been discovered dead in his apartment. Ducky quickly established that the young man had been murdered, and a full day of investigating revealed a clear connection with Lange's former bunkmate, a Petty Officer Michael Johnston.
Once the information was uncovered, Gibbs was glad to have something to pursue. "Gear up!" he barked at his team. "It seems that Petty Officer Johnston's family has a house in the country that he stays at while on leave. According to his C.O., he's been on leave since last Thursday. McGee, gas the truck." He tossed the keys toward the junior field agent as Ziva and DiNozzo grabbed their weapons and backpacks.
It took almost three hours to reach the remote property, and the team used the time to review the case file and discuss what could have possibly motivated Johnston to kill Lange. All the evidence they had collected indicated that the two men had been friends in addition to bunkmates, and murder seemed incongruent with the facts. As usual, each member of Gibbs' team had a different theory, and as usual, they began squabbling about who was right.
"Hey!" The silver-haired team leader shouted, gripping the steering wheel hard enough to turn his knuckles white. "That's enough! We're almost to the Johnston house. I want all of you to shut up until we get there!" Tony, Tim and Ziva immediately complied, knowing when they'd pushed their boss too far. The trio sat quietly for the remainder of the trip, although Gibbs' order didn't stop them from shooting each other dirty looks.
Within ten minutes, Gibbs pulled up in front of a large, forboding home on an overgrown lot. The house itself had clearly fallen into disrepair, and it seemed as though no one had been around for months, if not years. DiNozzo shook his head as he got out of the car and stretched his long legs.
"Are you sure this is it, Boss? It looks awfully…abandoned." The senior field agent sounded doubtful. It also looks kind of creepy, he said to himself.
Tim consulted the car's GPS system. "According to this, we're at the right place," he confirmed.
Gibbs shrugged, although he didn't like the looks of the place either. His gut was telling him something was off but for once he ignored it, simply stating, "Not everyone likes to bother with home maintenance. Let's go." The four carefully climbed the rotting wooden steps to the front door. After realizing that the doorbell did not function, Gibbs knocked loudly on the door, badge in hand. "NCIS! We're looking for Petty Officer Michael Johnston!" No one was terribly surprised at the silence that followed. Gibbs tried again, as Tony and Ziva peeked through dirty side windows into the dark house.
Suddenly a loud thud came from inside, and Gibbs came to a decision. "Go around back," he said quietly to Ziva and McGee. "DiNozzo, you're with me." Tony nodded and drew his SIG as Ziva and Tim raced around the side of the massive home, trying to run quietly through the tall grass.
Gibbs raised his voice and shouted through the door once more. "Federal agents! We're coming in!" At his boss' signal, Tony kicked in the door and entered the house, Gibbs hot on his heels. They quickly and efficiently cleared the front rooms of the house, as Ziva and McGee called out "clear!" from the back.
Tony slowly headed up the front stairway to check the second level. He held his SIG at the ready, and Gibbs followed his senior field agent closely as Ziva and Tim continued to search the ground level of the house for the source of the noise.
DiNozzo and Gibbs were halfway up the stairs when they were startled by a deafening screech. It was so intense that the house seemed to vibrate on its foundation. The two men looked at each other in alarm while attempting to cover their ears. "What the hell is that?" Gibbs yelled over the racket.
As the stairwell grew darker, realization dawned and Tony shouted, "We need to go! Now!" The two agents turned and ran down the stairs and back into the front hall. Tim and Ziva met them at the same time, but it unfortunately wasn't soon enough. The door that Tony had kicked in had been replaced by a steel slab that had apparently lowered out of the rickety-looking door frame. The four teammates stared at it in shocked silence for a moment before remembering the back door. Wordlessly they raced into the kitchen, where they were greeted by a similar situation.
McGee spoke first. "We're trapped." The words were simple, but his tone was very worried.
DiNozzo shook his head in disbelief. "We'll see about that." He strode to the large window next to the door and gave it a quick once-over as the others looked on. Ziva spotted the poorly concealed wiring under the windowsill just as the senior field agent reached for the latch.
"No, Tony!!" Her warning came a fraction of a second too late. Everything seemed to happen in slow motion as Tony touched the window. There was a bright flash and the coinciding electrical jolt knocked the senior field agent to the filthy tile floor. He landed hard with a grunt and Ziva, Gibbs and McGee immediately knelt by the fallen agent's side. Tim pulled out his phone and was disappointed to see that there was no signal.
"Tony? Can you hear me?" Gibbs' concern was obvious as he gently squeezed the younger man's shoulder. The only response from his senior field agent was labored, wheezy breathing. Tony was deathly pale and trembling violently.
Ziva checked her partner's pulse, which was fast and thready. "It must have been a severe shock, Gibbs. His heart is beating far too quickly." She vigorously rubbed DiNozzo's sternum, hoping to rouse him. The unconscious man was still gasping loudly for air. "Tony. Wake up, Tony."
DiNozzo groaned, but otherwise did not respond. His teammates watched anxiously, and after a few moments his breathing gradually began to even out. "Come on, Tony," Gibbs urged. When the agent's green eyes finally opened and slowly focused on his boss, his three companions sighed, very relieved. "Good job," Gibbs praised. "You okay?"
"I…think so?" Tony was clearly still struggling to pull air into his lungs but he managed to continue shakily, "Probie, help me up." The junior agent had been silently kneeling by his partner's side, wide-eyed and worried, and was glad to finally be able to do something useful.
Together Tim and Gibbs helped DiNozzo into a sitting position and continued to support the still-trembling agent between them. Tony found that being upright eased his breathing, and though his hands were shaking uncontrollably he could tell his heart rate was slowly returning to normal. Feel like I'm gonna be sick, though, Tony thought miserably. He groaned again before asking weakly, "What the hell happened?"
Ziva answered. She had gotten to her feet and was standing by the window, carefully inspecting the wiring without touching it. "The window is wired to shock anyone who touches it. A fairly high voltage, it appears. You are lucky to be alive." She sounded remorseful as she said, "I am sorry, Tony, I did not see it in time."
"Not your fault," the senior field agent puffed. "Stupid of me to touch it."
Gibbs snorted. "How could you have known the windows were electrified? It's not the first thing that occurred to me either."
Tony grinned faintly. He was still working to get his breathing – and the shaking – under control but said with some effort, "Well, this reminds me of a movie-" He didn't get to finish the thought. Instead he was cut off by groans from Ziva and Tim and a gentle head-slap from Gibbs.
"For crying out loud, Tony, you get electrocuted and you're still making movie references? Maybe we should focus on getting out of here!" Tim sounded stressed. He wasn't claustrophobic – too much - but did not relish the idea of being trapped in a house that was clearly booby-trapped. Suddenly something occurred to him. "Wait a minute. Do you think this was intentional? Was someone trying to trap us, specifically?"
The room fell silent, except for the sounds of Tony's wheezing breaths. Gibbs opened his mouth to respond but never got the chance.
"That's very good, Special Agent McGee. Gold star for you." A mocking voice suddenly filled the previously silent house. The four agents started and looked around wildly, trying to find the source of the sound. However, it was tinny, obviously coming over an intercom of some sort. The voice's owner could have been anywhere.
Gibbs glowered angrily. He did not appreciate being used as a pawn in some twisted game, and it pissed him off further that his team was in danger. "Who are you?"
Obnoxious laughter came over the speakers. "Now now, Special Agent Gibbs. I really don't think you're in a position to make demands, do you?"
Gibbs did not back down. The lead agent gently shifted DiNozzo's weight completely to McGee, then got to his feet. He stood in the middle of the room, hands clenched and fury evident as he demanded, "What is this about? If you plan on keeping me and my agents as your prisoners, don't we have the right to know why?"
The disembodied voice laughed again, before cryptically replying, "You'll have to figure it out for yourselves. The clues are in the house. I'll be watching and listening, so don't even think about calling for help. No one can save you now. If you're lucky you'll find the answers before you die. And you will die. Have no doubt about that." After another moment of maniacal laughter, the voice continued, "And be careful. That window was only the beginning."
Without warning, the voice disappeared. Gibbs and his team exchanged glances, shock and worry clearly etched on each of the four faces.