DiNozzo's Rule, #1

Shellie Williams

Summary: McGee and DiNozzo find themselves in a dangerous situation with only each other for backup. With each willing to give his life so the other can survive, will either of them make it out alive?

Tony rolled into view. McGee grabbed Frazier's arm and pushed it up at the same moment that he fired. The bullet sparked against the wall high above Tony's head. From just a few feet away, Tony dove for them. McGee saw him coming and did his best to avoid the hit, but still managed to receive a jolt that sent him flying.

He rolled to a stop as a single gunshot thundered through the passageway. Alarmed, McGee made it to his feet, then turned quickly and ran for the two figures lying crumpled on the floor. "Tony!" Dropping to his knees, he shoved Frazier away and rolled Tony toward him. "Tony?"

Tony blinked at him and grasped his arms. "McGee? Are you OK?"

Winded, McGee nodded. He felt the moment his strength gave out and knew he'd reached about as far as he could go. Utter relief that Tony hadn't been killed washed over him. His vision tunneled and he fell senseless against his partner.

Tony caught him and gently guided him to the floor, then pressed against his throat for his pulse. A beat hammered against his fingertips and he sighed. "You're just having a terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad day, aren't you, McGee?"

"No worse than mine."

With a hissed, "Dammit!", Tony whirled around to find Frazier standing above him. He swayed gently, one hand pressed to his belly, attempting to staunch the flow dribbling out between his fingers. The blood loss was significant, judging from the red trail that ran down his shirt and stained the front of his jeans. He lifted his other hand and Tony cursed again when he saw the gun. Why hadn't he secured the weapon? Oh, yeah. A little thing like catching his partner had been his priority at the time.

Frazier lifted the gun and pointed it at Tony. "Move." He gesture with his weapon and Tony noted how it wavered and shook. "Get away from him."

Tony shifted in front of McGee, his eyes on the gun. "What are you going to do?"

Frazier grinned, showing his bloody teeth. "I'm going to kill him, and let you watch him die."

The hell you say. Tony ignored the threat and lifted one hand carefully, slowly. "Why don't you lie down and let me take care of that wound, Frazier? You're bleeding pretty badly." Movement against his hand startled him, and he looked down. Though he was still unconscious, McGee had wrapped his fingers loosely around Tony's arm. That unguarded gesture of trust ignited a fierce wave of protectiveness inside Tony that crescendo into a blinding need to keep McGee safe at all costs.

"I don't need your help to die." Frazier glanced down at his wound and pulled his hand away for a moment to look at his bloody palm, then pressed it back against his body. "There's just one thing I want to see before I go --" He lifted his gun and gripped it tighter. "If you don't get out of my way, I'll just shoot you, first." He took a step closer.

Tony waited and watched. His body tensed and he gathered his strength, ready for what he was about to do. He twisted his wrist just a little, gently dislodging McGee's hold. Frazier took another step. Tony surged from the floor, knocked the gun aside, and rammed them both into the wall. Air gushed out of Frazier, and he stood with his eyes wide, staring at Tony. His gaze dropped to his chest, where Tony's small knife stood buried to the hilt.

"You forgot one thing." Not expecting Frazier to answer, Tony continued, "Rule #9: Never go anywhere without a knife." He stepped back. Frazier's knees folded and he collapsed face down, then lay still. Tony pushed against his shoulder with one foot, then kicked the gun away. "And DiNozzo Rule #1: Never mess with my geek."

Turning, Tony walked back to McGee. After checking his pulse again, Tony locked his hands around McGee's wrists and dragged him to the platform. It took some maneuvering and a few hissed curses, but he managed to lift McGee and roll him across the flat surface. He climbed on, sat down next to Tim and wrapped one arm over him to anchor him, then started the engine.

The passageway continued for an impressive length. Sometime during the ride, DiNozzo succumbed to exhaustion and his own injuries and lost consciousness.

Gibbs' earwig crackled. "Someone's coming, Agent Gibbs."

"Roger that." Grasping his gun, he aimed it at the double door opening on the back inside wall of the warehouse. The huge building had been constructed against an excavated hillside; cleverly disguising the underground entrance hidden inside. Many buildings here along this mile or so of coastline had similar layouts, so the warehouse raised no suspicions or concerns with its unusual construction.

The faint sound of an engine vibrated through the opening. Moments later, a motorized platform rolled through and slowly came to a stop. Two figures lay on the surface. Gibbs cautiously moved forward, weapon aimed and ready. He sensed other agents closing in around him. Recognition kicked in an instant later and he quickly put his gun away. "Stand down, stand down!"

He reached his men first. Tony and McGee lay curled on their sides, facing each other. Tony's arm was slung across McGee protectively. Both looked the worse for wear. Gibbs reached for Tony and gently rolled him to his back. His eyes narrowed as he took in the various injuries inflicted on his agent. When Tony's eyes fluttered, Gibbs touched his cheek and grasped his arm. "DiNozzo? Can you hear me?"

On the other side of the platform, Ziva arrived and checked on McGee. Supporting his neck, she carefully rolled him toward her. She noticed his shirt had been ripped and pulled it back to study his torso. "Gibbs! McGee has been stabbed!"

Alarmed, Gibbs inadvertently tightened his grip on Tony's arm. The pressure woke Tony and he sat up quickly. He listed sideways. Gibbs caught him. "Easy -- I've got you, Tony."

"Boss?" Confusion wrinkled Tony's forehead. He glanced behind Gibbs, then looked around. His eyes landed on McGee. "Tim!"

"We need EMTs! Where's the ambulance?" Having nothing else to use, Ziva pressed both hands on top of McGee's wound. Two men in EMT uniforms rushed to her side.

Tony reached for them but Gibbs held him back. When Tony resisted, Gibbs pulled him off the platform and onto his feet. His knees wobbled. Gibbs grabbed him around the waist, but Tony still struggled.

"Tony!"

He flinched with the shout and looked at Gibbs.

"They're taking care of McGee; let them do their job."

Tony turned and watched a minute, then refocused on Gibbs. "He's hurt."

Gibbs nodded. "Yeah, I know. You are, too. Come with me and let's get you taken care of." He tugged gently. Tony relented and walked with him. Gibbs found some equipment low enough to sit on and guided Tony to it. He didn't waste any time. "Where's Frazier?"

"Frazier?" Tony blinked. Just as Gibbs was about to repeat the question, Tony answered. "Frazier's dead."

"How'd McGee get stabbed?"

"Frazier tortured us -- tortured me, by torturing McGee in front of me."

"How'd Frazier die?"

Tony looked down at his hands. "I killed him." He rubbed his forehead, weariness dragging at his mouth. "He was going to shoot McGee and I had to -- McGee -- he stabbed McGee -- where's --?" Standing quickly, Tony turned around, but he faltered and collapsed. Gibbs barely caught him before he hit the ground and went down with Tony crumpled in his arms. His fear-edged yell brought more EMTs running. They quickly assessed Tony, carried him to another waiting ambulance, and whisked him away.

Gibbs gestured and another agent ran to meet him. "Frazier's back there, somewhere in the tunnel. Take a couple of men with you and find him. Be careful. We think we have everyone rounded up, but there may be a few stragglers unaccounted for." The young man nodded and left to follow his orders.

Ziva appeared at his side. "They look as if they have been through hell, Gibbs."

He nodded. "They have. Let me put someone in charge of clean up, then we'll go join them. Call Ducky and tell him where they're taking them. He can stay with them until we're there."

Ziva nodded and reached for her phone. Gibbs walked briskly away, determined to delegate his authority and put someone else in charge of the operation, then go check on his men. He couldn't shake that first thought he'd had when he'd realized it was Tim and Tony on the platform: that Frazier was sending him a message wrapped up in his dead men. Instead, Frazier was dead, and McGee and DiNozzo were alive, but that sharp spike of fear still burned within him.

Tony sat munching almonds in the recliner near McGee's hospital bed. It had been a long week of waiting; waiting for surgery outcomes, waiting for test results, and waiting for his hair to grow back in the tiny bald patch on the back of his head. An irritating itch reminded Tony of his injury, and he reached back to gently pat the area. Delicate new hairs met his touch and he grinned.

McGee stirred and opened his eyes. He saw the TV on and DiNozzo sitting across the room. "Anything good on?"

"Sleeping beauty awakens!" Uncrossing his legs, Tony stood and moved to the side of McGee's bed. "How ya feeling there, McSnooze?"

"Better." Patting his bedcovers, he lifted his head and tucked his chin to his chest. "Where's the little thingie --?"

Tony spotted the remote, picked it up, and handed it to McGee. "This what you're looking for?"

"Yeah, thanks." McGee pushed a button and lifted the head of his bed a few inches. Tony turned back to the recliner, but he paused when McGee repeated himself. "I really mean it, Tony. Thanks."

Tony turned back to McGee. "It's just a remote, McGee." His words teased, but his voice grew soft.

McGee looked down at the remote. "I'm not talking about this."

"I know." He waited while McGee gathered his thoughts. He knew this was coming; they hadn't talked about Frazier other than the debriefing Gibbs had given both of them as soon as McGee was coherent enough following his surgery. He clamped down on the instinct that made him want to make a joke and ruin the moment.

McGee stayed silent a moment longer. When he did start speaking, he kept his eyes down. "You saved my life."

Tony reached out and tapped the covers in McGee's line of vision. "Hey." He waited until Tim looked at him. "I was just returning the favor." He smiled, but McGee didn't. Instead, Tim's eyes slid to a spot beyond Tony's shoulder.

"When Frazier had that knife, I thought he was going to -- He nearly --"

"But he didn't." Taking the remote before McGee could worry the cover off, Tony shifted to sit on the edge of the bed. "He'd dead, McGee." Tony's jaw worked as he clenched his teeth. Unused to sharing emotions, he struggled hard to stay serious. McGee needed this. "He can't hurt you anymore."

McGee shut his eyes. His head dropped back to his pillow. "Every time I close my eyes I see him and remember his voice."

"Open your eyes, McGee."

McGee sat back up and opened his eyes.

"He's not here. I killed him." Tony grasped Tim's wrist and gently shook it, then let him go and stood up. "Ducky's performed the autopsy and he's been buried. Once you get out of here, we'll go visit his grave and I'll prove it to you." Bypassing the recliner for a cushioned armchair, Tony hooked it with his foot and dragged it closer to the bed. He turned and sat down. "And I'll be right here to remind you of that every time you wake up."

One corner of McGee's mouth lifted in a half smile. "Why would you do that for me?"

"Why?" Tony laced his fingers together, tucked his hands behind his head, and leaned back. "Because friends watch each other's backs, that's why."

Smiling in earnest, McGee closed his eyes. From the chair, Tony used one hand to click the remote and recline the bed for McGee. Then he tucked his hands back behind his head and sat quietly, until he grew sleepy and closed his eyes, too.

An hour later when Gibbs walked in, he found them both still sleeping. Tony sat in the chair with his head turned slightly to the side, probably so he wouldn't disturb the new baby hairs growing in the surgery spot on the back of his scalp. Gibbs grinned. He noted Tony's arm, stretched out and resting on McGee's bed. McGee lay curled on his side facing Tony, for once, looking relaxed.

The sharp memory of believing they were dead was beginning to dull and move to the back of his mind, replaced with the assurance that they were alive. Settling down in the recliner, Gibbs sighed, linked his hands together over his stomach, and closed his eyes.

The End