Disclaimer: I do not own or profit from NCIS.
Author's Note: I've been working on this forever (well, two months), so I can't tell you how glad I am it's finished! There are 15 chapters, all pretty long, and inspired by a weekend of indulging in the X-Files. I loved how Mulder was always getting in situations where he was somewhat out of it and couldn't quite figure out why and wanted Tony in the same type of angsty situation.
Everything in the story is researched as much as I can, and grounded in reality, so no total flights of fancy, just a little "go with it because it happens in spy movies all the time." I do like to stay as close to reality as possible, and as close to in-character as possible, while still exploring all the team relationships, especially Tony and Gibbs father/son dynamic (my favorite topic.) There are a lot of good moments to come as the team tries to help Tony figure out what has happened to him while he was supposed to be on a relaxing vacation to the Carribbean (but I can already tell you he didn't quite make it there!) My boy really does get put through a lot in this. There is some mild profanity (but definitely not as much as you'd hear in a hip-hop song.)
Let me know what you think...I plan on posting every two days or so until the end. I hope you enjoy it! As always, your thoughts and encouragement are dearly appreciated!
Time is a fluid entity. It ebbs and flows. It slips through fingers and slides through the hourglass. You can kill it, or try to turn it back. Many try to save it or spare some of it. We can waste it, watch it fly, and never have enough of it.
But in the end it is just an illusion, a concept created by man to count his hours and days spent in our earthly pursuits. It is a marker from which we can look back or look forward, identifying what once was and what is yet to be. It is invisible and intangible, impossible to explain, but it grounds us so we know where we are in the universe and without it there is no past and no future, only now, the moment, and we are nothing but specks floating through eternity.
Special Agent Anthony DiNozzo had no sense of time. It had been stripped from him, along with many other things, but it was perhaps the most important loss of all. The loss of food, water, sleep, heat, even his Ferragamo shoes was nothing compared to losing his sense of time.
There was no way to tell how long he had been in this frigid room. It must have been days, but he didn't know how many. He didn't even know if it was day or night. The room was completely white, the walls slick and colorless, the floor hard and cold, the ceiling smooth as porcelain. There weren't even tiles to count. Only three items broke the monotony; a solid metal door, a single red pinpoint of light high in the ceiling (which he guessed hid a camera recording his every move), and a toilet in the corner. He had used the toilet several times already, staring defiantly at the red pinpoint when he did so; if someone wanted to watch him piss and shit, so be it. This was obviously not a time for modesty.
He couldn't remember how he had gotten here. All he knew was that a while back he had come to on the floor aching everywhere, with a raging headache and wearing nothing but a plain white t-shirt and pajama pants. He had no shoes, no socks, no belt with a secret knife tucked in the buckle, and definitely no cell phone. Since awakening he had seen no one; heard not a single sound. He had been given neither a morsel of food nor a drop of water. There was nothing, just endless silence and the noise of his movements.
It was driving him mad, which some would say shouldn't take too long, but Tony knew was actually an accomplishment. He might carry on a lot, but it actually took quite a bit to really get under his skin. He had currently reached his limit and then some.
Growing up an only child, he learned how to spend large amounts of time alone. It wasn't surprising he spent a great deal of his current confinement entertaining himself, an activity he was usually very good at; he sang songs, recited movie plots, played bongos on the floor. That worked for a while, but none of those endeavors held his attention anymore. He was freezing, hungry, thirsty, and tired; all he wanted to do was sleep.
But even that simple act was denied him. The lights in the room shined continuously, beating down like a cold winter's sun. For endless hours the brightness from the orbs in the ceiling kept him awake, but eventually exhaustion seeped into his bones and he curled up on the unforgiving floor, hugging himself tightly to try and find some warmth. Just as he dozed off, an excruciatingly loud alarm blared, jerking him upright to cover his ears and try to limit the searing sound. The lights flashed on and off, creating a strobe effect that bounced off the corners of the cell and intensified his headache. The pattern repeated every time his eyes closed, forcing him to stay awake and preventing even the small respite he could find in rest. After several rounds of noise and lights, he traveled beyond mere exhaustion into a state of sickening fatigue. Someone was watching, and that someone wanted him suffering.
Tony knew he was being tortured. Not your typical, run-of-the-mill thug off the street torture, or even sadistic terrorist torture, both of which usually involved busting noses, breaking ribs, a few well-placed kicks, maybe even a knife or two. That kind of torture was old hat for him, and he was fairly adept at taking it. This was different. This was covert spy, Jason Bourne and James Bond torture. This was off-the-books CIA torture. Tony tried to figure out why any top-secret organization would want to break him, since this was obviously what they were trying to do. He didn't know anything that important, had no secrets to sell, and he couldn't recall pissing anybody off who would go to these lengths. He didn't think even Ziva's father hated him this much.
None of it made any sense. He was supposed to be on a two-week vacation in Jamaica with one of his recently divorced frat buddies. It was kind of a "Stella Gets Her Groove Back" trip for men. He had been packed and ready to go, his luggage stacked neatly in the corner along with his airline tickets; he even remembered going to bed early so he would be on time for his flight. Then he woke up here, in Hotel Isolation. It was fucking crazy.
It also meant no one would be looking for him. The team didn't expect him back for weeks; they wouldn't question not hearing from him. Not even the always wary Gibbs would be suspicious enough to come looking.
He shifted uncomfortably, trying to stop his muscles from cramping. His mouth was so dry he barely had any saliva left to lick his swollen lips. Tony tried to recall how long a person could survive without any water. Two days, maybe three? He wasn't sure, but after so long with no liquids of any kind, he was definitely dehydrated. There was always the water in the toilet, but he hadn't quite made his mind go there yet. Glancing at the small pool in the bottom of the bowl, he was coming ever closer to that humiliating act. The thought of the people behind the camera watching him lap from a toilet like a dog was the only thing stopping him at this point. He was pretty certain he would rather die than give them, whoever they were, that satisfaction.
The door of the room rattled; Tony jumped at the first sound he had heard in days. He struggled to stand, wanting to meet his unknown captors on his feet, but swayed and fell back into the wall, overcome with lightheadedness. Definitely dehydrated, he thought.
"Be careful, Mr. DiNozzo, we don't want you to hurt yourself." Someone took him by the elbow and lowered him back to the floor. Tony looked up into the dark brown eyes of an older man dressed in scrubs and a lab coat. He smiled kindly at DiNozzo. "I'm guessing you don't feel very well right now, so you need to be careful."
Tony cleared his raspy throat to speak, "Who are you? Why am I here?" He noted the two very large and muscular men standing behind the older gentleman, along with a younger man wearing glasses. All were dressed in white scrubs with surgical masks covering the lower halves of their faces.
"All in time, Agent DiNozzo, all in time. For now, we really need to take a look at you and make sure you're doing ok. My assistant is going to check your blood pressure and pulse."
The young man approached him with a blood pressure cuff; Tony glanced from face to face wondering if he should resist. Deciding it would be best to conserve his energy for more significant battles, like escaping, he didn't protest as the cuff was wrapped around his arm. He watched as the young man finished the task and took his pulse. "Both his blood pressure and pulse are high, not dangerously so, but getting close," he informed the doctor, who nodded in response.
"Tell me why I'm here," Tony repeated. "What is it you want to know?"
"Know? There is nothing we want to know. We just want to help you. I'm sure you're very thirsty. Let me get you some water." The doctor stepped into the hall and returned with a plastic cup; he knelt and held it out to the agent.
Tony stared at the cup. He swallowed convulsively at the sight of it. The water could be drugged; it could have any number of poisons inside. His thirst was overwhelming; he wanted the drink so badly he could almost feel it pouring down his throat.
Gritting his teeth, Tony abruptly knocked the cup from the man's hand, sending liquid splashing across the floor and removing the temptation. "No thank you, I'm fine," he said forcefully, giving the doctor what he hoped was a very Gibbs-like stare. "I'm not touching anything until you tell me what the hell is going on here."
The doctor looked deep into Tony's green eyes and slowly smiled. He stood. "I can understand your concern, Agent DiNozzo. You don't know yet if you can trust us. But believe me; you will drink the water I offer you eventually. You won't hold out forever, no one ever does. Then, you'll begin to see I am not your enemy." Indicating for the others to follow, he turned and left the room. Tony heard the lock click as the door shut, leaving him once again in absolute silence. He stared at the spilled water and closed his eyes, trying to convince himself that he had made the right choice and wasn't literally dying of thirst.
"What would you do right now, boss?" Tony asked out loud. He often played a game he called What Would Gibbs Do. Whenever he was in a difficult situation, he would try to figure out what his lead agent would do in the same circumstance. In this scenario, he knew Gibbs would respond just as he was; hold out for as long as possible and try to determine what was going on, and then do everything possible to escape. While considering these options, Tony's eyes slid closed again, his weary mind drifting toward desperately needed sleep. Without warning, the alarm shrieked and the lights flashed, shocking DiNozzo back to awareness. He gasped and ran a shaky hand through his hair. Holding out against these guys, whoever they were, was going to take a hell of a fight.
Tony lifted his head from where he had been dry-heaving into the toilet; sliding to the floor in a crumpled heap. He didn't have the strength to crawl back to the wall where he had been propping himself up, so he just stayed where he fell. The red light on the camera stared down at him; Tony gave it as much of a fuck-you glare as he could; he doubted it was of any concern to whoever was watching.
The alarm blasted again and the lights flickered; this time DiNozzo didn't flinch. Old news, boys, he thought. You're going to have to come up with something different if you want to get my attention this time. His mouth was dry as sandpaper, his muscles ached, his thoughts were jumbled. What he would give right now for a watch; he had no idea how much time had passed since the visit from the doctor. It could have been hours; it might have been days. Time was important; once the two weeks were over, someone would come looking for him. He knew he could count on Gibbs for an all-out manhunt. But in his silent tomb, there was no way to tell how long it had been except for the fact that he could no longer sit up and felt on the verge of passing out, which might not be such a bad idea since at least he would be asleep. Two weeks. He'd never survive two weeks of this. He wouldn't take a bet on making it two more minutes. A pair of sensible men's shoes moved into his line of vision. He gazed up into Gibbs' blue eyes. "Get your ass off the floor, DiNozzo. My men do not give up."
Tony considered this and tried to follow Gibbs' order, but only succeeded in moving a few inches before flopping down again. "Sorry, boss. Maybe if you have a bottle of water on you, or even a flask of bourbon would work right now." There was no answer, Gibbs was gone. The alarm continued to ring, even as Tony noticed his vision blurring and his brain shutting down. For a fleeting moment he was glad for the reprieve unconsciousness would bring; he no longer tried to fight it.
He could hear the door opening again, followed by shuffled footsteps. The shoes this time seemed real enough, and of a more expensive variety. He tried to identify the brand, but his brain wasn't up to the task. The doctor rolled him over and raised him up; his assistant bent in front of him with a clear bottle, condensation dripping from the sides. "Do you want the water now, Tony? All you have to do is say yes."
Tony stared at the bottle and closed his eyes in defeat, the internal battle over almost before it began. He thought he saw Gibbs standing behind the doctor, arms folded, shaking his head in disappointment. Sorry, boss.
"Yes, yes….. I want the water," Tony whispered. Most of his conscious thoughts had ceased, he could only concentrate on his basic needs, one of which was to drink. Regardless of what his mind wanted, his body wanted to survive. Deep inside, he hated himself for not holding out longer; he had really thought he would. Imaginary Gibbs sighed and rolled his eyes. Tony despised the fact he was disappointing even a Gibbs he knew was a hallucination.
"Good man. You've taken your first step. Here, small sips." The doctor took the water from his assistant and held it to Tony's lips himself. After a few tiny drinks, DiNozzo gagged and vomited the small amount of liquid back up. He groaned and sagged in the stranger's arms. "Alright, now. Just try again," the man soothed, offering the water once more. This time, the few sips Tony managed to swallow stayed down.
"Excellent," he pronounced. "We need to get you rehydrated, but not in these accommodations. Let's move somewhere more comfortable. Gentlemen." The men accompanying the doctor lifted the nearly unconscious Tony by each arm and practically dragged him down the hall.
Tony tried to take stock of his surroundings outside the small cell where he had been confined, but couldn't keep his eyes open long enough to gather much. He did realize they were in some type of house, not a prison and not a hospital. He was taken into a well-appointed bedroom and lifted onto a large bed with a fluffy mattress and soft down quilt. After so many days on the hard floor, he nearly wept at the feeling of comfort against his aching muscles. Before Tony gave it much consideration, he moaned in relief.
Tony's captor smiled at his response. "I'm glad you like the new room. Here, Tony, you need to drink some more." This time when the doctor held the water to his lips, Tony didn't even hesitate before drinking, his natural survival instinct taking over and pushing all other considerations aside. He gulped at the cool liquid soothing his thick tongue and parched throat. "Slow down, you'll make yourself sick," the man admonished gently. When the doctor took the drink away, DiNozzo snuggled deeper into the bedding, letting the feather pillow cradle his pounding head. Part of his mind knew he should be resisting, fighting, demanding answers. Yet all he wanted to do was sleep; it no longer mattered to him who these people were or what they wanted, just that they were finally letting him rest.
Through tiny cracks in his eyes, Tony could see Gibbs sitting in a chair by the bed. "You're giving them control, Tony," he said. "Don't do it."
Tony stared at his mentor, wishing he were stronger, wishing Gibbs could understand. "I gotta sleep, boss," he mumbled. "I'm so….tired." Without another word, the agent fell into a deep, exhausted slumber.
The unknown man raised his eyebrow and looked at the empty chair. "It's alright, Tony. You rest now. We'll talk some more tomorrow." Smiling down at the young man he knew he had made the perfect choice this time.
Everything was going just as he had planned.
Tony awoke to the smell of coffee and pastries. Tugging his sticky eyes open, for a moment he was completely disoriented, having no idea where he was. Slowly, it all fell into place and he remembered. He pushed himself up on the pillows and noticed a silver tray by the bed, covered in a variety of rolls, coffee, water, and juice. Tony eyed the breakfast warily; after days with no food he was starving, but he had no idea if he should eat anything these people offered him. His stomach tightened and released, pangs of hunger clawing the insides of his empty abdomen. The intensity of the craving nearly doubled him over.
"Don't worry, Tony. I doubt if we could drug a croissant," the doctor said, rising up from a chair in the corner of the room and moving toward the bed. He picked up a fluffy piece of bread and held it out to Tony. DiNozzo's mouth watered uncontrollably. He thought back to his Psych 101 class. Pavlov's dog indeed. Despite his reservations, he took the roll and tore off a corner, chewing slowly, checking for any strange tastes. He could have refused, but he couldn't see how starving to death was going to get him anywhere. If he had been alone, he would have probably stuffed the entire thing in his mouth at once, poison be damned, but in the presence of his captor he tried to maintain a semblance of self-control.
The doctor smiled as Tony continued to eat. He poured DiNozzo some juice and held it out to him. For long minutes Tony just stared at the liquid, unsure of what to do. He didn't know when he would get a chance to drink anything again, but at the same time they could easily have added anything into the juice. Eventually, his body won the fight and he took the glass, sipping as little as possible. "This is definitely progress," the man said, beaming. "I'm so glad you've decided to trust me."
"Don't jump to any conclusions," Tony replied, barely able to control his anger at the so-called doctor. "Just because I don't want to die of dehydration doesn't mean I trust you." Tony slammed the half-empty glass back on the table, knocking several of the plates to the floor in the process. The small amount of food and rest had given him enough strength to resist his bizarre imprisonment. "I'm still waiting for you to tell me why I was brought here."
The older man's face fell. "Well, I see we haven't had as much of a breakthrough as I thought. Fine." He stepped away, and suddenly the two brawny men were back at Tony's side, grabbing his biceps and dragging him from the bed.
"What are you doing?" Tony protested. "Stop." Seeing what might be his only opportunity, he broke from their grips and bolted toward the open door. The effects of the last few days left his normally quick feet sluggish and slow; he felt himself tackled from behind and driven to the floor before he barely made it into the hallway. "Let go of me," he demanded, continuing to struggle, as his arms were pulled behind him and he was hauled from the ground. A fist connected with his eye, snapping his head to the side; another beefy paw plowed into his stomach, pushing the air from his lungs.
Tony hung limply between the men. "Why….why are you doing this? Why did….you help me?"
The doctor sighed with disappointment. "Because Tony, you are only of use to me if you are alive. No matter what you endure here, I will not let you die." His voice lowered. "Even when you beg for it." He tilted his head. "Take him back to the cell."
The burly men forced him down the hallway toward the out-of-place metal door. "No. No, don't put me back in there." DiNozzo was nearly yelling, panic at the idea of being locked inside again building uncontrollably. "What do you want?" he screamed. "Tell me what you want." The men threw him to the floor of the cell.
The doctor knelt beside him. "We're here to give you what you requested. This is what you wanted. Unfortunately you aren't ready to believe me. But you will, in time." He reached out his hand; Tony flinched as the man stroked his hair. "The orange juice you so willingly drank was laced with amphetamines; I had a feeling you weren't ready to be cooperative. Just consider the discomfort you're about to experience as part of your punishment." He stood and walked back to the door. "We'll return, eventually. Maybe by then you'll have learned to be more appreciative."
Tony looked over to the corner of the room where he found Gibbs leaning nonchalantly whittling a piece of wood, his feet crossed at the ankles. He lifted his blue eyes to meet Tony's green. "Told you so," he said.
"Fuck you, boss," Tony yelled at the apparition. Immediately he regretted the outburst, because when he looked again, the image was gone and he was totally alone. Even the ghost of Gibbs was better than no Gibbs at all.
His heart galloped and his skin crawled. He pushed himself back against the wall and leaned his head onto the hard surface. Silently he prayed for someone, something to end this nightmare before he completely lost his mind.
Time once again became a meaningless quantity. He paced back and forth, walked round and round the tiny room, scratching his arms and legs until they oozed blood. The itching that emanated from within his skin didn't stop. Tony thought about using the red liquid to somehow count the movement of time, but he soon realized there would be nothing to mark down. How many times he circled the cell? His number of blinks? Counting to a million? It was all arbitrary and random and none of it mattered. Without seeing the sun and the moon, he had nothing to anchor him into reality.
His heart raced, his mind buzzed, his vision blurred. He pounded his fists into the wall, hurled obscenities at the red light. "When Gibbs finds out about this you're all dead, do you hear me? Dead!" No one seemed to care. He shouted, raged, poured out all the energy he had left into pointless fury.
Eventually, as the morning's breakfast of drugs filtered out of his system, he slumped to the floor and waited. There was nothing else to do. He realized then just how powerless he was. The only people who could help him were the very ones who put him in this predicament. A lethal catch-22. He stared at the red dot and wondered again who these people were and why they would even want him. "It doesn't matter who they are, Tony. You're still in a hell of a mess."
Tony turned his head to see Gibbs sitting in the floor beside him. DiNozzo smiled bleakly; he knew the old man would come back. "Yeah boss, I know. I know." He felt comforted by the lead agent's presence; he even thought he could smell sawdust and coffee. Calming slightly, his chin slumped forward on his chest; the alarm screamed once more, jarring his eyes open, the whole routine starting again. He covered his ears with his hands, "Stop, stop, stop, stop….."
When the door finally opened many, many hours, or maybe days, later, Tony was curled in a fetal position in the corner, his arms wrapped tightly around his legs, trying to find some level of self-comfort. His brain had decided it had endured enough, and left to find an exotic vacation spot of its own. The doctor leaned down and touched the agent's shoulder. "Are you ready for me to help you, Tony? You have to let go of your past and trust me now; I'm the only one who can end this." Tony stared at him helplessly. "I know you feel guilty, Tony. For Jeanne, Jenny, even Ziva. Work with me and I'll take away all that guilt and self-doubt. This time, you'll be the hero. You'll save them all, Tony, and have no reason to feel guilty ever again."
Gibbs stood off to the side, a sour expression on his face. "It's a trick, Tony. Don't listen to him." But DiNozzo knew Gibbs wasn't there, he was back in DC chasing bad guys and saving marines. The man in front of him was real, and taking his offer was the only way to avoid dying of starvation, thirst, and sleep-deprivation. "Alright," he whispered, his eyes rolling back in his head as he lost consciousness.
The doctor motioned for his assistants to come in the room. He watched as the young man was carefully lifted onto a gurney, following as they moved into another area of the house.
They stopped the stretcher in a large sterile laboratory. Tony was moved from the bed to a chair with the head raised slightly, placing Tony in a sitting position. His brain chose to return from its siesta at the same time the young assistant inserted an IV line in his arm. Tony blinked and looked around, flexed against straps running across his wrists, chest, torso, and legs. He noticed windows lining the top of the room; he saw the outline of people staring down from them.
The doctor pushed the hair back from Tony's face, an intimate gesture that caused him to cringe. "I apologize for the restraints, Agent DiNozzo, but you will see why they are necessary shortly. I do want to let you know how marvelously I think you are doing. Everything is moving along quite according to schedule."
"Whose schedule?" Tony asked hoarsely. "Not mine."
The doctor laughed. "Oh, you are delightful. I really wish I had more time to enjoy your company."
"You said you were going to help me. I don't….none of this makes any sense." His eyes roamed the equipment situated around him; Tony knew nothing that happened here was going to be good. "Let's just talk about this."
The physician shook his head. "No, Tony, I'm sorry. We have far too much to do today. As a matter-of-fact, we need to get started." The aide placed a heart monitor on DiNozzo's chest, broadcasting his racing heartbeat for the entire room to hear. The doctor shook his head at the sound. "Calm down, Tony. Your health is of utmost importance to us. We will do nothing to harm you."
Gibbs sauntered across the room behind the doctor, drinking a cup of coffee. He stopped beside the other man. "He's a liar, Tony. Don't believe him. You got me?"
"I….I got it, boss," Tony answered. The assistant pressed several leads to his forehead. Tony followed the man's movements, not sure what he could do to stop this. Everything was surreal.
The doctor looked over his shoulder. "Do you see Agent Gibbs behind me? Is he talking to you? You musn't listen to him, I need you to listen to me, Tony."
Tony closed his eyes and tried to contain the confusion he was feeling. "I always listen to my boss. I always…..listen." He felt like he was floating away, his entire body disconnected pieces. "What…did you….give me?" he asked, eyeing the IV in his arm.
"Just a little something to help you relax and respond better during the next phase of our work. Remember, you have to trust me to take care of you." He turned to his assistant. "Let's get on with this." He pushed a button that lowered a projection screen from the ceiling. "I hear you like movies, Tony, so I'm sure you'll enjoy the rest of the day. What you are going to see might not rank among the classics, but I'm sure you'll still appreciate all the time and effort we have put into creating them."
Images displayed across the screen. "Very Clockwork Orange," Tony slurred. "Malcolm McDowell starred. 1971, I believe."
"An excellent comparison, Agent DiNozzo. Except the star of this film is you." The doctor slipped a pair of earbuds into Tony's ears. Sounds entered his mind; the voices of Gibbs, Ziva, McGee, the entire team started whispering to him. At first their words were innocent and innocuous, until they changed to say vicious things, vile things, violent things. He even thought he could make out Jeanne and Jenny. His mother. The images on the screen changed too, from peaceful scenes to depraved acts of evil, bombings, shootings, and stabbings. Interspersed throughout the display were pictures of his friends and anyone he had ever loved, of them dying in every horrible means possible. They begged him for help, pleaded with him to save them. Tony tried to close his eyes, but the moment he did something shrieked inside the headset, and didn't stop until he stared forward again. His mind reeled and his head throbbed to the point he was convinced it would explode. There was no way to escape the pictures and sounds no matter how hard he tried to avoid them.
After another unknown amount of time passed, the doctor returned and changed out the IV bag; Tony noticed a red warning label on the side. The man adjusted several knobs on a machine connected to the leads attached to his body; Tony flinched at the low electrical pulse that swept through him. He shook his head and looked at his tormenter. "Why?" he asked. "I just…..I want to know why."
The doctor's face was grim and serious. "We want you to see the truth, Tony." With no more explanation, he turned and left.
DiNozzo glanced around the room for the shade of his mentor, but Gibbs was nowhere, even he had gone leaving Tony in this nightmare alone. Once more, time lost relevance as the images flashed and displayed with unrelenting regularity. Tony called out for them to stop, but he was ignored. No one even approached him. The brain activity recorded by the monitors attached to his forehead showed the first signs he had been subjected to more than he could handle; by the time the doctor and the others entered the room to remove the earbuds, the leads, and turn off the projector, Tony's body was already bucking and thrashing against the bed. They waited for the seizure to end and his form to go slack before removing the straps and wiping off his sweaty face.
The older man watched nervously as his young helper checked the agent's vitals. "Is he ok?"
"Yes," the assistant replied. "Everything is elevated right now, but not so much that a rest shouldn't take care of it." He placed an oxygen mask on DiNozzo's pale face as a precaution. He then turned Tony's head to the side and searched through his hair, checking the small, red incision that appeared to be healing well.
"Good," the doctor said, nodding his head in approval. "We have eight days left; I don't want to waste any of them on extended recovery time. We start again this evening with more experimental methods."
The aide looked down at the unconscious young man slumped against the bed. He knew the work they were conducting was important and necessary, but it still didn't prevent him from feeling a twinge of pity.
The doctor noticed the expression. "Don't do that, my friend. Keep your distance, this is purely science. Don't let yourself get too close to the subjects."
"Yes, sir," he readily agreed, steeled once more to the task at hand which required him to avoid any personal connection to the man before him. "Do you think he's strong enough to take it?" They had failed several times before.
"I do. I absolutely do."
"You're thinking about him, aren't you?" McGee asked.
"Excuse me?" Ziva replied. "Who exactly are you talking about?"
"You know who I'm talking about. You only look over at his desk every ten minutes." McGee sat down on the edge of Ziva's desk. The former Mossad agent tapped her pencil.
Gibbs smiled but continued to work.
"If you are referring to Tony, I am only thinking about how if he were here, I would not have to call the dozens of people on this list by myself. It would be nice to have a little help."
"Everyone's entitled to a vacation, Ziva. Tony had accumulated so many days if he didn't take them he would lose them. Can't say I blame him for getting out of here for a while," Gibbs chimed in, never moving from his desk or looking over at the pair.
"You heard from him boss?" McGee asked. "Is he having a good time in Jamaica?"
"Haven't heard from him, so I guess he's having a really good time," Gibbs responded. It wasn't like Tony had to call and check in with him, although DiNozzo usually did keep in touch every few days when he was away. The younger agent came up with a variety of excuses for calling; that he wanted to make sure Gibbs hadn't retired again, Ziva hadn't shot someone for looking at her the wrong way, McGee hadn't tripped over his own feet chasing a suspect, Abby hadn't overdosed on Caf-Pow, or Vance hadn't reassigned him as Agent Afloat while he wasn't looking. It had become a running joke between the two of them, just what could Tony conjure up as a reason for calling?
Gibbs, however, knew the real reason Tony kept in touch, but he never pressed the issue. Instead he laughed at Tony's jokes, listened to him ramble on about whatever had his attention, and told him to call back in a few days. He figured it was what his Dad would do for him, so he would do the same for DiNozzo.
Late the night before he had actually tried to call Tony, but the senior field agent's cell had been turned off. Not unusual for a grown man on vacation, but still he would've liked some reassurance that Tony wasn't spending his time-off in a Jamaican jail, which for DiNozzo was not out of the realm of possibility.
He was sure Tony was fine, and if he wasn't, the younger man would let him know. He'd be back in another week filled with stories they would have to listen to for…..well, months if the vacation was a really good one. He smiled to himself. It really was quiet around here without the field agent.
"McGee, stop worrying about Tony and worry more about my case. What have you got for me?"
"The marine's mother has given him an alibi for the night his wife was killed," the junior agent explained.
"She is lying," Ziva interrupted, standing to approach Gibbs' desk. The silver-haired man raised his eyebrows at her statement. "Why would she risk her own freedom to protect him when she must know that he is guilty? It does not make sense."
"Unconditional love," Gibbs stated quietly.
"What?" Ziva asked. "Just because she loves him does not mean she should lie and go to jail for him."
"Yeah," McGee added. "Shouldn't she be just as concerned about her own future? If we prove the alibi to be false, she'll just end up in jail right along with him."
"And I guess you two wouldn't put it all on the line like that for someone you loved?" The blue eyes stared unwaveringly.
"Well…" Ziva said.
McGee refused to look up from his keyboard.
Gibbs did not need to mention the choices either of them had made in the past; Ziva's for Michael Rivkin and McGee's for his sister, Sarah. He had made his point.
"Bring the mother in," Gibbs directed. "I'll get the truth out of her." He would do it, but it didn't mean he had to like it.
The lead agent went back to work, thoughts of Tony's silence not leaving, but moving to the back of his mind for a time as he dealt with the tasks at hand.
The woman handed him a drink and graced him with a dazzling smile. She was beautiful, stunning, gorgeous, riveting, mind-blowing. Long dark hair draped seductively over her ample chest, tanned skin glowed beneath her bikini top. Tony removed the umbrella from his drink and sipped, the alcohol causing a nice buzz to flow through his skin. She leaned in and took his hand.
"Would you like to dance?" she purred in his ear.
"I'd love to," he replied, taking her hand and leading her out onto the floor. They spent several minutes swaying in time to the rhythm of the music, his hand lightly caressing her lean, bare back. She pressed herself into him, allowing her breasts and thighs to softly touch him. Her smell was intoxicating. Jamaica had been an incredible idea.
"Would you like to come back to my room?" she asked, her dark, exotic eyes gleaming provocatively.
"I'm right behind you," he replied. Tony couldn't remember her name, but it didn't matter. He was ready for whatever the night held for them, his senses overwhelmed by the sultry woman. If the truth were told, he was way overdue for some passionate, meaningless sex.
She led him to the door of her room, opened it, and stood back for him to enter first. He stepped through the threshold and stopped. Surrounding him was not the warm décor of the Caribbean, but the plain white walls of a cell. He heard the door click before he had time to turn around and realize he was alone. He stared at the handle of the door, afraid to touch it, knowing that when he did the door would not move and he would be trapped inside this pitiless room. With a trembling hand he reached for the handle; when the door wouldn't budge, he tugged furiously, closed his eyes and screamed.
The scream died in his ears as he opened his eyes and realized he was no longer in the white cell, but in a dark, quiet room that smelled and felt familiar. He looked around in confusion, trying to get his bearings. As his eyes adjusted to the darkness, he noticed his sheets, his bed, his apartment. His head felt fuzzy, disoriented.
I must have been dreaming.
Slowly he stood, teetered a little, held his hand out to regain his balance. He carefully made his way to the bathroom, where he splashed water on his face and tried to wash the unsettled feeling left over from the dream down the drain. Looking at his reflection in the dim light he was somewhat taken aback at his haggard and worn appearance. You look like shit, DiNozzo.
Turning off the light and heading back toward the bed he passed his luggage sitting in the corner. He stopped and picked up the airline tickets that sat atop the bags, unused. Nothing had been moved from where he left it….when? The night before? What day was it exactly? His mind started churning as he struggled to find details. He stumbled back over to the nightstand and picked up his phone, checking the date. He was due back at work in just over four hours.
He could remember nothing about Jamaica. He could remember nothing about the past two weeks. Tony glanced down at the unused airline tickets still clutched in his hand, and stared from them into the darkness, dizziness and confusion clouding his mind.
"Where the hell have I been?" he asked out loud. But there was no answer, because he had absolutely no idea.