When Tony had been gone for longer than Gibbs deemed necessary, he tried calling him but no-one answered.
"McGee get me DiNozzo's GPS coordinates on the screen. Gibbs wouldn't have ever said it out loud but he was worried about Tony. They had been friends for nearly ten years and Gibbs genuinely liked the guy, considering him to be a younger version of himself.
"He's still at Trent's apartment boss" the younger field agent answered as quickly as he could.
"Let's go get him then" Gibbs said making his way to the elevator. Ziva and McGee followed quickly. When they arrived outside the building Gibbs knew there was something wrong, it was too quiet inside. When they entered the room Ziva screamed as she saw Tony lying in front of her covered in blood. "Call 911" she yelled at McGee as she and Gibbs ran to their teammate.
Ziva had called Abby on the ride to the hospital and she in turn had told Ducky. The hospital waiting room was crowded while everyone waited for news on Tony's condition. McGee was only absent because he was processing the apartment for evidence on who had shot Tony under Gibbs' orders, but he called Abby every five minutes for an update.
"Agent Gibbs?" said the young doctor who had performed the surgery. "Agent DiNozzo is in a critical condition. His injuries were very severe and it is unlikely that he will ever regain consciousness. I'm afraid that there is a strong possibility he will die."
Abby burst into tears and sobbed on Ducky's shoulder, while Ziva fought to keep her tears in check. Gibbs however was angry and punched in McGee's number on his cell phone.
"Have you got anything?" he barked down the phone.
"Yes boss Tony wrote on the wall the initial's SM and I found a strange white powder on the floor but I couldn't...
Gibbs hung up the phone cutting him off. He had no time for excuses or explanations. Turning to Abby he said in a soft tone.
"Abs we need you to find out what that stuff was. Can you do that for me?"
She nodded tear tracks on her face. Gibbs took Ziva and Abby back to the office leaving Ducky with Tony. Abby ran to her lab as fast as she could and Gibbs yelled something at Ziva about finding SM before snatching the evidence from McGee's hands and following her.
"The fingerprint you found earlier is still running but this white stuff is dandruff, I'm positive" Abby told him.
"Collin's didn't have dandruff so he couldn't have killed Trent or shot Tony, but I didn't really expect him to have. My bet is with this SM guy whoever he is." Gibbs said.
"Boss we found him. SM are the initials of Jessica Trent's boss, Samuel Matthis. He killed her because she accused him of being the mole in the agency and judging by her reports she had the evidence to prove it.
"Abby, see if that print belongs to him." Abby narrowed her search to Agent Samuel Matthis. 100% match.
"Let's go get him" Gibbs said. They got to the NCIS office in record time because Gibbs was driving. They confronted Matthis in his office and Gibbs noted the white dusting on his shoulders. Dandruff. This was their killer.
"I'd rather die, than go to prison Agent Gibbs." Matthis spat as they handcuffed him.
"If my agent dies, I'll carry out that request myself. Who knows the DA might ask for the death penalty anyway. The murder of a federal agent is a very heavy charge. Add on attempted murder of another one and you can kiss ever seeing daylight again goodbye."
Later that night Gibbs sat in Tony's hospital room as the monitors bleeped softly. He had sent everyone home to get some sleep but he couldn't leave Tony's side.
"Come on DiNozzo, you're stronger than this. Keep fighting."
At their home's Ziva prayed, McGee sat in silence in the dark, Abby cried, Ducky made a wish. But sometimes even hope isn't strong enough to save someone you love.
Tony regained consciousness and saw Gibbs sitting there. Gibbs whispered "Sorry I let you down Tony."
"Never apologise, it's a sign of weakness, and you never let me down boss, not once." Tony closed his eyes, for one last time.
Anthony DiNozzo died at 11:32 on November 16th 2010. But he died with his friend, mentor and surrogate father holding his hand.
On a wet Thursday afternoon three federal agents, a medical examiner and his assistant, the director of NCIS and a forensic scientist stood in a graveyard and said their goodbyes.
"You died for your country, and that's the way you would have wanted it, kid." Vance told him.
"I never got to say how much I liked you" Palmer's hands shook.
"You were taken too young my boy" Ducky's cheeks were damp.
"Oh Tony, I'm going to miss you so much" Abby's voice was choked.
"You annoyed me Tony, but I thought of you as my brother." McGee's face was miserable.
"I loved you Tony" Ziva's tears were unafraid to fall.
Six people stepped back from the grave they had been standing around, leaving one man behind. His grey hair was damp in the rain and he laid a single rose on the gravestone.
"You never let me down either" were the last words Leroy Jethro Gibbs said to the man he thought of as the son he never had.
Wherever he was, Gibbs hoped that Tony was happy.
Invisible to passers by Tony stood with a young brunette woman. His best friend. Kate took his hand and they both smiled as their family turned and walked away.
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