AN: Warning: Cliffhanger ahead.
"Okay, beef fried rice, chicken lo mein, chicken chow mein, two pu pu platters," Tony recited, reading from the list he had just scribbled out on a piece of paper. "Am I missing anything?"
"General Gao's chicken," McGee added.
"Chicken and broccoli," Abby chimed in.
Tony rolled his eyes. "Want to tell me again why I'm the one stuck having to pick all this up on New Year's Eve?" Tony asked, his reluctance to do so obvious.
"Because I said so, DiNozzo," Gibbs said, re-entering the bullpen area.
"And normally I would have no problem with that, boss...but we are going off duty now and technically..." Tony trailed off when he saw the way Gibbs was staring at him. "Fine. I'll do it," he grumbled. "Is someone at least going to come with me?" he asked, giving his very best pitiful look, which was ignored by everyone.
"I'll be at your house around seven," Tony said to Gibbs as he put on his coat and draped a scarf around his neck. "Next time any of you needs a favor, don't come crying to me." Tony glared at the team and headed toward the elevator in a huff.
"Aww, maybe I should have gone with Tony," Abby said after the elevator doors had closed. "Now, I feel bad."
"That is just what he wants, Abby," Ziva said. "Tony is a big boy. It will not kill him to pick it up himself."
"Besides, Abs, you're coming to the party with me, remember?" McGee said, smiling at her.
"I know, Timmy," Abby said, absently tugging on her pigtail. "But maybe you and I should have just picked up the food ourselves."
"Ziva's right. It won't kill him," Gibbs said. "Besides, Tony practically goes right by the Imperial Palace coming from his place to mine. It makes sense for him to pick it up."
By the time he got to his car in the parking garage, Tony was pretty much over his momentary annoyance with the team. It really wasn't any big deal to pick up the food. It wasn't like he had to pay for it. Gibbs had given him the money. This little New Year's party was Gibbs' gift to the team. It had come as quite a surprise when their boss had suggested it, but none of them had any real plans and they had all accepted Gibbs' invitation. Tony was looking forward to it. He pulled out his phone and called in the order for the food, requesting it be ready for pickup at around quarter to seven. He was assured that it would be ready then. Tony then started towards home. He would have just about enough time to change his clothes before leaving to go to Gibbs' house. He got to his apartment and stripped off his suit, changing into a pair of well-worn jeans and a white pullover sweater. He then headed back out to pick up the food before going on to Gibbs' house.
The Imperial Palace was very crowded and it was already quarter past seven by the time Tony finally got through the line and reached the takeout window to pick up his order. He then headed back out to his car. He was going to call Gibbs and let him know he was running a bit late, but as he rummaged through his pockets for his phone, he realized that he had changed coats and must have left it in the one he had been wearing earlier. "Oh well, I won't be that late," he muttered to himself as he pulled the car out into traffic. He had been driving for about five minutes when, out of the corner of his eye, he saw a car weaving up ahead on the opposite side of the road. "What the hell..." People were already drunk at seven o'clock? That was just crazy. Suddenly, the car sped up and swerved into his lane. Tony tried to avoid the collision, but there was nowhere for him to go. The car came barreling into his front end, causing his vehicle to spin around, out of control. At that point, another car hit his passenger side and Tony knew no more as his car flipped over and he lay, unmoving, in a mass of twisted metal, the whiteness of his sweater now marred by spots of crimson.
"Tony would call if he was going to be this late," Abby stated quietly, with none of her usual exuberance. It was after eight and there had been no word from him.
"McGee, try his cell again," Gibbs ordered. The churning in his gut was worsening with each passing minute. At first, they had thought Tony was just getting back at them with some kind of prank because of the Chinese food. As the time passed though, they knew Tony would not carry things this far.
"Gibbs..." Ziva's voice was barely a whisper, but there was urgency in her eyes as she looked out the front window. Gibbs followed her gaze and saw the flashing lights of a police cruiser parked in front of his house. He could feel his heart plummet as he slowly walked to the front door, knowing he did not want to hear the bad news that was about to be delivered. He opened the door just as the officer reached the top step of his porch.
"Hi, Gibbs," Officer Andrew Moore greeted him, hat in hands, looking very subdued.
"Andy..." Gibbs waited for a moment then went on, his eyes looking tortured. "It...its Tony isn't it? He's not...he..." He knew Ducky was beside him, felt the older man's hand resting supportively on his back. The rest of the team stood behind them, waiting in tense anticipation.
"He's alive," Andy reassured him quickly. "At least he was when I left the scene. When I saw it was one of yours, I knew you'd want to know. Got here as quick as I could."
"What happened?" Gibbs asked, doing an admirable job of keeping his voice strong and steady in spite of how he was feeling inside, his stomach tied up in multiple knots.
"Drunk driver...went flying the wrong way into Tony's lane and slammed him. Then, Tony must have lost control of his car. Another driver couldn't stop in time and hit him too, and someone else ran into that guy. It was a huge mess..." Andy shook his head in disgust. "Happy friggen new year."
"Where is he?" Gibbs asked. He didn't want to hear any more. Now his priority was getting to Tony as quickly as possible.
"Washington Hospital Center."
Gibbs nodded. "Thank you, Andy. I appreciate you coming to tell me in person."
"No problem. It was the least I could do," Andy said, nodding. He started to leave then turned back to Gibbs, his expression somber. "Tony's a good guy...I hope he'll be alright."
"He will be," Gibbs muttered. He could not allow himself to even consider any other possibility.