Author's Note: When Tony is reading Gibbs' letter, the part in regular font is what Gibbs wrote (from Chapter 1), the part in italics is what Tony is thinking as he reads it.
Tony looked at Ziva and Tim. How do you say goodbye to the people you love when you can't tell them you won't be coming back?
What did he want to tell them? What could he tell them?
He glanced down at the letter that Gibbs had left him.
Yep. That covered everything.
I have to leave.
I need them to know that this is something I have to do. I don't want this, but this is my mess and I have to be the one to clean it up.
I can't explain this.
You wouldn't have let me go if you knew.
I love you.
That is the most important part. I need them to understand that I am doing this because I love them and I always will.
Take care of each other.
They will need each other to be strong. Gibbs will think he failed and will need Tim and Ziva to convince him that this is not his fault. Tim and Ziva will need each other to help them through the pain. This time, Tim won't leave her to deal with his pain alone, because he knows that she needs him and that she can help him too..
You will be ok.
I have to believe that they will be ok without me.
He didn't need to tell them anything. Gibbs already had. They would understand in time.
It was time to go.
Ziva wrapped her arms around him and whispered into his ear. "Promise me, Tony. Promise me that you'll be ok?" He looked over her shoulder at Tim and saw her question mirrored in his eyes. One more lie. He hugged her tightly then stepped back, looking at them both."I promise. They'll let Gibbs go and we'll talk and then they'll let me go too." He spoke firmly, his voice betraying none of the doubt he felt. Please believe me.
Fornell glanced in the rearview mirror at DiNozzo, marveling at his strength. He knew. He knew he wouldn't get out of this one. But he had done what he had to do so that the people he cared about would be ok. Fornell could tell that it was tearing him up inside to lie to them, but he had done it anyway.
Tony got out of the car and walked the last few blocks to the rendezvous point alone, praying that Gibbs wasn't going to do anything that might screw up his careful planning. Everything in his plan relied on his ability to convince Gibbs that he had a plan to save them both, but he knew he wouldn't have much time to convince him.
His old friend was sitting at a table, right where he said he would be. Tony sat down across from him at the crowded outdoor coffee shop. "Daniel" he said with a curt nod.
"Tony" was his equally curt reply. No smiles. This is not going to be fun.
"Where's Special Agent Gibbs?"
"He's in the van." He answered, with a quick nod in the direction of van with heavily tinted windows. "Once you get into the car with me, we'll let him go." Daniel spoke quietly, but in his tone was a warning. Don't try to fuck with us, or we'll kill him.
Tony was relieved. He wasn't going to be given a chance to talk to him; wouldn't have to lie to him. Gibbs was the one person who Tony had never been able to fool.
"Let's do it."
He was "helped" into the back seat of the car, sandwiched tightly between two armed men he didn't recognize, and then he watched as the van door opened and Gibbs stepped out. Gibbs was covered in blood. "What the fuck…"
"Relax, my friend." Daniel said from the front seat. "He's not hurt. That's…. someone else's… blood." He watched Tony as he processed this information. His initial reaction showed his relief that his friend was ok. He sank back into the seat, relief flooding over him. But Daniel kept watching, waiting for the moment of realization. And he enjoyed it when it came. The look of pain on Tony's face; his eyes shut tightly against the recognition that it was Jeanne's blood on Gibbs.
There seemed to be nothing left in his life but questions; questions and pain. He clung to the only thing that helped him keep his sanity. The people he loved were safe. That was the only thing that mattered.
They gave him only enough water to drink so that he could continue to answer their questions. They hadn't given him any food and he was getting weaker. Maybe their plan was to starve him to death. That thought didn't bother him very much. He didn't seem to care any more. All he wanted was for it to be over.
His friends were not going to be able to find him. He knew better than to hope for that. He had gone into this situation knowing that it was highly unlikely that Electus was going to believe that he hadn't double crossed him. He expected them to ask him a few questions and then kill him.
But that had been almost a week ago and they hadn't killed him yet. When they asked him questions, he told them what they expected to hear. No, he wasn't a traitor. No he hadn't given them up to the Feds. No, he didn't know what had gone wrong. No he didn't know who had double crossed him. No. No. No. He had answered the same questions over and over again.
They knew he was lying. Every time he answered a question they hurt him and each time it got worse. At first they had simply hit him when he lied. One the first day his answers earned him punches to the face that broke his nose, fractured his cheekbone, and rattled his brain.
On the second day he earned a kick to his side that resulted in several ribs which made breathing difficult.
On the third day, they started cutting him. The cuts weren't deep. They didn't want him to bleed to death, but they hurt. One cut for every lie. He could feel them seared into his back.
One the fourth day, they started electrocuting him. Lie. Shock. Lie. Shock.
But the worst thing had been Jeanne. They had brought her in on what he thought was the fifth day; had tied her decomposing body to the chair in front of him and left her there. It had nearly driven him mad.
He was tired of it. This time, when Daniel came in to question him, he had tried something new. Daniel was the one that questioned him most often and Tony knew that he was the one that would make the decision on when to kill him.
"Daniel, why haven't you killed me yet?" He asked.
"Why haven't you haven't told the truth yet, Tony".
"You don't want to hear it."
"Yes. I do." He leaned forward eagerly. "If you want this to end, all you have to do is tell me the truth."
Tony nodded and started talking. "Fine. The truth is that you know I was the one who double crossed you. But I don't think you brought me here to admit that. I think you brought me here for something else."
Daniel smiled and leaned back in his chair. "Oh really, and what is that?"
"You brought me here because you want to figure out how I did it." Daniel interrupted him. "We know how you did it, Tony. You convinced Kort that you were legit and…"
Tony cut him off with a laugh. "That's not what I meant, Daniel." He took a steadying breath and continued, "You want to know how I got out."
He leaned as far forward as his bonds would allow and looked his old friend directly in the eyes. "You want to know why I do not feel guilty for all the things we did."
"You want to know how it is that I can go to sleep every single night, without hearing Drew begging us not to kill him." That hit home. Daniel still feels guilty about what we did. I can work with this.
"Listen, Daniel. I can help you. I can get you out. You know I can. You can be like me. You don't have to let what you did, what we did, rule the rest of your life."
Daniel wanted to believe him. He really did. But it was too late. "What we did to Drew, that wasn't the worst thing I have done, Tony. You got out, but I kept on. I have hurt too many people." His eyes were full of pain and regret. "It's too late for me. I can't make up for what I have done. You can't help me."
Tony knew it was true, but he wasn't about to give up on his only way out.
"Maybe you're right, but you can help me, Daniel. You can let me go. And if you do that, if you let me go, you'll have done something to help yourself."
He leaned back in his chair. Exhausted from even that little bit of talking. He watched the world fade to black and his last conscious thought was I tried.
So… do you think it worked? Will Daniel let him go?