A Reader Warning...This is a spoiler based story...DO NOT READ ...if you do not want any spoiler for season nine.

Title: The Mission

Disclaimer: I'm just having fun with the characters...No offense and no profit being made from my little stab at what will happen in the first episode of season nine.

Gibbs looked down at his watch, DiNozzo was late again and this time is was going to be a written reprimand in his file, no more second chances for his second.

For weeks DiNozzo had been late, looking more than just tired, he seemed disconnected at times from the cases they were trying to solve. He had almost given in to the thought that DiNozzo was under-cover for Vance but quickly nixed that idea, Vance didn't like his senior field agent and doubted his abilities verbally on more than one occasion. DiNozzo was likely out with Agent Barrett, she had her hooks into his agent, all but good.

Ziva walked into the bullpen with McGee at her side, "We went to his apartment, he wasn't there." Ziva reported in, her boss giving them both a glare, a mixture of exasperation and worry for his agent.

"I checked his cell, it's been turned off." Tim continued, wanting their boss to know they had been doing their job, even if Tony had decided not to come in and do his, it was feeling old. Third time late this week alone.

Ziva glanced over to her partner's desk, his empty desk, it was becoming a habit. She had worried over his demeanor in the past few months, as she had in the past, only to be fooled then, but wondering again if his health was the cause.

She remembered having been empathetic, thinking that Tony was sick in the past, but now there might be other reasons, and this time it be that he might be serious about the Rota agent now turned Washington DC agent_ it was making her angry that he was being so irresponsible of late.

"Grab your gear, we have a case." they had a job to do even if DiNozzo decided to show up or not, but his gut was bothering him, that something was off, not right. He hoped that he was wrong.

"What about Tony?" McGee asked, questioning his Boss's actions, they had a missing agent.

" Are you coming or not McGee?" Gibbs asked as he holstered his gun and headed for the elevator.

McGee and Ziva followed their boss into the elevator, not another word was spoken regarding their partner.

Gibbs' Basement

DiNozzo had been a no show, a first in his agent's history, at the end of the day they had placed a bolo on their missing agent even if he hadn't been missing for twenty-four hours, it was un-Tony like to just not show up for work, he was concerned. Hell, he was mad too, and worried.

They had taken time to go over to his apartment, nothing seemed out of order, nothing was missing. What was really bothering him the most was Vance's reaction, his concern over a missing DiNozzo, it was out of character, the undercover agent thought now returning to bother him again.

What if Tony had been working for Vance these last few months, doing two jobs at once, it would explain the tardiness, the worn out appearance of his Senior field agent and the missing in action moments and then there were the times he would take a call then just disappear. Odd behavior, even for DiNozzo.

His hands were now busy sanding a piece of wood, his father had asked him to make a wooden cross for the passion play at his church, it was still a few months off but he had also planned on getting involved in building another boat, since the last one had come to untimely end.

He was still having thoughts of how to locate his agent when he heard someone walking around upstairs. He reached over and removed his gun from the counter, clicked off the safety and walked up the stairs, flipping the light switch off as he reached the top, wanting to have the element of surprise.

Carefully he opened the door and there in the dark stood the silhouette of his lost agent, his back turned, his shoulders slumped, his head looking down at the floor.

"DiNozzo?" he yelled, out, as he lowered his gun and laid it on the kitchen table.

He reached over to turn on the light and that it is when he saw that his agent, covered in blood, lots of blood, a deep wound could be seen adorning the left side of his temple . He quickly made it to Tony's side just as his senior agent slid to the floor, unconscious.

"What the hell happened to you Tony?" he asked outloud, as he held onto his agent's unmoving form, not really expecting an answer. He quickly pulled his cell out to call for an ambulance, something bad had occurred, but he had to get assistance, Tony needed medical attention first, he would get answers later. He glanced down at Tony's empty holster, this was not a good sign.

Bethesda Hospital

Gibbs paced in the hallway, Ducky, Ziva and McGee looked on, they were worried. The attending physician had said something about a head injury, Tony's temporal plate and that he missed death by only a centimeter. He was currently in surgery, where they were removing a small clot that had formed at the impact site, the cause forTony's unconscious state.

" Have you heard from Abby yet?" Ducky asked as he took a seat, he was exhausted, he had been called around one in the morning concerning Anthony's appearance at Gibbs' house and of his collapse, justas the paramedics were arriving at Gibbs' house. He had come straight to the hospital.

"Not yet." Gibbs answered, wondering silently if the blood was Tony's or someone else's. He was worried for Tony, evidently someone had attempted to kill him, someone might had actually succeeded if the bullet had just hit a centimeter deeper.

"This is so like Tony." a very upset Ziva whispered over to McGee, "To just disappear, and get shot, I'm so tired of him leaving us out of the hoop. We could have been there for him."

"It's loop Ziva and I have a feeling there is more to the story than just some random shooting or Tony going all rogue agent." McGee looked over to their boss, worried for not only the man in surgery, but for the man who seemed to be taking this very hard, their boss.

Suddenly a very tired looking man, surgeon, appeared from behind the closed surgical wing doors, his facial appearance was that of encouraging news, not death.

"Agent Gibbs?" he asked.

" Yes." Gibbs replied, all the team now on their feet.

" My name is Daniel Schmitz Agent DiNozzo's surgeon, my patient has listed you as his next of kin." It was a statement, not a question. "It seems that he suffered a grazing gunshot wound to his left temporal plate, he developed a subdural hematoma and I had to remove the clot. " he paused to allow the information to be processed by his audience of the man's co-workers.

After a few seconds he continued, "He is still unconscious but is showing some movement, he should be awake by this evening."

"That is excellent news." Ducky commented as the other's tense posture relaxed.

"Agent DiNozzo also received several other injuries, including two fractured ribs, multiple bruises, a fractured left wrist and several contusions and deep cuts, one particular deep cut to his left arm/wrist area. He'll be out of commission for a while." the doctor explained, wanting his boss to know that the man was not going to be up to answering too many questions in the near future.

"Thanks doctor." Ducky was appreciative of the man's hard work, but he really needed to know what had occurred to their agent as did Gibbs. They would have to wait and talk to Tony, the only person right now with the answers.

The surgeon gave them a smile and then disappeared again, he had to get back to his patient.

The surgeon glanced back at the now closed doors then pulled out his cell phone, he had promised the Secretary of the Navy, Clay Jarvis, that he would get to question the agent first, it was a direct order, he was a naval captain, he would have to obey even it was against his best medical judgment.

Progressive Surgical Trauma

Room 4

Clayton Jarvis stood over his agent demanding some answers but DiNozzo was having trouble had amnesia, according to the surgeon, a trauma to the head that might or might not return his memories of the past few weeks, including how he got to Gibbs house or whose blood he was covered in when he arrived.

Vance stood in the background, his only thoughts were that DiNozzo had screwed up again, never should have trusted him to be successful in a mission that only an Agent such as McGee should have been taking care of in the first place, that was his opinion all along.

Tony had been surprised to awaken in a hospital, what the hell had happened and why was he here and now the Sec Nav was prodding him for answers, answers he didn't have. He couldn't remember, no matter how hard he tried, no matter how much he attempted to concentrate, no matter what threats they threw at him, he could not remember.

After thirty minutes of the interrogation the Sec Nav left, Vance at his side. Gibbs watched as the two men exited his second's room, it was his turn now.

When the hallway was clear Gibbs made it to Tony's door and opened it, only to find his agent up and pulling away at wires and intravenous lines, he was claearly upset.

"DiNozzo! You do know they will put it all back in, and they will add those nice soft restraints you don't like too much to make sure you don't mess with their handywork again." Gibbs voice was authoratative but yet it was filled with the usual banter they had become so accustomed to so many years ago.

"Has Abby called with results yet?" it was a question based on an assumption, he knew she would process his clothing, fingernail clippings, and whatever other body fluid she could gather from his unconscioous body, and because he also knew that manicure he awakened with wasn't given by some hospital employee.

"Anytime now." Gibbs answered and walked over to assist Tony before he passed out, his pale skin almost the same color as the white, blood stained dressing to his was extremeley unsteady, the cast on his left wrist was making it difficult for him to maneuver the wires and lines. The scars that he had were definitely not self inflicted, he had been in a brawl, but with whom?

"I need to find out what happened, whose blood I took a bath in." he continued at pulling away the cardiac leads, sending off the alarms, but he didn't care if the nurses showed up or for that matter, the doctor, he was going to sign out against medical advice anyways, he had that right.

The door swung open and a nurse entered, well, actually three nurses and one carried a weapon, a syringe filled with enough medication to put DiNozzo out on his butt for a while.

"Agent DiNozzo, we told you what would happen if you did this again... Doctor's orders."Lance Corporal Agatha Sanders stated as she and the other nurses assisted their very weak patient back into the bed, it wasn't difficult to put a man down that was already half way there anyways.

The nurses started redoing their handy work as Agatha slid the needle into the very sensitive skin of their patient's arm and watched as he scrunched up his face, they knew his propensity for hating shots, needles, but it was done to protect him from harming himself, not as a punishment, he was not well.

Gibbs watched as the same nurses who had cared for him years ago assist his agent, a reminder of what this job could do you mentally and physically. He observed his agent's eyes as they drifted shut and the calmness of what a shot of Ativan can give one who is fighting the demons that come with the job.

Then Nurse Agatha turned towards Gibbs and with a tone only heard in the military she declared, "He needs his rest.", her finger pointing to the door.

Gibbs nodded, he needed to seek answers elsewhere for a while, he needed Ducky to watch over DiNozzo until he could find something, anything.

NCIS Lab

Gibbs walked into the lab, the music playing louder than usual, Abby was at the computer, working with intent, actually she was finding answers because she yelled out, "Gibbs, just in time!"

"Whatcha got Abs?" he asked as he walked over to her side.

She reached over and cut down the music with the remote control, "First, how's Tony?" she needed to know he was doing okay. Tony was her friend first, victim second.

"He can't remember Abs, that is why you are so important – he needs answers." he replied, knowing that there was only one person who would do her damnedest to give them the answers they would need.

" Okay then,I will do this for Tony. I have bad news I'm afraid. Tony won't be wearing his Gucci shoes again or his Armani shirt, but he has been there before." she was attempting to have a little humor before she landed the big, the bad, news on her boss.

"Abs." his voice more serious tone, his own frustration showing in his voice.

"Okay, I ran the blood through the NCIS data base and a name came up, Agent Erica Jane Barrett." she turned to see the surprised expression on Gibbs face.

"Agent Barrett?" this was not what he was expecting, actually it was the thing he least expected.

"Yes. I also found a traces of soil on Tony's trousers and his shoes, it is a red clay that can only be found in one area in Washington DC, if that is where Tony was attacked, and I do assume he was attacked, given he has a nine millimeter slug imprint on the side of his head, then this is where he was last." she pointed to the visual of an old tire warehouse on the computer screen.

"Location Abs?" Gibbs asked, wondering if the location could give them more clues.

"It is an old warehouse on Timberlake drive." she stated as she turned to the man at her side.

"Send the address to McGee's phone." Gibbs ordered as he started to leave.

" Will do." she hesitated for a second then she spoke again, tears stained her face now, business aside, now she wanted the truth about her friend, "How is he really?"She wasn't asking about physical problems but how Tony was doing emotionally.

"He's upset, he needs answers." He gave Abby a quick kiss to her cheek and went for the elevator.

"Gibbs, Gibbs!" the lab tech yelled out, she had left off one important piece of information.

"What Abs?" he was in a hurry, he had to get the warehouse, he needed answers.

"Director Vance came by earlier, asking questions, wanting answers. He told me to call him first." she wanted Gibbs to know that she was jsut as loyal as Tony, his loyal Saint Bernard.

"He will be the first person you call, just wait about an hour, that will give us time to check out this place, to see if we can get DiNozzo some answers." he gave her a smile then turned and left.

She smiled, she liked going all bad ass for Gibbs.

Warehouse on Timberlake

Gibbs really hadn't told them much, mostly that they were checking out a lead, the day was almost gone and they would have to look for clues in the dark.

As they entered the empty wearehouse the first thing all three agents realized was that there was a dead body somewhere near by, the smell attacked their senses.

Gibbs motioned for McGee to go right, Ziva would be coming through the rear of the warehouse.

As they made through mostly empty space, flashlight beams hitting off metal objects, the echo of the building giving them away easily, if DiNozzo had followed anybody inside the building then it was no wonder they knew he was here.

The smell of rotting flesh grew stronger as they made it towards the upper level of the two story building, Ziva joined them as she called out "All clear!" a sign that the rear of the building was secure.

"McGee, go down that hallway,' he pointed to a rather lengthy corridor of rooms," Ziva with me." he whispered, the sound of an alley cat in heat was heard, again it echoed through the building, Gibbs attempted to ignore the sounds, "I hate damned cats." he muttered to himself as he made his way through a stack of boxes, ever alert to possiblitites that there might be someone hiding behind a container, ready to pounce.

"Boss, I have something, second exit off the corridor down, on the left." McGee"s voice filled their earwigs, Ziva and Gibbs turned to check it out, still ever vigilent of their environment.

"Coming McGee." he answered, Ziva too had heard the call and turned, gun still up, their flashlights connected to establish one beam, as they made down the hallway they saw the dimly lit area where McGee stood. As they rounded into the room all three flashlights met, and there lay EJ, and what appeared to be DiNozzo's weapon just a few feet away from the body.

"EJ?, Ziva asked, yet it was evident, her long blonde, blood spattered locks were spread across the cold warehouse floor, actually there was blood everywhere, the crime scene was visually overwhelming, even in the dark. Given the amount of blood around the body, across the room and the actual visual amount there had to have been more than two bodies at some point?

Betheda Hospital

Progressive Surgical Trauma

Room 4

Ducky sat in the room keeping his charge from doing something that could more damage to his body.

Tony had slept for hours, the medication had done the trick and his vitals had held steady but even in his sleep Ducky could tell that he was in physical pain.

"My head hurts." he moaned, not really aware that his friend was at his side.

"I'll buzz the nurse for you Anthony." Ducky spoke as his hand found the red light on the call box.

"No more drugs, I would rather be able to remember what happened, who shot me." he forced his eyes open, glad that the light in the room had been dimmed.

"My dear lad, I would suggest that you take the pain meds, that is a very nasty gash and you did have surgery." Ducky looked worriedly at his friend, the strain in his face told him that Tony had been through a literal hell and he hoped that he would be okay.

"Ducky, I can barely remember my name and I have no recollection of the past few months." he paused, the pain in his head hitting a new crescendo of pain. " I was covered in blood according to Vance. I need to know whose blood." he barely got the words out, the pain was unbearable.

It was at that moment that Ducky's cell rang and he grabbed it before it could ring again, the sound virbrating off Tony's already pained skull.

" Dr Mallard." he answered, as he walked away from Tony's bed as he realized that it was Gibbs and that he had a body, the rest was surreal as he heard who the body belonged to, Agent Erica Jane Barrett.. "I will there directly Gibbs." he hung up the phone, Palmer was on his way to pick him up, Ziva was on her way to stay with Tony. They all hoped that Vance would not show up demanding answers again, especially when he found out that one of there own had been the victim. Actually two of there own had been, one alive, one dead.

"Was that Gibbs? Tony had raised himself up in the bed, he wanted an answer, a simple answer to a simple question.

"Anthony, they found a body in a warehouse on Timberlake, I need to go there right away, in the mean time you need to take the medication for your headache, I will be back shortly." Ducky picked up his coat and hat then headed for the door. He would instruct the nurses to give his charge a strong sedative, he would need it when he found out whom the body belonged to, the situation had just been complicated.

"Do they know who it is?" Tony asked, his voice strained by the pain in his head.

"Nothing you need to worry about right now Anthony, get some rest." he gave his charge a comforting pat on the shoulder, he would hate to be the one to give the news that his lover was dead.

Tony closed his eyes, the pain was bad, really bad, but somewhere there was a memory but he couldn't reach it, it was too far away.

Ziva entered the hospital room to find her partner loosing a battle with a nurse named Agatha, it was almost entertaining, in a very sad way.

"No more drugs!" he yelled at the older nurse but she was having none of his refusal, she knew that head injury patients were the most difficult due to the pain, the residual effects , memory loss being one of them. Dr Mallard had told her to keep him calm but that was a difficult task given the fact that her patient was attempting to leave again.

"Okay Agent DiNozzo, I guess this is going to be the hard way, lie back down and let me reattach these electrodes." She really hated that he was being so stubborn, the soft wrist restraints would have to be used, he could cause himself harm if he didn't listen.

Tony fought all of the nurses as they attempted to place the restraints, they were all concerned about his irritability.

Ziva knew she had to intervene, "Tony, stop fighting the nurses and let them do their job." she ordered her senior agent but he was lost in a world of his own, a world filled with a lot of pain and frustration.

Again the needle found sensitive skin and the medication was pushed into the muscle, within just a few minutes he relaxed but he kept his eyes open, though they were glassy and unfocused he knew they were winning, he hated drugs and he hated their side effects.

Within a few more minutes the restraints were attached, the lights dimmed and suddenly the hospital staff was gone.

"Tony, why are you so stubborn?" Ziva asked as she wiped the sweat from his brow, she was worried for him, she had never seen him so vulnerable, never in her time as an agent.

"Sleep Tony. I will stay with you." she reached down and placed a small kiss to his cheek, his lips gave her a small lopsided grin, Tony on drugs was always an experience.

"Can't remember Ziva...I need to remember." his voice slurred, his eyes now closed.

Warehouse on Timberlake

"Oh my dear young lady, what a tragic end to such a beautiful life." Ducky stated as he bent down, ready to insert the liver probe.

"Time of death, Duck?" he asked as he took notes, lab samples already going back to Abby.

"Just a minute Jethro." he slid the probe into Agent Barrett's side, "According to the thermometer Agent Barrett died approximately thirty-six hours ago."

" A day and a half ago. Thursday night around midnight." he mumbled, attempting to connect the dots, attempting to figure out what happened, two agents shot, one dead and possibly a third victim missing.

Ducky examined the body, looking at the bullet wound to the head, a direct shot, a wound made by something more powerful that a sig sauer, it looked more like a high powered exit wound was too extensive, similar to Kate's fatal wound.

"Boss!" Tim called out from down the hallway, "I think I found the other body."

Gibbs ran out of the small area and down towards McGee's voice, the sun would be up soon and the crime scene would be so much easier to assess and process.

"What did you find McGee?" he asked as he entered yet another small area.

"Look!" Tim pointed at the small window, the blood trail led to the window sill.

Gibbs walked over, careful not to disturb the crime scene, and glanced downward, he saw nothing, then Tim pointed upward, a man lying on a fire escape holding, a double tap to the chest evident even in the dark, the product of a sig sauer. It was an agent, Special Agent Simon Cade.

NCIS

Gibbs took the stairs two at a time, he did not even knock as he entered the office of the director, the Secretary of Navy standing across from Vance's desk, he had the two men whom he wanted to speak to, the two men who could give him some answers.

"What the hell was DiNozzo involved in?" the question Gibbs asked was direct and to the point, he needeed to know what had happened to his agent.

'The Black Ops program." Jarvis spoke up, not giving Vance time to answer, "And he was doing a great job until two days ago when he disappeared off our radar."

"Let me get this straight, you had my agent working the Black Ops program and doing his job with NCIS as well? That makes a whole lot of damned sense. Probably why he got himself shot, he's been exhausted for weeks, he is barely functional and now he has a traumatic head injury." he shook his head and headed for the door, "You may not give a damn about Agent DiNozzo but we as a team do, so leave him the hell alone!" Gibbs slammed the door leaving the two men inside the office shocked.

TBC

The next chapter will deal with Tony, his emotions after finding out that EJ has died and what about that chip? Where is it? And a special appearance from Rachel Cranston...who will find a way to assist Tony with those pesky hidden memories. Oh and what about that FBI agent Casey Stratton? Did he kill EJ? And much to read in the next chapter!