Ziva stared at her monitor, willing it to give her some answers. A lead - the tiniest clue that could get to a lead. Something to make all the work they were doing feel like it was actually going somewhere. Her stomach was tied in knots and she was losing the tiniest bits of optimism she'd let herself have left in her. Her insides felt empty and she could tell she was already starting to let herself drift from reality. Shaking her head, she grabbed her coffee cup, taking a sip of the now cold and disgusting beverage in order to snap herself back into her job.
McGee frowned, looking over to Gibbs, who had now not said a word in over an hour. No barking commands, no slamming his fists on the desk. Everyone had been dead silent.
"It's been almost a week, Boss," he finally dared to point out, his voice quiet and meek. "I... I hate to be the one to say this, but we've gone well beyond the usual mark for abductions. Maybe we should start... preparing?"
Gibbs didn't look up from his notes, flipping through them as he spoke in a rough voice; "For what, McGee?"
"In case we... you know, we don't find Tony-."
The word hung in the air between the three agents. It was louder than any blast could have been, harsher than the coldest of winds. Ziva felt her throat close up on itself, but refused to let the tears that burned in her eyes fall. They all knew that missing persons reports rarely led to pleasing results. They rarely led to any results at all. None of them would rest until they had answers. Ziva knew Gibbs wouldn't rest until those answers turned out the way they wanted him to, even - it didn't matter how unrealistic it was. None of them could believe that he was really dead until they saw his body.
Some of them might even refuse to accept it after.
The sound of Gibbs rolling away from his desk caused the two younger agents to jump, the sound far louder than normal due to the heavy silence that had formed. "Go through everything again," he barked, pointing towards their monitors. "Every file, every interview, every damned alibi. I don't care what rules you have to break, just find the bastard." He took a deep breath, staring at the larger screen, eyes narrowed as he seemed to get lost in thought. What the hell were they missing?
He thought for a second he could feel the sun on his face. His eyes closed, he was positive there was the warmth of rays streaming in through a window. When he opened them, he was greeted with the same darkness he'd seen for so long now. The same dusty, dark room with the stench of blood. There were no windows. There was no sun. His imagination had gotten the better of him again.
Swallowing, he tried to pull himself into a seated position, whimpering as he did so. Every muscle in his body hurt. His mouth tasted like iron, but he didn't even have the energy to spit the blood out of it. Letting his head fall back against the wall, he stared up at what he assumed was a ceiling, his eyelids drooping, his mouth parting slightly so he could breathe. He wasn't sure when it had become so hard to do so through his nose. He wasn't really sure of much at that moment.
He was thirsty. Hungry. He was sure if he went much longer without food and water that he'd begin to hallucinate. He'd thought the bucket in the corner had been dirty water at first, but the horrid stench that came from it when he got too close made it clear he'd assumed wrong. He swallowed the blood in his mouth just to have some kind of liquid cover his throat. Least to say, it didn't do much to help.
He could hear the creak of a door opening, the sound of heavy footsteps, and he let out a pathetic sounding whimper as he pushed himself back farther against the wall. He wanted to blend into it, to wedge himself into the cracks in the stone somehow. Something in his mind told him he used to face this with bravery, a cocky and sarcastic attitude that had made it seem like he would never break. He wondered how ashamed that old part of him was, to see the new, weakened man in his place, begging, pleading, and screaming to be left alone.
It was extremely hard to run in platforms. Still, Abby managed, bursting into the squad room with a piece of paper that she all too roughly shoved into Gibbs' chest. The team lead looked at her with a mixture of confusion and agitation, a glare that told her she had better explain herself set fully on his face. She hadn't even needed the prompt, as with still panting breaths, she pointed at the paper, unable to get the words out, and using her hands to get the message across. Ziva and McGee both looked perplexed, but the elder agent was able to decipher it.
Quickly heading to his desk, paper still clutched in hand, he barked out a, "Grab your gear!" as he yanked his gun from the drawer. "Abby's got us a location."
As they scrambled to get their things, nearly running for the elevator, Abby followed after, the look of worry still plastered on her face. "Just - just bring him back safe, you guys. Please. I can't lose another one of you."
"He's not going anywhere, Abs," McGee managed as Gibbs slammed the number for the garage, leaving it glowing. The elevator dinged and the doors began to close. "You know he's too stubborn!"
As the team disappeared behind a sheet of metal, the young scientist was left standing in the hall, her hands clutched to her heart, wringing nervously. "I hope you're right, Timmy," she muttered, her voice shaking. "I really hope you're right."
Ziva wasn't patient. Gibbs had told her to wait until they got to the back door, and she had waited as long as she could. Still, she didn't listen for his signal before kicking in the door, making her way into the dilapidated home out in the middle of the boondocks. It was no wonder it had been so hard to find Tony; this place was in shambles, she knew there was little cellphone service out here, if the man even had a phone. The place was almost completely off the radar and if it hadn't been for Abby...
She tried not to think that, keeping her gun pointed in front of her, barely listening to Gibbs lecturing her in her ear for being reckless. She met McGee half way through the living room, both of them noting the bookshelf with the small scratch marks on the wall beside it. Silently signaling him to help her, the two worked to push the secret door out of the way, revealing the uneven stone staircase leading down into the dark. Ziva knew Tony would have a million horror movies to reference when they got him out of here. She held onto that hope as she clicked on her flashlight, making her way down the stairs with Tim directly behind her.
The corridor at the end of the stair case was long and narrow, lit only by emergency lights that lined the ceiling and floor. It looked like it might have been some kind of emergency bunker from the fifties that was never properly cared for; unsurprising, giving the state of the rest of the home. The cold stone of the walls did nothing to hide the overpowering smell of blood, vomit, and other bodily fluids that cause Ziva to have to bite down on her inner cheek to keep from wanting to lose her own lunch. It wasn't an unfamiliar smell, really. Not for someone who had rescued enough people from imprisonment in terrorist camps.
Gun held at eye level, she continued her way down the hall, pausing only when she saw the sign of a slight shift in lighting. A door. The only door in the hall. It reminded her of the way the camp in Somalia had been arranged and she felt her mouth go dry, her palms sweating some. She prayed Tony was in better condition than she had been when she'd been found - or hell, that he was even just in the same condition. The only other option was not something she wanted to consider. She refused to believe she wouldn't know if he was dead already.
She slowly motioned to McGee to make sure he'd seen it, satisfied by a nod of confirmation. His own weapon ready, she made her way over towards the handle. Mouthing the countdown, she didn't even pause a moment once she'd hit the number three, shoving the door open and immediately pulling her weapon back up where it belonged. They had barely any time to make it into the room before she saw the man charging towards the door. He was large and well built, but they were the only details she managed to pick up in the dim lighting. Her flashlight caught the reflection of a blade and before she could shout a warning to her fellow agent, she heard him cry out in pain, firing off a shot soon after. She quickly fired off three of her own. The man dropped down to the ground, no longer moving. She was quick to check the rest of the room at eye level for any accomplices, but found none.
"Are you okay, McGee?" she said as she immediately went to his side. He gave a grunt, one she assumed was supposed to be of reassurance. She could feel the blood pouring from the top of his arm and went to unzip her jacket. Wrapping it around the wound, she tied it off the best she could, placing her hand on his back. "I do not think they got to anything important. Are you all right to stand?"
"Yeah, I think I can on my own." He pushed her lightly with his good arm to try and get her to leave him be. "Search for DiNozzo - he's gotta be in here somewhere."
She nodded in agreement, getting up and holding up her flashlight to try and see more of the room. It was large and barely furnished. A wooden chair with metal chains around it sat in the middle and she could see cabinets and tables. There was a bucket with a foul stench that made her want to cover her nose just to breathe properly when she got too close. And beside it, a large lump, shrouded in darkness. She aimed her flashlight a little higher and the lump took on a more familiar form.
"Tony!" The cry left her mouth before she could stop it as she quickly made her way over, falling to her knees beside him and going to pull his body into her lap. "McGee! McGee, over here!" Cupping his face in her hands, she tried her best to shake him, to get some sort of conscious response out of him. "Tony - Tony, wake up. Please. You have to be okay."
Timothy kneeled beside her, going to check for a pulse, giving a sigh of relief when he found one. "Gibbs, we need a medic down here quickly," he said simply. "It was Major Jonathan Stone. He's dead and the basement is clear. The secret door should still be open, end of the hall."
Ziva could hear Gibbs' confirmation in the speaker in her ear, but barely registered it as she heard Tony groan, his eyes slowly opening. She barely could even smile at him before he was using what little strength he had to scramble away from her, his eyes wide and fearful as he pressed his back against the wall. Her forehead was quick to wrinkle in confusion, having expected quite the opposite reaction. Perhaps he couldn't see - perhaps he still thought she was Major Stone.
"Tony - Tony, relax. It's us - me. It's Ziva."
His eyes kept their fear in them and he flinched when she went to move closer. His breath was labored and he looked between McGee and Ziva once he could more properly make out their faces in the dim lighting of the flashlight. Still, there was no gleam of recognition, no sign of relief and safety. It took him a moment before he managed to croak out in a voice that was rough and laced with terror.
"Who the hell are you people?"