AN: People keep telling us to whump him, and who are we to deny them?
One of the Good Guys
Darkness can be comforting or frightening; darkness with metallic groaning and the smell of salt and oil made his heart lurch as he returned to consciousness. The noise was all around him but sensory input was limited. The darkness was complete, no helpful chink of light broke through the impenetrable black no matter how hard he strained his eyes and, try as he might, he couldn't move his hands fastened as they were behind his back. Touch was therefore restricted to the cold, slippery surface immediately beneath his fingertips. Turning his head he listened intently, struggling to hear anything over the omnipresent groans of the straining metal. Forcing his racing thoughts into some sort of order he tried to think back, to comprehend what was happening. Where he was.
The last thing he remembered was the meeting with Barton at the quayside in Norfolk. The petty officer from the USS Kersage had only held that posting for three months but had been in the Navy for the past eight years, enlisting straight out of high school. His first ship had been the Seahawk. Tony hadn't remembered him from his own time aboard but Barton had recognised him; explaining that one Agent Afloat was easier to remember than a single sailor aboard a ship of five thousand.
He snorted to himself in the darkness, as he remembered the PO 1st Class' long winded apology – he'd always thought he was pretty memorable anyway.
"Call me anything, but don't call me forgettable," he muttered sarcastically into the void. He gave a yelp of pain as a sudden movement sent a spike of fire through his left shoulder, when a slurred voice a few feet away made him jump half out of his skin, as it groaned, "Wha'?"
"Barton?" DiNozzo strained his eyes just as vainly as before in the direction of the sound. The younger man sounded confused, his voice thick with pain and fear. "Are you OK?" he asked, wanting the PO to speak again so that he could assess his injuries.
"Think so Sir, got hit over the head after you did."
"I did? You're one up on me there, I can't remember a thing."
"You wouldn't quit fighting, even after they stabbed you. I never saw anything like it, you were a bit mad Sir." There was the ghost of an approving smile in the voice from the darkness.
"My boss'd say that's nothing new. Stabbed huh, can't even remember that but I guess it would have made me mad." As he spoke Tony eased himself carefully in Barton's general direction becoming aware as he did so of exactly where the blade had struck him. "Give me a clue, PO," he continued, resolutely pushing the pain back to be dealt with later. "Why were we even on the quayside? And while you're doing that – hey, are you tied up by the way?"
"Damn. OK, next question – we'll get to what happened in a minute – are you hurt?"
"Well... not particularly... I mean, a bit beat up. Well," he went on plaintively, "you fought – I couldn't just stand around, could I?"
"Well you could've done, lots of people would have," Tony added as he shuffled closer, "but I'm glad you didn't, probably saved my life. Think you should stop calling me Sir, John, my name's Tony."
He bumped up against something soft in the dark. "Ow," the something said, "is that you, Si – Tony?"
"Ow – yeah. John, I need you to find the inside of my left ankle – and that's my left foot I'm poking you with to give you a clue."
"Ow – can you poke a bit more gently, Tony? That's my butt – feels like I landed on it."
"Sorry." Tony frowned; seemed like here was another guy who didn't tell the truth when he got damaged. Better go easy on him. "There's a knife strapped to my leg." I hope , he added silently, aware that his backup gun was missing but fairly confident that the sheath on the back of the holster had remained hidden. "Take your time, see if you can get it."
He grimaced to himself; if it had to be his belt buckle knife, and the young man was really hurt, it was going to be very bad for both of them – that knife was difficult to get at for a reason. "Hey, did you say something about theft or am I imagining it?" he asked, trying to distract the younger man with his tried and trusted method; yabba, yabba. Hell if it was good enough for Gibbs...
"I was careless, " Barton admitted. "I knew I had to talk to you but I didn't think I'd be followed." As he spoke he shunted himself lower down on the ground, feeling his way along Tony's leg for the holster. "I wasn't sure at first, I mean it's not something I've come across before but, you're right, it is theft, at least I think it is. Well," he decided ruefully," I guess it definitely is considering what they did to us."
"Who did this to us and what are they taking?" DiNozzo asked, trying to bring the ramble back on track. Perhaps they were even more alike than he'd thought.
"Mason and Phelps," Barton said at once, anger colouring his tone. "Thought they were friends of mine but..."
"And?" The SFA interrupted again, maybe there was a reason why Gibbs favoured the headslaps.
"Machine parts, bearings, gears, universal things that can be used in anything from gun mounts to tractors."
"How were they getting things that big off the ship?"
Well that's what first put me on to them. Stuff in crates, being sent off for repair... all the documentation was correct but they were being taken away in civilian vehicles and the Navy doesn't do that. I looked up – ow... damn – the firms but they don't seem to exist – so I kept watch for months, and the repaired parts never came back to the ship. I'm a fitter, I'd know," he ended with a gasp of effort.
"Well, that's the crime then... I remember you saying something about months. Hey – you got it!" He felt the scrape along his calf as the knife came clear,but he was too happy about it to whine at John Barton about a tiny scratch. Now if it had been McGee... ! "They came after us, I remember being jumped... and something about 'the Big Boss'...," he paused, breathing carefully as the fire in his shoulder flared. "You've got to hurry John, they'll be back, we're only alive because they're asking the 'Big Boss' what to do about us."
"Yeah," Barton gasped, "and he'll probably want us turned into fish food."
DiNozzo laughed. "Well that's one way of putting it. Now can you free my hands?"
"I might cut you."
"That's the least of our worries," Tony told him dryly, "I'll let you know if you get my finger. Come on, this thing's a lot bigger than just Mason and Phelps." Turning carefully he positioned himself with his back to Barton's outstretched hands, he hoped. Wincing, he pulled his wrists as far apart as he could and tried to hold them steady, away from his body. He gave a running commentary as the younger man worked, keeping some of his less helpful thoughts to himself as the knife strayed to places he would rather it hadn't. Try as he might he couldn't stop the yelp as the rope parted and his hands separated with a jerk. "Ouch," he supplied brightly before John could worry, easing his shoulder gently against his side without saying anything more.
"Sorry Man, did I hurt you?"
"I'm fine," DiNozzo said, "your turn."
Barton felt Tony's hands cautiously testing the rope around his wrists; there were only a few moments of pressure, so much less than it had taken to loose the other man, before his hands fell free. Rubbing them gently to restore the circulation he turned round. "Now what?"
"Now, we get out of here," DiNozzo replied cheerfully. "I don't suppose you noticed where the door was when we arrived?"
"Hell if I know," Barton groused. "Can you stand up?"
"Hell if I know," Tony echoed. "Here." Reaching out he grabbed for the other man's hand, finding it on the second attempt. Deciding against saying anything about his first handful he clambered slowly to his feet pulling the PO with him. Swaying gently he went on thoughtfully. "Okaaay, here's what I think we should do, come round to my left side."
"Well, we're going to have to feel in front of us and I can't use my left arm and we kinda need to stick together if we want to stay on our feet," he admitted ruefully. "Ready? Let's go."
"Where are we going?"
"To look for a wall," DiNozzo explained patiently.
They started forward cautiously and both said "Got it" at the same moment. Well, it was the same wall.
"OK, I'll go left and you go right," Barton said.
"You got it," Tony replied maintaining his patience with some difficulty. "Go slowly we don't want to fall over again."
"Too late," Barton muttered darkly as, with a clatter he landed on his backside. "Oh, hey, I got it," he grinned a moment later.
"Tell me, "Tony asked. "How did you find a door handle when your ass is on the floor?"
"Who said anything about a handle? The door's open and I'm sitting on the other side of it, but it's still dark."
"Hang on," DiNozzo muttered, feeling his way cautiously over to his left, he really had no desire to follow Barton on to the deck. As his foot hit the knee-knocker and he stepped carefully over it, holding on to the door frame, his hand brushed against something he was familiar with from his time on the carriers. "Right John, I need you to be real quiet for a minute," he whispered.
"OK...," the younger man agreed. After a long time he ventured, "Um, why?"
"I can't hear anybody. Cover your eyes." Praying that he wasn't about to be disappointed Tony pressed the switch he'd inadvertently found and the corridor was suddenly bathed in light. Holding the knife out in front of him the SFA squinted through half closed eyes until he was certain they really were alone. He and John Barton looked at each other for the first time and spoke together.
"You look rough."
"Well now that's out of the way let's find out where we are," Tony suggested, "and how to get out of here."
"I've an idea about that," Barton said. "These lights are pretty dim; they're running on emergency power. There are three decommissioned corvettes at Pier Eight, I think we're on board one of them."
"Smart thinking Batman," Tony praised. Biting back a grimace, he struggled with his belt for a moment until he'd managed to free his belt knife. Keeping it for himself, (he loved that knife,) he handed his back-up blade to the PO, motioning with his good hand for the young man to follow him.
They headed silently down the corridor towards what appeared to be the foot of a metal staircase. The ship groaned beneath them as it rocked gently at its berth and they listened anxiously for any warning that they had company. Moments later Barton pointed upwards. Barely visible at the top of the steps the sun was setting in the cloudless sky. "Daylight," he said and lunged towards the stairs. Tony pulled him back, keeping hold of his wrist until he had his full attention.
"Hey, how do you think that knife is gonna fare against a semi automatic? Get behind me."
Barton opened his mouth to remonstrate but one look at the set of the NCIS agent's face stopped the words on his lips. The easy going demeanor had gone, replaced with a look he barely recognized and a body language that wasn't to be argued with. This was the special agent he remembered from the Seahawk not the injured man from moments ago.
DiNozzo put a foot on the steps then froze a finger on his lips. "Listen," he whispered.
Barton strained to hear what had caught the other man's attention.
"...don't care how scared you are, the Boss said shoot them and throw them overboard and that's what we're going to do."
"No buts, just shut up and hurry up. I want to get out of here."
As the voices came nearer Tony moved, pushing Barton under the stairs before slamming his hand on the nearest light switch, returning the corridor to its previous darkness. Ducking into the space beside the PO he hissed. "Quiet, they'll put the lights on again in a minute, the moment they do, we jump them. Can you do that? We won't get another chance."
"Sure I can,"the sailor whispered.
"Make sure they don't get a chance to use their guns."
Feet clanged on the stairs, getting nearer. The two men waiting in the darkness stiffened in readiness and, as the light snapped on, they leapt forwards. Steeling himself Tony grabbed the assailant nearest him, wrapping his injured arm around the man's ribs while with his good hand he held the knife to his throat. "Drop the gun," he warned, tightening his hold, letting no trace of doubt enter his voice. To his surprise and satisfaction he heard the weapon clatter to the metal floor.
Beside him he was aware that Barton wasn't having it so easy. The young sailor and his opponent were struggling for possession of the knife. Seeing this his own attacker tensed himself for a fight. Tony sighed inwardly. OK, desperate measures needed. Before the man could react, he used his body weight to swing him sharply against the bulkhead, smiling in satisfaction at the crunch as his head hit the metal and he slipped soundlessly to the deck. The SFA winced. Brutal but effective.
He snatched up the fallen man's gun, drawing back the hammer until it clicked as close as he could to the second perp's ear. He didn't have to say a word. The man froze, hands raised, still wrapped around Barton's as they fought for the knife. He dropped his arms slowly and stepped back with a curse. DiNozzo moved away out of range and nodded for Barton to retrieve the second weapon.
They looked at each other, breathing hard, feeling wrecked, but on the whole, happy. They both burst out laughing at the same time. Neither one of them forgot to hold their guns on the one still conscious would-be killer. A voice floated down from the top of the staircase, and young Barton tensed again, until Tony stopped him with a calming gesture.
"What's so funny, DiNozzo?" the voice asked.
"Oh, hey, Boss! Bit late for the party!"
Gibbs moved slowly down the stairs, eyes missing nothing. "What've I told ya about partying without back-up?"
"Well, yeah, see..." Tony said, trying to look repentant and failing, miserably – well, not miserably, he was pretty pleased about things really. "It was only supposed to be a meeting with an informant. This here's John Barton – one of the good guys."
Gibbs took in the sorry state of the two men, as Ziva and McGee also appeared at the top of the stairs. Ziva said "Hmmm... I will call for an ambulance," and vanished without further superfluous comment.
Tony grinned up at Tim. "Let me guess – you used some amazing techno-whizzbang thing to find us?"
"Nothing amazing, Tony. This was where your cell-phone went off line."
"Oh," Tony said, somehow disappointed that it was that simple.
"Can we get on?" Gibbs growled, snapping his cuffs on the man who was still conscious.
"I'll take him, Boss," Tim said agreeably, and soon Tony was left with Gibbs, his new 'partner', and a moaning perp lying on the deck. The SFA groaned, and sank down to sit on the stairs.
"Great idea," Barton muttered, and sat heavily beside him.
Gibbs shook his head. "Don't sit there," he said "Get yourselves topside and wait for the ambulance there. You can fill me in later. I'll watch this one, just make sure they send someone to collect him. Go on, go."
Tony nodded gratefully, and pulled himself wearily to his feet. "C'mon," he told the PO. "You heard the man."
They climbed the stairs slowly, and stepped out of the darkness into the evening sunshine.
We hope you liked it – sorry there's no back story, but at this time of night we're barely coherent. Please excuse any hiccups, like we said, it's late!