When Tony gets shot Gibbs has to push back his anger and figure out who's responsible. Is it connected with the case they're working, or was the hit personal? Tony whump, and angst for Gibbs and the rest of the team. This isn't a death fic, and I don't do slash or pairings. I'm new to NCIS fanfic, but not to FF, so I hope you like!
Warnings: Violence, and a little bad language.
Disclaimer: I don't own NCIS, but would love to buy the team coffee and doughnuts...and a Cat Pow for Abby!
Many thanks to my beta and long time friend Sterenyk Strey. You are the best pet!
Hidden in plain sight.
The fine Italian leather shoes looked good in the store, but after two hours pounding the sidewalk, Tony cursed his decision to wear them to work. His toes had gone from pinched to numb, then back to throbbing again while the damn laces kept coming undone. The third time Gibbs saw him stoop down to tie them up, the ex-marine had drawn him the look. He was relieved when a call from Vance captured the boss man's attention.
He was cold, tired, and all he wanted was to get back to base to ditch his shoes, but there were still at least half a dozen more houses to check in the area. McGee had traced the last signal from the Murdoch's cell to this approximate location. It was just their luck it was slap-bang in the middle of a heavily populated area. They'd split the search area into two but it seemed to be taking forever, and his smile was wearing as thin as the veiled impatience of the people behind every door he knocked on. He was sick of the sound of his own voice, and reckoned he would be listening to himself droning on, asking the same questions, in his sleep.
Today he was paired with Gibbs. Normally he liked being with the boss man, but Gibbs was quieter than usual, and any attempt at conversation was shut down in a few syllables. Tony knew why, and understood. It would've been Shannon's birthday today. It wasn't something he should have known, and it sure as hell wasn't something Gibbs would want to talk about, but a morose Gibbs was hard going. The boss never said much at the best of time, but without his usual sparse conversation it made the day feel even longer.
There were times he wished he'd never seen Gibbs' file, but you couldn't turn back the clock. Tony looked over at his boss standing at the end of the street. He was deep in conversation, but the silver fox missed nothing so he didn't need to see his face to know his boss had his six as he went up and knocked on the next door.
A net curtain twitched and a pair of blue eyes peered out. He flashed his best winning smile but when the deadbolt pulled back and the door opened to reveal the stern face of an old woman glaring at him, it froze on his face.
"Good afternoon, ma'am, I'm Special Agent Anthony DiNozzo of NCIS." He flashed his badge, and was about to pull it away, when the gnarly hand caught the end and bent forward to examine it further. Tony held on, keeping the smile in place until the woman finally relinquished it and stood back folding her arms. He'd met worse that day, so undaunted he continued. "We have reason to believe this man may be living around here, so we're asking everyone in the area if they have seen anyone fitting his description."
He handed over the picture of Lt Vincent Muldoon. Muldoon was the brains behind a drugs ring that unfortunately went deeper than the brass wanted to admit. He'd nearly got away with it too, except it was clear there'd been a falling out. A few weeks ago they'd been called to a warehouse fire and found the charred bodies of two off duty sailors amongst a bunch of papers. Most of the documents were burnt to ashes, but Abby had worked her magic on the rest providing enough evidence to blow the organization apart. It wasn't long after there was a line of bad guys all desperate to make a deal. As a cop in Baltimore he'd knew only too well there was no honor among thieves. When the house of cards started falling, it was every man for himself.
The old lady lifted spectacles attached to the end of the chain hanging around her neck, and perched them at the end of her nose. She took her time examining the picture. "No, I haven't seen him."
"Well if you should see anything, here's my…" As he went to fish out his card, the door slammed in his face.
His smile faded and Tony grumbled under his breath. He was sick of this, fed up with taking abuse for just trying to do his job, but it was pretty much par for the course. Some people were nice, sweet even, but others didn't like cops invading their space. He took a deep breath to try and get his mojo back for the next house when a kid came barrelling towards him. She was a pretty little thing with short dark curls bobbing around her flushed cheeks and big blue eyes filled with tears. She was also very young, no more than two and shouldn't have been out on her own. He steadied her and went down on his hunkers to try and comfort the kid, when he spotted her distraught mom running towards him. The woman all but ignored him as she lifted the child into her arms, hugging her close.
"Amy, what have I told you about leaving the house without mommy? You could have got lost, or snatched…then what would we have done – huh?" The dark-haired woman stroked the crying child's hair back from her tear streaked face, and rubbed circles on her back. When Tony coughed, she looked up almost surprised to find him there. "I'm so sorry…Amy isn't feeling well, but you know what kids are like. They don't like being kept indoors even when it's for their own good."
Tony smiled. "It's no problem, I'm just glad she's safe...but before you go, could you look at this picture for me? We believe he's been living in the area, have you seen him? We just want to ask him a few questions."
He flashed his badge along with the photograph, but the woman was too busy comforting the little girl to barely glance at it. "I haven't seen him…now I really must get her inside."
Tony handed over his card. "I understand, but if you do…please call me." The woman took it nodded, but said nothing as she walked away.
"Losing your touch, DiNozzo?" Gibbs' drawl made him turn round, and Tony was pleased to see a spark of amusement in the blue eyes, even if it was at his expense. As he started towards the next apartment, Gibbs shook his head. "The rest will keep for tomorrow. That was Vance. He's got new intel. If it's right, you've spend a day tripping up in those damn fool shoes for nothing."
"They're Italian leather, Boss – Ow!"
Tony winced at the head slap, and wondered how he never saw them coming. He stopped rubbing his head when he saw Ziva and McGee coming to join them. Tim was holding up an evidence bag containing something suspicious like a cell phone.
"Found this in waste ground about half a mile back. It's Murdoch's cell, Boss." Tim handed over the phone to Gibbs.
"It would appear we have been on a foolish errand." Ziva continued.
"It's a fool's errand, Zee-vah." Tony corrected, but Ziva lifted her chin and gave him a tight smile.
"Fool's…foolish…it is all the same thing. We have been wasting our time."
"And now you're wasting more." Gibbs called back to them as he walked away. When he reached the car, he turned round and stared at them "Well…are you coming? Because this is the only invitation you're going to get."
McGee swallowed and quickly rushed forward, but when Tony went to follow he tripped up on the laces of his shoes. It was only Ziva's quick reflexes and firm grip that stopped him eating dirt. More embarrassed than shaken, Tony uttered a breathless thanks, and gently moved out of his teammates grasp.
Ziva merely smiled. "It is true what they say. Pride does come before a fall." She muttered, glancing down at his shoes. "I don't know why you buy such unsuitable shoes for work, Tony…"
"Seriously? Do you two really want to walk back?" Gibbs rolled his eyes, shaking his head before turning back to start the ignition.
"Sorry, boss…coming right now."
Gibbs glared at him, and Tony flinched at the rebuke for breaking the rule. "Not saying sorry boss…but hurrying like you asked." Gibb's interruption had ended the lecture, but he couldn't resist making a face at Ziva before racing to the car and beating her to the front passenger seat.
The boss said nothing, but his long sigh spoke volumes as he drove the car away at breakneck speed.
Gibbs watched Tony hand out the lunch order but the beef on rye which sounded good half an hour ago, no longer held any appeal. He took it from him, but moments later threw it in the trash.
He'd known for a while now that DiNozzo had seen his file, but never felt the need to challenge him about it. Tony was curious. Sometimes it got a little out of hand but at the end of the day his determination to seek out the truth was what made him a good investigator. Yet, despite having a mouth that ran off, his most experienced agent knew when to keep it shut. Today was a tough day for him, but Gibbs regretted taking it out on Tony.
DiNozzo had his own skeletons. Some of them he knew. Others he could only guess at. Over the years Tony had built up the persona as a womanising joker to keep people off track, but Gibbs wasn't fooled. He'd met his father, and with the information he'd subsequently gained about the dynamics in his family background, the guy couldn't have had it easy. He reckoned DiNozzo knew that he knew, but that was the crux of their relationship. All the real communication was done between the lines.
As Ziva un-wrapped her sandwich she sat back and studied the man opposite. Tony took out his burger and laid it on the desk, but instead of throwing the bag in the bin, he moved it behind his desk. "Hungry today, Tony? That's a large bag…too large for a burger that size. What's in it?"
"Well, Nancy Drew, if you must know I've been invited to dinner tonight." Tony reached down and pulled out a bottle of wine from the bag. His smile was smug as he made a show of examining the label. "Chateauneuf du pape. It cost quite a bit, but hey…the lady's worth it."
"So, who is it this time?" Tim asked, then his eyes went wide and lit up. "Wait - I know…it's the red-head in the coffee shop. I see the way she looks at you."
"And she always gives you extra chocolate on your cappuccino." Ziva piped in.
"As long as you don't drink it in here, DiNozzo." Gibbs muttered, raising an eyebrow. He'd meant it as a joke but when it came out sounding like a rebuke instead, he silently cursed himself as he watched Tony go scarlet before hastily replacing it in the bag.
"Of course not, boss. I'd never drink on the job."
Tony sounded hurt and still flushed, studiously stared at the screen in front of him. Tim and Ziva shared a look before they too went back to work, the light-hearted interlude gone.
He looked up and nodded at the man standing on the stairs for once happy at Vance's interruption. During the next couple of hours everything else sidelined as they discussed the evidence they'd found, and what action to take next. By the time he returned to the bullpen it was nearly five. The information Vance received indicated Muldoon was going to leave the country by private plane tomorrow afternoon, but tomorrow was another day and he had no excuse to put off his errand any longer.
He only returned to his desk long enough to retrieve his gun from the drawer. As he went to leave Ziva and Tim looked up but Tony continued staring at his screen.
"See you tomorrow. And, Tony…your lady will enjoy that wine – it's full-bodied, and goes down smooth."
Tony glanced up and their eyes locked. "Good to know…see you tomorrow, Boss." Gibb's walked away smiling relieved that the status quo had been restored between them. It quickly faded when he remembered what he had to do.
He wasn't religious, but Shannon was. She'd taken Kelly to church every Sunday but no amount of cajoling had made him tag along. Now he wished he'd gone, even just the once, to have spent more precious time with them.
He couldn't remember when he'd parked, but he seemed to have sat in the car for hours looking at the pale granite building before forcing himself out the door. It felt a little weird walking inside but the image of Shannon's face gently smiling at his discomfort drove him forward. This visit wasn't for him. Not really. Time helped him cope with the pain, but it never went away. No, he carried out the small act every year because it was what she would have wanted. The church he chose at random, but the mission was the same. Light a candle on her birthday.
It was dark inside, but as his eyes adjusted to dim light even he could acknowledge the serenity within and admire the craftsmanship of the beautifully carved pews. Gibbs didn't waste any more time as he strolled over to the row of candles. He took one, lit it, and remembered the woman no other could replace. Then he took a second, kissed it, and lit it for the beautiful daughter he missed ever day. He stood for a moment watching their light break up the darkness before he turned on his heel and quickly walked away. He wished the dark void in his soul could be breached as easily.
There was no reason for him to leave early as his date wasn't expecting him until seven- thirty, so Tony worked on the backlog of paperwork until it was time to go.
The squad room was quiet. Mc Geek who was always on top of his paperwork had left just after Gibbs, Ziva around an hour later. Ducky and Abby had popped over to say goodnight before they'd walked out arm in arm shortly after, Palmer running behind to catch them up. Tony didn't mind being alone, besides he was used to his own company. Still, it was nice of Madeline to invite him to dinner. He couldn't remember the last time he'd had a home cooked meal and he was looking forward to it.
The over head lighting of the parking garage stopped it from being pitch black, but Tony wouldn't have struggled finding his car anyway, as his was the only one left on the second level. It was cold out, but just as he pulled up the collar of his jacket he tripped on his laces. Stumbling, he stopped from falling, but the bottle of wine fell from his grasp, crashed on the ground and shattered into a million pieces. His heart sank as he watched the ruby liquid form an expensive puddle on the floor. It was then he saw a glint of metal shining by the stairwell.
Instinctively he went for his sidearm, but the shot that rang out wasn't his. The fire in his shoulder knocked him back and sent shockwaves rippling through his body. His rubber legs folded, sending him sprawling to the ground.
His heart was racing, his breath ragged as he tried to ignore the impulse to put pressure on his wound – if he didn't reach his gun it was game over. Biting back the pain, he crawled to where it had fallen but just as his fingertips connected with the barrel, a pair of feet appeared in his line of vision and kicked it away.
Tony looked up at the man towering over him. He was wearing a ski mask and he noted that both his sneakers, and worn cargo pants had seen better days.
"Is that you Muldoon?" He panted, struggling to breath through the pain. "C…cause if it is I should tell you my b…boss won't be happy if you kill me. First there's all the paperwork…then he would need a new agent and Gibbs…he hates change."
His heart raced faster and time stood still as the man's only answer was to raise his gun.
As he stared into the face of the man who wanted to kill him, Tony noticed his eyes were blue. Not just blue, but a piercing icy-blue like Paul Newman. He winced as he squirmed until he was leaning on his good elbow to get a better look. "Except you're not Muldoon are you? The clothes are all wrong. He's an Armani sort of guy. There's no way he would wear anything that cheap, besides...his eyes are brown. So who are you? What do you want? If it's money you're in for a disappointment, but you can have what's left in my wallet."
He was alone there, and with no rescue in sight Tony wasn't about to let this guy kill him without a fight. It was a long shot but he reckoned if he could push him off his feet, he might be able to disarm him. When the man blinked it was the tell he was looking for. He lunged forward but was just too slow. He knew he'd blown it when a sharp fiery pain exploded in his skull and the world turned black…
Phew...first chapter done! I hope you liked it, and please review. I'd love to know what you think!