HIDDEN IN PLAIN SIGHT
He heard the gunfire. Watched in horror as Tony was thrown into the air, and heard the sickening thud as he landed in a crumpled heap on the road. Gibbs saw the whole scene play out in front of him but couldn't do a damn thing to stop it. Just too late he screeched to a halt, leaving a stunned McGee to follow behind.
Ziva was in shock. She was covering it well, but her face was ashen and her wide-eyes red rimmed. Her tee was splattered with blood. He searched for signs of a wound, but thankfully found none. Then he realized it was Tony's.
Her hand was shaking slightly as she snapped shut the cover of her cell, relief written over her face as she saw him striding towards them. Tony was lying sprawled on his side. He knelt beside him as he barked out orders. He didn't need to ask if she'd done the most important thing - call the paramedics.
"Ziva...check on her." He gave the car wrapped round a street light a fleeting look. He didn't give a shit about Coralee Adams. If she was dead that worked for him. If she was alive he'd make her pay for what she'd done. No-one did this to a member of his team and got away with it.
"McGee…there's a blanket in the trunk of the car."
Neither of them answered, but McGee was back within seconds, Ziva shortly after.
Gibbs merely nodded. There would be time for questions later. Right now, he was more concerned about Tony. He was unconscious. Blood was seeping from a gash on the side of his thigh. It was staining the ground, but not saturating it like back in the parking lot. Blood was also trickling from cuts and torn skin on his face. Neither wound looked serious, but what did he know. Tony had taken one hell of a thump. His neck could be broken or his back. Internal injuries were also a possibility. He covered him with the blanket, careful not to move him.
"Gibbs…there is a child seat in the car, but there is no sign of the girl."
He glanced up, his train of thought broken and in one swift movement rose to his feet. His head was buzzing. He'd saw the end of their encounter with Coralee, but what about the beginning? She'd killed a man over this child. Tried to kill Tony to cover up her deception. There was no way she would have left Joanne behind.
"McGee, stay with him until the paramedics get here. Ziva…I want to know what happened from the time you arrived."
As Ziva described what went down, he listened without asking questions. Soon he knew everything. Ziva had winged Coralee in a fire fight. It had ended abruptly when the desperate woman grabbed an elderly man as a shield until she exited the building. The part where Tony used himself as a human target to stop her getting away, he remembered in graphic detail. By the time she was finished he was glad to see some color back in her cheeks. It didn't answer the question about the missing girl.
Gibbs surveyed the scene. This was a residential area. At just after two-thirty in the afternoon it was quiet. Most folks would either be at work, or the kids at school. Apart from the odd passing car they were the only ones there. He looked at the man still lying silent on the ground, and suspected he knew the answer. What did Tony do before he encountered Coralee? He wished Tony would wake up and tell him himself…
"Ziva…Was Tony still in the car when you went inside?"
She nodded. "Yes. I was simply here to collect Mrs Adam's medication. I saw no reason to take Tony with me."
"Where are your keys?"
"As I believed Tony would be there until I got back, I left them in the ignition."
He'd caught a glint of something metallic on the road not far from where Tony was lying. Gibbs strode over, grabbed up the missing keys and without saying a word went over to the car. Just as he'd hoped Joanne Isaac was sleeping soundly on the back seat. He smiled sadly at the man lying on the road. "Good boy, Tony."
Gibbs opened the door and gently gathered her into his arms. She blinked, and he smiled at her. "It's okay, sweetie, you're safe now. Mommy's coming to get you." In response the little girl yawned then snuggled against his shoulder, promptly going back to sleep.
The paramedics arrived the same time as Fornell. Tobias didn't look happy as he slammed the door of his black sedan and stormed over. "What the hell happened here? My team only left minutes ago." His eyes darted around trying to take everything in. His face fell when they landed on the wounded man now partially hidden by paramedics. "Is that…"
Gibbs handed over the sleeping child. "He got your kid back…you owe him, Tobias."
As he clumsily took the child, he signalled for another agent to relieve him of the sleeping bundle. "You still haven't told me what happened, Jethro."
Gibbs didn't answer. He had somewhere else more important to be. He walked over to wait with the remainder of his team while Tony was secured to a back board and neck brace. When he was loaded into the ambulance, he jumped in beside him.
Ducky appeared just as the paramedic was shutting the doors. "Oh, dear…poor Anthony. I'll finish up here as quickly as I can and join you at the hospital..."
Gibbs nodded. "Keep an eye on my team, Duck."
"What's his name?" One of the paramedics asked without turning round, as he checked the IV he'd just inserted.
"Tony…Special Agent Anthony DiNozzo."
"I'll go with Tony," the younger man said, "Tony…can you open your eyes for me?" There was no response. The guy waited for a moment then tried again. "C'mon, Tony, I just want to see them for a second then you can go right back to sleep."
Tony had been unresponsive since he'd been hit. Gibbs was no doctor but he knew that wasn't good. "DiNozzo…you heard the man. Open your eyes."
He saw his hand twitch, then his eyes opened. It was only a crack and they were glazed, but they were searching for him. He moved round to where Tony could see him. "Tony…you're going be okay. Understand?"
With an oxygen mask covering most of his face Tony couldn't answer but he blinked. The paramedic barely had enough time to shine a light into his eyes before his face went slack and he once again fell unconscious.
"His pupils are dilated but at least we got a response." The paramedic said as he wrote down something on a chart. He looked round and gave Gibbs a wry smile. "Man…that was impressive. Do all your agents follow orders like that?"
Gibbs shrugged in reply. "How is he?"
"He's stable for now, but I can see he's been wounded recently. Another trauma this soon isn't good. He'll need x-rays and a CT scan. Until then…"
"I know…you can't say. But he's going to be okay." The young paramedic just looked at him, then without saying another word got back to work.
Gibbs knew what he was thinking. He'd been called stubborn, pig-headed, even arrogant before. Fact was he wasn't prepared to accept the alternative. Tony had to live. There were no buts about it.
Images, like scenes from a black and white movie invaded his brain, but despite how he tried Tony couldn't get the pieces to fit together. It was only when the incessant beeps from the heart monitor broke through the cotton wool clouding his brain, it made sense. He was alive, but survival had come at a price.
He hurt all over despite the lingering feeling of narcotics taking the edge off. His fuzzy head was aching and every muscle throbbed, but it was his side and right leg that grabbed his attention. Even a shallow breath hurt and he remembered the pain as he hit the ground. Broken ribs? The cannula tickled his nose but he held back a sneeze. The last thing he needed was the additional discomfort racking his body would bring. With his left shoulder still immobilised he wiggled his free right hand. Finding it unhurt, he sent his fingers to explore the damage. His breath hitched, and he yelped when it made contact with his heavily bandaged thigh.
"DiNozzo…what do you think you're doing. Isn't one dumb move today enough for you?"
The pain, along with Gibbs irritated voice, made his eyes spring open.
"It's not broken, but you've a bunch of stitches and it's black and blue. You also cracked a couple of ribs." Gibbs gave him one of his looks as his voice went quiet. "You could have broken your neck. We might not have been able to have this conversation."
Tony was relieved. He was already facing rehab with his shoulder but a busted leg would have kept him off work for months. While cracked ribs didn't feel good, they healed quicker than broken. All things considered he'd got lucky, even if he didn't feel it right now.
"How long have I been out?" His face hurt when he opened his mouth, and his voice sounded weak and hoarse. Gibbs poured some water into a cup and held it steady while he sipped on a straw.
"Five hours, give or take. You aggravated your concussion. The doc was starting to get worried." Gibbs' expression was unreadable, but his eyes gave him away. Tony could tell he'd been worried too.
"At any rate you've earned yourself another stay in hospital." Gibbs took away the cup, and he looked momentarily angry. "What the hell possessed you, Tony? Standing in the middle of a freaking road playing chicken with a car! She was wounded. We would have caught her." Gibbs raked a hand through his hair and went quiet for a moment. "I get why you did it…but we nearly lost you."
"And as we both know I'm irreplaceable." Tony smiled trying to lighten the mood, but Gibbs didn't join him. "Look, Boss, it wasn't exactly planned...Coralee had run rings round the FBI for weeks. I couldn't take the chance she'd get away. Is she…"
Gibbs nodded. "I saw what happened. You didn't have a choice. Now get some rest… Fornell still wants to speak to you, but he can wait till you're feeling stronger. I think he wants to offer you a job."
Gibbs eyes twinkled with amusement. "No…but he was impressed. So are the Isaacs. They wanted to thank you themselves, but you were out. That arrangement blocking out the light – it's from them."
His head was pounding, and sleep was pulling him under but there was something he needed to know. "Is the kid okay?"
Gibbs smiled. "Thanks to you."
He heard a hissing noise. The next thing something cold seeped into his veins and the pain began to ease. Gibbs got to his feet, and patted his arm. "Take it easy. I'll see you later."
"What is it?"
"Apart from the whole getting hurt thing…it was worth it."
His boss looked puzzled.
"We got the kid back. That wouldn't have happened if I hadn't seen her that day…" Tony's voice came out as a mumble as he yawned. "Karma can be a bitch, but some things are mean to..." He didn't finish the sentence as his eyes flickered shut and his head slumped to the side.
"When you're right…you're right." Gibbs muttered as he took one final look at the sleeping man and left the room. Ziva, McGee, Abby, Ducky and even Palmer were waiting outside.
"How is young Anthony feeling, Gibbs?"
Gibbs glanced at the closed door then back at his team, his family "He's going to be just fine...We all are." He said the last part under his breath. Ducky heard him and the two old friends shared a small smile.
Ziva let out a sigh of relief. "That is good news…" She snapped her fingers. "I have an idea. I think we should buy him a small gift to recognize his achievement...and to cheer him up."
McGee scrunched his face in concentration, before breaking into a grin. "I know! Why don't we hire an au pair for a few days when he gets out? I'm sure he'd appreciate the help." Palmer grinned but the two women drew Tim a scathing look. He mumbled something under his breath and went scarlet.
Suddenly Abby held up her hand, and jumped up and down in the spot. "I've got a better idea! We could get him a cat. Sister Mary's cat has just had kittens. They're black and white with the cutest button nose. They are soooo sweet! It could curl up beside him on the couch and keep him company while he's on sick leave. "
Ziva rolled her eyes. "I am sure Tony has other ideas about the type of company he would like to curl up with. Nurse Alison comes to mind..."
"I do believe that Abby may be right. A cat would indeed be a very appropriate gift," Ducky agreed with a glint in his eye. "It might remind Tony that he has used up too many of his lives already."
"How about replacing the wine that broke?" Jimmy suggested.
Gibbs listened to the banter then said dead pan. "Nah…I was thinking more along the lines of enrolling him in driver's ed." They all looked at him, puzzled. "Well...he needs a refresher after that stunt he pulled."
Everyone burst out laughing, but Abby scolded him when Jimmy laughed so hard he started to choke. Gibbs waved a hand goodnight as he left leave his family still talking. The nightmare was over. His people were safe. He was still smiling as he headed back to the place he thought of as home…
"No, thank you…Caroline."
Tony gave the attractive blonde assistant district attorney his best winning smile as he took her business card, tucked it in his suit top pocket, and gave it a pat. Only when the door closed and he was out in the corridor did he sag against the wall. His leg hurt. His ribs ached. His whole body felt like lead but at least he'd achieved what he'd come to do. There was no-one about so he stood there with his eyes closed until he had enough energy to make the journey home.
"Still think you're ready to come back to work?"
Gibbs got up from the bank of seats lining the wall, and made up the short distance between them. Tony stood up straight. He wasn't back on duty yet, but there was something about the marine that made you want to be the best you could be.
"So…how did it go?"
Tony gave him a look. "How did you know I'd be here?"
"Madeline called. She saw you getting into a cab with your suit on."
"Great…now you've got my neighbours spying on me." Tony grumbled, as he grabbed his cane and started limping away.
Gibbs put out a hand and stopped him. "Just Maddie...she was worried about you. You only got out of hospital a couple of days ago…Look at yourself, Tony. She was right to be concerned."
"No…you're not. And I've declined your request – I don't want you back at work until the doctor signs you off." Gibbs released his hand, but didn't move away. "C'mon, I'm giving you a ride home."
Tony was pissed. He was irritated with Madeline for blowing the whistle on him and annoyed with Gibbs for invading his privacy. More than anything, he was frustrated and angry with himself. He hated being laid up, and he missed work more than he cared to admit.
"Well, did you manage to get Sharon Adams a reduced sentence?"
"Caroline has agreed to drop the accessory to the attempted murder charge. Mrs Adams will still do time for theft, but it won't be more than eighteen months. Given the circumstances, I've asked if she could be eligible for probation as soon as possible."
"She won't thank you, ya know." Gibbs said quietly.
"I wouldn't expect her too…I killed her daughter."
The two men went quiet. With his bum leg he couldn't move fast and was relieved when Gibbs matched his lumbering pace. They walked together in companionable silence until they reached the parking lot. Not saying a great deal on the ride home either. It was only when Gibbs pulled up outside, Tony was surprised when his boss got out with him and walked him to his apartment.
"Can I come in?"
"Sure...would you like a coffee?"
Tony brightened. He hadn't been looking forward to yet more of his own company. His team had been great while he'd been in the hospital. When he'd first got out they called and dropped in all the time. But he was able to manage himself now and they were busy. He understood. It didn't stop the time from dragging.
Gibbs slipped off his jacket and sank onto the couch. "I'd prefer a beer…Have you re-watched The Godfather?"
He hobbled over to the couch and handed Gibbs the brew. "No…I kept falling asleep." He admitted ruefully. "Don't suppose you've got time to watch it with me?"
"Why not? There isn't much doing...at least nothing that Ziva and McGee can't handle." Gibbs took a swig and gave him a small smile. "Put the movie on…"
Tony didn't wait to be asked twice. He didn't even bother taking off his best suit jacket as he snatched the DVD off the shelf, slot it into the recorder, and eased himself down beside his boss.
It was just beginning when his cell rang. He was going to ignore it when Gibbs saw the caller display and raised an eyebrow. "I think you should take that. Take your time…I'm going to get something I left in the car.
Tony counted inwardly to ten before he answered. "Hi, Dad…"
By the time Gibbs reappeared a few minutes later not only had he finished the brief conversation, but he'd also ordered Chinese. He knew Gibbs wouldn't ask him outright, but he also knew his boss was angry at his father for not calling before now.
"He's been in Monaco…trying to get in on a sweet land deal."
Gibbs left a bag on the kitchen counter. "Did you tell him?"
Tony shrugged. "No...didn't see the point. What happened…happened. It's over. No need for him to know." It still rankled more than he cared to admit, but he didn't want to talk about it any more He deflected the conversation onto a less painful subject and nodded towards the bag. "What's that?"
Gibbs pulled out a bottle of chateauneuf du pape. "Madeline told me she was having you over for dinner tomorrow. You can't go empty handed."
Tony took it, and was momentarily speechless. He smiled at the man who had come to mean more than his own father. "Thanks...You hungry? I've ordered Chinese."
"Sounds good…" Gibbs sat back down and Tony came to join him.
As the haunting theme tune filled the room nothing more was said, but then words weren't necessary. Right here, right now, the bad times were behind them. No one was lurking in the wings trying to kill him. They were just two guys, friends, enjoying a movie. The only villains around were the ones on the screen…
Well that's the story finished and I hope you enjoyed it! Of course, I'd love it if you'd share your thoughts with me!
Once again I want to thank you for all the wonderful reviews! I answer them all, but unfortunately I can't reply to the ones sent under the guest banner, or those whose accounts don't allow it. But a huge thanks to you all!
And thanks also to my beta and friend Sterenyk Strey. She's had to put up with a lot over the last few weeks. She's a busy lady but didn't complain when I sent her a chapter just before I wanted to post. Thank you hon, you're the best!
Finally, when I decided to try my hand at an NCIS story, I never imagined the support this story would receive. You fans certainly know how to give a writer a warm welcome! Seriously, it certainly makes all the hours of writing and editing worthwhile. Hugs, Joanie.