This is a massive and somewhat nasty foreword.

One, do not tell me I misspelled one word one time. I don't care. If three betas didn't catch it, on top of the spell checker and three or four proofs that I did; it can just stay that way. If I'm consistently misspelling something, I do want to know.

Two, this is an AU. There will be things that are not consistent with the 'real' military. I don't care. It's my story, my military works my way. And if you're stupid enough to tell me you're a SEAL? I know you're not. The SEALs don't care about my story, they've got a lot more important things to worry about. Also, I know a great deal about guns and explosives, what I don't know, my son, husband or besty knows. If they don't know it, it's probably classified. If I've made a mistake, or you believe I have, back it up with REAL facts, and links, or shut up.

Three, plot holes seem to be a real problem of mine. If you find one, and you have a way to fix it that isn't a massive rewrite, I'll consider it. Also, it might be a plot hole, and it might not. So think before you troll.

Four, if something that happened in the show doesn't suit me, it didn't happen. Don't be a canon Nazi. Thank you.

I've watched people drive several really good writers clear out of a fandom. Minka83 comes to mind. I'm old, nasty and have a very thick skin and a huge vocabulary, so nitpicking and quibbling will probably just piss me off, then you'll get an earful.

Warnings for this story include: swearing, blood, battle field humor, descriptions of torture (not too graphic but it is torture) and NO pairings. OC's, some of whom are created just to die (red shirts, if you will) Other stuff I can't be arsed to detail will probably come up. Also made up geography as real info on the location of SEAL CenCom is a bit thin on the ground.

Also, Minka83's deleted stories inspired these. If SHE wants to speak to me about them, I'll discuss things. If you want to blame, flame or otherwise annoy me about mine being somewhat like hers; Remember, you're probably one of the idiots who drove her out in the first place. (also, while inspired by her; my stories are probably a lot darker than hers. So get over it)

Side note: I asked. Most of my military contacts said they never, ever use the word 'helo' to refer to a chopper. It sounds too much like HALO.

Now - if you're still hanging around, read on.

DiNozzo's a what?

chapter one

Senior Agent Anthony DiNozzo rubbed his aching head and returned his gaze to his monitor. It didn't help that it had developed a flicker. He groped for the bottle of Tylenol he kept in his desk drawer. The voice near his ear made him stiffen.

"Geeze, DiNozzo, why didn't you tell me your monitor was failing? Oh, wait, you haven't been here for three days. Not to mention being out of contact over the long week end." Junior Agent Timothy McGee eyed his friend and mentor sourly. "You're hung over again, aren't you?" The accusing tone made Tony grimace. "Well, get up, go wash your face, take some pills and let me change this out. It'll be done by the time you're back." Tim patted his friend on one shoulder sympathetically. "Gibbs'll have your head if he catches you."

Tony was grateful for Tim's steady presence. His head pounded with the beat of his heart and he knew that the mild concussion was going to be a nuisance until it cleared up. And Gibbs was going to give him hell over this. It was 0900 and already looking to be a long day.


Tony looked into the mirror for a moment, noting the slightly gray cast to his skin and the tiny wrinkles around his eyes. As he looked, he realized that his 'cocky frat boy' persona was going to have to go. It was just too exhausting to keep up. Also, he was fairly sure that McGee didn't need him riding his ass anymore. He'd shaped up into a good agent and a fine backup. He cupped his hands, catching the cold water, then splashed it on his face.

Tony dried his face carefully, then pulled the bottle of pills out of his pocket. He was on another course of antibiotics for a cut on his back. He couldn't reach it to put the medicated cream on it and he wasn't letting any one else at his back, so it was beginning to get infected. He dumped two capsules into his hand then got the bottle of Tylenol out and added four of those.

He didn't even flinch when a hand reached over his shoulder and grasped his wrist. Gibbs thought he could sneak up on Tony and he, Tony, let him keep his delusion. The softly growled, "I'll take those." made him sigh.

"No, Boss, you won't. I'll show you the bottles, but you won't take them." Tony turned to look Gibbs in the eye. "I don't know what you're thinking, and I don't much care." He handed Gibbs the bottles and turned to take the pills, cupping one palm under the still running water to wash them down with a quick drink.

Gibbs took his time examining the prescription label then the capsules. They matched the prescription. "What kind of infection do you have, DiNozzo? Or should I ask?"

Tony gave his boss a dirty look. "I'm not Don't Ask, Don't Telling, if that's what you're implying. I got cut on ... a hike. It's getting infected." He took the bottles back. "If you're done with the interrogation, I need to get back to my desk. There's a fucking pile of paperwork on that last case I need to finish up."

Leroy Jethro Gibbs watched as his senior agent left the restroom, back rigid, and wondered what the hell was going on with him. He was getting more and more exhausted and his unexplained absences more troubling. He was going to get to the bottom of this, Tony was too important, too good to waste. One of his rules was, 'You don't waste good.' And Tony was too young to look that tired.

As he wondered when this had started, his quick intelligence realized that it had started before Tony came to NCIS. Possibly as early as Peoria. So ... As he started to apply his brilliant investigative mind to the problem, he realized another thing. Morrow had known something, so had Jen. But what? He poked at that for a moment then knew, if Morrow and Shepard had known; then Vance should too. But Vance didn't like DiNozzo much, for some reason. Would this make it easier, or harder, to persuade Vance to tell him what the hell was going on?

With an irritable motion of his head, Gibbs went to ask his questions.

He blew past Cynthia in his usual fashion, ignoring her yelp in favor of reaching his target. He walked in on the end of a remark by the Secretary of the Navy himself.

"Vance. I don't give a damn, this program is too important for you to fuck it up. Get a damn grip." then he turned and gave Gibbs a challenging look. "Got something to say, Jarhead?"

Gibbs, used to the epithetical nickname, snarled back. "I do. What the fuck are you talking about? And what the hell is up with DiNozzo?"

The SecNav gave Vance a warning look then turned to Gibbs. "Need to know. And you don't ... not yet, at any rate." He eyed Gibbs up and down then ordered, "Take it easy on the man. He's involved in ..."

"Some damn top secret operation that I'm not on the short list for. I'm right, so don't give me shit. Just ..." He rubbed his nose for a second, a sure sign that he was trying not to explode all over.

"Gunny, when the time is right, you'll know. But it's his call. Now, what the hell brought you in here in full out pissed off Gunny mode? And do not evade, avoid or deflect."

"DiNozzo's taking pills, antibiotics. Says they're prescribed but I don't recognize the doctor's name. And he's concussed, or I miss my guess. So. Ducky, or someone else. But he needs to be seen to." Gibbs knew the SecNav well; and, despite his political face, trusted him. Vance, not so much, the man hid too much.

"Take him to Ducky. I'll call down. And ... Gibbs? Don't hang around. He won't thank you for it." The SecNav took his phone from his aide and waived Gibbs away.

The only reason he actually went was because it was either that or punch the man. And his 'fucked-upness' radar was going off like crazy. He just had to figure out who or what was setting it off.

He worried at that for a moment then just nodded, turned and left. He snagged Tony, barked, "With me." and headed for Autopsy. Not where you'd think to go with someone who was just sick but Ducky was physician of record for the whole team. It made things a lot easier all around.

When he was called, Tony just followed Gibbs into the elevator with a tired, "On your six, Boss."

Gibbs reached out and hit the stop button the second the doors shut. "Ok, DiNozzo, what the hell is going on? I was going to ask Vance but the SecNav himself told me to lay off. I got the feeling that even Vance doesn't know much. So ... start talking and make it fast and the truth."

Tony just leaned back against the wall and rested his aching head on it. "Sorry, Boss, not my secret to tell. If I could, I would. But ... I answer to someone else ... and it's not Vance." He knew that he wasn't making much sense but the effects of his concussion were worse than usual. He knew he was tired, between back to back missions, cases and retraining; he was just plain old out of steam. But he was well aware that, if not for Gibbs steadying presence in his life, he'd probably be dead or discharged by now. So, he said, "Boss, I need to make a private call. I'll meet you in Autopsy. Ok?"

Gibbs gave Tony a close once over, "Ok. But you better come clean soon. Vance had the SecNav up his nose about this."

"Boss, you're going to be pissed no matter what I do. I'm ..."

The Gibbs slap came out of nowhere. "Ow! Damnit, Boss. I've got a fucking concussion."

Gibbs sighed, "Shit. And how the hell someone let you come in to work with it, I'll never know." He paused for a second. "Or will I?"

Tony decided, in that moment, that he was bringing Gibbs in, chain of command be damned. "I need to make that call."

Gibbs knew that this was all he was going to get, for now, so he hit the switch, the lights came back on and they descended to the depths of Autopsy.

The second the elevator doors opened, Tony pulled his smartphone out of his pocket and fiddled with it. He texted someone, glared at the screen, then sent another text. Gibbs was very careful not to even glance in Tony's direction.

When Tony went, 'Ha!' he turned back around. "Ok, DiNozzo, what's the scoop."

Tony smiled one of his thousand watt smiles and replied, "Ok, Boss, it's this way ... you know that some things are classified 'burn before reading, shoot yourself in the head after', right?" Gibbs gave his lead agent one of those looks, half disgusted/half amused, that he specialized in. "Ok. You were Special Ops. Specialized in black and wet work." Gibbs gave a jerky nod. "So do I. But I'm a SEAL."

Gibbs thought about that while he sipped his coffee, he finally asked, "What team?"

"The one that doesn't exist." Tony waited for more questions.

All he got was a look, a nod and the order, "Lose the frat boy shit and stop picking on McGee."

Tony grinned at him, "Gotcha', Boss." he started for Autopsy but turned back. "Don't tell anyone else, I only got permission to tell you."

Gibbs gave Tony a wry look. "SecNav?"

Tony cleared his throat. "POTUS"

Gibbs blinked once. "Fucking hell!"

"Yeah." and with that, Tony left his boss standing in the hall and staring into his coffee.


Dr Donald 'Ducky' Mallard knew something was up by the email he'd gotten from one of the agents in the squad room. Tony had managed to hurt himself again. He had his suspicions, of course, but he'd never say a word; not until he got the go ahead from Tony himself.

When Tony ambled in the door, he greeted him with, "Well, Anthony, how have you managed to damage yourself now?"

Tony grimaced, this was not going to be pretty. He'd managed to keep at least a t-shirt on for years, even in undercover assignments with the very detail oriented Ziva David. "Ducky, I got cut and it's getting infected. I'm also concussed. And I can't tell you why or how. Just ... can you medic me?"

"Of course, dear boy. And mum's the word. Now, let me see you." Ducky went into his office to get his medic bag, as opposed to his autopsy bag, calling over his shoulder. "Remove whatever article of clothing you need to and hop up onto table 3."

Tony did as asked, shucking off his jacket, tie, shirt and t-shirt then settling on the autopsy table. He didn't need to 'hop' as his long legs made it a matter of hitching one hip on the table and scooting back.

Ducky opened his bag and settled it on a small rolling table, then pushed the table to where he could reach it. "Now. Concussion first, that will tell me what meds I can prescribe for the infection."

"Got a scrip already. Here." Tony fished the bottle out of his pocket and gave it over.

Ducky accepted the bottle, glanced at it then put it on the table. "Well, let me see about this concussion." He picked up his pen light and flashed it in Tony's eyes.

Tony flinched away. "Oh, no, Duck. Flashy light. Not good."

"I don't imagine it is. You do have a concussion. Your pupils are a bit uneven and don't react as quickly as I could wish. Any dizziness, nausea, black outs?"

"No, just light sensitivity and a damn pounding head." Tony braced himself for the next bit as Ducky moved to look at his back.

"Oh, dear."

Tony gave a rather forced laugh. "Not so pretty, is it? How bad."

Ducky tore his eyes away from the scars and focused on the new injury. It was inflamed and a bit too red, but nothing some cream and a refill of the antibiotics wouldn't fix. "Not bad, dear boy. I'll put some cream on it now and you will come down every day for more, until the stitches come out. I'd like to call your physician, what is his number?"

"Ducky, you're my physician of record." Tony waited for the explosion but it never came.

Ducky just said, in a weary, annoyed tone of voice. "I see. So ... who stitched you up? Where did you get the scrip?"

"Field medic and ... I can't tell you more. Sorry." Tony knew he was putting obstacles in the way of his care but he couldn't share without permission. Permission that he was reluctant to ask for, for obvious reasons.

"Tut-tut, Anthony, I know better than to pry into this sort of thing. I was just hoping to get all your records in one place. For future reference, you see." Ducky gently poked and prodded the cut while he was speaking. "Well, as I said, it's not that bad. I'll have you down before you go on duty then again when you come off. I'll put this cream on for you each time."

"Thanks, Ducky, how soon before the stitches come out. They itch." Tony held still as Ducky put the antibiotic, analgesic cream on his cut. He desperately wanted to put his t-shirt back on, before someone barged in and saw something they shouldn't.

He wasn't to be so lucky.

Leroy Jethro Gibbs was the first to admit that he had a temper, what he saw put it on Red Alert. "Who do I kill?"

"Sorry, Boss, you can't kill anyone." Tony sighed, he really hadn't wanted to deal with this just yet. He was too tired, so tired that it was a Herculean effort not to fall asleep where he sat.

"And why not?" The icy tone proved that Gibbs was controlling himself with Herculean effort of his own.

"Because there's nothing like expressing your displeasure with a couple of pounds of C-4." Tony's grin looked nothing like his usual goofy, pleasant one, it more resembled a rictus disguised as a smile.

Gibbs returned the look. "Well, ok, then." He took a gulp of his fresh, scalding hot coffee. "Get dressed, we've got a DB."

Tony quickly thanked Ducky as he scrambled into his clothing. "I'll be back down about ... 17 hundred?"

Ducky just nodded, a bit absently, as he put away this things. "Be sure to get me your records as soon as you can, dear boy."


When they reached the small pocket park, Gibbs stewed in silence as he crawled the last two blocks. The rubber-neckers were out in force, driving or walking by, or just standing around. "Get this mess cleared up, McGee. Tell the LEO's to block off the streets at least three blocks back in every direction."

"On it, Boss." McGee was well aware of Gibbs' opinion of this sort of behavior. It just plain pissed him off.

After talking to the LEO's and getting them started on traffic control, Tim returned to the crime scene. The locals had just cordoned off the whole park and were stringing up a makeshift curtain; hiding the body from the casual sight seers with some of the ubiquitous blue plastic tarps available from any Wal-mart type store. Gibbs was talking to the police supervisor in charge with a sour expression on his face. Ziva was canvasing the locals, most of whom were standing around in clumps staring at the body. Although, why anyone would want to stand and stare at this mess she couldn't fathom.

Tony had been sent to circle the park and look for clues before they were trampled by the rubber-neckers. He took about thirty minutes to make sure he'd done the job right. Then he returned to Gibbs.

Hey, Boss, Ducky here yet?"

"No. Palmer got them lost, again. I swear, I'm gonna buy them a GPS." Gibbs' expression made his opinion crystal clear.

Tony couldn't help it, he felt sorry for Jimmy Palmer. "Boss, if Ducky would let the poor guy actually follow his directions, they'd get here. The Duckman has a fatal weakness for shortcuts. Palmer doesn't stand a chance."

"Then why doesn't he tell me so."

"Because, the poor guy is scared to death of you. Can't imagine why." Tony's grin actually did take the sting out of his words.

Gibbs gave Tony his patented 'Don't mess with me.' glower then nodded toward the hidden body of their Marine. "Photograph, bag and tag. Ziva and McGee are interviewing the, so called, witnesses."

"And why are they doing that? I mean, instead of me. I'm much more personable than Mossad and McGeek." Tony saw the swat coming out of the corner of his eye but let it land. "Sorry, Boss. Still concussed."

Gibbs smirked faintly. "Wasn't that hard. Anyway, I told you, no more frat boy. Get the camera and get busy. As soon as McGee and Ziva are done with what they're doing, I'll set them to working the perimeter of the park. They need the experience."

Tony didn't really mind the head slaps, usually, but he still had a headache and the smack had made it worse. He turned to start photographing the body.

He pushed through an overlap and got his first good look at the body. "Well, fuck. Damnit." The body was a mess. The man had been flogged, burned then strangled. It was obviously a torture death, and not here. Tony shook his head, what the hell?

Ducky turned from his examination of the hanging body. "Get the poor man down from there, Tony. Jimmy, help him."

Jimmy Palmer just nodded. "I'll get the body bag. Maybe McGee can help us? I don't think the two of us can manage by ourselves."

Just then, Ziva poked her head into the enclosure. "Oh, la tvbh." She managed to keep her stomach in place, after all, she was a Mossad trained ex-assassin and knew all about interrogation techniques. That didn't mean she had to like it.

Tony turned and snapped, "Ya think? Ziva, go find McGee, you're not tall enough to help."

Ducky just left to fetch the body bag and gurney, leaving his compatriots to deal, saying, "I'll fetch things, Mr. Palmer."

"Ok. I will bring Gibbs too." Ziva wasn't about to object to this, she wasn't tall enough to help. She left to find Gibbs.

He was in another consultation with the locals and, by the look on his face, it wasn't going well. She decided that it might be a good idea to just interrupt before Gibbs exploded. "Gibbs, we need you to help get the body down. It's too heavy for Mr. Palmer to do by himself. Special Agents McGee and DiNozzo would rather not disrespect our Marine by dropping him. Come? Yes?"

"Ok, Agent David, be there in a few." He turned to the local to snarl, "Look, I'm not about to get into a pissing contest with you. That man is a Marine, dog tags prove it. That means he's mine. We're going to cooperate on this, it's your jurisdiction but he's mine. Got it?" He poured all his fury into his gaze and the Supervisor quailed. "Good." and with that, Lead Senior Field Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs strode off to deal with his Marine, mumbling, "Damn locals just don't get it." He was not going to let 'his' body get into the hands of anyone but Ducky.

Ziva sighed in irritation. She knew why Gibbs hated dealing with locals but she also knew that they were their best source of information. That was why Gibbs usually left Tony DiNozzo to deal with them. He didn't irritate the chain of command by being a Marine. She turned to the Super and gave him a coy smile. "He just hates it when someone is tortured, especially a Marine."

The Super gave back a slightly dazzled grimace. "Ok, yeah, I can sympathize. But he's a local boy. Doesn't live in this neighborhood but he goes to church at St. Mary's. I'll get my men out, canvas for last sighting and all that."

Ziva gave the man another smile. "Yes, see, that is exactly the sort of help we need. Send all reports to this address. Yes?" She took his phone from him and typed in McGee's email address. "Direct access to our forensic computer expert. He'll collate all the data. Thank you so much." She muttered direly in Hebrew as she hurried back to finish her bag and tag.

While Ziva was doing her bag and tag; and yes, Ziva, McGee and DiNozzo all went over the same areas. What one person might have missed another would see. It was not anything against any of the agents, it was procedure, pure and simple. Gibbs, McGee and DiNozzo were helping Jimmy get their body down from its position.

Since the Marine had been suspended from a gazebo by the wrists this meant that McGee and Gibbs had to wrap the body in a 'clean sheet' and then lift it up enough to take the weight off the suspension points. Then Palmer and DiNozzo cut the cords, letting the man's arms fall to his sides.

Tony hopped down from his vantage point atop an upturned garbage can, saying, "Well, that's a mess. Palmer, need some help wrapping him up?"

McGee gave Gibbs a blank look, then said, "We can see it's a mess. I mean, the poor guy ..." He trailed off when Gibbs glared at him.

Gibbs turned to Ducky. "Initial opinion, Duck."

"He was tortured elsewhere. I would imagine that his screams of agony would have awakened the entire neighborhood."

Gibbs interrupted him with a dry, "Ya think?"

Ducky gave him a mildly irritated look then continued, "Liver temp indicates that he died sometime between 2400 and 0130. I'll narrow it down during autopsy. Cause of death; strangulation." Ducky glanced over his shoulder to see that, between them the three younger men had gotten their body decently covered and were pushing the gurney back to the ME's wagon.

Gibbs shook his head. This was going to be a very bad one. A naked, tortured Marine found in a rather up scale neighborhood kiddy park, strung up in the central gazebo? How could it be anything but bad?

Tony gazed at the van for several minutes, chasing a thought. It wouldn't come and his pounding headache ramped up a notch.

Gibbs had been keeping a surreptitious eye on his 2IC and now realized that what had started out as a mild concussion headache was now a pounding migraine. "DiNozzo, take a pill. You look like crap."

"Won't help. I need something a bit stronger than Tylenol. I'll take something when I get home." Tony thought to himself, 'In about 36 hours, unless I miss my guess.' He was not happy about that either. He needed to get some sleep. He'd already been up for 24 hours. He was used to being sleep deprived on operations, but he didn't see the need just now. Their dead Marine would be just as dead, whether he got some sleep or not. And this was not a crime of passion, where the perp would run, making it difficult to find him/her. The people who had killed their Marine were pros and already long gone.

Gibbs sighed, none of his team was in top shape. Tony was concussed, McGee was catching a cold and Ziva was distracted by her Father's latest demand that she return to Israel. He made an executive decision and hoped that he wasn't going to regret it.

"Ok, everyone, finish your sweep, then go home and get some rest. Be back at 0700." He was irritated to see the wide eyed stares directed at him by everyone. "What? Go!"

They went.

Both Tony and Tim were relieved. Tim really was catching the cold from hell and Tony needed sleep, going on a mission with a wound wasn't Tony's favorite thing but he'd had to. He was the back up, the Chief Warrant Officer who'd been supposed to go on the latest mission had managed to break his leg.

Ziva was glad to go for a different reason. She had always known that Tony was doing something sub rosa but had kept out of it as none of her business. But now, Tony had told Gibbs, so she felt that that made it fair game for her. She was going to make a few calls.

Gibbs returned to NCIS in the van containing Ducky, Jimmy and their dead Marine. He checked in all the evidence then hand carried it to Abby.

"Here you go, Abbs. Not much, but see what you can find. I swear, that park is groomed daily so ... Well, most of this stuff had to have been deposited within the last few hours. But the park wasn't the site, it was just a dump. We're still looking for our initial scene." Gibbs rubbed the back of his neck irritably. He hated this sort of case. Someone wanted something from their victim but who, what and why?

"Gibbs, there's nothing here." Abby looked up from the few scraps of evidence they'd managed to collect. "I mean, really, nothing."

Gibbs nodded. "I know, Abby, I know. Just do your best. I'm going to see Ducky, maybe he can come up with something off the body."

Abby nodded a bit absently. She was already immersed in the few bits of evidence they had, if there was something useful there, she'd find it.

Gibbs winced a bit as Abby turned her music back up. How she could call that crap music was beyond him.


Ducky nodded to Jimmy. "Very well, my young friend, first things first." he turned to see his assistant holding one of the Marine's hands and staring at the cord around his wrist. "What is it?"

Ducky knew that, sometimes, he was a bit impatient with Jimmy but he was so very young. This was obviously one of the times he needed patience.

Jimmy Palmer was a good Boy Scout and knew his knots. This one was familiar but he couldn't figure out why. "Um ... sorry, Dr Mallard. I just ... no ... never mind. I'll remember ... sooner or later." Jimmy shook his head. "Should I cut the cords opposite the knots or close?"

"Opposite. And preserve all the cord except for about an inch from each bond. Bag and tag them separately, labeled by which limb they came from."

Ducky watched as Jimmy did as he was told. Then he drew blood, swabbed for urine and feces, tagging each swab carefully. There was no telling what information might be gleaned from body fluids. He also swabbed the mouth, nose and ears, cut a bit of hair, remarking, "Not that there's much with a high and tight but still." He patted the corpse on the shoulder and told it/him, "We'll get to the bottom of this, don't you worry."

Jimmy took all the samples and headed for Abby's lab, still worrying at that fact that hovered on the edge of his consciousness. Something about those knots was annoying the Boy Scout in him. He shoved the annoyance away, knowing that, the more he picked at it, the less chance there was of him actually remembering anything.