Tony closed his eyes against the harsh lights that lit up the warehouse. He stayed curled up in his corner, hidden behind a crate. He wrapped his arms around his knees. The rough chain that held his ankle to the bolt in the floor clinked softly as he shifted. He hated the sound. They'd taken his gun, his belt, even his shoelaces before chaining him up.
He could hear them laughing and joking in the middle of their hideout. A paper bag rustled. "I'm gonna go feed our guest. The old man was pretty particular about that." The unusual shuffle of the man's gait told him it was "Curly". They'd been very good about not giving up their names and wearing masks. But he could identify them by their gait and their voices. "Hey, kid," Curly said gruffly.
"Hey," he responded, voice rough from the bruises around his throat.
"Lemme check yer eyes."
"Don't piss me off, kiddo." Tony lifted his head and let Curly check his pupils. "Okay. I brought some dinner. Just stop fighting the guys and you'll be fine. They'll tie you up again."
"Why me? There's not a damn thing special about me. I'm just a cop."
Curly chuckled. "You'll find out later." He left the paper bag and bottled soda. Tony rubbed at his ankle. They'd found an old-fashioned shackle. Really old fashioned. It was hammered shut with a bolt. There was no lock to pick on it near his ankle. The other end was padlocked to the ring in the floor. The smell from the bag turned his stomach - too much grease for tonight. He set it out of the way. He laid down on the cheap blanket and laid his head on his arm. He listened to the men playing poker on the main floor below him.
Sturdy, steady steps woke him up. "Time for your bathroom break, DiNozzo." It was "Larry".
"Did you guys get a discount on the masks?"
"Yeah. You know the drill. Hands behind your back, fingers laced." He cuffed the cop, none too gently. Then unlocked the chain that doubled as a leash. He took the young man to the bathroom and locked the chain around the base of the stall. He uncuffed him. "You've got fifteen minutes." Larry closed the door and locked it behind him. Tony sighed. He wasn't defeated, exactly, but he wasn't seeing many openings either. He didn't waste any time. Larry wasn't the most patient of men. Far too soon, he was locked back in his corner for the night. He fell asleep to the sound of his captors laughing and joking.
Steps Tony didn't recognize ghosted up the stairs. He froze, not daring to move. The steps stopped. "Shit." The word was barely whispered. A firm hand covered his mouth. This wasn't one of the gang that held him, that was for sure. They'd already impressed silence on him. Talking usually got him slapped or gagged, so he'd given it up. He kept his eyes closed too. If this was some other thief, he couldn't fight back and he couldn't run.
"Look at me," the man commanded. Tony's eyes opened to meet a cold blue gaze. He studied those eyes, coming to a decision. He could trust this man. He felt completely safe for the first time ever. He'd never believed in love at first sight and he refused to think that this was something as corny as that. Relief at being found by a cop and not a robber made him blink rapidly to get rid of the tears. He'd never been one to cry, except on cue. "I'll come back," blue-eyes whispered. Tony nodded. He laid back down.
The next steps he heard were Larry's. "Sorry, kid, we're going away for a few." Tony scrambled away to the extent of his leash. He had a funny feeling he knew what was coming. "Stop it, DiNozzo, I'm not gonna choke you again."
"Well, you know, once bitten, twice shy," Tony said hoarsely.
"Gimme your hands like a good boy and I'll even make sure we leave a pot to piss in." Larry cuffed him carefully with the hinged cuffs they always used, making sure they were double locked and keyhole-side up. He patted Tony's head. "Open up."
"You can't be serious. If you're leaving for more than the day, you just can't. . ." Tony stared at the cloth gag in shock.
"Can't take the chance of you finding someone out here." Larry held his chin, patiently. Tony accepted the knot of fabric between his teeth, whining as the tie tightened behind his head. "Sorry, kid. This ain't your fault. Your old man's a bastard though." Tony rolled his eyes. Larry laughed. "We'll be back in a couple days. Here's bucket. Almost forgot." He locked a chain around the cuffs and to the bolt. He ruffled Tony's hair. Tony closed his eyes. He waited until he heard the car leaving the warehouse before his opened them to darkness. The corner they'd set aside for him was barely lit by the windows and once night fell it would be pitch black.
He yanked on the chain in frustration, listening to the difference in the large and small links. He had to get the gag off before he did anything else, but he knew his arms wouldn't bend in the right direction. He still tried, but his fingers couldn't reach the knot. He leaned against the crate that was his wall and caught his breath. His breathing sounded harsh in the silent warehouse. He could hear the mice scrabbling on the ground and shuddered. There'd been one curled up in his hand one morning.
Suddenly blue-eyes was back. He barely heard the man's steps. The strong fingers turned his head. He felt the cold of a blade against his cheek, then the cloth fell away and he could pull the wad out of his mouth. A small penlight flicked on and Tony watched his savior pick the locks on his wrists and then move down to the shackle. Blue-eyes stared at the shackle for a long moment, then snorted. He found the padlock and undid that. He handed the chain to the cop with mock-solemnity. Tony felt a real smile on his face. He followed the man as quietly as he could.
Unreasoning fear stopped him at the top of the stairs. Blue-eyes seemed to understand what the problem was, even if Tony didn't know it himself. He pulled out a leather folder and handed it over. Tony studied it in the half-light, relief flooding his body. He handed back the badge and followed Special Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs out of the building. He was still rather partial to blue-eyes as a name though. He was directed to the next warehouse.
"You, get me bolt cutters," Gibbs directed. The agent snapped into motion. "And you, get some coffee," he snapped to another one. He turned to face Tony. He looked the cop up and down. "You sit down and let our ME look at your throat. What the hell did you do?"
"Talked back?" Tony offered. "Tony DiNozzo."
"Gibbs." The man gave him a half-smile. "I honestly thought they had you in a hole somewhere. Shallow grave maybe."
"Moe considered it, but Larry talked him out of it. I think I pissed him off when I told him his mother was a good lay." He heard a startled yelp of laughter from one of the men that was smothered by Gibbs' glare. "I want my guns back when you find them."
"They're with your captain. They sent them and your badge as proof that they had you. Your partner didn't make it."
"How did NCIS get involved?"
"The team that took you is three soon-not-to-be Navy idiots."
"Every group has its share of greedy idiots."
"And what have we here, Jethro? A stray?" The older man was British up to his bow-tie. Tony gave him his best little-boy smile and was rewarded by a chuckle. "I'm Dr. Donald Mallard. You can call me 'Ducky', everyone does."
"Anthony DiNozzo. You can call me 'Tony'," he offered.
The doctor examined him, clucking to himself. "I'd recommend a hot shower, a few good meals, and some rest. The bruises will heal well enough and you'll be fine." He patted the young man's shoulder.
"Do you have any idea why they kidnapped you?"
"Someone didn't do his research?" Tony replied easily. "I think the idiots were trying to get my father to ransom me back." He shook his head.
"Did the mention a price?"
"A couple million, if they had any sense at all. If he's bothered to pick up his messages, that is."
"You've been missing for two weeks!" Gibbs growled.
"And my father is probably on the French Rivera with his latest wife and not checking messages." Tony shrugged. "He works on his own time-table. If you don't mind, I'd really like to use your bathroom and maybe, just maybe get somewhat clean?"
"Soon as we get that chain off your ankle."
"It'll last," Tony snapped. "It's been on for two weeks. Ten more minutes won't make a difference."
Gibbs smirked. "So you do have a temper, good."
"You know, if you hadn't just saved me from I don't know what, I'd probably take a swing at you for that. But, seeing as I owe you my freedom, I'll spare you this time. Bathroom?" He stared at the younger, nervous agent. The agent looked between him and Gibbs.
"Second door on the right," he said finally, pointing.
"Thanks." Tony gathered up his tail of chain and slammed the bathroom door behind himself. He looked into the mirror, hands braced on the sink. He started to shake. Knowing what the reaction was, he rode it out. The shakes passed. He used the toilet and scrubbed his face and hands as best he could. He finger combed his hair into a semblance of his normal style. He slipped back into the room. He gestured, for the bolt cutters.
Gibbs took them. He cut the shackle free. He bagged the chain as evidence. The older man looked into his eyes for a long moment. "You okay?"
"Just peachy." He gave the man his cheekiest grin. "Any way I could get some scissors and a razor. I feel like an escaped convict."
"I don't know. Homeless looks good on you. Ducky left some scrubs and a kit for you. Take your time." Tony eyed the kit hungrily.
"Thanks," he said. He slipped back into the bathroom, leaving the door unlocked simply because he was sick of being locked up and of being alone. He folded his clothes neatly and put them into the evidence bag he found on the top. He didn't seal it. "You need my things for trace?" he called out.
"Yeah," Gibbs replied from just outside the door.
He sealed the bag and handed it out. Then he ran the shower and scrubbed himself clean. He sighed with the sheer pleasure of hot water.
Gibbs hid his smirk. Coming off of two weeks of captivity, DiNozzo was still level-headed. He had to steal him away from his captain. Not to mention, Tony had killer green eyes and a perfect smile.
"Have we gotten our idiots yet?" he asked the agent currently working with him. He glanced over at Pacci who was on the phone. He hadn't been able to get the man to transfer back to his team, but he was willing to work with Gibbs.
Gibbs picked up the phone to talk to Abby. "Abs, turn it down."
"Gibbs!" She sounded overjoyed to hear from him. "So, did you find our missing Baltimore cop?"
"I did. And you'll like him. He's just a little banged up so Ducky'll be on the way with evidence for you." He hung up. Abby was used to it by now and wouldn't take offence.
The detective he'd rescued came out of the bathroom, wearing the green scrubs as if they were the same quality as his battered suit. The bruises on his throat and face stood out even more. "So," Tony started, "where are my favorite stooges?"
Gibbs raised his brow for more information.
"You know, Larry, Curly, and Moe, my *friends* from next door."
"We have a team following them to their employer."
"The old man." Tony's murmur was almost too low to hear. He closed his eyes, obviously trying to remember something. "I just don't know the politics of the situation well enough to know who it is. Could be Admiral Benson, I think my father mentioned him once. They had a falling out over a woman I think."
Gibbs watched him carefully.
"But Benson knows better. He recommended me to the academy when I was twelve. He knows Papa wouldn't cough up for ransom." The young man muttered a few more names to himself before coming up with "Nathan Batiglioni. He'd do it. He's stupid enough to think all fathers are like him."
"He lost his son to suicide after some financial investment went south. I never got all the details, but Papa DiNozzo was the one who sold him on the investment." Lying, Gibbs assessed. He knows more than he's saying, but it's too early to call him on it.
"So he kidnaps you. Why not act directly on your father?"
"Because he wants to hurt him more than he wants the money. He wants him to fret." Tony waved it away. "Simon didn't go quietly. He tried to fight his depression, but it didn't work."
"You think he's trying to convince your father that you're going to do the same thing?"
"He sent my badge and guns to the captain, which would be in keeping with me resigning. And he had them even take my shoelaces. I don't know what he did with those things, but could have sent them to my father with some sort of threat." Tony shrugged.
"But comparatively, they took good care of you."
"That would make sense. He wants to hurt my father, not me." There was anger and bitterness in the green eyes. Gibbs didn't let the gaze go and DiNozzo seemed to freeze like a mouse sensing a cat. Gibbs stalked closer, purposefully invading the young man's space, checking for the reaction. The cop was nervous, but not scared. That was good. That mean he didn't have that much damage to undo. "You seeing if I plan on bolting, Agent Gibbs?"
Tony smiled at him and Gibbs was lost. "Maybe, huh?"
"Yeah. So here's the rest of your day. Pacci's going to take your statement. I'm going to order dinner. Then you're going to sleep. There's a cot in the next room."
"Pizza?" The young man turned a pair of shameless puppy-dog eyes on Gibbs.
The agent nodded. "Pizza."
"Pacci, take DiNozzo's statement. McAllister, take over surveillance."
Tony ate the pizza carefully. He didn't want to waste a drop of it. Gibbs didn't strike him as the kind of man who went out of his way to be nice, so Tony didn't want to piss him off. "I need to call my captain."
"After we've made our arrests," Gibbs informed him.
"Because we don't know if they have an inside man on the force."
Tony set down his crust. "You said something happened to Paulie?" He was having trouble tracking the conversation, which disturbed him.
"They shot him twice in the head. He died instantly."
Tony closed his eyes. "Damn. And we were just getting into the groove." He pulled his knees up to his chest and laid his forehead on them. "I can't remember much of what happened."
"We think they must have drugged you both. There was Rophynol in his system."
"No pain at least."
"Good." Tony shivered. "I think I better go to sleep now," he said dully. "Things aren't making sense anymore."
"I'm not surprised." The man's voice was sympathetic. "I'll clear up. You just go ahead and lay down. Want me to leave the door open?"
"Okay. Goodnight, DiNozzo."
"Night, Gibbs." There was an actual pillow and a blanket he could wrap around himself. The comforting chatter of people in the next room and the smell of bad coffee sent him to sleep in moments.
"He asleep?" Pacci asked softly.
Gibbs looked back from the doorway. "Yeah. No nightmares."
The blonde agent nodded. "You going to keep him?"
"I'm running the background check now."
"Speaking of backgrounds, I've got the info on Batiglioni."
"I think our cop's right. I can't access his son's records, but the newspapers sure had a field day. There was some talk of Daddy DiNozzo being a con artist, but those accusations disappeared. Gossip columns say that Tony and Simon were classmates at Ohio State. They were on the same basketball team. DiNozzo was set to go pro, but Simon was going to be a doctor specializing in sports medicine."
"DiNozzo wrecked his ankle during the championships. Batiglioni checked himself into a mental hospital around the same time. He killed himself after almost a year in treatment. It was unexpected. Everyone thought he was getting better."
Gibbs frowned. "Any hints that it might not be suicide?"
"Not that I could find in the police report. But Mr. Batiglioni sued the hospital. And he tried to sue Mr. DiNozzo. I'm checking out his financial situation right now. He might be trying to get what the courts wouldn't give him. And he has ties to the Navy. His younger son is stationed here. Our boys could be working with him."
"Or we're missing one member of the team. The one that stays on base or coordinates with the boss."
A small sound drew both agents' attention to the door. Gibbs stepped through. DiNozzo was curled in a tight ball under the blanket. Gibbs crossed to stand next to him. His hands were fisted close to his chest. Tears leaked from his eyes. Nightmare, he assessed. He grabbed his windbreaker and laid it over the young man. "It's okay, you're safe. I've got your back," he murmured. The young man curled in on himself more.
"Sorry, I'm sorry, I didn't mean to," he whispered urgently. "It was an accident."
"What was?" Gibbs asked quietly.
"I'm sorry." Tony's hands rose to shield his face. Gibbs closed his eyes.
"Hush, it's okay," he whispered. "No one's mad at you, Tony. You aren't in trouble, I promise." When he opened his eyes, he caught a glimpse of dazed green. "Relax. You're safe," he assured.
"Nightmare?" Tony whispered.
"Haven't had one in years."
"You're a little stressed right now. Just go back to sleep. Are you warm enough?"
"Yeah, I'll be fine." There was something bleak in the young man's voice that made it hard to believe that.
"Don't lie to me, DiNozzo. Anyone else, I don't care. But you don't lie to me." Gibbs made his tone harsh. The green eyes fastened on him, wide and frightened.
"I. . . I don't know what you want me to say," he managed finally.
"I just want you to tell me the truth. We'll start simply. Are you warm enough?"
"I'll get another blanket. See, easy." Gibbs found the travel blanket he kept in his emergency kit and spread it over the young man, not bothering to move his windbreaker. "Next question, are you hurt?"
"My ankle's not too happy right now, but it hasn't been for awhile. My throat's sore and I've got a killer headache developing behind my right eye, which I think is a reaction to your presence."
DiNozzo froze. "I can't answer that right now," he said after a moment. "I'm not firing on all cylinders. Haven't been since they grabbed me."
Gibbs frowned. He nodded. "I want to get a blood draw from you. I think they've been drugging your food."
"Because your reactions aren't consistent and you can't track conversations."
Gibbs couldn't resist. He stroked the dark hair away from Tony's eyes. "You're not in trouble, you know that right? You didn't do anything wrong."
"I must have. I got caught."
Gibbs shook his head. "They killed your partner. Drugged both of you. You take candy from a stranger?"
"I don't know. I can't remember!"
"That's perfectly normal," Gibbs soothed.
"But I remember everything! And I can't even remember what happened to my own partner."
"Everything?" Gibbs brows rose.
"Every damned word of every damned lecture I've ever attended. Every seminar and workshop. Every conversation with every pretty girl. Every reaming from a captain. Everything!"
"Every word you read?"
"Depends on how close I'm reading."
"Phone numbers? Flight details?"
Gibbs sighed. "Now, that I can't make better. The drugs will wipe that part of your memory out."
The green eyes closed. "Why that one and not some of the other things I've got in my head? Why not some stupid drivel from a bleached blonde bimbo I dated once?"
"Because life isn't fair. I'm going to get up before my knee starts screaming at me."
"You're not leaving?"
"I'm just outside the door. Just a word away, okay?"
Gibbs stepped out. "I need to get a blood draw, Pacci. There's something in his system."
"Special K?" Pacci hazarded. "Causes night terrors."
"Possible. It's easy to get. What else do you have on Batiglioni?"
Pacci handed him a sheaf of papers. "I'll call Ducky while you look at that. Gibbs, there's some information on your new recruit in there too."
"Not exactly." Pacci shrugged. "Just look at it."
Gibbs flipped through the articles. He scan read most of them, pausing at the ones that painted a firm connection between the two families. He found one that had a picture of the young men on the sidelines of a basketball game. DiNozzo looked destroyed and the young man next to him looked no better. That wasn't just a hurt ankle. Gibbs turned around and went into the small room. DiNozzo was sitting up, blankets wrapped around him. "What did Simon tell you before he checked in to the hospital?"
"I can't tell you that, Agent Gibbs."
"He told it to me in confidence."
"Because I think it's the real motive behind this."
"No, Gibbs, it isn't," Tony whispered. There was agony in his voice. "It wasn't going to matter. I was going pro and he was going into medicine and later when everything was steady, we'd be away from our families."
"And with each other." The leap wasn't that hard to make. DiNozzo closed his eyes and dropped his head to rest on his knees.
"It can't come out."
"Because my father would kill me!" Tony snapped suddenly. "God, Simon's father would be heartbroken."
"That's why you're so convinced that he wouldn't hurt you."
"He was happy for us, Gibbs. He didn't care. But my father? Yeah, he cared. And then, after Simon, after he died, I became a cop and pissed him off even more. I tried to find out who did it."
"It was declared a suicide."
Tony shook his head. "Political bullshit. It wasn't a suicide. He was on his meds. He was fine. And we were back together. Christ, he was going to go back into medicine, even if he had to settle for nursing. And then bang, he's dead. He didn't even know how to fire a goddamned gun, Gibbs! And it wasn't mine."
"And you told the investigators this?"
Tony laughed bitterly. "Papa had me committed in a little out of the way place in Vermont before they could ask me anything. At least I had someone to talk to."
"Adjustment disorder officially. Unofficially, because his father said so."
"You think it was murder."
Gibbs settled on the cot. The young man didn't move away from him. "Was he raped, Tony?"
Silence greeted the question. After a long moment. "Will you let me get away without talking?"
"Yes," DiNozzo said finally, voice small. "After I wrecked my ankle, we weren't discrete enough. A couple of people found out and after that, you know how fast gossip moves. We both got jumped by members of the football team, but they didn't do any real damage. They just sort of did it because they thought they should. Hell, they didn't even hit Simon."
"Because I made it very clear that the first person to lay a hand on him would be without his balls."
"And the man who raped him?"
Tony's smile was dark. "He died, but I didn't have anything to do with it. He went off the highway. Drunk driving. I got Simon copies of the ME's report. It made him less afraid. I wanted to protect him. He was on the basketball team, but he rode the bench most of the time. Money, looks, and he was a great guy, so no one bothered him much." He swallowed hard.
"He got discharged into outpatient care a week after his attacker died. He moved in with me and no one blinked at it. Not the guys from my frat. Not the guys on the team. No one questioned that he'd live with me. Even the ones that didn't know the full story knew we were best friends. Then, one day I walked in and found his brains splattered on the cinderblock. He never even learned how to load a gun. He wouldn't touch them. And he kills himself with a gun? Pills, a knife, suffocation, something like that, I could have bought."
Gibbs put an arm around the young man's shoulders and pulled him close. "And your nightmares tonight?"
"Not related. Just the usual childhood crap. My stooges, you said they're Navy, do you have names on them yet?"
"We do. We're just trying to get the person who hired them."
"Not going to lean on them until they answer?"
"Tell me about Simon's brother."
"Frank? I didn't know him that well. Just met him a handful of times. He was going to the Naval Academy. He was still in high school when Simon died."
"Loyal to his family?"
"He adored Simon."
"Did he like you?"
"He blamed me for Simon's death at first, but that changed. I think his father talked to him."
"His father never blamed you?"
Tony shook his head. He closed his eyes. Gibbs could see the moisture trapped between the dark lashes by strength of will alone. "I just want to go back to sleep and pretend we never had this conversation." The older man sighed. He gave the cop's shoulders a squeeze.
"I needed to know. You should have told me."
"It makes it too real. I see it when I close my eyes. I can hear the sobbing in the middle of the night. I couldn't help him, Gibbs. I couldn't protect him. I couldn't do anything but listen because he couldn't stand to be touched! I had to listen."
"Lay down, Tony. Get some rest. You'll feel better in the morning."
"You're a shitty liar, Gibbs. That's good to know."
"I never lie."
"Piecrust promises," the young man murmured, breathing slowing as he settled on his side.
"And I don't make promises I can't keep," Gibbs whispered, tucking the blankets around the young man.
He glared at Pacci who was looking at him with a knowing smile. The agent simply mimed fishing at him. Gibbs snorted. Ducky arrived a moment later. "Damn. I just got him settled, Duck. Think you can take it without him waking up?"
"Anything is possible, Jethro, if you believe," Ducky chided. He pulled out his supplies before entering the room. Gibbs deliberately didn't watch as the ME drew blood from the sleeping young man. He heard a little whimper from the still-sleeping DiNozzo. "Hush, Anthony," Ducky soothed. "Hush." The doctor came out with a frown on his face. "What did you do to him, Jethro?"
"I had to ask some questions he didn't want to answer. He'll be fine in the morning."
"And how do you know that?" The doctor wasn't letting him off the hook that easily.
"Because I told him he would be and I don't lie."
Ducky chuckled. "I'll get these to Abby for testing. Do take care with this one, Jethro. You are rather hard on your toys."
"Duck," the name was a warning. The doctor left them there, shaking his head. "Tell me we have something definite?"
"Just that it looks like they really were going to leave him there," Pacci answered.
Gibbs didn't want to know what his frown looked like. Pacci's rapid paling and back-peddle were enough to tell him it wasn't pretty. "Get me all the information you get on Batiglioni suicide. I also want to know what his brother's been up to since then."
"Got it." Pacci turned to his work muttering something uncomplimentary under his breath. Gibbs ignored him. He went to the doorway to watch DiNozzo sleep. Damn, Gibbs, he told himself, you are in serious trouble with this one. He turned to his own work, monitoring the multiple unit operation.
"Wake up, DiNozzo," was the first thing Tony was aware of. The sound of his name was followed by the smell of fresh coffee. He sat up slowly, not wanting this dream to fade. He heard a chuckle. "Here," a vaguely familiar voice said. "It's black, but at least Gibbs didn't make it."
Tony blinked open his eyes and reached for the cup, half-afraid it would disappear on him. "Thanks," he managed, taking it. He wrapped his hands around it.
"I'm Chris Pacci. Just in case you don't remember."
"I don't know if he even introduced you. All I remember is blue-eyes, probie, and partner? Oh, and Dr. Ducky."
"Blue-eyes has got to be Leroy Jethro Gibbs."
"Leroy?" Tony laughed. "Oh, lord. His parents must have hated him. And the probie?"
"Peter McAllister. He might have a heart-attack working for Gibbs."
Tony snorted. "Ah, you can't take a man like that to heart. The stress will kill you. And you, partner?"
"Never again. Sure I'll work with him, but be on his team? No way."
"He's a bastard; a self-declared and nationally recognized bastard. He's the best agent in the agency. He only takes on the best. But you've got to be able to handle him without developing an ulcer. Most people can't."
"Worked with him for three months while my lead was on maternity leave. Never again. I'll work any case he wants me to, but I'm not going to transfer back to his team."
"I'm not that bad," Gibbs stated. Tony looked up at him. He gave him a hesitant smile. "How are you feeling?"
"Like I have a hangover."
"Ducky says they've been feeding you sedatives. That's why you're having memory problems. It'll be self-correcting. As soon as the drugs completely leave your system, you should be fine."
"Meanwhile, I'm an emotional wreck who can't manage his testimony."
"Yeah, but for right now, you're our emotional wreck. I'm going to your apartment. Anything special you need?"
Tony stared at him for a long moment. "You have my keys? Tell me my car wasn't impounded? They'll scratch her."
"So far as I know, your car is still in the BPD parking lot," Gibbs replied. "Just tell me what you need."
"I think you can figure out the clothing. There's a suitcase in the front hall closet." The cop frowned. "There should be a packed overnight kit in the bathroom under the sink. And there's some magazines on the kitchen table. I'm guessing I can't convince you to bring my television and DVD player?"
"Not only no, Hell no. Laptop?"
"No, don't bother. If you don't want me talking to my captain, you certainly don't want me talking to my dates."
Tony snorted. "Right. No, nothing like that. Just bring my bills and the checkbook that's in the desk in the living room." Gibbs nodded, then left. Tony watched him for a long moment. "For some reason, I think that should scare me."
"Gibbs in your home? Nah, he's a good guy, just intense."
"I've noticed. Listen, as good as this coffee is, do you think I might be able to get some food? Besides, it's got to be somebody's off-shift."
Pacci shook his head. "We'll get to sleep when Gibbs says so. And we've got another cot in the other room. It was wishful thinking." The agent paused. "We weren't sure what sort of shape you'd be in when we found you. We chose this spot so there'd be a place for you to recover."
Pacci sighed. "We weren't sure you were still alive, DiNozzo. We were prepared for you to be hurt. That's why Ducky was here."
"You thought they killed me?" Tony wondered if he were supposed to be upset by that. Pacci gave him a shrug.
"They wouldn't let a negotiator talk to you and wouldn't send any pictures."
"Smart. They couldn't pass on any information inadvertently that way." The cop considered. "And the lack of information would conceivably make my father more pliant. That is, if he were an actual human being with feelings and that sort of thing."
Pacci snorted. "Considering you think he hasn't even checked his messages. . ."
"Oh, he checked them. He just doesn't care. I'm not business."
Gibbs looked around the apartment. It wasn't large, but it was filled with better-than-average furniture. He skirted the leather sofa to get to the antique roll-top. He located the checkbook in its slot and smiled a little. It looked like DiNozzo was organized where it counted, if the neatly filed bills were any indication. He put the checkbook into the suitcase he'd pulled from the closet. He added the mail that had been stacked up on the floor.
He made his way to the bedroom. The room looked like a hurricane had hit it. The sheets were tangled up and hanging off the side of the bed. The comforter was crumpled at the foot of the bed. He could smell the laundry that was composting in the corner. He poked through the closet and drawers pulling out a few outfits and a random selection of underwear. The bathroom was growing mold in the corners. He packed the kit that was under the sink. He looked in the medicine cabinet and was shocked to find nothing there. The man didn't even have aspirin. He shook his head.
A few magazines later and he had everything he'd been requested to bring. Gibbs looked around. Despite the clutter, the place was cold. He doesn't spend much time here, he thought. He glanced at the large selection of movies on the shelves. His brows rose as his eyes picked out the titles. He'll watch anything. He turned his attention to the bookshelves. He blinked. There were no pictures in the house - no family, no friends, not even a graduation picture. There was nothing Gibbs could see right off that was specifically Tony's. The place could have fallen out of a magazine. It was perfectly decorated, but there was no life here. He turned his attention to the bookshelf. He ran his fingers over the spines - pre-med, criminal justice, serial killers, forensic entomology, poisons, kinesthetics, sports medicine, the history of football, civil war, _Green_Eggs_and_Ham_, computer forensics, crime scene preservation, art history, art techniques.
Gibbs took the Dr. Seuss off of the shelf and opened the cover. "Ti amo, mama," was followed by the date. Gibbs nodded and added the book to the bag. He also snagged the two books that had bookmarks in them - one on forensics and the other on the derivation of poisons. DiNozzo was focused. He wanted the man now more than ever.
Tony gave Gibbs a heart-stopping smile. "You're back." DiNozzo looked better. His eyes were a little more alert and he was sitting in a chair in the main area rather than curled up on his bed like a fragile waif. "Thanks. Hey, do I have authorization to help on this little adventure or am I just along for the ride?"
"You are just along for the ride. Consider it a vacation."
Tony snorted. He took the suitcase and headed for the bathroom. "Did you bring me a sweater?"
Pacci looked at Gibbs with a raised brow. Gibbs glared at him until he looked away. He couldn't completely hide his smile, but Gibbs didn't call him on it. He reviewed what they'd managed to bring up in the background checks, including DiNozzo's. When Gibbs looked up again, Tony was settled in what he'd apparently claimed as his chair, reading. He took a moment to appreciate the picture. "You shouldn't have gone through my books," Tony said, not looking up. "The magazines were enough."
"You'll have more free time on your hands than you know what to do with."
"Oh, I'm very good at entertaining myself." Tony looked up, mouth tightened into a line. "I've had practice. Let me do something on this."
"I don't know. Do you pull up porn?"
"Don't have my wallet."
"Answer is still no."
"Then I'll be in there, sulking, until I get my way."
"You can't out-stubborn me."
Tony smirked at him. "Then at least that'll be a challenge. You know where to find me."
Pacci studied Gibbs. "So, when are you going to let him help?"
"I'm not. He's a victim in this case. Don't forget that."
"He'd probably appreciate being given some control over his life again."
"I'm not jeopardizing this case just to make him feel better."
"So put him on some other case."
"No, right now they don't know we have him."
"No one needs to know."
Gibbs leaned against the doorjam silently observing their guest. The young man was frowning over the book, lips moving as he read. Gibbs didn't take it as a sign of stupidity as many probably did. Damn, he was falling hard for this one. Too bad he couldn't act on it. At least, not yet.
Tony didn't look up when he felt the eyes on him. He knew if he looked up he'd have to meet that penetrating blue gaze and he wasn't sure if he'd be able to last out against it. He focused more narrowly on the book, but it wasn't really making an impression. He sighed. He marked his place and looked up. "Finally decide to let me help?"
"Then, why are you here?"
Gibbs smirked at him. Tony raised a brow, silently asking for a response. "Just watching you."
"I didn't guess you for that kind of guy." Tony gave him a slow, seductive smile. "I'd have given you a better show."
"Don't most people watch you, DiNozzo?"
people make a play for me."
"I never telegraph my plays."
but that's half the fun of playing. So why won't you let me help with this?"
"You're the victim in this one, DiNozzo. You're emotionally involved."
"Then get me something to do. I've been going nuts for the past week. They didn't even let me have a book."
"You've got your books. You've got a bed."
"I thought I might be able to get a conversation too."
s talked to you."
the one I was thinking about talking to. You're the man in charge."
"Aiming for the top? Not what your captain thinks."
doesn't like me much." DiNozzo shrugged. He grinned. "He thinks I'm a prick."
"That's all you get from me. Now, if you're not going let me work, leave me alone."
"I'm not stopping you from reading."
DiNozzo rolled his eyes. He ran a hand through his hair. "Want me to read to you? It's stimulating stuff. Plenty of ways to die."
Gibbs shook his head. They were quiet for a long moment. Eventually, DiNozzo accepted that Gibbs wasn't going to move and started reading again.
"So, what are you getting me for dinner?" DiNozzo asked, not looking up from his book.
makes you think I'm getting dinner?"
"Well, I don't have my wallet and you don't want anyone to know where I am, so, you're getting dinner. I don't like Korean, but anything else is pretty much fair game except vegetarian. I'll drink coffee, but I prefer tea."
Gibbs snorted. "Pacci," he called into the main room, "where are those menus?"
"On the desk, under the files."
"Go pick something out."
"Oh, I'm allowed to do something huh? Amazing," DiNozzo said snidely. He put down his book. "I think being forced into doing nothing for however long those asswipes had me should give me the right to do something on this case. Hell, have me type the reports, I don't care."
"Just pick out dinner. If you're very good, maybe I'll let you read the newspaper."
"Ooo, the newspaper. I'm just trembling with excitement." DiNozzo got to his feet. Gibbs didn't let the smirk escape as he watched the slow unwinding of the young man's body. The young man winked one green eye. "Now, if you wanted to let me read you, that's another thing altogether," he purred, purposefully invading Gibbs space as he passed.
Gibbs' lips curled up. DiNozzo winked, then moved past him to get to the menus.
Chris Pacci knew when to keep his mouth shut. This was definitely one of those times. He knew Gibbs was just coming off of another bad divorce. He even knew that Gibbs would flirt with anyone given half a chance and more often if he had enough alcohol in him. That he knew those things and was still alive was testament to the fact that he kept him mouth shut about things that weren't his business.
The kid-cop they'd just rescued seemed to be playing along just for fun. As long as the flirtation stayed light, Pacci wouldn't say anything. Hell, anyone who could get Gibbs to smile when he was in the middle of a case really deserved a medal.
"So, how did you find out I'd been taken? I know for a fact my father didn't call anyone."
Gibbs smiled. "Your captain did. Besides, your clueless stooges from next door are also part of a not-so-successful arms ring."
"You're nuts. Those three? Larry maybe, but the other two? I don't see it. They just don't have the right instincts to be professional crooks."
"I didn't say they were any good at it."
DiNozzo's laughter filled the room. He put a hand up to the bruises still that still ringed his throat. "So who are they anyway?"
"Idiots," Gibbs responded. "Ducky'll be back this afternoon to check you out again and do another blood draw to make sure the drugs are out of your system."
"Then you'll actually answer my questions?" DiNozzo batted his lashes.
"Yep." Gibbs winked. "What do you do when you're not being kidnapped by idiots or investigating homicides?"
The kid, who didn't look nearly as young now that he had clean cloths and properly gelled hair, leaned toward Gibbs as though imparting some secret. "I watch movies and date. Sometimes, I even manage to do both at the same time. And what do you do when you're not running operations like this?"
Pacci blinked. That was not the answer he'd expected. DiNozzo studied Gibbs for a long moment. "You run. Maybe you box or something like that too, but running is your primary and preferred exercise to work on building up the bad knee. You work with your hands. Not in the garage. No." He held up a hand. "I mean you don't work on cars. You don't smell right for that. Woodworking." He tilted his head to the side.
A blinking light drew Pacci's attention back to the cameras. "Suspects just showed up at the warehouse."
"Are you going to arrest them?" DiNozzo peered over Pacci's shoulder.
"No, we're going to let them panic. You go read your book."
"Can't I watch? Please? I promise to be a very good boy." Paccie refused to look up. What he didn't see, Gibbs couldn't kill him for witnessing. Besides, he had criminals to track.
"Team three, prepare to follow. Suspects may bolt."
"Copy base. Team three in position."
Gibbs was doing his level best not to react to the dirty purr of DiNozzo's promise or the little-boy pout he was trying out. "Pick out dinner or find some other way of entertaining yourself."
"Language," Gibbs chided.
"Maggot-eaten spawn of a syphallitic dog." DiNozzo stomped off to his room.
The NCIS agent smirked at his retreat. "Did they even both to check if their prisoner is still there or not?"
Pacci snorted. "They're too busy discussing diner for that. The bugs you planted are coming through loud an clear."
"Good. Do we have eyes on the base as well?"
Gibbs watched the security cameras. His fingers twitched with the need to get something done. He wanted to grab these three and throw them into an interrogation room, but he couldn't alert their boss, not yet. "McAllister," he said into the phone. "Tell me you've found the ringleader."
"I've got the location of the missing shipment. I've got two agents with me. Balboa's got the eyes on the base now."
Gibbs hung up and dialed Balboa. "Who's the main man?"
"The stooges came out of a meeting with Batiglioni like you thought. The third one is now meeting with the buyer. We're on track to catch them with their hands in the till."
His stomach did a little flip. He didn't want DiNozzo to ever know that his lover's family was the one to set this up. "Keep me informed." He hung up. "DiNozzo, stay out of trouble. Pacci."
"On it, Gibbs." Pacci nodded. His eyes flicked to the young man who had settled on his preferred menu from the pizza shop.
DiNozzo glanced at him with a frown. "The least you could do is let me watch while you shoot them."
Gibbs snorted. "There's a cold case on the desk. Solve it for me and I'll throw in an actual beer."
The cop laughed. "Thanks," he drawled. He shoved off from the wall and the wheeled chair stopped just short of the desk. Pacci laughed. Gibbs left them there.
Tony opened the cold case and started to read. He leaned back and put his feet up. "So, tell me about Blue-Eyes."
Pacci snorted. "Told you. He's a bastard."
Tony rolled his eyes. "You know what I mean. Is he flirting just because he can?"
"I honestly have no idea. Could be doing it to make you feel better."
"I'm hearing a 'but' there."
"But I've never seen him do it for anyone else. He'll do anything to take care of a kid, but I've never actually seen him flirting. So, if you're serious? Go for it. And I swear that I've seen nothing and will ask less."
Tony huffed. "Military."
"He's a Marine." Pacci sat forward. "I've got motion."
The cop returned to the case. Soon enough he was enthralled by the small details that built up the murder case. The statements contradicted each other and that was enough to have him scrounging for a pen and paper to make a timeline. He tapped his pen on the folder as he thought and let his eyes close. He nodded his head to the beat that he'd created. It echoed his heartbeat. His head was clearer than it'd been in what felt like a month at least. He could see the threads of the investigation.
Pacci was speaking quietly to the rest of the team, giving the room a soft wash of background noise. The metal steps on the side of the building creaked in the wind. The chair beneath him creaked as he shifted. The ballast in the flourescent light over his head was starting to buzz. It would be loud enough to be annoying soon. Pacci's breathing was even. There were footsteps in the hall. The door opened with a light tap. "Hey, Ducky."
"Good afternoon, my boy. I see that Jethro has headed out." There was a soft shifting of fabric that sounded a lot like tweed. "Ah, and my patient is out and about. Good to see. Now, then, Anthony, let us repair to the back room and I'll take a look at those bruises." A faint smell of antisceptic clung to the older man along with the familiar scent of assam tea. A wave of pain hit him as he thought of Simon and tea at three in the morning after another damned nightmare. He swallowed and opened his eyes to find the doctor was smiling down at him with a gentle expression that made him seem like the grandfather he'd never gotten to meet.
"Sure," Tony managed after a breath that forced down the tears and the pain and the fear that were suddenly begging for his attention. The cot was familiar now and the small room safe rather than confining. "Where does Ducky come from?"
The doctor chuckled as he opened his old-fashioned bag and took out a stethoscope. "Dr. Donald Mallard and you are Detective Anthony DiNozzo."
Tony nodded with a smile that felt real for the first time in a week. "A pleasure to meet you, Dr. Mallard."
"Ducky, dear boy." The doctor checked Tony's vitals and convinced him to lift his shirt to allow a closer examination of the bruises there. "Open up, let me see your thoat."
"Why, Doc, I didn't think you swung that way."
Ducky raised a brow. "I went to Eton," he said. "Open." His hand was warm as it angled Tony's chin back for a good look. "There seems to be less inflamation today. Are your vocal chords still sore?"
"No, it's just the bruises."
Ducky produced a grape lollipop from his bag and held it out with a smile. "You've been very good."
Tony laughed. He took the sweet. "Thanks."
"You could do with a few good meals. Not pizza. I've brought some vitamins for you as well."
"Chewable?" Tony looked down at the cartoon characters.
"In case your throat was still hurting. If the bruises don't turn to green and yellow in the next two days, you'll need X-rays. They'd not hurt in any case." Ducky closed his bag and pulled off his gloves.
"I'm fine, Ducky." He shook his head. "I've taken worse at practice."
"You are no longer in college."
"Wasn't the practice I was thinking about." Tony pulled one leg up. "So, you've known Blue Eyes for awhile."
Ducky raised his brows. "I'm assuming you mean Jethro? Yes, for several years now."
"Is he attached?"
"Not at the moment." The doctor laughed. "Let me make a cup of tea and we'll share stories."
"Pacci, where's blue eyes?"
"Interrogating suspects. And no, you can't watch. You're still in protective custody."
DiNozzo held up his hands. "Okay, okay. I was just asking." He tapped the cold case. "Was this ever solved or is it really a cold case?"
"It's cold. Gibbs reads them when he gets bored."
"Sounds familiar. So, can you tell me about this Agent Cranston?"
"Is that one of Cranston's? He was one of our bad apples. Got rid of him before he did too much damage, but we've been reviewing all of his cases."
"This is some of his damage then. The suspect testimony doesn't hold water. There's holes big enough to put an elephant through and have room for a rider and a few cargo packs. I've got a timeline here. Can you get someone to do some interviews then? I wrote up some questions that need to be answered."
"Sure. I can do that." Pacci made a call. "Hey, Balboa, you still in limbo waiting for that court date? Got some phone interviews to do on a cold case." He listened for a moment. "I'll fax them over." He looked down. "Scratch that, I'll type them up for you." He pointed to Tony and then to the free computer. Tony grimaced and sighed. He pulled up a document and started picking out the questions with two fingers. "Thanks, man."
"My actual partner for some cases. He's stuck waiting on JAG to get him in to testify. I'll send him the documents." Pacci smiled at the cop. "See, you even got to do some real work."
"I still want to see someone shoot those SOB's."
Pacci made sympathetic noises.
"You do that really well. You still torturing McAllister then?"
"It is my sworn duty as older and wiser."
Tony laughed. "I like you, Pacci."
Gibbs reviewed the case file in front of him. "How did you end up working on this, Balboa?"
"Pacci sent me the list of questions. I figured one of the two of you had it set aside for slow times. I've got the two of them in custody. JAG's pressing charges."
"Thank Pacci too."
Gibbs nodded and hung up the phone. "Pacci?"
"DiNozzo's work." He waved a hand at the sleeping cop. "He made out a timeline and found the holes in the testimony." He looked up. "Can we keep him, Gibbs? Can we?"
"You're not cute enough to pull that off."
"Worth a shot. I'll call and ask Abby to do it."
"We'll see how McAllister deals with him."
"And then dump Petie when you can't flirt with him."
Gibbs just raised a brow.
"Not saying a word. Just. If you do go for it? Don't break his heart. It'd be cruel to make him keep working with you after one of your break-ups. And I don't think anyone would blame him for shooting you."
The older agent snorted at that. "True."