The orders were brief. A name, an address, a time. The orders were clear. Eliminate him.
Gibbs hadn't been surprised when DiNozzo had shown up the night before, equipped with a sheepish smile, pizza, and a six-pack. It had been a rough case involving a kid, and Gibbs knew how cases like that always affected Tony more than usual, how the younger man usually sought out companionship. So no, he hadn't been surprised, nor had it bothered him, when DiNozzo showed up and ended up conked out on the couch, snoring softly before the movie had even ended. That right there gave Gibbs a pretty good indication of just how wiped his senior agent was, and he had been glad that DiNozzo trusted him enough to go to him when he was most vulnerable.
"Morning, boss!" It was DiNozzo, of course, and though they had work that day-the week was seemingly endless-Gibbs was surprised that the notoriously tardy agent was not only awake, but apparently completely ready to go, now sitting at the table eating a bowl of cereal.
"You should get some more variety in your cereal," Tony muttered around a mouthful, "because Shredded Wheat just doesn't cut it." Gibbs raised his eyebrows.
"Oh really? What's wrong with it, DiNozzo?" He asked in a threatening tone, grabbing a bowl from the cupboard and sitting next to him. Tony looked at him, mouth hanging open, spoon full and halfway to his mouth.
"Uhh…Nothing boss. Nothing," he mumbled quickly, and Gibbs smiled inwardly. He continued to eat, watching in amusement as DiNozzo carefully washed and put away his bowl and spoon, nearly certain that his senior agent was not generally a clean person. As he sat down again, a huge smile plastered on his face, Gibbs allowed himself to smile with the realization that Tony was actually afraid to be messy or late with his boss around. Some days, he loved his job.
"You ready to go?" He asked as he carried his bowl into the kitchen. "We might as well carpool. No sense in wasting gas and killing the planet." DiNozzo looked at him in surprise.
"I never took you for the environmental type," he commented, and Gibbs grunted in response. DiNozzo walked out in front of Gibbs, who noted the rumpled back of his senior agent's suit with some amusement, then turned to lock the door. As he turned, he heard a scuffle and brief yell, turned to see DiNozzo being manhandled, bleeding from his forehead.
"Tony!" He shouted, moving to draw his weapon, but something smashed into his head and he knew only blackness.
The first thing he noticed was that his head hurt like hell. The second thing he noticed was that his mouth was gagged, hands cuffed behind his back. Finally deciding to open his eyes despite knowing the pain the light would bring his pounding head, the third thing Gibbs realized was that he was in the back of a van. Tony sat across from him, a blindfold over his eyes, hands similarly locked behind his back. For a second, Gibbs was confused as to why they hadn't both been gagged and blindfolded, but as DiNozzo swam his way back toward consciousness, it became all too clear.
"Gibbs?" Tony asked, voice frighteningly brittle in the close quarters. There was more blood streaked across his face, and bruises were rising. He sat awkwardly, hunched over what Gibbs guessed to be bruised ribs. Gibbs felt a searing sense of rage as DiNozzo repeated his name, voice cracking with emotion this time. He thinks I'm dead. He needed to contact DiNozzo somehow, but he didn't want to risk startling the agent and causing more injury. Finally, he gently, quietly made his way to Tony's side. The senior agent had completely crumpled now, sobs racking his body. Gibbs felt his own eyes well with emotion as he saw DiNozzo's shoulders shake. Carefully he turned around so that his fingertips were near Tony's bound hands and started tapping out I'm here in morse. Tony flinched so badly with the first tap that he slammed his head against the van's wall, letting out a strangled groan, and Gibbs winced.
"Boss?" DiNozzo whispered.
"You okay?" Tony asked, and Gibbs would have smiled if he could have as he again tapped out the words.
"Fine, boss," but Gibbs wasn't sure that Tony understood that he wasn't blindfolded.
Gagged, not blind.
"Oh. I'm, uhh, I'm still fine Gibbs. Probably looks worse than it is." Gibbs snorted, a strange sound with the gag in his mouth, and Tony shrugged.
"I know, boss, but it's not like we can do anything about it now." That didn't exactly alleviate Gibbs' concern for his agent, but he knew that the younger man had a point.
Hang tight. He didn't know what else to say, but they were stuck in a van, going who knew where, and neither of them was at one hundred percent.
"You too," Tony said, and they lapsed into silence, broken only by DiNozzo's increasingly harsh breaths. The van shuddered to a stop suddenly, and Gibbs blinked when bright sunlight streamed into the back as the doors were wrenched open.
"What's goi-"Tony started, but he was cut off with a cry of pain as he was yanked out of the van. Gibbs yelled through the gag, desperate to get to his agent. His wish was pretty quickly granted when he too found himself pulled out of the van, thrown on the ground next to a dazed Tony. They were out in the forest somewhere, in a small valley, likely well hidden from any near roads. Not good.The blindfold was ripped off Tony's eyes, the gag taken from Gibbs' mouth, and the beating began in earnest. As Gibbs curled in on himself in an attempt to protect his torso, he struggled to see Tony, who looked nearly identical to himself, trying in vain to stop the kicks aimed at his already battered torso.
"Tony!" Gibbs choked out as the younger man screamed following a particularly brutal boot to the ribcage, and he was hit in the head, feeling dizzy and weak. Then, just as suddenly as it had started, it was over. Gibbs blearily looked over at Tony, who was leaning heavily against the van, barely sitting up, listing to the side.
"Which one of you is Gibbs?" A gruff voice demanded, and Gibbs opened his mouth to say that he is and that they can go to hell, but he was beaten to the punch.
"I am," Tony said, his voice weak yet firm. It happened quickly after that. A shot rang out, DiNozzo groaned and slumped to the side, and then there was a screeching of tires and they were alone.
"Tony? DiNozzo, shit," Gibbs muttered, trying to hurry to his agent's side but being slowed by an overwhelming wave of nausea and the inevitable vomiting that followed. When he finally made it to Tony's side, he couldn't stop the angry words that came. "What the hell were you thinking? That was a stupid thing to do, and I'm gonna kick your ass for it, Tony."
"Boss," Tony gasped, blood flicking onto his lips and cheeks as he spoke. He looked like he wanted to say more, but he was unable to. Gibbs felt a pang of guilt for his harsh words. DiNozzo cried out weakly as Gibbs efficiently ripped his shirt off, looking for a brief second in horror at the hole in the younger man's chest before stripping the shirt into bandages.
"You're gonna be fine, DiNozzo," he muttered as Tony yelled again. "I've just gotta get us out of here." He looked around briefly before deciding to follow the track the van had driven.
"You ready, DiNozzo?" He asked, mentally preparing himself for what he was about to do. Tony shook his head and gasped for air.
"No…boss…you gotta get out," he whispered, and Gibbs glared at him. "'m not…gonna make…it."
"Shut up, Tony. Just hang on a second." He squatted down in front of the bleeding man before him, cupped Tony's cheek for a brief moment before turning his back to the agent and gently easing his arms over his shoulders. DiNozzo screamed with pain, a sound so raw and agonizing that it took a moment for Gibbs to collect his emotions enough to continue. His own head pounding and bruises making themselves known, he struggled to stand with the added weight of his friend. He could feel the warm stickiness that was DiNozzo's blood on his own back and nearly vomited again before stumbling blearily down the road.
He wasn't sure how much time had passed. Maybe hours, maybe minutes. Hell, maybe seconds. It had been a lonely, slow, agonizing trek, the only sound the combined heaving breaths of the two men. Gibbs had taken to staring at the ground, forcing himself to ignore the burning in his arms and focus entirely on the next step he had to take, and that's why it was so surprising when his foot stumbled onto black pavement.
"We made it," he gasped, looking with suddenly wet eyes at the expanse of road that traveled in both directions. It was only a matter of time now before someone found them.
"We made it," he repeated, easing DiNozzo gently off his shoulders onto the ground. The man was limp and pale, and he made no movement as Gibbs laid him on the pavement.
"DiNozzo?" Gibbs whispered, suddenly realizing how still the agent was. Nothing was moving. Nothing.
"No, no no no, Tony," Gibbs muttered, placing a frantic ear to the still chest. No breaths. No heartbeat. Just wet, sticky blood and a hollowness that pierced Gibbs to the core. How long ago had he died? Gibbs hadn't even noticed, he'd been alone, in pain, hadn't been able to say anything, to lie down to die in peace, no, he was dragged on Gibbs' damn back to his death. To his death. Gibbs gently looked at the man who had become a friend and a son and gently gathered the body to his chest, rocking back and forth as heaving sobs racked his body, becoming full on screams of agony. He was still screaming when the first people found him.