They’d started this ritual after the third mission he was deployed on since working at NCIS, it was comforting to both of them and afforded Gibbs some piece of mind. Though neither of them would admit to being superstitious they were both cognizant that the one time they had missed was the one time Tony nearly didn’t make it home. They’ve never missed since.
Tony knew that when Gibbs saw him entering his house what the grocery bag he carried meant, it would contain two steaks, two potatoes and fixings, and it meant that Tony was being sent on a mission or deployed.
Gibbs took one look at the bag and sighed, he hated this. As proud as he was of Tony, he knew the type of danger that he was likely heading into and there was nothing he could do to help. It meant sleepless nights worrying for Abby, Ducky and him. Add to that McGee and Ziva now that they knew his whole story.
It meant comforting Abby and remaining strong as he worried about the unknown, a time to send silent prayers to any Deity that he could think of for Tony and his Squadron’s safe return. But all that was for later, right now it was Tony’s time, time to sit, relax as much as possible and send him off with as much good luck and good will as humanly possible.
Gibbs met Tony’s eyes. “Guess I’d better start the fire. You go put the potatoes in the oven while I do that.”
“Got it, Boss” Tony headed to the kitchen and turned on the oven, readied the potatoes and put them in. “You want a beer?” Without waiting for an answer he grabbed a beer for Gibbs and one of the Coke’s he brought for himself and headed to the living room and handed Gibbs the beer.
Gibbs raised an eyebrow at Tony’s drink. “Looks like this means a quick exit.”
Tony sighed. “I have to be at the Airfield in four hours, I called Vance and gave him the heads up, grabbed my gear, put on my flight suit and came here.”
Gibbs nodded in understanding. “I’ll take you to the airfield, leave your car here.” He turned to the fire that was beginning to grow and added a couple more logs.
“Thanks, Boss. But you don’t-“The resounding head slap stopped the rest of that sentence. “Yes, Boss.” Tony grinned.
They both moved to the couch until it was time to start the steaks.
Gibbs turned to Tony. “So what can you tell me?”
Tony always tried to give as many details that he could and though it left large gaps, he knew it was better than nothing and Gibbs would fit the rest of the pieces together.
“I’m headed out with four of my Hawks into a really hot area. Nothing about this is standard or ‘authorized’. I received Intel from one of my buddies that another one was in serious shit. He’s an Army Ranger, Special Ops…well you get the picture. Been missing for two months and they can’t send anyone in.” Tony stopped to breathe.
Gibbs knew what that meant; they were going to have him declared a loss. “He’s Army, so tell me how you and your Squadron got involved?”
Tony chuckled bitterly. “A lot of arguing, threatening and calling in a few favors that a shit load of people owe me. I have been given five days from the time my feet hit the ground to get him out, my choice of the four men I take with me and as many resources that they can spare and still maintain totally secrecy. This isn’t sanctioned and if any of us are captured or missing…well we were never there.”
Gibbs took a deep breath. “Who you taking?”
“Rainman, Flash, Brain and Homer.” Tony allowed a small smile. “Like I could go anywhere without Rainman or Flash. We weren’t recruited to Special Op’s Rapid Deployment for only our flying skills, those other skills are how we manage to accomplish the things that we do and why it never fails to surprise the idiots we take down.”
“Brain finish up his Paramedic courses?” Gibbs asked
Tony nodded. “About three months ago, has an interview lined up with a volunteer fire department. He made it clear before he applied that he could be called away with little or no notice and they said no problem. He’s pretty excited about that.”
“He have a med kit to take with you guys?”
“Ducky has that set up for him. He started when he learned about the course, so I came here and the Brain is at Ducky’s picking that up and getting any last minute knowledge he can soak up. Flash, Homer and Rainman are readying the birds to fly and any last minute checks.” Tony looked over at Gibbs.
“When I rechecked the Intel and found it to be accurate and received the ok to proceed, I called all my Hawks on a conference call, I was asking for volunteers. I knew what kind of mission this was and I wasn’t going to drag anyone into it. But every damn one of them volunteered, Boss. No hesitation at all. Do you know how that made me feel?”
Gibbs smiled at the man before him. Tony was always astounded by the mere fact that his Hawks were that loyal and that they would lay down their life for him willingly. That is what made Tony a great leader, he never assumed their respect, knowing that true respect is earned and not given. And lead by example, with great honor and courage inspiring those that served under him to gladly follow him to hell and back. It would have never been a question in any of Tony’s Squadron not to go, because they also knew that if they were in trouble no matter what Tony would give his all to get them out safely.
“Tony, they’re you men, friends, brothers and fellow soldiers and they know that you would do the same for them. You guys have been together a long time; you have bonds based on having to count on each other in horrific conditions. You don’t get much better than that. You’re a great leader and if I were in your Squad I’d of volunteered to. You’ve always had my six and those men will always have yours. Don’t forget you saved my six all those years ago, because I never did.”
Tony smiled. “Always have your six, Boss.”
Gibbs ruffled Tony’s hair. “Come on, let’s get those steaks on and finish telling me what you can.”
Placing the steaks on the grill and readying everything else Tony continued. “We fly out to,” Tony paused and smirked. “A giant landing pad stationed near our desired location.”
Gibbs snorted at Tony’s description. “Go on.”
“I’ll pick up a Seahawk and fly to Jeff’s last known location and carry out a search and rescue. It’s a huge hotspot right now and there’s not a lot of available Intel on the surrounding areas. I looked at satellite photos and the scant reports they had on the insurgents and it’s going to be tight.”
Gibbs flipped the steaks. “Tell me about Jeff.”
Tony laughed. “Jefferson Redmond Ewingham II, his buddies call him Dallas.” Seeing Gibbs questioning look he explained. “If you watched some TV now and then you might have understood the name. There was a show in the eighties about rich oil tycoons that was set in Dallas Texas, and the main character was named J.R. Ewing. They all thought it was funny, hence the name Dallas.” Gibbs motioned to continue.
“I grew up with him in Long Island he was from a wealth family that my father deemed wealthy enough to associate with. We played together, got in massive amounts of trouble together and were best friends that did everything together. Even after I was disowned and sent to Military School we kept in touch, still do as often as we can. I went Navy he went Army.”
Tony looked away for a moment. “I didn’t have that many friends growing up. Too many things to have to explain if they came to my house, but Jeff never cared about that stuff. He was always there to help when he could, so if there’s something I can do to bring him home safely I’ll do it.”
Gibbs put his hand on Tony’s shoulder in a show of support. “I don’t doubt that for one moment. Now, let’s eat.”
Dinner was over far too quickly and it was time to head out to the airfield, Tony grabbed his gear and handed Gibbs the keys to his car. The drive out there was quiet both men zoned out, each lost in their own thoughts.
Making it past security Gibbs drove to Hanger Bay F, and was not in the least surprised to see Ducky standing there. He parked the car and they both headed over to the group gathered.
Tony smiled and greeted Ducky. “HI Ducky, did the riff-raff drag you with him?” As he lifted his chin over to the group.
“No my dear boy, not exactly. I came quite willingly, I wanted to see you off and wish you well on your mission.” Ducky took Tony’s face in his hands. “You will keep each other safe and come home in one piece. I’ll not accept any other alternative.”
Tony smiled softly at Ducky. “I promise to do my best.”
Ducky patted his cheek. “I can ask for nothing more Anthony.”
Tony directed his attention to his Squad. “Everything set to go?”
“Gassed up and loaded for bear. It’s time to kick the tires and light the fires, Tonio. Let’s get going and bring Dallas home.” Dante smiled and patted Tony’s shoulder.
Gibbs looked at the five men ready to head off into a place they shouldn’t be. “Rainman, Flash, Brain and Homer, you all come home safely, you understand. Watch each other’s sixes and look out for yourselves. Try to keep your Captain from attempting the impossible.”
Flash snorted. “Yea, ok…Like I have a chance in hell of making that happen.”
“Just do your best.” He walked over and stood in front of Tony placing his hand behind his neck. “You still do not have my permission to die, you understand? Be safe and come home. Bring that straggler Jeff with you.” His blue eyes bored into Tony’s green.
“I will, Boss.” Tony looked over at his Squadron, his demeanor morphing into Captain mode as he gave his command.
“Rock and roll men, let’s scramble. In the air in ten.”
A chorus of ‘yes sir’ was heard.
Gibbs and Ducky stood watching as the five men entered the cockpits of their fighters and readied to taxi down the tarmac. The last thing the two left on the tarmac saw before the jets turned out of sight was a cheeky smile and salute from Tony.
Gibbs and Ducky stood watching the five soldiers take off.
“They’ll be fine Jethro, they will look after one another as they have for years.”
“I know Ducky, logically I do. But I worry each and every time he’s sent out that I won’t get him back home, and that worry will stay with me until he lands here and I see his face.”
Ducky sighed. “I worry as well, I won’t stoop to telling untruths regarding that. But let’s head home, tomorrow we will have to deal with the rest of our NCIS family and that’s not going to be pleasant.”
Gibbs rubbed his hands down his face. “Abby will be pissed that he couldn’t say goodbye and Ziver and McGee just now grasping the gist of what Tony does will be beside themselves.” He shook his head. “I thought when the kids were older you could worry less, but no. My kid has to be some hot shot pilot that manages to be sent to places that no one wants to go.”
Ducky chuckled. “Yes indeed. I can imagine had his childhood been different the actual trouble that boy would have gotten into.” They headed to Gibbs car as Ducky had traveled in with Brain earlier.
Ducky looked at Gibbs. “You have our go bag, Jethro?”
Ducky nodded. “Stay at my house tonight, it’s late.”
Gibbs thought about it for a moment. “Alright, good point. A few more hours of sleep will help with tomorrow’s commotion.”
Tony’s Squadron landed on the USS Enterprise sitting in the Arabian Sea outside of Gwadar, making quick work of their post flight and headed to meet with the Captain.
The Captain having been made aware of their arrival was waiting for them in a conference room. Having been directed to go there by the Mini-Boss, Tony entered the room and saluted as his Squadron followed suit.
“At ease men.” Captain Hamilton directed. “I know the mission you’re intent on carrying out Cpt. DiNozzo and I will help you in any way that I’m able. This is an admirable thing that you and you Squad are doing.” He smiled at Tony. “Not unusual for you though is it Birdman?”
Tony shrugged. “No, sir it’s not. But I can’t leave a friend out there.”
The Cpt. Nodded. “I understand, son. You realize that the uproar you raised in getting this to even be allowed is adding to your legend.”
“Never meant for that to happen Sir, but I wasn’t leaving a man behind, especially one I consider a friend.”
The Cpt. Chuckled. “Wish I could have been a fly on the wall in that meeting. One of the Navy’s top pilots demanding he be allowed to rescue an Army man and threatening to retire to boot. I hear you had everyone in there back pedaling so make it right it’s not even funny.”
Tony smiled. “In my defense, sir, they made me.”
The Cpt. Patted Tony on the back. “That they did. So, what do you need for me that I’m able to give you? What’s your plan?”
“Well sir, I need a Seahawk that’s fully armed, ammo, guns, camo for the chopper and explosives. I plan on flying in at night and landing at the US faction near Shaman.” Tony pulled the photos and maps he had out of his bag laying them on the table. Pointing at the satellite photo, “The Intel I have says this is his last known location. I did a search around the surrounding area and found something that shouldn’t be there. “He pointed at the other photo that looked like a small hill had sprouted up. “I believe this is some sort of insurgent camp and after studying the surrounding areas, I believe this is where Jeff is being held.”
The Cpt. looked at the pictures and saw what Tony had seen. “Why didn’t the Army notice this?”
Tony shrugged. “Not really sure, maybe somebody did and they were blown off or someone was supposed to look into it and it was swept under a rug. Either way I believe that’s where he is and I intend for the five of us to bring him home.”
“What makes you think he’s alive?” The Cpt. asked.
“Because I have to and until I see a body, I will believe he’s alive.”
“Fair enough. Make a list of what you need and I’ll have it placed on the chopper and ready to go.” He laughed as Tony pulled out a list he made of everything they needed and handed it to him.
“I expected nothing less from you Cpt. Dinozzo. Take your men down and get some chow and shut eye. There are some free berths waiting below on the starboard side. Get some rest, the Seahawk will be made ready.”
“Thank you, sir.” Tony saluted as did Rainman, Flash, Brain and Homer and exited the conference room heading for the mess hall.
Grabbing grub they sat down at a table off to the back. Tony looked around at his men. “I think we have everything covered, anything else you can think of?”
Brain shook his head. “Nope, you have everything well planned out, we’re going in under the cover of night and heavily armed. We taking prisoners back with us?”
Tony shook his head. “Not this time. This is too far out for these to be high on the food chain and I’ll lay odds they aren’t heavily armed. As soon as they are aware that they’ve been found their first instinct is going to be to shoot at us and surrender won’t be an option.”
Flash chuckled. “Like we never get shot at! But I wouldn’t take that bet, I agree with you, Tonio too far away from anything worthwhile. So why the explosives?”
Tony smiled. “Gibbs’ rules #8- Never take anything for granted. I want to be prepared for any contingency, what if our little band of desert miscreants are playing with things they shouldn’t be? I want to make sure our asses come out in one piece.”
Flash fluttered his eyelashes. “Tonio, I knew you loved my sexy ass!”
Homer chuckled. “Only as much as likes to wipe the floor with it in basketball.”
Flash pouted. “That only happened a couple of times, man.”
“You keep telling yourself that Dante, if it makes you feel better.” Homer patted Dante on his head.
“Ok, everyone lets hit the rack for some shut eye.” Tony said leading his men to their bunks.
Gibbs made his way to the Navy Yard knowing the news he had to share. He reached the bull pen and ran up to Vance’s office.
“Morning, Gibbs. I figured I’d see you this morning, did you see him off?” Leon asked.
Gibbs nodded. “I did. I want to clear today off for my team since we’re a man down and no cases I don’t see a problem.”
“I agree, take the team home. I take it Ms. Scuito doesn’t know yet?”
Gibbs shook his head. “No, and I know how she’ll take it. This is the first time that Ziva and McGee are aware of what Tony actually is, I think that when they hear the details of his mission they aren’t going to fair much better.”
Leon grabbed a toothpick and nodded. “True and this one’s a doozy. I heard through a source at the Pentagon that he even threatened to retire.” Leon smiled. “And they weren’t happy with that idea.”
Gibbs shook his head. “He left that part out of the story. Told me about Jeff, the man he’s going in after, one person that he’s known since he was a child.”
Leon looked at Gibbs. “Keep your thoughts positive and your prayers spoken, he will come home.”
Gibbs started to head out the door. “Trying to, Leon, trying to.”
Heading down the stairs he spotted McGee and Ziva coming in. “Don’t bother setting up, grab your gear and head to Abby’s Lab.”
McGee started for the elevator again. “A case, Boss?”
Gibbs shook his head. “Tell you when we get down there.”
Ziva looked at McGee and shrugged as they all headed to the elevator. Reaching the lab doors the pounding music seeping through, Gibbs grimaced as he signaled Abby to shut it off. She then noticed McGee and Ziva in tow.
“What brings you to my Lab this early?”
Gibbs looked at McGee. “Call Ducky and Palmer down here.” McGee pulled out his phone and went to a corner to call. Abby looked to Gibbs and started to worry.
“Gibbs, where’s Tony?” She asked quietly.
Saved from answering as the doors to the lab opened and Ducky and Palmer walked in.
“Gibbs, you’re scaring me. What’s going on?” Abby asked fearfully.
Gibbs took a deep breath. “We have been given the day off, I’d like us to go to my house and I’ll tell you all the details there. But for the interim, Tony has been sent on a mission.” He looked over at Abby and saw the tears forming in her eyes.
“No…not again.” The tears running down her face, Gibbs pulled her in his arms and held her.
“He’ll be fine, Abs. This is Tony we’re talking about. Let’s go and I’ll tell you and everyone else all about it.”
“Would you like me to pick up some food, Agent Gibbs?” Jimmy asked.
Gibbs nodded. “That’s a good idea, some snacks and drinks. We can order lunch later on.” Gibbs started to pull out his wallet.
Jimmy shook his head vehemently. “I’ve got this, don’t worry.”
“Thank you Palmer, I appreciate that. Whatever you think will work. I’ve got coffee, water and tea, no soda or juice.”
Jimmy started to head out the door. “Got it, I’ll meet you there later.”
“Abby with me, I’ll see the rest of you at the house.” Gibbs led Abby to her office to grab her things and headed out. The rest of the team followed suit.
Arriving first, Gibbs pulled in and parked, than he and Abby headed inside.
“Sit down Abs; let everyone get here and I’ll tell you everything I know.” Sitting her down on the couch he headed in the kitchen to start coffee and tea. Not long after that he heard the door open and Ziva and McGee walked in.
Gibbs waved around the living room. “Have a seat, coffee and tea are brewing.”
Ducky entered the house followed by Palmer shortly after. Palmer had picked up juice, various Danish and pastries, milk, sugar and Caff-Pow.
Gibbs helped him unload. “Good job, Palmer. Thank you.”
Palmer blushed. “No trouble Agent Gibbs.”
“Just Gibbs here, in my house we’re among friends.” Gibbs looked out at the group. “Go get yourself a drink and food. We’ll talk after we’re settled.” He brought Abby a Caff-Pow, thankful that Palmer had thought of it.
Everyone grabbed their drinks and sweets and settled around Gibbs living room.
Gibbs took a deep breath and relayed Tony’s mission, adding the history that he has with Jeff and the story Vance shared about him threatening to retire. Tim’s eyes were wide, Ziva was trying to absorb it all, Palmer just worried and Abby was torn between anger, shock and worry.
Gibbs finished, went and refilled his coffee and sat in a share he brought from the dining room. He knew the silence was only going to be short lived.
Tim was the first to find the words. “This is the kind of stuff he’s called on to do?”
Gibbs nodded. “Usually, going into a hot spot and carrying out a search and retrieval or rescue and occasionally a search and destroy. He’s often called to do what others think is impossible, and sometimes they may be right. But he always manages to find a way in and out and do what he was sent to do.”
“I understood what he is and does, I guess I just didn’t see the whole picture of what he does.” Tim looked over at Gibbs. “He threatened to retire?”
Gibbs and Ducky both let a chuckle at that one. “Vance said he had it on good authority at the Pentagon. Does it surprise me? No, he’d go the distance for anyone who needed help that he could give, but for someone he knows, nothing would have stopped him.”
Ducky looked at Tim. “I’m not arguing the fact that there are many wonderful, talented and experienced pilots in the Navy, there are. But Anthony is different, a natural if you will, and he’s always had the ability to look outside the box for a solution. That’s what makes him a great investigator as well. Tony is a highly decorated Pilot, they would not want him to retire, I’m sure they’d love to keep him in one capacity or another for as long as they are able.”
Abby looked over at Gibbs, sadness and worry written all over her face. “But his friend, he’s not even Navy, Gibbs. Couldn’t their own men get him out?”
“Abby, this is Tony, do you really think that makes a difference?” Gibbs looked at her and smiled. “This is what he does and he does it well, remember I’m living proof.”
Abby sighed. “I know, I’m just worried.”
Ziva looked at Gibbs. “He saved you?”
Gibbs smiled fondly. “Yes, he did. Sit down and I’ll tell you the story.”
Abby smiled. “I love this story!”
Tony woke early leaving the rest to sleep, he headed to the Hangar to see if the Seahawk was ready. Winding his way to the hanger he spotted an Aircraft Handler and made his way over. The Handler spotted him and saluted.
“At ease,” reading his identification, “Petty Officer Jameson. I’m looking to see if my Seahawk has been readied for flight and loaded with the required items.”
“Yes, sir Cpt. DiNozzo. She’s been made ready for you and ready to fly when you’re ready.”
“Thank you, Jameson. Can you show me to her, I want to double check that she’s got all that we need.”
“No problem, sir, follow me.” Jameson led the way to a Seahawk that was pulled onto the elevator in ready position.
“Thank you, Jameson.” Tony climbed in and started going over the chopper and its contents insuring she was ready to go. Satisfied, he climbed down and headed to the hanger exit intending to go back to his berth. He wasn’t too surprised however to find his men ready to enter the hanger.
Homer smiled and shook his head. “Did you think we wouldn’t know where you were?”
Tony shrugged. “Can’t help it, it needed to be checked.” Dante put his arm around Tony’s shoulders.
“Come on Birdman, let’s refuel and get ready to go.” Dante smiled as he caught the look of awe on a younger pilot’s face when he realized that Birdman was back on the carrier.
They reached the mess and gabbed their food and sitting down quickly.
“Happy with the chopper B-Man?” Brain asked
Tony nodded while swallowing. “Everything is good to go, she’s loaded and fueled. We can finish up here, take a tour of the head, and grab our gear and go. She’s just waiting our arrival, she’s already on the elevator.”
Finishing up their meal, taking care of business and grabbing their gear they headed to the flight deck.
Arriving they spoke to another Aircraft Handler and the bird was brought up. “She’s ready to go Cpt. DiNozzo. God speed.”
They headed to the bird and buckled in and ran through their pre-flight checks and sent the flight plan. Tony received the signal that he was good to go and they took off headed for Chaman.
They talked over their plan as they flew, double checking and insuring they were all on the same page and no mistakes could be made. Radioing the small Naval Unit that was stationed at the airfield, they were cleared for landing. Post flight completed, they grabbed all their gear and added items and exited the chopper and placed the camo cover over it.
Tony went to check in with the commander as his men readied for their trek in the desert.
“Lt. Hawkins, thank you for allowing us to land here.”
“Sir, it is our pleasure to help out. I heard that your mission was of some importance and that we were to assist in any way we could. We’re small here, but ready to help.”
Tony smiled. “I appreciate that. My men and I will be heading out to the area here.” Pulling out a map and showing him, if all goes well, we should return in three days with a tag-along. Please have you medical bay ready, I don’t know if he’s injured but I’m going to assume that he is and expect the worse. I want to be prepared. Clear?”
“Absolutely sir. I can have any supplies we need ready for our medic to use, I’ll make sure we have adequate supplies at hand. Anything else Cpt. DiNozzo?”
“No, I think my men and I have everything else.”
The Lt. smiled. “Then I will see you when you return. Good luck sir.”
“Thank you, Hawkins. That is something we will need a lot of.” Tony headed out of the tent and over to his men. “Ready?”
“Everything is good B-Man, let’s do this thing.” Brain said.
“Rock and roll, Tonio.”
“Let’s bring him home, Tony.”
Tony laughed. “Let go show those punks what the Navy is made of.” They headed off into the desert under the cover of darkness.
“When did you meet Tony, Boss?”
Ducky laughed. “Do tell, Jethro. I am in agreement with Abigail. This is a wonderful story.” He sat back in his chair with his tea.
Gibbs looked around at the expectant faces and smirked. “All right. Just save the questions until after the story, ok?”
“I shall wait.”
Gibbs smiled. “I was deployed during Desert Storm and was a part of the ground units near Kuwait. There was heavy bombing, fires everywhere and destruction every place you looked. We managed to keep the perimeter safe and hold the rebels back. A SCUD missile hit a US barrack, killing twenty seven and many more injured. I was trying to help those in need, when I was over powered by rebel forces.”
Gibbs took a sip of his coffee. “I wasn’t the only one taken, they wanted to use us for information at first and when we didn’t have any they thought that we could be used as bargaining chips. These people weren’t part of the organized rebel forces. These for a lack of better description were back woods rebels, not really having a clue at what they we doing, they just wanted to make a name for themselves in the revolution.”
“The three of us being held were in sad shape, all of us injured by the bombing, tired, hungry and beaten when they hope to learn something. I knew no one was going to look for us, at best they would have thought we perished in the blast and ad more to the body count. But being the Marine that I was, I tried to keep the others spirits up and keep us going.”
“I can’t tell you how many more days it was, I was losing consciousness too often to keep track, but I heard gun fire and all I could think was that finally I would be dead and the pain would stop. Next thing I know this group of young men in flight suits waltz into this camp and take charge. I really couldn’t trust my eyes at that point; I just couldn’t figure out the whole pilot thing, they weren’t Marines.”
Gibbs chuckled. “The next thing I remember was looking into a pair of green eyes and a young man smiling at me and telling me it was alright, he was going to fly us to the base and keep us safe. I didn’t know this young man, but I knew I could trust him. I must have nodded my ok because he laughed and said that I didn’t really have a choice. He flew into this small piece of hell for me and my fellow Marines and he was leaving with all of us.”
He and his men carried us out, we couldn’t walk and loaded us up on the chopper. I only remember the flight vaguely and hearing his team call him Tonio and over the radio Birdman. They got us to the hospital, made sure we were ok and in good hands and had to fly out.”
“I was there for about five days when I finally was able to speak and ask how they knew where we were. Apparently one of the villagers who wanted nothing to do with this whole revolution nonsense was visiting her sister in a neighboring village and saw a soldier. She told her tale of soldiers injured in a village about seventy five miles away over the hill. The soldier thanked her and did pass the Intel on, but no one was able to do anything with all the fighting still going on.
Tony got wind of the story, borrowed a chopper and he and his men went to check it out. He was young, cocky and a smart ass, but he wasn’t going to leave a soldier. That’s how he found me. When I was released I started hunting for ‘Birdman’ or Tonio. I got really lucky, Tony was already making a name for himself in the piloting world and would often make the military news. You need to understand he’d only had his Gold Wings for months.”
“Granted he’d had his pilot’s license since he was sixteen but a fighter pilot for months. He borrowed the chopper, and I quote ‘I asked the dude standing near the choppers if I could borrow it for a brief fight and he said yes’, flew into a hot zone, his men and he took over the house where we’d been kept and freed us.”
“I watched and followed his career, he made the military news a lot and when it looked like he might be retiring, I went to where he was stationed and talked him into coming to NCIS. I told him my story and tried to thank him after all those years and he wouldn’t let me. Just told me he wasn’t about to leave a man behind. I used that logic on him and told him I wasn’t leaving him behind and he smiled at me. That damn DiNozzo smile.”
“And that was that.” Gibbs looked around at the three stunned people in front of him and chuckled. “What?”
Jimmy spoke first. “Wow! I mean he has told me stories of things he’s done before, but not that one. Why?”
Gibbs smiled his blue eyes twinkling. “Because he always says that is my story to tell. He saved my life and the lives of the other captives, I have no doubt about that. But think about it Palmer, most of the stories he tells are of amazing flying feats and getting into places he shouldn’t be. He rarely talks about the heroic side or the lives he has saved. That is just how he is, he is happy to have saved the lives, he doesn’t need to gloat.”
Abby smiled. “That was the first medal he was awarded, The Distinguished Flying Cross. It was in part due to his daring rescue of Gibbs and the others and in the same period over in Kuwait engaged in Arial Battle and rescued a few other captives.”
Tim’s mouth fell open. “Really? He was so young then.”
Ducky nodded. “Young and determined to do what was right regardless of the danger he may or may not put himself in. Over the years of service in the Navy Anthony has also been awarded the Navy Cross and three Silver Stars. He has a distinguished career, but you’ll never hear him talk about those medals.”
Abby nodded fiercely. “I found out about his star when I was working on evidence. The Seaman Recruit had a Silver Star and Tony told me that he would not have been able to earn that just being a new recruit. When I was looking up recipients I saw Tony’s name with a three beside it. And then my curiosity took over and I searched and found out his secrets. “She laughed. “He may be quiet about it, but I’m proud as hell!”
“As am I, Abigail.” Ducky smiled at the two that were just beginning to learn all about Tony. “Well my young friends, you have found out even more about the man. Any thoughts.”
Ziva shook her head. “I am over taxed and amazed.”
“Over whelmed, Ziver.”
“He has done so much at such a young age and is still, so…what’s the word?” She looked around for help.
“Juvenile? Childlike? Mischievous? All of those things would describe Anthony. I believe it is impart due to his childhood and because while in active duty and in a mission he has to keep such tight control, the rest is for enjoyment of life.”
Tim agreed. “Makes sense. Hey, I forgot to tell you guys my Dad is coming down this weekend and told that he’d be happy to once again tell the tales of Birdman. Maybe I could get him to tell them to an audience.”
Abby clapped her hands. “Let me know, I’m in.”
Ziva nodded. “Me as well.”
Jimmy smiled. “I’m game. I’d love to hear them and see how many more there are.”
Gibbs looked around at the talking group and smiled at Ducky, mission accomplished.
Tony and his men were approaching the hill they believed to be the enemy camp. They were intent upon scouting around the area before first light. Quickly making a home base they split into two groups, Homer staying at the base as a lookout. Placing there com units on Tony and Flash went to the left and Rainman and Brain to the right.
After scouting the area and searching for signs of life they returned to home base and shared what they had found.
“B-Man you’re right about there being a camp under there. I saw lights and what looked to be two rooms, I counted three men in one room and two in the other that I saw.”
“Tonio and I saw two walking the perimeter and a room we couldn’t see in.”
Tony looked around. “Let’s get some sleep and see what kind of activity happens in the light. Might give us a better view of what we’re up against.” Tony looked at Brain. “You take first watch, four hours and while you sleep we watch the camp. We’ll keep a four hour rotation for now.
Four hours pass quickly when you’re running on adrenaline; they relieved Brain from his watch and the rest set up to keep their eyes for any Intel.
As they watched the camp they noticed the number of men and guards didn’t change and they seemed to lack organization. They couldn’t tell yet whether Jeff was in the room they couldn’t see or not. All they could hope for was that they might bring him outside.
About six hours into the day they noticed a great deal of swearing and anger, it appears that they miscreants aren’t getting along.
Tony points to movement at the entrance to the hill and they watch as two men and a woman are brought out on tethers, their hands tied in front of them. Tony can’t tell whether it’s Jeff or not, the figure is dirty and bruised.
They watch as they are tied to a post and forced to kneel in the hot sun. The guards just keep taunting in Arabic ‘we will watch you burn, burn as the devils you are, death shall be slow and painful as that is all you deserve’ over and over again.
Tony looked over at his men. “It doesn’t matter who those two other people are we are taking them out of this hell hole.”
They all looked at him and smiled. Homer said it for all of them. “Duh.”
They kept watch as the guards went into the hill and pulled the shades down to stave off the afternoon sun. Then it hit them, they were going to leave their captives in the sun while they went inside to say their afternoon prayers.
Tony smiled evilly. “You know what I’m thinking, don’t you?” As he pulled out his knife and made ready. Everyone had their knives out as they silently crept up to the pole the captive were tied to.
Tony made the shh symbol and proceeded to cut the leather ties off of the woman as Flash and Brain did the same for the two men. As silently as they snuck in they left, Homer taking the cut ties and waving them on the sand covering their foot prints.
As they arrived at their temporary base Brains started to look over the captives and check out their injuries. Rainmain, Flash and Homer kept an eye on the hill waiting for the discovery to be made.
Tony spoke in Arabic to the woman trying to find out what happened to her and where her home was. She told him her name was Warda and that she had been the cook for the men in the hill. When they had become displeased at her cooking and she tried to explain that you needed good food in order to cook things that tasted good. The men did not want to hear excuses and beat her and tied her to the pole during the afternoon prayers.
Later they had tried to rape her and told Tony that she had been saved from such a fate by the man in with the light hair. He said things that made them angry so that they would forget about her, but for that insolence he was beaten severely. Tony assured her that they could get her to a safe place and not to worry.
Brain had finished checking the one man and was moving to the other. Tony headed over to the one that had been taken care of and hoped to find out how he had come to be in the company of his captors. Tony asked the man his name and if he would be able to tell his account of how he came to be there. The man told him his name was Nabil and he had been traveling through the desert on a journey for his soul, he’d just lost his wife and felt a need to commune with the land. He stumbled upon the men residing in the hill and had witnessed what they were doing to the woman and the other man. He tried to intervene and help them as it was the way he was raised. The men overpowered him and tied him up and refused to let him go.
He was never able to understand why they were being kept, he had no monies and the woman he found out later was their cook. The other man had tried to protect the woman as much as he could being tied up and he was beaten for his efforts. He wants to give us many thanks for coming to rescue the three of them.
Assuring him that we were happy to help and tell him we will make sure that he gets to where he needs to be and that he has nothing to worry about.
Looking over at the last man Tony sees that Brain is nearly finished doing what he is able to do. Heading over to see if this is Jeff or another unfortunate that they helped. He moves over to the man slowly. His face is swollen from the abuse he’s endured, his eyes barely slits.
The man looks at me and raises his hand and grasps mine and pulls me closer. He manages to speak in barely a whisper. “Took you long enough T.”
Tony smiles that DiNozzo smile. “I had to make some threats and call in some favors Jeff, to even get this far. I’m so damn glad to see you. We’ll get you home.” Tony grasped his hand tightly. “I’ve got you. Let me take care of the bastards that did this and we’ll get the three of you out of here.”
Jeff started to speak and Tony shook his head. “Plenty of time for catch up later, when you’re feeling up to my tales of daring and adventure.” Tony heard laughing from his men, he looked over and scowled at them. “Well they are.” He looked back down at Jeff. “Seriously, let Brain take care of you and rest for now.”
Tony relayed the information he had been able to pick up from Warda and Nabil. Leaving Brain and Homer to guard and care for the new members of their party, Tony took his other two men and headed to out to watch the hill.
“Shouldn’t be long now before they come outside after their captives; being a bit of shock for them, I mean the Gods must have taken them.” Tony’s eyes narrowed dangerously. “Guns at the ready, I’m sure that after the initial shock wears off they will be pissed and looking around to see what happened. Can’t wait till they find us instead.”
It didn’t take long for that to happen, one of the guards came out for the captives and found an empty post. Looking around he saw no tracks, he called to the others and they basically repeated the pattern of looking for tracks. Running back into their camp, they came out with guns.
“You were right, Tonio. They are puzzled and pissed.”
“Flash and Rainman understand that we are taking no prisoners. We’re taking this camp down and doing it now, understood?”
“Yes, sir.” They said unanimously.
They edged forward guns in their hands and approached the enemy. Tony yelled in Arabic for them to put their weapons down, the man in the middle of the group was nervous and his gun went off striking Tony in the arm.
Flash and Rainman saw Tony hit and that was it, the three of them opened fire taking the enemy down. It was over in seconds, after Flash went in and made sure the camp was clear he hurried back to check on Tony. Brain was there looking at the wound.
Tony looked at all of them. “It’s just a graze, it will need a couple of stitches but that’s it.”
Flash and Rainman looked at the bodies in front of the camp. “What do you want to do about them?”
Tony pointed his chin at the entrance to the hill. “Put then inside the hill. Nature will take of them, and there are no neighbors nearby to complain about the smell.”
They hurried to carry out their orders anxious to get Tony back to base so that Brain could check him out.
Brain saw them heading in and took one look at Tony and saw the blood. “Get over here and let me see.” Brain growled.
“Relax, it’s a graze. I promise.” Tony soothed. Bain looked at his arm and sighed in relief and looked at the other three.
“This time he’s right, just a graze.” Brain shook his head. “He don’t get too high and mighty there Cpt. you have always downplayed any injury that you’ve had, and I know for a fact that you do that at NCIS as well.”
Tony muttered under his breath. “I do not.”
Brain snickered. “Afraid to say that loud enough to he heard by everyone, aren’t you?”
Brain just smiled at the glare he received from Tony and finished dressing the wound.
Tony looked over at Jeff. “How is he really, Brain?”
“He’ll be ok. A lot of facial contusions, sprained wrist, bruised kidney, a couple of broken ribs and a broken nose. Very malnourished and dehydrated, but for the amount of time he spent with those men it could have been a lot worse.”
Tony breathed a sigh of relief. “Good. We’ll start moving when it gets dusk, it will conceal us from any possible prying eyes and easier for them with it being cooler. I want to bring Nabil and Warda with us and make sure they are taken care of and returned to where ever they chose to go. Are they able to walk?”
Brain thought for a moment. “Nabil should be reasonably ok, he is the least injured of all three, but from what you were able to discover he was also there for the least amount of time. Warda, would be able to walk for short periods but not much more. But that would be no problem between the five of us one of us can carry her on our back.”
“Very thankful that when we were requesting supplies that we included a Medevac stretcher, Jeff can’t walk and since we have that we can carry him.” Brain looked at the sun. “It will be dusk soon, I’ll start packing up the medical and prepare Jeff for the move.”
Tony nodded and headed over to his men. “Tear down the camp, I want us walking at dusk and head back to Chaman.” Speaking Arabic to Warda and Nabil, he explained that they would be moving when the sun went down and going to a safe place in Chaman where they would be helped.” He looked at Warda and asked for her permission to be carried on his back so that she wouldn’t have to walk. She smiled and said that she gave him her trust and is humbled by the care and respect his men have shown her. She would not wish to be a burden but knows she does not have the strength to walk. Tony assured her that she was no burden and it was no problem at all.
Flash sent Tony a smirk as he started to pack up their gear. “Making fans where ever you go, Tonio?”
Tony snickered and shrugged continuing packing up. “Must be my innate sense of charm!”
An empty water bottle sailed through the air and with unerring accuracy hit Tony in the head, as he looked around all he could see were some very busy soldiers. Narrowing his eyes and glaring at them all. “Just remember paybacks a bitch.”
Everything packed up and Jeff on the stretcher they were ready to begin the trek back to Chaman and the small military unit based there.
Gibbs looked at his watch and realized they needed to order some real food. Abby and Jimmy had been sharing some Tony exploits and everyone had lost track of time, but then again that was what Gibbs had in mind.
“What do we want to order? I’m getting hungry. We can have Italian, Chinese, Greek or Pizza, I have menus for all of them and they all deliver.”
After much discussion and debate they all agree to order a variety of Chinese from Sesame Noodles to Shrimp Lo Mein. Food ordered they regroup with refreshed drinks to wait.
Abby sighed. “This is a lot of fun but it doesn’t change the fact that I’m worried Gibbs. When do you think we’ll hear something?”
All eyes turned to Gibbs. “He had a limited number of days to accomplish this Abs and right now he has two remaining. If he is successful I figure early tomorrow morning he’ll get word to us one way or another. Other than that I can only guess when we’ll hear anything.”
Abby pursed her lips in a frown. “Well that sucks.”
Ducky gave her a look of understanding. “Yes it does Abigail, but at least he is able to let us know what details he can share. I can’t imagine if I was sitting without knowing anything at all, the imagination may be a wondrous thing, but also a curse when it comes to the unknown.”
Abby let out a little chuckle. “Like this time even, when he told Gibbs he’d be ‘landing on a giant landing pad’, we know he means a Carrier! He merely omits the name and location. It’s like a mystery game to me when I try and follow his clues. I put it all together and figure out the area he might be in and watch for any action that is reported.”
Ziva furrowed her brows. “How do you know that it is Tony?”
“When he comes back he always asked me if I solved the mystery, and if I’m right he rubs his finger by his nose, like they did in the movie “The Sting”, if I’m wrong he tweaks my nose.”
“What kind of action do you look for?” Tim wondered.
Abby shrugged. “Big things, massive explosions, missing heads of countries or drug cartels, collapsing of evil factions anything like that, military action are of course a given but that doesn’t mean it will look like military.”
Tim nodded seeing how that would work.
The food arrives and they fill their plates and sit back down each lost in their own thoughts as they eat and watch the sun go down.
They clean up the dinner mess and think about heading home. None of them really wanted to leave, here in Gibbs house they could wait together and in some small way alleviate their fears.
Gibbs speaks up. “The couch makes into a bed and there are two spare rooms, you don’t need to leave if you want to stay. Ducky you can take my bed and I’ll sleep in the basement with the boat.” He looked at the many relieved faces that were nodding and smiling, he chuckled to himself.
“Make yourselves at home and let me know if you need anything.”
Ziva and Abby borrowed sweats and t-shirts and everyone got comfortable. Gibbs started a fire in the fireplace and brought down some sleeping bags, he may have offered beds, but it looked like the group would rather stay together.
Shaking his head and the pile of bodies he headed to the basement to wait, work on the boat for a little while and allow the wood to soothe away his own concerns. Finally feeling the stress and worry dissipate enough to allow sleep, he checks on the slumber party upstairs before trying to grab a few hours of sleep himself.
His phone wakes him on the first ring.
“Morning to you too Sunshine.” Tony chirps.
Gibbs sits up straight right away. “Tony! Everything go ok? Did you find him? All of you safe?” As he rattled off his questions he had to wonder when he turned into Abby.
“Found Jeff and a couple of extras, everyone is safe and ok. Jeff is injured pretty badly, but nothing that won’t heal. We’re at the Unit in Chaman and as soon as they give him the once over I’m flying him to the USS Enterprise. Get him set up and taken care of and the rest of us will fly home. I just wanted to let everyone know we were safe.”
Gibbs felt the tension release from his body, Tony was safe and his men were too.
“They’re all camped out on my living room floor right now. Worried about you is an understatement.” Gibbs chuckled. “They got to hear the story of how we met.”
Tony groaned. “You know there are times I wonder if saving your sorry ass was worth it. Did you have to tell them?”
Gibbs gave a full out guffaw. “Of course I did my favorite story by far.” Then deciding to tease Tony a bit he put on the gruff Boss mode. “Just what exactly do you mean sorry ass?”
Gibbs smiled at the silence.
“Nothing Boss. Best time of my life.” Tony stammered.
“Damn well better be.”
Tony snorted. “Sure, Boss. I’ve got to go and ready things up. I’ll call just before we fly off the Carrier. Bye.”
Gibbs sat for a moment and thanked all the Deity’s that he had asked to keep Tony safe not wanting to chance fate knowing he’d be making the same request again sometime in the future. He debated for a moment about heading upstairs and waking everyone up. He didn’t have to think about it too long as he stood up from the boat he saw five people sitting on the stairs waiting.
“He’s fine. They found Jeff and though he’s injured he’s going to be ok. Apparently they managed to rescue two other people as well. He should be home depending on how long it takes him to get Jeff set up on the carrier, very late tonight or early tomorrow best guess.”
Smiles and hugs abound as the relief was felt by all.
Gibbs left a message for Vance not wanting to wake him or his family, telling him that Tony and his men are fine and that the mission was accomplished.