Tony DiNozzo groaned deep in his chest as he wondered if anyone had gotten the license plate of the garbage truck that had hit him. As he lay prone, slowly regaining consciousness, he recalled the circumstances that had brought him to whatever his current predicament was. He had been tailing Sacco and they went to that bar where Atlas was last seen. Somehow, his drink had been doctored. He recalled stumbling toward his car, calling Gibbs, and passing out.
Now, Tony lay still, not wanting to let his captor know he was conscious until he could gather information on what he had gotten himself into this time. He could smell - ugh - rank, rotting, garbage smells and - was that? - yep, decomp. There was no mistaking the smell of a rotting corpse. You smelled that odor one time, you never forgot it. It ingrained itself into your sense memory and if you smelled it again, you knew what it was. It was fairly strong, so pretty recent, maybe a couple of weeks. Hopefully, it wasn’t Atlas.
Tony listened intently, trying to hear if his captor was near. He heard a rhythmic thumping sound and very loud dripping and running water but not really pipes. Maybe there was a stream or creek nearby. The thumping sound had him stumped though. It was a regular sound. Not terribly catchy, so not musical. But there was an occasional discordant thump. And a rattle underneath the thumping. Tony couldn’t figure it out. But he did hear someone breathing. Loudly. Like they were trying to be the opposite of stealthy. Or had really bad asthma. Or something.
Tony slit his eyes open the barest bit and saw a concrete ceiling above his head. It was very dirty and looked damp. Not soaking wet but moldy and most definitely not clean. Whatever lair he was in, the bad guy didn’t have a maid or a butler in to clean it. So, that eliminated one suspect. The butler didn’t do it if there wasn’t a butler.
Tony rolled his eyes, mentally. He was obviously still punchy from the drugs he had been knocked out with. That wasn’t even close to being a good reference. It had nothing to do with the case at all. It was all about the marines, no rich guys, no one with a staff to clean for them. Why would he even think that Sacco (presumably the one who somehow got to his drink) would have someone come in to clean his lair? No, by the looks and smell and sound of this place, lair it was not. It was more like a dungeon.
Where the hell would a marine get a dungeon? And why take Tony? He could have just lost him. He didn’t have any backup. If he was going to drug him, why bring him to his killing floor? And killing floor this obviously was if the stench of that decomposing corpse was anything to go by. Just drug him and put him somewhere out of the way, like the trunk of his car or behind a dumpster - or in a dumpster. Stupid criminals. Tony was a federal agent and would get himself out of this and have all the evidence he needed to convict. The guy had dumped him right in it. Literally if the dampness soaking through his shirt meant anything. Ewww.
Tony decided it was time to get up and work on getting out and getting the evidence to Gibbs. He rolled his head and his eyes, now half open, caught sight of Atlas. He was chained to the wall and was wheezing. Opening his eyes fully, Tony saw the corpse he had been smelling. But it was a lot older than he had thought. It was nearly fully decomposed. How the hell was the smell so strong? It didn’t make sense.
Then Atlas began coughing and the thumping and rattling Tony was hearing changed pitch. As Tony’s mind ran through the evidence his own breath caught. He put it all together, and came to a startling and somewhat disturbing realization. He understood why the corpse smelled so strong once he knew the thumping he heard was Atlas’ heartbeat and the rattling was obviously his lungs. He likely had pneumonia or some sort of chest infection from his time in captivity in this damp dungeon. Tony shook his head. No, the dripping and swishing water, the concrete ceiling with mildew and mold, it wasn’t a dungeon. It was the sewer system!
And Tony had come online. He was a Sentinel.
Tony shook minutely as he, Gibbs, and Kate stepped onto the elevator at NCIS. He had escaped the sewers and kept Atlas alive. Sacco had died and hadn’t been the real bad guy in the first place. The waitress had. It explained the drugged drink at least. And she was batshit. Totally gone. That explained her taking him to Atlas when he spooked her.
Tony was mentally kicking himself as he tried to block out the sounds and sights and smells all around him. His clothes were hurting where they pressed against his skin, he could feel the beginnings of a migraine from the overwhelming brightness of the lights, he reeked of the sewer and the decomp of the corpse he had shared the space with.
He had tried to use his senses to get them out of the sewer but without having any practice or experience with the enhanced nature of them, he had only succeeded in leading them into a dead end. It hadn’t helped that he had been trying to use the senses while at the same time keeping them reined in, as without a Guide and with no history of using them in this new way, he had been terrified of zoning and getting himself and his charge killed.
Now, he was trying to focus. He was safe. Atlas was safe. Gibbs and Kate had taken out the bad guy - um - girl. Tony could hear Kate’s heartbeat. And Gibbs’. He really like the nearly musical sound of his boss’ thumping. Kate’s sounded discordant to him, like Atlas’ had, though not indicative of sickness, just off somehow. But Gibbs’ heartbeat sounded like the bass drums of Tony’s favorite soundtrack, though it didn’t really. It felt like that, though..
Tony shook his head. He was crashing from the adrenaline rush and the remnants of the drugs. In an attempt to stave it off, he began babbling to Gibbs.
“Admit it, you were worried about me. Right? You don’t have to say anything, I know.”
Tony heard Gibbs heart speed up a tad, but his boss’ mouth remained silent and Tony’s heart pounded in his chest at the thought that he could be wrong.
“Okay, I want you to say it. You care, right?” And with that, Gibbs moved off as the elevator doors opened. Tony hurried after him, his breath speeding up.
“So, you’re saying you don’t care?” Tony raised his hand wanting to touch his boss, to get reassurance, to know that he meant something to the older man. He didn’t quite dare, especially as they turned the corner and Gibbs turned to face him.
“Tony, as far as I’m concerned,” Gibbs began. The silver-haired man raised his arms and briefly cupped the younger man’s face before his hands fell again, and pointed at him, “You’re irreplaceable.”
Tony’s apprehension slid away as a grin crossed his face. The sounds of the rest of the building faded away as his senses began centering on the touch that had caressed his face for so short a time. He heard Gibbs’ heartbeat louder than before. The smell of decomp was overwhelmed by the scent of coffee and sawdust and Old Spice. The lights which had blinded him a moment ago began to dim to normal. He turned to Kate. “I knew it.”
And he had suspected it. Gibbs was his Guide. Now, he just had to find a way to explain what had happened and hopefully convince him to bond. Tony walked forward with a huge grin, apprehensive but knowing he could trust his boss.
Then he stopped short for a moment as he saw Agent McGee at his desk. He shook off the moment of shock. Obviously the younger man had been brought in to help find him and Atlas and Tony’s desk was in the heart of the action. It was fine. Until Gibbs spoke.
“Forget about it, McGee. He’s still alive.”
Tony’s breath stuttered as the smile dropped from his face. Gibbs didn’t mean it. His Guide didn't mean it. His body began to resume its minute shaking. His Guide - Gibbs - he didn’t mean it that way, the way it sounded, he didn’t.
McGee smiled brightly and the reflection off his teeth almost blinded the shocked Sentinel. His head began pounding again as his Sentinel felt the withdrawing of the brief connection that had been made with the Guide. All of his previous issues returned, leaving him feeling worse than before, the reprieve making the enhancements seem to double. Tony could feel himself falling into the white of McGee’s smile, zoning on it, until Kate bumped him from behind on her way to her desk.
Tony closed his eyes for a minute before a grim smile crossed his face. He would have to learn to control this himself. Or go to the Sentinel Guide Center. Though that could cost him his field status unless he could prove he could keep control on his own. Without a guide. Without his Guide. The Guide who opened himself to Tony, only to slam the door in his face as he was crossing the threshold. He would do it. He would find a way. This wasn’t going to beat him!