„I need to talk to DiNutso and then---„
„I said: NO.” – Gibbs insisted.
Fornell had just conducted the interview about the almost-disastrous undercover gig that had Tony disappearing for an agonizing 14-hour period chained, as they had later learnt, to a merciless throat-slasher criminal monster. Now that the horrible incident was finally over, Gibbs and co. only wished for one thing: to go home and sleep – preferably for at least two entire days.
Now, if Gibbs could only get rid of---
“You do know I was ordered to investigate, right? And that you all were ordered by the same person to cooperate with me?”
Of course, Gibbs did know all these. The Secretary of State was apparently not too impressed with their way of handling the delicate mission and had declared in a no-nonsense way that the FBI was to officially review everything they had done and make an assessment to see if it had been possible to avoid temporarily losing one of their own along with a criminal they had deliberately let escape…
Luckily – or not, it was up for debate right now – it was Fornell’s team that had been chosen to do the honors. They had already talked to McGee – who was uncharacteristically confident about his conduct during the mission and had answered all the questions with a steady self-assuredness nobody had ever seen from him before; Kate who had, in fact, been unable to deny how worried she’d been for her partner during the whole time and now Gibbs, who had, naturally, insisted they had done their best and besides: everything had turned out all right in the end anyway.
Fornell would believe him, too, hadn’t they known each other for ages. As it was, he could read between the lines and tell his friend was shaken to the core, and as close to his breaking point as only one time in his life before. Believing, even for a moment, that his protégé was dead, had taken its toll on the man.
“Not today, Tobias.” – Sighed the lead NCIS agent tiredly, for once looking each and every one of his years; if not even more. – “Let him be for today.”
The FBI investigator really hated his job sometimes and loathed what he had to say right now:
“You know I can’t do that, Jethro.” – He began apologetically. – “I either talk to him now or I’ll have to take him into custody. Either way, he can’t have contact with you until he’s given his statement. You know the drill.” – He held up his hand when he saw a protest coming. – “I’ve already been more lenient than I should, allowing him to be examined by Doctor Mallard.” – He pointed out.
And it was true: according to regulation, the ‘key witness’ should have been completely separated from everyone else until questioning to avoid any possibility of outside pressure.
“Duck won’t try to influence him.”
“I know. That’s not the point.”
“Then what is the point, Tobias?”
“That he needs to talk to us now.”
“Jethro…” – Fornell ran his hand through his meager hear in frustration. Arguing with the man was undeniably more stressful than a week of investigation without any leads.
“He’s not well enough for----”
At that moment, the elevator chimed and Tony stepped out, supported by a weary-looking Doctor Mallard and his clearly overwhelmed young assistant.
The kid himself looked truly terrible: he was much thinner than Fornell remembered and the FBI agent could have sworn the boy was only halfway awake as he shuffled to his desk and literally fell into the chair.
He was wearing navy blue pajamas with a small NCIS logo on them, and his hair was wet and sticking up in all directions. He had definitely recently taken a shower and hadn’t bothered to use a hairdryer afterwards. Or a comb.
He dropped his head onto his folded arms on the table and peered up at them from there, like a sleepy baby from the crib. Damn, he looked adorable.
If it hadn’t been for the thick bandage covering the young man’s left wrist (hiding, Fornell knew, the ugly bruise caused by the handcuff he’d had to endure for many hours), the FBI agent might have laughed at the scene. This way though, he only felt his throat tighten.
“DiNutso…” – The boy slightly raised his head and turned towards him with obvious difficulty.
“Fornell…? Oh, hi.” – He mumbled confusedly as if only noticing the agent’s presence.
Gibbs gave his long-time friend a meaningful glare; daring him to as much as suggest the interview.
Fornell sighed and waved for Sacks to step closer. The other FBI agent had been, until now, silently standing by the window and observing the happenings without intervening, letting his boss take charge.
“Come on, DiNutso. We’re going.”
The boy sluggishly blinked.
“I’m taking you into custody...”
Twin groans from Sacks and Gibbs followed his statement, while the latter also made a threatening move towards him with a murderous expression on his face.
“I told you, Tobias---”
“… to my home. Boy needs to sleep.”
Sacks groaned again but finally grabbed Tony’s arm and pulled him into a semi-standing position. For his part, the young man didn’t seem to mind the idea of being taken into FBI custody as long as it meant he could sleep… then again, he might not have understood what was going on at all. It was hard to tell right now.
Doctor Mallard looked for a moment as if he wanted to protest and perhaps offer the hospital as an alternate solution instead, but in the end he just shrugged.
“I’ll take care of him, Jethro. I promise.” – And he would. He could see that the boy had been to hell and back and even he didn’t have the heart to torture him any longer. – “Come on, DiNutso. Let’s go.”