Six days, twenty-three hours, fifty-three minutes.
Gibbs didn’t need to look at his watch to know how long it had been. He could feel it, body and soul, as though each second pulled at his heart.
Ziva and McGee both looked pale. They shot nervous glances at Gibbs every now and then, but for the most part, they just looked lost.
Six days, twenty-three hours, fifty-four minutes.
Gibbs slammed his hand down against his desk, hard, making both his agents jump.
McGee shrank back at his bark, looking more like a first year probie than a seasoned agent with five years of experience. Gibbs couldn’t care less.
“I—uh, I’m sorry, boss – there’s nothing,” McGee said, stumbling over the words in his haste to get them all out.
“There has to be something,” Gibbs said.
McGee swallowed visibly. “There isn’t. I’ve checked his credit cards, his telephone, e-everything. He hasn’t used any of it. He’s just—gone. Like the others.”
Six days, twenty-three hours, fifty-five minutes.
With every passing second, the chances of finding Tony alive lessened. With every passing second, the likelihood grew that Tony would become another body on Ducky’s autopsy table.
“There is the chance that he’s already—”
Ziva fell silent as Gibbs directed a murderous glare at her, daring her to finish her sentence.
“All I’m saying is—”
“We’ve heard what you have to say, Officer David,” Gibbs said.
Six days, twenty-three hours, fifty-six minutes.
He stood, grabbed his cup of coffee – there was little left of it, but he’d down the last drop – and stalked away from the bullpen. He didn’t give them an explanation and he could feel their frustration and worry radiating from them in waves as he left. He knew he should be supportive, a better boss, or he’d end up stranded without a team at all when they both quit, but he couldn’t bring himself to it. He’d been a better boss when Kate died, and being that way again would mean that he’d given up.
He took the stairs down to Abby’s lab, forgoing the elevator for the chance to move.
Abby’s lab was silent, which was never a good sign. Walking into the lab, Gibbs almost turned and left again, seeing the multiple photos Abby had taped all over the walls. There were photos of Tony making faces, of Tony leaning over Ziva’s desk with a mad grin, of Tony and Abby together – and one, taken of an unaware Tony, where he looked calm and contemplative, fully focused as he watched something.
Six days, twenty-three hours, fifty-seven minutes.
He found himself with an armful of Abby as she threw herself at him and hugged him close.
“Tell me you’ve got something,” she said against his chest.
“Sorry, Abs,” Gibbs said. “Came down to ask you the same thing.”
Her face crumbled as he said the words, and she squeezed her eyes shut. “He can’t be dead, Gibbs. He can’t be.”
His throat felt thick, and he could find no words to comfort Abby with. He wanted to believe that Tony was still alive – six days, twenty-three hours, fifty-eight minutes – but time was against them.
“We need to find him,” Abby said, pulling back and starting to pace. “There’s got to be something we’ve missed!”
He didn’t stop her; who knew, she might come up with something that they hadn’t thought of. It seemed unlikely – they had tested everything that could possibly be tested already. Tony’s car had been turned inside out in their hunt for evidence to point them in the right direction. If – when, he made himself think – they did find him, Tony would be pissed off about the state of his car.
Six days, twenty-three hours, fifty-nine minutes.
“Let me know if you find something,” Gibbs said, words perhaps a bit harsher than necessary. He spoke around the lump in his throat – a lump he refused to acknowledge as tears, because he did not cry.
Abby gave him a look filled with compassion and understanding, and she nodded, brow knitted with fear for her best friend.
Gibbs headed back up the stairs, but stopped before he reached the level of the bullpen. He stood still in the stairwell, hand gripping the railing so hard his knuckles turned white. Every time he closed his eyes, he saw Tony’s face looking back at him, smile easy and warm. He couldn’t remember feeling his way about any other agent who’d been in danger – and they had all been there. But Tony more often than any other, getting kidnapped, chained to a serial killer, getting sick with the plague, getting shot at, beaten up, risking his own health to save Gibbs—
And every time, Gibbs’ heart raced, his fear for Tony’s life simply more than his fear for anyone else. Everything about his feelings for Tony was more than for anyone else.
Tony’s carefree grin met him each time he closed his eyes, and he did so, wanting that image, wanting that fantasy of Tony being safe and sound and on Gibbs’ six, as he should be. Wanting Tony to look at him that way, to be more than just a team member, to be more of everything.
The painful realization hit him hard, and he opened his eyes, gasping for breath – and then he stared.