Trust is like a mirror; you can fix it if it’s broke, but you will always see the cracks in the reflection
Tony sighed as he walked up to another house. He’d been going door to door all morning, pretending to be everything from a salesman to a security worker to an inspector and he was tired. As tired as he was, he couldn’t help but to shake his head as he remembered some of the people he had met. The most interesting one had definitely the dark-haired housewife who had answered the door in nothing but a robe and a blue bikini. He had to admit the woman was a bombshell and if it was any other time or he was someone else, he might’ve taken her up on her offer. But he had a job to do and he would get head slapped into the next three centuries by his boss, one Leroy Jethro Gibbs—a no nonsense former marine—if he didn’t do it.
He had just left another house, shaking his head at the teenage daughter yelling at her dad, and was walking across the street when he stopped suddenly. A familiar scent teased his nose and had him frowning. His head turned to scan his surroundings as he tried to figure out why he smelt that particular scent and where it was coming from. When he couldn’t pinpoint the location, he shook his head and decided to head to the next house.
He had just taken a couple of steps when the scent surrounded him again, this time more powerful than before. He could feel a twist in his gut as an image flashed in his mind and he knew then that something was seriously wrong. He turned around and scanned the houses he could see and when his eyes fell on one just three doors down, the feeling in his gut became stronger and without him realizing it, he started towards the house.
Even as he walked, he radioed out to Ziva and McGee.
“Guys,” Tony said into the radio, “I’m gonna go and check out,” he mentally counted off the house numbers, “number 673. I’m getting a bad feeling.” Secure in the knowledge that his teammates knew where he was, he continued.
Tony’s pace increased as the feeling intensified even more. He had no idea what was going to happen, but he trusted his gut and he trusted the scent. He got the house and knocked on the door. He heard a crash and a curse and his hand moved to rest over his gun. The door opened and little girl, looking no older than three, poked her head out.
“Hi,” Tony smiled at her, “is your mommy or daddy home?”
Tearful dark blue eyes looked up at him and Tony’s instincts screamed at him.
The little girl nodded, but before she could say anything, she let out a cry as she was jerked back from the door and a man took her place.
“What do you want?” the man asked, his entire body tense.
“Hi,” Tony smiled despite the bad vibe he was picking up from the man, “My name is Antonio Lafferty—
“I don’t want whatever it is your selling,” the man grunted out and slammed the door shut.
Tony rocked back on his heels from the force of the slam, but he wasn’t going to give up so easily. He stood there, wondering what to do next when the next sound took the decision out of his hands; it was a cry of fear and pain.
Drawing his gun, Tony took a step back before he raised his foot and kicked the door in. His gun in front of him, he announced his presence. “NCIS!”
He heard grunts, followed by cries of pain and a woman’s voice begging someone to stop. Cautiously, Tony walked further into the house, his eyes taking in the disarrayed place; broken glass was on the floor, tables and chairs were overturned, a lamp was on the floor and there was a trail of blood. Heart pounding, Tony followed the blood, keeping his gun raised and steady in front of him. What he saw almost made him drop his gun in shock.
The man who had answered the door was over a woman; her entire face was a bloodied mess and her body, from what he could see, was littered with bruises. The little girl that had answered the door was hiding under a nearby table and he could see the bruise on her face, one that wasn’t there before. Anger rushed through him and his green eyes darkened with it.
“NCIS!” Tony shouted, “Step away from the woman and put your hands where I can see them!”
The man growled and looked over at Tony. “Get out of my house!”
“I can’t do that,” Tony replied, not lowering his gun for a second. “Take your hands off of her, put them in the air and step away.”
The man ignored Tony and turned back to the woman, with every intention of continuing with beating her.
Without even thinking on what he was about to do, Tony dropped his gun and charged the man, tackling him off of the woman. The two collided to the floor, falling through the glass table and Tony winced when he felt the shards cutting into his back. Ignoring his wounds, he focused on the man he was holding on to. He punched him, moving the man enough that he could push him off of him. He rolled away, quickly getting to his feet.
“You’re going to regret that,” the man hissed. He charged Tony, catching him around his middle and slamming him into the wall.
Tony winced at the pain his back as he felt the shards of glass digging in even further. He brought his hand up and slammed his elbow into the man’s back before bringing his knee up, hitting him in his stomach. He then pushed the man back, and punched him in the jaw.
“OWW!” the man yelled out as he clutched at his jaw.
Tony panted out even as he hunched slightly over. His gaze shifted to where the woman and little girl and saw that neither had moved from their positions. He could tell that the woman needed help and fast. He radioed out to his teammates again.
“Ziva! McGee! I need backup and an ambulance! Hurry!”
“What do you think Tony’s doing?” Ziva asked as she cleaned her knife, not all that worried about her teammate. As far as she was concerned, this was just a routine stakeout.
“Probably hitting on some housewife,” McGee snorted, never taking his gaze off the crossword puzzle he was doing.
“Do you think we should turn the radio back on?” Ziva looked over at her teammate.
McGee looked up from his puzzle, “do you really want to hear Tony rambling? We get enough of it at the office.”
Ziva shook her head with a smile, “you are right. It has been peaceful, no?”
McGee chuckled and refocused on the puzzle as Ziva refocused on her knife.
While Ziva and McGee were discussing whether or not to turn the radio back on, Tony was fighting for his life.
The man had his hands wrapped around Tony’s neck and he could feel his body wanting to drift into unconsciousness, but he fought it with all the strength he had left. He couldn’t black out now, not when the little girl was still in danger. A cursory glance a while ago had told him that the woman was too close death and in a matter of minutes, she’d be dead.
Straining his arm, he finally managed to get a hold of the vase, silently rejoicing when he felt how heavy it was, and slammed it into the man’s head.
The man fell back with a groan before collapsing to the floor.
Breathing heavily, Tony slowly slid down and rested against the wall. He took a deep breath and winced, before he started cataloguing his injuries. He knew he had a cut on his temple, but couldn’t tell how deep it really was, only that it was bleeding a lot; he gently probed his stomach and winced when he felt that at least two of his ribs were bruised, near cracking and one had actually cracked; he had a busted lip, his back was probably torn from the glass shards and then being slammed into the wall; his right leg, left shoulder and stomach were bleeding heavily from when the man had stabbed him with a jagged piece of glass; his left arm was hanging at angle, broken in the scuffle.
The little girl whimpered and Tony opened his eyes and looked over at her. Sparing one final glance at the man, he carefully dragged his pain-filled body over to her.
“’S’ok,” he mumbled as he reached out a shaky hand—whimpering at the pain—to grab her little one in his. He didn’t really care about his injuries right now, all he wanted was to comfort her and make sure she was ok.
“Tu stai male,” the little girl whispered in Italian as she grabbed his hand, being careful not to squeeze too tight. (You’re hurt)
Tony knew he needed help; the man had taunted him earlier when he had heard Tony radio out for help to Ziva and McGee about how he had had them taken care of. The blood loss, and concussion from having his head slammed against something over and over, left Tony delirious and as such, he couldn’t remember that the man had never made a move to a phone or anything to call someone.
He tried to straighten out his fingers on his right hand, but groaned as pain shot up his arm and he knew, two or more fingers were broken. Shifting to a sitting position—panting heavily and raggedly afterwards—Tony reached for his radio with his left hand, biting his lip to stop the scream from the pain that threatened to erupt. It’d be a miracle if his entire left hand was still usable.
“Z-Ziva…M-McGee…I n-need help,” the sentence took a lot out of him and his breathing was heavier by the time he was done. After a few minutes, he got no reply and fear shot up his spine.
‘No…they’re fine…they have to be.’
He needed help. He knew that, and so did the little girl, and it was possible that his teammates needed help as well. There was only one person he knew could do that.
“Andra’ tutto bene,” Tony mumbled, “Ho bisogno del tuo aiuto.” (It’s going to be ok. I need your help.)
The little girl looked at Tony with wide eyes and nodded slowly.
“Il mio telefono. Puoi andare a prenderlo?” Tony said between breaths as he gestured to where his cell phone lay discarded in the fight. (My phone. Can you go for it?)
The little girl looked to where the phone was before looking back at Tony and nodding. She gently let go of his hand and crawled over to where the phone was and grabbed it. She crawled back and sat down next to him, leaning into his side and held up the phone for him to see.
“Aprirlo,” Tony commanded gently and softly. (Open it.)
When she did that, Tony nodded, regretting it instantly when pain shot through his head, “Premi il numero uno e poi il tasto verde.” (Press the number one, and then, the green button.)
The girl did as she was told and Tony could hear the ringing on the other end. His eyes were slipping close, but he fought it as best as he could. When he heard the voice on the other end, relief went through his pain and injury filled body.
Gibbs frowned as he jogged down the stairs and headed to his desk. He just had a meeting with the Director and throughout the whole thing, his gut was screaming at him.
Something was wrong.
But what it was, he didn’t know.
He sat down at his desk and shuffled the papers on it before stopping. Looking up, his blue eyes moved around the bullpen, taking in the desks of his agents. The feeling got stronger.
Something was seriously wrong.
‘Calm down Jethro and think; Abby is down in her lab, Ducky’s in autopsy, Tony, McGee and Ziva are out on a stakeout. A routine one at that.’
The feeling persisted, especially when he thought on his agents out in the field. He had just decided to call them to check in, when his cell phone started ringing. He pulled it from his pocket and answered without checking.
At Tony’s voice, Gibbs straightened in his seat and frowned at the pain he could hear. “Tony?”
“I’m…I’m in trouble boss.”
Gibbs stood up. “Where are you Tony?”
“I don’t…I d-don’t remember,” Tony replied.
Gibbs stood up at Tony’s reply; that was bad. If Tony couldn’t remember, that meant he had some kind of head injury. He could hear the heavy breathing and panic shot through him. The last time he heard Tony like that, was when his Senior Agent had the plague.
“Talk to me Tony,” Gibbs demanded even as he grabbed his gun and badge from his desk. “Where are you?”
Tony’s voice trailed off and Gibbs feared the worst. He could hear from Tony’s voice that he was close to losing consciousness. “Tony…listen to me. You need to stay awake. Do not fall asleep. DiNozzo, did you hear me? Do not fall asleep.” He paused when he got no reply. “DiNOZZO!”
Gibbs didn’t even bother masking the relief at his agent’s voice. “Stay with me Tony.”
Shifting his cell phone to his other hand, Gibbs picked up his desk phone and dialled the Forensic Lab. “Abby, I need you to run a trace on Tony’s phone…Abby, ABBY!...the trace?...Got it.”
He hung up and grabbed his keys before hurrying to the stairs, foregoing the elevator. “DiNozzo, you still with me?”
“I’m…here…boss,” Tony said between breaths.
“Hang on Tony,” Gibbs repeated as he ran down the stairs and out to the parking lot where his car was parked. He got in and was speeding out in record time. As he drove, ignoring the honking from the other vehicles as he passed them recklessly, his mind went to his other agents, wondering if they were in trouble as well. He had to call them, but he couldn’t hang up on Tony.
There was no doubt in his mind that him being on the phone was the only thing keeping Tony conscious. So, he swallowed his own feelings and did something he hated to do; he talked.
About everything and nothing, it didn’t matter, just as long as Tony heard his voice and knew he was still there and that he was coming.
Gibbs’ speed increased as he raced to where his agent was waiting for him.
‘Hang on Tony…just hang on’
McGee frowned as he looked down at his watch and then looked back up to where the houses were.
“Tony’s been gone a long time,” he remarked.
Ziva looked up at him. “Maybe he is still searching?”
“No,” McGee shook his head, “he should’ve been back by now.”
“Do you think something is wrong?” Ziva asked, raising a dark eyebrow. “Maybe this is one of his pranks.”
“I don’t know,” McGee looked around. “Tony’s immature and he pulls pranks a lot, but I’m not sure.”
Ziva said nothing as she reached down and turned the radio on. “Tony?”
Nothing was heard but static.
Ziva’s brows furrowed and she tried her teammate again, “Tony.”
McGee frowned over at her before he too tried to contact their fellow agent. “Come on Tony. If you’re mad we weren’t paying attention before, we get it, but isn’t this kind of childish?”
“Tony, stop playing,” McGee said, “Answer back.”
After a few minutes, Ziva looked over at him, “McGee, I do not think he is playing.”
“Do you remember the last house he said he was at?” McGee asked as he grabbed his gun and badge from the under his seat.
“I think it was 513,” Ziva replied as she too grabbed her stuff.
They had just gotten out of the car when another car flew by them.
“Was that Gibbs’ car?” McGee stared after the car in shock.
“I think it was,” Ziva nodded.
“Something happened,” McGee said as he ducked back inside, Ziva following. Soon enough, they pulled out from their spot and went after their leader.
Tony’s breaths became even shallower. He could barely hear Gibbs talking on the phone, but forced himself to concentrate. He needed help and he needed it fast. Just as the thought completed itself, he heard the footsteps through the broken down front door.
“TONY!” Gibbs called out as he entered the house. He heard the laboured breathing and followed it, his eyes taking in the complete wreck of the room. He spotted his agent resting back against the far opposite corner of the room, with a little girl tucked into his side.
Saying nothing, Gibbs hurried over to Tony’s side, falling to his knees when he got there. “Tony.”
“H-Hey boss,” was all Tony said before he finally lost the fight and gave in to the darkness pulling at the edge of his mind.
“Shit!” Gibbs cursed as he reached up a hand to check Tony’s pulse. It was there, it was faint, but it was still there and he breathed a huge sigh of relief.
McGee and Ziva entered the house, but stopped suddenly and stared in shock at the scene in front them.
“Oh my God! Tony!” McGee stared at his teammate who was lying bloodied and unconscious on the floor.
Gibbs looked back at them briefly, his eyes quickly taking in their appearance. Something about this didn’t sit right with him. There was something off here, but he didn’t know what it was. However, those thoughts were pushed from his head as he refocused on Tony. He needed to get him out of there, but he didn’t think Tony would be able to wait for the ambulance.
Carefully and gently, he lifted Tony into his arms and went to stand, but was stopped by a slight resistance. He looked down and saw that the little girl was still holding on to Tony’s shirt.
“He needs help,” Gibbs spoke softly to her, not wanting to scare her. “I have to take him with me.”
The little girl whimpered as tears filled her eyes, not wanting to let the man that had protected her from her daddy out of her sight.
Gibbs seemed to realize it. “Come with me.” When she made no move to do so, he gently cajoled her, “It’s ok. I know. Tony protected you. You can come with me, that way, you can see him.”
Finally, after a brief staring contest, the little girl slowly let go of Tony’s shirt and walked over to stand as close to Gibbs as she could.
Satisfied, Gibbs turned and headed to the door. He looked at Ziva and McGee. “McGee, call ahead to Bethesda and tell them that I’m coming. Radio out to dispatch and clear the roads. I want nothing in my way to the hospital. When you’re done, secure this place and if that bastard is still alive, arrest him and get him back to NCIS. I’ll deal with him later.” The last part was said with such menace that both agents took a step away from their leader.
After passing out his orders, Gibbs quickly left the house, the little girl following him, and headed back to his car. Mindful of Tony’s injuries, he placed him in the backseat and buckled him in while the little girl sat in front. After making sure she was buckled in, he took off with a squeal of tires.
Back at the house, McGee and Ziva were silent as they did as they had been told. After handcuffing the man—bastard was still alive unfortunately, or fortunately— and McGee placing call out to Bethesda and dispatch, both agents turned to each other with horrified looks.
“What did we do McGee?” Ziva asked. Her heart was pounding as guilt ran through her.
McGee swallowed as he took in the scene of the room once more; the place looked like a bomb had gone off. Tony had been here, fighting for his life, while they had been in the car, deliberately cut off from him and oblivious to what had been happening.
McGee staggered back into the wall as the guilt slammed into him. “We messed up Ziva…we messed up really bad.”