The Game

by: traceofink (Send Feedback)

Series: - No Series - #1
Chapters: 001 Word Count: 21754
Rating: MATURE
Warning(s): Disturbing Imagery or Content, Violence
Character(s): Ensemble
Category(ies): Angst/Drama, General
Pairing(s): - No Pairing -
Summary: The Game is on...
...will Gibbs catch Miller before another little girl falls victim to the monster?

Author Notes: My special Thanks goes to brightyoukai and Ang for beta'ing and their relentless dedication to make this readable! I love ya to bits for it!!!!

Yes, there will be a sequel...*g*

Chapter 1


Gibbs jumped out of his car in time to see DiNozzo running after someone, his gun drawn.
The older Agent took a short look around and saw Ziva David laying unconscious on the ground; Timothy McGee was trying to stem the flow of blood from a wound in her left leg.
His youngest agent was on his cellphone, loudly requesting an ambulance for his downed partner.
Gibbs turned his attention back to his Senior Field Agent when he realized that he couldn’t do more than McGee had already done.
He pulled his own weapon and followed the running men as fast as he could.
Tony slid over the icy pavement and had to work hard to remain on his feet as he rounded a corner.
Winter had finally hit Washington D.C. with full force, and a thin layer of ice and snow covered everything.
The man in front of him fell and Tony, seeing his chance, doubled his speed, but the man turned around suddenly, a weapon held tightly in one of his hands.
‘Shit,’ Tony cursed, trying to stop, but his momentum and a patch of ice carried him on.
The Special Agent let himself drop and he hit the ground with a pain-filled grunt.
‘Stupid, DiNozzo, reeeeaaaallllyyyyy stupid’; he would have head slapped himself if it hadn’t been for the angry perp in front of him.
He needed a moment to get his breath back, before he shouted,” It’s over, Miller!” and pointed his own weapon at the man, who tried frantically to crawl backwards without letting the Agent out of his sight.
McGee stared anxiously down at Ziva, who was starting to come around again, and he sighed in relief when he heard the sirens in the distance.
Ziva had lost so much blood; her face was pale and her lips were trembling because of the cold and the shock of being shot. The young Agent slipped out of his coat and wrapped it as well as he could around the Mossad Officer’s slim form.
“Don’t give up, Ziva. The ambulance is almost here,” Tim McGee patted Ziva’s shoulder without stopping the pressure on her wound. “Gibbs would kick us to hell and back-”
The young man knew he was rambling, but hell, the feeling of warm blood seeping through his fingers unnerved him deeply and adrenalin was still coursing through his veins.
Ziva opened pain-filled eyes.
“You with me, Ziva?” McGee asked.
“Y...Yes...,” Ziva hissed in pain and tried to push McGee’s hand away from her leg.
“No, Ziva,” McGee pressed a little harder. “You need to let me do this. You’re bleeding pretty bad.”
“Hurts,” she complained. Her brown eyes were almost black from pain.
“I know. I’m sorry-,” McGee said, but anything else he said was swallowed by the sirens of the arriving ambulance.
Dr. Mallard and Mr. Palmer arrived just as Ziva was being wheeled into the nearby ambulance, a shivering McGee in tow.
“Timothy, my boy,” Dr. Mallard called and walked a little faster until he reached the young Agent. “What happened?”
“Huh?” McGee was clearly somewhere else.
“What happened?” repeated the Doctor gently, as he watched how the two medics cared for Ziva.
“Oh,” McGee shook his head to clear it. “We, that’s Ziva, Tony and I, received a call from one of Tony’s snitches when we came back from Norfolk. Tony said the man had some information about Miller and that he wanted to meet us here,” Dr. Mallard grabbed McGee’s wrist, when he started to sway slightly. “You know? The SOB who killed little Sarah Rains?”
Dr. Mallard nodded knowingly.
It’d been a gruesome murder. How was he supposed to ever forget something like that?
A former marine by the name of John Miller had raped and killed the six-year-old girl and then hid her body in a park near the Navy Yard, where two joggers had finally found her.
The Agents had hunted the Marine for almost three months now, and the fact that he had always escaped them had the whole team frustrated and on edge.
Dr. Mallard remembered the tortured body of the small child on his table and shuddered inwardly.
“It was a setup, Ducky.”
Palmer gasped and Dr. Mallard shot him an irritated look, until his young assistant blushed and turned away.
“Miller had somehow found a way to press the snitch into calling Tony than he killed him and waited until we arrived. He started shooting at us almost as soon as we got out of the car. Ziva got hit and Tony went after him.”
Dr. Mallard looked around and recognized Gibbs’ car.
“Jethro followed them?” He asked and McGee looked lost for a moment he had been so concentrated on Ziva, that he had just ignored everything else.
Dr. Mallard patted McGee’s arm.
”You go on, my boy, and drive with Ziva to the Hospital,” the older ME tsk’ed, when McGee started to protest. “Someone needs to be with her, Timothy.”
McGee snapped his mouth shut and nodded once before he climbed into the back of the ambulance to sit beside Ziva.
“Call when you have some news,” called Palmer, before one of the medics closed the doors.
“Well, well, Mr. Palmer,” Dr. Mallard turned around and located the body of the dead snitch behind a dumpster, “Let’s have a look at the poor soul over there, shall we?”
“Of course, Doctor.”
Both men ignored the arriving NCIS Agents, who started to secure the crime scene around them.
“I won’t go to prison,” screamed Miller as he fired his weapon from behind a small brick wall.
The bullet hit the ground just in front of Tony, who covered his face when shards of ice flew in his direction.
“Well, bad luck then, Buddy,” Tony shouted back as he searched frantically for some cover. “You shouldn’t have killed the girl.”
“I needed to,” Miller screamed and fired another shot. Tony sighed in relief when he found cover behind a dumpster.
He hated back alleys.
They smelled and he just knew that there were rats hiding everywhere.
DiNozzo pulled a face.
“Why?” he asked loudly.
'Keep him talking... He can’t run, when he talks to you,' he thought.
“She made the first move on me,” answered Miller and Tony wanted nothing more than to go over there and beat him to a pulp.
White-hot rage filled the young Agent and he shouted, ”She was only six years old, man!”
“No! No! No!” Miller fired his gun again and Tony slid a little further behind the dumpster. “She made the first move. She made me do it.”
“You’re sick, Miller. You need help,” Tony shouted. “Let me help you.”
“I’m not sick, bastard,” Miller shouted back and fired his gun again.
“DiNozzo,” a familiar voice called and Tony saw Gibbs crouching behind another dumpster a little further away from him.
“Boss?” Tony sighed in relief, when he saw that Gibbs would be his back up.
“Keep him talking,” was the short, angry order.
DiNozzo nodded once, before he turned his attention back to Miller.
“Hey Miller, do you know this movie...?”
Gibbs grinned and searched for a way that would bring him as near as possible to his target.
“Are you insane?” asked Miller confusedly and Gibbs smirked.
“Insane? Buddy, define normal. Are you normal?”
DiNozzo could drive someone nuts on his good days with things like that and it looked like he was having a very good day today.
“More than you, I think.”
“So, you think you’re normal? But you raped and murdered a six year old girl,” Tony shouted back. “Yeah, that sounds really normal to me, my friend.”
“Shut up, you son of a bitch.”
More shots were fired and Gibbs thought he heard a gasp from Tony. Quickly moving the last few feet, Gibbs stood behind Miller and pointed his gun at the man’s head.
“Drop your weapon, Miller,” Gibbs ordered with steel in his voice.
“Make me,” taunted Miller and began to turn around.
Gibbs fired one shot, which found its target in Miller’s shoulder.
The former marine let go of his weapon, dropped to his knees, and clutched his injured shoulder with his other hand.
“DiNozzo,” Gibbs called, getting irritated when he received no answer.
He pulled Miller to his feet and handcuffed him roughly, before he dragged the man with him.
Gibbs stopped when he reached the dumpster where DiNozzo had been and gasped when he saw the unmoving form of his Senior Field Agent...
“McGee!” The sound of Gibbs’ voice echoed though the waiting room like thunder.
“Boss,” McGee jumped up from his chair and headed over to the two men who were standing just inside the door.
“How’s Ziva?” Gibbs asked.
“She’s been stitched up; the Doctor said the bullet went through her leg without doing irreparable damage. She’ll have to stay here for a day or two.”
Dr. Mallard laid a hand on McGee’s shoulder. “Good news then, my boy,” he said and smiled when McGee nodded, but then he saw how the young agent looked around and the smile on his face disappeared again.
“Um, where’s Tony?” McGee asked, and for the first time he saw Gibbs’ bloodstained clothes and paled.
Gibbs kept silent, a mask of stoic professionalism on his face, hiding his true feelings.
“Anthony was shot, Timothy,” Dr. Mallard answered.
“Is he...?”
“Oh no, my dear boy; he was rushed into surgery, that is why we are here,” Dr. Mallard patted McGee’s shoulder. “Now all we can do is wait and see.”
“There is a vending machine down this way,” McGee sighed and pointed a shaking finger to the left side of the floor. “There is coffee in it, too.”
“I think,” Dr. Mallard laid his hands on Gibbs’ and McGee’s shoulders. “You both need to clean up, before you scare the poor nurses here.”
McGee nodded, but he looked still worried.
“Don’t you worry, Timothy, I will stay here,” Dr. Mallard explained, before turning to Gibbs. “I am sure you won’t need too long, my friend.”
Gibbs starred at the older M.E. with fire in his blue eyes.
“Oh, don’t look at me like that, Jethro. You know very well that there won’t be any word on Tony for a few hours at least, and I am certain that you will visit Ziva now, before you leave to get something clean to wear.”
“Ducky, I...”
“You know what? This reminds me of something my mother told me, when I was just a little boy-”
Gibbs sighed, before he held his hands up in defeat. “Okay, Duck. You win-” Dr. Mallard smirked. “-but you’ll call as soon as there are any news. And...” Gibbs growled. “I’ll only need one hour.”
“But of course, Jethro,” Dr. Mallard nodded. “Of course.”
“Well,” Gibbs said and turned to leave. “Let’s go, McGee.”
Ziva blinked a few times when the door opened.
Her whole leg felt numb and heavy, and the pain meds the nurse had administered into her IV just a few minutes ago made it hard for her to keep her eyes open.
“How are you doing, David?” Gibbs’ voice came from her right and she turned sluggishly into his direction.
“Dopey,” Ziva answered, blinking her eyes owlishly. She could hear a snort, but didn’t knew from where and didn’t care either.
Ziva closed her eyes and sighed, before she drifted off into dreamland, never feeling the pat on one of her shoulders nor hearing the closing door.
Director Vance arrived at the hospital almost one hour after Dr. Mallard had sent Gibbs and McGee home. He headed straight to the older M.E., who sat on one of the chairs in the corridor, reading a newspaper.
“Where’s Gibbs?” the Director asked, looking around impatiently.
“Well... Hello to you, too, Director,” Dr. Mallard replied and folded the newspaper. “Special Agent Gibbs drove home to change his clothes, but I believe he will be back soon.”
Vance nodded.
“Is there any news yet?”
Dr. Mallard shook his head,”I am sorry, Sir, but no, Agent DiNozzo is still in surgery and Officer David is currently sleeping, thanks to the dose of Morphine the good doctor administered.”
“Sir,” A young Agent appeared behind Vance. “Everything is set, sir.”
“Thank you, Agent Peters,” the Director said without turning.
“What's going on?” Gibbs appeared in the door, with his usual cup of coffee in his hand, and was looking from Dr. Mallard to Director Vance and back.
Vance turned to face Gibbs, “Agent Gibbs, we need to talk.”
“So?” the Agent replied. “Talk.”
Vance had a look around, and pointed to a secluded corner at the other side of the room.
Dr. Mallard sighed when he heard Gibbs growl, watching how the Senior Agent glared at the Director from behind his Styrofoam cup, and wearily followed both men.
Vance took a deep breath.
He almost wished he could drive back into his office and do a month's worth of paperwork, instead having to be the bearer of bad news,” Miller escaped.”
Dr. Mallard gasped in surprise and Gibbs glared openly at the Director.
“How?” Gibbs asked, the cup of coffee now forgotten in his hands.
“He killed the agents who accompanying him and the EMT's... We're not really sure how he did it yet, but it was messy when I reached the scene.”
“There is more, isn't there?” Dr. Mallard asked, and let himself drop on the nearest chair; he suddenly looked a lot older.
“He left a note,” Vance looked directly into Gibbs' eyes. “He's after DiNozzo-” he said, and took a step backwards when Gibbs slammed his cup against the wall behind him, spraying everything with lukewarm liquid, “and you, Gibbs.”
Gibbs snorted, his eyes glowing dangerously.
“He can try.”
Miller ran like he had never run before.
He needed a place to hide for a while, until he could put his plan into action...
Ziva opened her eyes.
Her leg was hurting again and she debated for a moment whether she needed more pain medicine or not, but then she decided against it.
When McGee and DiNozzo came in to tell her how they had managed to finally capture Miller, she wanted to be able to hear and enjoy every single detail of it.
“I want them both together in one room,” growled Gibbs. He watched over the shoulder of the doctor, observing how the Agents in front of David's room were stopping a male nurse at the door.
“That's impossible,” the doctor shook his head and glared back when Gibbs tried to stare him into the ground. “And it's against every rule that ever existed in this hospital.”
Dr. Mallard felt the desire to interfere, but he also admired the doctor's willpower; nobody could stand their ground against Gibbs for long and yet, there the doctor stood, with crossed arms and a glare on his face that clearly showed that the man was not amused.
The M.E. had to clear his throat loudly to hide his chuckle.
Dr. Mallard sighed when he realized that the two men in front of him wouldn't budge for anything.
“What Agent Gibbs is trying to tell you, my good Doctor, is that we simply need to keep both of them as tight together as we can,” Ducky interrupted and ignored the two sets of deadly glares he received for it. “But surely two adjoining rooms will suit us just fine.”
The doctor turned to Dr. Mallard and nodded,”I think we can set them up in two adjoining rooms. Mrs. David-”
“Officer David,” Gibbs interrupted.
The doctor ignored the interruption and went on, “-won't have to stay for long, probably 'till tomorrow or the day after. I'll send a nurse when we have some news on Agent DiNozzo.”
Dr. Mallard nodded and wanted to say something, but the Doctor simply turned and left and when the older man turned around, he discovered that Gibbs had left as well.
Abby vibrated with tension; her last CafPow had been hours ago and the day was slowly creeping up on her.
The music - Nemesea - her new favorite band - was blasting through her lab and making everything in the room vibrate.
The music and the routine of her work prevented her from going crazy with worry and Abby cast a glance over the clock and sighed deeply.
She had three more hours before she could even think of going to the hospital.
The young Goth jumped a little, when she felt how strong arms pulling her into a hug from behind.
“Hey, Abbs," Leroy Jethro Gibbs whispered into the Goth’s ear and Abby whirled around.
“Bossman!” she shouted over the loud music. “What are you doing here? Why aren’t you at the hospital? Did something happen with Tony and Ziva? Please don’t tell me something happened to them.”
The stress of the day started to make itself known and tears appeared in her eyes.
Gibbs searched for a moment on the table in front of them, before he found the remote control for the stereo.
“No,” Gibbs said and gave her a light kiss on her forehead. “No...shhh....nothing happened to them.”
He hugged her tight for a moment, before he pressed the button and sudden silence filled the lab.
Gibbs needed a few seconds until the ringing in his ears stopped.
“Why are you here then?” Abby asked and tapped impatiently with one of her boot-clad feet.
The older man sighed, “I had something to clear with the Director.”
Abby raised one of her eyebrows, clearly not buying it.
The Agent bent over her and gave her another kiss on the forehead, “And I wanted to make sure that you're okay.”
The tears in Abby's eyes were finally falling and with a heavy sob she again let herself be pulled close against Gibbs' chest.
She let him comfort her for a few minutes, before she pulled away and smiled a shaky smile.
“I soo needed that, thanks,” she said and Gibbs nodded once. “I want to visit Tony and Ziva, when I'm finished here.”
“Sounds like a plan. I think Ziva is already going nuts in there.”
Gibbs had talked to McGee a few minutes ago and the young Agent told him that the Mossad Officer would be awake and could only be in bed, because a doctor threatened to cuff her to it if he caught her anywhere else.
“How's Tony?” Abby asked and headed over to her Mass Spectrometer when it started to beep-beep insistently.
“As well as he can be,” Gibbs answered, and had to smile when he earned a growl for that response. “The bullet grazed his small intestine and nicked a kidney.”
Abby gasped softly and got a look of horror on her face.
“The doctor said the kidney was not working properly at the moment, but they expected that because of the trauma the bullet caused in DiNozzo's body, and that he'll be on antibiotics for a while.”
“But... but, he'll be better, right?” Abby asked nervously and bit her lower lip when Gibbs nodded his head.
“He’d better be or he'll have to answer to me.”
Miller cleaned and stitched the wound on his shoulder; it had not been as bad as he first thought, the bullet had only deeply grazed him. Well, it hurt bad, but he would survive. The sound of playing children drifted through the open window and seemed to taunt Miller.

A mixture of rage and desire shot through him and he needed all his willpower to not go out there and do what the little voice in his head suggested.
Same time, Hospital
Tony awoke to a world of pain.
His insides felt like they were made of liquid fire, and when he felt something hard and unyielding sticking in his throat he began to panic.
The feeling of not being able to take a breath was all-consuming.
A loud alarm beside him distracted him somewhat from his own troubles and he looked around as much as he could without moving his body.
A hospital room, easily recognizable because of the stark white walls and it looked like he was surrounded by machines...
His last memory was of following Miller into a back alley; what had happened to him?
'Shit!' he cursed and tried to lift his hand to his face to remove whatever it was that stuck in his throat.
His vision began to blur, his panic came back, another machine beside him began to send its alarm through the room.
'Please, can someone help me?' he thought and was surprised, when a face appeared in front of him.
“Anthony, my boy. You need to calm down a little,” Dr. Mallard stroked his hand over Tony's arm. “The doctor is on his way, so relax and let the machine breathe for you for a while longer.”
Tony tried to shake his head, to make Ducky understand that he wanted nothing more than to have this thing out of his throat, but the soft stroking pattern on his arm distracted him for a moment and his eyes fell shut on their own accord.
“That's it, my boy. Just relax,” Dr. Mallard's voice drifted off into the distance.
Tony woke again to the feeling of strange hands on his body and his panic started anew.
A strange man loomed over him and DiNozzo wanted nothing more than to jump up and flee, but Dr. Mallard's face was suddenly there again; the older ME smiled and started to speak in a low, soothing voice and Tony relaxed.
“Everything is alright, Anthony,” the ME said and scowled at the still silent doctor. “This is Doctor Smith. He will remove the respirator in a few seconds.”
Doctor Smith didn't look up from what he was doing and Dr. Mallard's scowl deepened before he grinned at Tony and started to peel off the tape, which was holding the tube in Tony's face, by himself.
All the while whispering encouragement to the hurt young man.
“What are you doing?” Dr. Smith asked, appalled, and tried to bodily remove the M.E. from the bedside of his patient.
“I am removing the respirator, which is causing a great deal of discomfort to this man,” Dr. Mallard replied and turned to face the doctor.
Tony could see that each man was clearly angered by the attitude of the other, and he watched with growing interest as Ducky straightened his back to his full 5'8 and glared at the other man from behind his glasses.
“I called you to remove it, but obviously you are not able to do so,” Dr. Mallard's eyes were flashing with real anger. “You are not even able to introduce yourself to a man who is clearly disoriented, hurting and openly afraid.”
The doctor sputtered and reached for the phone on the bedside table, “I'm calling security right now and having you removed from this room.”
Director Vance was the one who opened the door and watched with surprise as Dr. Mallard, his normally so mild-mannered Medical Examiner, tried to out-glare another doctor.
“What's going on in here?” he asked, and stopped at the foot of Tony's bed.
Dr. Smith turned to the Director and Dr. Mallard dismissed the man with a shrug, before he turned back to Tony.
“Okay, my boy,” Dr. Mallard said, when he had the last piece of tape removed. “Take a deep breath and hold it, you need to let it out when I tell you, alright?”
Tony blinked twice in understanding, hoping that Ducky would understand. He was more than ready to get rid of this thing...
The Director watched as Dr. Mallard tended to the agent, before he turned around and pushed the furious-looking doctor out of the door.
“If he tries to set one foot in this room again,” Vance told one of the guarding Agents. “You have my permission to arrest him. And you-” he turned to the doctor. “If we catch you near of one of my Agents, I'll get you for unlawful entry and harassment. Do you hear me?”
The doctor's face turned beet-red and he tried to say something, but was overridden by the Director, who called over a nurse standing nearby.
“Get me a new Doctor for my Agents,” he growled, and turned around and left without another look at the doctor.

One hour later
Gibbs and Abby arrived at the hospital. Each of them held a big Styrofoam cup in hand, coffee for the Agent and an energy drink for the Goth, even though it seemed that the last thing the woman would need was more energy.
They reached the rooms of the two Agents and parted with a wink and a smile.
Abby slipped into Ziva’s room, with a big smile on her face and an ever bigger *Get Well Soon!*- balloon in one of her hands.
She was crazy sometimes, she knew that, and even crazier when it came to her friends, but she also was the one who showed them how precious they were at times like this.
“Ziiivvvaaa,” she whispered, not really trying to be silent, and let herself fall into one of the chairs beside Ziva’s bed.
Ziva opened her eyes slowly.
“Abby,” Ziva greeted and smiled when Abby bound the balloon to the chair next to her.
Abby kept the conversation light, only becoming serious when Ziva asked about Tony.
Ducky had told Ziva about it this morning and she had wanted nothing more than to climb out of bed and see him for herself, but a nurse had prevented her from doing so by giving her an sedative which made her sleep until Abby had woken her.
Gibbs opened the door to Tony's room and was surprised to see Dr. Mallard sitting in a chair beside the bed, talking to Tony.
“Ahh, Jethro,” Dr. Mallard greeted and patted Tony's arm, before he stood up and grabbed his coat and hat. “Time for me to go.”
“Thanks, Duck,” Gibbs held the door open for the older man.
“Oh,” Dr. Mallard, almost through the door, stopped in front of Gibbs. “He is not to speak for at least today. He can't have anything to drink yet, either, but there is a bottle with artificial saliva, if he needs something to wet his mouth with.”
Gibbs nodded and made a face when he remembered from his many own stays at a hospital how awful the liquid tasted.
Dr. Mallard nodded, his task complete for now. He straightened his coat and walked out with a little wave of his hat.
“Hey, DiNozzo,” Gibbs pulled the chair that Dr. Mallard had vacated a little closer to the bed before he sat down.
Green eyes followed him until he finally sat down.
“So-” Gibbs began and was interrupted by Tony.
“M...Mi...ler?” the voice rough and painful sounding.
Gibbs sighed and took a sip of his coffee to stall a little before answering, before he answered softly,“ Miller escaped on the way to the hospital.”
Tony's eyes went wide and he groaned.
This couldn't be happening.
Not after all that work.
“We'll catch him again,” Gibbs said with a vehemence in his voice that Tony knew from working with him.
The Senior Agent would follow Miller like a bloodhound.
Tony's eyes started to close against his will and the younger agent sighed softly, before he drifted off to sleep.
Gibbs stayed where he was, drinking his coffee and thinking about possible ways of catching Miller, before another dead child showed up.
McGee opened the door to DiNozzo's room and watched his injured partner for a moment.
Tony was asleep, the heart monitor was beeping softly in a hypnotic pattern. Their boss stood at the window, watching the snow fall.
"Boss?" McGee asked.
"Anything?" Gibbs asked back and McGee shook his head, before he realized that Gibbs was still watching the snow outside.
"Uh no, Boss. We found the handcuffs a few feet away from the ambulance," McGee said and fixed his eyes on Tony, who looked way too pale and was unnaturally still.
"No witnesses?"
"Nobody saw anything and the street is really secluded."
"So," Gibbs growled. "We've nothing to go on?"
He didn't expect an answer, but McGee shook his head anyway.
Miller slipped into the warehouse and grinned. His plan was coming along nicely and this, he patted the cover of a bright red notebook computer, would be his key for learning everything he could about NCIS, Gibbs, and this DiNozzo guy.
McGee drove back to headquarters a few minutes after he gave his report to Gibbs. He had received orders from Gibbs to check Miller's files again, and he swore that he wouldn't stop searching until he had found something useful.
Tony woke with a groan on his lips.
The pain meds were wearing off again and his body felt like one gigantic bruise.
He turned his head a little and was surprised to see Gibbs sitting in a chair, a book in his hands and a pair of glasses on his nose.
"Hi," Tony said.
"Hey yourself," Gibbs took his glasses off and slipped them into his breast pocket. "How are you feeling?"
" 'm fine."
"Uh huh."
Tony's voice was still raspy and even when he whispered Gibbs could see the look of pain that crossed DiNozzo's face.
"How's Ziva?" Tony asked.
"She's fine. The bullet didn't do too much damage to her leg, but she’ll feel it for quite a while," Gibbs answered. "I'm sure she'll be in here as soon as she can."
True to his word the door opened and Ziva entered in a wheelchair pushed by Abby, her leg elevated.
"David," Gibbs turned to the woman. "What are you doing here instead of resting in your bed? Didn't I tell you a few minutes ago that it wasn't necessary to come over?"
Abby smiled and walked over to the bed, after she stopped the wheelchair at the side of Gibbs' chair.
"Hey Tony," her smile grew a little when she saw that the agent was awake and she patted one of his blanket-covered legs.
"Hey, little witch," Tony whispered, which put a frown on Abby's face.
"I think you shouldn't talk when your voice sounds like that," Ziva chided, which earned hers a slight smile from Tony.
"'kay, Mom," he said, and his eyelids began to droop again.
"Boss?" Ziva asked, after she was sure that Tony was asleep.
"What's up with the statutes in front of our rooms?"
"Statues," Abby corrected and Ziva looked confused for a moment, before she nodded.
"It's standard procedure," Gibbs answered. "Because of Miller's escape this morning. Didn't McGee talk with you about it?"
"Well, yes, but I thought it would only be for you and Tony, and not for me too."
"The Director thought it would be for the best," Gibbs went on. "And I think it's a good idea."
"But," Ziva began, but stopped almost instantly when she saw the glare from her boss. "I understand," she sighed.
They kept watching Tony, until the door burst open and a angry nurse stalked over to Ziva, who tried to appear invisible.
"Miss David," the nurse growled. "Didn't the doctor tell you to rest?"
Ziva swallowed hard. "Yes ma'am."
"What are you doing here then?" The nurse grabbed the handles of the wheelchair and began to wheel her out of the room.
"I only wanted to visit my colleague," Ziva protested, but was ignored.
Abby looked shocked for a moment before she started to giggle when she saw the look of pure horror on Ziva's face.
Gibbs only watched, but his eyes were twinkling in amusement.
McGee used an unoccupied conference room to review Miller's file and was surprised at the man's skills.
John Miller was a former Marine Lance Corporal, an explosives expert and a master in hand-to-hand combat...
.... and if he had correctly interpreted the photos of Miller's room at the military base, taken while the Forensics were searching it, Miller was a man with a very sick mind.
He was not only a pedophile, but he also indulged in other forms of entertainment.
His bookshelf was filled with books about human anatomy, horror novels and books written by serial killers; even “Serial Killers - The Method and Madness of Monsters” by P. Vronsky, could be found there.
McGee knew that book; he had a copy of it himself and saw it as entertaining, if not a little useful as a source of research for his latest book, but now he needed to suppress the shivers of unease which were running up and down his spine.
Tim was surprised when he recognized some books about computer technology, but then remembered that Miller had a degree in computer programming.
He looked over every photo at least twice and made notes, but it wasn't long after he spied the assortment of children's books that he jumped up from his chair and ran to the nearest men's room, the picture of little Sarah's battered body still too vivid in his head.
Director Vance received the call at 1:00 am and was out of the door and on his way to headquarters in less than ten minutes.
A hacker had broken into the computer system at NCIS.
Leon Vance stood in MTAC thirty-two minutes later and bellowed orders, but the result couldn't be changed.
The hacker had been so fast that everything had been over in less than a minute.
"The hacker was in and out of our system in under forty-five seconds, Director," one of the men who was currently on active duty in MTAC reported.
"Any leads on what he was after?" The Director asked and watched as the man began to type on his keyboard.
"Well, all case-related files are still secure and even someone who knew what he was doing would need more than a minute to break into them."
The big screen in front of the Director came alive and a file popped up.
Director Vance cursed loudly.
"Can you put a back-track on him?" he asked, only barely controlling his anger and the agent he spoke to nodded sharply.
"I'm already on it, Sir," he replied, and needed only a few seconds more to have an address, which he shouted after the already retreating back of his Director.
"Shit!" The agent cursed and let himself relax for a moment before he looked up to the big screen, where a slightly younger Anthony DiNozzo was looking back.
Director Vance and his men reached the address in record time.
It was an abandoned warehouse at the docks and the agents, together with some MP's, were surrounding it as silently as they could.
"Sir?" a male voice asked the Director over his headset. "Are we going in?"
"We'll wait," Vance had called Gibbs on route and had to promise his agent that he would wait for him. Knowing about Gibbs' style of driving, it would only be a matter of minutes until the man reached them.
The atmosphere was more than a little tense when the sound of screeching tires finally announced the arrival of Special Agent Gibbs. Gibbs’ car came to a full stop only inches away from Director Vance’s; he jumped out of it with his weapon drawn and a murderous expression on his face.
"Anything?" He hissed to Leon Vance, who had taken cover behind the nearest corner of the building. Vance shook his head. The Director didn't know if he should be angry at his agent or not for this kind of behavior, but he could understand why Gibbs acted like he did and decided to ignore it, for now.
"We're ready to go in," he said to Gibbs and into his headset and everything after that happened very fast and very controlled.
The doors which led into the warehouse exploded inward and Agents and M.P.’s poured through them...
...only to stop in confusion.
The warehouse was completely empty, except for a chair, and a table on which a bright-colored notebook computer stood, humming quietly. The men, breathless from their actions, made room for Director Vance and Gibbs.
Suddenly, something from the table peeped and the monitor from the notebook showed Miller's grinning face.
"Ahh, Agent Gibbs and the nice...well," Miller looked at the right corner of the monitor and when Gibbs followed his gaze he discovered a small timer, which read 5 minutes and 59 seconds and was slowly counting backwards.
"You see," Miller continued and fixed his eyes on Gibbs. "I've decided to play a game and you, Special Agent Gibbs, and your Senior Field Agent will play with me."
Gibbs did not show any emotion, but waited for the things to come.
"The rules are easy, well, actually there is only one..." Miller grinned, like the monster he was. “Survive."
The monitor went black again and something under the table made a snapping sound and the clock began to move faster. Gibbs saw with unease how it went from 3 minutes to 1 in a heartbeat.
Gibbs turned around and shouted, "Run!" He grabbed the Director by the scruff of his neck and propelled them both to the nearest door.
They cleared the warehouse, with only a second to spare, before the blast of the explosion hit them and threw them to the ground.
After they got their breath back and satisfied themselves that no one had been badly injured, they made their way over to Vance's car, where the Director called it in.
Leon Vance was normally a picture of self-control; that the man was now barking orders filled Gibbs with a slight feeling of sympathy for the man.
And Gibbs had really wanted to hate the man, since Vance had tried so hard to break up his team after Jenny Shepard's death.
Vance turned to Gibbs and barked, "I want him, Gibbs. I don't care how you do it, but I want his ass on a platter-"
The fire department sirens cut through the rest and Gibbs watched how Vance made a face. Gibbs saw that Vance made an effort to get himself under control, before he stared with expectation at the Agent, who nodded once and turned to his car.
"I mean it, Gibbs," Vance called after him. "I don't care how you do it, but I want enough of him left to face the court."
"Yes, Sir."
Two days later
The girl, maybe five years old, ran around the playground with a huge smile on her freckled face.
"Mummy, Mummy...look," she jumped as high as she could, which was not high in the adult's eyes, but gigantic for her. From the benches beside the sandbox came enthusiastic clapping.
"That was a good one, Ashley, really good," a woman, apparently the mother, called, before she turned once again to the woman at her side.
Miller, who sat two benches away, smiled. Ashley. What a beautiful, beautiful name.
A few hours later
Madison Cooper sat between two police officers and cried.
Someone had taken her baby!
"Boss," McGee called, when he saw Gibbs at the vending machine.
Gibbs looked in his direction and waved his hand in acknowledgment, before he turned back to the machine and growled at it, when the heavy, sweet smell of hot cocoa filled the air..
"We have a problem, Boss," McGee said from behind the older agent.
"You mean, besides the fact that a psycho is taunting us and this machine is not able to produce a simple cup of coffee?" Gibbs growled, pulled the cup out of the machine and let it drop into the trashcan beside it.
"Miller has kidnapped another girl," blurted Tim and swallowed hard, when steely eyes turned to him.
"What?" Gibbs hissed.
McGee nodded and opened the folder he held in his hands, “Her name is Ashley Cooper, she's almost six. Miller kidnapped her from the Hoover Playground."
McGee pulled a photo out of the folder and showed it to his boss.
Bright blue eyes in a round face, which was covered with freckles and framed by fiery red hair, was looking back at him.
Gibbs swallowed hard and an icy knot formed in his throat.
"How can we be sure that that's Miller's work?"
"He left a note," McGee pulled a paper out and handed it to Gibbs.

To Special Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs,
knowing that Agent DiNozzo is still in the hospital, this part of the game is just for you. Better call this number as soon as you can, but before 6 pm., or I'll kill the girl and you'll find her tomorrow on your doorstep instead of seeing her joined with her parents again. And I don't think I need to tell you what I'll do to her before, right?

Gibbs looked at his watch.
4:45 pm.
"Put a trace on this number," he ordered and took a deep breath, before he opened his cellphone.
"Agent Gibbs," Miller's voice sounded sweet and cheerful. "Don't say a word now..."
Gibbs held his breath and could hear a child crying in the background.
"You have 45 minutes to reach Leonardo's Café at 1144 G Street NW. There is a telephone in it...Wait for my call, oh, and come alone."
"God dammit!" Gibbs cursed and looked over at McGee, who was still talking on his phone. McGee looked up and shook his head negatively.
"Son of a bitch," Gibbs slammed his right hand against the nearest wall and stood still for a moment as the sharp pain burst through his arm.
"Boss?" McGee asked in a shocked voice.
"I have to go to Leonard's Café at 1144 G Street NW and he says that I have to come alone."
"Okay, um, we need to wire you," McGee began, but was interrupted by Gibbs harsh words.
"I have 45 minutes."
"What? It's almost impossible to reach the address in 45 minutes, let alone wire you first," McGee stopped talking, when he saw how Gibbs looked at him.
"Sorry Boss," he said.
Gibbs turned around and was halfway down the floor, before he remembered that his car was still at his house; Dr. Mallard had picked him up this morning.
"McGee," he shouted and saw how his agent talked at his phone. "I need your car."
McGee, who was trying hard to organize some backup for his boss in less than 40 minutes, pulled the keys for his car out of his coat and cast them in Gibbs' direction, who caught them effortlessly.
The young Agent could only hope that he would see his car again.
"Come on, Tony," McGee tried to push DiNozzo back down without using too much force. "I didn't tell you about it so that you could go after Gibbs."
DiNozzo hissed in a mixture of pain and anger.
"He'll need backup," Tony said and tried again to climb out of bed, but his energy was fading fast.
"I know, Tony, believe me," McGee said. "Director Vance said he would do anything necessary to have Gibbs' six."
"Vance?" Tony's voice sounded more than doubtful.
"Yeah, the Director made it his personal vendetta after Miller tried to blow them up in this warehouse the other day," McGee explained and sighed with relief, when Tony stopped his struggling. "Don't worry, Tony," McGee tucked the blanket a little tighter around Tony's body. "I'm sure they’ll catch him."
Tony nodded sleepily. "I only hope they get him in time."
"Me, too, Tony."
The car Gibbs was driving came to a screeching stop in front of the little Café with only three minutes to spare. He sighed when he saw how crowded it was inside. Gibbs swore that he would make Miller suffer for this. He pulled his gold badge from his belt and ran into the building.
Gibbs grabbed the first person he met, shoved the badge under that person's nose and growled. "Where is the phone?"
"O...o...over t-there," the surprised man stuttered, pointing to the other side of the room.
"Damn," there was no way in hell that he could make it over there in time, with all the people in there, but then he saw that the tables stood really close to each other; jumped up on the first one beside him and jumped from one to another, a few times he almost slipped and more than one person jumped up from his chair and tried to make a grab for him, but he reached the phone, just when it started to ring and he saw a woman reach for it.
"No!" he shouted. "Step away from that phone."
The woman ignored him, but Gibbs pushed her aside, grabbed the receiver and shouted "I'm here, I'm here!"
"Tsk, tsk, tsk," Miller said. "Almost too late, my friend."
"What now?" Gibbs asked and held his badge into the face of an angry looking man, apparently the woman's boyfriend, who backed down when he saw the gold shield.
"Now...Agent'll take the Metro Number 513 and you'll stay on it until you reach the Rosslyn Metro Station. There is a maintenance tunnel. You can reach it through a door at the right side right under the stairs," something on Miller's side of the phone began to beep. "Better hurry, Leroy. The train is almost at your stop."
Gibbs slammed the receiver back on its cradle and shouted "Where the hell is the next Metro station?"
The boyfriend was the one who answered him. "Over there, man," he pointed through the window to the other side of the street.
"Out of my way," Gibbs shouted and took the same way out as he had taken in, only this time the people knew what was coming and kept out of his way.
He ran across the street, thankful that his reflexes prevented him from getting struck by a car and took the stairs down to the station two at a time.
He jumped over the restrictions, but was almost stopped by a security guard.
Gibbs flashed his badge and shouted "Gibbs- NCIS!" He knew the man would call it in and hoped his own men were listening in.
He reached his goal almost too late again and slipped through the closing doors with only a millisecond to spare.
Gibbs let himself fall on one of the free seats and tried to get his breathing back under control.
"I'm getting to old for this," he thought.
Ashley cried softly.
She was so afraid.
The man had taken her away from her mother and carried her to a car at the other side of the park, before he had pressed a sweet smelling cloth over her mouth and nose. She'd lost consciousness and awoken in a strange looking room, long and small and dark; the windows were covered with paint, except for one, which was covered in dirt instead and tilted.
Something moved at the other side of the room and the girl whimpered loudly and pulled her knees against her chest.
Tony watched McGee's pacing with a frown and tried hard to understand what the man was murmuring.
"McGoo," Tony finally said and tried to move a little, but the pain in his lower back stopped him and he let out a pained gasp, which caused McGee to stop in his tracks.
"Tony? You alright?"
"No," Tony hissed and glared at McGee. "I'm in pain and I'm annoyed as hell because of your pacing and murmuring."
"Sorry," McGee blushed.
"Did you hear something from Gibbs?" Tony asked.
DiNozzo had closed his eyes for a few minutes and felt out of sync with the world, and sighed when McGee shook his head negatively.
"Maybe you can call Ducky? Maybe he has some news?"
"Please, please, pleeeeaaaassseee?"
“Okay, but you stay here and don't move," McGee ordered. "And after this I'll call a nurse and you'll take the pain meds."
Now it was Tony's turn to sigh.
"Okay Probie, if that will make you happy," Tony said.
McGee smiled "Ohh yeah, DiNozzo. It'll make me ecstatic."
"Oh, sarcasm Tim? I'm surprised," Tony taunted and both men felt some of their tension slip away with the familiar banter.
McGee rose.
“Where you going, McFluff?” Tony asked irritated when he realized that McGee wanted to leave the room.
“I thought I should call Ducky?” McGee answered with a frown.
“Yeah, but what's wrong with the phone over there?”
McGee followed Tony's pointed finger to the windowsills where a telephone stood.
He went over to it and lifted the receiver from its cradle, his frown deepening when he couldn't hear anything, “It's not working.”
McGee put the receiver back and turned the apparatus around, he sighed when he saw that the cable was missing, “Looks like I've got to use the phone on the floor.”
The Metro reached Gibbs' stop twenty minutes after he jumped on the train, and he tried to reach the stairs as fast as he could, which wasn’t easy with all these people heading in the same direction.
Gibbs laid his right hand on the butt of his weapon, which was clipped on his belt, and used his foot to kick the door open.
The light falling through the door was dim and a dirty orange color, but bright enough to reveal a set of stairs leading downstairs.
The Agent pulled his weapon and switched the safety off as he descended them.
McGee dialed the number of the autopsy department and hoped that he would be able to reach Ducky; he almost cursed when Jimmy Palmer, Ducky’s assistant, answered instead.
"Autopsy, Palmer speaking."
"Hey Jimmy, McGee here, is Doctor Mallard around?" Tim asked.
"Uhm no, Agent McGee. He's with Abby," Palmer said. "How's Tony today?"
"In pain," McGee said. "But still better then he'd been."
"Oh, okay. Shall I tell Dr. Mallard that you called?"
"That won't be necessary, Jimmy, but thank you," Tim replied. "I'll call Abby."
McGee dialed Abby's number and had to smile at Abby's "It's your money, so better talk fast."
The news the young goth gave him was devastating.
They'd lost Gibbs!
"How could that happen?" Tim asked.
Abby tried to sound patient and professional, even when she felt she would burst into tears at any minute.
"The Director tracked him with cameras in MTAC and directed the backup, but they lost the visual connection when he went into a Metro station," McGee could hear Dr. Mallard's voice and Abby went on. "They could track him with the GPS in his cellphone for a while, but they've lost that signal, too."
Abby burst into tears now "Oh Timmy. What do we do? What if...what if..."
McGee felt the sting of tears in his eyes. It pained him so much to hear Abby cry. "Ssh, Abs...nothing will happen to him," McGee soothed. "Ssh..."
Suddenly Dr. Mallard's voice came through the receiver. "Don't you worry about Abigail, my boy. I will stay with her as long as she needs me to."
"Thank you, Doctor."
McGee sighed, when he put the receiver back and turned around to head back to Tony's room, only to come face to face with Director Leon Vance.
"Agent McGee," the Director said. "The recent situation makes it necessary to move Agent DiNozzo to a safe house as soon as we have clearance from his doctor."
"I understand, Sir," McGee said. "But I don't think that it will be anytime soon, sir; the doctor said his blood work would show signs of infection."
Vance nodded in understanding. "Then we'll move him to Bethesda.”
The nurse came in after McGee left the room and took Tony’s temperature.
The thermometer beeped and she smiled softly at the a little dazed-looking, young man, pulled his blanket up, and headed out of the room as fast as she could to get the doctor.
Tony felt too warm and too uncomfortable; his abdomen was burning and felt swollen, every move was sending jolts of sharp pain through his body.
The Doctor was busy with taking blood, when McGee and the Director came into the room.
"What going on?" asked McGee, when he saw how miserable Tony suddenly appeared.
"Mr. DiNozzo developed a fever and I'm afraid that the infection is getting worse."
"I thought you had him on antibiotics?"McGee growled, and the doctor nodded.
"Well yes, but there is no saying if an antibiotic is the right one against an infection. There is always the chance that we’ll need to try different types to bring an infection under control."
"So I take it you'll try a new one?" the Director asked.
"Yes," the Doctor confirmed.
“What, if this one also doesn’t work?" McGee asked.
"Well," the Doctor made some notes on his clipboard. "We would need to re-open the wound and try to flush the infection out."
"I want him moved to Bethesda," the Director growled.
The Doctor tensed up "Not in his current condition."
Vance pulled his cellphone out and after a short, but intense conversation, closed it again.
"The chopper will be here in one hour." Vance said. "I expect my agent to be ready with his paperwork done by then."
Ziva was pacing; well, not really pacing.
There was no way that she could pace with crutches, but still...
Agent Peters’ patience was beginning to wear down with every passing minute.
"Officer David," he said finally. "Maybe you should take your pain meds and lay down a little, hmmm?"
"I'm not a child, Agent Peters," Ziva growled.
"No, I know," Peters sighed. "But you can't help Gibbs and DiNozzo if you wear yourself out," he bent over to her. "Come on, David. As soon as you're better and can get rid of those things-” he pointed at the crutches in Ziva's hands, “-the better it will be for everyone."
Ziva nodded, but frowned.
Agent Peters, as if being able to read her mind, simply sighed and pulled a deck of cards from one of his pockets.
The stairs were slippery and the darkness made every step guesswork.
Gibbs moved slowly and had to stop when a big rat crossed his path and disappeared into a hole in the opposite wall.
The man listened intently before he moved on, watching out for any signs of Miller or the little girl, but the only sounds he could hear were the sounds of dripping water and the scraping of tiny feet.
The Agent reached the bottom of the stairs and took in as much as he could with one look.
The old station Miller had spoken of was directly in front of him, but he was exposed in the open, so he decided to search for a way down which would provide him with a little more cover.
A loud, snapping sound from the other side of the big hall made Gibbs stop and he needed to close his eyes for a moment, when the old light bulbs flashed on and covered everything in bright, yellow light, it blinded him for a few seconds.
When he opened his eyes again he saw an old wagon standing on a part of cut-off rails.
He saw movement in it, before Miller's voice pulled his concentration away from the wagon to the other side of the hall, and Gibbs jumped behind a few old crates for cover.
"Well, well," Miller said. "You can't imagine how pleased I am to see you here, Leroy."
Gibbs slipped out of his coat and his suit jacket. He needed to be able to move freely, if he wanted to catch the maniac.
"What do you want, Miller?" Gibbs shouted.
"Oh, nothing much, Leroy," Miller replied. "I only want to move this game along and then travel to Mexico."
"Not going to happen, Miller!"
"Ha!" Miller shouted back. "Who will stop me? YOU?"
Gibbs snorted.
"You'll need to get to me first, but I'm sure that'll be impossible for you," Gibbs heard the echo of someone moving, but couldn't pinpoint the location.
"Oh? And why is that, Miller?" Gibbs asked and tried to have a look over the crates.
"I left some nice surprises for you down here, oh, before I forget," Miller shouted. "Your goal is in the wagon you can see over there. I'm sure little Ashley is ready to go home by now."
Gibbs felt his anger raising.
"If you touched her-" he began, but was cut off.
"You'll have twenty-five minutes to reach the wagon, Leroy. If you lose, which I believe is more than likely, I'll go and will have a chat with your Senior Field Agent and believe me, my friend, I will have a lot of more fun then he’ll have."
Gibbs curled his free hand into a fist and gripped his weapon a little tighter.
"I'll kill you first," he shouted over to Miller and heard him laugh.
"You can try, L-e-r-o-y!" Miller sing-songed. “I'll see you in hell, Agent Gibbs, and keep in mind, twenty-five minutes.”
Vance was on his way back to headquarters. His cellphone rang every few minutes and an agent reported the latest news, or lack of it, regarding the search for Agent Gibbs.
The Director looked at the file which had started it all and the same sort of shock filled him just like at the last few times, when he had read the autopsy report of little Sarah Rains.
She had been in the same age then as his daughter.
Vance swallowed hard, but forced himself to read the reports, again.
Evidence of multiple rapes.
Evidence of torture...Welts on her back, thighs and legs.
Cuts all over her small body.
Almost every bone in her body had been broken and if this had not been enough, Miller had smashed her face in and dumped her body behind some brushes in a park near the Navy Yard, almost as if to taunt them.
Vance turned the page and for a moment was unprepared for the photos that slipped out of the file.
He had seen them more times then he wanted already, but every time he found more wounds...more pain.
His stomach twisted and his eyes welled up.
All he could do was use the switch of the intercom and bark "Stop!"
The driver reacted immediately and stopped the SUV at the side of the road, after he'd crossed two lanes and ignored the resulting angry drivers, who were making their displeasure known with lots of honking.
Director Vance pushed his door open and bent his head out just in time for him to not vomit into his car.
The driver turned in his seat and looked uneasy for a moment, until the Director sat up again and closed his door.
Gibbs almost stepped on a tripwire and he cursed for what felt like the hundredth time.
It seemed that Miller had rigged the whole way from the stairs to the wagon with a number of nasty surprises.
Two times he hadn't seen the wire and stepped on it.
Two times, in which he had been sure that this would have been his last step.
Two times a table firework had gone off and left him stunned for a moment with a shrill ringing in his ears.
When the last firework had gone off Gibbs had heard the girl in the wagon screaming, which was a good sign in his eyes, because it gave him the proof that little Ashley was still alive.
The way was hard, harder than the Agent had anticipated at first.
Too much time had passed already and the light was flickering on and off now, the old cables and light bulbs not longer able to work properly with all the sudden electricity running through them after all this time of apparent non-use.
“Ashley?" He called the girl's name and hoped that she wasn't too afraid to answer him. "Ashley? Are you in there, honey?"
He'd called Kelly “honey” once.
A long time ago.
Painful memories made his vision blur, but he crushed them down ruthlessly, before they could do too much damage.
He had all the time of the world for things like that, after he got Ashley out and when he was back in his basement with his boat and a full bottle of bourbon.
Gibbs almost missed the soft-spoken answer to his question.
"Yes," the girl answered.
Gibbs couldn't be sure, but he saw a shadow of movement behind one of the windows.
"My name is Jethro," Gibbs said and tried to concentrate on the way in front of him.
"Can you see me?" he asked.
"No, th-th-the window is too dirty," Ashley's voice was heavy with fear. "Will you bring me to my mommy?"
"I-" Gibbs glared for a moment at another tripwire, before he stepped over it. "I will do my best, Ashley."
"I want my mommy," the words were so soft spoken that Gibbs almost missed them.
"I know," Gibbs sighed in relief when he reached the door without another incidence. "Can you come to the door, Ashley?"
Gibbs tried to check if it would be safe to open the door, but the lights of the old station started to flicker in earnest now....
He laid a hand on the handle and prayed desperately for some help from above.
The lights abruptly turned off.
Ashley began to scream.
The darkness was all around him like a living thing, wanting to swallow him whole, but he ignored everything as adrenalin rushed through his body, and he pressed the handle down and yanked the door open in a single move.
Ashley stood near enough for Gibbs to touch her arm and he made a grab for her, pulling her small body through the door and close to his body.
Ashley didn't stop screaming.
The girl, not knowing what was happening to her, kicked her legs and beat her fists against the hard, big body that was suddenly holding her.
Gibbs grunted once, when a small foot made painful contact with his groin and hissed a "Stop it, Ashley," at the girl in his arms. "It's alright, Ashley....shh."
The events of the last day took its toll on the girl and after she had screamed for a moment longer and kicked for all she was worth at her attacker, she sank into Gibbs arms and sobbed.
"Mommy," she said hoarsely between sobs and Gibbs pressed her a little tighter against his chest.
The lights were still out when he turned back in the direction in which he knew the stairs would be.
The agent looked at his wristwatch and thanked God that he let Tony talk him into a watch with light.
"Look, boss," Tony had said. "Even someone like you HAS to reach the year 2000 someday." Gibbs had shot him a glare that would have had McGee running for cover, but Tony had only smiled and shrugged it off.
One minute 45 seconds were left from the twenty minute time-line Miller had given him and Gibbs couldn't help but wonder what would happen when the time was up.
Something clicked, and the echo of it sounded through the wide hall and made him jump.
Ashley tensed, but kept silent, her sobbing had given way to tired sniffles.
"I think we need to hurry up a little," he whispered into one of her ears and started to move.
Tony was in his very own hell.
His body felt like it was on fire and the pain was almost unbearable.
Someone moved a cold cloth over his face and neck and he tried to move into the touch, but the pain flared again and he couldn't hold back a scream.
McGee jumped when Tony screamed and watched with a pounding heart how the nurse patted Tony's arm, before she disappeared out of the door.
"Hold on, Tony," McGee said and moved closer to the bed Tony was in.
The door burst open and four people came in.
McGee blocked their way with a hand on the butt of his weapon.
"What the hell is going on?" he asked with a growl.
"My name is Doctor Stephen Franklin," a man said, and McGee watched how the others of the group made way for the dark-skinned man, who stepped closer to him and pulled an ID from his breast pocket. "I'm the doctor in charge of Agent DiNozzo's moving to Bethesda."
McGee took the ID from Dr. Franklin's hands and pulled his cellphone out.
No way in hell would he let them take Tony without a confirmation first. "Abby? Yeah, I need..."
Dr. Franklin looked patiently at the agent in front of him, but was distracted by a moan from the man lying in the bed.
"Okay thanks," McGee closed his phone a moment later and made way for the men. "I'm sorry, Doctor," McGee began, when he handed the ID back to the doctor, but the doctor waved his hand dismissively.
“I understand, Agent,” the doctor replied. “Even if I don't like the fact that you're using a cellphone in here.”
McGee blushed, but recovered fast. “I'm sorry, the phone is-”
“That's alright, Agent...?"
"Agent McGee," the doctor turned to Tony. "How long has he been in this condition?"
"Uhm," McGee looked at his watch. "Almost an hour."
"Okay," Dr. Franklin nodded and looked at the chart a nurse was holding out to him, before he turned to the three remaining people. "We better get going then."
Gibbs moved as fast as he could with his precious burden, but the darkness and obstacles made it slow going.
He tried to remember where the trip wires were placed, but everything looked different now and he recognized the place too late.
He stepped on the wire and heard an odd sound, just before white, hot pain shot through his back and he stumbled, before he could catch himself.
Ashley whimpered and tried to press herself tighter against her rescuer.
Gibbs could hear a snapping sound coming from everywhere around him, just before something on the wagon began to beep loudly.
Their time was up.
Same time, Abby's lab
Dr. Mallard looked at Abby, who was busy typing on her computer.
The Director had just called and demanded to know how it had been possible that Tony was shot behind this dumpster and had ordered Abby to make a graphic based on the photos taken at the scene.
Abby had growled and hissed, but did what the Director wanted her to do and was currently typing on two keyboards.
"Abigail, my dear, what are you doing?" Dr. Mallard asked and tried to look over Abby's shoulder.
Abby pointed at one of the two monitors in front of them. "This is my baby which is generating some possibilities about how Tony could have gotten shot and my baby over there- " Abby pointed at the other one. "- is helping us to find Gibbs."
"Well, my dear," Dr. Mallard said, but was interrupted by Abby who cried out in surprise when she saw something on her monitor.
"Abigail?" Dr. Mallard went pale.
"Sorry, sorry Duckman," Abby didn't look up from what she did, but typed furiously on one of her keyboards.
"What is happening?" the man asked.
"A security man at the Metro station at G Street reported a man a few minutes ago, who was heading to the subway train number 513; he was waving a gold shield and shouted ‘NCIS’."
"Jethro," Dr. Mallard breathed and Abby nodded.
"We can work with this, Duckman" Abby grinned. "The train stops at ..."
McGee watched how they got Tony ready for transport.
His partner was hooked up on portable monitors and the I.V. was changed and put under Tony's head after the young man was lifted onto a stretcher.
"We'll move him in a few minutes; we only have to wait until the pain meds do their work," said Dr. Franklin while he signed a stack of papers, smiling at a nurse who was standing beside him. "He goes directly into surgery when we arrive at Bethesda."
"Surgery?" McGee gasped.
"Yes," Dr. Franklin looked up from his work. "Something is not right with that wound and we need to clean it thoroughly to get rid of the infection, which will be painful without any anesthesia."
McGee gulped.
They watched together, how Tony's body started to relax.
"Okay," Dr. Franklin pushed the papers into the hands of the waiting nurse. "No time like the present."
They had Tony on a stretcher and out of the door in a little over a minute and McGee was surprised about how efficiently they had all worked together.
Gibbs tripped over his own feet and had to fight hard to stay upright.
The pain in his back was a burning sensation now and he pushed it as far away from himself as he could.
The little body in his arms was more important than anything else.
So much like his little Kelly.
The beeping behind him grew more rapid with every passing second.
Gibbs stumbled on and stopped only a few centimeters in front of a wire; if he remembered correctly this had been the last one and he was taken aback when he caught himself praying for it to be true.
Ashley whimpered and Gibbs patted her back softly to give her some kind of comfort, before he stepped over the wire and moved on again.
He almost missed the fact that the beeping had stopped.
Miller hurried up the hidden stairs, glad that he had found the second tunnel, when he had spiked the place with his little traps.
His plan was perfect.
He'd baited Gibbs to the old station with little Ashley's help.

Sweet little Ashley.
A warm feeling spread through him, when the memories of her flooded his mind and he felt a very familiar tightening in his groin.
He regretted that he couldn't have her, that he couldn't do all this sweet things like he had with little Sarah, but he took comfort that he could always find another sweet, little girl when everything was finished here.
He thought about the man who had given him the information he had needed to plan everything and sighed.

"You can see me as an ally," the man said and Miller snorted.
"An ally? And what's in it for you in all this?" Miller asked.
"I want Gibbs and DiNozzo dead," the man said, and then opened a briefcase, which was filled with money, a manila folder was placed on top of it. "This has all the information you'll need to hack into the main computer at NCIS."
Miller accepted the folder and whistled, amazed.
"I want them to suffer, Miller," the man said and pushed a duffel bag in front of Miller. "Here are some goodies, which can help you with it, if you want."
Miller bent down and opened the bag and stroked with his hand over one of the many packs C-4.
"Ohh, I think I will have lots of fun."
The man nodded and straightened his coat, before he grabbed some of the money out of the briefcase, closed the lid of it and turned to go. "You can get the rest, when you've finished it."
"Hey," Miller shouted after him."What makes you so sure that I won't turn you in?"
The man turned around and smiled a cold smile, which had Miller swallowing nervously.
"I know you won't do something like that, Miller," the man answered. "You wouldn't want to go to prison for what you did to little Sarah. I'm sure you know what would happen to a man like you in there, right? And I heard, Mexico is beautiful at this time of the year. All this money in there-” the man pointed at the briefcase. “-will be enough for a comfortable living."
Miller nodded in understanding and watched how the man turned around. "Make sure that you let me know when you're ready for the action. I want to be near when you take them out."
Miller waited until the man was gone, before he slid down to the cold ground of the old warehouse and opened the file.

Miller giggled as he remembered the shocked faces of the three Agents when he had shot at them in the back alley.

Miller had staked out DiNozzo for almost two weeks, before the agent led him to his informant.
He was a little junkie named Freddy X, who at first looked panicked when he recognized Miller from one of the photos DiNozzo had shown him, but when Miller waved some bills under the man's nose and showed him a little bag filled with enough coke for two hits, the man had eagerly called DiNozzo and told the agent what Miller had told him to say.
Miller had watched how Freddy had pulled a syringe out of his pocket and fixed himself a hit. He had waited until the drug took its effect on Freddy, before he pulled a small caliber pistol out of his pocket and screwed a silencer on it.
There was no point in attracting too much audience from the streets around them.
Miller put the muzzle against Freddy's forehead. The man had blinked his eyes a few times, before he smiled up at Miller and asked "Don't you want to have some fun?"
Miller had looked offended. "Don't take me wrong, sweet-cheeks, but you're too old for me."
Freddy had looked down as if he had been ashamed of his question and Miller had used the moment to pull the trigger. Then he had driven through half the town and waited.

Sure, he could have taken out DiNozzo a few times already in the last two weeks while he had staked him out, but the man had demanded that they suffer and Miller hadn't wanted to disappoint him.
DiNozzo's words back in the alley had made him as mad as hell and confirmed his plan to let him die extra slowly.
Miller burst through the door at the end of the tunnel and slithered to a halt in front of a man clad in a black suit.
They nodded at each other and Miller grinned broadly, before he accepted the jacket the man was holding out to him.
"We have to go to the General Hospital now, if you want to have your way with DiNozzo," the man said and Miller rubbed his hands together. "Are you sure he won't survive?”
The man looked at the door and Miller grinned, ”What? Afraid that Gibbs will come through it?”
The man glared at Miller without a word and Miller shrugged, before he answered, “Don't worry, he'll die with a big bang."
Gibbs had almost reached the top of the stairs, which would lead them to the exit he had come down from, when the wagon transformed itself into a ball of fire and wildly flying debris.
He gasped in shock, even though he knew that this could happen and stumbled when the blast of the explosion reached them a millisecond after the explosion occurred.
The blast pushed them the rest of the way upstairs and Gibbs used all his strength to reach the nearest crate and use it for cover against the flying shards of metal and glass.
He could feel the stinging of small cuts on his neck and parts of his face, but he ignored it as well as he could.
The need to keep the small girl in his arms safe was the only thing that kept him going now.
Another explosion echoed through the old station and Gibbs covered Ashley with his own body.
The girl felt the big body jerk over her and whimpered in fear.
Big hands were cupping her ears and still her head began to hurt from all the noise.
Suddenly the big body went limp over her and the weight of it pushed down on Ashley's small body.
Ashley pushed at it with everything she had, until it slipped a little to the side and she could breath freely again.
She moved her hand over what felt like the head of a man, Jethro, her memories supplied her with a name, and she felt a warm wetness on her fingers.
"Hey Mister," she said and patted the man's cheek. "Mister? Are you okay?"
Gibbs awoke to hands moving over him and moaned at the pain they inflicted. He heard a girl cry and a woman's voice, which tried to soothe the crying girl.
"Ssh...ssh, everything is alright, baby," the woman said. "You'll see, Hank will take good care of him."
The heavy smell of alcohol and cheap cigarettes assaulted Gibbs' nose and he retched a few times before he got himself under control again.
"Take it easy, man," a man said into his ear and patted his shoulder. "You've got a nasty bump on your head there."
Gibbs tried to sit up, but his head throbbed with the beat of his pulse and he let himself sink down again with a low groan.
"Yeah," the man's voice said. "I know how that feels, my friend." Strong hands grabbed his arm and pulled him upright."Come on, you can't stay here."
Gibbs opened his eyes. The darkness was not as dark as it had been.
Down the stairs, a fire was flickering where the wagon had been and it lit the old station with an orange glow. Debris was lay everywhere and shards of glass and metal were glimmering on the ground like a myriad collection of diamonds.
The fire helped Gibbs to see the face of the man the woman had called Hank.
He was a homeless man apparently, sixtyish, with grey hair and a weather-beaten face.
The clothes he was wearing had seen better days, but his hands were sure of what they were doing.
"Mary Lou?" the man asked, and helped Gibbs to sit up before he flung Gibbs' arm over his shoulder. "You go ahead and be careful on those stairs."
Mary Lou gave a very unladylike snort, but Gibbs could see a shadow moving ahead of them, so he could be sure that the woman did what she was told.
"Stupid, thick-headed..."
Gibbs heard her swearing, but Hank cut her off, before she could say anything more. "Shut up, woman, and move those bony legs of yours."
The girl had thankfully stopped screaming and was now watching everything with wide eyes.
Ashley, Gibbs’ mind banished the thick fog out of his head and he sighed in relief.
If only the pain would disappear, too.
"Boy," the man, Hank, said suddenly. "There is something sticking from your back."
Gibbs looked disbelievingly at the man. "What is it?" he asked.
"I'm not sure," Hank replied. "Not enough light in here. Let's move upstairs first, then I'll have a look at it," Hank grabbed Gibbs a little tighter and moved to the stairs.
Miller smiled.
The information the man had given him about the main computer at NCIS had been detailed enough to hack into it without too many problems and he had found Gibbs’ and DiNozzo's personnel files fairly easily.
He ignored Gibbs' file; he was sure that the number of surprises he had set up for him at the station would kill the agent in a matter of minutes.
Miller had instead concentrated on DiNozzo and the information about the Senior Field Agent; the agent’s home address was especially of interest for him...
He still had a few packages of C-4 left...
Miller had convinced his ally to drive over to the address he'd provided him with before they made their way over to the hospital and he had disappeared into the house for a few minutes.
When he finally opened the car again and slipped into it, the man had growled his displeasure and started the car, only to be stopped by Miller's hand on his arm.
The man looked up and saw the little black box in Miller's hand and the devilish gleam in the mad man's eyes.
"What's this for?" the man asked and Miller chuckled low in his throat.
"This my friend, is my little surprise for Agent DiNozzo," Miller said and activated the little box with a flick of his finger. "I only need to press this button here," he pointed to the middle of the little box. "And everything DiNozzo owns will go up smoke."
The man looked up in surprise and nodded eagerly. "So, do it already," he said.
Both man watched with wonder in their eyes as the apartment exploded into a ball of fire.
They could hear alarmed shouting coming from all directions and the man turned away from the sight in front of them when he heard Miller's snickering, before he turned the key in the ignition and drove away.
Tony groaned when he was lifted into the chopper. He felt hot and uneasy, but oddly pain free.
His vision was blurry, but he was aware of the people around him; he heard them talking and took comfort in it, even when he couldn't understand the words.
They reached the Naval Hospital at Bethesda a few minutes later and true to Dr. Franklin's words, Tony was immediately bustled away into an operating room.
McGee was accepted into the chopper, but had to stay behind after they reached the hospital.
After a friendly nurse had led him into a waiting room and provided him with a fresh cup of coffee, he'd been told to wait.
Abby typed furiously on her keyboard, until she found a way to hack into the security system of the Metro stations that lay on the on Line 513.
She went through the videos of every station at the time in question, which was quite frustrating and time-consuming.
"Stop the tape right there, Abigail," Dr. Mallard said suddenly and with that surprised the hell out of the young Goth.
"What is it, Duckman?" she asked when she had regained her breath. "Did you see something?"
"Well, Abigail, "Dr. Mallard said. "I could be wrong, but isn't that Jethro?"
The older ME pointed at the large screen which hung on one wall of Abby's lab.
Abby had to step nearer and with every step began her heart to pound louder. There on the screen was Gibbs heading to the stairs, which would lead him out of the station.
"He's on his way out, Ducky." Abby said and turned around to her computer.
"Well, it looks like it, but I'm not so sure about it, my dear," Dr. Mallard replied.
Abby hit a key and the video began to play again. "No," Abby said suddenly. "You're right, he isn't on his way out."
She zoomed the picture until both of them could see Gibbs opening a door and slipping through.
"Can you find out what's behind this door, Abigail?" Dr. Mallard asked and Abby nodded a few times.
"If there's something behind it, we'll find it."
Gibbs had a hard time keeping up with the stranger beside him.
Every few steps his legs gave way, and his body began to spasm painfully.
The man had to fight really hard to get them both up the stairs.
The woman, Mary Lou, stopped every few steps to wait for them, until Hank hissed at her with anger in his voice, then she had disappeared into the darkness.
"Come on, boy," Hank whispered into Gibbs' ear, when his legs began to give out again. "We need to get going for a moment longer."
"I'm trying," Gibbs grunted.
"I know, boy, I know."
Another explosion rocked the tunnel and Hank gasped as he felt the thin handrail under his hands shake violently and break away.
They stumbled before Hank found his footing and stood secure again.
"Shit," the man cursed. "This is almost like when I was in Vietnam. Come on, before the next one shoots us to the moon."
Mary Lou reached the room that would lead them to the outside and used a long, dirty coat to wrap the girl and protect her from unwanted attention.
"Mommy?" the girl asked and a deep pain cut through Mary Lou's heart.
"No, baby," she answered in a whisper and pressed the small body a little tighter to her. "We'll find your mommy, my love. I promise.”
Hank and the stranger burst out of the tunnel and almost ran her over.
"Did you see this guy, Mary Lou?" Hank asked and let Gibbs slowly slip down to the floor.
"I didn't ...I...I..."Mary Lou pressed the girl a little too tight and Ashley made a pained sound.
"Mary Lou!" sharp and commanding. "Let the girl down and help me with that boy."
Mary Lou looked for a moment like she wanted to argue, but in the end did what she was told.
Together they rolled Gibbs onto his side and Hank got his first good look at the thing in the man's back.
A bolt from a crossbow stuck out from the right side of the man's back and Hank was both relieved and horrified.
Relieved, because the bolt hadn't gone deep and looked like it had been fired from some distance.
Horrified, because the tips of those bolts could be wicked to pull out.
Mary gasped when her hand made contact with the back of the man's skull and came back covered with blood, but she gathered herself fast enough to earn only a glare from Hank.
"We need to get him to a hospital, Hank. He could be badly injured," Mary began, but this time was cut off by Gibbs.
"," he stammered.
"The General?" Hank looked disbelieving at the man under his hands. "Boy, there are a lot of other hospitals between here and the General."
"No...need to...need to go t..t..there."
Hank sighed and pulled a bottle out of his coat pocket, small and flat. "Well, I can't let you run around with this piece of wood in your back, especially if we have to travel through half the town."
Gibbs swallowed, but nodded in understanding.
"Mary Lou," a First-Aid-Kit was thrust into his hands and Gibbs recognized the shopping cart which stood to one side of the room, filled with all kinds of things.
Ashley sat huddled beside the cart, covered in something old and too big for her body, but she watched everything with dry eyes, which was better than her screaming.
“I have nothing to sterilize the things I need to use," Hank explained in a low voice, mindful of the girl. "What I have is some alcohol, but it will probably hurt like hell and deep water."
Gibbs closed his eyes and Hank took this as a sign to proceed.
Mary Lou handed him a knife and he cut through the back of Gibbs' shirt, until the bolt was lay free and easier to access.
"Maybe you can tell us about yourself, boy?" Hank said when he stopped to open the bottle. "It sure would make working a little easier."
Gibbs hissed in pain, when Hank jostled the bolt a little.
" name is L..Leroy Jethro Gibbs, I'm a...a Special Agent in NCIS."
"Ahh, that sure explains a lot."
"Give him something to bite on, woman." Hank ordered when he was ready. "Can't have him attract the wrong people."
A few moments later something was shoved into Gibbs' mouth and he was told to bite as hard as he could on it.
Hank scrubbed his hands briskly together, before he suddenly grabbed the bolt and pulled with all the power he possessed. Gibbs screamed.
Hank was a man who had been through a lot in his life.
Vietnam...Divorce...Gambling and alcohol.
He lost everything and found himself in a back alley one day, with nothing more in his pockets than a knife and a few bucks.
He had adapted to his new life fast enough.
He started to work at a soup kitchen and also began to help the people around him, and now was known everywhere as *Helpful- Hank*.
One night, when he was cruising through the streets, searching for bottles, he found Mary Lou hiding behind some bushes.
The woman had been badly beaten and raped.
Hank took her to his home in the basement of the soup kitchen and nursed her back to health, but it was soon clear that with the beating and everything else that had happened to her, she had lost her mind.
Hank called her Mary Lou; he never found out what her real name was and she never said a word about it, so he dismissed it, even when he knew that he shouldn't, but the woman looked happy where she was.
After a while, well, he began to care deeply for her and she became his right hand in everything.
She even put up with his moods.
Last spring the soup kitchen was closed down and they were kicked out of their home.
All they owned was placed into the shopping cart and after some searching, they finally settled down in one of the old, unused tunnels of the Metro system.
It was not nice to live in there, but they were safe and the maintenance workers who came down the tunnels sometimes to repair things ignored them most of the time.
Hank had always been good at watching people, something that had been useful in the war and couldn't simply be turned off now.
So, when he tried to panhandle some coins from the passengers, who were heading to their jobs, or from there to anywhere else they needed to be at, his gaze fell on someone with a big bundle in his arms who headed straight toward the tunnel under the stairs.
He had seen him there a lot, with bags and big cable drums and Hank even tried to get the attention of Phil, the security man at the station, but was shoved away and laughed at.
Inwardly the old man thought it was kind of odd, that the man could move around that freely, with no one noticing anything.
He wanted to follow the man, but Mary Lou had problems with a bunch of kids, who thought it would be funny to overturn their cart, and after he had helped her he had forgotten about the strange man and those bundles of his.
Well, until he saw the second man.
The man who had pulled a weapon, before he opened the door and stepped through it.
This man he followed after he told Mary Lou to wait in the room above the stairs of the tunnel for him.
He watched everything from his safe place at the foot of the stairs, a little pit at the wall where he could easily slip in and disappear.
He saw everything and after the explosion which had ripped the wagon apart, he had shouted for Mary Lou and headed over to the man who had covered a little girl with his body.
Gibbs had screamed as loud as he could around the object in his mouth, before he lay still and let Hank do his work.
The agent didn't lose consciousness, but his mind drifted away, until he felt someone patting his cheek.
“Come on, my boy,” Hank said. “This is hardly the place to take a nap.”
Gibbs spit the object out of his mouth and could taste blood on his lips.
“You're lucky, you know?” Hank asked and picked the bolt up, from where he had let it fall down to the floor, and showed it to Gibbs.” This could have been barbed.”
“Oh yeah,” Gibbs grunted in pain when he tried to move his body. “Lucky me.”
Tony awoke with a gasp and felt disoriented and numb; he couldn't feel anything, not even his fingertips and panic rose in his chest.
Suddenly he could hear the beeping of machines around him and the smell of disinfectant hit his nose and his mind screamed, “HOSPITAL!”
A woman's face appeared over him, soft, green eyes in a slight freckled face, framed by short, red hair.
“Everything is alright,” the woman said soothingly and Tony saw how she bent a little deeper over him. “Don't try to speak, yet. You just came out of a small surgery and your throat will be pretty sore for a while.”
Tony swallowed and winced with the sudden pain.
'Did she have to mention that now?'
“My name is Tess. I will be your Nurse until you're placed in a regular room.”
“Agent McGee?”
McGee jumped a little when the voice of someone came from behind him and pulled him out of his mind.
“Doctor Franklin?” McGee was surprised to see the Doctor that early and the color drained from his face with the realization about what it could mean.
The Doctor saw how the Agent paled and steered him to a chair.
“Do yourself a favor and take some deep breaths, Agent, before you faint,” Dr. Franklin grinned when McGee glared at him. “You can relax. The surgery went very well and we caught the infection early,” the Doctor patted McGee's shoulder when the Agent relaxed. “Can you tell me where I can find Agent Gibbs? He's listed as Agent DiNozzo's next of kin and I need to speak to him.”
Abby only needed a few seconds to alert Director Vance, who knew better than to doubt the young forensic expert, even when it bothered him that she found what his experts weren't able to.
“I want every available Agent to this address,” Vance barked when he hurried out of MTAC. “And call the FBI, we will need their help with this.”
Abby refused to stay where she was, and convinced Ducky to follow the armada of black SUV's and gray sedan's with the van.
Well, Jimmy drove the van, but even he, with his poor sense for directions, couldn't miss the cars, which were making their way through the city as fast as they could.
Nervously Abby started to press every button she could find until Ducky's hand grabbed hers and she was pulled against the older ME's chest.
“Everything will be alright, my dear,” he whispered into one of her ears and wished he could convince himself of it, too.
Hank cursed when another person nudged him on his way out of the Metro station and held Gibbs' arm a little tighter over his shoulder, so that he wouldn't lose him in the mass panic that had resulted from the explosion.
People came from everywhere and were pressing, shoving, and screaming in fright.
Mary Lou had Ashley in her arms, and had to work hard to keep up with the two men.
“Mary!” Hank shouted and extended his hand to the woman, “Stay as close as you can.”
“I- I try, Hank,” Mary shouted back and pressed the small body in her arms a little tighter to her body, when she stumbled over something on the ground.
Ashley was in shock and not doing much, except making some whimpering noises and clutching the coat of the woman who held her so tightly.
Gibbs could hear sirens from somewhere above them, but the people around didn't stop in their panic and he saw more than one man or woman fall and disappear under the mass of frightened bodies.
Hank grunted beside Gibbs and the hurting man raised his eyes just in time to see the barricade in front of them in the form of the Subway entry.
“God,” Gibbs whispered when he saw how the people were trying to overcome the barricade built by the turnstiles. The people were shoving and pressing without consideration; everyone tried to be the first to overcome the barricade.
“Hang on,” Hank said loudly and pulled Gibbs a little tighter to his body. Gibbs gritted his teeth against the pain. Hank moved them away from the clash and had pressed Gibbs against a wall when a screaming woman connected with his back and made him loose his footing again.
Another explosion rocked the station and every one stopped with a gasp, before another panic hit...
The cars reached the station a few minutes later and were greeted by a frenzied mix of people..
Members of the nearest Fire departments, Police and some FBI Agents were trying to direct them away from the station and to safer areas, but it looked like they wouldn't have much luck with that.
Agent Fornell caught sight of Abby and Ducky, who stood aside from everyone else and headed over to them.
“Where's Gibbs?” he asked and paled a little when the Goth pointed to the station. “What is he doing in there?” he groused, but shook his head. “Never mind. You two stay here, out of the way, understood?”
“We will stay here,” Ducky confirmed and patted Abby's arm. “You don't have to worry about us, Agent Fornell.”
Suddenly an explosion made the ground under their feet shake and Abby shouted in surprise.
Fornell, who stood directly in front of them turned and cursed loudly when thick, black smoke came out of every opening the station had.
Ziva felt restless and if it hadn’t been for her leg, she would have been up and on her way to the hospital to be with Tony, instead of having to sit there and watch how Agent Peters and his partner were playing round after round of Poker.
The ringing of the phone stopped the game, just when it became clear that Agent Peters would win again.
“Peters,” the big Agent said, and tensed suddenly. “I understand.” His eyes were fixed on Ziva when he closed the phone. “We have orders to bring you to Bethesda.”
Miller giggled like the madman he was when the car stopped in front of the General Hospital, but a hand on his arm stopped him, before he could move.
“I know, he's not your usual victim, Miller-” the man began, but Miller stopped him.
“I know, but I really want him to hurt, especially if it's true what you've told me about him.”
The man nodded and let go of Miller's arm.

Miller walked up to the nurses’ station and smiled his best smile when the nurse looked up from what she'd been doing.
“Can I help you, sir?” she asked.
“Yeah,” Miller answered. “I'm in search of one Anthony DiNozzo. I heard that he'd been brought here?”
“Well,” the nurse typed on her keyboard. “He'd been here, but he'd been moved a while ago.”
“Oh? Can you tell me to where?”
The nurse made a face and shook her head, “I'm sorry, sir, but I'm not allowed to give you that information.”
Miller nodded and made an regretful face, before he sighed, “It's only, he's my brother-in-law, my wife his sister is out of state right now and asked me to care for him.”
The nurse sighed.
“He was moved to Bethesda,” she said and had to smile, when the man's face lit up.
“Thank you, miss,” Miller said and headed out of the hospital.
“What are you doing here,” the man started the car up and watched their surroundings.
“Relax,” Miller said. “DiNozzo is not there anymore, they moved him to Bethesda.”
“Dammit,” the man said and steered the car out of the parking lot. “That will make everything a lot more complicated.”
Hank pressed Gibbs against one of the walls and tried to find Mary and the girl, but all he saw was a mass of people in panic.
“Hank!” Mary's voice came from somewhere and Hank tried to stand on his tiptoes to find her and finally found her on the other side of the tunnel.
“Mary!” he shouted and waved, when Mary saw his way, ”Don't move.”
Mary nodded and turned her back to the past running people to guard the small body in her arms.
Hank was torn in two. He wanted to go over there, but there was the man he had to keep safe, too.
“Go,” Gibbs pushed the man away from himself, “Go and get them.” Gibbs pushed the man harder and gasped when a sharp pain run through his body.
Hank pushed him against the wall again, into a small corner, which would give Gibbs some protection, before he fought his way over to Mary and Ashley.
Gibbs felt something warm running down his back and groaned when he slipped down the wall and came to rest on the floor.
Fornell pulled his Kevlar vest out of his car and headed over to the entry of the Metro Station.
“Out of my way,” he shouted as loud as he could and shoved too slow moving people away. “FBI, move out of my way!”
His fellow colleagues picked up of what he was doing and were trying to help him, but they couldn't do much against this many panicked people.
Vance watched with his Agents for a few minutes, before the Director took over.
“Agent Hall,” he called through his microphone, “Take some of the Agents and try to direct the people over to the park.”
Agent Hall signed his understanding and headed over to a group of Agents; they only needed a few minutes to clear a path.
Vance ran over to Fornell and together they made their way into the smoking station.
“Gibbs,” Fornell was finally the one who found Gibbs first and headed over to him, still pushing bodies out of his way, until he reached the sitting man. “Gibbs?”
Gibbs had his eyes closed and his head leaned against the wall behind him, and Fornell had to shake the man’s shoulder to get him to react.
“Gibbs?” Fornell asked again and Gibbs groaned. “Come on, we need to get you out of here.”
The Agent pulled the man to his feet and stopped in shock when his fingertips came in contact with something warm and wet on Gibbs' back.
“Dammit,” Fornell cursed and suddenly Vance appeared on his side and grabbed Gibbs' other arm. “He's hurt.”
Vance nodded but didn't stop, “We need to get out of here.”
Abby paced in front of the truck and said for the hundred time,” I can't wait anymore, Ducky.”
Ducky sighed, he and Jimmy searched the truck for First Aid supplies; they would wait until they heard news about Gibbs and then go over to the small park and help the emergency crew.
“You heard what Agent Fornell said, Abigail,” Ducky said in a low voice. “We will stay here and wait, until they've found Jethro.”
“But Ducky,” Abby tried to protest, but Ducky lifted his hand and stopped the young Goth before she could start in earnest.
“You can help, Jimmy, but I don't want you over there,” Ducky pointed to the entry of the Station, his voice firm, but his eyes were shining with pain. “You hear me?”
Abby nodded,” Yes, sir.”
Hank watched how two men talked to the boy and dismissed them for a moment. Well, they could have been the bad guys, but his gut told him otherwise and so he concentrated on helping Mary with the kid.
Vance had his first good look on Gibbs' back when he helped Fornell to lift Gibbs over the cash-point and he sucked in his breath sharply.
Blood was dripping from somewhere under the Agent’s shirt and had soaked the back of the slacks the man wore.
“We need to get him to the medics,” Vance winced when Gibbs groaned in pain when Fornell helped him to move his legs.
Abby squealed when she saw how the three men came out of the station and pulled Ducky with her when she started to run over to them.
“Gibbs?” she asked and stopped just out of reach of the three men. “Oh, Duckman he's hurt.” She said and fought hard against the need to cry.
“Now, now, my dear,” Ducky shoved her slowly away from the men and pointed to a place safely away from the station and the frightened people. “Move him over there, please. Abigail, go and get the First Aid supplies from Mister Palmer,” Ducky directed. “And please tell him that we are in need of the stretcher.”
Abby nodded and run off in the direction of the truck.
Miller hissed when the car stopped in front of Bethesda and he saw for the first time how well the place was guarded.
“Wow,” Miller said and turned to the man at his side. “How do you expect me to get in there?”
The man grinned and pulled something out of his breast pocket and held it out to Miller.
A small leather badge and Miller grinned back in surprise when he opened it and his face looked back up to him.
“You knew that would happen?” Miller asked.
“Yeah, but I hoped we would have been fast enough to get to him at the General.”
Miller nodded and rubbed with his thump over the gold shield, “Can I keep that when I'm finished with DiNozzo?”
The man sighed, “If you finish it.”
“Oh,” Miller said and smiled a nasty smile. “Believe me, my friend, I will.”
Gibbs opened his eyes and looked directly into the kind eyes of his old friend, “Ducky?”
“Ahhh, Jethro,” Ducky greeted and smiled a soft smile. “Good to have you back.”
“What happened?” Gibbs asked and tried to sit up, but groaned when his wound made itself known again.
“No,” Ducky used his hands on Gibbs' shoulder to press him back down to the ground. “Don't move, Jethro; you've lost a lot of blood.”
“-need to go to the General,” Gibbs groaned loudly, when he moved, but refused to stop. “Miller is after Tony.”
Vance's face appeared in front of Gibbs, “Don't worry Gibbs, we moved him to Bethesda.”
“Bethesda?” Gibbs saw into the brown eyes in front of him.
“Yes,” Vance nodded. “He was moved there a little while ago and he has Agent McGee by his side.”
“McGee?” Gibbs asked and his sight began to get blurry.
“Jethro?” Ducky's voice came from somewhere, just before he lost his consciousness.

McGee could visit Tony an hour and a half after they've been moved to Bethesda and McGee had explained to the doctor why Gibbs was missing.
“McGoo?” Tony sounded exhausted and McGee was shocked at how pale and fragile the Agent looked.
“Hey Tony,” McGee greeted and pulled a chair up to the bed.
“Gibbs?” Tony asked and McGee sighed.
Of course, he would ask for their leader.
“Nothing yet, Tony,” McGee answered and placed a hand on the Agents arm.
“-find out-” Tony's voice became smaller with every passing second.
“I'll try,” McGee patted the arm and leaned over to get the telephone from the nightstand with the other hand.
Miller and the man watched the entrance of the Hospital for some time, before Miller climbed out of the car.
Gibbs was loaded onto a gurney and Vance ordered the ambulance to bring him over to Bethesda.
Miller stepped through the doors of the Hospital and tried to look like he could belong there, even when he doesn't knew where to go now.
A little girl, standing just beside her mother, made his desire flare and for a moment he was distracted from his task.
Ziva David cursed in Hebrew when the car had to stop yet again for another red light.
They'd needed forty minutes now to get half of the way to Bethesda and all the Agents were just at the edge of a nervous breakdown.
The ambulance reached Bethesda twenty minutes later.
Vance and Fornell jumped out of the back and helped to get the gurney inside,
Ducky, Abby and Jimmy hot on their heels.
McGee stood in front of Tony's room, after he'd tried unsuccessful to reach either Abby or Ducky and nursed his what-felt-like tenth cup of bad coffee and tried to think of a way to get some news without leaving Tony.
Gibbs regained his consciousness when a doctor prodded on his wound, and screamed in pain. The doctor gave him some painkillers and had to wait until they took effect, before he could do anything else.
The older agent waited until the pain had faded some before he rolled from the cot he had been placed on, and tried to stand.
“What the hell do you think you're doing?” the doctor asked and tried to push Gibbs back.
“Don't touch me,” Gibbs growled and the doctor took a step back. “Stay out of my way.”
“Sir, please you need-” the doctor stammered and Gibbs glared at the man in front of him.
“What's going on?” Fornell asked when he stepped into the room after he heard the fuss on the corridor.
“Maybe you can talk some sense into the man,” the doctor started, only to be interrupted by Gibbs.
“Tobias? I need a gun,” Gibbs stumbled over to the FBI Agent and held his hand out.
Fornell sighed, before he bent down and pulled his spare piece from his ankle holster.
“You...You can't do that,” the doctor protested,” This is a hospital not a shooting gallery.”
“What room?” Gibbs asked and straightened his back with a painful gasp.
Fornell sent a look at the doctor before he answered, ” 8-0-9.”
“God damn it,” the doctor groused, before he pulled his Latex gloves from his hands and threw them into a corner and left the room.
Miller stomped on his desire for the little girl and walked up to the nurses’ station for the floor he was on.
“Excuse me, Miss,” he approached the nurse behind the desk.
“Yes?” the nurse answered and placed her pen beside the files she was working on.
“My name is Agent Miller and I need the room number of Agent DiNozzo.”
The nurse looked a little bored, when she said, “I need to see some identification.”
Miller smiled, “Of course.” He pulled his badge from his back pocket and held it out to her.
The nurse, Augusta Michaels was on her name tag, examined the ID for a moment before she sighed and typed on her keyboard.
“Agent DiNozzo is in room 809. Use the elevator over there,” she pointed to the right, before she turned back to the things she had been doing before.
“Thank you,” Miller smiled, before he moved off.
“Maybe you should stay here and let yourself get patched up again,” Fornell stated and grinned when Gibbs shot him a dirty look. “I could go with Vance and check on DiNozzo; I'm sure he's alright.”
“No.” Gibbs said. “I want to see it for myself.”
Gibbs tried to pull his arm out of Fornell's grip, but Fornell tightened his hand.
“I had to ask,” Fornell said and helped Gibbs over to the elevator.
“What are you doing out here?” Vance asked from behind them and Fornell released Gibbs to turn around and to grin at the Director of NCIS, who looked truly pissed.
“Well, your Agent believes that he's the only one who can make sure that Agent DiNozzo is safe and sound.”
“Oh?” Vance asked in a mocking voice. “Is that so, Agent Gibbs?”

“Yes, sir,” Gibbs answered shortly and pressed the call button for the elevator with a little more force than necessary.
He almost fell into the cabin of the opening elevator, if not for Fornell who took his arm again.
Vance sighed, before he too took one of Gibbs' arms and helped him into the elevator, ”If we reach DiNozzo and you've seen with your own eyes that the man is alright I expect that you'll let a doctor treat your injury.”
“Understood, sir,” Gibbs gasped.
“Oh, before I forget. The police reported a homeless pair who had a little girl with them named Ashley.”
Vance watched how Gibbs eyes softened for a moment.
“I take it that this girl was the kid Miller kidnapped?”
Gibbs only nodded once, every bit of power he possessed went into staying upright and getting to DiNozzo; nothing was left for talking anymore.
The elevator with Miller stopped with an almost silent ding and the man stepped onto the eighth floor without getting so much as a questioning look from one of the nurses there.
He walked slowly through the corridor until he found the room 809 and had a look through the small window in the door.
One man sat beside the bed busy talking on the telephone and Miller only needed a moment to identify this man as Agent McGee, and that the man in the bed really was DiNozzo.
Now he only needed a way to bribe McGee away from his prey.
McGee shook his head in disbelief and placed the receiver back on its cradle.
He still couldn't find Abby or Ducky, even when the two of them broke Gibbs' rule number... he couldn't remember, which one it was...three, he was sure it was Gibbs' rule number three.
Never be unreachable.
'Shit, if only-' his thought was interrupted by a nurse who came suddenly into the room.
“Agent McGee?” she asked and when McGee nodded she pointed through the open door. “There is a call for you at the desk. The man said he'd tried to call in here, but the line was busy and he said that he really needed to talk to you.”
The nurse turned around again and left before McGee could say anything and he furrowed his brows in confusion, but rose from his chair and, with a quick look to his colleague, the young Agent headed out on the corridor and over to the desk of the nurses.
He never spotted the man who silently slipped into DiNozzo's room and locked the door with a chair under the handle, before the man pulled something out of one of his pockets.
Gibbs gasped when the elevator came to a stop on the eighth floor, and he had to concentrate to take one step in front of another without falling.
“Bullheaded-” Fornell began, only to be stopped by a glare of one elderly lady who had waited for the elevator. “Sorry, Ma'am,” Fornell said with a tip to his head, but the lady only glared a little harder before she disappeared into the elevator.
Gibbs ignored everything; his gaze was firmly fixed on McGee at the nurses’station, who was just placing the receiver back on its cradle and turning around.
“Everything alright?” McGee asked and noted with surprised that the Director was with his Team-leader, just like Agent Fornell.
“Why aren't you with DiNozzo?” Gibbs asked sharply and McGee flinched.
“I-there was a call for me and I-” Gibbs glared at the young Agent.
“Did you call someone to take over for you?” Gibbs asked and tried to move into the direction of the room, but his legs were refusing to work for him.
“No,” McGee answered and paled. “I thought-”
“We will talk about it later, Agent McGee,” Director Vance cut in, when he noted that Gibbs had dismissed the young Agent in front of him and started to move to the closed door of 809.
Miller stood in front of the bed and watched the man in it for a moment.
Only a few moments more and then he would be free to move to Mexico.
Gibbs leaned against the wall beside the door, took the handle of the door in his hand and tried to open it, but the door refused to move and he gasped softly when the movement jostled his wound.
“Gibbs?” Fornell was suddenly at his side.
“Door,” Gibbs gasped and watched how Fornell had a look through the small window, before he ducked down and nodded back to him, before he pulled his gun out and slipped the safety off.
All kinds of curses went through Gibbs' head before he too slipped the safety off his gun.
McGee was pale, but he picked up on what was going on fast enough to pull his own gun and to give backup to the two men just like Vance did.
Fornell gave Gibbs a sign to make himself ready, and waited until he received a nod as confirmation, before he pulled his gun to his chest. He made sure he had a secure stand before he lifted his right leg and kicked against the door with all the power he possessed.
Tony awoke from his dreamless sleep with a gasp and didn't knew what was happening, before he realized that someone was in the room with him who was not McGee.
He turned his head and did another gasp when he saw in the maniacal eyes of John Miller.
“Miller,” Tony panted and tried to move his body upright. “What...what are you...doing here?”
“I have something to take care of, my friend,” Miller crooned, “I promised someone to kill you and Gibbs, and well, I killed Gibbs in that Station-”
“What are you talking about, you son of a bitch?” Tony shouted and flinched when the sound of someone kicking against the door echoed through the room.
Miller pulled something out from behind him and moved nearer Tony.
“Stay away from me, you psychotic bastard!” Tony shouted and tried to roll out of his bed, but his body refused to move fast enough and he could feel Miller's cold hands on his body.
“It will only take longer if you fight,” Miller said and laughed when Tony tried to hit him, but only managed to graze his side.
“Leave me alone,” Tony tried to shout, but his voice sounded too thin for even his own ears and Tony cursed that he had just gotten some painkillers a few minutes ago.
“Not so feisty now, mmh?” Miller stared over Tony's body with a look in his eyes that sent shivers through Tony.
Fornell growled in rage when the door wouldn't open under his kicks and Gibbs watched impatiently until the FBI Agent was tapped on the shoulder by McGee, who gave him a sign to move a little to the side, before both of them kicked against the door.
“Why?” Tony asked.
Miller giggled and Tony felt something cold slipping through his body.
“Like I said before, I promised it to someone who promised me something in return-” Miller was going to say more, but the door exploded inward and suddenly there were three guns trained at him.
Miller whirled around and growled.
The man had told him that it would be easy to go in, kill the man and go out again and now he stood facing down the barrels of three pissed-off men.
The man in his car cursed when he identified Ziva David coming from one of the parking lots and started his car.
Miller would have to find his own way out...
Tony watched how Miller raised his hands and his eyes widened when he saw the hunting knife in Miller's hand dripping with blood.
Gibbs tried to hold himself steady by taking a hold on everything on his way to Tony's bed. He watched how Miller was secured and Fornell and Vance were leading the man out, before he concentrated his blurring eyes on his Senior Field Agent and the deep red stain which was spreading on the bed.
“Get a doctor,” he ordered McGee and moved unsteady and as fast as he could to the bed.
“Boss?” Tony asked in a whisper.
“Yeah, DiNozzo,” Gibbs pressed down on the wound in Tony's side. “It's me.”
“He said he had killed you,” Tony said.
“Well, I'm alive as you can see,” Gibbs replied and glared over at the door, willing the doctor to appear.
“I'm glad, boss,” Tony said in a slurring voice, just before he closed his eyes.
“Stay with me, DiNozzo,” Gibbs placed his free hand against the face of the Agent and patted his cheek softly, before he too lost his fight against oblivion.
The doctor came into the room and took instantly over.
Gibbs was placed on a gurney and wheeled off into the direction of the nearest OR, just like Tony, who was losing a lot of blood through the knife wound.
Fornell, Vance and McGee watched from afar as the two men were wheeled away.
Suddenly their attention was pulled to the elevators where Abby lead the way for a small group of people. The young Goth argued with a nurse who looked truly out of her league, and McGee bit his lip to keep from grinning.
“What do you mean we can't go in there?” Abby growled loudly, and Ducky tried his best to keep her as calm as possible.
“Just as I told you, Miss. You can't go in there. I won't let you disturb my patient-”
“You're kidding, right?” Abby almost shouted and Vance snorted before he moved over to the group and took over.
The Operation on Tony took an hour. The team working on Gibbs needed a little longer because they had to replenish -the blood loss.
But in the end both men were placed in the same room, guarded by a mean-looking nurse who refused to let anyone visit them before the next morning.
Just as Vance and his Agents left the Hospital and made plans to bring Ziva and the others home, they ran into the Chief of the fire department of Washington D.C. He told them about the explosion at DiNozzo's apartment complex, which led them all to stop in shock.
The Agent would have nowhere to go when he was released from the Hospital...

Ducky placed himself in a chair between Tony and Gibbs, and waited patiently for one or both of them to wake.
Tony had developed a fever again and the doctors had to fight to get it down.
Gibbs was exhausted and together with the blood loss he slept like someone in a coma. Ducky's heart almost stopped when he saw his friend so still in this bed and the older man wished with all his heart that his friend would awake soon.
Gibbs opened his eyes to someone talking and realized that a TV was running at the other end of the room; he asked himself if he had ever had an TV in his bedroom...
He tried to concentrate on it for a moment and succeeded long enough to recognize a house in flames.
“Jethro?” Ducky bent over him and placed a soft hand on his head. “Welcome back, my friend.”
Gibbs nodded once and suddenly realized that there was a dull pain pressing on his back. He tried to roll on his side, but the movement aroused a sharp pain and he groaned.
“Ah, don't move just now, Jethro,” Ducky placed a hand on Gibbs' shoulder and patted him softly. “Just relax a little. Do you need something against the pain?”
“No,” croaked Gibbs; his throat was hurting like hell and he sighed thankful when Ducky placed a spoonful of ice chips in his mouth.
“Suck it slowly,” Ducky advised.
Both men heard the sobbing coming from the neighboring bed and Ducky gave Gibbs a pat before he walked over to Tony.
“Anthony, my boy. Are you in pain?” Ducky asked, but Tony avoided looking into the ME's face. “Anthony?”
Tony flinched when Ducky placed a hand on his chest and Ducky pulled his hand back as if he was burned.
“DiNozzo,” Gibbs put everything he had into his voice. “Answer Ducky.”
“, I don't ne...need something,” he lifted his hand and pointed to the TV, where the news about the explosion was still playing.
Ducky sighed, “I'm so sorry, Anthony.”
“Every...Everything is,” Tony gasped when he tried to turn away from Ducky. “First Miller tried to kill me and now I'm homeless-”
“Oh, DiNozzo wallowing in self-pity,” Ziva mocked from the door, when she was helped in by McGee and Tony's eyes began to fill with tears.
“I don't think that this is something young Anthony wants to hear right now, Ziva,” Ducky glared at the Mossad officer.
“Gibbs, Gibbs, Gibbs....Tony, Tony, Tony,” Abby came jumping into the room like a Jack-Russell Terrier on LSD, and ran over to Gibbs to give him a careful hug, before she went over to Tony. She furrowed her brows when she noted the tears her friend’s eyes, “What the hell happened?”
“Ziva said something inappropriate for this situation,” Ducky explained and Abby couldn't help but straighten her back a little more to appear taller than normal and to tower over Ziva. “Really?” she asked and watched with satisfaction how Ziva flinched under her gaze.
“Just let it go, please,” Tony whispered and Abby stopped whatever she wanted to do and went over to Tony to place a kiss on the man's forehead.
Gibbs fought to find a comfortable position on his bed and growled, ”you won't be homeless, DiNozzo, because you'll stay with me.” He gasped a little with the pain but refused to give in, and lifted himself up on his elbows to have a better look on his team. “Agent McGee, you will buy the things Tony will need, when we're released from here. See it as your punishment for leaving DiNozzo without backup,” Gibbs growled when he saw the surprised look in McGee's face. “Oh, and I'm sure my guest room will need some painting and a new bed.”
“Okay, boss,” McGee said, happy to have gotten off that easy.
“Officer David will take our statements and write the reports,” Gibbs ordered.
Ziva tried to protest, but three sets of glaring eyes stopped her before she could open her mouth and she nodded once in agreement. “Yes, Gibbs.”
The door opened suddenly and Vance stepped in, packing a lot of bags with him.
“Good evening, everybody,” he greeted and let some of the bags fall to the ground in a corner of the room. “I see you two are awake?! That's great.”
Tony turned to the man and tried to smile a little, even when he felt too depressed for it.
Vance turned to Gibbs and pulled an envelope out from inside his coat. It was bright yellow with little hearts all over and Gibbs had to swallow hard when he realized that a child had written his name on the front of it.
Special Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs
“I was asked to give this to you as soon as I could and the young lady was really convincing to make it really soon.” Vance stepped back and gave Gibbs a little more room to read this letter in peace.
*Dear Agent Gibbs...*
Gibbs read the letter alone, before he folded it and placed it under his cushion. He wiped away some wetness under his eyes before he smiled his thanks to the Director, who nodded at him in understanding and walked over to Tony.
“Agent DiNozzo,” he said and waited until Tony looked into his face before he went on talking, ”A few of your colleagues heard what happened to your apartment and thought you could use some things,” the director pointed to the bags. “I think it will help you out for a couple days.”
Tony was unable to say anything and only nodded curtly before he turned his head away from everybody.
“So-” the Vance said and stopped in the middle of the hospital room, “-do you want to hear the rest?”
“Yes,” Gibbs said, and everyone else was nodding.
“The police reported that a homeless pair had little Ashley with them, but they'd disappeared after they'd given the girl to an officer. We're keeping our eyes open, but so far no luck. Miller was placed into a High Security Prison. He kept on talking about a man who gave him all the information and supplies he needed to do what he had done. He said that the man had promised him free passage to Mexico when he was done with Gibbs and DiNozzo, and half a million in cash.”
“Any clue about who the man would be?” Gibbs asked and felt that he would need a new dose of pain meds in his near future.
“None,” Vance answered, but pulled a sheet of paper from a pocket. “Only a sketch could be made with the descriptions from Miller.” He showed it to Tony first, who shook his head negatively.
Gibbs took a long moment; somehow the person looked familiar to him, but he couldn't place the face, so he shook his head, too.
Vance sighed; he had hoped that they could identify this person, but he had a whole MCRT working on it and hoped for some results from them.
They made some small talk, before Vance left and took Ziva and McGee with him.
Ducky jumped suddenly up from his chair, “I am sorry, my boys, but I have to go now-”
“That's alright, Ducky,” Gibbs said when he saw Ducky's troubled look. “Don't worry about us, I'm sure a nice nurse will sent us into la-la-land when you’re gone.”
Abby giggled a little and started to stroke over Tony's head; he had his eyes fixed on the bags in that corner. He couldn't believe that his colleagues would be so kind, but he saw the bags, so it had to be real...
Abby jumped over to the bags and began to pull things out, running a small comment with every piece, until she found a small, brown, stuffed dog with a red collar which held a very small, gold-colored name tag. “Awww, that's soo sweet. Look Tony, it's a Tony, too.”
She placed it just beside Tony's head, who lifted a hand and started to stroke over the dog’s black nose.
Gibbs snorted, “Looks like you, too, DiNozzo,” he remarked, and Tony showed his first real smile.
“Gee, how nice of you to note, thanks boss.”
Abby laughed at the face Tony pulled and for the first time since she stepped into the room she had the feeling that everything would be alright in time....


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