Series: - No Series - #1
Chapters: 001 Word Count: 2197
Character(s): Jethro Gibbs, Tony DiNozzo
Category(ies): Character Study, Friendship
Pairing(s): - No Pairing -
Summary: "What were you expecting to find, DiNozzo?"
"I don't know." Tony holstered his Sig and stuck his gun hand inside his coat to warm it. "I hear badgers can get mean."
Tony's weapon was out as he swept the room, the door banging sharply against the wall.
He blinked snow out of his eyes. There wasn't much to see. A 12 x 14 cabin, bunk beds in one corner, a wooden table and two rickety chairs in the middle; woodstove, bar fridge and, he noted thankfully, what appeared to be indoor plumbing. "It's clear in here, Boss!"
Gibbs shouldered Tony away from the open door, kicking it closed and dropping an armload of wood by the stove. "What were you expecting to find, DiNozzo?"
"I don't know." Tony holstered his Sig and stuck his gun hand inside his coat to warm it. "I hear badgers can get mean."
Gibbs raised one eyebrow. "Burglars can't be choosers, DiNozzo. Stack that wood and see if you can get the stove fired up." He turned and headed back out the door.
"Where are you going?"
"Oh, I'm going out to dance around the Maypole."
Gibbs relented. "I'm going to see if I can find the electric and finish unloading the truck. There's more cut wood under the tarp outside--bring in a few more armloads before it gets too dark."
"Aye-aye." Tony saluted Gibbs's back and began stacking the wood. He opened the door of the woodstove carefully. You never knew what might have nested in there. But hunting season had ended only two weeks ago. It probably wasn't inhabited. Flue open or closed? Avoiding carbon monoxide poisoning seemed like a good plan, so he stacked the wood and went out for more. Gibbs could figure out the flue thing.
When he'd finished with the wood, Tony checked out the bunk beds. He unzipped a plastic vacuum bag on the lower bunk. Wool blankets, pillows, and sheets that smelled of…cabin. Not the worst, considering nobody was supposed to be staying here again before spring.
He hesitated a moment, then tossed one set of bedding and his backpack on the upper berth. If the structure collapsed, Gibbs would soften his landing.
A low thump outside, then a barely perceptible hum. Electricity. Civilization. That meant there was every possibility that the toilet might actually flush. Maybe it wouldn't be so bad.
"There, this isn't so bad." Gibbs brushed ash and bark from his hands. The woodstove crackled comfortingly, a couple of lamps glowed in the corners, the toilet had been tested and proved worthy.
Tony stacked MREs on top of the bar fridge and wondered if there might just be a Snickers in his coat. "I'd rather be here than be a popsicle on the side of the Blue Ridge Parkway. By the way, where is here, exactly?"
"Right around milepost 164," Gibbs said. "The government built this place in the Depression. Now the Parks Authority rents the cabins out to tourists during the season."
"Okay, this?" Tony's gesture encompassed the small cabin. "Really not my idea of a tourist trap. How long you figure before they plow the road, Boss?"
Gibbs grinned. He pulled a chair up near the wood stove, peeled off his boots and rested his feet in their wool socks on the ledge to warm them. "They don't plow this road. In the winter, it's strictly travel at your own risk."
"Tell me again why we're out here in the Appalachian tundra instead of sending the MPs after PFC Mabry?" Tony asked. He patted down his coat, then remembered he'd eaten the Snickers yesterday after his run.
"Because the MPs don't know where to find him. I do."
"In a blizzard?" Tony grimly surveyed the two 4-gallon water jugs and other survival gear he'd --privately-- mocked Gibbs for packing in the back of the SUV. Not so funny now.
"It'll clear in a day or two." Gibbs got up and padded over to the bunk bed. He extracted a can of coffee and a battered tin coffee pot from a duffel bag, filled the pot from one of the water jugs and set it on the stove. He settled in to warm his feet again. "Three days, tops."
"Note to self: Next time Gibbs wants a volunteer to go on a nice country drive, keep your hands in your pockets, DiNozzo." Tony wandered into the bathroom, noted the frost forming inside the walls, then hurried back out.
"Hey, you knew we'd be away for a night or two." Gibbs leaned back in his chair and closed his eyes.
"Yeah," Tony cupped his hands against the window glass and stared outside. "But, foolishly, I expected to be staying in a motel, not breaking into the Little Cabin in the Big Woods."
"This is the Hilton compared to most hunting shacks."
Tony used his foot to nudge a rug up against the crack under the door. He shivered a little. "You're right. This must be the honeymoon suite. That would explain why there's no TV."
Gibbs tossed him a hand-powered survival radio. "Here. Crank that up if you're lonely."
He caught the radio and set it next to the MREs. "How can I possibly be lonely? You're gonna tell me some campfire stories before we make the s'mores, right?"
"You wouldn't like my campfire stories, Tony." Gibbs leaned closer to the stove to warm his hands. "Last time I sat around a campfire was in Kosovo."
"Last time I sat around a campfire was during survival training in military school." Tony zipped his sweater up to his chin, then paced to the bunk beds and back again. "The seniors told us we might have to resort to cannibalism if the food ran out, so I arranged to buy Pete Dorcas's left leg if it came to that."
"We're not going to starve, DiNozzo. We've got enough MREs to last us a week, and then we can start gnawing on your shoes."
"Wouldn't be the first time I sacrificed fine footwear for this job." Tony was shivering for real now, in spite of the pacing. He pulled the second chair close to the stove and sat down.
"Think of something warm," Gibbs said. "That'll help."
Tony stared into the fire. His face was getting warmer, but everything else was numb. Even his brain felt slow. "Mojitos, Boss," he said after a moment. "Mojitos, poolside in Miami Beach."
"I said, think of something warm, DiNozzo." Gibbs picked up the paper cup he'd brought in with him and shook it. What was left of the extra large coffee he'd bought in DC that morning was slowly turning to ice.
"Well, if thinking about those cabana girls doesn't warm you up…"
"Besides, the mojitos are better in Panama City," Gibbs said.
"Oh, yeah. Spring break. Now that's a warm thought," DiNozzo said. He could actually feel his toes again.
"It wasn't that Panama City." Gibbs downed the last of the cold coffee. "And we didn't get much of a spring break." He edged the chair closer to the woodstove.
Tony shifted in his chair. He got up and peered out the window again. "I can't see the car anymore."
The water was boiling, overflowing the spout of the coffeepot and sizzling on the hot stove. Gibbs picked the pot up, scooped in a generous amount of coffee, and set it back down. "As long as you're up, DiNozzo, you want to get the mugs out of my duffel? Coffee'll be ready in a minute."
Tony watched as flake piled upon flake in the corners of each windowpane, then glanced at his watch. The sun would have set by now, but the snow still gave off an eerie light. The cabin's walls couldn't really be getting closer, could they?
"DiNozzo!" Gibbs's hand on his shoulder pushed the walls back where they belonged. The flakes seemed to fall a little slower against the window.
"Coffee mugs." Gibbs gave him a light smack, then went back to the warmth of the stove.
"Right." Tony dug through the large bag. He could feel the enamelled metal mugs, but they were wedged under something bulky. A quick glance told him that Gibbs was busy stoking the fire. He pulled the object out. It was a small hatchet, the blade protected by a worn leather cover.
He turned it over. The words "Property of L.J. Gibbs" were burned into the handle, the letters in a round, uncertain hand. He straightened up to find Gibbs standing behind him again. "You've had this since you were a kid. Who gives a kid a hatchet?"
Gibbs reached past Tony for the coffee mugs. "When you spend time in these woods, you need a hatchet, Tony." He headed back to the stove and filled each mug with the thick, lumpy-looking coffee.
Tony followed Gibbs back to the stove, still carrying the hatchet. He pulled the second chair close to the fire and sat down. "These woods?"
"These woods." Gibbs sat down and propped his feet back up on the stove. "Spent a lot of time up here with my grandparents while my dad was posted overseas."
"I thought your father flew fighters in World War II. "You weren't even born then"--he glanced sidelong at Gibbs and suppressed a grin --" were you?"
"He stayed in after the war. Back then they didn't encourage dependents when you were stationed somewhere like Seoul. They'd tell you to send your kids to boarding school, but my folks believed in family and roots...and free tuition."
"So you grew up here," Tony said. He took a cautious swallow of his coffee. The best he could say was that it was hot and didn't have anything floating in it.
"As much as I grew up anywhere. Graduated from high school here and enlisted in the Corps the next day. My grandfather knew, but he didn't say anything to my parents till I was gone."
Tony hefted the hatchet in one hand. It was sturdy and well-balanced, not something you could pick up at Wal-Mart. "This hatchet's in that picture on your desk."
Gibbs sipped his coffee. "That was the day Grampa gave it to me. Two days after that, Tom Mabry nearly chopped my hand off with it."
"Mabry?" Tony eyed Gibbs narrowly. "That's how you knew where to find our dirtbag. His uh, kinfolk ain't gonna string us up for revenuers, is they, Boss?" Tony's voice had acquired a twang.
Gibbs smacked Tony's head and reclaimed the hatchet in one fluid movement. "No, DiNozzo. I sent Tom an e-mail before we left," Gibbs said. "He's probably got his nephew trussed up like a Christmas turkey on the front porch, waiting for us to pick him up."
"E-mail!" Tony sat bolt upright. "Okay, Boss, that's it. 'Little Barracks on the Prairie' is officially over. It's time for the DiNozzo survival kit." He got up and pulled his knapsack down from his bunk, got his laptop out and plugged it into the one unused socket in the cabin.
"North by Northwest. M.A.S.H. -- you can see what you missed out on while you were stuck up here as a kid. The Manchurian Candidate--the 1962 version, not the remake. From Russia with Love. Escape from Alcatraz. Ocean's Eleven--the remake, this time. The Great Escape. Apollo 13. The Italian Job--both versions on one disc--and, let's see..." Tony fished another DVD case out of his bag. " The Hunt for Red October."
Gibbs wandered over with his coffee mug. "You have a lot of movies about criminals, DiNozzo."
"I think of it as research." Tony powered up the laptop, set it on Gibbs's bunk, then started digging through his knapsack again. "You know, get inside the bad guy's head so I can figure out his next move."
"As long as the bad guy's got perfect teeth and can wind everything up in 120 minutes."
"If I'd known we were going to be bunkies, I'd have brought The Halls of Montezuma." Tony grinned and tossed Gibbs a bag of Doritos and a family-size box of Junior Mints. "Or maybe The Shores of Tripoli." He caught Gibbs's questioning look. "I hate paying a buck and a quarter for stale chips in a motel vending machine. I brought my own emergency rations."
Gibbs grinned and settled on the bunk, tucking a pillow behind his back against the wall. "I kind of liked A Few Good Men. Of course, if I'd caught that case, the kid would still be alive and nobody would ever have to see Tom Cruise in dress whites."
"And for that, we would all be grateful." Tony joined Gibbs on the bunk, took possession of the Doritos, and set the laptop between them. "So, what's the main attraction tonight, Boss?"
Gibbs reached inside his vest and pulled out a small silver hip flask. He tipped a healthy splash into his mug and handed the flask to Tony. "Start with the squids on the sub, then we'll work our way up to the dirtbags in Vegas."
Tony took a sip straight from the flask and coughed, but he could feel the warmth curling around his insides. "Your buddy Mabry make this?" He wheezed.
"Damn straight, DiNozzo." Gibbs took the flask, put another slug in his coffee, and took a sip. "Finest kind."