Running Empty

by: amokima (Send Feedback)

Series: - No Series - #1
Chapters: 016 Word Count: 9346
Rating: TEEN
Warning(s): Violence
Character(s): Tony DiNozzo
Category(ies): Angst/Drama
Pairing(s): - No Pairing -
Summary: He woke, everyone is trying to kill him and he has no idea who they are or why.

Author Notes: Disclaimer: the usual

Prelude

Running Empty by Amokima 1/?

Prelude

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Sharp, gut wrenching agony shot all around his body, dragging him into awareness. He gasped at the agony racing through him. The pain was so great, he couldn't even think; his mind had totally shut down. His eyes opened in response to a nearby noise his mind was unable to connect to any stimulus. Sights and sounds were imprinted on his brain for future study, but for now…. for now he just was.

A number of men came into his line of sight, speaking words he couldn't comprehend. They stood around him making incomprehensible conversation for what could have been hours before they roughly hefted him landing him yet again in a state of unconsciousness. He became aware again as they were shoving him into a small space and slammed the lid shut. His new surroundings gave a shudder and started throwing him around until he passed out once more.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The shock of hitting freezing cold water snapped him awake and suddenly he was drowning. He instinctively struggled, reaching for the surface, for the air his lungs now burned for. Breaking the surface, he was only able the gather one breath before his momentary resurgence of strength failed and he sank back into the cold blackness and lost himself in nothingness.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

He rose only halfway to awareness again and the distant sensations of being dragged. Nothingness constantly rising and falling, a pressure on his mouth forced in air and a pressure on his chest beat out a regular tattoo. Life was drawn back into the battered body as if reluctantly. Agony overwhelmed him once more and he willingly surrendered himself into blessed unconsciousness.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

A/N - thanks JT for the beta.
Please, please, please give feed back. I'm just a little kid with low self esteem and nobody loves me and... ahh...

Paranoia

All he knew was that everyone was trying to kill him.

Whenever he shared this morsal of information with anybody they called him crazy. They looked at him with disgust or pity, he didn’t know which was worse, then turned away or laughed at him. A few of them shoved money at him. A couple of them patted him hand in a patronising manner, told him in was all in his head. He didn’t know what to do, run away or just laugh with them. One cop even informed him that he obviously needed to get some “help” and attempted to drag him off to someplace where that could happen. He was just some crazy nutter they all wanted to get away as soon as possible.

So he quickly learned not to tell people, not to look for help since no one would believe him.

He knew it was true though. He knew it was true deep down in his bones. He couldn’t just dismiss the evidence; he wished he could. He had been in nine different cities in seven months. And every new place he went they would eventually find him and try to kill him. And they nearly succeeded more times than he’d like to admit. They had open methods and silent methods. They had varied methods, silent assassins creeping around in the shadows with a garrotte or a knife, sometimes just being bold and shooting at him with a .9 mm. Ganging up on him, trying to beat him to death. Blowing up a place he had found to stay. One time, the cops had hauled him in. Apparently his face was on one of those “Wanted” posters. They hauled him into the station, locked him in a bare room and three hours of lonely boredom later, official looking people showed up and dragged him off while whispering in his ear the painfully slow was they were going to kill him for giving them all so much trouble.

Somehow he had always been able to get away alive. Hardly ever unscathed, but at least alive. Lately he’d been able to see them coming before they saw him, so more often than not he can avoid them. But they still kept coming.

That was how he knew everyone was trying to kill him.

Oh, he knew it wasn’t REALLY everyone. But the trouble was that he didn’t know who they were. There were some faces he recognised from previous attempts, but most were people he’d never seen before. Because a lot of them were strangers, it meant that everyone he met could potentially be a future foe.

And so he was constantly on alert, constantly wary, not able to trust anyone. Always on his guard, looking over his shoulder, getting more paranoid by the day.

He was not only exhausted from all this, he was also confused as hell. Because not only did he not know who was after him, but he also had absolutely no clue to the reason why they all wanted him dead.

He was exhausted, confused and terrified.

And to top it all off, he had absolutely not idea who the fucking hell he was.

Waking Up

He’d woken up in the hospital seven and a half months ago with only a few vague memories of anything that had happened before that point. Those memories had seemed to be the events that lead up to him being damaged in the hospital.

The first thing he had remembered was being in a fire fight, alone, against a handful of others wanting him dead.

The second memory he had was waking up in a painful agony. Those same people threw him into the boot of a car.

In the third memory he was drowning in a river. He figured they must have dumped him in the river to get rid of his body. Luck him. Apparently, a couple whose evening out included a romantic interlude on the shore of the river had spotted him struggling. She had called 911 while he had swum out, rescued and performed CPR.

The doctors told him that it was a miracle he wasn’t dead or have brain damage. He had been shot eleven times. Twice in his right shoulder, once in his left upper arm, three times in his left thigh, twice in his chest, twice in his stomach and once in his head. And none of these shots had hit any major organs or arteries. They had worked on him for six and a half hours in surgery, extracting the eight bullets that were still in his body. Twice they had trouble stopping excessive bleeding. Four times he’d flat lined.

He’d stayed in a coma for three days. In truth, nobody had believed he would ever wake up again. The chance they had had given him was only 23%. Waking up without brain damage they’d put at 17%. Therefore, no one was surprised to find out he had amnesia, just at the fact that it was the only thing wrong with him.
It sucked. Amnesia was such a damn cliché. And what had annoyed him further, what had made the cliché so much worse, was that the shoot out from his memory had taken place in a damn abandoned warehouse.

Running

He’d stayed at the hospital for two weeks. Two weeks wasn’t nearly enough time to recover from being shot eleven times. It would have been better if he could have stayed longer, but unfortunately, in the end, he wasn’t given a choice.

The ones who’d shot him had came back for him.

How they’d found out he wasn’t dead like they thought, he had no idea. But they came.

There were only two of them and they came walking in at a time when no one else was in the room. At first he couldn’t place their faces. He had only just woken up a few minutes ago and was still half asleep. As one of the men picked up a pillow from the chair next to his bed, he suddenly remembered them from the shootout. Before he could do or say anything, the one with the pillow and had pushed it down on his face and the other held him down to stop him from struggling.

The moment before he passed out and everything went black, he felt the pillow and men pulled from him.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

He’d woken up half an hour later, the nurse who liked to visit and talk with him sitting in the chair at his bedside. When he was properly wide awake she related to him what had happened.

She had been coming to check on him, to find out if he needed anything. When she had entered the room and saw what was taking place, she’d started yelling and the two hefty orderlies who had just come out of the next room came rushing through the door in time to pull them off her patient. Blows were traded, the orderlies prevailed and the two assailants were left groaning on the floor.

Meanwhile, a doctor had shown up demanding answers. Everyone began talking, then shouting at the same time until the nurse yelled at them all to shut up and not disturb her patient. She had then proceeded to order the doctor and orderlies to ‘remove yourselves from the room and take the murdering bastards with you while I make sure the poor lad is all right.’

Once out in the corridor, the orderlies notified the doctor what had happened. The two men then pulled out badges, demanding the orderlies to unhand them, that they were interfering with official FBI business and would all be arrested for obstructing justice. The hospital staff weren’t having a bar of it and the whole situation quickly deteriorated into another scuffle, which ended with the two men getting free and escaping.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

There was silence for a while after the nurse had finished her tale. He was having difficulty taking in all that she had told him. Part of what she’d said at the end had also caused him to recall something from one of his memories.

At the warehouse, all the people shooting at him, they had all been wearing identical navy blue jackets emblazoned with large yellow letters. FBI.

Shit.

He was starting to get confused and more than a bit panicky. Did this now mean that he was a bad guy and the FBI was after him? But if that was really the case, why would the need to dump his body in a river where nobody was likely to find it or smother him with a pillow while he was laid up in the hospital instead of just arresting him? Were they really the FBI or were they counterfeit feds.

He was getting scared. They’d tried to kill him twice now. What was to stop them coming back and trying again? They knew right where he was.

He’d decided right then that he was leaving the hospital that night, whether he was ready for it or not. He wasn’t going to stick around and wait for them to come after him again.

After waiting a few hours, he’d gotten changed into the clothes the nurse had brought for him a few days ago. He’d had nothing and she’d felt sorry for him. So she’d gifted him with a bag full of goodies to cheer him up. Inside the backpack she’d handed to him he’d found a pair of jeans, new underwear and socks, a few t-shirts, a sweater, a pair of sneakers, toiletries, a book, a pack of cards and a stash of snacks.

After getting changed, he had read his chart to find out what prescriptions he was meant to be taking. He cursed to himself when he found it was all gobbledy-gook to him. Well, he’d just have to wing it. Checking that no one was outside, he’d left his room and went in search of a supply room. Earlier he’d lifted his nurse’s keys, so he’d have no trouble getting in. The second one he’d found had what he needed. He grabbed as much antibiotics, pain meds (not as strong as he’d been taking up to now though, he couldn’t afford to be all doped up), bandages as he could as well as anything else that looked as if it could be useful. He also found some doctor’s scrubs and changed into a set. He added the surgical bandanna to the mix to hide his head wound and the patch of hair they’d had to shave. He paused then dropped a handful of scalpels into the pack as well. He would need something with which to defend himself.

Praying no one had noticed him gone from his bed yet, he left the supply room and walked confidently, as if he belonged there, towards the nearest exit and out into the night.

Confusion & Terror

He’d been running and hiding ever since he left the hospital. Every time he went some place new they’d find out where he was again. Sometimes it was the FBI agents and sometimes it was the others. He wasn’t sure who the other people were. Some of the same faces kept popping up. Others were new every time. Probably just hired thugs picked up from where ever the others found themselves. He thought some of them might be Mafia or something. But at the same time he didn’t really think that was quite right. The Mob part didn’t really fit what he was seeing. The looked more like… yeah, that sounds more like it. Russian Mafia. Somehow he knew that was right

But how could he know that? How would he know the difference between Sicilian and Russian Mafias, especially from just having them chase him around a few times? How? Why?

He was getting seriously confused and bewildered by it all. He couldn’t figure out if he was a good guy or a bad guy being pursued and hunted by all bad guys or by both bad and good guys. All he knew was that he was being kept on the edge and on the run and everything just kept getting worse and worse as time went on and someday soon he might snap and break in pieces with who knows what result.

Everything was getting all jumbled up and amplified within him. He was highly confused because he had no idea why these things were happening to him. Not knowing even his own identity had made the whole experience of being lost, uncertain and ungrounded, like he could fall away at any moment and not be found or be able to find himself again. He often felt as if he kept spinning around and around in circles and even when he threw up from the dizziness, it. Just. Never. Stopped.

He was constantly watchful, forcing himself to stay wary and distrustful because he never knew where the next knife or bullet would come from. And because he could never trust, never let himself get to know anyone and never had anyone, he was so, so lonely. More often than not the loneliness ached so badly that he couldn’t move, couldn’t do anything except curl himself into a ball and cry and cry and cry until the rest of the world just dissolved away.

His terror kept growing and overwhelming him and he often honestly wondered why he didn’t just let them end it for him. He was just so bone wearily exhausted by it all.

But something small and almost unheard deep within him kept nudging him not to give up.

Survival

Except for the part about dodging evil, murderous fiends, he found the actual surviving part surprisingly easy. Early on he had a knack for being watchful without others noticing, of seeing details that were difficult to discern, of being able to blend into the crowd to the point where he may as well have been invisible. He discovered that he could use that to his advantage

It was a week after he’d escaped from the hospital. He hadn’t eaten in a few days and his stomach was resentfully letting him know it. He was bored; idling along the isles of a market he’d stumbled across, browsing through the stalls. He was slowly following along with the crowd passing a vegetable stall, right at the edge of the flow, brushing against the tables. He didn’t really stop to think about it. He observed that the marketeer was busy with another customer and it was like his hand moved of its own volition. It moved discreetly but quickly and before he knew it there was a tomato sitting in his pocket. Then he’d been swept away with the throng and nobody else was the wiser. Frankly, he’d been a little shocked. At both the fact that he’d done it and also that he’d actually gotten away with it. It was like he knew what to do without knowing what to do. He must have done this before; lots of times for his body to be able to react automatically like that. Like a sort of residual muscle memory from his life before the shooting.

He discovered he also had the same talent as a pickpocket when he’d stolen the keys from his nurse.

So he found himself able to survive. He stole food when he couldn’t get enough money from picking pockets. He picked pockets and bought food and other necessities when he wasn’t able to shoplift. And he found himself yet again wondering how it was that he knew how to do this kind of stuff

His ability to steal came in handy when it was time for him to move on, to relocate himself to a different city away from those hunting him. He could by a bus or train ticket or hitchhike and help pay for fuel.

He had to be careful here though. Even though he gave a false name (ha, false! How could it not be false?) when they wanted one, there were still cameras around. The people after him could be watching the cameras, watching the stations and depots ready to catch him. So he blends into the crowds and if they do realize he’d been there, then it’s long after he’s left.

Hitchhiking carried with it its own brand of problems. You never know what kind of creep will pick you up. He’d heard some horror stories from people about psychopaths, rapist and serial killers. They made him not want to travel in this fashion, but unfortunately he had to get to his next destination somehow. So he kept the knife he’d managed to flog at that first market hidden up his sleeve for entire trips, ready to defend himself.

He managed to only have one bad incident while hitchhiking. He was exhausted and he’d dozed off about half an hour into the trip, waking up to find the other man’s hand feeling up his thigh, creeping closer and closer to regions which should remain private. He gave a startled yelp, brought his knife out of hiding and screamed at the driver to ‘get your fucking hands off me you fucking sadistic fucking pervert or I’ll cut your fucking balls off! Pull the fuck over now or I swear I’ll fucking kill you!’

The driver saw that he meant every word he said and pulled over off the road, pissing himself as he did so, let him out and quickly drove off.

He soon found another lift bet he stayed wary and suspicious for the rest of the journey.

Another survival trick, though he never really thought about it in those terms, was always changing his name. It wasn’t hard. It wasn’t like he had a real name anyway. He never bothered to try and remember what name he was going by at any given moment, so anytime anybody asked for one he just gave him or her the first name that popped into his head. At the back of his mind, there was also a half formed notion that if the people who wanted to kill him didn’t know what name he was going by then it would be just that much harder to find him.

He also found he could fight like a son of a bitch. Knife fighting, some of that karate type fighting and some of the lowest, dirtiest type of fighting. He got into a lot of fights and won most of them.

He used all these survival tricks as well as some others he only remembered instinctively. For seven long desperate, despairing, lonely months he managed to survive due to these tricks and that small almost unheard whisper coming through all the darkness inside, telling him to hold on.

Goog Things

There were a few good things in his life during this time. The children were good things. There were a lot of kids around every new place he went. Lost waifs kind of like him, living on the streets in whatever free space they could find, nowhere to go, no proper home or family.

With the kids, he could ease down those walls of wariness, walls of distrust. Well sure, he wouldn’t trust them not to nick all his stuff the moment his back was turned, but he knew none of the younglings were after his life

So whenever he could, whenever they’d let him, he would help them, play with them, teach them things, give them the kind of attention they craved. Any spare food or money he gave to them, often going hungry himself. He let them have blankets he, ahem, found. Played chase and tag with them, played with sticks or old balls or papers or rocks, whatever was fun. He taught them what he knew about survival; pick pocketing and stealing, the best ways to fight and defend yourself, how to find good hiding spots, both for yourself and so no one can pinch your belongings. He gave them all the positive attention he could; he listened to them if they wanted to talk, laughed at their jokes, praised them for every little thing the achieved or found, he gave them hugs if he knew they would accept it, played with, fought for, and was just there for as long as he was able to be.

He loved watching their faces light up when they were having fun or learnt something new.

And he hates those that tried to hurt them.

He tried to protect the kids from any bad people, from anyone who wanted to hurt them or take advantage of them. He glared and threatened and fought for their sakes. If anyone hurt his kids then he hurt them back. He only regretted that he couldn’t do more, couldn’t protect them when he had to leave.

Another good thing. There was an old man who sat in the park every afternoon, feeding the ducks on the lake, telling old war stories to the ducks and anyone else who cared to listen.

For two and a half weeks, until he had to move on again, he loved to sit there in the park with the old man; sit on the bench by the lake under the big oak tree and just listen and soak in all the tales the old man would tell while helping him feed his ducks. Sometimes he would ask lots of questions and try to garner all the details he could. Other times he’d just sit and listen with a silence he seemed unable to break. A few times the old man would him questions and he regretted bitterly that he had no answers, no tales of his own to tell in exchange. He explained, one time, why he had no tales of his own to bring. The old man just nodded like one of those wise, old mystic sages and told him it was alright, that he had the opportunity to make new tales of his life.

Yes, he loved his afternoons with the old man in the park.

Good things. Good memories to build into new tales. Tales he might tell himself when he has his own park with ducks on the pond and someone to listen.

Memories A

At first, the only things he was able to remember were the things that were with him when he first woke up in the hospital, of being shot and dumped in the river. He tried desperately to remember anything at all but nothing ever came to him. He needed something that would help him understand and cope with the situation he had been dumped head first into. Anything at all. Please! But he couldn’t make himself remember.

A month and a half after the hospital, a guy got close to him with a gun. He stood only a few feet away pointing it at his chest, a smug, gloating expression on the bastard’s face. Fear flashed through him as he knew he wouldn’t be able to dodge this shot. But as he stood there frozen, the gunman taking his time to savour the moment, something flashed in his brain and before he knew what he was doing, he had struck out cobra quick with his hands and somehow the gun had ended up in his own grasp pointed back at his assailant.

Both of them blinked in shock at each other for a moment. Quickly he realized he know had the advantage here. He was about to say something to the other man about leaving him alone now, when the guy leapt at him to recover his gun. Without thought, he pulled the trigger and shot his attacker twice in the heart.

Shocked at what his body had done, he instinctively ran, his mind shutting down trying to deal with what had just happened.

When he came back to himself he looked around, trying to figure out where he was. He eventually got his sluggish brain working and recognised the land marks. He was halfway across the city from where he started from and he had obviously lost several hours as it was starting to get dark. He looked down and saw he still had the gun. Shit. Gazing around, wondering what to do with the weapon, he suddenly realised something was different. He considered this for a moment before discerning what was new.

He'd found a memory!

He watched as it unfolded in front of his eyes....

* * * * * * *

He was standing beside another man about his own age, a little girl between them. In front of the trio was a man aiming a gun at them. He was agitated and looked like he needed a fix.

He uttered something about them to hand over all their money and valuables. The man was getting more and more nervous the longer it took them to remove all their things. He suddenly realized the man was about to shoot so he tried to go after the gun with a snatch manoeuvre. But it was too late. Two shots rang out before he reached the gun and seize it.

One had hit his arm and the other.....

He turned around and saw the little girl covered in blood, lying in the other man's arms and knew she was dead. He fell to his knees hearing this awful heart rendering scream and realized it came from himself, calling out her name.

* * * * * * *

He came out of the memory and found he had fallen on his ass and was violently trembling at the strength of what he'd seen. HOLY FUCK. He could tell, just by the emotions that had been evoked in him by this memory that he'd been close to this girl. He could still hear the name Ellie shrieking painfully around his skull.

It took him half an hour before he was able to think clearly.

Apart from the strong feelings towards the girl, he didn't recognise anyone in the memory. He automatically dismissed the junky and looked at the other man. He was tall, thin with black hair. He supposed that he knew him, but he had no idea whether he has friend, family or something else.

He looked at the girl, again felt a wrench at his heart. She was small, freckles sprinkled generously across her cheeks and pert little nose, flaming red hair in pigtails and a green and blue sundress. She could be his, she could be the other guys', they could have been babysitting her for someone else entirely. It was frustrating.

He watched the whole scene again, deliberately distancing himself. As he watched, he thought he could identify what had triggered this memory. I was either the gun, the disarming manoeuvre, when the gun discharged or a combination of all three. Although the situation this afternoon was the same, it was similar enough to bring forth this nugget of himself and it gave him hope that he could eventually recover all of him.

Memories B

Three weeks later he was at the park, sitting on the ground, leaning against the bench. There was bread in his hand; he was breaking it up and throwing pieces to the ducks, watching them try and catch the bits on the fly. He was listening to the old man telling him a tale about his twin daughters when the were four years old and the schemes they came up with in order to go to war with their daddy and not be left behind at home. They actually managed to stow away on the aircraft carrier he was travelling on and weren’t discovered until the carrier was an hour and a half out of port when they got bored and decided to go and find daddy and get him to play with them.

He was in a quiet mood today. He just sat and listened and chuckled in a few places, but mostly he just smiled wistfully, wondering if the little girl he saw in his memory would have gotten into mischief like that.

A loud noise drew his attention away. A mother was yelling at her son for some misdeed and gave the boy a smack.

He flinched sharply as another memory quickly overtook him.

* * * * *

He was a small thing, young.

A woman had a hard grip on his arm, hard enough to really hurt and leave a mark. It was his mother. She was yelling furiously at him; about what, he wasn’t all that sure, her screams at him had passed a while ago into incoherency. When his mother drank, anything could set her off.

His arm was really hurting, he was scared and he wished someone would come in and stop her and take him away from her. But he knew that was a pointless hope. No one ever stopped her.

She slapped his cheek. It stung and tears tried to form in his eyes but he refused to let them come, knowing they wouldn’t do him any good and would only make things worse.

She saw them anyway, shrieked at him even louder. His mother then picked up an old hardwood and copper walking cane and proceeded to beat him into unconsciousness.

* * * * *

He gasped and shuddered and folded in on himself, convulsively trying not to throw up. He felt tears streaming down his face uncontrollably but couldn’t stop crying.

The old man was concerned for him. He rubbed the younger man’s shoulder, knowing that something bad had just occurred.

It took him a while before he was able to collect himself and apologize. The old man just gave him a sad smile. He told him that he’d just gotten a memory back and then, because the old man had shared so many tales with him and owed a tale in return, he proceeded to tell him what happened.

The old man just sat there and listened. At the end of the telling, they grey head was bowed low. He raised his head back up and looked the younger man in the eyes for a minute or so and then nodded gravely. He stayed silent. After all, what can you really say that would help after a tale like that?

Memories C

It was two months before he regained another piece of his past. Unlike the previous two times, this memory wasn’t a waking flashback triggered by something he’d seen. This memory came to him in his sleep, and he instantly knew it was a real memory and not just a nightmare.

* * * * *

He was hanging in chains against a brick wall. Everything was grotty, slimy and it stank. He was hurting everywhere from a beating he’d just received courtesy of a crowbar. They’d striped him, tipped a bucket of water over his head and were now proceeding to torture him with a car battery and jumper cables.

The electric shock passed through his body, frying him. Again and again they tormented him, demanding he tell them where he’d hidden the traitor. Over and over they demanded answers and over and over he refused to give them anything. And over and over they electrocuted him.

* * * * *

He woke up screaming and sweating profusely. Thank goodness he’d found a place to crash that was far away from anyone else. Abandoned office space is good for something.

DAMN!! FUCKING HELL!! That was a damn memory. He’d been tortured! Fuck. That wasn’t pleasant at all.

Well, that was a memory it wouldn’t do to dwell on. He got up and decided to go for a walk to try and clear the new images from his head. No way would he be able to get back to sleep now. He was starting to get a little wary about memories.

Memories D

This time around only a week went by until the next memory made itself known.

He was at the beach, out of sight from anyone else. Not hiding exactly, more like taking shelter in a ruined abandoned shack. He was just sitting there against a wall, staring out at the water, just thinking of nothing. He was getting really sick and tired of the running and people trying to kill him for unknown reasons. Maybe it was just a game for them. Maybe a whole bunch of trigger happy, hunting freaks got bored and wanted a different challenge to hunting wild boar or whatever. Let’s pick some guy and hunt him down ‘til one of us comes back with his scalp!

He snorted. Yeah. That’s right. It’s all just one massive, sicko, fucking game.

And while staring despondently over the water, a movie started playing in front of his eyes.

* * * * *

He stood there staring at her, his body shifting back and forth between the extremes of total numbness and unbearable agony as his heart shattered in the most painful way it could.

She stood there and laughed at him. Laughed and made a mockery of him in front of everyone. Laughed at how much he loved her, sneered at how much he had thought she loved him. She threw at his face, and with obvious cruel enjoyment, announced to the entire room that the only reason she’d agreed to marry him, hell, the only reason she even gave him a second look three years ago, was because of his dear old dad’s fabulous fortune. And she’d only just now figured out that he had been telling her the truth when he had said that his dad had cut him off.

She called him cruel, hurtful names and as a final parting shot, as she turned her back on him and walked away, she told him she’s been seeing his best friend from the basketball team for the last year and a half and they were eloping this weekend. Said friend stood up gloating and smirking at him, before following her out while his whole world crashed around him.

* * * * *

Shee-yit!! These things just keep getting worse! Just what kind of sad, sorry, inept loser was he that these things kept happening to him?

He tried to make sense of what he just saw. Going by what she’d said, in front of a whole room of people to top it off, apparently she had started dating him because his dad was rich, no other reason. He’d fallen in love with her, they’d gotten engaged and the only reason she’d stayed around was because she thought she’d end up livin’ it large. Once she actually started believing him when he told her they wouldn’t be getting anything from daddy dearest, she dropped him like so much filth and made off with his best friend, both of them going behind his back and laughing at him.

What kind of person did those kinds of thing to another? How the hell had that guy been his best friend?

He decided he didn’t want anymore of his memories back. All he’d gotten so far was pain and suffering. He didn’t think he could stand much more of it.

Memories E

A month later he'd fallen asleep in the car that picked him up hitchhiking.

When he'd first hopped in the car, the driver told him he usually didn't pick up hitchhikers and wasn't going to stop for him either. But then he thought that a murderer would at least try and make himself look presentable so people would pick him up. According to that logic, since he was so scruffy and destitute looking, that meant he wasn't a murderer so it was ok to stop and pick him up.

He blinked and pondered on this for a few minutes, then agreed that that reasoning did actually have some twisted sort of sense to it.

He sat there listening while the old black guy chattered to him. There was silence sometimes too, but it was always a comfortable, easy silence. In fact, the driver reminded him a lot of the old man at the park. He liked him. So when the driver asked a few questions about him he found himself telling the man the whole story. The man was silent for a while, then commented that he sure did have himself in a pickle alright. He sighed, agreeing.

He fell asleep in the silence that followed and dreamt of another memory.

* * * * *

He was standing in the foyer, a bag on the ground beside him. He was a kid again. There was a man in front of him, looking down his nose in disdain at whet he saw standing there. He had to tip his head back to look up at him. The man was saying how much of a disappointment the boy was and that he'd never amount to anything. He and his mother were sick of having him around. In short, they were cutting him off, kicking him out, and they never wanted to hear from him again.

He nodded in understanding. Also with a small amount of relief. He didn't like living in this house with them either. But still....

He picked up his pack and walked to the front door. He opened it and stepped outside. As soon as he was on the opposite side of the threshold, the man slammed the door shut with a finality that deafened.

* * * * *

He jerked awake, trying to catch his breath. He felt the old guy's attention of him even though his eyes were on the road. He could hear the question the other man wanted to ask and decided to answer it. He told him about what he'd dreamed.

The old man seemed to struggle with this new information. He was finding it hard to believe that anyone could treat their child like that.

He told him that it was ok, that he was having trouble with it himself.

Although, no that he thought about it, it would help explain a few things that had been puzzling him. If he had been tossed out of home that young and had no where to go, he would most likely have become a homeless street kid. That must be how he had learnt all those pick pocketing and surviving-on-the-street skills, and likely a whole lot more things he just hadn't remembered yet.

He found he had gained a satisfied feeling of a mystery solved. He thought he quite liked that feeling and focused on that instead of the negative that the memory could dredge up.

Memories F

It was about six months since he'd left the hospital, not that he was in any position to mark time as it passed by. All he knew was that he was beyond tired of everything. Let them find him. He found he just couldn't care anymore. Just get it over with already. He was exhausted physically, mentally and spiritually. Tired of being on the run. Tired of people trying to kill him, constantly looking over his shoulder, fighting for his life. Tired of not knowing anything about himself apart from a few scattered horrific memories. Tired of not being able to trust, to make friends, tired of being lonely. And just tired of being tired.

He found he couldn't dredge up enough energy to get out of the bed in the homeless shelter he'd slept at last night.

The people in charge of the place soon came around to make him get out of bed, but in the end he was just too exhausted to be moved from where he was. The grandmotherly woman who seemed to boss everyone else around just clucked sympathetically at him and told the others to leave the poor boy alone for now, what he needed most was rest and a good feeding up.

He sighed gratefully as he closed his eyes and lost himself in sleep.

He dreamed again, but for once, his dreams held only good memories.

-----------------

He was sprawled on a couch, feet up on the coffee table, watching a movie. A girl was stretched out next to him. There were two bowls of popcorn wedged between them for easy reach. One contained buttered popcorn, the other, sticky caramel popcorn.

They slumped there in comfortable silence, the closing credits starting to roll. Neither felt the need to talk, they both knew each other too well. He felt safe enough to just relax and be himself. To not have to try so hard to impress. She knew him better that anybody did.

He stretched and shuffled himself deeper into the couch. He closed his eyes and was content to just be, to drift there, warmly cocooned in the feeling of safety.

-----------------

He didn’t wake up quickly like he usually did. He floated somewhere between sleep and awake, content to stay in the sense of safety that followed him out of the dream. He’d never felt anything so nice and warm. He wanted to stay in that place for as long as he could.

He thought about the girl he’d seen. She was strange. She was all in black; black hair, black ripped pants, black top with a picture of a dead dog. She wore a studded collar around her neck and studded wrist cuffs. He recognised her outfit as goth. She looked strange but she looked right. The girl was probably a bit younger than him and he knew she was someone he trusted implicitly. He had the feeling he talked to her about everything and was safe with her. He thought it might have been a brother/sister relationship rather than a romantic one. He wished he knew her name.

He was so relieved that he had finally recovered a good memory, he almost started crying. He revelled in the emotions it generated in him and he daydreamed of the things he and the girl might do together; the fun they would have and the mischief and trouble they might get into. These thoughts bolstered him and convinced him not to give up.

Memories G

Three weeks later a memory got beaten out of him. Three bully boys had caught up with him and he was now being wailed on in the rain. He was giving back as good as he got but there were more of them than there was of him and they were winning.

Bits of memory started flashing at him but he couldn’t afford to be distracted right now, so he pushed them aside and ignored them.

He got in a good solid punch and one of his assailants went down and didn't get back up. Now it was just two against one. Better odds but he was beginning to tire. He pulled his flagging strength together and fought on, hoping for an opportunity to escape

After trading blows for a few more minutes, a small opening soon appeared. He managed to get his two remaining opponents tangled together and a second later he was running full pelt with the two up and after him. He pulled out of the oh-so-clichéd dark alley, entered the sea of pedestrians and was soon lost in the crowd.

It was some time before he was able to find a safe place to hole up. As he was catching his breath, his attention was dragged back to the flashes of memory that had appeared at the most inconvenient of times.

------------------

It was night time and raining. He was in the middle of the bush, surrounded by a dozen guys all dressed in fatigues who were all taking turns to beat the living crap out of him. He was down on the ground, lying in the mud, kicks and blows striking him from all directions.

Lightning flashed and he could see them grinning with cruel enjoyment at his pain.

------------------

He closed his eyes and groaned. He so didn't need this. He didn't want to remember the awful things that kept coming back to him. He was sick and tired of all the pain and suffering his life and mind were shoving at him. Frustrated tears trickled down his face before he could stop them, stinging where they encountered fresh wounds from his most recent scrap.

Ineffectively wiping his face with his rain soaked sleeve, he curled up into the corner of his little nook and fell into a restless sleep.

Memories H

He was just so tired of it all. He kept wanting to lie down and give it all up; let them come and find him. But every time he almost made that decision, the girl he'd seen in his mind would whisper to him and urge him to not give up, to keep fighting.

He yearned to know who she was, was desperate to find her. Even just her name. Ever since he had remembered her five weeks ago, he found himself talking to her in his mind whenever he was lonely or scared or felt like breaking down in tears.

He felt so desperate and despondent, a pressure building up in his chest that demanded a screaming release.

He slammed his fist into a brick wall instead.

The pain that burst out in his almost went unnoticed in the relief of release through violence. As if waiting for a moment just like this one, anther memory was freed.

--------------------

He'd had a bastard of a day. He was angry. He was also frustrated to tears. He picked up his mobile; he needed to talk to someone who would actually listen to him and wouldn't brush him off or ridicule him (all in the name of joking around with him of course.) He dialled his mobile and it rang a few times before she picked up.

He grinned at her usual greeting and responded accordingly.

--------------------

He froze, stunned. He mouth moved but no sound emerged. He watched the scene again to confirm it. His knees became weak and he slid down the wall to the ground, so overwhelmed he was crying.

The girl.

He had a name and he had a phone number.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

It was early evening before he could get up again. His legs had refused to hold him. When he was able to stand and stop the tears, he immediately went to the nearest shop and exchanged all the cash he found in his pockets for change for the public phone.

Getting directions to the nearest phone box, he rushed off, excitement and nervousness bubbling uncontrollably inside him.

Reaching the phone, he poured a stack of coins into the slot and dialled the phone number from his memory with shaky fingers.

The familiar voice at the other end picked up with the same response.

"Hey, you got me, so you know you want me."

With a trembling voice he answered her.

"Abby."

Missing

SEVEN MONTHS AGO

The elevator door slid open and FBI Agent Fornell strode out into the NCIS bullpen. The team watched covertly as he came over and stopped in front of Gibbs’ desk.

Gibbs raised his eyes from the report he was reading to glare at Fornell, raising one eyebrow as if to demand answers.

"Conference room. Now."

Gibbs glared at Fornell for a few more moments, stood up, then walked back to the elevators with the other man. As the doors closed behind the pair, Kate and McGee looked at each other, then turned their eyes back to the lift.

The elevator stared to move but shut down when Gibbs pressed the emergency stop button and stared at Fornell. Fornell stayed silent, staring at the closed doors in front of him with a frown on his face. After a minute of increasingly frustrating silence, Gibbs grew even more impatient.

"Tobias?"

"Jethro."

Gibbs paused at the tone of voice coming from Fornell. "What's wrong?"

Fornell look intently down at his shoes, sighed, and then turned his gaze back to Gibbs.

"Jethro." He stopped and took a deep breath. "We've lost him."

Gibbs blinked. After a pause he demanded, "How?"

"I'm not sure."

A glare. "When?"

"Around three weeks ago."

"THREE WEEKS AGO!?!?" The shout echoed around the enclosed space. "Dammit Tobias. Tony DiNozzo is my agent. And you're only telling me this now?"

"Jethro, I only found out myself this morning. I came straight here as soon as I was able to chase up some information about what happened."

"So what did happen? And how could you not know? You were the one that borrowed him."

"He was undercover. I wasn't his handler. Agent Rudderford was. Apparently, when DiNozzo missed his scheduled contact with her she knew it wasn't because he was just running late. I was at my daughter's school play. She knew this and didn't want to interrupt it so she contacted the FBI Director instead, who was secondary contact if she couldn't get a hold of me. He told her not to bother me with it, that it was probably just one missed contact and he would turn up for the next one. He said that DiNozzo was a reasonable undercover agent but had the reputation of being irresponsible and sometimes not turning up for contacts.

"Yeah, I know, I know," he quickly interjected when Gibbs opened his mouth to argue with him. "That's not true of DiNozzo. But that's what the director told Rudderford.

"He told her that I was busy with other cases at the moment and didn't need to be disturbed with this until something concrete was known. She wasn't quite sure about that, but he is the Director.

"So she stayed in her position and waited a few days for the next contact time. DiNozzo was a no show again. Rudderford called the Director like he'd told her to. He told her I was swamped with a situation here in D.C. and that he would handle it from now on. The director ordered her to stay in the field just in case DiNozzo showed up and tried to contact her, and the Director would let her know what was happening about it from our end.

"Meanwhile, the Director was piling more and more work on me here. He told me he'd assigned the operation off to someone else and kept me too busy to check in on it.

"A week ago Rudderford's motel room was blown up. Luckily she'd left the room a few minutes earlier to get some dinner from across the road. She made her way quietly back to D.C, staying under the radar and she came over to my house as soon as she arrived here this morning. The only ones who knew where she was and why were myself and the Director, and she wasn't sure she could trust him anymore."

Gibbs scowled at Fornell. "You said you needed Tony because there were no FBI agents available that you trusted to be able to pull off this kind of undercover operation. That he was supposed to discover who was selling dangerous top-secret information to terrorists. Now it sounds like you're saying it could be the director of the FBI? Did you really want Tony because there was no one to do the job or did you just not trust anyone in your agency? You neglected to mention this Tobias."

"I thought it might be a possibility that it was someone high up in the agency. There was also the same possibility it was a person or people from other agencies. But I never even thought of Director Peterson."

"Hmph."

“Rudderford told me this morning that during their last contact, DiNozzo said he thought that a few of the people involved were FBI and that one of them, maybe even more, were highly placed. He said he was going to try and get evidence of this as well as the information being sold. That was the last time she spoke to him. Over three weeks ago. Rudderford would have tried to find him, except she was supposed to be laying low herself and the Director said he'd handle it. He ordered her to stay put.

"She said she didn't suspect him at first, only that she felt that something was slightly not quite right. That feeling grew over the past three weeks and once I told her my side of things, well, now we both have strong suspicions about our dear Director. But without this evidence DiNozzo mentioned we can't do anything about it."

"This is not good Tobias."

"Tell me about it. To make matters worse, DiNozzo said there might be more than one highly ranked FBI traitor. Who knows who they could be? Conceivably they could even be higher up the food chain than Peterson, so we can't inform any of our other superiors about our suspicions. The only thing we can do is search for DiNozzo and hope we find him alive."

"I want that search handed over to my team Tobias, we can't...."

"Oh, you can have it. There's no way I'd be able to do the job on my own. Rudderford will have to disappear for now and I have know idea who I can trust this with in the agency. I came over specifically to let you know what's happened and to give you the search. I'll help every way I can." Fornell pulled a flash disk from his pocket and handed it to Gibbs. "Here. After I talked with Rudderford I went to the office. On that disk you'll find copies of every piece of information we have about the operation and anything else I could find even remotely connected. I didn't think it would be wise to bring the original files."

"Thanks."

Fornell nodded and pressed the emergency stop button to restart the elevator. "I'd better get back. Keep me informed Jethro. Good luck."

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MTAC - NCIS Fic