A Simple Miscalculation
Rating: PG15 for language and violence
Summary: on a routine call, Gibbs and DiNozzo run into trouble
It should have been so simple--nothing more than an informal q&a session at the private residence of a particular individual of interest in an NCIS murder investigation. That's all; just a quick drop-in call on Mrs. Emily Stevens, the wife of the best friend of one Cyril Bergit, the murdered naval engineer whose death was being investigated by Jethro Gibbs's team. Neither Mr. nor Mrs. Stevens were under any real suspicion concerning the untimely death of their friend, but both Gibbs and DiNozzo had arrived at the couple's doorstep with several pressing questions concerning Cyril Bergit's off-duty activities--activities about which Roger and Emily Stevens seemed certain to possess firsthand knowledge. Having checked rather thoroughly into the couple's private lives, work histories, and any possible motivations for the homicide of their longtime friend, Gibbs and DiNozzo had arrived bright and early on the Stevens's property with the almost certain confidence that they weren't facing any personal danger. They had arrived together just after morning rush hour, timing the appointment carefully in the hope of catching the missus home alone--all the better to coax from her cautious lips anything she might not normally give up in the presence of her career military spouse. Once this interview with Emily Stevens was done, her more recalcitrant husband was next on the list. Hopeful that this visit might prove to be an insightful addition to the reams of information and material the entire team had been collecting on this week-old case, the two NCIS investigators had just left their car and were heading up the long ribbon of sidewalk to the spacious front porch of the Stevens's home when all hell broke loose.
"I'm telling you, boss, that was no woman at the latte bar," Tony was arguing emphatically as he kept pace with Gibbs's brisk, no-nonsense strides up the pristinely kept walkway to the Stevens's front door. "All you had to do was look at the adam's apple on her--I mean, on HIM--and it was SO obvious--" Gibbs's brusque snort of cynical amusement had barely left the older man's lips when the quiet, orderly world around the two men suddenly exploded into violent chaos. One moment, the glint of relaxed humor in Jethro's eyes as they cut briefly to the side to meet Tony's guileless, earnest gaze, and the next---
"DOWN! DAMMIT, DINOZZO, DROP!!" Gibbs was yelling hoarsely, his own trimly muscular form diving sideways and rolling on the dew-wet grass of the Stevens's lawn in a desperate attempt to evade the stunningly unexpected fusillade of bullets that had begun tearing up the sidewalk and the turf all around them. The tinkle of breaking glass from the Stevens's living room bay window had erupted near-simultaneously with the barrage of gunfire as bullets pierced and shattered the immaculately cleaned panes of glass, bursting from within the house in a deadly hail of super-heated metal intent on two particular targets.
"TONY! Dammit, Tony, answer me!" Gibbs barked out, clawing for his own gun even as he kept rolling far enough across the wet grass to hurl his six foot frame over and behind the prickly cover of the box hedge edging the Stevens's yard. In the back of his mind he held a mental image of bullets pounding into his helpless form during that single, vulnerable moment of scrambling for the minimal safety of the plant barrier, and it was with an explosive, gusting sigh of relief that Gibbs landed hard on one knee on the other side of the hedge to find himself still in one piece. But he wouldn't remain that way unless he dropped flat and kept his head down; and so it was a prostrate Jethro who now crawled gingerly forward on his belly, gun in one hand, to try to peer through the gaps in the bottom of the hedge to the deceptively peaceful facade of the house and the murderous occupant it sheltered. Who the hell was it? Gibbs found himself wondering with savage fury even as worry for DiNozzo clawed at his mind. Who was trying to kill them--Mr. or Mrs.? Or was it someone else entirely, some unknown sub who might possibly have already killed the Stevens and set up this deadly trap?
But how did he--or she--know we were coming? Questions, questions...and where the HELL was DiNozzo?
"Tony, you okay?" Gibbs hissed in a tense, gravelly voice as he turned his gaze to the side long enough to make out the frantic wiggling of another human form pressing itself against the hedge that was twin to this one, only on the opposite side of the concrete walkway. "Report, Dinozzo! That's an order!" Jethro added severely, tense ire turning to something worse--to the bitter, acrid taste of fear that let him know something was terribly wrong even before Tony's strangely weak and breathless voice confirmed it.
"I---ah---I think I'm hit," Tony wheezed out, his tone one of mingled denial and incredulity. "Geez, boss, I am; I'm...I'm shot."
"How bad?" Gibbs barked out, his voice taut with concern and edged with the rage growing inside him for what had just happened to his second. "Tony?"
"Ah...don't really...arghh, there, it's there...But can't...can't find or feel any exit...just...bleeding. Lots...lotsa blood, boss," Tony reported faintly, his voice shaky with shock and barely-controlled panic. "Oh, god, it's starting to hurt, Gibbs, I'm feeling it now, SHIT..."
"Where were you hit, Tony?" Gibbs demanded, then pressed himself completely flat on the ground as another volley of gunfire erupted from the house. "Down, put your head down!" Gibbs bellowed from the side of his mouth to his partner as he gingerly turned his head, one cheek pressed into the wet grass, to try to check on DiNozzo's position.
"'m down, boss," Tony panted out a reply, the brief, startling flash of his white teeth illuminating the shadowy cover of his hedge's foliage as the agent grimaced a tight smile, then gritted his teeth on an involuntary outcry of pain. "It's--it's my upper chest, I think, or maybe my shoulder; it's ALL burning, hurts like a sonavabitch from collarbone to belly...ah, god, think it might've nicked a lung, having trouble...catching...my breath..."
"Hang on, DiNozzo; just sit tight, you hear me?" Gibbs growled, his attention moving relentlessly from the house to Tony's flattened but pain-twisted form and back again between the two. "I'm coming over, Tony; make room," Gibbs warned and drew himself slowly and stealthily into a semi-crouch in preparation for diving across the open space separating the two hedges.
"Maybe...you shouldn't move, boss," Tony coughed out a bubbling, wet-sounding protest, one blood-covered hand flapping in Gibbs's direction in a feeble attempt to ward him off. "Too dangerous, you'll be...in line of fire..."
"You let me worry about that," Jethro growled back, his fear for the other man sharpening his tone before he consciously softened his words on a sardonic snort of brief laughter. "Anyway, the day Jethro Gibbs can't outrun a measly hail of bullets is the day I need to retire. Hang tight, I'm coming across."
"Come on, then...you...big he-man, you," he thought he heard Tony gasp drily, but he was too busy flinging his ass--along with the rest of his adrenaline-spiked form--across the three-foot gap between the hedges to roll hard and land, cursing but unshot, beneath the staccato rain of renewed gunfire splattering bullets into the other side of the hedge. It seemed a miracle that none had found their way through the densely packed but still-permeable foliage to pierce his and Tony's all-too-vulnerable flesh, Gibbs thought dimly and decided he was damned grateful for small favors as he fetched up hard against Tony's side and both felt and heard the other man give a sudden, sharp grunt of agony at the abrupt physical contact.
"Damn...sorry, Tony," Gibbs breathed out as he rolled up onto his knees and huddled protectively over DiNozzo's curled-up figure. "Let me get a look at you, gotta stop the bleeding, then get the hell out of here and to the hospital." Grimly prising Tony's hands from their pained, defensive clutching at his own chest, Gibbs maneuvered them both to a denser stretch of the hedgerow even as his hands worked to rip open the brand new designer shirt Tony had been so proudly preening in this morning back at the office.
"Shit...there goes...a big chunk of pay," Tony ground out as the high-dollar material gave way beneath Gibbs's strong fingers with a loud ripping sound. His pain-glazed eyes rose briefly to Gibbs in shaky chagrin, and Gibbs returned his gaze with one of mild apology as his hands took a quick, efficient accounting of Tony's wound.
"You'd never have gotten all the blood out, anyway, DiNozzo," Gibbs retorted philosophically as he began tearing and folding squares of Tony's ruined shirt to use as packing in the wound. Tony bit off a shouted epithet and involuntarily kicked one leg upward in pained reflex as Gibbs pressed a hunk of shirt tightly against the blood-welling bullet hole torn high into the right side of Tony's muscled chest and held it there with one strong hand while he used the other to push Tony's arching form back flat on the ground.
"Steady...steady," Gibbs crooned softly, his free hand unconsciously stroking along the line of Tony's uninjured shoulder while his other hand continued putting firm pressure on the bullet wound.
"Gee, that makes me feel...ah, god, stop!...so...much better, boss," Tony gurgled weakly, hands clawing mindlessly at Jethro's fingers pressed so hard against his chest before his body gave up the fight and went limp in the grass, sweat beading his forehead even though the morning was almost unseasonably cool. "Hey; next time we...walk into an ambush...remind me to...to wear my OLD shirt, okay?" he finished and looked up to surprise an expression of brief, unaccountable tenderness in Gibbs's return gaze.
"Will do, Tony," Gibbs murmured, and as another angry buzz of gunfire shattered the sanctity of the usually peaceful neighborhood, the elder agent spread his body over the younger, wounded man's and gave Tony's unmarked shoulder a reassuring squeeze in tandem with the unrelenting pressure being kept on his injury. "Where's your cell?" Gibbs asked almost conversationally, his mouth so close to Tony's left ear that DiNozzo could feel the warm stir of Gibbs's breath against the sensitive outer shell.
"You...don't have...yours?" Tony wheezed somewhat irately, and Gibbs swallowed back a snarky retort and merely shrugged wryly in response.
"Left it in the front seat of the car," he explained, and Tony rolled his eyes and began wiggling experimentally on the cold, wet lawn, one hand reaching blindly, weakly, for his back pocket and his own cell phone which he'd slid inside when they were getting out of Gibbs's car earlier.
"It's...here...somewhere," he panted, face twisting into a pained grimace at even the smallest movement; and as Gibbs made conciliatory settle-down gestures with his free hand, Tony subsided back onto the grass and submitted to his superior's one-handed groping after the elusive phone in Tony's back pocket.
"Next time we walk into an ambush, you might also think about wearing looser pants," Gibbs growled as his fingers finally slid down inside the material of Tony's pants pocket and began fishing after the slim lines of the cell phone. Tony obligingly lifted his toosh as much as he could to make more room for Gibbs's exploratory hand, but even that much movement caused a fresh surge of bleeding from his chest wound and wrung a strangled groan of pain from Tony's alarmingly colorless lips.
"Next time...bring your own...damned...cell," DiNozzo managed to grit out,and at that moment Gibbs gave a small, sharp cry of victory as he came up with Tony's cell clutched in his hand.
"It's a deal," he grinned down into Tony's pallid, sweating face and made quick work of phoning in the situation to all those who needed to know.
"I'm sure...the neighbors...have called 911 by now...anyway," Tony was muttering weakly, and Gibbs nodded curtly as he reached for a new square of ripped shirt and switched it for the blood-soaked piece he'd been holding over Tony's chest.
"The more the merrier, I always say," he merely replied, and cocked his head as though listening for any sound of movement from the now ominously quiet house lurking on the other side of the hedge. "Besides, I called in our own people, something I don't think the locals would know to do," he added and watched with satisfaction as some of the lines of pain, fear, and stress smoothed out on Tony's forehead.
"Ziva and McGee...coming?" Tony slurred, his voice and smallest movements sluggish to the extreme now; and even as Gibbs's heart froze at the glazed, increasingly fading light in DiNozzo's eyes, he forced his voice to remain calm and upbeat as he nodded and reassured Tony that their fellow team members were on their way.
"Good...good." Tony's eyes fluttered now, struggled to stay open and even widened briefly in a flash of renewed agony as Gibbs was forced to increase pressure on the still-gushing wound that was so steadily pumping the injured man's life blood out onto the jewel-green lawn beneath them. But as Gibbs urged him to stay alert, to "just talk to me till help comes, DiNozzo," Tony's eyes slid wearily to half-mast and grew dark and distant, his expression going lax and dismayingly lifeless despite Gibbs's increasingly frantic orders for the other man to stay awake.
"Don't you even think about it, DiNozzo!" Gibbs barked out, ignoring yet another fusillade of gunfire from the house that was erupting now in tandem with the growing cacophany of approaching sirens in the distance. "Dammit, Tony, you are NOT dying in my arms behind some stupid hedge while wearing what's left of that godawful ugly shirt! Do you hear me, Tony? Don't make me whap you in the back of the head to get my point across. Are you listening to me, Tony? You with me?" And as the leader of NCIS's premier investigative team grimly pressed a new square of material against the other man's struggling-for-air chest, DiNozzo's eyes slid open the barest fraction to fasten the agonized but stubborn slit of a patented DiNozzo glare onto Gibbs's taut face.
"Wanna...new shirt...boss," he murmured almost dreamily just as the blessedly familiar shape of McGee's sedan squealed onto the street from the next block over and screamed to a stop down the block, followed by a whole calvacade of wailing cop cars. It was gonna be okay, Gibbs told himself as he shifted his grip on Tony's shoulder with his free hand and slid his other hand, now liberally smeared with the rich carnelian hue of Tony's blood, to grasp the injured man's other shoulder. Gotta drag him further down the hedgerow and closer to help, Gibbs thought to himself even as he smiled down into his second's shock-white, contorted face and nodded his head in resigned agreement.
"I'll buy you a dozen of the ugly things, okay, Tony?" he bargained, and as the barest glint of mercenary interest broke briefly through the agony on DiNozzo's face, Gibbs silently heaved an internal sigh of shaken relief and knew to the core of his being that Tony really would be okay. How could he not be; there was simply no other acceptable outcome. Anyone who could take a bullet to the chest and still be a glutton for fashion wouldn't give upthe ghost so easily, Gibbs mused to himself now as his throat burned with emotion. You are one in a million, DiNozzo, he thought fondly and then offered up a silent, terse apology to the man he held clutched securely in his hands as he drew in a fortifying breath and began dragging Tony's body with more speed than gentleness down the agonizingly long stretch of hedgerow toward the relative safety waiting the next house down. Tony screamed out in terrible pain at the abrupt movement, and more, enraged gunfire broke out as the unknown killer in the house tried again to nail both men. But this time the two weren't alone; as Ziva and McGee came in low and fast, blanketing their team mates with cover fire, Gibbs kept grimly pulling Tony along, hollering mindless words of breathless reassurance as Tony's writhing body left an ugly trail of dark blood on the grass behind them.
Just a simple, stupid miscalculation, Gibbs thought dourly to himself as he finally got Tony far enough away from the line of fire so that both of them could collapse to the ground and catch their breaths. A simple failure to pinpoint the danger somewhre along the line, and it all goes to shit. Later there would be many, many questions to answer, many missteps to review and reevaluate; but right now Tony needed help, he needed help FAST, and all the rest of it could wait.
"Hang in there, DiNozzo; the medics will be on scene soon," Gibbs murmured now to the grass-begrimed, blood-smeared man groaning piteously on the sidewalk before him. "Just hang on; you're gonna be fine."
"Whatever...you say, Gibbs," Tony gritted in reply, hands scrabbling once more at Jethro's as Gibbs reapplied pressure to the younger man's chest wound. "You're...the boss."
"Damned right, and don't you forget it," Gibbs replied, and then they were both quiet, Jethro's eyes drawn inexorably to the sight of his fingers and Tony's entwined over the blood-soaked ruin of DiNozzo's shirt, their hands pressed together over the hole in Tony's chest, the vibration of Tony's laboring heart fluttering through each of their digits. Holding on, both of them holding on for his sake, for his life, for all the days ahead.