A/N: Thanks to Annie for the quick Beta.
A/N2: Written for the spook-me ficathon on LJ.
Creature Prompt: Shapeshifter
Secret Prompts: Night Must Fall, Cauldron of Blood
"Holy sh - um, wow," Tony stammered, looking around. "How did this happen?"
Ducky tsked as he squatted down next to the body. "I won't know that until I get him on my autopsy table, Tony."
Tony sighed at Ducky's response to what had been a rhetorical question. "Well, something happened to him. If this is his wallet," Tony looked down at the military ID in his hand, "Petty Officer Daniel Brooks aged ten years since this picture was taken."
"Let me see that."
Tony looked up quickly, handing the wallet to Gibbs without hesitation.
"Well damn," Gibbs murmured as he looked from the ID to the body of the Petty Officer. "Duck? What do you make of this?"
Ducky looked up as he pulled the temperature probe out of the dead man's abdomen. "Jethro, as I told Tony, I can't tell you what killed -"
Gibbs thrust the ID toward the medical examiner. "Just take a look, Duck."
Ducky sighed and took the ID, giving it a quick glance. Then he seemed to realize the problem and looked at the ID again. "This -" He paused. "Is this really the same man? It says here he is twenty-five years old. This man," he said, gesturing to where the body lay, "is easily a decade, maybe two, older than that."
Tony nodded. "That what I thought. So what could have done this?"
Ducky sighed, getting to his feet slowly. "I won't know that until I get this man on my table and open him up. Jimmy?"
"Let's get this young man moved, shall we?"
Jimmy grinned. "Yes, Dr. Mallard."
Tony leaned back in his chair, looking up at the ceiling as he fiddled with his pen. After a minute he sat forward, leaning his elbows on his desk. "So what can do that to a man?" he asked, looking across the bullpen at Ziva.
Ziva looked up from her computer. "I do not know, Tony. Why don't you ask Ducky?"
Tony sighed. "He doesn't know either. Last time I checked in with him, he snapped at me to leave him alone. Said he'd be finished when he was finished."
Tony barely resisted the urge to stick his tongue out at the Israeli. "It's just weird is all," he said after a minute. "It's like he was drained somehow."
"Drained," Ziva parroted.
"Drained of what, Tony?" McGee asked.
Tony turned in his chair so he was facing Tim's desk. "Well, Probie," he began, pointedly ignoring when McGee rolled his eyes at him. "I'm thinking that he was somehow drained of his life force or something."
McGee grinned and shook his head. "You've been watching way too much television, Tony. I don't think there are any Wraith on Earth - or maybe we're really on Atlantis and no one told me?"
Tony stilled, his face wiped of any emotion. "Very funny, McGee," he said as he got to his feet and walked out of the bullpen. He could hear Ziva and McGee laugh as he walked away.
A few short minutes later he walked into Abby's lab. Surprised to see his boss already there, he hesitated by the door, listening to them discuss the evidence in the case.
"If you want to know what we're talking about, Tony, get over here," Gibbs said without looking up.
"How the hell does he do that?" Tony muttered as he walked further into the lab.
Abby met his gaze with a bright smile. "Hey Tony. Bossman and I were just discussing the case. Got anything new?"
Tony shook his head as he leaned one hip against Abby's lab bench, his arms folded across his chest. "No - you?"
"As a matter of fact, I do," Abby declared with a smug smile.
Tony rolled his eyes and then flinched as Gibbs smacked him on the back of his head. He instinctively raised his hand to rub at the sore spot and caught Gibbs' eye for a brief minute. If he wasn't mistaken, Gibbs looked smug and maybe satisfied. Tony bit back a sigh as he turned his attention to Abby.
"Ducky sent these over," Abby said as she turned on the monitor over her lab bench.
The *these* in question were clearly autopsy photos and Tony frowned as he pushed away from the bench and stepped forward, craning his neck upward to peer at the photos.
"What is--?" he asked as he tilted his head to one side slightly.
"Burn marks. Finger-shaped burn marks to be exact," Abby said quickly.
"Finger-shaped burn marks," Tony repeated slowly. "How the hell does one make finger-shaped burn marks - on a skull - under hair?"
Abby grinned and pointed with her pen. "That is the question of the hour, Tony."
"So, Boss, what do you think caused the burn marks on Petty Officer Brooks' skull?"
Gibbs sighed softly. "I don't know, Tony," he said as he maneuvered his way through the afternoon traffic.
"You do realize that everyone is talking about this case already, don't you?"
Gibbs nodded silently.
"So where do we go from here?" Tony asked, thinking out loud. "I mean, from what we've gathered, he was a quiet guy who mostly kept to himself."
"Yep," Gibbs acknowledged with a nod. "There is one place he frequented, though, and you and I are going to check it out tonight."
Tony looked at the sign as they pulled into the parking lot. "'Night Must Fall'," he murmured. "You're kidding, right?" he said, turning to look at Gibbs.
"And you wondered why I told you to ditch the Armani suit, Tony," Gibbs said as he pulled into a parking space between two mud-encrusted pick-up trucks.
"Very funny, Boss. I feel like I'm in Deliverance and they're cuing the banjoes."
Gibbs grinned. "Chin up, Tony - and don't let them smell your fear."
Tony chuckled nervously and followed Gibbs inside. Gibbs immediately walked up to the bar, putting one foot up on the brass bar that ran the length of it and leaning forward. Tony stood at his side, looking over the patrons as he leaned a hip against the bar. He took the beer that Gibbs offered and raised an eyebrow as he lifted it to his lips. Gibbs smiled and took a sip of his own frothy brew.
"Are we off the clock, Boss?" Tony asked quietly as he leaned forward.
Gibbs grinned. "Nope - so make it last."
Tony nodded and looked around again. After a few minutes he turned to Gibbs again. "Want to grab a table, Jethro?"
Gibbs shook his head. "You can see more from the bar than any other place in here."
"And what exactly are we looking for?" Tony asked.
"I'm just trying to find out what brought Petty Officer Brooks here over and over again."
"A blue jean and cowboy boot fetish?" Tony asked innocently as he looked around at the pool tables, the scarred heavy wooden tables, and the sawdust strewn dance floor in front of the small stage where love bands played every Friday night. Now, on a Tuesday night, there were just a few couples two-stepping to an old jukebox. "Gimme a cauldron of blood and I'll call it even."
Gibbs chuckled as he took another sip of his beer.
As Tony took another sip of his beer, he began to choke. Gibbs snorted as he gestured toward the bartender. "B-Boss!"
"What is it, Tony?" Gibbs asked as he turned to face Tony.
"Daniel Brooks just walked in," he said quietly, still coughing lightly and wiping the beer off his face.
"What?" Gibbs snarled as he spun around to look.
Sure enough, a young man fitting the picture of Petty Officer Brooks was standing just inside the door of the bar, looking around. As the young man looked around the bar, smiling vaguely at the greetings he received from a few patrons, he spied Tony and Jethro standing at the bar. He frowned, staring for a moment longer as if trying to place them - and then he spun on his heels and walked out.
Gibbs nodded to Tony and, together, they walked out of the bar. Once in the parking lot, they split up, each one taking out their weapon before heading in between the cars.
Tony walked quickly but quietly among the cars, crouched down, weapon at the ready. The lights were dim and spaced far enough apart that they weren't of any use to him to try and find the man who looked like Petty Officer Brooks. Instead, he had to rely on his other senses and he found himself closing his eyes as he listened for any sounds of movement. After a minute he heard a soft scuffing sound off to his right and he turned toward the sound, moving quietly. A strangled scream brought him out of his crouch, his weapon trained on the man standing in front of him.
Gibbs was about ten feet in front of him, his mouth open in a silent scream. Petty Officer Brooks stood just behind him, his hands pressed to either side of Gibbs head. Tony could see Gibbs' hands scrabbling at the fingers pressed to his skull, his nails drawing blood. The man at Gibbs' back didn't even seem to notice the blood running down his hands.
Tony stared at that blood before lifting his gaze to look into Gibbs' eyes and then to the man standing behind Gibbs. As Tony watched, the face of Petty Officer Brooks seemed to waver slightly and, for a split second, Tony could have sworn that he wore Jethro Gibbs' face. Just then, Gibbs screamed and Tony watched, horrified, as smoke drifted up from under Brooks' fingers. The smell of burning flesh wafted to Tony's nose and he thought he knew how the dead Petty Officer received the burn marks on his skull.
"Boss?" Tony said as he aimed his weapon at the man standing behind Gibbs.
Petty Officer Brooks wasn't taller than Gibbs and Tony didn't have a clear shot but he knew he was running out of time. The Petty Officer's features morphed into Gibbs' again and, as Gibbs opened his mouth to scream, Tony yelled, "Down!"
Jethro dropped like a stone, his knees buckling. His dead weight seemed to startle the man at his back and, as the man's hands dropped to follow Gibbs' body, Tony pulled the trigger. He watched dispassionately as the 'thing' posing as Petty Officer Brooks looked up, startled. Blood ran down its face from the hole in its forehead and Tony watched as its features seemed to melt, no longer those of Petty Officer Brooks, but of a much older man. The body fell to the ground as Tony moved forward. He knelt at Gibbs' side.
"Boss?" he said tentatively, reaching out toward the man on the ground and then pulling his hand back quickly. Jethro's eyes were closed but Tony could see his chest rise and fall: he was alive, thank goodness. Tony tried again, a little louder this time. "Boss?"
Tony watched as Gibbs blinked slowly.
Gibbs groaned as he pushed himself to a sitting position. "What the hell happened, DiNozzo?"
Tony shrugged and glanced over to the body lying on the pavement beside them. "Um that thing," he said with a gesture toward the body, "tried to kill you like I'm assuming he did Petty Officer Brooks, since it was his face he was wearing when he came here tonight."
Gibbs frowned, his fingers questing on his head. "That's the guy from the bar?"
"And that's what gave me this fucking headache?"
Again Tony nodded.
"You can speak, Tony," Gibbs said testily.
Tony licked his lips. "Don't quite know what to say, Boss."
Gibbs sighed and pushed himself to his feet where he swayed for a bit before seeming to find his balance. Tony got up and stood beside him, looking down at the body of what appeared to be a very, very old man.
"Something's got you spooked, DiNozzo," Jethro said with a snort, "besides the fact that that man looked like our D.B. a few minutes ago. Now spill."
Tony turned to Gibbs. "When he was-" He hesitated briefly as he thought about what he'd seen and what to say.
Jethro's exasperated exclamation caught his attention and he sighed. "Boss, for a minute - when he was - when he had his hands wrapped around your head - when he was holding you-"
"Get to the point," Gibbs snapped.
"He looked like you - just for a minute."
Gibbs frowned. "What do you mean, he looked like me?"
Tony bit his lip. "Just for a minute, his face flickered like an old movie - and he was wearing your face." Tony looked down at the dried out husk of a man at their feet.
"You're telling me this man was what - some kind of shapeshifter?" Gibbs growled.
Tony shrugged and rubbed the back of his neck, easing the ache he could feel building there. "Yeah, I guess I am," he said after a minute.
Gibbs snorted. "Yeah - well, keep your opinions to yourself, DiNozzo. Who the hell would believe a story like that?"
Tony smiled. "Abby?"
Jethro rolled his eyes as he pulled his phone from his pocket, wondering just what Ducky would find when he did the autopsy on the body.