This one... got away from me? 2100 words.
Five times Tony DiNozzo almost died
(1) He didn't really like the Dawson brothers, but they were the only kids who lived nearby the summer after Tony finished kindergarten. Jed and Walter were three and five years older than him respectively, and they never let him forget it.
He was struggling to keep up as they forged their way through the woods, Walter carrying a stick that he used to smack aside boughs and bushes, which inevitably snapped back to hit Tony in the face. Fending one off, he tripped over a tree root and his shoe came off. Tony sat to put it on, but he had some trouble with the Velcro; the straps kept slipping out of his sweaty hand.
"Wait, guys!" he called. "Wait up!" The crashing sound through the undergrowth only got dimmer. Almost crying with frustration as he tried to un-stick the Velcro again, Tony gave up and ran towards Walter and Jed, wearing one shoe and one sock.
They were staring at a huge tree, in the middle of a clear space covered over in dead leaves and pine cones that dampened Tony's steps. The lower branches looked a little rotted, but about twenty feet above that was a great place for a fort.
"Come on," said Walter.
"I don't know if it's safe…" Jed chewed a fingernail, and Walter stepped closer to bat his hand away from his mouth. He looked around.
"We'll send Tony. He's the lightest." Tony was wrestling with his shoe again. Walter snorted. "Retard," he said, and grabbed the shoe out of Tony's hand, ripping the Velcro loose and throwing it back at Tony. Tony quietly put the shoe back on.
"I'll give you a boost," said Jed, pulling him over to the tree. Tony looked up, scared. It was huge and the branches at the bottom were black and sick-looking. Jed lifted him up so he could grab the bottom one. It held his weight.
Tony set his chin and climbed. If he didn't, Walter would call him chicken, and he wasn't. He concentrated on that instead of the way the branches swayed with his weight or cracked ominously once or twice. He was concentrating on it so hard that he didn't even see which branch it was that broke under his foot.
He didn't remember falling or hitting the ground, but he realized that he was screaming, and that his leg hurt so, so badly. Pieces of wet leaves wet stuck to his face, and a pine cone dug into his cheek, and he was screaming because it hurt.
"Jed, get dad!" he heard Walter say, and then he felt the ground thump with Jed's footsteps and he saw Walter's face, very pale, as the boy kneeled beside his head. He couldn't stop screaming, even though he didn't want to cry in front of Walter.
"Shh, Tony," Walter said. "Quiet."
Tony tried, he did, but then Walter shifted to sit down and nudged Tony's leg and it hurt so much. "Stop that. Shut up! I said, shut up!" Walter hit his face, hard enough to sting a little, and Tony was so surprised that he stopped screaming. He sniffled a little and wiped at his face, but the tears kept coming.
"Okay," said Walter. "Sorry." Tony glared and Walter looked a little guilty, but then it hurt again, and Tony buried his head in his arms. "Hey," said Walter. "Hey, you want to hear a story?" Tony nodded.
Walter started making up a story about a brave spy who fell in love, but it felt like a very long time before he felt footsteps again. They were hurrying, and heavier than Jed's alone.
Mr. Dawson leaned over Tony, and Walter quickly got out of the way. Tony liked Mr. Dawson.
"We couldn't find your dad," he said gently. Tony shrugged. "Does anything beside your leg hurt?"
Tony sniffed and wiped at his nose with his collar. "No," he said. He was cold, and shaking, and he felt dizzy. His breath was fast.
"Are you sure?"
Tony thought about it and then nodded. Mr. Dawson picked him up, and swore. Tony was surprised again, but he was too tired to say anything, or do anything besides just lay there.
"What's wrong, dad?" Jed asked.
"He's in shock," said Mr. Dawson. He shifted Tony against his chest and then started running. The motion hurt Tony's leg, and he pressed his face against Mr. Dawson's shoulder. But then he saw his leg, a mess of blood and bone, and he was screaming again, and the only thing he could think was that he was glad his dad wasn't there.
(2) It was 12:04. He was four minutes late, seriously. His father was overreacting. Like that was a surprise.
Tony leaned against the doorway of his father's study, because he knew it made him crazy. His father's eyes narrowed whenever they happened to land on Tony. Mostly, though, they were busy staring into the bottom of his scotch glass. No ice. Four fingers. Lagavulin. Twenty-five years old. Tony knew this all.
His father was going on and on about his anger and disappointment and Tony's duty to him, but Tony was thinking about Jen Southern, and how she had been warm and blonde and alive tonight in his car and had tasted like strawberry chapstick and cheap beer.
"Stand up straight," his father said, and Tony was thinking of Jen Southern and not his father and exactly how much scotch he had consumed, so he said, "No."
There was the sound of breaking glass, and the smell of scotch soaking into the carpet. "How dare you?" yelled his father. "I give you a roof over your head and food to eat – I work my ass off for you and you don't care, you ungrateful bastard."
Tony chose not to mention that his father was really insulting himself by calling his son a bastard and instead turned to walk out of the room. There was the sound of a drawer being opened behind him and then his father's voice saying, "Tony."
He shouldn't have stopped, really, if he was going to make his point, but he was always going to be afraid of his father. He turned around. His father was holding a gun, and it was pointed at Tony.
He didn't move.
He felt sick, and his blood was battering around his body as if it wanted to get out, but he didn't move for the long, long moment it took for his father to lower the gun and look at it as if the hand that held it didn't belong to him, the long moment it took before Tony scrambled out of the room and out of the house with the front door open behind him.
He broke up with Jen Southern in the morning.
(3) Rain. Rain, and a feeling like fire in his side.
He shouldn't even have been here, he was thinking. Not here in this city. He wasn't supposed to have been here. The Navy cops had jurisdiction, really, even though the sailors had been killed in Baltimore. But DiNozzo was stubborn and his boss was really a jackass and so he was lying on the slimy pavement of a back alley in the night, in a city he didn't know. His lips moved, familiar patterns, and he thought he might, maybe, be praying.
He shivered in the cold, wet through, and if the bullet in his side didn't kill him, the rain might. But he had no strength left to drag himself away from the wet and the cold and the body beside him. DiNozzo coughed a little and tasted blood. He hated the taste – like pennies, and scotch. He shouldn't have been here. Not really.
His partner should have, though.
Footsteps, and DiNozzo let himself feel relieved. Detective Janis coming back, maybe. Maybe he wasn't angry anymore. Maybe he'd apologize for being pissed that DiNozzo had followed orders. Maybe he'd have his back again.
But it wasn't Janis; it was the Navy cop, with the silver hair and the arrogance. Gibbs. The footsteps stopped, and there was a voice and a cell phone beep and a call for an ambulance, maybe not in that order. Warmth by his side, a kneeling man. DiNozzo felt suddenly very young, and thought he could see trees, and sunlight through the branches.
"I got him," he said, or tried to.
"Yeah," said the cop. Gibbs. "You sure did." There was pressure on his side. Fire in the rain. "That's good work, kid."
DiNozzo shook his head. "Not kid," he said. "Tony –"
"DiNozzo," Gibbs said. "Yeah. Okay." He lifted Tony's shirt and reapplied the pressure. A handkerchief, maybe. "Where's your partner?"
Tony snorted. "Beats me." He caught his breath as his wound throbbed. It hurt to talk, to breathe. "Not happy that we're here instead of home. Your case. He left."
Gibbs didn't say anything, but his eyes darkened. He held Tony's hand, and didn't let go. Rain, rain, rain.
It was dark in the alley, the glow of the streetlights diffusing in at either end, and Gibbs' face was lit intermittently by headlights passing on the street. It gave him a shadowed, cold look, and Tony flinched until he started talking, low and soothing and warm, holding the icy rain at bay. Tony's eyes started to close. He heard his name, and then louder. Then, a slap to the head, gentle but insistent.
"DiNozzo," he heard again. "Stay with me."
"With you," he managed, eyes still closed, and he finally heard distant sirens. "I'm not supposed to be here." Gibbs said nothing. "You won't… leave," he gasped. "Right?"
"No," he heard. Rain, rain, rain. "I'm with you, too," and Tony believed him.
(4) It hurt to breathe, so much that he'd have caught his breath at the pain if he had any left to catch. But no. It was like sucking air through a straw. Or, actually, more like trying to inhale with an elephant sitting on his chest.
Whatever. It hurt, was the point.
He was concentrating very, very hard on breathing. Everything else was kind of getting fuzzy. Breathe in, breathe out. Four seconds. Again, DiNozzo – not good enough. In, out. Seven seconds.
He couldn't die. Everything was fuzzy, but that much he remembered. There was a very good reason why he couldn't die, even if he had sort of forgotten it at the moment. In, out.
There was a stiff coldness in his chest, and his lungs didn't seem to want to stretch. In out, in out. Kate was on the bed beside him, ostensibly staring at the ceiling. He knew, from the way she flinched when he gave a half-cough, that she was really listening to him breathe. Reminding herself that he still was.
Gibbs was next to him, reading, not listening to the rattling, dead-leaves sound Tony's lungs were making. A very Blair Witch sound. What a crappy movie. Tony gave a little half-laugh, and it turned into a half-cough, which he had gotten pretty good at suppressing. But he breathed in at the wrong moment, and then he was coughing helplessly, warm blood bubbling up into his mouth, metallic and thick.
Footsteps, and the sound of the door opening. Hands on his front and back, lifting him. He was sitting up now, and Gibbs was holding him upright, his warm chest pressed against Tony's. The heat seemed to ease some of the coldness there, and the coughing became a controllable thing that Tony bent his energy to suppressing.
Gibbs laid him down again, but the warmth in his chest was still there. He breathed again, and closed his eyes.
(5) It had been close a few months ago. First, the drug dealer in the morgue with the scalpel, like some screwed-up game of Clue. Undercover agent with the gun in the basement of the hospital.
Then, his car exploded.
That one was pretty self-explanatory.
The world didn't end, though. He survived, and Jeanne survived. The world didn't end.
It's ending now.
Here in this perfect house, with this perfect family and their happiness, and the words at which he was staring. You need to choose. Choose. Between Jeanne, who could be his family, and McGee, Ziva, Ducky, and Gibbs. Who always had been. The flames are warm beside him. The family is perfect, the three of them, happy like he could be.
The world is ending. The only problem Tony has is that it might not take him with it.
He wonders what it's like, dying of a broken heart. Ex-girlfriend with the ultimatum in the stranger's house. Love with the heartbreak at the end of the world.
He chooses. He doesn't die.
It had never been a choice, really.
The world isn't ending, and he doesn't die. And, most of the time, he doesn't even wish he had.