Let it snow, Let it snow, Let it snowBeta:
Many thanks Alaidh for the beta.Pairing:
Continuing on from “The Loganising of Tony” – this one even has a plot! CHAPTER 13
Tony lay stretched out on the landing where he had ended up, one leg hooked back awkwardly, his foot wedged into the gap between the newel, to which the handrail was attached, and the bottom step. He was frustrated with himself, but he would have to wait until the stars he was seeing in front of his eyes disappeared before attempting to grab his chair and pull himself back up the flight of steps.
Suddenly he heard his name being called from below, followed by footsteps and a light coming up the stairs. “Kate?”
“Tony, where are you?”
“I’m right here on the stairs. I’m fine,” he said, propping himself up on his hands only to find that he was held firmly in place. He started to reach for whatever obstruction was impeding his progress, groping his way down his legs, all the while feeling that there was something else he was forgetting. He shook his head, trying to break the thought free. “Oh crap! The gun! Kate, get to Nataliya! Quick!”
Kate scooted awkwardly past his prostrate form and ran for the apartment, picking it easily by the open door. She carefully pulled away the tape from Nataliya’s mouth, apologising for the pain it caused.
“Tony?” Nataliya asked immediately when she was free.
“He’s okay. Will you be all right if I leave you for a minute? I just need to make sure the bad guy’s gone and see if Tony needs any help getting back up the fire stairs…”
“Yes, go. Please.”
Kate cautiously made her way down the corridor in the opposite direction, but all seemed quiet. There was a second fire door at the opposite end and she figured he’d made his escape there. She pointed the flashlight down the stairs, but heard and saw nothing, before returning to Tony.
Tony was sitting at the bottom of the steps when she reached him, holding his head. “Nataliya’s fine; he’s gone. Now, are you
“I’m fine,” was the curt reply.
“Sure you are,” said Kate sarcastically, as she shone her flashlight on his face, making him blink fiercely and turn away from the bright beam of light. “You look like you’ve been hit by a Mack truck.” Blood coated the side of his face, but she was unable to tell where it was coming from, and he had a large bruise already swelling up on the same cheek. Who knew what other damage he had done?
Tony sighed. “I feel like I’ve been hit by three.”
“Think you’ll be able to make it up the stairs? Or would you rather head down and get to a doctor?”
“Nope, I’m okay,” Tony said as he pulled himself towards the stairs. He turned to look up the stairs, where his chair had lodged part way down, and instantly regretted the quick movement as his head spun alarmingly. “Put my chair up at the top and then cut poor Nataliya loose; she’s probably wondering what’s going on.”
Kate did as asked then headed back down the hall to Nataliya’s apartment.
Tony disentangled his legs and sat on the landing assessing his condition before making a move back up the stairs. Aside from the ringing in his head, and what felt like a graze on his cheek, he could feel a myriad of bruises making themselves painfully clear, and there were probably more that he couldn’t feel. He reached up to touch a painful spot on his eyebrow and felt his fingertips come away wet. He hoped he didn’t need stitches. He vividly remembered splitting his chin open in a fall from a tree as child and having it stitched up afterwards. Just thinking about it, he reached up to rub the slightly raised line of the scar with a fingertip, smearing it with blood as he did.
The lights clicked back on as Tony was wheeling back down the hallway. He looked up at the dim hall light for a second, despite the dizziness engendered by the movement of his head, then he had to grin in sheer delight as he heard the noise of the ancient elevator starting to descend. He hadn’t been looking forward to trying to descend the stairwell on his ass. He entered the apartment to the sound of retching. Kate turned from where she was looking out the window at the bleak weather – not that she could see much. “You’re bleeding,” she said.
“Thanks, Kate, I hadn’t noticed.” The sarcasm was thick in his voice. He reached up to touch his brow again.
“How’s your head feel?” she said, turning away and ignoring his snippiness. She walked into the apartment’s tiny kitchen area, returning with a couple of tissues in her hand, which she used to wipe around a deep cut on Tony’s brow to the accompaniment of ouches and ows from her patient. “Tony, I think this needs stitches,” she said critically.
Tony grimaced. He’d seen enough of hospitals in the last year to last him a lifetime.
Nataliya emerged from the bathroom as Kate was tending to Tony, wan but otherwise intact.
“Are you okay?” Tony asked, brushing Kate’s hand aside so he could see Nataliya.
“Yes,” she said, nodding to back up the words. “I’m just not used to such treatment. Please, may I see?” she asked. “I have some first aid training – for my job, you understand.”
“So do I,” said Kate with a sidelong glance at Nataliya.
Tony hesitated a moment before nodding his assent, instantly regretting the movement as his vision blurred again. “Whoa,” he said as both women looked at him in concern.
“Kate, I have first aid kit in the bathroom. Can you get it for me, please?” She smiled at Kate sweetly.
“Come, come with me, in the kitchen. The light is better.”
Tony followed her into the tiny kitchen, his movements somewhat awkward. His every move was starting to hurt. And then there was his head…
“Hey, it is okay, Tony.”
“I know what I am doing. We have a lot of injuries at the gym.” Nataliya looked up as Kate came back with the medical kit.
“Tony,” Kate said, looking at him closely. “You’re not looking so good.”
“Thanks, Kate. Tell me something I didn’t know.” He pulled away as Nataliya dabbed at his brow with an astringent lotion.
“Tony, this needs stitches. I can hold it together with tape, maybe, but I think we need to take you to hospital. And we don’t know what other hurt you have done to yourself. How did you do this?”
“I…uh…fell down the fire stairs.”
“He’s a total klutz,” Kate added, and received another glare by way of response.
“Nataliya, do you have somewhere safe you can go, at least for tonight? We don’t know this guy won’t come back.”
“Yes. I think Bill’s family...”
“Yeah, they were coming home today.” Tony looked up at Kate and something in his attitude shifted. “Kate, can you call Gibbs and see if they got in all right?” Nataliya finished her ministrations, fixing the two sides of the deep cut in place with a couple of sterile strips.
“What happened to your…”
Tony fixed her with a baleful look as he gently fingered Nataliya’s repair work.
“Sure, Tony. I’m on it.”
The trip down in the elevator was a silent one, as all three of them expected at any moment to have the power go off again only to leave them stranded. Nataliya was still somewhat in the aftermath of shock while Tony was starting to hurt in places he didn’t believe he could hurt. His every movement was sending fiery messages through his body, and there was a sextet of bongoes playing a loud samba in his head, which spun alarmingly with every movement. Even the undoubtedly skilfully executed graffiti nude couldn’t capture his attention for long.
The building superintendent, or at least someone Tony presumed to be the superintendent, was crossing the foyer when the elevator doors opened. Black hair, pencil-thin moustache, smacking on a piece of gum and wearing a leather tool belt over a work shirt and well-worn jeans, he eyed Tony’s battered appearance with some concern.
"Oh my God...Schneider..." Tony gasped under his breath.
"What was that?" he said between chews.
"Oh, nothing, it's just that you look like...never mind. What happened?"
“Transformer blew. These old buildings, you never know what's gonna happen, eh. Just gonna check that everything is okay here. You look like you've been through a war. You didn't get stuck and fall or somethin', didja?" The superintendent looked concerned, whether it was because of the possibility of a lawsuit, or genuine concern for his safety, Tony could not tell.
Tony shook his head and instantly regretted the movement. "No, actually, I was pushed."
"Whoa, you should let the police know about that."
"Got it covered, thanks," Tony smiled.
The superintendent smiled back, still looking a little perturbed, then headed into the stairwell.
Tony turned and looked at Kate enquiringly as he heard a phone ringing from behind him. Kate fumbled in her purse for a moment then realised it wasn’t her phone that was ringing. A metallic buzz accompanied the ring tone. Nataliya and Tony identified the source of the sound in the same instant. “The trash can!” they said in unison.
A look of wonder passed over Tony’s face as Nataliya retrieved his phone from the trash can next to the elevator. He flipped it open. “DiNozzo.” He flinched as Gibbs’s voice came through loudly.
“Where the hell have you been?” Gibbs thundered. “And where’s Kate?”
“Nataliya’s apartment. Kate’s here with me,” he replied. He held the phone away from his ear as Gibbs again spoke.
“Why didn’t you answer?”
“Long story, boss. We’re taking Nataliya to Johnson’s parents’ place.”
“Is that wise, DiNozzo?”
“Well…you got any other suggestions? Someone just tried to kidnap her and extort information,” Tony continued. “She has nowhere else to go.”
Gibbs ended the call without further comment and Tony, realising the conversation was over, snapped his phone shut. “Let’s go, Kate.” He pushed off in the direction of the outside door.
As they came out of the apartment building, Tony turned in one direction and Kate in the other as they headed for their respective vehicles. Nataliya stopped between the two of them, somewhat bemused, as both said together, “Car’s this way,” with mirror image gestures.
Kate looked back at Tony in frustration. “You can’t drive. You could have a concussion.”
“She is right,” Nataliya said. “You could black out while you are driving and kill us all.”
“Looks like you already tried to kill yourself on the way here,” Kate commented, pointing at the long scrape down the side of the Mustang.
Tony gave Kate a pissy look and sighed, conceding defeat. “Okay.” He turned to follow her back in the opposite direction but balked when Kate hit the button on the remote and the doors of an electric blue Focus unlocked. He hadn’t even given the ugly car a thought since McGee had followed him home from the crime scene on Christmas day. “You can’t expect me to go anywhere in that!”
“Why not?” Kate was genuinely puzzled.
“It’s…it’s…because it’s so damn...” Words were failing the normally glib NCIS investigator. “Fugly,” he finally forced out.
“Fugly,” he replied, a smug grin on his face. “It means…”
“I get it, DiNozzo,” she cut him off sharply. “Tony, get in. It’s not like we have a choice.”
Tony looked into the interior of the Ford Focus and turned away. “You can’t expect me to get in that thing,” he said. “Come on, Kate, get real.”
“Tony!” Kate was getting exasperated. “Just because it’s not…”
“Come on, Kate. I’m far too big for that little thing. I’d never get in there.”
“McGee did. It’s no smaller than the Mustang, Tony.”
"Look at those doors! It's too hard to get in! Now look at the nice wide doors on the Mustang...ooh...nice wide doors...c'mon, Kate!" Tony gestured in the direction of his car. “Come on, you can drive the ‘Stang,” he wheedled.
“But I’ve never driven with hand controls.”
“It has a dual system, Kate.” Tony really couldn’t believe Kate’s ignorance of the modifications to the Mustang, considering the number of times she’d been a passenger in the car. “You can drive it with your feet.”
“No, Tony.” She turned back to the Focus resolutely. “Come on, we can come back for your car later.”
He studied her retreating back, only moving when Nataliya started to follow her.
Kate ignored Tony as he prepared to transfer into the car. Judging by the stubborn set of his jaw, he was sulking anyway, not that he could ever maintain a grudge for long. It just wasn’t in his nature to sustain it. He morosely transferred into the front passenger seat and proceeded to stash the chair pieces in the back seat. The only sound he made was a pained grunt when he cracked his head on the doorframe. Kate had to quickly smother a laugh as she looked around to find him rubbing the spot he’d just whacked. “You okay?”
“Fugly little matchbox,” he muttered under his breath, even though the Focus had much the same amount of space in it as the Mustang. “I’m fine,” he managed to grind out as he roughly shoved the last piece of wheelchair into the back seat before swinging his legs in and shutting the door more firmly than was actually necessary. He snapped the seatbelt buckle and leant back against the headrest, eyes closed, as Kate started the engine.
Kate, rightly guessing she was unlikely to get anything further from Tony for the time being, turned her head to speak to Nataliya. “Do you know the way to the hospital? I think we should probably do that first.”
“Yes, yes, I can direct you. It is not far. I can call Bill’s father from there, yes?”
Tony’s hand moved to his pocket without him opening his eyes. “Here,” he said, handing her his phone. “Call them now to meet you there.”
“Thank you,” Nataliya said and grinned slightly as he opened one eye to look at her.
He shrugged, settling more comfortably into his seat. “You’re welcome.” He glanced at the road ahead for a brief moment. “Right at the next set of lights, Kate. It’s about…what…four blocks from there?”
“Yes, four,” Nataliya confirmed.
Tony leaned his head back against the headrest and closed his eyes.
“So did either of you get a good look at the guy?” Kate asked.
Tony grunted sleepily.
“He was wearing a mask – a…” she thought for a moment, “a ski mask, yes, I think that is what it was.”
“Could you tell anything about him – height, weight, what did he sound like?”
“He was tall,” Nataliya said thoughtfully as Tony gave a confirming grunt. “He knew Tony’s name. He said, ‘Tony’. I think maybe he knows you.”
Tony gave another sleepy grunt.
“Tony? Do you know who it was?”
Tony shrugged, not bothering to open his eyes and not caring that Kate couldn’t really see the gesture.
“What about the voice?”
“It was…muffled – a little bit hard for me to understand. He was wearing the mask over his face, you understand. Speaking through it. He wanted to know what I did with the gym bag,” she finished softly.
“Gym bag?” Kate asked.
“Yes, it was supposed to be in Bill’s locker at the gym. But I do not know where it is – I did not take it out but when Bill did not come home, I did what he said to me. He said I had to take the bag to his father, but when I checked the locker, the bag, it was not there.”
“How did you get into the locker?”
“Bill gave me a key.”
“And you don’t know what was in the bag?”
“No. Money, drugs maybe? I don’t know. I only saw it once for a moment.”
“What did it look like?”
“It was a gym bag,” she shrugged then, unlike Tony, realised Kate couldn’t see the gesture. “Dark colour, maybe blue or green not black, with a zipper on top and two handles. It was just an ordinary gym bag – I see them every day at the gym.”
“No brand name?”
She shook her head. “I did not see one, or if I did, I do not remember it.”
xoxoxoxoxoxoxox Hospital waiting rooms I have known,
Tony pondered looking around the three sides of the room with its tired paintwork and uncomfortable chairs. There was a table with magazines old enough to have come out of the Ark in one corner and a couple of warning posters on the wall, and that was it for the décor. The desk opposite him was still festooned with tinsel from Christmas. His head throbbed rhythmically in time with his heartbeat. He closed his eyes again to the brightness of the fluorescent lighting and tapped softly on one wheelrim as he waited for his name to be called – dadum, dadum, dadum.
Kate shifted her position on what she considered to be the world’s most uncomfortable seat and flicked over the page of the ancient magazine she’d grabbed from the table. She cast a glance at her co-worker, noting that the cut on his brow was oozing blood out from under the tape, tape that was already lifting away.
Two gurneys from an accident were hurried in with a puff of cold air from outside. The people waiting, Tony included, watched as the two mangled bodies were ushered down the corridor to surgery – a mother and child covered in cuts and who knows what else.
The tapping grew louder, an annoying percussion. Kate looked down at the tapping hand and stilled it with her own. They exchanged looks. Tony freed his trapped fingers and made a brief gesture of supplication before giving a deep sigh.
“Anthony DiNozzo!” a voice called out. Tony looked in the direction of the sound and propelled himself jerkily forward. “Exam 3.” He was pointed in the direction of a small exam room on the right hand side of the corridor, only stopping briefly to say over his shoulder to Kate, “You go. I’ll be fine.”
“Agent DiNozzo,” a pleasant voice behind them stated.
Tony turned to find himself face to face with Danielle, the woman who had found the body in the park on Christmas Day. CHAPTER 14
“Danielle? What are you doing here.”
“I’m a doctor,” she said with a gentle smile. “I work here.”
“Oh,” Tony realised guiltily he’d never enquired as to her occupation when he interviewed her.
“What happened?” Danielle asked, taking in Tony’s battered appearance. She looked at the file she’d been handed but the notes there didn’t really illuminate her other than the word “fall”.
“I fell down some fire stairs,” Tony stated, glumly, matter-of-fact. “A whole flight of fire stairs.”
“Okay, so did you lose consciousness at all?”
Tony flinched as Danielle touched is jaw, angling his face to the light. He nodded and instantly regretted the movement as his head pounded. “Yeah, I think so, for a coupla seconds.”
“Aside from the obvious, I’m going to have to make sure you haven’t done yourself an injury anywhere…”
“I can’t feel?” He sighed deeply. “I know.”
“Well, you look like crap,” was Gibbs’ greeting as Tony slowly rolled into the “office”. Now that the bruises had come out completely, he looked worse than he had the previous night in the hospital. He’d checked himself out that morning after a nearly sleepless night – punctuated by hospital staff waking him to ask inane questions about the date and president and other pointless things.
He’d grabbed a cab from outside the door and gone to pick up his car – grateful to find it intact – and had driven it back to the house. He never thought he’d be so grateful to see his former home. He was unshaven, bone tired and his head still spun mightily with every movement. He felt in need of a good soaking bath. Damn
, he thought, no bathtub downstairs
. He cast a moody look up the stairs, missing the ability to move from floor to floor with the ease he’d taken for granted most of his life. And then Gibbs…
“Thanks, boss. Nice to see you, too,” he responded in kind. He sat slightly skewed in the chair, protecting his bruised side, one foot clad only in a white sock, the outline of bandaging showing through from underneath. There were dried bloodstains and dirt staining his jeans, which had a small tear at the knee showing an iodised graze underneath, and a new set of scrapes adorned his well-worn leather jacket, aside from the neat row of stitches in his brow which met the large purple bruise running down the side of his head.
Gibbs’ eyes dropped to the injured foot.
“Not broken,” Tony supplied, not entirely truthfully as in fact there was a chipped bone in his ankle, but it could have been considerably worse.
“Hmmm.” Gibbs’ response was mild enough. “Go have a shower,” he ordered bluntly.
Tony stiffly half-turned to go, giving Gibbs a view of the undamaged side of his face. “Yes, boss.”
Tony sat on the shower bench, taking inventory of his many hurts as the water sprayed over him. Hello, Tony. Just keep your hands where I can see them.
Tony looked down at his hands, seeing the skinned knuckles. He tightened one into a fist experimentally then relaxed the fingers and rested it on his thigh, imagining the ring worn by the perpetrator in the video, but which had been invisible under gloves or not there at all the night before. God. He leaned his head back against the wall of the shower and grimaced through closed eyes as it hit. Damn
. There was something there, just tickling at the back of his brain. Something familiar about the muffled voice – a speech pattern, a tone.
“Gees,” Tony said out loud, frustrated that he still couldn’t place a name on the hands, yet certain that he knew the ring.
“Where’s DiNozzo?” Tony could just make out Gibbs’ voice through the closed door of the bedroom.
“I think he’s still takin’ a shower, boss,” McGee responded.
“Well, tell him I want to see him, pronto.”
Tony grimaced. He was pretty sure he wasn’t going to enjoy the forthcoming conversation with Gibbs. He’d messed up and he knew it. There was a soft knock at the door. “Yeah,” he said, dropping the bandage he’d been awkwardly rewinding around his injured ankle. He watched it unravel, rolling under the bed, then looked up at McGee, who had stuck his head in the door. “What’s up?”
“Boss wants you.”
“I heard.” Tony grimaced as he reached for the dangling strip of bandage, intending to continue what he had been doing before the interruption.
McGee looked behind him quickly then came fully into the room, shutting the door after him. He crouched down and retrieved the end of the bandage, rolled it up and continued to wind it around Tony’s injured ankle, finishing by fastening it in place. “Thanks, McGee,” Tony said gratefully.
McGee shrugged. “You’re welcome. Gibbs is waiting.”
“I’ll be there in a minute.”
Tony hesitated outside the door, taking the opportunity for a few not-so-deep breaths and to don his most “innocent” grin before pushing it open and entering. He had a fair idea of what was coming.
“Hi, boss,” he said, putting on a confident front.
Gibbs smiled back, and Tony instantly quailed.
Kate was typing up some notes on McGee’s laptop. She had looked around curiously when Tony entered the room, but soon resumed her work until she sensed Gibbs’ stony silence. At a pointed look from the boss, she gathered up her notebook and left the document open and incomplete on the computer. She left the room, shutting the heavy oak door quietly behind her.
Tony peered curiously at the computer screen, but his attention snapped back when Gibbs spoke again.
“What the hell did you think you were doing, DiNozzo?” Gibbs raised his hand to slap his senior agent across the back of the head, then seeing the condition of said head, withdrew it.
Tony cringed and hesitated, trying to formulate a reasonable response. “I had no reason to think there was any danger in going to speak to Nataliya, boss,” he said finally.
“On the contrary, DiNozzo, in view of the circumstances you had every reason to think it.”
“What do you mean, boss?”
“Think about it.”
“Well…” Tony floundered. His brain really wasn’t up the usual glib manoeuvring in which he engaged normally when he had been caught out. “I guess…I wanted to speak to her again alone because I thought she was hiding something and that maybe…”
“Maybe she’d speak to me alone where she wouldn’t with Kate there.”
“And why would she do that, DiNozzo?”
“Why because of my natural charm, boss.” Tony grinned broadly. “I was pretty sure she knew more than what she told us earlier.”
“And did she?” Gibbs had begun pacing, but at this point he stopped, pulled out a chair in front of Tony and sat in it.
“Did she what, boss?”
“Know more than she said earlier.”
“Yes, boss, that is, she told us…”
Gibbs raised an eyebrow. He’d already gotten the information from Kate but he wanted to see what else Tony had picked up on.
“..ah…but you know this already, boss.”
“I want to hear it from you, DiNozzo. From the top.”
Tony sighed then caught his boss’s severe expression. “Nataliya called me.”
Tony consulted his phone and held it up for Gibbs to see. “4.13 pm. She sounded upset – scared even. She asked me to come to her apartment because she had some info for the case that might help. She gave me twenty minutes to get there…” Tony looked up at Gibbs and shrugged. “Boss, you know what it’s like – sometimes it takes me that long just to get in the car…” He paused before continuing, “You and McGee weren’t here. Don’t know where Kate was. I left as fast as I could.”
Gibbs smirked somewhat at the last comment.
“I drove to her apartment. Went up to her floor in the elevator and then the power went out. The apartment door was unlocked – it popped open as soon as I touched it. I entered. A gun was pressed to my neck. Nataliya was tied to a chair on the far side of the room. The guy with the gun wanted info on the case – didn’t believe me when I said I didn’t have any. Said that if I didn’t give him what I had, he’d kill Nataliya. I heard the gun cock, so I grabbed his arm. The bullet went wide. He ran, I chased…”
“And you fell down the fire stairs like the klutz you are.”
“Right, boss,” he said sheepishly. “And that’s when Kate arrived on the scene, coming up the stairs – right after the perp ran the other way.”
“And this guy knew you?”
“He knew my name. A lot of people have that information.”
Gibbs held up his hand as if to slap Tony’s head but held back. “What’s your gut tellin’ you, DiNozzo?”
“Could be he knows me…but I’m not sure. He’s familiar somehow, but with the mask and all…I just can’t put my finger on it, boss.”
Gibbs thought for a moment.
“Boss, how did Kate figure out where I was? I didn’t leave a note or anything with an address…did I?” Tony asked suddenly.
“No, but you did write on a notepad.” Gibbs gestured to the lined pad sitting on the tabletop beside the computer. The top sheet had been lightly rubbed over with a soft pencil to reveal what had been indented into it by writing on the previous sheet.
“Ah…frottage…” Tony smirked. He pushed forward a few feet to get a clearer view and recognised his own haphazard scrawling of Nataliya’s address. Our Katy’s come a long way, he thought, pleased with her and grateful that she’d shown up when she did. He became aware that Gibbs was giving him a curious look.
“Frottage?” Gibbs asked, raising an eyebrow.
Gibbs’ eyebrow rose even further.
“From the French “frotter” meaning to rub. The technique of creating a design by rubbing, like with a pencil, over an object placed underneath the paper. Rubbing over the indentations like that is also a kind of frottage. It can also be the act of obtaining sexu…”
probably saved your life.”
Tony had the good grace to remain silent.
“Next time, wait for backup.”
“Yes, boss.”Chapters 1-3Chapters 4-6Chapters 7-9Chapters 10-12