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Between a Cock and a Hard Place

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There was nothing that turned Gibbs on more than having Tony fully submit to him. Over the years, Gibbs has mastered the arts of rope tying and woodworking. Both skills came in handy in building a solid bench that he could tie Tony to, and of course, tying the knots in the ropes that bound his senior field agent.

They’d been doing this for ten years, but he never lost his excitement at seeing Tony naked and bound. After threading his fingers through Tony’s brown hair, Gibbs clenched his hand around several strands, tugging Tony’s head up so he could kiss him. The kiss was raw and rough.

Through his successive marriages, Gibbs had discovered that he liked rough sex. Tony was the only partner he had that gave him exactly what he wanted on every level. Their bond had grown strong over the years.

A smile played with the corners of his mouth as he grasped his favored paddle firmly. It was wooden, strong and hard. With years of practice, he had become a master of controlling the force of his strikes. Closing his eyes, he savored the solid thwack of the wood meeting its fleshy target of Tony’s ass. As he delivered a string of consistent blows, he noticed Tony’s cock growing hard, deepening in color.

Setting the paddle aside, Gibbs moved forward and spanked Tony firmly with his bare hand. First one side, and then the other, until Tony’s skin was warm to the touch and ebbing into shades of pink and red.

“You’re so hot,” Gibbs whispered as he leaned in and kissed the nape of Tony’s neck.

Tony groaned softly and pulled against the ropes that held him fast.

Gibbs’ weathered hand slowly caressed Tony’s skin, massaging him along the way. Starting at the shoulders, he worked his way downward, knowing exactly where to apply extra pressure. In their time together they’d learned to read each other well, both in the field and in their private lives. Gibbs’ experienced hands sensed Tony relaxing under the constant kneading.

“Good?” he asked.

Tony’s eyes were closed and his head tilted off to one side as he relaxed from his lover’s caress. “Yeah. It’s all good.”

Leaving one hand on Tony’s hip to maintain contact, Gibbs reached over for a condom and tube of lube. Standing close enough to Tony that their skin touched, Gibbs tore a packet open with his teeth and rolled the condom over his cock. He’d placed the lube on Tony’s lower back and retrieved it.

Once he squirted a dollop of lube onto his finger, he trailed the tip down Tony’s spine and crack until he reached his hole. With light pressure, he teased the entrance, smiling when Tony lasciviously pressed back against him.

Using his other hand on Tony’s back, Gibbs steadied himself and pushed one well-lubed finger in fully. Tony moaned when Gibbs added a second and third finger and began twisting them slowly as he thrust them in and out, spreading the lube around while Tony adjusted to the penetration.

Gibbs moved his hand to the center of Tony’s back, pressing the palm flat against the warm skin. Leaning forward, Gibbs left a trail of kisses across Tony’s shoulder blades. “Going to make you sweat,” he whispered. His tongue followed the curve along the outside of Tony’s ear as he licked slowly upward. “Getting impatient?” he asked softly.

“Yeah,” Tony replied as he struggled to keep his breathing even.

Readjusting his position, Gibbs nudged his cock against Tony’s lube-slicked hole, smiling when Tony grunted and pushed back as far as he could. The ropes binding his wrists to the bench were strained from the force of being pulled tight.

“Don’t hurt yourself,” warned Gibbs. “You know the rope will tighten if you pull against it.”

“You could have used the leather cuffs instead. I like the cuffs.”

“You broke them last time!”

“Oh yeah. Sorry about that, Boss.”

“If you’re good, I’ll get you another pair for your birthday.”

“And if I’m bad?”

“Bare metal handcuffs, with no padding.”

Before the words were out of his mouth, Gibbs pushed inside, reveling in being cock-deep into the warmth of Tony’s body. Shifting his hands back to Tony’s hips gave him a good angle to thrust in deeply. He smiled, knowing the exact spots on Tony’s sides that would tickle him, but he would save that for a different time.

As droplets of sweat began to form on Gibbs’ chest and neck, he ran his hands up Tony’s back, always keeping contact. Experienced hands rubbed Tony’s shoulders, then Gibbs leaned closer, leaving a trail of kisses scattered across his lover’s skin.

Straightening back up, Gibbs brought his hands down to Tony’s waist and allowed one hand to reach forward and begin pumping Tony’s cock. Every few strokes, he would squeeze the base, keeping his partner at a slow burn.

“Not going to last,” warned Tony.

“You better last longer than me,” Gibbs shot back.

Tony groaned instead of responding, and tightened his muscles around Gibbs’ cock.

“You’re not playing fair,” Gibbs teased.

Tony struggled against the ropes as he concentrated on his breathing. He could feel the heat flooding to his face.

Gibbs was well acquainted with Tony’s tricks to slow himself down as he tried not to come first. Leaning forward, Gibbs nipped at Tony’s shoulders to bring him back to focus.

“You don’t play fair either,” said Tony as he panted heavily.

“Love you,” Gibbs whispered into Tony’s ear as he came. It was all the permission Tony needed to come himself.

Backing away slowly, Gibbs took in a deep breath and released it as he removed and tossed the condom. He was so taken with the young man expertly tied before him. He knew he could leave Tony there for hours without a complaint, but he would be sore later on.

Silently, Gibbs began tugging on the ropes, releasing Tony’s wrists and ankles one by one. As each wrist was released, Gibbs rubbed it gently and peppered it with soft kisses. Tony was still lying across the bench, eyes closed and a blissful smile on his countenance.

Gibbs pressed his lips against Tony’s ear. “Isn’t it your turn to cook dinner?”

“How can you expect me to move after that?”

Gibbs swatted Tony’s ass twice. “Don’t make me bring the paddle back out.”

Tony finally pushed himself up from the bench and wrapped his arms around Gibbs’ waist. “Love you, too,” he said before kissing Gibbs on the lips.

“Enough distractions. Go cook food. Go on,” Gibbs urged. “I’m starving.”

“On more distraction first,” Tony said as he took Gibbs’ hand and led him into the shower. Closing his eyes, Tony kissed Gibbs as the hot water rained down on them. Gibbs grabbed the bar of soap and worked it into a foamy lather before rubbing it over both of their bodies. Tony laughed as they attempted to maneuver around each other in the converted tub.

“Stop splashing water all over. It’ll be your fault if the floor rots,” Gibbs said.

“Good thing my boyfriend is the handy sort.”

“You know I’m not fond of that term,” Gibbs said before planting a kiss on Tony’s shoulder.

“My sexy lover, then. My silver fox. I don’t know why you don’t get rid of this old tub and put in a proper shower.”

“I like this old tub. They don’t make them like they used to. It’s a classic, beautiful and functional. This is designed to hold in the heat of the hot water. Not like those cheaply made fiberglass things.”

“You just like that it’s an old clawfoot tub and gives you places to tie a rope onto.”

Gibbs grinned salaciously and waggled his eyebrows suggestively. “That, too,” he said as they rinsed off.

Back in the bedroom, Tony skipped the underwear but made a point to bend over directly in front of Gibbs as he retrieved his jeans and pulled them back on over his bare ass. “Coming?” he asked.

“Already came,” Gibbs snapped back as he dressed in a T-shirt, his favorite red Marine hoodie, clean underwear, jeans and a worn pair of slippers.

Tony remained shirtless and barefooted as he led the way to the main floor, and began rummaging through the refrigerator.

Gibbs reached around him and grabbed a beer. “Don’t blame me if you get grease burns from cooking topless.”

“I have a plan. If any grease splatters onto my skin, and leaves a mark, I’m going to let you kiss it and make it feel better. And you can take your sweet time kissing it. I thought you liked it when I went topless.”

Gibbs sidled up behind Tony, pressing the cold beer bottle against his bare back, causing him to inhale sharply as he straightened up, his muscles tightening from the shock of cold. With his lips pressed against Tony’s ear, he said, “I like you topless, bottomless and any other way I can get my hands on you.”

“You’re such a tease!”

“I learned from the best. I never dreamed of being in a relationship with a guy before you came to work for me. You’ve taught me more about relationships than any of my ex-wives.”

“And I’ve made all your dreams come true.” Tony set some pork cooking in a frying pan while he began chopping vegetables for a stir-fry. “Chris LaSalle called.”

Gibbs was already settled on the couch, flipping through the few channels his set picked up. “What are you two up to now?”

“Come on, Boss. You promised we could visit with them when we had a few days off. Our caseload is super light. Even Vance has hinted this would be a good time for us to burn off some of our earned vacation days. Please?”

Scrubbing a hand across his chin, Gibbs thought about it for a minute, then replied, “I’ll check with Vance. If he feels McGee and Bishop can handle the load, we can take a few days off.”

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Chapter Text

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Two days later, Tony and Gibbs wrapped up their reports at the office. It had been a quiet week, with no new cases for their team. McGee had gone through all their computers to help speed them up, and Bishop had lugged more boxes of cold case files between storage and her desk than she wanted to think about.

It was obvious to Gibbs that his team was watching the clock. Later in the afternoon, McGee left to see if Abby needed help with anything. Tony and Gibbs had a quick meeting with Vance. Bishop was sitting alone at her desk when Pride and Chris walked around the corner.

“Hey Darling,” Chris called out in a Southern drawl. “How are you doing?”

“Hi Agent LaSalle, Agent Pride. It’s been going well. I didn’t know you two were coming to DC,” she said as she came around the desk for hugs.

Pride glancd up at the upper floor. “Long overdue vacation. Someone loaned Gibbs a sailboat and he invited us to tag along.”

“That sounds wonderful. Gibbs and Tony went upstairs to talk to the director. They should be down soon. Unless we pulled a case.”

Chris rolled his eyes. “Don’t even say that. I didn’t fly all the way up here to sit on the sidelines watching your team work.”

“You still have me,” Pride said.

“What are you, my consolation prize? I was promised a fishing trip.”

“Don’t you think I’m better than a cold, dead fish?” Pride asked as he leaned his ass against Tony’s desk with his arms folded.

“Depends on the day,” Chris retorted.

“Ouch! You’re just out to shoot daggers into my heart.”

Chris made the motion of lining up an invisible bow and arrow, and aiming at Pride’s heart, then laughing when Pride pretended to be shot and clutched at his heart.

Bishop cleared her throat to get their attention. “I’m sure everything is fine and they’ll be down shortly,” she said as she returned a handful of folders to a file box.

Chris moseyed over to her desk and eyed the file boxes. “You guys must be slow if they’re having you input old case files.”

Bishop groaned and rubbed her eyes. “It takes so long to get it all entered. And most of these files,” she began, waving her hand to indicate the boxes on her desk and piled up next to it, “will never be looked at. Ever!”

Just then, Gibbs came around the corner. “The higher-ups feel it’s worth it if having one cold case entered helps solve a case, or if it even ties a couple old cases together.”

Turning around, Pride reached out to shake Gibbs’ hand, then pulled him into a one-armed hug. “Hey, my brother. Vance is still letting you go, right?”

“Of course. We’re ready to roll. Bishop, where is McGee?”

“Still in Abby’s lab, I think.”

“Give him a call and tell him he can go home. He’s running things here next week.”

Bishop closed her laptop and returned it to its bag. “We’ll call you if we get a case.”

Tony was about to tell her not to, when Gibbs spoke up. “Yeah, that’s fine.” As he waved the others to follow, he said, “Let’s get out of here.”

They’d driven Tony’s sedan in that morning. After Pride and LaSalle put their bags in the trunk, Gibbs got into the driver’s seat and pulled away from the lot. As they sat in the back seat, Pride wrapped his arm around Chris’ shoulders.

“You really should use that seatbelt,” Chris quipped. “Safety first.”

“That’s what condoms are for,” Pride replied. “Being on a boat we’re going to be in close quarters.”

“There is nothing quite as good as sex on a boat in rolling waters,” Chris said with a wink at Pride. Turning toward the front seat, he asked, “Just how big is this boat?”

“Forty-four foot Orana catamaran,” Gibbs replied happily.

“Damn, that’s one hell of a boat. We’re going to have us a real good time.”

Turning in his seat, Tony faced the passengers in the back. “It’s got four bedrooms…”

“Staterooms,” Gibbs corrected.

“Each with its own bathroom.”

“Head,” said Gibbs.

“Whatever,” Tony said as he turned back to facing forward. “It’s a big boat. Plenty of room for the four of us.”

“How’d you score such a big, fancy boat like that?” Chris asked.

Gibbs shrugged. “Friend of a friend. We cleared up a case involving an Admiral’s son and he was grateful.”

“I thought we weren’t supposed to accept gifts.”

“He’s not giving me the damn boat,” said Gibbs. “He’s just letting us take it out for a spin. He doesn’t use it that often anyway.”

Within minutes, they were parked at the marina and carrying their gear down to the boat. Tony had loaded them up with more groceries than they would need. “Don’t want to have to waste time coming back to land for food and beverages,” he said.

“She is a good looking boat,” Pride said as they boarded. “Have you taken her out before?”

“Nope,” Gibbs replied. “This will be our first dance. I’ve been on similar though.”

Walking over to the rigging, Pride carefully inspected the equipment as he ran his hands along everything. “Sails look to be in good shape.”

“The whole ship is in great shape,” said Gibbs. Turning to Tony and Chris, he continued, “Take rooms on opposite sides. Keeps the boat balanced.”

Tony rolled his eyes and Chris followed him down the short staircase. “I think this boat is stable enough to handle us all being on the same side.”

Chris smiled as he maneuvered the luggage through the narrow hallway. “Best to just do as he says. Captain’s orders.”

“We’ll take starboard, you take port, okay?”

“Sure thing. You taking fore or aft?” Chris asked.

“Taking the back,” said Tony as he tossed his bags through one of the doorways.

“I’m guessing that’s the master stateroom?”

“Well, the boat was loaned to Gibbs. As the captain, don’t you think he deserves the largest suite?”

Chris gently punched Tony’s arm. “Stateroom, you landlubber.”

“I’m sure it’s only a couple inches bigger.”

“Don’t let them hear you talking like that,” warned Chris.

“Like what?”

“Those two up there hear you say, ‘a couple inches bigger’, and they might think we’re comparing certain physical aspects of their bodies.”

Tony chuckled. “I hope they don’t think we do that. Do you get out on the water much in New Orleans?”

“Some. I like to fish. It’s a good way to relax, and sometimes provides for our dinner. Gibbs told Pride there was good fishing on the Potomac.”

“We can use the extra staterooms for reading or resting.”

“Or just storing our gear.”

Tony’s next stop was the galley, where he set about stowing their food, beer, and other beverages. Chris hopped off the boat to buy some bait. Pride remained at Gibbs’ side as he readied the boat to leave port.

“She’s really a beauty,” Pride said. “I wish I could own something like this. It must cost half a million.”

“It’s a little upscale for my taste,” Gibbs replied. “But Tony sure looks happy.”

“I remember the days when it was you and me and a rowboat.”

“Those were good times,” agreed Gibbs.

“Do much fishing anymore?” asked Pride as he took a seat.

“Not much. Tony doesn’t really care for it.”

“Does he enjoy sailing?”

“We don’t get out much. Heavy workload.”

“Brother, you are preaching to the choir. Chris likes to fish, so we get out on the water when we can.”

“It’s a wonder you have time, with work, the bar and playing piano.”

Pride retrieved a beer from the galley and returned to his seat. “You have to make time for the important things, and the important people, in your life.”

“Yeah, you do,” replied Gibbs as he rubbed the back of his neck. He finished his checklist, then went to the galley to search through the beverages Tony had brought aboard. He picked up a bottle of tea and sat next to Pride, looking out over the water. “At least the weather is good.”

“Are we ready to get underway?” Pride asked before taking another gulp of his beer.

“Just waiting for Chris to come back with his bait.”

Glancing downward, Pride smiled and read over the label on his bottle. “We could freak him out and leave without him. Just circle around and come back. As a joke.”

Gibbs laughed heartily. “Paybacks are hell with these young ones,” he said as he scratched an itch on his nose. “It would serve you right if he just went somewhere and fished off the dock all weekend.”

“He wouldn’t do that. He’d find himself a party boat with a lot of pretty ladies and beg them for a ride.”

“And then he’d flirt with the women and wave to you as we passed them by?”

“Exactly. Does Tony still flirt?”

“Men and women both. I think it’s in the Italian genes. You should see his father work a room.”

“I’ve heard rumors.”

It wasn’t much longer before Chris returned with his bait, holding it out to show to Gibbs. “I’m happy to share since you’re loaning me the fishing gear.”

“Do you have your license with you?”

Patting his pocket, Chris replied, “I’m all set. What kind of fish are we going to find?”

“A lot of bass. They also ask that you kill any snakeheads you catch whether you want them or not.”

“Just the heads?” asked Tony.

Reaching around, Gibbs gave him a head slap. “Snakeheads are a kind of fish, Skippy. It’s not native to the area and they’re trying to keep the population from getting out of control. They’re actually pretty tasty.”

“Yeah, I’ve fished snakehead before, and bass,” said Chris as he opened a tackle box and began sorting through the lures.

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Gibbs skillfully put the boat into motion. They didn’t set the sail until they were well away from the marina. Once they had the wind in their sails, Gibbs skillfully steered the boat through the channel. Pride sat with Gibbs at the helm, catching up, while Tony and Chris sat on the lounge chairs at the back of the boat. The pair drank beer and waved to the other boaters.

“This is the life,” Tony said.

“It’s nice for a vacation, but wouldn’t you miss chasing down the bad guys?” Chris asked.

“And there is the dilemma. There will always be bad guys, even after we all retire. And there will always be a new crop of agents following in our footsteps.”

“Do you think Gibbs or Pride will ever retire?”

“I think they’re both going to have to be forced to retire. They’ll be fine as long as they’re on top of their game.”

“Until they reach mandatory retirement age.”

Tony shook his head slightly. “The director can keep them on. All he really has to do is say that they’re needed.”

“I can’t see either of them riding a desk. They like the fieldwork.”

“Comes a time every cowboy has to hang up his spurs,” said Tony.

“That sounds more like something Gibbs would say.”

“I probably got it from him, or one of those old westerns he likes to watch.”

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They sailed for a few hours before Pride assisted Gibbs in taking down the sails to slow the boat, then they dropped anchor. Tony cooked dinner in the galley, while Chris and Gibbs fished from the stern. Pride sat at the small built-in table and watched Tony working in the kitchen.

“Why aren’t you out fishing?” Tony asked as he began frying up four burgers.

“Gibbs only brought a couple of rods. My favorite part about fishing was always drinking beer, anyway. I guess I can play cocktail waitress for the two of them.”

Tony couldn’t help but chuckle. “Do you have the legs for it?”

“They need to tip amazingly well if they want to see me in a skimpy outfit.”

“Gibbs was asked to have the boat anchored or at a dock an hour before sundown and an hour after sunrise. I suppose that means he can drink as much as he wants while they’re fishing this late in the day. I’m sure we’re not going anywhere else.”

“Have you ever cooked snakehead fish before?” asked Pride as he emptied another beer.

“I’ve never even heard of them before. Gibbs likes his fireplace-grilled steaks, so we don’t really eat fish.”

“Chris likes to cook fish. I’m sure he’ll take care of prepping it if they catch anything worth eating.”

“I brought way too much food. I didn’t want to have to go back to shore if we didn’t need to.”

“Better too much, than too little.”

“I wasn’t counting on fish being on the menu,” said Tony as he plated up burgers, buns, and condiments. “Hey,” he yelled outside. “Dinner is served.”

“Can’t you see we’re having fun fishing?” Chris called back.

“Let me put it a different way. Wrap it up if you want a hot meal. You can eat sushi on the deck for all I care. Leaves more burgers for me and Dwayne,” said Tony. He shook his head but said nothing more as he took a seat next to Pride and began putting his burger together.

Gibbs and Chris stored the fishing gear and joined the others at the cramped table inside. “Sure is cozy,” Chris said as he took a seat.

After dinner, Gibbs and Pride cleared the table, washed the dishes, then sat down to play rummy.

Chris and Tony sat on the lounge chairs at the back of the boat, staring out into the starlit night.

“It’s sure is great out here,” Tony said. “Nice enough to put even Gibbs in a romantic mood.”

Chris chuckled. “Do you need to be courted like a woman, DiNozzo?”

“Just saying, it’s nice to have a little romance now and then.”

“Flowers?”

“Wine and just holding each other and kissing is good. It doesn’t always have to be sex all the time.”

“Pride does like to fire his weapon,” Chris teased.

With a quick glance around, Tony lowered his voice and leaned close to Chris. “I overheard them earlier. Pride thought it would be funny if we took off before you returned from buying the bait.”

“What?”

“He told Gibbs it would be funny to play a joke on you. Gibbs talked him out of it, I guess. He said it would serve Pride right, had we left you behind, if you just took off and went fishing on your own.”

Chris smiled broadly. “I would have found some other boat to party on, and King knows it.”

“Yeah, that’s what Pride said. You’d flirt your way onto another boat.”

“I’m starting to think those two know us too well. Maybe we should turn the tables on them.”

“What are you thinking?” asked Tony.

Craning his neck around, Chris peered back into the cabin and saw that Gibbs and Pride were still playing cards and chatting. Leaning even closer to Tony, Chris said, “This boat comes with a dinghy. We could wait until Gibbs and Pride are asleep, then slip off the boat in the dinghy. They’ll wake up and we’ll be gone. It will totally freak them out.”

“And what if they take off without us?”

“We’ll stay close. I’m sure there’s a flare gun if we need it. We can take the fishing gear and tell them we wanted to fish at dawn when there’s less boating traffic scaring all the fish away.” Chris smiled convincingly as he relayed his plan. “We’ll just have a laugh and come back to the boat. Shit, Tony, we have our cell phones. They deserve it. They were going to pull that crap on me.”

“But they didn’t.”

“Just think about it,” said Chris. “It would serve them right.”

“I’m thinking about getting another beer. Want one, too?” asked Tony as he pondered Chris’ words.

“Sure.”

When he returned to the rear deck, Tony handed a beer to Chris, and sipped his own after taking a seat. He thought about the differences in his relationship with Gibbs, and Chris’ relationship with Pride. LaSalle seemed to delight in one-upping Pride and getting under his skin, but Pride seemed to enjoy the challenges Chris presented. Tony wondered how Gibbs would react if he and Chris did pull off the prank.

Nothing to worry about, he decided after a few minutes. Their relationship was strong and Gibbs clearly loved him. A little joke would never cause a problem between them. It might even be kind of fun. The more beer he drank, the funnier the prank seemed, until he nodded at Chris and said, “Yeah, let’s do it!”

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Chapter Text

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The four men ate dinner together, chatting amiably throughout. Afterward, they settled on the rear deck, watching the sunset. Gibbs had maneuvered the boat into position for the perfect view.

Gibbs and Pride sat on the rear deck’s lounge chairs, each with a bottle of beer close at hand. Tony shared Gibbs’ lounger, settling between his legs and leaning back against his chest. Gibbs wrapped his arms around Tony’s waist and nibbled at his earlobe until he laughed. Chris had bought over a deck chair and sat nearby, watching the sun drop toward the horizon.

“It’s not Louisiana, but it’s not too bad,” offered Chris.

Tony smiled. “I’d like to retire to a tropical island. I could sit on the beach all day, with bikini-clad women serving me drinks.”

Pride turned to Gibbs. “Is that your retirement plan? Drinks, women and beaches?”

“Not hardly,” Gibbs admitted. “I was thinking more like a rustic cabin, nature and hard work.”

Opening his eyes wide, Tony acted shocked and said, “Who are you? Retirement is not about hard work. It’s about relaxing and enjoying life.”

With a shrug, Gibbs replied, “I enjoy physical acts, like chopping wood.”

“I prefer more enjoyable physical acts,” Tony said as he reached for Gibbs’ beer. After taking a drink, he turned to kiss Gibbs on the mouth, then nestled his head against Gibbs’ neck as he handed back the bottle of beer.

Colors drifted and changed as daylight dwindled. Blues gave way to grays, pinks, and oranges that then drifted into purples and eventually faded into the darkness of night. After the sun settled below the horizon, the stars began to sparkle and dance across the sky, and the moon appeared bright, silvery and nearly full.

“Sure is a perfect night. Crystal clear skies, and not too hot or cold,” Chris said. Standing up, he stretched, then took his empty bottle back into the galley.

Tony was at his side in a moment. “Still want to do this?” he whispered.

Chris smiled slyly. “Sure,” he replied softly. “I think it will be funny. Teach the old dogs not to mess with us.”

“We’ll have to stay up late. If we go to bed, there’s no way I can get out of the room without waking Gibbs.”

“Light sleeper?”

“Former sniper. He hears every damn thing, even in his sleep. We’ll have to be super quiet.”

“Well, we don’t see each other much and the old men do need their rest.”

Tony stifled a chuckle. “Yeah? You tell them that. I’m not going to.”

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Hours later, when Gibbs and Pride suggested it was time to turn in, Chris told them to go ahead. “Tony and I have some catching up to do,” he said.

Moving into the galley, Chris grabbed the deck of cards and began shuffling and he glanced at Tony, then nodded to an open seat. “Cribbage okay?”

“Sure,” Tony said as he pulled the cribbage board out of a drawer, and then took a seat. Turning back to Gibbs, he said, “We won’t stay up too late.”

They watched as Pride and Gibbs went down the few steps to the lower deck. The pair chatted and laughed as they played cards, but paid attention to the noises coming up from below deck. They planned to give Gibbs and Pride some time to get to sleep.

After playing cribbage for over an hour, Tony and Chris grabbed a couple blankets and moved back out to the rear deck lounge chairs. They slept peacefully under the stars for a few hours before Chris’ wristwatch alarm beeped softly.

Reaching across the few inches between them, he shook Tony’s shoulder and hoped he would wake up silently. Not wanting to speak, Chris motioned to Tony with his hands, indicating they should get up. Even though they wore rubber-soled shoes, they walked slowly, making sure to stay as quiet as possible, and hoping the water splashing against the hull would mask any sounds they made.

Chris smiled as he motioned to Tony where he should stand near the railing. “We need to lower the dinghy slowly, and make sure it doesn’t splash down too hard,” he whispered.

It only took them a couple minutes to gently lower the dinghy into the water. Chris held the line steady while Tony dropped down onto the dinghy. Then he untied the rope from the boat and climbed aboard himself. As he handed Tony a paddle, he said, “I’m afraid using a motor this close to the boat will wake them up.”

“I’m sure it would.”

The pair paddled as quietly as they could, moving away from the catamaran at a painfully slow pace. Eventually, Tony stretched and cracked his back.

“If you yawn, I’ll make you paddle with your hands,” teased Chris.

“No way!” said Tony. “Gibbs said those snakehead fish can bite.”

“They do have teeth, but I’d say the odds are against you getting bit by one.”

“I think I’ll just keep my hands in the boat.”

“Suit yourself,” said Chris, and he continued paddling at a steady pace.

After an hour, they could still see the boat in the distance. Chris finally put his paddle down and nodded between Tony and the fishing rods. “You fish at all?”

“Nah, that’s more Gibbs’ wheelhouse. Neither of us cares much about eating fish.”

“So he catches and releases?”

Tony nodded, “Yeah. Fish are kind of smelly. He knows he has to shower when he comes home from fishing before I’ll let him get anywhere near me. Sometimes we shower together. Looks like that might be a little tricky on the boat. The shower is tiny!”

“You two seem to have a good relationship.”

“I think we do. How are things with you and Pride?”

“We do okay. We have our moments.”

“Don’t we all,” said Tony. “Do you think you two will ever get married?”

“I don’t know about that,” Chris replied. “I don’t think much along those lines. I like to enjoy what we have. It works for us.”

“You sure like to press Pride’s button.”

Chris laughed heartily. “I guess. We do enjoy challenging each other and playing these little jokes. It’s all good though. Keeps our relationship from getting stagnate and boring. Of course, the sex is always great.”

“He never gets mad at you for this stuff; these pranks you pull?”

“Never. And if he did, we’d just kiss and make up later. He plays as many jokes on me as I play on him.”

Glancing back at the boat, Tony asked, “How long do you think it will be before they notice we’re gone?”

“How early does Gibbs get up?”

“Depends on the day. Being a day off, he might sleep until the sun comes up.”

Chris cast his line into the water. “So we have a bit of time to fish. The other rod is there if you want it.”

Tony eyed the fishing gear but didn’t reach for it. “I’m good.”

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Tony had dozed off and Chris was still fishing when a large yacht came too close for comfort. The sound of a motor nearby woke Tony. Startled awake, he blinked his eyes and looked around through the darkness of night, attempting to determine where the sound was coming from.

“What the hell?” Chris exclaimed as it continued closing in on the dinghy. Setting down his fishing rod, he scrambled to reach for the motor. “That’s a damn big boat getting way too close for comfort. Where the hell are his running lights?”

The sound of the other motor diminished as it throttled down. Someone on the other boat called out to them. “Saw you in the dinghy. Is everything okay?”

“Oh yeah,” hollered Chris. “We just wanted to do a little fishing before dawn. We figured the fish would be easier to catch without a lot of big boats moving around.”

They both heard the familiar click. Tony quickly flipped out of the dinghy, hiding on the far side of it and using it for cover as he debated his next move.

“Stop!” the man yelled at Chris. “You move a muscle and I pull the trigger. And your buddy can drag his sorry ass back over here, or I may shoot you just for the hell of it.”

“Okay, I’m coming back,” said Tony, as he swam back into view, and placed a hand on the dinghy. Looking up, he saw four men pointing guns at them. “We don’t have any money or anything.”

“Ya’ll can have the dinghy, and the fishing gear,” offered Chris. “We can swim back to our boat.”

“We can’t let you do that,” said the first man with a gun. “See that ladder? Come on board. And before you start thinking of not following my orders, we have nets and harpoons. Understand?”

Tony swam over to the ladder first and began climbing up. One of the men had a pole and was able to hook a rope from the dinghy and pull it close enough for Chris to reach the ladder. With a quick look down, he considered diving into the water. But Tony had a chance to get away and didn’t when he thought Chris was in danger. He couldn’t leave Tony alone with these men. They were heavily armed and possibly trigger happy. They’d already threatened to shoot. Chris thought if either he or Tony tried to get away, the other would be shot dead in a moment. Whatever was going to happen, they would face it together.

Once they were aboard the larger boat, the dinghy was stowed and the yacht began pulling away with the motor rumbling in the quiet of the night. Both Tony and Chris glanced back to the catamaran where they knew Gibbs and Pride were sleeping. Suddenly, their joke didn’t seem all that funny.

Without any words being spoken, the gunmen hustled Tony and Chris below deck. They found two more men sitting at the table in the galley and drinking coffee.

“Agent DiNozzo,” one of the men began, speaking with a British accent. “How nice of you to join us.”

Tony and Chris both had their hands raised, but Tony lowered his as he spoke. “Trent Kort. What are you doing out here?”

“Meeting up with an old friend. What else?”

“We’re not friends, you asshole.”

“Is that any way to speak to your host?” Kort asked. “Besides, I didn’t say it was you I was meeting with.”

“What do you want?”

“What do you mean? We’re the good Samaritans here, rescuing the two of you.”

“We didn’t need rescuing,” Chris spat out. He’d taken two steps toward Kort when a gun muzzle was pressed against his back. “Tony, who the fuck are these people?”

“I only know Kort. He’s CIA. We met on a case.”

Kort chuckled and twirled his coffee cup on the table. “On one of my undercover ops that DiNozzo decided to try and blow for me.”

“I didn’t blow anything for you, Kort. You’re the one who tried to blow me up.”

“I had nothing to do with that. Certain people were after La Grenouille. You can’t blame me because you walked into the line of fire.”

“Jeanne was innocent and you killed her father, you son of a bitch.”

“I find it interesting that you’re a switch hitter,” said Kort as he signaled a man across the galley to bring more coffee.

“It was a job. I did my job, worked the assignment.”

“I have assignments, too.”

Raising his eyebrows, Tony asked, “You going to read us in?”

“I don’t think so. Need to know. You don’t. Now, I hope you will show my men every courtesy.”

Chris had his hands back up. “Can you explain why I have a gun in my back?”

“I could,” said Kort. “But I won’t. Kenny, show our guests into the back room and we’ll deal with them later.”

Two of the men manhandled Tony and Chris, moving them into an open storage area at the back of the boat. Chris and Tony locked eyes. They had nowhere else to go. The way out was blocked.

The first man cuffed Chris against the far wall. The other man slammed his gun against Tony’s head, watching as he dropped unconscious to the floor.

“Hey, why’d you do that?” Chris asked. That earned him a fist to the jaw.

“Kort’s orders,” admitted the man who had struck Tony. “Apparently he and Kort have a history.” Grabbing Tony’s arm, he dragged him close to another wall and handcuffed him in place.

As soon as the pair left, Chris began tugging against the handcuffs and inspected the piece of metal it was attached to. Both were solid. “Well, son of a bitch.”

Tony groaned about forty-five minutes later. Chris strained against this cuffed wrist trying to reach Tony, but they were too far apart. He figured, if they both stretched as far as they could, there would still be a couple of feet separating them.

“Are you okay?” Chris asked.

With his free hand, Tony rubbed the back of his head. “Yeah. What happened?”

“Dude hit you in the head. Does this Kort guy know Gibbs?”

Tony shifted until he was sitting up. “Yeah, as much as I do, I guess.”

“You don’t think Gibbs sent him over do you? Could this be payback for us sneaking off the boat?”

Tony shook his head. “No way. He wouldn’t do anything with Kort.”

“Are you sure? Maybe he heard us slipping over the side and called this guy as a joke.”

“No fucking way. This guy tried to kill me before. He’s not a fan. And Gibbs is not a fan of his.”

“What the hell is he up to? Do you think he’s really on some undercover CIA op?”

“I don’t know. One thing is certain. I’m sure he’s up to no good and we are royally screwed.”

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Chapter Text

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When Gibbs woke up, he frowned. The other side of the bed was cold, and the bedding undisturbed. It was obvious Tony hadn’t come to bed at all. After using the head, he ventured out to the deck of the boat. His heart began racing as he checked the boat from bow to stern. There was no sign of Tony anywhere. Rushing back below deck, he checked the unused staterooms. Tony wasn’t there. He pounded loudly on the closed door of the last stateroom.

After a couple seconds, Pride answered sleepily, “What?”

“Is Chris in there?”

There was a pause before Pride answered, “No, he’s not.” In another moment, Pride yanked the door open. “What’s going on?” he asked as he pulled on his jeans. “It doesn’t look like Chris ever came to bed last night.”

“Tony never came to bed either. I searched all over the boat. They’re not here.”

“What? That can’t be,” said Pride as he pulled on a shirt. “How can they not be here? The boat hasn’t moved has it?”

“No, we’re still anchored.”

“Did you check everywhere?” Pride asked as he stepped out of his room. “Maybe they’re playing a joke. You know, hiding?”

“It’s a damn boat. There really isn’t anywhere to hide. I checked all the heads and compartments of any size. They’re not here.”

Pride turned swiftly and checked the head of his own stateroom. “He’s not in there. How is this possible? Where could they be?”

“I don’t know,” said Gibbs as he returned to the upper deck.

They both scanned up and down the river. There were other boats within view.

“It’s got to be a joke. They must be on one of those other ships, probably laughing their asses off. But how could another boat get close enough to pick them up without us hearing it?”

“They couldn’t. If another boat tied up to ours, I would have known. I would have felt it.” Gibbs suddenly ran, frantically searching for the one thing that made sense. “Shit! The dinghy is gone.”

“You think they left on their own?”

Gibbs nodded. “Chris was asking about the dinghy.”

“What about it?”

“He was asking if he could take it out fishing.” Gibbs looked around wildly, and added, “The fishing gear is gone.”

“That’s it then. They must have gone fishing,” suggested Pride.

“Why would they do that without leaving a note, or saying anything?”

“Did you check your phone?”

Gibbs nearly sprinted back to his stateroom and checked. “Nothing.”

“Me either,” Pride confirmed. “They must have decided to go fishing and didn’t want to wake us. They probably just lost track of the time.”

“I don’t like it,” said Gibbs.

“Of course you don’t. When it comes to Tony, you can’t stand it when you’re not in control.”

“That’s not true.”

“You keep telling yourself that,” said Pride as he dialed his phone, then pressed it to his ear. A few moments later, he left a message. “Chris, where they hell are you guys? The joke is over. Call me so we know you’re okay.”

Gibbs kept scanning over the dark water, looking for any sign of the dinghy.

Pride closed his phone and placed it back in his pocket. “I’m sure they’re fine.”

“It doesn’t feel right.”

“What makes you say that?”

“My gut!” said Gibbs as he searched out a pair of binoculars.

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“We’re moving,” Chris said softly, looking across the room to Tony.

Tony had his free hand pressed against the back of his head where he’d been hit. “I wish I knew what the fuck Kort was up to. Needless to say, it’s can’t be good whatever it is.”

“Did he really try to blow you up?”

“Someone did. My car was blown up, but someone else was driving. I was with the mark in a limo just ahead. I saw, heard, and felt the whole thing. It was terrifying. And I’m still not sure if the target was me or Jeanne.”

“Shit, Tony. I’m sorry. Who was driving your car? Close friend?”

“I didn’t even know him. I was dating an arms dealer’s daughter undercover. It was the arms dealer’s guy who was driving. I think his name was Henri. I don’t trust Kort. The arms dealer wound up dead. Gibbs told me later that he had proof Kort took the guy out. I don’t know who else would have blown up my car.”

“So, Kort is a bad guy. Why hasn’t the CIA cut his ass loose?”

“Who knows? They say he’s deep undercover and is just doing his job.”

“I can’t imagine this has anything to do with his job. Why the hell is he kidnapping two NCIS agents?”

Shaking his head, Tony said, “My guess is, he’s pissed at me. You were probably just in the wrong place, at the wrong time. You’re here because I’m here. Sorry, man. This is my fault.”

“It’s not your fault. You couldn’t have known. If anything, it’s my fault for us being out on the dinghy. My trying to get back at King for a prank he never even played. I was just trying to stay one step ahead.”

“Let’s agree that this is Kort’s fault. Not yours, and not mine. Deal?”

“Sure. Just how crazy is this guy? I can’t get a handle on what his end game is.”

Tony tugged at his handcuff again. “I wish I knew. Being kidnapped by Kort and handcuffed below deck in a boat just can’t be good.”

“Especially when Gibbs and Pride don’t know where we are.”

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Gibbs spent a couple hours stalking around the boat, looking through the binoculars he’d found. He continued to dismiss Pride’s notion that the guys were fine. “If they were okay, we’d know where they are. They’d answer their damn phones.”

“Maybe they left them on the boat,” Pride suggested.

“Did you hear them ringing?”

“No. Maybe they’re turned off.”

“I doubt it. Neither of them would go off without their cell phones. We’re federal agents; on call twenty-four seven. They both know that.”

“Maybe there’s a problem with Chris’ phone. I’ll try Tony’s.” Moments later, Pride shook his head. “Voicemail again. Not good.”

The more time that passed, the more anxious Gibbs and Pride became. Both men paced around the decks, constantly looking into the distance for the missing dinghy and its two passengers. Gibbs even called the office and had dispatch call both Chris and Tony’s phones, still neither picked up. Something was definitely wrong.

“Maybe we should pull up the anchor, fire up the engine and go looking for them,” said Pride.

“Yeah? What happens if they come back and we’re not here?”

“They’ve been gone for hours, with no note and no word. They didn’t even answer for dispatch. I’m starting to get worried here. It just doesn’t make any sense that they’d be missing for this long. Something must have happened to them. Something bad. What are we going to do?”

Setting down the binoculars, Gibbs picked up his cell and dialed. “Borin. Gibbs. I have a problem that’s right up your jurisdiction.”

“Yeah? What’s that?”

“I have two missing NCIS agents.”

“And how is that my jurisdiction?”

“They disappeared while sailing on the Potomac.”

“Come on, Gibbs. Two missing feds? That’s FBI jurisdiction.”

“They don’t have boats! Damn it, Borin. I need your help. Can you get here?”

“I’ll offer assistance, but you have to call in the FBI. I can’t investigate this without them getting involved.”

“I’ll call Fornell, okay?”

“Works for me. What’s your location?”

Gibbs went to the helm to double check the coordinates before giving them to Borin.

“I’ll be there in an hour. Who’s missing?”

“DiNozzo and Chris LaSalle.”

“Isn’t LaSalle out of your New Orleans office?”

“Yeah. He and Pride came up to go sailing with me and Tony.”

“When did you see them last?”

“Last night, maybe ten or eleven.”

“Anything else? I know you’re a man of few words, but I need to know what you know. I need details.”

“They were drinking beer and talking on the rear deck last night. It doesn’t look like either of them ever came to bed. This morning, they were both gone. So is the dinghy and the fishing gear I brought along.”

“So they could just be out fishing and got lost?”

Gibbs sighed heavily. “I don’t think so. They’ve been gone for hours. They didn’t leave a note, and they’re not answering their cell phones. It doesn’t feel right.”

“Has your Gibbs gut churning?”

“Big time.”

“I’m on the way. Don’t forget to alert the FBI. I’m serious about that.”

Without responding, Gibbs disconnected the call and located Fornell on his speed dial. “Tobias. I need you to drop what you’re doing and get over here ASAP.”

Fornell sounded tired. “Gibbs? What’s going on?”

“I’m missing two federal agents. I called the Coast Guard.”

“Missing feds are FBI jurisdiction. You know that.”

“That’s why I called you! Agent Borin is on the way.”

“Why? ”

“They went missing from a boat.”

“Tell me where. I’ll grab some coffee and head your way.”

“I’m not moving the boat in case the guys come back. You’re going to have to charter one or tag along with Borin.”

“Tell her to wait for me at the nearest dock. I’ll be there.”

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An hour and a half later, the Coast Guard cutter pulled up alongside them. After the boats were tied together, Abigail Borin was the first agent to board the catamaran and approach Gibbs, while a handful of men followed behind her.

“Still nothing?” she asked as she brushed her hair out of her eyes and adjusted her cap.

“Nothing.”

Fornell handed a coffee cup to Gibbs. “Black tar, hot and strong,” he said. Turning to Borin, he asked, “Any chance they’re just out there fishing or partying?”

Borin shook her head. “I don’t think so. I’ve had patrol teams looking for the dinghy. No sign of it so far.”

“Could it sink?”

“Not likely. Even if a larger boat capsized the dinghy, it should still be floating, just possibly upside down.”

Three men stood close to Fornell. “Gibbs, this is SSA Hotchner, SSA Morgan and Dr. Reid from our behavior analysis team. I thought they might be able to help.”

“What?” Gibbs asked. “They probably got caught up in the current. Maybe they couldn’t get the motor started. We need to look downriver for them. What do these guys do? Analyze river currents?”

“No,” said Fornell as he rubbed his thumb along the lid on his coffee cup. “There’s been no sighting of them. They’re both strong and physically fit. Maybe I’m wrong, but I think someone took them.”

“Took them? Who? Why?” Gibbs asked, running his hand through his hair as he began pacing the deck.

“That’s why I brought the specialists.”

Dr. Reid stepped forward and flipped his phone around to show Gibbs briefly. “We’ve already reviewed their files.”

“When?”

“On the way here. We have a computer tech, she sent the files to our phones so we could read them. Quick access is often helpful.”

“You read a report on that dinky little screen?”

“Yes, sir. And I don’t see anything in these files that would lead me to believe that agents DiNozzo or LaSalle would have any reason to disappear.”

Agent Morgan picked up the conversation. “We saw that Agents Pride and LaSalle made last minute plans to hop a Navy plane coming into DC. Because of that, we believe their disappearance is tied to Agent DiNozzo. We think someone was after him and LaSalle was in the wrong place at the wrong time.”

Gibbs shook his head and smiled in disbelief. “You think someone took him? Why?”

Hotchner stepped forward, his expression serious. “You tell us. Can you think of anyone who might have a problem with Agent DiNozzo?”

“Well, yeah,” said Gibbs, waving a hand in the air. “He’s been with NCIS for thirteen years and was on three different police departments before that. He’s put hundreds of people in jail. Take your pick.”

“What about his father?” Pride asked. “You said he rubs elbows with the rich and wannabe famous. Any chance this is connected to him?”

“He doesn’t have a boat.”

“Yeah, but I’ll bet he knows people who own boats,” Pride pointed out.

“He wouldn’t. Not his own son.”

“Yeah, but could he have pissed someone else off to the extent that they might take Tony and hold him hostage?”

“Senior is broke!”

“But I’ll bet he doesn’t advertise that. Didn’t Tony once describe him as living high on the low?”

“I don’t think that’s it,” said Gibbs.

Dr. Reid tapped his phone, quickly searching through data. “Agent DiNozzo’s father, Anthony DiNozzo Senior is currently in Paris.”

“Good alibi,” said Pride.

“It’s not him!” Gibbs reiterated sharply. “How can you be so sure they’re not simply lost?”

SSA Hotchner glared at him, then waved off to the side of the boat. “Do you see all the other boats out there? There is no way they’re lost and can’t find another boat to flag down for help. The Coast Guard is looking for them. The harbor patrol is looking for them. We have search helicopters in the air. If they were casually floating down the river, someone would have seen them by now.”

Morgan stepped between the two alpha males. “Be honest with me, Special Agent Gibbs. As long as they’ve been gone, can you believe that they’re just floating downriver making no attempt to alert someone else if they’re in trouble? If they’re not in trouble, why aren’t they here? Why wouldn’t they call?”

Dropping his head slightly, Gibbs admitted, “You do have a point.”

Pride nodded. “You’ve been saying it felt wrong since they disappeared.”

“Yeah, I did.”

“I don’t want anything bad to happen to them either. Everyone’s out looking. We’re going to find them,” Pride said confidently.

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Chapter Text

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“Hey! How about some food?” Tony yelled. “Kort? Get your ass in here. I want to talk to you. NOW!”

Chris shook his head. “If they feed us, we’ll fight more. They want us weak and unable to defend ourselves.”

“We have to do something.”

“If we wait long enough, maybe we can slip out of the cuffs. You know, when we’re starved so much that we can squeeze right out of these.” Holding up his wrist, Chris rattled the chain attached to the cuffs.

“Not helping,” said Tony.

“Sorry. There’s just not much I can do when I’m chained to the wall of a damned yacht by some rogue CIA agent.”

Tony pulled against his own cuff. “Yeah, I know.”

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The FBI and Coast Guard agents thoroughly searched every inch of the catamaran seeking clues. Unable to find anything useful, they all gathered on the deck to check back in with Gibbs and Pride.

“We have a lead,” said Reid, as he hung up his phone. “Garcia has been tracing their cell phones.”

“I’ll pull up the anchor,” said Gibbs.

Hotchner stepped in front of him. “I don’t think that’s a good idea. My team is handling this investigation. You should stay here, out of our way.”

Pushing passed the FBI agent on the way to the anchor, Gibbs said, “Try and stop me. If they’ve been taken, they’re not coming back here. I have no reason to stay.”

Fornell sighed heavily and motioned for Hotchner to let it go. “He’s going to find a way, whether we like it or not.”

“It’s not a good idea.”

“I know. You’re completely right,” Fornell said. “But consider how you would feel if you were in his place. What if these were your men missing? Would you be happy sitting on the sidelines or in the locker room?”

Hotchner thought about it for a moment. “No, I’d want it to be all hands on deck, including me.”

“I’ll babysit Gibbs. You guys go find DiNozzo and LaSalle. I’ll do my best to keep Gibbs out of your way.”

“We’ll be going on the Coast Guard’s cutter.”

“I’ll stay here with Gibbs and Pride. Just keep me apprised, okay?”

“Fair enough.”

Before the other agents were off the boat, and back on the Coast Guard’s cutter, Gibbs was getting ready to pull anchor and set sail. Fornell walked up behind him and clamped a hand on his shoulder.

“Agent Hotchner has the lead on this. This is FBI jurisdiction and he’s got the lead.”

“I didn’t say a damned thing about taking over the investigation.”

“Your expression says it all.”

“You know how I feel about Tony. And Pride is the same with Chris. These are our men.”

“You were ready to believe they were just lost.”

“I knew something bad had happened. I just didn’t want it to be true,” Gibbs confessed. “Making it an official investigation made it seem all too real.”

“It is real. You can follow along, but they have the lead.”

“I heard you the first ten times you told me,” Gibbs grumbled as he set the boat in motion.

“As long as we’re clear.”

They trailed after the coast guard cutter for over twenty minutes before losing sight of it as it raced ahead.

“Don’t worry about it,” said Fornell. “They promised to keep me in the loop. Agent Borin will make sure we know their coordinates if they find anything.”

“It’s a damned river. They have two choices, upriver or downriver.”

“Until they get to the Chesapeake Bay and the Atlantic Ocean.”

“You think they’re headed for the ocean?” Gibbs asked.

“If I just kidnapped two federal agents, I’d be getting the hell out of Dodge. We have LEOs checking out all ports and marinas. We’ll check boat by boat if we have to. They’re not going to slip out of our net. With that said, we’re not going to leave them much of a choice but to get out on the ocean. We have more support on the way.”

“Hotchner’s team said they were getting pings from the guys’ cell phones. They must still be on the river.”

“Those phones could be at the bottom of a river. I’m sorry Jethro, but if it were me, I’d ditch their cells. It’s just the best lead we have at the moment.”

“Can you get one of the search helicopters to pick us up at the next dock?”

“Why?”

“The Coast Guard ship is at least three times faster than this one. We’ll never keep up. We’re never going to catch up to them. Especially not if we’re running all the way down to the bay or to the ocean.”

“Give me the name of a port and I’ll get a chopper there.”

“Just how long is the Potomac?” Pride asked.

Waving his hand, Gibbs indicated the river below, then pointed downriver. “About three hundred miles, end to end. It has to be another hundred across the Chesapeake Bay to the ocean.”

“They’re going to have to have a very fast boat to outrun the Coast Guard,” Fornell said. “We’re going to catch them.”

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As they pulled into the next marina, they saw a helicopter was already there waiting for them. All three men ran to the chopper, barely getting the door closed before it took off.

The helicopter raced through the air, flying low, as the river snaked below it.

Pride shook his head. “They could be anywhere.”

“If they’re sitting at a bar at the marina, sipping margaritas, I’m going to kill them both,” said Gibbs.

Fornell turned and stared at them. “You and a handful of FBI agents. Maybe even a dozen or so from the Coast Guard, not to mention all the LEOs out there searching through all the marinas.” After a long pause of silence, he said, “You don’t seriously think they’re playing a joke, do you?”

“They wouldn’t take it this far. If they were joking around, they would have stayed within sight of the boat. Once the Coast Guard showed up, they would have come forward. I’m sure of it,” Gibbs said, his eyes focused on the water zipping by below them.

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Far ahead of them, the Coast Guard cutter reached the coordinates where Penelope Garcia was last able to find a ping off the missing men’s cell phones. “Is there a boat?” she asked, knowing Reid had her on speaker phone.

“No,” said Hotchner, his eyes glancing around at the various boats in the area. “Nearby, but not at the coordinates you gave us.”

Morgan leaned over the railing, looking into the murky water. “If it was me, I would have tossed the cells.”

“I have more Coast Guard vessels on the way,” said Borin. “But if those two were nabbed, I don’t think we’re going to find them on an anchored boat. The Coast Guard will work to clear as many ships as they can. We called in everyone available.”

“Oh my gosh!” exclaimed Garcia.

Hotchner turned sharply. “What do you have?”

“I found someone,” said Garcia. “Or something. Someone had a tracker on Agent DiNozzo’s cell phone.”

“Baby Girl, can you tell who was tracking him?” asked Morgan.

“I think he was doing more than tracking. There was information being captured and downloaded. Agent DiNozzo was being bugged by the CIA,” said Garcia.

Morgan shifted, leaning closer to the phone. “Who? We need a name.”

“I’m working on it. I’ll call you back.”

Morgan quickly dialed his own phone and pressed it to his ear. “Fornell, ask Gibbs if anyone from the CIA had a beef with Agent DiNozzo.” A moment later, he disconnected the call and dialed Penelope’s number, putting her on speakerphone.

“Speak and you shall be heard.”

“Baby Girl, find out what you can on CIA Agent Trent Kort.”

“My fingers are liked winged Pegasus.”

Reid raised an eyebrow, “Isn’t that redundant? Pegasus is a winged horse, right?”

“I am ignoring you because we have to find these agents.”

Borin ordered the boat back in motion. “If they haven’t stopped at a marina, they’re headed for the ocean. They’re meeting a larger ship.”

Hotchner nodded. “CIA indicates an overseas connection. Garcia, see what non-American ships are in the area.”

“That’s a needle in a haystack search, sir. I’m running a trace on this Trent Kort guy’s cell phone. He seems to have a lot of contacts in the Middle East. He is not in Agent DiNozzo’s contact list or call log. I’m thinking, whatever his interest is in Agent DiNozzo, it probably isn’t good.”

“The fact that Agent DiNozzo is missing would attest to that,” said Reid.

“Can you focus on Kort’s contacts, see if there’s someone he may be meeting?” asked Morgan.

“Do you feel lucky today?”

Morgan quickly asked, “What did you find?”

“His cell is on and I was able to ping it. ”

“Get me those coordinates!” yelled Hotchner.

Three minutes later, the Coast Guard cutter raced through the water toward the coordinates Penelope gave them.

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Tony began banging his handcuff against the wall of the boat until Kort finally paid him a visit. Without warning, Kort punched him hard across the jaw.

“Quiet down.”

“Where are you taking us?”

“Do you really want to know?” asked Kort.

“I’m trying to figure it out. I mean, you can’t let us go. Kidnapping two federal agents is going to land you in hot water. Your other option is to kill us. Which again, killing two federal agents is going to land you in hot water. It just doesn’t make sense, even for you.”

“As usual, DiNozzo, you don’t have the whole story. I have an acquaintance from Karachi who has a taste for American men. I sent him a photo of you and he became very,” Kort began before pausing for effect, “excited. We have a deal where he gets you in trade for some intel on the Middle East.”

“You bastard,” Tony yelled as he lunged at Kort until the chain attached to the cuff stopped him. “You are not going to get away with this.”

Kort smirked. “I already have. I offered to toss in your friend here so you aren’t so lonely. That has earned me a couple more tidbits of information. I hope you two enjoy heat and sand.”

“You son of a bitch.”

“I understand he likes chains and whips. His average toy survives three to six months. If he really likes you, you might last a year. Eventually, he tires of his toys and he moves on.”

After Kort walked away, Tony pulled on the cuff until his wrist was raw and red. “He’s not going to get away with this.”

“Gibbs and King are looking for us. I know they are,” Chris said in an attempt to calm Tony down.

“They probably think we went fishing, or are partying on another boat.”

Chris shook his head. “I don’t know about you and Gibbs, but King likes to keep tabs on me. He’ll know something’s up when I didn’t leave a note. I’m sure they tried calling our cell phones.”

“Kort’s men tossed them overboard. I heard them talking.”

“They’ll get Abby to trace them. They’re going to know they were dumped farther away than we would have gone in the dinghy. Those are made for small hops, like boat to boat or boat to dock or land. They’re not made to go sailing down a river full of larger ships. Maybe you don’t know much about boating or fishing, but King knows that I wouldn’t go too far in a dinghy.”

“So, you think they’re looking for the dinghy?”

“Yeah. I asked Gibbs if I could take it fishing. He had to have noticed it’s gone, along with all the fishing gear. And when they don’t find the dinghy, they’re going to ping our phones. When they ping miles away from where we should be, they’re going to come looking for us. We’re traveling fast and there’s a reason for that. This Kort guy knows he doesn’t have much time to hand us over. He knows they’re going to come searching for us.”

“He knows Gibbs would never stop looking for me.”

“And that’s the challenge.”

“What?” Tony asked.

“This Kort guy strikes me as a guy who thinks he’s smarter than everyone else. He’s taken on a challenge to kidnap us and get away with it. He must be confident. I mean, what is he going to say if he gets caught?”

Tony chuckled uncomfortably. “Same thing he always says. He’s deep undercover and couldn’t blow his op. He’ll say these other guys took us and he just happened to be along for the ride. He’ll play it up that he did everything he could to set us free.”

“That story will only work if we’re dead. I say we make a pact that we’re going to get out of this no matter what. Deal?”

“Yeah, sure. We’ll do whatever we have to do.”

“And they are going to find us,” Chris said firmly. “I promise you that.”

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Chapter Text

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Fornell held on tightly as the helicopter jostled in flight. “Hotch’s computer geek found out that Kort was bugging DiNozzo’s phone,” he yelled across the chopper. “Apparently, he’s been tracking Tony’s calls and recording them.”

“He knew we were going sailing and which marina the boat was docked at. He knew the damn boat’s name,” said Gibbs. “Son of a bitch must have followed us and grabbed them off the rear deck when we were sleeping.”

Pride looked doubtful. “I don’t know. The dinghy and fishing gear were gone. Kort must have seen them take off and took advantage of the opportunity. I think Chris and Tony went off in the dinghy and were grabbed from there.”

“That could have been a ruse. Kort could have set off the dinghy with the fishing gear to throw us off,” suggested Gibbs.

“If we found it nearby, I’d believe that, but it hasn’t located, yet. I think the guys did take the dinghy out fishing. Their abductors took the dinghy with them.”

“Why?”

“To leave no trace behind. So we’d be looking nearby, instead of chasing them downriver.”

“Why would Tony and Chris leave the boat and not tell us?” Gibbs asked. “Why wouldn’t they leave a note or something?”

“Maybe they were playing a joke. I wouldn’t put it past Chris to set the dinghy afloat near the boat just to freak us out; making us think they fell overboard or something.”

“He’d do that?”

“Hell, yes. I would have left his ass at the dock, just as a joke, when he was getting bait.”

“But we didn’t.”

“Yeah, I didn’t play my joke on him, but it looks like he talked Tony into pulling a prank on us.”

“And Kort just happened to be there?”

“You said it yourself, he would have known you were there from the calls,” said Pride. “Tony and Chris have been calling each other about this trip for months. Kort must have felt he’d have a chance to grab them, or knew he could outgun and outrun us.”

“It doesn’t make sense. If he grabbed them, he’d know we’d call in everybody we knew in law enforcement. He’d know he wouldn’t get far.”

“Unless he killed us, or tied us up. I’m sure the man had a plan and he probably wasn’t alone. I doubt one man could have taken both Chris and Tony.”

“Do you really think Kort would have the balls to pull that off?” asked Fornell.

Gibbs rubbed his hands over his face. “Yeah, he is one ballsy asshole. He claims DiNozzo blew an op for him. They threw punches at each other over it. Not to mention, someone blew up Tony’s car, and Tony is still sure Kort at least knew about it, even if he didn’t order it himself.”

“It sounds like they have one hell of a history.”

“Yeah, a little bit.”

“Do you think he’s capable of killing federal agents?”

“Oh yeah. He’s killed before. He has a long list of kills under his belt. If anyone gets in his way, he’ll take them out with no hesitation.”

“At least we know what we’re dealing with,” said Fornell.

“Damn!” Gibbs exclaimed loudly. “I should have had Abby tracing their cells and checking their call logs.”

“We’re on vacation,” Pride reminded him.

“That’s no excuse. We’re still federal agents. I should never have let my guard down. I have a team. I should have called them first.”

“It’s not your jurisdiction. You did the right thing calling in the Coast Guard and the FBI,” said Pride. “What’s important is finding them alive and bringing them back home.”

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Tony and Chris felt the yacht rumbling. It shook like it was being pushed to its maximum speed. They looked at each other but said nothing. A few minutes later, one of the ship’s mates came into the room, making sure everything was secured.

“Hey,” Chris called across the room. “Where are you guys taking us?”

The man was Middle Eastern, with dark hair, a beard, and weathered skin. “That is no concern of yours.”

“I think it is every concern to me,” said Chris as he lunged for the man until he’d gone as far as the chain would allow. “Wouldn’t you want to know where we were headed if you were in our shoes? Or cuffs as the case may be?”

“Trapped on this ship or another. It makes no difference,” the man said as he backed away from Chris. “You are caught like a rat in a trap. You will never get away.”

There wasn’t much room in the small area. As the man backed away from Chris, he failed to realize he put himself within Tony’s reach. As Chris toyed with the man, Tony moved into a position to give him room to work, luring his prey into a trap of his own.

Tony held himself steady, waiting until he saw his opportunity. He knew the chain was short and he would only have one chance to make this work. If he couldn’t reach the man, or hold onto him, they were doomed.

He charged at the man from behind, grabbing him in a headlock, then knocking his leg out from underneath him and causing him to fall to the floor. The handle of a gun stuck out from its holster at the man’s waist. Tony reached for it, pulling it out and cocking it in one swift movement.

“Freeze, dirtbag!” he yelled.

The man froze momentarily, staring at Tony in disbelief. Then he turned and began running to the exit. Tony fired twice and the man fell, landing with a heavy thud.

“Nice double tap!” said Chris. “What’s the plan?”

Before Tony could answer, there was a sickening crash and the yacht jerked violently, then stopped and tilted. The motor continued to groan for a few more minutes before it went silent. Chris found himself at an odd angle. The boat was clearly no longer level. Tony was a bit higher than he was but was across the room and out of his reach.

“Tony!” he screamed loudly. “Tony, are you okay?”

Several feet away, Tony was down on the floor, blood trickling from his forehead.

“Tony! Damn it, answer me.”

Chris’ eyes quickly scanned the area. There was some blood on a bulkhead above Tony. It was obvious that he’d hit his head in the crash and was knocked unconscious. The gun had fallen just a few inches away from his hand. Chris strained as far as he could, trying to reach it, but it was still several feet away.

“The least you could have done was toss me the damn gun before you went unconscious. I could have shot the chain, and then would have helped you. Just saying. Come on, Tony. Please wake up.”

The dead body had fallen between them and had shifted just enough that Chris could grab the ankle. A quick search failed to yield another weapon. Chris determinedly pulled the man’s body toward him, straining with the effort, and continued searching. When he was able to reach the dead man’s belt, he found a knife holster, with a knife in it.

“I’d rather have the gun,” he grumbled. He didn’t have many options so he tried wedging the tip of the blade into the handcuff’s lock, but it was too broad. “If only I had the gun, I’d get us out of here in no time.”

He kept working at the cuffs to no avail.

The water began flooding the compartment, quickly reaching Chris’ feet. Soon after, the lights flickered then went out. “Oh great, double jeopardy,” Chris said. “Come on, Tony,” he yelled. “The boat is sinking. We have to get out of here. Wake up! We have to get out of here!”

Up on deck, Kort wasted no time getting the dinghy into the water and taking the two best crewmen with him as he made his getaway. When another man tried to join them. Kort shot him and watched the lifeless body fall into the river.

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“Maybe it’s not too late,” mumbled Gibbs as he dialed his phone. “Abby! Find Trent Kort’s cell number and trace it. I need to know where he is, NOW!”

“I’m on it, Gibbs. We should still have it on file. Hold on.”

“I need it yesterday.”

“Are you in a wind tunnel or maybe a Tardis? You’re breaking up. If you’re time traveling that would totally explain it.”

“Abby! We’re in a helicopter.”

“When you said you need this yesterday, I thought you might be time traveling.”

“Trent Kort grabbed Tony and Chris. We have to track him down and get them back.”

“I’m triangulating. Just another moment or two. He’s on the Potomac, right as it feeds into the Chesapeake Bay. At least that’s what it looks like. Does the CIA have cars that can turn into boats?”

“He’s on a ship. I need to know exactly where. We can fly faster than that bastard can sail a boat.”

“Got it. Sending the coordinates now.”

“Thanks, Abs. Put a Caf-Pow on my tab.”

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Borin lowered her binoculars and shaded her eyes. “That’s our helicopter,” she noted. “Looks like they’re on a hot trail.”

Hotchner frowned watching the chopper fly overhead and keep going. “Is that the one that picked up Gibbs and Pride?”

“I believe so.”

“This case is FBI jurisdiction. Call him off,” Hotchner demanded, pointing after the helicopter as it faded into the distance.

“They have an FBI agent with them, Agent Fornell. We need all hands on deck on this one,” she said. “I can’t call them off.”

“Can’t or won’t?”

“Agent Hotchner, we all have one goal. We need to work together as a team. That helicopter flies faster than any of our boats can run. Maybe, just maybe, they’re the ones who find them in time. And the few minutes or seconds that they get there first, may mean the difference between life and death. So no, I’m not going to call them off because we need every person, every ship, and every helicopter that we can get working with us now.”

“She’s right,” said Morgan. “You know she’s right. We all have to focus on getting those agents back and not worrying about whose jurisdiction it is. Lives are at stake.”

Although he was fuming inwardly, Hotchner knew they were correct. “I would still like to know where they’re going,” he said.

“I’ll find out,” she said, leading the way to the radio room.

It was difficult to hear what was being said by the chopper’s pilot and co-pilot, but the young man handling the radio was able to determine the coordinates he was given. Borin pulled out a river chart and showed the FBI agents the area on the map.

Reid studied it carefully. “That’s near where Garcia tracked Trent Kort’s cell phone to. Not quite, but close. It’s just a few miles downriver.”

“And moving away,” added Morgan. His finger tapped at points on the maps. “The last pings from DiNozzo and LaSalle’s phones were here. Kort’s phone pinged here, and now the helicopter is here. He’s headed to the ocean, no doubt about that.” He called Penelope back to have her ping Kort’s phone again.

“It doesn’t look like he’s going all that fast,” said Borin. “The helicopter can get above them, and we’ll get boats out there and surround them. We’ll get him. We’re going to bring those agents home alive.”

“How long until we get there?” asked Hotchner.

“Twenty or thirty minutes. It depends on how fast they’re actually going, and what we run into between here and there.”

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“There,” yelled Gibbs. “That’s Kort. He’s in the dinghy.”

“Why the hell is he in a dinghy?” Fornell hollered back.

“I don’t care. Get right on top of him!” Gibbs ordered the pilot.

“What are you going to do? Jump into the water and pull them down with you?”

“We’re going to stay on top of him until a ship can pick him up.”

Kort looked up and started shooting at the helicopter.

The pilot maneuvered to the side, but they could hear bullets hitting the metal. “Taking fire!” he said.

“Do you have a rifle?” Gibbs asked.

The co-pilot pointed to a weapon that was strapped into place. “She’s got a hell of a kick if you think you can hold on.”

Fornell chuckled. “He’s a retired Marine sniper. Do you think he can handle it?”

“Oorah!”

Wasting no time, Gibbs retrieved the rifle and checked to make sure it was loaded. With Fornell holding his belt to steady him, Gibbs lined up his shot and motioned for the pilots to get lower. He waited until he could see the recognition in Kort’s face, then he opened fire.

When the smoke cleared, Pride said, “I think you owe your friend a new dinghy.”

“That’s the least of my worries.” Turning back to the pilots, he said, “We need to backtrack. He’s fleeing a ship. We have to find it. That’s where our guys must be.”

“Yes, sir. As soon as we’re cleared to leave the scene.”

“What?”

“You pulled the trigger, Agent Gibbs. We have to wait until someone else is here to keep the scene pristine.”

“We have two missing agents. They’re obviously in danger.”

“I am aware of that, sir. But my hands are tied. Until I have orders to move, we’re going to have to stay right here.”

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Hotchner was impatient to catch up with the helicopter. When he felt the cutter slow down, he turned to Borin, “What’s going on? Why are we slowing?”

“Wrecked boat.”

“We have a suspect to catch!”

“I have some boaters to rescue. The helicopter is on Kort’s tail. I’m sure Gibbs is working off a phone trace. Kort can’t outrun them, so he’s caught. I have a duty to ensure these boaters are safe.”

“I have a duty, too.”

“While you’re aboard a Coast Guard cutter, you’re going to have to follow our lead.” With that, she directed her ship to move slowly as it came across the wreckage. “Looks like they hit the rocks with a lot of force. I’m not sure if these are your guys, but it sure looks like they were running from something.”

As they approached, they had to duck from the gunfire.

“What kind of idiots would shoot back at a ship trying to rescue them?” Morgan asked.

“Obviously, the kind who are involved in illegal activities,” replied Borin, as she raised her weapon. “US Coast Guard!” she yelled as she took a few steps toward the boat, making sure she was behind cover.

The firefight lasted only a few minutes before they were able to board the sinking ship. Morgan led the way below deck, finding the water already up to his knees as the ship listed. The water was deeper the further back he went. Because of the reception they received above deck, he kept his weapon level and aimed, along with his flashlight. “Anyone down here? FBI! Come out slowly with your hands raised.”

“In here!” yelled Chris. “Agent LaSalle, NCIS. I’m chained to a wall. The water is coming in fast. I need help!”

Reid was at Morgan’s six when they entered the back compartment to find the water almost up to Chris’ neck. “Are you hurt?” he asked.

Chris sputtered, fighting to keep his head above water. “I’m fine. Agent DiNozzo was knocked out cold when we hit. Take care of him first,” he said motioning to Tony as the water was starting to cover his head.

The shock of the cold water had brought Tony back to consciousness, but he was groggy and not fully grasping their situation. “Are we sinking? What’s going on?” he wondered as he struggled to keep his head above the water level.

Morgan raced to Tony’s side and lifted him up so he could breathe. “Think fast, Pretty Boy. We have to do something.”

“Do you have a set of lock picks?” Reid asked.

“Screw that,” yelled Chris. “Shoot the damn chain!”

Reid hesitated for a moment, then raised his gun.

Hotchner entered the room. “Hold your fire! The bullet and chain will shatter on impact and pepper him with shrapnel.”

“It’s better than drowning,” Chris said, as the water threatened to cover his mouth. “I don’t have much time, guys. Take the shot.”

“I got it,” said Morgan. “Hotch, can you take him?” he motioned toward Tony.

Hotchner swam through the water to take Tony’s weight as Morgan reached for his keys.

Reid nodded. “Most sets of handcuffs work with a universal key,” he muttered.

“We can hope it’s the same one.”

After finding his key, Morgan followed Tony’s wrist down to the cuff, relieved when he felt it click open. Taking a deep breath, he dove into the water, swam across the room to Chris, and took hold of his arm, feeling his way down to the cuff, and unlocking it as well.

Hotchner and Reid were already moving Tony toward the ladder that went to the upper deck. Morgan pushed Chris after them, taking the rear position himself.

“Anyone else down here?”

“Honestly? I don’t know and I don’t care. But I think all the scumbags would have gotten to higher ground by now. I’m sure glad you came along when you did,” said Chris. “We didn’t have much time left.”

“They may have wrecked because they realized the Coast Guard was in pursuit and closing in.”

“We definitely felt the yacht being pushed to maximum speed before it crashed.”

“Several other boats saw it and called it in,” said Morgan. “It was reported that they were driving erratically.”

Tony was still groggy as Chris smiled and cupped his cheek. “It’s about time you woke up, Sleeping Beauty.”

“I wish they’d let me sleep. My head is killing me.”

The two rescued NCIS agents were hustled onto the deck of the Coast Guard cutter and wrapped in warm, gray blankets.

“DiNozzo,” Borin began. “Can’t stay out of trouble can you?”

Tony blinked his eyes, then pointed to Chris. “This time, it’s all his fault.”

“Hey, now,” said Chris.

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Chapter Text

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Gibbs wasn’t happy when the helicopter pilots continued to hover above the wreckage he had wrought with the semi-automatic rifle.

“He was shooting at us,” Gibbs explained adamantly, justifying his actions.

Pride nodded in agreement. “He was doing that.”

“I guess I had him outgunned.”

“And with no proof that he had actually abducted Chris and Tony.”

Gibbs stared at him in disbelief. “We ran the phone traces and he has the dinghy from our boat. And the fact that he was running, and shooting at us. That’s proof enough for me.”

“Had.”

“What?” Gibbs asked.

“Had. You said has. I think you got him, therefore the past tense would be the correct one at this point.”

Fornell agreed. “He’s right, you know.”

Gibbs defended himself vehemently. “I did what I had to do.”

“I guess he did have it coming.”

“For far too long.”

It wasn’t long before two coast guard ships arrived, each with a team of divers sent to retrieve the bodies and what was left of the dinghy.

The radio crackled with news that Chris and Tony had been found alive.

“Find out where they are and let’s go!” Gibbs demanded as he strapped himself back into his seat.

The passengers strained to hear the chatter over the radio. The Coast Guard cutter wasn’t large enough for the helicopter to land on the deck, so it was agreed that Tony and Chris would be delivered to a marina where the helicopter could land safely.

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As they watched the ship coming into the dock, an ambulance raced onto the scene, sirens blaring. Pride, Gibbs, and Fornell glanced around at each other, and then back to the ship as the EMTs rolled a gurney across the dock.

Gibbs ran to catch up. “Hey! Who are you guys picking up?”

“I don’t know, sir. Please stand back and let us do our job.”

Taking out his badge, he flashed it. “Special Agent Gibbs, NCIS. I need to know.”

Pride followed suit, flashing his badge. “Special Agent Pride, NCIS. Same need to know.”

Fornell pulled out his badge as well. “Special Agent Fornell, FBI. You know, an agency I’m sure you’ve actually heard of before.”

Gibbs and Pride turned and glared at him.

“Sir,” the EMT began, “we got a call about an injured man with head trauma. I don’t have any details.”

The trio followed the EMTs down to meet the ship as it pulled into the dock and began tying off.

Borin appeared on the deck, “He’s walking, so we’ll bring him down to you,” she called to the EMTs.

“Borin!” Gibbs yelled. “Who’s injured?”

“Take it easy, Gibbs. It’s not that serious. They’re both a little banged up, but Tony was knocked unconscious and I feel that he should be looked over by a doctor as a precautionary measure. Just doing my due diligence.”

“I’ll call Ducky.”

“You can call whoever you damn well please, but I’m sending him to the hospital to be checked out. It’s protocol.”

Gibbs watched as Agent Morgan and a large sailor from the Coast Guard assisted Tony to the edge of the ship. His head was wrapped with a gauze bandage. No one was going to stop Gibbs. He ran across the remaining few feet of the dock and gave Tony a hug. “Are you okay?”

“I’m fine,” Tony assured him. “Just a precaution to make sure I don’t have a concussion.”

Chris stepped out onto the deck, with Agent Hotchner and Dr. Reid right behind him.

“Don’t you lie to me,” said Pride. “You two were playing some sort of a prank on us weren’t you?”

Chris smiled. “Come on, King. I know about your little joke about leaving me behind when I was getting bait. Turnabout is fair play.”

“Now, you see what you get for playing?”

“Did you guys catch up to Kort yet?”

“Yeah,” said Gibbs. “He fired at the helicopter. I responded.”

“With a semi-automatic rifle,” added Pride.

“We left a dive team looking for him down under.”

“He’s dead?” Tony asked.

Gibbs grasped Tony’s hand. “I’d say that’s a fair assumption, but we’ll wait for the dive team’s official report.”

“Damn. I can’t believe he’s gone. Which one of the alphabet agencies is going to annoy us now?”

Gibbs nodded to Fornell. “We still have him. He took you into custody before, locked you up and accused you of murder.”

“Hey now,” said Fornell. “I was only doing my job. I took very good care of DiNozzo when he was in my custody. I didn’t even charge him. And I let him go eventually.”

“Once he was cleared.”

“I couldn’t release him before he was cleared, now could I?”

“I gave him an alibi. I told you he was with me.”

“You’re his boss and his very good friend, shall we say? I couldn’t take that alibi at face value without checking it out. You had no proof other than your word.”

“My word should have been good enough.”

The EMTs helped Tony onto the gurney and took his blood pressure. Tony sat up and offered his arm. “Well, I can assure you, Trent Kort was behind our abduction. If you had any doubts. I’m glad you got him.”

Gibbs tossed a set of keys to Pride. “I’m going in the ambulance with Tony. Can you bring the car to the hospital?”

“Which hospital? And how do I get back to the car?”

“Fornell will take you back to pick up the car. You can follow him to the hospital. He knows the way.”

Borin called after him, “Gibbs, if you were involved in a shooting, we’re going to have to get a statement.”

“He was shooting at us, I shot back. That’s my statement.”

“Gibbs!”

Pride smiled as he watched Gibbs walk away. Then he turned to Borin. “Some men just have bigger guns than others.”

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Gibbs refused to leave Tony’s side and sat with him while the ER doctor patched him up. They drew blood and checked all his vitals. As a precaution, he was sent to have a CT scan done.

“Do you remember what happened?” Doctor Isring asked.

“Not really, but the guy who was with me said I was knocked out first by getting hit in the back of the head with the butt of a gun. We were on a ship that wrecked and he told me when it crashed, I knocked my head against a bulkhead and got this,” said Tony as he indicated the injury to his forehead.

“I see.” Turning to Gibbs, he said, “I’d like to keep him overnight for observation.”

Shaking his head, Gibbs said, “If all you’re going to do is observe him and give him some Tylenol, I can do that.”

“It would be better if he was here, with a full-time medical staff.”

“No, it wouldn’t. Your staff isn’t going to stay in the same room with him. I will. Plus we have a couple friends from out of town staying with us for now. I can make sure Tony is never left alone.”

“If you notice any changes or any vomiting, you’ll need to bring him back in immediately,” Dr. Isring said as he bandaged Tony’s wounds and put a patch over his injured right eye.

“Will do.”

“He needs to be checked out if his pain worsens, or his vision becomes blurred, or if he has trouble with his balance. Any of those things could indicate a problem.”

“I got it, Doc. We’ll give him some Tylenol and make sure he gets plenty of rest.”

“And no alcohol.”

“Sure,” Gibbs agreed.

“And don’t let him drive for a few days. At least until his headache and any dizziness is gone.”

“I’ll drive him until he feels okay to drive himself.”

They walked back to the waiting area, with Gibb holding onto Tony’s elbow. “Are you sure you’re feeling okay?”

“We haven’t even left the ER!”

“I know. But if you’re feeling dizzy or something, let me know. Okay?”

“I will. I promise.”

Chris, Pride, and Fornell were waiting for them. Chris smiled broadly as Tony came into view. Rushing over, he gave Tony a big hug.

“You look awesome!”

“I look like I’ve been run over by a semi.”

Shaking his head, Chris laughed. “Love the eyepatch. Makes you look like a real pirate.”

“Dude, I almost lost my eye!”

“Yeah? What happened? And remember, I was there, so you can’t lie to me about it,” Chris reminded him, as the group began walking out to the parking lot. “I’m not going to believe any sea monster story.”

“They said I got some dust and rust particles and a small paint chip in my eye. It probably happened when the ship wrecked. They put some solution in there to rinse the particles out, but said I should wear this for a couple days as a precaution.”

“It’s cool. All we have to do is put a bandana over that head bandage, put a parrot on your shoulder and have you talk like a pirate. Argh, matey.”

“Actually, I thought I looked more like Number Two.”

“Like shit?” asked Chris.

“No, Number Two from the Austin Powers movies, played by Robert Wagner. You know, he always reminded me a bit of my dad. They look so much alike, they could be brothers.”

“Yeah, I guess they do resemble each other a little.” Chris rested a hand on Tony’s shoulder. “Are you feeling okay? Really?”

“I have a bit of a headache, but they gave me something for it. I’m under orders not to drink or drive for a few days.”

“Bummer.”

“I’ll feel better once Kort’s body is found. I’m not going to believe he’s really gone until his body is located and verified.”

“I thought it was an appropriate ending,” said Gibbs. “Much like La Grenouille was found dead in the water, with a bullet hole in his head.”

“Like I said,” Tony reiterated, “I’ll believe it when his body is found. And I will sleep better at night.”

“I’m sure you will.”

Gibbs took the wheel as they drove back to the original marina first, to drop off the car again, then Fornell drove them all back to where the boat was now docked.

“Why don’t you come out with us for a couple of days?” Gibbs asked.

“I have to work,” replied Fornell. “Just because you’re on vacation doesn’t mean the rest of us are.”

“Okay, how about just for dinner and a sunset? We’ll stay close and drop you off when you’re ready to go home. There are two empty cabins if you want to stay aboard for the night.”

“It’s tempting.”

“Come on,” Gibbs coaxed. “I think you’ve earned it today.”

“Somehow, I can’t see you going in to work late, no matter how much you deserved it.”

“We’re not talking about me.”

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With Fornell agreeing to play the fifth wheel for the night, the group boarded their boat and set sail. They didn’t go too far, just about an hour from the marina, where Gibbs found a good place to drop anchor.

Chris helped Tony put dinner together in the galley. It was a tight space, but they managed.

“If you feel dizzy or nauseous, have a seat,” said Chris. “I got this.”

“I’m okay. I appreciate the help, though. I’m a little tired after our ordeal.”

“I’m going to run a round of drinks out to the guys. I’ll be right back.”

Tony continued chopping vegetables, while Chris delivered three beers to the men at the rear of the boat.

“I guess Gibbs will have to replace the dinghy,” Chris said when he returned. “I can help him with that. It’s at least partially my fault. Maybe even all my fault.”

“Nah. It was in Kort’s hands when it got shot up. I’d think we can claim it was stolen.”

Chris laughed. “That works for me.”

Tony maneuvered in the tight space of the tiny kitchen area as he pan-seared the steaks and vegetables. “It’s not as good as Gibbs’ steaks, but it’s the best we can do on board a ship. Gibbs usually cooks the steaks at home. You know why he doesn’t cook on a boat?”

“Why not?” asked Chris.

“There’s no fireplace!” said Tony, chuckling as he flipped the meat.

“I’d imagine that would be quite a fire hazard.”

“At least there’s plenty of water around.” Tony paused as he pulled a soda out of the refrigerator. “I’m not supposed to have alcohol until they’re sure I don’t have a concussion.”

“I’ll just drink soda with you, if you want.”

“No. There’s no reason you should suffer along with me any more than you already have.”

“I’m really sorry, Tony.”

“For what?”

Chris sighed deeply and turned away for a moment. “This was all my fault. It was my idea to take the dinghy out. It was stupid and I put us both in danger.”

Tony turned in the tight kitchen and gave Chris a hug. “You are not responsible for Kort’s actions. Or mine for that matter. I could have said no.”

“You’re a good friend, Tony.”

“Hey now,” said Pride as he entered the galley. “You boys do know that Gibbs and I are the jealous types.”

“Not Gibbs,” Tony said. “He doesn’t get jealous; he gets divorced.”

“He can’t divorce you until he marries you first,” said Pride. “Are there any more chips?”

“Sure,” said Tony as he reached into a cabinet.

“Tomorrow, I’ll cook. I’ll make us a big pot of gumbo,” promised Pride. “Good for what ails you.”

“Are you sure we have what you need?”

“No worries, my friend. We have to drop Fornell off in the morning and there is a grocery store just down the street. I saw it as we were driving in. You should take it easy. Let us help,” said Pride. “I enjoy cooking now and then. It will be my pleasure to treat you to a little taste of New Orleans.”

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After dinner, Tony snuggled up on a deck chair with Gibbs’ arms wrapped around him. Pride was settled in the other lounger, with Chris and Fornell sitting nearby in regular deck chairs they had dragged over from the table.

“That was a great meal,” said Fornell. “My compliments to the chef.”

“Thanks,” Tony replied. “They may not have been quite as good as Jethro’s fireplace masterpieces, but they weren’t bad.”

Gibbs squeezed his arms a little tighter around Tony. “The chef has had a long day.”

Tony yawned and shifted a bit. “Yes, he has. And he is glad to be back in his favorite place in the world.”

“On a boat?” Pride asked. “Gibbs said you weren’t much of a fan of boating or fishing.”

Tony rubbed his hand up and down Gibbs’ arm. “My favorite place is being held in Jethro’s arms, wherever else they may be.”

“You two do make a nice couple.”

“Just like you and Chris.”

“Nah,” said Pride. “He’s a bit of an asshole. After the stunt he pulled today, I’m going to have to cut his sassy ass loose.”

Chris put his beer bottle down and laughed as he threw a few soft punches at Pride. “Like hell. You’re not going to get rid of me that easily.”

“You better sit your ass down before Gibbs and I decide to toss you over the side. This time, you don’t have a dinghy to escape in,” warned Pride.

“And whose fault is that?”

Pride looked at Gibbs. “You did shoot the hell out of that thing.”

“Kort had it coming,” said Gibbs.

“And the other two guys with him?”

“Equally as guilty. Whatever he was up to, I’m sure they were his accomplices.”

“Tony didn’t tell you?” Chris asked as he settled in front of Pride, leaning back against his chest, much like Tony was lying against Gibbs.

“Tell me what?”

“That Kort fellow was going to trade Tony and me to some guy he knew from Karachi for classified information. Apparently, the man liked American guys in a very kinky sort of way. Kort sent him a picture of Tony and made the deal.”

Gibbs shook his head. “If he was still alive, I’d shoot him up all over again,” he said as he pulled Tony close.

Tony patted Gibbs’ thigh. “With our luck, we’ll meet another corrupt agent from one of the other three-letter organizations.”

“That’s probably true.”

Pride held his beer bottle out toward Gibbs. “The job is never over,” he said as they clinked their bottles together.

“Ain’t that the truth.”

Tony rubbed his sore wrist, where the cuff had chaffed his skin. “I’m not going to get pulled from field duty over this, am I?”

“Over what?” asked Gibbs before tipping up his bottle and emptying it.

“This whole abduction, being held captive thing.”

“Who’s going to know? We’re on vacation. It’s up to the FBI and Coast Guard to file reports. They’ll only know whatever you tell them.”

“So I can play it down without Vance finding out?”

“You might want to lose the bandages and the eyepatch before we get back to work.”

The group quieted down as the sun reached the horizon. They watched the glowing orange sphere dropping downward until it disappeared from view.

“Maybe we can do this again next year. Rent a boat and go sailing with Chris and Pride. It’s relaxing,” Tony suggested.

“As long as we skip the whole abduction episode,” said Chris. “I could have done without that. But this is nice. Just relaxing and watching the sun set and the stars come out.”

“Next year, ya’ll can come down to New Orleans,” Pride said. “We’ll have us a good old time. I might even toss Chris into the water so you can watch him wrestle an alligator.”

“That’s not even funny, King.”

“It’s a little bit funny.”

“Or one of these years you guys can come stay with us at my cabin,” Gibbs offered.

Fornell started laughing. “Yeah, no electricity and no running water. Not to mention, it’s only one room.”

“It’s all I ever needed,” Gibbs said defensively.

“Not to mention, all the wood you could ever want to chop.”

“Yeah, but it’s good for cooking steaks over an open flame. And it’s peaceful. It’s a good place to clear your mind.”

“As long as you don’t mind a few splinters when you have to sit your ass down on a cold, hard wooden shelf in the outhouse. And don’t forget to bring a flashlight.”

“I wasn’t inviting you, anyway, Tobias.”

“I thought they should know what they’re in for.”

“It’s my little slice of paradise in the woods, from which no one has ever been abducted from. No offense, but I could do without the FBI making an appearance on my vacation.”

“You say that now,” retorted Fornell. “But if these two go missing again, I know who you’re going to call.”

“I called Borin!”

“I’d like to see her get a boat to your cabin.”

“I know,” said Pride. “Chris and I will rent an RV. You guys can wallow in your rustic cabin, and we’ll enjoy having water and a generator.”

“I knew Chris and Tony were spoiled brats, but I’m surprised at you,” said Gibbs.

“I’ve never complained about going to the cabin,” Tony said.

“That’s a lie, but I’ll let it slide since you’re injured.”

“As long as I have you watching out for me, I’ll be fine.” Tony gave his lover a kiss before resting his head against Gibbs’ chest and closing his eyes. “It’s not all bad, being here with you guys.”

“That’s the secret of a happy life,” Pride said. “Getting the job done and still making sure you have time for the important people in your life.”

“And knowing when you have the right people in your life and keeping them there,” added Gibbs.

Tony yawned, then asked, “You’re not going to chain me to the deck, are you?”

“I didn’t bring any chains. But I do have plenty of rope.”

“I don’t even want to know,” said Fornell as he handed out another round of beer.

“You should try it sometime,” said Tony. “It can be very relaxing.”

Gibbs patted Tony’s butt and said, “Let’s get you down to bed. I promised the doctor that I’d make sure you get enough rest.”

“Okay. Good night, everyone. We’ll see you in the morning.”

Gibbs smiled as he grabbed a small coil of rope and followed Tony below deck. “Just going to make sure he doesn’t wander off again.”

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finis

23 December 2017
© 2017 by Jacie