- Alternate Universe
- Crime Drama
- Episode Related
- Established Relationship
There was nothing quite like a hostage situation or a standoff to make you think. The combination of adrenaline and calm, fear and fury, long waiting punctuated by moments of action — it was a cop’s version of combat. And Toni DiNozzo, despite the federal badge she carried and the federal building she worked in, currently infiltrated by a terrorist who had taken over Autopsy, was every bit a cop.
The thing people forgot, or maybe never realized, was that Toni had been a solid cop before Gibbs had lured her to the dark side of law enforcement. She hadn’t appeared on NCIS’s doorstep to become a grumpy marine’s Girl Friday but had worked her ass off as a uniform and earned a gold shield before she’d hit thirty. She’d worked on task forces and community policing initiatives, done undercover work and walked a beat.
What that meant, other than the fact that she had damned well earned her spot without relying on her face or hitting her knees — no matter what some people might say or think — was that Gibbs wasn’t the first mentor she’d had. He wasn’t even the best.
Gibbs had helped make her a better investigator, absolutely, and there wasn’t much about the military she knew that wasn’t from him. He’d honed her shooting skills but that was partly because she’d already been good enough to catch his interest, which was due to hard work and good training. He’d taught her to use a knife like a marine rather than avoid one like a cop and how to fight rather than disarm and take down a suspect. And he’d taught her plenty by example, including what not to do. Because Gibbs was far from perfect, as a man, an investigator and an agent.
But the reason Gibbs had noticed her in the first place, other than the fact that she’d arrested him, was because she was already a good cop. And that was down to her own determination and hard work, some innate talent, a good academy curriculum, good cops who’d helped her along, bad cops who’d given her a reason to prove them wrong, and Joanne Wallis.
Annie to her husband and friends, Wall to her fellow cops and ‘ma’am’ to rookie uniforms. Joanne Wallis had been Tony’s training officer in Philadelphia when the academy had set her loose with a starched uniform, a shiny badge and a promise that her real training would be ‘on the job’. Pairing Toni off with a hard-assed vet might have been a joke, or maybe a kindness, but it had worked out pretty well in the end.
Wall had ridden her ass like a drill sergeant but there had never been any cruelty in it. She’d taught her the ins and outs of the beat, of getting a community to see you as an ally rather than an enemy, and that intimidation and fear of the uniform was to be used sparingly rather than to be wielded like a billy club.
Toni had chosen Philly because it seemed like a quintessential ‘tough’ city and was far enough away from New York while still appealing to her East Coast heart. Wall was a Philly native who’d never lived anywhere else and had shown Toni just how dark and violent her city could be but also the moments of kindness found in even the worst neighbourhoods. When Toni was sick over her first body, cried over her first domestic, and was horrified speechless by the reality of tenements, project housing and slum lords as only a white girl from a good neighbourhood could be, Wall hadn’t criticized or laughed or given her shit. She’d thumped her shoulder, told her to fix her face and made her do incident reports until her eyes crossed.
Everything Toni knew about being a cop — not a fed, an NCIS agent or an investigator but a cop — was down to a twenty-year vet from South Philly who’d taken a green rookie with blue blood and a college degree and, instead of hazing her or running her off the job, had shown her the reality of being a cop that T.V. never showed.
Of all the things Wall had taught her, three things stood out, worked for Toni every day even out of uniform.
Fix your face. Rather than makeup and presenting a pretty, flawless appearance, Wall meant to only show people what you wanted them to see. Not only to hide your weaknesses but to manipulate by showing what you to convey. The kind of advice that kept you alive undercover and kept you from showing your hand to a perp in interrogation. Or from showing a superior with more rank than brains what you thought of them.
Don’t take anyone’s shit but pick your battles. Police work was still male-dominated, even more so when Wall had started. Toni was from Long Island, went to college in Connecticut, and had posh relatives in England who she’d spent enough time with it had sometimes slipped through in her voice. She also hadn’t been hit with an ugly stick and all of that added up to a big, fat target on her back. But complaints and escalation would only have made the target bigger, so Toni had learned the fine art of letting things roll off her back, redirecting, and standing her ground when she drew a line. All skills that served her well with a man who believed his personal missions should be everyone else’s and a junior agent convinced she still held the same authority as at her previous posting.
The third lesson was in play now and Toni considered it akin to Gibbs’ Rule 9 because it wasn’t applied often but when it was, it was life or death.
Always be prepared for the worst; you might be pleasantly surprised, but probably not.
Be Prepared was the reason for the custom belt she wore, which satisfied the specifics of Rule 9 and the spirit of Wall’s 3rd Lesson. The knife hidden in the belt buckle was a last-ditch backup to the folding combat knife their friendly neighbourhood terrorist had taken off her — along with her shoes, jacket and both her guns — and the decorative detailing along the leather contained a hideaway handcuff key. Which she didn’t need because, in addition to leaving her belt on the autopsy table alongside her shoes, the cocky asshole hadn’t bothered to handcuff her.
You do a simple favour for a friend and you end up in a hostage situation in an Autopsy suite, complete with a dead body. Not to mention the alive, and badly wounded, autopsy assistant and the feisty but older medical examiner — and the armed terrorist willing to shoot them without compunction.
It was enough to give her a phobia of Autopsy to match Abby’s.
It had been a risky move but the bastard had been enjoying himself, playing head games with Ducky and Gibbs over the phone, so Toni had taken the chance to palm the buckle. She’d even refrained from using it during their unwanted guests’ last attempt to flirt creepily and play mind games with her.
Which made this the weirdest hostage situation she’d ever been in, more like playing word games with a PsyOps character who was off his meds than trying to negotiate with a suicidal or fanatic man with demands. If the stakes weren’t so high she’d be more interested in trying to work things out — like what the hell was the end game and what was this asshole trying to distract everyone from — but as it stood Ducky was coming close to making himself a target and Gerald was dying,
And whatever it was in Qassam’s — the first terrorist, who was actually dead when his body was delivered — effects that this guy wanted so badly, Toni wasn’t inclined to let him get it. When one terrorist broke into a federal agency to steal the belongings, body and blood of another terrorist, it seemed like a bad idea to let him get what he came for.
The clock running in Toni’s head and the terrorist’s almost manic calm told her she needed to do something now. Depending on him to make a mistake while holding her tongue, showing him the anger and fear he wanted while biding her time, wasn’t going to cut it much longer. The plan she was building in her head would have to do.
“Antonia,” Ducky murmured when she picked up the scalpel that was lying on a tray, asking to be palmed. A dare. A challenge.
Did he think she was stupid?
“He wants you to try,” Ducky whispered.
Of course, he did; one more aspect of this giant mind fuck.
Toni was done playing by this guy’s rules.
The terrorist turned from the autopsy door, looking amused. She held up the scalpel. “Ducky thinks you left this out on purpose.”
“Now, why would I do that?”
The scalpel wasn’t the same as a knife; there was no real weight and a small cutting edge. It was wickedly sharp, though.
He smirked, just a little, anticipating an attack. Already sure he’d deflect it.
She shifted her grip, lunged —
— and dropped under his attempted strike, stabbing the concealed knife in her other hand into the meat of his thigh.
His shout was abrupt, cut off quickly, and she felt the swing as he swiped at her head with the hand holding his gun. She dropped lower and rolled away — taking the knife with her, causing more damage as it yanked down and free of his leg. She kicked the wheeled instrument tray towards him, buying an extra second so she could get to her feet.
She had only a little more than that second to register his smug expression had been replaced with lines of pain and signs of temper and that he moved with a limp before he was on her. Both were satisfying, well worth the backhanded fist she took to the face. Toni moved with the strike, spinning around and slashing out with the scalpel.
It didn’t disperse much of the blow and the rapid turn didn’t help the ringing in her head, but the blade slid across the bastard’s neck even as he leaned away from it.
The thin line of red that followed was jagged, deeper at one end than the other, and not deep enough to incapacitate quickly.
There was no time to regroup, to assess, only to act on the plan she’d made and react as needed. Toni was barefoot and disarmed, gun out of reach and a pair of blades not designed for fighting. He was in body armour and had a gun she had to get off him, and a wound that would slow him down but not kill him quickly; there was no arterial spray to signal she’d gotten the major vessels. He might bleed out eventually, but not in a dramatic movie fashion.
The rest of her plan boiled down to: stall, buy time, deflect, protect the civilians. Don’t die.
“Cunt,” he ground out, and it was on.
The bastard could fight, there was no denying that. She took a second backhand to the face followed by a hard punch to the ribs; the added weight of the gun in his fist was enough to rattle her head and snatch her breath. She used the autopsy table behind her for leverage and kicked out with both feet, driving him back, then lashed out with her heel to his knee and slashed at his gun arm with both the scalpel and her knife.
The gun clattered on the floor and slid away; he caught her wrist and wrenched it, making her lose her grip on the scalpel as he dragged her closer. She feinted a knee to his balls and slammed her forehead into his face.
Toni felt something in her wrist pop lose when he twisted it viciously, swinging her towards the edge of the autopsy table. Her hip slammed into the stainless steel, knocking a gasp out of her that she didn’t hear over the pounding of adrenaline in her ears and the throb of her body.
She ignored the pain, shifted the grip on the knife still in her hand — instinct and training maintaining her grip — and went back for him. He deflected the knife strike to his torso — a distraction, he was wearing kevlar — and gagged when the stiffened fingers of her free hand drove into his throat and the wound across it.
He recovered quickly, grabbing her shirt with both hands and turning to slam her back into the wall before she made contact with the cinderblock, Toni hooked his knee with her leg and sent him into the wall instead, shoulder first.
There was enough space between them and the door, and he’d have to go through her to get back there. Thank god; she couldn’t keep this up much longer. “Ducky! The lights!”
The terrorist’s eyes widened and he grabbed hold of her hair, yanking hard; she slashed at his elbow and punched him in the face.
He snapped something, curses coming across clearly regardless of the language, and glared at her. “This was not part of the plan.”
“I’m not great at following other people’s plans,” Toni said and swung again.
The light changed abruptly and even through the blood pounding in her ears, Toni heard the shouting behind her. The calvary.
This time when he reached for her, Toni disengaged, dropping down again to escape his grasp. She was absolutely finished being a hostage for the day.
Hands grabbed the back of her shirt and hauled her back; she found herself staring at the backs of three members of the HRT, clad in black body armour and armed with M4s.
“Hands! Hands up! Hands in the air!”
Over HRT’s shoulders, Toni could see him considering his options. He might not act like a suicide bomber but considering the level of control he’d exhibited through the hostage situation, he might well choose suicide by cop to avoid being caught.
But Toni had questions, he clearly knew something about Qassam, and Gerald deserved justice. And it wasn’t her job to pass judgement, just arrest and detain.
“You can survive your current injuries. Bullet holes will make that less likely.”
He looked at her, the same mocking expression he’d worn through returning. “Worried about me, Antonia?”
That was Ducky’s fault. He always used full names and the terrorist had picked up on it, possibly to mock Ducky. Or maybe he’d noticed her frown the first time he’d done it.
“No,” she said. “I just figured them shooting you would make a mess and there’s enough blood splattered around Autopsy for one day.”
He stared at her for a moment before smirking and slowly raising his hands.
She turned away as HRT moved in and pinned him to the wall.
The whole world returned, all the noise and especially the pain. Her belt knife clattered against the autopsy table as she grabbed it for support. Nearby, Ducky and two EMTs were assessing Gerald, a member of HRT standing guard over them.
Gibbs appeared at her side — how did he do that? — and slid an arm around her back, supporting.
“I walked, DiNozzo,”
“Boss? Oh, I asked out loud, didn’t I?”
“Boss?” He made a noise that usually meant ‘go ahead’. “I’m beat to hell.”
“Bastard can fight.”
“I kicked his ass.”
He shifted a little and drew her arm over his shoulder. “Sure did.”
The world was tilting ever-so-slightly to the left. That seemed like a problem. “The whole thing was one big psyop game.” Gibbs hummed in agreement. “What the hell did he want?”
“No idea, Toni. We’ll figure it out.” He caught her chin in his free hand, studying her face. Considering the throbbing along her cheek and jaw, it probably wasn’t at it’s best. “After you go to the hospital.”
“That’s probably a good idea.”
Gibbs moved them both aside as HRT led the terrorist — still bleeding from his neck though the rest of his wounds were hidden by black garments suspiciously like the HRT surrounding him — away. As they passed, the terrorist smirked, turning his head to maintain eye contact until he was hauled out the door and around the corner.
Toni had just enough energy left to flip him the bird before the autopsy doors closed.
Gibbs huffed a laugh. “Come on, Mohammed Ali, let’s get you to an ambulance.”
This is the sequel to Nightcap