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Change Part 1/?

NCIS/Sentinel Crossover

Pairing: Tony/Gibbs, Abby, Blair/Jim

Spoilers: None

Warnings: AU, minor character death

Summary: After a horrible undercover mission, Tony starts to become different. Gibbs and Abby notice, and Abby helps out.

The forest was dark as he sat beneath a tree, trying to regain his breath. He had been on the go for what seemed like hours, although it had probably not been more than one. His injuries hampered what little headway he could make. Knowing the killers were behind him, however, he continued on. He had to make it, for his sake, for Beck's, for his team. His only family, they wouldn't have stopped looking for him, they wouldn't have stopped trying to come to his rescue. This time he knew there would be no such saving, not for the agent they had killed yesterday, and not for him.

He had initially gone undercover to assist in recovering an NCIS agent who had been kidnapped. Agent Beck had been out of a field office on the west coast, so the risk hadn't seemed high he would be made. Unfortunately, these guys made him almost immediately, and had him trussed up and on his way before he could say anything. Or defend himself. Turned out they were mercenaries, currently working for big game hunters who had gotten bored with the usual big game, and had no qualms about hunting humans.

Unfortunately, the hunters were good, and in the unlikely event they were getting behind, the mercenaries were more than happy to assist. Tony wasn't sure what had happened to these particular men, but any attempts to talk/negotiate/anything had fallen on deaf ears. In fact, after they had been told ‘the rules' of ‘the game' and set free, any attempt at talking got him shot at, so he quit.

He and Beck had been doing well for the first few weeks. They found themselves in what seemed to be a never-ending forest, thick with pines, firs, and underbrush. Luckily, it was the start of summer, so most of the underbrush that pulled at them and slowed their progress also offered them sustenance. Small springs and streams offered water both to slake their thirst, and cover their trails-scent and otherwise. Small game was easy to trap, which was good for their bodies, but showed them they really were in the middle of nowhere. Unable to build a fire, they ate what they could raw, not thinking about hamburgers, pasta, and, most especially, pizza. Tony knew, if he ever got out of this alive, it would be a long time before he ate meat again, if ever.

Neither he nor Beck had been in the military, but had both been LEOs prior to joining NCIS. They hadn't had any formal training in survival situations, but Beck was an avid hunter, and Tony-while never having been a nature fan- had his instincts, which had been finely honed with years of working with Gibbs. They had been able to trap one of the hunters within the first few days. Unable to get any useful information out of him, they had trussed and hidden him well instead of killing him in cold blood. When the same hunter almost got a shot at Beck two days later, they decided to not make the same mistake again. Tony knew it was wrong, that they were heading somewhere he didn't want to be, but it was ‘us or them,' and he really didn't want to die; he had always thought if he died early, it would be in the line of duty.

He was able to keep some hope that Gibbs would come to save him, but as the weeks went on, and their spirit and resolve started to wane, he found himself almost resigning himself to his fate. He knew it guaranteed death, but he was so tired. They had both been injured by this time, and without proper meals, no first aid, and no more than a few hours of light sleep when they could get it, injuries that would usually be no problem, or heal in no time, were staying bruised, staying sore, and in some cases getting infected. The odds had been evened some. The day after their first prisoner had almost shot Beck, they managed to take him out; they felt almost vindicated, in a slippery slope sort of way. A second hunter and a mercenary had been neutralized in an ambush using the guns they had scavenged from the first hunter. Unable to get extra ammunition, they managed to make quite a few traps that slowed their pursuers, and took another out with what were apparently two broken legs. Of course, after that, the hunt got much more intense, with almost no chance to rest for the agents.

That was when Tony first thought he was going crazy. He knew that this situation wouldn't leave a happy memory, but he never imagined it would drive him insane. The first time he heard footsteps he thought he should have expected it. They had sounded so close, he expected them to be right next to him, but was relieved he hadn't mentioned it to Beck when he realized there wasn't anyone there. He shook it off, breathed slowly to calm himself, and then almost jumped when a deer walked up a few minutes later.

He knew he was going crazy when he saw the flash of metal, then heard the breathing as one of the mercenaries came toward them. Even knowing the man was farther away than he should ever be able to detect him, Tony prodded Beck to move. Getting him to continue had been getting harder and harder as the days went on, partly because he had a broken arm that was only partly set and bound with a tree branch tied with part of his shirt, and partly because the agent had given up. It slowed him down and severely cut down his own chances for survival, but Tony couldn't find it in him to leave the faltering agent behind. This time, though, this time was going to be it. He had to drag Beck several feet before the agent started moving on his own. They plodded on, leaving too much of a trail until, once again, the other agent fell.

Beck's pulse was weak and thready; if Tony wasn't sure he was going crazy, he would have known it was moving far too slowly. But he could hear it, insanity be damned, so he plead, and begged, and cajoled the other agent to just ‘move, damnit, they're going to be here any second. We're going to get out of this, we've going to win, fuck them all.'

Tony heard rather than saw the other man briefly come to consciousness, and leaned down when he began to speak. The words, slowly, ever so slowly coming from Beck's mouth tried to give him peace, solace, absolution; Tony had done everything he could, there was no easy out, they had been so very outnumbered, yes we'd gotten some back, but they're still there, still coming, Tony needed to get moving, needed to make sure they paid, make sure this never happened to anyone else, please Tony, please, I don't want to die in vain.

Minutes later he heard the shot. Maybe he had been dead before then, maybe he hadn't, but now, now he was. And no matter when his heart stopped-before Tony left, he heard it slow, heard it stop-no one was going to tell him it wasn't those bastards who killed him.

Sitting beneath the tree, he let his mind wander for a few seconds. Unable to see much in the pitch dark of night, he listened to the forest he had thought of as his enemy for so long. No longer his enemy, it now soothed him, speaking quietly, the words sighs of branches, breathing of animals asleep for the night, the constant rush of the streams. Suddenly a new sound assaulted him. It wasn't his pursuers; they were still a few miles in the other direction. No, this was something completely different, it was almost another stream, no, too uneven, it was…it was…oh God, could it be true? He listened again, trying to hear above his heart suddenly racing in his chest. It was! It was a road with traffic; with blessed, blessed relief.