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Tony thought furiously as he stared at Chip, running through his options and trying to figure out his next move.

He had seen the blood on Gibbs’ arm and chest and the new bruises that were forming on his face, not to mention the lump on the side of his head that was crusted with dried blood. It was obvious that Chip had already done a number on him.

Tony would have gladly put a bullet in Chip's skull when he had first appeared with Gibbs, but his exhaustion combined with his injuries had left his hands too shaky to risk it. Gibbs had given him the nonverbal order to stand down, DiNozzo, and he had obeyed. He had hoped that the Boss had a plan, but a few more glances had clearly communicated that they were both flying by the seat of their pants.

Tony was surprised by the changes he saw in Chip. He had clearly been working out; Tony could easily make out the impressive muscles under Chip's shirt. Makes sense; the man was in prison, after all. Not much else to do there but lift weights and try not to get shanked.

Tony mentally squirmed as he took in his captor’s body language and facial expressions. There was something feral and bloodthirsty in Chip’s persona that was making him very uneasy. The way Chip’s eyes lit up every time he looked at Tony’s bullet wound or Gibbs’ fresher cuts and bruises made Tony’s stomach want to turn inside-out.

Tony was mildly surprised that Chip hadn’t tied him up yet, but with the pain and the blood loss Tony knew he’d put up about as much fight as a newborn kitten. Perhaps he doesn’t think I’m much of a threat to him. ‘Course, he’s probably right.

"I've been waiting a long time for this moment, Tony. You have no idea how many times the thought of seeing you like this kept me going through many terrible moments. Prison wasn't exactly fun, but I learned a lot on the inside, and everything the other inmates taught me brought me one step closer to this little scene right here."

Chip sighed happily at the thought, inhaling and exhaling with an exaggerated motion, but he was careful to keep his gun trained on his captives. Tony took note of every movement, gesture, and expression, looking for any clue as to his captor's next move.

While Chip began rambling away about his time on the inside and how he had escaped, Tony began assessing his situation in a different manner. He mentally inventoried every tool and item at hand and almost slapped himself for his own stupidity.

He still had his backup gun strapped to his ankle and, perhaps more importantly, his Swiss army knife in his pocket! Why Chip hadn't bothered to search him more thoroughly Tony didn't know, but he thanked the Man upstairs for his captor's error in judgement.

Thank God Chip has apparently never seen The Incredibles because if he had, he would know better than to monologue like this.

Tony paid just enough attention to Chip's stereotypical villainy to prevent any surprises as he subtly studied Gibbs. His Boss knelt on the ground to his left, hands tied behind his back. Though he looked a bit worse for wear, Tony figured that, between the two of them, Gibbs was in better fighting shape for sure.

In a few moments, Tony finally had a plan. If I could only distract Chip for just a couple of seconds...

"... Ah, but I seem to have gotten a bit off-track, agents. I prefer to show, not tell, and we have so much catching up to do."

Before Tony could fully prepare himself for the sudden shift in his captor's demeanor, Chip was on him. With nowhere to go, Tony could only sit there and take it as Chip lashed out.

The first punch felt like a sledgehammer as Chip's fist connected with Tony's right eye socket. Chip's other fist wasn't far behind, and he had a mean left hook that caught Tony just above his bullet wound.

Pain exploded through Tony, and for a few moments he forgot even his own name in the face of that exquisite torture. He instinctively curled his body around his wound in an effort to protect himself as best he could, but it was too late. Tony's entire world had shrunk down to a tiny universe of fire and blood. He vaguely felt more blows landing on his right side and back as Chip continued to hit him, but in the face of that second blow they were like dandelion fluff brushing his skin.

It was only when the burning in his lungs began to compete with his imploding left side that Tony realized he was holding his breath. He didn't have the strength to panic at the lack of oxygen or worry about the pain of expanding and contracting his diaphragm; his body's need for air trumped all. He took a deep breath, then another, and as the fresh oxygen flooded his lungs a bit of his awareness returned.

Tony turned his head towards Chip and felt his body tense suddenly at the tableau before him.

Gibbs was on the ground, fresh blood dripping from a newly split lip, Chip's gun pointing him squarely in the face. Both were breathing hard, and despite his vulnerable position Gibbs wore a scowl that would scald the skin off a Drill Sergeant. Chip's eyes were wild, pupils blown wide, and Tony noted with a disconnected sort of horror that Chip's pants were strained by his obvious arousal.

"Well, Agent Gibbs, that was a good effort, but to no avail. Try something like that again, and I will start removing Tony's fingers. I think it's time you get back into position next to Tony." Chip emphasized his point with a kick to Gibbs' ribs that produced an unwilling grunt from the older man before he reached down and hauled him up, shoving him so that he fell face-first into Tony.

Tony's hands moved quickly despite the fog of pain that was still lifting, using Gibbs' body as a shield to hide his movements. His right hand dipped into his pocket and pulled out his knife while his left did its best to stabilize Gibbs, though the movement left him on the edge of puking. As he used the last of his waning strength to shove Gibbs off of him so that the Boss spun to his left to face Chip, his right hand shoved his knife into Gibbs' tied hands, the blur of motion hiding the transaction from the deranged man in front of them.

Tony mentally shouted for joy as Gibbs settled back into a kneeling position with his back to the fallen tree trunk, Tony's knife securely in his bound hands. Tony doubted that he could do more than sit there and breathe; he certainly didn't have the energy to try again if his first effort had failed.

"You alright, DiNozzo?" Gibbs' grumbled question rumbled out from Tony's left like the sweet stirrings of an angelic choir to Tony's ears, and he mustered up a ghost of his trademark Tony grin as he turned his head and replied.

"Just peachy, Boss. Chip here hits like a girl."

In the few seconds they had before Chip reacted, the two men discussed their plan without words; glances, twitches, and subtle shifts were a language all their own between them.

"Why are you antagonizing him, Tony?" Gibbs asked with a glare and a raised brow.

"Need his attention on me, Boss. Gotta give you time to get loose. Gun's on my left ankle. Don't take too long," Tony answered with a half shrug, eye roll, and flickering glance from Gibbs' face to his tied hands to Tony's ankle before looking quickly at the sky and back to Gibbs' face.

"Hear you loud and clear, DiNozzo. You just hold it together a little bit longer, you hear? I've got your six." A slight softening of Gibbs' glare and a half smile were all the reassurance Tony needed before Chip was between them, hauling Tony away from the tree trunk and shoving him to land hard on the ground, face down.

Pain rocketed through him upon impact, less intense than before, but it didn't block out the world like it had previously. Tony couldn't help but hear the terrible click-whizz-shick of a belt clearing its loops, and the hiss in the air was his only warning before pain, fiery and bright, bloomed across his back in a terrible, familiar way. Again and again the hiss and the fire, hiss and fire, as Chip lashed him with all his strength.

Tony suddenly could no longer feel the dirt and leaves beneath him or smell the earthy scent of loam under his nostrils and the forest around him. He couldn't see the feet of his captor or Gibbs kneeling beyond. He couldn't hear his own frenzied breath or the sound of the wind in the treetops.

The world around him was gone, replaced with a ghostly world of memories that opened up like a great, gaping maw before him to swallow him whole. He wasn't in the forests of Virginia anymore; he was in a mansion on Long Island that had haunted his nightmares for the last thirty years.

It wasn't Chip standing over him anymore screaming in rage and feral joy as he whipped him. Old images of Senior's wrath appeared before his mind's eye, and Tony was plunged into a torrent of dark memories made real again in the face of his current trauma.

He was a boy in his father's study, riding out the horrific blows of his father's wrath yet again, the blood trickling down his back to sink into the carpet that the servants would have to scrub out in the morning. His whole being seemed to coalesce around that scene as the experiences of the boy he had been and the man he was fused into one long, unending torment.

Lost as he was in the stormy sea of memory and pain, Tony wasn't aware that he had started screaming.

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