A/N: This was what I got finished for the November 2018 Rough Trade. The theme was ‘Not Quite Human’. I have discovered that I have a difficult time writing Bucky when he is not free from the Winter Soldier programming, or at least not fully free. I can’t find his voice. I knew where I wanted the story to go but I couldn’t seem to get there. So, this is what I posted on RT plus a little bit extra. Many of the warnings are due to Bucky’s past actions and HYDRA’s actions to him and others. This is set after the episode “SWAK” in Season 2 of NCIS and going through early Season 3. I am meshing timelines so they match better, the story starts post-Iron Man but prior to Iron Man 2, and Tony Stark is basically the same age as Tony DiNozzo in this story.
Warnings: character bashing, dark themes, death implied, death major character, death minor character, discussion child abuse, discussion domestic abuse, discussion murder, discussion rape, discussion torture, kidnapping, murder, violence canon, violence graphic
Pairing: Tony DiNozzo & Bucky Barnes, Tony DiNozzo & Tony Stark
Summary: Tony DiNozzo has always been pretty healthy all his life but after he got the plague, it got ridiculous. He’s running a 30-second mile, lifting cars with one hand, learning Hebrew just by overhearing it. And now he’s got a legendary, brainwashed assassin in his life who says Tony’s his offspring? How is this his life?
NCIS/MCU: Super Agent Tony DiNozzo
Anthony DiNozzo walked into the office and was waved to a seat by one of the men at the table. He took a seat across from them and stared them down. The man in charge held his gaze and after several minutes spoke in a harsh tone with a heavy Germanic accent.
“You come here to us, Mister DiNozzo. We did not call for you, we did not summon you. You have said it would take you time which we have generously provided. Have you succeeded?”
“No, it’s like this. I love my wife and she is wonderful. And she wants a child very much. And she’s been to the doctor, he said nothing is wrong with her. I went to my doctor last week. It was lots of medical talk but I can’t get her pregnant. And you are scientists…”
The German man sneered. “We are not the philanthropic types, Mister DiNozzo. Nor do we care about your romantic entanglements. Or your difficulty in having a child. Why would we? We are not friends, Mister DiNozzo. You already owe us quite a bit for you previous poor decision making. Even if we could help you, why would we wish to, what is in it for us, as you Americans say?”
“Ah. Well. You see, my wife, she is from a wealthy family and they love her. She’s the baby girl. Two older brothers and a doting father. But her money is tied up in a trust for her children.”
The German snorted. “Yes, very trusting, very loving she seems to be. Or is it you that her family have the measure of, Mister DiNozzo?”
“Paddington never cared for me much, no. No one was good enough for his little girl. Certainly not a dago from America. Claire loves me, told him she would like his blessing but didn’t need it.”
The German sneered. “Lucky for you, she didn’t listen, Mister DiNozzo.”
The second man in the room spoke for the first time. “Da, the upper crust British are very insular. It will be their downfall. So, comrade DiNozzo, you have been trying to get your lovely wife pregnant to get to the money?”
DiNozzo nodded. “Well, she really wants a kid or several but yes. More or less. We’ve been trying for a few years. I don’t really want a brat but her trust fund only goes so far. And she’d never cheat on me, to get knocked up, even if I agreed to it. She’s a romantic, still loves me totally and doesn’t know about the money situation or what my doctor said. And even if she knew about the money she would wave it off. She, uh, doesn’t know about – you – our … deals. And if she knew about my medical issues, she would start talking about adoption but the trust is specified to blood children. So – I know you are scientists. I thought you might have a way around my – problem.”
The two men exchanged glances before the German spoke. “We do not know what your medical problem is, Mister DiNozzo, but we are not that kind of scientists.”
The Russian nodded. “However, my friend, we may be able to help in another way to get part of our capital back which we entrusted to you so foolishly. Tell your wife that your doctor told you everything was fine and sometimes things just take time. Be sure to be making love to her every few days, da? You understand?”
DiNozzo nodded as he looked between them and swallowed. “I understand. I’ll, um, hear from you soon, once things are, uh, fixed. Thank you.” He rose, nodded quickly to the two men and hurried from the room.
Arnim Zola leaned back in his chair and gazed at his fellow HYDRA scientist. “Well, this is excellent timing for your project.”
The Russian, Anton Trojak nodded. “Yes, we can use the Asset’s contribution and continue our experiment, the DiNozzo child being a control subject. We cannot risk it dying like the others if we wish DiNozzo’s wife’s money, so we will not expose it to vita rays or serum enhancements. Will the serum you created from Red Skull’s blood and gave twice to the Asset, breed true without that assistance? Is that the key, that it be natural? A born super soldier, imagine it.”
“Yes, we will need to subvert or otherwise influence Mrs. DiNozzo’s doctor, get her on a drug cocktail that will keep the babe healthy and her incurious about any oddness of her pregnancy or later.”
The Russian smiled. “I will arrange for it, Lyudmila Kudrin will assist. She will be overjoyed at this opportunity that has presented itself to us. Fate smiles. We will get the needed supplies. And then for DiNozzo to be out of the house for a week or so, a business opportunity he can’t miss, yes? And the wife, she will go to an exclusive spa for the week he is away – a HYDRA spa. We shall use our access to assure she becomes pregnant and to keep her well during her gestation of the child.”
Zola smiled. “And if it works and the child is a super soldier as it grows, we simply get rid of it’s parents and raise them as our own, with our values. Mister DiNozzo is a convenient scapegoat for our plans but we have plenty of those. We will keep a close eye on it and keep its parents from interfering too much. Make sure Mister DiNozzo keeps financially stable through its childhood unless we need to eliminate him to indoctrinate the child. We can make sure our agents have access and DiNozzo will allow it to keep us happy. ”
“This may work this time. So many lost opportunities this experiment has given us, so many weaklings. But if this works, we will raise this child and others after it to be ours. Before, we were hurt by the serum, the Captain of America. But now, ah, Hail HYDRA!”
Zola giggled. “HAIL HYDRA!”
Tony DiNozzo sat in a chair across the desk from his doctor. He was just over a week out of the hospital having been infected with an antibiotic-resistant strain of pneumonic plague sent to the NCIS office by an insane woman. He had been discharged from the hospital three days ago and was back to check in as required.
Doctor Brad Pitt – no relation – looked over Tony as he sat down with his doctor’s eye. His gaze narrowed and he leaned forward, looking closer. “You’re not wearing some kind of makeup or bronzer, are you Buckeye?”
Tony snorted. “No. This is all natural, Wolverine.”
“Your skin looks healthy, been sleeping and eating well since you were discharged? Doing the nebulizer treatments? Keeping your rescue inhaler on you?”
Tony nodded. “Yeah, I’ve only needed the inhaler twice and that was the day after I was released. Since then, I’ve just been resting, catching up on some movies, TV shows, books. I don’t get a lot of downtime on Gibbs’ team. I don’t quite have my normal energy level back but I’m close. I am surprised that I feel so good, though. I mean, the tests said I shouldn’t.”
Doctor Pitt nodded and sat back in his chair, opening a file folder on his desk. “Yes. When we discharged you, you had a mild form of walking pneumonia. There wasn’t anything the hospital could do for you and you were going a bit stir crazy, so we let you sign yourself out. And you’ve obviously been following instructions. I am going to listen to your lungs and run some tests, see what’s up with your body.”
Tony sighed but stood and made his way out of the office and along the hall to an exam room. Doctor Pitt pointed out the hospital gown and gave him some privacy. A few minutes later a nurse came in and took blood before an orderly came with the mandatory wheelchair to take Tony to the radiology department for various tests.
Two hours later, Tony was back in Brad’s office and the doctor was staring at the file on his desk with a highly puzzled expression.
Brad looks at Tony and back down at the file again. “When we discharged you three days ago you had a mild onset of pneumonia. But according to all of these tests, you’re quite healthy. No pneumonia, no congestion, no fever, just scarring on your lungs from the plague and that’s it.”
Tony shrugged. “I’ve always been pretty healthy. Never really got a bad cold or flu, even as a kid. I’d go to bed with a stuffy nose or a sore throat and almost always by morning it was gone and I was fine. I’ve got a good immune system, I guess. Wouldn’t that explain my surviving the plague in the first place?”
Brad huffed. “It certainly helped. But this wasn’t just a minor bug, Tony. Even with the great immune system, you should still be fighting it off, for at least three or four more days, minimum. But there’s no signs of it at all, or of the plague, even, other than the scarring.”
Tony shrugged. “I don’t know what to tell you, Brad. I’ve never been one to wallow in sickness or injury. Even major injuries have healed pretty fast. Like in college when this nasty Michigan Wolverine broke my leg.” Tony grinned. “The doctors fixed me up but it was a really nasty break. Damaged all kinds of stuff. And the doctors said I’d never walk without a fairly pronounced limp, though I wouldn’t need a cane regularly. But within two years I finished my physio and had applied to the police academy, no limp in evidence, no issues on the fitness portion of the program. I was walking without a discernible limp within eight months of getting the cast-off. Doctors were amazed and pleased by my resilience. And I haven’t had a problem with it since then, it even an ache when the weather changes, which I expected to.”
Brad purses his lips. “Well, Buckeye, I’m glad I didn’t ruin your entire life.”
Tony shook his head. “Nope. Just a pro sports career. But it was for the best, I guess. I like helping people, getting justice for the victims.”
Brad smiled. “I’m glad. It is still very odd, though. Quick healers exist and also, doctors tend to be more pessimistic in their long term projections so that the patient is pleased if things go better than predicted. But the plague? Pneumonia? That’s a different story. The only explanation I have at all really is your blood work. There’s an odd factor in it. It’s been in every blood panel we’ve run since your first at NCIS after exposure. And it’s increased every test we’ve run. It doesn’t seem harmful, it may be helping and be responsible for your rapid recovery. I’m waiting for your records from the firm who created the plague strain to see if this was an intentional modification.”
Tony tilted his head to the side. “Huh. Weird modification, if so. Would kind of defeat the purpose if the strain had a cure in it. No one ever mentioned it in my blood work before though, so I guess that’s where it came from. I’ll make sure you get my full medical records that I have sent to you, just to check them, though.”
“Appreciated. I’ll keep you posted. For now, go home, keep getting a full night’s sleep, eat well not junk, do the nebulizer treatments every night to loosen your lung tissue, use your rescue inhaler as needed, and let me know if anything else odd happens. I want to see you in a few months to check your progress. If you get sick or are exposed to anything, even if it is just an infection after a cut, call me and make an appointment.”
Tony nodded once. “Sure but I’ve never had an infection, either. Other than the plague, if you want to call it an infection. And thinking on it, that’s weird. A few months ago I was drugged and dragged through the sewers by a tiny woman, a serial killer, and she dragged me by my feet. She wasn’t big enough to lift me. But I had scrapes on my arms and hands and open wounds on the back of my head. And I didn’t get an infection.”
Brad frowned. “That is odd but possibly just lucky. But if something like that happens, where you think you should be sick and aren’t, keep me in the loop.”
Tony agreed and left the office.
= = =
Tony smiled at Brad as he entered for his check-up after his latest round of tests. Brad smiled. “So, how has life been?”
Tony sighed. “Well, I’ve been back to work for almost two months now. The job is the job. The boredom of government bureaucracy and the paperwork that comes with it interspersed with solving puzzles of the cases and moments of sheer terror in shootouts. I went back to work too early, I wasn’t on my complete A-game, not quite. But I’m glad I did. It was – if I hadn’t – well, things could have gone much, much, much worse and I may not have had a team to come back to. Rather than just losing one.”
Brad frowned. “I’d heard about Kate’s death. I’m very sorry for your loss, Tony. She seemed like a really good friend. A good person.”
Tony smiled sadly. “She was a good person. She could be a real pain in the ass and she made snap judgments and could be incredibly self-righteous. But she could also be amazing and compassionate and caring and fun. I miss her. There’s a hole in the team but we’re dealing with it. Sometimes we get a temporary agent assigned, sometimes it is just the three of us. Frankly, I don’t think we’re ready to fill that hole yet.”
Tony looked down at his hands and shivered for a moment. His eyes met Brad’s. “Sorry to be maudlin.”
Brad shook his head. “You’re human, Buckeyes. You’re allowed to grieve.”
“Fine. So, have you had any times like the one in the sewer you spoke of, where you were exposed to an illness or something that should have caused an infection and didn’t?”
Tony shook his head. “No. We’ve had a lot of fairly straightforward cases. But I have been thinking like you said about that. And well, when you broke my leg isn’t the only time I’ve healed quickly. A bit over a year ago there was a bombing at a defense contractor and I was pretty close and got a pretty bad knock on the head but within 24 hours, Ducky thought he had misread the symptoms. And drugs wear off quicker than they should, I know you noticed that when I was in the hospital. But even in other circumstances, they do. There was a case where I got drugged by this serial killer and his partner and they thought I was out for the night but I woke up within two hours and overheard some stuff. Even as a kid, when Senior got out of control I healed quick. A few times, in hindsight, I think it should have killed me but I was only out of commission for a while, few months, tops.”
Brad nodded. “That makes sense. We finally got all of your medical records and the odd quirk in your blood isn’t from the plague virus. There are notations of oddities in your blood work going back to your elementary school years. Nothing ever came of it, there were just notes that they could see something odd was present but it was dormant, not multiplying, not affecting you in any discernible way. But the doctor always noted its presence and that it hadn’t changed.”
“But now, it is multiplying?”
“Yes. You’ve come in for a blood work up once a week since our last meeting and the oddity is increasing in every one. It isn’t changing or mutating. Just multiplying itself or becoming more prominent in its presence. Have you had any other odd symptoms other than your immunize system and quick healing?”
Tony shifted in his chair. “Well, I don’t know that this – it isn’t medical. I mean, on the medical side, I haven’t needed my inhaler since just after we last met and I stopped the nebulizer treatments when I had missed four of them in a row due to a hot case and nothing changed. I didn’t feel worse or anything. But this isn’t like that.”
“Tony. Anything that could help explain what is going on.”
“Fine. So, over the past month or so, I’ve started my routine, my exercise routine, again. I need to be in shape for the job, especially on Gibbs’ six and I figured I would need to work up to my old levels. So I’ve been clocking myself. My first day out, I bested my previous best time for the track around the high school near my place. By over a minute and I wasn’t even trying to go all out. And every day since then, my time has increased. I shave off ten to ninety seconds every day. I’m up to running a mile in just over five minutes. My best before the plague was nine minutes sixteen seconds.”
Brad blinked. “Okay. Well, that was a good time before the plague. Now, it is a bit ridiculous. Especially considering the state of your lungs.” Brad paused and looked at the reports on his desk. “Then again, regarding the state of your lungs. The imaging scans we took over the past few months show a remarkable thing. Normally with something like this, the scarring will either worsen in certain unfavorable conditions, such as repeated exposure to irritants like cigarette smoke or mold, or it will reach a plateau and maintain. But your scarring is actually fading. Now, all scars fade over time but imaging can still see them in deep scans. Yours are totally disappearing to all known medical scan technology. You still have some but nearly half of them are gone. No one I’ve consulted can explain it.”
= = =
Tony gingerly took a seat in the chair across the desk from Brad. He lightly bit his lip and looked away. His hands fidgeted against his legs before he took a deep breath and met Brad’s eyes. “Okay. So, we’ve been doing these tests for over six months now. And I haven’t had as much as a sniffle since the pneumonia went away. I’m pretty sure I know what those tests are going to be telling you. And it frankly freaks me out. Life is freaking me out, lately.”
Brad sighed and nodded. “You’re right. The scar tissue is completely gone from your lungs. Your blood shows no signs of the antibodies from the plague. However, the odd quirk has stopped multiplying and settled into a homeostatic state. I’ve done more research into your medical past and I found one thing. It was a passing note in a single file in your RIMA paperwork. It was on a sports clearance form and the medical info required. I’m not sure why it was there, really. It was just from your sophomore year. The freshman, junior, and senior year forms didn’t have a few of the lines for family history. I suspect that year someone just copied and handed out the wrong form somewhere along the line. But the form listed your blood type, as well as your parents’ blood types. And, Tony, you are type O negative. Your mother was type A negative and your father was listed as AB positive.”
Tony blinked. “An A and an AB can’t make a child who is O.” He frowned and shook his head. “I know I’m not adopted. Mom always talked about how long she was in labor with me and how much it hurt. And she loved Senior. Totally. Too much, frankly. She never would have cheated on him. So, how is this possible?”
Brad leaned forward. “You’ve said in the past that your mother was not always – compos mentis.”
Tony gave him a look. “She was a drunk. Full blown alcoholic, not terribly functional with it, especially when she mixed it with pills. So, what, you think someone took advantage and she didn’t realize?”
Brad nodded. “If she was out somewhere, drinking, a party or something, and your father wasn’t there? She could have been seduced and not recall it. Or even have thought it was her husband.”
Tony gave him a look again. “Stop dancing around it. If she was so far gone that she forgot having sex with some guy, she wasn’t capable of consent. Some man could have raped my drunk, high mother at some party or bar and gotten her pregnant. And she was so out of her mind, she never even knew.”
Tony shook his head. “No. I – God, it sucks, but how horrible is it that I’m actually happier to be a child of a rapist than of Senior? This is just the cherry on my sundae of fuckedupedness that has been my life since the plague. You think the oddity in my blood work is from my biological father?”
“Yes. And whatever it is, it was activated or stirred up or something, by the plague. Whether that is because the virus was engineered or if it is just how close you came to dying, I don’t know. So, not even a sniffle, huh?”
Tony smiled. “Nope. Not even.” Tony looked at his hands. “Look, Brad, I know you’re not a geneticist or a neurologist or – you’re an infectious disease specialist and pulmonologist. But this thing, whatever bio dad gave me when he – I don’t know who else to talk to about it.”
Brad straightened his shoulders. “Talk to me, Buckeye. I’m still a doctor. Even if my specialties aren’t quite in line with this.”
Tony looked up. “Alright. So, we covered the immune system thing. No sniffles. And you know about the healing thing, with the vanishing scar tissue. And I told you about getting faster. That hasn’t stopped. This morning I ran twenty miles in ten minutes flat. And I wasn’t even trying hard. I was at the gym last weekend and I bench pressed almost six hundred pounds and didn’t break a sweat. Two weeks ago, on a case I was – I can’t tell you why but I lifted a car – with one hand and held it for over two minutes.
“I’m outdoing Gibbs in hearing what’s going on in the bullpen when I’m not there. I can hear them talking from a floor down. I can hear meetings in the director’s office if they don’t have countermeasures on if I try. The only reason I can’t hear from MTAC is because it is fully soundproofed and always has the countermeasures running. My eyes have always been good but now they are really sharp. And my nose? Ugh. Crime scenes are a bitch, especially dead bodies, if I don’t use vapor rub or something.
“And that’s just the physical. I play like a stupid frat boy but I’ve always been pretty smart. Not quite eidetic but it was close. Now? I read a report or an article or anything once and I remember it perfectly. I can recreate a crime scene to the smallest detail without a camera. I’ve been multilingual since I was a kid. Our cook was Italian and my nanny was German and the chauffeur and garage man was Russian, and I learned all of those languages before I started school. But kids do that, right? When they are that young and surrounded by languages? It’s easier for them at that age. But we have a new permanent team member, she’s from Israel and often takes calls and speaks to them in Hebrew or Arabic. And just by hearing her, I’m partly fluent already and it has only been less than two months.”
Brad closed the file on his desk. “I don’t know what to tell you, Tony. Even if this was my area, I don’t think I could know. Just keep monitoring yourself and track the changes and I’ll do more research. I found a reference to the running and immune thing that may be a lead, but it is really old. Just, try not to freak out and be aware of your new – abilities – when around others. If you are bench pressing that much, easily, you could hit someone and break their ribs without even realizing it.”
Tony nodded. “Right. No sparring.”
Tony walked into the Director’s office, following directly behind Gibbs with Ziva and McGee behind them. Director Sheppard activated security measures and had them sit at the conference table.
“Sorry to bring you in on your downtime but this is urgent.” She pressed a button and the screen on the wall lit up showing two pictures of a man and a woman. “These are Sophie and Jean-Paul Ranier. They are Canadian citizens and married contract assassins. They were in a fatal car accident two days ago outside of Kuwait International Airport. Marine CID found two fake U.S. passports and two first-class tickets for Washington D.C. in their luggage. They also have reservations at the Barclay through November 10th. The Marine Corps Birthday Ball will be held there in a few days and will be heavily attended by top military leaders, congressmen and directors of various agencies, including me. We have no idea who their target is or who their employer is.”
Gibbs frowned. “We getting the bodies?”
Jenny nodded. “Yes. The bodies and their effects are being shipped and will arrive by morning. But we need to be on site and get intel. Very few people know the Raniers are dead. And I suspect very few people know what they look like beyond basics. I want to put our people in their place at the Barclay and hope their employers buy it and contact them with details of the hit.”
McGee sat up straight. “I can go undercover.”
Gibbs snorted. “Yeah, we’ll put you undercover but not as the assassin, elf lord.” He turned to the director. “Tony and Ziva can play Sophie and Jean-Paul. We’ll put McGee in as hotel staff and I’ll work with Ducky and Abby and run leads from here.”
Jenny nodded. “Good. The Raniers plane arrives in two hours. Gibbs will drop you off at the international arrivals terminal with some luggage and you get a cab to the Barclay.”
McGee blinked. “What if the Raniers already knew the target and their employer doesn’t make contact? I mean, even if we don’t know the target, the attack won’t happen since the Raniers are dead and Tony and Ziva won’t kill someone at the ball.”
Tony sighed. “We need to identify the target of the hit in case it isn’t a singular hit. Or if the employer hired multiple assassins for the same target. Or multiple assassins for multiple targets at the event. And it is unlikely they had the full intel before their deaths. Not for contract killers. If they were hitmen within an organization, then yes, they likely would have known but the Raniers were lone wolves for hire. Giving them too much information too soon could lead to being double-crossed. Whoever is hiring them wouldn’t likely chance it.”
McGee gaped at Tony. “How do you know that?”
Tony rolled his eyes. “I was undercover in the mob for almost two years, McGee.”
Jenny stood up. “DiNozzo, Ziva, you need to get ready, change into appropriate attire and get to the airport. Gibbs, McGee, get down to supply and get them luggage and things to fill it.”
= = =
On top of a building in downtown Washington, D.C. a man crouched, his eyes scanning the buildings around him. This man was a ghost, the boogeyman of assassins, by most who had heard his name, he was considered an urban legend, the Winter Soldier. Even to himself, he wasn’t quite real. He had been broken down and remade so many times that he was what his handlers wished him to be – the ultimate weapon.
Targets in room 1320 of the Barclay Hotel, Jean-Paul Ranier and Sophie Ranier. Mission parameters of eliminate targets and find information without the asset being seen by any. Ghost protocols in effect.
The man took a pair of high tech binoculars from a duffle bag at his feet and scanned the hotel’s wall and windows. After several minutes he shifted his position and used the binoculars to look at the building directly across the street from the hotel. Within seconds he is stationary and staring at a single spot, a window on the fourteenth floor of the building.
He took out an advanced long-distance microphone system, aimed it at the new building, and listened for half an hour before turning it towards the hotel. After ten minutes, the man placed a series of sensors along the roofline, aimed at the two windows of interest. He looked at the readouts and after watching them for some time, he attached the hotel feed to a computer.
Targets have entered the room and are engaging in sexual behaviors. Female has removed her dress and is removing the male’s clothing from him. Activity is being monitored by both passive and active surveillance. Active surveillance in building on north side of the street, consisting of a two-person team. Passive surveillance consists of audio recordings transmitted from the target’s hotel room to a distant location. Asset is recording passive surveillance feed for future potential use. Caution required, ghost protocol allows for extended reconnaissance before action.
The next morning the Winter Soldier packed up his equipment once the targets had woken up and began their morning routines. He made his way from the rooftop he had been on to the roof of the building with the active surveillance team. He examined the building and found minimal security from the roof entrance. He stashed his bag and some of his kit between two industrial air conditioning units and easily opened the rooftop door. He walked down two flights of stairs to the fourteenth floor.
No video surveillance in stairways or hallway, units are residential, not commercial. Surveillance team in room three doors from stairwell entrance. Unit closest to stairwell with adjoining walls is occupied by a family of three, all present at this time. The unit on the far side of the surveillance team is occupied by a single female resident. She exited the unit pulling a suitcase twenty minutes before noon. She was dressed in a pilot’s uniform of a popular airline which departs regularly from Reagan Airport. Likelihood of return within the next twenty hours, negligible.
The Winter Soldier made his way cautiously to the apartment owned by the airline pilot and used his skills to easily open the door. There was no security system and he made his way to the wall the apartment shared with the apartment being used to actively surveil the hotel. He made his way to the utility closet and found a hatch that led to a crawl space above the apartment. After examining it closely, he made his way through the tight space to the ceiling above the surveillance team. He slid an adjustable camera and microphone on a snake-like wire into the closet and maneuvered it under the door.
After an hour of watching and listening to the man and woman, two FBI agents, the Winter Soldier took his opportunity and lowered himself into the closet. The targets had begun sexual activities once more and the agents had decided only one needed to watch and listen. The male agent left to get dinner for the two of them.
Five minutes later, the Winter Soldier slid easily out of the closet and approached the oblivious female agent from behind as she watched and listened to the targets in their bed. He took his knife and stabbed the woman through her ear and into her brain, killing her instantly. He removed the knife and adjusted her body to appear from the apartment door that she was watching the targets.
Thirty minutes later the male agent entered the apartment and closed the door behind him. “Still at it, are they? Got to be impressed by his stamina if nothing else about him.”
The agent put the bag of food on a table and began walking towards the surveillance station by the window. The Winter Soldier slid out of the shadows by the wall and stuck his knife through the man’s neck. The agent fell to the ground, dead.
The Winter Soldier cleaned his knife to prevent dripping blood and unhooked all of the FBI surveillance equipment and moved it into the closet before leaving and returning to the roof.
The Winter Soldier made his way into the basement of the Barclay Hotel and into the laundry area. He commandeered a clean uniform and cap and took off his mask. He placed his kit under a tablecloth and made his way to the service elevator. After arriving on the correct floor he wheeled the cart to an empty room across the hall from the target’s room. He knocked and then used an electronic device to open the door lock. He wheeled the cart into the room and quickly got out the long distance microphone. He listened for two minutes to confirm his timing and then set his equipment to jam the remote signals for twenty-six seconds before the looped feed from their sleeping the night before began to play.
Asset is now a ghost. Active surveillance has been terminated and passive surveillance had been subverted. Noises suggest male target had entered bathroom to shower. Female target has completed her shower and is preparing the bed for sleep mode. Optimal timing to complete mission without triggering alert. The targets do not leave the room and only separate to use the bathroom facilities. Use of toilet is uneven timing but showers are consistent. Thus, plan: enter and eliminate female target while male grooms himself. When male emerges, eliminate target. Search room for intelligence and display bodies for maximum message sent. Betrayal of HYDRA is death.
The Winter Soldier shed his stolen uniform and re-donned his facial mask. All cameras and microphones on the target’s floor have been looped to previous feeds, whether of snoring or an empty hallway. He listened on his distance microphone and heard the female target slide into bed and pull the blanket up. He could tell by the echoes that her back was to the door to the room.
The Winter Soldier used his electronic lock pick to enter the room and the target scrambled to get out of bed. He was on her before she could get untangled from the blanket. He caught a knife she tossed at his head, “Spasibo”, and slid sideways away from a second knife in her hand. He grabbed her long hair and unbalanced her further and used the borrowed knife to slit her throat from ear to ear.
The male target exited the bathroom two minutes early, just in time to be sprayed across the face by her arterial blood. The live target took a step to the side and reached behind his back when the Winter Soldier lifted the body with ease and threw it at the male target. The man flew backward into the bathroom and struck his head hard against the mirror above the vanity. He landed on the bathroom floor, unconscious, the female target’s body atop him.
The Winter Soldier approached the downed man to complete his assignment. He knelt next to him and as the knife approached the man’s vulnerable neck, the Winter Soldier froze. He lifted the female’s dead body from its place atop the unconscious male and tossed it to the side, uncaringly.
The Winter Soldier knelt down beside the man and laid his right hand to his neck, feeling his pulse. He carefully felt the back of the man’s head and found a large bump and broken skin, bleeding sluggishly. He ran his metal hand through the man’s hair, pushing it back from his face before running it down his cheek and patting it.
Anomaly in mission. Male target cannot be eliminated. New mission parameter: keep male target alive and well. Protect at all costs. Male target is priority one for Asset. Current location compromised. Priority target is in danger. HYDRA, FBI, and passive surveillance takers at least. Possible other dangers. Priority target is assassin. Assassins have many enemies, known and unknown. First step: take priority target to new location, unknown to previous handlers. Method: remain in ghost protocol and extend it to priority target and then we gotta scram. Further steps: medical attention to priority target, food and supplies to acquire.
The Winter Soldier carefully picked up the male and carried him to the bed, lying him on his side. He collected some of the man’s clothing and grooming supplies and placed them in his duffel bag. He returned to the empty room across the hall and redressed in the hotel uniform before using his electronic key on the floor’s housekeeping closet. He wheeled the industrial laundry basket back to the priority target’s room and carefully placed the man in the bottom, once more on his side, layering towels and bedding around his head and neck to keep him stable. The Soldier placed several blankets on top of the man, laid his duffle bag at the man’s feet, and then pulled the cover onto the basket before wheeling it out of the room and to the service elevator.
Tony awoke to a nagging pain in his head and in his back. As he tried to stretch out and reach to touch his aching head, he found himself restrained.
What the hell? Did I pass out in the middle of some kinky sex? Last thing I remember, no, I was at work, undercover, right. The married assassins. Ziva and I in the hotel room pretending to have sex. Her prompting me to make it real one minute and insulting my looks and prowess and acting the next. We were waiting to be contacted by the employer who hired the Raniers and Ziva – Ziva. Oh fuck! Ziva’s dead. That guy slit her throat! Oh double fuck! I’m not dead. But I’m restrained to some horizontal surface, arms tied down at my sides, legs at the ankles, across the chest. And if the cold I am feeling is an indicator, I’m naked or near to it but under a blanket? I need to focus. Gah, my head hurts.
Tony listened and heard another person breathing in the next room but not nearby so he cautiously slit his eyes open. He didn’t see anyone, just a light blue wall, a window with a shade pulled down with weak pre-dawn light leaking around it, and yes, a dark blue blanket laid over his naked body. He turned his head and saw a dresser and night table and the headboard to a bed. He was tied with heavy duty rope but was pretty sure he could rip free if he tried. Not something he could have done before the plague had made his blood anomaly from bio-Dad go nuts. Six months ago he would have been trapped. But he didn’t want to get free until he knew the lay of the land. If that guy in black wasn’t alone, he was screwed, potentially. Hopefully not literally even if he was naked.
Okay, if he has a gun, not just a knife – I heal fast now but I don’t think I can heal from a bullet in my brain. Not sure I could heal fast enough to survive what Ziva got either. Not without at least some medical intervention in the meantime. And who was the guy after? Did he know that Ziva and I were undercover? Does he know I’m a federal agent? Or was he sent after the Raniers? Fuck. I hope he doesn’t think I’m Jean-Paul.
This scenario screams revenge. Unless he’s crazy and wants Jean-Paul to work with him like he did with his wife? Gets the competition out of the way and then takes an injured Jean-Paul in to convince him? Kind of Stephen King’s Misery where I’m James Caan’s Paul Sheldon and the guy in black is Kathy Bates’ Annie Wilkes?
That would be insane but if the hit was on the hitters, which it seems like, and not on the ball attendees like we thought, then why only kill Ziva and not me? Why take out Sophie and leave Jean-Paul alive?
Torture? Maybe. The tied down thing suggests it. Maybe. But why the hell would they cover me in a blanket? Trying to induce Stockholm Syndrome? Why? None of this makes any sense.
Tony’s mind raced trying to make sense of the pieces of the puzzle. Nothing was connecting for him. Each theory he came up with had holes the size of a 747 in it. Just as he was settling on the guy in black being an obsessed stalker fan of either Jean-Paul or Tony himself, the man in question entered the room.
“I know you are awake, moy syn. I can tell from the change in your heartbeat. It is a tell. Open yer peepers and we must speak of our mission. We are ghosts but they have a long reach.”
Tony sighed and opened his eyes, confused by the shifting speech patterns and even accent of the man who had killed Ziva and kidnapped him. The man started with a flat affect and Russian accent then slipped into a more humorous tone in a New York accent which shifted again after the odd slang back into a flatter monotone for several words and back to the Russian accent for the first half of the last sentence and more generically American by the end.
The man stood near the bed, longish black hair held down by a muzzle-like face mask. He was in black tactical gear and his left arm had a metallic sheen. As the man moved closer, Tony revised that. His left arm was made of metal, with interlocking plates going up the arm. His eyes were lined with black kohl, deep and dark.
Tony cleared his throat. “What do you want from me? Who are you?”
The man cocked his head and spoke, his voice heavily Russian accented English, “I am the Asset. You are the priority mission. Keep safe.”
“Why me? Why not my partner? I know you killed her. I remember.”
“My mission was to kill the targets, find the information, and display them as a warning against betrayal. Mission parameters changed after the woman was dead. Male target must be kept safe. Always.” The man’s voice shifted to more generic once more. “I knew you. You’re mine. When I got close I knew you were my kid.” The tone shifted and the accent became distinctly New York. “Don’t know how. Ain’t been with a dame in decades I don’t think but I guess docs can do crazy stuff.” And a shift to Russian once more. “The scientists regularly take many samples. Often.”
Tony blinked. This guy thinks he’s his kid? “What do you mean you recognized me as your child?”
The man hovered over Tony and brushed his hair back from his forehead and Tony felt himself instinctively relax. “I can feel it. It’s crazy. I feel ya, kiddo. But my senses are enhanced and you are my offspring. The smell of ya, the feel of your skin, I don’t know kid, they gave me their serum malarkey and I just know.”
The accent thing was really starting to bug Tony. “Okaaay, and why did you kidnap me? Leaving me behind would have kept me safe. With a dead body but safe since you’re the one who made her dead and you would have been gone.”
The man shook his head. “Jean-Paul Ranier is an assassin. He was my target. I am the Asset but I am not the only option for such work. Removing you from the situation was for the best. You do not need to be an assassin any longer. I killed yer dame. We can get ya help and outta the life.”
Tony sighed. “Who hired you?”
“The Asset is not hired. The Asset is the Weapon of HYDRA. Sometimes I get loaned out but I don’t get money for it. The Asset does as its handlers tell it.”
“HYDRA?!? Like World War II Nazis HYDRA?”
“Yes but HYDRA is more than Nazis. They got bases round the whole world. They ain’t what they were in the 40s. HYDRA is eternal.”
“Right. Okay. Well, um, what’s with the shifting voice? I just – it is driving me nuts and I have to know.”
“The Asset is due maintenance and the chair but priority one mission is more important. The Asset was not always the Asset. I don’t really remember a lot, more and more but it’s blurry and outta order. But the chair – it does stuff to my head. It makes me forget and they say stuff and I have to listen.”
Tony shivered. “Like brainwashing stuff? Manchurian Candidate stuff?”
The man shrugged. “Don’t know anybody from Manchuria. Least I don’t think so. And they don’t cut open my head. It’s like electricity and drugs and stuff.”
Tony frowned. “You don’t recognize the term brainwashing, do you? It isn’t meant literally.”
The man blinked. “Brainwashing. The act of turning one from a side to ours through manipulation, blackmail, and emotional, mental, and physical stimuli. Huh yeah, brainwashing works, as a term for me I’d guess.”
Tony swallowed. “But you, the non-Asset part, you had never heard that term before they got to you?”
He shook his head. “Not that I recall but I don’t recall as much as I think I should.”
“Brainwashing has been a very well-known and often overused term starting in the 1950s during the Korean War. You keep using slang like dame or malarkey. Your accent when you are most yourself is very specifically regional to New York City. But more distinct then the accent I hear from others in that area.
Tony shifted his head to lay against the man’s fingers near his head. “I feel off balance because I can tell what you meant now. About recognizing me. I know you’re telling me the truth about being related to me, I just somehow know that you are. And I recently found out that the man who raised me isn’t my biological father. I also found out about some weird stuff in my blood that is changing me. And it is genetic.
Tony but his lip and closed his eyes for a minute. “You’re my biological father and the pieces I am putting together are freaking me the fuck out. From what I can see of you, you look like you’re younger than me. Or at least near my age. But your slang, the lack of modern slang, what you’ve said about HYDRA and what they did to you, added to my recent developments – I think you’re a lot older than you look. Decades older. Will you take off the mask? Please… dad?”
The man looked into Tony’s eyes and raised his hands to the muzzle, slowly removing it and Tony gasped.
“Shit! Yeah. I – I’ve always had a really good memory, verging on eidetic at times but lately it got a lot better and I went to an opening of a museum exhibit a couple of months ago. I don’t know if you remember much personal stuff about yourself before your – before HYDRA – but I know your name, I recognize your face. You were born in Brooklyn, New York and went to war during World War II where you eventually became a member of an elite unit called the Howling Commandos. You were reported KIA after a fall from a train during a mission to capture HYDRA scientists. Your name is James Buchanan Barnes but they mostly called you -“
Gibbs walked into MTAC, coffee in hand, and put on his headset as the technician connected him to McGee at the hotel. Director Shepard was already in one of the chairs in front of the screen.
Gibbs looked at the surveillance camera footage from the hotel and gestured for the tech to raise the volume on the bugs in Tony and Ziva’s room. He rolled his eyes at the loud snoring.
“Alright, McGee, DiNozzo and David are sleeping in this morning it seems. Take them room service and wake their asses up.”
“Got it, boss.”
Gibbs watched as McGee wheeled a cart with breakfast foods on it into the service elevator. A few minutes later, he watched that same camera as McGee exited the elevator and shifted his gaze to the hallway. There was no McGee in sight on the footage.
“McGee! Didja get off on the wrong floor?”
A soft murmur of negation came over the comms. “No, Boss.”
“Are you approaching their room now?”
“Yes, Boss. Two doors down.”
“We’ve got a problem, McGee. I’m looking at security footage showing me a completely empty hallway outside the room. We saw you on the elevator but once you got off, you disappeared.”
“Uh. I’m here, Boss,” McGee whispered.
Gibbs sighed. “Knock hard. Keep it in character. Here’s hoping it’s just a glitch.”
Gibbs listened as over McGee’s comm he heard the young man’s forceful knock. “Room service! Breakfast!”
Gibbs frowned. Something wasn’t right. A few seconds thought and his eyes widened. He covered the mouthpiece link to McGee and barked at the tech, “Turn up the room volume, highest it can go!”
He removed his hand. “Again, McGee. Louder, more knocks.”
In his ear, Gibbs heard the loud banging as his agent followed his directions but the feed from the room remained the same, loud snoring. There were no sounds of McGee’s knocking or announcement of breakfast service.
“There’s something really wrong McGee. My gut is churning. We can’t see you in the hall and we can’t hear you on the room’s feed, just on your own comm feed. Use your master key to get in the room but stay in character. And turn on your damn lapel feed!”
“Sorry, Boss.” One of the screens began showing the door to the room as McGee edged it open. “Room service! Breakfast as ordered, Mister Ranier. Mrs. Ranier? Are you here? You asked for breakfast service at this time.”
Gibbs watched McGee move into a totally darkened room. Morning sunlight was filtering around the edges of the heavy drapes which Tony and Ziva would have known to leave open for any exterior surveillance.
McGee’s soft whisper came over his comm, “I don’t hear snoring, Boss. I don’t hear anything.” McGee’s hand came into view turning on a lamp. He turned away from the bureau. “Oh my God! Blood spray!” McGee broke character as they all saw the wall by the bathroom door and the arterial spray along it. “That’s arterial blood spray, Boss!”
“I can see that, McGee!” Gibbs growled at the young man as Director Shepard joined him on the floor. “Look around.”
The feed showed McGee circling the room to the other side of the bed, his gun drawn and held low, before he stepped into the bathroom and they all gasped at the sight of Ziva’s slumped, obviously dead, body and the cracked mirror and wall covered in blood with a large pool on the floor. McGee slowly made his way around the luxurious bathroom, opening the cabinets and closets, opening the shower door, before he backed away into the bedroom and opened things in there as well and knelt to look under the bed. Finally, he threw open the drapes and tried the locked window.
“Tony’s not here, Boss. He’s missing. And that blood pool in the bathroom, the damage, I could tell just by a look it couldn’t have been Ziva’s. Her throat’s cut. That arterial spray in the bedroom must be hers.”
“Likely, McGee. Secure the room. Ducky and Palmer will be there soon and so will I.” Director Shepard cleared her throat. “And the Director.”
“Got it, Boss.”
Abby stood in her lab, shaking. Her face was dry but her makeup was obviously smeared from earlier tears. Gibbs handed her a Caff-Pow while McGee stood behind him. “Gibbs! Gibbs! It happened again! Why does this keep happening? Ziva’s dead! Like Kate. I mean, I loved Kate we were like best friends who didn’t like the same stuff much but still loved one another and Ziva was like a ninja and I didn’t really like her much yet and she just kind of pushed her way into stuff and we didn’t have a choice ‘cause Madam Director made us take her but she’s dead and I shouldn’t speak ill of the dead. Unless they were like a psycho or a murderer or a terrorist like Ari was, then I’d not feel bad about speaking bad about them because -“
Abby took a deep breath. “Sorry. Right. Okay. Results. I know Ducky told you about the autopsy results, straightforward, cut throat. Some defensive bruising. Her tox screen came back negative. Very tiny alcohol content in her blood work, likely from the champagne I found in her stomach along with strawberries and chocolate. I guess she was trying to go for romantic married assassins? Anyway, the blood from the arterial spray on the wall was Ziva’s. As was the trail of blood from the bedroom into the bathroom. The blood on the wall and in the pool below the sinks was Tony’s. I put together a projection of what I think might have gone down based on the evidence.”
Abby turned to her computer and pressed a few buttons and the large screen on the back wall lit with a computer-generated view of the hotel room. She started the simulation and Gibbs and McGee watched as a shadowy figure fought with Ziva before slitting her throat from behind. As the blood spurted across the room, Abby paused the playback.
“From what I could tell, there was a gap in the arterial spray. It was on the wall beside the bathroom door, on the jams and on the inside of the door but not into the bathroom or on the floor outside. I think this is why.”
She pointed back to the screen and the playback began showing a figure with Tony’s face and build walk out of the bathroom just as the blood sprayed from Ziva.
“It matches the evidence. And this next part is hinky but it is the only thing to match the evidence as far as impact velocity and force of impact go.”
They watched the simulation as the shadowy figure picked up Ziva and threw her at Tony, causing him to leave his feet and hit the mirror and wall before collapsing on the floor.
“There were smears in the blood trail from Ziva’s body that indicated the killer walked into the bathroom while it was still very wet. And the pool under Ziva’s body could only have collected if she had been moved almost immediately after being thrown into the bathroom. I don’t know why they kidnapped Tony. I thought maybe they thought he was dead and then he got up but was disoriented by the head wound and wandered off but it doesn’t fit the evidence. They took Tony. And none of his clothes are missing. The evidence in the bathroom suggests he was just out of the shower when the attack occurred. So he would have been nearly nude, maybe wearing a towel, maybe a hotel bathrobe. But they didn’t dress him. Unless they brought clothes for him. But that would be really weird. I mean, maybe not if he was actually an assassin and all, that could happen but for Tony.”
Gibbs grunted. “But did they kidnap DiNozzo?”
“I just said they did, Gibbs. He wouldn’t have wandered off and if he had, he’d have been found by now.”
“Abby! Did they kidnap DiNozzo? Or do they think they kidnapped Jean-Paul Ranier?”
A voice from the doorway spoke. “Good question. And did they kill my agents because they wanted the assassins or because they wanted to hit the FBI and NCIS?”
Tony sat sideways in the corner of a leather couch, his back basing the armrest and his right foot on the floor, on the second floor of a brownstone somewhere in the DC vicinity. The late afternoon sunlight filtered through closed blinds from the windows facing the street and through open curtains from the window overlooking the garden area in back.
Bucky currently sat next to him, his right arm, the one not made of metal, stretched along the back of the couch, his fingers occasionally brushing Tony’s shoulder, while his knee rested against Tony’s left bent knee.
During their hours-long conversation since Tony had convinced Bucky to untie him from the bed for Tony’s safety, Bucky’s positioning changed often though Tony’s own had not shifted more than necessary to prevent limbs falling asleep. Sometimes Bucky was practically sitting in Tony’s lap, his hand running through the agent’s hair. Sometimes he mirrored Tony’s pose on the other end of the sofa. Other times he paced around the room or stood sentinel glaring out the window, eyes darting over the street.
Tony remained calm as he questioned his biological father about things he recalled. He allowed Bucky his space, didn’t push, allowed quiet when Bucky slipped away from talking.
Over the hours, Bucky slid less and less into his Asset mindset, the Russian accent rarely appearing. The generic American still mixed often with the Brooklyn but at least they rarely switched mid-sentence after the first two hours.
Tony sighed. “Alright, I think I’ve put it at least mostly together.