If he leans just a little to the left, Tony thinks, he might just be able to snag the blanket he knows is on the back floor of his car. Unfortunately, leaning to the left, even just a little, hurts like hell but he does it anyway, because he’s really, really cold and he has a horrible feeling that he’s going to get even colder before he’s rescued… if he’s rescued. He shoves the ‘if’ part down deep in his subconscious where he can’t think about it anymore and concentrates on the when instead. He grits his teeth, rides the pain out and stretches, his fingertips just grazing the edge of the material. Sighing, he tries again and this time he manages to clench his fingers just enough to snag the blanket and pull it over the middle console and into his lap. Shivering, he gets the blanket up around his shoulders and huddles into its meager warmth. It’s not enough but it’s something and it’ll have to do for now.
The windows of the car are almost obscured by snow sleeting across the glass. When he looks outside through a small oval he’s managed to clear with his sleeve, he can see that the snow is drifting higher. It must be almost up to the top of his tires by now, he thinks, and that thought makes him feel even colder so he resolutely turns away from the patch of clarity and lets the window fog over again.
He knows his team will be looking for him. He’d radioed in just before the collision with DeGrassi’s car but he also knows that they’ll be slowed up by the weather conditions and he forces himself to think realistically about that. He’s never been one for false hope. He just knows that he has to use every survival tactic at his disposal to stay alive till they get to him. With that in mind, he reaches across to the glove compartment and pops the button. There’s a box of tissues and he grabs a handful and uses them to swab at the blood that’s trickling down his face from the gash on his forehead. He’d impacted the windscreen hard enough to lose consciousness though he has no way of knowing how long he was out for. By the time he came to, DeGrassi’s car was gone and he was alone in a white, deserted wonderland.
Next out are a pen and a notebook. He’s always kept them there for stakeouts when the time was dragging. He flicks through the pages and smiles at the sketches he’s done – Abby, pigtails flying as fast as her hands; Tim, his chin propped on one hand as he focuses on a computer monitor; Ziva, her eyes fiery, her mouth set in that quizzical smile she lets him see sometimes; Ducky, a hand aloft as he tells one of his endless stories. The next page gives him pause and he almost flips past it. Kate, hands on hips, head tilted, that mischievous smile on her face. The most recent one is of Gibbs, bent across the bare bones of his boat, a plane in his hands, his muscles flexing as he works. Tony drew that one just this morning, from the memory of the night before when Gibbs had crept downstairs, thinking he was asleep. Tony had followed him and sat on the stairs and just watched him. He’d worked on the sketch while he was waiting for DeGrassi to make his move.
The pain is throbbing fiercely now. One or two ribs are cracked at the very least and he tries not to look down at his left leg, crushed beneath the partly collapsed dash. He can feel the blood soaking through his pants leg though, its warmth turning chill in the freezing air.
His mind is drifting now and he tries to focus on survival, on ways to get himself out of this or at least keep himself alive till help arrives. But the glove compartment is empty now, no more tools for survival left. Closing his eyes, he pictures in his mind an image for the future, for a time when all this will be just a memory. Jethro, sitting in front of the fireplace, cup of eggnog in one hand, that smile on his face that is just for Tony alone.
Tony’s never been one for holidays. They’d been pretty much ignored when he was a kid, save for his mother using them as an excuse to get drunk and his father for a way to spend time away from his family at a succession of business parties. This year was going to be different though. Jethro had promised him that. Their first Christmas together, as lovers. It was going to be his gift.
Tony blinks back the tears that want to fall. He won’t give up yet. He owes it to Jethro. It’s a rule, never giving up. Rule number 13 or something. He grins through the fear and the pain and curves his fingers tightly over the steering wheel, anchoring himself to life, thinking of warmth, and gifts, and love, and Jethro…
“Hey, it’s about time you woke up, DiNozzo.”
There’s a light tap on his cheek and Tony opens his eyes and sees Jethro sitting next to him, leaning in close, one hand on Tony’s shoulder, the other cupping his cheek.
“I survived,” Tony whispers, feeling the skin of his lips crack as he speaks.
Jethro blots the blood away with a tissue then leans in and brushes the gentlest of caresses across Tony’s mouth. “Of course you survived, DiNozzo. It’s a rule, remember?”
“13.” Tony says then adds, “Is it Christmas? I haven’t got your present yet.”
Jethro’s eyes look haunted and tired but he smiles and pats Tony’s cheek again. “Got my present the minute we found you alive, Tony.” He reaches behind him and picks something up from the bedside table. It’s Tony’s sketchbook. “Here. You’ll need something to keep you busy till I can take you home.”
Tony flips through the pad until he gets to the last page. Beneath the sketch of Jethro, there’s writing now. He squints at it and Jethro huffs impatiently, takes it out of his hand, and reads the words.
“Love you too, Tony.”