Author’s notes: I love “Frame Up”. It offers great insight into Tony’s psyche, and is over all a wonderful episode. This idea hit me and I just had to write them. They’re pretty dark, so be warned.

Four times Tony woke up in pain (and one time he didn't)



“I didn’t doubt you for a second, Boss,” Tony says, grinning up at Gibbs. “Well, maybe one second.”

Gibbs shrugs. “No, don’t thank me. It was all Abby.”

Tony stands. “I’ve gotta go see her. I gotta thank her.”

“You should,” Ducky says. “The poor girl hasn’t slept since this entire affair began.”

“She’s in the lab?” Tony asks, already heading that way. The others give him an affirmative response. He jogs down the stairs rather than taking the elevator, because running down stairs is freedom where the elevator reminds him too much of the cell.

He hears a glass breaking, and hears Abby scream.

His gun is out before he has time to think about it, and he moves swiftly forward, gun raised. He hears Abby panting, and hears a man swear.


He turns the corner and takes in the scene before him in an instant – Chip on top of Abby, knife near her throat, but she’s fighting back, tough as nails, her hair in disorder.

He shoots Chip, one bullet through the heart, the other through his head. He’s a great shot, and his precision is exact. For a moment, he’s reminded of Kate and the way she died, but then he pushes that thought away, because the asshole Chip is absolutely nothing like Kate was.

Chip falls dead to the side, and Abby pushes him off. She’s shaking but stands, and a moment later, Tony finds himself with an armful of Abby.

Another few seconds later – or perhaps minutes, or hours, or eons; Tony can’t tell, not with his eyes trained on Chip’s dead body and Abby in his arms – the cavalry arrives. He doesn’t know how they heard the shooting – perhaps they didn’t, perhaps they figured it out in some other way – but he’s glad they’re there, because they take care of things, just like they made sure he didn’t go to jail for life. He holds on to Abby, and thinks it’s poetic justice – she saved him, and now he saved her.

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They don’t find Jane Doe’s identity. There is no match in the DNA database, and without the rest of the body, the team can’t prove that Tony didn’t murder the woman.

The DA uses Abby’s forensics to get Tony convicted. Abby cries on the stand, but she knows her forensics, and she can’t lie. Tony doesn’t want her to, even though the forensics itself is lying.

“You do tend to date a lot, don’t you, Mister DiNozzo?” the DA asks, and Tony laughs, because he knew they’d say that, and because he knows that he can laugh or cry, or sit stone-faced and silent, and he will still be convicted of a crime he didn’t do.

He answers like he did to Gibbs: “Yeah, I do ‘tend to date a lot’ – but where does it say that dating, you know, a new girl every week is a crime?”

They convict him, sentencing him to a life in prison.

Abby cries and screams, and McGee looks shocked even though none of then should be surprised, and Tony can’t read Ziva but it’s possible she’s upset. Ducky looks sad, and Gibbs—Gibbs knows it isn’t true, and his eyes are dark with the need for revenge. Perhaps that should be comforting, but Tony can’t find anything comforting right now.

He sees Chip, sitting in the row behind Gibbs and the others.

Chip is smiling.

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“We have a BOLO out,” Director Shepard says, “but no hits yet.”

“He cannot simply disappear,” Ziva says.

They’re all standing in the bullpen, feeling uneasy knowing that the bastard who tried to frame Tony for murder is out there.

“Well, Abby says she last saw him two hours ago, when she first started testing the sweat for DNA,” McGee says.

“The rat’s running,” Tony says. He wants to get his hands on Chip, and wring his neck. Chip certainly deserves it. He wants Chip to rot in prison, the way Tony almost did.

The Director sighs. “Go home for now. You’ve all had long days – you especially, Agent DiNozzo. Get some rest.”

“What about Chip?” McGee asks.

“If we get a hit on the BOLO or anything else happens, I’ll make sure you find out,” Director Shepard says.

They grab their things. Tony wonders how it can feel surreal to be going home after just a single night in a cell, but it does. He can’t imagine spending the rest of his life in one. He knows he’ll have to thank Abby for saving him. He’ll buy her flowers.

McGee stands beside him. “You good to get home on your own?”

“I’m fine, Probie,” Tony says. He hesitates, then adds, “But thanks for asking.”

McGee smiles as though Tony just covered him in praise. “Good night, Tony.”

They leave, one by one. Gibbs won’t go until Tony has left, to make sure that Tony actually does leave.

“Thanks, boss,” he says. “I know it was all Abby, but—you know. Thanks.”

Gibbs looks up, and the blue eyes are unreadable. Tony knows that Gibbs is the only thing that kept him sane in the last twenty-four hours. Their one-sided conversation plays through his mind – he almost managed to scare himself for a moment there, wallowing in hopelessness.

Gibbs gives him a nod, an acknowledgement, and returns to work. Tony leaves, a slight smile on his lips.

Tony takes the elevator down to the garage. His footsteps echo emptily; he’s alone. He shudders – the concrete and echoing reminds him of the cell, and he’d rather not be reminded of that at all.

He unlocks his car – the Mustang, with the new carpet that Chip stole fibres from – and gets in, placing his bag on the passenger seat. He breathes in, smelling the leather and that aroma that’s just the Mustang it self. There’s a hint of something else too, something he can’t place.

He turns the key.

He identifies the hint of something else as explosives too late.

He dies thinking he really should have seen it coming, really should have checked for explosives before getting into the car, really should know better when Chip is out there—

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Gibbs throws down the folder with the information from Stewart’s case. He’s off running before Tony has had time to realize what’s happening. But Tony has never needed to know exactly what’s going on to be able to follow Gibbs – he trusts Gibbs – and so he chases after Gibbs on his mad dash. He catches a glimpse of the photo of Chip in the folder as he passes by, and his heart stops for a long moment, before it picks up again, beating so hard it hurts.

They take the stairs down, two at a time, three at a time, guns already drawn.

They shoot Chip – Gibbs shoots him twice, and Tony twice, and McGee fires three times – and he falls down, probably dead before he hits the ground.

But they are too late, and all they can do is hold Abby as she draws her last shuddering breaths, knife embedded deeply in her chest. 

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Tony enjoys the feeling of the expensive sheets and the taste of the cold beer. He watches a movie in bed, one that has nothing to do with anyone getting framed, because the last thing he wants to do is think about what’s happened. He wants to forget everything about small cells and women’s legs chopped off. He never wants to think about teeth marks matching his own again, or about Sacks angrily trying to interrogate him.

Question him, Tony reminds himself, because Gibbs assured him that that was what Sacks had been doing.

How’d I do?


Fine? I thought I was Oscar material.

He pretends now, pretended then, that his heart wasn’t pounding all the way through the session. He’s a good actor, and his façade is strong and thick and certainly not something someone like Sacks can penetrate.

Gibbs can, but that’s not news. He only just realized, but Gibbs never said a word throughout his tirade.

I’m not getting out of this one, am I, Boss?

Even then, Gibbs didn’t speak. Tony remembers the feeling of the slap, the one that brought him back from the brink of insanity, and his skin still remembers the feeling of Gibbs’ two fingers bringing his chin up. The skin burns warm and nice amidst the buzz of beer and other alcoholic beverages that Tony has downed since getting home.

He doesn’t kid himself with the notion that Gibbs will ever reciprocate. He knows Gibbs only sees him as an agent, as the Senior Field Agent, nothing more.

But to Tony, Gibbs is everything.

He almost finds it funny now, in the midst of intoxication. Gibbs is everything to Tony, and Tony is nothing to Gibbs.

The chuckle that rises in his throat turns into a sob instead.

There’s a bottle of vodka next to the glass of beer. Tony drinks until he passes out, and he doesn’t enjoy the taste.

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