Title: Family is as Family Does
Genre: family, H/C, drama, humor, gen
Summary: What happens when Tony and McGee are abducted, and DiNozzo Senior shows up to find Gibbs caring for his injured son? Takes place circa S9 or S10. Tony & Gibbs father/son/H/C. Lil bit o' Sr & Jr H/C. Loads of Tony & Tim friendship and whump.
A/N: This is my very first NCIS story. Lots of references from the "Lethal Weapon" movies. I don't even know…lol You don't need to know the movies to read the fic.
A/N2: Eternal love and appreciation to sid and devra for your support and pom poms. Dedicated to binkeybella for your faith in me.
Disclaimer: I do not own NCIS or any of their characters.
Opening the door, Gibbs didn't hide his surprise at who he found behind it. "A.D?"
"Hiya, Gibbs," the older man started unsure, "uh, sorry to bother you at home. I lost your number, or I would have called first—"
Gibbs glanced back at the stairs.
"I'm, uh, in town on business," Anthony DiNozzo senior continued, fingering his hat in his hands, "and I wanted to surprise Junior, but I can't seem to reach him. Being it's a Saturday, I thought I'd try here before I checked the office." He finally noticed the distracted and concerned look on the senior field agent's face. "Gibbs? Is there something the matter?"
Gibbs was opening his mouth to reply when there was a loud thud upstairs. "Damnit, DiNozzo," he cursed heading for the steps.
"Junior?" Senior called after. When Gibbs didn't stop or respond, he followed.
Gibbs found Tony sprawled on his side by the bedroom door. Harsh, painful sounding coughs racked the younger man's body—a familiar sight over the past two days. He was trying to sit up, but lacked the strength to do so. How he had made it across the room, Gibbs would never know. "DiNozzo, what are you doing out of bed?" he chastised, but it came out more of a soft, sad query. Kneeling next to him, he pulled the unresisting man into a sitting position. Tony leaned heavily on him and Gibbs readily accepted the weight. "I've got ya. Let it out."
Gibbs turned towards the concerned voice. He had almost forgotten about the other man—focused completely on his son. He gestured with a cant of his head at a box of Kleenex on the night stand. "Ya mind?"
Senior carefully stepped around them, retrieved the box and kneeled next to them with it. "He can't breathe," he realized shaken.
Gibbs took a few tissues and held them in front of Tony's face. "Come on, let it out," he instructed again, rubbing the heaving back encouragingly. Temple pressed into Gibbs collarbone, eyes squeezed shut, Tony weakly gripped his boss' arm.
"Gibbs?" Senior's worry was growing.
"Give him a minute."
Finally, Tony coughed up what had been obstructing his airway and collapsed completely against the man holding him. "Atta boy." Gibbs squeezed the back of his neck, easily taking the weight.
"My God…" Senior breathed, barely registering Gibbs toss the tissue into the trash behind him. "Does he have the plague again? Is this the plague?" he asked, taking in the slumped, trembling figure of his son.
"No. Pneumonia." Gibbs carefully adjusted the listless body in his arms so Tony would be more comfortable while he caught his breath. That's when Senior noticed that pneumonia wasn't the only thing hurting his son. "And the bruises?" he demanded.
"It's a long story," Gibbs replied tiredly. "Help me get 'im back in bed and I'll explain."
"Damn right you will." But when Senior touched Tony, he trembled and turned his face back into Gibbs' shoulder.
"He's confused. High fever," Gibbs offered gently. "He doesn't realize who you are."
Senior wanted to argue, to yell, I'm his father, but held it in, because in truth…he had never been the one to ease away Tony's pains. "Sh—shouldn't he be in a hospital?" he instead asked, concerned gaze still fixed on his son.
"He was," Gibbs said gruffly, making Senior wonder what he wasn't saying.
"But your son's a stubborn son of a bitch."
"He gets that from his mother."
Gibbs snorted softly, then adjusted his hold on the younger man again. "Come on, DiNozzo, Duck will have my ass if he finds you on the floor." Tony made a weak, aborted move to grab the back of Gibbs shirt as he was pulled to his feet, but that was all the response and help he had to offer.
Senior couldn't honestly say how Gibbs had managed to get Tony back into bed on his own, but he did it with an ease that suggested it wasn't the first time he had to haul his nearly unconscious son around. Tony's eyes were just slightly open as Gibbs guided his head onto the pillow. Senior watched as the team leader then pulled his legs up and tucked them under the blankets. "Boss…" Tony's hand reached for him. "McGee—" he sounded so vulnerable. He sounded so scared.
"He's okay, Tony," Gibbs reassured softly, running his hand over the younger man's hair. "You did good. You got him."
The words seemed to finally soothe him, and closing his eyes with a sigh, Tony's body relaxed under Gibbs' ministrations. Gibbs looked up at Senior. "I'm gonna call Duck, let him know how high this fever's gettin'. There's a basin over there," he gestured on top of the dresser, "has some cool water and a rag in it. If you wanna start with his face and arms…"
Senior immediately nodded. "Of course." But in truth, he felt out of his league. He and Junior had a lot of years of hurt between them. They were mending their relationship, but he wasn't sure— "Uh, Gibbs," he called after him, "what if he won't let me…."
"Just talk to him while you're doing it," Gibbs replied sympathetically, "it calms him down."
"What should I say?"
"Doesn't matter." Gibbs shook his head and started back out the door. "He just needs to hear the sound of your voice."
Senior swallowed hard. Taking the basin, he set it on the nightstand and sat next to his boy on the bed. His son looked…well, like hell. As Senior looked on, he noticed that his face wasn't the only part of his body that had taken a beating. There were bruises on his neck, and bruises on his wrists… Senior closed his eyes and forced the rage and helplessness down. What the hell had happened? Taking a deep breath, "Just talk to him," he repeated to himself. Ringing out the cloth, he gently pressed it against a fevered temple. Tensing, Tony muttered something about clowns and McGee and turned his face away. "Easy, Junior, it's just me," Senior tried. "It's just dad."
Tony's brow furrowed, but he didn't pull away again, so Senior took it as an encouraging sign and pressed on. "The last time I remember your fever being this high, your mother didn't leave your side for days. She looked just about as worn out as you did when it finally broke."
"What was that from?" Gibbs asked quietly, coming back into the room and sitting some bandages on the foot of Tony's bed.
"Chicken pox. He was six," Senior answered. "What's all this?"
"Duck's on his way. He'll change Tony's bandages while he's here."
"Bandages?" Senior looked down at his son. He didn't see any bandages, except for a butterfly stitch on his brow.
"Yeah," Gibbs whispered solemnly. Sitting on the other side of Tony, he paused a moment—then sighing, he lifted Tony's grey Ohio State shirt. A large gauze covered his lower left side. It was dotted with blood and dark bruises marred…just about every other inch of visible skin that Senior could see.
He took an unsteady breath. "Gibbs, I think you need me to tell me that story now."
"For the fifth time—No, Tony, I don't think he's a doppelgänger from the first Lethal Weapon movie," McGee said tiredly. More commonly known as Bortamas by his men, Tony and McGee not-so-affectionately referred to him as, "The Big B." He had more of their blood on his knuckles than anyone else.
"Are you sure?" Tony spit said blood onto the floor between them. They were alone for the moment—a much needed reprieve. "The crazy eyes, the pale complexion?"
McGee tilted his head to the side in thought—it hurt. Everything hurt. Being a human punching bag for two days really took it out of a guy.
The two of them had been chasing down a homicide lead when they had literally stumbled into the middle of a drug deal. It wasn't until they were surrounded by a dozen men with machine guns that they realized their case had anything to do with drugs.
Not one of their most shining moments.
It was a miracle they weren't killed on the spot. Thankfully, they were worth more alive than dead…for now.
"Anyway, that was an epic fight at the end, right?—a battle to the death in the Murtaugh's yard under the glare of police helicopter lights and the deluge of a broken fire hydrant," Tony rambled. "I think it was my favorite fight out of all four movies—even the one with Jet Li." He coughed and spit more blood from his mouth onto the abandoned building's floor to go with the rest. "I mean, just when you thought Riggs was done for, just when you thought he had nothing left in him…" Tony's words trailed off and he looked over at his teammate tied to a chair just like his own. "We're gonna get out of here, Tim," he said as much for himself as for the younger man.
Tim's exhausted, pain-filled eyes met his. Bruises covered his face, blood stained his clothes. His voice was weak and strained, but still even after days of being interrogated by pissed off and paranoid drug traffickers, his faith in Gibbs, their team, and each other had not suffered. "I know."
The steel door opened in the large, bare room. "The Big B" had returned.
"Where were you, Gibbs?" Senior demanded.
Gibbs shook his head self-deprecatingly. "Bustin' down every door I could find." It was the longest fifty-two hours of his life. "But it wasn't enough."
"I've got an idea," Tony said, lying on the floorboards facing Tim. After every interrogation and beating, they were thrown back into a small room together. The floor was freezing—a cool breeze coming up through the cracks from the water below them, but neither had had the strength yet to move from where they were tossed.
Lying on his stomach, McGee's eyes were closed. "I'm not stripping to my boxers and flapping my arms like a chicken to distract them," he mumbled.
"I think I speak for everyone when I say I'm glad to hear that." Amusement could just barely be heard over the weariness in Tony's voice. "Nice movie reference, though."
McGee opened his eyes. "Promise me we can blow something up, at least."
Tony's lips were bloody and swollen…but he grinned anyway.
"McGee!" Tony cried, trapped in a fevered nightmare. He struck out his arms. One hit Gibbs in the chest and the other caught Senior on the shoulder and threw him off balance. He stumbled off the bed, helpless, wide eyes turning to Gibbs—who just took Tony's arm and held it against him as he leaned down and whispered in the distraught man's ear.
"Tony," he drawled soothingly, "he's safe. You're both safe." With his other hand, Gibbs stroked Tony's temple as he repeated the words until the younger man's breathing slowed and his body relaxed back into the mattress.
"He responds well to you," Senior commented, still standing off to the side. "I guess he needs to in your line of work," he added weakly. Although he said it, he couldn't pretend to believe it was the actual reason why. Gibbs had been there for Tony more in the past ten or so years, than Senior had his entire life. It was a truth he wasn't proud of.
Instead of calling him out on it, Gibbs glanced up at him and motioned with his head for him to come closer. Senior sat back down on the edge of the bed and hesitantly placed his hand over Tony's chest. "He will be alright, won't he, Gibbs?"
"Oh yeah," Gibbs replied steadily, eyes on the subject of their shared worry. "He knows better than to not be."
Senior looked down at his hand and gently stroked his thumb back and forth—mindful of the bruises beneath the shirt. "He broke his arm climbing his favorite tree when he was eight," he recalled, aloud. "It was right after his mother died. He tried to hide it…not just from me, but from the staff," he said. "He never did let anyone see his pain…not when he was really hurting, that is."
The corner of Gibbs mouth turned up. "Some things never change."
Senior's eyebrows rose. "Yeah?"
"Yeah," Gibbs replied softly. "He's gettin' better at tellin' me what really hurts, but I still gotta drag it outta him sometimes."
"Still doesn't know his own limits?"
Gibbs chuckled at that. "Nope."
"Ello, ello," Ducky greeted, walking into the room with his medicine bag. "How fairs our young Anthony?" he asked, sitting it on the bed.
"Fever's still up, Duck."
"Well, let's see if we can get that down shall we, or else our dear boy will be making a return trip to Bethesda."
Senior moved backwards on the bed some to give Ducky access to the younger man. "Why'd they let him out in the first place?"
"He was improving…somewhat," Ducky said, taking his temperature. He tsked at the read out. "Not great, but not worrisome…yet." After checking his blood pressure, lungs, "Slight improvement from yesterday," a few more vitals and minor wounds, Ducky lifted his shirt and started removing the bandage on his side. "I suspect it's the trauma and fever, along with Anthony's medication sensitivities that's causing our boy's confusion you spoke of, Jethro. I'll give him an antipyretic for the fever, but if he doesn't show improvement by this evening, I'd recommend a hospital visit," he stated as he finished removing the dressing. "Best to err on the side of caution. Isn't that right, Anthony?" he said to Tony—obviously not expecting a response.
Senior was absorbing every word the doctor was saying when he noticed the stitched-up wound he was cleaning. He paled. "Is that a—?"
Tony pressed a hand against his side as they ran. The plan had worked…for the most part. A knife in the gut hadn't been on the agenda, but at least they were free, at least it was just a flesh wound—a deep, profusely bleeding, painful flesh wound, but a flesh wound nonetheless. And at least McGee was about to get his explosion.
It was larger than they had anticipated. Much larger. It shook the raggedy old docks they were running on and lit up the night sky. "Well, that'll get someone's attention," Tony commented breathlessly, stopping in surprise.
"Hopefully the authorities." The two watched in amazement as one explosion after another rocked the docks. "I may have underestimated the amount of highly flammable liquid they had in that container…and on the premises," McGee admitted.
"Ya think, McPyro?" They were both out of breath, covered in blood and hunched over in pain. Tony looked over at McGee. The firelight somehow made him look paler. "You look awful."
McGee turned to him. "Hate to tell you this, Tony, but you're not lookin' so hot yourself."
Tony conceded with a cant of his head. "Yeah, well, even DiNozzos have their off days."
They moved together then—McGee's arm around Tony's waist, Tony's arm over McGee's shoulder. "Think we got them all? Think we got "The Big B?" Tony asked. They were panting and limping and struggling to put one foot in front of the other as quickly as possible to get them as far as possible from the flames, that room, those chairs….
"I don't know—if not, they're probably focused on saving their shipment, but I'm not waiting around to find out."
"Good idea. Let's call Gibbs. He can come and shoot them just to be sure."
"Right. And Ziva can…do ninja stuff to them."
"Right. Ninja stuff," Tony agreed. He squinted, trying to see into the darkness ahead. They had passed a few crumbling buildings but… "Where the hell are we? And does this boardwalk ever end?"
"No idea, and no idea," McGee answered. They had been unconscious when they were transported. "But the ocean looks to be about fifteen feet below us—and if I calculate the position of the stars—"
"I know verbalizing your thought process relaxes you," Tony panted, "but I'm zoning out here, McGoogleMap."
"Right, sorry." McGee pulled him around and to the back of a decrepit, wooden building with a faded ice cream sign. They were beyond exhausted, choking on the smoke from the fire, and McGee was taking on more and more of Tony's weight. They needed to rest. They landed hard on their knees. "I think we're on that old Carnie boardwalk," McGee said once his breathing had evened out.
"Carnie…" Tony mused, glancing down with a grimace at the knife wound and the blood soaked hand holding pressure against it. "Well, that would explain the randomly placed clown statues." His eyes widened. "Wait. The Carnie boardwalk? The one deemed unsafe and closed down due to irreparable fire damage fifty years ago? The one on a private and abandoned beach?"
"That'd be the one," McGee said grimly, taking off his filthy outer shirt and tying it around Tony's torso. Tony grunted in pain and gripped McGee's shoulder. Blue eyes met green. "Y'okay?"
Though trembling more now, the older man nodded and eventually dropped his hand. McGee took it for what it was, though; a bad sign. Tony needed medical attention, and he needed it fast.
Tony wiped at his brow. "So," he took a controlled breath to force his mind off the pain, "just to clarify, we're talking about the Carnie boardwalk that was dangerously unstable beforewe set it on fire again and blew it up?"
McGee gave him a look that both confirmed his thoughts and said how totally screwed they were.
Tony closed his eyes with a sigh. When the floor beneath them groaned and swayed alarmingly, his eyes snapped back open. He reached to steady himself on McGee and McGee did the same. "That wasn't just me, was it?" he asked uneasily.
McGee's eyes were getting wider by the second. "We really need to get off this thing."
Gibbs was still sitting on the bed next to Tony, but now his back was against the headboard and legs crossed at the ankles in front of him. His eyes were closed. He looked exhausted—like he hadn't slept in days. In fact, he looked as bad as Junior's mother had when he had the chicken pox, Senior realized.
At least his son had settled and appeared more comfortable. Whatever had been in Ducky's shot must have been something good. Tony was curled on his side asleep, forehead pressed against his boss' hip, arm draped over his lap. "I can't remember ever seeing him so uninhibited," Senior realized aloud, sitting in a chair pulled up next to the bed.
Gibb's hand was on the younger man's shoulder, rubbing his thumb back and forth soothingly. Senior didn't think he was even aware he was doing it. "It's the drugs," he answered without opening his eyes. "He gets cuddly."
Senior snorted. "Prescription drugs used to wind him up."
"Yeah, still does sometimes."
Now that Tony was settled for the time being, Senior found himself wondering about the other agent. "Agent McGee…he…he's really alright, isn't he?"
"How do you know we're not just heading further onto the boardwalk instead of towards the shore?" It was too dark beyond the flames to see much of anything.
"I don't," the younger man answered honestly.
"Oh, alright then." Tony stumbled, and McGee pulled him up. "Just checking." On a positive note, there hadn't been any angry men chasing after them with guns or pointy things since the explosion, so…that was nice. On a worrisome note, though…it had been at least ten minutes since the first explosion and they had yet to hear any sirens, or see any lights indicating help was coming.
"Hey," Tony pulled them to a stop and gesture with his head at a break in the railing, "what's that?"
Limping to the side together, McGee commented dryly when they reached the edge, "Well, we found the shore."
Tony grunted unhappily. They could just barely make out the waves breaking in the distance, but the remnants of a ramp that would have led to their safety hung broken at their feet.
"Should we swim for it?" McGee asked. "Can't be that far, can it? Tony?" Instead of getting an answer, he had to quickly pull the older man away from the large drop when he swayed. "Whoa, easy."
Head down and leaning heavily on him, Tony pinched the bridge of his nose. "How do you suggest we get down to the water?"
"Uh, I guess I didn't think of that."
"Okay," Tony sighed and forced his knees to straighten, "why don't we leave swimming to Plan C."
"What's Plan B?"
"I'll let you know when I think of it."
Adrenaline fading, they moved much slower now. McGee was beginning to fear they'd never make if off the godforsaken boardwalk. And Tony…he was being way too quiet. "Nutter Butter. That's the first thing I'm going to eat when we get back," McGee said, tightening his weakening grip around Tony's waist and hoping to get him to talk.
It took a few moments, but finally Tony said roughly, "Mmm share your Nutter Butter, I'll share my pizza."
"Okay, but you'd better get two."
"More like three." They hadn't eaten in days.
There was another explosion and this time the dock shifted enough to throw them down onto the rotting boards. McGee rolled onto his elbows and looked behind them. "Seriously?" he exclaimed incredulously. "They must have had enough ether to supply crystal for the entire eastern seaboard." He looked over at Tony. He hadn't moved. And his eyes were closed.
"Hey, hey, hey." He got to his knees, ignoring his own exhaustion and pain, and gently rolled his teammate over. "Tony," he patted his cheek. "Tony, wake up, that pizza's not gonna order itself." Nothing. Not even a twitch. "DiNozzo!" Desperate, he shook him. "Riggs!"
/"…just when you thought Riggs was done for, just when you thought he had nothing left in him…"/
Tony opened his eyes. It took them a moment to focus, but when they did, he said sluggishly, "Did anyone ever tell you? You really are a beautiful man, McGee."
Leaning over him, Tim dropped his head in relief. If he was still quoting movies, he was okay. Sliding an arm behind his back, he brought him up into a seated position. "No, and I'm not givin' you a kiss, either," he said, playing along—whatever to keep him talking. He was pulling him to his feet...when the world disappeared beneath them.
Tony jerked, his feet kicked and he opened panicked eyes to find Gibbs leaning over him.
"You. got. him," Gibbs reassured smoothly, knowing exactly what haunted his dreams.
Tony gripped a handful of fabric over Gibb's chest. "Boss…" his voice trembled, confusion and fear muddling his brain.
"You. got. him," the older man stressed again, blue eyes piercing his fevered green. "It's over."
Tony studied his face for truth for as long as he could before his eyes started to close. He felt Gibbs take his loosening grip and place his hand in his lap. He wanted to stay awake, he didn't want to dream, he didn't want to remember…
But sleep claimed him once again, and as it did, he thought he sensed someone else in the room with them.
They hit the water and were immediately separated by debris—the entire boardwalk had collapsed into the ocean. The impact knocked the breath from Tony's body and the cold water made it nearly impossible to get back. "McGee!" he choked, and wheezed, and called, "McGee!" Large remains from the boardwalk slammed into Tony and pushed him under again, and again.
Breaking the surface for the third time, he finally managed to latch onto a large floating…clown. Coughing and sputtering, he pressed his face into the disturbing life preserve, took a couple of gulping breaths and called for the younger man again. "McGee!"
But eyes frantically searching all around in what little light the stars and fading fire had to offer, Tim was nowhere to be seen. Nobody was. He was completely alone. "McGee!" he called into the un-obliging night. Ignoring the sharp pain in his side, kicking his feet and using the clown as a floatation device, he starting wading through the wreckage. His heart beat painful and hard in his chest. What if his teammate had been knocked unconscious? What if he was sinking to the bottom of the ocean? Tony started to panic. "DiNozzos don't cry," he told himself, even as his vision began to blur. They had made it. They were free."Come on, Tim," he breathed, prayed. "Come on."
When he found him, there was no uplifting music, no relief, there was only more abject terror—because the moment after Tony's eyes landed on McGee passed out over some floorboards, he spotted a large section of boardwalk rise up in a wave…
Before he could react, before he could do anything, it crashed nearly right on top the unconscious man—knocking him into the water.
Taking a breath, Tony dove under for him. It was next to impossible to move through the wreckage blind, but he kept a hand in front of him and kept pushing and kicking in the direction he saw Tim go under. He was beginning to fear he'd have to go back up for breath, when he collided with something soft…and Tim-like. He gripped the thin fabric of what he hoped was McGee's shirt and started for the surface.
Coming up, the air felt as cold and biting as the water. He greedily breathed it in anyway, and pulled McGee's back to his chest. He didn't have the strength to keep them both afloat, though, and they nearly went back under. He tried grabbing onto what was around them, but nothing would hold both of their weight. Where was that clown? Spotting it, he kicked for it like their lives depended on it. It was getting harder to get his body to obey his commands. His muscles were becoming sluggish and uncoordinated….
Reaching the clown was no small feat, but DiNozzos were nothing if not stubborn. Wrapping one arm around its neck, he checked his teammate's breathing. "Come on, McGee." He thought he had heard him take a breath when they first surfaced, but now… "Come on, come on, come on." There. If it were possible to pass out from relief—Tony nearly did. The breaths were shallow, but they were there. "Thata boy, Tim."
Shivering, Tony pulled him back up against his chest and focused on catching his own breath—they were harsh and loud in the otherwise silent night. He knew he had to get them to shore, but all he could do for the moment was breathe. Adrenaline waning quickly, his forehead ended up on Tim's. He could feel himself starting to lose consciousness, feel his body growing both heavier and lighter at the same time. But he couldn't give into it. Not yet. "Don't worry, McRose," he said, digging down to the very last of his reserves. "I won't hog the clown." Then, with the very last of his strength, he pushed McGee over the hollow wooden statue enough so that he was secure and his upper body was out of the water. Then that was it. That was all Tony had left. Eyes drifting closing, he could feel his body start to slide back into the water…and there was nothing he could do to stop it.
Senior's eyebrows rose. "Well, don't stop there, Gibbs. What happened next? Did McGee wake up and keep him from—?"
Gibbs shook his head. "No. That's all Tony can remember until he woke up at Bethesda."
"The Coast Guard reported they arrived just in time to witness Tony go under. They were able to reach him, but not before he inhaled some water."
"That's why he's sick?"
Gibbs canted his head to the side. "Considering the conditions they were kept in, they were both likely to get sick whether they ended up in the water, or not."
"McGee sick, too?"
"He doesn't have Tony's damaged lungs to contend with, but yeah. " He made a face that indicated he heard something and leaned a bit to the side to see further down the hall. "He's also not where he's supposed to be."
Senior turned at the sound of a door opening down the hall. McGee walked in wearing sweatpants and a t-shirt. He was rubbing at closed eyes, looking like he had just rolled out of bed. "How's he doin', boss?"
"Fever's down. He's breathing better, McGee," Gibbs answered. "You?"
"Good. Just wanted to check on Tony." Tim finally lowered his hand. Blinking owlishly, he took in his surroundings. "Mr. DiNozzo," he said surprised. "When did you get here? We tried reaching you…"
"Oh, yeah…I got a new phone," the older man replied ruefully. "I'll have to get you the number."
McGee nodded, then sort of slumped into himself like he had reached his limit just walking in there. Bruises covered just about every part of him that Senior could see, too.
"Tim," Gibbs said gently, "go back to bed. Ziver will be over in a few hours with dinner."
When Tim just remained standing there…looking slightly lost, "Do you need me to carry you, McGee?" Gibbs asked. Senior suspected he would have already been at his side, if his son hadn't been wrapped around him like some octopus.
"Hmm?" he perked up a bit. "What? No, Boss…just thinking…"
"Well, think on the rack, Tim. That's an order."
Already half asleep, McGee nodded and turned around…nearly running right into Abby—who also looked like she had just woken up…to find her puppy missing. "McGee! You promised you would never disappear on me like that again."
"I didn't disappear on you, Abs. I was just down the hall checking on Tony."
"Well, okay…I guess I can understand that, but next time leave a note, or something."
"Abby, I was just down the hall…" While steering McGee out of the room, Abby noticed Senior for the first time. Eyes widening happily, she offered him a small wave.
He winked back.
They disappeared around the corner and Senior turned back to Gibbs. "Looks like you've got your hands full."
Grinning crookedly, he looked down at the man that was considered a son by more than just the shared blood in the room—thumb still stroking his shoulder. "Family," he said as if that explained it all. And it did.
Senior realized something then—he had never provided a family for Tony, not really—not since the boy's mother had died, but his son had gone out and found one for himself. And a damn good one at that.
And then he welcomed him into it.
"I'm one lucky bastard, Gibbs."
"Yeah," he replied thickly, "You and me both."
Tony opened his eyes. It was darker in the room than last he remembered, suggesting he had slept another day away. His body felt heavy and sore, his mind sluggish. Gingerly, very gingerly he rolled over and blinked up at the ceiling. "I had the weirdest dream," he said hoarsely.
Tim was sitting in a chair next to the bed. "Was it the one with the muppets again? If so, please don't share."
"No." Tony didn't seem surprised at his presence. "I dreamed my dad was here and he and Gibbs were fussing over me and talking about…chicken pox, I think." His face scrunched up. "I must have been delirious."
"You were," McGee answer, carefully sitting on the bed next to him. Every inch of his body still hurt—even parts he never realized he had. "But you also weren't dreaming."
Studying his face for a lie, Tony's eyebrows rose when he found none. "Nooo."
"Yup," McGee replied, pleased.
The senior field agent's mouth fell open, then closed, then fell opened again. He probably looked like a fish, but he had no idea how to process that. A tickle in his throat moved the issue to the back of his mind, anyway. McGee helped him sit up while deep, painful coughs shook his body. Coughing hurt bad enough, but add it to the beating his body had already taken— it was agony.
Thankfully, it didn't last long. Tony grimaced as he spit into a tissue McGee had offered him. "Thanks," he rasped, tossing it in the vicinity of the trash and lying back down.
"Much." He had closed his eyes, but opened them to peer up at the other man. "You still look like hell."
McGee chuffed lightly. "Ditto."
"My old man still here?" He was torn between hoping he was, and hoping he wasn't.
"He's downstairs with Gibbs and Abby waiting to help Ziva with the food." His stomach rumbled at the thought.
Somewhat relieved…though still not sure how to process that, Tony's eyes began to close again. "I could actually eat." He hadn't felt like it much the past few days.
"Think it'll be pizza yet?"
"Not if she listens to Ducky," McGee answered, "But…" he added, pulling something out of his pocket with a mischievous twinkle in his eyes.
Tony's eyes widened. "Go, McSneaky!"
"I won't even tell you what I had to do for Abby, to get her to smuggle this in for us."
"Oooh," Tony waggled his eyebrows. "Do McTell."
McGee rolled his eyes and tore open the Nutter Butter wrapper. They toasted their respectable pieces and ate in companionable silence.
"I, uh…I did dream, though," Tony admitted hesitantly, self-consciously. "Much worse ones." Ones where they didn't escape, ones where he never found McGee after the boardwalk collapsed.
McGee's eyes were suspiciously moist. "Yeah, me too," he rasped. Ones where Tony never woke up, ones where Tony bled out in his arms.
Silence fell over them again, but it was a thick silence now—full of everything that had happened. Still, though the weight of the past week would always be present, like everything else they've endured together—the load was lessened by their team, their family.
"I can't believe you took out an entire operational drug lab and most, if not all, of their goons in one fell swoop with a paperclip, shoe string and a damp match. Maybe I should start calling you MacGyver."
"I can't believe we actually survived considering the chemicals they were storing there. We could have easily blown ourselves up with them."
Tony made a thoughtful sound in the back of his throat. "We're not getting too old for this shit, are we, McGee?"
Tim didn't miss a beat. "Well, I'm not…but you might be."
"Well, if I'm too old for this shit," Tony wheezed with a chuckle, "then Gibbs—"
"Gibbs, what?" the man asked, leaning in the doorway.
"—is gonna kick your ass for this contraband, Timothy," Tony said quickly…shoving the rest of the cookie into his mouth. With his back to Gibbs, McGee was frozen like a deer in headlights.
Gibbs grinned knowingly. "Uh huh." Walking away, he announced, "Pizza in ten!"
Letting out a relieved breath, the boys smiled big and wide at each other…with Nutter Butter in their teeth.
Abby, Ziva, Gibbs and Senior headed upstairs with the food. They all piled into the bedroom… and stopped.
Abby dipped her head to the side. "Awww," she was the first to break their stunned silence. "He must have been too tired to get up."
"And DiNozzo too tired to move over," Gibbs added, amused.
McGee was curled up on the very edge of the bed with his back against Tony's side. Tony's arm was wrapped under his neck and down around his chest like a shoulder harness. They were both sound asleep.
"Now what? They have to eat," Senior said worriedly, holding a tray of drinks.
Ziva and Abby looked at each other…then tore off out of the room.
"What's…where are they going?" Senior asked the team leader.
Gibbs laughed. Then pulling a slice of pizza out of the box he carried, he took a large bite and said around the mouthful, "To get their cameras."