Gibbs tried not to pull at the knot of his tie, stuffing his hand, instead, into the pocket of his jacket and trying to look as cool and collected as he'd feel if he were the witness for the criminal prosecutor rather than a bystander, albeit a deeply involved one, in a case before the DC family court. It reminded him too much of a divorce settlement, specifically the second one where he'd been facing not only an impenitent redhead, but Fornell -- her newly preferred partner. He squinted a little at the seal on the bench wondering if it was the same damn courtroom.
Tony shifted against the hard wood of the old-fashioned chairs, his hands working the aches in his unbraced leg. When the bailiff called for all to rise, he had to press himself up almost on the strength of his arms alone and he shot a quick sideways glance at Gibbs to see if he'd noticed. But Gibbs stood straight-backed, tense and, thankfully, for once, oblivious. Tony's fingers were still pressed heavily against the well-scratched top of the government-issued table, but Gibbs rubbed thumb to forefinger in a nervous gesture that any good interrogator would have pounced on in a second.
When they were free to sit again, Tony settled back into the chair a bit too heavily. Heavily enough that it even netted Gibbs' clearly distracted attention, if only for a moment. Then Candy Frere got up.
"You were nervous."
"Don't get nervous," replied Gibbs' tightly, the grip he had on Tony's arm spasming briefly in annoyance, causing Tony to laugh softly.
"You were nervous."
The lobby of the city court building spread out in the foggy bland shades of gray-streaked marble. Tony steeled himself for the trip through the crowd, firming the grips he had on the harness and crutch.
Gibbs gave a put-upon sigh. "Come on, Dad."
"I like the sound of that—" but Tony didn't get to finish, Gibbs' grip became abruptly tight, the pull spinning Tony around. His good leg gave and he hit the floor hard, a painfully visual example of Gibbs' shouted "Get down!"
The next few seconds were a disorienting blur: a cringing Rufus nosing one outstretched hand worriedly; the fuzzy outlines of the crowd diving for cover; the sharp, percussive echoes of semi-automatic weapons fire. It took a minute for the panicked screams to die down, for him to sort out the pained gasps coming from close by. He slid his hand toward the too-still, dark blur beside him, then recoiled from the warm viscid wetness he encountered.
"Gibbs?" He slid forward, the palms of his hands scrabbling for purchase on the cool stone, his reluctant legs practically a dead weight tying him down. "Gibbs!"
Gibbs was still, his face pale and spattered with blood, one arm flung out to the side where Tony had fallen like he'd been protecting him even as he went down.
"No, Gibbs." And Tony realized he was begging, clumsy fingers finally close enough to press beneath the jaw line. "I need help here!" His hands felt numb and cold, unable to tell what might be an arterial beat from the desperate wish for there to be one.
"Please," he begged without the volume needed to get attention in the cacophony, drawing his arms under him to try to rise.
A warm hand pressed against his back, sure fingers taking over from his. "He's alive."
Tony blinked mutely up at his unexpected rescuer. "Mom?"
"Everything is going to be fine." She ran a hand absently through his hair, rocking back on her heels. "WE NEED HELP NOW!"
Incongruously, Tony smiled at the force of the shout right before his body took to shuddering. He reached out for Gibbs' hand lying palm up and slightly curled, taking it into his own and willing the man not to leave him. Then hands were on him, separating them, moving him back. He must have made more of a fuss than he realized because they were suddenly around him as well, and his mother was suddenly there again, pulling him toward her away from the well-meaning clutches, cradling his head against the curve of her shoulder and murmuring that Gibbs was in good hands, that everything would be all right.
He squinted up into the concerned face bowed above him.
"Tony, it's Jeff Wagner."
The combination of the name and the uniform finally registered and he recognized the Baltimore patrol officer that had transferred to DC about the same time he'd moved to NCIS.
"It's okay, Tony, we got him. They're taking good care of your friend."
"Where's he hit?" whispered Tony, trying to push himself upright and only succeeding when the officer laid a strong grip on his arm and pulled.
"Took a round in the chest, his right."
Right side. Away from the heart. Punctured lung. Possibly broken ribs. Tony recounted what would have been Ducky's assessment list, repeated his own mantra: Gibbs was going to hang on. Gibbs had to hang on.
"Dead," Wagner reported. "Got about thirty rounds in him."
"Sir, can you get up?"
Tony frowned at the EMT. "Gibbs?"
"We're loading him now, sir."
Tony peered around him to the loaded gurney, then, with a groan and several pairs of helping hands, found himself swaying on his feet, the crutch being pushed back into still trembling fingers. A fretting Rufus whined and pressed a gentle nose into the side of Tony's leg.
It must not have been believable, though, as what seemed a battalion escorted him to a car he dimly recognized as something European and expensive … undoubtedly his mother's.
In the car, Tony's numbed fingers fumbled with the phone until it was succinctly removed from his grasp and he heard, as if from a long distance, his mother's voice asking, "which one?"
"Kate," he finally managed when the phone was pushed within what should have been focusing distance. "She's number three."
The rest receded into a mostly garbled murmur, a few words rising to break the loop of remembered shock: Gibbs' voice; the pressure of his hand; the sharp, hard descent to the floor, then the lingering percussions of the shots.
"They'll be there."
His mother's hand was on his knee and he found himself concentrating on that touch, the familiar feeling of Gibbs' hand ghosted in the warmth. He leaned back and closed his eyes and tried to steady his breathing.
He didn't know where the wheelchair came from, some preparatory call of his mother's that he was too out of it to notice, no doubt, but his balking only made the orderly more insistent and got him called "sir" in a placating manner. So, finally, he gave in and sat his butt down. Anything that would get him closer to Gibbs.
But as close as it got him was one of the ER cubbyholes where a fresh-faced resident took up the orderly's gratuitous "sir"-ing.
"Where'd you come from?" he asked, when the ER-staff finally gave them a moment alone. Tony laid back and stared blankly upward, shifting restlessly every now and again, trying to relieve the small aches, trying to ignore the anxious need to get to his feet and stride out and demand to see Gibbs, knowing that if he were foolish enough to try it, he would only end up in a heap on the floor with more well-meaning hands on him, this time equipped with well-meaning sedatives.
"Connecticut," replied his mother with false lightness, displaying what passed for humor in his father's house.
"Why are you here?" he repeated.
"Because you're my son and he's my grandson."
She smiled – just a little – when Tony frowned at her.
"Tony?" Kate was as pasty as he imagined himself to be, followed in tow by an equally white-faced McGee and by Ducky, who with a much calmer expression, took the nearby ER resident by the elbow and began gathering information the young doctor had resisted giving his patient.
"He's already in OR," Ducky reported when he'd finished the interrogation. "It sounds like a simple through-and-through with a concomitant pneumothorax. If the bullet didn't ricochet off a rib or do other damage, the surgery will be fairly simple. He should be fine, Tony."
Kate's hand was in his and Ducky had a supporting palm on his bicep. McGee, while his arms were crossed worriedly over the open lapels of his suit, stood nearby as if shielding him as well and he caught sight of the blur of pink that was his mother pushed into the far corner of the little room.
"It's okay, you can go now, Mom. You don't have to wait."
Some look he couldn't quite make out passed between his mother, when she came forward, and the trio at the side of the gurney. Something that made them edge minutely toward him as if tightening the cordon they'd placed around him.
"I need to call your father." He could see her hands worriedly dig through the confines of her bag. "And I need a smoke. But," she continued with a certain defiance, "I'm not leaving. I'll just … step outside. You go anywhere, you have someone come get me."
"Sure," he finally conceded, lying back on the gurney with a groan when the standoff was over.
"So that's your mom," ventured Kate.
"Not what I was expecting."
Tony rose up just a little. "You and me both."
"What?" murmured a bleak looking McGee, who'd insisted a finally-released Tony have the entire length of the waiting area's one free couch.
"Like on those science fiction shows," explained Tony, shifting stiffly. "Go into a hospital and you enter this area where time moves slower."
"You're talking special relativity."
"Actually," admitted Tony, "I was talking more Star Trek."
One corner of McGee's mouth quirked a reluctant smile.
"How long this time?"
"Five minutes since you asked me last time," answered McGee.
Tony popped the top on his watch and confirmed the movement of the hands. "Damn." He scrubbed fingers through his hair and pulled at the top of the borrowed scrubs Ducky had helped wrestle him into. "This waiting is killing me."
"He's going to be fine, Tony." McGee gave his ankle a clumsy pat.
"Okay." Tony released the hold he had on the seam of the hospital-issued top. "I just need to see him, you know."
The pat turned into reassuring grasp. "I know."
"We went shopping at Baby Goth."
Both Abby and Kate wore satisfied if still slightly-strained smirks and he knew this was an attempt, as Kate would put it, to "perk him up" and a Sam wearing a tiny black t-shirt saying (after he leaned for enough forward to make the lettering out) "My Nursery School Sux", black shorts adorned with chains and a pair of mini black combat boots was enough to bring forth an amused purse of his lips.
"You are not dressing my son like that."
Three heads swiveled in the direction of the weak comment from bed.
"Gibbs? Thank God."
"Hey," whispered Gibbs, his own gaze only for Tony, "you okay?"
"Scared out of my mind." Tony hoisted himself up and sat on the side of the bed, settling as carefully as his clumsy body could manage. "Don't ever do that again." He returned the grasp that reached out weakly.
Gibbs licked his dry lips. "Will try not to. " Eyes dulled by the painkillers flowing amply through his system shut involuntarily, causing him to frown. "Can't promise."
"I know," replied Tony.
Gibbs rolled his head against the pillow, refocusing on Abby and Kate. "L.L. Bean," he slurred, holding the index finger of his free hand up in feeble warning. "You want to play fashionista, get your own kid."
Abby smoothed a hand across the still creased forehead as Gibbs' eyes shut again. She managed a look that was at once both worried and bemused. "Gibbs knows the word 'fashionista'?"
"Well, he did turn out to be gay," observed Kate dryly, shifting a wiggling Sam to her hip.
"But…" protested Abby, "fashionista?"
"Hey," Gibbs replied, mustering a small smile. "Thought you went home."
Tony shrugged. "The girls have got Sam. Thought I'd stay a while."
"And watch me sleep."
"And watch you sleep," repeated Tony nonchalantly before changing the subject. "Police want to talk to you. Think you might have seen exactly what went on."
"Guy grabbed the deputy's gun and started firing. Pretty simple actually."
"Think there's some question of how careless the deputy might have been."
"Careless enough," observed Gibbs. "Anybody dead?"
"The guy. The deputy. A couple people were pretty shot up." Tony laid his hand on the side of the bed. "My nerves may never be the same."
"Tony, go home," instructed Gibbs. "I have an entire nursing staff at my beck and call." And, as if to prove the point, a respiratory therapist stepped in, inhaler in hand. "Gah," said Gibbs, spying it, "I hate this part. Go," he ordered, pointing a finger past the therapist, "Tony."
Rufus sprang up when Tony rose and Gibbs watched their clumsy interplay with concerned eyes. "You okay to get out of here?"
Tony waved his cell over his shoulder. "McGee said he'd come get me. Since I'm not wanted, I'll just go wait for him."
"Come back tomorrow," called Gibbs getting another wave before Tony reclasped the harness, "and bring coffee."
"This is not the life I would have chosen for my son." Patricia DiNozzo regarded Gibbs squarely as he shifted against the pillows of the sofa. "But it seems to suit him." She absently stooped down to retrieve Sam's stray fire engine from where it had been left rushing to the scene of a fire at the base of the recliner. She placed the toy into the open toy box as Ducky shuffled in bearing two cups of coffee – both decaf, as regular had been banned from the house entirely after it was discovered that not even a healing punctured lung would stop Gibbs' quest for caffeine. Ducky had rinsed the remains of the bag of Kona dark roast down the drain muttering something about "detox."
Gibbs shot him a jaundiced look, but held out a hand anyway to take the mug. "Isn't there something you should be doing at the office?"
Ducky merely made a tsking sound. "We agreed, Jethro, that – at least until Monday – you would not be left alone."
Gibbs pointed in Patricia's direction. "She's here."
"While Mrs. DiNozzo," conceded Ducky, "appears quite competent," he gave a small nod in the direction of Tony's mother, "she does not know you as we do."
From Gibbs' sigh, he knew that more lay beneath the man's reluctance than simply wanting to be left alone to overstain himself with woodworking and covert searches for anything caffeinated.
He bent down, whispering sotto voce, "Kate will keep an eye on him, Jethro. As will young Agent McGee."
"Not the same, Duck."
This earned him a consoling pat on the arm. "I believe you underestimate Caitlyn's protective instincts." He lowered his voice even further, his gaze flicking towards their visitor. "It is, as our lovely Abigail puts it, a 'female thing'."
Gibbs didn't remember falling asleep alone on the sofa, but he definitely would remember waking to a dimly-lit house and an armful of pliant partner.
A partner, who, when jostled, merely mumbled a sleepy hum and burrowed his nose deeper into the curve of Gibbs' neck.
"Gotta…" Gibbs grimaced as places pulled deep within his chest protested the movement. He forced himself to relax back into the cushions, panting softly. "Tony, babe."
The hum rematerialized warm and breathy against his skin and Gibbs finally had to give a firm shake with his available hand to a nestling shoulder. "Tony…"
"Hmm?" Blue eyes opened drowsily.
"Oh. Oh!" The disentanglement was awkward with sleep and with Tony's own aches. "Sorry. Sorry." Warm hands reached and massaged down Gibbs' trapped arm tenderly. "Didn't mean to go to sleep."
Gibbs managed to get his arm up enough to scrub a hand against his eyes.
"You just looked so," Tony smiled self-consciously, "comfortable lying there."
Gibbs arched a little, testing the resolve of his body. "Where's Sam?"
"Safely tucked in upstairs."
"Safely tucked in at his house…presumably," Tony added. "Can you get up?"
"I can get up," responded Gibbs in a voice a little flatter than he'd have liked.
"Let's get you to bed."
Gibbs leaned his head back, looking up at him. Tony was rumpled, hair sticking in a dozen different directions, barefoot under his khakis, his weight shifted to his good leg and a stabilizing hand wrapped around the floor lamp, his makeshift crutch. If he thought he was not actually in any shape to help Gibbs up, he didn't show it as he rebalanced himself and held a hand, palm up, for Gibbs to grasp. According to the medical profession, the drugs had slowed the MS's procession and Tony balanced on a plateau – still hilly with good days and bad days – but not the sharp decline of the beginning. But Gibbs liked to think it was stubbornness as much as medication keeping Tony upright.
He looked younger, still, than Gibbs could even imagine any more, though Gibbs knew this was an illusion … that Tony had been through much more than, thankfully, had managed to write itself in his face. And, even a bit paler and thinner than the golden-tanned man he'd hired, Tony was still … well … beautiful. More beautiful to him than he'd been then.
"Is this the lamp thing again?" asked a bemused Tony, noticing the appraising look. He turned a bit and looked at the light accusingly, as if the nimbus from the lamp was somehow limning him and could be shut off and Gibbs would get moving.
"What then?" he asked gently.
"Just looking. Doctors didn't say anything about just looking."
"Gibbs" was breathed with soft exasperation.
"I love you, you know."
Tony raised a wry eyebrow. "My, um, mother wants to bring my father to visit."
"I love you anyway," Gibbs declared.
"Argh, this is that 'serious' moment, isn't it?"
"Yeah, life and death, shit-scared-out-of-you, that moment." He looked a little self-satisfied. "I've already had it. You were just too out of it to realize I was clutching your hand and begging you to not leave me."
"I'm planning on staying around a while."
"Good, now get up while I'm still managing to stay on my feet." The offered hand bobbed up and down more insistently.
With a groan, Gibbs managed to lever himself up without help, although he didn't shake off the support when Tony grabbed onto him … or maybe he was the support … or maybe they were just doing what came easy these days… holding each other up.
Hands came around waists, elbows locked and Gibbs fitted nicely right into the crook of Tony's arm, his thigh pressing up against Tony's braced one. And, step by step, they made it to the Sam's bedroom where they leaned in, nearly falling and catching themselves, twin hands shooting out for the sides of the door frame. Comedy that Sam slept through, oblivious, one hand tightly woven in a fierce clutch of the blanket.
Gibbs leaned in and gave a brief kiss to Tony's cheek.
"What was that for?"
Gibbs shrugged. "Promises of things to come."
"Later," amended Tony.
"Later," agreed Gibbs with a groan as they straightened and pushed themselves away from the door.
Morning light banded the walls in stripes when the rustle of covers and the dull, reawakened pain in his chest drove Gibbs to consciousness. Sam didn't say anything, just crawled his way up between them and snuggled, nose-down, into Gibbs' shoulder, the blanket dragged behind him, turned edge still clutched in a small hand.
The bottle of pain pills on the nightstand tempted, but Gibbs, instead, resettled his shoulders, easing the ache in his ribs and let the hushed duet of sleeping breathes lull him back toward sleep.
Tony rolled over, one eye opening to gaze at him placidly. "You okay?" he whispered, the question muted by the mound of pillow Tony had folded under his cheek.
"Yeah, he's not heavy."
Tony nodded, eyes closing. "Think I'll stay home today. Boss is a bastard, but I think I can get away with it this once."
"You think?" inquired Gibbs.
"Every once in a while people figure out he's a good guy."
"Mmm," murmured Gibbs, "don't think that's a general consensus."
A hand snaked around until it captured Gibbs' fingers lightly. "You might be surprised."
"Oh, I'd be very surprised," Gibbs agreed, clasping back.
"Surprised me," admitted Tony.
"Yeah. I mean I thought you'd pack me off on disability and be done with me. Didn't expect …"
"…this?" finished Gibbs.
"Well, no, definitely didn't expect this, but I didn't expect the other either. Could never tell that you cared."
"I care," said Gibbs gruffly.
"I know that … now. I just didn't know it… then." He rose up enough to observe the sharp angles of Gibbs' profile. "Might want to let McGee in on it, though."
"Not finished scaring him." Gibbs turned his head in Tony's direction. "Don't want him to get out of hand."
"Oh, yeah, McGee out of hand. That'll happen."
"Yeah, I've already tamed the bad-boy of the group."
"Bad boy? You know if there wasn't a three-year-old in our bed …"
"You'd what?" challenged Gibbs.
"I'd show you just how bad the bad-boy can be."
"Save it," Gibbs murmured, "for when my ribs can take it."
"Saving," Tony agreed. "Think I'll just … go back to sleep for now."
The hand holding Gibbs' pulled up, lightly thunking their conjoined fingers to the mattress and the movement caused Sam to shift sleepily between them.
"If you'd died on me, I would have killed you."
"Same here," muttered Gibbs.
"Just so we understand each other," laughed Tony.
"Oh that I think we do."
Well, think it's time to put this puppy to bed. Tony and Gibbs live happily (if somewhat angstily) ever after. Thanks to C always. Thanks to Aly and everyone else who leant a helping hand. Sorry it took so long to finish. I am, alas,pretty much the world's slowest fanfic writer. Thanks for all the wonderful feedback. You've all been too kind! Hope you enjoyed it. lila