Disclaimer - Still not mine. If I was making money from it I would be doing this instead of working.

He had been transferred to a regular room and had some of the tubes taken out before he dared asked the question that had been haunting him. Even so, he couldn't make eye contact as he asked.

"Ducky, did anybody call my parents?"

There was a noticeable pause as the kindly MD busied himself tidying the blankets back around the sick young man. His mind cast back to that long and worrisome night.

"Jethro, you should call."

The blue eyes had flashed dangerously, before the response had come out, tight and clipped.

"No need, Duck. He's gonna be fine."

"You can't know that. His father deserves the chance to make his peace."

"That man's had years to make his peace with his son." Gibbs had all but snarled.

Anyone else would have let it lie. Would have gone about his business and said a silent prayer that the Marine's faith would be rewarded. Dr Mallard couldn't in good conscience leave it like that.

"And what about Anthony?"

"Tony knows that the only reason I'd call his father is if I thought he was dying," Gibbs spoke softly. "And I'll be dammed if I'll let him think I've given up on him. I want him to fight this thing."

"And if he dies?"

"He won't."


"Then I'll take my chances with his father's lawyers," Gibbs stared through the glass, as if his force of will could make the younger man live. Maybe it could. "You call, if you must Duck. But I'm telling you. He won't come."

That night Anthony had taken a turn for the better, the tense posture of his doctors had relaxed slightly and they had begun to talk about recuperation and rehabilitation. With a lighter heart Mallard had called the number for his family home. A secretary had answered and he had left a long and detailed message cataloguing dear Anthony's medical condition, spelling out and explaining at length the relevant medical terms.

"So, he's going to live?" The secretary asked at last.

"Oh yes, my dear, but I'm afraid there will be consequences.."

And he had gone off on another tangent, explaining that in future Anthony would be especially vulnerable to influenza and chest infections, on the other end of the line the secretary listened patiently, but didn't take any more notes.

Two days later, an ornate basket of fruits, decorated with ribbons was delivered to for Anthony DiNozzo. Gibbs' jaw had clenched at the sight of it. DiNozzo was still nil by mouth. The fruit had gone to the children's ward and Ducky had taken the basket for his Mother's corgis.

No one had mentioned it to Tony.

Ducky looked around the small hospital room, crammed with get well cards plants and flowers, from every department at NCIS from Director Morrow himself to Katie Reeves, the six year old daughter of one of the security guards. On the dresser, McGee's computer game sat next to Kate's book on Movie trivia. His own gift, of a heat pad, to smooth his aching chest, lay discreetly out of sight under the blankets to avoid embarrassment, although Mallard suspected that Gibbs had changed it for him a time or two. Abby's present, a selection of silly putty, to keep his mind active and help restore his dexterity, was represented in a range of five small figures with rather interesting hair lined up beside the lamp, one of them particularly distinctive in Marine green.

"Hey, Duck," Gibbs greeted him, tossing a pile of mail onto Tony's bed, before dropping the small holdall of personal effects onto a chair and handing him the sausage, cheese and bacon burrito, before pointig a finger at his Agent. "You, eat. I'll be back in a minute."

There had been no card or gift from Gibbs. But he had dropped by every day on his way to work and called in each evening on his way home. He never asked if there was anything DiNozzo wanted, but he never came empty handled either. And he had been generous with his time, neglecting the boat to spend long hours sitting by his Agent's bedside, keeping him in line as DiNozzo made running commentaries about the Hospital food, rather than consuming it, and coaching him through those moments when his laughter turned to desperate wheezing gasps.


Looking down at Anthony's questioning expression, he realised that he hadn't yet responded to his original enquiry.

"No," He shook his head. "I don't believe anyone thought it necessary to call."

DiNozzo's eyes narrowed and Ducky was rather forcibly reminded that even sick and bed ridden he was Jethro's senior field agent for a reason. But then his expression smoothed out, accepting the lie as he nodded gently.

"I could make a call if you'd ..?"

"No." Tony shook his head.

"Are you quite sure?" Ducky probed.

Tony paused, as he looked around the room, his gaze lingering on the mail and the overnight bag, before he turned his attention, back to the MD, his expression relaxing into a genuine smile. "Thanks, Duck. I already have everything I need, right here."

"Something wrong?" Gibbs asked, as he returned, looking from one to the other sharply.

"No," Ducky smiled. "I believe everything is just fine."

"Then why isn't he eating?"

"On it, Boss."