Tony stepped into the elevator with Gibbs right behind him. It had taken nearly an hour of talking and negotiating and pleading and convincing on Sunday evening to talk Gibbs into letting him return to work with a week of sick leave left on the books. Gibbs had called both Dr. Pitt and Ducky before agreeing to let Tony back on the job. Pitt had advised against it, worried that Tony was trying to do too much too soon.
Ducky had spent some time on the phone with the other doctor, giving him a bit more insight into the inner workings of Tony's mind – of the agent's mental and emotional state and his need to be back in the office. Ducky filled Pitt in about the activities of Tony's week at home – everything that Tony had told them the night before – and Pitt reluctantly agreed that it certainly couldn't hurt his patient more to be at work behind a desk than it would to be at home and at the mercy of constant visitors and other temptations. The two doctors spent a few minutes discussing ways to "manage" Tony once he returned to work, and then Pitt gave Gibbs the go-ahead to approve Tony's request.
While worried that Tony was pushing it, Gibbs was secretly glad to have gotten the doctor's approval. Truth was, they were heavy in caseloads and Ari was still out there; even if Tony was going to be chained to a desk, he'd have plenty to do.
Tony leaned against the back wall of the elevator car and sighed. Gibbs looked at him with a sideways glance.
"You sure you're up for this." It wasn't a question. Gibbs knew that Tony wouldn't answer truthfully anyway. He just wanted to make sure that someone had at least voiced that opinion in Tony's presence.
Yes. Please. Don't send me home. People will come. I'll end up attached to the Xbox. I can't take another week.. Let me stay. Let me stay.
"Never felt better," Tony lied.
Please please please let me stay.
Gibbs took another glance at his senior agent. "You look like crap."
Yeah? I wonder why. You and a herd of FBI agents show up at my apartment on a Saturday afternoon, totally take the place over, and then leave your crap lying all over the place for me to clean up, not to mention eating my food, and drinking everything in the place, from coffee to Gatorade. I'm surprised you didn't start portioning off my meds.
"I missed you too, Boss."
"You got another week of sick leave coming Tony," Gibbs continued, tossing the comment over his shoulder, because he'd promised both Pitt and Ducky that he'd give Tony one last chance to change his mind. Suddenly, Gibbs wondered if the FBI had ever gone back and cleaned Tony's place up on Saturday, after the suspects were in custody and the op was complete. He made a mental note to ask Fornell, but his gut told him that they hadn't.
"I was going crazy at home," Tony began.
Mostly because there were just too many surprises. I need fewer surprises. Some nice, mundane paperwork would be good. Filing. Internet searches.
"Maybe I'm not 100 percent, but you need me."
Do not frickin' look at me like that! You had no problem using my instincts and my intel and MY gut to help Fornell get his guy. Who broke that case, huh? Do not look at me like you don't need me.
"OK," Tony continued his line of reasoning. "What about Kate and McGee? They're practically lost without me."
That might be stretching it a little bit, but they were both pretty darn happy to see me yesterday, once everything calmed down and there was food in the house again. Did I mention that the feds ate all my food?
Gibbs smiled. "They've gotten more work done the last two weeks than they have all year."
Well yeah, Sherlock, that kinda figures, doesn't it? Two people doing the work of three people are bound to get more work done than three people doing the work of three people. That makes sense, right? Two divided by three, move the decimal point, carry the one …
Tony shook his head slightly and focused again on the numbers above the elevator door. God, he was tired. Then the elevator door opened. Tony looked out at the familiar surroundings, saw the buzz of activity and smiled.
He was home.