AN - I've been meaning to write this story for a long time. I finally got to it over the summer. It is based on the conversation in the S1 ep "Marine Down" about Tony having to take a physical to prove he is still alive after having his security clearance yanked for apparently dying in a car crash. It is set between the pilot and S1 (pre-Kate). Having now seen the trailers for the S5 ep "Bury your dead" I thought I should post it before 25th Sept to avoid any confusion!
Disclaimer - Based on the ep "Marine Down" but entirely my own interpretation, not making any profit expect hopefully other people's enjoyment.
Gibbs tried to focus on the feel of the Styrofoam cup in his hands, its comforting warmth leeching through to his numb fingers. Almost on autopilot he raised the cup to his lips and swallowed, concentrating on the strong, bitter, brew, anything to block out the sights and smells of the Hospital.
"How's DiNozzo doing?"
Gibbs looked up to see Tom Morrow standing in front of him. He wasn't at all surprised that the Director had elected to come here in person. A case like this, if not handled properly, could ruin an Agency's reputation.
"As well as can be expected with a bullet in his arm, sir." Gibbs was blunt.
Morrow pursed his lips as he digested that, his gaze sliding over to Vivian Blackadder, who was anxiously pacing just outside the small waiting area, biting nervously at her nails. A little distance apart, Ducky sat stiffly, with his arm around Abby, whose makeup was streaked from crying. Neither of them were attempting to comfort Blackadder. With a sigh, Morrow sank into the hard plastic seat besides Gibbs.
"What happened, Jethro?"
"She shot DiNozzo, sir." Gibbs was uncompromising.
He felt the bile rise in his throat as recalled DiNozzo's cry of pain, unable to even look around as he heard the body fall to floor, because he was busy securing his own suspect, barely registering Blackadder's own gasp of horror as she registered her mistake.
His cry had echoed off the roof of the abandoned warehouse. His chest tightening at the resulting silence. DiNozzo was conditioned to respond in the field, if he wasn't answering, it was because he couldn't. Rapidly cuffing his suspect to a roof support Gibbs finally turned, his eyes scanning the area.
"Right here, Boss."
His voice was tight with suppressed pain. Coming around the boxes, he saw Tony's foot sticking out from behind the boxes. Ruthlessly, clamping down on his emotions, he checked the area, before scooting forward to kneel beside him. DiNozzo was lying slumped against some crates, his hand pressed to a bleeding wound on his arm.
Even as he spoke, Gibbs was taking in the chalk white expression and the lines of pain around his senior field agent's eyes. Tony's face creased in a frown before he answered.
"Think its broken."
Gibbs expression darkened at the news and DiNozzo almost felt sorry for Vivian. Then Gibbs reached forward, telegraphing his intentions with his eyes. Tony nodded fractionally and braced himself. The ex-marine needed to check for an exit wound. Gibbs movements were swift and economical but the action engulfed Tony in a wave of sickening nausea as white hot pain stabbed at his arm. Part of his brain registered that Gibbs was talking into his phone, barking directions for the EMTs as he bit down on his lip he willing his stomach under control.
"DiNozzo, stay with me," Gibbs ordered. "Keep talking."
"Really shouldn't have had that shrimp for lunch, Boss." Tony managed.
He knew he was hovering on the edge of consciousness as Gibbs removed his neck tie, stripping off his own shirt and using both items to fashion a sling which immobilised his broken arm close to his body, before covering Tony's weakening grip with his own vice like hold to try and stem the blood flow.
"There's no-one I'd rather have in my corner when I'm bleeding to death, Boss." Tony's voice was a mixture of gratitude and admiration.
"You're not bleeding to death, DiNozzo," Gibbs said gruffly, for the first time allowing himself to feel a flicker of relief as the wail of sirens approached. "You're gonna be fine."
"The Docs say it's not too bad. But he'll be in a cast for a while."
"He stay conscious?" Morrow wondered.
"Asked the Docs if he could have the bullet as a souvenir, when they pull it out," Gibbs shook his head, in rueful admiration, before his tone hardened. "I want her off my team, Tom."
"Agreed," Morrow nodded. He would still have to see the written reports and he'd interview DiNozzo and Blackadder personally before he decided her ultimate fate. But she'd already had one free pass when her rookie mistake almost screwed up the operation in Rota and there was no way he would ask Gibbs to work with her after this. "I'll sign DiNozzo off for whatever medical leave the Doctors think necessary. You too, Jethro."
"With all due respect, sir, there's nothing wrong with me."
"No?" Morrow gave him a knowing look. "Putting aside the fact that you'd been working as a two man team for a while before Blackadder came along, not to mention all the extra work involved in breaking in a new Agent, we both know how you feel about DiNozzo. Do us both a favour and take some time to get your head straight."
"Jethro, if you won't do this for me, then do it for DiNozzo. We both know the kid will follow your lead and try to rush his recovery if you're still on the clock. If you really want to help him, take the leave. That's an order by the way."
When DiNozzo came into the bullpen to tidy up loose ends before he went on sick leave, Gibbs had to reluctantly admit that Morrow had a point. Already worked to the point of exhaustion, surviving on cat naps at the office and rushed meals at his desk, the shock and pain of the accident had left Tony looking grey and washed out. A couple of weeks of R and R would do the kid a world of good.
He hid a smile. DiNozzo had sweet talked somebody into letting him have one of the coloured casts that they used for kids. The garish blue clashed loudly with his equally colourful Hawaiian shirt. He hadn't noticed that at the Hospital. All he'd cared about was how restrictive the cast was going to be. Elbow to wrist was manageable enough but DiNozzo had been less than happy to find he couldn't touch his forefinger with his thumb. Driving him home Gibbs had had to endure his ramblings about how the opposable thumb was directly responsible for the invention of the X-Box.
When the phone on Tony's desk rang, Gibbs' face creased in a faint frown. The only reason Morrow had allowed him to come in today was to chase DiNozzo out if the kid looked like he was trying to do anything remotely like work. That had better not be a case.
"Special Agent Anthony DiNozzo. How can I help you today?" Tony answered breezily.
Gibbs automatically listened with half an ear to Tony's side of the telephone conversation, until the younger man's voice rose in pitch and volume.
"Oh, you have to be kidding me. You don't have anything else?"
As far as Gibbs could make out the answer was a definitive negative, because not even five minutes of his senior field agent's best threats, promises or pleading could secure a different outcome. Returning the receiver with a definate thunk to its cradle DiNozzo was reduced to glaring at the phone in disgust, whilst mimicking, sotto voice, parts of the argument.
"Something bothering you, DiNozzo?" Gibbs asked, without looking up.
Needing no more invitation, DiNozzo was instantly on his feet and in front of Gibbs desk. "As you know, Boss, my car is a stick shift. With my new summer season accessory," Tony waggled his cast. "I can't exactly manage a stick shift. So, I'm stuck with rental car heaven. And since this is a holiday weekend coming up, every place in town is booked out. I've had to go with some tin pot local dealership and all they had, at such short notice, was an executive box on wheels that'll drive like a tank."
"Car gets you from A to B, DiNozzo," Gibbs feigned a lack of sympathy.
"This from the man with the sexy, silver, sports number in the garage," Tony said knowingly. "So, what was it, Boss? Miss-spent youth or mid-life crisis?"
Gibbs fixed him with his best glare, knowing DiNozzo would simply let it roll over him. "If you want to stay here I'm sure I can find you some work to do."
"No, that's ok, Boss," Tony backtracked. "I guess I'll survive."
He went back to his desk, tidying away the last few files and powering down his computer. As he carefully slung his backpack over his good shoulder he came back towards Gibbs desk, this time waiting patiently for his Boss to look up.
"Scuttlebutt says the Director gave you a couple of weeks of leave. You could come with."
Gibbs hid a smile. In truth, he was touched by the offer. Few people would have had the guts to ask and ever fewer would have thought he'd have any interest in going along. Over the last two years he'd learned that DiNozzo understood a thing or two about loneliness. It was tempting, the younger man was pretty good company when he set his mind to it but, he didn't want to mess up the kid's plans, which probably involved beer and sex.
"DiNozzo, the whole point of a vacation is to get away from the people you work with."
He was slightly surprised by the way the kid's face fell. DiNozzo recovered quickly, saying something about him probably wanting to work on his boat but, Gibbs couldn't shake the memory of that brief look of hurt disappointment. As the kid said his goodbyes and turned away, Gibbs reached into his desk.
With his usual excellent reflexes DiNozzo caught the object flying towards him, snatching it one handed out of the air, before peering at the stress ball in the shape of the world in obvious confusion.
"Keep working that hand," Gibbs ordered. "I want you back fit for duty. Understood?"
DiNozzo lit up at the slightest hint that he was wanted or needed, just as Gibbs had known he would. Flashing his trademark grin he rallied enough to shoot off a repost of his own.
"Want your best man at your side, hey Boss?"
"Case you hadn't noticed DiNozzo," Gibbs returned dryly. "Right now, you are my only man."
"Gotta count for something."
Gibbs looked up and met his eyes, allowing himself a rare, fond, smile. DiNozzo was a keeper alright; the only way he would let his senior field agent go would be to head his own team when the time came.
"Yeah, guess it does, DiNozzo, I guess it does."
It felt strange to Gibbs to be working on his boat in the middle of a weekday. Even so, he had to admit that the down time was doing him good. As he stepped back and surveyed his work with satisfaction, he managed a smile. He had a good feeling about this boat. He thought he might actually finish this one. Pulling off his work gloves with his teeth, he wandered over to the workbench and picked up his coffee mug. He had only taken a sip when he heard footsteps overhead.
"Director," He straightened as the familiar figure made its way down the stairs. He had something of a history with Tom Morrow and the two men shared a mutual respect but, Gibbs wouldn't have said they were friends. Morrow had never been to his house before and, after the lengths he had gone to, to ensure that the ex-gunny took a vacation, he wouldn't have bothered him unless it was important. "Something wrong?"
As soon as Morrow stepped into the light he saw by his expression that, whatever it was, it was very bad. Even so, he was totally unprepared for what came out of the man's mouth.
"We've had a report from LVPD. The car DiNozzo rented went off the road between Palm Springs and Vegas over the edge of a cliff. It exploded on impact. There was no way he could have survived. I'm truly sorry, Jethro."