With A Little… 63/?
HOSPITAL: 7:00 P.M.
Lightly drowsing after the meal of soft food he'd just, very reluctantly, allowed a nurse to feed him, Tony startled at the sound of someone entering the room. Turning his creaky neck through its limited range of motion, he frowned lightly on seeing who his visitor was.
"Fornell. Something up?"
"Nah." Tobias offered as he settled into the bedside chair. "Just checkin' up on you an' my guys outside. Wanted to be sure everything's like it should be, ya know?"
"The guards are FBI? Thought they were ours. Somebody probably told me, but…"
"… you've been out of it most of the time. Understood. I was here once before, when you were really down for the count. Ripped my guts out, kid…" Tobias admitted very softly.
Tony grinned faintly and closed his eyes for a few moments then eased his head back into a neutral position.
"I'll be okay. It's gonna take time, that's all. Can't ever count me out, you know that."
Tobias chuckled and shook his head.
"All too well. The things you've made it through would've tested Hercules to his breaking point. I wouldn't wanna see the odds that you could've ever made it outta that sewer… or a car with Jeffery White in the backseat. Getting pushed out of a plane after only a couple hours of jump instruction…"
"I screwed up my ankle on the landing. Could've been a lot worse, but like you said…"
"You what? Gibbs never said anything 'an I hear about your every goose-egg and shaving nick."
"He never knew. Ducky patched me up. I wore an Ace bandage at night… pushed through the days at work 'till it finally healed."
"He expected it, Tobias. Still does. Working under Gibbs… being tough and resilient are mandatory. Letting him down once was too many times."
"Excuse me? When the hell did you ever do that?"
"The stupid envelope. Everybody on the team could've been exposed… could've died. And to top it off, I almost wasn't strong enough to pull through on my own. Gibbs saved my ass, like always. Seeing me like that, knowing it was all my fault… he must've been so disappointed."
Internally, Fornell fumed and seethed, making plans for confronting Gibbs at the first opportunity, but he showed none of his anger to Tony. His response refuted the younger man's statement, but with gentleness and reassurance.
"That's not true, not a word of it. You... God, DiNozzo, I can't explain why you're still here, but I know it's no accident. The man upstairs had a reason, that much I'm sure of."
Tony found Tobias' gaze with his own once more and whispered.
Tobias laughed softly.
"He's still kind of a bastard, but he loves you to the moon and back. Pretty damn good rationale for why you stuck around, don't you think? You couldn't shuffle off to Buffalo when your 'one and only, meant to be'… wasn't yet."
"You believe in that? After Diane and all of it?"
"She just about kicked the faith outta me… but I managed to hold onto a little shred. Just enough so if the right one comes along, she'll have somethin' to build on."
"Good. That's good. Listen, since you're here, I need to tell you something I've been thinking about."
"You don't have to say yes…"
"Just tell me."
"When I get home... it'll be rough on me and worse on Jethro. There are gonna be times when he can't stand to see me in pain or he needs to escape how pissed and frustrated I am. I'm making him promise that he'll only run to you."
Fornell lowered his head for a few moments, contemplating the heavy responsibility Tony wanted to lay on him. When he looked up again, his chest was tight, but, as before, he showed none of his feelings to the man in the bed.
"I can handle that. Drop the other shoe."
"When he shows up, I need three favors from you. One; take his side completely and agree with anything he says, no matter what."
"Not if he's talking you down, kid…"
"Yes, even if. He won't mean any of it, we both know that. You job is to support him. Got it?"
Fornell sighed loudly and huffed once or twice, but eventually surrendered.
"Yeah, I got it. Number two?"
"If he wants to get drunk, don't argue. Take him to a bar, let him get bombed at your place, whatever. If he wants something different, you do it. No questions, no attitude. Just don't leave his side and keep telling him he's right."
"The last one is the most important. Get him sober or do whatever else you have to… then put his head back on straight and bring him home. Don't just send him, you hear me? *Bring* him back and make sure he gets in the door."
"Anthony, this is Leroy Jethro Gibbs we're talkin' about…"
"Like I said, you don't have to…"
"No. He deserves it. You both do. You got my solemn vow, Tony. I swear I'll stand by him and I'll get him home in one piece."
"Thank you." Tony responded, seeming to visibly deflate as he relaxed and let his eyes drift half shut.
"You're welcome. Look, you need your rest an' I gotta get home. I'll come back in a couple days, though, okay?"
Rising slowly to his feet, Fornell turned and slipped out the door, pausing by the two men stationed outside. "Nobody unauthorized gets in there, understand? You need to piss, you get hungry or thirsty, you call hospital security to stand in. *Anything* goes wrong you're answering to Special Agent Gibbs, not me."
Seeing both men pale and nod vigorously, Fornell grinned and headed down the corridor, secure that Tony would be well protected.