author's note. Here it is, the top secret Fourth Thing I Wrote About Requiem! I actually wrote this only a few days after finishing 'Long Overdue' and immediately posted it to the Special Ops board. I avoided posting it here because 1) I had sworn to so many people that I was done writing about Requiem, and didn't want to eat my words; and 2) my Requiem stories were all very, very, very angsty and this is... not angsty in the least. Anyway, I didn't even think about it at all until a week or so ago, when I was looking at my Story Traffic and realized that Three Things I Wrote About Requiem is one of my most popular pieces of fiction. I think that that episode really resonated with a lot of people, and there were so many things left unsaid that we writers are still trying to fill in the gaps. And I'm really, really happy with how this story turned out (I know I always complain about writing dialogue but this is one of the first few times that it really clicked for me) so I thought it was worth sharing.
The story is continuous with 'Long Overdue' but it doesn't pick up immediately where that one left off - I'll have to leave the Gibbs apology up to your imagination. I know, I'm a stinker!
And, my apologies to Special Opsters for making you think I've written something new when I actually haven't. Arrrgh! It's the fiction equivalent of a Simpsons clip show, isn't it. Mea culpa, mea maxima culpa.
Gibbs started staying at Bethesda every night. He'd show up sometime after ten o' clock, take up residence in the chair by Tony's bed, and go to sleep. Then he'd go home for a shower and a change of clothes, and head to the Navy Yard. After three days, a nurse took pity on him and got a couch moved into the room, which improved Gibbs' mood considerably.
It wasn't even that he did anything - he didn't hold Tony's hand or tell him bedtime stories - it was just that he was there. Gibbs was there when they finally pulled the tube out of Tony's throat, holding a basin for all the blood and gunk he choked up. He was there when Tony woke up in the throes of a panic attack, two or three or five times a night, having forgotten how to breathe. And his presence always seemed to calm Tony enough that he could sleep again.
One night, he showed up to Tony's room, and Tony wasn't there. "I think he went for a walk," the sympathetic nurse told him with a little smile. Gibbs found Tony in the lounge at the end of the hall, standing at the darkened window with his IV stand and his little tank of oxygen. Gibbs had only seen Tony lying down for so long, he had forgotten how tall the other man was.
"Hey, Boss," Tony said without turning around.
Gibbs sat on the arm of the blue vinyl couch. "Evening, Tony."
"I've been thinking," Tony said. "You don't have to stay here at night any more. I mean - don't think I don't appreciate you being here, because I do. You have no idea what you've done for me. But I'm sure you'd like to start sleeping in your own bed again."
"Well…" Gibbs said, rubbing his neck, "yeah, I would."
"And besides, I'm not, you know, freaking out as much any more. I can pretty much sleep through the night now."
"You doing all right, DiNozzo?" Gibbs said, almost in a whisper.
Tony didn't believe for a moment that Gibbs was only talking about his lungs. "I'm getting there." He turned away from the window. "What'd you bring me?"
"Case files." Gibbs fanned out the file folders on his knee. "I thought you might be bored."
"Not too bored," Tony said almost apologetically, "but I'll take them."
"Not too bored? What have you been doing, reading?
"Watching telenovelas. It's a good way to brush up on my Spanish-language skills." He lowered his voice conspiratorially. "Do you want to know the secret identity of the man who abducted Hector and Consuela's love child?"
"Honestly? I'd rather you shoot me."
"So, what's the case?"
Gibbs opened the top folder. "This guy is the victim. He was found dead on the parade grounds."
Tony flipped through the crime scene photos. "Naked?"
Gibbs raised an eyebrow. "Butt naked."
"Wow, I'm sorry I missed it. What did Ducky say? Wait, I don't think I want to know." Tony reached for the next folder. "And these other three?"
"They're his roommates. They know something. But we can't get them to talk. Not even Ziva could."
Tony shook his head in commiseration. "You think they're covering up?"
Yeah, and I can't figure out why. I really don't think any of them is the killer.
"I mean, is it that Marine loyalty?" Tony had learned a bit about that lately.
"Doesn't make sense." Gibbs shook his head. "Why not be loyal to the dead guy? Help us find his killer?"
"Hmm, you're right." Tony flipped through the files. "You have the interrogation reports?"
"Yeah. Only I had to black out all the stuff Ziva did," Gibbs joked.
"Was it illegal?"
Tony grinned. "Now I'm really sorry I missed it. I'll have a look."
"Give me a call if you come up with anything." Gibbs stood. "You want me to walk you back?"
"Sure." With Gibbs on one side and the I.V. pole on the other, Tony began the long slow shuffle back to his room, aching joints protesting every move. "Sorry," he grimaced. "Hope you weren't in a hurry or anything."
"Don't worry about it."
"So," Tony said, "what's it like with just McGee and Ziva?"
"Well," Gibbs explained, "if my computer breaks or I need anyone tortured, they've got me covered."
Tony laughed a little, but it turned to a cough. "Brad says it looks like I'll be discharged on Friday. So, you won't have to go without my invaluable investigative skills for much longer."
"You make sure and take every day of your sick leave," Gibbs advised. "None of that coming back to work early crap this time. If you even think about it, I will headslap you backwards and forwards."
"I bet you will."
"How'd you get here, anyway?" Gibbs asked. "I hope you didn't drive. Those parking fees are outrageous."
"I took a cab," Tony said. "It's weird to think about it, now. It was only supposed to be two days - three, tops. And I've been in here for what, two weeks? I feel like I'm in an episode of The Twilight Zone."
"I was going to say Gilligan's Island."
Tony smacked his palm on his forehead. "Gilligan's Island. Of course. I must be slipping."
"And if you start humming the theme song, I will kill you," Gibbs threatened. "You give me a call, I'll take you home."
"Thanks, Boss, but I think I'd be safer hitchhiking," Tony said ruefully.
"Who sent the flowers?" Gibbs inquired as they rounded the corner into Tony's room.
"Those are from the secretaries. And the cactus is from my dad."
"Your dad sent a cactus?" Gibbs responded with a raised eyebrow.
"Prickly and hard to kill." Tony grinned. "Kind of like Dad, actually."
A lot like you, Tony, Gibbs thought as he helped his agent onto the bed.
A nurse poked her head in the door. "Ready for your evening meds, Tony?"
"Am I ever." Little lines of pain were etched onto his tired face. Tony accepted the little plastic cup and gulped down his pills with a swig of water. "I think I love you," he added. The nurse laughed at him as she left the room.
"It's funny," Tony said, "but I sort of don't want to leave here."
"You got Stockholm Syndrome, DiNozzo? Am I going to have to send you in for reprogramming?"
"I know you hate hospitals," Tony said, which got no disagreement from Gibbs, "but honestly, it's kind of nice. The nurses coming around with happy pills, for one."
"Happy pills?" Gibbs scoffed. "You have gone insane."
"And besides," Tony said with a subtle change in tone, "I know it's going to be different when I come back."
"Different how?" Gibbs prompted, although he wasn't disagreeing.
"I know you won't be this nice to me when I'm back on duty."
"Nice? I wouldn't say I'm nice." This was a serious concern. Gibbs had, after all, a reputation to uphold.
"But you have been. Maybe you feel guilty. Maybe you feel sorry because, you know, I almost died. Again. You've been nice. And I know you won't be, when I'm back." Gibbs opened his mouth, but Tony continued. "And that's okay. I don't expect you to be. We both have a job to do, and that's how we do it. I annoy you. You smack me on the head. I find the answer you need."
Gibbs shook his head, grinning. "Yep, that's it in a nutshell."
"I hate to think that you're going to see me differently after this. And not because of the whole, you know -" Tony stared down at the plastic cup in his hands "- the whole saving your life thing. I don't want you to hold me back because you're afraid I'm going to end up in the hospital again."
"You've already had two strikes," Gibbs pointed out.
"Funny. Same number as you." Tony smiled wryly. "Look, my job is my life, okay? I don't know what I'd do if I couldn't do this. You understand."
"I do." Gibbs cleared his throat. "Look. I know I don't have all the answers. I think I've shown that already, haven't I?" Tony grinned. "That was a rhetorical question, DiNozzo. One word and I will smack your head. I may not be perfect, but I will try."
"And we'll let McGee do the next cold water rescue," Gibbs added.
"Right." Tony grinned. "Probie's lungs are as clean as a whistle. Only, try not to drive into any more rivers, okay, Boss?"
"It's a deal, DiNozzo."
He knew Tony would be back soon - a few pounds lighter, definitely, and maybe a few years older - but he would be Tony again. That was all Gibbs could possibly expect. "I'll try and do better, Tony. Trust me."
"I trust you." Tony leaned into the pillows, looking more relaxed than he had in weeks. It couldn't be the happy pills taking effect already, Gibbs reasoned; it had to be a genuine inner calm. "I do now, Boss."