The smell of anti-septic woke Tony. His eyes fluttered open to reveal he was in a hospital, Abby sitting, sleeping, with tear stains down her face, by the side of his bed. Groaning he sat up, wondering what had happened, the last thing he remembered was falling asleep on the ride back to the states. Reaching out he touched Abby's shoulder gently, not wanting to startle her. Despite his best attempts her eyes shot open and she looked around worriedly before realising he was awake and pulling him into a tight hug.

"Abs, need to breathe," he gasped out.

"Sorry," she released him and punched his shoulder hard. "Don't you ever frighten me like that again Anthony DiNozzo."

"Sorry," he pouted. "What happened anyway, last thing I remember is falling asleep on the ride back."

"The stitches Agent Jardine put in your arm came loose whilst you were fighting the marine who attacked you Anthony," Ducky informed entering the room with a Caf-pow for Abby. "You lost a lot of blood and it became infected."

"I had two lists of names on me," he looked around for them. "Where are they?"

"Jethro took them," Ducky assured. "Had Timothy check the status of everyone who was injured."

"Are they all alright?" he wondered,

"Some unfortunately didn't make it," Ducky answered.

"Damn," he hung his head.

"Anthony there was nothing you could have done," the medcal examiner knew he was blaming himself. "Their injuries were severe."

"I need some time to think," he sighed. "Could you leave."

"Tony," Abby seemed hesitant.

"It's alright Abs," he smiled weakly. "I just want to be alone for a little while."
"Come along Abigail," Ducky led the goth from the room with every intention of calling Gibbs - if anyone could get through to Tony it would be his boss.

Alone in his hospital room Tony stared blankly at the ceiling, wondering if he could have saved them, would they have survived if he had acted sooner. He felt guilty that he hadn't raised the alarm when he first saw the bombers, believing that if he had none of the soldiers would have died. Tears formed in his eyes as he thought and he let his eyes fall closed, causing the tears to stream down his cheeks but he ignored them, trying to get back to sleep.

Gibbs slipped into the hospital room. Ducky had called him, worriedly informing him that DiNozzo was feeling responsible for the deaths of those who hadn't survived the attacks in Baghdad, and Abby had insisted that he fix it. The younger man was sleeping, curled up on one side, with tear stains down his face. Sighing the special agent crossed the room to sit on a seat by the side if the bed. Waiting wasn't his strong point but he was willing to make an exception in this case. Several minutes after he arrived Tony groaned quietly, the younger man's eyes fluttering open.

"Boss?" Tony asked confused.

"DiNozzo," he sighed. "Ducky and Abby seem to think that I need to 'fix' you."

"Nah boss," the younger man sat up. "I'm fine, there's absolutely nothing wrong with me."

"Except the hole in your arm," he smirked. "You're blaming yourself for the deaths."

"I could have stopped it," Tony whispered. "I saw the bombers and didn't act until one of them entered our tent."

"Did you know they were bombers?" he raised an eyebrow.

"Well no," the younger man admitted. "But I thought they were suspiscious, if I'd acted sooner then maybe those people wouldn't have died."

"Maybe," he shook his head. "You can't live your life with 'what ifs' and 'maybes' it'll drive you insane. You did good."

"Thanks boss," Tony finally smiled.

"The SecNav's awarding you a medal," he changed the subject. "For your actions in Baghdad, the ceremony is tomorrow."

"What?" the younger man looked at him in shock. "How long have I been out?"

"You've been unconscious for two days," he informed.

"Oh," Tony nodded. "When am I getting out of here?"

"Tomorrow morning," he smirked. "We'll be picking you up right in time to escort you to the ceremony."

The younger man groaned and flopped back against the pillows on the bed, knowing that there was no way to get out of the hospital sooner or escape the awards ceremony the following morning. Hiding a smile at his actions Gibbs stood and left the room, threatening to break his legs if he tried to leave before he was collected. Nodding to acknowledge the threat he watched his boss leave, before closing his eyes again - he didn't want an award, in his mind he hadn't done anything worthy of the respect and attention his actions were going to get for his actions.

...

Tony smothered a groan as Abby bounced into his hospital room the following morning. The goth was accompanied by Gibbs who carried one of his suits and the look on his boss' face told him he wasn't getting out of going to the ceremony. Reluctantly accepting the suit he headed to thhe room's en-suite bathroom to change. His shirt and trousers on he slipped his arm into its sling and returned to the main room. Smiling widely at him Abby moved to do his tie for him. Biting his lip to avoid showing his displeasure he allowed her ministrations, not even complaining when she straightened his suit jacket over his shoulders. Covering a chuckle Gibbs led the way from the hospital.

The drive to the awards ceremony was taken in silence. Abby was practically bouncing up and down in her seat, Gibbs had an expression on his face that Tony couldn't decipher, and the young man himself didn't want to be there. Staring morosely out of the window he wondered what he could say when he was given the medal - he'd seen enough of these ceremonies to

know that he would be expected to make a speech or at least say a couple of words.

All too soon they reached their destination and he was ushered out of the car. The SecNav was already there and smiled at their approach, telling them that they could start as soon as the press arrived - everyone else was already seated, facing the podium. Nodding, making no effort to hide his displeasure at the fact he was there, he moved to his position on the podium. Soon he was called up to accept his award and looking down at it he took a breath he started his speech.

"I used to want one of these," he stated. "I'd watch year after year as my boss received awards and wish it was me. Until now I never understood why he had me collect them for him. I do my job to help people, not for glory or medals. The people who really deserve this are the marines out there, fighing day in, day out for us to live safely here. Every day they face the threat of death or injury but they still fight for their country without the recognition they deserve. So thank you Mr Secretary, but no thank you. I can't accept this award."

He turned and walked off the podium, leaving the award in plain sight. Everyone stared at him in shock as he calmly strode away, ignoring the calls of the reporters. Everyone except Gibbs who, with a small proud smile, nodded at him in understanding. Without a word he moved to sit and wait in the car that had delivered them to the awards ceremony.

It wasn't long before he was joined by Gibbs and Abby. The goth hugged him and wondered why he didn't accept the medal but Gibbs simply handed over a small case, informing him that the SecNav had insisted he take the award whether he wanted it or not. Shaking his head he leant it against the window of the car and stared blankly out. There would be repercussions for his actions, he knew, but he'd done what he thought was right and that was all that mattered to him.

FIN