DISCLAIMER:- I do not own NCIS or its characters and no copyright infringement is intended.
A/N:- Thank you to everyone who took the time to read my story and additional thanks to those of you who left reviews. Your support and encouragement of my first writing attempt is appreciated very much.
The loud clumping noise of platform boots echoed from down the hospital corridor and heralded the arrival of the Goth forensic scientist. She wrapped her arms around Gibbs' neck and nuzzled her face into his shoulder while he gave her a reassuring hug.
"Tony was right! You are a man who won't stay drowned!" she sobbed, referring to his previous and notorious near-drowning incident. She stepped back and punched him in the arm.
"Ow, Abs!! What was that for?" Gibbs said.
"That's for scaring me!" she replied petulantly before she stepped into his arms again and gave him a huge bone-crushing hug. Hugging her in return Gibbs said softly.
"And what was that for?"
"That's for being you and risking your life to save Tony," she answered timidly. "How is Tony?"
"Still in surgery, Abs. No news yet," he replied.
X-rays confirmed that Ziva had broken the radius bone in her arm and by the time she re-joined her teammates, she was wearing a cast.
It was just after midnight and Gibbs had almost worn a path in the floor of the waiting room. Patience was not something he had in abundance. Ducky watched his friend with concern.
"Jethro," he said, "while we're waiting for news on young Anthony, perhaps I should check that gash over your eye. I must say that it looks rather painful."
Gibbs exchanged a glance with Palmer and nodded his direction.
"Thanks, Duck but a doctor has already looked at it."
Palmer flushed with pride.
Another 30 minutes past and Gibbs' patience had expired. "What's taking so long, Duck?" he snarled.
"Now Jethro," Ducky replied. "Anthony's doctors need to be very thorough. Peritonitis is a very serious problem and they will need to treat it very aggressively in order to avoid damage to Anthony's major organs."
Ducky sighed when he saw that Gibbs was not about to accept his explanation.
"I'll go and see if there's any news."
Gibbs looked around at the others. Abby had fallen asleep propped against McGee or McGee had fallen asleep propped against Abby – it was hard to tell. Palmer was sleeping awkwardly in a plastic chair. His head leaning against the wall and his glasses were slightly askew. Ziva had curled up on the small couch, still cradling her broken arm. Although they were all physically and emotionally exhausted, not one of the team would leave the hospital until they knew that Tony would be okay.
Ducky had been gone for twenty minutes when the door opened and he returned with a tall man wearing scrubs. Gibbs was on his feet immediately. The others roused and stood at his side.
"Jethro, this is Dr Brett Marsh, Anthony's doctor," Ducky announced as the two men shook hands.
"Doctor, how is he?" Gibbs asked.
"He's quite ill, Agent Gibbs but very lucky to have made it this far," Dr Marsh replied.
The Doctor looked at McGee and Palmer. "Dr Mallard explained the situation. I don't know how you kept him alive without medication and equipment but you certainly saved his life."
"So, he's gonna be okay?" Abby asked.
"He's going to have to stay in intensive care for a week or so to allow us to closely monitor any signs of infection or organ failure," the doctor explained. "The use of chloroform, morphine and our anaesthesia, over such a short period of time has congested his lungs. We have him on a nasal cannula to assist his breathing. He woke earlier. He knows what happened and he knows he's in the ICU. His fever is still very high and we'll be working to bring that down in due course."
"Can we see him, Doctor?" McGee asked.
"He's still in Recovery and we'll keep him there for an hour or so before we move him to a room in the ICU. I'd rather he not be disturbed. He's heavily sedated, I expect him to sleep through the night," the doctor said.
"We won't wake him, Doctor, we promise," Abby pleaded. "We just really need to see him, that's all."
Dr Marsh reluctantly agreed. "Okay, but please be very quiet and only two visitors at a time. Agent Gibbs, Doctor Mallard has advised that you wish to stay with Agent DiNozzo through the night"
"That's right," Gibbs said firmly, leaving no room for negotiation.
The doctor nodded. "I'll have a nurse bring you a blanket and some pillows. Those hospital chairs can be murder on your back."
With news that Tony would be okay, the atmosphere among the team lightened enormously. Gibbs and Ducky watched as the others spoke animatedly about their recent ordeal. Abby insisted that Palmer and McGee tell her step by gory step how they had removed Tony's appendix.
"I can not wait to read your next book, McGee," Ziva laughed. "We will read how Special Agent McGregor and Pimmy Jalmer saved the life of Special Agent Tommy, yes?"
"The best authors write about their own experiences," McGee defended. "You should always write about something you know."
"Hey!" Palmer added. "Since we did save his life, do you think that Tony will finally stop with the annoying nicknames and endless teasing?"
The suggestion hung in the air for a few seconds before they all looked at each other and said, simultaneously. "Nah!"
"Tony is Tony," Abby said.
"And none of you would want him any other way," Came the voice of the Director who had just arrived at the hospital.
Looking at Gibbs and Ducky, Jenny asked. "How is he?"
Ducky explained Tony's condition and prognosis to the Director, who, like the others was very relieved.
"I'm sorry I couldn't get here earlier," Jenny said. "Agent Gibbs, Doctor Mallard, I took the liberty of completing document CJ 405 for two of your team members. I left them on your desks and would like you to sign them and return them to me by the end of the day." Ducky and Gibbs both looked pleasantly surprised and nodded their heads in agreement.
"They won't become official for a week but I have spoken with SecNav and received his verbal endorsement." Jenny turned to smile at the others. "For those of you who may not know," she said, "document CJ 405 is a request for a written commendation and I am very proud to have recommended Assistant Medical Examiner James Palmer and Special Agent Timothy McGee for courage in the line of duty in extraordinary circumstances which resulted in saving the life of a fellow agent."
Jimmy and McGee looked like bookends as their mouths hung open with surprise.
Gibbs and Ducky stepped forward to shake the hands of their subordinates. Abby smothered McGee in a huge hug while Ziva placed a kiss on Palmer's cheek. Both men turned bright red.
Ziva and Abby walked into Tony's room in ICU. Walking to opposite sides of his bed, they each took one of his hands, careful not to disturb the IV lines. His stillness unsettled them both – Tony was never still.
Ziva cradled his face in her hand, disturbed by the heat of his fever. Leaning close to him she whispered.
"Sleep well, my little hairy butt. I will see you tomorrow." She kissed him gently on the cheek and left the room.
Abby couldn't hold back her tears as they tracked lines of dark mascara down her face.
"You get better soon, Mister," she said softly. "It's too quiet around here without you."
She leaned forward and placed a kiss on his forehead, then wiped away the dark lipstick mark it left. "I'll come back tomorrow, okay?"
As she turned to leave, something on the bedside table caught her attention. She picked up the jar that contained Tony's appendix and examined it. Looking around to ensure no one was watching, she surreptitiously placed the jar into her skull and cross bones blazoned handbag. Smiling mischievously to herself, she quietly left the room.
Palmer and McGee stood at the door to Tony's room.
"You think he looks better?" McGee asked Palmer.
"It's hard to tell," Palmer replied quietly. "I don't think he's in any pain at the moment and he's finally resting comfortably."
They moved to Tony's bedside.
"Hey Tony," McGee said softly. "I know you won't remember this conversation but while I have the opportunity, I'd like to say something. I know it was me who suggested we use your favourite knife to cut out your own appendix but I really did have your best interests at heart."
Jimmy frowned. "He likes the knife that much?" he asked.
McGee grimaced. "Gibbs gave it to him. It's one of his most prized possessions. He'd rank it behind his Mustang but just in front of his DVD collection, his hair products and little black book."
Jimmy looked worried. He leant forward and whispered. "Tony, while we're confessing. I told you that I had performed appendectomies on two previous occasions. I may have forgotten to mention that they were both cadavers for a prac class at Med School. I'm sure that there'll be no hard feelings and we'll have a big laugh about this soon."
Jimmy stood up straight and looked at McGee. "What do you think?"
McGee pursed his lips in thought. "I think that, even though we saved his life, as soon as he is back on his feet – there will be reprisals."
Ducky and Jenny walked quietly into the room. Ducky immediately took Tony's medical chart from its position at the end of his bed. He nodded his head in silent agreement as he perused the notes. Satisfied that Tony was getting the best of care, he moved to his side and gently patted Tony's forearm.
"Well, my boy," he whispered. "You certainly gave us quite a scare. Your doctors seem to have everything under control. I'm sure you'll be charming the pretty nurses in no time."
Jenny gently brushed back the strands of hair that fever and sweat had stuck to Tony's brow. "He's very warm, Ducky," she said worriedly.
"A fever is an important part of the body's defence against infection, my dear Director," Ducky said. "When Anthony's appendix ruptured his body was exposed to highly toxic bacteria. Although the Doctors will need to ensure that his fever doesn't get too high, it is working for Anthony, not against him."
Jenny nodded. "We should go," she said to Ducky. Placing a hand on Tony's shoulder she said softly. "I'll come back to see you when you're awake. I might even bring you some phalaenopsis orchids with some of those green things attached to them."
As they moved towards the door, Ducky frowned.
"I think the word you're looking for, Director, is stems," he said, not understanding the private joke. "Fascinating things stems, not only do they support the plant, they act like a plumbing system, conducting water and nutrients from the roots….."
Jenny and Ducky said goodnight to Gibbs as they passed him in the corridor. Ducky barely drew breath as he described the biology of a plant in great detail during their walk to the car park.
When Gibbs arrived at the door to Tony's room, a nurse was just leaving. She had placed pillows and blankets for him on the chairs in the room.
"I'm going to dim the lights in here now," she said. "That will make it a little easier for you both to rest." She looked at Tony's sleeping form. "There are four nurses on duty here tonight. One of us will be in and out of here, regularly checking on him. We'll try not to disturb you too much."
"I'm fine," Gibbs replied. "Just do whatever you need to."
Throughout the night, a nurse came into the room every 15 minutes. They checked Tony's vitals, made minor adjustments to the drip rate of his IV's and the oxygen flow rate of his nasal cannula, then made notations on his chart. They checked his wound and his drains and looked concerned when they saw that his temperature had not dropped as much as they had hoped. Two pretty nurses returned with a basin of water, washcloths, towels and a syringe. One of them injected the contents of the syringe into the IV.
"What was that?" Gibbs asked.
"Just something to help bring his fever down a little," one of the nurses replied. "If we let it get too high, he could start to convulse."
Seeing the look of concern deepen on Gibbs' face, the nurse added. "Try not to worry; with all he's been through, he's doing quite well."
The other nurse wrung out the washcloths and they quickly and efficiently wiped them over Tony's face, neck, limbs and body and placed a couple of cold packs behind his neck and under his armpits. Gibbs couldn't help thinking how much Tony would have enjoyed their attention had he been conscious.
They stripped the blanket off the bed and folded it neatly at the foot, leaving only the sheet covering him. "If you notice him getting cold or shivering, feel free to put the blanket over him again," one nurse said as they gathered their things and left the room for another 15 minutes.
Gibbs couldn't sleep. He watched Tony for hours observing the rise and falls of his chest and listening to his raspy breathing. His skin was still slicked with sweat and very pale. Tony's words kept echoing in his head.
"Shoulda known you wouldn't care enough to come."
Was Palmer right? Was Tony so out of his head with pain and fever that he didn't know what he was saying or who he was saying it to? Or had Gibbs been so closed off with his own feelings that those he cared about most had no idea.
He wasn't the type of man who gushed compliments or was known for open gestures of affection but either was DiNozzo. Between them they had three ex-wives and an absolute plethora of short-term relationships that laid testimony to that.
Since he had hired DiNozzo over seven years ago, they had always watched each other's backs.
Gibbs had been there for the concussions, the push from the aeroplane, the broken bones, times when he was drugged or kidnapped or shot. He'd been there for successful undercover ops and those that went dreadfully wrong. He'd been there after the beatings, when he was twice wrongly accused of murder and he'd been there when he had the damn plague.
He'd even been there when the heating in his apartment went out or he had no plumbing. He'd been there for countless stakeouts and difficult cases that exhausted them both physically and emotionally. He'd been there when they lost fellow agents in the line of duty, and when they mourned the loss of a much-loved partner and friend. 'Isn't that caring?' Gibbs kept asking himself.
Gibbs sensed rather than heard the subtle change in Tony's breathing. He sat in the darkened room and watched as Tony fidgeted a little and tried to moisten his lips with his dry tongue. Without opening his eyes Tony asked in a whispered voice, weak with fever.
"Boss, can I…can I have a drink?"
Gibbs poured a glass of ice water from the jug on the bedside table. He placed his hand behind Tony's head and gently lifted it until he felt the straw at his lips.
"Small sips, Tony," Gibbs said softly.
When Tony had finished, Gibbs placed the cup back on the table.
"Thanks, Boss," he whispered, his eyes still closed.
Gibbs' brow furrowed as he watched the younger man sink back against the pillows. Tony still hadn't opened his eyes, Gibbs hadn't made a sound and the nasal cannula would have hindered the younger man's unusually sharp sense of smell. Curiosity got the best of him.
"How'd you know I was here, Tony?" he asked.
Tony's answer was so quiet that Gibbs almost missed it.
"I just had…had surgery, I'm in… the ICU. Where… else would you be?"
And there it was!! With that one statement, whispered just before he had fallen back into a deep drug-induced sleep, Tony had confirmed and reassured Gibbs that he knew how much the older man cared about him.
Gibbs shook his head and smiled at the sleeping man.
"Damn straight, DiNozzo!" he said. "Where else would I be?"
A/N:- I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it, L