Disclaimer:- I do not own NCIS or its characters. Any copyright infringement is unintentional.
Ziva and McGee ran at a crouch in the direction of the gunshots. Through their earwigs, they had just heard the Navy Seals report that they had disarmed and secured a man claiming to work for Frank Burgess.
In the distance they saw the body of a man lying on the ground and not moving. As they moved closer, their Sigs scanning the surrounding area they realised with great relief that the body was too large for either Tony or Gibbs. They rolled the large redheaded man onto his back and noticed he had been lying in a large pool of his own blood, two neat holes in the shirt over his heart.
"You think Tony or Gibbs shot him?" McGee asked.
"Gibbs," Ziva said confidently.
McGee frowned. "How do you know it wasn't Tony?"
"Tony is an excellent marksman, McGee, but look at this grouping," Ziva explained. "The bullet holes are less than an inch apart. This was Gibbs."
Ziva studied the ground around the body while McGee used his com-link to report finding the body.
"He went this way," Ziva said pointing further into the woods.
"Wait!" McGee said. "He? Not they?"
Ziva studied the ground again. "No just one man," she said. They exchanged a worried glance before continuing down the trail.
Gibbs ran further into the woods, deliberately leaving an obvious trail for his pursuers. He guessed that Burgess and his men wouldn't have had much tracking experience and he needed to lead them away from where he had left Tony.
He had heard the sound of staccato gunfire and the announcement from the Sea Hawk that the Navy Seals had arrived, but as far as he knew, there were still three more gunmen on the island and they were intent on killing Tony.
When he felt he had led them far enough away, he would double back for Tony and make contact with the Seals.
McGee stopped and placed his hand to his earwig to listen to another transmission.
Fornell had been found lying wounded in a runabout just off shore and Jeffries was dead.
"That leaves two," he said hurrying to catch up to Ziva.
Ziva had stopped tracking and stood with a confused look on her face.
"This was too easy," she said.
"Easy? What do you mean?" McGee replied.
"Gibbs is a highly trained Marine, McGee. He would not leave such an obvious trail unless that was his intention," she explained. "And now, the trail has stopped. I believe Gibbs has doubled back for something….or someone!"
They allowed themselves a hopeful grin.
"Tony!" they said together.
Tony's body shook with the bone-chilling tremors of fever. His chest was tight and so congested that it allowed him to take only the shallowest of breaths before it erupted in a fit of rugged and exhausting coughs.
He reached his left hand to his right collarbone, felt the jagged ends of the bone beneath the skin and bit his bottom lip to suppress a groan as another wave of pain swept over him.
He had been concentrating on slowing his breathing and suppressing his coughing. He needed to be ready when Gibbs returned for him. Tony had been so focused that he didn't hear the Sea Hawk announce that the Navy Seals had arrived. As far as he was aware, Gibbs was alone with four armed men on his six.
The sound of nearby gunfire startled him. His thoughts were only of helping Gibbs as he agonisingly climbed out of his hiding place and on weak and unsteady legs; he headed off into the wood to find Gibbs.
The foreboding click of a safety being released on a handgun stopped Gibbs in his tracks.
"Throw down your weapon, Agent Gibbs or I'll shoot you where you stand," Burgess snarled.
Gibbs had little choice. He dropped the weapon to the ground, ensuring he knew exactly where it landed.
Gibbs held his hands out, palms up, before placing them on his hips. Tony's knife was tucked into his waistband and he surreptitiously wrapped the fingers of his right hand around the hilt.
"Where is DiNozzo?" Burgess demanded.
"If you think I'm going to tell you that, you're a bigger idiot than I thought," Gibbs replied.
The veins in Burgess' neck distended as he fought to suppress his rage. "I'd rather put a bullet in DiNozzo's head for the trouble he's caused me but as I suspect you were the one holding his leash, you'll do just as well."
Gibbs smiled. "Look around you, Burgess. In minutes this island will be swarming in Navy Seals. If you shoot me, you'll never get off the island alive."
"As long as you or DiNozzo, die first! Preferably both of you!"
A racking, chesty cough was heard from the bushes to their right as Tony stumbled in their direction unaware of the danger. Burgess chanced a quick glance in Tony's direction.
"Tony!" Gibbs shouted in warning then, in one smooth movement, he removed the knife from his waistband and threw it at Burgess. The knife lodged deeply into Burgess' bicep and he pulled the trigger of his gun. Gibbs was thrown backwards to the ground as the bullet grazed his left temple. As his world started to darken and the pain in his head exploded, Burgess took aim at his head. Gibbs raised his chin in defiance as he waited for Burgess to pull the trigger.
In a blur of movement Gibbs saw Tony hit Burgess with all the force his weakened body could muster and they grappled for the gun. Tony yelled in pain as Burgess gripped his right shoulder, applying agonising pressure to his broken collarbone. Tony still did not release his grip on the gun.
The impact of the bullet had a kaleidoscope effect of Gibbs' vision as he desperately fought to overcome the blinding pain and nausea and reached for his gun. He turned towards the two struggling men and cursed loudly. With his vision so badly impaired he was unable to take a shot without risking hitting Tony. He was attempting to climb to his feet when two shots rang out from Burgess' gun.
Gibbs looked up quickly. His heart froze as he saw Tony's face pale in shock and pain. Both men stood inert for a moment before they both fell to the ground with a sickening thud. Gibbs tried unsuccessfully to stand but fell to the ground and crawled to where Tony lay unmoving under Burgess' body. Noting Burgess' lifeless stare, Gibbs rolled the body from Tony and gasped as he saw the large blood stain on the front of Tony's sweater.
"Tony!" Gibbs yelled. Lifting the sweater to check Tony's wound he found only smooth tanned skin. He checked again as if not trusting his own eyes and then released a huge sigh of relief - the blood had belonged to Burgess.
Still waging his own battle to remain conscious, Gibbs pulled Tony to him, heartened as he saw Tony's eyes open.
"Tony? Hey, DiNozzo, you with me?" Gibbs said softly.
"Boss?" Tony answered weakly. "You…okay?"
Gibbs grinned. "Yeah, Tony," he lied. "I'm okay."
"Boss…think I'm…gonna…pass out."
"You can't pass out DiNozzo! What about your rule?" Gibbs jibed.
"S'more of a guideline," Tony said softly as his head lolled back and the darkness claimed him.
Ziva and McGee arrived moments later and immediately called for assistance on the com-link. The forth gunman had capitulated without a struggle the moment he saw the Seals.
Retrieving two portable stretchers and the first aid kit from the RIB, the Navy Seals carried Tony and assisted Gibbs, who refused to be carried, back to the shore. Ziva and McGee climbed aboard the RIB with the injured Fornell and Gibbs, as the Seals lifted Tony's stretcher onto the vessel and headed out to meet the Sea Hawk. Once they arrived at the rendezvous point with the Sea Hawk, the agents were airlifted to Bethesda.
Jenny, Ducky, Abby and Palmer were delighted to receive the news that Gibbs and Tony had been rescued. The Coast Guard arranged to transport all their equipment back to NCIS and to fly them to Bethesda to join the rest of their team.
Upon their arrival at the hospital, they found Ziva and McGee pacing the waiting room.
"Any news?" Jenny asked.
"Fornell has a bullet wound to the shoulder," Ziva said. "A through and through. He is resting comfortably."
"And what of our boys?" Ducky asked.
"Gibbs has a bad laceration to his left temple where he was grazed by a bullet and another deep gash to the back of his head," McGee reported. "The Doctors believe he has a serious concussion and have taken him for x-rays and a CT scan."
"Hmmm. Any loss of consciousness?" Ducky asked.
"Yes," Ziva answered. "He lost consciousness twice in the helicopter."
"What about Tony?" Abby asked.
"Tony was unconscious when we found them and still hasn't regained consciousness," McGee said. "Doctors believe he has pneumonia. He also has a badly broken collarbone. They've just taken him to surgery to insert a small rod in it."
Jenny looked at the concerned and exhausted faces. She knew there was no way any of them would leave until they knew Tony and Gibbs were okay.
"Let's sit down, shall we?" she said. "This may take a few hours."
Three hours later, both Agents were resting in their rooms. Gibbs had sustained a serious concussion but the CT cleared him of any intracranial bleeding or swelling.
The doctors had admitted him for 48 hours observation and the personnel in the Operations Room at NCIS had started a pool on when Gibbs would check himself out AMA. The smart money chose less than 24 hours.
Tony had a small titanium rod inserted into his collarbone to strengthen it and assist it to heal. His pneumonia had developed as a result of his near drowning and the fact that his lungs, weakened by Y-Pestis, had not been able to expel all of the saltwater he'd inhaled.
His doctors would keep him on oxygen and a strong antibiotic until his lungs started to dry up. He was likely to be in hospital for a week.
Satisfied that both men were out of danger, the rest of the team went home for some well earned rest.
The following morning Ducky walked into Gibbs' hospital room and found him sitting in a chair staring out the window.
"You really shouldn't be up, Jethro," Ducky scolded mildly. "Come on! Back to bed with you."
Grasping Gibbs arm, Ducky supported him back into the bed.
"Needed to stretch my legs, Duck," Gibbs answered. "Have you checked on DiNozzo this morning?"
"I've just this minute come from Anthony's room," Ducky answered.
"He's sleeping again. His lungs have started to respond to the antibiotics. His fever is still a little high but that is quite normal with pneumonia and after a surgical procedure," Ducky explained. "It's early days but his doctors are very pleased with the insertion of the rod in Anthony's clavicle. After some physiotherapy, they expect a full recovery."
Ducky looked at his friend with concern. "But why do I get the feeling that you were not asking me about Anthony's physical condition?"
"I know how he is physically, Duck, I spoke to his doctor this morning," Gibbs said. "Guess I was hoping that you may have had a chance to speak with him?"
"You mean about him leaving NCIS?" Ducky replied.
Gibbs just nodded.
"We had a brief chat before he nodded off. He seems quite determined to leave Jethro," Ducky replied. "Although I didn't press him about his reasons for wanting to go, he still seems rather down to me. Like he's lost his spark. Not at all like the Anthony DiNozzo we've grown to love!"
"He wants to leave because he believes he is not making a difference as an agent." Gibbs said.
"Oh, but that's nonsense! That boy has dedicated his whole career to helping others!" Ducky exclaimed. "Lord knows how many times he has jeopardised his own welfare and safety to prevent an innocent person from being hurt or to keep the unsavoury criminal element off the street. I should know, I've patched him up often enough!"
"You know it and I know it, Duck, but he seems to have forgotten. I've never seen him like this," Gibbs said shaking his head. "I've seen him exhausted, sick, frustrated, pissed off… but I've never seen him as disillusioned as he is now. Not for this long!"
"Then you need to speak to the boy, Jethro," Ducky stressed. "Make him understand what a fine agent he is and the wonderful work he's done as a law enforcement officer and a federal agent. You'll lose him for good if you don't do something."
"I've tried Ducky! You know I'm not one for that sentimental crap!" Gibbs said, his frustration evident. "He's made up his mind! It's like he can't see anything except this damn Burgess fiasco."
"Then if you can't speak with him, Jethro. Do what you do best – show him!"
It was afternoon and Gibbs was dozing in his hospital bed when the door flew open almost tearing it from its hinges.
"Gibbs, you've gotta stop him," Abby sobbed. "He asked me to do him a favour and I said I would. But now I know what it is, wish I'd said no because I don't want to do it! But I can never say no to Tony, Gibbs!"
"Abs, Abs! Slow down," Gibbs said. "What did DiNozzo ask you to do?"
"This!" she said waving a piece of paper in front of him.
"What is it?" he asked.
"It's the name and phone number of his friend Ben Anderson," Abby said. "He works at Georgetown Uni. Tony wants to see him at 10 o'clock tomorrow. He's going to take the job, Gibbs."
Gibbs felt the presence of someone in his room even before he was fully awake. He opened his eyes and made out a familiar silhouette sitting in the bedside chair.
"Little late for you to be out, isn't it Tobias," he said.
The FBI man gave a small shrug, "Couldn't sleep."
"So you came here so I could show you how it's done?" Gibbs quipped.
Fornell's lips quirked in a brief smile but he remained uncharacteristically silent.
"You okay?" Gibbs asked.
"Your people did a good job, Jethro," he said, avoiding the question. "Even without you and DiNozzo, they kept their heads and got the job done."
"That's what I train them to do, Tobias," Gibbs answered, his eyes narrowed as he tried to understand what prompted the late night visit.
"They did you proud," Fornell continued. "They're a good team. They're all a little loopy, but they're a very good team."
"No arguments here!" Gibbs nodded.
"You know they'd all walk through fire for you?" Fornell asked.
"That's called being part of a team, Tobias," Gibbs replied.
"No…it's more than that," Fornell told him. "My people respect me and I know they have my back but I doubt that any one of them would show me the kind of loyalty and commitment that your team does you."
"This about Jeffries, Tobias?" Gibbs asked. "Is he why we're talking about loyalty at 2200?"
Tobias Fornell shrugged again, climbed to his feet and adjusted the sling he wore on his left arm.
"Maybe," he admitted walking towards the door, "but if I had your team, I'd do whatever I could to keep them together."
He gave Gibbs a brief nod and left the room.
Gibbs sat in the darkness of his hospital room, contemplating Fornell's words. He knew he had a good team. The best. He wouldn't swap any one of them and DiNozzo was a huge part of it.
He knew that Tony had so much more to give as an agent. Gibbs had tried to convince him of that but lacked the words to shake him from his despondency. Maybe Ducky was right again. He was a man of actions, not words and it was time he took some action to show DiNozzo once and for all that he was a federal agent and a damn good one. He wouldn't let him go without a fight.
He reached for the phone on the bedside table, dialled a number and waited until a sleepy voice answered.
"McGee, it's me," He said.
"Boss? Is everything okay?" McGee asked, all traces of sleep vanished instantly from his voice.
"I need you to do me a favour," Gibbs told him. "Actually, a few favours."
"Of course," McGee answered. "What can I do?"
"First, come and get me, I'm signing myself out," Gibbs said.
"And second?" McGee asked.
"Bring me some pants. I'm not running around with my damn ass hanging out," He said disconnecting the call.
A nurse fussing with his IV and nasal cannula startled Tony from his sleep early the next morning. She checked his vitals and made some notes on his chart in the darkened room.
"I know it's early, Agent DiNozzo, but you have a visitor," she said.
"I do?" Tony rasped, wondering whom on earth could be here so early and before visiting hours.
She smiled and nodded her head towards the chair by the door. Tony followed her gaze.
"Boss?" he said.
"'Bout time you woke up DiNozzo. It's 0600," he said.
Noting Gibbs' attire Tony grinned.
"McGee dress you, Boss?"
Gibbs rolled his eyes and looked at the sweats and t-shirt he was wearing. Both were blazoned with MIT. "You tell anyone and I'll break your legs."
"It's not me you have to worry about," Tony teased. "Probie would have posted a photo on his Face Book page by now and will probably use it as a screensaver."
After a moments silence, Gibbs spoke.
"You're seeing your friend from Georgetown Uni, this morning?"
"Abby tell you that?" Tony asked.
"Did you ask her not to?"
"It doesn't matter, Boss. It wasn't a secret. I just thought it might be a little easier, that's all," Tony explained.
"So you're taking the job?"
"Yes," Tony said quietly. "My friend Ben's coming by this morning at 10. I'm going to accept the position."
"On the island, you told me that you didn't think your career in law enforcement had made a difference," Gibbs said. "Still feel like that?"
Tony kept his eyes downcast. He struggled to find his voice and could only nod in reply.
Walking to Tony's bedside, Gibbs turned on the lamp and handed Tony a file.
"Promise me you'll read this, Tony. Every word of it! And finish it before 10 this morning," Gibbs said. "Do I have your word?"
"Yes, Boss, but wha…"
"The people listed in that file would argue that you have made a difference. You made a difference in their lives. Some lives you saved, others you saved from serious injury. Some you gave closure so they could move on with their lives." Tony lifted his head slowly to meet Gibbs' gaze.
"Once you've read this list, if you still want to take the job at Georgetown, do it. You need to so what's right for you," Gibbs told him. "But don't ever forget the difference you made in the lives of everyone of these people. That's something to be very proud of."
Tony stared at the closed door for several moments after Gibbs had gone trying to regain his composure. He slowly opened the file and gasped as he realised he was holding a list of cases that he had personally been instrumental in solving. From his days as a rookie in Peoria, through Philadelphia and Baltimore PD's, to some of the most recent cases as a Senior Field Agent with NCIS, the list contained 158 names.
Just as he promised, Tony read every name in the file, some he had forgotten and others he never would. It took him close to two hours to read through all the names.
As he turned to the final page and read the last name, his eyes widened in surprise and his mouth gaped open.
Abby, Ziva, McGee, Ducky and Gibbs all waited anxiously in the hospital lounge. From there, they had a perfect view to Tony's room.
The door had been closed for over an hour, since Tony's friend Ben Anderson had arrived at 10 o'clock.
"Maybe we should knock," Abby said.
"No," Gibbs replied gruffly. "We wait. We'll find out soon enough."
"Do you think he'll really leave, Boss?" McGee asked.
"Don't know McGee. He might."
"Whether Anthony decides to stay or to accept the job, I do hope you will all respect his decision and not make this more difficult than it has to be," Ducky said.
The door opened shortly thereafter and the team walked towards Tony's room.
As they neared the entrance, their hearts dropped as they heard Ben Anderson say.
"So Tony, I'll see you Monday week, then."
"Absolutely, I'll be there bright and early," Tony replied. "Thanks again, man!"
As the team filed past Ducky into Tony's hospital room, Ducky said in a whispered voice.
"Remember what I said. Don't make this harder for Anthony."
While the others gathered close to Tony's bed, Gibbs stood against the back wall, his gut tightened in anxious anticipation. After pleasantries were exchanged with everyone and Ducky asked a few pertinent health questions an awkward silence fell over the room.
"I was thinking about the DVD and pizza nights we used to have." McGee said. "Why don't we start doing that again?"
"That would be nice."
"Sounds good, Probie."
"My word what a good idea!"
"Perhaps we can meet for drinks after work, once a fortnight." Ziva added.
"I'll be in that."
Abby was the first to break. Throwing her arms around Tony's neck and inducing a high-pitched yelp as his tender collarbone was jostled, she sobbed into the crook of his neck.
"I'm gonna miss you so much, Tony. It just won't be the same without you!"
"Abs?" Tony said.
"You're gonna stay in touch, right?" Abby continued. "Just because we won't work together doesn't mean we can't still be friends."
"Maybe you can drop by the office and we could have lunch and you can tell me how all your female students have huge crushes on you and I can tell you whether Sister Rosita beat her high game of 260 and…."
"Abby!" Tony said loudly. "I didn't take the job!"
Gibbs face remained impassive but the expressions on the other faces ranged from surprise to confusion, and joy to bewildered.
"We heard you tell your friend that you'd see him next Monday," McGee said.
"That's right, Probie. Monday night football and the Redskins are playing a home game," Tony replied suppressing a yawn.
"So you are staying, yes? Ziva asked.
"I am staying, yes!" Tony answered.
Ziva and Abby both kissed Tony on the cheek while Ducky and McGee offered a hearty handshake.
Gibbs watched Tony suppress another yawn and cleared the room to let him get some rest. He looked at his senior field agent.
"You sure this is what you want?" he asked.
Tony met his gaze confidently. "I'm positive, Boss."
Gibbs held out his hand and clasped Tony's in a firm shake.
"Welcome back, DiNozzo!" he said.
"Thanks, Boss," Tony answered.
Alone in his hospital room, Tony picked up the file that Gibbs had given him earlier and once again, quickly perused the familiar names. He shook his head in disbelief remembering Gibbs' earlier words,
"Don't you ever forget the difference you made in the lives of everyone of these people. That's something to be very proud of."
Then he turned to the last name on the list. He smiled to himself as he ran his thumb over the name. In a bold lettering and familiar handwriting he read the name again.
LEROY JETHRO GIBBS
A/N Hope you enjoyed it! Thanks for reading! L