Where to start…hmmmm… Well, this is my first story published on , and my first NCIS story ever. The funny thing about it though, I had been hoping to be hit with a NCIS plot bunny and last Saturday night around eleven at night, when I was supposed to be sleeping, I was suddenly hit with this idea. I had been listening to "I'm With You" by Avril Lavigne and something just clicked. Also I had read several of Richefics' stories and they helped too; if you haven't read any of her stories you need to. I spent the last week writing and editing it, then editing it some more, so hopefully it's not too bad.

Disclaimer: I unfortunately own nothing. All music mentioned, and NCIS belong to their respective owners. Any likeness within the story to any real person, place or thing, is coincidental. (I swear I've heard the name the Blue Oyster somewhere, I know I have… weird)

The sun had long since set behind the bridge, and manmade artificial lights cast harsh halos on damp blacktop and churning water far below. Puffs of white mist escaped his mouth to melt into the chilled air around him. He held onto the railing with a white knuckled grip, his coat protecting him from the majority of the rain that was slowly drizzling down. Yet he didn't pay mind to any of this. He had far more heavy things weighing on his mind.

He shifted his feet so most of his weight was against the rail, and he let his head drop. It had been his fault. All of it. He should have stayed with her. He should have disobeyed her order, not Gibb's. She wouldn't be dead or 'burned' to a crisp in a staged fire cover up. Ziva had tried to get him to go with the director but in his split second decision he'd ignored her; and now he was paying the price. They hadn't gotten along at first, but that had changed. She had turned into someone that was even more annoying than Gibbs, but in a good way. Sure he'd screwed up before, never anything this bad though, because now... now blood, her blood was on his hands; and it wasn't ever going to wash off.

He took a deep breath and raised his head to look at the starless sky. Rain that bordered on sleet hit his face and slid down in rivers, numbing his face, hopefully freezing his emotionless mask in place. His growing pit of depression left him lost in the darkness and oh, so alone. Despite the all consuming thoughts of self-blame and the world would be better off without him putting everyone's lives in danger, a small part of him still hoped there was a small ray of saving grace and a hand reaching out for him. He wanted to feel, feel something other than all this pain. Like a small spoiled child he just wanted to go home, have his problems taken care of for him. The adult world didn't work like that, he had caused this and it was his to deal with. The rain echoed off the road and metal pipes, but the sound of footsteps were absent. He was alone, his ray of hope lost beyond the clouds above.

A thoroughly depressed and slightly aggravated Tony DiNozzo roughly pushed himself away from the railing and turned and walked off the bridge. A north wind bit through his damp clothing, causing his body to shiver in response. The roads and sidewalks were empty; hardly anyone went out this late, and no one in this weather. Not that he even knew what time it was; he'd left work with hardly a word and started walking. It could've been hours by now and he'd been smart enough to leave his watch at home. Why did things have to be so confusing? Life and death what were they really? Why did humans strive to be accepted by others? Just why did they have to be social? When the pain of losing someone could tear you down to the ground... He quickly looked around for a street sign, once he'd spotted one his soaked shoes made a slapping sound as he hurriedly made his way to a place he ashamedly knew too well.

The sign was lit in bright blue, green, and pink neon. When he'd first joined NCIS he'd come to the Blue Oyster almost every night, that was until Gibb's had found out. He was lucky he was still alive after that chewing out; now he only came if things were really bad and he was pretty sure things were well past that by now. He nodded to the patrons as he passed. It was a half way modern bar, still striving for that old sailor feel. It attracted more of the older and military crowd, with all the sailor decor. Not something DiNozzo had ever been into, but it was quieter and a nice place to think, or to forget. He walked up to the bar and hopped up on a bar stool.

"Hey Tony, it's been awhile since I've seen you around here" a good natured voice, belonging to a smiling shaved headed man, said.

"Hey Bert how's it going?" DiNozzo asked, lacking enthusiasm.

"It's going pretty good. I heard about the director. I'm sorry man, she was a good woman" Bert replied, sadly.

"Yeah. She was" came the hardened reply.

The bartender looked up, "The usual?"

"Sure" DiNozzo sighed. He needed something to take the edge off.

A foaming, golden yellow beer was placed in front of him, it wouldn't do much but he'd be dead if he drank anything stronger and Gibbs found out. Gibbs wasn't there though and hadn't been, actually he hadn't seen much off his boss since the director's funeral. Not by a lack of trying, it just seemed Gibbs didn't want to be found; and if that was the case, good luck with finding him. He took a swig of the beer, even if his boss wasn't here; he had a suspicion that Bert had his phone number. Especially after the last time he'd gotten drunk, that wasn't pretty either, but at least Gibbs had had his back. Things seemed so much simpler back then, drinking had been for fun, not necessity.

Bert moved further down the bar to get drinks for a couple of other customers, dressed in flashy clubbing attire, and then disappeared for a few minutes before coming back through the swinging oak door that separated the kitchen from the bar.

"You look miserable" he said observing the rain drops falling from the not so spiked hair and running down his neck to the wet knee length black coat.

"Well it is raining outside" DiNozzo quipped as they shared a glance out the window past the reflected neon lights.

"It's late" Bert commented, noting the dark circles under his young charges eyes.

"Really? I left my watch at home" the brunet replied, taking another drink.

"Tony, why aren't you at home sleeping?" Bert asked tired of not getting a straight answer.

"Because I have a lot of thinking to do", he mumbled in response, staring straight ahead, "and I don't have anyone that would miss me anyway."

It was true, he lived alone and he worked such odd hours that his neighbors never really paid much mind if he was home or not. He lived like the Director had, alone, knowing very few outside of work. Was he destined to the same fate? He'd gotten so off track the last week, his internal compass had lost its bearings and he didn't have a clue where north was anymore.

"Why don't you take off your coat and dry off, I can call you a cab later" Bert offered, looking concerned, the ex-army officer had never seen the young man so out of it before. Gibbs had better hurry, or else Tony just might end doing something stupid.

"No that's alright. I was about to leave anyway" DiNozzo said sitting there for a few more minutes. Things really hadn't cleared up much but at least he'd sorted out how screwed up he was. He glanced around at the unfamiliar faces moving around the room..., oh how screwed he was.

"Thanks Bert" DiNozzo said paying the man and standing up.

"Are you sure?" the barkeep asked, catching the agents' eye.

"Yeah, Thanks I got some things sorted out now" DiNozzo assured him. Yeah nothing real helpful though. The director would have probably kicked his ass by now, and told him to get his head on straight. But she wasn't here and he was just as messed up as ever.

With a sigh he pushed open the front door and stepped out into the freezing weather, the colorful neon lights dancing above. He'd die of hypothermia at this rate. He stopped after a few feet, looking at the inky overcast night sky. It and the rain it produced made the world look so dim and hopeless. Was it really? And why was he asking all these questions? Especially one's he didn't have clue how to answer? With his breath once again curling into the air he began his trek back to his lonely, dark apartment. The guilt still had its claws buried deep in him and it wasn't going to let him go anytime soon. His eyes were locked on the sodden concrete side walk, as the thoughts swirled in his head.

A sudden, gruff shout caught his attention, and he snapped his head up, quickly scanning the area for the source. He spotted a group of four rough looking men, with stubbly faces, rank cloths and muscled bodies, surrounding another man that was backed up against the red brick wall behind the bar. It didn't look to good for their prey. His agent instincts kicked in and he slunk closer, cursing himself for not bringing his weapon. Not that it really would've help in this situation, but still it was like a safety blanket.

"Hey buddy, you got any money on you?" a big burly man stepped forward grabbing the other man's collar.

"I have a wallet but I only have a couple of dollars" the smaller man said nervously.

"Are you sure you don't have more?" the man growled tightening his grip and forming a fist with the other.

Twiggy, as he was nicknamed for quick reference, swallowed, "I was going out on an errand for my wife; she's pregnant and gets these weird cravings. It was going to be a quick run I don't have much."

"Here I thought you had a good eye Jackson" Fatso, as he was nicknamed, said over his shoulder.

"Maybe we should rough him up make sure he's tellin' the truth" Jackson replied with a grin.

"Good idea, I was in the mood for a beating" Fatso growled with and even more evil grin.

Tony made a split second decision. He was so totally going to end up like the director. He just hoped that there would be someone to pick up the little, scattered pieces of him.

"Well if you insist" he said stepping into view.

Five pairs of eyes swiveled towards him.

"Who are you?" Fatso hissed.

"Does it really matter?" he asked, cocking his head to one side.

"Leave if you know what's good for ya'" Fatso growled, glaring at him.

"Now you see I can't do that, with you pinning that poor man to wall and everything" Tony said shrugging.

"Do you think you're some kind of Good Samaritan? You have no idea what you're getting yourself into" Fatso warned as two men stepped toward the agent, their eyes sparkling with the prospect of violence.

"No, I think you don't know what you're getting yourself into" Tony confidently said, shifting his weight, preparing for the onslaught.

Then he launched himself at the guy on his left, who was down in a flash with a hard left hook. The second man was taken down by a swift kick to the back of the knees; Tony winced as he heard the crack of skull on pavement. That would hurt in the morning. He paused for a second eyeing the remaining two and their poor choice in patterned shirts, green just wasn't that guys color, Fatso had let go of twiggy who was cowering against the wall with a look of pure fear on his face. He'd better get this over quick, there was no way he could beat all four of them. The best he could do was act as a distraction as long as possible.

Fatso and the other lackey moved toward him, and he backed up a step. This was going to hurt. The lackey seemed to take the lead, rushing him first. He swiftly dodged a punch to the face, then swipe at his feet, only to be hit with a hard kneeing to the gut. The force threw him to the ground effectively knocking the breath out of him. He propped himself up on his elbow, as he gasped for breath, watching his attackers. Fatso had his evil grin again and the first two guys he had taken down were dazedly getting to their feet. Just perfect as if things weren't lopsided enough as is. He looked over to the wall were twiggy was cowering. He meaningfully stared into his eyes then jerked his head, telling the man to leave while the agent had their attention. After a few seconds Twiggy began to move towards the shadows at the end of the alley, where he could get away unseen. Satisfied that Twiggy would get away he slowly got to his feet, stumbling slightly.

"Well that wasn't so bad, but you guys are pretty pathetic to be trying to mug someone in the first place. Don't you know that the bar's full of the though ex-marine types?" Tony scoffed trying to buy time while he decided his next move.

"Of course, we come here every night" Jackson spoke up.

Just great not only were there four of them, they had all been, or were in the military. This was really going to hurt.

"You on the other hand, we've never seen you around here before" Fatso knowingly looked at him.

"Well I don't find the need to come here every night" Tony replied, feeling nervous, though he didn't show it. He'd expected this outcome and he'd put himself in it, but that didn't mean he couldn't dread what was coming. He backed up a step, preparing.

"Now don't act like that pretty boy. I did warn you" Fatso grinned and stepped toward him, his buddies moving alongside.

This was really, really going to hurt... He had to be out of his mind.

Tony charged them feigning to the left hoping to make it a little closer to the road where the odds of someone spotting him, or his body, were a little better. He lashed out trying to make an opening and spotting one he took it, but there were too many. His arm was grabbed and roughly twisted around; he had no choice but to follow, right into bruising grip. Another pair of hands soon followed and he found his arms pinned behind him; and no matter how much he struggled he couldn't get loose. Things had gone from bad to worse, he couldn't fight back now. Why couldn't he have ignored his self loathing and stayed home? Then again a wife would have been left to raise a child alone, and he wouldn't wish that on anyone. It was better him than Twiggy. Is this how the director felt? Knowing she wouldn't get out alive. He glared at the men, daring them to make the first move.

The first hit was another to the gut, and the brunet grunted in pain. A punch in the face jerked him loose from the grips on his arms and he hit the ground hard then was harshly pulled to his feet, before a fist struck his face again. The force caused him to spin and fall, and his forehead made contact with the brick. Now dazed he slid down slightly, hands clawing at the wall trying to find a grip to keep him upright. The blows stopped for a moment, allowing him to get his bearings. He was against the wall, with four burly between him and a getaway. He turned around and wiped the blood off the side of his mouth and fingered the cut on his forehead, starring down the chuckling pigs. He'd hopped Twiggy would go for help, but it didn't look like it. Someone would've saved his butt by now.

The first man he'd taken down suddenly swung his leg out and caught the agent in the chest and Tony swore he heard and felt something give and pain flared. He was thrown to the ground, with the four towering over him. The man kicked him in his already abused abdomen, and he wasn't successful in stifling a small cry of pain. The others joined in and after a few more sharp kicks to his body he finally saw an opening. The agent launched himself to his feet surprising them and with a quick prayer of forgiveness he went after the first man's groin. A swift kick then a hard punch to the jaw made sure the he was going to stay down this time.

Tony stood breathing hard; the harsh lights reflecting off of the wet pavement weren't helping his splitting headache, and were making it hard to concentrate. At least he wasn't cold anymore and the rain seemed to have stopped for the time being.

He was allowed another breath before he was on his back in a pile of black, torn trash bags. He slowly reached over and picked an old banana peel off of his shoulder, before switching his attention back to his attackers. Fatso didn't look to happy... A fist grabbed his shirt collar and his bright, green eyes stared into cold, black ones.

"You're going to pay for that" Fatso growled, shaking the agent slightly to emphasize his point.

Tony steeled himself for the worst. Yet it never came and for a second time he found himself on the garbage. He heard some scuffling and saw someone that looked familiar wearing a gray shirt over black long sleeves, knocking Fatso's lights out. The others, startled by a new arrival, paused a second before rushing to their fallen leaders help. The senior field agent growled; he wasn't going to let it be three against one. Stepping out of the trash he lunged forward and grabbed an arm. Using their own momentum against them, he swung him around straight into a fist. Two down, two to go, though the mystery person seemed to be holding his own. Hell, he seemed to be kicking their asses, and they sure looked familiar, very familiar...

While he was distracted a bottle saw its chance and escaped from a trash bag and found itself rolling, right under Tony's shoe. His balance titled for a second before he found his ass on the ground. A shout from the end of the ally caused him to glance sharply to the left. Recognizing the figure immediately as one enraged bar keep, the lights outside the alley reflecting off of Bert's bald head. Fatso threw the gray shirted person to the side before he, and two out of his three lackeys, ran off into the shadows. The man he'd kicked in the groin was still out cold. Bert still wearing his green apron ran after them, shouting profanities and calling them cowards the entire time. Tony grinned slightly, he sure had a military man's mouth. Sighing, he brought his knees up to his chest, relieving the pain throbbing through it, and propped an elbow before resting his aching head in a hand.

"What was I thinking?" he mumbled to himself.

"My sentiments exactly" a new voice said as the scent of sawdust waifed over him, and a hand forced his head up to look into sharp blue eyes that were full of anger and concern.

"Boss!" Tony remarked, surprised.

Gibbs didn't reply, instead he moved his agent's head from side to side, observing any damage. Satisfied he dropped his hand and glared into the wary green eyes. Tony steeled himself for the chewing out that would be worse than anything Fatso could have dished out.

"What were you thinking DiNozzo?! Taking on four men? Do you have a death wish?" Gibbs snapped, as the brunet lowered his eyes.

"Are you drunk?" Gibbs asked incredulously, he thought DiNozzo would know better.

Tony didn't reply, still hung up on the one word Gibbs had said. Had really wanted to die? As agents they put their lives on the line every day. They'd been trained to protect the innocent, but he'd rushed in without any real fore thought. It was pure instinct to protect the lives of others, to prevent the pain of someone else. Is that why the director had made them leave? Still, it had been his job to protect her and he would've willingly given his life for hers. So why had he left? They were so similar, both alone in the world, no family that cared if they lived or died. He should have stayed.

Voices buzzed above his head, pulling him from another cycle of self loathing.

"Hey, the men got away, ran down some back alley then split up. He's not drunk by the way, he didn't even drink half his beer" Bert offered, walking up breathing heavily and seeming to have caught the last question.

"Excuse me" a timid voice asked and the three men in the alley turned to look at a thin man dressed in a blue rain coat and damp jeans. Tony instantly recognized Twiggy.

"Um, my name is William Trent and I just wanted to thank you for what you did. If you hadn't come along I don't know what sort of horrible things those guys would have done to me" Twiggy said appreciatively offering a smile.

"Don't worry about it. I'm glad you're Okay" Tony replied with a smile of his own.

Gibbs glanced from his agent to the man and back. Tony wouldn't just rush into a fight unless he had a reason, whether he was drunk or not. He had a feeling this man had something to do with it... He'd probably been in trouble and the brunet had come to his rescue. The ex-marine shook his head; he really needed to teach his agents to pick their fights a little more carefully.

A shrill ringing broke the silence and William reached into his pocket he pulled out a cell phone. Glancing at the caller I.D., he smiled and looked up at Tony with renewed gratitude.

"It's my wife, I'd better take it. Thank you" he said before flipping the phone open and walking out of the dank alleyway. Those last two words were filled with so many emotions and hung in the air.

Gibbs gave Tony a pointed look that said 'I want the complete story later' and stood up. Tony followed masking a grimace as the movement disturbed his numerous aches and pains. He stood and took a step but the stab of pain that tore through his chest doubled him over and he stumbled only to be caught by Gibbs. This was certainly an embarrassing moment, considering his face was against the silver haired man's chest and the fact that one of his flailing hands had landed somewhere it shouldn't have.

"Sorry about that boss" Tony said, apologetically.

"Come on" the older man said shifting so he was taking some of the injured man's weight; before leading him towards a parked black car he hadn't seen before.

Gibbs seemed exasperated, and looked as though he'd been ready for bed, dressed in a comfortable gray shirt with NCIS emblazed on the front and a black under shirt underneath, and dark gray sweats. It also seemed he had been right about Bert having his boss's phone number. Shame lowered his head, he'd dragged Gibbs out of bed, at some ungodly hour he was sure, to come and save his sorry ass.

"Are you sure?" he heard Bert ask, once he actually started to pay attention to the world around him again.

"I got him" Gibbs assured him, "Thanks for calling."

Jeez it sounded like a conversation that a father would have with a neighbor after his son broke a window or something. Of course after all the years they'd worked together Gibbs was like a father to him.

"Not a problem. Take good care of him" and with that Bert disappeared inside, leaving Tony to deal with his Boss's wrath.

The rest of the walk to the car was made in silence. Gibbs seeming to be thinking, and Tony to afraid to say anything. The car door was opened and he was gently lowered in. Gibbs leaned across him to fasten his seatbelt.

"Boss I can-" he began but was cut off by a glare from Gibbs, and just sat back quietly and the belt was clicked into place and the door shut.

He was totally dreading the reaming he was going to get for this one. He seemed to screw up constantly; and he didn't understand why Gibbs even put up with him in the first place. Especially after that screw up, he didn't blame the old marine for not having a thing to do with him the last couple of weeks. He heard the driver's side door open and shut followed by a click of a seat belt and the start of the engine. He kept his gaze straight ahead, or at least tried to. The blurring lights and scenery were making his headache worse; Gibbs had never been a slow driver. He kept his gaze level with the stationary dashboard as he broke the silence.

"So where are we going?"

"Where do you think?" came the curt reply.

He ducked his head slightly at the harsh words, though they were deserved. He didn't dare say anything until Gibbs had calmed down somewhat. He'd learned that a long time ago, and the hard way, but that was a story for another time.

With nothing to distract him, pain lanced up and down his body. His head was killing him and it was entirely possible that he at least had a mild concussion. His ribs hurt with every breath and he'd be surprised if none of them were broken. Various bruises burned all over his body; all in all he was now mentally and physically miserable. All he needed was a cold top it off, and as if answering his sarcasm he began coughing, sending pain spiking through his chest and abdomen. He hunched over willing the pain to subside as he caught his breath, missing the look of concern thrown his way and the increase in speed of the vehicle. He straightened up, taking purposeful shallow breaths, could things get any-. No, he refused to think like that. Every time anyone said that on the many movies he'd watched it always, always had gotten worse; and things were bad enough without some stray bolt of lightning frying them both.

The car swiftly turned in and came to a smooth stop in the hospital parking lot. Gibbs climbed out and quickly came around the car. Tony already had his seat belt off and the door open and he was given a disapproving glare.

"I'm not that mangled" Tony muttered, swinging his legs out and standing up.

The two stood there eying each other for a moment, before Tony took a defiant step around his superior and began walking towards the tall, seven story building. He heard a car door slam but no footsteps following and just as suddenly as it had left the cold came back tugging him down. Why did he always have to screw things up and make it worse? The guilt seemed to be weighing on his shoulders again and he stumbled under its massive weight. He felt him slip in next to him slinging an arm over his shoulder to help him walk. It was a little rough and he winced as pain throbbed in his chest. The arms loosened, and he heard a growl, whether it was directed at him or not, he didn't know. The warmth didn't return. As they neared the doors, the shadows were chased back further and further until they were enveloped in light.

The receptionist looked up as the two approached.

"Jeez Tony it's been awhile since I've seen you around here and I was kind of hoping it would stay that way" she said with a smile.

"Hey Sammy, me too" he replied, softly.

"How bad is it?" she asked Gibbs, knowing she wouldn't get a straight answer from Tony.

"Possible broken ribs and a concussion among other things" came the short reply.

The brunet winced at the tone, and firmly kept his eyes on anything but Gibbs.

"Well Dr. Sherman should available momentarily. It's been a slow night. I'll go check for you" Sammy said looking over her shoulder, before disappearing down a hallway.

Gibbs steered the injured young man to a row of chairs stationed against the wall, and gently sat him down.

"Boss, I-" Tony began, the guilt eating him up, but was cut off.

"Not now. After we get you checked out" Gibbs replied using a softer tone.

Gibbs looked, really looked at his agent. He could see the split and swollen lip, the cut on Tony's forehead, and the various bruises, but that wasn't all. He could see the dark circles under downcast green eyes, the pale complexion and the slight tinge of fever. What had happened? He knew where the physical injuries had come from, but you didn't get heavy bags under your eyes with just one sleepless night. Nor would a normal Tony be out this late in this weather, or be this quiet. And he was sure that he wasn't helping. He'd noticed how the brunets' eyes had carefully avoided his.

Gibbs had gotten the call from Bert while he'd been working on the boat. He'd said that Tony didn't look all that great or in any condition to walk home. Gibbs had told him he would be right there. He grabbed a pair of shoes and was speeding his way towards the Blue Oyster, bent on tearing DiNozzo a new one. Once he'd gotten there, he was walking towards the bar when he saw that thug holding an injured and bleeding Tony. After the fight he'd been angry, to put it mildly. He would've figured that his senior field agent would be smart enough to learn from what happened last time he got drunk. It had been four against one for Christ's sake! Once the man had walked up and thanked Tony things became a little clearer, but he was still furious at his agent for rushing in without any back up or letting anyone know. They could've been investigating his murder the next morning. He really wasn't mad at Tony though, he supposed. He was more upset with the fact that those men had gotten away and that they even dared to attack one of his agents. Gibbs knew he'd let this anger leak out and Tony had taken it as anger toward him. He was behaving like a child that knew the belt was coming. He hadn't meant to be so rough with him. It took reminding him sometimes, to realize that even his second in command needed a helping hand once in awhile.

"Tony?" Sammy said breaking the reverie, "Dr. Sherman is ready for you."

Hesitantly green met blue and Gibbs reached down to help him up. They followed the nurse down the hall and into one of the rooms. Tony was lowered onto the bed and curtains were drawn around it.

"I need a way to contact his next of kin" Sammy told Gibbs.

"I am his next of kin" Gibbs replied.

"Okay I'll go get the paperwork for insurance and what not. Dr. Sherman will be here shortly" Sammy said before leaving.

The room lapsed into heavy silence, which was broken by a medium sized man in a white lab coat, with graying hair.

"Hello Mr. DiNozzo. I heard you got yourself into a fight, and a bad one from the looks of it" Dr. Sherman said walking into the room.

Sammy came in behind him with clip board and pen and handed them to Gibbs.

"Here you go, every thing's straight forward and labeled" she said with a smile.

"Is there any way we can document the injuries?" Gibbs asked and Tony gave him a sharp look that was ignored. He felt kind of sorry for the four men. If the fuming blue eyes were any indication, once Gibbs was done with them they wouldn't be getting out of jail anytime soon. Let alone if they even made it to jail in the first place.

Dr. Sherman looked at him for a moment before nodding.

"Sammy would you go get one of the disposable cameras from the nurses' station?" he asked her.

She nodded before quickly leaving.

"Now Mr. DiNozzo let's see how bad it is" the older man said fishing a pen light from the pocket of his lab coat.

"The pupils are reacting normally, which is good. There's no severe head trauma. Can you still move your jaw?" he asked inspecting the darkening bruise on the left side of Tony's face.

"Yeah, but it hurts to move it" he admitted.

Gibbs glanced up from the paperwork, so that could be part of the reason he'd been so quiet.

"That's understandable and it'll probably be like for the next week or so. The jaw isn't dislocated, and there are no other visible injuries except the cut on your forehead" the doctor continued.

Tony hissed as it was poked and prodded.

"Not to deep, a couple of butterfly clips and it'll be good as new" Sherman finished.

Sammy came back into the room with a camera and a few other dressings and cleaning supplies.

"Ah, thank you would you begin with the cut?"

She stepped forward and took a couple of quick snapshots and DiNozzo couldn't resist making a few funny faces. Gibbs shook his head; at least Tony was acting a little bit like usual.

"I heard you also might have some damaged ribs, could you remove your coast and shirt, please?" the doctor asked.

Tony slowly reached up and began undoing the buttons of his coat aware that there were three pairs of eyes watching his every move. He winced a little as he shrugged it off, revealing a whit long sleeve dress shirt. He'd went to his locker and switched his suit top for a coat and hadn't bothered changing his shirt. He began unhooking the buttons more and more nervous with every bit of skin that was revealed. Once he was finished, his marred skin was bared to everyone. Several smaller bruises surrounded an ugly large bruise that was slightly off center of his belly button. Darkening bruises covered the majority of the left side of his chest, his right side got off with only a few less. As he slid the shirt completely off, bruises resembling small dots were centered on his biceps and his wrist, as well as a smaller bruise on his right elbow.

Tony glanced over at his boss as he heard a growl. He nearly cringed back from the undisguised fury he saw in the ice blue eyes. He could see the pity in Sammy and the doctor's eyes as photos were taken and the examination began again. DR. Sherman began with the chest pressing against the damaged ribs to see if they would give. When he reached the left side about mid away where the darkest bruising was forming, he felt something move and Tony couldn't bite back a yelp. The doctor continued on but nothing else moved. The exploration came up with a few grimaces and after that he worked his way down the shoulders to the fingers. Once the physical examination was finished and his vitals taken, he was whisked off to x-ray, then whisked right back.

"Well Mr. DiNozzo I say you're fairly lucky. You don't have a concussion, but you do have two cracked ribs and almost all of the rest are bruised. Fortunately they're painful but not life threatening. Your abdomen is also heavily bruised but it looks like the worst of it is a contused kidney. You'll be sore for awhile, but you'll survive. However I do want you to take it easy for the next two days at least, and no strenuous activity for the next week or two, you're showing signs of a slight fever. I'll prescribe some pain medication as well. We have our own pharmacy so you can pick it up on the way out. Just let me tape up those ribs and clean the cut and you can go" Dr. Sherman said giving his verdict.

Tony sighed in relief, things could've been worse, far worse. Sammy dipped a gauze pad in some peroxide and dabbed his forehead. He winced slightly at the sting, but didn't do much until she went to his lips.

"Ah, that smarts" he ground out.

"Sorry" she said apologetically, wincing in sympathy.

His ribs were quickly wrapped and grubby and stained clothes were put back on. Dr. Sherman gave his goodbye and good luck and Sammy showed them where the pharmacy was before saying goodbye as well. Gibbs let Tony walk on his own down but was never more than a step behind him. The walk to the car was quiet thanks in part to the two pain pills Gibbs made sure the agent swallowed. If the senior agents calculations were correct they could make it home before the younger agent zonked out, which left plenty of time for answers. He stood by the car door until Tony was situated, before opening his and getting in. The silence easily found its way back in between the agents. They had gone through two red lights and were pulling up to the third when Gibbs broke the silence.

"Want to tell me what's going on?" he asked looking over at the brunet.

"Gee, I don't know boss maybe the computer has something against you. You know with all the gadgets you seem to... That's not what you wanted to know" Tony stated, catching the evil eye that was sent his way.

"What happened with those men?" Gibbs asked his tone expecting an answer.

"I went in to get a drink, but didn't feel like staying long. I paid and left, but as I was walking by the alley I heard something and went to investigate. Those four guys had Will pinned against the wall and asking him for money, which he didn't have. I could tell things were going south quick, so I stepped in. I mean he was out on an errand for his pregnant wife, at least I stood a better chance of survival" Tony shrugged, looking up to meet and hold Gibbs's gaze.

"You did realize that it was four on one" Gibbs pointed out.

"Of course" Tony replied, his gaze still rock steady.

Sat like that for a moment until Tony spoke up, "Uh, boss the light's green."

Gibbs brought his eyes back around to the road and hit the gas and it was silent for a few more red lights.

"Why were you out there?" He finally asked.

Tony grimaced he'd known this question was going to come up eventually.

"Uh, I enjoy cold weather" he offered.

"Cut the crap DiNozzo" came growled voice, but was there a hint of humor there?

"I needed some time to think, away from the bullpen and my apartment, plus I haven't had a chance to clean it in awhile" he admitted before a sudden thought occurred to him; and he blamed the pain meds making his brain fuzzy for not realizing it sooner.

"Um Boss, the turnoff to my apartment was awhile back" Tony said casting a look at Gibbs.

"I never said we were going to your apartment" Gibbs told him taking a left onto another street, eyes firmly locked on the road.

"True, but you never said where we were going" Tony pointed out.

Gibbs didn't reply, but instead left Tony to come to his own conclusion as he pulled into a drive way.

"Oh" he said, finally getting it.

"Yeah oh" Gibbs growled, putting the car in park and shutting it off, "Now you want to tell me why you were really out there?"

"I didn't mean to get you out of bed boss" Tony said as a last ditch effort.

"DiNozzo" Gibbs warned.

Tony dropped his head, the pain and guilt flaring again. Gibbs had told him before it wasn't his fault but could he really believe it? After all Gibbs was like a father to him, but what happened after the directors death reminded him of someone else. His biological father. After his mother died, his father had abandoned him leaving him for the world to devour, and blamed for his mother's death. He'd held on though and forged his own life, and he was sure it was better than anything his biological father could have come up with. Yet, after the funeral, he hardly saw Gibbs anywhere and he felt as if he'd been abandoned his 'dad'. It was just this time when he left, Tony had been left at the mercy of his own mind; and it had taken a hold of him and ran. He knew that Gibbs had had things to take care of, and he'd been busy after the death. Still it was too similar to that time, and he couldn't help but feel Gibbs blamed him for losing her. Whether Gibbs really did feel that way or not didn't matter, he felt guilty none the less.

"DiNozzo?" the quiet voice asked. Gibbs was startled by his insubordinates' silence; it was too out of character.

"I should have stayed with her" came the practically whispered reply.

Gibbs sat back heavily in his seat, of all the things that could possibly be plaguing the mind of his young agent... He'd known, but hoped that it wasn't Jenny's death that had been robbing Tony of his health and sense of mind. He thought that he'd been there enough, assured Tony that it wasn't his fault, that there was no way he could have stopped her, but apparently it hadn't been enough. He knew Tony was insecure about others, why else would he flirt constantly with women, or always tease his team mates. He needed to know that someone was there, someone had his back. It was all thanks to that no good father of his. He had thrown his son away and it had been up to Gibbs to put Tony back together again. He was like the son he'd never had, and he'd felt that Tony could handle himself when he had left to take care of some things. Now Gibbs felt guilty, he should have known better, with Tony's past and with him leaving, the young agent would have blamed everything on himself.

He reached out a hand and gently turned the brunets' head toward him, taking in the damage and the dull green eyes that refused to look him in the eye.

"Look at me" he ordered, Tony looked anywhere but at him.

"Look at me" he ordered, louder.

Tony nervously raised his eyes.

Satisfied Gibbs continued, "It wasn't your fault."

Tony seemed to scoff and looked away.

"Listen" he growled tightening his grip on the agent's chin, still careful of the dark bruise, "Are you listening to me?"

"It. Wasn't. Your. Fault." he said in a steeled tone as they locked eyes again.


"No one could stop her once she had her mind made up" Gibbs said with a sigh, proving his point.

He searched the younger man's eyes for any doubt, and after a few minutes the troubled green eyes seemed to clear and a small smile tugged at the corner of Tony's mouth.

"Am I clear, Agent DiNozzo?" Gibbs asked using that tone.

"Crystal boss" Tony answered with a crooked smile. Staring into those unwavering eyes, he had no choice but to trust him. Warmth drove away the chill that had settled in his chest. He still regretted leaving the director, and he was sure her death would haunt him for awhile yet, but he still had Gibbs to kick him into shape.

"Good because I don't want to have this conversation again"

The old marine let his chin go, and leaned back in the seat. He was surprised a moment later when he felt a weight settle on his chest and arms wrap around his shoulders.

He heard a muffled "Thank you" and looked down to see a mop of brown hair.

"It may sound a little bad but I'm kinda glad I woke you up. I really needed a kick in the ass to get my head on straight" Tony continued.

A crooked smile found its way onto ex-marines face, his agent always had a weird way to say things. Though, not really being a touchy feely kind of guy, this was a little awkward and he cleared his throat. Taking a hint the younger agent quickly let go.

"Uh, sorry about that boss" he said embarrassedly, a blush turning the tips of his ears pink.

"Come on, let's get inside. You need to get some rest" Gibbs told him, ruffling his hair, before taking the keys out of the ignition.

With a click, both doors opened and both agents got out, one a little quicker than the other. Tony shut his door and took a few steps trying to work the stiffness out of his joints. The pain was down to a manageable dull throb but his sudden drowsiness, from the pain meds he was sure, coupled with the dark made it difficult to see the dips and bumps in the concrete. It was just a matter of time before he stumbled, but Gibbs was right there to catch him. A steady hand on his elbow guided him towards the white door, which was swiftly unlocked.

"By the way I wasn't in bed, so don't worry about it" Gibbs told him as they paused to pull off their shoes.

"Oh so you dress like this all the time when you're home? Making sure you're ready for a little action if it comes along?" Tony joked as he was led further in.

Gibbs stopped and turned, his face conveying the whole 'think before you speak, please' look.

"Sorry that was out of line" Tony backpedaled.

"Damn straight. Who do you take me for? You DiNozzo?" and with that Gibbs continued on.

"Ouch boss, that really hurt" the brunet replied, feigning pain.

The lights were flicked on and Tony winced as the bright light stabbed into his eyes.

"Sorry" he heard Gibbs say from the next room.

"Sure you are" he muttered, wiping a hand over his eyes.

"The spare bed up stairs is made up" Gibbs told him stepping out from the living room nodding towards the stairs.

"In the same place?" the young agent asked, he had stayed at Gibbs's place before. Once when his apartment was being fumigated and no one else could take him in. It'd been his last resort, he had been afraid the though ex-marine would've looked at him funny and told him to go book a hotel room. Gibbs hadn't and Tony didn't even bother checking with the others any more. It was like a sleepover he'd never been to as a kid, and if he got real lucky he could get Gibbs to sit and watch a movie. Usually, though, he sat on the basement steps and watched the gray haired man work on his boat while they sipped beer, ate pizza and chatted about one thing or another. He looked over and received a nod in response.

"Thanks boss" Tony said taking a step then pausing, "Um, where exactly is it, again?"

It had been awhile since he'd spent the night.

Gibbs chuckled and shook his head before leading the way upstairs.

"By the way do you have a change of clothes? These are kind of rank. I was dumped in garbage... twice" Tony said, tugging at his shirt.

"So that's what I was smelling" Gibbs grinned.

"Boss" Tony whined as they disappeared up the stairs, "What time is it anyway?"

Ten minutes later Tony was changed and asleep, the pain pills taking over and lulling his tired body to sleep. Gibbs watched him slumber, observed the now relaxed and worry free features. He turned and slowly shut the door, throwing one last look over his shoulder. There would be plenty more bumps in the road, but he believed that they were on a better standing now. After all unlike Mr. DiNozzo he'd come back for his 'son'.

Early the next morning he was startled from sleep by a knock on the door. Getting up from the couch he didn't even remember falling asleep on, he made his way to the door. Opening it he immediately recognized a nervous looking William Trent.

"I'm sorry for disturbing you, especially after what must have been a long night; but I won't have another chance to stop by for a couple of days." he began and received a hurry and get to the point look from Gibbs.

"I'm a columnist for the Washington Gazette; and I wanted to deliver a copy of my latest article that will appear in tomorrow's edition" Will said handing a typed page to the NCIS agent.

"And I was wondering if you could give this to Agent DiNozzo for us, my wife and I were thinking about naming our baby after him. It's supposed to be a boy" William explained, handing an envelope to Gibbs.

"How did you know...?" he asked and William chuckled.

"I have connections and your buddy at the bar told me where you live" Will grinned.

Gibbs shook his head, he was going to have to have a conversation with that old bar buddy of his about giving out his personal information.

"I'm sure he'd be quite honored" the older man said, answering the unstated question.

William smiled, "Thank you, he's due in about another month. Expect a call sometime around then."

He offered a hand and after a quick handshake, the thin journalist turned and began walking down the steps.

He paused at the bottom and looked over his shoulder, "Keep taking good care of him Agent Gibbs." And with that he continued down the walk, got into his car and drove off.

Gibbs watched him until the tail lights disappeared around the corner. He stepped back inside and quietly closed the door. He stared at the envelope in his hands as he mounted the steps. Opening the door to the spare room he stepped inside, sock covered feet muffling his footsteps. He placed the envelope on the night stand next to the bed so it would be one of the first things Tony would see when he woke up later. He gently ran a hand through his agents sleep mussed hair. The brunet sighed and leaned into the gentle touch. The ex-marine allowed himself a small smile before he turned and left, softly closing the door behind him. He stepped across the hall into the master bedroom that had hardly been used the last couple of weeks, climbed under covers, and let himself fall into a deep sleep.

Thank you for taking time to read this. I had fun writing it and hopefully you had fun reading it. Please don't forget to review, constructive criticism is welcome. Flames will be used to make S'Mores.

Also tell me if you think I should do a sequel or epilogue or something I've been thinking about it…