By: Mahiri Chuma
Disclaimer I don't own anything NCIS related – though I really wish I did, and *if* I did, oh the whumpage there would be!
A/N: Hello there! I am terribly sorry for the wait, I started the chapter a LONG time ago and then my father got in a car accident and I had to go home and help take care of him for a while – I left school and work and the like but now I am finally back on track and writing. Again, I apologize for the wait and hope you enjoy the chapter all the same
- Rookie Mistakes -
Chapter Six: Banana Popsicles and Italian Ice
"Well, Brad was gracious enough to meet me here for a consultation and well … it's about Anthony."
If Gibbs were one for theatrics he would have thrown his hands in the air in a fit of exasperation. Of course it was about Anthony, when had he ever been standing in a hospital facing a situation that wasn't about the younger agent?
"What is it Duck?" Gibbs could only assume that if Brad was involved than this was about Tony's lungs. Brad and Tony's lungs were an association that had been ingrained in his mind like an ugly scar. "His lungs?"
Ducky shook his head and Gibbs furrowed his brow in confusion.
"No, well, I sure hope there are no further complications – the poor lad has enough to deal with. Bradley has not yet had the opportunity to look at our dear Anthony …"
"Then what's going on, Duck?" Gibbs spat, frustrated with the elderly ME's long-winded and unrevealing explanation.
"A moment, Jethro. Bradley was going to perform an examination, but unfortunately, well, I am afraid Anthony is running a bit of a fever and well, he is experiencing a bout of delirium …"
"A fever? I thought he was hypothermic?"
"He was, but given the stress and shock of the procedure the fluctuation is not abnormal …_"
Gibbs frowned slightly.
"Have they given him anything?" He had seen delirium before. As a marine he had been forced to watch men caught between reality and nightmare – always nightmare – as they struggled to fight off the hunger of death. He would never wish this state on the younger agent.
"We would sedate him but given his respiratory history and the pneumothorax we are somewhat hesitant to do that, at least for the next 24 hours."
"Thanks, Duck." Gibbs turned away from the man, heading for the stairs, "you know where to find me, keep me updated on McGee."
Ducky watched as Gibbs hurried down the hall and sighed.
Gibbs had arrived just in time.
Two nurses were trying desperately to calm their patient while they began strapping restraints to his bed. The heart monitor raced as he struggled, his eyes wide with fear. He could see the sheen of sweat on the other man's temples and could tell he was running a fever. Tony plus a fever plus the painkillers they had given really was the winning combination for a delirium driven nightmare.
"You don't understand!" Tony protested loudly in a hoarse voice – the nurses shushed him, desperate to keep him from pulling on his chest tube. He was barely strong enough to lift his head but he continued to put up a meager fight. "I need – I need to help him."
"Can we get the PRN Morphine in here?" The nurse attempted to slap one of the restraints onto the struggling patients wrists. A small rivulet of blood leaked from the incision on his chest into the sheets.
"He doesn't do well with morphine." Gibbs offered as he approached the bedside. The nurses looked up, relieved that someone might be able to calm their patient.
"He's spiked a small fever, this just started ten minutes ago - his orders say no Fentanyl for at least 24 hours." The nurse explained, eyeing the older Agent as he too a seat.
"Tony." The younger men tossed his head back in forth, murmuring to himself, his eyes fluttering open and closed. "DiNozzo."
"We-we hafta' go back." He coughed pathetically. Gibbs put a gentle hand on the man's shoulder, opting for a different tactic. He felt a small thrill of satisfaction as he stilled under his touch.
"Go back where?" The nurses watched their patient cease his feeble thrashing under the other man's care and nearly sighed in relief. Using restraints was a last resort; they really didn't want to have to subject their already confused patient to confinement.
He gave them a small nod, assuring them he had the situation under control. They eyed him nervously before checking the IV drip and heart monitor; satisfied they quietly exited the room.
Gibbs watched Tony's pale face as he fought an internal battle.
"Tony, go back where?" Tony looked up at Gibbs weakly, his eyes glossy with fever and confusion.
"Boss, we have to," he slurred, looking as though he had forgotten. His eyes widened once more, "McGee! McGee, Boss – I-I left 'em."
"Tony, look at me." Tony looked at him for a moment before looking away. He tried to push himself up.
"Tony, stop. McGee is fine." Tony looked as though he were going to panic as he tried to fight the hand against his chest.
"Boss, yo-you don't understand." Gibbs pushed him down lightly, feeling the heat radiating off him. "I left him – I let the door close, I let it close and I left, I le-."
His words trailed off as a weak cough wracked his body.
"DiNozzo, you did not leave him. McGee is safe. He's here." Tony shook his head weak weakly, his voice painfully hoarse.
"No, no I-I, Boss, I really, really … I think I messed up." In his fevered and drug-induced state, Gibbs could see the confession really hitting home. Gibbs couldn't – didn't – blame Tony for this mess and he knew in this state it would be hard to comfort him. He took things hard enough when he was healthy.
"No, Tony," Gibbs said with forced calm as Tony tried to sit up; he didn't know much about chest tubes but the younger man looked about a bottle cap away from tearing the thing straight out and that made him uncharacteristically nervous, "You didn't do anything wrong. You didn't mess up."
Tony continued to fight weakly against Gibbs outstretched arm, a fine sheen glossing his features as his brow furrowed in confusion.
"No, I-I saw him. He's dying, Boss, I think he –" Gibbs watched the man's face twist in pain as a trail of wetness ran from his eyes to the stark white pillow, "I should have checked myself –"
This wasn't going to work.
"Tony," Gibbs said in a low voice, one that he had once reserved only for Kelly. When Tony had been so terribly sick with the plague he had found that his aimless talking had comforted the man most, "Do you trust me?"
He watched as the man nodded, his expression pinched and tight, before shaking his head, no.
"Yeah, I trust you, Boss, but you-you can't trust me, no, you-I…"
"Tony, shut up and listen to me." The younger man, despite his delirium-induced confusion, had been shocked into silence.
"Two years ago I was working a case," He paused for a moment, listening to the rhythmic beeping of the heart monitor, "I thought I knew what was best and I decided to go it alone."
"I let it get too personal and it took a woman drowning for me to realize it." Maddie's face was still so clear in his mind, the way her features grew slack as she succumbed to the lack of oxygen. Around then his memory grew hazy – he could remember seeing Tony and watching his figure blur as he swam up towards the bright, shifting surface and then, waking up on a pier.
Ducky had finally filled him in on the events of that day two weeks later all whilst he entertained his silent guilt as his Agent did his best to hide the coughing and sneezing,
He knew Tony had saved them both, himself and Maddie, and when Ducky had come to him, urging him to get over his 'ridiculous emotional constipation' and discuss the case with the younger man, he froze. Ducky went on to increase the guilt by explaining that he had not only hurt the younger man by making him think he didn't trust him or want him on his six, but he had also failed to thank him properly.
He owed it to Tony and now he regretted that it took fevered delirium to finally pull it out of him.
"You had my six that day, Tony. If it hadn't been for you, we would both be dead." He moved a hand to the younger Agent's shoulder, glad, in a strange way to feel the warmth radiating from him – it was better than that terrible cold he had felt before.
Tony was looking at him intently, his eyes glossy but more focused than they had been previously. His breaths were still terribly ragged and Gibbs was sure Tony was about to sweat through his gown. Gibbs felt an uncomfortable ache in the pit of his stomach, something that rarely, if ever happened. His gaze fell briefly and suddenly his throat felt tight and gravelly. He looked up once more.
"Tony, there is no one I trust more than you."
He knew that Ducky would approve. In his book, that was better than any thank-you he could ever grin and bear.
As Tony's expression grew more relaxed, Gibbs wondered if the younger man would remember this. The fear in his eyes had gone for the time being and he hoped, not completely unselfishly, that he would in fact be able to recall his words for he had meant them.
"B'ss…" Tony's voice came so quietly Gibbs nearly missed it.
"Get some sleep, DiNozzo." He said in a low voice. "I've got your six."
Finally, he slept.
Ziva cleared her throat in slight annoyance as Agent Plaut crossed in front of her just as her camera shutter snapped close – by now she had three photos of the man whose greatest skill seemed to be impeding her ability to collect evidence.
The man finally moved out of frame and she continued her work.
The small room before her, hidden behind an unassuming rack, was filled to it's five foot ceiling with weaponry of all genres – they had been stacked and sorted according to type, the smaller corners filled with ammunition and small explosive devices – Ziva snapped a photo of a gun's barrel, the serial number scratched away.
It was clear that many, if not all, of the weapons had been illegally procured.
Satisfied that she had sufficiently photographed the room she stepped backwards and turned around to photograph the industrial freezer. Her face scrunched up in anger as visions of Tony and Tim filled her mind and she raised the camera to capture the scene.
Once more, Agent Plaut crossed in front of her, an evidence bag in his hand.
"Do you mind?" she snapped, "I am trying to process the scene and so far I have enough photographs of you to fill your FaceSpace page."
Agent Plaut stopped, looking perplexed for a moment and then aggravated.
Ziva had rarely been forced to suffer working with replacement teams, but it was a task she dreaded – she had grown accustomed to Tony's impossible pestering and unusual charm and McGee's fast-paced techno-babble and his camaraderie during Tony's most insufferable teasing. She had processed a scene without one of her fellow teammates before but this was the first without both – she didn't think it was something she wanted to repeat.
"You," she pointed her finger into his chest, "have been in my way all day and I am not in the mood – take your bag of," she glanced down at the evidence bag in his hand and her annoyance increased when she saw it appeared empty, "of nothing and please, find elsewhere to be less than helpful."
Agent Plaut opened his mouth in retaliation but before he could offer his own set of harsh words her cell phone rang and she turned away leaving him to stew in his anger.
"Ziva, have you processed the scene?" Gibbs voice rang loudly through her speaker. She had been waiting for this call all afternoon; the adrenaline that had been rushing through her body since her fight with the two men had done nothing to help her nerves.
"We are almost done here …"
"Well, finish up. I need you and Marconi in interrogation." The other man had been quickly identified after being brought into custody and was being processed while she worked the scene.
"Got it," she paused for a moment, waiting. When it became clear that Gibbs had nothing to offer she continued, "How are –"
"They'll live. Get Marconi." That was all the answer she needed. Gibbs was telling her to get the bastard for what he had done. She ended the call and stuffed the phone back into her pocket.
She'd get all the evidence she needed to put him away for life.
Tim felt blissfully warm. His body felt heavy and as though it were draped in a lead blanket and he could feel his hands pulsing with each beat of his heart; it was a strange sensation but he couldn't seem to make himself care.
He fought the strange fog, managing to take a deep, replenishing breath and something at the back of his mind reveled in the fact that the air no longer bit into his lungs; why this thought crossed his mind escaped him for the moment.
He could vaguely make out a voice somewhere in the background but it was just about as easy to understand as a teacher in a Charlie Brown movie. The fog was beginning to lift and he tried to open his eyes but they might as well have been sewn shut.
As he sunk deeper into the warmth, he felt himself drifting back into unconsciousness –
BANG! The sound of something heavy hitting the ground followed by a shout sent a rush of adrenaline through his body and he felt himself jerk awake, his eyes snapping open, the heaviness gone.
"Careful!" "Who put the crash kit here?" "Dana, she was last shift."
He felt himself moving to sit up and a sharp, uncomfortable tug at his left wrist. A loud, fast paced beeping rang in his ears and he was hit with a sudden wave of vertigo.
He blinked rapidly as he tried to clear his vision, why did he feel so sluggish? An amorphous purplish blob was moving in front of him, shouting in a raspy voice that reverberated through his skull.
Something touched his right shoulder, pushing him back slightly and he was sure he could make out someone telling him to 'calm down.'
"Can you hear me? Blink twice for yes, once for no! You're not blinking –"
As his more observant and deductive side began to emerge from the haze, a voice told him the shouting was coming from one Abby Sciuto.
"Abr-mmy?" He shook his head at the rather unsuccessful attempt. With some effort he forced his eyes open once more, noticing it was hazy around the edges of his vision leading him to realize that he must be on painkillers. Good painkillers.
"I resent that!" Her tone had softened to a much more bearable decibel. He turned his head to his right and saw her sitting in an uncomfortable, plastic chair, her pigtails slightly frayed and a huge grin on her face. "How's my favorite banana-flavored popsicle!?"
McGee's forehead bunched together in confusion at the question. He wasn't sure which to be more confused by, the banana-flavored part or the popsicle bit.
"How are you feeling? Are you in pain? Too cold? Hot? Should I get the nurse? I'll go get the nur –"
He shook his head, cutting her off from her tirade, trying to stop her before she rushed off.
"Abs, m' fine. Wha' happened?"
She scrunched her nose and he felt as though he were missing something; there it was again, that voice of reason that was insisting he listen.
"You don't remember?" That was not something one wanted to hear after waking up. He shook his head and began gathering facts, hoping to beat her to the punch.
He was in a hospital so something obviously had gone wrong. Ducky wasn't anywhere to be seen so he must be busy. Abby was here but no Gibbs or Tony so either they were working the case – whichever case probably landed him here – flirting (in Tony's case) or incapacitated …
He could remember bits and pieces, mainly of being so cold it burned and of Tony and the terrible, ragged coughing and hacking and maybe, at one point, holding the man's weight in his arms.
"Tony …" he gasped, attempting to sit up once again. This time his tired muscles kept him from making progress and he felt his head loll back against the scratchy pillow.
"Don't worry, our silver-haired fox is with him."
"How is he?" He couldn't imagine that 'fine' was a suitable descriptor for the senior Agent, not after what they had experienced. Abby bit her lip.
"He has – HAD – a collapsed lung but Ducky fixed it. I know he will be okay," she made a face and fidgeted with her hands for a moment, "I mean I think he will be, this is Tony, right?"
McGee nodded half-heartedly, taking in the information. No wonder the other man had sounded so terrible – if he had had that collapsed lung while they were stuck in that terrible freezer he didn't think he would have survived another hour …
"Tony is Tony, Abs," he cleared his throat trying to get rid of the residual hoarseness, "He's like a bad stain, you can't get rid of him."
He hoped his words would hold true; his trust in Ducky was great and the fact that it had been the elderly ME that took care of Tony made him fairly confident.
He was rewarded with a light kiss to the cheek. McGee felt a small rush of relief and reached up to touch his face and stopped when he was met with the feeling of cloth rather than his own fingers.
"What – what's this?" he said, observing his heavily gauzed hands.
Abby couldn't hold back her amusement as she saw the gears beginning to turn in McGee's head.
"It's ok, Mr. Gemcity," she gave him a sly grin before continuing, "you just blistered your hands a bit. You'll be back to writing and hacking about 4 weeks."
"Four weeks?" He threw his – what he now considered useless – hands in the air in exasperation, allowing them to fall heavily back to the bed, the small movement exhausting, "I can't even pull desk duty like this, Abs."
"Au contraire, mon frère," she smiled, "Gibbs will have plenty for you to do. You can even help me in my lab! I've always wanted a human beaker holder, you wont even need gloves!"
"Great." He grumbled. The thought of being exposed to corrosives and an inordinate amount of papers to file was all too exciting. He tested his fingers, trying to wiggle them and hissed when he brought alive the once dormant pain.
"Stop that. You're still thawing." Abby admonished as he lifted his hands to eye level and sighed. Her comment brought back a burning question.
"Banana-flavored popsicle, Abs?"
Again, dear readers, I am so sorry for the wait! I did have a reason but my, that long sis nearly inexcusable. I hope you enjoyed that chapter; there is one more chapter and an epilogue left so we're almost there and I can put this strange tale to rest.
Thanks for your continued support and if you feel so inclined, please review! I promise not to take 5-6 months on the next one!
* Singe, als würde Dich niemand hören. Lebe, als wäre es der Himmel auf Erden! *