Chapter: Chapter 7 – Home
Summary: Tony has to sacrifice everything for his team in order to save them from his family.
A/N: Thanks so much to everyone that's stuck by me! Just a warning, here: I'm not sure exactly how my POV's are going to play out here, so keep a look out for POV shifs. I can't promise equal time to all the team members, but that's mostly cause this story is about Tony and Gibbs. Everyone else is just there cause they're, well, there. I also have a few angsty, Tony-centric, showing-him-as-the-uber-hero one shots I'm thinking about putting up…I'm just not sure if I should. I'll think about it. So please enjoy this FINAL chapter!
The dash up the stairs to the helipad passed as a nauseous blur for Gibbs, leaving him sick and frustrated. The medics had stabilized Tony in the storage room and had strapped him onto a helo stretcher before hustling him up to the top deck.
And he'd fought them every step of the way.
He kicked and punched, lashed out in every way, his eyes closed and his teeth grinding. He'd fought like a man possessed until the medics had strapped his hands down and he'd struggled himself exhausted.
From his encounter with Tony, Gibbs had been expecting the struggle.
He hadn't been expecting the silence.
The entire time he fought, Tony didn't say a word. He didn't make a single sound. Even his movements seemed muted somehow. And it was the silence that was echoing like fireworks in Gibbs' mind.
Sitting in the helo, Gibbs looked at his second in command, trussed and tied like a Thanksgiving turkey. It hurt him more than he thought possible, seeing his friend still and quiet. Even when Tony was fighting the plague, he hadn't been quiet. He had fought with labored breath and strained relays of movie plots. He had been constantly shifting, coughing, moving.
The man in the stretcher before him was not his second.
Just a shell.
"Sir, we've got a message from Bethesda. They've got an emergency crew called and standing by at the helipad; they'll meet us the second we touch down. They also wanted me to relate a message from someone named Goose or something. He wants you to know that he's gotten Brad Pitt to Bethesda as well. Like the actor?"
Gibbs looked at the co-pilot with incredulousness on his face, before he allowed himself a small chuckle.
"Yeah, something like that."
Closing his eyes, Gibbs let the warm sun envelop him and he smiled a small smile.
Yes, his second was injured. Yes, he was broken and shattered. Yes, he was shredded to pieces.
But he was safe. He was going home.
Gibbs was bringing Tony home.
Pulling his cell, he handed it to Ziva, who was keeping track of the medics' motions and making sure they weren't bringing more harm on her partner. The shock of seeing his condition had yet to fully wear off.
"Ziva, send one of those typed messages to Abby. Tell her I kept my promise."
Blinking, Ziva took the phone and nodded, her eyes betraying her confusion at Gibbs' grin. Seeing her stunned and slightly angry look, Gibbs just shook his head.
"We found him, Ziva. He's alive. We're bringing him home."
Turning her gaze once again to Tony as her fingers danced over the phone's keypad, Ziva understood his train of thought and nodded.
"Yes, Gibbs. We are."
The primary jovial relief that Gibbs had felt upon taking Tony from the ship had worn considerably over the course of Tony's treatment. The one thing that Gibbs had always been able to count upon from Tony, the one thing that was as inevitable in the world as death and taxes, was the one thing that Tony stopped doing.
For eight weeks, Tony hadn't said a single word.
Through his treatment at Bethesda Naval Hospital, through all the questions of surgeons and doctors, his teammates and friends, he hadn't said one word. If a question required more than a yes or no, Tony would just shrug, close his eyes, and shut down.
Over and out.
Gibbs finished signing the last of the paperwork the nurse had set before him. Eight weeks in a hospital and Tony was finally ready to come home. Of course, until Gibbs said otherwise, home was wherever Gibbs was.
Handing the paperwork back to the nurse on duty, Gibbs turned as he heard his name.
"Agent Gibbs, I'm glad that he's going home with you," Dr. John Guinness said as he held out his hand.
Gibbs nodded and shook hands with the doctor that he'd grown accustomed to seeing. Dr. Guinness opened the folder he was carrying and looked over it while he talked.
"It looks like he's mostly healed up and clear of any chance of infection. The scans that we took last night could still find no reason for his muteness, although it's probably less a physical ailment and more a mental one. Hopefully, once he's out of here and in more familiar surroundings, he'll be able to conquer that."
Gibbs nodded and responded, "He's tough, doctor. He'll pull through this."
Dr. Guinness smiled but it didn't quite reach his eyes.
"Agent Gibbs, you have to be sure not to push too hard. I've seen the videos and I know what his father put him through, both physically and mentally. He was dosed with LSD and tortured. That kind of treatment and the repercussions of it may prove impossible for even the strongest person to pull through," Dr. Guinness lowly warned.
Gibbs lowered his eyes for a second, temporarily haunted by the blank stare he'd seen on Tony's face every day for eight weeks.
"He'll pull through, doctor."
Cocking his head, the doctor cautiously and hopefully asked, "You still haven't found the last video, have you?"
Gibbs signed and dropped his gaze to the floor.
"No, we haven't. The others were emailed to us automatically, one every three hours, even after his father was dead. Some kind of automatic system; it's all geek speak to me. But we haven't been able to find the last one, which could tell us why he isn't talking. We'll find it eventually, though. We're not giving up on it."
Dr. Guinness nodded and closed the folder, again holding out his hand.
"If anyone can pull him through this, it's going to be you, Agent Gibbs. Good luck. If you run into any problems once you get him home, give me a call. I live just a few miles from you and I can make house calls, all right?"
Nodding his thanks, Gibbs once again shook the hand of the man who'd saved Tony's life.
"Thank you, doctor."
Dr. Guinness walked away and Gibbs headed towards Tony's room. He took a deep but silent breath as he crossed the threshold, steeling himself as he always did. The private room had a single bed in it, and Tony was sitting on the edge of it, waiting. He was clothed in black boots, black pants, and a loose black long sleeve tee shirt. His eyes were cast towards the floor and blank, as always. A bandage was wrapped around his right hand, protecting the last of the stitches in his palm, and the wound on his face was fading to a light pink. The rest of the reminders of Tony's ordeal were hidden under his clothes.
Still, Gibbs couldn't help but notice how much weight the man had lost.
Gibbs kept his tone light and his gaze easy as he picked up the duffel bag sitting next to the bed.
"You ready to get out of here, DiNozzo?" Gibbs asked, swinging the bag onto his shoulders.
The expected answer came: a simple nod and no eye contact.
Gibbs nodded back.
"Good. After you, then."
Tony shook his head once and waited, and Gibbs decided this was a battle that didn't need to be fought. Instead he simply headed towards the door, pausing only momentarily to make sure that Tony had stood and followed him, and began leading the way out of the hospital.
He'd already made it clear that he didn't want any hospital staff, no matter how cute the nurses were or how well their wishes were, to approach Tony on the way out. Fortunately, the staff respected his request. It may have been because Gibbs made quite a reputation for himself during the first few hours of Tony's stay, when they'd almost lost him twice.
Gibbs shuddered at the thought and glanced at Tony, who was silently and obediently shuffling at his side, looking much like a whipped dog. However much he tried to deny it, it broke Gibbs' heart to see his once spirited second acting like someone's whipping boy.
That's just what he was, too. I swear, if I ever got my hands on that guy…
Much as he wanted to, he couldn't, seeing as the man was dead and buried. Rolling his eyes in disgust, Gibbs thought back to the day of the funeral; even The Washington Times had carried the story of philanthropist and charity activist Anthony DiNozzo Sr.'s death. The Director had decided to keep the details of Tony's kidnapping, torture, and rescue under wraps as matters of national security.
The exact words that had been used were, "It wouldn't give too much credit to this agency if we admitted that we couldn't protect our own agents on our own property in our own buildings. America does not need to know that CEOs are capable of terrorism."
The exact words that Gibbs had responded with were, to say the least, colorful.
Gibbs wanted nothing more than to broadcast DiNozzo Sr.'s crimes, get his company shut down, and get him posthumously executed.
With that out of the question, he settled with heading to the gun range and breaking every current record.
The three thugs that had been picked up by another Coast Guard chopper were currently serving fifteen years on armed federal kidnapping charges. Gibbs' testimony ensured that they wouldn't be up for parole any time soon, good behavior or no.
Gibbs wrenched himself from his thoughts as they exited the hospital. It was a dark and cloudy 9 am, with rain drizzling on and off. Gibbs silently cursed the weather and led his silent lead agent to the government car he'd driven. Gibbs opened the trunk and tossed the duffel in haphazardly before heading to the driver's side door. He stopped, however, when he noticed that Tony hadn't gotten in the car. Instead, he was shaking his head rapidly as he stepped away from the vehicle.
"Tony, what is it?"
Tony didn't say anything, as usual. He just stood still and shook his head.
"Is there something wrong with the car?" Gibbs asked as he walked around to the other side.
Tony shook his head once and went still. Gibbs looked over the car and asked, "You don't want to ride in the car?"
The other man nodded once, and Gibbs frowned. This was new.
"Do you want to take a bus? Train? Walk?"
Gibbs frowned even more when Tony nodded at the last suggestion. Walking would be difficult. It wasn't like he lived right around the corner. It would probably take them all day to walk back to his house. The rain certainly wouldn't help matters; they'd be wet and frozen through by the time they got there.
"DiNozzo, I'm not sure of how good of an idea that is…"
Gibbs trailed off as he watched Tony hurriedly open the passenger door and all but throw himself in the car. Gibbs stood there for a moment before walking around the car and getting in. He sat there and looked at Tony curiously for a moment before he put the keys in the ignition.
"You want some music?" Gibbs asked, completely ignoring the fact that he hated to listen to music while he was in the car.
Tony shook his head, and Gibbs nodded.
"All right. Home we go."
Gibbs drove home carefully, obeying all traffic laws for one of the first times in his life. He kept watching Tony out of the corner of his eye, hoping, as he always did, that he would see some flicker of emotion on his second's face.
Of course, he didn't. He never did.
Instead of offering what Gibbs so anxiously wanted to see, Tony was staring hard at the dashboard, and Gibbs could see his eyes tracing the airbag emblem over and over again. Gibbs thought back to the hundreds of times DiNozzo had been in that same seat, hanging tightly to the support bars as Gibbs threw them around turn after turn. He thought back to when Tony had relished the chase and the catch, his smile glowing a hundred watts, his muscles trembling with adrenaline. He thought back to when Tony had triumphantly turned in both perp and paperwork at the end of the day, that smile never faltering.
And Gibbs fairly heard his heart break again.
They reached Gibbs' house within the hour; traffic was relatively light that time of day, even in the middle of D.C. As he turned into his driveway and shut off the engine, Gibbs looked over at his agent. Tony was asleep, his chin on his chest, his face emotionless. But Gibbs could see there was restraint in his expression, a visible confirmation that awake or asleep, Tony was holding himself back from everything he used to do. Gibbs just needed to figure out why he was doing it, and how to make him stop.
It had been three weeks since Tony had arrived at Gibbs' house. He'd been cleared for desk duty a week after his hospital release, and Tony had shoveled through years worth of backlogged paperwork, both his and other agents', making NCIS one of the only agencies with a clear paperwork log.
And still, he'd done it silently.
At first, other agents had tried to talk him out of his shell. They'd slap his back, joke, prattle on and on, before finally being driven away by Tony's unflinching gaze and his silence. Gibbs had kept a careful eye on his agent during these encounters, praying desperately for a glint of emotion. His prayers were in vain, though; he never saw anything.
It was a day of slow cases when it all came to a head. McGee and Ziva were off chasing down cold leads on even colder cases. Tony had stayed home that day, exhaustion from endless paperwork grounding him for the day. Gibbs was finishing up a daily report when he got a frantic call from Abby. He couldn't understand a word she'd said, but immediately dropped the phone and ran to the elevator that took him to her lab.
He was both unsurprised and dismayed when the Goth was waiting for him at the elevator doors. His breath caught in his lungs, choking him, as he saw an immeasurable amount of sadness on Abby's face. Her mascara was smeared over her face, her lipstick wiped away, her hair mussed. She said nothing as she grabbed Gibbs' wrist and pulled him to the lab, her sniffing giving Gibbs an uneasy feeling. Abby deposited Gibbs in front of her monitor, pressed a single button, and jogged from the room, bursting into audible sobs as soon as she left.
Gibbs swallowed hard, his throat tight and his mouth dry, as he turned his attention to the monitor in front of him. The screen was black for a moment, and then a surprisingly short clip popped up onto the screen. In the space of two minutes, Gibbs threw up three times into the wastebasket beside Abby's desk, a telltale smell informing Gibbs he wasn't the first to do so.
Tony watched the man in front of him dance in the fire around his feet, horns growing atop his head and snapping into reality with startling clarity. The agent shrunk back as much as his chains would allow, his back screaming its discomfort.
"We're at the final game, my son," the demon growled softly, moving closer.
Tony whimpered silently, barely able to keep his tongue tight enough between his teeth to stop the sound.
"You just have to do one thing to save Gibbs. Just one thing, boy. Can you do one thing?" the voice asked, dripping with condescension.
Tony whispered, "Anything. Anything to save him. Please…"
The demon stalked forward and gripped Tony's neck with one hand, the other gripping his hair tightly, pulling his head back, bending his neck close to snapping. He stood close to the chained man, his breath like venom in Tony's ear.
"Renounce them, boy. Renounce your family. They hate you. They want nothing to do with you. Everything that goes wrong in their lives is your fault," the man snarled, and Tony's eyes widened, his gaze crossing the background, seeing the images of his family that had sustained him through the ordeal staring disapprovingly at him.
"Leave them behind, Anthony."
Tony felt himself nod slowly, the images of his team disappearing slowly, one at a time, dissolving before his eyes.
"But Gibbs…he's not leaving. He won't," Tony murmured, staring desperately at the ghostly apparition behind his father's back.
"And Gibbs…if you hurt me, if you let any harm come to me, boy, you can never speak to him again. You can never speak to any of them again. Or I'll kill him."
Tony's eyes widened, his eyes glazing over.
No choice. They hate me. Have to save them. Have to save Gibbs.
"Not a sound," DiNozzo Sr. ordered, the incomplete sentence an order in itself.
Nodding slightly, Tony agreed miserably, "Not a sound."
"Tony!" Gibbs shouted as he ran into his house.
The upstairs was empty, and Gibbs ran straight downstairs, following his gut. He descended the stairs two at a time, his knees protesting violently, and froze as soon as he reached the bottom landing.
His basement was immaculate, everything organized and shelved in some sort of order. The center of the room was empty, his last boating project having been finished several months before. There was one thing in the center of the room, however.
Tony stood silently in the basement, his eyes closed, every part of him still. He didn't move as he heard Gibbs bound down the stairs, and he remained unmoving as Gibbs approached him slowly. The older agent was unsure as to how he should approach his agent, concern and fear warring for dominance in his mind.
"Tony," he said softly, placing a hand on his agent's shoulder.
The other man's eyes finally slid open, and Gibbs felt a glimmer of hope as he saw a flash of surprise in his gaze before it was buried. Gibbs was fairly sure the younger man had been unaware of his arrival.
"Tony, please, you have to talk to me!" Gibbs fairly begged, feeling keenly and, his gut told him, accurately, that he was close to losing the man forever.
Tony said nothing as usual, and Gibbs tried a different tactic.
"I saw the last video, Tony. I know what he made you promise. He's dead, Tony. He can't hurt me. He can't hurt any of us. You have to say something," Gibbs whispered.
Tony blinked once at the revelation of the final video, but whatever he would say was still locked behind his vow to his father.
"Don't you see what he's doing, Tony? He's making you hurt me," Gibbs stated softly, his tenuous hold on his emotions waning, his stomach threatening to rebel again as he relived all the horrors Tony's father had wreaked.
Tony blinked again, frowning and showing his first bit of emotion in two months. Sensing he was on the right track, Gibbs squeezed Tony's shoulder tightly.
"You're like a son to me, Tony, and he's making you push me away. Don't let him win, Tony. You're stronger than that," Gibbs said, his voice gruff with checked tears.
Tony opened his mouth to speak, but immediately stopped himself, averting his eyes. Gibbs felt an unearthly amount of anger take hold of him, anger at Tony's father and what he'd forced the young man into promising.
"Dammit, DiNozzo! Don't let that son of a bitch win! You're a better 2IC than that! You survived all through this shit just to let some fucked up promise keep you from living what's left of the life he didn't take from you?" Gibbs snapped, pushing Tony roughly.
Tony stepped back a few feet, a semblance of muted shock showing on his face. Gibbs stepped forward and pushed him again, his words cutting his own heart as he spoke.
"You're just going to give up? You're going to let him win? You're going to let him beat you?" he yelled, shoving Tony against the wall.
Tony shook his head quickly, confusion playing over his face, and he raised his hands to protect himself from Gibbs' anger.
"I lost you once, Tony. I'm losing you again. You think I'm going to just sit by while that happens?" Gibbs shouted as he pulled a fist back, his anger driving his actions.
Tony flinched, and in a whisper so low Gibbs almost missed it, he whispered, "Don't."
Gibbs froze, his mouth literally falling open, and Tony's eyes dropped long-held tears as he murmured, "I can't do this anymore. I can't hurt you anymore."
The white haired agent inhaled sharply as Tony added, "They all hate me and I'm so weak; why do you care when I let you all down?"
Gibbs' anger evaporated and he let fatherly instinct guide him, grabbing Tony and pulling him close, hugging him tightly as his own tears fell.
"You could never let me down, son. I love you," Gibbs breathed, his surrogate son's voice echoing in his ears.
Tony didn't move for a moment, but finally let himself sink into the embrace, shaking with suppressed emotion. With Gibbs' declaration of unconditional love, Tony felt the noose around his tongue slide away, and the whispering words of his father echoed one last time in his head before falling silent. He felt his knees tremble, his other joints following suit, and he glanced over Gibbs' shoulder, seeing the smiling images of his team – his family – lounging on the stairs.
Tony felt everything in his life come to a single point, at that moment. He felt the burden of his father's legacy, his crimes, and his torment rise above his thoughts, the weight lifting from his shoulders. He felt the last of his doubts and fears dry up in a single instant, his mind circling around one fact.
His hero, his mentor, his boss, his friend, was the best and closest thing he had to a father. Leroy Jethro Gibbs loved him for who he was, and what he was, and what he had done and could do. He loved him as a son, and forgave him his crimes, whatever Tony perceived them to be.
If he was innocent in Gibbs' eyes, then how could he declare himself guilty?
With that realization, the tears came in earnest, the trembling gave way to shaking, and Tony clutched Gibbs tightly as a single thought permeated his mind, one he was now free to speak.
"I love you too, dad."
And in all ways, he knew he was home.
AHHHH!!! FINALLY DONE!!! Sorry for all the delays and thanks SO MUCH to everyone who stuck by this story!!! I won't go into why it took so long, because I know that no excuse is good enough for the wait you have all endured. So let me just say thanks so much and God bless!!!