Disclaimer - If I owned them this scene would have been in the show.


Funny, how Tony hadn't noticed how cold it was today earlier.

Even as the warmth of joy and gratitude flooded through his veins just knowing that Gibbs and Maddie were alive, Tony understood that he wasn't exactly at his best. His lungs burned, his muscles were beginning to shake from a mixture of exhaustion, adrenalin and relief, and the cold, murky, waters of the Potomac had saturated his clothes. Part of his brain figured that he should probably be worried, but all he cared about was that Gibbs and Maddie were breathing unaided. And whilst talking was understandably beyond either of them for the moment, Tony had seen enough signs of recall, recognition and motor function between them to hope there had been no serious damage done due to the temporary lack of oxygen.

It was really cold

Despite his chattering teeth and encroaching exhaustion Tony forced himself to look up as the screech of tyres cut through the pounding of blood in his ears. Recognising the cars and the emerging occupants, even at this distance, he didn't even try to reach for his gun. Looking across at his discarded weapon laying on the concrete he doubted he could have reached it in time, even if his life had depended on it. As feet began to swarm around him he realised he was no longer shivering. He remembered Gibbs telling him once that was not a good sign.

"Gibbs is alive," Ziva called out. "The girl as well."

"Calling an ambulance," McGee's voice responded, sounding like he was moving around closer to the building. "These two are dead."

"Tony?" Ziva's voice asked from above him. "Are you alright?"

"Just p-peachy." Tony managed

"Ziva, get him a blanket, McGee, we'll need a second Ambulance," Jenny's voice was crisp with authority. "And don't even think about arguing with me, DiNozzo. Gibbs won't thank you for saving him if you end up killing yourself in the process."

Tony stilled as her words hit home and didn't protest as a blanket was wrapped around him. Would Gibbs' actually thank him for saving him? Suddenly Tony wasn't at all sure about that. He had been saying for years that the ex-marine had a death wish. Maybe, all he really wanted was to be re-uinted with his family. Tony hissed in a breath through his abused windpipe. Looking down, he saw Gibbs, was now covered with Jenny's long wool coat, across from him Maddie was tucked under Ziva's jacket, neither of then had moved. Gibbs' face looked more drawn and old than Tony had ever seen it. Trying to fight the increasing feeling of unease that Jenny's words had sparked, he felt an almost desperate urge to connect with the older man, a need for reassurance that he had done the right thing.

"Boss?" He rasped.

At first, he didn't think Gibbs had heard him, then slowly he rolled his head towards him and Tony just had the briefest glimpse of the deep grief, pain and loss, in those expressive blue eyes, before the Paramedics were upon them. A whirl of questions, probing and invasive procedures blocked Tony's view as he tried in vain to crane his neck around all the activity to make eye contact with the ex-marine. A second set of medics descended on him, hampering his movements even further. Frustrated, his tried to protest as Gibbs was loaded onto a gurney, but he couldn't get the words out from under the oxygen mask pushed onto his face.

"No wait," He struggled to his feet, pushing the mask aside. "Boss!"

But his thin raspy voice was carried away by the light winds coming in off the water. The medical personnel didn't so much as pause in their task of loading the silver-haired recumbent figure into the waiting Ambulance. Tony closed his eyes as he slumped back onto the dock, a growing feeling of guilt and unease taking the edge off his relief. He closed his eyes, remembering the terror he had felt as he had literally held his Boss' life in his hands. The way he had fought harder than he ever had in his whole life to bring the man back to the land of the living.

"Don't do this to me, Boss."

All the way to the Hospital the line replayed itself in his head. Each time it sounded more needy and selfish than the last. He changed into the blue Hospital pyjamas without comment and endured being poked and prodded within an inch of his life by Brad with barely a murmur, as Nurse Emma inserted the IV with a cocktail of antibiotics, and who knew what else, into his arm. He was wheeled to ICU for observation, which at best was not good and at worst was a one-way ticket to the next stop on the line. Tony pressed his lips together as he looked around the room and tried not to think too hard about the last time he had been here.

He didn't want to die.

Despite everything that had happened in his life he had always been a glass half full kind of guy. He liked it here. Well, not here, as in here in the Hospital, but here as in, the land of the living. He had no plans on checking out anytime soon. Or ever, if he was really honest about it, even though he knew that wasn't really an option. Which made it just DiNozzo luck that he had ended up back here in Bethesda again with a set of lungs full of gunk. At least, this time they had skipped the blue light special in isolation but everything else was really much too eerily familiar.

Oh crap. Here it comes.

The tickle in the back of his throat blossomed into a barking hack, fierce enough to make his eyes water. This was so not good. Reaching out blindly Tony groped first for the glass of water on the side table only to hear approaching footsteps, before a steadying hand was placed on his shoulder and the glass pressed to his lips, allowing him to drink his fill.

"Thanks, Ducky." He managed.

"No thanks necessary, my dear boy," Dr Mallard's cultured voice advised him. "It is I who should apologise for not calling in to see you before now but I have been rather busy dealing with those two gentlemen you sent me."

"Sorry," Tony made a face, thinking of the two bad guys he had dispatched on the run. Since they had NCIS bullets inside them Ducky would have to sign off on their autopsies. "I didn't mean to add to your workload."

"Given the choice I would much rather be extracting your bullets from their bodies than the obvious alternatives," Mallard assured him. "I have no wish to perform your autopsy or that of our dear Jethro's any time soon, nor indeed that of such a promising young woman."

"How's Maddie doing?"

"Considerably better than she would have been without your timely intervention, my dear boy. She is resting now and they will keep her under observation tonight, but I do believe she will be released in the morning."

"Good, that's good." Tony nodded.

Mallard frowned slightly at the ensuing silence. He'd fully expected that the first question Tony would ask would be about Gibbs. Instead, the younger man was now uncharacteristically silent. Indeed, he seemed to be actively avoiding any eye contact, in an deliberate attempt to inhibit any further conversation, as he shifted awkwardly in the bed.

"Ziva and McGee send their best, and Abigail, of course," He continued. "They asked me to tell you that they will be over to visit as soon as they can. I do believe they and the Director are engaged in some rather fancy foot work to save Jethro's career from suffering the fallout of his latest folly."

"Right."

"And Jethro is also on the road to recovery," Mallard persevered. "He was not best pleased to be told he would be required to stay overnight as you can well imagine. But even he must face the unpalatable fact that he is not in fact invincible. But I see no reason why he won't be released tomorrow."

"That's great." Tony nodded again.

Mallard's eyes narrowed. He was already all too well aware that Anthony was particularly skilled at obfuscation and had almost built a career from masking his feelings. It was one of the things that made him excel at undercover work. It also made him rather infuriating at times.

"Anthony." He pressed gently.

He didn't miss how the unexpected kindness made the younger man wince. Indeed, he had anticipated the reaction. In the years that they had known each other he had learnt that caring and compassion cut through the poor boy's defences like a scalpel. Sure enough, pressing his lips together, Tony capitulated, at least a little.

"I thought he might have stopped by. You know," Tony forced a too bright smile. "Just to check I'm alive."

"He hasn't been to see you?" Mallard frowned. "That doesn't sound like Jethro."

"Have you actually seen him? Are you sure he's OK?"

A look of anxiety flashed across DiNozzo's face, as he straightened up, only to have his expression twist as the sharp intake of breath, followed by the sudden movement triggered another bout of coughing.

"My dear boy, you really must try not to excite yourself." Mallard's voice counselled, even as he actually mopped his fevered brow.

Tony lay miserably still under his ministrations, for the moment lacking the strength to even think up one of his trade mark quips. Then sliding just his eyes towards the MD he summoned all his tenacity and determination to force out a single word. "Gibbs?"

"I stopped by his room on my way in. As usual, Jethro was being rather difficult about following the nursing regime. But he was able to make it to the bathroom under his own steam and was being rather vocal about requiring real food. I assure you he is quite well, given the circumstances," Mallard pressed his lips together. "Physically, at least."

"The man misses his old life," Tony managed, weakly displaying the depth of compassion that was one of his most redeeming qualities. "Looking at Maddie must have been like coming face to face with what should have been."

"Jethro will find his way. He always does," Mallard was confident. "To my mind you are rather more of a concern."

"Me?" Tony had the art or the innocence to look genuinely surprised, even as he summoned all his willpower to rally his remaining strength. "I'm fine, Ducky. You shouldn't be worrying about me."

"I think that is my privilege," Mallard rebuked, not unkindly, as he absently patted his shoulder. "And putting aside the fact that you dove into freezing, less than sanitary, water and still found the physical and mental strength to rescue not one but two people, without hesitation, despite knowing full well what the personal consequences might be .."

"I'm fine," Tony insisted again. "Brad has already checked me out. I'm being pumped full of the best antibiotics modern medicine has to offer. I'll be good to go by the end of the week."

"You'll forgive me if I don't take your word for that," Ducky gave him a level look. "But I was rather thinking of your present mood. For a man who was something of a hero this afternoon you do seem rather downcast."

"You know how much I hate Hospitals," Tony made a face. "They won't even let me order in Pizza."

"Anthony." Mallard frowned a warning.

"Have you been taking lessons from Gibbs? Because you've almost got the tone down just right, although the glare could still use a little work." Tony smiled a little too brightly.

"At times like this, it is not difficult to see why Jethro considers a head slap such an affective means of guidance." The older man said pointedly.

Tony sighed and looked away, one hand worrying slightly at the blanket on the bed. The silence stretched out for a few minutes as he gathered his thoughts, but then softly, hesitantly, the words came, as Mallard's patience was eventually rewarded.

"If I had to do it all over again, I would. Even knowing, it would cost me a week in the Hospital and another round of fitness evaluations. I don't even care that I ruined another suit or that I'm going to have to find some way to explain to IA what the hell we were all doing out there in the first place. The only thing I cared about was getting Gibbs and Maddie out alive."

"And I am sure that as soon as a suitable opportunity presents itself, Jethro will want to express his gratitude for your exertions on his behalf." Mallard's tone was resolute.

"Yeah." Tony wasn't agreeing.

"You don't think so?" Mallard frowned.

"I couldn't loose him, Ducky," Tony's expression was taunt with a pain that Mallard had rarely seen the younger man allow himself to express. "I don't want to imagine what my life would be without him. Looking at his body there on the docks, there was no way I was going to give up on him I really didn't want him to die. But I'm not at all sure he really wanted to live."