First of all, let me apologize for the ridiculous amount of time that this chapter took to finish. Not that it is any excuse, but real life has nearly killed me this last month and I just didn't have the time or the desire to actually sit down and write. I apologize to all of you who have been faithful in your reviews and comments on this story.
This is the end, and as relieved that I am that it's over, I feel a sense of sadness that it's actually done. I really enjoyed writing this and I hope that all you enjoyed reading it. I've got a couple of projects I'm going to be working on in the near future, but I think I'm going to wait until they're fully completely before I post that way we don't have this same issue of waiting a million years for an update. Once more, I'm sorry and thank you to everyone who's supported me with kind words during the duration of "General Orders".
Much Love From,
Jumping slightly at the sound of the voice, Ziva turned from her place at the window, forcing a smile in McGee's direction. "I did not hear you come up behind me. You must be getting better at snitching."
"Uh, actually Ziva, I think the term you're looking for is 'sneaking'. A snitch is someone who-- You know what, nevermind," McGee said as he held out a cup of coffee. "Thought you could use a little pick-me-up before we headed back to the hospital."
"Who is picking me up? I thought I was riding back with you and Gibbs?" She asked, confusion written on her face as she reached for the cup before she turned her attention back to the street below. "I suppose it does not matter," she said dismissively as she held the cup to her lips.
Coming up beside her, McGee glanced down and watched as the uniform assisted Tony's assailant into the backseat of the Georgetown Police car, the bright red stain on her shirt visible from their elevation. "You held back on her."
"Is that a question or a statement?"
"Statement. The question would be why."
"Out of respect for Gibbs. I do not think he would have enjoy the paperwork required had I actually killed her. Though the thought did cross my mind." Turning away from the window with a quiet sigh, she looked up at McGee with an impish grin. "It is a shame that the interrogation was not taped. Tony is a big fan of poultry fights, is he not?"
"P-poultry...?" McGee asked, his face wrinkling in confusion before the realization of what she was trying to say dawned on him. "Chick fights, Ziva."
"Toe-may-toe, toe-mah-toe," she responded with a casual shrug before she walked away from the window and back to her desk.
Shaking his head as he tried not to laugh, McGee took a sip of his coffee as Gibbs descended down the stairs, having just finished briefing the Director on Tony's condition."Let's roll, you two," he called as he pressed the button for the elevator, sliding in as the doors opened.
Not needing to be told twice, Ziva and McGee hurried after Gibbs, barely sliding in.
"Personally, I'd prefer mud wrestling," the older agent said, as the elevator doors closed, leaving his two subordinates gaping at each other, a mix of horror and intrigue written on their faces.
"How's he doing?"
Slightly startled at the sound of the voice, Abby turned, her eyes wide. Her rigid posture only relaxed when she recognized Nurse Amy. "He's doing much better," the Goth said as she turned her attention back to the sleeping man on the bed, her fingers curling through his hair once more as she massaged his scalp.
"His coloring looks good," Nurse Amy commented as she stepped closer to the bed, allowing a warm hand to rest against his forehead. "And his temperature seems to have come down quite a bit." Pulling her hand away from his forehead, Nurse Amy allowed her fingers to travel down his arm slowly before grasping his hand gently in hers. "I start my next shift at 0700," she said quietly to Abby. "I'll be back in to see him then."
With a nod, Abby allowed a small smile to form on her lips as she twisted a short lock of Tony's hair between his fingers. "Thank you for everything, Nurse Amy." A warm hand found her shoulder as Nurse Amy gave her a reassuring pat before she exited the room, her shoes clicking quietly against the floor as she went.
Looking over her shoulder to make sure she was alone, she stood and leaned over the bed, her face just inches away from his. "You wanna hear a secret, T? I think Nurse Amy likes you."
A soft, contented sigh escaped from his lips as her hand found its way to his scalp once more, massaging gently.
Stepping off the elevator on the ICU floor, Gibbs looked back at his two agents. "Going to find coffee. Find Abby. Shouldn't be hard. Tell her to go home, hit the rack for a bit."
"I just... well, I don't exactly know that Abby's going to...you know, come quietly and all."
"Oh she will. She gives you any trouble, tell her she'll get more than a headslap."
And without waiting for a response, Ziva and McGee watched as Gibbs turned and headed into the other direction.
"He was not referring to...?"
"No, 'course not," McGee said with a shake of his head, trying to rid himself of the mental picture as he stepped through the heavy wooden doors, motioning for Ziva to do the same.
Arriving at Tony's room, they stepped inside and found Abby hunched over the bed, her head pillowed on her arms, her back rising and falling slowly as she slept.
Walking over to the bed, McGee placed a gently hand on her shoulder, shaking slightly. "Abby?"
"Mmm?" She sat up slowly, blinking the sleep from her eyes. "S'matter?"
"I havea message for you from Gibbs."
Reaching up to rub her eyes, she looked up at McGee. "You going to spit it out sometime today, Timmy or should I start guessing?"
Blushing slightly, McGee nodded. "Right. H-he uh... he said you need to go home. And hit the rack. Or else."
With a snort, she rolled her eyes and turned back to Tony's sleeping form. "Or else what?"
"Or else... you're going to get more than a headslap."
She turned quickly to face him, her eyes wide. "He actually said that?!" She hissed. "But... But I can't leave Tony! What if he wakes up and he's all alone?"
"Actually Abby... I thought that I might stay with Tony. Just until you return," Ziva said quietly.
Hesitating slightly, Abby looked back at Ziva with a slight nod. "Alright," she said, standing up from the chair, stretching slightly. "But I'm not going to be gone long. And you," she said, pointing her finger at McGee, "you're buying me a Caf-Pow on the way back."
Turning back to her sleeping friend, Abby bent over the bed and pressed a gentle kiss to Tony's forehead before whispering softly. "I've got to go for a little while, T. But I promise I'll be back. Ziva's going to stay and keep you company, so you uh... have fun with that."
With a dramatic sigh, Abby straightened once more and grabbed McGee roughly by the arm, pulling him towards the door. "Lets go, Timmy. Ziva, I'll be back as soon as I can."
"Take your time," she said with a wave of her hand. "We will be just fine until you get back."
Watching with a small smile until Abby had dragged McGee out of sight, Ziva turned back to the bed and made her way over slowly before sinking down in the recently vacated chair.
She watched for a moment as Tony slept, his chest falling slightly with each breath he took. He looked so peaceful, nothing like before when the fever had taken over his body.
"You look much better now, Tony. You looked like death in a toaster the last time that I saw you."
"Warmed over," came the hoarse response from the bed as Tony forced his heavy eyes open. "It's warmed over. Not in a toaster."
"Same difference," Ziva responded with a casual shrug of her shoulders as a smile tugged at the corners of her mouth. "How long have you been laying there awake?"
"Long enough to know that McGee could probably claim spousal abuse against Abby," he responded as he shifted, a soft groan escaping him.
"Are you in a lot of pain?"
"Only when I breathe, Zee-vah," he responded dryly.
"Perhaps some more medication would help with that, yes?"
"Not time for that yet."
"I can make it be time, Tony," she assured him as she stood from her chair. "One moment alone with the nurses and I could get you--"
A quiet chuckle escaped him, though it ceased almost immediately as he reached for her hand to stop her from leaving. "It's fine. They'll be in soon to give me something. I can wait."
Looking down as his hand grasped hers, she gave a slight nod before she resumed her seat, noting that he did not release her.
Following her gaze to their clasped hands, a slight blush crept onto his cheeks as he released her. "Right. Sorry."
"You should not be," she said, reaching for his hand as he pulled away, this time locking their fingers. "I was very afraid for you, Tony," she admitted quietly, unable to meet his eyes. "I did not know if..."
"Hey, Ziva. We don't have to do this. Everything's fine. I'm fine."
"But you almost were not. I do not know if any of us would have been able to handle it if you had not... if you were not... I am not very good with words, apparently," she said, a hollow laugh escaping her.
Standing from the chair, she leaned over and pecked his cheek gently, her lips lingering a moment longer than necessary as she whispered softly in his ear. "I am glad that you are a fighter, Tony. I do not know what I would have done without you."
Standing in the doorway, completely unnoticed, Gibbs watched as Tony reached up, brushing Ziva's hair back from her face, his hand lingering as he tucked it behind her ear. With a smirk, he backed out of the room quietly, the two agents none the wiser to his presence.
He chuckled quietly to himself as he walked down the hallway, shaking his head.
"Everything okay, sir?" A nurse asked as he passed the station.
"Uh huh. Gonna have to rethink Rule Number 12, though," he commented, ignoring the confused look as he stepped out of the intensive care unit.
Six Weeks Later...
"McGee... may I ask what you are doing?" Ziva asked as she stepped into the bullpen, dropping her bag behind her desk. McGee straightened up, a pinkish tint coloring his cheeks as he dropped Tony's stapler.
"Well... It's uh.. Tony's first day back and... I was just... you know... making sure everything was in order... and stuff."
Raising an eyebrow, Ziva smirked. "Ah huh. I see. And this would have nothing to do with the fact that you know Tony would murder you if he knew you had helped yourself to his possessions while he was gone?"
"Of course not," he said, laughing nervously.
"I did not think so. Very well. Carry on then," she said as she sank down in her chair, turning her head at the sound of heavy footsteps behind her.
"Is he here yet?" Abby asked as she teetered into the squad room in her heavy black boots, her pigtails higher than normal. "Is he? Where is he? He should have been here by now, right?"
"He's still got five minutes before he's actually late," McGee reminded her, eyeing her warily as she slurped on her Caf-Pow. "And how many of those have you had this morning?"
"Six. But in my defense, I woke up really, really early. Like... fourish."
"And why exactly did you do that?"
"McGee!" Abby cried, punching him in the shoulder. "Because Tony comes back today!"
"You just saw him yesterday for lunch!"
"That's not the same, Timmy," she responded with a scowl before perching herself on Tony's desk as she took another long drink of her Caf-Pow. "And stop being hateful before I tell Tony you tried to sell his Mighty Mouse Stapler to Ducky."
"You sure you're up to this today?"
"Hell yes! I've been going crazy at home, boss. Six weeks was a little excessive, don't you think?"
"Had to have you back at a hundred percent, Tony. Couldn't take a chance bringing you back before you were ready."
"We'll see, DiNozzo," Gibbs responded dryly as the elevator doors opened with a ding.
Three heads turned simultaneously at the sound, the two agents and the Forensic Goth watching eagerly as Gibbs stepped out first, followed by Tony.
Shoving her Caf-Pow into McGee's hands, Abby launched herself across the bullpen and into Tony's arms with a squeal. "Welcome back Tony!"
A laugh escaped him as he stumbled backwards with the force of the assault, his hands immediately wrapping around his friend. "Jeez Abs. I just saw you yesterday!"
"That's what I tried to tell her," McGee mumbled, though he grinned brightly at his partner.
"Shut up Timmy!" Abby ordered before pulling away from Tony, grinning broadly at him. "I missed you! I mean, I saw you yesterday but I mean I missed you at work because it's been really boring without you. Even Gibbs missed you, but I'm sure he'll never admit it because he's Gibbs and he wouldn't be Gibbs if he went around telling people that he missed them, but he did and I did, and McGee and Ziva did too and we're so glad--"
"Breathe, Abby. Oxygen is necessary for sustaining life."
"Right," she said with a nod as she took a deep breath. "Anyway, welcome back."
"Welcome back Tony," McGee chimed in as Tony stepped farther into the bullpen, a wide grin on his face.
"Hey thanks Probie. It's good to be back."
"You did not enjoy your time off then Tony?" Ziva asked, a rare smile on her face, amusement evident in her eyes.
"Eh well, you know. Some aspects were better than others," he responded with a playful wink before he turned back to his desk. "Hey! Who moved all my stuff around?!"
"Uh... What do you mean, Tony?" McGee asked, the blush returned to his cheeks.
"Mighty Mouse goes on the left side, McGee," Gibbs commented dryly as he passed his bickering agents, a grin on his face as his agents settled back into the sometimes childish, yet comfortable routine that he was used to.