A/N: **I had to repost this chap, only changed two things and they're not important if you already read it, sorry for any confusion!**Okay, here is the last chap but I'd like to take this opportunity to say THANKS to anyone and everyone who has read this story and enjoyed it, but a very special thanks to those of you who read it, enjoyed it and REVIEWED it. That's really what makes my day. So here it is, the conclusion, Enjoy! -pj
The team lost track of how long they'd been waiting. They weren't entirely sure of what day it was, let alone what time. The snow outside made seeing the sun impossible and not even Gibbs had the presence of mind to look at his watch. McGee had used the payphone to call his sister to see how she was faring in the storm and later Ducky had called to check on the nurse who was with his mother. Gibbs remained vigil at Abby's side while her eyes remained glued to the doors that led to the ICU.
It was for that reason that Abby was the first to see a doctor approaching, even before Gibbs her hands pausing in their nervous picking at Tony's clothes that dwarfed her small frame.
As she approached through the large, mostly empty room the team's quiet chatter slowly died off until all five of them were silently staring, watching the doctor's move toward them but unable to say anything in greeting.
"I'm Dr. Gerard, Dr. Pitt wasn't able to make it in because of the weather but we've been on the phone with him throughout the process. He's taken a very personal interest in Mr. DiNozzo's case."
"Yes, how is young Anthony?" Ducky asked, much more politely expressing what the rest of the team was already thinking, which was something along the lines of 'we don't really care about that, tell us about Tony'.
"He's stable," she began, her eyes moving to each person in turn, "we're already seeing an improvement in his white blood cell count and are optimistic that he'll be breathing on his own by the end of the week."
Abby felt her chest tighten. The end of the week? That seemed like an exceptionally long time.
"But he had a very severe case of pneumonia aggravated by the weather and his preexisting lung condition so until then he'll be on bed rest, getting plenty of fluids and going through some therapeutic coughing and breathing exercises and-" Dr. Gerard continued, until McGee interrupted.
"We know the drill," he stopped her with a tone that was meant to be firm but came out slightly uneven. All of them, except Ziva, had been there when Tony had contracted the plague. They knew what to expect. The fever that went through the roof and made Tony delirious with pain and fatigue. The chest pain that told of lungs filled with suffocating liquid. The blue tinge on his fingernails and lips. The oxygen. The waiting. The coughing. The bad jokes whispered across quiet hospital rooms that did nothing to ease the tension.
Dr. Gerard made nothing of the interruption. Maybe Dr. Pitt really had filled her in.
"When can we see him?" Gibbs asked and all five sets of eyes turned to hear her response.
The doctor smiled, "well technically, only you and a 'Miss. Scuito' are allowed to see him in ICU as you're listed as next of kin, but," she continued quickly, seeing protest already breaking out across the faces of her rapt audience, "Brad seemed to think it would be best for Mr. DiNozzo to be with all of you tonight. And no one's going anywhere in this storm anyway. He's sleeping right now, but feel free to go in when you're ready. Room 306."
They nodded and mumbled their thanks before falling silent as the doctor turned and walked away. The fact was they were all torn between wanting to see Tony right in that moment, to know he was truly alright as the doctor said, and being fiercely aware of how affected by all of this Abby had been and that she needed to see Tony alive more than any of them.
Ducky, Tim and Ziva all turned to look at Gibbs and Gibbs looked at Abby. She pulled herself into reality long enough to realize they were all looking at her and shifted closer to Gibbs. She looked at him, the pleading written plainly in her eyes.
I can't do this. Not yet.
"You three go first, we'll be in a minute," Gibbs said, and the other three nodded, making their way toward the doors in silence.
Gibbs waited until they had disappeared before turning to Abby. She didn't give him a chance to speak.
"I'll be okay Gibbs," she swallowed hard, looking uncertain, "I just need a minute."
She could feel Gibbs' eyes on her as she dropped her gaze, but didn't he press her and she was grateful he didn't call her bluff.
The minutes suddenly seemed to pass much faster and it seemed as though Tim, Ducky and Ziva had only just left when she saw they'd returned again.
Apparently a few nurses had decided it was urgent that they check on Tony's vitals and take a few more samples for tests, and had promptly kicked the three 'nonessentials' from the room, saying they could return again in a few minutes.
Ducky and McGee descended upon the coffee and were conspicuously silent after giving their explanation, as they sipped it. Ziva, with glassy eyes and red cheeks disappeared immediately into the bathroom to be alone.
Abby wasn't sure what to make of that. She was used to being the emotional one. The one hanging precariously on the edge of panic. But seeing her team that way? Seeing Ducky and Tim and Ziva like that? It scared her more than she'd thought possible after what she'd been through over the past few days.
Abby stopped suddenly. She and Gibbs were halfway down the hall, only a few steps from Tony's room and she realized she honestly did not remember ever having left the waiting room in the first place.
Gibbs turned back when he recognized she wasn't with him.
"I-I don't think I can go in there."
Gibbs tilted his head inquisitively, taking a small step back toward her.
"Gibbs," she said, her voice cracking slightly and wavering between 'upset' and 'almost hysterical', "I mean, did you see Tim and Ducky? They were practically catatonic. A-and Ziva? Ziva. The Mossad agent that could execute a hostile takeover by herself…she was a mess," she started shaking her head, her feet remaining firmly planted on the ground, moving neither forward nor backward.
"I just…I can't Gibbs. I can't go in there," she said, staring at her shoes.
Gibbs' silence grew deafening and, after a few moments, she lifted her gaze to his. The intense, sympathetic, determined look in his steely blue eyes almost broke her and her eyes welled up with tears.
He lifted one hand, held it out to her and waited to speak until she'd placed one of her shaking fists inside it.
"You will go in there, Abby," he said, though his gentle tone belied the directness of the order. Abby started to open her mouth but Gibbs cut her off, "you know why?"
She frowned slightly and shook her head.
"Two reasons. One," he narrowed his eyes, keeping his voice soft and low in a way he knew calmed her, "believe me when I say, you don't what the last image you have of Tony to be of him being unconscious and rushed into the ICU," her breath caught and he felt her hand unfurl inside his and return his grip twofold, "and two…because he's family, Abbs."
Abby blinked and felt tears run down her cheeks but she nodded, her decision made. With a nod, Gibbs pulled her in close to his side, so close the smell of gunpowder that lingered around them both intermingled.
Gibbs led Abby by the hand the rest of the way down the hallway. He paused and glanced back at Abby once he made it to Tony's door, but she was still with him, looking uncertain and fearful but with him all the same.
He pushed the door to Tony's room open and walked in, Abby lingering at the doorway and he let go to approach the bed.
Abby waited in the doorway, in far enough to see Tony's prone body looking too pale on the white sheets. There was an oxygen canula over his nose and rosy cheeks that indicated his fever was still present, while pale skin and sunken eyes told her he was still a long way to healthy.
She watched in fascination as Gibbs preformed a ritual she'd witnessed only a few times before.
He would walk over to the side of the bed and stand there for a while, staring at Tony, as if willing him awake. Then he would fuss over the pillow and blanket in such a fatherly way she sometimes had to avert her gaze. Then he would stare a bit more and probably touch his forehead or hand, needing physical contact with skin that was warm with life. Then he would pull up a chair and sit and she knew they wouldn't be able to get him out again until Tony was able to walk out with him.
"I can hear you staring, Boss," a raspy voice interrupted the silence and Abby jumped.
"You in there, DiNozzo?" Gibbs asked, bending lower to look at Tony's face.
"I can vouch for at least…80% of me," Tony continued talking without opening his eyes and missed a ghost of a smile that crossed Gibbs' face.
"That'll do for now."
Tony made some unintelligible response while Gibbs silently pulled up a chair, didn't sit in it. He turned and looked at Abby, who was standing at the foot of the bed with her arms wrapped around herself.
"I'm going to go tell the others that you're awake," he said, and then promptly exited the room, touching Abby's hand as he passed but never looking at her. Abby found herself staring after him.
"I'm going to need that shirt back."
Abby's head whipped back around.
"My shirt," he intended to lift his arm to point, but ended up only being able to muster enough strength to lift a finger, "a friend got it made for me while I was in Seattle."
"Oh," Abby reached down and fingered the fabric. It was soft and it smelled like Tony. She'd grown rather attached to it.
Tony narrowed his eyes, aware of her unusual behavior but unsure of how to broach the subject, "I see you finally got me into the hospital."
"Yeah, just not exactly how I wanted. Unconscious in the back of an ME's station wagon."
"Better than in an ME's body bag." Tony popped off with the first thing that came to his head and instantly regretted it. Abby's eyes flickered with grief and her face hardened and in a single motion she'd turned and was leaving the room.
"Abbs. Abby, I'm sorry." He said, wishing to call her back. She stopped at his voice and, with her back to him, dropped her head into her hands, "Abby?"
"It's not funny Tony!" she turned around and he was surprised by the intensity of her voice. Wasn't ready to see her sobbing, gasping for breath, tearstained and red-faced, "You almost died. I almost lost you it's not funny."
Tony looked taken aback and Abby had to drop her eyes, taking a few deep breaths to compose herself.
"You're my best friend, you know that?" she asked quietly, looking at him again. He was glad she continued before he could answer because, honestly, he hadn't.
Seeming to sense his confusion she continued, "You're the one I talk to when I'm excited or nervous. You're one who gets all my obscure movie references. You're the one who I know I can tell about guy trouble without having to worry about said 'guy' later ending up on one of Ducky's tables," he thought she might tangent off into how she didn't usually date military guys so the comparison to 'Ducky's Tables' was really hyperbole, but she stayed uncharacteristically on task, "you're like a brother to me Tony."
She began taking long pauses between her sentences, staring directly into his eyes, clearly fighting to keep control of her voice, "and you being unconscious on the floor of your apartment. Not breathing. Turning blue while I try to keep you from being brain damaged," she swallowed hard, "is not fine, Anthony DiNozzo. Okay? Losing you is not 'fine'. Not to me."
Tony wasn't sure what to say. He was weak as it was, his head pounding and his lungs aching, but he couldn't focus on any of that. Abby had never talked to him like this before. He knew they were close, heck the whole team was close but…she really meant it when she said they were family.
Maybe it was time he listened to her.
"C'mere," he said finally, turning his hand over so it was palm up.
Abby did as she was asked, approaching the bed so that she was standing beside it. He flicked his fingers impatiently and she relented, resting one of her cold hands inside his.
When he felt the weight of it in his palm he closed the fingers around it and tugged her toward him.
"You won't hurt me, Abbs," he assured her.
Abby looked at him skeptically for a moment so he tugged at her hand again, more urgently. This time she took the hint and climbed up onto the small bed beside him, situating herself so her head lay at the crook of his neck and shoulder, taking comfort in the feel of his heartbeat beneath her palm.
Tony wrapped his other arm around her and squeezed.
"I never meant to scare you, Abby," he whispered, and felt a dot of cold wetness soak into the material of his hospital gown and he swallowed hard, "and you're not going to lose me."
He pursed his lips. Her voice was so small and fragile, all he wanted to do was say 'yes', he wanted to promise to always be there just like she wanted.
"You know I can't do that," he said, his voice hoarse.
She was quiet for a moment, but he could feel her fingers tapping on his chest and knew she hadn't fallen asleep.
"Promise to try?"
He smiled. Leave it to Abby.
"That I can do," he responded, allowing his eyes to close, finally feeling the aching in his chest let up, and something told him it was only partially due to the medication in his IV, "I promise to try."
She nodded and her eyes fell closed, her breathing evening out.
When Gibbs returned a few minutes later with the rest of the team, that was exactly how they found them, Abby curled into Tony's side, both sleeping soundly. Ziva, McGee and Ducky barely paused at the sight before taking up positions in chairs and sofas around the room, instantly making it feel smaller than it was, though no one even thought to complain.
Gibbs' took his seat in a chair beside the bed, keeping vigil over them all and assuring that none of them would be disturbed.
He looked up to see Abby awake and looking at him, whispering so as not to disturb the sleeping people scattered about the room.
"I think," she paused, glancing up at Tony's sleeping face and then back at Gibbs, "I think he's gonna be just fine."
Gibbs couldn't help himself.
Outside dawn began to break. And for the first time in several days Washington DC saw the light of the sun.