Title: The Long Road Home
Character: Tony DiNozzo, Leroy Jethro Gibbs
Warnings: angst, drama, suicidal thoughts
Spoilers: Takes place in season 5
Summary: Gibbs' latest obsession with a case results in an incident that changes Tony's life forever.
Okay, so I really hadn't planned on starting this one until I was done with one of the other stories, but I couldn't resist, especially since "A Cry for Help" will be wrapping up soon. I hope you enjoy it and I appreciate any feedback that you will want to give me.
Special Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs hated waiting. He was a man of action who was unaccustomed to the feeling of helplessness that was now consuming him. The former Marine glanced at the clock on the wall, calculating that it had been just under two hours since he had arrived at Bethesda Naval Hospital, and he had yet to receive any news on the condition of his senior field agent.
"Damn it!" he growled, slinging the cup of cold coffee against the wall.
Ignoring the incredulous stares of the strangers into the waiting room, the team leader stormed out into the hallway and in three strides, found himself standing in front of the nurse's station.
He peered at the name tag of the nurse sitting at the desk. "Excuse me, Ms. Hutson."
The young nurse looked up from her computer. "Can I help you?"
Gibbs nodded. "I hope so," he replied. "One of my agents was brought in a little while ago and taken into surgery; I was wondering if there was any word on how he was doing."
"What's his name?"
He took a deep breath and blew it out. Why was it so hard to say his name? Was it because he would have to accept the harsh reality of the current situation? Would he have to admit that he was the reason that Tony was now fighting for his life?
"Sir?" Nurse Hutson called out to him, forcing him back to the present as he pushed his doubt and guilt to the far recesses of his mind. "His name?" she asked again.
"Could you spell that last name?"
The team leader permitted a small grin to escape from his lips. "Big D, little I, big N, little 'ozzo'."
Gibbs nervously watched as she typed the information into the computer. It was just a few seconds before the nurse looked up and asked, "Are you his next of kin?"
"Yeah. Leroy Jethro Gibbs. It should be listed on his records from a couple years ago," Gibbs informed her.
He watched as she studied her monitor. "He was brought in with multiple gunshot wounds, right?"
"He's still in surgery."
"Any idea how much longer he'll be?" he wanted to know.
She shook her head. "No, I'm sorry. I'm sure that the doctor will come and talk to you as soon as Agent DiNozzo is in recovery."
"Thank you," he mumbled as he turned to walk away.
Electing not to return to the crowded waiting room, Gibbs walked to the end of the corridor and stared out the window. He was still having a difficult time believing the events of the day. Once again, he had allowed his obsession with a case to cloud his judgment and now, Tony was suffering the consequences.
There was too much blood. That was the first thought that crossed Jethro Gibbs' mind as he fell to his knees beside the body of his senior field agent. In one fluid movement, he pulled out his cell phone and dialed 911. He handed the phone to the young teenage girl that he and Tony had just rescued, instructing her to give the operator the pertinent information.
He turned his attention back to Tony. Gibbs had seen DiNozzo take a bullet in his shoulder and in the side, but the younger man still managed to fire his own weapon, killing one of the kidnappers that they had been pursuing. As Gibbs had raised his gun to fire at the other perpetrator, Tony had inadvertently stumbled in the former Marine's line of fire as he started to empty his chamber. He watched in horror as DiNozzo collapsed to the ground in a lifeless heap beside the body of the second kidnapper.
Gibbs had quickly secured the area and made certain that the girl was safe, but now his priority, his only priority, was Tony. Knowing that DiNozzo had taken two bullets in his back, the older man was careful not to move Tony unnecessarily. He took off his jacket and pressed it against the wound in the younger man's shoulder to help control the bleeding. Why hadn't he taken the time to insist they put on their bullet proof vests?
"It's all right, Tony," he whispered. "I've got you."
"Boss?" Tony managed to gasp.
"Don't talk, Tony," Gibbs instructed.
DiNozzo weakly smiled. "That's …im…possible, Boss."
"DiNozzo…" Gibbs attempted to sound menacing, but he was forced to choke back a sob as Tony groaned in pain. "Just rest, Tony," he finally said.
Tony's breathing was becoming labored, but that didn't stop him from asking about the welfare of the girl. "Sar…ah, okay?"
"She's fine," the team leader assured him.
"I screwed…up, Boss."
"No, you didn't Tony. You did good." Gibbs felt Tony's blood seep between his fingers; he forced himself to press a little harder on the wound causing the agent to cry out.
"Sorry, DiNozzo. I know it hurts like hell, but I've got to slow down the bleeding," he hurriedly explained.
"Just take it easy. Let me do all the work."
"Been waiting a long…time for…you…to…say that."
Gibbs couldn't help but be amused by Tony's attempt to alleviate the seriousness of the situation. "DiNozzo, if I wasn't trying to keep you from bleeding to death, I'd head slap you."
"Don't worry; I'll put it on your tab."
"Hope…you get …the chance…to collect."
"I intend to," Gibbs vowed.
When Tony closed his eyes, Gibbs felt the knot that had formed in the pit of his stomach tighten. Despite the previous orders of not talking that he had issued to DiNozzo, he needed to hear his senior agent's voice. Tony's constant rambling was a sure sign that he was still fighting.
"Tony? I need you stay with me," the ex-Marine insisted.
"Trying…Boss," Tony muttered.
He met Tony's pain filled eyes with his own concerned gaze. "What is it, Tony?" he asked again.
Tony licked his parched lips. "I can't feel…my legs, Gibbs. I can't…"
The former Marine didn't know what to say. His guilt prevented him from admitting to Tony that he was responsible for shooting him in the back. "Just relax, Tony. The ambulance is on its way."
"Why…can't I feel…them?"
He never got the opportunity to tell DiNozzo the truth. He could hear the sirens blaring as the ambulance approached. "The cavalry's here, DiNozzo."
Gibbs helplessly watched as Tony closed his eyes, losing the battle to stay conscious. Maybe he shouldn't have insisted that DiNozzo stay awake; then he wouldn't have heard the pain and desperation in his senior field agent's voice when he asked why he couldn't feel his legs. The team leader silently chastised himself for not being able to supply Tony with an honest answer. "You're a damn coward, Jethro," he mumbled under his breath.
He didn't look up as the ambulance came to a screeching halt, his eyes remained fixed on DiNozzo's still form. Within just a few seconds, the paramedics were motioning him to step aside so they could devote their full concentration on Tony. Gibbs stood up and watched as the two men assessed the injured man. He could tell by the solemn expression on the paramedics faces that Tony was not doing well.
"We're going to wrap and run," the EMT informed him. "We can fit the girl in front, but I'm afraid that we're going to need all the room we can get in the back."
Gibbs nodded his understanding as he watched the paramedics secure Tony on a backboard and then lifted him onto the gurney. He knew that he couldn't leave until the rest of his team was at the crime scene. The team leader helped the girl into the front of the ambulance as Tony was loaded into the rear. "Tell the doctor to do whatever they have to do to save his life," he ordered the paramedic.
"Don't worry; he'll be in good hands."
He watched the ambulance until he could no longer see it. Standing alone in the road, he looked at the bodies of the dead kidnappers, realizing that his obsession with finding these men and their hostage was not only going to cost him another piece of his sanity, it was going to cost him his son.
The team leader glanced over his shoulder to discover his long time friend and colleague, Dr. Donald Mallard standing behind him, concern evident in the ME's eyes. Gibbs acknowledged Ducky with a curt nod and turned back to gaze out the window once again.
"Has there been any word?" Ducky softly inquired.
Gibbs shook his head. "No. Not yet."
"How long has he been in surgery?"
"Close to two hours," he answered.
"I'm sure that we'll know something soon, Jethro," Ducky assured him. "In the meantime, I thought you could use this."
A cup of steaming coffee appeared in front of him, courtesy of the kind hearted doctor. Gibbs took the cup and mumbled an almost inaudible, "Thanks, Duck."
"You're quite welcome. I know how dreadful the coffee in these hospital waiting rooms can be and I figured that you would need a fresh cup by now. I remember when Tony was in the hospital recovering from the plague, you had to bring your own brew from home and fix it in his room."
Gibbs took a sip of his coffee. "Yeah, I remember."
"Can I get you anything else?"
"A doctor who can tell me how DiNozzo's doing," the ex-Marine growled.
"Unfortunately, I can't just snap my fingers and make a doctor appear. Of course, there was that time in London when…"
"He couldn't feel his legs, Duck!" Gibbs angrily exclaimed, not caring that he interrupted another one of the ME's trips down memory lane.
"There could be several explanations for the loss of sensation in his legs," Ducky tried to rationalize.
"No, there's not," Gibbs argued. "There's only one explanation that matters!"
"And that is?"
"The fact that I shot Tony in the back and now he can't feel his legs."
Gibbs could sense Ducky's surprise. He had admitted his guilt to no one until a few seconds ago and now he had no choice but to accept that he had all but destroyed Tony's life.
"What do you mean you shot him?" Ducky pressed.
"Just what I said, Duck."
"Do you care to elaborate?"
He didn't particularly want to relive those terrifying moments, but Gibbs knew that he was going to have to, and in all probability, more than once. There would be inquiries, reports, and interviews where he was going to have to explain over and over why Special Agent Anthony DiNozzo was...
Gibbs silently chastised himself. Tony wasn't dead; not yet. But when DiNozzo realized that he couldn't walk, what then?
The team leader felt Ducky give his shoulder a reassuring squeeze. "Jethro, tell me what happened," the ME urged.
"We got a response to the BOLO we put out on the kidnappers and Tony and I responded. I cut them off and we got out of the car and they opened fire on us.. Tony got hit a couple of times, but he managed to take out one of the perps. I was shooting at the other one and I didn't see DiNozzo, somehow he managed to stepped right in front me as I fired and…" Gibbs blew out a frustrated breath. "I thought he was down when I started to fire. I didn't see him."
"Then it was an accident," Ducky concluded.
"Do you think that DiNozzo will see it as an accident?"
"Yes, I do. I have found Tony to have a very forgiving spirit. If he didn't, then he would have never made it past his wretched childhood."
"This is different, Duck. It's not about his father leaving him in a hotel in a Hawaii; it's about me ruining his life. My obsession and recklessness is going to change his life forever. Tony will never survive if he has to spend the rest of his life in a wheelchair."
"Are you listening to yourself, Jethro? You've condemned Tony to a wheelchair and he's not even out of surgery yet. As Abby would say, we must have positive thoughts."
Gibbs pinched the bridge of his nose. "Positive thoughts? You weren't there, Duck. You didn't see his eyes when he asked me why he couldn't feel his legs. He didn't realize that I had even shot him."
"Jethro, it was an accident," Ducky reminded him once again.
The team leader shook his head. "You weren't there," he whispered. "You weren't there."
"Excuse me, Agent Gibbs."
Turning around, he saw the nurse that he had spoken with earlier standing behind him, concern etched on her youthful features. "Nurse Hutson, has there been any word?"
"Agent DiNozzo is still in surgery, but the doctor would like to speak to you on the phone," she informed him. "He wants to update you and he needs to make you aware of a few things."
He felt sick. Gibbs had a feeling that he knew what the doctor was going to tell him and he wasn't sure that he was ready to hear the official word. He swallowed back the bile and followed the Ms. Hutson back down the hallway to the nurse's station. Picking up the receiver, he took a deep breath, mentally preparing for the worst.
Clearing his throat, he unwillingly answered the phone. "Agent Gibbs…"