Patience had never been a word that one would associate with Jethro Gibbs and the nursing staff was beginning to understand why. Ever since they had arrived at the hospital, the team leader had made his presence known by his constant pacing and inquiries regarding the condition of his senior field agent. Unfortunately, no one had been able to tell him anything except that the doctor would be out to speak with him as soon as possible; he was beginning to think that the staff was forbidden to offer any other information.
"Do you want something to eat? You can't live on coffee alone."
He turned sharply, his hardened gaze coming to rest on Kate. Gibbs realized that she was attempting to channel some of her own nervous energy into doing something she deemed as useful. He had recognized the expression of helplessness that she and McGee had worn ever since they had arrived at the scene; the two agents had been forced to stand aside as the paramedics worked to stabilize DiNozzo and that feeling of inadequacy had taken root in their minds.
Of course that feeling of helplessness had quickly been replaced by skepticism and confusion as he had forbidden them to process the crime scene. Although Miller's death was deserved, he had wanted to be sure that everything was in order and there weren't any loose ends.
Tony had finally lost consciousness but Gibbs had refused to let him go; he continued to hold the younger man hoping that DiNozzo could somehow sense that he wasn't alone and would continue to fight for his life. "Come on Tony," he quietly urged. "Show me some of that DiNozzo stubbornness."
Bracing Tony with one arm, he pulled out the cell phone to check the time. It had only been thirty minutes but in Gibbs' mind, it had seemed like hours since he had been assured that help was on the way. "Where are they?"
As if on cue, a helicopter flew overhead allowing him to breathe a sigh of relief; help was on the way and soon Tony would be on his way to the hospital to receive medical attention. Even with the knowledge that the paramedics would be arriving in a few minutes, Gibbs still wouldn't relinquish his hold; he had promised to look after Tony, to look after his son, and he intended to keep that promise.
It was only a few minutes before Kate was shouting his name as she neared the small cabin. The team leader made a mental note to work on Kate's stealth as he heard her footsteps approaching the door. Although she knew that Miller was dead, Kate should never assume that everything was clear.
He decided that would be one of the things DiNozzo would do when he returned to work; he would provide Kate with an in-service basic sneakiness. Gibbs smiled at the thought of informing Kate that Tony would be serving as her instructor and he probably could think of a few other things that she needed to learn from DiNozzo.
The door opened and Kate entered with her hand on the hilt of her gun. At least she was semi prepared to draw in case she had walked into a trap. "Gibbs?" she called out.
"Over here!" he barked.
"Tony!" she cried out as she ran over to them.
Gibbs instinctively pulled Tony closer as Kate knelt down beside them, his vow to take care of the injured man ever present in his mind. "Where are the paramedics?" he demanded to know.
"They're right behind me; Ducky and McGee are with them." Her eyes were fixated on Tony's shivering form. "He looks terrible."
"He's been through hell, Kate."
He knew that his tone was harsh but at the moment he didn't care. Gibbs offered no apology as he watched Kate reached out and felt Tony's forehead. "He's burning up, Gibbs."
"Tell me something I don't know!"
"What can I do?'
Prayer was something that he hadn't put a lot of stock in ever since the deaths of Shannon and Kelly but at the moment, he was willing to try anything if it helped DiNozzo in his fight for survival. He and Kate shared an awkward silence that neither dared to break until they heard the rest of the rescue party arriving.
Within a few seconds of the paramedics setting foot in the house, they were frantically working, assessing and attempting to stabilize Tony. He was grateful that Ducky had managed to situate himself in between the EMT's so that the medical examiner could provide them with details of Tony's medical history.
DiNozzo's dislike for doctors had warranted the necessity for Ducky to serve as his primary physician; an arrangement that Gibbs had been grateful for several times over.
Gibbs had moved back out of their way, his eyes following the paramedics every movement as they skillfully prepared to transport Tony. His gaze was so focused on DiNozzo and his well being that he barely noticed Kate and McGee moving to stand beside him.
"Please be all right," Kate whispered.
Gibbs could hear the fear in her voice; she was genuinely afraid for Tony. Of course, if he were honest with himself, so was he.
"Yeah," McGee agreed. "I never thought I'd say that I missed being called 'Probie'."
The former Marine heard Kate sniffle and knew that she was having a difficult time containing her emotions. She was going to have to learn to put her feelings aside until the job was done and right now, their job was to be strong for Tony.
"Do you think he's going to be all right, Boss?" the junior agent asked.
"He better be or he'll answer to me."
The paramedics carefully moved Tony to the stretcher as they prepared to transport him; Ducky came over and joined the worried trio. "How is he?' Gibbs anxiously inquired.
"It's too soon to tell," the physician stated. "Anthony's blood pressure is way too low which indicates some internal bleeding. I've already supplied them with Tony's blood type so they will be ready once they reach the hospital; they're taking him to Bethesda."
"All right. I want you to ride in the chopper with him; Kate, McGee, and I will met you there."
Kate, Ducky, and McGee each grabbed a side of the stretcher and lifted Tony off the floor. Ducky glanced over his shoulder. "Aren't you coming, Jethro?"
"I've got something to take care of; I'll be along in a minute."
"Do you want us to call in another team to process the scene?" Kate asked.
"I'll take care of it. Now go! I'll be right behind you. McGee, give me your cell."
Before Kate or McGee could protest, one of the paramedics informed them that they needed to move quickly. Gibbs walked over and placed his hand on Tony's shoulder and gave it a gentle squeeze. Leaning down, he whispered in his ear, "I'll take care of everything. You just hang in there."
He took McGee's cell and watched as the agents and the paramedics began their trek towards the chopper. As he started to dial the phone, Kate came running back to where he was. Her face was etched in disbelief. "You have something to say?"
"I think that you need to get on that chopper with Tony and let another team process the scene; you're obviously delusional if you think that you're going to be allowed to do it yourself," Kate challenged.
"I think that you need to choose your next words wisely," he warned. The last thing Gibbs needed was for Kate to question his judgment. He was going to personally ensure that the scene was handled with care; he didn't want DiNozzo to worry about any inquiries into his past while he was trying to heal. "I never said that I was going to be working the scene."
"Gibbs, what are you going to do?" she wanted to know.
"Don't worry about it, Kate. Now, you catch up with the others; I won't be far behind."
"Agent Todd! We are through with this discussion!"
He watched as Kate stormed off; after all this was over, he was going to have a long discussion with her about following his orders. Satisfied that she was out of hearing range, he dialed the cell phone and waited for the familiar voice to answer.
"Director Morrow, it's Gibbs."
"I'm assuming that if you're calling me, Miller's dead," the Director surmised.
"Yes sir. It's over…"
He wasn't sure how long Kate had been calling his name but he figured in the scheme of things, it really didn't matter. What did matter to him was the fact that he had yet to hear anything about Tony's condition and his frayed nerves were not going to withstand too many more moments of simply waiting.
"Gibbs," Kate called out once again. "Did you hear me?"
"What?" he snapped.
"Did you want something to eat?' she asked again.
The former Marine shook his head. "I just want answers."
"I'm sure the doctor will tell us something soon."
"Your starting to sound like everyone else around here."
"Gibbs, I need to ask you something."
The team leader had a feeling that he knew what that something was. "Not now, Kate," he sighed in frustration.
"Hey Boss," McGee interrupted. "Here comes Ducky."
Gibbs met the ME as he came down the corridor, anxious to hear about Tony's condition. Kate and her questions would just have to wait. "Duck! How is he?"
"Well, mind you, I just have an overview; his attending physician will have to fill in the details. It certainly does pay to be friends with the chief of surgery. You might remember him, Jethro," Ducky continued to ramble. "His name is Commander David Lange; we met him on…"
"Ducky, we can reminisce later; tell me about Tony."
"Of course," the ME apologized. "He did have some internal bleeding; one of his broken ribs had nicked his liver, but they were able to repair it and stabilize the ribs with screws. Anthony also has sustained numerous bruises and lacerations, especially on his feet and some of them are infected; he is also dehydrated and they are pushing liquids through an IV. He also has a rather nasty concussion but given time, he should fully recover. Once Tony is out of recovery, they will be starting him on an antibiotic to combat the infection and the fever."
"I thought you didn't know any details," Gibbs retorted. "So he's going to be okay?"
Gibbs pinched the bridge of his nose, taking a few seconds to collect his thoughts. "Did they find any drugs in his system?"
"Yes, there were signs of a hallucinogenic but I don't believe that doctor is too concerned about any lingering effects."
"When can we see him?"
Ducky shrugged. "I'm not sure how long he'll be in recovery. They're going to admit him to ICU at least for twenty-four hours so they can monitor him closely. As a matter of fact, we should probably navigate our way up to the ICU waiting room so that we will be nearby whenever we are allowed to see him."
"Lead the way, Duck."
"I'll meet you up there," McGee stated. "I'm going to call Abby."
Gibbs nodded his approval and then he and Kate followed the physician up to the waiting room that was situated outside the Intensive Care Unit. Upon learning that Tony was going to be all right, the team leader felt as if a huge burden was lifted from his shoulders; his focus was no longer on wondering if Tony was going to live, but on getting him back on his feet both figuratively and literally.
Director Morrow had assured him that he had dealt with the specifics of Miller's death and now, Gibbs only had one more matter that needed his attention. He sat down on the couch and leaned back against the cushion; this was the first time he had allowed himself to relax since Tony's abduction.
He heard Kate and Ducky softly conversing on the other side of the room. Gibbs knew that she was more than likely trying to enlist the ME's help in understanding the former Marine's actions, but Ducky couldn't explain what he didn't know. Hopefully she would quickly figure out that she was wasting her time and channel her focus and energy into helping Tony recover.
Their voices faded into the background as Gibbs allowed himself to drift off. He had tamped down his own worry and exhaustion in order to take care of Tony and now he could start working on his own recovery. Unfortunately his respite was all too short lived as he felt someone gently shaking his shoulder.
"Jethro? Jethro? Are you awake?" Ducky asked.
"I am now," he grunted as he sat up.
"Anthony is in his room. The duty nurse says that only one of us can see him right now and since you're listed as his next of kin…"
He nodded his thanks to the ME as he stood up and headed towards the ICU where the nurse met him and led him to Tony's room. Gibbs stood in the doorway, staring at the motionless form lying in the bed. DiNozzo was still pale and bore the signs of a fever but he didn't seem to be in any pain, at least in a physical sense; Tony's emotional pain was not going to be as easily assuaged.
Gibbs walked over to the side of his bed and brushed a stray piece of hair off his forehead; a gesture that reflected the hidden paternal feelings that he held for the younger man. "Everything's gonna be all right, Tony; I made it and so will you."
The former Marine found himself holding his breath as Tony began to stir. "Tony?" he softly called to the ailing man. "DiNozzo?"
Tony's eyes fluttered open and finally came to rest on the team leader. "Boss?"
He couldn't help but grin at the sound of DiNozzo's raspy voice. "Yeah, it's me."
"Knew you'd…be here."
"Where else would I be, DiNozzo?"
"In your basement…building a boat."
Gibbs smiled. "There's plenty of time for that."
"I guess you're right," Tony slurred, the effects of the anesthesia still present in his system.
"Right now, you need to rest."
"Sounds good to me."
"Then go to sleep. We'll talk later," he promised. Gibbs knew that Tony more than likely had a lot of questions, but there would be plenty of time to provide him with the answers that he needed.
Tony nodded, struggling to keep his eyes open. "Miller?" he managed to ask.
"You did it, Tony," Gibbs assured him. He knew that between the fever and the anesthesia that DiNozzo's recollection would be jumbled until he was completely awake. "Sydney and Sean can rest in peace."
"You're welcome, Tony. You're welcome."
Gibbs pulled up a chair next to Tony's bedside and sat down. Now that he had been able to see and talk to Tony, he knew that DiNozzo was going to be all right and that he would indeed be able to move on with his life. Miller was dead and the Director had tied up all the loose ends, ensuring that Tony could make a fresh start without having to deal with the repercussions; DiNozzo was finally free of Jason Miller and would receive a much deserved chance at happiness.
Tony's breathing had evened out and he was now lightly snoring; the steady rhythm was music to his ears. Gibbs reached out and gave his arm a squeeze, partly to let DiNozzo know that he was still there and partly to assure himself that Tony was alive. They both had lost so much and yet at the same time, they had gained another family and family always looked after each other; that was why he was so focused on helping Tony have complete closure and move ahead with his life.XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXThree weeks later
Tony had been out of the hospital for a little more than a week and he was getting stronger every day. He had spent five days in ICU and another week in a regular room recovering from his ordeal at the hands of Jason Miller. Those days in the Intensive Care Unit had been difficult as the medical staff struggled to find an antibiotic that would deal with the infection coursing through his body; his temperature had soared and he had been delirious at times but thanks to his family, he had never been alone.
It was Gibbs who had been by his side during those difficult days and it had been Gibbs who had repeatedly assured him that he was going to be all right. He didn't remember much about the first few days in the ICU but he had a feeling that it had not been an easy time for him or for anyone who had worked with him. After he had been released from the unit, he had arranged to have a bouquet of flowers sent to the nurses in ICU for taking care of him; he wanted them to know that he truly appreciated everything that they had done for him.
He also sent flowers to the nurses on his floor the day of his release which resulted in him getting several phone numbers. Of course, he couldn't bring himself to call any of them; it was too soon as the pain of losing Sydney and Sean for a second time seemed to take up permanent residence in his heart and his mind.
Tony sighed as he stared at the box of pictures in front of him. The photographs had somehow managed to survive the fire and he had kept them locked away for years, unable to bring himself to look at them for fear of remembering. Now, he wanted to remember; he needed to remember. It was wrong for him to try and forget them and if one good thing came out of his ordeal with Miller, it was the fact that he had been forced to unlock the box that he had placed around his heart, realizing that Sydney and Sean would always be with him.
Opening the box, he picked up the first picture; it was a photograph taken a few days before the fire. Sydney and Tony were at the lake and he had asked someone to take a picture of them. His arms were wrapped around her waist and she was leaning back against him; he remembered feeling Sean moving inside of her while they were posing and he could barely contain his excitement long enough for the stranger to take a picture.
He leaned back against the couch and stared at the picture. He made a mental note to get some frames the next time he was out; it was time to fill his home with the memories that he had kept at bay for so long. "I'm going to make you proud, Syd," he vowed.
His musings were interrupted by a knock at the door. A grin escaped his lips as he recognized that knock. "Come on in, Boss," Tony called out.
The door opened and Gibbs entered the room. Tony gestured for him to sit down as he laid the picture back down on the table. "I was…just going through a few pictures. I figure that I was doing Sydney and Sean an injustice by keeping them packed away."
"Been there, done that."
"Yeah, I guess you have."
The two men sat in comfortable silence, each momentarily lost in their own thoughts. It was the former Marine who finally dared to break the quietness when he cleared his throat and asked, "When do you go back to the doctor?"
"Monday," he replied. "I'm hoping he'll release me to come back to work. I know you miss me, Boss."
"Actually, I do," Gibbs admitted. "But I have learned something while you've been out."
"That McGee and Kate have a lot to learn; it seems their senior field agent covers for them quite a bit."
Tony grinned at the older man. "You better have a talk with him and straighten him out."
Gibbs returned his smile. "I intend to as soon as he gets his ass back to work."
"If I had my way, I'd already be there."
"I know, but you needed the time off to recover and I'm not just talking about physically."
"I guess so," he reluctantly conceded.
"I know so."
Tony nodded as he stood up and headed towards the kitchen. "You want a beer?"
"Nope and neither do you." Gibbs grabbed Tony's jacket and backpack that always remained packed and ready to go by the door. "We're going on a road trip."
"A road trip?"
"That's what I said."
"But uh…don't you have to go to work?"
Gibbs shook his head. "Wrapped up a case this morning; we've got the weekend off."
The team leader opened the door. "Coming?"
What was he supposed to say? If he declined, Gibbs would simply make it an order and he had yet to defy one of the team leader's orders. "Uh…yeah. Mind telling me where we're going?"
"You'll know when we get there."
He took his coat from Gibbs and stuffed his prescriptions in the pockets. Taking one final look around his apartment, he followed the older man out the door and to the elevator. "Can't you give me hint?" he nervously inquired.
"Gibbs, I don't know about this."
"Trust me on this DiNozzo, it'll be worth it."
They made their way towards the car. Tony slid in the passenger's seat as Gibbs made sure that he was comfortably situated. He truly had no idea what the ex Marine had up his sleeve but he knew that he could trust Gibbs with his life.
As they continued to drive, Tony found himself barely able to keep his eyes open; he silently cursed the fact that his endurance was still low and that he easily tired. At Gibbs' urging, he laid his head against the window and fell asleep, hoping that when he woke up, Gibbs would explain the reason behind this road trip; until then, he would dream of his family both past and present.
He wasn't sure how long he'd been asleep before Gibbs was waking him up. "DiNozzo, we're here."
Tony slowly sat up and rubbed his eyes. As he became more aware of his surroundings, he realized that they were driving up the dirt road that led to the house of his former in-laws, Tom and Margo Eads. "What the…Gibbs? What's going on?" he wanted to know.
Gibbs pulled in behind a heavy duty truck and cut off the engine. "I took the liberty of calling Sydney's parents," the ex Marine admitted. "I asked if I could come up and talk to them, so after you were out of ICU, I took a day and drove up here to meet them."
He swallowed hard. "And?"
The team leader smiled at him. "And I think that maybe they have a better understanding of how much you loved their daughter and grandson."
"They're going to let me see their graves?"
He continued to stare at the farmhouse as his eyes brimming with tears. Long ago, he had accepted the fact that he would never see where his family was buried and now, he was finally going to get that closure that he had so desperately needed all those years ago.
"Yeah. I have a feeling that they have some regrets of their own; maybe it's a good time to start over," Gibbs suggested.
Tony recognized Sydney's mom and dad as they came to the door. They hadn't changed much, except for looking a little older and grayer. The two of them were looking as anxious as he felt; maybe it was time to put the past behind him. He glanced over at Gibbs, unable to trust his voice to speak, he nodded his thanks.
"I'll be right here if you need me," Gibbs promised.
"You can come with me," Tony said, still uncertain as to whether he wanted to talk to his in laws.
"You need to do this on your own but I won't be far away. Go on; you can do this, Tony."
He wiped his eyes as he opened the door and slowly got out of the car and made his way towards the front porch. Sydney's parents met him at the top of the steps as the three of them stood there in silence, no one knowing where to begin.
"I uh…I didn't know that I was coming here today," Tony finally began. "I don't know exactly what I'm supposed to say…I loved your daughter more than anything and she loved me. I…" he clenched his eyes shut to prevent the tears from flowing once again.
Tony was pulled into Margo's embrace. "I know," she assured him. "We have a lot to talk about, Tony."
"Come on inside," Tom insisted. "Margo's got coffee brewing and just pulled a pie out of the oven."
As he walked inside with Sydney's parents, he could envision Sydney and Sean smiling down upon the trio as years of pent up anger and resentment melted away. Tony was now welcome into the home of the only two people who could still provide him a connection to his wife and although he was understandably apprehensive, he was grateful for the opportunity to make things right. He was moving forward with his life and it gave him great satisfaction to know that he was indeed keeping his promise to Sydney and Sean.
He stood at the door and glanced back outside where he saw Gibbs giving him a wave of approval. At that moment, Tony felt truly blessed. Sydney had been right; he had a family and it was past time that he accepted the gift of love that his family had to offer. The road ahead would not be easy but as long as he had his family by his side, Tony knew that he would never travel it alone.
Wow! It's hard to believe it's over. I want to thank you all for taking time to read this story and keeping it close to your hearts. I can't begin to tell you what your loyalty and support mean to me.
Now, my next plans are to finish Bad Moon Rising; I've only got about 3 chapters left on it and then I will be starting a new one as well as continuing with Long Road and A Pound of Flesh.
I'm kind of doing a poll to see what you guys would like to see next. I'm deciding between starting 1) a Baltimore story, 2)or a type of AU that takes place after Frame Up where Tony does have to go jail, 3) or a story where Franks gets Tony in trouble while he's on some kind of operation in Mexico. So, pm me with your vote if you'd like to and I'll go from there.
Thank you all again for sticking with this story! Hope you enjoyed the ride.