Gibbs leaned heavily against the boat frame as another wave of pain shot through his upper body. He had done too much by working on the boat so soon. Hell, he'd probably over done it just coming down the stairs. If he had remained upstairs any longer, though, he would have shot something. He enjoyed a good book but four of them in the last three days and he was done. There was nothing he hated more than being laid up. Lying on his couch all day gave him too much time to think about the what-ifs. As a rule he made it a point not to second guess but it was hard to let this one go. At the moment, though, he was too focused on his pain to think about anything else. He was so focused, in fact, that he didn't even hear the basement door.
"Gibbs," Ziva called. "I brought you lunch. Homemade potato soup and turkey sandwiches." Shaking her head, she added, "I should have known you would come down here despite the doctor's orders."
Gibbs didn't move from his current position. He knew Ziva would realize immediately what was wrong. There was no point in trying to hide it from her.
"I see the doctor was right about the stairs. Here," she said handing him the pain pills and glass of water she'd carried down with her. Apparently she had anticipated the cost of his defiance.
Gibbs just grunted and swallowed the medicine. That alone told her all she needed to know. She pulled the stool over by him. "Sit," she told him.
"Not your damn dog. I may be on medical leave but I still give the orders, Agent David. Not that you ever bother to follow them," he groused. Despite his protests, he sat down.
"You are a very grumpy patient, Gibbs," Ziva replied. "I see now why Tony told me it was a probie's duty to check on you. This is hazing, yes?" she teased, making it clear that she was not intimidated in the least by his surly demeanor. "And technically, since you are on medical leave, Tony gives the orders. He ordered me to bring you lunch and to make sure you take all of your medication."
"I don't need anybody to check on me. Tell Dinozzo to worry about doing his job. I can take care of myself."
"Yes, you are doing an excellent job taking care of yourself. That is why we are sitting here waiting for the pain medication to begin working in order for you to be able to climb up the stairs," Ziva responded sarcastically.
"I woulda made it up just fine without your help. And I can do without the attitude, Probie."
"You are unhappy with my bedside manner, yes? Well, perhaps you will find Abby's nursing style more pleasant. She will be checking on you this evening. And your father said he will return late tomorrow afternoon. Maybe he can make you obey the doctor."
They lapsed into silence as they waited for Gibbs's pain to subside enough for him to return to his couch upstairs. The past few days had been difficult for everyone but Ziva hoped the worst of it was over. Gibbs was definitely improving as evidenced by his attempt to over do it. She was grateful to be sitting in his basement. A little more than a week ago she had been sitting in a surgical waiting room praying that he would not die.
"Ziva, oh my God, are you okay? You're covered in blood. It's Gibbs's blood, isn't it? Is he going to be okay? Please tell me he is going to be okay. What happened?" Abby would have continued but Tony interrupted.
"Give her a chance to talk, Abby. Have you heard anything yet?" Tony asked.
"No," Ziva replied softly while staring straight ahead. "He was unconscious when we got here. They took him into surgery as soon as we arrived. They are trying to stop the bleeding. The nurse said someone would call the desk as soon as they have something definite to tell us."
"Oh, Ziva, you must have been so scared," Abby said as she sat down and put her arm around her friend's shoulder. Ziva remained stoic and refused to make eye contact with anyone.
"Did anyone call his father? Jack should know what is going on. He would probably want to be here," Tim said.
"I'll make the call," Vance replied. "David, go get cleaned up. Dinozzo, work your magic on the receptionist at the desk and get some scrubs for David to wear. McGee, take Ms. Scuito and make a coffee run. I have a feeling we are going to be here awhile." Vance's orders had a calming effect as he gave everyone a job.
It was another three hours before a nurse finally called from the operating room to tell them that the surgery had gone well and Gibbs was stable. She said the doctor was finishing up and would be out to talk to them soon. When the doctor finally arrived, he approached them with a smile. "Well, Agent Gibbs is minus a spleen but he should make a full recovery. He was extremely lucky. The bullet missed almost everything important. If you have to lose an organ, the spleen is the way to go. Agent Gibbs will be in the recovery room for a couple of hours and then he'll be moved to a regular patient room. You can see him then."
Ducky continued to quiz the doctor on specifics but the medical jargon was lost on everyone else. Vance slipped away to call and update Jack as Ziva collapsed back into a chair.
"You alright?" Tony asked her kneeling down to be eye level with her.
Hearing that Gibbs would survive had finally broken through her emotional defenses. She looked at Tony with tears in her eyes. "No. He almost died..."
"But he didn't. Because of you. You saved his life, Ziva. Not to mention you totally kicked ass. I knew the super ninja in you was bound to make a comeback eventually," Tony threw in the last part to try to lighten her mood a little. He could joke about the situation now that they knew Gibbs was going to be alright.
"I did not think. I was focused on saving him. I was determined to do whatever was needed. He did not want me to go against them alone but I knew he was losing too much blood. I could not wait," Ziva replied.
"Not everyone could take on three armed drug dealers and win, Ziva, but you've got the skills," Abby enthused. Her mood had changed to instant euphoria upon hearing Gibbs's prognosis.
"Abby's right. It was a good call. You neutralized the threat and got Gibbs out. Look at it this way. If he fires you for disobeying orders, you've got a great career ahead of you as an ambulance driver. Seriously, he wouldn't have lasted until we got there. You did good, Probie. You've inspired a new Dinozzo rule. It's rare but sometimes you gotta go with your gut even if it doesn't agree with the boss," Tony said.
Although Tony was joking, there was an element of seriousness to what he said. If Ziva had waited for Tony and McGee or even the local police to arrive, this conversation would be taking place in a morgue rather than a hospital. Gibbs and Ziva had been investigating a lead on a club their dead petty officer had frequented. They were supposed to interview the manager and instead surprised the owner in the midst of a drug deal. Gibbs and Ziva had taken cover in a side room but not before Gibbs took a bullet in the abdomen. The only way out was through three armed men. With Ziva firing every time the men approached, it quickly turned into a stand off.
Ziva called for backup but then told Gibbs the wait for help would take too long. He ordered her to stay put. She had used supplies she found in the room to secure pressure on Gibbs's wound and then she had defied his orders. She had managed to pick off one of them from the cover off the doorway and then had gone after the other two. With a gun in each hand, she dropped both of them before they knew what hit them. Once the path was cleared, Ziva somehow managed to help Gibbs to the car and then raced him to the nearest hospital at unbelievable speed.
"Going up now. You coming or am I serving myself lunch?" Gibbs asked bringing Ziva back to the present.
"I thought you did not need my help," Ziva said with a smirk.
"I don't need your help. Don't remember saying anything about not wanting your cooking, though."
Gibbs leaned back into the pillows on the couch. Ziva had returned to work after making his lunch and completing a laundry list of household tasks. He was glad to see her go. Seeing her just reminded him of what could have happened. He'd been through it a thousand times and he still couldn't figure out what had gone wrong. Why hadn't he seen it coming? His own near death didn't bother him. He'd been there before and realistically he would probably be there again before his career was over. It was Ziva's part in the experience that was haunting him. He was supposed to be watching over her. Instead, she'd been forced to save him. He let her down.
Hours later, the sound of someone moving around in the kitchen woke him. The scene outside the window had turned dark. He must have slept most of the afternoon. He slowly eased himself off the couch and headed to the kitchen to find Abby assembling dinner. Truthfully, he'd rather be on his own right now but he couldn't do that to his team. He had told Ziva that she would have to be strong enough to accept help. Now he was forced to adhere to his own advice. Whether it was necessary or not, his team needed to take care of him right now so he let them.
"Gibbs, you're awake," Abby said as she gave him a smile and a kiss on the cheek. "Did I make too much noise? I was trying to be quiet."
"Damn pain pills must've knocked me out."
"You wouldn't have needed them if you'd stayed upstairs, Gibbs," Abby admonished him. At his stern look, she added, "Sleeping is good for you. You heal faster when you're asleep. Not that you don't already heal fast anyway. So, I brought all your favorites from that Chinese place you like. I even brought enough for you and Jack to have leftovers. It's so sweet that you are letting him stay with you. I know you don't really need him here but he was so excited about getting to spend time with you."
"You planning to eat with me?" Gibbs asked noticing she was making two plates.
"You don't want me to? Cuz I miss you, Gibbs. Tony brings me Caf-Pow! but it's not the same."
"Abs, you've seen me every day," Gibbs said with amusement. "But you can stay if you want."
"Aww, you miss me too, Gibbs," she teased as she sat the plates at his kitchen table. "Besides, you owe me."
"How you figure that?"
"I brought your favorite coffee," Abby said holding it just out of his reach. "Only if you promise no more stairs until the doctor says you can."
"Abbs," Gibbs growled.
"Okay, but only because Ziva told me you were a total grouch earlier. You obviously need a caffeine fix."
The coffee and the food went a long way toward improving Gibbs's mood. Abby knew him well enough to see that something was still weighing on him, though. She also knew he probably wouldn't talk about it unless it was on his terms. Rather than asking, she babbled on about anything and everything to fill the silence. Finally, she grew frustrated and decided to take a risk. The worst he could do was shut her down and it wouldn't be the first time.
"She's okay, you know, in case that's what you're worrying about."
"What are you talking about Abs?"
"Ziva. I mean she was a little freaked when it happened but we all were. She's been like unbelievably open about the whole thing. Very un-Ziva like. She's been like the new improved actually talks about how she feels sometimes Ziva. And now that we know you're okay, she's totally good. Better than good. Like her confidence is kinda back. I mean, not like all the way back. But, you know, more back than it was."
When Gibbs didn't respond, Abby gave up and began cleaning up from dinner. Once she was finished, she checked to make sure everything was ready for Jack's arrival the next day. She left an envelope with Jack's name on the bedside table in Gibbs's guest room. She reminded Gibbs that there was still leftover breakfast casserole for him in the refrigerator. She also told him Ziva would be bringing lunch again the next day as well as some other food for him and Jack. Then with a kiss on the cheek, she told him goodbye and left.
Ziva arrived around noon the next day to find an unfamiliar red sports car in Gibbs's driveway. Although she was not that knowledgeable regarding American cars, she thought it looked like an older model Mustang. She was puzzled until she heard the voices in the living room. "Jack, you arrived early. You got everything taken care of at home, I hope," she said with a smile.
"I got an early start. And I've got a reliable young man watching the store so I can stay for a nice long visit this time. So, how are you, young lady? Is that lunch I smell?" Jack asked as he reached out to take the box she carried.
"There's more in the car," Ziva replied. At Gibbs's questioning glance, she added, "Tony said this qualified as company business. I have one of the Chargers."
"Dinozzo's taking a lot of liberties," Gibbs complained.
"Feel free to stay in here and gripe, Son, but I'm planning on enjoying this homemade lasagna. What I'd really like to do is share it with the lovely young lady who made it. You will be staying, won't you, Ziva?" Jack asked hopefully.
"Well, you are a difficult man to say no to, Jackson Gibbs. I suppose Tony will not mind if I stay long enough for a quick bite," Ziva replied with a smile. Jack helped Ziva carry in the remaining food items and then made coffee while she prepared their lunch.
As they finished eating, Ziva finally had to ask, "Is that your car in the driveway, Jack?"
"You sound a little shocked. Should I be offended that you don't think an old man like me would drive that car?" Jack teased her.
"Oh, but you misunderstood me. I am not shocked at all. I am just curious if it perhaps explains how you managed to arrive so much earlier than anticipated," she teased him in return.
"Well, young lady, it is actually my latest project. I found I enjoyed rebuilding Leroy's car so much that I acquired another one. This one is newer. A 1988 Ford Mustang GT. Got it cheap off an estate sale. Restoring it was not as difficult, though. Just needed a few new parts to get it going again and a little body work. Now that I've finished it I'm not quite sure what I'm going to do with it. You wouldn't happen to be in need of a car would you?" Jack asked.
"Someone has been talking about me, yes? Abby or Tony?" was Ziva's only reply.
"Well, Abby and I did spend quite a bit of time talking at the hospital," Jack replied sheepishly and then begged "You could at least take it for a spin and tell me what you think."
"Ugh…you are impossible to resist. You know this, yes? It must be the eyes," Ziva said. "However, you must understand. I have only been saving for a couple of months. I am not ready to purchase a car yet."
"Well, just so you understand, young lady. I hardly paid anything for that car and I don't need to make a profit from it. My profit will be the satisfaction of knowing a beautiful woman is enjoying it," Jack told her holding out the keys with a pleading look.
"You are really much to charming to be related to him," Ziva told the elder Gibbs with a pointed look at his son. She accepted the keys while glancing over at her boss for his reaction. He had remained silent during her exchange with his father and was now glaring at her.
"Dad, you sure about this? Ziva almost killed the whole team the first time I let her drive back from a crime scene. You might not get that car back in one piece," Gibbs said. The only response was Ziva slamming the front door. A few minutes later they could hear her gunning the motor before she pealed out of the driveway.
"Are you sure about giving her that much car, Son?" Jack asked.
"Oh, yea, she's gonna love it. No way we coulda got away with buying a new one with that much power," Gibbs replied.
"You know she saw through my story about restoring it. I'm not a good enough liar for the likes of her. She's gonna figure it out when I sign the title over to her anyway," Jack pointed out.
"Yea, but this way she thinks it's my way of saying thank you without actually saying it. Any other way and it'd make her feel like we don't think she can take care of herself. Abs get you the rest of the money yet?" Gibbs asked.
"It was sitting on the table by the bed when I got here. She's efficient, that one, pulling it all together so quickly. Is there anyone on your team who didn't contribute? I thought I even saw a check from Director Vance," Jack replied.
"Everyone has wanted to do something to help since Ziva got back. Wouldn't let them til now so they went all out. Have any trouble finding the car?"
"Nope. I was telling the truth about the estate sale. Some guy with a mid-life crisis back in the eighties. Bought the thing and then left it garage parked most of the time. It's in excellent condition. So, are you planning to let the car do all the talking or are you ever going to speak to the girl about what happened?"
"I got eyes, Son; Abby doesn't need to tell me everything. You wanna tell me what's bothering you besides getting shot?"
Gibbs sighed deeply and then finally gave voice to the thoughts that had been plaguing him for over a week. "Don't know what everyone else told you but Ziva's been through hell. The kind of stuff you can't just bounce right back from. Had to take it slow with her on the job. Let her rebuild her confidence."
"Abby and Dr. Mallard both told me some things but I'd already noticed she was different. I can tell she's changed since the first time I met her. She's softer now. She seems sad at times. In some ways she seems less haunted than she was before, though. She's a strong young woman. She looks like she's doing well considering."
"She is. But what happened at that club…she wasn't ready, Dad. Not for something like that. She shouldn't have been in that position. I should've taken better care of her."
"Really? Seems to me like she did a fine job. You're both still alive, aren't you? And from what I heard, it wasn't something you could've anticipated. Ziva said the club manager used you to get the owner busted. She figured the manager was too scared to report the drug activity outright and that's why he told you to come by when he knew a deal would be happening."
Before they could discuss it further, Ziva burst through the door with a huge smile. "Jack, that car is amazing. How is it possible for a car that old to have so much power?"
"Does this mean you'll take it?" Jack asked hopefully.
"I do not see how I can. I only have a few hundred dollars saved and I know nothing about maintaining a car like that. I just need to lease something new and take it to the dealer for service. It will only be a few more months until I can afford to do that," Ziva explained.
"I might know something about cars, Ziver. Could help you maintain it. If you like the car, then take it. Man's obviously dying to give it to you," Gibbs told her.
Ziva considered her decision for several moments and both men wisely remained silent. It was obvious she really loved the car and was struggling not to give in. Finally, she spoke, "Alright, I will take it. But you must at least let me pay you the money I have saved."
Later that afternoon Gibbs decided to brave the basement stairs again. He figured he could make it down and back up again as long as he didn't try to do anything beyond that. His main objective was to get to his bourbon. He'd left off the pain pills all day for that very purpose. Drink in hand at last, he sat idly at his work bench and allowed his thoughts to drift to the conversation with his father. It had only been two months ago that Ziva told him she didn't think she was ready to be on her own. He had been shocked that she had been honest enough to admit her fear. Yet, she had somehow managed to overcome it last week.
Gibbs sat against the wall pressing the towel Ziva had found to the wound in his abdomen. He watched as she snapped her phone shut in frustration.
"Tony and McGee are at least thirty minutes away. You don't have that kind of time. You are losing too much blood," she told him.
"You called 911. Just wait for the local LEOs," he replied.
"No, Gibbs, they will treat this as a hostage situation and try to negotiate. They will waste time that you do not have before deciding to bring in a SWAT team. I can get us out of here. Let me do this," she demanded.
"No. You told me you weren't ready."
"That was two months ago, Gibbs. I know I can do this."
"Things don't change that much in two months, Ziva. You need to wait."
"And you need a hospital. You can agree to let me do this now or I will wait until you pass out. Then I will be in charge, yes? And I will not wait for help."
"Damn strong-willed…," Gibbs said as he was starting to fade.
Ziva wasted no time laying him down and tightly securing the towel that was keeping pressure on his wound. She then pilfered his backup gun and pulled hers as well. With two fully loaded weapons, she was ready to go. He watched as she fired from the doorway. Her voice sounded far away as he heard her say that she had dropped one. He could only lay there and listen as she made her way out of the door. He heard two more rapid gunshots and then nothing. An agonizing minute later, he saw her face above his. She began pulling him up. He only vaguely remembered her helping him to the car and could remember nothing after that.
Gibbs's thoughts were interrupted by footsteps on the stairs.
"Hello Gibbs. I do not have any pain medication with me this time so I hope you are not over doing it."
"Got the best pain medication there is right here," he replied holding up the coffee mug that clearly was not being used for coffee. "Join me?" he asked.
"No, thank you. I will be driving home soon," Ziva replied with a smug smile. "Abby just brought me by to pick up my new car."
Gibbs couldn't help but be amused. Ziva was not even attempting to hide her excitement over the car. He watched her closely as he sipped his bourbon. He finally realized Abby had been right. Ziva was okay. Once again, he had underestimated her. Judging by the look on her face, he had a feeling she was about to tell him as much. Honestly, it was probably only his perpetual grumpiness that stopped her from saying it sooner.
"I know Jack did not restore that car, you know. And I know it is not a thank you gift from you either. You should have selected someone less…exuberant to collect the funds if you wanted to keep it a secret," Ziva teased before becoming more serious. "I do hope it means you are not angry with me for ignoring your orders, though. I know I made the right choice whether or not you agree. Even if you put me on desk duty for the rest of my life, I would still make the same choice. I could not watch you die and do nothing. Not when I could stop it. Surely, you can understand that. You let Tony and McGee risk their lives for me in Somalia. You risked your life as well to get all of us out of there. We are a team, yes? We have each others' backs. It is what we do."
"Was only two months ago you told me you weren't ready to go in alone. Guess I didn't see that had changed," Gibbs grudgingly admitted. Ziva understood that was the only acknowledgement she was going to get that she had been right to defy him.
"I did not have the same confidence two months ago that I have now. If the circumstances had been different, I still might have let my fear hold me back. But I refused to lose you because of fear. So, now I know. I can do whatever is needed if it is for the right reason. I can do it on the job and off of it. I think I learned this from you. Because that is what you are doing now, yes? Letting Jack be here. Letting us bring you meals. You are doing what is needed. You are accepting our help because you know it is the right thing to do for us."
Gibbs caught her meaning loud and clear. She was accepting the car because it meant so much to them to give it to her. Yet again she had managed to surprise him.
"Ziver, about the car. We know you can take care of yourself. You are probably thinking…" Gibbs began before Ziva interrupted.
"I am only thinking that it is a really fast car," she told him as her face lit up with a brilliant smile.
Tony hummed a Frank Sinatra tune as he exited the elevator a good two hours earlier he than normally reported to work. Today was the day Gibbs returned from six weeks of medical leave. Of course, he was coming back two weeks earlier than the doctor recommended. However, that was not the reason for Tony's good mood. He was happy because today was also the day that Special Agent David was finally getting what she deserved. It wasn't the removal of the probie tag. Nope, she had lost it three weeks ago after she was granted U.S. citizenship. It wasn't a better apartment. He and McGee had plans to help her move next month when her current lease ran out. It wasn't new furniture although she could definitely use it. The sleeper sofa she had purchased from Craig's List ad was freaking heavy and he was not looking forward to moving it. He and McGee both nearly got a hernia carrying it up the stairs the first time. While all of those things were great, they were not nearly as gratifying as what was in store for her today.
Tony had worked hard over the last three months to lull his partner into a false sense of security. He had intentionally made a couple of pathetic attempts at retaliatory pranks. Ones he knew would never be capable of catching her off guard. He had endured her arrogant assertions that she was the prank master with feigned annoyance. He even let her rub it in that she had been able to fool him with the same prank twice. Over the past couple of weeks he had finally started to see signs that his hard work was paying off. She was becoming less diligent about checking her desk and car for evidence of tampering. Today was the day he was making his move. The self-proclaimed prank master was going down.
He had subtly suggested to Abby that they might want to do a welcome breakfast for Gibbs's first day back. Gibbs had developed quite an addiction to Ziva's mouthwatering breakfast casserole during his recovery. Tony knew Abby would ask Ziva to bring it. He even volunteered to pick up donuts as his contribution. As Tony had hoped, Ziva baked the casserole fresh that morning. While she wasn't late, she was the last one to arrive. She bypassed her own desk and went straight over to where the food was set up on empty desk. Tony's plan also hinged on Ziva being the first to head back to her desk as the breakfast began to wind down. She didn't disappoint him.
Ziva carefully watched to see when Gibbs would sit down and begin work. She did not want to be accused of goofing off once he thought it was time for the breakfast to end. Even though she was no longer a probationary agent, she still had no desire to cross him. He had not mentioned any consequences for her defiance on the day he was shot but she was not taking any chances. As a result, everyone else was still standing in the bullpen when she returned to her desk. She heard the laughter before she even realized what had happened. She found herself flat on the floor surrounded by the remains of her chair.
With a grin, Tim held out a hand to help Ziva to her feet. "Fool me once, shame on you..." he reminded her as he tried not to laugh.
"Fool me twice, shame on me," Ziva replied with an embarrassed grin.
A/N: This is the end of our favorite team's journey to right side up. I hope you enjoyed it!