"Is this personal, Jethro?" (Director Shepard)
"If you're asking do I know her, the answer's yes. Is it personal? No." (Gibbs)
Fragments: Everything I Needed to Know I Learned in Kindergarten
'Requiem' Episode Summary: When his late daughter's best friend comes to him for help in dealing with a stalker who's just returned from a tour in Iraq, Gibbs heads out on his own to deal with the marine. Trouble is, the marine only wanted the young lady for her address – he's awaiting a shipment of four million dollars stolen from funds allocated to Iraq. The girl is kidnapped, and when the stalker turns up dead, Gibbs eludes his team and heads off alone and without his badge to deliver the package they seek as ransom. Fortunately for Gibbs (and for us delighted viewers), Super-Tony comes to the rescue, dispatching the bad guys and diving into the murky waters Gibbs has just plunged his car into. Tony manages to save not only the girl, but Gibbs as well.
A/N: It's funny, but most of the tags I've seen to this episode all seem to think that Gibbs never bothered to thank Tony for saving his life. Even my husband, who only rarely watches with me, said first thing at the conclusion of this episode, "You mean Gibbs never thanked him?" I must disagree. Though Gibbs is without a doubt our most favorite functional mute, is severely lacking in phone manners and is 99.9 percent incapable of using the word 'sorry', we have had occasions to hear him say 'thank you'. My belief – just because they don't show it on the air doesn't mean it doesn't happen - hence, this story. Enjoy.
Disclaimer: The characters (sadly) aren't mine and no profit (also sadly) is being made.
Gibbs pulled on the dry sweatshirt Ducky had brought over from his locker at NCIS headquarters, glad to be getting rid of the hospital gown. He knew they really wanted to keep him overnight for observation, but he wasn't interested in staying in the hospital any longer than necessary.
Even if he had died today.
He'd already been stuck here for hours, and he'd had more than enough tests and needles to last him a lifetime. Now all he wanted was to get home, shower and spend some quality time with his boat. Too many thoughts were crowding his head, thoughts he'd rather not think, but if he had to, he wanted to do it alone, unaided and unwatched. Times like these, the need to be in his basement and away from the rest of the world was nearly palpable, and he sighed in frustration as he realized he was without a car.
The time he'd spent with Maddie had been difficult. Though he hadn't recognized her at first, once she'd explained who she was, his heart had been filled with memories of lazy summer afternoons, slumber parties and little girls' laughter. Seeing the beautiful young woman she'd become had made his heart ache as he thought about all the things that his precious baby had never gotten to do, all the things she could have grown up to be.
Seeing Kelly again - if he had actually seen her - was something he'd never thought would happen. The hardest thing he'd ever had to do was to listen to her when she told him to go back.
He wanted to stay. With Kelly, and Shannon. Where his heart was.
But he knew, as Kelly apparently did, that wasn't where he belonged now. Not yet, anyway. There were still things to be done, and people that needed him here. Not like his wife and daughter; no, they could never be that. But still family, in that weird, slightly dysfunctional way they'd come to be. Now, though, the painful memories he kept such tight control over had been released again without warning, and it was going to take a great deal of time before they were carefully locked away once more. Getting down to his boat was the beginning step to doing that.
But there was something else he had to do first.
The nurse came by with his discharge papers, being certain to point out several times that his signature was required to sign out against medical advice. He scrawled his name and glared at her, but unlike most recipients of the famous Gibbs' glare, she didn't scurry away in fear. She was young, blond and liked to talk, so she probably didn't recognize she should be concerned for her own well-being when in the presence of a frustrated Gibbs. She merely shook her head in bemusement and handed him his plastic bag of personal effects. The weight of it was heavy, the clothes within sodden with river water. He vaguely wondered if it was worth the effort to try and salvage them, but those thoughts were interrupted as the nurse moved to leave the room. Gibbs stopped her with his voice.
"The two people who were brought in with me – do you know where I can find them?" he asked.
The Emergency Department was slow enough today that the arrival of two good-looking federal agents and a young woman, all of whom were drenched and suffering from mild hypothermia, had spread through the nursing staff like wildfire. She turned back toward the older of the agents and nodded.
"The young lady is still here. Room thirty-two. I think they're planning to release her soon." She offered a smile with the news, and Gibbs idly wondered if Tony had gotten around to getting her number yet.
"And my agent?" Gibbs persisted.
The smiled dimmed only slightly. "They're getting ready to move him upstairs. Just waiting to find him a room."
"They're admitting him? What the hell for?"
She shook her head gently. "I'm sorry, Agent Gibbs, I don't have that information. But he should still be in room twenty if you'd like to see him for yourself." She saw the tightening around the eyes of the silver-haired man standing by the bed, and sought to relieve his tension. "I'm pretty sure they only want him here for observation. Like you," she added pointedly.
Gibbs let out a huff of air. "Guess he's not as stubborn as I am," he observed.
She nearly let out a laugh at that. "Oh, no, he's every bit as stubborn. Did everything in his power to be allowed to go home, but there was a Dr. Mallard here who managed to convince him to stay." She gazed at him curiously. "Did he really have the plague?"
Gibbs gaze was shuttered as he moved past the woman, clearly intending to end the conversation. "Yeah. He did."
Tony lay back against the stiff white sheets and closed his eyes. The IV in his hand kept him from lacing his fingers together behind his head in his preferred position of feigned relaxation, and the cannula they'd shoved up his nose was starting to itch. They'd drawn enough blood to fill a blood bank, taken enough X-rays to wallpaper his bedroom, and stuck that thermometer in his ear so often he was sure he could still hear the beeps.
He hated hospitals.
In fact, the only thing he hated worse than being stuck in a hospital was being stuck in a hospital when he felt absolutely fine. There was nothing wrong with him, and any other agent would never have been kept here this long for a simple dunking in a cold river. Any other agent probably never would have even made the trip over.
Sometimes he hated Hannah Lowell and her damn plague.
He sighed, trying futilely to release some of the tension that had taken hold of him the moment he'd heard the first gunshots down at the docks. He was tired, but he knew he'd never sleep. His eyes flew open as the image popped into his head again. Gibbs, sitting underwater behind the wheel of that damned car, his hair waving gently in the currents, his sightless blue eyes fixed on a point in the distance. This one was going to be with him a while.
It wasn't helping that this particular view of Gibbs had been pretty much the last one he'd seen before McGee and Ziva had shown up with back-up, and all hell had broken loose. Tony had asked the nurses several times how his team leader was doing, and they'd all assured him Special Agent Gibbs was going to be okay.
Tony couldn't help it though – he wasn't going to be satisfied until he could see it for himself. He pushed away the image and forced his eyes to close once again.
Gibbs felt himself relax minutely when he walked into DiNozzo's room and saw for himself that his agent was still alive and breathing. He took note of the paleness of the younger man's features, the dark circles under his eyes, the wires and tubing he was attached to. It all served to bring home to him how stupid it had been for Tony to dive into that damn river. But he'd never been happier to see the young man than he had when Tony showed up, tugging at the jammed door handle. He'd known Tony was his and Maddie's only shot at making it out of this one alive.
Despite the presence of the cannula, Tony's breathing seemed relaxed and even, and for this, Gibbs was glad. He had no desire to revisit that time when Tony had been at Bethesda with the plague. During the first thirty-six hours, Gibbs had been consumed with the hunt – trying desperately to find the answers, the cure the younger agent needed. It wasn't until the virus was dead that he was able to be there by Tony's side. But by his side was where he stayed as Tony rode out the complications of the severe pneumonia he had developed. Gibbs had no doubt that Tony would make it through; after all, he'd told DiNozzo he wouldn't die, and Tony had yet to disobey a direct order.
Still, watching as the young man spent hours trying his best to cough up a lung had been exhausting. He could only imagine how it had been for DiNozzo. And if his actions today brought on a repeat of that experience, then he'd . . .
"I can hear you stressing from here, Gibbs," Tony spoke without opening his eyes. "You need to stop, okay? I'm fine."
Gibbs snorted; he had heard that one before, usually right before the agent keeled over from whatever injury or illness was working to take him at the time. Only when Tony dramatically proclaimed he was dying was Gibbs sure that the young man would actually be fine. Anthony DiNozzo was nothing if not a study in contradictions.
Gibbs walked further into the room, depositing his soggy burden on the floor by the wall. "And yet, they're preparing you a room even as we speak," he pointed out.
At this, Tony raised his head and opened his eyes. Gibbs could see the obvious relief in them, and he smiled inwardly as he knew it was simply the sight of Gibbs being up and around that caused that particular look on Tony's face.
"Yeah, well. Wasn't exactly my idea," Tony groused.
"No, I imagine not. Heard you tried to get out of it."
Tony smiled. "I learned from the master."
"Ducky talked you into staying?"
Tony snickered, recalling the conversation. He slipped into a passable imitation of Ducky's brogue. "I believe his exact words were 'Better one night now with in IV in your arm than two weeks in a blue-tinted room'." Tony shuddered involuntarily. "He had a point."
Gibbs nodded, glad that Ducky has used his logic to influence the often-stubborn young man.
"They sprung you, though, huh?" Tony asked, drinking in the sight of a Gibbs who was very much alive standing across the room, even as he worked to banish the image of him in the river.
"Not exactly," Gibbs confided.
Tony's face took on a look of awe. "I still have much to learn, O great one."
Gibbs smiled. "Ya think?" he chided. "But there's a whole lot more reason for you to stay. I wasn't the one who had the plague."
"No, you were just the one who nearly died today." Tony glanced away, his expression still slightly haunted.
"But I didn't." The 'thanks to you' remained unspoken.
They said nothing for a few moments, and Gibbs used the time to study the young man in front of him. Though his appearance was nothing like it had been during the time of his illness, there was still a look that was too reminiscent of his battle for his life, and Gibbs felt a moment's anger with himself that he had been the cause of this. As happened all too often, that anger released itself in words that weren't directed towards its source, but towards one who didn't deserve them at all.
"It was a stupid thing you did, today, DiNozzo," he grated, hating himself even as he said the words, knowing they'd be misunderstood. If there was one thing Gibbs needed from himself, it was to ensure the safety of those who meant the most to him. Knowing he'd nearly failed in that again, had indeed been the cause of the risk, was taking its toll.
"Excuse me?" Tony asked in amazement. He had hardly expected Gibbs to express his undying gratitude, but he sure as hell didn't expect a reprimand either. Still, a 'thank you for saving my life' wouldn't have killed the guy, would it? He'd saved Gibbs' six, and in turn had earned himself a night in the hospital while the guy in question was ready to walk out. The unfairness of it aggravated him, and he lashed out. "Maybe if you'd bothered to tell us where you were going, this whole thing could have been avoided!"
The moment it was out of his mouth, Tony wished he could call it back. Didn't matter that it was true. He could see on the face of his team leader that Gibbs knew the truth of the statement as well, and Tony was surprised by the look of pain and guilt that flashed in Gibbs' expression before it was quickly shut away.
Gibbs sighed deeply, dropping his gaze. DiNozzo was right, and he deserved to hear it. "I know," he admitted, quietly enough that Tony had to strain to hear him.
Whatever DiNozzo had been about to say died on his tongue as the words shocked him into silence. He stared at Gibbs after the unexpected admission, unsure where to go from here. The silence in the room was only broken by the quiet hiss of the oxygen, the noise in the hallway remote and distant. He kept his eyes locked on the older man, waiting until he couldn't take it any longer, and then asked the one question he needed an answer to.
"So why didn't you?"
The honest query deserved an honest answer. Gibbs knew that and forced himself to reply, willing to face the music. "It was personal," he admitted, his voice still soft and low.
Tony stared at him in disbelief. "Personal? Are you serious? We had a dead guy in Autopsy, Gibbs! A dead marine! One that we'd been investigating! I think that meant that somewhere along the way it crossed the line from 'personal' to 'NCIS business', don't you?" His raised voice carried out beyond the two of them, but DiNozzo didn't care. It felt good to release some of the anger he felt.
"Ah, Tony," Gibbs slowly shook his head, wishing he had words to explain this in a way the younger man could understand. He made a move closer to the bed but then stopped. "Yeah, it was a case. But it was personal too." He looked over at Tony, his eyes entreating him to understand.
Tony sat forward in the bed, pulling his legs up to his chest and clasping his arms around them, looking Gibbs directly in the eyes as he sought to make his point. "Yeah, I get that, Gibbs. I get that she was Kelly's friend, and I get that that's a part of your life you want to keep separate, even from your own team. But did you even stop to think what it would mean to the rest of us? If you went off and got yourself killed pulling a stupid stunt? What it would mean for us, for me and McGee and Ziva, knowing if we'd been there, we might have been able to help?"
Gibbs felt his own emotions churning, and things he'd been working to keep inside suddenly came flying forth. "I couldn't take that chance!" he shouted, his hands clenching at his side.
Confusion was plain on Tony's face, and he waited expectantly, uncertain of what Gibbs meant.
Gibbs exhaled soundly, wishing he'd never gotten this conversation started, but knowing he had to finish it, or the damage done might well be irreparable. "I knew what I was doing, Tony." His voice was once again calm and even, as if the anger of a moment before had vanished. "I knew what I was going to do; I was aware I was going directly against an order. When I figured out what Haas had been after, that the money was going to be available, I decided I was going to give them the ransom, because I knew I'd do whatever it took to get Maddie back safely. I knew it could very well mean the end of my career."
He took another step forward and reached out, grabbing onto the bed rail. "I was willing to take that risk with my own career, my own life. But I wasn't willing to risk yours." Gibbs watched his senior field agent, waiting, wondering if Tony would understand. Would know that it wasn't a lack of trust or a desire to keep his personal life private that had kept him from ensuring Tony was there, watching his back.
Tony found it hard to look anywhere but the piercing blue eyes in front of him, and he searched their depths now. What he found there surprised him. Honesty, intensity and a desire to be understood – that he expected. But the hint of fear caught him off guard, and he knew at that moment that Gibbs' recent solo endeavor had not been the issue of trust he'd suspected. The fact that Gibbs might be afraid of his reaction now confirmed that. He felt the tension he'd been holding onto start to slip away, and he let out a small huff of air.
"You know," he offered, "all you had to do was ask."
Gibbs nodded, as if that statement was a foregone conclusion. "Which is exactly why I didn't." He let the truth of that settle for a few moments, the seriousness of the remark filling the room as he held Tony's gaze. Then he allowed one corner of his mouth to turn up, slipping into the familiar and expected role. "Didn't seem to matter, did it?"
Tony found himself grinning in return, grateful for a lighter moment. "Never let it be said I don't have your six, Boss," he replied.
Gibbs shook his head again. "No, DiNozzo. I don't think anyone's going to say that." He hesitated, knowing the time had come to thank the young agent lying in front of him, and hoping once again the words would come out right. There was a noise at the door, however, and he looked over as an attractive woman close to his age came into the room. He knew the moment was going to have to wait.
There was something familiar about her, but it wasn't until she spoke his name that he recognized her.
He allowed a small smile for the woman who had once been Shannon's closest friend, moving towards her and offering a gentle hug. "Cindy. It's been a while." Gibbs had known she'd flown out as soon as she'd been notified that Maddie was missing, but they hadn't seen each other yet.
She nodded. "Nearly fifteen years."
He looked directly in her eyes. "I was sorry to hear about Tom. He was a good man."
There was a wistful look in her eyes for a moment, a connection over losses they had both shared. "Thank you. Yes, he was." She didn't offer the same in return. Those words had already been said, many years ago.
Tony shifted uncertainly in the bed, drawing the gaze of the newcomer, and Gibbs moved to make introductions. "Cindy Tyler, this is Special Agent Anthony DiNozzo. Tony, this is Cindy Tyler, Maddie's mom."
DiNozzo offered a hand in greeting, and the woman took it willingly, giving him a smile, before turning her attention to Gibbs.
"I can't stay," she explained. "They've just released Maddie. She's getting dressed now, and I want to get her back to the hotel to rest for a while before we try and tackle fixing her apartment. But I didn't want to leave without thanking you, Jethro. I . . ." she drew in a shuddery breath, "I can't tell you what it means to me that you were there for her. Watching out for my little girl."
Gibbs looked slightly uncomfortable, then glanced at DiNozzo. "Tony's the one you should be thanking," he corrected. "He saved Maddie's life today."
DiNozzo could feel a blush creeping up his neck as Mrs. Tyler's attention focused on him. He watched as she walked next to the bed, taking his hand again and leaning in to kiss his cheek. She pulled back and looked him firmly in the eye. "Thank you," she said earnestly.
Tony nodded, his expression serious.
She turned then, and repeated the gesture with Gibbs. "Seems to me you both saved her life." She smiled and gave Gibbs one more quick hug before disappearing back the way she'd come.
The two men watched her go, seeing her find Maddie across the way and wrap an arm around her daughter. Maddie looked up on her way out and smiled, waggling her fingers at them both.
"She's a beautiful girl," Tony commented softly, watching as she left.
"Yeah, she is," Gibbs agreed. He looked back at DiNozzo and resumed his position near the bed. "I meant what I said to her mother. Maddie owes you her life, Tony."
The blush that had started moments ago returned and took a firmer hold, and DiNozzo looked down at his blanket-covered legs. "Gibbs . . ." he started. As much as he had wanted to hear a 'thank you' from his boss a few minutes ago, now that the possibility was here, it was making him uncomfortable.
Gibbs held up a hand to stop the other man from speaking. "No, just listen to me for a minute. You need to know this. You need to hear this. You did good today, Tony. And I'm proud of you."
Tony gave a nervous laugh. "You got a little oxygen deprivation thing going there, Boss? Because you are definitely not sounding very Gibbs-like, and it's kind of freakin' me out."
Gibbs glared at him. "Shut up, DiNozzo. I don't say stuff like this very often . . ."
"You don't have to say it at all," Tony interrupted hastily. "Seriously, Gibbs,"
The older agent turned up the glare a few notches, and Tony reluctantly fell silent.
"Yeah, I do," Gibbs continued. He paused, dropping his eyes and staring at his hands. Words never came easily to him, and praise wasn't something he gave freely or frequently. But if ever someone deserved them, it was Anthony DiNozzo. "What you did today . . . it went above and beyond. You put yourself at risk to save my life. Maddie's too. And I don't want you to ever think I'd take something like that for granted. I owe you one." He gave a half-grin before continuing. "Actually, I owe you two."
He raised his gaze and captured his agent's green eyes with his own. "Thank you, Tony."
The serious expression on the face so close to his own left little doubt in DiNozzo's mind that the words were sincere. And even though he'd meant it when he'd told Gibbs he didn't have to say them, they still felt pretty damn good to hear. He felt a grin forming in return.
There was an odd noise in the hallway, a jingling, shuffling sound that Tony thought sounded familiar. He tilted an ear, trying to place it as it grew louder.
"Tony, Tony, Tony!" Abby came tearing into the room, doing that little shuffle-run she did on her platform boots, her pig-tails bouncing wildly in the air and her bracelets jangling as she wrung her hands together. "Oh my gosh, I can't believe you're in the hospital again!" She ran over to the bed, dropped the rail and reached over and pulled the slightly startled agent into a bone-crushing hug. She smacked her lips soundly on his cheek several times, punctuating each kiss with a 'thank you'.
"You saved Gibbs! You're like a hero, Tony! I mean, not that you weren't always my hero, anyway, cause you like totally are, ever since you saved me when Ari was shooting at me and I got to see what a great booty you have, well, and probably you were my hero even long before that, but today was even better, because you saved my silver-haired fox! Thank you, thank you, thank you!"
Tony tried to disentangle himself gently from the embrace, worried that she might have pulled out his IV, but within seconds she had bounced away from him after she caught sight of Gibbs.
"Gibbs!" she screamed, flinging herself at him with alarming speed. She wrapped her arms tightly around him, and held on for dear life. "I can't believe you died today! What were you thinking?" She pulled back and punched him solidly on the arm. "Don't you ever do that to me again, you got it, buster?" Then she reached forward for another hug.
Gibbs wrapped his arms around her and held on tight. "Got it, Abs," he promised.
She pulled back to look him squarely in the eye, trying to determine if he was being truthful. Apparently satisfied with what she saw, she nodded. "Good." Stepping away from him, she quickly slipped out of her jacket, tossing it casually over the chair, and then returned to the side of the bed where she'd dropped the rail, not even hesitating before climbing up into the bed with Tony.
DiNozzo shifted slightly to make room for her and smiled, holding up an arm so she could snuggle underneath, content when she sighed happily.
Within seconds, McGee, Ziva and Ducky all entered the room. McGee looked slightly out of breath, and he turned to Abby. "How can you possibly run that fast in those things?" he asked.
Abby just smiled serenely at him.
He walked over to Tony's bed and stuck his hands in his pockets, looking up at the senior field agent who treated him more like a pesky kid brother. Still, he couldn't help being glad Tony was going to be okay, and if he had to admit it, he was a little in awe of the rescue Tony had performed. If it had been him, McGee wasn't sure the outcome would have had quite such a happy ending. He offered him a smile. "Looking good, Tony. How's the jell-o?" he asked, winking at the other man.
Tony laughed easily. "Nice, Probie. Way to bring up the painful reminders. Fortunately for you, I like jell-o."
"This is a good thing, Tony," Ziva chimed in, "as you seem to have many opportunities to enjoy it."
Tony narrowed his eyes and turned to her, grinning. "Et tu, Zee-vah?"
She smiled back at him. "I'm glad you are going to be okay," she said honestly. "Glad you are both going to be okay," she said, directing her smile towards Gibbs.
Tony adjusted Abby slightly on his side and looked around the room at his teammates. "You guys just here for a visit?"
Abby answered. "Ducky told us they're keeping you tonight, so we thought we'd come and cheer you up and make a lot of noise and get in the way until they kick us out. Doesn't that sound like a good idea?"
Tony smiled, leaning back and closing his eyes. "Sounds perfect, Abs."
She looked over at Gibbs. "Bossman, are you going to stay?" she asked, her puppy-dog eyes pleading with him.
Gibbs thought about his basement, his desire to be alone with his boat, his bourbon and his thoughts, to process all the memories and emotions this case had resurrected for him. He pulled her jacket off the chair and claimed the seat for himself. It would all be waiting for him tomorrow. Maybe tonight could provide a different kind of healing.
"Yeah, Abs. I'll stay."
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