Tony was doing the whole coming-round-from-being-unconscious-thing again. First there was the dim awareness of floating around in a pool of black, comfortable, squashy darkness. Pretty soon came the awareness of not floating anymore, usually accompanied by a surge of pain in either his head, his chest or one or several limbs. The fact that this familiar part of waking up didn't happen could only mean one thing: he was on painkillers…probably in a hospital.
Great. Just great. He has landed himself in a hospital again. That realization was quickly confirmed by the appearance of a constant beeping and bleeping that was annoying him already.
Tony idly noted that once you knew the exact order of the steps to waking up from a blackout, you had probably been knocked unconscious one too many times, but he had more pressing matters to worry about. For example the last part. The actual waking up, opening your eyes and assessing your injuries part.
His eyes wouldn't open just right now, though. He decided to do the examination without looking, then. With some satisfaction, he noted that he could move every arm, finger, leg and toe. Trying to move his head didn't feel right, though. Not exactly painful. (But all that meant was that the painkillers were doing their job.) Just not right.
Right, so he hurt his head. Nothing new there.
Now on to the remembering how part.
Tony pretended to hear the drum roll, building up and building up, as his brain got ready for the surge of confused memories that would tell him just what the hell had happened. Only this time, they didn't come. No bright pictures, no flashing scenes, not even the faint recollection of a sound.
Tony would have rolled his eyes, but he wasn't quite sure how to access the muscles, responsible for that particular movement, right now. Not remembering a single thing about what had happened was usually a sign that he had hurt his head really bad. Not slightly concussed bad, but seriously, possible brain damage bad.
Right, if the memories didn't want to come on their own, he'd have to access them step by step.
Last thing you remember, come on! You were in a car with Gibbs, driving…somewhere…and then nothing.
A big, colossal heap of nothing, where the memory should have been.
Geez, if the last thing he remembered was being in a car, maybe that meant that Gibbs had finally managed to maneuver his car into the oncoming traffic, or off a cliff, or…
"Gibbs, Gibbs, Gibbs, Gibbs, Gibbs, Gibbs, Gibbs! He's waking up! Look at him Gibbs, he's trying to open his eye!"
A loud and uncharacteristically high pitched voice cut through the last clouds of unconsciousness that were still wafting around the edges of Tony's mind.
"See, I told you kissing was gonna work!"
One of Tony's eyes few open. The other one stayed tightly shut.
Note to self: second injury to the right side of the face.
With some satisfaction he took in his surroundings, seeing that he had been right. He was in a hospital room, machines and monitors bleeping away and an IV-bag, pumping god-knew-what into his veins. His boss was sitting in a chair by the window and n extremely hyped up Abby was bouncing up and down, obviously debating whether or not hugging him would somehow upset any of his injuries.
"Tony, you're awake!" she exclaimed, her voice slowly fading back into her trademark rasp. "I was so worried about you! Gibbs called me when they were flying you to the hospital and it took me forever to get here because of the weather and then, when I was finally here, you weren't waking up and the doctors said we'd just have to wait and – oh Tony, can I hug you, please?!"
Tony was so overwhelmed by the sudden burst of words which his brain didn't even fully register, that before he knew it, he had nodded and Abby was wrapping her arms around him.
"Abs, you're crushing him," Gibbs finally stepped in and gently pulled the Goth off his Senior Field Agent. "How're you feeling, Tony?"
It took Tony a moment to think about that. The painkillers he was on made it more or less impossible to know how he was feeling, so he settled for the most sensible answer, which was "Fine."
Gibbs gave him a funny look and he decided that he should probably move the conversation along, before Gibbs decided to disagree.
"How long have I been out?"
"Almost two days."
Tony's eye suddenly focused on a bizarre object in Abby's hand. Following his gaze, Abby proudly held the doll in front of his face.
"See? I worked really hard to keep you safe."
"That's a…voodoo doll?"
Abby nodded enthusiastically. Clearly thrilled that, unlike McGee, Tony immediately saw the ingenuity of her doll.
"I took really good care of doll-Tony's head," she indicated the frayed bandages that were still hanging from the doll's face. "You may have noticed that, even though you have a concussion, you don't have a headache, at all!"
"Yeah…thanks for that, Abs."
"Oh, you have to thank the bossman. He's the one who woke you up!"
Tony shot a confused look at Gibbs who was wearing a slightly disturbing self-satisfied expression.
"She made me kiss the doll's booboos away."
Gibbs and Abby both had to hold back their laughter, as Tony's eye widened in shock, his mouth opening and closing, unable to come up with any intelligible sound.
Finally he managed to regain his voice and lurched into a desperate attempt to change the subject. Quickly.
"You don't remember anything?"
Tony listened intently, while Gibbs relayed the story of the two of them going into a suspect's house and ending up trapped in his basement. He deliberately kept out the more sensitive information. If they ever were going to discuss what had happened in that basement, it could wait. And it certainly wouldn't be in front of Abby.
Tony took in the information and slowly, the images he had been waiting for earlier, started coming. They weren't very clear, but they were definitely there and now that he was thinking about it, he had the sinking feeling that Gibbs was leaving something out of his short retelling. Something important. Something Darth-Vader-telling-Luke-he-is -his-father kind of important. But he couldn't for the life of him figure out what it was…
Ah, never mind. It was probably nothing.
"Anyway Tony, Ziva managed to get you flown in here with a helicopter!" Abby finally chimed in, getting frustrated with Gibbs' disimpassioned, matter-of-fact version of the story. "And then they had to put you in all kinds of tubes and test machines. And I don't mean cool test machines, like Major Mass Spec. I mean evil, loud, brutish machines that sort of seem like they are out of a dystopian movie, where they do those evil medical tests on people, or something."
Tony shot a pleading look in Gibbs' direction. His brain wasn't even remotely keeping up with Abby's rapid flow of words and random topic changes. Gibbs put a calming hand on the lab tech's shoulder.
"He gets the picture, Abs."
"Oh…right. Anyway, you had a really nasty concussion, which is probably why you can't remember anything that happened. But you probably know that that's why you can't remember anything, because you have concussions all the time and you know how they work. You cracked some ribs, but that's hardly new to you either. Oh, but that evil meat tenderizer? It caused a hairline fracture in your cheekbone and that caused a really huge bruise. You need to look at that thing in the mirror. It's kinda like a rainbow."
Recognizing the overwhelmed look on his Agent's face, Gibbs told him to get some rest and ushered Abby out of the room, telling her that they needed to inform Ducky and the others that Tony was awake.
And just as Gibbs closed the door behind her and Tony was left alone, things fell into place. His heart skipped a beat before it started beating like crazy and pushed the heart monitor's beeping into overdrive.
Oh god, what had he done? He hadn't told Gibbs that he…that his…? Fuck! How was he ever going to recover from that? He might as well shoot himself right now, before Gibbs decided to call him on it.
Tony spent most of the night worrying. It was a good thing that the painkillers were still making him kind of drowsy or he wouldn't have gotten any sleep at all. And with either Gibbs and Abby or Ducky and Abby watching over him at all times, not sleeping would have been cause for suspicion.
But he still managed to spend enough time awake, pretending to be asleep. Of all the stupid things he had ever done, breaking down in front of Gibbs like that probably ranked among the top five. Right up there with climbing up a tree and not knowing how to get down and opening ominous, deadly letters in the middle of an office building.
In the morning, a doctor told him that he was ready to be released. Abby beamed down at him, while Gibbs announced that Tony was spending the entirety of his sick leave at Gibbs' place.
Tony wasn't sure he liked that prospect. Actually, scratch that! Tony was one hundred percent sure he didn't like that prospect. Truth be told, he couldn't even stand the thought of staying with his boss for any period of time, knowing that Gibbs knew.
His displeasure must have shown on his face, causing Abby to scowl.
"What's bitten you, mister? You've been acting weird all morning!"
"Nothing. I'm fine, Abs."
Again, saying he was fine seemed to set off his friend's alarm bells.
"What? What do you mean? You're so not fine. Something's totally hinky! What is it? Did I do something? I didn't do anything. I even wore the low cut top, you like so much!"
For a short second that managed to bring a smile to Tony's face. It was a nice top and it accentuated her curves really nicely.
"Abby, you mind giving us a moment?"
Abby looked at Gibbs with big, green eyes, then nodded and left the two of them alone.
"Spit it out, DiNozzo."
Tony made a face. He was glad that the heart monitor had already been disconnected or he would have sent the thing into another frenzy.
"You know…some of the stuff I said…after I hit my head…it wasn't – "
"I swear DiNozzo, if you're about to tell me, it didn't happen, I'm gonna…"
Gibbs let the sentence hang, not really knowing what he was going to do. Tony's voice had taken on that terrible childlike quality again that made Gibbs want to simultaneously hug the crap out of him and smack some sense into him.
"Wasn't gonna say that, boss. Just…you know…I made it sound like my dad spent every waking hour torturing me and that…that's just not…that's just not how it was."
His hands were moving around rapidly by now. Twisting the sheet between his fingers, tapping a short rhythm against the plastic side of the bed, scratching his face, twisting the sheets again, while his eyes – well eye really, was studying a spot on the wall just above Gibbs' head.
"I mean…it was pretty bad…around the time my mum died. But it got better after a while and…you know…most of the time he was too busy to hurt me anyway…"
Or too drunk.
"I mean…yeah, he wasn't around much, but…he didn't exactly have it easy…busy job, endless string of women, trying to take his money…left with a kid – "
"Oh yeah, poor him!"
Gibbs couldn't keep the sarcasm out of his voice, but he hadn't expected the angry yell it provoked.
"Hey! You have no idea what you're talking about! He tried his damn best!"
"Yeah? Like what? He sent you to some fancy private school? Made sure there was a pony at your birthday party? Told some personal assistant to buy your Christmas presents? You think that kinda stuff can make up for the things he did?"
Somehow Tony got the feeling that that was the wrong answer, but for fuck's sake, it was true! His father had done everything in his power to provide him with everything money could buy and it wasn't like it was his dad's fault that he had been cursed with some unmanageable kid.
Gibbs made a supreme effort to push down his anger again.
"Listen. You remember what I said to you down in that basement? I meant that."
"Meant what, boss?"
Typical. Gibbs tried to refrain from rolling his eyes. Of course DiNozzo remembered all the awful things that had happened while they had been locked away and pushed the important things that Gibbs had tried to tell him, right out of his mind.
"That you didn't deserve what your father did to you. That people care about you, Tony. That I care about you. I meant all those things."
It was surprisingly easy to say those things again. A lot easier than the first time actually.
Tony tilted his head slightly to the side. He wasn't sure how much of that he should actually believe. But with his brain not working entirely against him this time, it was a lot easier to push aside at least some of the insecurities that had been a part of him for as long as he could remember. Choosing to believe what Gibbs was telling him felt startlingly good and warm and fuzzy.
He smiled a small, shy smile, meeting his boss' eyes for the first time that day.
He would have asked Gibbs to keep the things he had told him to himself, but it was obvious that, if Tony didn't bring it up himself, Gibbs was never going to mention it, ever again.
And somehow that was enough. He wasn't feeling quite comfortable with Gibbs knowing yet, but he was comfortable enough to push his doubts to the back of his mind and prepare to bounce back.
"So boss, when we get to your place, can I set up my X-box?"
"Can you make popcorn and we stay up all night and watch movies?"
"I can stay up all night, working on my boat, while you get some sleep."
"In front of the television?"
Gibbs openly rolled his eyes at that, while secretly already making plans, to move his TV out of the basement and set it up in the living room.
"Have I ever mentioned that there is that movie Post Concussion about that guy, who gets – "
"Only about every time you hit your head on something."
"Oh. Really? You want me to tell you about it again? It's this really great independent film."
Gibbs turned around, pretending to pick up Tony's bag, in order to hide his smirk. Yeah, Tony was going to be alright.
OK people, this is it. Funny how a three chapter outline on the back of some worksheet transformed into this. ^^
I wanted to thank everybody who reviewed and put this story on alert and whatnot. You guys are amazing. I'm handing out virtual caf-pow!s to you all.
*sigh* Finishing things always puts me in this weird mood. Like...now I'm sad, it's over.
Anyway, leave me one last review and I'll be on my way to finishing school for good, so that I will finally have time to write, other than at 2 in the morning.