Graduation Celebration Confrontation

Chapter 13

Dr. Chow came down to ER with Gibbs and Ducky, leaving Abby to sit and watch her sleeping friend. "You let me know about Timmy, Gibbs."

"I'll ask Ziva to come up, so you can go and see him, then you can stop worrying about everyone, Abs." He hadn't forgotten that Ziva wanted to see Tony, or that he'd asked about her. 'Bout time they sorted things, he thought, but he had no idea what to do about that. Could he do anything? Should he? Ah… probably not. As they got down to the Emergency Room waiting area, Gibbs registered that everyone was there but Mari; good, McGee wasn't alone, then.

"He's alright," he forestalled a riot as they were surrounded. "Or, at least, he's going to be." Ziva was utterly astonished at what he did next: he put his arm round the shoulders of the tiny Chinese doctor who stood beside him, and gave her a quick squeeze. "This is Dr. Chow. Di. She saved him." The doctor actually blushed prettily and looked pleased, and her tiredness seemed to drop away. "Di, can I ask you to explain what happened, while I go and see McGee?"

"Of course." Gibbs hurried off in the direction Ziva pointed, and Dr. Chow got them all to sit down again; that was better… she was, after all, the shortest person there. "Please," she began, "Don't form your opinion of this whole hospital or its standards of care from what happened to Tony. Only a very few people fell down, however badly, on what was expected of them."

She took a deep breath. "When he was brought in, ER was very busy, according to the report of the incident. Tony was offered a general anaesthetic, for which he'd have had to wait, or a local, which he chose. Gibbs tells me he was very anxious about his friends, so he preferred to stay awake anyway. He was given a painkiller which was mildly sedative; and because the department was busy, the doctor handed his care over to the nursing staff as soon as he was finished with the bullet wound."

She looked round them all. "What happened next should not have happened; but if other staff later on had been doing their jobs it wouldn't have mattered. By this time Tony had fallen asleep; from exhaustion or the sedative, or both… Ducky tells me he has a tendency to push himself to the limit and then collapse. In any case, either the doctor didn't tell them to check for other injuries, or they assumed he had. When they put him into the hospital gown, the injury on his back –"

"His back?" Ziva asked in surprise. "We did not know he had one."

"Neither did the ER staff, and he was not awake to tell them. If they saw it, it must at that time have simply looked like some scratches. It was an oversight; the sort we try to avoid, even in a very busy spell in ER; but if Tony's condition had been monitored it would have been discovered. The decision not to keep him in recovery, but to send him up to the ward was reasonable, given that ER was busy, but with hindsight… things would never have gone so wrong if he'd stayed down here. You see, with some infections, Septicaemia can take hold within a mere half hour…"

By the time Di had finished, Ziva's face was white. "I knew I should never have let that fool of a doctor leave," she said. "I must go to my partner." She left without another word.

Dr. Chow frowned. "Does she mean Dr. Rankin?"

It was Josh who explained, graphically describing the confrontation between Dr. Rankin and Dr. Kaminski, and Di swore softly. "Damn. I was looking forward to giving that man a long overdue bol- telling off," she corrected, in deference to young Claire, (who'd rather she'd said what she meant anyway). "Never mind, I'll get him later." She sounded disappointed. "When the board hears what happened, I'm certain he won't work here again."

Gibbs didn't wonder, he suspected he knew, why there was silence behind the curtain of Tim's cubicle, so he called out, "Should I whistle or something?"

There was a faint scuffling, and then Tim said, "Er, no, Boss… come in." Gibbs was unsurprised to find the two young people squashed up onto the bed that was only built for one, looking slightly pink. To Tim's credit, though, he didn't look embarrassed; he simply said, "Have you seen Tony, Boss?"

"Oh, yeah."

"Has he dug an escape tunnel yet? Boss?"

The look on Gibbs' face had brought him up short. "He's fine, Tim… tell you about that in a minute. How are you? And you, Mari?"

"Tired," Tim said, "Both of us." Mari agreed. "But they say I can leave as soon as the drip's finished. That's all I need to know. Boss, what about Tony?"

They listened in complete silence while Gibbs told the story, and were silent even after he finished. "I need my clothes, Boss…" Tim finally said. "You'd never have found us in time but for him. I need to see him."

Gibbs didn't try to persuade him otherwise. Which was how, not long afterwards, after Dr. Kaminski had removed the IV canula, and wagged a finger – "They tell me you're the sensible one. So get in the wheelchair and stop complaining." – and dressed in evening trousers and shoes, and Gibbs' NCIS jacket, with Mari still in her ruined evening gown pushing, McGee arrived in ICU.

"Timmeee…" Abby launched herself, then braked hard. "Oh… Tim, I want to hug you but perhaps I'd better not cos you're still a bit pale and I don't want to damage you, but maybe a little one?"

"I'm sure I could manage a little one, Abby." As the forensic scientist bent to administer a squug, over her shoulder Tim could see Tony watching, and even from this distance, he could see that the SFA's eyes were dancing.

A lot of unspoken communication went on; Ziva got up and came out of the room so that Tim and Marianne could go in; it was the ICU after all, and she was aware of the entire team's tendency to simply take over hospital rooms. Tim stood up, and it wasn't simply because the room was a bit small for a wheelchair.

Tony was too weak to sit up, but he still stretched a hand out in greeting; Tim took it, and he and Mari perched side by side on the one stool. "Hey… Ziva told me what you got up to… you did good, McBond."

"McBond… hmm, yes… I could live with that one. You did good yourself, Tony. When I saw you looking round that door frame… I knew we were going to make it… I owe you."

"You what? We do it all the time, Tim. We don't keep a record of who owes who. Or is it whom…"

"No, but…"

"Tell you what, OK, you owe me. So be happy with your lovely lady… and we'll call it quits."

Mari giggled at the compliment. "But Tony, I owe you for helping me to meet Tim…"

Tony rolled his eyes. "Enough already…" he went instantly back to sleep.

When they got back to ER, they found the others waiting, getting ready to leave; back to the hotels or in Ducky and Abby's case, back to DC. "And I shall go home to my girls and explain why Mom's late yet again," Di Chow said, but she was smiling nevertheless.

Gibbs kissed her forehead. "A pleasure to meet you, Doc.," he said, and she went off with that soft smile on her face. Ziva simply stated that she was staying with her partner, and nobody argued. She disappeared back to ICU. While they were sorting out the logistics, an ambulance rolled to a halt outside, and Dr. Kaminski came out to meet his next clients. He stared.

"Don't let Di leave!" he said urgently. "Get her back!" One of his nurses saw where he was looking, gave a huge grin and ran after Di.

A pretty blonde girl was sitting up on a gurney as an EMT wheeled it in, clutching her arm to her chest and screaming blue murder. "You stupid pratt! I warned you! My arm's killing me… it's all your fault… you should have let me drive…"

"Why? I've only had two beers, I'm not drunk, and it's my car, in case you hadn't noticed."

"Yes, well, you're not fit to drive it… what's left of it…ow… my arm…"

"Will you quit yelling? My head's hurt! You're making it ache."

Dr. Kaminski looked at the female half of the argument, and said, "Just calm down, Miss, and we'll sort your arm out. Cubicle one, Suzie, please." To the male half of the argument, sitting in the wheelchair pushed by the other EMT and sporting a black eye and a cut forehead, he said wolfishly, "Dr. Rankin…"

Rankin moaned. "Oh, that's right. Beat on an injured man…"

"Beat on you? This is a hospital, Dr. Rankin," a voice said from behind him, and the NCIS colleagues and their friends watched, entranced, as Rankin cringed. Di Chow stepped into his line of vision.

"Dr. Kaminski is here to help you, as you well know. But unfortunately, he's the only doctor on duty here; he has to take your girlfriend –"

"I'm not his girlfriend any more!" the young woman raged over her shoulder as she was wheeled away.

"He has to take the young lady to x-ray, and then treat her arm; so he'll put you in a cubicle to wait for treatment. There's no time to give you a painkiller, and nobody that can be spared to keep you company, so you'll have to wait by yourself for… I don't know… it'll take him at least half an hour…"

"But can't you treat me?" Rankin asked unwisely.

"Well, no… I'm on my way home to my family, several hours late, I'm putting them first. Half an hour, Dr. Rankin… and you know what can happen in half an hour… unattended, neglected patients can almost die." She began to turn away.

"You wouldn't do that!" Rankin squealed, and she spun back towards him.

"No, we wouldn't, you damn fool. We wouldn't because we're doctors who appreciate that our job is to put the patient first. 'First do no harm'… remember?" She waved an arm at Gibbs and the others. "These people are the friends… yes, all of them, the friends of the man who nearly died tonight thanks to your selfishness. You'll want me to protect you from them, won't you."

Rankin tried to jump out of the wheelchair, and the Senior Physician/little powerhouse pushed him down again. He looked at Gibbs like a rabbit in the headlights, and swallowed.

It was fascinating, Ducky observed later; how a single idea communicates itself wordlessly, and so rapidly. The watchers all stood silently, staring balefully at the man who was almost responsible for the death of Tony DiNozzo. None of them spoke, but as Gibbs took a tiny step forward, they all did. Rankin gave a squawk of fright.

"Come along," Di said sweetly, "And while I'm treating your injuries, I'll outline disciplinary board procedings to you…" She grinned over her shoulder at them, and was gone.

In ICU Ziva knew nothing of this, and when Gibbs told her later, she said wistfully that she wished she could have seen it; but she'd been where she needed to be. And so she was… Gibbs had to liaise with Lt. Barraclough, and look after the others, but Tony wasn't going to be left alone again. Irrational, she thought, he was being more than well looked after, and would soon be his old self…

Was she pleased about that? Did she want the wide-eyed, bogus innocent irritation that was DiNozzo, back again? She sighed very softly. Without a doubt, yes. Something about him lying there silent… Tony, silent… it was so fundamentally wrong she couldn't bear to look at him for a moment. She clasped his hand in hers, and closed her eyes. Almost immediately, his voice whispered, "Penny for your thoughts?"

She opened her eyes and looked into his sleepy green ones, and said, "Ah, you have broken them, Tony. I was thinking how unusual it is to have you quiet."

"Ah, well, that won't be for long… I reckon by morning I'll be able to sit up, and eat breakfast… and walk to the head, and not have to pee in a bottle any more… and then tomorrow night, you could drive me back to DC…if you're still around…?

"I think your timetable is optimistic, Tony. But I will wait, and I will drive you back to Washington; when the time comes. I was thinking that I do not enjoy your silence… but if you want to achieve your timetable, then it is necessary that you rest. Go back to sleep now, and in the morning maybe we will be able to eat breakfast together."

"Oh… I'd always imagined doing that in different circumstances, Zi-vah…"

Wild horses wouldn't have made her say 'me too'. "Go to sleep." She began to pull the sheet around him, and for a moment he looked alarmed.

"What –"

"I am tucking you in, Tony."

"Oh. You don't want to touch the sheet," he whispered, so softly that she had to bend closer to hear him.

"Why not?"

"Oh," he said conspiratorially, "You might be overwhelmed… underneath this sheet… in all my glory… I'm naked as a ball bearing… you… might…" He slept.

The west coast of Scotland; on the Road to the Isles… two people sat on the beach, on the famous White Sands of Morar, the remains of a picnic beside them.

The sun was beginning to dip, and Tim poured more wine.

"Ducky was right," Marianne said, "This is a beautiful place."


"Like us," she giggled, taking another sip of wine.

"Things are perfect…" Tim said carefully. "I don't want to spoil perfection…" She looked at him encouragingly. "This isn't a proposal unless you want it to be… in which case it is… I know you and me being together permanently would involve lots of changes. I just need you to know that it's what I want, in the end. When you're ready."

Mari nodded. "You're right. It would mean huge changes. If we do them a little at a time, they won't seem so big. I'm thinking that if I can work in the USA permanently, that's one change made already. Let me see if I can fix that, and then ask me again. In principle, the answer's yes. I love you, Tim."

"I love you, Mari." He leaned in and kissed her, and they watched the sunset for a while. "I got a text from Tony," he said after a while. "He's back in DC. Says he never wants to see Princeton again."

"Tell him not to diss Princeton," Mari said, ducking into the crook of his arm. "It's where we met, thanks to him."

"We owe him."

"He says we don't." She raised her glass. "But here's to Tony anyway."

Tim raised his, and they clinked. "To Tony."

AN: Done! I know I've stretched coincidence a little for Rankin's come-uppance, but I like poetic justice.

Thank you all the lovely people who've reviewed; I've never got to a hundred before, so I've got a little warm glow. But scribblers are never satisfied… more please?