AN: Another one off while I organise my thoughts for a longer one. Organisation and me don't go well together.
Broderie Anglaise and Gunpowder
He was pretty certain that the shot that had originally brought him down had been an accident. He only knew as much about bows and arrows as being a law officer had taught him, and they weren't generally selected as weapons by people hoping to do seriously nasty things to other people, so that wasn't a lot. He tried to focus on it where it protruded from his chest, high up, just to the left of his sternum; with a nose as long as his, if he'd been prepared to endure the pain involved, he could probably have touched it…
"Why would you want to do that?" The voice was soft, but laced with exasperation, as if talking to a small child. He sometimes got that from Abby. Usually deserved it…
"Hey, did I say that aloud?"
"I didn't know you were awake again until you spoke. Which you shouldn't, Tony… you just need to keep still…"
"Princess, I was trying to look at the arrow. It's close enough to touch, almost… but too close to focus."
"Then don't try."
"Abby, it's important… listen… I need to figure out if there's still danger… if I need to protect you. I need to know what shot me, to have some idea of who…"
Abby smothered a wild laugh at the idea of the bloodied man in her lap being in any state to protect her, while she smothered a sob at the fact that he was still trying. Instead, she said gently, "Silly boy… why didn't you just ask me?"
Tony chuckled, but stopped again at once, with a hiss, because whoa, man, it hurt. "Mmm… I should have, shouldn't I. Enlighten me, O wise one… speak to me of feathered shafts and straight flight…"
"Tony, stop talking." Abby's tone started out gentle, but became angrier as she went on. "It's an aluminium arrow, the sort you can buy for a few dollars. From an ordinary, nothing special longbow, or a recurve, it has a pretty long range. You can buy them off the net, no supervision or licence needed, they even do teenagers kits. If you miss your target, particularly in wooded countryside like this, you'll probably never find your arrow again, or have any idea what it might have hit."
"Any idea… oww… how far away the archer was?"
"Don't glorify this chump with that title, Tony! My guess is teens playing Robin Hood." She rubbed his shoulder soothingly. "No, I can't say… far away enough not to know? Near enough to realise and run away? The crashing when you went backwards through those shrubs and down that bank was loud enough… so was my scream… so was your yell," she went on shakily. "When I got down to you and found you weren't dead, I nearly cried. When you lost consciousness I did."
He moved his right hand up to squeeze hers where it sat on his shoulder. "I'm OK, Abbs…I'm fine, and you're with me. So, accident, and they ran. Abby, I want you to take my gun."
"Take your gun?"
"I don't mean away. Sweetheart, of course I don't want you to leave me - not unless it's necessary." Abby screwed her face up and whimpered, but didn't interrupt. "Just take it out of the holster, and keep it near you. In case we're wrong." She did so without comment. Wise woman that she was, she knew there wasn't anything to say. Tony took a deep breath, and tried to stifle the whimper of pain that that caused. "Next question."
"Tony… I wish you'd stop talking. They'll come for us soon."
"I don't doubt it. But my phone broke when I fell, and we still don't know if yours gave a good enough signal, so we don't know how soon is soon..." He sighed. "If they'd let us know five minutes earlier that they'd found Jethro… that mutt is such a liability…"
"Tony!" His friend's squawk was indignant until she realised that he was grinning lazily up at her. She tried to only look in his eyes; she tried so hard not to look at the whiteness of his face, or the blood surrounding the place where the shaft disappeared into his shirt, or the way he held himself so carefully still. She spoke steadily; the histrionic caffeinated character that she took such delight in being was back in the lab. How she wanted to give way and be her right now…
"What was the next question?"
"Can you get the freaking thing out of me?"
Abby was naturally pale, and the events of the past hour had made her paler, but she discovered an even more bloodless level. She took a couple of deep breaths. Finally, she answered slowly. "I can see why you'd want me to. And these arrows should have smooth heads – barbs are illegal 'most everywhere. But I've nothing to stop the bleeding with if it makes things worse." Her eyes pleaded with him. "Besides, Tony, it would hurt you!"
"Well, yeah, I guess… but if it were a bullet we'd be saying –"
"I understand, Tony!" Her voice was sharp enough to make him blink.
"Hey… I'm sorry, Princess. Look… forget I asked, OK? I should have thought. I shouldn't ask you… I'm being selfish…" His breathing was quickening with his efforts to reassure her, and he clung to her hands as the pain increased with the respiration. A moment later and the frantic grip relaxed completely as he passed out.
Abby sat holding him for a moment, watching, trying to decide if his breathing was calming down. She bit her lip, falling deep into thought. He wasn't going to die, she wasn't going to let him; but he'd been right about the cell signal, it was intermittent and weak, and her battery was fading anyway. When the others missed them, she trusted they'd know to search this area where they'd all been not so long ago…
She'd not had the heart to tell him that Jethro, the cause of all this trouble, hadn't been found in the park where he'd gone missing, but had simply taken himself home, and had been found by Tim's neighbour sitting smugly outside his own front door. So Tim at least had gone home; and since it was Tony who'd picked her up to join in the search, no-one else would have waited simply because they weren't back to their vehicle as quickly as anyone else. So in reality, his estimate of time until rescue came was more optimistic than her own.
She lifted his head, and laid him on the ground, then removed the black, lacy-crocheted granny shawl she was wearing, and her crispy white blouse. She glanced around, then snatched off her cami, before hastily replacing the other garments. She wondered about Tony's belt-buckle knife, but then remembered that he kept a more obvious one in a sheath on the back of his holster, so she removed that, and cut the Broderie Anglaise-frilled cami into strips, all the time watching Tony for any sign of returning consciousness. He'd done it twice already; he would do it again.
She cut across his shirt as far as the wound; she wasn't going to remove the damaged garment as the sun was dropping, and with it the temperature. She hissed as she exposed the injury; duodenums and blown out spines in glorious colour were great on the lab wall, but the sight of a metal shaft going into your friend's chest was quite another matter. Well, so far so good, but she knew what she had to do next and she wasn't sure that she could. She took a deep breath, grasped the shaft close to the wound, and gave what she intended to be a slow, steady pull.
The unconscious man's back arched, and his head thrashed feebly from side to side… and the arrow didn't budge. Shattered, Abby let go as if it were red hot, and watched in horror as fresh blood welled from around the arrow. Her hands shook as she folded a strip of the cami and wrapped it round the shaft, pressing down on the flesh around it, and praying that Tony stayed completely out of it. When the flow seemed to ease, after she'd been frozen in that position for a frightened eternity, she cut off a piece of his ruined shirt to make a couple more pads, and used the rest of the strips to make lacy bandages to hold them in place.
She settled back on her haunches to study him carefully, one hand on his heart. As far as she could tell, it seemed steady enough, and his breathing had returned to something more like normal, which made Abby begin to feel a little better. The trembling in her hands – no, it was all of her… began to ease. She wiped tears from her cheeks. The rays of the setting sun, slanting low over the parkland, gave her friend's pale face an illusion of colour, but things would be bad once that sun disappeared.
He'd been carrying a jacket! Tony had had a grey cord jacket hooked over his shoulder… she'd smiled to herself as he'd sloped along, posing like a male model… he was one seriously hot piece of male crumpet, she reflected. Tony, Gibbs, Tim… life was good to a girl when she could work with such a selection of eye candy… Come on, Abby, work to do here…She put her shawl over him, and scrambled hurriedly up the bank. She didn't want to leave him for a moment, but… if she didn't find that jacket before the sun disappeared, she wasn't going to find it at all. She tried to work out where he'd been standing when the arrow struck him, realising that she had to stay calm and just stand still… and when she did, she saw it.
She was back at his side in moments, wondering if her cargo pants had protected her knees from scraping. They sure smarted enough…
A few feet away from where her passed out friend lay, a rocky outcrop still glowed in the falling sunlight. Abby put her hand on it, and smiled for the first time in hours. The rock was warm, really warm, and it was going to help her. She dropped the grey jacket beside the rock, and bent beside Tony. She didn't think pulling him by his arms or shoulders was a good idea, so she grabbed the collar of his shirt on either side of his head, and began to drag him over to the rocks. He didn't make a sound, but his face creased slightly. Abby saw, but kept on dragging him until she got him where she needed him to be.
She sat down, put the shawl back around herself, and leaned her back against the warm rock face. She couldn't keep him warm if she wasn't warm herself. The next bit was harder without any help from him, but she pulled Tony towards her, huffing with effort until she had him sitting up, his back against her chest. She leaned round him and studied his face; well, good, he didn't seem any worse, at least.
She draped the cord jacket over his right shoulder, but didn't cover the wound just yet… she had to work out how to deal with the arrow, and wondered if she could fit the sleeve of the jacket over it. Time enough for that, right now she wanted to see if moving him had made him bleed again. She stroked his hair gently, wrapped her arms round him, her right hand on his heart, kissed his forehead, and settled down to wait. She'd done everything she could, now it was up to Gibbs.
The moon was still maybe four days away from the full, but it gently took over from the twilight, and Abby was grateful. From the very bad luck of being in the wrong place at the wrong time – sharing a piece of parkland with an unknown idiot who wasn't safe to be let out of his playpen, and who'd run – hopefully they were moving into a good luck phase, along with the moon. The steady thump of Tony's heart under her hand was reassuring, and she settled down into a state that wasn't dozing, more like a relaxed one stage up from it.
Cordite… the smell of gunpowder… he didn't remember any guns… he remembered Abby pulling on the arrow, and the effort it took not to let her know how he'd felt it… he was ashamed of himself; he should never have put such a burden on her. After that, he couldn't remember anything except some bumping under his backside that he couldn't understand at all, and now, warmth on his back, and gunpowder…
He opened his eyes slowly, and saw that the arrow was still there… that was fine, he was glad for Abby's sake that she'd stopped trying to get it out. But when did he acquire the pretty shirt? He was certain he'd left home that morning in grey, and black jeans… and anyway, he didn't really think he was the sort to wear lace… he pondered until his mind became clearer, and he couldn't help a giggle… he was wearing Abby's smalls! Her arms round him, her perfume, Broderie Anglaise and gunpowder… he giggled again.
She peered down at him. "Tony, are you laughing?"
Her face was beautiful, ghostly, ethereal in the moonlight. "Moon Goddess," he whispered. "The Moon Goddess is looking after me."
"Tony," she said again, with slight alarm in her voice. "Are you delirious?"
Shit… he was really managing to scare her today. Nice one, DiNozzo. He took her hand and squeezed reassuringly. "No, Princess. Although moonlight suits you, have to say… No, I was just thinking that only a very, very special girl rips up her undies to bandage a guy's wounds. I'm honoured."
"You're an idiot, DiNozzo." Her voice was warm with relief and affection. Then she went stern on him. "How are you feeling? And tell me the truth."
"Well, as long as I don't move, not too bad. Very odd having a lump of something solid stuck in me, but I'm warm, and I've got - how long have you been sitting here guarding me? How are you feeling?"
"Don't change the subject!"
"I'm not. Are you OK?"
Now Abby giggled. "I've got a numb ass."
Tony squirmed around, until she told him to stop it, by which time he'd already realised it wasn't a good idea. "Mmm… I think I have too. D'you want to get up and walk round?"
"No. I'm staying with you until help comes."
"So again… how long has it been?"
"About an hour and a half since the sun set," she said reluctantly. "Someone should be here by now…"
"Somebody will," he tried to reassure her. "I guess it's harder to search in the dark… but they'll find us."
She tightened her arms round him, although she wasn't sure if she was giving or taking comfort. Tony understood. "Aw, Abbs," he said softly, "What would I do without you? I wish I could put my arms round you right now. Someone will come..." She'd gone stiff, even as he was speaking. "What's up?"
"Tony… what sort of wild animals do they have round here?"
"Foxes, deer, badgers… hey, no bears, or cougars… why?"
She just held up a finger, and looked at him, wide eyed. There was certainly a scuffling noise, somewhere up beyond the top of the bank. "Hey, it's just a fox or something…" Abby had pulled Tony's gun from her cargoes and was just releasing the safety catch, when a loud, joyful woof rang in her ears, and she was leapt on by a whole lot of German Shepherd.
"Jethro! Good boy… down now, down, mind Tony…"
The wounded man groaned; glad as he was to see the perishing hound whose AWOL escapade had led to all this, the full frontal assault was hurting him, and Abby hauled the big dog off. Tony took his gun back, and fired two shots in the air; voices came back from the distance. Abby looked at him closely. "You're bleeding again. Oh, Jethro…"
"It's OK, Abbs, he found us. Hey, will he bark on command? I mean, does he ever do anything on command?"
"Tony!… Jethro, speak!" She made the curled fist sign that she'd seen dog-handlers use, and the Shepherd let out two good loud woofs. A few moments later there were lights at the top of the bank.
Abby stood up and waved furiously, as one torch caught her in its beam. Gibbs was first down, and ran to her. "Abbs, are you OK?" On the ground, outside the torch light, Tony grinned to himself.
"I'm fine, Gibbs," she told him, enveloping him in a hug. "But -"
"Where the hell's DiNozzo? What's –"
Abby grasped his wrist and turned the torch carefully, not wanting to shine it full in Tony's face, but it wouldn't have mattered. Without her support he'd keeled over onto his side, and while one hand was pressed against the wound, his face was pushed into the crook of his other arm.
Gunnery Sergeant became Poppa Bear, as the others began to reach them. "Well somebody better explain… Tony… I don't know what the hell I was expecting, but…"
"Nice to see you too, Boss…" Tony's voice was lazy as Gibbs gathered him up in his arms. Abby was back on her knees beside them. "You look after her, Boss… she did a real good job, don't you think?"
Gibbs touched the lacy bandages, and looked at Abby with admiration. He leaned over and kissed her cheek. "Give her one from me too," Tony muttered. Gibbs obliged with a grin.
Ducky appeared, with Tim and Ziva. "The MedEvac is only ten minutes away, Boss," Tim reassured.
The ME checked Tony over carefully, but made no attempt to disturb Abby's work. "I think he will do very nicely if I don't," he told them cheerfully. "You did well, Abigail."
Since her first greeting to Gibbs, Abby hadn't said a word. She couldn't think of a thing to say; she wanted her lab, a CafPow and her music, in no particular order. She needed to be that person again. Once more, Tony understood. Struggling to be heard above the rotors of the approaching chopper, he got Tim's attention. "Don't make her go home…" he whispered. "Stay with her in the lab if she needs it, but don't send her home."
"Dear boy," Ducky said, "I should think we'll all be at Bethesda with you."
"Don't need to, Ducky. 'll be fine. Y'l see…Gibbs'll come, dare say." He began to fade out as the EMTs took over, but as they put him on the stretcher to load him into the helicopter he stretched a hand out to Abby again. She came up close, and he whispered something in her ear, that left her smiling as they carried him away.
Ziva watched the exchange, and couldn't resist. "Abby… why did you smile? What did Tony say?"
Abby's smile lingered through her weariness. "He said, 'Broderie Anglaise and gunpowder.'" And knew it was their secret.