AN: Last chapter. I'm taking 3 weeks off to watch le Tour, but I'll be back… you don't get rid of me that easily.
Nat, thanks for the lovely review I couldn't reply to personally.
Robet said very gently, "Sir… you should let them take him. There's really nothing you can do." William Warner didn't resist as the EMTs took his son out of his arms. The coroners men hung back, in deference to the father's grief, this good father of a bad son; keeping their gurney and its black body bag outside, and letting the paramedics take the young man as if he were still alive. The Senator scarcely noticed, but Robert once again dealing by doing his job, thanked them quietly. William would remember later, and it would not be the black bag he saw in his mind.
The butler helped him to climb to his feet, a devastated, bloodstained, trembling figure, needing direction, depending on the good and faithful servant (Robert, having never been one to regard being in the service of another person as demeaning, had always liked that New Testament phrase,) to tell him what to do next. "We should go back to the club, Sir, and meet your family."
William stood uncertainly, looking vaguely round him, as Robert enlisted the help of a Police Officer, who said no problem, he'd take them back, even if the Senator wasn't up to giving a statement by the time they got there. They glanced over at him, and he was looking vaguely across at the federal agent who had just saved his life, but they couldn't make out what he was thinking; or even if he was thinking at all. Gibbs looked back at him, and met his eyes, but the Senator closed his, shook his head, and stumbled towards the door. The police officer followed him.
Robert went over to Gibbs. "The Senator is aware that Agent DiNozzo saved his life," he said softly. "He's not an ungrateful man, and he will thank him in time…"
"I understand," Gibbs said. "He just saw his son shot dead… nobody's expecting for him to be thinking straight." It was the look on Warner's face when DiNozzo was down that was still rankling with Gibbs, but he wasn't going to distress Robert by saying so. He offered the butler his hand, and Robert gripped it, not without some surprise. "You're a good man, Robert," he said. "If there's anything I can do, just let me know."
"Thank you, Special Agent Gibbs," Robert said sadly, and followed the Senator out. The team never saw him again.
Tony was propped up against the base of the pulpit. "I'll go later." Tony was doing stubborn. Tony actually had a point.
There were four dead, and eight injured bad guys to transport; the man on the balcony that Tim had winged was losing blood, as was the one whose shoulder had switched the organ on when Ziva shot him. Chaz Tressel, apart from malnourishment, dehydration, alcoholic and cocaine poisoning and the effects of a thorough beating, had also had a chunk of plaster angel land on his head, which he would have been hurt to know if he'd been at all aware of it. His condition was approaching critical, he wasn't the only one with a concussion, so Tony was right. Other people needed the ambulances more than he did.
The EMTs agreed, but gave dire warnings about neglecting the injury. "It may need wiring; there's no way to tell without an x-ray. At the very least, it'll need strapping; or taping." They gave him a couple of distalgesic tablets, and went off to tend other patients. DGs… Tony winced, and palmed them. Those things didn't make him loopy, they made him seriously barking. And taping… that meant adhesive… He glanced mournfully down at the gap in his open shirt and his generous amount of chest hair. Owww….
The Boss followed his glance, and understood. He reached over, and Tony had to stop himself from flinching. He didn't actually want Gibbs to see the new bruising over the old, but the senior agent moved his shirt aside, and just looked for a long moment.
Aahh, dammit, Dinozzo… and will you take that guilty look off your face… what do you think you've done that was wrong?
"OK," he said finally. "OK. But you will go. I'll take you myself."
That sorted out the guilty look. Tony gave him a long, hard, derisive stare, that actually made a flicker of guilt cross the senior agent's own features. If you blinked, you missed it, but it was enough to encourage the SFA. "No, you won't," he said firmly. "You'll come with me, and get that elbow checked. But McGee – no, he needs the rest. Zi – no, er… Kent'll drive us."
"And what elbow might that be?"
"Oh, hi, Ducky…"
They heard a yip, and looked over to see that Blossom, who had come inside as soon as the LEOs had taken her prisoner away, was sitting, looking over at the organ. The tall wooden framework which had supported the mechanism, was one of the few parts left, and on one of the struts, just out of the Spaniel's reach, sat the ginger cat, still with that supercilious, taunting stare.
"Ah, pay no attention, Blossom," Kent said, as he came back from sorting out responsibilities with the LEOs and his belatedly arrived team. There were still a few things to be sorted but it had been a long day.
A guard would be left overnight; "We'll sit in our car outside the back door," a big, no-nonsense Sergeant had grinned. "No way are we spending the night in here." Kent had simply grinned back.
"How ya feeling, DiNozzo? Fine, I suppose?"
Tony surprised him. "Done," he said wearily, as Ducky finished immobilising his arm. "Finished. Washed out. Like everyone else." He reckoned the truth would get the Boss to hospital faster than his usual resistance. "But if you're not too tired, can you take me and the Boss to Bethesda? Reckon we might be meeting that nice Doctor Brand again…" he peered across the room, hearing another yip, but his vision was hazy with exhaustion, and he couldn't see Blossom. "What's up with Pup?"
The cat, deciding that because the arch-enemy hadn't moved, it must be fearful, had inched closer along the beam, and was casually swinging a paw above Blossom's head. The Springer ignored him, and sat still, her nose and paws steady.
Tony and Kent both spoke at once. "That's her hunting bark," the SFA said.
"She's not barking at the cat," the DEA chief said. "Oh, Bloss, I'm ignoring you, and you're doing your job." He went over to the remains of the organ, and the cat hissed and backed off a few feet along the beam. Kent squatted and followed the direction the little dog was indicating. The main bellows, with the bullet hole clearly visible, sat on a wooden frame about three inches off the ground. Kent lay down and pushed an arm underneath; out came a canvas shopping bag, holding…
"Yeah!" Kent yelled triumphantly. "The Starling Stash!" He pushed it away as Blossom left her guard position, and scampered up to be petted. "You ignored that cat and did your job. You're a star, li'l Bloss!" He thought for a moment, then whispered, "Katz!" The spaniel turned to look at her tormentor, let out a deep woof, jumped up onto the organ bench, and charged as the cat realised his mistake. The smug look disappeared from the ginger tom's face, he let out a screech, and jumped, making a star-shape in mid air. He ran for the door with Blossom on his tail, and disappeared out into the night.
The little Springer sauntered back, looking just about as innocent as a canine face could look, to be fussed over by everyone. "She'd never hurt anyone or anything," Kent said. "Well, except drug dealers who threaten her friends… but she deserved a bit of fun. She's the most patient dog I've ever known…" Blossom yawned.
Alex Hahn and the rest of Kent's team, guns drawn since it paid to be careful, took the stash out to their vehicle, and drove back to their headquarters. "Might see you in your own office tomorrow, then, Boss?" was Alex's parting shot, accompanied by a rude snigger from young Cal. Kent ignored both.
Gibbs felt guilty that Kent had hung around to bring him back from the hospital. "Haven't you got a home to go to?"
Kent had just smiled. "Sue was an agent right up until she had Jaz. She knows what it's like… and she puts up with it like the star she is. She says…" he looked at the floor with an embarrassed but happy grin, "She says, as long as I come home that's fine. It's the day I don't that she'll start to worry. G'night, Gibbs."
He strode into the bull pen; thinking he'd collect his car keys, and now that DiNozzo wasn't here to see him, he'd get rid of this stupid sling, and drive himself home. He was just tearing it off when a light voice said, "Should you be doing that?" Ziva was sitting at her desk, looking at him in open amusement. Girl was getting brave. He humphed, caught out.
"Didn't I tell you to drive McGee home?" The Probie was nodding over his computer.
"You did. But there were two agency vehicles to bring back, so we both had to come here, and we decided to write our reports while we had the chance. I will drive him home in a few minutes, when I am done here. I also let Abby know what had happened, and that you two were both only slightly hurt. The director spoke to me when I got back, and I have taken the liberty of requesting down time for us all. We have four days, with the option of more."
"We'll take more if I can get away with it," Gibbs growled "if only to make sure DiNozzo doesn't try to come back early – and drag McGee along as well." He glared at Tim, who was awake by now, but too sleepy to be intimidated.
"I have written your report, and Tony's;" Ziva continued, unruffled. "They won't be entirely accurate, but all you have to do is change what you need to change, not write the whole thing. How is Tony? And how are you?"
Gibbs humphed again. "Nice work, both of you. I'm fine. Just bruised. They decided to put a screw in Tony's collarbone… more of a precaution than anything, because he doesn't behave." He didn't mention the lecture on responsibility to his team that he'd meekly endured from a petite red-haired surgeon. Or that he now knew that Doctor Brand's first name was Naomi.
The other Troublemint Twin began to smile, and Gibbs got in quickly. "And you're just as bad." He walked over to McGee's desk, and turned the lamp slightly. He took the young agent's chin in his hand, and turned his face one way then the other, then released it, with a more or less satisfied nod. "Go get some rest,McGee. How is it that he manages to teach you all his bad habits?" Tim thought of a pretty receptionist's phone number in his pocket, and resolutely suppressed a huge smile.
"I'll go and see him in the morning," he said. And he'd ring Beth, too…
Tony's surgery was scheduled for 7.30 in the morning, the first on Doctor Brand's list for the day, and until then the pain-killers kept him more or less asleep. He woke briefly as they were wheeling him into recovery, then slept for fourteen hours solid, and woke to find more stitches. The young Afro-American doctor who came to see him when he woke up, told him that Doctor Brand was off duty, but had left him a message, which he smiled and repeated word for word. "And if you don't behave this time, she'll make sure you're on desk duty for a month, and have to take double the mandatory psych-evals," he concluded. She knows Director Shepard."
Tony grinned his usual irritating smirk as a matter of form, but when the doctor had gone, he leaned back against the pillows and closed his eyes, and waited hopefully for sleep to claim him again. The lump of lead resting against his heart made that unlikely. He knew he was being stupid, and he also knew that he tended to get like this when he was debilitated by illness or injury… but he couldn't stop it. He acknowledged too, that the Senator was bound to have reacted that way. A good father doesn't stop loving his son…
You're only feeling this way because of the father/son thing, he told himself. You knew when you did it that it wasn't going to 'redress the balance'… it wasn't going to change anything. It wasn't that he wanted you dead… he just wanted his son alive, and you were simply collateral damage. Just because you always wished you had a father who'd love you unconditionally… so, all right, all right! You wished you'd had a father who loved you at all… you're tying yourself in knots, DiNozzo, like you always do when the subject of fathers comes up, and it never gets you anywhere, and where the hell is Gibbs?
The voice of the pleasant nurse who'd helped him to stand up to go to the head, and brought him a cup of tea when the doctor had said he could only have water broke into his savage reverie, to his great relief.
"Tony? You have a visitor. Do you feel up to it?" He said yes hopefully; he knew that Tim, bless the Probie, had been in while he was sleeping, because Nurse Suzie had told him about it, so Gibbs? Abby? Ziva? Another, bigger lump of lead landed from ceiling height as Senator William Warner came cautiously into the room.
The rest of the team's attempts to enjoy the down time were frustrated at every turn by SecNav, the LEOs' need for more information, the effort it took to avoid the media, and although Gibbs sent a message to DiNozzo explaining his absence, which Nurse Suzie promised to pass on, the Boss was pretty certain, by the time he go to the hospital, that his SFA was not going to be happy with him. He was beginning to understand that the younger man had abandonment issues and hated hospitals; he was piecing together that it had something to do with his early life, and he would get to the bottom of it, he just wished he already had.
He'd stayed with his agent last night until they'd sedated him, he hoped that counted for something, and wondered why it seemed so important to him. The Troublemint Twins… they'd got under his skin.
Tony was propped up against a pile of pillows, and still in his arseless nightie, which puzzled Gibbs, since he knew Tim had brought some sweats over. There was a pile of maybe seven or eight cards on the nightstand, but only one was out of its envelope. He was either dozing or pretending, and considering the fourteen hours sleep Gibbs had been told about, he didn't look good.
The smile was low wattage, but it was genuine, "Hey… Boss." The effort to keep the corners of his mouth up must have exhausted him, as the smile faded as fast as it had begun.
"Hope you got my message… I tried to get here earlier."
"Oh, don't worry. I had a visitor." Something about the quiet, flat tone set every alarm Gibbs possessed clanging furiously. If a child had used that voice, he'd have expected tears next; hearing it from his big, brash SFA made his stomach twist. He raised his eyebrows, silently urging Tony to go on.
Tony twisted the bedclothes with his left hand; his right was hung round his neck in a sling that looked like an instrument of torture.
"Tony. Just start."
"I… don't want… I'm not some needy weakling, Boss…"
"Explain to me why I would think you were."
The SFA closed his eyes. "When I dived in front of that bullet… I was thinking about my father… I tried to be a good son… nothing I ever did was right… he was a good father with a bad son… I was trying to… make it up to him – I mean, how foolish is that? I would have jumped anyway, but what a stupid thing to be thinking…"
"You saved his life."
Tony met his Boss's eyes. "He came to see me…"
Damn… why didn't she tell him I was asleep. He looks embarrassed. I don't really want to talk to him… and I couldn't keep it off my face. Now I feel embarrassed.
"Special Agent DiNozzo…"
"Tony… how are you feeling?"
"I'm fine, Senator. No permanent damage."
"You saved my life… I came to thank you."
"Not necessary, Senator. I was, as they say, doing my job. I was wearing a vest. Even from close range they're effective. You don't owe me any thanks."
He wondered why his speech was so jerky. The drugs? Discomfiture?Yeah, that. He didn't want to be doing this. I know you're grieving, Senator, and I'm sorry about what happened…he didn't deserve you… but go away, please. You look rough. Go away and rest.
"And I came to apologise."
Ah, no! I don't want to hear this! But you will, DiNozzo, because he needs to say it. And if he wants absolution?
"I'm sorry that you saw what I was thinking. You were lying there hurt, you'd just taken a bullet for me… and I wanted him to shoot you if he was going to shoot at all. Ben was my son… what else should I have thought?"
"It was natural that you'd think that." At least try to sound sincere, DiNozzo, if he believes you, he might go away.
"Tony, I'm sorry that you saw… truly, I didn't want him to kill you… I'm sure Gibbs was thinking the same thing, but wanting him to shoot Ben not you."
"No, Senator, Gibbs wasn't thinking that."
"What? I mean… how do you know?" "I know him. He wasn't wishing for your son to get shot. He was figuring out how to save both of us."(And if you'd stayed in the car like you were told, it wouldn't have got that far.) "Don't worry about it, Senator… you've got enough to think about." He let his eyes fall slowly shut, and hoped he'd given enough absolution. A few moments later he heard Warner leave.
"I know him. He wasn't wishing for your son to get shot. He was figuring out how to save both of us."(And if you'd stayed in the car like you were told, it wouldn't have got that far.) "Don't worry about it, Senator… you've got enough to think about." He let his eyes fall slowly shut, and hoped he'd given enough absolution. A few moments later he heard Warner leave.
"I couldn't comfort him, Boss. I wish I could have… I was too selfish. My own father didn't want me… Warner wanted me dead rather than his son… understandable, sure… but it hurt…" Why was that so difficult to say? "It hurt, and I couldn't be nice to him, and then he presumed to think you'd have been the same, when I know you wouldn't… shit, I feel about six years old…"
"Nah… but maybe you've felt like this since you were six years old." The green eyes went wide with astonishment, but Gibbs went on before Tony could. "You think I don't notice, or care? You know I do. So do plenty of other people." They'd brought this thing out of the cupboard now, but it was something to deal with a bit at a time, and not when DiNozzo was on a low. He pointed at the cards, thinking it was time to lighten up. "Shouldn't you open them all, see who loves you? You've only opened one…What the hell have I said now?"
Tony had clasped both hands to his forehead, wrapping his long fingers round the top of his head, rubbing his scalp as if fending off a headache, then he looked up again, with a wry smile that was more of a grimace. "Oh, that's from Paula."
"Well, that's good, isn't it?"
"We were lovers, Boss. 'From Paula' isn't what I'd expect, even from an ex lover." He threw himself hard back against the pillows. "That's it. Enough of the needys. I swear I will never whine to you like this again, Boss."
"No, you won't. It's not whining. But when you need to talk, you come to me, and you talk. I listen well…" He shocked both himself and Tony rigid, by taking hold of his SFA's hand, and squeezing it between both of his. He rubbed his palm over the back of Tony's hand in a gesture that was oddly comforting, before putting it down again hastily. "Tell me, are you as scared of that little red-headed doctor as I am?"
"More, Boss, why?"
"Well, McGee's planning a barbecue… tomorrow, I'm gonna bust you out of here…"
AN: Sorry about the heaps of angst at the end… I don't think I write it too well, probably best to stick to action… but thanks, and more thanks, to all those who've stuck with me through this whole story arc. Your support and encouragement has been a constant amazement to me.