He followed Anthony's movements as he exited the tent. By the tension evident his Centurion's body, he could tell Anthony was angry and frustrated. He watched as Anthony paused, nodding to other soldiers passing but keeping himself aloof as he struggled with some internal torment. Squaring his shoulders, Anthony seemed to come to a decision. A fissure of something…fear?...excitement?...ran through him as he watched Anthony grasp his sword and join the line of soldiers heading to the front lines. His view changed as he hovered above the battle that still raged, watching Anthony dive into the thick of the action, sword flashing, eyes flat and unemotional. His Centurion cut down one…five…ten of the enemy before he was overtaken, the broadswords of the Celts cutting through his defenses and aimed true, piercing Anthony's heart…
…stopping, the sound of the heart monitor squealing loudly as Gibbs jumped up from his chair, moving out of the way of the crash response team.
"Someone bag him, now!" the response doctor yelled.
A mask with a large bulb on the end was placed on Tony's face, precious air being pumped into his lungs by an nurse as someone else cut away Tony's hospital gown, exposing his chest with the obscene wound from his earlier surgery.
"Get an amp of eppie in the IV, stat," the doctor instructed, pulling out the shock paddles just in case.
"No response, Doctor," came the reply after the medicine was injected into the tubing. "Do you want to shock, or try the adrenaline first?"
"Shoot the adrenaline," the doctor ordered.
Gibbs watched in horror as a huge needle was readied, handed to the doctor to be plunged into Tony's chest. He involuntarily moved toward the bed but felt a hand holding his harm, halting his movements. He shook it off and turned to curse at the offending orderly or nurse who would keep him from Tony only to see the patient eyes of Ducky.
"You shouldn't be here," Ducky said, grabbing his arm again and trying to pull him from the room.
"Get the hell off me, Ducky," Gibbs growled. "Tony…he's…I have to be here. With him."
"Then let them do their job," Ducky ordered, pulling Gibbs back away from the medical personnel, his grip surprisingly strong.
Gibbs took a step back, standing off to the side as the needle was pushed into Tony's heart. His mind raced with a memory. Tony, McGee and Ziva huddled around a computer monitor, watching a scene from a movie…something Fiction? He wasn't sure, and couldn't fathom why his mind went there at just this moment. The needle slipped in, the medicine administered and still…nothing on the monitor.
"Charge the paddles," the doctor said, his voice cracking. "Start at 200." He held out the two metal disks for the nurse, who automatically squirted big dollops of clear gel on them before the doctor placed them on different points of Tony's chest. "Clear!" The code team responded by lifting their hands away from Tony and the paddles were ignited.
"Charge to 250."
"Charge to 300."
"Charge to 3…
"…fifty, General! I lost three hundred and fifty men just this morning!" Anthony paced the space of the tent, hands clenched at his fists. "That is inexcusable, sir. These losses, they cannot be tolerated. Your predecessor would never have allowed it." He swallowed and once again buried the pain, banishing the thought of his General, dead these past six months.
"Enough!" came the bellow. "You forget yourself, Commander," the general said, voice tight. "You are not in charge here, I am."
Anthony paused to stand at attention. "General Primus, I beg your forgiveness and ask your permission to speak."
The general paused, obviously enjoying Anthony's subservience. "Granted. But keep a civil tongue in your head else you just might lose it."
"Sir, this campaign was ill advised and has turned into a rout against out troops," Anthony said bluntly. "Since it began last month, I have lost over four thousand men, sir. Four thousand good men of Rome, who cannot be replaced. I beg you…"
"I like that, Commander," the general cut in.
"You, begging me. I like that." The older man came close to Anthony, his lips twisted into a cruel smile. "Until I arrived, you ran this camp and this campaign as you wished, continuing the plans drawn up by my predecessor." The last word was said with a sneer, causing Anthony to jerk a bit in response. "Yes, I know all about your…affection for my predecessor, Commander," General Primus continued. "But I do not care to continue his…unorthodox ways of command."
"Sir?" Anthony asked again.
"Regardless of what he might have wanted, or what you want, I am in charge." General Primus walked to the table, indicating the maps and charts on the table. "And what I want goes, Commander. That is the way the army works, and if you cannot follow my commands, I suggest you pack up and leave." A laugh. "Then again, if you did that, I'd have you hunted down and killed as a deserter."
"Sir, you must listen to reason…" Anthony urged, knowing more of his men would die if Primus kept on this path.
"No, Commander, you listen." Primus pointed at the map. "Take your legion to this glade and confront the enemy. I'll expect a report in a day on your progress."
Anthony's gaze fell to the map, memorizing the location of the coming battle. He knew this mission was a no-win one, and felt keenly the loss of men he'd face. "At your service, General," Anthony said, one arm crossing his chest in the time honored salute before turning on his heel and exiting the tent.
Once outside, he paused, clenching and unclenching his fists. He nodded to a band of soldiers as they passed. He felt a shiver over come him and looked around, wondering where the warm wind came from but seeing nothing else moving. In fact, the air was chilled except over him. The warmth continued to spread through him as he came to a decision, anchoring his sword tight against his body and signally for his legion to follow. The warmth continued as he fought in the battle, felling his enemy with dispatch though he noted others of troops were falling hard at the hand of the Celts. With little emotion, he saw the enemy surround him, watched the blade descend and felt, at last, the peace of dying, of finally being with…
"…Gibbs." Tony's voice was hoarse as he pulled off the mask, sucking air in deep and screaming again. "Gibbs!"
Gibbs shook off Ducky's hold and shoved to the bed, eyes locking with the frantic green ones of the injured agent. "I'm here, Tony," Gibbs assured him, hand reaching out to touch Tony's face. "I'm here…shh…I'm here."
"Gibbs…" Tony croaked again. "I'm sorry…Gibbs…I…"
"Nothing to be sorry about, Tony," Gibbs said, hand cupping Tony's face. "And I still haven't given you permission to die," he continued, ignoring the shocked glances from the medical personnel.
"Not sure I can follow that order, Boss," Tony said, breath catching tightly.
"Yes, you can," Gibbs demanded as Tony's eyes rolled up and his entire body started shaking. "Tony!"
"Step back, now!" the doctor ordered. "
Gibbs watched as the medical staff once again swarmed around Tony's bed, working to cease the seizure he was suffering. He felt Ducky's hand again pull him back and this time, he didn't shake off the older man, instead twisting his hand to grasp Ducky's arm tightly, needing the support of his friend as the crash team worked.
"Phenytoin, IV push, stat!" the doctor yelled
The medication was injected into the tubing and Gibbs held his breath as Tony's shaking eased, then stopped. His cloudy green eyes opened and searched the room, locking on Gibbs' across the room. Gibbs nodded, forcing a smile to reassure Tony as the younger man's eyes rolled up again.
The doctor cursed and turned to Gibbs and Ducky. "Get out of here, both of you," he ordered as he closed the curtain…
…behind him, entering the tent. He knew this place, felt the familiar heat from the fire, the shadows and light playing against the furs on the chairs and the ground. He knew this place, but also knew he'd never been here before.
Except in his dreams.
The man standing at the fire turned, a smile splitting the stern face. "I promised we'd be together again," he said, coming closer then paused, smile sliding off and a look of puzzlement taking its place. A hand automatically went to his side, but found no sword to pull. "Who…"
"Oh, my god," Tony breathed. "General…"
Tony shook his head, a strange feeling overcoming him. He was here, with the General. He must be dead. "I'm Tony, sir," he explained.
"Tony…" The General closed his eyes, swaying a bit before catching a hand on the table to his right. A deep breath taken before he continued. "You're not supposed to be here, Tony," the General said. "I'm waiting…my Anthony…"
"I think I died, General," Tony said simply.
" I don't believe so," the General demurred.
"I didn't want to." Tony walked to the fire, gazing into the crackling orange flames. "He told me I couldn't…ordered me, told me not to." He rubbed a hand over his face. "I…let him down, General."
"You couldn't let him down, Tony," the General said. "He loves you."
Tony shook his head. "No, he doesn't…"
"He does." The General sighed. "Tony, look at me."
The light from the fire was shining on the General, showing how much he looked like…was Gibbs. Tony was taken back a bit by how similar they were—same eyes, same hair, same bearing and presence. The only thing that wasn't there was the attraction. He was Gibbs…but not his Gibbs. "Sir?"
A small smile. "He is me, Tony," the General explained mysteriously. "And you're my Anthony, and if there is one thing I know it's that I love him…he loves you."
"Doesn't matter," Tony said with a sniff, wiping his nose on the back of his hand. "I'm dead."
"Again, I say I do not believe so," came the reply. "You can go back, Tony, and you in doing so, can bring to me my Anthony."
"What?" Tony sputtered. "How can I do that? I'm dead! I'm here, with you, and I'm dead! You know there's no going back from that and now I'm here and he's there, my Gibbs is there, alone!"
"Oh, gods, cease your prattle," the General ordered, reaching out and snapping his hand sharply against the back of Tony's head.
Tony raised a hand to rub his head, a bright smile splitting his face. "You are him!" he proclaimed.
The General shook his head in exasperation. "The last thing I need is two of you here, Tony, so just go back."
"Just like that?"
"Just like that."
"You know something I don't, General?" Tony asked. "Because last I checked there wasn't a way just to just magically transport myself to the land of the living once you've been dead for ten…
"…minutes, but we pulled him out," the voice said.
Gibbs sat in the chair next to Tony's bed, his attention split, half hearing what the doctor was saying, the other half focused on Tony as he lay in the hospital bed. Since he was watching his senior field agent closely he noticed the tiny flicker of awareness, the small change in his breathing as Tony came around. "Tony," he breathed, pushing down the bed rail to sit as close as possible to the younger man.
"You did, didn't you?" Gibbs smiled, swallowing the thickness he felt in his throat. His hand trembled as it ghosted along Tony's cheek. "Never could disobey me, could you?"
Tony shook his head slightly. "Couldn't…disobey…either of you," he said before drifting back to sleep.
Gibbs was aware of the doctor's and Ducky's puzzled looks but ignored them. "Good to know, DiNozzo," he said softly, laying his head on Tony's arm, the bedcovers absorbing Gibbs' tears of relief.
"Want to tell me what happened?"
Tony looked over at Gibbs, sitting next to his hospital bed. It had been forty-eight hours since Tony was shot, and twenty-four hours since Tony's code and seizures. Since then, Tony had drifted in and out of sleep, sometimes with the help of lots of pain killers, sometimes with just Gibbs' help, soft voice and softer hands lulling him to slumber. Today was the first time since his shooting that Tony had felt like sitting up, and was actually trying to sip a weak broth and apple juice from the tray in front of him.
Gibbs had gotten him caught up on what had happened, that Jennifer McPherson had conspired with Jim Chambers to kill his brother after Gil Chambers had killed her husband, thereby getting both insurance policies. She saw Tony as the person who kept the plan from working by killing Jim Chambers. Ziva had gotten the confession in record time and no one dared to ask how that confession was obtained; they were just glad Ziva hadn't killed the woman in revenge for shooting Tony.
"Tony," Gibbs asked, waving a hand in front of his face. "Tell me what happened."
Tony looked up. "You won't think I'm crazy?" A raised brow. "Okay, you won't think I'm crazier?"
Gibbs shook his head. "Let me tell you what I saw—dreamed if it'll make you feel better."
Tony blinked. "You dreamed?"
"Before you crashed," Gibbs explained. "I saw you…him…Anthony in battle. He seemed ready to die, Tony." His hand reached out to grasp Tony's right hand, the one without the IV inserted. "It scared me, especially after you crashed and the had the seizure…I thought you'd given up." His voice dropped to a whisper. "I thought I'd lost you."
Tony nodded. "I thought so, too, Gibbs," he admitted. "I saw him, the General. We talked. Said he was waiting for Anthony and that I had to go back because…" Tony paused, picking at the bed clothes with is right hand.
"Because?" Gibbs insisted.
Do it, a voice insisted. Be brave, like my Anthony. "Because you love me."
There. It was out now. And it just kind of hung in the air, much to Tony's dismay. He sneaked a peek up at Gibbs and saw the familiar half smile on his face. Tony waited.
"Well, yeah, DiNozzo."
Tony's head came up full force. "What?"
Gibbs rolled his eyes and lifted his hand, intending to smack Tony's head, pausing at the last second to stroke down the soft hair. "Yeah, I love you, Tony." He pulled the back of Tony's head closer, ghosting a kiss on Tony's startled mouth. "Is that going to be a problem?"
Tony shook his head, nose bumping against Gibbs.' "Not a problem at all," he croaked, lifting his mouth for another kiss. This one was deep and soulful and filled with promise and love. Tony pulled his mouth away. "Gibbs…"
"I know," he said, resuming their kiss.
A discreet cough sounded and both men turned toward the door. A young nurse's aid stood at the door. "I'm here for the tray," she said, pointing at the remains of Tony's lunch.
Gibbs growled, but stood up, allowing the woman to slip inside the room and grab the tray then exiting as quickly as possible.
"No need to snap at the poor girl," Tony scolded before yawning loudly.
"Time to sleep," Gibbs ordered, grabbing the bed control and pushing the button to lower Tony's head.
"Don't you have to work?" Tony asked, eyes drooping down.
Gibbs shook his head. "Vacation," he explained. "Lots of it." He reached down for Tony's right hand, his other going to up to stroke Tony's head. "Go to sleep," he ordered, fingers soft along Tony's scalp.
"Hmm," Tony said, snuggling down.
Gibbs waited until Tony was asleep before lowering his own head to rest on Tony's arm. Feeling the pulse in Tony's wrist lulled him to sleep…
…against his General's chest. He loved this, loved having his Centurion back in his arms where he belonged. "I kept my promise," he whispered to the younger man. "I told you we'd meet again."
Anthony sighed. "You did," he agreed. "We're together, both now and then."
The General thought of the other ones and smiled.