McGee stood, leaning back against the rental car as he waited for Abby outside of the airport. Only half of his thoughts were focused on keeping an eye out for her. The other half were consumed with Tony and the fact that he may never be able to have another conversation with him again.
He'd left the hospital once they took Tony into the O.R, figuring he could kill some time before going to get Abby, but ultimately ended up sitting in the car contemplating how much everything would change. Sure, they'd worked without him before. But it was different then; there was always some comfort in the fact that they'd speak again...have some kind of contact, whether it be via MTAC or email. Tony being gone...completely gone... Tim couldn't even begin to know how what it would be like. He didn't want to know...
"Hey, Timmy," he looked up when he heard Abby's tired-sounding voice in front of him. He hadn't even realized she'd approached, and there was good reason for why. Abby was without makeup; hair down, instead of the normal pigtails, and she was wearing jeans and an oversized NCIS tee shirt. She was wheeling a small bag behind her before she stopped in front of him. "Oh god please don't tell me I'm too late..."
McGee furrowed his brow, "What?"
"It's just...the look on your face," she dropped her bag and threw her arms around him. "Tell me I'm not too late, McGee."
"No, Abby," he replied when he realized what she'd been thinking. He returned the hug, "My mind was just elsewhere. Sorry."
She gently pulled away, "Is he any better?" McGee worried his bottom lip between his teeth and softly shook his head before turning to grab her bag and open the door to the back seat. After setting it down on the floor behind the passenger seat, he shut the door and began to walk around to his side of the car. Abby let herself into the passenger seat and slipped on her seat belt.
After a few minutes of silent driving, she turned her head to look at Tim, "Are we really saying goodbye to Tony?" he voice cracked. His eyes shifted a bit but he didn't reply. He couldn't. She turned to face forward again. "I better put up my hair," she said as she reached into her purse. "Tony likes my pigtails and right now, I'm a mess," she flipped the visor down and began securing her hair into bands.
"What's with the clothes, anyway?" he haphazardly glanced at her.
"I spilled Caf-Pow all over myself in a rush to get out of the office," she explained. "Didn't really have much else to change in to. But I've got a change of clothes in my bag I'll put on once we get there."
"Don't bother," McGee told her without taking his eyes off the road. "He's not gonna be able to see you." His voice was flat-toned, and if she hadn't known him better, she would've thought he was emotionless. She pretended to ignore the comment as she continued. "He's unconscious. In fact, they're doing a brain biopsy as we speak...well, they might be finished by now. But still..." he was interrupted by his cell phone chirping, indicating he'd received a text.
He fished it out of his pocket as they stopped at a red light. Realizing it was from Ziva, he opened it. Tim squinted at the two simple words on the display, then looked at Abby.
"What is it?" she asked.
"She said 'good news'," he told her with widened eyes...
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"Tick paralysis," Dr. House explained to Gibbs, Ducky and Ziva who stood in Tony's recovery room. "Simple answer, I know. It should've been found sooner, but given the circumstances of where it was... Well, it's not the strangest place I've found a tick."
"A tick caused all of this?" Gibbs inquired.
"I suspect it's been there at least seven days," Ducky told him. "Since his very short camping trip. The toxins released from the tick after that long, causes paralysis, respiratory distress, and can even be fatal if not discovered in time."
"What's that mean, now? What's his prognosis?"
"His symptoms will go away," House explained. "Might take hours; couple days at most. Either way, he'll make a full recovery."
"No treatment?" Gibbs asked.
"Removing the tick is the treatment, Jethro," Ducky told him.
"So everything's gonna go away? He'll be able to use his arms and legs again?" Gibbs inquired.
"What part of full recovery was unclear?" House asked, mockingly. Gibbs gave him a look that, he was sure if he hadn't just received such good news, he would've decked him. "They're removing the ventilator now. He'll be brought back in here shortly," he turned to leave.
"Thank you," Gibbs told him as the doors hissed open.
"Yes, thank you, Dr. House," Ducky said.
House turned in the doorway, "Just doing my job. Tell your agent to go all out and get a hotel room next time," he said only half-mockingly. "It'll be cheaper in the long-run." Gibbs sent him an amused smirk that he couldn't help but return before turning to walk out of the room.
"I sent McGee a text, letting him know there is good news," Ziva spoke up and the two men looked over at her. "Abby is with him by now, undoubtedly. No need for them to continue to worry, yes?"
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Tony awoke in a slight daze; his eyes taking a bit to adjust to the light. He reached up to rub them a bit and as he pulled them away, he saw Gibbs come into focus next to the bed. Then as he glanced around, he saw his entire team, including Ducky and Abby, surrounding him. "What..." he coughed against the dryness of his throat. "What's goin' on, guys? M'not dead, am I?"
"You got your tube out and you can move your arms, and you're askin' if you're dead?" Gibbs asked with an amused look on his face.
Tony's eyes immediately widened as he realized exactly what he'd been told. He held his hands up in front of his face, examining them like they were the most amazing things he'd ever seen. He pushed himself up to sit and was bombarded by a big hug from Abby. "Ooompf!"
"Sorry, Tony!" she said as she continued to squeeze him. "But I've been holding this in for two whole days and I just can't anymore."
"Well...what the hell was wrong with me?" Tony asked as she gently pulled away. "Am I cured?"
"You had a tick," Ziva told him as she approached the other side of his bed and he looked up at her.
"A tick?" he asked in disbelief.
"Hidin' in your ear," Gibbs elaborated. "Apparently I didn't cut your trip short enough."
Tony narrowed his eyes at him, "A tick..." he repeated. "Caused...everything?"
"And it's a good thing it was found in time," Ducky told him. "It could have killed you."
Tony's eye twitched, "Wait...so I had lyme disease or something?"
"Heavens, no," Ducky said. "You'd be here quite a bit longer if that were the case. No, you had what's known as tick paralysis. Once they remove the tick, the symptoms go away fairly quickly. In fact, it's only been a few hours and you seem to be showing much improvement. Which, I'm sure you'll be happy to hear, means that you can leave here soon."
Tony's expression was mixed with relief and amazement. For a moment, even confused. But then he smiled, "How soon?" They all turned their heads toward the door as it hissed open and Dr. Hadley came in.
"Oh good," she smiled, "You're awake. They're bringing up a dinner tray for you," she approached the bed and Ziva moved out of her way. "How are you feeling?" she asked as she readied her stethoscope.
"Feeling...key word," he grinned.
She returned the grin, "I'm gonna take a listen to your lungs." She glanced briefly around the room while moving the back of his gown away. Gibbs motioned for the team to clear the room and leave the doctor to examine Tony and he followed behind them. "Take a couple of deep breaths," she told him, and he complied. "Sounds good," she said as she took the earpieces out and draped the device around her neck.
"So when do I get outta here, Doc? Not that haven't enjoyed the service," he flashed an infamous DiNozzo grin.
"As soon as you can walk yourself out," she replied. He abruptly swung his legs off the side of the bed and stood. "Whoa whoa whoa," she let out a small laugh.
"Nah, I got this," he said as he took a few wobbly steps. "See, I'm a pro!"
"Yeah, okay," she lead him back to the bed. "But humor me and give it a little while longer?"
"Only if I can get your number," he grinned mischievously. "Ya know, in case I have any questions or concerns later."
"Ducky seems pretty capable of answering any questions you might have," she replied with a smirk.
"He's not as pretty to look at, though."
"You can't see me over the phone."
"Is this just your polite way of turnin' me down, Dr. Hadley?"
"Were you asking me out?" she raised a brow.
"Not if the answer is 'no'," he squinted.
"Don't you have a girlfriend? You went camping with her a week ago..."
"She uh...isn't interested in guys who have to ditch plans for being called into work," he smirked sadly.
"Nah, that's okay. I didn't know he very well. It was...kind of a second date. I figured you might understand a little better about that sorta thing, seein' as you've been here as long as I have."
She smiled again, "Remy."
"My name," she said as she pulled out a business card and handed it to him. "If you ever have any 'questions'," she winked then turned around to walk out. Tony pasted a satisfied yet surprised smile on his face.
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"Gibbs has the car waiting out front," McGee told Tony as he stepped into the room. "You ready?" he picked up Tony's overnight bag.
"Yeah," Tony stood and appraised his partner. "You okay, Probie? Ya kinda look like crap."
"Gee, thanks, Tony."
"No, seriously. I've been in the hospital for two days and I'm pretty sure I'm lookin' better than you," his tone conveyed joking, but his face showed genuine concern.
"I'm fine. Just didn't get much sleep last night on account of thinking you were gonna die and all."
"You were worried about me?" he smiled proudly.
Tim furrowed his brow, "They said you weren't gonna make it another day. 'Course I was worried, Tony. I thought we'd be leaving here without you," his voice cracked at the end of the sentence and he hoped Tony hadn't heard it.
"Don't be silly, McGoo," he said with a smirk, attempting to lighten the mood. "You couldn't have left my body here."
"Shut up, DiNozzo," he swallowed. "It's not funny. I...couldn't even..." he stumbled over his words, desperately trying to hold himself together; inwardly cursing himself that he felt this way even after having his fear alleviated. "When they took you to the O.R, I thought I'd missed my chance to tell you...to thank you."
"Thank me?" it was Tony's turn to furrow his brow.
"For helping me to become a better agent," he explained. "And..." he stopped himself and his eyes darted around the room uncomfortably.
After a few moments, Tony spoke instead, "I wanted to tell you somethin', too." Tim met his eyes again. "Unfortunately, I had no way to say a damn thing to anyone. But what I wanted to say to you was that I was really glad to have worked with you all these years. And that I'm sorry about always givin' you a hard time..." McGee shook his head, but Tony continued, "And I wanted to thank you for being my friend even so."
Tim looked at him for a moment, then nodded, silently agreeing/returning the statement. "I'm really glad you're not dead, Tony," he said, then felt compelled to give him a brief hug.
"Me too, Probie," Tony said with a smirk as he returned the hug. "Now let's get the hell outta here."
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Later that night...
Tony was laid out comfortably on his couch, watching a movie and taking a bite of his third slice of pizza. Somehow he'd managed to sleep the whole plane ride home, and after a somewhat touching moment with Ziva, if you could even call it that after overcoming the nausea induced by her driving him home, he'd opted for spending the rest of his night doing a couple of his favorite things.
Part of him felt slightly compelled to call Gibbs. There were things he'd wished he could've said in the hospital, and only God knew if there might come another time he'd be back in a situation where he'd be regretful about 'wouldas' and 'shouldas'.
He was pulled from his thoughts by a light knocking at his door. So light, in fact, that he wasn't even sure he'd really heard anything. But he rose from the couch and went to the door anyway, peeking through the peephole before opening it. "What're ya doin' here, Boss?" he asked,
surprised by his sudden appearance. "Not that you're not welcome or anything...but uh..." he backed away to let him enter.
"Couldn't sleep," he replied. "Didn't know if you were still up," he said as he walked into the apartment. Tony noticed he was carrying a six-pack of beer with him.
"Apparently, I've been sleeping the better part of two days," Tony said with a smirk as he closed the door behind them. "What's your excuse?"
Gibbs set the beer down on the coffee table. "Almost lost a good friend today," he replied, grabbing two of the beers by the necks, in one hand, and turning to face his senior agent.
Tony flinched, a bit surprised by his words. But then he quickly replaced it with another smirk, "Oh yeah? Who's that?" Gibbs cocked his head and took a step forward to smack the back of Tony's head with his free hand. Tony feigned a painful squeak. "Love you, too, Boss."
Gibbs smirked and handed Tony one of the bottles before turning to sit on the couch. "What're ya watchin'?"
Tony joined him on the couch as he popped the top off of his beer, "Just a Clint Eastwood flick. You'll probably like it, Boss. He kinda reminds me of you, in this one."
"I've seen it," he said as he squinted at the screen. "Gran Torino?"
Tony narrowed his eyes at him, "Since when do you watch movies?"
Gibbs smirked and cocked his head, "Heard it was good. Someone said I'd like it."
"Wasn't bad," he took a swig of his beer. As the movie dragged on, Tony realized that no words really ever needed to be said. Gibbs had always been a man of few of them, anyway. So it was within his power to know what someone else was thinking, without it ever being said. And by him showing up there that night, Gibbs had shown Tony that same respect; there'd never been an oversight...
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AN: screw proof-reading...seriously lol. Hope I didn't make too many mistakes. Hope you enjoyed!