"So…?" Gibbs entered autopsy, just as Ducky was applying the finishing touches to what looked like a particularly firm bandage on Tony's left wrist.
"Well," the Scottish doctor spared his friend only a cursory glance, before once again concentrating on the task at hand. "The wrist is not broken; but I'm afraid there's some significant soft-tissue damage. He has only very limited range of motion in his fingers right now, and none in the wrist joint itself. – I'm afraid it will need to remain immobilized for several days. In fact, my advice would be to keep it firmly bandaged for at least a week. If the pain should be getting any worse or the swelling should not show some improvement soon, a splint or sling might be in order…"
Gibbs frowned slightly at that, before focusing once again on his agent, taking in his subdued demeanor and abnormally tense posture. When Ducky had finally excused himself to 'take care of some poor deceased fellow', Gibbs eyed his senior field agent for another moment, before finally addressing him in an unusually mild tone.
"You okay, Tony?"
That seemed to snap the younger man out of his daze.
"Sure! Sorry, boss… – I'll be fine."
Gibbs simply nodded at that. "I know you will, Tony." Then, in a carefully controlled tone of voice: "There any chance you'll report him for this?"
Tony's head snapped up sharply at that, unsettled hazel eyes meeting calm steel-blues. "Uh… Report who, boss?" He sounded a little shaky, even to his own ears…
"Cut the crap, DiNozzo. – We both know that you made no arrest today, weren't involved in any chases, and had basically contact with only one person outside the team. – And for some reason, I don't really see Ducky, Abby or McGee trying to break your wrist. Ziva might be another story, but I know for a fact that she was at Quantico all day. And as taxed as my memory may be sometimes, I'd sure as hell remember if I'd touched you like that." He briefly averted his gaze. "Remember and cut off my own hand afterwards…"
Then, calmly making eye-contact again: "You wanna tell me why I wouldn't wanna do the same thing to your father's hand?"
Finally, Tony replied almost tonelessly: "Because it's no big deal."
Being met with nothing but an incredulous stare, he quickly continued: "Look, I know how this looks, boss; but it wasn't like that."
The older man threw him a challenging glance at that, still not saying anything, clearly daring him to elaborate on that.
Taking a deep breath, Tony seemingly braced himself, for what Gibbs didn't know. When he finally continued, it was in a perfectly rational tone of voice.
"We had a fight. It got a little out of hand; no pun intended… He didn't mean to hurt me really. He was just being… emphatic."
"Oh, yeah…?" Gibbs all but snarled in response. "That the same sort of 'emphatic' he got when he broke your arm in high school?"
Tony's look turned stunned for a second. Then angry…
"How do you know about that. And who the hell are you to go around making groundless assumptions like that? – It was a football accident."
The look Gibbs gave him was oddly patient. "It's called a background check, DiNozzo. And I'm your boss, remember? You belong to me, and that makes stuff like that my business, too."
He softened his tone a little then, for once making an effort to not let the discussion escalate into something that would hurt at least one of them. "And they are not groundless assumptions, Tony. You might have been on the football field that day, but a tackle didn't cause your arm to break in a spiral fracture…"
All the fight suddenly seemed to drain from the younger man, who wearily started to rub his forehead with his good hand. "It doesn't matter now; it was a long time ago…"
Gibbs raised both eyebrows at that. "Well, that wasn't." He pointedly eyed his agent's injured hand, which he had been unconsciously holding up against his chest the last couple of minutes. Then he once again made eye-contact with the younger man and held it. "You should at least think about it, Tony. – He has no right to do this, and you shouldn't take this kind of abuse from him…"
The last part of the sentence garnered an instant reaction from Tony, who snorted derisively in response, meeting his boss's intense gaze almost angrily. "It's not abuse, Gibbs. – Men beating up on their wives is. Or naughty uncles fondling their nephews… – This is nothing," he finally finished dismissively.
Gibbs' expression hardened slightly in response. "I wouldn't call my senior field agent being out of commission for at least a couple of weeks 'nothing'."
Tony's face immediately closed off at that. "Oh, so that's what this is really about, huh? Me being unfit for field work. – That why you want me to sue him? You hoping to get some sort of reimbursement for the work I'll miss?" His tone had turned hard by the end of the sentence, but Gibbs easily read the hurt lingering directly beneath the surface.
"Stop it, Tony," he finally countered unusually mildly. "It's not about work, and you know it…" Then, when he noticed how Tony was still cradling his injured hand tightly against his own chest: "Ducky give you something for the pain?" He nodded slightly towards the obviously painful joint.
Tony jerked his head in a nondescript motion. "I've got some Motrin," he finally replied distractedly.
Gibbs gave a brief nod in response. "When did you last eat?"
Some of the fight finally seemed to leave his senior field agent's stance again at the calm questioning. "Had a sandwich for lunch… – Why?"
Gibbs was once again eyeing him patiently. "Can't take Motrin on an empty stomach." Then, finally taking charge of the situation: "Come on; you're with me…"
A home-cooked steak and a couple of pain-killers later, Tony tiredly sank back against his boss's couch, for the moment simply relishing the unfamiliar homeyness of the situation.
After Tony's second yawn, Gibbs finally pushed himself to his feet. "Time for some shut-eye, DiNozzo. – Come on; guestroom's made up…"
Tony immediately started to protest: "You really don't have to, Boss… I'll just call a cab and – "
Gibbs automatically raised his hand, but it suddenly froze in place.
Not reacting at all to the imminent 'threat', Tony simply gave him a weak grin in response.
"Come on, boss, finish it. You know you want to." Then, markedly more softly: "It's not the same thing, Gibbs…"
Hesitating briefly, the older man finally just nodded, his hand coming to rest on Tony's shoulder, giving it a gentle squeeze. He was already half-turned towards the stairs, when he finally spoke again. "I know. – Doesn't mean you need it right now…"
They parted in the hall, Gibbs giving his agent a last critical look. "I put a couple smaller pillows out for you…"
Tony frowned slightly at that, a puzzled look on his face.
Gibbs had to suppress a slightly irritated eye-roll. – Had the kid already forgotten about his injury? At least the pills seemed to be doing their job well enough…
"To put your hand up." He finally just explained patiently. "Fingers still look pretty damn swollen…" The last part was more mumbled than spoken.
It still made Tony smile, the first real smile he'd managed all day.
"Yes, Mom." Then, already half-turned towards his room: "I promise I'll also brush my teeth and wash behind the ears as well…"
This time, the other man's hand connected with the back of his head, even though the head-slap was still just a ghost of the touch it normally was.
Without turning around again, Tony simply smiled some more, continuing his way towards the guestroom.
"Yeah… Love you too, boss."
Gibbs closed the door to his own bedroom with a shake of his head and a very small smile.
The end :)
A/N: Thank you all for the *amazing reception* and for taking the time to read the story!
I'll be back soon. :)