AN: I can't believe how long it's been since I've updated this. I'm really sorry, but it couldn't be helped. Real life has been crazy and I just haven't had the time I'd like to devote to reading and writing. So, if anyone is still interested here's the next part. (I'd also like to apologize for my lack of response to feedback – I'm pretty sure I never got the chance to write back to anyone for the last chapter (I don't even remember actually) So for those of you who reviewed, my heartfelt thanks and I'll try to do better. Also, smithknk1 brought up the point about Tony likely not being able to use crutches with broken ribs so I changed it to just bumps and bruises as the broken ribs are not really essential to the plot. Okay, I think that's it. As always, thanks so much for reading
"So…how are you feeling today?" Gibbs asked, painfully aware of the awkwardness in the room and the way Tony seemed to clam up whenever he was in his presence.
"I'm good…how are you?" Tony answered politely.
"I'm fine…" Gibbs replied. He sat down in the chair that had just been vacated by Ducky and looked over at his senior field agent. "Must feel pretty good to be up and out of bed."
"Yeah, I was up walking earlier," Tony said with a glimmer of a smile on his face.
"That's good…real good," Gibbs stated. He paused then, unsure of what to say and another awkward silence descended heavily over the room.
Feeling just as uncomfortable as he was sure Gibbs felt, Tony decided to at least make an effort. After all, it was obvious he was close with this man, even if he didn't remember it. He was here practically all the time. You just didn't do that for casual acquaintances. "Ducky was telling me a little about my job," he began hesitantly. "Sounds pretty interesting."
"It is," Gibbs said, nodding, grateful for the new topic of conversation. "You're really good at it too. You're my lead agent."
"I hope I'll be able to get back to it sometime soon," Tony said softly, his expression wistful.
"One step at a time. You're nowhere near being ready to go back to work," Gibbs pointed out. "You just need to concentrate on getting better right now. "
"Yeah…yeah, I guess so... Probably wouldn't be of much use on crutches anyhow, right?"
"Not in the field anyway," Gibbs agreed. He couldn't help but feel a tiny bit encouraged that Tony seemed interested in his job and eager to return to it. That was more like the man he knew.
"Yeah well…" Tony trailed off, at a loss as to what to say next. He was rapidly tiring now and cast a longing look at his bed which Gibbs did not miss.
"Do you want to lie down?" Gibbs asked cautiously, fully aware the question was likely to set Tony off. Much to his pleasant surprise though, it didn't and the younger man simply nodded.
"Yes, that would be good."
"Can I help you?" Gibbs asked and again Tony nodded.
Pleased to find Tony a bit more receptive, Gibbs got up from his chair and went over to Tony then carefully supported him as he stood up and maneuvered his body around so he could sit on the edge of his bed.
"Thanks," Tony said, offering Gibbs a faint smile.
"You're welcome," Gibbs replied, watching as Tony got himself situated under the covers and shuffled his pillows around until they met his satisfaction.
"So…I met Ziva today," Tony said after another brief silence had once again developed between the two men.
Gibbs nodded. "Yes, I heard."'
"Oh…I can only imagine what she had to say…"
"She didn't say anything bad," Gibbs defended. "She was just sorry she came here so early. She didn't mean to disturb you. "
"I'm sure she didn't," Tony sighed. "In any case, I wasn't exactly nice to her." He hadn't really been nice to anyone, except Ducky he realized. Then again, maybe he was always a jerk. He wasn't really sure about that.
"Nobody's blaming you, Tony…we know this can't be easy for you."
"Am…am I always like this?" Tony asked, starting to look miserable once again.
"Like what?" Gibbs asked, unsure exactly what he was referring to.
"Moody, nasty…difficult to get along with…" He definitely wasn't proud of it. He just didn't seem to be able to help it.
Gibbs shook his head slowly. "No…no, you like to have fun, joke around, play pranks."
Tony looked at Gibbs incredulously. "I play pranks? That sounds kind of immature."
Gibbs chuckled. "You help lighten the mood sometimes when the team needs it. Sometimes we don't need it and when that happens…well, I slap you back into shape."
"What?" Tony's eyes widened. What kind of a guy was he dealing with here? "Literally? You…you hit me?"
"Head slaps, DiNozzo," Gibbs smirked. "I find it's a good way of getting people back on track. It's always been especially effective with you." Gibbs put his hand up over the back of Tony's head and smacked it with the lightest of touches, observing him closely as he did so.
For a split second, Tony had a sense of déjà vu, but just as quickly it was gone again. "I don't remember," he said softly, hanging his head dejectedly.
"Gonna take some time, DiNozzo," Gibbs said gently. "Trust me, I know how hard this is."
Tony shook his head, still staring down at the bed. "You can't know…"
"Hey." Gibbs put his fingertips under Tony's chin and gently tilted his head upward so that they were facing each other. "I do know. I know, because it happened to me."
"It did?" Tony looked back at Gibbs with heightened interest. "When? How did it happen? Did you get all your memories back?"
"Whoa, slow down," Gibbs said. "It happened a few years ago. I was caught in an explosion. I t wasn't total amnesia, but I lost a big chunk of my life. I did get my full memory back, but it took some time. I know it's hard, but patience is key and you need to try not to force things. Let nature take its course and hopefully everything will come back to you."
"So, I guess there's hope then anyway." Tony nodded and retreated back into silence again.
"There's always hope, DiNozzo." Gibbs couldn't help but wonder at the irony that had his agent so uncharacteristically quiet, while he, himself now found himself playing the more verbose role. He definitely liked it better the other way around. He could see the younger man was having a hard time keeping his eyes open and stood up. "I'm going to head out now and let you get some rest. I could bring you some dinner later on, if you'd like."
"Sure, that would be great, boss."
"What did you call me?" Gibbs asked, slightly startled.
"Boss…" Tony replied warily. "Why? Was that wrong?"
"No…no, that wasn't wrong." Gibbs hastily reassured him. "It's just…you always call me that. Did you remember something?"
Tony pondered the question for a few moments then slowly shook his head. "No…it just came out," he finally said. "I don't really even know why."
Gibbs nodded. "Seems like a good sign," he said softly. "I'll be back in a few hours. You get some sleep, Tony." He then rested his hand on Tony's shoulder and gave it a light squeeze before making his way out of the room to head back to headquarters.
Gibbs returned a little bit after six, toting a pepperoni and sausage pizza with extra cheese. He quietly entered Tony's room and found him to be asleep. Gibbs put the pizza down on the mobile table by Tony's bed and settled himself into the chair, his eyes on his agent. Tony appeared to be sleeping peacefully, at first, but that changed before too long as he began moving restlessly underneath the covers and appeared to be in some distress.
"No…no, it can't be true," he called out, his head moving from side-to-side on the pillow. "Please, no!"
"Tony!" Gibbs stood up and gently shook the younger man's shoulder, trying to ease him out of the nightmare. "Come on…wake up. You're okay."
Tony's eyes opened abruptly and he looked up at Gibbs, his expression a combination of confusion and fear as he shakily ran his hand back through his hair.
"You okay?" Gibbs asked gently, concern evident as he gazed at Tony.
"Yeah…yeah, I'm fine."
"You feel like talking?"
Tony hesitated then shook his head. "Can't…" he replied. "I don't remember anything." The dream was now just a vague blur of colors and images, none of which made any sense to him and which were quickly fading away.
"Alright." Gibbs nodded, watching as Tony nervously played with the blankets, looking troubled. "You feel like sitting up?"
Tony shrugged then nodded as Gibbs pressed the button to adjust the bed into a sitting position. "Thanks," he murmured.
"I brought pizza," Gibbs said, deciding that distraction might be best at the moment. "It's your favorite…" He opened the pizza box and took out a slice, then placed it onto a paper plate and handed it to Tony.
"Thank you," Tony accepted the slice of pizza unenthusiastically then took a bite of it. "Mmm…it is good," he said after he had swallowed the first bite and went on to take another.
"So…how was your afternoon?" Gibbs questioned, taking a slice of pizza for himself and settling back into the chair by Tony's bed.
"It was okay. I slept on and off and took another walk with the physical therapist.
"You still on target to leave tomorrow?" Gibbs asked.
"I am," Tony nodded. "It'll be good to get out of here." Although he was admittedly nervous about venturing out into what was essentially an unknown world to him, he was tired of the restrictions of the hospital environment. He had been finding himself feeling restless throughout the day and anxious to leave, hopeful that something or someone would trigger his memory.
"I'll be here in the morning to pick you up."
"Are you sure?" Tony asked softly. "I…I don't want to put you out any…"
"You're not going to be putting me out," Gibbs stated. "I want to do this. It's all set." Not that Vance was particularly happy about being down two agents, but he had allowed Gibbs the time off after grumbling about it a bit.
"Okay." Tony nodded and the two made small talk for a half hour or so before Gibbs decided to head home. The next day was going to be a big day for Tony and he needed his rest. Gibbs hoped the change in environment would be the key that would help Tony to unlock his hidden memories.
"I brought you some clothes from your apartment," Gibbs said, handing Tony a bag which contained some sweatpants and a sweatshirt. Tony already had his discharge papers in hand and as soon as he changed they would be good to go.
"Thanks." Tony took the bag from Gibbs and placed it down on the bed.
"You need any help?" Gibbs asked, feeling the now familiar feeling of awkwardness between them once again.
"No. I'm good," Tony said, shaking his head.
"Okay then…I'll wait out in the hallway. "Just give a shout out if you need me."
Tony nodded silently and waited for Gibbs to close the door before he began to change. He was able to accomplish the task relatively easily. "I'm all set," he called after he had dressed.
Gibbs came back into the room and handed Tony the jacket he was carrying. "It's cold outside."
"Thanks." Tony put his jacket on then reached for his crutches which were leaning against the wall.
Gibbs quickly shook his head. "Won't be needing those yet. You're getting a free ride out of here."
"I can walk," Tony insisted. "I don't need a wheelchair."
"No sense tiring yourself out. Besides, its hospital policy."
"Okay, fine." Tony rolled his eyes and gave an exaggerated sigh, but remained seated on the bed.
Gibbs barely managed to hold back a smile. "I'll be right back." True to his word, he returned after a few minutes and it wasn't long at all before Tony was safely seatbelted into the passenger seat of Gibbs' car. Then, they were on their way.
"Did the doc give you any prescriptions you need to fill?" Gibbs asked, after they had been on the road for a few minutes.
"Just one for a pain killer. I don't need it though."
"You a doctor now too. DiNozzo?" Gibbs asked, glancing at the younger man for a moment before turning his attention back to the road. "We're filling it. Anyway, I need to get a few groceries. There's a pharmacy at the supermarket." Gibbs had also filled prescriptions for Tony at this particular pharmacy in the past and knew his insurance information was already on file there. Hopefully, it wouldn't take long, but if it did, Gibbs would return later for the prescription after he had gotten Tony settled back at the house. A short time later, Gibbs parked the car in the supermarket parking lot then looked at Tony. "Got the prescription?"
"I'll do it myself." Tony's jaw was set determinedly and his eyes had a slight look of defiance as he stared back at Gibbs.
Not wanting to start the day off on a totally wrong note, Gibbs put the key back into the ignition and backed the car out of the parking space then proceeded to drive the car to the front entrance of the market. "I'll meet you inside."
Tony was surprised, but also pleased as he got out of the car. Gibbs got out also and retrieved the crutches from the back seat, which he handed to his agent. "Pharmacy is inside to the left. They're going to ask you for your address," Gibbs said before giving him the information. "Do you want me to write it down for you?"
"No…no I'm good," Tony mentally repeated the address a few times then slowly began to maneuver his way into the store. Gibbs stood watching him until he was safely inside, then got back into the car and went to park it. When Gibbs arrived at the pharmacy, a few minutes later, Tony was seated in one of the chairs.
"Everything all set?" Gibbs asked.
"Yeah," Tony nodded. "She said it would be about 15 to 20 minutes."
"Okay. You wait here. I'll be back after I get a few things. Anything in particular you want?"
"I'll just come. I don't feel like waiting here."
Gibbs' first instinct was to object, but he didn't want to baby Tony, so he didn't say anything to discourage him. "I'll go get a cart. Be right back." When he returned, Tony was already back on his feet waiting. "Get whatever you'd like," Gibbs instructed as they slowly began to walk through the store. Gibbs watched Tony closely, curious to see what he might choose, but he looked to be overwhelmed by the store and the shelves filled with seemingly endless food choices. Tony didn't pick out anything and he appeared to be tiring rapidly. "Why don't you go see if your prescription is ready?" Gibbs finally suggested, worried that Tony was going to collapse in the middle of the frozen food aisle.
"I…yeah, okay," Tony agreed.
Gibbs fumbled for his wallet then thrust some bills into Tony's hand. "For the co-pay," he explained.
"I have money." Tony said, pulling out his own wallet and showing it to Gibbs. "The nurse gave me my personal effects this morning before I was discharged."
"Oh…okay…" Gibbs shuddered inwardly as he noted some tiny drops of dried blood on the front of the wallet. It brought him back to the night of the accident and how close they had come to losing Tony forever. "You sure you have enough money?"
"I'm sure," Tony answered with a nod.
"Okay…just wait for me up front then," Gibbs said. "Is there anything in particular you'd like me to pick up?"
Tony shook his head. "No thanks. Whatever you get is fine with me." He then turned away and began to make his way back to the pharmacy. Gibbs watched him for a few moments and then went back to his grocery shopping, taking care to pick out things he knew Tony would like…or at least the Tony he had known prior to the accident…
Tony retrieved his prescription then returned to the small waiting area to wait for Gibbs. He found it hard to believe how tired he was after just walking up and down a few grocery store aisles. There was no denying it though. He was wiped out. Sighing heavily, he tilted his head back, leaning against the wall, and very quickly fell asleep.
Gibbs finished his shopping as fast as he could and arrived at the pharmacy a short time later. When he found Tony sleeping soundly, he was struck by how vulnerable he appeared, his skin still extremely pale under the purplish bruises which marred his face. Deciding not to disturb him until it was absolutely necessary, Gibbs brought the groceries out to the car. He then drove to the front of the store before returning to the pharmacy. "Hey Tony," he said softly as he gently shook the younger man's shoulder. "We're all set. It's time to go."
Tony opened his eyes, looking startled for a moment before he got his bearings. He grabbed his crutches and quickly stood up, swaying precariously as he did so. "Hey, you okay?" Gibbs promptly moved to steady his agent, preventing him from falling.
"Yeah…guess I stood up too fast, got a little dizzy." Seeing the worried expression on Gibbs' face, Tony quickly reassured him. "The doctor knows…said I could get dizzy spells and headaches for a while."
Gibbs nodded. "Better now?" he asked, trying not to look as concerned as he felt.
"Let's go then. We're parked right out front."
Gibbs walked behind Tony, keeping a watchful eye on him as they slowly made their way out to the car. Tony was aware of the other man's eyes on him and couldn't help but wonder if it was always like this or if it was only the current situation that warranted such attention. They arrived at the car and got in wordlessly. Tony gratefully leaned his head back against the car seat, relieved to be sitting once again. Gibbs started up the car and the two men were silent until Gibbs pulled into the driveway of his house. "Well…here we are. This is where I live." Gibbs watched Tony's reaction closely, anxious to see if the house would prompt his memory in any way at all.
P.S. I now have an author's page on Facebook under Mulderette. Not much there yet, but hopefully that will change :)