a/n - Here it is, the last chapter. Before you ask, I am planning on playing in this universe for a while but I'm going to finish up Backfired first which is actually pretty close to being done - at least the rough draft is finished. Yes, you can buy gravy canned or in a jar in the US. I've used it to stretch homemade gravy a few times when I've run short, it's not too bad.

I almost uploaded the wrong final chapter, that would have really confused everyone. Just finished a gen three shot called Apple of my Eye that will go up on my other profile later this week. It's a funny story, but really would have had you guys wondering what was going on g Give it a try while you're waiting for Backfired.

"How's he doing?" Tony kept his voice low out of habit as he set his work on a table before joining Dr. Elby at Tim's bedside. The first thing he noticed was that the intubation equipment was gone. Jason finished his notes and turned to Tony with a smile.

"The pressure against his spine in at near normal levels, so we've stopped the drugs that were keeping him in the coma."

"What? When? How soon before he wakes up?"

"Easy, Tiger." Jason laid a hand on Tony's arm. "It will be this afternoon at the earliest, possibly not until tomorrow morning. However, it does mean that we're removing the time restrictions on your visits. Except for medical checks, you can be with him as much as you want."

Tony stared at him for a moment before a slow smile spread across his face. "Really, I can stay with him?"

"You sure can. A second visitor is fine for short visits also, so that motley crew of yours can each visit for a few minutes instead of hogging the waiting room all day." The grin told Tony that he wasn't really upset about the team taking over most of the lounge. "Now, hearing is probably the first thing that will return, so talk to him, let him know that he's not alone."

"Okay, yeah, I can do that. Will he be in pain?" Tony kept glancing down at the still form, already waiting for the fist signs of consciousness.

He'd been expecting the question. "Actually, as barbaric as it sounds, we hope he's in pain. That means the nerves are coming back on-line. The sooner he has feeling, the better his chances at a significant recovery."

"Guess that makes sense. I was just hoping that he'd wake up able to feel everything, but not have to suffer." Tony brushed the hair back off Tim's face as he carefully watched him.

Dr. Elby had gone through this with the loved ones of many patients. Unfortunately the painful and intense tingling and shooting pains were an expected side effect of such a severe jolt to the spine. "You've hit your funny bone on occasion, I'm sure. It's a similar response, just more intense."

"But instead of just his arm, it's his whole body? Can't you give him something for the pain?"

"After we've been able to do a full assessment of his remaining neurological function and make sure we haven't missed any other injuries, then we'll start him on a morphine drip. As far as we could determine, he only has bruises and a few cracked ribs in addition to the spinal fracture, but it's possible that we've missed a soft tissue injury that wouldn't show up in an x-ray."

"And if he has?"

Ducky's voice from the doorway caused both men to turn. "Let's not borrow trouble, Anthony. It's part of Dr. Elby's job to be cautious."

"Hey, Ducky. I know, I just..."

"You want him to wake up whole and healthy and walking the hallway by tonight. It's quite understandable." Joining Tony, he gave him a knowing smile.

"But it's not going to happen that way, is it?" Despite his professed understanding, an ember of hope still burned.

Ducky squeezed his arm in support. "Even the most positive outcome will take time and work, I'm afraid. Today's goal is for McGee to regain consciousness. The rest will come when his body is ready."


"Hey, Abs." Tony looked up from the file he was reading to Tim as the Goth came in. She stood by the door, chewing her lower lip, unsure of her welcome after her earlier anger. Tony laid down the file and gave her a reassuring smile. "It's okay, Abby, you can come visit. He's probably getting tired of hearing my voice."

"I doubt that, Tony." Nevertheless, Abby inched closer to the bed and watched McGee. "Balboa's team is bringing in some evidence for me, so I get to visit first, before I have to go back to the Yard. Is he starting to wake up at all?"

"Not yet, but it's still pretty soon. Dr. Elby isn't expecting any signs for a few more hours at the earliest. He might hear you, though."

Abby nodded as she reached out and touched his head. "Hey, McGee, you really gave us all a scare. I mean, really, who falls off a mountain? You've got more hardware attached to you than if you were flying one of those jetpacks you love. Hey, you know what? After you wake up, I'm going to listen to your whole new power point presentation without complaining even once. Okay, maybe just once, but I'll listen to the whole thing. I'll even drag Gibbs down and make him listen with me."

Tony snorted at that last comment and Abby flashed him a grin. "I'm not promising that he'll understand all of it, but you scared him enough that he'll listen just to make you happy. And you are, aren't you? You and Tony are so happy together and I feel kinda stupid that I didn't figure it out, but the Sisters say that everything happens when it's supposed to. They also put in a good word for you, you know, upstairs, and that should help, because they have an in and all, since they're nuns and..."

"Abby, breathe."

"Okay, I'm breathing, see me breathing? I have to go back to the Yard now, but you'll give him a kiss for me when he wakes up?"

If Tony was having trouble keeping up with the rapid changes of topic and mood, he wasn't complaining. "Of course I will, Abs."

"With maybe a little bit of tongue?"


"I'm just asking." She leaned over, trying to find a way to give McGee a kiss of her own, and finally settled for kissing the top of his head before clomping out of the room.

Tony laughed as he resumed his position close to Tim. "I gotta warn you, she and Ziva are determined to find pictures of us. You know, those kind of pictures." Even though McGee wasn't awake, he waggled his eyebrows to make his point.


"Thought I'd find you here, how's McGee doing?"

Gibbs glared at Fornell over the rim of his coffee cup. "There's bringing him out of the coma today. Then they'll know how much... permanent damage there is."

"He's stronger than most people give him credit for, Gibbs. He'd have to be, otherwise this job would eat him alive." When he didn't get much of a response, Fornell cut straight to the point, dropping a copy of the report in front of Gibbs. "You'll be glad to know that it's been ruled an accident, caused by an unfamiliarity with the equipment. Vance signed off on it this morning, you're in the clear."

The other man barely acknowledged Fornell as he stared down the hallway at the closed door to McGee's hospital room. Understanding the focus of Gibbs' thought, Fornell wasn't offended. "Take care of your boy, I'm looking forward to seeing him back out in the field someday."

Once Fornell was gone, Gibbs pulled out his phone and studied the pictures he'd taken in the DiNozzo-McGee back yard as he began sketching out plans for a deck and rose arbor, large enough for a wedding.


"Here, Tony, I brought you some dinner." Ziva set the bag on the bedside table and stepped closer to the bed. "McGee, if you wake up soon enough, you can talk Tony out of some of his food. I made sure it was something you both would like. Very soon you will be home with your husband and we will all spoil you. I will fill your freezer with meals so that Tony does not have to worry about cooking and then when you have recovered you can fix some of your wonderful ribs and Tony can make his potato salad. Wait until Gibbs learns he is not the only grillmaster of the team. Does that not sound good?"

Tony was nodding along with her. "A cook-out for the entire gang and then a night down in the bonus room. That sounds really good, doesn't it?"

"I am looking forward to it." Ziva reached across the bed and took Tony's hand. "No more living in secret, that is the one good thing that has come out of this and we will all help while McGee recovers. Now, I will go spend some time with Jethro so he does not feel neglected."

"Thanks, Ziva." His eyes narrowed as he thought about her alone in their house. "No looking around for that other camera."

Ziva smiled and walked to the door before she answered. "Now, would I do something like that?"


It was well after dark and Tony was running out of words when he saw the first flutter of Tim's eyelids. "Tim? Tim, can you hear me?" He stood to get as close as he possibly could, bending to look him directly in the eye. "That's it, you've been sleeping long enough, it's time to wake up."


So intent on the slowly opening eyes, Tony forgot he was holding Tim's hand until he felt the increasing pressure. "That's it, Tim, can you feel that?"


"It hurts? Where, tell me where."

"All... all ov'r."

Tony could feel that small ember of hope growing. "What about your legs, do your legs hurt?"


Anything else Tony wanted to say was interrupted by the arrival of Dr. Elby, Ducky and half the nurses on duty. He knew they would make him step out, but once he found himself on the other side of the closed door, he struggled to turn and walk to the waiting room.

Gibbs was the only one of the team left for the night and he dropped his magazine as Tony came down the hall, a stunned look on his face. Three steps and he met him at the doorway. "Tony, what is it, what happened?"

"Boss?" the stress of the last few days hit and Tony started shaking.

"I've got you, Tony, tell me."

"He squeezed my hand, Boss, and..." Tony looked up at him and a joyous smile spread across his face. "His legs hurt, he can feel his legs."

The realization and relief hit Gibbs. "Thank God, oh, thank God."

One week later:

The scent of Moroccan spices filled the air as Ziva stirred the large pan, while Abby carefully chopped onions. "How much are we fixing, Ziva? My eyes are really starting to water."

"One more onion should do it, Abby. That will give us five dishes to freeze for them. On our next day off, we will help Ducky with the food he is preparing. Between all of us, there should be a month's worth of food for when McGee comes home from the rehab center."

In a quiet neighborhood of DC, Gibbs parked his truck in front of a well maintained brick home. Palmer quickly scrambled out, grateful to be on solid ground. He covered his eagerness by grabbing one of the rosebushes from the back of the truck.

Gibbs grinned, but didn't call him on it. "Set the roses in the shade, we'll need to build the arbor and set the deck posts before we can plant them."

Jason Elby paused at the door, watching his favorite patient. Two days ago the traction had been replaced with the body brace, much to Tony's delight. Now that their team had fully accepted the relationship, he never missed an opportunity to sneak a kiss with injured man and the brace was much easier to work around than the pulley and weights had been. Jason cleared his throat, grinning at how far Tony jumped.

"Funny, Jason."

"Well, guys, the last scan looks really good and I think it's time to move you."

"Rehab? Really?" Tim knew it was the first step in regaining his independence, the first step towards going home.

"Yeah, really. I've already got you set up with a physical therapist that I think you'll be very comfortable with."

Apparently that was the cue, because another man entered the room, closing the door behind him. Elby reached out his hand, interlocking their fingers for just a moment. "Tony, Tim, this is Scott."

Tony remembered back to that first day in the emergency room and smiled as he shook Scott's hand. "It's nice to finally meet you, Scott."

"Likewise, I've heard a lot about both of you." Scott moved closer to Tim's bed. "Tim, we've got a lot of work ahead of us, but I think you've got a good chance at being one of those rare patients that beats the odds. You ready to give it a go?"

It was a struggle and took all of his concentration, but Tim raised his hand to shake Scott's. "Yeah, I really am."

"Then let's get to work."

The End, for now.