Title: Down is Now Up
Summary: Tony wakes up hurting and alone, and is unsure how he ended up at Gibbs' house.
Disclaimer: NCIS is not mine. I'm just borrowing the concepts and characters for a little while.
A/N: This is what I like to call a "1 for 2" story – meaning that it's one story/plot translated into two fandoms. If you're interested in comparing the two stories, the other is called "Down is Up" and can be found in the Hawaii Five-0 section of this site.
There were some mornings where he loathed waking up – like today. He hasn't even opened his eyes yet and he was wishing he was still asleep. That first, brief instant of awareness between waking and realizing you're awake and before opening your eyes for the first time… He tries to prolong it wanting to remain just barely aware, but his body has other ideas.
Opening his eyes, he immediately slams them shut again as the dull ache in his head spikes from the daylight streaming into…Gibbs living room? To be more precise: Gibbs' couch in Gibbs' living room. How the heck did he end up on Gibbs' couch when he couldn't even remember leaving the office last night? Just trying to think is making him practically hurt all over.
Beep. Beep. Beep. Beep….
His phone's alarm begins beeping incessantly and very loudly making the worst migraine he's ever had tame in comparison to the headache he now has. It even makes death seem like a great option for relief. Wanting to prevent his brain from exploding, he blindly reaches over, missing a couple of times before snatching it from the table in front of the couch. After a couple of fumbled tries, he manages to shut off the hell-spawned noise. The alarm stops, which gives his head a modicum of relief. But then after a couple of minutes, he swears he hears it again before dismissing it as a being related to his over-sensitive senses.
Oddly enough, even though he's curious as to how he ended up at Gibbs' house, he doesn't even think it's all that unusual to be there. Gibbs' house represents safety, comfort and reassurance despite his Boss' gruff and grumpy exterior and in the past he's ended up here for a multitude of reasons both personal and professional. So not remembering how he ended up on the couch really shouldn't bother him, right? Throwing an arm over his eyes, he goes over some of the possible scenarios of how he came to wake up with his head hurting so bad that it felt like it was going to implode.
Low blood sugar from not eating for a while? Definitely not. Never has his head felt this bad due to low blood sugar. And his stomach wasn't screaming for food even though he had no idea when he'd last had anything to eat. In fact, he feels more than a little nauseous at the thought of food. Moving on…
Hangover? No, it wasn't that either. For one thing, he couldn't remember drinking any alcohol last night. And he tries not to over-indulge on a school night. At least he thinks it was a school night last night. Though, if he was really honest with himself, he'd acknowledge that he couldn't really remember the previous night (or the previous day for that matter) at all. Hangover headaches for him usually meant a general all-over ache in his head and fuzzy thoughts not these semi-constant spikes of pain he was experiencing.
Migraine? More likely, but still not quite right. The migraines he's experienced in his life generally center on the right side of his head, the pain throbbing in time with his heartbeat and stabbing pains through one eye. Sensitivity to sound was also common, but the house was quiet enough that he couldn't judge if it was a symptom or not. His sensitivity to the light upon waking… Now that's definitely a symptom he usually has to deal with, but when he first opened his eyes, the pain the light caused just seemed…different. So whatever was wrong with him was similar to a migraine but not quite as what he was feeling now didn't quite match up to his previous experiences.
Concussion? Now that was the most likely cause of this monstrous pain his brain seems to be in. A blow to the head could definitely make his brain seem like it's trying to split in two of its own accord. Would cause the spikes of pain and the light sensitivity and the lack of desire to eat along with the nausea at the vaguest idea of eating something. But, even this theory seemed flawed and he didn't know why. Maybe that it was more than just a concussion? He thinks maybe moving around will help him decide what's missing, what seems off with this theory.
But even just trying to think of possibilities and theories was causing him greater amounts of suffering so he allows his thoughts to quiet and decides to just lay there and rest for a while before getting up and moving around. Eventually he must have drifted off because the next time he was aware of his surroundings, he senses that the atmosphere of the room he was in has changed.
He tries opening his eyes again and instantly realizes that the room was almost completely dark. Blinking a couple of times, he opens his eyes fully and this time it seems his head can seemingly tolerate the current level of light. The pain in his head was definitely still there, still throbbing, but the light wasn't driving railroad spikes into his brain anymore.
He lays there listening to the sounds around him and can only hear his own breathing for a moment. Then he thinks he can hear someone's voice, but it sounds too far away and he can't make out any of the words being said. He slowly sits up, and recognizing he's still on Gibbs' couch, blindly reaches towards the table for his gun only to discover it's not there – that the gun, his phone, and the table are gone. How in the heck could they be gone?
Ignoring this oddity for now, he decides that the voice he hears is probably coming from the basement, he resolves to get up and investigate; confident he can talk his way out of any trouble. His struggles to sit up have awakened soreness in his muscles that he wasn't previously aware of. Finally, fighting the disorientation and vertigo that suddenly comes upon him and using sure will power, he manages to stand and stumbles into the barely lit kitchen and then to the basement door.
Reaching the stairs, he hears the voice again and thinks he knows it now – Gibbs. Though it was still garbled, he was almost sure the voice was his Boss'. And, up until he'd identified the voice and the fact that it was indeed coming from somewhere nearby, that he hadn't imagined it, he'd thought he was here alone – left to fend for himself.
He shakes his head at that thought. His friend and mentor wouldn't leave him alone if he was injured – of that he was absolutely certain. So, since he was at Gibbs' house, then his aches and pains must be related to some sort of injury he'd sustained. His injuries must not be that bad if he wasn't being forced by his teammates to stay in the hospital. But then again, they must be bad enough to warrant needing someone to watch over him.
Taking a deep breath to quell the rising panic, he swears he feels a hand grasp his wrist. Surprised, he jerks back and almost loses his balance enough to fall, but he hears Gibbs' voice again coming from somewhere close by and manages to catch himself on the bannister.
As his heart beats wildly in his chest from the near miss, he swears he's hearing his phone's alarm going off again in the living room – the phone that had mysteriously vanished – but he doesn't have enough energy to deal with that right now. His heart beat calming; he decides to continue in his search to find his friend. The senior agent had to know what had happened to him, what case they were on (had been on?) and how he'd been injured, right?
With every step downward though, it seems that he isn't getting all that much closer to the bottom and he is feeling more and more exhausted with every movement of his body. He's getting tired enough that for each step he takes, it seems like he hasn't really moved anywhere at all. That if he were out walking somewhere, it would be the equivalent of taking 10 steps and actually only having gone the actual distance of one step forward. After a while at this pace, he lets out a growl of frustration.
Seconds later, it feels like a hand is gripping his shoulder, but when he turns his head to see who the hand belongs to, he sees no one on the stairs with him – he's alone. This time he's not quite as startled by the touch, but is still unsure of what to make of the situation. And, at this point, he just wishes his cursed phone's alarm clock would shut the hell up!
He hears his Boss again, but this time his voice seems closer though Tony still can't see him. "You need to calm down Tony. Take your time and try again later. I've got your six."
He's so relieved that his friend was willing to wait for him to come downstairs that he sags against the wall of the staircase. At that moment, he lets his exhaustion win causing his legs to give way and he sits heavily and awkwardly down at the stairs' half-way point. Lowering his arms which were being braced by his knees, he allows the slowly approaching darkness to overtake him.
The next time he wakes, he's somehow back on the couch and doesn't remember how he got there. Maybe Gibbs—?
By the light coming through the window, he'd guess that it was sometime after midday. At first he's grateful that the light isn't stabbing into his eyeballs as viciously as the last time he awoke, but when he still can't recall how he got back to the couch, his persistent headache reasserts itself somewhat.
Lying there, he wonders at the circumstance he's found himself in and why his body has chosen not to cooperate with him. It's not long before he can hear the news playing on the TV downstairs and he thinks he hears Gibbs' voice grumble at what he guesses are the latest headlines.
The desire to see his friend and participate in his life gives him the push he needs to help him get out of bed. All his aches and pains are still there as is the dizziness and vertigo, but the severity is less devastating than before.
He succeeds in making it to basement door only nearly falling once, then with a hand on the wall to steady himself; he makes his way to the staircase. This time there also seems to be more light on in the house than the last time he was at this point. Standing on the landing looking down, the TV seems louder now and it sounds like a movie is playing. She Wore a Yellow Ribbon if he's hearing it right. The thought of the origin of Rule 6 is comforting in its own way.
Carefully navigating steps, he slowly descends them one at a time. It still seems like it is taking far more work than it should, but he makes a good amount of progress after a while. When he makes it to the half-way point, the point where he previously had to stop, he makes sure he goes one step farther before he dares to take a break. Leaning against the wall, he sighs in relief not only at the lack of movement, but also that he's made it this far.
He feels someone pat his forearm in a comforting manner, but like every other time, there's no one there and he decides to not worry about it anymore contributing the odd sensations to his weakened physical condition.
By the tone of Gibbs' voice, he can tell that his boss is starting to get frustrated with the lack of what he considers good programming on TV and it spurs him back into action. The desire to needle and also commiserate with his boss about his lack of taste is a great incentive to move onward. He's at the landing and only three steps from the bottom when his friend lets out a string of muttered curses that from the tone tells him that Gibbs' patience has been used up. A moment later, the TV goes silent.
He takes another step just as Gibbs' voice seems to come closer than ever before. "Going for coffee and some food DiNozzo. Be back soon."
His mind screams out that he doesn't want to be left alone and that damned alarm clock goes crazy once again. He's so close to the bottom of the stairs – only two more…
A hand is suddenly in his hand and even though he can't see who it belongs to, doesn't see anyone at all, he grabs onto the sensation and doesn't let go.
"Hey," the voice says and he feels a light tap on the bottom of his chin. "Easy. I can wait a bit longer for coffee. Calm down."
And because it's the person he trusts most in the world asking him to do it, he does calm down, but he doesn't let go of the phantom hand. In fact, unlike the other times he's felt someone touch him, this time it doesn't go away. He's exhausted from all the effort he's expended to get this far down the stairs, but he's so close now that even though he wants to sink down onto the steps and let the threatening darkness come, he fights against it.
Somehow, even though he's confused as to why he can't see his boss, Gibbs still manages to provide the back-up he needs.
"I know you can do this. Know you can find your way back. Come on Tony. Show me you're just as stubborn as I am."
Almost involuntarily he takes another step. It's like he can't help myself. He has a hard time not doing what Gibbs says when the lead agent uses that tone of voice. So he needs to take this last step or risk a head slap.
He's unsure about what's going to happen if – when – he takes that last step and hesitates to take it. Lots of what ifs pop into his head and they briefly paralyze him. But his boss, partner, and friend saves him again—
"Stop being lazy and come on!"
He lifts his foot and takes that last step and just as his foot barely touches the ground, he starts to fall. For a split second, he wonders why Gibbs is not there to catch him, but then there is this bright light.
Suddenly he's not falling anymore and is blinking his eyes against the overly bright light trying to stab fiery hot pokers into them. He starts to raise an arm to cover his eyes when he hears an apologetic sounding, "Damn it! Forgot about the light."
The hand in his tries to let go but he doesn't allow it, holding on as tight as he can.
"Anthony, I can't get the light if you don't let go."
Tony ignores the words his boss says and instead turns his head towards the voice. He tries opening his eyes again, deciding to just accept that it will cause him pain and discomfort. It's better than being left alone again.
Finally he manages to get his eyes open but his vision is blurry. Yet he knows the shape before him is Gibbs. Besides, no one else he knows has a haircut like that. So it has to be Gibbs, right?
He slowly blinks his eyes a few times trying to bring his boss' face into focus. After what seems an eternity but is really only a minute, Gibbs' face comes into focus (more or less) as does his surroundings (more or less).
Hospital? I thought I was at Gibbs' house…
Disregarding that anomaly for now, Tony's happy he's finally made it downstairs to join his partner.
Smiling slightly, he hoarsely says, "Boss."
The hand around his tightens and he knows now that it was his friend this whole time. It was always the boss – the touches, the words – who grounded him and helped him. He wasn't ever alone.
Gibbs' grin is almost as blinding as the lights were when he first opened his eyes.
"It's about time you woke up, Tony."
Thanks for reading!
A/N: Just a reminder: Rule 6 is 'Never say you're sorry.'/'Never apologize. It's a sign of weakness.'
If you're wondering about the title, Tony is in a coma and his going downstairs is actually him rising up towards consciousness. Make sense? :]