Three days later, Tony was sitting on the edge of his hospital bed, enduring yet another check-up by one of his doctors.
The medic finally nodded, removing the stethoscope from his patient's chest.
"Looking good, Tony. – There's no reason for us to keep you, but you'll need some help at home for a couple of days…"
The young agent gave a brief nod in response, immediately dismissing the advice. "I'll be fine, doc; don't worry."
The medic eyed him somewhat critically at that. "Does that mean there'll be someone with you?"
When Tony didn't reply anything immediately, Gibbs' impatience finally won out and he stepped into the room. "There will be."
Two pairs of eyes turned towards him at that, causing him to shrug slightly. "He'll be staying with me until he's feeling better."
Tony immediately started protesting. "Boss… That really won't be necessary. I'm feeling fine already; I'll be okay at my own place…"
Gibbs simply kept his gaze on him, one eyebrow raised, while clearly addressing the doctor who was still standing somewhat indecisively in front of Tony eyeing both men curiously. "Could you give us a minute, doc?"
The medic immediately nodded. "Sure. – I'll just go and… get the paperwork ready."
As soon as he had left the room, Gibbs eyed his senior field agent critically. "What's this about, Tony…"
Sitting up slightly, the younger man winced a little at the unexpectedly sharp pain the movement elicited. "It's not about anything, Gibbs… I'm just saying I'll be fine by myself." Then, cracking a little under Gibbs' scrutinizing glare: "I mean, believe me. You really don't wanna have me at your house right now…"
"Is that a fact, DiNozzo." Walking towards Tony's bag, he simply picked it up and slung it over his shoulder. "When have you ever not stayed at my place during reconvalescence?"
Tony quickly averted his gaze at that. "It's not the same thing, boss. – Right now, if I stayed with you that would start all kinds of rumors I'm sure you'd rather avoid…"
"I don't give a damn about rumors, DiNozzo," Gibbs very nearly growled in response. "And now shut up and get moving; doc finds us still discussing this, he might change his mind and keep you..." With that he already started walking towards the door.
When he noticed the younger man slowly starting to follow, looking somewhat unsteady on his feet, he casually snatched one of the wheel-chairs from the nearby nurses' station, indicating for DiNozzo to sit in it. "Hospital regulations," he commented uncompromisingly. "You know how it goes, Tony; God knows we've been through this often enough…"
In all honesty, he fully expected the younger man to refuse the suggestion. In fact, he was already preparing himself to shift from 'discussion' into 'order mode' to overcome the very likely resistance. So it came as quite a shock to him, when Tony hesitated for a just moment, before simply turning slightly and using his good arm to help lower himself carefully into the chair.
The unexpected action did nothing to alleviate Gibbs' concern about his agent's condition. In fact, his alarm level had just shot up several notches.
Briefly leaving the younger man to pick up the discharge papers, Gibbs quietly addressed Tony's doctor again. "He okay to be on his feet?" He was still frowning slightly in unwanted concern.
The other man nodded slightly in response, giving him a somewhat reassuring half-smile. "He should be okay for short periods of time. – He's still a little unsteady due to the pain movement causes him right now, and his blood pressure has bottomed out a few times… But that should all start improving over the next couple of days. Someone should stay close when he's on his feet for more than a few minutes at a time, but other than that he should be fine."
Then, somewhat tentatively: "So… He agreed to stay with you?" He gave the older agent a slightly skeptical glance.
Gibbs didn't even bother nodding. "He better be…"
Another slow nod. "And you think you'll be okay helping him out a little?" He deliberately kept the question vague.
Gibbs now made eye-contact again, his expression calm and sure. "I've had some training as a field medic, if that's what you're asking. Should be okay to handle things; otherwise we'll just contact you."
The medic nodded again, a slight smile playing around his lips. "Okay, then. I'm sure you'll be fine. As I said: He should quickly start improving now, and I don't foresee any complications. – If any of his injuries should start paining him more, or if he should develop a fever, you'll need to bring him in again though…" He waited for Gibbs to confirm the statement with a slight nod, before finishing up his instructions:
"I've left his prescriptions with the nurse; you'll need to pick them up today, because there's a salve he should use twice daily at least. Also, he'll definitely need to keep wearing the sling, at least for another week, maybe two. We'll see how he's doing when he comes in again for his next appointment... Other than that, you can use a tape or bandage to stabilize his ribs for a while, if he needs it, but try to get him to do the breathing exercises I've been showing to him a couple times each day. – I told him as well, of course, but extrapolating from his enthusiasm here…" He gave a somewhat wry smile. "Also, don't be too careful with the pain medication; he'll be in considerable discomfort for a while yet, and there's no need for him to feel any more of it than he has to."
Gibbs was already looking forward to that conversation…
With another nod of acknowledgement he then simply accepted the instruction sheet the doctor was handing over to him and turned towards his agent, who had – by sheer reflex it seemed – started chatting with one of the nurses, though the act lacked much of its usual enthusiasm. Gibbs still couldn't fully suppress a good-natured eye-roll when he approached the two again.
"Come on, DiNozzo – time for a change of scenery. Say goodbye to the nice lady…"
That got him a matching eye-roll in response, but at least Tony obediently said his goodbyes.
When he had silently started pushing the wheel-chair towards one of the elevators, Tony commented mildly with a slightly amused – if tired – half-smile: "Never actually seen you take one of those instruction sheets before…"
"Yeah, well…" Gibbs immediately gave back somewhat defensively, "never actually had you at my house three days after surgery."
Tony once again rolled his eyes in response. "It wasn't surgery, Gibbs. They didn't even put me under…"
Gibbs' expression hardened slightly at that, his hands clenching momentarily around the handles of the chair. "They cut into you, Tony. It was surgery." His tone was uncompromising, maybe even a little sharp. – He didn't even know why his agent's almost habitual attempts to downplay his injuries seemed somehow unacceptable this time.
"So…" Tony tentatively started again once they were both on the elevator. "How pissed off are you…"
Gibbs simply raised an eyebrow at that, marveling once again at his agent's ability to pick up on his mood, even distracted as he had to have been by his own discomfort. On the other hand, it didn't really surprise him that some of the frustration he had been feeling over the last couple of days had shown through at one point or another, even if he had been doing his damndest to hold it in as much as possible whenever he had been around his recovering agent.
"What do you think?" Was all he finally replied, this time allowing some of the tenseness to show in his testy reply, even though Tony's slight flinch made him almost immediately regret his uncontrolled tone.
"I didn't actually tell anybody, you know; accept for Abby..." Tony sounded apologetic more than anything else. "Well, and Ducky of course, but only after he came to my place for those case files last week, and he and Jeff sort of ran into each other..." He turned his head slightly as if to make eye-contact, but kept his gaze on the wall of the elevator. "I really have no idea how anybody else could have known, Gibbs; I'm sorry…"
Gibbs' eyes narrowed slightly at that, the irritation now openly showing on his face. "I'm not pissed at you, DiNozzo. And for God's sake, stop apologizing!"
The harsh comment was met with silence.
When Tony finally spoke again, his tone was careful, but also very much 'DiNozzo' in its quiet persistency. "I gotta tell you, boss… For someone who's not pissed at me, you sure do sound really, really pissed at me…"
Gibbs forced himself to exhale slowly at that, his tense posture finally relaxing a little again. He tried to catch the younger man's gaze, but Tony had already turned towards the slowly-opening elevator doors. "I'm not angry with you, Tony," he finally stated much more softly, giving the wheel-chair another gentle shove. "But I'm pissed as hell at the assholes that did this to you…"
"Yeah, well…" Tony replied quietly, gingerly starting to push himself up and out of the chair, as soon as they had reached the hospital doors. "It's not as if I didn't know the 'rules' going into this…"
Feeling the anger already creep up again, Gibbs swallowed another harsh comment at the last possible moment, but on their slow way to the car he kept clenching his teeth hard enough to hurt...
A/N: Sorry for the delay in updating this... Let me know what you think! :)