AN: Fan fiction's a wonderful thing... Without it I wouldn't have made fantastic friends in my own country. Or all over creation. Without it I wouldn't have flown to the other side of the world to spend three amazing weeks with my beloved 'sis' Diana Teo and her family. Who'd have dreamed of me doing that?
I started thinking about the whole business of saying thank you, and remembered something on my favourites list... so as a more sincere thank you than I could ever find the words for, and with Celestial 1's very kind permission, (bless you, gal,) this is a prequel to her 'Three Things I wrote About Requiem'.
The Thank You Scale
Closing her eyes, and leaning her head back against the stack of pillows, Maddy decided that, since she was actually young and fit, the fact that she felt like an old woman was merely psychological, and she would rise above it. A week ago she'd never have believed any of this... but the fading bruises on her arms reminded her of how it all began, with Rudi trying to bully his way into her life; while the occasional lingering, unpleasant taste of river water in the back of her throat, the IV in her arm and the bump on the side of her head reminded her of how it had nearly ended.
She knew that a bang on the head sometimes made people forget what had happened in the moments leading up to it; she almost wished that were the case. Her fear of Rudi and the men who abducted her, and the disorientating effect of the gunfire and the car shooting backwards, were things she might have preferred to forget, but she was wise enough to know that if she had done, she'd be wishing to remember.
She shifted her aching body in the bed and sighed softly, trying to filter out all the bustle and low-voiced conversation filtering in from the rest of the emergency department. She'd been trying to see if she could hear Gibbs somewhere out there, but the effort had made her dizzy. A student nurse chose that moment to put her head between the curtains.
"The doctor will be down in a minute to discuss the results of your x-rays," she said in a tone that suggested she was reciting exactly what she'd been told to say.
"Thank you," Maddy murmured, scarcely able to rouse herself to show any interest. Her thoughts turned inwards again. There had been no time to even think about seat belts, and the impact of the car hitting the water had thrown her sideways; the next thing she could remember was lying on her back, soaking wet and very cold, looking across at Jethro Gibbs who seemed to be in the same condition. She'd been more aware of his hand reaching out to brush hers than of the shadowy, dark figure looming above them both; this person must have helped, and she'd just about ignored him. Now she was feeling a bit guilty.
She should have realised... but it was only by listening to what the paramedics had said as they went about their work, that she'd begun to piece together how she'd been rescued, and by whom. She barely remembered Special Agent DiNozzo from her brief visit to NCIS, but she'd be unlikely to forget him now. He'd pulled both of them from the car... underwater... he must have done, or they'd still be there... her thoughts drifted away and she dozed again, until the swish of the curtain made her open her eyes. Another nurse, older and more confident, had brought in a tall paper cup in a plastic holder.
"Your friend – Suzi, is it? - is on her way over with a change of clothes for you. Doctor Busi sends his apologies, he's been delayed for a short while, but he said that in the mean time you could have a warm drink if you wished. This is hot chocolate."
Maddy suddenly realised just how cold she felt. Her face lit up. "Oh, thank you," she said with feeling. "That's lovely."
"Slowly, now," the nurse said cheerfully. "If you feel at all sick, use the call button."
"I will," Maddy said agreeably. She took a cautious sip' it was delicious; the nurse beamed and was about to say something approving, when voices in the distance but getting closer made her smile apologetically and leave. With nothing else to do but wrap herself around the warm chocolate, Maddy lay back again against that wonderful pile of pillows, and closed her eyes. The voices came into sharper focus, as a bed was trundled into a nearby cubicle.
"... my clothes... where are they, anyway?"
"They're wet, DiNozzo. That's why you're not getting them back."
"I bet you let Gibbs have his clothes back... I bet you let him leave..."
The other voice gave an indelicate snort.
"I wasn't treating Gibbs – if I had been he'd never have been able to scrounge a set of scrubs and sign himself out AMA as soon as he heard your Director was on her way down to have a word with him. I take it he didn't drop in on you on his way out?"
"Brad, I doubt he even knows I'm here. He might have spoken to Miss Tyler, if she's still here."
"I believe she is... she's Dr. Busi's patient, but I took a look at her chest x-rays for him." "How is she?"
"How is she?"
"Everything was fine from my point of view. Now you..."
"I'm fine too. Same river... Gibbs is fine, Miss Tyler's fine, I'm fine. I want out of here. I want my clothes." The uncomfortable cough that followed made Maddy wince.
"I said - you're not getting them." "Aw, Brad... you're a sadist, you know that?"
"Aw, Brad... you're a sadist, you know that?"
The doctor's next words made Maddy's eyes fly open.
"Tony... Let. Me. Remind you. You had the plague. Blue lights, cough, nearly died, remember?"
"You think I'll ever forget?"
"Oh, I just thought you already did! Of all the people to dive into a dirty river – that's twice, to manhandle two people out of it... you're the last person who should, with the amount of scarring in your lungs... and exactly the one who'd do it. Which is why -"
Another voice interrupted.
"Brad... I've got Tony's x-rays. I rushed them down cuz I assumed he'd be giving you some trouble."
"Hey, thanks for that, Don," the doctor's voice held surprised appreciation. "You assumed right. He wants to leave, in his wet clothes."
"Why am I not surprised?"
"Hey, talk about a guy over his body, why don't you?" DiNozzo protested half-heartedly.
"You're not dead, Tony," the radiographer explained patiently."And your lungs don't seem any the worse for the experience. They're certainly no worse than at your last check-up five months ago. It's amazing really..."
The doctor, Brad... was severe. "But that scar tissue I mentioned... what do I keep telling you about it?"
"It's a potential infection site, Mum," the agent recited dutifully.
"Right. You get pneumonia again, at the least it's more scar tissue. Possible career ender. You. Could. Die." He paused for effect, while Maddy held her breath. He couldn't mean now, surely? Die? Because he'd saved her? "Easily. Before you even admitted you were sick."
A soft, resigned, guilty sigh was the only sound from the patient, and the doctor continued, "Which is why you'll stay there until that IV's run, and I'm sure there's some good antibiotic in you. When Dr. Mallard brings your change of clothes, and when I've talked to him, then you can go, and not a moment before. I can trust him to watch you like a hawk for signs of pulmonary distress. You won't see any ill-effects from this if I have anything at all to do with it."
Agent DiNozzo's reply was subdued, but sincere. "Thanks, Brad."
Again the snort. "It's not me that needs thanking. Gibbs owes you his life and the young lady's. He needs to thank you big time."
DiNozzo's laughter was laced with irony and ended with a cough. "Not a chance," he saidcheerfully. He added in a perfect take off of Gibbs' voice, "Ya think I should thank him for doing his job?"
Doctor Brad was silent for a while."Rest," he said finally. "I'll look in again before you go." There was another murmured 'thanks' from DiNozzo, the swish of the curtain, then silence.
The temperature in the hospital was high; but Maddy felt chilled. The hot chocolate no longer did its job, and she drained it absently without even tasting it. She reached for the robe that lay discarded on the bottom of the bed, wrapped it round her shoulders, and sat huddled up. She became aware of wetness on her cheeks, and didn't attempt to wipe it away.
Thank you... it seemed as if it had a sliding scale. Her mind ranged over all the ones she'd used, and heard in the last few minutes. The student nurse with her polite message; a thank you out of politeness, not interest. Bottom of the scale. One.
Thanks for an unexpected kindness; hers to the kind nurse for the chocolate, and Doctor Brad's to the radiographer. Five? She decided that trying to assign numbers on the scale was pointless, but decided that this particular sort of thanks was vital; even the most giving of people would give up eventually on little acts of thoughtfulness if they weren't appreciated.
Agent DiNozzo's thanks to the doctor; never mind all the banter and all the grouching – the tone of his thanks made it clear that he understood the care and the friendship behind the treatment.
The treatment... he was there because he'd saved her life – at great risk to his own. She hadn't known that...
She shook her head painfully. That had to be at the top of the scale, surely. How could you ever thank someone enough for that? Which took her on to another thought that made her heart crash – if she'd survived and he hadn't, or Jethro Gibbs hadn't... It isn't even how much do you thank them, she thought wildly, it's how do you thank them? If they're no longer there to thank? And it's because of you? Who do you thank then? Where's that on the scale?
She collected the thoughts that were running away from her, and calmed herself down with an effort. She wondered if she'd ever take anyone's actions towards her for granted again, if she'd ever utter the words unthinkingly again - and that brought her back round again to where she'd begun. Thanks because they're necessary; thanks to show appreciation... DiNozzo believed his boss wouldn't thank him?
Jethro Gibbs... the man of action who'd gone out on a limb, done things for her, a stranger, without hesitation - but wouldn't say things that were just as important to someone who'd gone out on a limb for him?
She thought back over that; it was so convoluted she wanted to make sure she was clear on it. There really wasn't a scale for unspoken thanks, she realised; it dropped off the bottom somewhere. She really didn't think that Agent DiNozzo had got it right about Gibbs, but that wasn't up to her; one thing was. She lay back a third time, closed her eyes and began composing.
"Dear Special Agent DiNozzo,
First of all..."
Terima Kasih, Di, Sayang.