Anyone have good recipe for brownies? Lol, just kidding, unless you have a realllly great one!

Like one with Amaretto. Thanks to all (well, all but one) who have reviewed and favorited, and supported me. I'm far behind in thanking everyone for them personally, but I do appreciate them all! (well, all but one, haha!)Yes, I'm wicked. I admit it.

It wasn't that Tony didn't like the guy, or owe him a huge debt of gratitude, but he had really hoped to never have to see Brad Pitt within the confines of a hospital room ever again. He'd gotten shot in the abdomen for crying out loud, what did that have to do with his lungs? He closed his eyes and counted to something - wasn't sure if he could figure out how to get to ten right now – and took another deep breath, which hurt and made him even edgier than he already was.

He couldn't remember the last four days of his life, and Gibbs just told him Jenny Shepard had not only shot him, but was dead. Could they not just give him a few minutes on his own to gather himself together and get a better start on things?

Stuffing the irritation down for now, he opened his eyes and watched Brad make his way into the cubicle and peruse his medical chart.

"There a problem I don't know about, Doc?" Gibbs spoke up before Tony had a chance to ask the same question.

"No, not really, we just need to make sure Tony starts getting up and around and using his lungs as deeply as he can, being bed-ridden like this for so long ups the risk of pneumonia with his history.

I'm going to consult with Dr. Mallard and the critical care doctor you have here so we're all on the same page for your recovery."

Tony nodded, thankful not to have to deal with yet one more piece of crappy news.

"Sounds great, Brad." he offered with false cheer. "Looking forward to... getting up and out of here. Any idea how long I have to stay?"

"Not very. Now that you're awake and alert, I'd say you could bail by tomorrow morning, but not without someone helping you out. You're going to be really sore for a while, and probably not real steady on your size 12 feet. You need to either get a home health aid in to help you or -"

"He comes home with me. Still got stuff there from his last go-round with getting busted up."

"Yeah, Dr. Mallard filled me in on that, too. How long have you actually gone without some sort of big boo boo, Tony?"

"Uhhh.. can't tell ya that, Bradley, brain's still sorta like...cooked oatmeal."

"I think it's been a while, Doc, but I'm a little light on some details myself, just getting over some memory issues myself."

"Boss had a real big boo boo. But he's doin'a lot better now, aren't ya Boss? Well, you were until a few days ago..." he added in a barely audible voice.

"Yeah, Tony. It's gonna be okay, don't get yourself worrying about it."

"Boss..." Tony pleaded, and without any hesitation, Gibbs heard the stark request and desperation in that one word.

"So for now, other than what the nurses are already doing for him, he can get along without being poked and prodded for a little while?" Gibbs queried. "Give him some time to regroup and get his head around some of what's happened?"

Brad was astute enough at reading Gibbs by now to understand what the man was trying to convey with not only words, but his eyes, too.

"Yeah, Jethro, I think he's okay with just the nurses monitoring him for a while. They'll let someone know if he needs more than that. I'll stop back in say...about two hours or so, that'll give me time to consult with Doctors Mallard and Lapple. I'll have a better idea of what to send him home with as far as scripts and exercises."

"Sounds good, Brad, thanks."

Gibbs patted the man's upper arm and waited for him to leave before turning his attention back to Tony.

"Okay, Tony, I bought you some time to either combust or stuff everything where the headshrinkers never shine their light. Your call."

Tony heaved a sigh of relief, and Gibbs could hear the hitch in it as clearly as if Tony had shouted it.

"Gonna prop your bed up some so you're breathing better. Brad's right, gotta get you back on track here so you can get out of here."

He adjusted the O2 and IV tubes and some of the monitoring wires to situate the bed in a more upright position, and Tony closed his eyes and left him to it.

"Too much, Boss. Too much...information and..people and..."

"I know, Tony." Gibbs agreed quietly, surprising both himself and Tony with a gentle hand to the younger man's cheek. "It all happened so fast, got out of control before we knew what was happening. Never should have left you alone, wasn't watching your six again."

Tony leaned into the touch, feeling uncomfortably vulnerable enough to need the contact.

"Not your fault, Boss. Whatever happened...I'm sure it wasn't anything you could have stopped."

"Tony, do you remember coming home from Stillwater? After you got to Dad's store, do you have any idea what happened?"

"Do you not know, Boss?"

"I know. I just want you to try to piece it together yourself. Like you said, too much information coming from me. I'm thinking that if you can break it down into smaller bites, you can digest it better."

"Yeah. That's..actually a good idea, Boss. Thanks. And thanks for getting me some space. I...I was starting to have some sort of panic attack or something there."

"I know." Gibbs told him, again in a gentle voice, trying to talk his friend down off the ledge he'd suddenly been pushed out onto. "Take it slow. We've got time."

He turned to the nightstand and grabbed up the plastic pitcher of stale water, figuring it was better than how dry Tony's throat must have felt, and poured a small amount into a paper cup.

"Drink this first, little swallows."

"Thanks, Boss. I was...parched."

"Yup. Loss of blood'll do that to you. And the drugs."

He waited for Tony to settle again, knowing his steady presence would prompt the younger man into talking again as soon as he was ready.

"I had lots of...crazy dreams while I was out, Boss, and...I don't know what's dream and what's real, so...you'll need to tell me."

"I can do that. Start with Stillwater, at the store. You got down to the store and what?"

"In my dream Rene Benoit was waiting for me, but...that's just crazy, so..."

"It was him, Tony. He followed you up there and hung around town for the night at that little hotel off Main Street. What next?"

"A fancy car. A big one. He was driving. Made me go with him, threatened...Jackson."

"Don't waste time going there, Tony, he's fine, not a scratch on him. Probably hoeing out my basement as we speak. Hate to think of what he's throwing out." He smiled though, and squeezed Tony's forearm.

"Then what?"

"We drove here. SUVs ahead of us, SUVs behind us, his own personal armored flotilla. Well, they were as big as ships, anyways. I remember...talking to you...for...like, two minutes? He threatened me to... get you to let him into the Navy Yard without the MP s shooting him through the head, I think."

Gibbs nodded, and waited patiently for more.

"He – got out of the car. Got into another one – got escorted away...you got in the car and...scared the hell out of me...I was...so pissed I was almost catatonic."

There was more nodding from Gibbs, and he gave Tony another small drink of water.

"After that?"

"I was dreaming I was in the Director's personal lounge. Lying on the couch. You were there. And...Tom Morrow...wishful thinking on my part, I guess."

"He was there. Not a dream. Jenny had been 'let go', remember? We were waiting for a new

Director."

"Morrow filled in?"

"Morrow's back on the job. Said Homeland was too much pressure, wanted back into something smaller. Doubt he bargained on having 'The Frog' turn himself into to NCIS for protection his first day back."

"Benoit...is here? I mean... in D.C? He came willingly?"

"Well yeah, Tony, you didn't have a weapon on you when he grabbed you, other than the pea shooter you keep strapped to your shin. He knew it was there, knew you wouldn't bother trying for it."

"Well, no...kinda like using a straw and spitball against a Howitzer. A bunch of Howitzers."

"No kidding. So yeah, he was here for a while, holed up in MTAC till things calmed down a little. Don't know where he is now. But I know that when you come back to work, you'd better be prepared for one hell of a welcome, it's all anyone's been talking about. Very Special Agent Anthony DiNozzo single-handedly brings in one of the guys on the alphabet agencies Top Ten Most Wanted List."

"Do they know how it all went down? That he brought me in and not the other way around?"

"They know, and don't care. 'Cause he came to you to escort him to your agency, not me, not Trent Kort, not Tobias. You. He trusted you enough to help him."

"Shouldn't have. He threatened Jackson... and if it wasn't for him, I wouldn't have had to...go under cover for...wouldn't have had to go through all that shit. Wanted to punch his lights out. After I shot 'im between the eyes."

"Wouldn't have blamed you if you had. But he's a lot more valuable to us alive then dead, much as I hate to admit. He gave Morrow a mess of information, all of it viable so far. Our agents around the world are teaming up with every available international agency and taking down a slew of operations that are supplying bad guys."

"That's...good, Boss, I just...lately I've been...having trouble telling exactly who the good guys are anymore. 'Cause it sure as hell wasn't Jenny...I...sorry, Boss, that was..."

"The truth. Hard to hear, like truth often is. You're right, she lost sight of who she was and what she worked so hard to achieve. You and I both know how much she had to offer this agency, what she could have done with that talent...then to go throw it all away on a guy she had no proof killed her father...

no excuse for it. When I found out she had shot you..."

"Uh...can we, um, backtrack a little, Boss? "Cause I don't – I don't understand how I got...tangled up with her... I kept having nightmares about...being cold, and in this small space, and...I'm sure I was probably screaming out loud from them..,"

Gibbs had to look away from the man in the bed. Indeed, Tony had had several horrible nightmares while fighting for consciousness the last couple of days. He'd been fevered from the damage to his body, but Gibbs knew he was also reliving his time trapped in Ducky's post mortem drawer in Autopsy, and only Gibbs and Ducky were privy to Tony's morbid fear of small, dark places. The terror in Tony's voice as he cried out in his delirium had wrenched Gibbs' heart to the core, and there were times he'd had to leave the room and go for a walk to keep from putting his foot or fist through the cubicle wall.

Gibbs had a feeling that Jenny had also known about Tony's fear, as she was privy to all of his psych reports, and yet she had stuffed him inside one anyways, injured and frightened. As hard as it was for Gibbs to face her death, there was a part of him that wanted to shoot him herself for what she had done to Tony, including the ill-fated black op, but most especially what she had done to him using him as bait to try to catch her Frog.

"You did." Gibbs admitted in a flat voice. "You got yourself out of the drawer somehow, though, right before I got there."

"How did I...how did she get me to...come with her?"

"I got called into MTAC to talk to Morrow and SecNav. Michelle Lee came and told Cynthia that she needed you to come fill out some paperwork pertaining to Benoit, she led you to the elevator where Jenny was waiting. According to Michelle, you.."

Tony sat suddenly upright and rigid with a jolt of realization.

"Michelle! Here sister! Shit, Gibbs, Jenny has her stashed somewhere!"

TBC