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Warnings: Sensitive subject matter. Some foul language. Jerky writing style.


For a very long moment, the whole world flashes to bright white.


Then it fades to black.

Tony holds a clipboard in one hand and a pen in the other.

"What's his best shot?"

But it's not that easy. The doctor talks options. Professional and monotone. Only the facts. Life or Death. But they're not sure which path will lead to which, so it's his decision. His choice. He's medical proxy. And all they need is a signature.

"Time is of the essence. We need to know."

Gibbs sits next to him. Grounds him with fingernails that dig harsh half-crescents into the skin of his shoulder through the thin fabric of his undershirt. Blank slate face with steel blue eyes. Functional mute.

Shaky hands press ink to paper. His scrawl jumps and jerks and he accidentally tears a tiny hole into the onion-thin sheet.

Hopes it's not a bad sign.


"We'll let you know."

A light touch to his knee.

"We do all that we can, Anthony. We hope for the best."

Like that's a comfort. Canny old bastard.

He scrubs at his eyes with both hands. "And if that's not enough?"

The light touch turns to a grip. "Sometimes it's not." His knee is squeezed firmly. "Often times, it's not." Forces his eyes up. Kind old, wise blue dig deep into his very soul. Not so bastard-like anymore. "Sometimes you do all you can and everything still goes wrong."

Not a comfort at all. Just the truth.


"He's such an idiot. Such a fucking idiot. Never met anyone dumber than. Have you? He thought he was so tough. Thought he could take a lick and keep on kicking? What a joke. What a fucking joke. Thought he knew better. What a waste. Makes you just want to–"


"Shut up! Shut up! Shut up! SHUT UP!"

"Son of a bitch." Muffled sob. "Just a son of a bitch." Snuffle. "Goddamn son of a…" Sniff.

Ooff! He jerks back a step or three. Arms around him. Like a boa constrictor. Light at first, then squeezing tighter as he struggles. Lips press close to his ear. Whispers. Comforts. Pets him. It's all right. Arms wound even tighter. Words broken. Sobbing. It's all right.

He squeezes back. Face presses against her pitch black hair.

No. It's not.


"What happened?"

He blinks. Red-rimmed emeralds. Looks at her like he's not understanding.

"He messed up?"

Swallows convulsively. Shakes his head. No words.


Looks away.

He grips the chain so tight the star indents into the soft flesh of his palm. His thumb traces it. Wonders if they should call her. If she would want to know.

Friends. Close. Dinner nights. Secret meetings. Like siblings.

But she didn't even say goodbye to him.

His face scrunches. Anger. Pain. And shoves the necklace into his pocket.


Whirlwind of worry. Sobbing.

Brown hair. Loose pony.

Drove all night.

Sarah huddles on the other end of the couch. Curls up like a cat.

"The Admiral?"

Tight frown. Shaky head jerk.

Bastard apparently didn't even blink when he heard.

"He'll be okay."

"Will he?"

Wrinkled scrubs. Focus. Green scrubs. Focus. Blood-splattered scrubs.

Fingers cross.


"It's up to him."

Looks up. Swallows.

"He's not…?"

"No. Almost." Exhausted sigh. "Twice on the table." A frown. Not too hopeful. "There's still a chance."

But it's not good. But it's a low probability. But don't expect anything.

Like he even could.

"Doesn't look too bad."

Gulps. Doesn't point out the swatch of bandages around his head.

Plops on a chair. Close to the bed. Worms her hand between the wires. "Hey Tim." Lips press against his forehead. Fingers curl together. "Can you squeeze my hand?" Squeezes first. Waits. Nothing. Weak smile. Watery eyes. Lays her head on his pillow next to his head.

Too much. Too soon.

He leaves in a rush.


"I can't."

Steel blue. Blink. Wait.

"Not another. Not again. I can't. All I can think about… It's just…" Gasp. Breathe. "I can't. If…" Inhale. Exhale. Inhale. "He's always there. Eleven years. Steady. Like a rock. And if…" Shudder. "I can't, Boss… Not him… I can't…"

"The bullet was for me. It's my fault–"

Whack! Upside the head.

Gibbs breaks his silence. "DiNozzo." Firm. Voice loud in the quiet.

Looks up. Wide eyes. Struggling. "But it should've been me."


"But… Boss…"

"Dammit, Tony." First name. Means business. "Don't belittle his sacrifice."

Visiting hours over. Restricted room. Sleeping in the waiting room.

Except him. Wide awake. Anxious. Ready.

And the one who watches him go. Knowing.

He slips in past a nurse. It's ridiculously easy. And he sits in the chair near the bed.

Son of a bitch.

Swipes a sleeve across his eyes. More tears. "Damn it." But it doesn't matter. Not anymore, at least. Lets them flow and reaches out. Fingers intertwined. Squeeze. "I'm sorry." Rule six be damned. "Thank you." Eyes heavy. Forehead on the mattress. "I'm sorry."

Jerk. Bolt awake. Something.


Pitch black.


Watch on his wrist. Pulls back.







Small. A twitch. Then another.

But nothing…

Not like the movies. Not quick. Not instantaneous.



Eyes at half-mast. Foggy and oh, so clearly drugged.

Fingers curl around his own, warm and soft and…


It takes two weeks for the fog to lift. Three for Tim to stop falling away every now and again.

He doesn't remember anything.

The man. The bullet. Shoving Tony. The pain.

Life or Death.



Green eyes blink. Confused. "Tony?"

Tony pulls him into a hug. Squeezes. Shakes. "You son of a bitch." Because he's said it to everyone, but he wants to say it to him. "You're a stupid son of a bitch." Squeezes tighter. Can't stop shaking. "Don't you ever do that to me again."

A weak squeeze back.


Eyes shut. Inhales. Shudders. Exhales.


Author's Note: So, I wanted to write something angst-y and I wanted to write something out of my element. Now, I've seen this kind of style before, but I've never attempted it, and I'm not sure I like how it turned out. But it was fun to experiment on and I love Tony-Tim friendships and I figured you all might like this too. I'm also working on another story tentatively titled Happenstance. More details to come on that later, but it won't be posted until it's completed. So next up will be another chapter of Pound of Flesh.

Thanks for reading! Please review!