Disclaimer: I do not own NCIS or any of its recognizable characters. NCIS is property of CBS and Bellisario Productions. I am only borrowing them to play with and I'll give them back when I'm done.
Spoiler: Episode 3.08 Under Covers – I'm changing the ending…because, you know, I do that. Changing the events after the ep too… Also mentions Episode 3.12 Boxed In
Author's Note: This story is for my buddy HPDorkFreakAZoid. Feel better soon Sweetie!
Special thanks as always to my wonderful beta reader! Goats is such a saint, lemme tell ya. Love ya! Also, this story turned out to be way funnier than I intended it to…hijinks ensue…and yes, I clenched my jaw shut and spoke every line of Tony's dialogue out loud for my family's listening entertainment, so I could get the pronunciations correct for someone with their jaw locked shut…
Need A New Mouse
"Gibbs! Gibbs you must hurry! We have to help Tony!" Ziva exclaimed, clutching madly at Gibbs' arm trying to gain the attention of her boss. He was focused on the perp being handcuffed by McGee, but finally he realized what Ziva was saying and he looked up at her sharply.
"Do you know where he is?" the Senior Agent asked urgently.
"Yes! Yes he is this way—we must hurry! He was tied up—our captor was beating him! Tony was baiting him so that he would attack him and not me!" Ziva tugged on Gibbs' arm, trying to spur him into motion.
Gibbs glanced over his shoulder and saw Fornell nod, and he knew that his friend would stay with his probie. "Show me," he barked at Ziva, gun drawn, breaking into a run behind the Israeli agent.
They opted for the stairs instead of the elevator and Ziva motioned for them to be quiet as they approached a tightly closed hotel room. Gibbs shoved her gently out of the way and stepped up close to the door, listening to what was happening behind it. Ziva watched Gibbs intently, wondering what he was hearing, and she fought the urge to jump, startled when he suddenly took a step back and then brutally kicked the door, splintering it viciously and leaving the entryway cleared for them to move inside.
"NCIS!" he called, gun pointed at the man who was pummeling someone on the floor on the other side of the bed. "Put your hands on your head and freeze!"
"Screw you!" the man, someone Gibbs did not recognize, sneered and continued beating his victim.
Gibb took two steps forward and his eyes widened when he saw that it was Tony the man was beating. "I. Said. Freeze," his voice was like ice and his eyes narrowed with anger.
"And I said screw. you," the man beating Tony sneered back. He punched Tony again, drawing a pitiful moan from the young man on the floor. Tough Guy drew back and kicked him viciously.
Gibbs unlocked the safety on his gun and chambered the round with a steady hand. Before he could fire a shot, though, Ziva jumped on the man, pummeling him as brutally as he'd been beating her partner only moments before. The large man forgot about Tony and turned his attention to getting Ziva off of him. It took less than a minute for Ziva to drop the man, rendered unconscious by one of her "scary ninja moves" as Tony referred to them. Gibbs didn't ask questions-there was no time, if the odd gasping sound from the other side of the bed was any indication.
Gibbs hurried to Tony's side and saw that he was still tied to the chair. He was on his back on the floor, and it was painfully obvious that his nose and jaw were both broken. There was blood all over his face and he was thankfully unconscious—he'd have been in tremendous pain if he'd been aware.
"Tony?" Gibbs called, holstering his weapon. His eyes narrowed when he saw the bluish tinge beginning to creep in around Tony's lips and he immediately flashed back to a time, only a few months earlier, when Tony had been so dreadfully ill. He hadn't died then, and Gibbs vowed he wouldn't let the man die now. "Tony, you with me?" He pulled out his knife and began cutting the ropes that bound his wrists to the chair, as well as the ropes that bound his chest and torso to the chair.
"Gibbs is Tony alright?" Ziva appeared at his side.
Gibbs leaned over Tony's crookedly open mouth and listened for air. His brow furrowed and he looked into Tony's mouth. "Shit, help me roll him over," he ordered, and both of them took hold of Tony's arm and hip, pulling the younger man towards Gibbs' legs.
Ziva stood up and flipped open her phone, dialing for an ambulance to come and help, and Gibbs listened to Tony breathing closely, whacking him on the back firmly a couple of times when his breathing became irregular. Finally the horrible choking sound stopped and Gibbs' eyes widened as blood began trickling from Tony's mouth and the Senior Agent breathed a sigh of relief when Tony coughed weakly.
"Attaboy," Gibbs murmured. "You keep breathing. You are still not allowed to die. I'll kick your ass, DiNozzo," he promised. "Ambulance is coming," he continued, running a hand over Tony's hair gently. God, his Senior Field Agent was a battered mess, to be sure. "I've got your six Tony. I'll be right with you. Just hang on."
While they waited for the ambulance—an excruciating eight minutes—Gibbs continued freeing Tony from the chair to which he was bound, focusing on his ankles now. He gently eased him into a more comfortable rescue position and Ziva moved the chair away.
Fornell and McGee also showed up while they were waiting for the ambulance to arrive. McGee's eyes widened and the color drained from his face when he stepped close enough to see Tony. Fornell winced. "How bad is it?"
"Bad," Gibbs said quietly, eyeing Tony carefully. "Asshole beat the shit out of him. When we got here Tony was choking on his own blood."
"I have him handcuffed and ready for you to stuff and fluff," Ziva said, gesturing to the unconscious perp behind her.
"I think you mean 'cuff and stuff,'" McGee said hesitantly.
Ziva looked puzzled. "Is that what the hunters do to the animals they kill?" she asked.
Fornell's eyes widened and Gibbs fought the urge to smile, despite the circumstances. She might be on to something.
"No uh…no," McGee stuttered. "You uh…if that's what you meant…well then you actually got that right," Tim said awkwardly.
Ziva nodded. "It sounds fitting for an animal such as this," she affirmed.
"Alright you two," Gibbs said, "get that piece of shit out of here and into a holding cell at NCIS. I'll deal with him once I know DiNozzo's going to be alright."
"Family for Anthony DiNozzo Jr.!" A middle-aged, salt and pepper haired nurse with rainbow colored reading glasses perched on the end of her nose read off of the neon green colored clipboard she carried with her.
Gibbs was out of the uncomfortable canvas covered chair like a shot and heading in her direction. It was nearing midnight, and Tony had been in the back of the ER—kept away from Gibbs—for going on three hours. Gibbs was not happy. He was tired and anxious, jittery from too much bad coffee and nervous about the condition of his agent. He'd told himself repeatedly that no news meant things were alright, but as the clock continued making rotations, Gibbs was beginning to wonder if he'd ever hear anything.
"Me!" he called, shoving his way through the crowded waiting room. "That's me! I'm here for Tony!" He waved his arm at the nurse, slightly relieved when her stance relaxed and she waited for Gibbs to join her in the doorway. "How is he! Is he ok!" Gibbs hurried to the door.
"Are you—" the nurse checked the clipboard, "—Leroy Jethro Gibbs?"
Gibbs felt something inside of him loosen and he blinked. When Tony came down with the plague just this past spring, he hadn't had anyone listed as his next of kin. Ducky managed to explain to the doctors and nurses—specifically Dr. Brad Pitt—that he and Gibbs would be the ones caring for Tony and in the event that Tony was unable to speak to the doctor himself, someone else needed to "be in the know." And as soon as Tony was able to stay awake for longer than five minutes at a time, Gibbs was in his face, fussing and growling at the young man, letting him know just exactly how "incredibly stupid" Tony's decision to leave the Next of Kin line on his emergency forms blank really was. Now it seemed as though Gibbs' lecture had paid off…and to his great surprise, Tony had selected Gibbs to be his Next of Kin.
"Yes," Gibbs breathed. "That's me."
"You're listed as Agent DiNozzo's Next of Kin," the nurse reported. Gibbs ran a hand over his mouth and nodded. "Come with me. This way please." Without another word, the nurse turned and walked down the corridor.
"Is he alright?" Gibbs couldn't help but ask.
The nurse barely spared Gibbs a glance. "He's regained consciousness. We're fairly certain he's asking for you—you are his Boss, correct?" she asked. When Gibbs nodded she continued. "Yes, he's been asking for you. We performed x-rays…his jaw is broken."
Gibbs' steps faltered slightly. "How uh…how do you fix that?"
The nurse stopped in front of a cubicle that was curtained off. She ripped it back, revealing the battered man on the gurney inside. Gibbs stared at him for a moment, before looking back to her. "Surgery," the nurse said succinctly. "The doctor will be in soon. He can explain more."
"Thank you," Gibbs said sincerely.
"I'll let the doctor know you're with him. His name is Dr. Carl Johnson. He'll be in soon."
Gibbs nodded. He stepped inside the cubicle and the nurse jerked the curtain shut behind him. Running a hand over his mouth again, he took a deep breath and stepped towards Tony. His eyes widened in surprise when he saw the blurry green gaze staring up at the ceiling. "Hey Tony," he said quietly. "You with me son?" Gibbs put a gentle hand on Tony's hair and the young man blinked in his direction slowly.
"-'oss…" Tony slurred. His eyes blinked shut tiredly.
"Did they give you something for the pain?"
There was a tube hanging out the side of Tony's mouth, similar to what a dentist used to suck a person's mouth clean, sucking the blood and spit out of his mouth so he wouldn't choke again and an oxygen mask covering the lower part of his face. Tony nodded slightly. His gaze was unfocussed and he didn't try to speak for a long time. His eyes drifted shut and Gibbs smiled sadly down at him.
"Get some rest Tony," Gibbs kept his hand on Tony's hair. "They're going to get you all fixed up and I will be here the whole time. I'll meet you after your surgery ok?"
Tony's eyes cracked open slightly. "'oss…" he whispered again. A slow hand drifted to his face and he pulled the oxygen mask away. He blinked several times trying to focus his eyes and stared up at Gibbs. "'ossss…" he murmured again and Gibbs leaned his ear close to Tony's mouth so he could hear him better.
"I'm right here Tony," the Boss said gently. "What is it?"
"Ah 'ahnt…ah 'ivorsh," the young man forced out.
Gibbs' brow furrowed slightly and he looked at Tony in confusion. Suddenly, the meaning of the jibberish Tony spoke came to his mind and he smiled. "You want a divorce?"
Tony's lips twitched in a grotesque parody of a smile and he nodded again slightly. His breath huffed out in stuttered gasps and Gibbs knew he was laughing.
Gibbs couldn't help it. Perhaps it was the severity of the situation, the desperation of Tony's condition, or the drop out of the adrenaline high, but the Senior Agent threw back his head and laughed heartily at Tony's words. Tony's hitched breathing continued, the young man laughing along with Gibbs, and Gibbs smiled down at his agent—a man whom he cared for as a parent cares for a child. "You work on relaxing," Gibbs ordered gently, placing the oxygen mask back over Tony's nose and mouth, "and I'll see about getting you that divorce." He stood up to leave Tony to the care of the medical professionals. "Rule number twelve and all," he said with a wink. "Would be entirely inappropriate for you and Ziva to get together like that," he smiled, knowing Tony had no desire at all to act on the feelings which Ziva made so obvious to everyone.
"'uck," Tony grunted from the gurney. He rolled his head slightly to see Gibbs. "'anks…'oss…" he gasped out slowly.
"See you soon, DiNozzo. Once you're outta here you're coming home with me, got it?"
A single, slow thumbs up was Tony's only reply.
"Ok Tony, let's try it again," Gibbs coached. He grabbed the small hand towel next to Tony's hip and gently mopped the young man's chin and hospital gown which was now coated in the bright red kool-aid type juice. In response to Gibbs' cheerful patience, Tony glowered at him. He was tired, concussed as shit, bruised from airhole to…well you know…and now—NOW he couldn't even DRINK because he couldn't feel his mouth!
With a dramatic sigh, Tony nodded and reluctantly watched as Gibbs guided the straw to his nearly closed lips once again.
His jaw was broken in three places from the repeated blows it had sustained when Tony had been so severely beaten. While he'd been in surgery, Gibbs had gone to NCIS long enough to tear a strip off of his attacker, book him for attempted murder, get a ringing confession of all sorts of things from the poor bastard who'd hurt Tony, and he made it back to the hospital in time to join his agent in the recovery room.
That was last night. Now, twelve or so hours later, Tony had finally quit throwing up—an unfortunate side effect of the concussion, the blood he'd swallowed, and the position the doctor had wired his mouth shut in which was causing him to gag slightly—and he just wanted to go home. He wanted to bury his head under the pillow on his small bed in his bedroom and stay there until the wires were scheduled to come off. He didn't want to eat—well technically he couldn't eat—and he certainly didn't want to drink his meals for the next six weeks!
Six weeks. A month and a half. And that was an estimate—it might even be longer than that!
The doctor explained that he hadn't numbed Tony's mouth, but the breaks were affecting the nerves, and that had left Tony "blissfully"—as the doctor put it—numb.
His mouth was most definitely numb—and in that I-got-too-much-novocaine-at-the-dentist's-office sort of way. Tony wasn't sure he'd call it "blissful." Tim and Ziva had both stopped by earlier—along about the time he'd tried to drink for the first time—and they'd laughed so hysterically when he drooled kool-aid all over himself, that he'd nearly ripped the bed rail off and beat them with it. Gibbs had sent them packing in a big damn hurry when he saw the look on Tony's face and heard his other agents laughing at his expense. He'd escorted them to the hallway and reminded them in no uncertain terms that Tony had taken the beating for Ziva—to keep her safe—and that his jaw was broken as a result of Tony's trying to keep her safe so it would do her well to either be supportive or be away from Tony because, while it wasn't technically her fault what had happened, it was also not acceptable for her to laugh at him.
They were gone now, and Tony had been cleaned up and his gown had been changed, and they were waiting for Abby to get there with a change of sweats for him to put on (the clothes he'd worn to the hospital were cut off upon his arrival—much to Tony's dismay. He'd liked that sweater.) and Gibbs was pushing him to try drinking again. Tony didn't want to try drinking again. He wanted to be left alone. He didn't think he'd been left alone since he'd woke up in the hotel room after Tall-Dark-and-Ugly had beaten him senseless. Which meant he hadn't been alone since…since before he'd gone undercover. Even the moments when he was by himself undercover, Gibbs or Tim or someone had their ear to the ground, listening to him and watching him through his own eyeglasses. They saw everything he saw, everything he did, and heard every word he spoke or heard. It was absolutely maddening and Tony felt a bit like he was suffocating.
Once again, much to Tony's dismay, he drooled his drink all over himself. Rolling his eyes to the ceiling, he let out a mournful sigh as Gibbs once again mopped him clean with the utmost patience. Gibbs looked down at Tony and smiled sympathetically.
"What's up Tony?" Gibbs asked.
"Neeta…minnih," Tony mumbled through his closed mouth.
Gibbs looked puzzled. "A mini what?"
"A minnih…alone," Tony said slowly.
Gibbs' brow furrowed a bit and he tried to understand Tony's request. "A minute alone?" He looked a bit like he'd been kicked.
Tony puffed a long breath out of his broken nose and nodded. "Jussa…minnih," he said. "Okeh?"
Gibbs still looked puzzled. "Sure Tony," he agreed. "I'll go get a cup of coffee. Will that give you enough time?"
Tony nodded. "Sanks," he slurred, forcing a tiny smile to his broken mouth.
Gibbs nodded. "Need anything?"
Tony nodded. "A…new…mouse," he said.
Gibbs raised an eyebrow. "A new…"
"Mouse! MOUSE!" Tony pointed emphatically at his mouth.
Gibbs smiled and fought the urge to chuckle. "Got it. I'll uh…see what I can do." He winked, and was gone.
Later that day, Gibbs opened the car door and smiled down at Tony. "Ok Tony. Let's get you inside."
Tony nodded and leaned on Gibbs as the older man helped him out of the car. His balance was shot to hell because of the concussion, the light hurt his eyes, and he couldn't wear his shades because of his broken nose. He sounded a bit like Darth Vader whenever he breathed, but he couldn't talk well enough to make the most awesome movie reference of his life. His stomach was also ginchy from the concussion, and he felt a bit like he'd been mauled by a bear. Then again, Tall-Dark-and-Ugly kind of looked like a bear. He chuckled at the thought.
Gibbs looked at him curiously. "Wanna share?"
Tony chuckled more. "Dall…tark…ugly…looks lahk…beah," he explained slowly.
Gibbs was getting better at understanding Tony's mumbled words. "Tall, dark, and ugly looks like a…a what?"
"Beh…beh…beh—rrrr…" Tony forced out.
Tony nodded and then stopped suddenly and leaned on Gibbs as a wave of dizziness washed over him.
"Hey easy!" Gibbs said, effortlessly taking on Tony's extra weight. "C'mon. We're almost inside. Let's go, just lean on me ok?"
"Fell…holpess…" Tony said sadly. "I dote doe wha do do!"
Gibbs tightened the arm he had around Tony's shoulders. "Gonna be ok Tony," he said reassuringly.
Tony dropped his head onto Gibbs' shoulder with a thump and sighed. This really sucked.
Could this day possibly get any worse? Tony recoiled and bit back a groan when Abby fairly bounced into the living room once he and Gibbs got inside. After dropping Tony's clothes off, Abby had hurried to Gibbs' house to finish getting everything ready for Tony's arrival.
"TONY!" she squealed. She hurried up to the pair and stopped just in front of Tony and clasped her hands together in front of Tony. Tony shied away from his friend, fearful of her accidentally bumping him and unintentionally hurting him.
"Easy Abs," Gibbs said with a smile at his bubbly goth. "Tony's not feeling too good. Take it easy on him, ok?"
"Absolutely! In fact!" Abby was practically vibrating with excitement, "I've even managed to get Tony something to eat!"
Tony fought the urge to cringe—both because he knew it would hurt Abby's feelings and because the thoughts of eating or cringing was enough to make him want to cringe in pain. "Naht…weally…hungwy," he slurred.
"Nonsense Tony! With your poor broken jaw I bet you haven't had anything to eat since before you were hurt!"
Tony let out a groan that sounded more like a sigh and he nodded, resigned to his fate. Abby would feed him. She brought a note of southern charm with her from her upbringing in Louisiana, and that dictated that anytime someone was feeling poorly you made them something to eat. He looked up at Gibbs pitifully. "'ay town?" he pleaded quietly.
Gibbs nodded firmly. "Yep. C'mon. We're going upstairs. I'll help you. You can lay down and rest."
Together they began hauling Tony up the stairs, leaving Abby gleefully preparing Tony's meal for him. Tony knew he was on a puree-liquid diet until the wires came out of his mouth. He didn't think he wanted to know what Abby was cooking up for him.
Gibbs eased Tony down onto the bed and the young man let out a pitiful whimper as his broken ribs were strained during the movement. "Sorry Tony," he murmured.
"'ule…nummer…sex," Tony mumbled as he winced and grimaced his way into a more comfortable position. His arms were sore from the way he was restrained and then knocked over and then beaten and then left to die on the floor. His eyes had widened with shock when Gibbs told him about the scene when he arrived. He didn't want to think about how close he came to dying.
"Yea, yea, yea," Gibbs said good-naturedly. "Except I feel like I owe you an apology," he said uncomfortably. "Shoulda had your six."
"Theva…hat…mah…sex," Tony slurred and then his eyes widened in horror at what it sounded like he'd just said. "Mah sex," he said again. "Sex, ssssex, sexx," he tried to say it several different ways, each with the same embarrassing result. "Ahm gunna shet up," Tony groaned.
Gibbs chuckled. "And take away the free entertainment?" he joked gently. "You're fine Tony," he amended when he saw the bleak look on Tony's face. "Don't worry about it. You just keep doing the best you can. I am understanding you pretty well. If I need clarification we'll figure it out." He pulled the covers up over Tony's battered chest and fluffed the pillows behind his younger agent which were propping him up. "And I won't tell Ziva how you were talking about her sex," he smirked.
"Ah dote doe what you're dalking abou'," Tony grumbled. "Ah seh Theva hat mah sex! MAH SEX!"
"Mmmhmmm," Gibbs said, his tone patronizing. Tony rolled his eyes good naturedly and Gibbs chuckled again.
There was a rumble on the stairs and Tony looked fearfully at Gibbs. "Wha' dih Abby mate me teh ea'?" he asked.
Gibbs shrugged and shook his head. "No idea," he said. "Was nice of her?"
Tony shrugged and then winced and then groaned when the movements hurt. He just wanted to go to sleep and wake up once he was feeling better. He was not interested in seeing anyone, not interested in being the butt of anyone's jokes, not interested in being social. He just wanted to be left alone. Was that too much to ask?
Abby appeared in the doorway with a tray in her hands. There were four glasses with straws on the tray and Abby wore a self-satisfied smirk on her face. The glasses held four very different looking…concoctions, and Tony shot Gibbs another fearful glance, silently begging to not be made to slurp down the unidentified contents of the glasses.
"Gibbs explained that you can't eat solid foods yet," Abby said, placing the tray carefully on the end of the bed. "But I know that you always like to have pizza on the first night you get out of the hospital—if you're able," she continued. "And I know that you're not able to chew, but I didn't think that the rest of you would like not getting your pizza. So I got one for you."
"Whad yeh do do it?" Tony asked, looking skeptically at the glasses. That didn't look like any kind of pizza he'd ever had before—and it didn't look like any kind of pizza he'd want to have now either…except the look on Abby's face was so proud and so concerned. Dammit. He was going to have to eat it. He just knew it. He looked fearfully up at Gibbs.
"He's asking what you did to the pizza Abs," Gibbs commented mildly, not taking his eyes off of the glasses on the tray. It looked as though he half expected them to jump up and chase him around. The mental image of Gibbs being chased around the room by a glass of pizza juice made Tony chuckle. Soon his chuckles turned into full-blown puffs of laughter—excruciating laughter—that sounded more like a death rattle. Gibbs and Abby both turned and were surprised to see the grotesque smile again and Tony's body quivering with glee. "Ah hell Tony, calm down," Gibbs instructed. "Gonna hurt your ribs. What's so funny anyway?"
"Mennal pishure…you chashed by ah peesa juice," Tony forced out, trying to get his laughter under control. Instead of the pizza-juice, couldn't he have a sippy cup filled with painkillers, sedatives, and muscle relaxers instead?
Gibbs raised an eyebrow and stared at Tony in confusion. "Think we need to back you off the good drugs," he said with a shake of his head. They both knew he wasn't serious, but Abby nearly panicked.
"GIBBS! TONY BROKE HIS JAW! HE BROKE HIS RIBS! HE HAS A CONCUSSION! YOU CAN'T TAKE HIM OFF THE PAINKILLERS!"
Gibbs smirked at Abby. "You're right," he nodded firmly. "Gotta make him drink his pizza juice first. Can't make him take his meds on an empty stomach!" he said cheerfully.
Tony flopped his aching head back on the pillow and stared blearily at the ceiling. God help him, they were going to tag-team him.
He was so screwed.
"I'm going to go get you some juice!" Abby chirped. "I'll be right back!" She disappeared down the hall.
"Ok Tony?" Gibbs asked, looking Tony over carefully.
"Jus' peeshy," Tony grumped.
"Peachy or pissy?" Gibbs asked with a smirk.
"Bose?" Tony said sadly.
Gibbs ruffled Tony's hair lightly. "I don't think it'll be that bad," he said reassuringly. "Abby is a good cook."
Tony nodded. "Yeh…she is. Le's geh dis over wish?"
Gibbs nodded firmly. "Attaboy!" He picked up the first glass and gave it a cursory sniff. "It smells like pizza," he said with a shrug. He sloshed it around in the cup a bit, eyeing it carefully. "I wonder if it's smooth enough for you to drink?" he asked Tony.
Tony raised his eyebrows curiously and shrugged one shoulder. "Dunno?" he said.
"Hmmm," Gibbs said. He sniffed the contents of the glass again.
Tony grinned slightly. "Tase it."
Gibbs raised an eyebrow. "Me?"
Tony nodded eagerly. "Tase it."
"Alright," Gibbs shrugged. He lifted the glass to his lips—just as Abby walked back into the bedroom. A moment later, Gibbs' mouthful of "pizza juice" went spewing. "Good night almighty," Gibbs croaked, grabbing a tissue and wiping his face with it. "What the hell did you put in that glass Abs?" he demanded.
Abby took it from Gibbs and looked at it, giving it the same cursory sniff Gibbs had given it. "Oh that one is sausage, pepperoni, and extra cheese pizza juiced down and blended with chicken broth," she said proudly. "Why, does it taste bad?"
"It's too salty!" Gibbs exclaimed, snatching the glass of juice out of Abby's hand and chugging it down to erase the taste. He shuddered. Once he composed himself he turned and glanced at Tony who was staring at him in wide-eyed horror. Then he glanced at the other glasses on the tray. Abby looked a bit like someone had killed her dog, and the older man let out a long breath. "What'd you put in the other glasses Abs?" he asked. "Nothing too salty I hope? Tony's mouth is a little tender from the surgery. Salt is likely going to burn."
"Um…." Abby glanced at the cups. "This one I blended up with milk," she pointed. "I used tomato juice with this one," she pointed at another. "And this one I just used water," she pointed at the final glass.
Gibbs looked at Abby for a long moment. Then he looked at Tony. "Tony? You wanna try the one, maybe with the milk? I think the tomato juice would be too tart. I don't want to irritate your mouth."
Tony took a deep breath and nodded. He didn't want to taste anything! He didn't want to eat—he didn't want to ruin his last memory of good pizza—because he would surely die before these damn wires came out of his mouth. He watched as Gibbs picked up the glass of milk-pizza and put the straw down in it for him. They'd discovered that Tony was having more success drinking through a straw as the day pressed on. However, the "blissful" numbness was now being replaced by excruciating pain. He hadn't said anything yet, was hoping to avoid eating and skip right to the bubblegum flavored painkillers that the pharmacy had provided him. He felt a bit like a child having flavored medicine, but the doctor said that the flavors were added to all of the liquid medicines.
Gibbs seemed to be able to sense Tony's apprehension and his expression softened. He nodded slightly and turned around to Abby. "Hey Abs," he smiled at her gently.
"Why don't you let Tony have some privacy while he's eating?" he said, his tone careful, so he didn't upset her. "It's a bit…stressful for him right now. Hurts him a little."
"Oh I don't mind!" Abby said, plopping down on the end of the bed.
"Abby," Gibbs said a little firmer. When she looked at him he nodded his head towards the door. "Thanks for fixing him something to eat."
"Sure! Do you need anything else?"
Gibbs shook his head. "Nope, I'm going to help Tony eat and then let him get some rest. Why don't you come back tomorrow?"
Abby deflated slightly, but nodded. "Ok." She stood up and leaned over, kissing Tony on the forehead. "I'll see you tomorrow mister! What's your pleasure for tomorrow? Cheeseburger and fries? Fried chicken and mashed potatoes? Gumbo and cornbread?" She waggled her eyebrows saucily at him and giggled at the look of fear on his face.
"Why don't you work on entertaining him?" Gibbs suggested. "And I'll take care of feeding him."
The look of relief and gratitude on Tony's face nearly caused the older man to burst out laughing. Abby crossed her arms. "Well. Ok. I'll find something. Maybe we can play a game! I'll think of something awesome! Just you wait! Bye Gibbs! Bye Tony!" Abby waved and was out the door a moment later.
The front door slammed and Gibbs looked at Tony with an exasperated expression on his face.
"Peese don' mate me ea' ih," Tony begged.
Gibbs ruffled Tony's hair and set the glass on the nightstand. "If you were starving to death and that glass was the difference between you living and dying? I still wouldn't make you drink it," he promised. "It's THAT bad."
Tony grimaced. "Ah dote wanna hut Abby's feelin's Boss," he said sadly, "but dat…" he shook his head. "Bad 'tuff…"
"You got that right," Gibbs agreed. He looked at his Second In Command carefully. "So when are you planning to tell me how badly you're hurting?" he asked sweetly.
Tony blinked. "Uhhh…now?" he said innocently.
"Mmmhmmm," Gibbs shook his head. "I'll go get your pain meds, get rid of this…shit Abby made, and find you something to eat that won't make you want to die, and be right back. You sit tight and don't move without help, ya hear me?"
Tony settled back against the pillows a bit and nodded. "Scat's honoh," he promised, holding up two fingers.
"Scat's honor," Gibbs shook his head. "You're full of scat sometimes alright Tony," he chuckled. "Be right back DiNozzo."
In the few minutes that Gibbs left Tony alone, he managed to close his eyes and doze off. Gibbs reappeared a few minutes after Abby left and smiled sadly at his agent. He set the chocolate milkshake on the nightstand and put a gentle hand on Tony's shoulder. "Tony," he called softly. Tony didn't move. Gibbs shook Tony's shoulder a little harder. "C'mon Tony. Wake up. Need to get something in you and get you some pain meds."
Tony stirred slightly and his eyes cracked open. His face was still swollen and bruised from where he'd been beaten so badly. Gibbs felt bad for him. "Hey," he said softly. "Ok?"
"Mmmh," Tony grunted, shifting slightly. He'd slept just enough to make himself groggy. He furrowed his brow and stared at Gibbs through barely open eyes. "Wha?"
"Got you something," Gibbs said. "You want meds first? Or milkshake?"
Tony blinked. "Uh…mets," he whispered. Damn he couldn't even lick his dry lips. He sighed. He flinched in surprise when Gibbs suddenly held a stick with a small sponge on it out in front of Tony's face.
"This will moisten up your lips," Gibbs said. "The nurse gave 'em to me on the way out today. Said you might need them. Got you some chapstick here too," he continued, reaching into his pocket and pulling out a new tube of chapstick.
"Sanks," Tony mumbled, wetting his mouth with the small pink sponge on a stick. It was like an oasis in the desert. God it was brilliant.
Next Gibbs held up a syringe filled with pink goo. "Painkillers," he said with a sympathetic smile.
Tony reached for it and shoved the syringe in between his lips, slurping it down greedily. Then his face contorted and he made a slight choking sound.
Gibbs eyed him carefully. "Are you choking?" he asked kindly, concern in his voice.
Tony shook his head. "'uck," he mumbled. He shivered slightly.
Gibbs sat down on the edge of the bed beside Tony. "Here. We'll wash down the 'uck' with this." He picked up the glass filled with frothy chocolate milkshake and smiled. "Try this and see if it's better than the…pizza juice," the older man said, making a face and shuddering at the memory.
The milkshake was thin—more like thick chocolate milk than anything, and Tony smiled when he saw the swirl of whipped cream on the top. Gibbs had really outdone himself. He blinked, suddenly gripped by unsteady emotions, and his breath hitched one time. He'd almost died. He'd almost been beaten to death. His jaw was broken and Gibbs…Gibbs was giving up his time, his house, his…everything…to take care of his sorry self. His eyes glazed and he tried to tell himself that it was just the drugs and the stress and the concussion, but…but there was something about the way Gibbs was taking care of him…kind of like…maybe like a father—like a dad—would care for his son. Maybe? But that would mean…
Gibbs moved the milkshake away and helped Tony shift so he could lean against Gibbs. Gibbs wrapped his arms around the younger man, pulling him close but not hurting his broken bones. "I gotcha Tony," Gibbs whispered. "Let it go. It's ok. Gonna be alright."
Tony clung to the older man—his friend, his boss, his mentor…the closest thing to a real dad that he'd ever experienced. "Sarry," he mumbled, the lump in his throat threatening to close his airway. "S-suh…s-sarry."
"Don't apologize Tony. Got no reason to. Did nothing wrong. Let's calm down and drink some milkshake ok? Then you can rest."
"Theva…cutta…tite," Tony gasped out slowly.
Gibbs ran a hand over the back of his head, understanding what he meant. "But she didn't die. You saved her. Now we just have to work together to get you healed up. You're going to be fine."
Tony nodded against him and he finally managed to get himself under control. He didn't have the energy to be ashamed. Gibbs helped him slip the straw between his teeth and he drank some of the milkshake. It was wonderfully chocolatey and smooth and he groaned in pleasure. Gibbs didn't let him drink too fast—he already had a concussion, he didn't need a brain freeze on top of it. Once he was done with the milkshake, he was already beginning to feel heavy and warm—the painkillers were doing their job. Gibbs helped him lay back and straightened the blankets covering him.
"Mmmmh," Tony's eyes slipped closed.
"Mmmmh," Tony nodded slightly.
"Mmmmh," Tony shook his head. He was fine. Didn't need anything.
Tony lifted a fist with his thumb sticking out.
"I'll come up with something better for you to eat later, but I thought the milkshake would be fine for now. Gets something in you. Better than nothing."
"'s goot," Tony whispered. "Sssseepy."
Gibbs brushed his hand lightly over Tony's hair. "Sleep kiddo," he whispered.
Tony's eyes remained closed and a small smile tugged at his lips. He didn't even notice when Gibbs slipped out of the room and turned off the light. The older man left the hall light on, and quietly headed downstairs.
Gibbs' phone rang, jerking him out of a sound sleep. He let out a grunt of frustration and pawed for the phone. He looked at it through one barely cracked open eye, and suddenly sat up straight, blinking in the darkness.
Tony was calling.
He'd missed a couple of weeks of work due to his broken jaw and concussion. This was his first week back at work, and while he was supposed to only be on desk duty, he'd begged Gibbs to be allowed to go out on what was supposed to be a surveillance operation. How was any of them supposed to know that the op could end with Tony and Ziva—why was it always Tony and Ziva?—locked up in a wooden cargo unit and off grid? But they'd managed to track them down, and they'd gotten there just in the nick of time, and everything had turned out just fine.
Which is why Gibbs' gut churned when he saw Tony's name on his caller ID at three in the morning.
"Yeah, Gibbs. What's up DiNozzo?"
"'oss…sink ah neet hehp," Tony mumbled through his still-wired jaw.
Gibbs grabbed his New Balance sneakers, glad he slept in sweats and socks. "I'm on my way—what's going on?"
"Ah…uh…ah'm bweeding," Tony said uncomfortably.
"Bleeding? Your jaw? Wires? What's going on?"
"Nuh, uh, no…naht mah mouf…"
Gibbs was already racing down the stairs, running for the car. Tony only lived about eight blocks from him, back towards midtown. "Alright Tony. Ok. I'm coming. Are you ok? Bleeding a lot?"
Gibbs' tired squealed and he hurried through the streets. He made it to Tony's apartment in record time and quickly parked and keyed his way into the building. "Coming inside now Tony. Is the door open?"
"Ah'll uhloct it," Tony said.
Gibbs rushed up the stairs to Tony's apartment and burst into the apartment. His eyes immediately took in the sight of Tony sitting on his piano bench, looking white as a sheet. "Jesus Christ DiNozzo, how much blood have you lost?"
"Uhhh," Tony looked slightly confused. "A lot?"
"What's bleeding?" Gibbs asked. Tony was wearing a black hoodie sweat shirt and gray sweat pants. The older man couldn't see any visible signs of blood.
"Ahm," Tony said, and Gibbs saw the way he was holding his left arm a bit awkwardly.
"Shit," Gibbs puffed out, realizing that was the arm with the scratch on it that Tony had gotten in the storage container. "Let me see it."
"Nuh," Tony shook his head. "Hurs."
"Have you been putting pressure on it?"
"Ok. Let's get you up and let's go to the hospital. We'll get ya checked out."
Tony sighed and nodded, making Gibbs' gut churn even more. Tony never went to the hospital willingly. This must be worse than he thought. The older man saw that Tony wasn't wearing his shoes and looked around for him. There was a pair of Nikes by the door and Gibbs grabbed them. He dropped to his knees in front of Tony and began helping him put his shoes on. Once Tony's shoes were on, Gibbs stood up and hooked a hand under Tony's uninjured arm. Tony grunted when he stood up, and it occurred to Gibbs that Tony's broken ribs from the beating he'd taken were likely agitated from his day in the storage container. The jostling and the cold air probably had him feeling like crap.
Upon arriving at the hospital, Gibbs was dumbfounded when the nurse helped Tony pull off his sweatshirt to reveal a bloody handkerchief wrapped loosely around a huge, deep gash in the young man's arm.
"The hell happened?!" Gibbs blurted. "You said it was just a scratch!"
Tony looked at him with smoldering eyes that were just a bit foggy around the edges. "Nuh," he said softly. "Ah din't say dat."
"Yes you—" Gibbs stopped as the memory washed over him. "Oh God," he breathed. "You didn't say that. Ziva said that," he corrected. "Why didn't you speak up?"
Tony didn't get the opportunity to answer. At that moment, the blood loss finally caught up with him, and Tony collapsed limply in the chair he was sitting in.
The next afternoon, Tony entered the autopsy lab with slow, careful steps. His balance was still off, he felt mildly like he'd been hit by a truck, he was exhausted, but he was also determined not to miss any more work. He'd been given a blood transfusion, antibiotic shot, and stitches at the hospital the night before and much to his and Gibbs' surprise, had been released straight away. Gibbs had taken him back to his own house and tucked him into the guest room once more. Now he winced in sympathy as Ducky stitched up the cut on McGee's arm that he'd gotten in the Evidence Garage. Ziva stood off to the side of the room, her arms crossed and a frustrated expression on her face. Gibbs was looming over Ziva, giving her a stern lecture about the difference between "scratches" and "grazes."
"I did not know he was hit by the bullet!" Ziva retorted. "I was busy being shot at myself. How was I to know?"
"Could have been the spray of blood? The way he fell on the ground with a hole in his arm? Maybe the cries of pain and lack of ability to use his arm?" Gibbs roared.
"He is always so dramatic! It was a little shot!" Ziva cried. "Why are you so angry with me?"
"Why am I angry? WHY AM I ANGRY!" Gibbs' voice was growing progressively louder and there was a vein in his forehead that Tony was fairly convinced would explode at any moment. "I am angry because I have an agent down—an agent who, at the time of both of his injuries, was working with you. DiNozzo was still not back on full duty, and if you had followed his orders yesterday, then you wouldn't have landed in the storage container. You wouldn't have been missing in action all day. Tony wouldn't have gotten shot. And yet, you are completely unharmed. Do you know what that tells me?"
Ziva shook her head. "No? What?" she asked.
"Tony being repeatedly injured and you repeatedly walking away tells me that you are not doing your job!"
"What are you talking about?!" Ziva snarled. "I have done my job. I have done Tony's job. I had to do his job because he was injured!"
"HE WAS INJURED BECAUSE YOU WERE NOT WATCHING HIS SIX!" Gibbs took a step back and puffed out a long breath. He glanced up at Tony. "Do you have something?" he asked wearily.
Tony nodded. "Perts ha' been moofed do Interrodation," he said. "Sink you should handle dis one, zough. Don't sink sey are taking me seriouth."
Hearing Tony and his slurred words—even though he was doing so much better—ignited Gibbs' fury once more. He turned back to Ziva. "You. Walk with me. I am dealing with you right now."
"'oss?" Tony called, hurrying after the stormy agent. "'oss are you doe-ing do interrodate? What me in obserbation?"
"First I am going to the Director's office," Gibbs said. He glanced over his shoulder at his Second In Command. "Go get both of us a cup of coffee and meet me back in Observation. I'll wait for you." He handed Tony some money and turned to walk away.
Tony watched as his boss hurried down the hall with Ziva. A crooked smile tugged at his lips and he turned, heading in the other direction, for the front of the building. Ziva was in so much trouble.
Tony relished the fact that Gibbs had his six so completely, and over the following few weeks as he rode his desk, he smiled secretly to himself—inwardly—with his mouth still wired shut he couldn't really smile outwardly—and watched with satisfaction as Ziva was sent back through some of the basic FLET-C courses. She was taught once again how to work in a team, to work one on one with other agents. She was taught once again, as per Director Sheppard's orders, how to watch her partner's sixes. And just to make Gibbs happy, Sheppard had also ordered that Ziva be sent to work in the Autopsy Lab with Ducky and Palmer. Gibbs expressed to Director Sheppard that he wanted to make sure that Ziva knew the difference between a scratch and a graze. Sheppard had faltered for a moment until Gibbs explained why, and then she agreed wholeheartedly.
"Frankly Ziva," Sheppard had told the former Mossad Agent, "You're lucky Gibbs is letting you keep your job."
Finally, finally, after seven and a half weeks of having his jaw wired shut, and a fairly uncomfortable appointment to unlock his jaw, Tony was finally freed from the wires and his jaw was healed. The doctor cautioned Tony about taking future blows to his mouth, warned him that his jaw would need to be worked up to eating a regular diet and not to be surprised if he experienced lots of fatigue in his face and jaw for the next few days.
Tony fairly bounded into the bullpen, a huge, genuine smile on his face. He stopped in front of Gibbs' desk and set the cup of coffee he was carrying reverently in front of Gibbs and then stood there, waiting for Gibbs to look up.
"Can I help you DiNozzo?" Gibbs finally asked, tossing his pen on the desk and picking up the cup of coffee. He held it up in salute and smiled.
"BOSS! I gotta show ya something!" Tony exclaimed. He was wiggling like a puppy, he was so excited.
Gibbs took a slow, serene sip of coffee. "Nice to hear you speaking normal English again and not that jabbering yabba we've had to decipher for the last two months," he commented mildly, but the twinkle in his eye told Tony that Gibbs was teasing him.
Tony smiled and Gibbs could see where Tony's face no longer held the perfect symmetry that it had before his jaw was broken. One side hung slightly differently now than it had before. But somehow…the look worked for him. It made him look a little older. A little more worldly. There was a story there. You could see it all over his face.
"I'm waiting," he pressed. "Don't have all day."
Tony nodded. "Ok. Ok-ok-ok. Here we go." He jumped and turned to the side so Gibbs could see only his profile. "See this? This is Tony-Before."
"Uh huh," Gibbs said, wondering where he was going with this.
Tony jumped again and turned around, showing the opposite profile to Gibbs now. "And this? This is Tony-After."
"Ok?" Gibbs said. All that meant to him, was that every time he looked at his so—his agent—he'd be reminded of this whole mess. And really, Gibbs thought he could do without that.
"Don't you get it Boss?" Tony exclaimed. He was so excited, and poor Gibbs, he just didn't understand.
"I don't think I do," Gibbs said, raising an eyebrow.
"I'm like Bogie! Before the car wreck, Humphrey Bogart's face was perfectly unblemished and symmetrical. After the car wreck his face was different. I'm the same way! BOSS! I'M A WALKING MOVIE REFERENCE! CHECK ME OUT! I AM AMAZING!"
Gibbs fought the urge to smile, when really he wanted to burst out laughing. "Oh you're something," he snarked playfully, picking up on Tony's excited mood. "You're something." He shook his head.
Tony took a deep bow. "I am! I am Very Special Agent Anthony DiNozzo, Walking Movie Reference!" With another broad smile, Tony turned and trotted off to his desk.
Behind him, Gibbs smiled. "Yes," he murmured. "Yes you are definitely very special."