Tony DiNozzo sat next to Maddie Tyler’s legs, his face turned toward Gibbs, his shuddery breaths shaking his entire body. He knew there was more that he should be doing such as calling for help, but he found himself unable to move, unable to take his eyes off the man he admired most in the world. The man who, just moments ago, was dead.
His vision was filled with grey splotches and random white dots as he continued to struggle with his breathing, refusing to give into the overwhelming need to cough. Tony heard the squeal of brakes and shouts from up above. Thank God, Ziva and Tim are here.
“Tony! McGee, call for an ambulance.” Ziva jumped onto the platform, hurrying to check on the two people beside her teammate.
McGee joined Ziva with his cell phone in hand. “They’re on the way.” He caught sight of Gibbs and blanched. “What happened?”
“The car… went underwater…” Tony gasped.
The next few moments were frantic with the arrival of paramedics who began working on Gibbs and Maddie, bundling them onto stretchers and taking them off in the ambulance. During the entire process, Tony remained sprawled nearby, his focus entirely on the washed out features of Gibbs. When his view was blocked, Tony would frown, but still said nothing unless directly spoken to by the paramedics asking questions regarding the amount of time the two victims were not breathing.
Tim McGee and Ziva David followed the stretchers up to the ambulance, not realizing that Tony hadn’t followed them. As the boxy vehicle roared off, sirens shrieking, the two agents began to secure the scene.
“I have a weapon here,” Ziva called, placing a number card next to the gun.
Before McGee could ask any questions, another team arrived to conduct the investigation. He gave them the basics of what he knew about the situation. “Gibbs and Maddie Tyler are on the way to the hospital.”
“And DiNozzo?” Clarice Johnston asked.
“Hey, McGee, what the hell’s Tony still doing here?” Frank Carmichael asked, standing at the end of the pier and staring down.
“He’s still here?” Tim and Ziva ran for where they had last seen their partner. “Shit. Ziva! Call for another ambulance, tell them to hurry!” Tim slid down the ladder, barely touching the steps as he hurried to Tony’s side. He knelt beside the trembling man, hurriedly removing his jacket and wrapping it around the other man. “Hang on, Tony, help’s coming.” Tim began rubbing his hands roughly up and down the senior agent’s arms, trying to warm him up.
“G-Gibbs?” The soft-spoken stuttered question barely caught Tim’s ear.
“He’s on the way to the hospital along with Maddie.” He added stoutly, hoping he was correct, “He’ll be okay. You saved them both.”
“No.” Tony shook his head. “I g-gave up on G-Gibbs. I had to help Maddie. I c-couldn’t work on b-both of them.” His green eyes, bloodshot and awash with tears, looked at the spot when Gibbs had last been.
“You did the best you could.” Ziva David climbed down to the platform, moving to where Tony was still struggling to breathe. She had heard the lament and knelt in front of him. “Gibbs would have kicked your asp if you had done anything different.”
“Ass,” Tony corrected the Israeli automatically before closing his eyes and wrapping his arms around his chest.
Ziva’s smile wasn’t lost on Tim.
“You did that on purpose, didn’t you?” Tim asked softly.
“Self pity doesn’t suit him, neither does misdirected guilt. Tony, listen to me.” She touched him gently on the shoulder, pulling at the jacket to cover his neck more fully. “Are you listening?”
“Yeah, I’m lis’ning.”
His slurring had Ziva and Tim exchanging worried glances. She jerked her chin toward the pier. Tim nodded as he carefully pulled away from Tony’s shivering body, letting Ziva take his place. Once free, he scrambled up the ladder to search of the needed ambulance.
“All on your own,” she continued, “you managed to take out both of the bad guys. I assume that was you?”
Tony blinked at her before nodding.
“You got Gibbs as well as the girl out of the car, according to Maddie. You performed life-saving measures on them both. So you have nothing to feel guilty about.”
Tony’s fight to not cough was lost as he tried to protest, his face turning red as he choked. His body began to tip to one side, the lack of oxygen and the violent tremors racking his body removing his sense of balance.
Ziva clutched him closer to her own body in an effort to keep him from toppling into the water. “McGee! Carmichael! I need help!”
Both agents looked over the edge of the pier.
“Where is the ambulance?”
Tim frowned. “Delayed in traffic. Dispatch is estimating another five to ten minutes.”
“We cannot wait that long. Help me get Tony to the car. We will take him in ourselves.”
Tim climbed back down, followed by Carmichael. With all three struggling to control an oblivious Tony, they managed to get him up onto the pier and into the backseat of the vehicle driven closer by Agent Johnston. Ziva took the wheel while Tim climbed into the back with Tony.
“Need any more help?” Clarice asked, leaning into the front passenger window.
“No,” Ziva said before changing her mind. “Yes. Please contact both the hospital and Dr. Mallard. Let them know that we are on the way. Ducky will need to explain Tony’s medical history.”
“Got it. Good luck.” Clarice slapped the top of the car before stepping back, barely avoiding having her foot run over.
They arrived at the emergency entrance in record time, the screech of tires on the pavement announcing their presence. Tim was relieved to see Ducky waiting for them, standing by the automatic doors. “We’re here, Tony.”
The other agent was pressed against the door, his eyes squeezed shut. His entire focus was on his breathing, using the procedures he had learned while recovering from his bout with the plague.
Ducky opened the passenger side door. “Tony, I’ve brought you a wheelchair.”
As Tony began to protest, he was cut off.
“Not a word. You wouldn’t be able to walk very far. You don’t want to fall flat on your face in front of the pretty nurses, do you?”
Tony huffed out a reluctant laugh before sliding carefully out of the car, allowing the medical examiner to help ease him into the chair. He kept his eyes closed as he was wheeled into the hospital.
Sometime later, after suffering through a thorough medical exam and what seemed to be thousand of questions, Tony was sitting in the same wheelchair, having some breathing therapy. He hated the large plastic tube he had to hold in his mouth and wasn’t that thrilled with the misty fog that was to be breathed in, but he had to admit that it was working. His throat didn’t feel quite so closed and that choking feeling was almost gone. But what he really wanted was someone to answer his questions.
He pouted around the room, empty of anyone to vent his frustration on. When Ducky finally appeared, Tony was tempted to jump up and kiss the man. His green eyes were full of fire as he started to remove the device.
Ducky held his hand up. “No, put it back in your mouth, young man.”
Grumbling, Tony complied.
“Now, I believe I know what you want to say, so let me speak. First, both Jethro and the young lady are fine. In fact, both will probably be released later today.”
A weight dropped from Tony’s shoulders. He found himself turning away for a moment from Ducky’s too observant gaze as he regained his composure. Once he felt more secure, he turned to face the older man. “Good,” he said around the mouthpiece.
“Now, as to you.”
Tony stiffened at the serious change in Ducky’s demeanor.
“You swallowed some of the filthy water while pulling them from the car. They want to keep you overnight for observation.”
This time Tony did remove the breather. “No.”
“You could have an infection.”
“Then give me antibiotics. I’m not staying here any longer than I have to. And I’m definitely not staying overnight.”
“Don’t be foolish…”
“It’s not foolish. I’ll be fine at home. If I have any problems, I’ll call someone.”
Ducky stared at Tony who swallowed deeply before returning the stare defiantly. “You live alone.”
“If you relapse, if you suddenly have an asthmatic attack, you won’t be able to move, much less speak.”
“What if he stays with someone?” The raspy voice made both men jump, their attention darting to the open doorway.
“Gibbs!” Tony almost jumped to his feet, but was stopped by his boss’ upheld hand as well as Ducky’s restraining hand.
“Jethro, you’ve been released?”
“Yeah, Duck. I was on my way outside to call a cab and get out of here when I spotted two of my agents loitering in the emergency waiting room, looking very worried. It wasn’t until I reamed them out for wasting time waiting for me that I discovered that DiNozzo was here. As a patient.”
“You okay, boss?” Tony asked.
Gibbs thoroughly surveyed his senior agent before answering. “Better than you.” He turned back to Ducky. “Why wasn’t I told?”
“Because it wasn’t something you could do anything about. You’ve been busy with your own concerns and that of Maddie Tyler. Has the child left?”
“I had McGee drive her home. I had to promise to call him with word of DiNozzo first.” A proud smile flickered across Gibbs’ face. “He’s come a long way, having the guts to defy me.” He repeated his earlier question. “If I have DiNozzo stay with me, can he be released today?”
“I don’t need anyone babysitting me,” Tony grumbled.
“Shut up, DiNozzo. You want out of here?”
“Yeah,” he replied sullenly.
“If they won’t let you out because you’ll be alone, then staying with me should take care of that. Right, Ducky?”
“I believe so. Let me speak with Tony’s doctor. I shall be right back.”
A heavy silence reigned in the small room, Tony resuming his therapy. As they both looked at the floor, Tony snickered.
Gibbs looked up. “Something funny, DiNozzo?”
“Yeah,” he replied, holding the breather just in front of his mouth. “Us.”
At first annoyed, soon Gibbs chuckled. “I guess we are.”
“You’re really okay, Boss?”
“Thanks to you, I am.” And a very vibrant dream.
“Good. Only I can’t take credit for it.” He swallowed nervously. “It wasn’t me. I didn’t do anything.”
Gibbs’ eyebrow tilted up. “That’s not what I remember.”
“I doubt you can remember much, Gibbs. By the time I got Maddie on that platform and dove back to the car, you were…” Tony hesitated, his voice almost too soft to hear. “You weren’t breathing.” He didn’t think he’d ever forget the sightless eyes that were waiting for him.
“You got me out.” It was a statement, not a question.
“Well, sure.” He decided to confess quickly. “I gave up on you. I only did one real pump of CPR and a… Well, I quit working on you and switched to Maddie. I let you die, Gibbs.”
“No, you didn’t. You did what was right, working on the civilian. So get that stupid idea that you did something wrong out of your head right now. Understand?”
“Okay, I’ll try.”
Gibbs leaned back against the wall, watching as Tony seemed to relax. He waited until the younger man seemed to be on the verge of dozing off. “So you performed CPR on me?”
“Only one hit.”
“Hmmm. You usually have to perform mouth-to-mouth first.” He knew he’d hit a nerve when Tony’s eyes suddenly widened. “Did you have to kiss me, Tony?”
Tony’s mouth dropped open, about to protest before he thought better of it. “Maybe.”
Gibbs looked at his senior agent, a twinkle in his blue eyes as he took in the flush blooming on the younger man’s cheeks. “So, DiNozzo, tell me. Was it good for you?”