"Hey Mc-Uncle Sam, where did you get that god-awful shirt?" Tony asked, looking in mock horror at the festive, multi-colored shirt that McGee was wearing. Tony was sprawled out on a large blanket on the ground, happily munching on a cheeseburger at the annual NCIS Fourth of July picnic.
"I got it from my new friend, Beth." Tim pointed to a striking blonde who was wearing a t-shirt that matched McGee's. "And I happen to think it's a very nice shirt." He walked over to Beth and took her arm with a huge smile on his face, then introduced her to everyone before walking off with her to get something to eat.
Tony silently gaped at the blonde who appeared to be hanging on McGee's every word and sighed as he took another bite of his burger, which didn't taste quite as good as it had a couple of minutes ago.
"Poor Tony." Abby plopped herself down on the blanket beside Tony and gave him a huge hug. "I still love you."
"Thanks Abby," Tony said, giving her a half-hearted smile.
"He got you that time, DiNozzo." Gibbs said with a smirk. He sat down on the blanket beside Abby, amused by the latest exchange between his two agents.
"I'll make a comeback, boss," Tony said. His attention was momentarily distracted by the appearance of Ziva who had just arrived at the picnic and was dressed in a pair of very short white shorts and a red, white and blue t-shirt which displayed her assets very nicely. "Wow, Ziva...you're looking exceedingly hot today."
"Thank you, Tony, Andrew thinks so too." Ziva smiled as she beckoned to a handsome, muscular young man who approached and handed Ziva a drink. "This is Andrew," she said as she proceeded to introduce her date to the team.
"Just isn't your day, is it, DiNozzo?" Gibbs asked, still clearly amused.
"I didn't know everyone was bringing dates to this thing," Tony grumbled. "I would have brought someone if I had known." Ziva and Tim, along with their dates, had formed a little foursome. They were all laughing and appeared to be having a great time, much to Tony's annoyance.
"I'll be your date, Tony," Abby said. Her eyes narrowed as she watched Tim and Beth, clearly not exactly thrilled with his companion either.
"There you go, DiNozzo. No need to be gloomy," Gibbs said. "You've now got a date with the prettiest girl at the picnic."
"Why thank you, Gibbs," Abby turned towards the agent and gave him a kiss on his cheek, then took a sip of her Caf Pow. "I think she bleaches her hair, don't you think, Tony?"
"Yeah, definitely," Tony said, nodding agreeably, not believing it for a minute. He was pretty sure Beth's honey-blonde hair was all natural. "What about Ziva's date? I think he's popping the steroids, don't you agree, Abs?"
Abby nodded her head vigorously as she admired Andrew's muscles. A fitness freak for sure. "I totally agree with you, Tony."
"Yeah...definitely steroids," Tony commented as he continued to glare at Ziva and her date.
"Are you going to play, boss?" Tony asked as he readied himself to head out to the baseball field for the game. He was captain of one team and Tim was captain of the other. He couldn't wait to whip the younger man's butt. "I'll pick you first for my team."
"Nope, sorry, DiNozzo," Gibbs replied, as he fell into step beside his agent. "Just a spectator this year. My knees aren't exactly in baseball playing shape."
"That's too bad, boss." Tony had won the coin toss and the privilege of choosing first for his team. He'd just have to pick someone else.
A short while later, the teams had been chosen and the game begun. Ziva and Andrew were on McGee's team while Abby and Jimmy Palmer were on Tony's. Beth had chosen not to play and was sitting with Gibbs and Ducky in the bleachers.
In the bottom half of the ninth inning, the score was tied at two. Both team captains had agreed prior to the start of the game that if the score was tied after nine innings, the game would end in a draw. McGee was at second base and Andrew was at the plate. Tony was catching and there were two outs. "Come on Morales, get this guy," Tony muttered under his breath. He knew he'd never hear the end of it if McGee's team won. At least if the game ended in a tie, they would both save face.
Morales wound up and let the pitch fly. Andrew swung and his bat connected with the ball, sending it sailing over the shortstop's head and out into center field. McGee rounded third and never even paused as he headed straight for home plate. Tony was screaming for the ball, his glove outstretched. Tasting victory, McGee slid towards home, colliding with Tony in the process. The force of the collision knocked the breath out of Tony as he fell and his head slammed against the ground hard. He laid across home plate, unmoving.
"Tony!" Gibbs quickly made his way down to the field and was at Tony's side in an instant, followed by Ducky. He knelt down next to Tony who was unconscious. "Tony? Tony? Can you hear me?" Gibbs asked, obviously frightened by Tony's condition.
"Hear you, boss," Tony mumbled as he began to come to. "Wh...what happened?"
"Good boy," Gibbs said, relieved to at least see Tony conscious again. "You alright McGee?" he asked, glancing at the younger agent who was sitting on the ground beside them, looking shell-shocked by what had transpired.
"I'm fine," McGee replied. "I'm just worried about Tony."
"Duck?" Gibbs' eyes were full of concern, watching as Ducky began to examine Tony.
"Anthony, how many fingers am I holding up?" Ducky asked, holding up two fingers in front of Tony's face.
"Dizzy, sun hurts my eyes," Tony murmured, raising his hand to shield himself from the bright sunlight.
"There, there...you just lie still, Anthony," Ducky said soothingly as he patted Tony's shoulder.
"Ambulance will be here shortly," Abby said, biting her lip nervously.
"Let me up." Tony struggled to sit up, but was restrained by Gibbs.
"You heard Ducky. You need to lie still, Tony," Gibbs ordered, his voice sounding sharper than he had intended it to be. "The ambulance is on its way."
"Don't need an ambulance, boss," Tony replied. He made another half-hearted attempt to sit up, but almost immediately, he turned very pale. "I think I'm gonna be sick."
Gibbs and Ducky gently rolled Tony onto his side where he promptly lost all the contents of his stomach.
"Eeew gross, did you see that, Bobby? That guy puked," a young boy said to his friend.
Gibbs turned and glared at the two boys, only to notice they were surrounded by quite a crowd. He was about to say something when Director Vance took action. "Alright, come on people. We don't need an audience here," Vance said loudly as he began to shepherd the crowd away from Tony and the team. "Let's clear out people and give them some room."
Gibbs gave the director a grateful look then turned his attention back to his senior agent. "How are you holding up, Tony?"
"Been better, boss," Tony admitted, obviously feeling miserable. He felt dizzy and nauseous and his head was pounding.
"You'll be okay," Gibbs said, relieved to finally hear the sirens of the approaching ambulance as he took Tony's hand. "I'll be right here with you..."
"I can't believe I did that," Tim was shaking his head in disbelief as he sat in the hospital waiting room with the others, waiting to hear about Tony's condition.
"It wasn't your fault, Timmy," Abby said, putting her arm around him. Beth and Andrew had both decided to go home. "It was an accident."
"I wasn't even thinking...I just plowed right into him. How could I get so carried away? It was just a stupid game..."
"Abby's right, Tim. It was just an accident," Gibbs said, trying to comfort the obviously distraught young man. "DiNozzo really wanted to win too."
Tim just shook his head, his stomach was a jumble of knots over what had happened. People died from freak head injuries all the time. What if... No. He couldn't let himself think like that. Tony would be fine. He just had to be.
"Does anyone want anything?" Ziva asked. "Perhaps some coffee?"
No one took Ziva up on her offer and they lapsed into silence as they continued to await word on their injured friend.
"Agent Gibbs?" Dr. Brewster, the ER physician who had been taking care of Tony, approached the anxious little group in the waiting room.
"How is he?" Gibbs asked, getting to his feet.
"He'll be just fine," Dr. Brewster said, giving Gibbs a reassuring smile. "He sustained a moderate concussion. There was no evidence of any bleeding on the CT scan. We're just going to keep him overnight for observation and if all goes well, he should be able to go home tomorrow."
Gibbs smiled as he breathed a sigh of relief. "That's good news, Doc. Can I see him?"
Dr. Brewster nodded. "Sure. We're getting ready to transport him upstairs. You can accompany him if you'd like.
Gibbs nodded eagerly and followed the doctor back to Tony's ER cubicle. Tony appeared to be asleep, but opened his eyes upon Gibbs' approach.
"How are you feeling, Tony?" Gibbs asked softly.
"Doing better, boss," Tony replied somewhat groggily. "They gave me something for the pain."
"That's good. You gave everybody quite a scare."
"Sorry about that. Gave myself a bit of a scare too," Tony admitted with a faint smile.
"Tim's pretty broken up about what happened...He's blaming himself." Gibbs said, inwardly wondering if Tony would be blaming McGee as well.
"It was an accident, boss. I would have done the same thing." Tony yawned and let his eyelids drop, unable to keep his eyes open any longer. "I think we both got a little carried away with things. I'll talk to him..." he trailed off as his breathing evened out and Gibbs knew he had drifted off to sleep.
Tony was transported to his room uneventfully and was sleeping, with Gibbs still by his side, when Tim opened the door and popped his head into the room. "Is it okay if I come in, boss?" he whispered.
Gibbs nodded silently and waved McGee into the room.
"How's he doing?" McGee asked softly, his eyes still full of guilt as he gazed down at Tony. "He's looking awfully pale..."
"I can hear you, Probie," Tony said as he opened his eyes and looked up at McGee. "And I'm doing just fine."
"Tony...I am so, so sorry," McGee said. "I swear, I never meant to hurt you. I never should have slid to the plate the way I did."
"Take a breath, McGee," Tony ordered. "You're giving me another headache."
"Sorry," McGee mumbled.
"Stop apologizing. It was an accident, Tim. I know you'd never hurt me on purpose."
"I really wouldn't, Tony. I know you and I might have our differences sometimes, but I would never, ever deliberately hurt you."
"I get that. Just forget about it, okay?"
"So I'm forgiven then?"
Tony rolled his eyes and nodded. "There really isn't anything to forgive, but if it makes you feel better, yes, I forgive you."
"Thanks, Tony. Thanks a lot."
"So...what was the outcome, anyhow?" Tony asked, glad that Tim's apology was out of the way.
"Huh?" Tim looked back at Tony blankly.
"The game, Probie, the game," Tony explained impatiently. "Were you out or safe?"
"Oh," Tim said with a smile. "You caught the ball, Tony, and I never touched the plate. I was out."
"Really?" Tony asked, then looked back at McGee suspiciously. "You're not just saying that because I got hurt?"
"No. It's true, Tony. The game was officially a draw."
"Excellent. Rematch at next year's picnic, Probie?" Tony asked, grinning at McGee.
"You're on, Tony." Tim said, smiling back at him.
"There isn't going to be a rematch," Gibbs stated with a glint in his eye. "I'm putting in for us to be on duty next Fourth of July. I think things are a whole lot safer with the two of you working than being at a picnic."