Gibbs' gut was churning again. He almost wanted to roll his eyes, but held back from it. His gut had been churning this entire case, and not one thing had gone wrong yet. He, DiNozzo, and Blackadder were working towards capturing their suspect, and had gotten to his place of residence, an apartment building in the middle of the city. Gibbs and Blackadder had taken the front, while DiNozzo was covering the back. Gibbs pounded on the door. "Mr. Jackson! NCIS!" he hollered. "Open up!"
There was no sound for one, two, three seconds. Then, DiNozzo yelled, "Freeze!" from behind the building and the sounds of a struggle started up.
Gibbs and Blackadder ran around the building to the back alley, to find DiNozzo struggling with their suspect. The man had a brick in his hand, and was swinging it wildly. DiNozzo glanced over to see who had come in the alley, and missed their suspect reaching back with a swing. He brought the brick down on DiNozzo's head, snapping it in two. DiNozzo crumpled to the ground and Blackadder shot their suspect in the lower leg, making sure he wouldn't get away, but he wouldn't bleed out either. The two rushed into the alley, Gibbs hovering over DiNozzo while Blackadder helped with their suspect. "DiNozzo? You okay?" Gibbs asked.
DiNozzo blinked, eyes unfocused, moaning in pain. His eyes were half-lidded, and closing fast.
"Hey, no. Keep your eyes open, DiNozzo," Gibbs ordered.
Tony probably would have been the more accurate moniker, as he whimpered, "Papa...?"
Blackadder looked over from where she was cuffing their suspect. "Is he talking about you?" she asked.
Gibbs paid her no mind. "Hey, Tony, c'mon. Keep your eyes open, all right? How many fingers am I holding up?"
Tony frowned and squinted at the three fingers Gibbs was holding in front of his face. "Stop movin' them, Papa," he whined. "Can't count when you're movin' them."
Gibbs bit back a curse and tapped Tony's cheek. "Tony, come on. Come on, kid, stay awake."
Blackadder moved to her feet, hauling their suspect up. "Gibbs. Why would Tony be calling you 'Papa'?"
Gibbs turned to glare at her. "He was hit on the head, Blackadder, he probably has a concussion. Call for an ambulance! Both of these two need to get checked out!"
Blackadder squinted at the non-answer, but brought out her phone and started to call anyway.
Gibbs kept all his focus on Tony. His blinking was sluggish, and he had virtually no coordination with his arms. "Papa, head hurts," Tony whined.
"I know it hurts, kid, we're calling an ambulance to get you looked over. Okay? Just stay awake until the ambulance gets here," Gibbs pleaded.
Tony's eyes closed for one, two seconds before he opened them. "What're you worried about, Papa?"
"Tony, you got hit with a brick to the head," Gibbs growled. "I'm worried about you. You run into danger headfirst with reckless abandon, so of course I'm worried."
Blackadder was staring at him but Gibbs couldn't bring himself to care. "Come on, Tony. Stay awake. Stay awake, please," Gibbs pleaded.
Tony mumbled, "Sorry..." and closed his eyes.
"Tony?! Tony!" Gibbs exclaimed, tapping at Tony's cheek. "Come on, baby boy, keep your eyes open!"
Blackadder froze from where she had been pacing the back alley, and their suspect cackled from where he was being dragged. "Uh-oh, the boss is playing favorites, huh? Didn't take him for someone to swing that way, though," he gloated.
"Shut him up," Gibbs growled to Blackadder. When she didn't move, and their suspect continued to laugh, he turned and growled, "Shut him up!"
Blackadder did nothing but stand there, slack-jawed. "How long have you been in a relationship with Tony?" she asked.
"I'm not," Gibbs growled. "Now are you gonna take the suspect to the car and away from DiNozzo, or will I have to?"
Blackadder stalked away and Gibbs turned back to Tony, who had his eyes halfway open. "Viv's gonna...gonna tell," he mumbled.
"Not if she values her job, she won't," Gibbs growled.
"Papa..." Tony murmured. "I...I'm sorry..."
"Hey, no apologies," Gibbs ordered. "You have nothing to apologize for. Stay awake for me, all right? Just stay awake, Tony, please."
But Tony's eyes were already closing again. "Tony! Baby boy, please, stay awake!" Gibbs urged, frantic. People died from head injuries like this, and that was unacceptable! Tony couldn't die!
Blackadder came back into the alley and said coldly, "He's in the back of the car, he won't be going anywhere. Now cut the crap and tell me how long you've been in a relationship with Tony."
Gibbs growled, turning to face her fully. "I'm not! And why are you talking about this when DiNozzo's unconscious on the ground, possibly dying?!"
Blackadder had her hands balled into fists. "Is this why you've always favored him to me on the job?!"
"I like him better on the job because he does his work better!" Gibbs snapped. "Where's that ambulance?!"
Blackadder huffed. "Probably two minutes out," she said coldly. "I'm telling the Director about this."
"Not if you value your place on the team," Gibbs threatened. "With your anger issues you're already on thin ice in the agency. No one likes it when you snap at everyone but Tony and me. Couple that with the fact that you've been here for nearly a year and a half and still don't know a lot of the basics about how the agency runs, and you'll be lucky to find a place anywhere else in NCIS. You keep quiet about this, or you're out."
Blackadder stared at him in a cold, shocked fury. The sound of sirens pierced the air and she shook her head. "We will talk about this," she warned.
Gibbs just glared at her. "Oh, I don't doubt you'll try."
When the ambulance arrived at the alley, one of the paramedics focused on Tony while the other went to their suspect. The suspect was patched up easily enough, and Gibbs sent Blackadder to go back to the office with him and put him in holding. Gibbs stayed with Tony the entire way to the hospital, sitting in the back of the ambulance and looking Tony over for any sign of him waking up.
The only time he wasn't by Tony's side is when they scanned his brain to check for any permanent damage. When that was done and they put him in a hospital bed, Gibbs was sitting there, cup full of pseudo-coffee in one hand, holding Tony's hand in the other. He rubbed his thumb over Tony's fingers, hoping that he could feel a twitch if Tony started to stir.
And that's how Blackadder found him, twenty minutes later, right after an unfortunate conversation between Gibbs and Tony's doctor, who said that it was very likely Tony would become comatose if he didn't wake up very soon. She stormed in, closing the door behind her just quiet enough it wouldn't draw any attention. And then she stalked over to Gibbs. "I don't like people who play favorites," she growled.
Gibbs glared back. "I'm not playing favorites."
"Then what do you call your doting on Tony all the time? Making sure he's comfortable, giving him the chance to have space, privacy, a personal life when I get nothing?" she hissed.
"You know, if you had the stones to stand up to me and explain why you believe you deserve those things you might have gotten them," Gibbs said coldly. "Did you never think of that?"
Blackadder scoffed. "As if you ever would have listened. You chose Tony. I was dumped in your lap the same week he was because you needed a third person to form a team."
"Despite common perception, Blackadder, I'm not completely heartless," Gibbs growled, standing up. "Tony saw that. You never have."
"You're despicable," Blackadder spat. "I refuse to believe Tony is, but you're a truly evil man, and I wish I had never joined your team."
The two stood toe to toe in silence for a minute. Blackadder was the one who looked away first. Gibbs lifted his chin up in silent victory. "You forget what happened today or you'll never get another opportunity to work in a federal agency. Don't think I don't have the connections to blacklist you, just because I'm not director."
Blackadder glared at him. "If you so much as think about benching me because of what I heard today, I'll go to HR and say you're playing favorites. I don't need to share what happened today to file a discrimination complaint."
"You want know what's really bothering me?" Gibbs asked, seething. "...I'm going to tell you anyway. It's the fact that in all of this, not once did you ever ask if Tony's okay. You care enough about him when the two of you are equals, but the second he's better than you or you see him as a threat, you stop caring. I don't need that on my team. You had better learn to care about your superiors, because Tony's paperwork for becoming my Senior Field Agent just went through."
"Unbelievable," Blackadder said. "We were equals! How can you just...give your favorite employee whatever he asks for?!"
"He didn't ask for it," Gibbs said. "HR was breathing down my neck about declaring an SFA for months now. Tony applied for the position. You didn't. He got through. You, obviously, didn't."
"Nobody told me that was going on!" Blackadder protested.
"I didn't tell DiNozzo, either. He saw the opening opportunity on the network and applied for it on his own, without telling me until it needed my signature," Gibbs said. "He had the initiative."
"Un. Believable," Viv snarled. "That's the biggest load of crap you've spewed today!"
Tony murmured something and both Gibbs and Blackadder turned to him. "You say something, Tony?" Gibbs asked.
"Stop...fighting..." Tony rasped, opening his eyes. "...Where am I?"
"Hospital," Gibbs said. "Our suspect hit you pretty hard with a brick."
"He didn't...get away...did he?" Tony asked.
Gibbs laughed and shook his head. "Don't worry about him, Tony, worry about yourself and the concussion you'll be dealing with."
"But...did we...get him?" Tony asked.
"Yes, Tony, we got him," Blackadder said, glaring at Gibbs.
"Boss...can I...talk to Viv? Privately?" Tony asked.
Gibbs clenched and unclenched his fists, knowing that Blackadder would most likely just interrogate him about what he and Gibbs got up to in the off-hours, but nodded. He'd do just about anything for Tony. "I'll go let the doctor know you're awake," he said, walking out of the room.
He went to the nurse's station and told them as much, and one of the nurses hurried to find the doctor. Gibbs watched DiNozzo and Blackadder's conversation through the glass in the room. Blackadder was agitated, making a lot of sweeping gestures and scowling. DiNozzo looked more exhausted than anything else, holding up one hand in a placating gesture. Blackadder snapped something and Tony's face morphed into hurt, before she stormed out of the room and towards the elevator. She looked like she wanted to make a rude gesture towards Gibbs, but decided against it as the elevator doors opened and she got in.
Gibbs moved to Tony's room as soon as she was gone and a nurse followed him in. The second the nurse was done checking Tony's vitals and left them alone, Tony started to cry quietly. "I told her what we did," he said. "To try and get her to understand."
"And?" Gibbs asked.
Tony's face pinched up. "She called me a freak," he said. "And...some other things. Words I can't repeat. I think she's just mad. She'll calm down in a few days."
"You want her off the team?" Gibbs asked. "Because that kind of anger is inexcusable."
"Give her...one more chance," Tony said, voice wavering between little and big. "We were all stressed. Well, you two were, I was sleeping. She makes one more mistake, she's off the team. But she deserves another chance after being nice to us for this long."
"Year and a half is admittedly my record for probies. Before they wouldn't even give me new agents, just ones who had experience, because anyone else I would scare off," Gibbs said. "So she's got some kind of tenacity. Not very quick at picking up the rules, though."
"You want to fire her, I can't stop you," DiNozzo said weakly, eyes drooping. "You're the boss...Boss. But I say we should try and keep her around. Don't want to get...another probie on our hands quite yet. I wanna learn the ropes of being SFA first."
Gibbs smiled. "Whatever you say, DiNozzo. You are, after all, my SIC."
DiNozzo smiled as his eyes closed. "I want to go home."
"You can go home when the doctor clears you," Gibbs said. "Or you can come over to my place and I can make sure you're not straining yourself until you feel better."
DiNozzo laughed and opened his eyes to look at Gibbs, who was thoroughly confused. "Boss...your place is home."
"Oh," Gibbs said. When those words sunk in, his heart skipped a beat. "Oh."
DiNozzo laughed again as the doctor walked in. "Mind getting me some water, Boss?" he asked.
Gibbs nodded. "You've got it, DiNozzo. I'm glad you're okay."
As Gibbs walked out, Tony's voice rang in his ears: Your place is home. Those little words said it all.