It was the day after they’d returned from Israel and Tony was jetlagged, sore and coping with the adrenaline crash from hell. It was his fault that Rivkin was dead, which made it his fault that Ziva hadn’t come back home and that relations between the U.S. and Israel were less solid than they had been a week ago.
It wasn’t even lunchtime when it came to a head. They didn’t have a case, so everyone had been drifting from one minor task to another and pretty soon both he and Gibbs had ended up in Abby’s lab and he’d rather suddenly lost his cool when the conversation took a turn.
“Step out, DiNozzo,” Gibbs said quietly.
“No, I mean it. I’m sick of –“
“Step. Out,” Gibbs repeated, turning until he was eye-to-eye with his pissed off agent.
Tony stormed out. Gibbs could hear the thump when Tony smacked the wall outside Abby’s lab. He rolled his eyes and followed him out.
“Hurt your hand?” he asked casually.
Tony ignored the question. “I know, I know. Don’t yell at Abby. Is that a rule? She’d probably want it to be Rule 69 or something.”
Gibbs shrugged. “Abby can take care of herself. She’s been yelled at by worse than you. I’m not worried about her.”
Tony raised an eyebrow at the unstated corollary to that last part. He blew out a breath and leaned back on the wall. “I’m up to here,” he raised his good hand to eye level, “with people telling me the wrong person died in that fight. Ziva. Her daddy. Vance. You didn’t say it, but you seemed to agree. Now Abby saying it?”
“Neither Vance nor Abby nor I were saying that the wrong person died,” Gibbs stared into Tony’s averted eyes until Tony felt compelled to look back. Once Gibbs was sure he was listening he continued. “I know you can handle yourself in a fight. But you’re better at avoiding a fight than actually having one. Rivkin was a trained assassin. I’ve heard you admit that Ziva can kick your ass. I’ve seen her do it in the gym. It’s her skill set. This guy had both height and weight on you. And Ziva’s skills. We’re just…” Gibbs sighed, trying to think of the right word. “Grateful that you got out of that apartment in one piece. If he’d been sober, it could have ended differently.”
Tony tipped his head against the wall, crossing his right arm over his sling. His arm was starting to ache again and he was reconsidering his plan to only take his painkillers at night. His voice was just above a whisper when he finally said, “It just keeps sounding like everyone thinks I should have died in there. Not just that the odds were against me, but that it would have been better. Ziva would have come back to work, you and Vance wouldn’t be dealing with this ‘international incident’. Christ,” Tony chuckled to himself, “I actually started a literal international incident.”
Gibbs gently squeezed the back of Tony’s neck. “If Rivkin had done to you what you did to him, I promise you, I would have started an international incident. No one in this building thinks that fight went the wrong way. Except maybe you?” Gibbs knew about Tony’s self-worth issues. Usually Tony simply looked for a little attention, a little validation, and he was able to put them away for a while. This was looking to be a little more serious. Gibbs waited to see if Tony would answer him. When Tony neither spoke nor looked at him, Gibbs continued, “You were involved in a shooting, injured and then carted off to Israel. So I’m guessing you haven’t had your mandatory session with psych?”
“That’s just what I need right now-“ Tony started to complain.
“I think it is. I really think it is. And you can be as pissed at me as you want, but I’m going to send a request that you go regularly for a little while until you wrap your brain around everything that’s happened this week.” Gibbs gently stroked his thumb over the back of Tony’s hairline, trying to take the sting out of his words.
“Boss!” Tony whined predictably, but under the expected complaining, Gibbs could see that there was an edge of fear in Tony’s reaction. “I don’t need… You don’t seriously think… You think I’ve lost it?”
Gibbs shrugged, long experience telling him exactly how to deal with Tony in this frame of mind. “DiNozzo, I’m pretty sure you ‘lost it’, as you put it, years ago.” He smiled at Tony, letting him know that despite the fact that Gibbs was worried, nothing had changed between them. “I just think a little perspective here wouldn’t hurt.”
Tony sighed and hung his head. “I’m fine,” Tony insisted because he thought he was expected to. Truth was, he supposed there were worse consequences to breaking up the team. After a minute he looked up without raising his head, deliberately trying to make himself look pathetic. “Know what I need more than a shrink?”
Gibbs squeezed the back of his neck, “I can think of at least three things. The first is sleep,” he said gently, doubting it was what Tony meant. “How much sleep have you had since that night?”
“It’s pretty much been non-stop time-zone changes. I don’t sleep well when it’s light out.
“Something tells me that you’ll manage today,” Gibbs said, slinging one arm around Tony’s shoulders and leading him to the garage.
An hour later Gibbs had Tony tucked into his bed. Gibbs had lay down with him until he was sure Tony was both medicated and unconscious. He still wasn’t ‘fine’ as he’d insisted, but this was one step closer.
And, as predicted, as soon as word got round that he’d left early, Ducky had come by to check on him. Jethro wondered if this time he’d actually explain where the boat was.