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Mr. Ed

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Gibbs dropped his backpack at Tony's feet. "Sit down and wait for me," he ordered tersely.

"I'm fine," Tony insisted, slowly bending over, face twisted in a grimace, but succeeding in picking up Gibbs' bag and starting to follow him to the check-in counter of the hotel.

"I don't remember that being a request," Gibbs said with a glare as he pointed to one of the overstuffed couches in the lobby.

"Yeah, see… thing is, if I sit, I'm not so sure I'll be able to get up again," Tony confessed.

Gibbs shook his head, "Oh, but you didn't need to see the doctor. You didn't hurt yourself falling off a galloping horse," he mocked. "Fine," he relented when Tony pouted at him, "don't sit. Stand here with the bags." Gibbs took both bags from Tony and dropped them at his feet.

Tony sighed and leaned against the wall, trying to look more bored than sore. He took in the large potted plants and leather sofas and armchairs, the atmospheric lighting and the glass-topped tables. This wasn't the sort of place he was used to going on the government's dime, but by the time they'd finally gotten the Sheriff into surgery and Tony through the E.R., Tony was just as happy not to think about it as Gibbs had the cab driver maneuver through the Phoenix streets to deliver them here. Gibbs had said something about sending someone from the Arizona NCIS office out to find their four-wheeler, but Tony hadn't really heard the details; he was just glad he didn't have to go out into the back of beyond to find the damn thing. He was ready to get on a plane and get back to D.C., but Gibbs had also said something about them not getting back for another two days at least.

Gibbs came back a few minutes later, handed him a room key and grabbed both their rucksacks before leading Tony to the glass and brass elevators. "We'll get some food sent up and then you can take your meds and crash," Gibbs said as they ascended.

"I don't need all that crap. Seriously, three drugs for 'bumped and bruised'? That's ridiculous." Tony was actually starting to feel like he had when he'd been in a car accident when he was twenty-two and he'd gotten a wicked case of whiplash, but he'd be damned if he'd admit that to Gibbs. It was bad enough Dina Risi had told Gibbs that Tony had taken a header off the horse as the two of them had ridden off to get medical help for the Sheriff Boyd while Gibbs stayed back to render first aid.

"You were the one who just said that if you sat down you wouldn't be able to get up again," Gibbs reminded him.

"Nothing a hot shower and fist full aspirin won't solve. You act as if I actually hit my head or something. I mean, really? Vicodin and Valium? And ibuprofin? You don't think that's a bit ridiculous?" Tony shrugged off the elevator wall and followed Gibbs down the hall, having never asked exactly which room was their destination.

Gibbs went all the way to the end and fought with the door before the green light lit and the door snicked open. He ushered Tony into the room and let the door close behind them.

"One room?" Tony asked as he dropped his backpack onto the single king bed.

Gibbs raised an eyebrow. "I figured that instead of two separate rooms, we'd upgrade to one good room. Expense report will come out the same. And since I'm the one who has to sign the damn thing, I don't think anyone will be asking any questions. Besides, at this point, whoever was here with me, in your condition, wouldn't be staying alone."

Tony turned and surveyed the room for the first time, eyes landing on the whirlpool tub that took up one half of the bathroom. He suddenly didn't feel like arguing any more. "Just tell me that if it was Ziva or McGee, there'd be two beds," Tony said as he gingerly lowered himself to the edge of the bed and carefully pulled his foot up to pull off his boots. The sheriff's words rang in his head. It would have been nice for Gibbs to tell him that real cowboys rarely actually wore cowboy boots to do the kind of job they were out there to do. He finally managed to wrestle his boots off, but just that left him feeling like he didn't have much energy to do anything else.

Gibbs walked by and gently squeezed Tony's shoulder. "You look like hell, DiNozzo," he said affectionately. Truth was, he was a bit sore too. It had been a long time since he'd ridden that hard and that far. But he knew that Tony's spill was complicating the original saddle-soreness. Tomorrow it would be all he'd be able to do to get out of bed to use the john, Gibbs was sure. Tony was a tough guy and he'd fight the drugs and the rest, but there was no way he was putting Tony on in a coach plane seat for six hours until his body had had a chance to unwind at least a little bit. "Can you get yourself into the shower?" The E.R. doctor Gibbs had insisted Tony see had given him a shot of some painkiller or another and then sent the muscle-relaxers and sedatives back with them for Tony to take where he'd be able to crash for a while.

Tony slouched forward. "I was actually thinking of trying that hot tub. That's got to be good for my muscles, right?" Tony wasn't fooled, he was sure Gibbs had asked for a room with a decent bathtub just for this purpose. Seemed a shame not to take advantage of it.

"Shower first, if you're up to it," Gibbs told him. "You're dusty as hell. You don't want to soak in dirty water, do you?"

Tony had to concede the point. He slowly and painfully levered himself to his feet and began unbuttoning his shirt. He wondered briefly where his sweater had gotten too, but didn't really care. His fingers were stiff and clumsy as he worked the buttons. His frustration must have shown because as he started on the third one, Gibbs was suddenly there batting his hands out of the way and quickly and efficiently stripping him. It wasn't the first time, in good times or bad, Gibbs had done that, so Tony stood still and let him unbutton the oxford before he let Gibbs pull his t-shirt over his head. "Exactly how tight were you holding those reins?" Gibbs asked as he took Tony's hand and tried to straighten his fingers.

Tony shrugged, "Not tight enough?" he said.

"The reins aren't going to keep you on the horse, DiNozzo, that's what your legs are for," Gibbs told him as he took Tony's badge and gun off his belt, ejected the magazine and put both their guns in the drawer of the bedside table before helping Tony out of pants, shorts and socks.

Tony couldn't help but wish he'd gotten that advice before they'd run the horses all over the damn state.

"Shower," Gibbs ordered. "I'll run the bath while you get cleaned up."

 

Washing his hair was no picnic, but Tony managed the shower well enough on his own. He stayed in until Gibbs tapped on the glass and hollered that the bath was run. Tony wrenched off the shower and carefully stepped on the trail of towels Gibbs had laid until he reached the tub. Even with the deep tub half-sunk into the floor, Tony eyed the side of it coolly. Gibbs snickered and stopped his own undressing, coming over to help Tony balance as he carefully swung one leg over the black polished stone and lowered himself into the hot water. When the water only came up to his ribs, he leaned over to run the tap some more.

"Don't do that," Gibbs told him as he kicked his dirty clothes into a pile in the corner of the bathroom.

"Water level's too low," Tony told him.

Gibbs slipped into the shower and then stuck his head back out. "Won't be when I get in with you."

Tony grinned and sunk down until his knees poked out of the water and his chin was in it.

Five minutes later Gibbs tapped Tony on the shoulder, rousing him from his painkiller/adrenaline-crash induced haze. "Scoot up."

Tony sat up and let Gibbs in behind him. He relaxed gratefully into Gibbs embrace, the water level, as Gibbs had predicted, rising comfortably up to their shoulders.

"This a little more your element, DiNozzo?" Gibbs asked, trying to keep Tony awake long enough to finish their soak and eat the dinner he had set to be sent up from room service in about forty-five minutes.

Tony mumbled something vaguely affirmative before opening one eye and turning his head just enough to see Gibbs. "You knew I don't know squat about horses. The closest I've been to a horse since I was about ten was watching reruns of Brisco County, Jr. and MASH."

"Mr. Ed?" Gibbs asked.

"That's your generation, not mine," Tony replied. "Besides, I could only wish I could have talked to that horse. I think he took my inexperience personally."

"You know, you were kind of being an idiot last night," Gibbs said quietly.

"Yeah, I know," Tony answered feeling his face redden from more than the hot water. "That Sheriff didn't like me from the get-go. And I don't do well when I'm sure what the hell I'm doing and everyone else does."

Gibbs took Tony's left hand in both of his own and began to gently massage out the stiffness. "Yeah, I know. But once we got wind of what we'd be up against out there, there was no one else I wanted as backup. You think McGee would have done any better?"

Tony chuckled, but didn't comment. He wasn't entirely sure Ziva wouldn't have been a better choice. He'd heard somewhere that her grandfather or uncle or someone raised horses back in Israel, so she probably knew something about saddling and staying seated. He wasn't above being just petty enough to be glad that Gibbs didn't have that bit of information. He could live without the stiffness and pain he was currently experiencing, but he still liked the idea that Gibbs thought of him first when he knew he'd need back-up. Even when he acted like an idiot.

"You gonna call London when we get out?" Gibbs asked.

"Timing's all screwed up again. Guess I'll try tomorrow. This is turning into the longest game of international-phone tag in the world," Tony groused. He debated with himself for a minute before finally saying quietly, "Hey boss, can I say something?"

"Not like you to ask for permission," Gibbs replied. He knew that if Tony couldn't just say he wanted to, they both knew he wouldn't like it.

"It's just that…" Tony sighed and sat up, putting a bit of distance between them and wincing when his abs reminded him how much movement was overrated right now. "It was just that…I wasn't real thrilled with you questioning my loyalty back there."

Gibbs sighed and ran a wet hand over his face. He'd had a feeling that conversation would come back and bite him in the ass. He'd wanted Tony to shut up with the stupid movie quotes and the barely contained hostility at Sheriff Boyd. He'd figured getting him thinking about London would redirect him if nothing else, but as soon as he'd asked how long Tony planned to stay with NCIS, he knew he'd gone about it the wrong way. "I wasn't questioning your loyalty," Gibbs said. "Like I said, there's no one else I wanted as back-up out there."

"You just figure I'll quit if I get a few bucks…pounds… whatever…" Tony knew he was pouting, but he wasn't sure if he cared.

Gibbs pulled Tony back towards him. "Actually, I just wanted you to shut the hell up. You babble when you're nervous and it can be annoying as hell. I'm used to it, but I wasn't entirely sure Boyd wasn't going to shoot you."

Tony slumped against Gibbs chest. "Could have just smacked me in the head – I can't believe I just asked you to do that."

Gibbs chuckled, thinking that the real tension over the incident had been broken. "Don't think I'll ever forget that."

"I have no illusions," Tony laughed, slouching down until the water was up to his chin again.

They lay in the tub, occasionally adding a bit more hot water, letting the jets start to work out the kinks for another half hour. Gibbs kept up the gentle massage of Tony's cramped hands, knowing that his larger muscles would probably be too sore to be poked or prodded much. Tony's whole right side from hip to knee was bright purple and darkening. Gibbs figured that must have been where Tony landed when the horse threw him.

After a long quiet soak, Gibbs shook Tony's shoulder a little. "Come on, dinner should be here soon. Then we medicate the hell out of you for the night. I'll get our flights home booked after we eat."

Tony felt too listless to argue. He knew that for as long as he stayed still, the hot water and the jets would help him feel significantly better. Movement; however, was going to remind his body that he'd just put it through two days of equine hell.

"Come on, DiNozzo, you can't sleep here." Gibbs pushed Tony forward, holding him up with one hand as he climbed out. He wrapped a towel around his waist and then held out a hand to help Tony up. Tony let out a huge exhausted sigh, but let Gibbs pull him up and balance him as he stepped over the side again. Once he was balanced, Gibbs handed him a towel.

They both dried and found clean clothes in their backpacks. Gibbs pulled on jeans and t-shirt, but Tony figured that if Gibbs was actually going to make him take the damn meds, he might as well just stay in his boxers and white t-shirt.

They were lounging on the bed, Tony flipping through the t.v. channels when dinner came knocking. Gibbs got up and grabbed the tray, signing the receipt. He set the tray on the bed, turning it so that the ribs and fries he'd ordered for Tony were closer to him. He took his own cheeseburger and coffee and turned so that he was facing Tony. He grabbed the small white paper bag from the nightstand and squinted at the labels. "I don't have my glasses," he told Tony as he held on amber bottle out. "Is that a six or an eight?"

"Six," Tony told him, wrinkling his nose at his boss' determination that he take all those damn meds.

Gibbs rolled his eyes. "And this one?" he asked as he held out another one.

"Eight," Tony told him.

"That figures," Gibbs said tapping out the pills and setting the prescribed doses on the edge of Tony's plate. "You've got one that's every four hours, one every six and one every eight."

"Of course I do," Tony agreed, equally exasperated. He was actually starting to feel ready to crash for a very long time. He knew it couldn't be much past seven or eight, but it had been a long few days.

"Eh, take 'em all now. You'll wake up when you're miserable enough to take them again. We'll see what time it is and sort it out." Gibbs rolled far enough over to find the standard pad and pen in the bedside table drawer and wrote down the names of the meds and the times.

Tony scooped up all three pills and downed them with the soda from the tray. His hands were significantly better and he made fairly quick work of the full rack of ribs and plate of fries. Just as he was finishing he could feel his eyes crossing as the meds started to kick in. He fell back hard against the headboard.

"Bedtime, Tony," Gibbs said quietly as he cleared the tray away. He helped Tony stand next to the bed and pulled back the covers before helping Tony back under them. Tony curled up under the blanket and quilt, facing Gibbs, watching him through half-lidded eyes.

"What'd you do with the t.v. remote?" Gibbs asked before Tony drifted back off.

"You're gonna watch t.v.?" Tony asked with a smile.

"Well, I didn't bring my boat, DiNozzo," Gibbs quipped as he felt around the rumpled bedcover for the remote. Tony found it first and handed it over.

Gibbs set it next to him and reached over to tug on Tony's pillow. "Sit up a second," Gibbs ordered.

Tony pulled his head up off the pillow, too tired to hide the pained expression he made as he shifted. Gibbs put the pillow in his lap and patted it. "Here."

Tony wiggled until he could lay his head on the back on the pillow. Gibbs shifted and they both settled, one of Gibbs hands gently combing through the still damp hair on the back of Tony's head. Tony sighed and snuggled in closer, knowing the pharmacy he'd swallowed was only partially responsible for his nearly boneless state. He could hear Gibbs flipping through the stations. Ads for SPIKE, MTV and USA filtered through his haze before he heard the familiar chime of TVLAND. He tried to force himself to stay awake just to see what Gibbs would end up watching. He strongly doubted Gibbs would find the farm report on cable in a hotel in Arizona.

A vaguely familiar theme song penetrated his fog.

"A horse is a horse, of course, of course, and no one can talk to a horse, of course. That is, of course, unless the horse is the famous…"

"Mr. Ed? Not funny, boss. Not funny at all." If Gibbs answered him, or changed the channel, Tony wasn't aware of it. He finally sacked out hoping fervently that he didn't dream of horses of any sort.