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Cold As Ice

Chapter Text

Tony stepped off the elevator singing the title song from Oklahoma as he practically bounced across the floor on his way through the bullpen. After dropping his gloves at the edge of his desk, he pulled the knitted scarf from around his neck, and hung it up with his coat.

“You’re in a good mood today,” Kate observed.

“That’s because the sun is shining and it’s a beautiful day, Kate.”

Both Kate and McGee glanced out the window.

“It’s cold, blustery and snowy,” McGee said flatly.

Turning slightly, Tony looked out of the window, too. “Well, it was bright, sunny and beautiful in the movie I watched last night,” he said, bursting into song once again.

A head slap stopped him mid-verse.

“Really, Boss? It has cowboys, horses and a surrey with the fringe on top. As far as musicals go, I thought it would be right up your alley.”

“Not really, DiNozzo.”

“Right up your canyon? Prairie? Cattle range?”

“If you’re having trouble finding something to do, I’m sure I could make a couple suggestions.”

“Getting to work, Boss.”

Tony shot a glance across the bullpen. Gibbs had recently started wearing reading glasses when he worked at his desk. Tony thought they looked hot. Lately, everything about his boss seemed attractive to him, from his perfect silver hair, to his gruff nature. Tony had felt drawn to him from the first moment they met.

As much as it bothered him that Danny had turned out to be dirty, it gave him a perfect reason to accept Gibbs’ job offer. He had no issues leaving Baltimore PD to work under Gibbs at NCIS. Leaning back in his chair, he wished he spent more time actually underneath his boss and wondered what sex with Gibbs would be like. Certainly, it would be amazing.

“DiNozzo!”

Hearing his name snapped him out of his daydreaming. “Yes, Boss?”

“I said, grab your gear.”

“On it, Boss,” he said as he grabbed his coat, scarf and bag.

He knew it was dangerous, being lost in his thoughts and thinking about his sexual fantasies with his boss. As the team raced for the elevator, Tony scrambled to stand next to Gibbs.

Inhaling deeply, he asked, “Is that a new cologne?”

Gibbs scowled. “Sawdust and bourbon.”

“You really should bottle that stuff. Very sexy.”

Gibbs only glared back at him, which made Tony feel like a lovesick schoolboy.

Everyone on the team fastened their seatbelts as Gibbs revved the engine. Kate clung to the door handle. Tony was certain she was praying for their safety.

“We get a lead, Boss?” Tony asked.

Gibbs glared at him in the rearview mirror.

Leaning across the backseat, Tony looked to McGee. “Fill me in?” he whispered.

“Local cops spotted Patrick Lloyd and gave chase. One officer was shot. His partner stopped to assist him and call an ambulance,” Tim whispered as Gibbs pushed the accelerator harder.

“They lost Lloyd,” Tony mumbled softly.

“They called in reinforcements to scour the area, but no one else has seen him.”

“You know what this means?” questioned Tony.

“We have to catch him?” answered Tim.

“That case crossed into FBI territory. Fornell’s going to be there.”

Tony’s thoughts wandered back. Patrick Lloyd was a serial killer, who they suspected of killing a sailor, Tyler Ward. They’d gotten the case less than a month ago. Fornell had argued that the FBI already had jurisdiction. Gibbs insisted the Ward case fell into NCIS jurisdiction and he intended to investigate. There was no guarantee that Lloyd had murdered Ward, but the killing was similar to others tied to him. Gibbs still wanted to interview Lloyd and had the team tracking him with little success so far.

Gibbs pulled the car into a parking lot where a group of law enforcement officers were gathering. Many were beat cops in uniforms, but there were also several detectives and FBI agents in suits and heavy overcoats.

The team followed Gibbs over to Fornell to get updated.

“Has he been seen since the shooting?” Gibbs asked.

“What are you doing here?” Fornell asked. “Lloyd is wanted by the FBI.”

“He’s wanted by NCIS, too.”

Fornell eyed the group assembled. “I think we have this covered.”

“With a man as dangerous as Lloyd, I’d take the extra help.”

“Okay, you can stay. As long as you realize that you are only backing us up. When we get him, the FBI gets first crack at questioning him.”

Gibbs smiled. If his team took custody first, he fully intended to escort him back to NCIS headquarters. The FBI could have him when NCIS was done with him. “Where do you want us?”

Fornell laid a map of the area across the car hood as detectives, supervisors and other FBI agents stood close. “This is where he was first spotted by the beat cops.”

“Coffee shop.” Gibbs nodded knowingly. He understood the need for coffee.

“They called it in. Lloyd saw them and took off running. This is where he shot the cop.”

“How’s the officer doing?”

“He’s at the hospital, in surgery. The doctors think he’s going to make it.”

“Good.”

“Lloyd ran off in this general direction. We’ve set up road blocks, but there are still a lot of buildings he could be hiding in.”

Gibbs took a look at the map. “My team will take the park.”

“The park?” Fornell looked Gibbs in the eyes. He’d become fairly astute at reading Gibbs over the years. This time he was curious. Why did Gibbs want the park? What was his famous gut telling him?

“Yeah, we’ll be in the park.” Gibbs adjusted his microphone and earpiece. “What channel?”

Walking quickly across the lot, Gibbs went in the direction of the park, his team right behind him. At the edge of the park, he motioned for Kate and McGee to take the area to the left and for Tony to follow him.

It was beginning to snow as they started down a foot path. They both focused on searching the trees for movement. Being winter, most trees were barren of leaves giving them a good line of sight.

“What makes you think he’d go through the park?” asked Tony.

“I’ve seen his profile. He’s athletic, probably runs.”

Tony nodded as he peered around the area. “It’s not going to seem overly suspicious for someone to be running through a park.”

“There are plenty of trees for cover if he wants to stay put for a while.”

Tony rubbed his arms, then cupped his hands and blew across his bare fingers. “It’s a little chilly to be hiding outside.”

“He is a cold blooded killer.”

“Point taken,” Tony responded as he pushed his hands deep into his coat pockets.

“Where are your gloves, DiNozzo?”

“I think I left them on my desk. Sorry, Boss.”

“As long as you can still grab the bad guy and cuff him or shoot if necessary, we’re good.”

“I can do whatever it takes.”

The two of them walked quickly and listened to comments coming across their ear pieces. They caught a couple glimpses of Kate and Tim before hills and distance blocked the view of their teammates.

“Don’t want to give him too easy of a target,” Gibbs said softly as he lengthened his stride, effectively putting him a few feet ahead of Tony.

Remaining cautious, they moved quietly, listening and watching as they continued through the park. Gibbs turned sharply when Tony snapped a twig, motioning to him to keep the noise level lower.

“People walk and jog on the trail, Gibbs. Don’t you think it’s more suspicious if we’re too quiet?”

“Point taken.”

“It would be better if we had a dog,” Tony mused.

Gibbs smirked as he turned. “How many times do I have to tell you? You can’t put McGee on a leash.”

Tony had to jog a few steps to catch up with Gibbs’ brisk pace. “He may still need a little training, but he’s not a bad little McPup.”

Gibbs stopped so short that Tony ran right into him, grabbing Gibbs’ arm to keep from falling to the ground. Once he righted himself, he glanced into the distance to see what Gibbs was looking at. The man hadn’t noticed them yet. He was coming off a hill, walking quickly and looking around in different directions.

“That’s him,” Gibbs whispered.

“Are you sure?”

As Tony asked the question, Lloyd began walking very quickly in the other direction.

Kate called into her microphone. “Subject has been spotted, heading west through the park. We think he’s seen us.”

Gibbs responded, “We have him in sight. You and McGee hold back and go around. Cut him off if you can. Tony and I will come up behind him.”

Gibbs motioned to Tony and they left the path, intending to cut some distance between them and Lloyd before he noticed them. Within moments, Lloyd began jogging, continuing to look back as if he thought he was being followed. Once he caught sight of Tony and Gibbs coming toward him over an open field, he broke into a full run.

“Watch for a weapon,” warned Gibbs as they sped up their pursuit. “Perp is running,” he said into the microphone, “heading northwest. DiNozzo and I are behind him. If he draws a weapon watch the crossfire.”

“My team is coming your way,” said Fornell.

“He’s heading for the lake,” Gibbs called to Tony. “You go to the right, I’ll go left. We’ll cut him off on the far end. Kate and McGee will be here in a minute.”

“Got it, Boss,” Tony yelled back.

Lloyd got to the edge of the lake and looked back at them. Then he took off running across the frozen water.

“I got him, Boss,” Tony called as he followed Lloyd onto the ice.

“It’s not safe, DiNozzo! Go around!”

“I got him.”

Tony was slowly closing in on Lloyd as they crossed the frozen expanse. Gibbs followed along the left bank, watching the pair’s progress. “It’s not cold enough for a hard freeze, Tony,” he yelled. “It’s not going to hold your weight.”

It had held so far. Tony pulled all the energy he had into a final burst, coming close enough to Lloyd to tackle him. The two of them went down hard, ice cracking beneath them. Lloyd was fully immersed in the water a moment later. Tony was able to scramble back to the weakened edge. Taking off his scarf, he tossed the loose end into the water.

“Grab onto it, Patrick. If you don’t you’re going to die.”

“Or I could pull you in with me.”

Tony could hear Lloyd’s teeth chattering. “I can pull you out, take it.”

Gibbs watched the scene from the shoreline. “DiNozzo! You okay?”

“Fine, Boss. Come on, Lloyd. Do you really want to freeze to death?”

Lloyd grabbed at the scarf, wrapping the end around his hand and pulling. Tony pulled back. Another sickening crack broke the ice beneath Tony’s body.

“Tony!” Gibbs yelled. Pressing his microphone button, he demanded, “We need an ambulance here ASAP. We’re at the lake in the park. Get someone here now!”

“We’re close,” advised Fornell. “What’s going on?”

“DiNozzo chased the perp across the frozen lake. The ice broke.”

“They’re in the water?”

“Yeah, both of them.”

“I’ll get two ambulances on the way. We’ll be there soon.”

Gibbs gingerly stepped out on the frozen lake just as Kate and McGee came into view. “Stay on the shore. Fornell has an ambulance coming. Lead them here.”

Kate shaded her eyes with her hand. “Where are they?”

Gibbs pointed to the hole in the ice as he slowly inched his way across the surface.

“Gibbs, don’t go out there. It’s not safe.”

“I’m not going to stand by and let them die.”

Every few moments, one of them would bob above the water, gasping for air and grasping at the icy edge of the hole. When either one tried to get himself out, more ice broke, making the hole larger each time.

Gibbs thought of what he had on him. He found he had nothing to pull either man out of their predicament. “Where is that damn rescue team?”

As he got closer to the edge, Gibbs dropped to his knees first, then gradually onto his stomach. Using his hands, he slid his body closer to the hole where the ice had broken through.

“Tony! Tony?” he called when he heard the sirens from the ambulances nearing. “DiNozzo!”

A hand reached for him. He took hold and tugged while backing across the ice. The man was coughing and sputtering as Gibbs pulled him out of the water. It was only moments before he realized it wasn’t Tony. After getting Lloyd out, others began rushing across the ice. Fornell and his team had arrived as well as many from the local police department.

“Hey!” Gibbs yelled. “It’s not safe. Get everyone off the ice!”

He watched the others back away. Nodding to Fornell, he pushed Lloyd away from the hole. Fornell came close enough to grab Lloyd and handcuff him before dragging him toward an ambulance.

Gibbs looked back toward the hole. No other hands reached for help. No air bubbles were to be seen indicating that Tony there. Gibbs scanned across the thin ice, trying to catch a glimpse of his missing agent.

Minutes later a fire truck arrived. The firefighters laid ladders across the frozen lake, enabling their crew to get above the hole safely, with their harnesses attached to the ladder.

“Who’s down there?” one of the firefighters asked.

“Special Agent DiNozzo, NCIS. It’s been a few minutes. Any chance he’s still alive?”

“Yes. People have been pulled out after being submerged for an hour. If their core temperature drops enough, it may help to keep them alive.”

With a little urging, Gibbs backed away and allowed the firefighters to put their rescue efforts into motion. Fornell handed him a cup of steaming coffee.

“Thought you could use it.”

“I told him to stay off the damn ice,” Gibbs said as he watched for any sign of his agent.

“He got the guy.”

“He may have killed himself doing it.”

“DiNozzo? He’s got to be part cat. That kid has nine lives.”

Minutes later, the rescue team pulled Tony out of the icy water. Gibbs bit his lip. Tony wasn’t moving. The crew pulled him back across their ladder-bridge to safety and turned him over to the EMTs.

By the time Gibbs reached the ambulance, they had cut Tony’s clothing off and had wrapped him in warming blankets.

“Is he going to make it?” Gibbs asked, climbing into the ambulance. “He’s one of my Agents.”

“What’s his name?”

“DiNozzo. Special Agent Anthony DiNozzo, NCIS. I’m Gibbs, his boss.”

“He has a pulse, barely.”

“What’s that?” Gibbs asked pointing at a spot of blood on Tony’s forehead.

The EMT wiped the spot. “Gees, that could be a bullet hole. Let’s get this guy to the hospital ASAP. Let’s roll.”

Gibbs held on to Tony’s hand as they raced to the hospital. His skin was cold and pale to the touch. Gibbs began rubbing Tony’s hand between his own.

“Sir? Please don’t do that.”

Gibbs looked at the young EMT, wondering if he had been out of school for even a year. “I’m just trying to warm him up.”

“I know, but that could be dangerous. In cases of hypothermia, it’s important to warm his core first. Warming his extremities can cause cold blood back to his heart and that could kill him. It can also damage the skin itself.”

“Oh, okay.” Gibbs pulled his hand away and just stared at Tony. He listened to the EMT speak to a doctor at the hospital, advising him of the possible bullet wound.

The EMTs words stuck with him: ‘hypothermia’, ‘needs surgery’, ‘pupils non-responsive’, ‘pulse weak’, ‘on ventilator’.

He felt helpless. It crossed his mind that body heat could be used to warm another person, but didn’t think the EMT would approve of him stripping down and lying with Tony on the gurney.

It wasn’t long before they arrived at the hospital. Staff members whisked Tony away from him. Pulling out his phone, Gibbs called Ducky.

Chapter Text

Thoughts floated through Tony’s mind. There were images of him and Gibbs walking through a park, holding hands. Someone fell through the ice. Tony was running to help him while Gibbs called for an ambulance. Tony remembered falling into the water. He was trying to save the other man. Why was the other man trying to push him down? Cold water flowed around him. He couldn’t breathe. His limbs wouldn’t respond. Everything locked up.

It was cold on the gurney as he was wheeled down a hallway to surgery. How much time had passed? He didn’t know. Thoughts of sitting on the couch with Gibbs came back to him. Kissing in front of a roaring fire while watching an old western on television. Gibbs holding a cup of coffee and Tony drinking hot chocolate. It was nice. Such nice dreams.

Tony tried to open his eyes when he felt a quick jab in his arm. Needles. He hated needles. Then everything faded to darkness.

Tony was still in surgery when Ducky arrived.

“What happened, Jethro?” Ducky asked. “Kate said he jumped into a frozen lake to save a man and the man shot him.”

“We were chasing a Patrick Lloyd through the park. I wanted to surround the lake. Kate and McGee were close. Tony chased him right onto the lake. When the perp fell through, Tony tried to save him.”

“By jumping in after him?”

“No. Tony was trying to pull the guy to safety, but the ice kept breaking. I tried to get close to them, but the ice was too thin. There wasn’t anything I could do.”

“What happened to your suspect?”

“Fornell took him. We wanted to question him about the murder of Tyler Ward.”

“I remember the case. Poor boy. Murdered in an alley behind a bar while on shore leave.”

“FBI took Lloyd into custody for shooting a federal officer.”

“He had the weapon on him?”

“No, Duck. He didn’t. It has to be at the bottom of the lake. Fornell is getting a dive team together.”

“How do you know he was shot? Did you hear it?”

Gibbs sat thoughtfully for a minute. “I don’t know. We were in the back of the ambulance and I saw a head wound.”

“Could it be anything else?”

“The EMT wiped the blood away and it came right back. He said it looked like a bullet wound.”

“It was only blood, not brain matter?”

“Only blood.”

“That is a better case scenario. Perhaps his skull was only grazed. I will talk to the doctors once they’re out of surgery.”

Hours passed as the pair waited with little said between them. Ducky made a trip to the cafeteria for. Gibbs refused to eat, saying he didn’t feel hungry at all. When Ducky returned he handed Gibbs a large cup of black coffee, then he sipped his own cup of tea.

“Not as good as either of us are used to, but I imagine it will suffice in a pinch.”

“I’m not leaving until Tony is out of surgery,” insisted Gibbs.

“Nor will I.”

Kate and McGee each called for updates. After her shift, Abby drove to the hospital, meeting Gibbs and Ducking in the waiting area.

“Oh my God, I can’t believe Tony fell into a frozen pond and was shot! That’s what McGee said. Is it true? Was Tony shot?”

“Looks that way,” Gibbs said softly.

“Why would anyone do that? Why would someone shoot someone trying to save them?”

Standing up, Gibbs gave Abby a hug. “I don’t know Abs. Lloyd’s a bad guy.”

“Is Tony going to be okay? Tell me he’s going to be okay!”

“The EMT thought he had a good chance, but that was when we only thought it was hypothermia.”

“They should tell us something,” said Abby as she paced fretfully.

“Abby, sit.”

Another half hour passed before a doctor came through the door from surgery. “Special Agent Gibbs?”

Rising to his feet, Gibbs walked over to the doctor, nodding to Ducky. “This is our ME, Dr. Mallard.”

“Ducky, please.”

“And our Forensic Scientist, Abby Sciuto.”

“I’m Dr. Steve Stewart. Agent DiNozzo is recovering from hypothermia and is drifting in and out of consciousness. He’s seems to be suffering from hallucinations, which is not unheard of with hypothermia. We’re warming him up slowly with IVs and blankets.”

“Was he shot?” Gibbs asked.

“We believe so. The wound is consistent with a glancing blow or being grazed by a bullet. Water will slow a bullet and could change its path. Agent DiNozzo was struck in the head without enough force to go through his skull. We stitched him up and bandaged the wound. He will likely have a bad headache for a while, but the hypothermia is more of a health threat.”

“Is he going to pull through?”

“I don’t foresee any complications. We’d like to keep him here for a couple days of observation.”

“Are there going to be any long term side-effects?”

“There are always possibilities. We believe a bullet grazed the skull. We don’t think it did any damage, but there was a slight indentation. It’s difficult to say what that may or may not cause. He may have some numbness to his hands and feet for a while, but eventually that should subside.”

“And the hallucinations?”

“Once he gets warmed up, those will hopefully subside as well. The question is what is causing them. The actual answer will depend on whether it’s due to the hypothermia, or if there was concussion-like damage to the head.”

Ducky saw the concern in Gibbs’ eyes. “The important thing is, he is going to survive.”

Gibbs nodded. “Can we see him?”

“For a few minutes.”

“Will he recognize us?” Gibbs asked.

“I don’t see why not. Hallucinations and amnesia are very different things. He seems to be remembering things fine, but there have been moments where he still thinks he’s submerged in the lake and he flails his limbs as if trying to swim. Other times he appears to have a firm understanding that he was pulled out of the lake and is in a hospital.”

“Thank you, Dr. Stewart.”

“This is Nurse Jennifer. She will show you to his room.”

Abby clung to Gibbs’ arm as the trio followed the nurse to Tony’s room.

“He’s in ICU,” Abby declared. “Why is he in ICU?”

Nurse Jennifer drew back the curtain fully. “Hypothermia can be very dangerous if the patient is not warmed properly. With the added head wound, he really needs to be observed closely for at least twenty-four hours.”

Placing a hand on Tony’s arm, Abby said, “Poor Tony. I hope Lloyd gets thrown in jail forever.”

“Abby, take the seat,” Gibbs said, nodding to the only chair in the room.

“I can bring more chairs,” said the nurse.

“Please, allow me to help you,” Ducky offered.

Abby and Gibbs were both still standing when Ducky and the nurse returned with additional chairs.

Looking over to the nurse, Gibbs asked, “Is it okay to touch his hand?”

“Certainly. He may be a bit groggy after the surgery, but it is fine to touch him and talk to him. It could help him come around.”

“The EMT told me not to.”

“It is true that you want to limit touching and moving a hypothermia patient, but he is out of the danger zone now. If you need anything, push that button to ring the nurse’s station.”

“Thank you, Jennifer.” Ducky moved to the far side of the bed and checked all of Tony’s vitals on the various machines he was hooked up to.

“He looks a lot better,” Gibbs ventured. “When he was first pulled out of the lake, he was pale. The EMT said his pulse was weak and put him on a ventilator.”

“That would not be unusual for someone pulled out of an icy lake. The cold temperature of the water would slow his heart and breathing. It surely slowed down the bleeding from his head wound.” Ducky touched Tony’s wrist, then opened each eye.

“In the ambulance, his pupils were not responding.”

“He’s fine now, Jethro. The boy has been through a rather traumatic episode and needs his rest.”

“Head hurts,” mumbled Tony. His left arm moved slightly, but not enough to reach his forehead.

“Tony? It’s Ducky. How are you feeling, my dear boy?”

“Head hurts,” he repeated. Blinking his eyes open, he stared at his uncooperative limb. “What’s wrong with my arm?”

“You will be fine in a bit. You gave us quite a scare. Once you warm up a little more and the anesthesia wears off fully, you should be back to normal.”

Closing his eyes tightly, Tony asked, “Can I get something for this headache?”

Gibbs clasped Tony’s right hand. “You were nicked by a bullet. Doc said you will have a headache for a while.”

Tony gave Gibbs’ hand a weak squeeze. “Glad you’re here,” he said as his eyes fluttered open again.

Gibbs inspected the bandage on the left side of Tony’s head, touching it gingerly. “Should we get him something for the headache?”

“I’ll talk to the nurse,” Ducky offered. “Although in most cases, allowing the patient to feel the pain helps them wake up faster.”

“You’re going to be okay, Tony,” Gibbs assured him. “A couple days of rest and you’ll be fine.”

Abby walked around the bed to hold Tony’s other hand. “You will, Tony.”

“You have a lot of work to do. I’m not going to let you shirk your job and lay around in the hospital too long,” Gibbs added.

“Are Kate and McGee okay?”

“Yeah, they’re fine. They’re back at the office writing up their reports. I’ll let them know you’re okay.”

“I don’t feel okay. Why don’t my muscles work? I can’t move anything right.”

“You remember falling into the lake?”

“Yeah. The ice broke. I remember Lloyd went in first and I was trying to fish him out, then I fell in, too.”

“You’re suffering from hypothermia. Once you’re all warmed up, you should be back to normal in no time.”

Abby gently stroked Tony’s arm. “It won’t be long.”

“I’m hungry.”

Ducky reappeared with a smile. “That’s good to hear. They have you on an IV, but a nice hot bowl of soup would be just what the doctor ordered.”

“Get something for his headache, Duck?” Gibbs asked.

“They said the Doctor will be around soon. They’re going to let him decide about any medications. There may be some slight discomfort for now, but he’s in no immediate danger.”

Pushing a chair over towards Gibbs, Ducky said, “Sit. You might as well be comfortable yourself. I’ll go see if they can send up some soup.”

“They’ll probably say he has to wait for the doctor,” teased Gibbs as he sat down, grasping Tony’s right hand in both of his.

“Most likely.”

“Tony, tell me what you remember. Fornell is going to want to know for his report.”

“Fornell? It’s our bust. I’m the one who took a swim to get this guy.”

“He shot you, remember? FBI took him in for shooting a federal officer.”

“Ain’t that a bitch? I’m in the hospital and Fornell gets my collar.”

“If you had listened to me, you would have stayed dry.”

“I doubt it. Even if we had gone around the sides, he still would have fallen in and I still would have tried to get him out. And we would have run the risk of him doubling back and losing him.”

“Kate and McGee were close. We would have gotten him.”

“He shot at me underwater. You think he wouldn’t have shot at any one of us to get away?”

“You do have a point there.”

“My hands are cold. Where are my gloves?”

“You said you left them on your desk.”

“Yeah, I did. Have to remember to grab them next time.”

Brushing his hand through Tony’s hair, Gibbs smiled. “The important thing is that you’re going to be okay.”

“And we got the bad guy. Even if you let the Fornell take him.”

“He can’t kill anyone else if he’s in custody. Less paperwork for us.”

“Like hell. We still have to write reports and close the Ward case.”

“It was a job well done, Tony.”

A smile slowly crossed Tony’s face. “Thanks, Boss.”

Chapter Text

After Abby and Ducky left, Gibbs remained at Tony’s side, holding his hand and speaking to him softly. Once they were alone, Gibbs leaned over cupping Tony’s cheek and kissing his forehead.

When the hot soup finally arrived, Gibbs woke Tony and summoned the nurse to hand him the Tylenol the doctor had approved. Since Tony was still having issues with his motor skills, Gibbs helped him sit up and spoon fed the soup to him.

“It’s good, Boss. Do I always call you Boss?”

“Yeah.”

“Even when it’s just the two of us?”

“Sometimes you call me Gibbs.”

“I thought maybe I called you Jethro when it was just the two if us. Weird that I can’t remember. I can’t wait to get home. Being in the hospital sucks.”

Gibbs put down the spoon once the soup was gone and stared into his eyes. Knowing how close he had come to losing his agent troubled him deeply. “Play your cards right and they’ll let you go home in a day or two.”

“Your steak is way better than this soup.”

“I’ll make you steak when you get out of here.”

“Thanks, Boss.”

“You can call me Jethro, if you want,” Gibbs said, curling his fingers around Tony’s hand.

“What do I have to do to get back in the field?”

“Psych eval and re-certify on the shooting range.”

Looking down at his free hand, Tony tried lifting it. Turning it slowly, he tried opening and closing the fingers. There wasn’t much movement. “It feels so weird.”

“The doctor said it should only be temporary. Once you’ve warmed up you should be fine.”

“I don’t feel cold anymore.”

“It takes time, Tony. How is your memory?”

Tony gave Gibbs’ hand a light squeeze. “Better than my muscles, I guess. I remember.”

“You didn’t remember what you call me.”

“I remember calling you ‘Boss’. ‘Gibbs’ feels right, too. I didn’t really remember calling you ‘Jethro’. It just seems weird that I don’t call you ‘Jethro’ when we’re alone. I remember stuff, though. Good stuff.”

“You should get some sleep.”

“That shouldn’t be a problem,” Tony said softly as his eyes closed.

Gibbs continued to watch over him for several minutes before going to the cafeteria for more coffee. When he returned, Tony was still sleeping. Every so often one of his arms or legs would twitch. Sometimes Tony would mumble something and smile. Gibbs wished he could understand the words or knew what was making Tony smile in his sleep.

Pulling the chair closer to the bed, Gibbs put his hand on top of Tony’s and studied him for a while longer before nodding off himself.

Early the next morning, Ducky stopped by to check on them. Even as he slept, Gibbs seemed to be able to pick out the footsteps closing in on him. Blinking his eyes open, he looked up to see the coffee cup in front of him. Standing up, he quickly stretched and reached for the coffee Ducky offered.

“I took the liberty of bringing your go bag up as well. You are getting a wee bit scruffy.”

Gibbs rubbed his chin, feeling the whiskers. “I didn’t want to leave him.”

“Did he sleep well?”

“A little restless. Sometimes he smiles and mumbles unintelligibly. Other times he seems to be battling nightmares.”

“That is not unexpected for someone who has been through a rather traumatic experience.”

As they stood over Tony’s bed, they heard someone else approaching from behind them.

Ducky looked at Gibbs apologetically. “I forgot to mention, I ran into Fornell in the hallway.”

“Good morning, Jethro.”

“Tobias.”

“You stayed all night?”

“Yeah.”

“How’s he doing?”

“He’ll live,” said Gibbs. After sipping his coffee, he added, “Thanks for bringing this, Duck.”

“My pleasure, Jethro. I was certain you could use it. And the razor.”

“You are looking a little scruffy,” Fornell agreed.

“What do you want, Tobias?”

“Since we’re charging Lloyd with shooting a federal agent, I was hoping to be updated on DiNozzo’s condition. For my report.”

“You could have called.”

“I was checking up on Lloyd, too.”

Gibbs’ eyes widened. “He’s here?”

“Yeah, right down the hall. He was suffering from hypothermia as well. They kept him overnight for observation.”

Fornell followed Gibbs’ line of sight, looking out to the hallway.

“He’s handcuffed to the hospital bed.”

Tony’s voice was rough as he noted, “So was Mel Gibson in Conspiracy Theory. He unbolted the railing, smeared himself with oatmeal, pretending he had thrown up. He got away, by the way.”

Fornell stepped closer to the bed. “Lloyd’s not going anywhere. He’s had two agents watching him all night.”

“Two?” questioned Gibbs.

“As hard as he was to pin down and catch, I wasn’t going to take a chance on him getting away. I left orders that neither was to leave his post unless a doctor or nurse was in the room. We’re hoping to take him back to headquarters today for interrogation. How are you feeling, DiNozzo?”

“I was told I will live.”

“That wasn’t the question,” Fornell pushed. “When you are released, I will need you to come down for questioning as well.”

“What for?”

“You’re a federal agent. You know we have reports to file. One of those files has your name on it.”

“Because I got him?”

“Because he shot you.”

Tony’s eyes opened wide as he struggled to sit up. “I’ve been shot?”

Gibbs put a hand on Tony’s shoulder. “You’re fine.”

Tony panicked as the news of his head wound fully sunk in for the first time. “He told me I was shot! Is that why I’m having issues moving stuff? Am I paralyzed? I feel like I’m moving my toes, but they’re not cooperating. I’m paralyzed aren’t I?”

“No!”

“No?”

“You’re going to be fine,” insisted Gibbs.

“Fine? Where the hell was I shot?” Tony glanced at each of the faces of those staring back at him. “Where?”

“It was in the lake, underwater,” Gibbs began.

“Underwater?” Tony repeated.

“The water probably affected the trajectory and certainly the velocity of the bullet.”

Lifting his hand up slowly, Tony felt the bandage on his head. “That’s why I have headaches. That bastard shot me in the head!”

The steady beeping of his heart rate began to climb. Stepping around the bed, Ducky tried to help calm him down.

“You’re fine, Anthony. Don’t you remember discussing your injuries before? Just lay back and relax.”

“Relax? I’ve been shot in the head! No wonder nothing works right.”

Gibbs gave Tony a light head slap. “Your mouth seems to be working just fine, although your imagination is running a little on the wild side. The bullet barely grazed your head. You’re fine.”

After hearing the alarms from Tony’s monitors, two nurses showed up within moments, immediately checking his vitals. “What happened?”

“Nothing,” said Gibbs. “He’s fine.”

“Yeah, I’m fine. They just told me I was shot. In the head. But no big deal there.”

Gibbs reached to smooth Tony’s hair down. “With your head being hard as a rock, the bullet probably bounced right off.”

Once they had calmed Tony down, the nurses checked the equipment and connections. “Try not to agitate him, okay? The doctor will be in to check on him shortly.”

Gibbs nodded as the nurses left the room.

Clearing his throat, Fornell added, “All the same, I will need an interview for my report.”

“Interview him here. Now,” Gibbs suggested.

“Is he thinking clearly enough?”

“You know as well as I do that it is best to interview people as soon as possible, while they still remember everything.”

“True.”

Ducky headed for the door. “I’ll go to the cafeteria and see what they have in the way of breakfast offerings.”

“Are you feeling up to this?” Fornell asked.

Tony thought for a moment, then nodded.

“What do you remember?”

“Gibbs and I were chasing the suspect. When he began running across the lake, I followed him.”

“Why?”

“I thought if the ice would hold him, it would hold me.”

“But it didn’t.”

“No.”

“Did you have your gun drawn?”

Tony thought for a moment, trying to remember the scene. “No. I caught up to him and tackled him. I heard the ice cracking beneath us. I saw a small hole open. Lloyd fell in, I scrambled away from him.”

“How did you wind up in the water?”

“I had a scarf. I tried to pull him out using the scarf. I held onto one end and tossed the other to him. I was slipping on the ice. He was pulling me closer to the edge of the hole and the ice cracked beneath me.”

“Did he pull you in?”

“I don’t know. He was heavy, I was hoping the scarf would hold. Next thing I knew, I was in the water. We were both struggling to get our heads above the surface where we could breathe. It seemed like he was pushing me down, though. It was hard to move. It was only a few seconds, but I couldn’t move my arms and legs enough to swim.”

“You don’t remember seeing a gun?”

“No. My only thought was to get us both out. I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t move. I remember seeing him getting out and felt like I was sinking to the bottom. It was like my arms and legs were tied or something. I couldn’t move anything.”

“You don’t remember being pulled out yourself?”

“No.”

Gibbs looked at Fornell. “Did they recover a gun?”

“Not yet. They found the scarf. It’s cold. They can’t stay down there for long. Where is DiNozzo’s gun?”

“I gave it to Kate. It was still holstered when he was pulled out. There’s no way Lloyd used it.”

“No, he probably didn’t. He had his own gun. Lloyd had shot a police officer minutes before that. There were witnesses who could identify him and he knew was being chased. There would be no reason for him to ditch the weapon since we knew he shot the cop. He would have kept it and would have shot at anyone trying to take him in.”

Tony looked over to Gibbs. “Besides, I couldn’t move to swim. It couldn’t have been easy for him to grab his own gun, let alone mine. He must have had his hand on it when I tackled him and he went into the water.”

“We still need to test DiNozzo’s gun to see if it was fired. It’s standard procedure.”

“I never fired,” said Tony, shaking his head. “At least, I’m pretty sure I didn’t. Couldn’t have if my gun was holstered. There’s no way I could have fired it and put it back.”

“You didn’t fire at him before he fell in?”

“No. I was running after him. Then I tackled him. He fell through the ice and I tried to get him out. I never pulled my gun. I never fired.”

The silence in the room was broken when Fornell’s phone rang. “Fornell. Yeah? That is good news.” Closing his phone, he said, “That was the team at the lake. They have recovered Lloyd’s weapon. Apparently it’s a similar color to the rocky lake bottom and much harder to spot than a red scarf. Take care of your agent, Jethro. We’ll take care of Lloyd.”

“He’s still wanted by NCIS in the Ward case. I want to talk to him,” demanded Gibbs.

“Shave, get DiNozzo out of here and you’ll have your chance with Lloyd later,” promised Fornell.

Ducky returned just as the FBI agent was leaving. “I thought you could use more coffee after dealing with him,” he said, nodding toward the door.

“Thanks, Duck.”

“What about me?” asked Tony.

“You, my dear boy, are still under a doctor’s care. It is up to him to decide your nutritional needs and things you should avoid.”

“Duck, can you sit with him while I shave and change?” Gibbs asked as he reached for his go bag.

“My pleasure.” Taking the seat next to Tony’s bed, Ducky sipped his tea. “Styrofoam cups are terrible things. Such a shame they do not offer a proper tea cup here in the hospital.”

“How is the tea?”

“It is absolutely dreadful, more like tea dust than tea leaves. However, one must make due. Now, have I ever told you the story of when a group of my classmates and I decided to go skinny dipping on a rather chilly night?”

Tony smiled. “No.”

“It was not iced over, as was the lake you fell into, but the water was cold indeed. One of the lads, Albert Hopton, had a similar experience as yours. He soon complained that he could not move his arms or legs. We watched him bobbing up and down in the water like the cork from a wine bottle.”

“Did you pull him out?”

“Not I. Actually we rather thought he was bluffing at first. Then he sank down into the water and failed to reappear. Finally Donovan Blackstone, he was the captain of the swim team, went in to check on him. We put our skills into action that night. You see, Albert was not breathing when we pulled him out.”

“But you guys were able to save him, right?”

“With fifteen medical students on hand, it would have been a great shame if we had not. Not to mention having to explain it all to the headmaster. He had symptoms rather like yours. It took him a couple days before everything was working properly. No need to worry, my boy, I am certain you will be back to normal in a short time.”

A freshly shaven Gibbs stepped back into the room wearing a clean set of clothing. “Don’t lie to him, Duck. He’s going to be back to his usual self. Far from normal.”

As he stood up, Ducky laid a hand on Tony’s arm. “He only teases because he is rather fond of you.”

It wasn’t long after Ducky left before Tony’s breakfast arrived. Once again, Gibbs fed Tony and helped him drink the orange juice that came with the meal.

“Can you move your arms any better at all?”

“They still feel kind of numb or something. It’s like some of the muscles are responding, but some of them aren’t.”

An hour after breakfast Doctor Stewart came in and looked over Tony’s chart. “You should be fine in a couple of days.”

“Everyone keeps telling me that.”

Pulling out a small light, the doctor checked Tony’s pupils for a reaction. “You’re doing much better today.”

“I don’t feel any better.”

“All your vital signs are beginning to stabilize and are getting back to normal.”

“Can he go home?” Gibbs asked.

“I’m not ready to release him, Agent Gibbs. Let’s keep an eye on him for a while longer, until we’re sure everything has stabilized. Another day or two and he should be okay to leave.”

Two days later, Doctor Stewart agreed to allow Gibbs to take Tony home.

“He shouldn’t be left alone, though. Not with a head wound and while he’s still having slight issues moving his arms and legs. Tony, I want you to keep moving every hour or two when you’re awake, even if it’s just around the house or up and down the stairs. Try picking up something light, like a book. I want you to lift it over your head and hold it for ten seconds, then hold it out in front of you for another ten seconds. Repeat those steps ten times each several times a day. It will go a long way to improving your motor skills. The more you use your muscles, the sooner they will react normally again.” Turning to Gibbs, he added, “If he has any trouble, give us a call. We can send out a physical therapist if his motor skills aren’t back to normal soon. I’m going to give you two prescriptions for him. One is for pain and the other is a muscle relaxant. His muscles may cramp up from time to time.”

“Thank you.”

After Doctor Stewart had left the room, a nurse came in to disconnect the IV and the monitors. Gibbs reached for Tony’s go bag that McGee had dropped off on his way home the night before. It took several minutes to remove the hospital gown and get Tony dressed. The effort left Tony exhausted.

“I just need to rest a little bit,” Tony said as he laid back and closed his eyes.

The nurse showed up with a wheelchair a few minutes later. “If you want to bring your vehicle around, I will meet you at the front door,” she said.

“I will see you down there.”

Gibbs hated leaving Tony’s sight, but there was no one else to bring his truck around. He was glad they were going to bring Tony down in a wheelchair. It may have taken quite a while if he had to make it down on his own.

Before Gibbs left the hospital parking lot, Tony was sound asleep in the passenger seat with his head resting against the window.

Chapter Text

On their way back to Gibbs’ house, they stopped off at a grocery store. Nudging Tony, he asked, “Anything you want me to get for you?”

“Steak? You know I love your fire grilled steak.”

“Steak it is.”

“Soup sounds good, too.”

Tony still seemed groggy.

“I will only be in the store a few minutes. You stay here. Okay?”

Slowly blinking his eyes open, Tony stared back at Gibbs. “I can barely move. Just how far do you think I could get?”

“I’ll be back. Soon.”

Walking away, Gibbs glanced back and saw Tony settling his head against the window again. He still didn’t like leaving Tony alone and out of his sight. Flipping his phone open, he made a call.

“McGee! On your way home tonight, I want you to bring me the stack of files from my desk.”

“On it, Boss. How is Tony doing?”

“Better. The doctor released him, but said he shouldn’t be left alone. He prescribed a couple meds. He’s going to be fine.”

“I know. I will see you tonight.”

Gibbs looked around the store. He usually didn’t keep much food at the house. The doctor had suggested fresh fruits and vegetables, so he grabbed some salad fixings, oranges and apples. Not knowing what soup Tony would want, he chose a dozen flavors and moved on. They both liked steak. He selected enough prime beef to last for a few meals. Tony could have soup and salad for lunch. To finish up his shopping, he picked up some bread, cheese, milk, juice, eggs and ice cream.

His heart nearly stopped when he approached his truck and didn’t see Tony. His hand instinctively reached for his gun as he approached the driver’s side door and pulled it open. Much to his relief, Tony was lying across the front seat and sleeping soundly.

Shaking his shoulder, Gibbs spoke softly. “You’re going to have to sit up so I can drive us home.”

“Home. Home is good.”

Once they arrived at the house, Gibbs put the groceries away first, then woke Tony and helped him into the house.

“Try to walk,” he urged.

Tony made the attempt to stand on his own two feet, but obviously wasn’t too steady. They walked slowly together, one step at a time. As they entered the house, Tony felt he had accomplished a great feat.

“Are you hungry?”

“Not really.”

“Let’s get you settled on the couch.”

“Not in bed?” Tony questioned as he looked up the stairs.

“I don’t think you’re up to walking up and down those stairs every time you want to eat or drink something. And if you think I’m going to wait on you hand and foot, you have another thing coming.”

“I’m going to change. Sweats will be more comfortable.”

“I should have thought to stop by your place and grab some clothes for you.”

“My place?”

“Your apartment.”

“I still keep my apartment? Oh yeah, so Kate and McGee don’t get too jealous. I forgot.”

“I’ll have McGee bring some of your things over. I have something you can wear until then.”

Another call had it set with McGee. Gibbs went upstairs, then brought some sweats down for Tony and helped him change. After turning on the television, he handed the remote to Tony.

“I’m going to work on the boat for a bit. If you need anything just yell, okay?”

“Yeah,” Tony said softly.

His voice was weak. Gibbs wasn’t sure he would hear him. “I’ll come check on you after a bit. If you call and I don’t come up, you might have to make it to the door. Can you walk that far?”

Tony looked down the hallway at the door to the basement.

“Yeah, I can make it that far.”

“If I don’t answer, just flip the light off and back on. Even if I don’t hear you, I will notice that.”

“Okay.”

“If you get hungry or thirsty, help yourself to anything in the fridge. Except for the beer. Doc said you should avoid alcohol for a few days. I got some milk and juice for you.”

“Got it.”

After getting Tony settled, Gibbs went into the basement and worked on his boat for a while. It usually helped him focus and eased his mind, but today he was still worried about Tony. At least the man who shot him was in custody. It wasn’t likely he would ever be released and for that, Gibbs was thankful.

Tony happily snuggled under the blanket left on the sofa. Both the sweatshirt and blanket were soft and smelled like Gibbs. He felt completely at home on the couch and smiled as he thought of Gibbs working downstairs. Life was slowly getting back to normal. It was a definite improvement over the hospital with its bright lights, chemical smells and cool temperatures.

Glancing over to the fireplace, he knew Gibbs would be up to light the logs later on. Tony was already looking forward to having steak for dinner. As he watched snippets of movies on the television, he drifted in and out of sleep and occasionally heard Gibbs’ phone ring.

In the afternoon, Gibbs came upstairs to see if Tony wanted to take any of his medications. The doctor had said he didn’t have to take them, only if he was in pain or his muscles were cramping too much to let him sleep comfortably.

“I’m doing okay,” insisted Tony.

“Are you hungry yet?”

“I could eat a little.”

“Soup, salad or both?”

“Soup.”

“What flavor?”

“Did you get any clam chowder?”

“I think so.”

Gibbs set about heating the soup up on the stove and was happy to see Tony was able to make it to the table on his own. His motor skills had improved enough that he was able to feed himself as Gibbs watched on.

“I’m really going to be okay?” Tony asked.

“Yeah.”

“A lot of people don’t survive a shot to the head.”

“You’re a lucky man. If you hadn’t been underwater, it probably would have been worse. Does it hurt much?”

“A little. Sometimes. Not always.”

“The pain meds are here if you need them.”

“They make my brain feel fuzzy.”

“It might help you sleep.”

“I will take them if I need them. So far, getting to sleep hasn’t been an issue. It’s harder trying to stay awake.”

“Your body knows it needs down time to recuperate.”

“It is a finely tuned machine.”

DiNozzo was truly one of a kind. Gibbs flashed back to the day they met and thought about all they had been through together. There was no doubt his life was better having Tony as a part of it.

After downing a bowl of soup under Gibbs’ watchful eye, Tony returned to the couch for a nap. Gibbs thought about going back to the basement, but decided to sit at the end of the sofa instead. He felt guilty leaving Tony alone upstairs. Tony felt comfortable with his head resting in Gibbs’ lap while gentle fingers stroked through his hair.

Gibbs smiled as Tony sighed deeply and fell asleep. With the remote nearby, he clicked through a few stations, stopping when he got to The Shawshank Redemption.

As Tony slept, more images played through his head. There were what seemed to be memories of him and Gibbs working on the boat and doing yard work together. More thoughts were of them in the kitchen, cooking, eating and cleaning up together. Later, there were images of them having sex together. Tony smiled as he dreamt.

Hours later, Kate and Abby showed up each carrying in bags of food.

“We stopped by the store,” Kate explained.

Gibbs gently lifted Tony’s head and followed the women into the kitchen. “There was no need for that. I went shopping this morning on the way home from the hospital.”

“Do you have potatoes?” Abby said as she began washing the few she had.

“No.”

“Come on, Gibbs. Steak and potatoes. It’s a match made in heaven.” Reaching over, she set the oven to preheat. “I didn’t see a fire going yet.”

“We got brownies and ice cream for dessert,” Kate added. “And we’ll wash all the dishes, too.”

Leaning over, Gibbs kissed Abby’s cheek. “Thank you both. I have stuff in the fridge if you want to make salad.”

Removing a head of lettuce from another bag, Kate smiled. “Got it covered.”

Out in the living room, Gibbs lit the fire, then checked on Tony.

Ducky arrived a short time later, carrying two bottles of wine.

“How’s he doing?” asked Ducky as he came closer.

“He’s been sleeping a lot.”

“Like a newborn babe.”

“Not nearly as innocent.”

“I’d like to check his head wound when he awakens,” offered Ducky. “I’m sure the hospital staff did a good job, but it should be disinfected and get a little air now and then. It will heal faster.”

“The doctor said to clean it twice a day.”

“Good.”

“Duck, is it okay for him not to take his medications? Doctor Stewart said he didn’t have to.”

“What did he prescribe?”

Gibbs grabbed the bottles from the shelf where he had set them and handed them to Ducky.

“I’d think he would want to take these. One is for pain, the other is a muscle relaxant. If he’s not in pain and has no trouble sleeping, he doesn’t have to take them.”

“He said it makes his head feel fuzzy.”

Ducky smiled, “Aye, it will do that.”

Tim arrived while they were talking. After setting the stack of files down on the coffee table, he went back outside and returned with a garment bag and suitcase. “Where should I put Tony’s clothes and things?”

“Upstairs in the bedroom is fine.”

“I brought his toothbrush, razor and comb from his bathroom. And some hair product and other things.”

Gibbs nodded. “Thank you, Tim. I’m glad you thought about that.”

Once he was upstairs, Tim took the suits out of the garment bag and hung them in the closet. He found a couple empty drawers in the dresser and unpacked Tony’s things from the suitcase, making sure they were neatly folded and put away. In the bathroom, he pushed Gibbs’ things to one side of the sink and set out Tony’s on the other side.

Downstairs, Gibbs began seasoning the steaks under the watchful eyes of Kate and Abby, while Ducky sat with Tony.

“How’s he feeling?” Tim asked.

“He needs some rest, but he is going to be fine,” Ducky assured him.

“I was really scared when I heard he’d been shot in the head,” admitted Tim.

“He wasn’t really shot in the head, Timothy. More of a glancing blow.”

“Gibbs said he was complaining a lot about headaches. Will those go away?”

“I’m sure they will subside in time.”

As Gibbs put the steaks on the fire, he said, “One of you may have to wake Tony up so everyone has a place to sit.”

“I can bring the chairs in, too,” Tim offered. When Gibbs nodded, Tim began moving chairs from the dining room into the living room.

Ducky gently shook Tony’s shoulder.

“Hey, Ducky,” he said sleepily, stretching his arms above his head. “Steak smells awesome!”

“I advise that you do not overeat, Anthony. Your body still has some medications it is dealing with and your stomach has not had to tolerate a hearty steak meal for quite some time. Hospital food, while it lacks flavor, is meant to be easily digested and processed by the body.”

“Sure, Ducky.” Sitting up straight, Tony looked around and nodded to Tim. “Thanks for stopping by to see me.”

Tim smiled weakly. “I wanted to be sure you were okay.”

“Me? I’m good. I’m ready to get back to work.”

“Not so fast,” said Gibbs. “You have some time off coming. And a psych eval.”

Tony groaned. “I’m fine. Why can’t they just believe me?”

“You’ve always managed to pass them before. I’m sure you have nothing to worry about,” Tim said.

“I’m not worried. It’s a waste of time. I am fine. I remember everything.”

Gibbs nodded to Tony’s arms. “You need to be steady to pass the shooting exam.”

“Okay, maybe I need a couple more days. I’m getting better though.” As proof, Tony held his arm and hand out in front of him. “Steady as a…um.”

“Wave on the ocean?” Tim suggested.

“Still a slight tremble,” said Gibbs. “And you will have to be able to stand on your feet for more than a few minutes at a time. I can’t have you passing out or needing a nap while chasing a perp.”

Sinking down into the couch, Tony began to realize how far he still had to go. “Am I ever going to be able to go back to work?” he asked softly.

“It’s only a matter of time,” Ducky assured him.

Long before the others left, Tony was asleep again, leaning against Gibbs.

Even when the others got up to leave, Gibbs remained seated, holding Tony’s head in his lap. This was his agent, one he was supposed to lead and protect. His hand brushed across the fresh bandage Ducky had applied, hoping Tony wouldn’t have a permanent scar from this, but knowing he would. Probably two scars: one on the far left side of his forehead and the other in his memory.

The next morning, Tony awoke to the smell of bacon, eggs and coffee. A blanket on the floor told him Gibbs had slept in the same room. Rising to his feet, Tony went into the kitchen and wrapped his arms around Gibbs’ waist as he planted a soft kiss on his cheek.

“You could have woken me up. I can walk upstairs.”

Turning around, Gibbs looked at Tony sternly. “What?”

“You didn’t have to sleep on the floor. I could have walked upstairs to the bed.”

“You were sleeping.”

“I know. I’m going to go brush my teeth. Thanks for taking care of me and cooking. And everything.”

“Yeah.”

Gibbs reached for his coffee. Why would Tony kiss him? Being thankful was one thing, but a kiss?

Upstairs, Tony entered the bathroom and began his morning routine. He showered, shaved and brushed his teeth. It was nice seeing his things and Gibbs’ things all on the sink. It felt right.

Knowing Ducky was already up, Gibbs didn’t think twice about calling him. “Are you sure he’s okay, Duck? He’s acting weird. He not only hugged me, but he also kissed me. Why the hell would DiNozzo kiss me?”

“Why don’t you ask him?”

A few minutes later, Tony returned to the kitchen as Gibbs was setting the food on the table. Something was wrong. No chairs. Without thinking much about it, Tony went into the living room and brought one back, then was about to go for another one.

“Sit,” Gibbs commanded. “Eat.”

“I’m not completely helpless. I have to use my muscles to get them back in shape.”

“Just don’t overdo it.”

“Really, I feel fine.”

“Uh huh,” Gibbs grunted, still unconvinced.

After the meal, Tony pushed back his chair and carried his plate and silverware into the kitchen. Before putting the orange juice away, he poured himself another glass.

“I’m a growing boy. Need my vitamins.”

Gibbs scrubbed a dirty pan in silence.

Placing his hand on Gibbs’ back, Tony said, “I really appreciate how you take care of me.”

“I know.”

Leaning in, Tony kissed Gibbs again. This time, Gibbs scowled, put down the pan and turned to Tony. “Why did you do that?”

“What?”

“You kissed me.”

“I always kiss you.”

“No, you don’t.”

“Well, not at the office.”

“Not at any time,” said Gibbs. “Not at the office, not in my house. Not anywhere.”

Tony’s eyes grew wide as he took a step backward. He stared at Gibbs for a minute, then turned away quickly and went upstairs. The painful expression in his eyes was obvious.

Gibbs leaned against the sink wondering how he was going to fix this when he wasn’t even sure what it was that needed to be fixed. “Ah, hell, DiNozzo.”

Chapter Text

Tony fought to hold back the tears as he flopped on the bed. Why would Gibbs say that to him? He lived here. With Gibbs. The memories were so clear. When he heard footsteps coming up the stairs, he buried his face. The last thing he wanted was for Gibbs to see his tear-stained cheeks.

The bed sank a little when Gibbs sat down. Placing his hand on Tony’s shoulder, he could feel the slight shake throughout his body.

“What’s going on, Tony?” he asked softly.

Wiping his face on the sheet, Tony turned and looked up. “With me? What’s going on with you? You don’t want me anymore? Is that it? Because my hands shake a little and I’m going to have a scar? You don’t want me because I’m going to be scarred?”

“What? No. You’re the best young agent I’ve ever worked with. I want you on my team as long as you want to be there.”

“But not in your bed?”

“My bed?”

“What the hell is wrong with you? I’m not imagining things. I live here.”

“No, you don’t. You have an apartment. You live there.”

Rising up, Tony opened the closet door and motioned to his suits and dress shirts. “Mine.”

“Tim brought them over last night.”

“My stuff is in the bathroom.”

“Tim brought everything over last night.”

“Why are you doing this?”

“I’m not doing anything.”

“You’re lying to me. Why? I remember living here. With you.”

“Your thoughts are scrambled. We aren’t. We’ve never been a couple. I’m calling Ducky.”

“Whatever. If I don’t live here, maybe I should go home to my apartment, where Tim must have gone to get all my stuff last night.”

Gibbs threw his hands up in the air, then retreated downstairs to make his call. “I don’t know what’s going on. He kissed me again and I asked him why. He seems to think we’re a couple.”

“Oh, dear.”

“Why would he think that?”

“Dr. Stewart said Tony was suffering with hallucinations. It’s also possible that his head wound could have caused some minor damage.”

“He could feel he’s remembering something that isn’t true?”

“Yes. Or it could be that something he had fantasized about in the past, now feels like a memory.”

“You really think DiNozzo fantasized about me and him being together?”

“It is possible. Tony does have a certain sparkle in his eyes when he’s around you. I noticed it when you first hired him on at NCIS.”

“What am I supposed to do? He thinks I’m lying to him. He found his things that Tim brought over last night and now he’s convinced he’s been living with me all along. As a couple. He thinks we were together and I’m rejecting him over his injuries.”

“That certainly puts you in a tough spot, indeed.”

“You think?”

“My advice it to take things easy. Don’t push the boy away. Perhaps his memories will straighten themselves out. In the meantime, tell him it’s doctor’s orders that he take things easy. He needs to heal physically and emotionally from his injuries.”

“Okay, thanks, Duck.”

“I’ll be over later to check on you both. Perhaps I could stay over to help for a couple days?”

“Not necessary.”

“He can’t be left alone and it sounds like you could use a break.”

“I get a break every time you come over and check on him. I’ll see you later.”

Gibbs took a deep breath and let it out slowly. How could he make Tony understand that it was his memories that were false?

An hour later, Gibbs was still downstairs when Ducky arrived.

Seeing the sofa empty, Ducky asked, “Where is Tony? You haven’t let him go home, have you?”

Gibbs waved his hand toward the staircase. “He’s upstairs in the bedroom.”

“I’m sure he’ll snap out of it eventually. You haven’t done anything to lead him on have you? What the two of you do behind closed doors is none of anyone else’s business.”

“I have never done anything to lead him on.”

“You could do a lot worse, you know,” Ducky said as he started up the stairs.

Gibbs thought about that for a moment. He supposed Ducky was right. Tony was smart, loyal, dependable, handsome, and…But he’s a guy! What the hell was he thinking?

Upstairs, Ducky stopped in the main bedroom. “Hi, Tony,” he said cheerily.

Tony looked up slowly. “What are you doing here?”

“I came to see how you’re doing.”

Tony sniffled. “Thanks. I guess I’m getting better, but I think we’re in a bad spot though, Gibbs and I. He told me I don’t live here, but he won’t let me leave.”

Reaching out, Ducky looked over the bandage. “Not everyone who gets shot in the head survives to tell the tale.”

“I was told it’s just a graze. Were they lying to me? Is it worse than they said?”

“Are you still having headaches?”

“Comes and goes,” Tony admitted as he hugged a pillow to his chest.

“Comes when you’re awake and goes when you’re asleep?”

Tony laughed lightly. “Something like that. I’ll probably have a scar. I think Jethro is afraid it’s going to make me look ugly.”

Ducky gently lifted Tony’s chin with his forefinger. “Jethro cares deeply for you. I promise you that. But the two of you only work together. You’re not a couple.”

“You’re in on it, too? Why is everyone lying to me? I don’t understand.”

“The injuries to your brain are making you believe things that aren’t true. It’s altered your memories a little. Do you remember rule number twelve?”

“Never date a co-worker. He dated Jenny.”

“I don’t think either of them were serious. They were alone together and bored. It was only a way to pass the time. Once the assignment was over, they both moved on.”

“I know everything about him and this house. My things are here. My toothbrush is in the bathroom and my suits are in the closest.”

“Tim brought them over since you were staying here. I’m not lying to you. Your mind is playing tricks on you.”

“Really? Because it seems so real. I remember him kissing me, even in the hospital.”

“If you two had been together, I’m sure he would have told me.”

“Maybe he was afraid of what you would think.”

Placing his hand over Tony’s, Ducky assured him, “Tony, I don’t judge. If you and Jethro were together, I would be happy for you both.”

“You think we’d be good together?”

“I think if you want him, you need to make him see what you see. You say you have wonderful memories together. Show him how wonderful being with you would be.”

“You’re saying…”

“Go for it! If you want him, take the chance. He’s a good man. I know he’s lonely. And stubborn. If ever there was a man that could make a relationship work with him, it’s you. He’s always telling me how smart and wonderful you are. Show him what that relationship could be.”

“Thanks, Ducky.”

“Get some rest and I’ll check in on you later.”

Finding the main floor empty, Ducky took the stairs down to the basement. Gibbs was busy working on his boat.

“What are you doing?”

“Building a boat.”

“I meant with Tony.”

“I’m letting him stay here while he recuperates.”

“That boy does love you.”

Gibbs stopped what he was doing and looked. “I love him, too.”

“Then what’s the problem? He says he has great memories of the two of you as a couple. Maybe they’re not memories. They could be premonitions.”

“Premonitions?”

“Maybe it’s not your past he’s remembering, but your future. Together. He’s showing you one path that you can take.”

Chuckling, Gibbs poured more bourbon into his coffee mug. “I’d offer you a glass, but I think you’ve had enough of whatever you’ve been drinking.”

“I am stone cold sober and serious. You’ve never made things work with another woman. You keep finding women with red hair, like Shannon, and with a fiery spirit, like Shannon. But, the bottom line is, they’re not Shannon. You simply cannot make them into something they are not. You love Tony. I know you do. And he loves you, too. Isn’t that the basis of a good relationship? If you put Tony’s personality in Shannon’s body, could you make it work?”

“He’s a co-worker and a man.”

“One who loves you. If you don’t give this a shot, you’re the crazy one. I’m going back upstairs. I’ll being in the living room if you want to talk more. I’m sure you have some thinking to do.”

When Gibbs finally returned upstairs, he found not only Ducky, but also Tony sitting in the living room. They paused their conversation when he stepped into a room.

“When everyone stops talking when they see you, it’s usually because they’re talking about you,” Gibbs stated boldly. He stood staring back at them for a moment before continuing. “Would you like a beer, Duck?”

“I’ll take one,” said Tony.

“You can’t have one.”

“That hurts, Boss.”

“Doctor’s orders.”

Ducky shook his head. “You boys aren’t at work. What’s this ‘Boss’ all about?”

Tony shrugged. “It’s what I’ve always called him. That or ‘Gibbs’.”

“You called him ‘Jethro’ when we were upstairs chatting a while ago.”

Had he? Tony tried thinking back, but wasn’t sure. Maybe he had.

“You’re welcome to stay for dinner, Ducky,” Gibbs offered.

“It smells delicious. What are you cooking?”

“Meatloaf, mashed potatoes, fresh green beans and bread. Tony needs some good home cooked comfort food.”

“How did the steak settle with you last night?” asked Ducky.

Patting his belly, Tony assured him, “No problems here.”

“Yeah,” teased Gibbs, “It’s all in your head.”

“Please stay for dinner,” Tony pleaded.

“I really only stopped in to check on your condition, but it smells so good, how can I say no? Thank you for the invitation.”

Tony and Gibbs sat silent through most of the meal while Ducky prattled on, telling stories from his younger years as he laughed jovially in an obvious attempt to lighten the mood. After the meal, they settled back into the living room for another hour of chatting. Tony noticed that Gibbs was fidgeting, most likely anxious to be down in the basement alone with his boat and his bourbon.

When Tony tired, he leaned away from Gibbs, resting his head on the arm of the sofa.

Ducky suggested, “Why don’t you help him upstairs and put him in bed?”

“I’m fine on the couch,” Tony mumbled with his eyes closed.

“Nonsense,” insisted Ducky. “You’ll be more comfortable upstairs in bed.”

After putting Tony to bed, Gibbs returned and opened another beer.

“You remember what I told you,” Ducky reminded him.

Gibbs rolled his eyes and glared back.

“Love is a precious thing, Jethro. Tony loves you and you’re a fool if you turn your back on him.”

“I don’t have an issue with gays. I’m just not one.”

“Gay, straight, bi, who cares? Why are you trying to fit everything into a specific mold? Love is what is important here no matter what form or shape it takes. He has wonderful memories of the two of you together.”

“They’re not real!”

“They are real to him. They could be real for you, too, if you would stop being stubborn and give things a chance.”

“I can’t date a co-worker.”

“NCIS has no rule against it.”

“I have a rule against it.”

“It’s a stupid rule. Perhaps it’s time you amended it, or got rid of it altogether. Tony knows about you and Jenny. How do you explain that?”

“Ah, hell.” Gibbs sighed in defeat.

“All I’m saying is that you have a real chance to be in a happy relationship. Why throw it away? I know you’re lonely, Jethro. You’ve had a hole in your heart since Shannon died. Tony can fill that spot for you. That boy has deep feelings for you.”

“I’m not going to promise you anything.”

“I am not looking for promises. I care for both you and Tony, and want to see you happy. All I’m asking is that you give it a chance. You may find that he is the perfect match for that hole in your heart.”

After Ducky left, Gibbs stood in the hallway and eyed the steps leading upstairs and the door to the basement.

“Ah, hell,” he said as he went downstairs to work on his boat, sip his bourbon and think about Tony.

A couple of hours later, he went upstairs and quietly undressed in the dark before slipping into bed beside Tony. He had no doubt that Tony was sound asleep. By the moonlight streaming in through the window, he took a good look at Tony’s face. He was handsome. Did it matter? Attraction between couples was always a good thing. The man had a lot of good qualities. Would Shannon approve? Probably. She would want him to be happy above all else.

Tony tossed and turned in his restless sleep while Gibbs watched over him and thought about a lot of things. When Tony turned away from him, Gibbs spooned up behind him, wrapping a comforting arm around Tony’s waist. The younger man sighed happily in his sleep. It felt right, like they did fit together perfectly.

As Gibbs slept, he dreamed. Shannon came to him, sitting on the edge of the bed as she gently cupped his cheek. “You deserve to be happy. You can be happy with Tony.”

“I miss you so much.”

“I can’t be with you now, but you can be with Tony. If you let him slip through your fingers, you will never find another person like him.”

Blinking his eyes open, Gibbs awoke as the first rays of the sun came through the window. Beside him, Tony was snoring lightly, still sleeping soundly. Moving closer, he inhaled deeply. He loved the way Tony’s hair smelled. He wondered how Tony was managing to wash his hair while keeping the bandage dry.

His fingers lightly ghosted up and down Tony’s arm. It was obvious he was slowly improving. Gibbs wondered what it felt like to Tony. Did his arms and hands feel numb? Did he feel them tremble? How bad were his headaches? He hadn’t taken many of the prescribed pills, but sometimes he would cringe in pain and accept the capsules Gibbs placed into his hand along with the accompanying glass of water. Did he fear Gibbs seeing him as weak? Gibbs thought Tony was one of the strongest people he knew.

When Tony awoke, he rolled over to find Gibbs watching him.

“Gibbs, you’re in my bed!”

“I think if you check the room, you will find that you are in my bed,” Gibbs said softly, nearly at a whisper.

Pressing his hand into the mattress, Tony smiled and replied, “And this one is just right.”

Taking Tony’s hand into his own, Gibbs asked, “So, where do we go from here?”

“Are we going somewhere? Like a vacation?”

“Do you really want to push this?”

“What are you saying? First you tell me there’s nothing between us. Now, you’re what? Are you teasing me?”

Sighing, Gibbs leaned on his arm. “No. Some of those around us seem to think we would be an adorably cute couple.”

“Of course we would be. Are you wanting to pretend or are you being serious?”

“Pretend?”

“You know, the ultimate fake out? Tell everyone we’re dating, but we’re not?”

“What would the point be of that?”

“I don’t know. Tease people?”

“Does that seem like my style to you?”

“No. You’re usually pretty straightforward.”

Reaching out, Gibbs cupped the back of Tony’s head and kissed him. “Maybe I can learn to bend a little?”

“Did you just make a joke?”

Gibbs chuckled. “I tried.”

“If you’re willing to try, I certainly am. I had such wonderful memories, or dreams, of us together. Whatever they were. I swear I remember you kissing my forehead in the hospital.”

“I did. I was so thankful you were going to be okay. I couldn’t believe we came so close to losing you. I can’t imagine how things would have changed on the team if you hadn’t made it. I can’t imagine how things would have changed in my life, if I had lost you.”

“Come on, Gibbs. You can’t get rid of me that easily.”

After pressing another kiss against Tony’s lips, Gibbs said, “You can call me Jethro when we’re alone. If you want to.”

Slipping his hand underneath Gibbs’ shirt, Tony lightly rubbed his hand across his skin. “Yeah, I think I want to.” Letting his hand trail lower, he breached Gibbs’ boxers and firmly grasped one of his ass cheeks, giving it a good squeeze. “Not bad, Jethro.”

“As good as your dreams of us?”

“Better.”

“Better?”

“This time I know it’s for real.”

 

~The End~
12/14/2014