“Just a minute. Do I have a nightgown on? No, I don’t.”
February 1, 2008. Alexandria, VA
Gibbs watched as Damon charged towards the hostiles with an assault rifle in his hands, no doubt grabbed from one of the men inside. And suddenly the equation was skewed in their favor. From two to one, it had become one to two… Park was the only one holding a gun on that side, with Gibbs and Damon pointing their weapons at him on this side.
“It’s over. Let him go, Park!” Gibbs yelled, bolstered by Damon’s support.
Park started to panic and dragged Tony further backwards. As he started to pull the uncooperative agent up into the helicopter after him, Damon aimed for the spinning blades and kept shooting until they were disabled. He took out the tail rotor next, before aiming back at Park who now had no escape options left.
Simultaneously, Gibbs also found a shot. Before taking it, he spoke to the girls, “Close your eyes.”
Not checking if they did but trusting that they would have, Gibbs fired. A bullet ripped through the chopper’s glass window and straight into Wan’s head. He died instantly, his body toppling over sideways where he sat.
Park was incensed and humiliated, but still acutely aware that if he shot Tony now he was a dead man for sure. Instead, the mafia boss of Busan shoved Tony out of the disabled chopper to the ground in an effort to distract his opponents and made a run for it. Damon ran to catch Tony who was pitching forward without attempting to break his fall. He was starting to lose consciousness.
Meanwhile Park jumped off to the other side of the chopper and fired a few parting shots back at Gibbs as he ran. Gibbs ducked along with the girls, scared for them more than his own self. When he stood up after making sure they were okay, he shushed the girls gently and pried himself away from them. Nessa, the older one, grabbed her sister and led her to take cover behind Gibbs.
Gibbs turned back to the fleeing Park. He watched Tony, hanging limp as a ragdoll in Damon’s arms, covered in his own blood. Then he looked back at Park and without another thought, took aim. Park was hit twice, first in the neck, second in the back of his head. He was dead before his body hit the ground.
Gibbs ran to where Damon was holding Tony in his arms, putting pressure on the bullet hole in Tony’s shoulder to stem the free flow of blood.
“Tony? Hold on, it’s not so bad, baby, just hold on…”
Baby? Gibbs frowned.
There was something… intimate, and familiar, about the way Damon touched Tony, and in the way he spoke to him. Before he could make sense of any of it, the warehouse doors opened again and Ziva and McGee burst out. Ziva immediately sized up the situation and ran towards the children, making sure they were alright.
“How is he?” She asked, turning to look at Tony, but no one replied.
The distant sound of sirens was like music to everyone’s ears. “I’ll go get the paramedics here,” McGee said and took off running.
Gibbs just stood there, watching his unconscious agent. Tony was not permitted to die yet, and as far as Gibbs was concerned he will never ever be. So yeah, he was not worried. He wouldn’t allow himself to be. Tony was going to be just fine. He had to be.
He decided to focus on his source of confusion instead. Damon took off his jacket and wrapped it around Tony’s thigh tightly to control the bleeding. Gibbs watched as Damon pulled the agent back into his hefty arms, whispering words of comfort into his ear, even rocking him gently.
When did this happen? Why did Gibbs not see this?
Of course Gibbs already knew the answer to the last one. He didn’t see it because he’d closed his eyes, shut Tony out months ago.
Gibbs swallowed the lump of emotion lodged in his throat and looked away. That’s when he smelled gasoline. The chopper’s busted up fuel tank was leaking.
“Get away,” he ordered hurriedly, coming towards the duo.
For a second, Damon looked up at him with astonishment and even disappointment in his eyes. Gibbs squinted back, not understanding the look thrown his way but prioritizing for the danger of the situation. “This thing’s about to blow. Get away from it!”
“Oh!” Damon exclaimed and promptly stood up. He gathered Tony into his arms and together they ran for the cover of warehouse’s side wall fast as they could. Ziva herded the girls and with them, ran ahead of the men.
Sure enough, the helicopter burst into flames, with Wan’s body still inside. A violent explosion followed that sent pieces of wreckage and body parts flying everywhere. Through the smoke and the echoing boom still ringing in his ears, Gibbs watched Damon hold on to Tony like he was the most precious thing in his world, shielding him with his own body from the debris. Gibbs felt like he was intruding on a private moment and looked away.
“Ziver!” He ran to the woman whose maternal instincts were now in full force, and helped her shield the little girls with their larger bodies.
Minutes later, McGee and the paramedics met with Gibbs and party half-way. Two of them took the children from Ziva but she continued to linger, talking to them gently. Damon laid Tony out on a stretcher and stepped away, letting the professionals do their work.
“What’s his name?” A paramedic asked.
“Special Agent Anthony DiNozzo,” Damon responded clearly.
The paramedic nodded and turned to Tony, opening his eyelids and shining a light into his pupils. “Agent DiNozzo? Can you hear me? Yeah, he’s definitely out.”
Gibbs turned to Ziva and McGee. “You okay?” he asked, attempting to distract himself from the disturbing sight of Tony’s inanimate form surrounded by medics.
Ziva and McGee nodded, they looked mostly uninjured. Ziva had bruises on her knuckles and sprinkles of ash in her hair from the explosion, but other than that she seemed fine.
“Commander?” Gibbs asked.
“Stable. Another team of paramedics has him.” McGee replied.
“Let him know his girls are safe.”
McGee nodded and headed inside, just as they spotted Agents Andover and Braun escorting some of the henchmen still left alive out of the warehouse.
Gibbs spotted Ziva watching Damon and Tony carefully, but she didn’t look surprised. He raised an eyebrow at her, at which she shrugged. “He must have followed me from the gym.”
Something told Gibbs it wasn’t Ziva that Damon came after, and he could tell she knew it too.
Meanwhile the paramedics strapped Tony and loaded him into the waiting ambulance. One of the paramedics turned to Damon, “Are you related to him, Sir?”
“Uh, no,” came the despondent response.
Gibbs came forward, “I’m his medical next of kin.”
“Alright, Sir, we’re taking him to Bethesda. Agent DiNozzo’s vitals are stable but he’s lost a lot of blood. He will need surgery immediately. Would you like to come along or follow us there?”
“I’m coming with,” Gibbs said, instructing Agent Braun to bring his car.
He climbed in beside Tony, habit prompting him to instantly clasp his hand, cold and insensate as it was. As the doors closed, he caught a glimpse of the tall figure standing outside, eyes transfixed at Tony. Damon looked pale and tired, and distressed beyond belief.
He didn’t take his eyes off Tony until the very last second.
Tony drifted in and out of consciousness for an eternity. He could feel the drugs coursing through his system, keeping him sedated but not quite. Now and again he’d black out completely, not remembering where he was, what was going on.
He could have sworn he saw Damon, at the warehouse, their crime scene. But what could he possibly be doing there? He remembered his indignation at being picked up like a child and manhandled by the big lug, even as he’d felt relief course through him for exactly the same reasons.
Open your eyes, baby, please… you’re okay, you’re okay…
Tony followed the sound of those remembered words through a long and dark tunnel until he broke out into the light. His eyes hurt at the brightness of a stark white lamp overhead. Damn, that looked awfully familiar.
“Tony? Can you hear me?”
That voice was not Damon’s, it was Gibbs’. A hand came to rest on his sternum when he tried to turn towards it.
Tony’s eyes felt heavy and he was forced to close them again. Couldn’t be Gibbs, could it? His hand was held by another, a warm one, as warm as the furnace that Werth was. Maybe it was him. That big lug really didn’t know how to accept rejection… he rejected rejection?
“It’s okay, son, you’re okay.”
Son. Gibbs then. Poor guy was listed as his medical guardian on Tony’s forms, he’d have to be here pretending he was related somewhat. Tony stirred himself awake, not sure what had happened with the operation.
“It’s all taken care of, the bad guys are gone.”
“The girls?” He asked, his voice barely recognizable to himself.
“Safe, thanks to you.”
Tony relaxed as the voice continued to whisper praise and encouragement into his ear. The warm hand caressed his cheek and lightly scratched his hair. Goddamnit, this was so weird. Couldn’t be Gibbs; this was simply not his MO. Tony chalked it up to drug-induced hallucinations and let himself be pulled under once again.
At some point he figured he was being jostled and moved, and forced his eyes open again. He was being wheeled into the ER, people running alongside his gurney, none of them he recognized. That’s when he remembered – needles.
Funny how bullets didn’t bother him but those prickly little shits scared the bejeezus out of him. Tony panicked, struggling to get up and walk away even if the rational part of his brain knew he wasn’t going to make it two steps on his own. But surely he didn’t need to be in the hospital. The bullets had gone through clean. Flesh wounds healed on their own, didn’t they?
Before he knew it, more strangers were hovering above him, holding him down and he couldn’t move. He panicked even more, really, really not wanting to do this again. That’s when a new voice echoed through his subconscious, barking orders in that familiarly authoritative tone that had the strange ability to both bully him and make him feel safe all at once.
“Calm down, DiNozzo, it’ll be over in a minute.”
Tony wheezed violently but quit struggling, compelled to obey that voice even in his condition. The world started to spin and fast, it was a good thing he was already flat on his back.
“He’s going into shock,” someone shouted.
More hyperactivity broke out around him. Once again Gibbs faded into the background leaving Tony to drown in a sea of masked faces and frantic voices. Someone punched in one of those damn needles into his arm and Tony could do nothing but lie there. Another pair of hands was busy cutting open his expensive Versace shirt and Salvatore Ferragamo slacks. Hospitals made him feel helpless, more than he felt on a usual basis. He finally went completely under, and didn’t surface until after the surgery.
Abby was with McGee down in her lab when Ziva called. She heard the urgency in his voice, saw the anxiety in his face as he rushed out without saying goodbye. She counted the seconds and minutes pacing in her lab until he finally called back.
So here she was, with Ziva and Tim in Bethesda’s waiting room, waiting for news on Tony’s condition. Ducky was on his way, and Gibbs was already with Tony somewhere inside.
Abby remembered the time, as a young girl, when she hated the stench of hospitals – that repellent mix of chemicals and bodily fluids and disinfectants everywhere. It’d make her nauseous and she hated herself for being weak and unable to stand her ground whenever she visited one of her grandparents. That was when Abby, being Abby, decided she was going to beat this damn thing. As it turned out she not only beat it, she joined it, in a manner of speaking.
Today, forensic scientist Abby Sciuto lived her days surrounded by chemicals and dealt with all sorts of objectionable stenches without batting an eyelid. And she did it for a very good cause. But dealing with death and sickness still didn’t come easy when it involved one of her own.
It was after ten in the night and she’d been sitting here quietly, calmly, for an hour.
Gibbs came out at last, looking haggard and older beyond his years. She didn’t need him to tell her how much he hated this part. Tony had nearly died on them on twelve different occasions (that’s right – she kept counts. Ziva was on six, McGee four). Most days he’d walk out of it on his own two feet, but some days he didn’t. Those were the days that she dreaded the most.
“How is he?” She asked him, and Ziva and McGee joined her.
“In surgery. Shouldn’t be too long, two hours max.”
Ducky walked in and Gibbs went to him to bring him up to speed. That’s when everyone noticed Damon waiting a few feet away, leaning against the corridor wall.
Gibbs frowned and turned towards the trio – Abby, Ziva, Tim – who all threw him identically nonchalant looks, one that said ‘it is what it is’ and hopefully also conveyed their full acceptance. He looked irritated but mostly because he was the only one who didn’t know. He walked past Ducky and went to Damon instead.
“You shouldn’t have.”
Damon straightened up at his approach. “Shouldn’t have what, Gunny?”
Gibbs growled. “It was an agency operation, and you are a civilian now! You had no business entering that warehouse and meddling with a crime scene.”
Damon looked straight ahead at nothing and nobody, and did not respond to Gibbs’ scolding.
Abby couldn’t stand it.
These past few days, everyone on this team including Tony and herself had done Damon wrong somehow. And despite it all, Damon had risked his life to save Tony’s. Everyone knew the chain of events by now. Were it not for Damon, Park and Wan would have definitely taken Tony and she didn’t want to think of what might have happened next.
She rushed forward, refusing to let Gibbs join the ranks of all of them wrongdoers, but Ducky stopped her. The ME didn’t know the whole story but his wisdom of years told him this was not the right moment to intervene.
“Spying on Ziva’s conversation, following her to the warehouse, going in unarmed? Exactly what were you trying to prove out there, Marine?”
“Help me understand then! What the hell did you think you were –?”
“I love him.”
Abby blinked, and everyone froze. Even Gibbs was taken aback. “What did you say?”
“You heard me, Sir.”
More awkward silence followed. Damon looked right into Gibbs’ eyes and the Marines stared off, each refusing to be the first to blink or look away.
Abby squeezed Ducky’s hand on her arm and gently pulled away. Her silver fox may be oblivious, pig-headed and not exactly her favorite person right now. But he cared more for Tony than DiNozzo Senior ever did, even if he’d never admit it out loud. He deserved an explanation too.
“Gibbs,” she tried. “Tony and Damon dated briefly, about a week ago. W-we all knew about it.”
“Why did I never see you two together?” Gibbs asked Damon directly. What he really wanted to know was why nobody bothered to tell him. Was he not supposed to be the alpha of this pack?
For the first time, Damon’s gaze wavered. “I wanted to, but… things never really, we weren’t like… it was…” he sighed and gave up at last. “It’s complicated.”
“Un-complicate it. Are you two together or not?”
Abby winced, feeling great sympathy for what Damon must be going through.
“I don’t know, Sir.”
“In my experience, that’s a yes-or-no question, Marine.”
Damon lowered his eyes. “I guess, no.”
Gibbs nodded curtly. “Thanks for your help today. But seeing as Tony doesn’t actually want you around, you better leave.”
He turned and started to walk away. Abby looked at Damon, and their eyes met. She had his back, and if he wanted to stay here and fight for Tony, she would support him no matter what.
Damon straightened up to his full height. “I’d like to hear that from Tony, Sir.”
Gibbs stopped, turned back around to glare at him. “I’m telling you… leave Tony alone.”
“Because you are out of control, you don’t play by the rules, and you are dangerous! I don’t want you anywhere near him!”
Damon was stunned into momentary silence and so was everyone else. Anyone else in his position might have given up by then, possibly peed their pants even because Gibbs yelling into one’s face was a terrifying ordeal to live through. But the marine held his ground. Nervous as he must have been, he met Gibbs’ steel gaze with one of his own.
“With all due respect, Sir, what gives you the right to speak for Tony?”
“What gives me the right? What gives me the right? I’m his… He’s my…”
But Gibbs was unable to finish that sentence. Seconds passed, or maybe years. Without another word, the veteran turned away and stalked off, back into the OR where no one had the courage to refute him.
Abby looked at Ducky, who nodded reassuringly before going in after Gibbs. Then she turned to Damon who crossed his arms and went back to leaning against the wall, intent on staying right there at that same spot, waiting to hear that Tony was okay. She walked up to him, and mimicked his posture as she stood beside him.
Tony might never forgive her for this. But after what had happened tonight, Abby couldn’t in good conscience leave Damon hanging any longer. He deserved to know why Tony led him on the other night only to break his heart come morning. He deserved to be able to sleep in peace instead of torturing himself with thoughts of what he should or shouldn’t have done. He deserved to know it was not his fault.
“Damon, I think it’s time you and I had a little talk.”
February 2, 2008. Bethesda, MD
Gibbs ordered McGee and Ziva to go home sometime after midnight once they heard the surgery had been successful and Tony was being moved into the ICU. Ducky left too, needing to go home and tend to his sick mother. But Abby had outright refused despite all his huffing and puffing. Couldn’t say he was surprised.
Werth stayed where he was, concentrating on the tips of his boots intensely.
Two hours later, Doctor Perkins came out and Gibbs and Abby stood up to meet him. Tony was awake, barely.
“He’s still weak because he lost a lot of blood, and a little loopy thanks to the morphine, but okay otherwise. One of you can go see him if you like.”
Abby looked at Gibbs, who looked at Damon. Damon had stepped up closer when he heard Doctor Perkins come out. His face wore a look of hope and relief and such desperation, Gibbs did not have the heart to tell him off again.
“You should go,” Abby suggested and a second later, Damon nodded his agreement.
Gibbs walked into the room that Tony was now situated in. He was dressed in a light green hospital gown and swathed in post-op bandages. And he was fidgeting because he was now keenly aware of the IV needle stuck in his hand.
“Hey, hey,” Gibbs trotted up and pushed Tony’s arm down on the bed before he could wrench it out.
“Boss!” Tony exclaimed, and he probably meant it to be loud but it just came out weak.
“How’re you feeling?”
“I got shot,” Tony declared ruefully.
Gibbs smiled and sat down on the chair beside him. “I know, Tony, I was there, remember?”
Tony frowned, really trying to. “Portmans okay?”
“They’re all fine.” Gibbs squeezed his arm. “What you did tonight, Tony? It was foolish and reckless, and very brave.”
Tony grinned drowsily. “Not bravery, Boss. Knew you had my six all the time.”
Gibbs winced regretfully, since it was actually Damon who’d saved the day. “Tony, what do you remember? About how things went down?”
Tony squinted at first, then his eyes widened. “Damon.”
“Yeah, he was there.”
Tony suddenly looked a bit more lucid than before. “I guess I should thank him. My frikkin’ hero.”
Gibbs leaned forward. “Way I see it – you risked your life for Portman and his two daughters. That makes you the bigger hero, DiNozzo.”
Tony looked away, the animation from seconds ago long gone. Gibbs sat back and bit his lip, wondering what was going on in his agent’s head.
That night Tony came over and found Damon and Gibbs working together on the boat, he’d seemed upset by it. Gibbs had figured he was just feeling territorial towards this new presence in their lives. So obviously, it came as a huge surprise to hear that Tony and Damon had been seeing each other. How the hell did that happen again? Now that he was thinking back to the past few days, Damon sure did like to ask questions about NCIS and the team, including Tony. Especially Tony.
Gibbs closed his eyes and cursed himself for the hundredth time. He didn’t need Abby to tell him how far off the reservation he’d strayed over the last few months.
“DiNozzo,” he started, hesitantly. “You were right, it has been weird between us for awhile, but I want you to know that… I’m still here. I may not be able to show it often but, I’m so very proud of you, kiddo… you listening? … Tony?”
Gibbs sighed and rubbed his jaw tiredly. Just his luck that the one time he managed to truly speak his heart was the time Tony chose to fall back to sleep.
He leaned back and made himself as comfortable as was possible in a hospital chair, watching over Tony.
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