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The burn bag at Bethesda
by: twoweevils (Send Feedback)
Series: - No Series - #1
Chapters: 001 Word Count: 3884
Character(s): Jethro Gibbs, Tony DiNozzo, Ducky Mallard, Abby Sciuto, Timothy McGee, Caitlyn (Kate) Todd
Category(ies): Angst/Drama, Episode Related, First Time, Hurt/Comfort, Romance
Episode(s): 2-22 SWAK
Summary: I'm giving this to Dr. Brad Pitt. He'll give it to you if I cark, because dead is the only place I want to be when you read this.
Author Notes: Originally posted separately in response to the NCIS Flashfic "Epistolary" and "In Sickness and Health" challenges. But it's really one story, so I'm posting it here as such.
From the burn bag at Bethesda...
After the burn bag at Bethesda...
I'm giving this to Dr. Brad Pitt. He'll give it to you if I cark, because dead is the only place I want to be when you read this.
Okay. I'll start again. You won't even be able to read this, it's a mess. Who knew a pen could be this heavy? That smudge in the corner is phlegm, so you might want to get Ducky to fluoroscope this to kill any remaining germs. For God's sake, don't let him read it!
I just want to tell you that all the good parts of me are because of you. I know I've been a pain in the ass a lot of the time. And every time you chewed me out I deserved it.
You're a great boss, Boss. You did everything you could to pound some sense into me. You can tell Ducky to put "Suicide by Stupidity" on my death certificate, because this is all my fault. I'm just glad Kate's going to be okay.
I can't write much more, so I better get to the real point. But I don't have to say it, do I? Because you know. I think you knew before I did. If I get better, this letter is getting burned and I'm going to do what I should have done as soon as I figured it out.
The stupid crap that stopped me before won't make a difference. I don't give a shit about careers or rules. And you better not either, Gibbs because I'm not taking no for an answer.
But if you're reading this, then I blew it. I missed my chance and so did you. If you ever get another chance with someone else, just do it. Wherever I am now, I miss you like hell.
"You're home! You're home! You're home!" Abby launched herself at Tony, wrapping her arms around him and planting sticky, dark red kisses on his cheek.
Tony staggered just a little bit. He deftly avoided the spiky parts of Abby's attire and let one hand slide down her back and come to rest low on her hip. "I should catch deadly plagues more often if this is what I get."
"Only you could turn pneumonic plague into an excuse for a good grope." Kate followed Tony into the apartment and dropped his bag near the closet.
"Hey! Nearly died over here! Cut me a little PC slack, there, Katy!" He hung his jacket on a hook in the hall.
Kate shook her head. "He is all yours, Abby. If I'm not back at work soon, Gibbs is going to make me walk to Arlington."
"Come and sit down. You must be tired. You look tired." Abby pulled Tony into his living room and onto the couch. She shook out a quilted throw made of black velvet and lace and trimmed with dark red ribbon. There were tiny skulls embroidered in silver thread on some of the squares. "Ducky says you need to keep warm, so I made this for you."
She tucked it over Tony's knees like he was an old geezer being taken to the park. The underside of the quilt was purple flannel with bats on it - some kind of weird goth pajama material. "I'm better now, Abbs. Really. I feel good." She ignored him, made sure he was tucked in, then curled up at his feet with her head resting on his knee.
"Well, you look
like hell," Kate said, with a cheerful smile. She pulled a parcel out of her purse and dropped it in Tony's lap before heading out the door. "Glad you're not dead, DiNozzo."
"Right backatcha, Kate." Tony looked inside the bag. It was the as-yet-unreleased season 1 of V.I.P. -- Kate really must have been worried if she lifted her Pamela Anderson embargo and
bought a bootleg DVD for him.
"Ah, there you are, Tony." Ducky brushed raindrops from his overcoat. "Miserable day for it." Mallard wheeled something the size of a large, rolling suitcase toward him.
Tony eyed it suspiciously. "You moving in, Ducky?"
"Not at all. This is the Eclipse 5000
." He set the case down and unsnapped the catch. "The latest in portable oxygen delivery systems."
Tony rolled his eyes and sighed. "I don't need oxygen anymore. I'll be back at work next week."
"You'll be back at work when I clear you, Agent DiNozzo, and not a day before." Ducky's command voice was different from Gibbs's, but just as effective in matters medical. "In any case," he said, unpacking the sleek little machine, "you may find it refreshing."
"I love oxygen!" Abby got up to help Ducky find a free electrical socket. "They've got an oxygen bar at that new club I was telling you about, Tony. It makes you feel kind of goofy. But in a good way...McGee!" She hurried over to the door and took some shopping bags from a very wet and miserable-looking McGee. "What took you so long?"
"I had a long list, Abby." He carried the bags into Tony's kitchen. "You should know, you wrote it."
Tony let his head drop back on the couch and closed his eyes. He could hear Abby and McGee banging around in his kitchen and arguing about whether the peanut butter should go in the fridge or in the cupboard. Maybe they'd let him back in the hospital if he asked nicely.
Ducky draped the cannula over the back of Tony's neck and switched the oxygen machine on. "Use it whenever you feel fatigued. It runs on AC and DC so you can pull it round with you by the handle."
"Yes, Doctor." Tony knew that there was no point arguing. If nothing else, the last few weeks had taught him that medical personnel always win. They prey on the weak and bully them into compliance.
"You had a very near miss, Tony." Ducky said quietly, as he fiddled with the knobs on the machine. "I'm sure Dr. Pitt was frank with you about your chances of making a full recovery. Your physical condition at the time of your infection kept you alive, but your respiratory system may never be what it was. You mustn't push yourself."
"Got it." Tony put the cannula in place and took a deep breath. It did make you feel kind of goofy. "I guess I'm excused from phys. ed. for awhile."
"Don't worry." Ducky gripped Tony's hand for a moment. "Just do as I say and you'll be right as rain, my boy."
"Thanks, Ducky." Right as rain.
Tony looked out the window where it was coming down in buckets. He gave Ducky a wan smile and took another deep breath of oxygen.
"All right, you two." Ducky called to Abby and McGee. "In the van with you. Our invalid needs his rest and you both have work to do."
"Ducky!" Abby came out of the kitchen, stricken. "We can't leave him alone!"
"He'll be perfectly fine, Abigail." Ducky put on his hat and patted his pockets for the keys to the van.
Abby looked mutinous. "It's his first day home! He needs a nurse or something!"
"I'm okay, Abbs." Tony pulled the DVD out of the gift bag. "Really. Me and Pammy are going to have some quality time this afternoon."
"Well, if you're sure." Abby handed him a glass of orange juice and fussed with the quilt. She dropped a kiss on his forehead. "Phone me if you need anything
"He won't need anything
for weeks, Abby. Believe me." McGee was still trying to get the circulation back in his fingers. "Tony, I left those--" McGee cut his eyes toward the door. Ducky was helping Abby into her shiny black rain slicker. He lowered his voice. "--things you wanted in the drawer with your pots and pans."
Tony's face lit up. "How'd you sneak them past Kate?"
"I've learned a trick or two," McGee said, with a self-satisfied grin. "Whatever you do, don't tell her! Or Gibbs!"
"I owe you for this, Probie." Tony walked McGee to the door, one hand on his shoulder. "Seriously."
"Right, then. Let's be off." Ducky pointed to the oxygen machine, which Tony had already shut off and unhooked himself from. "Remember what I said, Tony."
"Will do." Tony closed the door and leaned with his head against the cool wood for a moment. It was good to be out of the hospital. Tiring, but good. He picked up his orange juice and tugged the oxygen machine into the kitchen with him, heading straight for the pot drawer.
There it was. A stack of gorgeous, crisp, manila folders with neatly typed labels. Copies of every open case the team had caught since he got sick.
The worst thing about being sick, aside from nearly dying and all, was being out of the loop at work. He'd pumped McGee and Kate for details whenever they visited, but, by Gibbs's order, they wouldn't talk about anything work-related. It drove him nuts. He was bored and felt like his brain was turning to mush. There were only so many crosswords you could do before you started seeing those little squares in your sleep. And Sudoku just made his head hurt.
"Come here, you beautiful things!" He tucked the stack under his arm and carried the files and his juice into his bedroom, pulling the Eclipse 5000
It was dark when Tony opened his eyes. A soft gurgling sound. Hospital?
No. Bethesda wasn't famous for Egyptian cotton pillowcases, like the one under his cheek. Home.
Other than the aquarium-filter bubbling of the oxygen machine, the apartment was quiet.
Tony shifted a little and heard a cascade of papers spilling off the bed.
"I'm going to put my boot so far up McGee's butt..." Gibbs stood silhouetted in the doorway of Tony's bedroom.
"Hey, Boss." Tony scrambled off the bed, trying to put the case files in some kind of order, succeeding in tangling himself in the oxygen machine's tubing. "What are you--"
"You're on sick leave, DiNozzo." Gibbs reached over and switched on Tony's bedside lamp, then picked up the stack of folders and flipped through them. "No work for you until you're back in the -- what's this note about checking civilian hospitals in the Benedict case?"
"I looked at the PM report from the pathologist at Norfolk," Tony said, carefully disentangling himself from the oxygen hose. "She may have fallen off her horse a few times, but with all those healed fractures and faded bruises, I think maybe Benedict used her for a punching bag."
"And if she didn't want to report it, she'd stay away from the base hospital." Gibbs nodded. "Good call. Still doesn't get McGee off the hook. Or you."
"Well, according to the University of Michigan's MVP of 1992 and our own Dr. Mallard, you may not have DiNozzo to kick around for much longer." Tony flipped the oxygen off, brushed past Gibbs and into the bathroom.
The mirror showed him that Kate was right. He looked like hell, with an entire set of luggage under his eyes. Tony took a breath that ended in a cough. When Gibbs hadn't shown up with the rest of the crew this afternoon, Tony figured he wouldn't see him for a few days. Now he had a decision to make. He remembered the absolute clarity he'd felt in that hospital bed. Tony could read anybody and, even behind those surgical masks, he knew that Dr. Brad and Nurse Emma figured he was 10-7.
So he'd asked for some paper and a pen. He'd wanted to write a couple of things down while he could think clearly. Brad had sealed the envelope with surgical tape – Tony was in no position to SWAK it – and promised to get it to Gibbs if things went south. Brad hadn't even bothered to lie and tell him he could give it to Gibbs himself. Tony had felt better after that, at least mentally. It hadn't been a bad life, if you squinted. And he only had one real regret.
"You pass out in there, DiNozzo?" Gibbs tapped on the door.
"Just enjoying the privacy of my own personal toilet, Boss."
"I'm making you a sandwich and you're going to eat it, understood?"
"Got it." Tony ran the water and wet his face, pulling his damp fingers through his hair. Where was that clarity? Once he was out of isolation, Tony had spent a lot of time planning how things would be different between him and Gibbs when he got better. First chance he had, he was going to tell Gibbs. He was going to show
Gibbs. But the reality of Gibbs being right here, of finally being alone with him for the first time in weeks, was weakening Tony's resolve.
"Hey, Gibbs?" Tony nearly collided with Gibbs, who was coming out of the kitchen with a sandwich big enough to choke a hungry Marine.
"Back in bed, DiNozzo." Gibbs gave him a light shove.
This business of people ordering him around in his own house was getting old, Boss or no Boss. "Look, they let me out of the hospital. I'm perfectly capable of-– " Tony took a wheezy breath and coughed. Gibbs pointed to the bed.
Eating was preferable to talking until he could figure out what to say, so, with a quiet, "Thanks, Boss," he took the sandwich, got back on the bed, and turned on the TV.
A moment later, Gibbs came back into the room with his own sandwich and two cans of beer. He handed one to Tony. "Don't tell Ducky."
Tony grinned and took a bite of the first real food he'd had in weeks. He let out a little groan of happiness. This wasn't just a sandwich, it was a sangwich
– prosciutto, provolone, salami, and
mortadella on a chewy roll, six kinds of delicious.
Gibbs was still standing there, sandwich in one hand, beer in the other. "Why don't you have a chair in here like normal people?"
"Why don't you let me eat in the living room like normal people? You see room in here for a chair?"
"You have a point." Gibbs kicked off his shoes. "Move over." Tony scooted away from his customary place in the middle of the bed. Gibbs settled in on the other side and started eating.
Gibbs sitting next to him. Gibbs on his bed
. Tony took a long pull from his beer. It was cold, and wonderfully beer-like. I can handle this.
On TV, an elegantly coiffed woman "processed" a crime scene. The woman, who was wearing a whole lot of lip gloss and four-inch heels, tottered around the body while her male co-worker, in a surfeit of foolish optimism, dusted a used kleenex for prints.
Gibbs snorted. "You actually enjoy this crap, DiNozzo?"
"I'm just here for the fashion tips." Tony's shoulder and Gibbs's shoulder were touching. He should say something. He should just blurt it out and see what happened. Tony felt Gibbs shifting a little. Maybe he should keep eating. Maybe he should have sprung for the king-sized bed.
"What did you mean before?" Gibbs asked, his eyes never leaving the TV screen.
Tony finished chewing before he answered. "Before what?"
Gibbs glanced at Tony, then back at the TV. "When you said I wouldn't have you to kick around anymore."
"Don't know if I'll ever be back to normal." Tony put the sandwich down. "My lungs are scarred. You've already got one agent who wheezes when he runs, you don't need two."
"Bullshit." Gibbs talked around a mouthful of food. "You're going to be fine."
"Yeah, but what if--"
"You're going to be fine, DiNozzo," Gibbs said, with the same defy-me-at-your-peril glare he had used on Tony in the isolation ward. "Now are we going to watch this garbage all night, or does your TV get ESPN?"
Wordlessly, Tony keyed the remote. Baseball. Not as good as basketball, but better than golf. "This okay?"
"Fine." Gibbs took a swig of his beer.
The Phillies were working the Nationals over pretty good. Tony worked on his sandwich. He stole a glance at Gibbs. What was it about him? Why Gibbs of all the people he'd ever met? He was a bastard. He broke as many rules as he made. He treated people like crap. He never seemed to have fun...except when he was pissing someone off. Tony chewed the last of the roll and licked butter off his fingers. Fuck the why. It just was. "You may be a son of a bitch, Gibbs, but you make a damn fine sandwich."
"Those two skills aren't mutually exclusive, Tony." He stood up and collected Tony's plate. "You want another one?"
"Nah, I'm good." After the grey meatloaf and red jello at the hospital, real food would take some getting used to. Tony figured he'd better take it slow. And maybe taking it slow would be the best course with Gibbs, as well. Now that Gibbs had finished playing nurse, he'd leave and Tony would have more time to strategize.
When Gibbs came back, he handed Tony a large glass of orange juice. "Ducky says this is good for your potassium level. Or something."
Tony shrugged and took a sip, then set the glass on his nightstand. "You do realize that most of Ducky's patients are in no condition to have
potassium levels, right?"
"Just drink the damn juice." Gibbs got back on the bed and opened a second beer.
Tony blinked a few times. The fuck?
"Uh, Boss, what--?"
"Drink the juice, suck down the oxygen, and just do what you're told until you're cleared to go back to work." Gibbs got comfortable again. Now their arms were pressed together. "I'm not having a half-sick agent on my hands for six months."
Gibbs must be close enough to feel his heart pounding. What was he doing
here? Tony laughed a little. "Don't worry, Gibbs. I've been knocked out, beaten up, stabbed, shot at, folded, spindled, mutilated, and infected, but I'm still here."
Smiling, Gibbs moved his arm. Now it was draped across the back of the headboard. Tony froze. Is this the part where he drops his hand down and tries to feel me up?
But Gibbs seemed totally relaxed.
Tony tried to relax, too. After all, this was what he wanted, right? A golden opportunity. But all his brave words were nothing but a pile of ashes in a landfill somewhere. The ballgame was ending now, and Gibbs was stirring beside him. He'd finish his beer, bark a few more orders and be gone. Tony could take a restorative hit off the Eclipse 5000
and decide what he'd do the next
time he was alone with Gibbs. Declarations and their possibly disastrous consequences could wait.
"You need anything else from the kitchen?" Gibbs was gathering up the beer cans.
"No thanks, Boss." Tony sat up. The side of his body that had been next to Gibbs felt cold. He picked up the cannula and twirled it between his finger and thumb. The thing was, maybe there wouldn't be a next time. Gibbs could walk out that door and under the D6 bus. Gibbs could be knocked out, beaten up, stabbed, and
shot before he got his first coffee tomorrow morning.
Tony looked around his bedroom. Someone had been in and tidied up while he was away. He knew that the last morning he left for work -- less than an hour before he blew into that stupid envelope -- there'd been laundry festering in the corner by his dresser. There'd been toothpaste in the sink. He'd expected to go home that night and do laundry, not spend the night fighting for breath in a glassed-in blue room. You just never knew. Tony dropped the cannula and took a deep breath, pulling air way down into his lungs and holding it for a second or two. It hurt a little. He exhaled, slowly.
His respiratory system might have turned to shit, but he still had his balls.
"Hey, Gibbs!" Tony started up, but sat down quickly when the room tilted.
Gibbs was there, easing him back and sitting next to him on the edge of the bed. "Gibbs, I need to tell you...I mean, I want you to know--"
"I know, DiNozzo." Gibbs's hand rested on Tony's chest briefly, then he reached into his pocket.
Tony recognized the envelope in Gibbs's hand. He felt his face growing hot at the thought of Gibbs actually reading that embarrassingly sappy note. "They were supposed to burn that!"
"Guess your instructions weren't clear enough." Gibbs looked down for a minute and tossed the envelope on the bed. "People say things when they think they're dying, Tony. They make promises they can't keep."
Tony cleared his throat and sat up again, slowly this time. Gibbs knew. Tony couldn't take it back, but Gibbs was giving him an out. Tony could say he'd been out of his head with fever and they'd go back to the way things had always been. He took a sip of orange juice and looked Gibbs in the eye. "Federal Rules of Evidence, Boss. A dying declaration is admissible in court." Tony knew it wasn't exactly on point since they weren't talking about an exception to the hearsay rule and this wasn't a murder case, but it would have to do.
Gibbs looked at Tony for a long moment. His mouth turned up at one corner.
Tony only waited long enough to put his glass down before he leaned in and slid a hand around the back of Gibbs's neck. He brushed his lips lightly over Gibbs's at first, then Gibbs closed the distance between them and kissed Tony back. He tasted of beer and salami and it was the best thing ever.
But then Gibbs pulled away, holding Tony back with a light hand on his shoulder. "Not until you're back at work."
Tony laughed. "You're not--?" He looked at Gibbs's face. "You're serious."
"Yup." Gibbs smiled. "Now put that thing up your nose and get some sleep."
"Gibbs, come on." Tony watched as Gibbs got up and put on his shoes. "I'm fine. I'm not supposed to wear myself out, but I think I can manage..."
"Believe me." Gibbs sat next to Tony again and rubbed a hand up over Tony's thigh. He leaned in close brushing his lips over Tony's ear. "I will
wear you out, DiNozzo. But not tonight."
One more way too quick kiss and he was gone, taking the case files with him. Son of a bitch.
He had to hand it to Gibbs -- he was sure as hell motivated to get back in shape now! Tony drained the orange juice, looped the cannula over his ears, and turned the oxygen on. He leaned back on the pillows and felt something crumpling underneath him. It was the envelope Gibbs had thrown on the bed.
Tony pulled the envelope out and glanced at it. It was addressed to Special Agent L.J. Gibbs in a doctor's untidy hand. He turned the envelope over.
It was still sealed.
MTAC - NCIS Fic