“Your son is in the first bay Mr DiNozzo. We only permit one visitor in the ICU so if you’ll give me a minute I’ll ask Agent McGee to step outside.”
Anthony DiNozzo Senior nodded, his eyes not leaving the figure on the bed just the other side of the glass. Director Vance had warned him that Tony was critical, but such a vague medical term hadn’t prepared him for this; for the monitors and the tubes, for the fact that his son would be so pale. He became aware that he had company, and turned to see Tim McGee standing beside him, almost as pale as Tony, looking like he was hanging on by a thread. “I...I’m sorry sir, it’s all my fault.”
“That’s not what I heard Tim; don’t blame yourself, I know Tony won’t.”
“Maybe...just wish he’d wake up so I can thank him. Sorry Mr DiNozzo, I shouldn’t be keeping you; you go in, I don’t like him to be on his own.”
With a comforting pat on Tim’s back DiNozzo walked slowly toward the bed. Faced with the reality of what could happen to his son on any given day the suave exterior crumbled; he stumbled to the chair beside Tony’s bed and sat before his legs gave way. “My God Tony...I never knew...”
Three Hours Later
“You’re sure he’ll be okay?” DiNozzo glanced over his shoulder, reluctant to leave Tony’s bedside.
“Gibbs is with him, and if there’s any change he’ll call. You should get some food, the hospital cafeteria won’t be up to your usual standard I know, but...”
“Believe me Tim, whatever I eat right now it won’t taste of anything, can’t believe I’m hungry, how does that happen when your son is fighting to live.”
Tim shrugged, he wasn’t hungry, hadn’t been since he pressed his hands in Tony’s blood, but Ducky had made him promise he’d take Tony’s dad for food, and that he’d be sure to eat something himself.
The cafeteria was busy and it took a little while to get a table, eventually they managed to find one in a corner; if it wasn’t exactly quiet at least it gave the illusion of being out of the hustle and bustle. They both made an effort to eat their sandwiches, but truth was after a few bites they had both eaten all they could, the coffee wasn’t great; it was fresh and hot and right now that was good enough. DiNozzo put down his cup. “I don’t mind the coffee, just wish they didn’t put it in plastic cups. Tim, have you been home since…the shooting?”
“Not sure I want to; Gibbs bought me a change of clothes, I’ll go later, when…”
“Yeah, when he wakes up. Doctor Walker says he’s doing okay, the surgery took a lot out of him, he’s just taking his time, giving his body time to heal. Tim…I want to thank you, what you did for Tony.”
“What I did? I almost got him killed, that’s what I did.”
DiNozzo shook his head. “That’s not what I’ve been hearing.”
“Don’t know any other way of looking at it. Martin wanted me dead; look at me, not a scratch. Tony, he almost died; the doctor told us, they almost lost him, on the table, his heart stopped…he…just for a few seconds he was…”
“No Tim, you have to stop this. Tony knew what he was doing, and I know when he’s awake he’ll tell you he’d do it all over if he had to. You saved his life, oh I know you can’t see it right now, but the same doctor who told you they almost lost him told me Tony wouldn’t have made it to the ER without you.”
Tim wasn’t ready to accept any kind of praise for what he did, he was still too wound up; the hours since Tony had been hit had been a roller-coaster of emotions. His lowest point had come when Doctor Walker had stepped into the waiting room, Tim had been certain he’d come to tell them Tony was dead; mercifully that wasn’t the case, but the doctor didn’t sugar-coat the pill. Tony had pulled through by the skin of his teeth, and he still had a long, hard road ahead, infection was always a danger, and with his previous medical history they were keeping an especially close watch on his breathing. It was a small mercy that the bullet hadn’t penetrated a lung; the damage it had done as it ricocheted through Tony’s body was more than enough for anyone to cope with.
“Tim, you still with me?” DiNozzo had been watching Tim with growing concern, the shadows under the young man’s eyes had seemed to darken even in the short time they’d been sitting here.
“Huh? Oh…spaced out again I guess, done that a few times.” He glanced down at the plates of half-eaten sandwiches. “Are you done?”
“I’ve had all I want, how about you?”
“I’m finished, we should be heading back.”
Tim gathered up their tray and put it in the rack for collection; before they headed back to the ICU Tim picked up a Coke, coffee and tea to go. “Abs will make do with Coke, just wish they had a Caf-Pow machine.”
DiNozzo smiled, Tony had regaled him more than once about Tim’s ‘Boy Scout’ tendencies; when he woke up he’d be sure to tell him he’d had an example at first hand. Exhausted and worried as he was, Tim was still looking out for his friends. “Tony’s right, you’re one of the good guys.”
“I’m nothing special, he’s…Mr DiNozzo, he…maybe this isn’t the right time I don’t know…”
“Spit it out.”
Tim slowed his pace, giving himself more time. “He loves you so much, and you…sometimes…lots of times, you let him down, he won’t tell you but it hurts him; he deserves better.”
“You think I don’t know that? Every time I do it I promise it won’t happen again, I...just can’t help myself. There’s always another deal to do, another party to go to.”
“I get that you have to make money, it’s what you do, but can’t you at least let him know if you can’t visit? I’ve seen him, so many times...he buys tickets, makes reservations and you’re a no-show, if you could see him...”
DiNozzo scraped his hand through his hair and sighed, deep down he knew this was how Tony felt, but to have his inadequacies pointed out by one of Tony’s friends, somehow that made it so much worse. “I’m not going to make excuses Tim, because there aren’t any, I’m unreliable, always have been. Tony’s mom, she used to say I had a magpie mind, always chasing after the next shiny object, I neglected them both, and I promised myself after she died I’d do better...guess you know how much my promises are worth.”
He looked so downhearted Tim wished he could take back what he’d said, they were all on the edge right now and opening up more wounds wasn’t what anyone needed. “I shouldn’t have said...it’s not my place.”
“Can’t think of anyone better. You know the thing is, I am proud of him; never more so than after what he did yesterday, I love him so much...”
“Don’t tell me, tell him; and when you’re done telling him, tell him again.” They’d arrived at the ICU waiting room. “You go to Tony, he may be out of things, but it won’t hurt to start telling him how you feel. Tell Gibbs I have something sort of like coffee, when you’re ready for a break one of us will sit with him. Go, you’re all the family he’s got, don’t let him down again.”
“I wish I could make you that promise. We both know my track record...it won’t be easy, but I will try to do better.” He caught the look Tim gave him. “Guess that won’t be too hard...and Tim, I’m not the only family he has, not by a long way.”
One Hour Ten Minutes Later
Ducky woke with a start, he’d promised himself he wouldn’t go to sleep again, but they’d been waiting so long. He smiled down at Abby, her head resting on his knee, her legs stretched out across three chairs, sleeping the sleep of the emotionally exhausted. Gibbs had his eyes closed; he wasn’t fooling Ducky who knew from long experience that Jethro could go from seemingly asleep to wide-awake in a heartbeat, he wasn’t unduly concerned about his old friend, Tim on the other hand was worrying him a great deal. He still hadn’t slept, and was reaching the point of collapse, they’d all tried unsuccessfully to persuade him to leave the hospital, each had offered a bed knowing full well he wouldn’t want to go back to his apartment; it was all to no avail, he was determined to stay until Tony returned to consciousness.
Tim caught his eye and gave a tired smile. “Hey Ducky, can I get you anything, tea, water...?”
“Thank you, no. I don’t think my stomach can take any more hospital tea, I will go for drinks when Abby wakes up. You really should try to rest, how about taking a leaf out of Abigail’s book and lying down, there are plenty of coats you can use as a pillow?”
“I’m good, can’t seem to relax enough to sleep...it’s been so long.”
They sat together doing what they’d been doing off and on since Tony came back from surgery, staring at the clock, glancing occasionally at the door, hoping for news...
The door opened and a nurse appeared, she turned to Tim. “Agent McGee, he’s awake, and he’s asking for you.”
“Me? I...Boss, you should go first.”
Gibbs took hold of Tim’s elbow and helped him up, and pointed him toward the door. “He’s not asking to see me, go Tim.”
Tim hesitated at the entrance into the ICU. Despite wanting nothing more than to see Tony, to talk with him, now he had the chance to do both Tim was unsure what to do, what if Tony was mad at him for putting him in harm’s way?
“Tim, get in here, he won’t rest ‘til he’s seen you.” DiNozzo Senior was beaming, no doubt he was delighted to see Tony back in the land of the living, yet his eyes were overly bright and his voice almost a whisper, these hours had taken a toll on all of them. Suddenly galvanised, Tim hurried to the bedside. Tony still looked sick beyond measure, but his eyes were open, only just, but he was awake at last.
“Tony...man it’s so good to see you.”
Tony blinked and turned his head just a fraction to look at his friend. “You’re really...okay...scared...”
Tim was sure his ears must be deceiving him, because he could swear Tony sounded worried about him. He was quick to offer reassurance. “Okay? How could I not be okay, when I have you watching out for me? Tony...it’s so...I don’t know...you saved me...never be able to...”
“Don’t go all...Probie on me...how about...a sentence...?”
Tim took hold of Tony’s hand, something he’d never have dreamed of doing when he was the probie; he was grinning like a loon he knew, but he didn’t care, this was one of the very best moments of his life. “A sentence...here goes. Tony, I’ll never in my whole life be able to thank you for what you did; just know that however and whenever you need me, I’m going to be there for you, like you were for me.” He squeezed Tony’s hand, already he could see Tony flagging, didn’t matter, he’d woken up and given time he would get stronger, all they had to do was give him time.
Tony’s smile was weak, but to Tim it was the greatest sight in the world. “That’s a...good sentence.”
This story will be continued in the next letter of the A-Z of Tony/Tim friendship...