Title: The Journey Home – Chapter One
Author: Jilly James
Beta: naelany & IcefallsTears
– – – –
Tony was really starting to hate Gibbs’ latest guide. The guy was always watching him, and more than once, Tony had detected someone trying to manipulate his emotions. Even though Tony was only latent, he’d received the standard guide training on emotion regulation in the event he ever came online. Despite the fact that he was now too old to come online, he had enough skill to tell when an emotion was not his own. And the only person around with the skills to try to fuck with Tony like that was the latest in Gibbs’ long string of temp guides.
The guy’s name was Nick Harris, and he’d been with the team for going on three months now. And for some reason, he had a major hate-on for Tony. Tensions on the team had been higher than normal since the guy had arrived, and Tony had a suspicion that Harris was at the root of it. Not that his team was a shining model of emotional health before Harris, but they rarely had problems of this magnitude or for this duration. Not counting the whole Rivkin cluster fuck.
Tony wasn’t sure if it was the guide, the long string of cases, the stress on the team, the constant emotional barrage, or just the crap that remained of his life, but when he could be bothered to feel something about his life, he sort of hated it.
He focused on blocking out a raging case of sadness that he knew wasn’t his own, resisting the impulse to glare at the guide. The last time he’d glared at Harris, Gibbs had head smacked him into a serious headache. He had a crime to solve, and didn’t have time for Harris’ games or Gibbs’ abuse.
That brought him up short. When had he started to think of Gibbs’ treatment as abuse? He forced himself to push it all away, because there was no way he was going to pursue that line of thought with a fucking empath figuratively looking over his emotional-shoulder. All he could do now was focus on the case. With white-knuckled determination, he went back to comparing cell phone logs, trying to find some clue.
“You got anything yet, DiNozzo?” Gibbs barked as he rounded the corner. Tony could practically feel Harris’ delight at Gibbs’ reappearance. The guide really didn’t like it when Gibbs left him behind, said it negated the purpose of his presence.
“No,” Tony replied shortly, not looking up. He’d noticed about a month ago that the usual ‘Boss’ had been disappearing from his vocabulary. Something else he’d have to think about later.
He actually felt the headslap coming and ducked it, spinning around in his chair to meet Gibbs’ icy glare, which was intense enough to normally have Tony stuttering out an apology. But not today. Tony was fed up, plus he had done nothing to deserve that.
“You got a problem, DiNozzo?”
“Yeah. What the hell was that for?”
“We’ve got a case, if you can’t focus, you’re no good to me,” Gibbs barked, managing to sound both angry and dismissive.
Tony’s jaw clenched in irritation. “You haven’t even been here the last three hours. How would you know that I’m not focusing?”
“I don’t see any results. That’s all I need to know.”
“Really? I don’t see anyone else coming up with any gems to kick start this case. Any particular reason I’m singled out here?” This wasn’t like Tony at all, but he was at his limit and wasn’t taking any more shit.
“Maybe if you’d stop distracting everyone, they’d have something!”
“B-Boss,” McGee stuttered, getting to his feet. “Tony’s been totally focused. We just haven’t found anything.”
Tony was surprised at the support. McGee had been fairly obnoxious to Tony lately.
Gibbs turned his glare on McGee. “You got a problem with the way I handle my team, McGee?”
“N-No, Boss,” McGee replied instantly, though he looked like he was saying anything but the truth. They were all tired of tyrant Gibbs. The man had just been so irritated lately. Nothing seemed good enough and he was constantly implying with a twitch of an eyebrow and dry ‘anything else?’ that the team wasn’t doing enough. Particularly his SFA.
Tony was so beyond tired.
Suddenly, he’d had enough. He hadn’t been home in two days, he was running on take out and catnaps at his desk, and he desperately wanted a shower. Gibbs had to take care of his temporary guide, so he’d gone home, but Tony had been here. Like always.
He grabbed his backpack and shouldered his way past Gibbs, headed for the stairs.
“Get back here, DiNozzo!” Gibbs ordered, but Tony ignored it. “DiNozzo!”
He was halfway down the stairs before Gibbs caught up with him, grabbing him by the arm and pulling him around, nearly causing Tony to fall down the steps. Tony jerked away, glaring at his boss. “I swear to Christ, you lay hands on me again, I’ll fucking report you.”
Gibbs reared back. “What the hell is the matter with you?” he retorted, sounding an odd mix of angry and bewildered.
“Me?” Tony laughed. “You’re right, Gibbs, it’s me. I’m tired of not sleeping, I’m tired of not seeing my home, and I’m really tired of never being enough or doing enough to fucking please you. I used to love my job, but lately I’m starting to hate it. And there’s really no point in dragging this on any longer.” Ignoring the stunned look on Gibbs’ face, Tony plowed on. “I’ll put in a transfer request tomorrow.” Not waiting for a response, Tony headed back down the stairs.
“DiNozzo!” Gibbs yelled, following immediately. “I’m not done with you yet.”
Tony stopped half a floor before the lobby, but didn’t turn back. “Yeah, you are done with me. And I was dead serious about you touching me. So you can follow me to my car, hollering the whole way, and I’ll still get in my car and go, or leave me alone now.”
He heard Gibbs take a deep breath. “Tony… let’s talk.”
The gentler tone, and the use of his first name almost broke his resolve. But really, nothing they could say was going to change a damn thing. Gibbs might be human for a few days, but then things would be back to the way they always were. And he just couldn’t live with this anymore. Instead of replying, he just continued down the stairs.
This time, Gibbs didn’t follow.
He made it to his car without anyone saying anything to him, for which he was grateful. He wasn’t up to any form of idle chitchat right now. Though it was nearing November, it was still prime fall weather, and Tony was happy to strip off his suit coat and tie and try to relax on the drive home.
His phone started ringing before he made it out of the yard. It was McGee. He ignored it. Then Abby called. He ignored that one, too. He wouldn’t normally duck Abby, but she was never rational about anything negative about Gibbs. It was a huge blind spot and he wasn’t up to tap dancing around it. Finally, Ziva called, which was all over odd, because why should she give a fuck? She’d been a nightmare recently. He finally shut off his phone.
He felt some of his tension bleed away when he was finally in his apartment. He locked the door and tossed his things on the couch, then scrubbed his hand over his face. He really wanted to get a scotch, but since his drinking binges after Jenny’s death, he’d made a pretty strict policy of never drinking alone, or when he was upset. This was both, and the last thing he wanted was to turn out like his fucked up father.
Instead he opted for the next best thing. A long hot shower. Okay, so sex would have been next best, but Tony wasn’t up to hitting a bar tonight. In truth, he really didn’t want to deal with people.
Half hour later, he felt semi-human again, dressed only in his ratty Ohio State sweats, and decided to make something real for dinner. He’d been living off take-out too much lately and it was sitting poorly with him… he felt lethargic and run down. The pasta he’d made last weekend was still good, and the tomatoes were in reasonable shape, so he threw together a quick pasta pomodoro, then put on an old western.
Tony was nearly done with dinner when his computer chimed. Curious, but half dreading, he checked to find that it was an IM from Martin Fitzgerald, his closest friend since he was six. That was something he could deal with.
There were several IMs from the last couple days.
Monday, 4:13 PM: m_fitz: Hey Tony, ping when you can. Worried about the situation with the two yahoos.
Tuesday, 9:04 AM: m_fitz: Figure you’re working a big case, and haven’t been home. Let me know you’re okay when you get this.
Wednesday, 10:01 AM: m_fitz: Checking in. Not sure why I’m so worried about you, but I am.
Wednesday, 8:34 PM: m_fitz: It’s another one of those, huh? Gibbs needs to give you some damn down time occasionally. Write when you can. Worried.
Tony sat at the computer to reply to the most recent IM from a couple minutes ago.
add_73: I’m home. Just got here a bit ago.
m_fitz: Case wrapped, or are you just finally getting a break?
add_73: Neither. Walked out. Told G I’m going to request a transfer.
m_fitz: I’m calling.
add_73: No! I half expect G is already here and I wouldn’t put it past him to listen in. Let me get through the short and ugly in IM, and we can talk in a bit.
m_fitz: fine. what happened?
add_73: not sure, really. hit my limit. things have been fucked up lately. more so than i’ve told you. he’s been on a rampage for no reason that I can tell. if it were just this case, i’d get it, but it’s been going on for weeks.
m_fitz: still having issues with the guide du jour?
add_73: getting worse. he keeps sending me these emotion bombs. i’m about ready to wring his neck.
m_fitz: what do you mean?
add_73: he’s trying to manipulate my emotions. today was overwhelming hostility in the morning, and crushing sadness in the evening. i’ve had enough training to be able to tell when i’m feeling an emotion that’s not mine. plus everything has slowly gone to shit since he got here.
Tony’s home phone suddenly rang. He never received calls on his home phone; almost no one had the number. Ninety percent of the time it was a misdial.
m_fitz: that’s me. answer it.
Sighing, Tony answered the phone. “I really wanted to keep this online.”
“I’ll try to be vague. This is fucked up, Tony. What he’s doing is illegal. Have you talked to the S&G Center?” Martin was swearing? The world must be coming to an end.
“You know how hard empathic assault is to prove. But, yeah. I got massively fed up with it two weeks ago and again last week, and went down there, talked to a case manager and a guide coordinator respectively. They were extremely dismissive. Said one of theirs wouldn’t do that and out of courtesy for me, they wouldn’t mention it to anyone.”
Martin made a hissing sound of annoyance. His friend had been an online guide for nearly seven years, and had very strong notions about how sentinels and guides should comport themselves. “That’s total crap!”
“Martin, let it go,” Tony said, feeling defeated. “I walked out tonight after telling Gibbs I’m requesting a transfer. I’m done with this roller coaster.”
There was silence for several moments, before Martin sighed. “I’m sorry, Tony. I know that had to really suck for you. And as your friend who loves you, I’m both sad for you and happy that you’re extracting yourself from a truly messed up situation.”
Tony couldn’t help but laugh, though it felt forced. He was having such a hard time finding real humor in anything lately. “I should be feeling more torn up about it than I do. I figure it’s just denial, but all I can really manage to feel right now is relieved.”
“That’s healthy, Tony. Don’t start picking apart your reaction or lack thereof.” There was a pause, before he asked, “Did you ever decide what to do about the McGee/David mess?”
Tony rubbed his forehead, suddenly feeling a headache coming on. “No.” McGee and Ziva were the yahoos Martin had referenced in the first IM. Tony had been on the fence about how to respond to McGee and David cutting off comms while they were covering him getting voiceprints on that domestic terrorist operation.
“Tony, you have to do something about that. You have an obligation… to the next agent, even if you won’t take the obligation to yourself seriously. If you were team leader, would you want a violation like that to go unreported?”
“I know. There just hasn’t been an obvious solution. Normally, I’d just talk to Gibbs about it and let him sort them out, but he’s been impossible lately. The other option was to file a formal complaint, but that’s something Gibbs would kill me for. He’d see that as going over his head, and bringing others into internal problems.”
“What about covering your own ass, Tony? You’re the SFA, and you’re obligated to file a report and it’s already been more than a week. And, truthfully, this isn’t something that should be handled internally.”
Martin had always been a little more by the book than Tony, but Tony could see his point. “Well, I didn’t mention it before, but I sorta did report it.”
“What do you mean?”
“I actually documented it in the case report, in the details.”
“Jesus, Tony! You know no one really reads that stuff.”
“I know. But it’s technically an official report.”
Martin actually laughed. “Well, that’s one way to deal with it. You were always good at finding clever solutions to a problem.”
Tony found himself smiling for the first time today. “Once I get the whole mess sorted with my transfer, I’ll talk to Gibbs about it directly. He needs to be aware, and I do know that. There’s just been a lot lately.”
“I’m sorry, Tony. I guess the last thing you need is me pressuring you.”
“Don’t worry about it. I know you’re just looking out for me.” Tony knew Martin wasn’t mentioning how upset he was that Tony hadn’t told him about the guide situation. But Martin had his own life to deal with and there really wasn’t anything he could do about it anyway.
“At the risk of being a pest about it, what are you going to do about the situation with G&g?”
G&g was their code for Gibbs and guide, one they’d been using for as long as Tony had worked for Gibbs. There was always something. Usually it was the amusing anecdote of whatever inappropriate temp guide they sent Gibbs, who usually buckled under the force of Gibbs bastardry within a few days. The occasional good one usually found a permanent match and moved on. “There’s really nothing to do. If I go to a different team, the problem is sorted.”
“He shouldn’t get away with that, Tony. It’s against our ethical code to do things like that. And it’s illegal. Empathic assault is supposed to be taken very seriously by the Center. What if he’s the reason why there’s been so much strife lately?” Martin was a high-order guide, who took the ethics in his Pride very seriously.
“What should I do, Martin? I went to the Center, and they ignored me. Twice.” The other option was to complain directly to Gibbs, but the idea of bitching to a sentinel about their guide, albeit a temporary one, gave Tony hives.
Martin sighed, then took a deep breath. “I’m sorry. Again. I just find it to be so offensive. And I wonder what damage he might do if he keeps it up. I’m going to have to find out if what he’s doing can cause you harm.”
Tony snorted. “I find it to be pretty offensive, too. And I don’t feel any more damaged than usual.” He was about to say something else when he heard a key in the lock. “Hold on. Someone’s coming in.”
“No, using a key. Has to be Gibbs or…” Gibbs walked in, looking like thunder. “It’s Gibbs.”
“You want me to stay on the phone?”
Gibbs was walking across the room at speed.
“No. I can handle-” The phone was yanked out of his hand and slammed down. “Hey!” Tony surged to his feet. “What the hell is the matter with you?”
Gibbs’ jaw was working furiously as he clenched his teeth. “Your phone is off. Breaking the rules already, DiNozzo?” He was right in Tony’s face.
Tony took a step back before he was tempted to give into the urge to belt Gibbs one. He felt like he was on a hair trigger. “Get the fuck out before I call the cops. You have no fucking right to come into my home and act like this. Also, I’m done with your rules, and you.” Tony’s phone started ringing. No doubt Martin trying to call back.
“We’re done when I say,” Gibbs ground out.
“And how’s that working out for you?” Tony asked snidely. Spinning on his heel, he turned and strode to the door, holding it open. “Out! And leave the key.”
Gibbs teeth were clenched so hard, Tony was surprised he didn’t dislocate his jaw. “We got a break in the case. For now, you’re still on my team, and I need a full team. Get your gear and get downstairs,” he ordered. The answering machine clicked. Martin had hung up without leaving a message.
Tony wanted to tell Gibbs to fucking shove it, Gibbs could have gotten anyone TAD, but at his core, no matter how he chose to present himself sometimes, Tony took his job seriously. “Fine. I’ll be down in five.”
“Three,” Gibbs retorted.
“Don’t push me right now, Gibbs. I’m not going to a scene dressed in nothing but sweat pants. I’ll be down in five.” Deciding to extricate himself from any further argument, Tony headed for his bedroom.
He threw on jeans, a long-sleeve t-shirt, his shoulder holster, securing his firearm at his side, and his backup at his ankle. His knife belt went on last, then he grabbed a leather jacket. To his annoyance, Gibbs was waiting in the living room. Tony didn’t say a word, just grabbed his cell and keys and held the door open, gesturing for Gibbs to precede him.
“We’re not done with this yet, Tony,” Gibbs said as he passed.
“Yeah, we really are.” He locked the door then headed for the stairs, feeling completely resolute about being done with this situation, and done with his team.
Outside, he found Ziva and McGee in the back of the car, Harris sitting in the passenger seat. Tony nearly groaned at the sight. Gibbs had to expect a difficult situation if he was bringing his guide along to stabilize his senses.
He folded himself in the back, crowding McGee into the middle. McGee looked like he wanted to say something, but Tony turned away and focused out the window. As soon as Gibbs was tearing down the street, McGee started to get him up to speed.
Someone had called into the tip line tonight that they’d seen someone matching their missing fifteen-year-old’s description with someone in a black van last night. With a partial plate, McGee was able to narrow it down to one vehicle, which was registered to a man with a home in Falls Church, Virginia. While McGee continued to rattle off info, Tony sent a quick text to Martin letting him know the case had gotten hot and he had to see it through, and that Tony would call tomorrow.
They arrived in Falls Church, Gibbs parking several houses down. At this point, they didn’t know if the Captain’s daughter had been kidnapped or had just taken off, so they had to be careful in how they approached the situation. Once everyone was out of the car, Gibbs cocked his head, obviously listening. Harris moved close and pressed a hand to Gibbs’ back, giving him something to ground his senses on.
Eventually, Gibbs whispered. “She’s here, and she’s crying. DiNozzo, you and McGee take the back. David with me. Nick, stay here.”
Harris looked like he was about to protest, but Gibbs flashed him a glare and jerked his head toward the car. Harris had training to work in the field with law enforcement personnel, but he wasn’t an agent. Gibbs had always refused to let him get involved in anything dangerous.
They moved out, Tony and McGee staying low and moving to the back of the house. He was almost in position to cover the back door when a crippling wave of fear washed over him and he nearly stumbled. He had to stop and wrestle the feeling into submission, pushing it back with everything he had. Fighting these emotions was getting harder and harder. He wasn’t an online guide, he couldn’t just return the emotion to sender, all he could do was ruthlessly stomp on it and move on, fighting as hard as he could against the emotional intrusion.
McGee was giving him a concerned look, but they couldn’t sort this out now. Tony made himself keep going, despite the fear gnawing at him and gestured McGee to the other side of the door. As soon as they heard Gibbs enter from the front, Tony kicked in the back door.
From there everything went fast. There were two men in the house, both armed, but the team managed to recover the girl uninjured. One of the kidnappers was shot in the shoulder by Tony, the other shot in the chest by Gibbs, but not before that kidnapper had fired at Tony, who now had a nasty bullet crease on his upper arm for his trouble.
Ziva got the girl outside to wait for an ambulance. McGee put the surviving perp in cuffs. And Tony had a raging case of fury going on at the fuckhead guide. He was so angry that the pain from his arm barely penetrated. He knew it was best that he stay away from Harris, but the combination of adrenaline, the bitter taste of that fear and the pain in his arm didn’t lend itself to clear thinking. Not to mention the accumulated stress of weeks of this bullshit. So when Harris appeared in the house, ostensibly to help Gibbs stabilize his senses, Tony lost it and slugged the guide. Harris collapsed, cradling his jaw.
“Stay the fuck out of my head, you sick twist!” Tony yelled, leaning over the pained guide.
Tim pulled Tony away just as Gibbs went to one knee by Harris, who was nearly smirking. Gibbs glared up at Tony. “What the hell is the matter with you, DiNozzo?”
Tony clenched his jaw and jerked away from McGee, causing a horrible stab of pain in his arm. “Your rather twisted guide has been trying to manipulate my emotions for weeks. And he nearly caused me to lose it tonight.”
Gibbs brows snapped together and he turned to stare at Harris. “That true?”
Harris shook his head. “That’s against a guide’s ethical code, you know that, Jethro. Plus, it’s illegal.” He glared up at Tony. “I’m pressing charges. Assaulting a guide is a serious offense, Agent DiNozzo.”
Tony snorted at the non-answer, but Gibbs was focused on the guide. His head was cocked to the side, listening. “You didn’t answer the question, Harris. And your heart’s racing.”
“I don’t have to put up with this bullshit. He assaulted me! I want him arrested!”
Gibbs had a tight grip on Harris’ arm. “Answer the question!” he barked. “Are you fucking with my team’s emotions?”
“No!” Harris glared mutinously back at Gibbs.
Gibbs abruptly released his guide, a shocked look on his face. “You have to know that you can’t lie to me.”
Harris scrambled to his feet. “I’m not lying! I’m stressed and in pain, and he should be arrested!”
Gibbs shook his head and stepped back from the guide. “No, you’re lying,” he bit out, looking appalled. “Now shut up.” Suddenly, he whipped around and stared at Tony. “Why am I smelling your blood?”
“Because I was shot in the arm,” Tony retorted, annoyed. He could feel the wetness of the blood saturating his shirt and dripping down his arm, but the leather jacket seemed to be containing most of it.
Gibbs closed his eyes and took a deep breath. “Go see the paramedic, then go home, DiNozzo. I’ll talk to you about this later.”
Tony wanted to argue, but Gibbs was actually giving him a way out of a volatile situation. Even if everyone believed Tony, the S&G Center probably wouldn’t, and could still demand that charges be pressed. He needed to get ahead of that.
The paramedics were getting the vitals on their victim, with Ziva standing guard. The girl was quiet and huddled under a blanket. Tony jerked his head toward the house, dismissing Ziva. She looked poised to argue. “I’ve got a bullet wound in my arm, Ziva. I’ll be riding along. We don’t both need to go. Get back inside and help McGee process the scene,” he ordered.
Reluctantly, she headed to the crime scene, while one of the medics broke away to ask about Tony’s injury.
Tony tried to wave the guy off, though some serious pain was starting to penetrate the fog of anger he’d been riding thus far. “Let me just ride along to the hospital and the doctor can stitch me up.”
The paramedic had apparently been taking lessons from Gibbs on how to glare effectively, and insisted on assessing Tony’s injury. Tony gave in with ill grace, and struggled out of his jacket, hissing at the pain in his arm. His adrenaline high must have been waning, because the pain was starting to really make itself known.
The blood had soaked the sleeve of his shirt, and he was surprised at the quantity of it. The medic, whose name was Nate, got him seated on the back and began to cut off his shirtsleeve. The wound was worse than Tony had expected. It was really deep and blood was flowing pretty steadily. If it were any deeper, it would be a hole and not a bloody furrow. He pretty much tuned out the paramedic as he took vitals and applied a temporary bandage.
Gibbs appeared as they were getting ready to leave. “They okay?” But his eyes were on Tony, who looked away. He really was done with the Gibbs’ dog and pony show. Some part of Tony recognized that it probably wasn’t fair to blame Gibbs for Harris’ behavior, but it seemed like Gibbs was willing to blame Tony for everything that went wrong. Tony ruthlessly stomped on the petty voice in the back of his head.
“Ms. Williams’ vitals are strong, though she’s a little bruised, the doctors will need to assess her further. Agent DiNozzo’s BP is a little low, and needs quite a few stitches. I’m concerned shock might set in, so we need to go.”
Tony almost snorted. He wasn’t in danger of going into shock. The girl was quickly loaded on the stretcher, and Tony climbed into the back. As soon as they were en route, Tony pulled out his phone to send a text to Martin.
“You really shouldn’t do anything with that arm,” Nate commented.
“Are you truly expecting me to heed that advice?”
Nate shrugged. “Not really. Had my share of cops in this ambulance, and you’re all terrible patients. I figure the pain will catch up to you soon and you’ll stop of your own accord.”
Tony gave a humorless laugh and turned his attention to his phone. “Have to send a text. I’ll make it quick.” He wasn’t about to admit that even tiny movements of his arm were horribly painful. “What hospital we going to?”
— rescued the girl, got shot in the arm, g tried to fuck with me again, slugged him for it, on my way to dominion hospital, probably going to get myself arrested for assaulting a guide. -T —
There was only a brief pause before he got a reply.
–On my way. Don’t do anything else stupid. Don’t talk to anyone without a lawyer.–
–you don’t need to come. i’ll handle it.–
–Fuck you. You’re like my brother, and if you’re in trouble with the S&G Center, you need my help. BTW, what emotion did he send?–
–overwhelming fear, just as i was getting ready to kick in a door to rescue a kidnapped girl.–
–I’m so kicking this guy’s ass. See you soon.–
Tony couldn’t help but smile. Martin almost never swore. And he’d cussed twice in as many messages. He tucked his cell into his pocket and surrendered to another vitals’ check.
Nate was frowning as he pulled his stethoscope out of his ears. “Your blood pressure concerns me. I wish you’d let me start an IV.” He began securing another pressure bandage because the first was soaked.
“I’m fine,” Tony insisted, and turned his attention to the Williams girl, who seemed a little dazed. He drew her out, getting her to talk a little about herself for the remaining ten minute ride to the hospital.
At the hospital, he was actually a little unsteady on his feet as he climbed out of the ambulance and found himself pressed into a wheelchair. Half-hour later, he was being stitched up, was on IV fluids, and getting blood drawn for the second time. Knowing how loopy he got on pain meds, he refused anything but anti-inflammatories and a local, so his arm was killing him. Even his shoulder ached for some reason. He’d take something when he was safe in his own apartment, provided he got to actually go home before getting arrested.
Tony knew he should be more freaked out than he was, but he was mostly still riding a lot of anger. He had no idea what was going to happen. The Center could be really aggressive about people who assaulted guides, but the proverbial black eye they’d get if what Harris was doing got out would settle them down. At least, Tony hoped so. He doubted he was going to jail; it should bee a bigger offense for a guide to empathically assault someone than it was to throw a single punch, so likely it would all wash, but he might lose his job even if he wasn’t in legal trouble.
That wasn’t as upsetting as it should be. Perhaps it was denial, or maybe Tony was more fed up with his life than he’d admitted to himself. Despite his liking for the finer things, he’d never touched the inheritance from his mother, so he’d be fine. His father had alluded to the money more than once, but Tony always pretended he’d spent it all.
The doctor was still stitching when the curtain was pulled back and Fornell entered. His doctor glared at the FBI agent. “You can’t be in here.”
Fornell flashed his badge. “This man is in FBI custody, so I’ll be staying.” He grimaced at the state of Tony’s arm. “Jesus, DiNoteso. They giving you the good stuff?”
Tony glared. “What the hell are you doing here, Fornell?”
“Gibbs called in a favor.”
“Am I under arrest? Because that doesn’t sound like much of a favor.”
“Not yet. Think of this as a pre-emptive strike. Jethro can’t keep a lid on that idiot forever, and then someone’s going to come looking for you. We’re set to say you’re in Bureau custody pending investigation. Jethro will rattle some heads at the Center tomorrow.”
Tony scowled, but before he could say anything, the doctor looked up again, glaring at Fornell. “This man is staying here tonight, he’s not going to be in anyone’s custody.”
Fornell gave an unconcerned shrug. “Guess I’ll be staying, too.”
Tony’s ire was about to be unleashed on the doctor. He had no intention of staying here tonight, but the doctor met his stare unflinchingly. “Your blood pressure is a concern. You haven’t lost enough blood to necessitate a transfusion, but you have lost rather a lot for this type of wound and your hematocrit is borderline. This wound is nasty, and we need to be sure infection doesn’t set in. Truthfully, your vitals are worse than they should be for this wound. I want you under observation.”
He was tempted to just tell the doctor he’d be signing himself out AMA, like he always did, but maybe this was a better bet. It would give things time to settle down, and he was guaranteed he wouldn’t spend the night in a cell. Because, really, there was no telling what Fornell had in mind.
The doctor finally settled back, dropping his bloody suturing supplies on the tray. “Twenty-seven stitches. You’ll be on IV antibiotics tonight, oral for the next ten days. Which of the pain medications do you tolerate the best?” Tony started to protest, but the doctor held up a hand. “You need to rest. I’m prescribing a mild muscle relaxer for your shoulder, and you need pain medication if you’re going to be able to sleep. I understand you want to remain in control of your faculties, so tell me which gives you the least symptoms.”
Reluctantly, Tony discussed his pain medication tolerance with the doctor. They ultimately decided on Demerol, because it tended to just make him really sleepy and not quite so stupid. He’d rather sleep around Fornell than babble around him. “I’d be telling my childhood stories to Fornell and, trust me, our relationship isn’t ready for that kind of intimacy.” The muscle relaxer didn’t sound half bad. His shoulder was beyond tense from the position he’d been holding his arm in to prevent as much pull on the wound as possible.
The doctor began bandaging Tony’s arm. “You’ll need to wear a sling for at least ten days, you can come here or go to your regular doctor to have the stitches removed, we can re-evaluate the sling at that time. Absolutely no activity with this arm.” The doctor stripped out of his gloves.
Frowning, Tony let himself be fitted into a sling. The lessening of the pressure on his arm was an instant relief. “The nurse will be in shortly with your meds. We’ll get you up to a room as soon as possible.”
Tony didn’t particularly want to carry on a conversation with Fornell, so he jerked his head towards the bag the hospital staff had placed his stuff in. “Will you retrieve my cell?” Fornell looked hesitant, so Tony asked, “Am I under arrest?”
“Then you have no reason to restrict my communications. So you can be decent and grab my cell for me, or I’ll get up and get it myself.”
Rolling his eyes, Fornell fished out the cell, then tossed it in Tony’s lap. “You’re not supposed to use that arm.”
Tony gave Fornell an incredulous look. “Please don’t act like you care. I’m much more comfortable with you trying to put me in jail, and me trying to make your life miserable.” He fiddled awkwardly with his phone. “Besides, I can text one-handed.”
Fornell shook his head, a look of exasperation on his face.
He propped his cell on his knees and tapped out a message to Martin. –keeping me in dominion overnight. bureau here. G’s idea of helping. supposedly not under arrest. yet.–
A reply came in a couple minutes later. –Some help that is! Already boarded plane. Should be there in a little over two hours. Glad you’re staying put. Let them give you something for pain.–
–said yes to demerol.–
–You must be hurt worse than I thought. Keep your head down, don’t say anything. See you soon. Turning phone off.–
Smiling, Tony locked the phone, ignoring the several missed calls and messages. “My next of kin will be here in a couple hours.” Tony pinned Fornell with a look just as the nurse entered. “I’ve already given his info to Mary here, so don’t try to do anything stupid like keep him out.”
Fornell frowned. “Thought you’d listed Gibbs as your next of kin.”
“Not since his Mexican Siesta,” he replied blandly, turning his attention to the nurse. “Mary, my love, you’re a sight for sore eyes. The scenery around here leaves much to be desired.” His eyes flicked to Fornell. “But you positively brighten the place up.”
She laughed and shook her head. “I’m old enough to be your mother, so save the flirting for someone who’ll be taken in by your charm, young man. Now, let’s see that tush so I can give you a shot.”
Tony flashed her a pout. “You can’t just put it in the IV? I hate needles.”
“Sorry, hon, two in the IV, one in the butt. Now roll towards your good arm.”
With a sigh, Tony shifted his weight onto his right hip. “I’ll just apologize in advance. Sometimes I say the stupidest shit on pain meds.”
Mary snorted as she quickly gave the shot in his upper butt. “You won’t be saying much of anything, Tony. This is a hefty dose… you’ll be asleep in no time. I’m sure the verbal gaffes will be minimal.”
“Uh. I’m not sure I want to be forced to sleep.”
“Don’t worry, sweetie. Except for your next of kin and this yahoo,” she jerked her thumb at Fornell, “I’ll keep everyone out.” Before he could protest further, she injected the pain meds in his IV.
The sudden reduction in pain nearly made him groan in relief.
“There, I’m sure that’s better. Let’s get you flat and I’ll prop that arm up.” Mary’s voice seemed to be coming from a distance. The hit from the meds was impossible to fight as he felt his body maneuvered. He was asleep a minute later.
– – – –
SFA – Senior Field Agent
TAD – Temporary Assigned Duty