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kasman
The Loganizing of Tony - Chapters 1-2 
1st-Jan-2005 05:35 pm
Usnjensen
Fandom: NCIS
Author kasman
Title: The Loganizing of Tony
Beta: Many thanks Alaidh for the beta.
Pairing: None
Summary: This is entirely Alaidh’s fault. This…um…intellectual exercise is the end result of a chat the other day (while we were both watching a Dark Angel episode) and flows on from some prior discussions about turning Tony into Logan and, well, here’s the dialogue (repeated with permission):

Alaidh: Somebody's gotta shoot Tony in the spine

kasman: :| don't even want to think about it

Alaidh: LOL!!

kasman: I'm still cackling over Abby's shotgun-shattered backbone

Alaidh: Hee!

kasman: Do you think she'd swap it for "Tony's shotgun-shattered backbone"?

Alaidh: LOL!!!!

kasman: I'm soooo bad

I’d just like to add something further here. This story came completely out of the blue and is something I never intended to write, having said on several occasions that I would never dabble in NCIS fanfiction. My dear friend Alaidh, who triggered the weird thought in the first place, has been involved every step of the way, and this is a much better story as a result. Her input and assistance have been absolutely invaluable. I would like to dedicate this story to Alaidh…and hope that in future she keeps her weird ideas to herself!!! LOL! That aside, a thousand thankyous to Alaidh, my friend, beta and co-conspirator on this story. Without her, this story just wouldn’t have happened.

Any part of this story that does not meet with your approval can be attributed solely to Alaidh, so please address all complaints to her.






The Loganizing of Tony


Chapter 1

“Shotgun-shattered backbone.” The simple comment haunted Abby. She could still hear Tony saying the words, could still see him looking back at her casually, brow creased, then pointing a finger at the colorful duodenum on the other wall. “You need to get out more, Abby,” he had added a moment later, half-grinning at her.

"Shotgun-shattered backbone." She said the words out loud, then crossed the room and hefted the framed image from its hook on the wall. She looked at it closely, tracing a finger over the undulating curve of the ruined spinal column, no longer seeing the beauty of the rich pinks, blues and oranges that formed the image of the smashed vertebra. She tucked the picture into a corner, face to the wall. Out of sight, but not out of mind.

----------------------

Kate walked quickly into the bull pen, and sat at her desk, covering her face with her hands. She held the pose for a moment, before pushing the hair out of her eyes and booting up the computer. She was disheveled, her clothing stained with spots of something dark that could have been dried blood. She gazed unseeingly across at the next desk, until a voice from elsewhere in the room penetrated her consciousness. "…news?"

"What was that, McGee?" she asked, turning to face him.

"I said, is there any news?"

Kate shook her head sadly. "He's still in surgery..." Her voice faltered, almost cracking. "Gibbs is there." She shrugged eloquently.

McGee, concern etched into his face, nodded, and turned back to his screen.

-----------------------

Leroy Jethro Gibbs wordlessly walked into the autopsy room and lay down on one of the tables, staring up at the ceiling.

"Jethro," Ducky acknowledged, still studying the x-ray he had wedged into the frame of the light box.

"Ducky," he replied automatically, tiredly rubbing his face.

"Is he going to be all right?" Ducky finally turned away from the x-ray and peered at Gibbs' prone form.

"All right," Gibbs said ironically. "Well, if all right means 'Is he alive? Is he gonna make it?' the answer is yes...maybe…I don't know…"

Ducky nodded his understanding.

"But if all right means 'Is he gonna walk again?'…" Gibbs’ voice trailed off. "Kate's at the hospital. I needed to do some stuff," he added unnecessarily.

"Tony will understand." Ducky switched off the light box and walked across to Gibbs. He gave the agent a reassuring pat on the shoulder before quietly heading for the door of the lab, unable to think of anything further to say.

"Ducky," said Gibbs. "I messed up. I missed something."

"Jethro, go home. Work on your boat. Drink some coffee. Anthony…Anthony is young and resilient. He'll get through this." Ducky paused, as if waiting for Gibbs to make a move. "Go home. Let tomorrow take care of itself."

-----------------------

Early Thursday morning

Gibbs snored lightly as his head lolled back against the backrest of the chair, one foot lazily draped over the opposite knee. His clothes, although clean, were badly rumpled and his hair stuck up at an impossible angle where he'd run his hands through it multiple times during the last few hours. He and Kate had been keeping an alternating vigil for nearly two days.

DiNozzo, lying on his back for the time being, caught a peripheral glimpse of a shoe. "Boss? That you?"

Gibbs was immediately awake. "Yeah, DiNozzo, it's me."

"That's good. I was hoping it wasn't Kate wearing shoes that big."

Gibbs allowed himself a small smile. Tony lapsed back into silence and, considering the agent had barely opened his eyes to speak to him in the first place, Gibbs assumed he'd fallen back into unconsciousness, as he had several times in the last few hours – waking briefly only to lapse back.

"Boss…I think I screwed up again."

"No, Tony. I screwed up. I shoulda realized he had a partner. I…wasn't watching your six well enough."

'Sure, Gibbs." Tony fell into silence again, the quiet punctuated by the background of the bips and whirrs of various monitors. "What day is it?"

Gibbs squinted at the tiny script of the day/date on his watch. "Thursday." Gibbs could almost hear the cogs ticking over in Tony's brain as the younger man licked cracked lips with a dry tongue. Gibbs automatically stood and poured water from a jug on the nightstand, carefully bending over the straw and giving it to Tony to sip. He noted that the large scrape on Tony’s cheek, sustained when his head hit the curb, looked less raw than previously.

“You got anyone you want me to notify?”

Tony released the straw then shook his head and closed his eyes again.

“Family? Parents?”

His eyes snapped open in alarm. “No!”

“Okay. No need to freak out on me,” Gibbs said, amused at the reaction and to see that Tony’s eyelids were already dropping shut again.

“Boss?” The single slurred word stopped Gibbs’ progress as he turned to leave.

“Yeah?”

“Did you get him?”

-----------------------

The single shot came out of nowhere and suddenly the scene was in slow motion – DiNozzo falling, hitting his head hard on the curb…Gibbs spinning on his heel, drawing his pistol as he turned…drawing a bead…firing…

------------------------

“You betcha.”

DiNozzo smiled, eyes still closed. “Thanks, boss.”

-------------------------

Kate looked up from her desk as Gibbs strode through the bull pen, Starbucks coffee cup in one hand, jacket slung over the opposite shoulder, hanging from his fingers down his back. He barely acknowledged her with a nod, and glared at an oblivious McGee, seated at Tony’s desk for now, but passed on to his own desk without comment. He placed the coffee none too gently on the desk, hung his jacket over the back of the chair and booted up the computer, by which time the phone was already ringing. “Gibbs…five minutes.”

He stood and started walking in the direction of the stairs, sweeping past Kate, who had left her desk with a file and was coming towards him. “Hey, Gibbs, where are you…”

“Director’s office.”

“I need to talk to you about…”

“Later, Todd.” He stepped past her brusquely, leaving her to shrug at McGee.

The director’s secretary waved him through without speaking. NCIS Director Tom Morrow looked up from the papers he was reading long enough to wave Gibbs into a chair. He continued to finish the page, then looked up at Gibbs and smiled grimly. “I see you made no excuses.”

“Weren’t any. It was my fault.”

“You’re too hard on yourself.”

Gibbs didn’t respond, instead he concentrated on steepling his fingers, waiting for the director to get to the point. “We got our man in the end.” Gibbs said with a grimace. At a cost, he thought.

“DiNozzo. Who do you want to replace him?”

“Replace him? I don’t want to replace him. I want him back on the job.”

The director looked at Gibbs thoughtfully. “He’s not gonna be any good to you in the field.”

“I don’t want him in the field. There’s more to this job than functioning legs. He can still use a computer, interrogate a prisoner…think…”

“You’ll need another field agent.”

“I can put McGee in the field.”

“He’s green.”

“He’s keen and he’ll learn. And if he doesn’t, there’s plenty of others champing at the bit.”

“Okay. So how long we lookin’ at?”

“Six-eight months, maybe a bit more.” Gibbs fudged his response – he really had no idea but figured he’d err on the side of safety.

“You got it. You gonna tell DiNozzo he still has a job?”

Gibbs just smiled in reply.

----------------------

“McGee!” Gibbs called out the name as soon as he got back to his desk. “C’m here a minute.”

McGee jumped, almost cowering. “Yes, sir…I mean, boss, I mean…”

Gibbs looked at him in frustration. “Just come here…please,” he said more gently. Really, McGee, you’re the jumpiest agent I’ve ever met. McGee came and stood in front of Gibbs’ desk, wondering what he’d done wrong. “DiNozzo’s gonna be out of action for quite some time. You interested in filling in for him?”

“No, I mean, yes…you’re talking about higher duties, right?”

“Yes, McGee.”

“Well…yes, I’m interested.”

“Good, ‘cause I already said you would.” Gibbs turned away from the nervous young man, dismissing him with a curt wave. “Kate, you had something for me?”

Kate had followed the brief conference with interest. “Yes,” she said, bringing over the file, then added sotto voce, “Is Tony gonna be back?”

Gibbs looked at her in surprise. “What makes you doubt it?”

“It’s just…” She caught the steely glint in her boss’s eye. “Never mind.”

------------------------

Gibbs could hear the giggling from the room even prior to reaching halfway down the corridor. He rolled his eyes as a uniformed figure skittered out. “Hey, come back, we’re not finished!”

“I’ll lose my job,” the nurse replied, smoothing down her uniform then fleeing down the corridor.

He knocked perfunctorily on the door before entering. "Brought your mail," he said.

"Hey, boss," said Tony, still smiling from whatever had preceded the pretty nurse’s exit from his room. He was propped on his side and had, judging by the tray on the table, recently been eating dinner. Gibbs hadn't visited for a few days as he and Kate had been on an investigation out at sea. The senior agent was pleased at the change he saw. Tony was perceptibly more alert, and had obviously made use of the shaving gear Gibbs had brought on his previous visit.

"How's things?" Tony asked, flicking through the bundle of envelopes, mostly bills, from what he could see. He awkwardly tried to put them on the nightstand, wincing as he stretched. Most of the envelopes, imperfectly balanced on the small section of corner he’d been able to reach, promptly cascaded to the floor in a waterfall of white paper. "Bad move, DiNozzo," Tony said wryly, watching them tumble.

Gibbs bent down to retrieve the pile, dumping it where the one remaining envelope teetered on the brink. He shoved a large floral arrangement back out of the way to make more room on the surface, and noticed an unfamiliar signature on the card: “All the best, Anne Marie.” "Now, you got everything you need? Anything I can get you?"

Tony shook his head slowly, eyes narrowed, having noticed Gibbs reading the card. "Boss?"

"Yeah."

"Why do you keep coming to see me? You feeling guilty over what happened? Because if that's why you're here – just don't. Okay? I don't need your pity."

Gibbs narrowed his eyes at the angry spark and wondered what had triggered it, why he seemed so upset that Gibbs had read the note attached to the flowers. He wasn't used to the normally good-natured, easy-going DiNozzo displaying any sign of temper. "DiNozzo, I'm here because I want to be. Because you're a valued member of my team. I'd do the same for any of the others."

"I am?"

"I am what?"

"A valued member of the team."

"Yes, Agent DiNozzo." Gibbs was slightly taken aback that DiNozzo needed the reassurance.

Tony was still unsure if he'd heard right. "I'm still a member of the team?"

"If you're asking me whether you'll have a job to come back to, the answer is yes. I've already spoken to the director about it." Gibbs blinked once. "There's still a job for you, no matter how long it takes. Besides, someone has to bring your mail. Wouldn’t want the phone cut off while you’re not there to use it," Gibbs grinned.

"Thanks, boss."

"Tony, don't sell yourself short. I don't work with fools."

Tony closed his eyes with a grimace, and took a sharp breath. "I know, boss." His brows knitted together, concentrating on some inner problem.

"Hey, DiNozzo, you okay?"

"Uh-uh. Being shot in the back is not exactly pain-free," he said, pulling a wry face.

"You want me to call a nurse."

"They'll be here with my meds soon enough," he said shortly. "Boss, think I wanna be alone for a while."

Gibbs looked at DiNozzo in concern. "Sure you're okay?"

"Yeah. Just got some thinking to do."

"Don't strain yourself."

-------------------------------

A few days later

“Good morning, Anthony.”

“Morning, Ducky.” Tony blushed violently at having the NCIS medical examiner walk into his room unannounced as he was being strapped into the restrictive TLSO vest in order to be allowed to sit upright. The ME had taken to dropping in from time to time, never coinciding with the visits made by Gibbs, which had prompted Tony to surmise that they had some sort of roster running. Tony stared straight ahead in an attempt to hide his embarrassment. Ducky was a medical practitioner, but he wasn’t Tony’s personal physician, and it was still humiliating to be caught like that, to be showing so much weakness.

“I’m sorry, Tony. I can see you’re busy. I’ll come back in a few minutes.” The ME’s tone was gentle, understanding.

“It’s okay, Ducky,” Tony sighed, casting him a sidelong glance. “Sit down.”

Ducky waited quietly until Tony was ready. He was sitting more upright in the bed than Ducky had yet seen him, the vest securely fastened over a plain white t-shirt. He gave Tony a moment to gather himself before speaking. “Have you thought about what we discussed the last time I was here, Anthony?”

“I don’t want to talk to them,” Tony said stubbornly.

“They’ll have to know sooner or later.”

“Look, my father cut me off years ago. He’s always been convinced that I was worthless, that I would end up in the gutter – the gutter starting with Phys Ed at Ohio State and going downhill from there straight to the sewers.” He reached for the trapeze above his head and pulled himself infinitesimally straighter. He felt oddly disembodied when sitting, and had found that he slipped down the bed quite quickly. “In their eyes, I’m a failure, and this…” he gestured at his motionless legs, “would just be the coffin nails, as far as it goes.”

“Anthony, your mother has a right to know. You’re her only child.”

“My mother doesn’t care for anything except bridge and her ‘charitable works.’ I’m not the son they wanted…would have had, Ducky, not for either of them.”

“Oh, come on, Anthony. It can’t be that bad.”

“This just makes it worse.”

Ducky looked into Tony’s eyes, concern written all over his face. This was more than the Special Agent had said about his family than in the whole time he’d been employed at NCIS, and he wasn’t used to seeing the normally effervescent DiNozzo so low.

“The thing is, I think it would be much better to tell your mother yourself than to have her find out by accident. I’m sure you can see that no matter how they feel about you, your parents have a right to know, and they may even surprise you.”

Ducky was amazed at the pain that flickered across the younger man’s face at the mention of his family. It explained a lot about his relationship with his superior in the NCIS, the continual seeking of approval, as if Jethro Gibbs were a substitute for his father. Tony, for all the wealth in his background, seemed to have missed out on the richest part of most peoples’ lives – the unconditional love of his parents.

Tony clamped his eyes shut and bowed his head, a crumpled bundle of bedsheets screwed up in his hand.

“Tony,” Ducky said gently, dropping back to the shorter version of his name in a moment of unaccustomed casualness, “We’ve managed to keep this out of the press so far, but you never know when a leak can happen. You wouldn’t want them to…”

“Find out that way?” Tony finished for him quietly. “No, you’re right. I’ve just been putting off the inevitable.”

Tony took a couple of ragged breaths and gave Ducky a watery smile. “No time like the present,” he said resolutely, suddenly sounding very young indeed. Ducky stood and handed him the phone that had gradually been moving to the back of the nightstand as time passed. He was amused to see Tony select the button for an outside line and key in his parents’ number by rote. For someone who considered himself such a disappointment to his parents, he was able to key in the digits without hesitation, almost like he practiced calling them for just such an occasion. Ducky quietly withdrew. He shut the door behind him, hearing Tony’s pleasant tenor voice say, “Hello, Amelia. Can I talk to my mother, please?”

------------------------

“Nice flowers,” Gibbs said walking into the room later that day. A huge arrangement of spring flowers had taken the place of the one from “Anne-Marie”. “Hey, Gibbs.” Tony, who had been deeply contemplating a spot on the wall, somewhere about the midpoint, turned his attention to his boss.

“Love from Mom.” Gibbs couldn’t help smiling, especially when he received a shrug in response. “You called your mom finally?”

“Yeah.”

“And?”

“She sent me flowers.” Tony shrugged again, non-committally.

“Who’s Anne-Marie?”

“Dunno. Someone down the hall had a flower shop in their room. I ended up with some of the overflow.” He reached for the trapeze and pulled himself straight.

Gibbs shrugged a response, realizing that the real reason for Tony’s display of temper the previous day was that he didn’t want Gibbs to know that no one had bothered to send him flowers, that despite all his flirtations and dalliances, no one really cared – there was no one close enough to him to bother sending flowers. Tony, above all else, was lonely and alone. Gibbs fished in the outside pocket of his jacket. “Here’s your mail. Anything else I can do for you? Anything you need?”

“I’m touched, boss,” Tony said with a grin. “You really do care.”

Gibbs rolled his eyes. “I’m serious, Tony.”

“I know, boss.” He scratched at his chest, inserting a finger under the edge of vest where it itched. “Gees, I hate this thing. Feel like I’m in a straight jacket.”

-----------------------

Tony pressed the call-button. He was bored and felt like having some female company, and he wouldn’t be lying if he said his magazine had fallen on the floor – because it had. He had taken to calling the nurses for the slightest excuse, drawing them around like bees to an over-pollinated flower. Tony didn’t look towards the door when he heard the tread of soft-soled shoes.

“Mr. DiNozzo?”

“Can you pick up my magazine? I’ve…dropped it…” He looked up and took in the appearance of the person who had entered the room. She was large – nearly six feet tall and almost as wide – and his expression immediately altered to one of dismay. “...on the floor.” Oh, God, Nurse Battle-ax.

“And the time before that it was a drink of water, and the time before that…” the woman turned to him. “We’re not here to be your personal slaves, nor are we here to keep you entertained, Mr. DiNozzo. Do what all the others do – get yourself addicted to some harmless soap and leave the nursing staff to look after people who really need it.” Tony looked at her sourly. “Or would you rather I sent up someone from occupational therapy to teach you basket-weaving?”

“No, ma’am.”

“I thought you’d see it that way,” she said.

Tony looked crestfallen. “But I’m bored,” he sighed.

The nurse smiled at him kindly and patted his hand. “You’re just going to have to get used to that. We’re gonna have the pleasure of your company for quite a while. And flirting with the staff is not on the agenda, capisce?”

“Yes, ma’am.”

“Now, here’s your magazine. If you drop it again today, I’m not gonna pick it up for you.”

“Thank you,” he said soberly, but then spoiled the effect with a boyish smile, a dimple puckering his cheek.


Chapter 2

“Morning, Mr. D.”

“Hi.” Tony looked at the new arrival in some confusion.

“I’m Anne McCallister, your physio…PT. Gees, I’ll never get used to saying that.”

“Hey, you’re an Aussie!”

"That would be Aussie with a zed – zee for you,” she said, correcting his pronunciation.

“I love Aussies,” he said, getting it right.

She was young and undeniably attractive, with short, dark hair and a light scattering of freckles across her face. She was also undeniably physically strong, and exuded such an air of competence that even Tony thought twice about flirting with her. "You'll be starting rehab soon," she said, pulling back the bedclothes and taking hold of one of his feet. Tony had a mini-bet with himself that her hands would be cold if he could feel them. He watched with detachment as she started to stretch the muscles and tendons and manipulate the joints, starting with his feet. “Why do you do that?” he asked suddenly.

“No one explained the ROMs to you?” she asked in response.

He shook his head in reply. “No, and I didn’t ask.”

“Hmm, aren’t you an investigator?” When he didn’t reply she continued with the explanation. “There’s several reasons,” she said, gently putting his leg down. She sat on the edge of the bed beside him, turned slightly sideways, swinging her foot. “Firstly, to keep the joints moving. You know how if you, I don’t know, sit too long in one position then try to move everything just seizes up and it really hurts?”

“Yeah. I’ve done that.”

“Haven’t we all,” she grinned. “You wanna chase Barbie dolls, not become one, right?”

Tony grinned.

“Secondly, to prevent contracture.”

“Gotcha.”

“Thirdly, to help prevent spasms.”

“Okay.”

“Basically, the stretches will help you reach and maintain optimum independence. Does that make sense?”

“Yes.”

“Now, you ready to get out of that bed?” she asked. “Your surgeon said it would be okay to give you fifteen minutes in the chair today.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yes, I’m sure. I’ll be back in a minute,” she said.

Anne was back a few minutes later with a wheelchair and a long piece of wood. She parked the chair and locked the brakes, then lowered the level of the bed to make the transfer easier. “Okay, let’s get you upright.” She offered her hands to pull him upright and then swung his legs around off the side of the bed.

“Whoah.”

“You okay there?” Anne asked when she had him sitting on the side of the bed, propped on his arms.

“Not really, no,” he said.

“It’ll feel a little strange now, but you’ll get used to it. Just let me know if you get dizzy.” She pulled off the armrest of the chair and picked up the piece of wood. “This is a transfer or slide board. You probably won’t always need it, but it’s a useful tool for now.” She looked at him critically as he sat propped on the edge of the bed dressed in a pair of boxer shorts, t-shirt covered by the TLSO vest with a short robe over the top then grinned. "Elegant outfit. You might want to get someone to bring you some drawers."

"Drawers?"

"Pants, silly."

"Okay, duly noted. Drawers, prawns…" he said, mimicking her Australian accent.

She grinned at him. "You wanna try this yourself with the slide board, or will I grab a couple of strong blokes to lift you?"

"I'll try,' said Tony, quietly, his tone serious. "I've got two shredded vertebrae and a severed spinal cord, so this is gonna be for the rest of my life. Might as well start the learning curve now as later."

Anne nodded as if to say "good boy". "Let's get you set up, then."

--------------------

Tony sat quietly by the window of his room, staring out at the view. He'd accomplished the transfer himself, and Anne had then left him for a few minutes to savor the feeling of success. It was an oddly terrifying feeling to be sitting in a chair. He had no feeling in his body from the hip area down, and he felt completely off balance. He was thankful that the clunky hospital wheelchair had armrests, and clutched them for the illusion of stability. Still, in another way, it also felt really good to be out of bed.

"Hey, Tony," a female voice said, entering his room, a voice he hadn't heard in quite a while.

"Kate!" Tony turned his head to look, an expression of pleasure on his face.

"Gibbs asked me to drop off your mail," she said, dropping said mail on the table before walking over to the window. "How you doin'? You look a lot better than the last time I saw you."

"Well, since I don't remember seeing you since I was shot…"

"Gibbs's been like a bear with a sore head," she said, promptly changing the subject. Tony intuitively sensed that Kate was feeling a certain amount of discomfort.

"He gets like that when he's hurting, Kate, you know that," Tony said. “He feels responsible for what happened to me. He’d be the same if it were you or McGee or any one else.”

"Yeah, I know." She turned her head, hearing Anne enter the room.

"Time's up, bozo," the PT said.

Tony held up his hand in a "one moment" gesture, releasing his death grip on the arm of the chair. "Thanks for coming, Kate."

"You're welcome, Tony."

Tony visibly sagged, obviously flagging, as soon as Kate was out the door. "You gonna be able to manage the transfer?"

“Sure,” he said, his smile overly bright.

She lined him up with the bed and helped situate the slide board, checking carefully that it was properly under his body. “Okay, go,” she said.

Tony started moving slowly across, laboriously shifting his weight onto the board under the close scrutiny of the therapist. “Ah, damn!” the exclamation came as Tony found himself stuck and then falling forward, unable to resist the force of gravity. Anne caught him by the shoulders with quick hands, rebalancing his weight on the board.

“Hey, take it easy. You want a hand?” He looked up at her feeling a little foolish. “Let me take the weight of your legs. That’ll make things easier.”

He nodded slowly. “Yeah, sure.”

“Tony,” she said with a smile. “Baby steps, okay?” She picked up his legs in a sure grip around the ankles. “Hey, legs like these, you must have been a runner,” she quipped, balancing the weight. “Now try it.”

He gave her a hesitant smile that quickly turned into a wider grin as he found himself able to move. He waited until he was properly settled in the bed before speaking again. “Thanks, Anne.”

“You’re welcome, Tone. Take it easy, ‘kay? Things’ll seem hard right now, but it will get better, I promise.”

“It’s not like I have a choice, right?”

“Nope, no choices.” She looked at her watch. “Okay, got another patient to see. Enjoy the rest of your day.”

----------------------------

Gibbs was in early the following morning with a large plastic bag in one hand and a potted plant in the other. “What’ve you got there, boss?” Tony asked.

He dropped the bag on the edge of the bed, catching it quickly when it started to tilt and leaning it back against Tony’s legs. “Brought you some clothes – sweatpants and things.”

Tony looked both surprised and thankful. “Thanks, boss.”

Gibbs, for once, looked a little uncertain. “Kate said you could use them.”

Tony nodded in the affirmative. “I can. And what’s that?” he asked, looking at the curious little plant that Gibbs set down on the rolling table.

“From Abby. She thought you could do with some…passion in your life – whatever that means.”

Tony gestured for Gibbs to move the out-of-reach tray-table forward. He examined the handwritten plastic tab stuck into the potting mix in which an odd little plant with purple leaves grew. “Purple passion vine” he said out loud. “Interesting. Must be a goth thing.”

“Yeah, I guess.”

Gibbs had been as confused as Tony when Abby had handed him the strange plant, with its dark greenish purple leaves. They were slightly hairy and almost looked like bats. Gibbs also noted that Tony’s mother had sent him yet another floral arrangement – the third in as many weeks. This one consisted of a complex arrangement of dark yellow late spring exotics.

Ducky had filled Gibbs in on what Tony had told him about his family. They both had a hard time understanding the attitude of Tony’s parents to their only child. While Gibbs found Tony’s impetuosity and general lack of seriousness to be a trial from time to time, DiNozzo also had a disarming charm, and brought to the job so much enthusiasm and enjoyment that Gibbs found it hard to give him more than the odd reprimand. He found it incredible that Tony’s family could disown him, as they obviously had. Under Gibbs’ not so patient guiding hand he was shaping into a capable agent, with occasional brilliant leaps of intuition, the ability to charm witnesses into revealing their secrets, and the kind of reckless courage he’d seen from himself. And he had nothing but respect for the way DiNozzo was facing up to his current difficulties. Other than one angry outburst brought on by insecurity, Tony had pretty much just been his usual self.

Tony noted where Gibbs’ eyes had gone and gave a wry smile. “She keeps threatening to visit,” he said. “I told her not to bother.” A momentary expression of pain crossed his face, but was quickly replaced by the normal Tony smile. “So, what’s goin’ down in the outside world, boss?”

-----------------------------

Anne saw the slim, angular, gray-haired man leaving Tony’s room as she was getting ready for Tony’s next session. Anne entered the room with a cheerful, “G’day.”

“G’day yourself,” Tony responded, pulling out a pair of navy blue sweat pants from the bag Gibbs had left.

“Cool. I see your dad brought you some clothes.”

“Who, Gibbs?”

“The skinny gray-haired guy with the bad haircut.”

“No, no, no, no,” Tony laughed. “He’s…not my dad. He’s my boss.”

Anne blushed bright red. “I’m so sorry…I thought…never mind.”

Tony adopted a more serious expression. “Gibbs is better than my dad. He’s here and he actually cares.”

Anne picked up the pants, taking them from Tony’s hands. “These look pretty good. Guess we’re in business,” she smiled. “Want me to put the rest of this stuff away for you?”

“Please.”

----------------------------

Tony was startled out of a doze by the clicking of heels on the floor of his room. “Anthony? My poor darling boy,” a soft voice said.

“Mom? What are you doing here?” Tony shook his head to clear some of the fuzziness induced by a daytime nap.

“I’ve come to look after you, sweetheart.”

He looked at his mother blankly, taking in her perfectly coiffed light brown hair, understated makeup and tailored suit, and was instantly suspicious. “Mom, I don’t need to be looked after.”

“But sweetheart, it's so long since we saw you. I want you to come home and live with us.”

“No, Mom. I have a home and a job here.” Tony’s jaw started to develop a dangerously stubborn set. He could see where this was heading and he didn't like it one bit.

“But surely you’re gonna quit your job now. It’s so dangerous…and…look what happened. I never wanted you to be a policeman or whatever the hell you call it.”

“No, Mom.”

Gibbs, standing outside the room, held a finger to his lips when he saw the PT coming toward him. He was grinning broadly at the exchange, the two voices carrying out into the corridor. Tony’s mother’s voice was developing a slightly hysterical edge to it, while Tony himself had a kind of controlled tightness to his as he said for the fourth time that he was not going to leave his job, and his home.

“But Anthony, I want to look after you now that you’re an invalid.”

“No, Mom. I will not be paraded before your friends like some kind of prize, ‘Oh, and this is my son Anthony who was shot in the back. He was a Law Enforcement Officer, you know.’” Tony’s voice was a perfect mimic of his mother’s. “All you want is to show your snooty, in-bred friends what a martyr you are!” The fury was now becoming more apparent in his voice. “I won’t be a party to that…ever! I can look after myself, Mother. I don't need your care or your pity!”

“But…sweetheart…can’t we talk this over?”

Gibbs and Anne heard a loud thud, together with some dripping noises.

“Well, I’ve never…”

“Mom…just go…please,” he said more gently than he really felt. “I just don’t need this right now.”

Tony’s mother strode out of the room without another word, silently stalking past Gibbs and Anne, her face white, obviously very upset. She felt around in her handbag and came up with a tissue before scurrying along the corridor in the direction of the exit. Anne and Gibbs exchanged looks as the woman disappeared from sight, trying very hard not to laugh. Gibbs made a gesture indicating he was going after mom and that Anne should deal with Tony. “Sure,” she said.

Anne stood in the doorway, arms crossed, and surveyed the scene. Tony had his hands over his face, shoulders shaking with something, but whether it was rage, laughter or tears, she couldn’t tell. The large floral arrangement which had previously been on the nightstand had been flung across the room with great violence, shedding blooms, greenery and drops of water as it went, and apparently, judging by the black skid-mark, impacting on the wall to finally come to rest about four feet from the door. Water had flowed from the shattered plastic base and collected in a pool. The PT waited, trying to contain her laughter. Eventually, Tony opened two fingers to see her standing by the door, grinning at him. “Is she gone?” he asked.

“She is.”

Tony dropped his hands. His face was ashen, but he started to laugh.

“That…was really mean,” she finally said.

“She deserved it.”

Anne looked at him and sighed.

“You gonna clean up the mess, or to I have to get Nurse Battle-ax to beat on you?” she asked.

Tony gave her a “who, me?” look.

“Well, you told your mum you can take care of yourself. Let’s begin by cleaning up this mess.”

“How do I do that?” he asked doubtfully, looking over the edge of the bed at the floor.

Anne pushed the wheelchair into position beside the bed, footrests flipped up, and patted the seat with her hand, grinning at him wickedly. Tony sighed and pushed up into a sitting position on the side of the bed. After she removed the arm, he positioned the slide board and transferred across, grumbling the whole time.

"You're gettin' too good at this. I think it's time we moved you down to rehab," Anne commented. "Now, you need to lower yourself to the floor. Scoot forward on the seat a bit…that's good…find a grip on the frame and lower yourself down…that's the way." Anne gave him a smile and patted his head as she passed by to go into the bathroom for a towel. "There you go, sport, have at it."

"You are going to help, aren't you?" he asked reproachfully.

"I didn't throw the flowers," she pointed out.

"Please?" he looked up at her with pleading eyes.

"Oh, all right." Anne bent down and started gathering the scattered blooms, throwing them in the trash when she was done, trying not to laugh at Tony as he muttered to himself about "doing the damn housework."

"Mopping the floor, DiNozzo?" Tony looked up at the sound of his boss's voice. "When did you join the cleaning staff?"

"Awww, boss, did you have to show up now?" Tony scooted backwards across the floor a bit further, dragging the towel through a stream of water.

"That was quite an impressive display you put on for your mother."

Tony gave him an annoyed look. "Not you too, Gibbs."

"She left, by the way. Muttered something about how she wasn’t appreciated by her ungrateful son and that she should just go home."

Tony cast his eyes upwards. "There is a merciful God," he said, leaning back on his hands. "I'm done here, Mom," he said to Anne, who was sitting in the wheelchair watching the by-play between Tony and Gibbs.

"Now for the hard part."

"Knew there was a catch to this," Tony moaned. "Up gotta be harder than down."

"Move out from the wall so there's room to move," the PT said. She flipped up the footrests again to get them out of the way and locked the brakes, parking the chair as close as she could while Gibbs watched curiously. "Now, grab the frame as high as you can and try to lift yourself."

Tony took a couple of breaths and attempted to lift his own bodyweight up onto the seat, a vein popping out on his forehead as he strained. He grunted with the effort. Anne reached a hand around his waist to help him up the last few inches, but was intercepted by Gibbs's hand on the other side, who was doing the same thing. "Hey, nice try, DiNozzo," she said. "You nearly nailed that."

Tony took a couple of deep breaths. "Thanks." He coughed and rubbed his ribs, trying to hide his embarrassment. "Man, you got bony hands, boss."

-----------------------------------

The move to the rehab section was remarkably painless. Tony soon settled into the new regime, and not being one for continual dull routine, the change seemed to suit him. He threw himself into the task of weight training and learning how to cope with gusto. Anne, who had qualifications in both physical and occupational therapy, had been assigned Tony as a "special" via Gibbs' nefarious means when the NCIS agent had discovered that, despite her obvious good looks, she wasn't going to be an easy nut for the gutter-minded junior agent to crack.

Tony had warmed to the Australian girl's relaxed attitude – or seemingly relaxed attitude. He soon realized that she managed to get him to work very hard indeed without seeming to force the issue, and she managed to keep the tasks varied while still aiming toward the same goals.

The set up in rehab was somewhat different, with most patients making use of a shared dining and recreation room with widescreen TV, video and DVD, as well as the gym, and other exercise and hydrotherapy facilities.

Ducky was still dropping in from time to time. He had dropped the bombshell earlier in the day that Tony's mother was still in town and that there was some possibility that she would be calling again. Ducky had found Tony taking a break, staring out the window of the recreation room at a heavy rainstorm.

"I wish she'd go back home," was all he could think to say.

"Anthony, despite what you seem to think, your mother does care what happens to you. She's been calling Gibbs for daily updates."

Tony just shook his head. "How come he hasn't told me this?" Tony asked, then reconsidered. "No, this is Gibbs we're talking about." The Medical Examiner was quiet for once as Tony mulled things over. "Ducky, tell Gibbs to let her know it's okay to visit."

"Ah, good," the older man said. "I knew you'd see reason sooner or later."

-----------------------------------

“There’s one thing you can do for me.” Tony looked at his boss, seeming to come to a difficult decision. Three days into full-on rehab and he was already starting to work out some home truths about what his future life would probably be like, and driving a car with a manual transmission was one he'd made a decision on.

“What’s that?”

“Sell my car.”

Gibbs had been silent for a moment. “You sure?”

“The papers are in the top drawer of the desk in my apartment,” Tony had continued, ignoring the question. “These the keys?” Gibbs held up the car keys that were on the ring of keys he was using to access Tony’s apartment in order to collect his mail and to bring him various things. “Yup. Parking space 75.”

“You sure you wanna do this?” Gibbs asked.

“Yeah,” was the firm reply. “It’s no good to me any more. And I can always buy another car, one that I can drive now,” he said with a wry grin.


Gibbs strolled around the parking lot looking for the number painted on Tony’s allotted car space in the apartment block. He walked past the old dark blue sports car three times before realizing that this was what he had been looking for. For work purposes, Tony usually drove one of the cars from the motor pool, and as a result, Gibbs had no idea that the lovingly restored dark blue Shelby Cobra he sometimes saw at NCIS headquarters belonged to the junior agent.

Gibbs whistled between his teeth and placed a work-worn hand on the smooth paintwork, where one of two wide white stripes met the point of the hood. Grinning, he got in the car and started the engine, pleased at the way it responded immediately. “How can such a unclassy guy…” Gibbs wondered, as he pulled out onto the street, “...own such a classy car. Can only be one reason for it.” Gibbs was still pondering this conundrum as he nosed out onto the freeway, enjoying the feeling of the wind in his hair from the open-topped vehicle.

------------------------------

"What's this, boss?" Gibbs had handed Tony a check.

"What I got for the car."

Tony looked at the digits curiously, disregarding the signature. "Can you deposit it in my account for me?"

Gibbs gave a small laugh, "Sure."

-------------------------------

Gibbs drove the blue sports car into the NCIS parking lot and, juggling coat and coffee, made for the elevator. Immediately on arrival at his desk, he was on the phone to the director, making an appointment.

"He needs a car. I thought maybe we could fix one up for him temporarily."

"Is that wise?" asked the director. "It might be setting a bad precedent."

"Could be a bad precedent if we don't, sir." Gibbs was happy to milk the system for whatever he could get. "Don't want the ADA coming down on us for not doing everything we can."

"All right, just temporarily. I'll get my secretary to sort something out with the motor pool."

"Thank you, sir."

-------------------------------

Gibbs wandered into the gym of the rehab section late in the morning on his way to interview a suspect in a murder enquiry. There were several groups in the room engaged in various activities. He caught Anne's eye where she was working with Tony, who was lying on the floor mat working on the ins and outs of rolling over. They'd already done an upper body workout and his dark colored t-shirt clung to his body wetly. They were gradually moving onto the skills he would need to have for his future life, and the ability to move his body efficiently was one of those important skills. Anne gave Tony a pat on the shoulder as she stood to go and talk to Gibbs, "Keep going. Be right back."

Tony looked back at where she'd gone and thought, seeing Gibbs, Ah, crap. It had to be him. His boss was an expert at catching him in embarrassing situations, and flopping around on the floor like a beached whale was just one more to add to the list. Anne, keeping a watchful eye on her patient, just waved for him to continue. Tony eyed the private conversation suspiciously.

"What was that all about?" he asked as the therapist came back to him. "Nothing. He was just checking on your progress."

Tony looked at her slightly pissily. "Fine, don't tell me." He pushed up into a sitting position and dragged himself backwards to the edge of the mat, intending to get back into the wheelchair if his wretched body would let him.

"What's up with you?" Anne asked, amazed that her normally equable patient was upset.

"I'm just sick of people doing things for my own good behind my back."

"Tony?"

"He can check my progress by asking me, you know." He pulled the wheelchair into position and locked the brakes with an angry snap.

"Tony, calm down." She sat down beside him on the floor, legs tucked up, arms wrapped around them. "What's the matter? Really?"

"I-I'm not sure I can do this."

"Remember what I said when we first started?"

"Baby steps?" he asked.

She grinned at him. "No, after that."

"That things would seem hard now, but that'd improve?"

"Yes, but that's not the one I was thinking of either."

"That I'd work the hardest I ever had in my life."

"That's the one. Well, Gibbs is just trying to make that life a little easier for you," she said, somewhat enigmatically. "Come on, why don't we grab some lunch and go out in the garden for a while. Some sunshine'll do us both some good."

A/N: Just wanted to point out that, firstly, I’m not a medical specialist, so if I’ve gotten any of that stuff wrong, don’t sue me. Secondly, the best is yet to come. This chapter has been more serious…trust me, Alaidh won’t let it remain serious for long. Just bear with me.


Chapter 3
Chapter 4
Chapter 5
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