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kasman
The Loganizing of Tony Chapter 4 
2nd-Jan-2005 08:28 am
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 .




Chapter 4

“Hey, wake up, you lazy boy.” The sudden sound next to Tony’s ear startled him out of a deep slumber. He blinked into the bright fluorescent light that had suddenly flared on in his room.

“Wha…”

“Wake up! It’s time to get up!”

“No it’s not,” he said, squeezing his eyes shut and hugging the topmost pillow tightly. “Go away!” There was a thud and a scraping noise, and finally Tony was forced to open his eyes and look around. “Hey! What’re you doing?! I need that!” he said in alarm, seeing the wheelchair pushed up against the wall of the room, way out of reach.

“No, you don’t,” the voice said, closer to him this time. Tony looked at the apparition that had so soundly disturbed his rest. The person who owned the voice was a short, dumpy woman of middle age wearing a nightgown and a pair of well-worn slippers. Her eyes were currently crinkled by a condescending smile. “Come on, get up. This is no time for lazy boys to lie in bed.”

“No, I’m not getting up,” Tony said in frustration. He heard a siren blaring in the background as he pushed himself up and back from the edge of the bed, avoiding the clasping fingers as they tried to get a grip on his forearm. He was aware that he could be in trouble if the apparition did manage to pull him out of bed, owing to the as yet incomplete healing of his damaged vertebrae. Tony grimaced as the TLSO vest, which he’d left on the seat of the wheelchair, noisily clattered to the floor.

“Come on, up you get.” She grabbed his arm and started pulling. Tony jerked back from the clawing fingers, resisting strongly, as she tried to pull him off the bed.

“Hey, quit that!” He looked back over his shoulder at the door of the room and called out. “Hey! Somebody please! Need some help here!” He fell forward, scrabbling with his free hand for a grip on the side of the bed in order to push back. “Stop it! I’m gonna fall!”

“What’s all the noise?” the night nurse said, sticking her head around the door. “Estelle? What are you doing here?” Estelle immediately released Tony’s arm, and the nurse lent some support, helping him to scramble back into the middle of the bed. She then called over her shoulder urgently, “Lizzie, can you give us a hand?”

“Coming,” a muffled voice replied.

“Come on, Estelle, let’s get you back where you belong,” the nurse gently pulled the woman away from Tony, her expression apologetic. “Sorry about this,” she said. “Lizzie, where are you?”

“I’m here,” Lizzie replied, coming up behind her.

“Can you make sure Tony’s okay while I take Estelle back to psych,” she said.

“Sure, Lynne.” She waited until Lynne had escorted the intruder from the room before picking up the TLSO and placing it back on the seat of the wheelchair, which she pushed back beside the bed and locked the brakes. “You okay?”

“Yeah, I think so. What was all that about?” Tony asked, settling back against the pillows. He rubbed the area on his forearm where Estelle’s fingers had dug in painfully.

“Estelle used to be a nurse in the ER here. She had a bad breakdown a few years back and…well…every once in a while she gets out and…”

“Tries to get the lazy boys to get out of bed?”

“Something like that. She has a fixation about lazy boys lying in bed all day.”

“Right…guess I don’t need to point out it’s the middle of the night,” Tony said, squinting myopically at the face of the watch he’d picked up from the night stand. He snuggled down into the bed, turning onto his side to hug the pillow once more.

“You okay now?”

“Yeah, sure. Just…” he unsuccessfully tried to smother a yawn, “tired.”

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

“Good morning. I hear you had quite a night.” Anne had looked for Tony in his room, but eventually found him in the cafeteria eating breakfast.

Tony looked up from the plate of food he’d been playing with rather than eating into Anne’s smiling face. His sleep, after the disturbance, had been fitful and it showed in his slightly drawn appearance. “Yeah,” he said putting down his fork and reaching for the coffee instead. “Had a visit from the local loony. Thing is, can’t help wondering if in some respects she’s not right, whether I am a lazy boy.”

“Look, Estelle Green has issues of her own to deal with. Don’t let it worry you.”

He shrugged. “Am I lazy, though?”

“Not from what I’ve seen, certainly not with the physical stuff. I’ve had to slow you down a few times, as I recall.”

“I was lazy at school. Lazy academically.”

“So was I,” she grinned, pulling up a chair and sitting opposite him. “And what does it matter now. We both have jobs we like. Heck, you’ve got a boss who wants you back in any way, shape or form as soon as you’re fit for light duties…ay-sap…” she drawled. “Stop moping just because some crackpot said you’re lazy. It just isn’t true. The only La-Z-Boy is in that blokey apartment of yours.”

He grinned at her.

“Now, bozo, if you’re done playing with your food, we’ve got a lot to get through today.”

“We do?”

“We do,” she said, holding up her hands and counting off on the fingers of one. “Aside from the usual stuff, you have an appointment in radiology and you’re booked in for a driving lesson at three.”

“I already know how to drive,” he pointed out.

“You know how to drive with your feet, and need I point out that they don’t work any more.”

“Right.” He gave her a wry grin.

“You’re gonna have to retake the state road test.” Anne reflected briefly on the fact that Tony was one of the best adjusted clients she'd ever had. He seemed to take most things in his stride, treating it all as an adventure.

Tony sighed deeply. “Right. Guess my police driver training doesn’t count.”

“Not unless you did it on adaptive equipment.”

“Guess they must have left that out of the curriculum,” he said, pursing his lips thoughtfully.

“Come on,” she said, standing up. “Let’s get cracking.”

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

"Tony, this is Toni Brown."

"Hiya…Toni," he said, somewhat bemused by the name.

"Tony," she said, offering her hand in a firm handshake. "I'm your official driving instructor."

Tony looked up into a pair of steady brown eyes. She looked almost as Italian as he didn't – short, and solidly built, with a plain but pleasant face framed by dark wavy hair, currently tied in a high ponytail. She wore an official uniform consisting of gray pants and a light blue polo shirt with the word instructor embroidered across the pocket.

"Have fun," Anne said, giving Tony's shoulder a squeeze. "And if he gives you any trouble, swat him."

"Gee, thanks." Tony turned one of his glowing smiles on Toni. "Well…"

"Come on, let's do this?"

"Yeah," Tony said, rubbing his hands on his thighs nervously. "Look…I'm…I'm just a bit…"

"Nervous? That's understandable."

Tony rubbed his head self-consciously. "Yeah, just a little."

Toni smiled at him. "You'll be fine. Here's the car," she said, gesturing to a late model Chevy Cavalier. "Okay," she continued, opening the door. "Now. There are several different types of hand controls – push/twist, right angle pull, and push/pull. The easiest one to learn is push/pull, and that's what you'll be starting with." Tony nodded and bit his lip, leaning forward to see, noting that the controls connected to the foot pedals, giving a dual control system, which he figured made sense. "Push/pull hand controls are defined as being single-action – the lever is pulled for gas, pushed for brakes. There's no chance of confusion – gas and brakes can't be operated at the same time."

"Uh-huh."

"Now I'd normally start you off on a simulator, but damn thing is busted. So, what we're gonna do is just find some quiet streets…"

"Right. Um, Toni?"

"Yeah."

"That…short for something?"

"Nope. My parents wanted a boy."

"Uh-huh. So the name is…"

"Just a coincidence." She smiled at him. "Come on, you can observe for a while."

Toni parked the car on a quiet side street, and then Tony completed the time-consuming task of transferring out of the passenger side and moving around to the driver's side. He moved the seat back before transferring back in. His legs were too long to hurdle the center console, gearshift and all, to climb into the driver's seat.

"Is the position of the seat okay?" Toni asked, folding the wheelchair to stash it in the back seat.

"It's…fine," he replied.

She got in and buckled the seatbelt. "You wanna start the engine?" She took him through the controls again and he tested them cautiously with the gear lever still in Park, brow creased in concentration. "Now, you wanna try this in a moving vehicle?"

"Sure," he sighed. He pushed the lever away from his body to engage the brake, released the parking brake and put the car in gear, and moved off, cautiously at first, then with growing confidence, along the quiet, tree-lined street.

"Turn right at the next intersection," Toni instructed. "Take your time."

He brought the car to a smooth stop at the corner, the thumb-operated indicator clicking, and carefully checked the street he was turning onto before moving off slowly, steadily accelerating onto the other street. He was half way round when a car shot out of nowhere at high speed, heading right for them. Tony froze for an instant, then thrust the lever forward – hard – and turning the steering wheel away, brought the car to a fast, if slightly rocky stop, avoiding collision by a fraction of an inch. The other car honked noisily, the driver giving him the finger, and roared off down the street. Tony sat white-faced, staring out the windshield.

"Hey, you can breathe now," Toni said, touching his shoulder. He let out the breath he didn't know he'd been holding with a gasp and looked at the small, plain woman sitting beside him to find she was grinning broadly. "That was good work," she said.

"Thanks." He took a couple of deep breaths to calm his racing heart, then with a quick, quirky flash of a smile, started the car moving again. Forty minutes later, Tony drove the car back into the parking lot at the rehab center and stopped outside the door. After shutting off the engine, Tony rolled his tight shoulders to release the tension while Toni pulled out some paperwork.

"Well, I know this all seems a big hassle to you, but there's some paperwork we'll have to get sorted out, and we may as well get it started now as later."

"Paperwork?"

"Yep, paperwork. Here's the form you'll need for either disabled tags or license. You'll need to get this filled in and properly notarized. There's also a page your physician needs to complete." She handed him the four-page form, together with some other associated information. He flicked through the papers curiously before folding them and put them in the pocket of his shirt while he waited for Toni to bring the wheelchair around. "You did pretty well today. We'll have you on the road in no time at all."

"Thanks."

"See ya tomorrow," Toni said, starting the engine of the car once more to drive out of the parking lot.

Tony, looking out across the tarred expanse of the parking lot before entering the building, saw Anne leaning back against her car talking to someone, a tall, male someone. As he turned to go inside, he glimpsed the someone wrapping his arms around her. She reached up and pulled his face down to hers in a deep kiss, while he pressed her body back against the door of the car. Tony, with a little smile, turned away to enter the building.

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

"Who's the guy?" Tony asked the PT curiously as she started on some stretches the following morning.

"What guy?" she asked in reply as she manipulated his left leg.

"The one I saw you with yesterday."

Anne's only response was an enigmatic smile.

Tony nodded knowingly. "Ah, so Miss Impervious has a boyfriend. Who'd'a thought that."

"Now I know why Gibbs told me to swat you on the head if you stepped out of line."

Tony grinned at her.

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

"Top End Terminator Titanium," Tony read. “Terminator. Hmm…like the name,” he said with a grin. “Sounds like a chair worthy of Arnold.”

“I’ll be back,” replied Anne with a grin, doing her best to imitate a Schwarzenegger voice.

“I’ll be back…” Tony mused, looking at the note Anne had left on the seat of the wheelchair in his room.

“This came while you were out. I know you’re going to want to try it out for yourself now if not sooner, so I won’t try to stop you. Just be careful. You’ll find it a lot different to what you’ve been using. And remember, I’ll be back…Anne.

“PS. Read the manual.”

“Read the manual?” Tony snorted, slightly affronted that she thought he wouldn’t. “Now she sounds like my mother.” Tony picked up the manual that’d been left under the note and flicked through to the last page. “Dammit, it’s 60 pages long!” He tapped it against his chin, thinking for a minute, then opened it at a random page – a page full of warnings, as it turned out. “Do not tip the wheelchair without assistance. Do not operate on roads, streets or highways. Do not stand on the frame of the wheelchair – yeah, right, that’s gonna happen. Do not use the footplate as a platform when getting in or out of the wheelchair…right, yeah. Always wear your seat-positioning strap. I’m not wearing a damned seatbelt. Do not…always…blah! What exactly can I do in this thing?!” He closed the booklet and tossed it on the bed. “I can sit in it,” he said, grinning to himself as he prepared to transfer.

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

“Do not tip the wheelchair without assistance.” Tony read the line out loud as Anne entered his room the following morning. He was ready for the gym, sitting in the new wheelchair, a smile plastered on his face. “Do not tip the wheelchair without assistance,” he repeated. “If I’m not supposed to tip this thing, how come you’ve been teaching me how to do wheelies?”

“They’re covering their asses,” she replied. “Don’t wanna get sued if someone gets hurt.”

Tony nodded.

“Truth is, wheelies are important. You’re gonna need them, and by the way, nice to see you’re actually reading the instructions,” she laughed.

“Well, I’ve skimmed them, at least,” he replied.

“Looks good on you, anyway, hotshot. Hmm…basic black. Nice.” She stood back to study him.

Tony grinned a response.

“How’s it feel?”

“Good, it feels…really good,” he said, pushing toward the door. “Guess this means I’m going home soon.”

“Sooner than you think.” She paused before continuing. “Tony, do me a favor…”

“Sure.”

“I know you’re gonna take the anti-tippers off sooner or later. Just don’t do it too soon, ‘kay?”

“I’ll think about it,” he said.

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

“Brought your mail,” Gibbs said, dumping a pile of envelopes on the table in front of Tony where he sat in the cafeteria, lingering over an after-lunch coffee. He sat down opposite Tony in a plastic seat he pulled out from the next table.

“Oh, hey boss, how ya doin’?” He looked at his watch. “Strange time for you to be here.”

“On my way out to Georgetown. Thought it’d save time if I stopped by now rather than later.”

Tony gave his boss a slightly longing look. “Oh. Okay. Anything I can do?”

“Yeah, you can get yourself fit for duty, DiNozzo.”

Tony sighed. “But boss, I’m going nuts. I need something to do.”

“No!” Gibbs response brooked no argument, and Tony grinned, realizing he wasn’t gonna get anywhere, even though it had been worth a try. Gibbs stood to go – his visits were seldom long, but were enough to let his junior staff member know that he was missed. “Hey, see you got a new chair,” Gibbs said, noting that Tony had finally shed the hospital-supplied rehab chair for something more streamlined.

“Check it out boss! It’s only fifteen pounds!” Tony transferred into the plastic chair Gibbs had just vacated. “See? Lift it!”

“DiNozzo, I’m not gonna lift up your chair.”

Tony took a secret delight in realizing that he’d made Gibbs feel uncomfortable. “It has a custom-built seamless titanium rigid frame with tapered front frame and…”

“I’m also not gonna listen to you recite the stats.”

“But, boss…”

Gibbs fixed him with a glare.

“Okay, Gibbs.” Tony’s expression would have melted anyone except Gibbs.

“Look,” he paused, unsure how to go on as Tony transferred back into the chair. It pained him to see the effort it now took the previously free moving and athletic DiNozzo to do this. “I want you back at work at your desk, but don’t rush things, right? Do your reps, get yourself fit, and I’ll do the hard miles to get you back in the office, ‘kay?”

“Yes, boss.”

Gibbs turned to leave, but then stepped back and cuffed the young agent across the back of the head.

“Hey! What was that for??”

“Just testing out the new height. I like it.” Gibbs grinned evilly. “Don’t have to reach up any more.” Gibbs stepped away, heading for the exit. Tony rubbed the back of his head ruefully, then was startled into action as Gibbs tossed a set of keys to him with a single word utterance. “Catch.”

“What’s this?”

“Dark blue Taurus. Bay 4 in the parking lot.”

Tony looked up at him with a kind of wonder on his face. “Thanks, boss.”

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

Tony stopped the car in the street opposite the modern apartment block and looked up at the building. Harsh summer sun reflected from the windows of the multi-story building, and from the windshield of a car in the visitors’ lot in front. He scratched the back of his head, feeling a little nervous, not sure if he was ready to go home, but anticipating the freedom this step entailed. “Oh, and by the way, you’re going home tomorrow.” He still couldn’t believe it. The bombshell had been dropped on him completely out of the blue. He had known it would be soon, but twenty-four hours later, here he was in a government issue vehicle with a weird little potted plant sitting on the seat beside him.

Gibbs had somehow managed to push his DMV assessment through in record time, and he could now legally drive the NCIS Taurus. A lot of the credit for that was due to the ever-patient Toni, who had given him an intensive training course over a period of weeks instead of the more usual months. Gibbs had also pushed through the building work and alterations to the apartment, and was apparently working on making the work environment more wheelchair friendly. He looked up at the building again, picking out what he thought was his own window, and smiled, then gently pulled out into the traffic again and turned left into the driveway of the underground parking garage.

Tony rode the elevator up from the basement, his bag of clothes with the plant balanced precariously on top, on his knees. The elevator trip was almost anti-climactic after all the anticipation. It felt strange to be in the apartment – like it wasn’t his home any more. The place felt different due to the changes and rearrangement of the furniture. While he’d never exactly made a big imprint on the place, it had always been his domain. He wasn’t sure if he liked it, and it troubled him. He felt violated in some way – even more so than he had been by the gun blast that had taken out his spinal cord. Up until now, he had taken the injury in his stride as being part of the job, but this seemed more like an invasion of his privacy.

He left the plant and his keys on the kitchen counter and his bag of clothes on the end of the bed and came back to the living room. He sat at the entrance to the room and studied the new layout. The curved end of the La-Z-Boy sofa now abutted the far wall where the desk had been. The entertainment unit had moved across to the right with the desk now situated to the left of it rather than up against the far wall. The sofa had also been moved slightly forward to allow access to the windows. There were indentations in the carpet where the feet of the heavy sofa and the base of the entertainment unit had rested. They annoyed him for some reason and he made a mental note to find out how to fix them.

“Somebody tossed this place.” Gibbs said, walking across to the table under the window.

“How can you tell?” Tony asked.

“Furniture indentations on the carpet. No fingerprints or smudges on the icebox – or on the microwave.”


“Kinda describes this place,” he said out loud, feeling bemused by it all.

After the noise and bustle of the hospital and the rehab centre, the stillness of the apartment was overwhelmingly oppressive. Most of the occupants of the building were out – either at work or play – at this time of day. Even the elevator had been quiet. Tony was starting to feel unnerved by the silence. The crackle of his clothing as he moved, the sound his fingers made as he tapped the tire of one wheel of the chair, even his breathing seemed unnaturally loud. He sighed loudly, not sure what to do now that he was home and eventually swiveled around to go into the kitchen to check through the cupboards. “Dammit, no Cap’n Crunch! Gotta do something about that.” He checked further through the kitchen cupboards and started putting together a list of groceries…of sorts. He couldn’t help thinking that Kate, or Anne, or even Abby would probably be horrified by what he noted down – Cap’n Crunch being the least of his sins.

A loud bang from the corridor made him jump out of his skin. He could feel his heart pounding against his ribs. “Gees, why are you so spooked, DiNozzo?” His stomach rumbled noisily. “Hungry, and not a snack in the place. Guess I need to do some shopping.” He gave a deep sigh.

The supermarket was busy at 3.45 pm on a Wednesday – full of tired mothers with screaming children and teenagers. With all the disabled parking spaces taken – and not a swing tag or disabled license in sight, Tony found himself driving in circles looking for a parking spot with a little extra space – one on the end of a row, for preference. It took him a good ten minutes or so to find one, during which time he almost turned around and went back home. The space he found was in a corner with a triangular section beside it in the corner, too small for a car, although it would probably hold a motorcycle.

There was a slight incline down to the shops. And although it was easy to navigate, Tony was thankful for the gloves Anne had forced on him as a parting gift for his "graduation". He could feel the friction on his hands as he rolled down. He threaded his way through a group of teenagers hanging around the entrance and slowed to navigate a bump in the paving.

“Woof!” The booming bark sounded right in his ear and he turned his head to be confronted by a large muzzle as the woof’s owner planted a pair of large paws on his knee and proceeded to lick his face.

“Ack!” He looked into the shining brown eyes of a large golden retriever. “Hey, where did you come from?”

“Kika! Come here!” a woman called frantically.

The dog looked around and barked again. “Kika, is that your name?” He ruffled the dog’s soft ears, attempting to push the animal back out of his face. The dog licked at his chin and he tried to move his face out of the way, only succeeding in getting his neck washed instead. Tony, feeling himself being pushed backwards, reached down and locked the brake on the opposite side, halting his backward progress. Kika then tried to crawl into his lap. “Hey! Hey, dog. Cut it out.”

“Kika!”

“I think I found your dog.” Tony looked up into the face of a blonde haired woman wearing glasses and carrying an ice cream cone.

“I’m terribly sorry. She got away from me. Kika, get down.” The woman took hold of Kika’s leash and tried to persuade her to get down.

“No, no, it’s okay, really.” Kika, her body halfway onto his lap, planted a large paw on Tony’s shoulder and tried to lick him again. “She likes to sit in people’s laps, I’m afraid.”

“Kika, icecream.” The woman showed the dog the cone, and she immediately got down, her eyes following the treat. “Good girl. Come on, let’s go home.”

“See ya later, dog.”

“And thanks for catching her.”

“You’re welcome.” Tony, shaking his head in amusement, pushed off in the direction of the supermarket again.

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

Tony, a plastic shopping basket on his lap, glared up at the Cap’n Crunch, located on the top shelf of the supermarket. “Excuse me,” he said a middle-aged woman pushing a very full shopping cart. “Would you be able to pass me down some Cap’n Crunch?”

“Oh, for your children?””

“Um, no,” he replied sheepishly. “Actually, it’s for me.”

The woman looked at him in mock horror. “Which one would you like?”

“Crunch Berries, please. It has the best action figures,” he grinned.

“There you are, dear,” the woman laughed.

“Thanks.” Tony placed the box in the basket and headed for the snack food aisle.

Tony waited in line at the checkout feeling a little overwhelmed by it all. He was accustomed to being the tall guy in most groups, and he was now finding how hard it was to not only be short, but incapacitated as well. He had been fine doing this with Anne, who had followed up the initial Mall Skills 101 with a couple more such excursions. Doing it on his own was a lot more daunting. He missed the distraction of her steady stream of chatter and tidbits of information, and the visual distraction she’d been, as well. Tony morosely reflected on all of this as he waited, absent-mindedly staring at the midriff of the slightly overweight woman unloading a shopping cart full of groceries, a child in the safety seat, ahead of him. He could see her belly button where she brushed against the edge of the shopping cart as she unloaded it for scanning, causing her t-shirt to ride up. The child, a fat toddler with a halo of blonde curls, stared down at him from his perch, sucking on his thumb, and adding further insult to injury.

Tony, tired of being the subject of the child's candid gaze, stuck his tongue out. The child, startled, stopped sucking his thumb, and stuck his tongue out at Tony in reply. Tony grinned and tried to think of something else to do. He waggled his eyebrows and twitched his nose, and stuck his hand under his chin and wriggled his fingers. The little boy grinned and pointed at him, kicking a pair of chubby legs. Tony poked his tongue out again, and the kid laughed at him, attracting his mother’s attention.

“Aaron, are you bothering the man?”

Tony looked up at her, grinning, “No, he’s fine,” he said. She smiled at him, then pushed the shopping cart through the narrow lane between the cash registers, blocking his view of the child.

Tony reached up about to put his whole basket of items on the conveyor belt for scanning only to have the cashier lower it for him. "Whoa! That's neat!" he exclaimed, handing her the backpack that came with the wheelchair to pack the shopping into.

The cashier smiled down at Tony. "Yes, there’re four checkouts with the same feature. We had them installed a couple of years ago. I guess this isn't your regular supermarket."

Tony sighed, "Well, yes it is, actually. I just haven't been here...well...since..."

The woman nodded her understanding and began ringing his items through. "If, at any time, you need some assistance in carrying items, either in the store or to your car, just let us know. There's always someone available to assist you. We can also do home deliveries."

Tony smiled up at her. "Hey, thanks. That's great."

Tony hung the laden backpack from the back of the chair, looping the straps over each corner with some help from the cashier and went back out to the concourse. The slope back up to the car looked a lot steeper going the other way. His shoulders were starting to burn by the time he made it back to the car. Sitting behind the wheel, he debated with himself whether or not it was too early to do something about dinner. Eventually he decided that it was too early, even for someone with his cast-iron stomach, and headed for home.

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

Once back home, Tony found himself feeling a bit happier about things. He’d accomplished something on his own without it being too much of a disaster, and the building was now less quiet – coming to life as people came home from work and school. He didn’t feel nearly so spooked about it. He found himself drawn to the La-Z-Boy and set himself up with a packet of unsalted nuts and a beer, and with the DVD of Halloween II playing in the machine, he lay back happily.

He was just in the process of falling asleep when the phone rang. “Dammit, I forgot to turn on the machine,” he said, as the phone rang and rang. Grumbling, he hit pause on the remote control, brought the recliner back to upright, placed his beer on the nearest corner of the coffee table, and transferred, the phone still ringing.

“Hello?” he said, picking up the receiver.

“Anthony, sweetheart.”

“Oh, hi, Mom,” he replied, inwardly groaning.

“I called the rehab center. They told me you went home.”

“Yeah, I’m home.”

“Is that wise? I mean, isn’t it a little soon?”

Tony rolled his eyes. “It’s fine. They said I could go.”

“It’s just…”

“You’re worried about me?” he said dryly. “I’m touched, Mom.” He sighed. “Look, I’m sorry. I know you care, but it really is okay, you know. I’m fine here. If I need any help with anything, I’ll let you know.”

“That’s all right, sweetheart. I know you have to do things your own way.”

“Look, I’ll call you next week, okay?”

“Sure. Bye, darling.”

“Bye, Mom.”

Tony hung up, thinking, I gotta get me a cordless phone, and made a point of turning on the answering machine before returning to his seat in front of the TV to resume watching the movie. An hour later, the phone rang again. Tony listened as the answering machine picked up. “DiNozzo, it’s Gibbs. You there? Call me back at work,” the gruff voice said. Tony ignored the message in favor of watching the end of the movie before transferring again. He was just in the process of changing DVDs when the phone rang again. With the DVD case on his lap and the disk in his hand, he answered the call, “Hey.”

“DiNozzo, why didn’t you return my call?”

“I was about to, boss,” he said using an injured tone, trying to put the DVD back in the case one-handed. “Hey, boss, you know they got these conveyor belts at the supermarket that actually lower down?”

“DiNozzo, I didn’t call to ask you about shopping.”

“Oh, okay, boss.” Tony attempted to press the DVD into the box only to have the whole lot slide off his lap onto the floor. The box skidded forward and came to rest against the entertainment unit, but the disk itself disappeared from view.

“I just wanted to tell you that I’ve spoken to the Director and he’s agreed to let you back on light duties from the 23rd – provided your doctor clears you.”

“Um…yeah…” he said, distractedly looking for the disk. He eventually found it underneath the wheelchair and reached down to try and get it. Gibbs, at the other end of the phone line, heard a muffled, “Ah, crap,” and a thud, coupled with a crackling noise as the phone hit the floor.

“DiNozzo? DiNozzo?! You there?”

Tony fumbled for the phone, finding it half buried under his body. “Yeah, boss, I’m here,” he said, sounding a little sheepish.

“What happened?”

“Nothing, Gibbs,” Tony replied testily, wedging the phone between his ear and shoulder so he could straighten up, and nearly ending up dropping it again. His cheek hurt, and feeling it, he found a lump where he’d hit the coffee table. His head was pounding uncomfortably.

“Didn’t sound like nothing to me,” Gibbs replied suspiciously.

“Look, it was nothing,” Tony repeated. “Thanks for the news, but I gotta go.” Tony broke the connection instantly, pulling the base unit of the phone off the desk where it had remained, despite the earthward plummeting of the handset. Putting the two together, he stretched up to put them on the desk.

Gibbs looked at his handset. He wondered what the hell had gotten into Tony, but was satisfied that he hadn’t come to any actual harm.

Tony put a hand out and immediately came into contact with the errant DVD, which he replaced in its case and put on the coffee table. The wheelchair was another matter, it had rolled several feet away. He looked at it morosely. “Okay, so maybe the lightweight chair wasn’t such a good idea after all.” He sighed. He dragged himself backwards, only to have the phone fall off the desk again when his heel grabbed on the cord. “Dammit!” he yelled and flung it across the room, ripping the cable out of the socket in the process, along with the answering machine, which also fell and was dragged along by the cable until it reached the end of its extension lead. He punched a fist into his useless leg, and then sat breathing heavily while he calmed down.

Tony looked back at the wheelchair, then across to where the phone had landed near the end of the sofa, trying to decide which problem to tackle first. Looking at the phone, he thought, Well, that was a stupid thing to do, DiNozzo. He was annoyed with himself, firstly for falling in the first place – as if the dire warnings in the wheelchair manual hadn’t been enough – and secondly for the temper tantrum that led to throwing the phone. He scrabbled forward and grabbed the answering machine lead, pulling the phone in like a fisherman. He put them both up on the desk and fed the cables over the back to plug them in behind. Squashing under the desk to do this wasn’t easy, but he got the job done finally. Eventually, he was back to square one – hoping that both devices worked – and back in the wheelchair, just as the buzzer on the intercom rang.

“Yes?”

“Pizza for DiNozzo.”

“I didn’t order a pizza,” Tony said, somewhat confused.

“Well someone did. Prepaid.”

Gibbs, he thought. “Okay, come on up.” He pressed the button to open the security door.

A slightly bemused pizza delivery boy brought the pizza in and left it on the kitchen counter for Tony rather than burning his legs, accepted a tip, and was gone. Tony subjected the receipt to close scrutiny, but other than a price, his name and address, there was no clue as to the anonymous donor of his meal.

Tony looked over at the desk as the phone rang again, immediately going to answer. “Hey?”

“Hey, DiNozzo.”

“Oh, hey, Gibbs. Thanks for the pizza.”

“You’re welcome. Just thought I’d make sure it got there.”

“It’s here.”

“Go eat it while it’s hot.”

“Yeah, ah, boss, just one thing…” Tony continued. “Don’t suppose you’d come and look at some cars with me.”

“Why? You got a car to drive.”

“Gibbs…it’s a Taurus. Come on, boss, you gotta come with me. I can’t test drive a car on my own…”

“What’s wrong with the Taurus?” Tony could almost see Gibbs’s eyebrows rising down the phone line, could sense the senior agent’s annoyance that Tony didn’t appreciate what he’d done in having the vehicle adapted and assigned to him.

“What’s right with it? It’s not mine. Sorry but...I wouldn’t feel comfortable if…well, I just…”

“All right, DiNozzo, I get it.” Gibbs suddenly smiled, realizing what was going through the younger man’s head. “Sunday, okay?”

“Thanks, boss.” He hung up the phone, made a fist and punched the air, exclaiming, “Yes!”

Chapters 1-2
Chapter 3
Chapter 5
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