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kasman
The Loganizing of Tony - Chapter 5 
3rd-Jan-2005 05:40 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 .





Chapter 5

“No! Get away!” Tony felt his heart racing. He tried to run, but it was like his feet were stuck in cement. There was something dark and fluttery behind him, he could feel its presence, breathing down his neck, coming for him relentlessly. A black, flapping presence…He tried to move, but his legs were so…he couldn’t move, couldn’t run, then he was falling…

Tony woke with a start, sweating. He could feel his heart pounding from the dream, like he'd been running a marathon. "Only you can't run a marathon, can you, fool," he said to the darkness. He gave a sigh and rolled over to study the single shaft of moonlight that came in the bedroom window. He never could sleep with the curtains closed – a result of the Louis XV vampire canopy bed his mother had forced on him in childhood. An involuntary shudder wracked his body at the thought of that bed and the vampire dreams it had caused – so bad that he had woken up screaming for weeks. Eventually, the bed was removed to parts unknown to him and peace had returned to his nights – at least, mostly peace – as much peace as the average five-year-old boy generated. He punched the pillow a couple of times and hugged it close, eyes closed.

He was walking across the street in the direction of the house. It all looked innocent enough for the base of a terrorist group – an old clapboard dwelling in a slightly run-to-seed neighborhood. There was no one at home – they knew that from surveillance – a month of watching and waiting. He was almost across the street when he felt the impact pushing him forward. His legs would no longer support him…he was falling…

Tony woke, shuddering, for a second time. The dream had been so real. He closed his eyes, a tear escaping the lids. "Dammit to hell," he said softly to himself, allowing himself a moment of grief for what he had lost. Giving up on the idea of sleep, he fumbled on the bedside table for the TV remote, and let the quiet drone of late night viewing lull him back to a feeling of peace.

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

"Hey, what happened to you?" Anne asked as Tony rolled into the rehab center gym for a scheduled outpatient PT session the following afternoon. "You look like you were hit by a truck." She touched the bruise on his right cheek, making him flinch away. He looked haggard, tired.

Tony looked at her sheepishly. "Fell and hit my head on the coffee table," he said.

"You need to be more careful."

"Yeah," he summoned up a wan smile.

"You look kinda tired. You sleep all right?" She gestured for him to climb up on a workout bench.

"No, not really," he admitted with a shrug, hoisting himself up.

"Nightmares?"

"Yeah," he said. "Silly, isn't it." He gave a wry smile.

"No, no, it's not silly," she replied firmly. "Going home – that's a big thing, and sometimes that kind of can trigger nightmares…bad dreams…insomnia…whatever." She pulled off his shoes and helped him lie back on the bench so she could start working through his stretches.

"Haven't had nightmares since I was a kid," Tony continued. "My mom made me sleep in this big old bed – the sort with a canopy. Louis XV – antique actually. I believe she paid a lot of money for it." Anne actually felt the shudder that rippled through his body at the thought of that bed. "Damn thing made me dream of vampires. Haven't been able to sleep with the curtains closed ever since."

Anne gave him a sympathetic smile. "And you dreamt of vampires last night?"

Tony grimaced and stared up at the ceiling. "That and other things."

Anne fixed on the "other things", mulling that over. "And?"

"I…" Tony hesitated. "I had a flashback…of the shooting."

"Oh."

"Going home…the changes…they just…" Tony stopped. "Dammit, why is this so hard?" He thumped his fist on the side of the bench. "I guess it sort of drove things home – that this is forever. I felt like I'd been…"

"Violated? Raped?"

"Something like that."

"Oh, Tony," she said, putting down his leg and giving him a pat on the shoulder. "You never had any counseling, did you, after the shooting, I mean."

"No."

"Back where I come from, a cop involved in a shooting – whether the shooter or shootee –“ she grinned at the terms she used, “they get counseling. You want me to see if I can get you an appointment in psych?"

"No!"

"Okay, but you gotta get some sleep."

"It'll pass."

"Yeah," she said, looking at him doubtfully.

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

Sunday, August 15

Gibbs, good as his word, was at Tony's place by 10:00 am on a sparkling Sunday morning. "Morning, boss," said Tony, letting him into the apartment. "Just printing out some possibilities," he said, nodding toward the computer. “Just give me a minute.” While Tony continued with what he was doing, Gibbs walked into the kitchen and helped himself to coffee from the machine, taking note of the changes. “Thought we’d take the Taurus. That way if I find something…well, you can drive it back for me, right?”

“Sure, DiNozzo. That’s what I’m here for.” Gibbs, coffee in hand, walked back into the living room and peered over Tony’s shoulder at the computer monitor, squinting at the tiny letters on the screen.

Tony looked over his shoulder at Gibbs.

“You ready to go?”

“Yup,” Tony replied, unlocking his brakes. He handed Gibbs a few sheets of paper and reversed away from the desk. “Let’s go.”

“You look like hell,” said Gibbs as they boarded the elevator to descend to the garage. “What happened to your face?”

“Nothing,” Tony replied, lightly touching the fading bruise on his cheek.

“Sure,” Gibbs responded, his tone unbelieving. “You wanna be more careful, DiNozzo. Falling and hitting your head like that could give you concussion.”

“I didn’t…” Tony looked up and saw the knowing expression on Gibbs’ face. “Anne.”

“Anne.”

Tony gave a sigh of surrender. “I wasn’t paying enough attention to what I was doing,” he finally admitted.

Gibbs gave the evil smile he reserved for when he caught one of his staff members out. “You’re gonna have to start paying more attention, DiNozzo. I don’t employ clumsy oafs.”

“Right, boss.”

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

Gibbs whisked the wheelchair out of the way as soon as Tony was settled in the car and popped the trunk release. “I'll stow this for you," he said.

Tony was a little unsure about Gibbs putting the chair in the trunk. He didn't think he wanted it so far away. Gibbs couldn't help noticing how light the wheelchair was, now that he had it in his control. He could understand Tony's enthusiasm, especially compared to the clunker he'd had at first. It took him a minute to figure out how to pop the wheels and load the various pieces, while Tony started the engine and waited. Gibbs slammed down the lid and slid into the passenger seat. He already had his glasses on to peer at the map and direct Tony to the first destination as they pulled out of the parking garage.

Tony drove the car into a small car lot. Gibbs took off out of the car at a fast walk as soon as Tony turned off the engine and before he had a chance to remind his boss that the wheelchair was in the trunk. Tony sat stewing in the car, tapping the steering wheel with the fingers of one hand with the precision of a military drummer, as he waited for Gibbs to realize he was stranded.

Gibbs wandered around, looking at a couple of cars. He could see a solitary salesperson inside the office on the phone, and gave them a wave. The blare of a horn caught his attention, as Tony finally lost patience. He turned to see an obviously annoyed DiNozzo gesturing at him, the trunk of the Taurus already open. Gibbs looked at him, arms open in a supplicating gesture. “What?” he mouthed.

Tony pointed back over his shoulder and mouthed back, “Wheelchair.”

Gibbs replied, “Sorry,” and started to walk back, although Tony caught a look on his face that was far from sorry. He narrowed his eyes at his boss on catching the tiniest hint of a grin.

“Sorry, forgot you needed this,” said Gibbs, handing Tony the pieces of the wheelchair to assemble, figuring it would be faster than putting it together himself. Gibbs grin still negatived the apology, although Tony couldn’t see it this time as he had his head bowed in the process of assembling the chair.

Tony gave a loud sigh, his expression wry. “Next time, why don’t you just handcuff me to the car and completely immobilize me,” he snapped as he transferred.

“Hey, I said I’m sorry.”

“Sure, Gibbs.” He watched his boss walk off, not really believing in the apology, as the salesperson, now off the phone, approached. Something about his feeling of helplessness when Gibbs walked off without giving him the wheelchair triggered the quick flash of an image from his dreams of the last few nights. The nightmares hadn't yet faded, although he stubbornly persisted in wanting to try to work things through on his own. He was even trying the method he'd seen used by Gibbs on children, "I will not let this control me. I will not dream about it…" he recited the mantra each night as he climbed into bed.

Tony drew near to Gibbs and the salesperson, a large woman in a voluminous pair of jeans with what appeared to be hand-painted flowers running up the legs, and a white cotton button up top with baggy sleeves. Her long dark hair, lightly streaked with gray, was done in the kind of half-up, half-down style that went out of fashion in about 1973. Hmm, looks like a hippy, Tony thought to himself.

"…he'll have to tell you what he's looking for because I really have no idea," Gibbs was saying.

"What he's looking for," Tony stated firmly, "is a mid-sixties mustang in good working order. One with an automatic transmission."

"Oh, you're here about the '68 'Stang. Sorry, you're out of luck. Sold it an hour ago," the woman said. "By the way, name's Ruth."

"Tony," he said, reaching up to take the proffered hand in a shake. He must have looked a little downcast. "Now, on the other hand, if you were looking for a bus, I have the perfect vehicle for you." Ruth gestured to a far corner of the car yard, pointing out what appeared to be an old GMC bus with a pair of parasitic twin VW Vanagons welded to the roof. One of them even had a metal chimney coming from the top.

Tony, giggling slightly, looked at Gibbs. Gibbs looked at Tony. "Um…thanks…but…um…no."

The woman looked crestfallen. "It's very reliable."

Tony, for once, selected his words carefully, "It's hardly…practical, though. I mean, undoubtedly…" He studiously avoided looking at Gibbs, who was having a hard time not grinning.

"It has a wood burning stove and two double bedrooms," Ruth said.

"Look, I'm guessing it has stairs, and being honest, that's not much good to me," he finally said, finding the words for an excuse. He tapped one wheel with a long forefinger. "Wheelchairs and stairs…not a good combination."

"But…I have to sell her. My other baby is jealous...”

Tony looked at her questioningly.

Ruth pointed to her right. Tony almost choked on his laughter when he saw what Ruth was referring to. Parked just off the lot was a Volkswagen Westfalia. On the flat front where the VW was supposed to be was a huge set of lips. The headlights sported a set of lovely long eyelashes.

"Meet Kelly the Kombi."

"Kombi?"

"That's what they're called in Australia."

"Ah! I love Aussies!"

"Well, Kelly's not for sale."

Tony and Gibbs exchanged long-suffering looks, trying very hard not to laugh. Gibbs eventually made a slight nod in the direction of the Taurus, a barely perceptible movement picked up by DiNozzo but not by the saleswoman. "Thanks, Ruth. Come on, boss, let's go." Tony made an incisive turn and headed back to the Taurus. He already had the wheelchair stowed in the back seat by the time Gibbs joined him. They both promptly started to giggle uncontrollably.

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

The second vehicle on the list was a private sale. Tony had phoned the guy earlier that morning and obtained an address.

"What are we looking at next?" Gibbs asked, more curious this time.

"'66 Mustang convertible," Tony said. "Guy said he bought it a year ago from some old lady." Tony shrugged, indicating he didn't entirely believe that statement, and Gibbs' snort of derision confirmed what he thought.

"Nice car," commented Gibbs.

"Oh, it's not just a car, boss," Tony enthused. "This is a '66 Mustang – revolutionary in its day."

Gibbs fixed Tony with a glare. "You're not gonna start giving me the vital stats on this car, are you."

Tony disregarded Gibbs and continued, "Thunderball used that…"

Gibbs then stated firmly, "Let me rephrase that, DiNozzo. You're not gonna give me the vital stats on this car."


Gibbs came back to the present with a jolt.

"But Gibbs, you don't understand! It's a classic!!"

"Yes, Tony, you've said that…" Gibbs replied with a mental eye roll.

"But, Gibbs!"

"Tony…" Gibbs sighed. "I came with you to buy a car…I don't want to listen to a bunch of boring stats on it. Got it?"

"Yes, boss." DiNozzo sounded contrite, or maybe even sulky.

The shiny dark green vehicle was parked in front of an old apartment block that was obviously a converted three-storey house. There was a small strip of grass in front of the building and some wooden stairs. The open front door revealed more stairs within. "Nice car," Gibbs commented as they both peered into the interior of the classic '66 Mustang.

Tony looked over at the building and winced at the steps.

"Apartment F. I'll go," Gibbs said, seeing his expression. Gibbs was back a few minutes later with a young man with dark curly hair, wearing jeans and a t-shirt, in tow. "Tony, this is Gordon. He's the one selling the car."

"Hiya, Gordon."

If Gordon was taken aback at seeing a man in a wheelchair, he gave no sign, just stuck out his hand in a firm handshake.

"Hey," he said. "What d'ya wanna know?"

"How long have you owned it?"

"About a year. Bought it from some old lady, said she'd had it since it was new. She had all the log books, so no reason not to believe her."

Tony's ears pricked at Gordon's speech, particularly the pronunciation of the word "about".

"You're Canadian!" he exclaimed. "Why is it almost every Canadian guy I've met is named Gordon?"

"Dunno," Gordon replied, "But there sure are an awful lot of us, eh." He gave a lop-sided grin. Tony grinned back at the obvious “Canadianism.”

Gibbs clicked his tongue, warning Tony to get on with it. "So, Gordon, have you made any modifications? Had any major work done?"

"Nope, not really. The car is pretty much as I bought it," he stated. "All I've done is some respraying and regular servicing. The old lady had had power steering fitted – that's not standard, but other than that…"

Gibbs and Tony exchanged looks. Gibbs could almost hear Tony's brain ticking over, running the math. This, on a cursory look, appeared to be a very good vehicle in excellent condition, at least as far as the bodywork was concerned. "Would you mind starting the engine?" Tony asked, "and could you pop the hood as well." Tony grinned as Gordon got in and turned the key, causing the motor to roar to life then settle into a healthy V8 throb. Gordon also opened the hood, leaving the engine still running. Tony pushed forward to see into the engine. The engine was reasonably clean, with only the usual collection of grime around joins and things. Tony ran a cautious hand along the nearest of the spark plug leads, checking for worn spots where they may have been arcing. He couldn’t see any obvious scorching, and the leads were well spaced – not touching, but that didn’t mean damage couldn’t have been done in the past. The radiator hoses were new – still showroom shiny, as was the radiator itself. Tony flicked a glance back over his shoulder as Gibbs’ shadow loomed into the engine bay. Gibbs was grinning. “Why are you selling it?” Tony asked, placing both hands on the hand rims of the chair in preparation for moving.

“Moving back to Montreal,” Gordon replied. “It’s not really practical up there to own something like this – I’d have to keep it in storage four months of the year.”

“Ah, Montreal,” Tony replied, nodding thoughtfully.

“No, no, not Mawntreal, it’s Muntreal,” Gordon replied, correcting his pronunciation.

“Oh, okay, Muntreal.” Gibbs stepped aside as Tony backed away from the front of the vehicle, turned and made his way to the nearer of the two front wheels. He reached down low, running a hand under the mudguard to check for rust, then ran his fingers over the tread. There was a couple of months’ wear on the tires, and they were forming sharp edges on the tread – feathering – normally caused by inaccurate alignment. “You got a record of the servicing?”

“Sure. It’s in the glove compartment,” Gordon said, leaning into the car.

“The tires are feathering. When were they replaced?” Tony asked.

Gordon thumbed through a spiral bound exercise book. “About…three months ago.”

“Did you get an alignment done?”

“Of course.”

“They obviously didn’t do it properly. Here, let me show you. Run your hand over the tread. Can you feel the sharp edges?”

“Whoa, yeah.” Gordon rubbed his fingers where the sharp rubber had prickled.

Gibbs nodded, realizing that Tony actually knew what he was doing.

“That should be covered by the warranty from the tire place, I think,” Gordon said. “I have all the receipts upstairs. I can check that.”

Tony held out a hand for the exercise book. “Can I see that, please?”

“Oh, sure.” Gordon handed it over. The pages rustled as Tony quickly flicked through the record of regular servicing, including dates and what was done. Tony was impressed with the completeness of the records, including respraying and repairs to the bodywork, which were the earliest additions, right up to an oil change the previous week, which noted the mileage as 89,784.

Gibbs took the book out of Tony’s hands and flicked through the pages himself, surprising both Tony and Gordon by his action. He handed the book back to Gordon. “Can we get on with this, please?” he asked, transmitting his ennui with the proceedings.

Tony looked longingly at the driver's seat. "Dammit, I wish I could take it for a test drive…" he said, and sighed loudly.

"That's…what you brought me for," Gibbs reminded him.

"I know, but…it's not the same." Tony's voice took on a plaintive note. "Gonna be cramped with the three of us…we're all pretty big…and there's the wheelchair as well…" Gordon looked at them both doubtfully.

Gibbs gave Gordon an annoyed look, and got into the car without being asked. "Tony?"

"Yes, boss," Tony replied, his response automatic.

"Get in the car." He looked at Gordon, "You, too. I'm not wasting my whole Sunday on this."

Tony looked up at Gordon and shrugged. "Better do what he said. Don't want him gettin' pissy on us."

“It’s gonna be a little too crowded with the three of us in there, so you two go ahead, ‘kay?” Gordon said.

Gibbs gave him a confused look. "You're kidding, right? You don't know us from Adam."

Gordon shrugged. "You don't exactly look like a couple of car thieves."

Gibbs rolled his eyes at that and said under his breath, "Are all Canadians this trusting?" He added to Gordon, "Get in the back; we might have some more questions for you.”

Tony grinned at the exchange between Gibbs and Gordon while he swung the passenger door open and pushed into the gap to transfer. He gently nudged the chair in next to the seat, bumping up against the metal scuff-plate that protected the outer edge of the sill panel and transferred in, pleasantly surprised by how easy it was in the low-slung vehicle. After he had placed the pieces of the wheelchair into the back seat behind Gibbs, Gordon eased himself over into the back seat, sitting partially sideways to accommodate his long legs – he was taller than Gibbs, probably more Tony's height, and more substantial – broad across the back, with solid legs and muscular arms. It took some effort to fold himself in. Gibbs put the car into gear and drove off sedately enough, although Tony knew enough to hold on when he suddenly started to accelerate, a wicked grin on his face, and the muffled curse from Gordon in the back only made that grin wider.

"How much you askin' for this baby?" Gibbs asked, pulling up in front of the apartment block ten minutes later.

"Eighteen thousand," Gordon replied, gulping as he recovered from Gibbs' driving. He cautiously unfolded himself and stepped out of the car on shaky legs.

Tony transferred back out. "Eighteen," he considered. "Well, the suspension needs work – she was bouncing a little on some o’ the bends back there, wasn't she, boss?"

"Yup."

"And there's the alignment." Tony looked up at Gordon, his face all innocence. "I'm prepared to offer…" he bit his lower lip as he thought, "sixteen."

"Hmm," Gordon replied, considering. "If we can split the difference on seventeen, we got a deal."

Tony had to work hard to contain his delight. "Done," he said, accepting another handshake from the big Canadian.

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

"Left my car out front. You wanna drop me off there?" Gibbs asked as they drew up to Tony's apartment building, having left the Mustang at Gibbs' house for him to arrange the hand control conversion. The smile had hardly left Tony's face all the way back.

"You're not gonna come in?" Tony asked. "Got beer and…"

"Nope."

Tony froze when he saw the dark blue Shelby with the white racing stripes in the visitors' parking lot in front of the building. He hadn’t noticed it when they left that morning. "Um, Gibbs?"

"Yes, Tony?"

"Nice car."

"Sure is." Gibbs grinned.

"Boss…"

"Yes, DiNozzo."

"You bought my car? I can't believe you bought my car…"

Gibbs just responded with an enigmatic smile. He shut the door of the Taurus firmly, gave a quick wave and drove off in the Cobra while Tony stared after him, engine running, until long after he had driven off, too stunned to move.

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

Wednesday

Tony, a towel wrapped around his neck, had to hurry from the bathroom when he heard the phone ringing, realizing after half a dozen rings that he had once again forgotten to turn on the answering machine. “Hello,” he said, wiping the last of the shaving cream from his face with a corner of the towel.

“This Mr. DiNozzo?” a rough voice asked.

“Yeah,” he replied. “And you are...”

“Peter from Magic Motors. Boss asked me to call and let you know your car’s ready.”

Tony couldn’t suppress a smile that even penetrated his voice. “That’s great news. What’s your address? I didn’t drop the car off…” Tony scribbled an address and some rough directions on the back of a bill he’d left on the desk beside the phone. “Thanks. Be there in…an hour or so.” He gave a happy sigh as he dropped two fingers onto the cradle to break the connection. He then called Gibbs and left a message on his voicemail. “Boss, the car’s ready. Can you arrange for someone from the motor pool to come and get the Taurus?” Finally, he called a cab.

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

Tony could hardly take his eyes off the shiny green vehicle on the forecourt of the garage. The car gleamed with drops of water, where they had apparently washed it. Tony paid the cabby, almost overpaying in his haste, and quickly made his way into the office. A few minutes later, having checked that the fuel gauge read a little over half-full, he was nosing the sports car into the traffic and heading for the nearest freeway, delighting in the responsiveness of the powerful motor. Gibbs’ had managed to find a hand-control that didn’t require any invasive alterations to the dashboard area of the car. The foot pedals, however, had been changed to the flip up kind, giving him more foot room, while still being available for an able-bodied driver. With the wind whipping through his hair, he screamed a loud, “Woohoo!” of joy at the feeling of liberation he felt as he hit the open road.

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

Monday morning, August 23

The dark green ’66 Mustang pulled into the nearest handicapped parking spot to the door of NCIS headquarters. Tony pulled the pieces of a wheelchair across and assembled them. He gave a big sigh and braced himself before transferring. He reached into the back of the car for his backpack, which he slung over the backrest of the chair, and a large, flat parcel that he balanced on his knees carefully. He looked over at the doorway, grateful for the lack of steps, and grinned. This was gonna be fun.

“Hey, McGee,” he said, seeing his fellow-agent walking across the parking lot, a large box held in front of him. “Can you give me a hand?”

"Hey, sure, Tony." McGee took the package and balanced it on top of the box. "What're you doing here? I mean…"

Tony sighed. McGee hadn't changed, apparently. "McGee, would you just say what you mean the first time? Please?"

"Gibbs kinda plays things close to his chest." McGee shrugged as much as he was able in view of the load he was carrying.

"Figures," replied Tony, gripping the hand rims in preparation to move off. "For what it's worth, I'm starting back at work today."

"Welcome back." McGee's statement was affable enough, but Tony was amused to read the expression on his face clearly saying, "Could my life suck any harder?"

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

Gibbs looked up as he rolled into the office. “Ah, DiNozzo, nice of you to join us.”

“Sorry I’m late, boss. Traffic was a bitch.”

“Don’t let it happen again, DiNozzo,” Gibbs said with deceptive mildness.

He caught Kate’s grin from behind her screen and shrugged. “No, boss.”

“Take your old desk.”

“Sure. Ah…anybody want a chair?”

“Sorry, Tony.” Kate stood up and walked around into Tony’s cubicle.

“That’s okay, Kate. I just don’t need it any more.” McGee handed Tony the parcel, which he dumped on the desk from his position in the passageway, seemingly oblivious to the fact that the simple statement caused his co-worker to wince until he looked up and caught her eye again. “What?”

“Nothing, Tony.” She pushed the chair out of his way into the passageway and waited there, watching him, until he had moved in front of his workstation.

“What?”

“Just glad to have you back.”

“Thanks, Kate.” He smiled at her disarmingly.

“Yeah, now Gibbs has someone else to yell at.”

“Ha-ha! I've missed that…not,” he grinned.

Gibbs gave Tony a few minutes to get settled before dumping the box McGee had been carrying on his desk. “Here you go,” he said.

“What’s that, boss?”

“Cold cases.”

Tony looked at Gibbs aghast. “Cold cases?”

“You picked a bad day to come back. Things are a little quiet right now. Cheer up. I could be sending you to the lecture on sexual harassment.”

DiNozzo looked at his boss in absolute horror. “Cold cases,” he affirmed, reaching for the first file.

An hour later, Gibbs had to wonder if bringing DiNozzo back was a good move. It seemed that the whole building had stopped by Tony’s desk to say “hi”, and as far as he was concerned, the rubbernecking was getting irritating. Tony’s desk, opposite his own, was far too close for the amount of conversation that was happening. He was prepared to cut the agent a little slack, but practically the only person in the immediate staff who hadn’t stopped by was Abby, who had been scheduled to attend a seminar on DNA analysis for half the day. On the other hand, Tony seemed to be reveling in the attention. The grin hadn’t left his face from the time the first visitor had stopped by. Five minutes of quiet were a relief for his boss.

The phone on Gibbs’ desk started to ring. Gibbs answered curtly, then looked across and called out, “DiNozzo! You’re wanted up in Human Resources.”

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

Human Resources were located in a small section at the rear of the second floor, consisting of a manager with a couple of office staff. The manager, a gray-haired woman of fifty-something years, who tried, unsuccessfully, to pass for younger, waved him into a small corner office with a view of the parking lot as she issued some instructions to the office junior.

“Mr. DiNozzo, nice of you to come up so quickly,” she said, closing the office door and taking a seat.

“No problem,” he replied. Tony read a nametag on the front edge of the desk curiously - Margaret Tomlinson, Human Resources Manager. ”Ms Tomlinson.”

She smiled at him and centered a file on her desk. Tony, leaning slightly forward, could just make out his name on the side tab. “Firstly, do you have a medical certificate clearing you for light duties?”

“Here you go,” he said, pulling a slip of paper out of his pocket.”

She perused the document, then opened the file and handed him a plastic card. “Here’s your new security pass. You’ve been given parking spot 16 in the secure parking lot. It’s at the end of the first row. Should be easy for you to access the building from there. We’ve also had a contractor install grab bars so you can pull yourself up to use the eye scanners in order to allow you access to the building elevators and the MTAC room.”

“Thank you,” Tony replied.

“Now, the Director has requested that you undergo a medical examination to ensure your fitness to return to work.” She handed him a card with details of a name, address, date and time on the back. “This is the appointment. Failure to attend will result in you being suspended from duty indefinitely until you do undergo the examination.”

“Okay,” Tony replied, although he was finding the whole process rather tiresome.

“I think that’s all. Welcome back.”

“Thanks,” Tony replied, more warmly this time, pushing the card down into his pocket. “Good to be back.” He gave her a grin, then reversed out of the tiny office.

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

“…and there on the front porch was a guy in a wheelchair who didn’t have any arms or legs.”

Tony’s voice filtered down the passage as he spoke to Gerald, whom he had met on his way from the elevator.

Tony continued, “The woman asked why the man was there. He said, ‘I’m here about the ad you put in the paper. As you can see, I have no arms, so I can’t beat you, and I have no legs, so I can’t run away from you.’” Kate winced, having already heard the joke from him earlier.

“’Yes, but are you good in bed?” the woman asked.

“How do you think I rang the doorbell?”

Gerald guffawed loudly. “Good one, Tony!” and turned off in the opposite direction as Tony headed for his desk.

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

Monday 1.20 pm

Kate, Ducky and Tony occupied the outer edge of the sidewalk café, plates in front of them. An uncomfortable silence lingered between Kate and Tony, while Ducky filled the gaps with an interminable story, the whole point of which was lost on the other two. Tony rolled his eyes at Kate over the top of his cheeseburger.

Kate suddenly spoke what was on her mind, looking directly at her co-agent. “I don’t know how to talk to you any more,” she said uncomfortably. That silenced the medical examiner, and he waited for Tony’s response.

"You…might try using your mouth," Tony replied grinning. "It's not contagious, you know."

"What isn't?"

"Galloping wheelchair disease."

Kate pulled a face, wrinkling her nose. “You know what I mean.”

“Kate, forget about the wheels. I’m still that same lovable Tony from before,” he said, smiling broadly. “…just…shorter.” His expression became thoughtful. “Yeah, shorter.” As if to prove a point, he reached across the table with a fork and harpooned a piece of tuna from her salad, earning himself a cuff on the back of the head. “Hey, don’t hit me, okay?”

“Then stop stealing my food,” Kate responded sharply.

Ducky, who had been trying not to laugh, let out a snicker at that. “Ah, it’s good to have you back, my boy,” he said.

“Thanks, Ducky.” Tony adopted an expression of mock seriousness. “Look, about the talking thing…Just don’t tower above me...try to come down to my level.”

“Tony, I could never descend to your level.”

“’Cause I get reeaal pissy with a crick in my neck,” he continued, flashing her a quick smile. “Other than that…”

“Anything goes?” Kate said sweetly. “I’ll keep that in mind.” She smiled, finally realizing that not much had changed when she saw Tony’s expression and how his eyes followed the progress of a short-skirted 20-something with an only-just-there top and long blonde hair sashaying down the other side of the street. He didn’t take off in pursuit as he had on previous occasions, but Kate could almost see him salivating. “Earth to DiNozzo.”

“Huh?”

She tapped her watch. “Time to go, loverboy.”

Kate pulled out a couple of bills and handed them to Ducky. However, when Tony reached into his inside jacket pocket to do the same, she stilled his hand. “Today’s on us. Consider it your…welcome back party.”

“Thanks, guys.” The grin couldn’t have been any wider. “Nice to know you care.”

“You two children run along,” said the ME. “I think I’ll partake of a little more sunshine before heading back.”

Kate and Tony made their way back to Kate’s car, parked a short way down the street. Tony concentrated on leaving a wide gap between himself and Kate, trying to avoid crashing into her on the rough pavement as it directed the front casters every which way. It gave her the opportunity to study him at close range.

“You know, in that wheelchair and all, you look a lot like the guy from that TV show.”

“What TV show?”

“You know, the one with all the genetically enhanced kids and that cyber guy, lived in a penthouse. Conscience of the nation, whatever.”

Tony stopped to look at her, puzzled. “What are you talking about, Kate?”

“Can’t remember the name.”

Tony thought for a moment. “You mean the one in Seattle or whatever it was, and there’s this virus and…”

“Yeah, that’s the one.”

“Ya think so? Didn’t like it much. He was kinda dorky and, really, all that angst…Mind you, the chick…she was really hot.”

Kate looked at him, the speculative expression he wore, and laughed. “Come on, before Gibbs puts us under house arrest.”

Tony waited beside the car while Kate fumbled in her handbag for the keys. A couple of old ladies were passing on the street, and looked at him kindly. “Oh, you poor young man. How did you end up in a wheelchair?” one of them asked.

Tony was ready with a response, his expression deadpan. “Well, I’m sure she didn’t mean it, but you never know what will happen in the throes of passion...”

Kate looked up from her bag and clouted him soundly across the back of the head.

“Ow!” he exclaimed, and then burst into giggles as the two old ladies slowly backed away, shocked expressions on their faces. He choked out through giggles, “What was that for?”

“For making a pair of old dears think I’m some kind of sexual pervert.”

“Yeah, but it was funny, wasn’t it?”

Kate rolled her eyes, finally locating the keys. She clicked the button on the remote to unlock the doors. “Just get in the car before I leave you here,” she said wearily, and wondered why she’d been so glad to have him back.

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

NCIS Headquarters, 4.05 pm

“Gibbs, got video on that terrorist cell in New Westminster…looks like they just went active.” Kate’s voice interrupted Gibbs’ train of thought.

“Put it up on the plasma,” Gibbs replied, standing to walk around in front of the screen.

Tony, who had been deeply engrossed in a file, instantly forgot what he was reading and swung to the right, swiveling to try and see the screen, thereby hooking the phone cord that wrapped around the side of his desk. Gibbs winced at the crash as the phone hit the ground. “Ah, crap!” Tony exclaimed, looking down at where the cable was tangled around the caster. “Kate, can you give me a hand here?” He looked to her for help as being the closest to his desk, Gibbs long strides having already taken him around the front of his desk.

Kate looked down at the floor then back up at Tony, “Were you always such a klutz?” she asked sarcastically, crouching down to the floor.

“Nooooooo,” he said. “Only when you’re around, Kate,” he said sweetly.

She looked up at him and grinned.

“Okay, can you just back up a little…straighter…” Kate held the cord down so he could roll over it without tangling again. He pulled up with a clunk as the backrest hit the printer desk behind him.

Kate reached under the front desk and unplugged the phone so the cord could be moved around to the other side, intending to thread it through the cable hole used by the computer screen rather than wrapping it around the side of the desk.

“Thanks, Kate.”

“You’re welcome,” she said, smiling up at him. She gathered up the phone, doubling over the cord, then stood out of the way to let him pass.

Tony eyed the gap between the two desks, and tried to swing around to pass through, banging his foot hard on the side of the front one as he turned. “Hmm, that probably hurt,” he said, grimacing. “It’s…just a touch cozy in here. Has somebody moved my desk?” he asked, thinking that the gaps on either side seemed narrower than they had been prior to his being shot. Moving back slightly, and swinging further out to push forward to the right of the front desk, he caught his elbow on the edge of the rear desk. “Ouch! Now that did hurt,” he said, stopping to rub his elbow.

“Klutz,” murmured Kate.

Tony gave her an ironic smile before pushing off to join Gibbs.

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

Tony became quiet when he realized that McGee and Gibbs would be going to the site of the terrorist operation and leaving Kate and him behind. This is what he was going to miss – the chance to prove his physical prowess as a field officer. He was already working out in his brain how he could get into the field again. Crime scene sketches were a possibility – at least where the crime scene had wheelchair access, he acknowledged, and he was an expert at them. But under cover and terrorist operations – that was a whole other kettle of fish. He had already come up with several impossible scenarios even before fronting up to work that morning. He hadn’t realized how inadequate it would make him feel when the other members of Gibbs’ team were able to head out so easily, at barely a moment’s notice, leaving him jockeying a desk.

“Kate, you’re in charge while I’m gone.” Gibbs flung the instruction across from behind his workstation as he prepared to go.

“Hey, I’m senior!” Tony couldn’t help expressing his indignation.

“He’s right, Gibbs,” Kate agreed, looking up.

Tony heard Gibbs’ long-suffering sigh from his desk. “Okay. DiNozzo, you’re in charge of the office while I’m gone. Kate – you’re in charge of DiNozzo. Don’t let him get out of line.”

“Sure, Gibbs.” She grinned across at Tony, hearing him grumble mightily at that. Something about being capable of looking after himself, not needing any one in charge of him.

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

4.30 pm

“Thanks, Kate, I’ll take it from here,” Tony said, taking the parcel he had brought into the office that morning from Kate.

“You sure?”

“Yeah. I’ll be fine,” he said. “I want to see her alone.”

Kate nodded and hit the button to go back up.

Tony slowly made his way from the elevator to the lab, his movements careful. "Hey, Abbs," he said softly from the doorway, his voice barely audible over the heavy metal pounding through the speakers. A brilliant Tony smile lit his handsome face as she spun her chair to face him. "Ya miss me?"

"Tony!" Abby exclaimed, returning his million-megawatt grin with one of her own. She rushed to hug him, mindful of the large package precariously balanced across his knees.

"Brought you a present," he said, moving forward into the room, trying not to knock the parcel off his lap. He handed her the gift, which was carefully wrapped in brown paper and tied with several loops of string.

"What is it?" she asked suspiciously.

"Open it and see."

Abby looked at him, then accepted the parcel, spinning around to place it on the desk. She sat in the chair and opened a desk drawer, looking for something to cut the string. She sliced it away with a knife, tossing it in the trash before unwrapping the paper. Abby turned the contents right way up, and frowned. "But this is…"

"Yeah. I thought you'd like to have a matching set." Tony grinned, and turned to look up at the empty space on the wall where the shotgun-shattered backbone had been hanging when last he had visited the lab. The smile wavered, and he fumbled for the hand-rim to swivel around to face her. "Abbs?" he queried. "Where is it?"

"I-I took it down."

"Why'd you do that?" he asked, his expression puzzled.

Abby bit her lip uncomfortably, unable to comprehend how the former field agent could be so sanguine. For his part, Tony looked up into the goth's eyes, and saw in them the pain she felt for the first time. "Abbs?" A shadow passed over his face, and he took a deep breath before rolling forward. "Abby, it's okay. Really."

"Really?" Abby looked at him doubtfully.

"Yeah, really." He grinned at her impishly, the hormonal teenage boy in him bubbling to the surface. "It's a total chick-magnet, ya know."

She looked at him reflectively for a moment, seeing the faint outline of one of the contact lenses he wore to hide from Gibbs the fact that his eyes weren't as perfect as he claimed, before turning her chair far enough to pick up the framed MRI, studying the cross-section professionally. Seeming to come to a decision, she stood and crossed the room, stretching up to catch the wire at the back over the hook on the wall where the cross-section of the damage caused by a twelve-gage to an L3 to L5 had formerly hung. She stood back to admire the colorful image, adjusting the angle minutely. Then sweeping a glance past the ice pick to the cerebellum, she turned to the third image in the set, the one she had named “Blast from the Future” – a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the abdomen. "This one doesn’t quite fit in with the theme," she said, to Tony’s amusement. He wondered what the theme was this time – murder or attempted murder, obviously suicide didn’t fit in. Definitely a continuation of the Manson family thing, as far as he was concerned. She swapped the image for the one she pulled out of the corner between two cupboards, blowing off a fine layer of dust after she pulled it out of its niche. "There, perfect," she grinned. "Thanks."

"No problem, Abbs," Tony responded, giving her a backhanded wave as he headed for the door.

"Tony?"

He looked back over his shoulder at her.

"Glad to have you back."

"Good to be back," he replied.

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

A/N: Many thanks to my co-creator, co-author, beta, and friend Alaidh for all her hours of work on this. Hope it was worth it, boo. Also many thanks to Abregaza, who did a pre-beta on Chapter 5 to help smooth over some choppy scene changes and helped by commenting...and just enjoying...a lot of the earlier chapters. She was also involved in some of the brain storming. And finally, thank you to my crazy, wonderful friends on MSN who have made this so worthwhile. Your support and lunacy are always appreciated.

One final note: With over 4,000 hits on Fanfiction.net (thank you, enhanced stats) and over 50 reviews, obviously a lot of people have read, enjoyed and kept checking back for updates. Thanks to you all from Alaidh and myself. The response has been thrilling to us both, especially since the creative part has been so much fun…glad so many others have been there to enjoy the results. Alas, this is the last installment of this particular story. Work has already started on a sequel…stay tuned, folks!


Th-th-th-the…That’s all folks!

Chapters 1-2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
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