Gibbs’ shoulder practically brushed against the plaque emblazoned with “ICU 303” as he sharply turned the corner out of the doorway to Tony’s room and strode down the hall. He ruthlessly suppressed his need to turn around and stand guard over his injured Senior Field Agent to ensure that he stayed safe.
He knew, intellectually speaking, that Tony was in good hands, though the more instinctual side of him had trouble accepting that fact. He and Ducky had discussed Tony’s care at length, and Ducky's approval of Dr. Weisman and the nursing staff had gone a long way towards easing the constant knot of tension and worry in Gibbs' gut that had apparently decided to take up permanent residence since Tony had lost consciousness.
Those few hours between Gibbs radioing for help and seeing Tony wheeled into Bethesda on a gurney had been some of the most frightening of Gibbs’ life. The National Park Service had wasted no time in reaching them, and the EMTs had immediately set to work, shouting out medical terminology that Gibbs didn’t fully understand as they strained to keep Tony alive. He had caught the term hypovolemic shock and had to bite his lip to keep from yelling at the techs to work faster. He knew they were doing the best they could, but he hated the helpless feeling that came with watching the techs labor when his brain was chanting do something! to the rhythm of his frantic heartbeat.
If I lose Tony now… Gibbs hadn’t been able to finish the thought, resolutely shoving it aside as his gut tightened in fear. He had felt like throwing up but didn’t want to distract the EMTs from their job. It was the only thing that had held him together as they secured Tony’s neck in a cervical collar and strapped him into the backboard to carry him out.
Somebody must have radioed ahead because when they finally got to the parking lot, a medevac chopper was waiting to airlift them out. Gibbs had climbed aboard without bothering to argue his case, seating himself as close to Tony as he could without getting in the EMTs’ way with a glare that silenced any protest before it could start. One of the techs tried to administer first aid to Gibbs’ own injuries, but the tough agent had just brushed him off with a wave towards Tony. The tech, probably having seen his fair share of crazies in all different flavors, didn’t try to argue with him and instead turned to Tony.
The moment when Tony started to fight the hands trying to help him – if those feeble movements could have been called fighting – had been especially difficult for Gibbs to handle. Gibbs had watched Tony’s lips move and saw his eyes flicker rapidly under his lids, blinking open and closed a few times as he struggled.
He hadn’t even been able to whisper reassurances to his injured agent; the boom-thrum of the chopper drowned out anything under a shout. As the EMT prepped and then injected a syringe full of something to calm Tony down, Gibbs had reached over and grabbed his SFA’s hand, squeezing tightly in an effort to reassure the man.
There had been no response. Tony didn’t move the rest of the way to Bethesda, not even when they transferred the gurney off the chopper and onto the pavement outside the ER. Gibbs had followed as a veritable horde of doctors and nurses descended on them, trying his best to stay close, but he had been intercepted before he could move with the group through the double doors in the ER that led to emergency surgery.
A nurse had approached him then, gentle words overlaying a core of steel that managed to get him into a booth to be examined. Gibbs had barely paid attention to what was going on around him, mind still firmly stuck on Tony. Ducky had filled him in later that he had gone into shock, the enormity of what had happened and his own injuries finally catching up to him. By the time he had come back to himself, the medical staff had him stitched up, bandaged, and ready for discharge once they were sure his shock wasn’t anything more serious. Ducky had been waiting for him, having been called in as his medical proxy.
The next several hours were one long streak of desperate waiting interspersed with the arrival of his team. Abby had been first, surprisingly subdued, and had immediately given him a gentle hug, mascara already smeared down her cheeks by her tears. Tim and Ziva weren’t far behind, either arriving separately yet at the same time or riding in together. Tim had carefully pried Abby out of Gibbs’ arms and pulled her to sit down in a chair, his face as serious as Gibbs had ever seen him.
Ziva had marched up to him, fire hiding the fear lurking in her eyes, and demanded to know what had happened. Gibbs had just looked at her, unable to formulate a response, before Ducky had thankfully intervened with a relay of Tony’s injuries that segued into one of his rambling stories and served as just the right kind of distraction.
Soon they were all seated in various corners of the room, waiting for word. Ducky had charmed his way through the double doors to find out more information but was unable to ascertain much other than Tony was still alive and in surgery. Ducky had then asked Ziva to assist him in fetching everyone some coffee and sandwiches, shooting Gibbs a conspiratorial glance as he passed by. Ziva had looked ready to storm the OR and demand answers at the point of one of her many sharp knives, and Gibbs was grateful to his long-time friend for the distraction. He certainly empathized with Ziva’s need to do something, anything at all, to help.
As the minutes blurred into hours, Gibbs had felt his tension ratchet up a few notches. He had been strangely relieved when Director Vance had appeared to pull Gibbs aside and question him about what had happened. Gibbs had given him just enough information to satisfy him without revealing too many details, keeping his report concise and focused on their interactions with Chip and not what they were doing in Shenandoah in the first place.
The director had not been happy when he heard about Chip’s successful escape and promised to look into the lab that had done the DNA analysis. He ordered Gibbs to keep him posted before pulling out his cell phone and marching out of the waiting room like a man on the warpath. Gibbs had been surprised at the director’s response; he didn’t strike Gibbs as a man who seemed to have a very high estimation of Tony. Perhaps his handling of Eli David and his successful rescue of Ziva had changed Vance’s asinine opinion, Gibbs had thought to himself.
It wasn’t long after Vance’s departure that the surgeon finally made his weary way out to the waiting room, scrubs stained in spots with various unsavory-looking fluids that Gibbs would rather not know about. The whole team had jumped to their feet, circling around the doctor as if their mere proximity to one another would boost the odds of a good report. When the surgeon had given them the news that Tony had made it through the surgery but was in a coma, Gibbs had been ready to pull his hair out in frustration and worry. After a quick consult with Ducky and a few hurriedly-answered questions, the doctor had disappeared back through the double doors with orders for the team to make their way to the ICU waiting room for further instructions.
Upon reaching the ICU, a nurse informed them that they could visit Tony one at a time for 10 minutes each. Gibbs had gone first, the need to reassure himself that Tony was still breathing too strong to resist. He had sat next to Tony and gripped his hand in his, watching the rise and fall of his chest. He hadn’t said a word, and it was only nurse knocking on the door to let him know that his time was up that pulled him out of his headspace.
He had parked himself firmly in the waiting room then, watching as each team member had their chance to sit with Tony. Abby had been next, followed by Tim and then Ducky. Ziva was last, and the dark expression on her face as she left his room when her ten minutes were up was enough to make Gibbs wish he could raise Chip to life so he could hand the man over to Ziva.
Gibbs had ordered the team to go home and deftly rode out their expected protests with a glare that would have made the Arctic Circle look tropical. He had pulled Ducky aside and asked for a favor; Ducky had nodded with that empathetic, understanding look he tended to get at such times and walked over to the nurses’ station. Gibbs didn’t hear the ensuing conversation, but Ducky’s smile and nod to him was enough to know that he had accomplished his mission. Gibbs was allowed to stay.
And stay he did, for three days straight. Ducky had brought him his go bag and stopped in several times a day to bring him coffee, check Tony’s chart, look him over, converse with the medical staff, and bring Gibbs updates in a language he could actually understand. Mostly the news had been the same: we won’t know more until he wakes up; yes, he has a fever but that’s to be expected; you have to be patient, Jethro.
Gibbs had been ready to burn the whole place down by the end of the first day.
He had been cantankerous, grouchy, surly, and just plain rude to the nursing staff and only slightly better with Dr. Weisman. He knew that they were all ready to see him leave, but none were willing to endure the undoubtedly loud and dangerous process of extracting him from the room. A small part of him had whispered to him in a voice that sounded an awful lot like Shannon that he was making an ass of himself, but he just couldn’t bring himself to care enough to rein it in. Ducky, after apparently getting an earful from the nurses, had told him in no uncertain terms the second day to “at least pretend to endeavor to be nice to the staff, Jethro, or they will most certainly revolt and see to your abrupt sedation and removal from the premises” and “how do you think our young Anthony would feel when he wakes up to find that you are not here, hmm?”.
Gibbs had toned it down after that, but only just enough to keep the staff from following through with the threats he heard them mutter under their breath as they left the room, usually starting with some variation of “crazy old Marine bastard, who does he think he is…” and only getting more colorful and potentially fatal from there.
Perhaps if he had gotten some sleep his mood would have improved, but every time he had shut his eyes he’d seen Tony on the ground and Chip standing over him with the belt raised for another blow, splashes of Tony’s blood soaking into this shirt and flecked across his face. The few times he’d managed to fall into an uneasy doze had ended with him jerking awake, Sig in his hand before his brain had come back online, nightmares of Tony dead on the ground still flashing before his eyes. Every noise and motion had him on high alert; every person that approached was a potential threat to be neutralized. He knew it was irrational and that Tony was as safe as he could be, but he couldn’t seem to get himself under control.
He did finally manage to get a few hours’ rest shortly after Ducky had confronted him. He suspected that the older man had slipped something into his coffee because one moment he’d been watching Tony breathe and the next he was rubbing the sleep out of his eyes, feeling better than he’d felt since they’d arrived. It hadn’t been enough, but it was better than nothing, and it had gone a long way to helping him improve his mood, even if only slightly.
Gibbs figured the other reason the nurses hadn’t murdered him by now was that they understood and even approved of the obvious care and concern he was showing for Tony. Gibbs had barely left the younger man’s side, only leaving to sneak into the shower in the adjourning bathroom to freshen up with Marine efficiency, in and out in ten minutes. He had held Tony’s hand, adjusted the blankets, and brushed the hair from Tony’s fever-warm forehead, glaring defiantly at anybody who thought to comment.
There had been one heart-clenching moment when he thought that Tony was waking up. He had felt Tony’s hand twitch in his and saw his eyes dart under his lids, but when he squeezed back there was no response. The doctor had assured him that this was normal and that Tony would come around when his body had recovered enough to allow it, but the sudden rise and fall of hope in Gibbs’ chest had been enough to make him even more of a bear to deal with. It was shortly after that episode that Ducky had warned him about the staff’s dangerous proximity to full-blown mutiny.
When Tony did finally open his eyes, Gibbs had had to work hard not to break, cursing his sudden emotional response even as he took deep breaths to keep the sudden tears at bay. His sardonic nice of you to finally join us, DiNozzo had been gruffer than necessary to cover the way his throat had constricted upon meeting that hazel gaze for the first time in days.
There had been terror mixed with secret joy in their ensuing conversation, concern vying with amusement as Tony’s bouts of panic merged into half-mad mumblings and back again. By the time nurse Susan had shown up, Gibbs hadn’t been sure what he was feeling anymore, and his sudden loss in their battle of wills had left him chuckling internally at the bizarre nature of it all. When the doctor had not-so-subtly asked him to leave the room, Gibbs had been torn between his need to keep Tony safe and his desire to regroup. His abrupt exit covered it well, and by the time he had taken three steps down the hall he had managed to set his face with a glare that had people scurrying to get out of his way as he went to find coffee.
His internal musings made the long trip to the coffee shop all the way on the other side of the hospital on the first floor pass in a blur, and Gibbs blinked to clear his mind as he realized he was standing at the front of the line. He quickly placed an order for their largest cup of the blessed brew, giving a terse “Gibbs” when they asked for his name.
Just as the pretty barista handed Gibbs his coffee, the PA system pinged to life overhead.
“99 Code Blue, Intensive Care Unit, Room 303. 99 Code Blue, Intensive Care Unit, Room 303.”
Gibbs heart seemed to skip a beat before rocketing up to a rapid thump-thump-thump. He turned with a curse, dropping the coffee without a second thought as he rushed back to the ICU. Behind him, the cup hit the floor with a wet smack, lid flying away as coffee sprayed everywhere in delicate dark brown arcs.
The fear that Gibbs had barely kept at bay over the past three days suddenly burst through him in a torrent of adrenaline as he rushed up the stairs three at a time, desperate to get to Tony’s room before it was too late. The sights and sounds around him blurred into an obscure river of sensation on the edge of his consciousness, only the noise of his own heartbeat and labored breaths filling his ears as he ran.