Title: One Step At A Time
Chapter: 1 - Nightmares and Flashbacks
Characters/Pairings: Gibbs/DiNozzo minor slash
Spoilers/Warning: Set during 2x05 The Bone Yard so possible spoilers
Summary: Sometimes the stories Tony tells McGee aren't just to scare him, and even when they are, it doesn't mean they aren't true. Slightly AU.
Disclaimer: I do not own NCIS and probably never will, please don't sue this is just for harmless, non-profit entertainment.
Author's Note: Crossposted at fanfiction.net under the alias Viletwrnrcblt and fanfictionspace.com under the alias DiNozzoitis.
Inspired by this piece of dialogue:
Kate: Tony, didn't you tell me that you worked a case on a live impact range once?
Tony: Yeah that's right. Fort A.P. Hill. Tragic.
McGee: What happened?
Tony: EOD missed ordnance marking a path. BOOM! Agent walking point, a probie, of course, blew his foot off.”
McGee: You're kidding, right?
Tony: Of course I'm kidding... Probie.
NCIS Ep 2x05 The Bone Yard
McGee could feel his heart pounding in his chest as he walked down the patch of dry, yellowing grass lined with white ribbon. EOD had said that this whole section had been cleared, but after the story Tony had just told him, his fears were anything but calmed. He could hear Tony and Kate laughing and talking about him further back but the sight of unexploded shells made everything else just sound like white noise, his heart thumping furiously with each beat.
He wiped his brow, there was so much sweat, too much to know that it wasn't just from the blinding sun beating down on them. He watched as his now soaked hand shook in front of him, taking a moment to clench and unclench it to see if it would stop it's trembling. The young Probie took a deep breath and continued his silent prayer to make it out of there alive.
His steps were slow, his knees felt weak and with each movement he thought that they would buckle beneath him sending him to the ground; eyes sweeping the grass to the front and sides of him. It wasn't until he saw what looked like an unexploded missile to his left that he heard, or maybe he felt, a strange click with his last step.
Before he knew it he was laying flat on his back, staring up at the almost cloudless blue sky. His ears were ringing but he could still make out the sound of somebody's gut wrenching screams of pain in the distance. It wasn't until his boss' paled face replaced his view of the sky that he realised the screams weren't in the distance but were coming from his own throat. Suddenly the world that had been dulled only a second ago came rushing back full force. He could hear his own screams as if the volume of his voice had be turned up to the highest possible level, despite that he could also hear Gibbs alternating between yelling to Ducky for help ASAP and for someone to call an ambulance, while also whispering to him that help was on it's way and that he was going to be ok, that he didn't have permission from him to die, not today, not ever.
Even though the silver haired man had a strong grip on his shoulders to keep him laying down, Tim somehow forced himself into a semi sitting position, not that far off the ground but just high enough to be able to look down at his feet. He didn't think it at all possible but, when he saw what had happened to him, his screams became even louder. What he saw was his left foot missing its partner, his right leg ending suddenly just above where his ankle once was, in a jagged mess of crimson blood, torn flesh and jagged white bone...
Bolting upright in bed, Tony struggled to get his breathing under control. Rubbing his eyes with his index finger and thumb to clear away the crustiness of sleep and the memory of the dream he'd just awoken from, as well as hoping to fight off the blinding pain which he could feel growing, he could tell that the sheets beneath him were now soaked with, what he could only hope, was sweat.
When he only achieved at removing the gunk that caked his eye lashes Tony swung his legs over the side of the bed and wearing nothing but his silk boxers he slowly, and slightly unsteadily, made his way to the adjoining bathroom, leaning heavily on the walls and furniture within his reach to keep upright. He was somewhat glad at the fact this nightmare, unlike every other one he had had in the past, hadn't woken up the sleeping form still in the bed that was his lover. The two had spent many a sleepless night because of the dreams that had plagued him and Tony always felt guilty the next day when he saw the bags and darkened circles under his partner's eyes.
When he finally reached the white porcelain sink, the Italian man only had enough time to catch a quick glance at his damp, pale face in the mirrored doors of the medicine cabinet before he doubled over and emptied the contents of his stomach into the now splattered basin.
After a minute or so of dry heaving, which followed the five or so minutes of his body ridding itself of everything he had ever consumed, Tony rested his warmed forehead against the cool glass of the mirror, his knuckles long ago turned white as he gripped the rim of the sink to keep himself from falling to the ground. He didn't give a damn that as the water from the faucet rushed into the sink drops of both vomit and the warm water were flicked up into the air, only to be stopped by his bare chest.
The sound of the running water and the beating of his heart must have drowned out all the other sounds in the almost silent house and Tony was startled to see his reflection was not the only one in the cabinet door when he finally found enough energy to raise his head. The lovers stared silently at each other in the mirror, not needing words to communicate, until the younger of the two opened the door, banishing both reflections, and grabbed out an orange pill bottle.
Gibbs made his way across the small bathroom, wrapping one arm around Tony's waist to both comfort and hold him up, his other hand snaked it's way to turn off the tap and back to join the other. As Gibbs rested his head on his younger lover's shoulder, gently kissing the smooth pink flesh, Tony leant against Jethro's chest, allowing him to remove both hands from their resting spot, opening the bottle and shaking out two of the small, white pills into his palm, throwing them in his mouth and swallowing them without any water.
“You in pain?” It was a soft, loving voice Tony would never hear at work from his boss, but one he had grown accustomed to at home from the man he loved, especially on nights like these.
“Yeah, a bit, not sure whether it's real or all in my head though. Guess we'll know as soon as the painkillers kick in.” There was a defeated tone to Tony's honesty that Gibbs hadn't heard in a while. It broke his heart to hear his lover like this and he couldn't help but embrace him a just a tiny bit tighter, hoping the firm grip would give him strength.
“Come 'ere” grabbing one of his hands to offer support, the ex-marine silently instructed a hopping Tony to sit down on the now closed toilet seat cover. Lowering himself down on one knee in front of the seated man Gibbs grabbed Tony's right leg, placing it on his own raised knee, he moved his hands down the calf, massaging the curved end where the man's foot, ankle and three or so inches of leg used to be.
Gibbs had hoped that Tony would make a joke about being surprised the older man could still get down into that position after being married so many times. Instead he just watched as the younger man rested against the back of the toilet, eyes closed and his brow furrowed as he gripped the sides of the lid. The lack of humour after one of his nightmares wasn't uncommon but Jethro always hoped to hear Tony's deep laugh that followed a joke.
“Sorry if I woke you, I didn't think you'd heard me this time. Was it the screaming from the dream or the vomiting that followed?”
“Neither, actually, I guess somewhere in my gut I could feel that you weren't beside me any more.” He was relieved when Tony's eyes remained closed, he knew that if the man was to look into his eyes he would be able to see clearly the lies.
Well, technically it wasn't a lie, Jethro could always tell when the other man was absent from his bed; however this night it was the dream that woke him up. He could feel Tony tossing and turning, whimpering in pain beside him, long before he had even started to scream. At first he had attempted to wake him up, calling his name and gently shaking his shoulder, at one point even resorting to a gentle head slap as a last ditch effort. Gibbs knew where the dream was headed, even though he didn't know how it was playing out in the younger man's head and the thought of what was about to happen terrified him. When he was unsuccessful at waking Tony he had simply rolled over to face the window and letting the dream play out like Dr. Hunt, Tony's shrink, had recommended. He had never agreed with that method, it was too similar to just sitting back and letting a baby cry, and it pained Gibbs more than anything when the dream reached it's climax. But Tony had told him after one of the more terrifying dreams that sometimes he needed to let them play out, even if they did bring back all the painful memories.
The marine and senior field agent in Gibbs knew that sometimes people just needed to deal with issues on their own, but the lover in him, whose partner kept having dreams that flashed back to day he lost his foot, just didn't, couldn't and wouldn't, agree.
“You want to talk about it? The dream I mean.” As he continued to massage the limb he could feel the remaining muscle knotted and cramped beneath the heavily scarred tissue. The massaging barely accomplished getting all of them out and he knew it must be causing it's owner agony.
Tony inhaled deeply, gripping the seat harder, he mentally prepared himself for the routine the two men had been through countless times. “It played out the same way as every other dream I have had since I...”
It was one of the things Tony rarely said out loud, the fact that he had lost the lower part of his right leg, even after the three years that had passed since it happened. Even to Gibbs he almost never spoke those words, and Gibbs had been there with him when it happened, with him in both the hospital and rehab centre and he was there beside him the day Tony came back to work on his first prosthetic foot, walking stick in hand and confined to a desk. Gibbs had been the one to receive the brunt of the struggling man's anger, tears, fear and the bouts of depression.
Tony had been working at NCIS for a little over half a year when it had happened and even though Gibbs and Tony were together at the time, they had only been in a relationship for no more than six weeks. A relationship which had still been in the secret, between the two of them, stage at that point; though it could still be considered that now with only Abby, Ducky and Director Morrow knowing the truth. There had been more than a few times in the early days after Tony's accident that it looked as though the couple wouldn't make it, Tony wondering how Gibbs could love the crippled freak that he had become, but they had survived and they knew they were stronger for it.
“This one was different, though, wasn't it.” Tony slightly nodded and reached out, desperately seeking Gibbs' hand for support.
“This time it wasn't me, I mean I saw everything as if it was me and pretty much everything happened the same way, but I was in someone else's body... everything that happened was happening to McGee...” taking a deep, shaky breath, a tear escaped through one of Tony's still closed eyes and he continued on, struggling to get the words out “I should... I should never have told Tim that story... But Kate... Kate mentioned it... and I just... just wanted to scare McGee... you know, tease the Probie... Oh God, Gibbs what if I'd scared him so much that... that he made a mistake...” Tony's eyes shot open at his final realisation and Gibbs saw the pain and fear in them. “Oh God, Jet, I could have gotten the kid killed!”
Still holding Tony's hand Gibbs stopped massaging with the other to free up the hand. Tony looked about one step away from hyperventilating and he couldn't let that happen, so, bringing the hand he held to his chest above his heart and, with the now empty hand, bringing the brunette's head to his, foreheads touching, he allowed the younger man to feel his heart beat and breathe in the scent of coffee and sawdust. A combination that Tony had said always helped.
“You know what Tony, I was damned proud of you today.” feeling Tony's head shake against his Gibbs' lifted his chin up with a finger, blue eyes filled with an abundance of love and pride met green eyes filled with just as much fear and pain.
“No... but... I messed up...” It still stunned Gibbs that even after hundreds of hours of therapy and all of those nights the two men had spent going over the same discussions, Tony was still so emotionally broken.
“I don't want to hear you talking like that, you got me? You didn't mess up. If anything, by telling McGee that story you made him more cautious and in a situation like he was today that is not a bad thing. You wanna know why you made me proud today Anthony?” Pausing for a minute, waiting for a response he doubted would come. The only indication that Tony had even heard the older man was a glint in his eyes at the use of his given name, Gibbs continued. “It was the first time since losing your foot that we were assigned a case on a live impact range. It was the first time you had been forced into that situation again and you handled it like a pro. I'm serious Tony, I could see how scared you were being there today but you didn't let it take you over, you joked around with your team, you did your job and no one even noticed anything was wrong. If I hadn't have known you as well as I do I would have just guessed you were your normal self. That's why I am proud of you.”
Hearing Gibbs' words of encouragement Tony felt his emotional walls come crashing down. He knew neither his lover nor his boss would lie about something like that, especially not to him and it was the final straw in a mentally and emotionally hard day. Sitting there in the bathroom Tony gripped Gibbs' faded NIS t-shirt and broke down. As the younger man's body shook with each sob, Gibbs ignored the pain in his bended knee and rubbed circles on the man's bare back.
“Oh God Jet... I didn't think... I mean being there... It just... It brought it all back... and then Kate... Kate mentioned the story and... and I didn't even remember ever telling her about it... and it was all to familiar...” DiNozzo was gulping at the air trying to get enough oxygen to calm his crying but the more he talked about it the harder it became. “Then there was McGee... and... and I was waiting... expecting him to step on something... I thought that was when I was going to loose it... but he made it all the way... didn't step on anything... nothing blowing... blowing him up... taking away his... and you know what was the first thing I thought when I saw that he made it to the body?”
Gibbs didn't know what to say as Tony's voice grew louder and angrier, all he could manage was a soft shake of his head. “I th... thought... Why the hell did McGee make it back home in one piece when I didn't? Why the hell does a kid with no experience in the real world survive and... and I loose... I loose a foot... I'm a damn cripple, Gibbs, and McGee is perfectly fucking fine!” It was as if all the energy had left Tony's body with his outburst, collapsing deeper into his partners arms, he let a tearless sob escape through his lips and whispered “Why me Gibbs? Why did this have to happen to me? It's not fair...”
Leroy Jethro Gibbs, a man who came across to most people as an emotionless bastard, was himself on the verge of breaking down. He had asked himself the same question Tony had just asked every day since his lover had stepped on that explosive, more so during those countless hours he spent in the hospital with Tony, the follow up surgeries, rehab, therapy sessions and the once nightly flashbacks.
It wasn't as if the younger man had been careless the day it happened, Gibbs had actually been shocked to see the normally hyperactive ex Baltimore PD Detective so calm and focused, but DiNozzo had ended up being the one to pay for EOD's mistake with one limb in tatters, scars covering the other three, a medicine cabinet full of pills and a lifetime of therapy ahead just to battle to learn to deal with a serious case of Post Traumatic Stress.
The tears, struggle for breath and trembling had left the younger man as exhaustion began to set in. Holding him back at arms length, looking him right in the eyes, Gibbs raised a hand to caress Tony's cheek.
“I know you probably don't want to go back to sleep after the nightmare you just had but you're exhausted, why don't you have a quick shower and change while I fix up the bed.”
Gibbs struggled a bit to get to his feet and once he was standing he helped Tony do the same. As Tony rubbed his face with one of his hands, the other holding on to the silver haired man's shoulder for balance, he began to talk, hiding himself away beneath the hand “It wasn't just sweat was it.” it was spoken as a statement but Gibbs replied anyway.
“No, it wasn't, but you were relieving every second of that moment again so it's understandable”
“Understandable my fuckin' arse! I am a 33 year old man and I fuckin' wet the bed, no matter what I was dreaming there is no excuse for that Jethro!” his previously pale face was tinged red with a mix of embarrassment and anger at himself for letting both his body and his mind betray him.
Ignoring the outburst the older man just led his partner to the shower and sat him down on the plastic chair they had placed in there for when Tony was too exhausted to keep his balance on his only remaining foot. Gibbs kissed his brow as he expertly stripped away the damp boxer shorts and he turned on both taps, checking the temperature of the water before leaving the man to clean up himself.
Back in the bedroom Jethro took a moment to sadly examine the almost black spot on the dark blue bed sheets. Even though Tony had had an indecipherable number of dreams where he relieved that same moment over and over again he hadn't wet the bed since he had been out of the rehab centre a month or so.
Dr. Hunt had explained that one of the symptoms of Tony's PTSD was the vivid flashbacks which had his dreams playing out the same way as the events of that fateful day. The screams and the pain in his leg would be just as real now as they were then, which apparently proved the same for the fact that Tony had wet himself after getting a glimpse at his mutilated limb.
Removing the sheets from the bed and tossing them into the laundry hamper with Tony's boxers, the older man took the time to flip over the heavy, king sized mattress, putting cleaning the wet spot out of his mind until a more reasonable hour of the morning, before remaking the bed.
Grabbing a fresh pair of shorts out of Tony's top drawer, as well as an extra towel, Gibbs made his way to the ensuite when he heard the younger man shut off the water. He leant against the shower door and watched as the physically fit Italian dried and dressed, taking the time to appreciate that, while he may be a bit broken physically and mentally, his lover was alive and standing before him.
After Tony was through in the bathroom they both made their way back to the bed, the younger of the two getting in first and holding the covers open for the other man to do the same. Both knew that neither would be getting any sleep for the rest of the night, but as Gibbs pulled DiNozzo toward his chest they were content enough just to lay awake together in the warm embrace.
Gibbs was worried about what impact Tony's most recent nightmare would have on him at work the next day, especially considering they were still finishing off the case that had brought back the memories. He knew it would be useless to try and convince the younger man to take the day off, if he really wanted to he could probably order his partner to call in sick but that would just leave Tony at home all day, by himself in a depressed state to go over everything in his mind time and time again, and that was never a good idea.
Stroking the mop of brown hair in front of him Gibbs could only hope that the painkillers Tony had taken would provide him enough relief to be able to catch a couple of hours of dreamless sleep.
Whatever the day that laid ahead would bring they would have to deal with it then, no use worrying about it now.