Gibbs watched the respirator force air into the lungs of the man he had finally conceded he loved. Tony wasn't breathing on his own, and he looked pale as milk lying there so still. Jethro dropped down into the uncomfortable chair beside the bed and took the younger man's hand in his. Nothing had prepared him for the sight of the normally exuberant Tony unconscious and very near death. Even when he'd been afflicted by the plague, Tony had never given up, responding immediately to Jethro's order to live. Now, Gibbs wasn't certain any amount of ordering would work.
Taking a deep breath and shoring up his courage, Jethro leaned his elbows on the bed and spoke to his senior agent. "Tony, it's me; it's Gibbs. You're in the hospital, and the docs say you don't want to wake up for -em." He cleared his throat of its sudden tightness before continuing, "Listen, DiNozzo, you can't do this to me, all right? I need you to come back to me. Things may seem bleak to you, but they're not. Okay? You have to wake up so I can apologize, tell you all those things I should have told you months ago."
Gibbs knew he sounded uncharacteristically needy; in this instance, though, he was needy. He needed the opportunity to talk to this man who had become so important to him. He needed the chance to apologize over and over again for his foolishness. He needed . . . Tony. That's what it came down to - one simple truth that Jethro had tried long and hard to deny. But his denial didn't stand a chance when he looked at Tony in his hospital bed.
Grasping Tony's hand gently, Jethro felt a calm steal over him just from the touch of the younger man's too-cold hand. "Don't make me get Ducky and Abby here. They'll yammer at you until you have to wake up out of pure self-preservation. They haven't been the same since you left; none of us has. This would give everyone the opportunity to give you all the grief they've been shoring up over your leaving us."
The tongue-in-cheek threat didn't so much as merit a twitch from Tony. Not knowing what else to do, Gibbs continued speaking. "That woman you found today - that's my mother, Tony. And she's doing good, barely a scratch on her. Seems like a miracle, if you believe in that kind of thing.
"Tony, I know I hurt you that night . . . and for weeks afterward. I - I didn't know how to handle it. There you were, telling me that you - another man - were in love with me. That's just never been something I'd consciously considered. It threw me for a loop, let me tell you." Jethro stopped abruptly and drew a harsh breath. "But you know that already. There's no good explanation and no excuse at all for the way I treated you. All I can do is ask for your forgiveness - and for another chance."
One of the machines monitoring DiNozzo's vitals suddenly began beeping alarmingly. As medical personnel swooped into the room, Gibbs was pushed aside abruptly, losing his grip on Tony's hand and feeling the loss in his very soul. -Come on, Tony. Don't do this to me. Hell, I know I deserve it, but you don't. You deserve to live - with me, if you'll still have me.'
"Mr. Gibbs, we're going to be taking Mr. DiNozzo back into surgery. It appears that some of the internal sutures have ruptured and he's bleeding internally." The doctor's blunt words were like a slap in the face to Jethro, jerking him from his mental pleadings and back into reality.
"What caused the rupture? And what are his chances?" Jethro almost choked on the last question, but he needed to know.
"If we've caught it in time, this shouldn't greatly impact his recovery process. That doesn't mean that he'll be out of the woods, just that he won't be that much worse off. He will, however, be weaker, which could lead to complications. " The surgeon ran a hand through his hair before continuing, "Now, I've got to get scrubbed in. We'll let you know his status as soon as possible."
With that, the room emptied and Jethro was left alone to wait and worry.