Tony DiNozzo wrapped one arm around his ribs. He ached from all the coughing, tired of feeling like he was hacking up a lung. At least he was getting oxygen with every breath now. He could almost speak in full sentences without pausing to breathe but occasionally if he tried to say too much, it would start a coughing fit.
Pneumonic plague. Who knew that disease even existed anymore? And why wasn't there an immunization for it like all the other horrible diseases? Biological warfare would be more difficult if everyone had resistance, if not immunity, right? Bioterrorists should be punished by execution with their own disease strains. Sounded about right to him. He made the mistake of mentioning that to Abby once. As a result, he was subjected to what had seemed an endless monologue of all the steps that would have to be taken in order for them to develop a vaccine. Mercifully, he fell asleep during it and never dared mention it again.
He sat at the side of the bed, and pulled on his sweats and a t-shirt. As he headed to the bathroom, he smelled coffee and sausage. Gibbs was fixing breakfast.
Everytime he thought about it, he shook his head in disbelief. Gibbs had taken two weeks off work to take care of him. No one had ever done anything like this before. When he mentioned it to Gibbs, he just growled. "Someone has to keep you out of trouble, DiNozzo."
Gibbs had taken surprisingly good care of him without making a fuss. He left the fussing for Ducky and Abby. He'd been surprised at the number of people who had been in and out to help, even some of their coworkers who weren't on their team, but Gibbs seemed to know what he needed, sometimes before he did. Last night, for example, he ordered Tony into the shower and told him not to come out until he smelled better. Tony hadn't felt like he had the energy for it until he saw the shower chair sitting in the tub. He felt better for it and when he returned to his room, he found that Gibbs had already changed the linens, even had clean blankets on the bed.
Tony smiled a little to himself as he reached for his toothbrush. It was nice to know that Gibbs cared and for the first time ever, he felt like he truly had a best friend. They didn't say the words out loud. If their roles had been reversed, he'd have done the same.
Tony inhaled the scent of the toothpaste, and his smile brightened even more for a second before he stuck the brush in his mouth. Toothpaste never tasted so good. He was pretty sure road kill didn't smell as bad as the crap he hacked up out of his lungs had tasted. Since then, his sense of smell heightened and he could taste subtle flavors that he couldn't before. Compared to the mucus, everything tasted good.
When he exited the bathroom a few minutes later, Gibbs was standing on the other side.
"Hey," Tony said, a little surprised.
Gibbs gave him an assessing look. "You look better."
"Feel a little better."
Tony nodded. "Yeah."
Gibbs smiled then, a broad smile, one that Tony hadn't seen in a while. He jerked his head to the stairs. "Make it okay or want me to stay close?"
Tony rolled his eyes. "You're gonna stay close no matter what I say." He stepped toward the stairs and was aware of Gibbs nearby, but not exactly hovering. He was stronger than he had been, but by the time he reached the table and sank gratefully down in the chair he felt a little weary, but not the bone-deep exhaustion from last week. His stomach growled then, demanding food.
Gibbs smirked a little as he set a plate of eggs, sausage and toast, and a glass of orange juice in front of him.
"Coffee?" Tony asked hopefully.
Gibbs raised an eyebrow. "Really?"
Tony smiled. "If you have milk and sugar. I like my tar sweet."
Gibbs chuckled, turned and grabbed a mug. Tony watched as he measured the right amount of milk and sugar, surprised that Gibbs knew. Gibbs set the mug in front of him. "I'm really allowed to have coffee?"
"Why not? Hardly any coffee in it."
"Two-thirds is coffee."
"This is what coffee should look like." Gibbs moved his cup so it sat beside Tony's cup. That is almost white."
"It's tan…light tan."
Gibbs rolled his eyes, but Tony could see the amusement there. "Light and coffee don't belong in the same sentence, DiNozzo!"
Tony laughed. Gibbs teased him frequently since he had been there and Tony was grateful for it. Gibbs grinned at seeing him smile. It was short-lived though, as laughing triggered a coughing fit. He quickly turned away from the table so he wouldn't cough all over their food, doubling over as pain shot through his ribs.
Gibbs thumped key points on Tony's back and Tony felt the gunk loosen. With one hard, wet cough, he expelled mucus in his hand, glad to see it was cloudy yellow rather than dark green. It took a few minutes before he finished coughing and caught his breath so he could go wash his hands. When he returned to the table his face was flushed and his eyes a little watery. "So tired of coughing." He inhaled carefully as he gave himself a moment to settle.
Gibbs nodded. "Got ya some cough med for after you eat."
Tony nodded, and wiped at his watery eyes.
Gibbs jerked his head toward his plate, indicating he should try to eat.
Tony rolled his eyes. "Yes, Dad!" Sometimes Gibbs acted like one, which both pleased and annoyed him in equal measure. He didn't need to be told to eat, though he had the passing thought it was too bad Gibbs wasn't a dad because he probably would've been a good one. Gibbs rolled his eyes at the remark, it wasn't the first time, probably not the last.
They ate in companionable silence. Despite his discomfort, Tony finished his breakfast but drank about half his coffee.
Gibbs nodded his approval at the empty plate and dumped out the coffee, then got the cough syrup and handed it to Tony.
Tony looked at the label. It was actually a name-brand, not the generic store-brand crap he hated. "Thanks for not getting green death medicine, Boss. That stuff gives me nightmares."
"I remember," Gibbs said as Tony poured out the liquid medicine and swallowed it. Gibbs took the little cup that came with the medicine bottle and rinsed it out as Tony headed to the couch. Gibbs followed him and grabbed the blanket at Tony's feet, unfolded it and draped it over him. Tony settled in against the pillows piled up to elevate his upper body in case he had trouble breathing. Tony visibly relaxed and closed his eyes.
"I gotta go into work today. Morrow is having a meeting. Kate's gonna keep ya company."
Tony opened his eyes. "You mean babysit me."
"It's not babysitting."
"Yeah, it is. She doesn't need to come over. I'm fine."
"Not yet, but getting there." Gibbs said.
Tony rolled his eyes. "Just tired."
"Yeah? Well, she's coming over anyway, making dinner."
"No need for a fuss. I'm okay. She doesn't have to make dinner."
"Tony," Gibbs started, a note of frustration in his voice. "You nearly died. Scared the hell out of all of us!" Gibbs barked.
Tony instantly felt guilty. "Okay, okay, sorry," Tony muttered. "Just…don't want to be more trouble than I already am."
Gibbs took a deep breath and lowered his voice. "She wants to help so let her, all right?" Gibbs paused a moment. Tony looked at him with a question in his eyes. "Gotta run errands after. Want anything from the store?"
Tony thought for a minute. "Steak?"
Gibbs grinned. "Already on the list."
"That stew thing you made the other night was good, can we have that again?"
"Sure," Gibbs said and paused for a moment, then as if making up his mind, he looked directly at Tony. "Kate's glad you're feeling better, Tony. Really glad," he emphasized.
Tony looked a little confused for a moment, but weariness clouded his perception and he could only nod and close his eyes, drifting off. He wanted to think about Kate. There was a lot to think about, but right now sleepiness tugged at his eyes and he gave in.