Disclaimer: I do not own Criminal Minds or NCIS or any of their characters. I do however own this story, I wrote it and I do NOT give permission for anyone to post it anywhere else. If you want to share it post a link.
"How is it going with the physio?" Dr Brad Pitt asked as he finished listening to Tony's chest. Tony had been discharged from Bethesda after making a nearly miraculous recovery from an experimental antibiotic resistant form of bubonic plague, but all miracles have their price and the damage to Tony's lungs was extensive. He was making progress but it was still uncertain whether the very special agent would recover enough to return to the field. Tony and Brad were both still cautiously optimistic and highly motivated but Tony was finding the rehabilitation program that Bethesda offered to be more emotionally challenging than he'd expected.
"The exercises themselves are going well I suppose, but the group is just too depressing to be worth what little gains I've made. Please say I don't need to go back. I can't face all those old people again Brad" Tony replied. "None of them have any real hope that the treatment or physiotherapy will make much difference it just gets me down. It's worse than watching my Buckeyes get thrashed by your Wolverines would be, not that that's likely to happen."
"My Wolverines are well set to deliver that thrashing in a couple of weeks" Brad fired back automatically before dealing with the serious issue. "You need the therapy and you know your insurance won't pay for one on one therapy while there's a suitable group available" he replied firmly, he was sympathetic but he couldn't think of another option.
"The group isn't suitable. It's just too depressing. I feel like slitting my wrists by the time I manage to escape from all the old fogies. And they're all such busybodies. They want to know what happened to me in every gory detail and they're getting pissed that I can't tell them. Even if it wasn't classified, just finding out that it's possible for someone to send something like that through the mail will cause a panic. Let alone risking giving some old crackpot with a grudge the idea of trying it." Tony moaned. "Give me the exercise program or something and I'll do it on my own."
Brad frowned. He'd heard from the pulmonary physio how tough Tony was finding the group but he really didn't want Tony working on his own with this, his lungs were too fragile, for the moment he needed to either do his workouts somewhere that he had someone standing by ready to administer oxygen if he needed it or scale back on the exertion to a level that it wouldn't give him anywhere near as much benefit. "That's not the best idea, unless one of your colleagues would be willing to supervise you and monitor you breathing while you exercise" he said. "Or a friend outside the agency, if you can get them the clearance to be told about the damage to your lungs and what symptoms to look out for and actions to take."
"The team are on a case they won't have time to babysit me" Tony replied, not wanting to burden his team mates. He wasn't prepared to show that sort of weakness in front of Gibbs or Kate, for totally different reasons of course, and he couldn't see Tim being willing to come clear across town from the hovel of an apartment he lived in to help out the senior who pranked him mercilessly. Ducky probably would if he were asked but Tony knew he had his hands full dealing with his elderly monther. And his frat buddies were fun to hang around with to go out for a night on the town or shoot some hoops but they were an escape from the seriousness of his professional life, he didn't want to ruin that by dragging him into this.
Brad remembered some gossip he'd heard whispers of lately on the grapevine. "I think I might have an idea. Let me consult a colleague of mine and talk to the powers that be and see if it pans out" Brad said thoughtfully. "Unless you're willing to pay for private physio yourself, but few of them specialise in respiratory physio, I could make some calls for you."
Tony groaned. "I'd pay not to have to go back to that group again" he admitted reluctantly. "I just can't face it."
"Leave it with me and I'll get back to you" Brad promised.
"Dr Kimura" Linda Kimura answered her phone professionally later that afternoon.
"Good afternoon. It's Dr Brad Pitt at Bethesda. I'm calling because I have a unique and classified problem that if the rumours I've heard lately are true you could possibly help me with" Brad introduced himself.
"Oh" Linda asked curiously.
"I have an agent in need of pulmonary rehab following an acute illness that I can't discuss. His insurance is refusing to pay for one on one therapy and when I tried to fit him into our existing groups he found mixing with the other clients distressing. My other clients are all older retired sailors and have chronic or potentially fatal lung diseases. I heard you currently had a younger more acute group of clients that he hopefully could fit into. A group that are expected to make improvements and get back to a normal life?" Brad suggested.
"I can't talk about that" Linda said firmly.
"That's okay, the cause of Special Agent DiNozzo's illness is also classified" Brad replied. "I realise this is unusual but if it gets my man the help he needs to return to a normal life without causing him a major depression from having to face his worst-case scenario every time he walks into the gym or letting him compromise his safety by using a personal trainer instead of a qualified physiotherapist then it's worth bending a few small rules."
Linda smiled to herself at her colleagues willingness to go the extra mile for his patient.
"I can't fit him into the main group I have going but we also have a young agent receiving one on one pulmonary rehab that could do with some peer support from somebody that understands not being able to talk about classified situations actually means. Send me what information you can on your man and I'll discuss it with the decision makers and get back to you" Linda said. She thought that meeting a fellow agent with similar lung issues might do her patient some good as well if their lung function was similar, but she was prepared to turn her colleague down if she thought the differences in function and recovery would be likely to upset or discourage the young agent she'd come to like and respect.
"Thanks Linda" Brad said gratefully, "I'll owe you one."
"I am making no promises. My client has to come first I'm not willing to slot someone else into his therapy sessions if it puts him at a disadvantage" Linda warned.
"I'm sure you'll do your best when you see what I'm working with" Brad said confidently.
"Rescue me from some of the bores at next month's conference and I'll call it even. It might do both our patients some good to know someone in a similar situation" Linda said smiling.
"We'll protect each other" Brad laughed and agreed.
Linda rang back the next morning keen to have SSA Reid meet Special Agent DiNozzo. She thought it would do a lot for her young charge to have the support of someone in the same boat as he was. DiNozzo's original lung damage was slightly worse than Spencer's though he'd obviously had a greater premorbid exercise tolerance and he was several weeks further down the road to recovery putting them in a similar situation at the moment.
Brad was delighted with the offer and quickly wrote down the details of the daily therapy program and promised to send his agent along early for the preliminary assessment.
"Good news Tony I have found you a more appropriate pulmonary rehabilitation program" Brad said enthusiastically, when Tony answered his phone. "The bad news is that it would mean daily visits to Annapolis."
"You guarantee there won't be any dying patients, and no little old ladies who sit gossiping even as they're gasping for breath or tragic old men who freely admit that their lung condition has permanently killed their libido and they don't even have enough energy to regret it?" Tony asked cynically.
"None of that. There's only one other patient in similar circumstances to you" Brad replied. "I can't tell you details and by that, I mean they refused to share them with me, if anything his illness is more classified than your own. But he is also an Agent hoping to regain his field agent status."
"Sounds brilliant" Tony said enthusiastically. "When do I start?"
"Be there at eight tomorrow for a preliminary workup before the session starts at eight thirty Monday to Friday" Brad replied.
"That's early" Tony almost whined.
"Too early for the old codgers" Brad pointed out. "That's the reason they can get access to the gym to run a daily two hour group for only two patients."
Tony nodded understandingly. "I'll make it" he promised.
"I think this will solve your problems and you'll make more progress in a smaller group too" Brad said encouragingly.
"Thanks Brad" Tony said gratefully. He knew the doctor had to have pulled some serious strings to get him included into what had been a private physio session for the other patient.
"You're welcome" Brad replied cheerfully.
Tony turned up early in his designer gym wear, trying to hide his anxiety about the session.
"Hi I'm Jodie and I'll be your therapist today" an attractive lady in her mid forties entered the room energetically.
"Very Special Agent Anthony DiNozzo. You can call me Tony" Tony flirted automatically. His eyes took note of the wedding ring she wore around her neck.
"Welcome Tony. We're going to start by measuring your oxygen stats while we pass through several activities. We'll start on the treadmill. She set it off on a very slow pace gradually increasing the speed until Tony was gasping for breath and struggling to keep up. He began to cough and she stopped the treadmill watching anxiously as he coughed for several minutes before stopping and passing him his water bottle once it was safe to do so. "Okay Tony take a seat and rest while I monitor your recovery" Jodie said cheerfully, though she was quite concerned how quickly the agent had become short of breath. From his physique she could tell that he'd been quite fit before his recent illness. She was concerned about how long it took for him to catch his breath and for his oxygen sats to return to normal.
"Okay the session will start in about ten minutes but you've already worked quite hard for me this morning so please take it easy" she said keeping an eye on him unobtrusively as she set up the rest of the gym for the next couple of sessions.
"Thanks Jodie" Tony said, trying to grin charmingly but not quite succeeding.
Spencer entered the gym surprised to find two people there that he didn't know. Had his therapy time been changed?"
"Um hello" he said shyly.
The physio looked up and smiled at the nervous young man. "Hi I'm Jodie and I'll be taking over from Rob, he's been called away unexpectedly."
"I'm SSA Doctor Spencer Reid. Please call me Spencer or Reid whichever your more comfortable with" Spencer said waving at her awkwardly.
Tony turned to the new arrival surprised at the introduction. The kid barely looked twenty-one and more green than McGee, but he introduced himself as not only a doctor but a Supervisory Special Agent? Hell! The kid outranked him? He stared suspiciously wondering what was so special about this agent to have moved him up the ranks so quickly.
"Welcome Spencer, this is Tony who will be your partner in these sessions. Now I'm aware of the classified nature of both of your lung injuries and I know you understand that neither of you are allowed to discuss the cause of your conditions with me or each other but while I don't know the actual cause for either of you I have had access to your X-rays and lung function tests, what I can say is that you've both received similar lung damage from slightly different causes. So you'll be undergoing a lot of the same treatment and both have a fairly good prognosis for recovering well enough to return to field duty though you will have to be careful with lung infections in the future. Dr Pitt and Dr Kimura thought that having someone in similar circumstances to go through this with, and to talk to as you return to fitness and regain the clearances to return to work would help" Jodie said cheerfully.
Tony smiled but Spencer only looked wary. The morning passed slowly as they worked through their exercises without talking because neither had the breath to spare and collapsed onto the benches provided at the end of the session.
As he caught his breath, Tony decided to put his resentment at being outranked aside and try to get to know this kid he'd be spending a couple of hours a day with for the foreseeable future.
"I work on the MCRT at NCIS, you?" he said.
"What's your clearance?" Spencer asked surprisingly instead of answering.
"Does it matter? I only want to know where you work" Tony said irritated.
"Yeah it does" Spencer replied seriously.
Tony rolled his eyes. "We deal with a lot of espionage and terrorism cases so better than top secret" he replied, giving in to his curiosity.
"I work as a profiler for the FBI, at the BAU and consult for the NSA, homeland and the CIA," Spencer replied. "I probably shouldn't tell you all that though. The fact that I consult is classified, not even all my team know exactly who I consult for."
"What's your doctorate in?" Tony asked. "I take it you're not a medical doctor?"
"Chemistry Mathematics and Engineering" Spencer replied.
"Wow super smart" Tony said impressed.
Spencer surprised him by hanging his head and seemed to be waiting for an insult or even a blow.
"I have a team mate who isn't half as smart as you, graduated high school at fifteen, bachelors from MIT in biomedical engineering and Masters in computer forensics from Johns Hopkins. He's really proud of his degrees almost annoyingly arrogant about them, but you almost seem ashamed of yours" Tony said perceptively.
Spencer immediately shook his head. "I'm not ashamed of my qualifications, I'm proud of the work I did to get them. I've just found that telling people about my PhD's makes it harder to make friends" he admitted blushing. "People resent those that are too much smarter than they are."
"Well it is a little intimidating but I think my ego is healthy enough to cope" Tony said teasingly.
Hr frowned when his words didn't relax his new physio partner. "My team mates would certainly tell you it's big enough."
Spencer still didn't smile.
"You want to grab some dinner?" Tony offered.
Spencer looked up in surprise, "Sure" he said enthusiastically. "What sort of food do you like? There's this great Thai place near my apartment if you're interested.
"Well that depends a lot on where you live" Tony replied laughing.
"E street, about five minutes' walk from union station" Spencer replied. "Or at least it only used to take me five minutes" he added sighing despondently.
Tony could definitely sympathise with that, though he rarely walked anywhere or caught the train.
"Don't you work out at Quantico?" Tony asked.
"Yeah, when we're in town, but I like living in the city and it's not too bad a train journey" Spencer replied. "Where do you live?"
"I own a condo in Dupont Circle" Tony replied.
"How could you afford that on an agent's salary or don't I want to know?" Spencer blurted out. "I'm sorry that was rude of me. I didn't mean to be insulting" he said cringing.
Tony laughed. "It was an ex crime scene, a violent home invasion murder. I originally was going to keep it until the seven year disclosure period was up and make a killing, financially speaking of course. But it's home now."
Spencer laughed too. "Did you work the case?" he asked curiously.
"Yeah it was solved really quickly though so it wasn't one of the ones that haunts you" Tony replied.
Spencer nodded, he understood that. "Still, I work crime scenes all the time but I don't think I'd want to live in one."
"Spence the mortgage payments on my condo were less than I was paying for a dinky little studio apartment. Sure I had to completely redecorate but I kind of enjoyed doing that, well the designing part not so much the manual labour part" Tony said depreciatingly. "I could help you find a place if you want, well once I get back to work, if I get back into the field."
"That sounds good but I haven't any experience with decorating and heaven knows if I'm ever going to be capable of the manual labour. Not to mention I'm sure that plaster dust and paint fumes were on that list of things we're supposed to avoid breathing in" Spencer replied dubiously.
Tony sighed despondently. "Yeah, don't remind me" he said.
"Sorry" Spencer apologised.
"Rule 6 Never apologise it's a sign of weakness" Tony said automatically.
Spencer looked at him in astonishment. "That's ridiculous, if you're in the wrong the best way to clear the air is to admit it and apologize."
"Not if you're Leroy Jethro Gibbs" Tony commented.
"Who?" Spencer asked.
"My Boss. Ex Marine, a real hardass. He has this set of rules he lives by" Tony replied.
"Well I hope the rest are more sensible than that" Spencer replied, before blushing and beginning to stammer apologies again.
"Relax Spencer, I'm not so enamoured by the man that I can't see his bad points" Tony said calmingly. "But seriously you need to stop apologising all the time. Have a little more confidence in yourself. I wouldn't have offered to have dinner with you if I didn't want to. I know you're awkward with this situation and I won't take offence. We're going to be team mates in therapy for the next few months."
Calling them team mates seemed to settle Spencer and he began participating more confidently in the conversation. He'd taken the train so Tony gave him a ride to the Thai restaurant he'd recommended.
"You do watch movies right?" Tony asked when another obvious reference to a popular movie drew a blank confused look.
"I'm more interested in the classics" Spencer replied.
"Oh! Have you seen the original version of Frankenstein?"
"Yes, you mean the 1931 version with Boris Karloff and Colin Clive?" Spencer said enthusiastically. Did you know that the electrical effects used in the "creation scene used a Tesla Coil built by the inventor Nikola Tesla. And that they were so successful that nearly all the Frankenstein movies since have used that old technology to make the visual effects. Nikola Tesla was an engineer and physicist who invented the AC current that is used in all electrical wiring…"
Tony interrupted mentioning the facts he knew about the movie and they both enjoyed the resulting conversation.