This was the second time Kate Todd had seen her fellow agent grab onto the side of the van in an effort to keep upright.
"Just dizzy," Tony DiNozzo muttered, squinting at the green-lit surveillance screens in the dark confines of what, for more than half the week, had been their four-wheeled prison. "How much longer are we going to wait, anyway?"
"Patience, DiNozzo." Gibbs leaned in toward the nearest monitor. "You'll get to run in, weapon at ready, soon enough."
"We've been on this surveillance four days and nights, boss. I just think we deserve a little downtime."
"If you're bucking for that sick day again, forget it." Gibbs looked up, the green light reflected from the screens haloing his graying hair. "So help me, if you call in sick tomorrow, you better be dead."
"Yeah, yeah." DiNozzo waved him off. "I got that part loud and clear. No rest for the weary."
"Or in your case," observed Gibbs after a sip of what had to be his fourteenth straight cup of coffee, "the wicked."
He put the cup down. "You see that?"
"Oh yeah, it's going down." Kate's hand moved automatically to check the position of her weapon.
"Let's rock and roll, agents," said Gibbs sliding the van door open.
"Finally," muttered DiNozzo. He stumbled as he stepped from the van, earning a frown from Gibbs in the process.
Yeah, this was definitely the way to get on Gibbs' good side. Not that he'd actually found which side of Gibbs might be considered 'good' even after two years of close proximity.
"No, DiNozzo. What part of the two letters don't you understand? The 'N' or the 'O'?"
Tony's head was still spinning, but at least it was a casual kind of slow loop-de-loop and not the gut-twisting carnival ride that had landed him on his butt at the bottom of the stairs of his apartment building that morning. "I just need a day or two. A small break."
"Let me guess," said Gibbs. "You've got expiring frequent flyer miles? You've won a free weekend at some condo place up in the Adirondacks?"
"Really, boss. I just need a break."
Gibbs sauntered over to the younger agent's desk and flipped open the top folder of a Pisa-esque tower of paperwork. "Your status report on the McKinley case should have been done two weeks ago."
"Two weeks ago you had us camped out in Trailers-R-Us looking for stolen jet parts."
"You could have taken your paperwork."
"Taken my--" DiNozzo suddenly grabbed at the desk as the room did a brief imitation of a Tilt-A-Whirl. "Whoa."
Tony shook his head to try to clear the vertigo.
"Go see an ear, nose and throat guy and get that inner ear thing fixed. I don't want you pulling your weapon one day and falling flat on your face. You got it?"
"Oh yeah. I got it." DiNozzo managed a pitifully fake smile. "I got it."
"Hey, boss." DiNozzo hunched his tall, rangy body into the chair across from Gibbs' own. "You know that ear thing that was making me dizzy?"
"Yeah." Gibbs looked up from his e-mail when the silence became lengthy. "You got something to tell me or are you just gonna sit there and stare blankly until I give you that sick day you've been whining for?"
"Um," Tony licked dry lips and his hand pushed back the wayward strands of his hair. "I took your advice and saw a doctor. Actually I've seen a couple of them at this point. It's not my ears." He apparently found something terribly fascinating about the few inches of Gibbs' desk directly in front of him. "It's MS."
This was just a murmur and Gibbs had to lean forward to try to catch it.
"Multiple sclerosis?" he confirmed just to be sure he'd heard the whispered words.
"Uh, yeah, from my symptoms they think it's the progressive kind, maybe the kind that doesn't go into remission." He pushed a piece of paper across the desktop with a hand that was more than a little shaky. "That's... that's my resignation. I..." Now that he really looked at him, DiNozzo looked stunned and more than a little lost. "I'll clean out my desk tomorrow. I think I have disability insurance. I pay for something, or maybe that was life insurance." Pushing himself up from the chair he swayed a little as the disorder stealing his balance made itself known again. "I, uh, I'll tell the others."
"Tony!" Gibbs rose to reach across and latch a hand onto DiNozzo's arm as the younger man's knees gave. "Sit down. That's an order."
Still looking dazed, Tony merely mumbled "yes, boss" and sank back into the chair.
Fuck. This wasn't his forte. Gibbs was an interrogator, and not exactly of the finesse type. He wasn't much of a manager, either, at least in the touchy-feely department, and comfort wasn't something he had a lot of skill at - you could ask his ex-wives. But he kept his hand on DiNozzo's bicep as the younger man eased himself back down into the chair.
"Stay there," he ordered. "I'm going to go get my stuff and then I'm going to drive you home. Okay?"
DiNozzo's eyes were locked on the hand clasping his arm as if he expected it to make a sudden move he'd need to defend against. "I can take a cab. I took one over here."
Shit. How long had DiNozzo not been driving?
"Stay," Gibbs repeated. "Do not move from that chair until I get back."
Their ride had finally ended in one of those trendy, upscale apartment complexes, the kind with willow trees curtaining manicured walking trails. And, Gibbs noted sourly, stairs. Lots of stairs.
"Second floor, building B."
The only time DiNozzo had spoken the entire trip was to give him directions so he pulled silently up at the foot of the building, parking next to a concrete and steel outer staircase.
Christ. As ditzy as DiNozzo's balance had been on the walk to the parking garage, there's no way he should be going up and down that.
"This place got an elevator?"
A short bark of laughter greeted the question. "Nope."
Probably, mused Gibbs, a short bark of laughter was exactly what it deserved. DiNozzo staggered slightly as he got out of the car but shook it off. When he reached the offending staircase he took the right-side rail in hand and levered himself up the first riser.
Gibbs watched as the younger man's left leg nearly gave as he mounted the step, his own guilt growing. How long had this been this bad and how the hell did no one notice? How the hell did he not notice?
It had seemed like the kid had taken to daily whining ... Christ, not whining. He'd complained he was tired and dizzy. Always dizzy. And Gibbs had told him to shut up. Repeatedly. It was Todd who'd finally badgered the younger man enough that he found a doctor, and not without a few little private asides of griping of her own.
Tony stopped beside one of the identically neutrally-painted doors. "Okay, you got me here. Thanks, by the way. I'd invite you in but I'm not much of a housekeeper."
"You going to be okay tonight?"
DiNozzo palmed the wall to keep himself steady. "Yeah. Sure."
Gibbs nodded. "Then I'll see you in the morning."
"I never approved that sick day." Headed back down the stairs, Gibbs turned back to look one more time at his junior agent. DiNozzo was struggling a bit with the lock but Gibbs ignored it. "Seven o'clock and I don't want to wait."
Confused and still rocked by dizziness, DiNozzo did what came naturally to him, at least where Gibbs was concerned -- he demurred. "Yeah, boss. Seven o'clock."
Usual disclaimers apply. The pretty guys and girl of NCIS are not mine but I play with them anyway.