Disclaimer. If I did own them the Y-Pestis would have come back to haunt Tony long before now.

AN – If anyone is still patient enough to be waiting for the next instalment of 'trial and tribulation' this story is by way of an apology, I had intended to update that over Christmas, but all Tony's symptom's in this story are taken from my personal experiences over the holiday season. I have not abandoned 'trial' and will update as soon as I can write enough not to leave people hanging between updates. In the meantime, this story is pretty near complete and will be posted at regular intervals.

The most worrying part was that there was no particular reason behind it. No accidental dunking in the icy cold Potomac. No midnight chase through a blizzard wearing only a thin jacket and expensive shoes. Just the usual long tiring days, turning into relentless, exhausting, weeks as the winter dragged on. As they moved into December the twinkling Christmas decorations seemed to mock them with a promise of rest and respite, which never arrived.

"Wow, somebody's on a sugar high."

Tony paused in unwrapping another candy to glance questionably up at Abby and then down at the pile of candy wrappers littering his desk. He wondered when his throat had become so dry and scratchy that it demanded the constant supply of saliva,

"You know, sugar is .."

Whatever he had been about to say was cut off by the sound of his desk phone. Casting Abby an apologetic look, he scooped it up out of its cradle. As he went to tuck the receiver under his chin, Abby leant forward and plucked the unwrapped candy from his fingers, smirking at Tony's outraged look.

"Yes, sorry, I'm here…"

Forced to turn his attention to the call, Tony had to content himself with making faces at Abby as he opened his drawer and fished out the relevant file. Feeling the dryness in his throat, his other hand crept almost unconsciously inside the bag of candy, his fingers freezing in shock when they met empty air.

"What? No, I wanted .."

The cough took him by surprise, his eyes widening slightly, as he launched a fine spray of spittle over the mouthpiece. The hollow sound echoing, dry and painful, across the bullpen. Shaking his head slightly, he opened his mouth to speak, only to be silenced by another cough and then another. The voice echoing tinily in his ear was abruptly silenced as Abby grabbed the receiver.

"He'll call you back." She slammed down the phone and pressed a bottle of water into his hands. "Here. Drink."

Tony unscrewed the lid and took a grateful swallow, feeling the cool liquid trickle down his parched throat, easing the tightness in his chest.


"You're welcome," Abby frowned. "Are you okay?"

"I'm fine."

"Its just you were coughing." Abby bit her lip.

The shadows lurking in her eyes reminded him of the first time she had come to visit him in Bethesda, holding Gibbs' hand so hard her knuckles were chalk white as she chewed nervously on a strain of hair, knowing that her beloved science had only given him a 15 percent chance of survival, but desperately trusting that Gibbs' gut knew best and he wasn't going to die.

"Its just a cough, Abs."

"It had better be, Mister."