"Oh, crap," NCIS special agent Tony DiNozzo heard as he continued to try to catch his breath. He didn't remember swimming under water as being such a huge deal, but then again he hadn't done anything this strenuous under water since his bout with the plague. Of course, add mouth-to-mouth for two people to the mix and he was bound to have trouble catching his breath, right? This moment, right now, as he breathed in hardly anything that seemed to be helping, it was made painfully clear just how messed up his lungs really were from that time when he almost died. Well, one of the times he almost died.
"It's…o…kay," he answered. Tim McGee had kneeled down next to their boss, Leroy Jethro Gibbs, and checked his pulse. He felt the heartbeat and then noticed their team leader beginning to breathe easier. "They…they're both…breath…ing," Tony offered between the desperate breaths. This was so hard, this breathing thing.
"I can see that, Tony." McGee ran over to the girl to make sure that what the senior field agent said was actually true, though he kept stealing worried glances at the soaked and struggling for breath agent sitting between the two people said man had apparently just saved.
"…and at least two ambulances. Fine. Thank you, Abby. Tony?" she asked, a hint of concern in her voice. Tony could hear Ziva David but he hadn't seen her yet. For that matter, he hadn't seen Probie yet, either. Raising his head seemed like a bad idea. He should just keep his head down and concentrate on the breathing thing.
"Tony," he heard - a raspy call - his senses telling him to stand at attention. Gibbs. How could he be talking already?
Tony breathed in a few more times - what the hell, had he forgotten how to do that properly? - and then answered, "Boss? You…all…right?"
"I'll be fine," Gibbs scratched out. "How 'bout you?"
"Hey," Tony started, trying to make light of what was seemingly worrisome to his entire team, "I…dove down…twice," he said, struggling to breath but still insistent on answering his boss, "and did…mouth…-to…-mouth to you…and…"
"Stop talking, DiNozzo. McGee?" Gibbs ordered, Tim immediately understanding his boss' desire that he take over the scene as Gibbs lay back down on the wooden decking.
"Tony, are you getting enough air?" the younger agent asked as he kneeled in front of the man who was so often the bane of his existence. Despite all the kidding and prodding and generally less than professional bull he seemed destined to take from Tony DiNozzo, he still looked at him fondly, as a friend and, he hated to admit, a surprisingly good mentor and, currently, with great concern.
"Just…finished…" Tony started, pointing back to the water and then nodding down to Gibbs and Maddie. As he tilted his head, his body lost its balance and started to crash to the dock, in the direction of the girl who Ziva now kneeled next to. Tim grabbed Tony, and with Ziva's help eased him down on his side, and then helped him lay back. Gibbs scooted out of the way to make room.
"DiNozzo?" Gibbs called worriedly. He started to try to get up.
"Boss, don't. EMTs and an ambulance will be here soon. How long were you under?" Tim asked.
"Long enough. Tony?"
Tony was worried already that he seemed unable to catch his breath, but now he sensed a cough building, most likely something unpleasant in this nasty harbor water that was going to do nothing good for his throat, and could lead to something worse in his lungs. And he felt cold beyond cold. He began to shiver, but he couldn't not answer Gibbs. He replied, "Here," because that was all he could get out before a cough erupted from deep down in his throat. He could taste the foul water, which was one of the reasons why he couldn't believe that Gibbs was talking at all just yet. Tony needed to spit out what he'd brought up, he remembered at least that, but he looked right and saw Gibbs, and then left and saw Maddie. And they both had blankets wrapped around them; when had that happened? He coughed again and sat up, spitting what he had in his mouth forward, though much of it ended up on his soaking wet suit. And on McGee's chest. Tony put a shaking hand to his face to wipe away the wet and then he rubbed his forehead. "Sorry," he said to his colleague.
"Don't worry about it, Tony. Do you wanna lay back down?"
"Yeah, thanks, Probie."
The sirens from the ambulances and the EMT could be heard as they sped closer to the dock's location. Tony knew that was a good thing, because he really wasn't feeling very good. He could just imagine how unpleasant things were for Gibbs and Maddie.
"DiNozzo!" Tony blinked. Gibbs again. Why did everyone keep calling his name? And hadn't he answered enough questions already? Plus, they should just leave him alone because he did, after all, just save two lives.
"Tony?" Ziva. Jesus.
"Mr. DiNozzo?" A pause, and then again, with more urgency, "Mr. DiNozzo?"
That caught Tony's attention. He opened his eyes, or at least he started to, but wow, was that harder than it should have been. He forced them open. He turned his head left and then right. Nope. No Mr. DiNozzo.
"Hey. Good. Mr. DiNozzo, can you…" Oh. They were calling him Mr. DiNozzo. Nobody did that, at least they didn't once he set them straight.
"T…T…Tony," he corrected. His teeth chattered. It was freezing.
"Okay, Tony. Can you stay awake for me?" It was a female voice. He didn't recognize it, but things had started to sound a little fuzzy now. He felt his head being lifted, and then a mask was placed over his face.
"He had pneumonic plague about two years ago. They said he'd be susceptible…"
"We know, Mr. McGee. We understand what to do. Tony, we're giving you pure oxygen, and we're going to start an IV. How do you feel?"
"Weird. Tired." Too tired to remember telling them how much he hated needles, not that he'd win any argument on that right now.
"Taking a swim in this water really isn't the best idea you've had today."
"I…I…had to…" Tony was shivering pretty hard now. "Gave them…both…mouth-to-mouth."
"That's okay. I was just kidding."
"No. It's not…just the…water," DiNozzo explained.
"Right. I'm sure all of this has taken a lot out of you," the EMT said.
"Hm," Tony offered, followed by, "Freezing."
"The IV will help warm you up, and we've got a blanket coming…" There was a pause and then Tony felt something laid over top of him, followed by a warmly offered, "Thanks, Mark."
"Mark?" Tony asked.
"Is he okay?" Gibbs. Again.
"My partner's Mark. I'm Sandy."
"Hi, Tony. I think so. I think this is just what it looks like: cold and shock more than anything to worry about with his bout with the plague. You said he coughed up some water…ah, here it is," Sandy noted, seeing it on both DiNozzo's and McGee's chests.
"Nice," Tony noted. "Embarrassing," he added.
"No worries, Tony. I've seen worse."
"How we doin'?" Mark asked.
"I think we're ready to go. Let's get Tony in the first ambulance. We can put the other two in one. They're not as bad off."
"But he will be all right?" Ziva asked. Her demeanor seemed more protective than worried for her associate, Sandy thought as she looked to her own partner. More than a partner? It was hard to say. But she knew she'd do anything for Mark; they were just friends, but there was really no 'just' about it.
"Yeah, but the sooner he's warmed up and they can get him on a broad-spectrum antibiotic, the better. As you all seem to be aware, his history does leave him in a particularly precarious position with his lungs." Tony laughed.
"What's so funny?" Ziva asked.
"Partic…ularly precar…ious posi…tion," Tony answered through a series of small coughs that built into one big wracking cough. "It re…minds me of…a movie…"
"Enough with the laughing, Tony," Gibbs commanded. "You may want to ease up on the talking, too."
"Yes…boss," Tony agreed as he continued to cough and try to breathe a little, too.
"No more talking at all, how's that sound?" Sandy instructed. DiNozzo nodded his head at the really good idea.
"All right. We will see you at the hospital shortly," Ziva said.
"That's fine, Miss David."
"McGee, go with Tony. Ziva?"
"I'll wrap things up here," she said in answer to her boss' directive.
After a longer than planned stay at the dock settling things there, Ziva finally contacted McGee and found that everyone had been released from the emergency room. Maddie was driven to a friend's house and the rest were back at the office. It was near six in the evening when Ziva walked in to find Tony slumped at his desk, and Gibbs not looking all that much better.
"Shouldn't you both be home now?" she asked.
"Just wanted to make sure you got back okay," Tony said, his head cupped in his hand, only one reason why his words were slurred. His eyes were closed. He coughed a little at the end, and then looked up with a 'caught in the act' look on his face. Gibbs gave him the patented and justly feared Gibbs stare. Tony stopped talking.
Gibbs stood, grabbing his keys as they lay on his desk. "Let's head home. Good job everyone. And…thanks." McGee followed behind his boss, but stopped quick as Gibbs stopped in front of DiNozzo's desk. Tony had not yet risen. "DiNozzo, you're with me."
Tony looked up. It was clear by the look on his face that he wanted to say, 'I can drive myself home', but a smart-alecky comment seemed out of place, and he'd already had that look from Gibbs once in the last couple of minutes; he didn't really want, and he certainly didn't need, to see it again. He nodded his head and stood to join his team as they took the elevator and headed out.
In the car Gibbs said, "You did…what you did today," he started. He paused, not sure how much he should give the young agent. Tony needed the reinforcement occasionally of a job well done. He was a confident and truly excellent field agent, but it was clear that he yearned for that positive reinforcement far more than a man his age and in his position should. Gibbs was learning more and more about the reasons why Tony was the way he was, but he'd learned the hard way that he couldn't go too far with the praise. Tony knew how to use it, and abuse it. But today was a day when Gibbs doubted that he could give enough…and he wasn't exactly the greatest at expressing his feelings. Not these feelings.
"I'm not sure exactly how to say it, but…" Gibbs was interrupted by the weary man sitting next to him.
"Then don't. It was…" Tony started to cough.
"Stop talking. And don't say 'It was nothing' or 'It's my job'. It was more than that today, Tony. Way more than that. I…Maddie…" Gibbs didn't really know how to say that saving him, and saving her, meant so much more than any words could do justice.
"Boss," Tony started when the coughing let up enough to allow him to speak again. He stopped as Gibbs threw him a look of warning.
"Thank you. For today," Gibbs said. "You risked a lot, jumping into that harbor."
"I didn't…" Gibbs shot him the look again. The way Gibbs drove, talking right now was borderline suicide. Tony stayed quiet.
"You did good." The atmosphere in the car was calm and quiet for a few moments and then Gibbs added, thinking about all that he'd lost over the years, but feeling so much at that very second that he'd gained a lot, too, "I'm proud of the agent you've become and the man that you are." Gibbs looked at Tony, eye-to-eye. "Thank you."
Tony smiled uncomfortably and started to talk, but stopped as Gibbs' eyebrow rose high on his forehead. Tony's gaze went to the road ahead, a habit honed over years of riding shotgun with a madman. His eyes went wide at the looming disaster, though maybe it wasn't as bad as it looked. After all, how many times had Gibbs really crashed when faced with something like this? And that got DiNozzo to thinking about the law of averages…
"Don't worry, Tony. I've got your six." It was, after all, Gibbs' turn.