Title: Staying
Author: Cosmic

Email: bananacosmicgirl at hotmail . com
Website: www . cosmicuniverse . net
LiveJournal: bananacosmic . livejournal . com

Parts: 1
Words: 1 500
Rating: G
Genre: Friendship, hurt/comfort
Characters: Timothy McGee, Anthony DiNozzo
Pairings: Possible pre-Tony/Tim

Warnings: Possible pre-slash
Spoilers: 2x22 SWAK

Disclaimer: This story is based on characters and situations from the TV-show "NCIS", created and owned by David P. Bellisarius and CBS. No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended.

Summary: Tim swallows as he looks at the senior agent – he wonders how it could possibly be, how this purple and blue shell can possibly hold Tony, with all his vitality and energy.

Author's notes: After writing the continuation of Loving Him, I wanted to write more Tony/Tim scenes. I liked the style I set in Loving Him, so this is written the same way. This takes place post-SWAK.

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Staying
By Cosmic

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Tony has been moved to the Intensive Care Unit by the time Tim gets to Bethesda. He's apparently out of the woods as far as the virus itself goes, but still in grave danger of suffocating in the fluids sloshing through his lungs.

Tim has never hated hospitals, like so many others do. There has never been a reason; he's never had to connect the hospital to the deaths of people he loves. Two of his four grandparents are still alive, his parents are still alive, and beyond a friend who broke her leg, he can't remember having spent much time at a hospital at all.

When he enters Bethesda, he thinks he might change his mind.

Kate is sitting in a chair, fast asleep, when he gets to Tony's room. There are shadows beneath her eyes and her hair looks oily and unkempt. He's fairly certain she's wearing much of the same clothes she had on when she came in three days ago, when Tony first opened the letter.

Tony.

Tim swallows as he looks at the senior agent – he wonders how it could possibly be, how this purple and blue shell can possibly hold Tony, with all his vitality and energy. Now, his nose is tainted blue, his lips look bruised, and his eyes are sunken in and surrounded by more shades of blue. His hair is matted back, brow pearling with a light sheen of sweat; he must be running a fever, which Tim knows is good because then Tony's body is fighting, but it still makes him look even more awful.

Kate stirs, and looks at Tim.

"Hey," she says.

"Uh, hi," says Tim uncomfortably. He doesn't know what to say, what to think, or what to feel. He knows she's been there all along, while he stayed away, first trying to catch the mad-woman behind the scheme, and then simply avoiding it, because he doesn't want to see Tony this way.

"What time is it?" she asks, stretching her arms out as she yawns.

"Late," Tim says. He doesn't know the exact time; it should be around ten, but it could be later. The nurses shouldn't have allowed him here, but Gibbs must have scared them enough to let the team stay. "You should go home."

She looks at Tony, face crumbling. "But I have to—"

"I'll stay," Tim says, rather quickly.

She seems indecisive, gaze flitting over Tony's still form. "I'll be back first thing in the morning."

"Okay," Tim says, "I'll call if, uh, anything happens."

She nods, but lingers for a few minutes as she picks up what little of her belongings she has in the room. Her eyes constantly travel back to Tony, and she reaches out to touch him several times, squeezing his hand.

"Good night, McGee," Kate says quietly.

"Night, Kate," he replies.

When she's gone, the door falling shut behind her, Tim sighs and slumps into the room's other chair, the one right next to the bed. It's plastic and uncomfortable, but Tim barely notices. He listens to the pulse monitor as it registers every heartbeat, beeping steadily, a single noise in the otherwise silent room. There is a nasal cannula delivering much-needed oxygen.

He studies Tony, swallowing hard when he realizes that Tony isn't still and calm in sleep, but wincing every now and then, and shivering.

He leans forward and grabs Tony's hand before he can really think about it, because it's what Kate did and perhaps it's good for Tony. He wraps both his hands around Tony's, thinking that it feels frail beneath his fingers, even though Tony is never frail. Anyone even suggesting such a thing would usually get a slap or maybe even a punch.

At the moment, Tony can throw no punches, even if Tim had been stupid enough to call him frail out loud.

Tony moves, moaning in his sleep, and shivers. Tim stands; he wants to help, but he doesn't know how to. He spots an extra blanket at the end of the bed and grabs it, spreading it out over Tony. It relaxes him slightly.

A bowl of water stands on the table next to the bed, with cloths ready to be used for wiping and cooling. Tim takes a dry cloth and with great hesitance, he dabs Tony's sweaty forehead. Tony turns into the touch, breathing far from even and easy, but slightly calmer than a moment before.

Tim wonders what would have happened if he had been infected with the Plague instead. He is nowhere near as strong as Tony – neither physically nor mentally – and he thinks that he might already be dead, had it been him.

"Hang on, Tony," he says quietly before he can stop himself, and then he feels silly. He would never have said such a thing to Tony under regular circumstances – if he did, then he would have been teased mercilessly.

He wishes Tony would tease him now.

Something seems to lodge in Tony's throat, because his breathing becomes even more laboured all of a sudden. He jerks violently and wakes up, drawing desperately for air.

Tim's heart races as he grabs Tony and helps him into an upright position, leaning forward slightly. Tony gasps and gulps for breath, clawing at his chest and at the blanket.

Not knowing what else to do, and no nurses running in to help, Tim finally slaps Tony's back. It's not very hard, but it seems to loosen the mucus in Tony's throat and lungs, because suddenly, Tony draws air.

He slumps against Tim, all energy drained out of him. Tim pretends that there aren't tears in his eyes, that the scene didn't affect him at all. He lets Tony lean against him, wrapping one arm around his back, the other one hanging at his side because Tim doesn't know what to do with it.

A nurse comes running into the room at that moment. She stops, looking at Tim.

"Is everything all right?"

Tim thinks that nothing's all right, but he doesn't say that. He says, "He just needed to cough up some—uh, stuff."

She nods, and in a quick round, she checks over the equipment and the patient, who's still leaning against Tim. She takes a napkin and wipes Tony's chin free of phlegm and blood, and Tim looks the other way while she does.

When she leaves, she says, "Just hit the alarm if there's a problem."

He nods, and then the door closes after her.

Tony stirs against him.

"Probie—"

It's more of a wheeze than an actual spoken word.

"Yeah?"

"Tell 'nyone 'bout this an' I'll kill you," Tony mumbles.

Tim snorts. "I know. Wanna lay back down?"

Tony nods weakly against him. Tim wonders if Tony can feel his heartbeat – it's abating now, but was pounding loudly in his ears just moments ago. But perhaps Tony is too busy trying to breathe, to listen to other people's heartbeats.

He helps Tony back down, holding him like he would a baby – he supports Tony's head, because he's not certain Tony has the energy and ability to do so himself right now.

Tony is still for a few seconds, taking shallow, noisy breaths through blue lips.

"Do you want another blanket?" Tim asks.

"Mh-hmh," Tony mumbles the affirmative. "Cold."

"You have a fever," Tim says.

"I've the Plague," Tony says.

Tim pulls the blanket back up over Tony; it scrunched up over the lower parts of his legs when Tony couldn't breathe.

"Yeah," Tim says as he tucks Tony in safely beneath the blanket. "You're special. By the way, why 'Spanky'?"

Tony's eyes open and there's a very, very weak version of the Tony glare.

"Wouldn' you li' to know," Tony mutters.

"Not really, no," Tim says. He hopes that the light teasing is good for Tony, that is sparks some energy. Tony will obviously need it.

Tony's eyes fall shut again, and Tim knows that for all the good some teasing might do, sleep is the best thing for Tony right now. Tim sits back down in his chair.

Tony opens one eye, head lolling to the side to look at Tim. "You stayin'?"

"Uh, yeah," Tim says. "Promised Kate I would."

He doesn't know why he adds the last part; he would have stayed whether or not he had promised Kate. It has taken him days to finally visit, but now that he's here, he doesn't want to leave. But somehow, it seems easier to blame the staying on a promise – he doesn't want to deal with his own reasons for wanting to sit vigil by Tony's side. All he knows is that he does want to sit there, all through the night, just to make sure that Tony keeps breathing.

Tony's eyes close again, but he mumbles a single word before he falls back to sleep: "Good."

It makes Tim smile softly.

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Author's notes: Hope you enjoyed. If you'd like to read more of this verse, the Tony/Tim slash sequel is "Conversations".