Hearing a sniffling sound that had become far too familiar over the last few days, Abby Scuito called out without turning.
"What do you want DiNozzo?"
"Cool it Elvira," the agent croaked out hoarsely as he stood at the entrance to the forensic's lab. "Gibbs himself told me that you and I needed to learn to play nice."
Whirling around on her platform pumps Abby shot back, "I know for a fact, DiNozzo, that Gibbs himself would remove your testicles if I asked nicely."
Tony chuckled and then leaned to the side to cough painfully into the sleeve of his charcoal, Armani jacket. He swallowed and winced, this time forcing a provocative smile at the forensic scientist.
Abby struggled to keep the pity out of her eyes as she repeated fiercely, "I asked you what you wanted."
"Just checking to see if you've run the DNA on our vic."
Abby rolled her eyes. "If it was finished do you think I'd be standing around down here? No. I'd have already called Gibbs with the update. Man DiNozzo, what kind of investigator do you think I am?"
Tony's eyes widened as he searched the air for a comeback. "Yeah… well… do that then."
"Yes sir," she intoned rudely, turning back to Major Mass Spec. She heard the expensive shoes start to click away behind her and then pause; she willed herself not to turn around. After a moment of silence a loud and painful "SChhx!" erupted behind her.
She turned her head just enough to see Tony pinching his nose and grimacing as his head threatened to explode with a second repressed sneeze.
She sighed and faced the agent, "Tony…" she began.
"What?" he yelled, turning around to glare at her. "I covered my mouth this time, just like you asked, very kindly I might add. And, if I may say, this covering thing," he rubbed his nose, "it kinda sucks."
His eyes burned with frustration and illness.
"I was just going to tell you," Abby replied, furrowing her brow, "there are spare boxes of tissues in the storage closet right outside the lab. Help yourself."
"Oh. Right." Tony idled a moment before leaving. "Thanks."
In the healthy silence after his departure Abby berated herself. Something about playing "nice" with Tony just felt so… well not nice. He'd only been working at NCIS for a month but, ever since coming from Baltimore, his presence had messed up the whole dynamic. These days it seemed Gibbs was always on defense, always angry. Ducky didn't seem to mind him but Abby couldn't stand the nasty habit Tony had of cutting him off mid-story. For crying out loud the man was at least a hundred. Show some respect. Already Jared was picking up bad habits.
Not to mention his total frat-boy attitude. It gave Abby flashbacks to the torments of high school. What an entitled, little rich-kid he would have been. He was definitely the sort who would have thrown kids in lockers. He probably would have gotten along great with those mean, rumor-spreading football players. The more she considered, the madder she got until Abby was positively slamming drawers and cabinets as she worked. And to think she had been nice to him. Just because he had a stupid cold.
The way the light was shining from Gibb's desk made the Robotussin bottle glow. Tony stared at it in wonder. It was so beautiful. It was like art. 'I could sell this,' he thought to himself. He lowered his head so his chin rested just a few inches from the bottle and his eyeline grazed the top of the red liquid.
"What are you doing?" a throaty voice asked him, much nearer than he could have foreseen.
He rolled his head to the side to see Abby standing above his desk, black carpet bag on one arm, scarlet cape hanging off the other.
"Abby," he said in a singsong voice. "I'm going to be an artist."
She looked puzzled for a moment before snatching the bottle from the desk and eyeing it dismally. "DiNozzo how much of this did you take?"
He sat up. "How much was I supposed to take?"
She read the label. "1-2 tablespoons every six hours."
Tony nodded thoughtfully and pursed his lips. "I took more than that."
A boyish grin lit his face and Abby could for once see the good looks he so prided. She couldn't help but crack a smile and her eyes twinkled as she said. "I can't believe you're Robo-tripping at work. Gibbs is going to kill you."
"Gibbs went home. He said I could go home too but…" Tony paused for a moment, his eyes squinting as he thought. After a moment he continued. "I didn't."
"No kidding DiNozzo," Abby laughed. "Man, you are so messed up right now."
"I am not…" this time Tony's hesitation was marked by twitching nostrils and his breathing hitched a few times before he pitched forward and sneezed into the ground.
"Bless-" she was cut off by Tony holding up a finger.
"There's two. There's always two."
His eyes watered in the lamplight and Abby took the opportunity to snatch a tissue from her purse and press it into the agent's hand. He held it to his face with both hands and sneezed again. He sniffled and rubbed Abby's tissue under his chapped, red nostrils.
"Always two," he whispered contentedly, sitting back in his chair.
"Well then bless you." She eyed him another moment before snatching up his phone. "I'm going to call you a cab."
"I don't need a cab," he said sleepily.
Abby snarled as her anger resurfaced. "Do you know how many innocent people are killed by drivers under the influence," she began to yell. "I have NO tolerance for people who endanger others just because they can't go out of their way-"
She stopped when she realized Tony had held up a finger again. He blinked through foggy eyes and looked closely at her. "I was going to say I don't need a cab because I can just take the bus."
Abby looked down at her shoes as a blush spread over her cheeks. "Oh."
Tony chuckled and smiled, "You really hate me."
Abby began fidgeting with her cape sheepishly. "I don't hate you. I mean, not really. I just… I don't like how things have changed since you got here. For example, Gibbs is so mean now."
"Wait wait wait," Tony sat up and stared at her. "Gibbs used to be nice?"
Abby half-smiled. "Well, not really. I mean, it's Gibbs."
"Oh good," he relaxed back again. "If I thought I had caused all that, I'd hate me too."
Tony began to cough around closed lips. It was deep and bronchial-sounding and Abby finally was feeling disarmed enough to show her true compassion.
Rubbing a hand across his back she said softly, "Look why don't I give you a ride home. It's way too cold out for the bus. Maybe we can stop on the way to get you some chicken soup."
He smiled up at her through a drowsy stupor. "Thanks Abs."
"You're welcome, Tony."