"I'll stop by his apartment on my way in," McGee said into the phone while dodging mid-afternoon Sunday traffic.
"Do that," Gibbs answered. "Then tell him I'm going to kill him for not answering his phone when you two get in."
"You really think I should warn him?" McGee asked, then grimaced at the stupidity of that statement a second before sighing in relief.
Gibbs had already hung up on him.
McGee parked his car and headed into Tony's building, wishing he hadn't offered to stop by. It was bad enough that he had to come in on a Sunday for a case, but now he'd have to deal with whatever was keeping DiNozzo from answering and a grumpy Gibbs—because DiNozzo wasn't answering. At least maybe Kate would show up in those yoga pants of hers. I've been spending way too much time around Tony, he thought.
McGee stopped outside Tony's door and raised his fist to knock, hoping like hell that he wasn't about to interrupt his partner's afternoon romp with the random gorgeous chick of the week. He sighed and knocked.
He called out his partner's name and banged harder on the door.
"Come on, DiNozzo. Gibbs is going to kill you. Us, if we don't hurry up. I know you're in there because I saw your car in the garage on the way up."
"Nice investigating skills, Probie," McGee imagined his partner saying.
Yup, definitely hanging out with him too much lately.
McGee sighed again and pulled out his keys, searching for the one Tony had given him a few weeks earlier.
"Partners should have each others' keys," Tony had said, shortly after McGee had been permanently assigned to Gibbs' team.
McGee winced when he realized he'd yet to return the gesture. He put it on his mental to-do list and slid the sharp new key into the lock.
He entered the apartment slowly, fighting the urge to cover his eyes. "I swear, Tony, if you're—"
McGee stopped when his foot connected with something out of place, something heavy, something … human.
McGee dropped to his knees beside his partner, who was curled on his side in obvious pain.
"Tony! What the hell?" McGee exclaimed, causing DiNozzo to curl tighter and moan.
McGee blinked in shock at the moan, the unmistakable sound of pain. McGee leaned down, taking in the way Tony's arms cradled his head. He put a hand on his shoulder and frowned when Tony flinched at the contact. He quickly looked over DiNozzo's curled, quivering body but couldn't see any visible injury.
"Tony, what's going on?"
DiNozzo hissed in pain, then said something McGee didn't quite pick up.
"What was that, Tony?" he asked. "What did you say?"
DiNozzo made the sound again, and McGee leaned in closer and realized Tony was just moaning "Shhhhhhhhhhh."
McGee was confused—and getting more worried by the second. He pulled his cell and called the only person he could think of.
"You better be calling from the elevator," Gibbs growled as a greeting.
"Um, Boss, no, I…"
"What, McGee?" Gibbs barked.
"I'm at Tony's," McGee managed, wondering why Tony was writhing as he spoke and desperately wanting him to stop. He'd never seen someone in such obvious agony be so silent.
"And?" Gibbs prompted, not liking the tremor in his agent's voice.
"Tony's … well, he's on the floor, and he's obviously hurting but I can't—"
Gibbs was already reaching for his keys. "Eyes closed, arms over his head?"
"Well, yeah," McGee said, frowning. "How did you—"
Gibbs didn't bother waiting for the elevator and took the stairs at breakneck speed. "Listen to me, McGee. You listening?"
"Where is he?"
"Living room floor."
"Go shut the blinds, turn off the lights and the TV, stereo, anything that's making noise," Gibbs said, trying to keep his bark to a minimum. McGee was obviously freaked out and Gibbs pushed away memories of his first time dealing with DiNozzo in this condition.
McGee got up and did what he was told, noticing that Tony's blinds blocked out the afternoon sun as well as steel sheets would have. He had to blink a few times to get his eyes to adjust to the sudden blackness of the room before going to where Tony still lay.
"Don't talk, McGee," Gibbs was saying in his ear. "Don't speak unless you have to and whisper if you do. And don't touch him."
McGee nodded in the dark, hoping Gibbs would answer his silent question.
"He suffers from migraines, Tim," Gibbs said gently. "I'm on my way, but I need you to do something for me while I drive over."
McGee wondered what he could possibly do without touching his suffering friend, but he knew without a doubt that he'd do anything to relieve the agony in the shaking, whimpering man beside him.
"Go down the hall and into the bathroom," Gibbs said, and McGee heard the blare of a car horn. "Top drawer on the right side. There should a black case the size of a paperback. You see it?"
"Yes," McGee whispered.
Gibbs allowed a faint smile despite his concern. "You don't have to whisper if he can't hear you."
"Oh, right," McGee said, his volume barely louder.
"Open the case and take out a syringe," Gibbs said. "It should be prefilled."
McGee did as he was told and gulped, knowing what was to come. God, I hate needles.
"Take an alcohol wipe from the case and go back to Tony," Gibbs said. "Leave the bathroom light on if you think you'll need it to see, but only if you must. Light is like acid to the eyeballs for someone suffering from a bad migraine."
McGee nodded and decided he had to leave the light on as he made his way back to Tony's side. His partner was writhing again, making awful choked sounds low in his throat.
"Now whisper something and touch him gently to let him know you're there," Gibbs coached, his voice soothing in its authoritative confidence. It was the one normal thing about this whole twilight zone nightmare that McGee recognized.
He certainly did not recognize the curled, whimpering, shaking—utterly helpless—man at his feet.
"But be careful, McGee," Gibbs was saying, "because he's hurting and probably disoriented and might lash out at you."
McGee dropped to his knees again and almost dropped the syringe. He reached out a hand with a tremor that rivaled Tony's and gently touched DiNozzo's shoulder. He recoiled immediately when Tony hissed in pain and shuddered.
"Tony, it's me," McGee whispered. "It's McGee. I'm not going to hurt you."
"Good, Tim. Now, he's all curled up, right?" Gibbs didn't wait for answer. "Try to get him on his back if you can. But don't force him if he fights you. And watch out, he might puke on you."
Gibbs added that last part with a grimace, remembering his second experience with DiNozzo and his migraines.
McGee tried to push Tony onto his back as gently as he could. DiNozzo's body complied, but he gagged as the movement jarred his agonized head. McGee was glad he didn't puke, but his gut twisted at the sight of his always strong partner flat on his back on his living room floor, gasping in pain.
"Got it, Boss," McGee whispered into the phone.
"Good job, McGee," Gibbs said, still fighting traffic and growing less patient by the minute. "Now, uncap the syringe and push the plunger so a bit of the liquid comes out."
"Boss, I…" McGee's hand shook as he stared at the needle's sharp point.
"Just do it, Tim," Gibbs said, forcing his voice to be calm. "Just like on TV. Squirt a little out, then pull up his shirt and push in the needle into his belly, just a little to the left or right of his navel. Push the needle in harder than you think you should because you need break the skin and get it into the muscle. Then push the plunger until you've injected all of the liquid. Don't forget to use the alcohol wipe first."
McGee's wide eyes flicked from his right hand on Tony's stomach to the needle in his left. "I can't do this, Boss," he whispered, closing his eyes and blocking out the glinting needle tip.
"McGee, listen to me," Gibbs said, his voice gentler than Tim had ever heard it. "I'm still ten minutes out. Every second that you wait is an eternity for him because he's hurting. Take the worst headache you've ever had and multiply it by ten. Then add nausea, shaking, and imagine jamming spikes through your eyeballs if you're unlucky enough to come in contact with light. Imagine every tiny sound being like artillery fire in your head and then add some dizziness. That's what he's feeling right now, Tim, and the medicine in that syringe will ease his suffering. Do it, McGee."
Tim blew out a breath and pushed on the plunger until a little liquid shot out of the end. Remembering the alcohol wipe, he put the syringe between his teeth and ripped the wipe open with shaking hands. He swiped it across his partner's skin, noting with concern that DiNozzo barely reacted. He flattened his right hand on Tony's belly and winced when he moaned softly. "I can't, Boss. I can't do this. I wish you were here now."
"I'm not there, McGee," Gibbs said through clenched teeth. "You are. And he's in pain. Only you can help him right now, Tim. Do it. He'd do it for you."
McGee squeezed his eyes shut and forced them open again. He knew Gibbs was right: Tony would do this for him. He took a deep breath and pushed the needle into his partner's skin, felt it sink deep into his abdominal muscle. He emptied the syringe and pulled it free, shuddering at the glistening red drop of blood that clung to the tip of the needle. He shook his head and put the needle out of his sight.
"I did it, Boss," McGee whispered into the phone cradled against his ear. "What do I do now?"
Gibbs fought a sigh. Really, Tim? For such a smart guy… "Comfort him, McGee. He's still hurting. Touch him, talk to him, tell him it's going to be okay."
"I'll be there in a few minutes," Gibbs said. He paused. "You did good, Tim. Thank you."
McGee alternately patted Tony's shoulder and stared at the phone in shock for several long minutes. "He thanked me," he finally whispered.
"Mmmmm, well, he really hates injecting me," Tony said from the floor.
His voice was still laced with pain but it was the best sound McGee had heard all day. "Tony?"
DiNozzo took a deep, shuddering breath and let it out with a low groan. "Shhhhhhhhhhhh."
"Sorry," McGee whispered as Gibbs arrived, shutting the door behind him with a soft click.
Both Gibbs and Tony winced when Gibbs' knees popped as he knelt beside Tony's re-curled body. "You'll do anything to get out of a case on a Sunday," Gibbs teased, sotto voce.
Tony cracked a half-smile. "Mmmmmmm."
Gibbs checked his watch. "You ready to move yet? To the couch at least?"
DiNozzo groaned softly in response.
"You get that?" Gibbs asked McGee and got another half-smile out of Tony.
"Bed," Tony said.
"You sure?" Gibbs asked.
" 'S darker," Tony said, trying to prepare himself to become upright.
"Just don't puke on my shoes, DiNozzo," Gibbs said, nodding to Tim, who followed his lead and slid an arm under Tony's still-shaking shoulders. "One, two, up."
Tony gasped and buried his face in Gibbs' shoulder. "Oh please oh please oh please oh please," he whimpered, too focused on not throwing up to be embarrassed.
McGee just helplessly watched DiNozzo cling to Gibbs. Gibbs held him close, supporting most of his weight until DiNozzo stopped pleading and his ragged breathing evened out. "Okay to move?" he asked softly and felt Tony nod.
McGee took his place again at Tony's right side and together they helped him down the hall and deposited him onto his bed. McGee looked around nervously and then bolted for the door, only to be stopped short two steps later by Tony's weak voice.
"Promise you'll respect me in the morning?"
McGee smiled for the first time since entering the apartment. "Of course, Tony."
"Thanks, Probie," Tony said, so softly McGee had to strain to hear him. "For everything."
Gibbs sat on the edge of the bed and waited until he heard McGee close the front door. He looked over his curled agent and frowned. "Why didn't you call me? I know your patterns, DiNozzo. Why didn't you tell me when you felt this coming?"
"Shhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh," came Tony's soft reply.
"I hate this," Tony whispered.
"I know you do," Gibbs said, his voice low. "But it's not weakness."
Tony snorted. Then: "Ow."
Gibbs smiled softly. "It's not your fault, Tony. It's a medical condition, and you shouldn't be alone when you feel one coming. We've been over this."
"So why didn't you tell me?"
Tony sighed, too tired to lie. "It's the weekend. I thought I could get through it without you knowing. I was on the couch all morning. I fell asleep. When I woke up I felt the pain behind my eyes and went to get my case from the bathroom. As soon as I stood up though, it was game over and next thing I know, you're here."
Gibbs watched Tony bury his face in the pillow and knew those few sentences had exhausted him. He decided to let it go—for now. "Call me next time, okay?"
"Good," Gibbs said, patting DiNozzo's leg through the blanket and standing. "Because I don't think McGee can handle that again."
"He couldn't do it?"
"He did it," Gibbs said. "Eventually. But I think it would have been easier to talk Abby into drowning a sack full of puppies."
Tony smiled in the blissful darkness. "Thanks, Boss."