Summary: Set after 'South by Southwest'-Called to the aid of an old friend, the NCIS cavalry rides out again but this time Tony is hiding a dangerous secret. Ensemble cast in beginning, then Gibbs/Tony father/son, Sick!Tony in the end.

Disclaimer: I own nothing of NCIS, I am simply borrowing for fun, not profit.


A/N – Hi folks! Well here it is, the famed "Tony and Gibbs on horseback" story I've been talking about for almost a year. I began this story before 'South by Southwest' aired and at first was quite disappointed as that ep made it AU. After some scenes in S4, I got the impression that Tony had learned to ride as a child and wasn't happy when he was portrayed as a "tenderfoot". But I decided to go back to work on my original story and have even worked out a way to make it pretty much AU.



Chapter One

Please don't let the phone ring…



That was the only word to describe how Tony DiNozzo currently felt - just plain miserable. No matter how many times he blew his nose, he still sneezed about every two minutes. When he wasn't sneezing, he could barely see out of eyes that were habitually squinted against the constant tickle behind his eye sockets. That "just about to sneeze" feeling that never went away no matter how many times his head exploded.

Tony was driving to work at 3am and if he hadn't just left at midnight, he might have gotten more than two hours of sleep for the first time in at least two weeks. Maybe if he'd been able to sleep he would've had a chance to beat the flu that was currently kicking his ass. It had all started right about the time that he and the boss had come back from their stint out West.

It hadn't started out as flu. It had just started out as a cold; a stupid cold that had turned into a stupid flu that had then turned into The Flu That Would Not Quit. Tony had thought it was bad before, but that was before TFTWNQ had settled itself on his doorstep. It had come walking in, taking off its hat and putting down its bags for an extended stay in his already exhausted body. After that, he found himself almost missing the cold. The cold had been easy compared to what had followed.

Not that he would even consider calling in sick to work and staying home. The sheer number of cases they were getting was surely some kind of a record and no one on his team (or any of the other teams for that matter) was getting any rest. Tony wasn't about to let TFTWNQ take him down and leave his team a man short when things were as crazy as they were. The damn thing was a virus, something smaller than the head of a pin, and he would be damned if it was going to make him quit.

He made sure that he didn't infect anyone else though. Using the excuse of being at numerous crime scenes, he'd taken to wearing gloves almost constantly. When anyone asked he would just tell them that he'd just been walking evidence to Abby or had popped in to check on something in autopsy. The gloves plus the antibacterial wipes stashed in his top drawer kept his hands from accidentally giving TFTWNQ to anyone else and so far it had worked perfectly. In fact he couldn't even remember the last time anyone in the office had been sick, which somehow only made it worse.

Tony felt another sneeze coming on and groaned in angry frustration as his eyes began to water again. There was about a 50/50 chance that he was actually going to sneeze, but until then he knew he was going to be in that agonizing in-between place that made him want to chop his own nose off. Just as long as it meant he wouldn't feel the tickle anymore.

Struggling to keep his watery eyes open, Tony silently prayed that this time he'd sneeze, just to have a few moments of relief. Someone must've been listening. A few seconds after the tickle began, he let loose with an explosion that was nearly orgasmic in its release.

Grabbing another tissue out of the box in the passenger seat, Tony blew his red and chafed nose while turning his Mustang into the Navy Yard. Pulling into his parking space, he stuffed a few more tissues into his pocket before reaching into the glove compartment to take out the small packet of throat lozenges he'd stashed in there. There was another stash at his desk, as well as a liquid cold reliever that he'd been taking every 4 hours like clockwork to stave off the worst of it while he was on duty. Between the lozenges, the liquid gunk and as much hot tea as he could get down his raw throat, he'd managed to fool everyone into thinking he still had nothing more than a common cold.

Gibbs never got sick with colds so he didn't really know when one should end. So far Tony had managed to keep under Ducky's radar, thankful that the ME had been just as busy as the rest of them. Too busy to keep tabs on Tony and order the team leader to send his Senior Field Agent home to bed.

Taking a swig from the bottle of non-drowsy (he didn't need help in that department) cold formula and grabbing some more lozenges to stuff in his pocket, Tony steeled himself to get out of the warmth of his car. It didn't help that it had just started raining again. The rain, much like TFTWNQ, had been relentlessly hanging around for weeks. Just when they thought it was over, another storm came in to soak them all again.

Tony got out and hunched his shoulders into his coat, pulling up the collar to keep the wind and rain from sneaking inside. TFTWNQ didn't need any outside help from the rain. It was the rain that had probably been partly to blame for the immense amount of work they'd all been buried under. Rain meant people getting into accidents - accidents that had to be investigated to determine whether or not there was any foul play. Rain also kept people inside – people who maybe didn't get along so well, were suddenly stuck together. Roommates who'd been together since flight school may suddenly find themselves in a shootout over such mundane things as the remote. Navy husbands might find themselves at the business end of a knife because they'd left the toilet seat up one too many times.

It all might sound positively ridiculous if Tony hadn't seen just those two cases in the past two weeks. He blamed the rain and maybe a little on the full moon from a few days ago. As Tony stepped inside the door, he was just glad it wasn't Halloween. Then they'd really be screwed.


Another 17 hours passed before Tony was able to walk back to his car. The lead that had called him in at 3am had actually panned out. They'd spent the day following up and managed to find the scumbag who'd been attacking women after they walked out of the gates of a nearby base. All had been wives and daughters of servicemen, proving that the attacker must be in the service himself. As he'd been careful to pick women without the training to take him down themselves.

They'd tracked him down, picked him up and set Gibbs loose on him in interrogation for a few hours. After that, it had just been about paperwork, the freak crying for his momma and his lawyer as he gave them a glowing confession. Gibbs often had that effect on scumbags.

By some miracle they hadn't caught another case and once all the paperwork had been filed, Gibbs had ordered them all home. For once timing had been on their side, the case finishing up nicely on a Friday night. If all went well, they weren't due back on duty until Monday morning. Tony planned to spend every single moment of the weekend in bed asleep, hoping that more than two full days of rest would see the end of TFTWNQ.

When his key turned in his lock, Tony felt more exhausted than ever. His body knew that a bed and shower were nearby and what little reserves he'd managed to squeak out of it were gone. He barely made it to the shower, stripping off his clothes into a pile which he left on the floor. Standing in the scalding hot spray, he sucked in blissfully deep breaths as the steam temporarily cleared his stuffed sinuses.

Staying in as long as he could, Tony only left when the water no longer ran boiling and his legs began to shake. Putting on the robe hanging from the door, he dried his hair with a towel as he walked to the kitchen with eyes barely open. Grabbing two bottles of water, he poured himself a tall glass of orange juice and stuffed the pockets of his robe with more cold medicine. Taking the supplies back to his bedroom, he changed into the warmest pajamas he owned and crawled into bed.

Turning off the light, Tony first made sure that his phone was at his bedside and plugged in to the charger. He hoped that they weren't going to be called out but he wasn't going to take any chances of missing the call if they did. Once he was assured that all was well, he lay back into his pillows and pulled the thick comforter almost to his eyes. He shivered for a few minutes but soon his cocoon warmed up and he was able to relax. Mere seconds after his body became warm, he drifted off to sleep with only one thought on his mind.

Please don't let the phone ring…