This has some pretty major spoilers for Obsession and minor ones for SWAK and Monty Python and the Holy Grail.
Plot bunny attack. I watched Obsession again recently – same episode that led to the FIO-verse. Watching the scene where Tony goes to the bookstore for the first time, I was struck by the fact that he was in an awful lot of danger alone there with Maggie Reed. So I got to thinking about how Gibbs might react if he had the same thought later on. Hence the plot bunny. Not part of the FIO-verse, not even slash (strange, huh?), just a one-shot. For those of you waiting for the sequel to FIO, I should be starting serious work on it this week.
What Could Have Happened
Gibbs sat at his desk, sipping his coffee and watching his team get ready to leave for the weekend. McGee had handed in his report and was relaxing in front of his computer, laughing at something he was reading on the screen. Ziva had just given Gibbs her report and moved over to McGee's desk, asking him what he found so amusing. Gibbs tuned out the answer, looking over at Tony's desk, checking on his senior field agent.
Tony was clearly still in work mode, focused intently on his computer screen and typing rapidly, for once forgetting to pretend that he didn't know his way around a keyboard. Gibbs had a feeling the younger man might be working pretty late since he'd gone off on his own a few times working this case and had more to write up than the others.
Both Tony and Gibbs had pulled a late night in Gibbs' basement; Tony had needed the company following his time spent at Dana Hutton's side while she succumbed to the fatal effects of ricin poisoning. They'd talked until late, and Gibbs had thought that maybe Tony would be back to normal today. His second in command had been fairly cheerful when he'd arrived this morning, though more subdued than usual, especially when Ziva asked him how Dana was doing. Expressions of sympathy had followed from both Ziva and McGee when Tony had quietly informed them that she had died. Then they'd all been called in to another one of those ridiculous seminars mandated by Human Resources – at least it hadn't been sexual harassment, although Gibbs would have been hard-pressed to say what it had been about. For once they weren't on call for the weekend; they had all opted to stay late enough to get the work done, so as to have the next two days free and clear.
Gibbs kept an eye on Tony as the others gathered their things to leave. They'd had the sense not to tease Tony about his obsession concerning Dana, and for that Gibbs was grateful. He wouldn't have had the patience to deal with jokes carrying more barbs than they should; it had been a long time since he'd needed to head slap either of the younger team members and he wanted it to stay that way. He nodded to McGee's "Goodnight, Boss" and made eye contact with Ziva following her "Have a good weekend." Then he was left with Tony in companionable silence, and he settled in to read the reports he'd received.
It was about ninety minutes later that Tony got up, stretched, and walked over to Gibbs' desk to hand him his report. Gibbs gave Tony a quick once-over, satisfied that there wasn't much residual tension in his second's stance. Tony, of course, didn't miss a thing, and shot Gibbs a small smile. "I'm fine, Gibbs – promise. Last night helped a lot, and I think writing it all up was sort of therapeutic – and if you ever try to use that as motivation to get work done, I'll give you your first head slap."
Gibbs smirked at Tony. "Wouldn't be the first, DiNozzo."
Tony laughed quietly and shook his head. "Should have known. Franks?"
Tony sighed. "Wish I'd seen that." He yawned, then reached up to rub his neck. "You need me for anything else, Boss?"
Gibbs shook his head. "No, Tony. Head on home, get some rest. Enjoy the next two days."
Tony nodded. "You too, Boss." He moved to go back to his desk, then paused and turned back. "Uh, you will actually go home, right?"
Gibbs chuckled. "Yeah, DiNozzo, I'll go home… just as soon as I finish with these reports." Gibbs always waited to finalize his report until he'd had a chance to read the rest of them; Tony's was the last one.
"Want me to hang out here, keep you company?" The question was mild, almost diffident, and Gibbs looked up in surprise.
"There something you need, Tony?"
Tony hesitated for a moment, then shook his head. "Nah, just not sure alone time is what I need right now."
"Not in the mood to hit the clubs?"
Tony shook his head. "Doesn't feel right. Maybe tomorrow."
Gibbs nodded his understanding, then cocked his head, considering his second. "What about a movie? Something to take your mind off things. A silly one."
Tony grinned and Gibbs grinned back, happy to see that little spark of devilment in Tony's eyes. "You asking me out on a date, Boss?"
Gibbs laughed. "Go on, get out of here. Watch something silly. That's an order."
Tony gave Gibbs a mock pout, then headed for his desk. "Yes, sir! Right away sir. Maybe some Python."
Tony made a sound suspiciously like a giggle. "No, Boss – Monty Python's Flying Circus. British humor. You'd probably hate it."
Gibbs shook his head. "Go. Come on over this weekend if you want company."
"Will do, Gibbs." Tony gathered up his pack and his jacket, then headed for the elevator.
Gibbs flipped open the folder Tony had handed him and started to read. He heard the ding of the elevator about fifteen minutes later, and wasn't at all surprised to see Tony come around the cubicles with a fresh coffee in his hand. He set it down on Gibbs' desk with a smile, nodded in acceptance of the casual salute Gibbs gave him, then left again.
Gibbs went back to Tony's report; he was at the point where Tony was describing his first visit alone to the bookstore. Gibbs finished the report a while later, pleased as always with how thorough it was. Then he turned to Ducky's, reading it through with only half as much attention. It was always like that with Ducky's and Abby's reports… more than half of what they wrote wasn't even in English as far as he was concerned. It was a damn good thing they were so good at their jobs and he knew he could trust them completely.
Gibbs turned to his computer and started putting the finishing touches on his own work. He absently checked his watch, seeing that it was after 11:30. He'd be done by midnight, home before 1… maybe he'd get some work done on some plans in the basement before he hit the sack. A few minutes later he shook himself, surprised to realize he'd just lost a few minutes thinking about nothing. Must be tired. He refocused on his report, but now he felt that little twinge in his gut that said he was missing something important.
He reopened Ducky's report and flipped through it, waiting to see if anything grabbed at his subconscious. He stopped at the words "ricin poisoning" and read through the symptoms: vomiting, diarrhea, hallucinations and seizures if ingested, difficulty breathing, nausea, fluid in the lungs if inhaled… Gibbs found himself flashing back to Tony lying under those blue lights, struggling to breathe, and his gut did a full twist. He swallowed and grabbed Tony's report, looking through it carefully, his fingers flipping through the pages until he was reading again about Tony's first visit to the bookstore. He'd been alone for a while with Maggie Reed – who had killed Dana and her brother with those tiny metal spheres filled with ricin.
Before he knew what he was doing, Gibbs was on his feet, grabbing his gun and his badge, and running for the stairs. Waiting for the elevator wasn't an option. Within moments he was moving quickly past the security checkpoint at the door, then in his car and heading for Tony's apartment.
He knew it wasn't rational. Maggie Reed had no reason to poison Tony or any of the other agents; it could only serve to cast suspicion in her direction, and avoiding that kind of attention made a lot more sense than targeting federal agents and risking discovery. But Gibbs wasn't going to be able to get rid of that awful feeling in his gut until he saw for himself that Tony was alright.
He suspected that he made it to Tony's apartment in record time, and had the vague thought that his knee was going to be hurt like a bitch the next day after he'd pounded up the stairs like that. He banged on Tony's door, and was relieved it only took a moment for his second to open up.
"Gibbs? What's –"
Gibbs pushed Tony back into the apartment, shoving the door closed. "Tell me you're alright."
"Um, Gibbs, why –"
"Tony! Are you feeling okay?"
Tony stared at Gibbs for a moment. "I'm fine, Boss."
Gibbs strode past him into the living room, where he vaguely registered people dressed in armor on the television, banging coconuts together. He ran a slightly shaking hand through his hair, then whirled around to face his senior agent, who looked extremely confused and more than a little worried.
"Any trouble breathing? Feel sick at all?"
Tony stared at the older man. "Gibbs… what the hell is this all about? I'm fine."
Gibbs stared at him, then sank down onto the couch, resting his head in his hands. "Crap."
Tony moved slowly toward him, gingerly touching his shoulder. "Gibbs, you gonna tell me what going on?"
Gibbs sat up and drew in a shaky breath. "If I tell you to strip, you're going to take it the wrong way, aren't you?"
Tony's eyes widened and his mouth gaped open. "Honestly? I'd probably take it to mean that you've harbored a secret crush on me and finally reached a breaking point. But somehow that doesn't add up with the questions you've been asking."
Gibbs shook his head and looked up at his very bewildered senior agent. "Not a crush, Tony." He stood up and faced his second. "I just realized that you could easily be Maggie Reed's third victim."
Tony's brow furrowed and his gaze went unfocused as he thought that through. Then his eyes widened and he refocused on Gibbs' face. "When I went to the bookstore alone… she could have gotten spooked and poisoned me like she did Dana and her brother. And I couldn't have known until it was too late." He stared at Gibbs. "You want me to strip so you can look for any signs of it."
Gibbs' hands moved helplessly. "It would have been after she got to Dana. So you might not have any symptoms yet."
Tony swallowed hard. "You do realize that if she did… there's nothing we can do."
Gibbs nodded. "Want me to drive you to the hospital?"
Tony shook his head. "No. If… well, let's just say I'd rather go here, then be surrounded by strangers who try to reassure me with lies, like they did with Dana." He met Gibbs' eyes. "You want to call Ducky in? Honestly, Gibbs, I don't think she got me with the stuff… it wouldn't make sense. Too obvious."
"I know," Gibbs replied. "But – I just…" His voice trailed off.
Tony nodded. "You want to be sure. Well, I doubt I could sleep now." He shot Gibbs a small smile, then picked up his cell phone from the coffee table. He flipped it open and punched a button. There was a short pause, then, "Ducky? Hey, it's Tony. I'm really sorry to bother you… but do you think you could possibly check me over to make sure the evil KGB lady didn't add me to her collection?" Another pause. "No, I feel fine. But Gibbs just showed up here, as freaked out as I've ever seen him, and I guess now, well… thanks Ducky. See you soon."
He hung up the phone and met Gibbs' eyes again. "He says he's pretty sure I'd be symptomatic by now, but he's on his way. Doesn't want either of us to drive in our agitated mental states." Tony spoke in a fake accent to show that was Ducky's opinion of their condition.
Gibbs nodded and just stared at Tony, not knowing what to do, and wanting to know for sure that everything really was fine. Tony started tapping his fingers against his leg, shifting his weight from side to side. Then he looked at Gibbs. "Boss, you wanna –"
Tony nodded and led the way to the bathroom. "Light's brighter in here," he commented, as he pulled his sweatshirt off, baring his torso for Gibbs to start looking. Then he stood, shirt in hand, looking worried. "Ah, Boss… Ducky will be really, really upset with you doing his job, especially after I just called him after midnight."
Gibbs nodded. "Put the shirt back on. I can at least look at your arms."
Tony moved to the bathroom door. "Hold on a sec." He returned a moment later, wearing a t-shirt instead of the long-sleeved sweatshirt. Tony stood by the mirror while Gibbs peered closely at his arm through his glasses, looking for any sign of an unnoticed attack.
Tony couldn't help himself once Gibbs was holding his hand palm up, looking at his fingers. "Can you tell me my fortune, Boss? Anything in the love line?"
Gibbs glanced up at him. "You think I'd be here if I could know the future, DiNozzo?"
Tony became very still. "Yeah, if it was bad news, you would be."
Gibbs straightened up and looked at him, his expression as anguished as Tony had ever seen. "Tony…"
There was a knock at the door. Tony shot Gibbs a small smile. "Saved by the bell, Boss. Although that wasn't actually a bell…" He left the bathroom, Gibbs trailing behind, and opened the door to let Ducky in.
"Anthony, Jethro," Ducky greeted them seriously, moving into the living room and putting his bag on the coffee table. He pulled a blood pressure cuff out of his bag and wrapped it around his arm. As he started to get readings on Tony's vitals, he glanced over at Gibbs. "Do you really think that he's been exposed, Jethro?"
Gibbs shrugged helplessly. "It just occurred to me that she had the opportunity, Duck."
"But you have no actual evidence to suggest that Tony is in any danger."
Tony jumped in. "He's right, though, Ducky. It's a possibility, and much as I hate to admit it, I'd rather know than not."
Ducky nodded. "All right, my boy. Pressure and pulse rate are normal. Stick this under your tongue, please, and we'll get a reading on your temperature." He turned to Gibbs once Tony had been temporarily silenced. "Jethro, where is the best lighting?"
"Probably the bathroom, Duck."
The thermometer beeped, and Ducky pulled it out from Tony's mouth and looked at it. "Normal as well. That is encouraging. Now, Anthony, have you been having any trouble with nausea or vomiting, any abnormal bowel movements?" Tony shook his head. "Any difficulty seeing clearly, or any sensory abnormalities at all?"
Tony glanced at Gibbs, biting his lip, clearly – to Gibbs – suppressing a smile. "Nothing, except for a moment there I thought Gibbs burst into my apartment and demanded I strip."
Ducky halted mid-reach for this bag and looked quickly at Tony, then over at Gibbs. He sighed. "Jethro, I do wish you'd leave medicine to the medical professionals."
Gibbs shot Tony a mild glare; Tony just grinned at him. Gibbs couldn't help but smile back a little in response; as usual, Tony was doing everything he could to diffuse the situation, having Gibbs' six just like any other day.
Ducky brought a large magnifier out of his bag. "Alright, Anthony, let's go where there's better lighting. I'm going to have to ask you to take off all your clothes, my boy – I would hate to miss something because I assumed that just because the two victims were injected on their upper bodies, you would be too."
Tony led the way to the bathroom, with Ducky following and Gibbs close behind them. Ducky turned at the bathroom door. "Jethro, I must ask that you wait out here, to give Anthony some privacy."
Gibbs exhaled sharply, then nodded. Ducky moved into the bathroom and went to shut Gibbs out, but Tony grabbed the door. "Actually, Ducky… I'd rather have Gibbs in here with us, just in case…"
Ducky looked up into Tony's eyes, then nodded. "Whatever will make you most comfortable is fine with me."
Gibbs met Tony's eyes and saw the fear that Tony had covered up since Ducky's arrival. He nodded and moved into the large bathroom, sitting on the edge of the tub while Tony let out a breath and then shed his clothes quickly.
"We'll start with your neck and work down, my boy. Jethro, would you mind letting Tony sit there?"
Positions were switched and Gibbs watched while Ducky meticulously looked Tony over. It seemed to take forever. There were a few nervous moments when Ducky would pause and look more closely at something, then smile and pat Tony's arm reassuringly. "Just a freckle, nothing to worry about."
Finally, a little before two in the morning, Ducky pronounced Tony free of any suspicious marks. "I am absolutely certain you are perfectly fine, Tony. And I suppose you were right to check. If you do have any strange symptoms within the next day or two, do let me know, but there is no sign of exposure, none at all."
Gibbs slumped back against the wall, closing his eyes for a moment, and tried to banish all the images he'd had of Tony dying of ricin poisoning, mixed in with memories of his bout with the plague. Ducky patted Gibbs' shoulder as he headed back out to the living room, and Tony threw on his clothes before following him out.
"Thanks, Ducky… I'm sorry we called you over here for nothing."
Gibbs straightened and caught up with them in the living room. Ducky was packing up his bag. "Not for nothing, my dear boy. I doubt either of you would have gotten any sleep this weekend worrying about it. I have no plans for tomorrow, or should I say today, so it is no hardship to sleep in, now that I don't have Mother's dogs to worry about anymore." He picked up the bag and moved to the front door. "Get some rest, both of you. And do try not to worry anymore." With that, Ducky left.
Tony shut the door behind him and turned to face Gibbs. They looked at each other for a moment, then Gibbs looked away and cleared his throat. "Tony… I'm –"
Tony cut him off. "Don't you dare break one of your own rules, Boss. I'm actually glad this happened, so don't worry about it."
Gibbs stared at him. "Why would you be glad? If it weren't for me, you'd have had no reason to get so worried."
Tony gave Gibbs a warm, genuine smile. "Because if I ever needed proof that you really do care, I got it tonight."
Gibbs couldn't help but smile and duck his head a little. "Well, yeah, Tony, you sure did."
Tony reached out and pulled Gibbs into a hug. "Thanks, Gibbs. For everything."
Gibbs nodded and hugged Tony back, albeit a bit awkwardly. "When I think of what could have happened…" He hugged Tony tighter for a moment, going so far as to rest his forehead on Tony's shoulder.
Tony raised his hand and gave Gibbs a little tap on the back of his head. "Well, it didn't." He pulled back after a moment, then moved toward the couch. "Don't know about you, Boss, but there's no way I'm sleeping tonight. Wanna watch a movie?" He picked up the remote and restarted the movie. Gibbs moved over to the couch and sat down next to Tony. He picked up the DVD case and read the title: Monty Python and the Holy Grail. He glanced over at Tony, eyebrow raised.
"British humor, Boss. Great stuff, but you're probably gonna hate it."
Gibbs shook his head and settled back into the couch. "Tony, you don't have ricin poisoning. I'm gonna love it."