Worrying was good, Tony was able to bask in the worry of his teammates. The smiles of embarrassment when he caught them studying him. Checking him over, making sure he was alive and breathing.

He sighed, Coughed, then blinked at the three pairs of eyes that came to immediate attention.


"Can I get you a drink, Tony?" Kate asked, already half out of her chair.

"When's you next appointment with the pulmonologist? McGee asked, using the ten cent word as opposed to just saying doctor.

It was when the worrying turned to smothering that Tony had a problem. "I'm okay," he said pointing to Gibbs. "No," he snarled at Kate. "On Friday, McHouse," Tony answered.

He opened his right hand drawer, rooted through his stuff, pulled out a bag of cough drops then angrily crumbled it up when he realized it was empty. Hand raised, he contemplated making it a projectile missile aimed for McGee, but he could just feel Gibb's gaze and settled for the circular file.

The bag unrolled mid-flight, hit the edge of the pail and bounced off. He didn't relish bending down because he knew he'd end up coughing, which would lead to-

"Aren't you going to pick that up DiNozzo?"

"Working on it, boss." He bent to the right, cleared his throat and ended up fighting with Kate over the empty bag. "Let go," he said tugging it towards him.

"I've got it." Kate's smile was tight as she pulled on the bag.

"I'm quite capable of-" This time the coughing fit was sudden. His spasming lungs didn't build up slowly, they overwhelmed him and he let go of the bag just as Kate upped the tug of war and through streaming eyes he saw her take a definitely unfeminine backpedal right into McGee's desk.

"Sorry," he croaked and hid his amusement by wiping his eyes with the back of his hands.

With a hmpf, Kate stood, smoothed down her skirt then shoved the empty cough drop bag back into his midsection. "Toss it yourself."

"Nice bedside manner." His voice was pre pubically pitched.

"You're not in your bed," McGee began.

"Kate's loss," Tony sent her a wink and got a sneer in exchange.

"Therefore, Tony," McGee continued as if he'd never been interrupted, "Kate's behavior wouldn't be denoted with bedside manner but rather deskside manner."

"McGee," Gibbs warned, not even looking up from the pile of opened folders.

"Sorry, Boss."

"Thank you, McFreud, is my hour up yet?" Tony made a show of looking at his watch, tapping it then pressing it up again his ear.

Gibbs slammed the top folder shut.

He needed a bottle of aspirin and a gallon of water, along with one of those antibiotics that he'd stuck in his pocket this morning. Out of the three of them, there was no way he could get to any of them without drawing anyone's attention. He needed a distraction. "I think you're interrupting the Boss' train of thought."

"Excuse me?" Kate put down the receiver she'd just picked up.

"Hey, I'm sitting here, minding my own business." Tony said with indignation.

"Coughing and whining," McYenta added his two cents.

"When was I whining? I haven't been whining. I've been sick. Hell, I was on the brink of death and I don't recall any whining at all. Kate, she whined."

"I did not."

Tony coughed. "Did too." This distraction thing wasn't working. He'd been aiming on taking the attention away from him.

"You're whining, DiNozzo."

"Told you."

The second Gibbs' head was turned, Tony reached down, scooped up the empty bag which still hadn't made it into the garbage, quickly balled it up and tossed it Kate, who easily avoided the missile.

"You're losing your touch, Tony."

Gibbs stood up so suddenly, his chair rolled and slammed against the back of the cubicle.

It was quite amazing that work that hadn't held their attention mere minutes ago were now sucking them in.


"Boss." Tony stood then reached for the desk to make sure he stayed upright.


Kate and McGee stood.

"I don't remember asking for anyone other than DiNozzo."

They sat in unison, but not before Tony caught their glad-it-wasn't-them expression.

Tony remained silent as the elevator took them down to the parking garage. He didn't even say a word when Gibbs unlocked the car doors.

"Get in."

He hesitated, standing there as Gibbs slipped into the car only moving when his boss got out of the car and spoke to him over the hood. "As tempting as it might be, Tony, I'm not going to shoot you."


"Don't tempt me."

Now it was Gibbs' turn to remain silent and Tony's curiosity peaked about three blocks from NCIS. "Gonna share, Boss?"


Tony reached forward and made a move to raise the heat in the car but Gibbs' hand shot out and slapped his away. "Ow!" he shoved his injured appendage under his armpit. "What was that for?"

"My car. My rules."

"I wasn't touching the radio. You have a rule for the radio, I know that. I was just turning on the heat. I'm cold," Tony gave off an exaggerated shudder. "You didn't tell me to bring my jacket."

"You're whining," Gibbs said as he turned the heat up in the car.

Tony relaxed with a sigh, letting the warm air blow over his body.

He woke when the engine of the car was silenced and blinked, taking in his surroundings. "We're in the parking garage."

"Yup." Gibbs peeled back the plastic tab of his coffee.

"You went to get coffee?"

Gibbs reached into the bag resting on the console and pulled out a bottle of water and a small bottle of Tylenol. "Got you water and Tylenol."

Tony rubbed his eyes and stared at the console. "We've been gone ninety minutes."

"Drink your water."

"I fell asleep."

"You needed a nap."

"You drove me around like a baby until I fell asleep?"

"If the bootie fits, DiNozzo." He reached over, took the Tylenol from his hands, opened the container then handed it back.

"Drink the water. Take two Tylenol and don't forget the antibiotic in your pocket."

"Boss, I-"

"Stay home tomorrow, DiNozzo."

Tony opened his mouth, but didn't even manage half a syllable.

"That's an order." Gibbs reached into the bag and pulled out a box of cough drops. The good kind. Not the mentholated crap ones, but the wild cherry ones and dropped it in Tony's lap.

"Wow, it's like Christmas or my birthday."

"Actually," Gibbs said, reaching over and giving a gentle smack to Tony's head. "It's more like glad you're alive."

"That's really touching, boss, and a much better reason to celebrate than Christmas. Or a birthday." Tony punctuated the sentence with a long drawn out, saw spots in front of his eyes coughing spell. "A Hallmark moment," he gasped.

"Drink your water, DiNozzo," Gibbs said, "before I start to drive you around again just to shut you up."

~the end~