Tony DiNozzo felt as though he had been run over by a sixteen wheeler. Every bone, muscle, and even nerve, ached in his body. He rolled his shoulders in vain, hoping that it would loosen the knots in his muscles and alleviate even a small fraction of the pain. Of course it didn't, and he sucked air in sharply through his teeth in pain, wincing.

"You alright, Tony?"

Tony looked over at where Timothy McGee sat. At first glance, McGee looked generally concerned, but Tony caught the slight upward turn of the corners of his mouth. "I feel great, McGee. I always love it when I have to run after a suspect for three blocks, tackle them to the ground, and get kicked and punched at, and then bitten when apprehending their accomplice. Makes my freakin' day. I wish I only got the chance to do it everyday." Tony snapped.

"I thought you get a kick out of a woman biting you; thought you would find it sexy." McGee made what would have normally been a question a statement. Unable to hold back the smug smile, McGee stood and walked over to sit on a corner of Tony's desk, crossing his arms over his chest. "Have a hard time keeping up, Tony? Getting too old? A few years ago, you would have gotten the guy by the first half block, first block for sure. What's slowing you down?" McGee made a point to stare at Tony's midsection just because he knew it would make him paranoid. "You don't look as though you've packed on any pounds. Or maybe it's because you've been wearing a lot more black clothes? Getting your pants a size larger . . . ?"

"Shut up, McGee!" Tony's green eyes glazed with anger. "I haven't gained any weight, I still weigh the same as I did three years ago . . ."

"So it is your . . ." McGee paused, thinking of a word that would get under Tony's skin, "advancing age that is causing you to-lag behind?"

Jumping to his feet, Tony got right in McGee's face. "I could outrun you with both my hands cuffed behind my back blindfolded."

McGee laughed. Standing, he made a point of gently patting Tony on the shoulder. "Sure, Tony, sure. Whatever makes you sleep better at night . . ."

Seething with anger, Tony almost lunged at McGee, but stopped cold at he felt his muscles cramp and cause a sharp shooting pain to course through his whole body. Groaning in agony, he fell back in his chair, wrapping his arms tightly around the lower right side of his abdomen. McGee, finished with his teasing, watched Tony breathe slowly and deeply through his mouth.

"Hey, are you sure your okay?" McGee's voice was filled with concern.

It took him a moment, but Tony finally nodded his head. "Yeah. I'm good." And bit by bit, he felt the cramp ebb away until he was feeling as crappy as he had before. He sighed, wishing that he could just go home and crawl into bed and go to sleep and not wake up until next week. Glancing at the clock, he saw that it was only 0430 and he still had thirty minutes before he could officially leave, but really he couldn't leave until he had written up his report on what had happened, and Tony just couldn't muster up enough energy to stay any longer and he definitely didn't feel up to writing up the damned report. And I'm not going to, he decided. Slowly, he stood and grabbed his bag. "Could you do me a favor, McGee? When Gibbs asks where I went, could you tell him I had a dentist appointment or something? Don't tell him I went home because I got the shit beat out of me, alright?"

"I don't think he'll care, Tony-"

"I know he won't. Just-don't tell him that's the reason why, okay?"

McGee stared at Tony, his face drawn in true concern for his partner and friend. They liked to mess with each other, put each other down in fun, but nothing they ever said was meant. They had each other's back, and due to their line of work, they were more than willing to take a bullet for the other, even die for each other if it came to that. He had never seen Tony take to a beating this bad, and in all actuality, it wasn't even the worse that Tony had ever received either. Hell, sometimes Gibbs head slaps were worse than any beating that any of them had ever received from a perp, but for some reason this time was different for Tony.

"Sure, but maybe you should go to the hospital, get everything checked out; make sure that you haven't broken or sprained or punctured something . . ."

Tony flashed the DiNozzo smile in attempt to lessen the seriousness of the moment that he was sharing with McGee. Tony didn't like serious. "Aw, thanks McConcerned, would you like to hold my hand, walk me to my car? Or better yet, be my nurse?" Tony forced a laugh, biting the inside of his cheek to stop himself from wincing in pain. "I'm okay. Nothing a hot shower, a cold beer, soft sheets, and a sympathetic woman can't fix." Tony looked McGee up and down. "And the girl that I got in mind looks a lot better in a nurse's outfit than you ever could, McGee."

"Whatever, Tony, I still think you should stop by the Emergency Room and get everything checked out . . ."

"Well, I'm not," Tony snapped, gingerly making his way to the elevator. "Can you just do as I asked?"

Knowing that once Tony made up his mind about anything no one could sway him, McGee sighed. "Yeah, sure I will. No problem. Just go home and get some rest."

Pushing the button for the elevator, Tony nodded and gave McGee a tired smile. The smile, though not his usual thirty watt smile, still had the power to make man or woman go soft. "Thanks, Tim," he said as he stepped in the elevator and once again pushed a button, this one which would take him downstairs. "I'll see you in the morning." And with that the doors slid closed, cutting off the two men's sight of the other. Knowing that he was safe from McGee or anyone's perceptive eyes, Tony allowed himself to lay his head against the cold metal of the elevator wall and squeeze his eyes tightly shut as he groaned. "Oh, God," he said through clenched teeth.

Staring at the elevator doors, McGee bit at his bottom lip. Through the years of working with Gibbs, he had learned to go with his gut and though it was nowhere near as impressive as Gibbs, it was eating at him, telling him that Tony was not alright despite his jokes and assurances. And while Tony didn't really listen to anyone, there was one person that he was far more agreeable with.

Sorry, Tony, McGee thought as he pushed open the door to the stairwell and made his way to autopsy.

Tony, hands planted on the wall of the shower, rolled his shoulders slowly as the hot water ran down his bruised back and legs. Water dripped down from his hair to his face, streaming over his closed eyes, down his straight nose, and chin. Breathing out of his mouth, Tony growled in pleasure as he slowly felt his muscles begin to unwind and become loose.

"Oh, thank you, God," he moaned. "Thank you, thank you, thank you."

He continued to stand under the shower head with the water gently pelting skin until the water became chilled and he began to shiver. Reaching over, he flipped the water off and pulled the shower curtain open. Grabbing his towel from off the towel rack, he ran it over his head and rubbed at it until his hair was just damp and then wrapped the towel around his waist.

His body still wet, glistening with water, Tony padded into his kitchen to open his refrigerator and grab a beer, twist it open, and take a long swallow. Sighing with contentment, he started to move toward his bedroom-his bed calling for him-to crawl under the sheets and fall asleep, when he heard a knock at his door. Cursing under his breath, he turned around, and without even bothering to look through the peephole, jerked open the door.

"Can I help you-" Tony froze as he realized who stood before him.

Gibbs stood there in Tony's doorway.

"Gibbs." The name came out in a strangled whisper of shock. At the questioning cock of Gibbs eyebrow, Tony cleared his throat. "Gibbs, wh-what are you doing here?"

"McGee told me that something was wrong. You weren't accepting the pain as easily as you usually do. He was worried that you had somehow injured yourself internally, but you were being stubborn and refusing to go to the hospital to get checked out."

"Damn it, I told him I was fine, and I am. Just sore. Nothing I've never felt before."

Again, Gibbs cocked an eyebrow, and before Tony knew what was happening, Gibbs grabbed him by the back with one hand and pushed the heel of his hand into his stomach. Tony clenched his hand on the doorknob until his knuckles went as white as his face. He tried to pull himself free from Gibbs' hold, but Gibbs held fast and just moved the heel of his hand across Tony's stomach and sides. When his hand ran over the lower area on his abdomen on the right side, Tony hissed in pain.

"Shit." He slapped at Gibbs' hand. "Don't touch me there," he huffed, his lungs working on overdrive.

Gibbs sighed. "Tony, you're going to have to go the hospital. Now."

"I don't need to go see any damn doctor. What I need is to be left alone so I can crawl into bed and go to sleep."

Barely skimming his fingers over the spot, he watched as Tony trembled in pain. Gibbs looked Tony in the eyes. "You see that? I barely touch you and you're withering in pain. Do you still have your appendix?"

"Yeah." Tony's browed furrowed in confusion.

"Well, I think you won't be soon." His fingers hovered just above the spot where Tony's appendix was. "You're appendix is located right here. Even the gentlest of touches are causing you extreme pain. It's swollen, as though it's about to burst. If it bursts, you will die."

Tony's face blanched.

"Go put on a pair of sweats and a shirt. I'm taking you to the hospital."