The phone conversation had been a bust. What had he expected? After seven years had Tim really and truly believed that his father would welcome him with open arms and trip over years' worth of apologies? Reality was, Penny loved him, but the harsher reality was she also loved her son and even after all this time she obviously couldn't or wouldn't bring herself to believe that her son was still an ass.

~~00~~

Tim locked the door then dropped his keys on the shelf. In a very uncharacteristic move he toed off his shoes and with an angry kick forced them under the desk and out of sight. He undressed as he shuffled along, depositing articles of clothing in his wake. Jacket. Tie. Shirt. Undershirt. A mess for the morning. Not now. Now was for pulling the blanket over his head and shutting out his family until sometime tomorrow. Late tomorrow. Or maybe even the day after tomorrow. Or maybe seven years from now.

He stood on the threshold to the bedroom, eyes closed as his deft fingers released the button and zipper on his pants and they slid down his legs, pooling at his ankles. A groan of appreciative freedom escaped his lips but Tim's moment of contentment was broken by an all too familiar burst of annoying humming. "Tony," he ground out.

All the pillows on the bed were stuffed behind Tony's back and to add insult to injury the blankets were tucked around him. Knees up, with the portable DVD player precariously balanced on said knees and with the aid of earplugs, Tony's attention was glued to the visuals on the small screen.

This was not want he wanted. Not tonight. It may be exactly what he needed, but so not what he wanted. "Tony." Apparently, this time around, Tim's voice was loud enough to cut through the damn humming because Tony held up his pointer finger in the universal give me a minute, will ya sign.

After the day he'd had, being brushed off was the straw that broke Tim's back and he stepped out of his pants and flung them at Tony, dislodging an ear bud in the attack.

With a quick jerk, Tony tugged out the remaining earbud, but waited an infuriating few more seconds before turning his attention towards Tim. "Ya gotta love—hello there." His eyebrows performed a perfect Groucho Marx imitation as Tony gazed wolfishly at his almost naked body. With a nonchalant toss of his hand, Tim's pants were thrown to the floor. Tony plucked at his well- worn tee. "Guess I'm overdressed for the occasion."

"There's no occasion, Tony." Tim took pleasure as the smile slid from Tony's face at the sarcastic emphasis of his name. "I'm tired. The past few days have pretty much sucked and the only thing on my mind at this moment in time is a hot shower and bed."

"Well, you're standing there in your boxers... "

Tim was a train of thought without a caboose. "What, so you just thought that I was in the mood?"

And there it was. That grin. Tony's secretive 'I know you better than anyone else grin' which usually warmed Tim's heart, but tonight he thought the damn expression placating and condescending. "Well, yeah."

"Do us both a favor, DiNozzo, and don't think. It's not a good look for you." He'd crossed the line, he knew it, but it felt so damn good to get pissed at a real person and not just a voice on the other end of a telephone.

Tim watched as Tony, with precise emotionless movements, gathered up the DVD player and the earbuds, placing them on the nightstand. "I'm going to go," he said flatly.

"You do that." Tim averted his gaze, distracting his libido with the dust on the dresser, not allowing himself to be rewarded with Tony's ass snugging worn sweats or his equally as worn, just as tight tee shirt. "I'm going to shower."

Tim knew this was what he wanted, hell, he'd practically thrown Tony out of the apartment, but the heat of his anger was defused when he heard the click of the front door even before he turned on the shower.

~~00~~

Tim took a long shower, longer than normal, as he tried and failed to drown the echo of his father's acid tipped voice. As the water cooled, and body parts he was emotionally attached to shriveled, Tim realized the futility of his actions.

His father would never change. No matter how many years had passed. No matter how many groveling phone calls Tim made.

~~00~~

The air in the apartment was chilled compared to the steamy warmness of the bathroom and it penetrated Tim's baggy sweats and heavy socks. He rubbed his nose, stopped, then sniffed the air.

He stomped into the kitchen, though stomping while wearing only heavy socks might be impossible, Tim tried damn hard to telegraph his approach. He choked on a sarcastic reprimand, the words sounding more childish and pathetic than harsh. "I thought I told you—"

"I did. Right to the corner deli. Figured you might be hungry." Tony touched his throat then pointed at him. "You sounded a bit…" he pursed his lips, looking for a word "…rough. Yeah," Tony said agreeing with his own assessment. "Rough around the edges and grouchy. Really grouchy. Almost bitchy."

"Not bitchy," Tim growled. Tonight was his pity party of one and Tony hadn't been invited. He didn't want him and he certainly didn't need him at this moment though he had no idea why his body was allowing Tony to push him down onto a kitchen chair while his mind kept screaming objections. "Soup?" he stared down at the steaming bowl Tony placed in front of him, his stomach growling traitorously. "Yes, soup. Weren't you listening?" Tony shook his head. "Corner deli. Hungry. Grouchy. Bitchy."

"Not bitchy."

"Whatever you say." Tony pushed over a spoon, two slices of buttered toast and a napkin with two little white pills nestled in the middle. "Tylenol, before you even complain. For your headache and sore throat."

~~00~~

"Must you do that?"

"Do what?" Tony started to lift the soup container to his lips.

"That." Tim dropped his spoon and it clattered noisily into his now empty bowl.

"Sorry to disappoint you, McCarnac the Magnificent, because contrary to popular belief I cannot read your mind and have not a clue as to what you're talking about."

"Who the hell is Mc—" Tim shook his head. "Never mind, forget I even asked."

"Johnny Carson." Tony sighed, slurping some more soup. "That!" Tim yelled triumphantly. "That slurping you do with your lips. Never mind drinking from the container, can't you use a bowl like civilized people—"

Tony licked his lips. "These lips? I don't think I ever heard you speak of my lips in a derogatory manner before." He tapped the container against his chin. "As a matter of fact I seem to recall—"

With an angry shove, Tim pushed the chair back and stood up. "I'm going to sleep. You do whatever you want."

~~00~~

Obviously, Tony doing whatever he wanted fell into the category of not getting the hint and leaving so Tim feigned sleep while Tony puttered around the bedroom. He kept his breathing slow and steady, his eyes shut, but not too tightly closed because then it would be obvious. Even when Tony slid under the covers, and his bare feet tried to find warmth in Tim's sweats, he stayed silent. Only when Tony leaned over him, stuck an earbud in his ear did Tim rouse himself from his artificial slumber. "What the hell?" He sat up and ripped it out of his ear.

Tony took the earbud from Tim's hand, stuck one end back in his ear and stuck the other in his own ear. "Lie down," he ordered.

"Why?" Tim felt ridiculous. Two grown men sitting up in bed sharing a set of headphones did not form an attractive, mature picture in his mind.

Tony didn't answer. He just leaned over, grabbed the DVD player, plugged in the headphone jack and opened the top.

"Star Wars, Tony. Really?"

"Really, McGrouchy."

"Why?" Tim repeated, considering he hadn't gotten an answer the first time.

"Because I thought it would do you good to see someone who has a more fucked up relationship with their father than either you or I." Tony did his Darth Vader impression. "I am your father, Luke."

Tim smiled. Just a tiny smile and it felt awkward as if he hadn't smiled in a long time.

~~00~~

He awoke hot and achy, entrenched in blankets, Tony, and a slightly muted, one sided off kilter Star Wars theme playing in his right ear. He had to pee. Badly. Really badly. "Tony," he whispered.

Tony mumbled sweet sleepy nothings in Tim's left ear, which at any other time might have been an endearing turn on, but the bastard responded to Tim's squirming by increasing his strangle hold grip on Tim's midsection, right about where his bladder was.

~~00~~

"I said I was sorry."

Tony moved the bag of frozen carrots and ran his tongue along his top lip. "Swollen." Which sounded more like a bad Elmer Fudd imitation than the actual word.

"I had to pee."

"You could've just asked instead of using your shoulder as a lethal weapon."

He cringed as Tony gently placed the frozen veggies back over his mouth. Damn guy survived the plague with barely a whimper but his whining over this teensy little accident was infantile. "You look fine."

Tim had never realized that Tony's eyebrows were able to carry on a complete conversation. "Okay, maybe not fine," he acquiesced, "but at least it's not a black eye. Imagine having to explain that to—"

Tony tossed the bag of organic frozen veggies into the sink. "Gibbs. Yeah." Tony shuddered. "Did you know the mouth is one of the areas on the body that bleeds—"

Tim knew because his expensive, recently purchased pillow cases and sheets were covered in enough of Tony's blood to rival a Wes Craven movie.

~~00~~

Bedding changed, Tim was trying and failing to get comfortable while not disturbing Tony who was already fast asleep on his belly, the flat of his left hand resting on Tim's stomach. He slithered under the palm which had snaked itself under his sweatshirt before Tony drifted off.

" 'k?" Tony mumbled without opening an eye.

"Fine."

Familiar fingers worked their way up his body. "Hot."

Tim pushed Tony's hand down. "Why is everything with you about sex?"

Tony opened one eye. "Huh?"

"Didn't you just call me hot?"

"Fever hot. Not hot, hot. Now who's focused on sex?" Tony pulled himself into a sitting position and smiled, pressing his hand against his swollen lip, pushing and prodding at the injury.

"Stop it." Tim gently pushed Tony's hand away from his face.

"You need some more Tylenol." He placed his hand over Tim's.

"And you need another bag of frozen veggies."

~~00~~

"You went running?"

"Very astute, Agent McGee. What gave it away, the fact that a small river is forming under my feet as we speak—" Okay, maybe he hadn't used his Very Special Agent Anthony DiNozzo brains but to his credit it hadn't been raining with a capital 'R' when he'd left. It had been dark and dreary when he'd gotten out of bed, but it hadn't been raining. Tim had been sleeping, snoring in fact and he'd actually hesitated before leaving but his ritualistic (a much nicer word than OCD) tendencies had pulled him from the bed, and he donned sweats and sneakers before he changed his mind.

Tony wrung a corner of his sodden sweat shirt, adding to the growing puddle under his sneakers.

"Don't move."

Tony sneezed.

"If you get sick, I'm going to kill you." Tim stared at him, shook his head, then turned on his heels and stomped out of the room.

"Nice bedside manner," Tony yelled.

~~00~~

Tim stood before him, thrusting a huge bath towel at Tony. "Get undressed."

"And you think I'm obsessed with sex?"

"You are obsessed with sex."

"You say that like it's a bad thing."

Tim glared at him.

"That's not bad," Tony said, peeling off his tee shirt. "It's not in the category of a Gibbs' glare, but I'd you give a six point five." Tony dropped the sodden shirt on the floor and grabbed the towel from Tim, latching onto his hand. "Hey," he said pulling Tim closer and slapping a hand on his forehead. "You're still feverish."

"And you're still wet." Tim pushed off him, and Tony followed his gaze downward. Tim's white socks were soaked.

"Oh, your socks—"

"Thank you." He ripped them off and tossed them onto the floor, next to Tony's shirt. "Laundry's on you." Tim stormed off, leaving a trail of wet footprints on the wood floor.

~~00~~

Tony stood in the kitchen, fresh from the shower and stared at Tim's back while Tim stared out the window, his concentration centered on the rain. "Good day to crawl back into bed. Under the covers—"

"Not today, Tony."

"Okay, the couch then. Couch is good."

"Not today," Tim repeated.

"Yesterday's phone call with your dad didn't go well."

Tim spun around to face Tony. "I never told you I called him."

Pale with splotches of feverish pink color stained Tim's cheeks. He was tense. Shoulders Marine straight, the hands at his side ending in white knuckled fists. Tim was angry. Furious. But his emotions were focused inward, not on the bastard who deserved it. "You didn't have to," Tony said softly. "I knew."

"How did you know?" Tim snarled. "Tap my phone? Oh wait, you don't have the capability—"

"Don't say something you're going to be sorry for, McGee," Tony threatened softly, as he took a step closer. "And no, I didn't tap your phone. Nor did you talk in your sleep. I knew, because…" Tony drew a deep breath "…I would've done the same thing."

"Our family situations are nothing alike," Tim sputtered.

"Dads are both bastards. Doesn't make a difference how they earned the title."

"You and your dad get along now, Tony." There was more than a hint of arrogance in Tim's accusation.

"Is that how you see it?"

"He calls you." Tim began to tick Senior's attributes off on his fingers. "He sends you emails. He shows up. He cares."

"I beg to differ."

"Sure looks like a normal relationship from where I'm standing."

"I'm middle aged," Tony admitted with a grimace, "and I'm still trying to prove my self-worth to my father. There isn't a single conversation, you know, one of those talks you think are normal, where the man doesn't remind me that being a federal agent is one step," Tony pinched his thumb and forefinger together, "one baby step, mind you, from being in the gutter.

"When he came to NCIS I should've been embarrassed by his behavior, but all I felt was jealousy over the attention he paid to Abby and Ziva. How normal is that, McGee. Hmm?"

"You're throwing this big party for your dad."

"No, my dad's throwing a big party for my dad; he's just using my money. Using me. How sick am I thinking at the end of this party he's going to stand up, remit the errors of his ways and thank me for being the son he always wanted. To just damn thank me for once. To maybe admit I'd done something right even if he bankrupts me in the process. To toss me a bone like a—" Tony gave a self-deprecating snort. "Decades later and I'm still dealing with daddy abandonment issues." He hadn't meant to say that, hell, he hadn't meant to say or think any of this. This was supposed to be him being supportive of Tim. "Sorry."

Tim patted his shoulder. "Sometimes I wish my father had abandoned me." Tim dropped his hand and looked everywhere but at him. "It would've been easier than trying to live up to his expectations."

"Ahhh, jeeze. Your mom must've been great. Your sister—" Tony winked. "And your grandmother—" There was a slump in Tim's shoulders and resignation in his body language that Tony knew from experience wouldn't be swept away. "Really didn't really make up for the father/son missing pieces, did it?"

Tim just shook his head.

"Our dads would've given Darth Vader a run for his money don't you think?"

"I try not to think about him at all," Tim admitted sadly.

"How's that working for you?"

"About the same as how it's working for you."

"Really?" Tony gently cupped Tim's cheek, his thumb tracing the shadow under his eye. "I truly don't believe your witty retort was grammatically correctly."

"Screw you," Tim responded with the slightest hint of a smile tugging at the corner of his lips

"Now that sentence," Tony leaned in for a chaste kiss, running his tongue along his fat lip when they separated, "would earn you an A in my class. How would you like to go for an A+?" he nuzzled Tim's neck, huffing a smile against the tender, sensitive area.

"A+?" The moan was guttural as Tim pressed himself against Tony.

"Yeah, all you got to do is sleep with the teacher."

~~00~~

Tim nodded to the security guard before entering the elevator. Okay, it was Monday which may have been why his smile had been met with more of a grimace from the guard, but damn it, he felt better. He breathed deeply, settling his shoulders against the back wall of the elevator. Much better. Besides feeling like crap last week, the team had pulled the case from hell which involved a dead petty officer, a remote camping ground and lots of rain and mud. A jealous friend of the petty officer had confessed on Saturday, reports on Gibbs' desk less than two hours after the man's tearful confession and the rest of the day and all of Sunday had been spent resting and relaxing. The only problem was that Tim had rested and relaxed alone while Tony had been involved with the continuous planning of his Dad's birthday party.

Tony was sitting at his desk, wearing his coat, elbows resting on his desk, his face cradled in his cupped hands when Tim strode into the bullpen. "You okay?"

Slowly, Tony lifted his head and glared at him through narrowed, red rimmed eyes. "This is all your fault, Typhoid McGee," Tony rasped.

Furtively, Tim glanced over his shoulder, his gaze encompassing the nearly empty, early morning bullpen. "Oh." The sex had been great. Hell, with Tony, sex was always great, but sex with Tony when he'd been contagious the previous week had obviously not been one of their better ideas. He offered up an apologetic, heartfelt and guilty, "Sorry."

Tony sneezed in response. "A little late for that, don't you think?"

Tim bit back the 'it takes two to tango' and went the supportive, sympathetic high road. "How about I get you some tea?"

"I don't think tea is going to help."

Tim stared at Ziva who suddenly was standing shoulder to shoulder with him. He was obviously distracted by Tony's decaying health because he hadn't even heard the elevator ding. "Tea would help," Tim insisted.

Tony coughed, a wet congested sound and Tim's stomach twisted in guilt.

"Tea's not going to help," Ziva answered with a matter of fact smirk.

Tony sneered at her, though the intensity of the glare was diminished by a bead of snot hanging from his nostril.

"Ziva's right," Gibbs said, appearing seemingly out of nowhere. "Tea's not gonna help." He touched the rim of his coffee cup against his nose. "A tissue might help though."

Tony pulled open his desk drawer, grabbed a crumpled napkin that had seen better days and blew his nose all before Tim could even offer his handkerchief. "Better?" He offered his red nose for inspection.

"Much." Gibbs nodded. "Ducky's waiting for you."

"Me? Why? Is there a case?" Tony glanced around his desk and Tim offered up a shrug, just as confused as he was.

"Case? Nope," Gibbs took a long draw of coffee, "not unless you plan on dying anytime soon."

"Then why Ducky?"

The second the words were out of Tony's mouth, Gibbs' single raised eyebrow connected the dots for him.

Tim sucked in his grimace. This wasn't going to be pretty.

"I'm fine." Tony's adamancy was swallowed up by a round of coughing.

~~00~~

Silently, Tony stared out the passenger window at the passing scenery. Blood, broken bones or concussions didn't raise the level of concern and worry from his team as much as a simple cough. Like a good agent, he'd seen Ducky who tsk'd his way through Tony's examination, throwing in a head shake here and there for good measure.

An x-ray followed by a disappointed "Anthony" and he knew, even without a diagnosis, he was up shit's creek without a paddle. When Ducky picked up the phone and dialed his friendly plague doctor, Brad, Tony realized that not only was he missing the paddle, but the entire canoe appeared to have sprung a leak.

~~00~~

At least Tony had been able to convince Gibbs that his recovery would be faster and much less stressful if he had at his disposable not only his DVD collection, his plasma but also 150 cable stations. There had been muttering but Tony couldn't hide his smile when Gibbs pulled up in front of his building. Tony pretty much thought he was home free. Gibbs would kick him and all his meds to the curb and that would be the end of it. Wait. No. That's not possible. Was Gibbs— "What are you doing?" A cough swallowed up part of his last word so it came out more like 'ng."

"Parking," Gibbs said, obviously understanding Tony.

"Really," Tony said, hoping that Gibbs' parking the car didn't mean what Tony thought it meant.

~~00~~

"I don't need you to walk me to my door." Tony squirmed, the inside of the car suddenly claustrophobic.

"Who said anything about walking you to your door?"

"Oh," Tony grinned, feeling stupid. "In that case," he began to gather up his meds, "thanks for everything and…"

"I'm going to get you settled." Gibbs took the keys out of the ignition and opened the car door.

"Settled?" Tony squeaked. "I don't need settling, I'm fine."

Gibbs glared.

"Okay, not fine," Tony admitted sheepishly and he waved the bag of meds as proof. "But I will be."

Gibbs growled.

Tony opened the car door. God he hated these one side conversations. "Maybe settling is a good idea, Boss."

~~00~~

The elevator wasn't working, which was no great surprise, but what did surprise Tony was how breathless and shaky he was after walking up the four flights of stairs. He stood at the top of the stairwell, struggling to fill his lungs, while Gibbs strode ahead, using his own key to unlock Tony's apartment door.

Gibbs pushed the door inward and glanced down the hall at Tony. "Coming, DiNozzo?"

~~00~~

Tony ground the heel of his palm against his forehead. Gibbs was a lot of things but when settling had turned to smothering, Tony felt as if he'd fallen down Alice's rabbit hole. It was scary.

"Headache?"

He feigned a yawn, not too deep, just enough to convincingly convey that he needed to rest.

"Tired?" Gibbs stepped towards the recliner and Tony pressed his body against the arm of the chair, terrified that Gibbs was going to tuck the blanket around him or worse, fluff the pillows under his head.

Gibbs was scaring him. "Am I dying?" Because honestly, there was no other reason for his boss' behavior.

"Not today."

Tony felt a tad nauseated.

"You look a little green around the gills, do you need a bucket or something?"

Or something. Tony tried to smile. "Nope. It'll pass."

"How about I make you some soup and you can take your meds?" Gibbs pulled the blanket down so it covered Tony's feet.

All Tony could do was nod in agreement.

~~00~~

"Tony—"

"I had the soup and the pills AND they stayed down. I'm fine," he insisted. If Tony wasn't able to admit to himself that he felt marginally above roadkill there wasn't a chance in hell he was going to admit to his Stepford Wife boss that his cough was anything but a cough. For the briefest of seconds, real Gibbs shone through with a spot of annoyance at Tony's falsehood then it was gone, leaving pod person Gibbs in his place.

Less than ninety minutes later, frustrated at his inability to physically escape this person wearing Gibbs' face, Tony closed his eyes; sleeping was his last alternative. The best place to hide from Gibbs.

~~00~~

Tim fought the urge to pace. He'd been able to glean from Ducky, without too much interrogation, that Pitt had been called in, consulted, and Gibbs had driven Tony home. Unless Tony was knocked unconscious or under the influence of anesthesia, no matter how sick he was, short of handcuffing the man to the bedpost, there wasn't a conceivable way that Tim could think of to keep Tony still and at rest. Relaxation wasn't in his partner's vocabulary. Even when sleeping, Tony was in constant motion. So how… "Boss?"

"McGee," Gibbs mimicked, pausing in front of his desk, looking smugger than usual.

The man was going to make him ask, rather than be forthcoming. Fine, he'd play his game. "How's Tony?"

Out of the corner of his eye, Tim saw Ziva cock her head, interested without showing an interest. Even after all this time there were moments that her bitchiness never failed to surprise Tim.

A sip of coffee before he even answered and Tim would've loved to scream the word 'focus' in his boss' face but, even for Tony, he didn't have that much of a death wish.

"I smothered him."

"You killed Tony?"

"With a pillow?" Ziva interjected, obviously no longer hiding behind disinterest.

"Nope," Gibbs said with more than a hint of pride. "With kindness."

"With kindness?" Tim asked, incredulously fighting the urge to shudder because knowing Gibbs, smothering via pillow was more believable and a hell of a lot kinder than kindness.

"I do not understand."

Neither did Tim, but he'd be damned if he'd ask Gibbs for clarification.

A longer sip of coffee and then Gibbs tossed the cup into the trash with an over the shoulder, didn't even bother to look dexterity. He turned to Tim as if searching for an answer.

Tim in turned looked over his shoulder wondering what or who the hell Gibbs was looking for.

"I mother-henned DiNozzo," Gibbs said with a hint of pride.

"So what does it mean, this mother hen that you smothered Tony with?" Tim snuck an eye roll towards the heavens and gave a silent prayer of thanks to Ziva.

"Well, it would appear," Gibbs' answered smugly, "that DiNozzo found it difficult to deal with my overabundance of caring—"

"Caring?" Crap, the word was out before he could sever the connection between his brain and his mouth.

"Yes, McGee, caring. Do you think I'm incapable of caring?"

"You, sir?" Adamantly, Tim shook his head. "You're a very caring individual." He tried in vain to ignore Ziva's snort that echoed around the bullpen.

"Do you have a problem with me caring, Agent David?"

"No, Boss." She shook her head so emphatically her pony tail resembled a dog's wagging tail.

"Good." Gibbs was finished with the conversation but the Magna Cum Laude MIT graduate in Tim just couldn't let it go.

"So, Boss. Tony, in order to avoid your caring, smothering, mother-henning approach to taking care of him, literally went to sleep so he didn't have to deal with you?"

Gibbs smiled as if he were actually proud of Tim. "Took his medicine and his breathing treatment also," Gibbs gloated.

"Ah," Ziva said gleefully, the lightbulb finally going off. "That's where the saying 'killing them with kindness' comes from."

~~00~~

Tim shifted the heavy shopping bag and his briefcase then ended up just placing them on the floor while he searched his ring for the key to Tony's apartment. "Tony," he whispered into the darkened room before picking up the bag and briefcase and stepping over the threshold. It was late. His intention had been to be home close to dinner. He sighed, resting his briefcase against the leg of the tiny entry room table. What was that saying about best intentions, something about the road paved with gold? He switched on the table lamp and dropped his keys in the catch all bowl. He lugged the shopping bag to the kitchen where he plopped it unceremoniously on the counter. Soup from the corner deli from Abby (three kinds) and, of course, Bert. Muffins (from the team's favorite bakery, six different types) from Ziva. A list of do's and don'ts from Ducky (double spaced and in large Ariel font ), a bootleg copy of a recent movie from Palmer (who had smuggled it to McGee in between two reports) and a box of Puffs tissues from Gibbs that had been tossed on Tim's desk with a grunt for explanation.

The illumination from the light was minimal, but familiarity permitted Tim to maneuver around the living room without falling flat on his face.

The leather recliner was huge. It had been a purchase that Tony had made after last year's bout of pneumonia had left him unable to sleep in bed no matter how many pillows had been propped around his body and under his neck and head. Tim had argued, not really willing to give up Tony in bed, but after three sleepless nights, compliments of Tony losing the battle to cough up a lung, Tim had acquiesced.

Tony was tucked in, from his shoulders to the tips of his toes. He didn't look uncomfortable, it was just strange to see the man who did hand to hand combat with his blankets on a nightly basis (and usually won) so still and contained. His breathing was open mouthed and noisy and Tim reached out to wipe the teardrop of drool hanging precariously from the corner of Tony's mouth then guiltily pulled back when Tony snorted, waking himself up.

"Hi." Tim waggled his fingers at bleary, fever bright, blood shot eyes that gazed at him in utter confusion.

"Huh?" Tony's tongue flicked out trying to capture the drool, but he missed and began to panic when he tried to get his hands to do what his tongue couldn't. "What the hell," he croaked, seesawing his shoulders against the leather.

"Stop it, Tony," Tim commanded, trying to undo the blanket holding anchoring him to the chair.

Tony stopped his struggle, his eyes growing larger as he stared over Tim's right shoulder. "Is he gone?"

"Is who gone?" Tim glanced over his shoulder as he worked on pulling the blanket free. "There's no one here."

"Pod Gibbs," Tony whispered, bursting out of the blanket and tossing it on the floor. He sat up, coughed, then blinked at Tim as if seeing him for the first time. "I ummm—"

"I know," Tim placated, resting a hand on Tony's shoulder. Even through the fabric, he could feel the heat of fever and he sighed, his interest suddenly captured by the array of medication and paper on the coffee table.

~~00~~

Tony sat at the kitchen table, feeling like shit, staring at the steaming bowl of chicken soup Tim had placed in front of him.

"You need to eat." Tim stared at him more intently than Tony was staring at the soup.

But the effort of picking up the spoon required more energy than Toy wanted to expend. "You know," he said, going for diversionary tactic 101, "Even though I'm a federal agent and all, it was damn scary."

Tim raised an eyebrow. "The soup? The soup is scary? No, Abby got it from the deli that you—"

"The soup?" His head hurt too much to play McGuessing games. "Gibbs."

"Gibbs?" Tim's scowl turned into a nod of agreement. "Gotcha," Tim pushed the bowl of soup closer to him. "Gibbs kinda mentioned—"

"He was nice." Tony shuddered, inching the soup away from him. "Like when Kate died nice—" Tony looked at Tim. "Offering us coffee and stuff. Am I dying? Is that why he was so nice?"

"Eat your soup, Tony," Tim said with controlled exasperation, "You're not dying."

Tony coughed, long, loud, and deposited a portion of his lung in the tissue Tim stuck in front of him. "Really?" Tony gasped, "cause from where I'm sitting, it sure as hell feels like I'm dying."

~~00~~

Tony wasn't sure how they ended up in bed, well, he knew how they ended up in bed in the grand scheme of their relationship, but today, he truly wanted/needed/desired the siren song of the recliner. Not the horizontal position of his usually comfortable California king bed. "Sure, whatever," was his answer to whatever question Tim had just asked. God, his mind was wandering. "What the heck?" he growled, sitting up, slapping at the ear Tim had just removed the thermometer from.

"See! Your fever is 102.9." Tim glared at him then shoved the ear thermometer under Tony's nose.

Tony tried not to squint at the dancing numbers. "Are you sure it's not 103 because that sounds so much more impressive than just a mere 102."

"When was the last time you took your antibiotic? A Tylenol? Anything?" Tim jabbed the air with the poor thermometer.

Tony grabbed his hand, stilling it. "I paid good money for that."

"You're impossible," Tim said with disgust, "most normal people would be barely conscious with a fever that high. Or moaning. Or—"

"Took you this long to realize that I'm not exactly normal, McLover?" Gently, he plucked the thermometer from Tim's hands and placed it on the nightstand. "Last time I took anything was when Gibbs was here—"

"That was hours ago." Tim jumped out of bed with a huff, mumbling to himself. "I'll be right back."

Tony propped his head up and watched Tim's boxer clad ass leave the room. Really, who ever thought that he would be all sappy for someone who wore not only boxers and a tee to bed, but also socks.

~~00~~

Tony didn't want to look a gift McGee in the mouth, but he was incredibly uncomfortable. Tim was too close. Snoring too loudly. Tony was too hot. Too cold. His head hurt. His chest hurt even more and he was coughing so much that Tim actually was asking him mid-snore if he was 'okay' then drifting back to sleep without waiting for an answer.

He had had only one option. The recliner.

Tony turned sideways on the recliner, trying, but barely succeeding in making himself comfortable. Palmer's ill begotten, but much appreciated bootleg DVD was on the plasma. The remote was securely in his right hand. Bert was tucked under his chest, the blanket smothering the rhino's loud bodily functions, as well as Tony's coughing.

He slept fitfully, Bert protesting every change of position, every cough but he must've slept, because when he woke slivers of orange sunrise were peeking through the blinds. Tim was hovering over him, inhaler in one hand, antibiotics in the other and Tony offered up a three fingered wave of greeting.

"Morning," Tim answered grimly. Or maybe that was concern. Tony truly wasn't awake enough to differentiate.

"Early?" He tried to raise a hand but his body felt heavy, tired, and sick.

"Yes, early, but you need another dose of medication. And you need your temperature—"

It all came out as blah, blah, blah, blah—and Tony acquiesced taking pills, a piss, a bottle of water, two bites of toast and a 'tut tut' after having his ear poked with the thermometer. "Don't you have to go to work?" he groused, annoyed. "I'm fine." He voided his argument by a round of coughing that left him gratefully latching onto the half-filled water bottle Tim handed him.

"Fine?" Tim examined the empty water bottle Tony gave back to him using it to point to the myriad of medicinal items on the coffee table. "Okay, maybe not so fine." He eyed Tim, still in boxers, a white tee and socks, a slow grin sliding into place. "I'm still a better patient than you were."

Tim snorted. "I don't believe a fever of 102 is high enough for hallucinations."

"Funny, McGee."

"I try."

Tony opened his mouth, coughed, gave up whatever witty repartee he had been going to flounce Tim with and just ended up yawning.

"That's one for me," Tim gloated, checking the air with his finger.

"Not fair," Tony shivered and didn't object when Tim covered him, "I'm working with a handicap."

Tim answered him with a gentle kiss to his forehead. "Not touching that one with a ten foot pole, DiNozzo. I'm going to shower and head over to the Yard—"

Tony nodded with each word, his eyes closing as Tim continued, barely registering the snicking of the door locking behind him when he left.

~~00~~

Tim dropped the half eaten sandwich onto the crumpled wrapper and answered the phone on the first ring, tucking the receiver between his shoulder and chin, continuing his computer search. "Yeah, Abbs."

"My. Lab. Now."

~~00~~

"What?" He'd been on a roll, multi-tasking, eating lunch while trying to figure out the actual steps in submitting the damn triplicate paperwork to the right department. Tony's job. Well, not so much Tony's job, as a job Tony ended up with and he was trying to help out, but based on the expression Abby wore on her face, failing miserably at trying to hide his annoyance over her interruption.

"You need to do something." Left hand on her hip, right hand was poking his chest, accentuating her command.

"And I repeat—what?" He grabbed her finger in a light fist.

"About Tony."

"Tony's not even here."

"Duh." She pulled her finger from his grasp. "One," she used her freed digits to tick off her comments, "Tony's sick."

Tim rolled his eyes.

Abby ignored him. "Two. He's supposed to be resting. Drinking plenty of fluids. Taking his medication and allowing Bert to keep him company."

"Is there a point to this, Abby?"

"Tim," she whined. "Tony wasn't doing any of those things—" she stopped furrowed her brow, then continued, "except maybe allowing Bert to keep him company."

"Whoa, back up. What do you mean Tony wasn't—"

"He was on the phone. The phone!" Black painted fingernails waved in the air. "Pacing. Talking—well, not really talking 'cause you know he sounded really hoarse and he was coughing."

Frustrated, Tim placed a hand on her biceps and forced her to focus. "How do you know?"

She huffed. "I went to see him at lunch. You know make sure he was doing okay, which he really isn't, he looked terrible. Feverish—"

God, he wished he could give her a Gibbs style head smack just to bring her back on track. He drew a deep breath, counted to ten and exhaled slowly. "So you went to see Tony—"

"Who looked terrible—"

"Who looked terrible," Tim echoed. "And he was on the phone?"

"Constantly. The hotel. The caterers. Florist. All because of his father's party. Every time he hung up the cell someone else called. Doesn't his dad know that—"

"No, obviously not."

"Well, he should. Someone should tell him that Tony's sick and when he feels better—"

Still talking, Tim pulled Abby forward and planted a kiss on her forehead. "I'll take care of it."

"Promise?" She stuck out her pinkie and latched onto Tim's. "Tony always pinkie swears with me."

"Well, if a pinkie swear is good enough for Tony then it's good enough for me."

~~00~~

Tim unlocked the door, slipped off his shoes and closed the door with a tap of his foot. It wasn't late, but it certainly wasn't as early as he'd hoped and he arrived bearing gifts of steaming Chinese food from Tony's favorite place. Probably not the healthiest but the hot and sour soup with the homemade spicy mustard would go a long way to clearing up clogged nasal passages.

But it wasn't quiet that greeted him. It was the agitated prepubescent sound of Tony trying to keep calm. "Tony?"

Tony cut through the air with his hand, waving Tim towards the kitchen.

Yeah, Tim didn't think so. Tony looked horrible, sounded worse and was pacing the floor like an old man who'd lost his walker, shuffling a back and forth path, flipping his cell phone from one ear to the next. "No, you listen to me—" Tony squeaked. "You had no problem cashing my last check, or the one before it—"

Slowly, Tim lowered the bag of food to the floor, matched pace with Tony, timed it just right, then plucked the phone from Tony's fingers, mid stride. "Hey!"

"Agent DiNozzo will call you back after dinner." Tim disconnected the phone and slipped it into his pants' pocket.

"Do you know how long—"

Tim wasn't too sure who had been more spooked, him or Tony, over the coughing jag that had followed Tony's indignation, only that now, with the steaming Chinese smorgasbord set out on the table before them, Tony's hands were still shaking as he attempted to navigate the spoon from the bowl to his mouth.

Tim reached out, grabbed Tony's hand and lowered the spoon into the bowl. "Tony—" he let his name trail off, allowing his partner to garner any whatever meaning he needed from the one simple word.

"I know," was his answer.

Tim held back his sigh because it appeared that two could play at crypticness. "Eat your soup. You're probably due for some meds—"

"Overdue," Tony answered despondently.

"Of course you are."

Tim's sarcastic remark was met with uncharacteristic silence. "I'm sorry," he apologized. "Soup. Meds. Then I'll clean up and go—"

"Don't go," Tony asked. "Sorry," he said softly.

Tim patted Tony's hand and forced himself to remember that Tony sucked at being a patient no matter what he believed.

~~00~~ For the second night in a row, coughing woke him from a restless sleep but Tim's hand on his bicep stopped him from throwing off the blanket and dragging his aching body to the recliner.

Now it was the body tucked against his telling him to 'stay.'

"You need to sleep," he said hoarsely, burying the string of congestive coughing in his pillow.

Tim rubbed his arm. "So do you."

"I'm going to keep you awake—" Tony tried not to be distracted by Tim's fingers tracing indecipherable designs on his arm.

"Only if you cough in the living room, because then I'll have to get up and check on you. Coughing in bed," Tim's fingers stilled, and then moved slowly down Tony's arm, "is no different than snoring."

"I don't snore." Tony tried to muster up enough dignity to add credence to those words.

"Never said you did, just said that it was more disruptive if you slept in the living room. In the recliner from hell—"

"Do not make fun of my recliner."

The kiss to Tony's neck was gentle, but sometimes a kiss is more than a kiss, like sometimes a touch to the arm is not really just a touch.

"You have a fever." For some reason, Tim's words sounded more like an accusation than worry.

"We were talking about my recliner."

"No, you were talking about the recliner," Tim was using his if I explain things slower with little words, people will understand me better voice, "I was saying you had a fever."

"Stop being condescending. I know I'm sick. I know I have a fever." He sat up, punched his pillow, tried to ignore the feeling that he was having a temper tantrum and flopped back down. "You know, it's not too late for me to rescind my sleep over offer."

"We're not twelve, Tony." Tony wasn't too sure if he huffed to cover up his cough or coughed to cover up his huff of laugher. "Speak for yourself, McGee."

~~00~~

Tim waited until Tony's congested breathing reached a rhythm leaning towards slumber, then he checked the bedside clock and was patient for another fifteen minutes before sliding out of bed. Tim knew it. Gibbs knew it. Ziva, Abby, Ducky, hell, even Jimmy, knew it. They liked to pretend that Director Vance didn't know it, but he wasn't that stupid. The worst part, Tony knew it and, pretended that he didn't.

Gunshot, torture, broken bone—not a problem. Piece of cake in DiNozzo's world but a simple cold was no longer a simple cold. It was coughing, fevers, a visit to his friendly Doctor Pitt, with x-rays, antibiotics, breathing treatments and more than a few days off from work. This was the third time this year Tony had gotten sick.

Maybe it was the guilt (because it had been his germs), plain old concern or just love that was forcing Tim's hand. Or maybe it was Abby's pinkie swear.

Tony's cell was on the table by the recliner, strangely forgotten after Tim had disconnected the call. Trying to feel less like a jealous lover and more like a caring partner, he pulled up a recent call log, matched them up to Tony's contact list then started a slow burn. W Hotel. Caterer. Florist. DiNozzo, Sr. Hundreds of calls. Obviously from the time Senior got it in his head to throw himself a party with Tony's money until today. Maybe he should just call Senior and give him a piece of his mind or maybe… Tim chuckled evilly and blocked each and every number in Tony's call log that appeared to be party related, including DiNozzo Senior's number.

~~00~~

Tim opened the next cold case file on his desk, glad for the distraction of a ringing phone. "Special Agent McGee."

"Ah… Tim."

"Mr. DiNozzo." Tim sighed, closing the folder. With a cursory glance at his watch, he allowed a moment of surprise that it had taken until almost lunch for Senior to start sniffing around, looking for his son. "What can I do for you?"

"I'm trying to reach my son," he paused and Tim's trained ear focused on the background conversation and laughter bleeding through the phone.

"Tony's unavailable."

There was a burst of giggling and Senior shushed the offenders. "I really need to speak to Junior."

Anger at the man on the other end of the phone halted the habit forming apology before Tim was able to speak. "Unavailable," he replied curtly and obviously loudly because now he'd captured Gibbs' attention. Great. "Is it an emergency?" Peripherally, Tim was aware of the squeaking of Gibbs' desk chair, the footsteps approaching his desk.

"Well, more of a snag than an emergency. I'm really just conveying a message from the event planner—"

"So not an emergency."

Senior chuckled. "Kimberly, the event planner… a sweet young thing—she seemed to feel it was an emergency. Something about another scheduled payment… I truly feel more comfortable discussing this with Junior."

"He's ill."

"Ill?"

"Ill as in sick. Bronchitis. Fever. Cough. Home in bed unavailable."

"He's not at work then?"

Tim growled. "No, he's not at work. Tony's home. Hopefully sleeping. Recuperating." The last word he drew out syllable by syllable. "

"Are you sure? I mean that boy has his cell attached to his body, even if he were dying—"

What he wanted to say was 'Tony is too sick to be on his cell. He's too sick to give a crap about your elaborate, unnecessary birthday party and he's definitely too sick to call Kim, the event planner. Do. You. Understand?' What he did say was "Tony's sick, Mr. DiNozzo—" and was thankfully cut off before he could sell his soul with worthless platitudes.

"You know if I were in Washington, I'd stop by personally, but I'm in New York closing a deal."

"Of course you're too busy."

Senior cleared his throat, too much of a gentlemen to respond. "Why don't you just have Junior give me a call, I'm sure he'll be feeling better by to—"

Tim in a fit of immaturity slammed the receiver into the cradle, resisting the urge to throw the damn thing across the room then buried his face in his hands with a groan. At the gentle tap on his shoulder he peeked out from behind feathered fingers. Embarrassed, he slowly lowered hand to his desk. "Sorry, that was—inappropriate." He gestured towards his phone. "I shouldn't have hung up on him."

"I'm sure you didn't do anything the man didn't deserve, McGee". The supportive hand resting on Tim's shoulder tightened imperceptibly. "Senior's been wasting good Tony's entire life."

"Huh?"

"Never mind," Gibbs stated, pushing the forgotten cold case file back in front of Tim. "Focus, McGee."

"Focusing, Boss."

~~00~~

Tony woke up, coughed, blinked, rubbed his eyes, pushed down the blanket, moved and then farted. Actually, it was Bert and not him promoting bodily functions. "Excuse yourself," he said with a voice that was barely more than a whisper.

He showered, coughed up a lung (or two) and all in all considered it a victory that he managed not to fall on his ass. Tony celebrated his marginal re-emergence into the human race with muffin from Ziva, a glass of orange juice, an antibiotic, pointedly ignoring both the thermometer and Tylenol.

Crawling back into bed held no appeal. So he grabbed Bert and the two of them settled on the recliner for viewing of daytime television. The intellectuality, or lack thereof, lulled him to sleep within minutes.

~~00~~ "You look much better," Tim said, hovering without trying to look like he was hovering.

"I slept." He ignored Tim's grimace of pity at the sound of what remained of his voice.

"Sleeping is good." Tim nodded in agreement, tapping the tops of the pill containers on the kitchen table. "Following doctor's orders and taking your—"

"Medicine, yeah, got that." He flicked his finger at the closest container which set off a domino effect, scattering them in all directions.

"Care to explain?"

Tony was a touch surprised that Tim wasn't rushing to pick up the results of his petulance. "I don't take kindly to people—"

"People—as in me? Are you talking about me?"

"As in you." Tony coughed into the crook of his arm. "You didn't have to go through my phone, block numbers, treat me like—" his voice was fading faster than his anger. "An invalid. I can deal with my father's crap."

"So you're pissed…"

"No shit, " he hissed hoarsely.

There was no apology in Tim's expression, just an annoying placating smile that tugged at the corner of his mouth. "Pot. Kettle. Black, Tony. Even if you don't see it. "

And with a great heave, Tony saw. "Going to force me to watch Star Wars?" Tony rested his heavy head into his hands, smiling into his palms at the cool touch of Tim's hand against the heat of his neck. "Asshole." The word came out as a whisper rather than a vocalization.

"No argument from me."

"Kick an injured man while he's down, why don't ya?"

"Nope. No kicking. Going to cook you some dinner. Tuck you into bed then give your meds, after you pick them up from the floor—"

"Hey," Tony rasped, "sick man here."

"Don't do the crime, Agent DiNozzo, if you can't do the time."

~~00~~

There was no enforced Star Wars watching that night, but Tim was as good as his word and tucked Tony into bed with meds and Bert. Shocking even himself, Tony slept, considering he'd done nothing but sleep the entire day.

Groggily, Tony listened with half an ear and only a quarter of an awake brain when Gibbs' called Tim's cell in the early hours informing him of the two dead marines found in an abandoned warehouse.

"Sleep," Tim commanded with a lingering kiss to Tony's forehead. "Still a little warm—"

"The wife did it," Tony mumbled. "Case closed."

"I'll make sure that Gibbs looks into that."

"Trust my gut." The pillow captured his sneeze.

"Always."

~~00~~

'Gut' was the last word Tony was able to produce. When he woke in the late morning his voice was non-existent no matter how many cups of tea he swallowed, so for the next few days while Tim et al were out saving the world, Tony's world narrowed down to text messaging, sleeping, eating, and he and Bert watching the plasma.

~~00~~

"Better and bored," he told Brad on Sunday morning.

"Nice voice—" Brad tightened the blood pressure cuff on Tony's arm and shushed him as he began doing his doctor-y stuff.

Impatiently, Tony waited through it all, grateful that he was being seen on a Sunday. "It's been a week. I'm —"

"Fine, yeah, I know."

"So I'm cleared?"

"For desk duty." Brad closed Tony's War and Peace sized chart.

In his mind, his incredulous 'desk duty' came out loud and clear, in reality the phrase was nothing more than a harsh whisper. His voice had been doing that, going in and out, like a badly tuned radio station.

Brad smiled.

Tony didn't.

"You know the drill, push yourself and you'll be right back here."

The sterile whiteness of the hospital examining room wasn't the least bit inviting and Brad knew it.

"Stop pushing yourself. Three times-"

Tony glanced around the room, found what he was looking for then plucked Brad's prescription pad and pen from the pocket of his lab coat. "I know," he scribbled. "Stop lecturing me." He shoved the pad at Brad.

"No problem, DiNozzo. I won't lecture if you'll learn to listen. Come to me when you start to feel sick, even if it's a cold. An ounce of prevention—"

Tony drew a sad face with big ears. 'Listening, but not liking,' he wrote.

Brad patted his shoulder. "Good. So glad we had this chat. I want to see you next Saturday—"

'Senior's party,' he wrote.

Brad rolled his eyes. "That's right. Okay, Sunday then. Don't party too hard. No drinking…"

Without a free space to continue writing, Tony ripped off the top sheet of the prescription pad and started on the second, paying no attention to Brad's exasperation. 'Ha.'

"Don't get drunk, is that better?"

'Much," Tony wrote, followed by 'Clear me for field duty the following week?' with a slew of question marks.

"If you behave."

He just smiled in response.

"Now give me back the pad, my pen, and say thank you to Doctor Pitt for seeing you on a Sunday."

Tony wrote a huge 'thank you' on the pad before giving it back to Brad. They had become good friends, and hell, Tony was pretty damn sure that there had been some medical journals written by said Doctor Pitt after his bout with the plague and in truth Brad had always gone above and beyond his Hippocratic Oath by seeing him on Sundays. He snatched the pad and pen from Brad's hand.

"Hey. Those things cost money and I'm pretty damn sure it's illegal-"

'Breakfast on Sunday? My treat.'

Brad took the pad back, wrote 'definitely' and showed it to Tony who smiled in return then tapped the pad. The doctor captured Tony's glance. "Yeah?"

Tony ran his fingers down the length of his neck.

"Ah, the laryngitis. A few days? A week? Again, don't push yourself. "

Tony scowled.

"But if you truly want my professional opinion, I think you should stock up on pens and pads of paper."

~~00~~

On Monday morning, even though the day was miserable outside, Tony walked in with a bounce in his step, donuts and a box of jo for the bullpen. In return, he received handshakes, thumps on his back and hugs of welcome back. When the crowd parted, he laughed at the box of 94 Crayola crayons and drawing pad on his desk.

~~00~~

"Hi," Abby signed.

He smiled. "I'm not deaf," he croaked. "Just sound like a frog."

She took the box of crayons and the pad out of his hands and balanced them precariously on the only free corner of her lab table.

Now he felt lost. He'd been using the two items as a shield most of the day. Desk duty when there was an active case left him feeling like a third wheel. The bullpen had gone quiet when Gibbs, Ziva and Tim had left chasing a lead.

"If I kiss you, will you turn into a prince?"

He opened his arms in invitation.

"Don't take this the wrong way," Abby said, snuggling against him, "but you look like crap." With heels, she was just an inch or two shorter and she stepped back, her hands still gripping his arms.

Way too close for comfort, he squirmed under her scientific appraisal, averting his face, pissed that she'd seen through the façade. What a joke, it was noon and he'd pretty much done nothing but paperwork and deleting email, and he was exhausted.

And this was the reason he hadn't gone to visit Ducky. On a good day, distracted as Ducky might be, he always read Tony like a book.

"Futon?" Not waiting for an answer, she pulled him in the direction of the most comfortable place in the building.

Degrading.

Humiliating.

Embarrassing.

He may have felt all those emotions but in the end he slept, tucked away in Abby's lab for almost three hours.

~~00~~

On Tuesday the weather was better, and while there was no bounce in his step he managed until almost two, before he headed down to Abby's lab. Tony felt a sense of pride that his nap only lasted two hours.

He was sitting at his desk, responding to an email from his father, explaining in little words, that he'd been sick and that he'd made all the final arrangements for Saturday and that he'd see him there, smiling, checkbook in hand, so not to worry.

Gibbs exited the elevator first and stopped in front of Tony's desk. Deftly, Tony pulled the soothing lilac crayon from the box. 'Still nothing,' he wrote, not daring to insert a question mark. The trail of the two dead marines was at a dead end, but that didn't stop Gibbs from riding Tim and Ziva.

"Nothing," Gibbs growled.

Tony drew a sad face and had the crayon paused to write more just as Ziva and Tim walked out of the elevator. Ziva dropped into her chair then opened and closed her desk drawer with more force than was necessary. Tim walked past Tony's desk, ignoring both him and Gibbs. Tony glanced up at Gibbs, but the man was already headed towards his desk.

~~00~~

Without drawing unwanted attention, Tony worked later than he had been but it was Gibbs who tossed his ass out of the building by six. "Go home," he ordered. "Don't need you sick again."

He opened his mouth to protest, his squeak brought forth a muffled chuckle from Ziva, the only sound he'd heard her make all day.

Gibbs ripped the crayon from his hand and wrote in big letters on the next available blank sheet of paper, all in caps. 'GO HOME. NOW.'

Good boy that he was, Tony went home, had a can of soup, crackers and his meds. He texted Tim, declared his undying love complete with lots of 3 and xoxoxo, and basically just annoying the hell out of him.

In a return text, Tim reminded him to take his meds. Eat dinner. Sleep. He didn't send his undying love, probably because Gibbs was within ten feet of him, but he did send a smattering of xoxoxo, which made Tony smile.

~~00~~

Tony was asleep by nine and up four hours later. He showered and tested his voice by attempting to sing under the warm water and for his efforts, ended up sounding like his great grandfather who was a two pack a day smoker. Don't push it, those were Brad's orders and he was pretty sure he'd be restrained in a hospital bed for the rest of his life if his doctor knew he was heading out to work in the middle of the night. Guilt forced him to have juice (though he gazed longingly at his coffee maker) and a peanut butter sandwich on whole wheat. Too early for the pills, he pocketed what he would need, threw in his rescue inhaler just because and left his house under cover of darkness.

Tony did his best work at night, without the disruption of phones and co-workers, because his focus was better. There was no push to interact with anyone, no need to be on. Just him and the facts.

~~00~~

Tim treated himself to an expensive designer coffee and a decadent chocolate thing. He was early enough to enjoy his treat, the empty bullpen without Ziva or Gibbs commenting about his breakfast choice.

He heard the snoring before he actually came upon Tony. Legs stretched out on the desk, crossed at the ankle, his fingers were intertwined resting on his stomach and his head was tilted uncomfortably to the side, an angle which caused Tim to cringe. He wasn't sure, but then again, maybe he didn't want to know why Tony was sleeping at his desk at 6 am.

Tim wasn't going to worry, he wasn't. He was just going to go to his desk, enjoy his breakfast and then watch what happened when Gibbs walked in. Yup, that's just what he was going to do. Right after he laid the back of his hand on Tony's forehead to check for fever.

Tony coughed.

Tim froze, then bent down and whispered in Tony's ear. "Just go back to sleep, everything's okay," then held his position until he was sure his words were comforting enough to lull Tony back to sleep.

Bingo. Back to focusing on the chocolate and coffee… except, Tim backtracked. "What the—"

There on the plasma was a piece of paper from Tony's pad with the words "The wife did it," in bold letters. Underlined three times.

"Son of a bitch." Tim shook his head, his glance sliding between Tony and his sign.

~~00~~

After telling the story twice, Tony's voice, what little he had regained, was ragged and cutting in and out.

"Stop." Gibbs held up his hand. "Just stop, okay?"

"But…" Tony croaked, his hand snaked to his raw throat, then dropped down when he saw the team glaring at him.

"I think," With a faux whisper, Ziva leaned into his person space," Gibbs is telling you very nicely to 'shut up'."

Tim's hand rested on his shoulder. He'd known his partner was a hairbreadth behind him, close enough as his mother used to say 'barely enough space for the Holy Ghost to slip in there.' "We get it."

"Wild Things," Tony said hoarsely. "Kevin Bacon… same scenario. You really need to—" He cringed at the Gibbs slap to the top of his head, gentler than usual, but with enough sting to get Tony to zip it.

The wife Tony had referred to wasn't the wife of either dead marine but the wife of another Petty Officer. Her name was Susan Munoz, third cousin, once removed to the recently deceased dead Petty Officer Lawrence. It was a torrid story of sex, jealousy, sex, money, sex and sociopathic evilness. The pieces had fit together quite nicely around five in the morning and at the moment she was down in interrogation waiting for Gibbs. All before breakfast. He grabbed Tim's hand, which still rested comfortably on his shoulder, and manipulated the limb to pat himself on the back when it appeared no one else was going to shower him with justified accolades.

Tim offered no resistance and Tony remained cool, calm and reasonably collected as Tim's hand traveled down his back and rested on his ass for a blink of an eye. A simple good job would've been more appropriate, but sometimes actions do speak louder than words and are so much more appreciated.

~~00~~

Home and he needed sleep, food and shower, though Tony wasn't too sure in what order. What he didn't want to be doing was talking to the man on the other end of the cell tucked between his shoulder and chin.

"Bad time," he rasped, fighting to fit his key in the lock and not drop the bag of Chinese all over the hallway.

/"You sound like crap, Junior."/

Tony snorted. "Been sick."

/"I know, you mentioned that earlier this week and that McGee fellow also—"/

"Tim."

/-/

Exasperated, he exhaled then coughed. "McGee's name is Tim."

/"Yeah, right."/ Senior cleared his throat.

He dropped the keys on the table then kicked the door closed. "I just got home—"

/"I'll make this quick."/

Tony rolled his eyes.

/"I met an old friend and I extended her an invitation—"/

All of his father's old friends that were women fell into the category of ex-wives. He was tired and cranky and there was no way he wanted to eat cold moo shu pork but for some fucked up reason he couldn't hold back goading his father. "So what step mom do I have the pleasure of meeting? Oh wait, that would be ex step mommy wouldn't it?"

/"Sarcasm is not a DiNozzo trait, Junior."/

"Look, Dad, I'm sorry. Invite whoever you want."

/"An old friend. Not an ex wife."/

"Whatever." Talking to his father reverted him to the behavior of a teenager, and while he hated himself, there was no stopping his immaturity.

/"Just wanted to let you know there would be one more in attendance."/

"That's fine." There, he was even able to insert a touch of pleasure in his voice.

/"Also just wanted to make sure that you got my flight information—"/

"Got it. The car will be picking you up and taking you to the hotel, though why you can't stay here—"

/"Stay with you? No. No. I don't want to inconvenience you."/

He didn't argue. They'd done this dance before yet he had a hard time wrapping his brain around the fact that his father didn't feel it was an inconvenience that Tony was spending thousands on this party but that it would be an inconvenience if he stayed at Tony's. "Gotta go,"

/"Me too. Good talking to you, Junior. Now go rest that voice for Saturday."/

Tony's response was met with a dial tone. Obviously, his dad and Gibbs attended the same cell phone etiquette class.

~~00~~

"You look better." Tim admired Tony from the opened bedroom door.

"Better?" Tony stood up straight, smoothed down the already smoothed line of his tux and grinned wickedly at him. "That's the only adjective that comes to mind?" He stood arms outstretched. "I made it through an entire work week. It's Saturday. I'm dressed in a tux and the only word your MIT vocabulary can manufacture to describe me is 'better'?"

The worried, practical Tim wasn't thrilled with the lingering cough or that Tony's voice had settled into sexy raspy-ness and he would've been happy to spend the weekend in bed, assisting in the last part of Tony's recovery but the Tim whose libido controlled coherent thought, was struggling for a more descriptive word (one that didn't make him sound like a fifteen year old perfecting his wolf whistle) for Tony.

"Much better?"

"Funny."

Tim shrugged, going for the nonchalance approach. "I try."

"Not trying hard enough."

"What? Trying to be funny? You want me to be funnier?"

"You look incredibly sexy in the tux."

Tim was confused. "Was that supposed to be funny?"

"No," Tony was frustrated. "It was lead in…"

And Tim was leaning back and enjoying the show. "For?"

"I don't know, Mcmissingthepoint, for maybe saying that I looked sexy. Or hot. Or dashing or—"

"All of the above," Tim replied with flash of a smile.

"Ahh, there you go," Tony preened. You do know," Tony said stepping forward, his fingers playing with buttons on Tim's tux jacket, "that black tie was my idea."

Tim stood, barely breathing when Tony's locked arms pinned him against the doorjamb. His partner's smile was slow and feral.

"Tony," Tim hissed, their needs racing against the ticking clock. "Don't start something we can't finish."

Tony nuzzled Tim's neck, below the jawline, just above the starched white shirt. Forgetting about the party and the time constraints, Tim bent his head, allowing Tony accessibility to more skin while he blindly reached to unbutton Tony's tux jacket.

Tony coughed against his neck.

The mood was broken, more because of Tony's 'shit, man' than any reaction Tim had. "It's okay," he tried to placate, pulling him back into his space when Tony's attitude took control. He kissed him. Once. Twice. By the third time, the corners of Tony's lips were twitching.

"My father won't miss me. I'll just send my checkbook, that's all he—" Once again Tony's fingers began to fiddle with the buttons on Tim's jacket.

Tim slapped the errant appendages. "I'd like to strut my stuff in this tux before it ends up rumpled on the bedroom floor.

"Strut your stuff? You? Really?"

"You don't think I can strut?" Tim replied with unmitigated, false indignation.

"Feel free to strut for me later, with or without said tux. As in after party later."

"It's a date," Tim said, hoping the anticipation of the said crumpled tux visuals would get him through the night.

~~00~~

If there was such a thing as elegantly ostentatious, his father had managed to pull it off (with the help of Tony's checkbook, of course). There were people in the cavernous ballroom that Tony had met once or twice during his life, others that his father had just introduced him to and still others he had no desire to even exchange pleasantries with.

He was taking a breather, people watching. Tony had done his part. Smiled. Nodded. Gratefully, he had greeted his NCIS friends. He shared a bourbon with Gibbs, a story with Ducky and completely understood why they'd cut out early. Tony and Tim had danced with Ziva and Abby and eventually lost them to a crowd of thirty something people that Tony had no idea why they'd been invited to his father's party and decided it was safer not knowing.

Tony rubbed his eyes, hoping the shards of light the revolving father insisted disco ball was casting over the guests was playing tricks with his vision. "Is that my—" Obviously, this was his father's last minute surprise guest. Crap.

Tim slowly lowered his drink and Tony watched his gaze latch onto a particular couple. "Yup."

"With your grandmother?"

"Yup." Tim gulped down the drink and did a quick exchange with a passing waiter.

Tony massaged his temples. "Penny."

Tim nodded then stared down at his drink as if he was unable to fathom the scene before him. "Yup."

"Say something." He snatched the drink from Tim, swallowed the liquid then handed the empty back to Tim.

Tim rolled his eyes, sighing in exasperation. "What should I say, Tony? That's my gran—Penny with your father. Dancing. Closely." He placed the glass on a nearby table.

"We'd be—" Tony shuddered.

"Don't say it."

"Penny and my father, that would make her my mother? Your grandmother would be my mother?"

"Step."

"Huh?" Where the hell was the waiter with the alcohol when you needed him?

"Step-mother. Never mind." Tim sidled up to him and rested a warm hand on the small of Tony's back. "You're jumping to conclusions. They're just dancing, Tony."

"Yeah? Tony hissed. "Like we danced that night, you know, the night we did the horizontal salsa. Remember like father, like son."

Tim's eyes widened. "Your father would be my grandfather?"

"Yup." Tony accompanied his answer with a sharp nod.

"We'd be related?"

There it was out in the open. "No!" Tony's answer was loud enough that a few people turned in their general direction but he disarmed their attention with a bright smile. He waited until their audience was drawn to the dance floor. "That would be like incest..." He turned towards Tim. "Wouldn't it?"

"I don't think so." He thought a minute. "Nope. We wouldn't be blood relatives, we'd just be related by marriage."

Tony glared at him. "Incest." He pushed Tim towards the dance floor. "Why don't you go dance with Penny? Find out how the hell she knows my father," Tony gave his head a quick shake. "Never mind, I don't think I want to know the answer to that question." He shoved him a little harder when Tim dug in. "We'd be brothers, Tim. Kinda. Sorta. And brothers don't..." he whispered in Tim's ear, glowing in the blush that colored his cheeks.

Tony smiled as Tim cut into the pair, whisking Penny away before his father had a chance to object. He blew a kiss to Abby when she stepped into his father's arms taking up the vacancy.

~~00~~

"It's over." Tony stood in his living room, a little tipsy, sorry, Doctor Brad, and a lot glad, even though he was more than a few thousand poorer, that it was over. Done. Finished. Like a good son, he'd slipped his father a few hundred to bring a handful of friends out for an after party.

Tim plucked the open bottle of champagne from Tony, took a swig then smacked his lips.

Tony giggled.

"You giggled," Tim replied, giggling.

Tony snorted. "So did you." He took the bottle from Tim, placed it on the floor then kissed him. "You taste like champagne."

Tim's tongue traced his lips. "So do you." He cleared his throat. "Penny didn't go with your dad, did she?"

Tony's face fell. "I hope not."

Tim shuddered. "Why didn't you tell me that your dad was friends with my grandmother?"

"Hey, why didn't you tell me that your grandmother was friends with my dad?" Tony replied indignantly.

"Small world?"

"Too small," Tony agreed.

**~~00~~**

Tim moved, trying not to wake Tony who, from the first time they'd share a bed, had surprised him by being not only a hogger of blankets but a cuddler. "Tony," he whispered.

"H'mmm."

"Blanket?"

It was a dance they performed no matter if it were Tony's bed or Tim's. Experience had taught Tim to be patient and after a few more whisperings of Tony's name followed by a number of threats (that would never be remembered in the morning), he was rewarded with enough blanket to cover his exposed ass. "Thank you."

Tim settled under the blanket's warmth and Tony's body heat.

In the morning they would clean up the trail of tux paraphernalia that led from the living room to the bedroom. A mixture of their shirts and pants, socks and ties. Cufflinks and vests. Crumpled and intertwined. Maybe even a few buttons separated from their shirts, lost in their haste to be discarded.

"Go to sleep, Tim," Tony mumbled. "Stop analyzing whatever it is your analyzing and just leave it be until morning."

They'd figure out who belonged to what tomorrow, but for now, crumpled and intertwined was more than okay.

~the end~