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Title: 12 Hours
Warnings: this is a zombie fic so expect the following - MAJOR CHARACTER DEATH, violence, angst, bad language, m/m sex
Summary: A deadly virus is unleashed on DC and spreads to the surrounding states with mayhem and death resulting.
Frickin' zombies! My first conference to DC and I figure the worst that happens is that I'll get groped by a Senator, or Ecklie will catch me coming out of the "wrong sort" of club. But no. I get frickin' zombies!
Greg stumbled into the alley and then swore when he saw that it was a dead end. Literally. There were two zombies, who looked like they used to be homeless people, who were ambling towards him. Backpedaling, he narrowly avoided the large 'man' that he'd been avoiding in the first place. There was a vicious swipe at his face with a broken bottle... and since when can zombies use weapons? That isn't fair! No one has that problem in the movies!...which he ducked and then ran like hell down the street.
The thought that Grissom would find all of this really fascinating again occurred to Greg as he took a breather in a hidden alcove.
That's assuming Vegas hasn't been infected or taken over or whatever and he's not one of them, Greg amended. Then he probably wouldn't be so fascinated.
The thought of Grissom being one of the things chasing him was so distressing that Greg had to take several breaths. Ecklie turning on him, now, that hadn't really surprising.
Shaking off the dark thoughts, Greg peeked out onto the street and found a group of the things gathered about halfway down the block. It had all seemed so normal yesterday. They'd gotten into DC two days ago for a convention. Everything had been perfectly fine. And then yesterday afternoon, a zombie had splattered onto the ground on the street right in front of them. Greg had been a few steps behind Ecklie, who'd been splattered with the thing's blood on impact, accidentally shielding Greg.
Even following standard protocol hadn't stopped the disease from turning Ecklie, though of course they hadn't known there was something to worry about at the time. They'd helped the local cops secure the scene of what they'd assumed to be the suicide of a cancer patient, from the sores on what was left of the man's face. Then he and Ecklie had continued on to the conference, though they'd missed a good portion, thanks to that.
Greg had woken up this morning to a banging on his door and answered it grumbling about anal-retentive bastards who didn't know the meaning of the term 'sleeping in.' It had been Ecklie, but an Ecklie with his face all sunken in and covered in sores. The eyes had been glazed over with a white film of some kind and, overnight, the man's body had practically caved in on itself. Greg had instinctively jumped back when the thing that used to be Ecklie had taken a swing at him. As uncoordinated as its movements had been, he'd had a fairly easy time evading it.
Unfortunately, coordination seemed to improve as time went on, as evidenced by the swinging of a bottle at his face, moments before. Running a shaking hand through his sweat tangled hair, Greg winced at the pull, but kept going. Feeling better, just a little cleaner, when he was done, he scanned the street in the other direction. The zombie things were all over the place and he honestly had no idea how he was going to get out of there.
And if he did, where would he go?
Shoving aside that depressing thought, Greg looked up at the sky and saw that it was nearing dusk. I should probably just hide here until dark and then sneak out. God I'm hungry. Why couldn't they have chased me into a grocery store or something?
He wanted to sit, but needed to stand, in case he suddenly had to make a run for it. His feet were killing him and the first pair of sneakers or shoes that looked remotely like they would fit and weren't attached to a pair of rotting feet, were totally his.
Barefoot in the city streets. I'm probably going to step on a nail and die from blood poisoning or tetanus. And then I'll turn into a rotting tower of flesh. Jesus, Greg, don't be so melodramatic.
With a sigh, he settled for a crouch as a compromise between sitting and standing.
It was in that little hidey-hole that he watched in horror as a woman ran down the street, struggling not to get caught by the zombies. Unlike him, she didn't make it. One of them caught her by the hair and yanked her back. Another shoved a piece of glass into her stomach. Then the group descended upon her, biting into her while she was still alive and screaming.
Greg wrapped his arms around himself and started rocking back and forth, biting his lip to keep his own voice silent.
Thankfully, she wasn't alive for very much longer.
* * * *
"I always knew this town was going to wind up rotting on its own filth," Tony observed, flashing McGee a grin.
Eyes rolling, McGee ordered, "Just watch the road, okay? I don't exactly want to explain to Gibbs that you wound up as zombie meat because you weren't paying attention."
Snickering, Tony replied, "Aw, McGee, you do care! So what do you think we should pick out as the china pattern?"
"Keep it up. I'll tell Kate about your secret stash of Ben&Jerry's."
"I would. Look out!"
Tony slammed on the brakes in reaction to someone darting out in front, putting the SUV into a skid. They hit a telephone pole on the side, but the damage wasn't too bad. Glancing at McGee, he was relieved to find the other man unhurt as well. Looking outside, he found a skinny young man with wild, light-brown hair hurrying towards them. He pulled his gun and aimed it, even though the window was closed, causing the other to stop in his tracks.
"I'm not one of them, I swear! Please, you have to help me!"
"Tony, he doesn't look infected," McGee put in.
Hesitating, Tony at last holstered his gun and opened the door, stepping cautiously outside. They were in DC to look for uninfected people, after all, but it was difficult to tell in the first twelve hours if someone was infected. Ducky was working on the pathology of the bug, but that could take longer than they had.
"Please, I'm not infected. I just, I might go crazy if you leave me here, though," the young man begged.
Glancing at McGee, he ordered, "Cover me. Don't forget to aim between the eyes."
McGee nodded, pulling his weapon clear and aiming it at the newcomer.
On closer inspection, Tony couldn't see any visible signs that the young man was anything but scared out of his wits. And they had to be pretty substantial wits if he'd survived four days in DC without weapons or cover or food. Four days of insanity with the dead walking the earth like some damn Romero flick he'd seen as a teenager.
"Strip," Tony ordered.
The young man jerked back in surprise. "What?"
Impatient, feeling the eyes of the undead on him even if they weren't visible, Tony repeated, "Strip! We need to check you over. Make sure they didn't nick you."
Even as the dirty t-shirt was yanked off, a protest was lodged. "They haven't cut me or spit on me or gotten blood on me. I'm clean!" The sweats were next, along with some Tasmanian devil boxers. The kid turned around, arms outstretched, and Tony moved even closer to get a good look. There were scrapes on his lower legs, but more like he'd skidded off a bike, than been scraped by fingernails.
Despite the warm summer day, the kid was shivering as he completed the circle under Tony's watchful gaze. Of course, being ogled by a stranger with a gun probably wasn't any more soothing to the nerves than being chased by zombies. There wasn't any real sign that he'd been infected, but if it was recent, they wouldn't know. Then again, Ducky probably needed someone's blood for whatever it was he was working on, so as long as the kid didn't zombify on the way back, they were good.
Motioning him forward, Tony said, "Okay, you're coming with us, come on. You can get dressed in the car."
"You're cops?" the kid asked, hurrying past Tony to the SUV.
Tony shook his head. "NCIS."
Opening the door for him was the first time he noticed that the kid was barefoot. He winced at the bloody and bruised underside of the soles and wondered if that would be enough to get the kid into trouble, or if direct contact really did need to be a factor. Hoping for the latter, Tony climbed in the driver's seat as McGee did the passenger's side.
Before McGee could close the door, arms reached in and yanked him out. He screamed in fear and pain, the kid in back adding his own noise, and Tony stomped on the gas. The vehicle jumped forward, out of the knot of zombies that were suddenly all over them, and he swung it around. Reaching across the seat, he jerked the door shut and then hopped out of the car.
"Are you crazy!?" the kid shouted. "What are you doing!?"
Tony took very, very careful aim at McGee's forehead as the other agent continued to scream. The bullet went true and the screams stopped a second after the trigger was pulled. Tony put another round right next to the first, then a third and fourth into McGee's heart, just to be on the safe side.
Jaw clenched, forcing the nausea down, he climbed back into the driver's seat and floored the gas.
* * * *
NCIS was an impromptu headquarters with Morrow in charge. Thankfully. If he'd been out when the plague, or whatever the fuck it was, had started, that would've left Jethro in charge and he really only wanted to be in charge of his own team. His own team which was, currently, split in half. McGee and Tony were out searching for survivors to bring back to the fold. Kate and Abby were working with Ducky in the lab. Gerald was nursing a broken leg, thanks to jumping out of his physical therapist's second story office, four days ago.
Poor kid never gets any luck, Jethro mused ruefully.
Then again, he could've been Palmer, whom no one had heard from since the start of this thing. Ducky's new assistant had slowly been growing on Jethro and he was genuinely sorry that the young man hadn't made it through. He only hoped that Palmer was truly dead and not one of those...things...outside.
He refused to call them God damned zombies, no matter what they looked like.
Jethro's head snapped around at Tony's call of his name and relief surged through him that he was all right. Searching the space behind Tony, all he saw was a young guy with spiky hair and no McGee. Stomach sinking, he met them halfway and demanded, "Where's McGee and who is this?"
"McGee's dead," Tony reported shortly. "And this is...actually, I don't know. What's your name, kid?"
Wide brown eyes met Jethro's and he answered shakily, "Greg, G-greg Sanders."
"Found him in the city," Tony informed him.
"You were going to stay in the area."
"There isn't anyone left in the area. We thought we could do more good by spreading further out."
Which explained why they'd been gone so long. Jethro questioned sharply, "We?"
Tony nodded, just as sharply, and repeated, "We."
Squinting at him, Jethro could tell from the tension in Tony's face that he was blaming himself completely for McGee's death, but there wasn't time to deal with it just then. Looking at Greg, he said, "Bring him down to Ducky for quarantine."
"Sure thing, Boss. C'mon, Greg, let's go."
Tony's manner softened a little when guiding the young man towards the elevator.
As he watched them go, Jethro noticed the partial bloody footprints being left behind and walked to his desk. Calling Facilities, he said, "I need a hazmat to clean up blood from level two down to the morgue."
"On it, Agent Gibbs."
Hanging up, Jethro took a moment to mourn McGee, looking over at the empty desk that was now like so many of the other empty desks. NCIS was running on a skeleton crew, no doubt about that. There were only about two hundred agents on site, in total. They were all bunking down where they could, generally at their desks, and it wouldn't be long before supplies started running thin, even rationed as they were.
Sighing as he sat down, he shook his head and wondered how many others they would lose to the insanity that was just outside their doors.
* * * *
Kate moaned as another spasm hit and she threw up the rest of what little she'd had for lunch. It felt like it would never end, but eventually, it did. A hand reached over her, flushing the toilet, and Kate pressed her sweaty forehead to the blessedly cool porcelain of the bowl.
"I'd ask what you were drinking last night, but it was the same as the rest of us," Abby commented with a worried tone.
Sighing, Kate knew that the jig, as Tony liked to say, was up. If she kept disappearing to throw up, someone might get the seriously wrong idea and she'd wind up in quarantine. Accepting Abby's hand up, Kate took a moment to get her balance, then walked to the sink to rinse her mouth of the foul taste left over. Once done, she faced Abby and explained, "Unlike normal women, I don't have morning sickness. It doesn't hit me until late afternoon."
Abby gaped at her for a moment, then shrieked happily and threw her arms around Kate, bouncing up and down. The door slammed open, startling them both, and they turned to find an agent, with a gun at them. Giggling, Abby apologized, "Sorry. That was a happy scream. She's pregnant!"
The agent snorted as the gun was holstered and said to Kate, "Congratulations, ma'am."
"Thanks," Kate replied, dry.
"Uh oh. Did you want to keep that a secret?"
Kate had to smile at Abby's guilty expression and slid her arm around the other woman's waist. They left the bathroom leaning on each other as Kate answered, "Wouldn't be able to, not with things the way they are."
"True," Abby agreed. "How far along are you?"
Kate gave her a shy look and admitted, "Twenty weeks."
"And you didn't tell me!?" Abby exclaimed.
Shrugging, Kate answered, "I didn't know until recently that I was going to keep it. I always thought, you know, that if I was faced with an unwanted pregnancy, well first, I never thought it would happen to me, but I always figured that I would keep the baby, no decision involved, you know?"
Abby gave a serious nod.
"So when it happened, and I had to think about giving up my career and being a single mother and listening to my mother's lectures, and believe me, that last was a big one, it really was a decision."
"But you're keeping it."
"Yeah. Yeah, even if all of this insanity hadn't happened, I was going to break the news to Gibbs next month when I started really showing."
"You know, I was wondering what was up with the baggy sweaters in summer," Abby accused.
Kate chuckled and said, "Thank God I work with men who don't know the difference."
Abby joined in the chuckling. "I don't know, Tony's a clothes horse."
"Don't you mean a clothes whore?"
"Ooh. Good one, Kate!"
They were still laughing on entering the morgue, but that dried up when they saw that Tony had returned with a stranger in tow. Actually, the stranger was sitting on an exam table being thoroughly poked and prodded by Ducky in a biohazard suit.
"What's going on?" Kate questioned, standing up straight and moving in front of Abby protectively. She might be pregnant, but she was still an agent and Abby was a civilian. Not to mention, her best friend.
Tony looked at her and answered, "Found him in DC."
Aghast, she demanded, "What the hell were you and McGee doing in DC?"
"He thought...we thought, that it would be the best place to find survivors."
Past tense, Kate realized instantly. Hand to her belly, she questioned, "Thought?"
Gaze flickering to Abby, Tony said, "I'm sorry, Abs, but McGee's dead. They got him."
Kate moved towards her friend, hand outstretched, but Abby shook her head, tears welling and then falling over the pale skin before she ran out of the morgue altogether. Kate sighed and looked back at Tony, who seemed like a stiff breeze could knock him over.
When the door clicked shut behind Abby, Tony continued bitterly, "They got him, but I killed him. Two in the head, two in the heart."
Grimacing, struggling through her own sorrow, Kate stated, "It was a mercy, Tony. We've seen what they do to people. And Tim wouldn't have wanted to be one of those things. You know that."
"Yeah well," he muttered, turning away. "Whatever."
Not wanting to lose him to the guilt, knowing how it had eaten at him when he'd killed that psycho Jeffrey White, Kate walked over to him and punched him in the shoulder as hard as she could.
Tony jerked away, exclaiming, "Ow! What the hell!?" as he rubbed his shoulder.
Taking a breath, Kate said, "That was so you didn't wallow. Grieve and mourn for Tim, but don't wallow in guilt that has no place. You did what you had to do to save him from a fate that is, literally, worse than death. You assured him a place in whatever comes after, instead of rotting around until his body falls to pieces and who knows what happens then? We need you here, Tony, not in your head...I need you here."
That got his and Ducky's attention, both men looking at her in surprise.
Clearing her throat, Kate put on a bright smile and announced, "I'm pregnant."
Ducky dropped his stethoscope.
* * * *
Greg watched with a smile as Tony pulled the woman he didn't know yet into a tight hug, the two of them holding on for a few minutes. It was good to see what was, apparently, good news in a time like this. Tony murmured something into her ear that caused her to chuckle as she pulled back, smiling up at him.
Then the old guy giving him the exam, Ducky, exclaimed, "That's wonderful, Caitlin, simply wonderful! How far along are you?"
"Twenty weeks," Caitlin answered, hand on her stomach.
Which, now that Greg was looking, did appear more rounded than a federal agent would normally be. Of course, on her, it just looked like she was nicely filled out. His eyes widened as he wondered if her breasts would get even bigger, or if this was post-milk production.
"I shall bestow my own congratulatory hug just as soon as I'm done with Mr. Sanders here," Ducky replied, picking up the stethoscope.
"Take your time, Ducky. I'm going to look for Abby," Caitlin told them, then paused. "And I should probably give Gibbs the news, too."
Tony held up a hand and offered, "I'll do it."
She gave him a suspicious look, but there wasn't anything to be suspicious about, so far as Greg could tell. Then she elbowed him in the stomach, hard enough to elicit a grunt of pain.
"Hey! What was that for? I didn't even do anything!" Tony protested, rubbing his stomach.
Caitlin gave him a sweet smile and informed him, "Preemptive strike," before sailing out of the room.
Tony hissed at her back, then winked at Greg as he sauntered closer to say, "She loves me. She's just upset that she didn't get to bear my love child first."
"I heard that, DiNozzo!"
Tony flinched, then sighed. Once the door was closed behind her, he said, "I swear to God, she's developing the Mom-ears already."
Chuckling warmly, Ducky countered, "Kate's always had them, my boy, especially where you're concerned. And now, Mr. Sanders, let's finish up with you, shall we?"
Greg held out an arm as a syringe was picked up from the nearby tray. It was the fourth vial of blood that had been drawn, but since his feet were clean and bandaged, and he'd been given something to eat and drink, he sure as hell wasn't going to complain.
"There we go. I'll send those up to...oh dear. Abby's otherwise occupied at the moment," Ducky faltered, looking at Tony.
"I got it, Doc."
Greg glanced over to the side where a black man was hobbling out of the office on the other side of the room, on crutches.
"You most certainly do not. Back to bed with you," Ducky exclaimed.
The black man shook his head and made his way over to them. "Long as Tony carries the samples, I can analyze them. I can't just stay locked away, Doc, I gotta do something to help."
The two men stared at one another for a long moment and Greg suddenly felt like he was intruding on something private.
Finally, Ducky heaved a sigh and acquiesced, "Very well, Gerald, if you insist. Tony? If you don't mind?"
"What about...?" Tony replied, waving at Greg.
Ducky pulled off the helmet of the biosuit and answered, "Oh it's fine. He's not infected. I was actually going to have Abby check for tetanus and other bacterial infections, given that he's been walking around like this for four days."
With an eye roll, Tony took the samples from Ducky and escorted Gerald out of the morgue.
Greg watched them leave, then looked at the man he'd been left with and asked, "So. What do you do around here for fun when there's zombies knocking on the door?"
Chuckling as he ran a hand through his hair, smoothing it after the helmet, Ducky replied, "That depends."
"How strong of a stomach do you have, Mr. Sanders?"
Greg's eyebrows went up as he watched Ducky head over to a morgue draw and pull it open. Well. It wasn't the conference that he'd been sent to, but at least he was going to learn something.
* * * *
After dropping off Gerald at Abby's lab, Tony was commandeered by Morrow to work with a clean-up crew who was fortifying their defenses. It was a couple of hours later that Tony eventually found Gibbs taking a cat-nap in one of the bigger conference rooms designated as a sleeping area. The large table normally present had been removed to make way for sleeping bags set head-to-toe to accommodate the maximum amount of people. It was mostly empty, with a few other agents snoring away, but Tony was only focused on Gibbs.
Naturally, Gibbs slept with his back to the wall.
Tiptoeing over the truly sleeping people, Tony made his way to the other side of the room and crouched beside him. Smiling fondly, Tony took a moment just to look at the other man. The lines around eyes and mouth were deeper than usual, and there was a tension there that hadn't faded with slumber. He was on his side, facing the door, eyes moving rapidly behind their lids. Tony couldn't call him relaxed, really, not with the tension that marked the strong body, but at least he was resting.
"Something you wanted, DiNozzo?" Gibbs questioned without opening his eyes.
Tony shook his head at the accurate identification, he really wouldn't be surprised if Gibbs knew what he smelled like, and answered softly, "Just wanted to give you an update, Boss."
With a faint sigh, Gibbs sat up and briefly rubbed his eyes before focusing on Tony. "Let's take this somewhere else."
Nodding, Tony stood and offered his hand. Gibbs took it and, not for the first or last time, Tony relished the contact as he tugged the other man to his feet. Once they were out of the conference room, door closed behind them, Tony said, "Ducky cleared Greg, he's not infected and Gerald's working with Abby on a couple of things."
Gibbs snorted. "Ducky let him out of the morgue?"
"Yeah, I know," Tony agreed, grinning. Ducky's protectiveness of Gerald had tripled since the black man had shown up, driving his car with a stick to maneuver the gas pedal, since his right leg had been the one to break. "Morrow had me fortifying some of our defenses for the last couple of hours, so we're good on all fronts on that direction."
Tony sighed, guilt rearing up, and answered, "I don't know. I think I've become a casualty of 'don't shoot the messenger,' because she won't talk to me. Kate said to give it some time."
Gibbs nodded and clapped him briefly on the back as he agreed, "She's right. Abby'll come around, don't worry."
"Oh, and speaking of Kate..."
At the deliberate pause, Gibbs demanded sharply, "What about her?"
"She's knocked up," Tony answered, smirking.
Gibbs whacked him hard upside the back of the head. Hard enough that Tony yelped in pain. Giving the younger agent a minor glare, Gibbs ordered, "Show more respect."
Rubbing his head and eyeing Gibbs warily, Tony complained, "You knew, didn't you?"
Gibbs snorted. "Of course I knew. What woman wears sweaters in the summer, unless she's trying to hide that she's pregnant? And you call yourself observant."
Heaving a sigh, Tony followed Gibbs to the elevator.
* * * *
The morgue was acting as the meeting place, as it frequently did, with Ducky and a body at the center as usual. Kate and Abby were missing, the women in the lab presumably because that's where Tony wasn't, and for some reason Jethro had as yet to be told, the newcomer, Greg, was standing with Ducky on the other side of a contamination wall that isolated the body from those not in protective gear.
Tony stood to one side of him as Jethro listened to Ducky explain about the pathogen's progress through the body, while Tom stood on the other. Gerald sat on a chair on the other side of Tony, his leg propped up on another chair. There was a hard look to the black man's face that Jethro wasn't entirely comfortable with.
It's times like these that we find out exactly what people are made of, Jethro silently acknowledged. Tony had, more than likely, killed McGee to stop his suffering. Gerald jumped out of a second story to keep from being eat alive by a mob of whatever-they-ares.
They were not zombies.
It was on that thought, that Ducky announced, "They aren't, as
likes to depict, the living dead." Hollywood
Jethro straightened slightly, justified.
"What I've been able to discover is that the pathogen alters the host DNA to make them look the way they do, and accelerates the adrenal gland. This is why nothing, save for a killing shot, seems to work on putting them down. They're simply too...pumped up...much like someone overdosed with Ecstasy."
"But what accounts for their...eating habits?" Tom questioned.
Ducky pointed to the inside of the corpse and replied, "The kidneys in this unfortunate fellow are both necrotic, as is the liver, which means there was no way of filtering whatever was eaten. Whatever else this nasty little virus does, it effectively starves the host. Quite simply, I believe they are trying to consume that which they need. The adrenaline pumped into their systems is too much to be handled and assists in the system overload by eating through the delicate internal tissue."
"So they're hungry...for brains..." Tony announced in a melodramatic voice.
It was meant to imitate some sort of movie slogan, Jethro was sure, and he smacked Tony in the back of the head. Not as hard as for the 'knocked up' comment, but harder than usual. Ignoring the gasp of pain, Jethro asked, "Ducky, what about the eyes? And are the higher brain functions definitely gone, or do they know what they're doing and either don't care anymore, or can't stop themselves?"
"I'm afraid that we haven't gotten that far yet, Jethro. Nor have we been able to determine if the virus is transferred through blood, saliva, or both," Ducky answered. "That will take at least another forty-eight hours to discover."
"And who is 'we,' exactly?" Tom questioned.
Ducky started in surprise, then smiled and said, "I'm sorry. Director Morrow, Special Agent Jethro Gibbs, Special Agent Anthony DiNozzo, this is Greg Sanders. He's a DNA specialist in town for a law enforcement convention. Works out of the
crime lab, the best in the country. If poor Timothy had to give his life rescuing someone, it couldn't have been a better choice. Young Greg here, has cut my analysis time by half, at least." Las Vegas
Jethro looked at the newcomer with new eyes. It didn't seem possible that someone so young could be such an expert, but if Ducky said it was so, than it was. He noticed that Tony stiffened at Ducky's comment about McGee and made a note to talk to him about it in private.
"It's good to meet you, Mr. Sanders," Tom said, offering a brief nod.
Sanders nodded in return and said, "Thanks. Same here, believe me."
Jethro did and gave him a slight smile before turning to Tom as they walked towards the morgue exit. "We have supplies to last us the next week, but I recommend going out now, before things get even more unpleasant. Four teams altogether, two to a grocery store. Once the dried goods are settled, we should visit the local farms for animals as well, Sir."
"We should do the animals now," Tony countered, pressing the elevator call button. "They might not be around to get later."
They all stepped onto the elevator and Tom answered, "Eight teams of six shouldn't put a burden on our defenses. Half for dried goods, half for the animals. You have experience with animals, DiNozzo?"
"Relatively, Sir. My grandparents owned a farm in upper state
and I visited every summer through college. Sheep, horses, cows, dogs, cats, you name it and they had it. Crops, too. They grew..." New York
"You'll be in charge of the farm expedition," Tom interrupted. "Jethro, I want you to coordinate from here."
Tension rising at the thought of Tony going out there alone again, this time without even McGee to watch his back, Jethro protested, "I should go with him, Sir."
"Send Agent Todd with him."
"I've pulled her from outside duty, Sir."
Tom looked at him sharply. "I know that you're not a sexist, so what's going on with her?"
"She's pregnant, Sir," Jethro informed him.
"Twenty weeks," Tony chimed in.
"Damn," Tom swore. "Of all the times for her to get a social life. All right. You can go with him, Jethro, but make sure that the both of you come back."
This was said as the Director left the elevator and Jethro nodded acknowledgement of the concern from his long-time friend. "Yes, Sir."
After the doors closed, Tony grinned and observed, "He took that well."
Jethro snorted. "Better than Kate will."
Taking a judicious step back, Tony replied, "That's why they pay you the big bucks, Boss."
* * * *
Kate shifted on the uncomfortable stool as she watched Abby look at something under a microscope. "You can't avoid him forever, Abs."
"Watch me," the other woman muttered, shifting the focus.
Sighing, Kate protested, "It wasn't his fault! There wasn't anything that Tony could do!"
From the stubborn jut of Abby's jaw, her words weren't believed. Possibly not even listened to. As annoying as Tony could be, Kate knew to her bones that he was a good man. She trusted him with her life, if not her diary or underwear, and for Abby to condemn him for something over which he had no control, just didn't sit well with Kate.
Gibbs came into the room just then and said, "I need to talk to you."
Sliding off the stool, Kate met him halfway. "What's up?"
"Tony and I are heading a mission to gather up Noah's
tomorrow morning," Gibbs answered, dry. Ark
"We're going to see if there are any cows or sheep or whatever at some local farms and bring them back."
Well that made sense. Then she frowned. "What am I going to be doing?"
"Coordinating with all the teams from here. There are three more teams going out. One more to other farms, two to grocery stores for canned and dry goods," he answered.
Leaving me at home to watch the kids, she thought, irritated. "I can still shoot a gun, Gibbs."
"You can't think of just yourself anymore, Kate. If you become one of those things and Tony or I have to kill you, we'd be killing an innocent child, too. He's having enough trouble with what he had to do to McGee. What do you think something like that would do to him? To any man. If the world were still normal, I would say it was your decision, that you could go into the field for as long as regulations allowed, but we don't know what's going to happen. You and the baby have to stay here, where it's safe," Gibbs stated quietly.
As much as she wanted to rail at the words, Kate knew that she couldn't. He was right. This wasn't about her anymore, it was about her child. She knew Gibbs wasn't being sexist, he was being practical. Whether she wanted the responsibility or not, Kate was starting the next generation and had to take care and protect it. She'd known that keeping the baby would have consequences, she just hadn't anticipated this set of them.
Then again, who would have?
Kate sighed and nodded her acceptance. "All right."
"Good girl. Come on, let's get to MTAC and we'll go over things there," he said, smiling.
It was high praise, coming from Gibbs. Shaking her head in amusement, Kate preceded Gibbs out of the lab. At the door, she glanced back at Abby and reminded, "Don't forget what I said, Abs."
Abby motioned at her, but Kate wasn't all that sure that she hadn't just been flipped off. Sighing, she headed for the elevator and muttered, "It's just not my day."
To her surprise, Gibbs rubbed her shoulder and commiserated, "It's been a bad week all around."
* * * *
Abby knew that she was sulking. She knew it, and couldn't help it. Even thinking of Tony coming back without McGee was enough to start a fresh crop of angry tears. Tony was supposed to look out for and protect McGee. He wasn't supposed to put a bullet in his brain, maybe more than one, and end his life. Which was exactly how she knew he'd done it, too, even without being told.
She'd seen what those things could do to a live person on her way to NCIS three days ago. It was supposed to have been her day off. A single day for her to enjoy all to herself. Maybe get another tattoo with which to tease Tony and McGee. She'd woken up to screaming in the hall outside her apartment and literally fallen out of bed. Shaking, grabbing up a baseball bat on the way, Abby had peeked out of her door to find three of those zombie things chowing down on a woman her own age.
Abby had shut the door and gotten dressed faster than she ever had in her life. Covered head to toe in leather and spikes, putting on her ass-kicking boots, and exchanging the bat for the gun that Gibbs had taught her to use the year before when Ari had entered their lives, Abby had climbed out her fire escape and made a beeline for the motorcycle that she hardly ever used.
The trip to NCIS had been a nightmare. Everywhere, those things had been wreaking havoc and she was sure that the screams of the dying would live with her to the end of her own life. Which, possibly, might come sooner than she'd ever expected.
And now she had to live with the knowledge that one of her best friends had killed her sometime lover.
Feeling about a hundred years old, Abby took the lab sample off the microscope and put on another. There was still work to be done, after all, and helping Ducky find a cure for whatever the nasty fucking virus was, was the only priority.
* * * *
"You holdin' up okay, DiNozzo?"
Tony jumped a little at Gibbs' question, half-turning to find the other man standing not two feet away. He'd taken the last half-hour or so to find an out-of-the-way corner and just wallow in the guilt that Kate wouldn't allow him to have. Shaking his head ruefully, he pointed out, "One day you're going to sneak up on the wrong person and regret it."
"Never happen," Gibbs replied, flashing him a brief grin. "You never see a Marine unless he wants to be seen."
Turning back to look out the window, Tony agreed lightly, "So I hear."
Gibbs moved to stand beside him, looking out as well. "You did the right thing today, Tony."
"If I'd done the right thing, we wouldn't have left the perimeter and McGee would still be alive."
"And we'd be less one DNA specialist who might be able to beat this thing."
"You're not going to start quoting Fate to me, are ya Gibbs?"
"I wouldn't be that presumptuous, DiNozzo. I just want you to know that if it's a choice between you becoming one of them or a bullet in your brain, I won't hesitate to pull the trigger. And that I expect the same courtesy if you're ever faced with that decision."
Which was as close to true comfort as Tony could get right then. Sighing, he finally said, "I hear you."
"Do you?" Gibbs asked softly.
Tony looked into the pale blue eyes that were closer than he'd realized and nodded.
"Good. Now here this, too," Gibbs continued, stepping even closer. "We're going out tomorrow and we're getting a bunch of farm animals to bring back here. I fully intend on getting the job done and then coming back here for some well deserved tension relief."
The look in Gibbs' eyes was unmistakably the fire of lust, maybe something more. Tony suddenly understood the moth's attraction to the flame, because it was, without a doubt, sheer lunacy to even consider screwing around with Gibbs. Despite that, Tony couldn't help drifting closer, swallowing against a dry throat, and feeling himself harden with a speed that was unheard of, even for him.
Gibbs smirked, as if fully aware of his affect on Tony, and questioned, "Are you up for something like that?"
It took a few seconds to unglue his tongue, but Tony finally managed, "Oh yeah. Ah, but what about right now? I could definitely go for some tension relief this very second."
Leaning in, breath hot against Tony's ear, Gibbs murmured, "But then you wouldn't have anything to keep you on your toes tomorrow. Because if you die, you sure as hell don't get to fuck me. And trust me, Tony, that's not something you want to miss out on."
Tony groaned as his lobe was taken between two sharp teeth and nibbled on, before being sucked into Gibbs' mouth briefly. He just about collapsed against the wall, body flushed and shaking with lust, when Gibbs straightened up and away from him.
Gibbs, the bastard, just grinned and sauntered away, whistling.
* * * *
Greg was completely lost. He'd been given explicit instructions on how to reach the lab where the girl Abby was, and somehow managed to get completely turned around. He turned the corner and stopped short at the sight that greeted him...Tony with his ear being nibbled on by Special Agent Gibbs. The moan that drifted over to him set Greg's blood to racing, as did the look of pure want on Tony's face.
He withdrew quickly back around the corner when Gibbs pulled back, not wanting to create an awkward scene by letting them know he'd seen them. Law enforcement wasn't exactly the most liberal bastion when it came to gay relationships and even though it seemed to be the end of the world, Greg was pretty sure that hadn't changed. Unfortunately.
Before he could get away, though, Gibbs came around the corner, looking all business, and asked, "You lost, Sanders?"
"Um, yeah," Greg confirmed. "I'm supposed to be at labby's Ab. I mean, Abby's lab, to help her with some samples."
"Well come on. It's this way."
The man seemed utterly unconcerned that he'd just been seen in a compromising situation with a subordinate, and that threw Greg for a few seconds. He scrambled after the other man and caught up partway down the corridor.
"Garage and evidence lock-up are in the subbasement. Morgue is in the 1st basement," Gibbs said. "Labs are on the 1st floor, above the morgue. Facilities and janitorial services are located on the 1st floor as well. Cafeteria, gym, showers, and locker rooms, are on the 2nd floor. Offices start on the 3rd and go up to the 5th and there are bathrooms on every floor."
"It's like your own little city here," Greg observed.
Gibbs nodded. "Completely self-sufficient, thanks to generators and back-up generators, if you don't count the lack of food and sleeping quarters."
"Well yeah, those are helpful."
They reached the elevator where Gibbs pressed the call button and asked, "So you've got Ducky impressed, which is pretty hard to do."
"He's a really cool guy," Greg replied, smiling. "Learned a ton from him in one day. Grissom's like that, only not so, you know, long winded and with a lot more insects involved."
Gibbs arched an eyebrow, but only said, "Ducky knows what he's doing and he's a good judge of character."
Feeling like Gibbs was trying to tell him something without telling him something directly, Greg nodded and agreed, "Yeah, he is. Or, seems to be to me."
The doors opened and Greg stepped on, pressing the 1 button as Gibbs got on the elevator with him. Once the started going down, Gibbs hit the Emergency Stop button, jolting the cabin to a halt.
Surprised, Greg looked over at him and asked, "Something wrong?"
"I take the safety and well-being of my people very seriously," Gibbs said pleasantly, with hard eyes. "You've already caused the death of one of them, however inadvertently. If anything happens to any of the rest because of you, whether by word or action, I'll leave you outside for the...zombies...to deal with."
Greg's stomach clenched in fear at the threat. He'd been around cops long enough to know when they were being serious, and Gibbs was deadly serious. And then, as if nothing at all had just been said, Gibbs started up the elevator and got off at the next floor.
* * * *
Abby was unlike anyone that Greg had worked with. It was a lot like working with a female version of himself, actually, and now he understood the eye rolls he frequently got back in Vegas. Despite her goth appearance and ear-bleeding music, Abby was insanely good at what she did. That only made sense, of course, given where she worked. Greg figured that Gibbs would only have the best of the best working for him.
The thought of the older man and his promise sent a shiver through him, not entirely of fear. Greg wasn't sure what to make of the man, aside from having no doubt that he would follow through with his threat.
"You cold?" Abby asked.
Shaking his head, Greg answered, "Nah. Just lost in thought for a second. So, what's Gibbs' deal?"
"Gibbs' deal?" Abby repeated, grinning. "Which one?"
"The one where he can be scary as fuck."
"Ah, that deal."
"Yeah, that deal."
Leaning against the counter, she answered, "Gibbs is an ex-marine, Gunnery Sergeant, to be exact. He's a career military man, despite the civvies these days, and is very...driven...when it comes to getting the job done. He's got the whole gung-ho, shoe-shine, salute-the-uniform thing down to a science. Not to mention he's damn hot in said uniform."
That, Greg could believe.
"Oh, just wondering," Greg answered. It sounded lame even to him, so he hurried on, "Did you want to get started?"
She grinned, clearly not fooled, but apparently willing to let it drop. "Sure. Lead on, DNA master."
* * * *
It was nice to be in the country again, even if the circumstances sucked. Tony hadn't even thought about leaving the city for a couple of years, too busy with work to take a real vacation. Spring Break had been the exception, rather than the rule, unfortunately. The weather was absolutely beautiful, the sky clear and the air not-quite hot. If it weren't for the zombies they kept passing and shooting down like so many ducks in a barrel, it would have been a pleasant drive.
Tony had preempted Gibbs by jumping into the driver's seat. Despite the promise of sex when they got back, he'd known that he was taking his life in his hands by doing so. One just didn't get between Gibbs and the wheel of a car. And yet, Tony really had had no desire to handle a gun just then and so had asked, "You mind taking up target practice for me?"
Gibbs' expression had softened, just a bit, and he'd lightly cuffed Tony upside the head, saying, "Just ask next time," before going around to the other side of the truck.
There was only one flatbed available and Gibbs had commandeered it. The other crews got two large pickups and would hopefully snag the bacon, while Tony and Gibbs' crews brought home the cows. Or goats. Something that made milk. He wondered idly if Ducky and Gerald would do the slaughtering, since most people didn't have the stomach for that sort of thing. Killing another person was one thing, but slaughtering a helpless animal was another. Tony had discovered, at the tender age of twelve, just what it was like to literally 'bring home the bacon' while on his grandparents' farm.
"Deep thoughts?" Gibbs asked.
Shaking his head, Tony flashed him a smile and replied, "Not really. Just wondering if Ducky's going to do the carving."
"If he doesn't, I will. I'm not becoming a vegetarian."
Tony laughed softly. "How much further?"
Gibbs peered over at the odometer and answered, "Another ten miles or so and we reach the turnoff to the farm."
Nodding, Tony continued to keep a sharp eye on the road, not wanting a repeat of the day before.
"Sanders saw us last night."
Gibbs' tone was so casual that Tony almost asked, "Saw us what?" before realizing what the other man was talking about. Startled, he looked over at Gibbs and questioned, "And?"
"And nothing. He isn't going to say anything," Gibbs stated.
Tony could only imagine what the poor kid had been threatened with, but if Gibbs said he wouldn't talk, than he wouldn't. Putting it out of his mind, they would deal with it later, if a problem cropped up, he said, "Speaking of last night..."
"What about it?"
"You seemed awfully sure of yourself."
Snorting, Tony agreed, "No kidding."
"What's the question, Tony?" Gibbs prompted, impatiently.
After a brief hesitation, Tony said at last, "Is it really just going to be tension relief?"
When Gibbs didn't answer right away, Tony looked over to find him staring out the window, thoughtful. Since it wasn't an outright refusal to answer, Tony kept his silence, knowing that the ex-marine would talk when he was good and ready. Gibbs didn't do emotions all that well and, truth to tell, neither did Tony. One of them was going to have to be the patient one and it looked like that job fell to him.
Tony turned onto the dirt road leading to the farm before Gibbs silently put his hand on Tony's thigh. The grip tightened briefly, and then remained there until Tony pulled up in front of the main house. It was as good an answer as any. Smiling, Tony said, "Let's go see what we can rustle up, pardner."
Gibbs snorted again, but gave his leg another squeeze before leaving the truck cab.
They were about halfway to the house when the door opened. Tony, along with everyone else, had his gun in hand a split second later, only to find himself at the business end of a shotgun.
"Guns down, people," Gibbs ordered immediately. Holding up his badge to the older, heavyset man on the porch, he continued, "Special Agent Jethro Gibbs, sir. We didn't realize that anyone was left here."
"Well we are," the man snapped.
Nodding, Gibbs said, "We were aiming to take some animals back with us to NCIS, since we don't know how long this...outbreak...is going to keep on going."
The shotgun finally lowered as the farmer considered his words. "If y'don't mind takin' on civilians, you can have the lot of them. And I'll help y'with them, transport and care and such."
Both men had closed distance while the farmer had been talking. Gibbs held out a hand when he was done and agreed, "It's a deal, sir."
Smiling, the man replied, "Don't 'sir' me, son, I work for a living. The name's Carl."
Tony grinned. It looked like Gibbs and Carl had at least one thing in common.
* * * *
All teams were, thankfully, on their way back. There had been one incident with Team 2 at the other farm, but only a case of animals running amok, not zombies. Kate had listened as the men had herded a half dozen sheep onto one of the trucks, shaking her head and offering useless encouragement.
This is my life now, she'd thought, mentally smacking herself in the head.
The only other thing of note was Team 4 being out of radio contact for about ten minutes, which they couldn't explain. Kate made a mental note to have Abby look at the equipment when the agents got back.
And now she was just waiting for them all to pull into the garage. The massively large, warehouse-type room had been divided in half. The half closest to evidence lockup was to be used for trucks and gas, while the other was for the animals. Several men and women had been up through most of the night constructing a fence and putting it in place. Kate could only hope that Tony remembered to bring hay or whatever for the animals to sleep on.
"Yo! Kate!" Abby called cheerfully.
Turning, Kate smiled a welcome to her friend and observed, "You look much better. Get some sleep?"
"I had to, since my supply of Big Gulps is gone," Abby replied, heaving a sigh. "Man, I don't think I've slept that long in forever. Greg was great to talk to and everything, but I kept yawning as he talked about blood types and phenoms and he finally just pointed me at my own cot and said he'd be back this morning. I guess Ducky's keeping him busy, though, because I haven't seen him all day."
Curious, Kate asked, "What do you think of him?"
"Insanely hyper," Abby answered promptly.
Kate laughed. "Look who's talking. Pot."
"No, no, no!" Abby protested, grinning. "See, he's like, naturally hyper. Mine is caffeine induced. Usually."
The garage doors opened, letting in the late afternoon sunlight along with the first two teams who were on grocery runs. The next half hour was spent organizing the booty, a word Kate winced at using but applied to the situation, and storing it away. When that was done, the farm crew not led by Tony and Gibbs appeared and all was chaos as they tried to herd the sheep into the pens.
By the time that was finished, Kate was hot, sweaty, and in no mood to deal with any other problems, two or four legged. Unbeknownst to her, Gibbs' team had arrived while she was herding sheep and the bastard was just watching her with a grin, Tony right beside him. Holding up a hand, she warned, "Not one word."
The amusement was wiped easily from his face as Gibbs replied, "A word about what, Agent Todd? You faithfully executing your duties to the best of your ability?"
Tony ruined the seriousness by pointing out solicitously, "You've got something nasty looking on your cheek."
Groaning, Kate wiped at her cheek.
"No, the other one. Sorry."
Kate gritted her teeth and wiped at the other cheek, grimacing at some sort of slime that came away. Had one of the damn things licked her?
That was when an older man, probably in his late sixties, early seventies, walked up to Gibbs and announced, "Whoever set this up didn't know what the hell they were doing. You want me to take over?"
Stepping forward, Kate announced to Gibbs, "I quit." and stalked away.
The snickers that followed her out didn't help her mood any.
* * * *
It was nearing by the time Tony finally managed to find a quiet corner in an unused conference room in the basement to bunk down in to get some sleep. Getting the animals settled had taken the rest of the night and, since he was pretty much the only other person with farm experience in the building besides Carl, Tony had been the logical choice. He'd drafted plenty of able-bodied men to set the pens up correctly, separating the tiny herds to themselves. Carl was just as long winded as Ducky, so maybe it came with age, but his stories tended to have a...more interesting bent to them.
Like that story about the Siamese twins he'd met and bedded back in the fifties. Tony was pretty sure that sort of thing was still against the law, never mind back then. Chuckling tiredly to himself, Tony yawned and stretched on his makeshift bed of sleeping bags and blankets.
"Now that's a pretty sight."
Instantly back to full awareness, despite the fact that he'd been nodding off, Tony's eyes snapped open to find Gibbs staring at him a few feet away, sitting on the edge of the conference room table. He was dressed in jeans now, relaxed, and his shirt was partially unbuttoned, hinting at the body beneath.
"Still damp from your shower, so at least you don't smell like cows," Gibbs observed, smirking. "And sleeping in boxers to preserve modesty, in case anyone walks in. Stretch again for me, let me see what you look like."
And even though he wasn't the least bit tired any more, Tony did as ordered, arching his back, stretching his arms up, over his head.
"Very nice. Now spread your legs a little, no, keep them under the blankets."
Swallowing heavily, Tony again obeyed, wondering what Gibbs had in mind.
Gibbs pushed off the table and crossed over to Tony, crouching between his legs. He rubbed against the obvious mound under the blankets, causing Tony to moan and push up into his hand. Gibbs continued to rub there for a few minutes, hardening Tony until he was riding the edge and then just stopping, pulling his hand away.
Panting, Tony exclaimed, "Don't stop!"
"Oh, I'm not going to," Gibbs promised, grinning wickedly.
He slowly tugged the blanket down, exposing Tony's body to view. Shivering under the hot gaze, Tony asked softly, "You just going to look?"
The unzipping of Gibbs' jeans sounded absurdly loud in the otherwise silent room, and the pants were pushed down, if not completely removed. Tony watched avidly as the shirt was pulled up and off, then tossed aside. Gibbs bent down, leaning over him, on his elbows so that their chests touched lightly when they moved. So close, all Tony could really see was Gibbs' pale eyes and he ached for more contact, any contact, with the man above him.
Tony's mouth was taken in a slow, deep kiss. Gibbs' tongue pushed into his mouth as he lowered carefully and full-length onto Tony. Moaning at the weight, Tony wrapped his arms around Gibbs' neck, fingers splayed over the strong shoulders as the kiss grew harder and more aggressive. He could feel the harsh metal of the zipper scraping his inner thigh as Gibbs began to rock into him, still separated by Tony's boxers and Gibbs' briefs.
Jerking up into a particularly hard thrust, Tony gasped in pleasure, head falling back against his pillow. He shuddered as Gibbs rode him, ground down upon him, owned him in the way that he'd never imagined possible. He'd never really contemplated being with Gibbs, aside from an idle, 'what would it be like,' way because he'd known Gibbs would never go for it. Rule 12 and being Gibbs' subordinate had guaranteed that.
But there they were, grunting and moaning as their bodies struggled to come together on the conference room floor. Tony tried to get his legs around the other man's hips, but was hampered by the blankets. Fingers digging into Gibbs' shoulders, he gasped, "So close, oh fuck, Gibbs, so close!"
"Good, that's good Tony, come for me, let me see you," Gibbs muttered, fucking him despite the lack of penetration.
Tony's body locked up as he came, eyes rolling back while his cock exploded. A muffled curse and extra hard shove against his body signaled Gibbs' orgasm, and then the other man collapsed on top of him, breathing heavy. Utterly sated to the point where he felt only a vague pang that Gibbs hadn't truly taken him, Tony hummed in contentment. His hand stroked over the short, silver hair as Gibbs continued to lie on him while their bodies returned to normal.
Yawning, he asked, "You going to stay?"
"I want to," Gibbs answered. "But it's probably not a good idea."
Tony nodded reluctantly. Now wasn't the time for other people's insecurities or homophobia to get in the way of more important things like survival. His mouth was taken in another deep kiss and when Gibbs pushed back onto his knees, Tony was content again. There was a long moment where they just stared at one another, but then Gibbs got to his feet, a regretful sigh escaping.
"Once things get under control, we'll revisit the topic."
"Of you spending your nights with me, right? Not the fucking? Because I really don't want to wait that long for more of that," Tony replied, keeping his tone light. He squirmed out of the boxers, using them to clean himself up a bit before tugging the blankets back into place.
Snorting, Gibbs straightened his clothes with a grimace. "Should've at least brought a change of shorts."
"Still got some in the file cabinet upstairs," Tony offered.
Gibbs smiled briefly and ordered, "Get some sleep."
Stretching luxuriously as he closed his eyes, Tony murmured, "And how."
Gibbs' chuckle followed him into sleep.
* * * *
It was harder than Jethro had thought it would be to leave Tony sleeping alone in that conference room. This wasn't something that he'd planned and, if the 'outbreak' had never occurred, they'd probably never have gotten together. But life-and-death situations had a way of making people both pull, and cling, together and this was no exception. Still, now that they were together, Jethro had no intention of giving Tony up. He'd never been the one to demand a divorce, believing firmly that things could always be worked out if both parties wanted it bad enough, and just because they weren't married didn't mean that he took the relationship any less seriously.
Tony was as complicated as he could be annoying, as insightful and kind as he could be childish and sexist. There were so many facets to his personality that Jethro would lose count if he tried to list them all and that, more than anything else, told him that this thing between them would work. He'd probably be tempted to brain Tony now and again, and the head smacks certainly wouldn't stop, but Jethro knew that Tony could, and would, match him step for step.
Going down to the morgue, he was surprised to find the door locked. Peering inside, Jethro could just barely see Ducky being held within Gerald's arms, his face turned in to the taller man's shoulder. Gerald's lips were pressed to Ducky's temple in an intimate fashion that immediately caused Jethro to back away.
It looked like he and Tony weren't the only ones getting their act together before it was too late.
Heading back to the elevator, Jethro went up a floor to the lab. Abby's music was surprisingly quiet, but the mournful quality to the lone woman's voice who sang was not a surprise. Jethro sighed and scanned the double room, coming up with nothing on the first glance. It wasn't until he was all the way in that he saw her curled up on the cot she kept there for triple shifts when not even a Big Gulp would get her going.
He smiled fondly at the sight of her wrapped around the irritating stuffed animal that made farting noises, but it faded swiftly upon noticing the tear tracks on her cheeks. Jethro had been pretty sure that the smiles had been fake down in the makeshift barn. Not even Abby could bounce back that fast from the death of a lover, even an on-again, off-again one. Her and McGee's relationship had been filled with ups and downs, the two self-proclaimed computer geeks alternately working from the same brain and being at complete odds. Or, that's how it had seemed to him at least.
Sitting on the edge of the cot, he brushed fingers through the longish black hair and sighed. He hated that she was hurting, but the way she'd chosen to hold Tony responsible for McGee's death wasn't helping the matter for any of them. It was disrupting the team dynamics, even more than McGee's actual death. Abby and Tony had always been on the same page. To see them so off-balance was almost painful.
Abby mumbled and turned onto her back, eyes fluttering open with a sleepy, "Gibbs?"
"It's nothing, Abs. Go back to sleep," he ordered softly.
Sighing deeply, Abby closed her eyes again and drifted back into sleep.
He stayed a few more minutes, fingers combing through her hair, then left to check on Kate, who was sitting at her desk, of all places, playing solitaire on her computer. "Everything okay?"
"Well, let's see. We've got mutated humans wanting to eat us. Gerald can barely walk. Palmer's dead. McGee's dead. Abby's pissed at Tony because McGee's dead. I spent the better part of the night trying to stop smelling like sheep and, oh yeah, I'm going to have a baby. Everything's just great, Gibbs."
"Good to know you're in such high spirits," Jethro observed, lips twitching as he tried not to grin at her sarcasm. "Or at least in normal ones."
She snorted. "Thanks."
Leaning against her desk, he asked, "Thought up any names yet?"
"You're impossible, you know that?" Kate demanded, a reluctant smile breaking through. "Absolutely impossible."
Jethro chuckled. "I'll let you in on a trade secret."
"Oh yeah? What's that?"
"All Marines are impossible."
"Ah. So it's not just you then."
"Now why don't I believe that?"
Jethro grinned and commented, "Voice of experience?"
"Something like that," she agreed dryly, sitting back in the chair. Smiling to take the sting from her words, she continued, "I haven't decided on names yet, no. Don't want to jinx it, as stupid as that sounds."
Shaking his head, Jethro countered, "Not stupid at all. Hey, shouldn't you be able to tell the sex of the baby by now?"
"I was scheduled to find out next week," she confirmed.
"Have Ducky do it," he suggested.
Kate arched an eyebrow at him. "He's got the equipment here?"
"I would think so. Ask him."
Thoughtful, she murmured, "I will."
Jethro stood and said, "Don't stay up too late. We need you fresh."
Waving him off, Kate went back to her solitaire.
Everyone safe and accounted for, Jethro went in search of his own bed.
* * * *
Tony took a breath as he entered the elevator. He was going to have this thing out with Abby come hell or high water...even if he had to beg. It wouldn't be all that much of a stretch for him, given how guilty he still felt about having to kill McGee. It should've been him that the zombies had gone after, not McGee. The younger man should have been able to lead a long, happy life filled with fat babies and Abby as 'the cool mom.' That wasn't going to happen, though, so now he could only beg forgiveness from one of his best friends whom he missed something fierce.
The elevator stopped on the second floor and Joel Bryers got on, giving Tony a brief smile.
"Hey, Joel, how's it going?" Tony greeted. "Heading down to the garage to check on your namesake?"
They'd named all the sheep the night before and Joel had insisted one of them be called Joel as well. Tony was pretty sure the guy didn't have any family and who was he to tell him not to get attached to something that would, eventually, be supper?
Joel shrugged and answered, "Just stretching my legs. Want some company?"
And even though he really didn't, Tony could see that there was something off about the other man. He was sweaty and looked exhausted, like he hadn't slept all night. The isolation, even with about two hundred other agents around, was probably starting to get to him. Clapping Joel on the shoulder, he agreed, "Sure! Why not? I was just going to play hookie in the lab for a couple of hours."
"I thought you and Sciuto were on the outs," Joel commented, clearing his throat a couple of times.
Damn. Grapevine strikes again, Tony thought. He gave the other man a brash grin and answered, "Nah. Just a little misunderstanding is all. Abby's cool. I bet she's got some chocolate hidden away that we can break into. How's that sound?"
Tony frowned as the other agent had some trouble speaking. He kept clearing his throat and tugging at his collar with one hand while rubbing his stomach with the other. He also sounded distant, on top of scratchy, like he was having a hard time connecting to his words. The elevator doors opened and Tony stepped through, pausing when Joel didn't follow right away. "You coming?"
The other man stepped off the elevator and followed Tony down the hall, into the lab, trailing a few feet behind. Thankfully, Ducky was in the lab with Gerald, Greg, and Abby, so it wouldn't seem quite as awkward. There was some kind of debate going on about blood types and molecular-something-or-other when he and Joel arrived, though it stopped fairly quickly.
"Tony, my boy, how good of you to stop by!" Ducky greeted. "We were just discussing the possibilities of blood type being the deciding factor on who among the population remains uninfected upon the distribution of the virus."
Tony grinned. "Sounds fascinating, Duck."
"Oh indeed! Did you know that the evolution of the various blood types is linked to the actual development of mankind as a species?" Ducky began enthusiastically.
That was when Joel started coughing. Not a 'clearing voice' or 'after sneeze' kind of coughing. It was more like the guy was hacking up a lung as he dropped to one knee.
Ducky hurried forward and exclaimed, "Agent Bryers! Are you all right? Let me look at you!"
If not for Gerald's quick thinking and long reach, very long thanks to the extension due to crutches, Ducky would've been jumped on by Bryers. As it was, Gerald gave a shout when Bryers lunged to his feet, snarling, towards Ducky and shoved his crutch right into Bryers' chest. Unfortunately, the infected agent kept hold of the crutch, which brought Gerald crashing down to the floor with him. The new zombie rolled towards Gerald with surprising speed and the injured man couldn't do anything to get out of the way.
Tony grabbed Bryers by the back of his shirt just as a sore-ridden hand landed on Gerald's massive cast, and scurried backwards, dragging the other with him. It seemed to go in slow motion, but Tony's extra sharp senses caught everything in flashes. Abby screamed in fear. Greg shoved her out of the way, then went back for Ducky. Gerald scrambled to safety with his hands, cast hampering him to a severe degree. Ducky on the phone, shouting to Gibbs for help.
All of that went on for an endless two minutes as Tony wound his arms about Bryers' chest, holding him fast, keeping him immobile. It was a strain, the zombie fighting Tony with all his considerable, mutated strength, but he held on. Pain lashed through his side as fingernails dug into him, his shirt having twisted out of place during the struggle. Then the creature slammed its head back, crushing Tony's nose and sending him reeling.
In the few seconds that it took for Tony to stop seeing stars, it was after Gerald again, who was clearly the weakest member of the group. The black man held the zombie at bay with his crutch for the vital few seconds it took Tony to regain his senses, ignoring the blood gushing from his nose to jump on the creature attacking his friends. He tackled used-to-be-Bryers to the ground, driving him into the wall with his shoulder and then pounding on his face with all his strength.
The zombie grabbed Tony around the throat and started squeezing, stopping the assault to his face because Tony had to grip the fingers to stop them from cutting off his air supply. His leg slammed up, between Bryers legs in a last ditch attempt to return airflow, but the pressure wouldn't let up.
Just as darkness began to encroach, gunfire exploded and Tony could breathe again. Panting and gasping, he realized that he could also feel the blood and brain matter of the infected agent all over his face. He was infected. There was no way that he couldn't be.
Gibbs' quiet voice cut through the dull roar of panic that was suddenly bursting to get free inside. Shaking, Tony pushed himself up into a sitting position and wiped at his face, wiping the gore from his eyes to look at the other man. Pain and regret filled the blue eyes staring back at him, more emotion than he'd ever seen from Gibbs. It seemed etched into the other man's face, carved into it with a knife.
Forcing himself to breathe easier, Tony offered a wry smile and said, "I'm holding you to your promise, Gibbs. Don't let last night change anything."
Gibbs actually flinched at the reminder that he'd promised to kill Tony if the agent became infected, but then he nodded and aimed his gun at Tony again.
"No! Gibbs! You can't do this, you can't just kill him!" Abby cried out, pulling at his arm.
He flicked on the safety and put the gun down to look at her. "There's no other choice, Abby. If we don't, if I don't, he's going to become on of them."
"Abby, it's okay," Tony said, from his spot on the floor. "It's the only way, the best way. Just, look after him when I'm gone, okay?"
Crying became sobbing and she didn't protest again when Greg pulled her into his arms and turned her away from the coming execution. He murmured softly to her, stroking her hair and walking her towards the far end of the lab, since Tony and the zombie corpse were blocking the door.
Stone-faced, Gibbs flicked off the safety and again aimed the gun at Tony's head. For a long, long moment, no one said anything as the two men stared at one another. Tony wished that he could figure out what was going on in Gibbs' head, but it looked like that wasn't going to happen. He managed a smile and then nodded once, wanting it done and over with.
Tired of looking down the barrel of the gun, unable to bear the pain in the pale blue of Gibbs' eyes, Tony closed his own and waited.
* * * *
Jethro's hand trembled slightly as he aimed between Tony's closed eyes, a trusting, peaceful expression on the young man's face. It would be quick and painless. Tony wouldn't feel a thing and he wouldn't become one of those creatures. Despite all of that, his hand shook with indecision. The same way his heart shook with pain and denial of the events that had brought them here.
"Jethro, wait," Ducky said quietly.
His hand gripped Jethro's wrist and easily pushed it down as Jethro looked for help from his oldest friend to save his lover. He read sorrow in Ducky's eyes, but also determination, and relaxed slightly.
Ducky nodded and continued, "Anthony, open your eyes."
Tony did, giving them both a mildly reproachful look as he demanded, "What? Just kill me already, would you? The wait is driving me nuts!"
"No one's going to kill you," Ducky stated firmly. "We're going to place you in quarantine and track the progress of the disease. Until now, I haven't had a patient to look at who was in the first stages, before the virus merged to the host DNA. I can use your blood and tissue to isolate the little bastard, and with Abby's and Mr. Sanders' help, we'll find a way to reverse the effects."
"In time to save me?"
"I don't know, my boy, but I will do my best."
Tony looked to Jethro, who nodded and said, "I won't let you become one of them, Tony. If he can't find a cure in time, we'll pick up where we just left off."
For another long moment Tony just looked at him, unreadable, and Jethro wished that he knew what was going on in that head of his. He finally nodded and agreed, "Okay. You're the doc, Duck, so what's up first?"
"What's going on?"
Jethro barked sharply, "Don't come in!" at Kate's horrified question, and she froze in place at the door. "Kate, get the hell out of here and don't come back down until Ducky says that it's safe."
She turned and fled.
Relieved that Kate and the baby were safe, and grateful for the reprieve, however brief it might turn out to be, Jethro turned to Ducky and asked simply, "Where do we start?"
* * * *
Kate watched from behind the door as Ducky, Abby, Greg, and Gerald all worked to take tissue samples and blood from Tony. They were all enclosed in a plastic shielding that was erected around a securable exam table, in case Tony had to be strapped down later, God forbid. The portable lab equipment had been brought down to the morgue, to save time on going back and forth.
Each of the technicians wore biohazard suits while within the bubble. It was like watching a well choreographed dance, each person with their own part to perform, and doing so swiftly and without a single mistake. They moved around each other with the easy competence of those who knew exactly what they were doing. Tony for his part, bore the poking and prodding with his own style of grace, cracking jokes and making lewd comments whenever possible, no matter who was taking the sample.
"How's it going in there?" Gibbs asked from behind.
Kate jumped a little, then glared at him, though she knew it lacked her usual force. Then she sighed and admitted, "No idea. They're doing whatever it is that Abby and Ducky do, only times two and faster than usual. What about the other members of Bryers' team? Were they infected as well?"
"No, thank God," Gibbs answered. "They had a brief tussle with a lone mutant and Bryers didn't mention to them that he'd been infected."
"Not really surprising, given that that sort of admission is a one-way ticket to a bullet in the brain, or a passport to zombie-land," Kate replied, dry.
Gibbs snorted. "True. But I checked each of them over thoroughly and there won't be any repeats."
Kate winced at that, since 'thorough' probably meant that a cavity search had been involved.
"How are you feeling?"
Surprised, Kate repeated, "Me?"
"Tony's your partner. I know how I'd feel, if my partner were the one on that table," Gibbs replied simply.
Kate sighed and peered back through the narrow window. Tony was lounging back on his palms, flashing a grin at Greg as he said something that caused the younger man to blush. She snorted and said, "It's hard to feel sorry for him when he looks so healthy and is harassing and/or flirting with Sanders, depending on your definition."
Kate shook her head at the mild inquiry and glanced back at Gibbs with, "You know, I always thought that his problem with my comment about Voss was because he'd kissed a guy, but turns out that DiNozzo will kiss anything that lets him."
"Is that so?"
There was something odd about Gibbs' tone, but since she couldn't see anything wrong, Kate just shrugged.
"Don't forget to take a break and eat something," Gibbs ordered, bypassing her to go inside.
Kate grumbled to herself about being prohibited from the morgue while Tony was there and infected, but went back to watching. It wasn't really helping, but she couldn't make herself leave, either.
* * * *
"So what's the verdict, Ducky?" Jethro asked, looking at Tony from the other side of the divider.
Ducky peered at him from inside the plastic shielding and replied, "It's going well, so far. We've taken all the precautions that are used when handling infectious agents, which is what's taking so long, unfortunately. Better safe, than sorry, I always say."
"Any ETA on finding out what we're dealing with?"
"Unfortunately, not, no," Ducky answered. "We're working as diligently as we can, Jethro, I assure you."
Restless and unsatisfied with the response, even though he knew that it was true, Jethro nodded and asked, "Anything I can do to help?"
"Why don't you talk with Tony for a while? He's a bit too distracting for Mr. Sanders, I'm afraid," Ducky observed, shaking his head.
A small surge of jealousy rose and Jethro questioned, "How so?"
"It's seems as though death-in-the-wings is a bit of a...motivator...for young Anthony. Not that he'll be acting on it, not with quarantine measures in effect, but the distraction is rather consuming."
"Don't worry, Ducky, I'll keep him occupied," Jethro said darkly.
Chuckling, Ducky concurred, "I'm sure you will, my friend," and wandered back to whatever it was he'd been doing.
Jethro walked over to where Tony sat on the exam table, waiting patiently for Abby to finish drawing more blood.
"Hey, Gibbs!" she called, voice muffled by two layers of plastic.
Tony flinched, then craned his neck around to look at Jethro, who scowled at him and said, "Abby, do me a favor?"
"Sure! What is it?"
"Smack Tony in the head for me."
Which, as soon as the vial was safely deposited on a tray, she did. Tony winced, but didn't try to avoid it, then swung his legs around so that he was close to the plastic divider and closer to Jethro. "Hey, Boss. So, um, been here long?"
"Long enough, DiNozzo," Jethro growled. "What the hell do you think you're doing, bonehead?"
Tony flashed him a grin and answered, "Living to the fullest?"
"Unless you want me to have Abby hit you again..."
"Look, I'm sorry, okay? It's a nervous habit."
"Flirting is a nervous habit?"
"Always has been. I can't help myself. It really doesn't mean anything except, well, that I'm nervous."
Jethro squinted at him, but couldn't discern any lies being told and relaxed a little. "How're you holding up?"
"Going for the title of World Famous Pin Cushion, but otherwise fine," Tony replied, smiling wearily.
Holding up a hand, Tony relented and answered seriously, "Tired. Hot and achy, too, like if I've got a fever, but I'm not in pain, if that's what you're asking."
Since it had been, Jethro relaxed a fraction more and asked, "Anything I can get you?"
"Yeah, if Kate has a boy, tell her to name it after me, would you? If I ask, she'll just laugh in my face," Tony replied, smiling.
Jethro snorted. "I meant, anything to eat or drink."
"Ah. Well, I wouldn't mind some ginger ale and toast if you can dig some up. My grandmother always used to give it to me when I'm sick and I could use some comfort food, you know?" Tony said wistfully.
Putting his hand on the barrier between them, Jethro nodded, unable to speak. Tony rested his hand against Jethro's from the other side and neither spoke for a long moment. Clearing his throat, Jethro pulled his hand away, saying, "Toast and ginger ale, coming up. I'll be back in ten."
Tony gave him a jaunty little salute and replied cheerfully, "I'll be here!"
The mood change would have been a lot more believable if Tony's eyes hadn't been so haunted.
* * * *
Jethro was on his way back to the morgue with a can of ginger ale and a plate of toast when Tom caught up with him.
"Taking a break?" Tom questioned, eyebrows raising.
"Bringing these to Agent DiNozzo," Jethro explained. "Did you need something?"
"We got a call from the Chief of Homeland Security in MTAC."
Jethro stiffened and demanded, "What happened? How did this bug get loose? Do they have a cure?"
"No one's sure yet what happened or how it got loose, or even where it came from. The Chief assured me that it wasn't anything we've been cooking up in a basement somewhere."
"So it was an attack."
"It looks like, yes."
Jethro paused, then repeated, "None, or just unknown?"
"None," Tom repeated. "He seemed particularly adamant about that. Said that if any of our people were infected, we should give them a bullet or show them the door."
Shaking his head, Jethro said, "I refuse to believe that, Sir."
"Jethro, I know how much Agent DiNozzo means to you..."
"You don't know!" Jethro hissed. "You don't know anything, Tom!"
For a long moment, Tom just stared at him, then understanding lit his gaze and he said, "I'm sorry, Jethro. I didn't realize things had gone that way between you."
"Well they did and nothing can change that now, but that isn't why I'm not going to let you ride Tony out on a rail just yet. Ducky has the best people possible working with him to find a way to reverse this, this thing, whatever it is and I know he can do it."
"Is that an accurate assessment, or wishful thinking?"
"It's an assessment, Sir. Sanders is some big-time DNA expert from
and between him, Ducky, and Abby, they'll find something. It might not be in time to save Tony, but they need to track the progress of the disease as it merges with its host. And in this case, that 'host,' is Agent DiNozzo. You have to give them the time they need to work!" Las Vegas
"All right," Tom said at last. "But I want two guards posted on DiNozzo at all times. There won't be a repeat of how he came to be infected. When he starts to show symptoms, he's to be taken care of in the most humane fashion possible...permanently."
Jethro nodded tightly. "That's not an issue, Sir. When it comes down to it, Tony asked me to take care of business and I aim to do just that."
* * * *
Achy and hot were the best words to describe how he felt, but they weren't the only ones. He hadn't lied to Gibbs when he'd said that he wasn't in pain, not really, but he didn't feel nearly as good as he'd made out, either. His bones ached in that really deep way that spoke of arthritis, but he didn't have something so benign, in comparison. At least Ducky had used one of those spacer things that stayed in his arm for blood so that he didn't have to keep getting stuck by needles over and over.
"And how's my best patient doing?" Ducky asked, smiling at him from behind the clear face plat.
Tony smiled back. "Just fine, Duck. Nothing new, anyhow. How's my blood look?"
"Just as outstanding as you," Abby announced, hopping up on the exam table to sit beside him. "How could it not, coming from such a fine specimen of manhood like you?"
Chuckling tiredly, he told her, "You don't need to butter me up to get more of it, you know."
Ducky wandered off, leaving them alone, and Abby leaned against him, plastic suit crinkling. "Tony, you don't know how sorry I am for..."
Tony held up a hand and interrupted, "I understand, Abs, really. You were hurting."
"So were you," she countered, blue eyes bright with unshed tears. "And all I could do was blame you for not saving him. I know you did everything you could."
He couldn't help but whisper, "I didn't."
There was a pause before she whispered back, "What?"
Stomach tight with dread and self-loathing, Tony remembered the way McGee had barely had a chance to scream as they'd dragged him out of the car. He remember the brief meeting of their gaze, the panic and pain in the younger man's blue eyes just as he was snatched. Swallowing hard against the bile that rose as McGee's screams replayed in his mind, he admitted, "They grabbed him from the car. They dragged him from it and instead of helping him, I stepped on the gas to get away from them. Then I stopped partway down the block while they were, they were...eating him...and I took out my gun and I shot him. If I'd been faster, if I'd paid the fuck attention, I would have seen them! I could have gotten all of us out, Abs, I should have...should've..."
Pressing the palm of his hand to his eye, hard, Tony stopped to breathe, forcing the sobs to stop before they started because if he didn't, he wasn't sure he'd be able to.
Arms encased in plastic pulled him to Abby's shoulder and she stroked his hair as she said softly, "I forgive you, Tony, and so does McGee. It's okay, I promise."
Breath hitching, Tony pressed his face to the unyielding fabric to soak in the absolution offered him. He wasn't sure how long a time it was before Ducky gently ordered, "Tony, I'm sorry to interrupt, but let me see your hands."
When he did, they all saw the black mark, about the size of a penny, sitting by the thumb. Tony almost threw up at the sight and raised panicked eyes to Ducky.
"It's okay, my boy, everything's going to be fine," Ducky stated firmly. "Time for the next round of tissue samples, though, I'm afraid."
Taking a deep breath and releasing it shakily, Tony nodded. "Right. No problem. My skin is your skin."
Ducky smiled. "Excellent. Abby? Would you assist Mr. Sanders?"
"Sure thing," she agreed, subdued.
Tony watched as Ducky's nimble, sure fingers picked up a net of vials and inserted them one after the other into the spacer, collecting his blood swiftly. The door opened and whatever Ducky saw behind them caused the older man's jaw to clench in anger. Tony started to turn, but Ducky ordered, "Be still please, Tony." so he stayed put. Tissue samples were next and he couldn't help but be relieved that Ducky neatly excised the black mark altogether, despite the flash of pain and needing a bandage to cover the throbbing wound after.
"There we are, all done now," Ducky announced, bestowing a censuring look behind Tony.
At that, Tony turned and saw what had caused Ducky to look so angry; Gibbs was there with two armed agents who were, clearly, there to keep an eye on him. Tony snorted and commented, "Aw Gibbs, you're so thoughtful. No one else has their very own honor guard."
Gibbs grimaced faintly, the expression alone confirming to Tony that it wasn't the other man's idea, and held up a can of soda as he replied, "Ginger ale, as requested. I'm afraid the toast got soggy before I could get it here. I'll make sure you get some with dinner."
Waving it off, Tony answered, "Not hungry anyhow."
"How are you feeling?" Gibbs asked on coming closer.
Tony thought about it for a moment, then said, surprised, "I feel good."
Gibbs arched an eyebrow and repeated, "Good?"
"Well, not physically," Tony amended. "But...I guess I'm ready for whatever."
They both knew what 'whatever' meant and Gibbs scowled, looking away for a moment before snapping, "That's not going to happen. I won't accept it."
"Gibbs...Jethro...I've decided to take Ducky up on his offer."
"What offer?" Gibbs demanded suspiciously.
"The needle instead of the bullet. And he's going to do it, not you."
There. That wasn't so bad to say out loud, Tony mused, feeling a little better now that it was out in the open. Ducky had approached him at the first, once he was cleaned off and in the newly fashioned 'clean room.'
"It's my responsibility, Tony, I'll do it," Gibbs snarled. "I'm the one who should do it, not Ducky."
Putting his hand on the plastic barrier, wishing he could touch the other man, Tony said softly, "I don't want to destroy you, Jethro, and killing me...well...let's just say that it won't help your already sparkling mental health."
Gibbs shook his head vehemently, tight-lipped and silent as he denied the decision.
"I'm sorry, but it's done. When I pass the point of no return, Ducky's going to send me off to lala land," Tony stated. He forced a smile as he continued, "Besides. A bullet would totally ruin the funeral since I want an open casket. Don't want to mess up this pretty face of mine, or the hair. Do you know how long it took me to get it like this?"
Instead of arguing or yelling at him, Gibbs simply walked away.
The sting of tears hit Tony unexpectedly and his hand fell from the divider. He'd never expected Gibbs to leave him, especially not like this. Swallowing hard against the unshed tears, Tony turned so that his back was to the sympathetic agents who were acting as his guards. Their sympathy was the last thing he needed just then.
Of course, since he wasn't getting anything from Gibbs, maybe he should take what he could get.
* * * *
Kate watched cautiously as Gibbs slammed a metal coffee pot repeatedly against the counter, making a hell of a racket and denting the thing beyond all possibility of repair. The curses leaving his mouth would do a sailor proud, practically blackening the air as he snarled almost unintelligibly while he beat the coffee pot to death. He finally threw it against the wall, cracking the plaster, and punched his fist into the spot right nearest him.
To her surprise, the wall lost.
"Jesus! Gibbs!" she exclaimed, rushing forward.
He was looking at his hand currently hidden in the wall with something akin to bemused surprise, then glanced at her with, "Haven't done that in a few years."
Helping him carefully pull the arm from the hole, Kate asked, "When was the last time?"
"Little girl murdered by her mother," Gibbs answered, almost absently.
She examined the bloody, and obviously broken, hand and hissed in reluctant admiration. "Well, when you do something, you go all the way. At least you're ambidextrous when it comes to firing a gun. Come on, let's get you to Ducky so he can fix you up."
"I'm not going to the morgue again," he stated flatly.
Oh. That explains it, she thought sadly. Sighing, she said, "Let me call Gerald and..."
"Ducky needs all his people for what they're doing. Call one of the medics," Gibbs ordered shortly.
She was able to get him to his desk and seated with a minimum of fuss, thankfully, and called from there. It was a good five minutes of watching his jaw clenched with pain before a young woman arrived to take care of the hand. He didn't say a single word while she splinted and bandaged the hand, just as she didn't ask what had caused it. Kate was a little surprised that she made it through without passing out, the girl was so green and frightened.
A gruff, "Thank you," from Gibbs when she was done was enough to send the girl scurrying for the elevator.
Snorting, Kate asked, "Feeling better now?"
He sighed, rubbing his eyes with the uninjured hand and answered, "Feel like a damned idiot. Last thing we need is another injured agent."
"And I'm sure the wall's a little upset, too," she observed, deadpan.
For a moment, he just looked at her. A few seconds later, he startled her by letting out a laugh; a real one, honest amusement shining from the pale blue eyes that could strike fear into a hardened criminal. When he was done, Gibbs shook his head, still smiling, and told her, "You're going to be a great mom, Kate. Oh, and if it's a boy, Tony wants it to be named after him."
"He probably wants it named after him if it's a girl, too," she guessed, smiling.
"Probably," he agreed, wistful. "Thanks, Kate."
Sitting on his desk, Kate gripped his shoulder and slowly tugged him close. He resisted for a second, but then sighed and accepted the comfort she was giving, one friend to another. Wrapping an arm around his shoulder, she stoked the top of his head and said, "Whatever happens, Tony loves you, Gibbs. Nothing can take that away from you. We're his family for the rest of our lives, however long that winds up being."
With a deep sigh, Gibbs rested his head on her shoulder and repeated, "A great mom."
She smiled and gave him another kiss, just because she could. It looked like being pregnant had its advantages after all.
* * * *
Ducky watched curiously as Greg simply stared into space, one hand on the electron-microscope and the other on his knee. When he hadn't returned from the lab within a half hour, Ducky had gone looking for the young man, wondering what had happened to him. On arrival, he'd found Greg in this position. He'd been around enough people of his caliber of intelligence, however, not to interrupt what was obviously a visualization moment.
That was fifteen minutes ago and Ducky was starting to worry that the young man's eyeballs would need lubrication soon. There were only very occasional blinks, surely not enough to provide the necessary moistness.
Greg moved, turning back to the microscope and startling Ducky with the movement. He watched as adjustments were made and there was another peek through the eyepiece before asking, "I gather you've thought of something?"
Greg jumped off the chair with a shout, making wild hand motions as he landed a good two feet away. When he saw it was Ducky, he sagged against the nearest counter and gasped, "Jesus, Ducky, don't do that! You nearly scared me to death."
Amused, Ducky informed him, "I've been standing here for fifteen minutes while you just stared into space."
"Fifteen minutes?" Greg squeaked. He cleared his throat and muttered, "No wonder Grissom had a hissy last week."
Ducky arched an eyebrow in inquiry.
"Never mind. Um, yeah, I did think of something. See, I was bothered by the way..."
Ducky was well acquainted with human anatomy and the particles with which it was created. He had, in fact, made a living from it in one fashion or another for over fifty years. Listening to Greg Sanders, however, made him realize that he was no longer on the 'cutting edge' of discovery. Unless, of course, the young man's mind simply didn't work like others in how it looked at the way the body was made.
"So what do you think?"
Ducky paused, as though thinking over what the young man had told him, and finally nodded approval. Whatever it was that he'd just said, he would repeat to Abby and Gerald and surely one of them would be able to explain it to him.
It seemed as though Greg was simply looking for the approval, though, because he nodded rapidly and confirmed, "That's exactly what I thought! See, I thought to myself, 'What would Grissom do?' And okay, that's really kinda lame, but it's true, because he's got this way of looking at things that's just so far out there it's totally unbelievable. And I remembered him saying once, that..."
"Greg!" Ducky interrupted.
Greg stopped short, looking sheepish. "Sorry. I ramble sometimes."
"So I gathered," Ducky agreed, wry. "Shall we go?"
Nodding again, Greg headed for the door, did a u-turn back to the microscope and carefully pulled the sample free, snapping it into a secured container. He hurried past Ducky with another sheepish grin, causing Ducky to hide his own, amused smile.
* * * *
Abby knew brilliance. She dealt with it on a daily basis, in many different ways. But when Greg finished explaining what he was thinking, where she understood only one word in five-and-a-half, all she could do was grab him and kiss him right on the lips, she was so happy. Gerald and Ducky looked on with varying levels of incomprehension so she explained, "He's going to make an antibody to fight and kill the sucker while reverting the host DNA to its original state."
"Yes, of course. That's what I thought he said," Ducky bluffed, beaming.
Greg flashed him a grin and asked, "You had no idea what I was talking about, did you?"
"Well, I understand the general principles, but putting them into practice is another matter altogether."
Abby nudged Greg and informed him, "Never play poker with Ducky. You think that he's completely open about what he's got in his hand, but he's very devious."
"Yes, well, you don't get to my age without learning a few tricks," Ducky intoned, blue eyes twinkling.
Gerald muttered, "And how."
Abby's eyes widened at the emphatic comment and she giggled, taking in Ducky's reddened face.
The smiles all around faded at a muffled groan from across the room. Eight hours into the change and Tony wasn't looking much like himself anymore. His skin had taking on a ghoulish, sweaty cast and those necrotic marks had started appearing with more alarming frequency. He was still Tony, mentally, but his body was losing the fight, there was no doubt about it. His 'guards,' stayed as far from him as was possible, the only ones going near were the ones who took his samples.
There was no way to know why Tony was being 'changed' faster than Bryers, but Ducky was thinking it had something to do with Tony's metabolism. He'd always had a very fast one and that was, perhaps, working against him now. They'd done a timeline and from the time that Kate had lost contact, to Tony meeting up with Bryers in the elevator was twelve hours. That meant there were four left to come up with a cure for Tony, three to keep a margin of safety, before it was too late.
"Ducky, Ducky, c'mere, please?"
Ducky immediately walked over to the squared, plastic bubble that kept Tony from the rest of the world. Abby watched the quiet conversation, biting her lip nervously when Ducky sighed and ran a harried hand over his head. That head rub was never a good sign.
"That can't be good," Gerald observed, worried.
Greg turned a confused, anxious look between both of them and asked, "What's going on?"
"The Doc rubbed his head."
Sighing, Abby explained, "Ducky only rubs his head like that when he's upset about something, which means we're probably running out of time."
A determined look came over Greg's face and he nodded. "Okay then. Let's get back to work."
* * * *
He wasn't normally a coward. He'd never had trouble facing death before. Had dealt it on a fairly regular basis as a marine, an interrogator, a black-ops agent, and an NCIS agent. But this...this was so far different from those other times as ice from fire and Jethro knew that if he took one look at Tony and saw him succumbing to the fucking virus, he would lose it. A broken hand would be the least of his problems. And he'd thought that he could kill Tony? Not a chance in hell.
Jesus. Everyone knew what was best for him but himself, apparently.
The phone rang, jerking him out of his thoughts, and he picked it up with, "Gibbs."
"Jethro! Young Mr. Sanders has put together an antivirus that should do the trick. We're just about to administer the dose and I thought you would want to be here," Ducky informed him.
He hung up on the other man, running for the stairs, not bothering to wait for the elevator. He was in the morgue not two minutes later and skidding to a halt at the sight of Tony strapped down onto the exam table, wrists and ankles firmly restrained. His skin, what was visible outside the blue medical pajamas, was mottled with black spots and held that pasty sheen to it that the creatures outside had. The eyes were all Tony, though, and latched onto him the second that he burst through the door.
Walking over to the contamination bubble, he stopped beside Tony and just gazed down on him a long moment before saying simply, "I'm sorry."
Tony smiled, though only half of his face moved, and answered, "S'ok. Love you."
Jethro touched the plastic near Tony's hand, bending down to say, "I love you, Tony. You fight this, okay? Don't you fucking die on me, you got that? You fight."
Tony nodded. "I will."
Ducky was on the other side with an insanely large syringe filled with a viscous, pinkish liquid. "I'm sorry, Tony, but I'm afraid this is going to hurt. A lot."
"Lay it on me, Duck," Tony agreed, taking a breath and holding it.
Unexpectedly, Ducky plunged the needle directly into Tony's heart and depressed the plunger. Tony let out a scream of pain and arched futilely against the restraints. Once the contents were distributed, he pulled it back out and stepped back, watching, just like everyone else.
Jethro wanted to be on the other side of the plastic. He wanted to hold Tony through what was obviously agonizing pain, the other's eyes rolling back in his head, back arched and veins bulging in his throat. Tony collapsed, panting, with his eyes closed. His breathing slowed and his body went lax as he fell unconscious.
Glancing at Ducky, Jethro demanded, "Is that supposed to happen?"
"I'm sorry, Jethro, I don't know," Ducky replied helplessly. "There's no way to tell what will happen or even if it will work."
Jethro's jaw tightened and he said, "So now we wait."
He didn't even need Ducky's nod of confirmation. Jethro pulled a chair close to the plastic barrier and sat, eyes glued to the faint rise and fall of Tony's chest.
* * * *
"So how long can he go without sleep?" Greg whispered curiously.
Abby shrugged and answered, "I've known Bossman to go four days straight with only a two hour catnap."
Greg gave a low whistle of admiration. "Wow. That beats Grissom by at least twelve hours."
They were, currently, watching Gibbs watch Tony. He hadn't moved from the chair he'd planted himself in eight hours before and, so far as Greg could tell, hadn't yet nodded off. If he did, he'd probably fall off the narrow, uncomfortable looking chair.
"It's probably the marine in him," she said, grinning.
Tony hadn't yet woken from his coma-like state, even though he wasn't technically in a coma. It was more like a very, very deep sleep. He hadn't gotten any better that they could tell, but he hadn't changed into one of the zombies yet, either.
"Come along, children, zoo hours are now over for the day," Ducky informed them from behind.
Greg turned to grin at the older man and said, "So what are you doing now that you've got some free time, Ducky?"
"I shall remain here, but the two of you are to get a good night's sleep," Ducky stated. "Go on. Be off with you."
Reluctant to leave Tony, even though there was nothing he could do to help any more, Greg asked, "Can I stay? I'd really like to."
Ducky wagged a finger at him and warned, "I shall put you to work if you do."
"I am at your service," Greg replied, bowing deeply.
"Me, too, Duck!" Abby exclaimed.
Shaking his head, Ducky stated firmly, "You are to go to bed this instant, young lady, or I shall inform Kate that it's been almost twelve hours since your last meal."
"Aw, c'mon! That's not fair!"
"You heard me, Abigail. Be gone with you."
Abby scowled, but kissed Ducky on the cheek before she left. Rather to Greg's surprise, he got a kiss goodnight as well. He stared after her, bemused, then turned to Ducky and asked, "So, how close was she to Agent McGee?"
Ducky smiled fondly and waved him over to the office, where they wouldn't disturb Gibbs or Tony. Once they were seated, he pulled out a bottle of whiskey and two glasses, and poured them both full. "Abby and Tim had a tumultuous relationship at best, my boy. Tim was rather more conservative than Abby could handle on a regular basis and not all that familiar in the ways of the fairer sex."
Greg thought about that a moment then guessed, "Put his foot in it a lot?"
"Oh yes, quite often," Ducky agreed, holding up his glass.
Greg picked up his own and clinked it to Ducky's, saying, "To those we've lost, even Ecklie, the poor bastard."
Ducky's eyebrows rose. "Who is Ecklie?"
"He used to be my boss," Greg answered with a grimace. "He was an insensitive, power-hungry prick who used people like toilet paper, but he still shouldn't have died like that. Or, not died as the case may be."
They were quiet for a while before Ducky said, "I understand from Director Morrow that we'll be getting reinforcements tomorrow or the following day, depending on when they've managed to completely...vacate the infected population."
Startled, Greg asked, "What? How?"
"Apparently, it was mainly the DC area that was affected. This was an attack the likes of which no one has ever seen before," Ducky replied sadly. "I don't understand people anymore, I'm afraid to say. Perhaps I never did."
had been spared the horror of what they'd gone through, insanely glad that Grissom was still his same self and not zombified like Tony might still become, Greg sagged into the chair and downed half the glass of whiskey. Offering Ducky a big grin, he said, "You know what, Ducky? This is the best whiskey I've ever had." Las Vegas
Ducky smiled and began enthusiastically, "Oh yes! It's an excellent whiskey. I found it one time when a companion of mine and I were traveling the back roads of
, many summers ago." Maine
Greg was more than happy to listen to the other man ramble on as he thought about the fact that he still had a home to go back to.
* * * *
It was like someone had literally steamrolled his entire body, when Tony opened his eyes next. He remembered the piercing of his heart by the needle and the lightening heat of agony that had surged through him, but nothing else. His chest felt thick and swollen, but he could tell without even moving that he had better muscle control and flexed his arms and hands to try it out. To his surprise, he wasn't restrained and Tony opened his eyes to find himself in a real hospital bed.
He found Gibbs sprawled in a chair beside the bed and smiled at the little-boy-lost sight the other man presented, disheveled and unshaven. Clearing his throat, Tony rasped, "Gibbs? Hey, Boss?"
Gibbs jerked awake, wincing as a hand came up automatically to rub his neck, and then froze on seeing that Tony was awake. Happiness lit through his pale eyes before he moved from chair to bed and gripped Tony's hand. "It's about damn time you woke up, DiNozzo."
"You look like hell," Tony countered, sharing the grin aimed his way. "How long was I out?"
Tony blinked in surprise. "And where am I?"
. We were...rescued...the day after Ducky gave you the cure. Almost had to shoot a couple of the army boys before the understood you weren't to be touched," Gibbs informed him. Bethesda
With a snort, Tony asked, "Almost? You're losing your touch, Gibbs."
Gibbs grinned again and said, "Didn't want Sanders to have to walk, and since they were his ride, I figured I shouldn't put holes in them."
Disappointed that he couldn't at least thank the man responsible for saving his life, Tony said, "So I was transferred here, what else is going on in the world?"
"Well. The Secretary of Agriculture is now President of the
; DC, United States , and Maryland are under a strict quarantine and marshal law; Ducky and Gerald are officially together and Abby's decided to move in with Kate to help with the baby." Virginia
Tony blinked, then grinned. "You know, I go to sleep for a week or so and the world just falls apart without me."
With a smile in his eyes, Gibbs nodded and leaned in to kiss him. Tony jerked back, but Gibbs brought a hand up to hold him in place. He said softly, "It's okay now, you're fine," and continued on the way in to press his lips to Tony's. It was a soft kiss, gentle and knowing and Tony sighed into it, his mouth opening to the easy possession. His heart was definitely willing to do more, but his body was pretty much just lying there.
As if sensing that, Gibbs pulled back, smiling again. Tony liked the look on him and said, "We're gonna do that again, right?"
"Oh yeah," Gibbs confirmed, lips sliding into a smirk. "But first, you're going back to sleep and I'm going to call the others to let them know that you are definitely back among the living."
There was a brief kiss to his forehead before Gibbs left the hospital room and Tony watched him go with a grin of his own. Life might not be back to normal yet, but at least it was still going on.
Greg was a little aggravated that he didn't get to say goodbye to Tony before the Army thoughtfully took him into custody. Oh wait. He was being given a lift back to Vegas by way of the CIA. He'd spent the last three days talking to everyone except the people he really wanted to talk to. Scientists, politicians, the ones that were left, CIA Directors and Agents, National Security Agents, FBI Agents, more scientists, and the six soldiers who guarded him around the clock in different shifts.
On the fourth day, finally, he was brought to a military airstrip and flown back to
in a very uncomfortable transport plane. He was surprised, and gratified, that the entire team was waiting there for him. Nick and Warrick were all over him the second he stepped off the plane. They grabbed him for hugs and noogies in equal supply, all of them laughing and happy to be back together. Las Vegas
Catherine was next, pulling him in for a long, tight hug. "Don't you ever scare us like that ever again! Jesus, Greg, you're the only one I know who can go to a convention and meet up with zombies."
There was some more laughter and then Sara stepped forward to offer a brief hug of her own, ruffling his hair.
Then it was Grissom and Greg hesitated, not sure how the other man was going to react. It was with shock that he found himself pulled into a strong, hard embrace. He sank into the hug, holding on tight and burying his face against Grissom's throat, breathing in the indefinable scent of the man. The shock increased when Grissom pulled back and kissed him soundly, to the hoots and hollers of Warrick and Nick.
Laughing breathlessly when the kiss ended, Greg asked, "So you missed me, huh?"
Grissom cupped his face briefly and said, "More than you know. Come on. Let's get you home and rested up."
With a happy sigh, Greg leaned against Grissom as they headed for the building that would lead, he assumed, to the parking lot. Even considering the curve ball Grissom had just thrown him, things were finally getting back to normal.
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