Author: Jilly James
Characters: Tony DiNozzo, OC, Brad Pitt (the doctor, not the actor 😉 )
Pairing: pre Tony/Brad
Word Count: 1,000
Summary: After saving Gibbs from drowning, Tony reevaluates his life and wonders how much longer he can be so foolish.
Warnings: No beta
– – – –
Tony pulled up outside Bethesda, but hesitated. He hated hospitals with a passion, but he knew his lungs weren’t right and he wasn’t an idiot; he had to get checked out. There was no way he was risking pneumonia because he had a borderline phobia. Gibbs and Maddie had been taken to Dominion, the closest hospital, but Tony’s medical records were at Bethesda and he hated explaining the plague to a new doctor.
There was a tap on his window and he gave a start of surprise. He looked up to find his friend, and primary doctor, Commander Marcus Krenzin, who was fiercely scowling at Tony.
It felt like it took all his energy to open the door and climb out. His limbs were heavy and he was nearing the point of exhaustion.
“Why the hell are you soaking wet?” Marcus exclaimed.
“It’s a long story.”
“It’s November, Tony!” He took Tony’s arm and started hauling him toward the ER entrance. “You call and say your lungs are giving you trouble, and, yes, I told you to get your ass down here immediately, but you could have gotten out of these soaking wet clothes.” Tony didn’t say anything he just let Marcus rant as they bypassed triage and admitting and made for the back of the emergency department.
Once they were in a small treatment room, Tony started to explain, but Marcus held up a hand. He quickly stuck a thermometer in Tony’s mouth. It beeped after only a few seconds. “Jesus, Tony. You’re hypothermic. Get out of those clothes.” Marcus immediately started helping him, and Tony tried to bat him away, but his fingers were oddly clumsy.
“I can do it.”
“Stop that. You can’t do it. You’re not even aware of how uncoordinated you are. And you’re slurring your words.”
Tony let Marcus—and soon a nurse—bully him into bed under heated blankets, and get an IV started with nothing but warmed saline. Marcus then ordered a buttload of tests.
After the nurse had left with enough blood to satisfy a kiss of vampires, Marcus pulled up a chair. “Tell me what happened.”
“Just… tell me you didn’t call Brad.”
“Don’t be an idiot. Of course I called Brad. He takes your health rather personally.”
“He’s an infectious disease specialist, and I’m just wheezing.”
“He’s your friend, you asshole,” Marcus snarked at him. “I am, too. So just suck it up. Now tell me what the hell happened.”
So Tony started from the beginning. Sometimes he had problems coming up with words—simple words—and he was aware of Marcus carefully watching every tell. He dealt with all the questions and examinations because Tony was super careful about his lungs and he could feel that something wasn’t good.
He wound up bundled in a wheelchair and taken down for x-rays and some pulmonary tests. Really, he desperately wanted a nap. At the earliest opportunity. And to feel dry again.
When they brought him back from pulmonology, he found Brad in the chair reading through Tony’s chart. He immediately got up and helped Tony to bed, even though Tony insisted he didn’t need it.
Brad sat by the bed, elbows resting on his knees, and watched Tony. “I wish you’d think of yourself sometimes,” he finally said.
“I’m sorry. I know you’re doing your job. But someone should have been looking out for you, too. It’s not all on you to make sure everyone but you is okay.”
“You and Marcus take care of me,” he remarked wryly. But suddenly, it was like something clicked, even with the foggy state of his brain.
“You look like you just had an epiphany.”
Tony frowned, trying to get his thoughts in order. “When does holding on to something pass from tenacious and determined, to just foolish?”
Brad blinked, but then his expression became closed off. He offered Tony a sad sort of smile. “‘It is better to love wisely, no doubt, but to love foolishly is better than not to be able to love at all.’”
His world view took another turn. “‘Some of us can’t, and are proud of our impotence, too’,” he finished the Thackeray quote.
“What happens when you’re tired of being the fool?”
Brad considered for a few seconds. “‘…you realize that people you’ve known forever don’t see things the way you do. So you keep the wonderful memories, but find yourself moving on.’”
Tony made a face. “Did you really just quote Nicholas Sparks at me?”
“Did you really recognize the quote?”
In response, Brad stuck a thermometer in his mouth. “You’re not going home tonight. I want to see how your lungs do.” He glanced at the digital readout. “96.2.”
“Marcus is my doctor,” Tony chastised gently. Maybe he was reading Brad wrong, but they needed some separation of roles here.
“Yeah.” Brad sighed, and retook the chair. “Sorry.” He pinned Tony with an intense look. “Are you really thinking about leaving?”
Tony nodded slowly. Maybe it wasn’t the right time to make life-altering decisions, but Tony hadn’t ever done things the easy way. “I’ve been holding on to something that… well, it’s not real, is it?”
“At the risk of quoting Thackeray again… ‘If fun is good, truth is still better.’”
“‘…and love best of all,’” Tony finished the quote again, wondering why Brad had left it out.
“All right, how did I not know this about you?” Brad asked, trying to change the subject.
“Most people don’t know me all that well. Not until you, Marcus, Jess, Alex… you’ve all changed things. Changed me.” He glanced away, and gave Brad one more quote. “‘I knew all along that the prize I had set my life on was not worth the winning.’”
“Ah hell, Tony.” He felt a warm hand on his face, encouraging him to meet Brad’s eyes. “I can catch you, I promise. You just have to let me.”
The soft brush of lips was his answer.
– – – –
The Big Short is a short-story challenge on Rough Trade based on thematic or character prompts. The maximum word count for themes is 1k, for characters it’s 2k. They are not beta’d. I re-read them looking for errors but that is all.
Each short story is complete as is. They will not be expanded on, there will be no sequels, they are probably not connected to anything else, and they are not intended to prompt other writers. If you find inspiration in them, that’s lovely, but please write your own thing. My works are not up for adoption.