- Rough Draft
- Work in Progress
- Death - Minor Character
- Alternate Universe
- Canon Divergence
Agent Kate Todd watched the doctors and nurses surrounding her team mate’s bed. Tony DiNozzo’s breathing sounded horrid – raspy and wet. Gibbs had left after delivering an ultimatum to Tony to “live.”
And then Tony’s breathing worsened and his fever soared.
Kate was ushered out of the room and into Ducky’s arms. Activity continued at Tony’s bedside. Their actions had a frantic edge as they tried to alleviate the pressure on his lungs. Before they’d hid him from view, his lips had looked blue and they were calling words like “pulse-ox” and “cyanotic.”
“Doctor, he’s soaking the bed.”
“What?” The doctor, completely covered in protective surgical garb looked up at the nurse and then to the digital display. “His fever hasn’t broken.” With a sharp motion, he yanked at the sheet covering Tony’s abdomen. “This isn’t in his chart!”
“Call for a tank! This guy just got a chance. C’mon DiNozzo. Don’t give up on us.” The doctor started removing many of the leads attached to his patient. “Luckiest bastard I ever saw.” was murmured under his breath.
Kate watched helplessly as two of the nurses left the bedside; one went to the wall call unit, and one went to the doorway to await the tank. The third nurse started shutting off many of the beeping machines as they started wailing alerts. “Aqua Protocol, Isolation Room Six. Repeat, Aqua Protocol.” blared over the call system. Not two minutes later two orderlies moving quickly with a specialized gurney approached. They handed the gurney off to the nurses and left just as quickly as they’d arrived. The nurses wheeled the low gurney bearing a tank full of water right up to the bed Tony was wheezing on. By this point, Tony was naked, with only the catheter and IV still attached.
With a sharp “One. Two. Three.” They moved him smoothly to the tank with a small splash. Kate watched fascinated as Tony flailed a moment before his sides expanded smoothly and gills opened up by his rib cage. He was fully submerged and floating in the greenish water. As water was taken in through his mouth and pushed through the gills, a putrid yellow discharge clouded the water around him.
“Let’s get a sump and filter on this. No reason he should rebreathe that.” For the first time in ten minutes, the doctor relaxed a little. “Lets keep the water heated.” More equipment was snapped to the side of the tank. The motor clicked on with a loud hum, and the water started to move around Tony. Slowly, his skin pinked, the blue fading as oxygen flooded his system. An external heating system with digital readouts were slid into place over the bottom half of the tank.
“What just happened?” Kate asked, not really expecting an answer.
The doctor, Dr. Pitt, she remembered, focused on her. “Were you aware your co-worker is a Mer?”
“No.” Tony was a Mer?
“No.” Ducky echoed. Kate was surprised. She expected if anyone knew, either Gibbs or Ducky would. “He isn’t terribly forthcoming with personal information, I’m afraid.” Ducky gave Kate a last squeeze and let her go. “It looks like he’s out of the woods, as they say. I’d best get back.”
“Doctor.” Pitt looked steadily at Ducky.
“No one will hear it from me, dear boy. I am bound by the same confidentiality rules you are, after all.” Pitt nodded and let Ducky go.
“The Y. Pestis settled in his lungs when he breathed it in. His alternate physiology was trying to expel the infection because his lungs were compromised. He may yet get through this. If you didn’t know, and it’s not in his records, I’m going to have to restrict access to him while he’s in the tank.”
Kate nodded. “I’ll stay. I can give Gibbs updates from here. And he won’t be back until the case is over. My cold can’t affect him when he’s underwater, can it?”
Pitt smiled a little. “No. But no touching or tapping on the glass. Now his gills are working, his neutral bouyancy should keep him under, but call us if that changes – that can signal distress in Amphibians.”
“Can I ask?” It was tentative, as if she wasn’t certain of his response. Why does no one know? What made you keep it a secret? Is it really so bad if people knew?
Tony had spent the better part of forty-eight hours under water. Gibbs hadn’t been back, but Ducky updated him on Tony’s prognosis when the case neared completion. Kate had called him as well, to reassure him that while they were both healing, the pneumonia Tony contracted as part of the plague running its course he was still immunocompromised; Gibbs should keep the rest of the team away. Even she was relegated to outside his iso room.
Tony had regained consciousness thirty hours in and promptly panicked at finding himself in a tank. She’d tried to reassure him that he was healing well, but his eyes were wide and scared. He stayed under water, though, so he at least understood that keeping under was helping him heal. They’d finally let him surface, shower and dry off two hours before. They’d established him in bed with a raised head to help his air-breathing lungs. Pitt had been by to tease him gently for holding out, he also said that Tony’s alternate physiology was what would keep him in top fighting form – minimal scarring on his lungs and his breath sounds were now near normal.
Tony stared at the ceiling a moment. “I was born at home. I came a few weeks early during a massive nor’easter. The city was shut down – no one in or out. Mom was alone. I was born on the bathroom floor. She’s the only one who saw them. And she kept me out of the sea until I was old enough to understand why I should keep them a secret.”
He sighed. Two years before her death, when Senior was off chasing another doomed-to-fail get-rich-quick scheme, she’d taken him to an abandoned rocky shoreline, as private as she could make it. She had explained his alternate physiology, and what that meant. She’d then encouraged him to swim. He’d only ever swum in pools before, so the feeling of his gills unsealing for the first time was a revelation. And being able to breathe underwater was the best thing he’d ever experienced. In the water, he was weightless, free.
She’d also made sure he would never, ever tell his father he was Amphibian. Even now, he shuddered at the thought of what Senior would do with that information. For him to be Gilled, both his parents must have had one copy of the mutated gene. He needed a copy from each side to have passed on the mutated gene to him. After her death, Senior shipped him to boarding school and only laid eyes on his progeny when he needed something.
The ill-fated trip to Hawaii showed Tony another side of the Amphibian’s existence. On the Islands, the Gilled were celebrated and desirable. The cop who took care of him before Senior and his lawyers descended to take him home (and ship him off to the military academy to get him out of the way) had a Gilled son. His daughter was likely a carrier, but his son was an Amphibian. Tony learned more from John and his son Steve about what being Amphibian was all about. He still kept in touch with Steve.
“The nurse was surprised it wasn’t part of your record.”
“No reason for it to be. Genetic testing for Mers hasn’t been a thing for long. Not even Ducky knows. Knew.” Tony said.
Kate shook her head. “He told Dr. Pitt it falls under patient confidentiality. No one will hear it from him. Dr. Pitt wants to be your doctor of record because of the plague thing. Because the plague falls under national security, no one will know if you don’t want them to.” She paused. “I get why you hid it.” She’d witnessed the prejudice against the Gilled first hand when she was with the Secret Service. She knew that the Gilled made up not quite one percent of the world population. Their numbers had taken a hit during the Great War, and again during World War II. But the population came back – thanks in small part to the Island nations of the world where more and more being Gilled was seen as the preferred norm. Native women on the islands would readily mate with Gilled non-islanders in the hopes of strengthening the Gilled bloodlines with new blood.
Tony nodded. Patient Confidentiality. It would protect him, he knew that. And for all Kate needled him like a little sister, and he teased and aggravated her in turn, she would keep his secret.
“I’ll think about it.” He closed his eyes to end the conversation. Kate watched as his avoidance technique worked better than he’d intended and he fell asleep between one breath and the next. She silently vowed no one would learn of his “alternate physiology” from her.
A few weeks after that, Kate Todd was killed on the job by an assassin with a grudge.