Blue Steel
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When Abby said the word Plague, Ducky wanted to her to repeat herself. He wanted her to tell him she had NOT found the plague. Anthrax would have been better. Malaria, Typhoid, any of the other numerous ailments of the Middle Ages would have sufficed. Because, back then, by the time you found out that the person had the plague, you were burying him. Now, it's better, but not much. Especially with the nice little present we were given, in the form of a genetic mutation.

Ducky keep spouting statistics to everyone. He kept reminding himself that if he stayed busy that he wouldn't have to think. He don't want to think, not now, not about this. He know, better than any of his colleagues what hell young Anthony was going through. He know what was down the road for Tony and in a way he am glad that that road is short. He was glad death comes so quickly. He, they all, cared far too much for that young man to see him suffer like that.

Fifteen percent survival rate. Ducky had read that in one of those long-forgotten texts to which he kept referring. He had gone back and rechecked the figure, hoping that he had gotten it wrong. He had not.

Ducky had only one single regret with his relationship with Anthony. He had always considered Anthony something of a nephew. He appreciated the fact that Tony listened to his stories. Anthony had even told Ducky some great ones. True, Anthony was the most difficult patient Ducky had ever had. But since Ducky understood where the fear was coming from, he didn't mind, too much Anthony's reluctance to accept care. Almost three years after Anthony had joined NCIS he had been looking for a place to stay while his apartment was being fumigated. Anthony had, and Ducky had taken it as a hint that Anthony had wanted to stay with him, stated he didn't know where Ducky lived. Ducky had said then that he would prefer Tony didn't know. Ducky thought, for just a second, a look of hurt flashed across Tony's face.

Ducky had not meant it the way it had sounded. He had wanted to explain that to Tony. But he had not had the chance. But even at that time, he was being to see the signs. His mother, he believed, had Alzheimer's but it took years, sometimes, to diagnose. She tended to get confused easily and having visitors/company in the house only made things worse. Plus, the fact remained, it WAS her house, not his. He had just moved back in. It was shortly after his father had died and the signs of the disease had begun to show. Ducky had not wanted to expose Anthony to his mother's unpredictable moods and sometimes violent behavior. He hoped he would get the opportunity to explain all that to Tony.

Ducky had had to leave Autopsy. He had had to leave Gibbs and Tim behind. And there was, for just a second, a look of sheer unadulterated panic in Jethro's eyes. It jarred Ducky. He have never, ever seen the man so...lost...so helpless. Jethro tried to leave with Ducky. He can't and he knew it. But still he tried.

Up in Abby's lab, Ducky commented on the calligraphy contained in the letter. It was asinine he know, but the lettering was beautiful. Holding that letter, even through protective gloved hands made it more real. A little too real. Ducky had wanted to go back, back to Autopsy, back to the simple cases, back to the times before bio-weapons and terrorists. Back to the healthy Anthony, not the one whom, he knew, was waiting to die at Bethesda.

Ducky entered the isolation unit at Bethesda. He was floored at the sight before him. He had never seen a plague victim up close, and even the drawings in the texts he had poured over had not done the disease justice. Ducky was jerked out of his thoughts by the sounds of Tony's coughing. He looked up to see the nurse, the doctor, and Kate all around Tony's bed. Then seconds later Kate was out of the room sobbing in his arms that Tony was dying.

Ducky hugged Kate back. He spoke soothing words in her ear. The whole time watching Gibbs as he entered isolation and walked right up to Tony's bed. When Gibbs came back out, he saw Gibbs smile. It was a genuine smile. They both knew Anthony had a long way to go. Nobody was deceiving themselves there. But Ducky now had hope. After all, virus was dead, but Tony was not.

THE END