WHAT'S WRONG WITH TONY?

By Lorraine Anderson

I don't remember when I noticed there was something wrong with Tony. I suppose it was when we were watching Gibbs nail the last suspect to the wall. Tony seemed to start back, then look into the interrogation room. "Does he always do that?"

I leaned forward to, trying to see what Tony obviously saw. I didn't see anything out of the ordinary. Mostly I saw Gibbs get into the perp's face. I looked at him critically, then looked over at Tony. He was watching Gibbs, fascinated. Which he does sometimes do, but this intense scrutiny seemed – odd.

My eyebrows rose. "Are you all right, Tony?"

I couldn't tell in the darkened room, but it almost looked like he blushed. "I guess I had never watched him interrogate… this way… before."

I looked at his head. He had taken a blow to the back of his head when we were taking this guy down; maybe he was hurt worse than he admitted. This would be odd, because he generally plays up any injury.

Experimentally, I said. "Does it remind you of a movie or something?"

"No." He looked over at me, puzzled. "Should it?"

I grabbed his arm. "That does it, Tony, we're going to see Ducky."

"Ducky?" He then looked like he regretted that he had asked.

"You know, Dr. Mallard?" I pushed him to the elevator. "The coroner?"

He gave me an odd look, but stayed quiet. We entered through the doors, and Ducky looked up with interest. "Ah, gentlemen, ready to meet our new victim?"

"Ducky, Tony seems to have a concussion."

He sobered at once. "McGee, sit Tony down over here."

"You're the coroner," Tony said. I noticed he started in a surprised tone, but the sentence ended up as a statement.

Ducky raised his eyebrows and looked at me. He caught the odd intonation as well. "That I am, dear boy, but I dare say I can tend to the living, as well."

Tony sat down quietly. Ducky ran his fingers over Tony's head gingerly – Tony winced once – then looked at Tony's eyes. He grabbed a flashlight to check the eyes' reactions, then sat back. "You do seem to be a bit off, Tony, but I don't see any medical problems. Do you have a headache? Any problems other than the one cut?"

"I have a cut?" He shook his head. "No. I seem to be a bit…"

Ziva ran into the room. "DiNozzo, McGee, Gibbs needs you right now!" Ziva led the way out of the room and into the elevator.

"What's up, Ziva?" I said.

She looked at Tony, who was looking at her – not with his normal expression, which was somewhere between lust and amusement – but with curiosity. "What?"

"Nothing," Tony said. "What's going on?"

"Gibbs wants us up into the control room, stat. A big muckity-muck…" I raised my eyebrows, not realizing that she knew that term "… came in, yelling for the boss. Then the director came down the stairs and led him and his wife to his office. This man is backed by the president, no less."

"What's the problem?"

The elevator door opened. "He won't say until we all get there."

"Gibbs or the muckity-muck?" We rounded the corner, and Tony stopped short. I thought I saw a name on his lips, then I looked at the man.

He was an older man. He looked somewhere around seventy or eighty, although his hair was still mostly dark. He was a short man, and seemed to be of Italian descent.

He was also yelling into Gibbs' face. Gibbs was just staring at him, but I could see his jaw flex as if he were keeping words from spouting out of his mouth - which meant that this visitor was a very important person indeed.

He didn't look like it. He was wearing red slacks, a neon red and white striped shirt, and a bolo. I looked at him closer. For some reason, he looked familiar.

There was an older woman next to him, who seemed to be pulling on his arm. "Al. Al. Stop."

He turned to the woman. "But Beth…"

"We just got here, dear. Remember, honey…"

"… is better than vinegar. I know."

"And they can't find Lizzie without some clues."

"Which nobody has yet provided," Gibbs said mildly. He looked at us. "Let me introduce my team."

Abby came up beside me, quivering with excitement. I wondered why. Too much Caff Pow?

Gibbs pointed at Abby, first. "This is our forensic specialist, Abby Sciuto."

"It's an honor, Admiral. Mrs. Callavici."

I opened my mouth, then shut it. Oh. That's why he looked so familiar. He was an astronaut! I overlaid the picture I had in my head on the old man in front of me. Oh. Yeah.

"… McGee." I almost missed my introduction and stuck my hand out. "Admiral. Ma'am." I said, almost coolly. Gibbs looked at me.

"Our newest member, Ziva David."

"Israeli?" The Admiral said.

Ziva smiled. "Former Israeli, and former Massad. Now I am a citizen."

Mrs. Callavici nudged him. "Next one, Al," she said, amused, as he held Ziva's hand just a little too long.

"And this is our senior field agent, Tony DiNozzo."

Tony seemed a bit reluctant to stick his hand out. He stared at Al, then his wife, then back at the Admiral.

"Tony," I said, "knocked his head on the last job. I had just taken him to Dr. Mallard…"

Gibbs looked at me. "Stick your hand out, Tony," he said dangerously.

Tony stuck his hand out. For a second, the two looked at each other, then Tony nodded his head while the Admiral stared. "I can see," he said slowly, "that you have a crack team."

He couldn't take his eyes off of Tony. I drew my eyebrows together.

"The Admiral's daughter is the wife of a solider in Afghanistan. And she seems to be missing."

The admiral turned back to Gibbs, a dangerous look on his face. "She is missing. She would not leave her little girl."

I saw Tony smile slightly and mouth "grandchildren." Then his eyes looked alarmed.

Gibbs looked at the Admiral. "We will need to see her house."

"Of course," Mrs. Callavici said. "We wish to help whatever way we can."

"How long has she been missing?"

"Since last night," the Admiral said.

"But the police think we should wait another 36 hours to report her missing," Mrs. Callavici said.

"Of course," I said.

The Admiral glared suspiciously at me.

"That's the police standard operating procedure," I explained. "I meant no more than that."

"DiNozzo, McGee. You go in the car with Admiral and Mrs. Callavici. I'll follow with Ziva."

For the first time, the Admiral's eyes crinkled with amusement. "Can you keep up, Gibbs?"

Gibbs smiled coldly. "Oh, I think so."

We were quiet all of the way to the car. As soon as we had all settled in, the Admiral started moving. Actually, moving is a misnomer – I felt like I had been shot out of a gun.

"Al," Mrs. Callavici said. "I think you're scaring the young people."

"Nonsense," he said. He glanced back at Tony and grinned. Tony grinned back. I looked at Tony. What the hell was going on with these two? My mind went over it and over it for a minute, then I concentrated on holding on.

About two seconds later – seems like – we pulled up to an apartment house. The Admiral stared up at it for a minute, then got out of the car. "Little Sammie is at the neighbors. You should probably talk to her."

Tony had raised his eyebrows. The Admiral nodded at him, smiling slightly. I said, as Gibbs pulled up behind us, "I believe that would be wise."

"What, McGee?" Gibbs said, getting out of the car.

Why do I always stutter before Gibbs? "Um… that we talk to the granddaughter, boss."

"How old is she, Admiral?" Gibbs said.

"Thirteen. Just old enough to think she knows better." He grimaced. His wife smiled sadly.

"Have you ever had children, Mr. Gibbs?" she said.

Gibbs face closed up. "Yes. A long time ago." He looked at her. "She's dead."

"I see."

Gibbs looked at her sharply. The Admiral caught the look. "Are you suspicious of my wife?" the Admiral bristled up.

"Al… no." She chewed her lip. "I'm sorry for your loss. I once thought I had lost Al to the Vietnam War."

"I see." Gibbs said. "It's my job, Admiral, to be suspicious of everybody."

I could tell the Admiral was calming down with an effort. Tony put a hand on his arm, and he looked up at him and nodded.

What was going on between those two? Was the Admiral Tony's long lost uncle?

The Admiral gave the key to Gibbs, and led us to the apartment. Gibbs opened the door.

"Do you think she was taken violently?" Gibbs said.

"The police don't think so. But I know my daughter – she wouldn't leave the apartment like this." He looked around. There were magazines on the side tables, and some on the floors. Some drawers were askew, but to my eye, it looked like a normal apartment, with a slight bit of clutter on the end tables and – from what I could see – the kitchen.

"Like what?" Gibbs said.

"My daughter was almost obsessive about clutter. She hated clutter, and she certainly wouldn't leave dirty dishes in the sink. I believe this apartment has been searched."

"Who discovered this?"

"We did," Mrs. Callavici said. "We were out with Sammie – we normally live in Arizona – and left the apartment before Lizzie left for work. We came back, and Sammie freaked out."

"And you checked her workplace."

"She never showed up at the pharmacy," the Admiral said. "We cleared out after checking just one thing."

"And what's that?" Gibbs said.

"The laundry. All of her pharmacy smocks are accounted for – Sammie knew how many she had, before you ask - and the pajamas she wore last night are missing."

Gibbs looked at him sharply. The Admiral looked as sharply back. "We will process the apartment," Gibbs said.

Tony cleared his throat. "I'd like to question the Admiral and his wife… boss."

Gibbs turned his jaw clenching. "Tony…"

"And I would like to talk to Mr. DiNozzo," the Admiral interjected smoothly. "I believe we may be related." Mrs. Callavici turned to look at him, puzzled.

"All the more reason…" Gibbs started.

"Remember who listens to me," The Admiral said.

Tony smiled, but it wasn't his usual grin. The smile seemed almost…sad.

Gibbs nodded, almost fierce looking. "McGee, Ziva, process the apartment. I'll talk to the girl."

The Admiral led Gibbs to the next apartment, then went down the hall with Tony. I looked at Ziva, sighed, and then we started looking around.

Usually, getting a look into other people's living spaces – other people's lives – interested me greatly. It was a great way to research for books while doing something I enjoyed, which was investigating. But my heart wasn't in it today; I truly wanted to be a fly on the wall in the hall.

"Ziva," I said quietly.

"Yes." She was looking at the floor, looking for anything out of place.

"Does Tony seem a bit off today?"

She hesitated a moment. "Yes. I have not heard a wise joke all day."

"Wise crack," I said automatically.

She looked puzzled, but took the correction. "Perhaps he is not feeling well."

I considered that a moment. "The last time I saw him this quiet, he was almost dead with the Bubonic Plague." I looked at the hall door, where I could hear low voices. "It's almost like he's a different person."

I closed my eyes. I don't normally go for eavesdropping, but this was getting much too weird. I moved towards the open door, all the while looking for anything out of place. I knelt down at the door.

"… doing here, Sam?"

"Sam?" Mrs. Callavici said. "Al…?"

"It's Sam, Beth. You remember what I told you?"

"Yes. Oh, my God."

"It's good to see you, Al," Tony said. "I would ask you how your family is, but…"

"Yeah. Has Sammy Jo joined us…?"

"Not… Oh, there you are." Tony said.

"Al?" Mrs. Callavici said.

"Sammy Jo's the Observer now."

The observer? I felt like I was coming in in the middle of the book. A very odd book.

"Sammy, where's…" Tony said. "I don't care that Ziggy's in a snit." He hesitated a minute. "She misses you, Al."

I could almost see the Admiral's head drop into his hand. "She knows why I had to retire," he said, almost gently.

Tony almost sounded like he was listening. "She would like a visit."

"As soon as we return." The Admiral hesitated. "How long for you?"

Tony hesitated. "Two weeks in my past."

"Damn. Really close." He hesitated. "I have to ask. How's the guest?"

Tony hesitated again. "Trying to push his authority. When he saw the mirror, he said something about body snatchers."

"Ah."

Huh? Now, the body snatcher crack sounded like Tony.

"Al," Mrs. Callavici said. "Our daughter?"

"Tell Ziggy I'll visit as soon as we get back. Then I'll shake her so hard her circuits will clack."

"Empty threats, Sammy Jo says," Tony said. They were quiet a second. "Sammy said that she's less than a mile away. Can you pinpoint…?"

They were all quiet.

"She says," Tony said, "she's tied into a chair. A woman is holding her at gunpoint. She's wearing a navy uniform, but it doesn't look authentic. Ziggy says that if we don't go, she'll be dead within the hour." He hesitated. "She knows you, and is holding her hostage to get you to see her."

How in the hell did Tony know that? Or was he feeding them a line? I needed to get out there before the Admiral tore him limb to limb. I straightened up, and was astonished to hear the Admiral say, "Sam, we need to get over there!"

"Not without us," I said, popping out the door, getting a startled glance from Ziva.

They looked at me. "Have you been eavesdropping?" Tony said.

"Only… the last part," I said smoothly, looking Tony in the eye. "If we need to go any place, you'll need backup."

Gibbs came up. "Backup for what?"

"Boss," I said, "we know where the daughter is being held."

I never thought I'd see Gibbs blink. "Where?"

I looked Tony in the eye. "Three quarters of a mile away. Warehouse. She's being held…" I never thought I'd see Tony pale like that, either "… because her captor believes that the Admiral here was involved in a time travel project."

Wait a minute. When was that said?

Gibbs barked a laugh. "Time travel. Right."

He turned as I saw Tony and the Admiral look at each other and smile. Holy…

"Where?"

"I'm going with you," the Admiral said.

Gibbs turned back. "You are not going with us. I am not going to be responsible…"

"I'm going, also," Mrs. Callavici said.

Gibbs opened his mouth, but it was like the unstoppable force met the unmovable object. Or like Godzilla met King Kong. Or something. Anyway, I never saw a man so small look so big.

Gibbs opened his eyes and shut his mouth. "Fine," he said. "So stay out of the way." He glanced at Ziva. "With me. Again."

Ziva was looking fascinated at the interplay between Gibbs and the Admiral. She nodded at the Admiral, admiration on her face. They exited the room. I glanced at Tony, then we all exited to the car.

While I was hanging on to the handle, I looked over at Tony. "You know, I remember reading about a friend of the Admiral's. A Doctor Beckett, I believe. His computer work is the basis of some of the technology we use today." Tony glanced at me. "One of my degrees is Computer Forensics," I explained. "I read that he had a theory about time travel, called the string theory. That one could time travel through one's own lifetime."

"Really," Tony said. He glanced at the Admiral and Mrs. Callavici.

I sighed. Much as I would like to take this conversation to the logical conclusion, now was not the time. I suspected it would never be the time.

We stopped in front of a warehouse. "Let me take point," I said. "Where is she?"

God, it sounded so much like Tony, but it didn't. "An office, one floor up." He pulled his gun, stared at it distastefully.

"Like I said." I saw Gibbs and Ziva rush up. "Gibbs and Ziva will take point. Boss, they're one floor up."

"You'll be safe downstairs." Tony looked to one side, as if he were listening to something. "On the other hand, maybe you should be right behind us."

"Tony?" Gibbs said.

"He's right," the Admiral said.

I thought Gibbs was going to blow a gasket. "Civilians should not be on a raid."

"This one will."

"And I'll be right behind them," I said.

"We have to hurry," Tony interrupted. Gibbs started to glare at him, but Tony didn't see it. He rushed past the group into the warehouse, followed by the Admiral.

Gibbs swore, then rushed past them. I followed closely. By sheer force of will, I outpaced all of them, getting to the stair first. Gibbs glared at me, and I said a silent "sorry, boss" then headed up the stairs. If, as I suspected, that Tony was not Tony, I needed to be there, because the other choices to lead into the room were a fifty-something year old scientist, and a seventy-something year old former astronaut. And my fifty-something year old boss, but I would follow Gibbs any place.

Ziva pushed beyond me and peered into the room. She raised her gun…

"Don't kill her," the Admiral whispered.

Ziva lowered her gun and stared at the Admiral, wide-eyed.

The Admiral looked at Tony. "I think I know her."

Ziva looked at me and closed her mouth with a snap. "How did he know it was a her?" she whispered to me as the Admiral pressed past us. He opened the door.

"Teresa? Honey?"

"Al?" said a broken tiny voice. She sounded young. I peered into the door. "You came?"

"I told you I would come back and visit you, didn't I?"

"But… you didn't."

"I'm sorry. Things happened. But I'm here now." He looked at the other woman, tied in a chair. "Why did you take my daughter?"

Teresa dropped into a chair. "Is that your daughter?" She peered at the other woman. "No, it can't be. Aren't I your special girl?"

Tony pushed up past me, too. She peered at him. "You're here, too?"

Tony looked at the Admiral. "Yes," he said at his most placating voice. "I'm here, too."

"Am I in trouble?"

Tony cocked his head to one side, as if he was listening. "You haven't been taking your medicine."

She pouted. "I hate my medicine. Things are all fuzzy on my medicine. When I'm on my medicine, I can't see that she's a monster."

The Admiral chewed his lip. "She's my – daughter."

Teresa glanced at her. "She can't be. You just think she's your daughter."

"She is," Tony said.

"What happened?" The Admiral said to Tony. "Did we do this?"

Gibbs made a strangled noise. I looked at the boss. "Boss – I'll never beg for anything again. Trust them. Please." He glanced at my face. I don't know what I looked like, but this may be the only time he backed off.

"Just this once, McGee," he said.

"We didn't do this, Al," Tony said. "Sometimes it happens. She just needs her medications."

"No."

Al continued to stare at her. "Remember the dinosaurs, Teresa? Remember me singing you a song?"

"That was a long time ago."

"I know."

"Do you remember the song?"

She leaned her head forward, her long hair concealing her face. "Yeah."

The Admiral moved forward. "Inchworm, Inchworm, measuring the marigolds…" He reached her and enfolded her in his arms. She dropped her gun, and I rushed in to pick it up. In the meantime, Tony moved over and freed the other woman from her bonds. Mrs. Callavici rushed into the room and took her daughter into her arms.

"Oh, Mom," the woman said, as she looked over at the Admiral and Teresa. "I was so scared." She looked puzzled. "Does this have something to do with …"

"Dad's work? Yes, dear."

"Okay."

She led her daughter down the stairs.

"We need to take her away, Admiral," Gibbs said gently.

"I'll take her down," the Admiral said. "I believe Teresa needs to go to the hospital."

"I agree," Gibbs said. If Gibbs had a gentle side, it was with young women and with Abby. And, I suspect, occasionally Ziva. I think they reminded him of his daughter and what he had lost. "Ziva, go with him."

As soon as everybody was out of earshot, Gibbs turned to Tony and me. "Okay, would either one of you like to explain just what went on here?"

Tony looked at me. I could see a begging look in his eyes. I looked at Tony. "There was… a computer in ….. the apartment. I found what was going on from… a diary."

"A diary." He turned to Tony. "And how did you know where she was?"

"GPS," I interrupted. "He called Abby, and Abby told him the coordinates of her cell phone."

"Yes." Tony smiled. "GPS."

"And how did you know about the medication?"

"Abby again," Tony said. "She told me that Teresa was schizophrenic."

I was going to have to get to Abby fast to make sure she would lie for us.

Gibbs pursed his lips, like he didn't believe us. I knew it bugged him – he was almost supernatural when he caught us in a lie – but there was no way I was going to tell him what I suspected. And, if what I suspected was the truth, it was buried in codes so deep that not even Abby or I could uncover them.

After we saw Teresa and the Admiral's daughter into the hospital, the Admiral grasped Tony's wrist. He looked him in his eyes. "Thank you. For everything." He glanced at Beth.

"You remember?"

"Yes. Took a little while to sort it out." He nodded. "Take care of yourself." He glanced at the waiting group – us.

"I will."

"Come back."

"When I'm done." He nodded.

The Admiral nodded back.

"Second cousins," I said to Gibbs and Ziva.

"Right," they both said together.

It was a quiet trip back to headquarters. We walked into our offices, Tony last. He sat down in his office and tried to look busy.

Abby hustled up. "I heard that Tony was hurt."

"Not this time, Abby, the last time."

She looked around. "You didn't bring the Admiral back?"

Tony looked to his side again. "I'm sure we can arrange – something. We're kinda second or third cousins, you know."

"You can? Oh, could you? Please?" She went up to hug Tony, then she stood back and blinked. I could see her say "Dr. Beckett?", then she shook her head. "Tony?"

"Sammy Jo," he said to his side. "She can see me…" Then he was still for a moment. Tony – and I had a feeling it was really Tony now – shook his head. "Abby? What happened? I was dreaming I was in a big white room…"

Gibbs put his head in his hand. "This team had better be back to normal tomorrow. I think I had better…" He got up and rapidly exited the room.

"Yeah," Tony said. "Me, too. I think I need to go home."

"Do you need help?" Ziva said.

He grinned the old Tony grin. "Are you going to help me into bed?"

Ziva threw an eraser at him. "You're back to normal, anyway."

Abby turned to me. She looked whiter than she normally looked. "Timothy?" she said in a small voice.

"I'll take you home."

"Don't do anything I wouldn't do!" Tony said. But there was still a quaver in his voice.

"Leaves me a lot of latitude, doesn't it?"

He pointed his finger and cocked his head. I entered the elevator with Abby. "Have you ever heard about Dr. Beckett's string theory?" I said when the doors closed.

She looked up at me and opened her mouth, then closed it again. She nodded slowly.

"I have a feeling your life might get interesting in a couple of weeks…" I told her.

I hoped.

"Anyway, this is what I told Gibbs you told me. Just in case he asks."

"Lie to Gibbs?" Her voice looked doubtful.

"For the greater good?"

She nodded slowly, then smiled and shook her head. "For Dr. Beckett."

This was so cool!

END