DISCLAIMER: NCIS: Not mine...yet.

THIS was to have been a one-shot offering, but alas, the Ghosts of FanFic Past had their way with me...

SPOILERS? Twilight, and the five FFN entries reverently referenced here (can you find them all?) More of this will make sense with each of the five you've read. Thanks to the five intrepid Authors who posted the stories–couldn't have done this without you.

Wee Hours
(Or, Nocturnal Reminder
)

NCIS:

Later.

Tony DiNozzo found himself praying he'd gone insane.

Twenty minutes ago he was praying for just the opposite. He'd been so sure that the dreams haunting him were somehow real, and not just dreams, but he'd never expected this hell. Either someone would come tell him he was a victim of one of those infernal reality shows, and boy would he kill whomever engineered all this, or Rod Serling would pop up in a corner, the room would go all black and white and we'd all learn he was in the Twilight Zone...or Ducky would decide he was insane. Yep, at the moment he decided that being insane was his best choice: they had medications for that...

But in the mean time, he was still an investigator, and investigators craved answers. Stubbornly believing that he wouldn't find answers more disturbing than the ones Ducky tried to give him just now, he ran upstairs toward the bullpen and his desk, hoping to find McGee for some answers–or, in a pinch, his own computer for a bit of reality check.

Even mid-day, the whole room was eerily silent and empty, sun streaming in the windows, but computers and television still up and blinking in cheery quiet. Was it Saturday already? A long holiday weekend, even for them: had he passed out somehow, in Ducky's office, and lost time somewhere? What time was it, anyway? What day?

Flopping into his chair he called up the office home page to get his bearings and see what he might find, to give him a start on this thing–

..and noticed at the desk across from him, the picture of casual ease, Caitlin Todd– healthy, vital– leaning back and filing her nails in a pose of indolence so apathetic to her surroundings it bordered on insubordination.

...well, maybe the gaping hole in the middle of her forehead had slowed her down a bit...

Uncharacteristically speechless, DiNozzo got up slowly to come around in front of her, lifting a shaky arm out straight, finger pointing to the red, round evidence still bright and obvious in the middle of her forehead. Finally, he sputtered, "Kate... what...? you're..." He gulped. "The...thing...between your eyes, there..."

She didn't break stride in her work but said calmly, "It's a bindi, Tony. You know, a bindi–from the Sanskrit." When he continued to gape silently, she just rolled her eyes and said, "Look, I don't mind you standing there just gaping, but do something about that dog...he's drooling on the carpet...or at least I hope that's drool..."

He glanced down to see a huge, pony-of-a-dog leaning against him, looking up expectantly and wagging his tail very gently. He suddenly felt off balance and queasy with the memory that he'd been in this nightmare before... Tony drew a deep breath to fight the nausea and tried to keep up his end of the banter. "...a bindi..." He repeated, reaching out to grab the desk beside him, suddenly unable to stay on his feet without help. The monster at his side seemed to take note of it, and pressed a bit closer...

"Well, what do you want from me? It can't be Ash Wednesday every day. Besides," she let her hand lift to her forehead briefly in the first indication she'd given that a bullet to the forebrain was anything more than a passing inconvenience. "The ashes are messy, and...well, they don't really fool anyone..." She finally looked up from her nails and gazed at him, appraising. "Tony–you don't look too good–c'mon, sit down..." She got up from her desk to come alongside him, and with seeming practice, guided him back toward his desk, the drooling pony never leaving his other side. "Does Gibbs know you're here?"

Overwhelmed with the sudden weakness he felt, he tried dropping into the chair but felt one leg refuse to bend–almost like when he'd had that cast on the leg he'd broken, skiing. With a frown, he reached down to find a heavy, stiff brace keeping his leg stretched forward. "What...what is this?" he looked back up to Kate, in horror...

"Stop it, DiNozzo, you're scaring me," Kate frowned, kneeling in front of him and deftly working some joint at his knee–suddenly his knee bent to drop his leg to the floor, limply. "I thought you were going to stay home this week, you know–catch up bit on your rest."

But he wasn't listening, eyes unable to tear away from the round, red circle in the middle of her forehead. Nearly a perfect circle, too...and unable to stop himself, he found himself raising shaking finders to touch it, gingerly... and his hand flew back as if burned. "That's no bindi," he whispered. "Kate, you died. You're dead. I saw it. I saw you; I..." The memory of her blood and–he gulped–other fluids splashing him made his stomach flip yet again. Insanity–that's it, he decided, his eyes tightly shut. I'm as insane as I was when I was locked up in that room...drinking that godawful rusty water; I still have the scars from that one, I know... He opened his eyes to peer down at his forearms, then started to raise his shirt and trace his fingers along his hip; the scars were there, they had to be; it was how he marked the time...

"Tony, do I look dead?" Kate tried to reason with him. "C'mon, you saw the story, didn't you? Just grazed my temple, a bit of blood loss, a few days off..."

"Kate, your temple's here!" Tony yelled, touching the side of her skull then moving to poke at the offending fenestration. "...but the damn hole in your head is here..."

"Ow; careful..." She pulled back, irritated with his agitation, but then sat back on her heel, suddenly realizing, "Hey–your vision really cleared up, didn't it? You couldn't even see the hole a few days ago...that's great, Tony."

She was smiling. Oh, Mother of Mercy, she was in front of him, smiling happily for him, a hole in her forehead, his stomach lurching for dear life–and his vision suddenly swam alarmingly, fuzzing the edges of everything in front of him. "Oh, God..."

"Damn it, DiNozzo, why are you here? I left you at home; you promised you'd get some rest..."

Tony managed to squint upward to see that the Icy Hues had returned, as if to haunt him again. Something was terribly wrong, wrong with his body and his vision and his mind; and what frightened him more was that he was certain this wasn't the first time. It was as if not only his personal time line in the universe was doubling back on itself, becoming scrambled, but that five or six parallel universes had suddenly been thrown into a bucket and mixed up all together...

"Gibbs..." he croaked. "You knew I was here. I just saw you upstairs, with Ducky, in his office..."

"Ah, you're confused again, lover..." And Tony knew he was completely over the edge when Gibbs did a very un-Gibbs-like thing: he knelt before him, smiling softly, and let his hand trace along Tony's thigh in affection and warmth... "We should get you home..."

"I'm not confused, damn it! It's the dreams! Or the–whatever they are." With the sudden surge of anger, Tony sat upright, willing strength back into his limbs. "This is crazy! I am not your lover–my vision is 20/10, just as it's always been–Kate is dead–sorry, Kate," he added, with an honest glance of regret, to her, "and I am just fine." He stood suddenly, firmly, glaring down at Gibbs with his jaw jutted stubbornly and his vision as clear as ever. The pony and brace had mysteriously disappeared.

"Bravo, Anthony." Tony turned quickly to see Ducky's image swimming like the head of Oz on the large plasma screen across the room. "You're starting to fight back."

"From what–insanity?" Tony asked, suddenly uncertain before the doctor, needing answers to the madness.

"Good Lord, no!" Dr. Mallard snorted. "You're starting to see that we have a bit of control after all... at least we can mix our realities, engage in a cross-over of sorts: They may be manipulating science and psychology and all other aspects of the physical universe, but if They can do it, so can we."

Tony knew that he'd come to a Great Truth, a cosmic secret that might restore some balance to the universe. With a deep breath, he asked, "Who are 'They,' Ducky, do you know?"

"Why, they're legions of hopeful writers with sublimated passions and thinly veiled fetishes..." Ducky mused. "They could be your neighbor, your doctor, your lover, your lawyer...they could be you..." Tony frowned at the words. "The details may appear as you live out each life given you, or they may not. You're not likely to ever know it all. But once you're used to the idea, it's not so bad–and with a little practice, you might come to enjoy it. Just think–" the doctor shrugged. "Where else can you get together with your cousin when you're both young and the subjects of so many stories?"

At his puzzled look, Ducky nodded past Tony, encouraging him to look behind him. As he turned, DiNozzo saw a bespectacled, spiky haired man about his age approach him in a wheelchair, green eyes dancing. Tony thought he looked familiar...until he realized with growing confusion that the man was his doppelganger. Stopping before him and rubbing his bristling chin, the visitor grinned up at him. "Well, come on, cuz, we don't have all day–and trust me, we don't want to keep Max waiting."

Mouth dry, unable to process it all at once, DiNozzo simply nodded. "I'll get my coat."

Logan's smile widened happily, and he looked around as Tony leaned in to grab his jacket. "Lots of nice computer equipment in here," he murmured. "Think you could give us a tour, later on?"

Tony nodded again, still trying to rationalize all the fragmented parts of his life being thrown together in this crazy quilt. "Yeah. The parts that aren't classified."

"Yeah, right," his cousin laughed. "'Eyes Only' and that sort of thing. I'm familiar with the idea."

Gibbs watched silently as DiNozzo and his cousin moved off, toward the elevator.

"Jethro...?"

"Mmmm?"

"What are you thinking?" Ducky's voice fell over the otherwise silent bullpen.

"I'm just imaging bookends...an ice cream sandwich...doubling my pleasure..." Gibbs turned to grin up at the image on the plasma.

"Shouldn't be long now–I understand slash cross-overs are 'in' during summer hiatus." Ducky turned his back to the room. "Til then...I believe I'll go see what Abigail is up to..."