Discalimer - Not mine. If they were I'd include all the bits the writers always seem to leave out.

AN - This story has a slight spoiler for a certain event in my story "A day to remember" but its not necessary to have read that first. All wil be made perfectly clear.

Timothy McGee checked his watch as he waited impatiently for the elevator to ascend, counting down the small illuminated numbers of if the very act could will the car to go faster. Not that he was that late. But first he'd overslept and then he'd spilt egg on his clean shirt at breakfast and had to change. They might not have a hot case right now, however, on Gibbs' team being anything but early was unacceptable.

"Come on." Agitated and anxious to avoid the piercing glare and acerbic comments that would greet his tardiness he bounced a little on his toes, as if that might actually speed things up.

At last, the elevator dinged its arrival and the doors slid open to reveal the bull pen, Ducking down slightly as he scooted around the partition McGee breathed a sigh of relief to see that Gibbs' desk was presently un occupied. The jacket slung over the chair and the cup of coffee cup already in the trash were testament to his presence in the building but, if McGee was lucky he'd had been away from his desk long enough not to notice his junior Agent has only just made it in.

"Where is he?" Even as he slung his backpack in the corner and threw himself into his chair, powering up his computer, McGee cast an anxious glance at Ziva, already leafing through a file, the sheaf of notes at her elbow and empty juice cup all testament to her early arrival.

"He went up to speak with the Director."

McGee breathed a sigh of relief. There was a God. And there was still hope that his deriliction of duty might go unremarked.

"How long?"

"Five minutes." Ziva shrugged.

"Five minutes?" McGee winced, with a guilty look at the clock. He was at least twenty minutes lack by Gibbs' standards. The ex-marine didn't tolerant slackness on his team and, due to an unfortunate series of circumstances that McGee knew wouldn't cut any ice with his Boss this was the second time he had been late this week. "He's going to have me scrubbing the Head with a toothbrush, isn't he?"

"I don't think you need to worry." Ziva assured him. "He probably won't even notice that you are late."

"Won't notice?"

The second word came out as a rather undignified squeak, which drew, glances from across the bullpen. McGee flushed slightly and took a breath to calm him before continuing in a smooth hiss. "Ziva, this is Gibbs we're talking about he notices everything."

"Yes, but .."

The Mossard Officer didn't get a chance to finish as the man in question swept down the stairs and around the corner, crushing his coffee cup with more than usual force and sending it in a perfect arc towards a nearby trash can, even as he scowled in the direction of a conspicuously empty desk.

"Where the hell is, DiNozzo?"

Following his line of sight McGee realised that not only was Tony's desk empty. His backpack was missing. His jacket wasn't slung around his chair. There was no Styrofoam cup and breakfast burrito wrapper littering his desk and his computer was dark and totally silent.

"Tony's late."

As soon as the words were out of his mouth McGee realised that the note of glee in his voice was not in keeping with their Boss' mood. If looks could kill the glare Gibbs sent in his direction would have reduced him to a small pile of smouldering ashes in the blink of an eye.

"I tried his home and his cell," Ziva rose to her feet. "No answer."

"What else?" Gibbs asked.

"Nothing," Ziva looked down at her notes. "There are no reports of any hold ups on the freeways, no construction work that would have varied his route, no reports of RTAs on his usual route in the last 2 hours. There's no reason for him to be late."

"Except, do you see him anywhere here, Officer David?"

"Its not that late," McGee offered. "Maybe, he overslept. Or maybe, he met a girl last night and ended up at her place. The drive in might be taking him longer than he thought. Or perhaps, he decided to try that new bakery down the block he was talking about yesterday and had to wait in line."

"Any of that what happened to you, Special Agent McGee?"

Gibbs pointed look told McGee that no matter how much trouble Tony was in; he still wasn't off the hook. But for now he was saved from having to explain himself by the ding of the elevator doors opening. Three pairs of eyes turned to look as Special Agent Anthony DiNozzo stepped out.

"Perhaps, I should go and see if Abby has the results of those tests." One glance at the fury on Gibbs face was enough to have Ziva improvising quickly as she began to back out of range.

"I had better go and see if finance has that requisition form I needed." McGee rose to his feet, anxious to be as far away from the impending carnage as possible, in case he got caught in the fallout.

"Stay." Gibbs commanded, his voice low and soft and all the more intimidating for it.

Exchanging an anxious glance, Ziva and McGee stood reluctantly rooted to the spot as DiNozzo approached. He was wearing a crumpled dinner jacket and a bow tie, hanging loose around his neck over a formally crisp white dress shirt, now crinkled and half un-tucked. His hair stuck out at odd angles and there was a smear of lipstick on his collar.

"You'd better have a dammed good explanation, DiNozzo."

Afterward, McGee would realise that it was a testament to Gibbs' faith and trust in his senior field Agent that he actually gave him the opportunity to explain, before simply laying into him. At the time, all he registered was the intimidating undercurrent of fury in the ex-Marine's voice.

"Sorry Boss. Won't happen again," Tony answered somewhat distractedly. Then he blinked and seemed to take in his surroundings for the first time. "Um, what are we talking about?"

McGee mentally braced himself for the explosion. Across the room he could see Ziva's hand creeping towards her desk phone, probably to call Ducky to clear up the blood. Or at the very least, to ask the MD to act as calming oil on Gibbs tempestuous waters, before he went too far.

Instead, Gibbs narrowed his eyes, taking in the slightly rasping breath of his senior field Agent and the pale greenish tinge to his skin. Despite DiNozzo's best efforts he was swaying slightly and looking oddly disorientated.

"Ziva .."

"Calling Ducky .." Ziva was already dialling.

"DiNozzo, sit down."

"No, s'OK I'm fine."

Tony shook his head vigorously, only to turn sheet white and visibly swallow his nausea with a supreme effort. Even so, McGee nudged the trash basket a little closer to him with his foot.

"Or, maybe not."

The sheer misery in Tony's voice caught all their attention. DiNozzo might whine and complain and the small things. But he faced the large things with a mixture of stoicism and deliberation deflection and misdirection, hiding his feelings so effectively, that more than once had forced Gibbs to fight him to a stand still to get a straight answer. This vulnerability was something new.

"Sit." Gibbs ordered, not unkindly.

He took his senior field Agent by the arm and steered him to his desk. As he sank into his chair the movement caused the younger man to wince in agony and he buried his head in his hands with an audible groan.

"Headache?" McGee hazarded. "I've got some painkillers in my desk."

Tony looked up, a ray of hope flickering across his face, as if McGee was indeed his saviour. Only to have his face fall into a crestfallen look as Gibbs intervened.

"No, I don't want him to have anything until Ducky gets here."

"Boss." Tony pleaded, looking up at him with wide eyes, like a dying man asking for water.

"Suck it up, DiNozzo. You don't get anything but air until Ducky OK's it."

"If this is just a hangover, Gibbs is going to kill him." McGee murmured, sotto voice to Ziva.

"Tony might be a goofball," Ziva shook her head. "But he would never turn up for work with a hangover. Not one that was self inflicted anyway."

"You think someone might have done this to him?" McGee's concern went up another notch. That possibility hadn't occurred to him. But then his ex-girlfriends weren't the type to egg his car, put him on the herpes website, or spike his drinks. "Wouldn't he have noticed?"

"Not necessarily." Ziva answered, never taking her eyes off her partner.

McGee swallowed hard and wondered, not for the first time, if he really wanted to live in a world inhabited by people who did such things, or even work alongside those who knew how such things were done. His parents hadn't raised him to be a spy.


The urgency in Gibbs' voice was matched by his actions, as he caught his senior field Agent as he began an inexorable slide towards the floor and bodily heaved him back into his seat, keeping his hands on him for fear of a repeat. Tony looked up at his Boss with a fond, almost goofy smile as he patted the hand on his shoulder gently.

"Thanks Boss. You always got my sick." He slurred slightly, frowning before correcting himself. "Six."

"He's pretty out of it," Gibbs observed to no-one in particular. Not wanting to let go, in case the younger man decided to take another dive, Gibbs looked at his junior Agent. "McGee, check his pockets."

"Um," Tim hesitated, his mind already alive with the unpleasent possibilites that he might discover inthe pockets of Tony's dress suit after a hot and heavy date. Not to mention, what the man's reaction would be in this state to being groped. "Wouldn't it be better if Ziva ..?"

"I didn't ask Ziva, Special Agent McGee," Gibbs snapped. "I asked you."

"Yes, Boss," McGee stepped bravely forward. "What exactly am I looking for Boss?"

"Painkillers," Gibbs informed then. Regrettably, he had rather too much up close and personal knowledge of DiNozzo's reaction to a braod spectrum of pain relief medication and there were certain types which had clear side effects. "He gets like this sometimes."

"No," Tony waved McGee away. "Not a problem. The Paramedics said I was goo to go."

That had Ziva and McGee looking at each other with sharp attention. Paramedics? McGee mouthed the word. Ziva shrugged, before turning her attention back to the scene unfolding before them.

"DiNozzo, look at me." Gibbs ordered, waiting until Tony had settled his semi-focused gaze on some point around his left ear before continuing. "Why were you so late this morning?"

Tony blinked, obviously giving the question the serious and ponderous consideration it deserved. Gibbs simply waited, allowing him the space to gather his fragmented thoughts together. When it finally came, the answer wasn't want anyone expected.

"My Goldfish died." Tony pronounced solemnly.