Chased By The Shadows

Distancing himself from people used to come easy to Tony. It was a coping mechanism that had helped him through tough times. After spending a regretful night at Gibbs' house he decided he needed to get out of his own head. People had their own grief to deal with so the last thing they needed around was him adding to things.

Fortunately, an old friend was living not too far from Tony's apartment. The friend didn't usually need a big excuse to go out drinking. Therefore rarely turned down a party night.

"I was surprised you came around, Tony," Andrew spoke loudly in order to be heard over the loud music being played.

"You know…" Tony twirled the bottle around in his hands allowing the dampness to rub off. He forced a smile out to hide the real reason why tonight was the perfect night to drink and forget. Even a temporary solution sounded good. "NCIS knows how to keep its agents busy," he said.

"How's being a federal agent working for you?" Andrew looked his friend up and down. "Looks like you're still looking as thin as," he observed.

Tony watched some people dancing and felt his cell vibrating. He wasn't sure why he decided to bring it with him. Abby's name flashed on the small display. He slightly shook his head before pocketing the cell. "Someone important?" Andrew laughed.

"Just some person at work," Tony answered. He had come to the conclusion that there was no better prevention to heartache than distance.

"You shouldn't be drinking if you're on call," Andrew stated. Not that it was any real concern to him.

"Not on call. Just someone who likes to keep tabs on people," Tony responded with a slight laugh. Word probably got around and the Goth more than likely was just doing her job.

"Another drink," Tony called to a waitress who was passing by. He looked over the bottle and waited with a heavy sigh.

Andrew noted that Tony seemed to turn quiet as he cleared his throat. It wasn't like he was overdoing the drinking. Compared to his usual drinking this was pretty tame. He coughed a couple of times to get the itch out of his throat. The more he tried, the worse it got as he gripped the side of their table and coughed hard to dislodge the irritation.

"You alright there, Tony?" Andrew queried. He was half interested and half interested in the girls that walked by.

"Just… think that the beer… went down the wrong way," Tony said as he caught his breath. Coughing fits was something that he hadn't totally gotten rid of but they were not as severe. At least he was no longer passing out.

"You getting slack in your old age," Andrew laughed.

Just to prove his friend wrong he took a long drink until he needed to come up for air. "Ahhh," he exaggerated the ah. That caused another laugh and a shake of the head. "A Frat boy never dies… They just hibernate," Tony told him. Not that he had spent a lot of time hibernating.

"Hey… Take a look at her," Andrew extended his finger to point out a young red head. She was dancing around with a couple of her female friends. No male dancers had approached the girl's vicinity.

Tony considered this only for a moment. Then thought it wasn't such a bad idea. A good fuck was probably what he needed to take his mind off everything. The world around him went fuzzy and Tony felt like he was falling sideways.

"Turned into a bit of a lightweight?" Andrew stood beside him.

"Nah," Tony responded. The alcohol had snuck up on him. Maybe catching up on old times meant that he had been drinking more without realizing it. That seemed to be the way to chase everything away. He licked his dry lips before entering the dance area.

Xxxxxxxx

Tony's Apartment

Usually, driving around over the limit with a federal agent in the passenger seat wouldn't be a bright idea. But when his friend kind of flaked out and began trying to get half the unattached women to either go home with him or get a hotel room. It would've been just like old times if Tony didn't seem so out of control.

"Stay there," Andrew rummaged through Tony's backpack after leaning him against the wall. He finally found the keys.

"Right…" Andrew said as he got the door open. "Let's get you into the bedroom," he explained what he was going to do.

"Sorry, Andrew Buddy but I don't swing that way," Tony peered around to see the red blurry lights flash on his answering machine. He had some messages for sure. "Can you order the room to stop spinning?" He asked.

Andrew shook his head and guided his drunken friend to the bedroom. Tony slumped backwards onto the bed without argument. "How much did you drink?" Andrew asked. Maybe it was some sort of alcohol poisoning and he wondered if he should take him to the emergency room.

He put the backpack onto the couch and he heard the rattling coming from inside. Curiosity and boredom told him to peek inside. He didn't think twice about doing so and it wasn't long until his hand grasped the pill bottle. In order to read the small-print label, Andrew took out a pair of glasses from his chest pocket.

"Oh man," he leaned his head back and sighed. The antibiotic dosage was high and that mixed with alcohol more than likely caused the erratic behavior of Tony's erratic behavior. That was when he decided it would be better to wait until morning before going home.

Xxxxxxxx

Andrew felt as if he had just closed his eyes when he heard the sound of feet running across carpet. Then there was the familiar sound of someone paying homage to the porcelain God. He wiped his face with his hands and checked his watch. It was just after six in the morning.

"How'd I get home?" Tony slightly staggered into the living area. His head was pounding and his stomach was empty.

"Had to bring you home," Andrew stood up. He adjusted his jacket and sniffed the sleeve of his jacket. "I really need to go home and change. I smell of cigarette smoke and sweat," Andrew stated.

Tony rubbed his forehead with his forefinger. "You didn't have to stay. You shouldn't have stayed," Tony told him. His mind was trying to find the pieces that were missing from the previous night. He remembered talking to a couple of women on the dance floor. He remembered flirting. But then he remembered waking up at home. "What the hell happened last night?" He asked. It was meant to be a rhetorical question.

"Guess mixing your scripts and alcohol wasn't a good idea. Part of me thinks you already know that," Andrew didn't feel the need to elaborate any more.

"Oh… I didn't think about that," Tony didn't bother questioning how his friend knew.

A knock on the door interrupted their conversation. Tony grimaced as his head felt like it was echoing the knocking. "Wait a moment," He called out to the person at the other side of the door. "Well it was nice catching up… We should really do this again real soon," Tony smiled as they approached the door.

"Right," Andrew responded as the door was opened to reveal Abby waiting impatiently. "Anyway… I must be off," he said as he gave a courteous nod to Abby before disappearing down the hall.

Xxxxxxxx

"Good morning, Abby," Tony greeted with as much enthusiasm as his growing headache would allow.

Abby wasn't in the mood for pleasantries. Not until she got a reasonable explanation at least. "I called a few times to see how you were doing… Both on your cell and landline. I see you haven't checked any of the messages… And I see you've slept in your clothes which tells me you were either really sick or just been up most of the night… And who was that?" Abby had looked around the apartment and saw that there were five messages on the machine.

Tony finally felt the opportunity to speak once again. "I was out last night," he felt the urge to defend his actions. "Met up with a friend," he pointed to the doorway indicating that that was who left. "So I had a couple of beers and didn't hear my cell," he said.

"You look dreadfully pale, Tony," Abby observed.

Guess I would be. "Had a couple of drinks. I must've drunk more than I thought. You know how it is. You know what I'm like," Tony smirked mischievously. It was more of a slight tease. It was similar to the 'you gotta love me' smile he used when he first started.

"Just, you know, you were at Gibbs. I know you've been down and we were worried about you," Abby nervously rubbed her wrist. When getting on that personal level it was hard to ascertain how Tony would react.

"I'm fine, Abby," Tony said with a straight face.

At times you couldn't take Tony at his word. Those who knew him, knew and accepted this and dug a little harder. "Tony," she said in a disbelieving tone. Those who thought Gibbs was the toughest interrogator surely hadn't faced Abby.

"Abs… I'm fine, really," Tony laughed. It wasn't as if they had never seen him with a hell of a hangover before. This time of all times they decide to make a federal case out of it. "I appreciate you coming around this early… But as you so readily pointed out, I really need to shower, change and freshen up," he stated and walked towards the door.

"Tony… You know it's just, I'm a little worried about you. About everyone. So many things have happened lately and it's been tough," Abby said as Tony opened the door.

Tony refused to make eye contact for a second. It had been tough and there was no way to deny that. "I will see you at work," Tony assured her. He forced himself to grin. He couldn't believe how difficult it was.

"Alright, Mister," Abby managed to say before the door closed. Of course she was worried. She was worried about all her people. She waited a couple of seconds before leaving down the hallway.

Tony pressed rested his head on his hand while leaning on the counter. The headache was intensifying but at least he had some peace and quiet now. Perhaps the shower would somehow alleviate it. There was no way in hell he could call in sick. Hell, he couldn't even clear his throat without them jumping all over him. Basically, he wanted them to just back off and give him some breathing space. Maybe he just needed some rest or something.

xxxxxxxxxxx

A/N: Must apologize. But am going to get to finishing this story.