Title: A Cry for Help
Characters: Anthony DiNozzo, Leroy Jethro Gibbs, Jack Gibbs
Spoilers: Various episodes up to and including season 6
Summary: Tony has to get away from the demons that are haunting him and he turns to an unexpected source for help.
Anthony DiNozzo ran a trembling hand through his disheveled hair as he studied his pale reflection in the bathroom mirror. The result of his latest concussion was evident by the bandage on his forehead, covering the gash that was being held together by fifteen stitches. He had checked himself out of the hospital AMA and taken a cab to his apartment. Tony had made it no further than his couch before he willingly succumbed to the darkness that had been beckoning him since he left the hospital. He had known that he shouldn't fall asleep, especially without someone to wake him every hour, but at that particular moment, he hadn't cared.
Now, a couple of hours later, he was standing in front of his bathroom mirror after being awakened by the incessant ringing of his cell phone. He had clumsily reached for it to check the caller ID. Tony had slung the phone across the room after discovering that it had been Vance trying to call him. Director Vance was the last person Tony wanted to talk to.
Tony gripped the sink as he fought against the dizziness and nausea that threatened to overwhelm him. After a few seconds, he lifted his head, careful to move slowly so he wouldn't exacerbate the pounding in his skull, and stared at the haunted eyes that seemed to look right through him. Who was this man in the mirror? It wasn't Special Agent Anthony D. DiNozzo, that much was for certain. Tony was beginning to wonder if that man even existed anymore.
Glancing at his watch, he squinted to force the numbers to come into focus. It was almost 6:30 and he was supposed to be in the office at 7:00. He was going to be late for work and then Gibbs would not be happy. An angry Boss was not something that he wanted to face this morning, especially with the drum and bugle corps playing in his head. Besides being late, he was going to have to explain to Gibbs how he got yet another concussion and that he had received the concussion on another undercover assignment that Gibbs knew nothing about.
Tony had vowed that after the fiasco of La Grenouille that his days of going undercover for anyone but Gibbs were over. But then Vance…
"I can't do this anymore," he whispered to himself.
He bent over and placed his head on the cool tile and closed his eyes. "I can't do it, Boss. Not anymore."
Tony forced himself to stand back up and opened his eyes. "I've got to get out of here. I need to think.
The dizziness was not easing up, but he knew that he could not give in. Using his hand, he clung to the wall as he slowly made his way back towards his living room. "Come on DiNozzo, you've had worse than this. Quit being so pathetic!" he growled.
After what seemed like an eternity, Tony reached the couch. He gingerly sat down and cradled his aching head in his hands. He was aware of what he needed to do, but now he had to summon up the courage to do it. He sighed as he fumbled for the cordless phone on his coffee table.
He carefully dialed the familiar number and waited with baited breath until he heard the clipped voice of Jethro Gibbs.
Tony swallowed nervously. "Hey Boss. I…I…uh…"
"Spit it out, DiNozzo!" the gruff voice ordered.
"I'm not going to make it into work today."
The distinct pause on the other end almost made Tony hang up, but if he did that, Gibbs would definitely know something was wrong. All Tony was trying to do was buy himself some time.
"Are you all right?" Gibbs finally asked.
"Yeah, Boss. It's just…a…migraine," Tony replied. "I'm just going to go back to bed and sleep it off."
"Okay?" Tony couldn't believe that Gibbs had just agreed to give him the day off.
"Did I stutter, DiNozzo?"
"Uh, no Boss. I just…"
"Migraines are a bitch, DiNozzo. I'll call you if we get anything."
"Sure, Boss. Thanks. I…"
It was too late. Gibbs had already hung up on his end. Tony hit the off button and placed the phone on the cushion beside him. He shakily rose to his feet, wincing as the movement sent shards of pain through his head.
"I should have never made that call. Gibbs will be here any minute," he chastised himself. "I can't deal with seeing him." He didn't want to see the hurt and confusion in the eyes of the one man that he had come to think of as a father. Gibbs, in his own unusual way, would want to help him. How could anyone help him if he didn't know what was wrong?
He carefully bent down and picked up his bag that he had deposited on the floor earlier that morning. Turning off the light, Tony grabbed his jacket and locked the door behind him. He had no idea where he was going, but it really didn't matter. He just had to go somewhere and try to get his head on straight. He needed to look for what was left of Anthony DiNozzo, but he wasn't sure that he wanted to find him.
Tony had to hug the wall once again as he slowly made his way down the hall. Once he was in the elevator, he leaned against the metal partition, grateful for the brief respite. He swallowed the bile in his throat as the elevator lurched to a stop.
The doors opened and he stumbled outside. He knew that he was in no condition to drive, so his only option was to hail a cab. Disgusted by the feeling of helplessness, Tony hailed the next cab.
He opened the door and slid into the backseat.
"Where to?" the cab driver asked.
"Just drive," Tony answered, laying his head against the seat.
"Take me to the bus station."
Leroy Jethro Gibbs winced as he snapped his phone shut. His senior field agent has just called in sick for the first time since Tony had started working for NCIS. DiNozzo had been placed on medical leave before, but he had never willingly called in sick. Tony was always pushing himself beyond his physical limits, just like when he came back a week early after having the plague.
Something wasn't right. Actually, now that Gibbs looked back over the past few weeks, something hadn't been right for quite a while. Tony had changed. There was something that was eating away at Tony and although the charismatic young man had apparently been able to fool most of his co-workers, Gibbs had not been so easily misled. It was his eyes. Tony's eyes were no longer full of life as they had once been; his eyes reminded him of a man who no longer had anything left to cling to.
Gibb's strides were purposeful and determined as he walked past Ziva and McGee on his way to his desk. "DiNozzo's out sick today," he announced.
He didn't have to see the expression on his other team members faces to know that they were as surprised as he had been.
"Tony's not coming in today?" Ziva clarified.
"That's what I said."
"What's wrong with him?"
"A migraine? I've never known Tony to have migraines, unless he's been hit on the head."
"Well, evidently, he's got one."
"Does he need anything?"
"I didn't ask. I'm sure if he needs something, he'll call."
"You didn't ask?"
"Officer David, is there a reason that you are repeating everything I say?" Gibbs tersely demanded.
"I just find it unusual that Tony called in. As long as I've known him, he's…"
"I'm aware of that, Ziva."
"Don't you find it odd that…"
Gibbs glared at the Mossad officer. "What I find odd is that you're not at your desk, finishing the report that I wanted on my desk yesterday!"
"Of course, Gibbs."
He turned his attention to his computer as Ziva retreated to her desk. Gibbs could feel McGee's concerned gaze shift between him and Ziva.
"Do you have anything to add, McGee?"
"Uh, no Boss. Nothing to add," McGee stammered.
Frustrated, Gibbs rose from his seat and headed towards the elevator. "I'm going for coffee!"
As the doors to elevator closed, Gibbs spared one last glance at the bewildered expression on David's and McGee's faces. He was sure that as soon as he was completely out of sight, that they would be calling Tony to check on him and warn him that he was coming over. His team had not been fooled by the claim that he was going to get coffee. Of course, he would make sure that he came back with a cup in hand and if he was feeling generous, maybe one for Ziva and McGee. Right now, he could not ignore the feeling in his gut that something was wrong with DiNozzo and it wasn't just a migraine.
"He's not answering either phone," Ziva said.
"Maybe he's asleep," McGee surmised.
"Maybe, but I don't think so. I don't think that he would be cutting logs so loudly that he didn't hear either phone."
"Sawing," he corrected.
"Whatever. The point is, he's not answering his phone. Maybe he's not home." Ziva walked over to McGee's desk and stood behind him. "See if you can pull up his coordinates with his cell phone."
Ziva was always amazed that with just a few strokes of the keyboard, McGee seemed to make anything magically appear. However, this time, there was an apparent problem. "What's wrong?" she pressed.
"Uh…his cell must be turned off," McGee replied.
"Tony never turns his cell off. That would be breaking one of Gibbs' rules."
"Wait a minute," McGee began.
"What is it?"
"I just pulled his cell phone records and the last call that was made to Tony's phone was from here."
Ziva leaned in closer to the computer screen. "That's the Director's line."
She and McGee stared at the screen in disbelief. Ziva studied the computer screen for another second before lifting her gaze towards the upper level that housed the Director's office. "Vance was the last one to talk to Tony. That doesn't make sense."
"We should tell Gibbs," McGee stated.
"You're right. You call him," she quickly ordered.
"Yes, you are the senior agent in this office at the moment."
"Just do it."
"Fine, but you owe me."
She continued staring at the office door of Director Vance as McGee called Gibbs. What was going on between Vance and Tony? The two of them seemed to only tolerate each other at the best of times. Ziva turned her attention back to McGee's one sided conversation.
"Boss? We'll we found something a little unusual," McGee began. "What? You want us over at Tony's. Is he all right?"
Ziva felt as if she were going to be sick. She was right. There was something strange about this entire situation. Her eyes narrowed as McGee hung up. "What's wrong?" she pressed.
"Tony's not at home. Gibbs found his cell phone smashed against the wall. He wants us to come over there. I didn't even get a chance to tell him about Vance."
'You can tell him when we get there. Come on, I'm driving."
Ziva ignored the look of fear on McGee's face at the proclamation that she was driving. She didn't have time to worry about his queasy stomach, Ziva just wanted to get to Tony's as fast as she could. Grabbing her coat, she didn't have to look behind her to see if McGee was coming. Whether they wanted to admit it or not, Tony was not only an integral part of their team, but he was a member of their family. Family was supposed to look out for one another and she could not shake the feeling that they had not done a good job of looking after one Anthony DiNozzo.
Abby was worried about Tony. She had asked him last night to go to a new club with her that had just opened up and he had turned her down. Replaying the conversation in her head, she realized that he had not sounded like his usual, carefree self.
"Please Tony," she begged. "It's opening night."
"Abs, I'm sorry. I just can't go tonight."
"I can't and let's just leave it at that."
Looking around the bullpen, she saw that it was practically empty. Abby then proceeded to sit down on Tony's lap and put her arms around him. "Please, Tony. Just for a little while."
Tony sighed. "Abs, you know it's a school night. Gibbs will kill me if I'm out late."
"We won't tell him."
"He always finds out and right now, I can't afford to screw up."
Abby arched her eyebrow as she studied the features of her best friend. Fine lines of exhaustion had appeared around his eyes and all of a sudden, he looked older than his years. "Tony, are you okay?"
"I'm fine, Abs. I'm just tired. Ever since I got back from the Seahawk, things have been…different. I don't know how to explain it."
She placed a gentle kiss on his cheek. "I have an idea. Let's skip the club and I'll come over and bring dinner and we can watch a movie. We haven't done that since you've been back. It'll be fun."
Tony smiled at her. She loved his smile; it always had a way of brightening her day. "Not tonight, but I'll take a rain check."
She knew it was no use to argue once Tony had made up his mind about something. Abby still couldn't shake the nagging feeling that something was truly wrong with her friend. If only she could get him to open up. Tony had a habit of hiding behind the mask of a carefree, self-centered playboy, and very few people ever got a glimpse of the real Anthony DiNozzo. However, lately that mask had been slipping and Tony had been struggling to keep it in place.
She laid her head on his shoulder and the two of them sat there. It wasn't until Director Vance was standing over Tony's desk that either of them volunteered to move. Abby jumped up and placed another quick kiss on DiNozzo's cheek. "Call me later."
She headed towards the elevator, hoping that Vance wasn't going to chew Tony out for something that she had done. As the doors closed and she pushed the button that would take her back to her lab, Abby decided that she would have to have a talk with Gibbs. If anyone knew what was going on with Tony, it would be Gibbs.
She glanced at the clock and then picked up the phone. Tony should be in by now and she just wanted to hear his voice. The phone rang several times before someone picked up.
Abby swallowed nervously. "I'm sorry. I was trying to call Tony. I...uh…don't know how I got you, but then again, I don't guess I need to know because…"
"Ms. Scuito?" Vance interjected. "Is there something you needed?"
"Tony. I was looking for Tony."
"Gibbs sent me an email a few minutes ago. DiNozzo called in sick today."
"Oh. Well, why did you answer Tony's phone?"
"That, Ms. Scuito is none of your concern. Now, will there be anything else?"
"No. I mean no sir. Have a nice day, sir."
Abby hung up. "Something is definitely hinky here. That's it. I'm calling Gibbs."
The first thing that Gibbs had noticed when he reached Tony's apartment was that DiNozzo's car wasn't in its usual spot. His first thought was that DiNozzo had better not called in sick and taken off with some girl. Gibbs silently chastised himself for even considering that option. He was looking for excuses to counteract the gnawing feeling in his stomach that told him Tony was in trouble. It wasn't the same feeling that he had when Tony had been injured or sick; it was a feeling that told him that if he didn't find his senior agent soon, that it would be too late.
Gibbs knocked on the door of Tony's apartment three times. Not waiting for a response, he pulled out the spare key that he had acquired several years ago. Gibbs unlocked the door and entered the living room. By force of habit, he slipped on a pair of gloves and began to look around the room. At first glance, nothing seemed out of place. There were a few DVD cases scattered on top of the television, but there were no glasses or the usual pizza boxes lying around.
He stepped into the bedroom. The bed had not been slept in and there were no clothes lying about. The only indication that Tony may have been in this room was the fact that the light was on in the adjoining bathroom. He went into the bathroom, but again, everything seemed to be in its place.
"Where are you, DiNozzo?"
He could almost hear Tony answering, "On your six, Boss." But the problem was that DiNozzo wasn't on his six. In fact, Tony wasn't anywhere around. His senior agent had called in sick and he wasn't at home. Gibbs knew that DiNozzo would not willingly go to the doctor, especially for a migraine.
The sound of his phone ringing interrupted his thoughts. Glancing at the caller ID, he rolled his eyes as he answered. "What Abs?"
"Why didn't you tell me Tony called in sick?" Abby demanded to know.
"I have to find out from Director Vance that Tony called in sick!" she continued to rant. "You know that Tony never calls in sick. Something has to be wrong. Have you checked on him?"
A tiny smile escaped his lips. Abby and Tony had a special relationship, always seeming to understand each other. "I'm doing it now, Abs," he replied.
"Oh. Well, is he okay? Did you know that last night he wouldn't even go clubbing with me? Tell him that I'm coming over and bringing him some of my famous…"
"Abby, not now," Gibbs warned.
"What do you mean not now? Let me talk to Tony."
"He's not here, Abs."
"What? Where is he?"
"That's what I'm trying to find out. I gotta go, Abs." Gibbs hung up knowing that he would owe Abby an extra Caf-Pow for cutting her short.
As Gibbs headed towards the tiny kitchen, something caught his eye. Gibbs knelt down and picked up the remains of Tony's cell phone. He sighed in disgust as his own cell phone started ringing again.
He flipped his phone open. "Gibbs."
It was McGee. Gibbs didn't even give him an opportunity to utter two words before he was issuing an order. "McGee, Tony's not here at his apartment. I need you and Ziva to get over here now."
He didn't offer any further explanation before he snapped his phone shut again. He closed his other fist around Tony's cell phone. DiNozzo was as attached to his cell phone as Gibbs was his boat. For it to be left behind, smashed into pieces, only confirmed Gibbs' suspicion that Tony was in some kind of trouble.
"DiNozzo, what is going on with you?" he quietly pondered. "Your car is gone, your cell phone's destroyed, you call in sick, and you're not home. It doesn't add up!"
Jethro Gibbs did not like the fact that he had no idea where DiNozzo was. He usually knew the whereabouts of his team members, especially DiNozzo. But, he had to admit that the last few months, things had been different between them. Tony was a gifted investigator, but he had a tendency to attract trouble. Gibbs had a feeling that this time was no exception.
When McGee and Ziva got there, they would treat Tony's apartment as a crime scene. This was a fact that bothered Gibbs deeply. It was going to be difficult going through Tony's things as if they were strangers, but if they were going to find a clue as to where DiNozzo was, they had no choice. Gibbs was determined to find Tony and once he was safe and sound, he and DiNozzo were going to have a long talk.
"Where do you think Tony could be?" Ziva asked as she and McGee drove towards Tony's apartment.
McGee shrugged. "I don't know. Maybe he went to the doctor."
Ziva stared at McGee in disbelief, at the last minute swerving to miss the car in front of her. "When have you even known Tony to voluntarily go to a doctor?"
"Good point," McGee replied through gritted teeth.
"Something wrong, McGee?"
Tim took a deep breath and slowly released it. "Just keep your eyes on the road, Ziva."
"Maybe he's meeting someone," Ziva surmised as she quickly changed lanes, forcing McGee to grab onto the handle above him.
"I doubt it. I mean Tony hasn't really been interested in anyone since…well, since Jeanne."
"That doesn't mean he isn't seeing someone. Maybe he just doesn't want us to know about her. It's not the first time that Tony's kept secrets from us," she reminded him.
"That's true. But I don't think he would do something like that again."
Ziva skidded to a stop when the traffic light changed to red. "You're right. But, now that I think about it, Tony seems to be a little quieter lately."
"I haven't noticed."
"Well, I have. If I've noticed it, you can bet Gibbs has noticed too."
"We'll find out soon enough," Tim pointed out. "Tony's place is just up ahead."
She nodded as the light changed and she traveled just a few more blocks before pulling into the parking lot of Tony's apartment building. Ziva parked just behind Gibbs and got out of the truck. "Tony's car is missing," she observed.
"I still think that he's seeing a girl."
"It's about time you two got here," Gibbs snapped as he approached the two agents.
"Ziva was driving," McGee quickly stated.
"Losing your touch, Officer David?" Gibbs chided.
Ziva chose to ignore the barb. "What do we have?"
"Tony's car is missing, Tony is missing, and his cell phone has been smashed."
"I guess that explains why he didn't answer," McGee said,
"Do you think, McGee?"
Ziva glanced up at the apartment building. "Was there a sign of a struggle?"
"No," Gibbs tersely replied. "I want you to put a BOLO out on Tony's car. I also want his phone records pulled and…"
"Boss?" McGee interrupted.
"We…uh…checked his cell phone records this morning and…um the last call that Tony's cell phone received was from Director Vance's office."
"What? What time was the call?"
"About 6 this morning."
Ziva had seen Gibbs angry before and although she would never admit it, the rage that often consumed him frightened her. She looked at her watch and it was now almost 9. Within those three hours, Tony's phone had been damaged and he had seemingly disappeared.
When Gibbs finally spoke, his voice was tightly controlled as he gave him their orders. "You two go up to his apartment and start looking for clues. I want this treated as a crime scene."
"Where are you going?" Ziva reluctantly asked although she knew the answer.
"To see Director Vance!"
The Mossad agent nodded her understanding as they grabbed their gear and headed for Tony's apartment. Ziva wasn't sure what they were looking for, but she sincerely hoped that they would find something to help them find their missing colleague. She did not allow her mind to wander into the different possibilities of what had happened to Tony. Ziva didn't want to consider that Tony could be in danger, but the little evidence that they had gathered told her otherwise.
Tony laid his head back on the headrest of his seat. The simple act of buying a ticket and getting on the bus had exhausted what little strength that he had. At least he had a few hours that he could sleep before his stop. He figured that Gibbs was already at his apartment, but Tony knew the only clue that he had left had been his cell phone and it was in several pieces. He also knew that they would probably be pulling his banking information, phone records, and anything else they could think of, in order to discover his whereabouts. Of course, he wasn't about to make it too easy on his friends; he had purchased his ticket with cash. However, when they put the BOLO out on his car and discovered that it was at the garage getting the bullet holes repaired and a paint job, Tony knew that there would be no hiding the truth.
Guilt started to plague him as he thought about Gibbs. He probably should call him and let him know that he was all right, but then Gibbs would demand to know where he was and Tony wasn't ready to talk to his Boss just yet. He didn't want to admit to Gibbs that the man that he revered was part of the problem.
He looked out the window and watched the busy highway turn into a two lane road that would lead him to his destination. Tony had driven this road not too long ago with Abby punching him in the arm every time she saw a VolksWagon Beetle. He had a bruise on his arm for a week.
Tony missed Abby. He had wanted nothing more than accept her invitation last night, but once again, work had to come first. Vance made sure of that.
He shook his head and closed his eyes. Tony didn't want to think about work. He wasn't sure that he could even do his job any longer; he wasn't sure that he wanted to do his job any longer. That's why he had to get away. He had to think. Maybe things would look better after he had a few days off.
DiNozzo wasn't sure why he decided to go back to Stillwater, but he felt comfortable there. For some reason, Jack Gibbs made him feel special and wanted—like a grandfather would a grandson. He knew that Jack would welcome him with open arms and would let him stay as long as he needed to. Tony didn't know how much he would reveal to Jack, if he told him anything, but he just need a place where he could be himself. He wasn't sure if Gibbs would understand why Tony was turning to his father and not him, but at the moment, DiNozzo didn't want to think about the ramifications. Right now, he wanted to sleep.
Tony tried to calm his mind and allow sleep to come. As he finally gave in to the darkness embracing him, he whispered, "I'm sorry, Boss."