A/N: See the first chapter for the disclaimer. I'm glad you guys have all come along with me on this ride, and I hope this last chapter doesn't disappoint. Happy New Year and new decade! I hope you guys enjoy this, and please review. :)
Epilogue: The Boy Is Gone
Ziva walked into the bullpen, finding McGee sitting behind his computer. "Morning, McGee," she greeted, dropping her gear briefly onto the desk.
McGee nodded in response, causing alarm to rise in her.
"Is everything okay?"
"Not really," he replied. "We've got a new case, but I can't get in touch with Tony."
"He is not here?" she asked, looking at his empty desk.
"Hasn't come in yet. And he's not answering his phones."
"Does Gibbs know?"
McGee shrugged. "I haven't seen him yet."
Ziva picked up her phone, dialing Tony's number.
Hi, you've reached Special Agent Anthony DiNozzo. Leave a message after the tone.
She hung up rather than leaving a message before dialing his apartment.
No one is available. Please leave a message.
She looked over at McGee, concern etched deeply into her features. This was going to be a rough day if no one reached Tony.
Gibbs walked into Vance's office, eyeing the director cautiously. "Got Agent DiNozzo's request for personal leave," the director said.
"I endorsed it," Gibbs replied casually.
"So did I. Agent DiNozzo's been through a lot this past year. Maybe some time away will be good for him. He has the green light to take however long his psychiatrist says he needs."
Gibbs nodded, understanding the true meaning of that. "I'll let her know."
Vance nodded, and Gibbs turned.
"I'm going to call Norfolk and ask Agent James to fill in while Agent DiNozzo is out," Vance said.
"Do what you need to," Gibbs said.
"I hope, for Agent DiNozzo's sake, that this works out well for him. Agency needs people like him."
Gibbs nodded, walking out of the office.
The ringing phone was starting to annoy him, so Tony turned it off. He just wanted to sleep late, relax, and forget about work. Tomorrow, he would get into his beloved blue Mustang and drive. He didn't know where he was going, and right now, he didn't care. This was probably the best thing for him. Time to himself. Time to figure out his life. Time away from the job, away from the stress, away from the watchful eyes.
Sure, it was running. But it was a better idea than crumbling before everyone's eyes. It wasn't that he was a coward. It was that his defenses needed repair, and the best way to fix it was to get away from the pressure.
Tomorrow, he would drive wherever he felt like. And tomorrow was a new reason for living.
"Boss, I can't get a hold of Tony," McGee said, looking up as Gibbs walked in.
"He's taking some time off," Gibbs replied simply. "Grab your gear."
"For how long?" Ziva asked.
"However long he needs. Let's go."
Later in the day, Ziva sat there, staring at her phone. Gibbs noticed, moving to stand in front of her. She looked up at him, worried eyes meeting curious ones. Ziva nodded slowly. Silence, a glance to the phone, and five final words.
"He'll call when he's ready."