AN: Takes place while Ziva is visiting Michael in Israel, and Tony has seen his photo. Bartram town and county are complete figments of my imagination. I just needed somewhere to put a sheriff.
There was no point in staring at the desk opposite, Tony told himself, still less in letting Gibbs see what he was doing. It would only get him barked at, and it wouldn't put Ziva there. He dropped his eyes to the cold case folder open on his desk; there was nothing else to occupy his mind, but his eyes had slid over the page three or four times without a single word going in. His paperwork was up to date, he'd done extra time on the firing range and in the gym. He'd spent most of the weekend helping to coach a youth-club basketball team. In the evenings he'd helped his landlady to tear out the old kitchen in the apartment below his, ready to install a new one. He'd been falling into bed exhausted; and still he was going crazy.
He flicked the page over to look as if he were doing something. All he could think about was that photograph. She was in her homeland, visiting that guy. It was absolutely reasonable that she'd choose one of her own people over him, and he wasn't in love with her anyway…. So why did he feel as if his world had suddenly turned sideways? He sighed, and only realised it had been heard when out of the corner of his eye he saw McGee look up from his cold case. He knew he was in trouble when he couldn't even raise the energy to tease Tim.
McGee decided to push a little. A quiet, miserable Tony was so weird he didn't think he could stand it another minute. If offering himself as a target was what it took, he was ready to stick his head above the parapet.
"She'll be back soon," he said neutrally. And waited to be told to mind his own business. And waited some more.
Tony nodded absently. "Yeah," he said.
Tim looked across at Gibbs, his eyes yelling "Do something!" The boss responded by raising an eyebrow, and looked towards his Senior Field Agent. He opened his mouth to speak, although he was still debating what to say, when his desk phone rang. "Yeah, you got him….." long pause, "You're happy with that?" Another pause. "We're on our way." He put the phone down, and Tim raised his eyes to heaven in gratitude.
"Grab your gear! County sheriff asking for our help."
"Asking for our help, Boss? He's one unusual sheriff!" Tony pounced on it, at last having something to distract him. Gibbs fed him a little more, knowing that the tiny DiNozzo revival would be squashed in a moment or two.
"She. Sheriff Joanna Graham." He knew what Tony would say, and Tony obliged, albeit with a fraction of his usual spark. At least he was trying.
"Whoa, Boss! Remember last time you tangled with a lady sheriff? The lovely Charlene? She of the gravely voice and unconcealed lust for you?"
"I'm not likely to forget, DiNozzo," Gibbs growled. I'd sooner be attacked by a piranha. But Tony… Tim….it's a kidnapped child."
"Ah." Tony deflated instantly.
Both of the younger men groaned as they hurried down to the car; each feeling the identical sensation of blood running cold. They each had their own take on such cases, McGee from the point of view of a happy childhood and incomprehension that anyone could harm a child, Tony from bitter experience and a desire to do serious damage to anyone who did. More than that, they both felt a painful empathy with their boss, and hated it when he had to deal with such things. They looked at each other as they reached the car; McGee's eyes flicked to Gibbs' back, and back to Tony, who nodded almost imperceptibly. Agreed. We keep an eye on him.
"D'you want to call shotgun?" DiNozzo asked quietly. "You're probably more calming than I am. If you can stand his driving, that is."
Tim was surprised, but nodded. For Tony to give way on anything was rarer than blue food, but hey….
"What are you two dawdling about?"
"Nothing, Boss, we were just –"
"DiNozzo, just get in the damn car. McGee, call Ducky and tell him to join us. And let Abby know where we're going." They obeyed dutifully. Gibbs raised an eyebrow at his SFA disappearing into the back, but said nothing. Tony knew that Gibbs knew what they were up to; he also knew the boss would never say anything about it, but the message had been sent, and acknowledged.
"Fill us in, then, Boss," he said from the back seat.
"Marine Corporal Joel Saxon, on leave from Iraq. Eleven month old son, Owen, taken from the house during the night. The parents didn't hear a thing; they only found he was gone when they got up this morning. It was the Corporal who suggested bringing us in, with our resources, apparently he has great faith in us. Anyway, the sheriff agrees. She sounds like a sensible woman. Wants to stay on it though – and we know how much local knowledge helps in a case like this. McGee, when we get there, set up links with Abby asap, and install a wire tap on the Saxons' phone."
"Does the sheriff think ransom, Boss?"
"Don't know yet, but let's be ready."
As they sped into Virginia, Tony realised that being left alone in the back of the car was probably not such a good idea; when he wasn't thinking about the missing little boy, he was thinking about Ziva. She hated cases like this too; she'd go all hard and businesslike and pretend not to care, but she'd lost a sister, and seen so many children not live to grow up in her homeland. Her homeland… where she was right now… Get a bloody grip, DiNozzo, you've got a child that needs you.
They knew at once which house to focus on; it was almost opposite the county headquarters, there was crime-scene tape already set out, and there was already a TV outside broadcast vehicle outside it. Gibbs decided to check out the house first, and was promptly set upon by a platinum blonde young woman with a microphone.
"Excuse me? Are you the FBI? Can you tell us anything about the case? Do you think the child was stolen to be sold?"
Gibbs simply took hold of the business end of the mike, and used the woman's grip on it to spin her neatly out of the way. Tony smiled gently at her, that smile that curled his lip up sardonically but never escaped to the rest of his face. His eyes were like cold sea pebbles.
"I really wouldn't bother the boss if I were you. See, he prefers redheads."
"Who don't try to stick microphones up his nose," Tim added. The reporter backed away uncertainly, and the two agents followed their boss.
They were greeted at the front door by a young deputy.
"Special Agent Gibbs? I'm Deputy Andy Vincent. I'm a friend of Joel's as well; Sheriff Graham put me here, while she's co-ordinating search efforts, to support him and his wife, and to wait to see if there were any phone calls. Oh, and to fend off them." He jerked his head towards the TV van.
"How did they get here?" Gibbs asked irritably.
"Like as not listened in to our frequencies. We're not letting them get any closer."
"Has there been a phone call?" Tim asked. The deputy shook his head. "Have you set up monitoring equipment?"
"One recorder. We were hoping you could do more."
"Special Agent Tim McGee," Gibbs made the introductions. "McGee will stay with you, and set up what he needs. DiNozzo and I will go and see the sheriff."