Hello, no you are not hallucinating! A new chapter! Seriously, thank you for all being so patient with me. Sorry it's taken so long to get back to this little tale. Life has been a bit mental to be honest. Family illness issues, my illness issues, starting a handmade jewellery business, an event management business and working full time doesn't give me must wiggle room for writing but I will not abandon this fic! This hasn't been beta'd so all mistakes are mine but if I don't post this now theeeeen...you get the idea. Love you all. Miss you all loads and I hope you enjoy.

Love Cheeks. xx


Chapter 19

"You only had to ask or does my privacy mean so little to you!"

Gibbs raised his head so sharply from the cell at the sound of DiNozzo's voice he almost got whiplash.

Tony clung onto the doorframe in way that signaled he was still very much under the influence of a heavy, chemically induced sleep. The second thing he saw was the pure, unadulterated anger on DiNozzo's face and his stomach plummeted.

Shit.

This was probably not what Ducky meant when he said keep things light, easy and stress free around DiNozzo right now.

Gibbs lowered the cell and rubbed his forehead.

He knew that was well and truly caught out. There was no point in trying to cover up what he'd been doing so he didn't even try to but Tony looked like he was about to face plant the floor. He was clearly pissed and had every right to be so but this clearly wasn't the best time or place to have a frank discussion about what the hell Senior had done now or to get into the finer points of crossing the line in friendship.

"Look, I know you want to chew me out, DiNozzo, but now is not the time. You can barely stand, so get back into bed before you fall flat on your ass." He sighed.

"If I remember correctly this is my house, you don't get to issue the fucking orders!" DiNozzo's jaw flexed stubbornly. He stared for several seconds before shaking his head as if to clear the sleep away but only ended up swaying more alarmingly.

"DiNozzo…" Gibbs sighed.

"No! Just where do you get off going through my phone records and my papers? What, it's one rule for me and another for you huh?"

Okay, he deserved that. Gibbs flushed as he remembered threatening his agent for doing the very thing he'd just done but an angry DiNozzo, drugged up to the eyeballs on Nitrazepam or what ever the hell Palmer had given him did not bode well for a good heart to heart.

"It wasn't an order, it was a request." Gibbs said softly. "Go back to bed, DiNozzo, please? We'll talk in the morning, I promise but right now you are in no shape for this."

He didn't exactly bandy the word around often, so when he did say it, it meant something, DiNozzo knew that.

The anger stayed on Tony's face; he was obviously not prepared to give him an inch…. 'please' or no 'please'.

DiNozzo simply ignored the request. He stumbled over and violently snatched the cell from his hand.

"Look, DiNozzo, I…" Gibbs started to reason with the man as he lifted his hands in surrender but he didn't get beyond the first few words because Tony suddenly paused, stock still in front of him and swallowed convulsively several times.

Aw Hell, he definitely identified the warning signs.

Gibb moved quickly but not as quickly as DiNozzo's gag reflex did.

He sighed as his second bent double and threw up on the floor.

Wincing, he set about holding Tony up until he'd finished emptying his gut of what seemed to be mainly bile.

Tony looked up, red in the face, Gibbs wasn't sure if it was from the exertion of throwing up or embarrassment. He didn't stop to figure it out; instead he quickly deposited DiNozzo on the couch and pointedly placed the metal trashcan in front of him.

Tony sat with his head back and his eyes shut, his Adam's apple bobbing as the man clearly tried to calm his gut into submission.

Gibbs simply shook his head and left him, opening the window on the way through to the kitchen, even though there was an icy chill in the air because the smell of vomit couldn't be helping Tony right now.

Looking down he grumbled to himself as he took in the state of his shoes. With another sigh, he toed his sneakers off and rinsed them under the tap to remove the splatter before leaving them on the radiator to dry.

He opened the cupboards under the sink and quickly found a half full bottle of lemon disinfectant and an empty bucket; he set about filling the bucket with hot soapy water and grabbed a roll of kitchen paper as he walked back through to the lounge.

Tony was bent forward heaving into the can.

Dumping his cleaning products down he returned to the kitchen, filling a glass with tepid water.

Tony had returned to his previous position, head back against the couch, eyes shut but this time he was hugging the can to his chest.

"You finished?"

Tony cracked open and eye seemed to ponder the question for several seconds before he slowly nodded.

Gibbs grabbed the can.

"I'll go rinse this out and bring it straight back,"

"Sorry, Boss," All anger was gone now, DiNozzo just looked bone wearily tired, contrite and more than a little green.

He held out the glass to Tony.

"No problem, not my first vomit rodeo, DiNozzo. Here, sip slowly or you'll just bring it up again," he said gruffly.

As he was emptying the contents down the toilet and rinsed the pail he was hit with a strong sense of Déjà vu, it may have been a different time and place, and the person had been a little girl wearing green Kermit pajamas but the strong feelings felt very much the same.

He smiled wryly to himself as he grabbed a blanket and returned to DiNozzo who really was no more than a big kid in an adult skin most of the time. He tossed the blanket to Tony and gave a pointed stare until the man wrapped it around his shoulders and shut his eyes again.

"Here," He placed the bucket down with a clank in front of the couch and moved over to set about cleaning the floor.

He'd just started to mop up the paper towels when Tony cracked his eyes open again. He tried to untangle himself from the blanket and Gibb's knew he was getting ready to shot up from the couch.

"Crap, no! Look, I'll do that, Boss…."

"Sit! I got this,"

DiNozzo ignored his words and pushed the blanket away, making to stand.

"You shouldn't have to clean up my puke, Boss," he muttered weakly.

"I said I've got this, and if you get up from that couch again I'll kick your ass all the way into next week!" Gibbs barked, using his 'no argument' voice.

It obviously worked because Tony flushed red and pulled the blanket around his body again.

Gibbs was aware that Tony was watching him

"What made you do it?"

Gibbs stopped mopping and looked up. Okay, he hadn't been expecting that from DiNozzo right now but it was as good a time as any.

"I'm an investigator, Tony, you trash your cell this morning in the rec room, Frank down the hall tells me that you were shouting at someone in the middle of the night, doesn't take a genius to figure out someone pissed you off big time, was just trying to find out who."

"You could have just asked me," Tony said softly, all anger definitely gone. He just sounded tired and not just in a needing sleep way, which was worrying.

"You sayin' you have told me?" Gibbs rinsed the cloth in the bucket.

Tony sighed.

"Probably not," he conceded as he wrapped the blanket tighter around his torso, pulling it up under his chin and looking misreable.

"So, what did Senior do this time?" Gibbs stared at his agent.

DiNozzo stayed silent for enough time for Gibbs to think he'd hit a brick wall again but then Tony surprised him by actually answering.

"Just gave me a few home truths," An arm snaked out from under the blanket as Tony leaned forward and picked up his glass of water.

"Like what?' Gibbs narrowed his eyes. He had a strong feeling he would be ripping Senior a new asshole before this day was out.

"Oh… this and that."

"Specifics would be nice," Gibbs probed.

Tony paused again as if he were formulating his thoughts.

"How the apple doesn't fall far from the tree. How I'm just as much a selfish, self-centered bastard as he is and if I breed then I'd just be perpetuating the DiNozzo cycle of being a useless husband and father and other such warm and fuzzy statements," Tony took a sip of water and placed the glass back down. "But yeah, that was the general gist of our conversation."

Gibbs ground his teeth and continued to wipe the floor. He had much to say but he kept silent, he had a feeling that Tony hadn't quite finished even though he was now silent and staring at the wall opposite. He was proved right when Tony started speaking again.

"I know I have commitment issues but I always thought that one day I'd have the whole nine yards…a wife I loved, a little house somewhere with a white picket fence and two point four children, it was something to cling onto, you know, something to aim for but Dad made me realize that it was all a crock of shit. Who the fuck am I kidding huh? Because we all know that isn't going to happen. Women tend to run a mile once they get to know me. I know I have a reputation for loving and leaving but generally they get bored with me first. I just strike first as it hurts less. It all goes tits up when they realize that it's no fun dating a guy who often works eighteen hours days and hardly any weekends off. And lets face it kids don't even like me! So I've been thinking that it's probably best if I just book a vasectomy and resign myself to the fact that I'm going to end up just like dear old dad. Lonely, growing old disgracefully and dating increasingly younger women who are only after me for what they can get."

DiNozzo spoke softly but that only served to enhance the sting of his words.

Gibbs shook his head as he set about collecting the cleaning stuff.

"Ya know, I really didn't take you for a fool, DiNozzo,"

"Huh," Tony lifted his head and looked confused.

"After all this time I would have hoped you'd have figured out your father talks out of his ass ninety percent of the time."

"Yeah, and what about the other ten percent, Boss?" Tony's jaw clenched, not prepared to listen to sense quite yet. "You've gotta admit he has a point."

"The only point your dad has is the fact you work long hours and that's never easy on a relationship but if you're with the right person it'll work, simple as that. Look at Vance; he runs one of the alphabet agencies yet from what I see he has a pretty cozy home life and a wife and kids that adore him."

DiNozzo snorted bitterly. "Yeah, well, I think the Vance's are an aberration stuck in the fucking 60's, ruffling their kids hair, meatloaf and mash potatoes and tales of schooldays around the table when the real reality is misery and divorce. Or if you're lucky and have managed to avoid becoming a statistic then it's mother drinking her way down a bottle of Gordon's gin every night, whilst the father is out on business, when in reality he's fucking his latest mistress in the hotel down the road and the kid ends up in the bedroom forgotten and bored shitless in all the drama."

A light bulb suddenly went off in Gibbs' brain. He'd bet a hundred bucks that an evening spent with Leon, observing how a close-knit family really functions had bought every one of DiNozzo's insecurities about his own childhood to the surface and had led to a late night telephone call to his father but instead of reassurance and validation all he'd got was Senior's unique brand of parenting.

DiNozzo senior was right in some respects.

The two men were very much alike but only in some respects. They wereboth charming and both tended to get defensive and used deflection when on the ropes but whereas the son used humor, evasiveness and often self-depreciation, the elder turned towards vitriol and malice when cornered.

"That's crap, DiNozzo, for every cop that is divorced there is two more who are happily married. And let me tell you, you are nothing like your father. Hell, more than two minutes in Senior's company and I still feel my hackles rising. No-one else I'd rather drink a few jars of bourbon with and trust me that wouldn't be the case if you'd inherited more than your fathers suave looks."

Gibbs hoped that DiNozzo would leap at the opportunity he'd just given but the man just shook his head sadly, totally ignoring the blatant compliment.

He sighed and sat down opposite.

"Look, Tony, I'm sorry for invading your privacy, was just worried ya know, you've been through a lot recently."

Tony leaned back and waved his hand wearily as if to say it really didn't matter anymore.

They watched each other for a while. He wasn't sure how to proceed. Taking a breath he just went for it.

"You've gotta let it go you know." Gibbs said softly.

"What?"

"The girl found buried at Grey's. They may never find out who she was. The man travelled extensively, and the senator had his own private jet and made trips all around the globe. They could have snatched her from anywhere, may have kept her at that house for months before you were given the assignment or she could have been passed around God knows how many people before Grey and Co got their filthy hands on her."

Gibbs realized his error as soon as he opened his mouth. Damn it, he'd spent too many years on the job, seen too much to be surprised by anything, understood that not everything got wrapped up in a nice tidy bow and instead of easing Tony's guilt he quickly recognized he'd royally fucked up with his clinical explanation of the cold hard facts of the case.

DiNozzo screwed his eyes shut for several seconds, his jaw clenching tightly before he opening them again. Gibbs caught a fleeting glimpse of naked anguish before the expression became flat and closed again.

Gibbs opened his mouth to do a little damage limitation but he didn't get the chance. DiNozzo tossed the blanket to the side and stood.

"Look, I'm kinda tired, Boss, going to hit the sack. You can see yourself out." The tone of voice Tony used said the statements were final and this discussion was over.

Gibbs sighed and nodded, he watched DiNozzo schlep towards his bedroom. He paused as he opened the door.

"You're wrong, you know, I will find out who that girl is if it's the last thing I do. I couldn't protect her, she died on my watch no matter what you say and I owe her at least that." Tony said quietly. He turned and locked eyes with Gibbs before he shut the door firmly.

Gibbs shook his head sadly and set about picking up the bucket and cleaning products. He should have known that Tony wouldn't have listened to his pep talk on not blaming himself mainly because it was something he, himself would be beating himself up over had the roles been reversed and the girl had died on his watch.


Tony heard the door shut quietly and he let out the breath he'd been holding and got up off the bed.

He walked over to the door that separated his room from the second bedroom. A room that he'd swiftly changed into a walk in closet/slash junk room when he'd bought the place.

He sat down at the ornate Queen Anne dressing table that dominated the room. It had belonged to his mother and looked a little incongruous in the very masculine room but it had been a family piece and not only did it give him a link to his mother it was worth a small fortune not that he'd ever sell it.

He rubbed the sleep from his eyes and stared at the information scrolling down the computer screen as it ran searches for missing girls from Interpol and all the major police forces in the country.

Frank from Cyber Crimes had been very accommodating in setting up the programs and increasing the capacity on his PC to beef it up and all it had taken was setting him up on a blind date with a frisky cheerleader of his acquaintance. The date had gone well and Ol' Frank was pulling out all the stops, tweaking programs and above all, keeping his mouth shut.

Tony leaned back on the chair and spread the files he'd purloined out in front of him, and opened the FBI one to go through it again as the screen scrolled all databases for missing children.

Gibbs didn't have the monopoly on Captain Ahab.


"How is he?" The toothpick moved up and down.

"He's good," Gibbs stared at the Director confident that the blatant lie would go undetected.

Gibbs didn't feel the need to elaborate that DiNozzo had taken to trolling the files and databases of all the agencies and was probably getting by on three hours sleep a night because of it.

"And his little meltdown down in parking last week?"

Gibbs narrowed his eyes.

Vance chuckled. "What, you think I wouldn't find out about that?"

"I kinda hoped you wouldn't," Gibbs sat down heavily. "That the reason you called me up here?"

The toothpick waggled before Vance removed it and rolled it between his fingers.

"Why would you think that? Dr. Mallard said it was simply a unfortunate reaction to some meds. I'm sure you'll tell me if anything changes that prognosis." Vance stared at Gibbs, letting him know that he knew something was going on but was willing to let it slide for now.

Gibbs stared at his supervisor and gently inclined his head to show he understood loud and clear. "So, what's up?"

Vance leaned back in his chair. "I think now is the right time to give Tony his commendation. I've sent an invitation to Imee and her mother for next Friday and they've accepted."

Gibb blew out a puff off air and opened his mouth to disagree that now was most definitely not the right time but he didn't get the chance.

"I know, I know…Look, I've held off as long as possible but the NCIS press office and Sec Nav are chomping at the bit to get this done and I didn't have much say in the matter. I certainly couldn't cite the fact that I didn't think DiNozzo was ready for the Brouhaha right now. If he's been cleared for the field, as they are concerned, he's ready. "

"You know damn well the two things are entirely different…" Gibbs stood and started to pace.

Vance held his hand up.

"There is nothing I can do. The wider press is going to be there, the public is still appalled the Senator took them in and they want a happy ending and photos and sound bites in the press of DiNozzo and the girl he saves does that. Sec Nav is trying to distract everyone from the fact that one if his agents had been one of a pedophile ring and screwed up a major FBI investigation by taking the majority of Tony's achievements."

Typical of the man, Gibbs knew he wasn't going to stop the event but he knew damn well what he felt like doing again right now.

"And before you go on the warpath may I remind you that you narrowly held onto your job the first time you punched Sec Nav, if you were to do it again then I can assure you that nothing I could do will save you." Vance gave a sly smile and chomped back down on the toothpick.

Damn, was he getting so easy to read? Gibbs huffed out another breath and tried to calm down. He needed coffee, desperately. He stalked over to the door.

"You think he'll be okay with the ceremony raking up the case again?" Vance asked.

Gibb turned as he violently wrenched open the door.

"He'll have to be, won't he…"

TBC

*mwah*...Take care all. xx