"So, where are you staying, Tony?" Gibbs asked Tony, who was now holding his nose and pressing his forehead against the same hand as support.

"Hey, are you staying at my place?" Gibbs asked again standing in front of Tony.

"Oh ah, yeah thanks for the offer Boss." Tony said quickly, hoping that he would be leaving soon.

"Tony, I will meet you downstairs." Gibbs said, handing him his keys. As the elevator doors opened, Ducky came off the lift as Tony went on.

"Hey Duck." He said.

"Good night, Anthony. Get some sleep tonight!" Ducky said with a smile.

"Gibbs." Vance said from over by the windows, standing with Dr. Cranston.

"Oh, thank you for coming up, Dr. Mallard." Vance said as Ducky joined them. Gibbs approached all three of them standing by the windows near the squad room.

"Soooo, what is this about, Doc?" Gibbs said with a grin.

"It is about you and your team, Gibbs." Dr. Cranston said.

"I thought you just said we are fine." Gibbs said.

"You are and you will be, but I want to share an observation I made." She said.

"Your team is very insecure right now, Gibbs." She explained.

"How exactly?" Gibbs asked sarcastically.

"They are acting out of character, Jethro." Ducky intervened in a distraught tone.

"Anything that makes her think of her father will make Ziva cry right now, Gibbs. It was a major life decision for her to quit Mossad and join NCIS. She even had to change her citizenship to do that. McGee has been extremely quiet and jumps at any chance to be assigned to Abby's lab right now. He is walking on eggshells around you three right now. However, even Abby is trying to decide on a course of action concerning her true parentage and if she should try to contact them. And Tony, who isn't he grieving for? Agent Barrett still has not been found or officially pronounced dead. Anthony had this recent case to deal with concerning his mother's death. Not long before that, his old partner Danny Price was murdered. And now, the death of Mike Franks did affect him too, mostly because his death affected you, Jethro. Anthony is guilt stricken right now for multiple reasons, as well. showing some serious self-doubt in his abilities after the situation involving Agent Barrett and Agent Cade. The recent memory lapse of what took place from Wednesday to now didn't help either." Ducky explained.

"You are still grieving the loss of Mike Franks." Ducky started to explain. "It all starts with you Jethro. Now, we just dealt with the Reynosa cartel again. As the team leader, your insecurities trigger their insecurities."

"Come on, Duck. I am not insecure. To prove this point, I will make sure for now on that I do not behave in an insecure manner. I have grieved, but I will grieve again. My team is my responsibility, so I will handle my team. They have been quiet lately, and they all concern me. They have dangerous jobs, and they all have suffered a trauma. DiNozzo has not been right since May, when he was given the assignment from SecNav."

"Your team is worried about you too, though. You are their leader and if you are insecure or grieving over the loss of Mike Franks, they will be affected by this as well." Dr. Cranston provided her insight.

"This is why I was pushing for the temporary reassignments, Gibbs." Vance interjected. "I reassigned your team the last time, when you were grieving Jenny Sheppard's death."

"Don't split up my team, Director." Gibbs warned.

"What about DiNozzo? He is abuse alcohol—again." Vance added. "I still believe a temporary reassignment would be a good fix. It builds self-confidence."

"We took a blood sample." Gibbs added in his defense, looking at Ducky questionably.

"Yes, we did, and I forgot to mention all of my findings." Ducky said almost in excitement, preparing himself for a long, detailed medical explanation.

"While I did find some alcohol in his system, he did have traces of painkillers in his system as well. When taken together, the combination of alcohol with painkillers can actually worsen the effects in the system, occassionally causing alcohol poisoning even. More specifically, it can increase the after effects of a hangover. It could explain the blackout. No one was with him last week to know for sure what happened, but it is possible to even go into a coma or have a seizure. At the very least, it can cause lapses in judgment and cause confusion. I could not find any prescription painkillers that Anthony was prescribed recently, when I brought up his medical history. Even if it was over-the-counter though, Anthony really has had trouble in the past in handling painkillers. I remember what an incredible, spot-on imitation he did of Jack Nicholson when he was on prescription, painkiller medication, after he broke his nose four years ago. . ." Ducky explained to them with a laugh.

"Ducky." Gibbs said with a small grin to redirect him.

"Oh dear, I am sorry." Ducky smiled looking at his audience. "The fact that he blacked out three days of memories does concern me. We need to find out exactly which painkiller that he was on and if there was long term damage done." Ducky added his insight to the discussion. "I would recommend a hospital visit for a more extensive medical evaluation, and we need to make sure that he doesn't combine the alcohol with the painkillers again."

"Why would he have them?" Vance asked in concern. Ducky shook his head.

"During his examination, I did find a collection of deep bruising on his back." Ducky answered more as a question, looking for a confirmation from Gibbs. "I never asked him why he had those bruises, either. With Anthony, it is hard to keep track of the sports he plays and still plays."

"I'll get the painkillers from him." Gibbs informed them, as he started to approach the elevator doors.

"Gibbs." Dr. Cranston said. "Take care of yourself, too."

"My team will be fine." Gibbs said defensively.

"Are you fine, Gibbs?" Dr. Cranston asked.

"Yes." Gibbs said shortly, in irritation that the subject kept being brought up, as he stepped into the elevator.

When Gibbs reached the garage, he ran fast out to the parking lot. He was shocked to find that DiNozzo had actually listened to him and had gotten into the passenger side of his car. As he opened the door, he found the keys in the ignition and DiNozzo sleeping. His head was tilted back over the top of the headrest, his mouth wide open as slept, and he snored. Gibbs got into his car, looking back and forth from a sleeping DiNozzo to the keys he was turning in the ignition.

As Gibbs made it to his driveway and put his car into the garage, he felt the unfortunate need to wake up the sleeping DiNozzo next to him.

"Hey." Gibbs said softly. DiNozzo did not even flinch from the sound of Gibbs' voice, which just showed how sound asleep he was. As Gibbs continued to watch him sleep, he spotted Tony's backpack behind him. Gibbs kept his eyes on DiNozzo, as he reached back and snatched the bag. At first Gibbs tried to be sneaky and quiet about looking through his bag, but when he did find a bottle of prescription painkillers in it, he quickly snatched them and threw the bag back in the backseat. Gibbs climbed out of the car and called Ducky.

"He has a prescription bottle of Demerol here, Duck. The prescription was given to him by Dr. Bracco. There was a 30 count of pills, and I think he has taken 10 pills in the last week. Okay, I will find out why he is taking these pills, Duck." Gibbs said, looking into the car at the still-sleeping agent. As Gibbs climbed back into the car and waited for him to wake up, DiNozzo finally stirred.

"Hey, let's go inside." Gibbs said quickly, grateful that DiNozzo finally woke up. DiNozzo jerked awake completely from the sound of Gibbs' voice.

"Boss?" DiNozzo said in confusion realizing where he was.

"Let's go inside." Gibbs said watching him. DiNozzo simply nodded in agreement, as he still tried to process where he was and how he got there. The confused look earned an amused smile from Gibbs, which quickly changed back to concern as he still held the bottle of painkillers.

"Ready to go in?" Gibbs said again. DiNozzo simply nodded and followed Gibbs into his house.

After getting settled, DiNozzo joined Gibbs on the couch.

"Shouldn't you be sleeping?" Gibbs asked looking over his agent. DiNozzo looked over at him with a nervous nod.

"Yeah." DiNozzo said wincing.

"Before you go sleep, like you are supposed to be doing right now. . ." Gibbs said to him.

". . .what were these for?" Gibbs finished the question as he pulled out the bottle of painkillers.

"Oh. . ." DiNozzo said in surprise. "Did I drop those?" He asked in confusion, looking around.

"No. What are they for, Tony?" Gibbs asked again.

"I uh, got those when I was in New York." DiNozzo said.

"For?" Gibbs snapped, really getting irritated with how difficult it was to get DiNozzo to talk lately.

"At the airport, I slipped, fell backwards, and went down a set of like six steps on my back." DiNozzo explained with an embarrassed laugh.

"And." Gibbs prompted, his irritation was clearly heard in his tone now.

"I guess I did have a little too much alcohol to drink on the plane." DiNozzo admitted. "So after I fell, I headed over to Dr. Bracco's office, to check in before I saw my father like Dr. Cranston wanted me to. Then I was supposed to see her after, but instead I drove home. Anyway, Dr. Bracco handed me some Ibuprofen right away and a prescription for Demerol, which she gave me because I couldn't even sit down after the fall at the airport."

"I was having back spasms." DiNozzo started to ramble, nervously laughing as he talked.

Gibbs shook his head. "You don't mix alcohol with any kind of drug, DiNozzo!" He shouted in his concerned fatherly tone. DiNozzo winced in preparation for a head slap that never came.

"After that visit to her office, I guess I got confused. . .from the alcohol, ibuprofen, the pain of the back spasms. . ." Tony rambled. ". . .and drove myself back home to D.C." Tony said, looking cautiously over at Gibbs.

"I swear, Boss, that I only had some wine on Wednesday because I had trouble sleeping." DiNozzo said trying to defend the accusation that Gibbs made about him having a drinking problem.

Gibbs angrily turned to him shaking his head. "The Demerol had to be well into your system by that point, Tony."

"You know you can't handle painkillers, what were you thinking?" Gibbs said. "That was almost a suicide attempt, DiNozzo."

"Whoa, oh no way Boss. I would never." DiNozzo shot back.

"Well, whether it was the painkillers or the alcohol, you are not getting either on my watch now, Tony." Gibbs said, seriously eyeing his agent. After an uncomfortably long silence, Gibbs flipped on the television. He looked over at DiNozzo, once again sitting quietly next to him. After Gibbs continued to stare at him, DiNozzo finally turned waiting for another lecture.

"Why don't you go get some sleep?" Gibbs said in a much softer tone.

"Ah, I am good for now. I don't really think I could get to sleep right now." DiNozzo responded with a smile. Gibbs looked him over.

"So who keeps calling you?" Gibbs asked without giving an explanation. With the intense glare that Tony was getting, he decided that denial or a smart remark was not the appropriate response.

"Uhhhh," Tony just moaned and waved his hand around in disgust. "It is . . ."

"W-e-n-d-y?" Gibbs said slowly emphasizing each sound in her name. DiNozzo quickly laughed.

"Her brother. I worked with him in Baltimore PD." Tony answered finally. "Of course, it is about Wendy." As Gibbs listened to DiNozzo, he could sense his reluctance and frustration. This was something he really did not want or need to talk about right now, especially with everything else that was going on.

"Ducky is taking you to the hospital tomorrow for some tests and a better examination." Gibbs informed him, watching him carefully for his reaction. When DiNozzo started to argue, Gibbs cut him off quickly.

"Boss, I am fine. . ." DiNozzo responded.

"You're going, Tony." Gibbs ordered with little effort. Gibbs shook his head and looked back at DiNozzo.

"Boss?" DiNozzo said almost worried what he would order next.

"I think I just realized what poor Mike Franks had to go through, when I first became an agent." Gibbs said thinking back to the agent he was at first, a grieving widower who lost both his wife and daughter so tragically, so violently, and pointlessly all at the hand of Pedro Hernandez.

"My career at NCIS has come full circle, in a sense with Mike's passing. Yeah, between you especially. . ." Gibbs emphasized looking at a confused Tony. ". . .Abby, and Ziva too. . ."

Gibbs continued to reflect, now there is no longer a Mike Franks to look up to and his legacy was passed on to his Probie. Mike Franks, his mentor was now gone, but his guidance brought him to the point that Gibbs was at now. He now had NCIS, a team to lead, his kids. And, in addition to his kids, he now had Leyla and Amira to care for too. In a sense, Mike Franks had provided a new family for Gibbs. Although Mike Franks could not give him back Shannon and Kelly, he did give a family to Gibbs. Now having reached this new crossroad in life, Gibbs felt it was his goal to provide the same support to his "Probies." Each of them was hurting from their relationships with their own families or decisions not to begin a family.


Thank you for reading and thank you for your excellent feedback.

I have loved this new season 9 so far, and I love this new theme of "life's crossroads." The constant reflections done on the show this season to past decisions that the characters have made that help define their personalities has been so enlightening. There will surely be a second part to this season's theme as the angst continues this season.