It's Still a Wonderful Life

"Tony, you look terrible," McGee said, with sincere concern. "Are you feeling okay?"

And Tony did look terrible. In fact, he looked like he hadn't slept in a week.

"No, Probie," Tony said, dropping heavily into his chair and not even trying to stifle a yawn. "I am not feeling okay. I haven't slept in a week."

"What is wrong?" Ziva asked as she came around the corner to her desk.

McGee pointed at Tony.

"My God, Tony," Ziva said, noting his tired eyes, unevenly shaved face, and tousled hair. "You look terrible." She reached out and playfully grabbed his chin, tapping her finger on a patch of whiskers still on his cheek. "And you missed a spot."

Tony made no move to evade or protest. Ziva exchanged a worried glance with McGee.

"What's going on Tony?" McGee said, taking a step closer to the senior agent's desk. "Can we help?"

Tony dropped his face into his hands. "No," he said. Then, lifting his head back up to look at McGee, "I just need to get the image out of my head. That's all."

McGee's face took on a look of confusion. He glanced to Ziva. She shrugged. "I'm going to need more than that, Tony," he said.

Tony sighed. "I've been having this dream," he began. "And I can NOT seem to shake it."

Ziva moved to where McGee was standing. They both cocked their heads to the side and raised their eyebrows in a, "okay … ?" expression, prompting him to continue.

"I'm married to Kate," Tony said.

"You're what?" McGee said, a little more loudly than he meant to.

"In the dream, Probie," Tony said, almost exasperated. "In the dream." He stood up and shook out his arms and shoulders, rolling his head around as if he were trying to shake off a bad feeling. Then he turned to look back at the two standing there watching.

"In the dream, I'm married to Kate and we're having a baby – which means that I would have actually had to have had sex with her at least once …" his voice trailed off and he shivered just a bit.

"I thought you liked Kate," Ziva said.

Tony looked at her, willing her to understand. "I did like Kate, Ziva," he said with a sigh. "I LIKED Kate. But I never – ever – wanted to sleep with her."

McGee opened his mouth to protest. Tony focused on him.

"I teased her. I made lewd suggestions. It didn't mean anything. It's just what I do."

"That is true," Ziva offered, in way of supporting Tony and also trying to move the story along.

"So," Tony continued. "In this dream, I'm married to Kate and we're having a kid and I'm this beaten down namby-pamby husband of a guy because …"

"Kate is Kate …" Tony and McGee said in unison.

"Yes!" Tony exclaimed, thrilled that someone finally understood. "And I keep having this dream. Over and over and over again. It's like I can't even shut my eyes." He dropped down into his chair again, still distraught, but somehow more awake.

"Keep your eyes open, DiNozzo," Gibbs said as he rounded the corner. "And grab your gear. We've got a case."

The team began to gear up as Gibbs reached for his own gun and badge. It had been just over a week since he'd been shot – nicked, really – in the shoulder at the diner, and there was still a twinge there. But it was okay. Twinges were reminders that you were alive, and he liked being alive. He rolled his shoulder once and then looked up to find his team watching him.

"Geez, DiNozzo," Gibbs said, deflecting their attention, "you look terrible. New baby not sleeping through the night yet?"

Ziva and McGee turned to look at Tony so quickly they nearly got whiplash.

"B … boss?" Tony said slowly. "Ba … by?"

"Well, yeah, DiNozzo," Gibbs said with a chuckle. "That's usually the next step after you get married." He fixed his gaze on Tony, who was visibly confused. A small grin began forming on Gibbs' face.

"M … m … married?" Tony continued.

"Unless that ring on your finger is supposed to mean something else," Gibbs said with a shrug. He grabbed his coffee and glanced up to watch.

Tony closed his eyes as he slowly raised his left hand. When it was at about chest level, he slowly opened one eye and took a quick glance. There was no ring. He looked at his right hand. No ring. He flipped his hands over a couple of times, double-checking from all angles. No ring. He turned to look at Gibbs, his mouth open in a silent question.

Gibbs quickly walked past the three agents, all staring at him just a bit slack-jawed. "Made ya look," he said, with a short laugh and a full-fledged evil smile.

Then the elevator doors closed and Gibbs was gone, leaving the rest of the team standing there.

"What in the HELL just happened?" Tony said. The three exchanged a look.

"I think Gibbs just …" McGee began.

"… played a joke on us!" Ziva finished, incredulously.

There was a beat of silence as the three of them mentally regrouped.

"What happened to him at that diner?" Tony said suspiciously, as they grabbed their gear and headed for the stairs.

McGee and Ziva both shrugged. They had no answer.

Meanwhile, back in the elevator, Gibbs heard the faintest sound of a bell ringing in the distance. He smiled.

"That what you had in mind, Mike?" he said out loud, much to the confusion of the other people in the elevator car.

As the door opened and Gibbs walked out to meet his team, who were just exiting the stairwell, he heard a chuckle and the familiar sound of Mike Franks' voice in the air around him.

"It's a start, Probie … it's a start."

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