It was past the middle of the night on a Saturday by the time NCIS' senior field agent, Anthony DiNozzo, arrived home at his apartment after a long day at the office, even though the past two weeks have been slow. Due to the loss of the forth member of their team, Ziva, Tony and McGee have had to pick up the slack in the backed up paperwork and so have had to work overtime to finish it.
Tony looked forward to getting home and curling up in bed, but as he turned the corner through the hallway that lead to his apartment, he discovered someone standing outside of his doorway, waiting for him to come home. Someone he never really expected to see again, as the last time they had spoken, they did not part on good terms; Baltimore Police Fire Investigator, Jason King.
"Jason, how long have you been waiting out here?" Tony asked curiously as he began to unlock his door, then motioned for Jason to walk inside the apartment ahead of him.
"Not real long," he responded without turning around to look at Tony as the agent closed the door again. "I came thinking you would probably be awake, but wasn't really sure what to say, so…"
When Jason paused for a few moments and remained silent, Tony finally spoke up again saying, "Am I really going to have to ask? What exactly do you want? If my memory still serves me correctly, you still seemed pretty upset with me when you left NCIS that day."
Jason finally looked over at Tony as he answered, "I have a friend, a really good friend, whom I believe is in trouble and there's nothing that the detectives at Baltimore PD are able to do about it. They said that unless there's a body, there's no investigation, especially since he hasn't been missing long enough yet."
"And you came to me, thinking that I could do something that they couldn't?" Tony asked in confusion. "I'm a Navy cop. I investigate…"
"Look, I know what you do!" he interrupted angrily. "I know that finding out what happened to my friend isn't your job, but you're the only one who I can think of who can and you owe me!"
Tony scoffed as he turned away from him, then replied, "Wow, I knew that you still had a ways to go before you could forgive me, but I thought that by now you might have at least begun to try, especially after our last conversation. Apparently I'm wrong. As I said before, I'm sorry that there was nothing I could do to save your sister all those years ago, but you and I both know that I had no choice to do what I did. I'm sorry, Jason. I can't help you now. I have a job to do."
Jason continued, "My friend is going to wind up dead if you don't help me and then there will be two people I care about whose deaths will be on your conscience. Are you really willing to risk that? Please DiNozzo, help me by finding and saving him, take off a few weeks to do so, and then I finally might be able to put all this behind me. You'll get my forgiveness that I can tell you want so much."
"You're blackmailing me into helping you?" Tony asked sadly.
"I'm doing whatever I have to do to," the younger man responded coldly as he stared at Tony. "Will you do it?"
Tony looked back at Jason and then answered, "What do you know about his disappearance so far?"
Two days later, McGee walked into NCIS' headquarters and took a seat at his desk as he usually did every morning, except for on Sundays unless they were in the middle of a big case, then began to search through his desk drawers for something that after a few minutes into the search he realized Tony must have taken to mess with him; a pocket watch given to him by his grandmother, Penelope, that had once belonged to his great grandfather. The battery in it had been long dead and a few of its gears were old and rusted, and he had only just last night acquired all the right parts to finally repair it.
Gibbs walked in as McGee continued his search, then spoke up as he asked, "You lose something, Tim?"
"No boss, I mean yes, but I think Tony just took it and hid it to mess with me," he replied. "I'll talk to him when he gets in."
"It's already after eight o'clock," Gibbs responded as he too took a seat at his own desk. "DiNozzo's late."
McGee looked over at the clock on his computer, then answered, "You're right. Maybe he had a flat tire or ran out of gas."
Gibbs said, "Or maybe he's just running late."
"Actually, it's none of the above," Director Vance spoke as he walked down into the bullpen as well. "DiNozzo has requested to take a leave of absence for the next few weeks for personal reasons."
"That isn't like him, especially since neither of us has been back to work long since coming back from our break," McGee replied. "Tony was itching to get back to work. Why would he do that?"
The director responded, "He didn't say much more, but he sounded awfully adamant about how important this was to him. So, I finally agreed to give him the time he needed. I figured he could probably use it to help clear his head after losing Agent David."
Gibbs spoke up softly saying, "He has taken losing Ziva pretty hard, but there's something more going on here. Permission to find out what it is, Director?"
"Unfortunately, you've got yourselves a new case to solve and seeing as you're even more shorthanded than usual, I've found a couple of temporary replacements for you until Agent DiNozzo returns," Vance answered as two new agents walked over to them and both reached out to shake the teammates' hands. "Gibbs, McGee, I'd like you to meet Agents Song and Irwin. They're both on loan to us from the FBI, Agent Irwin being a member of the BAU. Agent Fornell spoke of them both very highly."
"It's good to meet you both," Gibbs replied with more sincerity than with what he felt, not liking the director's subtle way of trying to convince his team that they needed to soon find someone to replace Ziva permanently. "McGee, go ahead and gas the truck. I'll go and inform Duck we'll be needing his and Palmer's services."
McGee nodded and responded, "You've got it, boss."
Down in autopsy…
Gibbs walked into the room where Ducky sat at his computer looking over what looked like an old case file from years ago, then the ME turned and spoke up saying, "Jethro, if you're here to inform me of a new case, surely you could have called down, rather than walk in here to do so personally, unless of course you wish to talk about something more before we go."
"I do," Gibbs answered grimly. "Tony has taken a few weeks personal leave. He's taken Ziva leaving hard, but my gut's telling me that there more to this. Something's happened. Do you know anything that can help me figure out what's going on with him?"
"Unfortunately, I don't, but if you're concerned, you should go and talk with the boy," Ducky replied.
Gibbs scowled at the older man as he responded, "I intend to if I can find him, but I have a feeling that he's not going to make that very easy."
Ducky asked, "When has he ever made it easy on you?"
"I know," Gibbs answered. "You're right. I was just hoping that you might have picked up on something that could help."
"If it has something to do with Ziva, then perhaps you may already know that he mourns for her as if she had died, rather than just left, but if it is something else entirely, then perhaps you should get to the bottom of it as quickly as you can," Ducky replied. "Perhaps you could request to give this case to another team."
Gibbs shook his head and responded, "I already tried, but the man assigned this case to us."
Ducky smiled as he answered, "Since when have you ever so easily given in. If you are truly worried for Tony, then fight to go out to find him."
"If the urgency grows, then we're off this case," Gibbs replied as he left the room and got into the elevator. "I just hope DiNozzo knows what he's doing. Thanks, Duck."
"I pray Tony will be all right as well," the ME stated softly to himself after Gibbs left the room. "The boy does have a penchant for getting himself into trouble."