The team sat at their desks, frowning down at the report. Gibbs strode down to Abby, probably to check for toxic substances in the victim's blood that might have been passed down to her daughter through touch or ingestion. McGee tilted his head, wondering if it wasn't a secret code. Ziva just looked plainly confused. Tony, however, sat in his seat, lips in a thin line, wondering if it would be worth it to let himself focus on the little girl's testimony. He inhaled, tapped his pencil against his coffee mug a few times, then stood up. “Gonna go talk to the Boss. Be right back.”
“No need, DiNozzo.” Gibbs strode out of the elevator, fresh coffee in hand. “Abbs says nothing in either the kid's or the mom's bloodstream.”
Tony nodded. “Boss, it might be a long shot, but if you give me a few minutes, I think I can talk to her and make some sense out of what she's saying. I need a few minutes to get my mind in the right place.”
Gibbs looked sceptically at his Senior Agent, but saw no sign of guile. “Alright, DiNozzo, take ten and we'll call her back in. If this is a load of b....”
“It's not, I promise, Boss. Cross my heart. I'll be down in Abby's for a few.” Tony strode down to ask a favor of his friend.
* * *
Tony sat downstairs, focusing on how he felt. He was gray/tired, brown/frustrated, brownish-orange/angry, but only just a little. He sighed, letting his mind think the way he'd thought since he was a child. Then, he stood up, feeling the bright yellow touch of happiness at Abby's smile, and moved into the conference room.
Ruby Marshall sat in her chair, the social worker right beside her. Tony sat down, pulled out his notebook, and began asking questions.
“So, you said it was too blue?” Ruby nodded. “Can you tell me another time it was that blue, or close to it?”
“When my aunt died. She was my favorite auntie, and I was going to go see her. Someone hit her with a car. There was a little red, then, too.”
“I imagine it was pretty dark, though. I've been gray and brown today. Well, other than seeing Abby. That was kind of yellow.”
“Yeah. She made me pink.” Tony shared a grin with the little girl. Ruby sighed. “It was blue, but I saw the guy. He was black.”
“Not his skin though? Push through the black and tell me what your mom would have seen.” Tony started scribbling, making a circle of notes. Gibbs stood in the corner, arms across his chest, annoyance and confusion on his face.
“He looked like my daddy, except he had red hair instead of blond. Well, and he was... not fatter, but …” She pushed her elbows out.
“So, he was white like your daddy. Did he have the red freckles on his face? Like Ron Weasley from Harry Potter or something?”
“A few. Not very many.” Ruby shuddered. “Too blue.”
“I'm sorry. What if we got you a treat from the vending machine? Would that help … make things more pink?”
“Maybe more like green, but green is good.” Tony wrote down a few more things, and smiled. “Do you think you could work with Abby to make a picture of the black man?”
“I think I could, now that I can see through the black. Thank you.” Tony nodded.
“I have to completely step away from it for a while, sometimes. Otherwise, I have to find colored pens to write my reports, and they totally frown on that.” He grinned.
“Oh, I know. I wrote my name in green, blue, purple and orange, and my teacher asked me why. I couldn't explain it. She said, with a name like mine, it should be red. But there are no Ls in it....” She sounded confused.
“Don't worry about it. Next time, tell her you're a synesthete.” Tony pulled a card out of his pocket. “If you need ideas about how to keep the colors in the back of your head, call me. I've had years of practice.” He smiled.
“Green and pink.” Ruby replied, taking the card, reaching down to grab markers from her backpack to color the card on the corners with those specific colors.
“Yellow and white for me, but that works.” Tony chuckled, then stood. “Boss, she'll work with Abby to do a sketch up. Guy scared her like hell.” He pulled his boss out of the room. “She was upset and angry at her aunt. She hadn't gotten to anger yet with this. She may have seen the whole thing.”
“She didn't say that, DiNozzo.” Gibbs wasn't even going to get into the color thing, apparently.
“No, but if she was seeing that much black and blue, I don't know what else would scare her and depress her like seeing her mother's killer.”
“What was the stuff with the blue, anyway?” Or, maybe he was.
“I'm a synesthete, Gibbs. It's a fairly common thing. I had to retrain my brain not to think in terms of colors for everything. Letters had colors. Feelings had colors. Days of the week might have colors. Friday was always green, and Monday was gray. Sunday could be white, or it could be purple. And it didn't matter what color the acolytes wore, either.” He grinned at his own stupid joke.
“Synesthete?” Tony noticed they were … not so subtly headed down to Ducky's lab.
“Ducky, explain synesthesia to him, please?” Tony moved over to sit on the floor, closing his eyes to try to put his coping mechanisms back in place.
“Oh, dear boy, I should have realized. Your stapler?”
“Happy comfort.” Tony's voice was muffled.
“Gray tired, brown frustrated, brownish-orange angry at the killer.” Tony shrugged. “Little fuchsia worried.”
“Duck?” Gibbs demanded impatiently.
“Jethro, synesthesia is the condition in which sensory input triggers involuntary extra input from another sense. Some individuals hear colors, some smell words. I once knew a lady in Africa who could …”
“Duck!” Gibbs growled his impatience.
“Jethro,” Ducky chided, but returned to the topic at hand. “Synesthetes, those who … receive this extra sensory input, may need to develop routines to suppress or incorporate their extra input into their lives. My guess is that Anthony has built up routines to deal with it, and has forcibly taken them down to connect with Miss Marshall.”
“Yup. That's exactly what I did. It's gonna take me a couple hours to get back into the right frame of mind, especially since I'm so gray... I mean tired.”
“It's alright, Anthony.” Ducky lowered his hand and rested it on Tony's shoulder.
“Thanks, Ducky.” Tony grinned tiredly.
“Go home, DiNozzo. Rest, get everything back into place.” Gibbs watched his agent with his typical intense glare, and Tony felt a pulse of yellow-red-white suffuse through him as he stood to drive home. “And DiNozzo?” Tony turned back, intrigued by the tone of his voice. “Good work.” The sunshine and red stayed with him for all afternoon.