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17 January 2002

The first thing Fitz Kreiner became aware of as he regained consciousness was that he had a splitting headache. Groaning, he pointedly didn't open his eyes as he pushed himself up into a sitting position. He felt dizzy, disoriented - like he was missing something, though he couldn't quite remember what it could be.

All signs pointed toward him having the hangover from hell.

Well aware that doing otherwise would simply be putting off the inevitable, Fitz reluctantly cracked open his eyes. Squinting as a dim beam of sunlight caught him in the face, he groaned again. Judging by the rubbish bins and scattered trash that surrounded him, not to mention the smell, it looked as if he was in an alley.

He suddenly froze as he realized that his headache was quickly fading away now that he was sitting up. That was a sure sign that it hadn't been alcohol that had caused it, at least no type of alcohol that he'd encountered over the years. And he'd encountered a lot of different kinds throughout the universe, so it seemed unlikely that he'd finally managed to find one that didn't leave him wanting to die when he woke up.

But what had happened, then?

Frowning, Fitz clumsily started to pull himself to his feet. He needed to think. The Doctor was probably wondering where he had disappeared to, and he had no idea where to even begin looking for the TARDIS. Of course, there was always the chance that it was just around the corner... but Fitz had been traveling with the Doctor long enough to know that he would never be that lucky.

Wait. There was something about the Doctor that he needed to remember, something important that was tickling at his brain. If he could just recall--

Fitz gasped as his memories rushed back, and he almost collapsed back to the ground at the weight of them. As it was, he leaned back against the grimy wall of one of the buildings that made up the sides of the alley. The Time War. The Daleks. Gallifrey, brought back only to face destruction again.

"Fitz, you have to leave." The Doctor had met his gaze without blinking, for once not trying to hide the desperation in his eyes. "If you stay with me, you'll die."

Fitz had snorted. "I've known that for a long time," he had said, shrugging casually even though his voice was shaking. He had shot the Doctor a wry smile. "I've already made my decision. What can I do to help?"

The Doctor had stared at him, uncomprehending.

"I'm not leaving," Fitz had said pointedly, spelling it out.

For just a moment, he had read the Doctor's face like a book. A series of emotions had fluttered across his features, each instantly melting into the next: astonishment, happiness, trepidation, sadness, regret, determination.

And then the Doctor had leaned forward and kissed him.

Fitz had frozen, not entirely certain how to react. It wasn't the first time that the Doctor had kissed him, though it wasn't exactly an everyday occurrence, but it felt different than before. More final. A tiny voice in his head told him to kiss back, for God's sake, but the Doctor was already pulling away before he could convince his body to act on that impulse.

You can't stay here," the Doctor had said firmly, not quite meeting Fitz's eyes. "Too many people have died already."

As Fitz had prepared to argue, he had felt the Doctor's fingers lightly brush across his neck. Realization had flooded through him, but there had been nothing he could do before his world went black.

The Doctor had used one of his Venusian Aikido techniques on him. He'd knocked him out, and then he'd sent him away. Fitz's legs suddenly felt shaky, and before he was even aware of what he was doing he found himself sitting on the ground again. He hadn't even got a chance to say "goodbye."

"Bastard. That damned bastard," Fitz muttered, clenching his fist. "It was my choice, not his. He didn't have the right to do this."

As angry as he was - and he was furious - deep down he couldn't blame the Doctor. Not really. If he had been in the same position, he knew that he would have made the same choice that the Doctor had.

That didn't mean he couldn't still be mad as hell.

A shadow suddenly fell over him. "Hey, are you all right?"

Fitz's breath hitched a little in surprise as he looked up, only to find himself staring up into the worried face of a man who looked to be in his early thirties. Maybe eight or so years younger than Fitz himself, not that he actually knew his own age. He had been twenty-seven when he had first met the Doctor, but so much had happened since then. It had to have been at least a decade since then, didn't it? Longer? Or did age really even count if you were a copy and not the original? He'd never quite made up his mind, and the Doctor had never given him a real answer...

"Seriously, are you okay?" The man reached out and waved his hand in front of Fitz's face, snapping his fingers to get his attention. "Do I need to call an ambulance or something?"

Shaking his head, Fitz forced his brain back to the present. "No," he said, his voice cracking somewhat. He cleared his throat. "No, I'm fine. I just--"

Fitz trailed off, suddenly realizing that he still had no idea where or when he was. Judging by the other man's accent, he was probably in the States - but that was about all he could tell. He had no identification, no money, nowhere to live...

The man was frowning now. "Were you mugged?" he asked, offering Fitz his hand.

Mugged? Fitz blinked in surprise before he remembered the fading bruise around his right eye. He and the Doctor had arrived on a planet that the Time Lords were using as a secondary base, just in time for a few of the locals to decide that they didn't like their planet being dragged into the middle of a fight that didn't involve them. He'd got a few nice new bruises before the Doctor had managed to talk everyone down, and there had been more important things to worry about than a quick trip to the infirmary for some superficial injuries. Like planning for the defense of Arcadia. It had been just a few days earlier, plus or minus a few thousand years.

It felt like a lifetime.

"I -- I can't remember." Not quite true, but it would probably go over better than claiming to be a time traveler. "Maybe? Everything's a little vague."

Fitz took the offered hand, surprised slightly at the strength in the grip. He felt a slight bulge in his pocket as he stood up again, one that he knew hadn't been there when he'd been in the TARDIS, and once he was on his feet he reached in to see what was there. When he pulled his hand back out, he was holding a wallet that he knew without a doubt wasn't his as well as what appeared to be a slightly bent passport.

Not sure what to expect, Fitz opened the passport. His photo stared back at him, alongside quite a bit of information that was completely false. He couldn't help but feel a hint of amusement when he saw his supposed date of birth, though he was careful to keep it off his face. It was a very familiar date from 1963 - the day he had met the Doctor and Sam for the first time.

"If you were mugged, it looks like you lucked out and were robbed by an idiot," the stranger said, his voice light even though he still looked a little concerned. "Is your money still there?"

Fitz obediently opened his wallet, swallowing and going slightly weak in the knees when he saw a large wad of what looked like $100 bills in American currency. Inside was what also appeared to be a Virginia driver's license, as well as a small piece of paper with what looked like a phone number written on it. Several credit cards were inside it, Fitz's name on each of them, plus a debit card. Even though he couldn't see it, he knew that the PIN had to be in there somewhere too.

There was even a green card. The Doctor had apparently thought of everything, except for actually asking Fitz what he wanted.

The man started to whistle appreciatively, but he quickly turned it into a cough. Fitz knew that he had probably gone pale, but he couldn't do anything about that right then. The only thing he could think of was what this meant: the Doctor wasn't planning on coming back. And that meant he wasn't planning on being on the winning side of the war.

"My name's DiNozzo," the man said slowly, his gaze focused on Fitz's face. "Anthony DiNozzo. What's yours?"

It took Fitz several seconds to respond. "Fitz," he said finally. "Fitz Kreiner."

DiNozzo smiled reassuringly at him. "Can you tell me where you live, Fitz?" he asked. "Or where you're staying? I'd be glad to give you a ride.'

Fitz reached up and ran his fingers through his hair, well aware that it was probably standing on end on its own. "I know this probably sounds crazy, but I don't really know," he said weakly. "Can you tell me what the date is?"

"It's January 17th," DiNozzo said slowly.

Well aware that DiNozzo was about to start wondering if he was insane, Fitz had no choice but to push on. "And the year?"

"Okay, that's it," DiNozzo said, pulling out a cell phone. "I'm calling an ambulance."

Fitz desperately reached for an explanation that wouldn't involve a doctor of the non-time-traveling alien type. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw a newspaper lying on the ground near his feet. For the first time in ages, he appreciated that the doctors on Proctimus had improved his eyesight instead of merely returning it to normal after that incident with the laser spanner and the first minister's daughter.

Of course, even sixty-third century medical procedures had their limits. "2002?" he asked slowly, praying that he was reading the barely legible date correctly. Apparently he was in Washington D.C. as well; that was something, at least. "That's right, isn't it? I haven't lost a decade or anything?"

Though he was still eyeing Fitz warily, Tony nodded and closed his phone.

Taking a deep breath, Fitz tried to think. Early twenty-first century. He tried his hardest not to picture a grave with Sam's name on it, 1980-2002 engraved in the stone. At least he knew why the Doctor had left him on the opposite side of the ocean; he hadn't wanted him to be tempted. But why had the Doctor left him in that particular year? And was there anyone he knew? Anji would still be out traveling with the Doctor. Trix wouldn't meet the Doctor for another year or so, not that he'd really consider her even if that wasn't the case. He'd met a few former companions of the Doctor over the years, but he wasn't entirely certain if they would know him yet or not.

"Are there any decent hotels around here?" Fitz asked finally. It looked like he was on his own; at least he was used to it. "Nothing too fancy, just somewhere I could stay until I figure out things? You know, call some people and try to piece things back together, that sort of thing?"

DiNozzo looked like he wanted to protest, but he apparently decided to hold his tongue and merely nodded. "Yeah, I know of a few places." He opened his phone again. "Tell you what, let me call my boss and tell him I'm gonna be late. I'll give you a ride just as soon as he stops yelling."

Fitz shot him a look that he hoped was grateful. He suspected that it was probably more sheepish than anything. "Thank you."

"No problem," DiNozzo said, waving his hand.

As the other man talked on his phone, Fitz let his mind wander. He half-listened to DiNozzo's conversation - it sounded like he hadn't been kidding about the yelling - but his attention was elsewhere. What was he going to do?

A cool wind blew past, ruffling the old newspapers and other assorted trash littering the ground. Fitz couldn't help but shiver and wrap his arms protectively around his front. Then he frowned.

Damn. His coat was still back in the TARDIS.

*

25 January 2002

Fitz woke up screaming.

Well, to be honest, it was more of a choked yell that died on his lips the moment he was fully awake. Still, "screaming" sounded better. More impressive, like there was a real reason for his reaction other than a vague memory of a nightmare that had already faded away.

Sighing, Fitz rolled out of bed and made his way toward the bathroom. He had to admit, DiNozzo had dropped him off at a fairly decent hotel. He couldn't stay there indefinitely, but it would suffice until he could figure out what he was going to do next. At least he didn't have to worry about money for quite awhile; he still felt a little weak in the knees when he thought about the figure that the lady at the bank had recited when he'd checked up on the debit card that the Doctor had left him.

There was always the possibility of getting on a plane and heading back to London; in a few years, at least, he knew that he'd have some friends there who'd be able to help him out. But for now, he didn't know. For the first time in years, he didn't have a clue what he was going to do next.

He'd called the phone number left in his wallet almost as soon as he'd shut the door to his room behind him, a week earlier. The voice on the other end had been vaguely familiar, and - though he suspected that it was someone who the Doctor had introduced to him sometime over the years - he hadn't convinced the woman to tell him her name. He had, however, found out that he didn't have to worry about anyone finding out that his identification was faked; it was completely valid, if anyone decided to take a closer look.

"Let's just say that UNIT owes the Doctor a few favors, Mr. Kreiner."

In theory, his future was apparently full of options. He could go wherever he wanted on Earth. He could do whatever he pleased. Technically speaking, the world was his for the taking. The woman from UNIT - who did he know from there other than Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart and Dr. Shaw? - had even told him that strings could be pulled to get him into any job that he felt he was qualified to do. Not that Fitz was planning on taking them up on the offer, but it was nice knowing that it was there.

Still, Fitz couldn't shake the feeling that there must have been a reason for the Doctor leaving him in Washington D.C. It was probably nothing more than unrealistic hopes getting the better of him, but he couldn't quite shake the idea that his adventures weren't quite over yet.

Fitz splashed some water on his face before studying his reflection in the mirror. It had been ages since he'd really looked at himself, but now that he was on his own he couldn't seem to stop. His hair was still as unruly as ever, though he thought there might be a few gray hairs in it now. There were a handful of wrinkles around the corners of his eyes, and the small scar on his left cheek - a reminder of an argument with Trix that had ended badly - seemed more pronounced than it had when he had last looked in the mirror in his room in the TARDIS.

"Not so young anymore," he said quietly, "are you, Kreiner?"

Luckily for his sanity, his reflection didn't reply. Fitz sent up a silent thanks to any higher being - God, alien, or otherwise - that might be listening. He pointedly ignored the flicker of movement behind his reflection in the mirror as he pulled out his razor and started to shave. A familiar young girl peered out at him from the reflected doorway, even though he knew she wouldn't be there if he turned around.

Sam grabbed his arms, and for a moment Fitz thought she was going to kiss him. "You see her too? Oh, thank God. I thought that I was going mental. She's always there, every time I look in the mirror, except when the Doctor's there. He just stared blankly at me when I asked him about it."

"Do you think she's dangerous?" Fitz asked warily, glancing back at the mirror. The girl had disappeared, but for just a second he thought that he saw a red balloon floating in the air where she'd been standing.

"Maybe," Sam said, not letting go of his arms. "Maybe not. We won't know until you come with me to tell the Doctor that I'm not just imagining things."

Fitz stumbled over his own feet as she started pulling him toward the door. "But then he'll think that I've lost my mind too! I like being the sane one for once!"

Shaking his head, Fitz forced his mind back into the present and went back to shaving. He needed to stop thinking about the past so much, at least for the time being. All that did was make him miss the TARDIS - and the Doctor, a small voice at the back of his mind added - even more than he already did.

Just as he was finishing up, someone knocked on the door to his room. Fitz frowned as he wiped his face, glancing at the clock beside his bed. It was almost noon. He was still getting used to sleeping regular hours, in a place where time was constant instead of in flux.

There was another knock at the door.

"I'm coming!" Fitz yelled. He grabbed the cheap robe he'd bought and quickly put it on, pulling it shut as he unlocked the door and opened it.

DiNozzo was standing there.

Fitz blinked a few times before reaching up to rub his eyes. It didn't change anything; when he was finished, DiNozzo was still there. The only difference was that he was grinning and obviously trying to hold back laughter.

"You haven't been up long?" DiNozzo hazarded.

"Still getting used to the time difference," Fitz said after a short pause, quickly reaching for the nearest half-truth. "Um, don't take this the wrong way, DiNozzo, but what are you doing here?"

DiNozzo shot him an easy grin. "Call me Tony."

Fitz nodded, eyeing his unexpected guest warily. "Okay then, Tony," he said. "What are you doing here?"

"I thought I'd check up on you and make sure you were doing okay," Tony replied with a casual shrug. "It's not everyday that I help someone who can't remember how they ended up in some alley." He paused, an unreadable expression flashing in his eyes. "Well, when it's not work-related at least."

Curious despite himself, Fitz stepped away from the door and motioned for Tony to come in. Then he walked over and sat down on his unmade bed. "Police?" he guessed.

Tony snorted as he shut the door and sat down in a chair near it. "Used to be," he admitted. "I'm with NCIS now."

"NCIS?" Fitz repeated slowly, staring at him.

Tony rolled his eyes. "No," he said, "it has nothing to do with CSI."

Fitz just kept staring.

"You haven't heard of CSI?" Tony asked, raising an eyebrow. "Finally, I've met somebody with some taste."

Chuckling more at the expression on Tony's face than anything else, Fitz tilted his head slightly. "NCIS?" he repeated patiently.

"Naval Criminal Investigative Service. We deal with crimes related to the Navy." Tony paused and gave Fitz a speculative look. "The United States Navy, that is."

"No, really?" Fitz asked dryly. "I thought it would be the Australian Navy. Isn't this Sydney?"

Tony threw back his head and laughed. Then he shot Fitz a grin; for the first time, Fitz thought it might be a real one. After a decade or so of traveling with the Doctor, he felt pretty certain about his ability to recognize when someone was faking.

After a few seconds, Tony grew a little more serious. "In all seriousness, do you remember what happened? Or did you at least get in touch with somebody?" He glanced around the messy room. "I'm assuming you figured out where you'd been staying and why you're in D.C."

Fitz suddenly felt relieved that he'd gone shopping for some clothes and basic necessities earlier in the week.

"I'm still a little vague on how I ended up in that alley," Fitz said, forcing himself to give Tony what he hoped was a reassuring smile. "Other than that, I'm fine. I got in touch with an acquaintance of mine, and everything's worked out now."

Tony leaned forward. "So are you here on vacation?" he asked curiously. "Or is it something more permanent?"

Fitz shrugged. "I really don't know."

"What?" The look on Tony's face was a mixture of surprise and worry. Fitz couldn't help but feel a hint of gratefulness toward the other man; he barely even knew him, but he seemed to at least care a little bit about what happened. "I thought you didn't have any more memory problems?"

Fitz let out a quiet bark of laughter, earning an even more scrutinizing look from Tony. "Don't worry," he said reassuringly, "I don't mean that I can't remember. I just... haven't made up my mind on what I'm going to do next. I had some plans, but they kind of collapsed on me so I'm just trying to figure out what the future holds."

Tony nodded, and Fitz couldn't shake the feeling that the other man really did understand what he was talking about. "Taking it one step at a time?"

"Exactly."

A thoughtful look appeared on Tony's face as he reached over and snatched a piece of paper and a pen off the nearby table. "I haven't been here that long myself," he said, scribbling something down on it. "I was with the Baltimore PD until Gibbs convinced me to join NCIS."

"Gibbs?" Fitz asked. "Is that the boss who yells a lot?"

Tony snorted. "You have no idea."

They sat there a moment, neither of them saying anything. To Fitz's surprise, it was a comfortable silence. That was a rarity for him. The last person who he'd been able to sit with quietly, without feeling the need to open his mouth and say something no matter how inappropriate it might be was... the Doctor.

He quickly turned off that train of thought.

After a minute or so, Tony glanced down at his watch and swore. "I've got to go grab some lunch and get back before Gibbs kills me."

Fitz nodded as he stood up. "Thanks for stopping to check up on me," he said. "I really do appreciate it."

"Tell you what, if you end up staying in D.C. for a while, give me a call." Tony handed Fitz the paper he'd been writing on as he stood up as well. "I don't know about you, but I could stand to make a few more friends."

The Doctor's face flashed in Fitz's mind before he could stop it. He hesitantly smiled. "That makes two of us."

*

7 February 2002

"I'll take it."

The real estate agent looked up from the forms she had been shifting through, a startled look on her face. Fitz figured that most people looked at more than one flat before making a choice, but he wasn't in the mood to play games in order to pass as just another everyday, normal person. He'd learned a long time ago not to be too picky when it came to finding a place to sleep at night.

"You're certain?" the real estate agent asked, schooling her surprise.

Fitz nodded. "Absolutely." He stole a quick look at her badge - Rachel Johnson; he had barely paid any attention to her introduction. "Do you have some papers for me to sign or something, Ms. Johnson?"

"I left them out in the car," she said. "If you'll give me just a moment, I can go get them."

She started out the door, pausing a moment to look back. "By the way," she added with a flirtatious smile, "you can call me Rachel."

Fitz stood there, blinking in surprise as she disappeared into the hallway. Then he shook his head. Damn, he was out of practice if all it took was a woman flirting with him to throw him for a loop.

Tugging at the collar of his shirt, he looked around the empty room. It had potential. He could picture himself living here, at least for awhile. Then he frowned. He was definitely going to have to go shopping - furniture, more clothes, food. It hadn't really sunk in while he was staying at the hotel, but he didn't actually have anything. His few belongings were still in his room on the TARDIS, exactly where he'd left them.

"Here's the paperwork!"

He was startled but quickly recovered and grinned as he turned around to face Rachel. She was standing just inside the door, holding what looked like a fair-sized stack of papers. "That was speedy," Fitz said, raising an eyebrow. "You must really want to get this place rented."

Rachel flushed slightly as she handed over the papers, and he found himself wondering just how old she was. He'd assumed that she was in her late twenties, maybe even her early thirties, but he wasn't quite as certain now that he was really looking at her. She honestly didn't look that much older than Sam had the last time he'd seen her.

Neither of them said a word for several minutes as Fitz flipped through the forms, glancing at them without much scrutiny as he signed them. Then Rachel cleared her throat. "So do you work near here?"

"I've got a new job starting tomorrow," Fitz said distractedly as he signed the last form. Then he realized what she'd asked and quirked an eyebrow as he looked up. "Why?"

Her face reddened slightly. "Oh, no reason," she said, practically yanking the signed papers from his hands. "Let me carry these back down. I'll be back in just a second."

Rachel reached in her pocket and pulled out a small card. She shoved it at him before hurrying toward the door.

Fitz frowned. "What's this?" he asked, glancing down at the business card she'd handed him.

"My phone number," Rachel said, glancing over her shoulder with a nervous smile. "My home phone number."

Then she disappeared out the door again.

Chuckling softly, Fitz slipped the card into his pocket. It really had been too long. If he was stuck on Earth, then he figured it wouldn't hurt to at least have a little bit of fun. He'd give her a call after he got settled in.

Speaking of which....

Looking around the empty room again, Fitz frowned and glanced down at his watch. He'd probably have time to go hit a few stores before they closed for the night. He knew that the sooner he got out of that hotel and into his own place, the more comfortable he'd be in the long run.

With a bit of trepidation, he pulled out the cell phone that he'd bought the week before and dialed the number that he'd accidentally memorized just because he kept looking at it. He wasn't used to the mobile yet, but he remembered a few comments that Anji and Trix had made about the devices. Even Sam had talked about them from time to time. It had sounded like he'd need to know how to use one, whether he liked it or not.

"Tony?" he asked when he heard a familiar voice on the other end of the line. "It's Fitz. Fitz Kreiner. You wouldn't happen to be free this weekend, would you?"

*

10 February 2002

Tony laughed as he put down the heavy box he was carrying. "Damn, you're lucky," he said, shaking his head. "The agent who found my place for me was old enough to be my mother, and she looked like my grandfather."

"Oh, she sounds like a keeper," Fitz said, smirking. "You did get her number, didn't you?"

There was an awkward silence from Tony.

Fitz blinked. And then he blinked again.

"I didn't have much of a choice," Tony said defensively. "She practically shoved it down my throat. And I'm being literal."

Turning his laughter into a thinly disguised cough, Fitz carefully avoided looking at Tony. He knew that if he did there was no possible way he'd be able to keep a straight face. "And have you called her?"

A chair cushion promptly hit him in the head.

"For your information," Tony said, his voice taking on an exaggeratedly snobby tone, "I'm seeing a woman named Paula Cassidy." He frowned, his tone going back to normal. "Well, as long as she was just kidding about never wanting to see me again."

Not even trying to hide his laughter, Fitz leaned down and picked up the cushion. He smiled as Tony struggled to shove a bookshelf into place. "Thanks for helping me unpack all these boxes."

"No problem." Tony shrugged, but he didn't look away from the bookshelf he was setting up. "In theory, it's my day off."

"Until your boss calls you," Fitz added.

Tony nodded, finally glancing away from his project long enough to grin at Fitz. "Until Gibbs calls me," he agreed. He turned back to the bookshelf and gave it another shove, pushing it against the wall. Grimacing as a stack of boxes sitting nearby wobbled, Tony moved away from the shelf and headed toward Fitz. "Speaking of which, how's the new job?"

"It should cover the rent," Fitz said, shrugging. He grabbed the beer he'd put down on a table earlier, taking a swig as he looked around the room. "Of course, I've never really considered myself to be a secretary type of person. My friend Sam would be laughing her ass off right now if she could see me."

Tony laughed as he grabbed his own beer. "Don't you mean an administrative assistant type of person?" he asked teasingly.

Fitz waved a hand in Tony's direction. "Just because a book has a different cover, it doesn't mean the story inside's any different."

"Touché," Tony agreed, still smirking slightly.

Rolling his eyes, Fitz dropped down in one of the chairs he'd bought at a local secondhand store, grabbing a pack of cigarettes from the small table next to it. He couldn't help but let out a sigh as he lit one and took a drag from it, his body instantly relaxing somewhat.

Tony raised an eyebrow as he sat down in the chair next to him. "You smoke?" he asked, sounding a little surprised.

"A friend of mine's been trying to get me to stop for years," Fitz said, carefully schooling his face as he shrugged. He was starting to get used to being stuck on Earth, but it was going to take a lot longer than that for him to be able to talk about the Doctor without looking like a "kicked puppy" - which was exactly how Rachel had described him after their date the night before, whatever the hell that meant. "I've quit a few times, but it's never really lasted."

Tony shook his head. "You should listen to your friend. They'll kill you."

Fitz shot him a weak smile. "Maybe I will," he said, nodding. He took another drag from his cigarette. "Just not today."

As if on cue, the stack of boxes that had been wobbling earlier suddenly crashed to the floor. Fitz jumped, while Tony let out a surprised cry.

"Definitely not today," Fitz muttered, taking another long drag before pushing himself to his feet.

*

16 April 2002

Fitz looked up when a shadow fell across his desk, raising an eyebrow when he saw Tony standing over him. "You're early."

"We don't have any hot cases," Tony replied. He lowered his voice. "Do me a favor and introduce me to the babe sitting over there. Red hair? Green eyes? The shirt that doesn't hide a thing?"

Shaking his head, Fitz saved the file he'd been working on. Or, at least, he tried. A grey box popped up on the screen, and he almost groaned when he read the word "error" followed by a string of numbers. He was slowly getting used to the more everyday technology of the twenty-first century, but it looked like he still had a ways to go.

"Come on, just a quick little introduction?"

Frowning, Fitz decided he'd deal with the file after lunch. Surely one of his coworkers could figure out what was wrong this time. Speaking of which....

He glanced over at the coworker in question. Monica, apparently sensing that they were talking about her even though Tony had kept his voice low, smiled widely when she saw that she'd caught his gaze. "Introduce me," she mouthed silently.

Fitz rolled his eyes. "I'm going to regret this," he muttered as he gestured for Monica to come over to his desk.

Monica hurried over, giving Tony a coy smile. He ran his eyes over her face for just a second before focusing them on her chest. Her smile grew brighter.

Tony winked as he took her hand. "The name's Tony," he said, bringing her hand up so that he could kiss the back of it. "Tony DiNozzo."

Fitz barely resisted the urge to groan. "I thought we were going to lunch?" he asked.

"Just a second," Tony said, waving distractedly. "Fitz, buddy, why didn't you tell me that you had such beautiful coworkers?"

Monica giggled.

This time, Fitz did groan.

*

30 July 2002

Fitz jolted awake at the sound of his phone ringing, muttering a Rhijalian curse under his breath when he saw the bright red "2:47 a.m." shining on his alarm clock. He grabbed for the phone, missing it several times in the dark before he managed to pull it off the hanger. "This better be important," he snapped.

"I wouldn't have called you at this hour if it wasn't, Mr. Kreiner."

Frowning, Fitz tried to place the woman's voice. "Is this my mysterious benefactor from UNIT?" he asked slowly. "I'd call you by name, but I have this slight problem of not being able to read people's minds over the phone."

The woman on the other chuckled; he might have been imagining it, but Fitz thought she sounded almost pleased by his comeback. "My name's Winifred Bambera. We met a little over ten years ago, although I doubt it was that long ago for you."

"Brigadier." Fitz sat up straight. He'd almost forgotten that incident. That was the problem with concussions - they made memories a little fuzzy at times. "Why didn't you tell me your name last time?"

There was a short pause. "The Doctor asked me not to tell you then," she said, sounding a bit puzzled. "He didn't say why, but I assume he had his reasons."

Fitz felt his heart rate speed up the moment she mentioned the Doctor's name, and his breath felt as if it was catching in his throat. He knew exactly why the Doctor had told her not to mention her name. He'd wanted to make certain that Fitz didn't come looking for him. Manipulative to the end, no matter how innocent he seemed - that was the Doctor.

A few black spots appeared in the corners of his vision, blotting out the thin stream of light coming from his alarm clock. Fitz was startled to realize that he had actually stopped breathing for a moment. He had thought he was doing a good job of not letting anything related to the Doctor get under his skin; apparently he had been wrong.

"One moment, Brigadier," Fitz said, hoping his voice didn't sound quite as strangled as he suspected it did. He pulled the phone away from his ear, covering the mouthpiece with his hand as he tried to get his breathing under control.

After several seconds had passed, Fitz felt his anger drain away leaving nothing but resigned disappointment. He removed his hand and put the phone back up to his ear. "I'm sorry for the delay, Brigadier Bambera," he said, aiming for polite. He thought it probably came across more as choked. "I just needed a moment."

He could practically hear her smiling. "Believe me, I understand."

Fitz took a deep breath. "What can I do for you, Brigadier?" he asked. "I'm assuming you didn't call just in order to finally tell me your name."

"No, I'm afraid not." Her voice suddenly sounded serious. "Tell me, what do you know about the Ghaiju?"

"The Ghaiju?" Fitz repeated slowly. He thought back, trying to remember where he'd heard that name before. Hadn't the Doctor mentioned them before? Something about UNIT, and unusually hot weather, and mysterious time travelers from the future, and... and....

His eyes widened with realization. "Oh, hell. Aren't those the ones that throw fireballs?"

Bambera made a noncommittal sound. "That's what our records say. Apparently the Doctor encountered them back in the 70s, but the details are slightly... vague."

Well aware that her tone of voice was practically daring him to ask why the records didn't have a lot of details in them, Fitz kept his mouth shut. He might still be half-asleep, but that didn't mean he was insane. Still....

"Would it be safe to assume that the heat wave we're in the middle of over here has something to do with the Ghaiju?" he asked dryly.

The Brigadier didn't reply for several seconds. Fitz suddenly had a sinking sensation in his stomach. "Tell me, Mr. Kreiner," she finally said, "how would you feel about doing some field work for UNIT?"

*

31 July 2002

Fitz stared at the Ghaiju standing just inside the doorway of the abandoned warehouse. He'd heard the Doctor mention them before, but he'd never actually seen one. They weren't exactly what he'd been expecting. The aliens were vaguely humanoid, if you ignored the purple and orange feathers that covered them. Not to mention the green beaks. Those were a bit noticeable as well.

"Trust me," Fitz said, making certain that his hands were held up in front of him as a peace gesture, "this is the United States. These people like to shoot first and ask questions later."

The lead Ghaiju made a chirping sound. He wasn't entirely certain what it meant, but he recognized the tone. He'd heard it a lot over the years.

Fitz groaned, dropping his hands. "Why would I lie?" he asked, thankful that the Ghaiju apparently understood English even if they didn't - or perhaps wouldn't - speak it. "Seriously, what do I have to gain by warning you to get off of Earth before any of the apparently large number of secret government agencies notice you're here?"

The Ghaiju's eyes narrowed. Well, at least, Fitz assumed they narrowed. It was hard to tell under all the feathers. Of course, he didn't know if that was a good sign or a bad sign.

"Well?" Fitz prompted after a few seconds. "What's it going to be?"

He barely had time to dive out of the way as a fireball flew through the air at him. Fitz quickly looked up as soon as he hit the ground, trying to see what the Ghaiju was going to do next. His eyes widened when he saw all five of them crowded in the doorway, their hands glowing.

"Oh, fuck."

Fitz had the odd feeling that Brigadier Bambera wasn't going to be happy when he called her back and told her that the military was definitely going to have to get involved. Especially when he suggested that UNIT set up a headquarters somewhere in the States so that next time they wouldn't have to send him to check out a potential threat. Probably not D.C. itself - the U.S. government might balk at that. Maybe somewhere on the west coast? Los Angeles, might work. Or Seattle. Actually, New York had possibilities as well.

Several more fireballs went flying over his head. Fitz decided he could think about it later, once he was out of the line of fire.

*

1 August 2002

"Don't ask," Fitz said as he limped across the room, glaring at Tony as he sat down on the stool next to him at the bar. "Just... don't ask."

Tony raised an eyebrow as he took in Fitz's haggard appearance, his gaze lingering on the singed edges of his hair. "And I thought I'd had some bad dates," he said, whistling.

Fitz shot him a dirty look. It quickly faded as Tony handed him the fresh beer that the bartender had just given him. "It looks like you need this more than me," Tony said, gesturing for someone to bring him another drink. "Seriously, what happened?"

"None of your business," Fitz said, rolling his eyes. He took a large gulp of his drink.

Tony leaned forward, resting his arms on the bar. As he met Fitz's gaze, his eyes suddenly looked wider and more innocent. "Please?"

Fitz took another sip of beer, and Tony's eyes somehow got even wider. After a few more seconds, Fitz let out a groan. "Will you stop doing that?" he snapped.

"Only if you tell me why it looks like someone tried to barbeque you," Tony replied. His voice was light, but there was something in his eyes that made Fitz think he was being more serious than he appeared. It looked almost like... worry.

Sighing, Fitz took another sip of beer before putting the glass down on the bar. "I was doing a favor for a friend," he said, thinking fast. Technically true, if you squinted. Possibly while standing on your head and attempting a backward summersault. "She needed some help with a problem she was having in her kitchen. There ended up being a small fire, but it wasn't anything I couldn't handle."

The something-akin-to-worried expression disappeared from Tony's face. "Haven't I been telling you that smoking kills?" he asked, his eyes twinkling. "Ready to listen?"

Fitz rolled his eyes.

For a few seconds, Tony sat there in silence. Then he cleared his throat. "Fitz?" he said slowly. "Don't take this the wrong way, but--"

"What?"

Tony gestured toward his face. "How long do you think it's going to take for your eyebrows to grow back?" he asked. "I'm not going to be able to use you as my second on double dates until they do."

*

31 December 2002

"Why did I let you talk me into this?" Fitz asked, tugging uncomfortably at his tux. He looked around the lobby of the fancy hotel they were waiting in. "Seriously, Tony, this isn't my type of place."

Tony rolled his eyes. "Relax," he said out of the corner of his mouth. His eyes were focused on two gorgeous women who had just stepped out of the elevator. "Here come the ladies."

Trying his best to ignore the urge to hit Tony, Fitz smiled weakly as the women stopped in front of them. He must have succeeded, because the smiles they shot him looked genuine. More genuine than the one that the brunette was shooting at Tony, at least. Though he couldn't help but think that looked more like a glare than anything else.

"Hi, Gillian," Tony said, grabbing the blonde and giving her a quick peck on the lips. Then he glanced at Fitz. "Fitz, this is Gillian."

Fitz nodded politely. "Nice to meet you."

"Nice accent," Gillian said, her face lighting up a bit. "British?"

Tony quickly cleared his throat, cutting in before Fitz could answer. "And this," he said, gesturing toward the brunette, "is her roommate, Jena. She's going to be your date tonight."

Jena gave Fitz a polite smile. "Nice to meet you, Fitz," she said. "Would you give me just one moment? There's something I need to take care of before we leave."

Then she turned toward Tony and, without saying a word, brought her arm back and punched him right in the face. Gillian gasped and stepped back, a shocked look on her face as she moved her gaze between Jena and Tony, who was clutching his bleeding nose. It was obvious that she had no idea why her roommate had just hit Tony.

Fitz tried not to let his curiosity show too much. He doubted that he succeeded, but at least he was in good company. From what he could tell, three-fourths of the people around them were staring as well.

"I probably deserved that," Tony said finally, trying his best not to let blood drip on his rented tux. "Uh, was this about that whole incident with the French maid outfit and your sorority sisters? Because I honestly didn't know--"

This time, it was Gillian who punched him - albeit in the side. He immediately shut up. "Tony is the one you've been ranting about for the past month?" she asked incredulously.

Jena muttered something under her breath in what sounded like French. Then she grabbed Fitz's arm and smiled at Gillian. "Fitz and I will meet you at the party," she said, pointedly ignoring Tony. "Perhaps your date would like to freshen up a bit?"

Gillian sighed and reached up to pinch the bridge of her nose. She glanced over at Tony, an undecided look on her face as if she wasn't sure whether she wanted to be seen with him in public or not. Then she nodded.

Tony shot Fitz a betrayed look as Jena started pulling him toward the door. Fitz shrugged helplessly, trying not to let his amused smile show. He apparently didn't succeed, if Tony's expression was anything to judge by.

He'd learned by now it was better off not asking questions. Besides, he expected Jena would fill him in on everything before the night was over.

*

22 April 2003

"Come on," Tony said, rolling his eyes as he glanced over his shoulder to look at Fitz. "It's not going to kill you or anything."

Fitz shot him a dirty look. "Remind me again," he said irritably, "why do I need to meet your coworkers?"

Tony shrugged. Fitz was fairly certain that he saw a hint of sadistic glee in the other man's eyes. "Payback's a bitch?"

"You're the one who asked me to introduce you to the people I work with!" Fitz said, stopping in the middle of the sidewalk. "Remember? You wanted to ask Monica out on a date. She's still not talking to me, by the way. Thanks a lot for that."

Shaking his head, Tony walked over and grabbed Fitz's arm. "How was I supposed to know that I'd dated her sister a few months earlier?" he asked, forcefully pulling Fitz along with him.

"They're identical twins!"

Tony didn't reply, and Fitz suspected that it was because he couldn't think of a comeback that would end with him coming out on top. Before he could call Tony on it, though, they were standing at the door to a bar and he was being pulled through the door in spite of his admittedly weakening protests.

His protests died completely as he caught sight of a gorgeous woman sitting at the bar on the other side of the room. She was obviously a goth, though her clothes and make-up were a little more subtle than some of the ones he'd seen elsewhere. The outfit she was wearing was tasteful and revealing at the same time, and he thought that he saw hints of a few tattoos peeking out from under some of her clothes. He was so busy keeping his eyes on her that he didn't realize that Tony was actually dragging him in that direction until they'd stopped right beside her.

"Fitz Kreiner," Tony said, gesturing toward the woman that he'd been staring at. "Meet Abby Sciuto. Or Lilly, or whatever name she's going by this week." He paused for a second. "The name's because she lost a bet. Trust me, it's better not to ask."

Fitz felt his jaw drop.

Abby smirked at him. "Not what you were expecting?"

"No," Fitz managed to choke out after a few seconds. He shot Tony a quick dirty look before looking back toward her. "Someone forgot to mention a few things when he was telling me about you."

"Ooh!" Abby clapped her hands together. It made her look surprisingly like a little girl, despite the obvious evidence to the contrary. "Tony, you never said anything about him having an accent!"

Tony, who had been grinning madly at Fitz's reaction to Abby, suddenly looked puzzled. "Why does his having an accent matter?"

Abby winked at Fitz. "Because," she said slowly, as if she was speaking to a child, "everyone knows that accents are hot."

Fitz felt his face grow warm with embarrassment.

"Is that so?" Tony grinned as he dropped down on the stool next to Abby, throwing his arm over her shoulders. Fitz almost groaned at the fake British accent that he'd put on. "How much hotter does this accent make me?"

Behind Fitz, someone laughed. "Dear Lord, Anthony," a man said, his words enunciated with a light Scottish accent of his own, "please stop abusing our ears with that atrocious sound."

Tony rolled his eyes as he spun around to meet the new arrival. "Fitz Kreiner, meet Ducky Mallard," he said, speaking in his normal voice. "Ducky, this is Fitz."

Fitz held out his hand as an older man stepped around him. "Nice to meet you," Fitz said, smiling as Ducky took his hand. Ducky's grip was surprisingly strong. "I thought that I was going to have to punch him if he didn't drop the accent soon, so it's a good thing you got here when you did."

Ducky and Abby both started to laugh, while Tony put on a pout. His eyes were twinkling, though, so Fitz could tell that he wasn't too upset.

"It's nice to meet you as well, Mr. Kreiner," Ducky said, smiling. "Would it be safe to hazard that you're from London?"

Fitz nodded. "Once upon a time," he said, knowing full well that he probably sounded a little wistful. "Though I'd really prefer if you could just call me Fitz."

Ducky smiled. "Of course."

"So this is the guy DiNozzo picked up in an alley?" An unfamiliar man stepped past Fitz, sitting down beside Abby at the bar. He ran his eyes up and down Fitz, studying him closely. "He's not what I was expecting."

Fitz's smile faded when he saw Tony stiffen.

"Gibbs!" Abby punched the man in the arm. "Be nice!"

Gibbs. That explained quite a bit. Fitz studied Gibbs's face, trying to read it. He'd heard all sorts of stories about the man over the past year, but he'd never seen him before. He wasn't quite what Fitz had been expecting either.

For one thing, he didn't have horns growing out of his head and a pitchfork in his hand.

Ducky shook his head. "Jethro, you're going to scare the poor boy."

Gibbs just smiled. It didn't look very warm.

Fitz was usually good at reading people's faces, but he couldn't make heads or tails out of Gibb's. He shot Tony a look, silently pleading that he'd step in.

Shaking his head, Tony started to say something. He was cut off by his cell phone ringing. Shooting the device a dirty look, he reluctantly answered it. "DiNozzo. Oh, hey Viv."

Fitz blinked in surprise. He hadn't heard that much about the remaining member of the team, at least compared to the others. Not that Tony had really been that forthcoming on details about any of his team members.

Tony's face quickly grew serious as he listened to whatever she was saying on the other end of the phone, and the others all sobered as well. "Yeah, I'll tell the others."

Gibbs shot Tony a pointed look as he hung up.

"That was Blackadder, obviously," Tony said, all business. "They've found the body of a JAG officer in the woods."

Without waiting for Gibbs to say a word, Ducky and Abby quickly stood up and headed for the door. Tony shot Fitz an apologetic look as he got up as well. "Sorry to cut the meet and greet short, but duty calls."

Fitz waved toward the door. "Not a problem," he said. "Besides, I'm a big boy." He gestured with his eyes toward a group of women gathered around a nearby table; one of them gave him a wave and a wink when she saw his attention focused on them. "I think that I can take care of myself for a few hours."

Tony laughed, clapping him on the shoulder before turning and hurrying to catch up with Ducky and Abby. Fitz followed him with his eyes, not wanting to look away just yet for some reason. Once Tony reached them, Abby turned around and shot Fitz one last speculative look, as if she had noticed something about him that she hadn't expected to see. He wasn't entirely certain how to read it.

It took Fitz a second to realize that Gibbs was still there, staring at him. Trying not to let his nervousness show, he forced himself to stand up a little straighter. "Yes?"

"Military?" Gibbs asked. Fitz couldn't help but think it sounded more like a statement, despite the slight inflection at the end.

It took everything Fitz had not to blanch. "Something like that," he said carefully, forcing his mind to focus on the present and not the past. "I can't-- it's not exactly something I can talk about."

Gibbs's face suddenly looked a lot less intimidating and much more compassionate. For the first time, Fitz could see what Tony saw in him.

"You'll do," Gibbs said, nodding. He clasped Fitz on the shoulder for just a second, but he didn't say another word as he walked past him and headed toward the door.

Fitz didn't know exactly what the other man was talking about, but that didn't stop him from smiling. From what he had gathered, that counted as high praise from Gibbs - and that meant something.

If he was honest with himself, for the first time in quite a while the future didn't seem so bad. The past, on the other hand....

"I refuse to simply wait to be slaughtered!" the Master had hissed, grabbing the Doctor by the coat and pushing him into the wall. "We're going to lose this war."

Fitz had practically jumped from the chair he had been sitting in, and he would have been halfway across the room within seconds if the Doctor hadn't met his gaze. Though he hadn't said anything, the unspoken message in his eyes had been clear; he wanted Fitz to wait.

"Romana feels that we have a chance of regaining lost ground if we manage to defend Arcadia," the Doctor had replied calmly. His eyes had been shining with a combination of anger and defeat even then, despite his collected appearance. "You cannot give up on Gallifrey just yet."

The Master had snorted, abruptly letting go of the Doctor. Then he had reached up and brushed a few loose strands of long, red hair behind his ear. "I gave up on Gallifrey a long time ago, Doctor," he had said chidingly. "As did you, though I expect you've been the Lady President's pet too long to remember how things used to be."

The Doctor had narrowed his eyes at that comment, and Fitz had realized what was about to happen only a second before it actually occurred. By the time he had managed to dash across the large room to where they were standing, the Master had already been struggling to pry the Doctor's fingers from around his neck.

"Doctor!" Fitz had said, his voice firm as he had grabbed his friend's arm. "He's not worth it!"

For just a moment, Fitz had thought that the Doctor was going to hit him as the Time Lord turned his angry gaze toward him. Then his fury had seemed to ebb away, leaving nothing but tired regret. He had loosened his grip on the Master's neck, sending the other Time Lord sprawling onto the ground at the unexpected action.

The Master had glared up at them. "The Time Lords aren't going to win the war," he had repeated, his voice cold. There had been red marks around his neck that would become bruises within the hour. "Not this time. Everyone you know care about is going to die, Doctor, starting with this human pet that refuses to leave your side."

Regretfully, Fitz glanced back over at the women he'd been looking at earlier. Then he waved, trying to get the bartender's attention. He suddenly wasn't in the mood for company anymore.

*

2 July 2003

Fitz couldn't help but stop when he saw the guitar in the window. He stood outside the secondhand store for several minutes, just staring at it. It had been a long time since he'd really thought about music. He hadn't played since that night on the moons of Xxerli, near the beginning of the Time War, when he and the Doctor had slipped away for one last trip before...

... and he really didn't want to think about that right now. It had been over a year, but it was going to take longer than that to stop hurting every time he happened to think about the Doctor.

Shaking his head, Fitz focused on the guitar again. It was gorgeous. He knew just by looking at it that it would play beautifully, and he could almost feel it in his hands.

"What would it hurt?" he muttered, reaching up to run his fingers through his hair. "I'd been playing for years before I ever met the Doctor. It's not like he taught me to play or anything."

Except he did, that annoying little voice somewhere near the back of Fitz's mind chimed in. You knew the notes, how to put them together, even how to put your soul into playing - but if it wasn't for him you'd never had learned that music was actually a language in some galaxies. That it could go so far beyond beautiful that humans can barely even comprehend it. That it was so much more than you ever thought it was.

"You like the guitar, huh?"

Fitz jumped at the unfamiliar voice and made a noise that sounded very similar to "meep."

There was a man standing in the doorway of the store, trying not to laugh. Fitz had to fight back the urge to stare. With his chestnut hair pulled back in a ponytail and dark eyes peering out from under tortoise-shell glasses, the stranger bore a definite resemblance to the Doctor.

"Sorry," the man said with a smile, "I thought you saw me."

Fitz shot him a sheepish grin. "I was lost in the past," he replied after only a second's hesitation. Then he gestured at the guitar. "It's been awhile since I've played."

The man nodded. "Do you want to see her?" he asked, holding the door open a little wider. "Maybe play a few chords?"

Fitz bit his lip and glanced at the guitar one more time. He knew it would remind him of everything: the Doctor, the TARDIS, Sam, Compassion, Anji, Trix, the Time War, Gallifrey, the Faction Paradox, the Daleks, probably even Father Kreiner. Still, it was tempting. Very tempting. "I guess it wouldn't hurt."

Grinning, the man ushered him in. "I'm Jim, by the way," he said, closing the door behind them. He walked over to the window and carefully picked up the guitar, holding it like it was a priceless treasure. "I own the store."

"The name's Fitz."

Fitz wavered for just a second as Jim handed him the guitar before taking it. His hands automatically put themselves in the right position; he didn't even have to think about it. He tentatively played a few notes, letting the sound rush over him. It had been too long.

Closing his eyes, he let his mind drift as his fingers started playing. For just a moment, he could almost imagine that he was back in the 1960s. Everything he'd been through over the past decade or so was nothing more than a dream he'd had.

Except it hadn't just been his imagination. He wasn't a twenty-seven year old just barely eking out a living, taking care of his sick mother and trying to pretend that his last name didn't earn him dirty looks even though the war had been over for almost two decades. He'd seen the universe, saved the world, faced some creatures that were usually only found in nightmares, and came across things that were so beautiful it would make a grown man cry. Not that he'd admit to anything.

Sighing, Fitz stopped playing and opened his eyes again. Jim was staring at him, an impressed look on his face. "Just how long has it been since you played?"

"A couple of years," Fitz said, shrugging. It was all but impossible to actually do the math and figure out exactly how long it had been.

Jim whistled. "A couple of years?" he repeated. "And you can still play like that?"

Fitz felt his face grow warm, and he quickly tried to hand the guitar back to Jim. "I better be going."

Jim held up his hands, refusing to take the guitar back. "Not without that guitar, you're not." He shook his head. "Trust me, it was meant for you."

Biting his lip, Fitz glanced down at the guitar. It wasn't as if he couldn't afford it. The only reason he wasn't jumping at the chance was because it reminded him of the Doctor. Where would it stop? Was he going to spend the rest of his life making decisions based on whether or not it would make him remember the past? The Doctor had left him. Why was he rearranging his life for the Doctor's sake?

"You know what?" Fitz said, reaching into his pocket for his wallet. "I think you might be right. Maybe it's time I tried to live a little."

*

15 July 2003 // 2:12 a.m.

The sound of someone banging on his door woke Fitz up from what had been a surprisingly sound sleep. He sat up, blinking as he tried to clear his head. Whoever it was at his door was still going at it, though, making it instantly apparent why he was awake and not still curled up under his blankets.

Muttering several curses that he'd picked up on various planets, Fitz pushed himself out of bed. "This better be good," he grumbled. "And I swear I'm going to kill Glenn if he's drunk and knocking on the wrong door again."

Stumbling slightly in the dark, he hit the light switch as soon as he stepped out of his bedroom into the living room. He made his way over to the door, brushing a few loose strands of hair out of his face as he peered out the peephole. Damn, he needed to get a haircut.

It took a few seconds for him to figure out what he was seeing on the other side of the door. Once he figured out who was there, Fitz kept staring for a moment before reluctantly opening the door. "Tony?" he asked incredulously. "What the hell are you doing here?"

Tony gave him a half-hearted wave as he adjusted the duffel bag on his shoulder. "You know how I was staying with the boss while my place was being fumigated?" he asked, sounding almost sheepish.

Despite his better judgment, Fitz nodded. He had a bad feeling that he already knew what was coming.

"He threatened to shoot me if I didn't find somewhere else to stay."

Fitz blinked. Then he tilted his head and studied Tony's face. Blinking seemed like a good reaction, so he did that again.

Tony's tired smile faded. "It's only for another two or three days," he said. "I swear."

"If it's more than that, can I be the one who shoots you?" Fitz asked. He reached up to stifle a yawn.

"Sure," Tony said, shrugging. Then he paused. "Do you actually own a gun?"

Fitz shook his head, stepping out of the way so that Tony could get in. "I'll buy one. Or I could just ask Gibbs to let me borrow his."

Tony frowned. "He might just let you," he grumbled.

"That bad, huh?" Fitz said, chuckling. "Is the sofa okay?"

Nodding, Tony dropped his bag on the floor. "That would be great," he said. "If you had said 'no,' my next idea was asking Abby if I could sleep in her coffin for a few days."

Fitz started to grin... but he blinked instead when he saw the serious look on Tony's face. "She really has a coffin?" he asked. Then he realized what Tony had implied, and a bit of warmth flared up somewhere around his stomach. "And you'd rather stay on my sofa than share a coffin with Abby?"

Tony didn't answer; it was obvious that he hadn't heard a word Fitz had just said. He'd caught sight of the guitar that was sitting prominently in the corner of the room. "You play?" he asked, gesturing toward the instrument with a raised eyebrow.

Fitz glanced at the clock on his VCR. "Not at two o'clock in the morning."

Tony opened his mouth, but his reply was cut short by a loud yawn. Fitz followed suit a few seconds later, and the two of them stared at each other sheepishly.

"Let me go get you some blankets and a pillow," Fitz said, heading toward the closet.

*

15 July 2003 // 3:47 a.m.

Fitz jerked awake, the echo of a scream ringing in his ears. It wasn't until Tony rushed into his room, gun drawn and a worried look on his face, that he realized that it had been him yelling.

"Sorry," Fitz said, reaching up to run his fingers through his hair. His voice sounded shaky even to him. "I didn't mean to wake you up. No need to shoot me or anything."

Tony shot him a sheepish look as he put his gun down. "It's a habit," he said with a half-hearted shrug. "You okay?"

Fitz nodded. "Just a bad dream."

"It sounded like it was a little more than that," Tony said after a moment's pause. He sounded almost hesitant, like he wasn't certain whether to drop the subject or push it a little more. "I haven't seen that look on your face since, well, the first time we met."

Fitz didn't meet Tony's gaze.

"Does it have anything to do with the shape you were in back then?" Tony asked. His voice was unusually serious, and Fitz couldn't help but wonder if he'd missed a punch line.

Sighing, Fitz finally looked up. "Something like that, yeah."

Tony's only reply was to look at him expectantly.

"I had a... friend," Fitz said quietly.

Tony raised an eyebrow, and a hint of the Anthony DiNozzo that Fitz was used to seeing appeared. "A friend?" he asked, wiggling his fingers in a fair representation of quotation marks. Then he made an air drawing with his hands that obviously was meant to represent the curves of a woman's body.

Fitz snorted, but it wasn't in amusement. "He was my best friend for well over a decade," he continued, not quite answering Tony's question as he dropped his gaze to his hands. "He saved my life, in more ways than one."

There was silence for a moment. Neither of them said anything.

"I loved him," Fitz said quietly. He reluctantly looked up, meeting Tony's gaze; he wasn't certain how his friend would react to that bit of news. "I don't know if he was like a friend, or a brother, or... something else. But I do know that I loved him."

"What happened?" Tony asked. The serious expression was on his face again but not a judgmental one, and despite how odd it was to see Tony looking somber Fitz felt grateful to him for it.

Fitz shrugged, his shoulders slumping slightly as a wave of exhaustion suddenly rushed over him. "There was a war," he said tiredly. "Isn't that always what happens?"

Tony hesitated a moment before sitting down beside Fitz on the bed. He didn't say anything, but after a few seconds he reached out and gently gripped Fitz's arm. Normally, Fitz would have pulled away - but for once he didn't have the strength to even do that much.

"He never came back," Fitz whispered. His voice cracked slightly, but he was too tired and overwhelmed by the nightmare that he'd woken up from just a few minutes earlier to feel embarrassed. "I always thought he'd come back for me."

Tony's grip tightened slightly. Even though he hadn't said a word, it spoke volumes. "What was his name?" he asked quietly, after a moment had passed.

Fitz chuckled. "That's the million dollar question," he said dryly. He smiled despite himself at the confused look on Tony's face. "Most of the time, I just called him Doctor. It fit him."

They slowly drifted into a companionable silence.

After several minutes, Tony cleared his throat. "I'll go back to the couch," he said, gesturing at the door.

Fitz nodded. He managed another smile.

Tony stood up and stretched. Then, faster than Fitz could possibly react, he grabbed a slip of paper off the table by the bed. "Well, well, well, what do we have here?"

Rolling his eyes, Fitz held out his hand. "Tony, give that back."

"Someone gave you her phone number, huh?" Tony asked, smirking. "Lucky. If it doesn't work out, mind if I borrow this?

"I'm fairly certain he's not your type." Fitz couldn't hide his grin. "Long hair, glasses, loves music... maybe a little geeky."

Tony frowned. "I'm missing something," he said slowly. "Why wouldn't that be my--"

He blinked. Twice.

"Did you say he?"

Fitz's smile faded a little after several seconds passed. The expression on Tony's face was difficult to read, and he wasn't entirely certain how to define it. "What can I say?" he asked, shrugging casually. "He gave me a good deal on the guitar."

Tony gaped at him for a moment before shaking his head. "Well, as long as you got a good deal," he said, starting to laugh as he headed back out toward the living room. "I guess it didn't hurt any to let him give you his number. It's not like you're actually going to call him or anything."

Fitz decided it would probably be a good idea not to mention that he was meeting Jim for dinner on Friday. He wasn't sure if he'd be able to stand Tony's reaction.

It hurt more than he'd expected.

*

5 September 2003

Tony raised an eyebrow as he stood next to Fitz. "This is the great bar you've been going on about?" he asked skeptically. "Seriously?"

"What?" Fitz asked defensively. He glanced around the room, taking in the sights. True, it looked a little small. And maybe a little dingy. But appearances weren't everything. "Trust me, this place is great."

Looking pretty skeptical, Tony grabbed a stool at the bar and sat down. "I'll take your word for it." He glanced around the room, pausing after a second or two. "Why was that guy staring at us?"

Fitz followed Tony's gaze. "Oh, that's just Adam," he said. "He stares at everyone when they first come in. I asked him about it once, and he just said he'd rather be a little paranoid than dead."

Fitz gave Adam a wave, but all he received in reply was an eye roll before the man in question turned his attention back toward his beer.

The skeptical expression on Tony's face grew even stronger.

Fitz shrugged. "He's a friend of Joe's, the guy who runs the place," he explained. "There are a couple of regulars who show up pretty often. Most of them are kind of odd, but they're not too bad. Especially this gorgeous woman named Amanda who I'm slowly but surely working my wiles on."

"Any luck?" Tony asked, surreptitiously glancing at Adam as he took another sip of his drink.

"I'm wearing her down."

There was a snort of laughter behind them.

Fitz and Tony glanced at each other, sheepish looks appearing on their faces, before turning back around to face the bar. The bartender, Joe, was standing there looking amused. He didn't say a word about their conversation, even though he had obviously heard most of it. All he did was hand them their drinks and give them a tip of his imaginary hat.

It had been a long time since Fitz had felt so much like a kid who'd just been caught with his hand in the biscuit tin.

*

3 October 2003

"Hey Fitz, I'm over here!"

Fitz saw Abby waving at him the moment he stepped in the door, and he grinned. She held up two glasses, one in each hand, gesturing for him to take one.

He weaved his way through the crowd toward the small table Abby had grabbed for them and gratefully took the drink from her. There was even a glass of water sitting on the table to go with it. "You, Abby Sciuto, are a life saver."

"Long day at work?" Abby asked, smiling.

His reply was to take a long swallow of his beer.

Abby's smile faded a little into one that was more akin to contemplative. "I've got a question for you."

Fitz waved his hand at her, motioning for her to ask. God only knew what she wanted to know, but he doubted it could be anything too bad.

"Are you bisexual?" Abby asked, tilting her head.

The beer that Fitz had been drinking somehow ended up traveling from his mouth to his nose. He coughed, trying to breathe though the liquid.

Abby ignored his troubles. There was an evil glint in her eyes that made Fitz nervous. "I've seen you with women, and it's obvious that you're attracted to them. I mean, just look at how often you stare at my breasts. So that means you're not gay."

Fitz kept coughing.

"But," she continued, "I've also seen the way you stare at Tony's ass. Not to mention Gibbs', when you know he's not looking. So that implies that you like men too."

The only reply Fitz could manage was an indignant splutter.

Abby grinned at him. "I'll take that as a 'yes.'"

Fitz grabbed his glass of water, taking a small sip. "What?" he choked out hoarsely. "Where the hell would you get an idea like that?"

"Are you denying it?" she asked, quirking an eyebrow.

He opened his mouth... and closed it again. Bisexual wasn't exactly the term he'd use, but he supposed it was close enough. He'd figured out years ago that it was the person he fell for, not their gender. It was one of the side effects of seeing the universe and all it had to offer. "Why do I hang out with you?" he asked, burying his head in his arms. "All it does is get me in trouble."

She laughed and reached out to pat his hand.

"Please tell me that no one else has noticed," Fitz pleaded, still not looking up.

Abby chuckled again. "I'm just observant."

Fitz reluctantly stopped hiding his face. "Abby, the others work for NCIS too," he pointed out, his voice a little strained. "They're slightly observant as well."

"Sometimes they are," she agreed, "and sometimes they can't see what's right in front of their faces."

"I thought you said I wasn't being obvious."

Abby shook her head. "No, I said that nobody else had noticed." She grinned at him, and the evil glint reappeared in her eyes. "There's a difference."

Sighing, Fitz took another large swallow of his drink. "Nothing's going to come out of it," he said firmly. "So do you think we might be able to keep this between the two of us?"

A hurt look appeared on her face. Realization quickly dawned on Fitz.

"You weren't planning on telling anyone else, were you?" he asked slowly.

She shook her head.

He grimaced. "I should probably work on getting my foot out of my mouth, huh?"

This time she nodded.

Fitz reached up to rub his aching head. "Sorry." He hoped his voice sounded properly chastised. "I should have known better."

Abby gave him a sympathetic smile. "No problem," she said. A thoughtful look appeared on her face. "Oh, did Tony mention that Gibbs finally found a new agent to replace Viv?"

Quirking an eyebrow, Fitz took another sip of his drink. "Do you honestly think Tony tells me anything about life at NCIS?" he asked dryly. "Other than the names and cup size of potential dates he meets during cases, that is?"

"Her name's Kate," Abby said, shaking her head in amusement. "Caitlin Todd. She was with the Secret Service, and Gibbs, Tony, and Ducky met her when they stole Air Force One."

Fitz did a double-take. "When they what?"

Abby waved her hand. "Well, they didn't technically steal it, per se. And I guess it wasn't Air Force One by that point, since President Bush wasn't on it anymore."

Shaking his head, Fitz settled back in his chair to listen.

*

24 October 2003

Tony was smirking. After knowing him for over two years, Fitz knew that could never be a good thing. "Fitz, meet Kate." Tony gestured at the woman standing beside him, who looked as confused as Fitz felt. "Kate, meet Fitz. Have a nice date."

Before either of them could react, he was halfway across the bar. A group of college students were gathered in the far corner, all of them wearing too much make-up and not enough clothing, and it was obvious that he was heading in their direction.

"What just happened?" Fitz asked, blinking.

Kate looked just as surprised as him. "I'm honestly not sure," she said, tearing her gaze from Tony's antics and focusing it on him. "Who exactly are you, by the way?"

Shaking his head, Fitz stood up. "Fitz Kreiner," he said, offering her his hand. She took it immediately, and it took all his will not to grimace at her grip. "I'm a reluctant friend of Tony's."

"No accounting for taste," Kate said. She gave him a light smile to show that she was joking before sitting down in the empty chair across from Fitz; he quickly followed suit. "I'm Caitlin Todd, by the way. Nice to meet you."

"Ah," Fitz said, nodding. "You're the new member of the team. Abby mentioned you."

A surprised look appeared on Kate's face. "You know Abby?"

Fitz grinned. "I've known Tony for awhile," he explained. "He introduced me to the others some time ago, and I see them every now and then. Admittedly, he usually sticks around after making the introductions. I guess the gaggle of young twentysomethings was too much for him to pass up."

Kate rolled her eyes. "Typical."

Fitz knew better than to agree or disagree. He leaned back in his chair, resting his hands behind his neck. "Tell me, Kate, what do you think of NCIS?

"NCIS is fine," she replied quickly. "I think that I'm going to like working there."

Eyes sparkling, Fitz shot her a questioning look. "And Tony?"

"He's a pig," she replied without even a second's hesitation.

Fitz nodded. Then, after a few seconds, he coughed. "Oh, that's all you're going to say?" he asked. "Sorry, I thought the list would be longer."

Kate raised an eyebrow. "Enlighten me," she said dryly.

"No problem," Fitz said, holding up his hands as he let the front legs of his chair come back down to rest on the floor. He ticked off a finger for each flaw that he pointed out. "He's childish, sexist, immature, a complete womanizer--"

Though it was obvious that she was struggling not to do it, Kate laughed.

Fitz shook his head. "I'm not finished yet," he said, shaking his finger reproachfully. His smile faded into a more serious expression. "He's also loyal, brave, and one of the best friends I've had in... a long time."

"Are we talking about the same man?" Kate asked, shaking her head in amusement.

Fitz didn't laugh.

After a few seconds, Kate's light-hearted expression faded into a more thoughtful one. She shook her head. "You're serious, aren't you?" she asked, a hint of incredulity in her voice. "Even after listing all of his negative aspects?"

"The positives outweigh the negative," Fitz said with a shrug. He shot her a tired smile. "He tries to hide it, but there's a good man hiding in there. One of these days, he's going to let him out."

There was a sudden commotion on the other end of the room. Both of them turned around in time to see Tony quickly backing away from the college girls, rubbing his cheek as if he'd just been slapped. After a few seconds, he turned his back on them and started hurrying toward the table where Fitz and Kate were sitting.

"One of these days," Fitz repeated, sounding a little more skeptical than he had before.

Kate's eyes shone with laughter as she turned back toward Fitz. "Are you up to playing a little joke on him?" she asked. "Or is he too good of a man?"

"Everyone needs to be cut down to size from time to time," Fitz said, grinning back. "What do you have in mind?"

Instead of replying, Kate leaned over the table toward him. Not certain what to expect, Fitz leaned toward her as well. He barely managed to hold back a surprised yelp as she kissed him.

Kate pulled away a few seconds later, though it felt like hours to Fitz. She planted an innocent look on her face as she glanced up at Tony, who was standing next to their table and openly gaping. "Oh, hi, DiNozzo," she said, trying to sound sheepish. It came across more as smug, in Fitz's mind. "Thank you for introducing me to Fitz."

She kicked Fitz under the table, and he managed to make a half-grunt that he hoped sounded like he was agreeing with her. His brain was moving too fast in too many directions for him to actually think enough to make spoken words.

Tony opened and closed his mouth a few times, staring at the two of them like they had just transformed into a pair of Judoon. Not that he would actually know what a Judoon was, but still. It would probably be the same look. "You-- he-- what?"

"I'll see you later, Fitz," Kate said, winking at him as she stood up.

He nodded, not quite managing a reply.

Kate smiled at Tony again before disappearing into the crowd. After a few seconds, Tony dropped down into the chair she had just vacated and stared at Fitz expectantly. If Fitz hadn't known better, he would have thought that the look in Tony's eyes was one of jealousy. But that was ridiculous. Wasn't it?

He felt a familiar knot start to grow in his stomach, one that hadn't been there in years. Fitz knew without a doubt that it wasn't a good thing. All that would do is confuse things. His life didn't need any more complications.

"Well?" Tony asked, raising an eyebrow. "Are you going to sit there all night or are you going to fill me in?"

Fitz managed to make another inarticulate sound.

Shaking his head, Tony stood up again. "I'm going to go get us some drinks," he said, his voice sounding surprisingly like Gibbs'. "And then you're going to start talking."

"Oh hell," Fitz muttered as Tony disappeared in the direction of the bar. He buried his head in his arms. "Get hold of yourself, Kreiner. The last thing you need to be thinking about right now is that Tony might possibly be attracted to you. He's probably just jealous that Kate kissed you instead of him. Besides, he's a friend, remember? You don't have enough of those as it is."

It was all in his head. There was no other explanation. All he had to do was keep telling himself that, and maybe he wouldn't end up embarrassing either of them.

*

3 March 2004

Fitz hesitated a moment before he grabbed the empty chair at Kate's table and dropped down into it. "Hey, Kate."

She looked startled for a moment before she smiled. He didn't buy it for a second. "Fitz," she said, nodding. "I haven't seen you in awhile."

"Work's been a bit insane," he said, trying to keep his voice casual. From her sudden frown, he suspected that he wasn't doing a very good job at it. "Speaking of which--"

"Don't even start."

There was no mistaking the warning tone in Kate's voice, and Fitz immediately dropped the innocent act he'd been wearing. He wanted to ask her how she was doing, but he had the oddest feeling that he'd end up in quite a bit of pain if he pushed her.

After a minute or so had passed, Kate sighed and apparently took pity on him. "Why are you here anyway?" she asked, changing the subject. "Don't you usually hang out with Tony when you don't have a date?"

Fitz frowned despite himself. "He's out with Paula Cassidy."

"Really?" Kate asked, a startled look on her face. "I thought she wasn't planning on dating him anymore."

Shrugging, Fitz leaned back in his chair. "Apparently Tony's boyish charm was too much for her to resist."

Kate let out an unladylike snort.

Fitz sat there for a moment, studying her, before letting the amusement fade from his face. "Seriously, Kate, how are you holding up?" he asked quietly. "Tony told me about the hostage situation down in the morgue. He couldn't give me many details, obviously, but it was enough to tell me things had been pretty bad."

She didn't reply for a long moment. Fitz was just starting to worry about the upcoming state of most of his sensitive body parts when Kate sighed and met his gaze. "I've been better," she admitted ruefully. "But I'll be fine, Fitz. Really. I just need a little time."

He stared back at her for a moment, studying her face. Then he nodded. He recognized the glint in her eyes; it actually reminded him a bit of Compassion, scary as that might be. She wasn't lying.

"How's Gerald?" He paused for a moment, frowning slightly. "It is Gerald, right? Ducky's assistant? I've never actually met him."

Kate gave him a weak smile. "He'll be fine, eventually."

Fitz could read between the lines. "He's not coming back to NCIS anytime soon?" he guessed.

"If ever," she agreed, shaking her head. She smiled slightly. "Ducky has a new assistant. His name is Jimmy Palmer, and I swear that he doesn't even look old enough to shave."

Chuckling, Fitz nodded. "How did he react to some of Ducky's quirks?"

Kate laughed, her face lighting up in a real smile for the first time since he'd sat down at the table. "Believe it or not," she replied, shaking her head, "Palmer worships the ground that Ducky walks on."

"Smart kid."

"That's exactly what Tony said."

Fitz was still chuckling when Kate suddenly leaned over and kissed him. It was barely more than a peck, a quick brush of her lips against his, but to him it was as if the kiss was accompanied by a fireworks show and a full orchestra.

Kate shot him an almost tentative smile. "Thanks for the pep talk, Fitz," she said, standing up from the table. "I feel a lot better."

His lips felt warm where hers had brushed against them, and it took everything Fitz had not to smile like a complete idiot as she walked away. He had to admit, that wasn't the reaction he had expected.

*

30 April 2004

Fitz frowned as he made his way over to the table near the back of the bar, where Kate, Tony, and Abby were already sitting. Kate and Abby were laughing, while Tony looked like he was five seconds away from bolting.

"What did I miss?" Fitz asked, raising an eyebrow as Tony buried his face his arms and refused to meet his gaze.

Kate grinned at him. "Tony," she said, drawing his name out as Fitz pulled the remaining chair out from the table and started to sit down, "made out with a guy last night."

Fitz somehow ended up on the floor instead of in the chair. "What?" he repeated dumbly. He pretended that he didn't see the knowing look that Abby shot in his direction, a sheepish expression appearing on her face as she stopped laughing.

"Tony tongued a guy," Kate repeated, laughing as she leaned over in her chair and offered him her hand.

Fitz gratefully took her hand and pulled himself back into the seat. A mumbling sound came from the general vicinity of Tony's face, but it was impossible to tell what he was saying.

"We can't hear you," Kate said teasingly.

Tony lifted his head enough that his mouth wasn't covered, but he refused to meet their eyes. "I said that I thought he was a woman."

Kate's grin grew even broader. "But he wasn't one yet," she said, winking at Fitz. "The surgery was scheduled for next month."

Fitz tried to smile, but he knew that it was more than a little forced. Kate apparently didn't pick up on it, though, since her grin didn't fade.

"You know," Abby said slowly, "it's really not that funny."

"Yes, it is," Kate shot back.

Tony groaned. "No, it's really not. Come on, Kate, you know I wouldn't have kissed him if I'd known he was a man."

"Whatever you say, Tony," Fitz said light-heartedly, feigning a grin. He doubted it reached his eyes, but it really didn't matter since Tony was hiding his face again.

Abby bit her lip, and he shook his head just a little when he knew Kate wasn't looking. At least now he knew it was a good thing that he'd decided to keep his mouth shut when it came to how he felt about Tony.

*

24 June 2004 // 1:53 p.m.

Fitz kept his eyes on his newspaper as he walked down the crowded street, two years of practice keeping him from walking into anyone.

"It's a hundred degrees out here," he heard someone grumble as he walked by. "How could anyone walk around dressed like that?"

The person walking in front of him came to an abrupt stop, and Fitz narrowly avoided walking right into the woman's back. He frowned as he looked up from the paper he'd been reading, noticing for the first time that quite a few people around him were pointing at something or someone farther down the street.

Slipping by the still stopped woman, Fitz continued down the sidewalk. He only had ten minutes to get back to work before his lunch break was over, and he wasn't going to let gawkers at some movie star or crime scene make him late. Again.

Not that he wasn't curious. He was going that way anyway. It wouldn't hurt if he took a quick look to see just what everyone was talking about. Chuckling to himself, Fitz glanced in the direction that everyone seemed to be staring in.

Then he froze.

Fitz did a double-take when he finally saw the person who was drawing all of the stares. It was tall man with curly brown hair, dressed in a thick coat and a scarf that looked like it might possibly decide to rise up and take over the world. The back of his coat was ripped, with tattered strips blowing in the slight breeze, and there were several dried stains on it that Fitz knew without a doubt had to be blood.

He also knew with absolutely certainty that it was the Doctor.

Frowning, he closed his eyes and tried to remember which incarnation the man walking down the street would have been. His third? No, that was the life that was mostly spent in exile. The fourth then? Maybe. Whatever number it was, this Doctor wouldn't meet him for several lifetimes.

Fitz opened his eyes again, taking a closer look at the Doctor. Despite the state of his coat, the Time Lord looked as if he was in perfect health. He was completely oblivious to the stares he was garnering, not that Fitz was surprised.

The young woman walking next to him, admittedly, wasn't nearly as unaware. Her face was bright red, and she was carefully not meeting anyone's gaze. Judging by the dirty looks she kept shooting at the Doctor, she didn't appreciate all the attention they were getting because of his appearance.

As Fitz stared, the woman looked up for just a second and let her gaze drift over the crowd. He blanched as her eyes moved over him, but she didn't even pause. He knew her. That was Sarah Jane Smith.

Fitz slipped back into the crowd, careful not to let her see him again. A part of him wanted to rush at her and ask how Sam was doing, if that grave he had seen all those years ago was really hers, but he knew better. Sarah Jane looked decades younger than she had when he'd met her. That woman had made a life for herself on Earth, investigating aliens and the like. The one he was staring at was barely more than a girl.

And she was with the Doctor. Not his Doctor, of course, but still. The Doctor. Sometime over the past two years, Fitz had convinced himself that the past was completely behind him, that he'd never have to worry about seeing the Doctor again. Except there he was, in the flesh, even if for him it would be hundreds of years before he ever met Fitz.

For just a second, Fitz was tempted to run up to them. His life in the TARDIS had started to fade in his memories, something that terrified him more than he'd like to admit, and a part of him wanted nothing more than to go back to it. He took several steps forward before common sense took over, a sarcastic voice that sounded much too similar to Compassion's for his comfort reminding him just how bad the consequences could be if he crossed timelines.

He'd seen Reapers once, during the Time War. He never wanted to see them again.

Sighing, Fitz stopped moving forward. He watched as the Doctor laughed and took Sarah Jane's arm, her glare fading into a look of bemusement. Then, ignoring the whispers and stares they were still receiving, the two of them turned the corner and disappeared out of his sight.

Fitz glanced down at his watch, not surprised to see how late it was. He was going to be late getting back to work again, and he could already tell it was going to be a long afternoon.

He needed a drink.

*

25 June 2004 // 12:13 a.m.

Fitz glanced down at his watch, blinking when it took a moment to focus. It was a little after midnight. Not for the first time, he sent up a silent thanks that he didn't have to work the next day.

He swallowed his shot of whiskey in one gulp, ignoring how it burned as it went down his throat. He gestured for the bartender to give him another glass.

Joe shot him a warning look as he placed the shot down in front of Fitz, his hand held over it. "Did you walk or drive?"

"Walked."

Nodding, Joe moved his hand from over Fitz's drink. "Keep 'em coming?" he asked.

Fitz nodded as he picked up the whiskey and held it up in front of his face, studying it for a moment before downing it. He placed the empty glass down on the bar in front of him. "Use your judgment on when to cut me off," he said tiredly. "Mine's not going to be worth shit after a few more of these."

There was a slightly worried look on the other man's face, but he didn't say anything as he poured another shot of whiskey and placed it on the bar in front of Fitz. Nodding, Fitz pulled another $20 from his wallet and slid it across to him. Then he picked up the glass, staring at the liquid inside as the light caught it.

Fitz let his thoughts drift for a moment, remembering the past. Funny how many memories seeing the Doctor again had drudged up, even though it hadn't been his Doctor.

The two versions of Romana that he had known stood beside each other in his mind, a third that he had seen only in pictures behind them. It still made his head ache thinking about it, trying to wrap his mind around the mess that reality had become over during his last few years with the Doctor.

Gallifrey had been destroyed, wiped out of time itself. Memories had been turned inside out, twisted and distorted until nobody knew exactly what had happened. And then it had been back - different yet the same. Even now, after years of hearing the Doctor try to explain what had happened, Fitz couldn't quite wrap his mind around the idea. All he knew was that it hadn't quite been the same Gallifrey that had come back - that one had been taken out of time when the Doctor had tried to stop the Paradox Faction. It was a different Gallifrey, a Gallifrey based on a different potential timeline.

In that timeline, President Romana had never regenerated into the black-haired woman that he had met all those years ago. Instead, she had remained a tiny blonde with a human companion of her own. The Doctor from that timeline had never met him, or Sam, or Compassion, or Anji, or Trix, or anyone else from their travels. He had traveled with a woman named Charley, two siblings known as Samson and Gemma, an alien named C'rizz, a girl called Lucie... people whom Fitz's Doctor had never met.

Except those timelines had merged. Two potentials made into one, memories of what had happened and what should have happened combined into something new - something that couldn't quite be defined. And that had marked the beginning of the end, in more ways than one.

As Fitz stepped into the console room of the TARDIS, he paused uncertainly. The Doctor was sitting on the floor, his arms wrapped around his knees so that he looked as if he was curled in on himself. "Doctor?"

The Doctor didn't look up.

Slowly, Fitz walked over to where the Doctor was sitting. He knelt down, studying the bit of the Doctor's face that he could see - the part that wasn't hidden under his loosely flying hair. "Doctor?" he repeated. "What's wrong?"

"The two sets of memories are merging," the Doctor said quietly, his voice shaking. "Two potential timelines becoming one set timeline. It's not supposed to happen."

Fitz reached out and rested his hand on the Doctor's left arm. The Doctor started to pull back, but he stopped at the last second. "I still don't completely understand what's happening," Fitz said regretfully. "I wish that I did."

The Doctor shook his head as he brought his right hand up to rest on top of Fitz's. "No, you don't."

"Yes, I do," Fitz repeated, tightening his grip on the Doctor's arm. In return, the Doctor squeezed his hand. "If I understood, then maybe I could help."

"Oh, Fitz." The Doctor looked up, and something in his voice made Fitz meet his gaze. Despite the pained expression on his face, his eyes were remarkably clear. "I promise you, you've already done more to help than anyone else could possibly have done."

Fitz sighed as he stopped studying his glass of whiskey and downed it.

"Penny for your thoughts."

Only years of traveling with the Doctor kept Fitz from jumping at the sound of Tony's voice. He turned around in his seat, frowning slightly when it took him a moment to get his eyes to focus. "They're worth their weight in gold, I'll have you know."

Tony smiled, but it didn't quite meet his eyes. He sat down beside Fitz at the bar, his eyes focused on him. "Bad day?"

"Something like that," Fitz said, smiling coldly. He waved at Joe, not surprised to see the bartender hesitate a second before giving him another shot. "Joe called you?"

Tony didn't even blink. "Something like that."

Shaking his head, Fitz picked up the glass of whiskey. "You didn't have to come," he said quietly. Without saying another word, he took a large sip. He barely grimaced this time as it burned his throat.

"Yes," Tony replied softly, "I did. That's what friends do."

Fitz slowly met his gaze. Once he did, he barely resisted the urge to gasp. He'd never realized how much Tony's eyes looked like the Doctor's at times, when he was upset. Or disappointed.

Tony smiled, apparently reading something in Fitz's face. "Come on," he said gently, standing up and helping pull Fitz to his feet. "Let's get you home."

*

14 August 2004

Most of the time, Fitz liked to think he was the type of guy who was on top of things. Every now and then he might be a little thick, but for the most part he picked up on things fairly quickly. There had been a few times in the past when people might have disagreed, but there had been perfectly good explanations for some - no, make that for most - of those times.

As he and Kate stepped out of the fancy French restaurant where they had just finished dinner, he cleared his throat. "Kate," he said slowly, "was this a date?"

Kate stared at him, looking utterly gorgeous in the rather revealing green dress that she was wearing. Then, without answering his question, she burst out laughing.

Fitz decided to take that as a "yes."

"Oh, God," Kate finally managed to choke out, "Abby was right. You are completely oblivious sometimes. You're in a tux, I'm in a dress that cost more than I'm willing to admit, and we just ate in one of the best restaurants in D.C. What did you think this was?"

He managed to give her a sheepish grin. "I just wanted to make sure," he said awkwardly. "I'm not always the best at reading people, and for all I knew you wanted me in a good mood before you told me that you and Gibbs were eloping to Timbuktu."

Kate's laughter took on a more strangled note as she met his gaze. "Me and Gibbs eloping?" she repeated, her eyes widening. "Just what kind of stories has Tony been telling you about NCIS?"

Fitz finally let out a laugh of his own. They were earning some strange looks from some of the more conservative patrons going into the restaurant, but he honestly didn't care. "Who said anything about Tony?" he asked. "I get all the good gossip from Abby."

As Kate slowly got her laughter under control, Fitz reached into his pocket and pulled out the pack of cigarettes he kept there. It was more out of habit than anything, if he was honest with himself.

"Smoking those things is going to kill you someday."

Smiling, Fitz shook his head and slipped the box back into his pocket without taking one out. "Most people would have just threatened to castrate me if I lit up in front of them."

Kate winked at him, her mouth twitching. "Well, you know me," she said lightly, "I'm not most people."

Fitz paused. "Believe me," he said slowly, "that's something I'm well aware of."

Without giving himself time to think, Fitz leaned in and kissed her. She kissed back, her lips warm against his, and for just a moment he didn't think about the past or the future... just the present. Kissing Kate felt familiar, safe.

And yet still not quite right.

Kate was the one who broke off the kiss first. There was a familiar look in her eyes, one that Fitz expected was probably mirrored in his own. "It never would have worked out," she said softly as she pulled away. "We'd end up hating each other before it was all said and done."

Fitz nodded regretfully. "Probably," he agreed. "But it might have been fun to try."

She smiled. "Friends?" she asked, holding out her hand.

He hesitated only a second before taking it. "Friends," he agreed. Then he winked at her, a teasing smile tugging at the corners of his mouth. "With benefits?"

She half-heartedly punched him in the side before looping her arm in his. "Well, at least now I can see why you and Tony are friends."

*

14 October 2004

After four rings, Fitz distractedly picked up his phone. "Fitz Kreiner," he said distractedly, frowning as another pop-up box randomly appeared on his computer screen.

"I'm dropping by your place tomorrow."

Fitz held the phone away from his for a second and stared at it a second. Then he brought it back against his ear. "Tony?" he asked slowly, ignoring the glare that Monica shot him when he said that name. "Was that a question or a statement?"

"Statement. My date backed out on me, something about her cousin warning her about me."

Chuckling, Fitz leaned back in his chair. "You really need to work on not asking women out if you've already dated their relatives."

Across from him, Monica rolled her eyes and turned her attention back toward her own computer.

"How was I supposed to know they were related?" Tony asked, his voice sounding almost petulant over the phone. "It's not like they're identical twins or anything."

Not for the first time, Fitz wondered if anyone would think he was insane if he suddenly started beating his head against his desk.

*

15 October 2004

Fitz frowned. Without saying a word, he grabbed the remote and froze the picture on the screen just as John McClane jumped over the side of the building.

"Hey!" Tony protested, grabbing one of the small pillows on the sofa and throwing at him. "What was that for?"

Batting the pillow away with one hand, Fitz held up a finger. After a few seconds, they both heard the knocking sound coming from the door. "I've got company."

Tony blinked in surprise as Fitz stood up and started toward the door. "I didn't know anyone ever came here except for me, Abby, Kate, and that guy from your job with the purple hair."

"His name's Daniel and he has green hair at the moment," Fitz said, shooting Tony an annoyed look. "And I'll have you know that I do occasionally have other people drop by. It's not like you're my only friend."

The only response from Tony was a skeptical snort.

Rolling his eyes, Fitz stopped in front of the door and looked through the peephole. Then he frowned. He carefully unlocked the door, opening enough that he could see the nervous young man standing in the hallway. "Can I help you?"

"Oh God, I hope so," the man replied quickly. He shifted his weight slightly from one leg to the other. "I'm looking for Tony DiNozzo. I already checked his place, but he wasn't there, and Abby told me that I should probably stop by here. Have you seen him? My boss is going to kill me if we don't get back soon."

Footsteps behind him told Fitz that Tony had got up off the sofa and was making his way over to the door. "I'm here, Probie," he said, leaning over Fitz's shoulder. "What's the big emergency?"

The young man looked ready to collapse from relief. "There was a double murder down at the docks," he said. "Gibbs tried calling your cell, but there wasn't any answer. He's not happy about that, by the way."

Tony glanced over at his cell phone, which was sitting on the table beside the sofa. "Oh, hell," he muttered, turning around and hurrying toward it. "Fitz, I thought you said that beer I spilled hadn't hurt it!"

"I didn't think it had!" Fitz protested, turning around.

A few seconds later, Fitz caught a hint of movement out of the corner of his eye. In the hallway, the man shifted nervously again.

Shaking his head, Fitz turned his attention back toward him. "My name's Fitz Kreiner, by the way," he said, nodding. The other man didn't seem like the type to shake hands. "You must be the new guy on the team? The one who's good with computers?"

"Yeah," the man said, nodding. "Timothy McGee."

Tony brushed by Fitz. "Introductions later," he grumbled, grabbing McGee by the arm and starting to drag him away. "Just how pissed at me is Gibbs?"

*

25 February 2005 // 5:17 p.m.

Fitz stretched a bit as he stepped out of the office building where he worked and into the fading afternoon sun. It was warm outside, and the afternoon crowds were already starting to lighten as people headed for home. He glanced down at his watch, trying to decide whether or not he wanted to try cooking or if picking up a pizza was his best bet, when he suddenly froze. Although it coming from somewhere in the distance, he would recognize that sound anywhere.

It was a TARDIS.

He took off at a run, ignoring the startled looks he was getting from some of the passersby. Fitz had all but given up on ever seeing the Doctor again, but in a single instant he felt his hope renewed. It had to be him. Who else would have a TARDIS on Earth in the early twenty-first century? There was always the possibility that it was an earlier regeneration, like the last time, but he had to at least try to find out.

Someone collided with him, and Fitz hit the ground with a grunt of pain.

"Sorry!" A gorgeous black girl gave him an apologetic look as she clumsily pulled herself to her feet. "I didn't see you."

Fitz nodded, climbing to his feet himself. "No problem."

"Martha!" In the distance, Fitz could vaguely make out a skinny man wearing a blue suit. He was waving at the woman who'd just run into Fitz, an irritated look on his face as he clutched his arm. It was hard to tell from where Fitz was standing, but it looked almost as if the man was bleeding. "We need to go! Now! Those humans back there gave me the distinct impression that they weren't impressed by us stopping the Yeti."

The woman, Martha, rolled her eyes. "That's probably because you blew up three buildings in the process," she muttered.

Fitz blinked. "What?"

Martha seemed to suddenly remember that Fitz was still standing there, and a sheepish look appeared on her face. She shot him another apologetic smile before taking off toward where the skinny man was standing. "Sorry again!" she yelled over her shoulder.

It was then that Fitz heard the sound of sirens headed their way. He frowned, then his eyes widened in comprehension as everything clicked in his mind. Ahead of him, Martha and the man who'd been yelling for her disappeared into an alley.

"Doctor," Fitz whispered, shock rushing through him. He took off at a dead run, heading for the alley even though he knew he'd never make it in time.

The sound of the TARDIS filled the air, fading away after a few seconds.

By the time Fitz reached the alley, it was empty. He sighed and started to turn around. Then he froze and turned around in shock.

"It's the same alley," he whispered. He took a few steps inside before turning around to look at the view that he had of the outside street. "It's the one where he left me."

The sirens from earlier suddenly sounded much closer. Shaking his head, Fitz quickly stepped out and started walking. Even though he knew that his identification was sound, he still didn't want to get involved if the Doctor had blown something up nearby. He'd seen firsthand how insane Americans tended to get about such things, especially at the particular point in time that he was stranded in.

The Doctor. It had to have been him.

Could it have been another earlier incarnation of the Doctor? No, that was impossible. Fitz had seen pictures of all eight of the Doctor's bodies, during the early days of the war. Leela had shown them to him one day when they had both been banished from Romana's rooms so that she and the Doctor could talk in peace. None of them had looked like the man he'd seen, with his wild brown hair and blue suit.

Did that mean it was a later regeneration? But if that was the case, then it meant that Doctor survived the war. He'd survived the war... and he hadn't come back for Fitz.

*

25 February 2005 // 6:42 p.m.

Fitz had been tempted to head back to the bar, just like he had last time, but common sense prevailed in the end. He still had nightmares about the hangover he'd had that time. Pan Galactic Gargle Blasters had nothing on the various types of whiskeys that Joe kept stocked.

Besides, he was starting to figure out that drinking himself into an oblivion really wasn't going to change anything in the long run.

He honestly wasn't certain what to think. The skinny man in the blue suit had to have been the Doctor, and he had to have been a later regeneration than the one Fitz had known. There was no other explanation. But, if that was the case, then it meant he had survived the Time War. Survived, but not come back to even check on Fitz.

The question was, why?

Fitz frowned sinking deeper into his chair. Amnesia, maybe? With the Doctor, it was always a possibility. Could he have forgotten who he was? What he was? But, if that was the case, would he have still been able to fly the TARDIS? Partial memory loss? It wouldn't be the first time.

He needed answers, but he didn't know where to find them.

*

5 April 2005

"Why am I doing this?" McGee asked for the third time in less than ten minutes.

Fitz clasped his shoulder. "Because you're a good man, Timothy McGee, that's why. Not to mention a computer genius." He paused for a moment. "And because I threatened to tell Tony who it was that accidentally scratched the paint on his car."

McGee's face paled, though he still looked a little skeptical. "Are you at least going to tell me why you're so interested in this conspiracy theory website?"

"Do you really want me to tell you?"

For just a second, McGee looked as if he was going to say "yes." Then he took a closer look at Fitz's face and frowned. "On second thought," he said slowly, "why don't I just answer your questions so you'll let me go home."

Fitz grinned at him before glancing back at the website they were studying. "Who is Doctor Who?" he read again. "Any idea who runs the site?"

McGee frowned. "Until last month, the site was run by a man named Clive Finch," he said, summing up what he was reading on the screen. "It looks like he was killed in those riots in London, and someone - it looks like his wife - transferred control of the site to a man named Mickey Smith. His e-mail address is here on the site, but I can't tell you anything more than that."

"Thanks, McGee," Fitz said, attention focused on the blurry photograph on the website. If that was the Doctor, and based on everything he'd read on the site it was, then it wasn't the man he'd seen. Another regeneration, then? Just how much time had passed for the Doctor since he'd left him behind?

McGee cleared his throat. "Um," he said nervously, "can I go now?"

*

14 April 2005

Fitz knew something was wrong the moment he opened the door. "Abby?" he asked worriedly, stepping aside to let her in. "What happened?"

Her mascara was streaking down her face, making it obvious that she'd been crying. She wasn't wearing any lipstick, and she looked... well, fragile. Abby wasn't supposed to look fragile.

She bit her lip, not quite meeting his gaze. "It's about Tony."

"What about Tony?" Fitz asked, suddenly feeling sick to his stomach. He'd known from the beginning that Tony and the others were federal agents, that there was always the chance that something could happen to them on a case, but he'd never actually thought that something would. "He's not-- he can't be--"

Abby quickly shook her head. "No, no, he's not dead." She finally met his gaze, tears welling up in her eyes again. "Not yet, at least."

"Abby," Fitz said slowly, trying to resist the urge to grab her by the shoulders and start shaking her until she gave him an answer, "what happened?"

She took a shaky breath, obviously trying to calm herself. "Someone sent a letter to NCIS," she said quietly. "Tony opened it, and there was a white powder inside."

Fitz's legs suddenly felt unsteady. He all but collapsed into the nearest chair. "Anthrax?" he asked weakly.

He hadn't been on Earth for September 11th, but it had been close enough afterward that he'd learned all about the attacks. The idea of terrorism wasn't new to him, not after everything he'd seen around the universe, but it still seemed unreal to him that it could be so commonplace on Earth.

"Pneumonic plague."

Fitz suddenly felt sick to his stomach. He'd seen the Black Death once, when Anji had been traveling with them. The Doctor had actually be aiming for the forty-fourth century instead of the fourteenth, but he'd decided that they might as well go exploring since they were there. Fitz's nightmares hadn't stopped for months.

Abby sat down on the arm of the chair, her arms wrapped around her stomach as if she was hugging herself. "They don't know if he's going to make it or not," she said quietly, tears streaming down her face again. "It's going to be at least another day before we know."

Fitz nodded, not trusting himself to speak.

"I don't want him to die, Fitz," she said miserably, meeting his gaze head-on despite her crying. "Tony can't die."

"Tony's not going to die," Fitz replied immediately.

She blinked a few times, obviously almost blinded by her mascara. "You don't know that."

"Yes, I do," Fitz said, trying to keep his voice steady. If he said it firmly enough, maybe he could convince himself as well. "Tony's too stubborn to die, you know that."

Abby just shook her head.

Fitz pushed himself to his feet, wrapping his arms around her in a hug before she could react. "He's going to be fine," he repeated. "And, just to prove it to you, I'll make a deal with you. After he gets better, I'll go get that tattoo you've been pestering me to get for the past year."

Sniffling, Abby pulled away from him a little. "You mean it?" she asked.

Trying not to let him think about what he was agreeing to do, Fitz nodded. "I mean it."

Abby managed a weak smile. "Kate said she'd call tomorrow to give us an update," she said, trying to keep her voice steady. "Do you mind if I crash here tonight? In your spare bedroom? It's just that I don't want to be alone, and the others are with Tony, but the doctors said that they didn't want anyone else coming, and--"

"Yes, Abby," Fitz said, cutting in, "you can stay with me tonight."

*

22 April 2005

Fitz paused outside of Tony's door, uncertain whether or not he should knock, use his copy of the key to let himself in, or simply turn around and flee back to his own place. Luckily, the choice was made for him when the door opened.

Ducky stared at him in surprise. "Mr. Kreiner," he said slowly. "I must admit, I wasn't expecting to see you here today."

A shiver ran down his spine at the use of his surname, but Fitz smiled. At first, he'd wondered at if the other man was using his obviously German name as a subtle insult. Ducky had been born around the same time as him, which was something he didn't like thinking about too often. Now that Fitz was starting to get to know him, though, he realized that it was just one of Ducky's many quirks. If overt politeness could even be considering a quirk, that is.

"I was just leaving," Ducky said, stepping out into the hall and gesturing for Fitz to go in. "He's asleep right now, but I'm sure that he'd appreciate having someone there when he woke up."

Fitz nodded. "I'm off work tomorrow, so I thought I'd hang out for awhile." He hesitated for a moment. "Is he doing better?"

"Much better," Ducky said reassuringly. He reached out and patted Fitz on the shoulder. "He's going to be fine."

"Eventually," Fitz said, smiling weakly.

Ducky gave him a tired smile of his own as he nodded in agreement. "Eventually."

Shaking his head, Fitz waited until Ducky had turned and started down the hall before stepping completely into Tony's apartment and shutting the door behind him. He stood there a moment, uncertain of what to do next, before making his way toward Tony's bedroom. Even if the other man was asleep, he'd feel better if he could see him.

A hint of movement caught Fitz's eyes as he pushed open the door to Tony's room, and he frowned. Even though Tony was buried under the blankets, something felt off. "I thought you were asleep."

Tony rolled over, peering out at Fitz. "Has Ducky left?"

"Yes," Fitz said slowly.

Letting out a relieved sigh, Tony threw the blankets off of him. "I thought that I'd have to fake being asleep forever."

Fitz stared at him. "Ducky started telling you stories?" he guessed.

"Oh, you have no idea," Tony said, shuddering. "There was no escape."

Chuckling, Fitz leaned against the doorframe. "I can only imagine," he said lightly.

As Tony grinned at him, Fitz studied his face. Even though Tony looked much stronger than the last time Fitz stopped by, right after he'd been allowed to come home from the hospital, he still looked weak. There were dark shadows under his eyes, and his skin was paler than usual.

It worried Fitz sometimes, just how much Tony reminded him of the Doctor. Not physically, of course, but there was something about him that begged the comparison. Maybe that was why he kept feeling that damn attraction to Tony no matter how hard he tried to convince his traitorous brain, or whatever part of his anatomy was in charge of that particular issue, that they were nothing but friends and that's all that would ever be.

Fitz was jolted back into the present when Tony snapped his fingers. "You're starting to look like McGee," he said teasingly, "all lost in thought and not paying attention to what's going on around you."

"I don't know if you've noticed," Fitz said, forcing himself to smile weakly, "but I don't have that many friends. I was just thinking that the last thing I need is for one of the few that I do have to die of the plague."

He had planned on going for light-hearted, maybe even slightly teasing. Judging by the look on Tony's face, though, it had come across much more serious than he'd planned.

Shaking his head, Tony started to pull himself up. "How about we move out to the sofa?" he asked casually. His tone was undermined somewhat by the fact that his face paled considerably after just that small movement.

"Why?" Fitz asked, walking over to give Tony his arm.

Tony waved Fitz's arm away, gritting his teeth as he managed to make it to his feet. He stood there a moment, trembling slightly as he tried to get his heavy breathing under control. Fitz rolled his eyes and stepped closer to him, ready to grab his friend if Tony looked like he was going to hit the floor.

"I don't know about you," Tony said finally, throwing his arm over Fitz's shoulder as if he was merely being friendly, though he leaned on him a little too much to mistake the action for anything other than the needed support it was, "but I'm in the mood for a James Bond marathon."

Fitz shook his head, but he didn't argue.

*

24 May 2005

Fitz laughed as Daniel threw a wad of paper at Monica's head, though he quickly turned it into a cough as she turned her glare toward him. Shaking his head, he grabbed his phone as it began to ring.

"Fitz Kreiner," he said, shooting Monica a placating smile. She didn't buy it.

"Fitz, it's me."

Tony's voice sounded almost lifeless, as if he was running on fumes. Fitz ignored the worried looks he was getting as he sat up straighter. "Tony, what's wrong?" he asked, raising his voice a little. "What happened?"

"Kate's dead."

Tony's words echoed in his head like a broken record, repeating over and over. Fitz felt the blood drain from his face. "How?" he asked, his voice barely more than a whisper.

Even though he heard Tony's reply, it didn't really sink in. Ari. A bullet in the head. Instant. She didn't feel a thing. All he could see was Kate's face in his head, laughing at him as she pressed a quick kiss on his cheek on her way out the door.

*

1 June 2005

Fitz reached out and touched the gravestone in front of him, tracing his fingers over the intricately carved letters. It was almost ironic, if he let himself think about it. He'd been trapped on Earth for over three years now, yet this was the first time he'd traveled more than fifty miles from Washington D.C. in all that time.

"Sometimes it feels like I'm always saying goodbye," he said softly. "My dad, my mum, Sam, Anji, Trix, Compassion, even the Doctor."

He half-expected to hear a reply of some sort considering how his life usually went. The only sound, though, was the wind blowing past his ears. He didn't know if he was relieved or disappointed about the normalcy of the moment.

He chuckled, well aware that it sounded hollow. "I actually thought that things might be different now. Guess not, huh? Still, I'm sorry that I didn't make it to your funeral. I wanted to be there, really, but... I don't deal that well with losing people I care about. No surprise there, huh?"

Shaking his head, he reached out and touched the stone again. "I'm going to miss you, Kate," he said quietly. "I still can't believe that you kissed me the first time we met. It definitely got Tony's attention, though I don't think it was quite what you were expecting. I never told you, but he spent the next hour questioning me about my intentions toward you. Even back then, I think he saw you more as a little sister - not that he ever would have admitted it to anyone."

He closed his eyes for a moment, taking a deep breath. There was a familiar pressure in his chest, but crying was the last thing he wanted to do right then. Maybe later, in the privacy of his hotel room, but not then. Not there.

"I'll come back to visit again," he whispered. "I promise."

Almost reverently, he pulled his pack of cigarettes from his pocket and put them down on top of the loose dirt. He could almost hear Kate's voice in his head, overlapped with the dozens of warnings that the Doctor had given him over the years. "Smoking those things is going to kill you someday."

Fitz stood up, brushing loose dirt off his knees as he did. He suspected that there were some grass stains there as well, if he looked close enough, but he didn't care. "It's funny," he said with a chuckle, even though it really wasn't anything to laugh about, "but I really think I'm going to give them up for good this time. I know it's what you would have wanted."

If he was honest with himself, he wasn't entirely certain who he was speaking to: Kate, or the Doctor.

He turned his back on the grave and started toward his parked rental car. A shiver ran down his spine a few seconds later, and Fitz couldn't help but turn back. There was something about the ring of stone angels on the far side of the cemetery that felt... off. He didn't know what it was about them that had caught his attention, but he couldn't shake the feeling.

It was ridiculous. They were statues, nothing more and nothing less. Four angels, their faces covered as if they were crying. Considering the fact that they were in a cemetery, that was fairly appropriate. Still.

He couldn't help but keep glancing back at them until he was safely in his car.

"Fitz Kreiner," he said, shaking his head as he pulled away, "you're losing the little bit of a mind you had left."

*

10 June 2005

"Please, McGee?" Fitz asked, well aware that he probably sounded like a little kid asking for one more biscuit.

McGee paused, a startled look on his face. "Does it really mean that much to you?"

Fitz nodded. "Her name's Sam," he said, tugging uncomfortably at his collar. "Samantha Jones. She was born in 1980. The fifth of April, I think?"

Sighing, McGee opened a new screen on his laptop and started typing. "Who was she?" he asked. "And please don't say anything that's going to make me have to arrest you for being a creepy stalker."

Fitz tried to chuckle, but it came out flat. "She used to be a very close friend," Fitz said quietly. "I haven't seen her in years. We had a bit of a... it wasn't a falling out, not really. We just drifted apart. Someone told me that she was killed, but I never knew whether they were telling the truth. They weren't exactly the trustworthy type, if you know what I mean."

McGee bit his lip and kept typing.

"I never said goodbye to Sam," Fitz continued, not meeting McGee's gaze. "Just like with Kate. If there's even a chance--"

He trailed off, not certain how to finish the sentence. His point must have got across, though, because McGee just nodded and kept his focused his attention on the computer screen.

After a few minutes, McGee stopped typing. Fitz tightened his grip on the table, leaning forward. "Did you find something?"

McGee hesitated just a second before clicking his mouse one more time. A news website popped onto the screen, bright and colorful.

"I'm sorry, Fitz."

Fitz stared at the article, his gaze focused on the headline. Political Activist Assassinated. "So am I, McGee," he said softly, his eyes drifting down to the smiling picture of Sam on the screen. She was older than he remembered, though not by much. Only twenty-two years old, barely more than a kid. "So am I."

*

11 August 2005

Fitz stared at the tattoo parlor they were standing across the street from. Then he gulped. "You know what, Abby?" he asked casually. "I think maybe we should--"

"Go inside before you chicken out?" Abby cut in. "Yeah, that sounds like a good idea to me too."

Fitz glared at her, but it was half-hearted at best. She grinned and linked his arm in hers. "You do have a tattoo picked out already, right? You're not going to go in, point at the first stencil you see, and tell them to get it over with, are you?"

"If I say that's exactly what I was planning on doing, does that mean I don't have to go through with it?"

Abby let her arm drop. "Fitz," she said, pouting.

He gave her a tired smile. "I'm kidding," he said, linking his arm in hers again. "Don't worry, Abby, I have something special picked out."

She studied his face for a moment, obviously trying to figure out if he was telling the truth or not. Then she grinned, nodding.

"Of course, it's probably going to take awhile," Fitz added after a few seconds. "I hope you have lots of stories to tell me while I'm sitting there in agonizing pain."

Rolling her eyes, Abby punched him in the side. "Please," she grumbled, "they don't hurt that much."

Laughing, Fitz let her lead him across the street. They paused in front of the door, and Fitz glanced at her. "So, do you have some stories to tell me?"

"Of course," Abby said, as if he was an idiot for even asking. "I mean, at NCIS we have the new director and the new member of Gibbs' team, not to mention my new lab assistant. And I can always tell you what's going on with the nuns."

Fitz blinked. "You have a new lab assistant?" he repeated. "That's great. You've been complaining about not having one for ages."

She glared at him.

"Or not," he quickly added. "Anything else you're going to fill me in on?"

Abby's glare softened, and her mouth quirked a bit. "Well, there is a guy. I met him in the cemetery last month."

Fitz raised an eyebrow. "You're dating a guy that you met in a cemetery?"

"Isn't that where everyone goes to pick up dates?" Abby asked innocently.

Snorting, Fitz started toward the tattoo parlor's door. "How would I know?" he asked dryly. "I'm not even sure I remember the last time I went on a date."

"Kate, was this a date?"

His smiled faded as he walked through the door. And it was only partially because of the giant, well-muscled man standing behind the counter who he assumed was going to be tattooing him.

*

25 November 2005

Fitz ignored Abby as she waved at him, instead keeping his attention focused on Tony as he stepped up behind his seat at the bar. "Forget to mention something?" he asked casually.

Tony frowned as he turned around, a puzzled look on his face.

Apparently sensing that Fitz wasn't happy, Abby slipped in between him and Tony. "Hi, Fitz," she said, shooting him a warning look. "I haven't seen you in a few days."

"I've been out of town for work," he replied, still keeping his gaze focused on Tony. "I didn't get back until last night."

Abby's eyes widened, and she reached over to swat the back of Tony's head. "You didn't tell him that you were arrested for murder?"

A good number of people sitting around them turned their way and glanced at Tony for a second before turning their attention back to their drinks. Tony grimaced. "Yes, Abs, please feel free to make an announcement to the entire bar."

She kept glaring at him. Despite his irritation, Fitz couldn't help but smile just a bit.

"Let me guess," Tony said, glancing around Abby so that he could see Fitz. "Abby left you a message telling you that we were all meeting tonight to celebrate her catching the guy who'd framed me."

Fitz tried to keep a straight face, but he gave up after a few seconds. "Actually," he said lightly, grabbing the empty seat next to Tony and sitting down, "she left me a message telling me that we were celebrating her not having to put up with Chip the assistant from hell anymore. I assumed that she was talking about him getting fired or something, until she added that - oh, by the way, he's a murdering scumbag who tried to kill her."

Tony chuckled.

Fitz held up a finger. "It was Ducky who left me a message telling me that you'd been arrested for murder. I'm assuming that it just slipped your mind when you stopped by my place last night to see if I got in without any problems?"

Rolling her eyes, Abby leaned in and slapped them both on the back of the head.

"Hey!" they chimed in unison.

McGee chuckled as he pushed in beside Abby. "Ooh, what did we miss?" he asked, grinning. Tony glared at him, while Fitz simply shot him an exasperated look.

Then Fitz froze.

An unfamiliar woman was behind McGee, eyeing Fitz warily. She was trained military; he could tell that instantly. "You must be Ziva," he said slowly. "Tony's mentioned you. Actually, so has Abby for that matter."

She nodded, still eyeing him. "I'm afraid that I do not know who you are."

"Oh, that hurts me," Fitz said, putting on a sad look. Abby lightly punched him in the arm, while Tony simply rolled his eyes at Fitz's theatrics.

McGee stepped in. "Ziva, this is Fitz Kreiner," he said, gesturing toward him with his eyes. "He's technically here with Tony, but he hangs out with most of us when we're off work."

Ziva frowned, obviously puzzled. "You mean he and Tony are involved romantically?"

Fitz had just taken a sip of his beer, and he ended up choking as the meaning of her words hit him. He felt his face redden as Abby reached over to pound his back, and he could hear Tony having a similar fit a few feet away even though he couldn't see him.

"No!" he protested, just as Tony cut in with a loud "hell no!"

Beside him, Abby was laughing so hard that tears were streaming down her face. McGee was obviously trying not to crack up as well, while poor Ziva was staring at them all with an expression on her face that was eerily similar to the Doctors' "I can't for the life of me understand these humans" look. He'd never actually seen it on another human before, but it fit her.

"We're just friends," Fitz tried to explain, making Abby all but double over with laughter. He barely resisted the urge to elbow her.

It was right then that Ducky and Jimmy walked up, both of them staring at the others as if they'd completely lost their minds.

Fitz couldn't help it. He met Tony's gaze, and the two of them started to crack up. McGee took that as a signal that he wouldn't get hurt if he laughed as well, and Abby just laughed even harder.

*

14 January 2006

"What are you doing here, Kreiner?"

Fitz jumped slightly as Gibbs appeared out of nowhere. "What?" he asked dumbly.

Gibbs quirked an eyebrow. "You're standing in the middle of the NCIS squad room," he pointed out, as if Fitz was a child. "Since you don't work here, that means you either need something or you're lost."

"Oh!" Fitz gave him a sheepish look. "I'm waiting for Abby. I lost a bet, so I have to take her out to lunch all week."

He yelped as two arms suddenly wrapped around him. Glaring, he looked behind him to see Abby standing there.

"He bet that he could guess how many tattoos I had," she said to Gibbs, lowering her voice conspiratorially. "He said sixteen."

Gibbs shook his head, an amused look in his eyes. "Nineteen."

"How was I supposed to know that she had three down--" Fitz trailed off and stared at Gibbs. "Actually, how did you know that?"

All Gibbs did was smirk at him before starting toward the elevator. As he walked by, Gibbs suddenly reached out and slapped the back of his head.

Abby let out a happy squeal, earning her a confused look from Fitz. "What just happened?" Fitz asked, staring at Gibbs' back as the door shut behind him.

She grinned back at him. "That means you're one of us."

"Ah." Fitz stared at her for a moment before shaking his head and starting toward the elevator. "Come on, I'm supposed to be buying your lunch."

Abby nodded as they stepped inside the elevator. "Yep," she agreed, "and then we're going to talk about you and Tony."

"Abby, don't even think about it." Fitz held up his hand, stopping her protests before they could even start. "Tony and I are friends, and the last thing I want to do is anything that might mess that up."

She opened her mouth.

"No," he said firmly.

*

9 March 2006

Fitz fumbled for his phone as it continued to ring, trying to find it in the dark. A quick glance at his clock told him that he was going to have had to get up for work in less than an hour anyway, but the ungrateful part of him was still mad that he'd been woken up before he had planned.

"What?" he snapped into the phone when he finally found it.

"Mr. Kreiner?"

It took a moment for Fitz to place the voice on the other end of the line. Once he did, he sat up straight in his bed. "Brigadier Bambera?" he asked, surprised. "Please tell me you don't need another favor for UNIT. That van Statten person almost shot me last time when I refused to give him the Kastrian generator that showed up in Maryland."

Her voice sounded strained when she replied. "No, Mr. Kreiner. Not this time. I just wanted to let you know that you might want to turn on the international news. I believe there's something on it you might want to see."

There was a click as Bambera hung up.

Fitz stared at the phone for a moment, the dial tone echoing in the dark room. Frowning, he hung up before pulling himself out of bed and heading toward the living room. He fumbled for the light switch, then glanced around for the remote. The first time he had used it, he had been certain that he would never get used to the device; now, he wasn't sure how he had ever done without it.

It was resting on the sofa, next to a half-empty bowl of popcorn. Fitz grabbed it and turned on the TV. He flipped through a few channels until he saw what the Brigadier must have been talking about.

Onscreen, black smoke was pouring from the giant hole in Big Ben.

Fitz stared. "Holy shit."

*

10 March 2006

Fitz's gaze was focused on his television screen, gaping at the scene in front of him. He was vaguely aware of someone knocking at his door, but he didn't get up from his seat. A few minutes later, a shadow fell over him and he slowly looked up.

"I was going to ask if you'd heard the news," Tony said, gesturing toward the television, "but I guess that answers my question."

Fitz shook his head. "A friend of a friend called me earlier, right after the missiles hit Downing Street," he said tiredly. "I've been watching ever since then. Did you pick my lock?"

Tony shook his head as he dropped down next to him on the sofa. "You said that I could make a copy of your key, remember?" he reminded Fitz. "Anyway, at least they've dropped the story about the so-called alien ship crash landing in the Thames yesterday."

"I guess," Fitz said softly, not quite meeting Tony's gaze. "Big Ben being taken out by aliens isn't quite as newsworthy as the Prime Minister and most of the British government being killed."

Tony elbowed him. "Don't tell me you're one of those loonies who believe that aliens are real."

Fitz didn't reply.

"Seriously?" Tony asked, raising an eyebrow.

Rolling his eyes, Fitz glanced at Tony. "Remind me to tell Abby that you called her a loony the next time I see her."

Tony obediently shut his mouth. Once he was quiet, Fitz turned his attention back to the television screen.

According to UNIT, or at least according to Bambera when she had called him earlier to update him on the situation, the Doctor had been there. The Doctor from the website he had found, with short hair and a leather jacket, who had saved the day with a blonde girl, a politician named Harriet Jones, and at least one unknown person who'd hacked into their systems and used their own missiles to destroy an alien foothold inside Downing Street itself.

He wanted to laugh. They'd actually thought that he might have been the one helping the Doctor from the outside.

*

23 March 2006

Fitz didn't even try to hide the relief on his face when McGee stepped through the door and started looking around the small office. "Over here!" Fitz called out, waving. "Can you please work your computer magic before this thing starts smoking again?"

A startled look appeared on McGee's face as he made his way to Fitz's desk. "Your computer was smoking?"

Across the aisle, Monica snorted. "Technology hates him," she said. "His last two computers have actually blown up. That's why they let our computer tech have a longer vacation than usual, to make up for having to deal with him."

Fitz reached up to rub his temple. "I thought you weren't talking to me ever again unless it had something do with work?" he asked her. "Isn't that what you've been saying since the, and I quote, date from hell that was entirely my fault."

"I changed my mind," Monica said, standing up and making her way over to his desk. McGee's eyes moved down her formfitting clothes, Fitz's computer forgotten. "You're forgiven."

Fitz stared at her. "After three years?"

She ignored him. "Have you ever dated anyone who looks just like me?" she asked huskily, trailing her finger down the side of McGee's face.

Fitz tried his best not to laugh, despite everything. Poor McGee looked like he was five seconds away from turning and running.

"N-no," McGee stuttered.

Monica smiled. "That wins you points."

Fitz's smile faded as his computer screen started flashing. "Uh, McGee. Could you focus on why you're here for just a second?"

He thought that he smelled smoke.

*

6 May 2006

"Wait a second," Fitz said, staring at Tony. "Say that again?"

Tony shot him a hopeful grin. "Our dates should be here any minute."

Fitz kept staring at him. "That's what I thought you said. Since when do we have dates tonight?"

"Come on, Fitz," Tony wheedled. "Two hot British chicks, both of them only in the U.S. for a few days. Just think of how much fun it could be."

Fitz didn't even try to hide his incredulity. "Do you even remember how much of a disaster our last three double-dates have been? The last one ended with you having to have stitches."

Tony just smiled and shoved a beer into his hand. "Here they come," he hissed. "Try to at least pretend to be having a good time."

"I'm going to kill you," Fitz muttered, taking a sip of the offered drink as he turned around. Then he started to choke, going into a coughing fit. "Trix?" he managed to splutter after a few seconds, staring at a very familiar face.

Trix MacMillan stared at him, a shocked look on her face. She couldn't have been more than a year older than the last time he'd seen her, back when the Time War was just beginning. Her hair was cut extremely short and dyed black with a few silvery blue highlights. "Fitz?" she said slowly. "Fitz Kreiner?"

"Who else would I be?" Fitz asked, rolling his eyes as he stepped forward. To his surprise, she didn't hesitate to let him give her a bone-crushing hug. "It's been... quite awhile."

She gave him a knowing look as she pulled away. "It only feels like six months or so to me," she said, placing just a tiny bit of emphasis on six months. "How long has it been?"

"I'd say closer to six years." Fitz gave her a bittersweet smile. "A lifetime, if you think about it."

Tony and the other woman, who had bright red hair and a confused look on her face, were staring at them. "You know each other then?" Tony guessed.

Fitz barely resisted the urge to roll his eyes again.

Trix smiled. "Like he said, it's been quite awhile since the last time we saw each other." She shot Fitz a warning look. "Trix was a nickname I used to go by, back in the day. Most people call me Lydia now."

Despite himself, Fitz smiled. He wasn't entirely sure what she was up to, but he doubted that Lydia was any more her real name than Trix was.

"Is the Doctor around here somewhere?" Trix asked, looking around. Fitz couldn't help but notice a tiny hint of nervousness in her eyes.

His smiled faded.

Tony apparently noticed, because he grabbed the other woman's arm. "If you wouldn't mind," he said, smiling at her, "maybe we should get a table? I get the picture that Fitz and Trix here might want to be alone for a little while."

Trix quickly shook her head. "Actually, we said our goodbyes a long time ago." She reached out and touched the faint scar on Fitz's face, frowning slightly. Then she glanced back at Tony. "Besides, I was hoping to spend some time with you."

Fitz's eyes widened slightly, and he let out a quiet chuckle. Trix shot him a dirty look. "You haven't changed," he said, shaking his head.

"Neither have you," she shot back.

"Oh, I don't know," Fitz replied, leaning in to give her a quick peck on the cheek. Now that he was looking for it, he felt the subtle shift under his lips that told him she was fighting the instinct to pull away from him. "You might be surprised."

He glanced over at Tony. "I'm calling it a night," he said, gesturing toward Trix and her friend. "I'll leave these two lovely ladies with you."

Fitz started walking, pausing just a moment beside Tony. "Just a word of warning," he whispered, "but you might want to watch your valuables around Trix."

*

7 May 2006

Fitz yawned he walked toward his door, not hurrying in the least bit. He knew very well who it was banging on it.

The moment he opened it, Tony pushed past him. "One of my credit cards is missing!"

Fitz shook his head as he shut the door and headed back toward the kitchen. He grabbed the bottle of aspirin he'd left sitting on the table, dumping two into his hand as he dropped down into a chair.

"I'd cancel it if I was you," he said, shrugging. "You can press charges if you'd like, but I can guarantee that she won't be back in D.C. anytime soon."

He dry swallowed the aspirin, instantly regretting his laziness when one caught in his throat. Trying not to gag, he stumbled out of his chair and grabbed the cup of cold coffee that he'd left on the counter earlier that morning. He took a swallow, grimacing at the taste, but relieved to feel the pill finish going down his throat.

Tony sighed. "I thought this Trix person was your friend?"

"I told you to watch your valuables around her," Fitz replied, raising an eyebrow.

"When you said valuables," Tony said, his voice slightly strangled, "I thought that was a British code for--" He trailed off, gesturing toward his groin. "I didn't know you meant things like credit cards!"

Fitz shrugged. "With her, it could have been either."

Tony glared at him. "You could have given me a little more warning, you know," he grumbled.

Laughing, Fitz gestured to the scar on his cheek. Tony had asked him about it once, but he'd mumbled his way through a cut-and-paste excuse and left it at that. "This is what happens when you tell her 'no' when she's set on having her way."

*

10 May 2006

"How's he doing?" Fitz asked softly as he slipped up beside Abby. She was standing outside Gibbs' hospital room, dark circles under her eyes that made him suspect she hadn't slept since the explosion. "Tony said something about amnesia?"

Her face was unusually serious as she glanced over at him. "He still doesn't remember any of us," she said, her voice not quite steady. "The last thing he remembers, it was the early 90s and his wife and daughter had just been killed."

Fitz choked. "Gibbs had a daughter?" he asked, surprised.

Abby nodded, and Fitz knew he wasn't imagining the hint of anger in her eyes. "None of us knew." Her voice sounded hurt. "He didn't trust us."

"Can you blame him, Abby?"

Both of them jumped when a third voice broke into the conversation. Fitz looked to his left immediately. A red-haired woman was closing the door to Gibbs' room behind her; she looked almost as tired as Abby did.

"I guess not, Director," Abby admitted reluctantly. She shot the woman an apologetic look. "You and Ducky didn't even know, so at least it wasn't just me."

Fitz shuffled uncomfortably, and the red-haired woman glanced at him. Then she looked back at Abby and raised an eyebrow.

Abby smiled. It was weak and not nearly as vibrant as her usually one, but it was something. "Oh, sorry," she said sheepishly. "Madam Director, this is Fitz Kreiner. He's a friend of... well, all of us. Fitz, this is Director Shepard."

Fitz hurriedly ran his fingers through his hair, trying to straighten it. Based on the hint of amusement her eyes, it didn't look like he'd succeeded very well. "Director Shepard," he said, giving up on calming his hair and instead offering her his hand. "I've heard a lot about you. It's nice to finally put a face to the name."

"It's nice to meet you as well, Mr. Kreiner," the Director said, giving him a polite smile. "Now, if the two of you will excuse me, I need to see if the others have found anything yet."

*

18 May 2006

"I'm coming!" Fitz called out as whoever was outside his door started pounding on it again. He pulled his robe more tightly around him as he wiped some shampoo out of his eyes. Apparently he'd missed some in his hurry to jump out of the shower and get to the door before someone broke it down.

Grumbling under his breath, Fitz unlocked his door and flung it open. Then his face immediately went red when he saw Abby and Ziva standing there. Ziva just quirked an eyebrow as she ran her gaze over him, but Abby burst out into laughter.

"It's not that funny," Fitz muttered, wiping yet some more shampoo off his face.

Abby kept laughing. It sounded as if it was bordering on hysterical.

Fitz and Ziva shared a quick look. She grabbed Abby's arm and gently led her through the door, while Fitz gestured toward a nearby armchair. Ziva all but pushed Abby into it. "What's wrong?" he asked. He glanced between the two of them worriedly. "Did something happen to Gibbs?"

Abby choked slightly, her laughter stopping abruptly. A few giggles still bubbled up, but the completely hysterical part seemed to have faded. "Tony didn't tell you?"

Fitz shook his head. "I haven't even talked to Tony since he called to tell me about the explosion in the first place."

"Gibbs remembered," Ziva said. She hesitated a moment before sitting down on the arm of Abby's chair.

Fitz frowned. "That's a good thing, right?" he asked slowly, kneeling down so that he was almost face-to-face with Abby. "Am I missing something?"

Ziva sighed. "He's gone."

Fitz glanced at her. "Gone?" he repeated. "What do you mean, he's gone?"

Without warning, Abby flung herself from the chair and grabbed him in a tight hug. He let out an "oomph" as she impacted him. "People died because they didn't listen, so he left," Abby said, her voice muffled because her face was buried in his robe.

Confused, Fitz glanced at Ziva.

She started to say something then shook her head. "It's classified," she said reluctantly. "Abby should not even know what she does. All I can say is something happened, and Gibbs quit."

"Gibbs decided to move to Mexico with Mike Franks," Abby said, pulling her face away from Fitz's chest. Her eyes were red.

Fitz looked between the two of them. "Mike Franks?" he repeated, confused. "Who is Mike Franks?"

*

16 June 2006

"I'm not cut out for this," Tony said, waving his half-empty bottle of beer. Some of it splashed onto Fitz's sofa. "Jenny, that's the Director - did I tell you that? - wants me to be Gibbs. I can't be Gibbs."

Fitz made a half-hearted attempt to grab the bottle from Tony's grip. "I think you've had enough," he grumbled. He had already tried pointing out that he'd met Director Shepard two beers ago, without much success.

Tony laughed. It was a dark sound, one that made Fitz shiver. "You have no idea," he said, downing the rest of his drink. He dropped the empty bottle on the floor with the others that he'd already had, a pile that was already larger than Fitz would have liked. "Gibbs will never forgive me if I let the team fall apart while he's gone."

Fitz bit back the urge to snap that Gibbs probably wouldn't be coming back. He knew very well that he had a bit of an abandonment issue, and that was the last thing that Tony needed to hear right then. "I'm sure you're doing fine."

"Yeah, tell that to Ziva," Tony said bitterly. "She got shot today, remember?" He reached out to get another beer from the table beside them, but Fitz grabbed his arms before he could. Tony jerked back, and the two of them ended up crashing to the floor.

"Ziva didn't get shot," Fitz said, trying to ignore the fact that he was pretty much straddling Tony.

Tony snorted. "Which one of us was there?"

Fitz rolled his eyes. "Abby called and filled me in. Ziva wasn't shot; she was grazed on the arm. She didn't even have to stay in the hospital. Hell, she didn't even need stitches."

Tony shook his head. "Gibbs wouldn't have let her get shot."

Fitz groaned and stood up. "Gibbs isn't God, Tony."

"Close enough," Tony said, closing his eyes. "I trust him more than I've ever trusted God."

Sighing, Fitz nudged Tony with his foot. When the other man opened his eyes, he reached down and offered Tony his hand. Tony stared blankly for a moment before letting Fitz pull him to his feet.

Tony wavered slightly, clinging to Fitz tightly. "When did the room start spinning?"

"When you started on your third six pack of beer," Fitz said tiredly. "Come on, let's get you some water and some aspirin. I doubt your date tomorrow will go all that well if you show up dying from a hangover."

At that, Tony groaned. "Damn, I forgot. I'm supposed to meet Jeanne for lunch."

"Hence the aspirin," Fitz said, half-dragging Tony toward the kitchen. "Speaking of Jeanne, you're going to have to introduce me to her sometime."

Tony stumbled slightly, and Fitz got the oddest feeling that it wasn't because of the alcohol in his system. "Maybe," Tony said slowly, his words slurring. "We'll just have to see."

*

26 July 2006 // 7:05 p.m.

"Surprise!"

Fitz laughed as Tony pushed him into his flat. Everyone from NCIS was gathered in his living room, as were several of his coworkers - including, much to his surprise, Monica. After three years of barely tolerating him, she was the last person he had expected to see inside his home. Fitz noticed that Monica glared at Tony for just a moment as the two of them walked through the door, but she gave Fitz a tentative smile before her attention turned toward McGee, who was standing beside her.

Judging by the way McGee's face turned red, it wasn't just her gaze that she aimed at him.

"Happy birthday, Fitz," Abby said, grinning at him from the other side of a fairly huge birthday cake. There were enough candles on it that he suspected that it probably qualified as a fire hazard.

Fitz looked around the room, shaking his head as he chuckled. "I'm not sure whether to hug you or kill you," he said, glancing back at Tony.

"What makes you think I had anything to do with this?" Tony asked innocently.

Ziva made a rather unladylike sound. "I expect it is because he knows you."

Ducky cleared his throat. "Whoever the blame may rest with," he said, gesturing toward the cake, "perhaps you would like to blow out these candles before anything catches on fire."

"Like your computer," McGee said with a cough.

Rolling his eyes at McGee, Fitz stepped forward and blew on the cake. When approximately a third of the candles went out, he blew again. And again.

"Just how many candles did you put on this cake?" Fitz asked, frowning when he saw that there were still a few lit up.

Tony grinned. "Hey, it's not our fault that you're practically an antique."

*

26 July 2006 // 9:49 p.m.

Fitz had to admit that it was a little odd to be celebrating his birthday in July instead of March, as he had the first twenty-seven years of his life. Still, he'd become used to it over the past few years. Besides, in a strange way, it helped. In a lot of ways, July 26th was as much his birthday as March 7th had been, if not more... the day he'd met the Doctor had changed his life forever.

Behind him, someone cleared his throat.

Startled, Fitz turned around. Jimmy Palmer was the last person he expected to see standing in the doorway to his bedroom, shuffling nervously.

"Jimmy," Fitz said, nodding slightly. "Did you need something? I thought you would be out there enjoying the party."

"I thought you would be," Jimmy shot back. Then his face turned red when he realized what he had said.

Fitz did his best not to laugh. "What did you need?"

Jimmy glanced behind him, looking back toward the living room. Raising an eyebrow, Fitz walked over to where he was standing and looked over his shoulder. From where they were standing, Michelle Lee was directly in his line of sight.

"I, um, wanted to ask you something," Jimmy said, coughing slightly. "I completely understand if you don't want to, but you never know unless you ask. So I thought that I should, you know, ask. To see if maybe you wouldn't mind."

Fitz tried to hide his amusement, but he couldn't help but smile a bit. "Jimmy," he said patiently, "get to the point."

Jimmy's face turned even redder. He took a deep breath, obviously trying to calm himself down. "You play guitar, right?"

Fitz nodded. "I do," he said slowly. "How did you know?"

"That's, um, kind of a long story," Jimmy said guiltily, not quite meeting Fitz's gaze.

Fitz raised his eyebrows.

Jimmy shot him a thoroughly embarrassed look. "I saw you playing at a bar a few months ago," he blurted out. "Since nobody's ever mentioned that you play, I figured that meant you wanted to keep it a secret."

Shaking his head, Fitz started to chuckle. "It's not exactly a big secret, Jimmy," he said, gesturing toward the guitar that he'd moved from his living room to his bedroom ages earlier.

Jimmy blushed some more. "Good point," he admitted. Then he wrung his hands a bit. "Could you, uh--" Jimmy glanced back toward the living room. "That is, I was hoping you might be willing to do me a favor and... that is to say, I'd be glad to pay. I'm not asking you to do it for free."

Fitz raised an eyebrow. "Jimmy," he said gently, "are you asking me to give you guitar lessons?"

Jimmy nodded, glancing behind him again.

Shaking his head, Fitz followed Jimmy's gaze. "This wouldn't have anything to do with Agent Lee, would it?" he asked teasingly. "Like, maybe you wanted to impress her?"

Five seconds later, Fitz had to admit that he was fairly impressed himself. He honestly hadn't known that a human being could turn that particular shade of red.

*

6 September 2006

"There," Dr. Benoit said, smiling at Fitz as she put the last stitch into his hand. "It looks as if we're finished here, Mr. Kreiner."

Fitz gave her a sheepish grin. "That's the last time I get between my coworkers when one of them is trying to stab the other with a pair of scissors."

She raised an eyebrow.

"Long story," Fitz said, waving his injured hand without thinking.

Dr. Benoit laughed as he grimaced. Shaking her head, she gestured for him to follow him out of the room. "We just need to get your paperwork finished," she said, "and then we can both leave for the day."

"Jeanne!"

Fitz blinked in surprise when he heard Tony's voice behind him. He turned around quickly. A startled look appeared on Tony's face when he saw Fitz standing there.

Dr. Benoit's face lit up. She walked over to Tony, giving him a gentle kiss on the lips before pulling away with a frown. Following his gaze, she glanced back at Fitz.

"Tony?" Fitz asked slowly. He glanced at Dr. Benoit. "This is Jeanne? Your Jeanne?"

"You know each other?" Jeanne asked slowly.

Tony coughed. "Yeah, actually." His face didn't change, but Fitz could see the warning lights flashing in his eyes. "Fitz and I have been friends for years."

Jeanne started to smile at Fitz. "So do you work at the college too?"

Fitz blinked, and he was just about to ask what Jeanne was talking about when he saw the look on Tony's face. "No, I don't," he replied slowly. "Tony and I just happened to run into each other one day when we were both new to the city."

"Literally," Tony chimed in. "He came around a corner, and I crashed right into him."

Trying not to let his confusion show, Fitz nodded. "I let him buy me a drink to make up for it, and we've been friends ever since."

Jeanne let her gaze drift between the two of them for a moment, as if she was trying to decide whether or not to believe them. Then she nodded.

"My lunch break was supposed to start five minutes ago," she told Tony, glancing at a nearby clock hanging on the wall. "Just let me point your friend in the right direction, and we can leave."

Fitz quickly pointed toward a desk at the end of the corridor. "I think that I can find my way."

Jeanne smiled at him.

"Hey, Tony," Fitz said as the two of them started to turn away. "Think you could stop my place tonight? I've got a question for you. About that thing we've been meaning to talk about."

Tony glanced over at Jeanne. "We were actually going to see a show tonight," he said slowly. "Do you think it could wait until tomorrow?"

Fitz nodded. "That's fine with me. Just show up whenever, and I'll order us some pizza." He gave Jeanne a smile. "It was nice meeting you."

"It was nice meeting you too," she said. She looked at Tony, a slightly puzzled look on her face. "Tony hasn't introduced me to any of his other friends yet."

Paying close attention to the look in Tony's eyes, Fitz winked conspiratorially at her. "That's probably because he doesn't have any."

Tony groaned and made a big show of rolling his eyes. "Or," he said, pointedly grabbing Jeanne by the arm and steering her toward the door, "maybe I was hoping that she'd never find out how bad my taste in friends is."

Fitz laughed good-naturedly as they left, but - as soon as he was certain they were gone - he let his joviality disappear. He wasn't certain what had just happened, but he had a feeling that things were a lot more complicated than he'd thought.

*

7 September 2008

Fitz opened the door, letting Tony inside. He didn't say a word as he handed Tony the beer that he'd pulled out of the icebox when he first heard him knocking on the door.

Tony took a deep swallow.

"Want to tell me what's going on with Jeanne, Professor DiNardo?" Fitz asked coolly.

Coughing, Tony put his beer down on the counter. "Where the hell did you hear that name?"

Fitz leaned back against the wall. "I asked one of the nurses if Dr. Benoit was single before I left," he said. "They told me, no, she's seeing this nice, handsome professor from the university named Tony DiNardo."

Tony avoided meeting Fitz's gaze as he picked up his beer again. "I can't-- it's complicated, Fitz. I can't tell you what's going on, not right now."

Fitz started to reply, but then he paused and took a closer look at Tony's face. There were shadows under his eyes, not to mention several wrinkles that Fitz knew hadn't been there before Gibbs had disappeared. Plus there was no hiding the guilt that Fitz could see lurking just under the surface.

"Do you love her?" Fitz asked, letting out a breath he hadn't even realized he was holding.

Tony hesitated as he brought the bottle away from his lips, not quite meeting Fitz's gaze.

Fitz raised an eyebrow. "It's a simple enough question," he said. "Do you love her?"

"I think that I'm getting there," Tony said after a few seconds' pause. He still wasn't looking at Fitz. "It's hard to tell. I mean, I haven't exactly had much experience with the emotion."

Sighing, Fitz dropped down on the sofa. "Undercover work?" he asked, taking a swig of his own drink.

"Classified," Tony replied.

Fitz snorted. "That means 'yes.'"

Tony had the good grace to look sheepish at that response.

*

16 September 2006

Fitz smiled as he finished playing his guitar, letting the cheers and whistles rush over him. For just a minute, he could almost imagine that he was back at Molly's - his mum was still alive, he'd never met a time-traveling alien who'd shown him the universe, and he wasn't stranded in a year when other people who'd been born in 1936 like him were turning seventy instead of... whatever the hell age he was.

Then, just as quickly as the wave of nostalgia had washed over him, it was gone. Shaking his head, Fitz walked off the stage and made his way toward the table where the rest of his friends were sitting.

He blinked in surprise as he stopped in front of the table. They were all staring at him, a variety of surprised looks on their faces. The only one who didn't look surprised was Jimmy, and even he looked impressed.

"Wow," Abby said after a moment, "you're good."

Michelle nodded. "Very good."

As the others voiced their agreement, Tony cleared his throat. "Why didn't you ever tell us that you played guitar?"

Fitz stared at him incredulously. He suspected that his mouth might possibly even be hanging open. "How many times have you been to my flat--" He rolled his eyes at Abby's giggle. "I mean, my apartment since we first met? You've seen my guitar a thousand times, and you never thought for a second that I might play? Hell, you point blank asked me if I played, and I told you that I did."

"Actually," Tony replied, holding up a finger, "you said that didn't play."

"I said that I didn't play at two o'clock in the morning," Fitz exclaimed. "There's a difference."

Tony waved his hand. "I thought you played the guitar like McGeek plays the... the... oh, I don't know, the dulcimer."

At the sound of his name, McGee looked up and furrowed his brow. "Tony," he said slowly, "I don't play the dulcimer. In fact, I'm not even entirely sure what a dulcimer is."

Ducky opened his mouth, presumably to explain exactly what a dulcimer was, its history, and the important role it had played in the history of some far off country that none of them had ever heard of before. Before he could say a word, Abby grabbed one of the chips that she'd been snacking on and popped it in his mouth. He shot her a surprised look, but it kept him from saying anything.

Tony smirked. "Exactly!"

Ziva frowned as she leaned around Tony to meet Fitz's gaze. "I do not understand."

"That's because it doesn't make any sense," Fitz explained, eyeing Tony warily. "Just how many drinks has he had?"

Tony rolled his eyes as the others burst out laughing, and Fitz grinned at him. Things weren't quite the same as they used to be, but it wasn't so bad. Everyone was starting to adapt to the changes.

*

20 September 2006 // 12:06 p.m.

Fitz groaned as a shadow fell over his table at the outdoor café he was sitting in. "Tony, you were supposed to be here twenty minutes ago. Where the hell--"

He trailed off as he looked up and found himself staring at a complete stranger.

"Sorry," he said sheepishly. "A friend of mine's supposed to be meeting me for lunch. I thought you were him."

The man grinned at him, his eyes moving up and down his body. Fitz felt his face heat up almost instantly; it was pretty obvious what the other man was doing. "Not a problem," the man said. "I was just passing by, and I couldn't help stopping to enjoy the view."

Fitz didn't know how it was possible, but he could practically feel his blush growing darker.

"Jack Harkness," the man said, winking at Fitz. "Captain Jack Harkness."

Shaking his head, Fitz opened his mouth to reply. Before he could say anything, though, the sound of someone yelling caught his attention. A few seconds later, a loud crash filled the air.

Jack flinched. "Perfect timing, as always."

Fitz stared at him, puzzled. He started to ask what he meant, but Jack was already dashing off before he could get a word out. Barely aware of what he was doing, Fitz stood up and started after the stranger. He didn't know why - it just seemed like the right thing to do, for some reason.

Two other people came running across the street up ahead. One of them, a blonde girl who couldn't have been out of her teens yet, grabbed Jack's hand. The other, a tall man wearing a leather coat, was already holding her other hand.

Fitz would have recognized that leather coat anywhere. "Doctor?" he whispered incredulously, pausing for a second. He stared as the three of them hurried on, the girl in the middle holding hands with both men.

It couldn't be the Doctor - the closely cut hair and dark colors didn't remind him in the least of the Doctor he had known or any of his previous incarnation, nor was it the brown-haired regeneration that he'd seen twice. But there was no denying that was his coat that the strange man was wearing - the one he'd left in the TARDIS.

After a few seconds, his mind started working again and he started walking after them, steadily increasing his speed as he moved. Short hair. Leather coat. Blonde girl. That's how UNIT had described the Doctor who had been there when Downing Street had been destroyed.

"Doctor!"

They disappeared into an alley up ahead. Fitz picked up his pace, letting go at a full sprint when he heard the TARDIS start to dematerialize.

He made it to the alley just in time to see a familiar blue box fading away.

*

20 September 2006 // 12:19 p.m.

"Fitz?"

Fitz sighed, his hands unconsciously reaching up to play with his hair as he dropped down at the table he'd been sitting at before his impromptu sprint after Jack Harkness. Tony was sitting there, a worried look on his face. It was obvious that Tony had gotten there in time to see him leave on his chase. "I think that I'm going insane, Tony."

"Nothing new there," Tony said, chuckling. He quickly sobered up after a few seconds, though, his eyes focused on Fitz's face. "Wait a sec, you're not serious?"

Fitz just shook his head.

Tony looked tempted to push the issue, but he finally just sighed. "I can't stay and talk right now," he said quietly, "but don't think for a second that this conversation's over. As soon as this mess is cleaned up--"

Despite himself, Fitz cocked his head slightly. "That doesn't sound good."

"It's not," Tony said, shaking his head in agreement. "I just wanted to let you know that I won't be around for awhile."

Fitz sat up straighter. "What's going on?"

There was no ignoring the worried look on Tony's face. Fitz leaned forward, studying him closely as he pushed his own problems to the side. "Tony, what's wrong?"

Tony bit his lip. "I can't tell you much," he said quietly. "The less involved you are, the better. Especially since you're here on a green card."

Fitz raised an eyebrow.

"Ziva's in trouble," Tony explained. "Big trouble."

"How big are we talking?" Fitz asked worriedly.

Tony looked around, almost as if he was expecting someone to be listening in. "Big enough that Gibbs came back from Mexico to help her."

Fitz didn't even try to hide his surprise. "Gibbs is back?" he repeated. "With NCIS?"

"Not exactly," Tony said, hesitating just a second. "And before you ask, that's why you can't get involved. If things go sour--"

"That's not going to happen," Fitz cut in. "I don't know what the hell's going on, but I know that's not going to happen."

Tony managed a weak smile. "Since when are you an optimist?"

"Since when are you a pessimist?" Fitz shot back.

With a wry grin, Tony shook his head and pushed his chair away from the table. "Try to stay somewhere nice and public for the next few days," he said. "Just in case things go wrong."

Fitz sighed. "Plenty of witnesses in case I need an alibi?" he guessed.

"Got it in one."

*

6 October 2006

"Coming!" Fitz called out as he made his way to the door, trying to figure out who exactly it was knocking on it. It was too heavy to be Tony or Abby, and McGee never stopped by without calling first. There was a slight possibility that it could be Ziva, but Fitz could count the number of times she'd actually been in his flat on one hand.

The knocking continued.

"Just a second!" Fitz yelled again, shaking his head as he unlocked the door. "My God, what's the--"

Fitz trailed off when he found himself staring at Gibbs.

"Agent Gibbs," he said, nodding slightly.

Gibbs nodded back. "Kreiner."

The two of them stood there, staring at each other.

"You've grown a mustache," Fitz said, finally breaking the silence.

The look on Gibbs' face suggested that he thought Fitz was a bit of an idiot.

After another second or two passed, Fitz shook his head and stepped out of the way. "Come in," he said, hesitating only a second. "Just take a seat anywhere."

Gibbs nodded his thanks before slipping past Fitz. Fitz closed the door behind him, watching confusedly as he walked over to one of the hard, uncomfortable chairs that Fitz kept more for appearances' sake than anything and sat down in one.

Neither of them said anything for a moment.

Finally, letting out a loud sigh, Fitz walked over to his sofa and dropped down onto it. "Why are you here, Gibbs?" he asked.

"DiNozzo tell you what's been going on?"

Fitz nodded. "Yeah, Tony's kept me mostly filled in," he said. "So has Abby, for that matter. Ducky. McGee. Ziva. Hell, even Jimmy."

Unless Fitz was imagining it, Gibbs almost flinched. Almost.

Gibbs shook his head. "There's no point in beating around the bushes," he said, meeting Fitz's gaze straight on. "How have they been?"

"You mean without you?" Fitz asked, raising an eyebrow.

Gibbs didn't say anything, but the glint in his eyes spoke volumes.

For just a second, Fitz was tempted to tell Gibbs that they'd been fine without him. He wanted more than anything to make it seem like the summer had been completely normal, as if they had learned that they really didn't need Gibbs.

"Jenny wants me to be Gibbs. I can't be Gibbs."

Sighing, Fitz stood up. He felt Gibbs' gaze follow him as he started toward the kitchen. "If we're going to have this discussion, then I need some alcohol," he called over his shoulder. "Will bourbon work for you?"

*

21 November 2006

Fitz groaned as he glanced over at the clock he kept beside his bed. The only time his phone ever rang at such an ungodly hour was when UNIT was on the other end. Muttering several choice words under his breath, he fumbled for the ringing phone.

He picked it up and put it to his ear. "This better be good," he growled.

There was a pause on the other end. "Fitz?" a vaguely familiar voice asked hesitantly. "Fitz Kreiner?"

Fitz pulled the phone away from his ear, staring at it incredulously for a moment before moving it back. "Anji?" he asked slowly. "Is that you?"

She laughed. "It's me," Anji replied. "It's been too long."

"Do you have any idea what time it is here?" Fitz grumbled. Then he frowned. "Anyway, how the hell did you get this number?"

There was another pause on the other end of the phone. Fitz couldn't help but get the feeling that she hadn't expected him to actually ask that last question.

"I'm... doing some work for UNIT at the moment," Anji said slowly. "Financially, for the most part. They're finishing a project that's been in the works for several decades, and--"

Fitz groaned, cutting her short. "Oh, I should have known," he said tiredly. "Is this about The Valiant again? Because I've already told Brigadiers Bambera and Lethbridge-Stewart that I'm sorry, but I have no idea why the Rhadwemiud power source isn't working properly."

Anji sighed. "Fitz, I don't think you realize just how much money is being wasted because they can't find the problem."

"Actually, it's more that I don't care," Fitz replied. He reached up to brush a few stray hairs out of his face; it looked like he needed to get another haircut. "Is that the only reason you called?"

Anji hesitated again. "I've missed you," she said after a moment, her voice sounding slightly hurt. "Brigadier Bambera said that you've been living in the States for quite some time, since before I ever met the Doctor. Relatively speaking."

"That's right," Fitz said, bracing himself for the question he knew was coming.

"What happened?" she pressed on. "Why did you leave him?"

Fitz closed his eyes for a moment. "I didn't," he admittedly quietly. "He left me. Things were bad, by the end. Worse than you can possibly imagine. Did Trix tell you about the war?"

Anji's reply was so soft that he could barely hear it. "Yes, she told me about it. I'm so sorry, Fitz."

"So am I," Fitz said.

There was another pause. "Have you ever thought about coming back to London?" Anji asked. "I'm sure you miss the city, after all this time. I'm sure that Greg or I could find you somewhere to live."

Fitz shook his head, even though he knew she couldn't see it over the phone. "London's not my home anymore," he said. "It hasn't been for a long time."

"Since 1963?"

Despite himself, Fitz chuckled. "Something like that," he said lightly. He glanced at his clock again. "How have you been, Anji? It really has been too long."

*

25 December 2006

"Hey guys!"

Fitz looked up from his cards at Abby's yell. He, Ducky, Tony, and McGee were sitting around his kitchen table, playing an impromptu game of poker. Jimmy wandered in and out of the room from time to time, obviously not certain what he should be doing. Gibbs, Ziva, and Abby had been watching some movie in the living room, but he was starting to think that plan had been abandoned.

"What is it, Abs?" McGee called out. "We're kind of busy in here!"

There was a pause. "Fitz, you better get in here. The British Prime Minister's on TV. She's talking about aliens."

All thoughts of his cards forgotten, Fitz was out of his chair and in the living room before Abby had even finished speaking.

"I have one request: Doctor. If you're out there... we need you."

Fitz froze, his eyes focused on the screen. He suddenly remembered what UNIT had said, about Harriet Jones being there with the Doctor when they stopped the aliens from taking over the British government.

"I don't know what to do. But if you can hear me, Doctor--"

Tony chuckled as he made his way out of the kitchen and into the living room. "What is it with you British people and aliens?" he asked lightly.

"Shut up," Abby said, turning to glare at him. "It's perfectly logical to assume that we're not the only intelligent life in the universe."

Ziva laughed, shooting Tony a teasing look. "Of course, that assumes everyone in this room is considered intelligent life."

"If anyone knows the Doctor, if anyone can find him... the situation has never been more desperate. Help us. Please, Doctor. Help us."

Fitz noticed Ducky shooting him an odd look, but he was too focused on the television to pay much attention to it. Something bad was going to happen. He could feel it in his bones.

*

26 December 2006

Fitz sighed as he looked around his living room. Tony and Abby were sprawled out on his sofa. Ziva had claimed one of the overstuffed chairs while Jimmy was conked out in the other chair. The last time he'd looked, Gibbs had been in his bed. Unless he'd passed out from exhaustion, McGee was probably still sitting on the floor somewhere with his laptop.

Which left Ducky.

Shaking his head, Fitz turned and headed for the kitchen. Ducky was sitting at the table, sipping at his third cup of tea in an hour.

"I'm sure that Gibbs wouldn't kill you if you shared the bed," Fitz said, pulling out a chair to join Ducky.

Ducky smiled at him over his cup. "I doubt that I will be getting much sleep tonight," he said softly. "I'm afraid that every time I close my eyes I see young Mr. Palmer and Abigail standing at the edge of the roof."

"You too, huh?" Fitz asked, trying to keep his voice light. He doubted that he'd succeeded. "What did they say it was? Mass hypnosis or some such thing?"

Ducky snorted. It was a surprising sound, one that Fitz wasn't used to hearing. "More like alien influence." He gave Fitz a knowing look. "But I believe you already knew that much."

Fitz stared at him blankly, shock overriding everything else that was rushing through his mind. The last piece fell into the puzzle.

"You know the Doctor," Fitz said. He suddenly felt a little wobbly, and he was grateful that he was already sitting down.

Ducky nodded, his gaze focused on Fitz's face. "I've met him a few times," he agreed. His mouth twitched slightly. "A few of him, actually."

Fitz let out a shaky breath. "How long have you known?"

"That you've traveled with him?" Ducky asked.

Fitz managed to nod.

"Only since last night," Ducky said gently. "I saw your face when you were watching Prime Minister Jones on the news. Though I did wonder at times, over the years."

"Ah." Fitz didn't trust himself to say much else. "I see."

Ducky chuckled as he reached out to pat Fitz's hand. "I'm assuming this isn't your proper time?"

Fitz couldn't help but manage a weak grin at that. "Not exactly," he replied. "I was probably born around the same year you were. 1936?"

It was Ducky's time to blink in surprise. "Well then," he said after a moment's pause, "that does make things rather interesting."

Shaking his head, Fitz took a deep breath. He leaned back in his chair, letting the front legs come up into midair. "Tell you what, Ducky. How about I tell you a story?"

Ducky smiled at him. "I'd be delighted to listen," he said. "And, if you'd like, I'm certain that I have one or two that might interest you as well."

"Oh yeah?" Fitz quirked an eyebrow. "Like what?"

"Tell me, Fitzgerald--" Ducky trailed off, comprehension dawning on his face. "Oh, I see why you dislike me calling you by your surname. It must have been difficult for you, growing up during the war."

Fitz smiled. "You remember how it was," he said, shrugging slightly. "It was a long time ago."

"Not nearly as long for you as it was for me," Ducky replied lightly.

There wasn't anything Fitz could say to that. He just gave Ducky a sheepish grin.

Shaking his head, Ducky cleared his throat. "As I was saying," he said, bringing the subject to a close. "Tell me, Fitz, have you ever heard of UNIT?"

Fitz let out a bark of laughter. "Oh, we've both definitely got some stories to share."

*

26 February 2007

Fitz quirked an eyebrow when he opened his door and found Abby standing there, a stack of DVDs in one hand and a pizza balanced in the other. "Did we have plans?" he asked, puzzled, as he stepped out of the way to let her inside.

"Not that I know of," she replied. She put the pizza down on the small table in front of his TV, dropped the DVDs on the floor in front of it, and then collapsed on his sofa expectantly.

He blinked. Then he shut the door. "Don't take this the wrong way, Abby," he said slowly, "but why are you here?"

Abby made a sound that reminded him very much of a growl. "Director Shepard told me that my services wouldn't be needed in Denver."

Fitz frowned at that. Tony had called him earlier to tell him that he'd be out of town for a few days on a case, but he hadn't mentioned any details. "Denver?"

"Yes, Denver," she shot back. Her eyes flashed a bit. "It turns out that the main suspect in that murder case we've been working is also the main suspect in a related case that the ATF is involved with there."

Fitz flinched. "Gibbs flew out there to fight with the ATF over who has control of the case?"

To his surprise, Abby's face lightened a little. "Well, not exactly," she admitted. "I'm fairly certain that Ducky's the one who's going to do the fighting this time."

Raising an eyebrow, Fitz dropped down beside her on the sofa. "I'm confused," he said. "What does Ducky have to do with anything? Is there another dead body in Denver?"

"Yes, actually," Abby said, "but that's not what I'm talking about. Ducky's friends with the assistant director, and Director Shepard thinks that he stands a better chance of getting us control of the case than Gibbs would."

"Old friends, huh?" Fitz asked curiously. "What's the assistant director's name?"

Abby thought for a second. "Travis, I think," she said slowly. "Oren Travis. Of course, that's not what Ducky calls him."

When she stopped there, Fitz coughed. "Aren't you going to tell me what Ducky calls him?"

Abby shrugged. "Oh, he calls him Solo," she said. "It was his nickname or something back when they first met."

Fitz didn't recognize the name from any of the stories Ducky had mentioned from his days in UNIT, but that didn't mean anything. "Hmm," he said noncommittally. Then he reached out and opened the pizza box, grabbing a slice. "I'm assuming you wanted me to watch movies with you tonight?"

She grinned at him, her bad mood from earlier already forgotten.

*

7 April 2007

For once, Fitz wasn't surprised when Tony showed up at his flat in the middle of the night. Fitz could smell the alcohol on him the moment that he opened the door. "McGee called me a few days ago," he said simply, moving aside to let Tony stumble inside. "He told me about Paula Cassidy. That she was killed during a case."

Tony didn't say anything.

"I thought you'd be with Jeanne," Fitz said, careful to keep his voice neutral. "I figured that's why I haven't seen you since it happened."

Tony finally managed a weak laugh. "She had to go out of town for the weekend," he said. "I told her that I'd be fine."

Fitz rolled his eyes. "Of course," he said, grabbing Tony by the shoulders and steering him toward the sofa. "Well, we both know that you're an excellent liar."

Without warning, Tony spun around and punched him in the face.

Gasping, Fitz took a few steps back. His hand came up to cover his bleeding nose, and it took a few tentative pokes before he was convinced that it wasn't broken. "What the hell was that for?"

"I'm sorry," Tony said. He looked sick, though Fitz didn't have a clue whether it was because of Paula's death, whatever the hell was going on with Jeanne, the alcohol, the fact that he was feeling guilty for punching him, or something else entirely.

Fitz just shook his head. "I'm sure you are," he said tiredly. He yanked his shirt off, making a mental note to start soaking it just as soon as he was finished, and once again grabbed Tony by the shoulders. He could feel a small trail of blood trickling down his face, but he couldn't deal with that right then. "Come on, let's get you to bed."

It took twice as long as usual, but Fitz finally managed to make it to his bedroom. Once they were there, Tony just stared at him blankly.

Rolling his eyes, Fitz practically shoved Tony onto the bed. "Get some sleep," he said tiredly. "Gibbs already called to say that you better not show up for the next couple of days."

He turned to walk away, but Tony grabbed him by the arm. Caught off guard, Fitz went sprawling onto his bed. "Damn it, DiNozzo," he muttered, rolling over to meet Tony's gaze.

And then Tony was kissing him.

Fitz didn't react for a second. He was completely surprised, and he didn't know what to think. Then his brain kicked in, and he quickly pulled away. "Oh no," he said quickly, rolling off the bed and doing his best to ignore the hurt look Tony was shooting him. "That is probably the worst idea you've ever had."

Without looking back, he hurried from the room. As soon as the door closed behind him, Fitz let out a sigh. He rested his head against the wall, trying his best to get his breathing under control. He could still feel Tony's lips on his, warm and soft, mixed in with his ever-distancing memory of the Doctor.

"Stop it, Kreiner," he muttered, lightly banging his head against the wall. "Tony's so out of it right now he probably would have kissed Gibbs. You know damn well he's not interested in you that way, so don't even think about it. Besides, he's got Jeanne."

Taking a steadying breath, Fitz reached up to wipe some of the drying blood from his face. His nose had apparently stopped bleeding; that was something, at least. Then he slowly opened the door and glanced inside his bedroom. Tony was sprawled out on the bed, already unconscious.

*

15 May 2007 // 6:13 p.m.

Fitz sighed as he sat down on top of one of the autopsy tables. "Am I really allowed down here?" he asked curiously, looking around. He'd been in the main part of the NCIS building before once or twice, when he'd stopped by to deliver lunch or give someone a ride home, but this was the first time he'd been farther than the main office.

Ducky waved in his general direction. "Don't worry," he said distractedly, "Director Shepard said it was fine."

"Ah." Fitz looked around uncomfortably. "Don't take this the wrong way or anything, but why am I here?"

At that, Ducky looked up. "I thought that you might like to talk," he said gently. "I'm assuming you've been following the news?"

Fitz sighed. "Daleks and Cybermen all over Europe and Asia. It's not exactly something that's hard to miss."

"No," Ducky said, shaking his head, "though it does appear that this country is trying its best to do so."

Fitz snorted. "That's an understatement," he muttered. "Just because there weren't many of them on this side of the globe, they're acting like it's all a giant hoax."

"I'm afraid that the human race is good at explaining things away," Ducky said. He sighed. "Right now, the memory's fresh. Just give it a few weeks, and even those in London will begin denying what happened."

"Then what's the point?" Fitz asked tiredly.

For a few seconds, neither of them said a word. Then Ducky chuckled and met Fitz's gaze. "The first time I met the Doctor," he said, "he was traveling with a delightful young man named Jamie and a girl called Zoe."

As he listened to Ducky talk, Fitz slowly began to smile.

*

15 May 2007 // 7:57 p.m.

"I better check with Jethro before we leave," Ducky said, stretching slightly as he stood up. "It wouldn't do to go home if I'll just have to come back straight away."

Fitz chuckled. "Take your time," he said, standing up from the autopsy table he'd been using as a seat.

The autopsy room seemed eerily quiet as Ducky walked out. He hadn't stopped talking the entire time Fitz had been down there, and the room didn't seem the same without his voice echoing slightly throughout it.

Fitz frowned as he caught sight of a piece of red cloth half-hidden under one of the tables. He knelt down and picked it up, barely holding back a whistle when he saw that it was a thong. "Well," he said, grinning, "somebody's been having fun down here."

He glanced up as the door opened. Jimmy rushed in, only to stop dead in his tracks when he saw what Fitz was holding between his fingers. His face turned pale and, without saying a word, he spun around and disappeared back the way he'd come.

"Jimmy, Jimmy, Jimmy," Fitz said chidingly under his breath. Then he grinned as he stood back up. "I guess those guitar lessons weren't a waste of time after all."

The door opened again; this time the footsteps were much slower paced. Fitz quickly shoved the thong in his pocket. Ducky walked in, glancing over his shoulder with a puzzled look on his face. "I don't know what's gotten into that boy lately," he said, shaking his head. Then he gestured for Fitz that it was fine for them to leave.

Fitz chuckled, patting Ducky's arm as he walked by him on their way out of the autopsy room. "Trust me, Ducky, you probably don't want to know."

*

14 June 2007

"Tony," Fitz said, eyeing his friend warily as the other man paced back and forth, "will you please sit down?"

Tony paused long enough to raise his middle finger. Then he went right back to pacing.

Fitz sighed. "Would you like a drink?" he asked. "I'm fairly certain that breaking up with your girlfriend because you've been lying to her about everything starting with your name is a good reason for getting drunk."

Tony didn't even look at him.

"Damn it, DiNozzo, what do you want from me?" Fitz finally asked, putting as much venom in his voice as he dared.

Tony kept ignoring him.

Silently counting to ten, and then twenty, Fitz tried to relax. The last thing that he needed an angry Tony, unless he really wanted a broken nose. He paused as a wayward thought entered his head. That might be just the thing to do, he mused. If nothing else, it would get Tony's attention.

Fitz grabbed him and planted a kiss on his lips.

Uncertain of how Tony was probably going to react, Fitz pulled away after just a second. He braced himself for the punch that he knew was probably coming, silently sending up a prayer to whoever or whatever was listening that he didn't end up with any injuries that were too permanent.

Nothing happened.

Tony had finally stopped pacing, at least. Instead, he was standing there gaping at Fitz like he'd grown horns. Fitz was actually halfway ready to reach up and make certain that he hadn't when Tony finally burst out laughing. Unfortunately, Fitz could tell almost instantly that it was leaning much too close to hysterical for his comfort.

Fitz eyed him warily.

After almost a minute, Tony finally managed to get himself under control. He still looked a little wild-eyed, but at least he wasn't pacing anymore. "What the hell was that?"

Fitz shrugged. "Remember that friend of mine I told you about once? The Doctor?"

Tony stared at him for a second, obviously confused. Then his eyes widened and he nodded.

"Well, it got my attention when he did it to me," Fitz admittedly sheepishly. "I thought it was worth a shot."

Tony didn't say anything, but he watched Fitz closely.

Fitz gave him a weak smile. "This is the part where you punch me in the face."

"Thanks for letting me know," Tony said after another second's pause. His voice sounded slightly strangled. "I'm assuming that's what you did to your friend?"

Chuckling slightly, Fitz shook his head. "Not exactly," he admitted. "I was too surprised to do anything the first time. The second time, well--"

Tony stared at him for another few seconds. Then he lunged forward, and Fitz braced himself for the punch that was coming. Except the next thing he knew, Tony had grabbed him and was kissing him back.

Fitz's last real thought for awhile was that he was glad Tony and he had both had the same reaction. This was much more pleasant that a broken nose.

*

21 July 2007

Abby grinned mischievously and suddenly Fitz was on high alert. He'd learned a long time ago that particular grin wasn't something to take lightly. "What?" he asked warily, taking a sip of his drink.

She smiled, leaning back in her chair so that the front legs were off the ground. "How long have you and Tony actually been dating?"

Fitz spit his drink across the table. He felt a hint of vindictiveness when a few drops of it hit Abby's shirt. Maybe next time she wouldn't time her comments quite so well.

"Where did you get an idea like that?" he asked, his voice somewhat strangled.

Abby just kept staring at him. It was a bit unnerving. "How long?" she repeated, not letting him get her off topic.

Fitz reached up to rub his temples. "Why do I keep spending time with you?" he asked tiredly.

Her grin grew even broader. "Fitz," she said slowly, drawing out his name, "how long?"

"Hey guys, what's up?"

Tony's grin faltered when Abby and Fitz looked up at him. Abby looked even more smug than she had a few seconds earlier. Fitz suspected he looked like a condemned prisoner.

"Run while you can," Fitz suggested, slowly picking up his glass and taking a quick sip before Abby could turn her attention back toward him.

Rolling her eyes, Abby motioned for Tony to sit down. "Sit down, Tony, I have a question to ask you."

Tony let his gaze drift between her and Fitz for a moment. Then he glanced back at the door, as if he was considering making a dash for it.

"Sit down," Abby said firmly.

He sat down.

"What's going on?" Tony asked slowly. Fitz knew he wasn't imagining the nervousness in his voice.

Abby smiled. "Tell me, Tony," she asked, leaning back in her chair, "what are your intentions? Do you plan on making Fitz an honest man?"

Fitz covered his face with his hand.

Tony made a strangled sound. "You told her?" he asked; his voice sounded almost hurt. Fitz suddenly felt embarrassed, even though he knew there was no logical reason for it. He hadn't done anything.

"Oh, please." Abby snorted as she reached across the table and pulled Fitz's hand away from his face. "I've been waiting for the two of you to come to your senses for years."

There was a conspicuous silence from Tony, who suddenly looked pale. Then, his voice still somewhat strangled, he repeated, "Years?"

Fitz couldn't take it anymore. He tore his gaze away from Tony's face, focusing instead on the glass he was holding in his hand.

"Fitz, look at me," Abby said after a few seconds. Her voice was unusually serious. "Tony, you too."

Fitz was tempted to ignore her, but he knew all that would do was earn him a well-placed kick to the shins. Reluctantly, he looked up.

Abby stared back at him for a moment before glancing at Tony. "Are you embarrassed that I know?" she asked, her voice unusually flat. "Ashamed? I mean, did you plan on keeping it a secret?"

"Yes," Tony shot back. Then he paused. "I mean, no. Yes and no? Fitz, help me out here."

Fitz hesitated, and for just a second he remembered the world he had lived in for the first twenty-seven years of his life. It hadn't been that long ago, in the grand scheme of things. "Are you ashamed?" he asked uncertainly, not entirely sure he wanted to hear Tony's answer.

Abby blinked in surprise. Tony simply gaped at him. "Of course not," he said firmly, after a second had passed. "I have no problem with Abby knowing that we're dating."

Tony's voice got louder as he spoke, and the last part was delivered loud enough that it drew the attention of the people sitting at the tables nearest to them. His face immediately turned red as he tried to sink as low in his seat as possible.

"Oh, so you are dating!" Abby said, clapping her hands excitedly. "Okay, I want details. When did Tony figure out that you've had a crush on him for ages? Have you had sex yet? Are you moving in with each other?"

"Ages?" Tony repeated. He shot Fitz an intrigued look before he realized what Abby had asked. "Abs!"

Fitz felt his face burning. "Abby!" he snapped, no real heat in his voice.

She sighed. "Fine, fine," she said. "I'll wait a month or two before I start pumping you for details."

Tony sighed in relief. "Thank God."

Abby immediately turned her attention back toward him. "Just as soon as you tell me how long you've been dating."

*

1 August 2007

Fitz frowned as he glanced down at his watch. He had hoped to get out of work on time for once, but it looked like he was going to be late getting out again. Even after all this time, computers still seemed to hate him.

"Got a hot date tonight, Fitz?" Daniel called out teasingly. "You keep looking at your watch like you're in a hurry to leave."

Fitz rolled his eyes. "Something like that," he muttered. Then his mouth twisted into a smirk and he raised his voice. "Maybe I just want to get away from your hair before it blinds me."

Daniel poked at his day-glo orange hair unapologetically. "It is a little bright," he admitted thoughtfully. "Do you think I should add a purple streak to it for contrast?"

"Why do I even bother trying to insult you?" Fitz asked, shaking his head.

Daniel grinned at him.

Monica rolled her eyes at their antics. "What did I ever do to deserve having them as coworkers?" she asked dramatically, looking upwards as she spoke.

Fitz snorted and turned his attention back toward his computer before it self-destructed on him.

Both of them quieted down for a moment before Monica cleared her throat. "So," she asked casually, "do you have a date?"

"Why do either of you care about my dating life?" Fitz asked, not trying to hide his annoyance as he looked up from his computer again.

Daniel shrugged. "I don't."

Fitz glanced at Monica.

"What?" she asked defensively. "You're dating Tony DiNozzo, womanizer of the year. My sister's ex-boyfriend. And mine, for that matter. I'm curious."

There was a few seconds of silence.

"Did someone put out a memo?" Fitz asked exasperatedly. "We've been dating for six weeks, and I'm starting to think everybody in the entire metro area knows already."

Monica stared blankly at him. "You mean the two of you haven't been having a torrid affair for years?"

Even Daniel looked surprised. "Damn," he muttered, "there went that bet."

Fitz suspected that he was doing a very good impression of a fish that had suddenly found itself on land instead of underwater. He kept opening and closing his mouth, but he couldn't quite force words out.

*

31 October 2007

Fitz shivered as Tony lightly ran his finger over the tattoo that covered his upper back. "You know," Tony said slowly, "I've never even asked you why you got this."

"It really doesn't matter," Fitz replied softly.

Tony shook his head. "Come on," he said teasingly, still tracing the design with his finger. "Two days ago, I thought that I was going to die from the plague on that damn ship."

Fitz cleared his throat. "You know, you could give me some more details."

"It's classified," Tony shot back. "But, seriously, I thought I was going to die. Can't you at least tell me what's up with the bird tattooed on your back."

Fitz hesitated for a second. "I made a deal with Abby when you almost died from the plague." Then, after a moment's consideration, he added: "The first time, I mean."

Tony's finger stopped moving.

"I told her you were too stubborn to die," he continued softly. "She didn't believe me, so I told her I'd get a tattoo once you were better. She'd been asking me to get one for months, though."

"Why the bird?" Tony asked slowly.

Fitz shrugged as he turned over in order to face Tony. "It's a phoenix," he explained. "Well, a tribal design of one at least."

Tony's eyebrow lifted a notch.

"Don't even think about trying to convince me you don't know what a phoenix represents," Fitz continued, laughing slightly. "Anyway, I thought it was appropriate. The ending of one life and the beginning of a new one." His voice faltered slightly. "Regeneration."

With a grin, Tony leaned in to kiss him. "You're right," he agreed. "It fits you."

*

8 November 2007

Fitz hesitated in front of the closed hospital door, not quite certain whether to knock or not. Director Shepard had called him to tell him about Tony's impromptu dive into the harbor to save Gibbs and someone involved in their latest case from drowning, but she hadn't been very forthcoming on the details. He was honestly surprised she had bothered calling in the first place; it didn't seem like she liked him much.

After he'd been standing there for a moment, the door suddenly swung open and he found himself facing Abby. She rolled her eyes, yanking him into the room. "Please," she grumbled, "will you just come in already? You're one of the family."

"Literally, if anyone on the hospital staff asks," McGee added quickly from the other side of the room, where he was sitting in a chair.

Fitz raised an eyebrow at that, letting his gaze drift over the gathered ensemble. Apparently the hospital had decided to put Gibbs and Tony in the same room. Gibbs was sitting at the edge of his hospital bed, in the bed enough that a nurse couldn't say anything about him being up but only just. If it wasn't for the blanket that he had wrapped around his shoulders and the barely noticeable shivers that shook his body every few minutes, it would be almost impossible to tell that anything was wrong.

Tony, on the other hand, was actually in his bed. He had three blankets wrapped around him, and his shivers were much more obvious than Gibbs'. Fitz suspected much of it was exaggerated in order to garner sympathy.

The others were spread out throughout the room. Abby was still standing beside him, obviously waiting for him to say something. Ducky was sitting in a chair beside Gibbs' bed, surreptitiously keeping an eye on the other man if Fitz had his guess. Ziva was sitting on the windowsill, one of her legs pulled up under her while the other rested on the floor. Jimmy, on the other hand, was resting on the floor, his back leaning against the wall near Ziva's leg.

Shaking his head, Fitz walked over and sat down on the edge of Tony's bed. "Only you would decide to go swimming in the harbor in the middle of November."

Tony's shivers stopped almost instantly as an indignant look appeared on his face. He pointed at Gibbs. "Hey, someone had to go in after him."

"If Gibbs told you to jump off of a bridge, would you do it?" Fitz asked teasingly.

Gibbs cleared his throat. "He'd better," he said, his voice slightly hoarse but otherwise sounding completely normal.

*

24 December 2007

Abby's voice rang out from elsewhere in Fitz's apartment. "Fitz, there are aliens attacking London again!"

Fitz groaned as he reluctantly broke off his kiss with Tony, straightening his shirt as he stepped out from under the mistletoe he'd hung just inside his bedroom. Tony did the same, and then Fitz quickly opened the door and peered out. The hallway was clear. He motioned for Tony to follow him, and they both stepped out - just as the bathroom door opened. Jimmy stood there, frozen, as he stared at the two of them. His shirt was disheveled, and there was a red mark on his neck that couldn't be anything but lipstick.

"Seriously, guys!" Abby yelled. "Aliens! In London! Again!"

Michelle appeared behind Jimmy. Her shirt was buttoned up lopsided, with one of the bottom buttons hanging loose. "What's she yelling about-- oh."

Fitz swallowed. "I didn't see anything," he said, glancing at Tony. "Did you see anything?"

"Nope, not a thing," Tony said.

Jimmy quickly started to straighten his shirt. "Neither did we. I. There is no we."

Michelle just nodded, her eyes wide.

Abby poked her head through the living room door. "Are you all done making out now?" she asked irritably, though her voice was pitched low enough that no one outside the hall could hear her. "Because the British military's shooting down a giant alien ship over London right now."

"What?" Fitz asked, his embarrassment forgotten. He quickly hurried to the living room, where everyone else was gathered. "What kind of alien ship?"

Tony groaned as he followed them, Jimmy and Michelle trailing behind him. "For the last time, aliens aren't real."

Judging by the look on Gibbs's face, it was obvious that he agreed with Tony. Everyone else in the living room, though, was watching the television with interest.

Abby poked Fitz in the ribs. "Aren't you glad you moved here?" she asked teasingly. "The aliens are too focused on London to worry about us."

"For the last time, Abs," Tony said, throwing his arm over her shoulder, "they're not aliens. It's all a scam so that the British can convince the rest of the world to actually pay attention to them. Otherwise, they're boring and just blend into the background."

Fitz blinked. "Did you say something?" he asked, tearing his gaze away from the television and looking at them. "Sorry, I was too busy being boring and blending into the background to hear you."

Tony just winked at him.

"Be quiet," Ducky chastised them. "Some of us are paying attention to the news."

*

14 January 2008

"I hated him at first," Fitz said softly. "I don't think that I ever told you that part."

He looked up for the first time since he'd started talking, finally turning his attention away from his hands and back toward Ducky. The older man was expressionless, though Fitz thought he saw a hint of sympathy in his eyes.

Sighing, Fitz continued. "After everything we'd been through over the years, I always assumed that the only way I'd ever leave the Doctor would be--" He trailed off for a moment and gestured around the morgue. "To be honest, I never thought I'd live to see middle age."

Ducky nodded understandingly. "Then you were wiser than I was."

A surprised look appeared on Fitz's face.

"I never even considered the possibility of dying during my travels with the Doctor," Ducky said, shaking his head. "I was so young back then. The thought never even crossed my mind, not until the very end."

Fitz gave Ducky a weak smile. "Then you almost died?"

A haunted look flickered across Ducky's face for just a second. "There was no almost about it," he replied softly. "I was clinically dead for... much longer than any of today's medical procedures could possibly hope to revive someone after."

"What happened?" Fitz asked.

Ducky started to reply, but then he paused and shook his head. "It is not a cheerful story and so better left for another day," he said.

"Remind me to tell you about Father Kreiner someday," Fitz said quietly.

Fitz paused, his reflection in the mirror catching his attention. When had those silver streaks began appearing in his hair? And had those laugh lines around his eyes always been so pronounced? He recognized the face in the mirror, but at the same time it looked unfamiliar. It was him... but it wasn't. The man staring back at him wasn't the same one who'd spent over a decade traveling through time and space.

"Fitz?" Ducky prompted gently.

Letting out a breath he hadn't even realized he was holding, Fitz turned his gaze back toward Ducky. "For the first time since I was twenty-seven," he explained slowly, "I feel like I belong somewhere. Not that I didn't feel like I belonged in the TARDIS, because I did, but--"

"It's different, when you're not bound by time," Ducky cut in, nodding. "Believe me when I say that I understand."

Smiling, Fitz nodded. "I've found somewhere to call home."

"Because of Anthony?" Ducky asked, quirking an eyebrow.

Fitz felt his face grow red. "You, uh, noticed?"

Ducky chuckled as he reached out to pat Fitz's hand. "My dear boy," he said lightly, "I suspect even Jethro has noticed."

Barely resisting the urge to bury his face in his hands, Fitz managed to simply give Ducky a weak smile. "Tony is part of it, yes," he admitted. "But it's not just that. It's everything. My job, my coworkers, my friends, the team, everything. I've made a home here."

Fitz was startled to realize that he meant every single word.

*

19 March 2008 // 5:48 p.m.

"I swear, this guy was walking around the building as if he owned the place," Tony said, shaking his head. There was an incredulous look on his face. "Gibbs was ready to strangle him from the beginning. I mean, really, he'd only been there five minutes and he'd already flirted with Ziva, groped McGee, and asked Abby to join him and some guy on his team in a threesome."

Fitz raised an eyebrow. "What was Abby's answer?" he asked curiously.

Tony's eyes glazed over slightly. "She told him to pick her up at seven."

The two of them sat there for a moment, letting their imaginations get the better of them. Tony finally coughed, and Fitz reluctantly pulled his mind back into the present.

"Where was I?" Tony asked.

"Threesome," Fitz said helpfully.

Tony shot him a dirty look. "Anyway, Ducky walks in a few minutes later and the captain does a double-take, calls him Illya or Illyria or something for some reason, and asks Ducky how someone named Solo's doing. I assumed he was probably talking about that Judge Travis guy in Denver that Ducky was all chummy with, but I knew better than to ask. Anyway, the two of them apparently know each other, and they get to talking - the whole time; pretty much ignoring Gibbs."

Fitz made a mental note to ask Ducky why he apparently used an alias in the past - or possibly was using an alias now. He'd done some work with UNIT, so maybe Fitz's falsified identification wasn't the only one out there.

"I can guess where this is going," Fitz said, shaking his head. "Where are you going to hide the body?"

Tony held up his hand. "I'm not finished yet," he said, almost bouncing with excitement. "Because then, and this is where it starts to get good, the guy figures out that Gibbs is pissed at him. Instead of being a sane person and begging for his life, he starts outright flirting with the boss. And when they finally left, he actually slapped Gibbs as he walked by. Just not on the head."

Fitz burst out laughing. "God, I'd have killed to see that," he managed to choke out. Shaking his head, he took a large sip of his beer.

Tony shuddered. "Poor McGee was barely able to hide his laughing. I think that Gibbs is planning on killing him tomorrow, unless those Torchwood clowns lied about catching a flight first thing in the morning back to wherever they came from. Then it's going to be Captain Jack Harkness that finds himself--"

When Fitz did a spit take, Tony looked almost as surprised as Fitz.

"Do I want to know?" Tony asked, eyeing him warily.

"Jack Harkness?" Fitz repeated. "Dark hair? Blue eyes? Looked like he was chiseled out of marble?"

Tony snorted. "I take it you know him."

Fitz didn't reply. He was too busy dialing McGee's number on his cell phone.

"What are you doing?" Tony asked.

Holding up one finger, Fitz listened to the phone ring. "Calling McGee to see if he'll track Abby's cell for me."

Tony rolled his eyes. "Trust me, he won't do it. I've asked him half a dozen times to do things like that for me, and he always says 'no.'"

"I'm not you."

Fitz knew he wasn't imagining the breathlessness in McGee's voice when he answered with a hurried, "Hello?" a few seconds later. "McGee?" he asked skeptically. "Is this a bad time?"

There was a pause, as if McGee had put his hand over the phone, though Fitz could vaguely hear him talking to someone in the background.

Fitz frowned. "Who's Toshiko?" he mouthed to Tony.

Tony gaped incredulously at him for a moment before grabbing the phone from Fitz's hand. "Probie, are you seriously trying to tell me that you have a gorgeous woman in your apartment and you actually bothered picking up the phone?"

McGee's response was loud, despite it being mostly unintelligible from where Fitz was standing.

Rolling his eyes, Fitz reached over plucked the phone out of Tony's hand. "Sorry to bother you, McGee," he said, cutting in, "but I really need you to do me a favor. Is there any way you could track Abby's mobile to find out where she went for dinner?"

There were two seconds' pause before McGee replied, just as loudly as he had to Tony's query. Fitz held the phone away from his ear, frowning when he made out the words "insane" and "illegal" being repeated a few times.

"We're not trying to stalk her this time!" Tony called out, leaning over Fitz's shoulder to speak into the phone.

Fitz turned his head to glare at him. "You're not helping," he hissed. Then he put the phone back to his ear. "McGee, listen to me, it really is important. I've met Jack Harkness before, and I just need to ask him a few questions. And I promise not to tell Abby how we found her." He paused for a moment, considering what he'd just said before adding, "Tony won't say anything either."

Before he could react, Tony suddenly grabbed the phone from his hand. "That's right," he agreed. "And who knows? I might even forget to ask you just how Abby managed to show up at the same restaurant as me during my last three dates."

Fitz frowned. He'd wondering about that himself, come to think of it.

"Oh, really?" Tony said, still speaking into the phone. "And why not?"

Tony's eyes suddenly grew wider, and his mouth twisted into an amused grin. Fitz shot him an impatient look.

"Thanks Probie," Tony said, his grin growing even broader. "We owe you one."

"Well?" Fitz asked as soon as Tony hung up.

"He, uh, didn't have to track her number," Tony said, not even trying to keep a straight face. "He already knew where they were going."

Fitz kept staring at him. "How?"

"Apparently," Tony said, smirking, "three is a smaller number than Captain Jack Harkness originally intended for his date tonight."

*

19 March 2008 // 7:23 p.m.

Abby saw them first as they made their way across the restaurant. The moment she turned her glare on him, Fitz felt the urge to turn around and walk away right then and there. It was only Tony's hand on his arm that kept him from doing exactly that.

"Go away!" she said the moment they stepped up to the table. "I don't crash your dates, do I?"

Fitz paused for a second at that. "Yes, you do."

"All the time," Tony agreed, nodding.

Abby's glare intensified.

"But that's not why we're here this time," Fitz added hurriedly. He glanced at Jack, not surprised to see no recognition on his face. "I needed to talk with a third of your date for a second."

Her angry look quickly faded into a confused one. She glanced between Fitz and Jack, obviously trying to figure out what was going on.

Jack stared at Fitz a moment, a puzzled look on his face. Then his eyes widened. "Hey, I remember you."

Fitz nodded. Then he took in the haunted look in other man's eyes; they looked a lot more than two years older. "My name's Fitz Kreiner," he said, "and I'm betting that our last meeting's more fresh on my mind than it is yours."

The younger man glanced sharply in Jack's direction, pretty much confirming in Fitz's mind that he knew about the Doctor. Jack's face remained carefully expressionless.

"Mind if I talk with you for a second?" Fitz asked. He tried to ignore the odd looks that were being shot at him by Tony and Abby. "It's about someone I think you know - or used to know. Likes to wear a leather jacket? Travels in a fairly conspicuous blue vehicle?"

Jack sat up straighter. "Yeah, it definitely sounds like we need to talk," he said. He glanced at the younger man, shooting him an apologetic look. "Ianto, could you entertain the lovely Miss Sciuto for a few minutes?" He paused. "Not to mention the dashing Agent DiNozzo, of course."

Ianto nodded, his face expressionless.

Then Jack winked. "Maybe you could even convince him to join us later tonight?" he suggested, ignoring Tony's spluttering. "The more, the merrier."

Fitz tried, and failed, to keep a straight face.

Though the expression on Ianto's face didn't change, Fitz saw a definite hint of amusement in the younger man's eyes when he replied. "I'll try my best, Jack," he said. "Would you like me to call Owen and Gwen as well? I believe Tosh is otherwise engaged."

Abby laughed. "I think they might be too," she said, looking very much the cat who had just eaten the canary. "At least, that's what Ziva told me."

Jack leaned forward in his chair. "Oh, do tell."

"Weren't you and Fitz going to talk?" Tony asked, breaking in. "The sooner you do, the sooner we can leave. Hopefully before I get any mental images that will scar me for life."

Nodding, Jack reluctantly stood up. "Here, Agent DiNozzo, take my seat."

Motioning for Fitz to follow him, Jack started toward the bar on the other side of the room. Fitz shared a quick look with Tony before following.

*

19 March 2008 // 8:36 p.m.

"... and that's how I ended up with Torchwood."

Fitz stared at Jack, a skeptical look on his face. "You do realize that I only believe about half of what you just told me, right?"

Jack shot him a hurt look. "I thought you said that you'd traveled with the Doctor for over a decade," he said. "After everything you've seen, is it really that hard to believe that I'm immortal?"

"Who said anything about me not believing you're immortal?" Fitz shot back. "It's the part about you, Queen Elizabeth, and the full moon that I don't believe a word of."

After a moment, Jack nodded. "There's a possibility that I might have exaggerated a bit about that part of the story."

"A possibility?" Fitz repeated, snorting.

Jack grinned in acquiescence. Then he glanced back at the table where Ianto, Abby, and Tony were sitting and apparently enjoying their meal. "That guy you came in with, Agent DiNozzo?"

Fitz raised an eyebrow. "What about him?"

Jack grinned. "He single?"

"No." Fitz leaned forward, shooting Jack a warning look. "He's not single."

Holding up his hands in a gesture of peace, Jack winked at him. "Hey, it doesn't hurt to ask. Let me know if you ever decide to share; I wouldn't mind getting my hands on both of you."

Fitz snorted. "It's not your hands that I'm worried about," he muttered under his breath.

Jack laughed. "Oh, I like you," he said, grinning. Then he eyed Fitz more closely, a speculative look appearing on his face. "I could probably find a job for you in Cardiff, if you're interested. I think you'd fit in well, and we could always use someone else with firsthand experience."

Fitz quickly shook his head. "I don't think so," he said, giving Jack an apologetic smile. "I've already found a place where I fit in."

"Good for you." Jack shot him a bittersweet smile. "I'm still looking, myself."

Fitz glanced over at Ianto and Abby. It was barely noticeable, but Ianto kept glancing over at the two of them with an odd expression on his face. Even though Fitz wasn't quite certain how to read it - jealousy? worry? a combination of the two? - he could tell that the younger man didn't want to take his eyes of Jack too long. He cared for him.

"I don't know," Fitz said thoughtfully. After a few seconds, Jack followed his gaze. "I think you might be closer to finding it than you think."

Jack chuckled as he turned his attention back toward Fitz. "You know what?" He picked up his glass and held it up; after a second or two, Fitz picked up his and clinked it against Jack's. "You might just be right."

*

11 April 2008 // 11:39 a.m.

"Hey, you!"

Fitz blinked when he heard the unfamiliar voice, and he raised an eyebrow when he turned around and saw a red-headed woman waving at him. "Yes?" he asked slowly.

She held up a hand, breathing deeply for a few seconds. It was obvious that she'd been running and was out of breath. "First of all, where am I?"

Fitz opened his mouth to respond.

"And I don't mean the street," she said, cutting in before he could reply. "City would be good. Country. Continent. Planet."

He felt his blood run cold. "Washington D.C.," he said slowly. "United States. North America. Earth."

She sighed. "You think I'm mad, don't you?"

"It depends," Fitz said, trying not to stare. "Is your next question going to be what the year is?"

The woman snapped her head up, her gaze focusing on him. "And if it is?"

Fitz took a deep breath. "Then I'd say it's 2008." He paused for a second. "And I'd ask how the Doctor's doing."

She let out a sigh that could only be one of relief. "Oh, thank God," she said. "My name's Donna. Donna Noble."

"Fitz Kreiner," Fitz said, holding out his hand. "Mind if I ask what your Doctor looks like?"

Donna stared at him for a second in confusion before comprehension dawned. "Right, it probably wouldn't be good if he hasn't met you yet." She frowned. "But how can you tell?"

Fitz sighed. Some things never changed. The Doctor had always been rubbish when it came to warning his companions about regeneration. Still, he supposed it wasn't his place to tell Donna about that little detail if the Doctor hadn't mentioned it to her yet.

"Oh, you'd be surprised. He changes things around every now and then," Fitz said. "Hair color, weight, clothes, that sort of stuff."

Donna nodded knowingly. "He's got brown hair, has a mind of its own most of the time," she said. "Very skinny, looks a bit like a weasel."

Fitz snorted in amusement. Then he realized that he recognized that description. "Does he wear a blue pinstripe suit?" he asked.

She nodded. "Sometimes," she replied. "It's the brown one today."

Fitz smiled tiredly. "Then he should know me."

Donna sighed. "If I can find him," she muttered, reaching up to rub her temples. "He disappeared on me hours ago."

"Oh, finding him should be simple," Fitz said, grinning. He pulled out his cell phone. "All we have to do is listen for sirens."

Donna raised an eyebrow. "And what's the phone for?" she asked.

Fitz just grinned as he dialed Tony's number. "I've got a few friends who might be able to help with that part."

*

11 April 2008 // 12:46 p.m.

Donna looked around suspiciously. "You're sure this is the right place?"

"McGee said that there'd been a disturbance here earlier," he said, shrugging. "Small explosion, no injuries."

She nodded. "That sounds like him then."

Fitz managed to shoot her a weak grin even though his heart was pounding in his chest. "That's what I thought," he agreed. "Some things never change."

Grinning, Donna looked around. The area looked deserted. "Oi, Doctor! Are you around here somewhere?"

Fitz grimaced at how loud her voice sounded. "You know, Donna, you might want to--"

"Donna!"

And there he was. Fitz felt his breath catch in his throat as he watched Donna rush off to hug the man who'd stepped out of a nearby alley. It was the same incarnation he'd seen years ago, with Martha. The one he'd glimpsed with the blonde girl.

The Doctor looked up and met Fitz's gaze... and the world seemed to freeze.

"Fitz," the Doctor said, his voice barely more than a whisper.

Before he even realized what he was doing, Fitz started toward the Doctor and Donna. "Doctor," he said, trying to keep his voice casual. He doubted that it was working. "It's been awhile."

The Doctor nodded, not looking away from Fitz's face. "Yes," he agreed, "yes, it has."

"How long has it been?" Fitz asked, attempting to keep his voice steady. "For you?"

Donna looked between the two of them, obviously puzzled, but she didn't say anything. Fitz felt the urge to kiss her simply for that.

"Not that long," the Doctor said after a moment's hesitation. "Well, relatively speaking. This is my second regeneration after I, well--"

"Knocked me unconscious and left me in the year 2002?" Fitz suggested.

The Doctor grimaced. "If you'd been at Arcadia, you would have died."

Fitz shook his head. "You don't know that," he argued. "The plan was that I'd stay with Compassion and Ace."

"Yes," the Doctor snapped, his eyes flashing, "I do know it. There were six survivors, Fitz. Six, out of all those thousands. And that six didn't include either of them."

And, with that, Fitz knew. He felt his legs grow weak, and he quickly leaned against the nearest building. "You lost the Time War, didn't you?"

Donna looked nervous now, as she moved her gaze between the two of them.

The Doctor nodded. "Everyone lost. The Time Lords, the Daleks, the planets caught in the crossfire. Everyone."

"Gallifrey's gone again, isn't it?" Fitz asked, closing his eyes. "Both timelines have been destroyed?"

There wasn't an answer. That told him everything that he needed to know. Fitz couldn't help but wonder if he hadn't known it all along.

"I've seen you a few times, since you left me," Fitz said quietly, opening his eyes. "I tried to get your attention, but you were always too fast for me."

The Doctor smiled a bit at that, though the dark look never faded from his eyes. Fitz wondered if it had been there since the war had ended. "Really?" he asked.

"Really," Fitz replied. "I saw you with Sarah Jane; your fourth body, I think? Ridiculously long scarf?"

The Doctor nodded.

"A couple of times in this regeneration, once in what I'm assuming was the one before your current one." Fitz paused for a moment before grinning. "I couldn't help but notice that you were wearing my coat back then. I must say that I was touched."

Donna snorted. "Ooh, I like this one."

Fitz knew that he wasn't imagining the suddenly awkward expression that had appeared on the Doctor's face. "Ah, yes, about that. I, uh, might have had it with me when I regenerated. It fit, so--"

"I figured," Fitz said, cutting in with a smile. "I missed it at first, but it's a part of the past now."

The Doctor suddenly looked relieved. "Then you've moved on?" he asked. "Made a life for yourself and all that?"

Fitz nodded. "Yeah," he agreed, "I have. I'll admit, I miss the TARDIS sometimes. The adventures." He paused for a moment and winked at Donna. "The sex."

Donna burst out laughing as the Doctor went into a spluttering fit. "So I kissed you a few times!" he protested loudly. "That doesn't mean we... Donna, he's lying! I mean, yes, there was that one time when we maybe went a little far because of that pollen, and there was the time with the wedding - well, three times, but who's counting? - but we didn't have much of a choice then, and maybe there was once or twice when we'd both had a bit too much to drink, but we both agreed to forget about that!"

Fitz couldn't help it - he burst out laughing as well. "You weren't the only person in the TARDIS, Doctor," he pointed out lightly.

The Doctor stopped spluttering, an utterly flabbergasted expression appearing on his face. Donna doubled over she was laughing so hard.

"I hated you at first," Fitz said quietly, sobering after a few seconds. "It still should have been my decision to make, not yours. You forget that sometimes, that we should have a say in what happens with our lives."

"You would have died," the Doctor replied, his voice just as soft.

Fitz nodded. "And I would have been happy if it had meant I'd made a difference."

The Doctor didn't have a reply to that.

"But," Fitz continued, "at the same time, I wouldn't trade where I am now for the world. I have a home, friends--"

"A girlfriend?" Donna asked as she finally managed to stop laughing.

Fitz grinned at her "Close," he said with a wink. "His name's Tony. I think you'd like him."

The Doctor closed his eyes. "You're almost as bad as Jack," he muttered. "You weren't always like this, were you? I couldn't have forgotten that much."

"Jack Harkness?" Fitz asked, his mind flashing back to the carefree man he'd met for only a moment as well as the darker, more hardened man whose number he had programmed into his cell phone.

"I'm almost afraid to ask how you know that name," the Doctor said, not opening his eyes. "Do I want to know?"

Fitz shook his head. "I know he traveled with you," he said slowly. "Do you know what happened to him afterwards?"

The Doctor finally opened his eyes. "What's Torchwood done now?"

Laughing, Fitz grinned at him. "The next time you see him, warn him that Agent Gibbs has ordered the team to shoot him on sight if he ever steps foot in NCIS headquarters again. Jack still thinks I made that up."

Before the Doctor could reply to that, Fitz's cell phone started to ring. Smiling, he held up a finger as he answered. "Yes, Tony, I know that I'm late," he said, not even bothering to look at who was calling. "I'll be there in just a bit."

Fitz stood there a moment, listening, before finally hanging up.

"I've got to go," he said, suddenly sounding awkward. "I'm supposed to be meeting some people for lunch."

The Doctor nodded. "I understand."

Fitz shuffled from one foot to the other, staring at the Doctor. "Oh, what the hell," he finally muttered. Without giving himself time to think, he took a few steps forward and kissed the Doctor. His lips were warmer than Fitz remembered.

Donna made a surprised sound, but Fitz didn't care. He smiled at the Doctor as he pulled away, enjoying the slightly dazed look on the Time Lord's face.

"My door's always open," Fitz said, shooting him a bittersweet smile. "UNIT and Torchwood should know my address. Goodbye, Doctor."

Then, without saying another word, Fitz turned and walked away. His future was waiting for him.