FOLLOWING MORNING: NCIS: 10:00 A.M.
"Anybody seen or heard from DiNozzo?" Gibbs asked for the tenth time that morning, his brow furrowed with irritation and frustration.
"No. Believe me, I would have told you, Gibbs." Ziva responded casually.
Mcgee stayed quiet, head bowed over his work, as he had every other time Gibbs had mentioned Tony. Finally, the older man rose and moved close enough to his young agent to tower over him.
"McGee. Talk to me. Now."
"About what, sir?"
The unaccustomed formality registered instantly with Gibbs and his anger flared.
"Don't push me, McGee. You get busted down from probationary agent, noone in D.C.'s gonna hire you."
"I haven't heard from him, boss. After last night, I'm not surprised."
"And that means..."
"Ask her." He replied darkly, inclining his head toward Ziva. "She's the one who lied to all of us."
"Pardon me?" Ziva shot back, sitting forward.
"Not if you held a gun to my head."
"That can be arranged." Ziva said, color and tension evident in her face. Gibbs halted the potential confrontation.
"Enough, both of you! What are you talking about, McGee?"
"Did you ask her why Tony wasn't at the dinner party?"
"I never thought about it. Why?"
"I did. She said he turned down the invitation. Last night, seeing his face when we were all talking about the fun we had... he just looked so upset. You never invited him, did you, Ziva?"
The young woman flushed a deeper red, responded tightly then returned to her work.
"No. Why would I? He's a child and children don't belong at adult gatherings."
Before Gibbs could turn and rip into her the way he desperately wanted to, his phone rang. Jaw tense, he moved to answer it, vowing she'd get the reaming out of her life the minute he finished the conversation.
"Is this Agent Jethro Gibbs?"
"It is." He replied, his stomach sinking even before he knew who was on the other end of the line.
"This is Bethesda Naval Hospital. You're listed as the emergency contact for Agent Anthony DiNozzo. Is this correct?"
"Yes. What's happened?"
"He voluntarily checked himself into our mental health wing late last night. All he was really able to give us was his name and a request to call you and let you know he's safe."
"God... checked in for what? What is he... What's wrong with him?"
"You'll have to come down and discuss that with the doctor, I'm afraid. You should be aware that Agent DiNozzo isn't allowed visitors."
"His stipulation, sir."
"I'll be there in an hour."
"I'll let the doctor know to expect you."
Gibbs hung up slowly and turned to find McGee had risen to his feet. His body language said he was ready for anything, but his expression was anxious and fearful.
"Tony's in the pysch ward at Bethesda. He checked himself in last night."
"No... he wouldn't..."
"He did. You pass the word to Abby, Palmer and Ducky. I'm gonna go talk to the doctor." Gibbs responded gruffly as he grabbed his coat and headed for the elevators.
"Boss... tell him the rest of us didn't know... and that we're sorry."
"Would if I could, McGee, but Tony doesn't wanna see anyone right now."
"Can you blame him?" Tim retorted, glaring daggers at Ziva.
"I only put blame where it belongs, McGee." Gibbs said quietly as the doors to the elevator cab closed in front of him. As he headed out himself, Tim felt slightly better seeing Ziva blanch in anticipation of what Gibbs would do when he returned.
45 MINUTES LATER:
"Agent Gibbs? I'm Doctor Lewiston. Good to meet you."
Gibbs shook the doctor's hand brusquely, but wasted no time trying to get information.
Lewiston waved at the rows of waiting room chairs.
"Let's both sit down, alright?"
"I'm not here to sit. Talk to me."
"This could take a few minutes, Special Agent. I have some questions to ask you as well, so if you wouldn't mind..."
Gibbs drew and expelled a slow breath, forced his hands to uncurl and acceded to the doctor's request. Once both men were seated, the doctor studied Gibbs' face carefully for a moment before he began to speak. "I can't tell you everything, obviously. There are issues of confidentiality to consider..."
"I also didn't come here to listen to what you *can't* tell me! Why can't you *damn* doctors just get to the point instead of doing a square dance around the *damn* truth!" Gibbs growled, standing once again and stalking a step or two away from the chairs.
"You're very upset. That's understandable. This would be a difficult situation for anyone to face."
"What situation?" Gibbs sighed, whirling back around to face the doctor. "Will you just tell me that? What the *hell* is going on with Tony?"
"According to the records, he walked up to the admitting desk just after 1 a.m., told the nurse that he was afraid he might hurt himself and asked for help."
Stunned, Gibbs moved back to his seat and slowly dropped down into it.
"He what? I don't understand. That's not... You checked him out? You talked to him?"
"For over thirty minutes."
"Half an hour? That's nothing! You can't find out squat in half an hour!"
"He couldn't have handled any more than that. Your colleague is suffering from fairly severe depression, Agent Gibbs. That short amount of time was more than enough for me to diagnose that."
"Depression? Tony? No. No way. Tony's always up, he's always making jokes... you've got it wrong, doc."
"Always a possibility. That's why I need to ask you a few questions. Has Agent DiNozzo been under an unusual amount of stress in the past few months?"
Gibbs' mind drifted back, recalling all that Tony had been through, but still not wanting to believe what he was being told.
"Maybe... but Tony's one of the strongest people I know. He's a survivor..."
"Of how many disasters? In what time frame?"
"He kept comin' right back... I should have seen something. Why didn't I know?"
"It's not your fault. Some people are so good at hiding and hoarding their pain that even those closest to them can't see how much they're struggling."
"His car got stolen and wrecked... he had to watch it happen on the news. The car was a classic. He loved that thing. God, it could have started that long ago..."
"What about more recent problems?"
"He... he got sick... pneumonic plague. He barely made it through that. Then one of our team was killed in the line of duty. He was beaten up pretty bad himself a few weeks back. Last night..."
"I didn't think so at the time. Look, what can I do, here? How can I help him?"
"Right now, all you can do is let him rest. I'll be talking to him over the next day or two. I'll try to keep you updated, but..."
"Confidentiality, I know. If he changes his mind... wants to see us or talk to us..."
"You'll be notified, I promise."
"Can you at least give him a message?"
"I can try. What is it?"
"Tell him the rest of us didn't know... that we were lied to."
Sensing Gibbs was holding back, Lewiston prompted him gently.
"Is that all?"
"Yeah. That's it."
Gibbs rose slowly to his feet, praying his suddenly shaky knees would hold. Lewiston stood as well and the two grasped hands once again before they went their separate ways.
NCIS: FORENSICS LAB
"Abby, calm down..."
"Calm down?! Don't *tell* me to calm *down* McGee!" the young woman bellowed, punctuating her words with occasional thumps to Tim's chest. "How can you *defend* her?!"
Tim tightened his hold on Abby and tried to explain, despite how hard his effort was forcing him to breathe.
"I'm not, I'm protecting you! If you so much as... mess up Ziva's hair, the director will be... down on you so fast you won't... know what happened. Please, baby, don't give Sheppard... an excuse to suspend you."
At last, Tim's words seemed to get through to Abby and she went still, laying her head on his shoulder and relaxing in his embrace.
"Can't believe I hugged her. I wanna splatter her face. I wanna send her back home in teeny-tiny pieces." Abby told him sadly.
"I know. Me too, but we can't."
When Gibbs walked in a few minutes later, Abby left Tim and rushed into the older man's open arms.
"Is Tony okay?"
"He will be, Abs. It'll take a little time and a boatload of makin' up... but he will be."
"Yeah... yeah, I promise."