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Rising To The Bait

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Tony sat at his desk working on a cold case, since the last few days had been quiet ones for the MCRT. No bodies had turned up, no reports of assaults, terrorism or embezzlement had crossed their desks, and so the pile of cold cases were getting some much needed attention. Tony felt that closing a cold case, while difficult and unglamorous, was incredibly rewarding nonetheless. Helping families who were still waiting for closure was something he felt strongly about.

Sometimes to simply have the comfort of knowing for sure that a loved one didn't come home because they couldn't, not because they decided to leave, meant everything to a victim's family and friends. For others, it was the freedom of knowing that their loved one's killer was not still out there preying on other innocent victims, even if their incarceration would never bring back the victims. It wasn't much, but to the families it was still a freedom of sorts.

Focusing intensely on the file in front of him, the phone ringing on his desk startled him and he picked it up distractedly.

"Yeah, Tobias, what can I do for you? When? Oh, God, I'll be right there."

He was already on his feet, grabbing his phone, wallet, badge and gun as he tossed over his shoulder. "Have to go, Gibbs. Old friend has been injured in an accident and they need me. I'll call as soon as I know how long I'll be gone," and he was gone before anyone had a chance to say anything. Once in the elevator, he collapsed against the wall in despair, pulling out his phone and dialling a number that had become second nature to him after the last few months.

"Jessie, Tia's coming. I need you, can you come?

~Rising To The Bait~

Tony found himself outside the J Edgar Hoover FBI building in DC with no memory of his desperate drive across town after getting the phone call from Fornell. He rushed through the entrance and texted the veteran agent to say he'd arrived, who then hurried down to smooth the NCIS agent’s path through security. Tony was desperate for more details than the minor ones he was already privy to and hoped that while he driving to the FBI Tobias had managed to find out more info. As they stepped into the elevator Fornell put a gentle hand on his shoulder.

"I'm sorry Tony. It's not good from what I've managed to find out so far. Melissa suffered a serious head injury and is in a coma. Her husband Dennis was DOA. Tia has a broken ulna and possible fractured ankle and is, understandably, highly distressed. Melissa has made you her power of attorney in the event of Dennis not being able to act and you are also named in her will as Tia's legal guardian."

"Yeah Tobias, and Jessie is her godmother and back up guardian if I am unable to act for whatever reason. It sounds like I'm going to need to get out there ASAP. Do we know anything about the MVA?"

Fornell shook his head. "The cops are still investigating but it looks like your everyday drunk driver getting behind the wheel of his car and being a douche-bag, and colliding with a family and destroying it. Typically, he will probably walk away from the crash himself with a concussion."

"I've sent two agents to go oversee the investigation. They're going to report back in an hour or so. In the meanwhile, we need to organise flights and transportation."

Tony's personal cell phone beeped and he checked out the text, relieved to see that it was Jessie. She was about to board a plane from Boston and Tony was grateful, knowing she wouldn't have even had time to pack before dropping everything to come. She must have gone straight to the airport with just the change of underwear she carried habitually in her voluminous handbag. He showed Fornell the text.

"Jessie's coming. She's Mel's best friend as well as Tia's godmother. Going to need her help to get through this one. Again."

He noticed the understated smile and smirked - despite the crappy situation, suspecting that the FBI agent was carrying a torch for the statuesque brunette. Detective Sergeant Jessie Lawless was Tony's former partner during his stint in the Philly PD and Fornell had met her when Tony and Jessie had captured Mike Macaluso four months ago. Macaluso had escaped from high security federal prison after greasing the right palms. Damn him!

He and Jessie had managed to trap the Mafia boss when the FBI and Philly PD had failed to hunt him down, even though they'd thrown considerable resources at him. He was pretty sure that Tobias was sweet on his old partner and after all, what wasn't there to fall for? With her athletic stature and her confident and competent aura - something which Tony had always found attractive in a woman – she was pretty damned special. He couldn't see Tobias falling for a shrinking violet either; after all, he'd married Diane Gibbs.

"She's going to go to Arizona with you DiNotzo?"

"Yeah, neither of us have seen Melissa since she left Philly and when I called her, I didn't even know if it was going to be our last chance or not. Besides with Tia hurt too, we can make sure they aren't alone." He closed his eyes and drew in a deep breath.

"Good. You need someone to watch your six. You want some more company? I reckon I can probably swing some time off. I don't think that there is anything to be worried about but it's better to be safe and all that," the seasoned FBI agent offered.

Tony was touched by the offer but he shook his head. "Thanks Tobias but I need someone here to run interference with Gibbs and maybe to get things ready for us to come home to. If it's safe, I'm going to try and bring them both back to DC. Even if I can't bring Melissa home, I'll organise her transfer to a hospital in DC so she won't be left alone. Jessie and I are the closest thing she has to family and Tia's just lost her father, so I'm not about to separate them if I can help it."

Tobias nodded. "Maybe Jessie might be persuaded to stay in DC too?"

"Don't know, you hiring at the agency, Fornell?" Tony smiled weakly at the sudden gleam in the FBI agent's eye.

As they stepped off the elevator, he changed the topic. "What'cha tell Jethro and more's the point, what are you going tell him?"

Tony sighed. "I may have left without getting authorised leave. I told him as I was racing out, that a friend was involved in an accident and injured. Told him I'd let him know how long I was going to be away when I knew more, as I ran out. That's all I knew anyway. I may not have been terribly clear that I was leaving the state and that in all probability I would be taking an extended leave of absence. He's no doubt going nuts calling my cell, which I switched off so they couldn't track me."

Fornell winced, "Let me guess, they will dump your phone and find out I was the last person who talked to you before you went tearing off?" Tony nodded. "So what are you going to tell Jethro when you do talk to him, especially if and when you turn up with Tia?"

"Tell them the truth, Tobias. If Mel and Tia come back to DC I'll eventually tell them that Melissa, Jessie and I shared an apartment together, back when we all worked for the Philly PD. That we're the only family she has and that Tia is our god-daughter." The agent that stole Gibbs' third wife away from him and still regarded the irascible former Marine as his friend, as strange as that seemed to the younger man, nodded slowly.

"He's not gonna be happy but I'll try to stall him when he calls. What else can I do?"

"Maybe a few things to tide Tia over until I can take her shopping or organise to get her stuff packed and shipped to DC, if I can. Since Emily isn't that much younger than Tia you are probably better suited than me to know what she'll need for the first few days. I'm sure Jessie will take her shopping as soon as she is feeling up to it. Maybe pick up a half a dozen or so DVDs to keep her occupied and whatever else seems appropriate. I'll let you know."

Fornell nodded, "Sure, I can do that. I'll pick up some food too, just to tide you over. I was thinking that we might be able to get the use of one of the FBI jets to transport Melissa back to DC, seeing she is still technically in witness protection. I'll talk to Greene and Grayson and hopefully get that approved this afternoon."

Tony looked at him gratefully. "Appreciate that Fornell. You mind if I borrow your computer to book flights for Jessie and me? I don't want to wait any longer that I have to. I'll call the hospital too and get an update from the doctor if I'm lucky."

Fornell glanced at his watch. "I'll call the two agents I sent out to check the MVA investigation, see if there are any new developments and I'll talk to the Marshals and let them know you are coming ASAP."

Fornell offered to drive him to the airport and advised him to leave his car in the FBI's secure car park. Tony had gratefully accepted the offer, pleased to have some place safe to leave it since he had no idea how long he was going to be gone. He'd managed to book two seats on a flight that took off for Tucson 90 minutes after Jessie's flight arrived from Boston. Now he was sitting waiting for her flight to get in. He'd booked the flights using one of his aliases, just to play it safe so he couldn't be tracked and he’d also call Gibbs just before he hopped on the plane to make it more difficult for the team to find out where he was heading to.

He wasn't looking forward to switching on his phone and seeing all the missed calls but he also wasn't about to listen to Gibbs ream him out for breaking rule #3. He had more important things to think about, first and foremost would Melissa still be alive when they got to the hospital and how would Tia react when she learnt that she'd be staying with him until her mother was well again. That was even supposing she was able to recover.

How was he going to handle a nine-year old? He'd only ever seen a couple of photos of her every year since Mel went into witness protection. So he didn't know squat about her, what she liked, what she liked doing. Thank the gods that he had Jessie to help; he didn't think he could cope if it wasn't for the knowledge that she had his back, once again.

 Tony's daughteer