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Is There Anything Tony DiNozzo Can’t Do?

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Tony DiNozzo was a playboy, that was an indisputable fact. Everybody who had ever met the agent knew of his sexual escapades, he boasted about his conquests as they came. He could barely keep anything private, be it; sexual maneuvers, stunningly attractive women or drunken adventures. Frankly, all his colleagues drowned out his talking as white noise, not too unlike what they do with Ducky when he goes off on a tangent about wartime stamps or Mother’s mishaps.

 

Tonight was shaping out to be a memorable night, something he’d definitely be sharing with the squad over coffee and breakfast burritos the next morning. He wasn’t one to be out so late on a Sunday, but one drink had turned into two and so on. At 10 PM, just as he was about to call it a night, he met a guy. He went by the name of Chris - not that Tony would remember that detail in the morning - but Chris was a hunk. Tony had never admitted he liked a little meat in his diet, his encounters with men were exaggerated and stretched beyond the truth by 0900.

 

Tony was completely mesmerized by Chris, his piercing green eyes and chocolate brown mess of hair coupled with peach fuzz gave him a rugged yet sophisticated look. It was only natural that he put on the charm, to which Chris laughed. The James Bond act dropped, and Tony turned into a shy blubbering mess. The two had several drinks and a few rounds of shots before things turned frisky. In a heated rush, the two took things to the bathroom. Dirty sex was something Tony was used to. Although, he was usually the one holding the reigns, this time, however, he was totally at Chris’ mercy. Several violently passionate kisses slammed up against the wall later, Chris was ripping off Tony’s jeans. Bent over the toilet in a locked cubicle, Tony lost his anal virginity. The encounter could only be explained as painful and rough, but he enjoyed it - towards the end anyway.

 

Chris put Tony into a taxi at 0300 and gave the driver 50 dollars to take Tony to wherever he needed to go. Tony had stumbled into his building, staggered to the elevator and tumbled through his door to collapse onto his bed.

 

His alarm went off at 0700. One eye shot open, the other glued together with crust, it scanned the room. Was he home? When did that happen? He groaned loudly as he pushed himself up from the bed. Filled with instantaneous regret, he dragged his heavy bones to the bathroom to get ready for work.

 

He ran the shower and stripped off, that’s when he noticed the dried stains in his boxers. It was unmistakably dried cum. The stain cued a memory from the night before, along with it a pang of pain that shot through his rectum. He remembered being fucked in a club toilet, he’d smile proudly if only his ass didn’t hurt so badly. In the shower, he scrubbed his ass extra thoroughly to get rid of the slightly gooey muck left behind.

 

Luckily, he had left with enough time to stop and get a cup of coffee before turning up for work. He sure needed it, with a hangover to rival all others there was absolutely no way that he’d survive the morning without a latte with an extra shot - the morning called for something strong, ordinarily Tony hated coffee.

Despite it being the dead of winter, Tony rocked up to the office donning his Ray-Ban shades. Behind them were bloodshot eyes and dark grey bags. Of course, Gibbs would tell him to ditch the glasses but at least it gave his eyes some much-needed rest for the time being.

 

Gibbs watched at Tony waddled from the elevator to his desk. He coked a brow and scoffed, “You okay DiNozzo?” His Senior Feild Agent couldn’t be any more transparent. It was obvious that Tony was recovering from a wild night, in more ways than one.

 

“Yeah, Boss? ‘M fine.” His voice hoarse from hours of shouting above the music blasting in the club. When Gibb’s mobile began to ring, the piercing sound shot through his head triggering a sharp throb.

 

“You’d better be,” He paused, “Body at Fort Dupont.” Loudly groaning, Tony would have given anything for a quiet day at his desk, but of course, murder doesn’t wait for just anybody. “Got a problem DiNozzo?”

 

“No Boss. I’ll go gass up the truck.” He shot up from his chair, grabbed his rucksack, and his holster and secondary gun from the bottom drawer of his desk. Gibbs threw Tony over the keys and chuckled smugly. He was going to enjoy torturing the younger man to all ends today.

Tony had kept this story a secret. Mostly because he was incredibly embarrassed by his actions and knew that even spinning a story in his favor would bring back the memory of the brilliant but humiliating evening.

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

7 WEEKS LATER

 

He hadn’t felt himself for days, close to a week by now. He’d thought his nausea was just his stomach protesting to some bad rice he’d eaten without refrigerating. It had to be at least three days old, but he had been hungry after an all-nighter at the office. Of course, he didn’t worry about going to a doctor or even seeing Ducky because he often got himself into similar situations and they always passed within a week.

 

It was a Tuesday, a pretty mundane Tuesday. Tony was falling asleep at his desk despite the constant pressure from Gibbs to complete some paperwork and reports that he was falling behind on. Perhaps it was the glaring monitor or the fluorescent lighting that was making him so drowsy, but he couldn’t fight back the fatigue.

 

Gibbs’ phone rang around the bullpen, even that deafening tone wasn’t enough to shake DiNozzo from his nap. When Gibbs hung up the phone, he looked up from his desk, he could see Ziva and McGee eyeing each other from across the room anxiously as they awaited Gibbs’ orders. It soon became obvious that Tony wasn’t going to wake up, so Gibbs took the first step and towered over DiNozzo’s desk.

 

Ziva coughed loudly, hoping to wake Tony up before Gibbs’ patience ran out, as it was already running incredibly thin. McGee and Ziva were moderately hesitant and sympathetic towards Tony, knowing that whatever was wrong wasn’t his fault. Gibbs didn’t see it in the same way.

 

“DiNozzo!” Gibbs yelled, clapping his hands together loudly. Tony shot up, startled.

 

“I wasn’t sleeping! Just resting my eyes...” He replied defensively.

 

“Well, you can quit ‘resting your eyes’, we’ve got a dead marine.”

 

“You know, Boss...I was kinda hoping to sit this one out. I’m not feeling so hot.” Not only was he losing the battle against the Sandman, his stomach was tossing and turning. He was used to the recent development of heartburn, but it seemed his food poisoning had finally caught up with him.

 

“Good thing we’re going outside then isn’t it DiNozzo? The fresh air will do you some good.” He didn’t know why expected some humility from his Boss, Gibbs’ was a marine, after all, he had no Lilly-livered bone in his body.

 

“Gotcha Boss.” He desperately wanted to feel better, he really did. He suspected that Gibbs didn’t believe he was sincere about his troubles, that he was ‘just being DiNozzo’, making up excuses to skip work. Without any further protest, he followed McGee and Ziva out to the truck.

 

As if he wasn’t on the verge of spilling his guts already, who should hop into the driver’s seat of the van? None other than Ziva David. Wildcard Israeli, fearless assassin and ruthless driver. It was almost as if the laws of the road were designed to prevent people like her from putting the key in the ignition of a car. Every bump, sharp swerve and jolting break sent his stomach into a frenzy.

 

“Pull over!” Tony cried. Ziva sensed the urgency in her co-worker’s voice and hastily drove the van off the road. As soon as the vehicle came to a stop, Tony flung open the door and collapsed out. It was just in time too. He threw up the contents of his stomach into the grass at his feet.

 

“Tony? Are you alright?” McGee cringed as the retching continued.

 

“You are being overdramatic. My driving is actually very good.” Ziva could argue that her driving was better than Gibbs’ but that was about it. She was notorious for running red lights and stop signs, as well as breaching the speed limit in pedestrian-heavy areas of town. All things considered, her driving may be more suited to a Fast and Furious drag race than Washinton DC.

 

“You almost killed me.” Tony breathed, he felt a lot better than before. If anything, he was grateful to have been in the van. After throwing up he felt the best he’d been all week. McGee passed Tony a bottle of water from his rucksack and opened a packet of wet wipes.

 

“Thanks, probie.” Tony swirled the water around in his mouth before spitting it on the floor. He used the wipe to clean the sweat from his forehead and to clean any vomit from around his mouth, “anybody have a breath mint?”

 

“Here.” McGee pulled out some TicTacs from his treasure trove, Tony had always teased him for being so well equipped, but today he was incredibly glad his probie was always so resourceful.

 

 

The team finally pulled up beside the M.E. van and Gibbs’ car. All three waiting for the agent’s arrival. Gibbs, in particular, didn’t seem too impressed. Along with their gear, Tony grabbed his camera from the back and all the evidence markers.

 

“Did you three get lost? Was McGee driving?” Gibbs remarked with a gruff and unappreciative tone.

 

“This one over here made us pull over because he has a weak stomach.” Ziva had ratted Tony out, with no hesitation or consideration. He glared at her whilst she smiled cockily. It had been Ziva who implicated her driving as the cause of Tony’s upset stomach, he hadn’t even said anything. Yet he was still at the hot end of the prod.

 

“Well, the marine isn’t going anywhere, Tony, get your camera ready.” Tony exhaled with relief, Gibbs hadn’t made any more of the situation. He enthusiastically began to take pictures of the surrounding area to help create the crime scene sketches back at the office.

 

“I’d estimate he’s been here for at least a week, with this state of decomposition. As you can see Jethro, the poor man has been victim to scavengers.” Ducky picked and prodded at the victim’s navy uniform to find a wallet with some ID.

 

“Who is he?” Gibbs asked. McGee squatted next to the remains pulling out his fingerprint scanner. With his gloved hand, he placed the presumed marine’s right index finger on the pin-pad.

 

“Prints aren’t registered on the AFIS database.” As it would seem, the body couldn’t be identified using his prints which made the death all that more suspicious. A civilian wearing navy lieutenant garb? The picture became ever so warped.

 

“DiNozzo!” Gibbs called for his agent’s attention, “get some shots of the body.”

 

“Can, do Boss...” Tony paused, on sight of the body, “are those maggots?” Tony gagged as the grubs crawled all over the marine’s body. His own skin started to crawl as he envisioned the insects chowing down on his body. It was like they were everywhere, tickling the hairs on his neck.

 

“What’s wrong dear boy? They’re just larvae.” Ducky laughed heartily as Tony turned positively green.

 

“It’s just so, gross, you know.” Tony swallowed the bile as it rose in his throat, he suppressed the need, having to act professionally. He got a little closer to the body to take a clearer shot, that’s when the smell hit him. “Uh, Boss...” Tony went pale.

 

“Take it over there DiNozzo. Don’t you compromise my crime scene.” Tony darted off and into the woods. Holding the camera in one hand and clenching his stomach with the other, he allowed himself to let go of what was snaking up his plumbing. There wasn’t anything left in his system, but his body still fought with him.

 

“The boy’s fine Jethro.” Gibbs had his eyes fixated on Tony, never before had he seen the Senior field agent hurl at the sight of a body, even at his most grievous moments.

 

“Have a look at him when you get the chance Duck, kid’s stubborn as an ass.” Tony, hated the doctors, he even hated the dentist. If Gibbs wasn’t there to watch his six, then the boy would have keeled over years ago.

 

“And I wonder where he’s learned such behavior.” the M.E. deducted cheerfully.

 

Gibbs grinned knowingly, “Do we have a cause of death?”.

 

“It’s hard to say, with this level of decomposition, anything is possible. I’ll have to take the body back to autopsy and run a tox screen and blood analysis.” At the scene, it was impossible to distinguish the perimortem from the post-mortem injuries, especially since the body had been so heavily gnawed on by wildlife.

 

“Alright, you and Palmer take the body and we’ll finish up here.” Ducky and Palmer hoisted the body into a body bag and onto the gurney. They pulled the victim away from the scene and into the M.E. van.

 

“Are you okay Tony?” Ziva approached Tony delicately, the usually cold Isreali couldn’t help but show a side of sympathy for Tony’s suffering, as well as partially feeling guilty - having never before given much consideration to the recklessness of her driving.

 

“Peachy.” Tony was no longer hunched over, instead, he sat slumped at the foot of a tree. His NCIS cap covering his face, feeling embarrassed and exhausted.

 

“Tony, you should really visit your practitioner. It is obvious that you are not at full health and haven’t been so for quite some time.” Tony rolled his eyes, it seemed Ziva cared more for his health than he did. Despite the relentless chorus of ‘I'm fine’, Ziva wasn't letting things go.

 

“I’m fine Ziva” he repeated effortlessly, “if I thought it was worth going to a doctor, I would.” She sighed with frustration at his reply.

 

“We both know that is a lie,” Tony got up from the ground and dusted away the broken pieces of leaf that had gotten stuck to his bottom. These were Gucci pants after all.

 

“That's rich coming from the Mossad assassin who canceled four dentist appointments last month.” He shot back.

 

She stammered over a response, “What? I do not like the dentist!” That being her only weakness, “Perhaps it is wise to ask Gibbs for the rest of the day off?” Tony scoffed, Gibbs would never send him home, even if he'd been shot, the grey-haired man would drag him by the collar back to the office.

 

“I’ll be fine when I get back, maybe a nap on Abby’s futon will do the trick.” Despite collapsing into bed last night at 10, he couldn't shake this fatigue that had plagued him for two weeks now.

 

“If you pass out in the cow pen, I shall be the first to say; ‘I told you so', ” Ziva warned, her index finger poking him in the chest.

 

“It's bullpen...” Tony laughed mockingly.

 

“Whatever.”

 

“Do you two need a moment?” Gibbs interjected. Both agents jumped with shock, “now, we've got a murder to solve.”

 

“Yes, sir.” Ziva doubled back to the van.

 

“You okay DiNozzo?” Gibbs stopped Tony from following Ziva's lead, with one hand pushing him back, “What's going on?” He prodded once more.

 

“Just food poisoning Boss, nothing to it.” He answered with a forced smile, truth be told, he felt another bout of nausea brewing, his stomach flipping, and his mouth watering. He closed his eyes and took a deep breath, hoping it would subside.

 

“Yeah, well, when we get back you go see Ducky.” He ordered sternly.

 

“Got it, Boss.” There it was again, this time before he could even cover his mouth. Luckily enough he had time to swing his body around, barely avoiding Gibbs' boots. All hell would have broken loose had his reaction been a second slower.

 

“It's alright DiNozzo.” Gibbs patted Tony on the back as he continued to vomit. Gibbs' brute strength felt more like abuse rather than compassion as each ‘pat’ landed more like a slap, “I'll have McGee drive...here.” Gibbs handed Tony his handkerchief.

 

“Thanks, Boss.” Tony felt like death, but dying at the hands of Ziva was not a solution to his problems.

 

“We good to go? The last thing we want is the van smelling of a hocked up breakfast burrito.” Tony knew, in that likely event, he would be cleaning up after himself - on all fours with a bucket of soapy water and a sponge.

 

“I'm good.” He reassured himself. In all truthfulness he wasn't, his body began to shake, and he was building up a cold sweat. He unzipped his jacket and fanned himself with his notepad, whilst the two walked back to the van.

 

“McGee, you're driving.”

 

“But why? I am clearly the better driver.” Ziva objected.

 

“We need DiNozzo back in one piece. You'll thank me later.” Ziva and McGee couldn't agree on anything more. Gibbs’ executive decision would save them both arriving back at base dirtier than when they left had the crime scene.

 

McGee drove back to base, traveling at an average of twenty miles per hour, despite Ziva’s constant nagging that; 'If we are going to get there before midnight, you should drive faster!’ Of course, McGee didn't listen. McGee was used to the abuse, he knew he drove like an old lady but that's how he usually drove - slow and cautiously. Tony couldn't have been more grateful.

 

Back in the squad room, everybody offloaded their belongings and began to reacquaint themselves with the warmth.

 

“DiNozzo, give McGee the pictures and go down to Abby, see if she needs help with cataloging evidence.” Tony was relieved, Gibbs had heard his prayers and sent him to Abby to ‘help out', which was his way of giving Tony permission to take a long nap downstairs, “go and see Ducky on your way down.” Drat! Tony internally screamed. Being poked and prodded by the medical examiner wasn't half as bad as his relentless stories.

 

“It's just food poisoning, Boss. Should be gone in a couple of days.” He pleaded.

 

“That was an order DiNozzo.” Tony bowed his head in anguish. Looks like he didn't have much of a choice in the matter. Without any more fuss, he trudged over to the elevator and pressed the corresponding button.

 

It wasn't exactly like he could lie to Gibbs and bravely face an early grave; the man knew everything. Dodging the M.E. would only cause more trouble than it's worth, “Hey Ducky.” He greeted the older man with a sigh.

 

“Tony, dear boy. Come in, come in.” Tony approached apprehensively, the smell of rotting corpse still lingered around the room. As if it wasn't quite enough the first time around, the smell made him positively sick to his stomach, “Ah yes, the smell. It's been quite some time since we've had a body as ripe. Shouldn't be a moment before the extractor kicks in.”

 

“Gibbs sent me to see you, he thinks you're able to help.” Tony had no doubt in the M.E.’s healing capabilities, yet he had faith that his nausea would subside and sure enough be gone in the morning; making this visit unnecessary.

 

“I take it that this is in relation to your little vomiting spell this morning?” Ducky pulled a pair of latex gloves from the box on his desk and fit them on his hands with a snap as the rim clasped his skin. The sound made Tony wince, becoming wary of what may be to come.

 

“I've already explained, it's something I've eaten. So, I don't know why he's still on my case.” He replied erratically, “I'm fine.” He tried, reassuring the M.E.

 

“He cares for you Tony; a great deal more than you may think. Still, it wouldn't hurt to have a quick look at you.” Ducky patted to a clean slate for Tony to take a seat. He cringed in disgust, considering what that cold bed had just been used for. “It is perfectly clean, no need to worry.” Even still, Tony couldn't help but feel sorry for his Gucci suit.

 

“This isn't necessary Ducky, trust me.” He tried his luck one last time.

 

“Humor me, if it is only food poisoning, I'll be able to give you some medication to clear up that nasty bug.” The prospect did sound promising, rather than naturally waiting for the motion to pass. He did not want a repeat of today, tomorrow.

 

“Alright, since you asked nicely.” He replied cheekily.

 

“Start off by telling me when this all started.” Tony paused, thinking really hard about when he really stopped feeling like himself, all those weeks he’d reduced his heartburn to stress and his weariness to a lack of sleep.

 

“The vomiting? This morning. But for a while now I've just been exhausted. Figured I was working too much, going home late... those sorts of things.” He had made recent improvements to his daily routine and now he was getting more sleep than ever before – at least 8 hours a night, sometimes more – when he could.

 

“Have you made any attempts at a better diet? Abby tells me you’re still living off of pizza and Chinese food.” Ducky had warned him previously about the impacts of a fast-food diet, including the diagnoses of high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes. Despite his constant warnings, Tony could never part with pizza.

 

“I don’t have time to eat anything proper Ducky, I’m here every night. I don’t even have food in my fridge.” He hadn’t listened to Ducky’s advise and admittedly, it had come back to nip him in the ass. Afterall, it was dodgy Chinese and poor eating habits that he predicted to have given him food poisoning.

 

“From the looks of things, it is entirely possible that the lethargy and the nausea are related.” Already, he could think of a number of different condition’s that somebody like Tony would easily contract.

 

“I passed my last physical 8 weeks ago Ducky, I’m as fit as a fiddle.” Something Tony frequently boasted about, referring to his body as a ‘machine’ every chance he had. Not that anybody cared.

 

“That may have been the case 8 weeks ago, dear boy, tell me; has anything happened recently? Have you been in any accidents, gotten ill or had any unprotected sexual intercourse?” What seemed like routine questions prompted quite the reaction from Tony as he blushed bashfully.

 

“Sex? Ducky, what’s this got to do with sex?” Red-faced and embarrassed to be talking about sex with a man of similar age to his own father. Tony wished for a distraction.

 

“A great deal, unprotected sex not only prevents unwanted pregnancies but STDs.” Tony’s stomach sunk, despite his promiscuous nature, he had always been careful. He always kept a condom in the purse of his wallet and even in his most drunken of hookups he made sure to wrap up. Illegitimate children with Saturday night flings and the clap were equally as terrifying.

 

“I’ve never had sex without a -” He paused, a drunken flashback rippled through his mind, a dirty toilet, a hot mess and no rubber. His eyes exploded, and mouth draped open wide, “Nonononono.” Tony muttered.

 

“Ah, what has our Anthony gotten himself into?” Ducky chuckled heartily.

 

“It was once! One time.” He cried out in defense, not that Ducky was judging him.

 

“Have you been tested recently?”

 

“What for?” Ducky shook his head disappointingly, ‘the youth of today’ he thought, whilst reminiscing of a mythical ‘golden era’ of sexual responsibility.

 

“Everything? This city is a cesspool of transmittable diseases. That is, of course, the more serious diseases like HIV and Hepatitis A are easily contractible if you are having unprotected - well, you get the picture.” Ducky concluded awkwardly.

 

“Damn it! Trust the DiNozzo family luck, it was the first and only time! Now you’re scaring me with the possibility of HIV!” One night, one slip. It hardly seemed fair that he'd be punished in such a way for one mistake. From the first time he lost his virginity at age 17, he'd always followed sexual etiquette.

 

“There is another explanation Tony, one that is perhaps far less petrifying,” Ducky went rooting through his filing cabinet, “I don’t suppose you remember the results of your gene test?” He asked, still digging through the mixture of garbage and important files. He had let things get out of hand as of late and the thought of organizing the drawers was offputting, to say the least.

 

“Gene test?” He raised an inquisitive brow.

 

“You must have taken one? I thought every male child was administered a gene test.” At least he knew they were to this current day.

 

“Can't say that I have Duck.” Tony knew he definitely would have remembered getting a gene test for something that appeared to be really important. Not that he would probably recall having any tests done as an infant.

 

“You must have had one before joining NCIS,” Ducky found Tony’s medical files, as miraculous as it was, “See, in 2001 you took a gene test as part of our mandatory background checks.”

 

“All those tests, who knew what they were all for.” He had never bothered to come back for his full report. Once he found out he was clear for duty he wasn't interested in the rest. He already knew that his body was fully functioning and healthy.

 

“One was a genome test for the XM gene.” Ducky began...

 

“What’s that?” Tony interrupted.

 

“It’s the male carrier gene, it only occurs in every 10,000,000 males. I’m surprised you haven’t heard of it. Our very own Mr. Palmer is a carrier.” Indifferent to the information, Tony still seemed relatively clueless.

 

“How do I not know about this? Shouldn’t somebody’ve told me? Like; ‘hey, just a quick word, you’re able to have babies in a natural Arnie sorta way!” He quoted the Arnold Schwarzenegger film, Junior. As a movie buff, there was very little that creeped him out, but that film reached a special level of weird. Weird by even Tony's standards.

 

“I suppose you were born a few years shy of the routine hospital inspections. No matter, my records do show that you do indeed carry the gene. Before you panic, these are only speculations.” Tony felt faint, he knew he should have trusted his instincts and lied about seeing the ME. This trip was supposed to make him feel better, instead, it did just the opposite. The stress of the situation began to give him stomach cramps.

 

“Never in the history of panicking has anybody ever calmed down from somebody telling them not to panic!” Tony replied, in hysterics.

 

“I will run some tests and come back to you with an answer. The chances are, you’re probably coming down with something following a change in season.” A sudden shift in pace after telling Tony that his whole life was about to change, why the older man hadn't led with this theory, was beyond him.

 

“You’re right. All of this hoha for nothing.” Tony laughed, now quite rightfully petrified. It would take more than a bullet to the head to forget the ordeal.

 

“I shall take some blood and urine samples if you are feeling up to it, I will even run the tests myself if it makes you feel better.” Tony would trust Ducky with his life, he was a master at discrete. Ducky wouldn't even rat him out to Gibbs, the perks of doctor-patient confidentiality. Although, he did foresee trouble arousing when it came down to hiding the truth from Abby since Ducky would be using her equipment.

 

“Not a word of this to anybody, the last thing I need is McGeek or Ziva finding out about this carrier gene crap.” He'd never live it down, to be in the same league as Palmer, a carrier of a bizarre anomaly that made him more of a woman than McGee, despite being incredibly more masculine and attractive – so he thought, modestly.

 

“Oh, don't worry, you have my word.” Ducky reached inside of his equipment cabinet and pulled out a fresh blood sample kit. “Have you eaten today Tony?”

 

“Yes and no. The breakfast burrito didn't stay long enough to be digested.” Nostalgically, he could remember the burrito on its way out this morning, it made him shiver with repulsion.

 

“Just tell me if your head starts to spin.” Ducky tied the tourniquet around the bicep of Tony’s arm and waited until a vein became prominent against the surface of his skin. Ducky took the cap off of the needle and drew closer, “this may scratch.” Ducky warned before puncturing into Tony's vein.

 

“God!” Tony screamed. He was a wuss when it came down to injections or needles, he couldn't help it. The sight of his own blood pooling at the injection site made him nauseous and brought in cold sweats quite rapidly.

 

“It's all done.” Ducky slowly removed the needle and pulled the capsule of blood from the vacuum. He used a clean piece of cotton wool to blot the skin. “Your arm might ache for a while as you well know.” Ducky labeled the vial of blood and placed it in a tray. Seeing the collection of blood lying on the side was disturbing, Tony winced knowing that it came from his own body.

 

“Anything else?” Now ever more itching to escape to Abby's lab.

 

“You'll need to fill this up too.” Ducky handed Tony a small lidded beaker, Tony took it without question, quite bashful about what he had to use it for. Without protest, he complied with Ducky’s tests and dipped off to the bathroom to fill his sample. Caught with a bit of a shy bladder, Tony spent far too long in the lavatory, so long it was awkward to simply walk out.

 

He zipped his fly and straightened out his suit, he made all attempts at nonchalant, trying to avoid the fact he was indeed handing Ducky over a tub of his own urine, “Thanks, Ducky.”

 

“You're very welcome,” He placed both the blood and urine sample in the fridge for safekeeping, “once Abby is finished with our samples from the John Doe, I'll get right to analyzing your contribution. I'd imagine you'll have some conclusive results by the end of the night.”

 

“You know where to find me if you need any more of my bodily fluids.” Tony tipped his head, bidding Ducky a farewell.

 

 

“Tony!” Abby rushed to give the agent one of her giant teddy bear hugs, “my poor baby!” She squeezed him even tighter. “Consider me your personal Doctor, I'll take good care of you until you're better.”

 

“What I really need is a nap, Abs.” Today had been a long race of hurdles. Taking comfort in the sanctity of sleep felt like the best idea. At least if he was asleep he didn't have to think about test results or actual work.

 

“Oh, of course, you take Bert. I've already set out the futon in my office.” When he thought he couldn't love Abby any more than humanly possible, she pushes the boundaries and he loves her twice as much. A large section of his heart was reserved for the forensic investigator, a much greater piece in relation to anybody else's segments.

 

“You're a star.” He kissed her on the temple, something he rarely did. Yet today it felt warranted as his emotions ran high which made him extremely fragile.

 

“You can thank me later, in the form of presents. Lots of presents.” She laughed maniacally. Tony collapsed onto the futon, it wasn't as comfortable as he remembered it to be. Perhaps it needed replacing or he was getting too old to sleep on the floor. He wasn't complaining. This beats all other alternatives, he'd tried sleeping underneath his desk on many occasions and wouldn't wish that kind of discomfort on even his worst enemy.

 

It wasn't long before Tony drifted off, sleeping so deeply that he became oblivious to Bert's occasional toots when he tossed under the cover. Abby watched Tony sleep as she waited for the results from Major MasSpec, even though Tony snored, he looked so peaceful. Abby let Tony sleep for a solid two hours before hurrying to abruptly wake him up knowing Gibbs was on his way down for a progress report. Tony shot up, suspecting Gibbs would be pissed seeing him sleeping on the job.

 

Throughout the day Tony managed to get about 6 hours worth of interrupted sleep, down in Abby's lab. This time, for the final time, being woken up by Gibbs himself whilst Abby was in the head. His ass was hog-tied to the car with the rest of the squad to apprehend a suspect. Grateful for the fact he no longer felt nauseous, he was practically back to his usual self. He scoffed at Duck's poor prognosis, claiming to be better already. Gibbs wouldn't hear the end of Tony's complaints, a tell-tale sign Tony DiNozzo was Tony DiNozzo again.

 

Having left to trap the suspect so abruptly, the gang returned to the office to collect their belongings, in good spirits Gibbs let his team go home, knowing that they had enough evidence to detain the murderer overnight.

 

“Ah, I'm glad I caught you before you left the building Tony.” Ducky stepped out of the elevator and enthusiastically hurried into the squad room. Tony was disturbed by how joyful Ducky looked.

 

“Everything okay Ducky?” Gibbs pondered.

 

“Absolutely. I just have a few things to discuss with Tony here.” Gibbs still appeared skeptical of the pair but trusted Ducky none the less.

 

“Go ahead. I'll see you two tomorrow morning.” Gibbs grabbed his coat and keys from the drawer and headed to the elevator with McGee and Ziva.

 

“Night Boss.” Tony called back just as the elevator doors shut, “so what's up?” He whispered, unsure of prying ears.

 

“Fantastic news of course, well I suppose you and I might have different definitions of the word fantastic.” The news was bubbling up inside him, quite simply ecstatic by his findings. Although, he wasn't exactly sure how to share the news or just what Tony's reaction may be.

 

“It's safe to assume that I don't have AIDs or any other STD?” Judging from Ducky's bubbly demeanor, the news could only be positive. It would be highly inappropriate should he be acting or genuinely happy about AIDs.

 

“Heaven's no! Let's discuss this back at autopsy.” With other agents still lurking around at this ungodly hour, Ducky stressed the need to discuss things further in the safety of autopsy, where any words said would be falling on dead ears. Tony groaned with frustration the entire journey down.

 

“You're killing me, Ducky, what's so important that you couldn't tell me upstairs.” Anticipation and anxiety threatening to stop his heart at any second.

 

“You may want to sit down.” Tony frowned, now more worried than filled with anticipation. Without thought, he sat straight down on the autopsy table, “now, I've triple checked my results, and I'll have you know that I am rarely wrong.” Ducky commented self-effacingly.

 

“Ducky just lay it on me. I can handle it.” Tony sat literally on-edge.

 

“I suppose we shall see about that.” Ducky took a deep breath, he hadn't had to deliver this speech since his youthful days as Dr. Mallard, Surgeon, “Anthony DiNozzo, you're going to have a baby.” The words went in one ear and out of the other, Tony sat motionless on the steel slate, “dare I say, congratulations?”

 

“A baby, huh?” Tony stuttered, utterly flabbergasted.

 

“Indeed. The high levels of HCG in your urine and the hormones in your blood all seem to confirm the fact.” Any doctor would come to the same conclusion, it was almost undeniable, Tony was pregnant.

 

“And that's the only possible outcome? Maybe there was something wrong with the sample?” He reached. It was only a couple of hours ago that he found out he was a carrier of this freak gene and now he was sitting here, being told he was pregnant. Before today he didn't even know that it was possible, let alone even consider the probability that he'd been knocked up.

 

“These tests are usually accurate within the 99% percentile. I had given that some thought already, but the elevated levels are far beyond anything dismissable as an anomaly.” Ducky sensed the disbelief in the room, and also picked up on Tony's abrasive reaction, from his understanding, the news was far from anything Tony wanted to hear.

 

“I don't like kids Ducky, I don't want any kids. I can barely commit to a pair of shoes!” Children were not written anywhere on the DiNozzo life plan, he hated children and the feeling was often mutual.

 

“You will have the same options as anybody else.” Ducky understood that changing family values meant fewer people wanted children and that children were an economic burden. He was quite liberal for a man of his age. Yet, it would break his heart if he didn't get to see a miniature Tony running a mess before leaving for the next world. Although he had assumed it'd be with Kate before she died, and now he had hopes for Ziva and Tony to get together.

 

“No, no. I can't do that...” Tony exclaimed, yet he sounded far from sure with himself. His morals told him that it would be wrong to even consider a termination, but he wasn't actually happy about his situation.

 

“Should you decide to, I will inform you that it will require an invasive surgical procedure.” As if the thought of termination wasn't troubling him enough, his only option out is through surgery. It seems his conscience was steering him in the right direction.

 

“I'll need some time to think...”

 

“And what of the father?” It was almost like Tony had forgotten that It took two to make a baby, with no way to contact the guy he slept with, he figured he'd pretty much do this on his own. Not that he didn't want some random bar hook-up fathering his children, he would try and get a hold of - Tony paused, trying to recall a name; Kevin, Jake...Chris!

 

“All I have is the first name.” Tony awoke the morning following conception with a phone number sloppily drawn onto his right hand, that had smudged away during the night. Had the number been clearer, Tony would have attempted to call back.

 

“A first name, is that all?” Ducky laughed, “you sure know how to pick ‘em.” For the first time today, Tony smiled sincerely.

 

“What now Ducky? Do I see a doctor, do I inform the Director?” Tony began to imagine the ultimate hassle this was going to be, trying to keep secrets and entrusting others to keep his things hidden on his behalf, was unnerving. Not that he wanted to tell anybody about this if it was entirely possible to hide he would.

 

“I may have a contact to call upon, a doctor friend who owes me a favor. I'm sure she'll be more than happy to help. The first thing I would suggest is giving her a call and scheduling an appointment for an ultrasound.” Whilst he was quite sure his results were conclusive, it wouldn’t hurt having a second professional opinion and solidifying the diagnosis with an ultrasound, giving a proper picture of the problem.

 

“Appreciated Duck.” His tone sullen.

 

“I assume that you want to keep this between the two of us for the time being?” Given how shocked Tony was and how proud he was as a man, he guessed it would take Tony some time to get to grips with being pregnant. The last thing he needed was to be outed to the squad when he wasn't ready.

 

“It won't be for long. I don't want anybody to know until I've made up my mind.” Whilst an abortion seemed too distressing, he could always opt for adoption. Should Abby or his father find out, the two would no doubt pressure him into making a decision, perhaps one he didn't want to make.

 

“It's best sooner rather than later.” Should he wish to terminate the pregnancy, the sooner he chose to, the more humane it would be. Not only that but before long it would be hard to conceal. Waiting until people guessed his business would make for a lot of angry friends.

 

“I'll have to tell Gibbs...” Tony sighed loudly. As if he didn't have enough problems to worry about, telling Gibbs topped the list. It would be impossible for Gibbs to look at him the same or treat him as he does now. Tony would hate being tip-toed around or put on desk duty. Gibbs’ overprotective nature would make coming to work unbearable.

 

“I wouldn't be surprised if you wouldn't have to.” The man knew everything, even if what he knew were intuitive leaps. Gibbs was already skeptical and Ducky's behavior in the squad room probably already confirmed any speculations he had. "Jethro is the last of your worries, dear boy. I'll be there for you, should you need me. Now go home and rest, you've had quite the day." That he had, that he had. Tony couldn't think of anything other than getting home and taking a hot shower to wash away the stench of the day. 

Chapter Text

 

Tony walked through the door of his apartment, as usual, he fed Kate her dinner - a ritual he did before he left and when he returned, every day. Tony was surprised to see her still swimming merrily given that she'd lived unprecedentedly long for a goldfish. He wouldn't entirely know what to do should he come home to her floating across the mouth of the bowl, she was his only live-in confidant. That is, until today.

Walking through the door, he realised that he was no longer alone. Not that he didn't like his privacy, but sometimes the quiet was mind-numbing. Most nights, the only voice he heard was coming from the tv set or the delivery boy who brought him a pizza. He suspected that the silence wouldn't last much longer, that's if he...

He didn't want to think about it.

Tonight was to be no different, he rang the number for his local pizza parlour and gazed at the menu he kept by the phone. He looked every time, contemplating changing his order to something new he'd never tried before. That never happened. He ordered a meaty pizza with pepperoni, sausage and meatballs. Not that he was feeling all to up to eating at the moment.

Tony had uncharacteristically picked at the pizza, purely picking off the toppings and eating the crusts. He hadn’t eaten all day and his stomach was still telling him that it was not a good idea.

“You’re not gonna let me eat, huh?” Tony asked, gazing down at his stomach. Still incredibly flat, no wonder he hadn’t thought anything to be different. Although it did feel alien to be talking to something not entirely there, it gave him butterflies. He remembered what Ducky had said about running a sonogram to visually confirm the results, yet he could tell it would be far from necessary. He wasn’t alone anymore.

He gave up, leaving the box and the leftover cold slices on the coffee table. In the bedroom, he took out a clean pair of cotton pyjamas and began to undress in front of the full-length mirror attached to the door of his wardrobe. When down to his boxers he took a long look at himself, taking in the curves. He'd never had abs, but he'd also never been fat either; adjusting to a changing body would be pretty stressful.

He took a moment to envision his pregnant silhouette, curving his back and engorging his stomach. He grimaced at the portrayal, finding it entirely too alien to even picture what his body would look like months from now. He sighed, realising he was getting ahead of himself. Without a proper confirmation, it was foolish to assume. Yet he felt oddly giddy about the whole situation and much more in favour than when he'd first been told.

Everybody knew that DiNozzo wasn't a family man, he'd fallen in love before and the idea of starting a family was ripped away. The experience simply added to his existing commitment issues, ones he never imagined overcoming. Perhaps this was to be the only way to face his problems, without choice or a way of backing out.

“What should I do with you?” He spoke aloud. “I can't get rid of you, you're a DiNozzo. But you wouldn't want me for a father; I'm lazy and I eat too much junk food. I don't know how to cook, I don't even wash my own clothes.” As much as it was an effort to convince the baby of his incompetence, it was Tony trying to discourage himself from even considering making the giant leap for mankind into fatherhood. “I hate mess, I'm unsympathetic and have zero patience or tolerance.” He continued.

“I'm sure if you ever met me, you'd agree. It'd probably be for your own good that I'm not your father.”

“But~ I'd probably be a better father than my own dad, and I turned out great.” He stated smugly. Although his relationship with his father was patchy at best, the two were working things out and moving past their differences. At least he had a perfect role model of what a bad father looked like, to learn from.

“I suppose I could use a protege, a mini-me to impart my wisdom.” That was a pleasant thought, raising a child to be the ultimate prankster, the epitome of DiNozzo knowledge and the all-time movie buff. It wasn't such a bad idea he dabbled.

“You got to go easy on me buddy, I don't think I can put up with the yaking. You're already getting me into trouble. Typical DiNozzo, pain-in-the-ass from the get-go.” He didn't want to rush into anything and make snap decisions just yet, but the suffering needed to end. He couldn't work being so tired and if this violent outburst of sickness continued, he would be confined to his desk.

Tony brushed his teeth and climbed into bed, he checked his mobile for any last minute notifications and turned onto his side. It wasn't long before he fell asleep as the events of the day had pegged him exhausted.

He slept for a solid 8 hours before his alarm woke him up. Already he was feeling mile better than the night before, the only problem is that it took a tremendous effort to drag his bones out of bed. Had it not been so warm and comfortable, he wouldn't have found himself running late for work.

Faced with unusual and unlucky bouts of heavy traffic, he wound up at the office fashionably late. He was greeted with a stunned silence, Gibbs' silence the most concerning of all. Gibbs watched Tony take off his rucksack and hang his coat on the back of his chair before speaking up;

“Ducky wants you down in the lab.” Tony eyed the others around the room, thinking he'd get a reason as to why. When everybody kept their mouths shut he nodded knowing exactly as to why. Although it seemed the others were just as curious as himself.

So Tony took the elevator to Ducky's lab and coolly slipped in through the automatic doors. “You wanted to see me?” He asked.

“Oh yes! How are you?” His face practically glowing with excitement.

“Little bit of heartburn, other than that? Fine.” He’d luckily been able to keep his nausea under control this morning and so far he had no inclination that he would be violently ill. Although this heartburn was also giving him acid reflux which burnt his oesophagus whenever he burped.

“That's to be expected I suppose. Mother always complains to me the tales of when I was but just a baby. Apparently, she couldn't eat or drink anything for months, horrible if you ask me.” Ducky rambled on, his words providing little comfort. “Anyway... I've been in touch with my contact like I told you.”

“She's agreed to meet with you. She said that for you, she'll make herself free anytime.”

“So when should I go?” He acted nonchalantly but in reality he

“As soon as possible, we could always give her a call.” Ducky dialled the phone and waited as it rang out, “I'll put her on speaker.” The line connected and from it came a cheery voice:

“Good morning Donald, what can I do you for?”

“I have Tony with me,”

“Heya Tony. It's good to hear from you.”

“Likewise.”

“Our dear Tony would like to schedule an appointment.”

“Sure, what time shall I expect you?”

“Tony?”

“I meant what I told Donald, anytime you want I'll make space.”

“Now?”

“Can do. Just give me half an hour to get things set up and I'll see you then.”

“Thank you, Ivy.”

The line dropped and the two sprang into action, “I'll have a word with Jethro.”

“Will you...” Tony hinted, feeling entirely too embarrassed to ask Duck properly. He couldn’t imagine going by himself, if left to make the effort alone, he probably wouldn’t even be confident enough to step foot into the waiting room.

“Come with you? Of course. We can't have our little Antony go through this alone.” Whilst entirely patronising still lavished with support.

“Thanks, Duck.”

~

“Tony and I will need some time to visit the doctor this morning, it's nothing to worry about.” Ducky approached the grey-haired marine with whilst putting on his trench coat, he pulled Gibbs aside, not wanting to speak so openly in the bullpen.

“I thought you said Tony was fine?” Gibbs spoke after a heavy gulp of coffee.

“He is, but it couldn't be of any harm to get a second medical opinion.” He had given it his best efforts, trying to be decreet and sneaky. Yet Gibbs was still suspicious, written into his nature to be so.

“Suppose so.” The creases of suspicion erased from his face as he made a sudden realisation.

“We shan't be long Jethro.”

As Ducky walked away towards the elevator, Gibbs caught his attention, whispering in his M.E.’s ear; “Just make sure he gets that scan.” An intellectual leap at best, Ducky thought. Yet the older man's radiant smile confirmed his intuition. He’d started to suspect something to be the matter a few weeks ago when Tony’s behaviour drastically changed; instead of laziness, he was genuinely tired. No longer did he stay and work late, he became one of those who raced to the car park at the end of the night. When Tony could no longer keep pace with Ziva and McGee and to top it all off, when the vomiting started, there was only one thing he could think of. His senior field agent had to be pregnant.

“As I suspected, not a thing escapes your eye, Jethro.” It seemed it wasn’t only Gibbs who was able to make skilful deductions; Ducky had indeed warned Tony of this very fact last night. It was nieve to think that Gibbs would have remained ignorant.

“Nobody knows my team like I do.” Which is why he prompted Tony to see Ducky in the first place, his obvious out of character behaviour had been a dead giveaway and had to be fixed. One agent not operating at full potential had a reaction on the performance of the whole team.

“I'm not sure Tony is ready for you to know just yet, so give the boy some time.” Tony had made it explicitly clear that he wanted nobody to know, that it should be his secret to tell when he was confident enough in his own decisions. Despite already feeling like he was going to implode with knowledge, Ducky kept to his word.

“How'd he get himself into this mess anyway?” Such a situation was unlike Tony, he knew his agent was always careful. Perhaps a little clumsy at times, he would have never expected Tony to get anybody pregnant by accident, much less himself.

“He's young and blissfully ignorant. Such is life Jethro, what's more, important is that he and the little one are healthy.” Things like this happened all the time, even among Marines in the core. Gibbs wasn't going to judge, instead, he felt rather proud of the agent for finally making a step towards domestic life.

“He decided on anything yet?”

“He's rather conflicted but I do believe that he will keep the baby.” Ducky had seen Tony’s reaction yesterday and could have sworn he saw joy in the man’s eyes, even if he was far too stubborn to admit anything of the sort.

“I don't doubt that.” Despite the much-known hate Tony had for children, Gibbs knew that Tony would be incapable of ending a life without reason. It was one thing to shoot a perpetrator down in the line of duty, and another to make the active choice to give up the idea of having a family. Especially when surrounded by head-strong family men like his father and Gibbs.

“I'll keep you posted,” Ducky promised before making his way towards Tony, who waited patiently by the elevator doors.

“I'll be here.” Gibbs sat at his desk and tucked in his chair, “Right you two, you see that pile on DiNozzo's desk? Split it. Neither of you even think about lunch before everything is done.” It wasn’t often he extended an arm to his agents, but for the sake of the team and to ease the workload Tony had when he came back, it was necessary to use the time wisely.

“I don't see why we should be doing Tony's work for him. Come to think of it, where is Tony?” Ziva complained in protest.

“Out. The lieutenant’s murder has been solved and the scumbag can't be handed over to the county police until we get this work done.” The case was closed, but usually, the team could rely on Tony to finish up the reports and send them to Director Vance for the final approval. It was imperative to complete the paperwork so that the case could be taken to court and out of their hair.

“Alright.” She sighed, making a mental note to get back at Tony later.

~

“How are you feeling Antony? Nervous?” Ducky pulled his car into the parking space and turned off the engine. Whilst Ducky eagerly took off his seat belt, Tony sat staring blankly out of the window.

“Should I be?” He asked, having never actually been in this situation before, he was unaware of how he should feel. Was this to be a gutwrenching occasion or one of glee, he didn’t know.

“Mnn well...it's perfectly normal if you are.” Fear, dread and anxiety were among the most common reactions to a pregnancy of any kind, much more in one unplanned. He'd understand that I'm Tony's case those negative emotions would only be greatly amplified.

“Good, because I'm at wit's end.” He smashed his hand down on the dashboard with frustration.

“You're young and healthy, I don't foresee any complications. Your family medical history is free from inheritable developments. Then again, we aren’t aware of the other father’s genetic history –“ He was cut off before continuing to ramble on,

“That's not what I mean. This; doing this, it makes it real.” He spoke truthfully.

“Ah yes, I suppose. Believe me, when I tell you this, you'll be a wonderful father Antony. I have no doubt in my mind that you will be fine.” The two exited the car, the wind almost knocking Ducky down as they walked up to the entrance to the hospital.

Tony had a difficult time trusting Ducky’s judgment, the history of DiNozzo parenthood read as a manifesto for poor fathering. His father, grandfather and as far back as he could remember, all cared more about making money and keeping the family business alive than their own children.

“Encouraging as that is Duck, I'm not ready.” He wondered if he would ever be ready to settle down. Despite coming close to finding the one and considering getting married, he made no effort since the downfall to pick himself back up again. Since then, he’d accepted his fate, that his job and personal life were to take precedence over romance.

“Try and remain calm Antony. The last thing you want is to work yourself up and be -” Tony couldn’t suppress the urge and the contents of his stomach made a bolt for the ground, just like Ducky had warned. He’d made himself nervous, the combination of butterflies and palpitations peeked his nausea. “There, there. It's okay dear boy.” Ducky rubbed Tony’s back and shielded him from the public eye.

“I've got two more months of this Duck. It's going to kill me.” The last few days had been hellish, he didn’t have the willpower to wake-up day after day to only throw up and die of exhaustion.

“Au contraire, there are things you can do, foods you can eat to ease this horrific sickness.” Ducky gave Tony a tissue from the packet he kept in the inside pocket of his trench coat.

Tony stood up straight, for a moment his head flushed making him feel lightheaded and dizzy. Once stable he wiped his mouth and cleared the tears from his watery eyes, “I think I'm good.” Tony straightened out his suit before the two headed inside to check-in.

~

“Donald!” Ivy rushed to give Ducky a sizable hug, “and you must be Tony?” She greeted him with a handshake. Tony smiled smugly, his doctor was a babe, he thought to himself. With long auburn hair and hazel eyes, he found it astonishing that Ducky had such a close relationship with somebody so young and beautiful. It was justifiable as to why Ducky hadn’t told Tony beforehand because he was quite the hound.

“Ivy, it's lovely to see you. It's sure been a while hasn't it?” Ducky smiled.

“Too long.”

“So, you're Duck's doctor friend?” Tony had become self-conscious as to how much of a wreck he was. With dark grey bags under his eyes and breath that must have resembled the smell of a decomposing corpse, he was so far from prime condition, that flirting would have been out of the question.

“Dr Ivy Monroe, Donald called me late last night and told me the good news.” Tony would have scoffed, the definition of ‘good news’ was entirely subjective in this instance; was it news, yes. Was it good? Positively not.

“I have the preliminary report and Antony’s medical file.” Ducky pulled two paperbound folders out from his briefcase and handed them over.

Ivy began to sift through the papers and skim read, paying extra special attention to the recent works of which Ducky took to assume the probability of pregnancy, “Based on the results and what I'm seeing here, I would have made the same diagnosis.”

“That just proves that I'm pregnant then, right?” Tony squinted uncomfortably, having the confirmation from a secondary professional made it undeniable.

“Most likely. That's why you're here to see me, so we can have a look inside and confirm that everything is in tip-top shape.” She threw the files onto her desk and gathered her things; a clipboard, paper and a pen.

“Great.” He gulped.

“If you could take a seat, Donald. I'm going to take some measurements. Tony, if you'd just like to step onto the scales for me.”

“Do you want me to take off my shoes? You know this jacket is quite heavy.” Tony replied sarcastically as he approached the scales apprehensively.

“I can just adjust the scales to factor in your clothes Tony, there's nothing to be embarrassed about,” Ivy remarked playfully. Regardless, Tony kicked off his shoes and shrugged off his blazer before stepping onto the base of the scales. He turned his head as the weight recorded skyrocketed from 0kg.

“Embarrassed, pfft.” He murmured to himself. Ivy took measurements of his weight and height and also the girth of his chest and pectoral area, and waistline. By the end, he was left a tad vulnerable.  

“That's good, you can sit down now. Roll up your sleeve please.” Ivy grabbed her electronic sphygmomanometer from the desk drawer and ripped the Velcro, wrapping the cuff around Tony’s arm. With one button, the cuff started to constrict around Tony’s upper arm.

“Our Antony here has always had slightly elevated blood pressure. It comes from his high cholesterol.”

“You'll need to improve your diet from here on. I don't need to scare you with the picture of giving birth to a 10pound baby?” Tony had seen his own baby pictures from the day he was born, a lump of a newborn, he was. Weighing in at around 9pounds, he could still remember his mother making him feel guilty every now and again when he was naughty, playing on the fact that it was an extremely hard and excruciating labour.

“Got it. No pizza or chocolate...”

“You can still have those things, just in moderation. Improving your diet means eating more fruits and vegetables. Limiting red meat and controlling your fat intake.” He grimaced; fruit, vegetables? He hadn’t come across a single vegetable in his life that he could actually boldly say he enjoyed eating – unless covered in cheese.

“When you put it this way; pizza is healthy...I mean tomato is a fruit and cheese is dairy. All on a bread base?” Ivy and Ducky exchanged a coaxed brow at one and other, finding it impossible to take anything Tony said seriously.

“Nice try Tony.”

“Didn't think so.”

“Your blood pressure is normal which is good.” Ivy made note of the reading and put her equipment back, “Let's move onto the physical exam.” She patted to a made-up bed covered with a single tissue sheet, “Get yourself comfortable and un-tuck your shirt.” Tony followed her instructions and lied down, the sheet rustled as Tony awkwardly rolled up his shirt and unbuttoned his trousers.

“What if it has three legs...what if there's two?!” Sudden and drastic realisation, made his eyes explode and heart race. He wasn’t entirely nervous before, but now he was petrified. He’d faced death and lived but somehow what he was up against at this very moment trumped them all. He took a deep breath and stared up and the ceiling.

“We won't know until this machine loads up.” Ivy grabbed the lubricant and some tissues, “This may be cold.” She forewarned before applying a small amount of lube to Tony’s stomach. She used the ultrasound wand to smear the lubricant across his bare skin. “Ah ha.” The screen blinkered on and Ivy began locating the position of the foetus.

“And there is is dear boy! Just as we suspected.” Ducky spotted. Tony had been trying to resist looking but at the ecstatic sound of Ducky’s voice he couldn’t help but become overwhelmed with curiosity. It was his child after all.

“Where what is? I can't see anything.” He replied desperately.

“That there, you see it?” Ducky pointed to a rather small grey-ish patch centre screen.

“That fuzz on the screen? Well, I saw that!” He hadn’t known what to look for in the first place, half expecting what the scan would show was a fully fledged baby, not a blotch smaller than a peanut. He shook his head, that blip, resembling no more than a glitch in the picture, was what was causing his symptoms and anxiety.

“That fuzz is a baby, your baby.” Ducky re-iterated.

“Crazy, that's it, I've gone crazy. I've stepped into a fantasy land.” He exclaimed, returning his focus to the small crack in the ceiling tile. He contemplated how quickly his life had taken a left-turn and how it felt as though he’d slipped into somebody else’s life. Seeing the baby on the monitor gave him a crisis-of-self.

“It looks healthy, perfect length for a foetus at that age of gestation.”

“Gestation? Makes this whole thing feel like a scene from Alien.” He joked, being that it was all he could do to distract himself and cope.

“We should also be able to hear the heartbeat…” Turning on the volume, a loud thumping sound echoed out through the speakers, for a moment the room fell silent. The three of them totally in awe at the signs of life emanating from inside Tony’s stomach.

“It’s a little fast, isn’t it?” A twinge of concern rattled through the instant.

“About 110 beats per minute, it’s perfectly normal.” Tony eased up, admittedly slightly teary

“By God man, it's marvellous. You should be happy.” Ducky placed an open palm on Tony’s shoulder, he couldn’t be any more proud. Tony found himself smiling blissfully and using every fibre of his being to fight back the arching pang at the back of his throat and the twitch in his eye.

“Don't get me wrong, Duck, I am. I'm just struggling to get my head around this, it's going to be hard.” Already things were difficult, he couldn’t envision what it would be like going through with the pregnancy and leading a life afterwards. It all seemed like too much pressure, an incredible weight to burden with a tremendous amount weighing on his will and competence. It would be risky and completely life-changing, but after today he couldn’t picture not risking it all.

“9 months is nothing. It'll fly by after that period is over you'll have a baby - that's when the real fun begins.” Ivy chuckled, trying to lighten the mood.

“I hate kids, and kids hate me. We have this mutual thing going on.” His biggest ‘fear’ had always been children. Snakes, spiders, cockroaches all had nothing on kids. It seemed preposterous that somebody with absolutely no knowledge about children should be bestowed the gift of bearing children.

“People feel differently when it's their own. Trust me. I've heard many women say the same… what about the father?“ The atmosphere had turned sour once again.

“All I got is a first name. It might not even be a real one, but I don't know who or where he is.” Such a story wasn’t totally out of character for Tony, he usually either forgot the names of the women he slept with or in fact deceived the other party with a pseudonym or a fake identity. All of what was going on could easily be explained as karma.

“It doesn’t matter. There are millions of women across the country raising children alone.”

“Never thought I'd be one of them. Gosh, what am I saying? This is all too weird.” He sat up, neglecting the remains of lube that now dirty his Ralph Lauren shirt. He cringed as the shirt became wet and sticky and clung to his body.

“I have these for you and some brochures, which include; diet suggestions, risks and symptoms, things like that.” Ivy passed along a copy of the ultrasound and leaflets and information booklets for detailed support. Tony placed the new print in his wallet for safekeeping.

“I don’t suppose it stops with morning sickness.”

“The morning sickness will pass, but you might start to notice that you’re urinating a lot more, you get cramps and discomfort in your abdomen as well as tender nipples.” The very mention of tender nipples brought a ghost sensation which tickled his pecks.

“Is there any part of this that’s actually going to be enjoyable? You’re not exactly doing a good job of selling it to me.” He replied putting on his shoes.

“You’ll be fine Antony, women have been doing this since the dawn of time. You’ve had the pneumonic plague, if anything, you’re a survivor.” Ducky clenched his fist triumphantly, feeling the appointment was incredibly successful at winning Tony over. He no longer feared the worst, that Tony would consider termination. An outrageous idea if ever he let it cross his mind.

“That’s perhaps another thing, whilst lung capacity actually increases during pregnancy, I would recommend not overexerting yourself given the state of your lungs. Just watch out for yourself, any development that you’re worried about, any abnormal pain – call me.” Ivy held out a hand in gratitude, of which Tony accepted.

“Will do Doc.”

“Now, I’ll look forward to seeing you two again soon.” The three of them left the office and Ivy walked them down to the reception room where she helped them book a follow-up appointment for the next coming weeks.

Chapter Text

Truth behold Tony was not dealing with his situation all too well. It was a mystery as to how he was managing to keep his secret. Things were becoming increasingly difficult to manage and he wasn't sure as to how much longer be could keep lying to everybody and hiding his suffering.


It had only been the very next day after the hospital visit that Tony had started to develop aversions to certain smells and tastes. The biggest ball buster being coffee. He'd never really been one for coffee and when he brought any for himself it was usually a weak latte with lots of sugar, but the job demanded the caffeine, and drinking energy drinks were poison.
He'd woken up early that morning as a promise he made himself, to get up and give himself enough time to puke if he needed to in order to avoid the embarrassment and queries when he rushed to the head every twenty minutes - not that the plan actually worked in the long run. Still, he let his coffee machine pour the coffee as his morning alarm went off, so he could wake up with a fresh brew. Yet, as soon as the coffee came to the boil and the smell drifted it's way around his one bedroom apartment, he found himself barely making it toilet before spewing his guts up.
At first he thought that this was just his body being hinky for waking up early but the nausea barely subsided as he drove to work. Being the first to arrive, he grabbed a small cup of water from the dispenser and settled into his desk. The solitude hadn't lasted much longer than that, with people suddenly flooding from the elevator. Tony's stomach became upset before Gibbs had even strolled in. The stench of coffee being obvious even behind the elevator door.


It was then that he put two and two together, it was the coffee making him feel so violently sick. Needless to say, Tony spent the next half an hour trying to forget the smell, hovered over the toilet.


Upon returning, he’d become surrounded by the foul smell. Both Tim and Ziva had a fresh cup and so did every other NCIS agent in the building. It was overwhelming. The only safe place that he could think to hide out in would be Duck’s office in autopsy. The man, being the traditional Brit he was, only drank tea. He spared no hesitation.


”You’re early Mr Palmer.” Ducky spoke, only guessing who could have walked through the automatic doors whilst his back was turned. “Oh, its you. By god boy, you look positively green.” Ducky observed sympathetically.


“I can’t stand it Ducky, the slightest smell...” Tony whipped the sweat from his forehead with the back of his hand. He’d worked up a cold sweat from the low energy shiver that ensued after being ill.


”Have you been eating?” Was his first question, and even without an answer he expected as much that Tony wasn’t at all eating enough. Not only was the young agent pale, but drained with dark rings under his eyes.


“You know, I don’t know why its called morning sickness, more like day and night sickness, I can’t hold anything down.“ Last night he’d eaten some chicken and pesto pasta, something he’d always eaten when his stomach was upset but more to the point, it had been something he could pick up on his way home from the local convenience store. Upon reflection, it probably wasn’t the best idea he’d ever had.


“It’ll pass in time, but it would really help if you watched what you ate. I don’t suppose you’ve taken the time to read over the booklets that you were given?“ Tony took a moment to pause and reflect, wondering what he‘d actually done with it all. Ducky laughed, knowing full well that Tony hadn’t. “You might find them helpful.“


Tony had left shortly after, some what skeptical that anything could be done to ease his suffering. Still, he gave the leaflets the benefit of the doubt, and since the team weren’t up to much it was easy to swap cataloguing cold cases with a little bit of reading. He flipped through the first few pages about physiological changes and dove straight into the recommendations section. The first listed healthy ways to exercise and how not to over-do yourself. It made Tony scoff a little, he was barely a few weeks along and his body was far from a delicate flower, he wasn’t going to blow away in the wind or wilt under some undue pressure. At least for now, he considered himself perfectly fit for duty.
The second was a list of good versus bad food, he rolled his eyes before scouring the page. Lots seemed self explanatory, such as eating a balanced diet but increasing the amount of vegetables like spinach to up the intake of folic acid. A reduced amount of caffeine seemed like an easy task for somebody who barely drank coffee, it might put a strain on somebody like Abby who was completely addicted to the energiser. Two things did raise red flags. His love for alcohol and deli meats made him fundamentally Italian, and now according to this cheaply printed rag, he couldn’t have either.


The signs of physical discomfort had been hard to suppress.


“Is everything hunky daisy?” Ziva asked, brow raised.


“It's Dory, and I'm fine.” He corrected, but that only brought a bigger look of perplexion.


“I thought Dory was a fish.” She argued back, using her vague knowledge of film and children’s cartoons.


“She is, but the expression goes; hunky dory.”


“I see.”


Time dragged by slowly and eventually lunch rolled around and Tony was hungry, or rather starving. Yet he didn't trust his body to reject the food should he eat anything, especially now he'd studied the list of dietary requirements of which went against everything he knew to love. Quite frankly, he'd been craving a pastrami sub ever since the booklet had told him that he wasn't allowed to eat any. He exercised self control and refused to give in to his desires.


Tim had ducked away to fetch the team something to eat, knowing exactly what everybody loved by now. He returned with a bag full of goodies, a bag from that new Mexican restaurant down the street. Tony perked up, the food smelt so good, and despite being completely confused by introducing something new, he was all too hungry to pass it up.


“You've outdone yourself McGee, this looks wonderful.” Ziva unfolded her box to reveal the source of the pleasant smell. A rice dish filled with exotic spices and peppers.


“It's chicken queso, I got everybody the same.”
Tony’s face dropped as he remembered that eating un-pasteurised cheese was a complete no-go. Something about bacteria, as stupid as it sounded. “As in queso cheese?” He begged that the restaurant had used cheaper ingredients like cheddar instead.


“Yeah.” McGee replied happily, oblivious.


“I don’t like soft cheeses.” He lied. Already this new diet was headed down a dark path. So many foods that he ate on a daily basis were bad for the baby, now he had to put considerable thought into exactly what he put into his body.

“What? I’ve seen you eat Brie before.” McGee mentioned.

“No way McGee. It must have been that other devilishly handsome Italian special agent.” Tony smoldered cheekily.

“Glad to see you feeling better, back to your terrible jokes.” Ziva chuckled.

“Uncalled for.” He replied from the sting of Ziva’s insult.

“Are you going to eat it or not?”

“Thanks but no thanks.” The box had sat and teased him all afternoon. It served as a constant reminder of the sacrifices that had realistically only just begun. Of course the list didn’t stop at food, but sacrifices had to be made across his life be it; the way he exerted himself and they way he would take care of his body. Even after the baby is born, should he choose to breastfeed.

The day has passed by slowly, as it always did with relatively nothing much to do. That is, until a call broke through the silence and the team geared up to scope a crime scene, not half an hour before quitting time. It seemed like tonight would be an overnight killer.

“Go home, DiNozzo.” Gibbs spoke in passing as Tony reached for his rucksack. “Can’t have you like this at a crime scene.” Following precedence from the last corpse Tony had seen, it would be safe for Tony to go home and get some rest.

“Boss?” Tony asked, stunned by Gibb‘s sudden generosity.

“Don’t think I haven’t noticed, you’re not fit for active duty. Go home.“ Tony’s heart sank to his stomach with anxiety. Admittedly, he hadn’t been able to hide his suffering very well, with the morning sickness lasting until late afternoon and the small power naps he’d managed to get spotted throughout the day. All would appear outwardly as symptoms of food poisoning, as to not raise suspicion.

“Are you sure, cause I can-“

“Go before I change my mind.” Gibbs strode over to the elevator, “eat something, you look like crap.” He commented before disappearing out of sight.

With little in his system, it was all too easy to fall straight to sleep as soon as he got through the door. Although, Gibbs words had resonated with him all through the drive home, he wasn't looking after himself when he really aught to. Regardless of this killer morning sickness, he had to make sure that he still ate to recapture and sustain his strength throughout the day. It seemed like an impossible goal to set himself but it really was for the best.
The books had given him an extensive list of tips and tricks on how to tackle the problem. Things like eating dry foods, something so obvious that he usually did when ill, and keeping fed on flavorless protein like grilled chicken. Eating green, leafy vegetables and drinking lemon water and consuming ginger, were also highly recommend.
Starting from first thing in the morning, he was going to look after himself.
Right now, he was tired and too impatient to order any food, so he went to bed. It wasn't soon after he slipped into the covers and lay his head on the pillow that he became debilitated by a horrific nightmare.

“Boss, his car just ran a red light on the other side of town.” The day had been fruitless up until this moment. The car that they had been tracking all morning had finally ran a red light, now they had a lead.McGee sensed the urgency in the room and too shot up from his chair, “a convoy is using the surrounding woodlands for a survival exercise.”

“Gear up.” Gibbs replied, grabbing his keys from the desk drawer, the team grabbed the essentials – meaning their firearms- and headed to the van where there, Gibbs took the driver’s seat whilst the others sat out-back and put on their bullet proof vests. There was no telling how dangerous this man could be when threatened as he was most likely armed.

Gibbs had put a warning out to the commanding officer to withdraw his men but there’s no telling how long that would take to get everybody safely back to base. The team had to hurry. Hence why Gibbs drove five times the speed limit, trying to make up for lost time and apprehend the killer.

It took ten minutes to arrive that the destination, slowing down at the bottom of the road as to not arouse their arrival. Instead, they parked up at the bottom of the road, out of sight and geared up ready to seize the car.

“Tim, Ziva you go round back. Tony, follow me.” Ziva nodded and with McGee following closely behind, the two drifted into the woods to come and catch the killer off guard. Gibbs waited for the others to be out of ear sight before turning to Tony and putting on his concerned face. “Have you got my six, or do you want to wait in the van?”

Tony did feel positively green, but he was getting better at swallowing his suffering. Tony hadn’t given the danger much thought, it seemed like a second nature to head straight into unknown territory as part of getting the job done. It was something he’d done for as long as he could remember, back in Baltimore and now at NCIS, nothing was really different. Hence why being pregnant hadn’t even crossed his mind, before now.

“I’m good.” Tony replied, he had no concerns over this mission. It was a rarity if something would go south, in all honesty, Tony knew this would be a slam dunk. It was one man, and he was outnumbered. Surely no man could escape the hands of the Mossad officer they had barking for their team. Gibbs was a little surprised at how little consideration Tony had given his situation, yet at the same time it spoke volumes of the trust he had for the team.

The team got within pouncing distance of the car when Gibbs signalled to advance, which is what they did. Springing into action a chorus of, “NCIS, don’t move!” Travelled across the stationary van. Weapons drawn, they approached the vehicle, “Get out of the car with your hands in the air!” Gibbs called, provoking the driver out of the chair.
When nobody stepped out, the team approached, looking for signs of the driver perhaps hiding on the backseat. Instead the car was empty.

The click of the safety on a gun rattled through the still woodlands, Tony stood still as the barrel of a gun pressed against the back of his head. “Drop your guns or I start putting bullets in Pretty Boy’s head.” Gibbs nodded his head for the other two to lower their guns and place them gently onto the ground. “That’s it.”

Tony had been in this situation before, many times, but this time was different. He felt fearful. His knees trembling and heart beating heavily, he had no idea what to do. It had been easy to brush away until now, but all he could think about was protecting himself and the life within him, and if that meant following any order that the deranged killer had, he’d bend over backwards.

“I’m going to get back into my car and you’re going to let me drive away.” The assailant grabbed Tony by the collar in a choking grip. With the gun still pressed to his head, he was dragged backwards towards the car door. “Open it.” Tony did as he was told and opened the door. The man slid into the driver’s seat, letting go of Tony’s collar. Still holding a gun in his general direction. The car chugged into action. Just as Tony lowered his arms, thinking the gunman was going to drive away, he fired.

The impact forced Tony to the ground, he’d been hit.

The team ran to his aid, Ziva applying pressure to his wound. Tony had a gushing hole in his left shoulder which ran straight through to the front. His breathing began to pick up and hyperventilating ensued.

Gibbs raised his gun, aiming slightly, the best he could with only a glock. He proceeded to empty his mag, hoping to hit the driver or damage the car enough to render its driver incapacitated. Gibbs had beed distracted and missed his window of opportunity and the driver drove on as fast as he could. Gibbs sighed, disappointed with himself.

“You’ll be okay, the paramedics are on their way.” McGee knelt besides Tony, reassuring him that everything will be fine, despite the harsh situation that they faced. Whether or not Tony lived, hung in the scales of destiny.

“Boss- boss…did you” Tony coughed spitting blood as he spoke.

“Sh, sh. Save your breath Tony.” Ziva continued to apply pressure on the front whilst McGee hold’s the wound from the back. The two becoming concerned with how much blood was still flowing so freely. “Boss, what do we do?” Ziva’s eyes desperate and almost teary.

“Go and signal the medics, Tim you put in a call to the local police department. Tell them the make, model and license plate number of the stolen vehicle and see if they can track him down.” Both did as they were told and acted promptly.

“Boss, it’s hard- to- breath.” Tony’s breathing shallowed and a wheezing followed each rise and fall. Tony had been through hell before, damaging his lungs in the process, Gibbs was astonished that Tony had held in for this long already without falling unconscious.

“You just have to keep awake, for both of you.” Tony began to laugh, although extremely painful, he couldn’t help but find the humour in the situation.

“Ducky said – he said- nothing gets passed you-“ He spluttered, “do you think – think I’m gonna make it?” Gibbs was positively sure that Tony would live to see tomorrow, in his hour of need and still making jokes just only went to show that he wasn’t confused or delirious, all good signs that he wasn’t inches from death.

“if you didn’t want anybody to know, then you didn’t try very hard.” It had only been a few days ago when Tony had begun to vomit uncontrollably into his desk-side trash can, and only yesterday, Gibbs walked in on Tony sleeping on the floor beside his desk. If Ducky hadn’t had confirmed his theory before, then there would be no doubt in his mind as to what was really going on.

“Gibbs, the medics are here!” Ziva yelled, running back to the scene. Following close behind were two medics carrying a stretcher, ready to whisk Tony to hospital.

“You two head back, I’m taking him to the hospital.” The two men lifted Tony very gently onto the stretcher and applied the breathing apparatus. They rushed him to the ambulance where they began some emergency treatment.

Tony’s eyes flew open, startled by his own imagination. Now drenched in sweat, he took a deep breath and wiped the damp hair from his forehead. Wide awake, Tony slumped his way towards the kitchen for a glass of water. He rested against the work surface as he gulped down the water, its coldness relaxing and replenishing. Tony returned to the bedroom and changed his pyjamas, slipping into bed, it being only three in the morning he desperately tried to fall back to sleep. Except every time he closed his eyes, all he could think of was the pain and flashing ambulance lights.

It’d been impossible to fall back to sleep, at least a peaceful sleep anyway. After two hours of broken sleeplessness, he gave up. Getting out of bed and taking a long cool shower to wake himself up and keep himself that way, since he couldn’t stand coffee.

After getting ready for work, Tony decided to head down to his local convenience store, since he had to keep to his promise to look after himself better. Before getting in the car he complied a list of key things to buy and major things to avoid. The list seemed pretty extensive, buying something to munch on during the day would prove difficult.

still, he followed the advice. He brought some ‘essentials’ like crackers and pretzels. He also brought some lucozade energy tablets to maintain his sugar levels without having to devel into any of those energy drinks that guarantee to rot brain cells. For breakfast he stuck with a pretzel, for lunch he brought a chicken salad bowl - apparently leafy greens were supposed to help.

“Tony! Haven’t seen you in a while, how’s things been?” Marco called from the deli counter. The same deli he’d shopped at ever since he moved over from Baltimore in 2001. Now, he rarely did his own shopping, either that or most meals he had at work. Still, Marco gave Tony the best deals whenever he came in.

“Yeah, all those extra hours.“ Tony stared, envious and hungry at the usual range of meats, cheeses and pastries.

“Well, we’ve got a whole new range of South African biltong. It’s kinda like jerky but a lot better.” Tony’s mouth began to salivate, “We get it in from this new company in Brooklyn, the stuff is flying off of the counter.”

“I would but I can’t.”

“Oh my, Tony, are you ‘in the family way’?” Tony paled, whilst Marco laughed heartily. ”Tony DiNozzo, you sly dog, good for you.“

“How’d you know?” He asked, forcing a pleasant smile.

“I’ve got seven kids, I can smell it on you. Congrats, kids are a real blessin’.”

“Right now, I’ll take your word for it.” At the moment he sort of wished that he’d never gotten himself into this mess, that he would have been more thoughtful and responsible. After all, these early symptoms were making his life hard. Although, he was trying really hard not to think this way, like Marco had said, children were a blessing.

“Eh, you’ll be alright.”

“Thanks Marco.” He would be alright, DiNozzos were strong and never gave up. Just the same, had his mother thought the same when she was pregnant, he would never have been born, so this was obviously worth the sacrifice.

After checking his items, paying and jumping back in the car he continued his journey to work. Arriving at seven, more than an hour early. So he took the time to have something to eat from his arsenal of food. To be safe he decided to open a packet of bland crackers, something he’d never usually eat unless topped with cheese at Christmas.

As he expected, they were horrifically bland, completely tasteless. And dry, so very dry. He powered on, knowing that should he be able to keep the food down, it would be the first real thing he’d eaten in days. He bared with it.

The team arrived shortly after, having pulled an all-nighter, coming back directly from the crime scene. “You two look like crap.” Tony remarked from the comfort of his desk.

“What do you expect, Tony?“ McGee snapped.

“DiNozzo, Ziva; I want you to make the house call. McGee I need you to run checks on the witnesses.” Ziva audibly sighed at Gibbs’ commands. Still, she reluctantly collected herself and grabbed her coat.

“On it, Boss.” Tony picked himself up and followed Ziva to the elevator and into her car. McGee messaged over the widow’s address and the duo set out on their drive.

The drive was mainly spent in silence, Ziva seemed unusually focused on the road. All attempts Tony made at communicating were met with a mixture of head-nods and scoffs. It didn’t take a genius to understand that his female companion was ticked-off, no doubt about the injustice of last night and the suspicious way Gibbs’ had been acting. He felt bad enough as it was without the guilt of Gibbs’ leniency.

“I'm sorry.” Tony exhaled.

“For what?” Ziva replied. “Before you answer, you should think twice about lying to me. I've seen the way you've been behaving recently, I know that there is something wrong.” She needn't be a trained Mossad officer to notice the difference in her colleague’s odd demeanor.

“Ziva...” He pondered over what to say, formulating something skillfully before opening his mouth again, “things are changing for me but I just want you to know that I'm fine.” He hoped that her concerns were routed in worry rather than anger and that his response would be satisfactory.

“Don't tell me, I've since stopped caring.” Ziva spoke spitefully. She slammed the clutch and stopped the car violently. She wasted no time slipping out from her seat and flinging the door shut behind her. The heavy clap of the door made Tony wince, he'd only made things worse. Ziva had left him behind to marinate in his own sadness.

He cursed his cowardice, not being ready to tell the team was creating a divide. He took a deep breath and calmed his emotions, he had to maintain his professional persona and get the job done.

Which is exactly what he did, he made a remarkable effort to get back to his usual self; making wise-crack jokes, participating in casual workplace flirting, and mocking McGee at every chance he was given.

It was exhausting.

He was so relieved when Gibbs’ called it a day. He looked forward to collapsing straight into bed, nevermind food. He hardly felt like eating anyway. So he got home; fed Kate, dashed off his clothes, then slipped under the duvet.

Tony peeked a fever mid-way through the night as he staggered into a deep sleep. Enthralled by another gripping nightmare. This one different but equally as realistic as the last; again another case, another bad guy, this time being held at knife point and Gibbs’ narrowly using lethal force to take down the criminal. The only change being his very own death. Gutted and collapsing to the floor, dying of excessive blood loss and organ damage.

This was the second night in a row that he be woken pelted in sweat.

The awful dreams developed into an unshakeable pattern, each entirely different from the last. So far he'd been blown up, drowned, held hostage and tortured, this last dream causing the most physical discomfort - being berried alive.

With each sleepless night, it drew him further into a comatose state. Sleeping at work more than he should, feeling unquenchably nauseated throughout the day, plagues of headaches, and aching bones. He decided to pay Ducky a visit.

Ducky listened thoroughly before making his judgment, having taken an extensive psychology course he knew exactly what to advise Tony in his struggles. “In my opinion, these dreams are a manifestation of your unconscious desire to release yourself from the burden of secrecy. In these fictitious situations you're having to protect yourself and the baby and your team is none the wiser until it's too late.”

Tony allowed himself a second to understand the gravity of Ducky’s psycho-babble, “so you're saying, what Duck?”
“You need to be honest with them! Your conscience will thank you for it.” Ducky wanted to throttle Tony because of the boy’s innate nature to ignore good advice. “If I were you, I'd start with Jethro. You value him as a mentor and there should be an air of honesty between you two.”

“He’ll be disappointed with me. I'd have to explain that I got knocked up by a stranger and don't even remember his name. Yeah, Duck, that'll go down well.”

“On the contrary, Jethro isn't one to linger over such detail. He'll be more interested in how you move forward as opposed to the nature of your drunken shenanigans. Otherwise, how are you?”

“Suffering.” Such was evident from Tony’s expression.

“Anything particularly abnormal or has you worried?” Ducky was far from envious of Tony’s poor health. With such little sleep and his morning sickness still so active, Tony was essentially running on fumes like the wick of tea light moments away from wilting into the melted pool of wax that once formed a strong candle.

“This whole thing is weird Duck, everything is strange.” Tony exclaimed. He couldn’t even begin to explain how alien his own body was becoming, from the morning sickness to the rampant ‘pregnancy brain’ - making him forget even the simplest things like that the soap dispensers weren’t automatic and neglecting to close the fridge. Tony even made a mental note of how sore his nipples had become recently, swollen too. Peculiar enough, but all too embarrassing to bring up.

”You’ll settle in quite soon. Just let me know if you experience any pain out of the ordinary or any bleeding.” Tony was generally quite a fit person -regardless of his diet induced high blood pressure- which gave Ducky high hopes that the entire pregnancy should go off without a hitch. Then again, male pregnancies were not all too common and without the same vast medical knowledge surrounding female pregnancies, anything could happen. Regardless of any risks Ducky refused to dwell on any negatives.

“Will do Duck.”

Tony returned to the bullpen just in time to see Ziva and Gibbs haul a suspect through the room and directly towards interrogation. He followed quickly behind with the case summary he’d been compiling all morning. He handed over what he had and watched from the room behind the glass.

Gibbs did his usual thing, slamming the papers onto the desk, making the suspect flinch. Then he threw himself onto the chair - it was all very intimidating. Gibbs bombarded the suspect questions which were at first skillfully dodged, then Gibbs caught the man mid-lie which made the suspect crack and crumble. The suspect looked good for the murder but that theory fell flat when he began spitting the truth.

“I didn’t do it I swear!” The suspect cried out in earnest.

“Then who did?” Gibbs knew better than to believe in excuses, so he probed for a better answer or at a highpoint; a confession.

The man opposite exploded, “I can’t tell you, if I did he’d kill me!” Gibbs paused to analyse the testimony. The abundance of sweat and the near tears in the man’s eyes rang an air of truth that Gibbs found hard to dispel.

“We can protect you. He won’t be able to get to you if you tell us-“

The suspect interrupted, shaking his head at the mediocre offer, “He’s everywhere. You can’t stop him, you haven’t been able to before...”

”He’s killed before?” Gibbs smashed his fists onto the table as the cogs in his brain began to chug and turn. He struggled to piece together the facts of the case and pair them with the recent cold cases he’d looked over and signed off on over the last few weeks. In that moment he knew that this was perhaps the beginning of something unbeknown to him.

“I’ve said too much already.”

“If you don’t talk now, I’ll arrest you for obstruction of justice.” Gibb threatened.

“At least I’ll be safe...” Gibbs could never understand the twisted ideals some perps held about the sanctity and secure nature of prisons. Not only were they notorious for high rates of assault be it sexually or violently, but also places of vast networks. It would be near impossible to escape death in a prison, without adequate protection that his team could provide the suspect would sure enough perish inside prison walls. Hired hands, inside men and corrupt guards means safety is never guaranteed.

Gibbs left frustrated, he wasn’t going to get anything more and was left feeling more perplexed than before. Obviously, from this intel, he’d just unearthed something. Something big and potentially dangerous. Gibbs had the team running a thorough background check on the suspect including a trace on his phone, cards and expenses, even as far back as the last few years. The team checked on relatives and close friends, taking hours and coming up with little to nothing of any value.

“We’ll pick this up first thing in the morning, go home.” Gibbs knew that his team needed to go home and rest to be better productive tomorrow, so he graciously sent them home. Yet, he was never going to take his own advice and so, planned to stay a few more hours and get a head start on the old case files.

“Not going home, boss?” Tony asked while grabbing his belongings. He’d usually stay and help out, as he did his best work from dusk to dawn, but all things considered he needed to go home to eat and potentially catch some sleep.

“No, not yet.”

Tony lingered a little, waiting for his colleagues to leave the bullpen. “Well...maybe I could talk to you about something?” His mouth ran faster than his brain could stop it. His body eager to speak the truth.

“What is it, DiNozzzo?” Gibbs looked up from his computer, acting oblivious to the matter at hand.

“Well...I’m-” Tony stuttered, his heart metaphorically bursting from his chest. His eyes locked onto Gibbs’ own which made his anxiety soar. In the end he took a deep breath and a sharp detour, “I’m having these real bad dreams.”

“Right?” Gibbs asked coldly. “That it?” He frisked, giving Tony a second chance to tell the truth. “Talk to Ducky, he might be able to help.”

“You know, never mind. It’s nothing really.” Tony cursed himself for being so cowardly. He'd been so close! Gibbs approval meant so much to him that he feared the probability of rejection above all else. The fact of the matter is, he needed to come clean sooner rather than later to avoid the deception becoming an issue in itself. Regardless, he wasn't quite sure whether he was ready for Gibbs - and by extension the entire naval base and its heirarchy - to know just yet.

His nerves were making him nauseous beyond belief, so much so it became impossible to sleep. Instead he tossed and turned uncomfortably until he had no choice but to spring to the bathroom. His stomach violently protested the anxiety to the point where he couldn't manage any more than dry heaving.

The cold sweats began drawing at his energy and he eventually fell asleep, slumped next to the toilet. Despite being so desperate for rest, his psyche threw him into the mix of another nightmare or rather a out-of-body experience.

Tony found himself gazing down as the world went on without him, a sobbing Abby clearing his desk of all personal belongings into a brown box, taking great care to pack away his Mickie Mouse stapler and the pictures that hung on his walls. Tony gave it his best efforts to muster somebody's attention, confused as to what was happening and why everybody appeared to be so upset. He frantically paced the office, everywhere he went were sullen faces.

That's when he heard Ziva and McGee talking to Director Vance from behind the door to his office. It was a wild shot but he took a deep breath and gave it a go, putting his hand through the door. He took a quick moment to marvel at how awesome it was to have become immaterial like Patrick Swazey’s character from Ghost. Using this new power he made entry into the office.

Tony had walked in on Vance grilling his team, “If you can't set aside your emotions I'll have to take you off of the case.” Vance too seemed plagued by misery.

“Director Vance that's impossible, this is Tony we're talking about!” McGee interjected. Tony was both confused and impressed by McGeek’s sudden ballsieness - yelling at the Director was a first.

“You and your team are the only people I trust to get this job done, Tony deserves as much. But you can't let anger drive this investigation!” It was then that Gibbs stormed in, floating through Tony at the doorway.

“You two, out.” Gibbs ordered, “this is between you and me Leon.”

Tony realised, by the mention of his name in the past tense, it was obvious - he was dead. The very thought caught a lump in the back of his throat. He daren’t take a trip down to autopsy, to watch Ducky and Palmer choke with sadness as they examine his body.

At that instance he was grateful to be thrown back into reality. He knew that Ducky’s advice was merely based on psychological conjecture but it would be worth a try if it meant that it could put a stop to these incessant dreams.

Tony threw on a hoodie and a pair of trainers, and hurried to his car while his motivation still rang high. The roads were relatively quiet and Tony drove close to the speed limit the entire way to Gibbs' place. Tony screeched the car to a halt in the driveway before getting out. He took note of the window still illuminated at ground level, Gibbs was still up working in his basement. Luckily Gibbs kept his door unlocked still, despite all that's happened over the years, Tony let himself in and followed the familiar plan to the basement.

“Boss, if I don't talk now, I might chicken out again so here goes-" He spoke as he stormed down the stairs.

“Took you long enough.” Gibbs called out, not breaking concentration as he closely inspected a small surface of his boat after sanding it down.

“Boss?” Tony frowned, confused.

“You really think I didn't notice?” Still Gibbs did not part with the boat.

“Notice what?” Now highly alarmed yet unsure as to whether the two were on the same page. Was Gibbs clued into his situation or did had he assume another truth - one perhaps Tony wasn’t even clear on.

Gibbs dropped the sanding block onto the work bench and turned to ask Tony a very serous question, “Who's is it, DiNozzo?” Of course Gibbs wasn’t blind to the love lives of his co-workers despite his lack of involvement. As far as he knew, Tony wasn’t seeing anybody romantically and hadn’t since Jeanne. This was hardly his business.

“Right-" He accepted defeat and sighed, “Ducky guessed that you already knew. I mean, how do you do that?” He quizzed, again astonished at Gibbs intrinsically psychic nature. Tony scoffed, partially ashamed by the next words to come from his mouth, “Truth is, I'm not sure. I know when and where but the ‘who' is a little hazy.”

“What are you going to do about it?” Ducky had forewarned him of this current conversation but in some ways he hadn’t prepared himself. Not only was he feeling like a concerned boss, but an uneasy father.

“I'm keeping the baby.” Admitting it out loud warmed his heart. Whilst he had wished this opportunity would have presenting itself differently, perhaps after he’d painted a picture of a perfect life. Now, he couldn’t be more grateful for being frivolous and irresponsible regardless of how he felt right now.

“Good.” Gibbs was honestly quiteelected for his Special Agent, the brief time he had to enjoy the domestic life with Shannon and Kelly had been the happiest - and no doubt the epitome of his life.

“Good? So you’re not mad?” Tony had been unfathomably worried for days on end. Frightful over his secrecy, his unconventional conception, and how the team was inevitably going to change as a result of his selfish desires.

“Gosh, DiNozzo you're a grown man. It's about time you started a family, but what means is up to you. You don’t need my approval to be happy.” Tony retreated at Gibbs’ frank attitude, he didn’t really notice how much he relied on Gibbs like a lost teen. Gibbs was right, he’d been foolish. “My only advice to you is to find the father.”

“I’m on it.” It wouldn’t take much to find the father, after all he already knew when and where they met. As a trained investigator there was really no excuse not to reach out. Even if the father wanted nothing more than a hook-up it wouldn’t matter, just the same should he want to be involved then he has every right to be. “Boss, I'd appreciate it if you could help me keep this a secret? At least for a while longer.” Tonight had been a huge step forward but taking the dive and coming clean would mean accepting that his working life would be chucked into a state of imbalance.

“Not my secret to tell. Just don't leave everybody in the dark for much longer.” After his altercation with Ziva, McGee had begun asking impossible questions and sooner or later he wouldn’t need to reveal anything.

“Will do, boss.”

Chapter Text

Gibbs gave Tony a bed for the night figuring that the boy could do with a spot of company. Tony was very appreciative. Ducky’s theory had been more or less accurate, sleeping, even on Gibbs’ rackety old bed, was much easier. While he wasn’t necessarily plagued by a nightmare per se, Gibbs‘ advice had rang through his unconscious mind and presented itself with a punching recollection of the night ’in question’.

 

Tony had been trying effortlessly to remember any small detail but always concluded empty handed. He’d considered the very real possibility that his drink had been spiked with some sort of date-rape drug. After all, there wasn’t a blackout record amount of alcohol consumed and even if there had been - of which he couldn’t recall - DiNozzos never get hungover. Guessing wasn’t going to do much good.

 

His mind drifted back, playing events like a movie - walking into the bar, ordering a drink... that was it, all he could remember. All the way up until waking in bed the next morning with a blistering headache.

 

Gibbs woke Tony early the next morning, “You hungry?” He asked, peeping his head through the door. Tony startled awake, his eyes glued together tight as he attempted to survey the room.

 

“Thanks but no thanks, boss. Eating and mornings don’t really go together too well anymore.” Tony rubbed his eyes and moped away the drool from the right hand corner of his mouth - a small but victorious signal of a good nights sleep.

 

“Gotcha.” Gibbs didn’t linger. In all honesty the atmosphere felt quite awkward, Gibbs had no idea how to talk to Tony about how he felt, their dynamic had never been so expressive. Now, it almost seemed like things had to change which was a little above his comfort zone.
Tony got out of bed and straightened out the duvet. He put his hoodie on and hopped down the stairs. Gibbs had been drinking a coffee in the back garden, being entirely mindful of his company. “There’s some tea in the pot,” Gibbs called out.

 

Tony picked up the brew and took a whiff, it wasn’t all too bad. He poured himself a cup and took a small sip, he grimaced disgusted. Tongue flailing about, he put the cup down. “There’s milk in the fridge.” Gibbs chuckled. Tony trickled in a small amount of milk before trying again, this time the tea seemed tolerable. Tony still found the drink bitter but there was no way that Leroy Jethro Gibbs stocked sugar. “Awful, ain’t it?”

 

“Just a smidge.” Tony mentally vowed to never touch the stuff again.

 

Gibbs got dressed and the two drove to work. Tony had a spare outfit in the bottom drawer of his desk that he reserved for all-nighters or for the occasional crime scene accident. So he swapped his slacks for a suit in the bathroom.

 

As soon as McGee arrived, the group were all together and awaiting Gibbs’ instruction. “What do we have?”
”Mitchell Waters, 42, born and raised in Jersey - no wife or kids on record. The only family he has is a grandmother in assisted living.” McGee listed.

 

“Finances?”

 

“Nothing out of the ordinary, he’s struggled to hold down a job the last few years but he’s got an inheritance set to come in when his grandmother dies - nothing much.” McGee pulled up recent bank statements and a copy of the grandmother’s will.

 

“Gibbs, the man is squeaky clean.” Ziva stressed.

 

”I want you and DiNozzo to visit his previous employers, McGee I want you to work on getting a warrant to search the suspect’s home. Nobody is this clean.”

 

Ziva and Tony took the addresses as a checklist and began the journey with a trip to a local sandwich shop. A shop that they frequently lunched in during the week, their last visit being Tuesday morning.

 

“I’m starving.” Tony grumbled as he walked through the shop door. The smell of smoked meat tickled and ravished his senses. It made him angry that the food was so appealing but off limits.

 

“Do you ever stop thinking about your stomach?” Ziva elbowed Tony.

 

“Agents! The usual I presume?” The shop owner greeted them as the small bell above the door signalled their arrival.

 

“Not today Hank.” Tony shot down reluctantly. “We’re here to ask you a few questions about a former employee, Mitchell Waters?” Tony handed over an A5 snapshot of the suspect’s face.

 

Hank sighed deeply and rolled his eyes before handing back the picture, “Ah, what trouble is he in now?” The reaction prompted eyebrow raises from both Tony and Ziva.

 

“He’s a suspect in a murder investigation.” Ziva noted.

 

“He’s been in trouble before?” Tony backtracked.

 

“Not officially.” Hank dragged out, at Tony’s confused expression he elaborated, “I had my suspicions, just before he quit here, there was a murder a few shops down - a regular.” He recalled. “Police say he’d been stabbed but nothing was caught on camera.”

 

“What made you suspect that he might have been involved?” Ziva asked.

 

“Well... it was his behaviour really. He seemed quite fascinated with the customers we had, keeping records and such. I fired him soon after the murder. It was almost like he wanted to leave...like he’d finished a job and wanted to move on.” That sounded oddly strange, considering how many other jobs Mitchell had collected over the years it became vital to establish a supposed pattern.

 

“Did you report him to the police?” Ziva questioned, very alarmed.

 

Hank avoided eye contact, “No...at the time I just wanted him gone. But hey, maybe I should have considering that they never found the killer.” Hank had admittedly felt guilty ever since.

 

“Thanks for your time, if you think of anything else give us a call.” Ziva handed Hank her investigative card.

 

“You two want anything for the road, on me?” At the time of walking in, Tony was starving, stomach rumbling upset. Now, he couldn’t wait to catch some fresh air, the conflict of smells was overwhelming and made him uncontrollably nauseous.

 

“Not right now, thank you though.” Ziva replied, shutting the door behind her.

 

“I’ll give the bossman a call.” Tony gave Gibbs a call,

 

“Boss? We’ve just been to the sandwich shop and we got quite a bit of information.”

 

“Anything that’s going to help with the search?”

 

“Turns out there was a murder along these streets, Hank suspected Mitchell but never went to the police. Keep an eye out for a journal or diary of some kind. Hank said Mitchell kept records of customers. If he is working for this killer then maybe he’s got something written down.”

 

“Alright, keep me posted.” Gibbs hung up and resumed the search. “We’re looking for a book, DiNozzo said Waters kept records.” McGee nodded. The two aimed their search. Pulling apart the bookshelf and skimming the contents of each book, then levering the desk drawers open and shuffling through the stacks of folders and paperwork.

 

The two searched the entire house, every drawer and shelf was turned inside out. “Where do people usually hide important things, like a diary?” McGee thought aloud. Without an explanation, Gibbs left the room. McGee followed behind, slightly baffled. Gibbs ripped the duvet and pillows from the mattress and flipped it onto the floor. “The mattress...of course.” There is was, unmistakably a book wrapped in brown rumpled paper.
Gibbs snatched it from its place and threw away the wrapping. At first glance the words and numbers had very little meaning, but he knew that with Abby and McGee on his team, the two could crack any code. Satisfied that they’d found the lucky break they were after, the two spent very little time getting back to the lab.

 

Meanwhile, Tony and Ziva had made their way through the list of employers and were set to finish with the latest establishment. A betting shop a few miles outside of the city in nearby Virginia.

 

The two had been talking to the manager who seemed to relay the same information. How Mitchell had been creepy and ‘off’ and that a pattern of death followed him quite closely.

 

“Do you know where he went after he quit?” Such information would have been easy to obtain had the suspect not been so closed. With no actual record of where he next worked, the two had expected the suspect to be living off of savings or money procured illegally.

 

“He went to do some freelance work at a bar near the naval base, I’m sure. At least that’s what he said in his resignation letter. Complained about being too busy for the hours here - if you can believe that.” The manager scoffed. “I was glad to be rid of him.”

 

“Which bar?”

 

“The Founding Fathers.” That piece of information hit close to home. That being their local bar, where they’d shared so many fond memories may indeed be a hotspot where their killer is choosing his latest victims.

 

“Thank you.” The two left quite rattled.

 

“I better call this in.” Tony mentioned before calling Gibbs’ cell.

 

“DiNozzo, what’ve you got?” Gibbs answered.

 

“Waters’ last place says he move on to a job at the
Founding Fathers-” Tony began.

“We know. Abby decrypted the diary we found at Waters’ apartment. You two better head back now.” Gibbs’ tone felt urgent.

 

“Will do.” The journey back to the office was tense, neither agent spoke a word. Ziva watched the roads roll by out the window and Tony tapped anxiously on the steering wheel until they parked the car. The lift up to the bullpen was equally as quiet.

 

“You’re back!” Abby scooped Tony up into a hug, more like a squeeze. “I’m so glad that you’re not dead!” She cheered. Gibbs pulled her away from Tony like Velcro ripping apart.

 

“What’s this about?” Tony asked, shell shocked by Abby’s bombardment.

 

“Your name is in this creepy little book.” Abby squealed, she was understandably very upset by the idea that Tony had been the target to a dastardly killer.

 

“Boss?” Tony asked, not entirely sure what’s going on.

 

“We decrypted the code that Waters used to write information in his diary. It lists former employment and under each a list of names. All of which, with the except of yours, are dead.” McGee had snip bits of the diary on the plasma, “Right here it lists the Founding Fathers and the date.” Not only did the book note the most recent times Tony had visited the bar, it listed a brief description of which set the tone for a familiar profile.

 

“Were you at the bar on that night, DiNozzo.” Gibbs asked, sincerely worried. Gibbs had already pieced the possibility together, now he was petrified for the well-being of his senior field agent.

 

“I had to be right...” Tony gulped, his heart dropped into his stomach automatically fearing the worst. He’d met the killer the same night he’d had the anonymous hook up...or was his hook up the lucrative killer. Overwhelmed by the very thought sent him darting to the bathroom.

 

There he fell to his knees over the toilet bowl, over and over again, his body punished him. Gibbs had come to his aid after ordering Ziva and McGee to wait at their desks.

 

“So, lets start at the beginning...” Gibbs lingered outside the stall door, “You went to the Founding Fathers after work and had a few to drink?” Gibbs tried to understand the story better. “While you were there, you had unprotected sex with somebody you met. This man may or may not be the killer. Stop me if you think I’m wrong.”

 

“Oh no, you’re completely right.” Tony mocked himself. Of course his life would take such a twisted turn. Just as he’d begun to accept the direction things were headed towards, something would come along and ruin it. Tony felt manipulated.

 

“And you don’t remember who this guy is? Nothing at all?”

 

“A first name -” Tony continued to vomit. He’d gone all the way up until lunch time without spilling his guts, but it was only ever going to be a matter of time. Between lurches he breathed out a name, “Chris.”

 

“We’re gonna find him.” Gibbs promised. Now even more determined, he marched back to the bullpen to collaborate. “Anything under the name Chris?” Gibbs watched and waited for results. The others waited for a moment for an explanation but upon receiving none, they ran a filter through the texts finding numerous results.

 

“These look like meetings. At least once a week.” McGee noted, “perhaps they’re meeting to discuss the names on the list? Maybe Waters scouts the victims?” He proposed.

 

“Get Waters back into my interrogation room. McGee, you review the CCTV footage outside the bar. If you need to, get the tapes from the bar.” The team got right to work.

In the bathroom, Tony had finished being sick and now stood at the sink. He ran the cold tap waited for it to turn icy cold before cupping some to splash onto his face. He blotted the water away with a paper towel from the dispenser, clearing his skin of the sweat and barf.

 

This wasn’t to say that Tony wasn’t scared, because, boy he was terrified. That the man he’d slept with could have possibly at one point wanted to kill him - or perhaps he still did. That the man had fathered his child, and that fact could put the two of them in a great deal of danger. So much was bouncing between his synapses, worries and fears predominantly trumped all. One thing was for sure, he felt dirty, defiled and disgraced. And angry. Angry that he’d begun to accept the fact that he was pregnant, and now he was having second thoughts. Somebody had almost ripped away his chances at happiness.

 

Now things were personal. Fuelled by rage he actively stormed into interrogation, were waters had been already brought up from holding. Gibbs breathed no objections and allowed Tony to sit across from Waters.

 

Waters shifted uncomfortably in his seat, “See that's the response I was hoping for.” Tony enjoyed watching Waters squirm, “You know who I am already, don't you?”

 

“No...I-I-I...what?” Waters stuttered. “How would I...” Tony wasted no time in pulling out the book and disregarding it on the table. Waters’ eyes became fixated, stunned that the team would have been able to find his most secret of possessions.

 

“This is yours isn't it? Because my colleague over there found it underneath your mattress. So let's try this again!” Tony yelled. ”These names, every single person written in your book are dead.”

 

“I don't know what you're talking about!”

 

“A list like this, what are you, a scout? When somebody 190, brown hair, between 30-45, walks in you write it down and pass it along. Is that it?” Tony laid out a set of images from the old case files. All autopsy stills of dead faces, each one looking more like his own.

 

“I don't know! All he makes me do is take notes, okay? What he does with the information I give is out of my hands?”

 

“He who?”

 

“You don't know what you're getting into! He's a dangerous man!” In that moment a volatile anger erupted from within and Tony lunged at Waters, grabbing him by the collar of his t-shirt.

 

“Give me the name!” Tony screamed. Wanting to hear the name he was expecting escape from Waters' frightened lips.

 

“DiNozzo, that's enough. Go wait outside.” Had Gibbs not intervened he feared that Tony would probably resort to violence. In the instance that they did somehow attain any information - it'd be inadmissible in any court of law. Whilst Gibbs would have loved to give Tony his chance at vengeance, now was not the right time.

 

Tony had done as he was told, releasing his grip and stormed silently out of the room. McGee joined him in the hallway, sensing that Tony could use the comfort to calm down having already almost punched a hole through the plastered wall.

 

“Get out of here McGee.” Tony huffed. Albeit not the reception he had expected, he understood that Tony would be angry and took no offence.

 

“Don't take this so personally, you're still alive and that's what matters.” McGee stressed. “we're not going to get anywhere with you acting like this.” He paused noticing the odd way that Tony rubbed his eyes and that he refused to turn around, it led him to conclude, “Tony, are you crying?”

 

“Damn it, McGee!” Tony stropped. “Don't you dare tell Ziva.” He threatened, drying off his cheeks. Tony hated being this emotionally vulnerable.

 

“It's okay to show emotions, Tony.” McGee laughed light-heartedly, “Why don't we go and see Abby, maybe she's been able to ID the guy from the bar.”

 

~

 

“Perfect timing! You two must be channelling your inner Gibbs.” Abby announced excitedly whilst sucking on the straw to a Caff Pow.

 

“He's up in interrogation.”

 

“Then he'll probably need this.” Abby held out a CCTV still of the man in question, “I haven't been able to get a positive ID yet but you'll be the first to know.”

 

“That's him, Abbs.” Tony hadn't seen the man in weeks but he hardly forgot a face, especially one so shamefully good looking. In his hands he held a picture of the father to his child although nagging suspicion screamed that their suspect was one in the same person. The potential gave him crippling nausea.

 

“I'd give you a high five if this scumbag wasn't the lead suspect in a murder investigation.”

 

“I'll run this up to Gibbs, maybe you should stay here with Abby.” McGee suggested, knowing full well that Gibbs wanted Tony as far away from that interrogation room as humanly possible.

 

“So that little rat upstairs isn't taking, huh?” Abby asked sympathetically. “Do you need me to go up there and give him a piece of my mind?” Abby coaxed, tensing both of her hands into duelling fists. “Whoever this is, we'll catch him.”

 

“Not soon enough – the longer this takes the longer he's out on the streets.” Tony couldn't bring himself to imagine the immense guilt that’d pile up should this sick bastard kill anybody else and he'd have been too pathetic to help.

 

“We're working as fast as we can.” With the shire load of evidence from several other murders scattered over the room, and the multiple machines shared had up and running tests – Abby was completely overwhelmed. Tony appreciated all of her hard work.

 

“sorry Abbs, I didn't mean to snap...I’m just not myself at the moment.” Tony admitted, ashamed by the way he'd been acting.

 

“So I've noticed.” She cocked a brow, indicative of her arousing suspicion. Given that Tony had been acting out of the ordinary for a while now and it wasn't just because of this case. “Care to share?” she provoked.

 

“There's nothing to share, Abbs.” Tony lied, “if there was, you'd be the first person to tell.”

 

“I'd expect so Antony DiNozzo.” Her scowl was slowly replaced by a smile.

~

 

Back upstairs McGee knocked on the door to the interrogation room, despite every instinct telling him not to – rule 17 was something everybody but the director followed quite closely. Regardless of his fears, he noted how important Abby's development was.

 

“What McGee?!” Gibbs growled.

 

“Sorry, Boss.” McGee apologised. Gibbs raised his arms waiting for McGee to reveal exactly what had been worth interrupting his interrogation despite the fact that things were going nowhere. “Right! This is from Abby. She reviewed the surveillance footage and got a print, she hasn't been able to get an ID yet.”

 

“Put a bolo out, keep us updated.” Gibbs ordered, snatching the picture and heading back inside. Gibbs sat back down and examined the picture for a moment, luring Water's attention. “So this is Chris?” Gibbs smirked, “Pretty boy like this, can't see him having any trouble preying on other men.”

 

“I don't know what you're talking about.” Water's insisted once again.

 

“So you have no clue who this is? Is that right?” Gibbs flipped the page. Water's reaction had been very telling. The young man's pupils dilated to twice their usual size before flicking his head, not watching to view the picture any longer. “I thought so.”

 

“I've never seen that man in my life!” Water's denied.

 

“This face is now on every wanted list across the country, if he's out there, we'll find him and bring him in.” Gibbs saw no need to stay any longer. Leaving the picture on the table, Gibbs could let the man stew for a few more hours before he made an arrest. In that time, he hoped to get a little more information.

 

Gibbs returned to the squad room to see two of his agents hard at work at their desks. “Where's DiNozzo?” McGee and Ziva exchanged a look, asking each other if it'd be appropriate to rat their colleague out. “Well?” Gibbs yelled in response.

 

“Bathroom...” McGee blurted out.

 

Gibb's mobile began to ring out, “Yeah, Abbs?” He answered. He nodded as he listened to his forensic scientist real off information about her recent discovery, “I'm on my way.” He hung up the phone and marched down to the basement.

 

“Gibbs, Gibbs, Gibbs! What took you so long?” Abby hassled, “I've got something that could blow this case wide open!”

 

“What is it Abbs?”

 

“I’ve been going through all of this evidence with a fine toothed comb, and I found something on victim number three.” Abby pulled a bag of evidence forward and took out it's contents, “on this belt here I found something.” She smiled, cringing slightly at the thought of what she'd found.

 

“Abby, just tell me.” Gibbs was beginning to get impatient.

 

“I found semen on the belt Gibbs. A whole load of it. Some from the victim but there was another source of DNA, I ran it through Interpol and got a match.” Abby pulled up her DNA result and a profile. “Meet Tony's mystery man, Christopher McAllister. He has two restraining orders against him and a quashed tape charge from 1995.”

 

Gibbs places an appreciative kiss on Abby's forehead, “thanks, Abbs.”

 

Now, with a name attached to the face, it would only be a matter of time before he was pulled in my a local cop. For now, Gibbs and team went deep diving to discover exactly where this murderer could be hiding.

 

“Boss, I've found a storage garage in a facility up town addressed to a Chris McAllister, opened in 1985, right around when the first murder occurred.”

 

“Get a warrant, Ziva you take,” He paused, looking around the room for his Senior Field Agent. “– he still in the bathroom?”

 

“Suppose so.” McGee said.

 

Gibbs made his way to the bathroom and walked in quietly, peeking into each open stall. He finally came to a locked door and tapped lightly, “DiNozzo?” He asked.

 

Tony felt awful, the stress had made him sick to the stomach. He'd spent the last half hour heaving up bile and breathing through sharp abdominal pain that only elevated his anxiety. “Boss?” He croaked out.

 

“We have a name and a lead, you coming?” Tony's heart leapt from his chest, threatening to jump right through. A flurry of excitement for vengeance washed over him and he supressed the pain he was in. He was going, if anybody was going to arrest this bastard it'd be him.

 

“Damn right.” Gibbs ignored how pale his agent looked and adored his dedication – something seemed vaguely nostalgic about the young man's demeanour. One thing was for sure, he wouldn't allow Tony to be ruled by his emotions and place himself in an intolerance amount of danger.

 

The team geared up and headed out.

 

Tony couldn't help but regret leaving the office, having Ducky's words flash back into his mind – the stress was giving him outstanding stomach pain, a pain entirely different to any cramp he'd had before. It had him worried. Yet his ambition to capture this man was overthrowing his priorities.

 

At the storage facility, McGee and Tony held back while Gibbs and Ziva went to talk to the manager, they began by showing the portly man their badges and then the picture of Chris.

 

“Have you seen this man?” Ziva passed along the picture.

 

“Oh, that's Christopher. He owns a storage bin, long time customer.” He explained.

 

“Do you know where we can find him?”

 

“He's here, used his pass code about twenty minutes ago at the front gate. Why, what's-" The manager was cut off.

 

“Where is he?” Gibbs demanded.

 

“He's at his storage lot. I'll show you.”

 

“Tony, McGee, he's here. The storage manager is taking us to him.” Ziva radioed in. Both men still in their car hastily to meet the others.

 

The manager walked with them half way before giving directions to the rest of the way, “Tony and Ziva fall back.” The two agents walked behind as Gibbs led them forward. As they drew closer the team armed themselves.

 

“Freeze, NCIS!” Gibbs yelled at the man before him. Automatically his hands flew into the air showing that he was unarmed. “Put your hands on your head.” The man complied with Gibb's orders.

 

“It took you long enough, is Tony with you?” The suspect called out, knowing that the gruff voice yelling at him wasn't the one that he wanted to hear. “Tony? I know you're there.” He baited Tony while being cuffed.

 

“I'm here.” He clenched his hands, holding back his overwhelming urge to charge at the man and pummel him to the ground. Gibbs shunted Chris forward, turning him around. Tony inhaled shakily as he recognised the face.

 

“I knew that you wouldn't miss out on seeing me,” Chris laughed, “did I leave a lasting impression?” Tony’s jaw clenched, fearing that Chris might actually be talking about his baby and not just gloating about sexual prowess.

 

Gibbs forcefully yanked Chris backwards, whispering in his ear, “Are you done?” Gibbs had humiliated him into silence.

 

Back at the office, Vance and Abby waited outside the elevator doors nervously awaiting the team's arrival. Abby placed the floor with her head to the ground. When she heard the sound of the elevator rapidly climbing the floors of the building she turned to Vance, “you're going to want to hold me back.” Abby warned. Vance didn't have much of a chance to react to the comment before Abby lunged forward at the sound of the ‘ding'.

 

She punched Chris square across the face, rage in her eyes, “how dare you?!” she screamed. Vance sprung into action, preventing her from talking another swing. Chris licked the blood that trickled from the split in his lip.

 

“Get him to interrogation.” McGee and Ziva took Chris away from the scene. Gibbs turned to Tony, “go down to Ducky.” He'd noticed Tony seizing up and wincing with pain the entire time and that the toxic environment had taken a toll on his body.

 

“What for?” He shrugged.

 

“Don't even go there DiNozzo.” Gibbs grilled.

 

“Let me in there. I need to speak to him... alone.” Gibbs glared, “please.” He begged. Gibbs wasn't sure he was doing the right thing but allowed it nonetheless thinking Tony deserved this chance at a therapeutic remedy.

 

“You've got five minutes and then I'm pulling you out. You need to take care of yourself.” Gibbs cleared the surveillance room and the hallway to give Tony his privacy.

 

Tony took a deep breath before bravely striding into interrogation, “Its nice to see you again Tony.” Chris smiled. Tony took a small pleasure in the look of Chris' lip, swollen and speedily turning purple. Tony adored Abby and her spunk.

 

“So, you killed all those people?” Tony cut to the chase. Having already assumed that question as fact.

 

“C'mon, there's something you want to talk to me about, so quit playing games.” Tony couldn't believe that he'd slept with somebody so aggressively egotistical – even heavily intoxicated he thought he had standards.

 

“I think you already know exactly what I'm going to ask you.” Tony breathed, “why am I still here?” A question that’s been plaguing him non-stop.

 

“Well, it worked didn't it?” Chris replied cryptically.

 

“Worked? What are you talking about?” A hand drifted to his stomach, he suddenly felt greatly protective of the baby upon second guessing the meaning in the message.

 

“When a mummy and a daddy love each other very much -" Chris went on, extremely condescending. Tony was hearing no more.

 

“How do you know?!” He yelled, slamming a fist into the table. He’d exerted too much force and now his hand throbbed uncomfortably. “Have you been following me?”

 

“I wasn't going to let the man carrying my seed slip through my fingers. The others, well, I'd been relayed false information. They weren't actually carriers of the gene...so I killed them.” Chris' plan was unravelling and it made Tony sick to his stomach. “I needed somebody to carry on my family name.”

 

“All of this, killing people...why would you do such a thing?” Tony was outraged but confused by the logic being displayed, “How did you know I wouldn't have gotten rid of the baby?”

 

“If you did, I'd have killed you too.” Tony fell stunned, he'd been manipulated and entrapped, violated. “I like you Tony. You're attractive and you're funny. If only I'd have found you sooner.”

 

“You wouldn't have killed all those people?”

 

“Probably not.” The situation became all too surreal and he couldn't take any more. He stood up, feeling light headed and dizzy. Steadying himself, he left the room, barely managing to close the door behind himself before falling to the ground enthralled by pain.

 

At the sound of Tony's laboured cries Gibbs came rushing to his aid, “I’m calling you an ambulance.”

Chapter Text

Tony was whisked away in an ambulance and taken straight to Bathesda naval hospital. Part-way through the drive he'd passed out from pain exhaustion, no doubt better for him than suffering as bad as he was. The medics unloaded him into a gurney and doctors took him to the emergency natal ward where they conducted a thorough examination while they waited for Dr Monroe to arrive and officially take charge.

 


“Doc, is he alright?” Gibbs had faith that Tony would be okay, he'd witnessed Tony escape sickness and untimely death many times, this would be like all the others. Except, it wasn't just Tony that he had to worry about anymore.

 


“He's completely fine. Still quite knocked out but he should come around any time soon.” The naval doctor informed. “We're also quite satisfied that the baby is unharmed.” Gibbs sighed heavily with relief.

 


“What caused this?” Gibbs asked.

 


“It was most likely the stress accompanied by acute malnutrition. When he wakes up we'll know more.” Gibbs shook his head, disappointed. It had been all too obvious that Tony was barely eating, but he hardly blamed the boy. Seeing as he spent a great average of his time in the head throwing up.

 


“Thanks Doc.” The doctor left to take care of another patient so Gibbs went in to keep Tony company so that he'd not wake up alone. Tony didn't wake for some time, giving Ivy a chance to review the doctor's notes before he came to. “Shh-shh lie still.” Gibbs held Tony down by his shoulder.

 


“Where am I?” Tony rubbed his forehead, confused. “Hospital-" Tony looked around and down to his hand to follow the tubes attached to his vein up to the machine by his bedside. Everything was bright and clean, “Boss, am I alright?” his heart dropped inside his chest, a dark rush of painstaking worry washed over him and his body went cold and stiff.

 


“Tony, it's Ivy – you remember me?” She spoke softly. “How are you feeling?”

 


“Never better.” In the same breath, ”is the baby okay?” Came running off of his tongue. Although, his lapse in memory didn't erase the burning pain; the vague recollection of what had happened brought with it a startling horror, of which had him reaching to cup his flat stomach.

 


“Do you remember what happened?” She pressed. Tony shook his head, his memory of the last few hours were hazy. Palpitations set in as Ivy took a deep breath, “You put yourself under a considerable amount of stress which isn't good for either you or the baby. You're quite lucky that you didn't suffer a miscarriage.”
The tension that had built within Tony’s body washed away and the anxiety replaced with relief. In that small moment, he was beside himself with guilt, doubting whether his child had survived - to be gifted with such good news was a miracle.

 


“The emergency doctor ran some blood tests and it came back quite the picture.” She continued, far from impressed.

 


“That look... I don't usually get that a lot from women.” Tony’s attempts at diffusing the blame had Gibbs scoff.

 


“I’m sure.” She frowned, admittedly amused by how quickly Tony was bouncing back to his usual charming self, “your results show a wide range of vitamin deficiencies. It's very clear that you aren't eating.”

 


Tony was quick to plead his defence, “You know what, it's probably-"

 


“No excuses Tony.” She slapped him quite passionately to the side of his head. Ivy rolled her eyes as Tony winced like a child, “Mr Gibbs, I trust you to whip him into shape?” Tony felt like retreating far underneath his blanket, his doctor and his boss were one in the same person, and that was a frightening revelation.

 


“Yes Mam.” Gibbs nodded his head, he didn’t need to be told. His agent needed stability, and he was going to be his rock – because apparently, Tony, a grown ass man, was incapable of taking care of himself.

 


She reviewed the charts and images taken by the doctor in charge, “Otherwise the baby seems strong and healthy.” Tony felt his stomach flutter at the news, “My advice? Take a week off, get some R&R– eat!” She could not stress the last part enough, short of picking Tony up, shaking him by the shoulders and screaming in his face.

 


“When will I be out of here?”

 


“When the doctor in charge gives you the okay to leave,” She raised her brows and folded her arms, “don’t think I haven’t noticed that you’re still in pain Tony.” He avoided direct eye contact, so she followed his gaze around the room.

 


“Oh come on. I hate hospitals!” Ironic given how often he had to visit. After almost dying a few years ago, stepping foot through those automatic doors at reception gave him small panic attacks, that he’d long since learnt to deal with.

 


“Then you'll do everything in your power not to end up back here.” She sighed, fearing that she was being needlessly harsh with Tony, “likelihood is, they'll wait for the pain to stop and give you a couple more bags of that,” she tapped the saline bag with her pen, “then you’ll be set free.”

 


“I can’t stay here, Boss, I need to get back to NCIS.” The case waited for him, he had vengeance to deal out and comeuppance to draw back.

 


“Oh no you don't. I'm not having you anywhere near the office.” Before Tony could retaliate Gibbs continued, “Ziva and Tim are doing their jobs, you don’t need to be there.”

 


Tony trusted his team, yet, there was something to say about personally seeing the man who wrecked havoc on his life being led away in cuffs to a police van. That visual image would settle his mind and let him begin to feel comfortable, “But-"

 


“We got him, he ain't going anywhere.” Gibbs was right, now all that was left was to watch the criminal justice system serve Tony his due course.

 


~~

 


Abby did come by to visit, and with express permission from the doctor, he was able to turn all of the beeping monitors off. Right now still didn't feel like the appropriate time to tell Abby about the baby, she'd likely be just as angry about him neglecting his health as Ivy was.
Abby brought him a bouquet of flowers to brighten up the room, and stayed for about half an hour before having to zip back to her lab. Tony appreciated the company, regardless of how brief. She had suspected something hinky was going on but didn’t raise any questions, rather she just talked about the list of evidence she had against McAllister. Abby had been the ray of hope for Tony that brought up his mood from the depths of despair. They were going to put this guy away for life, no questions asked. He and his child would be safe.

 


Abby left Tony to rest as per the doctor's orders. He'd need to regain his strength over the next week or so in order to keep healthy and to stay away from the hospital.

 


He didn't feel up for sleeping, he'd slept most of the day away already. Instead he turned on the TV and skimmed through the channels he had. A nurse came by to check on him mid-way through the afternoon, he replaced the saline bag and offered Tony something to eat or drink. He refused, feeling nauseous. For now he was getting all he needed from the medication he was hooked up to but the nurse stressed how important it was to consume something solid.

 


McGee swung by after work and to see how he'd been doing and to give a status report on how the case had progressed. In so few hours the team had gathered significant evidence to convict and were just about ready to hand everything over to the District Attorney’s office.
“You okay Tony? You can tell me anything, you know that.”

 


“Yeah. I know.” He exhaled, “Somethin’s goin on right now that I'm not ready to share. I'd appreciate it if you just spread the word that I'm doin okay.”

 


“You'll let us know when you can?” McGee asked, putting on his coat.

 


“Sure.” Of course Tony felt bad about keeping such a gigantic secret. Yet, the moment it reached the others, his life would change. For the next seven months, he'd be tip-toed around, banned from leaving his desk, and feted over like a flower – something he wouldn't stand for.

 


Tony began to feel more like himself as the day progressed into the evening. He no longer felt queasy and all pain he felt before had faded away. The doctor in charge of his care was very impressed by the speedy recovery. If all went well overnight, then he'd be able to check out tomorrow morning. He’d been so elated by the news that he went ahead and ate four pots of chocolate pudding.

 


When lights went out at 10, he was left to his own mind, tossing and turning in the scratchy hospital sheets. “God, this bed was a lot more comfortable when I was unconscious.” He fussed with his pillow, plumping some air back into it, and wriggled around until he found the perfect position where his body was completely at peace. “We had a tough ride, little one.” He whispered, one hand resting on his stomach. “Sorry about that.”

 


He was riddled with guilt, he’d done wrong and he knew that he should have handled the situation and carried himself better. The damage had already been done and luckily the two of them walked out the other side scratch free. He realised that things could have turned out a lot differently but couldn’t bare to dwell on ‘what ifs’ or ‘maybes’. If there was one thing to take away from the experience, something positive, is that life is precious.

 


“Your other dad’s a monster, so it’s just you and me.” He traced the skin of his stomach softly lulling himself to sleep, there was a small raise in the surface that hadn’t noticed there before, his baby. “And your aunts, Abby and Ziva. Uncle McGee, Gibbs-“ He paused, “Grandpa Gibbs? I’ll get back to you with that.” Like counting sheep he reeled off all the important people in his life, “Grandpa Ducky…” He trailed off, “Palmer-“ Tony succumbed to the fatigue and dozed off.

 


The morning rolled around but Tony wasn't given much opportunity to enjoy a lie in, having been woken by Ducky, “Wakey wakey dear boy.” Ducky's arrival hadn't been all bad, for he'd brought a fresh set of clothes and what could be distinctively recognised as the smell of freshly baked pastries wafting from a brown paper bag. “How are we doing today?”

 


Tony sat up in bed, hair squeue whiff and eyes full of crud, “you know what Duck? You might just be my favourite person ever.”

 


“Flattery will get you everywhere,” Ducky smiled, “it's always good to get your day off to a good start, so I brought you some breakfast.” The long anticipated paper bag was plonked into Tony's lap. The younger man hummed delightfully as the warmth from the goodies inside spread through to his legs. “I know that you've had quite the difficult time eating as of late, so do eat slowly.”

 


“I'm afraid that if I eat all this I'll chuck my cookies...” Tony was extremely hesitant, eating felt more or less like wasting food – maybe he'd just throw the bag straight into the trash now and spare the pain of bringing it all back up.

 


“You might do, but you might not,” he pointed playfully, “you are under strict instructions given by myself, Ivy, and your doctor to eat three meals a day. I do intend on holding you to these arrangements.”

 


Tony screwed his eyes shut and took a lengthy exhale before nibbling at the crispy end of a croissant. Ducky watched enthusiastically as he ate. There was a moment of silence as the two awaited for the inevitable, and when it neglected to come, Ducky cheered, “progress!”

 


By mid-day Tony was released from care and on his way home in Ducky’s Aston Martin. The older man offered to stay a while to help Tony settle in, but he refused the service. Instead he insisted that Ducky return to autopsy and assist with the case as best he could – that would be the greatest help. Although, without Ducky around, he realised just how lonely he was. Sure he could watch television; it wasn’t like he’d already exhausted his box sets and movie rack. He could listen to music or play the piano – but those were either done in the company of women or with a small glass of scotch. He’d surely go feral before the week was over.

 


That night he sat down to a James Bond marathon and phoned in a Chinese. It’d been some time since his last Chinese order and the restaurant on the other end were glad to hear from their loyal customer. In the end he’d only managed half of his usual portions, partially due to his reduced appetite, and the acid reflux that’d erupted after his beef chow mien put him off of the rest.

 


Ducky had brought over a few dry snacks to munch on, including some ginger biscuits and crackers. Ducky did tell Tony to refrain from heavy eating, and apparently for good reason. ‘He should have listened’ rang like his life’s unofficial motto.

 


Over the next few days Tony had many drop-ins from everybody on his team. Gibbs stopped by on Wednesday, McGee- Thursday, Abby and Ziva both came to make him dinner on Friday. Between relaxing, keeping company, and being harassed by Ivy – his situation had drastically improved. His morning sickness died down but Ivy reminded him that it wouldn’t die out completely for a few more weeks. With careful attention to his diet and ample sleep, the negative symptoms became manageable.

 


Without warning, he took a visit to the office. Everybody he worked with gave their best wishes for him to get better soon, while his team reacted to his appearance negatively, as he was sure they would.

 


“You are not supposed to be here until Monday.” Ziva lectured. “If I were you, I’d leave before Gibbs sees you and puts your head on a pike.”

 


“If he asks, I came by to grab something from my desk.” He offered as a poor excuse.

 


“I feel like I’m harbouring a criminal.” She protested, unwilling to participate in whatever Tony had planned, with fear that their patriarch would return and catch them in the act.

 


“Let’s go and get some lunch? Hu? You know you want to.” Tony taunted. He’d gotten good at the whole ‘lunch’ thing again. So long as he watched what he ate and avoided certain triggers then he could successfully hold down a meal, an astounding improvement by any standard.

 


“You seem more like your old self today, actually…” She studied his face, “You appear radiant.” She squinted with suspicion. “Even if I wanted to, I’m busy.”

 


“Zeeee-vahh.” He stopped childishly, throwing his arms about. “Pleeeeease, I’m bored sitting at home.”

 


“Tony, no.” She dismissed, slipping into her chair and situating herself under the desk. “What about Abby? I’m sure she’d love to go.” Ziva proceeded to ignore him by checking and answering her emails.

 


He shrugged, “Suit yourself. Abby’s my favourite anyway. He pressed the button to the elevator to go down towards Abby’s lab.

 


“Can I help you, DiNozzo?” Gibbs appeared from seemingly nowhere, a coffee in-hand as the door opened. Tony froze, Gibbs walked around Tony and into the bullpen.

 


“No, Boss.” He blurted instinctively. Tony completely avoided Gibbs and stepped into the elevator. Eyes glued to the floor and ferociously pressing the necessary button.

 


“Then go home. I don’t want to see your ass till Monday.” Gibbs called out as the doors closed. He shook his head, although not altogether too surprised. Tony was, after all, somebody who neglected the rules when under the impression that he'd get away with it. Of course, today was not one of those times and Gibbs was far from impressed.

 


Tony slipped into Abby's lab, her music playing far too loud for such a confined space, “Abby!” he yelled, competing with the deafening tone. “Abby!” He proceeded forward, putting a hand on her shoulder to distract her attention.

 


“Tony!” She scooped him into a hug, “wait, what are you doing here?” She broke away, frowning at him. “Does Gibbs know you're here?” She folded her arms and shifted her hip to one side.

 


“I don't need Gibb's permission to take my favourite lady out to lunch.” He smiled charmingly.

 


Abby cringed, “Aw, Tony...I don't know if I have time to go out right now.” Neck deep in her work meant she'd be restricted to the lab until the late hours of the evening. By two o'clock, there were already two empty CaffPow cups crushed and discarded by the bin. He and McGee had been meaning to stage an intervention about her addiction to caffeine.

 


“Is it a case?” He asked, interested. Right now he could use a good case, so he wouldn’t have to go home to an empty apartment, and construct something to do. In the last few days he'd; washed Kate's bowl, watched a Bond, Indiana Jones, Star Wars, and a few of the Batman classics. The apartment was squeaky clean, like super squeaky shiny pristine, clean. Cleaner than the day he moved in, clean.

 


“I’m afraid that Marines are still murdered when you're not here.” She commented, “sorry.” She hated dismissing such a needy Tony, but even the promise of food wasn't enough to tear her away from her machines.

 


“I still have one more person up my sleeve.” He knew that Ducky wouldn’t say no to token meal of appreciation. Or so he would hope. With the last ounce of motivation left, he left for autopsy. He used his access code for the door and strolled in, “Ducky! My man,” Tony appeared stunned by the corpse lying on the table.

 


“Tony! How wonderful to see you.” Ducky turned to face Tony at the door, bloody gloves and scalpel in hand, “is anything the matter? You've gone positively green.”

 


At the sight of the body, sliced at the sternum and skin spread eagle, Tony's stomach flipped. He barely made it to the trashcan in the hallway before throwing up the remains of his partially digested breakfast – a handful of bran crackers and some oj.

 


“Palmer, call Jethro.” Ducky instructed as he rolled off his gloves. “What on earth brought you down here?” Ducky asked, stroking Tony on the back; his touch far more gentle and caring than Gibbs' but still not wanted.

 


“What kind of detective can't even look at a body, Duck?” He breathed, blotting his mouth with the back of his hand. This hadn't been the first time today that he'd thrown up, and it might not be the last, but things had improved. He felt as though, this was a metaphorical slap on the face. Of course this pregnancy was going to bring with it the worst of all symptoms. Barfing at the sight of dead bodies was a hindrance to his work in the field.

 


“Don't you worry about that, you'll be back to your old self in no time.”

 


“But for now, he's goin home.” Gibbs strode in, “come. I'll drive you back.”

Chapter Text

Nearly a month had passed since he'd found out about being pregnant and everything had changed. He had altered his sleeping habits, ate better and constructed better lies to tell his colleagues. The morning sickness was very much the same, waking up and barfing, then going to work and chucking his guts further. He'd simply told the others that he was recovering from an illness and the medication that he was prescribed only made him nauseous. Now his brakes to the loo are looked upon sympathetically not sceptically. When asked how long he had left until he was better he replied with varying answers, “not quite sure yet", “a week tops". The truth is, despite all the attempts Ducky had made to reassure Tony that this was all just temporary, he'd given in and gotten used to his fate.

 


Now, Tony ate a handful of crackers in bed before getting up and had a small glass of water before getting ready, as a new morning ritual. So far he'd noticed a difference. He had a lot more energy and his stomach kept from shrinking itself. Accompanied with small meals throughout the day and a complete absence of any caffeine, the sickness usually subsided in the late afternoon. Ducky and Ivy's advice was starting to make a drastic effect.

 


After doing what needed to be done, he took a quick shower and slipped into the bedroom, wearing only his dressing gown. He stood at his wardrobe and began to flick through his suits as he did everyday, trying to find something to wear. He plucked something relatively new, brought only a few weeks before, figuring he hadn't exhausted the look just yet.
He also picked out a nice crisp white shirt, a blue tie, some boxers and a pair of black dress socks. Putting on his underpants and shirt first, he then proceeded to pull on his trousers. He reached for a belt, remembering that the trousers were a little loose around the waist, his fault for still deciding to buy a tailored suit whilst his usual tailor was out of town. Regardless, he dished the belt through the holes and zipped up the fly, only to notice that the button was a fair bit tight.

 


Having only worn this suit a handful of times, and had it dry-cleaned only once, he thought it impossible for the garment to have shrunk. Only just managing to thread the button, he discarded the belt, throwing it in a fit of anger.

 


This wasn't the first time he'd struggled with his weight, as things go his waistline was always changing, usually this meant that he had to train harder at the work gym and go on a morning run until he worked it off. Now, it wasn't a matter of “working off". This was the very beginning. The first signs that he'd soon become uncontrollably huge, and not just this one new suit would feel ill fitted, his entire wardrobe would become sizes to small.

 


Needless to say, this morning's events had put him in a bad mood.

 


His drive to work was silent and his entrance into the building equally as irritable. He ignored every good morning and even the flirtatious smile from the mailroom fox went right over his head. When he got upstairs Ziva was already at her desk, enjoying a croissant sandwich, as she'd usually be the first one in.

 


“Good morning, Tony.” She greeted him, rubbing the crumbs from around her mouth. Tony glared in her direction, neglecting to extend the pleasantries. “What's got your panties in a bundle?”

 


“Nothing, I'm fine.” He replied flatly. Sliding his bag from his shoulders he let it slump to the floor carelessly.

 


“Clearly you are not, but I'm not even going to ask.” Sensing that Tony was in no mood for story time, she bit the bullet and kept quiet, returning to her quickly cooling meal. Now being clued into Tony’s little secret, she allowed Tony’s miserable behaviour.

 


The sour DiNozzo attitude consumed him for most of the day. He’d been snarky and dismissive to the organisers of the homeless shelter when perusing the wife’s testament but it hadn’t ended there, his worst mistake had been how he’d treated Abby.
Tony had gone to see Abby after she called him, ecstatic about her find. He hadn’t meant to be so defensive, and he certainly hadn’t meant to be rude –

 


“Is this all you’ve got?” Tony commented. “Abby, you’ve had more than 24 hours with the evidence.”

 


Abby scowled at the remark, “For a complete lack of physical evidence, I’d consider this a win.” Abby had found DNA on the backseats of the victim’s car, she made them out to be semen and vaginal fluids from a source that didn’t match the wife’s DNA.

 


“I can’t go back to Gibbs with this.” He said spitefully.

 


“What? It proves that the victim was having an affair.” She protested, her voice breaking.

 


“But without a name that information is useless.” Tony relayed, digging himself into a bigger hole. Really he should have found a more constructive way of venting his frustration rather than at Abby but at the time he really didn’t understand his actions to be what they were – hurtful and insulting.

 


“I’m not a miracle worker!” She felt undervalued and unappreciated. “I don’t have all the answers. I’m sorry.” She sighed. “What’s with you?” Her Tony never spoke in such a way, either the man talking down to her was an impostor or was gravely distressed.

 


“Nothing, I’m fine.” The phrase now rolled off the tongue naturally.

 


“This has something to do with why you’re sick. But you won’t tell me, so I can’t help you.” She’d known Tony was ill for weeks, presumably even before Tony caught wind. Yet she’d been excluded by her dearest friend and that hurt.

 


“That’s none of your business,” he waved his index finger in her face before turning and walking away. “Just find me something Abby.” He yelled from a distance.

 

Abby had been too gobsmacked to reply and just let Tony disappear out of sight. Tony had never made Abby cry before, but the Goth began to sob, angry with the situation.

 


At lunch he merely picked at his food, not being all too interested in eating. He chucked most of his bagel in the bin after letting it sit at his desk for over an hour, going stale. Although he knew skipping meals wasn't a good habit, he couldn't help but feel down about his weight and how his body was changing.

 


His mood and noncompliance was enough to warrant an impromptu meeting with Gibbs in the elevator. Where there he switched off the power and began to call his senior field agent up on his behaviour.

 


“What's going on with you today?” Gibbs asked, staring Tony in the eyes, soliciting an honest response from the man beside him. “Is it pregnancy related?” He hinted. Since Tony had come forward and spilled the beans, things had been tense. Gibbs wasn't entirely happy with DiNozzo for being reckless but that absolutely didn't mean that he no longer cared.

 


“Boss...” Tony replied sheepishly, aiming to squirrel out of the uncomfortable conversation.

 


“Whatever it is, has you unfocused, so talk to me.” Tony had been hard to reach all day, with any orders or instructions had gone in one ear and out of the other, not to mention the attitude he'd displayed with everybody, even Abby.

 


With a disgruntled sigh Tony confessed, “my pants are tight.”

 


“So buy some more.” Gibbs retaliated.

 


“It's not even about the pants, Boss. It's about change.” Change. Change had always freaked him out. When his mother died and his father sent him off to boarding school he developed an anxiety disorder which took him ages to overcome. After his father remarried, each time, Tony world run away. That is until he finished school and trained to become a cop. Life as a cop stayed pretty solid until change ripped things apart. Nothing seemed to remain untouched and unsullied for very long and that scared him.

 


“DiNozzo, this is your responsibility. Whether you like it or not your life is going to change, that's a fact.” His words felt far from reassuring, “For Christ’s sake, DiNozzo you're having a baby, nothing was gonna be the same from the moment you conceived it. You're a father now, DiNozzo. Start acting like one.”

 


Gibbs was right, like always. He hadn't noticed how childish he'd been acting, and it was time to be grown up and embrace change as not all change was going to be negative. Treating the recent change as a minus rather than a plus meant that he had been neglecting how special this time of his life really was and how selfish he was being. “Gotcha, Boss.”

 


“And go apologise to Abby. Whatever you’ve done, you have to make right.” Tony’s heart sank into his stomach, riddled with guilt.

 


Satisfied with how things were settled, Gibbs allowed Tony back to his desk. It took a while for the funk to drift away but before long his mood shifted and he felt a lot better; mentally not physically, it was proving difficult to retain the new and improved version of himself.

 


Tony found himself lingering around Abby’s lab trying to get the goth to speak to him again, after Gibbs had sent him down to ‘watch over’ the work going on; his way of inadvertently bringing the two together. He had gotten frustrated at her earlier and raised his voice unintentionally, now she wouldn’t speak to him.
“Abby~ talk to me.” Tony begged once again. He’d tried to butter her up already with a cafepow and even managed to steal a kiss on the cheek. It felt like he’d exhausted all efforts. “I’m sorry Abbs. I’m just a little stressed.” He knew that Abby couldn’t hold out for much longer as she never really got mad at anybody for too long, especially at him.

 


”Aw Tony, that’s just it. You’re keeping something from me and that’s not nice.“ Abby stood with her arms folded across her chest, her posture read that she wasn’t going to back down without any answers.

 


“Me, keep anything from you? I’d never do such a thing.” He lied.

 


“I wanted to give you a chance to tell me yourself, do we really have to go through this?” Tony became scared fretting over what information Abby already possibly knew. A smile encroached upon her face, “I really can’t believe you didn’t tell me.”

 


”Tell you what, Abbs?” Palpitations set in.

 


“Don’t think that I didn’t notice, the way that you’ve been acting...” He took a second to remind himself to breathe, in the firing line his adrenaline response making himself super aware of the hairs that stood on end and the beams of sweat beginning to bleed. “Well?” She coaxed one more time. Tony avoided any form of communication, “So you really are pregnant?!” Abby squealed, “I’m going to be an aunt!” She jumped onto Tony, sweeping him into her arms.

“Sorry Abbs. I wanted to tell you but-" He was cut off abruptly.

 


“Are you two done?” Gibbs walked into the room and stopped at the doorway, leaving his cup of coffee on the side before walking in. He’d been considerate of Tony’s aversion and made subtle changes to his routine to accommodate like having his morning coffee before coming up the elevator first thing.

 


“You knew?” She asked outraged that she wasn’t the first to know.

 


“What do you have for me Abbs?” She elbowed him cheekily, suspecting as much. Nothing got passed Gibbs.

 


Meanwhile in autopsy Ducky was taking a call from Ivy, “Ah yes, he’s doing much better now.” Ivy had called for a status update into how well Tony was coping being back at work. “both Gibbs and myself have been watching the boy like a hawk.”

 


“I’m glad to hear that Ducky, anything else worth noting?”

 


“Other than the morning sickness, Tony’s been just fine.” He paused for a moment, really considering his answer, “well, I do suppose he’s been quite grumpy as of late. I expect it’s simply just mood swings.” Ducky and Ivy laughed about Tony’s favour. “It’s likely that we’ll have several more months of this.”

 


“Tony does take me for the princess type.”

 


“That just about sums up our DiNozzo.” Ducky chuckled.

 


Ducky hadn’t caught wind of Palmer pressing his ear to the storage cupboard door, listening in intently. He’d been banished there to file stock requests forms that’d sat -long overdue- in Ducky’s desk. He hadn’t meant to eavesdrop, at least not at first. The door was surprisingly thin and at the mention of Tony’s name he couldn’t help but listen in – after all he was always the last person to find out anything, nobody ever confided in him. Having his ear to the ground, or rather to the door, was how he kept in the loop.

 


Palmer was shocked, he began pacing the small space frantically. All of Tony’s odd behaviour came together, piece by piece, clearing up the momentous confusion. Jimmy didn’t quite believe his suspicions, after all, his preconceived prejudices as Tony being an infamous ladies man would make the prospect of Tony sleeping with another man inconceivable. Even if that were the turn of events, he had no clue about Tony’s genetic disposition. It was still quite a rare gene to possess, and for Jimmy to work with another carrier was statistically improbable.

 


“Pass on the message that I’d like to see him again in two weeks to check on his recovery progress.”

 


“Will do. Take care now, bye bye.” Ducky hung up the phone, “Palmer, I do hope that you’re almost done in there.” He called out.

 


“Erm..” He mumbled, wondering whether to respond to Ducky’s instruction at all, as to not give away the fact that he’d been able to hear anything through the door. Palmer poked his head through a gap in the door, “Sorry, Doctor?”

 


“Need I repeat how dire a situation we will be in if we do not order more gloves in time?” Palmer rolled his eyes at the demand, knowing that they’re only running low on the essentials like gloves, gauze, and masks because Ducky isn’t great at keeping organised.

 


Shortly after filling in the forms, getting Ducky’s signature, and walking them up to finance, he stopped in the communal break room. There he spotted McGee warming up a cup of coffee in the microwave. This, he thought, would be the perfect opportunity to assure himself of exactly what’s going on.

 


“McGee, can I talk to you for a minute?” Palmer spoke, quietly, prompting an air of discretion. He could see that McGee was about to pull out an excuse as to avoid any delicate conversation, so Palmer hurried to the point. “It’s about Tony.”

 


McGee's interest peaked. McGee wondered what kind of dirt Palmer had, which could be used to his advantage as payback. Tony often spread rumours about him to their colleagues, including that he was gay or that he still lived at home with his mother. It took a long while to reverse some of Tony’s tall tales. “Go on?” He replied, raising a brow.

 


“More importantly about the B-A-B-Y?” He spelled out, as if that would throw any eavesdroppers off of their conversation.

 


“The what?” McGee hadn’t quite anticipated that to be the starling revelation. Instead, it only left him puzzled.

 


“Oh.” Palmer had put his foot in his mouth. “I just thought...” He stuttered. “Never mind then.” He sped walked back to the elevator leaving McGee mouth aghast at the sink. It seemed that news of the pregnancy was not yet common knowledge if somebody like McGee didn’t even know. Or perhaps he’d just been gravely mistaken and made a big deal out of relatively nothing.

 


McGee laughed off Palmer’s assumption, but mentally revisited it throughout the day. Had it not been for Tony’s recent behaviour, he’d never had believed such ludicrousey. For very much the same reasons for Jimmy’s scepticism, McGee would have probably not guessed what could possibly be the cause of Tony’s changes. Still, he was somewhat outraged that Tony hadn’t told him about such important news, instead he’d heard it from Palmer.
By the end of the day, the entire office was buzzing with whispers. Jimmy had shared the next hot-gos’ which spread faster than a virus attached to a spam email chain. And this chatter didn’t disappear overnight. Instead, it became the most talked about news around the water dispenser the following morning.

 


Tony had been caught in the elevator coming in to work when somebody put forward an awkward suggestion. “DiNozzo, my man.”

 


“Jacobs.” Tony greeted. He’d never spoken to Jacobs directly, as far as he knew, they didn’t even work on the same floor.

 


“I think Michael is a Class A name.”

 

Tony wasn’t quite sure how to respond to Jacobs’ remark. Instead he replied, “thanks.” Given how little they knew each other, it wasn’t unrealistic to posit a guess as to whether Jacobs had just weirdly intended to hand over a complement about an obviously wrong assertion of his name.

 


Everybody’s weird behaviour continued throughout the day. After finally tracking down a suspect who they believed to be a plausible match for the DNA Abby found, his team and a backup squad attended the scene where there’d been a real risk of a deadly shootout. Armed with vests and firearms, they announced themselves and asked for the suspect in question.

 


As prepared for, their arrival was met with hostility. From a rooftop advantage point gun shots were fired at the ground around their feet. The first few shots from what sounded to be an automatic came overtly as a warning to back away. Only that’s when the reinforcements stepped in. “DiNozzo, fall back. We got it from here.” The leader of the squad called out. Tony thought it odd for him to have been singled out from the rest of his team. He shrugged it off and carried on anyway.

 


Then at lunch he could hear murmuring from the break room that fell silent as soon as he arrived. That seemingly made him paranoid.

 


“They are talking about you, you know? Somebody has let slip, your secret.” Ziva approached Tony, who’d been isolated away from everybody, not by choice. “It is all anybody can talk about.”

 


“Hu. That explains things.” Tony couldn’t help but feel like he was being watched. Which was likely because he was. Like the metaphorical elephant in the room, everybody couldn’t help but stare. Nobody had so far confronted him about these rumours, but Tony could tell that his life in secrecy had been obliterated. He wasn’t mad. No. He’d only prolonged the inevitable by keeping the pregnancy bottled up. People were going to find out sooner or later, and it just so happened to be the former.

 


Tony didn’t stick around to enjoy lunch, not now he wasn’t in the mood to eat. Instead he and Ziva returned to their desks to update some paperwork. Where there he was bombarded by McGee storming into the bullpen, “Tony? Why didn’t you tell me?” He asked. Ziva, Gibbs and all those not party to the very loud engagement looked up from their desks awkwardly. McGee had overheard some commotion in the hall central to Tony and his B-A-B-Y. This only confirmed, in his mind, that he’d been the last to know.

 


“I’m not sure I know what you’re talking about.” Tony spoke through a clenched jaw. He only hoped that the probie would recognise that his visual displeasure meant to drop the matter or at least save it for a far less public environment.

 


“Why am I the last to hear? We’re supposed to be a team.” McGee was bitter about being the last to know, but also angry with Tony’s decision to keep such a substantial secret to himself. Surely the team, the whole team, should be told so they could work better to watch Tony’s back out in the field. McGee took from this secrecy a complete lack of trust.

 


“Finished, McLoudmouth?” Tony bit his tongue, holding back any foul words that popped into his head. “Since you want to do this right here, right now, fine.” Tony stood up from behind his desk and moved into the middle of the floor. Colleagues all around the office watched like an audience as Tony took centre stage. “Seeing as my private life is apparently everybody else’s business, I might as well bite the bullet and come clean.”

 


“What are you doing?” McGee interrupted. Feeling an enormous amount of second-hand embarrassment.

 


“Listen up everybody,” once satisfied that he’d encaptured everybody’s fullest attention, “I, Antony ‘Tony' DiNozzo, am pregnant. There, you happy now McGee?” He gruffly threw himself into his chair, like a mic drop. McGee, and many others were left stunned.

 


“DiNozzo, my office.” Vance called from the top of the staircase. Tony sighed heavily before following the Director’s orders. Getting up again distracted away from how satisfying he'd ended things a moment ago. Still he trudged behind Vance up the stairs and into his office. “Take a seat.” Vance had this amazing method of intimidation by kindness. “So, what am I to take away from your little performance?”

 


“This really wasn’t the way I wanted this to come out. But, everybody seemed to already know...” He put defensively. “I only told Gibbs and Ziva. Ducky was the one who told me. I’m not sure how everybody else found out.”

 


“How far along are you?” Vance asked, obviously frustrated.

 


“About 12 weeks.” Tony replied timidly. Vance wasn’t Jenny. Although they had similar levels of passion and aggression, Vance was not his ‘pal’ or ‘friend’. Jenny used to cut Tony tremendous amounts of slack and grief about his wrongdoings which he missed. Although, he’d been lucky enough so far not having to go on any risky undercover operations.

 


“Suppose that fainting spell was related?” Before Tony could fathom a response Vance came down heavy, “Given any thought of restricted duty yet?”

 


Tony hadn’t and didn’t want to. Although he knew that curtaining the unavoidable for so long was temporary, he would keep things up as sitting at a desk for any longer than a few months would drive him insane. If Vance was to saddle him now, half a year on desk duty, it would be worse than catching the plague, again. “No, Sir.” He added sternly.

 


“My kids are the best things to have happened in my life. Don’t get me wrong, they’re a handful, but I love them.” Vance admired the happy family photo that sat on his desk. It was with an enormous sense of fatherly affection that he continued, “I expect Gibbs has already had words with you, but these are mine, your health comes above the job. You need to take care of yourself which means certain things have to change. You will always have back-up before leaving the building, no all-nighters, and when the time comes I will decide whether your fit for active duty. Not Gibbs. Do I make myself clear?”

 


Tony had heard, nearly verbatim, the same warnings from Gibbs, “Perfectly.”

 


“I know I came down rather harsh on you, but congratulations.” Vance added quickly with a small smile. It was sure a real shame to have one of his best agents down for the count for a while, but he truly believed that this path would lead him to a more mature and fulfilling future.

Chapter Text

Tony had honestly feared the worst, when in fact, he really shouldn’t have. The majority of those around him congratulated him and were full of questions. The remaining few kept their distance, turning their noses up in disgust any time Tony entered a room. He didn’t mind as he’d expected as much. From his knowledge, male pregnancy was still rare and misunderstood and often came hand-in-hand with homophobia. Over the next two weeks, Tony kept his head down and focused on working cases, perhaps to a fault.

It was currently drawing close to three in the morning and Tony still slaved away by the dim light of his computer screen. He knew that he’d get a bolocking if anybody were to find him, but Gibbs had long gone home and he appeared to be alone. Just how he liked it. No distractions, just him and his case files.

Or so he thought…

“Pack it up DiNozzo.” Gibbs barked as he hopped down the stairs. Tony sighed; Gibbs must have been trapped in a meeting with MTAC. Tony was just about to bite back when Gibbs interjected, “I won’t ask you again.”

“I was just-” Tony looked up, Gibbs towering over him. “Getting my bag together.” He quickly adapted. Tony scooped up his files and tucked them under his arm, ready to take them home.

“Nu-uh. You can come back to them tomorrow. After your appointment with Ducky’s Doctor friend.” Tony’s face fell, he wasn’t aware that Gibbs knew about his schedule, he was planning to skip his appointment being so busy, he didn’t want to leave work when he knew that everything was okay even without Ivy’s approval.

“Boss, about that…”

“She called me, just to make sure that you go. Which is why she made me promise to take you there myself.” A tall, vibrant, and powerful red-head. What’s not to be afraid of? He hated to think, that if he was foolish enough, he might have found the doctor attractive. 

“I don’t need a babysitter.” Tony protested.

“Like hell you don’t.” Tony had received his orders, but clearly hadn’t been following them, which was entirely uncharacteristic. Apparently he couldn’t trust his most loyal agent to look after himself or his unborn child, alone.

“You're not going to tell her about this are you?” Tony chased after Gibbs and into the elevator.

“No. But that'd better be the last time I catch you up like this.”

“Promise.” It’d be hard to keep but he’d sure as hell try if it meant keeping Ivy at ease.

“Good cause you’re coming home with me.” Tony battled and argued with Gibbs the entire way back, but it was no use. Like always, Gibbs had the tight fist and unwavering plans that Tony could not shake.

When the two got back, Gibbs made Tony a bacon sandwich and sent him to bed after watching the boy eat every crumb. Tony had gotten used to the hard springs in the spare bed’s mattress but it in no way compared to his own. If it wasn’t his ever expanding stomach that would start giving him back pain, his Gibbs sleepovers would surely get him there.

Tony assumed that Gibbs hadn’t slept that night. After all, Tony was going into the day with just over five hours of sleep. The morning didn’t head off to be the best as a small bout of acid reflux quickly turned into morning sickness, and Tony became strapped to Gibbs' spare toilet. Things were going so well lately, vomiting was a rarity, only reserved for strange smells and dead bodies. Now hitting the twelve week mark, he'd assumed that, from the books, his nausea would be almost obsolete. Obviously, you can't believe everything you read.

When Tony was finished he made his way down to the kitchen where Gibbs had made a spot of breakfast and a solitary cup of coffee which sat on the outside window ledge, and for Tony a few slices of plain toast on a plate.

“Mn, my favourite.” He hummed sarcastically.

“Eat and you'll feel getter, go on.” Gibbs prompted, pouring Tony a small glass of water. The toast would soak up any leftover sick and the water would combat the dehydration, just so Ivy couldn’t complain about the state of Tony’s health. “You’ll need plenty more of that.”

Another four glasses of water later, the two took the drive up to Ivy’s practice.

“Tony!” She offered open arms for a hug, “you look pale.” She finished. Tony rolled his eyes. The only day he’d had morning sickness just had to be the day when it counts. Just yesterday he had rosy cheeks and several people commented about his complexion, about his pregnancy ‘glow', or whatever that meant. “Sorry that it's taken so long before seeing you again. I trust that you're well.”

“I'm fabulous.” Tony grinned. Ivy wasn't quite sure how to judge that statement but moved on just the same.

“You've filled out quite a bit since the last time I saw you.” One of the first observations she’d made was that Tony was no longer wearing a belt, even from afar it was clear that he’d already begun to show.

“Gee thanks. I feel like I’ve just eaten a whole Turkey.” Ivy laughed.

“It’ll be mostly water, besides the baby still has plenty more room to grow.” Tony stroked his mid-section hardly being able to imagine being the same size as some of the women he passed by in the waiting area. A fear of being watched had him remove the hand quicker than it appeared.

Tony took a seat opposite Ivy’s desk, guessing a simple routine forming, “Sleeve up.” She asked. “You’ve been eating better? Less morning sickness?” Tony’s arm strapped in, Ivy began to take her first round of tests.

“Three meals a day.” Tony smiled boastfully.  

“Blood pressure is normal.” She moved on to blood tests, grabbing fresh vials and a needle from her cupboard. “Any weird cravings?” Ivy asked as a small distraction, Tony always became particularly squeamish when having blood drawn.  

“Now that you mention it-"

“Ugh, Tony, what is that?” Ziva glared as Tony unwrapped his sandwich. She could not make heads nor tails of American cuisine, but she knew that whatever Tony was eating had to be odd.

“This? Just something that I concocted; it’s got turkey, stuffing, peanut butter, jelly, pickles, jiffy and all on a whole grain sub. Fibre is important you know.” A tiny splurge of jam dropped onto his tie, “oops.” He muttered before hungrily swiping it away and into his mouth.

“You are disgusting.” Ziva shivered.

“-No, don’t think I have.” Cravings had come and go relatively quickly. Although, there hadn’t been that many. As his hunger increased so did the desire to eat anything he fancied, even if it’d been all in one go. More commonly was his aversions; coffee, red meat, and chopped onion.

“Aches, pains, anything worrying you?”

“These cramps are a bitch.” Starting within the last few days, his cramps had begun settling in, sometimes at the worst opportunities. Most of the time, he sat with his forehead resting on his desk, slowly breathing through the pain, with pocket sized heat packs pressed up against his stomach.

“That’s completely normal. Use some pain relief or a hot water bottle. It’ll pass, just bare with it.” As the womb and his bodily organs shifted, Ivy explained that it would be accompanied by small amounts of pain.

“Let’s weigh you and then we’ll get to an examination.” Tony kicked off his shoes and stepped onto the scales, “You’re filling out very nicely.” Tony had gained 3lbs in the few weeks since being at the hospital and Ivy was pretty impressed.  

“High school flashback.” Tony winked, clicked his mouth and gave Ivy playful finger-guns.

“So you really are always this cheeky?” Ivy patted on the examination table, Tony rolled his brows seductively before unbuttoning his shirt. He shifted into a comfortable position on the table before Ivy began a physical check. Gently pressing into various parts of Tony’s stomach to test positioning, firmness and other important characteristics, “Everything feels as it should.”

“That’s always the goal.” He replied slyly.

“Treat the doctor with a bit of respect, DiNozzo. After all, she could ask you for a rectal exam.”

Ivy smiled thankfully up at Gibbs, “I’ll be shutting up now.” He made a zipping gesture and threw away a pretend key to lock his mouth from talking any more tripe that could get him in trouble.  

Squirting some lubricant gel onto Tony’s stomach, Ivy started the ultrasound. “Your baby looks incredibly healthy, well defined features- toes, arms, nose, lips…” She read out as she moved the wand around.

“It’s so big already.” Tony whispered hoarsely. Gibbs patted the boy’s shoulder, showing his support. Gibbs hadn’t been interested in having any more children, so it had been quite some time in-between seeing such magic on screen. Often thinking of DiNozzo like a son, today made him especially proud.

“I can’t tell from this picture as to what the gender is, but we should know by the next time I see you. So we’ll just listen to the heart,” The baby’s heart echoed around the room, she timed it for a while as Tony and Gibbs took in the rhythm in silence. “It’s perfectly normal.”

“I must have something in my eye because-“ Tony coughed, trying to sober up before bawling. He sniffed the snot back up and padded the tears from the corner of his eyes.

“I’ll print you out a copy while you get dressed.” Ivy gave Tony a few paper towels to dry up with before getting dressed again. “Before you go, and I’m sure you’ll probably be desperate anyway, I need you to fill this up.” Ivy handed Tony a pot to take to the bathroom.  “Unless you have any questions, I’ll be happy to see you again in six-eight weeks.”

“Sounds like a plan.” After a much needed relief, he dropped the specimen off to a nurse.

Tony and Gibbs headed straight to work having not long after leaving received a phone call from Ducky saying that he’d finished his autopsy and was ready to discuss his findings. Yesterday afternoon they’d been called to a nearby bar where a sailor had been bludgeoned to death. Early speculation guessed his death to be the outcome of a drunken drawl.

Gibbs had left McGee and Ziva the job of scouring through the CCTV footage sent over by the bar and from the street camera exactly opposite. With high hopes, Gibbs expected to come back to answers and a solid case. After all, this wasn’t at face value, a difficult case.

Gibbs took the elevator all the way to autopsy but Tony jumped off part way and into the bullpen.

“How'd it go?” McGee asked, pausing his footage. “Ducky told us that you had a doctor’s appointment today.”

“He did, did he? Well, everything is perfect-amundo.” He replied, throwing his pack onto the floor. “Don’t suppose you’ve found anything yet, NcNosey?” Tony asked, drawing the conversation away from his private life.

McGee stifled his stutter, “No...not yet.”

“Then let’s get back to work, chop, chop.”

Sure enough, McGee found a piece of footage, whilst dark and from a weird angle, Abby was able to brighten the image, triangulate, and work her magic. With a good enough picture, they were able to compare it to one of the suspects they’d questioned early on in the investigation. A few phone calls and a bolo later, they’d had a report of the suspects car parked outside of his mother’s condo. The team geared up and raced over, to catch their perp before he fled.

Gibbs took the nice approach and knocked on the front door while Ziva and McGee covered the back. Nothing was getting out of the house unless it jumped from an upstairs window.

Just like before, the shipmen’s mother answered the door, “Officers, I’m afraid that you’ve just missed my son. He left in such a hurry...is he in trouble?”

Gibbs was inclined to agree, “Mind if we search the place?” His gut needed to satisfy that the son has in fact ran away.

“Sure! Like I said, he up and left, I had lunch in the oven.” Gibbs and Tony moved through the house, tackling upstairs, in wardrobes and cupboards. Sure enough the son had left and abandoned his car in the driveway. “Is my Pete in trouble?” His mother asked.

“Do you know where we might find him? A friends? A favourite hangout?” Tony prodded.

“Would you like some sandwiches, the ham is almost ready? I’ve got pie too. You boys like cherry?” Tony’s mouth began to salivate. All he'd eaten were a few slices of dry toast. Now his nausea had packed in, he was ravenous. Passing up a hearty lunch and pie seemed almost criminal. He looked desperately over at Gibbs, awaiting his approval. 

“No thank you ma’am. Now, if you could answer the question.” Gibbs reiterated.

“Sorry, he’s usually out in the woods. When he’s scared or nervous he retreats to a tree house him and his Pa made when he was little.” She sighed, her stalling tactics hadn’t worked. She loved her son but he couldn’t hide forever. “Whatever he’s done wrong, he didn’t mean to. He’s a good kid.”

“We’ll be in touch.” Gibbs nodded his head before leading out. “Ziva!” The others came running back to regroup. “We're headed into the woods. He can't have gotten far on foot. We're looking for a treehouse, keep your eyes peeled.”

The house backed onto a patch of public woodland full of dense trees and shrubbery. With any luck they’ll find Pete without all contracting poison oak infections.

Sure enough, as his mother had told them, there was a poorly constructed tree-house in the middle of the woods. With a nailed on peg ladder, mold infested walls, torn tarp roofing, and smashed windows. The paneling was covered in graffiti and crude pictures – obviously a hotspot for vandalism and anti-social behaviour.

“Why would anyone want to spend time here?” Ziva asked as they approached. “Peter Davis? NCIS. We have you surrounded, please vacate the tree. You are under arrest.” She yelled.

Pete peeked out of the doorway with his hands above his head. The man was obviously very sweaty and overly anxious. “I’m coming down.” His hands quivered so much that he almost dropped the last three steps. “I’m sorry. It was an accident.”

Tony grabbed Pete’s hands and forced them into cuffs. The kid was read his rights and together they trekked back to the car. Back at NCIS Pete gave a sworn statement of confession, acknowledging his wrong doings. Tony assured Pete that the judge would go easy on him for telling the truth and given the nature of the accident, hopefully he should receive a lesser sentence. Or at least the idea made Pete less anxious and more compliant.

Tony returned to his desk to a phone call, “You’ve reached Special Agent Anthony DiNozzo.” Tony heard breathing along the line, without any evidence as to who was on the other end, the sound made the hairs on his arm stand on end. “Who is this?” Tony asked once more. After several moments of heavy breathing, he hung up the phone. The call gave him the willies.

“What was that about?” McGee wondered.

“Probably somebody’s husband, by the look on his face.” Ziva teased. “Or somebody’s wife.” Came . quick whip.

“Neither...” He shook off the funk, “must have been a wrong number.” The day carried on as normal, or as normal as possible. He managed to eat, throw up twice after striking out with a local sheriff, her perfume had been so potent and overpowering that it send him straight to the can. Then he sat half dead at his desk all afternoon. McGee brought him a hot chocolate to cheer him up and for a while it did before Gibbs dumped a load of paperwork on Tony’s desk that needed to be corrected or amended.

At 5 Gibbs sent the team home, with no open cases, they could use the rest. Almost like the caller had anticipated the early night, Tony’s phone rang again. “Special Agent Anthony DiNozzo,” He had almost forgotten the call from earlier when a familiar breathing echoed through the phone. “Who is this, it’s not funny, it’s weird.”

“You should go by Anthony more often.” Tony froze, phone glued to his ear.

“How did you get this number.” Gibbs approached the desk, concerned. There was only one voice that would have had Tony so startled.

“I have my connections. Before you cut me off I just wanted to make sure that you and the little tyke were okay. I heard about your little stay in hospital after we met last.”

“Call this number again and I'll kill you.” Tony hung up. He took a deep breath and scratched his head with frustration. It should have been over, he should be safe. If there really are connections out there, then he ought to be worried. Tony slammed his fist down angrily before he ripped the phone from the wall and threw it against the floor. The phone fell off and it’s casing cracked. He stomped on the unit for good measure. It felt therapeutic.

“Was that him?” McGee muttered, shocked by the display.

“You sit down, McGee get him some water.” McGee nodded and ran to the water cooler. Gibbs took the stairs two-by-two up to Vance's office. His secretary had reached up out of her chair and called after him. “Leon, a word.”

“By all means. What’s on your mind?”

“McAllister,” Vance squinted as if to ask, ‘what about him?'. “I want him in solitary. Put a guard on him if you have to.”

“What’s he done now?” Vance glared, it was rare to see Gibbs so worked up.

“He’s contacting Tony from the inside. He’s not safe.” Ordinarily he could swear that Tony was safe in his own hands, after all, he’s an experienced agent and nothing really sticks to him that hard. Aside from himself, Tony was an emotional rock. However, the pregnancy put Tony in a delicate situation. Gibbs had been there, wanting to kill for his own child, but he couldn’t let Tony go through the same heartache.

“I'll pull some strings.” Vance would have the villain thrown in a death row cell and locked away from all of civilisation. It would be the least he could do.

Tony slept at Gibbs' that night, and this time he need not be persuaded. Gibbs made it abundantly clear that his house was a refuge. He’d been stingy about sharing the house with Tony before but with circumstances as they were, he left his door wide open. Except, that night he locked all of the doors and latched each and every window.

He cooked the boy a hearty stew with dumplings rather than a coal burnt steak, and replaced the linen in the spare bedroom.

Through it all, Tony remained eerily silent.

He tossed and turned all night, his eyes heavy and drowsy but unable to cross the bridge into deep sleep. Eventually he gave up and got out of bed. Instead he poured himself a glass of water and sat at the dining room table. Not particularly very thirsty, he gazed lost at the tumbler. Nothing really ran through his mind, in fact this was the most silent moment he’d ever experienced.

Gibbs missed very little, especially in his own home. “you alright?” he pulled up a chair.

“Yeah. Yeah, I'm alright.” His voice raspy and breathless.

“I’ll take your word for it.” Tony looked and sounded like a hollow version of himself, Gibbs respected his agent far too much to pry. Yet his tone was sarcastic enough for Tony to know that he didn’t believe a word.

“We’ll get through this, right? I don’t want to be hopeful and it all fall apart.” Tony finally replied though a clenched jaw.

“I won’t sit here and tell you everything’s okay. Nobody knows. You just have to keep moving.” Tony paused to smirk. He’d forgotten exactly to whom he was speaking to. Gibbs, the man who had a career, a wife, a family – almost all of which wiped away. How the man still stood was beyond comprehension.

“I’m not as strong as you, Boss.” Gibbs was like a father figure, somebody he looked up to. Tony was by all means used to heartache but nothing like this.

“Spend your whole time worrying about something that hasn’t happened yet, you’ll miss out on the good times. There’s not a single parent who hasn’t been scared at least once.”

“Apart from you of course, you’re Gibbs.” Gibbs is a recognised symbol of strength and bravery.

Just as he said it he realised that Gibbs must have been this squishy and nervous person before life hit him. Losing his family is what turned him into this emotional cripple, he was unlikely like this from birth.

 “Especially me.” Hell even Marine Snipers are afraid to start a family. Finding somebody who loves you and co-managing how to raise a child is a tough job. One that any parent struggles with. “Come on, off to bed.” Gibbs tucked away the chair. “You’re no good to me tired.”

“Loud and clear.” Tony followed closely behind. Both taking their own detours from the top of the stairs. Gibbs slipped off to his bedroom and Tony to the bathroom to pee, something he did all too frequently. “Just got to listen to Gibbs. We’ll get through this, even if it means moving to Canada.” He spoke to the baby.