Chapter two


He rode back to NCIS in his own car – they had been called straight to the scene this time, since it was the weekend and they were on call. He’d been at home, just back from his morning run, when his phone had gone off.

Emma slept on, which Tony could only be thankful for.

He received strange looks as he passed through the NCIS garage, the elevator, and finally the squad room, pushing a baby carrier. No one dared comment, as Tony glared at them before they had time to open their mouths. He didn’t have Gibbs’ icy, killing glare, but it did the trick with most people.

Except Abby, of course, who came bounding into the squad room with her usual energy and then some.

“Tony!” she said. “So it’s true – I mean, of course it’s true, Gibbs wouldn’t lie, but still – this is so unreal. I never thought I’d see you with a baby. It’s just not—you, you know.”

“Trust me, I know,” Tony said.

She craned her neck to look into the carrier. “Oh, she’s so cute – and really small. What is she, five months?”

“I don’t know, but I’m supposed to find out,” Tony said. “I’m here on desk duty and babysitting.”

“Oh, it’ll be fun,” Abby said. “Do you mind if I play with her for a little? I haven’t got anything from the crime scene yet to work with.”

Tony shrugged. “She’s probably safe at NCIS, so go ahead.”

Abby squealed and grabbed the handles of the baby carrier. Tony, rather glad to be rid of his sudden burden, headed for his desk. There was work to be done, records to check out, people to call.

An hour later, he sat up and suddenly realized that Abby had been gone with the kid for a bit too long. Knowing Gibbs would kill him if anything happened to the baby, he headed downstairs.

The lab was quiet. It was a bit freaky, because Abby’s lab was always loud and buzzing with energy. There were only a handful occasions that Tony could remember it being quiet, and none of those had been good.


“In here, Tony.”

Abby’s words were hushed. Tony walked through the lab down to the small office – and found Abby sitting in her chair, baby sleeping against her chest.

“She got hungry, so I fed her, and then she got tired, and she just fell asleep,” Abby said. “Maybe I should’ve brought her up to you?”

“No, no, that’s fine,” Tony said. “I’m sure you can handle her better than me anyway. It took me three tries just to get the diaper on right.”

Abby giggled, quietly as not to disturb Emma. “Well, diapers are probably tougher than mixing formula. And besides, you’ll learn. How long will you be watching her?”

“Not long, I hope,” Tony said. “Until the case is closed and the bastard who killed her parents is caught.”

The elevator dinged and opened, and Gibbs, McGee and Ziva strode into the room, carrying bags of evidence. There were shell casings, blood samples, dusted fingerprints, a video camera, and a selection of other evidence.

The three stopped short at the sight of Abby and Emma.

“Forming a complete family, yes?” Ziva asked.

“Oh, I’m not mommy,” Abby said. “I think I’m more of a big-sister type.”

“Hand her over, Abs,” Gibbs said. “Tony is in charge of her and you’ve got work to do.”

“But Gibbs, she’s sleeping.”

Gibbs gave her a look and she sighed, but handed over the child into Tony’s waiting arms. Tony held her at arm’s length at first, still unsure of how to hold a baby correctly. She seemed awfully small and fragile in his hands, and he was fairly certain that she’d break if he held on too tight.

“So, what’ve you got for me, Gibbs?” Abby asked, getting up and practically sprinting back to her lab.

Gibbs, McGee and Ziva followed her. Tony looked at the baby. She was still sleeping, mouth hanging slightly open, eyes moving slightly beneath closed eyelids. She looked rather like a doll, with her father’s dark hair and perfect skin, and Tony frowned, trying to get himself to understand that this was really a little human, a person in its own right.

“DiNozzo, you gonna stand there all day?”

Gibbs woke him from his reverie, and Tony tried his best to place Emma comfortably against his body. She felt warm and strange.

“On your six, boss,” Tony said, though not nearly as loudly as he usually did, and went into the lab.

“What’ve you got for me?”

“Our male victim is Jonathan Brown,” Tony said. “Been in the Navy since he was eighteen, and just turned thirty-one. Grew up with his parents and younger sister. No criminal record, and his best friend says he’s always been a ‘good guy’. He doesn’t have very high security clearance, and nothing he’s worked with has been classified.”

“And Mrs. Brown?” Gibbs asked.

“Mrs. Mathilda Brown is another story,” Tony said. “Born Mathilda Johnson, parents druggies, been thrown around in the system, living in a bunch of different foster homes. She had a juvie record, and when she was twenty-two she did time for drug possession. Met the lieutenant four years ago, and had been clean since. The two married two years ago, and their daughter was born in July, five months and fifteen days ago.”

While following Mathilda Brown’s paper trail had been easy, finding people he could talk to about her, who’d known her in her childhood and adolescence, had been far harder. Very few of them still had a home and a phone number.

“Was she involved with any particularly bad people?” Gibbs asked.

“Possibly,” Tony said. “Her time in prison was cut short because she worked with the police on getting to one of the local drug lords, with whom she’d apparently been in a relationship.”

“Sounds like a lead to me,” Gibbs said.

He barked out orders, Abby already immersed in her work. Ziva would go with Gibbs to Mathilda Brown’s old neighborhood, and McGee would check the Browns’ bank accounts. The two hurried out, and Gibbs turned to Tony.

Tony only barely managed to hold back the whining – he wanted to go check out the neighborhood too. He didn’t say anything though.

“She’s your responsibility,” he said.

“Yeah, I know,” Tony muttered.

“Abby’s fine a little now and then, same with Ducky, as long as she stays at NCIS – but no one else,” Gibbs said. “We don’t know what we’re dealing with and if they’re after her. People have gotten in here before, and I’m not taking chances. Got it?”

“Got it,” Tony said.

“Good,” Gibbs said. “I’ll have someone run out to get some baby formula for her.”

“I got a little from the Browns’, but I guess we’ll run out pretty quickly,” Tony said. “What do I do?”

“Dig into Mathilda Brown’s background,” Gibbs said. “Check her phone records, see if she’s had any contact with the drug lord she used to date.”

Emma sighed in her sleep. She was completely relaxed, warm and soft. Tony gazed down at her. She had no idea she’d just lost both her parents; it would be years before she truly understood that. For now, she was perfectly content in a stranger’s arms.

He looked up to find Gibbs watching them, an odd look in the blue eyes. Tony wondered if he saw his own daughter in Emma, or if it was just compassion for the child – or perhaps it was a combination.

“You okay, boss?” Tony asked quietly.

Gibbs gave a tiny shake of his head, bringing himself back to the present, and strode away without another word. Tony sighed, wishing he could understand what went on in that brain of Gibbs’. It was hard enough being in love with his boss – having Gibbs gaze at Tony the way he just had, that was simply unfair.

“You two are such a pretty picture,” Abby said, flashing past him as she hurried between machines, sorting through evidence. “She even kind of looks like you, around the nose and the lips—”

“Abby—” Tony said.

Abby grinned. “Go upstairs and work before the boss-man goes crazy. Emma’ll give you a get out of jail free card, but it’ll only work to a certain point.”

“I’d happily work all day and night long, in exchange for not taking care of her,” Tony said.

“Oh, give her a shot,” Abby said, all the while studying Mathilda Brown’s shirt. “You might find you want kids after all.”

“I really, seriously doubt it.”

“Go,” she said, smiling.

He put Emma back in the baby carrier, feeling uncomfortable and clumsy, and tucked her in beneath a blanket. He wondered if she’d be too warm, and if she was, how was he supposed to be able to tell? Would she scream? And if she did, would he know why? He really didn’t think so.

She slept for another two hours upstairs, in the busy and rather loud squad room. He glanced at her every now and then, lying in the carrier that stood right next to his desk. He’d slept through the noise of the squad room on a few occasions, but he would’ve thought a baby was easier to rouse. Apparently not.

Once she did wake, she started screaming her head off yet again. McGee winced at the sound.

“Perhaps you should take her into one of the conference rooms,” he said. “People are trying to work here.”

Tony glared hotly at him. “I am trying to work here.”

“She’s your responsibility,” McGee said. “And you can’t possibly work in this noise.”

He couldn’t, but that was beside the point. Tony desperately wanted someone else to take over the care of the baby – after five hours with the kid, Tony yearned to hand it over to any willing person. He was not parenting material.

But he knew Gibbs would have his head if he didn’t take care of the thing. Grinding his teeth, he stood up, grabbed the bag of necessities, and pushed the carrier out of the room and into the first available conference room.

“What do you want?” he snapped at the kid, but his words were barely heard over the loud wails.

He put the bag on the table, and then bent down and picked the kid up.

She was red-faced from screaming and didn’t look very pretty anymore at all. However, as Tony picked her up and held her, wishing all the while for earplugs, she started to calm down.

“Yeah, that’s it,” Tony said. “Calm. Calm and easy. Breathing is good for you, you know. There’s this thing called oxygen, and it’s really nice.”

She sniffled and her face scrunched up as she thought about continuing to scream, but apparently her interest in Tony’s voice won out. She reached out, tiny hands grabbing fistfuls of Tony’s hair.

“That’s my hair,” Tony said. “Ow. Ow! Let go, you little brat. My hair needs to stay exactly where it is.”

Emma’s face crumbled again, and Tony hurried to rectify his tone.

“No, no, don’t cry,” he said. “You can hold onto my hair, just don’t cry. I have really good hearing, you know, and I’d like to keep it that way.”

It seemed that more than anything, the kid wanted attention. As long as Tony’s eyes were on her and he kept talking, she didn’t wail. Now, if only he could get any work done, or Gibbs would have his head.

However, as soon as he sat down, Emma protested at the lack of movement and attention. He quickly stood again, walking around the room and talking about the paintings, soon enough moving onto movies instead, because he didn’t really know anything about the paintings.

“You’re really too young to get any of the finer points of, well, anything,” Tony said to her, “but I’m sure I can find something that can entertain you. Or, well, maybe not. Maybe in a year or two. Yeah. Then we’ll start with—I don’t know, Teletubbies? They frighten me, but maybe you’ll like them—boss.”

“Doubt I’ll like Teletubbies, DiNozzo,” Gibbs said.

There was an amused smile on his lips as he leaned against the wall. Tony wondered how long Gibbs had been there – Tony and Emma had been turned the other way, looking out the window.

“Yeah,” Tony said. “Probably not. They sing. I think. And they’re bright colors. Probably not your thing.”

Gibbs snorted, then took a few steps further into the room. “You seem to have gotten a handle on her.”

“Not really,” Tony said. “You’re more than free to take her. I’m pretty sure she blew my hearing earlier.”

“She’s calm now,” Gibbs said.

“As long as I keep talking,” Tony said. “She’s probably the first female I’ve ever interacted with who’s been interested in what I have to say.”

He grinned, and Gibbs scoffed with amusement.

“Did you find anything about Mrs. Brown?” Tony asked.

Gibbs shrugged. “Seems she did stay clean after all. McGee checked their bank accounts, found nothing odd.”

“I managed to get a look at some of the phone records before little Miss Screamy stared,” Tony said. “There’s been five calls in the last month from the prison to the Brown residence, so she seems to have had some contact. Doesn’t mean it’s bad.”

“Anything else?” Gibbs asked.

“A few phone numbers that kept coming up,” Tony said. “I’ll check them as soon as I can get my hands free again. Unfortunately, it seems to be either my hands free and her screaming, or I’m tied down and she’s quiet.”

“Have McGee—”

“Take her?” Tony asked hopefully.

Gibbs gave him a look. “No, check the phone records. She’s yours; she seems to like you.”

“Can’t imagine why,” Tony muttered. “Kids don’t like me. It’s not normal.” He looked down at the child, who watched him with big eyes. He addressed her, “No, you’re not the least bit normal.”

She made a face at him.

“I’d say you’ve hit it off,” Gibbs said, throwing a smile at Tony that went straight south. Still chuckling, Gibbs left.

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