To say Tony was in a state of shock would have been one of the greatest understatements of all time. His emotions were swirling around, conflicted. He remembered Stacey Fuller, the three months they'd spent together before he left Ohio. Neither of them had wanted a long-distance relationship, and so they mutually agreed to split up. Tony had heard nothing from her since then. No calls, no letters, not even the slightest suggestion that she might have been pregnant. If she had wanted nothing to do with Tony, as her lack of contact suggested, why would Stacey name her – their – daughter after him? Why would she tell Antonia – Annie – to find him in an emergency?
Part of Tony wanted to run for the hills, and while he wasn't proud of that part, it was there. Part of him was fiercely angry that something so important had been kept from him for so long. And then there was the part of him that saw his mother's eyes in that young woman and wanted to love her instantly, though he didn't really know her at all. What he did know was that she had run all the way from Columbus, Ohio, to DC to find him, and to escape her stepfather. Even if she wasn't his daughter, she deserved all the help Tony could provide.
Stacey was some kind of hot-shot consultant now, and traveled a lot for her work – a lot. She apparently could be out of the country for months at a time. From the way Annie described her, she was a good mom when she was home, but when she wasn't home, there was the stepfather issue. His name was Lance, and everything Annie said about him made Tony want to refer to him as "Dick." He had been a charmer at first, sweeping Stacey off her feet and marrying her when Annie was seven, but as time had gone on, he'd shown his true colors. Lance resented the fact that Stacey had kept her maiden name for professional purposes, and probably even that Annie was another man's child.
Annie had tried to hide her tears when she talked about the way Lance always made everything her fault or her mother's, how he talked down to them, and the other emotional abuse he had heaped upon them. Annie used to stay with her grandparents when Stacey was out of town, but Lance had put a stop to that a couple of years ago, insisting Annie was "too much of a burden." Stacey promised her quietly that as soon as she got the promotion she was after, which would leave her in Columbus full-time, that they would leave. But things had gotten too bad in the meantime. Lance had hit Annie for the first time, and though he left no marks, Annie was sure he'd do it again. She used the Internet to find Tony, and took the money she had saved to buy a Greyhound ticket to DC.
Tony could tell that Annie was angry down deep, but mostly overwhelmed. That was okay, because Tony was livid enough for the both of them. He wanted to find Lance, and beat the crap out of him. Instead of catching the next flight to Columbus and doing so, however, Tony reluctantly resigned himself to the fact that he was going to have to go about this the professional way. He got Stacey's contact information from Annie, and took the girl down to Abby's lab, hoping Abby wasn't too busy to keep an eye on her for a few minutes.
"You'll like Abby," Tony told Annie in the elevator. "She's a Goth."
Annie smiled, then gave Tony a suspicious look. "She's not all emo, is she?"
Tony shook his head. "Oh, no. She's happier than most of us." Unless one got between her and someone or something she loved. "She'd probably eat your stepdad for breakfast, though."
Annie perked up. "Cool."
Abby's music was blaring when they walked into the lab, and she was bouncing in front of her computer in time to the beat.
"Abby!" Tony yelled above the music. "I brought you a new friend!"
Abby turned around, then waved and turned the music down to a reasonable level. "Oh, hi. I'm Abby."
"This is Annie," Tony told Abby. "Can you keep her busy for a few minutes while I make a phone call?"
"Of course!" Abby extended her hand to Annie, who shook it. "I'm just waiting on Major Mass Spectrometer right now."
"Major who?" Annie asked.
"She gives her lab equipment ranks," Tony explained. . "We're a military institution around here."
Annie giggled. "Cool." Her eyes widened as Abby turned her head and her spiderweb tattoo became obvious. "Ooh, cool tattoo."
"Thanks!" Abby smiled. "I have a bunch more, but..." She caught Tony's eye. "...But I should probably not encourage you to do the same! Right, Tony?"
"Right." Tony nodded. He didn't mind; he loved Abby the way she was. Still, Stacey might have different opinions on body art.
"That's okay; I hate needles." Annie looked around at the various lab equipment. "You don't have to draw blood for a DNA test, right? Can you just swab my cheek like they do on TV?"
"Of course we can," Abby assured her, then looked to Tony. "Why do we need a DNA test?"
All things considered, Tony realized, it was probably not a bad idea. "Well, uh..." He wasn't ashamed of Annie in the least – she was a brave kid – but he had hoped for more time to be able to explain things to his friends. More details from Stacey, and maybe some explanations. He decided to play it casual. Abby knew him well enough to read into it. "Turns out I'm a dad. Abby, meet my daughter."
Abby squealed and hugged Tony, then Annie, who seemed happy to be hugged. Poor kid probably wasn't hugged nearly often enough. "That's so cool!"
Annie's face lit up at the acknowledgment, and then even more at Abby's excitement. "Annie's short for Antonia. I keep thinking about dropping Annie, though, and using Antonia. It sounds more grown up. And, you know, I'm named after him."
Tony smiled, though he desperately hoped he'd be able to live up to the trust and flat-out hero worship Annie had heaped upon him. She had an image of him in her mind, and Tony didn't want to disappoint her when she got to know him. "Whatever you want to be called is fine. Annie's a good name, too."
"I'm still thinking about it." Annie shrugged. "So, how long does the DNA testing usually take?"
"Couple of days," Abby said, "but I can put a put a rush on it and get it in one."
Annie looked a little disappointed. "That long, huh?"
"Yeah, TV makes it seem so much faster." Abby looked to Tony. "So, do you want me to run it?"
"Probably a good idea." Tony nodded. But she looked more like his mother the more he looked at her, and he didn't suspect Stacey had any reason to lie. Speaking of Stacey, he really did need to call her and make sure she knew Annie was okay. "I'm gonna talk to her mom while the time zones are in our favor. You two okay here?"
"We'll be fine," Abby said. "You go do what you need to do."
By the time Tony left, Abby was already giving Annie a tour of the lab. Tony was mentally composing in his head what he was going to say to Stacey. He wanted to give her a piece of his mind for leaving her daughter with Lance, but he had to go about it gently. No sense burning bridges, though he knew he had every right to be angry with her for keeping his daughter from him all these years.
"Tony?" Ziva asked as Tony arrived back at his desk. There was both curiosity and concern in her tone. She would have been able to overhear Tony's conversation with Annie, and Tony knew she was probably full of questions of her own. Questions to which Tony probably lacked answers.
Tony waved a hand at his partner. "Later, Ziva. I need to talk to her mom."
"All right," Ziva said, but her expression told him she would not be put off for long. Tony was just glad Gibbs had been in a meeting with the director and McGee was off unscrambling someone's computer snafu when Annie arrived. He had no answers for anyone right now. "We will talk later, then."
Tony nodded, then took a deep breath and picked up the phone, dialing the international number he'd scribbled down on a Post-It note. Two rings, then an answer. "This is Stacey Fuller."
"Hi, Stacey." Tony wanted to pretend it was a wrong number and back out, but he had business to take care of, so he pressed on. Being a responsible adult was not always fun. "This is Tony DiNozzo."
Stacey gasped. "Tony." The was a long pause, then, "Annie found you, didn't she?"
"Yeah, she sure did," Tony confirmed. "She's safe here at NCIS."
"Oh, thank God," Stacey said. "Lance told me she'd run away; I've been so worried about her. She left her cell phone at home."
Probably intentionally, Tony figured. "She's all right. But I do need to talk to you about this Lance..."