This is a companion to my story 'Letters from Tony' – you don't need to have read that to follow this one. One of the things 'revealed' in the first story was that Tony had written a number of resignation letters which had never been handed in. This new story deals with the fallout if Gibbs ever read any of those letters. Obviously I don't own any of these characters. Spoilers for some episodes (but I haven't seen season 10 yet so nothing very new).

Gibbs

You know that I've always looked up to you. Hell, I even like you – I wouldn't have hugged you otherwise when it turned out you and Ziva hadn't been blown up. Might be truer to say that I liked you, past tense.

I understand that you wanted to come back, take back the team but did you have to do it that way? Did you piss on all our desks as well, just to make sure we knew that it was your territory? I guess you probably didn't because you seem to be nicer to the janitorial crew than you are to us. Correct that, to me. Maybe I'll apply to be a cleaner, see if that makes you see me as a person. Don't worry, I won't. That would mean being in the same building as you and I don't think that's a good idea. I'd quite like to carry on being a federal agent but being fired for decking my supervisor might not look good on my resumé so I'm just going to hand in my notice and leave quietly.

It's been an experience, Jethro. I'm just not sure it was a good one.

Tony

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Gibbs

I always thought this would be a tough letter to write but it seems pretty simple after all.

I'll send the paperwork direct to Director Vance but I guess you deserve some explanation about why I'm giving my two weeks' notice. You'll think it's stupid but, as you've got a rule about apologies, I'm not going to apologise. You talk a lot ... no, scratch that, obviously you don't talk a lot about anything, but you make it clear that you think respect is important and that it has to be earned. So today, when you called me 'bubble-butt' in front of everyone you were either breaking one of your rules or you don't respect me.

I laughed it off at the time: it's what everyone expects me to do but I thought about it afterwards and I realised I'm tired of laughing things off, presenting my shiny happy face to the world. I looked for the twinkle in your eye in case it was a joke but your face was a twinkle free zone. You saw an opportunity to put the boot in and you took it.

I won't put 'my supervisor called me a 'bubble-butt' on the leaving form. Despite what you seem to think, I do have some self respect. I'll put something like 'feeling the need for a new challenge' after nine years with NCIS.

I'm not ungrateful, Gibbs, you've taught me a lot but it's time to leave before you teach me that I'm useless. I've always learned your lessons but I don't want to learn this one.

Semper fi

Tony

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Gibbs

I'm tempted to send you an email but I want you to read this so I'll print it out and put it on your desk. Have you got a rule we don't know about? I guess you must have and it probably runs something like, 'do as I say, not as I do'. That would explain why you went off the grid to 'rescue' Maddie – congrats on that, by the way, went well, didn't it? That would explain why you didn't work as a team.

Something I've always wanted to know, did you and Mike Franks ever have a third on your team? Because I can't imagine what it would be like to be stuck permanently between the two of you.

I'm being unfair. You did keep one of your rules, 'don't apologise'. Although I guess you don't think there was anything to say sorry for. You certainly don't seem to think there's anything to say 'thank you' for either. Not that I did it so you could be grateful. I did it because instinct kicked in. I did what needed to be done but Gibbs, you more than lived up to that second B in your name. What was so difficult about saying 'thank you, Tony'? If you didn't want to thank me for saving your life, you could have said thank you for saving Maddie's. I guess it's something to do with having to be the alpha male. Enough. I'm tired of trying to find excuses for you, of trying to work out what goes on in your head, of being pathetically grateful for a head slap.

I'll get to the point because you've probably lost interest by now. This is my resignation. Fin.

Tony

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The letter fell from Gibbs' hand and drifted down to join the others on the floor. Gibbs just stood there at a complete loss. For almost the first time in his life he had no idea what to do or how to feel.

Tony was in Columbus for the weekend, a twenty year anniversary get together with former students. He had been driving his co-workers mad for weeks as his excitement over the re-union grew. Actually, Ducky seemed to have enjoyed listening to Tony's reminiscences and had joined in with several of his own. Abby had smiled indulgently and her happiness, sweet person that she was, had seemed to feed off Tony's. Ziva and McGee had been more irritated but Gibbs could tell that a lot of that was put on as an excuse to tease Tony. McGee was probably already taking notes and planning how to arrange his own twenty year anniversary.

It was Gibbs who had been most obviously irritable about the whole thing but this was unsurprising; in Tony's opinion he had never seemed to grasp the importance of college life and friendships. He sometimes managed to give the impression that the only friendships that counted were those which were formed in foxholes under fire. 'Frivolous' was probably the last word that would ever be used to describe Gibbs and, to him, Tony's endless chatter about jello shots, wet tee shirt contests and football games was trivial and frivolous so he had tuned it out rather than listen and give in to grumbles.

So Tony had gone to bond with his buckeyes and the rest of the team were bracing themselves for his return. Early the next morning Gibbs had got a call from Tony's upstairs neighbour to say that some of her pipes had burst overnight and she was afraid that water might have spilled into Tony's apartment below. Gibbs had been grateful for a call which took away from a day of dreaded paperwork so had headed willingly to Tony's place to do some damage assessment. He hadn't expected to find the 'paperwork' there which had rocked his world.

Gibbs had let himself in with his spare key and looked around for damage. He was relieved to see that the water had missed Tony's piano and the DVD collection but tutted when he saw that it had dripped on to Tony's antique bureau. He sighed over the damage to the wood and automatically began to think how it could be repaired. He pulled the top drawers out to see if their contents had been damaged; one of them seemed to have already swollen a little so he had to pull it hard. It came free with a jerk and the contents flew to the floor. Cursing under his breath, he bent down to retrieve the papers and stopped as he saw that one of them was a letter with his name on it.

It would have been simple enough to have ignored it. Stuffed it back in the drawer. Gone into the kitchen, got some towels and mopped up the water. But who would have done that? As it turned out, not Gibbs. He had read the letter and then, with a horrified fascination, had picked up another ... and another. Letters to him from Tony. Letters of sadness, of anger, of bewilderment ... of farewell.

Gibbs was a realist. He knew that sometimes he was difficult to live with, to work with but he also knew that sometimes he inspired loyalty in those who could see past his gruff exterior to the dedicated person beneath. Part of him had thought that those perceptive people were the 'good' people, committed, like him, to justice and fairness. As a marine he had endured danger and discomfort to serve his country and somehow he thought his agents should endure the discomfort of a 'less than touchy feely' boss for the same reason.

And, unlikely as it might seem, he had thought that Tony was the one who understood that most. Tony who had somehow managed to turn away from the glittering but shallow way of life of his father; Tony, who he suspected could have found easier ways to make a good living but chose instead to put his life on the line day after day; Tony who had been with him the longest and had turned down at least one opportunity to move up the ladder. Surely that Tony, his Tony, his loyal St Bernard understood how it had to be? And he remembered that there had been times when Tony had stood up to him and objected. He still remembered the raw anger during the Domino affair when Tony had shouted at him in Autopsy. He still remembered Tony's calm insistence that he would carry on seeing EJ in the face of Gibbs' outright disapproval.

As he stood there, looking at the litter of papers on the floor, he also remembered the times when Tony had come to him for comfort and solace. Cowboy steaks over his open fire. Bourbon in the basement. Companionable silences; or at least that what's Gibbs had thought they were and he had taken real pleasure in the thought that talkative Tony could sit quietly and happily with him. Had he got everything wrong?

He remembered each of the incidents in Tony's letters and he now felt ashamed at what he had done but he knew that he hadn't felt that shame at the time. He had thought he was demonstrating his usual strong leadership when he stormed back into his role as supervisor. He had felt embarrassed about the whole Maddie affair: anxious that his team would think he had been sentimental, emotional and aware that he had broken a slew of his own rules so he had simply ignored the whole thing.

Gibbs also thought that perhaps he shouldn't try to crack jokes around DiNozzo. How many times had his attempts at humor fallen flat? He remembered Tony's face when they had retrieved him from the sewers and he had told McGee that, 'too bad, DiNozzo was back and he'd have to give him his desk back'. Or the time when he had been chained to Jeffrey White and Gibbs had made, what he thought, was a mood lightening remark that he could see how much Tony 'had liked the guy he had just shot'. On both occasions Tony had looked stricken but he had never called Gibbs on it. He wondered if there were other letters in the bureau about those episodes.

Gibbs pulled himself back to the present. He scooped the letters up from the floor and put them back in the drawer. He removed all the drawers and left them on the floor so that they could have a chance to dry out. He looked around to see if there was any other damage and then locked up. He went upstairs to Tony's neighbour both to reassure her that the damage was limited and to check that her leak really had been fixed. All that done, he went home and savagely chopped up wood for his fire.