No Escaping the Past When You Don't Want to Let It Go

He downed the shot in front of him. He'd lost count of which one it was. It didn't really matter. Not now. Now he only wanted to forget.

Forget the things he never said. Forget the times he let pass without fully appreciating them. Forget, everything, at least for a little while.

Yep. Time didn't help erase the doubts that he missed out on something special. Work only took so much of his day and the nights found him wondering what he should have done differently.

Only his amber friend could chase away the demons that haunted his sober, lonely hours.

He thought of his boss and his habit of drinking alone in his basement. Maybe he could finally understand his reasons for imbibing so often. He certainly had his own share of past regrets to drown.

He thought of his father, no stranger to having one or two too many and forgetting the mistakes he'd made along the way.

His friends from college seemed to put their drinking days behind them. Sure most had careers and families that filled their time.

His coworkers all had something too. Even Abby had her nuns to help fill her time away from her lab. Tim had Delilah. Jimmy had Breena and they would most likely have a family of their own soon, too. Ducky… well he wasn't sure what exactly he did when not at work, but he never seemed to be missing out on anything. Ziva had found her own peace, though she had left them to discover it. Vance may have lost his wife, but he still had his kids who were even more dependent on him as their sole parent.

He'd probably missed the boat on having children. That had never bothered him before. Not having a great childhood of his own, he could never see himself as father and raising a child.

No drinking was his only solution. He'd sober up by morning. Some orange juice and aspirins for breakfast would take care of the headache, until the booze in the evening eased the heartache.

He didn't notice the stool next to him become occupied. He stared absently into the liquid in his glass. It wasn't until the voice ordered a drink that he closed his eyes wondering if his demons were playing a trick on him.

He slowly angled his head to see who was beside him, not expecting to really see anyone there. But there she sat a look of sadness on her face as she regarded him in his current condition.

It had been a long time since he'd seen her. A long time since he let her believe he never cared for her. She'd believed him then. The look of hurt and betrayal still haunted him.

"Hello, Tony," she whispered.

He sat up as straight as he could and turned to face her. He reached out his hand to touch her cheek. It was warm to his cold skin. "You're real," he almost laughed.

She held her hand over his to keep the connection. "Yes. I had to come back. It took some time to find you.

"You could've found me at NCIS," he stared into her eyes. The focus hard to maintain.

"No. I couldn't go back there. This," she indicated them sitting together, "had to be personal."

He nodded. He had too much to lose to risk meeting her in front of Gibbs and the others.

"Did you need to slap me?" he asked. Knowing it was the least he deserved.

"No. I would have if I didn't let time take away the sting," she smiled softly.

He loved her smile. He loved her eyes. He loved her laugh. Closing his eyes he told himself he loved her.

She seemed to read her thoughts as she took her glass and sipped at the wine. She had come to believe he lied to her, but not when he first told her he loved her. That had been true. She had known it then. Why had it been so easy to believe him when he said he didn't mean it?

He watched her drink her wine no longer thirsty for his own drink. He had to know why, after all these years, she came back. Why now?

"Jeanne," he reveled in the sound of her name from his lips.

She turned to look at him. "Tony," she responded.

"Tell me," he implored.

"I've done a lot of growing in the past few years. I've tried dating, but none of the men have been able to make me feel the way you made me feel."

Tony wasn't sure what to think or say. He felt the same about the way she made him feel. Before he knew it he told her, "I've never found what we had with anyone else either."

She smiled shyly then. She had hoped he be receptive to seeing her again. His admission was more than she'd hoped to hear.

"Guess the question then is what do we do about it?" she asked.

"It's a good question," Tony looked at his glass. Knowing he had to keep his senses he pushed the still half-filled glass toward the bartender. When he reached for the bottle to top it off, Tony shook his head. "I'd like some water, please."

The bartender gave a half smile glad to see someone had finally reached out to stop his costumer from needing another cab ride home.

Tony took the glass of water and drank down half of it. He took a deep breath and held out his hand palm side up hoping that she would put her hand in his.

She looked down at his waiting hand and tentatively gave him her own. She closed her eyes as his fingers closed around her hand and squeezed.

"Let's go somewhere a bit more private," he suggested.

She nodded her agreement. Before she could pay for her drink, he spoke to the bartender pointing to her glass, "Put that on my card."

"You got it," he gave a real smile. Speaking to Jeanne he said, "Take care of him."

"I will," she returned his smile. "For as long as he lets me."

Hand in hand they exited the bar to head for a future neither one could predict.