Jack had taken the news of his former boss attending the night with more grace than he'd been expecting. He kept his expression neutral, with a vague tone of interest, but didn't allow his own feelings for the other man come to the surface. He knew that the younger mans idea of family was skewered, and knew that he'd considered the Gunnery Sergeant a member of that family. If he wanted to try and reconcile some bit of that relationship, well, he wouldn't stand in the way. Though, his good behavior was only guaranteed so long as the Marines kept to his own. If he said or did anything that Jack didn't like than it would only be fair for the General to respond in kind.

When the night actually came around, they almost didn't think the man was going to show. They were well into their third hand before he arrived, and he settled into quietly leaning against the wall until the next game started. When he did join, he spent the next hand mostly keeping to himself, only returning the greetings that some who remembered him tossed his way. It wasn't until the hand after that he began to relax and begin joining in the various conversations going on around him.

He was the picture of politeness, if a bit quiet and gruff. He was the first to excuse himself, and Tony accompanied him out into the hallway to see him off. The man had been acting odd all night, and he wanted to make sure everything was okay despite the tension that was still lingering between them after the way Tony had departed. They hadn't gotten a chance to settle things with the volume level inside Abby's apartment, but still… "I'm glad you came." Tony stated once they were in the quietness of the hall.

Gibbs nodded slightly, brows a bit furrowed. "Me too." He grumbled lowly. "He seems like a good man." He said then, nodding back towards the door.

"He is." The younger agreed in reminiscence of their previous conversation. He thought that was going to be all, and he ignored the small bit of disappointment he felt at knowing he might well never see his former boss again- that he really didn't have any reason to at this particular crossroads.

To his surprise, the Marine continued speaking, looking out the widow by the stairwell. "Heard any scuttlebutt lately?"

Tony frowned in surprised confusion. "About?" He questioned.

"SecNav's been tearing things up at NCIS." He stated, shaking his head slightly, expression torn between annoyance and respect. "Vance stepped down as director, and I've accepted a position as Master-of-Arms at FLETC,"

"Wait, what?" Tony interrupted, stunned. "Why?"

"It's time." He replied easily, more easily than Tony could have ever expected.

"Wow," Tony couldn't help by say, honestly at a loss for words. At the twist of annoyance on Gibbs face, he continued. "Sorry, I just, what happened to retiring to Mexico when you were done?" He tried to add a joking tone, but fell short.

"Retirement didn't suit me too well."

Tony dropped his eyes, knowing it was true. "What about McGee and David?"

"McGee quit. Decided he didn't want to start back to the basics. Gonna be a full time writer." The tone clearly portraying just what he thought of that decision. "Though I hear JAG is investigating him to see if anything he's already published held classified information. Ziva went back to Israel." He finished steadily.

"Wow." He uttered again, helplessly. It'd been obvious that the higher up's had been more than a bit annoyed with how NCIS was operating and the liberties their agents were taking, but he hadn't expected such a huge shake up. The Director and entire MCRT gone in one fell swoop? It was unheard of. "Who's-" replacing you went unsaid, but lingered in the air.

"Erica Barrett will be the new Special Agent-in-Charge. She'll be choosing her own team."

"Of course.." Was all Tony could muster at the knowledge that his former girlfriend was taking command of his former team. "She's a good agent." He managed to add on after a pause.

"She is." Gibbs agreed candidly. He shook his head slightly, meeting hazel eyes and holding out a calloused hand. Tony accepted it automatically, still feeling a bit dazed. "Take care of yourself, DiNozzo. Maybe I'll see you at the next poker night."

"We'd be glad to have you." He replied, shaking himself firmly, feeling both bereft and lighter for the conversation. "You take care of yourself, too." He ordered as their hands dropped. Gibbs shot him a crooked smile- just with one side of his mouth, really, and nodded. Nothing further was said as the man took his leave. Tony rejoined the room a couple of moments later, Jack locking onto him immediately despite being in the middle of a hand. Tony retook his seat, quietly stating that he'd fill him in at home, and then focused back on enjoying his night.

Tony settled into his new role quickly than anyone could have expected. The rapid adjustment period was thanks in part to the unwavering support of his partner, but even more so thanks to his own strength of character and ability to roll with the punches. That skill ended up being vital during his first trip off world, when he'd accompanied the International Oversite committee, along with SG1, on a tour of the Gamma Site. It was supposed to be an easy sightseeing tour- a way for the bureaucrats feel important and like a part of the program without actually putting them in any danger. At least- that was the intention. Jack's own duties kept him away from being able to accompany them on the journey, despite his own desire to do so.

Tony picked up on the fact that they were being treated with the kid gloves right off the bat, but he couldn't blame SG1 for their inherent distain over being assigned what was essentially babysitting duty. It wasn't anyone's favorite task, and he'd dealt with his own share of boring assignments in his day, which made it easier to ignore the pasted on smiles and being handled like a clueless civilian. They'd never seen him in any capacity other than as the man Jack was dating, so of course they had no way of gaging his own strengths or skillset.

It didn't help that the others being taken on the tour were just as obnoxious as bureaucrats were want to be, strutting around with their noses raised and an air about them clearly showcasing how they felt about their own importance when compared to those assigned to the base. Tony himself had almost broken his own silence when the Frenchmen, Mr. Lapierre, began tapping insistently on one of the glass tanks while they were being briefed by Dr. Meyers. He didn't blame three of the members of SG1 for disappearing quickly after that little scene, leaving the group alone with Sam and Teal'c until they all met back up for lunch.

Tony hadn't been fed meatloaf since Military School, and he felt a small surge of pity for Jack having been eating like that for most of his adult life. He silently decided he'd go all out for dinner when he arrived back home that night to help make up for it. Perhaps he'd invite SG1 as well, give them a rare home cooked meal of their own, as he expected they didn't eat much better than his partner had when he'd still assigned to the base.

When things went to hell-in-a-handbasket, as the expression goes, and the base became overrun with the very flesh eating R75 spacebugs Lapierre had been antagonizing earlier in the day, the primary ground team came to appreciate his cool head under pressure and his skill in handling the panicking IOA paper pushers, keeping them calm and moving when they had to flee Gamma Site and take refuge in a rocky cave nearby.

They came to respect him even more when his calm continued as things spiraled further and further downhill. The small space didn't allow for private conversations, and so the tagalongs were privy to the ground teams' strategy huddles and quiet discussions. The news of their dwindling odds of survival wasn't well received and it was clear SG1 was getting very tired of listening to the whining when they had more important things to focus their attention on. The former NCIS agent once again stepped in, both calming the IOA members, and allowing the ground team to work on securing their survival.

He continued in that role when it was announced that Gamma Site had self-destructed and their only chance of survival would be to make for the abandoned research station that was ten long miles away on foot and through open forest that would leave them completely exposed and unprotected.

Tony, only carrying his standard handgun, knew it wouldn't be much use in keeping the bugs at bay, and so he didn't announce it's presence- though he was relatively sure the ground team knew he had it. Still, they didn't call him out on it, perhaps understanding and accepting it may come to be a more merciful end then being eaten from the inside out in a manner that Tony couldn't help but mentally compare to the scarabs in The Mummy movies, though, a thousand times worse.

Somehow, despite all odds against it, they ,made it to the research station. Sam was able to boost the transmission signal enough to break through the radioactive ionsphere that surrounded the planet and contact the crew of the Odyssey before they could release the payload and subsequently kill the survivors they had no way of knowing were there. Tony could see way Jack spoke so highly of the woman- of the whole team. He'd been in a lot of tight situations during his career, but this one had definitely taken the cake. That they were unfazed and behaved as if it was nearly commonplace said a lot about their own fortitude and strength of character.

His partner was on base when they finally arrived back home, and Tony could immediately see the small glitch in the man's otherwise stoically professional decorum as they were directed by protocol upon returning to home soil. Not normally a clingy man by any means, Jack had remained as close as he were allowed during the temporary isolation and medical visits, and then kept him within arms reach once he was released.

The odd behavior was understandable, considering base command had been operating under the assumption that the everyone at the Gamma Site had been killed before or during the self-destruct sequence was triggered when the bugs invaded it's very walls. Despite both their backgrounds, Jack and Tony had come to be in positions were they were supposed to be relatively safe in their day to day. Jack hadn't been prepared for the possibility of losing Tony in such a way, and he'd been having a hard time grappling with it, exposed as he was as the head of Homeworld security during such a massively FUBAR situation. And not just losing Tony, but his whole team- well, former team, but still the people who were the family of his heart, even if he'd never admit such a thing out loud. Tony couldn't imagine how he'd felt having to maintain his resolve under such stress himself, but, true to his character, the man had remained the faultless leader that those under his command had come to expect during a crisis, no matter how helpless the situation might seem.

Still, they'd departed for home as quickly as allowed, eager to reconnect away from the watching eyes. Once home, Jack kept him even closer. They'd had hard, filthy sex almost immediately, and then lounged together where they'd fallen on the couch for some time afterwards. When they did drag themselves back up, it was to share a much needed shower. They'd settled for ordering pizza for dinner and then had spent the rest of the evening pressed tightly together on the couch. When they did retire to bed, they found themselves coming together once more, despite the exhausting clinging to Tony, and the tiredness that came with an adrenaline crash felt by both.

That time, there was nothing quick or dirty about it. They came together slowly and leisurely, savoring the closeness that neither had been sure they'd get to experience again just a scant few hours before. It was their most intense and intimate joining to date, and it felt a bit like taking their relationship to a higher level then they'd been at previously. It was funny how life worked out- how circumstances could twist and change unexpectedly, leaving you never knowing quite what to expect. Sometimes though, sometimes the most unexpected challenges led to the most wonderful places…

…. "You were an unexpected surprise, the defining moment. The collision of stars that slammed into me hard and sent my neat little world plummeting into the ocean. I never expected it to be you, you know? But it is you. It's all you. And now there's no looking back." -Beau Taplin/ The Defining Moment

~*~ END ~*~

I apologize for the shortness of this chapter. I'd intended for it to be longer, but my computer crashes are getting more and more unpredictable. I'll be sending it in to get fixed soon, but I'm not sure when exactly that'll be.

I hope you've enjoyed this story. I appreciate every Kudos and Comment you all have left! Thank you all for reading, and please let me know what you think of this final chapter!