Author: Carrie

Title: Should Have Taken Another Week Off

Rating: T (age 13+)

Pairing: Tony/Kate

Spoilers: Everything up through, and especially, "Twilight," and specific references to "SWAK."

Summary: Tony's first day back at work turned out to be a pretty bad one. What happens in the aftermath?

Disclaimer: I don't own NCIS. DPB, CBS Television, Belisarius Productions, and other people are the lucky ones who do own NCIS. I might own my sanity, but some days that's debatable. I'm making no profit off of this, so please don't sue. If I have any sanity left, I'd like to hold on to it.

AN: Yet another post-"Twilight" fic. This is part three of three.

Abby's weekly visits helped. In time, they talked not just about work, but also about Kate, shared their memories, and mourned her loss. In some ways, the discussions with Abby were more healing than all the therapy sessions to which Tony was subjected. Two survivors, two people left behind after the death of someone, could talk about things doctor and patient could not.

In mid-September, nearly four months after Kate's death, Tony was given the okay to return to work. Three weeks earlier, Kate's replacement had come in. Tony knew little about her, other than that she was young, inexperienced, and despite Abby's best efforts to not like her, she was failing.

Taking a deep breath, Tony pulled the front door of the building open and stepped into the lobby. Nodding at the guards, he trudged towards the elevators. It wasn't that he didn't want to come back, because he did, but he was nervous about how he would be received. He and McGee had met for lunch once, and both Gibbs and Ducky had dropped by his place once or twice to check on him, but the only person he had spent any real time with was Abby.

Getting off on his floor, Tony was greeted by the wall showing the faces of NCIS's most wanted. Ari's picture had been added to the wall, after much arguing. Gibbs insisted, but Director Morrow sided with the FBI and believed the picture shouldn't be there. Several times, Gibbs had entered the building only to find the picture removed from the wall, and every time, Gibbs hung it again. Abby had described to him the battle of wills between Gibbs and Morrow, and the battle in the bullpen when Morrow caught Gibbs replacing the picture.

"He killed a federal agent!" Gibbs had yelled at Morrow, looking down on the director from where he was standing on top of a chair. "What more do you want! Does he have to fly a plane into a damn building to get up on this wall!"

Morrow had said something Abby hadn't been able to hear.

Still yelling, Gibbs said, "He knew what he was doing, damnit. And I'll bet you everything I have he enjoyed it! This bastard is a double agent and can't be trusted, and if he ever crosses my path again, or the path of any of my agents," Gibbs turned to look at the members of his team that were present, assembled near McGee's desk, "we will not hesitate to kill him. And that is final."

After that, the picture stayed put.

Looking at the face responsible for Kate's death caused the anger to bubble up inside of him momentarily. Gibbs had been right. If Ari ever crossed his path, no matter when or where, Tony would kill him any way he could, even with his bare hands. Looking away, Tony moved towards his desk.

Abby was waiting for him, as were Ducky, McGee, and Gibbs. Receiving a hug from Abby and handshakes from the other three, Tony actually felt glad to be back. He had missed this, the camaraderie of the team. He missed his life having a purpose. After several minutes, Tony was allowed to actually sit down at his desk.

It was only then that he noticed her.

She was sitting where Kate once did, across the aisle from him. Even while she was sitting, Tony could see that she was small in stature. Her hair came to her shoulders, was blonde, and curled into small ringlets, and her eyes were seawater green. And she was young, probably in her early to mid-twenties.

Rising, she moved towards him, her hand extended. "You must be Tony," she spoke softly, her accent carrying a distinct southern lilt.

Rising as well, Tony shook her hand. He towered over her by more than six inches, but despite her small size, she stood tall and proud. Tony was willing to bet she was a tough one. "Yeah," Tony nodded.

"I'm Jessica Blankenship," she introduced herself. "I just started here."

"I know," Tony responded, unsure of what to make of her. Taking a seat, he looked up at her and let her lead.

"Look, I don't want this to be awkward," she said. "I don't know everything that happened, but I do know who used to sit at my desk, and I know you cared a lot for her. I'm not trying to take her place, and I don't ever want you to think that I am. I can only hope that one day I'll be an agent as good as she was."

She didn't waste any time, did she?

"So, if you hold a grudge against me, I'll understand and won't take it personally, but I ask in return that you give me a chance."

Sounded reasonable. Nodding, Tony said, "You're pretty straight-forward, aren't you?"

"Only with the important stuff," she smiled. "It can't be easy for you to come back and have me here, and I understand and respect that. So if there is anything I can do to make it easier for you, just let me know."

"Will do," Tony agreed. He could understand why Abby had not been able to dislike her. Anyone willing to step up like that had to be tough. And though Tony had only known her for a minute, he could tell she was bursting with personality.

Perhaps this would be all right, and maybe things would work out.

At the end of the day, Tony headed home. As he stepped in his front door, he glanced at the pictures on the wall in the entryway. "Hey, Kate, I'm home," he spoke to the pictures, smiling at the one in the middle. "She's not too bad, either. Has your ambition and intelligence, though not quite as witty as you, looks nothing like you, but she's not bad. She won't replace you. No one ever will."

On the wall were five pictures, in simple black frames. Four of them were sketches of Kate's, the ones he had liked best from those in her sketchbook. The center picture was a photograph of Kate that Tony had taken one day last spring at a crime scene. He was taking pictures, and Kate had been studying something on the ground. Needing to stretch her legs, she had stood up, smiling gently, and in the sunlight, had never looked more beautiful to Tony. On impulse, he had snapped a picture, and despite Kate's pleas, hadn't deleted it. Though Abby had teased him mercilessly when she downloaded the pictures from the camera to her computer, he had insisted that Abby keep it. Later, they were both grateful, as it was the last picture ever taken of her. He had all the pictures framed a few weeks earlier, and Abby had helped him hang them on the wall.

They were his tribute to Kate, his way to remember her. Gibbs had his boat, Abby had her tat, and he had his wall. No matter where he moved in this life, he could always pack the pictures up and take them with him, carrying a piece of her.

Life would go on. Life has always gone on. It's what she would have wanted. That's not to say that there wouldn't be dark days ahead, for he knew there would be, but his life would go on.


Thanks, again, for all of the reviews. Always brings a smile to my face!

I hope everyone had a great Fourth of July (whether you celebrate the American holiday or not, I hope Monday was a good day for you). I've got one more NCIS fic in the works, but it will probably be at least few more weeks before I finish it. I hope to get this one up on my website sometime this week.

Thanks for reading!