A/N. Well, that was it – the first episode of season six the way I would have written it. Hope you all enjoyed it. Here's the epilogue. As it's getting on for 3a.m., I feel I should finish with 'Thank you and good night'. So I have. Thanks for reading. :)
Five days later:
Tony watched from a distance as the man knelt at the graveside. He had gone to check up on Gibbs, and finding him gone, could think of only one place he was likely to be. He gave his friend a few minutes' privacy before he approached.
'Does Ducky know you're here?' he asked from several feet away to give Gibbs time to compose himself.
'Nope.' His friend's voice was raw with emotion and Tony sensed that Gibbs wasn't ready to be the one doing the talking just yet.
'She saved us all again the other day,' Tony continued, 'without all those surveillance files she left for us we'd never have had any real evidence on Vance. Guess you could say she's still watching over us.' They thought in silence for several minutes, each contemplating their own experiences of Jenny Shepard.
'She's really gone, isn't she?' Gibbs' question broke the silence.
'Yeah….yeah Boss, she is.'
'Why her, Tony?' The older man stood and walked the few feet to where DiNozzo was standing. 'Why her?' Gibbs had never looked at him like this before – pleading, almost begging for an answer. Tears welled up in Gibbs' eyes and he allowed them to unashamedly flow down his cheeks. Tony's heart broke for his friend. Not knowing what else to do, he reached out and pulled the older man into a hug. Gibbs didn't resist and Tony sighed in relief as he realised that he had made the right choice.
'I miss her, Tony.' The younger man held his friend tightly as tears continued to stream down his cheeks. Finally Gibbs pulled away. Tony kept a hand on his shoulder as he examined the older man closely.
'Are you going to be okay?' Gibbs nodded.
'Eventually.' DiNozzo realised that it was the best answer he could hope for under the circumstances. Realising he was going to unnerve his friend if he continued to show this level of emotion, Gibbs decided to change the subject. 'You lead them well, you know?' This time, Tony's instincts weren't so accurate.
'Boss, if you were thinking about going back to Mexico, you'd tell me, right?' Gibbs smiled slightly and shook his head.
'I wouldn't do that to you again, Tony. I made that mistake once before. I know where I belong now. I can't say I'll never think of it but I promise you I won't leave again.' Tony smiled. Gibbs' word was good enough for him.
'Let's get you home, Boss,' he suggested, 'I don't think this quite matches up with Ducky's idea of bed rest. Besides, you're freezing and you're going to get pneumonia if you stay out here much longer.' His statement was confirmed as Gibbs lapsed into a coughing fit. He draped his coat around the older man and bundled him into the car. They could come back for Gibbs' car later.
'Thanks, Tony. For everything.' Gibbs' eyes conveyed the depth of feeling, letting his friend know everything he wasn't saying.
'Anytime, Boss.' Tony's words echoed those of six days earlier.
'Oh, and Tony?' Gibbs decided it was time to lighten the mood slightly. 'You tell anyone that I let you hug me…' Tony grinned across from the drivers' seat.
'U.S.S. Ronald Reagan? Got it Boss…'