A/N: And here we are, the last chap, how fitting that it is the longest chap yet! Big, huge thanks to anyone who reviewed this fic, or it's prequel, you absolutely made my day, week or possibly even year. This chap is dedicated to my two most faithful reviewers, diana teo and finlaure. Much love to you two!! Enjoy this last chap, the 'Kelly and Gibbs vs. the CIA' era is now coming to an end... - pj
"Oh no, I think they do it just for kicks. You know, trying to give me a coronary," Abby shook her head and took a long swig of her beer, as she lounged on Gibbs' couch with Tim and Ziva in the living room, "between the two of you, you get shot at and kidnapped more often than a witness against the Russian Mafia."
Kelly grinned and turned to look at Tony. They sat on the love seat with Kelly's injured foot up on the coffee table and her side snuggled in tight against Tony's.
"She's right you know."
Tony nodded and set aside his own empty beer bottle, "isn't she always?"
"Of course," she continued as if they hadn't spoken, a testament to the two or five beers she'd already consumed, "you two are so freakin' cute together I could really never even suggest that you break up in order to make a less tempting target."
Ziva smirked and rolled her eyes when Tony and Kelly exchanged warm looks that were practically nauseating.
They all laughed, except Abby, who threw a good-natured glare at them both.
"Flattery will get you everywhere."
"That's always been my experience, Abigail."
They all looked up as Ducky reentered the room with Gibbs.
"McGee, grab those empty pizza boxes, will ya'?" He said, his voice disarmingly casual.
McGee felt his heart skip a beat. He'd honestly hoped to put off the inevitable dressing down he knew was coming for a few more days. But that obviously wasn't going to happen. Gibbs finished collecting the dirty napkins and paper plates and then turned toward the kitchen without another word, and McGee knew better than to make him wait.
The rest were caught up in a lively discussion about which had been the best of the Star Trek movies, so that Kelly was the only one to notice the wary expression on McGee's face as he obediently then followed his boss into the kitchen.
She shrugged away from Tony and pulled herself up onto her feet, hobbling toward the doorway.
"Hey, those crutches aren't just for decoration, you know," Tony called out to her, but Kelly ignored him.
In the kitchen she could see neither Gibbs or McGee had gotten far, both still holding their respective garbage while Gibbs leveled the younger agent with one of his patented stares.
They turned to see Kelly leaning against the kitchen counter, an urgent look on her face.
"Kelly, you shouldn't be on your feet," Gibbs scolded, throwing a sidelong glance at McGee to assure him he wasn't yet off the hook.
"Daddy, don't be mad at McGee," she said, ignoring his concern and taking another hopped step forward, "he did the best he could."
Gibbs' face darkened, "he disobeyed a direct order."
"You're not mad at him for that, though, are you?" she said, everything in her voice and body language challenging him to deny it.
Gibbs didn't respond. McGee stood a few paces behind, not daring to move, unsure of how this particular power play would pan out.
"You're pissed at him because I got myself into trouble again. That's fine, Dad. Be pissed. But be pissed at me. I'm the one who gave him the slip-"
"I'm aware of that, Kell. And believe me, you and I are nowhere near finished as far as that goes, but it's a discussion for another time."
"C'mon Dad," Kelly raised her arms to the sides and shook her head, "come down off that high horse for just one minute and tell me you wouldn't have done the same thing. That if it had been me or Abby being threatened and you had no way to know who was behind it or how long there was before they made good, that you wouldn't have gone along with them until you could figure it out."
Again Gibbs didn't respond. Kelly searched his face for some indicator of what he was thinking and found none. Her shoulders slumped.
"Well, I don't know," she shrugged and dropped her gaze, causing Gibbs to realize he'd somehow hurt her with the answer he hadn't given, "maybe you wouldn't. But I had to. I couldn't let them get to you or Tony. And there is nothing and no one that would have been able to keep me in that hospital if leaving meant keeping you safe," she pointed a finger at him and narrowed her eyes, "no one."
With that, she turned and left. Gibbs stared after her for several moments before facing McGee. Tim hadn't move from his spot, looking in the direction Kelly had gone with slightly wide eyes, wondering if her stepping in had made things better or worse for him. Gibbs merely picked up the trash, bent a finger at McGee and strode out the back door, beckoning him to follow him to the garbage can outside.
He waited until McGee had closed the back door and dumped the pizza boxes in the can before speaking.
"Tim," he began, not looking up from the lid of the garbage, "Kelly's right."
McGee tilted his head, unsure of the appropriate response to that. It wasn't what he had been expecting.
"There was nothing you could have done to keep her there if she was hell-bent on leaving."
McGee nodded and then, emboldened by this newer, kinder Gibbs, said with a half grin, "she is a 'Gibbs', Boss."
He almost smiled at that, but quickly squashed it as he turned to face the young man, standing toe-to-toe with him per his habit. Daring him to back down.
"But I hope for your sake you tried."
McGee sobered instantly and swallowed, "I did, Boss," he said confidently, recalling his original 'follow her everywhere including into the bathroom' plan.
Gibbs narrowed his eyes, "and just because we got Kelly back does not mean you're off the hook."
He nodded, "do you want me to hand in my gun and badge, Boss?" he asked quietly, determined to stand tall even as his stomach fell to his feet.
"Oh no, you're not getting off that easy, McGee."
Tim felt a small weight shift off his shoulders and had the strangest urge to say 'thank you', but repressed it.
"But if you ever disobey a direct order of mine again, I won't give you the opportunity to resign…or be fired. You get me?"
Again, McGee nodded, "I got you, Boss."
When McGee and Gibbs came back to the living room, Tony was doing an impression of a walrus, Ziva had three empty shot glasses in front of her and Abby, Ducky and Kelly were laughing hysterically. Gibbs just sighed, he didn't even want to know.
Abby spotted McGee in the doorway and stood up, bending to give Kelly another hug.
"Well I better get going. You take care of yourself, 'kay Kid?"
"I will, Abbs," Kelly assured her, returning the hug forcefully. When she was released Abby entwined her arm with McGee's and ordered him to 'drive her tipsy ass home'.
McGee didn't have the energy to point out the fact that they'd driven separate cars, and bid his farewell to them all as he was ushered toward the door. Kelly smiled and watched them go, her eyelids growing heavy as she leaned against Tony's shoulder.
Ducky, noticing her obvious exhaustion, began to stand, "I too should be getting home. Mother's day staff will be leaving and they'll be expecting me."
"I will walk you out Ducky," Ziva stood, and promptly stumbled over her own feet, Ducky barely catching her arm before she fell.
"I'm afraid it will be the other way around, my dear," he turned to Gibbs as he collected his coat and hat, "would it be alright if Ziva left her car here tonight, Jethro?"
Gibbs didn't pause in sipping his beer and gave a half-shrug, half-nod as if it didn't really matter to him either way, which was probably not too far off from the truth.
"Well then it's settled," Ducky proffered his arm to Ziva, who took it gratefully, despite avid protests that she was 'not nearly as drunk as she could be' and thanking Ducky for being 'just the perfect kindman'.
"Gentleman, Ziva." Tony corrected, absently, propping his feet up beside Kelly's.
Ziva ignored him and dropped a hand on Kelly's shoulder as she walked by, "I will see you soon, yes?"
"Before you know it Ziver."
And in minutes the noise that had filled the room was gone and replaced with silence that echoed with exhaustion.
"We should probably get you up to bed, Kell," Gibbs commented. He'd seen that she could barely keep her eyes open as she tracked his movements around the room.
"Just a little while longer dad," she protested weakly, and glanced at Tony and then back again, "can I just um, maybe we could watch a movie or something?" upon seeing her father's dark look she cleared her throat, "it's just that I'm not um, not really ready to be on my own yet…getting kidnapped twice in a week does that to me...that and the fact that I'm pretty sure my nightmares for the next few weeks are going to be hell."
Gibbs sat on the arm of the couch and studied her. The tiredness was obvious, and not unexpected, but behind that was a shadow of fear that made his gut twist.
"Sure," he nodded, "I'll be downstairs if you need anything."
Kelly rewarded this allowance with a grin that made Gibbs nostalgic and he looked away.
"Bond?" Kelly asked, turning to Tony.
Tony had been watching their exchange quietly, never quite tiring of watching Gibbs and Kelly interact. It was a different, softer side of Gibbs he wasn't used to seeing, sometimes he almost thought he could imagine what they had been like fifteen years ago.
Smiling, he transitioned seamlessly into his 'Sean Connery' voice.
"But of course."
An hour later Gibbs acended the stairs, his body reminding him that he wasn't as young as he liked to think and four days without so much as a catnap did not agree with his knees. He spotted Kelly standing at the sink, staring at the water as it filled the popcorn bowl and overflowed. He glanced past her into the living room and saw the credits rolling on the television, and Tony's head flopped back. He looked back at Kelly. She was leaning against the counter with her head bowed and his eyes dropped to her feet, wondering if her ankle was bothering her.
She didn't move. Hadn't heard him.
He furrowed his brow and stepped up to touch her shoulder, "Kelly."
She gasped and jumped, shrinking away from him and whirling around to face him in the same motion. The wild look of terror in her eyes startled him.
"Dad," she squeaked, her eyes watering as her hand flew to her throat. Immediately tears began to gather in her eyes and fall and she wondered if he could hear her heart hammering in her chest, it had gone from zero to sixty the moment she realized she was not alone.
With trembling hands she tried to brush at her cheeks, "you scared me," she said, wishing her voice was steady. But Gibbs' face softened with such understanding and concern that she had to say it again, this time as a plea instead of an accusation.
"You scared me."
Her whole body started to shake and on instinct Gibbs gathered her to his chest, cupping the back of her head.
"You scared me too, baby." He pressed his face into her hair as her shoulders shook with sobs too deep to make a sound.
After a few minutes Gibbs could feel her hiccuping against him as she faught to regain control and her weight shifting as the last of her energy was depleted.
"C'mon. Bedtime," he said, unwrapping himself from around her to take her hand and lead her toward the stairs. Kelly threw a wary glance at the ceiling and then followed reluctantly. She stopped dead outside the doorway to her room.
Gibbs turned to look at her questioningly.
"Dad…I don't think I can go in there," she looked at him and Gibbs caught sight of the same fearfulness in her eyes that had been there when she spoke of having nightmares.
He squeezed her hand and dipped his chin, "I'll be right here," he assured her quietly. She bit her lip and nodded, but still didn't move. Gibbs hesitated before prompting her again. He knew why she was reluctant to go in there, he had had the same problem himself more than once. But he wouldn't let the fear and regret that gripped him every time he had a 10-71 in the warehouse district, or when he had to drive past Jenny's house, be a part of Kelly's life. He didn't want that for her.
Instead he tugged on her hand again and she took a tiny step forward to keep her balance.
"I'll be here with you. Right here."
Kelly didn't respond at first but after a moment she took a deep breath and nodded, allowing him to lead her inside her room.
Her blue eyes bounced from one point to another, all over the room, looking for some evidence what had happened. She was surprised to find almost nothing. The window had been replaced, the blood all cleaned up and the bullet hole in the wall patched over. Still, it didn't really matter. Kelly remembered where they had all been. Remembered crying her eyes out, probably screaming, when she realized Tony could die. Right there. In front of her. And though she knew that was not what had happened, and dwelling on it would not make it better, she couldn't tear her eyes off the spot on the floor where she'd knelt beside Tony.
Gibbs noticed her stare but didn't comment. Knowing it was something she had to work through herself, he sat down on top of the covers and waited.
Suddenly feeling very small and very cold, Kelly hurriedly shoved her legs under the blankets and snuggled into his side, holding him tightly to her to keep him from getting away, not realizing that leaving her was the last thing on his mind.
Gibbs returned her forceful embrace by wrapping one arm around her shoulders, keeping her close, and clasping his other hand firmly with both of her smaller ones, wishing to calm the violent trembling of her body.
"Kelly, you need to relax," he cautioned, propping himself up with one leg on the floor because the small bed was not really big enough for them both. He was worried at how short and rapid her breaths were coming.
"I can't Dad," she gasped, suddenly aware that, no matter how deep she breathed, she could not seem to get air, "The last time I was here Tony almost died," her voice cracked and she took a ragged breath, "I'm so tired Dad. So tired, I just can't sleep. I see the Englishman or Carlson or Tony every time I close my eyes," she squeezed her eyes shut as if to try just one more time, only to snap them open again a moment later, "I'm scared, Daddy."
He squeezed her again and pressed his lips to her temple, "Wilson is dead, Kell and Carlson is dealt with. No one is going to hurt you. No one."
"I know," she said in a small voice, though the knowledge did not seem to bring her any comfort.
Gibbs sighed and racked his brain for a way to calm her before she hyperventilated.
"Kelly, breathe with me," he whispered, resting his head on hers and bringing their clasped hands up to rest against his chest, "breathe when I do. C'mon Kell."
She took a deep breath that came out as a gasp and Gibbs' felt his eyes begin to water. He'd been ignoring the obvious, mostly because he had other things he'd been worrying about, for the past week. But the truth was that Kelly being kidnapped, first by the CIA, then by Wilson, had been the hardest thing he'd had to live through in a long time. He'd come to many conclusions, figured a lot of stuff out, the most important being that he could not do it again. He couldn't lose her. Not again. He wouldn't survive it.
Breathe with me, sweetheart. Please.
He closed his eyes and tried to remember what he used to do when she was little and scared to go to sleep because of monsters in the closet. A memory like an old movie flashed through his mind and a soft piano melody rung through his memory.
"Hush little baby don't say a word, papa's gonna buy you a mockingbird," he sang quietly, hardly above a whisper. Kelly stiffened and held her breath, as if unsure of what she was hearing. Then, relaxing slightly against him, she took a single deep, satisfying breath, "and if that mockingbird won't sing, papa's gonna buy you a diamond ring…"
Three verses later he felt her relax completely and her breathing evened out. He took a slow breath as he trailed off, every muscle in his body aching with draining tension. And he closed his eyes and kissed her hair, relief flooding every cell in his body.
That's my girl.
Gibbs looked up and was surprised to see Tony leaning against the door frame, but didn't let on. He saw an expression on the younger man's face that he'd not seen before He titled his head microscopically and narrowed his eyes, the look was vaguely familiar. Suddenly felt a surge of pride and approval that kicked up the corner of his mouth and he shook his head slightly. There was a reason for that familiartiy. He used to wear the same look.
About fifteen years ago.
He caught Tony's eyes and jerked his head. Tony complied, making no attempt to hide the tears that had gathered in his eyes as he crossed the room. He stood beside the bed and raised his eyebrows expectantly.
"She shouldn't be alone tonight," Gibbs whispered by way of explanation and carefully stood. Tony caught his meaning and slid into the vacated spot on the bed, wrapping his arms protectively around Kelly's sleeping form.
"Take care of her, DiNozzo."
Tony nodded, reading the weight of the unspoken in his words answered, "always Gibbs."
Gibbs stopped in the doorway and turned around, taken aback by the seriousness of Tony's tone. But when he read the determination and conviction in the younger man's eyes he smiled fully.
"I know, Tony."
Three Months Later
"Here's to another bad guy behind bars," McGee raised his box of chinese in a toast and the others responded in kind.
"Thanks to some amazing math wizardry from Baby Gibbs over here," Abby smirked at Kelly, who grinned back at her.
"And of course some incredible super sleuthing from Team Gibbs," she nodded around the circle at Tony, Ziva and McGee.
"Not to mention the fantastical forensics from one Miss Abigail Scuito, whom we would all be lost without," Tony said in an announcer's voice, pointing his chopsticks at Abby and her grin brightened.
"If the meeting of the Mutual Admiration Society is going to break up any time soon, you all have reports that are due before days' end," Gibbs piped up, causing all heads to swivel toward him. He didn't look up.
The team exchanged half-worried, 'busted' looks and all became suddenly interested in their food. Kelly rolled her eyes at the barely distinguishable smirk on her father's face.
"Well, that's my cue to leave," she stood up and stretched, "God, I feel like I haven't slept in days."
"Uh…that's cuz you haven't, babe," Tony muttered, wincing at the memory of Kelly spending the last seventy-two hours in a caffeine induced haze as she worked over one complex math algorithm after another.
But it had paid off in the end, they'd caught the psycho responsible for killing four navy captains.
Kelly rubbed her face, "well that would explain it." She turned to approach Gibbs and he glanced at her as she bent over to kiss him on the cheek.
"See you at home in a few hours, Kell."
She started for the elevator, bidding one last farewell to the rest of the group, not catching the animated glances Tony and Abby exchanged over the egg rolls.
"Um, I'll, uh, walk you out," Tony said, suddenly jumping up from his seat. McGee, Ziva and Gibbs watching him go with two parts curiosity, one part suspicion. Abby just grinned.
Kelly rolled her eyes and stepped onto the lift, "You're being overprotective again."
"You, ma'am, are a magnet for trouble," Tony informed her, smacking the button for the main floor.
"Oh, look at the pot call the kettle black," she teased, "besides, I don't think I'm really in that much danger between the Squad Room and the parking-"
She was cut off by Tony pressing a hand to her back and pulling her to him, his lips on hers before she could even react. He pulled back to smile at her and, without looking away, flipped the emergency stop switch.
Her eyes darkened and her smile turned to an entirely different kind of playful.
"What's this, Special Agent DiNozzo?"
"I love you, Kelly," he ran one hand through her hair and she tilted her head back, exposing the column of her throat.
He smiled at her responses to him and kissed her neck once before pulling back to look at her again, "what would I do without you?"
"Get head slapped less?"
"Now that's for sure," he chuckled softly, and stepped back. Kelly, realizing he had something important to say that he, unfortunately, couldn't get out while nibbling her ear, stood straight.
She frowned slightly at the unusual sincerity in his eyes.
"What is it?"
"I love you."
"You said that."
He nodded and took her hand, and she glanced down, noticing his hands were trembling.
"Spit it out, Tony."
He smiled softly at her entirely Gibbs-like order. "The forever kind of love, Kelly," he whispered.
She felt her breath catch as her eyes widened, her chin dipping slightly to take in his words.
"Tony, are you proposing to me?"
"If I were proposing, there would be a ring."
She frowned again, confused, "so, then…what are you doing?"
"I-this is...Listen, I know," he sighed, shifting on his feet and clearing his throat, "you just got your dad back, got your life back. I wouldn't ask you to change it now. I just, um...I guess I just want you to know I…well, where I stand."
"On my foot?"
"Way to kick a man when he's down, Kell," he brought up a hand to rub his face, his cheeks burning hot.
Kelly smiled, she'd never thought Tony to be the kind of man who blushed. Reaching up, she pushed his hand away and took his face between hers, "I want you to know where I stand to, Tony."
This time his eyes were the ones to darken and he rested his hands on her hips, his voice dropping to just above a whisper, "And where is that?"
She merely closed her eyes and pressed her lips to his. Long and slow.
"Oh...I think I like it here."
When the doors opened up at the squad room again, Tony was only mildly surprised to see Gibbs standing outside. He raised an eyebrow.
"How'd it go?"
Tony couldn't hold it back and his face split into a wide grin.
"She said 'yes' Boss."
Gibbs hardly flinched, but his eyes smiled.
"I see." He said, his voice revealing nothing.
"Yup, looks like I'm gonna be your son, Boss," he said, in that cheeky way that was so uniquely his own.
Gibbs smiled as he turned to go back toward the unit.
"Gonna be, Dinozzo?"
Tony watched in stunned silence as his boss returned to his desk. He was startled back into life when the elevator doors shut on his foot before bouncing back open.
"Wait a second," he said quietly to himself and then, "Boss, did you just admit that you like me? Hey Boss. Gibbs."
But the man pretended not to hear him and answered his desk phone as it started to ring.
"Yup, be right down," he hung up and picked up his coffee to breeze out of the bullpen, "I'll be with Abby."
McGee and Ziva nodded and moved to return to their desks when Ziva spotted the goofy grin on Tony's face.
"Tony…are you alright?"
He turned toward her and continued to grin, "Boss likes me."
Ziva and McGee exchanged a glance.
"Sure he does Tony," McGee said patiently, patting the other man on the shoulder as he crossed to his desk.
Tony's grin dissolved instantly, "he does! He said so. Just now."
"Oh, we believe you, don't we McGee?"
"Sure. Sure. Why wouldn't we?"
"No. I'm serious you guys. He just compared me to being his son."
"I'm telling you he just said it."
More laughter and then an exasperated half-growl and Gibbs smiled as he entered the rear elevator.
Tony was being obnoxious, Ziva was egging him on, McGee was being patronizing, the CIA was out of the loop, the dirtbag behind bars and Kelly was back home where she belonged.
He just needed one thing and his life would be just about perfect in that moment.
He stepped off the elevator and into an Android Lust chorus.
"Whaddya got for me, Abbs?"