Epilogue.

There was a knock on the door. Tony frowned; it was nearing eight at night, and they usually didn't have visitors this late, unless it was bad news.

He opened the door to find a girl standing outside. Beneath a mop of brown hair, two familiar blue eyes looked up at him.

"Mister DiNozzo?" she said.

"Yes," Tony said.

"I'm Emma," she said. "You probably don't remember me, but Iā€”"

He had to interrupt her before she got any further. "I remember."

She looked surprised. "Oh. Good."

Ten years had passed since the case, but Tony hadn't let it slip from his memory. At the start, he got updates every month from the foster home where Emma lived, and then, after a year when Emma was adopted by a family in Charlottesville, he kept receiving updates on a more irregular basis from her adoptive mother.

"Come in." He held out his hand in an invitation.

She bit her lip tentatively. "Well, I'm not really allowed to come into strangers' houses."

"You've been here before," Tony said. "It's not really a stranger's house."

"I guess not," she said, grinning easily.

She walked inside and looked around curiously. Tony took her coat and led her into the living room.

"So what brings you here, Emma?" Tony asked.

She turned and looked at him. The pictures her adoptive mother had sent had not done her justice. She was a beautiful child, though her hair was unkempt as though she spent most of her time running around rather than primping herself. She was dressed in blue jeans and a shirt; comfortable clothes to move around in.

"Mom told me about you." Emma studied the room. "She said you took care of me after my parents were killed."

"I did," Tony said. "My boss thought you might be in danger, so he had me watch you until we'd solved the case. You gave me two sleepless nights."

She grinned at him and didn't look the least bit apologetic. "That's the way my brother was when he was little. He screamed a lot."

"You did, too," Tony said.

"Mom said she's been writing letters to you."

"Yeah, she was nice enough to do that," Tony said. "Kept me updated."

"Do you always stay updated on kids you take care of?" Emma asked, cocking her head to the side.

Tony chuckled. "You're the only one I've ever had to take care of, actually."

"Oh," Emma said. "Well, thank you anyway."

"For what?"

"Taking care of me," Emma said. "Mom says I should always say thank you when people do nice things."

"That's a good mom you've got."

Emma nodded. They sat down and Tony noticed that Emma seemed to be bouncing with energy. He saw something of himself in her, in boundless energy and happiness.

"Would you like anything to drink? Eat?" he asked.

"Nah. Mom's coming to pick me up in an hour. She drove me here and stayed until you let me inside."

"She thought this was a good idea?" Tony asked.

"Why wouldn't she?" Emma asked. "She said that you took good care me ten years ago, so why wouldn't you do it now?"

Tony smiled; he couldn't argue with that logic. "So, tell me about yourself."

Emma smiled widely. "Okay. I'm in fifth grade, and I really like math and science. I want to be a doctor when I grow up, or a veterinarian, because I really like animals too."

"Not a Special Agent, then?" Tony asked.

Emma grinned. "Maybe. I think my brother'd be better at it, he's always playing detective and getting into my stuff."

"How many brothers do you have?" Tony asked.

"Just one, and a little sister." Her pride was obvious.

Tony heard steps coming up from the basement and a moment later, Gibbs appeared.

"Company?" he asked.

Tony smiled. "Jethro, do you remember Emma?"

"Emma Brown?" Gibbs said, eyebrows rising slightly.

"Emma Dermis," Emma said. "Brown was my other mom's name, but they changed it when mom and dad adopted me."

Gibbs held out his hand, smiling slightly. "I'm Gibbs. It's a pleasure to meet you again then, Miss Dermis."

Emma grinned and shook his hand. "You too." She looked from Gibbs to Tony and back. "Do you live together?"

Tony exchanged a glance with Gibbs. "Yeah."

"Are you together?" Emma asked frankly.

Tony chuckled. "Yeah."

"Cool," Emma said, grinning easily. "My favorite uncle lives with his boyfriend too."

Tony wished that everyone had been so accepting of their relationship. It had taken McGee a few months to really accept it, and though the man had made team leader himself by now and was one of Tony's closest friends, Tony still remembered those months with sadness.

After Jenny's death, the new Director hadn't been particularly kind either, simply looking for excuses to fire them. Abby had been their biggest supporter, fighting for them when everyone else had seemed to wage against them. Ducky had given them their blessing. He had taken Tony aside, telling Tony how thrilled he was that Gibbs had found happiness once more.

Ziva had distanced herself from them and when she gave her letter of resignation no one had been surprised. It hadn't been because of Gibbs and Tony, so much as it had been because she'd found love in Israel, but Tony knew that his relationship with Gibbs hadn't helped matters. Still, they exchanged emails on occasion.

These days, it was easier. Tony wasn't on Gibbs' team anymore and their relationship was old news. And in ten years, the world had become a bit less homophobic, even though it still had miles to go.

Tony shook himself from his reverie; he had an important guest.

They talked for the hour they had until Emma's mother returned. Emma told him and Gibbs about her life, her dreams, her favorite subjects and least favorite teachers, and Tony listened, his mind only sometimes wandering to the memories of Emma as a little baby, crying her eyes out, sleeping in his arms, and smiling toothlessly at him. In the end, he brought out the pictures McGee had taken of him and Emma.

"I was so little!" Emma said.

"Yeah," Tony said, smiling. "You were tiny. I didn't really know what to do with you."

Emma giggled.

When Mrs. Dermis rang the doorbell and it was time for Emma to leave, Tony pulled her in for a hug.

"If you ever need anything, don't hesitate to call," he said. "Your mom has my number."

"Can you come kick Henry's ass if he's being stupid?" Emma asked innocently, referring to a kid who liked to cause trouble in her school.

"Maybe," Tony grinned. "He sounds like a bad seed in need of a goodā€”"

"DiNozzo," Gibbs said warningly, though Tony heard his amusement.

"Okay, maybe not," Tony conceded.

"Too bad," Emma grinned. "Can I come visit you again?"

Tony smiled. "Anytime. The door's unlocked."

"Cool. Bye!" She waved and then she bounded out the door to the car that stood waiting by the street.

Mrs. Dermis smiled at Tony and Gibbs. "Thank you for taking care of my daughter."

Tony knew she wasn't talking about just the evening's visit. "Anytime."

Mrs. Dermis turned and headed to the car as well.

Seeing Mrs. Dermis hug Emma filled Tony with happiness and contentment he hadn't expected. It wasn't bittersweet. Emma had never been his to keep ā€“ she'd enriched his life for a short time and then she was gone. He got snapshots of her life and he would continue to watch over her from afar, with pictures and letters, and perhaps the occasional visit. It was more than enough, like little specks of gold on any grey day.

Mrs. Dermis and Emma drove off. Tony stared after the disappearing lights of the car, until nothing but darkness remained.

An arm sneaked around his waist.

"Come on, Director," Gibbs murmured into his ear. "Let's go to bed."

"Special Agent Gibbs, that sounds like a scandalous attempt to seduce me," Tony grinned.

"It is," Gibbs agreed.

"Good."

Tony closed the door and leaned into Gibbs. Lips met and Tony thought Gibbs tasted just as good now as he had ten years ago. He really should thank Emma sometime for getting them together. Then again, some things might be better left unsaid.

Gibbs bit and licked the spot just beneath Tony's ear, and he gasped. Ten years had passed, but his attraction to Gibbs hadn't lessened in the least.

They barely made it to bed.

--

Author's notes: I've gotten such great response on this, that I couldn't be happier. I hope the epilogue was satisfying - it's what I felt rounded up the story. Comments are more than appreciated. Next longer story posted will probably be my "Dead Man Talking"-tag, 13 000 words (Gibbs/DiNozzo). See you then ;)