Here's the final chapter and first off I just wanted to apologize. It appears that I gave the wrong impression to many of you as most seem to think that Tony would be returning home at the end of this story. This story is meant to happen between Last Man Standing and Agent Afloat and I always intended to end it on the carrier. But I think that y'all might still enjoy this chapter and Gibbs' big "surprise".
Hope you like it. :o)
"Agent Afloat to the fantail. Agent Afloat to the fantail. Double time!"
The next morning, Gibbs pulled Ducky aside and let him know of his plan, then left DiNozzo in the M.E.'s care while he went to put it into place.
Tony knew something was up between Ducky and Gibbs but he just assumed it had to do with the two of them needing to get back to D.C. Tony wasn't an idiot. He knew that now that he was getting well, Vance would want two of his best men back where they belonged.
So it came as no surprise when, during dinner, Gibbs told Tony that he and Ducky would be leaving the next day.
"Not a problem, Boss. Appreciate the help but I'm good now, you two should get back to your lives and jobs."
"DiNozzo, sometimes I think fixing you after you get in trouble is my fulltime job," Gibbs replied with a wink, shoveling down another mouthful of his dinner.
Tony barked back laughter. "Ha ha, very funny."
The three men continued to joke throughout the rest of the meal, Ducky and Gibbs obviously trying to keep Tony's spirits up. The camaraderie only made Tony feel worse after it was over, knowing that the next day the two men would be gone. Both of them had always been his biggest supporters and it was with both of them that he felt the most comfortable. He didn't let his guard down often but Gibbs and Ducky were the ones who saw it down more often than nearly anyone else in his life.
The next morning, Ducky and Gibbs grabbed their gear and Tony was allowed to walk them outside. As they made their way to the deck, the agent was surprised by how many crewmen and women stopped him to say how happy they were to see him up and around again. A few even eagerly asked how soon he would be back on duty. It touched him to feel wanted and Tony began to feel a little better about Gibbs and Ducky leaving him, but only a little.
When they reached the flight deck, Tony was caught off guard to see that the Seahawk was docked. He had been locked inside for so long that he had lost track of her schedule, completing forgetting that it was Friday and most of the crew would be off on leave for the weekend.
Since they were docked, Gibbs and Ducky were being driven to a nearby airport and Tony walked them down the ramp and to their waiting car. After saying their goodbyes, Tony turned around to walk back to the ship, trying hard to not let his disappointment show too much.
"Where do you think you're going?" Gibbs asked Tony's retreating back, causing the younger man to turn around uncertainly.
"Uh…back to the ship?"
"Nope. Not until our replacement gets here," Gibbs and Ducky shared a smile, leaving Tony looking back and forth between the two in puzzlement.
Before Tony could say or do anything else he was suddenly engulfed in a huge hug, the hugger nearly hanging off of him in their excitement. It wasn't until he extricated himself from the arms surrounding his neck that he got a good look at who it was and his mouth opened in happy shock.
She smiled widely before running over to give Gibbs and Ducky their own bone crunching hugs, then turned her attention back to Tony. Putting an arm around him, she held on tight, waving at the other two men.
"Okay guys, your shift is over. Sciutto's on call now and I'll be taking good care of our Tony-boy, don't you worry."
Ducky raised a finger warningly. "Now remember Abby, we expect daily reports from you. Your hotel is very close by so if anything goes wrong, call the number I gave you and a corpsmen will be there right away."
"Aw c'mon Ducky, you know I won't let anything happen. Tony's gonna be all better in no time, just you wait and see."
Too dumfounded to say anything, Tony could only wave farewell to his other friends as Abby dragged him off in another direction.
"Okay so Gibbs got us a great room in a little place nearby. I can't stay on the carrier of course. I mean I'm an employee of NCIS but I'm not an agent and the paperwork is just too crazy. But luckily the ship is on leave this weekend and Gibbs got the captain to say it was okay for you to go on leave. Well you haven't really been on duty in a while but you're still recovering so he said take as much time as you need. I haven't taken a vacation in forever so the Director let me go. I think Gibbs told him it was either that or he and Ducky were going to stay. So poor old Vance had to agree. Gibbs sure is sneaky isn't he? I mean you didn't guess the surprise did you?"
All the time that Abby was chattering away, she was guiding them to a hotel, checking them in and getting them to their room. It was a large suite with two bedrooms, two baths, a living and dining area and a kitchen with a fully stocked fridge.
Tony couldn't believe what he was seeing. Just a few short minutes ago he'd been so sure that he was going to be spending the last days of his recovery alone and now he was with one of his best friends in the world. Abs was like the baby sister he never had growing up and after Ducky and Gibbs, the next person he trusted the most.
Abby chose the first bedroom (it had the in-suite bathroom of course) and Tony was left with the second one. Gibbs and Ducky had managed to pack a bag for him. It had been brought up with Abby's luggage (hers easily distinguishable by the variety of skulls) and he took it to his room without protest at the room assignments, much too happy to care where he slept.
They had lunch in their room and afterwards, Tony took Abby for a short tour around the city. The Seahawk had docked there once or twice before and he showed her a couple of places that he knew she would like. Soon she demanded they head back to the hotel, claiming that both Gibbs and Ducky would have her hide if she allowed him to exert himself too much.
Already feeling a bit tired (though heartened by the fact that he had been able to keep going much longer than he thought he would), Tony willingly allowed himself to be taken back to the room. There he got another surprise when he found that one of Abby's bags had been filled to the rim with nothing but DVDs. Most of them his favorites, and some he'd never seen before but Abby thought he would like.
They treated themselves to room service for dinner and sat down to relax and watch movies. Tony dozed off after the first one and Abby left him there as she watched a couple more on her own. Finally she nudged him awake and sent him to his room.
The next morning Tony was still sound asleep when a familiar voice jarred him awake.
"DiNozzo!" Abby was standing in her black and red pajamas (with skulls of course) in his doorway, tapping her foot impatiently.
"What?" Tony groaned, rolling over and trying to go back to sleep.
"Get your lazy butt out of bed. Your breakfast is almost ready."
"I'm an invalid. You're supposed to let me sleep, Abs." Tony argued feebly.
"Nope, Ducky said you need to eat properly and you need to get back onto a normal schedule. So move it or lose it!"
Tony groaned harder and dug his face further into the pillows.
"C'mon ya big baby. If you eat your veggie omelet I promise I'll let you have ice cream for dessert tonight."
Tony was out of bed so fast Abby was surprised the sheets didn't come with him. She giggled as she followed him into the kitchen and served the special breakfast she had prepared.
The next couple days went much the same and Tony improved tremendously. Ducky and Gibbs had seen to his physical health before they left but it was Abby who saw to it that his spirit was healthy.
The visits from the crew had helped a lot too. Tony had been surprised on the first day to hear a quiet knock on their door and open it to some crewmen wanting to check on him and see how he was doing. After that, there was a fairly steady stream of people coming to visit, always briefly so as not to disturb them but enough to show that he was missed.
On the final day, Tony felt better than he had in longer than he could remember. His body was strong again, the burns on his face and neck completely healed and the nagging cough nothing but a distant memory. The nightmares were gone as well and Tony was beginning to feel like a new man.
Tony walked Abby to the car taking her to the airport and hugged her hard before putting her inside.
"Whoa!" Abby said with a laugh.
"What?" he asked.
"Well usually it's me crushing you to death, not the other way around."
"No don't apologize, it means you're all strong again. Like your normal self."
"Thanks for everything Abs." Tony smiled as he realized just how right she was.
"You know Gibbs will have you back soon, right?" Abby looked at him seriously for a moment.
"Yeah I know. I also know that I have stuff to do here," he replied.
"Good. See you soon." They hugged again, Abby kissed Tony on the cheek and he kissed her on the forehead."
"Bye, Little Sister."
"Bye, Big Brother."
Two weeks later…
Tony leaned over the rail on his private "balcony". Enjoying the salt air and the breeze. After two weeks of willingly (and enthusiastically) doing nothing but work, his office had felt cramped again. Deciding that he needed the space of the open sea, even if only for a few minutes, Tony had once again headed out to his favorite spot.
Fully recovered he was feeling better than he had since…..Jenny's death…he forced himself to think of it. It still hurt to think about sometimes but he found he could think of her without the deep ache and guilt that came before. Tony still missed home and the rest of the team but the constant ache in his heart had let up a bit.
"Good work you've been doing, DiNozzo," Tony heard a familiar voice and wasn't startled to see an image of Gibbs. The man was leaning over the railing with a coffee cup in hand. Unlike the visions he'd had in the water, this one was a welcome sight.
"Thanks Boss," he replied with a smile.
"Being Agent Afloat agrees with you finally, I see," Gibbs added, taking a sip of out of his cup and eyeing his agent critically.
"Yeah well, guess I needed to do this. Not that I'd mind going home now. How's that coming along by the way?"
"Working on it."
"Okay well not too long, okay Boss? I mean I've learned a lot from all this but you and I both know that I belong in D.C.."
Gibbs smiled secretly, "Who knows DiNozzo? Maybe you'll be seeing me again sometime soon. You never know when a case might bring the team here."
Tony looked at his boss. Did the man know something he didn't?...
Before he could ponder more on his boss' cryptic comment, Tony's head snapped up as a familiar call could be heard echoing across the ship. Seeing that the other man had disappeared, he started running as fast as he could. It was time to get back to work.
"Agent Afloat to the fantail. Agent Afloat to the fantail. Double time!"
Well there it is folks, the end of my latest story. I can't tell y'all how much fun I've had writing this. In the course of starting this story, I got laid off from work. Writing this story and reading all your wonderful reviews helped me so much to get through some rought times and I can't thank y'all enough. In fact it is because of you guys that I have decided to go into freelance writing fulltime. Yes I know it's a challenge but I think I can do it.
So stay tuned. I'm already working on a couple new stories and just trying to decide which one to start posting first. One will be another tale of Gibbs and Tony (this time on horseback) and the other is a story that centers a little more on McGee and Tony in a brotherly, friendship way, kind of like the relationship they had in earlier seasons – where they teased and fought but were still friends in the end. Though Gibbs will also play a big role in that one too, this time being Papa to both of his "boys".
Also stay tuned to my Profile page and my Author's Notes as I will be letting y'all know when my work is published online so you can go check it out. :o)
Thanks again! You guys are the best!!!