Once again…thank you all for hanging in there!

Chapter 41

Gibbs and Ducky sat on the couch in the ME's living room watching the bridge game in the middle of the room. Victoria Mallard and Tony DiNozzo were partners against two other women who were friends of the elderly lady; each of the ladies were obviously completely enamored with Tony, none more so that Ducky's mom.

The team leader recalled the reunion that had taken place just a couple of hours ago. He and Tony had just arrived at the Mallard home and were greeted by Ducky, who had called for his mother to join them.


Earlier that afternoon

"Mother, can you come here for a moment?" Ducky called out.

"What is it, Donald?" Victoria Mallard inquired, as she made her way to the front door surrounded by her Corgis. "Can't you see that I'm…"

Ducky had stepped aside so she could see their visitors. She had never seen the team leader; she only had eyes for one man. "Anthony!" she cried out. "Where have you been?"

"Remember Mother," Ducky patiently began to explain. "I told you that Anthony had been ill and that he would come back as soon as he was able to do so."

Ignoring her son, she laced her arm through Tony's and escorted him inside. "I've had the most dreadful string of partners since you've been gone," Victoria exclaimed.

"I'm back now," Tony assured her. "I just hope I can remember everything. I've been having a bit of trouble with my memory."

"That's all right; I'm used to that. Donald has trouble with his memory as well. We're going to be playing Margaret and Vivian today; they're new to the Bridge scene but both of them are very devious. They use recipes to table talk during the game, so if you hear them talking about a club sandwich, be wary."

"Yes ma'am."

"After we're done, I need for you to move my armoire; I've been after Donald for weeks, but you know he has those memory problems."

Tony pulled out Victoria's chair and waited patiently for her to take her seat. "Have I ever told you that for a gigolo, you have the most impressive manners?"

"Thank you, Mrs. Mallard."

Taking the seat opposite from her, he greeted the other two women who couldn't keep their eyes off them. "Shall we begin?" Tony asked the women.

"By all means," Victoria insisted as she glared at their opponents. "Eyes to yourselves, girls; he's all mine. Isn't that right, Anthony?"

He winked at the flirtatious woman. "You've got that right, Torie."

***end flashback***

"This day has been a long time coming," Ducky stated, finally breaking the companionable silence between them. "I haven't seen her quite so happy in a long time."

"I know how she feels," Gibbs conceded.

"I'm sure you do. The son of your heart is back; it's nothing short of miraculous."

Gibbs took a sip of his coffee and then set it down on the table in front of him. "He's coming back to work on Monday."

"So soon?"

"He says he'll never know if he's ready unless he tries."

"That sounds like Anthony."

"Yes it does." The team leader grew quiet again. Although Tony was talking a good game, there were times that Gibbs wasn't sure if he was following his heart or the desires of those around him. He wanted nothing more than for Tony to come back; he was the heartbeat of their team and since his disappearance, they had all been simply going through the motions.

"I just hope that it's not too much, too soon. I want him there because he wants to be there and not because he's expected to be there," the Marine reasoned.

"Time will tell," the ME proclaimed. "No matter what he decides to do with his life, he knows that he can trust us to support him unconditionally. He still has a long road and he will have good days and bad days but…"

"He doesn't have to do it alone."


The two men turned their attention back to the game at hand. Tony and Mrs. Mallard had just claimed victory, prompting the elderly lady to make her way around the table and sit in Tony's lap. She then proceeded to plant a kiss on the dark haired man's cheek. "I knew that we'd crush them! I missed you, Anthony!"

Gibbs couldn't contain his grin as Tony hugged the petite woman. "I missed you too, Torie."

"This calls for a celebration," she declared. "Donald, we are having a guest for supper!"

Her gaze fell on the team leader; her intense scrutiny was beginning to cause him some discomfort but he was a Marine and he was determined to withstand the wily ways of Victoria Mallard. "Who are you?" she demanded to know.

"Jethro Gibbs, ma'am. I work with Donald and Tony," he informed her.

"Well, you can help Donald with dinner after you see Margaret and Vivian out."

"Mother!" Ducky exclaimed, astonishment etched his cultured voice. "Where are your manners?"

Ignoring her son's attempt at chastisement, Victoria took Tony by the arm as he rose from his seat. "I'll show you which armoire I'm talking about and then Contessa needs a bath and remember…"

"She likes it rough," Tony finished.

"Mother, Tony doesn't need to be moving your furniture," the ME warned. "He's still recuperating from…"

"That's what he gets paid for! He is a furniture mover! Honestly Donald! I don't know where your mind is at sometimes. Now come along, Anthony."

Gibbs shook his head in amusement as Tony glanced back over his shoulder and shrugged. It was good to see DiNozzo laugh again, knowing that there had been a day when he never thought he would hear the sound of Tony's contagious laughter again.

He joined Ducky, who was making excuses for his mother's behavior as he bade farewell to the other guests. As the ME closed the door, Gibbs noticed the exasperation etched in the older man's features. "I'm sorry, Jethro; it seems that she's taken all leave of her senses."

The team leader shook his head. "Don't apologize, Duck. She's happy to have Tony back and she doesn't want to share him; I can certainly understand that. So if I help with dinner, do I get to stay? I figured with your mom preoccupied with Tony, that you could use the company."

"Most definitely. Shall we adjourn to the kitchen?"

"After you."

Gibbs could hear Tony attempting to move the armoire and he found himself praying that the younger man wouldn't push himself too hard; DiNozzo was still recovering from his injuries and he would not let his own personal comfort get in the way of helping someone else.

He thought back over the past few months and was amazed how everything had worked out, especially for Tony. Like Ducky had said, there would be good and bad days, but thankfully, the good days were beginning to outweigh the bad, giving Tony a better outlook on life and a more positive frame of mind.

The trust that had been shattered during Tony's captivity was slowly taking shape once again and becoming stronger than ever before. It had taken a lot of pain, physically and mentally, to figure out that their bond had not been broken, it had just been cracked and with a little glue, they had both discovered that a crack can be repaired. Although, the crack changes the appearance of the bond, it holds it together so that whatever obstacles are placed before them, the trust and admiration for each other that he and Tony had would always see them through.


Tony sat at his desk studying the piece of paper in his hand. After three weeks, he had finally been cleared to come back to work full time; his proficiency and psych evaluation had been completed and he had been deemed fit for duty. He was still seeking counseling outside of the office and attending AA meetings on a regular basis but as far as NCIS was concerned, he was ready to resume his place by Gibbs' side.


He glanced up at Ziva, her concerned gaze studying him intently.


"Are you all right?"

He blew out a pent up breath. "I'm better than all right; I'm finally legal again," he announced, holding up the piece of paper in his hand.

"You mean that you're back as a full time field agent?"

"Actually, I'm back as a full time senior field agent," he playfully corrected.

"Does Gibbs know?"

"What kind of question is that? Of course he knows; he knows everything! He's like creepy that way and…he's standing right behind me, isn't he?"

Ziva nodded and quickly resumed her work, leaving Tony to defend his own comments. He turned around and smiled at Gibbs. "Hey Boss. I was just a…" The team leader's familiar glare silenced the agent. "I think I'll just shut up now."

"Good idea," Gibbs grumbled as he made his way towards his desk. "Gear up!"

Tony shot to his feet and picked up his backpack. He was ecstatic as Gibbs threw him the keys to the car. "You drive, DiNozzo."

"On it, Boss!"

Those three words were music to his ears. For the first time since he had returned to work, things simply felt right. He was finally home and although there were times when he was drawn back to his days of Todd Gibbs, but with his friends by his side, they always reminded him who he was.

As the elevator doors closed, he put on his sunglasses, his smile reaching from ear to ear. He was Very Special Agent Anthony DiNozzo and for the time being, all was right with the world.

The end!

Wow! We made it! Thank you all so much for sticking with me. As you know, I generally like to reply to each individual review, but every time I try, send me an Oops! Message and tells me I'm using an invalid url, so if anyone knows a way around this, let me know. So, please know that I do appreciate each and every one of you who have dropped me a line and hopefully, I'll be able to thank you individually as soon as I figure out what is going on with the review reply.

If you want to pm me, that is fine and I promise I'll reply back! Again, thanks to each of you for making a special place in your heart for this story! Now, I'm off to update my other two stories and begin my Baltimore story!