Epilogue

Two years later...

Hollis sat at her desk, watching on the camera as they all left, one by one, excited for a weekend that looked to be free of any occupational entanglements. It was nearly killing her to wait, but this meeting couldn't be delayed and if she left, it would get postponed, she would get lectured (which she hated) and she'd miss her flight. She did not want to miss her flight. She would not miss her flight even if she had to chase down the plane on the tarmac. So...she waited.

"They're on, Hollis," Noreen said, leaning in. She had taken Eric's place as head of the tech side about a year before and despite her small stature, she ran her people with a level of discipline surpassed only by her concern for them all.

"It's about time," Hollis muttered and stood, feeling, as she always did, like a giant walking next to Noreen. She wondered if Nate ever worried about stepping on her.

"In a hurry?"

"I have a plane to catch in a few hours. I don't want to have to pay to reschedule."

"Hot date this weekend?"

"My vacation is supposed to start in exactly twenty minutes," Hollis said, not answering Noreen directly.

"Going back east are you?"

"Nope. West. They'd better not drag this out."

"I could tell them we're having technical difficulties," Noreen suggested, grinning wickedly.

"No, then, I'd just have to reschedule and I'm going to hate it either way. Put them on." Hollis stood in front of the screen and tried to pay attention to the three-way conversation going on between a high-ranking member of the Navy, a JAG lawyer, and Director Vance (who didn't look too thrilled about the meeting either). This was one part of the job she didn't really enjoy: blustering officials. She stifled a sigh as she tried to explain in her turn that the surveillance had not only been necessary but crucial to the case, no matter how inconvenient it might have been. After ten minutes of going around in circles, Vance looked directly toward her (or rather toward her camera) and asked,

"Agent Mann, in your opinion would it have been possible to apprehend these smugglers without the covert surveillance provided by your team?"

It wasn't a really a question, but he had to ask it.

"No, Director Vance. The case was built off information gathered covertly." She looked toward the Navy man. "Sir, would you rather have had a smuggling route running through your base? Because that's what we stopped. That's what we do."

After a few seconds of hemming and hawing, Vance stepped in and declared that he had every confidence that things had been done according to procedure and had been vital. He declared the meeting adjourned and shut down the connection immediately after getting the reluctant agreement from the Navy man and the relieved nod of the lawyer.

"Pointless," Hollis muttered, pulling off her headset. "Absolutely pointless. I can't count the number of times I had to strong-arm that man into allowing us on his ship. Now, we got rid of a smuggling ring and all he cares about is that we had some cameras installed."

"Can't win them all. Some people just like to bluster. You going to make your flight?"

Hollis looked at her watch and sighed with relief. "Yes. Plenty of time."

"Enjoy your vacation."

Hollis smiled. "I will. I've been planning it for months." Then, before Noreen could ask any more awkward questions, she gave her a salute and headed out.

Within an hour, she was on her way to the airport, hoping for no delays.

x.x.x.x.x.x.x

"Ladies and gentlemen, we are making our final descent into Lana'i City. Thank you for flying with us and we hope to see you on another Hawaii Air flight in the future."

Hollis smiled and watched out the window as Lana'i loomed closer and closer. She hadn't been out here for two years. She was excited to see it again, even if it was only for a week. Her renters had left the house a month ago, meaning that it was open for her to use. Lani had sworn that they left it pristine. As soon as the seatbelt lights went off, she was standing in the aisle, grabbing her carry-on and waiting impatiently for the people ahead of her to get off the plane.

As she stepped into the terminal, she began looking around eagerly. She was sure that people were watching her with amusement as she only barely managed to keep from falling over a group of tourists. She checked herself after that and collected her bag, trying not to seem too excited. After standing around for a few minutes, she headed toward the exit, still keeping an eye out.

"Holly?"

The voice came from behind her and she turned around, smiling with pleasure. There he was.

"Hi, Jethro."

Feigning a nonchalance completely belied by her earlier behavior, she walked to him still smiling. By the amused twinkle in his eyes, she knew Jethro had seen how she'd been acting, even if he didn't address it directly.

"You're late."

"My flight was delayed. You?"

"We got here early."

"Of course, you did," she said with a pseudo-grimace. Would a pilot dare run late if Leroy Jethro Gibbs was on the plane? Of course not, even if the pilot didn't actually know Leroy Jethro Gibbs was on the plane. There was some unwritten law in the universe that stated that...

Her thoughts were cut off by Jethro plucking her bag out of her hands, setting it on the ground and kissing her...right in the middle of the terminal. That was definitely not his usual MO, but seeing as it had been nearly six months since she'd last seen him, she was willing to overlook that and return the kiss ardently. Too soon, he released her and leaned over to whisper in her ear.

"I missed you, Holly."

"Are you sure?"

"Positive."

That was what Jethro said every time they managed to get together, and she never tired of hearing it. He'd never yet said, "I love you" but he was admitting to missing her, that her absence was something he regretted, and that was something worth hearing. Every time. She couldn't deny to herself that she hoped he might say the cliched words once, but that was something she could wait for...whenever it came...and she would let him say it first. After two years, she felt it, but she hadn't said it either.

"Holly?"

"Yes?"

"How are we getting to your place?"

"I have someone coming to pick us up. Don't listen to her, whatever she says."

Gibbs smiled and picked up Hollis' bag, shouldering his own and they headed out into the Lana'i evening. True to form, Lani was outside waiting. She had aged in the last two years and that gave Hollis a momentary pause. She hadn't looked young before, but this was different. She was aging! Still, the twinkle in her eyes was exactly the same, particularly as she looked Jethro up and down.

"Lani," Hollis warned.

"I didn't say a word," Lani replied innocently, but she came round the car and hugged Hollis tightly. "Good to see you back, even if it's only for a bit."

"Thanks, Lani." She pulled back. "This is Jethro. Jethro, this is Lani, one of my running buddies."

"I see what you like," Lani said appreciatively.

Hollis blushed. "Lani."

"I'm just saying," she said and stuck out her hand.

Jethro shook it without comment, but he smiled as he got into the car.

x.x.x.x.x.x.x

The house was as spotless as Lani had said and for that, Hollis was relieved. She didn't want to have to spend their first evening cleaning. She strongly suspected that Lani had actually cleaned the place herself.

The first evening was quiet, mostly spent companionable silence. After dinner, Jethro sat on her couch with her leaning against him as they watched some old movie, but even after it was over and the television was off, they stayed where they were. Passion would come later. Tomorrow would be soon enough for doing things together, but right now, it was all about enjoying being together, something treasured all the more because of its rarity...and how near they'd come to not having it at all.

"I really did miss you."

"I missed you, too, Jethro," Hollis said softly.

His arms tightened around her and he leaned over to kiss her neck. She smiled and leaned into it. Then, he leaned back against the couch.

After a while, Hollis felt her body relax as she drifted toward sleep. She was so close to unconsciousness that she almost didn't believe what she heard. It was soft, whispered into her ear, so soft that she felt the warm breath but almost didn't hear the words.

"I love you, Hollis."

Her eyes opened and she looked up at Jethro, making sure she'd heard him correctly. He smiled at her, as if he'd known the reaction he'd get for saying the words...which he probably did, truth be told.

"I love you, Jethro." She reached up and kissed him slowly, only to let him go and sink back down to her former position.

Eventually, she felt Jethro's body relax as he fell asleep. For some reason, relaxed and content as she was, Hollis didn't feel tired any longer. She looked out the window to her backyard, a smile on her lips.

Finally, she was happy.

As she fell asleep to the rhythm of Jethro's even breathing, she had a last whimsical thought.

I wonder if the birds will wake us up in the morning.

FINIS!