By Kate Carter

Standard disclaimer: Nothing but the story idea is mine.

A/N: OH MY GOSH, I'M WRITING AGAIN!!!! *jumps up and down excitedly* I'm tellin' ya, college is killer on your creative writing time. This is (a) my first NCIS fic ever, and (b) something that takes place somewhere around "Agent Afloat," which I just watched, and is a fairly awesome episode in my opinion, but the story has been bugging me ever since I watched "SWAK"



I was finally going home.

I couldn't keep the smile off my face the entire plane ride. When I snagged a piece of Ziva's granola bar and Gibbs (who, as it turned out, wasn't really sleeping) lazily opened one eye at her fussing and reached over to smack me on the back of the head, the smile turned into a full-fledged grin. I, Tony DiNozzo, was absolutely giddy with the prospect of going home.

Maybe because, for the first time in my life, I really felt like I had a home. More than a home – a family. When I'd been trying to cover up my conversation with Probie and Gibbs, I had called Gibbs "Pop" and acted like Probie was my younger brother. Maybe it's because...to be honest, I kind of feel about them like that's what they are, ya know? Not that I would ever, ever, in a million years, tell either of them that – I don't think a date with Miss Universe would be enough to tempt me. But the whole gang…they're sort of the family I always wanted and never had.

It was a fact I'd never appreciated until my experience as an agent afloat. Man, that job sucked. Trapped on a ship with people who don't like you, no way off, gazing longingly in the direction you think the shore is (hey, if you swim long enough, you reach land eventually…Antarctica is land, after all). Cramped quarters, bad food, but most of all, my family wasn't there. Pictures on the wall just couldn't take the place of the actual people. Not that I really had much in the way of pictures. Just Abby and Ziva…hooboy…Ziva…she should DEFINITELY wear that bikini more often…I wonder if we can make bikinis standard uniform for NCIS field agents? Definitely distract people…but I digress.

Like I was saying, it's a family. We had Thanksgiving together last year – well, actually, we've had it together the last several years. Always an interesting scenario. Ziva always look suspiciously at the food to make sure we haven't put ham in the stuffing or something like that (I swear, it was an accident!). Abby…well, Abby tends to be creative. Ducky brings Scottish "food" (it was great, seeing McGee's face when we told him what haggis really is – how did McGeek not know that?!). Gibbs, well, he stopped and picked up a pie. I was in charge of deep-frying the turkey. It was awesome, of course. And Jenny…she had made mashed potatoes. You wouldn't think the director of NCIS could make the world's most amazing mashed potatoes…but she did.

I'm gonna miss those mashed potatoes.

Everyone has a role in our little family. Abby is the youngest – always so bouncy and cheerful and somewhat spoiled. McGee is next – he's geeky, he's fun to tease, he's occasionally annoying. Ziva…well, she's right below me, the one who acts so cool and aloof but is as mischievous as the rest of us. Granted, the whole family scenario doesn't work so well with her. It did with Kate. Kate was like my sister, despite the occasional fantasy. But that was a long time ago.

And me? I'm the big brother of course, leader of the pack, the jock, the cool one who brings home all the babes, while McGee drools in jealousy and hopes he can grow up someday to be as amazingly awesome as I am.

Gibbs – he's sort of the father I always wanted. I know, I know, he's not THAT old, but he's the closest thing I've ever had. He provides discipline (via his smacks on the head), but beneath the gruff, tough exterior is a guy who is always there for us, always willing to help us out, and generally willing to spoil Abby. Ducky's sort of the eccentric uncle…every good family should have an eccentric uncle. Jenny…well, she sort of filled in as the mom for us. Which is why her death hit me so hard. I didn't just let down the director of NCIS – I let down a woman who cared for all of us. And promptly got shipped out to the middle of nowhere on a boat. Yeah, great job, DiNozzo. Or should I say, "de Bozo"?

And now that I'm back, sitting on the edge of my desk with an exuberant Abby refusing to let go of me, there's sort of this…warm, glowy feeling. I'm not really sure what it is at first, but when McGee suggests we go out to dinner tomorrow night as a celebration that the gang's back together, and Ziva catches my eye and gives me that warm smile of hers, and Gibbs pulls Abby off my neck, and Ducky comes up from his morgue and gives me a hearty hug, I realize what it is.

It's love.