I do not own the characters and am writing purely for entertainment. This will be the final chapter. Thanks for hanging in there. In the future, I will not publish until the story is finished. I am sorry for such a long delay - had family issues to deal with, sorry (oops, sign of weakness)
The morning came quickly. Gibbs had been awake most of the night worrying about his son. He was afraid it was too early for him to have this confrontation with the other team members. He wished he had been able to talk him out of it. Nevertheless, Tony was as stubborn as ever and refused to even consider not meeting with Tim and Ziva.
Jackson stood watch over both his kids. He was worried about both of their's health. He knew Jethro had been under a great deal of stress. He had not been sleeping well and was starting to show signs of sleep deprivation. The dark circles under his eyes were becoming more prominent every day.
Tony was more rested and had gained some weight. His physical health was improving but his emotions were all over the map. Jackson was concerned about his wellbeing. He didn't want to see his grandson hurt again.
Ziva and Tim were well rested in the morning. They were looking forward to meeting with Tony. They felt it was time to lay the past behind and start fresh. They didn't want to dwell on their past indiscretions. They had made up their minds to make amends with Tony.
Their time with Ducky had helped them to overcome their feelings of regret over the death of the camper. Neither of them could bare to speak her name. Their feelings of guilt consumed them at first but Ducky had been able to get through to them that it was not their fault. It would be a matter of time before they were truly able to come to grips with what had happened. Their physical injuries had been minor in comparison.
As the time grew nearer, Tony became more anxious. He paced his room not wanting to let Gibbs or Jackson see how upset he had become at the prospect of this meeting. Could they really change? Could I ever trust them again? Can they trust and respect me? Why can't they understand I was only following orders?
The questions ran through his head and caused more anxiousness as time passed. Finally, he gave up. He needed to calm down before he exploded. He went in search of his dad. He wanted to go for just a short walk. He had gotten stronger over the past few weeks and wanted to get out of the cabin.
Jethro and Jackson were quietly talking in the kitchen when Tony found them. He stood in the hall to hear what they had to say. He could tell by the tone that it was serious. He was concerned for them both and didn't want them to worry about him. He needed to get this over with while he still had the strength.
"Son…you need to get some rest before you make yourself ill."
"I'm fine." Jethro was tired but felt he needed to keep going. He needed to be there for his family. He needed to be strong.
"You know you can lean on me. I'm not going anywhere. I want to help."
Jethro looked into the dark brown eyes of his father. He found the comfort and love that had always been there for him when he was a kid. He didn't realize how much he had missed that feeling. He reached across the table and placed his hand on his father's arm. "I know and thank you."
"What can I do to help you? I don't want to see any harm come to either of you."
"Just be here for us. I just need you to have our six with this whole situation. I don't want any harm to come to that boy of mine. He deserves so much more than he's gotten from the team or me. We need to make things right."
Tony couldn't standby and watch his dad beat himself up any longer. He entered the kitchen and caught both the Gibbs men by surprise. "Dad…stop. Don't worry about me. I'll be fine. I always land on my own two feet. But it helps knowing you are here for me. No one has ever been there for me before. You…you shouldn't blame yourself for any of this. It was mostly my fault. I should have come to you… to hell with the orders. I knew it was wrong. I should have done the right thing…you've taught me that."
Gibbs quickly walked to his son and enveloped him in a hug. "Tony… none of this is your fault. My anger was never meant to be at you. I was pissed that Jenny had put you in harms way. I wanted to protect you but…I couldn't. When I saw that car blow up…all I could think about was that I had never told you what you meant to me. I couldn't have lost another child and been able to go on. It was hard enough losing Kelly. I can't stand the idea of losing you."
"You didn't. I'm right here."
"Are you sure you are ready for this?"
"With you and grandpa by my side how could I not be? I guess I…" He was hesitant to say what was on his mind. He didn't know if Gibbs was willing to let the others know about the change in their relationship.
"What, Tony, what is it? Obviously, something is bothering you. Please let us help."
Tony turned to look at Jackson. He didn't know what to say. They both meant so much to him. He didn't want to destroy what he had just found. Jackson looked at Tony and a light went on for him. Tony was afraid of what the team would think about him calling Jethro dad.
"Tony, does this have anything to do with our conversation the other night." Tony nodded and looked at the floor. He was embarrassed to think he was so weak. He looked at Jethro to see the confusion on his face. He knew he was going to have to explain but he also knew Jethro would understand. "Tony, you are never too old to need your family. You are never too old to reach out to your dad or our grandpa. We are here for you, that's what this is all about. Family."
Jethro reached out and turned Tony to face him. He reached up and held his face in his hands. "Tony, son. I guess I have to say this again, I am proud of you son. I am proud to have you call me dad. I know in the bullpen we will have to refrain, be professional but…here when we talk to Tim and Ziva… I want you to call me dad. I want them to know that you and I are family. If they can't handle that…well, I'll deport Ziva and have Tim reassigned to the basement with cyber crimes. You and I will stick together no matter what."
Tony felt as if a weight had been lifted from his shoulders. He was afraid he would have to hide who he was from them. He didn't want to hide anything any more. If they were ever to have a chance at becoming a team again then the lies would have to stop.
The rest of the morning was quiet. They sat, talked and relaxed. This was not going to break them apart. All thoughts of a walk were put aside. Tony didn't feel the need to escape. He felt the comfort of family was enough to still his thoughts.
Abby and Ducky hoped the team would be able to get back together. They prepared to meet with Tony and Gibbs. Ducky was aware of the changing relationship between Gibbs and Anthony. He was happy for them. They had both been through so very much in their lives. They deserved to be happy.
Ziva, Tim, Abby and Ducky made their way to Jethro's cabin. They were subdued but hopeful.
Tony was in his room when they arrived. He had been aware of Tim and Ziva's injuries. This would be the first time he would see them. He didn't know how he felt about them. They had made his life a living hell. Now was the time to confront them and see if they could move on.
Jethro and Jackson escorted the team into the living room. Once they were seated, Jethro decided to call Tony. To set Tony at ease and to forewarn the group he decided to yell out for Tony. His yelling would not be that unusual but he knew this would set the pace for the meeting.
"Son! They're here." Gibbs looked around the room. His scowl left the team knowing they had best not question him.
As soon as Gibbs had yelled out, Abby was about to jump for joy. She was excited and happy for her friends. They needed each other. She turned to look to Ducky, she thought he would be just as happy. But what she saw was a knowing look on his face. Ducky knew and had not said anything. She couldn't blame him. He had protected his family. That was plain and simple. She understood that.
Tim and Ziva looked at each other. They were stunned. This would change things. They knew they would have to tread lightly.
Gibbs met Tony in the doorway. He gave him a quick hug before turning to the group. Tony wasn't sure where to begin. He wanted to lay all his cards on the table but was curious what the team was thinking. "Do you think you could get this started for me?"
"Sure." Gibbs led Tony to the couch he had reserved for the two of them. Jackson positioned himself on the arm next to Tony. Flanking their boy, they put a united front towards the team. There would be no question where their loyalties lied.
Gibbs looked at the faces of his team. He had never been more proud and disappointed in them than he had been for the past few months. He felt responsible for many of the problems that had occurred. But he needed to put that to the side. He and Tony had worked that all out. Now it was time for them to accept responsibility for their actions.
"What has happened with this team is uncalled for. What you have done and what you have put Tony through is appalling. It stops now. If Tony feels he can continue to work with you then this team will move on. But, let me make this perfectly clear. This is his decision. He and I have mended our fences. You two have a lot higher mountain to climb."
No one said anything. Gibbs stared at the team. He was boiling with anger. He didn't realize how much anger he still harbored towards them for what they had done to Tony. After letting his words sink in for a couple of moments, he continued. "Tony is the most remarkable detective I have ever had the pleasure to work with. When I left…when I left, I knew he would take care of all of you. I knew he was more than capable of leading this team. His abilities to lead have never been a question in my mind." He looked to Tony and smiled. "He has co-lead this team since the first day we worked together all those years ago in Baltimore. He has always had my six and yours. I have been fortunate to have him be here for me and for you. I don't think either of you would have lasted a week with me without him there to protect you, to teach you and to keep me from firing you. But you never knew that did you. You were young, new and not ready for the field. You have learned a lot through the years but you still have much to learn. Neither of you are prepared to lead this team. But if Tony chooses to allow you to remain on this team, he will make sure you are ready."
Gibbs put his arm around his son. He wanted to give his strength to his boy. He wanted to protect him from all the evil in the world. He knew he couldn't but he could hold off this pain, this betrayal.
Tony was thankful for the strength his dad was giving him. The words had filled his heart with a strength to face this family. "Before I tell you what I am thinking, before I tell you where I think this is all going…I want to know what you think about what has happened. I want to know why you think this happened."
Tim didn't want to let this moment go. He wanted to get his friend back. He wanted to make amends. "Tony, for years you have teased me, picked on me, glued my fingers to my keyboard. I didn't understand what you were trying to do for me. However, you have made me a better investigator, a better person. I was petty, insecure and lashed out at you. I had forgotten all of those things you have done for me…I haven't now. I have been worried about you. I can't tell you the number of times I picked up the phone to call but didn't think you would answer. I…I want my friend back."
Tony had been taken aback by Tim's opening comment. He didn't realize how wrong Tim had taken his teasing. He felt bad about it. "Tim…I wish we had talked about it before, been more open about how we both felt. I never had a brother. I had frat brothers and that was how we had always treated each other. Then when I joined the force…I was always the new guy. Before I joined up with Gibbs, I had never spent more than 2 years anywhere. I don't know, maybe they would have treated me differently if I had stayed. When I came to NCIS, Gibbs was the only one that treated me different. Our other partners…the other teams…if they weren't teasing me…they weren't talking to me. They considered me an outsider. After a couple of years, they still teased me but they seemed to accept me. I never meant to cause you to feel bad. I thought that was just the way it was. I wanted you to be stronger and gain confidence…if you could stand up to me then I knew you would be able to stand up to anyone. I'm sorry Tim. I wish I could take it all back. I would like to try again. I want us to be friends as well as colleagues."
"Tony, if you didn't tease me I would think you didn't like me. I know you…I know what you are like. I don't want to change a thing. Well…maybe the McProbie…but other than that… I want us to be friends and do stuff together like…like when Kate was around. I miss that…the late night pizzas, the talks we used to have. We just don't do that anymore. I am sorry for what happened, do you think we can still work together. I know you have always had my six. Will you trust me to have yours?"
"I think we can. I never thought you did anything to be truly malicious. It was so out of character for you. If you can forgive me…how could I not forgive you?" Tony reached across the table and clasped hands with Tim. They would be able to work it out. Gibbs had no fear of that…Ziva was still a question mark.
Ziva was concerned. She didn't have the history with the team that Tim had. She never understood him and how he could be on the team. She had always looked at him like a buffoon that was allowed to be on the team for comic relief. Since the accident and reading the reports from Tony's childhood, her opinion of Tony had changed. She thought she understood him better.
Her time at the camp had helped her as well. The first week was filled with kids that just wanted to be care for and cared about. Some of them had similar attributes as Tony. They acted up to get attention. They were starved for affection. She had been the only one there to provide it.
The second week was different. These kids had wanted attention but had acted out with destructive ways to get it. But when faced with tragedy and a life-threatening situation these kids had really come through for each other. The loss of life had been great. This child had wanted to be accepted and care for…now; she would never know what it was like to have a family, to have people care about her.
Silence filled the room. Ziva seemed lost in her thoughts. Tony was becoming more and more uncomfortable. He didn't want to see the team destroyed. He had hoped they could work out their problems and move on. He wanted to trust her, the way he once had.
Without looking up or even recognizing that everyone was looking at her, Ziva began to talk. She had a lot to say but wasn't sure about the words. These people were very different from the ones she had grown up around. Her family… maybe that's what I need to tell them.
"My family life was not much of a family. We were not taught to talk about our feelings. We were taught to be soldiers and to follow orders. I never saw my father hug my mother. My family never showed affection towards each other. My brother is dead…my father doesn't speak to me. My mother…This team is different. You talk…you hug…you care. You have confused me more than the others. Tim is sweet, innocent and wise when it comes to computers. It was my fault he went astray…Abby is easily excited, very intelligent, and loves you all. I didn't understand the depth of her love until recently. Ducky is stoic but cares for all of you."
She stood and began to pace the room. "But you Tony…I have never understood you. I thought I knew you…I thought I understood but I did not. You talk but never say anything about how you feel, what you think, or anything about your past, your family. I did not realize this was your family. I do not know if you will ever be able to trust me again. I do know if you want me to be a part of this team. I want the opportunity to show you that I have changed. I believe my time apart from you has given me the opportunity to learn more about what you do for us and given me a better appreciation for who you are." Looking into his eyes, she knew she had to tell him how she felt. "I want to be apart of this team. I want to have the opportunity to become a part of this family. I want to get to know you for who you
Everyone in the room sat silently. They were in shock to hear such heart felt words from Ziva. She had never been known as an emotional person. Cold hearted was the most likely term to be used for her. This was different. Tony knew something had changed her, but he wasn't sure what had caused the change.
Tony sat contemplating what he had heard and what he had observed from Ziva. He knew there was more to it and before he would be willing to let it ride he needed to know what had caused the change. "Ziva, I appreciate the sentiment. But I don't know that I fully trust what you are saying. You have said so much in the past that it is hard to believe you have changed so much. What caused you to change?"
Ziva looked around the room. She could tell the others wanted to know as well. It was now or never for her. "Director Sheppard."
Those two words sent a chill up Tony and Jethro's spines. The atmosphere considerably cooled at this turn of events. Jethro was first to pounce on her, the vehemence in his voice left no one to wonder is feelings on this subject. "What about Sheppard? What does she have to do with this?"
"When we came back from suspension…Director Sheppard had me working on cold cases. She gave me one in particular that was curious. I was infuriated by what I read but did not know why I was reading it until the end. It was…it was a file on you, Tony. It gave me a better understanding of who you are… and why. You have not shared these things. You have kept it hidden. But the file hid nothing. I am sorry for how I have treated you. I respect what you have had to overcome to be where you are today."
Gibbs turned to Tony. Tony was pale, his breathing had increased. He did not know about a file on him. He couldn't understand why Sheppard would compile a file on him and then share it with Ziva of all people. He kept his past in the past. The thought of someone learning what he wanted to forget was disconcerting to him.
"Why…why would she do that? What could she possibly know?" So many things that could be in there but I can't imagine that the worse of it could have been found out.
"Clear the room. Stay near by but give us a few minutes. Ziva…we will be talking about this later."
Tony could not believe what had just happened. He knew she hadn't meant to be cruel about it. But nothing from his childhood was pleasant. Those people were anything but pleasant. They were cruel, bitter, uncaring…and that was the good parts he could remember.
"Tony, son…talk to me."
"I…I don't know what to say. That's sure wasn't what I was expecting. Why would Sheppard do that to me? If I wanted someone to know…I would have told you. But…this is not…this is not cool at all. I never would have shared that with them. I haven't even talked to you. I don't understand."
"Let's get Ziva in here and find out what she really knows. Then we will talk about where to go from here. What do you think?"
"Yeah, maybe it isn't as bad as what I am thinking. I hope…I don't believe she could really know that much. There wasn't much of a paper trail. I need to know what she knows. I need to know she isn't going to talk to the others about it. This should never have been taken out of my hands."
Ziva was standing on the edge of the porch. She refused to stand near the others. She would not betray Tony by telling them what she had learned.
"Ziva, front and center." Jethro was not about to take this lightly.
She knew she had best comply without hesitation. Gibbs was angry. She didn't want to make matters worse. She entered the room and had a seat where instructed.
Gibbs paced the room for a few minutes while Tony tried to compose himself further. "Ziva, I want to know what you have read. I want you to be specific and tell us everything. Under no circumstances are you to share any of this information with anyone else unless Tony states that you can. Do I make myself clear?"
"Yes, you do." For the next twenty minutes, she told of what she had learned in the files. Tony was appalled at the amount of information she had obtained and furious with Sheppard for handing this information over without consulting him or Gibbs. Tony became more stoic as she continued. Gibbs listened, was shocked by some of what he heard and felt his anger building. When she finished telling what she had learned, she felt a need to explain what she had learned from the experience. "Tony, before reading that file I always thought of you as having grown up like all the other privileged Americans. Everything being handed to you and you being ungrateful for it. I never thought you understood what it meant to suffer. You are always the child, the playboy, the joker…you hide yourself from everyone including your friends. After reading your file, I understood why you do what you do. You try to keep people at a distance…you do not want to be hurt again. You want attention but don't care how you get it."
She took a moment to compose herself. "Anthony DiNozzo, you are an intelligent, caring, and gentlemen. You should not hide who you are from us, your friends. You did not deserve my disrespect. I can not apologize to you enough for how I have treated you. You were an efficient leader; I let my misconceptions of you change how I saw you. I have thought about this since you departed. I admit I was angry at first, thought it was unfair for me to be punished. But I know I was wrong. No matter what you decide here, I will not speak of this to anyone. I will not use this against you. I will not bring it up again. But, if you ever find yourself in need of someone to talk to…I would like you to know that I will be there for you."
Gibbs recovered quickly from hearing Ziva speak from her heart. He was glad to hear her say she was sorry and back up what she had said. He was still pissed as all get out about Sheppard but there was nothing he could do about that. He looked at Tony who sat quietly not saying a word. Tony wouldn't raise his head up or look anyone in the eyes. Gibbs was concerned this would be yet another set back.
"Ziva, while I do believe you are sorry and that you have had a change of heart…I have to say I despise the fact that it took you reading about my childhood to gain respect for me. How someone is raised or how much someone has suffered should not affect your ability to respect them. You never looked at what was beneath the surface. As an investigator, you need to always look past the surface and see into their souls. If you can't do that, you will never be affective. As a good investigator, you should have realized that there was more to me than met the eye. It's not as if I haven't ever said anything about my childhood. I just never choose to bring up the worse parts of it. I have tried to put it in the past. I wish I felt you could, but it's not in your nature. I hope we can work together…but I never want to hear another word about any of this again from you. If I choose to talk about it I will, but not by anyone's choosing other than my own. I can't condone what Sheppard did. She had no right to tell you about me. She had no right to break the confidence…she had no right."
"Tony, when we return to DC I'll take care of this situation. I'll make certain the file is destroyed. If she thinks she can manipulate you with it…she's got another thing commin'."
"Thanks dad." Tony felt tired. He wanted to talk to Gibbs without an audience. "Zee, can you leave us alone for awhile. Tell the others we'll talk to them later."
"Certainly." She made her way to the door but before leaving, she turned back to Tony. "I am glad to see you are feeling better. I have been concerned about you."
"Thanks. Tell everyone we'll meet here again tomorrow for breakfast at 9." Tony gave a small smile and a wave goodbye.
Tony sat thinking for a few minutes before he started to talk to Gibbs. Jethro for his part was patiently waiting.
"Dad, what do you think? Do you believe them? Can I believe them?" He shook his head. "This has been tough in so many ways. It's hard for me to imagine…I want to…I want to believe that we can work together. I guess they only way I will really know is to give them the chance." He stopped and Gibbs thought he was finished but before he could say anything Tony continued. "I never meant to deceive any of you. I never meant to hurt you. I didn't want anyone to know about my past. The past, my father, my mother, the rest of them…it's all one big painful memory. I don't know what Jenny has pulled together but I know this…she only scratched the surface. Maybe some day I'll talk to you about it but not today. I do want to know what Jenny knows. But then again maybe I don't. So what do you think?" Finally, he turned to look at his dad.
Gibbs walked over to Tony and held him in a tight embrace. "I don't care about your past. I don't want to know anything that you aren't comfortable with telling me. I know you don't have a dishonest bone in your body. You make me proud every day, in every way. I wish you had been my son from the start but you are mine now…in my heart. We will deal with all of this. You will be fine." He gave Tony a moment to absorb this before he continued. "If you are willing to give this a try I think we should. But if they pull their crap again…if they are disrespectful to you…if they try to hurt you…I will put at end to it. As for Jen…I will take care of that don't you worry."
Tony sat at his desk thinking about all that had transpired. This weekend was father's day. He had never looked forward to it before but this year was different. It had been a long road; physically he was better than ever. He had worked hard and made certain he was in the best shape he could be.
Around the office, his outward appearance had not changed. He still goofed off but now the other team members understood him and joked back. There was more laughter from the MCRT section of the bullpen. There was a lighter heart about the people who worked in that section. None of the other teams could understand what had happened but they were happy for Gibbs unit.
Jen left the team alone. Her confrontation with Jethro Gibbs in full pappa bear mode had left her a little weak in the knees. She realized she had stepped over the bounds and though her thoughts were in the right place she was made to realize she screwed up. She apologized to Tony. He accepted and moved on. The files were destroyed.
Tim and Ziva had truly changed. They were much more respectful. They had a better understanding of who Tony was and why he did what he did. Now they were openly showing him more respect. In turn, they discovered they received more respect from the other teams.
Abby and Ducky were happy that Gibbs and Tony had finally created a family. They both had deserved it as far as they were concerned.
Tony had been daydreaming for a while when he suddenly felt the hand hit him on the backside of his head. With a grin on his face, he turned to see Gibbs standing over him. "Sorry Boss. Just thinking about stuff."
"Think on your own time DiNozzo. Back to work now." Gibbs was happy to have his team back to where they were. He was happier to have Tony be a permanent part of his life. They had spent many hours together and with his father. Tony loved to visit his grandfather.
Sunday morning arrived. Gibbs was still asleep when Tony arrived. He was excited to start the day off right. He made quick order of the kitchen, brewing a pot of coffee (or at least that's what Gibbs called it) and placed the donuts on a plate.
He had just finished placing everything on the table when Gibbs walked into the kitchen. "Didn't think I would see you so early Tony."
"Happy Father's Day, Dad. I wanted to surprise you."
Gibbs smiled. Tony had healed a part of his heart that he never thought could be healed. As he walked to the table, he noticed an envelope with his name on it. Tony smile and looked anxious as Gibbs picked it up.
The cover of the card was a boat on the water at sunrise. It read simply Happy Father's Day
Inside was a letter besides the traditional poem in the card. He slowly opened the letter and began to read it:
This is our first Father's Day together. For me it's the first one I ever really cared about. This may not be a traditional way of doing things but I'm not really sure what the rules are…I still need to learn. I just wanted to take a minute and say some things that have been on my mind lately.
I couldn't have survived this past year without you. You have given me strength, the ability to believe in my self and the family I have always wanted. You have given me unconditional love, even when I have messed up. You have always been there for me even before but now I understand I can talk to you about so much more, and I have.
I wanted to thank you. I wanted to tell you how much you mean to me, but I don't know where to start.
Dad, I love you. I love you more today than yesterday. I never realized what it meant to love a parent until you became my dad.
The tears in his eyes made it almost impossible to read the last few lines. It had been a long year. He had known this was how Tony had felt but it was the first time he had put it into words. Tony's anxiety grew at the sight of the tears. He thought he had screwed up again.
"I'm sorry…I didn't mean to make you cry."
"Son, I love you too. You have been the greatest gift I ever could have received. Thank you for all you said. I'm glad you're my son."
As I said at the beginning of the chapter. Thank you all for your reviews and for sticking around for the end. I hope you liked the ending. And for all of you who weren't happy with the Ziva portrayed - I hope you liked where I took her.