A/N: I went back and forth on including this for a while, but in the end I decided that it is in. And I DO like it; hopefully, you will, too.
Gibbs smiled to himself as a memory of Tony, McGee, Abby and Adi playing basketball in Tony's front yard flickered across his mind unbidden. Both he and McGee had chosen to stay the remainder of the weekend in D.C., taking all of Sunday to enjoy the first time the whole team had been together in almost three years.
Gibbs remembered Adi shrieking with excitement, holding the ball tight against her chest, as Tony chased her all the way around the house, across the yard, back onto the driveway and straight into McGee's waiting arms. McGee had lifted her over his head and allowed her to drop the ball through the waiting hoop, and the delight on her face was so vivid it was almost blinding, and absolutely impossible to look away from.
His grin widened, and he stifled a chuckle as he remembered DiNozzo making quite a show of false disappointment, pouting and protesting that the teams were unfair. Adi had skipped over to him and promised to be on his team next time, after she and McGee finished winning this game. Ziva, sitting cross-legged in the grass in the role of referee, had laughed so hard that tears streamed down her cheeks. Gibbs' smile faded slightly. It was almost too much for him sometimes, seeing what had once been for him, imagining what would be for his team. Thirty-five thousand feet up, somewhere between Baltimore-Washington International Airport and Mexico, he looked down at his hands and allowed the dull ache to touch his heart.
"Miss someone?" The question startled the retired Special Agent out of his thoughts, and he looked up to find the gray-haired man next to him watching him curiously.
"Yeah," Gibbs acknowledged gruffly.
"You got family back there in Maryland?" his neighbor asked.
"Yeah," Gibbs said, "I do." He thought about his team sitting around the table in Ziva's dining room last night, Adi's chair pushed right up against Tony's, the young girl snuggled sleepily against her father's side and his hand absently stroking her dark hair as he chuckled through McGee's recount of an undercover op that had gone bizarrely off-kilter. McGee's vibrant tale had the whole team laughing, and Gibbs suspected that he'd only exaggerated a tiny bit in the telling. McGee had blushed furiously, though, when Ducky complimented his story-telling and queried after the next installment of Deep Six, especially when Abby chimed in - Yes, how are Amy and Agent McGregor doing these days?
"Kids?" the man in the next seat asked. "Grandkids?"
"Something like that," Gibbs answered.
Sensing that his attempt at conversation was not entirely welcome, the other man added, "Well, hope you make it back to see them soon," and then settled deeper in his seat.
"Me, too," Gibbs muttered under his breath. He looked out the window of the plane, gazing at the tiny houses and cars and fields and streams far below. All that distance between him and the only family he had left.
You don't have to stay in Mexico, you know, Ducky had said. The two older men had been sitting on the porch steps, watching McGee and Adi shamelessly celebrate their victory over Tony and Abby. There are beaches here in Maryland, Jethro. Virginia, too.
It's not about the beach, Gibbs had answered, decidedly not looking at the retired MEs face.
I see, Ducky had mused. He pushed to his feet, brushing the seat of his pants off vigorously. You know, I think over time it would hurt less if you'd just let yourself enjoy it. With that, Ducky had stepped down from the porch, moving forward to congratulate Adi on her smashing triumph.
As the jet carried him farther and farther away from his team - his family - Gibbs thought that maybe Ducky was right. Even Adi had made it abundantly clear that his visits were too infrequent. You promised you'd teach me to ride a pony, she'd reminded him when he'd told her he didn't know when he'd be back. You PROMISED. Apparently, her memory was as sharp as those of her parents; it had been over a year since he'd told her that.
And maybe it was time to make good on that promise. Maybe it was time to go back home for good.
A/N: Well.......? That's the END! Pretty please won't you leave me a review and let me know what you're thinking?
FYI - I do have another NCIS story in the very early stages of development, but I also have yet another project I'm currently working on that may very well dominate much of my writing time - so I have no idea when I'll be publishing my next NCIS fic. If you enjoyed this story, however, you can always set yourself up with an Author Alert so you'll catch the next one... Thanks again, ya'll are the best!