A/N: Totally would have had this up sooner, but I've been distracted by Lego Harry Potter and my new job. Shame on me! But it is super fun! The game, not the job. Though the job isn't bad, either. Just a lot more hours than I'm used to (which is none).
And just so you all know, last chapter was really the 'official' end to HTR. This epilogue is more getting into the new story, a little bit. Sort of a bridge, I guess. Or half of one. Luckily, once I had finished this epilogue I was able to write the other half of the bridge (the prologue of the sequel), so rest assured it is coming along swimmingly. :D
It was Friday evening and the MCRT was working late, finishing up the case they had caught earlier that week. It was a fairly open and shut end to a string of break-ins on base housing; fingerprints were found on a tool discarded at the most recent scene and the man they belonged to was picked up and hauled in for questioning, a rapid confession following when he was faced with the evidence of his crime.
Now all that was left at the end of this long day was for the team to finish their reports in order to close the case and be set free for the weekend.
Gibbs left the squad room to refill his coffee after his caffeine-deprived growls became more surly than usual.
Tony pinched himself to keep from nodding off again as he sat at his desk in front of a tall stack of paperwork.
Ziva rubbed the sides of her head with her palms as she squinted at her computer screen through a tension headache.
And McGee whistled cheerfully, his fingers clattering away nimbly on his keyboard.
"Why is McGee in such a good mood?" Ziva wondered aloud, turning to glare at him across the room.
Tony looked up and chuckled at her obvious annoyance. "You don't recognize that look, Zee? McRomeo has a date tonight."
"Ah." Ziva smirked knowingly. "That is right, I had forgotten."
"Though he could've chosen a less irritating tune." He got up and walked over to McGee's desk to get his attention. "Hello. Earth to Tim. What is that anyway, McClassical? Ride of the Valkyries?"
McGee looked surprised as he stopped whistling. "How did you know that, Tony?"
"Please, Probie," Tony scoffed. "That song is in so many movies it isn't even funny."
"Figures." McGee shook his head as he flipped open his PDA to check his text messages.
"Uh-oh, what time were you supposed to meet Ali, McTardy?" Tony asked. "Is she going to think you're standing her up?" He clicked his tongue sorrowfully. "She'll be angry. And you won't like her when she's angry."
McGee rolled his eyes. "She's not angry, Tony. I've explained that we're working a little late and so she's meeting me here instead."
"Oh. Well that's good. You don't want to screw up your first date."
"Why, because you'd make me regret it?"
"No." Tony shook his head solemnly. "She would."
"Well, I think that if I told her that you just compared her to the Hulk, however obliquely, she might be a tad more upset at you than at anything I could do in comparison," McGee countered.
"That's blackmail," Tony said, his tone oddly admiring. He sniffed and wiped away an imaginary tear. "My little Probie's growing up."
McGee opened his mouth to reply with a sarcastic comment, but Ziva, who had been watching their back and forth with some amusement, interrupted him.
"I am surprised you are not giving McGee a harder time about this, Tony. About dating your sister. You truly have no problem at all with it?"
"Are you kidding?" Tony laughed. "If he hadn't asked Ali out by now, I'd have to take away his man card."
Ziva looked puzzled. "What is a 'man card'?"
"It's a… well, it's pretty much…" Tony scratched his head, trying to think of how to explain it.
"The requirement to be accepted as a respectable member of the male community. Can and should be revoked by other respectable males for doing non-respectable-male things."
Ziva, Tony, and McGee turned to see Abby walk up.
"Urban Dictionary," the forensic scientist explained, waving her cell phone.
They all stared at her, their expressions incredulous.
"What?" Abby shrugged. "There's an app for that."
"Well," Ziva sniffed, turning back to Tony, "this 'man card' is a ridiculous concept. Still, I was under the impression that men usually did not want their friends to date their sisters."
"Well, generally that's true," Tony admitted. "I mean, if it were one of my frat buddies, you'd be absolutely right. But this is McGee we're talking about. Completely different story."
McGee grinned. "Glad to hear that I have your approval, Tony."
"Yeah, yeah," Tony grumbled. "Don't let it go to your head."
A teasing voice came from behind them. "You know, I've never had someone to screen my dates before. I think I could get used to it, though."
Tony spun around to greet his sister, though as greetings go it was rather lacking. "Whoa, where did you come from?"
"Well, you see, Tony," Ali began airily, "when a man and a woman love each other very much…" she trailed off with a laugh as Tony gave her a look. "Oh, you mean just now? Well, I was already on my way here when I got Tim's text. I wanted to tell you all in person."
"Tell us what?" Tony asked.
"I got the job at the news station!" she announced, smiling hugely.
Abby bounded over and hugged Ali excitedly. "Oh, that's so awesome, Ali! And you're going to be so good at it, too!"
"Aw, thanks, Abby," Ali said as she hugged her friend back.
"Congratulations." Ziva gave Ali a small smile which she returned, both women awkwardly remembering their last encounter.
"Thanks, Ziva," Ali replied politely.
Tony grinned. "Just don't forget all of us little people when you become a famous news anchor or something."
Ali laughed. "Don't worry. I think this past month has been much too memorable to ever worry about that."
"Well, I guess our date is going to be part celebration," McGee said, checking his watch. "I'm finished with my report, so we can leave soon. I think we've probably lost our reservations by now, though."
"Oh, it's not a big deal," Ali assured him. "I'm sure we can get in somewhere."
"Great." McGee smiled, offering his arm to her. "Shall we go?"
"Wait, wait, wait," Tony said, stepping in between them. "Hold on there. Wouldn't you two like to hear my last words of advice?"
"Not if you're going to say 'I know where you live' or 'You better have her home by midnight' or something like that," McGee scoffed.
Tony laughed. "Oh, ye of little McFaith. Of course not. Ali can take care of herself. She's a big girl, like she keeps telling me."
"I tie my own sandals and everything." Ali gave a sidelong glance to Tony. "Hercules," she explained.
"Disney?" Tony held out his hand for a high five. "Good one. Obscure."
McGee looked back and forth between the siblings, bemused.
Tony, seeing this, laughed gleefully at his friend's expression. "Are you wondering what you've gotten yourself into, Tim? She is a DiNozzo, after all. Well, not in name, perhaps, but in nature, oh, it's definitely there."
McGee grinned. "Well, Tony, I doubt you've had time to fully corrupt her. Besides, I've managed to work with you all these years and not been driven to murder so far."
"This is true, Ali," Tony told her, his face absolutely straight. "He has the patience of a saint. And it's actually quite fun to try that saintly temper," he continued. "You can make a game out of it, see? Be as annoying as possible and see how long it takes until Saint Timothy breaks. There's actually a weekly office pool and I—"
Ali reached over and swatted her brother on the arm.
"Be nice," she admonished.
"I am nice," Tony protested. "In fact I usually bet on his long-suffering… ness. Come on, Ziva, Abbs, back me up here."
"Sorry, Tony." Abby shrugged. "I'm staying out of this one. I've given up gambling for Lent."
"Abby," Tony said in confusion, "Lent isn't for months."
"Oh, I know," she assured him earnestly. "I'm practicing."
Tony shook his head indulgently. "Ziva?"
"It is true," Ziva granted. "He has made quite a bit of money off of you, McGee."
Tony glared at the Israeli as she smiled at him angelically. "Not exactly what I meant by 'back me up', Zi."
"What? It is not my fault that this talk has reminded me that you still owe me five dollars." She held out her hand expectantly.
"Ziva, Ziva, Ziva," Tony tsked, shaking his head. "This is hardly the time for money-changing. Can't you see that I'm trying to bestow some words of wisdom on my sister and my subordinate?"
"Oh, of course, Tony," Ziva smirked. "Bestow away, by all means."
"Sometime before I'm too old to date, would be nice," McGee added.
Ali elbowed him in the side, not hard, just as a warning that he was expected to be nice, too, and McGee mouthed an apology at her.
"Too old to date?" Tony laughed. "You better not let Gibbs hear you say that. He might think you're talking about him."
"Too old to date, am I?"
Tony jumped. Gibbs had come back silently from his coffee run, and his expression gave no indication whether the caffeine had yet had an effect on his mood.
"Ah, no, Boss. Of course not. I was just explaining to McGee here, who seemed to doubt it, that you are most certainly still in the game."
Gibbs raised his eyebrows as he sat back at his desk. "Didn't know you cared, McGee."
"Boss, I didn't- Tony- he-" McGee groaned. "Never mind."
To Ali he said, "Ready to go?"
As they picked up their things and began to leave, Tony grinned merrily. "Well, you kiddies have fun tonight. And for the obligatory 'big brother speech', I guess I just have to say, don't do anything I wouldn't do."
McGee snorted. "Like that narrows it down. See you all Monday."
Tony watched reflectively as McGee and Ali got into the elevator and headed down.
Ziva came up beside him. "One cent for your thoughts."
"Penny," he corrected. "I was just thinking, well, they do make a good couple, don't they?"
"I suppose," Ziva said thoughtfully. "Ali was certainly nicer than she had to be, considering the last time I saw her, I slapped her."
Tony turned to her in surprise. "You what?"
"Slapped her," Ziva replied, very matter-of-factly.
"May I ask why?"
"'Do not assume', yes? Well, I broke that rule."
Tony blinked in confusion. "Ok, but you- Wait. Do I really want to know?"
Ziva shrugged. "Probably not."
Tony shook his head. "As you wish."
Abby came up behind them, putting an arm around each of their shoulders.
Hmm… she thought. I wonder if Tony and Ziva have heard about a certain other office pool that concerns them…
At that moment above them, Director Vance was just coming out of his office when his cell phone rang.
"Vance," he answered casually, not bothering to check the Caller ID. Then the next second, he had snapped to attention, quickly pulling his toothpick out of his mouth as he listened intently to a voice on the other end.
"Sir… Yes, sir… Yes, sir… Of course, Mr. Secretary… Yes, sir… It will be handled with the utmost discretion, I assure you… I'll get my best team right on it… Yes, sir…"
A/N: And now, at the completion of this story, my very first fanfic, my very first fictional story of any kind as a matter of fact, I find myself feeling a bit like Sally Field.
*sobs tears of joy* "You like me. You really like me!"
When I first started this story back in December, I had no idea of the response I would get. Now at nearly 80k hits and over 500 reviews, I have to tell you I am truly honored and touched and maybe, just maybe, a little more confident in my skills as a writer. In fact, over the course of writing this story, I came to a decision of what I want to be when I grow up. Well, with me it's really more of an 'if' than a 'when', (I'm such a kid) but the point is, I'll be going back to school this fall, and I've decided study writing and film. And hopefully one day I'll become a *dundunDUN* scriptwriter! Ya know, for TV shows and stuff? XD And y'all are my inspiration. Because this many people can't be wrong.
Well, ok, maybe they can. I mean, I'm sure there are at least as many politicians in the world as there are readers for my story. ;) But in this instance, I choose to believe they (you) are not wrong.
Until next time (which will hopefully be soon), lots of love,