A/N: Hey guys, and welcome to the final chapter of And Then, It's Called Grace.
First, I'd like to thank my incredible editor, livingandthriving! She's been so patient and brilliant, and even though she was only involved with the last half of the story, she's been catching my typos and mistakes form early on, which I am so grateful for!
Thank you to dizzy – in – the – izzy for helping me figure out the length and such of this story. Without you, it probably would have dragged on miserably.
Thanks also to all of my amazing friends at the CBS forums who have been cheering me on from the beginning. Whenever I felt like it wasn't going right or when I wasn't sure where go with this, you guys stuck it through and really encouraged me. Thank you so much!
And of course, thank you to everyone who's read, reviewed, favorite, or put me or this story on alert. I've never received such an amazing response before and it's been a completely amazing experience.
See the bottom of the page for the rest of my a/n.
"Grace comes into the soul, as the morning sun into the world; first a dawning, then a light; and at last the sun in his full and excellent brightness." --Thomas Adams
Monday morning, the team walked into the squadroom as usual. It was still early and the Naval Yard was a little more quiet than usual. Ziva had arrived at her desk at six o'clock sharp; it finally organized to her liking. She found a framed photo of the team sitting on her desk when she arrived, a little note from Abby waiting with it.
McGee was next to arrive. "Morning," he said.
"Morning." She smiled happily.
"You excited to be back?"
"I was back last week, McGee."
He nodded as he sat down. "I know. But my gut's telling me we'll land a case today."
"In that case…" She thought for a moment, though she didn't need to. "Yes."
McGee smiled at her, so relaxed and in place. "Tony in yet?"
She shook her head. "Probably getting coffee."
"Got it," Tony said, walking out of the elevator. He handed Ziva her tea, McGee his cappuccino, set Gibbs' strong black coffee on his desk, and pulled out his own special DiNozzo blend before sitting down.
A few minutes later as the team spoke about nothing in particular, Ziva felt a paper ball hit her head. She looked up at Tony and glared. He was grinning charmingly, leaning back in his chair. It was a familiar sight. "Some things never change," Ziva commented.
Tony chuckled and proceeded to check his email. He stared at the screen intently, telling Ziva something when he glanced back at her desk, now empty. "You're behind me aren't you?"
"Hm," Ziva smiled. She stood behind the divider, looking over at him.
He turned to see her. "What are you doing?"
"Observing," she said, walking back around to him, steps slick and elegant.
"You did that on your first case here, the one with the Civil War guy."
"I remember," she said.
"You're right," he smiled up at her. "Some things never change." Tony reached for a stack of papers from his printer and looked around. "Probie! Where's my Mighty Mouse stapler?" His tone was much kinder than it was thirteen years ago when the younger man joined the team, but it still carried they very Tony attitude that they all knew so well.
"Don't look at me," McGee defended.
"Palmer," he realized and began walking toward the elevator when he heard Ziva's voice.
"Tony." He took several steps backwards so he was facing her on the other side of her divider. She held up her hand, revealing the stapler. "Mine was broken," she explained.
He chuckled at took it from her hand, shaking his head. "How long were you gonna make me suffer?"
"It was a stapler, Tony."
"My favorite one," he said, twisting it in his fingers.
"Even after all these years?"
"You've had it for, like, fifteen years. You could probably sell it online," McGee commented. "It's about time."
"Stay out of this, Probie," Tony shot back.
"Aren't you a little old for a Mighty Mouse stapler, Tony?" McGee asked.
"Hey, I'm all for growing up, but some things just gotta stay," he replied, and his eyes flicked to Ziva. She smiled up at him.
"Not you, DiNozzo," Gibbs said, walking in quickly, coffee in hand. "Got a dead petty officer in Rock Creek Park."
Tony grinned and they all reached for their things, holstering SIGs, slipping ID's into pockets, slinging backpacks over shoulders. "On your six, Boss," Tony said. They met in the elevator quickly, Gibbs taking a swig of his coffee and McGee conferring with local LEOs on his phone. Tony and Ziva exchanged a smile as the doors closed. "On your six."
Today we solved a case that seems familiar to us—ten years of capturing the killers of dead petty officers in Rock Creek Park have passed us by, and though it's not the thrilling action of Mossad or the noble work of teaching, it's what I love. I cannot explain it anymore than that. Some things just are.
I do not know where I will be in ten years. I hope that, wherever I am, you'll be there too, quoting movies and being annoying and making waffles. I'll pick out your orange juice and we will play hooky and have James Bond marathons. For all the times you drive me crazy, I still find you to be the most inspiring person I know. You show me how to laugh at myself, and I have always thought that it was your influence that helped me to be a good teacher.
I do not see the next ten years being easy—the first ten weren't. They were hard, and there were times I was not sure I would be able to go on. But you were there, quoting movies and doing your Jack and being steady, as crazy as you were.
I'll see you tonight. We're finally going on a real date—dinner and a movie, you said. The dinner will probably be awful and the movie will probably be ridiculous, but we survived ten years of terrorists, bombs, bullets, and Gibbs.
Compared to that, this is nothing, and this is… everything.
I'll pick out your orange juice for as long as you'll let me.
Ziva had changed his world. From her first entrance in the squadroom ten years ago to her laughter in the elevator that day, Ziva had done incredible things for him. She challenged him and tried him, helped him to grow and change and become the man she always saw inside of him. A decade had passed, a web woven of the finest and strongest spider's silk. Their story was about second chances, memories, and falling in love again. It, as many of the great stories, legends, and tales of heroes in this world are, was about sacrifice, whether it was deserved or not. And when it was not, it was called "grace".
Wow, can you believe it's already over?
I know this chapter was pretty mundane, pretty normal and calm. I really wanted to feel like it did ten years ago for them, like everything was normal, from paper balls being tossed to dead petty officer in Rock Creek Park—classic things like this have made the show what it is, and if I can just grab a fraction of that feeling, then I know I'm doing something right.
I added the last letter at the very last moment. Everyone was looking for more letters, and I thought that it'd be a great way to end the story. I added that last little bit there just before even saving this document to send to FFN, so it hasn't been beta'd by livingandthriving. But I felt it was a necessary part to add, and I hope she's ok with it. : )
For those who watch Criminal Minds—or don't—the majority of the quotes for Grace were all featured there. Others were just found on the Internet, here and there
I don't plan on a sequel—I'm like Tony in that I really do not like sequels. It wouldn't be right for Grace—their story has been told, and that's what matters. I do plan, however, on another feature-length story (lol). I'm working on one right now, and we'll see how it goes. It's an unusual one, and yet, not so much, so we'll just have to see.
It's been an amazing experience writing for you guys. I hope to see you all again very soon.
Don't forget to review! If you haven't reviewed this story, delurk and let me know what you thought. Share your favorite moments, lines, chapters, scenes—whatever it was that caught your eye. Let me know what you might like to see in a future story—themes, ideas, plots, whatever. I'm so open to anything.