Epilogue

Four days later
NCIS

The elevator pinged and Special Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs walked out towards the bullpen, his coffee in one hand and a Caf-Pow in the other. He was aware of the eyes that followed him, and that more and more eyes looked at him in shock as the others made them aware that he was back. He paid no attention to the murmurs, instead choosing to walk straight to his desk past the three bickering agents. As he sat down, he was aware of their eyes now on him as well. "Boss?" asked Tony in surprise. "I though Director Vance told you not to come back for another three days... by my count."

"I'm not here, Tony," answered Gibbs quietly. "Not officially. I had to come get something from my desk, and then I'm going to have lunch with Ducky. I have one other stop before that. I think someone is overdue something."

He picked up the Caf-Pow with a smile and walked away again, back to the elevator as he got on it, heading downstairs.

The three agents looked at each other, not able to keep the smiles off their face, whatever they had been bickering over forgotten.

* * * *

Gibbs paused outside the forensic scientist's door before walking in and standing behind her, waiting for her to notice him. She finally did, and, while she jumped in surprise, she smiled genuinely and accepted the Caf-Pow from him. "Don't think you can bribe me into ignoring the fact that you are here a full three days before Director Vance said you could be," she said, hugging him gently.

"I didn't think I could," he answered, before giving her a quick kiss on the cheek and leaving again. "Thank you for being there, Abs."

She watched him leave, tears of happiness in her eyes. Tear of relief. Everything would be okay.

* * * *

He walked into autopsy shortly after that, and Ducky looked up from the table, quickly covering the man's body with a sheet. "I wish you had given me some warning," said Ducky.

Gibbs had dropped his coffee, his hands shaking at the sight, even dead on Ducky's table, of his torturer. He rubbed his face and said, "I'll clean that up."

He turned to leave and he felt Ducky's hand on his arm, "No, Jethro, come, sit outside for just a second. I will square him away and we will go get lunch."

Jethro sat gratefully in the chair that Palmer had rolled out from autopsy into the hall and closed his eyes. He was back in that cell again, in the cold, the damp. He couldn't stop shivering. Ducky laid a hand on his shoulder and Gibbs all but jumped to his feet in fear, his heart beating so fast that his breath came in short bursts. "Are you all right, Jethro?" asked Ducky, even though he didn't need to.

He could see the emotional stress in Gibbs' eyes. "Let me guess, you thought you had it under control, buried deep, perhaps even dealt with but seeing him brought it back," stated Ducky, taking his arm and leading him back inside autopsy. "I sent Mr. Palmer to inventory the van, and he's in a locker. Talk Jethro, it will help you to heal that wound."

Gibbs shook his head, but he did listen to Ducky as he talked. Eventually, Gibbs calmed and his hands stopped shaking. Ducky said, "I think it is time for that lunch, is it not?"

Gibbs nodded, and after Ducky took off the gown covering his suit, they left the NCIS building to get lunch. While the younger man was hiding it very well, Ducky could tell that he wasn't as over it as he seemed. "Listen, I know you feel you don't need it, but from what I saw in Autopsy, I think you should consider it," started Ducky.

"I don't need counseling," cut in Gibbs. "Just a bit of time."

"Then give yourself that time. Come stay with me, or stay with one of your team... or with Abby... or let one of us stay with you at your house," said Ducky. "It will put your mind at ease to have us around after your father goes back to Stillwater. Or take some vacation time and go home with your father. Perhaps the overly quiet nature that used to cause stress to you in Stillwater will be a balm. Heaven knows, your father could use your company."

Gibbs shook his head and leaned back, "Stillwater would not help me... it... would be worse."

"Fine, but for heaven's sake, don't bury it," said Ducky. "It will only cause you to shut down at the worst of times. Let us in... we're family even if not blood and you are family to us."

Gibbs nodded his agreement and rested his head on his arms. He felt Ducky's hand on his arm and the two men were satisfied to stay like that for awhile longer until it came time that they had to leave. Ducky had by then decided he was staying at Gibbs' house with him.

Little did they realize that Gibbs' reaction and dropped coffee had also been in front of Jimmy Palmer, and the MCRT and Abby already knew... having heard it from Palmer... and had decided then and there that from that point on, Gibbs house would see more life in it, whether the man liked it or not.

* * * *

That night Gibbs opened the door to Ducky. After the three, Gibbs, Jackson and Ducky, sat and watched TV in Gibbs living room, the door opened and Abby, with a grin, bounded in. As Gibbs stood in surprise, she dropped her overnight bag on the floor and hugged him. "Hi Gibbs!"

"What are you doing here?"

"Well, I figured you could use the company."

Gibbs shrugged, smiling a bit as she shared his couch and Ducky moved over to the chair. Not half an hour later, headlights shone into the living room as another car pulled into the driveway, and then another. Gibbs stood to look outside and he could see Tony and Ziva. He looked over at Abby, who was doing her best 'what? I'm innocent!' expression and knew suddenly that something was up. "Abby..." he started as there was a curt knock before Ziva and Tony entered, both shivering in the cold and shaking off the snow in his entry way. "DiNozzo... Ziva..."

"Hi boss, I brought a few movies and Ziva has the popcorn... we figured you might want some company," Tony smiled and hung up his coat and then Ziva's.

She smiled and hugged Gibbs, who was speechless.

As Ziva went into his kitchen, Tony took out out a portable DVD player from his bag and hooked it up to Gibbs' TV. Gibbs stood in the doorway between his living room and dining room in vague shock, but the activity in his living room wasn't unwelcome. He just wasn't sure how to deal with it quite yet.

For some reason, he suspected it wasn't over yet. Sure enough, about ten minutes later, he saw headlights pull up in front of his house as one more car managed to fit itself in his crowded driveway. He knew who it had to be and when a knock sounded, Gibbs opened the door to see McGee. He smiled and stood out of the way in silent invitation and McGee stepped into the house for the first time since Gibbs had been returned to them.

There was a long silent moment between the two men before Gibbs said quietly, "Great job, Tim."

It was all that needed saying, and Tim answered, "You'd have done the same for any of us..."

He was right, and Gibbs knew it. He look into his decorated... and full living room. It had been a long time since he heard happy voices instead of angry ones or sad ones. He smiled then, a full one. Perhaps... it had been too long and if Ducky hosted Thanksgiving then he supposed Christmas belonged here.

Without even knowing it, he had taken one small step towards not only healing the trauma from his kidnapping, but also previous heartbreaks.

FINIS