First of all, I want to dedicate this chapter to a very good friend of mine whose mother passed away early this morning. May God be with her and her family during this difficult time. Please keep them in your thoughts and prayers.
In times like these, we must remember that with every end, a new story begins. It struck me today how this applies to what we do here and life in general. Because, really, that's all that endings are. Just a new place to begin.
AN1: This has been such a journey. This was only my second multi-chapter fic, and much longer than my first. To get such kind and encouraging support from so many people meant more than words can ever express. From the bottom of my heart, thank you!
Shout-outs: TinTin11, scousemuz1k,wunsleh, NCIS-TIVA-FAN, xenascully,Tiffany331, DiNUTZzo, carismum, sarahsrr, Space1Traveler, Writing For The Wall, jgomez921, Gaddkzmp, ncischick09,julie250, combatcrazy
AN2: If you're reading this, please review. Whether it's only 2 words or 500, any feedback is greatly appreciated. Even if you're reading this 10 years from now, I would really love to hear what you have to say. If you're one of those readers that lurks in the shadows and reads from afar, now is your chance to tell me what you thought of the story. Anonymous reviews are equally appreciated! So please take a moment –just a moment- to leave your thoughts in a review. Thanks :)
A few months later…
It was pitch black as Tony and Abby stumbled into Abby's apartment. They tried to be quiet, as it was the wee hours of the morning, and Abby had a feeling her neighbors would not appreciate a wake-up call.
The two were drunk on lack of sleep after spending the whole night singing, dancing, and interacting with other fans at the Rocky Horror Picture Show viewing. The show had started at midnight, but factor in the pre-show and post-show activities…It had been a long night.
"Abs, that was amazing…" Tony said sleepily. As promised, he was clad only in a small gold bikini bottom, shivering slightly.
"That was totally," Abby yawned, "Awesome." She was dressed in some elegant fishnets, along with a corset and sparkly gloves. She was hearing insanely high heels which emphasized her length, and her neck was fitted nicely with some large pearls. Her costume was flawless in itself, but when the make-up was added, accentuating her strong bone structure and full lips, it was hands-down spectacular.
"I'm freezing my ass off," Tony said with a groan. "Let's change."
Abby nodded her agreement and tossed Tony his overnight bag, which he'd packed in preparation for the big night. Tony caught it and slung it over his shoulder, looking one last time at Abby's dazzling form.
"Wow, that really is an astonishing transformation," he said, smiling widely.
"You're not so bad yourself," Abby replied happily. "Now get some real clothes on before you freeze to death! Gibbs would never forgive me if you came to work on Monday as a popsicle."
Tony chuckled, and proceeded to walk into the bathroom. He ventured a long look in the mirror, examining his tall, sturdy body. Gently, he ran his fingers over the thin, jagged scars covering his hands. The color had faded from them, leaving pale, lifeless lines etched in the skin. The wounds had faded significantly, to the point of near invisibility. One could only truly notice the blemishes if looking for them specifically. Tony masked the scarring well with the fluidity of his movements, unwilling to let the physical reminders hinder him in any way. He was moving on with his life, leaving behind the hell he had faced. The incident did not define him. It was simply added into the archive of events which, moment by moment, created the life of Anthony DiNozzo. Allowing the memories to plague him only gave the incident power, fueling dormant fears and sadness. Tony would not allow that.
Smiling softly, Tony slipped on a pair of sweatpants and a T-shirt. Grabbing something out of his bag, he quietly exited the bathroom and went into the living room. Abby had already changed and was sitting eagerly, legs crossed, on the couch.
"You ready?" Tony asked cheerily. Abby nodded excitedly. Tony took the DVD in his hand and popped it into the DVD player. "You're about to experience one of the most influential, life-changing films ever created."
Abby raised her eyebrows skeptically. "It's The Breakfast Club, Tony. I know it's a classic, but don't you think you're exaggerating a little?"
"Trust me," Tony replied. "You'll see what I mean when it's over."
Abby grinned and snuggled close to Tony as he pushed play.
. . .
"Wow," Abby said breathlessly, wiping tears from her eyes. "That was…indescribable. I mean, the emotions were so raw and real and the way the characters reacted to each other, and formed such a bond by the end. It was tasteful but realistic, and so sad, but then so happy! Each perspective was totally cool, even the stupid asshole principal. It was funny and sad and feel-good and a million other things all at the same time. It was, like…the perfect movie!" She rubbed her eyes as exhaustion crept into her system.
Tony smiled grandly. "Told you." He knelt down, taking the DVD out and putting it back in its case. He, too, was starting to feel the effects of such an eventful night. Stifling a yawn, he said, "I'm glad you liked it."
Abby opened her mouth to speak, but was interrupted as a yawn overtook her. Instinctively, she stretched her arms out, extending her body to its limit. Then, she settled back into the couch and curled up tiredly. "Loved it," she mumbled. Tony grinned wearily as the need for sleep dulled his senses.
"I'll take…the couch," Abby said sleepily, another yawn disrupting her words. Tony forced his droopy eyes open and gave a small nod. "I'll get some extra blankets for you," Abby murmured, dragging herself to her feet.
Tony stumbled into the bedroom, grateful he was coherent enough to find his way. Sliding his hands across the wall, his fingers made contact with the small light switch. Flipping it on, Tony stopped in his tracks.
It wasn't the burst of bright light that sobered him. Nor was it the strong, familiar scent that always tinged Abby. It wasn't even the small cold draft that raised goosebumps on his arms. Tony felt an unmistakable chill shoot down his spine. And he knew it had nothing to do with the draft.
It wasn't the light. It wasn't the smell. It wasn't the draft. No, none of those things stopped Tony dead in his tracks. What froze Tony was in the center of the room, attention-grabbing, unambiguous.
In the middle of the room lay a coffin.
Logically, Tony knew it didn't mean anything. It was where Abby slept. She had always slept in a coffin, since Tony had met her. Hell, he'd slept in it before. After so many years of friendship, sleepovers were inevitable.
Tony's breath slowed as he examined the flawless wood. In times past, it had provided comfort for him. Tight, comfortable, secure. Now the thought made him sick. But it shouldn't. Not really. He was over it. He'd spent the last months eliminating his irrational fears, so he could move on. And he had. He'd moved on. He couldn't well stop every time he saw a coffin, could he?
Solely focused on the coffin/bed in front of him, Tony didn't notice when a sleepy Abby staggered into the room, carrying a mess of extra fluffy blankets. She dropped the pile onto the floor and began mumbling, "Here, these should do for-" The words died on her lips as her eyes flicked fearfully from Tony's stony face to the coffin and back to Tony.
"Oh my god, oh my god, oh my god. Tony, I'm so sorry. I wasn't thinking. I didn't even think of you and it and –I mean I always take the couch when you come over, just instinct I guess- but I can't believe I was so stupid." Tears flooded her eyes as she spewed out apology after apology. "I'm so sorry, Tony. I'm so s-"
"Abs," Tony said gently, cutting off her tangent.
She gazed up in trepidation, eyes wide.
Hazel eyes sparkling, Tony put his hands on Abby's shoulders. Looking deep into her eyes, he locked his intense gaze with hers. Then, his face broke into a bright, beaming smile. It started as a small grin, then evolved into pure, concentrated happiness, painted with white teeth and curling lips.
"It's fine, Abby," He said, not a hint of deceit in his voice.
Abby frowned. "But-"
"No harm done, Abby. Really," Tony said firmly, the genuine smile still lingering on his carefree face. "I'm fine." And this time, Tony thought to himself, I think I actually mean it.
Abby pulled him into a fierce hug, which he returned tenfold. Cupping his hand to the back of her head, Tony put his mouth right next to Abby's ear and said softly, smile evident in his voice, "But if it's all the same to you, I think I'll take the couch."
As the two laughed and smiled and embraced, it became apparent that not all was lost. Though real-life fairy tales are few and far between, there's always hope. Even the saddest stories can have happy endings. Even the worst situations can turn into something positive. And even after suffering the consequences of no escape, life can still go on.