A/N: Yes, I know, I didn't give you much warning, but you must've sensed the story was wrapping up. This portion of the saga is now complete. I'm thinking of a sequel involving the trial, but I need some time to focus on school rather than the high level of output required by this story. I feel wretched that this chapter got edited this morning in Intellectual Property (he he, I just got the irony of that.), and a sequel deserves more time than I can give right now.
My thanks to all you wonderful people who read and reviewed! You made my summer, and I'll always appreciate you.
ETA: This story wasn't so much about the plot as it was about Tony coming to a place where he could forgive himself for his past mistakes and accept the good man he's become. The story was meant to be about Tony's arc of absolution, and how the team, Gibbs in particular, gets him there. To those of you who feel the need to scold me for the 'incompleteness' of this story, as you call it, I apologize that at some point I misled you into thinking that Tony's progression was to serve the plot rather than the plot to serve the progression. That was never my true intent.
My apologies to the rest of the readership, both for being forced to lodge my complaint in a public forum since the reader didn't have the guts to log in, and for this reviewer's backhanded insult to all of you for being alright with how this ended, which was apparently very silly of all of you. ;) Sorry about both. Now, back to our regularly scheduled programming.
There were two days in the hospital, just to appease Ducky, then Tony made his way home to Gibbs' spare room. From there, there'd been another two days of 'So help me, DiNozzo, if you leave that couch I'll...' followed by threats of maiming, property damage, and termination (both occupational and physical).
Finally, after two days of whining by Tony and pleading by Abby, Gibbs relented to a team visit. Of course, the sort of visit that Gibbs had in mind (where everyone was in and out in under forty-five minutes) was completely different from the sort that actually happened. (Ziva brought dinner, Ducky brought drinks, Abby brought dessert, and McGee figured that since he already brought the TV and DVD player, he'd done his part).
On the whole the night was peaceful and nearly perfect, despite the fact that every time Gibbs started sneaking towards his basement stairs Abby would summon him back to the party. Eventually they all ended up sprawled around Gibbs' living room, each taking forkfuls of the remnants of Abby's cake, when the doorbell rang.
Abby dramatically looked around the room and said, "Who in the world could that be? We're all here." Tony tugged the door open with a laugh at Abby and found Jack standing there. Jack gave him a small grin and said, "Good to see you're feeling better."
"Hey, Jack. You're in the wrong town." He just chuckled at Tony and stepped forward into a strong hug, carefully avoiding his mostly healed side, just in case. Jack sauntered into Gibbs' living room, meeting a circle of handshakes and thanks from Tony's team. Abby bounded forward to dish out a hug, declaring how excited she was to finally meet Jack and demanding all sort of humiliating stories about Tony.
Jack settled in on Gibbs' couch, nestled in between Abby and Ziva (both with giddy grins for entirely different reasons). Jack snatched Abby's fork and leaned forward to take a forkful of cake for himself. Tony rolled his eyes and reached for another beer, knowing full well that Jack was about to tell about his disasterous first time undercover for Vice, but then the story died on Jack's tongue before his words found voice. Jack nearly leapt to his feet at his first sight of Gibbs, leaning against the far entrance to his living room, cradling his mug of bourbon and watching Jack.
Judging from the stiffness of his spine, Tony thought Jack was fighting the urge to salute under Gibbs' stare. Although, it wasn't the Angry Stare, or the Judging Stare, or even the Sizing Up Stare; Gibbs was just watching, but Jack didn't take it that way. Considering Jack had been witness to the full wrath of Gibbs in the last few days, Tony supposed he could forgive Jack for being twitchy, but it was still odd. Jack was Tony's friend, and Tony was Gibbs' family, why be nervous?
Jack fidgeted, straightening his jacket, and with the slightest nod said, "Gibbs."
Gibbs tilted his glass up in acknowledgment and said, "Jack." Tony would never quite be sure how without any movement at all, not even a facial twitch, Gibbs managed to ask, 'Whatcha doing here?'.
Words or no words, Jack heard the question and said, "I just wanted you to know that Mae is safe. None of the Macalusos will go after her." Gibbs cocked an eyebrow and Jack reiterated, "Both Mae and Eli will be safe." Leaving the 'and so will your team' unsaid.
Gibbs watched Jack fidget, nervous about Gibbs asking too many questions that Jack wasn't really allowed to answer. He took a sip from his mug and simply asked,"How?" letting Jack give as much or as little an answer as he could.
Jack stuck out his chin and replied, "I took care of it."
Gibbs gave the slightest twitch of a grin, translating to 'I'm willing to let you get away with not answering, but I'm gonna need more than that.'.
Jack looked to Tony, sharing one long stare before Tony muttered, "Oh, shit."
Jack flinched at the pain in Tony's eyes, then schooled his features and said, "Yeah." Tony tried to speak up again, probably to talk him out of his plan, but Jack held up a hand and interrupted. "It's done, Tonio, and it was the right thing to do."
Abby watching the visual sparring between the two men, and spoke up, "What are you-", but Jack put a hand on her shoulder to stop her and muttered, "I can't answer your questions."
Tony snorted, "You can tell us whatever the hell you want. You just can't tell them that you told us."
Jack snapped his gaze back to Tony, giving him a withering glare for being such a jackass when all he'd done was try to protect Tony and his team. Jack gave just the tiniest flick of a look to the coffee table before him, and Tony knew what he had to do. Tony spat out, "You should go. Wouldn't want your keepers to think you're being friendly with the enemy."
"Tony!" Abby scolded, but Ziva placed a calming hand on her shoulder, persuading her to let them go.
Jack and Tony both stormed to the door, rage in Tony's eyes, and pain in Jack's. Tony flung open the door and stepped out of the way to let Jack out unhindered. Jack stopped in the doorway, bracing his hands against the frame and pleading with Tony to every aspect of his being. "Tonio..." he eeked out, but Tony placed a strong hand in the center of his chest and pushed him out the door, slamming it in his face.
Abby was on her feet in a heartbeat, but Ziva motioned for her to be quiet just a moment longer. Gibbs was the one who spoke, "That was a little harsh, DiNozzo."
Tony replied without actually looking at Gibbs, instead keeping his focus outside the glass of Gibbs' front door, watching Jack walk away. "After all he and I went through together, Boss, it wasn't nearly enough."
The moment Jack's car disappeared around the corner Tony paced back and forth through the entryway, deliberately stepping into a corner that was a blind spot to the outside windows and signed to Gibbs, "Blue sedan. Four o'clock. K7I 9H3. Four guys." Gibbs nodded and sent a text to Fornell and his team who were waiting around the corner keeping tabs on Tony. Gibbs responded, "What's enough, DiNozzo?"
Ziva subtly slid her hand in the cracks between the couch cushions, searching the gaps for something, and shooting Abby and McGee looks to not speak yet. Tony kept his eyes off Ziva and stepped out of his blind spot to answer, "Enough is when I stop trusting people who are owned by the Macalusos."
Gibbs shot McGee a very pointed look, and it was a testament to the amount of time he'd spent following Gibbs' gut that he instinctively knew he was to say, "Maybe he's not really owned..."
Tony spat out, "The hell he's not, Probie! To guarantee our protection he has to be nothing short of a lieutenant to one of the sons. Anything less an he would've been laughed out of the office. You don't get that high in the organization without spending years doing their dirty work!"
Gibbs held up his hands, motioning for Tony to calm down, both men keeping their eyes on one another while still noting Ziva's slight signing of 'no'.
Ducky released a sigh, perfectly aware of the plot circling around him and mournfully said, "I am sorry, Anthony. I know how you liked Jack. We all did."
Tony bit back the urge to smile at Ducky for so perfectly leading on the people who were listening, and within a breath, Gibbs got a call from Fornell. While he listened to Tobias tell him that the Macaluso goons in the car across the street had been handled, Gibbs nodded to Ziva and she plucked out from under the coffee table the bug that Jack had placed there. She dropped the bug on the table and gave a pointed look to Abby, Abby's three inch platform boot, and the table. Still not entirely sure what was going on, Abby did as she was asked and stomped the living daylights out of the bug.
Gibbs snapped his phone shut and Abby raised her hand, demanding attention. "What just happened?"
Tony heaved a sigh and ran his hands through his hair, sending it sticking up in odd directions. "Jack isn't undercover anymore, he's all the way in."
"He, wait, what?" Abby asked.
Ziva answered with, "His price was our immunity. We're safe because he sold himself."
McGee was starting to snap all the pieces in place but still had to ask, "How did you know about the bug?"
"One, because there were only two places in the room he could've planted it, and two, he told me."
"He told you?"
"Yeah, Probster. He, ya know, looked at the table."
McGee furrowed his brow, then nodded along, realizing half his conversations with Tony took place without words, so why not Tony with Jack. "But does that mean he's in their organization, but still on our side?"
Tony leaned forward and snagged his beer resting on the coffee table and muttered, "No idea, Tim. No idea."
McGee and Abby pestered Ducky and Ziva with questions, finding out about what the master plan had been, and just how they figured out what was going on in this living room tonight.
Somewhere in the middle of the interrogation, Tony slipped out to Gibbs' back porch, and after just enoguh time that Abby wouldn't notice the movement, Gibbs joined him. Tony was looking up at stars, soaked in the glow of moonlight and not bothering to feign calm. Gibbs strode out, shutting the back door quietly behind him to not signal the team where they were hiding out. Tony took a long draw on his beer bottle and without looking at Gibbs, muttered, "This is gonna get worse before it gets better."
Gibbs puffed out a sigh in reply, and they both sat in silence for a moment, letting the peace sink through them before they had to go back to their real lives. Gibbs ran through all the possible things he could say to grant Tony some measure of comfort, but his words failed him. He reached out and rested his hand on Tony's shoulder and squeezed."It'll be fine."
"Boss, Jack can't protect us if he ends up dead. And he can't protect us if he really turns."I trust your gut, DiNozzo. If you think he's to be trusted, he will be."
Tony snorted, "Isn't your gut supposed to be making decisions like this?"
"My gut says it believes in you." Tony opened his mouth to offer up some trite and snarky reply, but Gibbs pressed forward. "I know the kind of man you are, Tony. Even when you don't know yourself."
Tony finally turned to look at Gibbs, fighting with himself to not say something not at all funny to break the tension between them. He also tried desperately hard to not stumble out, 'Really?'. Gibbs knew he was thinking it anyway, and with a tap to the bottom of Tony's chin he finished, "Why do you think I hired you in the first place?"
Tony smiled and turned back to Gibbs' door when they heard a resounding smack and McGee shouting, "Abby!". Gibbs shared the grin and muttered, "And even if we're wrong, we'll keep them safe anyway."
Tony's grin widened, and in a move Gibbs wasn't expecting, Tony tapped him on the bottom of the chin. "Don't worry, Boss. Between the two of us, there's no way we could be wrong." Tony gave a smart tap to the wooden door back into Gibbs' house, making Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid comparisons while Gibbs tried to hide his smile.
Yeah, they'd be alright.
A/N: For now, that's it! Thank you so much for reading and reviewing, and I hope to see you soon! Thank you!