A/N: Sorry to make you guys wait. I've been experiencing double vision recently and since a degenerative vision disease runs in my family, I've been in the eye doctor all day. And after getting my eyes looked at and dilated all day long, looking at the computer was horrible. I could barely look at my phone without cringing in pain.
But, my sister was able to adjust the brightness and since my eyes are slowly returning to normal I can make out the screen without crying. Lol. This is the last author's note for this story. I would like to extend an enormous THANK YOU to everyone who read, reviewed, and enjoyed reading my story. I was a bit nervous posting it but thanks to everyone for sticking through with it and reading it. I have a few stories in my head at the moment but I'm going to take a break for awhile (vision problems and I think my elbow needs a break) but hopefully when I come back, I'll have some more stories for you. :)
Once again, thank you for everything.
Weeks later, Tony would be released from the hospital. He would stay at Ducky's house and Abby would visit. Gibbs was there the first day Tony came home and just stayed. No one ever bothered to ask if he would leave.
To say everything magically got better after that would be lying. The mind simply did not work that way.
While the fact that Gibbs was back help greatly, Tony was still sick, was still healing. Still taking baby steps.
He still had nightmares and would wake up screaming and crying and wouldn't stop until Gibbs talked to him for hours or Ducky rubbed his back and made him tea.
He still had flashbacks and would often come back to himself in the shower, Gibbs waiting with a towel, dry clothes and occasionally some cream for when Tony made the water too hot.
Tony would sleepwalk, never remembering actually leaving the house but always waking up as Gibbs and Ducky gently herded him back into the warm house, back into the comfort of his bed or if Tony couldn't handle the possibility of nightmares, back onto the couch where he would watch movies or TV shows with Gibbs until he fell asleep.
He still couldn't eat normally. Much of his nutrition was received through the feeding tube on his abdomen though he had learned how to operate the tube and pump by himself.
He still took medications: anti-anxiety, a sleep aid and an anti-depressant.
Sometimes, if he was tired or anxious, he would slip back into old patterns, often not wanting to be touched or sitting for hours, just staring at the wall as Gibbs played different songs on the iPod that Abby had given him so long ago.
A few times when he was especially upset, he would forget and call Gibbs "Mike" but he always corrected himself soon after. No matter what, he never forgot that "Mike" was and had always been Boss.
A year later, Tony finally got to visit McGee's grave even though he knew the casket in the ground was empty. McGee's grave was by Tim's mother's and Tony was happy at least to see that Sarah McGee still had her father and that she wasn't alone.
He wrote her a letter later, telling her everything he could about her brother and how he had been honored to serve with Tim. He knew it wouldn't heal the hurt, because the hurt would never go away, but he hoped it would help Sarah somewhat to learn that other people knew what she herself knew: that she had the best older brother on the planet.
He visited Ziva's memorial plate, her actually grave somewhere in Israel by her mother and younger sister. Tony could only hope that Ziva was with them again, safe and happy.
Gibbs had retired after he had been discharged from the hospital and as soon as Jimmy was ready, Ducky would follow his friend's footsteps.
Tony would never return to NCIS. He could never completely past the psych evaluation, even though he passed the physical evaluation with flying colors.
The sound of the gunshots would make his hands shake and would make his heart race and no amount of therapy could help that. Tony had lost that thing, and he knew that most of the time, once a police officer or Special Agent lost that thing, it left and never came back.
He worked with Gibbs and sometimes with Jackson when the older man visited, helping them make toys for the pediatric hospitals and another boat to sail to Mexico, to visit Mike Franks and his family down south when it got too cold to stay in Washington D.C.
When he was ready, Tony found a job working for the local newspaper, writing a column about sports, movies and anything else Tony wanted too.
To say that Tony fully recovered from his incident would be lying also. That just wasn't how life worked.
There would always be scars in Tony's heart and mind just as plainly as there were scars on Gibbs' face, neck and arms.
They would never go away.
But one day, Tony would look at his life and be grateful. It wasn't what he thought it would be.
But it was okay.
No, Tony smiled, as he thought of Gibbs, Ducky and Abby all alive and of the next article he was about to write which would have something to do with idioms, geeks, partners and family; it was better than okay.
And that was perfect.
"The defects and faults of the mind are like wounds in the body; after all imaginable care has been taken to heal them up, still there will be a scar left behind."
-François de la Rochefoucauld.