A/N Here it is, the final chapter. Hope you enjoy it.
A Sign of Strength
Ziva brought me company and lasagna. Abby needed to see for herself what damage had been done to me and my hair. At least she understood the pain to my vanity. She gushed over me while Tim ribbed me about the hair, my thick skull and other endearing brotherly insults. Funny how it had only been a few days but I missed being teased and teasing him. He was such a perfect little probiesan. I started thinking of how I could make him feel warm and fuzzy about my return. Gluing his keyboard had been overdone, and I knew I couldn't top "Clare the Level 5 Sorceress," so that left something in between. At least I had 12 more hours to consider it.
Ziva hadn't talked much, just eyed me with a mixture of concern and relief, probably that I was back in the current decade and not serenading her. We watched a movie, the original Star Wars since I was still feeling a connection to the seventies. I was thankful that I had the where-with-all not to suggest that Ziva put her hair in buns. Abby fell asleep leaning against McGee so when the movie ended he gently poked at her to wake up.
"MCGEE! I was comfy!"
"I know, Abby, but it's time to head home. Don't worry, I've got you." He helped her to stand and slung her arm around his shoulder to take some of her weight. Abby drowsily said goodbye, McGee nodded then they walked through the door, leaving Ziva in the kitchen cleaning up.
I leaned in the doorway and crossed my arms, "You don't have to do that, you know. I'm not incapacitated anymore."
"Enjoy it while you can, Tony. I'm not about to volunteer to be your maid after tonight."
I smiled at her, "Well then I better enjoy the view of you being domestic while I can."
She squinted her eyes at me then finished cleaning under my silent supervision. Afterwards she looked me up and down.
"You look better, Tony. Much more rested and calm. How are you feeling, really?"
I motioned for her to come and sit on the couch. I grabbed a pillow, threw it at her lap then laid across the couch on my stomach and collapsed on her. She humored me by running her fingers through my hair. After a moment of silence I felt the familiar slap on my cheek, "Talk, Tony, remember?"
"Oh yeah, sorry. My head feels better. I'm off the heavy pain meds so of course I am now extremely mortified at how I behaved. Sorry you had to be a witness to it, or should I say a victim of it." I looked up at her sheepishly.
She started to laugh manically. "Oh, Tony, you have nothing to be sorry about. I will now have ammunition for years to come. You do a remarkable Tom Jones impersonation, by the way." Oh yeah, I'm so dead. I hide my head in my pillow and murmur, "I bet you say that to all the doped up injured guys."
"No, Tony, I am more convinced than ever that you are one-of-a-kind." With that she started to scratch my back with her other hand.
After another comfortable silence she asked me, "Tony how are you feeling about everything with your dad?"
I sighed, but not out of frustration as much as closure, "Gibbs intercepted him at first and told Senior to back off. By the time I talked to him he was contrite enough to apologize for being such a poor excuse for a father, but he was set on not intruding in my life beyond that. If I had a beer right now I'd be toasting Gibbs up and down."
"If you had a beer right now you would be fantasizing about me wearing double buns, which is precisely why I did not allow you to have one earlier. You have enough regrets, but do not worry, you will be free to drink what you like starting tomorrow after work."
After a short pause I got back to our more serious topic. "He did apologize to me, Senior, that is. I could tell he needed to do it even though it really didn't hold much weight for me. I forgave him for what it's worth."
"Tony, why on earth would you forgive him after everything he did to you?"
"Ziva, he's a pathetic old man with nothing. I have everything he'll never be blessed with and there is nothing that can be done to change the past. I don't condone what he did, and there will be consequences to both of us for the rest of our lives because of it, but really I'm just choosing not to hold it over his head anymore. I don't need that kind of bitterness and it doesn't change the fact that we'll never be close. It makes him feel a little better and I'm no worse off. Believe me, if I catch a father tossing his son down the stairs tomorrow I'll be cuffing him in an instant, but I don't need protecting from him. He knew what he did was inexcusable, even if there was no jail sentence tied to it. For once I feel like it's over, and that, Ziva, is a relief."
I could tell that she had trouble digesting this. She was quiet for a very long time.
"You just found out what he had done. I had years to analyze it. It's over, Ziva. Now, for me, it's over. You don't have to worry about if I'll have your back tomorrow, because there is no question that I'm no longer bothered by him."
She never agreed with what I had done but she seemed to accept it was what I needed to do. "Tomorrow will come very soon, you should get some sleep. Do you need any more meds or are you okay?"
"I'll take something on my way to bed." She started to get up and I grabbed her arm to stop her. "Ziva, before you go, I wanted to thank you for taking care of me, I know I was insufferable."
She smiled at me, "Only most of the time, Tony." A bit more seriously she added, "I know you are not out of it enough to ask me to sleep with you again, but I am willing to crash on your couch if you do not want to be alone. I brought a go-bag just in case."
"I wouldn't want you falling asleep on your drive home, Ninja. Knock yourself out." With that I headed to my bedroom and got ready.
A few minutes later She knocked lightly on the door and came and sat on my bed after I had crawled under the covers. She started poking at my bandage and I let her peel it off. "It is looking better. She changed it for me even though I could have managed on my own. With all that I told her about my childhood I knew that it would make her feel better to be able to help me in some way so I let her. She then leaned down, kissed the top of my head then headed back out to the couch to sleep.
The next morning I woke to the delightful aroma of coffee and omelets. I followed the smell to find Ziva, fully dressed for work, expertly flipping the eggs.
"Good morning, Partner. Ready to go back to work today?"
I rubbed my eye, "Yeah. Hey, I forgot to ask last night but do you know what this thing at 11 is for?"
She smiled deviously. "Wouldn't you like to know?"
"Well, that's sort of why I asked."
She answered as she dished the eggs. "It is a surprise, one that I am not privy to. I do think that we should try to do something about your hair, though. It looks like you have a weeks' worth of product matted all over, and it does not smell like a bed of flowers right now." She wrinkled her nose for emphasis.
"How do you recommend that I wash it since I can't get my head wet?"
Twenty minutes later our breakfast had been eaten, dishes cleaned and Ziva had a towel around my neck and my head leant over the kitchen sink. She took the sprayer and carefully wet all my hair except the wounded area, worked in the shampoo, and on my reluctant insistence, the high-end conditioner, then toweled it dry. She carefully covered the staples again and let me loose to style it as I saw fit. I spent nearly 30 minutes shaving then getting my hair in an acceptable state considering what I had to work with. I didn't think I looked half-bad until I stepped out of the bathroom and was laughed at by my oh-so-encouraging partner.
"What?" I self-consciously fingered my styled work of art.
"Nothing, you look very nice. It's just that after that long I had expected that you'd at least come out with an afro or Willie Nelson braids."
"You don't know about 'Fantasy Island' but you know who Willie Nelson is. Unbelievable!"
I shook my head and she gathered her things and led the way to her car.
It seemed like I hadn't seen the bullpen in weeks instead of days. I swiveled in my chair, looking at the friendly orange walls and my delightful coworkers. Abby had covered my work area with balloon and several home made get well cards, all hand drawn with skulls and flowers and hearts on them. Gibbs lightly walked down the steps from Vance's office, looking very formal in a suite and tie, then uttered a "Welcome back, DiNozzo," as he passed my desk.
"So, Boss, what's this 11:00 thing?"
"Good luck, Tony, we've been asking him all morning." Probie offered before Gibbs' gruff reply, "You'll find out soon enough. If you can't find work to do until then I'll find some for all of you."
"Right. Finding work, Boss."
I saw that he was sitting at his computer trying to mask the smile at seeing his three kids back where they should be.
Eventually 11:00 rolled around and we were summoned to the larger conference room. Vance was in the front of the room behind the podium. He waited until everyone was seated then started his speech.
"Thank you for coming. Normally we have one annual award ceremony but it has come to my attention that there is an individual who has earned a distinguished medal that merited immediate recognition. Agent Gibbs, since this award is being bestowed based on your recommendation, would you please join me in the front?"
Gibbs never attended award ceremonies, I was at a complete loss as to what was coming next.
"Thank you, Agent Gibbs." He handed Gibbs a box and he dutifully stepped to the side with it.
"Would Special Agent Timothy McGee please step forward." Probie looked terrified and shocked at the prompt. I could not suppress my grin, Ziva was clapping and Abby was bouncing with excitement. I heard Ducky say, "Well, go on, Lad." And Tim stepped forward, facing Gibbs.
Vance continued, "Special Agent, Timothy McGee, I present to you the Secretary of Defense Medal for Valor, which recognizes the act of heroism or sacrifice with voluntary risk of personal safety in the face of danger, for your actions while protecting a group of civilians on foreign soil. When these civilians were threatened by a terrorist from a Mexican drug cartel, you selflessly offered your life in exchange for their freedom without regard for your own safety. You calmly diffused a potentially explosive situation, which showed an uncommon dedication to those placed in your care. For that I award you this medal on behalf of the Secretary of the Navy, the Secretary of Defense, and in gratitude for all those you kept safe, including our own Ms. Scuito. Special Agent Gibbs, you may now pin on the medal."
Gibbs looked Tim in the eye as he pinned on the medal. He nodded, smiled then shook his hand. I saw Gibbs' lips move and I didn't have to guess to know that he was saying, "I'm proud of you, Son."
After the ceremony and the following reception we all returned to the bullpen. The three of us were typing away at some report or another, Tim still wearing his medal, Ziva glancing at her replica of Columbus' boat place prominently on the corner of her desk, and me grinning uncontrollably amidst the balloons and cards. I took a moment to look over at 'Dad's' desk and saw that he was reclining in his chair, arms behind his head, looking content for the first time in six months.
Restoration. Now that was a sign of strength.