A/N: This chapter is rahter sad- I was actually in tears writing the end of it. I haven't decided yet if this is the last chapter or whether I'm continuing it up to the beginning of 'Downfall'. Let me know what you think :) F.
After his conversation with Abby, McGee went home and tried to concentrate on the choices Vance had given him. He only had until 5pm tomorrow to make a decision; and from what he'd skimmed over at work, it was going to be a matter of figuring out which was the lesser of two evils. The position in San Diego was an office job, overseeing case agents. But it didn't involve any field work or real case work at all, and he wasn't sure it he could cope with being stuck in an office all the time; he'd had enough of that when he'd done his months in Cybercrimes. It was more senior than his current job, but he wasn't sure it was worth moving across the country.
The position at Norfolk was senior case agent; a few rungs up from his old job at the field office. There was a little field work involved, but he knew from experience that it would be like it was when he was a probie on Gibbs' team. Sighing, he decided to take the Norfolk job; at least he'd still be close to his family.
He sent Vance his decision and started packing up his possessions. He'd have to put his bigger things and pieces of furniture into storage until he found an apartment. The job at Norfolk was for an immediate start, which was what he wanted; but it didn't give him much time to get his things organised and moved.
In between work and packing, his last few days in Washington passed quickly, and before he knew it, it was Friday. He had to report to Norfolk on Monday morning; as they didn't have the weekend duty this week, it meant that this would be the last day he worked with the team. And he still hadn't managed to tell Tony and Ziva.
He went in a few minutes later than usual on Friday, wanting to talk to Tony and Ziva together. They were sitting at their desks, with Tony teasing Ziva about mangling yet another American idiom when he entered. He stood at the edge of the bullpen, listening to their banter for a moment. As much as Tony irritated him from time to time, he was going to miss them both.
Something in McGee's voice must have told the senior agent that this was serious, because he gave up teasing Ziva and turned his attention to McGee.
McGee gave him a look that clearly said not now. "I just wanted to tell you guys..." He trailed off and cleared his throat; this was harder than he'd expected. "Today's my last day with the team; I'm transferring back to Norfolk." Tony gave a snort of laughter, thinking he was joking, then quickly went silent as he took in McGee's expression. "You're... You're not joking, are you?"
McGee shook his head. "I report at 0900 on Monday."
Tony spotted Gibbs, who'd come up silently behind McGee. "You're transferring him? Because of one fight?"
McGee stopped him. "It doesn't have anything to do with Gibbs, Tony. I requested this."
Ziva gave him a knowing look. "Because of Abby, yes?"
McGee clenched his teeth against the pain the simple question evoked for a moment before replying. "I can't" he started, having to swallow hard against the lump in his throat before continuing. "I can't stay here. Not with things the way they are." He knew Ziva would be the more understanding of the two, she'd made this decision before herself, but Tony wouldn't meet his eyes. He wanted to tell them how much they meant to him, and how much he'd miss them, but he had a feeling they already knew.
He'd never remember how he got through that day. It seemed one minute he was telling the team, and Ducky and Palmer, and then suddenly it was over and he was packing up his desk. He'd gotten two cartons from the supply room for the purpose; methodically he carefully placed everything he was taking in the boxes, pausing nostalgically at some items. Photos of Tony and Gibbs and Ziva, and Kate- mostly culled from crime scene photos- and Abby. The Venetian Snare sticker that had been clipped to his wall for years now. The ring he'd bought Abby. He'd put it in his desk so he knew it was safe. Now he hesitated about putting it in the carton. He'd had it specially made, knowing that an ordinary ring just wouldn't suit Abby. He put it in his pocket. He looked through every drawer, making sure he hadn't left anything behind, then stood. Soon his desk would be cleaned and his computer wiped, returning them both to the impersonal objects they'd been 7 years ago. He picked up his boxes, trying to swallow around the lump in his throat and blink back the tears. He had one last stop.
Tony and Ziva were waiting for him by the elevator. He got a man hug from Tony and a simple "Take care of yourself, Probie" that surprised him; he'd expected more protest from Tony. He suspected that either Gibbs or Ziva had taken him aside during the day. The wordless hug from Ziva both surprised and touched him. The intensely private former Mossad officer rarely instigated hugs; this one brought the tears back to his eyes.
He used the elevator ride to get himself back under control as best he could. He wanted to be as calm and composed as possible for the next few minutes; not let her see how much she'd hurt him. Quietly he put his cartons down on the newly-repaired stainless steel table, knowing that she'd heard the elevator.
"What do you want, McGee?" she asked over her shoulder.
"I came to say goodbye" he said, hoping that if he spoke softly his voice wouldn't crack.
She turned slowly towards him. "So you're really going then?" Her eyes and her voice were hard; remembering how she used to look at him almost brought him to tears again.
He nodded. "I start on Monday." He pulled the ring box out of his pocket and set it on the desk next to her. "I want you to have this, Abby. It was made for you; I hope you'll wear it sometimes, and maybe remember me." He paused. "I loved you the best I could, Abs" he told her, his voice breaking despite his efforts at self control. "I guess in the end, it just wasn't enough." He turned away, knowing the threatening tears were about to fall and not wanting to humiliate himself anymore than he already had. Refusing to look back, he walked out of her lab for the last time.