Tony DiNozzo stepped into the elevator that would take him up the several stories necessary to reach the bullpen that he would be sharing with Special Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs. Today was his first day as a probationary NCIS agent and he was looking forward to beginning this new chapter in his life. Although he still had to go through FLETC, Gibbs wanted to go over a few things before he became wrapped up in the classes he had to take; Tony just hoped that he wasn't going to have a test on all of his rules because he fairly certain that he couldn't remember any of them after number eighteen.
Thinking over the past couple of weeks, Tony felt like he had been caught in a whirlwind; so much had happened and he had barely taken the time to process everything but now that things were slowly returning to normal, perhaps he could actually think about the path that his life had taken.
Wendy's funeral had been simple yet beautiful. Al and June had asked him to play her favorite song on the piano and he had reluctantly obliged; previously, he had only played for Wendy in the privacy of their home, but he found that he couldn't deny her parents their request. Tony grinned when he recalled the look on Gibbs' face when he had learned about his ability to play the piano; the agent had patted him on the back and told him that it was good to know that his future agent was full of surprises.
After the funeral, he and Gibbs had returned to D.C. and the first thing that had been on his agenda was to tender his resignation from Baltimore P.D. He went to the department so he could personally delivered the letter to the interim captain, ignoring the myriad of stares, murmurings, and congratulations that the other detectives had uttered. Captain Mike Deskins had praised Tony for his part in exposing his predecessor and the corruption that had stemmed from Waters' leadership; DiNozzo had thanked Deskins for the compliment and then had proceeded to inform the man that he was resigning.
The Captain had tried to persuade Tony to stay by offering him a promotion, stating that he needed a man of Tony's integrity to help restore the reputation of the precinct. Deskins had known that there were still those in the department who were loyal to Waters and desperately wanted to be rid of these troublemakers. These same men had also been among the ones that had left threatening messages and had sworn to make Tony's life miserable; of course, the loyalists had been quickly silenced by some of the other detectives who apparently had decided to support him unconditionally. Tony had wondered where those colleagues had been when he had really needed them; he supposed that it truly didn't matter now, but it still didn't keep him from considering how things could have turned out differently for everyone involved.
DiNozzo had been humbled by Deskin's offer but he had already made his decision; it was time to put his past behind him and move forward. After Tony had declined the offer, he had given the Captain his badge and his department issued gun and walked out to meet Gibbs, who had been waiting by the car. He had insisted that the agent remain outside and his future boss had honored his wishes; Tony knew that Gibbs had understood that there were some things that he had to do alone and respected him enough to give him his space.
Gibbs had then driven him to his apartment where he would begin the laborious process of packing and moving. Tony had used that time not only to clean and pack but to make arrangements for the money that Al and June had given him; knowing that he'd never be able to use it, he had set up a scholarship in her memory that would be awarded to a graduating high school senior who wanted to pursue a career in the performing arts. He figured that Wendy would approve and it was one way of keeping her memory alive.
He had only had a couple months left on his lease and after hearing about his heroics, his landlady had graciously released him from the obligation without any penalties. The kindhearted lady had even taken the time to connect him with one of her friends in D.C. who had put in a good word for him at another apartment building in a decent neighborhood. The young man had looked at the apartment and liked it but he especially liked his neighbors; he had two elderly ladies living on either side of him and they had easily succumbed to the DiNozzo charm and had made promises to feed him and watch out for him. Although he would never admit it, he had enjoyed the attention; the way they fussed over him reminded that there were still good people in the world.
Tony had to wait a month before he could move in but as long as Gibbs, Abby, and Ducky didn't mind him crashing at their respective places, he was content for the moment. He had voluntarily rotated between the three of them because he was hesitant about overstaying his welcome despite their insistence that he wasn't. Tony had taken the opportunity to get to know them and his fondness for them had grown beyond colleagues; these people were becoming his family.
The sound of the elevator dinging had brought him back to the present and as the doors opened, he was greeted by Gibbs who was standing in his path with two cups of coffee in hand. The agent handed Tony one of the cups and motioned for him to join him at the small area of the room that contained two desks. The dark haired man sat down at the first desk and he suddenly felt the hairs on the back of his neck stand up; he slowly raised his eyes to meet Gibbs' stoic glare.
"This isn't my desk, is it?" he sheepishly inquired.
"Sorry, Boss." Tony quickly rose from Gibbs' seat and sat at the opposite desk.
He set down his backpack and unzipped it so that he could put a few of his personal items on the barren desk. "That can wait," Gibbs said. "I've got some other stuff for you to do."
Gibbs placed a small stack of folders on his desk. "These need to be filled out so I can return them to personnel; they've been on my back for the last two weeks. The Director also wants to meet with you in an hour, so don't be late."
Tony opened the first file and there was the letter that Wendy had written to him; he had found every excuse in the book not to read it, afraid that the emotions that he had managed to keep at bay would come gushing forth unbidden. He picked it up and stared at Gibbs as he silently questioned the agent as to how the hell it had ended up in a folder on his desk.
"I noticed it on the floor after you left to go to Ducky's yesterday," Gibbs explained. "Don't you think it's time that you read it?"
"I uh…I'm going to."
Tony shrugged. "When I'm ready."
"If you wait until you're ready, you'll never read it. Believe me; I know all about making excuses. Maybe you're not the only one that needed closure; maybe she was looking for some closure too."
"I'll read it later," Tony said as he started to put the letter back in his bag.
"No time like the present," Gibbs pointed out as he headed towards the elevator. "I'm going to see Abby; I'll be back in a few." The agent glanced back over his shoulder. "By the way, DiNozzo; glad you're here."
Tony knew that Gibbs was giving him ample time and opportunity to read the letter, but he was still reluctant to do so in the presence of these strangers. As he looked around the room, he noticed that no one was paying particular attention to him so he pulled the envelope back out of his bag and began to trace the elegant letters that had been formed by Wendy's hand.
Pushing all doubts aside, he carefully opened the letter and began to read to himself.
If you're reading this letter, it can only mean one thing. I don't know what the circumstances were that led to my death and I really don't suppose it matters now; what does matter is that you don't stop living. I know how personally you take things and how easily you manage to find a way to blame yourself for things you have no control over, so I can only imagine what you're doing now that I'm gone.
If our situations were reversed, I couldn't imagine having to go on without you so I know that you had to have had similar thoughts. However, you are the strongest man I know and while you may be hurting, I know that you have that inner strength in you to keep putting one foot in front of the other. It's okay to grieve and it's okay to remember, but it's not okay to live in the past. You must move on.
I love you with all my heart and I want you to be happy. I want you to promise me that when you think of me, it won't be with a heavy heart but with a joyful one; if you can't make that promise today, hopefully there will be a day that you will be able to. Until then, my love, stay strong, live your life to the fullest, and remember what we had.
Until we meet again in a better place,
All my love,
Tony folded the letter up and put it back in his bag. He scrubbed his face, wiping away the vestiges of tears that had welled up in his eyes; the last thing he wanted to do was draw any unwanted attention to himself. Tony mulled over the words of the letter; her only wish was for him to be happy and while he was still struggling with her death and everything that had happened, he couldn't bear the thought of letting Wendy down. "I promise," he whispered to himself. "I promise."
Gibbs chose that exact moment to reappear. One day Tony was going to figure out how the man managed to move around like a ghost; that knowledge would more than likely save him a lot of head slaps.
"Got those forms signed yet, DiNozzo?"
He cleared his throat and answered, "Working on it, Boss."
As Tony began to read and fill out the forms for personnel, he couldn't help but consider how good his life was at the moment. He still had to make it through the upcoming trials of Josh Morgan and his former superiors, but Tony knew that he wouldn't have to face the flames alone. It was a new experience to have someone besides himself that he could count on and it was going to take time for him to get used to the idea; fortunately, his friends seemed to be willing to give him that time.
A new chapter of his life was being written and Tony was anxious to see how it turned out; perhaps there would be a series of novels, or better yet, a made for TV movie. A sudden thwack to the back of the head brought him out of his reverie.
"Quit day dreaming," he gruffly ordered.
Tony grinned at the newly appointed team leader. "Sorry, Gibbs. I was just thinking."
"Don't hurt yourself; you're not even on payroll yet."
His smile grew wider at the agent's dry sense of humor. Taking a sip of his coffee, he continued to sign the forms in front of him as Gibbs dove into what looked like a mountain of paperwork that was littering his inbox. Tony knew that it wasn't always going to be easy working for Gibbs, but he was up to the challenge; just like he had promised Wendy, he was moving forward and living his life in such a way that she would be proud of him.
"Something funny, DiNozzo?" Gibbs asked without looking up from his paperwork.
"Not at all, Boss," Tony replied. "All this…all this just feels right; you know what I mean?"
"You do?" he pressed.
Tony didn't miss the gleam in Gibbs' eyes when he answered. "Yeah; it means that you're where you belong."
Gibbs was right; for the first time in his life, Tony felt like he truly belonged somewhere. During his entire career as a cop, he had never spent any longer than two years with one department; his reasons for leaving had been varied but he had no plans on leaving NCIS in two years. He had a lot to learn and he was going to be learning from the best; Tony figured that he could work for the rest of his life for Gibbs and still only know half of what the team leader possessed in that keen mind. Yes, life was good and soon to be Very Special Agent Anthony DiNozzo was right where he belonged.
Another story has come to an end! I can't thank my readers enough; the kind words and constant reviews were such a treat and inspired me to keep writing. I'm truly blessed!
A special shout out to AZGirl for her beta and serving as my sounding board; so basically, if you see any mistakes, they are mine!
Again, thank you all from the bottom of my heart and I hope that you stick around to check out my new stories, which are almost ready to post (I have to come up with some summaries…yuck!). They will be up this weekend, so I hope you'll be watching for them!