Though Tony had kept in touch with Abby and the rest of the team by weekly email while they traveled, he hadn't let anyone know when they would be arriving back in DC. So they pulled up to an empty dock and went through the now familiar routine of tying the boat and making sure everything was locked up. They would come back the next day to unload everything. Tony only carried the bags of gifts and his duffle to the waiting cab.
Once back at the house, Gibbs turned to him. "You happy to be back?"
Tony shrugged as he tossed all of the clothes in his bag into the dirty clothes hamper in Gibbs'—now their—bedroom. "Yes and no. I'm kind of excited to be able to get started with the new job and everything, but I'm also… nervous about how things are going to play out."
Gibbs, who had been sorting through his own duffle, stopped and pulled Tony into his arms. "You mean the job or us?"
"Both," Tony sighed, reveling in the feel of his lover's strong arms around him. "The job… well it will play out. It's a risk doing something so completely different than what I've always done, but it will either work or it won't. But us… I can't… we have to work. I can't give this up now that I've had it. I just don't know how it's going to work."
"We'll take it one day at a time," Gibbs said. "Don't think I'm not just as nervous about this. But I know that we can get through all the stuff that's ahead. We make a good team, on the field or off."
Tony grinned. "We do, don't we."
Gibbs smirked. "Tomorrow, we'll move all your stuff in here. For now, we should probably enjoy our final night of freedom. Knowing Abby, she's been keeping an eye out for our cell phones to go active again so she'll be here the minute either of us show's up on the GPS."
"Good point," Tony said. "Maybe we should just call her and get it over with."
"Nope," Gibbs said as he stepped closer to the bed, pulling Tony with him. "I'm taking advantage of our last night of privacy, so I suggest you keep your phone turned off."
There was a knock at the front door and Tony shot Gibbs a rueful smile. "Too late. I used it to call the cab at the marina."
Gibbs rolled his eyes but allowed Tony to slip from his arms. He followed his lover down the stairs to the front door. Abby was, of course standing with her fist raised to knock again. But behind her, Tim, Ziva, Ducky and Palmer were all gathered.
"Welcome home!" Abby gushed and pulled Tony into a tight hug. Then she went after Gibbs, who hugged her in return.
Tony greeted the others and soon everyone was crowding into their small living room. Abby, who had decided to sit on Tony's lap, was eager to hear everything about their trip.
"You both look so tan!" Abby gushed.
"That's what spending every day in the sun will do," Tony chuckled.
"Of course these tans started out a bit redder," Gibbs said with wry amusement.
Tony looked chagrinned. "Yeah well, who thinks about sunscreen in February?"
"Anyone who is going to the Caribbean on vacation," Ziva said dryly.
Ducky tisked. "You really must take better precautions or you will end up with skin cancer."
Tony decided to distract everyone from the subject at hand by offering to get the souvenirs they had bought for each member of the team. With each gift distributed, there was a story about which island they were visiting and what they had been doing at the time. Everyone loved the story about the casino win.
Eventually, Tony asked, "So what's been going on at NCIS?"
"We've were in a holding pattern for a while," Tim admitted. "Vance didn't want to give the MCRT to anyone else until he knew for sure what you decided, so Ziva and I have been on loan to other teams."
"I have been offered the SFA position on MCRT," Ziva said. "If you do not take the lead, then Vance has arranged to bring in Carry Gentry. She has been heading up the NCIS office in Miami."
"I've heard good things about her," Gibbs said with approval.
"But why not McProbie for SFA?" Tony asked.
"Because just this week I finally accepted Vance's offer to head up Cybercrimes," Tim said. "I'll be working to not only solve crimes, but I'll be working with a contract company to improve our overall systems agency wide so that our agents don't have to have a degree in computer science to do what Abby and I do for the team."
"Congratulations," Tony said. "That's really great."
Gibbs nodded. "Good work, McGee."
"So?" Abby demanded impatiently and hit Tony in the shoulder. "I've been waiting for months to know what you're going to do!"
Tony opened and then closed his mouth. Then he placed a gentle kiss on Abby's cheek. "I'm not coming back."
Abby seemed to deflate right before their eyes as she curled up against Tony. "You can't really leave."
"It's time," Tony said. "But I'm not going anywhere. I'll be right here. You'll still see me all the time and we'll have movie dates just like always. In fact, we'll have even more movie dates."
Abby sat up a little. "Why is that?"
And so Tony explained about the job his friend had offered and everyone seemed to think it would be a great fit for him.
"The thing is, I'm just so tired," Tony said. "I loved working with you guys, or I never would have stayed as long as I did. But I'm ready for some peace and quiet."
There was a general hum of acceptance, but no one seemed to really understand. Tony looked up at Gibbs and he nodded. Well, at least one person seemed to get it.
Tony handed in his resignation two days later and then went directly from the Navy Yard to a screening of the first film he was going to review. Scheduled to be released in a couple weeks, Tony was rather excited that he was getting to see it first. It was a film he had been waiting to see for a few months. Armed with a notepad and snacks, Tony sat down to enjoy his new job.
"So how was it?" Gibbs asked when Tony took his usual seat on the stairs to the basement later that afternoon.
Tony shrugged. "It had some great special effects and stunts, but the story and acting left a lot to be desired. I got some good notes to put into the review, though. I'm already thinking about what to write."
"So why are you down here instead of writing?" Gibbs wondered.
"Just missed you today," Tony admitted. "We've been together every day for a while now. It felt weird not having you with me."
Gibbs nodded. He was working on a new dining room table since the old one currently was being held up by an old saw horse since two of the legs had broken beyond repair a while back. "Been thinking. Maybe I'll go to some of those movies with you. Not all of them, but maybe some."
Tony grinned. "That's a great idea. I'll let you know which ones I think you would like."
Gibbs nodded. "Also been thinking about selling some of the stuff I make. What do you think?"
Tony looked shocked. He had never considered that Gibbs might sell anything he made. "I think a lot of people would love to buy it. You're very good. But I never thought you'd want to sell."
Gibbs shrugged. "Gotta do something to keep busy and there's only so much we need for the house. And only so many friends to make things for. Already got a boat."
Tony nodded. "In that case, I think it's a great idea."
Tony really did think it was a good idea. No matter how happy the two of them were to finally be together, Gibbs was still facing a rather hard transition. Leaving NCIS, and not by choice, was not easy for the other man. Before their trip, Gibbs had been so focused on getting better that he didn't have the time or energy to think about how drastically his life was changing. And on the sailboat, it was easy to forget that the rest of the world existed. But now… Tony worried that Gibbs would grow restless or bored or resentful. Building things would help keep Gibbs occupied and feeling useful. It would have been beneficial, even if he only made things for the house, but Tony felt that sharing Gibbs talent with the world would do a lot for boosting Gibbs' self-worth.
"I have a friend," Tony said, knowing his lover well enough to keep his thoughts to himself. "He's in marketing. I think if we invited him and his wife for dinner, we could pick his brain for ideas about how to go about selling what you make."
Five Years Later
Tony watched through the car's windshield as Gibbs helped load the last piece from a bedroom set onto the delivery truck. It had taken some time to build up a clientele, but after five years, Gibbs' Handcrafted Furniture was really taking off. He had custom orders lined up for the next year and four full-time employees, two of which were apprentices learning to do things Gibbs' way: by hand.
The past years hadn't been easy for either man as they had adapted to a much slower pace of life. In truth, Tony had experienced more guilt and restlessness upon their return from that fateful trip than Gibbs had. He had known he didn't want to be in the field any longer, but the reality of it was more difficult than he had imagined. More than once, he had second-guessed his decision. And working only a few hours a week exacerbated the problem. He had too much time on his hands.
Gibbs didn't have the same problem. His retirement was forced due to his physical limitations and there was nothing to do but accept that. Once he had, things had fallen into place for the older man. The new business helped, as had his temporary retirement a few years back.
In the end, Tony had found other outlets for his restlessness. He had taken up coaching peewee football and spent time volunteering for the local community center. He also took a more hands on approach to their finances and had more than doubled their investments over the past few years. Now, they could easily live on their dividends if they ever tired of working.
The best part about their new life was the fact that they could make time to get away. Every winter for the past five years, they had packed up the boat and sailed off for a month. Gibbs arranged his orders around that month and Tony's contract with the magazine had that time off written in. It was a non-negotiable point for both of them. That time away helped them to recharge and face the rest of the year. They took vacation at other times, but it was that month on the boat that really got them through.
It had helped them get past the first real hiccup in their relationship. Almost two years into their relationship, they had reached a point where they were just not connecting. Tony was really busy with his other projects and Gibbs had taken on a new apprentice and they just weren't getting any time alone together. The insecurities and misunderstandings that resulted were almost enough to tear them apart.
Tony had almost put off the trip, but was really glad now that he hadn't. When the two of them finally got out onto the open water, it gave them a chance to really reconnect. They talked a lot on that trip about what had been bothering each of them. They also talked about what they wanted for their future, something they hadn't really discussed before. By the time they got back, their relationship was stronger than ever.
"Hurry up or we're going to be late," Tony called out through the car's window.
Gibbs huffed at his partner, but finished what he was doing and, after giving James a few more instructions, walked over to the car and climbed inside. "We won't be late."
"You still have to shower and change," Tony reminded him. "As much as I enjoy the smell of sawdust, I'd rather not have you smelling that way on our wedding day. I still can't believe you went to work today."
Gibbs shrugged. "Had to be done if we're going to be gone for our honeymoon for two months."
Tony grinned. "This trip is going to be fantastic."
"You're more excited about the honeymoon than the wedding," Gibbs accused as Tony pulled the car out into traffic.
"Maybe," Tony said. "I'm glad we decided to keep the wedding simple. Just close friends and family and a civil ceremony at the house."
"Don't forget the cookout," Gibbs said.
"And then sailing off tomorrow morning," Tony sighed.
"You got all the supplies ready?" Gibbs asked.
"I double checked the list," Tony said. "And I made sure that there was sunscreen."
"I don't have to ask if you got enough lube," Gibbs said wryly.
"I'm always prepared for the important things," Tony agreed with a leer.
They were quiet for the rest of trip to the house. It wasn't until they were pulling into the driveway that Tony spoke again.
"You know how much I love you," Tony said earnestly.
Gibbs smiled softly at his partner-and soon to be husband. "I know."
"Never would have thought we'd end up here," Tony admitted. "When you got hurt..."
"I can't say that I'm happy about getting hurt," Gibbs said. "Or with the permanent damage that it caused. But it led to us here, so in a way I'm grateful."
"Yeah," Tony agreed. "Me too."
Gibbs pulled Tony over for a kiss that lasted longer than it probably should with them sitting in the car in their driveway. When they pulled apart, Gibbs smirked at Tony. "Come on, DiNozzo. Let's go get hitched."
Tony grinned. "On your six, Boss."