First off, the champagne and strawberries promised at the end of the last chapter go to karlii – she was the first one (about ten minutes after the chapter was posted, if I recall correctly) to guess what the final item Tony handed to Jenny was. Kudos also go to angelscatie, Esquirella, Frorefang, coastiewife465, Angelus320, engedi6k, Nash Carter, Gibbs4Eva, Scat210, Teri, an anonymous reviewer, HappeeGoLuckee, Long Live BRUCAS, and Pattik for correctly guessing what the item was.
It was suggested that last chapter was a logical ending to this story (and where the title came from) but I couldn't leave you guys hanging, wondering what was in those letters Tony wrote! This chapter turned out much longer than I expected – apparently Tony has a lot to say to his former teammates. I thought about breaking it up but didn't want to break the flow, so I hope you enjoy this extra-long chapter.
A note on Tony's middle name in this chapter – I read another fanfic piece where the author used this middle name for Tony and I really liked it, so I appropriated it for my story. Unfortunately I don't recall the original story's name or author, only that it was really good and I really enjoyed it. If you are that author, please PM me with your pen name and the story name so I can give you the credit to which you are due.
Legal bits: Wish I owned them, or at least Tony, but no such luck.
Previously on NCIS: Tony packed up his desk and moved on to greener pastures, leaving behind letters for his former teammates.
Gibb's gut was churning as he walked into NCIS on Monday morning. Something had seemed off all weekend, and that feeling had only been reinforced when Jenny called him Sunday night to summon him to a meeting first thing Monday morning in her office. As he arrived at the security checkpoint he was surprised to see McGee there. "McGee," he said tersely.
"Oh, uhm, hi, Boss," McGee replied, collecting his weapon after going through the scanner. "Director Sheppard asked me to come in early for a meeting this morning. Are you in it as well?" he asked, seemingly puzzled.
Gibbs frowned. "Yup," he replied. "You know what this meeting is about?" McGee shook his head. Out of the corner of his eye Gibbs could see the two security guards exchange a glance, and his frown deepened. Obviously they knew, or had heard, something. He debated with himself whether to intimidate them into telling him, but decided not to. Instead, he glared at them and quickly passed through the scanner himself.
When they got up to Jenny's office, they found Ziva already there. She shrugged her shoulders when Gibbs looked questioningly at her – she didn't know any more than they did.
"Have a seat," Jenny said, her tone revealing nothing. "We're just waiting for one more person, and then we can start." Gibbs and the others figured that Tony was the last person, so they were quite surprised to see Abby being let into Jenny's office by Cynthia a few minutes later. "Good, everyone's here, so let's get started," Jenny said, pulling several envelopes and a small box – the last item Tony had given her on Saturday – from her desk drawer.
Gibbs' gut clenched when he saw the box. "Jenny, what's going on? Where's DiNozzo?" he asked, his tone sharp. Ziva was staring at Jenny, her eyes narrowed as she tried to read the Director. McGee looked confused and Abby was biting her lip worriedly.
Jenny smiled coldly. "Special Agent DiNozzo gave me his resignation Friday night, effective immediately," she said. Ignoring the shocked gasps from Ziva and Abby, she continued. "He left these letters for you, explaining everything. Agent McGee, he said this box is to go with your letter."
"What is it?" he asked, taking the box and the letter gingerly, as if he was afraid they would bite.
"My medals," Gibbs said softly. He turned to Jenny. "Why didn't you stop him?" he asked angrily.
Jenny snorted inelegantly. "Stop him? I helped him pack."
Abby surged forward, furious at hearing this. Before the angry lab tech could reach her, Gibbs had stepped in between her and Jenny. "I think you'd better explain that, Director Sheppard," he said, his eyes narrowed.
Jenny matched his stare with one of her own. "You want an explanation? Fine, but don't blame me if you don't like what you hear, Supervisory Special Agent Gibbs," she said, anger tingeing her voice. "Tony received a job offer, a very good one. It's not the first one he's received in the last year. But given the atmosphere at NCIS since the triumphal return of the great Leroy Jethro Gibbs, it's not surprising that he decided to take it. My god, Jethro, did you really think that you could just dump all of his belongings back on his old desk and expect people not to take that as an indictment of how he performed as team leader in your absence? Add that to the fact that Agent McGee and Officer David appeared to have little respect for him during his tenure as team leader, and even less when you got back, and the gossip and derogatory comments – most of which he heard, by the way – have run rampant," Jenny stopped and took a deep breath, realising that she had been close to shouting. "He did a damned good job while you away, Jethro. He didn't deserve the treatment he got from you or most of the others here at NCIS," she finished quietly, surveying the team for their reactions.
McGee looked almost physically ill, holding the box and letter to him like a shield against Jenny's words. Ziva's face was expressionless, but Jenny could see small, tell-tale signs that she was very upset – whether by Tony's leaving or Jenny's words, she wasn't sure. Abby was clutching a lace handkerchief in one hand, tears welling in her eyes. Gibbs was still glaring at Jenny, but she could see a bleak resignation in his eyes. "I'm sorry you had to find out this way," she said, trying to extend an olive branch, "but Tony had to leave right away to make arrangements in his new city. That's why he wanted to leave the letters for you, to explain things."
"Tony's not in DC anymore?" Abby asked, her voice cracking. "He wouldn't do that. He wouldn't just leave without saying goodbye!"
"That's enough, Abs," Gibbs said gently. He turned back to Jenny. "Where'd he go?" he asked her. There was no anger left in his voice, just bleak acceptance. Truth be told, he'd known as soon as he'd seen the box of medals that he'd lost Tony.
Jenny smiled sadly. "I'm sorry, Jethro, I can't tell you that," she said. "Tony asked me not to. I can tell you that he's working for the Department of Homeland Security."
"Will this change make him happy?" Ziva asked, the first words she'd uttered since walking into the room.
"I hope so, Ziva. I think it will." Jenny said quietly before turning away to gather some folders from her desk. "I have to go to a meeting with SecNav, but if you'd like to read your letters here, away from prying eyes, please take your time. I should warn you that there were several agents here on Saturday when Tony cleaned out his desk, so I'm sure the rumours are flying already. I'll be issuing a formal statement about Tony's resignation this afternoon, but I wanted to tell you all first."
"Director Sheppard," McGee said, sounding unaccountably weary, "Ducky isn't here. Does he know Tony's left?"
"Yes, Agent McGee, he does," Jenny replied softly, not elaborating any further. She knew Jethro would figure out, if he hadn't already, that Tony must have told Ducky himself. "Now if you will excuse me, I have to get going. Let Cynthia know if you need anything." With that she let herself quietly out of the office.
Gibbs and his team looked at each other silently for a moment, and then settled in to read their letters.
&NCIS& &NCIS& &NCIS& &NCIS&
Ziva ran her fingers across her name, written in elegant script on the front of the envelope. She knew that when Tony was taking notes they were often almost unreadable, so she was surprised to see the beautiful handwriting. She opened the envelope and pulled out a single piece of heavy stationery embossed with Tony's name at the top. Steeling herself, she began to read.
First off, I want tell you that I've enjoyed working with you these past few years. It's definitely been a learning experience, even if I still don't know all eighteen ways to kill someone with a paperclip. However, I can't work with someone who doesn't trust me, and it's become evident recently that you don't. You could have come to me for help when you were being framed, but you chose to go to Gibbs instead. I can only infer from that that you either didn't feel I was competent enough to help you, or you didn't trust me enough to have your back. In either case it's not good for the team and someone could wind up getting hurt or worse, which I can't have, so I think it's time for me to move on. Some would say more than past time, and maybe they're right. You and Tim have both come a long way since you started, and are more than capable of doing the job without me looking over your shoulders.
I've recommended to Gibbs that he make Tim his new SFA. This isn't a reflection on your skill – as a liaison rather than a full agent, I don't think you could be a Senior Field Agent, even with both Gibbs' and the Director's backing. Also, Tim has a bit more experience with NCIS. If Gibbs agrees, Tim's going to need your support.
If I can offer you any advice, as my last gesture as Gibbs' Senior Field Agent, I would tell you to let the others in. Trust Tim, Abby, Ducky, and even Jimmy Palmer, to have your six the same way you trust Gibbs. They're good people, they won't let you down.
Zei Mir Gezunt
Ziva clenched her fists as she finished reading the short letter. How could Tony think she didn't trust him, or that she thought he was incompetent, she wondered. And then she realised how it must have looked to him and to the others when she went running to Gibbs for help. They wouldn't see it as her trying to protect Tony and the team by not getting them involved, they would have seen it exactly as Tony did. And that would have been reinforced by her and McGee's behaviour once Gibbs came back – the glee that was evident as they greeted him, the comments that that they had flung at Tony, which she had thought were teasing at the time, but suddenly realised sounded almost as if she and McGee were gloating about Tony's demotion.
"Oh my little hairy butt," she said softly, folding the letter and putting it back in the envelope, "I am truly sorry for my part in this. I hope one day I will be able to tell you that in person."
&NCIS& &NCIS& &NCIS& &NCIS&
Tim stared at the letter and box in front of him, almost afraid to open it. He had realised, as Jenny was yelling at them, that his treatment of Tony lately had been less than stellar. Sure, he had been happy when Gibbs had returned, but he'd also been disappointed. After all, he'd been Senior Field Agent while Gibbs had been gone and once he returned McGee had been relegated back to being Tony's probie again, a title the other man had been only too happy to start using again. Tim hadn't considered that maybe Tony was chafing at having to fall back into his old role as well, and when he got the opportunity to take out some of his disappointment on the other man Tim hadn't even thought twice about it. Looking back, he realised he'd never told Tony how much he liked being his SFA. Sighing, he picked up his letter and opened it.
I'm not sure I told you how proud I was of you when you were my Senior Field Agent – you did a great job, especially considering you didn't really think I should be the team leader in the first place. I should have told you that when Gibbs came back, but there was so much going on that I never got a chance.
I know how Gibbs feels about apologies, but I feel like I need to give you one. I know I teased you a lot – okay, non-stop – but I did have a reason for doing it. When you first came to us, you were like a baby rabbit, all soft and cuddly, and likely to get eaten alive by the LEOs, other agencies and even other NCIS agents. I figured that, by teasing and bugging you, I could help you build up a thicker skin so you could deal with all the crap that I knew would come your way. The first time you stood up to me and fought back I was so proud, not that I ever told you. Somewhere along the line you grew up, though, and grew that thick skin and I should have stopped teasing you so much, but it was just so much fun and so much a part of us by that point that I couldn't. If I ever crossed that line, if my teasing was ever truly hurtful, I'm sorry. I never meant it that way.
I've recommended to Gibbs that you take over as SFA. I don't know if my recommendation will carry any weight with him, but you deserve it. You've earned it and I know you can do it. If you have any questions about procedures or paperwork (and you'll find there's a lot), talk to Ana Mendes on Jason Chaulker's team, Paul Chan on Manny Balboa's team or Mark Burnes on Julia Potts' team. Remind them that I helped them out when they started so they owe me and you're collecting on that debt.
I've asked Jenny to give you a box with this letter. It contains Gibbs' medals, the ones he gets every year and never collects – although I suspect he might be off the short list for this year. Anyway, I'm passing them on to you for safekeeping. DO NOT let Gibbs get his hands on them. I've always suspected he'd melt them down and turn them into fittings for one of those damn boats of his if he could.
Take care, Tim, and watch over the team – they're all yours now.
Tim pinched the bridge of his nose trying to stave off the tears he could feel forming. He'd expected Tony to rail, and rightfully so, at the younger man's treatment of him but instead he'd apologised to Tim and recommended he take over Tony's position, even offering advice if he got the position. "I can't do this, Tony," he whispered to himself. Looking at the letter again, he reread Tony's words. I know you can do it. In his mind, Tim heard Tony adding 'Probie' onto the end. He squared his shoulders and placed his hand on the box containing Gibbs' medals. "I'll do it, Tony, and someday I'll be able to tell you that I was proud to be your SFA."
&NCIS& &NCIS& &NCIS& &NCIS&
Abby paced up and down, muttering under her breath. She stopped, glared at her letter and then paced some more. She could see both Tim and Ziva seemed deeply affected by their letters. Finally, a softly spoken "enough, Abby" from Gibbs got her to sit and pull her letter out.
Wow, I never thought I'd be writing a Dear Abby letter. Sorry, just a bit of humour – you know what I'm like. I know you're super-pissed at me right now 'cause I didn't say goodbye, but I just couldn't, Abs. I hope someday you can forgive me.
Of all the letters I'm writing today, this one's the hardest. See, out of all four of you, you treated me the least badly, but you hurt me the most. I tried so hard to hold the team together after Gibbs left, and every time I walked into your lab there he was plastered all over the place in his own little Gibbs-shrine. And if that wasn't bad enough, you guys kept telling me I wasn't Gibbs, as if I didn't know. And when he came back, you were all so happy to see him that you forgot he'd abandoned us. And I'm sorry, Abby, but I just can't do it anymore. You're like the little sister I always wanted, but I need some time and some space, and I need to be away from all of you for a while – something else I hope you'll forgive me for some day.
I want you to know that I didn't make this decision lightly. It was a hard choice, but I think it was the right one. The job I'm going to is awesome, and it's a good move for me.
I have a favour to ask, Abby. I know you're going to want to track me down, but please don't. Let me have some time on my own, let me get my bearings back. If you want to write to me, give a letter to Ducky and he'll see that I get it. I may answer, I may not. I can't promise anything at this point. But give it a few weeks before you write me, okay? As I said, I need some time to just be me for a while.
Love you always,
P.S. Don't be mad at Ducky 'cause he knows where I am and you don't, 'k?
P.P.S. Please don't tell the others you have a way of getting in touch with me, especially Gibbs.
By the time Abby finished reading the letter she was softly crying again. She hadn't realised just how much her actions had hurt Tony, but now that she did she felt terrible. Of course she had missed Gibbs, and was overjoyed when he returned, but she had never meant to make Tony feel like he wasn't appreciated. He was her other half, the brother she'd always yearned for. At least he'd given her a way to get in touch, even if he didn't want her to know where he was. She sat back in her chair, already mentally composing her first letter to Tony.
&NCIS& &NCIS& &NCIS& &NCIS&
Gibbs sat back, watching the others as they read their letters. He saw Ziva's shoulders slump as she read hers, and saw her say something under her breath, something that looked like "I'm sorry". He watched as Tim read his letter, watched as he pinched the bridge of his nose and then straightened up, a steely resolve replacing the tears in his eyes. He saw Abby begin to cry as she read her letter, and watched as she stopped crying, her eyes unfocused as if concentrating on something. He sighed, feeling unaccountably old as he put off reading his own letter. Could he have prevented this, he wondered, if he had taken Jenny's advice and told Tony that he had done a good job while he was away? He knew he could have handled his return better, but at the time he just wanted things back the way they were, and dumping Tony's crap back on his desk seemed the easiest way of reasserting the fact he was in charge. He thought that the other NCIS agents would know that Gibbs would never have put him in charge – heck, would never have had Tony on his team in the first place – if he didn't trust the man implicitly, but apparently he'd gotten that one wrong too. Maybe he'd have to make a rule for that – "sometimes you're wrong". Nah, he thought. Best to just not repeat the mistake in the future. Sighing once more he picked up Tony's letter, unable to put off reading it any longer.
First, last and always, thank you for everything you've taught me over the years. I've learned a lot from you, but it's time I moved on. Past time, actually – I'm already more than two years beyond my "sell by" date, based on my previous employment history. I thought I did a good job as team leader in your absence, but obviously I wasn't up to your or the rest of the team's standards. But then, I'm not sure anyone could meet those standards – you left pretty big shoes to fill. I tried my best, though, and maybe in the grand scheme of things that will be good enough. It was a blast while it lasted, and I'll definitely miss all of you. I think I might even miss the headslaps, although it'll be nice to actually have a chance to grow some hair back there again.
If my opinion still carries (or ever did carry) any weight, I think you should make Tim your new SFA. He did a great job as my SFA, and he's earned it – if for no other reason than he was able to put up with me for three years. Ziva has the makings of a good agent, but she needs some more work on her investigative skills. And her English. I recommend getting a good American slang dictionary for her.
Last but not least, I think you should replace me with someone who will complement the team – someone with those investigative skills that Tim and Ziva are still working on. I'd recommend either Tom Ellis or Carol Parker. Both are solid investigators and creative thinkers with good intuition, but they could both use a bit more exposure to the type of field work our team does, and neither would expect to be brought on as a Senior Field Agent.
Gibbs, I know there's going to be some hurt feelings over my leaving (or at least I'm selfish enough to hope there might be). I know you're not a "touchy feely" type of guy but try to be there for the team, especially Abby, and let them be there for you. Maybe if we'd all been there for each other all along… well, no point in maybes and could have beens, right?
You'll notice that Jimmy Palmer and Ducky weren't included in your meeting with Jenny; you've probably already guessed I talked to them separately about my leaving. They, and Jenny of course, were the ones who supported me while you were gone and when you got back, and I thought that they deserved to hear I was leaving directly from me. Don't let the others give them grief about that when and if they figure it out, or bug them about where I've gone. Don't you bug them too much either – they're not going to tell you anything anyway.
Know that this move is a good thing for me, a chance to stop being seen as the class clown and maybe be the person I want to be, which is actually a lot like you - respected, maybe a little bit feared, a capable leader (but a heck of a lot less of a bastard). Know, too, that I couldn't have taken this step without you, and I mean that in a good way. You pushed me to be more than I ever thought I could be, and I will be forever grateful to you for that.
Anthony Darius DiNozzo, Jr.
Gibbs sat in silence, digesting what he had just read. He didn't realise that a single tear was making its way down his cheek as he sat staring at the piece of paper in his hand.
"How do we fix this, Gibbs?" Ziva asked, looking at him. "I know you have your rules, but I think we must bite our pride and apologise to him, no?"
"Swallow, Ziva," Tim said softly. "It's swallow our pride. And we don't even know where he's gone. Abby, you can find him, right? You can find him, and then we can tell him we're sorry," he continued, a note of desperation entering his voice.
Abby shot Gibbs a look before answering softly. "No, Timmy, I can't. He asked me not to, and I have to respect that. It's the only way we might get him back someday."
Tim looked like he might protest, but Gibbs interrupted whatever he was going to say. "Abby's right, McGee. We screwed up – I screwed up," he said, folding his letter up carefully. "And the only way to make this right is to respect Tony's decision. Not respecting him is what got us here in the first place. Give him some time – I suspect we haven't seen the last of Tony DiNozzo."
Zei Mir Gezunt = Be well (at least according to the website I found it on...)
Well, this is the final chapter. I know many of you were hoping for a glimpse of Tony's life in Seattle, and I may still write that at some point, but it's not something I had originally planned on and, to be honest, I have no idea where to even start. I am working on a sequel to this story where Tony's back in DC and he and his DHS team cross paths with Gibbs and his motley crew but, I hate to say, it's going rather slowly at the moment and I'm not sure when it will be completed (and thus ready for posting).
I'd just like to thank, once again, all those who reviewed, followed and favourited this story or me. I still can't quite believe the response this story has received and I'm humbled and overwhelmed by it.