Author's Note: sirah87 and I were talking about how NCIS could end. And then this happened. May cause some fluff induced ill-ness or vomiting...flufftastic. really.
Disclaimer: I own nothing. If I did, Cote and I would be besties and Tiva feels would be off the charts.

After stepping out of Leon's office Gibbs stops and releases a gusty breath. He takes a gulp from his Styrofoam coffee cup, lets the still warm liquid rest on his tongue for a moment before swallowing. Another gulp. Swish. Despite himself, he needs a second; finds this a little too surreal.

"As long as you're there, you mind making yourself useful getting the door?" Leon's voice calls out to him.

Gibbs rolls his eyes. Has some more coffee then says, "Yep," and leaves the door pointedly ajar as he regains forward momentum. He gives the Director's latest gatekeeper – a chipper, twenty-something blonde in a power suit – a nod of acknowledgment on his way by. Tries not to feel too old when she flashes her dimples back at him.

At the railing overlooking the squad room he pauses again.

Gazing at the haphazard clusters of cubicles below, Gibbs tries on for size the idea that a few days from now he'll be taking in this sight for the last time. The concept, though alien, sits better with him than he thought it would. No last minute regrets, no eleventh hour mind changes.

It's official: he's retiring.

The paperwork has been finalized, and his replacement decided upon. Tony doesn't know about the promotion offer yet, but there's little doubt he will accept.

At least, he damn well better, Gibbs reflects, eyes moving to where the Very Special Agent himself is sitting at his desk, feet propped up on the table and chair tilted backwards. Tony is obviously bored with the paperwork that he's supposed to be completing - has taken to crumpling up what appear to be old interoffice memos and launching them at Ziva. But Gibbs knows, without a doubt in his mind, that Tony is ready to have his own team. Has been for a long time.

For her part, Ziva is catching or deflecting each balled up paper without ever looking up from her own work. As Gibbs watches, Tony prepares yet another makeshift projectile, more slowly this time, clearly contemplating how to best get through what he would call Ziva's 'Ninja Defenses.'

Gibbs has to admit, the man is nothing if not persistent. And to be completely fair, more often than not that persistence has paid off - especially when it comes to a certain Israeli-American NCIS agent.

He finds himself smiling fondly as Tony, seemingly having decided to change tactics altogether, wanders over to stand behind Ziva's desk. He leans down under the pretense of looking at something on her computer screen, then moves to shove a wadded up memo down the back of her shirt. She catches his wrist mid-air, and he grins at her innocently for a second until, with a quick glance towards McGee to check that the younger agent is busy on his computer, he breaks the standoff by dropping a quick kiss to Ziva's cheek. Ziva simply rolls her eyes and swats him playfully, but grabs his hand before he can move too far away. She indicates that he should take a seat on the edge of her desk before she tilts her computer screen towards him in order to explain what she had been studying so intently.

As she speaks, Gibbs notices that she fiddles unconsciously with the ring that has recently taken up residence on her left hand. He knows that the weight of it is still unfamiliar to her, just as the lack of weight he now feels is strangely unfamiliar to him. A considerable load he hadn't known he was carrying had lifted off his shoulders when he saw her wearing it for the first time. It's comforting to know they'll be taking care of each other. Always.

His attention is drawn from the newly engaged couple when Abby bounces into the bullpen to join McGee at his desk, all enthusiastic hand gestures and flying pigtails. Her arms flail and her voice rises as she announces that he just has to "come check it out, right this second, Tim!" and can he please help her film whatever "it" is later that day, after she makes a few changes? McGee responds in a softer tone that fails to reach Gibbs' ears, but he must agree, because Abby practically skips back to the elevator a second later..

Abs will never, ever change, Gibbs thinks fondly.

Yet as he looks back at the three agents remaining, he cannot help but reflect upon just how much they have.

Ziva is no longer the oh-so-young spitfire Mossad agent he had first met all those years ago, with an icy, secretive exterior and knives and guns strapped to every part of her body. She is a keen investigator and a strong, fierce woman who fights for those in need of a champion, and protects those she loves with everything she has. Tony, for his part, is no longer the wild, unpredictable womanizer he appeared to be when they began working together - though Gibbs, even then, guessed that was mostly an act. Instead, Tony is a steadfast, dependable, loyal team member - soon to be team leader - who only has eyes for the woman at the desk across from his. And McGee, he is no longer the green, slightly timid cybergeek he was when they first met. Time after time, he has proven he can hold his own and is an indispensable and steadfast asset to their team.

They have all grown so much over the years: as investigators, as individuals, and as a unit. And they've become a family.

Gibbs' family. Something that, in those darkest of days following the devastating losses of Shannon and Kelly, he had never imagined he would or could have again.

Below, Tony returns to his desk, but rather than getting back to his case reports, he winks at Ziva and turns his memo cannon balls on McGee, who is bent over his keyboard typing madly in an effort to finish up his own outstanding paperwork. As the first memo missile bounces off McGee's computer screen, Gibbs can actually see the man's shoulders rise and fall with a deep sigh, before McGee turns his head and a "Really, Tony?" rises above the constant hum of the office.

Well – they might have grown, but Gibbs would never make the mistake of claiming they'd grown up.

From his perch above the bullpen, he observes silently as his team carries on in his absence.


The elevator doors open and Tony and Ziva walk out into the office, bags slung over their shoulders and coats hanging off their arms. The spring of 2019 is proving to be a warm one, and they had both shed their outer layers upon leaving the sanctuary of their car's air conditioning for the uncontrolled climate of the Navy Yard.

"I still do not understand how you managed to convince Ben to finish his breakfast this morning. Why will he never finish it for me? Are you bribing him with candy, again?" Ziva says, dropping her bag next to her desk and throwing her coat over her chair before turning to face Tony.

Tony chuckles as he moves to his own desk, now next to Ziva's rather than across from it. "No, I learned my lesson the hard way with that one." He steps back towards his wife. "When you tell me the secret to convincing Sarah to put her shoes on in under 5 minutes, I'll tell you the secret to getting Ben to finish his cereal." He grins at her huff of frustration, then adds, "We'll discuss it later. Don't forget, it's your turn to pick them both up from daycare at five o'clock today."

Tony gives her a quick kiss before heading up the stairs to check in with the Director. Ziva just shakes her head, a small smile creeping across her face as she powers up her computer.

A few minutes later, the elevator dings again and Ziva turns to see McGee step through the doors followed by a young woman. She is tall and willowy, her medium-length brown hair pulled back from her face, short bangs resting lightly against her forehead. Her body language is hesitant, but her attractive blue eyes are bright and moving quickly and strategically around the room. Ziva can tell she is already taking everything in, quickly processing and cataloguing her surroundings. This must be their new recruit.

They have had quite a few people work with them over the years since Gibbs retired - consultants, liaison officers from other agencies, agents from other departments - but they had somehow managed to avoid taking on a new probationary agent on a permanent basis...until now.

Sharon Sutherland is young and very green with next to no experience. But, if reports were to be believed, she is a crack shot and her research and tech skills might even rival McGee's one day. When the Director had begun pushing Tony to take on a probationary agent a few weeks back, Tony had offered to take Sutherland on as soon as she completed Basic Training. Ziva could tell right away that her husband liked the idea of building an agent from the ground up.

Their new addition certainly doesn't look anything like Ziva had the first time she walked into these offices - she had been all bravado and provocation. Ziva can only imagine that Tony had strolled into the bullpen with almost as much ego and self-assurance as she had, perhaps more. In stark contrast, Agent Sutherland does not ooze confidence as she enters their small corner of the squad room, despite the fact that from reading her personnel file, Ziva knows she has had some minimal military training, is stronger than she looks, and will take this job very seriously. Nonetheless, she is probably a lot more like McGee than anyone else on the team.

Yeah, Tony was definitely going to have fun with this one.

Ziva stands to welcome the young girl but she is cut off by the return of their team leader.

"Agent Sutherland, I presume?" Tony asks, re-entering the bullpen.

Sutherland quickly drops her bag and her posture straightens as her hand shoots out. "Agent Dinozzo, a pleasure to meet you, Sir. I've read a lot about you and I wanted to thank you for this opportunity. I look forward to learning from you and your team." Her words tumble out quickly, and when she finishes a look of relief flits across Sutherland's features.

Tony raises an eyebrow. "Well rehearsed," is all he says, before shaking the new agent's hand briefly and turning to walk briskly away.

Attempting to suppress a chuckle, McGee leans back against his desk, facing Ziva's, and watches as Sutherland tries to process this first encounter, face slightly pinked, arm dropping quickly back to her side. Over Sutherland's shoulder McGee can see Ziva roll her eyes in an exaggerated fashion at Tony's attempted Gibbs impression. The near-silent treatment can't possibly last more than 2 or 3 minutes at best, and they all know it. Well, all of them except their newest team member, that is.

Agent Sutherland shifts her position to look at Tony expectantly. He is shuffling some papers, opening drawers and generally ignoring them all. Suddenly, he turns back towards his three team members who remain gathered between McGee and Ziva's desks. Picking up his bag he tosses the keys to Ziva, who smirks a little - 'Letting Ziva drive on the first day? Well that's just cruel,' McGee thinks - and then, Tony tosses something to Sutherland. She catches it on reflex and when she opens her hand she sees a black pocket knife resting in her palm.

She looks up at Tony, her expression quizzical, "Sir?"

"Rule #9. Now, grab your gear. Dead marine in Georgetown." Tony picks up his pack and slings it over his shoulder as he heads for the elevator. Ziva moves back behind her desk to gather her things and McGee simply stands next to Sutherland, his gear still in his hand from their arrival.

Sutherland shoots McGee a confused look and he can't help but grin a little. Tony had been right. This was going to be fun.

"Rule #9," he explains. "Never go anywhere without a knife." Sutherland's brow creases a little in thought, but she nods before looking down at the knife again.

"Let's go people, that crime scene isn't going to investigate itself" Tony shouts impatiently from in front of the elevator.

"Sorry, Sir!" Sutherland calls, snapping back into the present. She twists around to grab her bag and bumps into Ziva who is coming out from behind her desk, backpack on her back and coat in her hand. "Oh!" Sutherland says as she jumps backwards, "Sorry!"

Ziva smiles slightly. "Rule #6," she says before turning to join Tony who is still waiting for the elevator.

Sutherland turns to look at McGee once more. Another blush is creeping up her cheeks, and her frazzled eyes seem to be saying 'what have I gotten herself into?' Yet, she still manages to square her jaw and tighten her grip on her pack.

McGee's impressed.

He reaches over and gives the new agent a quick pat on the shoulder before they move double-time to join Ziva and Tony in the elevator.

"Don't worry, you'll catch on," McGee says with a glance over his shoulder at Tony. "Probie."


Straightening up from where he has been leaning on the long metal railing outside the director's office, Gibbs turns and walks down the steps. It's time. Time to let the birds leave the nest – or, in this case, shove them out of it.

"Grab your gear," his voice cuts through the quiet chatter as he barks the order at his agents for what will likely be the last time - not that he's told them this. He's not one for long goodbyes. He'll tell them when the case is done. Or maybe just while he's packing his trash on Friday.

Gibbs watches them spring into action - always efficient and professional when it really matters - as he strides over to his desk, picking up the now lukewarm coffee he'd left there when he arrived that morning. They scramble to follow his path to the elevator, and he takes a sip from his cup, using it to - mostly - hide the small smile spreading across his face.

Yeah, they're all going to be just fine.


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