Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.
A/N: So I've finally finished this little story. Home is a long one-shot I started a couple years ago but kept getting stuck. It has gone through several rewrites (in one version Kate was still alive, and in another Ziva went to jail) until it was pared down to this simple story about Tony and Gibbs. I hope you enjoy the story! Jules
The news spread through the Navy Yard like wildfire when word leaked that Assistant Director DiNozzo would be in DC for a special meeting with the SecNav and the other assistant directors. He hadn't been back for almost five years. As a rule, he had taken all meetings with Director Shepherd over secure video conferencing in MTAC.
Everyone in the building knew that DiNozzo had left with hard feelings toward his former team. It was understandable, really. Agent Gibbs had deserted the team, leaving DiNozzo in charge with a paltry "you'll do" before taking off for Mexico. And then Agents Todd and McGee had not made life easy for the newly promoted team leader. Add to that Officer David, now Agent David, whom DiNozzo rightfully did not trust, and his months leading the elite MCRT were the stuff of nightmares. No one, except for DiNozzo's former teammates, was surprised when he accepted the posting in Rota, Spain.
And DiNozzo had proven himself to be an exemplary leader in his time overseas. In less than two years, he had been promoted from lead agent at a relatively small base to the Assistant Director in charge of Europe and Africa. Scuttlebutt had it that it was his successful mission to break a major arms ring that had led to his promotion, but no one knew for sure.
What they did know was that DiNozzo was finally coming back to Washington, even if only for a short visit, and the rumor mill was already gearing up for some major gossip. Already, stories were circulating about his return and the various responses it was causing in the MCRT. While Agent Gibbs and his team tended to keep themselves fairly removed from the rest of the agency, they were not so far removed as to be completely safe from prying eyes and ears. The open floor plan in the bullpen saw to that.
The reactions from the various MCRT members were amusing in some ways, but most people at NCIS were not pleased with the stories they were hearing. Though the MCRT could be pretty cliquish, Tony DiNozzo had never been that way. Those who remembered him, remembered him as being friendly and outgoing. He was always willing to help out another team or take on holiday shifts for those with families. He sent flowers to Mildred in accounting when her husband died and took Fred in HR out for dinner when his marriage ended. He always had a friendly smile for everyone and knew everyone's name and remembered the small details about their family or interests.
People recalled DiNozzo fondly and they looked forward to seeing him again, no matter how his old team felt.
"I do not see the big deal about him returning," Ziva said with an air of superiority. "He was an insipid and frivolous party boy and a poor substitute for Gibbs while he was gone. I, for one, was not sorry to see him go."
"He wasn't that bad," McGee argued timidly. Even after all that time, he had a difficult time standing up to the members of his team. It had been five years of working with them and he still didn't feel like he had learned anything. He'd never say so to anyone, but he truly missed Tony; Tony had been a friend and mentor to him and Tim had never given him the respect he deserved. He often regretted the harsh words he had said to Tony just before he took the job in Spain.
"I still don't see how anyone can take him seriously," Ziva continued as though McGee hadn't spoken a word. "He was annoying to work with and even worse to serve under. He had to have used some political connections to get that promotion. His father probably pulled strings."
"Our team's solve rate didn't drop at all while he was in charge," McGee pointed out. He wanted to point out that Tony's father had few political strings to pull, unlike Ziva's father, but felt like that would be a bit too dangerous. "And we weren't exactly good about following his lead."
"That's because I have experience at Mossad and Gibbs trained you well," Ziva scoffed. "It had nothing to do with Tony."
McGee disagreed, but kept his mouth shut. He knew that neither of them had done any more than the bare minimum required while Tony was in charge. They had each given him a hard time because he simply wasn't Gibbs. But Tony had taken it with good humor for the most part and still made sure that the cases got solved, even if it meant staying all night while they went home and slept. Tony had done his job and theirs as well, all without complaint. He rather thought they both owed him a pretty big apology, but he was sure that it would never come from Ziva.
He left Ziva to continue bitching to their latest probationary agent and went to seek out Abby. At least she was looking forward to seeing Tony again. Tim knew that Abby had been just as bad as the rest of them while Gibbs was gone, but unlike Tim and Ziva, she had gone out of her way to try and mend fences even while Tony was still overseas. He also knew that while the two hadn't gotten back to their earlier closeness, that Tony had forgiven Abby. Tim just hoped that Tony would offer the same forgiveness to him.
Tony's flight into DC was on time and he smiled at the agent sent to pick him up from the airport. "Hey, Jake! How are Maria and the kids? Tina has to be in high school by now. And David must be growing up, too."
"She's a senior this year," Jake agreed with a proud smile. "And driving me crazy with looking for colleges. I've spent every free weekend for months visiting college campuses. And David is in middle school these days. He's as big as me already, and still growing. He's on the football team. He still talks about how you showed him how to block tackles."
"You are one lucky man," Tony said as he stowed his luggage in the agency SUV.
"Don't I know it," Jake said. "It's good to see you man. We keep hearing all sorts of good things about what you get up to in Europe. Not that I'm surprised. You always were a great agent."
"Thanks," Tony said. He climbed into the passenger seat and Jake got behind the wheel. "I'm sure not everyone is as happy to hear I'm back in town."
Jake shrugged. "Fuck 'em. Most of us remember how it was. And I think your probie has regretted every day you've been gone."
"How is McGee?" Tony asked.
"More timid now than when you left," Jake said. "That woman… let's just say she isn't very supportive. And Gibbs never named a new SFA, so no one has ever taken the time to bring him up."
Tony frowned. "What about Gibbs? He hasn't done anything about training him?"
Jake shook his head. "Neither McGee nor David has your way with him, so they all just sort of try and keep under the radar. It isn't much different to when you were in charge of the team. Only difference is they don't slack off for him. But Gibbs hasn't been the same since he came back."
Tony sighed. "I thought Jenny would have at least assigned a new SFA."
"No one wanted to deal with Gibbs for long, so the director eventually gave up," Jake said carefully. "None of the SFAs could keep up with Gibbs or his temper, at least not in the way that made you so damned good at what you did."
Tony shook his head. He couldn't think too much about his old team right then. There were more important considerations. "So what's the plan?"
"I'm to drop you off at NCIS and then take your bags to the hotel. There's a schedule in that folder beside you. You've got meetings all day. Then one of the security team will pick you up from the Navy Yard at 1900 hours, give or take, and take you to the hotel."
"Sounds like fun," Tony said dryly. In truth, any meeting that involved the SecNav tended to be long and boring. Though he knew the purpose of these meetings, he still was not looking forward to that aspect.
"You gonna tell me what all this is about?" Jake asked. "They're taking bets on whether you're gonna be taking over the west coast office and Vance is coming in here or you're coming back here in Shepherd's place. It's not a secret that the SecNav hasn't been happy with her since that shit with Le Granouille. And this latest debacle has her pretty much out, according to scuttlebutt."
Tony grinned at his former colleague. "I'm sworn to secrecy. I will tell you that all answers will be forthcoming in the next couple days."
Jake snorted. "Well, just keep me in mind when you're in charge of this place. Or you can always drag me out to California. Maria wouldn't mind the warm weather and Tina wants to go to school out there."
"I'll let you know," Tony said easily and then gave his friend a cheeky grin. "Assuming I have a say in that sort of thing in a couple days."
Tony was greeted warmly at security. Several of the guards he had been friendly with during his time in DC were still around and he took a few minutes to catch up. In fact, as he made his way through the building, he was amazed by just how many people came out to greet him and reminisce about something or other from his days in their ranks. It put a big smile on his face, despite the fact that he was as nervous as hell about running into his old team again.
Somehow, he was able to make it to MTAC without seeing any of his former team. He wondered how much of that was luck and how much was them attempting to avoid him. Well, they wouldn't be able to avoid him for long. As usual, the agency gossip was right on target. Vance, who should have been the SecNav's first choice for taking over, was happy on the west coast and didn't want to uproot his kids. So Tony had been asked to take on the mantle of Director.
Tony had taken some time to consider the offer before taking it. He had been happy in Naples, at the Europe and Africa field office. In fact, he had loved his time in Rota too. It had been a time to heal and move on from the pain his former team had left in his heart. Before Gibbs had left, Tony had considered them family, but they had disproven that theory rather blatantly. They had proven that they weren't really even friends. Friends don't turn on you the way his former team had done.
Tony shook off those negative feelings as he entered the meeting room and greeted the SecNav. Jenny was nowhere to be seen, but Tony wasn't surprised by that. The scuttlebutt had it right for the most part. She had abused her position to go on a personal vendetta and was now out. Tony might have felt bad for her, since she gave him his shot at the AD position, but he didn't really. More than once she had tried to rope him into her crazy schemes and he had balked each time. And when she sent one of Tony's best agents undercover to seduce La Granouille's daughter without justification or backup, Tony began the investigation into her actions with the full knowledge of the SecNav.
Jenny was lucky that they hadn't arrested her for some of the stuff she pulled. Instead, she was being given early retirement. From what he understood, she had taken a job as the head of security with some private company that works in the Middle East. It paid well, but certainly didn't have the power or authority of her last job. It was definitely a step down in the world.
As he listened to the SecNav talk to the various ADs over the view screen, Tony considered how much had changed in five short years. He had gone from SFA to team lead here in DC, then team lead in Rota. It was a quick jump to taking over the field office in Rota when that agent had retired. And within two years of being there, he was made the AD for all of Europe and Africa. He missed being out on the field at times, but the truth was that Tony rather enjoyed what he did these days. He had never trusted anyone to have his six the way he had once trusted Gibbs, so leaving field work wasn't that hard to give up. It might be harder now that he was back in DC, but he would adjust. He always did.
"So, ladies and gentlemen, I give you your new Director: Anthony DiNozzo," the SecNav was saying, and Tony forced his attention back on the meeting. None of the ADs looked surprised by the news. The best news was that none of them looked resentful. He knew he would have enough to deal with getting the DC MCRT to accept him; he didn't want to deal with jealousy from his field offices as well. "You've all been briefed on the schedule. Tony'll meet with the department heads and team leads here in DC this afternoon, then meet with each of your offices via secured video conferences over the next two days. Make sure your team leaders are available for those meetings. I think that's all for today."
There were congratulations from several of the ADs before the meeting was adjourned and Tony was left alone with the SecNav. "Well, that went well, sir."
"I know," Charles Tucker said. "Just proves I chose the right man for the job."
Tony chuckled. "Wait until I've actually done something before you make that pronouncement."
Charles hummed. "Let's get some lunch. I know that the team leaders here won't give you much peace this afternoon."
"Sounds good," Tony said. "How about Alessandro's? I assume that they're still making the best Italian food in the area."
Charles chuckled. "You just left Italy and you want Italian?"
Tony grinned. "Trust me when I tell you that the Italian food you get here is very different from what I had in Naples. Not better, but definitely different."
Tony felt more than a little apprehensive standing outside of the Director's office. This would be his domain from now on, but it still held a lot of memories, not all of them positive. He had been dressed down more than once by Tom Morrow for his pranks. He had also accepted the assignment in Spain there.
"Sir?" Cynthia asked. "Are you okay?"
Tony smiled at his assistant. Cynthia had been here with Morrow and Shepherd and he felt rather good that she had agreed to stick around for his tenure as well. She would be a huge help in getting him up to speed.
"Yeah, Cynthia," Tony said with a smile. "Just remembering. Have my things arrived from Naples yet?"
Cynthia smiled. "Don't worry; it looks nothing like it did when Director Morrow used to chew you out. The painters have been in and the movers have unpacked all but those boxes marked confidential. I left those by your private file drawers in the credenza along with the instructions for entering a new passcode."
"Thanks," Tony said with a warm smile. He finally turned the knob and entered what was now his office. Cynthia was right; it didn't look anything like he remembered. There was new paint and new furniture and his personal belongings, collected over his travels through Europe and Africa, were on display on the walls and shelves. Tony had moved his desk to where the conference table used to sit so that he could look out over the Navy Yard. The sitting area was now where the desk used to be and the conference table was set back in the alcove where Jenny used to have the sitting area. It was a much better space for him to work.
Tony sat down at his desk and ran his hands over the smooth surface. It was a far cry from the metal monstrosity he had in the bullpen. This desk was solid wood a bespoke authority. Tony leaned back in his chair and gave a happy sigh. Cynthia had placed Brutus in a place of prominence next to his pen holder and Tony smiled at the familiar sight.
"Here are the personnel files on each of the team leaders," Cynthia requested. "I know you received summaries before coming to DC, but I thought you might like to look these over before the team leaders arrive in an hour."
"Thanks," Tony said as he accepted the files. Tony gave a small grimace when he saw that Gibbs' file was on top. After years of trying to find out everything he could about the man, it was all right there in front of him. With a sigh, Tony flipped the file open. He skipped past the personal information—he just didn't feel right about looking at that, though he did note that he was still listed as divorced—and went straight for his service record. Over the past five years, Gibbs had been quite busy. His solve rate was still as high as ever, but there was something off about it all. Jenny had noted that he seemed distracted and had wondered if it had been a mistake to bring him back from retirement. That did not sound like the Gibbs Tony knew, though it did support what he had learned from Jake that morning.
For the next hour Tony read through the other files until he was sure that he was properly prepared. At least he felt like he was prepared for the meeting, but he was nowhere near prepared to see Gibbs again. He had no illusions that Gibbs would welcome him back—especially as his boss—with open arms. He was the second subordinate of Gibbs to turn around and become the man's boss. Well, that was just too damned bad. Tony had earned his stripes and was more than qualified to do this job. As SFA, Tony had never backed down from Gibbs when it really mattered and he wasn't going to start now.
There was a knock at the door and Cynthia led a couple of the team leaders and department directors into the room. In a few minutes, the office was filled with people. Most of them Tony recognized either from his time in DC or through his work in Europe and Africa. Some however were new faces. As people took seats around the table and in the sitting area—anywhere they could find space—Tony chatted with a few of the people he knew.
Gibbs was the last to arrive. It wasn't a surprise to Tony; the man always did like to make an entrance. He was telling Tony through his actions that he wasn't going to be at his beck and call. For anyone else in Tony's place it might have worked but Tony wasn't a novice at Gibbs' games.
"Thanks for joining us, Agent Gibbs," Tony said with a small grin at his former boss. "I'm afraid that as the last to arrive, you've missed out on all the comfortable chairs." Gibbs grunted as he took the metal folding chair that had been set beside Tony's desk.
"So," Tony addressed the group with a grin. "I guess you've all figured out by now that I've been appointed as the director of NCIS, effective immediately. I wanted to meet with all of you so that we could talk about what this transition is going to look like and how it will affect each of your teams and departments. Why don't we start with Security and then move to Operations, Personnel and Forensics before we get to the teams."
For the next two hours, they went through each department and discussed the ways in which the transition would affect them. They also talked briefly about whatever concerns or ideas that the department head or team leader had. Ducky smiled at Tony as they discussed the needs of autopsy, and Tony gave Abby a brief thought as he talked with the head of forensics. Abby was technically part of that department, but she had always acted sort of independently of them, concentrating almost exclusively on the MCRTs needs. He'd have to talk to her separately.
Tony had saved Gibbs and his MCRT for last. Of course, by that time, Gibbs was more than ready to get the hell out of that meeting and simply gave a terse report on the open cases his team was working and left it there.
Tony promised that he would make time to meet with each of them individually in the coming weeks and then the meeting finally broke up. Tony took the time to speak with each of the people who hung around to ask questions or to welcome him back to DC. It took almost a half hour for his office to clear, but when it did, he wasn't surprised to see that Gibbs had stuck around. Nor was he surprised that the man had a fresh cup of coffee in his hand, poured from the pot on Tony's credenza. He had been busy making up some of Tony's very expensive Italian roast while Tony was talking.
"I'm surprised you figured out how to use my coffee maker," Tony said as he went to pour himself a cup. Now that Gibbs had made the coffee, he didn't see any reason not to enjoy it.
"Not sure what all the extra bells and whistles are for," Gibbs admitted. "But the pot works like most others. Good coffee."
"I brought it back from Italy," Tony said. "What can I do for you, Agent Gibbs?"
Gibbs snorted. "That how it's gonna be Tony?"
Tony sighed and set his coffee aside. "I'm not sure what you want or expect me to say here, Gibbs."
"I wanna know why the hell you skipped town," Gibbs said. "And I wanna know how you coming back is gonna affect my team."
"From what I've read and heard, your team has been going through some rough times," Tony said.
"Our solve rate is as high as ever," Gibbs said, almost defensively.
"But you're unfocused," Tony said. "You don't have an SFA. David is still a loose-cannon, and McGee hasn't improved at all in the last five years, despite his potential. Plus you've gone through no less than fifteen probies in the last five years and your current probie has requested a transfer no less than three times in the three weeks she's been on the team."
"You think things would have been different if you'd stayed?" Gibbs asked.
"I know they would have been different," Tony said. "I never would have let you get your head so far up your own ass that you couldn't find your way out again. I would have brought Tim up so that he wasn't afraid of speaking his mind. As for Ziva, who knows how that would have gone?"
"But you didn't stay," Gibbs said, bringing the conversation back to his original question.
Tony huffed a derisive laugh. "What did I have to stay for? It was made abundantly clear to me that you didn't give a damn. And the team certainly proved my value to them while you were gone. I had no reason to stay and every reason to go. Even a loyal St. Bernard will run if he gets kicked in the teeth often enough."
"When did I ever kick you?" Gibbs demanded.
"How about 'you'll do'?" Tony said. "That was certainly a ringing endorsement. So glad that you gave me that, otherwise the team might have actually respected me and my position as team leader. Never mind that I earned the position or that I was damned good at it. Never mind that I had been doing half of the damned paperwork for years or that I had more field experience than anyone else. Never mind that the director gave me the position based on my record of service and my skills. That flippant phrase from you set the tone for the entire tenure of leading the team.
"Ziva refused to take orders from me," Tony continued. "I didn't trust her and she knew it. She had an agenda when she came here, as you have recently discovered. She was expecting to serve under you and got me instead. Let me tell you, she was not pleased. Only her title as exchange officer and her friendship with Jenny kept her from being fired. I know that she killed Ari. I let my people help you get her out of that desert camp because I know you care about her. But Ziva never liked or respected me. She tolerated me as a means to an end, like a good little spy. Maybe that will change now that she's changed her loyalties, but I won't hold my breath.
"But you want to know why I really left?" Tony asked. "The final straw that broke the camel's back? It was actually three things that all happened in one day. You came back and dumped my things onto my old desk without a word. You didn't say sorry to take your job or even thanks for keeping the team together…nothing but a sarcastic comment. Then Abby got on my case again about how long it took for you to come back. She bitched and moaned at me for months because I hadn't dragged you back by your ears. Like I've got that kind of power. Like I had the time to worry about you when she and the rest of the team wouldn't cut me one fucking break. And then Jenny called me up to her office to offer me Rota and I told her no, because the team needed me, you needed me."
"But you went," Gibbs said.
Tony nodded. "I got out of her office and went to my desk only to have my team tell me that I shouldn't be surprised to be demoted since I was such a bad team leader. Tim actually told me I didn't deserve my own team."
"That's bullshit," Gibbs said quietly. "You were ready for your own team about a year after joining NCIS. Tom Morrow asked me to give you up a few times but I wouldn't do it."
Tony huffed a dry laugh. "Yeah, I've been able to read my file since taking this job. It might have been nice to hear some of that while it still mattered. Anyway, I decided right then and there that I was going to take the damned job and the team could do without me since it was obvious that I wasn't wanted anyway."
"You left without a word," Gibbs said. "You walked out of work on Friday and didn't show up on Monday. No warning, no goodbyes, nothing."
"I said goodbye to Ducky and Jimmy," Tony said. "They were the only ones who supported me while everyone else was being selfish pricks."
"I was a bastard," Gibbs said. "I admit that, but you knew that about me from the beginning."
"Yeah," Tony agreed with a grim smile. "But you being a bastard was always tempered with a few choice words of praise to let me know I was doing a good job. After Kate came on board, those words of praise started dying off. Then she died and everything went to hell. By the time you left, any positive words were almost non-existent. And then you left and I was stuck holding the bag while you frolicked in Mexico and when you came back, there was nothing."
Gibbs was silent as he took in and processed everything Tony had said. Even now, he couldn't bring himself to apologize. It went against his nature. But he could try to make things better.
"So, what does you being director mean for the team?" Gibbs finally asked.
"I don't know right now," Tony said with a sigh. "I wasn't kidding when I said I've gotten some very mixed reports on you guys. Yes, your solve rate is high, but it was that high when it was just the two of us and we were working our asses off in overtime. I think your solve rate would be that high if it was just you. But Tim hasn't developed the way he should have and I wonder if it wouldn't be better to put him with someone like Jenkins, who could really show him what he needs to know to be a good SFA or team leader."
"You think I fell down on the job with him," Gibbs said. "McGee is a good agent."
"But he's afraid of his own shadow," Tony said. "He needs someone to toughen him up who doesn't scare the shit out of him like you do. You are not a patient instructor," Tony said with a genuine smile. "I had to learn everything the hard way and on the fly. Tim doesn't seem to be responding to that kind of teaching. In fact, it seems he's even more timid now than when he first came to DC. He's put up with you this long, which says a lot about his strength, but he hasn't grown at all."
"So you're going to break up the team," Gibbs practically growled.
"I didn't say that," Tony said. "I want to see for myself how things are going. As for David, I'll leave her with you for now. Mostly because I know that even if you trust her, you will keep an open mind about her motives. And since you are the one person she appears to respect, you can rein her in. But know that if I think she's doing anything to jeopardize the integrity of this agency—like bouncing information to her old contacts at Mossad again—I will fire her, and probably prosecute."
Gibbs nodded. "Wouldn't expect any less. So you aren't going to break up the team?"
"I'm not doing anything yet," Tony said. "And if I eventually do, it will be for the best for everyone. You and I both know that the way things are going right now, nothing will ever get better. I'll give you two months to work through these issues with your team and then we can talk again. I won't do anything without talking to you first."
Gibbs shook his head. "You're being a lot more reasonable than most people would be in your place."
Tony sighed. "I was hurt when I left here, but it's been five years. I got over it. I misjudged our team's working relationship for friendship and it was a mistake. It's not something I'm going to hold you or the others accountable for. It was my mistake and one I've learned from, so I've let it go. That being said, you might want to warn them that I won't tolerate disrespect. I put up with it in the past, but I won't have them or anyone diminishing my ability to do my job because of some personal grudge they may hold."
Gibbs gave Tony a small nod of approval. "You've grown into this job."
Tony gave him a wry smile. "Hopefully in a good way and not the way Jenny did."
Gibbs chuckled. "I heard you were the one who brought her down. Guess she regrets giving you that post now."
"Probably," Tony said with an answering smile. "Never did like to be used. She found that out pretty quickly. I think she bought into the frat boy image."
"Her mistake," Gibbs said.
"Get out of here," Tony said. "I have another meeting soon and I'm sure your team is having fits by now wondering if I'm going to split you up out of spite."
Gibbs took his time and poured another cup of coffee with an insouciant grin before heading through the door. A moment later, Cynthia entered with more files for him to read before he met with the Northwest Field office by video conferencing in half an hour. That would be followed up with a meeting with security about his personal security detail.
"Anthony, my dear boy," Ducky said with a wide smile as Tony made his way into autopsy a few hours later. "I was wondering when you would show up here. I did not get to offer my heartfelt congratulations in the meeting earlier, Mr. Director."
"It seems pretty unthinkable that Charles would trust me with something like that," Tony said with a self-deprecating smile. "But I'm glad he did. It's good to be back in DC. I loved Rota and Naples, but I did miss being here."
"Are you finished for the day?" Ducky asked. "I would love a chance to catch up over dinner if you are free."
"That sounds great," Tony said. "I just have to stop in to MTAC for a minute and then close down my office."
"I shall write up this report and then meet you down in the lobby in fifteen minutes," Ducky said.
Tony nodded. "If Jimmy's still around, you should invite him along."
"Alas, young Mr. Palmer has already left for the day," Ducky said. "He and Breena are having dinner with her family this evening."
"Ah, dinner with the in-laws," Tony said with an exaggerated shudder. "Glad it's not me."
"Indeed," Ducky chuckled. "What about Abby?"
Tony grinned as he headed toward the door. "She's bowling with the sisters tonight. But we've got plans to hang out this weekend."
Tony left and finished up the tasks he had before calling Jake to let him know the change in plans. While he wasn't the one picking him up, Jake was the head of Tony's personal security team. Basically, anytime he wasn't at headquarters, he was supposed to have a two-man security escort. Tony knew that he wouldn't be able to deal with that all the time and would soon devise ways to get around it, but for now he would play by the rules.
Ducky decided to leave his Morgan at the Yard and ride with Tony since they were going to a restaurant not far away. He could come back for his car after dinner. On the drive over, Tony and Ducky got acquainted with the young agents who were on duty that evening.
"So, where are you staying?" Ducky asked once they had arrived at the restaurant and been seated by the hostess.
"The Adams House," Tony said with a shrug. "My father would be impressed. He always stays there. To me, it's just another hotel room: cold and impersonal. Saw plenty of those when I was visiting resident units in Europe and Africa, though none of them were as nice as this."
"I would offer you a room, but since I sold the house after mother's passing there is no room to offer," Ducky stated sadly.
"I was very sorry I couldn't make it back for the funeral," Tony said sadly. "How are you doing?"
"It was difficult at first," Ducky said. "But Jimmy has been very supportive and I have found ways to keep myself occupied. I was so used to taking care of mother that I wasn't quite sure what to do with my time after she was gone. Now, I have begun taking courses at the adult school and have developed quite the social life."
"That's great," Tony said. "Those classes are great for meeting friends or making dates. I used to take cooking or dance classes. There were always plenty of ladies to choose from in either class."
Ducky shook his head with amusement. "I shall keep that in mind for the future. So, how is your social life these days?"
"Pretty much non-existent," Tony said with a sigh. He took a sip of his wine before continuing. "I was traveling so much and working crazy hours so that actually developing a lasting relationship was almost as hard as when I worked for Gibbs."
"Perhaps your schedule will settle down a bit now," Ducky said. "And in the end, you are the one who chooses your schedule."
"Maybe," Tony said. "Not sure I'd know how to settle down if I got the chance."
"Hmm," Ducky said. "I think you would do just fine if you found the right person. Or the right person would open up his eyes and see what he's been missing."
Tony nearly choked on his wine. "What?"
"Oh, do not play coy with me, my dear boy," Ducky chuckled. "You and I both know that your forays into the dating pool were not limited to women. And your loyalty to Gibbs was never about just the job. It was for that reason that his defection and abrupt return hurt you so deeply. You were in love with him."
Tony sighed and gave up all pretense in the face of Ducky's know gaze. "Still am. Can't seem to get over him, Ducky. Being on another continent didn't help. Having my heart ripped out didn't change a damned thing either. So I just sort of gave up. No sense trying to love someone else when he's already got my heart, even if he doesn't know it."
"Is that going to be a problem?" Ducky asked. "You have done rather well for yourself working away from him and the pain of unrequited love. I would hate to see you hurt once again by his thoughtless cruelty."
Tony gave Ducky a long look. "I may still be in love with him but he doesn't have the same power over me that he once had. I can protect myself. I have to."
"For what it's worth, I do not believe that your feelings are totally one-sided," Ducky said with a sad smile. "But you know as well as I do that Jethro will not open his heart to the potential for more pain."
"I know," Tony said. "After I learned about Shannon and Kelly, so much about him began to make sense. Not just why his marriages failed, either. I mean why he acted the way he did with me, hot and cold by turns."
"I have seen signs of healing from him since the explosion," Ducky said. "If nothing else, being forced to deal with their loss again and taking time away to grieve has helped in some ways."
"Yet I've heard that he's been distracted and unfocused," Tony asked.
"Ah, but that has more to do with your leaving than their loss," Ducky said. "He did not realize how much he depended upon you until you were no longer there. You and I both know he will never admit that, but I do believe that he has missed you a great deal."
Two months passed very quickly and Tony was just beginning to feel like he was getting a handle on the new job. The first week had been filled with meetings with all the various team leaders from around the world. He was brought up to speed on the counterterrorism missions in place. He spent time dealing with the SecNav and various upper-level Navy and Marine commanders in DC. He'd even been forced to take an active role in the politics of running a federal agency and meet with other federal agency heads.
In that time, he had also hired a real estate agent and found a nice townhouse in Alexandria. It was close to Gibbs' place, though that really wasn't why Tony had chosen it. Really. He liked the architecture and the feel of the space. He liked having a place for his piano and a room for working out. He liked that it was close to a park where he could jog. He liked that it was close to the Navy Yard… And he liked that it was close to Gibbs. He just wished that it didn't take so long to finalize the sale and get it furnished. He'd been living in a hotel for two months and it looked like he would be there for at least another month.
He had yet to really speak to Ziva directly. That wasn't entirely unusual. He didn't speak to most of the agents beyond polite greetings. He didn't even get that from her. In fact, mostly he got dark glances whenever he happened to be in the bullpen. Tony shrugged it off. He knew that Gibbs had discussed their conversation with his team and he was positive that Ziva would not have taken the criticism well.
Tim, on the other hand, had approached Tony as soon as his schedule would allow. In fact, he made an appointment with Cynthia just to talk. The first thing out of his mouth when he had entered the office was an apology. Tony had accepted it with a smile and offered his absolution. Tim had been left vulnerable by Gibbs' departure. It didn't excuse his attitude or actions, but it did diminish his culpability and his regret certainly went a long way towards mitigating Tony's residual anger and hurt. After that, the two had gone for drinks a couple different times and Tony had spent some time talking to Tim about what he wanted for his future and how they could get him there.
Tony had drinks with Gibbs on a few occasions as well. He'd even gone to Gibbs' house for cowboy steaks twice. They talked about work, but they also just spent time reconnecting on a personal level. Tony told Gibbs stories about his travels and the cases he'd worked in Rota. Gibbs had talked a little about his time in Mexico and about losing Mike Franks. Mostly he reminisced about the cases he and Tony had worked together, long before Kate or Tim or Ziva joined the team. Tony knew that he would never have a grand romance with Gibbs, but he was happy that they were learning to be friends again. Or possibly genuine friends for the first time.
After a morning spent in MTAC, Tony was restless. There was still so much he needed to clear up with his old team. Tony may have settled most of the personal issues with Gibbs and McGee, but the team itself was still in shambles. Rather than going back to his office, he decided to take a few minutes to observe the agents in the bullpen. Gibbs was sitting at his desk going over reports while the rest of his team worked on cold cases. Tim and Ziva were pretending to work but they kept shooting glances at Gibbs and each other and even up at him. They were noticeably distracted from their work by the tensions and uncertainty on the team.
"Agent Gibbs," Tony called out, getting the man's attention. "Can I see your team in my office in five?"
Gibbs nodded before turning to his team. Tony went back to his office and made a pot of the good coffee. There wasn't much left, but he had an order in from his favorite shop in Naples and expected it to arrive any day. Gibbs was always more agreeable when Tony served him good coffee, and the dark roast that Tony had discovered in Italy was right up the man's alley. Gibbs made a habit of stopping in whenever Tony brewed a pot, like he had a sixth sense or something. There was no way he could smell it brewing all the way down in the bullpen.
As expected, Gibbs went straight for the coffee as soon as he entered Tony's office. McGee and David took seats around the conference table and Tony and Gibbs soon joined them.
"What can we do for you, Director?" Gibbs asked. Tony was glad that he was setting a professional tone and showing Tony respect in front of the junior agents. He could have asserted his authority, but Gibbs' help was appreciated.
"As you and I have discussed, I've been observing your team's interactions," Tony said. "And I have to say that there is definitely something that isn't gelling. You're a man down again because you can't seem to keep a probie for longer than a couple weeks. While you're solving cases, you aren't functioning as a team. So, I've called this little meeting to find out if you have any ideas as to what we can do to improve things."
There was a tense silence for a few moments and Tony thought that the tension really only served to underline his point. They weren't functioning as a cohesive unit.
Finally Tim spoke up. "Um, I know you and I have talked a little about why my career stalled out and what options I might have, but I really don't want to leave the MCRT. Having said that, I think it would be really helpful if there was… an SFA. I mean, if I want to learn how to do the job eventually, I guess I need someone to teach, me right?"
"Good point," Tony said. "What do you think about that Gibbs?"
Gibbs scowled at Tony. "You know what I think about that, Tony." Gibbs had been very clear that he didn't want to bring in an SFA; he would rather train one up. He glanced at Tim, however, and sighed. Obviously that wasn't working out all that well this time around. "But I'm willing to reconsider the idea if we find the right candidate."
"I do not see why we need an SFA," Ziva said stubbornly. "Our close rate is higher than any other team. McGee just needs to grow a spine."
"And you need to consider more than the just the immediate significances of any decision," Tony countered. "The function of this team influences the way other teams in this organization work. And in the future, this agency will look to the people who came through this team for leadership. It's important that we aren't solely focused on the immediate results, but on the future as well. Change is a part of life and if we are not growing with those changes, then those changes will overwhelm us."
Ziva glared at Tony. Who was he to criticize her? "Then I shall put myself forward to become the SFA."
Before Tony could shoot her down, Gibbs did it for him. "I don't think you have the right experience or attitude. You could one day if that's what you want, but you haven't made any effort to learn anything about the job."
"What is there to learn?" Ziva asked. She looked directly at Tony as she smirked. "I am sure that I can make others do my work, make jokes and fall asleep at my desk as well as anyone."
"I hate to break it to you Ziva," Gibbs said. "But Tony did a hell of a lot more than that. If he was a slacker, do you really think I would have kept him on my team? Do you really think he would have worked his way up to the Director's office?"
"Being SFA is more than just telling people what to do," Tony said. "It's more than just paperwork, too. Being SFA requires a person to be willing to guide her fellow agents. She has to be capable of leading the team in the lead agent's absence. She has to understand the politics of the agency and balance the personalities on the team. She has to be a lot more interested in her team than she is in herself. Think about that."
Gibbs gave Ziva a look and Tony was pretty sure that she would hold her tongue for the rest of the meeting, even if she wasn't happy about it. Tony knew that Gibbs would talk to her later. Whether that talk would get through to her was debatable.
"Well, I think that we agree that we need a new SFA rather than a new probie," Tony finally said. "In the meantime, the MCRT will continue as it is. If there are no more questions or suggestions, then McGee and David, you are dismissed. Gibbs, stick around for a few minutes."
While the two junior agents left, Gibbs went to refill his coffee and brought the pot over to refill Tony's mug as well.
Tony nodded his thanks to Gibbs. "Any ideas about who you want to bring in as SFA?"
"Sarah McAllister is pretty good," Gibbs said. "But I'm not sure she's up to handling McGee and Ziva. And Greg Norton is a waste of space. He's only survived this long because Groening carries him. There aren't any other SFAs in DC with enough experience to even consider."
Tony agreed with that assessment. "I had a probie in Rota that's worked her way up under one of the best team leaders in Europe and Africa. Has a master's in criminal psychology and a PhD in criminology. She came through the FBI originally and was top of her class at Quantico and worked under Don Epps as a rookie. Wanted to get onto the BAU, but had personal conflicts with Gideon. Name's Sylvia Navarre." Tony went to his desk and pulled the personnel file and handed it over to Gibbs. "Read through it and let me know what you think."
Gibbs barely glanced at the file before asking, "You think she's up to it?"
"I think she can stand up to you," Tony said with a grin. "I think she deal with anything you throw at her, mentor McGee and give Ziva a run for her money in hand to hand. Plus she's got a mind like a steel trap and an unbelievable solve rate. She could lead her own team right now, but I want to give her more experience with major crime. Read the file."
Gibbs nodded. "Dinner my place?"
"Sure," Tony said. "I can't wait to close on the townhouse. I can't stand living in a hotel for much longer. And it would be nice to have a home cooked meal other than cowboy steak at yours every other week."
"What's wrong with cowboy steak?" Gibbs asked.
"Absolutely nothing," Tony said. "I'd just like to have a place to cook."
"You can always use my kitchen," Gibbs said. "Hell, you can use the guest room at my house until you can move into your new place if you want. It wouldn't be the first time."
"I'll consider that," Tony said with a grin. Both men knew that Tony would be coming to stay with Gibbs before the week was out.
Tony made the move to Gibbs' house that weekend. Surprisingly, it was just like old times. Neither man allowed their respective positions to play a part in their interactions. Gibbs was still Gibbs and loved spending time in the basement. And Tony was still Tony and loved watching movies, though lately he had work spread out around himself as he did.
Living together and working together was surprisingly easy for the two men. Their personal interactions were personal and they didn't allow work to interfere with the blossoming friendship between them. Before Tony had left, there had been feelings of friendship, but it had never been on equal footing. Now, though they weren't technically equals, Tony actually felt like Gibbs respected him and saw him as more than a work buddy. They were becoming true friends for the first time.
That fact both excited and scared Tony. His feelings for Gibbs weren't going to just go away and living with the man you were madly in love with could be just as dangerous as facing down an armed suspect. But Tony had never been a coward and refused to let his fear keep him from spending as much time with Gibbs as he could get away with.
Gibbs liked what he read about Sylvia a Navarre and agreed to meet with her, though he refused to give a final answer until he saw what she was capable of in person. Tony wasn't surprised and made the call. Sylvia flew over and went to work with the MCRT on a temporary basis for two weeks while Gibbs made up his mind. In that time, she not only made valuable contributions to the investigations they were working, but she also spent time with Tim at the shooting range and in the gym. She let Ziva's negativity roll off her back and even stood up to Gibbs a time or two. After two weeks' time, McGee was already showing more confidence than he had since Tony left and was beginning to ask questions about the requirements for being a good SFA.
"She's good," Tony said smugly as he stood looking over the balcony at Navarre and Tim laughing over some shared joke. Ziva looked on with a combination of anger and jealousy. Tony knew that Sylvia had attempted to befriend the Israeli, but Ziva had rebuffed her. Tony also knew Sylvia well enough to know that she wouldn't give up so easily.
Gibbs grunted from his side. "She'll do."
"Good," Tony said with a smile. "You take care of the paperwork and I'll sign off. She'll need a week to pack up her flat in Rota."
"You cooking tonight?" Gibbs asked, his eyes still on his team.
"Yeah," Tony agreed. "I've got chicken marinating. Won't take long to grill it."
Gibbs nodded. "I'll try to be on time, then."
"The decorator is almost finished with the townhouse," Tony said a little too casually. "Looks like I can move in this weekend."
Gibbs normal frown deepened. "That right?"
"Yeah," Tony said. "Doesn't mean we can't still do dinner and such."
Gibbs grunted in response and Tony wasn't quite sure how to take it this time.
"Not the same," Gibbs finally said.
"No," Tony agreed. "But it doesn't have to be bad."
Gibbs didn't reply. Ziva caught his attention and he headed down to see what she had found. Soon the entire MCRT was gearing up and heading for the elevator.
The move to Tony's new place was pretty simple. It was merely a matter of getting his few possessions moved from the storage unit to the house. The decorator had furnished the place, and he only had a few boxes that had made the trip back from Italy besides the clothes and whatnot that had taken up residence at Gibbs' house. It was all accomplished in a single afternoon. Tony recruited Jake and a couple of the other security detail guys to help, and Gibbs showed up with pizza and beer. When the rest of the agents had gone, Gibbs sat back in Tony's living room and sighed.
"No basement here," Gibbs said.
Tony shook his head. "No, the previous owners put in a guest suite along with the exercise room instead. I do have a pretty big garage downstairs, though. Room for two cars and a boat."
Gibbs was quiet for what seemed like a very long time as he considered what Tony had implied before he finally spoke. "I ever tell you how I ended up with that house?"
"No," Tony said as he picked at the label of his beer.
"Shannon bought it while I was deployed that last time," Gibbs said. "We fought about it. I said it was a waste of money and that base housing was just as good and cheaper. She said she wanted a life outside the Marines."
"I can see her point," Tony said. "There's no privacy in base housing. Everyone knows what everyone else is doing. It was like that at boarding school."
Gibbs didn't reply to that. Instead he went on with his story. "She and Kelly had only lived in the house a couple months when she witnessed the murder. They hadn't even completely unpacked. It was only a couple weeks later that they were both dead. I came home to an empty house that I hated and had never wanted but couldn't seem to let go of. The exes all hated that house as much as I did but I couldn't let it go."
"You spent fifteen years punishing yourself," Tony said quietly. "Why?" Tony suspected he knew the answer, but asked because he felt like Gibbs needed to explain.
"Because I wasn't there to protect them," Gibbs said bitterly. "Because if I had fought harder about the house, maybe Shannon wouldn't have been anywhere near where that murder happened. Because she wanted that house."
"I can see why you spend most of your nights in the basement," Tony conceded.
Gibbs snorted and drank down half of his beer. "It was the only part of the house that it was obvious that she and Kelly never went. I hate that house Tony, but it was the last place my girls lived and laughed."
"And yet you don't let them out of the carefully packed boxes," Tony said gently. "Maybe it's time you stopped punishing yourself. Maybe it's time you pack away the regrets and unpack the good memories. You aren't doing yourself or them justice by wallowing in misery and self-flagellation. They deserve better and so do you."
Gibbs drank down the last of his beer and stared at that bottle before getting up and heading for the liquor cabinet. "I need something stronger."
"The only thing in there is scotch," Tony warned him. "Haven't had time to hit a store yet. That bottle was a gift from the Sec Nav."
Gibbs snorted. "Pretentious ass."
"He's the pretentious ass who gave me the director's office," Tony shrugged as he accepted the tumbler Gibbs handed him.
"This place is too big for one person," Gibbs commented tangentially.
Tony had to acknowledge that it was pretty big. On the main floor, there was a formal foyer that led into the living room and the hall which had a large, open stairway. There was a formal dining room next, a half bath, and then the kitchen which opened up into the family room. The family room had a wall of French doors which led out to a garden terrace which was built up over the garage and carport below. The next floor had a huge library where the decorator had set up Tony's grand piano. The only other thing on that floor was the huge master suite, complete with a balcony that overlooked the terrace garden. The next floor had two bedrooms suites, and a sitting room. And then finally, there was a conservatory on the top floor, completely enclosed in glass and open to the sitting room below. The house even had a small elevator that went to every floor, including the conservatory. In all it was more than 6,000 square feet of living space.
"My apartment in Naples was smaller than just one floor of this place," Tony admitted. "But part of it is for show. You know how politics work in DC."
"Still seems like a waste of space," Gibbs said.
Tony grinned as he finally got where Gibbs was going. "Well, if you ever decided to parole yourself from your self-imposed prison, you're more than welcome to take up some of the space here."
"I'll think about it," Gibbs said.
Tony could tell that Gibbs did think about it, but he didn't bring the subject up again for almost a month. In the meantime, the two men continued to share dinner most nights. Usually, Gibbs would go home afterward, but there were a couple times when he spent the night in one of the guest rooms. And then there were the nights that the team had to work late, or all night. Those nights, Gibbs didn't come at all, and Tony missed his presence.
On one such night, Tony invited Ducky for dinner to talk and to keep the silence in the big old house at bay. They talked about work and about the new cooking class that Ducky was taking and about the housekeeper Tony had coming in twice a week to keep the house from looking like a sty. They even talked about Palmer's love life. But it wasn't until after dinner, when they were sharing cognac in the living room that Ducky brought up the one topic that Tony wanted to discuss.
"I understand that you and Jethro have continued to spend a lot of your afterhours together even since the move," Ducky said in his understated way that let you know he knew a lot more than you might want him to know and was only holding back his opinion until you asked for it.
Tony sighed. "Yeah. I invited him to move in here."
Ducky's eyes widened in surprise. "I had not thought that things had progressed in such a manner."
"They haven't Duck," Tony said. "It's just… It felt really right and really comfortable staying with him. And then when I moved in here, he told me a bit about Shannon and that house and… I think he wanted me to ask, but he hasn't answered."
"I see," Ducky said. He took a sip of his drink and Tony could tell that h was contemplating his response. "It would seem to me that it will not be easy for Jethro to let go of his guilt. And part of his guilt is tied to that house. Though I do not pretend to know the particulars, it is plain to me that he has never liked that house or living there, and yet he continues to do so. You have made him and offer for a different home, but I believe he knows that it is much more than that."
"Yeah," Tony said. "I mean, neither one of us came right out and said it, but I know what I hope his moving in here would mean."
"And that makes his decision that much harder," Ducky explained. "Not only would he be giving up his tangible tie to his guilt, but he would be admitting that it is possible to move on, to love again."
"You don't think he's ready for that?" Tony asked.
"I cannot say," Ducky said. "Perhaps he is. Perhaps not. What I can say is that you, my boy, should prepare yourself for either possibility. And allow him to come to his conclusions in his own time. There can be no rushing this."
Tony chuckled darkly. "Yeah, I get that. The man has been clinging to the past for almost twenty years. He's not going to just stop just because I want him to."
"Have patience, my boy," Ducky said. "Jethro loves deeply and for life; if things go the way you and I believe that they should go, then I do believe that it will be more than worth the trouble getting there."
"You're right about that," Tony said. "And I've waited for him for almost ten years now. I think I can wait a little longer."
After his talk with Ducky, Tony felt a lot better about things. So much so that even when Gibbs stopped coming around every night, Tony didn't question it too much. He figure Gibbs just needed some time and space to really think.
In the meantime, Tony had political parties to attend and meetings with other agency directors. He flew to the west coast for two days to meet with Vance about some issues that the teams were dealing with there. He had monthly meetings with the Sec Nav. He had monthly meetings with all of his team leaders in DC and with the department heads. He was busy enough at work, even without ever involving himself in a case to put in almost as many hours as Gibbs did.
It hadn't taken long for Tony to get sick of having a shadow 24/7. He adjusted his security detail down to one man and only for times when he was away from the house or NCIS. His home security was exceptional and he was armed and well trained. Gibbs, when he found out, however, was not pleased.
"You should not be alone at night," Gibbs said over dinner the same night Tony announced the change in security to his detail. "Anything could happen."
Tony rolled his eyes. "You do remember that I'm a trained agent. Plus the security on this house is probably right up there with MTAC. There are even three panic rooms!"
"Those rooms won't do you any good if someone decides to burn the house down around you," Gibbs pointed out.
"I am not keeping perfectly good agents from doing their job just so they can babysit me," Tony said. "If there is a threat, then I'll temporarily increase security. As for fires, this place is equipped with fire suppression systems in addition to the alarm."
Gibbs sulked in silence for a while before he finally said, "I still don't like you being here alone at night."
"Then move in," Tony said. Gibbs stared at him and Tony sighed. "Listen, I'm not trying to pressure you to do something you aren't ready for, but I'm also not going to stop living my life because you can't make up your mind. I'm not a helpless civilian. And I'm not in danger. You face more danger every day than I do and you don't see me trying to make you give up field work."
Gibbs didn't have much to say about that, but when he left that night, Tony wondered if he would come back at all.
Gibbs didn't come back the next night or the next or the one after that. Tony saw him at work and probably spent too much time on the balcony, watching the MCRT interact. If nothing else, his time up there did show him that Sylvia was doing more for the team than just filling an empty position. Ziva was thawing towards the other agent and had even begrudgingly begun to respect her in a way that Ziva had never respected Tony—or anyone other than Gibbs, for that matter. Tim continued to improve by leaps and bounds and Tony could tell that he would be ready to SFA in a year or less if he kept up at this rate. Even Gibbs seemed to respect her opinions and wasn't quite as unbearable to the team. Tony had chosen the right person to help the team find their footing once again.
Tony knew he was good at his job, and Sylvia's success was proof of that. But he wasn't quite as confident that his words to Gibbs would not backfire on him. And so he continued to observe and every so often, Gibbs would look up at him with a thoughtful look on his face.
That Thursday, however, Gibbs showed up on Tony's doorstep, used the key that Tony had given him on the first day he had moved in, and found Tony in the kitchen cooking pasta primavera for dinner.
"You aren't defenseless," Gibbs said. "That isn't why I'm here."
Tony looked at Gibbs for a moment before turning back to the pot of boiling water. He tossed in enough farfalle for two people. "Then why are you here?"
"Because I can't stay away," Gibbs said.
Tony turned to him and grinned. "Are you sure it isn't my cooking?"
Gibbs chuckled. "Maybe a little. What are you making?"
"Pasta Primavera," Tony said as he turned back to the stove and began tossing ingredients into the pan of olive oil and garlic. "A mix of veggies and shrimp in a light sauce of olive oil, garlic and parmesan. Got this particular recipe from a sweet little old lady in my building in Naples. I promise you'll love it."
"It's not really the food," Gibbs said. "When you were gone… I didn't understand it, but it felt like a part of me left with you. I haven't felt like that since… since Shannon. Only you weren't taken from me. You left. And so I shut that feeling away and pretended that it wasn't there."
"But I came back," Tony said.
"You did," Gibbs agreed. "And I was grateful that you didn't hate me. But I still didn't know what the hell to do about what I felt."
"And do you now?" Tony asked. He stirred the pan of veggies and shrimp as if his entire world wasn't hanging on the answer to that question.
"I love you," Gibbs said. "I guess I have for a long time. I fucked up once and let you run off to Spain. I'm not going to lose you a second time."
Tony closed his eyes and took a deep breath. Rather than throwing himself into Gibbs' arms, he strained the pasta and added it to the pan of vegetables then he tossed it all together with some cheese. He put portions onto two plates, added a little more cheese and a sprinkling of herbs before handing both plates to Gibbs. "I'll grab the wine."
They ate at the small kitchen table where they had shared numerous meals before, but this time there was silence and anticipation in the air. Tony was grateful that Gibbs recognized his need to process everything before continuing their long overdue talk. It wasn't until they had cleaned their plates and loaded them into the dishwasher that Tony spoke again.
"So, what exactly does that mean," Tony asked quietly as he leaned against the kitchen counter, fiddling nervously with his wine glass.
Gibbs stepped forward and took the glass from Tony before setting it aside on the counter. His body was a barrier between Tony and the rest of the world, sheltering Tony. "It means that I want this." And then he kissed Tony deeply and passionately. It was a kiss that was filled with a decade of longing. When he pulled away for air, they were both breathing hard.
Gibbs leaned in and whispered in Tony's ear. "It means that I want to take you up on your offer to move in. It means I want to build a boat in your garage and share your bed and wake up beside you every morning."
Tony couldn't hold back the grin; he had never been so happy in his life. "Oh yeah?"
Gibbs nodded once. "I put the house on the market. And I spent the last few weeks digging through those old boxes. There's not much there I want to keep, but there are a few things."
"You can bring it all," Tony said. "Or you can bring nothing. As long as you bring yourself. I don't want you to forget them. I just want a piece of your heart, too."
"You have that," Gibbs stated. "Have for years."
"Good to know," Tony said as he pulled Gibbs towards the stairs. "I hope you brought an overnight bag, because I'm not letting you leave tonight."
"I'm finally home," Gibbs said. "There's no way I'm leaving again now."
Tony grinned as they made their way up to the master suite. Home. Yeah, they were both finally home. And it had nothing to do with what house they were in or what continent they inhabited. Home was about who you were with, and for Tony, Gibbs would always be home.