Tony was waiting for him at the bottom of the stairs when Gibbs left Leon's office. He'd never thought turning in his badge would be so difficult. When Gibbs got to the landing, Tony said, "Ray's in fifteen minutes? I had him reserve us a table with a good view of the front door."
"Yep. See you there." They rode down in the elevator without talking, for which Gibbs was grateful. Tony had gotten a better handle on the babbling lately. In the garage, Gibbs made a little wave at Tony and got into his car. He drove out through the gate, waving to the guard shack for the last time. Not that he was maudlin or anything about it. Ray's was a quiet place Tony had taken him to a couple of years ago, after a bad case. Gibbs had been surprised that Tony was a frequent enough customer that Ray knew him by name, but Tony had matured over the past few years, and apparently small cop bars were in, and loud clubs were out. He hadn't mentioned sake bombs in years.
Gibbs sighed. FLETC Instructor. He supposed it was a better option than most when you had to retire from field duty. He was glad that even Leon had rolled his eyes when he'd told Gibbs about the importance of retaining Gibbs's "institutional knowledge." And he had to admit that the instruction job might be a good fit – he had no problem telling people what to do, and he was good at weeding out those who were unsuitable for their jobs.
Hiring agents was always a gamble. You just had to trust your gut and roll the dice. Tony was a roll that had paid off well. Blackadder had come up snake eyes, true to her name, and Burley had been a good bet for the agency, just not for Gibbs. McGee and Ziva had been better bets than Burley. But Tony was the natural, although he was off-kilter enough that he'd probably want to be called a yo-leven instead.
When Gibbs walked in the door at Ray's, he saw Tony at a table to the right. Tony was sitting with his back to the wall, leaving the chair facing the door for Gibbs. For all that Tony looked at cases from a different angle than Gibbs did, he was still a cop. Gibbs sat down and Ray brought over their beers.
Tony raised his glass and looked at Gibbs. "You're not actually retiring, so I'll just say that NCIS's loss is FLETC's gain." They clinked glasses and drank. Tony leaned back a little, angling so he could look at the front door more easily. "When do you leave for Glynco?"
"I'm supposed to be there a week from Monday."
"So, you're leaving next weekend?"
"Tuesday." Off Tony's confused look, he continued. "A buddy of mine teaches at The Citadel, so I'm going to stop in to see him."
"Ahhh, Charleston. Nice city. Make him take you to Fleet Landing so you can look at the water while you eat." Tony took another drink of his beer. "I'll get most of my stuff into storage over the weekend and bring over the rest on Monday. Does that work?"
"Sure." Gibbs hadn't even started packing yet, but he knew the team was on call starting tomorrow, so it was best for Tony to move in when he could.
"And you still want me to live there while you're in Glynco?"
"I can't leave the place vacant if I'm going to be in Georgia two months out of every three."
"Well, no, but what about that third month? You okay with me being in the house then?"
"If I didn't want you to be there, Tony, I wouldn't have asked you. Stop worrying." Gibbs was pretty sure that after two months of living in the small one-bedroom apartment he'd be renting in Brunswick, the entire team could be living in his house and he'd be fine with it. Besides, it was the best way to protect the house while he was gone, and he sure wasn't going to sell it. Selling the house went against Gibbs's practicality – eventually he'd have to stop teaching at FLETC and retire somewhere for real – but if he was honest with himself, the thought of selling the place where he'd lived with Shannon and Kelly tore him up. He'd be in the ground next to them before anyone else owned that house.
They sat there for a few minutes, listening to billiard balls clacking together on the table in the back, and Dean Martin on the jukebox. Ray had filled the jukebox entirely with the Rat Pack, which Gibbs figured was at least part of the reason Tony liked the place so much. Gibbs glanced at Tony, who sipped his beer, looking like he was working up to something.
Tony took a deep breath. "At the risk of sounding sentimental, Gibbs, I want to thank you for doing whatever it was that convinced Vance to promote me to team leader. Well, and for hiring me in the first place. You took a big chance on me. Don't think I don't realize that." He took a drink of his beer and gave a half-smile. "Damaged goods, to say the least."
"But you paid off. Listen," Gibbs said, leaning in a little bit. "Vance wouldn't have promoted you if he didn't believe you were the best for the job, no matter what I said. The fact is, you were a good investigator when I hired you, and you became a better one. Now you have to step up and be the leader again, and I know you can do it. Just don't let Vance railroad you. And remember that it's not always the wife…"
"…Sometimes it's the CO." They finished together. Gibbs continued alone. "The truth is, Tony, you're one of the best bets I ever made."
Tony beamed. "Jackpot?"
Gibbs had to smile back. "Jackpot."