LIFE AS WE KNEW IT….
AN: I usually don't write dark stories and especially not death stories. (I cannot write those without a box of tissues by my side.)
In this story a major character dies.
All it took was one bullet. One lapse in judgment…maybe. One bullet. One hesitation to move left or right, up or down. One variable, changed, out of whack, it didn't matter. It was all the same. It still resulted in the death of a friend. The cold dead body that now occupied an examination table in Ducky's autopsy room and would soon occupy a drawer in the morgue fridge.
Ducky hadn't wanted to believe it. He could not even see the body now through the tears streaming down his cheeks. He had wanted, needed to attend to the body. He needed to make sure that it was real. Because before the body came in, before he saw it on his table, it was just a nightmare. A freakish, hellish nightmare he had hoped to hell he would wake up from.
Special Agent Anthony DiNozzo had been more than a co-worker to Dr. Donald Mallard. He had been a friend. He had been a source of joy. The man was always ready with a laugh, a smile. Two things, he knew now, he would never hear or see again. Tony loved his stories, sometimes asking him questions about what he was hearing, prompting Ducky to go off on yet another tangent. Then Tony would just smile when Ducky would always ask him, sometime later, what story he had originally been telling. Ducky shook his head. He missed his dear friend too much already.
Dr. Mallard, Ducky, did something he had never done in the history of his career. He removed his protective helmet. He removed the gloves. He excused himself, speaking to both Jimmy Palmer and Tony. He then went into the back room and cried, wept, sobbed for the man he had come to know as a dear friend and the agent he had come to admire and respect.
He then dried his tears quickly. He was the only person who could give his friend the respect he deserved in death. He was the only one who, in his mind, could or should handle this autopsy. Tony was not just another corpse. He was family. He was special and Ducky could not, would not let anyone else handle this. No matter how much it hurt.
Jimmy Palmer watched his boss and mentor exit the room. He looked down at his friend. The man he had struck up a most unlikely friendship with. Jimmy was not the least bit athletic, preferring a game of chess to football. He was gangly and awkward. Tony was only slightly taller. But he was confident, charming, and moved with a grace and ease that belied his stature.
Jimmy had been intimidated, by all of them, mostly Gibbs, but Tony ran a close second. But then when Gibbs left, the mask cracked. He saw Tony's insecurities, and at first he was shaken. The Tony he knew was not insecure. He was the complete total opposite of insecure. The peek behind the mask had given Jimmy a new prospective. But it had also allowed Jimmy to make a connection, and then over those short few months, make a friend. He took off his gloves and his mask and wiped his eyes. He replaced his mask and gloves as Dr. Mallard emerged from the back room.
"Are we ready to begin, Mr. Palmer?"
Was it real? Gibbs looked at the scene around him. Tim and Ziva looking at him, waiting, wanting him to tell them that it had been an awful, horrible nightmare. He looked at the desk across the way from his, knowing he would never see his friend, his son, sitting behind that desk again and it ripped his heart into. He looked at his hands. He had not washed Tony's blood from them. The blood he had tried to stop flowing from the bullet wound in Tony's chest.
Gibbs had looked Tony in the eye at the scene. He hadn't ordered Tony not to die. He could tell by the look on Tony's face that Tony knew he was not going to make it. He was too far gone. Gibbs knew he had been shot too close to his heart. Gibbs held Tony in his arms, allowing the EMTs access as he talked to Tony. He felt and heard the life leave Tony's body as Tony let out a long sigh and his body went limp. Gibbs then hugged Tony's body tightly to him and wept for what felt like hours.
What could he say? What could he do? For the first time in his life Leroy Jethro Gibbs did not have the answers. He didn't know what to do or what to say. He had only been running on autopilot when he had returned to NCIS. Tony had been declared dead by the EMTs at the scene. Gibbs had ridden with Tony in the ambulance. He went over, in his mind, what he would say, how he would break the news to Ducky, Abby, and Palmer. He had called Director Vance and had told him over the phone. He was unsure how the director would take the news. He was equally unsure of what he would do if the director seemed 'happy' DiNozzo was no longer an issue for him.
Ziva stared, almost uncomprehending, at the body on the floor at the scene. It was her partner and yet it was not. It was the 'body' of her partner. Bodies never used to bother her. She had produced enough of them in her former line of work. But this was different. She had not had friends before. She had had family, contacts, and employers. And those changed without warning. So she had learned early, alliances and trusts were fleeting things. She looked down at the body of Special Agent Anthony DiNozzo. She finally felt, realized, what it truly meant to lose a friend. She nearly ran from the house. The blood, his blood, staining her hands and blouse. She fell to her knees in the front yard, sobbing.
It sounded clique, but the whole 'slow-motion' thing was true. Tim had heard the shot. He had seen the bullet hit Tony in the chest and he had seen Tony fall. And what, in reality, happened in seconds had taken many, many long, painful, agonizing moments in his mind. He stood over the body of his bully, his tormentor, his mentor, his friend, and his brother with tears streaming down his face.
Tim had shot the one who had killed Tony. The man had died instantly. Tony, though, lived for 15 minutes after being shot. It had been long enough for the EMTs to arrive. Long enough for Gibbs to cradle his adopted son in his arms, and long enough for Tim to realize how big a hole he would now have in his life.
Tim soon found himself outside the house. He had no idea how he had gotten there. He found Ziva and pulled her to her feet. He then enveloped her in his arms and they stood, sharing their grief.
Abby paced her lab and shook her head. It wasn't true. He was not dead. She kept looking from Gibbs to Ziva to Tim and back again. The looks on their faces told her otherwise. Abby collapsed in Gibbs' arms. She let go, sobbing loudly, holding onto him, afraid to let go.
Her big brother was gone, her best friend. She stepped back and looked at Gibbs. Tony was here, his body was here. The mere thought brought chills. She had not seen him. She was the only one who had not, though none of the 'viewings' had been by choice.
Abby looked up at Gibbs again, praying, hoping that it was all a mistake, a cruel joke. But Gibbs just shook his head. She mouthed the word NO, repeatedly, as the tears continued to cascade down her cheeks.
Life and time inevitably went on, as life and time does. The funeral had been...magnificent. If that is even the correct word to use. It has lasted 3 hours. Two and a half of which consisted of testimonials from Tony's close friends, former cop buddies and NCIS agents and co-workers, acquaintances, and even a few of Tony's family members chose to speak. It had been an uplifting experience. A celebration of a short life that had been lived well and had impacted many.
One of the most touching and moving testimonies came from a surprising source. Tony's friends knew very well of the members of Team Gibbs. Tony had described their personalities in detail and had even given physical descriptions. Knowing this, it was a tense, uncertain, moment when one attendee finally got his opportunity to speak.
NCIS Director Leon Vance strolled to the podium. Those in attendance, who worked at NCIS, especially, held their breaths. They were unsure of the words that would come out of the director's mouth. "I am NCIS Director, Leon Vance. I knew Agent DiNozzo for about 3 years. When I first met Special Agent Anthony DiNozzo I was...well perplexed. I, at the time, knew his boss, Special Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs by reputation, despite the fact we had met, briefly, years earlier. I just could not see a no-nonsense agent, like Agent Gibbs having an agent like Tony on his team. They were polar opposites. Tony far too...fun-loving and Jethro far too strict, too disciplined. I couldn't see it as a good match. But it had worked...for years, before I came on the scene." Vance paused. "I have always believed you could tell a man's true nature by how he acts around kids, especially when he has no children of his own. My wife and children visited me at work once. I thought everyone had left for the day and had wondered why the kids had not come up, with my wife, to the office. My wife, Jackie, proceeded to tell me that they were downstairs with one of the agents. She described him as the tall and cute, with brown hair, green eyes, and an amazing smile." Many people in attendance chuckled and nodded. "We both proceeded down to Tony's desk to find both of our children crowded around him playing a video game with him on his computer. I cannot tell you how impressed I was. The impact that that singular incident made on me. My children were thrilled and from that day forward they have had an 'Uncle Tony.'" Vance paused again. There several nods here also. "I did Agent DiNozzo a huge disservice when we first met. I had not read of his accomplishments. I had known of his work history, but I had not read the reasons for his short stays and sudden departures. I knew he had a lot of commendations from NCIS and from the various police departments he had worked in. I had not read them, though, thinking they were routine commendations. I hadn't expected what I got when I did read them....I was amazed. I was astonished. I FINALLY understood why Agent Gibbs had Agent DiNozzo on his team. The man I was introduced to there was a man with a strong sense of right and wrong. He was a man who was fiercely loyal. He was someone who, in the truest sense of brotherhood and service, would lay down his life for his fellow agent. I saw this, first-hand, when Agent DiNozzo came to me and asked to go to a war-torn country. Just to retrieve information about the death of a fallen comrade. I saw then how...deep his loyalties were." Vance paused as his voice began to shake. "I saw it when my family, my wife, my kids were in danger. When he physically put himself between them and a killer. I would have lost my entire family that day if it had not been for him. I never got the opportunity to properly thank him for that." Vance sighed. The members of Team Gibbs were shocked. They had had no idea this event had ever occurred. "Tony would have responded by shaking his head and by telling me he was only doing his job. And he was. But he did his job better and with more integrity and conviction than any agent I have ever met. I was blessed to have had the opportunity to get to know him. I am proud that he was an NCIS agent." Vance paused again. "And my family and I will miss him."
Life at NCIS was, forever, different. Though, at first, everyone tried to pretend it wasn't. The first, slap in the face, sorta-speak was the new team member. He was not allowed to sit at Tony's desk. Tim had not wanted to sit there either, but he would rather be there than to look over and see some newbie there, so he moved and took over Tony's desk.
As it turned out, he didn't have to remove many of Tony's belongings. There was not a lot of his personal items left. Gibbs had kept Tony's medals, which he stored in his own desk anyway. Jimmy claimed Tony's American Pie coffee mug. Ducky got his Mighty Mouse stapler. Ziva took his letter opener. She then took a more personal item, a particular stripped shirt. She loved the way he looked in that shirt and when she saw it in his file cabinet, she took it. She found a couple bottles of cologne in his desk also. She had never asked when what cologne he used. But she had loved the smell. She took one bottle for herself. She gave the other to Abby. Other agents in the office had stopped by and asked for remembrances, also. That left, by the time it was all said and done, the usual office supplies.
Ziva sprayed his cologne on the shirt she took. She wrapped the shirt in tissue paper put it in a dress box. She put the box in the bottom drawer of her dresser. She found herself missing Tony more than she thought possible. There were times she would sit on her couch, holding his shirt. She had even, especially those first few weeks, fallen asleep holding his shirt, tears streaming down her face.
Abby had also taken one of Tony's shirts, but she had gotten hers from his apartment. She and Team Gibbs had entered his apartment, without permission. Gibbs had always had a key and he didn't, particularly, feel like asking Senior's permission. Besides the things the team took, the things that meant the most to them, would hardly be missed. And most held little, if any, monetary value. They each had their eyes on Tony's movie collection. Each chose movies that Tony had recommended to them over the years, or movies that they particularly liked. Tim also ended up taking a particular jacket of Tony's that he had admired. It was leather, and Tim guessed, very expensive. But he knew Tony wouldn't mind.
Ducky really missed having someone who was always eager to hear his stories. Someone who paid attention and who actually asked him questions. He had stopped telling so many stories. Nobody had noticed it, at first, they were too busy dealing with things themselves. Ducky missed his friend dearly. His constant reminder, Tony's stapler, had a place of prominence on his desk in Autopsy. And it was an unspoken, understood rule. No one touched it and it was not to be moved from its customary spot. He found it painful to visit the bullpen and tried not to, unless it was absolutely necessary. He had imagined, more than once, Tony sitting at his desk smiling at him. It tore at his heart, each time it happened, when he realized that it had only been his imagination.
Jimmy had, in addition to the coffee mug, taken Tony's American Pie movie poster when he and team visited Tony's apartment. The poster now hung in his living room. With Tony's money he was finally able to move out of his parent's house and get put money down on a condo. The coffee mug, however, was still at work. He could not take it home. He had picked it up many times in the week following Tony's death. But he always sat it back in its custom place on the desk in the back room.
Jimmy had started looking for another intern position. It was not a conscious decision, at first. He had just started listening to his fellow medical students when they discussed the opportunities they had heard about. He also started talking to his professors and asking them to help him find a permanent position. He had thought NCIS would be THE place. But with Tony's death, he could not see himself staying. It hurt too much, there were too many memories. He couldn't go upstairs to the bullpen without seeing Tony sitting at his desk. The first time it happened it really freaked him out and he had to stop, stand, and stare for a moment. Things like that had happened a lot the first month after Tony's death. And it always hurt just as badly when reality came crashing in.
Jimmy could tell Dr. Mallard's heart was no longer in his work. He felt that the elderly gentleman would, now, retire much sooner than he had planned. Jimmy had no problem taking over for the Dr. when he retired, that had been the plan. But in THEIR plan Tony was still alive and Ducky was retiring on a good note, because he wanted too. Not because the mere act of going to work seemed a chore.
Gibbs could sense the mood of those around him well, maybe cause his so closely matched theirs these days. He was spending more and more time working on his boats, trying to dull the pain of his loss. He was also noticed he was spending more time staring at the bottom of the bourbon bottle. He had never considered himself an alcoholic, a drunk. But he was afraid that was where he was heading. And he didn't have the support, any longer, of the one person he knew could pull him out of this pit. He didn't know if he was already too far gone and he was equally unsure of who he could go to for help.
Gibbs seemed to be living in a vacuum in the weeks after Tony died. He was working on autopilot. He gave what he had to to do the job. There was nothing more he could give. He was drained and he knew why. He unable to convince himself that it mattered anymore. People had died in his life and he had moved on. He had been able to find meaning. Bourbon and boats were not meaning. Bourbon was a ticking time-bomb. Boats were a means to an end, and he had regretted like hell that he had not given Tony the official answer to the question of how he got his boats out of the basement. He was grateful, though, that he had few regrets. Gibbs had told Tony in those last moments of his life that he loved him. He had told Tony that he was the best son a man could ever have. He told Tony that it had been a great pleasure to have had him as his partner. Gibbs told him he had been very blessed to have met him and have gotten the opportunity to know him. His job was becoming a place that harbored bad memories and his house was becoming a prison. He could not bring himself to go into what he called 'Tony's Room.' He knew Tony's clothes were still there. He had not been able to even throw away Tony's toothbrush, or any of the other disposable things Tony had left at his place. The pain was just too great.
Ziva had not expected it to be like this. She had not experienced the death of a friend before, and she had not expected it to be so profound. It hurt her heart to look across the way from her desk and see the empty space that had been left in her heart. She could even swear, sometimes when she was working she could hear him laugh, or she would smell his cologne. But by the time she jerked her head up, the laugher would have stopped or the smell would have faded away. She would then just shake her head sadly and return to her work. The weeks passed painfully. There were times she would find herself looking towards the elevator, early in the morning. It was as if she was waiting for Tony to arrive to work. Then she would realize what she doing. She would shake her head and wipe the tears from her eyes.
Ziva walked into Agent Fornell's office one morning. She had been heading to work. But, the next thing she knew she was sitting in front of Tobias Fornell's desk pushing her resume across for him to read. She had the feeling Fornell would hire her without much fuss if, she had just shown interest. The fact was, NCIS no longer felt like home. The foundation of their family was gone, and each of them was still dealing with the fallout. Ziva found the pain, the feeling of loss, almost too much to bear. Most of her days were spent receiving condolences for other agents. She was tired of telling people about the last moments of Tony's life. Though she was grateful to be able to share those moments with him, those moments were personal. And she wanted them to remain that way. She had knelt down beside Tony as Gibbs held him in his arms. Tony had called her his 'super ninja chick' and he had told her he loved her. She had only been able to take his hand and squeeze it, in response, as the tears cascaded down his face.
Tim was a no nonsense person there were good guys and there were bad guys. When Tony was killed those lines got blurred. He had had to shot someone who was not a bad person because he had shot a federal agent. Tony had died at the hands of a Marine who was under the influence of drugs, forced on him, and was highly paranoid. He was someone, as Tim discovered when he read the man's history, who would have never shot anyone, outside the war zone, had he not been in a drug-induced paranoid state. But dead was still dead. The fact that Tony didn't have to die like that just made his death harder to take, and it made Tim angry. He had expected the sorrow. He had expected the hurt. But he had not expected the anger. He had not expected to hate a dead man, to truly, utterly hate him with such passion. Anger, of course, frustrated and unsatisfied by the fact that the man was already dead. He would never pay for Tony's death in a court of law. In Tim's mind, he got the easy way out.
Tim had hated to move to Tony's desk. If it had been up to him, the desk would never be used by anyone again. And while he was grateful for the promotion, he was just as sad at the way it had come about. And he began to realize how grateful he was to Tony for the way Tony had trained him. He was a different man from the person who had joined Team Gibbs all those years ago. He was a well-trained, confident, competent federal agent, and he was going to do his very best in the job Tony had trained him to do.
Cyberville, as Tony called it, was looking better and better. There were no gray areas in the world of computer science. Facts were facts, and figures were figures. People didn't die in cyber world. Drugged Marine's didn't shot federal agents who were just doing their jobs. Friends didn't die because the only mistake they made that morning was showing up for work. Tim applied for his old supervisory position. He couldn't stay in the bullpen and work without Tony's last words to him running through his head. Tim also couldn't get over his last memory. Tony lying in Gibbs' arms, blood flowing from the corner of his mouth. Tony telling him he had been a great little brother, that he would make a good SFA and he expected Tim to make it to the position of director. And Tim had tried, but it was more for Tony than for himself. But he had never wanted to be Gibbs' SFA. He had wanted to be Tony's he had wanted to make Tony proud, then. But now, he was just not sure his heart was in it.
Abby stared at the picture of her big brother every day when she came into work. She had expected it to hurt a lot in the first few weeks. But as time when on, the hurt had not eased. The fact, as she learned later, that Tony had not had to die weighed on her mind. She could accept it almost better, she thought, if he had been killed by a bad guy. The lines were too blurred here. There were rules in life, and that was one of the rules. There were good guys and there were bad guys and everybody knew who was who. Abby found herself avoiding the bullpen at all costs. She would call the team down, even on things she considered emergencies. In the past she went upstairs and reported her findings. She noticed too, when she left in the evening or when she came in the morning she would take the back elevators. She didn't want to see Tony's desk, if doors opened, and someone got off on the third floor.
She didn't know if it was her imagination, or if there were actually more offers. But it sure seemed so these days. And in all truth, she was beginning to consider life outside NCIS. She would not have entertained the thought as much as two months before. But now, Tony's death, had put things in a whole new light. There were too many things, even in her lab, that reminded her of Tony. Bert, a gift from Tony, was the most prominent. She loved Bert, but some days it hurt to even look at him. Let alone reach out to him for the constant comfort he always seemed to give her. She had even sequestered him to the back lab and had only brought him out yesterday. Now she squeezed him, and even his patent response brought her no comfort.
Team Gibbs, Jimmy and Ducky all gathered at the lawyer's office when Tony's will was read, and it contained some surprises. He had left everyone, including Ducky and Jimmy, tidy little sums of money. He had also left them notes. Sealed envelopes with each of their names printed neatly.
Months had passed since Tony's death. Senior had not taken a part in the dispensing of Tony's belongings. He had, however, gotten upset when he heard about the money and had protested the will. He said the money was his. Tony had inherited it through his mother, and now was rightly Senior's. He had been the bread-winner in the family. The argument did nothing to change the will and had only served to delay the reading.
Ducky had been the first to leave NCIS. He did, indeed, decide to retire early. He hadn't worked because he needed the money anyway. He called Jimmy and Team Gibbs and they talked several times a month. Things seemed easier without the constant reminder of his old workplace.
Jimmy continued in forensic medicine. He chose to work at the Virginia Crime Lab to finish out his internship. He was helped by the strong letter of recommendation that Ducky provided and the fact that Ducky knew the head M.E. there. Jimmy kept in touch with Tim and Abby. He had even called and spoke to Gibbs and Ziva a few times.
Gibbs retired about a week after Ducky retired and two weeks before Jimmy left. The pain of having to see Tony's empty desk was too much. He had considered asking Vance to move the team to another location. But he knew the only spot that was open was Pacci's old bullpen. And when Gibbs thought out it, seeing another team in 'his' bullpen was too much to take. Another agent in Tony's chair…at his desk, it was too much to comprehend.
Gibbs finally spoke to Ducky about his fears of alcoholism. Ducky recommended he find two other hobbies. So Gibbs gave up his boat building, his bourbon and then his house. He found out he only drink bourbon if he was working on the boat. And part of the reason he built the big boats was because his basement was so big. He found a house with a smaller basement. He didn't build boats so therefore, he didn't drink. Gibbs still had all the things Tony had left at his house boxed up in the attic in a box marked with Tony's name. He had not been able to part with even Tony's toothbrush. Gibbs wanted to keep in touch with his NCIS family. But he didn't make a lot of calls. The only person he called was Ducky. But he was grateful, beyond words, that they all cared enough to call him.
It was two days after Ducky retired that Tim's transfer to Cyberville came through. McGee knew he would still be in the same building. But in his position as supervisor he would rarely have to venture upstairs if their department had to sometimes make computer repairs. This only happed in the rare occasions that the tech department got over-loaded. Tim could almost forget he was in the same building, as a matter of fact, because the atmosphere and surroundings were so different. The change helped a great deal with his transition from field agent to full-time computer geek. And as supervisor Tim had a lot of free time. He spent that time emailing and web-caming with Abby, Jimmy, and Ziva in his office. He had even convinced Gibbs and Ducky to open email accounts to make it easier to talk.
Ziva was hired by Fornell two weeks after the meeting in his office. She was placed on a special terrorism task force and she loved her new job. She still wondered, though, what it would have been like if for some reason Tony had left NCIS and came to work for the FBI. She, too, never lost track or touch of her NCIS family. Even though one important member was missing and could never be replaced.
Abby was enticed by one of the job offers she usually received in an annual bases. She joined the lab of a major pharmaceutical company. She had actually been the last to leave. She liked the work. But she missed having a lab to herself. And, truth be told, she missed forensics. But she couldn't see going back to NCIS and, as much as she wanted to work for the Virginia Crime Lab, they did not have any open positions.
It turned out it WAS a lot easier to talk/chat when you're not face to face. The pain of their loss muted, somewhat. So, when they did see each other at the reading of Tony's will, the atmosphere was a little tense. No one was sure what to say. They each had moved on enough so that there was no office/NCIS small talk for them to engage in.
They each received their notes and money in silence. They had no idea Tony had money. Plus, each of them was a little apprehensive as to what Tony would have to say to them in a letter.
It was suggested that they all go out to eat together. They found a secluded corner in Tony's favorite restaurant and enjoyed a meal of several of Tony's favorite dishes. It was then that decided they would share the letters from Tony. They would each place their letter in the middle of the table. Someone would close their eyes, draw out an envelope. They would read the name on the outside of the letter and then read the contents.
They each were anxious to know what Tony had written to them. But they were pretty sure they would not be able to read through their own letter at one sitting. And they were all positive they didn't want to be alone when they read them.
Tim volunteered to go first. He reached his hand into the pile and drew out the first envelope. He read out the first name. "Ducky, this one is yours."
Ducky nodded and smiled sadly as Tim opened the envelope and began to read.
AN: It is harder than I thought to write this story. I want it to be heartfelt and heart wrenching. But still something the character would believably say. All that said, I can't say I will be writing another death fic anytime soon. I will stick to my specialty Tony!Hurt. It is a lot more fun and a lot easier on my heart. (He lives, regardless of what I put him through. LOL) Also, to avoid confusion. The parenthesis are used to indicate things NOT included in Tony's letters.
Thank you to my reviewers: tansysam, mstictac, Sparkiebunny, Alisa123, Padawan-BuddyKenobi, Candy77, sakurablue13, suejacken, nitetales, Herky Illiniwek, Midnight Dancer, and Justjenn. Your support is vital, especially in writing a story like this. Thanks again. Jackie
Everyone held his breath as Tim paused. He looked across the table to Ducky. "Are you sure?"
Ducky nodded. "Anthony meant a great deal to all of us, proceed Timothy."
Tim nodded and began to read:
Dr. Donald Mallard,
I know that sounds formal, Ducky. But in the end, I know what you did for me. You performed my autopsy. I know you did because you would have believed no one could do me the justice or treat me with the respect that you would. I am so grateful to you for that. It's hard to think about my death, at all. But believing I would be in your hands makes it a lot easier. But, in case I do outlive you, having Dr. James Palmer as my doctor would not be a bad thing either.
I thank you, so much, for how you took care of me. When I told you I didn't need help or I told you things weren't bad, you always knew better. You talked me into doing things no other doctor could. When I told you about my childhood trauma. You didn't tell me to just get over it, to just put it behind me. You helped me to work through it. I can't tell you how much that meant to me. As you know, I am still not a big fan of doctors. But it least it is no longer a scary experience.
(Tim paused when he saw Ducky removed his glasses and wipe his eyes. Abby then took Ducky's hand in hers. Tim continued only when Ducky gave him the nod.)
Growing up I never had that Grandpa or uncle who told me stories. My dad's dad only interests were the stock market and golf. My dad's brothers were not interested in being uncles. They disliked my mother and were not around much. I have no idea why, for the dislike part. I grew up with this picture in my head. A little boy sitting in front of a fireplace at his grandfather's feet being regaled by amazing stories of his childhood. I wanted that as a child. I got it as an adult, and I loved it. I thank you so much for sharing your life with me in that way. And I thank you to for listening to me. It's hard to talk about my years at Harvard and it not sound pretentious. But you showed genuine interest.
You didn't make any automatic judgments on me for anything I told you. I can't tell you how much that meant. I still hope you will take my advice and publish a book, Ducky. Your life would make for such interesting reading. I would buy a copy.
The money I left for you is to be used however you want it. However, I need you to do one thing for me. Take the money and go to one of those places I told you about. Go it one of those places in those travel books you've given me over the years. Take a trip to Italy for me. It is an incredible place. I have been wanting to go back for many years.
Much Love from your adopted grandchild and friend,
They all sat quiet for just a moment before Ziva volunteered to reach into the pile. She pulled out the envelope addressed to Gibbs.
"Gibbs, this is yours." Ziva hesitated before opening the letter. "I think we would all understand if you chose to read this in private."
Everyone at the table nodded.
Gibbs shook his head. "You all know how I felt about Tony, what our relationship was. It's no big secret. Go ahead, Ziva."
HA! This is the ONLY time I will ever get to call you that without fear of a head-slap, so I'm taking advantage of it.
(Gibbs smiled, in spite of himself.)
I certainly never guessed that, well first of all, that I would be with NCIS more than two years. Secondly, I never would have guessed I would have come to respect and admire anyone as much as I respect and admire you. I am not sure what you saw in a cop from Baltimore, but I am glad you saw it when you did. I have wondered over the years what would have happened to me if you had not come along then. I am not so sure I would not have wound up like Danny. And the thought scares the hell out of me. I was so hurt by his betrayal. I never saw him as that type of person. We had been partners for so long. I wonder. Was I that bad a detective, or was he that good of a liar?
You came along in my life at just the right time. I couldn't stay in Baltimore. I literally had no idea what my next move would be. The next thing I know I am a federal agent at NCIS working under the toughest Team Leader in the agency. (You COULD have given me a heads-up on your reputation, by the way.)
I've learned a lot from you over the years. And I don't mean just the rules. I learned what it meant to really have someone's back. I learned that I am someone worth knowing and I discovered that that not all people have an agenda.
(Everyone, at this point, made an effort to ignore the fact that Gibbs had wiped a tear from his eyes and Ziva continued to read.)
As you know, my father really did a number on me. He, as I finally discovered, as an adult could or would not treat his personal relationships any different from his business relationships. And as you have seen, it has only served to make him a suspicious, greedy person. My dad groomed me, from an early age, to go into the world of business. He told me money and power as the only important things in life. But, I saw the money. We had plenty. He had plenty of power. He had his hands in the inner workings of many corporations. Yet he was not happy. His free time was spent staring at the bottom of a liquor bottle or yelling at someone over the phone. I didn't want that life. I couldn't see stabbing a business partner in the back for the sake of money. I couldn't see saying one thing to a person, but then doing the opposite. The person finding out the truth, only after the deal was done.
I found out at a young age. I was good at solving puzzles. I watched a lot of TV, as you know. And I always figured out the 'who-done-its,' well before the TV cops and detectives did. It was fun putting all the pieces together and having the picture make sense.
When you left for Mexico, it hurt, more than I ever thought it would hurt. I felt betrayed. I felt lost, and I wasn't sure I could lead. Not because you hadn't taught me how. But because I was not sure Tim and Ziva would follow me. And for the first month it resembled a train wreck. But then it began to work. I never felt the same kind of trust and respect you got from Tim and Ziva. That hurt, a lot. I felt Tim's sense of superiority and entitlement more acutely during that time. He did his job, but it was always a question of why I had been chosen to lead instead of him. I got Ziva seeming to say I was too much of a screw-up to do anything and why couldn't you see that in me. How blind were you?
(Ziva just paused for a second and stared dumbfounded at the page. She had felt exactly like that. And she hated herself for it. But she thought she had hidden it well. "I did not mean to hurt him. That was not my intention." She wiped her eyes, composed herself, then continued to read.)
I could have whipped out my Harvard degree and shocked the hell out of both of them. And I was tempted, so many times. But I thought it would only cause them to respect the degree, not the person who had earned it. I forgave them. It took time, but it happened.
("Harvard?!" Tim asked, unable to help himself. He looked at Gibbs. "Really? It's true?" Tim added, thinking back to Ducky's letter. Tim had felt himself superior, a lot of the time. He just thought he had hidden it better.
Abby then spoke. "Bachelors in Criminology to start."
"Anthony was working on his Masters. He had wanted to get his PhD, also." Ducky stated.
(Ziva was equally as stunned. She continued reading.)
I missed you being at the hospital when I had the plague. I needed you to be there. I needed your help, your support. I needed you. But I knew the reason you weren't there. I knew you were out finding who had done this time me and you were making them pay. I never asked you about that afterwards. I knew when you walked into my hospital room and put that phone in my hand. I knew it was over. I knew the person was dead or in jail. And in all honesty, at that point, I didn't care which.
I learned from Atlas that there are no such things as rules the Marines teach you. There is something I didn't tell you thought about that time. I was truly scared, not for me, for Atlas. I didn't support/drag him through what felt like mile of tunnels for that witch, Vanessa, to kill him. And probably me. We were so close to getting out. I could just taste freedom. I stepped in front of Atlas willing to give my life for his. And if that is how I die, I think it's well worth it.
If I died in some accident, just know that was how I was meant to go. Don't blame yourself. Don't blame the person or the situation. Things happen the way they do for a reason. I may not be there to share the rest of your life with you, but you sure as hell will never forget me.
(Everyone wiped their eyes as Ziva continued to read, smiling through their tears.)
We didn't have the perfect relationship. I didn't want a perfect relationship. I wanted a real relationship. Growing up there were two DiNozzos. The Public DiNozzo family, and the Private DiNozzo family. As a kid I saw it, but I didn't understand it. As I grew older I began to understand it, and I hated it. As an adult, I refused to live it.
I thank you for being a true friend, showing me what it is like to trust, and how it felt to be loved unconditionally. I thank you for valuing me for who I am and for what I can do.
I owe you a lot Leroy Jethro Gibbs, and I hope I made you proud.
(Gibbs could only nod as tears flowed down his cheeks. As a matter of fact, there was not a dry eye at the table.
Ziva struggled to read the last few words.)
The money I left for you is to be used however you want it. However, every man needs a least one good suit. Go and buy yourself a really, really nice, outrageously expensive tailored suit. You may be surprised how much it comes in handy. I plan on giving Tim the same advice, so make sure he does it.
I love you,
Your adopted son,
Anthony Donatello DiNozzo
(The pause was longer this time as everyone struggled to control their emotions. a short time later, Jimmy reached into the pile next and drew out Tim's letter.
"Tim, this is yours." Jimmy stated as he opened the letter and began to read.)
You're my awesome little brother with the super cool computer skills. I hope by the time you're reading this we are both retired old men. On the off chance that's not, I just wanted you to know I grew up wanting a little brother. And I am glad to have found him in you.
I saw when you first came to NCIS you were timid, too timid to work with Gibbs. And he left it to me to teach you, train you to become an agent. And when I look at you today, I see no trace of that timid young man, I first met, and I'm proud. I'm proud of the man, the agent you've become.
(Tim smiled, despite the tears in his eyes.)
I am glad to have gotten the opportunity to know you. I know we have not had the perfect relationship. But brothers fight, they make up, and then they fight some more. I was not in search of a perfect relationship. That belongs on TV. The real ones are much more important, more lasting.
I hope you realize now that the teasing was just my way of toughening you up. I was afraid Gibbs would chew you up and spit you out. Or he would just eat you for lunch.
(Gibbs grinned despite himself.)
If I do die while in the line of duty. I know I've prepared you well enough to take over as Senior Field Agent. I know, down the road, that you will make a capable team leader. And I fully expect to you to made Director. If I'm still around, I'll have to report to you. I know you'll love that. Just don't rub it in, too much.
I am very sincere when I tell you that I love you like a little brother.
(Tim had to pause for a moment. His voice was shaking too much to continue.)
I know I made life hard for you sometimes. It seemed I was just picking on you mercilessly. But as you have seen, people who carry guns sometimes carry a sense of entitlement. A feeling of superiority and in some cases an over-inflated ego. They look for weaknesses, and once they find them then exploit them. A good cop can get into a lot of trouble. You need to know how to recognize it when you see it. I can't be there to protect you all the time. I hope I have taught you enough now to make it through.
I'll need you to step up and take care of everybody. Gibbs will need somebody to lean on. Abby will need a shoulder to cry on. Ducky will need somebody to tell his stories to. Jimmy will need a friend. And Ziva, well, Ziva is in love with me. Everybody knows that. But seriously, just be her friend and lend her a shoulder when she needs it.
I didn't do the things I did to hurt you or to make you feel stupid. I did what I did for the sole purpose of making you a better agent. As I've said, you have come a long way and you make me very proud.
The money I left for you is to be used however you want it. However, every man needs a least one good suit. Go and buy yourself a really, really nice, outrageously expensive tailored suit. You may be surprised how much it comes in handy. I plan on giving Gibbs the same advice, so make sure he does it.
Your adopted big brother,
Abby took her turn she reached into the middle of the pile and drew out Jimmy's letter.
"Are you ready, Jimmy?" Abby asked.
Jimmy nodded and Abby began to read.
Ours was a most unlikely friendship. I needed somebody and you were there. You didn't tell me not to act like Gibbs. You didn't tell me to be more like Gibbs. You allowed me to be myself. And you respected me, you saw in me things, at the time, I thought nobody could or was willing to see. I am so very grateful to you for that.
(Jimmy smiled and wiped a tear.)
I called you Autopsy Gremlin because, well, you let me. You allowed me to get away with it. I wanted you to stand up to me. Waited for you to, and when you did I was proud. You cannot be timid and work for or around Leroy Jethro Gibbs. It just doesn't happen. He will eat you alive. And he has had you by the foot, munching on your toes more than once. I knew if you would stand up to me, you could eventually stand up to Gibbs. I'm not NEARLY as intimidating. My method was a little unorthodox, and, I admit, downright mean, at times. But it worked. It got the desired results.
You have turned into a confident assistant and I know you will make an excellent M.E. I was probably still a bad patient. But I'm sure Ducky gave you some pointers on how to deal with me.
If I don't get to see your graduate from medical school, just know I believed you could make it. And I am sorry I missed it. I know you will be great, wherever you do, wherever you end up.
(Jimmy took off his glasses and wiped his eyes.)
I sincerely thank you, again, for believing in me. I thank you for your unfailing confidence in me, at the times I was didn't think I could go on.
You will make the world a better place. I have no doubt.
The money I left for you is to be used however you want it. I would like, however, for you to do one thing for me. Move out of your parent's house, and enjoy the single/bachelor life for a little while before you take the plunge. You will be glad you did.
Abby folded her letter, like the ones before her had done, and handed it to Jimmy, the intended recipient. Everyone waited as Ducky took his turn. He drew out Ziva's letter.
Ducky opened the letter. "This is your letter Ziva, my dear." Ducky said, then he began to read.
My Super Ninja Chick.
Since you're reading this, I'm no longer around. I hope I passed peacefully in my old age, just went to sleep and never woke up. If that is not the case and I died in the line of duty. If I died protecting you, it was well worth it.
(Ziva began to cry as Ducky continued reading.)
Don't seek revenge. I don't want you ruining the rest of your life for something that was already 'in the cards.' You cannot enjoy the benefits of being an American from a jail cell.
When were first met, I had no idea what to make of you. I still don't really, after all these years. You STILL refuse to use contractions. And you still get you idioms wrong. Thought I have suspected, for a while, that that is solely for my amusement. You have changed. And being around you has changed me, for the better, I believe. Kate had no interest in knowing the man. She was happy dealing with the child. You wanted to see the man and refused to deal with the child. It made me face a lot of things. Things that, I think, Kate saw but didn't want to deal with. She got glimpses into my childhood. Just like the things I have told you, and, I guess, she didn't like what she saw. Too bad for her though, she might have liked the grown-up me.
I don't mean to compare the two of you. But it seems appropriate, I had a lot of regrets when she died. There were things I wanted to know. Things I wanted her to tell me, about herself, about her family. You told me those things as a way for me to get to know you. She told me things too, but it seemed like, to me, that she made me earn the right. I didn't like that. There are things you should have to earn in life...respect, trust. But not knowing how many brothers and sisters you have and what their names are. It seemed like a game, and everybody loses when you play those kinds of games.
I am happy to say I have no regrets in our relationship. We have had our battles, our disagreements. But they got resolved. We respect each other enough to make the effort. I was so glad when I got to see those glimpses of the real Ziva. When the nuclear inspector died. When we were playing the fake war game. When you were so worried/concerned I may have contracted the plague again. Those instances were brief. But I saw the depth of caring you possess.
(Ziva wiped her eyes as Ducky read.)
I saw your humanness, you vulnerability. I know you didn't like that. But it gave me a chance to see the lady, the sweet, caring woman behind the warrior. I like that woman a lot. She needs to be let out more, just put her in a Xena Warrior Princess outfit.
Come on! You DIDN'T see that coming!?
(A small ripple of laughter erupted from those at the table.)
You have made my life interesting Ziva David. You have taught me a lot. You taught me that I am better than the person my father told me I was. You taught me I am worthy of trust. You've taught me I should never settle for what this life gives. You helped me to understand that it is OK to hurt. And it's OK to let others know you're hurting.
It's hard to believe a trained assassin could teach a cynical, embittered cop lessons in humanity. And that an embittered cop could teach an assassin lessons in trust. But it happened.
I need you to remember those lessons, Ziva. If I die 'before my time,' I want you to know how grateful I am to you for having such a big part of shaping the man you came to know. I want you to believe, trust that justice will come. It will be okay.
The money I left for you is to be used however you want it. I would like, however, for you to do one thing for me. Go to Israel, make a effort to make up with your father. I know he's not a good guy, but he is your father. And as much as you may not like him right now, you do love him. Promise me you will make the effort.
(Ziva nodded. "I promise, Tony. I will." She wiped the tears from her eyes.)
For my partner and my friend,
"Well, Abs it's me and you." Gibbs said as he picked up the last letter on the table. He opened it and began to read.
My ray of Gothic sunshine. I love you little sis. I know I tell you that a lot. And I mean it, EVERY time I say it.
(Abby nodded sadly and wiped her eyes.)
We have been through a lot together. I have loved partying with you. I love the hugs. It took me a little bit to used to them, to get used to the display of affection. I have found now, though, that my day is not complete without an Abby hug.
If I die in the line of duty I want you to know that it's OK. I wanted us to grow old together to live in adjoining condos in Florida. (ha,ha.) But if it doesn't happen I have had a good, happy life with you and the rest of my NCIS family. I know I was loved and I hope I told you enough that I loved you.
I know you didn't know I had money. I didn't keep it from you on purpose. I just didn't tell you. I have left you this money to do whatever you like with it. But I want you to do just one thing for me. I want you to move out of that teeny, tiny apartment of yours and move into a bigger, nicer place. Also, I almost forgot. I want you to fix up your hearse. Trick it out however you like.
I love you, little sis,
Ducky took a year and toured the world. He spent the most time, nearly 4 months in Italy, touring the country, eating true Italian foods and learning to speak the language. It was the most meaningful and poignant part of his whole trip. He decided to take Tony's advice. He had written a dairy of his time in Italy. He turned it into a book called Notes to a Friend. He dedicated the book in Tony's memory. In his later books, of which there were three. He mentioned Tony as a major inspiration for the written word.
Gibbs went to one of the tailor shops Tony often mentioned. He bought a suit, an expensive suit. And when all was said and done, the tailoring, the Gucci shoes, and the cashmere socks. The suit cost only pennies less than what had been a week's salary. Tony had been right though. He had already worn it to a couple weddings and a few funerals. Also, when Tony's one year anniversary memorial came around, he was proud to stand by Tony's grave in his tailored suit. It turned out though; he could not give up his boats. But instead of building them, he bought himself one and a boat slip to keep it in, which he used Tony's money to pay for. He spent his retirement years sailing on the boat, which he named Anthony.
Tim bought a suit at another shop that Tony had mentioned. He decided to forego the shoes. He spent what would be HIS current weekly salary. He then decided to go and buy shoes. None of his looked quite right or did the suit justice. He then decided to buy the car of his 16-year-old dreams. Tim hated that he had only had it such a short time before he wrecked it. And he knew Tony would have loved it. He put on the leather jacket and then slipped behind the wheel for his first drive as owner. Tim kept his job in Cyberville. He became what Tony would have termed Head Geek or Geek-in-Chief. At any rate he became head of the department after only 3 short years. Tim eventually married, but they never had children. They instead opted to raise a family of rescue dogs. Abby was a black bulldog with a studded collar. Jethro was a German shepherd. Tony was a golden retriever. Ducky was a Scottish terrier. Ziva was a tri-colored collie, and Jimmy was a black lab.
Jimmy bought the condo of his dreams. The first thing he did when he moved in was to put up his American Pie poster. The American Pie mug had a special place on his kitchen counter. He continued to work at the Virginia Crime Lab. He became the head M.E. after only about 5 years. He was the youngest person to do so. He and Bianna married. Two years later they had a baby girl, whom they named Antonia Marie Palmer.
Ziva continued with the FBI. She kept Tony's striped shirt in her bottom drawer for years. She kept the bottle of cologne in the back of her lingerie drawer. When her husband-to-be asked about the items, she told him all about Tony. And he understood, he was also an FBI agent and understood what it was like to lose a partner. Ziva had taken several pictures of Tony over the years of their partnership. Most were of them working in the field. But she had also managed to snap a few in the office. When he died, she had been so glad she had saved them. She allowed the team to look through the pictures and take their favorites, making reprints as necessary. She took the pictures she liked the most and made a small collage, which she hung in her living room. A few years after Tony's death, Ziva gave birth to a baby boy. She named him Anthony Donald. A couple years later she gave birth to baby girl whom she named Timara Jay.
Abby eventually returned to her forensics background, taking a job with the Baltimore PD Ballistics Lab. She kept Tony's striped shirt in the back of her closet. She kept his bottle of cologne in a box in the top her of closet. She also kept a picture of Tony up in her lab. She was the only full-time employee there. She always smiled when she looked at it. It reminded her of the good times and great people she had worked with at NCIS. Abby later married, to an officer from Baltimore. He found the shirt and the cologne. Abby didn't need to explain after she told him who they had belonged to. Tony had been a well respected and loved detective in Baltimore. Abby and her husband ended up having twin boys, which they named Anthony Jethro and Timothy Donald.
The anniversary of Tony's death and his birthday was always remembered. On his birthday they all gathered at Tony's favorite restaurant and celebrated his life. On the anniversary of his death, they held their own personal memorial, at his gravesite. Eight years later another celebration and memorial was added to the list. Ducky passed away in his sleep. He had reached his eighth decade and was still active. He was enjoying life and had actually planned to go back to Italy, one more time. He had been thinking about another book. Gibbs passed away from a heart attack 15 years after Ducky's death. He had insisted on making his own boat repairs, and he didn't know when to take a rest. They continued the tradition with the celebrations and the memorials, just adding one more to the list. As the years progressed the 'family' had become larger. The members of Team Gibbs got married and had children of their own. The children learned of their namesakes and joined in the celebrations and the remembrances.
Even in the years after their parent's deaths the gatherings continued. The children, over the years, had become friends. They had loved hearing the stories told about their namesakes, primarily Tony. But they really loved all the stories.
They all had come to have a great appreciation for a man they had never met. But someone they all felt they knew.