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Title: The Choice: Chapter 2: Staying (2/2)
Author:[ profile] murgy31
Fandom: NCIS
Category: Hurt/Comfort
Pairing: Gen, mentions Tony/Jeanne
Rating: PG
Spoilers: Family
Summary: Tony chose to stay at NCIS, now he must live with the consequences
Notes: Thank you to Annie for the beta! I really appreciate it. Happy Turkey day to the Americans reading! I hope you all enjoy my story.

Tony slowly floated towards consciousness. With the last vestiges of sleep clinging to him, he slowly opened his eyes. He remembered the events of yesterday. He was going to leave, going to leave NCIS behind, and join Jeanne, finally get the family that he wanted. He lifted his head up and realized he was cocooned in warmth he hadn’t felt in a long time, if ever.

His boss had broken every rule he ever taught him, and stayed with him, not just stayed but held and comforted him all night long. He gently eased himself out of Gibbs’ embrace, making sure that Gibbs was comfortable on the couch. He went into the kitchen to make coffee that he was sure his boss would want the moment that he woke up. He had to think of some way to thank Gibbs for everything that he had done. Tony was not one to dwell on his emotions, if his father had taught him anything it was to not get caught up in feelings. That is exactly what he had done in the Benoit case; he’d allowed personal feelings to cloud his judgment. That can never happen again! he thought angrily. How could he have been so stupid as to think that everything would work out for him? It never had.

He was standing at the counter making coffee when Gibbs found him. Gibbs took a moment to observe the younger agent. Gibbs knew that Tony was not out of the woods yet. They still had a long way to go. Tony would need his family around him to help him get over losing Jeanne. All of his family, which meant McGee, as well.

Tony knew the exact moment that Gibbs entered the kitchen. He always had a “sixth sense” when it came to his boss. He took a mug from the cabinet and poured Gibbs a fresh cup of his morning constitutional. He shook his head slightly and returned Gibbs’ slight grin as he passed the cup to him wordlessly.

“How ya doing, Tony?” Gibbs asked.

“I’m fine, Boss,” Tony replied, trying to reassure Gibbs that he was handling things, but Jethro knew better. He simply raised an eyebrow and challenged Tony to try again. He knew him better than he knew himself, or so he thought. The explosion changed everything; Mexico changed everything, up until that point, when Gibbs had his finger on the pulse of NCIS. He lost more than his memory in the explosion, something he could never get back. He lost his team. Tony had been on assignment for a year without his knowledge. He had led the team in Gibbs’ absence; he managed to keep them from falling apart completely. Tony’s leadership did not come without a price; there was discord among his team members. McGee and Ziva were both floundering. They had been devastated when they thought that they had lost Tony, but neither agent had the nerve to express that to their ex-team leader. Ziva understood what Tony was going through, given her background, but McGee was a different story.

“It’s not your fault,” Tony stated, as if he could sense Gibbs’ thoughts.

“What?” Gibbs replied, startled

“Jeanne is not your fault, it’s mine.”

“Not your fault either, DiNozzo.” “Maybe, maybe not.” Tony shrugged. “McGee seems to think that he could have handled it better.”

“McGee doesn’t understand,” Gibbs interjected.

“I know, but I don’t know if I have it in me to explain it to him.” Tony’s shoulders sagged as he studied the pattern of the tiled floor.

“You do, Tony, but only you can decide if the pain is worth the gain.”

They stared at each other for a long time, neither one breaking eye contact, until finally Tony smiled at Gibbs.

“I broke us; it’s up to me to fix us.” Tony handed Gibbs another cup of coffee and with a sloppy salute headed towards the door. Gibbs quickly set down his cup of coffee, and pulled the younger agent into a tight embrace before he had a chance to leave.

“I’m sorry,” he whispered into his ear. “I am making an exception and breaking my own rule. It’s for a good reason.” Tony’s protest died on his lips and he fell silent.

“I let you down,” Gibbs continued. “I bullied my way back into NCIS and onto the team. I treated your tenure as boss as if it meant nothing, and in doing so I taught McGee and Ziva that it was all right to disrespect you.” Gibbs paused and pulled back slightly, making sure that Tony could see his eyes.

“Atta boy, DiNozzo,” He tapped the back of his head lightly. “You did well, and you filled my shoes well. You will make a damn fine team leader one day.”Both men’s eyes were damp by the end of his speech. Tony pulled back and straightened up, looking as if the weight of the world was off his shoulders.

“Thanks, Boss,” he said as he turned the knob of the door to the apartment. He paused before leaving; he knew that he would never be back here. He closed his eyes momentarily to burn a picture of his life with Jeanne into his mind’s eye. It was a life he’d loved, but a fantasy none the less. He opened his eyes and looked at Gibbs. Jethro stood in the hallway, patiently waiting for him to make a decision. In the end he knew what he had to do. He had made his choice, he was staying. McGee would understand everything, because that was just the way it had to be. He would fix them. He had to, his family needed him, and more than Jeanne ever did. He smiled at his boss and left the apartment.
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