What Are Friends For?
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Gibbs pushed the sander over his boat as the sound of the front door being opened and closed again filtered down into his basement. Instantly alert, but not showing it, he glanced up to see his second oldest and closest friend making his way down the stairs.

"Any normal person spends his evenings in the living room. But no, you have to spend it down here. What's the matter, Jethro, afraid of the light?"

Gibbs tossed the sander down and moved to where he kept the bottle of high-proof bourbon. One look at Fornell's face, together with his tone and his griping, told him what he'd been suspecting ever since he'd turned down the 'offer' to be Fornell's best man.

By the time Fornell had reached the bottom of the stairs, Gibbs had poured a healthy slug into the relatively clean coffee mug and held it out. "Here, drink it. In one, Tobias."

Fornell took a sniff and widened his eyes, but then shrugged and downed the drink as Gibbs had ordered him to do. He shuddered and held out the mug. "I suppose you're going to tell me you told me so?"

Gibbs poured another slug into the mug and drained it himself. He shrugged as he looked at how old Fornell suddenly looked. "Not that much of a bastard, Tobias," he said softly, his voice gruff.

Fornell looked at him and sighed heavily, before leaning against one of the benches. "How can I hate her and yet love her at the same time?"

Gibbs blinked. "You still love her?"

"No. Yes. No. I don't know, Jethro. No, I don't. But I love what she gave me, and I hate her even more for taking her away from me. She's taken my little girl, Jethro. My Emily. She's taken her away from me. The bank account I can get over, but Emily? How do you get over that?"

Gibbs swallowed and took a step towards Fornell. As close as they were, and they were close, a lot closer than either of them probably liked to admit, he didn't really know how to react. Had it been his oldest and closest standing in front of him, he'd have pulled him into his arms and held him. Of course Ducky wouldn't have had a wife to walk out taking their baby with her, but that wasn't the point. He'd have known what to have done had it been Ducky. In the end he settled for putting his hand on Fornell's shoulder and squeezing it.

"Least she didn't hit you round the head with a seven iron," he said, letting his grip linger, beyond that of just a casual friend's touch.

Fornell nodded once. He then looked up at Gibbs. "If it had meant leaving Emily with me, she could have done it."

Again Gibbs swallowed; again he squeezed Fornell's shoulder. "Have another drink." Fornell just looked at him. "I've got some decent stuff in the living room." Fornell's eyes widened.

Then as one they said, their tones slightly wry, "Ducky." Gibbs was pleased to see Fornell smiled a little as he said it.

Fornell shrugged. "I should go. Leave you to do what ever you were doing with that," he nodded at the boat. His tone, however, belied his words.

"Done enough for tonight. Come on. Let's go and have a drink or two or three. Spare room's made up. And I tell you what, Tobias, I'll even lock the front door." With one final squeeze of his friend's shoulder, Gibbs took his hand away, turned away so he didn't let Fornell know he'd seen the glitter of moisture in his eyes and headed for the stairs.