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A/N: I have no idea why I love writing Gibbs alone in his basement so much, but I do.
Again, SPOILER WARNING FOR 13x24 - FAMILY FIRST! If you haven't seen the finale yet, turn back now!
If you have seen the finale, know that my writing this story is part of my attempt to cope with the loss of MW/Tony from the show. As a result, this story is less polished and more raw/rushed than normal. I don't care.
I cried, several times, while watching Family First. Oh, and I totally saw it all coming; I even yelled out "called it!" during a certain huge reveal.
Part of every misery is, so to speak, the misery's shadow or reflection: the fact that you don't merely suffer but have to keep on thinking about the fact that you suffer. I not only live each endless day in grief, but live each day thinking about living each day in grief.
C. S. Lewis - A Grief Observed
Part Of Every Misery
Gibbs stood in the basement, a jar of freshly-poured bourbon in his hand, and stared at his almost finished boat.
So much had happened in the past few days that it all seemed to blur together, individual thoughts and emotions losing their sharp edges and melting into each other in his mind.
DiNozzo was soon leaving for Israel with Tali. Gibbs had known from the minute he’d found out about his little girl that the younger man would be showing up in his basement as soon as possible, and he’d known what was coming. He’d seen the look in Tony’s eyes, behind the confusion, grief, and rage that were on display. There had been a sudden spark, strong and fierce, a shifting that he was sure the other man hadn’t even recognized yet as having occured.
Gibbs knew it well; he’d felt it when he first held Kelly in his arms many years ago.
It was like dying; in fact, it was a death, in a way. Who he had been had died that day, and he’d become someone else. Gone was the ability to think about himself and his wants and needs first; in its place was an instant, deep, abiding love for a beautiful, precious, defenseless creature that was blood of his blood, bone of his bone. He’d felt something like that the day he said “I do” to Shannon, but it was nothing like holding his baby girl for the first time and knowing that he was the only man standing between her and a world full of trouble.
He’d vowed, in that moment, to do whatever it took to protect her and to raise her to become the beautiful, intelligent, amazing woman he knew she could be. His failure to see that happen was his greatest sorrow in life.
To see Tony come face-to-face with his own such moment, and in such a startling, heart-wrenching way, had been the beginning of the end. Fifteen years of working with one of the best men he’d ever met, all over in the space of a few hours.
Gibbs was not angry or resentful that Tony was quitting. He understood. Had he been in the younger man’s place, he would have done the same thing. Understanding, though, didn’t stop the pain.
And oh, there was pain.
Gibbs sipped on the bourbon as he allowed himself to process the idea of life without Tony DiNozzo on his six. It seemed alien and unreal, like it was someone else’s life he was considering. He pushed through that, the hands of the clock spinning relentlessly onward as he took his time to think and to ponder the future.
It’s like losing a limb.
That’s as close as he could come to describing the sensation of loss he felt. Tony had been with him before Ziva - oh, Ziver - before Tim, before Kate, and had stood by him even when he didn’t deserve his support, even when he’d more than earned that second B.
And now he was gone.
Gibbs shut his eyes and swallowed hard, his hand tightening on the jar he still held as his eyes burned behind his closed lids.
Gibbs had always planned to hand the MCRT over to Tony when he retired. The younger man had more than earned it. He should have had his own team years ago, but the stubborn St. Bernard wouldn’t leave, no matter how many times he was kicked for his troubles. Now he’d have to find someone else to fill those shoes.
Tim had come a long way from the stuttering Probie he’d once been, but he wasn’t ready yet. Gibbs had time, but not as much as he’d like, to prepare McGee, but deep in his heart he knew that no matter how good he became he would never be what DiNozzo was and could have been. Some things were simply innate; they couldn’t be taught. One either had it or one didn’t. Tony had it, had proven it as a cop long before he was an NCIS agent. Tim had to fight for it, and he could only get so far. Gibbs hoped it would be enough.
Thinking about his team turned his thoughts to Ziva, and he threw back a mouthful of bourbon and focused on the fire in his throat and stomach to keep himself from being overwhelmed as he once again remembered that she was dead. It was easy to forget at first. The first few flashes of grief felt otherworldy, like a bad dream. The mind, so desperate to escape the pain, would forget and deny until reality would reassert itself and the agony would crash in again like waves on a broken shore.
He braced himself through the re-remembering and let the thoughts come as they would.
He’d missed her, loved her like a daughter even though she left them, even though she’d hurt Tony. He’d accepted her choice; what else could he have done? He didn’t always understand her, but he knew that she’d held herself together for a long time despite a truly abysmal family background and a constantly worsening series of personal tragedies only compounded by coming to NCIS. He could respect that kind of strength, even if it had proven to be too brittle to hold up under the relentless blows that just wouldn’t stop coming her way.
He hadn’t spoken to her in a long time, but there’d been a handful of emails, even a letter or two, in the years since she’d left NCIS. It hadn’t been enough, but it had been better than nothing. Now it was all he had left - a few bits of paper and some old photographs.
Tali, who could be the granddaughter he’d never have. He didn’t know where Tony would end up, but he hoped it wouldn’t be too far away. He wasn’t sure if he believed in God or not, but if he could have one prayer answered, it would be that Tony would settle down close by and allow him the honor of being Grandpa Gibbs to his little girl.
It was as close to a happily ever after as he was likely to get.
Thoughts of family turned his heavy inward gaze to Tobias and Emily. Gibbs was at a loss of what to think about that mess. Grace had been right; there was a brotherly bond between the two federal agents that ran deep. Everyone at NCIS knew that Fornell was the FBI’s version of Gibbs, and he supposed that the people at the Hoover Building thought the same way about him in relation to Tobias. Seeing his old friend so still in that hospital bed had sent his world tilting on its axis, and Gibbs had yet to recover his equilibrium. He’d never had a chance; Tobias’s shooting melded into Ziva’s death and Tony’s resignation without a pause to breathe.
Grace had been close to forcing him to admit how deeply shaken he felt, how close he was coming to falling over the edge, but McGee’s phone call had spared him that humiliation. He’d managed to regroup and rebuild, putting his stoic mask firmly back in place. In the end, his team had come through, Kort was dead, and Tony had resigned. Tobias would live, though how fully he would recover remained to be seen.
Each event, taken individually, would be enough to drive a man to his knees. Stacked one on top of the other, sorrow upon sorrow, their combined weight was enough to grind him to powder.
And Gibbs knew that he couldn’t get away from it, from the grief itself or the knowledge of grief, that self-aware, recursive thing that was part of every misery. The pain would come, whether he wanted it or not, and he could do nothing but stare at it, think about it, wrestle it with the knowledge that it was nothing that could be defeated and destroyed but only endured. Grief didn’t have an expiration date. It was always there, stronger some days than others, but never gone.
Gibbs had lost a lot in life; he was bound to lose more before he finally had his turn at being the loss. That didn’t make it any easier, but it did give him experience upon which to draw, experience that proved his ability to survive.
His basement was his solace, the one place he could go to reflect and, when necessary, to let the tears come. He laid his fresh losses out in sharp rows in his mind’s eye, the better to know them and, in knowing them, endure.
Let the tears come. I do not fear them, not here, not anymore.
Gibbs sipped his bourbon one last time before setting down the jar. He grabbed his sander and turned to the boat, stripping back the stoicism that defined him to the world outside as fresh, fine particles of wood began to fall away and linger in the air to mix with his tears as they ran down his face and fell unheeded to the cement floor below his feet.
A/N: Does anybody else wish that there had been a better goodbye scene between Tony and McGee? It felt rushed to me. I know it's impossible to properly say goodbye to a chacter who has been on the show since it started with only 40-ish minutes, but that really bothered me.
Oh, and I've seen some reactions to Family First in which people have said that this episode would have made a great finale to the entire show, and I have to agree that, with a few tweaks, it would have been pretty much perfect.