I DO NOT OWN NCIS OR ANY OF ITS CHARACTERS!
ENOUGH TIME TO SAY GOOD-BYE
Gibbs' phone rang disrupting the good-natured bantering among the team sitting in the squad room. Anticipating a case they prepared to grab their gear.
"Gibbs,' he answered pen in hand ready to write down the details given to him. His pen remained still as he listened to the caller's words.
His face offered little information to the agents who waited for his order. It was clear though that whatever he was being told wasn't good news.
Finally he spoke. "Thanks for calling," he hung his head for a moment as he placed the phone on his desk. Taking a short breath he pushed himself to his feet still leaning on his hands. He looked up slowly at the now curious faces before he pulled himself up to stand straight.
He opened can closed his mouth a few times trying to find the words that escaped him. Knowing time was of the essence, he stated, "That was Ms. Hannigan. I need to go to Stillwater."
Tony was the first to stand and move closer. "Is Jack okay?" he asked his concern evident.
"Who's Jack?" Ellie asked looking from one agent to the other.
Gibbs turned to her and soft answered, "My father. He's in the hospital." Gibbs glanced up at Vance's office.
Tony followed his gaze and stated, "Go Boss. I'll fill the director in."
Gibbs nodded silently grabbing his gun and badge and moving quickly toward the elevators.
Once he was gone Tim looked at Tony, "What do you think we should do?"
"First we let Vance know Gibbs is gone. Second, we follow him," Tony eyed them both letting them know he expected them to agree.
They both nodded and began to clear up the papers on their desks.
Tony knocked on Vance's door and waited for him to call him in.
"Enter," Vance glanced at his watch. Seeing Agent DiNozzo walk in he raised his eyebrows in question.
"The team needs some leave," Tony got right to the point. "Gibbs' dad is in the hospital and we want to be there for him."
Vance nodded. He had grown fond of the elder Gibbs and hoped that it wasn't too serious. "Call in and update me," he waved him off steepling his hands under his chin both contemplating if he should join them and praying that it wouldn't be necessary.
Tony returned to the squad room, not surprised to see Abby standing with them ready to go. "Vance gave us the go ahead. Let's move."
They all rushed to the elevator in silence each unsure just what they would encounter once they got to Pennsylvania.
At the hospital Gibbs saw Ms. Hannigan wringing her hands standing in the waiting room of the ICU. When she saw him she couldn't stop herself from throwing her arms around him both seeking and offering comfort. Jack had been a good friend to her for many years. She knew Leroy was never a fan of hers, but right now he was the closest link to Jack she had.
"Tell me what happened," Gibbs asked softly. Despite the feelings he'd held for her he knew this was an emotionally difficult situation for her, too.
"We were having some tea and cookies like we do from time to time. All of a sudden he started to sweat and got short of breath. I tried to ask what was wrong, but he couldn't speak, so I dialed 911 right off. By the time the paramedics got there he seemed to have calmed down some, but he was very weak.
"They did some tests and called in to the hospital and next thing I knew they were getting him on the gurney and rushing him out. They let me ride with him. As soon as we got here I called you," she wanted him to know that she wasn't trying to keep him in the dark, but things happened quickly.
Gibbs nodded, understanding she did the best she could. He was still mad with himself. He knew his dad was getting on in years. He'd even offered to open his home to have his father live with him. Stubborn old man refused. It wasn't an argument he would've won, so he let his dad go back home, but maybe if he'd been closer things would be different.
"I'm waiting for the doctor to come and update on his condition," Ms. Hannigan broke into his mental debate.
Gibbs led her to a chair and helped her sit while he paced. The drive had bottled up his anxiety and he needed to release it. When the doctor came out the door she asked him to have a seat. Thankfully the waiting room was void of other visitors, so their conversation was private.
"Are you Mr. Gibbs' son?" she asked.
"Yes," he replied hoping she'd get to the point.
"I'm afraid your father has suffered a rather major heart attack. It looks like he may have had smaller ones recently that did little damage, but may have weakened the heart's ability to withstand a stronger one."
"What are you saying?" Gibbs asked. He thought he knew, but was hoping it wasn't as dire as it sounded.
"There's really nothing we can do for him, but keep him comfortable. We've given him some pain relief and he's resting now. I think, though you should prepare for the worst."
Gibbs hung his head. There had to be more time. He had too many years to make up shutting his father out of his life.
"Can I see him?" he asked.
"Yes, of course," the doctor stood and had the door opened for them. "He may not respond to you right away, but most likely he'll know you're there."
Gibbs took Ms. Hannigan's elbow and followed the doctor to his father's bed. He wondered if the site he saw was similar to how he'd looked when he'd been hospitalized while in his coma. So many wires, IV's and monitors. They hadn't intubated him, but had him on a nasal cannula.
He let Ms. Hannigan have the chair closest to the bed and watched as she took his hand holding a Kleenex to her face to muffle the sobs. Gibbs wondered if he did both of them a disservice by objecting so strongly to their relationship. It was obvious she cared deeply about him. He put his hand on her shoulder as he watched the shallow breathing of his father.
He wiped his own unshed tears as he raised his eyes toward the ceiling wishing the prayers he wanted to pray would come.
They stayed for awhile with no change in his condition, before Gibbs suggested they get something to eat or drink. Ms. Hannigan nodded and let him help her back to her feet and return to the waiting room.
Gibbs wasn't too surprised to see his team along with Abby sitting there.
"We had to come, Gibbs," Abby put her arms around him and held on tight. "Ducky and Palmer will be here soon, too."
Tim and Tony read their boss's eyes and knew the prognosis was dire. They only hoped that the M.E. and his assistant would make it in time.
"We were just going to head to the cafeteria for something to eat," Gibbs told them.
"We'll all go," Tony looked at Abby who wanted to argue that she wanted to see Jack first. He could tell that Gibbs wanted to talk to them first.
The small group walked somberly to the cafeteria, Abby on Gibbs left arm while he still held onto his father's friend's arm with his right. They all got something to help sustain them and found a booth in the back of the cafeteria that would accommodate them all.
He related to them what the doctor had said and waited while they each accepted it. Abby sitting next to him hid her face in shoulder, so he wrapped his arm around her shoulders and rested his chin on top of her head. There were no other words that could be said.
When they finished what they were able to eat they cleaned up their trays and made the trek back to the ICU. Other visitors had arrived, so there weren't enough chairs for everyone to sit. Gibbs handed Abby off to Tim to take a couple seats, while Ms. Hannigan and Ellie got two across from them. Tony made an attempt to smile at Gibbs who knew it was his way of trying to be supportive. Gibbs clapped his shoulder and gave it a squeeze before seeking admittance back to see his father.
The group let him go in alone figuring he was going to need some time before they took turns saying their own good-byes.
Gibbs strode to his father's bedside determined to tell him everything he should've said all along. He took the chair Ms. Hannigan had used earlier and held his father's hand trying vainly to offer some warmth.
Jack's eyes opened and closed as he tried to focus on his on. "Jethro," he rasped.
"Don't talk Dad," Gibbs patted his hand. "It's my turn."
Jack saw the smile that came and went and nodded. His son didn't often want to do the talking, so he was willing to let him take the opportunity.
"There's so much Dad. I know you know how I feel, but I should tell you more. I love you, Dad. I've never been one to let the past have a hold on me, but I wish I had all that time back that I spent not speaking to you. Though I'm glad that we found a way to make amends, before…"
He couldn't say before he died, but Jack knew his time was running short.
"Me too," he uttered turning his hand over to grasp his sons. There wasn't a lot of strength to it, but Gibbs let him hold it as long as he could.
"I always felt cheated that I didn't get to say good-bye to Mom or Shannon and Kelly. This is hard, but at least I know you know I'm here for you. I'm not alone either," Gibbs laughed softly.
"I know," Jack began.
"Not just Ms. Hannigan. Tony, Tim, Abby, and my newest agent Ellie are here, too. They want to come back. Are you feeling up to it?"
Jack nodded. He was fond of his son's team and coworkers.
Gibbs stood. "I'll let them come back one at a time, okay?"
Jack gave another nod.
Gibbs gave each of them a few moments to see Jack. Ellie was uncertain about going, so Gibbs brought her back and introduced them. Even in his weakened state he was able to bring a little of his charm to make her smile.
"I'm really honored to have met you Mr. Gibbs," she smiled at him.
"Call me Jack," he smiled back.
"Okay, Jack," she squeezed his hand and gave a wave as she went out the door.
"She's a nice girl. I don't know how you got so lucky," Jack laughed but it brought on a bout of coughing.
"She's married Dad," Gibbs helped to situate his father to ease the coughing.
It soon ended, but left Jack wanting to sleep.
"I'll let you get some rest, Dad," he smoothed the sheet covering his father. "We'll be back later."
Before Jack could acknowledge he heard he fell asleep. Gibbs watched him for a short time before slipping out the door quietly.
When he returned to the waiting room, they decided to move to another location to allow other visitors to use the seats. They found an atrium that had some sofas and a piano. Tony eyed the piano and seeing no sign to not touch it; he sat on the bench and fingered the keys.
Soon he was filling the silence with soft melodies. No one had ever heard him play before, so sat in surprise enjoying it. Abby sat beside him laying head on his shoulder lightly.
"You're very good," she complimented.
"Years of practice," he smirked.
No one spoke while he continued to play. When he tired he turned and shrugged at their look of approval. He saw Ducky and Jimmy walking down the hallway and got up to meet them.
They were brought up to date on Jack's condition and gave Gibbs their words of support. He thanked them and assured them that he would allow them to visit when they returned to the ICU a bit later.
True to his word, Gibbs let them each have some time with Jack before he returned himself. The doctor joined him at the bedside.
"I'm glad he was able to see all his friends," she watched the monitors as she spoke. "It sometimes makes it easier in the end when the patient knows he's not alone."
Gibbs couldn't argue it. He was even more grateful that he had made amends with Jack and in so doing made their family a little bit bigger.
He watched as Jack's breathing seemed to become shallower. "How much time?" he asked.
"It's hard to say, but it may not be long. He seems to have found some peace."
His dad did look like he had no worries. Gibbs saw the nurse bringing everyone back. It took a deep breath realizing he didn't have much time left to share with his dad. He stepped to the bedside and took his dad's hand, while the others found spaces to stand. Abby put her hand on Jack's shoulder, while Ms. Hannigan took his other hand.
Gibbs looked across and waited for her to look at him. "Thank you," he told her.
She smiled, "Never thought I'd hear you say that, but it's always been my pleasure to be there for Jack. He was the best friend I ever had."
Abby put her arm around the older woman to offer her some comfort.
Silence filled the room aside from the slight hiss of the nasal cannula. It was obvious the nurse had turned the monitor off not wanting any alarms to upset the family who waited for the final moment to come.
One by one, they offered quiet good-byes and I love yous. Gibbs sensed the last breath before it registered on the monitor and bent down to kiss his father's forehead. "Bye, Dad," he whispered.