A/N: I wasn't going to do a story on the passing of Gibbs' dad – because I knew we were going to have countless ones coming out in the near future – I wasn't that is, until this came to me and I couldn't put it down.
Never fear - an update on "Expendable" is almost done - I promise.
First, came the call into the squad room - in the middle of the afternoon- and then...
- the devastated look on the silver-haired Team Leader's face as he dropped the phone back down to its' receiver and sank down into his chair
- the rush to get Ducky up into the squad room while the normally mute, obviously emotionally struggling man sank even further into his silence, now guarded by his two faithful watchdogs
- The one look from the M.E. that silently ordered the squad room be cleared out so Gibbs could talk to him in private without having to leave his chair.
- The endless waiting until Ducky came and informed them all of the horribly sad news of the loss their beloved leader has been told of - Jackson Gibbs, it seems, has passed away today.
- The instant rush of empathy and sympathy that fill their hearts, along with the unspoken willingness to do anything and everything Gibbs might need them to do- as silently as he likes things to be. Understanding looks fill the air between them all - Tony, Tim, Jimmy and Ducky, even as they grieve in a group hug - so that they might be better prepared to lay their feelings aside to be there for Gibbs' when the time is right.
- The somber words from the Agency Director - giving them the days off they will need to be there for their Team Leader - and use of the Agency Fleet to get to Stillwater, PA in - along with the details of the funeral, as already provided by the late Jackson's letter to his attorney. Apparently, the gentle giant of a man had held no qualms about his own passing, but had refused to put his son through such decisions at a time like this.
- The unspoken, yet ever present sorrow-filled reminder to them all - that time is short - and that through all of this now remains forever - the deep regret of years Gibbs spent estranged from his father - at his own choosing - over a misunderstanding at a time when the younger Gibbs had been drowning in pain, sorrow and loss so deep, he'd only known anger and hurt and hadn't had the strength to see anything beyond that.
- The knowledge that it's pain that will not go away for quite a while - and that they're all helpless do help Gibbs through it, adding to the weight they all carry for him - and wish they could take from him - their beloved Team Leader
- The sudden reminder with that thought - that another person is a kindred spirits of sorts brings out the cell phone and gets a text message sent. Even the remoteness of the possibility that it will be received and read does not diminish the need to send it. There is no option. As he puts the phone away, he finally feels a touch of calm - as if there's nothing more he can do to help the situation - except, well - to help.
- The endless time that although is actually a day of preparation and quiet companionship that barely registers even as they make sure Gibbs eats and sleeps seems to stretch itself over them like a thin veil of mockery as it actually moves much faster than they realize.
- The taking it all in - packing a quick 'go bag' - securing the vehicles- reassemblying back at Ducky's for the trip - getting everyone packed/loaded into the rear car,
- The arrangement of Tony behind the wheel - the quietest he's ever been- somber and almost silent with the normally effervescent Abby riding shotgun and Jimmy behind her - leaving the seat behind the driver for Tim- securing a quiet ride for them all - so that only Ducky is riding with Gibbs - letting the two of them have all the time they needed to talk - or not.
- The long, silent drive that leave them each more than enough time to dwell on what lesson they might learn from this, the newest reminder that time is not endless and families are most precious as are friends and co-workers.
- The quiet night spent, not in Jackson's house - because that would hurt Gibbs too much - but in the closest hotel while Gibbs and Ducky hole up in the home the Team Leader grew up in - and somehow make it through the night amidst the memories.
- The small town funeral for a giant of a man- who brought generations together with the kindness in his heart and the stories he's lived to tell while running his general store since most of them were in short pants.
- The prime example of bringing people together in times of sorrow - exemplified when Chuck Winslow and Ed, the Sheriff appear before Gibbs, with quiet words of sympathy and clasped hands to the shoulders in a show of support.
- The moment when these same men, former antagonists of Gibbs, now step up alongside his team, Tony, Tim and even Jimmy. - all proud to be pallbearers - to be there, shoulder to shoulder with the grieving son who's gained the respect of them all.
- The all too familiar strains of the Funeral Hymns and "Go Rest High" coming from Abby's slip of a tape recorder brought for the occasion - filter through the somber crowd at the graveside as they pay their last respects to a man that touched them all
- The silent figure at the edge of the crowd that catches his eye and finally brings a tug of a small smile to his face while bringing quiet gasps of surprise from the rest of the team and even a look of shock from the Team Leader.
- The relief that floods his heart now - now that he sees for himself that his text message was a success.
- The sight of Gibbs turning from his father's casket, as if drawn away by something stronger than the grief he's feeling - brings a breath of fresh air that hasn't been felt in days. Finally, they all seem to be able to breathe freely again as the fog that's been hanging over him seems to lift right before their eyes.
- The feeling of waking up - standing at the final resting place of his father, Gibbs slowly begins to thaw from the state of being numb with over-wrought emotions. Days have gone by in a blur that he has not even been able to comprehend yet. But, this - this is here and now and it's dragged his attention from the pit of grief he's been standing on the edge of. It's not something he can explain - but it's as strong as the gut feelings he's learned to trust.
- The confirmation. There - at the edge of the crowd - silent and erect - proud yet oh, so humble to be here. Their eyes meet and understanding and mutual compassion and kinship floats across the airwaves between them as the others finally begin to register their own awareness of the new arrival.
- The team's unspoken understanding that their Team Leader's focus has now locked onto the figure at the edge of the already thinning crowd fills his heart with quiet comfort for the two of them - both of whom he cares deeply for. He knows they both need this - this opportunity to be there to support each other through this now common sorrow they both carry but do not have to shoulder alone.
- The moment he realizes it's time to give Gibbs and the new arrival the space they need to talk - when he turns to leave - wanting to clear the way for them to talk in peace. The others soon follow his example - though it is clear they would rather stay behind and talk to them both.
- The silent walk to where their cars are parked, no longer within hearing distance of the graveside.
- The questioning glare from Tony as they wait at the car - before he speaks for the first time in hours isn't a complete surprise. "Did you know?"
- The answer that Tim is quick in calmly giving back. "I'd hoped."
- The quiet anger in Tony's response is beginning to show, as if he's upset at this development. "So, then this is your doing."
- The deliberate choice not to let the older man's concern for the situation color his own words as he very carefully answers the accusation with calmness, his eyes locked onto those of the less than happy man. "I sent a text message."
- The quiet reassurance of the formally silent M.E. "Relax, Anthony. I believe it is a very good thing, Timothy has done."
- The skepticism clearly etched on the Senior Field Agent's face. "I doubt this will end well. She won't stay."
- The silence that descends among them as their focus now shifts across the distance as they all silently watch in fascination to see what develops before their eyes.
- The sense of comfort for his Team Leader as Tim watches while the new arrival approaches Jackson's grave -wishing he could hear what is being said as at the graveside a dropped rose is retrieved and kissed almost reverently before its placed on the older man's final resting place -clearly the universal gesture of goodbye to a loved one.
- The spoken greeting over across the way- so long in coming, soft when it does when the new arrival lifts her head to speak- finally. "Hello again, Gibbs."
- The instant reply that escapes his shocked filled heart and mind. "Ziva. You came." As he struggles to comprehend that she's here - for him and for his dad - he struggles to find the right question he wants to hear the answer to
- The moment she takes his hands in hers, looking at him with all the compassion she has to offer as she replies. "Jackson was my friend. How could I not come to say goodbye?"
- The somber moment when he quietly offers all that he can at this point as he wraps her in an embrace. "Thank you, Ziva."
- The moment ste steps back with a small sympathetic smile.
- The realization she now vocalizes that is part of the reason she's taken the quickest way possible and without any sleep to get here in time. "You and I now share this sad event in common."
- The sigh of tired grief that meets her statement before anything more is said.
- The extra effort given to draw the grieving man out just a little so that he may become aware he is not alone. "I came for you as well, Gibbs. You should not be without those who care about you at a time like this."
- The moment Gibbs can finally say the words. "The loss of our fathers."
- The look they both share that expresses the grief they each now carry as they then turn to look one last time at Jackson Gibbs' final resting place - both speaking - in tandem.
"Goodbye, Jackson Gibbs, my friend."