Disclaimer: If I owned them I wouldn't be compelled to write this. And I have no beta, so the mistakes are mine.

Presence Of An Absence

"...if you can get through the twilight, you'll live through the night."

-Dorothy Parker

It didn't rain.

He thought it should've and deep down he'd expected it to. He'd expected nature itself to join him in his grief and he felt cheated, betrayed and so very, very pissed off that it hadn't. He'd stood there, Gibbs on one side, Abby on the other, trying not to hear her mother's sobs as the Priest went on and on about the eternal nature of the soul and the great hereafter, sweating in his black Armani, growing more livid with every passing second.

Where was the fucking rain?

Kate was dead , dead, and the sun was beating down on them, the birds were singing; the sky was so goddamn blue you wanted to cry. And he did, only that hadn't been the reason why.

The world kept going on around him as if everything were normal and okay. As if Caitlin Todd, Kate, wasn't lying in the flag draped casket sitting between her family and her friends. As if, when that stupid old man was finished trying to make everything okay, trying to reassure them that life would go on, she wouldn't be gone forever, lost to time, lost to him, beneath the heavy moist earth of Arlington Cemetery.

Goddamn you, he'd thought, I don't want life to go on.

He'd wanted it to rain and hail and sleet. He'd wanted a fucking hurricane to come along and sweep him up like the so aptly named Dorothy Gale. He wanted to go back and stand in front of her and give Ari the finger as the bullet tore through him instead of Kate.

It'd been a beautiful day and Tony had never been so enraged in his life.

He'd stood there, wanting to scrub at his face, knowing it would do no good because her blood would never come off, not ever, and wishing one of her brothers would walk over and hit him as hard as they looked like they wanted to.

They didn't and he hated them for that.

He hated Abby for trying to lean into him as she sobbed out her own heartache. Hated Gibbs for not dying because it should've been him. It was supposed to be him, Ari himself had said it was.

But it wasn't and while everyone had been so concerned with saving his ass Kate had died.

When it was over, when the Priest had finally shut up, the rest of the mourners had gone, drifting away from the gravesite and fading from his awareness like half-imagined shapes in the mist until it was only the six of them. Six, because even Palmer was there, drawn and pale.

Abby'd still been crying then, nearly hysterical in her pain, and he'd wanted to turn to her, turn on her, and tell her to shut the fuck up. Kate was dead and the world kept turning and crying wasn't going to make it better.

McGee, his own eyes red-rimmed and swollen, had seen that, had seen the sudden flash of hatred cross his face, because he'd mirrored it right back to him, angling Abby away from him without her noticing.

He'd stood there with the others, numb and savage, he didn't know how long, before the men approached, shovels in hand.

Seeing them, realizing what they intended, realizing that this was the last and final act, that she would be gone forever when these men were done, he reached for the gun he hadn't been able to leave behind, not even for this, not even for her.

He should probably be appalled at himself, at what he would've done if Gibbs hadn't caught his wrist, pinching the nerves and making his hand as numb as the rest of him; what he'd struggled against that grip to accomplish, but he wasn't. He doubts he would've been either, if he'd managed to fire off a round or two.

He'd glared at his boss, glared and spat filth in his face because it didn't matter any more, Kate was dead, dead and soon to be buried, and it didn't matter anymore, then ripped his hand free.

The men with the shovels had stood politely back, respectful and sympathetic, but still looking like men who had a job to do and wanted to get it done.

A job. She would've been nothing but another job to those men, those men who would heave shovel full after shovel full of soil over that casket, that damnable casket, until it was gone from sight, unmindful of all they were laying to rest. All the possibilities and things left unsaid. All the smiles and the taunts and the tears.

She'd wanted to be a mother and they would bury that dream without knowledge or care.

He'd snarled and, with a speed that left Gibbs clutching at air, strode over the gravediggers, who watched him without comprehension as he reached out and snatched the shovel away from the taller of the two.

Eventually Gibbs joined him. And, at some point, someone wondered off, returningwith shovels for the rest of them and together they'd laid Kate to rest.

And all the while he could hear Kateteasing himabout ruining his best suit, her voice so clear, so real and there that he'd wanted to turn around and answer with his own sarcastic retort. Knowing if he did, if he turned to face the empty space she should have filled, he'd have been sick with his grief , sick with his pain and his rage.

After they finished, when all that remained was a rectangle of dark, churned earth, garish and offensive in that sea of green and white, someone reached out to him and he flinched away from the touch. He didn't want to be comforted. Accepting comfort would have been like saying things could be okay again, that he could be okay again.

"Tony…", it was Abby, of course it was Abby, her voice choked, but her sobs at last silenced and he'd known she'd done that for him. Known that she'd silenced her grief because the sound of it was tearing at his ravaged soul.

He didn't want to hurt her, but then he didn't care. Kate was dead and he didn't want friendship or sympathy, didn't want her trying to comfort him.

He wanted it to rain. He wanted the birds silenced, wanted the so-perfectly-blue sky shredded by lightning and the day darkened by a tide of storm clouds so thick and heavy that the tempest they begat would never cease.

He wanted the world to stop and scream it's denial with him. Kate was dead and it shouldn't be so. Kate was dead and he couldn't cry and it wouldn't rain.

He'd thrown his shovel to the ground then, hating the feel of it, the weight of it, and turned away from what he couldn't forget and couldn't undo.

Kate was dead and it had been a beautiful day.