Disclaimer: See Chapter 1

Thank you for all the reviews. Unless otherwise asked, I will end it here. My beta agreed. Again, unless otherwiss asked.

Touching grief

He walked calmly into the interrogation room, took out his pistol and shot Mike through his left knee, all without pause. Mike's screams echoed around the small room as he turned and locked the door behind him. Soon after he heard dull thuds vibrate against the door. He ignored it as he stepped towards the bleeding man on the floor. The speakers crackled and then Morrow's voice filtered through, measured and without anger.

"Agent Gibbs, what do you think you're doing?

He ignored the voice.

His whole being was centred on the man in front of him. He bent down, grabbing lapels and pushed the man up against the wall, their faces inches apart. His gun was settled somewhere on the bastard's stomach, lining up for a shot that will ensure maximum pain with the longest stretch of living. He didn't want to make this easy.


He continued to ignore the demand behind the voice. All his attention was focused on the equally pain filled eyes before him. The pain was physical whereas his was emotional, but it didn't matter.

"Have you ever seen a man die from a gut shot?"

Mike was sagging slightly in his grip. He lost some more colour but didn't reply to Gibbs' question. Gibbs pressed the barrel harder, feeling satisfaction when a slight grunt escaped the man's lips.

"Answer me?"

"No." Mike replied breathlessly, his hands trying to find purchase on the jacket of the marine. The thuds against the door increased, turning Gibb's gaze in its direction for a brief moment before resettling on the face in front of him.

"They won't get in on time to save you."

Mike sighed, leaning his head back against the wall. His hands dropped. The throbbing in his knee had given way to numbness. He could feel the blood still pumping out of the wound. He did the only thing he could.

He smiled.

Gibbs returned the smile. It was all predatory. The glint of teeth in the light of the florescent spelled death and Mike braced himself, expecting the bullet.

"Gibbs, don't."

This time it was Kate's voice that filtered over the speakers. He glanced back at the glass centred wall, wondering who else was hidden behind the window.

"It won't change what happened."

He could hear the defeat and grief in her voice. It came through so strongly that it felt like a living entity entering his body. He stiffened and felt something wet escape down his cheek.

It wasn't supposed to happen like this. His inner voice taunted.

Images flooded his brain.

"You've got to do something, Boss." He remembered Tony looking over at Kate, then back at him. And he asked," Have you ever made a mistake, Tony?"

And he could pinpoint the moment in time perfectly, to the exact nano-second when he had made his. There were so many what ifs and all of them were bombarding his mind. All this is his fault, his mistake, his ineffective leadership skills, his inability to foresee the future. Hell, this was all of him, knowing that he was the reason.

"According to you or me?"

His hand that held the gun trembled. He cleared his throat, staring at his image reflecting back from the mirror. For the moment, Mike was forgotten as Tony's face materialised next to his and he whispered, "You," in answer to the long forgotten conversation they had had. Tony looked down briefly and answered,"Yeah."

Slowly his gun hand dropped away from Mike's body until it hangs forgotten by his side. Mike slid down to the floor as Gibbs continued to stare at the brown eyes mirrored in the glass in front of him.

"Did anyone make you feel better?"

Somewhere he heard the crash of the door bursting open. He was vaguely aware of a smaller hand tucking at the gun, taking its weight away. All he remembered was that Tony said, "No."

He bent slightly as a physical pain sliced through his chest. He turned, expecting to see Mike, but the man had been removed and all that was left in the room was himself and Tony's ghost. He didn't hesitate and he drove his fist at the wall. He left behind a slight indent smeared with blood. The tight feeling in his chest didn't want to let up and he needed an outlet. So he went for the dent in the wall again, feeling the bones in his hand break as the skin over his knuckles shredded. And then a hand curled around his bicep, pulling him away from the hurt inside.

"Jethro, I'm so sorry."

Ducky was standing before him, his face a mottled colour of green and blue.

"He shouldn't have died, Duck."

"I know." For once only two words left Ducky's mouth. He met Gibbs' stare without flinching, without apology. Sorrow was evident in his eyes, in the pull of his mouth as he watched the younger man wrestle with the demons inside him.

"I should have been there. It should have been me."

The older man said nothing. Gibbs tried to flex the fingers of his right hand that was already turning stiff from swelling. The broken bones grated, sending pulses of protest rushing through his veins. His eyes burned from tears unspent as he took a deep breath, trying to stop everything inside from exploding outwards.

"We had a plan. Get himself, Kate and the boy out of the house while I lured the bad guys to my place. I was the bait." He turned away, facing the wall again and the deeper dent coloured with his blood. "Dammit, Ducky!"

"We tried our best, Jethro. There's nothing moreā€¦"

Gibbs turned, anger turning his eyes a fiery blue. Stopping only when he was inches from the unperturbed ME he replied, "Me! ...I could have done more!" Spit sprayed over Ducky's face as the neck arteries stood out on the gunnery-sergeant. "I was supposed to back him up." His anger was dying down. He had nothing inside anymore to feed it with. The embers in his eyes glowed and then died down.

"It wasn't supposed to happen like this."

He didn't wait for Ducky's reply. He walked past the broken door, swinging silently on torn hinges. He walked past Kate, her concern for him radiating from her. He took the stairs, rushing upwards until he hit the roof and the darkness surrounding him. Somewhere in the distance a siren blared. The slight crunch from the gravel followed his footsteps until he stopped at the edge, looking down over the navy yard. The smell of rain was still in the air, even though the storm had long since passed. A slight wind caressed his skin, the touch as fleeting as wisps of smoke.

He watched himself kneeling again in the mud in the clearing while Tony's soft breathing filled his ears. He watched as he leaned over his agent and whispered into his ear.

"You will not die, Tony."

He watched the ambulance depart, sirens wailing away. He watched the stark visitor's room, ignoring every one else as he downed another cup of cafeteria coffee. It was grainy and tasted like mud. He tossed the cup in a bin, scowling at a wall.

"Anyone here for Tony Dinozzo?"

He watched as he turned, feet suddenly weighed down by lead when he saw the doctor's face. And then the feeling of lightness that left a gaping hole in his chest.

"I don't know how to say this but we lost him on the table."

He watched as Kate sank into a chair, twin streaks of tears racing down her cheeks, a hand in front of her lips. Ducky bent his head, a soft sigh escaping. McGee was clinging to Abby or Abby to McGee. He wasn't really sure.

"Do you have a contact number for his family?"

He watched as he walked out the room and calmly exited the hospital. His mind a buzz, he realised where he was when he felt the gun buck in his hand and the smell of cordite filled his nostrils. When the chair with Mike on it had toppled, leaving the man lying on the ground, bleeding.

And he watched as memories of Tony kept him from pulling the trigger again.

And he let go.

And the tears came.

Sorry it this wasn't the outcome you wanted. I had seriously wrestled with my muse and in the end, had lost.