Disclaimer: I don't own anything but my soul. I've borrowed the following characters from Bellisario and the amazing actors who portray them.
A/N: Like many NCIS fans I was saddened by the death of Michael Gilden, who played the character of Marty in two November episodes, last December. This is my idea of how they might have handled his death on the show. Thanks to Rachel (amillionnames) for the beta'ing.
Gibbs and McGee come down to my lab just before lunchtime, and they are the first people I've seen all day unless you count the security guard in the lobby. In fact they are the only people I've seen since Friday night when I went out clubbing. I give them the results of the DNA test I started yesterday sans my usual flair; I am eager to be alone again. McGee, however, has been studying me silently since he entered the lab and can't keep quiet any longer.
"What's with the outfit, Abbs? Court today?" His head is cocked slightly to the side and I can tell that he is running through his mental files, trying to recall any case that I might be testifying for.
"No," I answer shortly, self conscious about my clothing in a way I am not used to. When I wear a suit for court it is like donning a costume to play a part. Today I can't hide in playacting. The sever lines of the knee length black skirt and fitted jacket are too much of a reminder.
"It's a little..." he struggles to find the right words, but they fail him. I know that of the reasons he spends his free time writing is because it's a more comfortable form of communication for him, gives him time to think and plan. I take pity on his cluelessness.
"I'm going to a funeral after work." I turn away from his suddenly sympathetic look, finding that the evidence under the microscope needs my attention despite the fact that I've looked at it twice already. From across the room I can feel someone watching me, and I know that Gibbs isn't as interested in the report as he pretends to be.
"I'm sorry, Abby." Timmy presses a hand to my shoulder and the touch is welcome. I allow myself to lean into it.
"I am too, McGee. Marty was a good friend." He was more then a friend, and the hardest part about today was wondering what role in my life he might have played. A handful of dates and a file of saved e-mails doesn't mean we would have had a future together, but we could have. I really liked him. He saw me for who I was, all the parts of me. It didn't matter if I wanted to debate Locard's principle or go midnight bowling, party all night in a club or linger over a quiet dinner; in the past few months I had found that any activity was more enjoyable with Marty's company. The fact that he didn't try to run me over with a motorcycle, stalk me, or pull a gun on me was just bonus points.
"Anything I can do?" he asks gently.
"Just catch the bad guy so I can get out of here on time, okay?"
"Okay," he agrees, nodding as if the deed is as good as done. I twist in a half circle, his hand falling from my shoulder as I do. With a kiss to the cheek and a nudge to the arm I send him out of the lab.
Gibbs is not as easy to get rid of as McGee. He's still standing in the corner of the main lab, close enough to my inner sanctum that the automatic door stays open. Anyone else might believe that he is genuinely reading the report in his hands but I know better. If nothing else it's too close to his eyes and he's not wearing his glasses.
"I'm fine Gibbs." I reach up and play with one of the spikes of my dog collar. I almost didn't wear one this morning- it didn't really go with the outfit- but Marty had liked my accessories and anyone who might disapprove doesn't matter.
"Of course you are." He doesn't move, but he does raise his gaze to meet mine. I almost look away but that would be the same as lying and I never lie to Gibbs. I may hide the truth from him sometimes but I never lie.
"I'm just a little... raw." It's been three days since the harsh ringing of the phone woke me out of a sound sleep. Saturday had been spent in shock; Sunday wavered between denial and tears. When I woke up this morning I felt like I had a hangover despite the fact I had had nothing to drink the night before.
"You could have taken today off," he remarks.
"I could have." It would have been the wrong thing to do, though. I didn't need another day of isolation, and the only people I could stand to have around me were here in this building. Plus there was the fact that for brief moments of time today I had been caught up in my beautifully complex and reassuring world of science and had been able to forget my grief.
"I'm glad you didn't." He looks at me searchingly for a moment then nods slightly to himself as he snaps the folder in his hands shut. He meets me in the middle of the room, his hand cups the skin of my neck and his lips press gently against my forehead. "You know where to find me," he reminds me as he takes a step back. And then he is gone and I am alone again.
Everyone on the team, including Ducky, appear in my lab at some point during the afternoon. They all have reasons, though some are weaker excuses then others. When Gibbs shows up around three he hands me a Caf-Pow! and tells me that the case isn't going to be finished by the end of the day. He also tells me, orders me, to leave the lab in time to make it to the funeral. Anything that doesn't get taken care of today can be done tomorrow. I tease him about the un-Gibbs like comment, and make a token protest, but I'm sure he can read the relief in my eyes. It's a given that we have to make sacrifices in our line of work- parties, holidays, sleep- but this is one thing I can't give up. I need to say goodbye to Marty.
When four-thirty rolls around I clean up my workspace, lock away evidence, and turn off the lights. I take the elevator up to the squad room, just to make sure there isn't anything vital that need to be taken care of, but the center of the room where my team works is empty. The agent whose desk is on the other side of Tony's tells me that they are out chasing down a lead. I thank him and head back to the elevator.
When I slide my key into the ignition the voice of Jill Tracy fills my car. I smile at the sound. Jazz is usually reserved for leaving a funeral where I'm from, but I decide to make an exception. There is something reassuring about the music of my childhood; it pulses with life while having a melancholic touch that reminds one that death is all around.
The church is almost full when I arrive; I left the Navy yard a little later then I meant to and the service is about to start. There is a pew in the back row that has room and I duck into it, trying to be as unobtrusive as possible.
When organ music begins to play I look to the center aisle. Six men, all in black suits, share the burden of a casket. I look away, for some reason unable to stomach the sight. Ironic, given how intimately familiar I am with coffins.
In my hand is the folded piece of paper one of the ushers gave me when I came in. I focus on the image of Marty that graces the front. His grin is achingly familiar, as is the white lab coat he is wearing in the picture. He looks like he did every-time I visited his lab. Oh Marty.
A white-robed woman standing at the front of the church starts talking but I don't turn my attention away from the photo. I don't look up when someone slides into the pew next to me either, but simply move to my left to make room for the late arrival. With a single finger I trace over the name and dates printed on the bottom of the paper, repeating the motion until I've almost hypnotized myself. I don't stop until my hand is caught by a larger one, its warmth seeping into my skin. For just a moment the touch is alien, but I know this hand. Know it almost as well as I know my own. I look up and meet the understanding blue eyes, the comforting half smile. Gibbs.
With my free hand I sign 'thank you' before I turn my attention to the funeral service. I can handle seeing the casket now. I've found the strength to say goodbye.