Author: Daedalus / Tak / Whatever, as long as the clock keeps ticking
Genre: Angst – Death fic – One shot – Some OOCness due to circumstances
Summary: How Gibbs would cope with his loved one's death. And the letter that was left to him.
Spoilers: None in particular
Warnings: Character death
Disclaimer: Don't own, don't sue. Inspired by the Lacrimosa 'canto' of Mozart's Requiem. Though you may wonder what the connection is – apart from this being a death fic.
Length: 3659 words
Thanks to Joey for betaing this fic.
They said 'his' was the most beautiful eulogy ever delivered for an NCIS agent. But he thought it was the one he should never have had to deliver. The truth was he had loved Tony. Worse. He had been in love with him. And Tony had never known.
The case had been ordinary. A Petty Officer suspected of being involved in drug dealing. He had ordered Tony and McGee to interview a friend of the victim who seemed to be more aware both of the traffic and the supposedly unknown whereabouts of the dealer than he cared to share with the police forces.
Gunshots had welcomed them. Tony, who had seen movement at the windows, had been hit in the leg as he was shoving McGee out of the way. By the time he could aim and fire back, he had received six other bullets.
He had been merciful. Headshot. Right between the eyes. Clean. He had not been that lucky. He collapsed, letting go of his weapon, and if there had been another bad guy, McGee would surely be dead too… But McGee had scrambled on his hands and knees, his heart beating erratically as he saw the amount of blood that Tony had lost already, and the dark wet spots that were widening at a frightening speed on his clothes. He held him up so his face would not be in the dirt any more, trying to assess the damage, applying pressure on the wounds that bled the most.
Tony was as pale as a shroud, his muscles twitching. But he was chuckling.
'Another… Armani suit… Ruined', Tony joked.
'Hold on, Tony', McGee said. 'Hold on. Help is on its way.'
'Hey, Tim. You… You know what they… Say? They… They say "seven" is a… magical… number… Bet it…'
'Shh… Don't talk…'
But he was having a seizure, every tendon in his body sticking out as if they bolted out of his skin, blood oozing at the corner of his lips. McGee had fought hard not to be sick. Tony just turned a
little in his arms, an expression of despair on his face, an expression the younger agent had never seen in him. He grabbed his collar, urgently, his ashy brow contracted into the purest manifestation of pain, and said between clenched teeth:
'Tell… Tell Gibbs I … o…'
He had never had the chance to finish his sentence. His eyes had glazed over and his face had been forever set in death in an expression of regret and longing.
They had found Tony cradled in McGee's arms. McGee had been sobbing. He went into shock and through denial for a while. Ziva had tried to hold back her emotions, but she failed. Several times. In fact, every time she so much as glanced into the direction of Tony's desk, and since Tony had been very noisy, his absence was even noisier and it compelled her to look every time, as if he would walk in, a goofy smile plastered on his face, and start throwing rubbish at her. Ducky had never had such a hard time extracting seven bullets from a body – and he had sent Palmer home given the state the young man was in. Abby… Well… Abby had not stopped crying. When she did, it was as if she was crying still.
Gibbs had just been unusually quiet. Abby had told him he looked dead. Not sad, or concerned. But that she did not feel him like she used to. Of course, it had upset her so much that she had hit him – repeatedly, forcefully – trying to coax some feelings back into him. It felt like Kate's death, yet it was different. After Kate died, he had tried to do well by his co-workers. He had felt the urge to be nice to them – and indulged it. When he saw Tony dead in McGee's arms… It had been as if life itself had been knocked out of him. He did not cry. He did not wail. He did not howl. He was tired. So very tired. He came home and he sat down somewhere, staring at the floor, his shoulders slumped. He came home and he did not chase the son of a bitch who had killed Tony because Tony had killed him already. He came home and he did nothing, ate nothing, drank not enough, barely slept.
When Jenny had insisted that he be the one to deliver the elegy, he had accepted. He did not know why. Nobody understood why either. And Jenny had not expected him to. But Gibbs did not even remember what he had said. Or if his throat had relaxed enough to emit a sound. And if he had spoken of the hollow inside his heart.
Everyone but Gibbs had been surprised as so few members of Tony's so-called family had shown up at his funeral. DiNozzo Senior had made an appearance during the mass, unaccompanied, but had made it very clear it was a favour he did to NCIS and not to a son who had died doing his duty, duty to which, by the way, he had been so adverse that he had barred his only son from his will. A son most fathers would have worshipped as a hero. But the whole agency had showed up to pay their respects, because for all his boisterousness, Tony had always been loved by the people who knew the real him.
Tony was dead and it was unfair. Laughter was dead and it was unfair. His soul had died and Gibbs felt he deserved it. And there was no way to make the word spin on its axis again.
When his presence at work had been requested, he had showed up, but resumed what he had been doing at home. That is to say: staring holes into the floor. And not quite staring because he
did not really see anything. Feel anything. McGee had coped with his feelings eventually, demonstrating a bravery Gibbs knew was there but wished the Probie would have had another opportunity to demonstrate. Or rather, would have wished, for he was not sure he even cared anymore.
But he was sitting there, wishing he could see Tony as he had seen Kate. Wishing he could talk to him and tell him how much he had loved him and always would. Wishing he could spend time at night staring up at his smiling face, and smiling back, and spend his nights sanding his boat as Tony sat on the stairs, wolfing down his stupid pizza and leering at the latest GSM issue. And not wishing, at the same time, because he was not feeling anymore.
'This has to stop, Jethro…'
Jenny's voice came to him and he looked up at her mechanically, before looking back down at the spot he had been staring at for hours. Either not hearing her, ignoring her, or not understanding her. Perhaps a bit of the three… His lips moved, yet he said nothing. Jenny said something, but if he did hear it, he did not analyze it. Ducky had come and taken her away, saying something about Gibbs needing to find another way of mourning. And he needed time for that. Revenge was something he could focus on. But Tony had taken it from him when he killed that petty officer, which solved the case because it was proved that the friend had been involved in the deal. What with him shooting from his friend's house.
His ear caught the sound of Jenny and Ziva's voices, and then of McGee's footsteps approaching his desk.
'N-no, boss. This is McGee.'
'Hey boss. Here's some coffee. You need anything else?'
'I need Tony. Tony's coming back from the hospital?' he heard his voice say.
McGee looked worried. Far beyond worried.
'No, boss. Tony's dead. You know it. You gave him that eulogy, remember?'
'I want Tony… Bring him to me.'
'Please, Tony's dead, boss. You have to accept it…'
Gibbs was looking into McGee's eyes, but the younger agent did not feel anything coming from him. No emotion. No warmth. No coldness. Nothing. It was as if Gibbs was just staring at him instead of the floor. Absent-mindedly. Like a statue fixed in stone. Staring at whatever was directly under its gaze. His palms, laying flat on the desk, had not moved for two hours. Even to grab the cup of coffee that was offered to him.
The state of the Marine was uncanny and nerve-racking. The young man had not been prepared for that. He had not been prepared for Tony's death either. He had only begun to understand what weight had been laid on Tony's shoulders every time something went wrong; every time one of their own was hurt. Or died. He had never fully realized how essential Tony had always
been to NCIS – to their team. Gibbs had been the reason Tony had stayed that long, but Tony, more than anybody, was the one who made Gibbs keep going. Now he was dead, time seemed to have stopped for his boss.
The Marine felt a hand squeeze his shoulder, shyly, but he did not care. Not really.
'Boss… I was going through Tony's things yesterday… Remember what he said about things he hid in his speakers as a kid? I found… this…'
He placed a large envelope on Gibbs' desk, and Gibbs' eyes followed McGee's movements, till the envelope rested securely between his two hands. Never looking away from it, as McGee was nervously clearing his voice.
'I'm not sure Tony wanted you to see this, but I thought you… might want to read it, boss… so… here… I… didn't. So I don't know what's inside… But… Mmh…'
He fidgeted for a while, but when Gibbs did not move, he went away.
Gibbs had not batted an eye. He stayed there, staring at the envelope, like he had stared at the floor, like he had stared at Jenny, like he had been staring at McGee just a minute ago.
Then his fingers, which had been itching for a while, took the decision to move, slowly, treacherously, so that Gibbs would not detect their movement even though he was staring at them now, made for the envelope and steadily tore it open. They took sheets of paper from the inside. Doodles, that would have earned Tony a lifetime in an asylum if any shrink in their right mind had laid his dirty little hands on it and learnt that they had been drawn by a twenty-seven year old man – even though they were actually funny as hell, and very efficient, reminiscent of the way Tony's crime scene sketches had been: not a work of art, but straight to the point. And if Kate had been the one with the artistic talent, it did not mean that Tony's doodles did not inspire anything. There were also pieces of paper on which someone had written what looked like random thoughts and plans for the future. What caught Gibbs' eyes, nevertheless, was a sheet of paper, nicely folded, the content of which you could not read unless you unfolded the leaf. His fingers hungrily opened the paper and he eyes began to read.
You'll never read this letter and I don't expect or want you to – well, not really. 'Cause I am about to make a fool of myself. And for that to happen, you would probably have to go over my dead body, 'cause you know, I wouldn't like to face the shame of you reading this and hearing me complain like a little girl…
Why did I not give in, Boss? You remember that night? I do. As if it was yesterday. Fuck, we were both pissed as hell, but not pissed enough to do something that we really would have regretted. I realize that now. You offered me shelter because the heater at home didn't work anymore – again. And we drank – some. And at some point – well, I don't remember how that happened exactly – but I remember
you pushed me against the wall, and you gave me what was – swear – the best kiss of my entire life…
I still remember the taste of your lips. The taste of coffee and bourbon. Your scent. Sawdust. Sweat. Your scent drives me crazy, have I ever told you that? I still remember how your body felt against mine. I still long for it. I always will. I know I am the one who pulled away. The one who told you 'we' could never be. The one who went out and did not turn back even though you were calling my name and running after me till I sped and you disappeared from the mirror. I booked a room at the farthest hotel in town that night.
I have never been as miserable as I was in that hotel room. Or rather, I've been miserable ever since. Sort of.
I knew if I turned back, you would be waiting for me on the doorstep. But I never did. And I will regret it all my life. Perhaps at some point, we'll find ourselves on the brink of death and I'll be brave enough to tell you how I feel. Because that night, I realized that I loved you already, and the only thing I could do was come to work and make you smile and make you proud. Or use my superpowers to piss you off when you felt bad so that you would whack me into oblivion and be fine again.
Those head slaps… It irked me that you could so easily revert to those when you had had your tongue down my throat and your hands on my butt. I know you had no choice – my message was clear: don't come after me, you're not wanted. If you only knew how wrong I was, how beautiful the things you said have been and how good they made me feel… But I failed you, that day, and I failed myself, and the plague was nothing compared to the pain of losing you because I freaked out and was too damned proud to ask for forgiveness. I wish I had given in. But it is too late, now, isn't it? We were drunk, and I was not suicidal enough to try and date my boss when I had not spent that much time under him – I wish I had spent at least one night 'under' you… I would have been in heaven… And you… Well… you were smart enough not to try and date a subordinate who was a fickle little womanizer and who had rejected you once already. Really, I can't blame you. I left you alone to cope with the rejection. And it did not even show the next time we saw each other at work…
Well, that rankled. I think I'd have liked it better if you had… I don't know…
I never ceased to love you. To care for you. I've been mad at you, pissed at you, but all the while, but even when I doubted you – and yeah, I have – I knew, somehow, that I could trust you, and that even if my head told be otherwise, my heart knew my life lay in your hands…
I'm afraid… Because if one day I have to see you die, I don't think I can survive long without going insane or dying from grief… Grief would kill me if you went away… It was bad enough when you went to Mexico. I was mad at you, because you could – you should! – have stayed in DC where we could have met, from time to time. Spend some time together in your basement. I wouldn't even have said anything. But you stole precious minutes of our lives together when you walked away with Ducky. I don't know if you will realize one day how much I looked up to you, and that had it not been for you, I would not had stopped at NCIS… I would have gone elsewhere… Fornell, maybe. You know he could use me – I had the greatest teacher.
You should have stayed. I was not ready for you to just walk away. I never would be ready for you to resign, but to quit like that… I understand why you wanted to resign… I never understood why you felt the need to break the bonds between us.
I know because of me, and because I freaked out, we never were lovers. But we're family, like Abby says. I know you were disoriented. But I needed to be close to you because I had nearly lost you. To be close to you, even though I could never touch you. Closeness is a sweet torture, isn't it? Feels so good, and yet hurts so much 'cause I'll always want so much more…
To sleep with your arms wrapped around me. Sharing your body-heat. Breathing in your scent. And in the morning, when the sun seeps through the window, I would open my eyes and catch you watching me, and perhaps, you'd be stroking my cheek, smiling just like you do, some days, smiling with your eyes… Smiling at me like you did that day – and I realize now your gaze was surprisingly sober for someone who had drank so much…
But even you know 'this' was not acceptable. Not according to your rules. Even though you seemed pretty willing to bend the 12th for me, had I not been foolish enough to flee, that night. See, I'm as guilty as you are; we would have made a wonderful pair. Who cares about others? I would have kept our private matters private, and you would have done the same. So nobody needed to know – just perhaps the people we care for. But instead, I lost myself in the arms of women because I thought I would forget you. I lost myself in Jeanne's arms because I wished I could forget you.
I never did.
I never will.
I can't deny what I feel for you. It's like breathing. And this from a guy who nearly died from the plague.
I'll tell you know 'cause I never will, but if I don't write it down right now, you'll have to buy me a straightjacket real soon.
I love you. I love you. I love you love you love you love you, and I'm in fucking love with you, Gibbs. I love you. With all my heart. Always have. Always will. Don't ask me why – I never knew. Perhaps it was your smile, because even though you're a bastard and you pretend you don't care, you do tend to smile a lot. You lower your head a little, when you do that. Have you noticed? But perhaps it was your eyes. Icy blue and still they lit a fire in my soul that you never needed to rekindle. And so kind, so caring, if you know how and where to look. Or maybe it was your hands. Strong. Sensuous. Firm. Safe. Bringing me back to attention. Bringing me back from death. And your voice. And yes, your wonderful personality. I love even the bastard in you. Because even at your bastardest, you're the most human person I ever knew…
You're the first and only man I ever loved. Never had any romantic interest in a man before. And if I wanted to be totally honest, I never had any 'romantic' interest in women either. You're the first and, yes, the only human being I ever wanted to be close to. You're the most beautiful person I know – even though you don't know it, and most people don't either. You don't believe me? Ask Abby. I'm sure she'll agree. Dearest Abs… Take care of her for me, will you? Because if someone has been nosy enough and this reaches you, it means I am dead. Doesn't it? Theoretically I shouldn't
even write this, 'cause I didn't write it so that you could know, and if you find out you'll be in terrible pain but… I don't know. Perhaps deep down, I'm idiotic enough to let you know this when you don't, and perhaps I hope someone – you? – will stumble on this one day while I am stuck in the hospital and you decide to forgive the biggest mistake of my life and give me a second chance and kiss me silly – if you've not killed me yet, that is.
But I love you. It is selfish, but I only want your happiness. Just remember me a little. From time to time. Think about me. Of those short minutes during which we connected and electricity coursed between our bodies. I know you felt it too – you shivered.
Semper Fi, Jethro.
Gibbs' hand was trembling when he reached the bottom of the page. A sob escaped him. Then another. He laid carefully the piece of paper on the desk as feelings flooded back into him, chocking him. It was weird. He could see nothing but a grey blur. He was burning. He was drowning. He wanted to die. He had died the day they closed the case – the day seven bullets finally took Tony's life.
'Oh God… Oh God, Tony', he whispered. 'I never thought…'
His shaking hands wove themselves through his hair, tugging at it as he forced his eyes open, reading and rereading, till he buried his face in his hands, his sobs now racking through him, hampering his breathing to the point that he started to hyperventilate; tears that he had not once shed since his daughter's death broke free, blurring the black words of Tony's heart as they pelted down like heavy rain on the paper.
Tears that mourned something that never was and still, had always been there.