The Five Stages of Grief
Disclaimer: NCIS is not mine.
A/N My first attempt at the Skills Challenge, loosely based off the 'Five Things' format and off the five stages of grief.
Rating: T for adult themes
Warnings: Character death(s), suggested suicide – kinda
Summary: "I wish they weren't dead." Someone mourns, someone comforts.
At the sound of the first shot, she thought she was in a dream . . . As the second shot sounded, a nightmare. They echoed in her ears, taunting her, torturing her, telling her that they were dead. She shook her head. That was crazy. There was no way . . . It was her team, her team could come through anything, her team was her family.
'But your family always dies,' a little voice in the back of her head niggled. 'Not this time,' she shot back at that little voice inside her head, the voice of reason, the voice of truth. 'Not this time . . .'
'But you know it's true,' it replied smoothly. 'Your mother, your siblings, your friends . . .'
'No, not this time,' she murmured. 'Please not this time . . .'
The darkness was suffocating.
As a child, she had never been afraid of the dark, but as the blanket-like darkness swept across autopsy, settling and resting in all the wrong places, she was afraid. She was afraid of the dark, of what it held, of the shadows that lurked beneath . . . and of the shadows that had once been her boss, her colleague, her family.
Two bodies, resting peacefully . . . unaware of what they had left behind. Innocently lying there, taunting her with her failure, her failure to save them. They were just there, lying and taunting her . . . and this angered her. How could they constantly remind her that she had failed, had not saved them, let them die? In her head, she could hear them saying, "Why did you not save us?" It wasn't her fault, no, it was theirs for getting in the way in the first place . . . This is what she tried to tell herself, but deep down she knew it was her fault . . . It was more than her fault, she had killed them . . .
The doors to autopsy opened and little stream of light bounced into the room. And, for some unknown reason, something snapped. Maybe it was the light that she felt she did not deserve. Maybe it was the man standing in the doorway, the comfort she did not deserve. She ripped the one thing that was like an extension of her body and hurled it across the room. It clunked loudly against the wall before thudding to the ground.
She let out a sound; a mixture of pain, frustration, anger, guilt, something that could scarcely be described . . . He never wanted to hear that again. She turned, and muttered something intelligible, before lashing out at the wall . . . a nice round hole forming, matching the hole in her heart. But, a hole like this could be plastered, could be fixed, could be covered up . . . but a hole in one's heart, there was nothing in the world that possibly fill that.
"It was not your fault," he said, coming up behind her and placing a hand on her shoulder. She flinched and stepped neatly away from his touch . . . she did not deserve it.
"You were not there, how would you know," she snapped harshly, breathing heavily. He did not understand; none of them did.
"That is where you are wrong," he bit back, diverting his gaze from the bodies on the tables. "I saw everything from MTAC. I heard every scream, every yell . . ."
"That is not the same," she muttered, shooting him a glare that would have normally made him quake. "You . . . you did not see what I saw," she added coolly.
"You don't know . . ." he tried, but was cut off by an icy stare.
"No, it is you that does not know," she said, her voice even, but there was an undertone of anger, of thunder, of helplessness.
"Don't, just don't," she murmured, he could hear the anger in her voice. "I do not need this right now . . . I do not need you right now," she finished with pure conviction. She whipped something from her waist and slapped it against his chest, then recoiled.
He stepped back, as if he had been stung. He knew his blood was rushing to his face, but her face said that she did not care. Without hesitating, she turned and stormed out of autopsy . . . leaving him with two bodies, one holey wall, one useless gun, and one badge.
"If I just run another mile, I will wake up and this will be a dream," she reasoned, panting heavily. The clouds were closing over and the sun was disappearing behind the trees. She was running, although she did not know where.
"If I do not get wet from that puddle, then none of this would have happened." She continued running, dodging the puddle of water as if her life depended on it. She was still wearing the same clothes, the dark stains of red barely showing on her dark top.
"If I can take that corner without slowing down, I will turn up to work tomorrow and find everything as it was," she gasped. It was getting harder to breathe, but she did not care. Running was her thing, just as the others had their's. She could always count on her faithful run to calm her mind, except today. Today, all it seemed to do was torment her with offers that she knew deep down could never happen.
"If I avoid that man trying to check me out, then they will still be alive," she murmured, running past the man who, despite her reasoning, did check her out. She growled irritably and instinctively reached down to her hip, but found nothing there.
Her mind flashed back to the spectacle in autopsy and she took a sharp intake of breathe. "I do not need this right now . . . I do not need you right now." Her words had stung him; she knew it. The look on his face had said it all. And what she'd left him with, how could she have done that? He was hurting too, but she was merely thinking of herself.
A sob caught in her throat, but she held it down. They were taught not to let emotions get in the way, not to cry. So she kept on running, running until her lungs were about to explode, running until it hurt, and not just physically. Suddenly, without warning, her legs gave out from under her and she collapsed in an unceremonious heap. This time, she could not hold back the tears as they fell. And they fell thick and fast, and once they had started, they would not stop.
"Please," she sobbed, feeling the wetness of the grass beneath her, feeling it soak into her pants and mix with her tears. "Just tell me what I can do to fix this. I will do anything you ask of me. I-I need to fix this." But the heavens stayed silent, responding only with the rain that hit her like shards of glass on her shivering skin.
He heard a crash as he slipped down the staircase of the basement. He heard something clatter to the ground, followed by a drunken sounding "opps". He sighed. When he was unable to get her on her cell, he had triangulated her cell's GPS. He was not surprised when he saw the blinking dot at the familiar address.
He took another step and the sight of the unfinished boat made something churn in the bottom of his stomach. But the sight of his drunken colleague waving around an unfamiliar gun made his heart stand still.
"W-what are you doing," he hesitated, taking another step down the staircase.
She slurred his name and then said, "I am, as you Americans say, getting bashed?"
He did not bother to correct her. It was not so much the half-empty bourbon bottle that worried him, but the recklessness of the way she was waving that gun around, almost nonchalantly, that worried him.
"What are you doing with that gun?" he asked carefully, finishing his descent down the stairs. He eyed the gun warily.
"Is it not pretty?" she sighed, stroking the barrel softly.
"It's, err, very nice," he replied meekly, deciding not to antagonise her again like he'd done in autopsy.
"I knew you would agree," she smiled lopsidedly, and her smile, he noted, almost looked maniac.
"Why don't we put the gun down?" he suggested, inching his way towards her.
She looked at him as if he'd just asked her to remove her hand. "But why?" she slurred. "It is so nice." She waved the gun around, before it came to a terrifying halt directly in-line with his chest. He stiffed and stifled a gasp . . . she wouldn't . . .?
"I, err, think, um," he could barely get the words out of his mouth. He had never seen her like this before, and it scared him . . . The look in her eye was almost one of resignation.
"Oh," she muttered as she looked down at the gun pointing at his chest, "do not worry. I do not plan on shooting you . . ." She took another swig from the bottle. "Me on the other hand . . ."
His breathe caught in his throat and his lungs struggled to bring in the air. That phrase had chilled him more than the gun pointing at him would ever do. He gasped silently. She wouldn't . . .?
"Why do we live?" she slurred, snapping him out of his daze.
"It is a simple question. Why is it that we live?" she repeated, moving the gun dangerously close to her head.
"I . . . I . . ." He had no idea what to do, how to act, what to say. He knew he was starting to hyperventilate, how could he not. He was in a basement with a half-finished boat, a half-finished bottle of alcohol and one desperate agent. "No . . . um . . . please . . . I don't know . . ." he gasped.
"To-to make us suffer," she answered her own question. "To make us suffer with pain, and loss, and sadness . . . There is no other reason."
How could she think that? They might be gone, but he was still here . . . But he wished they were still around, oh how he wished. He wasn't equipped to deal with something like this . . . he just wasn't.
"No other reason," she was muttering to herself, repeatedly. She wobbled unsteadily on her feet and he knew that one wrong move could start a devastating chain reaction. After all, he thought, she did not really want to kill herself. Plus, there was something else . . . he didn't know. Maybe it would be what was needed to get through to her, to break the vicious cycle.
"T-there is another reason," he started softly, trying to gain her attention. He closed the gap between them, invading her personal space, but unlike last time, she did not step away. "What about me?"
"You?" she slurred, sounding just a little more sober. She cocked her head and looked him in the eye.
"Yes, me," he affirmed softly, so close to her that he could feel her breath on his face. "I am still here." He brushed his lips against hers, and as he did so, gently grabbed her arm and twisted it softly so that the gun clattered to the ground.
Now, without the gun, she toppled forwards and into his arms. He caught her, but at the wrong angle so they both collapsed to the ground, resting against the boat. She buried her face in his shoulder; he did not care about the alcohol on her breathe. He leaned against the boat, bringing his palm up to stroke her hair. She whimpered and he pulled her close.
And they stayed like this together, resting together . . . just together.
As she groggily pulled her head off the warmth coming from beneath her, she groaned and rubbed her forehead. She was halfway through asking what had happened when it all came crashing down upon her.
"No," she murmured, "I thought it was . . . just a dream." The body beneath her shifted as he cracked open one eye.
"Hey," he said softly, "how are you feeling?"
"Like I have been hit by a truck," she responded, her head throbbing.
"Do-do you remember?" he asked, almost worriedly.
"That Tony and Gibbs are dead, yes," she recalled quietly. "As for last night, only bits."
"Oh." He looked embarrassed and turned away.
"But I do remember you," she added quickly, looking a little awkward. They were silent for a moment, before, out of her own free will, she lent backwards and snuggled back against his chest. "They are really dead, aren't they?"
He sighed and ran his hand up her back, tracing light circles. "Yes, but I wish they weren't."
"Me too, Tim. Me too."