Spoilers: Ice Queen
A/N: NavyNCISFF Episode Challenge.
Rain in My Heart
By Lizabeth S. Tucker
Eight year old Leroy Gibbs came pushing into small farmhouse, dragging his baseball bat behind him. "Mom! Mom, I'm home."
Receiving no response, Leroy shrugged and headed for the kitchen for a snack. He leaned the bat against the wall, putting his ball and glove on the tile beside it. Pulling the icebox open, he looked for the plate of sliced fruit or cheese that his mother usually left for him. He was surprised to find nothing that looked ready for him to eat. Shrugging, he pulled out an apple and began munching.
An old hunting dog was curled up in the corner of the kitchen, his tail thumping against the floor as he saw the young boy who had been his charge since the child was born. His watery eyes stared lovingly at the boy. He got slowly and painfully to his feet, making his way over to Leroy.
"Hey, Gage." Leroy knelt onto the floor next to the yellow dog, throwing his arms around the arthritis ridden animal. He glanced at the food and water bowls, surprised to see them both empty. "You want some water, boy? Huh?"
A quick kiss on the dog's head and Leroy was up again, crossing the room to give Gage a refill. "I don't know why Mom didn't do this."
The water was fairly easy to refill. Leroy pulled a step stool over to the sink and climbed up on it, the plastic bowl held carefully in his hands. He turned the handle and watched the water trickle out into the bowl. Unable to hold the filled bowl with one hand, he put it down on the sink bottom to turn the water back off. Then he picked the bowl back up and climbed down off the stool, his tongue sticking out as he concentrated on his movements.
"That wasn't too bad, Gage. I only spilled just a little. Hang on a bit and I'll get your food." That was a harder job. He went into the mud room where the big bag of dog food was stored. The bag was almost full, nearly as big and heavy as Leroy was himself.
He put his arms around the bag and hugged the bag tightly, awkwardly walking it back to where Gage's empty bowl sat. He bent over, trying desperately to control the flow of food pouring out of the open bag. Dry food spilled up and over the bowl and onto the floor before Leroy could stop it. "Awww, geez. Mom's gonna have a fit."
While the young boy took the bag of food back to the mud room, Gage tried to help by gobbling up the spilled nuggets. His brown hair stuck up in cowlicks, Leroy came back into the kitchen with a broom and dust pan. "We've gotta clean this up, Gage." He pushed past the dog, trying to sweep the food into the pan. It took some time, but soon the mess was gone.
He and the dog threw themselves down on the living room rug after turning the old television set on. He gently wrestled with Gage while waiting for the set to warm up, then settled down to watch late afternoon television.
It was about two hours later, as the sun began to set behind the hills near the house, that Leroy wondered where his mother had gone. It wouldn't be much longer before his father was home from work. His mom should be in the kitchen, making dinner. It wasn't like her to be late, even when she was not feeling well.
He got to his feet and began searching through the house for his missing mother. Leroy went from room to room, Gage lumbering behind him. He even stuck his head outside to check the clothesline without success. There was a tightness building in his chest with each empty room.
Climbing the whitewashed stairs to the second floor, Leroy wanted desperately to find his mother asleep on the bed covered with his grandmother's handmade quilt. He tapped gently on the door to his parents' bedroom, the door slowly opening at his touch. "Mom?" Leroy ventured into the room, stopping short at the sight of his mother.
She was hanging by the neck from the ceiling light, swinging slightly in the breeze from the open window. As Leroy stared in shock, he found himself unable to move. "MOM!!!"
He turned and raced down the stairs, running into his father who was just coming in the front door.
"Leroy, what the…" Jackson Gibbs tried to push his son away to see the boy's face without success.
"It's Mom. Daddy, Mom is…" Leroy clung to his father.
Jack's face went white as he looked from his son to the bedroom above. "Stay here, son."
"Dad," Leroy protested. Gage tried to press against the boy's trembling body, whining.
"Stay here." He carefully pulled his son away from his body and set him down on the bench just inside the front door.
Once he knew Leroy would obey him, Jack made his way quickly up the stairs. At the sight of his beloved wife, he closed his eyes in pain. "Oh, Catherine." He walked over to where her body hung, grabbing her around the legs and lifting up.
Jack turned his head to see his son in the doorway, tears falling down his face.
"Let me help. Please?"
"Okay, son. Do you think you can take my knife and cut the rope?"
Swallowing deeply, Leroy nodded. "Y-yeah." He reached into his father's back pocket and pulled out his large folding knife. He climbed onto the bed, having to lean on his father's shoulder for balance. He reached up shakily and began sawing at the rope.
"That's it, son." Soon Catherine's body was released into Jack's waiting arms. He slowly lowered her body to the floor. "Leroy, I need you to do one more thing for me."
"Go run and get Doc Evans. Can you do that?"
"I don't wanna leave Mom."
Jack reached over, gently running his hand over his son's tear-streaked face. "I'll stay with her. She won't be alone. I really need your help."
Leroy nodded, his lip quivering as he struggled to be a help to his father. "I'll run as fast as I can, Daddy."
"I know you will, boy." Jack fought back his own tears when his son tore out of the house as if the devil himself was on his heels.
It was almost midnight before the police and interested neighbors left. The local funeral home had taken Catherine Gibbs after Doctor Evans had done a preliminary examination. Evans had also explained to the police about certain medical and mental issues that Jackson Gibbs had tried to shield his son from. Now he was afraid Leroy would have to be told the whole truth.
Closing the door behind the last well-meaning neighbor, Jack leaned forward, taking a moment to reign his own grief and anger in.
He turned to see Leroy clutching Gage's ruff, blue eyes wide with sadness and confusion. "C'mere, son."
The boy flew into his father's arms. "Why did Mom kill herself? Was I too loud? I tried not to be."
"Oh, Lee, you didn't do anything wrong. Your mom loved you so much."
"Then why did she leave?"
"Your mom had lots of problems since your sister died. Remember how we talked about that?"
"I think she wanted to be with Mary Rose. She missed the baby so much."
"Won't she miss us?"
"I'm sure she will. But I think she figured we had each other while Mary Rose was all alone." Jack tried to hold his voice steady. "I think it's time for you to go to bed."
Leroy shook his head wildly, trying to bury his face deeper in Jack's strengthening embrace. "No, I'll have nightmares."
"About what you saw?"
"You don't have to dream about it if you really don't want to. Just tell yourself you'll only have good dreams."
Leroy slowly pulled his face away from his father. "That won't work."
"I promise it will."
The younger Gibbs looked up the stairs to where his bedroom was directly across the hall from his parents' room. "I don't wanna go up there."
"Then you won't. I'll bring down our sleeping bags and some extra blankets and pillows. We'll set them up in the front room, okay?"
Leroy nodded. "You'll sleep here, too?"
Dropping a soft kiss on the top of his son's head, Jack agreed. "I'll be right next to you."
"Thank you, Dad. I love you."
"I love you, Lee. And your mother loved you as well. We'll get through this. I promise you we will."