A/N: Set the night before Gibbs meets Shepard again in MTAC, there seemed to be a bit of a grey area where Gibbs went from really nice (nice is relative for him) to pretty much his usual self. This is my interpretation of what could have happened to get him back on track.
Thanks to Viktorija for the Russian transliteration - Koshmar means Nightmare.
This was a strange one for me to write and Gibbs kept going way too OOC. I've cut it down as much as I could but I apologise in advance if either Tony or Gibbs seem terribly OOC. Just remember that Gibbs went crazily OOC in the beginning of Kill Ari 1 and Tony did the same in Reveille. Not meant to be slash but could possibly be read that way. Meant to be father/son-ish... kinda... sort of...
Disclaimer: I do not own NCIS. If I did, Gibbs and Tony would probably end up retiring in the second season due to health problems xD I borrowed some dialogue but I don't own the stuff. :(
Reaching stiffly into the mahogany cabinet in the corner of his sitting room, Gibbs grabbed an unopened bottle of Bourbon, completely ignoring the clean glasses on the top shelf. His shaking hands nearly dropped the glass bottle, nearly spilt the precious liquid that it held. He slouched over to the window and stared out as the heavy rain continued to fall, soaking everything and everyone indiscriminately. It poured into the gutters, overflowing with dramatic effect at the places where the gutters filled with rotting leaves and clumps of moss and distorting the orange glow of the street lights through his window. He took a long drink from the bottle he held limply in his hand, staring blankly out of the window and watching as the raindrops dove into the puddles, sending up splashes of muddy water. He had no idea how long he stood there, he only became aware of the overwhelming need to blink as his eyes became dry. After blinking once and pouring a large volume of the potent alcohol down his throat – grimacing as it burned through his body – an accusation from behind made him turn.
He stared at the woman standing in front of him. She was still wearing her black NCIS jacket – the first bullet she had taken for Gibbs visible in the vest she wore underneath– and throat microphone. He knew she was not really there – the jagged hole between her eyes was a testament to that – but he could not not answer the stinging allegation she flung at him.
"...I... I..." Struggling to come up with an answer, he thumped the half-empty bottle down onto the nearest flat surface and scrubbed at his face with both hands, running them back through his gray hair before staring at Kate's apparition again.
"You stood there and watched me die, Gibbs!"
Blinking rapidly, he tried to speak but the hallucination cut him off.
"Why didn't you protect me? Why didn't you take that bullet?"
Watching forlornly as blood trickled from the hole in her forehead, Gibbs massaged his temples – trying to slow down the invasion of his brain by a throbbing headache, a headache which he put down not only to too much alcohol on an empty stomach, but also to the image of Kate getting shot through the head flashing repeatedly through his mind.
"Why didn't you kill Ari when you had the chance? You let it carry on, let him get to the rest of your team. To me!"
Gibbs scrunched his eyes shut, desperately trying to block out the stabbing accusations, but they were all in his head anyway. Nonetheless, Kate's voice got louder – it sounded like she was screaming – and her indictments battered against his strong yet battle-worn walls that blocked his emotions. "I... I don't..." He stammered – his head felt like it was going to explode with the next piercing accusation.
"He would never have taken that shot at Abby, or McGee; never have been able to get to me for the second time. I mean, c'mon, Gibbs! Wasn't one hostage situation with that bastard enough for you?!"
She really was screaming now and, powerless to stop the vivid apparition and the emotion – that he now recognised as his own anger at not being able to stop 'The Bastard' – from flooding his mind, Gibbs fell to his knees, oblivious to the sharp pain that shot through them as he landed heavily on the wooden flooring, hunching over and clutching his head, not caring that he was digging his fingernails into his scalp.
"Why me, Gibbs? ...And don't give me that crap about him targeting women you work with because he knew about your wife and daughter! Why not you?"
At the mention of his family, Gibbs' head shot up, despite the pain, and he stared at the place where Kate was standing in the middle of his sitting room. Finally managing to formulate a complete sentence, Gibbs shakily replied, "I don't know..." Kate huffed out a short, bitter laugh and stared down at Gibbs with what could only be described as contempt – an emotion that seemed totally out of place on the pretty (if you ignored the bullet hole, of course), young woman's face.
"You don't know! Gibbs doesn't know? Well, I'll tell you then, seeing as you're so clueless when it comes to emotions! He did it because you pissed him off... and it was fun to play the game with you, watch you obsess over catching him, watch you shut your team out and work them to the bone."
Gibbs could only watch from his uncomfortable position on the floor as the vision of Kate began stalking forward: strangely leaping with much grace over the furniture in her way, but when she reached him and knelt down, staring directly into his piercing blue eyes, he could see blood ran in small rivulets down the bridge of her nose and over her lips. Gibbs grunted loudly as the pain in his head increased in intensity – helplessly trapped in this never-ending nightmare that was the death of a close colleague, a friend. Kate leant in close – Gibbs could almost feel her breath on his skin, but it was not warm and neither was her cheek as it nearly brushed against his own, sending an involuntary shiver speeding down his spine – and whispered in his ear.
As soon as she had finished the words, Kate abruptly disappeared, reminding Gibbs once more of the instantaneous extinction of the honed investigator's life on that rooftop days before. The only sounds left was the hammer of rainwater as it poured off his roof and Gibbs' own heaving breathing as he fought to control his emotions. His headache was already beginning to abate, but that did not stop Gibbs' sudden and insatiable urge to get out of his house – Kate's death and her mention of his lost family had struck a chord in the centre of his heart and being in a house where, despite having lived there for more than a decade without Shannon and Kelly, he was constantly reminded of what exactly he had lost was not helping. Swaying as he pushed himself to his feet – still more than a little shocked by the unusual force of his hallucination (it was not his first – he had imagined Kate speaking to him a few times since her death – but none had brought about such a ferocious headache) – Gibbs barely managed to take two steps before being overcome by a wave of nausea and collapsing to his knees once more. By some helpful twist of fate, he managed to grasp an empty plastic trough that he had meant to fill with soil and plants the night before Ari had returned, and retched into it.
Thank God I haven't drilled the holes in this yet.
As soon as had he finished, he stood once more on shaky legs and stumbled into the hall, cramming his bare feet into the nearest pair of battered running shoes – he did not even bother changing out of his beige polo shirt: instead heaving the front door open and stepping out, slamming the door behind him but not locking it. Usually when it was raining, and he did not want to work on his boat, Gibbs would go to the gym but, but as he was already a bit wet, it did not matter in the slightest. Also, he needed the privacy of a solitary run in the pouring rain and the middle of the night.
Setting off along the well-lit street, Gibbs reached the dark area of overgrown vegetation that signalled the edge of a small, rarely-used park. Grunting loudly as he swung open the gate, he continued pounding along the path before turning off and running across the water-logged grass, mindless of the slippery mud under his feet. He headed towards a bank of trees and was consumed by complete darkness once under the cover of the thick canopy. He slowed for a moment to allow his eyes to adjust and then began running as fast as he could, dodging the trunks as easily as if it were day, despite the high level of alcohol coursing through his system.
The rain continued to fall heavily, washing away all traces of the man's tracks as he sprinted through the trees. It collected in great puddles all along the path, eventually merging to form one long, winding, slow-moving stream as it flowed out of the park gates and spilled onto the road, clogging the drains with any leaves that had managed to float all the way along. Water could wash away many things: leaves, tracks, crime scene evidence, even people, but there was not enough water in the universe to rid the man of his anger, his guilt or his seemingly endless pain.
Soaking wet and with mud coating his running shoes and leaving splashes up his trouser legs, Gibbs shoved open his front door, not caring that the handle slammed into the wall and punched a hole in the plaster, spraying white dust onto his floor. He staggered in, pulling his running shoes off and kicking them down the hall, ignoring the black lines of rubber and the streaks of mud they left as they scraped against the walls. Paying no attention to his body's plea for a warm shower and a change of clothing – preferably something warm and dry – and a chance to rest, Gibbs stumbled into his sitting room. For a moment, he considered lying on the couch, then realised he did not deserve that simple pleasure.
If I can't keep my agents safe then why the hell should I be comfortable?
The freezing rain had washed away a little of his burning anger and self-loathing but not enough to allow him to feel how exhausted he was. He snatched the open bottle of Bourbon from the table and poured the fiery liquid down his throat, preferring the painful and temporary heat of alcohol to something more long-term. Water still ran down his face, dripping from his chin onto the wooden floor, and a small puddle soon formed at his feet. As it did, he gradually became aware of the fact that he was shivering and his knees ached, along with his weary legs – spending almost three hours running in the pouring rain and the middle of the night had definitely not been one of Gibbs' best ideas. He was also hit by the stench of the vomit and staggered tiredly over to the plastic container, carrying it to the bathroom and flushing it down the toilet then returned to the sitting room, slumping into the settee and leaning back. His eyes closed almost immediately and, despite his mental protests and threats, they refused to open again. Still shivering in his drenched clothing, Gibbs fell into a fitful sleep.
As far as Special Agent Anthony DiNozzo was concerned, there was only one crime worse than sneaking into Gibbs' house and that was getting caught. After working for Gibbs for four years, Tony had come to think that it was impossible to get anything past the marine. Sitting in the dark, curled into the only armchair in the room and watching the gunnery sergeant sleep, Tony had just proved his own belief wrong.
It might have been mid-morning, but the curtains were drawn – not only creating the illusion of night should Gibbs wake up, but also hiding Tony from the man's initial wrath when he did wake. It also meant that he could not see Gibbs' face to be able to tell if he was dreaming or stuck in a nightmare that inevitably involved reliving Kate's death over and over again. Tony had experienced more than his fair share of those over the past few days and he suspected, if Gibbs had actually slept since then, that the marine was no different. Initially, when Tony arrived on his boss' front doorstep, he had come seeking the sort of comfort only a father could give. But as soon as he had pushed open the door and taken in the trail of water and muddy streaks on the walls, the carelessly discarded running shoes and the faint odour of sick, Tony had known that he was not the only one in need of a little comfort, or at least reassurance – no matter how futile that reassurance might be – that it was not his fault. The almost empty bottle of booze on next to Gibbs only served to reinforce the idea that Gibbs was troubled.
A low grunt from the settee broke Tony from his musings, but he remained quiet, tensing as he watched Gibbs push up onto his elbows and press a hand to his forehead. There was not enough light to study his expression, but Tony suspected he looked shattered and probably a bit off-colour – not that Gibbs would ever get sick, of course. As Gibbs started muttering, Tony could not help but smile – glad of the darkness to hide his grin – despite his concern at Gibbs' obvious distress.
"Protection detail is over, Kate."
"You did good." There's DiNozzo, standing behind Kate, with that big goofy grin of his plastered across his face. I can't help but smirk as an idea hits me.
"For once, DiNozzo is right." Kate laughs.
"Wow. I thought I'd die before I ever heard a complimen—"
"Ari..." Memories crashing into Gibbs as he woke, the marine pushed himself up onto his elbows, groaning as the excessive alcohol consumption made itself known. He extracted a hand from under the blanket he did not remember getting and pressed it hard to his forehead. "I should have killed that bastard, Kate." Gibbs muttered, brushing the blanket off him and swinging his legs off the couch so that he could sit up easily. He flicked on the lamp that stood at the end of the couch and then, cradling his head in his hands, Gibbs leant forward and cursed his pounding headache and throbbing knees. Peering through gaps between his fingers, he glimpsed a cell phone that was definitely not his and instantly was alert. Before acknowledging the other man's presence, Gibbs made sure he was in complete control of his emotions and breathing.
"What're you doing here, DiNozzo?" His voice, gravelly and threatening, momentarily made Tony's mind go blank as he was reminded of whose house he had entered.
"I... uh... I came to..." Sighing inwardly, Tony realised that Gibbs was probably not the person to talk to, especially not in this state. "I came to tell you that Director Morrow wanted to see you this morning."
"He couldn't have told me that himself?" Gibbs growled, his eyes flicking to the bottle standing on the table between them. Suddenly, realisation dawned on him and he glanced at his watch. "This morning? Why the hell didn't you wake me, DiNozzo? It's almost midday!" Nodding angrily, Tony stood and stalked to the doorway, turning back only once, not caring that Gibbs would be able to see the angry tears tracking down his cheek.
"This is why I didn't wake you! To be honest, boss, I came to talk, to ask you how to cope with this but now I see that you aren't coping yourself! You can't go on like this, boss! Kate's dead. No matter how much you glare at me or yell at Abby and Ducky you can't bring her back. Getting drunk and passing out certainly won't help either!" This time it was Gibbs who exploded to his feet and spun to glower at Tony. "You think I don't know that, Agent DiNozzo?" Tony stepped back into the room and strode up to Gibbs. When he stopped, they were barely a foot apart and neither looked close to backing down. "No, boss! But I think you've forgotten how much the team needs you to be you!" As Gibbs stood there, stunned beyond all comprehension, Tony feared the man would punch him, or worse. Gibbs, however, with great relief on Tony's part, had no intention of hurting the man who stood inches from his face and turned away. Before DiNozzo could even call out, Gibbs punched a fist into the nearest wall, denting the plaster and leaving smears of bright red blood in the hollow. Ignoring the stabbing pain in his knuckles, Gibbs slumped onto the couch and stared at the bottle of alcohol still on the table.
The silence that followed Gibbs' outburst grew: Tony still stood without a sound where Gibbs had been, becoming more and more uncomfortable as his boss ignored him; the older agent again feeling the negative effects of his spontaneous run and heavy drinking the previous night. Warily, watching Gibbs for any sign of acknowledgement, Tony sat down in the armchair he had occupied previously. Still the silence stretched out between them.
If I try and get him to talk, will he? Probably not... Damn you, Gibbs! Why'd you have to be such a stubborn ass all the time?
Tony shifted in his seat to study Gibbs more closely. He was not worried about being covert: Gibbs was so absorbed in his thoughts that Tony could have headslapped him and he probably would not have noticed.
You look older, boss – like you've been through this before... Of course, you probably have – you're a marine, for crying out loud! I mean, you're quiet almost all the time, but this... this is unusual.
Despite Tony's continued attention, Gibbs remained focused on something out with Tony's knowledge. Passing a worried eye over his silent boss, Tony took in the bloody knuckles and the way Gibbs rubbed them to alleviate his self-inflicted pain; the furrowed brow and weary eyes; the weak glares he kept sending Tony's way.
Guess it's now or never, Tony DiNozzo.
Taking a deep breath – gauging whether what he was about to say would be career suicide or just plain suicide – Tony cleared his throat and stared at Gibbs, waiting for him to be the one to break the silence. It was yet another futile act, but Tony persevered until it became blatantly obvious to even the most casual of observers that Gibbs would not be the one to start this conversation. Clearing his throat for the second time in as many minutes, Tony spoke, keeping his voice as neutral and non-threatening as he could manage – he and Kate had often joked that Gibbs was like a bear with a sore head. In this case, that was all too close to the truth.
As soon as Tony's whisper faded, the silence invaded the room once more and Gibbs remained deep in thought. Absentmindedly, he rubbed the back of his knuckles, there was nothing broken, it did not even hurt very much. The only thing that would remind him of his injury later on was the blood that trickled along the back of his hand.
Damn it, DiNozzo! You just can't leave it well enough alone, can you? Always got to try and fix things as soon as they're broken.
Rolling his eyes, Gibbs let out a harsh sigh then returned to burning a hole in the table.
It's not the boy's fault, Jethro, you know that! Blaming him isn't going to bring Kate back, but it might just lose you another agent, and a damn good one, at that!
Gibbs' gaze softened and he realised that Tony was here for something more than to lay the blame squarely at Gibbs' feet. "What, DiNozzo?" Gibbs murmured, his eyes never leaving the empty bottle of Bourbon. However hard Gibbs tried, he could not lift his gaze to meet Tony's: he could see too much pain, too much anger, too much blame in those startlingly-clear, hazel eyes. And it was all aimed at him. He did not flinch as Tony daringly pressed a finger to the underside of his chin and raised it, forcing Gibbs to look at him. There was a hint of amusement in Gibbs' eyes as he watched his agent read his eyes, and apparently very well. For a moment, Gibbs wondered when Tony had become so bold, then sighed – recognising the pity in the younger agent's eyes for what it really was: concern; deep-seated and impossible to dismiss with his simple, trademarked 'I'm fine.'
Gibbs opened his mouth to speak, but Tony surprised him again with his audacity. "No, boss, you listen." Tony had not needed Gibbs to speak to know what he was thinking. "This was not your fault. How were you to know that Ari was wearing a vest? How were you to know that he would escape, would come back... would kill Kate?" Tony stopped, studying Gibbs for any reaction other than his usual stern glare – his gruff mask was trying to return, but Tony was not quite finished yet. "You didn't pull the trigger, did you? Didn't fire a missile at a dock of Navy families, did you? Didn't fire a bullet into Abby's lab, did you?!" Tony could not help but get angrier and angrier as Gibbs remained stoic with each question and he jumped to his feet once again, almost shouting by the time he had finished.
Gibbs shook his head numbly: wanting to believe that he was not responsible for Kate's death; knowing that he was at least indirectly to blame – he could have killed Ari that first time in autopsy and saved them all this grief. "I mean, hell boss, you know I'd follow you to the ends of the earth, and probably the universe too if Abby built you a ship like the Starship Enterprise, but, despite your brilliance, you are not all-knowing!" Tony could not believe that Gibbs – his rock, his constant in this erratic world – had withdrawn so far into self-doubt that he needed a figurative kick up the backside by his senior field agent to pull him out. Gibbs, unsure as to how to respond to Tony's tirade but knowing that the young man was right in some ways, managed to nod tiredly. Some of the guilt had already lifted and he began to see clearly that there really had been nothing he could do since that first encounter in the morgue. For the first time in a very bad week and only slightly, Gibbs smiled.
As suddenly as the anger took hold of him so did Tony's relief that Gibbs was at least partially lifting the blame from himself. Just to strengthen that though, Tony added in a confident whisper, staring directly at the marine, "It's not your fault, boss." Gibbs' responding intense stare, however, forced him to look away, his gaze brought back only by the hand on his shoulder. The younger agent could tell that his words had had a huge effect not only on Gibbs, who looked more determined and alert than the defeated, exhausted (both emotionally and physically) man that had confronted him minutes ago, but also on himself. Tony positively beamed at Gibbs' next words, spoken softly and without anger or annoyance. "Thank you, Tony."
After sitting in comfortable silence for a while, Gibbs raised his hand from Tony's shoulder and gently slapped the back of Tony's head. Tony, his mind having been wandering elsewhere, rubbed the back of his head in jest. "Ow, boss! What was that for?" Gibbs shrugged, replicating Tony's grin.
"You know, for a while there, you really had me freaked. I mean, being all nice and everything..." Gibbs quirked an eyebrow at Tony, making the younger man backpedal furiously. "...Not that you're not nice normally, boss. But getting drunk – that's not really your style, is it boss? And punching walls? C'mon, you'd normally be down in your cave, sanding away what should be your ex-wives' alimony—" Gibbs' weary voice stopped him just before Tony really put his foot in it.
"You don't have a copy of Moby Dick with you, do you?" Tony could not help but chuckle.
He might not be guilt-free and probably would never forget how close Kate's death had pushed him to considering another line of work, or no work at all for that matter, but he had the rest of his team – Tony; Abby; Ducky; even McGee, the newest addition to their crazy family – to fall back on. Not that that would be happening very often. Gibbs knew the pain would never completely heal – Kelly and Shannon had been the hardest of all, but the deaths of colleagues hit pretty hard too – but Tony's uncharacteristic 'heart-to-heart' had lessened it and made it bearable.
The gunnery sergeant could function again. He turned his mind away from wallowing in grief – that would not bring the agent he had grown to respect and trust with his life back – and over to catching, and preferably killing 'The Bastard'. If he had to take out a few agency directors on his way there then so be it. He just hoped Morrow would be smart enough to stay out of his way tomorrow.
A/N: Hope you liked this. Reviews are really appreciated.
Counting down the days to season 7 premiere. I actually can't wait! This has to be the only show where I'm getting really impatient and really excited waiting for the next episode *impatient sigh* I am so obsessed with this show. 22nd September. Be there or else xD Oh oh oh... there's an extended promo up on youtube as well by the way... in case you haven't already seen it.