Why Do They Always Leave Us?

a/n: Ok, so this is my first NCIS story not written from Ziva's point of view. I did my best to keep the characters as accurate as possible and not make them overly mushy so let me know how I did.

Disclaimer: yeah, I know I don't own :'(

Leroy Jethro Gibbs walked in his front door and threw his keys on his table. He didn't bother to turn on his lights, he welcomed the darknes, it reflected his mood. He had delivered the news of Ziva's death to his team a week and a half ago and they had been broken ever since.

To make matters worse they had caught a case the next day that had sent them on a roller coaster of emotion. A young lieutenant, who had born a horrible resemblance to Ziva, had been reported missing by her boyfriend. He and her father, a former sailor had been distraught, begging to be kept updated on their progress. She and her boyfriend had been childhood sweethearts he had been planning to propose to her the night she vanished, he had even showed Tony the ring. McGee, DiNozzo and Gibbs had worked tirelessly putting everything they had into trying to find the missing Lieutenant. They spent the next five days hitting nothing but dead ends. On the sixth day emotions were running high and the team was fighting not to snap at each other. It was halfway through the day that McGee had finally stumbled on an anomaly. The lieutenant had been taking small amounts out of her paycheck for the last five years (the entire time she'd been in the navy and two years before) and been depositing them into a small account in Tennessee under a different name. They informed her father and boyfriend then Tony and Gibbs jumped on the first plane to Tennessee while McGee kept looking for clues. As McGee began to dig into the lieutenants background, he discovered that her college roommate lived in an apartment with her husband in a small town just east of the Arkansas border. A little more digging revealed that the friend had been the one managing the lieutenants account since it was opened. When Gibbs and Tony landed, McGee gave them the address, and Gibbs, true to form, had made the hour and a half drive in just under and hour. The scene they arrived to was horrible. Both the lieutenant and her friend had been murdered and the lieutenant's boyfriend was fighting with the friend's husband.

The end was horrible, and another painful reminder of Ziva. The lieutenant had been trying to escape her abusive father and boyfriend. From the time she was born, her path had been set for her. The navy and boyfriend had been her father's choice, and she didn't have an option. She had been planning her escape since she met her college roommate, and had finally saved up enough money to run and start a new life. Her father and boyfriend had used NCIS to find her, and once they had, the father had sent the boyfriend after her, declaring that she was already dead to him. The lieutenant's friend's husband had arrived home just in time to see his wife be murdered and had attacked the boyfriend.

Tony and Gibbs hadn't said a word on the return flight the next day, but they both knew what the other was thinking. When they walked into HQ that afternoon, Gibbs had sent Tony and Tim home. There was no friendly banter that usually came after the closure of case, the boys had simply picked up their stuff, powered down their computers and left without a word. Gibbs himself had finished his report before staring blankly at his computer an hour. He was brought out of his thoughts by the presence of another person and glanced up to see Vance staring at him. He shut down his computer and walked to the elevator without acknowledging of his superior.

That had been three hours ago. He stood in his entry a minute before making his way toward his basement. There was still no boat there; for the first time since he started building them he just hadn't had the heart to start a new one. The alcohol however, was still down there. He had just made it to the doorway when his hand went to his sig. He peered around the corner cautiously, before he relaxed and moved to the stairs.

"Hey Boss," his senior agent slurred. "Hope you don't mind, door was opened." Tony offered lamely as he attempted to stand up only to fall off the stool completely and hit the ground.

Gibbs winced. 'So much for the alcohol,' he thought to himself. As he watched his senior agent attempt once again unsuccessfully he added to himself, 'even if there's any left.' He sat down on his staircase as he watched Tony. He examined him closely. Tony's eyes were bloodshot, he had dark circles under his eyes and he hadn't shaven in a couple days. His skin was pale and he looked like he had lost 10 or 15 pounds. Gibbs sighed and rubbed his face with his hand. He had been so wrapped up in the case he hadn't notice Tony's physical deterioration. Now that he thought of it, Tim had looked just as bad as Tony when he left the building earlier. He continued to sit and wait, knowing that when he was ready, Tony would talk. It didn't take long.

"Why do they always leave Boss?" Tony asked quietly. "Why do they always leave us?"

Gibbs just looked at Tony, knowing that his agent wasn't done speaking.

"I don't understand Boss? I mean, if it were just me, I could understand, I tend to have that effect on people, at least that's what Kate used to tell me, and Ziva too." Tony paused briefly, lost in his memories. "But it's not just me Boss. Shannon and Kelly, they left you, Kate and Paula left both of us. Jeanne left me, Jenny left both of us. Now Ziva's left us too. The only left is Abby, ABBY!!" Tony exclaimed suddenly his eyes widening. "ABBY!!!" he repeated urgently, suddenly trying to stand up. Afraid he would hurt himself, Gibbs jumped up and went to Tony, trying to calm his down. "What if she's next?" he asked desperately. "We have to save her," he said struggling against Gibbs.

"DiNozzo," Gibbs said trying to get his attention. "TONY!!" he said louder, this time succeeding. "Sit down," he ordered.

"But Abby," Tony protested weakly. As Gibbs looked at him, he no longer saw his senior field agent, but rather a scared little boy.

"Look at me Tony," Gibbs ordered, forcing Tony to look into his eyes.

"Abby is fine," he said in a firm voice. "Nothing is going to happen to her." Tony sat back down on the floor weakly. Sighing, Gibbs sat next to him. They sat in silence for several minutes before Tony spoke again.

"Is it us Boss? Is it something we are doing wrong? Is that why they keep leaving?" Gibbs remained silent for a few moments as he thought of his answer.

"No," he began, realizing he wasn't trying reassure only Tony, but himself as well. "Kate was taken from us, she didn't make the choice to leave us."

"But we could have saved her, we should have." Tony protested, he voice laced with emotion. "We should have stopped Ari before...before he put that bullet in her head." Gibbs didn't have a response because even four years later, he still felt the same way. He was so lost in his own thoughts that he almost didn't hear when Tony started to speak again. "I really cared about her. Not in the romantic sense," he quickly added before continuing. "I cared about her like a little sister. I know I bugged the hell out of her, but I would have done just about anything for her. I should have told her that, especially after she stayed with me when I was sick. I should have told her..." he repeated, letting his sentence hang. They lapsed into silence once more. "What about the others?" Tony finally asked, once more breaking the silence.

"Paula chose to protect us." Gibbs said, attempting to cut Tony off before he started down the path of guilt once again. "She chose to be a hero. She didn't chose to leave us," Gibbs said, hoping this statement would help his agent, "she chose to be with her team. As for Jeanne, she didn't leave you. She left Tony DiNardo, the film teacher. That was never your fault. Yes, you made mistakes, but you were both just pawns in a plot that was bigger than either of you. As for Jenny, she died protecting me." Gibbs paused for a moment, trying to figure out his words. He was never one much for talking, but he knew that if he didn't this time, he would be in danger of losing another member of his team, his family. "Her death was not your fault, and I never blamed you, or Ziva. She was dying already, she simply decided to end it on her own terms." They lapsed into silence once more, both processing what Gibbs had just said.

"And Ziva?" Tony asked.

"Ziva never really had any choice." Gibbs responded. "Her father would have found a way to get to her no matter what. He would have found a way. If the opportunity hadn't come up, he would have created one. That man had been playing with her head and feelings since she was born. There was nothing any of us could have done. She needed to figure that out on her own, she just never got the chance."

It was several minutes before Tony asked, "Do you think she would have come back when she figured it out?"

"Yeah, I do." The next ten minutes were spent in silence before Gibbs realized Tony's breathing had evened out indicating that he had fallen asleep. He was contemplating waking him up and sending him to his guest bedroom when Gibbs's hand once again started to go for his gun before a familiar voice once again stopped him.

"Boss?" a hesitant voice called out.

"Down here McGee." Gibbs looked up as Tim appeared in the doorway.

"Boss have you heard from...oh." McGee stopped as he reached the bottom of the staircase and saw Tony sitting on the floor apparently asleep. As Gibbs examined his youngest agent, he realized just how drained he looked. How had he not noticed before that both of his agents had suddenly lost so much weight in the last week? As McGee came closer, Gibbs could see that the younger man had been crying earlier.

"How are you holding up?" he asked quietly.

McGee looked at him in surprise, but quickly tried to disguise it. "Fine," he answered. "I just was concerned when I couldn't reach Tony. I was worried about him," he admitted quietly. "When I went by his place and saw he wasn't there I came straight here. I just wanted to make sure he was ok...well, as ok as any of us are going to be for a while." Gibbs studied the young man in front of him as he was reminded why he had placed Tim on his team five years ago. Even though he had seen a huge amount of potential in the young man back than, he had underestimated just how much potential was under the surface.

As Gibbs stared at him, McGee began to feel uneasy, "I knew the case would hit him hard," he said, feeling the need to explain himself. "I know that Tony can take care of himself, I was just worried because he didn't look very good when we left and I was afraid he would be blaming himself. I know Tony doesn't like to talk, but I just figured I could at least offer to be there, just so he knew he wasn't alone. I know it was kind of silly, but"

"Its not silly Tim," Gibbs said cutting him off, noticing McGee's surprised expression at the use of his first name. "You never need to explain looking out for your partner. I would be disappointed if you didn't." McGee simply nodded before sitting down on the floor and leaning back against the opposite wall. It was a long time before either of them spoke.

"I'm really going to miss her," he finally said in a quiet voice. "Does it always hurt this badly Boss?" he asked just as quietly.

"It is never easy to lose a partner."

"Before, it was easy to convince myself we were just finding someone to hold her spot until she came back. Now I don't think I can stand to see anyone take that spot, not again. I mean, I know that our job is risky, I remember Kate telling me the day before she died that we ran the risk of dying any time we stepped out the door, but it doesn't make it any easier. I don't know if I can handle losing another partner, another friend. What if it is Tony or you next time?"

Once again, Gibbs heard the same childlike voice in McGee that he had just heard in Tony less than an hour ago. "Its the risk we take McGee. Its the risk we take so others don't have to. The question you need to ask yourself is would you rather be the one that has Tony's six and my six, or would you rather it be someone else?" Gibbs watched as his question sank in and was proud when he saw the confidence return to McGee's face.

"I'd rather it was me," McGee responded without a trace of doubt in his voice.

"I'd rather it was too," came Tony's voice startling McGee who hadn't realized the other man had woken up. Gibbs allowed himself a small smirk knowing the other man had been awake almost since McGee had descended the staircase. As the three of them sat in silence, Gibbs allowed himself a smile on the inside. The last week had been hard, and he knew that the following weeks and months wouldn't be much easier. It was going to take longer for them to heal this time, but as long as they had each other's six, they would slowly begin that process. It would take time, but eventually his family would be alright.