A/N: Well, it's been a long time coming but I've finally written another NCIS fic. This was an excellent suggestion by Moonlight83, and I am honoured to have been trusted to write it.
I would appreciate any thoughts and comments you have for this as I'm not sure the characterisation is spot on.
Also, regrettably, I must inform you all that this may very well turn out to be my last ever venture into NCIS territory, as I'm simply not enjoying it like I used to.
STORY WORD COUNT - 1765.
At the end of this there is a fairly long explanation/rant of why this is my last NCIS story. It contains strong opinions on season 7 which could potentially be read as spoilers. So if you haven't seen season 7 don't read my second A/N at the end.
Silently, a young teenage boy crept through the front door, slinging his backpack to the floor in the hall and starting towards the stairs. The state he was in, he hoped to reach his room before either of his parents realised he was home. Unfortunately, despite his best efforts at stealth, his mother appeared at the sitting room door and called him back, frowning at his unkempt clothing and dirty face.
"Leroy, have you been fighting again?" she demanded, standing at the foot of the stairs, a slight edge of concern entering her voice as she spotted blood and grey dust on his crumpled white shirt. She stood there for a moment longer, her hands planted firmly on her hips, before giving her son a gentle smile and beckoning him down. Hanging his head slightly, Leroy did as she instructed and then followed her into the kitchen, perching sullenly on the edge of the counter next to the sink.
She gently dabbed at his face, cleaning away the dirt, her soulful blue eyes imploring him to speak. "You've got to stop this, Leroy," his mother said softly, pulling his chin up so that she could see him properly.
"I wasn't fighting, mom."
"No? Were you mucking around in that mine again, then?" Leroy winced and avoided her stern gaze...
Solemnly, Gibbs stood at the sink in his father's kitchen, staring sightlessly out at the backyard. Coming back to Stillwater after so many years, after so much had happened, was unnerving and stirred memories he would rather leave undisturbed. Absent-mindedly he thumbed his glass of water as he remembered his mother's kind face.
The sound of DiNozzo nosing round the house while Jack worked in the store drifted along the hall, Tony's soft footsteps coming to a scuffled stop at the kitchen door and breaking Gibbs from his reverie. Setting his face to a stony glare, the senior agent wheeled round and looked at DiNozzo.
"Have you been to talk to the neighbours again yet, DiNozzo?" Tony wilted under Gibbs' unusually intense gaze, wondering what had frustrated him now – probably the poor work ethic the team had easily adopted around Jackson.
"No, boss. I, uh, was just about to though," Tony said, turning on his heel as Gibbs brow creased into a scowl of annoyance. Just as he was about to walk back down the hall, Tony glanced back in and noticed Gibbs' fingers tapping slowly on the glass of water he held and the thoughtful expression that replaced the scowl.
A soft hand rested gently on his shoulder and squeezed, and the twelve-year old boy jumped, his head flying up as he was broken from his desolate thoughts.
"I'm sorry, Leroy." It was the priest, the one from the service – the worst day of his short life.
"Where's your father?" the man asked, settling slowly onto the wooden pew next to Leroy.
"You should be with him," the priest added, but Leroy only shrugged and went back to staring at the scuff marks in the stone floor. Reverend Williams was a kind old man, with decades of experience when it came to dealing with mourners – both children, like Leroy, and adults alike – so he knew when to hold his peace. He sat back silently against the pew and waited.
Uncomfortably aware of the man sitting mutely at his side, Leroy shuffled on the polished wood so that the backs of his knees were pressed against the cold edge. He stared at the far end of the building and did not turn to Reverend Williams as he spoke, his voice cold and ever so slightly hoarse.
"He didn't care, anyway." Admittedly, the man did well to hide his surprise at the almost complete lack of emotion in the boy's voice.
"I'm sure your father ca—"
"You don't know that. You weren't there when they started shouting, when they argued for hours over the smallest things, when the doors slammed and—" Leroy broke off with a sob, which he hastily covered with a cough. But the tears streaming down his face betrayed his grief and he wiped at them furiously, as if his red eyes weren't a giveaway.
Lost in thought, Gibbs meandered into the darkened sitting room and spotted a solitary photograph gathering dust in the mantle above the cold fire. There were two people grinning out at him – his mother and father – and he recognised himself as a baby curled in his mother's arms. Gibbs remembered his father explaining, a decade later, that they had paid an extortionate amount of money to rent the camera for a day and that was the only photograph that survived being processed.
Whether it was because of a combination of the obvious neglect the precious memento had suffered since then – the colours had long since faded and dust settled in a thick layer over the protective glass and frame – or the fact that this was the only one of his mother that remained, Gibbs felt the same anger he had felt at his mother's funeral boil up. He just wanted to yell at his father, to throw all the burning, hateful accusations at that man, but Gibbs knew that would only lead back to where they had started, and they had only just begun speaking to one another again.
The volume on the radio wouldn't go any louder, at least not without alerting his father or the neighbours. His father's latest girlfriend gave a high pitched giggle that made Leroy cringe, and he stuck his head under his pillow, pressing it as hard as he could against his ears. But Marion's annoying voice managed to seep through all the barricades nonetheless. How exactly did his father think he would finish his two thousand word essay with that woman downstairs and his father encouraging her?
Below, Marion gave a squeal of delight. Leroy could just picture his father handing her a bouquet of flowers and saying something disgustingly romantic. He glanced at the sheet of paper on his homemade desk – untouched but for his name and the date – and knew that tomorrow he would be getting another 'Failure to Complete Assignment' note to explain awkwardly to his father, teacher and, embarrassingly, his classmates. Along with whatever punishment Mr Petrie decided to dish out.
I might as well do something interesting instead of slaving away over something that'll never get done, he thought as he climbed out his window, balanced precariously as he spotted a place to land and then jumped. He scrambled to his feet, wiping the his dusty hands on his pants, and jogged off through the darkness towards his father's barn. All the while, anger and a sick feeling of betrayal swirled in his mind as he thought of his father's swift dismissal of his grief for his late wife.
Standing in his old room, Gibbs peered at the desk in the corner. He could just make out his name etched scruffily into the wood if he squinted. It was almost exactly the same as when he'd left it in 1976; the only difference being his clothes that he'd left strewn carelessly over the floor had been picked up and tidied away.
He stepped back out onto the first floor landing and moved to the next room, swallowing the large lump that suddenly formed in his throat. He pushed the door open and stared. His father had redecorated while he'd been gone. It looked nothing like the bathroom he had used as a young adult, nothing like the room where his mother had died. He walked inside and cautiously sat on the edge of the bath, staring at the spot on the floor where he had discovered her. He didn't need the old floor pattern to tell him where, he just knew.
She had slipped while cleaning, cracked her skull on the bath. Suffered a fatal brain haemorrhage, the local doctor had said, as Jackson stood stoically at the entrance to the bathroom, his son sleeping on a chair in the kitchen having exhausted himself with tears and endless denials and blame-laying. There had been nothing Dr Stevens could do. If she had gone to hospital as soon as it happened then she might have survived, but the young Leroy Jethro Gibbs had found her when he came home from school, and she had been cleaning the bathroom when he left that morning.
When Leroy awoke he thought it had all been some horrible nightmare, then he realised he was slouched in a rickety chair across from his father, who looked haunted – his face pale and drawn as he sipped a cup of cold tea – and Leroy felt tears welling in his eyes once more. He felt... well, he didn't know how he felt. His whole body was numb and the only thing he could do was stare vacantly at the half-empty glass of water on the table in front of him.
A single tear escaped the corner of Gibbs' eye and he leant forward, cradling his head in his hands as his elbows rested heavily on his knees. He saw a shadow slide over the bathroom floor as DiNozzo stopped outside, but he didn't care. For once, Gibbs didn't care if his senior field agent thought he was weak for showing emotion. Gibbs stood and turned to the sink, running cold water into it and splashing his face, clearing away the tear tracks.
"Boss, food's on the table," Tony said, taking a tentative step into the small bathroom. He didn't know much of Gibbs' background – maybe it was memories of Shannon and Kelly that had prompted Gibbs' emotional thought train, or maybe it was something else – but he wasn't going to pry. Gibbs would tell him if and when he wanted, and definitely not before.
Gibbs just stared at his reflection in the mirror. Tony took a step closer and placed a hand hesitantly on Gibbs' shoulder.
"You don't want it to get cold, boss. Ziva helped Ja— your father and she'll be pissed if you don't eat it." Gibbs nodded absently, as if he hadn't really absorbed what Tony had said.
"Abby'll have a fit if you don't eat, boss. You know how she worries about us." Gibbs turned and Tony was only slightly surprised to see that his eyes were red and puffy.
"I'm comin', DiNozzo. Just..." Without waiting for Gibbs to finish, Tony nodded in understanding.
"We'll wait, Gibbs." And that was it, the silent support Gibbs would never admit to needing had been offered. Now he just needed to take it.
A/N: ***ANYONE WHO HAS NOT SEEN SEASON 7 YET AND WANTS TO FORM THEIR OWN OPINION WHILST WATCHING IT SHOULD STOP READING NOW!***
Don't say I didn't warn you.
For me, season 7 started fairly well after the garbage that was season 6 (although it did provide the plot for this story...) but it swiftly went downhill. Be that because of the writing, the acting (or lack there-of), the shift from investigative drama to little more than romantic drama (and let's not forget to blow up a few cars and fire some bullets to keep our audience 'entertained'...) or the showrunner - the "amazing" Shane Brennan. The (almost completely) consistent characterisation of seasons 1-5 seem to have been thrown out of the window along with the actual humour, because heaven forbid they have a joke that is sophisticated and witty. This is the biggest reason why I had so much trouble getting the characterisation right when it came to Gibbs and Tony, and I'm still not 100 percent but it'll have to do because I can't stand to sit through any more episodes at the moment.
Maybe I've spent too long on the NCIS CBS forum and reading other peoples' opinions, but surely if I thought differently I wouldn't find myself agreeing with most of the stuff on there. Frankly, the only good thing that has come from season 7 is the lack of attention being paid to the 'Tiva' relationship. I know there are a lot of people who think that is the best 'ship ever, but I don't see it. Sorry. Maybe I'm just too much of an obsessive compulsive pedant when it comes to my favourite TV shows, but this September, when NCIS once again rears its tired head , I will probably have forgotten about it. The likelihood of me watching it is slim, and if I do remember to catch it, well, let's just say it won't be my highest priority on a Wednesday morning.
I'm no longer enjoying NCIS.
I'm not going to write any more NCIS.
I think season 7 is a load of tripe.