A Day's Work

Tagged to episode 6x09 "Dagger." My take on what Gibbs was thinking in the final scenes. A short one-shot.

Author's Note: Gibbs is one heck of a hard character to write! Who can tell what's lurking behind that wall of stoic reserve? I tried to keep the style very short and sparse, because it fits Gibbs.

I killed men and women in combat, in the line, and in life.
And some of them still haunt me.
— Gibbs, Rule 51.

"Probably the best way for it to end," Vance says.

He doesn't answer. He pictures Lee on the floor of that bus. Three shots to the chest, point blank. The best way.

"Treason, double murder," Vance goes on. "She was headed for a life sentence, or worse. She was never going to see her sister again."

He was twelve – still just a kid, thin and gangly – when he started working in his father's general store. Unloading the heavy boxes from the delivery truck. Getting things off the top shelves for old ladies, carrying their bags to their cars. Nights of nonstop standing and bending as he sorted items onto their shelves.

"So what are you going tell her?" Vance wants to know.

He grimly thinks back to when he and Shannon had to tell Kelly that Mr. Furball had gone up to hamster heaven. But he pulls away from the memory quickly, like he'd touched an open flame. Can't let himself think about that now.

"Lee a hero or a villain?"

"Both" is all he says.

He was nineteen – a punk with a chip on his shoulder – when he enlisted in the Marine Corps. Thirteen weeks of recruit training, then combat training. Ten-mile marches. Forty sit-ups in two minutes. Swimming the length of the pool in all his gear, from helmet to combat boots. And that was just the beginning.

He descends the stairs into the bullpen, where the girl is waiting for him. "You are one brave little girl," he tells her. But that isn't telling her what she wants to know.

"Where's Mishi?" she asks him.

She looks up at him as she says it, and he can feel Tony and Ziva's heavy stares on his back. They're all waiting for his answer. He holds his uninjured hand out to the girl, who takes it.

"Mishi would want you to have this," he begins, handing her Lee's badge. She looks down at it, then back up at him, slowly starting to understand.

He was a different man – older, sadder, wiser, his mouth set in a thin line – when he joined NIS. "Gotta learn a lot of new stuff," Franks said. Processing crime scenes. Picking locks. Breaking witnesses in interrogation. Blending in anywhere to keep surveillance on suspects. Chasing down the ones who tried to run.

That night, he goes down to his basement with a bottle of bourbon and starts laying planks across the hull of his boat. He concentrates hard on each step of the process, letting it consume his mind completely, and he works late into the night. Works until his palms are covered in callouses. Works until his back aches from leaning over the wood. Never been a time in his life when he didn't know the meaning of hard work. But even with all the jobs he's had, he can't for the life of him remember any work harder than what he did today, when he had to tell that little girl her sister was never coming back.