Beta: The Fabulous tinlizzie82 tried her best but if you find any, the mistakes are all mine and I do *NOT* share.
Summary: No one seems to be able to reach through the walls that have been raised without any warning or awareness until it was too late. Sometimes there just isn't a reason. One day you feel fine and the next you just want to be left alone and get rid of the crap that you find in your life. This fic is more about the distance that is suddenly there than the reasons. Sometimes all it takes is for one person to make the difference and say they care.
Warning: OOC, Gibbs cries.
I've noticed; don't think that I haven't, or that I don't care. It took me a while but one day the wrongness just struck me and.. I knew. Each and every day that he is slipping, further and further away. He comes in like always a smile on his face, but he is phoning it in and it's been collect the last two weeks or so. He doesn't look me in the eye anymore; it's lightly to the right somewhere above my nose and eye. It took me too long to realize that, too long.
He doesn't talk about going out, doesn't *go* out, not even with Abby. The past few times anyone has gone to his apartment it was clean. Abby mentioned it in passing and he said something about what you find when you're walking into a crime scene. My breath caught, my blood froze, and I felt like my chest was on fire. I had to see. I had to. He made some flip remark and ushered me out of the lab. I sent him on a wild goose chase to Richmond to give myself plenty of time and discovered I had to use my picks.
It was clean. Like a hotel. Nothing real, nothing Tony. It was spotless, neat as a pin, and you could have eaten off of the floor. The Marine in me wanted to shout Hoorah, but the rest of me wanted to cry.
The first thing I noticed was the movies. that massive 8x6 wall rack I made for them was over half empty, all that was left was a few out of each genre, mostly guy movies, when I *know* he prefers noire. No magazines on the coffee table, no pizza box, no empty beer bottles. His television wasn't the 52 inch HD flat screen monstrosity that Abby loved to watch. It was a normal 40 inch flat screen.
No leather couch that welcomes you to sit down and envelopes you either, it was replaced by a normal run of the mill generic no-tell motel couch. None of the doodads on the wall, no art, none of his pictures. Pictures he had taken, good pictures, with the eye of a professional, pictures of the Potomac, the Atlantic, nature, the team. No hand blown glass that he got just west of Harper's Ferry once a month, rain or shine, case or not, he would make the drive out there and back just for a damned piece of glass. It was all gone.
His kitchen was filled with generic labeled food, fridge was empty except for catsup, mustard, and bottled water. Tony is a food snob. He rarely uses generic unless he can guarantee there is no difference in quality and taste. There was no liquor and a cheap brand 6 pack of beer, which he hates. I gave him a full bottle of that smoky, $80.00 a bottle bourbon he loved on his birthday and there was a full pack of the micro-brew that he loved.
His closet in the guest room that held his off season clothes was empty, his closet in his room was half full all seasons mixed together. No porn under the mattress, or in the night stand, or in the closet.
His bathroom looked so *normal* shampoo, gel, mouse, deodorant. Typical guy things. Typical Gibbs things. His shelves were stocked with Suave, no name, cheap shit. No moisturizer, no minty, earthy body scrub, no minty tea tree shampoo and conditioner that made his hair soft and silky. No eyeliner, glittery hair crap that I know I've seen him wear when he was called in on a case at 0230 and didn't have time enough to change *and* clean up. No body jewelry that I overheard, flat out eavesdropped, on his and Abby's conversation about and what he had pierced and what it was decorated with.
Nothing was packed away in boxes, no boxes were stacked away. It was just gone. It looked like any number of guys could have just popped in to take Tony's place at any time. Generic. I really hate that word, but it fits. I left the apartment in the same condition that I found it, sterile, devoid of any Tonyness, impersonal.
As I watched him slip further and further I had no clue how to stop it. And I was amazed that I was the only one that noticed. Then came the day I feared, that woke me up in night sweats. We were chasing a Ensign through a maze along the docks when we lost Tony. He and the Ensign had gotten ahead of us somehow, made a left when we made a right or vice versa.
Two shots, bang bang, different weapons, different reports. I remember yelling frantically, calling 'Tony." Over and over again but not hearing a response, hearing the same call echoing from Ziva and McGee, cursing the maze of shipping crates, cursing the dock workers for creating a labyrinth. I ran full force, my sides hurt, my chest ached, vision blurred, when I suddenly burst into the open and tripped over something falling full force on to the dock. My breath left my lungs in a whoosh and I was dazed. I turned to kick the object and stopped mid kick. I tripped over Tony and the Ensign. I crawled over to them, checking to see that the Ensign was dead and continued to Tony.
He was silent, blood pooled over his shirt and jacket onto the dock below. I remember it was bright and slick and coppery and I scrambled around as I made my way to him. I moved his clothing aside to see his wound and I was so afraid and couldn't breathe. I didn't want to touch him to confirm that *I* had lost *him*. But I didn't want to not touch him either if he was still here. I was saved that, the confirming, when he opened his eyes, so dull these past months.
"Hey... Think I was shot."
I couldn't keep it in. All this time, I tried to keep such reign on my emotions pushing the ones I loved the *one* I loved away to keep my heart from breaking only to have it broken for me. And heart break looked me in the eyes.
"Are you crying? Don't cry for me Gibbs. You never cry. It's okay. Jethro please – don't." His breathing sped up and he started to rattle with his distress.
All I could do was pull him into an macabre embrace, one arm around his shoulders, one arm trying to stem the blood sluggishly seeping out, crying as I held on to him, looking him in the eyes for the first time in such a long time. I didn't hear the words or questions asked by Ziva or Tim or the paramedics. All I could do was hold on to him.
All through the ride to the hospital, through the ER, back to the treatment room. I couldn't let go of him, I couldn't drop his gaze, let go of his hand. Someone, sometime, pushed a chair under me. The staff worked around me.
The entire time he didn't let go, kept his gaze locked on mine, my hand in his vicelike grip.
His voice was hoarse as he begged , "Don't leave me."
I'm sure mine was equally as horse. "I won't."
And I didn't. Even more amazingly was the fact that the medical staff didn't force me to leave the room. It boosted my fears. We stayed that way until they took him to surgery, and wouldn't let me go with him. His last vision of me was an old man, tears streaming down his face, clothing soaked with blood, face and hair caked with it.
I don't know how long I stood there. Until someone led me to a chair and put me in it. Ducky came, and Abby, and Ziva and Tim. But if they said anything I don't know. I kept my eyes firmly on the doors that he disappeared through. Everything changed. People came, people went, and still I watch a watered down version of those double doors. A wavy person came out, Ducky stood, there was a spot about the size of a golf ball of blood, Tony's blood was on his clothes. I know it was on my clothes, I was covered with it, and it was on Tony's clothes and the Ensign's clothes, but it was on this stranger's clothes. He didn't even know Tony and he had his blood on his clothes. I made out the words touch and go but I was focused on that spot of blood.
A stranger was wearing Tony's blood, how the hell did we get here? Apparently I spoke aloud because the blurry version of Ducky was in front of me kneeling, "You rode in an ambulance Jethro. Let's go get you cleaned up shall we?"
I wanted to go, needed to go, but I couldn't. Tony was in there alone. No one was in there holding his hand, making sure he knew we were here; I was here waiting for him. I should be there in his place. To never see his smile again…. It should be me.
The next thing I knew Ziva and Ducky were helping me in the washroom getting cleaned up. I remember objecting I promised Tony I wouldn't leave him, but Tim said he would be there for Tony, to go with Ducky and I couldn't see straight to fight them. But when we got back Tim was gone. Abby was watching the door. She said Tim went through the doors. Everything was brought into overly sharp focus.
Suddenly Tim came through the doors dragging a nurse. He grabbed my arm gently and pulled, "Come on Boss." When did McGee, Tim, become this man? He was strong, confident, calming. He helped me change into scrubs that my shaking hands could not get to work. Tim stood beside me every step of the way. Each agonizing step. At the new set of doors, he stopped and gave me a gentle shove, "Go on, Jethro. She will take you to Tony." He wasn't wearing scrubs or a mask. The nurse's hand replaced Tim's and I saw understanding in her eyes. The room was big, people laying on gurney's, in stages of wakefulness, with various degrees of equipment.
At the end was Tony. He was so still. There was a chair next to his bed. She led me to him and put my hand on his. It was so unexpected, so warm. She pointed out the machines especially the one that rang in time to his heartbeat. This wasn't the first time I had been in a hospital I knew what the machines were and what they did but this time I was aware.
I sat there through three sets of nurses. They came in, did their thing, and left. Sometimes one of the team would come in and hold Tony's hand while I went to the head or ate something. I was dozing when a twitch woke me up. The hand I held grasped me tightly. Then he opened his eyes. He looked at our hands joined together, then he looked me in the eyes and his features softened before he closed his eyes again. The second time he woke I still held his hand. This time I told him. Everything. Everything that was in my heart and my head. My eyes burned and I know that I still had tears streaming down my face. When I finished it was my turn to utter those words.
His voice was raspy from being unused and full of emotion, 'I won't."