Disclaimer: I don't own them but I like to get them out and play with them as much as possible.
A/N: I know, I know. I said I wasn't going to start a new one until Precious Cargo was further along and What She Needs was finished but this one snuck up on me out of the blue this morning and I am weak of will. Personally I blame the 200th episode. And rightly so as this is an AU fic based on a scene from Life Before His Eyes. I'm not going to re-write the scene, it can be viewed on the CBS website at minute 28. But it is an extension of the idea of what would have happened to Gibbs if he'd never shot Pedro Hernandez. The story picks up from when Ducky, Abby, and McGee go to see Gibbs and find him in his basement. He tells them he doesn't want them there. Abby had given Gibbs a hug, telling him that she missed those (hugs) and Gibbs coldly asks if this was an intervention. After Abby tells him no and he says good and then tells them to get out because he doesn't want their pity. (So much for not re-writing...um, yeah, just summarizing in detail) Ducky ends up asking him what he does want.
So, whew this is a long Author's note...A few of my own details/ideas to clarify so this isn't too confusing. For the purpose of this fic...Gibbs, as he pointed out to McGee earlier, hasn't been an NCIS Agent for a few years now. I'm going to elaborate even further and say he retired with full benefits. Also, no disrespect to McAbby fans but when it comes to a choice between Gabby and McAbby for me, it's gonna be Gabby every time. So, Abby and Tim are together but they've gotten to a place where they're just kind of staying together to not rock the boat anymore. That is they love each other but they're not in love with each other. But over the last few years, with Gibbs leaving, nothing has felt right and neither of them want to disturb their precarious family dynamic anymore. Gibbs leaving and his ever increasing withdrawl from their lives has taken quite a toll on the team. OK, if I don't shut up soon, the author's note is going to be longer than the fic itself. This is not meant to be a long one; maybe a chapter or two.
FIGHTING HIS DEMONS
He watched them walk back upstairs. He didn't make a sound. He didn't say a word; not when Tim frowned at him, not when Ducky said his name one more time and not, by sheer will and throbbing anger, when he watched tears leak from Abby's eyes and cascade down her cheeks. He didn't need their pity. Didn't want it! Leroy Jsthro Gibbs didn't need anything from anybody, except to be left the hell alone! That's what he told himself for the last few years and what he would keep telling himself until by God's mercy he finally stopped breathing. He didn't deserve anything more. Not after the way he'd failed them.
Abby paused inside the front door, causing Tim and Ducky to turn toward her. Ducky's face reflected confusion, but Tim's was resigned.
"You're really staying, aren't you." said Tim.
"I can't leave him, not like this." Abby cried. They both knew what this meant. Abby wanted to take him in her arms, but knew it would only make this that much harder. Tears slid down her cheeks freely as Tim kissed her forehead.
"I'll be there if you need me." he whispered, then took a step back. "Bye Abby."
Tim closed the door behind him and led a very confused Ducky back to his car. Neither men spoke until Tim had backed out of Gibbs' driveway and started down the street.
"Timothy?" The ME began. "Why do I feel as if there is more going on here then Abigail simply trying to get through to Jethro?"
"Probably because you don't miss much, Duck." the young man commented.
"Care to eleborate?"
"Nothing's the same, Ducky. Everything changed when he left, you know that. It's not that we don't love each other anymore. In fact, I think if she could let this go, we could even be happy for the rest of our lives. Maybe, it would never be what it started out as, but we could make each other happy. That's not how Abby's built and I can't ask her to be something she's not."
"I don't understand, Timothy. Are you saying that you and Abby are ending your relationship?"
"Yes. I love her, Duck, and she loves me, but we haven't been in love for a while now. And I don't know if I ever really had her whole heart to begin with. I thought I could live with that. I guess we both did, for awhile." Tim stared straight ahead. "He took a part of her with him. He's either got to give it back or she has to find a way to live without it. I hope she can find a way."
"Oh Timothy." Ducky sighed, his heart ached for his friends. "I am so sorry."
"Me too, Duck. Me too."
Abby curled up on his couch, letting the tears fall at will. She never wanted to hurt Tim. He was such a good man; such a good friend. She'd tried so hard to get him out of her heart. She knew it was no good for her to love a man who couldn't love her back, not the way she loved him. Their friendship; that bond had to be enough because with Gibbs you took what he offered or you got nothing.
Tim loved her. He treated her with love and respect. Any woman in their right mind would be lucky to have a man like Tim McGee in her life. Things had been good when they'd started their love affair back up. Both of them were lonely and they filled that void in each other. It had been everything that a new romance was supposed to be in the beginning, even better because they knew each other so well. She closed off that part of herself that longed for Gibbs, sealed it tight or so she thought. But when he left, there was a crack in her carefully constructed wall. She tried desperately to ignore it, but each time she reached out to him, it crumbled just a little more. Seeing him today, hearing him tell them to get out; that he didn't want their pity...he hadn't even hugged her back. That should have sent her running from his life. Self-preservation should have kicked in. She was a smart woman, after all. All she'd felt was a desperate need to hold him and never let go. She might be damning herself but she knew no other alternative right now.
He threw the empty bottle back on the workbench and looked around for another bottle. Not finding one, he sighed and heaved himself on unsteady feet from his stool. Making his way upstairs, he tried to decide whether to drink himself stupid in his living room or return back to his sanctuary. He decided it didn't matter. The emptiness rattling around inside him was worse than normal. Then, he was surprised. It was always worse on days Abby visited. She had been the hardest one to let go of. "Let go of" didn't really describe it either. It had more like cutting...cutting her out of his heart. She didn't belong there. It wasn't safe; for her or for him. He couldn't love, not anymore. For a time, he'd begun to think he could again and then, much to his astonishment, he'd wanted to. She had made him want to. One case. That one case had reminded him that he couldn't; that he wasn't meant to...he didn't deserve to. Thank God he'd been reminded before he was able to hurt her like he'd hurt everyone else.
Abby sat up when she heard his boots clump up the stairs. It was probably better to do this now rather than wait until he was more drunk. She heard the basement door creak and then rummaging through a cupboard, the distinctive sound of glass on glass and then footsteps coming toward her. It didn't take much to know when he'd spotted her; his footsteps halted abruptly.
"Thought I told you to leave." his rough voice grumbled from behind
She didn't bother to turn. "Looks like I didn't listen."
"Suit yourself." he mumbled before turning around and going back to the basement, closing the door a little harder than necessary.
"I plan to." She said to the empty room.
Gibbs was a quarter way through the new bottle, wondering just how long she would stick this out, when he heard clattering in his kitchen. He tilted his head toward the ceiling to listen. Soon the sound of running water hit his ears. He listened to her move about his kitchen for the next hour, wondering what she was doing but refusing to go investigate. Half a bottle of bourbon later a glorious smell began to drift down to him. His stomach rumbled and he cursed. Why the hell wouldn't she just leave him alone!
Abby checked on the baked ziti, reset the timer and started putting dishes away, not that there were many to put away. It was apparent by the amount of empty take out containers that Gibbs had been living on delivery for quite some time now. With all the containers in a trash bag and the table and counters wiped down, Abby started on the fridge. Half an hour later, his fridge was cleared of science experiments and disinfected. Maybe tomorrow she'd call Kate and have Tony bring some groceries. Just then the oven timer went off and she busied herself taking out their dinner and cutting portions for plates. When she was done, she simply opened the door to the basement and flipped on the light over the stairs. Then she sat down across from the place she set for him and waited.
The door creaked open, the light over the stairs flicked on and the wonderful aroma of a home cooked meal drifted down to him. He took another long pull from the bottle and fixed his gaze on the open door. He lasted ten minutes.
Abby glanced up when his shadow darkened the doorway. "Why are you still here?" he asked.
She ignored the question and picked up her fork. "Dinner's getting cold. Sit down and eat."
He took a seat and began to eat, fixing her with a glare. "Told you to leave."
"We've established that. Moved on, I thought. You also told me to suit myself and it suited me to make you dinner."
They continued on in silence. The sound of silverware scraping against plates were the only sounds permeating the silence. He finished and let his fork fall with a clatter before standing up.
"Now you fulfilled your obligation. I'm fed, obviously still have a pulse. You can go home now." His words were biting. He moved back toward the basement.
"Is that what you think?" she whispered, so low he could hardly hear her. You think you're an obligation?"
"Doesn't matter what I think."
Abby pushed her chair back with enough force to send it banging into the counter behind her. "Does it matter what I think?"
"Abby...go home." His tone was flat; emotionless. He was shocked when she grabbed his arm and yanked him around to face her.
"Look at me, Gibbs! Answer me! Do you even care what I think anymore? Do you care how I feel?"
He fought to keep his voice cold, no emotion in his eyes. "I know how you feel and I don't need your pity!"
"You're such an ass! You don't know a damn thing!"
"Then I guess we have nothing to talk about. Go home, Abby." He started for the stairs again, but she wasn't done.
"We all understood you know. When you left, nobody blamed you. We never should have been taken off that case."
He closed his eyes and demanded his pulse calm. He willed her to stop talking. He didn't want to hear this.
"Maybe we could have stopped him from going after Peters. Vance had a point but he shouldn't have pulled us from the case, no matter how close it was to..."
"Don't!" he growled.
"But we understood why you left. But then you pulled away from all of us. Just started shutting down, showing up to spend time with us less and less. Do you even care that we miss you? Do you care that we love you?" Tears cascaded down her cheeks.
He hated it when she cried. He couldn't turn around. "You're all fine, don't need me."
He hadn't even taken a step when the plate flew past his ear and shattered against the door in front of him.
"I need you!" She screamed at his back. "I ...need you."
"Then you need to get over that, Abby. Better if you do." He stepped over the broken plate and walked through the basement door. Her hoarse voice made his chest ache, "Go to hell, Gibbs." Closing the door behind him, he whispered, "Already there."
It had been too close, like a mirror image reflecting his life's greatest heartache back to him. A sick, sadistic play spotlighting his deepest pain for him to relive from every possible angle with every piece of evidence collected. Only the smallest details were different.
Elizabeth and Sasha Matthews. Wife and daughter of Marine Gunnery Sargeant Todd Matthews, stationed in Iraq. Mrs. Matthews witnessed a mob hit. She and her daughter had been taken into protective custody. Two days later, on their way to be relocated to a safehouse outside of DC, their driver was gunned down. The van carrying the woman and child careened off a bridge to their death. All of them knew who was behind it. James Peters, head of the DC Men, had sanctioned the hit. Gibbs' team was in charge of the investigation. At least they were until Leon Vance had decided that the case was too close to home for Gibbs, and re-assigned the investigation to Emmerson's team. Lead after lead fizzled before their eyes and Peters walked. Three weeks later, Gunny Matthews sat in interrogation at NCIS for the murder of James Peters.
Gibbs had stood in the observation room as Emmerson conducted the interview.
"So you decided to take matters into your own hands. Deal out your own justice."
Gunnery Sargeant Matthews looked with vacant eyes at Emmerson. "My wife and my daughter are dead Agent Emmerson and that piece of shit was walking around free. My little girl will never pick another flower. She'll never play with her friends or get a chance to grow up. I wasn't gonna let that monster spend one more day breathing air when my wife and daughter couldn't. It's what any real husband and father would do."
It's what any real husband and father would do. Those words haunted him every second of every minute of every day. Shannon and Kelly's faces wouldn't leave his mind. He'd stared down the scope of his sniper rifle at Pedro Hernandez...and didn't pull the trigger. It's what any real husband and father would do. He'd failed them in their life and in their deaths. Gibbs left NCIS and shortly thereafter, began to slowly leave his life.
Shannon and Kelly, Hernandez, Elizabeth and Sasha Matthews, GySGT Matthews, Peters, Abby, Tony, Tim, Ducky, and Kate...they drifted in and out of sight. Their voices echoed in his head. Calling out questions and accusations until he couldn't hear them clearly anymore, their voices blending together in a maddening crescendo of noise until he felt like his skull would explode. Suddenly, over the roar, he could hear it. It's what any real husband and father would do...It's what any real husband and father would do...It's what any real husband and father would do...It's what any real husband and father would do!
Gibbs shot up, crying out! His heart hammered in his chest as he gulped for air.
Abby woke slowly, hearing footsteps upstairs. A few minutes later she heard the shower turn on. Seizing the moment she got up and went to the coffee maker and turned it on before going to the laundry room and retrieving the sheets she'd washed last night from the dryer. She took them upstairs and then returned to pour a fesh mug of the steaming brew and returned upstairs.
Abby stood outside the master bath and listened. The water was still running. She cracked the door and peered inside, before creeping forward. She laid the mug of coffee, clean boxers and sleepants, razor and shaving cream on the sink and then ventured back into the bedroom to finish her task.
Stepping back, he watched the soap and shampoo swirl as it was rinsed down the drain. He was so tired. He could sleep for an hour or a day and it made no difference anymore. He still woke up feeling beaten and exhausted. It hurt. It hurt so damn bad and he just wanted it to stop. His legs suddenly felt too weak to hold his own weight and he slid down the cool tiles to the floor.
He didn't know how long he sat there. It didn't matter. He sat until the water turned cold; beating down on him like tiny fists of failure and regrets. That's all he had left, a long list of failures and regrets. Every corner of his home harbored ghosts, could have beens and should have beens howling at him night after night until he passed out. Dead man with a pulse.
Struggling to his feet, he turned off the water and got out. He toweled off and threw the used garment in the hamper. It was then he noticed the steaming mug and various accoutrements on the sink. Coffee. He hadn't even noticed the smell. He couldn't remember the last time his house had been filled with the aroma. After awhile he'd just forgone the pretense of coffee between bourbon and just stuck with the bourbon. He lifted the mug to his lips, being careful not to slosh the hot liquid all over in his shaking hands. He had to admit. It smelled great; tasted even better. She remembered exactly how he liked it. Why wasn't he surprised.
He drained the last of the coffee from his mug and then slipped on the fresh pair of boxers and sleepants. He stared at his reflection in the mirror. He didn't recognize the man in the mirror. He was old and tired looking. Days old scruff covered lifeless features and hollow eyes stared back at him. He ran a hand over his face. He could use a shave. Maybe if he shaved and was a good boy, she'd leave. She couldn't be here. He couldn't let her stay.