Title: Alone With Them

Author: S J Smith

Rating: K+

Summary: At least Gibbs has his memories.

Disclaimer: I'm just playing paper dolls here.

During the day, it's easy. There are things that distract him, DiNizzo's's comment about how this case reminds him of some classic movie; Ziva's threat that someone needs to die, and she can do it and hide the body so no one will ever know it's even gone missing; McGee's panic attack over something ridiculous. Ducky and his stories; Abby and her ongoing love affair with her Caf-Pows. And the cases themselves, making sure that every sailor gets his or her fair due, that each murder is solved and resolved, because no man is ever left behind.

But when he's alone, sometimes the memories creep up. He'll hear the house settle and think that Shannon's walking around. Or that Kelly's going to shout that it's time for supper, or that she needs her story before she goes to bed.

Memories are a tease, and sometimes they heal rather than hurt. It isn't that he minds being haunted by their ghosts. Gibbs figures he always will be. The glimpse of red hair always makes him take a second glance; the sound of a little girl laughing catches his ear, and he turns automatically, seeking, even though he knows it cannot be.

Sleep usually comes easily, no matter what. He's learned to take his ease when and where he can find it, but there are nights when he rolls over, and wakes rather than drifts deeper into his rest. His hand finds no warmth on the other side of the mattress, and that sensation disturbs his sleep enough to wake him. Gibbs inhales deeply, every time, every single time, and rolls out of bed. The boat calls him, as does the booze in the basement, and he heads down to them both, leaving the memories upstairs instead.