Windstar: Okay, so this is my first time writing a NCIS fanfiction. This story is completed, and it's just a matter of posting it all on the site. I'll probably post every other day or so. It's not as long as some of my other fan fictions, but it kind of set the tone for itself.
As a warning - it's not a feel good, family friendly story. Also, due to the content matter it may seem that Gibbs is a bit OOC. However, considering that this takes place directly after Shannon and Kelly died - I don't think that that's the case at all. This can be considered an AU, but it might not be depending on how you look at it and how deeply you want to interpret it.
Please let me know how you feel and any suggestions that you may have to improve the story on a whole.
Disclaimer: This, and all chapters following it, is a nonprofit work. The characters herein are the responsibilities and property of CBS and their affiliates. The content herein does not represents the feelings, emotions, or beliefs of CBS or it's partner corporations.
Chapter: The Waking
Leroy Jethro Gibbs woke up to a hangover that burned into his mind and tipped his stomach on its side. He groaned as an unpleasant feeling of nausea started to push him from where he lay in his bed towards the toilet that was in the conjoined bathroom twelve feet away. Grimacing, he moved wobbly legs out over the edge of the bed, and started to apply pressure on his feet.
The war injury burned on his side and his leg threatened to collapse under him. He swore and fumbled awkwardly for the cane that the doctor insisted that he needed until he healed up completely. His fuzzy mind tried to tell him that there was something he was supposed to remember about this routine – it'd been happening almost every night since he'd returned from Iraq. Almost every night since he'd heard the news.
He woke up feeling nauseous, fumbled for his cane…and then…
Footsteps. He could just hear them now, and he groaned. He wasn't in the mood for this. He hadn't been since that first night either. He was certain this was some kind of punishment from God. Broken bodied, with a dead family, and an empty home; this was almost insult to injury.
The door to his room opened and the lanky teenager gave him the same appraising look that he always gave him whenever he found him in such a state. "Want a bucket?" Same question too. He resisted the urge to flip the kid off, but there was nothing that kept him from telling the boy to get lost. He was ignored, the same as he always was, and was quietly grateful for that fact at times.
The boy moved towards him, helped him get on his feet properly, and then steadied him as they made a quick trip to the bathroom. It was undignified, but he didn't seem to care at the moment. Vomit left his mouth and he continue to be sick for quite some time before he started dry heaving.
He looked up to see a glass of water being passed to him, and he accepted it and drank it down slowly. "Want a beer?" He rolled his eyes at that. "Works with me." The kid shrugged.
"You're too young to have a hang over." The kid scoffed at his gruff reprimand and didn't look particularly inclined to say anything in retribution.
"Doesn't mean I haven't had one. You want one?" He shrugged slightly and the kid turned and started to walk off.
"Why are you still sticking around here?" He had asked the same question every night, and each night the kid had given a different answer. Right now, the boy turned and glanced back at him with a look that screamed of insubordination and a lack of true caring.
"Maybe I'll tell you once you get sober." It was the best he was going to get, and he waited patiently for the boy to come back with the beer. It was an old hangover recipe. One more beer usually took the edge off – any more then that and you were liable to get it ten times worse, but one was all right.
The kid reappeared and handed him the drink before sitting on the side of the tub and looking at him with that mildly appraising look. The kid never seemed to be making any judgments good or bad about him, he just seemed to take everything in stride. It was disconcerting to say the least.
"Why do you stick around?" Gibbs asked again as he popped the cap and took a sip. The kid had been a self-proclaimed resident of the house almost since the exact moment he'd walked through the door the first night. He hadn't complained about the teen's presence truly, but it had been odd suddenly having the houseguest. He always asked that particular question, but the boy had yet to give him a straight answer.
"I told you I'd tell you when you got sober." The boy told him blandly. The marine just rolled his eyes. Yeah, right.
As they sat together in silence, Gibbs looked the kid over. It was obvious that he was younger then he made himself appear. He may claim that he was twenty-one on some of his ids, but that didn't mean that he actually was. In fact, he looked closer to sixteen or seventeen. So he asked him, after all – they never actually spoke about anything and they'd been together now for a few days.
"Nineteen." He affirmed after a moment. He grinned slightly. "You gonna tell on me?" He motioned to the bottle.
"Not my problem." Gibbs told him with a slight shake of the head. "You're not my kid." There was something there, a dark look and a narrowing of the eyes. It was gone before he had a chance to identify it, but the boy just shrugged and nodded and didn't seem concerned with the proclamation.
"Where'd you stay before you decided to move in here?" He was being sarcastic, and the boy adopted a perfectly innocent look on his face at that.
"Move in? I'm just hanging out."
"No one just hangs out for over a week." He shrugged again.
"I'll move on eventually I'm sure. As soon as you decide to kick me out."
"I didn't say you couldn't stay." Which was an odd thing to say considering the fact that he hardly knew anything about the kid. He'd just shown up and that was that. No ifs ands or buts. He'd memorized everything in the house and knew how everything worked. Even to the point of lifting up on the bathroom door before you pushed it open. It was bizarre and a bit disconcerting, but it seemed natural to just let the boy stay there.
"You should, I'm underage, if someone's looking for me they'll accuse you for kidnapping and probably endangering the welfare of a minor." The sarcasm was mixed in with a bit of scathing annoyance and it was clear that he didn't think highly of that possibility. So Gibbs fed him a bone.
"Someone looking for you?"
"Nope." He said it with a bit too much ease.
"Then I guess you're good then." The marine sighed for a moment and closed his eyes. He wondered what it was like not having anyone worry about you. It was an odd idea to think that the boy didn't have anyone that was curious about his whereabouts. "You never answered my question."
"Which one was that?" He asked with a bit too much innocence. The kid was used to evading the answer to questions it seemed. He never said anything that he hadn't thought out carefully – and he thought lightening fast. He was highly intelligent, that Gibbs could see clearly.
"Where you stayed before here."
"Ah, all over the place. At work mostly."
"And where's that?"
"Movie theatre downtown." It wasn't too much of a surprise. In the meaningless chatter he'd had to sit though, the kid loved movies and he talked about them at an incessant pace that was too fast to keep up with. It was just chatter though, and the cluttered words didn't seem to have any point, he'd blocked most of it out and just gave the appropriate "uh-huh" where they deemed appropriate.
"You go to school?"
"Nah, haven't in over a year now."
"Truancy is against the law."
"So is kidnapping." He pointed out and Gibbs rolled his eyes. The boy was quick, that was for sure. He certainly wasn't going to call the cops on the kid after all this time, and the boy was obviously sharp as a tack.
They sat in silence for a moment, neither feeling up to breaking it with anything. Eventually the kid stood up and offered him a hand. He accepted the help for what it was and was assisted to his feet and towards his bed. The kid was good at keeping track of little things and managed to make sure he wasn't in pain too much as he helped out.
"You have any family out there?" Gibbs asked, and he could have sworn he saw the kid flinch. He looked at him for a moment. That wasn't right. Why would someone do that?
"I guess, everyone does right?"
"Where are yours at?" He pressed closely on that fact, and the boy glanced away from him.
"Don't know. Don't care." He had the opportunity to call the boy out on the lie, but he turned it down.
"I need a name to call you."
"It's Danny." The boy offered. Gibbs could taste the lie for what it was, but he nodded anyway. He didn't want to press. At the moment, he honestly was just curious. He couldn't keep calling the kid…well…"kid."
"Short for Daniel, like Daniel Day Lewis." The boy was beaming a great smile at him, and Gibbs choked out a laugh.
"Fair enough." His stomach was settling, and the conversation was calming, almost. It was enough to make him stop thinking about things his mind couldn't let go. He could have sworn he heard a child laughing and the ding of a bicycle down the street. He grit his teeth. It was four in the fucking morning, there were no little girls on pink Barbie bicycles at four in the fucking morning.
He focused instead on the teenager in front of him. The boy was tall, but probably still growing. He had dark blonde hair that spiked out in all directions, it looked like it was going to darken even more as time went on – becoming a light brown that only hinted at its previous color. His eyes were a startling green, and Gibbs was faintly reminded of a poem about Ireland as he looked at them. The kid was young, probably younger then he said he was, and he most definitely lying half the time he spoke.
When he'd first realized the kid was here, he'd been slammed with a hot sense of paranoia. His mind immediately went to where the kid was sleeping and how he was getting around so easily, but those questions were answered quickly enough. Despite the kid's many disappearing acts – he always left one place with something of him to take note of.
The unfinished boat in the basement, turned upside down and leaned underneath the stairs, had enough access under it for a lithe body to crawl under and make a nifty kind of fort. Kelly used to make a club house under the boat, and it seemed the boy had done the same. Gibbs had nearly been thrown into a fit of anger at seeing the spot so occupied, his daughter's death had cut him so deep the core that any sign that things were changing and being undone.
Then, almost instantly afterwards, he had been filled with a sense of ease. Seeing the boy curled up there, hugging a well-worn backpack to his chest, looked natural and he'd let it go.
If he was being honest with himself, he would admit that he couldn't bear to have the house devoid of all human presence. The kid was a distraction – someone who was filling his mind with thoughts other then the death of his wife and daughter.
Gibbs lay back on his bed and closed his eyes, trying hard not to think of everything. His mind kept blinking back towards Shannon and Kelly, and he couldn't make it stop. Danny started to talk, suddenly and without warning. His voice low and soothing even as it broke through Gibbs' barricades. He was rambling now, about anything and everything. He kept talking about people he knew and drunkenness and alcohol, and movies.
The sound of his voice seemed to wash away the rampaging thoughts, and soon enough…Gibbs had fallen asleep.
He woke to the sound of cookware clinking in the kitchen, and he groaned as his stomach rebelled once more. He shifted, and fumbled awkwardly for his cane again, and finally managed to get to his feet. Slightly surprised that the kid hadn't heard him moving and come to investigate – nosy brat – he listened closely to the movements down below.
He could hear the soft dulcet tones of a hum coming from the old radio that Shannon had picked up at an antique store. It was groaning out what sounded like jazz – crackles and all. Every so often Danny would trill along with his tongue the various horn parts as they started to grow with enthusiasm.
For the first time in weeks…Gunnery Sergeant Leroy Jethro Gibbs smiled. It was small, but it was a start. Pushing himself towards the door and down the stairs, he managed to make his way to the kitchen where the teenager was busy making what looked like eggs.
Turning slightly to glance at him, Danny blinked owlishly for a moment before smiling brightly. "How do you like em?" Gibbs shrugged, and glanced towards the pan. He didn't remember buying eggs. The kid answered for him, talking rapidly and with ease. "I like 'em scrambled, and since I'm cooking, and they're my eggs…you can have some this way."
"You don't know how to make them any other way." Gibbs told him evenly. The boy laughed, and nodded his head, his shaggy blonde hair flying in all directions.
"True." Turning off the stove, the kid opened up a cupboard and grabbed two plates before turning and putting a generous amount on them both. He passed the man a plate and then reached for some forks.
"Where'd you get the eggs?" Gibbs asked lightly, feeling surprisingly better despite how hung-over he'd felt earlier.
"I found some cash in your wallet and bought them from the store around the corner." The man blinked, a frown settling on his features. The kid rolled his eyes. "I told you I had a job. I paid for them myself." That sounded more like the truth, but he could never be sure with this kid.
Danny shoved spoonfuls of the eggs into his mouth, eating like a man possessed for a time. Gibbs watched him, his gut churning as he blinked at the rabid pace the boy ate. It was almost unsettling to see how much the kid was shoveling into his mouth. It made him feel sick and he didn't like it.
"Manners, Danny?" The kid froze, fork half levitating before his mouth. His eyes glossed over for a moment, as though he was remembering something from a long time ago. Then, just as quickly as it came, the look vanished. He shook his head and grinned up at Gibbs.
"Nah. I can't have much manners if I'm a homeless wretch now can I?" The words were meant to be lighthearted, but they made the marine frown. His eyes narrowed slightly, and the kid fumbled, and kept talking. "Well, I'm freeloading, right? So no manners? I mean, it's not like this is exactly high class etiquette or anything…" His eyes nervously glanced towards the clock on the wall, and his face paled suddenly. "I have to go." Shoveling the rest of the eggs into his mouth, he tossed his plate in the sink and turned the water on.
He left it running as he ran down the basement steps towards the boat. Gibbs sat still, staring at the faucet and listening as the boy rustled around downstairs. He emerged a few minutes later, hoodie pulled over his head and muddy sneakers on his feet. He twisted the water off, and then started towards the door. Gibbs sent him a frown, not feeling up to talking to the kid, but still not understanding what was going on.
"I have work…remember?" Gibbs blinked at that, but the kid just rolled his eyes, and hurried out the door.
After the boy had left, the marine sat staring at his eggs until they were too cold to even think about eating. He tossed them into the trash and stared at his sink for a long while. He couldn't find the urge to do the dishes, and instead made his way towards the liquor cabinet where he'd been slowly depleting his store for days now.
As far as he could tell, Danny never touched the liquor. That didn't mean he hadn't intended to in the future, or contemplated it in the past…it just meant that he hadn't as of yet. Maybe he should get a lock? Maybe he should just kick the kid out and get rid of him for good.
Sinking into the couch, Gibbs turned his attention to the TV that was sitting across from him. Shannon had loved movies; she'd talked about them constantly. At one point in life, she had wanted to do the costumes for plays, and movies, and anything else she could get her hands on. She was a designer through and through, and she adored watching things if only to get a take on their overall appearance.
Kelly had a collection of movies as well, Disney, loony tunes, and assorted VHSes here and there. As Gibbs stared at the blank screen, he felt the uncontrollable urge to watch one of her favorites. Standing up shakily, he moved across the room and put Snow White into the machine. It didn't take long for it to load, and with some gin in hand, he sipped at it while the early commercials rose.
By the time the purple screen appeared with the white Feature Presentation letters written in cursive danced across the screen, he was well and truly buzzed. By the end of the first song, he could have sworn he felt the pressure of a head on his shoulder and the childlike laughter of his beautiful little girl as she watched the movie.
He turned to look at her, his head swimming somewhat as he couldn't see her. "Kelly?" He called out, twisting when he didn't see her at his side. The laughter continued. "Kelly?" He called out again.
Pushing himself back to his feet, he stumbled forwards. Pain shot up his leg – a harsh reminder that he was still supposed to use the cane for another three weeks. He grimaced, and stumbled, before eventually losing balance completely and falling to the floor.
Daddy! Pushing himself upright, Gibbs twisted again. He swore he could hear his daughter now. She was moving outside, he could hear her on the porch. Daddy, daddy! I want to show you what Maddie and I made!
A knock at the door trilled through his consciousness. Pushing himself upright, he moved as fast as he could. Desperation filled him as he moved in time with Snow White – running through the woods to escape the forest. He made it to the door in only a few heartbeats, but pain was screaming through his leg. He didn't care.
Pulling the door open he wouldn't admit to the painful call of "Kelly?" that tore at his lungs. His daughter wasn't there though. In her place, was a middle-aged man who lived next door – John Tayler. Maddie Tayler's father.
The man looked at him sadly, his lips in a grimace. "Sorry Jethro, just me." He said, honesty pouring from his lips. He had meant what he had said, and it took a moment for Gibbs to translate that news. Sorry for what? That's when he remembered his painful cry for his little girl…
He felt his head spin. "What do you want John?" Gibbs asked, his mood turning sour in an instant. At one point he had loved Maddie Tayler and her family like they were his own. Now, God help him, he felt absurdly jealous of them all. They were all still together…Shannon and Kelly were dead, and he was alone.
"Just wanted to check in on you, Jethro. How're you doing?"
"I'm fine." The words came out with as much ice as possible, and it made John's cheek twitch. He nodded slightly.
"Marie," his wife "wanted you to know, that the both of us…no matter what. We'll be here for you if you need us. We know how much this hurts…"
"Do you, John? Do you really know how much this hurts?" Gibbs spat, his voice cold and his fists clenching. "Because the last I checked, Maddie and Marie were still alive and well. You have no God-damn-idea how much this hurts."
"Jethro, I understand that, but we're still your friend. We-"
"Well I don't want a friend right now! I want my wife and daughter back! You? You can go to fucking hell!" Slamming the door shut in his friend's face had left him gasping for breath and reeling in satisfaction. That had felt oddly good.
Standing up, he moved towards the living room where Snow White was still playing, he scowled in anger and threw the first thing he could grab towards the television. The pillow didn't deliver nearly as much destruction as he had hoped, and so he rallied himself around the attempt to just break everything in sight.
Everything was Kelly's…everything was Shannon's…and he wanted it all to go. It shouldn't be here when they weren't. Nothing was the same now that they were gone. Nothing was allowed to be the same now that they weren't here.
Gibbs knew at some point he'd drank everything in his liquor cabinet, and probably was only a step away from alcohol poisoning. There was rustling at the front door, and he blearily turned his head to see who it was. It didn't surprise him at all when he saw the kid slip inside.
The boy stood in the hall, just in sight, and stared at the destruction that had been caused in his absence. All the chairs had been flipped over. The couch had been gutted, the TV was in shambles, the wood floors were scratched and scuffed, the glass had been shattered on the floor, the books were thrown everywhere, the tape rolls in the cassettes were pulled out and shredded, and there was ripped paper everywhere.
Gibbs had been prepared for the boy's face the whole day long. He'd been expecting surprise, disbelief, shock, hell…anything. He hadn't expected the weary acceptance that washed over the boy easily enough. The teen turned his head almost instantly, and his eyes met the marine's without fail.
"Well…did you at least find the loose change in the cushions?" The kid asked evenly. Gibbs blinked once, twice, and then for some reason – tears started to fall from his face.
Despite the euphoria that had filled him while he'd succeeded in destroying every household item he could grab, he felt no satisfaction in the boy's words. He felt nothing except an inexplicable feeling of shame. He brought a hand to his eyes and tried to rub the tears out.
The kid inched closer. "Hey…" Danny said softly. "it's okay. I can find it if you didn't…"
"Why are you even here?" Gibbs finally managed to get out.
"Where am I going to go?" The boy replied, slowly coming even closer. He seemed wary, as though he wasn't sure if he should come within arms reach just yet.
"Home?" Gibbs murmured.
"Don't really have one." Danny said softly.
"From the moment my mom died, my dad sent me away to boarding school. No calls, no letters, no vacations together…well…vacations that weren't business trips. Didn't even get invited to the last few weddings, etc. etc. Kind of hard to call that a home."
"You run away from him to make it official…or to get him to notice?" A look of pain crossed the kid's face, and he shrugged.
"I just wanted to see if he cared I guess…turns out my absence didn't mean too much to him. Kinda hard to go back now." The kid moved closer, and sat beside Gibbs on the wall. "My mom died when I was eight." The marine turned his head and frowned at the boy. "She and my dad never really got along I guess, but I loved her. She'd take me everywhere; she wouldn't let me go to school, and taught me everything herself. Spent everyday outside, 'learning through life' she always said. Dad never really liked that, and thought that I should be taught formally. They got into a lot of fights about it. She never said anything about it to me, but I could always tell she wasn't happy. One day…I guess that it was just too much." Danny's face grew sullen suddenly, and his head turned downwards. "Mom had started to make a habit of sleeping in my room – to get away from my dad, I guess. I woke up one morning, with her in my bed, and she never did…wake up that is."
"Why are you telling me this?" Gibbs asked softly. The boy shrugged evenly.
"The funeral was done real nice. Dad made up a nice respectable cover story, and I was packed to go to boarding school before I could even remember what I was supposed to tell people." The teen ran a hand through his hair and sighed. "Look, I'm not good with the whole post death grieving thing. Best I got is being sent away to a place that I'd never been. I guess if I was my dad I'd tell you you needed to get a new house and move on." Gibbs growled at that the sound came low in his throat, and for a moment he worried he might panic the boy next to him. That thought had him reeling though, why the fuck was he worried about how his reaction might be taken by this total stranger? The kid moved on. "Look, I'm not my dad, but the thing is…maybe you understand a bit too? If you need to do this to move on…then maybe we should start dismantling the upstairs too?" The teen looked uncomfortable.
Gibbs stared at him for a long while. His eyes took the boy in, and there, sitting amidst the destruction of the house, the man felt something in his head seem to click. The boy, in his own way, was trying to make him feel better. He still hadn't worked out a motive for why the kid was really here in the first place – he didn't doubt the reason the kid left home…but the reason he was really here, still puzzled the man. They'd work on that another time.
For now, he figured he'd throw the boy a bone. He didn't want the boy to leave altogether – the thought of being completely alone still gave him an uncomfortable feeling of panic. So the only other option, was clearly to just indulge the boy.
At the moment though, watching the kid from where he sat, he didn't think he really could go through the rampage he'd done earlier if the boy was still there. It just didn't feel right. There was something he wanted to confirm about that before this went any further, as well.
Striking out hard and fast, he watched in morbid fascination as the boy beside him badly recoiled, flinching violently and ducking away in fear. The blow was never going to land, Gibbs had had no intention of actually hitting the boy beside him. He simply wanted to know exactly how much the kid was leaving out of his tale of woe.
No one flinched that badly to a perceived strike unless they'd been hit before – and repeatedly. The kid, who had only now decided to open his eyes and look up at the frozen hand in the air, seemed to realize that too. His face closed off even more then it had during the brief talk about his mother, and his eyes narrowed slightly.
"It never happened." He stated coolly. The marine wasn't entirely sure that he believed the boy. At this point, it was fifty-fifty. The kid wasn't known to be a complete truth sayer, and at the moment, he was more then willing to bet that Danny wouldn't tell him the truth even if he had asked – which he hadn't.
The reaction had been enough to prove something, not enough to prove who had done it, but enough to prove that something had occurred. The kid may act like he was perfectly at ease with the world around him, but the truth was rather different. Most of what he was putting off was a façade. Which only opened more questions rather then closed them off with answers.
Why would this kid, who was obviously expecting to get struck more then offered help in anyway, willingly put himself in a situation with a drunk man who probably couldn't control himself anyway? Why would he spend his time actively doing things that could get him beaten again? If Gibbs hadn't been the man he was, the boy could have been seriously hurt ages ago. It wasn't a comfortable feeling.
"I don't understand you, Danny." Gibbs offered softly, before sighing heavily, and starting to push himself up. His knee was collapsing under his weight, and he grimaced. The teen moved forwards, though, and helped him to his feet. Another conundrum. Why would he do that? The marine had just faked a strike at him, and yet here he was, willingly putting himself in harms way once again.
"Don't know anyone who does." The kid replied evenly. He maneuvered the mess on the floor expertly, and slowly helped the marine back up the stairs to his room. Gibbs let him do what he did in silence, his fuzzy brain working strenuously to try to figure his house guest out. The pieces weren't connecting properly though, and the man grimaced as he imagined the alcohol was the problem.
"You got hit before." Gibbs stated firmly and with finality when they finally made it to his bedroom. The boy was silent for a moment.
"Everyone's been hit before." He evaded evenly.
"Your dad?" At that the kid snorted and rolled his eyes.
"My dad never lay a finger on me." He stated without pause.
"You lying?" The marine hazarded. The boy helped him onto his bed, and then stepped back.
"Nope. I'm serious; he never touched me – not once. No handshake, hug, head slap, arm around the shoulders, nothing. Touching me would mean he acknowledged my existence, and I don't think that he's quite done that yet. I think he's actively trying to forget that I ever was born." The ease of the words slipping from the kid's mouth, and the haunted look that even an expert couldn't fake was convincing enough. The kid wasn't lying. His father had honestly never touched him once.
Gibbs stared at the boy for a long time, his eyes locked in the kid's tormented green gaze. He couldn't imagine going a day without giving Kelly a hug when he'd been able. Every single day he saw her, he had held her for as long as he was able and had never wanted to let go. How could a parent who was blessed with a child, forgo that simple act even once? Let alone for the child's lifetime?
Acting more on instinct then anything else, Gibbs reached out – ignored the flinch once more – and pulled the boy close to him. The teen resisted at first, not seeming to understand what was going on. When his chest was resting against Gibbs's and his head was pressed to the man's shoulder, he just stood there in silence. His arms were hanging uselessly at his side as the man held him for a moment.
From where he was, the marine could feel the boy's heart fluttering a rapid pace in his chest. The kid was nervous, terrified even. He didn't seem to know what he was supposed to do. A sort of keen pleasure had to be taken from that, Gibbs realized. It was the first time he'd manage to knock the boy off kilter. The horribly depressing part of the story, was the fact that the boy was off balance because he was being kind to him.
"Should've been held everyday." Gibbs determined easily. The teen snorted at that, but slowly raised a hand so he was awkwardly holding the marine back. He didn't say anything, and neither did Gibbs. For a moment, they both just stood there and let it all happen.
Gibbs pretended that he wasn't holding Danny out of the intense urge to hold his own daughter, and Danny pretended that he wasn't staying there out of his own intense urge to be held by his father. It was a game of pretend, a game of make believe, and it was dangerous. The moment the game ended – life would start back up again, and the world would not be forgiving. One of them would snap, and call it quits, and then the other would be damaged irrevocably. That was the only way this could end. It was just a matter of when.