The heart monitor broke the lengths of silence in the room. All tear-filled eyes gazed in the direction of the man whose heartbeats they were.
Time passed, and bodies filed in and out of the tiny hospital room. The Goth's skin looked paler than ever under the ventilator. Ziva watched over her companion, her friend, with fierce protection. She didn't speak a word for hours.
She felt a strong hand on her shoulder. She turned to see her partner, and he could tell he was barely holding it together. "She's gonna be fine, Ziva," he said, no louder than a whisper. Even at that volume, she heart the crack in his voice as he spoke.
"What if she isn't?" Ziva whimpered.
He inhaled, searching for the right words. He hadn't seen himself consoling her. In his mind it had been the other way around. It almost always was. Almost.
"Then we go on," he said, staring at his long-time friend, whose hugs lit up his world in the darkest of times. Whose pigtails brightened his day. He knew what he had said was nothing more than words. He couldn't go on, none of them could. Through all the time he'd worked at NCIS, Abby had been the glue. The peacekeeper. There would be no going on without Abby.
Ziva enveloped herself in his warm, willing arms but his thoughts were not settled at her touch, and his nightmares were left swirling around in his mind.
The sound of footsteps echoing through the otherwise empty church didn't surprise him.
"Thought I might find you here," a deep voice said, and Tony looked down at his hands, his thumbs twiddling as his fingers curled into a lazy, lopsided prayer position.
"Didn't think there was anyone else I could go to," he said, and Gibbs sat beside him.
"My door's always open, DiNozzo," the older man said.
"As much as I believe you're a miracle worker, Boss, I kinda needed a bigger miracle this time 'round."
Gibbs nodded blankly, and shifted so he was on the floor, on his knees. His hands were clasped against the pew and his head rested on them, tilted downward slightly. His lips moved but no words came out.
"What are you doing, Boss?" Tony asked. Gibbs had no reply for his younger agent, only a space on the floor beside him. Tony's lips curled upward just slightly, and without hesitation, he joined his boss on the floor.
Because sometimes, hope was enough.
Except this time, it wasn't.
For months none of them saw Gibbs outside of work, once work finally got back to something they could call 'normal'. He came in on time, and left at the earliest possible time. His hands were calloused, more calloused than usual, and constantly covered in scabs and cuts. He reeked of sawdust and bourbon, no matter how much he tried to hide it.
One Saturday morning at dawn he called the team out to the docks. Perched in the water was the Abigail, a majestic vessel. Tim held in his hands a copper tin, the contents of which were all too painful to discuss.
"All aboard," Gibbs said through the whistle of the bitter morning wind. Drizzle began falling and the seas looked rough.
"Actually, Boss," McGee said, handing over the tin. "I think Abby would have wanted you to do this."
Under different circumstances, Tony would have made a jibe at his younger agent that he was fearing seasickness but today he stayed painfully silent, instead holding tight to Ziva, whom he had grown particularly close to over these past few months.
Gibbs' stare was understanding. "OK," was all he said, before bravely boarding the Abigail.
When he returned, the tin was empty, and rain poured from the sky. Although Tony's prayers had never worked, he looked up to the sky as if to thank God for the millions of tears being shed for his fallen friend, before pulling his three teammates into a tight hug.