A/N: Gibbs has always intrigued me. I've thought long and hard about how to write him. There are many facets to Leroy Jethro Gibbs. I want to explore the part of Gibbs his coworkers don't see. I hope you enjoy, and please review! It really does help me know whether I suck at this or not. :-)
He wasn't sure, after 30 years, why he listened to the ball game on Thursday evenings. He used to listen to it with his father, when he was a kid. It must have stuck with him over the years. He poured more bourbon into his dusty mug, and picked up his hammer. It was time to get back to work.
As he lifted his arm to drive another nail into his boat, something on a far shelf caught his eye. He stopped mid-swing and dropped his hammer. It hit the concrete floor with a thud, and at that moment Jethro realized that his hands were shaking. He made his way around the frame of the boat and reached shakily into the dusty shelf. He thought he'd thrown it away, or at least locked it in the attic with the rest of her things.
He bought Kelly that snow globe for her 5th birthday. He used to sit on her bed at night and listen to her make up stories about the snowman inside. Every night she'd come up with something new. As he tipped the snow globe and watched the snow fall gently to the bottom, a memory came into his mind, one that he thought he'd suppressed, for good.
It was past midnight when Jethro returned home from work. He was tired and sore, and just wanted to take a shower and crawl into bed. Leaving his shoes by the front door, something Shannon would chide him for in the morning, he made his way into the kitchen to make himself a quick sandwich. As he leaned into the fridge, looking for the lunch meat, a small voice startled him,
"Kelly," he said, closing the refrigerator. "What are you doing out of bed?" She walked up to him, holding a hot pink snow globe in her hands. Inside it was a scene of two children, building a snowman. Jethro bought it for her for her birthday. He knew what she wanted. "Baby, Daddy's tired. No snow story tonight. Go back to bed."
"But Daddy, I have a good story!" she whined, stomping her foot.
"Kelly Ann, you get your butt in bed or you'll never see that snow globe again!" he shouted, the Marine in him coming out unexpectedly. He instantly regretted it. Tears welled up in his daughter's eyes, and she turned and ran to her room.
Abandoning the idea of eating and showering, Jethro started down the hall to his bedroom. He peeked in at Kelly as he walked by her room. She was under the covers, but Jethro knew all too well she wasn't asleep yet. He slowly entered her room and sat on the edge of her bed.
"Honey," he said softly, touching her shoulder. At his touch, she shrieked and pulled the covers over her head. "Kelly, it's all right, baby. It's Daddy."
"Leroy," came a voice from the hallway. He winced at the sound of his wife using his given name. She only did that when she was angry with him. "What did you do to her?"
He stood and turned to his wife.
"I-I yelled at her. In the kitchen – all she wanted to do was tell me a story. I was tired from work, and I told her she'd never see her snow globe again if she didn't go back to bed." He felt a tear run down his cheek. "I didn't mean to scare her, Shannon."
Shannon went to her daughter's side. "Baby, it's Mommy. Take the covers off, sweetie."
Kelly slowly removed the covers at her mother's request. Her face was pale, and she was sweating profusely.
"She's burning up. I can't believe you didn't notice your own daughter was sick, Leroy!"
"I – " he started, but stopped himself. He had to choose his words carefully. "I'm sorry," was all he could say. Shannon didn't say anything. She quickly went to the bathroom and returned with an ear thermometer. An instant temperature reading revealed a high fever.
"Leroy, she's running a 104 fever. She needs to get to the hospital." Jethro walked to his daughter's bed and attempted to pick her up. She screamed and squirmed, but he managed to pick her up.
"It's going to be okay, baby girl. You're going to be okay…"
Jethro's hand was shaking so much that he didn't feel himself drop the snow globe. It shattered at his feet. Glass and hot pink snow covered his basement floor. He felt his legs get weak next, and he slid down the wall to sit down. He picked up the base of the snow globe. A little boy and girl were smiling, building a snowman. Hot tears slipped down his cheeks as he threw the base across the room. It hit the wall and broke.
"I'm sorry, Kelly," he said, trying to hold back sobs. "I'm sorry, baby girl." He reached into the back of his jeans and produced his sidearm. Cocking it, he ensured he had a bullet left in the chamber. "Daddy is ready to hear your story."
When Gibbs didn't pick up the phone, McGee volunteered to drive over and see if everything was all right. They never had to worry about Gibbs if he didn't answer once or twice, but McGee had been calling him all night. Director Vance was on the warpath about an unsolved case, and he was demanding to see Gibbs ASAP. Fearing Vance's wrath, McGee volunteered to be the one to go to Gibbs' house and get him.
Gibbs' car was in his driveway when McGee arrived. He parked behind the Dodge and went up to the front door. He rapped on it loudly, and waited a moment. Gibbs usually answered within seconds. When the older man didn't come to the door right away, McGee tried the handle. Oddly enough he found it unlocked.
Letting himself in, he made his way through the living room to the kitchen, and opened the basement door. He knew he'd find his boss working on some kind of woodworking project. When he descended the stairs, his smile turned to a look of horror. Gibbs was sitting against the far wall of the basement, holding his sidearm shakily in his right hand. There was glass and what looked to be hot pink glitter all over the floor. Slowly and carefully, he stepped from the last step and started across the basement.
"Boss? Are you all right?" he said slowly.
Gibbs looked up at his Junior Agent. McGee could see the rage and pain in the elder agent's face.
"Just, go away, McGee. I want to be alone."
McGee ignored him. He came and sat next to Jethro. His boss never gave up on him, even when he was at his lowest. He wasn't about to give up on Jethro.
"Vance is on the warpath," he stated simply. "Unsolved case. Dead Marine. Looking to ream you for not showing up."
Gibbs unlocked the safety on his sidearm with a loud click, and McGee jumped. He was really going to do it.
"What happened, Jethro?" McGee asked. He'd never called his boss by his first name before, but he felt he needed to right now.
"Should've noticed… she had a fever… I yelled…" Jethro started to sob again, uncontrollably.
"Who did? Who had a fever, Boss?" When Gibbs didn't stop sobbing, McGee knew he wasn't going to be able to do this alone. Pulling out his cell phone, he went upstairs to put in a call to Ducky. If anyone could talk Jethro down, Ducky could.
"Autopsy," Ducky said cheerily into the phone.
"Ducky, it's McGee. Something's wrong with Gibbs."
"What is it, Timothy? Is he hurt?"
"No, no he's not hurt. I think he's having a flashback. He's on the floor in his basement, crying. He told me something about someone having a fever that he didn't notice, and that he yelled. Does that make any sense?"
The ME thought about McGee's information for a few moments. Then, it came to him. He remembered when Jethro came to him in the middle of the night years ago. His daughter was stricken with a 104 fever, and he had been feeling guilty for yelling at her, instead of noticing her illness. She was in the hospital for days, and almost died from a bout of pneumonia. The guilt had weighed heavy on Jethro. He'd gone so far as to contemplate suicide. Something must have triggered the memory in Jethro. He had to get over there right away.
"Timothy, sit with him, but don't startle him. I'll be over straight away."
Ducky found McGee and Jethro in the basement. When he saw the pink glitter and broken glass on the floor, he knew exactly what had triggered this suppressed memory in his old friend.
"Jethro," he said, making his way across the basement. He squatted in front of Jethro, to be at level with him. "Jethro, you have to stop this. Kelly did not get sick because of you."
"I could have helped her, Duck," he said weakly. "All she wanted was to tell me a story about her snow gl—" A loud sob escaped Jethro, and he started to shake.
McGee got to his feet. He retrieved Gibbs' bourbon from the work bench, and poured some in a glass that had been sitting there. He turned and handed it to Ducky, who held it out to Gibbs.
"Calm yourself, Jethro." He took the drink gratefully and started to chug it down. "Slowly," Ducky chided. Jethro nodded and sipped it slowly. Amazingly, Jethro started to relax as he sipped the alcohol. "Are you all right, Jethro?"
"She was dying, Duck. And I yelled at her."
"I know. But she came back from that. She was fine."
"Until –" he couldn't even continue that sentence. Kelly was barely a pre teen when she was killed. She may have lived through the pneumonia, but Gibbs still couldn't protect her.
"Yes, Jethro. It was terrible. You must pull yourself together. This isn't the answer." He hesitated for a moment. "It's not how the girls would want to see you. Could you imagine what Shannon would say if she found you in this state?"
Gibbs forced a small smile. "She'd call me a drunk, and then she'd hold me. She was good at that."
McGee stood there, amazed. Ducky had Jethro laughing in no time. He wasn't sure if it was appropriate yet, but he had to mention it again.
"Director Vance, the dead Marine – "
"Timothy, I'm sure you, Anthony and Ziva can handle this on your own, for now. I shall remain here and tend to Jethro."
Not one to argue with authority figures of any kind, McGee nodded and walked upstairs to leave. He could hear Gibbs and Ducky talking as he let himself out the front door. Gibbs would be all right. Vance was going to be pissed that McGee didn't bring him back, but at least Gibbs was alive.
McGee slid behind the wheel of his car, his mind still reeling. He hadn't known Gibbs that long, hadn't known his personal history. He felt like he'd just delved into the private life of someone who never talked about his past. When he'd heard about Gibbs' daughter passing away, his heart broke for his boss. No one should go through that. Ever.
McGee had trouble sleeping that night. All he could think about was his boss. He'd been ass-reamed by Vance for not bringing Gibbs back. He'd tried to tell Vance about Gibbs' emotional state, but the Director would not listen. He tossed and turned all night, and ended up getting up around 7 a.m. and got ready for work.
When he got to the office, the first thing he noticed is Gibbs' empty desk. His stomach dropped to his feet. He really hoped something hadn't happened. As he set down his gear and powered on his computer, a familiar voice graced his ears, and he grinned. He looked up to see Gibbs walking with Vance. They were shouting at each other about the unsolved case from yesterday, still unsolved. They hadn't come up with any viable lead. Gibbs ended the argument and practically jogged down the stairs.
"McGee!" he shouted. Tim jumped up from his chair.
"Dead Marine, talk to me."
"Um… well…" Gibbs slapped him on the back of the head. "Ow! What was that for?"
"Conference room, McGee. Now."
McGee got up and followed Gibbs to the elevator. Gibbs pulled him in and hit the button to close the doors. As soon as they were closed in and the car moved a bit, he pushed the emergency brake and stopped the car.
"Look, McGee… about yesterday…"
"No worries, Boss. My lips are sealed."
"Thanks for being there, Tim."
Tim was slightly taken aback by his boss' admission. It was out of character for Gibbs to say the words 'thank you.' He thought it was one of Gibbs' rules, but he couldn't remember which one.
With that, Gibbs gave him another head slap.
"Now get your ass to work on that case, or I'm going to ass-ream you harder than Director Vance ever could. Understand?"
McGee nodded. "Yes, Boss. On it." He was glad to have the old Gibbs back, even if it made his head hurt.