Chapter 65. Faith
“Think Gibbs would like this?” Abby looks curious as he puts down his coffee cup. “The coffee. It’s different, but good.”
“It’s got chickory in it.”
“And that would be...”
“Huh... It’s tasty.”
“Yep.” She looks at her cup. “I don’t know if he’d like it, but he’d probably like the idea that you thought about it.”
Tim ponders that for a moment. “I’m not sure we have the kind of relationship where I get him presents. He’d probably like it from you.”
“Oh no. Your idea. You give it to him. He likes presents.” She says with a grin.
“When has anyone gotten him a present? I mean, besides you?”
“I don’t think that was intentional.”
“Rumor has it he liked it, though.”
Tim smiles. “You’re hooked into an entirely different rumor mill from me, aren’t you?”
She winks. “What, Diane didn’t tell you about that?”
He laughs. “I managed to keep her from talking about sex with any of her husbands. I’ve got to work with two of them, and with the way we keep bumping into each other, her current husband will likely come strolling through NCIS any day now.”
“And you don’t want the intimate details of any of their lives?”
“I don’t need to know any more about what Gibbs is like in bed than I already do. I just don’t,” Tim says, shaking his head a little.
Abby looks curious, she might be hooked into a very interesting rumor mill, but intimate details of Gibbs’ sex life are few and far between. “What do you already know about him?”
He flashes her a wry expression. “Mostly that the bruises on my wrists didn’t freak him out, and that he had really specific advice for how to pad my wrists. Also he built a bed that, according to him, you could hit with a truck and it’d still be in one piece, as a wedding present for Shannon.”
“Hit with a horny Marine on leave for the first time in six months, you mean.”
“He said, truck, but yeah, that was the subtext. Oh yeah. Taking me to Afghanistan was intentional. Something about appreciating coming home. And he’s going to do it to Tony as soon as he gets the chance.”
Abby nodded, giggling. “So, what do you want to do today?”
“Wander around? Show me your old haunts? See where you grew up? I’m flexible.” She sighed at that and looked sad. “Don’t want to go home without your parents there?” It was a good guess, it just happened to be wrong.
“I can’t go home. Literally. It’s gone. Katrina didn’t just wipe out the Ninth Ward, a lot of the development on the coast washed away, and where we lived with my parents washed away with it.”
“Oh. I’m sorry.”
“It hadn’t been ours for a long time. After they died, Aunt Gert sold the house and the yard. Used the money to put me through college, and let Luca buy his first restaurant. The only thing that’s back there now is their graves.”
He’s not entirely sure how to respond to that. “Do you want to go see them?” He knows people do that from time to time. He doesn’t entirely understand it, but there are a lot of things in the world he doesn’t understand.
“Yeah, I would.”
“We were hoping to go over to St. Benedicts,” Abby says to Luca when they brought their plates in.
“See Mama and Papa?”
“Then you should take my truck. Your beautiful car doesn’t have enough clearance to handle the roads out there.”
Tim was certainly aware of the idea of Hurricane Katrina. He saw lots of coverage, watched it fairly intently, wrote a pretty big check to the Red Cross, and watched how it affected Abby, but with all of that it wasn’t real to him.
It was a bad thing that happened far away almost entirely to people he didn’t know and never would.
It’s a bit over eight years later and Beneaux, LA is a ghost town. And seeing it, empty buildings, roads half washed out, plants reclaiming the land, Katrina is becoming real to him.
They’re bumping over a road that had likely been paved before the storm, but now was about a fifty-fifty mix between rutted dirt and patches of blacktop.
“It was a pretty tidy, healthy little town until ‘88. But one of the big shrimpers got sold and moved their base about twenty miles to the east. There was a canning plant until ‘90. When those two went, a lot of the town went with them.
“Luca and I had moved on by then. But we had friends here, people we’d talk to, tell us how things went. People with skills moved on, found new jobs, new homes. Those who didn’t stayed, and kept things ghosting along. A tired and poor little town on the coast, mostly just scraping by on shrimp.
“Then Katrina came, and it got hit from both the Gulf and the lake. By then I didn’t know anyone who lived here, but we saw the pictures. You could barely tell there was land under the water. It looked like a huge lake.”
She pulls the truck over into what Tim can still identify as a church parking lot, though grass and weeds are eating the gravel paving. The building doesn’t look like it’s in terrible shape, but it also doesn’t look like anyone’s done anything with it in close to ten years.
She gets out, and he follows. For a moment she stands next to the truck, staring at a small, weedy graveyard. He takes her hand in his and waits.
She looks at him and flashes a quick smile. Or at least lifts the corners of her lips, her eyes don’t look happy.
“You really want to do this?”
“Yeah. Haven’t been back in fifteen years. Just getting oriented.”
She starts off and he keeps pace. “Did you used to come a lot?”
“On their birthdays. On mine some years. Then I got the job in DC, and I haven’t been back here since.”
He nods, somewhat curious as to why she hasn’t come back, but not wanting to press. She’ll tell him if she wants him to know.
She stops them in front of a black granite stone. This one, like a lot of the stones near it, is tidy. The weeds have taken over the ground around it, but the patch right in front, and around the stone, is trimmed. Tim thinks Luca is probably the person who left the small pile of white stones on the corner of the grave and maintains the bit of grass around it.
Gloria Marie Sciuto March 5, 1940-July 17, 1987. Thomas John Sciuto June 16, 1942-July 18, 1987. Tim sees the difference in the dates and realizes that her dad must have lingered for a while. That it wasn’t a quick and done affair.
He wraps his arm around her and kisses her hair.
“You’ve never asked me why I go to Mass,” she says without looking at him.
“True.” He looks away from the marker to her. He couldn’t ever think of a good way, a polite way to say, ‘So, come on, you’re a scientist, what gives?’
“I can feel you wonder about it, sometimes. Especially when we have sex Sunday morning and then go together.”
He nods. “It’s crossed my mind. Not having sex with people you aren’t married to, let alone living with them, was something they spent a lot of time beating into us when I was a teen.”
She half-smiles at that. “Yeah, Sister Murphy was a stickler for that.”
“Father Peter, too.”
She shrugs a little. He had told her about their conversation when it happened. He waits for her to say more than that. She crouches down, her fingers brushing her father’s name. He kneels next to her.
“Everything, everyone dies.”
He nods at that and wraps his arms around her again.
“We all stop. We rot, and we vanish. Eventually even the bones will be gone. The Earth will swallow us whole, leaving nothing.”
He kisses her.
“My parents are dead, Tim. I put them in the ground here almost twenty-five years ago. I’m a scientist. I work with Ducky and Jimmy. I know what happened to them down there. Less than two months ago, I almost put you in the ground. And if there’s no God, then it didn’t mean anything. It just happened, and now it’s over. Them in my memory, in Luca’s... The time we’ve had together. It isn’t enough. If there’s no God, then they’re really gone, and one day you’ll really be gone, and they can’t be really gone, and you can’t really go. I need them to still be there, somewhere.”
He holds her tighter and kisses her again. Feeling her tears on his cheek.
“So, anyway, that’s why I go to Mass. Faith in the promise that love is eternal and we will rise again.” She half-smiles, eyes bright with tears, aware of how silly that might sound to him.
He kisses her again, and wipes away the tears with his thumb. “As long as you need it, I’ll go with you.”