Chapter 145: A Funeral and A Prayer
Of all the funerals they've been to together, this is the one that hurts the worst.
For Kate there was the fact that Ari was dead. Gibbs had killed him. And if vengeance is hollow in the light of grief, it's better than nothing.
For Jenny, at least she went out on her own terms. Instead of wasting away, or letting the bad guys win, she took control and ended things the way she wanted them. Tim's not sure if that really helped or not, he wasn't close enough to Jen to really need the comfort, hollow though it probably was. But in the long run, he doesn't think that helped, much.
All of that was true for Mike, and he had a good, long life to go with it. Though as Tim gets older, Mike's sixty-three years seems less and less like a long life. But it still didn't make standing there with Abby, crying over him, any better.
This is like Jackie Vance's funeral, times a million because Jimmy and Breena are family and Jon, or at least the hope and idea of Jon, was beloved. There's nothing to say, no platitudes that help.
This is the lightning strike, the out of control car that barrels through your living room wall. There's no context that comforts. Nothing you can do to protect yourself from it.
This is the paralyzing horror of random chance, the roll of the die coming up wrong.
And at this funeral, Tim didn't even try to not cry.
They got home and just crashed on the sofa. He pulled his tie loose and popped the top button on his collar as she kicked off her heels.
"I hate this suit."
"Huh?" Abby looked at him with puffy, red eyes, and an air of bone-deep, weary sorrow about her.
He shook his head. "I only wear it to funerals. Haven't worn it since Mike's. Right now I just want to set fire to the damn thing."
She looked at their fireplace, fifteen feet away on the opposite wall. "That would require getting up."
"Do you want to get up?"
"No." Fifteen feet might as well be the other side of the Earth right now.
They just sat there. Tim picked up the remote, turned the TV on, remembered they'd gotten rid of cable in favor of all streaming content a month ago, and turned the TV off. It's not that he wants to watch anything, he just wants some blank, meaningless noise in the background, wants the empty, hypnotic feel of just flipping through the channels.
"You hungry?" Abby asked. There had been food at Jimmy and Breena's after the funeral, but neither of them had felt like eating. Tim wasn't sure if a funeral followed by a… wake he guesses—wakes in his world are loud, usually drunk affairs, with stories and songs, and this was anything but that—at Jimmy and Breena's made sense, but her parents thought it would help, and well, he figures that if anyone gets the details of the whole mourning thing, it's the Slaters.
"Nope. I'll get you something if you want it."
They just sit there, his arm around her, her head on his shoulder, her legs over his.
The last time they hurt this bad… he shook his head… they've never hurt this bad, not together.
Kate was probably close for her. And that certainly hurt him. Hurt in a lot of different ways on a lot of different levels, but when it came down to it, he didn't love Kate. He liked her. He really liked her. But they'd only really worked together for a year, and he was Probie to her, even if she didn't call him that the way Tony did.
Mike was closer. His death held a similar combination of sorrow and fear. But the intensity is different. This is a thousand times sharper because it happened to Jimmy and Breena, and is so close to their own life.
He kisses the top of her head, hand stroking idly over her knee.
She took her hand in his and dragged it up her leg, his palm on her mound.
"Abby?" They haven't made love since the night before they found out about Jon. He knows he hasn't felt anything even remotely like sexual desire since then, and he was fairly sure she had felt the same way.
She cups his face in her hands. "I just want to not hurt for a little bit."
"Oh." Yeah, it'll work for that. His thumb starts a slow, gentle back and forth, and she relaxes into him.
Eventually she's reaching for his fly, shifting from sitting across his lap to straddling him. He's not even particularly hard. Enough to get it in, and that's all that matters. This isn't about pleasure, it's not even sex as sex, it's barely comfort, just surcease.
It's what you hope to find when you reach for a bottle. But Abby can't do that right now, and he won't.
And in the end they were crying again. And that doesn't help, either. Doesn't make anything better.
There's just clinging to each other, hoping time will be merciful and peace will eventually come.
"Does it help?" Tim asked as he sat on the second-from-the-bottom step in Gibbs' basement. It's well after one AM, and Tim figured that after lying in bed, staring at the ceiling for three hours he wasn't going to fall asleep anytime soon, so he headed to Gibbs' place.
Gibbs poked his head out of the Shannon.
"Does what help?"
Tim shrugged. "Never mind."
"You sure?" You look like you need to talk was on Gibbs' face, but he's also not going to press Tim for words.
"The pastor kept talking about the promise of eternal life. That one day we'll all meet again. You believe that, right?"
Gibbs nodded as he got out of the boat.
"I don't. Jimmy doesn't. Does it help?"
"Sometimes. Not right now. Not this close to it. This close and nothing helps. Later's not much comfort when you need something now. But later, when the pain dulls down some, yeah, it helps. Makes it easier to get through the hard times."
"Abby's been praying."
"Not a bad plan."
"Not sure I like the idea of a God who gets off on dangling the idea in front of you that if you beg hard enough, He might do what you want, but really He's going to do whatever the hell He was going to do anyway."
Gibbs shook his head, sighing, and sat next to Tim, wrapping an arm around him. "Your dad's a real son of a bitch, isn't he?"
Tim snorted at that. "No, he's an asshole. Calling him a son of a bitch is an insult to my grandmother. And yes, he is a complete asshole who gets off on that, too."
Gibbs pets the back of Tim's head a little, shaking his own.
"You pray because it makes you feel better, Tim. God's gonna do what He's gonna do whether you pray or not. You don't do it because if you ask hard enough the hand of God comes down and cups a little protective shield over you and yours. That's not how it works, not for anyone I've ever met. You do it because it helps you see better, clearer, and sometimes it gives you the perspective you need to find some peace. You do it because sometimes you need a place to scream 'This sucks' and 'I hate it' and 'It's not fair' and 'Why me' and 'I'm scared' and all the rest of the stuff the rest of the world calls whining. And you pray, because if you're any sort of decent man, and I know you are, sometimes you heart is so full of love and thanks that there's nothing else that makes any sense to do."
Tim nods, he knows that feeling.
"You pray, Tim, because the world is hard enough, and being alone just makes it that much harder. You pray because you need it. And, look, maybe it doesn't help, maybe nothing changes and nothing gets better, but it feels better, and sometimes you need that to keep you going."
"Sometimes I wish I believed. Wish I could make myself do it."
Gibbs didn't say anything for a long time, but finally he said, "I know they're waiting for me."
Tim just stared at Gibbs, eyes wide.
"You think I'm insane."
Tim's shocked enough by that he tells the truth. "It sounds insane."
Gibbs smirks a little at that. "Which is why I don't tell people about it."
"Like, voice in your head?"
"No. I see them, too. Been almost dead enough times that sometimes they visit."
"Oh." Tim nodded a little, his eyebrows high, but that sort of makes sense to him, too.
Gibbs squeezed him a little tighter. "It works out, Tim. And in cases like Sammy… Jonathon… I don't know how. Maybe when they're together again he'll be the man he would have been. Maybe not. I don't know. But it works out. I do know that. One of these days, you'll meet my girls, and I'll be damn proud to introduce you."
"God, Jethro." Tim took a long shaking breath, and looked away, trying to stop his tears.
"Hey. Hey," Gibbs said soothingly, rubbing his back. "It's okay to cry when you're having this bad of a day."
"It didn't happen to me."
"Of course it happened to you. Your best friends, your nephew. You're allowed to grieve for that. It happened to all of us."
"No Jethro," Tim wipes his eyes. "It didn't happen to me, to us. She's forty, and there's like a one in seventy chance there's something seriously wrong with our baby… and… it's stupid, and it feels horrible, really, really horrible, but it's almost a relief. A sort of, lightning struck Jimmy so it won't hit us sort of thing. And that's shit, because it doesn't work that way, but there's still a sense of relief."
Gibbs kept rubbing Tim's back. "That's okay, too, Tim. Anyone who's been in combat has felt that. The bullet didn't hit you. He'll never say it, but Tony felt it when Kate died. He felt terrible about it because he's a good man, but it was there and it was real."
"No. But… especially then, I wasn't as attached enough to my life to feel it."
"I felt it when the bomb went off. Me and mine came through. Those other poor bastards didn't, but we had a few minutes of charmed life. Made it a whole lot easier to go to Dearing's house."
"Yeah. He didn't punch my ticket the first time, so it wasn't going to happen. You take whatever comfort you can find where you can find it, especially for the things where there's nothing you can do. And this especially is something where there's nothing you can do."
"That's not entirely true."
Gibbs expression let Tim know to keep talking.
"Wednesday we've got an appointment for the Nuchal Fold testing. I don't know why Jimmy and Breena didn't have it done, probably because they're 'low risk,' but it tests for trisomies…" Gibbs doesn't seem to know what that means. "What Jonathon had, and Down's Syndrome, and a few other things. And if it's negative you sigh with relief and go on. But if it's positive, they do more testing, and then more, and then eventually you're only left with one choice: stop your baby's heart or not.
"Jimmy said that Sammy's heart not beating was a relief, that they didn't have to make the choice. And now, after eighteen hours of labor, and Breena'll bleeding for weeks, now I wonder if he would have rather known and been done earlier, when Sammy was still small enough for a D&C."
Gibbs shook his head, he doesn't know the answer to that, and doesn't want to imagine it clearly enough to try and figure the answer out. "What about you?"
"I don't know. I'm not sure I want to know. If we don't find out, then I can keep pretending everything is fine."
"Odds are that everything is fine. You find that out, and you don't have to pretend."
"Yeah, I know. But if things aren't… We'll do the twenty week scan no matter what, find out if she's really a she, so we're talking about two more months of not knowing."
"You're talking about pushing finding out far enough back so that no matter what the answer is, the decision is out of your hands."
"Yeah. In Virginia it's twenty-two weeks. If something is so badly wrong that you can just see it on an ultrasound, we'd still have time. But if it's questionable, and they wanted to do more testing, the clock would run out on us."
Tim spent a minute staring at the wall in front of him.
"I feel like such a coward for not wanting to know. Making the hard decisions, that's what being the parent is all about, right?"
"You've got to do it, and you can't let the rest of the world do it for you."
Tim exhaled long and slow, and Gibbs sat next to him, keeping a hand on his shoulder, and let him think.