Friday, July 12, 2013

Shards To A Whole: Chapter 131

McGee-centric character study/romance. Want to start at the beginning? Click here.

Chapter 131: Sunday

"Hey Gibbs."


Gibbs stepped away from his boat and looked at her, really surprised to see her in his basement. She supposed that made sense, she hadn't been here for a one on one since…


Since before she started dating Tim. Since before Gibbs stopped being the most important man in her life. She made a mental note to visit more often. She didn't think Gibbs had been feeling neglected, but still…

"You okay?"

"Oh, yeah." She stood next to him, noticing how in her boots she's taller than he is. Then she said, "This is for running into a bomb blast for me." And she kissed him on the cheek, wrapping him in a warm hug. "And this." She slapped him upside the back of the head. "Is for running into a bomb blast for me."

"Abby?" Gibbs looked really surprised. It's been two and a half years since that happened. It's beyond old news. And he can't for the life of him figure out why she'd be thinking about it now, let alone come over to his house to slap him about it.

"I didn't know you were in the clear and came back for me. I thought you were in the building and got the warning and came for me. I didn't know…"

He just shrugged, of course he'd go to her. Bombs, bullets, fire, or knives, as long as he's alive, he'll go to her. As he said to Tomas when he was wondering if Gibbs might have been his dad, there are no second chances. What's done is done and can't, won't come back. But Abby was as close to a second chance as he'll ever get, she's the chance he can't lose. She's his lifeline, and it's not a coincidence that every year she's been in his life, he's been getting closer and closer to who he used to be.

She watched his face, saw it in his look, saw Tim was right, and then wrapped him in a tight hug and started crying.

He patted her back, rubbing his hand up and down it in a soothing manner, still feeling really perplexed about this whole thing.

Eventually she cried herself out, and pulled back a little.

"So, you going to tell me what this is all about?" he asked while wiping away her tears with his handkerchief.

She nodded and sat down on the second from the bottom step. Gibbs smiled a little, she sits in the same place, same posture as Tim does. He sat next to her, keeping is arm around her shoulders.

"I got into a fight with Tim." Gibbs looks disturbed by that, and she sees it and keeps going. "Maybe not a fight. An argument? Yeah, that's better. He's been treating me like glass lately, and so have you." She glared at him. "And I was telling him how annoying it was. I'm not a baby, and I can carry my own damn groceries in."

"Okay." He had the look on his face Abby had categorized as Danger! Rocks ahead!

"And he was talking about how it's a man's job to protect his wife and kids or die trying."

Gibbs nodded. He agreed with that wholeheartedly, but was more than a little fuzzy on what that had to do with who carries the groceries, but obviously this makes sense to Abby, so he skipped the grocery bit and got to the heart of it. "He wouldn't be on my team if he didn't feel that way. Wouldn't have let him anywhere near you. Man who doesn't believe that doesn't deserve a wife or kids."

"And he said you failed, and…"

And Gibbs finally thought he had the pieces put together, or at least enough of them to have a clue as to what was going on. Tim was probably trying to explain what was going on. Abby was mad, and he was explaining. Because that's what he does, he explains. He doesn't just shrug and go quiet. No, he puts everything into words, and now he's got a crying girl in his basement because her husband had to explain.

"God you think you did, don't you? I was hoping he was wrong. But he's not. You didn't fail, Gibbs. No one could have done anything better or different or…" Her tears started again and she sniffed loudly, wiping them away, keeping talking. "And it breaks my heart to think that you've been carrying that around, or that you might think you could ever fail me.

"You could never fail me, Gibbs. When I was seventeen, I was sure I'd never have a dad again. That there'd always be this huge, gaping hole where he used to be. And, don't get me wrong, I still miss him, every day I wish I had had more time with him. But I've had fifteen years with another dad because of you.

"And you didn't fail Kelly. I've seen dads who failed. And you aren't one of them. Eli failed. He left Ziva to die. John failed. He screwed up his relationship with Tim so badly that Tim won't talk to him. But not you. You didn't fail."

He sighed and rubbed her back some more, tried to turn the subject. "There's still hope for Tim and John."

She shook her head. "He doesn't want it. He's been hurt enough by that man. But that's the point of it. You didn't do that. You didn't fail Kelly or Shannon, and they wouldn't think you failed them, either. You just… weren't lucky."

He shrugs that off. Everyone he was still talking to after they died told him that. Didn't make it feel any better. Didn't change the fact that he re-upped for five years in January of '91 so he could get his twenty years in, didn't change the fact that he asked for a tour in Desert Storm because he couldn't stand to be home and safe while other men were putting their lives on the line, didn't change the fact that he couldn't convince her not to testify, and it didn't change the fact that he didn't go AWOL the second he heard there had been threats made against them. He let someone else protect his family and because of that, they're gone, and he's still here.

"I didn't put them first, Abbs. Rule eight. I took the idea that they'd always be there for granted."

"Oh, Gibbs!" That was followed by ten more minutes of sniffling and crying against his chest, more back patting, and Gibbs sincerely wishing that whatever the hell it was Tim said, that he hadn't said it. Because, as he said to Ziva once, he's also 'not good with the women and the crying,' and it doesn't matter that this is one of his two favorite ladies on earth, she's still a crying woman in his arms, and he hates that because he can't fix it. He's just got to sit here, useless, and get battered by her distress.

Finally she stopped crying, again, and pulled back, again, to look at him, eyes red and puffy, skin blotchy from her crying, and her voice rough from the sobbing. "Look, something happens, there's another bomb, I want you to run your ass away from it!"

Gibbs looked her in the eyes and nodded, as solemnly as he can. He's lying, of course, but he's got no compunction about lying about this. Do not upset the pregnant lady if you can avoid it was the original Rule Number 12.

"Don't give me that."

"Didn't say anything."

"Yeah and I know what you're not saying. What you're not saying is first hint of danger and in I go to save the day. You want/need to protect me, fine, but I want you to erase the words 'or die trying' from the end of that sentence. You are my dad, you're Tim's dad, you're McSciuto's grandpa, you're Ziva's dad, you're Tony's Ducky and Ducky's best friend, you're Molly and Sammy's Uncle Jethro, you're Amira' godfather, you're LJ's godson, and you're Jackson's son. You are precious to a lot of people, and maybe when you were all alone the idea of 'or die trying' made sense, but it doesn't now. Like it or not, you're our clan's patriarch, and that requires you to be around. You've got kids and grandkids who need you, so none of this 'or die trying' shit. You can die succeeding. But none of this trying stuff. No suicide runs so you don't have to face the next dawn. We're all here, and we're all together, and we will get each other through whatever comes next. So you make sure you're here for it!"

Gibbs nodded and kissed Abby's forehead.

She stared at him, decided that that was about as good as she could get out of him, and said, "Better."

Eventually he said to her, "You and Tim okay?"

"Huh?" She looked genuinely surprised at the idea that he'd ask that. Then it clicked. "Oh, yeah, argument. Yeah, we're fine. Over yesterday. I didn't realize the babying me was a coping mechanism for him. Yeah, it's still annoying, but him feeling scared and helpful is better than him feeling scared and helpless, so I'm biting my tongue and letting him do it."

Gibbs smiled at that. Of course, the explaining thing might have benefits on occasion. Some of the bigger arguments he'd had over the years with different wives have boiled down to an unwillingness to say the words, "I'm scared."

She sat next to him for a few minutes, head resting on his shoulder, just soaking up the quiet. "I love you."

"Love you, too, Abby." He kissed her forehead.

"You're going to be an awesome grandpa."

He nodded at that, smiling. "Gonna teach that baby girl of yours how to sail on this thing."

"Yeah, you are."


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