Chapter 198: In The End
In the movies, the story ends when the character dies. That's just how it is.
Or maybe it keeps going, but there's just sadness and some sort of epiphany of the value of life and holding your dear ones close for as long as you can.
And that's true.
Jackson's story is done.
Jethro, Leroy as his dad called him, has been holding his loves close these last two days, literally as well as figuratively. He's spent more time snuggled up to something warm and female then any time since his first marriage.
And it helps, some.
But mostly, now, as the funeral is over, and he's more or less beating his kids back into their cars to get them to go back to DC, there's just this huge pile of stuff.
A lifetime of stuff.
Sitting in a house.
And it's his job to deal with it.
|Puppy dog eyes|
"Really, Jethro, I can stay—" Tim's saying as he's putting their bags into the back of Palmer's van,
"Maybe I wasn't clear enough the first three times, I do not want Abby a minute farther away from her OB than absolutely necessary. I don't want you five hundred miles away from her, either. And I don't want either of you wasting your off time with me. You're gonna have better things to do with your personal days than help me sort things very soon. Go home. I'll be fine."
|Lessons in cute?|
He's staring at Gibbs with big, worried eyes, and Gibbs is wondering if he's been taking lessons in cute from Abby. "Go home."
Tim nodded, hugged Jethro for a long time, and then handed him over to Abby, who'd been pouting at him through that whole conversation. She squeezed him tight.
"You call us. You need anything, you call. Even if not to talk. You don't have to talk. Just to see a friendly face on the other side of the Skype. You call."
Gibbs nodded and kissed her forehead and then firmly guided her into the Odyssey. He shut the door and said to Jimmy, who had his window open, "Get them out of here before they change their minds and I have to shoot them with tranquilizers to get them back into this van."
Jimmy saluted Gibbs and pulled away.
He felt Tony behind him, in the few seconds before he said, "We've got personal days and vacation days, and don't need to be near a doctor."
"I know, Tony. Go home. You're basically still on your honeymoon."
"Are you certain?" Ziva asked.
"I'm sure. There's nothing in this house Duck and I can't handle. I'll be back in a week or so."
Tony claps a hand on Gibbs' shoulder. "Like Abby said, you need anything, call. We're six hours away, faster if we use flashers."
"I'll be okay."
"I know." Tony hugged him.
Ziva cuddled in as well, reaching up to kiss him. "You will be. You really will."
"We should have gone with you."
She smiled at him and shook her head, understanding what he meant by that. "No. Not then. But never again will any of us mourn alone."
He knows that's true. Driving up on his own, not telling anyone, that was shock forcing him back into the patterns of old. He spent so many years on his own, the idea that there were people who would worry, who would travel five hundred miles just to sit with him, didn't occur to him.
And he didn't know how relieved he would be, how a flash of love and gratitude would spread through him when he heard the sound of a car pulling up, three doors opening and closing, and opened the door to see Ziva, Tony, and Ducky on his father's porch, and to be immediately wrapped in Ziva's arms.
He nodded and kissed her one more time, holding both of them tight, then let go. "I'll call if I need anything."
"Good," Ziva said as they headed to her car.
He watched them drive off, waving, and then walked to the front porch, sitting down on the steps. A moment later Ducky sat down next to him, handing him a cup of tea.
"Where shall we start, Jethro?"
Gibbs put the cup on the step next to him and rubbed his eyes. "I don't know, Duck, I don't know."
They started in the basement. Three piles: donate, toss, keep.
There aren't many things here he wants to keep. The last eight years were better, but this house isn't a bastion of good memories for him.
Ducky kept up a gentle stream of chatter. Mostly talking to himself. Gibbs is only half-listening, but he finds the sound of it comforting.
But it hits him, as he boxes up his dad's dishes, that there will be a day when Ducky's voice goes silent. That one day, he, and he assumes, Tim, will do this for Ducky and Penny, and he has to sit down for a minute to keep from bursting into tears. Ducky sees it, quiets, and just rests his hands on Jethro's shoulders.
He kept the Monopoly game. An old but well-loved baseball glove. Someone'll need to teach those girls how to play catch, and he's not feeling overwhelmingly optimistic on Tim or Jimmy's skills when it comes to that. Two end tables Jackson made, and his dad's tools. Gibbs doesn't have any use for Jackson's tools, his father was a mechanic first and then moved into electronics, but best he can tell, Tim might find them useful.
He kept a bundle of letters. They belonged to his parents. He hasn't read them. Won't read them. Before they head back to DC, he takes a few minutes and buries them with his parents.
He kept his dad's computers. Somewhere in there is his accounts, and he needs that information to handle the business. So they've got to go back to DC, where Tim'll sort through them and find what he needs to take care of the store.
And the rest of it got boxed up and given to Goodwill or tossed in a dumpster.
It took three days to empty the house.
|In the store with family.|
Fortunately the lawyer seems to have an idea of what to do with that, because he doesn't.
It took six days, but when he was done, the house was empty, and up for sale, the store was closed, and also up for sale. He loaded the few things he was keeping into his car, waited for Ducky to get his seat belt buckled and started back to DC.
Ducky nodded. "When Mother died, I wanted the quiet of our home to grieve in. Her last few weeks had been so loud and traumatic…" Victoria Mallard lived to 101, which was about five years longer than she should have. That last month, when she was conscious she was out of her head, delirious from the Alzheimer's, often screaming, raging at imagined insults, or drugged into an almost comatose slumber. The Corgis, all six of them, upset at the strangers, hospice workers who had descended on the house to help him, spent hours barking. Nothing about their home was quiet those last few weeks. "That I wanted nothing more than quiet. But I think now that sharing it with a dear friend would have been a good thing."
As they pulled out of Stillwater, it occurs to Gibbs that this really is the last time he'll come here. This chapter of his life is really over, and all that's left is memory.