Chapter 256: Ghosts That We Knew
So, he knows Gibbs mentioned it once, and it’s not something Tim thinks about much, because, well, thinking about it too much leads to other somewhat uncomfortable thoughts, but it’s twice now in the last few weeks that he’s noticed Gibbs looking at/hearing something.
Like he was sure Gibbs was looking over his shoulder that one day in the kitchen with Kelly, but, he knows the layout of his kitchen, and there shouldn’t have been anything back there worth looking at, not that intensely.
So, as the party was winding down, and Kelly was getting her last feed in before they go home, he found Gibbs in the kitchen starting to clean up.
He stands next to Gibbs, and helps him load plates into the dishwasher, not sure if he’s going to say anything, but he’s feeling pretty curious right now, too.
“Out with it, Tim.” It was awfully clear to Gibbs that Tim was very much not asking something.
“Wondering about something.”
He quickly scans the room, but it’s just the two of them. “You really see ghosts?”
Gibbs looks up at him, pretty startled for a second, and then relaxes as he remembers that he has already mentioned this to Tim. “Yeah.”
“Hear ‘em, too?”
Gibbs smiles a little. “Sometimes.”
“Uh huh… So…” Tim doesn’t finish that sentence, hoping Gibbs’ll just volunteer the information.
“So? Gotta ask if you want to know.”
“How many of us were there for the No Shame story?”
“I’d say seven.”
Tim quickly counts in his head and comes up with six. “Uh huh.” He nods at that, remembering how Gibbs almost turned twice. “Someone sitting behind you, to the left.”
“Felt that way to me.”
“Okay.” He’s not entirely sure what to do with that, other than be glad that he wasn’t imagining Gibbs seeming distracted.
“Think I’m losing it?”
Tim slowly shakes his head. “Not touching that.”
Gibbs smiles at him, looking very amused by that answer. “So, why are you asking?”
“Noticed a few times you were looking like someone else was talking to you.”
“You really think it’s a ghost?”
He can see Mike behind Tim, leaning against his kitchen counter, enjoying this. Well, Probie, am I a ghost?
Gibbs laughs a little, looking down, shaking his head. Trust Mike to ask. So, he’s answering Mike as much as he’s answering Tim. “It’s as good a word as any. Maybe I just know the story well enough, that I can hear his voice. Maybe I just miss my friend. Maybe it doesn’t matter.”
And maybe it doesn’t matter, but he can see Mike standing in his kitchen, sipping a beer, and Tim’s asking him about it so… “Can you feel him, at all?” Gibbs asks. Might be good to at least get a clue if this is entirely in his head.
“No.” Tim shakes his head. “I never was that guy. If he’s here, Abby might feel it, but not me. I just noticed you noticing him. Just like I can see you keep looking behind my shoulder.”
Franks smiles at that. He’s onto ya.
“But you’ve got to remember. I also can’t tell if someone is lying just by looking at them. I’m better at it than I used to be, but I still don’t have your gut. You always seem to know more about what’s going on than anyone else around you, and you never have let slip how you do it.”
Gibbs tilts his head a little, shrugs a little, might as well let it go. “Better hearing than anyone knows. Until a few years ago, great distance vision. I can read lips. With the perps, it’s split between reading their faces and a gut feeling. And it always has been. When I was active duty, I usually knew when we were walking into a trap. Was good with that little tickle on the back of the neck screaming danger. Doesn’t always fire. Didn’t notice the thing with the freezer until we were in the middle of it, but I’ve always been able to feel when I’m in the crosshairs.”
“Ziva can do that, too. Maybe you should ask her if she’s got a sense of him.”
“You don’t want to tell her about it?”
Gibbs shrugs, that’s part of it. Not that it’s personal to Ziva, just that this doesn’t need to go wide. It already feels weird that someone else knows this, and honestly, kind of nice that Tim’s not looking at him like he’s completely insane.
He shuts the dishwasher and takes a drink from his beer, mostly just feeling the quiet, Tim’s standing there waiting for him to say something, and Mike’s in the background looking like this is the funniest thing he’s ever seen.
“The day he died, he told me about how we make ghosts. Not just with our guns, but… He looked at me and said, ‘You do hear ghosts, Probie.’ And he was right, probably heard them himself.” Mike nods at that. “He was talking about how we fill our lives and spaces with memories, ghosts. How the longer we stay in a place, the more we fill it.” Gibbs smiles at this memory, Franks winks at him. “He said, ‘That’s why I’ve always tried to make sure, that where ever I live, the longer I live there, the spaces become filled with memories… of naked women.’”
God, Probie, you’ve filled this place with me? That’s just depressing.
“I’d told him how I see them, and he walked out of the basement and died in front of my house. We buried him in the box I built for him. I’ve got his old files, gun, flask, and badge. And he pops up every now and again, been doing it since the day he died.” Gibbs takes another drink. “I’ve never been sure what Mike is. He always played fast and loose with the rules, so, if anyone could do it…”
Franks smiles. Tim nods. “If anyone could… Does it worry you? Not being sure?”
“Then it doesn’t matter. Do you mind if I mention this to Abby?”
Gibbs shook his head. No it doesn’t bother him, but it also doesn’t seem like something Tim would just bring up. “Why would you?”
Tim smiles a little at that, shakes his head a little, takes a sip of his own drink. (Iced tea. Time to head home soon.) “Haven’t believed in anything like that for a long, long time. But if you’ve got a sense of him, and she does, that’d be… interesting. Not enough to turn me into a believer, but… it’d be interesting.”
“What would be interesting?” Abby asked, sleepy Kelly resting on her shoulder.
Gibbs eyes flicked past Tim again, before settling on Abby, and he’s got the sense Gibbs is still seeing Franks, so might as well see how it goes… “Who’s in this room?”
She stares at Tim like he’s insane then looks around at them. “You mean, besides you, me, Gibbs, and Kelly?”
“Franks is behind you and to the left. He’s smiling, looking pretty shocked that I just said that.”
Mike did look pretty damn shocked by that. Your girl’s good, Probie, I’ll give you that. I didn’t think she could do that!
Tim and Gibbs are looking awfully shocked at that, too. She smiled big and kissed both of them, then said, “Come on, we’ve got to get her home.”
Tim and Gibbs just stood there, staring at her, eyes very wide, jaws dropped to the floor.
Abby smiles big and warm and starts to laugh. “Okay, I can’t actually see him, and I’ve been listening in for the last minute, so I knew what you were talking about, but even with that, I do keep feeling like he’s here tonight.” She snuggled into Gibbs. “And maybe it’s the fact that you keep looking over there, but, yeah, I’ve got a very clear idea of him leaning against the counter, he’s got all his fingers again,” And Gibbs notices that he does. “but it’s noting I’m seeing with my eyes. And I did feel like he was with us for a few days after he died. He was following you around, right?”
“So, either he’s here, or you’re thinking about him so hard that I get the sense of it off of you. Doesn’t matter how it happens. Seems like you find having him around comforting, and that’s all that matters.”
Gibbs takes a deep breath, nods, and kisses Abby’s forehead. Then he very gently takes Kelly from her. “I’ll get her in her car seat.” Which both Tim and Abby understood meant that he was going to get some baby snuggles in on the way to getting her strapped in and ready to go.
Tim’s still just staring at her. So she walked up and pressed against him. “You okay?”
He shook his head, then nodded, and finally said, “Sure. Why not?”
She smiled and kissed him. “Meet at the car?”
“Let me get the stuff from the porch.” He stepped out of the kitchen to the back porch, and said, very quietly, “Goodnight, Mike.”
They were on the way home when he asked, “Have you ever seen a ghost?”
“Like, with your eyes?”
“Yeah.” She nods at that. “Feel them mostly, but I’ve seen them, too.”
“Gibbs told me he does. Sees them, hears them.”
“And Mike showed up to help with the storytelling tonight and stuck around?”
“I guess. Gibbs was showing Kelly off to everyone who hadn’t met her yet. Franks would be on that list, right?”
“Yeah, he would.”
“So, what’s it feel like?”
“Phew,” she smiled, shaking her head. “Ask me an easy one next time, okay?”
She thinks for a while as he passes a slow Taurus.
“Okay. There was a way I used to feel when I was with my mom or my dad. Happy, content, love, all of that, but it was still… different… distinct for each of them.”
“And, especially since Kelly’s been born, I’ve been feeling that a lot. My mom mostly. Late at night, when I’m nursing, and it’s all dark and gray and blue, and there’s just that feeling of her nearby. And sometimes I feel like I can smell her. That hint of her soap and shampoo.”
“Oh.” He drives for another mile, not saying anything.
“What are you thinking?”
“Not much of anything.” Which is true. Long day, lots of… stuff. He’s just absorbing it. “Just, knowing it.”
“Who did you see?”
“My dad. The day after we buried them I was sitting downstairs in our house, supposed to be packing up, because we had to go, and… and I wasn’t. I was sitting on the sofa, staring at the stereo, thinking about how when he’d have it on, the subwoofer would vibrate so hard you could see it. Like really,” she waves her hand back and forth, “thumping away. And he came in and sat next to me, told me I needed to get packing, and this was hard for everyone, and me laying around wasn’t going to make it any easier. So I got up, put one plate in a box, and he smiled, kissed my forehead, and said it was going to be okay. That as long as I kept moving forward it’d be okay.”
“Yeah. Saw Kate after she died. But I told you about that.”
“No.” He’s fairly sure he’d remember something like, ‘I just saw Kate.’
“You were in the lab, looking distracted, and I said to you that I felt like Kate was there. I’d been seeing her in the lab all day.”
That startled him enough he jerked the steering wheel a bit, and quickly corrected.
“What?” Abby’s looking at him concerned.
“I never realized that’s what you meant by that. I thought…” But he doesn’t finish that sentence.
“I just… I thought I was imagining it.”
“What? Were you seeing her, too?”
“Yeah, and it was… it was just horribly inappropriate.”
“What did you see?”
“Bad as Tony ogling her in a catholic school girl uniform?”
“What?” Yeah, that sounded like Tony, but just… she’d just died. Of course, compared to what he was seeing… “He told you that?”
“No, she did.”
That’s got him a little worried. “She didn’t say anything about me, did she?”
“No. So what did you see?”
He shook his head. “Just her. In the lab. And… No. I had to be imagining it, because there’s no way she would have dressed up like Trinity from the Matrix, let alone…”
“Nope. That one’s private.”
Abby looks pretty interested in that, but doesn’t press. “She was wearing a long black dress, with long white hair when I saw her.”
“So, she didn’t look like herself?”
“No. Well, yes. Just not dressed like her.”
“My superhero. All cool and sleek and dangerous.”
She smiled at that. Kate would have liked to be the hero. “I like that.”
“I wonder if Gibbs did.”
“Go to Bootcamp tomorrow and ask him.”
“Maybe. See how tired I am.” It was getting onto midnight. They’ll get home, he’d be able to sleep ‘til four (because it was his night for the four AM feed) and from then to ten maybe.
“If you’re not too beat, I’d like to go to church.”
They hadn’t been for a month, so, why not?
“Sure. See how we’re feeling.”