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Love at the Bottom of a Bottle

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“Why me, Gibbs?”

Closing his eyes, Jethro Gibbs raises the glass of ‘Gentlemen Jack’ bourbon to his lips, ignoring Kate - who’s sitting on the bar stool beside him, morosely twisting one of the whiskey glasses he’d already emptied.

“Why did I have to take two?”

The bullet hole is still obvious on her forehead, despite the professional job Ducky did cleaning and closing the wound before releasing her body to the funeral services detachment.

“I - I don’t know.” he murmurs into the glass, unable to meet her eyes.

“You don’t know?” She sounds disbelieving, and maybe she should, he thinks as he swirls the last sip in the bottom of the glass. His answer sounds weak, even to his own ears.

Tipping the glass back, he empties the glass and waves to the bar tender, with a grumble, “Keep it coming.”

“Yes, Sir.” The bartender sounds a little more enthusiastic than Jethro thinks he should, on a such slow night, but then maybe a still-not-drunk-enough screw-up of field agent/NCIS detective/team leader... and his accompanying ghost were better than no one. He hopes the kid isn’t planning on him tipping for the two of them; Kate isn’t drinking anyways, and Jethro is fairly certain he’ll drink his wallet dry.

“Come on, Gibbs. What’s that famous gut tell you? Why did I die instead of you?

“I - I don’t know.” He can’t meet her gaze any more than he can face the answer to her question, and he knows she knows it.

“I think you do.” She offers softly, reaching out to stop his hand before he picks up the whiskey glass the bartender just delivered. “I think you know what’s going on here, too. Why aren’t you fighting this? Why are you just ...”

Jethro reaches through her hand for the whiskey and tosses it back, before she can protest his action.

“I did fight him.” He disputes, “I beat him... sent him back in a casket.”

“I wasn’t talking about Ari.” She sighs, sounding like she thought he should know what she’s talking about, and maybe he should, but he can honestly say that - at the moment, at least - he doesn’t. The Gentlemen Jack is, finally, being the gentlemen and showing him a bit of kindness - blurring the edges of everything. Even Kate seems oddly fuzzy, which is admittedly odd, because he knows … he knows that she’s not physically present.

He may have been late to her funeral, but he hadn’t missed it; he’d been there to see it, to see her lowered into the ground, so he knows... He knows she can’t be there, not physically at least, and if she’s not there physically she shouldn’t be blurry and moving slower than normal speed.

“I … What?!?”

Kate said something, a moment ago; he’s sure of it, but the bartenders back, and Jethro is pretty sure that being seen having a discussion with the ghost of a buried team member isn’t a good thing, so he shuts mouth and turns to face the guy with the best blank face he can muster.

“You want something?” He hopes his voice doesn’t come out as slurred sounding as he thinks it does, because really three rounds shouldn’t have him this far under the table, already.

“No, it shouldn’t.” Kate agrees softly. ” You know something’s wrong here, Gibbs. You know.”

He does; what’s wrong here is that she isn’t here, in the flesh, surrounded by his team, laughing at DiNizzo’s ridiculous jokes or Abby’s awkward comments.

“That’s not what I’m talking about, and...”

“Sir, I’m afraid that I’m going to have to cut you off, now.” The bartender interrupts, cutting her off, and Jethro wants to tell him that he’s being rude, but doesn’t think it would make much sense to the kid, and anyway it’s clear that he’s drunker than he should be.

“Kay...” He answers and tries again because that sounds too much like something that DiNizzo would say. “Oh-Kay. Yuur’e prob-bubh-ly ri-ight.” he agrees, very careful not to slur his words. His tongue feels thick and heavy in his mouth, so it’s not quite as easy as he’d like to keep the slur out of his tone, but he thinks he’s managed it until he looks up and notices the boy’s odd expression.

“Sir, I need to ask you for your car keys, please? I don’t think it’s safe for you to drive home. Do you have someone you can call?”

“Call Tony!” Kate suggest urgently.

“No.” He answers them both, out loud, maybe a bit too loud. Grabbing the bar, he pulls himself out off the bar stool.

“McGee, then.”

He shakes his head and has to grip the bar as he sways - woozy.

“No, ss-okay. Not too far. Can walk...”

Some air would do him some good, and he’d walked further - shot and bleeding out.

“Don’t be a stubborn ass, Gibbs. Call Ducky or Abbs. You’re not thinking straight.

“Can’t,” He grumbles. “Shouldn’t see me like this... they’v nuff to deal…”

“Sir, if you don’t live too far, I can drive you home soon. I just have to close up the bar. We have a back room you can crash in till I’m done.”

“Kay, sounds good.” Jethro agrees. Kate’s insistence that he call someone is beginning to make him wonder if he even can walk home. His legs are feeling a bit like jello as it is, and well, whose kidding who, it’s been a hell of a week.

Kate’s concerns faded into the back ground as he sways again, and the kid rushs forward to catch him before he falls.

“Here, let me help you.” The kid’s pretty strong and more than half carries Jethro to a back room and lays him into a reclining chair.

To his frustration, instead of passing when he finds himself in the chair, Jethro’s wooziness doubles or maybe triples, judging by how fast the room seems to be spinning- causing him to groan as he throws an arm across his eyes.

“Hey, are you alright, there?”

A soft hand slaps his face gently, and Jethro wants to slap it away, but his arm feels too heavy to lift.

“You okay?”

That’s a pretty good question.

“Wow, you’re pretty out of it, aren’t ya? Here let me take your shoes off so you can relax.”

The bourbon’s working a bit better than Jethro really wants it to, numbing him all over, until he can’t even really feel his feet, but there’s a tug on his leg followed by a thud, followed by another tug and another thud, then muffled footsteps.

“I’ll the turn the light out, okay?”

Jethro’s grunt, in response, isn’t exactly an okay, but the kid leaves before he can get the words out. His arm’s too heavy to move easily, but after a couple of tries, he’s able to drag it down and fumble with increasingly numb fingers to pull his phone out of his pocket. It’s just as hard to open it, and it falls out of his grip almost as soon as he hits the speed dial.

He doesn’t go after it; though, he’s too woozy; his head’s too heavy, and he doesn’t even realize that the phone hit just right to dial the last number he’d called before coming to the bar. He’s just too tired and dazed to be aware of anything else and slumps down into the chair, and glad for the chance to get a few minutes rest before the kid comes back to take him home because he’s not really sure he can walk right now or even if he wants to try.