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For This Life We Choose

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After McGee headed home Gibbs poured himself some more Bourbon and sat down on the bottom landing of the basement steps.  It wasn’t often that he flat out lied to members of his team.  But when Tim asked if he was okay, he gave a good line of deflection.  One which confused Tim a little but nothing he couldn’t shake off.  But when Gibbs admitted he’d burned Rule #10, Tim was thrown for a loop and rightly so.  After 16 years he knew the rules were not to be messed with.  Explaining his reasoning to Tim would have taken more effort than Gibbs had left after a difficult few days.   Truth was, he was far from fine and while he could accept that in general, he had no idea what was really wrong.  He stared at the amber liquid swirling in the bottom of the mug, as if it held the secrets of the world, or at least maybe the secrets of his own life.

A car pulling in his driveway sent beams of light through the basement windows, causing shadows to move across the walls.  He heard the engine turn off but didn’t hear a car door slam.  He pulled the step stool out from under the workbench and climbed up, balancing on one foot so he could see who was visiting him at nearly 10:00 on a Friday night.  He got a quick look at Jack’s Mini and could see she was still in the driver’s seat.

He knocked back the last swallow of Bourbon and waited, figuring sooner or later he would hear the slam of the car door, the opening of his front door, her voice and the sound of her footsteps making her way down the basement stairs. 

Ten minutes later he was still sitting on the landing of the steps and Jack was apparently still sitting in her car.  He finally grabbed his phone off the workbench and called her.  Not bothering to wait for her to say anything he just muttered, “Do you plan on coming in or should I lock up for the night?”  His tone was flat and for half a second he wasn’t sure how he hoped she would respond.

“Coming in,” Jack replied. She ended the call before he could say anything else, not that he was really going to start a conversation with her as she sat in his driveway.  He could tell she’d been crying.  That wasn’t a surprise.  It had been an emotional few days for both of them.

Gibbs wearily headed upstairs, knees protesting each step.  He didn’t go meet her at the front door, instead he headed for the kitchen to put on the kettle for tea.  He’d had enough Bourbon for one night and he knew Jack probably wouldn’t drink alone.  As he pulled two mugs out of the cabinet, he heard the front door open.  He stayed in the kitchen, waiting for her to come to him. 

Jack quietly closed the door behind her before kicking off her shoes.  She dropped her bag on the couch and with a deep breath she headed for the kitchen.  She found Gibbs leaning against the counter, rolling up the sleeves of his plaid flannel shirt.  He said nothing when she entered the room, giving her a little smile and a dip of his chin.  Jack crossed the room and stood next to him, mirroring his position as she too leaned against the counter, arms crossed. Neither said a word for a few minutes.  Eventually Gibbs uncrossed his arms, throwing his left arm around her shoulders.  At first she stiffened at the contact but she eventually relaxed enough to turn towards him, dropping her head to his chest.  With a deep breath he pressed a kiss to the top of her head.

“I didn’t think you’d come,” he whispered into her hair. 

“After some of the things I said during this case, I wasn’t sure I’d be welcome,” she admitted as she picked her head up and looked him in the eye. 

“You are always welcome here,” he said simply. 

“Thank you,” she replied with a teary smile.

The kettle whistled and she reluctantly stepped out of his embrace. 

“You okay with tea?  I’ve had enough Bourbon for one night,” he admitted as he reached for the kettle.

“Tea’s fine,” she assured him as she grabbed the box of tea bags out of the cabinet over the stove.  She dropped one in each mug and turned to grab the milk out of the fridge.

They carried their tea into the living room, settling down on the couch.  Gibbs put his feet on the coffee table, while Jack sat crossed legged facing him.  They drank their tea in silence for a few minutes, neither one ready to talk.

“So why did you come over?” Gibbs eventually asked as he set his mug on the coffee table.

Jack took a deep breath before answering.  “Honestly, I’d been driving around for a while, trying to decide whether or not to come here.  I almost turned to go home,” she admitted.

“What stopped you?” Gibbs asked.  He had a feeling he knew the answer to his question.

“Tim called me,” she said with a sad smile.  Gibbs just nodded; her admission did not come as a surprise to him. 

“What did he say?” Gibbs asked with a sigh as he ran his finger over the chipped spot on the handle of his mug.

“He said that he came over a while ago and you seemed a little off.  I guess you said some things that were a little, a little , odd perhaps.  And he said you looked like crap,” she added with a laugh.

“Yeah.  He asked if I was okay and I did my best to deflect that question.   Muttered something about the team and how I had one with a swan, one with a kid and one with a plant.  Kind of threw him with the kid comment.  Thought I was talking about Jimmy, which I’m sure confused him even more.  We talked about Rule #10 and I admitted I burned it a few months ago.”

“Really?  Tim muttered something about a rule but didn’t elaborate,” Jack said, surprised to hear he’d completely thrown a rule out the window.

“Never get personally involved in a case, by the way,” Gibbs whispered.

“Yeah, I know, Nick gave me the formal list a few months ago.  It’s on my phone,” Jack laughed.  “What made you burn Rule #10?”

“It’s complicated and I’m not really ready to talk about it.  Someday I will talk about it, I promise.  Will you accept that answer?” he asked as he rolled his head in her direction, giving a small tired smile.

 “I will.  So you deflected Tim’s question and that caused him to worry more.  Care to actually answer the question?” she asked carefully, hoping he would open up about something, anything.  “Are you okay?”

“No,” he whispered, staring straight ahead.

“What’s wrong?” Jack asked as she gently put her hand on his arm.  She got the fully expected shrug of his shoulders and no answer.  “Jethro, talk to me, please,” she pleaded quietly.  She seldom called him anything other than “Gibbs” and when she did, it got his attention. 

“I don’t know,” he muttered.  “I’m not fine and I know that.  But as far as being able to put what I’m feeling into words, not happening.  I’m exhausted, cranky and starting to think I need a change,” he sighed.

“A change?” she asked, keeping her wording vague, hoping to elicit more of a response than a single word or an uninformative gesture.  Any hope that he would just start talking flew out the window when he got up and started to pace the room…silently.

Jack let him be for a minute.  As she went down the hall to use the bathroom she heard the front door open.  As she walked past the foyer she saw him sitting on the top step.  The night was breezy so she went in search of a sweatshirt or flannel to put on before going out to sit with him.  She found an ancient Marine Corp hoodie on one of the kitchen chairs, pulling it on as she shoved her feet in her shoes and headed outside.

Gibbs heard her come out but didn’t move from where he was sitting.  He was leaning over, elbows on his knees, chin propped up in his clasped hands.  Jack sat down next to him, nudging him gently with her hip.  When that didn’t get a reaction from him she tentatively reached to put her hand on his back.  He didn’t flinch so she took that as a good sign.  As she rubbed his back she could just feel the tension radiating off of him.  His breathing was too shallow and too fast for her liking.

“How about you try to take a deep breath and hold it for a second,” she suggested.  He sat up a little, bracing his hands on the edge of the top step and stretching his legs out in front of him.  With some coaching and encouragement, he got his breathing under control.  He rolled his head a little, trying to work out some of the kinks in his neck.

“Scoot down a few steps,” Jack said as she tapped him on the shoulder.  He slid down to the middle step and she moved to sit behind him.  Jack put her hands on his shoulders, trying to get him to relax a little.  “Stop fidgeting like a little kid,” she teased as chuckled a bit.

“I’m trying Jack, I’m trying,” he muttered as he leaned back.  She leaned forward, wrapping her arms around him and kissing the top of his head.  He felt himself start to relax, or at least until the wind picked up and the first drops of rain hit them.  Jack got to her feet and held out her hand to him.  They stumbled inside before the heavens opened up and it started pouring. 

Both kicked off their shoes and made their way to the kitchen.  Jack opened the fridge to find something to eat, not finding it fairly well stocked with food as it usually was. She found some leftover white rice from a Chinese take out order, a carton of eggs, some vanilla pudding cups and a 6 pack of ginger ale.  “No time to shop?” she asked as she closed the door and turned to face Gibbs.

“Something like that,” he muttered as he turned one of the kitchen chairs around and straddled it.

“Yeah, not really going to believe that,” she said pointedly as she walked over to him.  “That bland assortment of food leads me to believe your famous gut is not real happy right now.  And, by the way, I agree with McGee, you look like crap,” she said lightly as she tipped up his chin, brushed back his hair and kissed his forehead to help soften her statement a little bit.

“Yeah, my gut has been rather cranky lately,” he admitted with a sigh. 

“Anything else?” Jack asked in a tone that let him know he was not getting away with a one word answer or a shrug of his shoulders.

“Trouble sleeping, well more than usual.  So, basically exhausted most of the time.”

“Anxious?” Jack asked.

Gibbs took a few deep breaths and just nodded a little.

“So, my suggestion is for you to have a chat with Ducky.  Be honest and open.  You have a lot of options.”

“Like what?” he asked, resting his chin on his arms he’d crossed over the back of the chair.  He knew damn well what his options were but he wanted to see how she would phrase things.

Jack took a step towards him, completely invading his personal space.  She ran a hand over the back of his head, threading her fingers through his silver hair.  “Medication, go back to therapy with Grace, or as you said before, a change.  Gibbs, you have people to talk to, people who have your back, people who love you.  You are not alone.  I think you have a hard time realizing that.”

“That’s probably true,” he muttered as he stood up abruptly and started to pace again. 

Jack let him be.  She washed their mugs and locked the front door before returning to the kitchen.  As she made herself a few peanut butter crackers, Gibbs stared out the back door at the rain.  He declined her offer to share her snack.  Jack made a few attempts at starting a conversation but her comments and questions were met with one word answers or vague gestures, neither of which were unexpected, both of which slightly annoyed her.

“That’s it, we’re done talking?” Jack eventually asked, frustration starting to seep into her voice.

“What do you want me to say?” Gibbs spit out, his growing frustration coming out also.  He wasn’t frustrated with her exactly, he was frustrated with himself, with his inability to figure out what was really wrong. 

“Gibbs, I have never really cared what you said, as long as you said something,” she said, her tone matching his.

“God, you sound like Ducky and Tony,” he muttered as he walked into the living room and flopped down on the couch, the heels of his hands pressed against his eyes.

“Yeah, I’m okay with that. I adore Ducky and from what I’ve heard about Tony, I think we see eye to eye on a lot of things,” Jack said a she sat down on the coffee table in front of him.  “Can we both just take a deep breath and calm down a little.  I’m not really sure why I came here tonight but it sure as hell wasn’t to be yelled at.”  She reached out and put her hands on his knees.   He sat up with a sigh and grabbed her hands.  They both leaned forward a little, resting their foreheads together. A few deep breaths later they were a bit calmer.  Gibbs shifted a little, trying to stretch his left leg out a bit. 

“You want the ice pack?” Jack asked as she tapped his knee.

“I don’t know,” he muttered.  It was clear he was completely frustrated and cranky, and it was breaking Jack’s heart.  He groaned and let her pull him to his feet.  He tried to get away but she had a hold of his hand and pulled him into a hug.  “I’m sorry,” he whispered harshly as he rested his chin on the top of her head. 

“For what?” she asked as she rubbed his back.

“I don’t know, for being a pain in the ass tonight, for not even asking if you’re okay.  You’ve had a hell of a few days too and I seem to have forgotten about that,” he whispered as he tucked her hair behind her ears and kissed her forehead.

“Honestly, worrying about you at the moment is taking my mind off my things,” she admitted. 

“Great, not sure how I feel about that,” he chuckled as he took a step back.

“How about you go upstairs, take a nice hot shower and try to relax a little?” Jack suggested.

“You’ll stick around?” he asked quietly.

“You can’t get rid of me that easy,” she teased.  “I’m just going to grab my bag out of my car.”

Gibbs limped up the stairs while she threw on his NCIS windbreaker and ran out in the rain to grab her things out of her car.

Chapter Text

After changing into leggings and an oversized NCIS t-shirt, Jack grabbed two bottles of water, an ice pack, her cell and a magazine before heading upstairs.  At the top of the stairs she stopped short, suddenly realizing she didn’t really know what to do.  She’d only been upstairs once before, on Christmas Eve.  Even then she’d only been in what had been Kelly’s room, she hadn’t even stuck her head in Gibbs’ room.  She chuckled to herself and stood in the doorway to his room.  It was pretty much what she had expected.  Minimally, but tastefully furnished, some pieces were obviously made by the man himself.  Quilt was a non-descript plaid, bed carefully made with military precision.  There was a pile of books and a pair of reading glasses on the nightstand, a few pictures on the dresser and an overflowing basket of dirty clothes in the corner.  The clothes he’d just shed were on the floor in front of the dresser.  She picked them up, emptying the pockets before tossing them in the basket.

“Don’t come out naked,” she yelled in the direction of the bathroom when she heard the shower turn off.

“Thanks for the warning,” he called back with a genuine laugh, the first one she’d heard from him in what seemed like days.

Jack curled up in the rocker in the corner of the room with the magazine.  Gibbs came in the room few minutes later, wearing a pair of plaid boxers and a t-shirt with the Eiffel Tower on it.  

“Nice shirt,” Jack teased.

“Tali picked it out for me, apparently,” he explained as he ran the towel over his head, drying his hair a little.  He hung the towel over the hook on the back of the door before sitting down on the side of the bed, facing away from Jack.  She resisted the urge to get up and sit next to him, instead giving him a little space.  He eventually settled down with a book and the ice pack Jack had brought up with her.  Both read for a little while.  Eventually Gibbs realized he wasn’t comprehending anything he was reading and he tossed his glasses aside with a sigh.  Jack was still flipping through the magazine while trying to discreetly keep an eye on him.  After listening to more than a few loud sighs, Jack stood up, setting the magazine and her reading glasses on the dresser with a sigh of her own.  She stretched a little and stood at the end of the bed.  Gibbs gave a weak smile and patted the bed next to him.  “I’m not looking for anything,” he whispered, when he saw her hesitation.

“I know,” she whispered as she turned off the overhead light.  She pulled back the covers on her side of the bed and patted him on the hip to get him to stand up and do the same.  He turned out the light on the nightstand, plunging the room into the darkness. Gibbs curled up under the covers facing Jack who was basically hugging the far side of the bed.

In the quiet of the dark room Gibbs felt comfortable enough to ask the question he’d been holding in since Jack arrived hours earlier.  “Do you want to talk about Faith?” he asked quietly.  Jack just shook her head.  It was the answer he expected, but a part of him had held out some hope that Jack would surprise him.  “Okay, but I’m here if you do,” he added as he tucked her hair behind her ear.  She just gave a little nod and scooted a bit closer to him. 

“What was with Ellie and the plant?” Jack asked, steering the conversation in what she thought was a safe direction.  “Seems like an odd thing to be concerned about, especially since that plant had clearly been dead for a very long time,” Jack chuckled.

“The plant was at Ziva’s office, cabin whatever you want to call it.  Why it meant so much to her, I have no idea.  The two of them never met each other.  The only connection Bishop has to Ziva is from reading her journals.”

“I’m sure reading the journals has had a great impact on Ellie.  I took a look at a few of them, what’s in them is deeply personal and they tell us a lot about Ziva and her connection to her cases.  What about your connection to Ziva?” Jack asked, also emboldened to pry a little as they curled up under the covers in the dark, listening to the rain beat against the windows. 

“She was…she was like a daughter.  Pretty close in age to what Kelly would have been.  She drove me nuts at times, going off half cocked on cases, jumping right into danger without any regard to safety, mangling the English language on a daily basis.  But she was good for all of us, especially Tony.  It hurts to know they never got to be happy together, the three of them, Tony, Ziva and Tali,” Gibbs whispered.  Even in the dark, the look in his eye made Jack think he was holding something back.  She thought about calling him on it, but he was at least talking so she didn’t want to risk him shutting down completely, again. 

They alternated between chatting about mundane subjects and watching the room light up with the flash of lightning, trying not to flinch at the crash of the thunder.  It was almost 1:00 in the morning when Jack felt her eyes slide closed, despite her best efforts to stay awake and chat. The last thing she was aware of before falling asleep was Gibbs caressing her cheek.

After Jack was asleep, Gibbs took a while to settle down and fall asleep but he eventually did drift off around 1:30.  Unfortunately, he only slept for about half an hour before waking back up.  He squirmed a little under the covers in an effort to get comfortable. Unable to decide if he was too hot or too cold he pushed the covers down and quickly pulled them back up.  He flopped from his side to his stomach, to his back, eventually sitting up crossed legged head in his hands, facing Jack who was starting to stir from his movements.

“What’s wrong?” Jack asked as she sat up and checked the time on her cell.  Turning towards Gibbs she mirrored his posture, leaning forward enough to kiss the top of his head. 

“Can’t get comfortable, gut’s not real happy, as you put it.  Headache maybe, I don’t know,” Gibbs muttered as he let out a frustrated breath as he lifted his head up and rubbed at his blue eyes.

Jack reached out to press her hand to his forehead.  “Well, you’re a little warm.  How about Advil, some ginger ale and we’ll go from there?” she offered.

“Okay,” he muttered as he pushed the covers back to stand up.  He went into the bathroom and Jack heard him mutter a few choice words.

“Problem?” she asked as she walked out into the hall.

“Advil is downstairs,” he muttered as he closed the medicine cabinet with more force than was called for.

“I’ll get it, no problem.  Why don’t you just take a seat,” she suggested as she pointed to the edge of the tub.  He was looking rather green and she figured the bathroom was the best place for him to hang out.

 

Jack padded down to the kitchen.  She grabbed the bottle of Advil, a can of ginger ale and a Tupperware bowl, just in case.

Much to her surprise, Gibbs was exactly where she had left him, sitting on the edge of the tub.  She handed him the soda and set the bottle of Advil on the counter.

“Wait, before you drink, you have a thermometer somewhere?” she asked.  Gibbs pointed towards the medicine cabinet.  She found it and handed it to him before grabbing the throw off the rocker in his room.  She set it over his shoulders as he was shivering a little in the cool room.  When the thermometer beeped he made a half hearted attempt to read it but without his glasses that didn’t work too well.  Jack didn’t have glasses either but she was able to squint enough to get the reading.  “99.9,” she announced as she rinsed it under the tap for a second and put it away. 

“That explains the whole feeling like crap thing,” he muttered as he pulled the blanket tighter around him and took a few deep breaths.  Jack opened the soda and he tried a few tentative sips.  She took a seat next to him and rubbed his back a little.  “Okay, I’ll try the Advil,” he muttered as he sat up a little, feeling a bit more in control.  Jack got him the pills and wiped his face with a cool, damp washcloth. 

“You ready to get out of here, cowboy?” she asked with a smile.  He nodded and let her pull him to his feet.

“I’ll be out in a minute,” he muttered as he handed Jack the soda and the throw.  She took both and closed the door behind her, giving him some privacy. 

**********

Thankfully, Gibbs fell back to sleep rather quickly with Jack rubbing his back.  Sleep didn’t come quite as quickly to her, but she was okay with that.  There was nothing to get up early for, they could both sleep in.  She was rather enjoying watching Gibbs sleep.  It was rare state for him to be in, completely still.  Seeing him relaxed and peaceful made her smile. 

*****

Jack woke up to a huge crash of thunder a little before 4:00 AM.  Without opening her eyes she reached out towards Gibbs, coming up with nothing but a handful of blankets.  She heard him in the bathroom, coughing and gagging, and she was fully awake in half a second.

She knocked once, not bothering to wait for him answer.  Gibbs was kneeling, looking and sounding absolutely miserable. Jack knelt down next to him, rubbing his back with one hand, holding his head with the other.  “Okay, try to take some slow deep breaths,” she whispered a few minutes later when he seemed hellbent on hyperventilating.  When he had gotten things a little bit under control she reached over him and flushed before handing him the can of soda she’d brought in with her.  “Rinse and spit,” she said as she stood up to grab the washcloth off the sink.  He did as he was told and then scooted to sit on the floor against the tub.  Jack gently wiped his face before pressing her hand to his forehead.  He wasn’t any warmer than he’d been a few hours earlier.  She took a seat next to him and put her arm around him.

“Well, I bet you’re wishing you hadn’t decided to stop by,” he chuckled as he ran a hand through his hair. 

“Well, I’d rather be here than be home knowing you were alone right now,” she whispered honestly.

“Thanks,” he muttered as he dropped his head to her shoulder.  He’d calmed down considerably and she realized that if given a few more minutes, he’d be sound asleep, head on her shoulder.  Her days of sleeping on a cold floor were behind her so she nudged him a little.

“’Come on, let’s get the hell out of the bathroom.”

“Yeah,” he muttered as she pulled him to his feet.  He quickly brushed his teeth and stumbled back to bed.

Both were back to sleep in a matter of minutes.

Chapter Text

 

                                                       

 

Jack woke up to the sounds of the birds outside the window.  The sun was shining brightly, the rain a distant memory.  Gibbs was on his back, still sound asleep, snoring softly.  It was almost 8:00, the latest she’d slept in a very long time.  She crawled out of bed and threw on the sweatshirt she’d borrowed the night before.  Before leaving the room she carefully tucked the blankets back around him.  A quick kiss to his forehead let her know his temperature was back to normal. 

She took a quick look around the room in the light of day.  The picture of Gibbs, Shannon and Kelly on the wall next to the door caught her eye as she went to head out into the hall.  After glancing at it with a smile, she looked over her shoulder once more at his sleeping form.

Jack padded down to the kitchen, yawning as she went to turn the flame on under the tea kettle and turned on the news.  She grabbed the newspaper off the front porch.  It was a beautiful morning out, still a little cool but it appeared that spring was finally on its way to DC.  She left the inside door open, letting in some fresh air through the screen door.  The front page headlines got a quick glance while she waited for the water to boil.

Halfway through her tea she heard Gibbs wandering around upstairs.  She figured she would give him a little space before she went up to check on him.  He wandered down the stairs few minutes later, untied flannel bathrobe thrown over his boxers and t-shirt.  He found Jack at the kitchen table, looking quite at home wearing his sweatshirt, drinking from his mug, reading his newspaper.

“I have to say, you look mighty comfortable here,” he teased, dropping a quick kiss to the top of her head as he walked towards the coffee maker.  He stopped short of grabbing the can of coffee, deciding his gut really wasn’t ready for his favorite extra bold brew.  He turned the stove back on to make himself some tea.

“I am rather comfortable,” she smirked as she stood up, shoving her hands in the front pocket of the sweatshirt.  “How are you feeling?” she asked as she crossed the room, reaching for the hand he was holding out to her. 

“Better.  Sorry about that, wasn’t my finest hour.”

“What happened to never apologizing?’ she teased as she let him pull her close.  She tucked her head under his chin and wrapped her arms around him.

“One slips out every once in a while,” he whispered into her hair.  They relaxed in each other’s embrace in the quiet of the moment.  A quiet which was shattered a few minutes later by the whistling of the kettle.  Gibbs poured tea for both of them and they settled down on the couch.  Jack reached out to press a hand to his forehead.

“No fever.  Head feeling better?  I assume your gut is still not too happy, given your drink preference,” she said, motioning towards the mug in his hand.

“Head’s okay and no, not ready for coffee.  You have plans for today?” he asked, propping his feet on the coffee table.

“Nope,” Jack answered with a smile as she reached for his hand.

“How about we get out of here. Do something, something normal.  But first food, which we will obviously have to go out for, you’ve seen my fridge,” Gibbs muttered.

“Sounds good.  Whatever you feel up to doing, after all, you were the one puking last night,” Jack smirked.

“Yeah, thanks for the reminder. Diner?”

“Perfect,” Jack answered with a smile. 

After finishing their tea, each headed to shower and get ready for the day.

*****

“Good morning,” Gibbs’ favorite waitress called from behind the counter as he guided Jack towards his usual booth. 

“Morning Elaine,” he called back as he slid into the booth across from Jack.

There was a little confusion when he ordered tea instead of coffee, oatmeal instead of eggs and bacon, but Elaine quickly recovered.  She gave Jack a once-over as she set down two mugs of tea.  Jack gave her a weak smile.

“I take it you don’t usually bring women here,” she teased.

“Not on something that looks like a date,” he admitted as he poured a little milk in his tea before absently stirring it with his spoon.

“So, this is a date?” Jack teased. 

“Could be seen as one, I suppose,” he smirked right back. 

Jack looked at Gibbs across the table, biting her lip a little trying to decide if she wanted to continue this conversation.  Part of her wanted to push it a little, find out where things were going between the two of them. 

But a bigger part was just enjoying the ride. 

Gibbs spent time working in her office, claiming the bullpen was too loud.  He stole lollipops out of the bowl in her desk, making sure to just take a random color so his choices wouldn’t be analyzed.  They hung out after work, both alone and every once in a while with the team.  They ignored the questioning looks from the team when they all did hang out. Good Bourbon accompanied the steaks when he cooked and the pasta when she did.  They regularly fell asleep together.  Nothing ever really happened and they were fine with that.  Comfortable was the best way to describe their relationship.  They’d both been alone for so long, fought their own demons, worked hard to maintain some sense of normalcy. The thought of sharing their lives with one other person frankly terrified both of them. 

Not wanting to press Gibbs after the rather long night he’d had, Jack made the decision not take the conversation any further.  They made small talk waiting for the food to arrive, commenting on the news headlines playing on the television in the corner.

Gibbs ate a little oatmeal and declined when Jack offered to share her pancakes, which she had declared to be some the best she’d ever eaten.

“So, what are we doing today?” she asked as she motioned towards the waitress for more tea.

“I don’t know,” Gibbs muttered.

“Okay,” Jack muttered back.  “How about you answer this, when was the last time you did anything  touristy?”

No idea,” he admitted.

“Okay, how about we drive over to the Marine Corps Memorial, see if we can get a parking space. It’s fairly early, should be able to find one on the street.”

Gibbs contemplated her suggestion for a few seconds.  Honestly, he’d probably agree to anything if it meant spending the day with Jack.  “Sure.  Maybe Arlington Cemetery after that, haven’t been there in years either, well, except for a case a while back.”

“Sounds like a plan.  Whatever it takes to get you to relax a little, I’m game.”

“Ah, so there is an ulterior motive,” he smirked.

“If that’s what you call my wanting to see you happy and relaxed, then yeah, I guess it is an ulterior motive,” Jack responded simply and honestly.  Gibbs just nodded his acceptance.  He signaled to Elaine for the check.

The bill and two to-go cups of tea were dropped off with another look in Jack’s direction from the Elaine but this time it was a genuine smile, one which Jack returned.

“See you soon,” Gibb threw over his shoulder as he held the door open for Jack.  They headed back to his truck.  Settling into the driver’s seat Gibbs pulled off his baseball cap and ran his hand through his hair and over his face.  He took a deep breath, puffing out his cheeks as he exhaled.

“You sure you’re up to taking a walk? Jack asked as she turned sideways to face him.  She reached out to run her hand through his hair.

“Yeah, I’m fine, just a little tired,” he replied, setting his cap back on his head and starting the truck.

True to Jack’s guess, they were able to find a parking spot on the street close to the memorial.  They got out of the truck and she felt the urge to let him take the lead.  She didn’t know if seeing the memorial would bring back memories for him, if he’d want talk, or more likely, if he’d just stay silent.  He got a few steps from the truck when he noticed Jack hanging back.  With a small smile over his shoulder he simply held out his hand. He took his hat off as the neared the monument.  Not being one of the more popular tourist destinations, probably due to its distance from the National Mall, it was not crowded.  There were a few people reading the signs along the perimeter and a couple of kids kicking around a soccer ball at a respectable distance away. 

“I take it since you don’t do “touristy” things, you don’t come here often,” Jack said quietly as they finished taking a lap around the massive bronze statue, stopping to stand in front of it.

“Once a year, November 10th,” he replied quietly.

“Marine Corps birthday,” Jack whispered as he reached to rub his back.  “You okay?” she asked a after a very quiet few minutes.  He just nodded.  “Is it true there are 13 hands on the statue?” she asked with a grin.

“Nope, 6 soldiers, 12 hands.  The 13th is an urban legend of sorts,” Gibbs chuckled.  He threw his arm around her shoulders and kissed her forehead.  “Give me a minute?”

“Of course,” Jack replied.  She took his hat from him, squeezed his hand and left him alone for a minute with his thoughts and his memories.   He glanced over his shoulder a minute later and only seeing Jack, he stepped one foot over the low chain barrier around the monument, bowed his head and pressed his hand briefly to the granite base. Turning quickly away he headed towards where Jack was sitting on the bench facing east, admiring the DC skyline. She heard him coming towards her, feet crunching as he walked across the gravel path.  He stood behind her, wrapping his arms around her, pressing a kiss to her cheek.  Jack reached up to put her hands on his arms, inhaling the now familiar and comforting mixture of coffee, sawdust and Old Spice. 

“Sit for a minute,” Jack said as she let go of his arms and patted the bench next to her.  He sat down with a barely concealed groan as his knees protested.  Jack sat next to him, elbows on her knees, chin propped up on her clasped hands.  “I went to see Faith one last time,” she started.  Looking over her shoulder she saw him give his usual Gibbs move, a quick glance in her direction and a little dip of his chin.  Jack turned back to face the DC skyline.  “Gave her a copy of the only picture I have of the two of us, along with my phone number.  Told her to contact me if she ever needed anything.”

“What did she say?” Gibbs asked as he scooted a little to his left, gently reaching out to put his hand on Jack’s shoulder. 

“She asked why I moved to DC, why I chose to be near her, knowing we might some day run into each other,” Jack explained after taking a deep breath. 

“That was why you moved here, wasn’t it?” Gibbs asked.

“Deep down I suppose it was part of it.  The job had something to do with it too,” she chuckled through tears which were threatening to fall.  She wiped them away with the sleeve of her sweatshirt.  Gibbs pulled her close, pressing a kiss to the top of her head.

“So now what?” he asked, his turn to press her a little.  Jack just shrugged her shoulders and snuggled into his embrace. 

“I need to let her decide for herself what, if anything, she wants from me.  I don’t want to cause her any pain,” she explained quietly.

“What about your pain?” Gibbs whispered.  Jack just pulled out of her embrace to look at him, his question was decidedly not very “Gibbs like”.  He just shrugged his shoulders and smirked a little.  “What?  I can be sweet,” he teased as he reached out with his thumb to wipe away a stray tear.  His gesture just caused more tears to fall.  Jack made no effort to stop them, burying her face against his neck.  Gibbs held her tightly.  Not surprisingly, words of comfort didn’t exactly flow from his lips, but that didn’t matter.  Jack eventually got things under control enough to sit up a little.

“Sorry about that,” she said, pointing towards the damp spot on his shirt.

“No problem,” he laughed as he tucked her hair behind her ears.  “You gonna answer my question?” he asked, in a tone she frequently used on him.

“My pain, self-inflicted, basically.  Everything that led me to where I am now is because of choices I’ve made.  Keeping the pregnancy, giving her up, moving here, searching for her, all me.”

“Doesn’t make it any less painful,” Gibbs pointed out as he pushed the bill of his cap up a little.  “Maybe you should talk to Grace,” he said, only half joking.

“Jethro, if you think for a minute I don’t already have a therapist, you really don’t know me at all,” Jack said with a laugh.

“Kind of figured, but I didn’t want to presume,” he laughed right back.

“I’m working through it.  Things are going slow but, but that’s just the nature of the situation.”

Gibbs just nodded.  “Thank you,” he whispered.

“For what?” Jack asked as she ran her fingers through her hair, pulling it back with the hair tie on her wrist. 

“Trusting me enough to open up.  The way I see it, neither of us are very good at that.  I’m glad that we have each other,” he whispered sincerely.

“Leroy Jethro Gibbs, you never cease to amaze me.  How come you hide all this sweetness and perception under this…this,” she trailed off as she waved her hand up and down in front of him.

“Under this emotionally constipated, functionally mute exterior,” he smirked.

“That’s quite a mouthful.  But I agree with it.”

“Tony said it to me years ago,” Gibbs admitted.

“I have to meet this Tony someday.  I have a feeling I’d like him,” Jack said as she stood up.  She wiped  the back of her jeans before holding out her hand to pull him to his feet.  He got up stiffly, standing still for a few seconds while he got his bearings.  Like Jack, he wiped off the back of his jeans, missing a few little leaves still stuck there.  Without a second thought, Jack reached out to brush them away. 

“Whoa, easy there Sloane,” he teased. 

“Live with it, Gibbs,” she teased right back with a well arched eyebrow.

“Walk for a while?” he asked as he held out his hand.

“Sure,” Jack said with a smile.

They took off towards the Netherlands Carillon and the back entrance to Arlington Cemetery. 

“So, The Netherlands is a beautiful country, why did they gift us with such an ugly thing,” Gibbs smirked as the passed by the looming steel structure.

“Yeah, it is a little, uh, industrial looking,” Jack agreed.  “But the lions are cool, or cooler,” she added with a laugh.

They walked down the hill towards the cemetery security check point, hand in hand.

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

                   

 

 

    

As they approached the security check point, Jack stopped short and took off her small backpack.  “Empty your pockets,” she said as she pulled the draw string open.

“What?” Gibbs asked

“They’re going to wand us, how much stuff do you have on you that’s going to cause a problem?”

“Yeah, good idea,” he muttered as he pulled out his wallet, change and keys from his pants pockets.  He pulled his cell out of the chest pocket of his plaid shirt.  He dropped everything in the bag.

“Badge, Gibbs,” Jack said, gently poking him in the chest.  He pulled his NCIS badge out of the inside pocket of the light jacket he had on.  “And no, I’m not armed,” he said with a smirk.

“Didn’t think you were.  Ready?”

“Yep.”

Jack handed over her backpack to one of the two security guards while Gibbs stepped to the right to meet the second one who was ready with the wand.

“Uh, ma’am,” the security guard said as he started to go through her belongings with a short stick, quickly coming across the two badges.

“NCIS agents,” Gibbs announced, having passed the wanding.  “You can remove them and look at them.”

“Thank you, sir,” the guard replied as he reached into the backpack with a gloved hand.  A minute later he was convinced they were just there as tourists and he let them go with a smile and a “thank you”.

The stopped at the first bench they found and Jack handed Gibbs his assorted belongings back.

“Ever been to JFK’s gravesite?” Gibbs asked as they set off down the path in front of them.

“Once, as a really little girl, I think.  Obviously don’t remember it,” Jack answered.

“Well, it’s a bit of a walk or we can take the tour.”  Jack looked at him with eyebrows raised, letting loose a little chuckle.  “What?”

“You on an Arlington Cemetery tram tour, complete with school kids and senior citizens?” she teased as she nudged him with her shoulder as they walked along.

“Hey, I AM a senior citizen,” he shot back, trying his best to look wounded but coming up short.

“Sorry forgot.  So, walking is fine with me, if it’s fine with you.”

“Then let’s go,” he said as he pointed in the general direction of their destination.

True to Gibbs word, it was a bit of a walk but it was beautiful out.  There was a tour group by the gravesite so they waited until things cleared out a little.  When the group boarded their tram they walked up to the gravesite.  They stood side by side, bidding silent reverence to the memory to the 35th President, looking at the eternal flame, reading the four headstones.  A few minutes later the next tour arrived and they stepped aside, letting the large group of 8th graders in matching shirts gather around.

They walked to the granite wall and took a few minutes to read the quotes and admire the view of the city.  When another tram arrived they headed back down the walkway, away from the crowds.  Gibbs steered them towards the nearest bench, dropping down with a little sigh.  He set his hat in his lap, fidgeting with it, saying nothing. They sat and looked out over the thousands of white marble headstones for a few minutes, neither feeling the need to talk.

“I remember November 22, 1963 as if it were yesterday,” Gibbs started, out of nowhere.  “That day and the days that followed are etched in my memory like very few other days of my childhood.  I’d fallen off my bike the day before and broken my arm.  Mom let me stay home.  I was content to sit on the couch and read but Dad figured I could help out in the store one handed.  Someone ran in off the street yelling about Kennedy being shot.  We huddled around the little black and white television for hours.  We cried along with Walter Cronkite.  It was one of the few times I remember seeing my Dad cry.”  Gibbs stared straight ahead as he recalled that horrible day.  Jack turned sideways, facing him.  She reached out to touch him but pulled back for fear he would stop talking.  Instead she just put her arm on the back of the bench.  “The next few days were a blur.  People would stop by the store and just talk, didn’t really buy anything.  Mom kept the coffee flowing.  I think that was the first time I tried coffee.  Wasn’t a fan at first, by the way,” he chuckled, still staring out over the sea of white marble.  Jack echoed his little laugh and slid her arm off the back of the bench, resting her hand on the back of his neck, threading her fingers through his hair.  “We weren’t regular church goers but we went two days later, along with what seemed like the entire population of Stillwater.  People just hung out afterwards, nobody wanted to leave.  I remember whining as only a 9 year old could, trying to get my parents moving.  I think Mom eventually felt sorry for me.  She helped me button up my coat over my cast and let me walk home by myself.  I remember how eerily quiet everything seemed, my friends weren’t out riding their bikes and playing.  Part of that was because it was Sunday I suppose, but in reality it was more than that.  So, I went home, grabbed a package of Butterscotch Krimpets from the store and went to the kitchen, managing to pour a glass of milk one handed.”  Jack let out a little sigh.  “What?” Gibbs answered as he glanced in her direction for the first time since they had sat down.

“Just getting a visual of you as a 9 year old.  I’m betting you were pretty cute with those baby blue eyes and the adorable smirk,” she said, looking a bit embarrassed the second the words flew out of her mouth.

“Cute was certainly a word people used to describe me back then,” he teased, not making fun of the embarrassment she was clearly feeling.  “I’m sure I have pictures at home.  I’ll dig them out for you some day.”

“I’d love that.  So, continue your story, this is the most I’ve ever heard you say at one time,” Jack said, not teasing, just pointing out a fact.

Gibbs turned a little on the bench to face Jack, reaching out to tuck her hair behind her ears. “Okay.  I finished my snack and went upstairs to my room to change out of my church clothes.  Nearly ripped my polo shirt trying to maneuver it over my cast.  And yes, I was a fan of polo shirts back then too,” he added, saving her from voicing what she was probably thinking.  The grin he got from Jack let him know that was in fact, what she was thinking.  “I pulled my pajama pants and a t-shirt back on and crawled back into bed.  I think I tried to read for a while, but I eventually fell asleep.  An hour or so later I remember waking up to mom calling my name as she came up the stairs looking for me.  I pretended to be asleep.  She came in the room and sat down on the edge of my bed, brushing back my hair and kissing my forehead.  We talked for a little while.  It was the first time I’d really experienced death in any way. She answered my questions in that way only a mother can.   I remember my arm hurt and I had a headache, so I let her fuss over me for a bit.   Wasn’t a fan of being fussed over back then either.”  Jack just nodded, suddenly feeling little tears prick at her eyes.  Not so much about the story he was telling her but more because of how open he was being.  He rarely talked about family at all.  The only conversation they ever had about his mother was back at Christmas when they were talking about his Christmas tree and where the ornaments were from.

“What about the rest of the day?” Jack asked.  She was curious how much more he would share and she was thoroughly enjoying trying to picture Gibbs as a young child.

“Mom and I went downstairs and she tucked me in on the couch, giving me a pillow for my arm and a couple aspirin.  The orange flavored kind,” he added, smiling at the memory.  “Mom made grilled cheese and tomato soup for lunch and the three of us curled up on the couch watching coverage of the assassination on television.  Eventually Mom went to do some laundry or something like that, leaving Dad and I on the couch.  He wasn’t the most affectionate guy around but he settled me down with my head on the pillow in his lap and tucked the blanket around me.  Kissed my forehead and everything. I remember feeling…feeling,” Gibbs trailed off as he took a shaky breath.

“Loved?” Jack guessed as she squeezed his hand.

“Yeah.”  He took deep breath, attempting to let it out slowly and shake off some of the memories.  “Wow, that was the most I’ve said about my childhood in a long, long time,” he chuckled as he swiped at his eyes.  He put his hat back on and leaned forward with enough momentum to get himself to his feet.  He held out his hand to Jack who took it with a smile as she stood up.

“Thank you for sharing that,” she whispered as she stood on her toes to kiss his cheek.

“You’re welcome,” he whispered.  “Where to?”

“I don’t know.  What do you feel like doing?” Jack asked as Gibbs basically turned around in a circle, clearly trying to decide which way to go, back towards the car or towards the exit to the cemetery, those were their only two choices.

“You want to continue the touristy stuff?” he asked, pointing vaguely in the direction of DC proper.

“Sure,” Jack replied with a smile. 

They headed down the hill towards the exit and the Arlington Metro Station.

“So, what about you?” Gibbs asked as they stopped to let a tram pass.

“What about me?” Jack asked, clearly having no idea what her companion was talking about.

“That day in ’63,” he said.  Jack stopped suddenly, leaving Gibbs to get a good 10 steps ahead of her before he realized she wasn’t next to him.  He turned around just as the proverbial light bulb went on over his head.  “Yeah, you weren’t born yet,” he said with a huge laugh.

“Yep, another 3 years and few months before Jacqueline Sloane would make her appearance into this world. 5 weeks early and a mere 4 ½ lbs by the way,” she added with a grin.

“Well, hope you’ll forgive this old man,” he said, hand pressed to his heart, blue eyes twinkling. 

“Always Jethro, always,” she said sincerely.  “What did your parents call you when you were a kid?” she asked as she realized she had called him something other than just Gibbs, as she usually did.

“Dad called me Leroy.  Mom changed between that and LJ.  Unless I was in trouble and then it was LEROY JETHRO GIBBS, yelled loudly.  Friends called me LJ.”

Jack just grinned at his answer as she led him towards the path winding around the Visitor’s Center and leading to the Metro Station.

They got on the first train heading into the city, without a particular destination in mind.

Chapter Text

  

“So where are we going?” Jack asked as she turned sideways on the seat and put her hand on Gibb’s shoulder.

“Hadn’t thought that far ahead,” Gibbs smirked.  “Hungry?”

“I am, are you?”

“Yeah, feeling pretty good. Burgers and beer?”

“You know I’d never turn that down,” Jack teased.

They got off at the GWU/Foggy Bottom Metro stop and Gibbs steered them to the left at the top of the escalator.  Ten minutes later they were seated in the last two stools at the bar of Burger, Tap and Shake. They ordered and made small talk with the bartender while they waited for their food.  Gibb’s appetite had returned and he dug into his food with enthusiasm. 

“Dessert?” Gibbs asked as he pushed away his empty plate 20 minutes later and grabbed some of the fries she’d left uneaten.

“Where in the world would I put dessert?  I need to walk off what I’ve already eaten today,” Jack teased.

“We can do that,” Gibbs responded as he knocked back the last swallow of his beer and dropped a tip on the bar. 

They shimmied their way through the crowd out the door and onto Pennsylvania Ave.  They turned left at the corner and headed down 23rd St towards the Lincoln Memorial, thankful for the downhill direction.  Dodging the motorized scooters which had become very popular in the city over the past few years they arrived at the Lincoln Memorial, managing to get there in between groups of school children.

They climbed the worn marble steps to bid reverence to the massive statue of the 16th President.  It wasn’t long before the next group of kids in matching t-shirts arrived pushing their way towards Abe Lincoln.  Jack took Gibbs by the hand and pulled him back to the steps.  They sat down on the left side of the steps, out of the way.  Gibbs was sitting two steps below Jack, leaning back on his elbows.  They admired the view of the Reflecting Pool, World War II Memorial, Washington Monument and in the distance the dome of the Capitol. 

“I don’t think I’ve been here since about a week after I moved here,” Jack said as she leaned forward a little, putting her hands on Gibbs’ shoulders.

“I’ve got you beat; I don’t think I’ve been here in years,” Gibbs chuckled. 

On impulse, Jack wrapped her arms around him and kissed his cheek, instantly regretting it.  For as comfortable as they were with each other in private, they acted differently in public.  This thing they had, as ill defined as it was, was special in ways they’ve never really discussed.  Jack pulled back quickly, sitting up and crossing her arms.  Gibbs glanced over his shoulder to look at her.  But Jack wouldn’t meet his eye so he scooted up to sit next to her.

“Sorry,” she whispered, swiping clumsily as the tears she felt pricking at her eyes.

“Hey, I get it.  Whatever this thing is, we’ve kept it private.  We’ve never really discussed it and that’s fine with me.  I’m enjoying the ride.  There doesn’t have to be a destination,” he said quietly as he nudged Jack with his shoulder.  She looked at him as if he had two heads.

“Are you sure you don’t DVR Dr. Phil and watch it before bed?” she teased.

“You’ve seen my television, I can assure you I have not DVR’d anything,” he snorted.  Jack laughed as she stood up and held out her hand to pull Gibbs to his feet.

“Let’s go cowboy, time to finish walking off our lunch.”

They walked along the Reflecting Pool, stopping to sit by the fountain of the World War II Memorial.  They dipped their hands in the water while other people at the fountain stuck their feet in, as the soldiers did in the fountains of Europe so many years ago.  Gibbs was, not surprisingly, quiet.

“Thinking of your Dad?” Jack asked quietly.  Gibbs just nodded.  “I’ll leave you alone for a minute.”

Jack stood up and stepped back, leaving him alone with his thoughts.  Gibbs sat for a few more minutes, dipping his hand in the water one last time before pressing his hand to his heart.

By the time they walked uphill to the Washington Monument, cut left through the Ellipse and circled the White House, Gibbs was starting to fade just a little.  Jack steered him in the direction of a bench while she went to get some water and a pretzel from a nearby food truck.

“I take it you’re done playing tourist?” Jack asked as she sat down next to him, breaking the pretzel in half, offering him a piece. 

“Oh yeah, a few blocks past done,” he admitted.

Jack pulled out her phone and ordered an Uber.  A task which took considerably less time than it took her to explain Uber to Gibbs.

******

When they got back to Gibbs car, he tossed her the keys and slid into the passenger’s seat.

“You heading home when we get back to my place?” he asked, pushing the bill of his hat up just a little.

“Trying to get rid of me?” Jack smiled as she eased the truck into traffic.

“Not at all.  Just figured you might have Saturday evening plans.”

“I have a boring evening of laundry and bill paying planned.  If you want to be bored together you can come over,” she offered.

*******

“I thought you were kidding about the laundry,” Gibbs smirked when he found her in her laundry room an hour later.

“It doesn’t do itself,” she smirked right back as she sorted the lights and darks before dropping a load in the washer. 

As she passed by the living room she noticed Gibbs’ duffle on the floor by the front door.

“Yeah, I didn’t know if I should pack, we didn’t talk about anything….”

“Jethro, stop talking please,” she said as she pressed a finger to his lips.  He followed her to the kitchen.  She hopped up onto the counter.  “We’re here now, we’re alone, let’s just be…”

“Happy, content, whatever.  Okay?” he whispered as he tucked her hair behind her ears.  She nodded and smiled before reaching to grab the bottle of Bourbon off the top of the fridge.  Gibbs handed her two glasses out of the cabinet.

“To whatever this is,” she said, as she handed him one of the glasses.  She touched her glass to his before taking a healthy mouthful.  Gibbs looked at his glass, took a shaky breath and put the glass on the counter, not drinking any of it.  “You hungry?”

“Not really,” he muttered with a shrug of his shoulders.

“Okay, come here,” Jack said, motioning for him to stand in front of her. Gibbs took a deep breath and prepared for the fussing he was about to be subjected to by Jack.  “What’s up?” she asked as she pressed her hand to his forehead.  He was cool but looked little pale and tired. 

“I don’t know headache, tired, same as last night, I guess.  Well, don’t feel like puking so that’s something different,” he teased weakly.

“Advil’s in the bathroom, why don’t you take some and relax on the couch for a while.”  With a nod Gibbs grabbed a can of ginger ale out of the fridge and turned to head down the hall.  “Here take this with you,” she said as she tossed him an ice pack out of the freezer.  He wasn’t prepared for it and it hit him square in the chest.  He leaned over with a groan to pick it up.

Jack took another sip of her drink, slid off the counter and opened the fridge to check the food situation.  Gibbs might not have been hungry, but she was.  She grabbed a pie shell out of the freezer and set about mixing up a quick quiche. 

“What’s your wifi password?” she heard him call from the living room a few minutes later.

“My what?” she called over her shoulder, pretty sure she hadn’t just heard him ask for her wifi password.

“Password,” he repeated as he came into the kitchen.  Jack pointed toward a small blue sticker on the fridge.  Gibbs grabbed it and headed back to the living room.  “Oh, Tony’s supposed to be sending me some pictures.  He and Tali just spent a few days in Rome,” he explained, answering Jack’s unanswered question.

After chopping the vegetables and getting the on the stove to soften, Jack went to move the clothes over to the dryer.  As she passed by the living room she found Gibbs, predictably, sound asleep.  His laptop was precariously perched on his knees and his reading glasses sliding down his nose.  She rescued his laptop, setting it on the coffee table.  He woke up enough to curl up on the couch when she removed his glasses.

“Thanks,” he muttered as she tossed the knit blanket over him and kissed his forehead. 

***

Jack put the quiche in the oven, poured herself another drink and grabbed her own laptop out of her home office.  She paid some bills, did some frivolous online shipping and texted with Ellie for a little while.

*********
As Jack cleaned up the kitchen after eating she heard Gibbs get up and head down the hall towards the bathroom.  She put the kettle on for tea and started the dishwasher.

“Hey,” he muttered as he folded himself into a chair at the kitchen table.

“Feel better?” she asked a she turned to get a good look at him.  He looked a bit better than he had before he fell asleep.

“Yeah, I think so,” he said as he wiped at his eyes.  Jack handed him a bottle of water and ruffled his hair a bit.  “God, I need a haircut,” he muttered as he smoothed his hair down.

“Yeah, you kind of do,” she agreed with a chuckle.  “You hungry?  I made quiche.”  At the mention of quiche he wrinkled his nose a little.  “With bacon,” Jack added with a grin.

“Sure,” Gibbs agreed as he took a few sips and got up to pace around the kitchen for a minute.  Like Jack did earlier, he ended sitting on the counter, a habit he and most members of his team seemed to have for some reason.

“Can I make a suggestion?” Jack said as she put his plate in the microwave and moved to stand in front of him, hands on his knees

“Can I stop you from making one?” Gibbs teased, blue eyes twinkling.

“No, probably not.  Anyway, why don’t you see Ducky this week.”

“I see Ducky every week, we usually have lunch,” Gibbs said, trying in vain not to have the conversation Jack seemed determined to have.

“Jethro,” she said, the use of his first name a little warning. 

“Fine,” he said, holding his hands up in the universal “I give up” gesture.

“Talk to him about what’s going on,” she started as the microwave beeped.  Gibbs slid off the counter and sat back down at the table.  “Start with the physical stuff, I know that’s easier for you to face,” she said as she put the plate and a fork in front of him. 

“Easier for me to face?” he echoed; eyebrows raised as he picked up the fork.

“You know what I mean,” Jack said with raised eyebrows of her own.  He nodded in silent agreement.

“You really think I should go back to talk to Grace?”

“I think you shouldn’t have stopped in the first place,” Jack pointed out as she got up to pour their tea.

“You’re probably right,” Gibbs agreed with a sigh.  “This is good,” he admitted.  “Even the green stuff.”

“It’s broccoli, Jethro,” she snorted.  “So, you’ll talk to Ducky, be honest with him, listen to his suggestions and concerns?”

“I will,” he promised, crossing his heart with the end of his fork.  “I take it you’d like to share some of your concerns with him too?” he asked as he stabbed a piece of quiche.

“I would, but that’s up to you.  I see you struggling.  And it breaks my heart.” Jack said with a sad smile.  Gibbs dipped his chin and gave a little smile as he pushed his plate away, having eaten most of the quiche.”

“You can talk to Ducky.  I’m not sure I’ll be as honest as I should be,” he snorted as he got to his feet, putting his plate and fork in the sink.  “You want to see the pictures Tony sent?” he asked, desperate to change the subject.

“Sure,” Jack grinned.  She felt she’d made her feelings known, the next move was up to him.

“Great, I’ll be out in a minute,” he said as he went into the living room and grabbed his duffle bag.  He picked it up and hesitated for a few seconds.  Jack just smiled and gave him a little shove in the direction of the bathroom.  She headed to her room to change too.

“Nice shirt,” Gibbs smirked as Jack came back into the living room wearing a flannel shirt that looked rather familiar.

“Yeah, I may have stolen it,” she admitted.

“That’s okay, I have plenty,” he chuckled.

They settled down on the couch and looked at the pictures Tony had sent.  Gibbs gave a running commentary about Tony as they looked at them.  Jack let him ramble on as she snuggled into his side.

“I think I’d like Tony,” she said with a chuckle.

“Oh, I’m sure you would.  He’d like you too.  Not sure I’d like the two of you ganging up on me though,” he said with a shrug of his shoulders.  He set the laptop down and pulled off his glasses, leaning over to stretch out his back a little.

Jack curled up in the corner of the couch and flicked on the television.  She settled on Property Brothers, probably one of the only shows which would hold the attention of both of them.

Gibbs reached for a throw pillow and tossed it in her lap, a move which a few months ago would have taken her by surprise, but not any longer.

“Comfy?” she asked as he curled up facing the television.

“Very,” he muttered, “And happy, content, whatever,” he added.  It took Jack a minute to realize he’d repeated what he said earlier in the kitchen.

“Do we need to define this?” she asked as she tapped him on the shoulder.  Gibbs let out a breath, reaching for the remote to mute the television.  He rolled onto his back to look Jack in the eye.

“Up to you darlin’, I’m fine, either way,” he said simply.  Jack gave him a look that let him know she really wanted to have a conversation.    “Okay. Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy with whatever this is, whatever we are. We’ve both been alone for way too long.  If we’re basically keeping this here, behind closed doors, within these walls we don’t need to define anything.  What do you think?”

“I think I’m okay with this,” she explained as she gave a vague wave of her hands.  “As you said back at Christmas, you’re fine with what it is now, you’d be fine if it were something more.  And I think I feel the same way.  This is comfortable, like a warm, fuzzy blanket.”

Gibbs snorted at her overly cute way of describing things, but in truth he sort of agreed with her assessment.  Even if he would never admit it aloud.

“Do you think our co-workers suspect something?” Jack asked as she rested her hand on his chest, fingering the top of his surgical scar through his t-shirt.

“The team has suspected something every time I’ve said more than 10 words to a woman,” he teased.  “Ellie and Ducky probably suspect something. Torres, I doubt it and Tim, well, he’d be thrilled if I had some kind of social life.”  Jack chuckled.  “And Tony pretty much knows the truth.”

“Which is?” Jack ask, curious to see what his answer would be.

“We’re more than friends, less than “together”.  Happily living in the moment.”

“Okay, you must watch daytime TV or read Cosmo,” Jack teased.  Gibbs laughed louder than she’d heard him laugh in a long time.  He reached to wipe the little tears from Jack’s eyes as she dissolved into giggles too.

*****

By 10:00 they’d polished off most of a pint of Ben and Jerry’s and watched the Nationals blow a 3 run lead in the 8th inning.  Gibbs went to use the bathroom and brush his teeth while Jack cleaned up the remnants of their snack and locked up for the night.  She got him a pillow, sheet and blanket out of the linen closet and started to make up the couch, making it clear where he would be sleeping. 

Gibbs shuffled down the hall, not surprised to see her making up the couch for him.  He got a drink of water from the kitchen and set it on the end table before unfolding the blanket.  “Tucking me in?” he teased lightly.

“And what if I am?” Jack teased right back as he curled up on his side, facing her.

“I can live with it,” he shot back.

 Jack set the blanket over him and brushed back his hair.  “Thanks for today,” she whispered as she sat on the coffee table in front of him.

“For what, I didn’t exactly do anything.”

“Oh, but you did Jethro.  You talked, you shared, you listened.  I couldn’t ask for anything more,” Jack said quietly as she reached to squeeze his hand.  “Get some sleep.”

“You too,” Gibbs whispered as he pulled the blanket up a little higher. 

*****

Jack settled down in bed with her book and her thoughts.  Sleep wasn’t quick to come and at midnight she padded to the kitchen for a drink of water.  Gibbs was sound asleep.  She knelt down in front of him for a few minutes, brushing back his hair, watching him sleep, thinking and wondering.  She didn’t come to any great conclusions, other than the fact that she was happy. 

And for the time being, that was enough for her.