SOMETIMES YOU HEAR THE BULLET
Somehow Gibbs has to find a way to keep going.
An established relationship story.
Warning: Major character death.
Written: July 2009. Word count: 1,000.
Tears are words the heart cannot say.
He'd been standing next to Ducky, letting him ramble about time of death and the ambient temperature, letting the kids do their jobs, when he'd heard it.
To his dying day he would swear he'd heard the bullet whiz past him and tear into Ducky.
It'd all happened so quickly. One second Ducky was smiling at him, telling him without words how much he loved him; the next he was on the ground, eyes open, the bullet lodged in his heart. The bullet that in one second took Ducky away from him. Took the best part of his life away from him. Took the person who completed him away from him. Took the man he loved without reservation away from him.
He'd frozen; as Ducky had gasped and fallen to the ground, he'd frozen. He'd liked to have been able to tell himself it was because he'd been looking for the shooter. But he hadn't. He'd just frozen, unable to move, unable to even say Ducky's name.
A second after Ducky hit the ground, Palmer was by Ducky's side. Palmer was snapping orders at him. Palmer was telling him to call nine-one-one. Palmer was trying to resuscitate Ducky. Palmer had his mouth on Ducky's. Palmer switched to trying to compress Ducky's chest. Palmer, Jimmy Palmer who so often seemed bumbling, uncertain, and always afraid of him, was in charge.
And Palmer did his best. He tried so hard. He went on trying after DiNozzo and McGee captured the shooter. He went on trying until the ambulance screamed its arrival. He went on trying until the paramedics took over from him. Then he stood, his hands wet with Ducky's blood, his face streaked with the same blood, breathing heavily, never once taking his gaze from his boss and mentor.
And Palmer had pushed him into the ambulance. And Palmer's eyes told him it was fruitless. Ducky was dead. Ducky had been taken from him. Ducky was dead. He was alive. And his life was in chaos.
The single most devastating thing to have happened to him since Shannon and Kelly had died had happened four months ago. And it still felt as if it were only yesterday. He hadn't spoken of his feelings. He hadn't spoken of how much he was hurting. Not even when one by one the kids had tried to talk to him. Not even when Vance had ordered him to take a few days off. He hadn't spoken about Ducky.
He didn't mention Ducky's name. He couldn't. It hurt far too much. Besides, he'd never been one for words. He showed rather than told. So he cried for Ducky, alone in the vast emptiness of the house in Reston they'd shared, alone apart from the whiskey bottle, he'd cried. His tears were words he couldn't say.
The only person he'd even come close to speaking about Ducky to, was Fornell. But in the end, even with his second oldest and closest friend he couldn't find the words. So instead he'd let Fornell hold him while he cried. He had vague memories of Fornell putting him to bed and sitting with him until he'd fallen asleep. Of maybe kissing his forehead, gently, with affection, before leaving. They'd never spoken of it. And he'd never cried in front of Fornell again. He kept his tears for himself. He grieved alone. He let his tears speak for him.
When he'd received the news of Shannon and Kelly's deaths, he'd sat for several minutes with his gun pointing towards him, seriously considering pulling the trigger. Alone, in Reston House, more than once after Ducky's death, he'd done the same thing. But just as he couldn't do it over his girls; he couldn't do it over Ducky.
It wasn't that he didn't want to; he did. He didn't want to go on living without Ducky.
It wasn't that he knew Ducky wouldn't want him to; he wouldn't. But he'd understand.
It wasn't that he felt he had anything, anyone, left to live for; he hadn't. The kids had their own lives; Fornell had Emily. No one needed him.
It wasn't that he didn't have the courage; he had. But he also had the courage to remain alive.
And that's what he did.
It cost him. Getting out of bed, getting ready for work, driving to the office, all cost him dearly. Some days the effort seemed overwhelming. Eating and drinking was something he did because he knew he had to. Talking to people, interacting with them, exhausted him. But he did those things. Day after day, one day at a time, he did them.
The one thing he couldn't do was to go down to Autopsy. Instead he sent DiNozzo or McGee or Ziva or all three. And if Palmer had something to tell him, Palmer would go up to the squad room.
His day was simple:
He woke up.
He made coffee.
He made toast. Because Ducky would be angry with him if he didn't.
He drove to work.
He did his job.
He drove home.
He grabbed a carry-out. At least he did some nights. Others he made more toast. Because Ducky would be angry with him if he didn't.
He had a drink or two.
He went to bed.
And he did that seven days a week.
He still didn't talk about Ducky. He still cried over Ducky, albeit not quite so much. Not quite as often.
And as the months went by he found it got a little easier. The hole Ducky had left in his life wasn't filled, would never be filled. The grief he felt would never go. He was existing, not living. But he was still alive.
'It gets easier'.
He wasn't sure of either. But he was still alive.
And he stayed that way until, two years after he'd heard the bullet that'd taken Ducky from him, he heard the one that took his own life.
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