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Learning to Live
by: taylorgibbs (Send Feedback)
Series: - No Series - #1
Chapters: 001 Word Count: 1941
Character(s): Jethro Gibbs, Other Male Character
Category(ies): Angst/Drama, Character Study, Crossover
Episode(s): 6-04 Heartland
Crossover Shows: CSI:NY
Summary: On 9/11, Gibbs and Mac take important steps together. Crossover with CSINY.
Author Notes: Thanks to Hilde for the beta!
Gibbs knew the team had come to expect this. 9/11 was the one day he took off every year, as long as they weren’t on a hot case. This year, like many others, things worked out and Gibbs had a long weekend away from NCIS.
He stopped in at work before leaving town, standing in a tight knot with Abby and Ducky, watching the TV, marking the time all of their lives had changed and the planes had hit the buildings . He, Abby, and Ducky were the only ones from the main team who had been there that day. Tony had been finishing up at FLETC and had started a few weeks later and McGee hadn’t even been with the agency yet.
“Do you remember what it was like?” Abby said in a hushed voice. McGee and Tony lingered behind, leaving the three who had seen it together to have their moment. Abby turned to Tim and Tony, reaching for their hands, accepting them into the circle.
“They locked us down. Even Ducky…he couldn’t get home to Victoria.”
“Mother was fine, Abby.”
“I know. But we were so helpless. We just stood here and watched… You were so angry, Gibbs, remember? The director practically had to keep you here at gunpoint.” She gave Gibbs a wistful smile. “I know you were in Georgia, Tony.”
“Yeah FLETC was almost over, but we were stuck down there.” There was regret in Tony’s voice.
Abby turned her eyes on McGee. “What about you, Tim?”
Gibbs got the sense that Tim and Abby had never spoken about this before.
“Baltimore. Hopkins. I…” Tim shook his head. “I wasn’t in the thick of it like you guys were.”
“Not a contest,” Gibbs said, his voice husky. He sighed and nodded. “I have to go. Call if you need me.” He pulled Abby into a tight hug, kissing her cheek, and then extended a hand to Ducky.
As he left, he patted the shoulders of both Tim and Tony. It was much more demonstrative than he typically got, but this wasn’t a typical day.
“Where are you going?” Abby asked quietly. She asked him every year and he always gave her his stock answer. To visit friends. But this year, he wanted to give her more.
“New York. Buddy up there needs me. Be back in a couple of days, promise.”
Mac was so much more than just a buddy. Gibbs wasn’t sure how to describe it. Buddy would have to do. Some day, he’d be able to introduce Mac to the team, sooner rather than later, but they’d know him as NCIS Assistant Director Taylor. Not that Mac had told Gibbs yet. He would soon, when the time was right. In the meantime, Gibbs had all the details from Cynthia.
“Drive careful, Boss,” Tony said, giving Gibbs a small smile. Gibbs knew he was getting a reputation as a speed demon with the bright yellow car.
“Hold down the fort, DiNozzo,” Gibbs shot back, striding out. He and Mac usually spent the weekend trying not to think about what they’d lost, trying to make the most of what they had, as unconventional as it was. This year it was time for something different. They were gonna have a hell of a weekend road trip, do some things they hadn’t dared even consider. It was time to throw caution to the wind and live in ways they hadn’t dared for a lot of years. Gibbs hadn’t worked it all out yet, but he had four hours to figure out his game plan.
Gibbs had done a lot of healing in the last year, between Maddie Tyler returning to his life, and Gibbs’ growing relationship with Jack. And Mac seemed to have settled down more as well. Gibbs knew Mac had started casually dating and even though that bothered him, he was glad Mac was taking steps toward not being alone any more.
Gibbs climbed into his car, turning on a local talk radio station, his mood very pensive. He drummed his hands on the steering wheel as he dodged through traffic, pushing the speed limit. News radio gave way to classic rock, the soundtrack of their shared past and on again, off again relationship.
Gibbs remembered first meeting the young lieutenant, recent graduate of Annapolis. Mac had been so damned green and Gibbs had been drawn to the man, had wanted to teach him what being a Marine was all about. He hadn’t been surprised when Mac became a first-rate leader himself.
They were tighter than brothers for many years. Mac had even been Kelly’s godfather. And after Shannon and Kelly had been killed, Gibbs had found peace with Mac. It hadn’t been quick and it hadn’t been easy, but they’d managed to be on and off fuck buddies while retaining their friendship. Then Mac and Claire had gotten married, and Gibbs had hoped to be a godfather to their kids. He never could have imagined that both he and Mac would have buried their wives when they were still young men.
Gibbs let out a huge sigh, knowing he needed to be Mac’s rock on the anniversary of Claire’s death. There was no way he could distract Mac in this mindset. He had to focus, for both of them. It would be all too easy to spend the weekend talking about what they should have had.
As he went over the Delaware Memorial Bridge, Gibbs had a flash of inspiration and pulled out his phone as soon as he was past the tollbooths, dialing his father. “Jack!” he said as soon as the old man picked up. Their relationship was strengthening almost by the day and Gibbs had the sense this was the right thing to do at the right time.
“How ya doing, Son?” his father asked, affection in his tone. “Betcha this is a hard day on you. Lost a lotta good men, didn’t ya?”
Gibbs sighed heavily. “Yeah. Didn’t call for that though. Ya busy this weekend?”
“Too busy for my boy? Never. You coming alone.”
“Want me to make up two bedrooms?”
“Just one, Dad.”
“She a redhead?”
“Nope. You’ll see when we get there. Four, maybe five hours. Thanks, Dad.”
Gibbs disconnected the phone, completely at peace with his decision. It was time he let his father completely into his life. And Mac needed to get to know Jack.
Gibbs felt a little lighter as he weaved through the traffic. Mac hadn’t even seen the car yet and Gibbs had it almost a year. That was a damned shame in and of itself. Mental images of him and Mac cruising at top speed ran through his head and Gibbs couldn’t stop smiling for the first time today.
The rest of the drive was relaxing for Gibbs, though from the sound of horns and people giving him the finger he suspected it wasn’t the same for them. He made his usual drive around Ground Zero before heading to Mac’s place. Mac had sold the townhouse he and Claire owned just after the attacks, saying that it was too much house for one guy. Gibbs had always suspected that Mac couldn’t handle the memories.
His new place was a rental, the bottom two floors of a townhouse, with a rare two parking spaces in the neighborhood lot. Gibbs pulled in and locked up, stroking a hand over the canary yellow hood of his beloved car, before jogging down the block to Mac’s place.
Gibbs had his own key and he let himself in, stopping in the doorway to watch his friend and lover. Mac’s head was down, his concentration on the guitar he held, a song filling the room. “Mackenna,” Gibbs said quietly, affectionately. Very few people dared to call Mac by his full first name, but Gibbs had every right to do so and would.
Mac’s head snapped up and he stood, setting his guitar aside carefully. It was clear that he was shaking himself out of being in a zone. “Leroy Jethro,” he shot back, a small smile on his face. “You made good time.”
“Had somewhere to be,” Gibbs said with a shrug. He crossed the room and pulled Mac into a tight hug. “Someone I kinda missed.”
“Someone who missed you back,” Mac said, relaxing into the embrace, his hand coming up to stroke the back of Gibbs’ head, bodies moving perfectly in sync.
“Glad I didn’t drive all this way for nothing,” Gibbs shot back, leaning in to nip Mac’s lower lip, dodging out of the shove he knew was coming. “Pack a bag, Taylor. You’re going on a road trip.”
“Yeah?” Mac said, one eyebrow rising.
“Yeah. You don’t need to be in the city this weekend. You took the weekend off like I asked, right?”
“More like ordered,” Mac said good naturedly. “Coffee is on. Give me a couple of minutes to pack. What’re we doing?”
Gibbs followed Mac upstairs and into the huge bedroom. He wanted to see Mac’s face when he told him what they were doing. “Stillwater,” he said, trying for casual, but unable to keep the emotion completely out of his voice.
“Stillwater,” Mac repeated slowly. “You sure, Jethro?”
“Positive. It’s time, Mac.”
“Time…” Mac repeated quietly. He grabbed a bag and started packing clothes and Gibbs’ eyes drifted to a mishmash of colors on the bed. He picked up the item, realizing what it was in a flash. The beach ball Mac had kept inflated, the item that had held his wife’s breath, was completely flat.
“Mac?” Gibbs asked, unable to find the words to ask if he’d done it or if the ball had flattened on its own.
Mac turned, eyes fixing on the flattened beach ball, nodding. “I let her breath out this morning, Jethro. Like you said, it’s time. Eight years…”
“You’re never going to stop loving her,” Gibbs pointed out. They’d had this discussion before, usually Gibbs pushing Mac and Mac fighting back.
“Don’t want to. Just like you never want to stop loving Shannon, Jethro. But I’m ready…” He swallowed hard. “Have something to tell you about that. I took a job in DC. Was kinda hoping you might put up with me.”
“What kind of job?” Gibbs asked, giving no clues that he knew all about it.
“Assistant Director, NCIS.”
“My boss?” Gibbs asked with a chuckle.
“You’re always gonna answer to Vance. Might make it easier if you’re not in my direct chain of command anyway.”
“Why’s that?” Gibbs asked, unable to keep the hope out of his voice.
“Hoped you could put me up too, Jethro. And we could see…what happens. Just between us, nobody there has to know for now. Or ever. If you want to.” Mac shrugged but Gibbs could see similar hope in Mac’s eyes.
“I want to,” Gibbs said, pulling Mac into a tight hug. “It’s time, Mac. Time to learn to live again. To figure this out together.” Gibbs released Mac, mussing his hair. “No time like now to start. There’s a muscle car out there begging to be driven and Jack’s gonna love fawning all over you. Let’s get a move on. You okay?”
“Yeah, I’m good.”
And for the first time in eight years, Gibbs believed him.
MTAC - NCIS Fic