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Emptiness

by: taylorgibbs (Send Feedback)

Series: - No Series - #1
Chapters: 001 Word Count: 1219
Rating: YTEEN
Character(s): Jethro Gibbs
Category(ies): Angst/Drama, Hurt/Comfort
Pairing(s): - No Pairing -
Summary: Alex Gibbs is very worried about his brother on the first Christmas after Kelly's and Shannons' deaths.
Day 4 of the 12 Days of Gibbsmas.

Author Notes: Thanks to my super beta, Anna!

Chapters: 1

Emptiness

December 24, 1991

Alexander Gibbs looked at the house devoid of decorations and winced. He’d managed to score the holiday off and had flown up from flight training, getting in just an hour ago. He’d called their father, explaining that he was going to be with Jeth. Dad understood completely and he was spending the holiday with Shelley someone or other, his latest girlfriend.

Shannon had loved the holidays and to see the house so empty hurt. It just nailed home that Alex’s place was here with his big brother this Christmas. He didn’t knock, just pushed the door open, the bag of food crinkling gently in his hand.

He’d called the Thomases, found out that they’d begged his brother to come up and he’d declined. He’d only been at NCIS for a few months and didn’t feel that he could take the time off. Bullshit…Alex knew it to be bull. Jeth wasn’t ready to see his in-laws.

The rhythmic sounds of sanding met his ears and he walked downstairs into the basement.

“Get the hell out, Mike!” his brother snarled and Alex took a step back. Jethro had always been sky high on the attitude scale but this was the first time his tone of voice had made Alex stop in his tracks.

“Not Mike, Jeth.”

Without looking up, his brother replied. “Well, you can get the hell gone too. And Jackson if you brought him.”

“Not that stupid.” He paused for a moment in indecision. How should he handle this? Gentle words weren’t what Jeth’d accept right now but was he ready for Lt. Gibbs?

“What are you waiting for? Get lost.”

“No.”

“No?” The brittle tone in his brother’s voice broke Alex’s heart.

“No, Gunny. You march your ass upstairs now. You’re getting fed and you’re getting taken care of.”

He finally had his brother’s attention. Jeth looked up now, his eyes so damn sunken. “Am I?”

Alex’s stomach started clenching as he stepped closer. This was either going to be exactly what Jeth needed or a disaster. “Yes you are. I am the higher-ranking officer in this house. Plan on disobeying a direct order, Gunny?”

His brother inclined his head, never breaking his gaze. “Fine,” he said and clomped up the stairs. Alex let out a huge breath and rubbed a shaking hand over his face. This was going to be a power struggle fought and won by the moment.

He was surprised to crest the stairs and see Jeth pulling out plates and nodded his assent. “What are you feeding me? Mrs. Langley next door brought over a casserole, the Grimshaws across the street dropped off a turkey. Jackson even sent some fresh fruit.”

“People are worried…”

“Don’t need to be.”

“Bullshit!” Alex crossed the room and grabbed his elder brother in a bear hug. The older man struggled hard and Alex could barely hang on. “Settle down, Gunny!” he roared into his brother’s ear and that seemed to finally break through.

“Alex…”

“Right here,” he whispered. Jeth’s body started unclenching and Alex could feel him shattering bit by bit.

“Come on. Let’s get you to bed.”

“NO!” Jeth’s voice was frantic, despondent, and Alex remembered how their father hadn’t been able to sleep in his bedroom for months after their mother had died.

“Spare bedroom then?” When Jethro didn’t complain, Alex led his brother’s unresisting body upstairs, bypassing the closed doors of the master bedroom and Kel’s room. The bed was unmade, clothes sitting on a chair. It was as messy as Jeth ever got and made it clear that he was living in this room now.

He nudged his brother gently onto the bed, removing his shoes before turning, intending to get the food.

“Don’t go,” his brother’s whispered words broke Alex’s heart.

“Not going anywhere. You have me for the next seventy-two hours. Just gonna make you up a plate and bring it here.”

“Not hungry.”

Alex nodded. “I know, but you have to eat. You look like hell, Jethro. Bet you’ve lost ten pounds. You don’t have much to spare. If I get you food, will you eat? You can’t continue to live on bourbon and sawdust.”

“You’ll stay?” Jethro repeated and Alex wasn’t sure his brother even heard him. But then he nodded. “I’ll eat a little.”

“Good. It’s Christmas Eve. You at least need something…” He stroked a hand through Jeth’s hair. “Five minutes. You just need to hang on for five minutes.” Alex raced down the stairs and assembled two plates—rotisserie chicken he’d picked up, some mashed potato, an entire apple pie and a couple of Cokes. He wasn’t more than two or three minutes.

When he got back, Jeth was curled up under the covers, a piece of green satin in one hand and Stuffy, the stuffed turtle Kelly’d carried everywhere in the other. The pain of losing his sister-in-law and niece was almost a physical blow and seeing just how badly his brother was doing chilled him. Maybe he needed to make some changes…whatever the cost.

“Food’s here,” he said quietly, slipping the plate into his brother’s hands and gently removing Shannon’s nightgown and Stuffy. “You have to eat, Jeth. Not negotiable.”

Jethro nodded, taking a fork and eating mechanically. It was maybe an hour before he spoke and the food—even the entire pie—had been consumed.

“Her pony…”

“Kelly’s?”

Jethro nodded. “The look on her face, Alex. That was just two years ago. Just two years…” He pulled the stuffed turtle close and motioned to a framed picture on the wall. Two men, a woman, and a little girl were caught in mid-laugh as they stretched out on the ground. “You remember?”

“Yeah. Yeah, I do.” Tears burned behind Alex’s eyelids and he settled back against the headboard, pulling Jethro against his shoulder. “Tell me…tell me about the Christmases I couldn’t be with you guys.”

Jethro sighed and opened his mouth, starting to speak, stroking and rubbing the bracelet he wore on his left wrist. In a constant stream of memories, Alex heard about the Christmas Eve marriage proposal, the first Christmas after Jethro and Shannon married, Kelly’s first Christmas, their last Christmas together and all the holidays in between.

Hours later, Jethro’s voice petered out and his eyes slowly closed. “Stay, Alex. Don’t go. I can’t be alone tonight. I’d eat my gun.”

Alex wrapped his brother in a much tighter embrace. “You aren’t alone. As long as I’m alive, you’ll never be alone. You’re my brother, my hero. There isn’t any place I’d rather be. Isn’t any place I need to be. My place is with you.”

“Brothers forever,” Jethro said quietly. “Merry Christmas Shannon, Kelly. I miss you.”

As his brother drifted off into sleep, cuddling him as well as Kelly’s turtle and Shannon’s nightgown, Alex started to comprehend what his brother had lost. “I’ll watch over him, girls. He’ll never be alone.”




Chapters: 1

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