Gibbs poured himself a drink. He clenched his hand around the mug, trying hard not to shake as the events of the day washed over him again. Impotent fury made him want to lash out at anything and everything, which is why he'd sequestered himself in his basement as soon as it was possible to do so.
He knew it left the rest of his team hanging at loose ends. Knew he was essentially abandoning them but he just couldn't face them right now. If that made him a coward or a cold, heartless bastard so be it.
He couldn't handle the way Abby had broken down and cried when he told her the news. Gibbs shuddered remembering the soft keening wail Abby had let loose before folding in on herself like a marionette whose strings had just been cut. He didn't know what to do or say, so he left the job of consoling her to McGee.
McGee. God damn it. He'd nearly lost him too. Gibbs could still hear the controlled fear in the younger man's voice as he stayed calm under fire, determined to do what Gibbs had ordered. McGee had only sounded truly desperate when his computer took a hit and there was no way for him to block the transmission guiding the bomb toward a dock full of innocents.
The young agent had definitely grown a spine over the past year, but it wasn't going to help him deal with burying a friend and colleague. Nothing prepared someone for that. And Gibbs hated that McGee was going to have to learn how.
Ducky had been so fucking calm. He was decidedly gentle as he'd collected Kate's body. Gibbs couldn't stay within ear shot to hear him speak to her the way he had so many others who'd ended up in the morgue. Gibbs knew if he had, he'd have expect to hear Kate answer and it hurt too much to know she never would.
Gibbs took a long, healthy swallow of bourbon and closed his eyes. Abby's grief, McGee's sudden and permanent loss of innocence, even Ducky's calm normalcy hadn't affected him half as much as that strange look of sorrowed acceptance on Tony's face that followed hard after shock and anger. Green eyes had tracked something Gibbs couldn't see, but he suspected what or rather who it was.
"Was it you?" Gibbs looked up, feeling the slight cool breeze in strangely still air that always seemed to co-inside with the arrival of an angel of death.
"Does it matter?" Sam asked quietly, obsidian eyes strangely soft.
"Hell yes it matters!" Gibbs shouted, glaring at the angel.
Sam tipped his head in acknowledgement. "Then yes, it was me."
"You miserable son of a bitch." Gibbs threw his half empty mug at Sam. His fury was offset slightly by surprise when the mug passed through Sam to shatter on the wall behind him.
He ignored the strange phenomena stalking toward Sam, standing toe to toe. "Why her?"
Sam arched an eyebrow, expression decidedly neutral. "I told you before I do not kill people."
"WHY??!!" Gibbs demanded, all but baring his teeth like a feral dog.
"Because the ties that bound her spirit to her corporal form were severed by a bullet through her brain." Sam stated with a clinical detachment that made Gibbs shiver.
"That's how, damn it, not why." Gibbs clenched his fists in flowing fabric, mildly shocked to find that he could actually touch Sam, to find him solid when the mug had passed through him just a moment ago. "And don't you give me some bullshit answer about it being her time." He snarled. "She was young and healthy and should have lived a long time."
"She might have lived to be eighty if she had decided to be a psychiatrist instead of a profiler." Sam's eyes darkened again and began to glow like an ember, but he didn't try to back away or break Gibbs' grip. "She might have never made ten if her mother had been less vigilant that summer she nearly drowned."
Sam gave Gibbs a hard, cold smile. "Life comes with no guarantees. What she could or should have had is not for you to decide. Any more than it is for me."
The truth of that answer just served to make Gibbs even angrier. "You could have saved her." He accused, voice raw with self-recrimination, rage and pain.
"No." Sam shook his head, eyes still glowing a dull red. "I could not."
"Bullshit." Gibbs countered fiercely. "You broke the rules for Tony. You could have done it for her."
Sam's wings mantled. They spread up and out the same way an angry hawk would spread its wings. His eyes flashed brighter as his expression darkened. Gibbs told himself he was not afraid, but that didn't keep him from letting go and backing up a step.
"I did not break the rules." The angel hissed in a sibilant whisper, leaning forward, eliminating the space Gibbs had created by stepping back. "You have lines you can not or will not cross, you stupid bastard, did you really think you were the only one?"
Gibbs wasn't sure what surprised him more, the profane insult or the question itself. He swallowed hard. "But in the hospitalÃ¢â‚¬""
"Tony was sick, infected by a living organism with a finite life span." Sam snarled at him, baring unnervingly sharp white teeth. "If he had opted to give in, had chosen to stop struggling, ignored your directive to live....Make no mistake, I would have done my duty, Leroy Jethro Gibbs."
The angel suddenly stepped back, wings folding once more to lay flat, eyes dark and opaque. "I did not save him. He saved himself."
Sam's countenance shifted to one of compassion. "Caitlin Marie Todd never had that choice."
"She never had a chance." Gibbs' corrected Sam, his voice a broken whisper. He felt incredibly tired. One single deadly shot was all it took. Consequences were swift and irrevocable.
He couldn't help but remember her last moment. She was laughing. Her brown eyes sparkled. She was so pleased to have gotten a compliment from Gibbs.
He took a shuddering breath and then another. Gibbs looked at Sam. He had no right to ask, but he couldn't help himself. "You'll take care of her?"
"So much as I am able to." Sam bowed, a gesture of respect rather than subservience. Given how little he really knew about Sam, it was strangely comforting to know the angel would look out for her.
"Tony already asked." Sam stated calmly, dark eyes measuring Gibbs.
"You talked to him?"
"Naturally." Sam gave him a look Gibbs was used to giving to other people when they asked what he considered a stupid question.
"He's okay?" Gibbs hadn't been able to bring himself to even look at Tony afterward much less talk to him.
Sam arched an eyebrow. "You could find that out for yourself."
Gibbs grimaced. "Not the right time."
"You should have learned by now there is no right time." Sam shook his head, clearly expressing his disappointment. "There is only right now. You might not live to see tomorrow."
Gibbs flinched. It was supposed to be him, not Kate. He was the target. "God damn, Ari." He'd see to it that the miserable son of a bitch paid.
"And when you do, I will be there." Sam smiled but there was nothing friendly in his expression.
"You'll take care of him like you did Tony's uncle?"
"You can count on that." There was no mistaking the firm promise in Sam's statement.
Gibbs sighed heavily. Getting Ari would have to wait. He needed to pull himself together and head back to the office. Kate's family was due to arrive in the morning and Gibbs needed to go through her things so there were no unpleasant surprises for them.
"It is not necessary." Sam stated softly interrupting his thoughts.
"What isn't necessary?"
"Tony is going through her things now."
Gibbs frowned. Tony still hadn't completely recovered from being exposed to the Pneumonic Plague. Getting nearly killed by a car bomb, chasing terrorists and participating in a roof top shoot out that culminated in the death of a coworker certainly hadn't helped his condition any. The younger man needed to rest. That was why Gibbs had sent him home before leaving the office himself.
Sam snorted and gave him a reproachful look. "And he always does what he is told to do." The dry sarcasm in the angel's voice made Gibbs wince.
Gibbs glanced at his watch. It was nearly midnight. "He's still at the office?"
Gibbs eyes narrowed, sudden realization dawning. "That's why you're here."
"He is just as hurt and angry as you are. If not more so." Sam shrugged, feathers fanning out briefly before settling again. "He needs you."
Gibbs resented that calm declaration, feeling the added weight of a burden he wasn't sure he could handle. And yet, at the same time, he felt a strange surge of relief knowing Tony needed him; it was very reassuring. Gibbs hated ambivalence and confusion and lashed out accordingly.
"What about what I need? You ever think about that?"
"You do not need to wallow in misplaced guilt. Any more than you need to indulge in a futile obsession." Sam gave him a tight, condescending smile, the tips of those overly sharp incisors just barely visible. "Although, it does seem to be something of a pattern for you."
"Fuck you." Gibbs snarled. He wanted to beat the crap out of Sam. He wanted to vent all the pent up emotion that had been swirling since nearly losing Tony to the plague. He knew he could touch Sam, had already prove that, but he wasn't certain if he could actually hurt him. Maybe now was a good time to find out.
Before he could move, Sam reached out and lightly tapped two fingers against his forehead. It was like getting doused with ice cold water, breathtaking and painful. He gasped and shivered violently.
"Pay attention." Sam's admonishment was soft, almost gentle. "You need him as much as he needs you."
"I don't want...to hurt him." Gibbs astounded himself with that nearly stuttered declaration. It wasn't at all what he meant to say.
"It's not that simple." Gibbs protested. He'd been married three times, every one ending badly. He was too focused on the job, too hard and abrasive with people. He had communication issues, always too tight lipped about too many things. And he'd gotten Kate killed for God's sake. He wasn't the right man for Tony, no matter how much he wanted to be.
"Her death was not your fault." Sam's quietly confident tone made it impossible to argue. He cocked his head to one side, eyes warming to a slate gray. "And you do care about people, perhaps more than you should. You would have given up this job a long time ago if didn't."
Sam raised both hands to cup Gibbs' face. He braced himself to feel that biting touch again. He was surprised to find the angel's hands were warm, soothing chasing away the chill.
"The dead deserve justice, and in due time, they get it." Sam's eyes shifted to vibrant turquoise. "The living need compassion and comfort, neither of which are available in abundance."
Sam smiled gently. "This self induced isolation only serves to punish you both for a crime for which neither of you are guilty."
He leaned forward, placing a decidedly paternal kiss on Gibbs' forehead before stepping back. "Go talk to Tony. Help him. Let him help you."
"You are a pushy son of a bitch." Gibbs said without any real heat.
Sam's soft musical laughter filled the basement making the room seem brighter and less confined. "I have been called much worse."
Gibbs found himself grinning. "I bet you have."
Sam made a shooing motion with one hand. "Go."
Gibbs found himself heading for the stairs before he was even aware he'd made a conscious decision to do so. He stopped at the foot of the stairs, turning to look back when Sam called his name.
"Angels are not omniscient. Neither are you." Sam gave him an understanding look. "Try not to be so hard on yourself."
Gibbs took a deep breath. "I'll try."
"Good." With that, Sam vanished.
Gibbs blinked and just for a second wondered if he'd imagined the whole thing. Tony's comment about trusting the things he'd seen and heard around Sam no matter how weird or bizarre they might be came back to Gibbs. He shook his head and headed up stairs. He had more important things to focus on. Tony needed him.