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It's really more like my mind is a giant waffle - should I stay here and try to do the PhD? Should I apply somewhere else for a PhD? Would I even make a decent professor? Should I give up on that idea altogether, settle for the masters and get a non-academic job? What kind of job? Am I qualified for anything? Can I compete in this tight market as a 40-year-old woman who has been out of the work force for six years? Should I just become a Starbucks barista (if I am not over the age limit)? Become a homeless crackhead? Professional dogsitter - the only true skill I have picked up in grad school? Bah. Fuck. It. All.

In order to combat the suffocating syrup that is setting into the waffle squares of my mind, here is yet another fanfic. Because even if I am wasting my life, I can at least try and entertain a few others along the way. Not that this story is all that entertaining. No smex, no jokes, no madcap adventures. Must be off my game. One of these days I'll get back to the smex. And to Trowa - my beautiful, stretchy, long-legged mute. I have a half-finished story with him and Duo which makes me laugh like a maniac every time I re-read it, but I just haven't been able to figure out the ending and so it languishes. Alas. But I keep it on my horizon because I love it so. Although, I fear by the time I finish it, there will only be three fans of GW left! :)

In the meantime...

Title: Worse for Wear
Author: Lukoni
Fandom: NCIS
Characters: Gibbs, Tony (friendship), mention of Mike Franks
Word Count: ca. 950
Summary: Surviving an explosion isn’t as easy as it looks. Special Agent Gibbs has doubts about his ability to lead his team after his time away.
Rating: PG
Warnings: Some angstiness; mild hurt/comfort.
Spoilers: Not really – references to Hiatus I & II.
Notes: Set early in season 4, soon after Gibbs decides to return to NCIS permanently. Not intended to be slashy, but can be looked at as pre-slash if the reader so desires (we aim to please here at Lukoni’s Underground Lair of Escapist Fantasy).




Worse for Wear


He never told the team about the headaches. He’d had them before, after the first coma, and he knew they’d go away eventually. Besides, it was none of their business. Only Mike knew. How could he not with the two of them in that tiny house on the beach? But the man was of an even older generation than Jethro himself – the generation that did not talk about pain or trauma or feelings. Which is why that was the only place Jethro could imagine coming after all that had happened. He could trust Mike to let him alone when he woke gasping in the night with memories of Kelly and Shannon so raw and fresh in his mind. When the brilliant Mexican sun sent spikes through his eyes, chasing him into his bed for a full day. When rage would drive him into the ocean to swim straight out as far as he could with no intention of returning. Mike would leave a towel on the beach for him. A cold beer on his nightstand. He’d ask no questions, give him no expectant looks, no demands. It was what he needed.

He wished his team could understand that. His return had been intended as temporary, but their pressure has finally worn him down and he’s come back to the job. To the stress, the violence, the hypocrisy but also to the family. The one that no longer trusts him. But he can’t explain it to them. How he is not a superhero and how he hated everyone in that moment when the ship blew up, but no one more than himself. His shredded mind was reeling and their need of him only pulled on the tears, stretching them further until it felt like bits of his brain would slip out to splatter on the floor about his feet.

Ducky was angry at him. Thought of him as a quitter and he was right. Jethro had never quit before, but he’d come so close. Gun in his mouth, finger on the trigger close. He wondered what Ducky would say about that. Probably look at him in disgust and turn his back. But as much as he wanted to make it up to his oldest friend, as he sat in his basement, still half packed up for the aborted move, clutching his head in his hands, willing this piercing headache away, he was sure it was too soon. What if it hit him in the field? Or even just at his desk? He couldn’t bear to be less than 100 percent for his team. They’d all hinted and nudged and wheedled to get him back and he’d let them convince him. It was a mistake.

A noise alerted him that he wasn’t alone. Forcing open his clenched eyelids, he was startled to see the familiar face of his second in command only a foot from his own. How had he let him get so close without noticing the intrusion?

“Boss? You okay?” Tony’s voice was soft and unthreatening. Gibbs just stared at him, trying to force his brain to remember how to form words. “We tried your cell and your land line but there was no answer.”

Clearing his throat, he managed to say, “We got a case?” Tony looked torn for a moment, but pasted an easy smile on his face.

“Nothing big. I can handle it.” Gibbs felt a new kind of pain at that. He’d been judged weak. Weak! And by this ….this boy and he knew he never should have left Mexico so that they could remember him as he had been - a lion, a superhero, a…. quitter, Ducky’s voice supplied for him. Jethro swallowed his bitterness and, for once, his pride. He had come back, not just for the team, but for himself. All those years ago, he had taken justice into his own hands to avenge his family, his beautiful Shannon and his darling Kelly, and with the emptiness that followed he could only find one course of action that could give what was left of his life any meaning – to pursue justice, to try to stop another parent, spouse or child from being forced to do what he had done. To work his ass off to stop as many of the bastards as he could until it was time to go and see his girls again.

He was damned if he was going to let his mutinous body stop him from his mission. And if that meant his team seeing him at less than his best, then that was the price he would pay. With a grunt, he stood up, swaying only slightly, but enough for Tony to reach out to steady him. “Whoa, there, boss. It’s okay. You let me handle this one.”

“No,” Gibbs snapped back. Regretting his tone, he clasped Tony’s shoulder and said more softly, “No, I’m fine.” He ignored Tony’s protests by turning to his workbench and tracking down the jar he had stashed his phone in. Pocketing the device, he turned back in time to see the naked worry on his Tony’s face. He appreciated that it wasn’t pity, but it still annoyed him into a scowl. This seemed to reassure his lead agent, who smiled brightly at the sight.

“Let’s go then, Boss. We’ve got a dead ensign at Woodland Beach.” Gibbs grunted and headed up the stairs, trailing his hand along the railing and hoping Tony didn’t notice how much he needed it for balance. The sun assaulted him on the porch, and he headed straight for the passenger seat, grateful when Tony made no comment at this unprecedented move. He sat back with a sigh, and realized as they headed out in companionable silence, that maybe at least one of his team did understand him, after all.
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