in the next couple of days. Major warning for death of a child here. If you
don't want to read about that, please skip this chapter. We all have delete
buttons, please use it if this kind of story is too difficult for you to read.
It's not my wish to upset or traumatise anyone. I'm just writing a story here.
Keep in mind, I only write happy endings though .
Earlier parts can be found here:
There is an alchemy in sorrow. It can be transmuted into wisdom, which, if it does not bring joy, can yet bring happiness.
The end when it came was peaceful, nothing like other deaths Jethro had been witness to. Emmy simply closed her eyes and went to sleep and passed beyond that into eternal slumber. He wasn’t sure what he was expecting but it wasn’t that… that peaceful passage from life into whatever lies beyond.
He watched Tony pick Emmy up and cradle her against him. He crooned the same lullaby he sang to her every night. He rocked her slowly, rhythmically, back and forth, tears sliding down his pale cheeks to drop on the tiny still face nestled against him.
Jethro brushed a kiss over Tony’s hair then bent and kissed Emmy’s still warm forehead. He whispered that he loved her; that he’d look after her daddy for her, and then he left and walked down six flights of stairs to the lobby and stood there, feeling more lost than he’d ever felt before in his life.
There were people milling around the admissions desk, people scurrying back and forth about their business, and he wanted to yell at them, to ask them how they could just go on with their lives, that a child was dead. But he didn’t. He bought a cup of coffee from the vending machine, added the cream and sugar he never used then took it back upstairs and walked back into Emmy’s room and put the cup on the locker next to her crib.
Tony was still holding her and he looked up as if he hadn’t even noticed Jethro had left. “I miss her already,” he said and the sheer anguish in the words was like a punch to Jethro’s gut.
“I know,” was all he could think of to say because he did know, just as he knew that it didn’t help, that empathy meant nothing at a time like this. Grief is too personal for that. “Do you want to go home?” he asked and Tony nodded slowly then stood and placed Emmy back in the crib, snuggling her under the blankets just like he’d done almost every night of her far too short life.
“Night-night, baby. Daddy loves you, Em,” Tony whispered and Jethro had to bite down on his lip to stop the sob he could feel rising in his throat. Then Tony turned and walked outside and by the time Jethro reached the hallway, he was gone.
Jethro stayed long enough to call his team from the hospital parking lot. He wanted them to know as soon as possible but also because once he and Tony went home, he wanted to shield his lover from well-meaning intrusions. He didn’t call Romero. As far as Jethro was concerned, he wasn’t a real member of his team, simply a placeholder for Tony. He didn’t think the man would care anyway. Then he called Tony’s cell phone but it went to voicemail. He went back up to Emmy’s room to see if he’d returned there and found the doctor and a couple of nurses leaving the room. “Have you seen Tony?” he asked.
“Mr DiNozzo was here a few minutes ago. He signed the autopsy permission form then said he had arrangements to make. He did say that if you came back, to tell you not to worry, he’d see you at home later.” The doctor gave a sympathetic smile. “I’m so sorry about Emmy.”
“Tony and I know you did all you could for her.” Jethro looked at the nurses, one of whom had tears in her eyes. “Thank you for taking such good care of her,” he said gruffly. Then he headed to the elevator. It was only when he was riding down that he wondered what home Tony meant.
Tony looked around, surprised to find he wasn’t exactly sure where he was. He’d left the hospital almost in a daze and just started walking. It was almost as if by the simple act of putting his feet in motion he could put distance between the tragedy of losing Emmy and end up back in a happier time where she still lived and laughed and played. Thinking of that had caused tears to well up in his eyes again so he’d steadfastly banished those memories, put his head down and walked. He had no idea how long he’d trudged along, no sense of people or traffic passing him by, no memory, now that he’d stopped, of even thinking of anything at all.
He was standing in a park, not one he remembered ever visiting before. There was a small lake in front of him, a footbridge arching over it, a gravel path beneath his feet with green lawns a few inches ahead that led down to the lake’s edge. There were a few people around, enjoying the late afternoon sunshine, strolling around the lake or sitting on the wooden benches on the lawn. He stood there for what seemed like an eternity, not really even registering the passage of time. All he could think of was that Emmy would never know this again… the sun on her face, the sound of birds, the laughter of children playing… He brushed impatiently at the tears on his cheeks then turned and headed for home… and Jethro.
Jethro stood in the doorway of Emmy’s room and looked around. Part of him wanted to leave it like this forever, part of him wanted to box up everything that reminded him of her and pack it away, burn it, so there’d be nothing here to hurt Tony again. He’d managed to compartmentalize Shannon and Kelly’s deaths but that was when it was just for him. This was about Tony as well, and he couldn’t make the decision for him. It was something they’d decide together.
He had no idea where Tony was. He’d called his cell over and over but it hadn’t been answered. Finally, Jethro turned off the lights and left the apartment and went home.
“I let myself in.”
Jethro breathed a silent sigh of relief at hearing Tony’s voice coming from the bottom of the basement steps and followed it down, perching one step above him as he reached him. “You okay?” he asked.
Tony shook his head and rubbed his hand over his face. “I don’t know if I’ll ever be okay again. I thought I was prepared for this. I’ve been preparing for it since the day she was born. I should have been ready-“
“You can’t prepare for this kind of thing, Tony,” Jethro said softly. “No parent should outlive their child. It’s against the natural order of things, it seems so damn unfair…”
Tony turned to look up at him. “I know you understand how I feel, Jethro. Is it wrong of me to say it doesn’t help?”
Jethro stood up and stepped around him then pulled him up from the step and into his arms. “No, it’s not wrong. But I wish there was something I could do to help you.”
“This helps,” Tony said against his shoulder, “not enough but it helps.”
“Let’s go upstairs,” Jethro said.
“Soon. Not yet. Just hold me like this for a while.”
“As long as you need,” Jethro replied, kissing the side of his face. “As long as we both need.”
“You don’t have to go back to your apartment,” Jethro said quietly as they walked away from the gravesite and back to the car.
Tony looked at him in surprise. “Why not?”
Jethro stopped, then seeing Abby, Ziva, Ducky, and McGee walking towards them, he ushered Tony over to stand under a tree nearby. His team looked at them as they passed, concern and sympathy on their faces, but they continued walking up to the cars parked on the gravel roadway above the cemetery.
“When I asked you to get your own place it was because you’d said we couldn’t be together as long as there was any reason to think you were only with me for what I could do for you and Emmy.” Jethro glanced back at the mound of dirt under a sweeping oak tree then went on, “The reason is no longer valid. You’re working on Emerson’s team so you’re not reliant on me for work, you’re making your own money, paying your own bills and…” he swallowed down on the hard lump in his throat, “you don’t need me to help you with Emmy. If you want to be with me, Tony, we can be. It’s what I want. It’s what you told me you wanted too.”
Tony looked at him, tears in his eyes. He gripped Jethro’s hand tightly and leaned forward, pressing an achingly sweet kiss to his mouth. Jethro could feel Tony’s lips trembling against his own and he reached around him and hugged him into a close embrace. “Soon, I hope,” Tony whispered as he pulled away. “I’m not sure when but soon. I just need some time to get used to her not being in my life. She was such a major part of it. It’s like there’s a hole in every day and every night.”
“Take some personal time from work,” Jethro said. “We could go away for a few weeks.”
“Maybe,” Tony replied. He looked up at where the others waited. “I should go say thanks to the guys for coming. I think I’m going to want to be alone for a little while, is that okay? I need to go through her things, decide what I’m keeping, what I’m giving to the AIDS baby hospice. Is that all right?”
Jethro smothered the hurt and said, “Yes, of course. You know where I am when you need me.” He watched Tony walk up to the cars, watched Abby wrap her arms around him and hug him tight, watched Tony kiss Ziva’s cheek, pull McGee and then Ducky into a quick hug, watched him climb into his car and drive away.
A week later:
Jethro looked up from the report he was only half-heartedly reading to see Vance standing in front of his desk.
The director held a sheet of paper out to him. “You know anything about this?”
Jethro took the paper and scanned it, his hearting bumping painfully in his chest as he realized what it was. “Tony’s resigned?”
“You didn’t know? He didn’t talk to you about it?” Vance sighed as Jethro shook his head.
“He asked me to give him some time alone,” Jethro replied. “I thought it was the right thing to do. I haven’t seen him for a couple of days. I called him and he said he was okay. I didn’t want to pressure him. Maybe I should have.”
“I offered him time off with pay. He said he’d let me know. I came in this morning and found this on my desk. Emerson’s a man down again. I’m moving Romero over to his team. Romero’s not pleased.” Vance gave a thin-lipped smile that suggested Vance might be. “Find him and sort it out, Jethro. I can’t have him up and leaving like this again, regardless of how much sympathy I have for his circumstances. If he wants back in again in the future, I don’t know that I can swing it.”
Jethro stood up. “I still have some leave owed to me and we’re on a slow case period anyway…” He looked over at Ziva and McGee who were sitting at McGee’s desk together, working on something. “Bring in Masterson to head up my team while I’m gone. He’s a good man and he could use a break from Cybercrimes for a while.”
“You’ve got two weeks, Jethro,” Vance said, turning away and heading for the stairs. “David, McGee, my office.”
Ziva and McGee cast surprised glances Jethro’s way but at his nod, they followed the director up the stairs.
Jethro powered down his computer then locked the drawer where he kept his weapon. Tony was running again but this time Jethro was going to follow… and bring him home.