Barely Breathing by SilverFoxFiles [ - ]
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Category: Crossovers > Slashed
Characters: Mac Taylor
Rating: PG-13
Genres: Angst
Warnings: None

Summary: Crossover with NCIS. A year later, Mac Taylor remembers. Part of the Firestorms Universe series but can be read as a stand-alone.

Story Notes:
Jet and Mac met as young Marines and became lovers after they were wounded in Beruit, falling deeply in love with each other. But Jet had Shannon and soon Kelly was born and he and Mac stayed brothers in arms, but never betrayed his vows to Shannon. Shannon Gibbs died in '91 but Kelly survived and was badly hurt.

Mac and Jethro have been on again, off again for quite a few years in between Jethro's marriages, but that all changed when Claire Conrad married Mac Taylor. Not only did Mac fall deeply in love with Claire, but they had decided to move to DC full time just before Sept 11. Claire and Jet had a genuine bond and he and Kelly felt her loss deeply.And Mac...poor Mac has been lost since he lost Claire...

And so the story continues...

September 11, 2002

Mac wasn't interested in the ceremonies, the wreaths, the speeches. Instead of going down to Ground Zero, he stayed at his office, co-workers drifting in for the entire day. Stella told him when Claire's name was read off and gave him a hug.

Work was impossible on this first anniversary. Too many of their friends, family, and colleagues had died, but the gash in the earth was too stark, too empty of life, for many of them to want to be there.

They passed by Ground Zero almost daily, they didn't need the reminder.

The last year had been tough on Mac. He hadn't really understood how deeply he loved his wife until she was gone. His life had consisted of work, endless sleepless nights, more work, with the only silver lining in the cloud being Jet and Kelly. And Kel was moving on, becoming an adult, she had just started at Georgetown. And Jet had started dating another redhead, this one called Stephanie. He was giddy, and that never boded well. Giddiness usually led to another Gibbs marriage.

Mac was alone, lonelier than he'd ever been, but he was surviving he supposed. Today would be hard. He remembered everything in stark reality, the screams, the smells, the utter devastation.

And then he'd arrived home to find Claire's horrific message, her last moments. If he hadn't been working endless hours, he would have cracked up. As it was, Jet had helped him pick up the pieces, brought him to DC, where he and Kelly had helped Mac regain his grip on reality. Even his parents had come down to Chicago for an extended visit.

But Claire's body had never been found, not so much as a tooth or a shred of DNA. There was still this completely unrealistic hope that she was out there somewhere, lost and alone. Mac knew he was torturing himself with the hope, but he couldn't stop it.

By mid-afternoon, he had gotten tired of all the well-meaning coworkers and fled work, escaping to his apartment, lights off, blinds drawn. He must have sat there for hours, trying not to think about anything, trying to forget what he'd lost and what he was missing.

Mac came back to awareness when it was dark. He looked at the clock, surprised to see that it was ten at night. It was time to go.

Mac dressed with care, pulling on his tuxedo, tying the bow tie that he never quite got right. Claire had always chuckled and smoothed it out, but dammit, she was gone! He had to stay strong, handle it, there would be time to cry later. Maybe when he was with someone he could let go with.

He walked out of their apartment and stopped at the corner all-night store, buying one single red rose. A cabbie stopped before he even hailed one, probably noticing what he was wearing, and left Mac alone for the ride.

He got out of the cab, feeling a thousand years old. All around him were tangible markers of the first anniversary of the mass grave. He walked toward the area where the buildings had stood and got down on one knee, fingering the rose.

"Claire, I don't know what to say. I miss you so much. I..." He closed his eyes against the pain but turned rapidly when someone touched his shoulder. His had automatically went for his gun before he remembered he'd left it at home, as a silent tribute to his wife.

The trip had taken longer than he planned, but Jethro Gibbs was just glad it was over. He was never driving anywhere with his daughter again, not even if her car was nicer then the sedan he had borrowed from work to make the trip. She had driven him crazy, but it just didn't seem right to fly today, and while his head knew that nothing was likely to happen, his gut was applauding his decision to drive.

He and Kelly had parked near Mac's apartment, but when he hadn't been there they both had a good idea of where they could find him. Catching a cab down to Ground Zero hadn't been difficult, although finding Mac there would be tough. He knew that Kelly wanted to go down, but he had no desire to be there. Maybe it was remnants from Beirut, but he felt uneasy in a place that just a year prior had seen such tragedy. He would do just about anything for Mac though, so here they were.

Turned out, finding his partner wasn't as difficult as all that. Most people moved by quickly, not wanting to stop in case they should have to think about what had happened there. But Mac, he stood still against the barrier, in his tux, looking down at the remains of the building that had once stood there.

Pointing with one hand, he led Kelly over and they stood together stand behind Mac. "You know, most people would think that the tux was overkill, but I think it's appropriately fashionable to wear on special days. I might have gone with your dress blues, but I've always been partial to a man in uniform."

Mac closed his eyes, blinking back the tears of relief, grief, and gratitude. "Hey, you...I should have expected you." He reached over for the hand on his shoulder only to find two, one atop the other, one delicate, the other rougher and masculine.

He turned, swiping a hand over his wet cheeks. "You have classes, Kel. What are you doing here, kiddo?"

But he knew, and he was so touched. He pulled them both into his arms. "You two...thank you."

Someone cleared his throat and Mac looked off to the side. "My God..." Stella, Danny and Don Flack stood off to one side and behind them Aiden and Sheldon, and was that Sid in the shadows? And just beyond Jet were his folks, who'd threatened to come in from Chicago for the ceremonies even if he couldn't bear to see them. Mac knew what he needed to do.

"Get over here, guys. I'm assuming none of you have plans beyond watching over me tonight. I'm taking all of you out. We're going to eat and drink and celebrate who Not was. She's still alive as long as you guys worry about me." He turned to Jet and Kelly. "And love me."

As Mac turned away from the mass grave, he swore he could hear the echo of Claire's laughter and the whisper of a kiss on his lips.