Title: Bittersweetness and Light

Author: Shannon/Raindrops on Roses

Rating: PG
Category: Angst

Spoilers: None.

Disclaimer: These characters belong to DPB, CBS, Paramount, et al. No infringement is intended.

Wistful was not a word often used to describe Jethro Gibbs.

Cunning? Sure. Bastard? Certainly. One mean son-of-a-bitch? Of course.

Gibbs held a small wrapped bouquet. The delicate pink flowers were difficult to find this time of year, but he had a friend who kept them on stock for him.

It was a gorgeous day--fairly warm for mid-February. The sun shone brightly in a vivid blue sky. Light sparkled off of snowdrifts. The slight breeze made it cool enough to require a jacket, but not so frigid as to keep people indoors.

Gibbs heard the shrieks of neighborhood children nearby and frowned. No matter what the groundskeepers did, the children kept coming back to sled down the steep hill nearby.

He stared down at the marker. He did not sigh, or weep, or speak as so many others did when they visited. He kept his gaze on the small rectangular stone. His stance gave nothing away to the casual observer, but the way he cradled the delicate package in his hands betrayed him.

He held it like the most precious thing in the world. Like a father would hold his child as she slept in his arms.

He remembered those days. He remembered the shrieks of joy as he walked through the door... the delighted laughter as he lifted her and tossed her into the air. He remembered sitting on the couch after dinner, reading her storybooks and listening to her baby chatter.

His wife had been so annoyed when she said her first word. 'Daddy.' He remembered her sweet high voice saying his name while tugging on his pant leg. 'Pick me up, Daddy!'

Amy. Beloved. She was his beloved... his pride and joy. She drew the attention of any room she was in. Her mother's red curly hair and father's bright blue eyes brought cooing adoration from any number of women.

Her favorite book had been Green Eggs and Ham, even though she hated eggs with a passion. Her favorite game to play was hide-and-seek. She had loved the sled he brought home for her third Christmas.

She had fallen through the ice at a friend's skating party. There had been so many children... but how could they have missed his little girl? She was so bright, so pure, so... good, that she stood out in any crowd.

When they realized his Amy had gone missing, they had called the rescue teams. They worked as quickly as they could... but it was too late. She was admitted to the hospital with hypothermia. She had died on her fifth birthday.

He and his wife had felt her birthday to be so fitting. What better day than the daughter of their undying love to be born on than Valentine's Day? How fitting that the demise of their love begin on that date, as well.

He hadn't meant to hurt his wife. He just hadn't known how to handle the loss of his beautiful baby girl. So he had pushed away the one person who knew best how he felt. He had thrown himself into his career, requesting longer hours... more duties... harder assignments. And when he came home one day, he found Rebecca gone. Two days later, he had been served with the divorce papers.

What would his life have been like, if that tragic accident hadn't occurred? Would he still be married to Rebecca? Would they have had more children? Would he have watched his pretty little girl grow into a beautiful young woman? Seen her walk across the graduation stage? Walked her down the aisle at her wedding? Would he, instead of standing in a cold cemetery, be playing with his grandchildren instead?

Gibbs blinked. Clearing away handfuls of snow, he knelt and placed the bouquet of roses by the headstone. As he stood once more, he heard snow crunching behind him. He turned.

"Rebecca," he greeted the still-red-haired woman.

"Jethro," his first ex-wife replied civilly.

Gibbs looked behind her and nodded at the man standing by the silver Lexus. He glanced at the gray stone one final time. He left, the delighted laughter of children echoing in his ears.

End.