Title: He's A Smart Man

Rating: PG (Off-screen Child Death)

Classification: Tragedy/Angst

Disclaimers: No I don't own them.

Spoilers: Undercover, Kill Ari Part 2, and the title is a direct quotation from Forced Entry (one scene is also briefly quoted from that ep)

Summary: An application of Challenge #12 to a quote of Gibbs' from Forced Entry.

"Gimme all the chocolate or you're a dead man," Gibbs signed emphatically. The blond-haired figure standing across the kitchen just laughed and shook her head.

"Okay, dead woman." The little girl giggled again and pressed the bags of white chocolate chips tighter to her chest. "Kelly..."

She took one hand off the bags long enough to form a concise message. "Come and get it." Gibbs raised his eyebrows, then pounced forward. With another delightful peal of laughter, Kelly whirled around and headed in the direction of the family room, her sparkling-eyed father right behind her.

He caught up to her in the doorway and playfully wrestled her to the floor, laughing nearly as hard as his daughter. Finally after a couple of minutes of struggling, futile get-away attempts, and good old-fashioned tickling, Gibbs was standing on his feet again, bags of chocolate chips in one hand and the hand of his 6-year-old daughter in the other.

"Your reflexes are slipping, Dad," Kelly signed rapidly with her other hand. "Colonel Ryan would be horrified."

"My reflexes are just fine, thank you very much," Gibbs signed back. "You've just gotten more underhanded and crafty."

"I thought you always told me to always anticipate." Kelly giggled again and Gibbs just shook his head.

"You're the reason I learned to anticipate."

The teasing continued after they returned to the kitchen, and Gibbs showed Kelly how to mix the chips into the rest of the cookie batter they'd already mixed together. As Kelly pulled the wooden spoon through the thick dough, Gibbs searched through the cupboards until he found five smaller bowls and the food coloring.

"You got that all mixed?" Gibbs signed. Kelly nodded enthusiastically and Gibbs smiled at her. "All right. You know what comes next."

Her eyes shining, Kelly carefully divided the batter into 5 equal portions and spooned each into a separate bowl. As she did, Gibbs lightly dropped a few drops of food coloring into each. Then Kelly stirred each of the mixtures until containers of purple, blue, green, yellow, and pink cookie batter stood in a row on the counter.

By this time, Gibbs had prepared the cookie sheets with non-stick spray oil, and he signed for Kelly to watch him. Picking up the bowl of yellow cookie batter, he set it next to the cookie sheet and picked up two teaspoons. He carefully scooped a small ball of yellow dough between the spoons and set it onto the cookie sheet, then lightly flattened the top of it with one spoon. Finally, he turned to his daughter.

"That's the size you want," Gibbs signed. "Any bigger and they won't bake all the way through." Kelly nodded and reached for the bowl of yellow batter, her eyes twinkling with mischief. Gibbs tapped her on the shoulder and she looked up. "Get your own," Gibbs signed, the corner of his lips tugging up in amusement. Kelly flashed him an un-repentant grin before reaching for the blue bowl instead.

They worked in silence for several minutes, carefully spooning the batter onto the cookie sheets. Suddenly Gibbs felt a light hand on his side and he turned. Kelly stood there, looking up at him, her blue eyes serious.

"what's the matter, sweetheart?" Gibbs signed, his eyes rapidly searching for sign of injury. There was nothing as far as he could tell. "What's wrong?"

Kelly signed the words slowly. "Will you teach me how to shoot a gun?"

Gibbs nearly smiled with relief. He should have guessed something like this was coming one of these days. Gibbs had been in the Marine Corps since before his daughter was born, so Kelly had grown up with lots of the adults around her carrying weapons. Although they were almost never in her presence, unless she was attending a military function with her parents, Kelly had always considered their being around as normal.

"When you're older, absolutely I can," Gibbs told her. Kelly shook her head.

"I meant sometime soon...in case something happens."

"What?" Gibbs got down on one knee so that he was eye-level with Kelly. "What do you mean, if something happens?" he signed gently.

Kelly didn't answer and her eyes welled up with tears. Quickly, Gibbs put an arm around her shoulders and guided her over to the couch in the living room. When they were both seated, Gibbs signed carefully, "Does this have to do with Daddy's job at NCIS?"

Kelly nodded as a tear trickled down her cheek. "Yesterday, when I was at Josie's, her brother was watching a movie about a federal agent trying to catch some terrorists, and the terrorists killed his family to get him to leave them alone."

She had to fingerspell a couple of the words that weren't part of a first-grader's usual sign-language vocabulary, and though she didn't spell them right, it was close enough for Gibbs to understand. He exhaled, fighting between the heartbreak he felt for his child and the sudden urge to tear Josie's brother limb from limb.

"Daddy," Kelly continued, her hands shaking. "What if terrorists come after me and Mommy and you're not here?"

"Kelly, listen to me." Gibbs signed the words slowly and deliberately, his eyes glistening with emotion. "Nothing is going to happen to you or Mommy, whether I'm here or not. Okay?" Kelly nodded. "Nothing is going to happen."

Kelly nodded again and Gibbs held out his arms. His child burrowed into them and he enveloped her into a tight hug, her sobs soaking the front of his shirt and his tears trickling into her hair.

OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO

"Agent Gibbs?" Mrs. Rowens' voice shocked Gibbs back into the present and he looked up.

"I'm sorry?"

"Would you like some coffee?"

"Uh, sure, please," he managed. She turned to McGee and Gibbs forced his eyes away form the white counter-top littered with dishes, the one that looked all too close to the countertop where he'd baked with Kelly almost fifteen years before.

"Isn't he too young to be a federal agent?" The Marine wife gave Gibbs a little grin as McGee exited the house.

"I ask myself that every day." It was the first witty reply that came into his head. Taking a deep breath, he forced himself to ask the usual questions, almost like a rote script. Until she mentioned her husband.

"He the one who taught you how to shoot?" Gibbs asked quietly. She nodded, and he glanced over at the counter again. In a hoarse voice, he said, "Smart man."

OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO

The knock came while he was in interrogation.

He never remembered exactly what they said to him, only the looks on their faces as they stood on the hall. Maybe they hadn't said anything. When someone knocks on an interrogation room door, and you see its your supervisor, a Marine Chaplain, and the NCIS director, you'd have to be an idiot to not know what had just happened. And Gibbs was no idiot.

He remembered feeling like he'd been hit in the stomach. Trying to talk and not able to say a word. Contemplating whether he could rush past them and avoid whatever they had to say. Noticing for the first time just how hideous that particular shade of orange on the walls was. Choking out five small letters.

"Kelly?"

The Chaplain's hand came up to his shoulder. Everyone's eyes were looking too kind. That's when he'd screamed it.

"KELLY!"

That's when his knees buckled and he collapsed backwards against the wall. He just sat there, arms by his sides, chest heaving, and tears streaming down his cheeks as meaningless phrases floated around him.

"They found her lying face-down on the bed."