Disclaimer- My goal in live is to be one of the people who walks past the windows on the set of Abby's lab. Since not even this small dream has happened, I have to admit that the show does not belong to me.
Spoilers- And show that mentions Gibbs' history, especially Hiatus.
A/N: I had a sleepover this weekend, and two of my friends and I watched all of NCIS season one. Between us we came up with a million plot bunnies (and no, Chrissy, I am not writing Tony/Ducky.) This is one of mine. Thank you specialagentrc for the beta'ing. I loved the pink!
He holds her hand through the entire service. She sits as close to him as she can without being on his lap. Neither of them shed a tear as the coffin is lowered into the ground. A friend of Shannon's hosts a gathering afterwards, but they don't attend. Instead he drives her to the beach and they sit in the sand, watching as the sun sets over the water. For three hours they don't say a word. When Kelly falls asleep, her head on his tear stained shoulder, he carrys her back to the car. He tucks her into bed, and sits in the chair next to her all night long.
A week after the funeral he walks her to the door of her classroom. She looks at him with wide pleading eyes when he starts to leave, and he ends up spending the rest of the morning sitting in a chair meant for a seven year old. His knees are pulled up to his chin and his lower back is aching, but twice he is able to pull a smile from his little girl. That's all he cares about. The next day he stays for an hour, and sneaks out while Kelly is playing hopscotch on the playground.
Two weeks later, he leaves Kelly with Shannon's sister overnight. A red eye flight has him arriving in Mexico at five in the morning. An hour and a half later he is belly down in the dirt with a finger on the trigger of a rifle. He peers through the scope, not allowing himself to think. It only takes seconds before the man who killed his wife is falling to the ground, a hole in the middle of his forehead. He throws the rifle into the ocean, and arrives home in time for dinner.
June first, his last day as an active Marine. He rents a cabin in the Adirondacks, where he and his daughter spend the summer building a boat on the shore of the lake. A new boat, for a new life. When it's finished it will be just the right size for the two of them. They have quiet conversations about the places they will sail to. In the evenings they sit on a log in front of a fire. Kelly roasts marshmallows while he tells her stories about her mother.
A month after school starts Kelly turns eight. She has three friends over for a tea party, for which he blows up pink balloons and mixes Kool-aid. After everyone leaves he brings her down to the basement, where a dollhouse is sitting on the workbench. Each room is filled with miniature furniture, and on the side of the house is a tiny wooden boat, just the right size for two dolls to fit in it. She laughs and jumps into his arm, hugging him tightly. She spends the rest of the afternoon down in the basement, moving dolls through the rooms. When he tucks her into bed that night her hand is clenched tight. He tugs at the plastic once she's asleep, and finds that she is holding the mother doll.
It rains as they walk through the cemetery, one year from the date that is permanently etched on the headstone. They each carry flowers with them; his are small and purple, hers are pure white. She tells a story about a butterfly and he only speaks in silence. They don't stay long- Kelly is only just now over a cold and he won't risk her health for anything. That night, he's only just gotten into bed when she appears in the doorway. She looks so small and lost. He holds out his hand and she runs across the room, falling onto the bed. She's asleep in minutes, but he wakes up every hour to check on her.
After two years of weekends, evenings, and vacations the boat is complete. On Memorial day they load it onto a trailer and drive to the lake. They spend the day on the water fishing, swimming, and eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. As they are heading back to the shore they meet i her /i for the first time. Annie.
She's standing on a large flat rock in the middle of the lake. With a folding chair in one hand and a frayed rope in the other, she's looking speculatively at the small rowboat that is drifting a dozen yards away. Kelly tugs on his shirt and asks if they can help the pretty lady. After they give her a ride, her boat towed behind theirs, she insists on buying them dinner. The next Friday he returns the favor, inviting Annie over for spaghetti, the one meal he knows he won't screw up.
Six months later Kelly twirls around the room in pink organza. Her bouquet of flowers matches Annie's, and their toenails are painted the same color. He dances with his bride first, and then his daughter. When he goes to get a drink he comes back to find that the two females are dancing together, and throws back his head in laughter. That night they leave on their honeymoon, and the next day the three of them walk through the entrance to Disneyland.
He works late more often then not, especially when Franks quits and he is suddenly thrust into the role of leader. He rests well knowing that his two girls have each other when he isn't there. Most of his weekends are saved for Annie and Kelly. He goes to every parent teacher conference and school play, and clears at least a week every summer for vacation on the lake. It's a difficult balancing act, work and family, but he's learning.
And then comes Kyle Boone. He doesn't go home for more then a week, doesn't call for two days. He trusts that Annie is taking care of Kelly, but she doesn't trust that he remembers them. When the case is over she tells him that they are too. She moves out a week later. Kelly spends the weekends with him but the weekdays with Annie, until he can make other arrangements for her care. That Christmas is a quiet one, just father and daughter. He buys her a puppy, and she names it Sandy. He doesn't understand why until weeks later when it rains on a Saturday and she asks to watch her favorite musical.
It's because of Sandy that they meet Diane. The leash snaps when they are at the park, and she is standing between the dog and a squirrel. He feels guilty about the mud that covers her shirt and when he helps her up insists on paying for her dry cleaning. She refuses, but takes him up on his offer of a change of clothes. Kelly runs ahead of them on the way back to the house and is dancing impatiently next to the front door when they finally catch up. He gives her a worn t-shirt much too large for her, but the dark navy color sets off her red hair perfectly.
The wedding is held at the county courthouse. Diane invites a few friends, and Ducky sits next to Kelly. It's a short and informal service, like the marriage itself. He's not quite sure how it happens, but less than a year later he has five stitches behind his left ear and he's warning Fornell against getting married to the woman. Kelly doesn't seem to mind. She prints out boat designs on the computer and leaves them on the table for him.
It looks like Christmas will be just the two of them again until Ducky calls and leaves a message. He and his mother are having company for dinner, and he hopes that the Gibbs family will join them. He leaves the decision to Kelly, who calls autopsy one afternoon and asks if she can bring Sandy with her. When Ducky says yes, it is decided. What they don't know until they arrive at the Mallard residence is that there are other guests, among them a redhead named Susan. She coaches softball at a local high school, and he appreciates the fact that she spends most of the meal asking Kelly questions about school.
The baseball bat to the head is an accident. The first time he sneaks into the house after working three days straight he doesn't think to announce himself. He's just glad that his bride keeps a bat under the bed and not a gun under the pillow. Ducky stitches him up, and when Stan asks him what happened, he makes up a story about a piece of his boat breaking off. For some reason he can't lie to the new lab tech. She laughs and says that maybe he should talk his wife into switching to tennis.
The bruise is almost gone when he receives a call. The five year old daughter of a Navy seal has been kidnapped, raped, and beaten to death. Her hair is brown, with traces of red highlights. He remembers seven years ago, when the first call he received was that both Shannon and Kelly were dead and, for just a moment, when Ducky moves the little girl's head he sees his daughter. That night he sits in a chair next to Kelly's bed and watches her sleep. The next four nights he doesn't come home.
For almost a year he works ninety hour weeks. He sleeps in his desk chair more often and when he does make it into his own bed its well past midnight and Susan is asleep. He takes two days off during the year; once to watch Kelly win the school spelling bee and the other when a temperature of 101 keeps her out of school. He heats up soup for her and watches movies with no plots. Twice during the day he calls Ducky, who reassures him that the fever is nothing to worry about as long as it doesn't linger. The next morning she's back to normal and he's back at work.
The day they catch the killer- too late for Trisha Sands, age 6- everyone in the building celebrates. He refuses Abby's offer to join her, Ducky, Stan and Kendra for pizza. Instead he goes home to find a manila envelope in the mailbox. His divorce papers have arrived. He signs them with grim determination, calls Kelly's best friend's house to check on his daughter, and falls into bed. He doesn't open his eyes for eighteen hours.
He's only just started to get settled into a somewhat normal routine again when the director calls him into his office. His help is needed overseas, for an intelligence-gathering mission. He is intrigued by the idea, but he can't say yes. Not yet. It would mean six months in Europe, undercover and without his daughter. That night he takes Kelly out to dinner at Cafe Atlantico and they talk through the idea. It takes a week of deciding and making plans before he returns to Morrow, giving him a reply. Kelly will live with Ducky and his mother for the time that he is gone. Abby tells him that she will check up on the girl. He shakes his head and warns that he better not come back to find out his daughter has any tattoos.
No tattoos, but Kelly's ears are double pierced when he returns from Paris. He scowls, but the hug she gives him is exuberant and he can't help but grin. School is over for the summer, and he takes a month's leave from work. The two of them rent a cabin on a lake. He doesn't speak of Europe, or the woman who was his partner there. She talks non-stop of school, boys, Mrs. Mallard, and monthly outings with Abby and Stan. Their last night at the cabin they have a campfire. Kelly roasts marshmallows and asks for the story of how he met her mother.
When the name Kelly Gibbs is called and the tall brunette walks across the stage to accept her high school diploma, she has a large cheering section. Three rows from the front of the stage sits her dad, Ducky, Mrs. Mallard, Gerald, Abby, and Stan. Scattered through the room, the three red headed woman are a little more difficult to spot. Kelly smiles, blowing a kiss to them all.