The sound of feet padding softly down the basement steps mixed with the gentle scraping of the hand planer. When he stopped dragging the tool across the wood, the foot falls stopped as well.
"You should be asleep."
"I tried," she ran down the last few steps, "but couldn't."
Gibbs sighed and moved to put the sharp tool safely away. He looked at her, her hair still so much lighter than her mother's even in the dim light. Opening his arms, he allowed the little girl to rush into them, "You missing mom?"
She nodded against his chest, "Yeah. Why'd she have to die, Daddy?"
"Uncle Ducky told you she was really sick and the doctors did everything they could to make her better."
"But why'd she have to get cancer?"
There was no answer to that question, "I don't know, sweetheart."
She snuggled closer to him, "Daddy?"
"Are you going to send me away to live with Aunt Susan," her face tilted up to look at him, a pout playing at her lips.
"What? Why would you think I was sending you to live with your aunt," he stared at her in confusion.
"I heard Aunt Susan say it would be better when I lived with her," she put her head back on his chest.
"I'm not sending you anywhere. You are my daughter and you're going to stay right here with me," his arms tightened around her. "You aren't going anywhere. I promise, Emily."
"How's Em," Abby asked first thing as Gibbs walked into her lab.
"Not sleeping and thinking that I'm going to ship her off to Diane's sister," Gibbs handed her a Caff!Pow and leaned against the edge of the evidence table.
Abby took a sip of the sweet drink, "Why would she think that?"
"She overhead something Susan said at the funeral." Gibbs took a deep breath, "I think she's going to try and get custody."
"I would not put that past Susan," Ducky commented as he entered the room. Handing Abby an evidence bag, he smiled, "For you, my dear."
"Wow, Duckman, my favorite! Bullet fragments!"
As Abby signed the chain of custody evidence tag, Ducky turned back to Gibbs, "Has Susan threatened to take away Emily?"
"Nah, at least not to my face, but I wouldn't be surprised to get papers from a lawyer any day now."
With the evidence secured, Abby turned back to the conversation, "What grounds could she use to get custody?"
"Unfit parenting," Gibbs guessed with a shrug.
"Gibbs," Abby shrieked as she launched herself into his arms, "you are the most fit parent I know. She couldn't… wouldn't dare!"
Ducky smiled gently, "I don't think Jethro means unfit in the traditional sense. I think he is more concerned with Susan using his career and schedule against him."
"Got it in one, Duck," Gibbs smiled over Abby's shoulder at his old friend.
"What about us," Abby turned slightly to indicate herself and Ducky, but didn't let go of Gibbs. "Does Susan know that we're listed as emergency contacts and guardians?"
"Don't know. Don't think it will matter. I mean, we're on the same team. If I'm on call, then most likely so are you two. Susan's going to argue that Em needs more stability and a two parent home."
"The second one's easy. I'll marry ya, Gibbs."
This made him chuckle slightly and kiss the Goth's cheek, "I love you too much to marry you, Abs."
She shrugged and bounced out of his arms, "Just trying to help."
"What about Tobias," Ducky suddenly interjected.
"We've known each other too long, Duck, we're starting to think alike," Gibbs shook his head. "I've asked Fornell to meet me this afternoon. He and Diane never finalized the divorce cause of the cancer, so I think there is a chance he'd go for something like joint custody. And since he's more of a paper pusher…"
"Fornell loves Emily like she was his own. He'll jump at the chance to still be a part of her life," Abby spoke as if it was an absolute certainty.
Ducky laid his hand on Gibbs' shoulder, "Takes a big man to share his child like that."
"I know she loves me, but he's been her stepfather since she was two. I doubt she remembers a time that he wasn't there. I don't want to lose anyone else."
"Unfit, my butt," she hugged him again.
"Aunt Abby!" The moment Emily Gibbs saw the familiar and unique figure, she'd taken off running.
Catching the little girl, who had virtually flown at her, and hoisting her up in her arms, Abby laughed, "Gee, Em, I thought you'd be happy to see me."
"Don't be silly, Aunt Abby," Emily wrapped her arms around Abby's neck and her legs around Abby's waist, "I'm totally stoked to see you."
Abby kissed her forehead and was about to reply when a stern looking woman approached from the school building.
"Excuse me, miss, but I'm going to have to ask you to leave the property."
Abby smiled sweetly, "No prob. Em and I were just going anyhow."
"I'm afraid I can't allow that," she placed a hand on Abby's arm.
"First, you can allow that, because I'm one of the approved persons to pick Emily up. Second," Abby's voice lowered to a growl, "if you don't remove your hand in the next three seconds, I'll remove it for you and you won't like that."
"You better do what Aunt Abby says, Mrs. Powell. My daddy taught her self-defense," Emily nodded seriously.
The hand was removed as if it had been burnt, "Well, I'll still need to verify that you are on Mr. Gibbs' list."
"It's Agent Gibbs and, of course, I wouldn't expect less. Shall we head to the office?"
Mrs. Powell merely nodded as she lead them to the school office.
Still being carried by Abby, Emily giggled, "Wait till she sees your NCIS badge."
"This is going to be fun," Abby whispered back as she rubbed noses with the girl.
"Who are you watching? Abby or Emily," Fornell asked as he slipped into the front passenger seat of Gibbs sedan.
Gibbs eyes never left the school, "The faculty. I want to see if they'll let Emily leave with anyone."
"Not a fair test, sending Abby in. We know what a sweet girl she is, but she doesn't exactly look like Donna Reed."
"Hey, she does own a poodle skirt and bobby socks."
Fornell snorted at the mental image. Then nodded towards the school, "Looks like they passed the test."
Gibbs watched as a stern woman approached Abby and Emily. When after a few seconds the woman put her hand on Abby's arm, Gibbs leaned forward to better see what was happening. The woman removed her hand as if it had been burnt and Gibbs leaned back with a smirk, "That's my girl."
"What Abs threatened her with?"
"Nothing to graphic, she's got Em with her," Gibbs reassured him.
Fornell nodded, looking pensively over the one floor school building, "Why am I here, Jethro?"
"I need your help, Tobias," Gibbs looked at his old friend for the first time since he had slid into the car. "I'm worried that Susan is going to try and get custody of Em. Before she can even get a lawyer to take the case, I want to make sure that I got a steady and regular schedule for Emily. The only way to do that is with your help. Would you consider something like shared custody?"
"Is that… Could we do that? I'm just Emily's stepdad and, let's face it, if it wasn't for the cancer, I'd be her ex-stepdad by now."
Gibbs sighed, "It isn't the most traditional arrangement, but I trust you and Em loves you. She's suffered enough loss; I don't think she should lose you, too."
"I thought the second B stood for Bastard, Jethro," there was a touch of humor in his voice.
"Not when it comes to my daughter," Gibbs gave Fornell a look as he climbed out of the car to greet Emily and Abby.
Fornell followed Gibbs lead and leaned against the front of the sedan as Emily and Abby skipped hand-in-hand across. "That is good to know, Jethro, cause I do love that little girl, too. And I'll do all in my power to protect her," he whispered, low and hard.
"I know," was all Gibbs was able to get out before Emily flew towards them.
Emily flung an arm around the waists of both Gibbs and Fornell, "Daddy, Papa! Aunt Abby showed Missus Powell her NCIS badge and Missus Powell got this really funny look on her face."
"Well," Fornell winked at Abby, "she probably couldn't believe that someone as pretty and nice as Aunt Abby could work for the Navy."
"Smooth," Abby smiled as she kissed Fornell on the cheek.
Emily giggled as her father scowled at the exchange, "Papa, are you going to dinner at Uncle Ducky's with us?"
"Ah, I don't think so, honey," Fornell ran a hand over her golden hair.
"Nah, that is a great idea," Gibbs patted Emily's back. "Why don't you go call Uncle Duck, Em? Phone's in the front seat."
Emily nodded and skipped around to the rear passenger side door.
Once Emily was in the car, Fornell looked at Gibbs, "You sure that will be okay with Ducky?"
"I think Ducky is at least half expecting you. He knows that you were meeting us and that we'd have plans to make, if you agreed."
"Which of course, you did," Abby linked arms with both Fornell and Gibbs. "Come on, Duckman always makes way too much food. Besides, you can't be a member of the family until you've been interrogated by Mrs. Mallard. And personally, I can't wait to hear her reaction when Emily calls you two Daddy and Papa."
Gibbs and Fornell groaned.
This is inspired by wiccagirl24's amazing Kelly!verse, in which Kelly wasn't with Shannon when she was killed in the car crash. Thus, Gibbs became a single parent. (If you haven't read her stories, then you must go read them now.)
Re-reading her stories, my warped mind started thinking, which is never a good thing. And, what it started thinking about? What if Emily was actually Gibbs' daughter with Diane? What if, in an attempt to save or start her relationship with Gibbs, Diane got pregnant? What if Fornell was Emily's stepdad? What if Gibbs was left to raise Emily? This short (for now) series of vignettes is an attempt to satisfy my own curiosity about these questions.
Of course, a few vital statics have been changed. Emily is now about three years old than canon!Emily. Meaning that Emily is about 12/13 in season five. (Yeah, it doesn't really work in the timeline, but neither do the Gibbs ex-wives.) Diane is dead and never officially divorced from Fornell. Also, there may be a bit of a relationship between Gibbs and Abby, cause I tend to ship that.