This is our first (of many!) NCIS stories. This one features a character death, so if that isn't your thing, you've been warned.
Much love to our beta Anna, who not only didn't get mad about not getting a tissue warning, but quickly returned out work and had us running to Wikipedia to check out our facts. She's the absolute best, but you can't have her, she's ours!
Our muses, Taylor and Gibbs, love to be fed. Won't you give them some little nutritional nuggets by telling us what you think? They'll thank you, as will we.
Thanks for reading!
Ange and Bree
Silver Fox Files
The ceremonies had been going on for three days now and he was tired. Sick of the wailing and beating of breasts. For Chrissake, the guy was gone and all the crying in the world wouldn't bring him back. He hated funerals, especially the ones where the big shots came out to play. He'd never seen so many NCIS agents and big brass together, not even at the Christmas party, which had better booze and a hell of a lot more atmosphere.
The wake had been last night and he and the team had gone out and gotten drunk. Even Jen had been there and Jethro had tipped his bottle of beer at her. Even now, she sat there at the gravesite in the second row, behind the team, her eyes red rimmed, her lip trembling.
The priest was saying something profound, but he was beyond listening, didn't really care. It had all blurred together anyway, the speeches, the remembrances from the people who had barely known the dead guy. The ones from the team and the director had actually meant something. The letters from the president, the SecDef, and the SecNav had been surprising but strangely touching. Even Gibbs found himself misting up a little and he wasn't that kind of guy.Finally, it was done, the team standing up. Jethro shook off his stiffness and stretched before turning to Ducky.
"You did good, Duck. Real good. Thanks for helping me out here. I couldn't have managed all these details."
Ducky smiled sadly at his friend, then looked at the box. The coffin held the body, or what was left of it. It wasn't pretty, Jethro knew. He'd been there when a positive ID had been made. Crush injuries, the worst. Closed casket. Best for everyone. It had been bad enough when Kate and Tony had found the body. Kate's screams still echoed in his head.
Abby stumbled over to the coffin and stroked the shiny wood and Jethro gave Ducky a nod before going over to the grieving woman. "It's okay, Abbs. Really. He's someplace where he doesn't hurt and he can watch over you.""Gibbs," she whispered and turned into his chest. His arms came around her.
"I know, Abbs. I know. But you need to be strong now. We're all going to need those smiles in the coming days. You hear me?" He kissed her forehead and tugged on one of her pigtails. Despite the occasion, she'd put her hair up in that cute style.
Tony came up beside her, putting a hand on her shoulder and Jethro stepped back, watching. Tony looked much older now, his grief worn on his face. How had Jethro never known how much DiNozzo had worn his heart on his sleeve?"Boss," Tony began in a shuddering breath and Jethro couldn't help himself. He pulled the younger man against his shoulder, stroking the head he was used to striking instead.
"Be strong for me, Tony. I know you can do it. I always knew you had it in you. It's why I ride you so hard. You wouldn't expect any less and I wouldn't give you any less. You'll be okay, DiNozzo."
Jethro had spoken to McGee earlier, the kid was going to be laid up for a while yet. And the youngest agent had written a letter that Tony and Abby read at the service. McGee was a hero, had rushed in despite all odds, hoping to stop the inevitable. For his troubles, he'd shattered an arm, some ribs, and damn near broken his back. But he'd taken one for the team and that was all Jethro could have asked for. Teamwork and guts, McGee had them both and he was proud of the kid.
DiNozzo and Todd were banged up as well, but not as badly. He'd been told they had been digging through the rubble for twenty minutes, trying to rescue McGee after they found the body.
Kate stood a little apart from the others and Jethro took a few steps closer, looking at the bruises on her face. "Should have covered those up, Kate. You look terrible." He started to pat her back and then pulled away. He'd never been quite sure how to deal with her; they'd never had the easy banter he and Tony and he and Abby shared.
"Come on, Kate. Chin up. You know this is a dangerous job. We all did. But you have to pick yourself up and go on, for the better of the team."
"I'm sorry, Gibbs," she said quietly as she walked away. "I never wanted it to end like this."
"Me either," Jethro sighed. Losing a good agent was tough, but this one was extra personal. "Kate…" He tried to find the right words, but they wouldn't come and she didn't turn back. He shrugged to Tony, Ducky, and Abby and moved on. His job was far from done yet.
"Jethro," Jenny spoke just as he said her name. Her smile was soft, reminiscent. "We had a good run, didn't we?"
"We did. I'll never forget—"
"Paris," she finished for him.
"Paris," he echoed. "You were my weakness. Beauty, brains, and guts, topped with that red hair. We could have made a go of it, you know."
"I loved you, but we never could have had more and you know it." Her voice was so wistful.
Jethro winced. There was so much more to say and he just couldn't voice the words. "I loved you too, Jenny."
He stroked a hand over her soft cheek and turned his attention to the three women standing close together, three shades of red hair together for the first time ever. He wanted to think of them as the three witches, but he didn't have that anger inside him.
He went up to his most recent ex first. "Stephanie," he said softly and she wobbled. "Drunk again. Oh, hell." He pulled her close for a moment in time. "I hope you're gonna be okay. I worry about you."
Unlike the others, she didn't react at all. "And this was why the marriage didn't work, Stephanie. You always ignored me when I tried to reach out." He was getting annoyed and frustrated. Why had she come anyway?
"And you, Diane. Hanging out with Stephanie and Marissa. Nice touch with the golf club on the coffin there, by the way. Complements all the coffee cups. Speaking of which, looking good for a loon, Marissa. I'd like to say it is a pleasure, but you couldn't compare to any of the wives. Not even Diane and her golf club. Never thought I'd live to see the day that the three of you would be in the same room."
"You didn't live to see this day, Jethro. Don't you remember? These people can't hear you. You're dead, honey."
Hearing it spoken again was like a physical blow. The gorgeous woman, his only true love, came up to him and held him tight.
"I know, Jethro. It takes a lot of getting used to, but you have Kelly and me to help you through."
Jethro nodded jerkily. "Where is my girl? I…I think I'm done here. Can I come back for the will reading? Just to make sure they're all going to be okay?"
"I'm right here, Daddy." Kelly materialized behind her father, grabbing him around his waist. When she had been little, one of her favorite things to do was to try and sneak up on her father, to try to surprise him. She thought she did a pretty good job of it, but it was later when her mom told her that he always knew where she was, but didn't want to disappoint her. "I got you that time; you didn't see me coming, did you?"
"I was always nearby, you just could never see me. I'd follow you whenever I could, just to make sure you were fine. Mommy and I, we didn't want to see you here for a long time. But I'm glad you're here. I missed you, Daddy."
He crouched down, eye to eye with his little princess, forever a child. "I missed you too, Kelly. But I'm here now and we have forever." He looked over her shoulder. "Do I see your grandparents back there in the mist?"
"Uh huh. Memaw and Pop Pop, and Gruppy and Gamma are waiting for you too. They sent us ahead to make sure you weren't scared. You're not scared, are you, Daddy? I was scared at first, but then I found Mommy and she said it was going to be okay. But I kept looking for you in the beginning, I didn't like leaving you behind. It wasn't your time, that was what everyone said."
"I'm not scared. How could I be with you and your mom showing me the way? I couldn't have better tour guides and teachers."
"We both missed you, Jethro. But I wanted you to come to us an old man, having lived a long and boring life." Shannon knew the likelihood of that was slim, but she had hoped all the same. "But I'll take you however I can get you, love. You can come back for the reading of the will, and any time, really. They won't know you're there, but you can check up on your children. It will be a long time before we see any of them here with us."
"It had better be," Jethro replied, standing up again, Kelly in his arms. "They need each other, Shan." He swallowed hard and closed his eyes for a moment. "Goodbye, everyone. I'll be all right. Shannon and Kelly are here and I can be happy with them. Take care of each other."
Both Shannon and Kelly were sniffling as he tucked his wife under his arm and walked toward the mist and his ever after. At the border where grass and fog met, he turned around for one last look, raising a hand in farewell.
Abby looked toward the end of the cemetery, her attention pulled there by something she couldn't identify. For the briefest moment, Abby could have sworn she saw Gibbs walking away with two redheads that could only be Shannon and Kelly. The little girl turned and waved at her, before disappearing into the mist with Gibbs and the other woman.
"Ducky, Tony? Did you see that?"
But they hadn't. They would never have believed anyway. Abby knew this was a private gift for her and her alone. "Goodbye, Gibbs. Be happy," she said as she looped her arms through those of the two men flanking her and started to walk away, into a future a little less bright now that Leroy Jethro Gibbs had left them.