AUTHOR'S NOTES: I want to thank everyone for the ideas and thoughts on this chapter. I aplogize for how woefully short it is, but I thought it better to go short and sweet than longer and lose the essence of the situation.
As far as timing, Mike Franks' death follows my own story timeline and ignores the episode 'Swan Song' except for a few select details.
NCIS-WSHB: Fallen Hero
The Arlington National Cemetery was quiet as Kelly and her family gathered the grave site of former NCIS Special Agent Michael Franks.
Behind his daughter, Leroy Jethro Gibbs stood silently. He'd suspected something was amiss with his old mentor when Mike Franks had last visited for the 5th birthday of Kelly's son. Franks had seemed older, and looked like he'd been sick for a while.
But the older man hadn't talked about it, and Gibbs hadn't asked.
Looking at Kelly with her kids—the twins and Mikey—Gibbs couldn't imagine how his little girl was dealing with this. Kelly hadn't been much older than her son when she'd met Franks and over the years Kelly had come to regard the gruff agent as a combination of 2nd father/grandfather/uncle. The two had bonded from day one and Franks had said on more than one occasion that he got along with Kelly better than any other woman he'd ever met.
Next to Gibbs, Leila Shakarji stood with Franks' granddaughter, Amira, who seemed to understand that this was a sad time, even if she was too young to understand why.
Next to Kelly, Tony stood with an arm around his wife, and his other hand resting on the shoulder of his son, Michael Franklin DiNozzo. Tony and Kelly's daughters—Jennifer and Caitlin—looked somber, and silent tears were falling down Kate's cheeks.
The rest of the NCIS team stood next to Gibbs.
Tim McGee was quiet as he observed the memorial service, one arm around Abby Scuito who was just barely holding on, emotionally. Next to them, Ziva David stood stoically, and even though she didn't seem to be as emotionally wrecked as the others, her eyes glistened with unshed tears.
As the Director of NCIS, Kelly made her way to the front, standing next Mike Franks' coffin which had been carved by her father. Looking at the assembled group, she said, "Mike Franks and I first met after my father joined the agency. I'm sure other kids would have been intimidated, but I wasn't most kids." Looking at her own family, she took a moment before continuing. "Mike did have a son, Liam, who died some years ago. Liam died before really knowing his daughter, Amira. Mike also had three ex-wives who always tried to be the most important thing in his life, but ultimately Mike was married to his job. He became an agent to make a difference, and he did, whether he realized it or not."
It took a moment before Kelly could collect herself enough to carry on. Looking at the crowd, she said, "Mike will be remembered as an exceptional agent and an inspiring mentor… but more importantly as a close friend and a loving grandfather."
As she stepped back to join Tony and her children, Kelly could hear Mike's voice as he appeared next to her, unseen by anyone else.
"Beautiful words," Mike said with a sad smile, watching the Marines finishing the 21-gun salute before folding the flag that had been laid upon the top of the coffin before giving it to Gibbs who gave it to Amira. On the top of the coffin was an expertly carved wood relief of the emblem of the United States Marine Corps. "Tell Probie I said 'thanks' for the wood work. Never been one for fancy resting places." Seeing that Kelly wanted to say something to him, Mike sighed. "You don't have to say anything, Kelly. We all have to go some time."
"You okay?" Tony asked, taking Kelly's hand and looking at her with concern.
"Yeah," Kelly replied, flatly.
The wake was held at Gibbs' house and long after everyone else had gone, Gibbs found himself in his basement. A bottle of bourbon and an empty mason jar sat on his work table and Gibbs poured himself an ample amount of the amber liquid before taking a sip.
Gibbs turned to see Mike Franks standing there, grinning. "Was wondering when you'd come by," Gibbs said as he sipped his drink.
"Stopped in on Kelly first," Mike replied, sitting by the workbench. "You know, I never thanked you, Jethro." Catching Gibbs' look, he clarified. "For bringing her to the office the first time. Daughter I never had."
"I never thanked you for saving Kelly's life in that diner," Gibbs replied.
"I had a good run, Probie," Mike said, picking up the jar of bourbon in front of him. When Gibbs toasted him, the older man laughed. "You should see the little piece of Heaven I've got. My own bar, piece of beach in Mexico…"
"Everything you ever wanted," Gibbs finished with a sad smile.
"Not everything," Mike corrected, sadly. "Won't get to be here to see my granddaughter grow up… get married to your grandson."
Gibbs went quiet, a question popping up in his mind.
As if sensing the thought, Mike shook his head. "Don't worry. You'll be here for a long time. Shannon and Jenny have already threatened to kick my ass if I let you kick the bucket before you're supposed to."
Gibbs couldn't help but laugh at that. When he felt Mike leave, he sipped his bourbon again and simply said, "Semper fi, boss."