One thing led to another on that faithful day where Jethro and Shannon met while waiting for the train. At boot camp Jethro receives a letter from Shannon telling him that she was pregnant. That was over four years ago. Now Jethro is coming home for the first time since he left Stillwater to face the past he left behind. SUPER AU

Prologue –

To my dearest Jethro –

It took forever to convince your father to give me your mailing address. It seems as though the grief of your departure has overcome him. He misses you. Golly, I had to sit through hours of stories about you growing up before I had to remind him why I was there in the first place.

I've been trying to write this letter for days now, unable to come up with the words I know I must tell you. It seems silly, looking back, realizing that I've only known you for the few hours we were together, yet it seems like I've known you my entire life. I guess part of it is thanks to your father's stories of you. Truth be told, I cherish each one of those stories because I feel just a little more closer to you with each and every one of them.

Jethro, that time at the train station, I didn't mean for it to be taken as far as it did. We were children making foolish decisions. I laugh now at the irony of it all. I found out today that I am pregnant. My mother nearly had a heart attack at the news. Can you believe it? After all the private schooling and church my mother made me attend, this is the child she raises? Her words not mine.

Please don't feel obligated to take care of the child, Jethro. I know your dreams exceed the simplicity of Stillwater. You've escaped this awful town and you're making a mark in the world. My mother wants me to have an abortion. Despite her Christian ideals she believes that this will ruin me; that our child will bring the both of us down.

I don't know what I want. By the time this reaches you I know that I would have already made my decision and for that I'm sorry because I know that this involves you too. I'm proud of you, Jethro; of all your accomplishments now and in the future. I'll be waiting for the day when we can finally start our lives together.



Chapter 1 –

Leroy Jethro Gibbs gave a sigh as he finally stepped foot onto the train platform. Four years was a long time. The wooden bench where Shannon and he had met that one fateful day had been replaced with some metal ones. The small tree in the corner was now taller than he was branching out in different directions. There was now a stop sign in the corner of the two busy streets just barely noticeable to the untrained eye. Then again, Leroy Jethro Gibbs' eyes were anything but untrained. The already normally observant boy now possessed the eye of a hawk, each movement heightened due to his training.

"Leroy!" Jethro's eyes wandered over to an old man busily hobbling over to him, pride beaming from his eyes.

"Dad!" Jethro smiled, making his way over to the man.

Jethro stepped forward meeting his dad at the bottom of the incline before dropping his bags besides him, engulfing his father in the most powerful hug he could muster; the familiarity of his father's scent allowed him to realize just how much he had missed the older man.

After a minute in the warm embrace Jackson Gibbs reluctantly stepped back, finally taking a good look at his son. Leroy had grown another two inches or so taller from the last time he had seen him. Any evidence of the child that had left four years ago was gone and in his place stood a proud marine. Leroy's stature was no longer one of a lanky teenager's and he had over the course of four years apparently grown into his long arms and legs. His lanky frame gone as barely concealed muscles bulged from their hiding places. The boy that left returned a man.

"Good lord you've changed, Leroy," Jackson commented with a shake of a head.

"I was gone for four years, Dad," Jethro said with a smile picking up his luggage once more.

"How long are you back for, son?" Jackson's eyes traveled towards the light bag slung over his son's shoulder.

"Not for too long. I have to take care of some stuff here in Stillwater, and then I have to head back. I'm getting deployed in a month."

Jackson stole a sideway glance towards the younger man. "That stuff have to do with that one girl Shannon, Leroy?"

Jethro stifled a groan. It had taken all of five minutes before his father had settled back into the role of nosy parent. He slid into the beaten down station wagon his father had been driving since as long as he could remember, trying to formulate words that would not start an argument. Even in letters that they had exchanged throughout basic training and advanced training had been arguments. Eventually both had silently agreed that the only exchange of letters would be for the important stuff like Christmas and birthdays.

"Can we hold this conversation for another time, dad? I just got home," Jethro said with force civility.

Jackson grunted but decided to drop the conversation. The rest of the drive was in awkward silence that usually possessed father and son whenever they were in the same vicinity for more than five minutes without arguing. Every now and then Jackson would steal glances over to his marine son with silent admiration. The boy looked like his mother, there was no doubt about that. With each stolen glance Jackson was reminded of the love of his life, the precious gift that she had left behind when she died nearly 10 years ago. At the time of her passing Leroy was only thirteen years old. It was the time when he needed his mother the most, and unfortunately she was too frail to take care of Leroy even in her latter years before her death. Sure, Leroy looked liked him enough, but his personality, his fire and stubborn determination, well, that was his mother through and through. The boy, no, the man sitting besides Jackson would have made his mother proud.

"Home sweet home!" Jackson said with a smile as he pulled up to the house.

Jethro peeked out the window for a few moments before opening the door and slowly stepping out. For four years he had slept in barracks and in poor excuses of sleeping bags when he was in the field. He had spent four years envying those who had a nice house to come home to, and family that wholeheartedly supported them. One out of four wasn't so bad Jethro decided.

Jethro plucked his belongings from the back and made his way into the house where the smell of home cooking immediately invaded his senses. He was overcome with a sudden constricting ache in his heart as he realized what that smell was. He made his way into the kitchen rather hurriedly wishing beyond foolish belief that it would be his mother in the kitchen cooking his favorite dish and that her disappearance in the last 10 years of his life was a cruel joke.

He entered the kitchen stopping dead in his tracks, his heart dropping from stupid anticipation. There, in the kitchen, stood his father's newest fling, his mother's recipe book open wide on the kitchen island.

"Leroy, I'd like you to meet Sally, my girlfriend," Jackson stated calmly stepping besides Jethro to go stand besides the unfamiliar woman.

"It's nice to finally meet you Leroy!" Sally said with nervous enthusiasm.

Jethro watched as she tried helplessly wiping the flour on her apron before reaching out her arm to him. Jethro glanced down at it, tempted to walk away from it. Quickly, he squashed the thought from his head. He was a marine now, no longer the child he was four years ago who would have rolled his eyes and walked away.

"Nice to meet you, Sally," Jethro said in the most respectful tone he could muster.

Sally's face broke into a smile, as did Jackson's as Jethro shook Sally's hand.

"Why don't you put your things away, son and get ready for dinner, son? Sally has been here all day trying to prepare your favorites," Jackson grinned. "We can't wait to hear all about your crazy adventures."

Jethro nodded turning away from the kitchen. His blue eyes carefully concealing the feelings of betrayal harbored deep within his heart. Despite the fact he was twenty-two he still felt possessive over that book. That was his mother's cookbook. His father had no right to allow any one of his stupid girlfriends to touch the sacred book that his mother made for his father and his eyes only. It was called a secret family recipe for a reason and his father was betraying that very secret.

Jethro made his way up the stairs to the last room on the right: his room. The door creaked as he opened it. He smiled at the revelation that everything was just as he left it, down to the clean empty mug of water he had accidentally forgotten to bring down four years ago on his desk. He sighed noting that the bed was still not made four years later, and his high school diploma was currently covered under layers of dust, still sitting on the dresser.

He threw his belongings down in the closet, promising himself that he would unpack after dinner. He sat down on the bed, frowning when the dust particles flew up in the air. With a sneeze he stood up fishing the covers off his bed. He made his way to the hall where the linen closet was, taking out the fresh pair of sheets he could lay his hands on and then preceded to make the bed.

Ignoring the catastrophic mess he had left his room in when he left, he laid upon the fresh sheets allowing the smell to permeate through his nostrils with a generous whiff. He fished out a crinkled envelope from his pocket, gingerly opening it, re-reading the familiar words once more.

In all the letters he had written in response to this one he had gotten none back. Jackson had written nothing of Shannon in his letters to Jethro no matter how much the younger man pleaded for news of the girl. Yet, Jethro wrote, each week, before deciding that each month was much more manageable due to time constraints. He wrote her of the amazing things he was doing with his life, of the training he was receiving, and of the sights he had seen in such a short period of time. He concluded each message with a reassuring promise that he would come back and they would get married, and their lives would start. And at the end of each letter he would allow himself to wonder of the child he may or may not have; if it was a boy or a beautiful baby girl. For months Shannon was the only thing Jethro had to hope for, during the brutal marine training he had received. It seemed, when he was writing those letters that the day would never come.

Jethro picked up the phone and dialed the number he had long memorize many nights ago. There were times, many times, when he was allowed a phone call home, and yet he could never bring himself to call the person he wanted to, his mind always getting in the way of his heart. Reasoning would allow him to put the phone down; he was too far away, it would cause too much trouble, it was a conversation better made in person. Now, none of those excuses were relevant and as he continue on with the fifth and sixth digit his heart began palpitating in ways he was trained to control.

When the telltale signs of ringing was heard Jethro forced himself to stay on the phone, despite how suddenly dry his mouth had become.

"Hello?" a frail voice picked up the phone.

Jethro gulped. "Good evening m'am this is Leroy Jethro Gibbs calling."

There was an audible gasp on the other line before silence. Jethro counted the seconds away unsure of what to do next. One. Two. Three. Fou-

"Leroy Gibbs. I've heard rumors that you would be back in town," the voice finally said breaking the silence.

Jethro nodded before realizing the voice could not see the movement. "Yes m'am," he forced out.

"I'm assuming you'd like to talk to my Shannon?"

Once again Jethro nodded before realizing his mistake. He forced himself to vocalize a calm "Yes m'am, if you don't mind," all the while wondering how it had gotten so hot in his room.

Jethro unbuttoned the lower buttons to his dress blues as he fidgeted on his bed. There was once again an awkward silence on the phone while the woman on the other end debated on the situation.

Finally the sounds of her calling for Shannon broke the silence. "Hold on a minute, young man."

Suddenly Jethro realized that he'd rather sit in awkward silence for as long as humanly possible than talk to Shannon. What if things have changed? Of course they have changed! Jethro shook his head at the stupidity of his thinking. They were only eighteen years old at the time. She had to have grown up. She had dreams that were far greater than his! She wouldn't want anything to do with a twenty-two year-old boy in the military…

"Hello?" Shannon's voice broke through his thoughts.

"Shannon…" Jethro breathed out.

"Jethro?" Shannon hesitantly questioned.

"Daddy!" A voice in the background yelled out.