A/N: So this is the final chapter. Let me tell you; this story was interesting to write. I've written grittier rape stories, but this was more pyschological and took a lot of maneuvering. That being said, I liked writing it. This may well be my last chapter fic for a few weeks or a month, as I won't have time to write much at all in coming weeks.
Hmmm, any necessary information you need? Tidbits? Here.
Kelly Gibbs: Went to the private school Jenny suggested in Ch. 11. Think of "Matilda" when you think of Kelly's smarts; I modeled her after that. She channels a lot of the emotions she deals with into being a damn good ballerina and student. Valedictorian. Oh-She's 18 in this second part.
Elizabeth Gibbs: Tomboy. Soccer and lacrosse player, public school, pretty popular with her peers, way more like Jethro. Calls Jenny 'Mom'. 13 in this part.
Saturday, April 5th 2003. Home of Leroy Jethro Gibbs, Jennifer Gibbs, Kelly Gibbs, and Elizabeth Gibbs. 12:13 p.m.
Any day so close to April Fools Day was an ironic and infinitely cruel day for Brown University to choose as its date of announcing accepted students. The fact that it was Elizabeth's favorite holiday (Lizzy started pranks and jokes at least 2 days before) aside, Kelly Gibbs bore an incredulous dislike towards it today as she held the envelope in one hand and the single piece of paper in the other, still unsure if she should believe the words.
It might just kill her if some little slip of paper fell out with a scrawled 'April Fools!'.
She read the words again. She stared at them.
Miss Kelly Marie Gibbs, we are pleased to inform you of your acceptance into the Brown University undergraduate program…
She imprinted them on her eyes, nailed the words into her skull, and absorbed them into her very skin and bones.
She had been accepted.
She was in.
She couldn't help it. She screamed. She hugged the letter and screamed, a little more than pleased that the house was empty, and thus no one would witness her display of hysterical excitement. And this? This wasn't even the best of it.
She closed her eyes and covered her mouth, reading the first line again, the line that told her everything she wanted was seriously possible now. She tossed long auburn hair out of her face. She stood in the living room, still clad in her ballet attire, her ballet slippers still on, hair pulled messily from its ballerina bun. She'd just gotten home from a three hour rehearsal; she'd slept at the studio with a few of the other girls last night.
Her father had left this on the counter with a note; he and Jenny were at Lizzy's district championship soccer game. Kelly was sorry she'd missed it. She looked up sharply when she heard Machiavelli start howling. The big Golden Retriever dashed past her, whining excitedly at the door, his whole body wagging with his tail.
Kelly grinned as her Dad opened the door, glaring at the dog.
"Get back, Mach, Jesus," he barked at the retriever.
"Don't listen to him, baby, I missed you," Jenny cooed, squirming in by Jethro and crouching. She snatched up Machiavelli and plastered his head with kisses.
"Don't act like you're mad at me Daddy, you think I'm precious—its seriously not my fault her face collided with my cleat—"
Jethro muttered something at Elizabeth as he kicked the door shut.
"KEL," he shouted.
"Dude, she's right there," Lizzy announced, rubbing Machiavelli herself.
"How was the game?" Kelly asked eagerly, smiling at her little sister. "You win, Lizard?" she used the nickname the soccer team called Elizabeth.
"Er," Elizabeth started.
"She got red carded," Jenny announced brightly.
"Again," Jethro growled, glaring at his youngest. She had grown up into every bit the tomboy three years alone on earth with a man like Jethro raising her had guaranteed to turn her into, and to this day it drove Gramma Jo into a histrionic state.
"We sort of lost," Elizabeth said, rolling her eyes. "Just by a goal, in the last nick of time, and it's because coach put one of the boys in instead of Bridgett because he's a damn sexist—Kels, we so would have kicked ass if not—"
"Elizabeth. April. Gibbs. If I hear you talk like that one more time…" Jethro trailed off dangerously, and received a roll of the eyes and a muttered 'chill, Dad' from his daughter.
Jenny suddenly noticed the unbridled excitement on Kelly's face. It seriously lit up her bright blue eyes and made her cheeks shine. Jenny straightened up from her crouch with the dog, lifting a sculpted eyebrow suggestively.
"You got good news for us, Kelly?" she asked slyly.
Kelly held up the letter triumphantly.
"I got in," she announced. She turned her eyes to Jethro brightly, just how proud and delighted she was showing all over her face when she looked at him. "Daddy, I got in!"
He stared at her for a minute.
"Yeah," he drawled slowly. "Yeah, Kelly, of course you did," he said bluntly, honestly, as if he'd never for a second doubted it. Jenny laughed at him. Kelly rolled her eyes and darted forward anyway, launching herself at him.
He grunted in surprise and caught her, hugging her back in surprise. It was pretty rare for him to get a hug from his eighteen-year-old. She was too cool for that. He hugged her nonetheless, a smile breaking over his face. He ruffled her hair playfully, like he had when she was little.
"They'd be crazy to turn you down, honey," he said to her gruffly.
Kelly giggled, her cheeks flushing light pink as she fell back on her heels. She reached up and rubbed a tear away, rolling her eyes at the ridiculousness of crying. She couldn't stop smiling. Machiavelli wriggled against her legs, barking.
"Shhh," Lizzy hushed brightly. She looked up at Kelly happily. "So when you leave for Rhode Island, Mach gets to sleep with me," she teased devilishly.
"Shut up punk, you're going to miss me," Kelly fired back.
"Congratulations, Kelly," Jenny said softly, reaching out to touch Kelly's arm gently. Kelly gave her an absurd look and hugged her tightly. She buried her face in Jenny's neck, wrinkling her nose in Jenny's much shorter red hair. It brushed the redhead's shoulder blades now.
"It's all thanks to you, Jen," she said sincerely, muttering. She pulled back, her hands on Jenny's shoulders. "Couldn't have done it without you."
"Nonsense," Jenny hissed, biting her lip.
"The opposite of nonsense," Kelly retorted primly.
"Wait. Does this mean Mom's going to sleep in Kelly's room all the time now?" Elizabeth asked wickedly, always the instigator of trouble. Jenny reached over and pinched the brunette errant teenager. Lizzy squealed with a laugh.
She called Jenny 'Mom' because she'd never known any other. Kelly had kept that particular name reserved for her own mother, for Shannon, and it had never been a point of injury between her and Jenny. Jenny had been her heroine and her friend; but never quite a mother. It was different for Lizzy.
"No," growled Jethro, glaring at Elizabeth again. He did a lot of glaring at Elizabeth.
"Oh. Then you're going to stop snoring?"
"Go wash your cleats off," ordered Jethro in response, pointing to the back porch. Elizabeth stuck her tongue out and punched her sister gently in the arm as she passed, bobbing her soccer ball on her knees expertly.
"Guess all that fancy-shmancy schooling paid off, brat," she teased her sister.
"Mock all you want, Lizard, I shall have tea with scholars while you dine with the common folk of public school," Kelly lashed back impishly, smirking. Lizzy stuck her tongue out.
"You rock, Kelly," she called to her sister supportively, darting out onto the back porch and booting her soccer ball away as she collapsed to do as Jethro said. Kelly turned back to her father and Jenny, her smile still gracing her face.
She rolled her eyes, catching the tail end of a flirtatious kiss between the two idiots. Jenny ducked under Jethro's arm, and Kelly caught his eye as he looked up at her, rubbing his head in a self-conscious gesture of uncertainty. He smiled at her, but she saw the stress in his eyes.
"You ready for this, Kelly?" he asked. "It's going to be hard—"
"No," she interrupted quietly, shaking her head. "No; it's not. Lizzy's right," she held up her letter, her eyes stinging again. She still couldn't believe what she had read beyond the initial acceptance. "The private school may have helped, but I think the valedictorian thing kinda pushed them over the edge…even if there are a lot of valedictiorians at Brown, there's a financial program they have, for people under a certain income..." she trailed off, biting her lip. "I got a scholarship, Daddy. We don't have to pay a dime. Full ride."
He looked like he'd been smacked. He stared at her, speechless, while Jenny smiled wryly, hardly surprised. Kelly had accomplished so much. She was a veritable prima donna in ballet; she'd performed with more than a few prestigious companies, she practiced up to twelve hours a week, and on top of that, she maintained her four-point-oh at Washington International, not only to maintain her scholarship but because she worked her ass off to be the best she could be.
The switch to the private school had been the best thing that happened to her when she'd been going through the murky aftermath of rape. Lizzy was smart, but concerned with sports and friends; she preferred public school and that's where she stayed.
"Christ," Jethro muttered. "Kelly…" he broke off, rubbing his mouth and shaking his head. "Kelly, I am so proud of you," he growled at her. Kelly and Jenny had still yet to figure out why he always sounded so aggressive when he got affectionate.
Kelly beamed, biting her lip to keep it from trembling.
Jethro stared at her, his mouth gone dry. It was way too hard for him to process the reality that the kid he'd raised through her mother's death and the more devastating tragedy of rape was standing in front of him, perfectly healthy, more than intelligent, waving the prospect of a full ride to one of the most prestigious schools in the nation in front of his face.
He couldn't have asked for more, than to see her happy, because God knew it hadn't always been easy. High school had been rough for Kelly; that's when all the weighty reality of what rape meant had hit her full force; mostly because she'd been faced with relationships, boys, friends who had sex. He had no idea what would have happened to her if he hadn't had Jenny to help her and to help him.
Kelly grinned slyly and pointed at Jethro accusingly.
"Spring break," she cried gleefully. "In a week and a half, we're going to Mexico. Daddy, you promised, if I got in. I've gotta tell Mike. Mexico, Daddy," she informed him brazenly, her eyes glittering.
"You promised her, Jethro," Jenny agreed, wriggling away from her.
Jethro grumbled, but it was good natured. He looked at the happiness written all over Kelly, and watched as Jenny hugged her again, laughing in relief. Kelly had grown up so well, when it all could have gone to hell. To see her now, thrilled and triumphant like this, was worth all of the tears and the terror and the sadness.
"Jenny," Kelly said softly, playing absently with the bracelet on her stepmother's wrist. She clutched the largest crafted orchid in her palm and stared at Jenny's green eyes, chewing her lip. She blew hair out of her face, squeezing Jenny's hand.
"It is thanks to you," she said.
"No," Jenny shook her head. "No, you did this Kelly."
"I wrote about you, remember?" Kelly reminded her honestly. "I wrote about what you did for me and the strength you gave me," Kelly nodded, pressing her lips together. "Accept the gratitude, Jenny, for God's sake. If it hadn't been for you, I would have fallen apart after the Rat King raped me."
Jethro watched, rubbing Machiavelli's soft head absently. His jaw tightened. Jenny looked over at him, quirking her lips in a smile that tried to hide her suppressed tears.
"Oh, I," Kelly laughed, looking guilty. "Ah, Jen, I didn't mean to make you cry!"
Jenny laughed, but it was sort of a sob at the same time. She pushed her short hair behind her ears and turned towards Jethro, tilting her head at Kelly. She sought his eyes, reaching up subconsciously to touch her orchid pendent comfortingly.
"I told you she was going to be okay," she said hoarsely. "She was eight years old, and I told you."
Jethro stepped forward and wrapped an arm around Jenny, rolling his eyes over her head at Kelly to indicate light-hearted fondness. Kelly giggled, watching her father drop a kiss to Jenny's forehead.
"Yeah," he muttered.
He smiled at Kelly over his wife's head.
"She's okay," he said gruffly, looking at Kelly. "She's a dork," he added, and Kelly rolled her eyes, stomping her foot. She smiled brightly; it lit up her eyes.
"See if you still say that when I'm designing the chemical weapons for the United States military, devil dog," she quipped wryly.
"GEEK!" shouted Lizzy from the patio.
Jenny laughed. Odd, how different people could go. Jenny had gone from rape victim to someone who desperately wanted to help others escape the dark path she'd gone down, and she still thrived in that job today. Kelly wanted no association with the profession. She was deeply interested in chemistry and theoretical science.
There were no orchid thieves or rat kings anymore, not really. It seemed now more like a web of who had been good for who than Jenny directly helping Kelly. Kelly had brought Jenny to Jethro, and he had done more for healing her than any therapist ever had—she loved him more than life itself.
Jethro stroked Jenny's hair back, the display of affection unconscious and natural to him even in view of his daughter. Kelly held her letter tightly, standing there on the brink of a way brighter future than he could have imagined nine years ago.
Nine years ago, there was not a damn thing that he thought could come out of someone raping his daughter that could possible turn good in anyway. Sure, given the chance, if he could go back, he never would have let the son of a bitch touch her, but he couldn't change the past.
He was damn glad he'd been able to give her a future. He was glad Jenny had been there for that.
It eased a lot of his stress, and his worry, to see Kelly happy, without a trace of fear or depression or uncertainty. It made him feel damn good. His girls were safe. Their lives hadn't been perfect, or free of pain as he'd have wished—Elizabeth's less heartbreaking than Kelly's—but they were healthy and smart and they meant everything to him.
Kelly beamed primly and narrowed her eyes at Jethro, hands on her hips.
"Mex-i-co," she drawled coaxingly, her eyes sparkling.
Jethro smirked. She was okay; Jenny had always said she would be. Jenny had known from the start what Kelly could achieve, and now it was just a reality. Every time Kelly cried, wanted to give up, hurt, or suffered, Jenny had pulled her back up, been there telling her that what didn't kill her made her stronger.
Hell, Jethro figured all the things that hadn't killed Kelly had just made her damn near invincible.
"That which doesn't kill you, makes you stronger" -Friedrich Nietzsche