AUTHOR'S NOTES: In trying to breakthrough my never-ending writer's block I've been trying to figure out why I've been on the 'disabled' writing kick. Employing a bit of self-psychology I've come to the following conclusion that the physical disability in question represents the underlying issues with the character in question. If a character loses a limb, it means they must try and find what they are missing in their lives. If the character ends up in a wheelchair, it symbolizes something or someone who is hindering the character.
That's part of it. The other part is that I'm probably one of those somewhat warped people who do wonder what it's like to be seriously physically handicapped.
Okay, now that that's out of the way, let's move on to this story.
STORY SUMMARY: AU! Shannon and Kelly survived the crash, but each still carries the scars from that day. 18 years later, US Marine Corporal Kelly Gibbs comes home on leave and what should be a happy occation turns tragic and Kelly is left with more questions than answers.
NCIS: Twist of Fate
"Fate is for those not daring enough to create their own destiny."
The house was quiet when the old truck parked in the driveway next to a navy blue sedan. Night had fallen and the young woman inside was dead tired as she got out of the truck, grabbing a well-worn duffle bag from the bed of the pick-up. She'd had the bag for 8 years and she always considered it her lucky charm. Walking up to the front door, she turned the handle chuckled softly as she limped inside, quietly closing the door behind her.
It felt good to be home and walking past the door to the basement, the young woman smiled as she heard the faint sounds coming from the basement.
Not even bothering to go upstairs to her old bedroom, she left her bag on the floor in the kitchen and lay down on the couch, grabbing a pillow and quickly falling asleep, lulled by the faint sounds of wood being sanded.
The sun was just starting to rise when Jethro Gibbs came down the stairs to the main floor of the house. He'd gone to bed a few hours ago and although he could have used a few more, he knew he needed to get ready to go pick up Kelly from Quantico. She was due to come home on leave today and Gibbs couldn't wait to see daughter again. Every time she came home from Iraq he always felt something in his gut unknot.
Kelly had sworn she was going to be a Marine ever since she was a child and even after a car accident when she was 8, she'd been insistent, not even letting the loss of her left leg deter her from her goal.
Shannon had been against the idea of Kelly being in the military from the start and Gibbs had always encouraged his daughter's hopes—a disagreement had culminated in a divorce the day after Kelly had signed up. But even with her parents splitting up, Kelly had been determined and had shipped out 7 months later.
Going into the kitchen, Gibbs saw Kelly's bag on the floor and smiled as he started making an extra strong pot of coffee. Once the coffee was brewing, he went in to the living room, shaking his head and smiling when he found Kelly snoring as she lay face down on the couch, her good leg curled underneath her and her arms curled around one of the pillows while the battle-worn titanium prosthetic stuck out off the edge of the couch.
When Kelly had first started basic training, she'd worked twice as hard as any other recruit and even though the prosthetic slowed her down a little she kept working at it.
Now Gibbs looked a bit closer at the prosthetic and he could see the wear and tear on the metal from sand and age. But Kelly herself looked to have been though a lot as well. She looked older and her face had more lines than a 25-year-old should have had. Gibbs knew that Kelly had her share of physical scars and sometimes he wished that Kelly hadn't followed in his footsteps.
But she was determined and headstrong and when Kelly Anne Gibbs made up her mind no one would talk her out of what she wanted to do.
After a few moments, Gibbs walked over to the fireplace and picked up the small camera he kept on the fireplace mantle for the traditional 'first day of leave' picture but as he started to take the picture of his daughter sprawled out, he heard Kelly say in a muffled voice, "That's really not nice, Dad."
Gibbs snapped the picture before Kelly started to get up. "I thought it would make an interesting addition to the photo collection."
"Maybe when I was 9 when I'd come home and sack out on the couch after physical therapy," Kelly countered as she slowly sat up, stretching out her right leg. When she felt her father staring at her, Kelly sighed and stood up. "Come on, Dad. It can't still be that weird."
"You mean the fact that you're missing a leg?" Gibbs replied. It wasn't weird… not now, anyways. But for the longest time, Gibbs had found himself unsure of what to do or how to act around his little girl. Temporarily dropping the subject for the moment, he asked, "How long's your leave?"
"8 weeks," Kelly replied, dully as she headed for the kitchen for a cup of coffee. "Just long enough to rest up and celebrate my birthday and… other things before going back."
The twitching in his gut grew stronger and Gibbs followed Kelly, knowing something was wrong when she didn't add any cream or sugar to her cup of coffee. "What's wrong, Kel? I thought I was picking you up this morning."
"It's nothing," Kelly replied, sipping her coffee. But after a few minutes, she settled herself on one of the barstools next to the counter. After a long silence, she slowly slid her left hand towards her father, looking up at him as he looked at down at her hand.
Gibbs' breath caught in his throat when he saw the ring on Kelly's left ring finger. The ring was braided gold and silver with a stunning diamond in the center. Looking up into his little girl's eyes, Gibbs asked, "So who's the lucky guy?"
Kelly let out a laugh, her blue eyes starting to sparkle. "Well, Dad… That's where it gets tricky." Seeing her father waiting calmly, Kelly replied, simply, "His name is Cedric Casper."
Seeing the mischievous look in Kelly's eye, Gibbs already knew the answer but still he asked, "Marine?" Kelly smiled and shook her head. "Navy," Gibbs guessed. When Kelly shook her head again, Gibbs said, "Civilian?"
"Dad!" Kelly laughed.
"Just tell me he's not FBI," Gibbs said, with mock-irritability.
"Well, his uncle's an FBI agent," Kelly replied, putting on a straight face. "But Cedric himself is a US Army Staff Sergeant." Setting her coffee mug down, she started fiddling with her engagement ring. After a moment she looked up at her father again. "When I arrived in Quantico yesterday morning, I was getting ready to grab my gear and head out to my truck when I was stopped by security. They said they were holding some crazy guy who was claiming to be my fiancé."
"And Cedric was waiting for you with the ring," Gibbs finished with a knowing smile.
"Isn't that how you proposed to Mom?" Kelly asked, narrowing her eyes at her father and smirking.
"I may have mentioned something when I talked to Sgt. Casper a few weeks ago in MTAC," Gibbs said, casually as he finished his cup of coffee.
Kelly smiled again as she stood to refill the two mugs. But as she came back to the counter, her mood grew solemn again. "We had a small party at the base. And I decided to head home." When felt her father's stare she said, "I kept thinking about things. The accident, mainly."
"That wasn't your fault, Kelly," Gibbs told her. "None of it."
"I know," Kelly said, nodding. "But… I'm scared, Dad," she said, sitting down again. "And not just about getting married. Neither Cedric or I are going to give up doing what we believe in."
"You said you were thinking about the accident," Gibbs prompted, thinking that the last time he and Kelly had talked about her losing her leg she'd been in high school.
Kelly nodded as she started fiddling with her coffee mug. "When I was a kid all I wanted was to be a Marine like you, Dad. After the accident, I wanted to prove myself. I wanted to prove that I could start out missing my leg. That a girl could be a top notch sniper." Looking at her father she went on. "I know you and Mom split up because I joined the Marines. And I know," she added quickly seeing her father about to argue. "—that it was just the last straw."
Gibbs nodded in understanding and recognized the conflict he'd felt after Shannon and Kelly's accident. "Maybe it's time to find a new direction," he said, finally.
FBI Special Agent Tobias Fornell wasn't surprised at all when he found Gibbs down in his basement working on his boat later that afternoon. "I take it she told you," Fornell said as he came down the stairs holding a bottle of bourbon. "Guess this means we're going to be family now."
Gibbs didn't say anything as he put his tools down and took the bottle of bourbon and poured some into two empty mason jars. After taking a sip, he said, "Kelly's thinking of leaving the Marines."
Fornell looked up sharply at that. "Really? I'd have thought she'd be a lifer like you."
"Nah," Gibbs said, simply, setting his jar down and going back to work on the boat. After a moment, however, he asked, "You ever wonder what it would be like to retire?"
"God, no," Fornell replied as he took his sport jacket off and threw it over one of the sawhorses. "I'd spend most of my time trying to figure out what the hell to do with myself." When Gibbs cracked a smile Fornell said, "I'll tell you, Jethro… Nothing makes you feel like an old man more than when your kids get married."
Again Gibbs didn't say anything as he continued to work on his boat.