Memories: Of Shannon

He hates to admit it, but telling others these stories about his family, his girls, is helping Gibbs heal the one wound in his heart that never seems to close. He sighs as he looks at his dad lying in a recliner with the two kittens playing with a piece of string the old man had found during his recent trip to Stillwater. Samson is out in the kitchen and so is Gibbs' fiancée Laurie.

He tells his dad that he'll be right back and sets off in search of the woman who has been helping him heal his wounds. She's sitting at the kitchen table smiling at some of the photos that they've been looking at. Gibbs slides an arm around her shoulder as he stares at the picture in her hand.

He and Shannon are walking along the streets of Stillwater and he's still in uniform meaning that Shannon met him at the station. She's smiling at something he's saying and he's gesturing towards the sky. He knows by looking at their hands that they aren't even engaged at this point. Just two kids enjoying each other's company.

"You look like you just came back from basic training."

"Possibly, we didn't start dating until I returned, but she did write to me while I was there. I never knew what homesickness was until I received that first letter. And here was this girl I'd met on a bench in Stillwater telling me all about her life in the city."

"She made a good impression on you?"

"Yeah, I can't say the same I'm afraid. I'd gotten into it with the local bullies. Dad actually came out of the store with the shotgun."

He smiles faintly at the memory of Jack standing on the sidewalk, shotgun in hand. The weapon still smoking after a warning shot. He'd caught a glimpse of a young girl in the dressmaker's window and ran back to his dad's store without saying anything more. The next day he was boarding a train; away from Stillwater and his old man, towards the Marine Corps and a new friendship with Shannon.

"So when did you first know you loved her?"

He reaches for the pictures and finds one where he's drenched and laughing about it. His hair is dripping water into his eyes and there isn't an inch of his clothing that wasn't affected by the deluge.

"We had been pen pals during my training. She was waiting for me when I came home before my first assignment."

"She turned the hose on you?"

"Not just her, she got dad involved too. Between the two of them I didn't stand a chance."

He'd been pleased to see his friend, and surprised as well. She hadn't told him that she was actually back in Stillwater. She had a few new rules and he'd started compiling some of his own. He didn't have them in any particular order yet, but he knew that Shannon would get a laugh out of it anyway.

He'd changed into civvies and walked into the backyard when they ambushed him. Shannon turned the hose on him and Jack the old turncoat, turned a fire hose on him.

"Ooohhh…they weren't letting you out of the yard huh?"

"Actually, it was Shannon's idea. She came to me and wanted to surprise Leroy. Knowing how he hates surprises, I tried to veto the idea but she just turned those pretty green eyes on me and I caved." Jack is smirking as he looks at the photo. The man in that picture has darker hair and laughing eyes, but it's one of the happiest photos that Jack has where Leroy is concerned.

"Uh-huh, blame it on Shannon. You were the one with the fire hose Dad." Gibbs keeps an arm around Laurie as he gives his dad a mock glare.

"So, what about that day made you decide you loved her?"

"That was the first time anyone had been able to make me laugh since Mom died. That same evening, we were eating supper and she told me that she loved me; right in front of my old man."

Laurie smiles at the affection in his voice. The two may have had their differences in the past, but the love they have for one another is clearly evident to her trained eye. Jack looks around the kitchen, surprised that there isn't something boiling or frying on the stove.

"You okay Laurie? You normally have something cooking when you come out here."

Laurie nods her head. "I'm fine Jack, and supper is actually in the oven, waiting for us to decide when we want to eat."

"Really?" The old man opens the oven door and there's nothing in it. He exchanges a concerned look with his son, who sits on the table and tips Laurie's face up to meet his gaze.

"I never said it was in this oven." Her grin is met with a slight cuff to the back of her head. She just gets a bigger grin, mouths the word foreplay, and reaches around Gibbs for another photo. Her hand stalls and the grin fades as she realizes what the picture contains.

"The night we brought Kelly home from the hospital." Gibbs voice is soft as he tells his dad what the photo is about. Gibbs remembers the giddy feeling of holding his baby girl in his arms and escorting his wife to their bedroom, not letting either of his girls go for the entire night.

"Shannon was a real trouper all during the birthing. Instead of cursing me like she had every right to, she told me she loved me and could we create more miracles like this one."

Jack looks at the woman sitting in the kitchen chair; aside from the momentary stiffening she's back to an almost relaxed state…almost. Jack watches as his son reaches down and takes her hand in his, caressing it without saying anything. Blue eyes stare into purple silently asking if she needs to stop for a few minutes.

Before anyone can say anything, little Obsidian comes trotting into the kitchen. Samson is still curled up on one of the other kitchen chairs, supposedly asleep but acutely aware of the emotions his human is going through.

"Merrs?" Obsidian jumps up on Laurie's lap and butts her hand until it caresses him. Gibbs starts to remove the kitten when a low growl from Samson turns his attention to the big cat. The feline's green eyes stare into Gibbs silver blue ones, attempting to tell him that Obsidian is doing for Laurie what Samson so often has done for Gibbs; providing comfort like only a cat can.

Laurie sighs as she pets the kitten. By now Jack is sitting on the table too, concerned for the young woman who's done so much to bring Leroy out of his shell. Laurie smiles at the two men, as she pets Obsidian. Her other hand is still in Gibbs, and he lightly touches the engagement ring on her finger as he reminds his dad about Laurie's own losses. Jack gives her a hug, silently encouraging her to tell her own story, if not today then someday.

Fleck comes into the kitchen looking for his twin. He sees Obsidian and mews for someone to pick him up too. Gibbs leans over and places the kitten in Jack's hands. The kittens briefly touch noses with each other then they both jump down on the floor. Laurie tells the men that she needs to use the restroom and they watch her go.

A scuffle near the door brings both men's attention to the two kittens. Fleck and Obsidian are actually working together in an attempt to pull what appears to be a collage of photos into the room. Laurie is walking down the hall as Gibbs picks up the pictures. She runs when she feels the shock hit his system.

Together she and Jack get Gibbs back to the living room. The younger man is staring at the pictures, tears running down his face and they know that this is probably one of the last times that he'd seen Kelly and Shannon alive. Samson and the kittens enter the room and the old cat immediately leaps into Gibbs lap. Gibbs drops the pictures and picks up the cat, walking out of the room.

Jack picks up the collage and tells Laurie about the family that is reflected within. The pictures are all about family from the day of Gibbs and Shannon's wedding and the newest photo has Samson in it. Laurie places a hand on Jack's and asks him where his son will be hiding.

"I thought that you would know."

"I want you to tell me Jack. I can find him, but he needs both of us right now."

"Well, since we're here, he'll be in the basement. If we were in Stillwater he'd still be in the basement…or by the pond."

"Then let's go."

She scoops up the two kittens, hands Fleck to Jack and taking Jack by the hand leads him into the basement. Sure enough Gibbs is there, his chin resting on his knees. He's staring at nothing as he pets the cat lying beside him. Laurie helps Jack sit down on Gibbs right side and she takes up position on Gibbs left.

Jack starts slowly rubbing his son's shoulders. Laurie gently takes Gibbs left hand in her right one.

"Tell me about the pictures Jet. Tell us about Shannon and Kelly."

Gibbs swallows hard several times. Fresh tears hover at the edge of his eyes and Laurie gently wipes them away with her finger tips. She waits until he composes himself before asking again

"Tell us about the photos Jet. Tell us about your family, your girls."

Jack hands Leroy a handkerchief and uses his spare to blow his own nose. He'd anticipated some emotions to come forth, but not quite this many or this soon. The young woman responsible is still holding his son's hand as she places the pictures within Leroy's reach.

Gibbs reaches out and touches the photos. There's the one of him and Shannon at their wedding. The next ones all depict the few times he was able to spend time with his girls when he was on leave. Kelly's beaming a smile at him the day she'd lost her two front teeth; Shannon laughing and crying when he'd presented her with a hand-crafted jewelry box. Kelly's Christmas pageant; Shannon and Kelly laughing at the kitten now called Samson as he chased yet another dog out of the yard.

"It was the last gift they gave me. Just before I deployed for the last time. Shannon and Kelly both said that they loved me and they had a special surprise for me. As it was my birthday I wasn't too surprised by the fact that they had a present. I was very surprised when I found out that they'd put together this collage."

Laurie's examining the collage and notices that there's a picture missing. She extracts her hand long enough to tell both men that she'll be right back. She heads upstairs and finds the photo lying face down on the kitchen floor. She picks it up and turns it over. Gibbs is standing underneath a banner that reads "Happy Birthday Daddy." Shannon and Kelly are standing on either side of him and smiles are on all three faces.

Laurie comes back downstairs and hands the last photo to Jack who again has to wipe away tears. He then hands it to his son who traces a loving finger over his girls' faces.

"That last week they went to a one hour photo and spent hours preparing this for me. I…told them that I wanted to create a shadow box frame for it. To leave it here so that I could work on it the next time I came home. They must have put it in my work bench or something."

The other two keep quiet as he calms himself down. He pulls first his dad then Laurie into a hug. He then looks at the other part of his family. Samson is awake and watching him as are the two kittens. Fleck starts to chase a wood shaving and Obsidian places a paw on his brother's head, effectively stopping him in his tracks. Samson shakes his head at his sons' antics then realizes that Gibbs is smiling at the kittens.

Laurie sees what he's smiling at and gives Jack a subtle push with her fingers, clueing him in to the kittens and their effect on Gibbs. She stands up and offers a hand to Jack who accepts it gratefully. While Jack is dusting off the seat of his jeans, Laurie extends a hand to Gibbs.

Gibbs looks at her hand blankly for a few seconds before blinking and accepting the hand up. He then pulls both her and his dad into a tight bear hug.

"Thanks, both of you. I didn't want to admit it, but it…I do feel better now. Talking about them has helped a lot." He looks at his fiancée and she knows that he's not the only one that has some talking to be done. For now though, she can sense the deep wound in Gibbs' heart starting to heal and that's all she could have hoped for.

A/N: For now…a temporary end…what other memories are out there…well that remains to be seen. ^_^