Hi again. Thanks so much to everyone who reviewed/favorited/alerted my story (that still has a sucky title, I know). It means a lot! This is the last installment in New Beginnings, but I may continue it as a series. I won't be a comment whore, and say if you don't review or favorite or whatever, I won't write anymore. I write for me. BUT keep in mind that your review/whatevers do help me a lot, so if you would like to read more, maybe hit up my profile and vote in the poll? I would really love it if you did! Thanks. :) Love, Rye
The next day was filled with exhaustingly long hours spent filling out the required paperwork and taking the required statements. It was the one part of Gibbs' job that he thoroughly hated. Usually, he dumped the casework down to DiNozzo or McGee, but he felt obligated to handle it this time. It was, after all, his fault. He had left Alyssa and Grace alone to go back to NCIS. If he had stayed, he had no doubt that he would've caught the guy before he even got close to the girls. He probably also would have shot him. Both Alyssa and Grace would have been saved the traumatic experience. But, he hadn't. He put the case before the children in his care.
And now he was beating himself up about it.
Both Alyssa and Grace were also at NCIS and under constant supervision. Grace was becoming a permanent fixture beside Tony's desk (he tended to have more toys than the others). Alyssa was rebelling slightly by spending her time in Autopsy with Ducky when he wasn't busy, instead of sticking with an actual agent. She had reasoned with him that the kidnapper had already been put away, and it wasn't her fault that she had inherited an murderous stalker, so she shouldn't be punished for it.
"Gibbs! Hi!" Abby jumped from her chair and wrapped her arms around his neck. It amazed him how the Goth seemed to always be in such a good mood. "How are you? How are Lyssa and Gracie?"
"They're both okay, now."
"Good!" Abby smiled widely and happily.
"Abs. The case."
"Oh! Right!" Abby clicked something into her computer, and the face of the kidnapper appeared on the screen. "Dick here is actually Landon Byrd. Hails from Macon, Georgia, where Maria Tanner is also from. He seems to have followed her around the country, went wherever she went. He did a pretty good job on Lt. Tanner a few years ago, and a few months ago on Maria, too. I did finally match a print from the box of photos to a set that the police sent me after his arrest." She turned back from her computer to face him. "He definitely sent that box, Gibbs."
He sighed and strode back to the elevator. "Thanks, Abby." She gave him a small sad smile. He made the "I love you" hand sign as the doors slid close.
When he arrived back at the bullpen to find DiNozzo goofing around with Grace. She was rolling around on the floor, squealing with laughter, as Tony mercilessly tickled her tummy. Normally, Gibbs would have slapped him, told him to get back to work, but all he cared about then was that he was making Grace laugh. That was more important than anything else.
DiNozzo looked up as he passed. "Jason's in the clear, boss. He took the first plane out this morning." He went back to tickling his captive, whose squeals escalated each second.
"Good." He chuckled at Grace's pleas to escape. At least she was finally enjoying herself.
"Hey, Duck." Gibbs exited the elevator into autopsy, followed by Tony. All the tables were clear, minus the one that held Alyssa. She sat cross-legged as Ducky bandaged her bleeding wrists. The binds had done more damage than originally thought.
"Hello, Jethro, Anthony. I'm just finishing up Alyssa's bandages. All done, dear." The doctor stood up straight, and Alyssa jumped up from her seat.
She smiled and kissed him softly on the cheek. "Thanks, Ducky."
"Hey, I saved your life, kid. I didn't even get a hug!" Tony moved around from behind Gibbs to stand in front of Alyssa.
She shrugged but smiled. "I don't like you that much."
Gibbs laughed then pointed to the elevator. "Gracie's looking for you. DiNozzo, take her upstairs."
"Sure, boss." He trailed Alyssa to the elevator, looking puzzled. "I just don't get it. The ladies love me."
"Ducky. How are they?"
"Both well, I believe. Alyssa is a little scraped up around her wrists from fighting the binds, and she may have a bit of a bruise on her face, but otherwise fine. Grace is perfectly healthy. It seems to me she must have been more compliant, and it paid off for her. Neither seem very traumatized."
"Of course, post-traumatic stress disorder is fairly likely."
"Well, what do I do about that?"
Ducky shrugged his shoulders. "Therapy would be my suggestion."
Gibbs took a deep breath and headed back towards the elevator. "Consider it done. Thanks, Ducky."
"You are very welcome, Jethro."
By the time Gibbs arrived back at the bullpen, Grace had fallen asleep by Tony's desk, and Alyssa was talking with Ziva and Abby. He carefully cradled the sleeping child into his arms and carried her back to the elevator, motioning Alyssa to follow him. She jumped up from the chair she had been sitting in, hugged Ziva, Abby, and McGee, then skidded into the elevator . Tony's laugh could be heard through the metal doors.
Alyssa stood quietly as the elevator dropped, watching Gibbs from behind. He was staring at the door, holding Grace in his arms. She looked so sweet asleep and cuddled up against him. "I told you Jason didn't do it."
He turned around slowly as to not wake Grace. "Yeah, you were right. He's a pretty good guy."
She scoffed. "I guess."
"I thought you liked Jason?"
"My mom did. And Gracie loved him. He bought her Barbies."
"So you don't like Jason?"
"Not really. He tried to 'buy' my love. Mine and Grace's, anyways. She loves Barbies, and she was too little to understand what he was trying to do. He bought me a fancy bracelet too, but I sold it to a chick for a pack of-" She glanced up at him. "Gum."
"Anyways, I didn't like him that much, but I knew he couldn't have killed my mom. I think he seriously liked her." He just nodded, and the elevator was silent until the doors dinged open. They walked, still quiet, to the car where Gibbs loaded Grace into a car seat in the back. It was pitch dark outside by that time, and he struggled trying to figure out the straps. Alyssa sat up front, tapping her foot against the dash. "Do you need some help with that?"
"No, I got it."
"Right..." A good two minutes later, they finally pulled out of the NCIS parking lot. "So I know you're going to want to beat yourself up over leaving us at home today. I understand. In fact, I'd be willing to help if you wanted." He couldn't help but chuckle at that. "But you know he would've gotten to us somehow, someway, sooner or later. And you got there before anyone got hurt. You caught Psycho-Bastard-Dick. So I would consider this a success."
He proccessed this for a moment, then nodded. "If you say so."
"I do. Mostly because I have this sinking feeling you'd be hell to live with if you were mad at yourself for leaving us alone."
"I know I've told you before to watch your language."
"You curse. I've heard you."
"I'm an adult."
"That is extremely ageist. I'm offended."
"All the same."
"We'll talk about the attitude later."
"I'm already looking forward to it."
Three weeks later
Alyssa sat down in the green grass and threaded the blades through her fingers, deep in thought.
It had been a month now, since her mother had died, and she had come to stay with Gibbs. It felt like everything had changed. She had been in a car accident that killed her mother (and survived), kidnapped by a murderous stalker (and survived), and been given the infamous Gibbs stare (and survived). She still felt lost, confused, depressed, but she couldn't help but notice the underlying truth. She had survived. Maybe there was some reason behind all that.
She also thought about Grace. She would be entering second grade at a new school this year, and her seventh birthday was quickly approaching. Alyssa wondered how she would handle all of that without her mom's support. She had often felt like a mother to Grace before, watching her as Maria worked late nights and long days. But now she would have to be more of a mother to the girl than she ever had before.
Not to mention her own troubles. Her sophmore year in high school was also coming up. She dreaded being the new kid at a school probably filled with navy brats. A thought suddenly hit her and her body tensed. What if Gibbs sent her to military school? She just as quickly relaxed. He wouldn't, couldn't, not with Grace around. So it was public high school for her, with plently of lockers she hoped were not Alyssa-sized. She had survived before, though. She'd do it again.
Alyssa stood up, fingered the edge of her black button-up top and adjusted her skirt. She straightened her shoulders and tossed back her hair. Slowly, she dropped a single daisy to the ground on her mother's grave. She would survive. She would thrive. And she would be strong. For Gracie. For her father. For Gibbs. For her mother. But mostly, for herself.