I'm so sorry for the delay. I've been crazy busy. So without further adieu I give you chapter 5.
Gibbs walked back into the bullpen with three pairs of eyes on him. Tony, Ziva, and McGee were all watching him expectantly. He knew that they were waiting for him to tell them to gear up, that they had a case. It was an announcement he wouldn't make because there was no case. He just needed to get to Norfolk General Hospital as fast as he could. He thought about giving the team the day off, but he knew Tony would drive straight to the hospital to see Ashley.
"Would you three stop staring at me like a bunch of dogs waiting for a treat? There's no case. I have somewhere I have to be. Finish up your paperwork!" Gibbs barked.
"Yes, Boss!" the three agents chorused. They exchanged glances, wondering what on earth had gotten into their leader. Gibbs grabbed his stuff and headed straight to the elevator. As soon as the elevator doors closed the questions began.
"Where could Gibbs be going?" Ziva asked.
"Dentist?" Tony offered.
"Tony, do you really think Gibbs would schedule a dentist appointment during work hours?" McGee asked Tony incredulously.
"Why not? I do it all the time." Tony said.
"Exactly my point, Tony." McGee said.
"Well, what's your brilliant idea?" Tony demanded.
"Maybe he's meeting someone." McGee tried.
"Like who?" Tony scoffed.
"Future Ex-Wife Number Four?" McGee suggested.
"Not a chance. Gibbs doesn't do personal stuff on work time. It's got to be something else." Tony said pensively. The team thought for a while longer but couldn't come up with any answers.
Meanwhile, Gibbs got into his car and headed straight to Norfolk General Hospital. As he drove, the jewelry box he had made rested in the front passenger seat. It remained there for the entire trip even with the sudden turns and near constant acceleration. Gibbs pulled into a parking space and grabbed the box. He got out of his car and headed in the main entrance. Waiting for him at the desk was Karen.
"Special Agent Gibbs! I'm surprised you're here this quickly." Karen greeted.
"Hello, Karen. Have you told her yet?" Gibbs asked.
"No, I thought you might want to do that yourself. She's in her room." Karen replied, nodding down the hall. Gibbs headed to Ashley's room and pushed the door open, stepping inside and closing it behind him.
"Jethro! What brings you to my humble torture chamber?" Ashley asked by way of greeting.
"Wanted to talk to you. You call this place a torture chamber?" Gibbs asked, quirking his eyebrow skeptically.
"I hate needles." Ashley replied, nodding to the IV in her arm. "What did you want to talk to me about?"
"Ashley, do you know what happens when you're released from here?" Gibbs inquired, studying her closely as he took a seat on the chair beside her bed.
"Unless by some miracle someone suddenly wants to adopt me I'll be put into foster care." she answered.
"I take it you don't want to be put into foster care." Gibbs smiled.
"You take it correctly." Ashley smirked.
"What if I told you I knew a way to get you out of that?" Gibbs asked. Ashley's interest was immediately peaked.
"Really? How?" she asked.
"You already told me the answer." Gibbs laughed. Ashley looked puzzled for a moment before understanding.
"I'd have to be adopted. Fat chance of that. I come with way too much baggage. Who would want me for a daughter?" Ashley said.
"You're looking at him." Gibbs said. Ashley's jaw dropped.
"Really? Are you serious? I mean, like I said I come with a lot of baggage. Are you sure?" Ashley exclaimed. She was talking very fast, reminding Gibbs of another Goth he knew.
"I'm serious and I'm sure. And as for baggage, how about mine? I was married to a woman I truly loved named Shannon and we had a beautiful daughter named Kelly. She was only eight years old when she and her mother were killed in a car crash after Shannon had witnessed a murder. I've been married three times since then and all of them ended in divorce. How's that for baggage?" Gibbs said, looking into Ashley's eyes.
"I'm sorry. You must miss them a lot." she said. It was a statement but her eyes revealed that it was also a question. This was someone who had also lost loved ones and Ashley needed to know if and how she would move on.
"I do. But you get by. There's always something worth living for. I live for them, live a life they would be proud of me for. You know, you remind me of Kelly. You have her eyes." Gibbs smiled sadly, a single tear running down his cheek. Ashley was sporting a few tears of her own.
"You really mean it? You really want to adopt me?" Ashley asked.
"I really do." Gibbs answered. "Here, I've got something for you."
Gibbs handed her the jewelry box and for a few moments Ashley couldn't speak. She stared at it, fresh tears shining in her eyes. Her hand ran over the smooth surface of the wood and one of her fingers traced the small, intricate patterns. Finally, she looked up at Gibbs.
"Thank you. It's so beautiful. I've never seen anything like it. Where did you get it?" she said, when she'd finally found her voice.
"I made it." Gibbs smiled.
"You made this? That's amazing! I've never been much good at building things. I couldn't even make a bird feeder in shop class." Ashley admitted, blushing.
"Really, it's nothing. Just my way of saying welcome to the family." Gibbs said, also looking slightly bashful.
"So when do I get out of here?" Ashley asked.
"First thing tomorrow morning. I'll be back in the morning. I've got a few things to get ready before you come home." Gibbs said, getting up to leave. He stopped and turned back, remembering something. "If Tony stops by would you mind not mentioning this to him? I want it to be a surprise."
"Sure thing… Dad." Ashley replied, looking nervously at Gibbs to gauge his reaction. A watery smile spread over Gibbs face with a few tears in his eyes to match.
"See you in the morning." Gibbs nodded before walking out. Ashley's expression of pure happiness remained burned into his brain as he walked down the hall. One word that she had spoken resonated with him.
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