Author's Note: Thanks to Bunny for being my beta!
She gave her husband a cheery wave and smile to send him on his way to work, but once his truck was out of sight, she had to sit in her car and collect herself before leaving. What had been a minor skirmish for him had felt like a major battle for her. She wasn't used to that kind of combat - no, actually, she was used to it, she just didn't have the stomach for it. It dredged up too many memories and left her feeling like a schmuck. He had seemed to get over the entire incident with a kiss and a promise of dinner later.
But it went so much deeper with her. And maybe she was letting it go TOO deep. How was she going to survive another quarter century or more with a battle-hardened jarhead if she took every disagreement to heart? Besides, it wasn't the first disagreement they'd ever had since they'd been married, or before. She carefully wiped away brimming tears before they ruined her makeup, let out a long-held breath, and put the car in reverse. She had a mission, damn it, and if she'd learned anything from her husband so far, it was that you saw a mission through at all costs. Even if it took all day. Or longer. And this would be a difficult mission, made worse by the fact that she really DID want to leave this particular 'man' behind - one ugly mother of a sports coat. But being rid of the thing was not worth the upset it had caused, or worse, the hurt and slightly lost look in her husband's eyes.
She'd spoken to someone at the mission, and yes, they remembered the jacket. 'It was hard NOT to!' the woman on the other end of the phone chuckled. And yes, she thought she might know where it was, but wasn't entirely sure, so could she just come down to the mission and help them look?
Of course she'd been glad to, hell, she would have dumpster-dived for the stupid thing at this point. The small mission was only a few streets from her home - she'd been there a few times with - Charles. Urgghh. The name stuck in her throat at the moment. But really, this wasn't about him, it was about a fugly sports jacket her husband seemed inordinately attached to. She huffed a sigh, grabbed her purse, and headed into the old retrofitted building. It had once been a small box factory. Senator Charles Steber had campaigned for funds and support to revitalize the historic building and even donated some of his own money into renovating it for use as a combination open-door soup kitchen, counseling center, rec-hall and homeless shelter, and unfortunately, it was usually at capacity. This morning was no exception. It was a bustling mass of humanity. She headed for the main office and asked for Sheila, the one she'd spoken to on the phone. A few minutes later, Sheila greeted her and they exchanged a quick handshake.
"Soo-oo, you've over-stepped your closet boundaries and donated a favorite piece of your hubby's clothing." Sheila eyed her humorously. "Happens all the time, actually. Can't always track them down, but we try if we have the time. Fortunately, we think we know who has it, but that you may have a problem getting him to part with it."
"Oh, crap." Glenna visibly deflated.
"Well, now, don't lose hope just yet, we're not even sure he has it, and even if he does, we may be able to switch it out for something else. Odd that more than one guy would like that thing..." she trailed off as she started walking. "Anyways, his name is Theodore, says he was named after Teddy Roosevelt. He's an ex-marine, too."
Glenna cringed a little. Another Marine in love with this jacket. What were the chances? And what were the chances of him parting with it? Instead she just said, "No, no such thing, Sheila. He's a former Marine. Technical, but important."
Sheila made a semi-understanding face, then wove her way over to a table four men were playing cards at. Glenna spotted him from across the room. That damned jacket was a worthy substitute for a neon sign. And it fit him perfectly. What a shame to ask him to part with it, it looked so much nicer on him, if only for the fact that she didn't have to see Jethro wearing it. She sighed resignedly and followed after Sheila.
"Theodore." Sheila put a light hand on his forearm. "Sorry for interrupting your game, but this gal wanted to talk to you."
Theodore looked Glenna up and down as if trying to decide something.
"You want my jacket, don't you?"
"Err-uh-" she almost choked. "How did you know?"
"Lots of people want it. It's a cool jacket. But it used to belong to your husband, didn't it, and now you want it back."
"Well, Theodore, I don't, but my husband does. I - accidentally donated it here and he's unhappy with me."
"He's mad at you over a jacket? That's not right."
"I guess it has some sort of - sentimental..." Suddenly her voice caught in her throat. "Shannon..." she choked out. Why hadn't she thought of that before? Why hadn't he just told her?
"Maam? Are you okay?" Theodore put a gentle hand to her arm, looking concerned.
"Oh - uh -I'm alright, sorry. I think I just realized why he's so unhappy with me. Would you - mind very much - giving it back? I'll pay you for a new one."
"That's not necessary, maam." Theodore reassured her as he peeled the jacket off and handed it to her. "I'm sure Miss Sheila can find another one for me just as cool."
She sniffed, cleared her throat and looked up at him through watering eyes. "He's a Marine like you, Theodore. He's been through a lot."
"Desert Storm. He was a sniper."
"Afghanistan. Field artillery." They were both silent for a few moments, thinking about how difficult those jobs must have been. "I uh- spilled barbecue sauce on it yesterday at lunch -" Theodore broke the silence. "Tried getting it out but I think I made it worse."
"That's okay" she reassured him. "I take all of his suits to the cleaners; I'll just drop it off along with some others. Thanks so much for parting with it. It looked nice on you."
"Thank you, maam, and I'm sure it looks mighty fine on your husband. Tell 'im Semper Fi for me."
"I will, Theodore, and thanks again." She turned to leave with Sheila, having to again swipe errant tears from her eyes. How arrogant AM I to not realize Jethro's reason for not wanting to part with this? You couldn't part with that stupid sweater just because CHARLES gave it to you when you first met him. Why WOULDN'T he hold onto a jacket that Shannon had bought him? And you think HE'S the thoughtless bastard in this scenario...She was snapped out of her musings with the ring of her phone. Oh God. Speak of the devil.
"Jethro, hey, what's up?"
"Made us reservations at Frattarigos for 5:30. Want me to come home first and pick you up?"
"Ummm…" she had to clear her throat. "No, Jethro, I'll meet you there." She hoped he couldn't hear the shakiness in her voice.
"Hon, I shouldn't have gotten so mad over a damned suit coat, please don't spend the day being upset over it."
He heard her almost break on the other end of the phone and was starting to regret ever asking her about the idiot thing. She WAS right, it was hideous, even HE had to eventually admit it shouldn't be in his wardrobe, but...
"Glenn, I'm not mad about it anymore, I swear. Go do your shopping and stuff and I'll see you at 17:30. Buy yourself some of that Godiva's you like so well, put it on the VISA."
Another almost sob. He was being so sweet to her even after she'd given away a jacket Shannon had bought him.
"Glenn? You want me to come home? I can, we're just working on cold-cases."
"Oh, God, no, Jethro, I'm fine. You just caught me off-guard while I was thinking about - something else."
She heard him quietly sigh. He knew about the tragedies in her past just like she knew his, and how they could sneak up on you without any warning and take you out at the knees. "Okay, babe, I gotcha. Go get yer groceries, don't forget to pick me up some of that hot mustard I like on my sandwiches..." He waited patiently for her to get it together.
"Got it, hon. I put it on my list this morning." She sounded a lot more collected now, so he felt a little better.
"You still wanna go out to dinner, right?"
"Oh, yeah, I can't wait, sweetie. Um, I have to go, I have someone waiting to talk to me, but I'll see you at dinner time. "
"Okay, hon. Call me if you need to talk in between."
"I will, sweetie. Play nice with the kids, it's only Monday."
"Okay, I'll try, hon. Bye."
And with that he hung up. She appreciated it a lot that he had trained himself to say an abbreviated goodbye before his phone snapped shut. She turned to Sheila, who was still patiently waiting for her. "Thank you, Sheila, you don't know how much this means to me."
"Oh, I think I DO," she replied. "I once tried putting a ratty SCU sweatshirt of my husband's in the rag bag. He didn't talk to me for 2 days. But - I have to say I - can't really blame you for trying to dispose of it, it's..."
"For lack of a better word, yes. It's like a..."
"Neon sign? Snoopy's doghouse at Christmas?"
"Yes, all those and more. Is the rest of his wardrobe this - harsh?"
"Fortunately, no. A few are sort of - loud - but none of them scream out like this one. I'm sorry to have to come home with it, really, but sacrifices have to be made in a marriage."
"Yes, and that jacket is one if I've ever seen it. I hope he's worth it."
"Oh, he is, he really is, he's just sort of - stuck in the past on some things, but - he's really a great guy. Just has some weird tastes in clothes. Well, I'll let you get back to work, and I'll get this to the cleaners. Thanks again, Sheila!"
Out at the car she threw the balled up jacket on the seat and nearly let loose with a loud sob, but stomped it down and started the ignition. She had to find a speedy dry cleaner.
. . . . .
Jethro had chosen one of their favorite restaurants for dinner, a fairly pricey (for them) Italian spot in Georgetown. Though it was too expensive for them to dine there very often, they both loved its fine cuisine and intimate atmosphere. The head waiter would save their usual spot, a small, mostly private booth in the back where they could snuggle and smooch and rekindle. Sometimes they'd hardly eat half of their dinner, and more often not wait around for the dessert cart, but go home and make their own. She hoped it would hold true for tonight.
She found a parking space behind the restaurant and grabbed the notorious jacket and her purse. She'd worn the pink suit dress he liked on her so well, the one she'd worn when she first came to look at his gardens and he'd teased her for wearing lipstick and heels to meet someone about pruning and mulching plants. She'd been on her way to a dinner party with Charles...Ah, Charles, much as she adored the man, there were times when he was the bane of her existence. Well, her husband's existence, really.
The head waiter greeted her jovially and seated her in their booth. She ordered a glass of wine while she waited for Jethro, hoping it would dissolve some of her jitters. Now that she had the jacket back, they would have to talk about why it was such a prickly subject for them, and inevitably it would lead back to talking about Shannon. Sometimes she hated Shannon, even though she'd never even met the woman, had barely seen any pictures of her, and knew in her heart the woman had been a wonderful mother and wife. It was like the girl in the book 'Rebecca', having to compete with the ghost of her husband's dead wife. Most of the time she could get past it, but sometimes it ate away at her soul. Who did she think she WAS trying to replace the woman, many had tried, all had failed. She couldn't fail at this, she'd hit too many dead ends in her maze of a life, and loved Jethro more than life itself. But sometimes she's see him looking past her, thinking, and she wondered if he was maybe regretting her, too, but was too stubborn to admit it. Well, time would tell, but she wasn't really off to an officious start with the plaid suit coat debacle. Maybe she should think about going back to college...
"Buck for yer thoughts, Sweetpea." Jethro's voice thankfully interrupted her dark contemplations. She flinched a little and blushed, embarrassed that she had detected him approaching by his scent, one she had ingrained in her nose, heart and soul.
Almost always the same - Old Spice soap and aftershave mingled with wood and coffee and, if he was having a tough day, musky sweat that was unique just to him. One of her friends teased her once because he wore such a dated cologne, but she never asked him to change it, it was a part of him and she wasn't willing to lose any of his pieces.
She looked up to see him chuckling at her, and leaning down to give her a gentle kiss. She closed her eyes, not yet even remotely bored with those lips. She could go on with it forever. He pulled away from her with a full-out laugh, and yet again she failed to see what had amused him about her.
"Been waiting long?" he asked as he made his way around the other side of the booth to sit next to her.
"Nope, not even ten minutes. I ordered a drink for you already."
He wrapped his arm around her shoulders and gave her a light squeeze and another kiss. "Thanks. Need one. Kate and Tony had me reffing their petty squabbles all day long. Sometimes I think I'm running the daycare instead of the MCRT."
"Sibling rivalry, honey, they'll probably never get over it."
"Great. Just what I always wanted to hear." he sighed just as the waiter brought him his drink.
"Maybe this will make you feel better." she announced, dragging the cellophane-covered suit coat from under the table and presenting it to him.
His face fell in shock when he realized what it was.
"My jacket." he murmured. "You got it back for me. And had it cleaned. Did somebody puke on it?"
"No, somebody slopped barbecue sauce on it, and he was a Marine named Theodore. Afghanistan, field artillery. Told me to tell you Semper Fi."
Gibbs swallowed a lump in his throat. "He didn't mind giving it up?"
"Not once he found out how upset you were about me donating it and that you were a fellow Marine."
" I - I'm really sorry I got so bent about the stupid thing, it's not worth seeing you unhappy..."
"You just said the 'S' word, Jethro." she almost whispered to him.
"That's because I am. You KNOW why I keep wearing the thing, don't you, babe?"
She swallowed hard, and licked her lips, so unwilling to say the 'other woman's' name.
"You really don't remember, DO you?"
"Well, noo-oo, Jethro, you've had that coat long before I ever showed up on the scene."
"Not THAT long, darlin'. Picked it up at a church bazaar down the street last summer. Told DiNozzo I got it off the sale rack at Sears just to rag on him, I think he hates it more than YOU do."
"You wear this thing just to annoy Tony?" Her voice rose in pitch and volume as she fought the urge to strike him. All this heartache to keep DiNozzo entertained? Couldn't you just have bought him an 'Etch-a-Sketch?she wanted to scream.
"Noo-oo, honey," he consoled, knowing she was ready to let him have it. "I'll give you a hint. I was wearing it when I hired my gardener."
Her mouth fell open and he reached his hand over and closed it, a half-smile on his lips and a twinkle in his eye.
"Yes, oh. It's my lucky jacket. Got lucky wearin' it."
"Not for several months after that, Jethro."
"Yeah, well, YOU know what I mean. Met my gardener, got my bulbs fertilized, my bed double-spaded, my hose unkinked..."
She slapped his arm playfully, and he leaned over for a more purposeful kiss. "Best tip Fornell ever gave me. Even though I DID hire and fire you, like, what 3 times?"
"Thought I might have to kill you back in those days, except I was too afraid of Abby."
"Aren't you glad you didn't?"
"Most of the time, Mr. Gibbs."
He took a long drink of the pricey bourbon. "So this Theodore guy really liked the jacket, hunh?"
"Yeah, he said it was cool. Must be a Marine taste, high and tight and loud. It looked good on him."
"Yeah, well, he' not gettin' it back, Sweetpea, I'm not ready to part with it yet. You can hang it back in the closet, on MY side. I won't torture you or Tony with it anymore."
"That is so-o-o appreciated, gunny. You have so many other nice things to wear, like your jeans and t-shirts and Carharts, and best of all, your birthday suit."
"So you like my birthday suit most of all, hunh, Mrs. Gibbs?"
"Oh, I ADORE your birthday suit, Mr. Gibbs. Maybe after dinner you can model it for me for dessert."
"I think I may be able to trot it out for you over some apple pie and whipped cream. There IS still some of that whipped cream from last night, isn't there?"
"I can whip some more if there's not. Umm..." she squirmed a little in her seat. "I'm kind of hungry, can we not talk about whipped cream and dessert till we've had some dinner?"
"Sure," he agreed quickly enough, getting a little antsy himself, and picked up a menu to peruse it. "Let's talk about what I can wear at work to torture DiNozzo. There's gotta be a church rummage sale somewhere this weekend."