"It's 77 degrees and only four a.m. Yep those dog days of summer are approaching folks…"

The announcer's voice is cut short as Shannon Gibbs gently ushers her sleepy six year old daughter into the car that will take them to Stillwater. Placing a pillow under Kelly's head, she tucks the little girl's favorite stuffed animal into her arms and buckles her securely into the backseat. Kelly mumbles something that Shannon can't hear and the older red head strokes her daughter's hair. Kelly settles down and Shannon heads towards the front porch to finish locking up the house.

12 hours prior to their departure, Shannon had received news that her husband Jethro and his unit wouldn't be home for another six months and she wanted to make sure that Jack wouldn't worry about his family, so she'd phoned the elderly male and asked him if it would be okay if she and Kelly came for a weekend.

"You okay there, Shannon?"

"Yes, Jack, just a bit worried about Kelly's reaction when she finds out that Gibbs won't be home until after the new year now."

"Well, you just come on down here and spend some time with me. You know that I love it when you visit and I know that your aunt would love to see you and Kelly too."

Shannon stifles a sob and Jackson knows that Kelly wasn't the only one that was missing Leroy Jethro Gibbs. It has been nearly a year since his son went overseas and even though he knew the Marine didn't want to disappoint his family, sometimes the Corps had to do what no others could do.

"Come on down here, honey. Let yourselves relax in the shade of old Jack's backyard."

"You're not that old Jack." Shannon says loyally as she wipes at a stray tear.

"Mmm…you keep telling yourself that Shannon Gibbs. In the meantime, pack a couple bags for you and Kelly and hop in that car first thing tomorrow morning. You might want to leave a bit early though; it's supposed to be another scorcher. By the time you get here, I'll have some lemons for Kelly to squeeze and some sun tea brewing."

Shannon smiles at the thought of Kelly asking Jack how to use a lemon press and promises the old man that they'll be there around eight or nine a.m.

"Get a good night of sleep Shannon. I'll see you when I see you. Don't try to rush down here."

"Thanks Jack, we'll see you in the morning."

Shannon hangs up the phone and wipes some sweat off her brow. Kelly had asked permission to go to the local pool with her friend Maddie Tylor and her family and Shannon had granted it, on the condition that Kelly be home no later than five p.m. Shannon sighs and wiping her eyes on her apron starts preparing supper.

After the meal is over and the dishes washed and put away, Shannon turns to her daughter who is on the back porch, reading a book while she munches on an apple.

"Hey there, kiddo, have a question for you." When Kelly looks up at her, Shannon sits down beside her and says, "How'd you like to go see Grandpa Jack?"

"Really? When?" Kelly's eyes start shining with excitement and Shannon smiles at her.

"Bright and early tomorrow morning. It means that you'll have to go to bed early and get up even earlier."

"That's okay; I can always sleep in the car, right?" Kelly asks and Shannon nods.

"Yes you can and Grandpa has said that if you want to he'll have some lemons ready for you."

"Oh, yay, I can open my lemonade stand again. Oh…but…what about Daddy?"

"Daddy can't make it this trip honey. I…he just can't make it."

Kelly's green eyes flick up to her mother who is sitting beside her and gives her a hug. "It's okay Mommy. That's why we have Grandpa Jack. He can give us hugs just as good as Daddy can."

Shannon shakes her head at Kelly's comment. Her stoic little Marine as Gibbs calls her. Shannon knows that the little girl misses her father almost as much as Shannon does, yet she's the one trying to bolster Shannon's feelings.

"Yes he can sweetheart which is why we're heading there early in the morning."

"How early is early, Mommy?"

Shannon sighs and looks at the thermometer hanging on the porch beam. Almost 100 degrees and they're in the shade. Shannon shakes her head, knowing that if they don't want to travel in the heat they're going to have to leave around four or five the next morning.

"You let me worry about that. You just make sure you get that bath tonight so that you can see Grandpa smelling like a little girl not a chlorine pool."

"Yes Mommy." Kelly goes back to her book and Shannon is about to turn and go inside when she hears the muffled sob. Gathering her daughter in her arms, she rocks back and forth on the step until Kelly wipes her eyes and sniffles back the rest of the tears.

"Come on sweetie, we'll have an early night and head out first thing in the morning. Tell you what, how about we leave when Daddy would normally get up and then we can pretend that he's there with us."

"Okay."

"Okay, let's get you in that tub now or you'll end up smelling like Daddy's day old socks."

"Ewww…" Kelly wrinkles her nose and both Gibbs women laugh as they head inside.

As soon as Kelly fell asleep, Shannon packed up the car with the exception of Kelly and her stuffed animal. Setting her own alarm for three a.m., Shannon took her own shower and after toweling off and putting on one of her husband's t-shirts is soon sound asleep.

Which is why Shannon was up in time to hear the radio disc jockey talk about the dog days of summer for almost an hour as she sipped at her coffee and made the final preparations that would take them to her father-in-law's house in Stillwater, Pennsylvania.

Once on the road, Shannon doesn't stop. She heads straight for Stillwater and the welcoming warmth that is Jackson Gibbs. As soon as they pull up outside of the house, Jack is pulling the front door open and bounding down the stairs. Kelly rubs her eyes when the car stops and unbuckles herself just as Jack reaches for the car doors.

"Grandpa!"

"Hello Kell-bell, how is my favorite granddaughter this fine summer morning?"

"I'm good…morning Mommy."

"Morning again sunshine. Hey Dad, good to see you again." Shannon says as she stretches slightly before slipping out from behind the wheel. She starts to open her car door when Jack beats her to it. She slides her arms around the familiar shoulders and lets out a loud sigh when Jack gives her his traditional bear hug.

"Welcome back Shanny. Well, where's the luggage?" He says as he walks to the trunk of the car. Shannon unlocks the trunk and soon the two females are following Jack inside as he carries their suitcases to the house.

Once they're inside and the suitcases packed away, Shannon sits at the table sipping on a fresh cup of coffee while Kelly drinks some milk and eats some toast. While she's eating Kelly looks up at her grandpa and asks, "What did the dj mean by the dog days of summer?"

Jack smiles as he replies, "Your daddy asked me that once. These days it's a reference to the long hot days that seem to drag on and on and on…like the ones when you can't go to the pool because you were grounded for riding your bike after dark. Or in your momma's case, she was working at her aunt's shop during some of those days. When your daddy lived here it meant working in the shop all day so that on the weekend he could go to the fishing hole and bring home a fresh stringer of catfish."

"So…it's a really hot hot day and people are working or sweating or swimming and stuff?"

Jack grins as a gravelly voice replies, "Left out the part about sitting in a hot, humid desert, at a deserted airport waiting for a flight home, but otherwise sounds about right, wouldn't you say Dad?"

"DADDY!" Kelly flies out of her chair and into her father's arms. Shannon stares from Jack to her husband as she follows her daughter's example and runs into Gibbs' outstretched arms.

The End

a/n: just a little one-shot that had yet to get posted over here...^)^