A/N: The last chapter... yes, really! Kesterpan (who guessed 55 chapters in total) and Gibbsredhoodie (60) have to share the cookies... play nice, girls! Thanks so much to everyone who's stuck with this marathon, which was only ever meant to be a few chapters. Yeah, I know... imagine that! Really appreciate all the support and reviews and thoughtful comments from everyone.
Epilogue – Full Circle
Eight years later – Fathers' Day, FDR Memorial Park, Washington
A dark haired little girl with pigtails rushed down the path, waving wildly. As she reached his chair, Jackson swung her up onto his lap and she threw her arms around his neck in a fierce hug which always reminded him of her mother.
Abby and Gibbs strolled down the path after their daughter, Gibbs' arm slung around his wife's shoulders and hers snug around his waist as they joined the others sitting in the shade under the trees.
As Katy-Ann chattered happily to Jackson and Maggie about their annual walk to see the statue of Eleanor Roosevelt, Gibbs dropped onto the blanket next to their chairs and helped Abby to ease herself down. The heat from the summer's day was making her uncomfortable in her sixth month so she was glad to sit down in the shade.
Gibbs propped cushions against the tree and moved to sit behind Abby, encouraging her to sit between his legs and lean back into his body. Lacing their fingers together over her swollen stomach, he nuzzled into her hair as she shifted to get comfortable in his arms.
Abby had grumbled for days she was approaching that time when she resembled like a battleship at full sail, but to Gibbs, his wife was never anything less than beautiful and now she'd reached that stage of pregnancy where she just glowed, taking his breath every time he looked at her.
It had been a difficult pregnancy for Abby so far. Both she and the baby were healthy but she'd been badly hit by the morning sickness and tiredness that she'd largely avoided when carrying Caitlin-Ann. It was only now that she was emerging from that spell and starting to enjoy being pregnant again, except on days like this when the heat sapped her energy. Her hormones were also starting to remind her that she really should jump her husband's bones any opportunity she got... much to his delight.
Gibbs smiled as he listened to Katy-Ann's animated account of the statues in the memorial park. It was something they now did as a family every year, continuing the tradition Abby had started with her father, Ben. It would always be a special day as far as Gibbs was concerned as it had been the catalyst for he and Abby getting together.
As always, Abby seemed to read his mind.
"Eight years ago today," she murmured as she turned her head to settle into one of her favourite positions, tucking her head under his chin and nuzzling her nose into his neck.
"Mmm," he agreed quietly. "Since I got my head outta my ass you mean."
Abby chuckled softly, pressing a warm kiss to his chin. "Since we both did."
He nodded briefly. "Okay, both of us... Rub your back when we get home?" Gibbs murmured into her ear.
Abby groaned, reaching up to cup his cheek. "Yes, please... I knew there was a reason I adore you."
Gibbs chuckled. "Just one?"
"Well, we could work on the others... later," she murmured, reaching up to meet his lips, pressing into the kiss.
"Eeww... gross," came the giggled comment behind them. They broke off the kiss, laughing as they glanced over to see Katy pretending to peek through her fingers with a cheeky grin on her face as she leaned against a smirking Jackson.
Ever since they'd told their daughter about Kelly's habit of calling it scary kissing when she caught Gibbs and Shannon kissing, Katy-Ann had taken every opportunity to tease her parents doing the same thing.
Abby chuckled. "Kissing is very far from being gross, young lady, which you'll find out one day... trust me, I'm your mother."
"Your mom's right. Give it a few more years, Katy, and then you'll understand," Maggie chipped in, laughing.
"Can't imagine kissing boys... urgh," Katy pulled a face as Jackson chuckled.
Gibbs grinned, tilting his head. "Works for me."
Abby punched his arm as she smothered her laughter, suspecting Gibbs would keep a no fly zone around their daughter for anything male if he had his way.
"Can I go for ice cream... can I, daddy?" Katy kissed her Jackson's cheek and wriggled down off his lap to drape herself around her father's neck, and grabbing Abby's hand, batting blue eyes that were a mirror of his own and adding a pout very like her mother's to the mix. Katy's features most closely resembled Abby's but her eyes were pure Gibbs.
Abby rolled her eyes, exchanging a knowing smile with Maggie. She knew Gibbs couldn't hold out against that... her hard ass Marine rapidly took on the consistency of goo when his daughter wheedled. Katy-Ann had both her father and grandfather wrapped around her little finger.
"You can," Abby replied. "But just get us all one each. Not like last time when you brought enough back that even Tony would've been sick."
Katy considered that for a moment, head on one side in a gesture she'd copied from her father, before a mischievous grin spread over her face. "But you ate two, mom."
"That is... besides the point, kiddo, and anyway, I'm eating for two here," Abby narrowed her eyes, biting back a grin as Gibbs chuckled.
Jackson exchanged a sheepish smile with his granddaughter as he'd been responsible for indulging Katy that time. But then like his son, he found it difficult to refuse that child anything... and she knew it.
"I got it, Abbs," Maggie offered, easing herself to her feet and holding her hand out to the little girl, who took it readily, bouncing on her toes. "Everyone else want one?"
After nods all round, the two of them headed off down the path, Katy skipping along at the older woman's side and keeping up a constant stream of chatter.
Jackson and Maggie were on their annual trip to DC for Fathers' Day, a tradition they'd introduced a few years back, and then Gibbs, Abby and their daughter would drive to Stillwater for the Fourth of July weekend. Jackson and Maggie were still together, although not married and given Maggie's insistence that they'd drive each other mad if they ever tried, living separately.
Maggie was still running the diner and Jackson the store, but now had help with it. His health remained good but he'd started to slow down in recent years, and it had taken all their combined persuasion for Jackson to agree he needed help in the store and that it was okay to take things a little easier now.
Abby settled back against Gibbs as his arms round came her again. "If Katy discovers boys at the same age I did... you've got about six years till all hell breaks loose. I was 12 when I had my first kiss... and discovered I liked it."
Gibbs smirked down at her. "S'okay. Drawn up plans with Tony to barricade her in her room till she's old enough..."
"And when d'ya reckon that'll be, son?" asked Jackson, suspecting he could guess the answer, as he'd had a similar conversation with his son about Kelly years ago.
"Oh, reckon till she's about 25 should do it," Gibbs turned to smile at his dad.
Jackson burst out laughing. "Ha! Sounds about right."
Abby looked from one grinning face to the other, battling the urge to roll her eyes. "I see, and what other plans have you been cooking up behind my back, huh? No, don't tell me... I can guess."
She held up her hand, ticking her points off on her fingers. "A full background check on any boy who so much as speaks to Katy. Uncle Tim tracking her wherever she goes via GPS, then Tim and Tony trailing her by car on the rare occasions she actually manages to arrange a date and set foot outside the door, and then Auntie Ziva acting as a kick ass bodyguard wherever she goes..."
"Leon's offered satellite time," Gibbs put in, his half smile tugging at the corners of his mouth.
Abby snorted. "Hmm, and no doubt Jimmy will freak the poor guy out with autopsy tales, and he'll get the Gibbs death glare the minute he sets foot through our front door and Ducky will delay him with a story or five while you shoot out his tires."
Gibbs raised an eyebrow. "Not sure he'll get as far as the door... Tony reckons a spell in interrogation first."
"The sad thing is, I know you're only half joking," Abby chuckled as the eyebrow stayed raised and his face remained deadpan. "I can see I'm gonna have to help my daughter plan an escape bid when the time comes."
Abby could read some of the half truths hidden amongst the joking. It was understandable, given everything Gibbs had lost in his life and so far, he'd done a good job of not making his over-protectiveness too smothering for either Abby or Katy-Ann... although it had come close more than a few times.
And when it had been directed at Abby in their early years together, it had resulted in some spectacular fights... in the same way that it had taken her a while to work at being in a partnership.
But their connection was rock solid and each year, she grew to love him even more and the passion they'd shared from day one never diminished. She'd never been happier, and seeing Gibbs become a father again and being able to raise a child with him had given her such a sense of fulfilment in her life that she sometimes had to pinch herself to check she wasn't dreaming.
As she'd always suspected, Gibbs was one of life's natural fathers and he'd been everything she needed him to be as a partner, especially when she'd had doubts and wobbles about her own abilities as a mother. He'd been there behind her solidly the whole time, supporting her and boosting her confidence when she most needed it.
Katy-Ann soon returned with Maggie, carrying ice creams for them all and she settled on the blanket to sit cross-legged by her father's side.
"You decided if you're gonna retire yet, Leroy?"
"Jack!" protested Maggie.
"What?" Jackson gave Maggie his 'what have I done now' look and Abby choked back a giggle.
"Well, you don't know if they've discussed it all together yet as a family, do you, Jack?" Maggie shook her head at him, affectionately. "All the tact of a rhinoceros."
Abby took pity on him, peeking around Gibbs. "It's okay, Jack. We have discussed it... we've talked about it, haven't we, Katy?"
Katy-Ann nodded vigorously, grinning at her mom as she licked her ice cream. "Uh-huh... and daddy is going to retire."
Gibbs tugged her pigtail. "Yup, he sure is, half pint."
"Not tempted to see if you can extend being a field agent or continue behind a desk?" asked Jackson, curiously.
He'd grown to understand over the past few years what being an agent meant to his son, and how important their work was to both he and Abby, so he wondered how readily he could leave it behind.
Gibbs had reached the age of mandatory retirement as a field agent. And even if he called in a few favours to extend it, which he was sure he could if he wanted to, it would only buy him a few more years out in the field... and he'd go stir crazy if he was desk bound.
Gibbs shook his head at his dad. "I could try but nah... it's time. And if I tried to carry on stuck behind a desk, DiNozzo would end up shootin' me... or Abby would."
Abby grinned, throwing him a teasing glance. "No kidding... I think there's already a pool about that one."
Gibbs chuckled before sobering and stroked her cheek gently. "Besides, I know Abby wants me to retire."
"It's not that I want you to retire, Jethro... Well, okay, it is," she admitted softly, shrugging slightly, "but only because I worry about you being in danger all the time... after all these years on the frontline, sometimes literally."
He'd had more than few near misses in recent years... they all had, and it was one of her recurring nightmares that one day his luck would run out.
"And I do too... finally Really, Abbs," he murmured, trying to reassure her for the umpteenth time, pressing a kiss to her temple.
They'd talked about it a lot and Gibbs understood Abby's fears because he shared them.
And in truth, he was tired.
He'd served his country for nearly forty years and felt he'd earned his retirement now. But what he most wanted to do now was look after his kids... enjoy time with them and with his wife.
He felt he'd been gradually morphing back into the family man he used to be, but was acutely conscious that there were more years behind him than there were in front of him.
And it was long past time for DiNozzo to take over as team lead.
He'd more than earned it.
His SFA had turned down other promotions as team leads over the years. Gibbs suspected Vance's patience was being sorely tested, even if, as a family man himself, Vance accepted Tony's reasons that he didn't want to move his family away from DC.
So that was also a good reason for Gibbs to move on and let his SFA take over what should have been his years ago.
Abby picked up his hand, lacing their fingers together as she explained to Jackson and Maggie. "He's gonna work almost till junior's born and then take retirement."
Gibbs glanced at his daughter. "And I know a little bat not a million miles away with chocolate all over her chin wants me to retire as well."
Katy-Ann giggled, wiping at her chin and licking the ice cream off her fingers. "I do... it'll be so cool, daddy. We can do so many things, stuff we said we'd do... and we can have a dog..."
"We said we'd talk about havin' a dog, remember?" Gibbs put in sternly, suppressing a grin at the way his daughter had tried to sneak a dog into every conversation lately.
He quite fancied the idea of having a dog too, when he'd have more time but they were both determined Katy would understand the responsibility that came with looking after another living thing first and all it entailed; that it wasn't just another toy. She'd had some practice helping to look after the seeing eye dogs which Abby fostered occasionally but it would be different if it was their dog.
Katy-Ann's eyeroll was a killer combination of her parents too and she employed it now, making Jackson snort with amusement. "Yeah, I know... but even President Roosevelt had a dog. I told you about his little terrier, Fala, didn't I, grandpa? And besides, daddy, Uncle Timmy said he could find us a puppy like... any time."
"Uncle Timmy did, did he?" Abby put in, raising an eyebrow, seeing Jackson smothering a grin behind Katy.
"Uh-huh... totally," Katy-Ann nodded, recognizing by her mother's expression it was time to change the subject. "And it'll be really, really great to have daddy pick me up from school most of the time... and I overheard Lisa's mom sayin' to her friend she was lookin' forward to daddy pickin' me up too."
"What's Lisa's mom got to do with it?" asked Abby curiously.
"Dunno..." her daughter shrugged, pulling a face. "She just said that to Susan's mom after I told Lisa that daddy'd be pickin' me up when he retired... I think I heard her say you were hot..." she added innocently.
"Oh, really?" Abby narrowed her eyes at Gibbs' smirk and his 'nothing to do with me' shrug.
Maggie burst out laughing. "Well, I can certainly see it could cause gridlock outside the school if all the moms realize Jethro's in the vicinity..."
"Hmm... I suddenly have the urge to be there myself... regularly," Abby put in, reaching out to tickle her daughter, who squirmed, giggling.
"Seriously though, I'm pleased, Jethro," Maggie added, over the laughter. "You deserve some extra time with Abby and with your kids after all these years."
Gibbs smiled at Maggie, reaching out to snag her hand and squeeze it. He'd grown fond of Maggie over the years and knew it was reciprocated. He had to acknowledge she was good for his dad and she and Abby were close, even more so since Gloria died.
Over the years, Maggie had also supported both men in their attempts to repair their relationship... which was still a work in progress and probably always would be. Even though they had smoothed over a fair number of things over the years, they still butted heads and there were some things which both men still couldn't get past.
Nor had Maggie automatically taken Jackson's side... seeming to understand without being told the details that the problems weren't necessarily all Gibbs' fault. Abby had helped too... more than she knew, both in acting as a referee and a buffer between him and Jack.
She'd smoothed out their rough edges... just like Shannon had all those years ago.
And Jackson adored his Abby. They'd grown very close over the years and Jackson's continued joy at having a grandchild again, and another on the way, shone through every time they saw him.
Maggie's voice drew him out of his thoughts. "Abby mentioned you might do some teaching or training at... what was it again, hun?"
"FLETC," Abby told her.
Gibbs nodded. "Yeah, part time if I want it... if I do. Not keen if it means being away from these three for too long."
Abby turned her head to gaze up at her husband. "I just worry you'll get bored... you know that."
"We'll been through this, Abbs," he reminded her, squeezing her fingers. "There's too much to do to get bored. Missed too much with Kelly. Wanna spend more time with you that isn't at work."
He'd missed so much time with Shannon and Kelly when she was growing up through being deployed and then when they'd died, he'd been robbed of the rest of Kelly's childhood, as she had.
So he wanted it all with his kids now.
Katy-Ann would soon reach the age that Kelly never lived to see and Gibbs was determined to savor every minute of it.
And anyway, he could always increase his woodwork projects. He was planning to volunteer for several Marine charities and already used his woodworking skills to work for Habitat for Humanity with Abby.
Abby smiled tenderly at him, playfully nudging his nose. "Well, you know that bit sounds really, really good."
"And we can go sailing more, can't we? Like we all did yesterday," Katy's bubbly voice interjected hopefully.
Abby laughed. "We can... I like the way you think, Katy."
They spent as much time as they could as a family on The Abigail, the boat he and Abby had started and they'd finished as a family a couple of years ago. Another family tradition had been taking Maggie and Jackson out on her the day before Fathers' Day, along with Tony and his family.
Abby had shared Gibbs' quiet satisfaction as Tony became involved with Leyla. It had been a slow build up to the relationship, but they'd gotten married last year and Tony had slipped into the role of the father that Amira had never known with a nervous excitement that Abby had been thrilled to see, and Amira adored him.
Leyla's quiet dignity and strength coupled with her warm, caring nature was exactly what Tony needed and he provided the stability and sense of belonging that both girls had been unconsciously looking for. Leyla had easily seen through the various masks Tony presented to the world to the strong, sensitive man underneath.
And Abby knew Gibbs was happy to see Mike's family being taken care of in a way his mentor would have approved of and it strengthened even further the close bond Tony shared with Gibbs. The fact that they were godfathers to each others' children only enhanced that connection.
"What you gonna do, Abby?" Jackson asked, breaking into her thoughts.
Despite numerous offers from other federal agencies and private companies over the years, she hadn't ever wanted to move from NCIS. But she was working more sensible hours now... not working such crazy days and nights since Katy-Ann had come into their lives.
"I'm gonna go part time, Jack, after the latest peanut is born... with the kids and Jethro at home, I don't wanna miss out either so I'm gonna try it out for a year or so and see how it goes... and see if we can afford it," she admitted. "Not sure Leon is thrilled but it might be time to get a job share with Carol sorted out officially now."
Carol had taken a temporary assignment with NCIS during Abby's first maternity leave and had expressed an interest in working there again, this time on a more permanent basis, helping make Abby's schedule a more sensible one when she finally came back to work.
Carol was still single but she was currently in a relationship with Fornell that seemed to be working, much to their own surprise. Abby was delighted and took every opportunity to take credit for throwing her two friends together, while Gibbs couldn't resist teasing Fornell but secretly as pleased as Abby that both friends seemed happy together.
Abby knew Gibbs was worried she'd get bored too if she went part time, but she'd reassured him it would allow her to write and publish and work on personal projects she never got time for when she was all out at NCIS. And if they needed extra money, then she could always do private consulting, provided there were no conflict of interests with her federal work.
And as she kept reminding him, now her family came first.
"You coming with me to the museum, Grandpa... Maggie?" Katy asked, eagerly.
"We are, sweetheart," answered Jackson, exchanging a smile with Maggie. "What we all doin' later? We goin' out to eat?"
"Nope," Katy shook her head. "I'm cookin'"
"Uh-oh," muttered Gibbs and Katy swatted his arm, giggling.
"I'm not cookin' alone, silly. Amira's gonna help when they come over later and Auntie Leyla said she would too."
"And me and Maggie'll be there to stop my kitchen being burned down," Abby put in, grinning at her daughter.
Tony and his girls were coming over later and they'd all decided it would be easier to make all three dads a Fathers' Day dinner together.
"Sounds good, honey," commented Jackson. "Sounds like another family tradition in the making."
He was grateful for any chance to be involved in their family life in DC and knew he had Abby to thank for a lot of the contact he'd had with his son over the past few years. It was like getting a second chance at family life again and he loved every minute of it.
"Katy, can you start packing up the lunch things please?"
"Oh mom... can't I do it later... after our walk."
"No, you can't... some of this stuff needs goin' back in the cooler." Abby raised her eyebrow at her pouting daughter as she started gathering up the leftovers from lunch. "I got one of those pouts too, missy."
Gibbs murmured, "No kidding," and Abby shot him a impish smile and he reached up to cup her neck, stroking the skin. When the two of them ganged up on him, he was usually toast.
Katy huffed but did as she was told. When her father stared at her, she tried to stare back... leaning in closer as they entered one of their frequent glaring competitions, which usually ended with her dissolving into laughter as they bumped noses.
This time, he reached up to tweak her nose. "What's your rule number two, Katy."
Another eyeroll. "Always do what mommy says."
"And that gets broken far too often," Abby teased and Katy-Ann giggled.
"Did Kelly have to tidy up too, daddy?"
Gibbs nodded, smiling at the attempt at deflection. "She did... and grumbled about it just as much as you do."
They'd been careful to share Kelly with Katy-Ann as soon as their daughter was old enough to understand and she'd grown up completely accepting her older sister, almost treating her like an imaginary friend.
They'd also explained who Shannon was, explaining carefully what had happened to both girls... with the result that Katy now understood how painful it was sometimes for her dad to talk about them. But as time went on, and Katy talked about both Shannon and Kelly so freely, calling her Aunt Shannon and asked questions so readily in that innocent way children had, it had actually helped Gibbs to share his first family more openly with both Abby and Katy.
Kelly's old bedroom was now Katy-Ann's, with lots of memories of Kelly still there. Gibbs had made new furniture for her room, which they'd used along with Kelly's old stuff and Kelly's drawings hung on the walls alongside Katy's. Photos of Kelly adorned the walls, along with those of the three of them, in the same way pictures of Shannon and Kelly were now up on the walls around the rest of the house.
Abby had been so welcoming of everything about his past and been so accepting of Shannon's memory, had wanted to learn all about this woman who'd meant so much to Gibbs, that it had gradually helped Gibbs deal with their memories better.
The wounds would never fully heal but he could look back now with fondness and not overwhelming pain. Abby had never used his memories against him... never used Shannon as a weapon in an argument like his other wives.
Abby was so unselfish in her love... it had healed a part of his soul he thought frozen forever.
"It's a pity Gloria won't be here to see her grandson born," Jackson commented suddenly.
Gibbs shot an annoyed glance over his shoulder at his dad as Abby stiffened beside him and he rubbed his hand soothingly over her shoulder, pulling her closer and resting his head against hers.
Gloria had lived long enough to see her granddaughter born but had died last year. She'd been so pleased that Abby and Gibbs were together.
"Yes, it is, Jack," Abby agreed quietly. "She'd have been so proud."
She still missed her mom who'd never really gotten over the death of her husband, Ben and given it was Fathers' Day, it had been a reminder of both her parents, her adoptive parents, which was still an emotional subject for her.
Finding out she was adopted had strained her relationship with her mother and brother, Luca, too for a time, even if she had gained another brother, Kyle, who she'd grown close to over the years. Although she was still mostly at loggerheads with the 'outlaws'. When Luca's wife, Julie, found out Abby was adopted, it had merely confirmed in her eyes that Abby was an outsider.
Abby had found that as difficult as ever to deal with but the presence of Gibbs at her side on visits had helped. He'd made it very clear to the outlaws that he wasn't impressed with the way they treated her. So now she mostly accepted that it was a relationship she'd never heal.
She saw Gibbs sign 'Minefield' out of the corner of her eye, using their private code for when things got tricky, and smiled sadly, leaning into him gratefully. Sensing her mother's sudden sorrow, Katy scooted nearer, resting against her father as she snuggled into Abby's side, taking her hand.
Katy-Ann whispered, "Don't be sad, mom," and curled the fingers of one hand into the sign for 'I love you' and rested it on Abby's stomach.
It had been natural to teach Katy-Ann sign language alongside her spoken English, not only so she'd been able to talk to her grandmother while she was alive, but because it was something they both wanted her to learn.
Abby pressed a kiss to her daughter's hair and Gibbs cradled both dark heads to his chest, wishing as he always did that he could take his wife's distress away.
Abby suddenly winced and shifted position, putting a hand on her belly where her son was making his presence felt. "Ooh... definitely a football player. We'd better get him signed up to a team."
Gibbs put his hand on her stomach, grinning when he felt the kick. Katy-Ann leaned forward, putting her hand under her father's, smiling widely as she felt the movement. She put her mouth down to Abby's belly and started to whisper, shielding her mouth from view.
"Which rule today, Katy?"
"Number three, daddy."
Abby giggled. "I might have known."
"What's rule three?" asked Maggie.
Katy-Ann looked up briefly. "Cookies should be always be chocolate."
"I thought that was rule one," Jackson put in.
Katy-Ann shook her head. "No, grandpa, rule number one is always look after mommy. I'm teachin' my brother the rules... a bit at a time."
Jackson looked on fondly for a moment before turning to his son. "Surprised you wanted to know he was a he."
Abby shrugged. "He was lying in just the right place at the last scan, Jack, so we just went with it." And both of them wanted to know and to plan.
Katy-Ann put in, "And daddy explained we wouldn't have to leave."
"What d'ya mean, sweetheart?" asked Jackson.
"Well, me and Kelly thought when our brother arrived, we'd have to leave our room but daddy said we wouldn't have to."
Maggie bit her lip, torn between smiling and crying, exchanging a glance with Abby as Katy sat back down on the blanket. "Oh, sweetheart... of course you don't."
They'd used Kelly's crib for Katy-Ann and Abby had every intention of doing the same with their son, and the guest room would be transformed into his room eventually when he was old enough to want a room of his own.
It was now a home, not a house of ghosts.
A warm house full of life and happy memories.
Gibbs hadn't been there for Kelly's birth, which was one of the major regrets in his life, but he'd been there for every step of Abby's pregnancy with Katy-Ann. And to watch his daughter being born, to hold Caitlin-Ann Gloria Gibbs in his hands for the first time was one of the most moving moments of his life. He had every intention of being there for the birth of their second child.
"Have you finally decided on a name yet... or are you swapping them around again?" asked Jackson.
Abby answered, sending Gibbs a warning glance when he sighed at the familiar question. "Well, the debate continues but the current front runners are Anthony Jackson Benjamin."
"Oh... I thought it was Anthony Benjamin Jackson last time we spoke, Abbs."
"It was, Jack, but as Katy was trying it out for size and shortening it, she inadvertently came up with TB... and as our Tony pointed out, there's been enough respiratory references in the family already, thank you."
Maggie laughed. "So if you do it the other way round, it becomes TJ... which is like LJ." When Gibbs nodded, she smiled. "That's really nice. I like that."
"We've got to decide if we call him Michael too." Abby smiled wistfully, picking up Gibbs' hand and lacing their fingers together.
Mike had been an all too brief godfather to Katy-Ann, who'd been born the year before Gibbs' mentor had been killed. But he had at least got to spend a little time with them all, even though he'd been ill at the time.
Gibbs kissed her knuckles. "Not sure we can saddle our son with four names though."
"Yeah, I'm sure Mike'd have somethin' to say about that," admitted Abby with a rueful smile.
"Ya think? I can hear him now," Gibbs switched to his usual uncanny impersonation of Mike's voice. "Giving my godson a whole alphabet soup, Probie. You been drinkin' again."
Abby joined in with the laughter, before turning to kiss him lightly, seeing the sadness lurking behind his blue eyes. "I know... but we'd both like it if we can. We'll see... although we gotta be careful of the order there too... can't have it turning out to be Michael Jackson somewhere in the middle."
Gibbs chuckled. "We got time to decide, Abbs."
"If Tony gets four names, can I have an extra one too?" asked Katy-Ann, suddenly. "Coz I've only got three. I talked it over with Kelly and if we can choose, can it be Ziva?"
Abby laughed, pulling her daughter's pigtail. "Heaven help us, a mini ninja." Katy giggled as Gibbs tickled her side. Abby went on. "Whatever order we end up with, it's definitely going to be Tony first... do you remember our Tony's face when we told him, Jethro?"
Gibbs grinned, tilting his head. "Oh yeah."
They'd both remember for a very long time the proud and delighted grin that spread across DiNozzo's face at the thought their son would be named after him. He was already godfather to their daughter and that mutual fan club had been founded when Katy-Ann was born and was still going strong.
The entire team were godparents to Katy-Ann and they had every intention of doing the same thing with their son. Their team, their family, had grown even closer over the years, particularly through all the traumas they'd gone through... the most difficult being the explosion at NCIS which had almost deprived a Katy-Ann barely 18 months old of both her parents and godparents.
As that ordeal had triggered Ducky's heart attack, and the hunt for Dearing had lasted for months after the original devastation, for a time it had been one trauma after another.
Although Ducky had returned to work and had slowly regained his confidence, he had eventually chosen to retire and spend more time with his partner, Jordan. So Palmer was now the M.E. and he and Breena were now part of their extended family.
Through all this, their own relationship had strengthened but it hadn't been without difficulties, both work related and personal. It had taken a while for Gibbs to stop waiting for the other shoe to drop and to really believe Abby wanted to be with him forever, and it had taken her a long time to work out how to handle a Gibbs who still put up walls occasionally. And two such strong, independent personalities clashed often.
But gradually they both relaxed and Gibbs was now at peace with himself and his life in general. They had both waited a long time for this and loved every minute of their personal life, even now enjoying the clashes, because they knew ultimately nothing could shake them.
Eight years was a good enough length of time to really get to know each other and trust that this was forever. And having kids had only cemented their closeness.
When they first moved in together, they'd fully intended to wait a while before having a child but Abby's first pregnancy had been an unplanned surprise... and the timing could have been better but neither regretted it for one minute.
They'd found out Abby was pregnant with Katy-Ann about the time Colonel Bell and M. Allison Hart had appeared on the scene. Then throughout the strained circumstances of that summer, during the early stages of Abby's pregnancy, they'd had the threat from the Reynosa cartel hanging over their heads... his Abby and their precious new baby in danger, along with his dad and his team, all against a background of Abby's lingering hurt after finding out about Hernandez.
Not only finding out the father of her child had killed in cold blood but what had hurt the most was that he'd kept that knowledge from her.
Having Jackson there staying with them right throughout that summer had made it both an extra anxiety and a comfort. There'd been many arguments between father and son... all adding to the strain on their relationship and extra stress on a pregnant Abby at a time when that was the last thing she needed during her first pregnancy.
"What are you planning on doing for your anniversary next month?" Maggie asked.
"Well, we thought we'd take The Kimmie out again... if Jake'll let us," Abby replied, smiling.
"Jake'll be offended if we don't," Gibbs interjected. "And he enjoys his yearly dig at me for goin' out on a boat built with power tools... if he can tear himself away from chasing Ziva."
Jake had taken one look at the dark-haired beauty at their wedding and had reacted like a man sighting an oasis in the desert.
Abby smiled fondly. "I think our Ziva is about to let herself get caught, if I'm readin' the situation right." Her friend had been understandably cautious after being so badly burned by Ray, but Jake was a good man and she and Gibbs would kiss his ass if he didn't treat Ziva right.
"Can I stay with Amira like before?" asked Katy, eagerly, leaping up and sliding an arm around her dad's shoulder.
"You can ask Leyla and Tony later," Gibbs told her, hugging her to his side.
"You not going out on The Abigail," asked Jackson.
"Oh we will, Jack," replied Abby. "We're gonna take a few days off next month and go sailing with Katy, but for a couple of days around our anniversary... we're going on The Kimmie, just me and Jethro. It kinda has sentimental memories for both of us."
Abby glanced at her smirking husband, knowing exactly where his mind was... their first time together.
For years, they'd been content just being together without being married. It didn't really matter to either of them. It wouldn't make them any more secure in how much they loved each other.
It was only when it began to affect their daughter and when other people's behaviour began to hurt Abby, that Gibbs had decided it was time to do something about it and get married, for the last time. They'd taken an early decision when Katy was born that she'd be a Gibbs rather than a Scuito and they'd both been fine with that.
The problems had started when kids at Katy's school started to make comments and ask why her mom had a different surname than her father. And as children were, their curiosity and questions had begun to upset his daughter when Katy tried to explain why, and she'd gotten into more than one fight when kids at school made unkind comments about her mom.
And when some of the other moms and even some teachers had assumed Abby wasn't her mother because of the different names, despite the obvious resemblance, Gibbs had wanted more than anything to take away the flashes of hurt he could see on Abby's face and stop his daughter's furious tears.
So with the help of his daughter and the team, they'd organised a quiet ceremony at the registry office as a surprise... Katy-Ann and Ziva picking out a dress for Abby, Gibbs organizing the honeymoon on The Abigail, Jackson and Maggie travelling in from Stillwater in time for the ceremony. Vance had quietly approved the time off for both of them and organised cover for Abby at the lab, and Tony had orchestrated the rest of the team and Leyla and Amira to arrange a simple celebration... knowing neither of them would want any fuss.
So one Saturday morning, Gibbs and Katy-Ann had woken Abby with breakfast in bed and his daughter had stood to the side of the bed, trying unsuccessfully to suppress her giggles as her father leaned over Abby with the whispered words, "Get up, Abbs... we're gettin' married in three hours."
Abby had mumbled and turned over, wrapping herself around his pillow before his words finally penetrated and one sleepy green eye opened as she mumbled, "What?"
Gibbs had grinned and leaned in for a kiss as Katy giggled and jumped on her mom, tickling her fully awake. When Abby finally realized neither of them were joking, she'd leapt out of bed and rushed around like a whirlwind, alternately leaping on Gibbs to smother him in kisses or scooping up her daughter for a hug, all the while scolding the pair of them for giving her a heart attack and not giving her enough time to get ready.
It had been a simple day, the ceremony quick but incredibly moving, surrounded by the people they cared about, and then everyone had decamped to the marina where The Abigail was berthed for the reception, and they'd sailed off that night for a few days to themselves.
His life now filled him with a sense of contentment and happiness he'd only known once before and he was going to hang onto it with all his might, for as long as he could.
Without Abby, he'd been just surviving, striving to find meaning in his work and personal life.
As he wrapped his arms around his wife and both children, he was complete again.
A/N: collapses in exhausted heap! Phew! Mixed feelings about finishing this story – sad and relieved at the same time. Am now working on the long overdue sequel to Distance Nightmare, along with a few other stories on the loony list. And it has been pointed out that there are opportunities for missing scenes / filling in some of the events mentioned in the past 8 years above, which I may add to the loony list as Missing Links... bourbon, chocolate, ice cream all considered suitable bribery if anyone wants to suggest anything to cover.