Chapter Two

Gibbs entered his father's room and glanced around at the boxes waiting to be filled. He rolled his eyes trying to pull his emotions under control. It had been years since he stepped foot in the room, but little had changed over time.

He decided to start with the dresser and pulled open the drawer containing Jack's socks and underwear all neatly arranged. He half smiled recalling his father instructing him on the proper way to organize his clothes rather than tossing them in the drawer haphazardly so there'd be no need to search for matching socks or have something sticking out of the drawers when he bothered to close them.

It had paid off when he joined the Corps. It was one lesson he didn't have learn and he was often pointed out as the example for the others to follow.

The rest of the clothing went quickly enough. He labeled boxes as he went so he'd know what to donate and what would end up as trash. Though Jackson was a simple and frugal man the amount of clothing was minimal with only a few items that comprised the more worn pile.

He found a t-shirt in the back of one drawer. He couldn't believe it when he opened it and saw what it was. He shook his head recalling how he'd made it for Jack for Father's Day the year he finished kindergarten.

It had been his mom's idea to cover it with his hands dipped in different colors of finger paint. Why his father still possessed it he'd never know. Gibbs could only guess that his father was more sentimental than he'd thought.

Not quite willing to part with it himself he put it in a pile of items he'd keep- the smallest of all the belongings.

On top of the dresser was a wooden box that held the few accessories Jackson owned. Gibbs ran his hand across the flat top that still maintained a smooth finish after all the years his father owned it. It had been one of the first projects he and his father had worked on together. The first one that Jack had let his son do most of the work.

He lifted the lid that opened a little stiffly on the aged hinges. He saw the cuff links his mother had given as a first anniversary gift. Jack had shared that story when Gibbs had asked about them the first time he'd seen his father wear them.

Jackson had told him how Ann had wanted him to have something fancy to wear whenever they went out, rare as the occasion may be. He tried to make the effort once a year on their anniversary, but with work in the mines being as it was it didn't happen often. Then after the store opened it was hard to get away. Eventually Ann had taken ill and the desire to go out waned. Still Jack made sure to put the cuff links on to show her how much her gift meant to him.

Also in the box was the wooden-beaded rosary with the brown stain that had worn away in places showing the years of usage they endured. When his mother had gotten sick his father spent countless nights praying by her bedside. Many of those nights he beckoned his son to join him, but as time passed and she didn't get better he left his father to pray on his own.

It had been a long time until he prayed again. Shannon had brought some faith back into his life and sharing night-time prayers with Kelly had become some of his favorite times with her.

Dealing with their deaths he came to understand his father's need to pray. What little comfort he was able to gain came from the silent prayers he cried.

He lapsed after time finding the practice of prayer again when Kate entered his life- even more so when their relationship blossomed. With thoughts of how much Kate had brought him full circle he laid the rosary back in the case and put it in the box of items he was keeping.

Gibbs moved on to the closet where he made quick work of the clothes hanging there. Removing the last of the shirts he saw an item hanging in the back corner. He did a double take having not seen it since his father had put it to use a long time ago. It was an old razor strop that had belonged to his grandfather.

Jackson had often threatened his son with using it, but only once had Gibbs pushed him far enough that he had to follow through.

He couldn't say he didn't deserve it, but it had been the harshest punishment he'd ever endured, including anything the Marines had subjected to him.

Holding the worn strip of leather he grimaced not sure if he should throw it away or burn it. The incident came back to him as he could still remember the feel of the lashes his father had delivered.

He'd been fourteen and full of anger following his mother's death. It didn't take much to trigger his short temper. Having started the morning with an argument with his father over nothing more than Jack asking him to come to the store right after school. It wasn't an uncommon request when a new shipment was being delivered, but it left Gibbs riled and itching for a fight.

Fortunate or not he didn't have long to wait to vent out his pent up emotions. Chuck Winslow and Eddie Johnson were waiting for him. Unfortunate for them he was ready to take on both of them.

Before Eddie could grab hold of him Gibbs doubled him over with a punch to the gut. Chuck was soon on him, but being smaller and pumped up he was able to twist out of Chuck's grasp and landed two punches to his face giving him a bloody lip and what would become quite a shiner.

Eddie recovered and along with Chuck double-teamed Gibbs who managed to inflict some damage before being tackled to the ground. While he was being beaten by both teens Mr. Markle, the Phys. Ed. Teacher appeared and pulled them off. It took a few more members of the faculty to keep the boys apart and lead them to the office of Mrs. Healy, the principal.

Unimpressed with their actions she was quick to pass judgment. Phone calls were made to their parents to come and retrieve their sons and hopefully express upon them the merits of getting along peacefully, as well as proper conduct. She sincerely hoped that each boy realized that there would be consequences for engaging in fisticuffs, especially on school property.

Young Gibbs sat across from Chuck and Eddie glaring at them, but a bit satisfied at the condition they were in. It didn't matter if he looked just as bad.

The sight of his father entering the office caused him to shift his glare in his direction. It was Jack's fault he was in this predicament. Still he knew Jack wouldn't see it that way.

"Mr. Gibbs," the receptionist greeted. "Mrs. Healy will only be a few moments."

Jack nodded curtly and took a seat next to his son. He assessed the injuries: bloody lip, cut above his right eye and what looked to be the beginnings of a black eye. Looking over at the other two teens he noted each sported similar marks. How his son managed taking on two and causing that much damage he found surprising.

The meeting with Mrs. Healy was brief. A week's suspension followed by two weeks of detention upon return to school were the consequences handed down. Gibbs rolled his eyes clearly irritated with the decision. The only thing that stopped him from voicing his opinion was his father's constant stare aimed at him.

Jackson thanked the principal and apologized for his son's actions promising that he'd ensure no repeat of the behavior in the near future. Lifting his son up by his shoulder and giving it a squeeze his son got the message and made his own apology, albeit not a convincing one.

Taking him by the arm Jack escorted him out of the office, past his nemeses who had been joined by their fathers, out into the hallway and toward the exit.

The ride home was tense. The younger Gibbs wavering between anger and sullenness, while the elder Gibbs tried to quelch his own anger and the concern over his son's inability to communicate what was troubling him.

He didn't doubt it stemmed from losing his mother. Ann's death had been hard on both of them. Without her they each got lost in their grief and anger.

She had been the love of Jack's life and losing her the way he had made him feel cheated and betrayed. She had been the center of their son's world and without her he felt on one could ever replace the love she'd offered.

Jack debated how he should deal with this latest offense. He knew how his father would've reacted. Jack thought of himself as being a bit less high-handed or hard-handed as the case may be. It had never meant much to his dad how old he'd gotten if he'd found himself in trouble at school he father just reacted quickly and without debate.

Looking at his son slouched in the passenger seat he offered a silent prayer that he could reach him and help him. He doubted much that dealing with him was going to be easy.

No sooner had the car stopped then Gibbs was out of the car and slamming the door shut. Jack caught up with him before he reached the stairs.

"Where do you think you're going?" he snapped.

"To my room," Gibbs snapped back.

"We have to deal with the trouble you caused," Jack pointed toward the living room.

"You deal with it. I'm going upstairs," the teen sneered.

"You best not forget who you're talking to. Don't make me get your grandfather's strop," he threatened, hoping it would break through his son's belligerence.

"Right. You do what you have to do," Gibbs turned quickly and ran up the stairs.

Jack sighed hearing the door slam and steeled himself to follow through on his threat. Taking the strip of leather and wanting to forget and find another way he reluctantly made his way to his son's door. Taking a deep breath he entered and saw Leroy's face lose some of his anger only to be replaced with disbelief.

He struggled more than he should've and probably made it worse, but he had no doubt left that his father meant what he said.

Kate found Gibbs staring into his father's closet. She could tell he was lost in his memories. Not wanting to startle him, a normally impossible thing to do with his heightened senses, she walked to him and gently laid her hand on his back.

He turned his head and gave her a smile. "I didn't think this would be so hard. Dad and I made a lot of progress in the last five years or so, but I'm realizing that there was so much that I'd forgotten. I never gave him the credit he deserved for having raised such a bull-headed son."

Kate tilted her head. "Don't be so hard on yourself. The two of you were the most stubborn men I know, including my father and brothers. That says a lot," she laughed lightly.

Gibbs turned and pulled her close kissing her lips gently before resting his forehead on hers. "I'm glad you are here," he whispered.

"I'm glad too," she said laying her head against his chest and hugging him.

"I'm done here," he pulled back. As they walked toward the door he dropped the strop in the garbage box. Some memories didn't need a physical reminder.