Ch. 2

Gibbs had held tightly to Shannon's pillow as he fell asleep. The scent of her was faint, but still there following into his dreams filled with flashes of memories of her.

He awoke feeling a weight on his chest. He put his hand there and felt the soft silky hair of his daughter's head. He smiled before thinking she may have come to him having had a bad dream. He debated about waking her when he felt her shift to his side. When he turned his head to look at her he saw her fighting to open her eyes.

"Morning Sunshine," he stroked her chin with his finger.

"Mornin' Daddy," she yawned.

"Sleep well?" he teased.

"Nu-uh. You snore," she teased back.

"I do not," Gibbs denied her accusation.

"Do too. You only stopped when I laid on top of you," Kelly said adamantly, but smiling.

"Good thin I have you then, huh?" he pulled her close and kissed the top of her head.

"Yep," she snuggled in closer to him taking comfort in having him home and making her feel safe.

Not wanting to pull away, but needing to get up Gibbs lifted Kelly above him making her giggle. It warmed his heart to hear her laugh. He brought her back down and hugged her tight before sitting up and swinging her back onto the bed.

She watched as he moved across the room to get his clothes for the day and head into his bathroom. She laid in the bed rolling over to where her mother used to sleep. She hugged the pillow her father had held and felt the tug of loss within her heart. Her silent tears fell as she allowed the sadness to escape.

She'd cried a lot the first days after the accident. She was hurting, confused and scared. When her grandparents arrived they had to deal with their own grief and though they were quick to offer comfort, it was her daddy that she wanted.

When she heard he had been hurt she feared she'd lose him too. It wasn't until she spoke with him that those fears were laid to rest. Now he was home, but the reality that her mother would never be coming home again was becoming more pronounced. She hadn't stepped foot in her parents' room since before she came in that morning needing more reassurance that her father was really there.

She sniffled and wiped her eyes across the pillow. It was going to be hard saying good-bye. Her mother had been dead for almost a month already, but they hadn't really officially said good-bye wanting to wait to do it as a family.

She knew her dad hadn't spoken to her Grandpa Jack in a long time. She hoped he wouldn't be mad that she had called him to tell him about the accident and that her daddy had been hurt too. She didn't even tell her grandparents when she called.

Her Papa Jack had sounded like he was crying and told her he wished he could be there with her. He also told her how glad he was that she was okay and that he was certain her father would be home safely because nothing could ever keep her daddy from coming home to her.

She had felt a little better after talking with him and as the weeks had passed waiting for her dad to come home she tried to be as brave as possible.

When Gibbs came back into the bedroom he saw his little girl wrapped around Shannon's pillow, her little shoulders shaking the only sign of her crying. He quickly went to her and wrapped her in his arms. Seeing her sadness broke his heart and he prayed that somehow he could be strong enough for the both of them.

The next few days were busy making plans for the funeral service. Gibbs mind drifted to the agent who had visited his home and wondered if they'd gotten the man responsible. He decided to give him a call, if for no other reason than to get his mind off the upcoming service. He knew it was going to be an emotional day and wasn't sure he was ready to face it. He watched Kelly who managed to put on her brave face during the day, but every morning he woke to find her snuggled up next to him.

Two days before they were to leave to take Shannon to her final resting place, Gibbs gave Agent Franks a call. He got right to the point, "Have you located Hernandez yet?"

"Took you long enough to call," the agent's gruff voice replied. "We've narrowed it down, but the director is holding back on letting any of us go down to Mexico. Says there's too much politics involved."

Gibbs temper flared. He knew he could get down there and take care of it himself, do the taxpayers a favor and make there no need for a trial. He could almost picture the scenario in his head, but also knew he needed to be with Kelly and to take care of her he had to remain by her side.

"I'll be out of town for a few days. When I get back, I'll give you a call and see if you've made any progress," Gibbs told him. He hung up twisted his neck to relieve the tension residing there and went to pack up his things.

His bag packed he carried it out into the hallway. He poked his head into Kelly's room and saw her closing her bag having finished her packing.

"All set?" he asked.

"Yep," she slid her bag onto the floor and pulled the handle out to wheel it across her floor.

"Good girl," he smiled. He walked with her to the stairs and took her bag to carry it down for her.

Joann and Mack were waiting in the living room. The weeks of tension shown on their faces. It was going to be a rough few days.

They arrived at the house in Alexandria pausing before entering the house. It had been almost a year since they had been there as a family. Gibbs led the way into the house looking around to see if somehow the interior would know that Shannon was gone.

It needed some fixing up, having been vacant for so long. It was good work to again keep their minds busy. Once they settled in they discussed the plans for the next few days. The funeral service would be the main focus, but the Fieldings wanted to stop by their own home and wanted to take Kelly with them.

Gibbs agreed knowing he'd need a little time to himself afterwards. He was going to be bringing Kelly back to California for the rest of his leave. Mack and Joann would return to stay with her until his stint was up. He wasn't sure just yet what he'd do after, but was certain something would come to him.

The day of the funeral Kelly wouldn't leave his side, not that he wanted her to be any farther away. They took a few minutes to say their own goodbyes before talking with those that came to give their condolences. Gibbs was surprised to see his father walking in with Ms. Hannigan. Gibbs felt himself stiffen. He hadn't spoken to Jackson in quite a while and seeing him with a woman friend at his wife's funeral gave him a target for some of the anger still residing deep within him.

As he went to approach them Kelly pulled on his hand. "Don't Daddy," she looked up with her sad eyes and the anger dissipated. He gave her a stiff smile and pulled her close. When Jack reached them he managed to shake his hand and thank him for coming. A part of him could almost hear Shannon saying 'It's about time to bury that hatchet.'

The service was solemn, but beautiful. Kelly released the tears she'd been trying bravely to hold back and took comfort when Gibbs offered it sharing his own tears. "We're going to be okay, Kels," he promised her.

The following afternoon Gibbs said goodbye to Kelly and her grandparents. He was going to take a few days to sort through a few things he wanted to settle while Kelly wasn't around. One of those was giving Agent Franks a call to see if there was any movement on the case.

Franks was frustrated not being able to go after the drug lord. Gibbs only added his own fury wanting something to be done to insure his daughter's safety. He believed the only way she'd be safe was if Hernandez was dead. Franks tended to agree.

Gibbs informed the agent that he would be back in California the next day, but would be leaving back to the Middle East to finish up his tour a few days later. He indicated he would feel much better about leaving if he knew his daughter could be safe at home and not tucked away in a safe house somewhere.

Franks told him, "I will see to it personally." When Franks hung up he began to weigh all his options. He knew he could take care of Hernandez, but wasn't sure if the agency could remain in the dark about it. He sat at his desk leaning back in his chair and contemplated different scenarios before deciding on one he hoped would work the best. He smiled thinking there was something about that Marine he liked and decided that the next time they spoke he was going to suggest Gibbs give him a call when he returned to the working sector.

Gibbs sat in the living room, the quiet of the house surrounding him. His thoughts filled of the events and changes his life had experienced. Losing Shannon would've been an impossible ordeal to face if he had lost Kelly as well.

He thanked God she was still in his life and vowed to do right by her. He also thought of what would be the next chapter in their life. He'd always wanted to be a Marine, but now he couldn't bear the thought of leaving her for extended periods of time. The two months he had left to serve would be the longest he'd ever had.

He was thankful that his in-laws would be there for her. He just hoped that it would be enough for Joann. He also considered the possibility of moving Kelly to their Virginia home. Maybe one day, but not until he figured out his career prospects.

He thought also of what to do about keeping Kelly safe. NCIS hadn't been able to protect her and her mother. More and more he wanted to take care of it himself. 'If you chop of the head, the body will fall' was a philosophy he took stock in.

His introspection was interrupted by a knock on the door. Running his hands over his face he put them on his knees and pushed himself off the sofa. He recognized his father standing there and took a deep breath before opening the door.

"Hello Leroy. You going to invite me in?" the older man asked his son who was standing and glaring at him.

Finally Gibbs stepped to the side and allowed his father to enter.

"Appreciate it Son," he offered as he walked passed to take a seat in the living room.

Gibbs shut the door after making sure his father had come alone and followed him. He regarded him waiting for him to state his reason for the visit.

Knowing his son well enough Jack didn't wait to be asked why he was there. "I wanted to tell you how sorry I am about Shannon and let you know I'm here to help in any way I can."

Gibbs narrowed his eyes at his father, still not happy that he'd brought a date to the funeral. He had to admit his father appeared to be sincere. Setting aside his displeasure he thanked him.

"I'll miss her too. You may not know it, but she always kept me abreast of what was going on with you. She even brought Kelly from time to time to visit in Stillwater. It gave me a chance to enjoy my grand-daughter."

Gibbs wasn't surprised by the news. Shannon was always trying to make peace between father and son. Maybe he could honor her wishes and swallow his stubborn pride and attempt to make amends.

He gave his dad a half smile which the older man returned with a genuine grin of his own. It was a shame that it took losing a woman that they both cared about to bring about a tentative truce. No doubt the loss was something his son would have difficulty accepting. Jack only hoped that having Kelly still dependent on him would keep him grounded.

Jack recalled all too well his inability to deal with losing his own wife, Ann let alone trying to help his son deal with the pain of losing his mother. That was another reason he wanted to reach out and help. He'd had his parents to help him for a short while after Ann had passed away. After they were gone Leroy had built up even more animosity toward him. He wanted to do all he could to prevent a rift between father and daughter though it was easy to see how much they were both leaning on each other at the moment.

Jack stayed for a little longer before saying, "I have to be going. I'll be getting up early to head back home. Remember you can call me any time."

"I will Dad." He walked his father to the door and watched as he made his way to his car. He shook his head smiling thinking Shannon would consider it her accomplishment.

He closed the door, turned down the lights and went to bed. He had a lot more thinking to do before Kelly returned and they went home. Tonight he wanted only to be lost in his thoughts of Shannon.