Ch. 5

He had to leave while it was still dark out and everyone was still asleep. He gathered all his gear and put it by the front door as he went to have a cup of coffee to jump start his day. He sat at the table his mind filled with the past week of events still trying to come to terms to what his 'new' life was going to be like.

A part of him was looking forward to being back in the action, even if not much was really happening at the moment. The down time was still filled with drills and preparations. He wouldn't have much time to get a real assignment, but doing his part to help make a difference would at least give him the satisfaction of completing his duty.

He'd be coming home to some uncertainties. He was definitely considering giving Agent Franks a call. He wasn't confident that he was qualified for the work itself, but he saw it as a way to still serve his fellow Marines and make a difference. Knowing first hand the pain of losing someone at another's hand, he could understand the need for justice. He could see himself in their shoes and make sure he did all he could to bring the guilty to justice.

He finished his cup rinsed it and put it in the sink then made his way to the front door. Hefting his pack onto his shoulder he gave one last look around the quiet dark house. Life would be different when he returned, but at least he'd have Kelly to keep him grounded. He looked forward to seeing her smile, truly smile again. It would take time for them both, but he knew it would happen from his own experience. He just hoped it wouldn't take as long for her.

His two months passed quickly and he was soon saying his goodbyes and good lucks to his fellow Marines. He was wished well and razzed good naturedly by them as they watched him drive off returning to home, a place they all wished to be going soon themselves.

Landing once again at the airport he searched for Kelly among the crowd of waiting families. It didn't take long before she was running towards him a smile spread across her face. He caught her and lifted her into his arms relishing once again the joy of holding her in his arms, safe.

He carried to where Mac and Joann waited. They were happy to see him home safely; even if it was bittersweet knowing their time alone with Kelly was at its end. They hoped that things would be amenable to seeing her as often as possible. They were going to miss her when they returned home.

"Welcome home, Jethro," Mac shook his hand. "Glad to see you back in good health."

Gibbs nodded with a half smile on his face, "Always a plus." He gave Joann a quick kiss on her cheek which she accepted with a smile.

"Let's get home," the now former Marine stated boosting Kelly up in his arm as they walked as she held tightly around his neck.

All Kelly could think about was her daddy being home. She had missed him since she woke up to find him gone. Though he'd left her a letter saying he would think of her everyday, she preferred having him home to touch. Her first day of school had been hard, but some of her classmates also had parents that were deployed. Her Grandma Joann had made some cookies for her to share with the class to help make the day special.

Her grandparents tried to do something every day to make her feel special. They didn't need to, so she loved them all the more for it. Now that her daddy was home, she was hoping to have things go back to normal.

The doctor she had seen told her that it was a good thing to want life like it was even if her mom wasn't there. He also said it was okay to miss her and think of her often. She told the doctor that every night before she fell asleep she shared her day with her mom. He told her that was okay, too.

"Sometimes what we consider normal changes as life changes, even if it's just the way we do things that change," he said.

"You mean like instead of talking to my mom like I used to every night when she was alive I do it as a prayer now?" she asked.

He nodded. He was glad to see that she was able to find a way to cope with her grief in a healthy way. He looked forward to having a session with her father when he returned to see how he was managing his own grief.

Kelly didn't release her dad until they got to the car. He stored his gear in the trunk and got in the back seat next to her so he could still hold her close. He missed her more than he imagined and though the future was still unknown he felt they would be okay as long as they had each other.

The drive home was quiet with not much conversation shared. All the adults were wondering how things would progress from then on. Gibbs was more than grateful for all his in-laws had done for him and Kelly in the past few months. Leaving their home to stay with her and helping to put her life back on track. He had to think of some way to make it up to them.

He had a few thoughts and was hoping they could work out all the details before they returned home. One was having Kelly stay with them during holidays or summer break, but also leaving some time for her to see Jack as well. Gibbs had thought a bit about his father while he was gone and how much he missed out being stubborn and ornery. Kelly loved her Papa Jack and he wanted to make sure she got to have him in her life, too.

When they arrived home Kelly followed her father up to his room and watched as unpacked his gear. She told him about school and her teacher.

"I have Miss Simmons this year. She's really nice and makes learning math fun" she told him. Knowing that math was her least favorite subject her father smiled seeing that she was changing her tune about it.

"Well she must be a good teacher then," he commented making sure she knew he was listening.

"Oh she is," Kelly gushed. "On Mondays she gives us all an opportunity to talk about our weekends before she starts class. This Monday I'm going to tell them about you coming home."

Gibbs sat on his bed and beckoned her to him lifting her up onto his lap. "I'm glad you'll have such good news to share," he hugged her. "Be sure to remember though that some of your classmates still have parents that are away."

"I know Daddy. I'll make sure they know I hope their parents will be home soon, too."

"Good girl," he kissed her head and released her so he could finish separating his gear.

When he finished they joined the Fieldings in the living room where Joann had a cup of coffee waiting for him. He nodded his thanks as he took a sip and sat on the sofa.

After a few moments of silence Joann asked, "Do you need me to help with any of your laundry?"

"I'll get it. There's no rush," he shrugged. The reality of not needing his uniform again slowly sinking in.

"I guess I'll check on dinner then," she said. "Would you like to help?" she asked Kelly who looked torn between leaving her father's side and wanting to help.

Gibbs gave her a little nudge, "Go on. I'm not going anywhere."

She gave him a big smile, "Okay." She took her grandmother's hand and practically skipped along side her.

"I haven't seen her that happy in a long time," Mac commented watching as they left the room.

Gibbs nodded. "It's a wonderful thing to see. Has she been meeting with the doctor?"

Mac nodded over his own cup. Placing it on the table he said, "She's gone once a week since that first appointment. It's done some wonders for her."

Gibbs smiled glad he made the right decision. Mac's next words made him pause.

"Dr. Schmidt would like you to go with Kelly on Tuesday," he had promised to relay the message. He'd known Jethro a long time and wasn't too sure he'd agree to it.

Mac watched as his son-in-law processed what he'd said. It was a big step and one he hoped the widower would take to help himself as well as Kelly.

Gibbs knew it was something he'd have to face. He'd done a lot of soul searching on his own, but being surrounded by other Marines in an environment that wasn't always stable he couldn't say he'd found the answers. Realizing that Kelly would be counting on him he decided he'd go with her and maybe, just maybe he could find some of that happiness that she had.

Mac sat back seeing the look of acceptance on Jethro's face. It was a sign that he took that eventually he and Kelly would be okay. Convincing Joann wasn't going to be easy, but they could find their own counselor when they returned home.

The next day was spent preparing for the Fieldings to leave. Kelly was going to miss them, though having her dad all to herself was something she'd been waiting on for months. She knew her grandmother, especially was hesitant about going, but she did her best to let her know she'd miss her until she saw her for the holidays.

"You're the best grand-daughter in the world you know," Joann told her as they shared a few moments alone.

Kelly rolled her eyes at her grandmother's flattery. "That's only because you're the best grandmother," she returned.

Her grandmother gave her playful swat knowing she was mocking her. "I'm going to miss your sass," she pulled the young girl to her chest.

"I'll miss you too Grandma. I'll see you soon though, so don't be sad," Kelly squeezed her tight.

"I'll try to be brave," Joann patted her on the back closing her eyes as they embraced.

"You sure you'll be alright?" Mac asked as he packed the bags into the car.

"We'll be good. I'll be sure to give a call if I need anything," Gibbs assured knowing that call wouldn't be necessary to make.

Understanding that he was being placated, Mac chuckled. "Yeah I won't wait up for it."

Gibbs smirked and turned to enter the house. He had a phone call to make and decided now was as good a time as any.

As he listened to the phone ring once before being answered he took a deep breath.

"Franks," was the only word he heard.

"Agent Franks, Jethro Gibbs here," he replied.

"Gunny. You home for good now?" Franks asked. He'd been hoping for the Marine to give him a call.

"Yep. I was wondering if your offer was still open," Gibbs liked the agent though he had a rough edge to him.

"That depends. You interested?"

"I am," Gibbs answered.

"A man of few words. I like that," Franks smiled. "Tell you what. You come in tomorrow morning we'll talk and see if you want to sign on."

"Sounds good. 0800 a good time?"

"I'll be here. Give my name at security and I'll come get you," Franks instructed.

"See you then," Gibbs let out his breath as he hung up. It was a start.

Tomorrow would be the first day of his new life. He looked up and silently prayed that he would make the right choices and that he'd give Kelly the life he and Shannon had hoped her to have. As he watched her bounce down the stairs he nodded, they were off to the right start. He caught her as she jumped into his arms. He was home and he was sure they would be just fine.