Disclaimer: I'm not Bellesario or CBS, so I don't claim to own them.
Timeline: Pre-Series thru 05x07 Requiem
Genre: Gen (Family Oriented)
Word Count: 2,680
Written For: ncis_ficathon for _tweeter_
Crossposted: ncis_ficathon; gibbsbasement; ncis_haven; ncisfanfic
Prompts: I actually incorporated a little bit of all three prompts into the story... (1) Gibbs and Tony father/son, mentor situation, no slash; (2) Tony gets injured; (3) Gibbs' life with Shannon and Kelly (or before Kelly is born)
Note: The inspiration for this story came from the Garth Brooks song Unanswered Prayers.
Summary: There were times in his life where Jethro thanked God for unanswered prayers.
Jethro rested his hand over the smooth expanse of Shannon’s stomach trying to feel any signs of the tiny life she carried within her. He let his fingers trail around her belly button and looked up at her with wide eyes and a smile when she started giggling. Shannon playfully batted his hand away before capturing it in her own.
“You know I’m ticklish, Jethro. And being pregnant doesn’t change that,” she said through a smile as she moved his hand back down to her stomach. “I don’t think I really believe it yet,” she added quietly.
“Me either,” Jethro said just as quietly. “How do we take care of a baby?”
Shannon gave his hand a squeeze. “Are you telling me that this Marine is afraid of being a father? What happened to all that training they put you through?”
“Send me to a war and I’ll do just fine,” Jethro said with a grunt. “But I don’t know the first thing about raising a kid, Shan. What if I screw up?”
Shannon sat up and pulled him in for a kiss. When they separated several moments later, she cupped his cheek in her hand. “You won’t screw anything up. I won’t let you.”
Jethro smiled at her. “You should have been a Marine.”
“They would have court-martialed me on the first day,” Shannon replied sweetly. “How about you show our baby how much you love us?”
“Yes, Ma’am,” Jethro said as he tipped her back into the mattress.
Jethro swiped a sawdust-covered hand over his sweaty brow as he looked down at his handiwork. All that was left was staining the dark wood of the crib. The baby would be arriving any day and that thought left him both excited and scared to death.
He had said many prayers hoping for a son. If the child turned out to be a girl, he had no idea how to raise one. With a son, he could take a page out of his father’s book and teach him everything he knew.
In his mind, Jethro had his son’s life planned out. Once he was old enough, Jethro would play catch in the yard with his son, slowly teaching him various sports. He would take him sailing and fishing and maybe even horseback riding. Then, in the evenings, he would take his son to the basement and teach him how to use the wood to create wonderful things. They would start out small, but Jethro knew he would build a boat with his son just like he had done with his own father.
It would be perfect.
Then his introspection was interrupted by Shannon’s soft voice floating down the stairs. “Jethro, it’s time,” and his heart practically leapt from his chest.
Many hours later, he walked into the hospital room and saw very tired Shannon with a little pink bundle against her chest.
“Jethro,” she said quietly. “Come meet your daughter.”
His breath caught in his throat as all the dreams about a son floated away. “Daughter?” he managed to say as he crouched beside the bed.
“Do you want to hold her?” Shannon asked as she smiled at his scared expression. “You won’t break her.”
Jethro found some courage and gathered the small bundle into his arms. A voice in his mind kept telling him that it was finally real, he was a father.
He pulled the edges of the blanket back and took in the tiny red face. Just then, her little eyes opened and Jethro stared deep into the blue eyes of his daughter.
At that moment, he thanked God for his unanswered prayers because he wouldn’t trade his daughter for all the sons in the world.
Years passed and Jethro was wrapped around his daughter’s fingers. They did everything he had dreamed about. His favorite time was when they sat in the basement working quietly on their boat. It would take time before it was done, but he treasured every moment they spent on it.
It was with a heavy heart that he went overseas when duty called. He prayed that he would return safely and that they would stay safe in return. So when his CO told him the news, he refused to believe it. He refused to believe that the only two people that mattered in life to him had been taken away. He prayed again for his own life to be taken so he could join Shannon and Kelly, but it never happened.
He came so close so many times after he joined NCIS. He knew that if he were a second slower just one time, it would happen. However, he never gave in and God never let it happen. He never understood why.
More time passed and he relived the death of Shannon and Kelly vividly after the explosion. Once again he was in a place where he wanted that prayer answered and it never was. He was stuck in life while they were trapped in death.
Then Maddie Tyler showed up on the NCIS doorstep and he had a chance to “save” Kelly through saving her friend. It was working until the car went off the pier. As the water closed around them, he wanted to save Maddie, but he also saw this as his chance to be with Shannon and Kelly.
When he saw DiNozzo outside the window, he thought both prayers would be answered. Tony would save Maddie and he would be able to finally let go. As the two made their way toward the water’s surface, Jethro felt his life slip away.
When he came to, he was standing with Shannon and Kelly but something felt off. He wanted to be with them, but he felt pulled in a different direction. Being with them in this way was not how he once remembered it. He wasn’t sure if he was ready for this. Even so, when they told him he had to go back, that it wasn’t his time, he wanted to argue.
What seemed like a lifetime later, air rushed into his burning lungs and he opened his eyes up to see a deep blue sky above him. He wanted to fall into the open sky that reminded him so much of his first look into Kelly’s eyes, but his view was blocked moments later. Worried green eyes stared back at him and Tony spoke around a cough, “You okay, Boss?”
Jethro didn’t know how to answer the simple question, so he settled for silence. His prayer to be with his family was denied again, but this time he felt there was a reason. He just had to find out what that reason was.
The worried eyes were still looking down so he grunted out a, “Yeah, DiNozzo.” Then he remembered Maddie, but before he could ask, Tony supplied an answer.
“Maddie’ll be okay, Boss. She started breathing about the same time as you. Thinking we had a little help because I wasn’t getting anywhere.” Before Jethro had time to analyze that statement, Tony stood up, looking at something in the distance. He heard the sirens just as Tony spoke again, “Sounds like the cavalry is here.”
The next morning, after he had reburied the lunchbox time capsule without opening it, he found himself sitting in the basement staring at the unfinished boat. It wasn’t the one he had started with Kelly (that one had been burned) and it seemed like a foreign object now. There was nothing meaningful behind it, unless he counted his longing to die. He wanted someone to work on it with him, someone who could sail it with him once it was finished. It was his dream and he didn’t know how to achieve it without Kelly there.
His thoughts were interrupted by the creaking of the staircase as someone slowly made their way down. He looked up to see the concerned eyes of Ducky looking back him.
“I was worried when I didn’t see you at the hospital this morning, Jethro,” the older man said.
Jethro furrowed his brow in slight confusion as he responded, “You know they released me last night. Maddie was too.”
If he wasn’t mistaken, Jethro thought that Ducky looked as if he wanted to smack him in the back of the head. “What’s going on, Duck?” he all but growled in frustration.
“I assumed you would be at the hospital keeping an eye on Anthony like you always do when the boy is ill. Perhaps you need to be back in a hospital bed yourself.”
Jethro felt as if the floor had dropped out from under him. “What the hell is wrong with Tony? He was just fine when they packed me in that ambulance at the pier. He had control of the scene.”
“He collapsed right after they pulled away with you and Ms. Tyler. The combination of his run to reach you, diving twice into the water, somehow freeing both you and Ms. Tyler from the car and performing mouth-to-mouth on both of you was too much for his lungs to handle.”
Jethro sat hard on the basement floor. He hadn’t known, he hadn’t checked, he just assumed that everything was fine. “Tell me he’s okay, Duck?” he half-ordered, half-asked in a quiet voice.
“Dr. Pitt is looking after him. He said with some rest and antibiotics, Anthony should be back to normal in a few weeks. Provided they can keep him from catching pneumonia or any other lung ailment in his weakened state.”
“Is he at Bethesda?”
“Yes. I insisted and also contacted Brad to look after him. But when Anthony asked how you were doing this morning, I realized that you hadn’t been to see him and I was concerned.”
“I’ll get over there soon, Ducky. Someone has to make sure he doesn’t screw himself up more than he already is. Just have to take care of something first.”
“Are you really okay, Jethro?”
Jethro gave Ducky a small smile before answering. “For the first time in a long time, I think I might be,” he said cryptically.
Twenty minutes later, he found himself walking briskly through a quiet cemetery. He had a small bundle of flowers in one hand and small wooden boat in the other. He slowed up as he reached the spot he hadn’t seen since the day he returned home. He could never bring himself to visit them at their graves, but now he knew he was ready.
He sunk to the damp ground and placed the items in front of the headstone. He lifted a finger to trace first Shannon’s name and then Kelly’s that was just below hers.
“I miss you two so much,” he said gruffly. “I’ve wanted nothing more than to be with you and now…”
Jethro blinked back the few tears that threatened to fall before he spoke again. “Now I have someone else I have to take care of. God knows he needs it. I don’t think he’s ever had anyone take care of him before. I just- I just wanted you both to know that I still love you even if I adopt DiNozzo in everything but name.”
Jethro stood up abruptly and walked away. He had a senior field agent to take care of.
Jethro watched silently through the door as Tony pulled at the IV line feeding into his arm. During the early days of Tony’s bout with the plague, Jethro remembered how the younger man was constantly pulling the line out to the point that Dr. Pitt had threatened restraints. Jethro had given him an order at that point to stop pulling on the damn thing and it had worked. From that point on, Dr. Pitt approached Jethro if he needed Tony to agree to something for his own good.
Unclenching his fist he had unknowingly balled at seeing Tony in a hospital because of his own actions, Jethro strode into the room.
“Didn’t I give you an order not to mess with those things?”
Tony looked up sharply and his hand stilled at his elbow. “Didn’t think you remembered the little things like that, Boss. Plus that was then and this is now.”
Jethro kept himself from cringing at the thought that Tony didn’t think him almost dying of a Dark Ages disease was not important enough to remember. Jethro still had nightmares where he saw Tony’s face washed out with those blue lights of the isolation room.
“It was an open ended order, DiNozzo. How long are they keeping you?”
“Hopefully I can get out of here this afternoon. Hate hospitals even more now. Jeanne was a doctor you know.”
Jethro looked sharply at Tony, who was looking everywhere but him. He realized they must have Tony on some kind of drug cocktail because he would never willingly give information about Jeanne out like that.
“Didn’t know that, Tony,” he said quietly. Then, to change the subject, “Why didn’t you say you weren’t feeling good at the pier?”
“I was feeling okay when you left, Gibbs. I didn’t realize anything was wrong until I woke up in the ambulance and they told me I collapsed. Ducky said something about adrenaline and endorphins and such. You’d probably do better to ask him.”
“I’m sorry I wasn’t here last night,” Jethro said quietly as he sat down in the chair beside Tony’s bed.
“What?” Tony huffed out around a cough as he looked sharply at Jethro.
“I said I’m sorry I wasn’t here Tony. I didn’t even know they had you here until Ducky stopped by the house this morning.”
“It’s okay, Boss. I don’t need a babysitter at the hospital. I’m a big boy,” Tony said around a fake smile.
“It’s not okay DiNozzo,” Jethro growled out. “You are my senior field agent. I trust you with my life. You risked your own damn life to save Maddie and then you jumped back in for me. You don’t need a babysitter, but I think you could use a friend, maybe some family,” he finished quietly.
Tony’s hands fisted several times and Jethro could see him abort an attempt to pull at the IV line. “I don’t have any family I would like to have sitting at my bedside Gibbs. My father’s bedside manner is seriously lacking.”
Jethro reached out and tapped the top of Tony’s head lightly and then left his hand behind to thread through Tony’s damp hair.
“I’m not talking about the bastard that was suppose to raise you, DiNozzo. I’m talking about the bastard that is going to make sure you follow Pitt’s orders to the letter. And we’ll start off with the fact that you will be staying in the guest room until you are cleared. Understood?”
Jethro could see some moisture gathering in Tony’s eyes and turned his head so he wasn’t watching Tony. He continued running his hand through Tony’s hair much like he did for Kelly whenever she had been sick as a child. It seemed calming to Tony, but it was also calming to him.
“Understood, Boss,” Tony finally said quietly. “You know,” he continued on in a soft voice, “Jeanne gave me a choice. Said if I wanted her, I had to leave NCIS. If I stayed, she would go. Realized I couldn’t give up one family for the unknown chance at a new one, especially when the new one was started with a lie.”
“Do you know how to sail DiNozzo?” Jethro asked a moment later and Tony didn’t seem fazed by the non-sequitor.
“Haven’t been since high school, but I remember most of it,” Tony answered as he cast a hopeful look in Jethro’s direction.
“Good. I’ll need a hand getting the boat ready, but once it is, we’ll see how much you remember.”
At the sight of Tony’s smile, he found himself thanking God for unanswered prayers. If he had died, nobody would have been there to keep Tony on track. He might have lost Shannon and Kelly, but he still had many others to live for.