Coming Back
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Fic Title: Coming Back

Author: I Love Nascar

Pairing: Tony/Other, Gibbs/Kate (references)

Feedback: Please

Archive: also at fanfiction.net

Rating: PG

Disclaimer: I own Kennedy, Kylie, & Katie Gibbs. The rest are property of NCIS. If I owned them, Kate would still be alive.

Summary: Gibbs discovers a secret and tries to make amends.





Jethro Gibbs came into the office without knocking, but that wasn't unusual. Jennifer Shepherd looked up at him and knew something was wrong. "Jethro?"



"When DiNozzo came to, when you called me, he referred to you as ‘Jenny'. Why?"



Damn it, Tony, she inwardly thought. "He was the supervisor while you were gone. You call me Jenny."



"Yeah, well, there's a reason for that." They'd slept together. She was still one of his closest friends and he didn't have many close friends anymore.



"There's a reason for this." She watched his face. "Not the same reason, Jethro."



"Then what?"



She paused for what seemed like an eternity between the two old friends. "I can tell you, but you won't like it."



"Jenny." His voice was commanding, very much ‘get the damned thing over with'.



"He's Katie's father." She had known he wouldn't like it, but for the first time in a long time, she'd seen the protective glint in his blue eyes as he did an about face, walking quickly out of her office.



*****



Tony DiNozzo listened to the sound of Kylie playing in the tree house Kennedy had built with her dad, back before Kate had died, back when things were normal. He could hear his fiancée singing to their child and smiled. He'd never pictured on settling down, at least not before forty, never really pictured being a dad, but he didn't regret it. All three of the women in his life were beautiful, smart, and funny. Kylie had auburn hair and the ‘Gibbs blue' eyes, as stubborn as her mother and grandfather put together. She'd started kindergarten not long after Gibbs moved to Mexico and came home every day telling them something different that she'd learned. He never remembered liking school, had never met a kid who had, but Kylie loved it. Then there was Katie, appropriately named after what would have been her grandmother, Caitlin Todd. She was born early, seven months after Ari had murdered her namesake, and had her mother's beauty with her grandmother's personality, also stubborn, but always smiling and laughing, even at ten months old. He rounded the corner, to see them in the yard, Kylie hidden from view, Katie on her blanket with the teddy bear she carried everywhere, and Kennedy. His Kennedy. They'd been best friends for years, since he'd started working with Gibbs, but it was his being sick followed by Kate's death two weeks later that had forced them into finally acting on their feelings. Katie or not, he would have married her. He only had to look at her and all other women fled his thoughts. Gibbs' ‘little girl' or not, he couldn't not love her.



Kennedy Gibbs turned around slowly, her finely tuned radar sensing someone watching her. A smile crossed her face as she saw Tony. "Hey, baby. You're home early."



"Missed my girls." He smiled as he watched her help Katie wave at him, waving back.



"Yeah." She paused. "Jenny called. How's your head?"



"Crap," he said, thinking he'd said it quietly enough that Kylie didn't hear.



"Daddy said a swear!" She called from her tree house, Kennedy stifling a laugh, remembering herself at that age.



"My head's fine. A friend of yours was here. He's actually the one who hit me."



She nodded. "Mike. Yeah, I know. I told you Jenny called."



"There's advantages and disadvantages to having one of your almost stepmothers as my boss," he said, sitting down, taking Katie in his lap.



"Please tell me you don't call her that." Kennedy smiled. Jen had never been a ‘stepmother' and she knew her father had never intended to marry her, but she was still a close friend of the family, the children's honorary grandmother.



"No." He paused. "But I did call her ‘Jenny'…in front of your dad. He asked why."



"And you told him it rubbed off being around Ziva?" He shook his head. "So now he thinks you're sleeping with Jenny."



"What was I supposed to say? Hey, Gibbs, I'm…" He looked at the tree house and the tiny girl in his lap. "In love with your daughter?"



"He's going to have to know sometime. I just…I can't tell him right now."



He nodded in agreement. "He hasn't called Ziva Kate again. But he still calls Ducky Dr. Mallard."



"I'd feel better if I knew he felt better. I'm so worried about him, but you know I'm…" She looked at her daughters. "Angry too." Her father had left her before, she wasn't angry about that, after all she was an adult now, but it was the first time he'd left his grandchildren. He hadn't seen them hardly at all since Katie had been born.



"I know, baby." He kissed her temple.



*****



It happened so fast that she barely realized what was going on. Kennedy had gone inside to get the hamburgers ready for the grill, the girls staying outside with Tony. No one really noticed the old Ford pickup Gibbs drove off work until it was parked. Tony turned around in time to get a sucker punch to his stomach. "Boss!"



It was with that one word that Kennedy looked out the window and saw what was happening. While Tony might have been surprised with the first punch, he was swinging back for the rest. Trouble was Tony had been a cop, an NCIS agent, but never a Marine. However ‘aged' Gibbs had gotten in the last year, he still knew how to throw a punch and evidently neither of them knew how to get out of the eyesight of the two girls. Kennedy ran outside, knowing she had to do something before one of the men got hurt or the girls decided to ‘investigate' or copy what their father and grandfather were doing. The garden hose was hooked up to the faucet from where she'd been watering the garden that afternoon. She turned it on full force and aimed it at both of them.



The men were soaked through before they stopped throwing punches. Kennedy got in one more good blast as she saw Jen's convertible pull up, the car she used when she couldn't be bothered with her service. She looked at Katie, still sitting on the grass, at Kennedy, holding the water hose, and at Gibbs and Tony, soaked through and in a mess from the fight, and started to laugh, hard as she tried not to. "I guess you handled it yourself."



"Not yet." She looked up at the tree house as she turned the water off. "Kylie, can you take Katie inside?"



The little girl climbed down from the tree. "Will you spray me like Daddy?"



Kennedy couldn't help but smile. "Put your swimsuit on." The little girl nodded, going with her tiny baby sister inside the house. "Okay, what's going on?" Both men and Jen all started talking at once, so Kennedy did what Gibbs often had when she was little, let out a piercing whistle. "Dad, talk to Jen. Tony, talk to me. We'll switch after that."



Gibbs walked away with Jen, Tony came with Kennedy to check on the girls and then let Tony dry off. "I don't know what happened. I turned around and Gibbs slugged me."



"You know I love you…but you really thought you could beat Dad up?"



"Hell no. I just wasn't about to stand there and let him hit me either." After making sure the girls were all right, picking up Katie so that Kylie could get into her swimsuit, and walking back to Kennedy's bedroom, Tony began to change clothes. "I think the old Gibbs may be coming back." In the past month, maybe the past year, Gibbs' strength had greatly diminished. Kennedy often thought it was part of her dad's ‘giving up' attitude he'd had since Kate's death.



"About time."



"For an old man, he sure packs a punch." One might have thought he'd be aware of that after all the times they'd sparred together. "I think that's the first time he ever hit me, other than the back of the head or with equipment on."



She nodded, kissing his cheek. "I'm going back out, finish making dinner. I'm also going to ask Dad and Jen if they want to stay." He nodded, not really minding, as long as Gibbs didn't hit him, and knowing, if he had objected, it wouldn't have done much good. She was Gibbs' daughter; she did whatever she wanted.



Tony came out not long after Kennedy had put the meat on the grill. Jen went up to sit beside him so that Kennedy could talk alone with her dad. Gibbs was sitting on the tailgate of his pickup when Kennedy walked towards him, climbing up as well, or trying to, it being hard to navigate holding Katie. Gibbs saw the difficulty she was having and took the baby, holding it for the first time. "So this it Katie." A lump formed in his throat as he said the name. Could it be that the little girl's smile was the same as his Kate's?



"Yeah."



"She looks like you when you were this age. Your mom…your mom and your grandpa used to send me pictures. Of you and of Kelly." Silence fell and his granddaughter smiled at him. "I'm sorry."



She looked over at him. "What?"



"I'm sorry. I've made a lot of mistakes."



She looked away, watching Tony turn the sprinkler on so Kylie could get sprayed. She'd been Kylie's age when she lost her mother and her sister, almost died herself. It seemed very, very young. She looked back at her dad. "You did what you had to do. I grew up all right. And after you started NCIS we were together a lot."



"Kate's death…" He paused, still having trouble talking about it. "When she died, it just reminded me so much of your mother that I couldn't deal with it. That's no excuse for not being here when you needed me. Pushing you and my grandchildren away. I just…I couldn't heal. Or at least I didn't think I could."



"Daddy…" She looked at Kylie, having so much fun, yelling out to the only father, the only grandmother, she'd ever known. "Five years ago, when Luke died…my life stopped. I remember how hard it was to move on. How hard it was to accept the fact that he wasn't ever coming back." She looked back at her father. "But I did, somehow. The only thing I can figure out is that my family, our family, saved me. First you and Kylie, then Tony, then Kate…" She paused. "I probably should have said something a year ago, when you started dealing with her death the same way I dealt with Luke. We're both experts at withdrawing, running away."



"Well, you did learn from the master," he said softly, knowing all the times he'd run out on his life, including his daughter.



"Mexico was actually the best thing that happened to you. You cleared your mind and, maybe, can move on now. I know it's one of the hardest things to do, but…" She looked back at her daughters. "It's worth it, don't you think?"



Gibbs nodded, watching his daughter, wondering when exactly she'd grown up. He was suddenly well-aware that she wasn't five anymore, wasn't even eighteen. She was a mature twenty-six, a widow with two children, and he'd missed too much of her life. "About Tony…"



"We're getting married. We haven't set the date yet." She paused. "I wanted you to be okay when I told you. I want you to be there. It's not a necessity. If you don't approve, it's still going to happen. I just want you there."



"Jen told me how he's looked out for you and the girls in the past year…not that you needed anyone to take care of you, but he's helped you." She nodded, knowing what he meant. If it wasn't for her girls, wasn't for Tony, she would probably be a lot like her father. "I can give him a chance."



She smiled, kissing his cheek. "Thank you."



"If he hurts you, I get to beat the…" he looked down at his granddaughter, "stuffing out of the boy."



She laughed. "Okay." She climbed down from the truck. "You and Jen want to stay? We're having grilled hamburgers."



"Jen told me I have to apologize to DiNozzo."



"You don't have to, although it would be nice. He's been worried about you, Dad. They all have."



He nodded, giving Katie back so he could get down. "I know." It was probably what had brought him back from Mexico, knowing that he still had a family that loved him, friends that cared. He wasn't ‘over' Kate yet, not by a long shot, but it helped.