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Out of the Shadows

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Gibbs pulled his car into the parking lot of the small market near his house late Thursday night. He really didn’t want to stop but he needed food. His team had just finished working one of the most difficult cases of his career. It had been so difficult that he’d given everybody Friday off. Under normal circumstances the group would’ve found that incredibly strange and been trying to figure out what was wrong with their boss but not after the week they’d just had.

A four year old had drowned in the family pool. Mom had to be admitted to the psychiatric ward of the hospital for monitoring and Gibbs had had to do it forcefully. It was rare that he had to drag people against their will and admit them himself but being an officer of the law gave him that right and he feared the young mother wouldn’t survive the night alone.

The child’s father was currently on his way back from the Middle East. He’d been given leave to be with his wife and try to pick up the pieces. Grandma was on her way home from Idaho. After investigating, Gibbs and his team had determined that the tragic accident was just that—a tragic accident. They’d worked the case for four and a half days and all of them were physically, mentally and emotionally drained.

The market was nearly empty at 10:00 at night. Gibbs grabbed a hand basket and strolled through the fresh fruits and vegetables grabbing a couple oranges, a few apples and a small bunch of bananas. They were quick and easy snacks and he didn’t feel guilty about indulging. They helped keep his mind and body in shape.

He grabbed a small bag of potatoes then, on his way to the meat counter, he spotted a sale on peaches and cream corn, his favorite and the season had just started. His mouth was watering already. He realized he should’ve grabbed a shopping cart instead of the basket as he bagged up a few ears of the corn. When he was done in the produce section he headed for the meat counter. The crowds of the day had vanished leaving only him and no line. A couple chicken breasts, couple steaks and a few pounds of burger later and he was off to the refrigerated section.

Opposite the wall of refrigerators was the snack aisle. There was a young girl standing in front of the snacks with her back to him. He guessed she was in her mid-teens. The girl peeked back at Gibbs to see if she was being watched then turned back to what she was doing. Gibbs didn’t need his gut to tell him something was off. Her disheveled appearance combined with the smell told the agent it had been days since she’d seen a shower, probably longer. She was dressed in several layers and although it was definitely jacket weather there was no need to bundle up quite so warm yet. Gibbs suspected the girl was living on the street. He guessed those were all the clothes she owned.

The girl picked up a Slim Jim then looked around to see if she was being watched. Before she could stuff it in her pocket a ten dollar bill appeared in front of her face.

“Make sure you pay for that,” Gibbs said. He wouldn’t have her stealing but he wouldn’t have her starving either.

The teenager looked from the money up to Gibbs, wondering how he’d known she was planning on stealing the snack. She took the money and scurried off, pausing to turn back towards him before she got too far away. “Thank you.” Her voice was so quiet he barely heard her words. He smiled and nodded before grabbing a half a gallon of milk and heading for the cash register.

After he paid for his items, Gibbs headed out to the tiny parking lot. It was pouring down rain just as it had been all day but Gibbs didn’t mind. The weather matched his mood. As he was loading his purchases in his trunk, he noticed the young girl coming out of the store carrying a shopping bag with a few goodies. Despite his exhaustion and the poor weather he decided to follow her. He was curious where she was headed and wondered if there was anything he could do to help. The girl was too young to be living on the streets, not that he wished that life on anybody.

He followed the teen around the side of the building keeping enough distance between them that he wouldn’t be noticed. He followed her to the backside of the market and if there was any part of his heart that hadn’t been broken over his previous case, it was certainly broken at that point. Huddled up behind one of the dumpsters with the girl were four young children. The lid of the dumpster was flipped back, providing a little shelter from the storm but there was a steady stream of water washing over the group. Gibbs watched as the teen spread peanut butter on a piece of bread and covered it with another piece. She handed it to one of the little boys huddled in front of her.

“I want jelly, Jaycee,” the little boy whined.

“I’m sorry, Milo,” the girl said. “Jelly has to be refrigerated. We’d just end up having to throw it away. It would be a waste of money. Now, do you want an orange or an apple to go with your sandwich?”

“I want a banana,” Milo said obviously upset over not having jelly to go with his peanut butter.

“We only have one left and it’s getting really brown,” Jaycee said holding up the piece of fruit. “It’ll probably be really mushy.”

“That’s okay,” Milo said taking his sandwich and the banana.

“Hey kiddos,” Gibbs said as he approached.

Jaycee was immediately in front of her siblings with her arms stretched out protectively in front of them. “I didn’t steal anything,” she said defensively, immediately recognizing Gibbs as the man who’d given her the money. “I swear it. I bought the peanut butter and the bread with the money you gave me and we got the fruit out of the garbage. They always throw old fruit away in the mornings. Do you want your change back? I have it right here, just, please don’t hurt us.”

“Calm down,” Gibbs said holding his hand up to stop her from panicking. “Just relax, I don’t want the change and I’m not gonna hurt you. I just want to talk. What’s your name?”

When Jaycee didn’t answer Milo stepped in. He stood behind his sister so he could see Gibbs. “Jaycee says we’re not supposed to talk to strangers.”

“Jaycee’s right,” Gibbs said as he reached into the inner pocket of his jacket. “Everybody calls me Gibbs. I work for NCIS. Do you guys know what that is?”

Another little boy popped up from behind his sister. The two were clearly identical twins. “Nu-uh,” they said in unison. Both were curious about this stranger who was talking to them.

“It pretty much means I’m a Navy cop,” Gibbs summarized as he showed them his badge.

“You’re a cop?” Jaycee asked in disbelief. She decided she had the worst luck ever. She was glad she hadn’t been caught stealing. “Please don’t take them,” she pleaded. “I’ll do anything, just please. We’ll leave. We’ll—I’ll…I’ll um.” She stuttered and stumbled over her words, trying to figure out how to convince the man to just leave them be.

“Shh, relax,” Gibbs said holding his hand up again. She was definitely jumpy. “I told you, I just want to talk.”

“I don’t believe you,” Jaycee said. Her voice held the terror her body felt.

“What could I do that would make you believe me?” Gibbs asked taking a seat on the wet ground. He was already drenched from the rain and his knees were starting to ache from squatting.

“I don’t trust any cops,” Jaycee said.

As soon as Gibbs was on the ground one of the twins saw an available lap and he knew laps were much more comfortable than the asphalt. He cautiously made his way over to the agent and smiled around the fingers that were in his mouth.

“Lucas, come back over here please,” Jaycee pleaded.

The little boy turned back towards his sister and shook his head defiantly. “No!”

Jaycee’s head fell to her hands as the three year old plopped down in Gibbs’ lap.

“He’s okay,” Gibbs said. He watched as Jaycee started making sandwiches again. “So, why don’t you trust cops?”

Jaycee was quiet for a moment, making sandwiches as she watched Gibbs and her brother carefully. “’Cause they always split us up,” she said quietly.

“Are you guys siblings?” Gibbs asked. Jaycee nodded hesitantly. Gibbs smiled slightly. They were getting somewhere. “Where’s your mom and dad?”

Jaycee handed a sandwich to the little boy in Gibbs’ lap before looking up to meet Gibbs’ eyes. “My dad split when I was two. I don’t even know who their dads are. Could be any number of guys somewhere between here and Colorado. Mom, well, she’s in jail. At least I think she’s still in there. Don’t really care.” The girl was obviously angry over her situation and she had every right to be.

The toddler in Gibbs’ lap squealed happily at his sandwich. He had peanut butter all over his hands and face and he’d only taken one bite.

“If you don’t want to be covered in peanut butter you might want to sit Lucas somewhere else. He’s kinda messy.”

“He’s fine,” Gibbs said watching the three year old enjoy his meal.

Jaycee handed sandwiches to the two little girls then started making one for herself. Gibbs watched as her eyes welled up with tears that were soon spilling onto her cheeks. “What are you going to do to us?” she asked trying to stop the tears from flowing. She was terrified and she wished the man would just go away.

“I’m going to do everything I can to help you,” Gibbs answered.

“Why can’t you just leave us alone?” Jaycee pleaded. “We’re doing fine on our own.”

“Sweetheart, I can’t leave you out here on the street by yourself,” Gibbs said, “especially not with four young kids. How old are they? How old are you?”

“Milo and Lucas are three, Gracie’s four, Kylee’s five and I’m twenty one,” Jaycee said. Gibbs narrowed his eyes at the girl. He knew there was no way she was twenty one. “Fine,” Jaycee said, “I’m only nineteen.” Gibbs gave her a look that told her he still didn’t believe her. “Eighteen?” She paused to see if he’d buy that answer. “I just turned seventeen,” she confessed quietly.

“Three, four, five and seventeen,” Gibbs said.

“When I turn eighteen I’m gonna adopt them,” Jaycee insisted. “I already take care of them. I’ve taken care of them their whole lives because our mom is always too drugged out or focused on her scumbag boyfriends. Please, just leave us alone. We’ll be fine.”

“Do you go to school?” Gibbs asked.

“Well,” Jaycee hung her head in shame, “I kinda had to drop out ‘cause there was no one to watch Milo and Lucas and Gracie but I’m of legal age to drop out. I didn’t do anything wrong.”

“I know you didn’t,” Gibbs said.

Gibbs glanced at his watch. It was nearing 11:00. He knew if he called Child Services the kids would be put into emergency shelters and would all be split up. It was nearly impossible to get two kids placed together, let alone five. “I’m gonna take you guys to my house tonight. You can stay with me until we get some things figured out.”

“I can’t pay you,” Jaycee said both ashamed and embarrassed. She was no fool, she knew nothing was free.

“I don’t want you to pay me,” Gibbs said.

“What do you expect in return?” the teenager asked nervously.

Gibbs smiled at the girl. “A promise,” he said. Jaycee cocked her head in confusion. She was sure she’d have to offer her body, not a promise. “I want you to promise me that you’ll trust me to help you. I want a promise that you’re not going to get scared and try to run off. In return, I’ll promise you that I’ll do everything I can to help you guys and to keep you together.”

Jaycee looked back and forth between Gibbs and her siblings several times. Could she trust him? Was he just trying to trick her? Being inside a warm, dry house did sound nice. The nights were really starting to get cold, especially when it rained. Maybe she’d even be allowed to take a quick shower. She hadn’t been clean in a very long time. It was better than being sent to a shelter. She’d been to plenty of those and had no intention of going back. “You have to promise me that you won’t hurt the little ones,” she said.

“Jaycee, I’m not going to hurt any of you,” Gibbs said.

“Deal,” she said holding out her pinky to Gibbs. In her mind a pinky promise was more powerful than a handshake. It was the most sacred way to seal a deal.

Gibbs smiled at the pinky promise. This girl would definitely fit in with Abby. He hooked his pinky with hers and they shook.

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Gibbs got the kids into his car and drove the short distance to his house. As he looked down at their little faces he realized he was going to need some backup. He knew of one other person who rarely slept and he hoped she wouldn’t mind being called in for reinforcements but first he needed to get the kids settled. They were all soaking wet from the rain and shivering from the cold.

“Alright, first order of business,” Gibbs said as the group stood in the entryway, “you guys need baths. Let’s head upstairs.”

“Boys don’t take baffs!” Milo announced as Gibbs led them upstairs.

“Well, this little boy’s going to take one tonight,” Gibbs said as he ruffled the three year old’s hair.

“Aw man,” Milo whined.

Gibbs smiled as he corralled the kids into his room. “How do you usually do bath time?” he asked Jaycee.

“I usually put everybody in the tub together,” Jaycee answered quietly almost as if she knew she was in trouble. “I know the girls should probably go by themselves now but I never had any help so it was just easier to do it that way. Did I do it wrong?”

“You did fine, Kiddo,” Gibbs said pulling a stack of t-shirts out of his drawer. “The fact that you’re seventeen and raising four little ones by yourself is impressive. Let me help you now.”

Jaycee tried to smile as she nodded her head. “I’m just kind of scared you’re tricking me or something.”

“It’s okay to be scared. It takes time to build trust,” Gibbs said, “but I have no intention of tricking you. Any decisions that need to be made, we’ll discuss together.”

“But you’ll always get your way,” Jaycee said.

“Maybe sometimes,” Gibbs said, “but I only want what’s best for you guys.”

“I just don’t want to lose them again,” Jaycee said. That was her biggest fear and she hoped Gibbs realized how important it was to her to keep them all together.

“Again?” Gibbs asked.

“Yeah, again,” Jaycee answered. When she saw Gibbs looking at her as if he were waiting for her to explain she turned her head away. “I don’t wanna talk about it.”

Gibbs decided to let it go for the time being. He needed to get the kids warmed up, cleaned up and he knew they were probably still hungry. Their sandwiches had turned to soggy messes in the rain. “Try to relax and let me do the worrying,” he said.

“I’ll try,” Jaycee agreed.

“Jaycee, you can use my bathroom,” he said pointing towards the door. “Here’s a t-shirt and some pajama pants you can borrow. Just toss out your dirty clothes and I’ll get a load of laundry going.”

“Underwear too?” Jaycee asked.

“Underwear too,” Gibbs confirmed with a nod. “Guess what, I used to have a little girl and a few wives so I’ve washed my share of girly underwear.”

Jaycee gave a shy smile before disappearing into the bathroom. Gibbs led Milo, Lucas, Gracie and Kylee down the hall, carrying a stack of t-shirts. He didn’t have anything anywhere near small enough to fit the kids but they were little enough his t-shirts would cover them and young enough he doubted they’d mind.

Gibbs guessed Kylee would’ve been fine taking a bath by herself but not knowing her very well and just having worked a case where a child drowned, he wasn’t willing to take that risk. It would be easier to bathe the little ones together that night. They were small enough he was sure he could fit them all in the tub.

“Clothes off, guys,” he said as he started the water in the tub.

Gracie and Kylee immediately started stripping down, excited about bath time even though they wouldn’t admit it in front of their less than thrilled brothers. Lucas reluctantly started undressing, a bit intimidated about what the cop was going to do to him if he didn’t obey. He didn’t want to go to jail. Milo stood defiantly and watched. There was no way he was going to take a bath.

“You too, Little One,” Gibbs said patting Milo’s shoulder. “It’s bath time.”

“I won’t do it,” Milo said firmly as he crossed his arms in front of his chest. “Boys don’t take baffs.”

“I’m a boy and I take baths,” Gibbs challenged as he got Lucas situated in the bathtub with the girls.

“Well, only ‘cause you’re—you’re… uh…” Milo was too tired and hungry to come up with a way to finish his thought.

“Everybody takes baths,” Gibbs said, “because everybody gets stinky.”

“I’m not stinky,” Milo said matter-of-factly.

Gibbs smiled and lifted the little boy’s arm up. “Smell your armpit,” he ordered playfully.

Milo tucked his nose under his arm and inhaled. “Whoa,” he said jerking his head back.

“Whoa is right,” Gibbs teased. “I told ya you were stinky.”

“Fine,” Milo said crossing his arms in front of his chest. “I will take a baff but I won’t be happy ‘bout it,” he declared.

Gibbs laughed as he ruffled the little boy’s hair. He loved this kid already. “You don’t have to be happy about it,” he responded, “you just have to be clean. I’ll make ya happy later.”

With the four little ones settled in the tub, Gibbs stepped right out into the hall so he could make a phone call while still keeping an eye on the kids. Kylee was working hard on getting herself cleaned up while Gracie was just thrilled to be in a tub full of warm water. Milo was trying to prove how unhappy he was about the whole bath idea and Lucas was happily splashing around. Gibbs pulled his phone off his belt, hit one of his speed dial numbers and waited.

“Were you sleeping?” he asked as soon as he was connected.

“You should know me well enough by now to know I rarely do that,” the voice on the other line spoke with a chuckle. “What happened? You were supposed to call earlier. I was getting worried.”

Gibbs hesitated while he tried to figure out how to best answer that question. “I got a little sidetracked at the store,” he said.

“Uh-oh.”

“Can you come over?” he asked. “I could use some help.”

Silence ruled the line for a moment. “Are you going to tell me what with?” Just then the girls squealed as Lucas splashed them with water and Gibbs was sure it could be heard over the phone. “What was that?”

“You’ll see when you get here,” Gibbs said. “I’m afraid if I tell you, you won’t come.”

“I’m on my way.”

“Thanks Sam,” Gibbs said his smile evident in his voice, “I’ll see you soon.”

“Should I call the fire department? You didn’t burn your house down cooking in your fireplace, did you?” Sam teased. Gibbs laughed as he snapped his phone closed.

Gracie was the first one Gibbs focused his attention on. He washed the little girl’s curly, strawberry blonde hair twice while she slapped at the surface of the water and kicked her feet as much as she could while being crammed in a tub with her brothers and sister. She hardly ever got to take baths and it had been awhile since her last one.

Kylee was still working hard to get herself cleaned up and Lucas was still splashing around, just as happy as Gracie to be taking a bath. Milo was still protesting, sitting in the tub with his little arms crossed angrily in front of his chest and a scowl on his face. His stone faced expression gave way to a slight smirk whenever Gibbs splashed him with a little water. He fought against it but in the end couldn’t hide it.

Samantha Ryan appeared in the doorway to the bathroom just as Gibbs was drying Gracie off. One child down, three to go and a little more room in the tub. “Where did you find four children in the middle of the night?” she asked in complete and utter shock.

“Five,” Gibbs corrected. “There’s one in the shower in my room.”

Sam looked towards Gibbs’ bedroom then back at the man who’d somehow become her boyfriend over the past weeks. It had happened somewhere between a murder investigation and a very early morning pancake breakfast at his favorite diner. She wasn’t sure how or why but she chose not to question it. She remained silent, watching as Gibbs pulled one of his t-shirts over the toddler’s head, waiting for an answer.

“They’re homeless,” Gibbs said pausing before he started bathing the other three. “I found them at the market when I stopped for groceries. We’ll talk more later?” It was more of a question than a statement. He didn’t want to say too much in front of the kids.

Sam nodded as she picked Gracie up and smiled brightly at her. “I bet you guys are hungry. Who’s up for pancakes?”

“Pancakes at nighttime?” Gracie asked.

“Don’t tell me you’ve never had pancakes at night,” Sam exclaimed pretending to be shocked. “That’s the best time to eat them!” She took a couple sniffs of the bathroom and realized that’s where the stink was coming from. “Pass me that laundry hamper and I’ll throw a load of clothes in.”

“Jaycee was supposed to throw her laundry out before she got in the shower,” Gibbs said. “Can you grab that too?”

“Definitely,” Sam grinned. “So, who do we have?”

“Jaycee’s down the hall, she’s seventeen. You’re holding Gracie,” Gibbs said, “she’s four. Kylee’s five,” he said hesitantly. “Right, Sweetheart?” The little girl nodded shyly at Gibbs. “Okay, Lucas and grumpy Gus are three.”

“I’m not Gus!” the little boy protested. “I’m Milo!”

Gibbs smiled up Sam. “Milo doesn’t like to take baths,” he explained.

“I see,” Sam said. “I don’t know many little boys who do but when he does decide to get cleaned up there will be some pancakes waiting for him downstairs. There might even be a surprise in them!”

“A surprise?” Milo asked perking right up. “What kind of a surprise?”

“If I told you it wouldn’t be a surprise,” Sam said with a smile. “You’re just going to have to get yourself cleaned up and come downstairs and see.”

“Aw man,” Milo said. “You’re trickin’ me!”

“You bet I am!” Sam said with a grin. She winked at Gibbs before turning and heading down the hall with Gracie. “Have fun,” she called back.

Gibbs helped Kylee wash her face, hair and back. Other than that the five year old had done an excellent job herself. She decided to stay in the tub until Milo and Lucas were done. Gibbs got Lucas washed up fairly quickly while the little boy continued splashing around and giggling. He wasn’t bothered in the least by Gibbs interrupting him long enough to get him cleaned up. Milo on the other hand wanted no part in washing himself but willingly let Gibbs do it only so he could see what kind of surprise was going to be in his pancakes.

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Sam got Gracie busy playing with the Tupperware in Gibbs’ cabinet. While the four year old happily stacked and knocked over the different sized and shaped containers, Sam got to work on the pancakes. She found chocolate chips in Gibbs’ cupboard and some fresh blueberries in his refrigerator. She got out the whipped cream and the pure maple syrup. Ever since their first date all the fixings for good pancakes had appeared in Gibbs’ kitchen. She knew he’d done it for her. He knew how much she loved pancakes. They deserved their own place on the food pyramid. In her mind they were their own food group.

The first batch of pancakes was cooking on the griddle when she heard a stampede on the stairs. Seconds later she was nearly knocked to the ground as the little ones ran into her to stop themselves. She looked down then did a double take. Yes, she had seen what she thought she’d seen; two butt naked little boys vying for her attention. She laughed. Life was an adventure and this was quite possibly the most fun she’d had in a long time.

“I want my surprise!” Milo said.

“It’s not quite done yet,” Sam said.

“What is the surprise?” Lucas asked.

“The surprise is the fun things I put inside your pancakes,” Sam said.

“When will they be done?” Milo asked.

“Hmm,” Sam said looking down at the naked little boys, “as soon as you two go get dressed, they’ll be done.”

“Boys don’t wear clothes!” Lucas insisted.

“All the boys I know do,” Sam challenged.

“Aw man!” Milo whined. “Are you trickin’ us again?”

Sam laughed. These kids were real characters and she was having a blast. “You bet I am!” She looked up to see Gibbs entering the kitchen carrying Kylee followed by a young, brown eyed girl with wavy brown hair whom she assumed was Jaycee. “I see you had a couple of escapees,” Sam teased.

“They were gone before their feet even hit the bathroom floor,” Gibbs said pulling a t-shirt over Milo’s head while the three year old wiggled and squirmed and tried to get away.

Sam grinned as she pulled off the first batch and split them between two plates. Lucas and Milo would each get one blueberry pancake with maple syrup and one chocolate chip pancake with whipped cream. They could have more if they wanted but it was a start.

Gibbs got a t-shirt on Lucas then took the kids’ plates followed by two anxious little ones into the dining room and sat them down. While they ate he poured them each a glass of milk. He doubted they’d had much calcium and it was an essential for active, growing children.

Jaycee waited patiently while Sam started another batch of pancakes on the griddle. Gracie was still playing happily with the Tupperware, oblivious to everything else that was happening around her. She had toys. Kylee sat down and joined her.

“Are you a cop?” Jaycee asked suspiciously. “Child services? Are you going to take us away?”

“Where would I take five children in the middle of the night?” Sam asked with mock seriousness. Jaycee shrugged as she watched the woman curiously. “I’m Gibbs’ girlfriend,” Sam said in a loud whisper.

Jaycee smiled and looked into the dining room at Gibbs then back at Sam. “Really?” she asked.

“Really,” Sam confirmed. “Old people fall in love too, you know.”

Jaycee let herself relax. She wasn’t sure what it was but she kind of liked Sam. There was something about her. She was spunky and fun, playful in a way that most adults weren’t.

Sam doctored up three more plates just like the first ones. She handed one to Jaycee and sent her off with a pat on the back then turned her attention to Kylee and Gracie. “Alright girlies, are you ready for some food?” she asked, grabbing the other two plates.

Both girls jumped up and followed Sam into the dining room. She got them situated at the dining room table, made sure they each had a glass of milk then, before returning to the griddle, she leaned down and kissed Gibbs’ cheek and winked at Jaycee. There was nothing to fear. She really was Gibbs’ girlfriend.

Chapter Text

It was after 1:00 in the morning before all the children were in bed and asleep. Gracie and Kylee were sharing the double bed in Gibbs’ room. Jaycee was in Kelly’s old room and Milo and Lucas were crammed in the small bed in the guest room. They always slept together, no matter what and didn’t mind the small bed. It was much more comfortable than the cold concrete they usually slept on.

“What are we going to do with all these kids?” Sam asked as Gibbs sank down into the couch next to her. They were both exhausted. There was nothing like five kids to wear you out before bed. Insomnia would not be a problem that night.

“We?” Gibbs asked.

“I’m here for the long haul,” Sam said. “Like you said, you could use the help.”

“I appreciate that,” Gibbs said with a sincere smile as Sam leaned into him, their shoulders touching as their minds spun with questions. There were four small children upstairs and one very frightened teenager and for the time being, they were responsible for them.

“I’ve got my laptop in the car,” Sam said. “I’ll run out and grab it and we’ll see if we can find some information on these youngsters.”

Sam didn’t make any effort to move. It was only a short trip out to her car in the driveway but she was exhausted and very comfortable sitting there with Gibbs. Gibbs kissed her temple and rubbed her shoulder as she searched for the motivation to get herself going. She leaned in and kissed Gibbs before standing and heading for the door.

“I’m gonna change real quick while you get everything set up,” Gibbs said. He was still pretty wet from first being drenched in the rain and then bathing the kids and he was still in his work clothes.

He smiled to himself as he headed upstairs. He knew he could count on Sam for help and he was glad he’d called her. Taking care of the kids with her brought back the joys of family life with Shannon and Kelly. It helped ease the pain of missing out on having a family with Jenny. He’d actually loved her unlike his three ex-wives. He’d liked his exes, for the most part, but he didn’t love them and he certainly didn’t love them enough to start a family with any of them.

Sam was different though, different than the exes, different than Shannon and different than Jenny. He found that once he got past the mind games she hid behind, she was hurting just as much as he was and just like him, she tried to hide that hurt from the world. On the outside she appeared to be a very strong person. She was intelligent and had a successful career but on the inside there was fear and hurt and pain. They understood each other in a way that not even their closest friends understood them.

Gibbs grabbed a pair of flannel pajama pants and a long sleeve t-shirt then headed into his bathroom to change. He checked on the kids before going back downstairs and pouring a cup of coffee for Sam and one for himself. It was going to be a long night and most likely an even longer Friday. When he made it back to the living room Sam was already typing feverishly on her computer.

“Find anything?” he asked sitting down next to her.

“Give me a minute,” Sam said pausing to take a drink of her coffee.

Gibbs watched as several different things passed across the screen of the laptop. He was impressed with Sam’s computer skills although it didn’t take much to impress him when it came to computer skills considering how little he was capable of.

“Milo Aaron Chambers,” Sam read, “three years old, born 30 September in Indiana to Faye Chambers. No father listed. Lucas Matthew Chambers,” she continued, “everything’s the same. They’re twins. Milo’s older by one minute. Grace Elizabeth Chambers, four years old, born 21 June in Nebraska and again, no father listed. These kids get around. Kylee Michaela Chambers, five years old, born 5, July in Colorado.”

Gibbs shook his head sadly as he listened. It was obvious the kids had never had any stability in their short lives and considering they were all born in different states, he was assuming they all had different fathers. He could only imagine what their mother had subjected them to.

“Jaycee Rose Burton,” Sam continued, “seventeen years old, born 17 September in Wyoming to Brian and Faye Burton. One of them has a father listed. We’re making progress.” She scrolled through a few more screens. “Uh-oh, there’s another one.”

“Another kid?” Gibbs asked narrowing his eyes in confusion.

“Wait a minute,” Sam said. She was quiet for a moment while she read. “Reagan LeAnn Burton, fifteen years old, born 3 January in Wyoming. Same parents as Jaycee.”

“I wonder where she is,” Gibbs said.

“She’s dead,” Sam said looking at Gibbs over the frame of her glasses, “six months ago at a group home for girls.”

“What happened?” Gibbs asked.

Sam shrugged and shook her head. “Doesn’t say,” she said. “Her cause of death is listed as accidental.”

“Anything on the mom?” he asked still wondering about Reagan.

Sam turned back to her computer and searched through several more screens. “Faye Chambers, thirty three years old. That would put her at sixteen when Jaycee was born. It looks like the dad died in a drunk driving accident just after Reagan was born, he hit a tree going in excess of ninety miles per hour.”

“So he was the one drinking?” Gibbs asked.

“Mm-hmm,” Sam said skimming the information on the screen. “His blood alcohol level was almost triple the legal limit. That’s when Faye’s problems started. There’s a slew of drug and prostitution charges in several different states going back fifteen years. Faye made it to DC and was thrown in jail along with her live-in boyfriend when they were busted for drug possession. The kids were split up and put in group homes until the grandmother, Faye’s mom, got them out. Mom got out of jail after a month but the kids continued staying with Grandma.” She paused to read more.

“Where’s Grandma now?” Gibbs asked.

“Hang on,” Sam said scrolling through a few more screens. “Grandma died two months ago due to complications from a stroke. Faye sold the house and is now serving time on drug charges in Ohio. She didn’t make it very far.”

“So what, she just left the kids here and headed back west?” Gibbs asked.

“Or Jaycee got sick of it, took her brothers and sisters and ran,” Sam suggested.

“Tough kids,” Gibbs said trying to process all the information.

“They’ve had to fight to survive their whole lives,” Sam said leaning back against Gibbs’ chest. She was quiet for a moment before looking up at him. “Are you thinking what I’m thinking?” she asked.

Gibbs rested his hand on her shoulder and moved his thumb back and forth as he looked down at her. “We have to help them,” he said.

The two spent the next hour trying to figure out the best way to go about helping the kids. Jaycee was independent and determined to do things on her own but both Gibbs and Sam knew she’d need help taking care of her four young siblings. There were no relatives left to take them except their mother who was in jail, not that either of them wanted to send the kids back to her. The whole situation was a complicated mess. They decided they’d have to call Children Services in the morning; thankfully Gibbs had a contact he trusted.

Shortly after 3:00 in the morning, after Gibbs had told Sam about finding the kids and they’d talked to each other about their days, Sam drifted off to sleep propped up on Gibbs’ shoulder on the couch. Gibbs smiled as he took the cup of coffee from her hand and put it on the end table next to his. He wondered how he could’ve been so lucky to find an amazing woman and why she put up with him. He was a bastard, stubborn and set in his ways, then again, he now kept all the fixings for pancakes in his kitchen, so maybe not. He kissed her forehead, propped his feet up on the coffee table and made himself comfortable. He needed sleep too. He assumed the kids would be up early.

//////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////

The little hand tapping on Gibbs’ knee started tugging impatiently on his fingers when there was no response. He opened his eyes and let the room come into focus before looking down at the culprit. “Kylee,” he whispered. “What’s wrong?” Sam was still sleeping on his shoulder. The sun was just starting to peek in the window behind him.

“I have to go school,” Kylee whispered. The little girl was standing in front of Gibbs wearing only the t-shirt the agent had loaned her the night before, her tennis shoes and a tattered and torn backpack.

Gibbs looked at his watch. It was just after 7:00, later than he usually slept but he’d needed it. He hadn’t had much sleep at all over the past week. “What do you think about staying home with your brothers and sisters today?” he asked. “We need to get you some new clothes, Sweetie. Yours are pretty dirty. I don’t think I can get them clean.”

“And stinky?” Kylee asked. Gibbs nodded. “Sometimes the other kids make fun of me ‘cause I smell bad. The always ask me if I live in a garbage can.”

“That’s not very nice, is it?” Gibbs asked as Sam started to stir next to him. Gibbs held his arms out towards Kylee and the five year old let him lift her into his lap. He removed the little girl’s backpack and set it aside then took her shoes off and tossed them towards the front door. “We’ll go out today and get you some new clothes and new shoes then you can go back to school on Monday all fresh and clean. How does that sound?”

“My teacher will be mad at me if I skip school,” Kylee said. “She says that’s bad.”

“Sometimes it is bad,” Gibbs said, “but sometimes it’s okay like if you’re sick or if you have a doctor’s appointment.” He made a mental note to call Ducky and have him come check the children out.

“Or if you need new clothes?” Kylee asked.

“Right,” Gibbs answered. “We’ll call your teacher and tell her you won’t be coming in today but that you’ll be back on Monday, that way she won’t get mad. How does that sound?” Kylee nodded her head as she yawned. “Do you want to go back to bed for a little while?” Gibbs asked.

“No,” Kylee said, “Gracie’s hogging the covers.”

“She is?” Sam asked playfully. “We’re going to have to kick her butt,” she teased.

Kylee giggled before another yawn interrupted. As she rubbed at her eyes Gibbs pulled the little girl’s head to his chest and began rubbing his thumb over her temple hoping to put the child back to sleep. She was obviously exhausted. Sam rested her head back on Gibbs’ shoulder and started humming a soft lullaby as she watched Kylee’s eyelids begin to droop. It didn’t take much of the calming lullaby and soothing touches before the child was once again lost in sleep.

Gibbs laid her down on the couch and Sam covered her up. Both stretched their sore, achy muscles then Gibbs pulled Sam into a hug. He kissed her forehead before she tilted her head up and their lips met. They didn’t usually share many words before they each had some coffee in them but they shared their affections. They smiled at one another and after another quick peck on the lips Sam headed into the kitchen to start the coffee while Gibbs went upstairs to check on the other kids.

Gracie had somehow managed to get all the blankets on her side of the bed. Kylee was right, she was hogging the covers. Gibbs smiled as he thought about Shannon. She was the same way only she usually managed to get the blankets onto the floor then she’d cuddle up to him, seeking out his warmth. It was sometimes frustrating for Gibbs until he learned how to tuck the blankets under his body so Shannon couldn’t steal them off of him while they slept. Then they both slept better because they were both warm and to his delight, she still cuddled up close to him every morning.

He headed down the hall and checked on Jaycee. He was pretty sure she hadn’t moved from the night before. Across the hall Lucas was just starting to wake while Milo slept with a large pool of drool under his slightly parted lips.

“Good morning Lucas,” Gibbs whispered as he lifted him out of bed. The three year old had a scar just below his hairline on the left side of his forehead. That was the only way Gibbs could the twins apart. Both had short blonde hair that curled at the end and both had the same piercing green eyes. He readjusted the blankets over Milo then headed down the hall to the bathroom.

“Can you go potty for me, Buddy?” Gibbs asked.

“Yeah,” Lucas said. He took care of business and washed his hands then smiled up at Gibbs. “Now what?” He was ready for the next adventure.

“Now let’s go downstairs and say good morning to Sam,” Gibbs answered. He had no toys to speak of for the kids to play with. He wondered if there were some cartoons on TV to entertain them for a little while. He and Lucas opened the bathroom door to find Milo standing there staring blankly into space and looking like he was still half asleep.

“Mornin’ Milo,” Gibbs said.

“M’rn Milo,” Lucas said with a wave.

“Do you need to go potty?” Gibbs asked.

The three year old yawned and closed his eyes making Gibbs smile. He led him into the bathroom and held his t-shirt out of the way while the little boy relieved himself. After Milo’s hands had been washed he picked him up in one arm and Lucas in the other and carried both boys downstairs and into the kitchen where Sam was pouring two cups of coffee.

“Looks like somebody’s not a morning person,” Sam teased poking Milo’s side.

Milo grumbled at her as he tried to squirm away. Sam rubbed her hand lovingly down his back then took Lucas from Gibbs. They all sat down at the dining room table and it was clear Lucas was ready to play. He was antsy and couldn’t sit still to save his life. Sam stood him on the floor and he found a couple clothes baskets to entertain himself with. He constructed a fort out of them and used the laundry to fill in the openings.

Gibbs sat cuddling Milo while they watched Lucas play. “What time do you have to work today?” he asked while Sam made silly faces at Lucas whenever he peeked out at them.

“Oh, I called in,” Sam said.

“You didn’t have to do that,” Gibbs said.

“I could use the time off,” Sam said. “I think we should make a list of what we need to accomplish today so we can try to get organized.”

“We need groceries,” Gibbs said.

“And sippy cups,” Sam added. “All the kids need clothes and shoes. I know a really good thrift store that I shop for nieces and nephews in. Great prices and good quality.”

“That’s good,” Gibbs said.

“Any idea what time your friend is coming over?” Sam asked. She didn’t want to mention Child Services in front of any of the kids.

“Let me go ahead and call her,” Gibbs said. “I should probably talk to Jaycee about it too. I don’t want her to panic.” He handed Milo off to Sam leaving her with both boys then stepped out into the brisk morning air for some privacy.

Milo was perfectly content to cuddle with Sam. He didn’t like to do much in the morning when he woke up but Jaycee was always busy searching the dumpsters for food and didn’t have time to cuddle with him. It was nice to be warm and have a comfortable lap to sit on and loving arms wrapped around him.

“Incoming!” Lucas yelled, startling both Milo and Sam. Before either had time to react a balled up sock landed in Sam’s coffee.

“Eww,” she said as she picked it out and looked at it.

Lucas stood from behind his fort with a pair Jaycee’s pants on his head and peeked over in the direction the sock he’d launched had landed. “Oopsy,” he said when Sam held it up and showed him.

“You’re lucky I don’t throw this back at you, Boy,” Sam playfully teased.

“Throw what?” Gibbs asked.

“We had a little accident,” Sam said showing Gibbs the sock.

“How did that happen?” he asked before holding his hands up. “You know what, I don’t want to know.”

Sam laughed as Gibbs took his place at the table again. Flying socks were enough to wake Milo up and make him curious about what his twin was doing. He climbed down from Sam’s lap and disappeared behind the makeshift fort with Lucas. There was no way he was going to miss out on the fun. Gibbs and Sam headed into the kitchen to get breakfast started. The two scoured the kitchen cupboards in search of something to feed the kids for breakfast. Gibbs never had a ton of food at his because he was rarely home to eat it.

“Okay,” Sam said, “we have bread, eggs and fruit. I’m thinking either French toast or regular toast, scrambled eggs with a little cheese in them and some cut up fruit.”

“That sounds good,” Gibbs said, “I’d go with French toast.”

“I haven’t had French toast in forever,” Jaycee said as she entered the kitchen.

“French toast it is,” Sam said.

Gibbs got Jaycee started cutting up fruit while Sam worked on the French toast. He added some eggs to a mixing bowl and beat them then left Sam and Jaycee in the kitchen so he could go check on Gracie and Kylee. It wouldn’t be long before breakfast was ready and they were still sleeping.

When the smells from the kitchen started wafting through the house, the kids started making their way into the kitchen one by one. When Jaycee was done cutting the fruit she helped her brothers and sisters set the table while Sam finished up the French toast and Gibbs worked on scrambling the eggs. When the meal was ready they all sat down and ate together. It was the first time in a long time the kids had full tummies and every single one of them had smiles on their faces.

After breakfast Sam picked through the kids clothes and found some they could wear until she could get to the store and get them some new ones. While she did that Gibbs took Jaycee upstairs to his room to talk to her about what was going to happen. He knew she’d be scared when she heard Child Services was coming but he wanted to work on building some trust with her.

“What do you want?” Jaycee asked fearfully when Gibbs pulled the door closed behind them.

“I want to talk,” Gibbs said.

“Are we gonna have sex?” Jaycee asked. She knew she’d end up having to offer her body. The man had just been waiting until morning so she’d feel guilty for staying the night and be more agreeable. She hated herself for believing him.

“What? No. No, Jaycee,” Gibbs said. He hadn’t meant to give her the wrong impression. He just assumed she was going to have a strong reaction when she found out Child Service’s was coming and he didn’t want to upset the younger kids. “I told you, I’m not gonna hurt any of you guys. I want to talk to you about what’s gonna happen this morning.”

Jaycee started feeling sick to her stomach. It could’ve been actually eating a real meal for the first time in a couple months or it could’ve been the conversation she knew was coming. “I think I’d rather have sex,” she said sorrowfully. She kind of liked it at Gibbs’ house and knew she was a fool for thinking he’d let them stay more than one night. The little ones were a handful and people could only handle being around them for so long.

Gibbs ignored the comment and sat down on the chair in the room facing the bed where Jaycee was sitting. “Sam’s going to take you and your sisters to the store this morning and get all you kids some clothes and shoes and stuff while I stay here with Milo and Lucas.”

He saw Jaycee relaxing and let himself relax. Jaycee realized maybe he wasn’t going to kick them out after all. Maybe they wouldn’t be split up and sent to different shelters. She didn’t even care about new clothes or anything. She just wanted to be able to stay with her brothers and sisters. She started getting her hopes up as he continued.

“There’s also someone from Child Services coming over later this morning,” Gibbs said.

“What?! No! Please. We’ll go. I can take care of them,” Jaycee insisted.

“Jaycee, I can’t send you back out on the street with four young kids,” Gibbs said. “It’s too dangerous.”

“I knew I couldn’t trust you!” Jaycee screamed before the tears escaped onto her cheeks. “I hate you. I hate you!”

“Relax,” Gibbs said, “listen, hear me out. The lady coming over is someone I know; someone I trust. We don’t want to split you guys up anymore than you want to be split up. We only want to help.”

“They never help,” Jaycee said angrily. “Nobody ever helps! You’re just like them.”

“I think you just haven’t met the right people yet,” Gibbs said.

Jaycee pulled her knees to her chest and hid her face as the tears continued. She didn’t want to lose her family, not again and especially not after what had happened to Reagan. She considered telling Gibbs in hopes that that would help him understand why she didn’t want to go back but she decided against it. She didn’t like him very much anymore and she certainly didn’t trust him. She was too scared to make any rational decisions.

Gibbs moved over next to Jaycee on the bed and rested his hand on her back. Sam peeked into the room to check on them. When she saw how upset Jaycee was she sat on the other side of the teenager and started rubbing her back. She glanced over at Gibbs and without words she managed to gather that he’d told Jaycee about Child Service’s upcoming visit.

“Why don’t you go downstairs and look after the others while Jaycee and I talk for a minute,” she said.

Gibbs patted Jaycee’s back and smiled at Sam before heading out of the room and downstairs where Milo was crawling around under the laundry basket roaring at his brother and sisters while they laughed and ran away from him. He was always impressed with a child’s ability to create fun with the most random possessions.

Sam managed to get Jaycee uncurled enough she could wrap her arms around the teenager and hold her while she cried. “I know all of this is scary and it’s not fair and you’re probably feeling so helpless right now,” Sam said, “but you’re not alone in this anymore. You have people on your side. Jethro and I are both willing to fight for you guys. Do you believe me when I say that?”

“I don’t know,” Jaycee cried. “I’m so confused.”

“I know,” Sam said. “I can’t even begin to imagine what all this is like for you but if you don’t believe anything else we’ve told you so far, believe me when I tell you that we’re on your side. You don’t have to do this alone anymore.”

Jaycee wrapped her arms around Sam and held on for dear life. She wanted to believe her. She wanted to trust her and accept the help that she was being offered but there had never been anyone in her life that she could rely on. Everybody else had always let her down. She wasn’t sure if she even knew how to trust.

Sam pulled back from Jaycee and looked into her eyes. “Now, Kylee, Gracie, you and I are gonna go spend the morning doing what girls do best,” Sam said with a perky smile, “we’re going to go shopping and we’re not gonna worry about what’s going on here. When we get back Jethro will be here with Milo and Lucas. He’s not going to let anybody take them away from you when you’re not looking. I guarantee it.”

Jaycee slowed her tears and Sam wiped the leftover moisture from her cheeks before pulling her into another hug. “Everything’s gonna be okay, Sweetie,” she said softly.

“I want to trust you and Gibbs,” Jaycee said. “It’s just really hard and it’s not you guys. It’s me.”

“I know. We’ll get through this together,” Sam said. “Now, let’s get going. I want to get there early, before all the crazy people come out of the woodwork.”

Jaycee smiled as she stood and followed Sam out of the room. She really did like her. She found herself wishing Sam was her real mother. She hoped the woman wouldn’t end up letting her down like everybody else did. Jaycee dressed in the ragged and torn clothes she had been wearing when Gibbs found her then Sam took her and her sisters and headed for the store. Gibbs stayed behind with boys to wait for D’Arcy to show up. He’d worked with the woman for years, he trusted her and this was a delicate issue.

“Where is she taking Jaycee?” Milo asked. “Is she going to jail?”

“No, she didn’t do anything wrong,” Gibbs said. “Why would she go to jail?”

“Because you’re the police and you take people to jail,” Lucas said.

“Police do other stuff too,” Gibbs explained. “We help people all the time. In fact, I’ve helped a lot more people than I’ve put in jail.”

“Are you helping Jaycee?” Milo asked.

“Sam and I are helping all you guys,” Gibbs said pulling the boys into his lap.

“Oh,” Milo said, his facial expression telling Gibbs he was deep in thought. “Know what? I think you are a good police.”

“Me too,” Lucas concluded.

“I’m glad you guys think so,” Gibbs said. “How would you like to color?”

“For real?” Milo asked.

“For real,” Gibbs confirmed. He took Milo and Lucas into the dining room and got them each a small stack of paper and a box of crayons that had belonged to Kelly long ago. He wanted the boys to be occupied so he could talk to D’Arcy with minimal interruptions.

Once D’Arcy showed up, Gibbs took her into the kitchen where he could see still the boys at the dining room table but they could have a little bit of privacy. He explained the situation to her and shared what little information he and Sam had gathered on the kids.

D’Arcy quietly considered what options she had for the kids. Their wide difference in ages was a problem. Jaycee was only eligible for foster care for less than a year. As soon as she turned 18 the state would cut her off. The number of the kids was an issue as well. She hated to say it but there were no good options.

“Agent Gibbs, I don’t even have a foster home open right now that can take two of the kids,” she said. “The best I can do is try to find them homes with people who will let them stay in touch by telephone and maybe an occasional play date.”

Gibbs was quiet; deep in thought. That wasn’t good enough. The kids had been through enough in their short lives and Gibbs wasn’t going to let them be split up and sent off to different homes. “What if I take them?” he asked. “I can say it’s case related. I did find them abandoned. I could probably swing a protective custody situation.”

“Until when?” D’Arcy asked. She was willing to listen to any ideas Gibbs had and work with the agent as much as she could. “Until I find a home that can take all of them? That might be awhile.”

“I don’t know,” Gibbs said still working out the details in his head. “How long do kids usually stay in a foster home before they’re moved to another?”

“It depends,” D’Arcy said, “anywhere from days to weeks to months to even years. It just depends on the circumstances.”

“These kids have been bounced around too much, D’Arcy,” Gibbs said. “They need some stability. What if I foster them? They can live here.”

“Agent Gibbs, are you sure?” D’Arcy asked.

Gibbs hesitated before answering. He looked into D’Arcy’s eyes and wondered what he was getting himself into. “Not really but it’s the best we can do at this point.”

“I’d urge you to think on this before making that big of a commitment,” D’Arcy said. “There are a few steps you’d need to go through before being officially eligible to foster. There’s a little bit of training, a home inspection, stuff like that.”

Gibbs and D’Arcy worked out the details of Gibbs becoming eligible to foster the children. She went ahead and scheduled his home inspection and gave him a packet of information to read through. Just before D’Arcy was getting ready to say goodbye, Milo came running through the kitchen with his arms stretched out to the side making engine noises, pretending to be an airplane. He’d gotten bored coloring. Lucas was right behind him, running circles around Gibbs and D’Arcy.

“Good luck, Agent Gibbs,” D’Arcy said, “and if you change your mind or need anything, please don’t hesitate to call.”

“Thanks D’Arcy,” Gibbs said. “I think we’ll be just fine.”

Chapter Text

There are many advantages to living in a big city, one of them being thrift shops with a wide variety of decently priced clothing. With five children to clothe, Sam needed decent prices but she didn’t want the kids to have to walk around in out of date clothing they’d end up getting made fun of for. Melinda Monroe or Missy, as everyone called her, opened a tiny thrift store in a small, one room shop above a dry cleaning business nearly five and a half years prior. Her business philosophy was far different than any other business in the tri-state area. She wasn’t interested in accumulating as much wealth as possible. She was interested in serving the people of the city she loved.

Missy was the mother of seven children. All but two were grown and had left the house. She knew how expensive it was to clothe children and she knew they often grew out of things before they could wear them more than a couple times so she’d opened a thrift shop specializing in children’s clothes. She carried everything from infant clothing all the way up to young men’s and junior’s clothing. When people brought Missy their clothes to sell, she’d give them half of what she thought she could make on it. Clothes that didn’t sell went to needy families or local shelters. That helped the community out and helped keep her store from accumulating mountains of merchandise that would go out of style before it ever sold.

When she’d first opened for business people called her crazy. They were convinced she was paying her customers too much for their used merchandise and giving too much away. She was told her shop would never see its one year anniversary but people caught wind of the generous woman and had to check it out for themselves. They were so impressed with her selection and dedication to her customers that they went out and told their friends and their friends told their friends. By her one year anniversary Missy was moving to a location with double the space and her critics were eating their words. Five and a half years later she was settled in a storefront half the size of the local Wal-Mart and her shop was always buzzing with satisfied customers.

Missy took a special interest in each of her customers. After raising seven children she knew exactly what she was doing. She’d give the teens fashion advice which they almost always accepted and help mothers of little ones pick through the racks until they found the perfect outfit for their child. Missy loved clothes and she loved fashion and she loved sharing her passion with her customers. Bloomingdales had nothing on her. She may have charged far less but her customers looked just as good. She always had something for everyone.

Sam’s shopping cart was filling quickly. They’d shopped for the twins first. The boys were little and if you could get them to actually put clothes on they’d wear anything at all. Shopping for them was simple. The girls were different. Sam was sitting in front of the dressing room while they tried on different outfits and modeled the clothes for her. Jaycee would help her younger sisters get dressed then they’d parade around Sam as if they were models at a fashion show. Some of the outfits went into the cart to keep while others went back on the rack for another little girl to discover and enjoy.

The fashion show was nearing an end when Sam’s cell phone rang. Jaycee was sure her heart stopped beating. Was it Gibbs calling to say the boys were gone? Were they next? Would Kylee and Gracie be ripped from her arms, crying and screaming as soon as they arrived at the house? Suddenly the teenager didn’t feel so good and was racing off to the bathroom. Gracie and Kylee sat on one side of Sam. The silliness and giggles were put on hold while Sam spoke with the mystery caller.

When Jaycee returned from the bathroom she was looking pale and ill. The stress was hard for her already overwhelmed body to handle. Sam was still on the phone. She patted the bench next to her and Jaycee sat.

“It sounds like that’s our best option, Jethro,” Sam said as she wrapped her arm around Jaycee and held the girl close to her. Jaycee leaned a little closer, trying to make out Gibbs’ words. Sam kissed the top of her head and winked at her.

“Okay, we’ll see you whenever we all make it home,” Sam said. “Bye Love.”

Jaycee studied Sam as she dropped the phone back into her purse. She looked happy but Sam always looked happy. It was almost as if nothing bad had ever happened to her. “They’re gone, aren’t they,” she asked, “Milo and Lucas? They’re coming for us next.” It wasn’t even a question. It was a statement. Jaycee was sure of it.

“Who’s coming for you, Sweet Girl?” Sam asked. She knew what Jaycee was talking about but she wanted the teenager to get comfortable talking to her. She wanted her to open up and learn to articulate her thoughts and feelings.

Jaycee shrugged her shoulders. “The cops? Child Services? Maybe some judge or lawyer guy?”

Sam smiled and wrapped her other arm around Kylee and Gracie. She held all three girls close to her. “Well, if they do they’re going to have to come through Jethro and I first,” she said, “because all you kids are going to be staying with us.”

Jaycee fell limply into Sam’s embrace. Hearing those words was like the weight of the world being lifted from her shoulders. “We can stay?”

“Jethro and I are going to take some classes to become foster parents and you guys will all stay together with us,” Sam said. “See? I told you everything was gonna be okay, didn’t I?”

“Thank you,” Jaycee said. “Thank you! I can’t thank you enough. I’ll take care of the little kids. You guys won’t have to do anything. I’ll get a job and pay for our food and clothes and stuff and-and I’ll just-I’ll do everything, baths, bedtime, everything.” She didn’t want to be an inconvenience to these people. She didn’t want to get kicked out because her younger siblings caused too much trouble. She wanted everything to be perfect.

“I think Jethro and I are only gonna ask you to do one big thing for us, Jaycee,” Sam said, “and that’s go back to school. I know you’ve completed your freshman, sophomore and junior year and I know you’re old enough to drop out but let me tell you, Kiddo, a high school diploma is a very powerful piece of paper.”

“I know,” Jaycee said quietly. “The only reason I dropped out was so I could take care of my brothers and sisters after Grandma died.”

“I know, Babe,” Sam said with a smile. “We’ll make sure they’re taken care of too.”

///////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////

While the girls shopped for clothes and a few other necessities, Gibbs took the twins to the furniture store. He and Sam weren’t going to survive another night on the couch. He chose two sets of bunk beds, one for the boys’ room and one for the girls’ room. Those along with the twin size bed he already had would be enough. Kelly’s bed could be moved to the attic with the few other mementoes he kept up there. He loaded the beds and the boys in the truck and realized he was going to need help if he was going to get all the furniture assembled before bedtime rolled around.

After he got his seatbelt on he pulled out his phone and called Tony. It took the young agent seven rings before he finally answered the phone. “I didn’t wake you, did I?” Gibbs asked as he looked at the clock. It was pushing noon.

“I don’t know,” Tony grumbled. Gibbs could tell just by his tone that something wasn’t quite right. He knew Tony didn’t usually sleep that late and it was rare to catch the young man in a bad mood.

“If you’re not busy, I could really use your help today,” Gibbs said. He hoped Tony would say yes so he could talk to him and try to figure out what was going on.

“I’m not busy,” Tony said a hint of despair in his tone. “Be there soon.”

“Alright,” Gibbs said. “I’m gonna give McGee a call too. I think we could use his help as well.”

“McGoo’s here with me,” Tony said without thinking. “He spent the night after we went out last night and got— uh… Tim’s here. I’ll tell him.”

“Tim spent the night after you two went out last night and got what, DiNozzo?” Gibbs asked.

Tony could’ve kicked himself for being so stupid. Once again his big mouth was going to get him into trouble. He decided Gibbs would know as soon as he saw them anyways. He and Tim both had hangover written all over their faces. “We may have gone out last night and gotten wasted, Boss,” he confessed.

“Ah, I see. Why?” Gibbs asked. He was starting to get concerned. He suspected their previous case was taking a toll on the young agents. Part of doing their jobs effectively was being able to handle the stress and strain that came with each case. Last week had been one of the most difficult cases of their careers. Although it wasn’t unusual for Tony and Tim to hit the bar on the weekends, they rarely got wasted, as Tony had put it. Part of Gibbs’ job as team leader was to make sure his team was on top of their game. If any of them started slipping he had to know about it so he could step in and help.

“Just tryin’ to deal, Boss,” Tony answered with brutal honestly.

“We’ll talk when you guys get here,” Gibbs replied. “Hey,” he said before Tony hung up, “you okay to drive?”

“”Yeah,” Tony answered, “just a little hung over.”

“See you guys soon,” Gibbs said before snapping his phone closed.

///////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////

Tony parked his car in Gibbs’ driveway then he and Tim got out and headed for the front door. Both were wearing baseball hats and dark sunglasses, trying to keep the light out and prevent their headaches from getting any worse. They’d both sweared off alcohol after waking up feeling so sick. It wouldn’t last but it would definitely be a long time before either of them got quite so drunk again. Tony pushed the door open and entered followed by Tim. Both stopped dead in their tracks when they saw a living room full of children.

Milo walked right over to them. “Who is you?” he asked.

“Tony,” Tony answered unable to process why all these kids might be in his boss’s house. “Who are you and why are you naked?”

“I’m Milo and I’m not nakie,” the little boy said. “I got my undies on.” He snapped the waistband of his underwear and smiled proudly.

“I see,” Tony said. “Who’s in charge around here?”

“Hey guys,” Sam said coming out of the kitchen. “Can I get you two something to eat? We just finished lunch.”

“No thank you,” Tim said while Tony shook his head and banished all thoughts of food from his mind.

“What’s going on here?” Tony asked. “Where’s Boss Man and where did all these kids come from?”

“Jethro’s upstairs,” Sam answered. “We’re going to be fostering the kids. He needs your help putting some beds together. You two don’t look so hot. Are you okay?” she asked as she felt both their cheeks.

“We’ll live,” Tim said looking as if he might vomit any minute.

“Maybe,” Tony added.

The two headed upstairs and found Gibbs in what used to be the guest room surrounded by the pieces of a bed. The twins’ beds wouldn’t be turned into bunk beds until they were older. Gibbs didn’t trust either of them on the top bunk, not even with the safety bar.

“Hey guys,” Gibbs said. “I could use a little help putting these beds together, if you two are up to it.” He stood from the floor, lifted Tony’s hat partially then removed the young man’s sunglasses before doing the same to Tim. “You two look like hell. What’s going on?”

“Nothing Boss,” Tony answered. The head slap he received felt like a bolt of lightning passing through his brain. “Ow,” he grumbled rubbing the back of his head.

Gibbs stood quietly, waiting for an answer. He knew both of them had hangovers and most likely headaches considering their attempts to block the light out. Both looked like they might vomit at any given moment but he wouldn’t tolerate being lied to.

Before either had a chance to explain, Sam entered the room with a large glass of water and a hand full of pills. “Hold your hands out,” she said. When they boys obeyed she put a couple aspirin in each of their hands then gave them the water. “There’s no cure for a hangover but the aspirin will help your heads and you two need to stay hydrated.”

“Thanks,” Tim said after swallowing his pills.

“Yeah, thanks,” Tony added. He was a little surprised to find Sam mothering them and being so nurturing. He was starting to like her more and more every day.

Sam disappeared and Tony and Tim were left alone to face Gibbs. It was clear he wasn’t going to do anything until he got an explanation and both knew there was no way he was going to let them off the hook. Any attempts to deceive him would just be met with more head slaps.

“I just, I keep seeing that kid’s body,” Tony confessed, “all blue and purple and—dead. He was so little and helpless and he was a person, he had a name and a mom and a dad. He was alive an hour before we showed up and everything was normal. I don’t know what’s wrong with me, Boss. Whenever I close my eyes, whenever I’m alone, whenever my mind’s not occupied with something else… I just thought maybe a little alcohol would take the edge off. It was stupid, I know and you don’t have to say it, I had a lot more than a little alcohol.”

“What about you, Tim?” Gibbs asked.

“Pretty much the same as Tony,” Tim answered, “only for me it’s the mother’s screams. I keep thinking about all four of us having to force her into the back of your car so you could take her to the hospital. The look of— I don’t even know what on her face, her crying out for her baby. I can’t get it out of my head.”

“I wish you two would’ve come to me before you went to the bar and got plastered,” Gibbs said, “but I understand why you didn’t. We’re men, we’re strong, we don’t have problems, don’t have weaknesses but the truth is, we really do. I take some responsibility for this. I lead by example and I’ve never been good at teaching you guys how to deal with your emotions when it comes to stuff like this. Truth is I don’t really know how but bottling them up or trying to drown them in a vat of alcohol is not the answer.”

“We know, Boss,” Tony said.

“We don’t blame you,” Tim added.

“I want both of you, on your own, to go see Cranston,” Gibbs said. “Talk to her about whatever you need to talk to her about. Work on getting’ your heads on straight again. You’ve got a week and I will be checking to make sure you went.”

“Got it, Boss,” Tony said.

“Understood,” Tim said.

“We don’t have to do a lot of hammering to get these together, do we?” Tony asked. He wasn’t sure if his head could handle that.

“No, there’s a lot of screws but no hammering,” Gibbs answered.

///////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////

Gracie clomped around the living room wearing Gibbs’ hiking boots and one of the princess dresses Sam had bought for her earlier that day. The girls had stumbled on an indoor yard sale at one of the local churches and made out with quite a few toys for a very good price. Jaycee was sitting in front of Sam on the floor letting Sam play with her hair. Kylee was in front of Jaycee letting her big sister do the same while she did her baby doll’s hair. The twins were watching an interactive movie, dancing with the characters on the TV, helping them count and find things on the screen and answering the questions they were asked.

Gibbs thanked Tony and Tim for all their help then sent them on their way. He’d invited them to stay thinking the kids might help take their minds off things but both guys just wanted to go home and go to bed and sleep off the rest of their hangover. Gibbs swung one leg over Sam and sat down on the couch directly behind her.

“Did you guys get done up there?” Sam asked.

“Mm-hmm,” Gibbs said watching as she braided Jaycee’s hair.

“How are the guys doing?” Sam asked.

“I think a good night’s sleep will get ‘em back on their feet,” Gibbs said with a sigh.

“Are they having trouble with the case you worked last week?” Sam asked.

“Yeah,” Gibbs answered. “They’ll be okay though.”

“What about you?” Sam asked. “How are you doing? I know it wasn’t easy for you either.”

Gibbs laughed slightly as he leaned back against the couch. “Stay outta my head,” he teased.

“One of these days you’re going to have to deal with all those feelings you keep bottled up inside of you,” Sam said.

“Well, that day is not today,” Gibbs said. The twins’ movie ended and they wandered over to where Gibbs and Sam were talking while the girls did each other’s hair. “Look at you guys,” Gibbs said admiring their new clothes, “little baseball all-stars.” Both boys smoothed out their shirts and stood as tall as they could so Gibbs could see them better.

“We need to run out and get them some pull-ups,” Sam said. “They’re having a little bit of diarrhea and they can’t always make it to the bathroom.”

“I’ll run out and get some,” Gibbs said. “I’ll even take them with me. I’m gonna stop by and check on Ziva on my way back. I want to make sure she’s doing okay.”

“Alright,” Sam said. “I’ll have dinner ready when you guys get back.”

Gibbs leaned down and kissed the top of her head, got the boys ready then they headed out.

The twins were oblivious to any danger as they walked through the busy parking lot towards the store. Gibbs held their hands and kept them away from passing cars while they stomped on leaves, kicked rocks and splashed in puddles. There were quite a few shoppers at that time of the afternoon so Gibbs got a cart to put the boys in. He only had two hands and wouldn’t be able to hang onto the boys while carrying anything else.

“We don’t wanna get in there,” Lucas said.

“It’s no fun,” Milo added.

“If you guys behave yourselves you can walk with me,” Gibbs said. “If not you’re gonna have to get in the cart. I only have but so many hands. Deal?”

“Deal,” both agreed.

Despite their deal with Gibbs, the boys were having a difficult time in the store. They waved and said hello to every person they passed and stopped to talk to others. It was clear they hadn’t been taught not to talk to strangers. Gibbs was pretty sure he was going to know the name of every customer in the store by the time they left. They were also easily distracted by the big, colorful displays spread out through the store. They had to stop and check each one of them out.

Gibbs was patient with them until they decided they were tired of wearing their clothes and started stripping in the middle of the aisle. Luckily Lucas only managed to get his shoes off and Milo his shirt. Gibbs redressed them then put them in the cart which neither were happy about.

As he pushed them around the store, the boys pretended they were in jail, pressing their little faces against the bars of the cart and doing their best to look sad and pathetic. Some of the other customers were amused by the show while others gave dirty looks. Gibbs didn’t mind as long as the boys weren’t bothering anyone and kept their clothes on.

With the boys out of trouble, Gibbs decided to do a little shopping of his own. After getting the pull-ups he headed to the men’s clothing section and grabbed a pack of undershirts and some socks for himself then stumbled across a t-shirt that said ‘Lead me not into temptation… I can find it myself’ which he couldn’t resist getting for Tony.

It wasn’t until they got to the front of the store to check out that Gibbs realized how the boys had been occupying their time. As he was putting his items up on the counter for the cashier to ring up, he came across a couple items he hadn’t added to the cart. He still might not have noticed had it not been for the red lingerie the twins had grabbed. His cheeks turned a light shade of red as he held the undergarment up. He realized he couldn’t turn his back for even a second with them.

“Alright, funny guys,” he said, “who’s this for? You got a girlfriend somewhere that you’re not telling me about?” Both boys covered their mouths and giggled.

“Did you guys help your papa with the shopping?” the cashier asked as she took the lingerie and set it aside.

“Papa?” Milo said cocking his head at Lucas. They’d never had a papa before. Was Gibbs their papa? Things just kept getting better and better. Now they had a nice house, warm clothes, yummy food, fun toys and a papa.

“Papa!” Lucas said with a wide grin.

Gibbs winked at the twins before picking through the items and sorting out what he wanted to purchase and what they’d added without his knowledge. He apologized to the cashier for the inconvenience but she only had good things to say about the two little cuties in the shopping cart.

When they were done at the store, Gibbs headed over to Ziva’s house. After seeing what rough shape Tony and Tim were in, he wanted to check on her and making sure she was doing okay. He saw her car in the parking lot and knew she was home so he got the twins out and headed up to her apartment. He let the boys knock on her door.

“Gibbs,” Ziva said surprised, “is something wrong? Did I miss your call?” She pulled out her phone and looked at it to make sure it was working.

“Nope,” Gibbs said, “didn’t call, just stopped by to check on you.”

“Check on me?” Ziva asked. “I’m uh, I’m fine. And who might these little cuties be?”

“I’m Milo,” Milo said, “and he’s Lucas.”

“Stop it, Milo!” Lucas said with a scowl. “I wanted to tell her.”

“You can still tell her, Bud,” Gibbs said patting his head.

“My name is Lucas,” the little boy proudly.

“It is very nice to meet you,” Ziva said with a cheery smile. “I’m Ziva.”

“Sam and I are gonna be fostering them and their sisters,” Gibbs explained. “We had to run to the store and pick up a few things and I wanted to stop by and make sure you were doing okay after last week’s case.”

“I’m fine,” Ziva said. “Abby and I went out last night and had a girl’s night. The case was difficult but I’m handling it.”

“Let me know if you need anything,” Gibbs said. “I’m gonna get these two home, get some dinner in ‘em.”

“Gibbs,” she waited for him to turn and face her once again before continuing, “thanks for caring. It’s nice to know I’m allowed to be human and have a moment of weakness. It’s also nice to know that I have someone who thinks I’m important enough to drive all the way over to my apartment on a Saturday night just to make sure I’m okay.”

Gibbs wrapped his arms around Ziva and pulled her into a hug. He knew her own father didn’t care if she lived or died. Eli had never treated her like a daughter, she was his soldier and soldiers were expendable. Gibbs could see past the tough warrior to the fragile little girl on the inside. The girl who was searching for unconditional love, the love her father should’ve given her along. She was precious to Gibbs and he cared for her like she was his own.

“I love you, Ziver,” he whispered, “and I’ll always be here for you.”

Ziva smiled when he kissed the top of her head. She knelt down in front of the boys and smiled at them. “It was very nice to meet you guys. I hope to see you again soon.”

The boys smiled and waved goodbye then followed Gibbs back out to the car. When they arrived back at the house Sam was still working on dinner. Lucas walked into the kitchen swinging the bag filled with their purchases around and around followed by his twin.

“We’re back,” Milo announced dramatically.

“Thanks for the warning,” Sam joked, taking the bag from Lucas. Gibbs followed the boys in and peeked in the pans on the stove. “Spaghetti and meatballs,” Sam said. “I figured it’d be easy. It’s almost ready.”

“Smells delicious,” Gibbs said. He heard heavy footsteps behind him and turned to see Gracie still walking around in his hiking boots. She smiled sweetly at him and he rubbed his hand over her head as she strolled by.

“Gracie, guess what!” Lucas said.

“We have a papa now!” Milo said.

Gracie stopped walking and looked at the boys with eyes full of wonder. “Who? Where?”

“Him,” Lucas said pointing at Gibbs. “The lady at the store sayed he was our papa.”

Gracie looked up at Gibbs and grinned. She’d always wanted a papa. “Let’s go tell Kylee!” Gracie said moving as fast as she could in the boots that were about ten sizes too big.

Gibbs told Sam what the boys had done to him in the store while he got plates and silverware out of the cabinet. Sam was roaring with laughter, wishing she could’ve been there to see for herself. She hadn’t had any trouble or anywhere near as much excitement shopping with the girls. It wasn’t long before Milo was back in the kitchen.

“A’cuse me, Lady,” he said patting on Sam’s leg.

“My name is Sam,” she told him lifting him up into her arms. “What do you need?”

“Are you our new mom?” he asked. “Everybody wants to know but they was too ‘fraid to ask you.”

“Well, I guess in a way I am kind of am like your new mom,” Sam said. “I’m going to take care of you and love you as if you were my children.”

“Okay,” Milo said satisfied with the answer. “I will go tell them.”

“Can you also tell them to wash up for dinner?” Sam asked as she stood him on the floor.

“Uh-huh,” Milo called out as he raced back towards the living room.

///////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////

Bedtime came much earlier than the previous night. The kids were bathed and put to bed after a story. Nightlights were turned on so Lucas and Kylee wouldn’t be scared; neither liked the dark. Jaycee had decided to go to bed at the same time as the little ones. She was just as tired as they were and it was nice to have a warm bed and know that the cops weren’t going to raid the house or her mother’s boyfriend wasn’t going to try to sneak in her room. With the promise of living with Gibbs and Sam, she could sleep in complete peace for the first time in her life which was also a relief to Gibbs and Sam. They wanted the teenager to be able to relax and have fun for a change. She’d been saddled with adult responsibilities for far too long.

Gibbs and Sam sat on the couch after the kids had gone to bed and drank their coffee. It wasn’t yet 9:00 and all was quiet. Both knew they better enjoy it while it lasted. Once the kids settled in and caught up on their rest, things would be wild and bedtime wouldn’t come and go so easily.

“I want to do this with you, Jethro,” Sam said quietly. She’d been thinking about it all day. Yes, he needed the help but more than that she desired to be with him. She wanted to raise the kids together. She wanted to take care of them together when they were sick, feed them, clothe them, cheer for them at their ball games, be happy with them and sad with them and teach them how to survive in the harsh world. There had been many nights that she’d cried herself to sleep over never having children. She’d wanted them so bad but she refused to bring any into the world to be terrorized by her monster of a husband.

The things her husband had put her through were unspeakable and it still haunted her to that day. She’d started shutting people out in an attempt to protect herself, especially men but Gibbs was different. He didn’t let her hide behind the walls she’d constructed so carefully but he didn’t push her either. He was always there when she needed him but not overbearing. She wondered if she actually might be falling in love with him but the thought scared her to death.

Gibbs reached over and took Sam’s hand in his as he sat quietly. She all but climbed into his lap as she cuddled up to him. He made her feel safe, secure and loved. “Are we crazy for wanting to do this?” he asked. “I mean, we don’t know anything about these kids and there are a lot more of them than there are of us.”

“Life is an adventure,” Sam said. “These kids needed help and you’ve opened your home to them. I don’t think that’s crazy at all. I’d call that heroic.”

Gibbs kissed Sam’s temple and squeezed her tight against him. He was thankful she’d come into his life. She was a great friend and confidant. He knew they could accomplish anything together.

Chapter Text

Gibbs hoped the kids’ checkups wouldn’t turn into an all day affair. He was grateful Ducky was willing to sacrifice his Sunday morning. He’d repay him with a steak dinner after things calmed down a little bit. His steak was legendary around NCIS. Tony said it could stop wars. The young agent was always trying to figure out his secret. The funny thing was the secret wasn’t much of a secret. Yes, the spices and beer helped give the meat a unique flavor but what really made it stand out was cooking it in the fireplace. The reason Tony could never achieve the same perfection was because gas stoves and charcoal grills weren’t the same as wood burning fireplaces.

Gibbs smiled to himself as he thought about it. Maybe he’d leave Tony the secret in his will, although part of him wanted to be standing nearby so he could see the look on the young man’s face when he learned what the secret was but there was time to figure all that out later. His current task was making sure all his little ones were healthy.
Milo and Lucas were the self-appointed welcoming committee and were there to greet Ducky as soon as he walked into the house.

“Who is you?” Milo asked.

“Yeah, what’s your name?” Lucas asked.

“I’m Dr. Mallard but my friends call me Ducky,” Ducky answered.

“Ducky,” Lucas repeated.

“That’s a silly name!” Milo said.

“It is, rather,” Ducky said. “And who might you two be?” The twins introduced themselves as Gibbs came out from the kitchen to greet his friend.

“The easiest way to tell them apart is this scar on Lucas’ forehead,” Gibbs said showing Ducky the mark.

“Oh my,” Ducky said as he took a closer look. “What happened there?”

“I gotted hitted with a beer bottle and my head gotted broken,” Lucas said.

Ducky looked up at Gibbs in shock, wondering if the little boy was telling the truth. Gibbs shrugged his shoulders. He had no idea how Lucas got the scar but he wouldn’t be surprised in the least if that was in fact what had happened.

“Alright guys,” Gibbs said getting the attention of all the kids who were happily playing in the living room. “This is Dr. Mallard. Everybody calls him Ducky. He’s going to give everybody a checkup.”

“Are you a real doctor?” Jaycee asked suspiciously.

“Yes,” Ducky said with a slight chuckle, “I can assure you I am.”

“Why don’t we go first, Jaycee,” Sam suggested.

“Are you coming too?” Jaycee asked. She didn’t mind being examined by a doctor but didn’t want to go upstairs with a strange man she didn’t know.

“I sure am, Honey,” Sam said.

Ducky, Sam and Jaycee headed up to Gibbs’ bedroom while Gibbs stayed in the living room with the other kids. He helped Gracie put her poufy, pink tutu on. The four year old added a large, floppy hat and a purple feather boa to her ensemble. She didn’t match at all but she was happy. She obviously loved playing dress up. She retrieved Sam’s shoes from the entryway to complete her look. The twins were busy driving their fire trucks all over the living room while Kylee sat quietly playing with the Legos. Out of all the kids she was the quietest and could easily be overlooked if the others were running around wild but Gibbs wasn’t going to let that happen. He sat down on the floor to build with her.

After Jaycee was done she came down and sent Kylee up. Sam stayed upstairs to help Ducky. The kids knew her and trusted her and although she and Gibbs knew Ducky wasn’t going to do anything to harm them, they wanted the kids to be comfortable during the exam.

Jaycee wandered around the living room before stopping in front of the bookcase. “Is it okay if I read one of your books?” she asked.

“Sure,” Gibbs said, “I don’t know if there’s anything up there you’d be interested in but you’re welcome to look. If you want we can go to the library later today.”

“I don’t have a library card,” Jaycee said already browsing the books.

“We’ll get you one,” Gibbs said.

“Really?” Jaycee asked stopping to face Gibbs.

“Yeah, of course,” Gibbs said.

“Thanks!” Jaycee said turning back to the books with a smile on her face. They’d never stayed in one place long enough for her to have a library card before and although she loved to read all the money either went to support her mother’s drug habits or buy food.

It wasn’t long before Kylee returned to playing Legos with Gibbs and Gracie was sent upstairs. The only noise in the living room was the twins’ fire engine sounds until an ear piercing scream coming from upstairs interrupted what everybody was doing. Gibbs was up in an instant racing up the stairs followed by Jaycee. He pushed his bedroom door open and found Gracie in Sam’s lap throwing a fit.

“The shot’s all over, Gracie,” Sam said calmly. “You can relax now.”

“But I didn’t feel it!” Gracie cried.

“That’s because you were screaming, Silly,” Sam said before dropping a kiss on her head.

Gracie opened her eyes to find a Bugs Bunny band-aid where the needle had been and had a miraculous recovery. Gibbs and Jaycee returned to the living room after Ducky explained that Gracie had just been upset about being poked with a needle to give a blood sample. When they got back to the living room they realized the twins had rammed Kylee’s Lego building and the little girl was not happy about it.

“Hey you stupid boys, you ran over our house!” Kylee scolded.

“They’re a handful,” Jaycee said, frustrated with their misbehavior. She didn’t want Gibbs to get annoyed and throw them out. “You can’t leave them alone for a second.”

“It’s alright,” Gibbs said, “they’re just being kids. Boys, why did you knock over the buildings Kylee and Gracie built?”

“We was just lookin’ for fires,” Milo said innocently.

“The girls worked hard on those all morning,” Gibbs said. “How would you feel if they broke something you made?”

“I would be angry!” Milo said. The little boy had fire in his eyes just thinking about it.

“Do you think Kylee might be angry that you guys broke something she made?” Gibbs asked.

Milo and Lucas looked at each other and realization seemed to hit. “We are sowwy,” Milo said.

“We will help them build it again,” Lucas added.

“I think that would be very nice,” Gibbs said, “but you need to tell Kylee you’re sorry because it was her house.”

“We is sowwy, Kylee,” Lucas said.

“We will fix it,” Milo said.

“Hey, wanna build a house for your fire trucks too?” Kylee asked.

“We can do that?” Milo asked squatting to help rebuild the destroyed building.

“Yeah, we got lots of Legos,” Kylee said.

The kids got to work building and rebuilding and Gibbs laid down on his side to help them while Jaycee went back to looking through the books.

Gracie came downstairs when Ducky was done with her and was thrilled to see Gibbs lying on the floor playing. Her Mommy never had time to play them. She was always busy with her boyfriends or passed out from too many drugs or too much alcohol. The twins went upstairs together for their checkup and Gracie sat down next to Gibbs and watched as he worked on the firehouse for one of the twin’s trucks.

“I sure could use some help with this,” Gibbs said when he saw Gracie watching him. “Gracie, do you think you could help me?”

Gracie was honored to be asked and nodded her head eagerly. Gibbs scooted her over in front of him and they worked on finishing the fire station together.

//////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////

Ducky was gone long enough for Gibbs and Sam to get the kids fed and the youngest three put down for a nap when there was another knock at the door. Gibbs could tell just by the persistent rhythm of the knocking that it was Abby.

“You had five kids here and didn’t tell me?!” Abby scolded before Gibbs barely got the door open. She playfully smacked his shoulder and gave him her best glare but she was having a hard time hiding her smile.

“I’ve been a little busy here, Abs,” Gibbs said rubbing his shoulder.

“Ducky called and asked me to run some blood work on them,” the forensic scientist explained. “I wanted to stop by and meet them first.”

“Come on in,” Gibbs said as he stepped aside. “Jaycee and Kylee are in the living room. The other three are upstairs taking a nap.”

“Look who’s here!” Sam said when Abby came into the living room.

Abby smiled and waved. “Hi guys, I’m Abby.”

“This is Jaycee,” Gibbs said indicating the teenager, “and this little lady is Kylee. Girls, this is Abby. She works for me.”

“You girls are gonna love Abby,” Sam said as she stood and wrapped her arm around the Goth. “She’s all kinds of fun. How are you doing?”

“I’m good, as always, well, almost always” Abby said wrapping her arm around Sam. “Anyways, I had to stop by and say hello. It’s so nice to meet you guys.”

“My name is Kylee,” Kylee said.

“Hi Kylee,” Abby said kneeling down to the five year old’s level. “Is it okay if I give you a hug?”

Kylee shrugged her shoulders and before she knew it she was enveloped in a hug. Abby sat down on the couch between Sam and Gibbs with Kylee in her lap. She had a hard time getting Jaycee to open up so she talked to Gibbs and Sam while Kylee admired her tattoos. Jaycee was still having a hard time trusting people. After Kylee was done looking at Abby’s tattoos she crawled into Gibbs’ lap and pulled his shirt sleeves up.

“Whatcha doin’, Babe?” he asked.

“Lookin’ for your tattoos,” Kylee said.

“I don’t have any tattoos, Sweet Pea,” Gibbs said. “I think Abby has enough for all of us.”

“I’ll go with you if you wanna get a tat, Gibbs,” Abby offered. “I’ll help you pick it out and hold your hand while they do it and everything!”

“I think I’ll pass,” Gibbs said with an amused smirk.

“Aw, you’re no fun,” Abby said with a grin. “I should probably get going. Ducky’s waiting for me. It was so nice to meet you guys.”

“It’s always nice to see you, Abby,” Sam said.

“It’s always fun to visit,” Abby said giving Sam a hug. “I’ll see you tomorrow,” she said as she hugged Gibbs.

Gibbs kissed her cheek before letting her go. “Put a Caf-Pow on my tab for working today,” he said.

“I will,” Abby said. She waved goodbye then got in her car and headed for the Navy Yard.

//////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////

After the little ones woke up, Gibbs and Sam decided to take everyone to the library. They wouldn’t all fit in one car so Sam took Kylee and the twins with her and Gibbs took Jaycee and Gracie with him.

“Do you have a driver’s license?” he asked Jaycee.

“Yeah,” Jaycee answered.

“Wanna drive?” Gibbs offered.

Jaycee’s face lit up. She couldn’t believe it. “You really mean it?” she asked.

“Wouldn’t have asked if I didn’t mean it,” Gibbs said handing her the car keys. “Come on.”

Jaycee followed Sam and got them to the library with no problem at all. Once inside the teenager was like a kid in a candy shop. After one of the librarians showed her how to use the computer to search for books there was no stopping her. While Jaycee scavenged the shelves, Gibbs and Sam helped the younger kids pick out some books. It didn’t take long for Gracie to get bored. She wandered aimlessly around the children’s section singing.

Gibbs caught up to her and scooped her into his arms. “What are you doing, Sweet Pea?” he asked.

“Singin’ songs,” Gracie answered.

“This is a library, Babe,” Gibbs whispered. “We’ve got to be kind of quiet. People are trying to read.”

“But I don’t know how to read,” Gracie said.

“Shh,” Gibbs said with his finger to his lips, “whisper. Let’s find a book and we’ll read it together.”

Gibbs put the four year old down and followed her up and down a few aisles. She hummed as she went, her little finger skimming along the books on the shelves. She stopped at random, pulled out the book her finger was resting on and handed it to Gibbs.

“This one!” she said happily.

Gibbs sat down in a bean bag chair in the reading area and settled Gracie in his lap. While he read Gracie ran her hands over his arms. She poked at the few freckles and scars she found and messed up the hair on his arms so she could straighten it out again. She wasn’t too interested in the story but she loved the attention.

Gibbs ran his hand over her loosely curled strawberry blonde hair as he read quietly to her. Gracie planted her head in his chest and looked up at him. He smiled down at her and kissed her forehead.

“You’re not really interested in this story, are you?” he asked.

Gracie shrugged and put her hands on his cheeks. Gibbs rested his hands on top of hers and smiled down at the little girl.
“You’re just wantin’ some attention, huh?” he asked. He abandoned the story and let Gracie play with his hands. She measured her hand against his then traced his fingers and the veins going up his arms.

“Are you really our papa now, like Milo and Lucas said?” she asked.

“Yeah, kind of,” Gibbs answered. “You guys are gonna live with me and I’m gonna take care of you.”

“Till Mom comes back?” Gracie asked.

“I don’t know if Mom’s coming back, Sweet Pea,” Gibbs said.

“But she always comes back,” Grace said looking up at Gibbs. “She loves us.”

“Mom doesn’t love you, Gracie,” Jaycee said. “If she did, she never would’ve never abandoned us.”

“Nu-uh!” Gracie challenged. “She loves us, she said so!”

“Mom said a lot of things,” Jaycee replied. Talking about her mother was clearly a sore spot for the teenager. She harbored a lot of anger towards the woman.

“Your mom needs help, guys,” Gibbs said. “She needs to get herself healthy before she can take care of any of you.”

“I don’t care what she does, I’m never lettin’ her get her hands on the little kids again,” Jaycee said firmly. “Of course there’s nothing stopping her from havin’ a bunch more kids. She’s so irresponsible.”

“Life’s not fair, Jaycee, and you have every right to be angry,” Gibbs said. “All you can do is make the best with what you’re given, learn from your mistakes and from other’s mistakes and try to do better.”

“There you guys are,” Sam said. “Are you ready to blow this joint?”

“Yeah, are you ready ta blow this joint?” Milo repeated.

“Yep,” Gibbs said. “Let’s get out of here.”

Gibbs helped Jaycee sign up for a library card then they checked out all the books they’d chosen. After that they piled into the cars and headed back to the house. Jaycee immediately started reading one of the many books she’d picked. Sam started in on the mountain of laundry that had accumulated almost overnight and Gibbs got the coffee going.

Sam carried a basket full of whites through the living and found Milo and Lucas shedding their clothes. “Don’t you two ever wear clothes?” she asked. “What are you doing?”

“We’s home now,” Milo said.

“So we’s taking our clothes off!” Lucas explained.

Whatever unique connection people suspected twins of having, Milo and Lucas definitely had it. They seemed to share one brain. The two were always together, finished each other’s thoughts and seemed to share likes and dislikes. This was Gibbs and Sam’s first time dealing with identical twins and both were learning quickly but it seemed they weren’t learning quick enough. So far the twins seemed to always be one step ahead of them.

“Leave your underwear on, boys,” Gibbs instructed as he walked into the living room and sat down on the couch next to Jaycee.

“How come?” Milo asked.

“Because it’s the polite thing to do,” Gibbs answered.

“What’s plight?” Lucas asked.

“Po-lite,” Gibbs said annunciating each syllable. “It means nice.”

Lucas looked at Milo and scratched his head. “Are we plight?” he asked as quietly as he could which ended up being not very quiet at all.

Milo shrugged his shoulders at his brother. “Uh, I think that we are,” he said.

The boys nodded at each other then turned back to Gibbs. “Okay,” Milo said, “we’s polite boys.”

“We will leave our undies on,” Lucas said.

Gibbs smiled up at Sam who was shaking her head. The afternoon was spent doing housework while the kids played. Milo and Lucas may have been convinced that boys didn’t wear clothes but apparently it was okay to play dress up. The two found fireman jackets in the dress up clothes Sam had bought and spent the afternoon driving their fire trucks all over the house. Gracie and Kylee kept busy taking care of their baby dolls while Jaycee read.

All was peaceful in the house until everyone sat down for dinner and two of the kids discovered broccoli on their plates. Milo threw a fit, complaining that he didn’t like any vegetables and Gracie adamantly refused to eat anything green. The other kids devoured their chicken, rice and broccoli but when they were done and ready to go play, Milo and Gracie were left at the table staring at their vegetables.

“You guys didn’t even try it,” Sam said. “I bet if you taste it, you’ll like it.”

“Nu-uh,” Milo said crossing his arms defiantly in front of his chest. “You’re trickin’ us again!”

“Come on you guys,” Jaycee said. “Remember a couple nights ago when we were sitting in the rain eating soggy sandwiches? We should be thankful.”

Gracie thought about what Jaycee was saying and decided it wouldn’t be so bad to try just one piece. Everybody else had eaten it and they seemed to be okay. She looked at the vegetable warily before picking a piece up between her thumb and forefinger. After examining it closely, she put it in her mouth. Sam had to work hard to keep from laughing at her facial expressions but the four year old finally managed to get it down. Satisfied that she’d given it a try, Sam sent her off to play with the others.

“Come on, Milo,” Gibbs said. “It’s just you, Buddy.”

“Nu-uh,” Milo said. “I ain’t doin’ it. Nobody’s trickin’ me.”

“You know what,” Gibbs said, “broccoli makes you big and strong. It’ll give you muscles.”

Milo looked at Gibbs skeptically and shook his head. He didn’t believe him for a second.

“If you don’t eat your broccoli, Milo, you can’t have any dessert tonight,” Sam said. “I’m sorry but that’s just the way it has to be.”

“No dessert?” Milo asked. Sam knew that didn’t make him happy and was sure she’d won him over. “What is for dessert?”

“Chocolate chip cookies,” Sam said.

Milo put his finger to his lips, contemplating his next move. He really wanted some of those cookies. He decided not to let a piece of broccoli get in his way. He carefully picked through the pieces on his plate and found the smallest one. After smelling it and licking it, he finally put it in his mouth. They weren’t sure if he was actually going to get it down but he finally chewed it up and swallowed it. After a long drink of water he hurried into the living room to play with the others.

Once the vegetable eating drama was over, it was time to start baths. With five kids to get through it would take awhile. Sam continued working on the laundry while Gibbs took Gracie and Kylee up first. He knew the boys would put up a fight so he decided to do the girls first.

Both girls were fairly self-sufficient in the tub. Gibbs helped them with their hair, faces and backs then sat back and kept an eye on them while they finished up. Keeping up with the kids all weekend was wearing him out. He was happy to have a break. When they were done they got themselves out, dried themselves off and got their pajamas on.

“Is it bedtime?” Kylee asked as Gibbs brushed her hair.

“Not yet, Baby,” Gibbs said. “We’re gonna watch a movie before bed but first the twins need a bath.”

“Them don’t like baths,” Gracie said.

“I’ve noticed,” Gibbs said. He wasn’t looking forward to arguing with them. It was complicated by the fact that there were two of them and only one of him. He knew he was going to end up wet and he guessed it would turn into a wrestling match when he tried to wash them. He loved both boys but they were a handful.

“Are you sleepy?” Gracie asked when she caught Gibbs yawning.

“Just a little bit,” Gibbs said. “Are you sleepy?”

“Nope,” Gracie said with a big grin.

“Of course you’re not,” Gibbs said lifting her up and kissing her head. He picked Kylee up in his other arm and carried the girls downstairs.

Sam dumped a basket of clean clothes fresh out of the dryer in the recliner. She could tell just by looking at Gibbs how tired he was. “Jethro, come here for a minute. I need you to do something for me.”

“Hmm? I’ve got to get these boys in the tub,” Gibbs said as he stopped in front of her.

“Sit,” Sam said patting his chest. “You relax, I’ll take care of the boys tonight.”

“Are you sure?” Gibbs asked. “I can do it.”

“I know you can,” Sam said, “but I’ll do bath time. You take a minute to catch your breath.”

As soon as the boys heard the ‘B’ word in association with them they stopped what they were doing and looked at each other then looked back at Sam. Hadn’t she learned yet that they were boys and boys didn’t take baths? Before they could plot their escape they found themselves in Sam’s arms, being carried upstairs.

“Hey, put us down!” Lucas demanded

“We are boys and boys don’t take baffs!” Milo said trying to wiggle free.

“So you’ve said,” Sam said. “Unfortunately I’m the Mom and I make the rules. Tonight’s rule is you two little munchkins have to take a bath then we’ll have some milk and cookies and watch a movie and before you ask, yes, I’m tricking you.”

Neither of the boys knew what to make of Sam at that point. It was almost as if she could read their minds and predict what they were going to say next and that caught them completely off guard.

“Will you guys take your fireman jackets and pull-ups off?” Sam asked as she started the water in the bathtub.

Milo and Lucas looked at each other then back at Sam. “I don’t wanna get in there,” Milo said.

“Me neither,” Lucas said. “We’s not dirty.”

“I know!” Milo said with a big smile. “We can only pretended we taked a baff!”

“Nice try, boys,” Sam said with a laugh. “The sooner we take our bath, the sooner we can have our treat and watch the movie.” She already knew the boys were easily bribed.

“Aw man!” Milo said. He scrunched his little faced up and crossed his arms angrily in front of his chest. He’d never taken that many baths before, now he had to take them all the time.

Lucas reluctantly removed what little clothing he was wearing and let Sam put him in the tub. He wasn’t quite as stubborn as his brother and he really wanted those cookies.

“What’s it gonna be, Sweet Boy?” Sam asked brushing her thumb across Milo’s cheek.

“I is not a sweet boy. I is a angry boy,” Milo growled.

“Well, I still love you bunches,” Sam said pulling him into a hug and kissing his cheek. “What do you say we take our bath real quick and then we’ll go have some cookies?”

“Fine,” Milo said, “but I is not happy ‘bout it.”

“Maybe some cookies will cheer you up,” Sam said with a wink.

Once they finally got into the tub both boys were easy to wash. They had no interest in playing, they just wanted to hurry up and get it over with. Sam made quick work of washing them, dried them off and put pull-ups on them. She didn’t even bother dressing them, the clothes would come right back off anyways.

After bath time was over, Gibbs passed out cookies and milk and Sam started the movie. She’d found a few DVDs at the yard sale for a good price. The kids cuddled with Gibbs and Sam while they watched Kung Fu Panda. Forty five minutes later Milo and Gracie were sleeping, Kylee was on the verge and Lucas wasn’t far behind.

Jaycee got in the shower while Gibbs and Sam put the little ones to bed. Once the kids were asleep, nightlights were on and all was peaceful in the house, Gibbs and Sam collapsed into an exhausted heap on the couch. Gibbs had folded the laundry and helped the kids put it away while Sam was bathing the twins so all the chores were done and it was time to relax. Gibbs and Sam were looking forward to spending some time with Jaycee. Jaycee returned downstairs after her shower and sat down in the recliner.

“Come over here and talk to us, Jaycee,” Gibbs said patting the couch between him and Sam. “How are you doing, Kiddo? How are you settling in?”

“I’m just happy my brothers and sisters are safe and fed,” Jaycee said as she sat between the adults. She was one of the most selfless teenagers Gibbs and Sam had ever met. She was constantly concerned with her siblings and always put their needs above her own.

“Talk to us about your siblings,” Sam said. “Tell us about Reagan.”

Jaycee was a little surprised to learn they knew about Reagan. She hadn’t mentioned it and didn’t think the younger kids had either. “She’s gone… dead.”

Gibbs relaxed next to the girl and made himself comfortable. He wanted the conversation to be as nonthreatening as possible. He wanted her to feel comfortable opening up and saying whatever was on her mind. “How?” he asked casually.

“Somebody killed her,” Jaycee answered. She glanced up at Gibbs and Sam to see if they were surprised. When she saw they were listening intently she continued. “One night the cops stormed the place we were staying. They took Mom away in handcuffs and put me and Reagan in one car and the little kids in another. I don’t know where they took the little kids but me and Reagan were taken to some juvenile detention center. They made us strip and sprayed us with water and some powder stuff. I don’t know what it was but it itched and burned.” A tear escaped onto Jaycee’s cheek as she spoke but she quickly brushed it away.

“Keep going, Baby,” Sam encouraged.

“Reagan and me got split up,” Jaycee said. “She had a nightmare and she was moaning and talking in her sleep and crying. Some other girl put a pillow over her face to shut her up. Reagan stopped breathing. She died and the girl who did it only got a slap on the wrist.” She shook her head as the tears started flowing freely. “I shoulda been there. Reagan died ‘cause I didn’t protect her.”

Sam wrapped her arm around Jaycee and held her close while she cried and Gibbs rubbed slow soothing circles in her back. Sam looked to Gibbs to talk to Jaycee. She knew that he knew exactly what the teenager was going through. He wasn’t there to protect his family either and he’d spent a long time blaming himself.

“Jaycee, you were exactly where you were supposed to be, Sweetheart,” Gibbs said. “We can’t control everything that happens to other people and we can’t blame ourselves for things we can’t control.”

Jaycee scoffed through her tears. Gibbs was just someone else who didn’t understand. She was the oldest. She was responsible for all of them. Reagan died because she failed her.

Gibbs brushed his hand over her hair as she rested against Sam’s shoulder. “I know you think I don’t know what I’m talking about, Kiddo, but you’re wrong. Remember when I told you I used to have a little girl?”

Jaycee nodded her head but didn’t look at Gibbs. It felt good to be surrounded by Sam’s arms with her and Gibbs stroking her hair and rubbing her back. She was always the one who had to take care of people. No one ever took care of her.

“When I was in Kuwait, serving in Desert Storm, I lost my daughter and my first wife,” Gibbs said. He didn’t usually talk about it but if it helped Jaycee then he was willing to open up. “They were murdered by a Mexican drug dealer and I was halfway around the world. For the longest time I was convinced that I’d failed them. I thought I should’ve been here to protect them but as hard as it is, I was right where I was supposed to be.”

“It’s not fair,” Jaycee muttered.

“You’re right,” Gibbs said, “it’s not fair and it’s hard but they’re gone and there’s nothing I can do about it. You know what though? They wouldn’t want me to live in the past and dwell on what happened. I betcha Reagan wouldn’t want you to do that either.”

“I don’t even know where she is,” Jaycee said. “They probably threw her away in a dump somewhere.”

“They don’t throw people away in the trash, Sweetheart,” Sam said. “Although some people on this planet have no respect for human life, there are a lot of loving, caring people out there.”

“Like you guys,” Jaycee said. She still couldn’t believe she was safe and fed and inside a warm house.

“We love you, Sweet Girl,” Sam said as she tucked her long, brown hair behind her ear.

Jaycee rested peacefully in Sam’s arms while she and Gibbs talked. She almost felt like a little girl being cuddled by her mother, something she’d never experienced before. She had two people there, two responsible adults who cared and not only were they helping her take care of her younger siblings, they were taking care of her. Part of her wished she was little again so she could have Gibbs and Sam for longer while the other part of her never wanted to revisit her childhood.

Lucas made his way down the stairs and peeked into the living room. He’d been sleeping but his tummy had started hurting so bad it woke him up and he couldn’t get back to sleep. Milo was still asleep so he was bored upstairs all by himself. The adults had weird looks on their faces though. He wondered if something bad was getting ready to happen.

“Psst,” he whispered.

Gibbs and Sam both smiled over at him. “What are you doing out of bed, Little One?” Sam asked.

“Are you mad?” Lucas asked.

“Not at all,” Gibbs answered with a reassuring smile. “Are you having trouble sleeping?”

“My tummy hurts,” Lucas said walking towards them.

“Have you tried going potty?” Sam asked, resting her hand on the little boy’s forehead.

“I goed earlier ‘fore I went asleep,” Lucas answered.

“Try going again for me then come back in here,” Sam said. “You can sit up with us for a couple minutes.” Lucas nodded and headed for the downstairs bathroom.

“You know, my grandmother used to give me a spoonful of honey when I got an upset stomach,” Gibbs said. “I wonder if that would help him.”

“Can’t hurt anything,” Sam said.

Gibbs gave Lucas a spoonful of honey when he returned from the bathroom then cuddled the little boy in his lap. Sam ran her fingers through his loose blonde curls while Lucas played with Gibbs’ fingers. He hoped that one day he would have big, strong hands just like Gibbs did.

“Close your eyes, Sweet Boy,” Sam whispered.

Lucas obeyed and nestled into Gibbs’ stomach. He listened to the soft lullaby Sam sang until he forgot about his stomachache and drifted back to sleep. The four of them sat cuddled together on the couch for awhile longer. Jaycee knew it wouldn’t be long before she fell asleep so she said goodnight, got a kiss from both Gibbs and Sam then went to bed. After she went upstairs Gibbs and Sam decided they were ready to head up to their room as well. It had been a long weekend and though it was only about 10:00 at night, it felt more like 3:00 in the morning. They were wiped out and both had to work the following day. They put Lucas to bed, got themselves ready for bed then laid down and cuddled until they fell asleep.

Chapter Text

By the time Monday morning rolled around the kids had settled in nicely. After constantly being on the move, the younger ones adapted quickly. For them Gibbs’ house was just another stop along the way. They had no concept of permanence. For Jaycee it was a second chance, a fresh start. Sam was enrolling in her in high school that morning. She’d already completed her freshman, sophomore and junior years but had dropped out after their grandmother died so she could take care of her younger siblings. Enrolling in October would put her a couple months behind but she had a real chance. She was determined to catch up and graduate with her class.

Jaycee also planned on job hunting. She wanted to do her part in helping with expenses. In reality she had little concept of money. In her mind an after school job would generate enough money for food, clothes and daycare for herself and her siblings. She just hoped there would be a little left over so she could go out with friends on occasion or maybe have a little shopping spree but that was only if the little ones had everything they needed.

Gibbs and Sam had started early that morning and had gotten all the kids dressed, fed and ready to go. Sam was dropping Kylee and Jaycee off at school on her way to work and Gibbs was taking Gracie, Milo and Lucas to NCIS with him in hopes of enrolling them in the daycare program. He hoped they had room for the kids. He felt better having them close by so he could check on them periodically throughout the day. The kids were used to running wild so Gibbs was anticipating some problems as they adjusted to having more structure in their lives.

On the drive in to work Gibbs realized he was going to have to invest in a minivan. With five kids they couldn’t all fit in one car. The end of the year was approaching and he knew car dealerships would be trying to get rid of last year’s stock so they could get the new models out. He just had to wait for the right sale and negotiate the right price. He never thought he’d be driving a minivan van around again. He still saw his busted up van, stained with his late wife and daughter’s blood in his dreams sometimes. It might be a little strange at first but this was a chance for him to make new memories.

“Vroom! Vroom!” Lucas said, his little arms straight out in front of him driving an invisible steering wheel. Milo and Gracie quickly followed suit and the car soon filled with engine sounds and honking.

Gibbs just relaxed and enjoyed the entertainment. He followed Tony into the parking lot and parked right next to him. He was happy to see his young agent looked much better than when he’d seen him on Saturday.

“Hey Boss,” Tony said as both men stepped out of their cars. “Did you bring the kids?”

“I’ve got Gracie, Milo and Lucas,” Gibbs said opening the back door.

“I’ll take one of them,” Tony offered. His hangover was gone, he’d gotten a good night’s sleep and he’d stopped by Rachel Cranston’s office on his way into work. Getting up early had been worth it because talking things out with her had helped a lot.

“Here’s Gracie,” Gibbs said handing the four year old to him.

“I ‘member you,” Gracie said. “You were at Papa’s house on another day.”

“You’re right,” Tony said, “I was.”

Gibbs got the twins out of the car and they all started towards the building.

“Are they hanging out with us today?” Tony asked hopefully. He knew he had a long day of paperwork ahead of him and it would be nice to have the kids around.

Gibbs stifled a groan at the thought of adding Tony to the mix. Things were sure to get even more wild but he’d learned to take life as it came. He tried to relax and enjoy himself as much as he could. Tony, Tim, Ziva and Abby had helped him with that. He’d somehow become their surrogate father. He was always there to pick them up when they fell, to give them advice and to love them unconditionally but the reality of the situation was he needed them just as much as they needed him.

“I’m hoping the daycare has room for them,” Gibbs said.

“In that case you’re in luck, Boss,” Tony said.

“And why is that?” Gibbs asked.

“Because I just happen to know Jessica,” Tony said with a big grin. Gibbs cocked his head at Tony in confusion. He had no clue who Jessica was. “You know, Jessica, the chick who runs the daycare program—long legs, great eyes. I can sweet talk her for you if you want.”

“Hopefully it won’t come to that,” Gibbs said as he pushed a button on the elevator.

“Maybe I should tag along just in case,” Tony said. Anything to prolong the case report he knew had to be completed that day.

The elevator dinged and the doors opened. Gibbs stepped out then looked back at Tony and motioned with his head for the young man to follow.

Tony ended up not having to work his charm on Jessica. She had plenty of room for the kids and was up to the challenge of caring for the rambunctious little ones. While Tony flirted with Jessica, Gibbs got the kids situated.

“What is this place?” Milo asked as Gibbs took his shoes off.

“This is daycare,” Gibbs answered. “You guys get to stay here and play all day.”

“You are leaving us here?” Gracie asked. “I don’t want—I want to go with you or Mommy or Jaycee. I don’t want to stay here all alone.”

“Jaycee’s at school and Mommy and I have to work,” Gibbs said. “I’m not leaving you here alone, Sweet Pea, your brothers are staying too and I’ll be back this evening to pick you up. I have a very special job for you today. I need you to keep Milo and Lucas out of trouble. Can you do that for me?”

Gracie looked at her brothers and giggled. “No,” she said. Silly Daddy, hadn’t he learned that nobody could keep the twins out of trouble?

Gibbs laughed as he leaned in and kissed the tip of Gracie’s nose. “You’re probably right about that,” he said. “Boys, I need you two to be on your best behavior. I want you to be nice boys and keep your clothes on.”

“You mean we have to be nice boys and keep out clothes on?” Lucas asked.

“I know that’s gonna be hard work for you two but I know you guys can do it,” Gibbs said.

The boys looked at each other then back at Gibbs. “Okay,” they said in unison.

Gracie, Milo and Lucas ventured out into the play area with the other children. They’d never seen so many toys in their lives. They didn’t know where to start. Gracie headed for the corner of the room where a few other girls were pretend shopping and the twins found a basket full of dinosaurs. They couldn’t believe they got to play with all those toys all day long.

With the kids occupied Gibbs smacked the back of Tony’s head then started back down the hall.

“Sorry Boss, I meant to help you I just got caught up with Jess,” Tony explained weakly.

“I want you to call Cranston first thing this morning,” Gibbs said.

“Oh, I already saw her,” Tony said with a bright smile. “We met this morning, she opened early for me. Talking to her really helped. I’m feeling better, I swear.”

Gibbs looked Tony up and down, trying to figure out if he was putting on a show or if he really was feeling better. “Alright,” he said. He accepted that the long weekend and visit to the shrink had helped but he would definitely be keeping a close eye on Tony, as well as the rest of his team.

When they made it back to the bullpen Ziva and Tim were both sipping on their coffee while they worked on their reports. Tony hadn’t been around to get them stirred up yet so both were still fairly relaxed.

“McGee, you get that situation we talked about the other day taken care?” Gibbs asked.

“I went yesterday,” Tim said making eye contact with Gibbs. “We scheduled another appointment for Thursday evening as long as I can make it.”

“You’ll make it,” Gibbs said.

“Wait a minute,” Tony said. “How’d you beat me? I went this morning so I’d be first.”

“You snooze, you lose, DiNozzo,” Tim said with a smile.

“Get back to work,” Gibbs said before things got out of hand.

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The first day back to work after the long weekend was nearly as crazy as Gibbs’ house had been all weekend. His team had had some down time and recuperated from the tragic case they’d worked the previous week and were now up to their old antics again. The clowning around was interfering with their work to the point Gibbs decided to give them an incentive to focus.

“Alright guys,” he said, “give me one more hour of hard work and I’ll go get the kids out of daycare early.” They’d been begging him all day to let them meet the kids. Although each of them had seen at least some of the kids at some point over the weekend it was only long enough to say hello.

As the work day neared its end, just before Gibbs was getting ready to head down to the daycare, he got a visitor. He recognized him immediately as the father of the little boy who’d drowned.

“I’m PFC Matheson, Sir,” he said standing in front of Gibbs’ desk.

Gibbs stood and extended his hand to the man. “PFC, how are you?”

“I’m uh, hanging in there, Sir,” Matheson said. “I just wanted to thank you for everything you did, Sir. My wife, you saved her life. I don’t know what I would’ve done if I’d lost both of them.”

“How’s she doing?” Gibbs asked.

“Better,” Matheson said. “She’s getting out of the hospital tomorrow. They’ve got her on a lot of pills and she isn’t really herself but she’s a lot calmer.”

“I’m sorry for your loss, PFC,” Gibbs said. He could see the man in front of him was near his breaking point and he knew the pain he was suffering.

“We’re having a memorial service on Wednesday,” Matheson said. “I don’t know if— I mean, just, if-if you wanted, well, you don’t have to but I was just—”

“I’ll be there,” Gibbs said.

“That would mean a lot, Sir,” Matheson said. “I should probably get over to the hospital. Her mom’s with her now but I don’t want to leave her alone for too long. Thank you for everything, Sir.”

“Hang tough, Marine,” Gibbs said.

“I will, Sir,” Matheson said. He shook hands with Gibbs one more time before following his escort back over to the elevator.

Tony, Ziva and Tim stole quick glances over at Gibbs. Cases involving kids sucked, especially the ones where the child died. Those were the worst cases for any officer of the law to take part in but it was different for Gibbs. He knew firsthand what the loss of a child was like.

“Boss?” Tony was the senior agent and always took it on himself to make sure Gibbs was okay when they were working cases like that. Gibbs was Gibbs and he was always okay but Tony made sure his mentor knew he was there is he ever needed him. It was perfectly acceptable to not be okay sometimes. Tony had spent a good part of the weekend not being okay.

“I’m fine, DiNozzo,” Gibbs said although his tone held the sadness they all felt. “Wrap it up. I’ll go get the kids.”He left them in the bullpen to finish up whatever they were doing. He needed a minute to himself, some quiet time without his team trying to analyze him. Yes, kid cases were impossibly difficult but he was perfectly capable of doing his job.

Gibbs arrived at the daycare to pick the kids up at quarter to five. That would give them an opportunity to say hello to the team but wouldn’t leave them in the bullpen for too long. Gibbs was worried about what kind of mischief they’d get into. They’d already proven that it didn’t take much.

Gracie was the first one to spot Gibbs when he walked into the daycare. “I know you,” she said with a bright smile.

“I know you too,” Gibbs said picking her up and kissing her forehead. “Did you have a fun day?”

“Lots of fun!” Gracie said. “I drawed and painted and colored and played with the princesses and goed shopping and eated food and taked a nap and played with lots of toys!”

“Sounds like you’ve been busy,” Gibbs said. “Can you go put your shoes on for me while I go get the boys?”

“Okay,” Gracie said.

Gibbs found the boys surrounded by toy doctor supplies. It appeared that they were the patients while the other kids covered them in band-aids and gauze, listened to their hearts and took their blood pressure. Milo looked like a mummy with all the gauze he was wrapped in and Lucas appeared to have broken one arm and both legs. Both of them were having the time of their lives being the center of attention.

“How were they today?” Gibbs asked Jessica who was watching the kids play doctor.

“Gracie was a perfect little angel,” Jessica said, “she got along great with the other kids, she did her lessons, took her nap.”

“And the boys?” Gibbs asked.

“Uh, they did okay,” Jessica said hesitantly. “They’re inseparable and they don’t really like to be told what to do. They did fine during free play but when it came time to do lessons it was a fight. They were a little disruptive during naptime until we agreed to let them sleep on the same cot which couldn’t have been comfortable for them. They ate their lunches and got along with the other kids but they weren’t really social like Gracie was. They kept to themselves for the most part. All in all it wasn’t a bad first day.”

“We put them to sleep in their own beds at home but they usually wake up in the same bed. We’re working on following directions,” Gibbs said. “I have noticed that they’re strong willed. To be honest, I think they’ve just been left to do whatever they want all their lives and having someone telling them what to do and when to do it is going to be an adjustment.”

“They’re more than welcome to continue coming here and we’re willing to work with them,” Jessica said. “I’m always up for a challenging case.”

“You may get more than you bargained for with this deal,” Gibbs joked. “Just promise you’ll call me if they get out of hand and I’ll come down here and talk to them or take ‘em out of here if need be. I don’t want them to disrupt your program.”

“I will,” Jessica said, “and I appreciate that. Most parents think their children are perfect little angels who never do anything wrong when in reality they behave like spoiled brats. Those are the hard cases. Milo and Lucas might be challenging but with your support I think we’re all going to do great.”

“Papa,” Milo said patting Gibbs’ leg.

“Will you be our patient?” Lucas asked.

“Not right now, guys,” Gibbs said. “It’s time to go. We’ll come back and play again tomorrow.”

“Where we’re going now?” Milo asked as Gibbs took his hand and Lucas’.

“Home,” Gibbs said.

“What one?” Lucas asked plopping down in front of his cubby where all his things were.

“The one you woke up in this morning,” Gibbs answered. “Gracie, you’ve got your shoes on the wrong feet, Sweet Pea. Can you switch them around for me?”

It didn’t take long for Gibbs to get the kids ready to go. They stopped off in the bullpen where Tony, Tim and Ziva were all packing up. They said hi to the team, explored Gibbs’ desk, asked a ton of questions then everyone walked out together. It was 5:00 and time to leave. They always took advantage of the days they could actually leave at quitting time because they were few and far between.

///////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////

The first week passed fairly easily. The kids adjusted to their new routines quickly. Gracie and the twins absolutely loved daycare. There were toys and other kids to play with, there was food, shelter from the weather and adults to give them hugs and kisses and make all their boo boos better.

Kylee’s teacher noticed such remarkable improvements in the little girl’s behavior and school work that she’d called Gibbs to tell him whatever they were doing, it was working. Kylee was actually doing her homework, talking to the other children and even starting to make friends. Gibbs had a hard time believing the teacher didn’t know Kylee was homeless and do something to help her but he knew a lot of kids slipped through the cracks. Kylee was safe and cared for now, that was what was important.

Of all the children, Jaycee was having the hardest time adjusting. All her life she’d been the mature, responsible adult, the caretaker and the boss. Although it was a relief to have help caring for her siblings, it was difficult to adjust to a group of teachers telling her what to do and when to do it. With twenty other rebellious teenagers in each of her classes, her teachers had little patience for her strong-willed, independent ways.

Her counselor on the other hand had taken a special interest in her. She was far from the loving mother figure Sam was but she pushed Jaycee and encouraged her to reach her full potential and that was something no one had ever done before. As the days went on she found herself resisting less and less and being open to the woman’s advice. The real excitement came when the counselor offered her a job at her husband’s restaurant. This was her first opportunity to acquire money and possessions the legal way and she couldn’t have been more excited. She couldn’t wait to talk to Gibbs and Sam about it that night.

///////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////

When Sam got home she found Gibbs in the girls’ bedroom on his hand and knees searching for something. She got down on her hands and knees right next to him and started looking as well.

“What are we doing?” she asked. “Are we snooping?”

Gibbs looked over at her and smirked. “No, I wouldn’t do that to any of the kids. I smell something off in here. I’m trying to figure out where the stink is coming from.”

“Thank goodness we’re doing this in the girls’ room,” Sam joked. “I hate to think about what we’d find in the boys’ room.”

Gibbs pulled a tied up grocery bag out from under Kylee’s bed and sat down on the floor with it. Sam crawled over and sat next to him as he opened it up.

“What’s in there?” she asked.

“Looks like part of a hot dog, a few French fries, a couple handfuls of that chicken and rice casserole we had last week, a few chicken nuggets and I don’t even know what this is—or was,” Gibbs said as he tied the bag up again. That was definitely what was stinking.

“Why is she hoarding food?” Sam asked. “I mean, I understand where they came from but is she still hungry? Is she afraid we’re gonna run out or just stop feeding them for some reason?”

“I don’t know, let’s ask her,” Gibbs said. “Kylee, can you come up here please?” he called.

Kylee made her way into her bedroom and saw that her stash of food had been found. She wondered if she was in trouble.

“Is this yours, Sweetie Pie?” Sam asked.

“Yeah,” Kylee said, slightly embarrassed. “I was just saving it for when the food runs out but I was gonna share with everybody.” She didn’t want them to think she was greedy.

“Come here, Baby,” Gibbs said pulling her into his lap. He kissed the top of her head as he hugged her close to him. “You don’t ever have to worry about running out of food again. There will always be more than enough for everybody.”

“Mommy! Mommy!” Milo and Lucas shouted. They’d been looking all over the house for her ever since she got home. They practically tackled her with their hugs. They wanted their hugs and kisses from her.

“I see you two are naked,” Sam said squeezing the boys tight. “Good to know I’m in the right house. Where’s your underwear?” She kissed their heads as they grinned up at her.

“But we don’t have to wear diapers anymore,” Milo said.

“That still doesn’t answer my question,” Sam said. “I don’t think the girls want to see your naked little butts running around.”

“Why not?” Lucas asked turning to try to see his butt.

“Remember we talked about being polite?” Gibbs asked. Both twins looked over at him and nodded. “Wearing clothes is the polite thing to do. We need you guys to go put some underwear on, please.”

“Aw man,” both boys whined.

Sam gave them each another kiss then sent them off with a smile. “Back to you, Little One,” she said rubbing Kylee’s head.

“Sweetheart, we can’t keep food under our bed because it’ll start getting stinky and we’ll start getting bugs and other animals we don’t want,” Gibbs said, “and we don’t want to eat this stuff anyways, Kiddo. It’s yucky, it’ll make you sick.”

“I’m sorry,” Kylee said.

“It’s okay, Baby Girl,” Sam said.

“We know you were just helping,” Gibbs said. “You wanna help me make dinner tonight?”

“Okay,” Kylee said as she nodded her head.

Sam leaned over and kissed her forehead then ran her thumb over the little girl’s cheek. “We love you, Kylee,” she said. “You’re a very special little girl.”

Gibbs rubbed her arm and kissed the top of her head. While Sam went to change out of her work clothes, Gibbs took Kylee to check on the boys and make sure they’d put some underwear on then they headed for the kitchen to start dinner. He was helping Kylee spread the tater tots out on a cookie sheet when Jaycee came hurrying into the kitchen.

“Gibbs! Gibbs!” she said excitedly.

“Hey Kiddo,” Gibbs said. “How was school? How’s Mackenzie?” Mackenzie and Jaycee had become quick friends. Mackenzie usually gave Jaycee a ride home from school but that day they’d gone to her house to study for a math test they had the following day.

“She’s good, school was good,” Jaycee said glossing over the topic. “Where’s Sam? I need to talk to you guys.”

Gibbs helped Kylee get the can opener on the can of sloppy joe sauce and open it. “She’s upstairs changing out of her work clothes. What’s going on? Is everything okay?”

“I’m fine,” Jaycee said. She was so excited that she was having a hard time talking slow enough for Gibbs to understand her. “My guidance counselor offered me a job at her husband’s restaurant. I really want to take it. Can I? Can I do it? Please?”

“That’s great, Kiddo,” Gibbs said. “Congratulations. I’ll tell you what, after we get the little ones to bed tonight, we’ll sit down together and talk about it. Okay?”

“Cool,” Jaycee said. “Thanks.”

“You’re welcome,” Gibbs said. “Can you set the table for me?”

“Welcome home, Babe,” Sam said wrapping an arm around Jaycee and kissing her temple. “How was school?”

“I had a really good day,” Jaycee said happily as she grabbed a stack of plates out of the cupboard.

Sam moved over behind Gibbs as he kept an eye on the sloppy joes. “Hi Love,” she said rubbing her hand up and down his arm. “I don’t think I’ve said hi yet, since I’ve been home.”

“Hi,” Gibbs said with a smile as he leaned in to kiss her.

Sam made a pitcher of kool-aid while she and Gibbs talked about their days. Gracie and the twins helped Jaycee set the table then they all sat down to eat together. It was clear which spots Milo and Lucas had set, they either had several forks or spoons or no silverware at all. The two never failed to entertain, even when they weren’t trying to be entertaining. Milo broke his moratorium against vegetables and ate the corn without a fight. The fact that it was still on the cob and he got to eat it with his fingers made it taste that much better and a lot more fun to eat.

Gibbs and Sam were still perfecting the art of getting the kids bathed, calmed down and in bed by their 8:00 bedtime but they were getting better at it every night. They’d figured out if they left before the boys fell asleep they’d get up and start jumping on their beds. They knew Lucas and Kylee were both afraid of the dark and needed nightlights, if they cuddled with Gracie during story time she usually went right to sleep and Milo had to have his stuffed dog tucked in next to him or he would have a meltdown. By 8:30 that night the little ones were asleep and Gibbs and Sam were sitting down to have a chat with Jaycee.

“Alright, what’s up, Kiddo?” Sam asked.

“My guidance counselor offered me a job at her husband’s restaurant,” Jaycee said. “He’ll work around my school schedule and they offered to give me a car—well, not exactly give. I have to pay the insurance and gas and they’re gonna take a little money outta each paycheck to pay for it.”

“That’s big news,” Gibbs said. “Is it something you’re wanting to do? You don’t have to worry about money anymore.”

“I want to do it,” Jaycee said. “I really wanna do it.”

Gibbs and Sam shared a look behind Jaycee’s back. “Here’s the deal, Babe,” Sam said, “if you can keep your school grades up then you can take the job but your grades have to be the priority.”

“What grades do I have to have?” Jaycee asked.

“I’m thinking 75% is fair,” Sam said. “What is that—Cs?”

Gibbs nodded his agreement. “I want to check this car out too. We’ll go on a test drive, look under the hood, figure out how much insurance is gonna cost. I want to make sure it’s gonna be a good car for you.”

“It’s a Grand Am,” Jaycee said, “red, two door.”

“Are you clear on what you need to do?” Sam asked.

Jaycee nodded, smiling from ear to ear. “Keep my grades up. I will. I promise. Thank you. Thank you guys so much!” She hugged both Gibbs and Sam then stood from the couch. “I’m gonna go finish my homework,” she said before heading to the dining room with her backpack.

Sam scooted over next to Gibbs and cuddled into him. “It’s nice to see her so excited,” she said.

“Yeah it is,” Gibbs said running his hand up and down Sam’s arm.

“Do you think it’s a good idea?” Sam asked.

“Part of me does,” Gibbs said. “I think it’ll be good motivation to keep her grades up and it’s a chance for her to learn some money management skills.”

“But?” Sam asked with a smile. She knew him well enough to know part of him was a little hesitant to agree to letting her take the job.

“But,” Gibbs repeated with a smile. He leaned down and kissed her. “But I don’t want her to be under too much pressure. I want her to relax. I want to take care of her. Her entire childhood she’s had to be the adult. I thought I could give her a break, let her be a kid for a little while.”

“Her childhood was over the minute she was born to the woman,” Sam said as she rubbed Gibbs’ chest. “She is relaxing though, she’s settling in well. I don’t think a job will hurt. It’ll give her a little money and freedom, teach her some responsibility and give her some control over her life.”

“You’re the psychologist, Doc,” Gibbs said.

“Yes, I am,” Sam said with a slight chuckle. She knew Gibbs was worried and she understood his protective nature. She kissed him then smiled at him. “We’ll keep an eye on her.”

Gibbs propped his feet up on the coffee table and held Sam tighter. Sam nestled in, reveling in the comfort his strong arms provided. Her brain may not have been ready to admit it yet but there was no denying she loved him.

“I’d like to take you upstairs and make love to you right now,” Gibbs whispered.

Sam blushed slightly, caught off guard by his remark. “Jethro, stop,” she whispered back, “wait till Jaycee goes to bed.”

Gibbs smiled as he kissed her temple then rested his chin on top of her head. It felt nice just to be with her, no case, no drama, just cuddling up together and enjoying a relaxing evening at home. Life was good.

Chapter Text

The light rain that had been falling most of Friday afternoon turned heavier and heavier as the night wore on. All was quiet and peaceful in the house until a loud crack of thunder woke the twins up. Both boys ran screaming from their room, down the dark hallway, crashed through Gibbs’ bedroom door and leapt into bed with him and Sam.

“Oof,” Gibbs grunted as two small bodies landed directly on top of him.

“Didn’t you hear them screaming?” Sam asked groggily as she lifted one of the boys off of Gibbs and settled him in the bed between them.

“I heard something,” Gibbs said settling the other right next to his twin. “I wasn’t sure if it was a dream or not until I felt the hands and knees in my gut.”

“At least they didn’t land any lower,” Sam said, her smile evident in her voice.

Gibbs cringed at the thought. “You can say that again. I might have to start wearing a cup.”

“You don’t wear cups,” Milo said. “Cups are for drinking!”

“How silly of me,” Gibbs said cuddling the toddler into his side.

Another loud clap of thunder had both Milo and Lucas trying to burrow under Gibbs and two more little bodies hurrying through the bedroom door.

“You’re okay, guys,” Gibbs said. “It’s loud but it can’t hurt ya.”

“Come on girls,” Sam said patting the bed. “There’s room for everybody.”

Kylee and Gracie didn’t waste any time climbing into bed with Gibbs, Sam and their brothers. Gibbs and Sam held the kids close and soothed them until the thunder slowed and the storm passed. Sam sang a soft lullaby while she and Gibbs rubbed backs and bellies and the kids were soon asleep again in a tangled mess of arms and legs.

Gibbs raised himself up in the bed enough he could look over at Sam. A flash of lightening illuminated his face. “Should we put them back in their own beds?” he asked.

“Nah,” Sam whispered, “they can sleep with us for one night.” She reached her arm around the kids and rested it on Gibbs’ pillow and ran her fingers through his hair until they both fell asleep again.

/////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////

The rain ended early Saturday afternoon, just in time for Jaycee to leave for work. It was her first day at her new job and she was both nervous and excited. Gibbs had gone with her that morning to check out the car her guidance counselor had offered. After a test drive and a look under the hood they worked out a deal with Marcus, the counselor’s husband, and Jaycee had her first car.

Sam helped Jaycee with her hair and did everything she could to encourage her and calm her nerves while Gibbs ironed her khakis for her. The teenager got herself dressed then hurried downstairs.

“Okay, I want you to pause and take a deep breath with me,” Sam said as she stood in front of Jaycee. Jaycee did as she was told then found herself wrapped in Sam’s arms. “Whenever you feel stressed just take a minute and breathe deeply and you’ll feel better. You’re gonna do great, Baby.”

“Try to relax and just have fun, Sweetheart,” Gibbs said giving her a quick kiss on the head as he handed her the keys to her car.

“Thanks,” Jaycee said. She gave them a nervous smile and after getting a kiss goodbye from both Gibbs and Sam she headed off to work.

“I hope she has fun,” Gibbs said wrapping his arms around Sam and pulling her back against him.

“She’ll be fine,” Sam said confidently. “She just needs to relax and learn that it’s okay to make mistakes.”

“While Gracie and the boys are napping I’m gonna run out and get her a cell phone,” Gibbs said. “With her driving now I want her to have one.”

“Do you want to take Kylee with you?” Sam asked. Both Gibbs and Sam knew the importance of one on one time and how hard it could be in such a large family.

“That’s a good idea,” Gibbs said. “We won’t be too long.”

“Take your time, Love,” Sam said as she turned in his arms and pressed her lips to his.
Gibbs headed into the dining room where Kylee was drawing. “That’s a beautiful butterfly, Baby,” he said. “I like all the colors you used.”

“It’s light blue and purple and pink and yellow,” Kylee said pointing at each of the colors as she named them off. “Can I hang it on my wall, Papa?”

“You sure can, Sweetie, but let’s wait until Gracie wakes up from her nap,” Gibbs said. “I need to go to the store and pick out a cell phone for Jaycee. Do you think you could help me with that?”

“You want me to go with you?” Kylee asked.

“Uh-huh,” Gibbs said.

Kylee’s face lit up and she abandoned her drawing, took Gibbs’ hand and followed him out to the entryway to get her shoes and jacket on. After saying goodbye to Sam they were off. Kylee helped Gibbs pick out a cell phone for her sister then they stopped at a nearby bakery to get a snack. He bought a giant soft cookie to share with Kylee and some cupcakes for the others to eat later.

“How’s school going?” Gibbs asked. “Do you like your teacher?”

“Yeah,” Kylee said around a mouthful of cookie. “She’s kinda nice. The other kids are nice to me now too ‘cause I’m not stinky anymore.”

“Your teacher called me earlier this week,” Gibbs told her. “She said you’re doing a really good job in school and she’s proud of you.”

Kylee was slightly embarrassed at the compliment and smiled shyly.

“Sam and I are real proud of you too, Kiddo,” Gibbs added.

“You are?” Kylee whispered.

Gibbs nodded his head as he took a bite of his cookie. “Jaycee is too.”

“Jaycee’s always proud,” Kylee said.

“Jaycee’s a good big sister, huh?” Gibbs asked.

“Yeah,” Kylee said, “I’m a lucky girl. Papa?”

“What Sweetheart?”

“Now that Jaycee has a job does that mean we have to move again?” Kylee asked. She really liked their new house and didn’t want to move again. There were no strange men, no bad smells, lots of food and it was warm and comfortable. Out of all the places she’d lived it was her favorite and she really hoped they could stay there for a little while.

“No Baby,” Gibbs said. “You guys are going to stay right here with Sam and I. How does that sound?”

“That makes me happy,” Kylee said. “I will be happy for the whole time we are living here.”

“I hope so,” Gibbs said.

/////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////

After naptime and a snack, Sam decided to take Gracie, Milo and Lucas on a walk. The rain had kept them cooped up inside all morning and Sam was hoping some exercise would help them expel some of their excess energy.

“Alright boys,” she said, “I need you guys to go upstairs and put on some long pants and a shirt because we’re going to go outside and take a walk around the block.”

“But we can take a walk in our undies,” Lucas said.

“This is just like when we go out to school or the store,” Sam said, “we have to wear clothes when we go outside.”

“Aw man,” Milo whined. “Are you tricking us?”

“Not at all,” Sam answered.

The twins dawdled up the stairs and got themselves dressed as best as they could. Sam turned Milo’s shirt around so it was on the right way and helped Lucas straighten out his pants so he’d be a little more comfortable and could walk easier. She helped all three kids get their shoes and jackets on then they were off.

Gracie was still half asleep from her nap and held tightly to Sam’s hand as they walked but the twins were wide awake and happy to be outside. Sam pointed out the brightly colored leaves decorating the trees and ground. They spotted squirrels and birds and Lucas found a rabbit hopping across someone’s yard.

Milo found every puddle on their way around the block and couldn’t resist jumping and splashing in them, soaking himself and everybody in proximity. With temps in the low 60s Sam didn’t worry too much. They wouldn’t be out long and she could warm them up and dry them off once they got home.

Lucas found an endless amount of worms and moved them from the sidewalk to the safety of the grass, usually by throwing them as far as he could into the adjacent yards. The last thing Gracie wanted to do was get wet or dirty so she stuck close to Sam. She was content to look at the colorful leaves and watch the animals play. They arrived home to find Gibbs and Kylee back from shopping.

“Did you find what you were looking for?” Sam asked as she helped Gracie get her coat off.

“Yep, Kylee helped me and I think we got the perfect one,” Gibbs answered. “Did you guys go on a walk?”

“We sure did,” Sam said helping Lucas get his coat off before turning her attention to Milo.

Gracie crawled to safety in Gibbs’ lap while the twins danced around the living room. Milo danced his way over to Gibbs and smiled up at him.

“Hi Daddy,” he said.

“Hi Buddy,” Gibbs said tapping his nose. “How’d you get so wet?”

“Puddles!” Milo announced happily as he climbed up next to Gibbs.

“Lucas, come here, Baby,” Sam said. “You need to wash your hands after playing with the worms.”

“But I’m not dirty!” Lucas complained holding out his hands for Sam to see.

“You touched a lot of worms, Sweetie Pie,” Sam said taking his little hand in hers. “We need to wash the worm germs off.”

“Worm germs,” Lucas repeated with a giggle. “Worm germs, worm germs!” he sang as Sam led him down the hall to the bathroom.

“Those boys are gross and dirty!” Gracie told Gibbs very matter-of-factly. “Them needs baths.”

“I ain’t takin’ no baff,” Milo said. He pulled his soaking wet socks off and tossed them onto the floor, followed by his wet pants.

“Look at you,” Gibbs said, “even your toes are wrinkled.”

Milo pulled his foot into his lap so he could see and Gracie scooted as far away from her brother as she could while still being in Gibbs’ lap. Gibbs tickled the little boy’s feet and before long Milo was rolling all over the couch, giggling and grabbing at Gibbs’ hand while Gibbs poked and tickled him.

Sam got Lucas washed up then they returned to the living room to find Gibbs rolling around on the floor with Milo, Gracie and Kylee. Lucas didn’t waste any time joining the fun.

“Alright guys, let’s find something to play with before somebody gets hurt,” Gibbs said.

“I know!” Sam said excitedly as she grabbed the oversized cardboard blocks. “Let’s use these blocks to build a house around Papa.”

“How?” Milo asked, rolling out of the dog pile and standing in front of Sam.

“Simple,” Sam said, “Papa’s gonna lay on the floor and we’re going to stack these blocks around him and when we’re done he’ll be inside a house.”

“Wow,” Lucas said, “I wanna help.”

“Me too!” Gracie said. She didn’t want to be left out of the fun. “Jasmine can come over to your house for a little while,” she said as she handed Gibbs her baby doll.

“Wait!” Milo said. “I’m coming right back.” He hurried up the stairs and returned with his favorite stuffed dog. “You could play with Bandit but he has to come home ‘fore bed.”

“Thank you,” Gibbs said holding onto both the baby doll and stuffed dog.

Sam helped the kids stack the blocks around Gibbs’ arms, legs and chest. The twins quickly figured out it was much more fun to knock the blocks over than it was to set them up which didn’t make the girls happy at all.

“No, get away you boys!” Gracie said firmly when they crawled over to where she was building with Kylee.

“Guys, don’t mess up what the girls are building,” Gibbs warned. “You can knock over your own blocks but leave the girls alone.”

“Ha ha!” Gracie chanted. “You guys got in trouble!”

“Gracie,” Sam said, “let Papa and I do the disciplining. You wouldn’t like it if the boys did that to you.”

“Yeah!” both boys said glaring over at the girls.

When the kids got tired of playing with the blocks, Gibbs and Sam decided to let them paint for a little while before dinner. It was a perfect opportunity for them to get messy and be creative and it would provide some artwork to display proudly on the fridge.

Gracie and Kylee took great care painting their pictures, making sure everything was as perfect as they could get it and being careful not to get themselves messy. Milo and Lucas got more paint on their bodies than they did on the paper. Luckily it was watercolors and could be easily washed off. One advantage to them being little nudists was it made it much easier to clean them up from the multiple messes they got into each day. After everyone painted a picture to hang on the refrigerator, the kids played in the living room while Gibbs and Sam worked on dinner.

“Peas or beans for dinner, what do you think?” Gibbs asked

“I’m thinking peas,” Sam said. “Just put a little glob of butter in them to make them creamy. We’ll still have to fight with Gracie but Milo should eat them.” Milo was getting much better at eating his vegetables because Gibbs and Sam always found a way to make it fun and gave him lots of praise but Gracie still protested anything green on her plate.

Gibbs fired up the grill for the burgers while Sam worked in the kitchen and they finished dinner in no time at all. They made sure the little ones got washed up then they all gathered around the table to eat.

“Oh no, more green stuff,” Gracie complained as she squished a pea between her fingers.

“Is this vegetables?” Milo asked suspiciously.

“Those are sweet peas and they’re delicious,” Sam said. “We put butter on them to make them creamy.”

“You guys like bread and butter, right,” Gibbs coaxed, “and butter on your mashed potatoes?”

“Uh-huh,” Milo said.

“Then you’re gonna love peas and butter,” Gibbs said as he took a bite. “Mmm.” Sam rubbed his arm and smiled at him. She knew he hated peas but his sacrifice had worked—Milo took a bite and seemed to like them.

“I think that it needs salt,” Milo said. He knew grownups put on salt on stuff and he wanted to do that too.

“Not too much,” Gibbs said as he helped him sprinkle the salt. When Milo announced that he needed salt Lucas decided he wanted some as well. Once the boys were settled Gibbs turned his attention to Gracie.

“Alright Gracie,” he said pulling the four year old into his lap, “come here, Baby.”

“Uh-uh,” Gracie said, “I don’t wanna eat those things.”

Gibbs pulled her plate closer and Gracie tried to scoot away from it but she was trapped by the strong arms surrounding her. “There’s only two, maybe three bites here,” he said. “I know you can do it, one bite at a time.”

“Those are yucky,” Gracie whined.

“Wanna know a secret, Gracie?” Sam asked. “Papa doesn’t like peas either but he still eats them because they make him smart and strong.”

“Let’s eat them together, real quick so we can get it over with,” Gibbs encouraged. “I’ll take a bite and then you take a bite.” He gathered a forkful for himself and a spoonful for Gracie. “Ready? One, two, three, go.” Both put the peas in their mouths and swallowed quickly. After two rounds of that Gracie’s plate was clear of peas and she could enjoy her macaroni and cheese and hamburger.

“These handburgers are just my size!” Lucas announced happily as he held the burger up for everyone to see.

“They are, aren’t they?” Sam said. “And they’re delicious. Papa is a very good cook.”

“Thank you, Daddy,” Milo said walking over to Gibbs with his burger.

“You’re welcome, Buddy,” Gibbs said. “You’ve got ketchup on your forehead. How’d you manage that?” Milo looked up to try to see his forehead. “You’re not gonna be able to see it, Goofy,” Gibbs said with a smile. He wiped the ketchup off with his napkin then sent Milo back to his seat to finish eating.

“Is there anymore burgers?” Kylee asked.

“There sure is, Baby,” Sam said. “Would you like another one?” Kylee nodded shyly. She was eating much better after Gibbs and Sam had discovered the bag of food under her bed and assured her that they weren’t going to run out.

“Wow,” Gibbs said, “that’s three burgers for you tonight, Sweet Pea. Good job! Give me five.”

Kylee was the shyest and quietest but both Gibbs and Sam loved praising her and making a big deal about even her smallest accomplishments. They did that with all the kids but they loved the reaction they got out of Kylee. Sam made her another burger and kissed her head before sitting down to finish her meal. She winked over at Gibbs, pleased with the five year old’s progress. Gibbs smiled as he reached over and patted Kylee on the back.

After dinner the kids went back to playing while Gibbs and Sam cleaned the kitchen up. It wasn’t long before Kylee showed up in the kitchen. With Gibbs and Sam’s back to her as they did the dishes, she patted Gibbs’ butt to get his attention. He turned and put the plate he was drying down then lifted her into his arms. All the kids loved to be held, hugged, kissed and cuddled and Gibbs and Sam were more than happy to oblige.

“Whatcha need, Babe?” he asked.

“Where’s Jaycee?” she asked, her eyes glistening with unshed tears.

“She’s at work,” Gibbs answered. “She should be home in about an hour.”

“Are you okay, Sweetie?” Sam asked. “You look sad. Did those crazy boys do something to you?”

Kylee shook her head doing her best not to let her tears escape from her eyes. “I miss Jaycee.”

“Did you think we sent her away?” Gibbs asked.

Kylee shrugged and sniffed her nose as the tears spilled out. Gibbs grabbed the kitchen towel and wiped her cheeks.

“Oh Baby Girl, we would never send any of you away,” he said. “We love you guys. Jaycee got her first job but she’ll be home as soon as she finishes working.”

“Would you like to hang out with Papa and I until Jaycee gets home?” Sam asked. Kylee let herself relax in Gibbs’ embrace and nodded her head. “Okay, as soon as we’re done with the dishes, we’ll find something fun to do.”

Gibbs and Sam finished the dishes with Kylee then headed into the living room. Sam decided to tell the kids a story and all of them wanted a front row seat. Gibbs sat down on the floor and the kids piled on top of him to listen to the story. Sam made up an animated story complete with hand gestures and silly voices. She easily kept everybody’s attention.

Jaycee walked in the front door just as the story was ending and received a warm welcome from everyone. After the little ones greeted their sister all but Kylee returned to their toys in the living room. Jaycee picked Kylee up and carried her into the dining room to sit with Gibbs and Sam and tell them all about her day.

“Tony and Tim, Ziva and Abby were my first table,” Jaycee said happily. “They were so nice and they were patient and they left me a $20 tip!”

“That was so sweet of them,” Sam said. “Aren’t they great?”

Jaycee nodded happily. She’d left the house a nervous wreck hours earlier but her first day had gone better than she ever could’ve expected.

“Would you like some dinner?” Sam offered.

“I ate at the restaurant with Ty,” Jaycee said. “They want me to start trying the food so I can recommend stuff to the customers so I got to eat for free.”

“That was nice of them,” Sam said.

“Wait a minute,” Gibbs interrupted, “back up. Who’s Ty?”

Jaycee’s face immediately turned red and she started nibbling on her lower lip nervously. “Tyler—he’s just a guy… a waiter at the restaurant.”

“A cute waiter,” Sam asked smiling from ear to ear,” who stayed and had dinner with you?”

Jaycee’s smile lit up her face as she nodded her head. She couldn’t help it. Ty was the cutest guy she’d ever seen and he’d actually paid attention to her. He’d gone out of his way to be nice to her all day long. She was convinced she was in love with him.

“How old is Ty?” Gibbs asked, not quite as thrilled as Sam about the prospect of Jaycee having a boyfriend.

“Same age as me—seventeen,” Jaycee answered.

“What’s Ty’s last name? I might have to check him out—you know, make sure he’s not a serial killer or anything,” Gibbs joked.

“Jethro, stop it,” Sam said as she swatted at him. “He’s just joking, Honey. Dads are always overprotective of their daughters, especially when it comes to boys.”

Jaycee smiled up at Gibbs. It was nice to be with people who actually cared. She’d only met Gibbs and Sam a couple weeks ago but she trusted them more than she’d ever trusted anyone in her life. She’d probably never call them dad and mom but they were her parents. There was no doubt in her mind that they loved her and cared like real parents were supposed to.

Gibbs wrapped his arm and Jaycee and pulled her to his side so he could kiss the top of her head. “Just tell me if I’m being a pain in the butt,” he said. “I just don’t wanna see you get hurt.”

“Thanks,” Jaycee said. “It’s nice to have someone who cares.”

/////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////

It took all of three days for Ty to actually ask Jaycee out and four days after that before he was knocking on their front door. Gibbs gave the young man a once over before Sam pulled him out of the way and invited Ty inside. She introduced Ty to the little ones then invited him to sit with them in the living room while he waited for Jaycee to finish getting ready. Gibbs watched the young man carefully, not saying a word.

“Are you Jaycee’s boyfriend?” Milo asked.

“I don’t think that’s any of your business, Mister,” Sam said. She turned him around and tapped his butt lightly. “You go play.”

“Hey, don’t spank my butt!” Milo said.

“If I spanked your butt you’d know it,” Sam teased, grabbing him before he could make his escape. She put him over her knee and playfully spanked him while he giggled uncontrollably. “There, now I spanked your butt and now I’m gonna give you kisses.”

“Oh no!” Milo giggled as he tried to squirm away. “You’re giving me the cooties!”

“You silly boy, mommies don’t have cooties,” Sam said.

“Daddy!” Milo giggled while Sam continued kissing him. “Daddy, save me!”

“I’ll save you,” Gibbs said taking Milo from Sam. He blew a raspberry on the little boy’s bare tummy which only made Milo laugh even harder and squirm even more.

“Uh-oh,” Sam said, “now Daddy’s got you. What are you gonna do about it?”

Milo laughed and squealed until Gibbs stopped tickling him and cuddled him. Ty sat in the middle watching everything. He was an only child and had always wanted brothers and sisters. He was having fun watching the younger kids play and it confirmed one thing he already knew in the back of his mind—he wanted a big family with lots of kids.

“Let me go check on Jaycee for you, Ty,” Sam said patting his knee. “I’m sure you want to get out of here. Jethro, behave yourself. Be nice.”

Gibbs watched Sam disappear from the room and listened to her footsteps on the stairs before he turned to Ty. “Don’t hurt my girl.”

Ty audibly gulped and sank down into the couch slightly. “I won’t, Sir.”

Gibbs smirked as he leaned over and gently bumped shoulders with the young man. “You don’t have to sir me,” he said softening his tone slightly, “just behave yourself.”

Ty breathed a quiet sigh of relief and nodded, unable to make eye contact with the agent.

Jaycee came down the stairs in a dress that was a tad shorter than Gibbs liked but Sam had approved so he wasn’t going to say anything. It stopped just above her knees so it wasn’t actually that short compared to what other girls her age were wearing. He had to remind himself not to be so strict. He heard a whispered ‘wow’ from Ty as he stood and hugged his daughter.

“You look beautiful, Sweetheart,” he whispered to her. “Have fun.”

“Thanks,” Jaycee said smiling up at Gibbs before turning and looking at Ty. “Hi Ty.”

Ty was nearly speechless as he admired his date. “Hey, y-you look—great.”

“Alright kids,” Sam said, “we want you home by 10:00. Be safe, be smart and have fun.”

She and Gibbs watched the teenagers leave. Ty opened the car door for Jaycee then closed it behind her before running around to the driver’s side and getting into the car himself. He backed out of the driveway and they disappeared down the street.

Sam looked up at Gibbs and knew he was worried. “Don’t worry,” she said. “I had a talk with Jaycee.”

“Maybe one of us should go spy on her,” Gibbs joked.

Sam laughed and patted his chest. “They’ll be fine.”

A scuffle in the living room pulled their attention. It was time to start baths and calming down for bed. They got the kids busy cleaning up their toys then Gibbs got a snack ready while Sam did bath time. By 8:30 all the little ones were tucked into their beds and sleeping peacefully and Gibbs and Sam had a little over an hour to themselves before Jaycee was scheduled to arrive home.

Gibbs pulled out his phone and checked it after sitting down on the couch next to Sam.

“What are you doing?” Sam asked.

“Checking to see if Jaycee called,” Gibbs said.

“No matter how much we want to, we can’t protect her from all the hurt in the world,” Sam said running her hand up and down his arm. “She’s gonna have boyfriends and she’s probably gonna get her heart broken. It’s part of growing up but she’s a tough kid. She’ll be okay.”

“She’s had enough heartache,” Gibbs said with a sigh. “They all have.”

“Yes, they have but they’re happy and safe now,” Sam said. “Just keep telling yourself that. Now, the kids are sleeping and Jaycee won’t be home for a little while, let’s do something fun.”

“What did you have in mind?” Gibbs asked putting his phone aside.

“Charades,” Sam said with a chuckle, grinning from ear to ear.

Gibbs smirked as he pulled her closer to him and leaned his face close to hers. “Are we playing the same way we did last time?” he asked.

“Oh, that’s the best way to play,” Sam said resting her hand against his cheek and pressing her lips to his.

/////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////

Ty’s car pulled in the driveway fifteen minutes before Jaycee’s curfew. Gibbs and Sam resisted the urge to spy on them through the windows. The teenagers spent the next twelve minutes on the front porch while Gibbs and Sam anxiously waited for Jaycee to come in. When the door opened and she entered they tried to act as casual as possible.

“Hey Kiddo,” Sam greeted.

“How was your date?” Gibbs asked.

“It was great,” Jaycee said with a dreamy look in her eyes. “Ty is so cool and he’s the nicest guy I’ve ever met.”

“Hey,” Gibbs said with mock offense.

“Except for you,” Jaycee quickly added with a beaming smile.

“I’m glad you had fun,” Gibbs said pulling her to his side and kissing the top of her head. “You weren’t out there making out for the last twelve minutes, were you?”

“No,” Jaycee giggled, “we were talkin’ and then he kissed my cheek but that’s it. He barely got to first base.”

“First base?” Gibbs asked. “You guys were playing baseball?”

“Huh?” Jaycee asked.

“Sweetheart, Jethro doesn’t know any teen euphemisms,” Sam explained. “First base is kissing, Honey,” she said reaching behind Jaycee and patting Gibbs’ arm.

“Oh,” Gibbs said, “do I even want to know what the other bases are?”

“No,” Sam said, “we’ll save that for when you’re ready for it.”

Jaycee giggled as Gibbs pulled her close and gave her another kiss. “You just wait to run the bases until you’re at least thirty—make that thirty five.”

“Okay,” Jaycee said with a giggle.

“Promise me,” Gibbs teased.

“No,” Jaycee said, still laughing.

“Promise me,” Gibbs said deepening his voice but still teasing.

“No,” Jaycee said shaking her head and laughing even harder. “Thirty five is too old.”

“Thirty five’s not that old,” Gibbs reasoned.

“I’ll be smart and safe,” Jaycee said, “and I won’t do anything till I’m sure it’s the right time. I’ll promise you that.”

“I can live with that,” Gibbs said.

Sam smiled as she leaned in to kiss Jaycee but the teenager quickly threw her hand between her face and Sam’s lips.

“Don’t kiss my cheek!” she squealed. “That’s where Ty kissed me.”

“Well you’re gonna have to wash it eventually,” Sam said.

“I will in the morning,” Jaycee said. “Maybe it’s a good luck kiss and it’ll give me good dreams.”

“How about I kiss your temple then,” Sam said before leaning in and pressing her lips to Jaycee’s temple. “I love you, Baby Girl.”

“I love you too,” Jaycee said, “and you, Gibbs. You guys are the best.”

“I love you too, Sweetie,” Gibbs said.

Chapter Text

Gibbs and his team was knee deep in a murder investigation when he got a call asking him to come down to the daycare center. He sent his agents off on their lunch break then headed for the elevator wondering which child they were having the problem with. He hoped it wasn't more than one. His question was answered as soon as he walked in the door and saw Milo in time out.

"He keeps running off and hiding from us," Jessica said. "I don't know what to do with him. He's gotten out of the daycare area twice. I'm afraid I'm gonna lose him. I don't have enough staff here to dedicate one person to him."

Gibbs looked down at Milo and raised his eyebrows at the little boy. "Why are you running away from your teachers?"

Milo shrugged his shoulders as he batted his eyelashes at Gibbs, doing his best to charm his way out of trouble.

"I'll take him with me," Gibbs told Jessica. "We'll have a little talk and make sure this doesn't happen again."

"Thank you Agent Gibbs," Jessica said.

"I wanna go too, Daddy," Lucas said appearing at Gibbs' side.

"I need you to stay here with Gracie," Gibbs said. One of the kids in the office would be more than enough for him to handle, especially when he was in the middle of a case.

"No," Lucas said starting to get upset. "No Daddy! Take me with you!" He wrapped both arms tightly around one of Gibbs' legs, determined to go wherever his brother did.

Gibbs lifted Lucas into his arms and kissed the little boy's forehead. "I'll be back to get you and Gracie this afternoon," he said. Lucas started crying when Gibbs sat him down at the lunch table next to Gracie. "Call me if he doesn't calm down," Gibbs said quietly to Jessica.

He gathered Milo's things then headed down the hall with the three year old. "Why are you running away, Milo?" he asked.

Milo looked up at Gibbs with his piercing green eyes. "I don't like it there and I don't wanna go back."

"Why?" Gibbs asked as he picked the little boy up.

Milo shrugged and stroked Gibbs' cheek, doing his best to work his charm on the agent.

Gibbs wrapped his hand around Milo's and kissed it then rubbed his thumb over the little boy's knuckles. "You've gotta talk to me, dude. If you're having a problem I can't help you unless I know what it is."

"I not having a problem," Milo said quietly.

"Why are you running away from daycare?" Gibbs asked. He was beginning to feel like he was trying to extract information out of someone he was interrogating. He had to find just the right question in order to get an answer.

"I not runnin' away from daycare," Milo said. "I runnin' away from Mia."

"Who's Mia?" Gibbs asked.

"She's my girlfriend," Milo said with a sigh, "but I don't wanna be a girlfriend. She keeps on holding my hand and she says I can't play with Lucas, I can only play with her and she is giving me hugs lots of times and kisses. I telled her she has the cooties but she said no she don't."

Gibbs schooled his features because even though he was amused he couldn't have Milo running off. "Who said Mia was your girlfriend?" he asked.

"She did," Milo answered.

"Okay, she might like you but that doesn't mean she's your girlfriend," Gibbs explained. "If someone's bothering you then you need to tell your teacher. When Mommy and I leave you somewhere, we expect you to stay there, that way we know where you are and we know that you're safe. Do you understand me? Look at me in my eyes."

Milo stroked Gibbs' cheek with his other hand and smiled brightly at him. He was definitely a charmer. "Okay but I don't wanna play with Mia no more."

"Okay, we'll talk to Miss Jessica about that tomorrow morning," Gibbs said.

"Can we get ice cream 'fore we go home?" Milo asked.

"We're not going home, Buddy," Gibbs said. "I've gotta work."

"Then what's gonna happen to me?" Milo asked.

"I'm sure I'll find something for you to do," Gibbs said.

He took Milo to the bullpen and set the little boy's lunch out on his desk. Tony arrived back shortly after with takeout for the team.

"Hey Little Man," he said. "What are you doing here?"

"My girlfriend made me run away and I gotted in trouble," Milo said.

"I feel ya, Man," Tony said, "girl trouble's the worst."

Everyone enjoyed their lunch break then Tony, Tim and Ziva got back to work while Gibbs tried to get Milo to take a nap. He held him and rocked him while he rubbed his back and stroked his hair but the three year old was more interested in everything going on around him.

"What am I gonna do with you?" Gibbs asked. Milo just looked up at Gibbs with a charming smile.

With Abby knee deep in evidence, Gibbs decided to take Milo down to autopsy for a little while. He knew Ducky didn't have anything scheduled until later that day when Jimmy returned from his doctor appointment. He took Milo and headed for the elevator. Ducky was more than happy to have some company and, no doubt, entertainment.

"How come there's so many doors on this wall?" Milo asked as he explored the new room. "Where do they all go?"

"Those are refrigerators," Ducky answered with a chuckle.

"You have lots of fridger-frators," Milo said. "Why you don't have any pictures on them? We have lots on ours. Want me to make you some?"

"I'd like that very much," Ducky said. "Let's go see Abby and get some markers and paper."

///////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////

Jaycee showed up in Sam's office in the pentagon after school with Kylee. Ever since she'd gotten her car, she'd started picking Kylee up from school. She was thriving on the responsibility and freedom.

"Hey girls," Sam greeted, "what a nice surprise."

"Hey," Jaycee said, "it's so weird coming here and going through those metal detectors and being escorted and stuff."

"This is probably the most secure building in the United States, Babe," Sam said. "Everybody goes through the metal detectors and everybody gets an escort. What's going on?"

"Could we talk for a minute while Kylee colors or something?" Jaycee asked. She'd had a meeting with her guidance counselor at school and wanted to talk to Sam about it but she was kind of nervous.

Sam got Kylee busy coloring pictures at her desk then took Jaycee into the adjoining office.

"So, how was your day?" Jaycee asked in an attempt to stall.

"Pretty normal," Sam answered.

Jaycee hesitated before speaking again. "Uh, do you know what's for dinner?"

Sam smiled at Jaycee. She could easily see through her attempt to stall and was becoming curious about the real reason for Jaycee's visit. "Just tell me what's on your mind, Baby," Sam said. "I can assure you, nothing you say or do is going to shock me."

Jaycee decided to test that theory. She wasn't ready to spill yet anyways. "I'm pregnant," she said.

Sam looked over at the teen and smiled. "Nice try," she said patting her shoulder. "Now what is it you really came over here to talk to me about?"

"Well how do you know I'm not really pregnant?" Jaycee asked. "I could be. I am a woman after all and I do have a boyfriend."

"Sweetheart, in order to be pregnant you'd have to be having sex and you're not having sex," Sam said.

"How do you know?"

"Because, you're my child," Sam said. "Believe it or not I do pay attention to what's going on in your life. Now what's up?"

"Well, I was kinda thinking that maybe I might like to go to college," Jaycee said. "My counselor said I could get a better paying job with a college degree." She knew college was very expensive and she wouldn't be able to help take care of her siblings as much. She hoped Sam wouldn't be mad that she'd asked.

"That's wonderful, Sweetheart," Sam said, "and your counselor's right. Do you need help filling out the applications?"

"Just like that?" Jaycee asked with a big grin on her face. "You're gonna let me go?" Her real mom wouldn't even consider anything that required money.

"Absolutely," Sam said. "There are scholarships we can get you, grants, loans. We'll make it happen. Can we talk about this more tonight after I get done with work?"

"Yes, thank you!" Jaycee said throwing her arms around Sam.

"You're welcome, Baby," Sam said. "I'm so proud of you. Now, I need you to do something for me. Milo got into a little bit of trouble at daycare today and Gibbs is in the middle of a case. Can you stop by and pick him up on your way home?"

"Sure, no problem," Jaycee said.

Kylee decided she wanted to stay with Sam and Sam agreed since she didn't have anything major scheduled that afternoon. Jaycee headed over to the Navy Yard and found Gibbs in the bullpen with his team. He'd just gotten off the phone with Sam and was expecting her. The two headed down to autopsy and found Jimmy on the computer ordering supplies while Ducky stood over him and told him what to order. Milo was busy coloring pictures and using them to decorate the normally lifeless room. Gibbs thanked Ducky for his help then walked Jaycee and Milo out to the car.

"Can I invite Mackenzie over?" Jaycee asked as they walked through the parking lot. She didn't have to work that day and was looking forward to relaxing and having a little fun.

"Sure," Gibbs said, "I just don't want you on the phone while you're driving. Call her before you leave or after you get home."

"I'll call when I get home," Jaycee said. "Thank you."

"You're welcome," Gibbs said. "Call me or Sam if you have any problems. Milo, you behave yourself, listen to your sister."

He kissed both kids goodbye, made sure Milo got buckled in his car seat then Jaycee left and he headed back inside. On his way back to the bullpen he stopped and grabbed a cup of coffee. It had been a long day and he needed a little pick me up.

"Boss, DC Metro picked up our guy," Tim said before Gibbs could even sit down at his desk. "They saw our BOLO and they're bringing him over."

"I thought for sure he'd be long gone," Tony said. "Where'd they find him?"

"He drove off without paying for gas," Tim said. "Apparently he didn't see the police cruiser in the parking lot."

"Ouch, criminal mastermind he is not," Tony said.

"I think we knew that when he left his fingerprints all over the knife he used to murder his girlfriend," Ziva said.

The group prepared for the interrogation and were just getting ready to head down there when Gibbs' cell phone rang. He answered and his agents watched as the color drained from his face. After a strangled 'I'll be right there' he hurried towards the elevator without a word.

"Boss?" Tony called after him.

"You're in charge," Gibbs called back as he decided the elevator was taking too long and rushed towards the stairs.

///////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////

The scene was chaotic. There were police cruisers, fire trucks and ambulances littering the intersection. Red and blue strobe lights reflected off surrounding buildings and there were first responders everywhere. A group of bystanders had gathered to watch. The noise was so thick it almost sounded like a war zone. Right in the middle of all the bedlam was Jaycee's crumpled Grand Am.

Gibbs' feet felt like cement blocks. He couldn't move, couldn't speak, couldn't process what he needed to do next. Sam came running up beside him and touched his arm.

"Where are the kids?" she asked as she took in the scene.

Gibbs shook off his shock and focused on what he needed to do. "Looks like they're pulling Jaycee from her car," he said as he pointed to the group of firefighters huddled around the car. Milo's car seat was kicked to the side and the little boy was nowhere in sight. "You go to her, I'll find Milo."

Gibbs hurried from ambulance to ambulance, searching for his little boy. As he approached the fourth ambulance he could hear the three year old screaming. "Milo!" he said.

"Daddy, help!" Milo called out. "Help me!"

"Are you his dad?" the paramedic asked. Gibbs nodded as he looked up at Milo. "We gotta go. You can ride along if you want."

Gibbs climbed into the ambulance and the EMT shut the door behind him. Milo was strapped down to the stretcher with a neck brace on and there were two large foam blocks holding his head still.

"Daddy, I'm stuck!" Milo yelled waving his arm in the direction he thought Gibbs was.

"I know, Buddy," Gibbs said grabbing onto Milo's hand and leaning over so the little boy could see his face. "We're going to the hospital right now. The doctors need to take a picture of your bones to make sure nothing's broken then we'll get you unstuck."

"We had to cut him out of the car because it was crushed around him," the paramedic said as he cut the little boy's clothes off. "The ER docs will do scans and x-rays but based on his position in the car and looking at him right now, he appears to be okay."

Gibbs nodded, relieved at the news. As Milo's clothes were stripped away he didn't even see a bruise on the little boy's body. He was dirty but appeared to be uninjured. "You get to be naked, Milo," he said trying to cheer the little boy up. Milo was clearly not happy about being strapped down and Gibbs couldn't blame him.

"I'm scared," Milo said.

"I know, Baby," Gibbs said as he squeezed the little boy's hand. "Do you feel me holding your hand?"

Milo tried to nod but couldn't move his head. "Yeah," he said as he tightened his grip Gibbs' hand.

The paramedic removed Milo's shoes and socks and gently squeezed his feet. "Do you feel me squeezing your feet, Milo?"

"Uh-huh," Milo said.

The paramedic rested his hands against the bottoms of Milo's feet. "Can you push down on my feet like you're pedaling a bike?"

"I ain't got a bike," Milo said as he pushed against the man's hands.

"We'll have to get you one," Gibbs said as he lifted Milo's hands to his lips and ran his other hand through the boy's blonde curls.

///////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////

Sam watched as Jaycee was secured to the backboard after being pulled from what was left of her car. It appeared to be a two car wreck but both cars were in such bad shape she couldn't even wager a guess as to what happened. She followed Jaycee into the back of the ambulance and focused all her attention on her. Once Jaycee was in the back of the ambulance they started towards the hospital. The paramedic got to work immediately.

"No don't, please." Jaycee moaned as the paramedic cut her clothes away.

"I have to take a look at you, Kiddo," the paramedic said. "We need to start getting you patched up."

"It's okay, Baby," Sam said as she held the teenager's hand. "You're safe now."

"Sam!" Jaycee said as tears started streaming across her face. With all the chaos and being strapped to the board she didn't know Sam was there with her. "I didn't talk on the phone."

"What Honey?" Sam asked. "I don't understand."

"Gibbs told me not to talk on my cell phone while I was driving," Jaycee said. "I didn't, I swear."

"Okay, I believe you," Sam said stroking her cheek, being careful to avoid the airbag burns. "I'll make sure he knows."

"What's your name, Kiddo?" the paramedic asked as he continued working on her.

"Jaycee."

"Hi Jaycee, I'm Ryan," the paramedic said. "How old are you?"

"Seventeen."

"Good girl. Can you tell me if you lost consciousness? Did you pass out?"

"I don't know," Jaycee said. "Milo. Where's Milo? Milo was in the car with me! I need to get him! I have to get him out!" She tried to move but couldn't. She was strapped down and every little bump and movement caused immense pain all over her body.

"Relax Baby. Jethro's with him," Sam said. "They're on their way to the hospital too."

"Is he dead? Did I kill him?" Jaycee asked in a panic. "He was crying but then he stopped. He was so quiet. He's never quiet."

"Shh, it's okay, Baby. Everything's gonna be okay," Sam said.

"Jaycee, can you tell me what month it is?" Ryan asked.

"Uh, October," Jaycee answered.

"Good," Ryan said. "What season starts in December?"

"Winter," Jaycee answered.

"Perfect," Ryan said. "I know these are silly questions but I have to ask. You're gonna feel a little poke here. I need to start an IV on you."

"Ow," Jaycee moaned.

"You're doing good, Sweetie," Sam said. "We're almost there."

"Do you remember what happened, Jaycee?" Ryan asked.

"I was driving and Milo was singing in the backseat," Jaycee said. "This car came out of nowhere. I saw it but I couldn't get out of the way. It hit us so hard. The crash was really loud and it hurt really bad. Milo was crying and I tried to help him but I was stuck."

"Alright, you're doing so good, Jaycee," Ryan said. "We're pulling into the hospital right now. They're gonna check you out and fix you up."

"Don't leave me," Jaycee pleaded.

"You're gonna be fine, Kiddo," Ryan said. "I'm leaving you in good hands."

The back doors of the ambulance opened and Jaycee was wheeled into the Emergency Room. There was a team of doctors and nurses waiting in one of the trauma rooms to care for her but Sam was stopped at the door and asked to wait in the waiting room.

"How's Jaycee?" Gibbs asked appearing out of nowhere at her side.

"She's scared but she was awake and talking to us," Sam said. "How's Milo?"

"They think he's fine but they're doing scans and x-rays," Gibbs said. "Where's Kylee?"

"Elliot's taking her over to be with Tony, Ziva and Tim," Sam answered. "She doesn't know what happened. What did happen, Jethro?"

Gibbs wrapped his arm around Sam and pulled her close to him. "DC Metro said the other car had two teenage boys in it, they ran a red light and t-boned Jaycee. I don't know if they just weren't paying attention or if they were screwing around or what."

"How are they doing?" Sam asked.

"One of them wasn't wearing a seatbelt," Gibbs answered. "He was thrown from the car, died on scene. The other one was taken to the hospital. That's all I know."

"Ours are gonna be okay though, right?" she asked. Pure adrenaline had gotten her through so far. She knew what she needed to do and did it but with the kids being cared for by a team of medical professionals all she could do was wait and worry. The reality of the situation was they very easily could've lost two kids that afternoon. The horrific circumstances that only ever happen to other people had happened to them. Sam was thankful she didn't always have to be strong with Gibbs. She found safety and comfort in his embrace. She knew he didn't know anymore than she did but his reassurances helped immensely.

"Ours are gonna be just fine," Gibbs assured her as he hugged her and kissed her head. "I'm gonna call DiNozzo and have one of the team get Lucas and Gracie from daycare. They can take the kids home, I'll have one of them bring a car over here for us, we'll figure out what's going on with Jaycee and Milo and go from there."

Tony and Tim showed up at the hospital a half an hour later, one of them in Gibbs' car, the other in Sam's. Ziva and Abby were on their way to the house with the kids. Thankfully their not too bright murderer had proudly confessed to his crime which allowed them to close their case. With the exception of writing their case reports, the case was over.

"Hey Boss, Doc," Tony greeted. "How are the kids?"

"Milo's being released in a couple minutes," Gibbs said. "They're keeping Jaycee overnight for observation. I'm going to stay here with her and Sam's gonna head home and take care of the others."

"I can stay with Sam and the kids tonight, just to be an extra set of hands," Tony offered.

"I'd like that, Honey," Sam said patting his arm. "I'm sure the kids will enjoy having you around too."

Sam told Gibbs she'd pack him a change of clothes and Tim offered to drop if off before heading home that night. Jaycee was scared and in a lot of pain and Gibbs and Sam didn't want to leave her alone. The nurse brought Milo out dressed in an oversized scrub top and handed his prescription to Gibbs. She explained that the pain killers they'd given him might make him sleepy but other than being sore from the impact, he was fine. The car seat had saved his life and protected him from any injuries.

Gibbs thanked Tony and Tim, said goodbye to Sam and Milo then watched as they left. Milo held tightly to Tony's hand as they walked through the parking lot. The three year old was much quieter than normal, bypassed the few puddles they walked by without stomping in them and didn't bother waving or talking to the other people they passed. As soon as he saw Sam's car he froze.

"What's wrong, Buddy?" Tony asked.

"I don't wanna get in there," Milo said.

"We have to get home somehow, Sweetie Pie," Sam said as she picked him up. She realized he was shaking and hugged him close. "I'll drive real careful. It'll be okay."

"I'll sit in the back with you, Milo," Tony offered. "We'll be home before you know it."

"Will you hold me?" Milo asked.

"You have to sit in your car seat," Tony said. "It's safer but I will hold your hand."

"Can I just stay here with Daddy?" Milo asked.

"Daddy's going to take care of Jaycee," Sam said. "We're gonna go home and see Lucas and Kylee and Gracie and Tony's gonna spend the night with us."

"Can we walk home?" Milo asked.

"We would be walking for days and days and days," Tony said. "Can you be real brave and go for one last car ride today?"

"Okay," Milo finally relented, "but I still don't wanna."

Tony smiled sympathetically as he took the toddler from Sam. He kissed the little boy's cheek then got him settled in his car seat and held his hand. They tried to get him to sing songs to calm his nerves but Milo wasn't interested. Sam managed to distract him by talking about Mia. He was clearly not impressed with his new girlfriend but couldn't quite grasp the idea that he didn't have to play along with her. The little girl had told him she was his girlfriend so he thought she was his girlfriend. He didn't think he had a choice.

Abby and Ziva were in the kitchen making pigs in a blanket when the group arrived home. As soon as Milo walked in the door Lucas was at his side. It had been a stressful afternoon for him as well. He'd missed his twin.

"Never leave me again!" Lucas scolded. He took one look at his brother and frowned. "Where is your clothes?"

Gracie and Kylee gathered around Milo and immediately noticed his change in demeanor. He wasn't laughing or joking or stripping or running around like a mad man. He was just standing there with a blank expression on his face, looking like he might fall asleep any second.

"What did you do to Milo?" Gracie asked looking up at Sam.

"Let's sit down in the living room and have a little talk," Sam said guiding the kids over to the couch. She pulled Gracie and Kylee into her lap and Lucas sat next to Milo, holding his hand. "This afternoon Jaycee and Milo got into a car accident but they're both okay. Milo's a little bit sleepy 'cause the doctor gave him some medicine to help him feel better and Papa's gonna stay with Jaycee at the hospital tonight but they'll be home tomorrow."

Sam patiently answered all the kids' questions about the car accident and where Gibbs and Jaycee were and what was happening to them and who was going to tuck them in. Once they were done asking their questions, Lucas decided he was ready for his hugs and kisses from his mommy.

He and his brother usually attached themselves to Sam as soon as she got home from work and didn't let go until she hugged and kissed them. She usually tickled them as well and pretended to steal their noses or blew raspberries on their bellies. She was the most fun mommy they'd ever had.

"Come on, Milo," he said tugging on his brother's hand, "let's go sit on Mommy's lap."

"No," Milo said as he rested his head on the arm of the couch. He was too sleepy to do anything.

Tim took the girls from Sam and she reached for Lucas. "Come here, Baby. You can sit on my lap."

"No!" Lucas said growing more and more frustrated with his twin's strange behavior. "I want hugs and kisses but Milo has to come too and he won't. Jaycee broked him!"

"He's not broken, Sweetheart," Sam said scooping the three year old up. "He's just not feeling very good. Tomorrow will be better."

She took a moment to cuddle with Lucas and Tony sat down with Milo. Ziva gave the five minute warning for dinner so Sam and Tim got the kids washed up and got them busy helping set the table. Tony coaxed Milo into trying to take a couple bites of dinner despite the little boy insisting he wasn't hungry. He got him washed up and sat him down at the table with the other kids.

Dinner was as much fun as it normally was. The kids loved having Tony, Tim, Abby and Ziva over. It was strange not having Gibbs and Jaycee there but the adults carried on as normal and the kids followed suit. Milo took a couple bites before he fell asleep with his head resting in his plate. Lucas was worried about his twin but easily distracted by all the conversation.

After dinner Sam headed upstairs to pack a bag for Tim to take over to the hospital. Tony lifted Milo out of the glob of ketchup on his plate and couldn't help but laugh.

"What is so funny?" Ziva asked wiping the ketchup off.

"If he wasn't so tired we could have some fun freaking people out," Tony said.

"It does look really realistic," Abby agreed. "Ketchup has always been a good fake blood substitute."

"Aw," Ziva said gently pinching Milo's cheek as he slept on Tony's shoulder, "leave the poor little guy alone. Can't you guys see he's exhausted? Give him to me. I'll give him a bath."

"No," Tony said quickly turning away from Ziva. "He, uh— he's a boy, he might not want a girl to see his—you know. I'll give him a bath."

"Tony, he runs around the house naked," Ziva said. "I don't think he's big on modesty." Something hit her and she moved in front of Tony and smiled at him. "I know what it is, you like taking care of him. Maybe it's time you think about having some children of your own."

"What?" Tony asked with a laugh, trying to downplay the whole situation. "All this because I suggested Milo might not want a girl to give him a bath?"

"No Tony," Tim said.

"All this because you won't let anyone but you give him a bath," Abby finished for Tim.

"There's no need to argue, guys," Sam said as she entered. "There are plenty of children around here who need bathing."

Tony stood behind Sam and made faces at the others while she spoke.

"Tony, you can either let Ziva give Milo a bath while you stand there making faces at us or you can take him up yourself," Sam said.

Tony's mouth fell open and there was a look of shock on his face. "Do you have some Gibbsian superpower going on?" he asked.

"With this many kids around you have to stay one step ahead, Honey," Sam said patting his chest. "Now go on."

Ziva laughed as Tony headed for the stairs with Milo, still a little shocked. Sam sent the kids off to play then handed Tim the bag she'd packed. Abby decided she wanted to go with Tim to see Gibbs. She really wanted to do both but she knew Tony and Ziva would be enough help for Sam so she decided to go. They said goodbye to the group then left. It had been a long afternoon.

Chapter Text

Jaycee had drifted off to sleep by the time Tim and Abby made it to the hospital. Gibbs was sitting next to her bed watching her. She was having a hard time dealing with the accident. Sam and Milo had visited with her for a little while before leaving so she could see that her brother was okay but Gibbs suspected it was going to be a long night. The pain killers the doctor had given her were making her sleepy and she'd finally given in.

Tim cleared his throat so Gibbs would know they were there. Gibbs looked towards the door and motioned them in.

"How is she?" Abby asked quietly.

"Just fell asleep," Gibbs answered.

"How bad is it?" Tim asked.

"She has burns from the airbag on her face, a mild concussion and her leg was ripped open almost to the bone," Gibbs said as he rubbed his eyes. "Other than that she has a headache and she's pretty sore."

"Ouch," Abby said sympathetically. She was almost in tears thinking about what the teenager was going through. "I'm glad it wasn't any worse but I still wish there was more we could do."

"Mm-hmm, me too, Abs," Gibbs said.

"We brought you some dinner," Tim said holding out a fast food bag. "We know you forget to eat sometimes."

"Here's the clothes Sam packed you," Abby said putting the backpack down next to his chair. "She put some stuff in there for Jaycee to wear tomorrow too."

"Thanks guys," Gibbs said. "How'd the case turn out?"

"Our guy was more than happy to admit he stabbed his girlfriend to death," Tim said. "He was proud of it. JAG has the case now."

"Good," Gibbs said. "That'll make it a little easier on everybody involved. Thanks for all your help today, guys."

"Anytime, Boss," Tim said.

Tim and Abby said goodnight then left Gibbs alone with Jaycee once again. Not long after they left, Jaycee opened her eyes. Gibbs moved over to her bedside and gently rubbed his hand over her head.

"Didn't mean to wake you, Kiddo," he said softly.

"You didn't," Jaycee said. "I wasn't really sleeping."

"How are you feeling?" Gibbs asked.

Jaycee thought for a minute before answering. "Numb."

"It'll get better," Gibbs said. "Are you hungry? Tim and Abby brought us some chow."

Jaycee looked over in Gibbs' direction, her movements slow and obviously pained. "My stomach's all messed up. I'm not really hungry but could I have some water please?"

"Uh-huh, the nurse brought you some ice water earlier," Gibbs said retrieving the cup for her.

He helped her raise her bed to a sitting position then helped her take a drink. While he ate dinner, Jaycee flipped channels. She eventually stopped on one but it was clear she wasn't really watching it. She kept dozing off and then jerking herself awake again. Shortly after Gibbs finished eating the nurse poked her head in.

"There's a young man in the waiting room asking to see you guys," she said.

"Who?" Gibbs asked.

"Teenager," the nurse answered, "male, thin but well built, short brown hair."

"Ty," Jaycee said weakly.

"Are you up for company?" Gibbs asked.

Jaycee tried to touch her hair and face but she was too sore to move too much. "How do I look?" she asked.

"You look beautiful, Sweetheart," Gibbs said straightening her hair out for her.

Jaycee smiled weakly up at Gibbs. "Liar."

"Send him in," Gibbs told the nurse before leaning down and kissing Jaycee's forehead, being careful to avoid the airbag burn.

Jaycee and Ty had bonded quickly but it wasn't fueled by raging hormones. Yes, there were hormones and both were good looking kids who wouldn't have had any trouble in the dating department but Jaycee and Ty seemed to have connected on a deeper level.

They had experienced very different childhoods but each had something the other longed for. For Jaycee it was a sense of stability that she'd craved her whole life. For Ty it was a big, happy family with lots of love to go around. Jaycee hadn't told him much about her life before Gibbs rescued them but the few times he'd been to Gibbs' house to pick her up there was always something fun and exciting going on. The teenagers had an admiration and respect for each other that went well beyond outward appearances.

Ty entered the room and glanced nervously at Gibbs before sitting in the chair next to Jaycee's bed. Gibbs wasn't quite as intimidating as he was the first time they'd met. Even though he liked the boy, his primary concern was Jaycee.

"How'd you know I was here?" Jaycee asked weakly.

"Your Mo—uh, Sam called the restaurant and told Marcus what happened and that you'd need a couple days off," Ty explained.

"Is he gonna fire me?" Jaycee asked. She'd only worked there a little over a week. She knew it wasn't a good thing to already be needing time off.

"No way," Ty said with a laugh. "He's got somebody to fill in for you till you get back."

Gibbs watched over the top of his newspaper as the teenagers talked and held hands. The more time he spent around Ty, the more he realized he was a good kid. Ty cared more about how Jaycee felt than looked, he did his best to make her comfortable and cheer her up. It was refreshing to see a young man who could've easily had any girl in school stick by Jaycee's side when she obviously needed him. Gibbs kept one eye on the teenagers and the other on his paper.

"Will you stay with me till I fall asleep?" Jaycee asked.

"I have to be home by 9:00 or Mom'll kill me," Ty said. "I'll stay with you as long as I can though."

"What time is it?" Jaycee asked.

Ty looked at his watch and frowned. "8:12," he said. "I wish I could stay longer but if I miss curfew I'll get grounded and then I won't be able to see you for like a week."

"I don't want you to get in trouble," Jaycee said.

"If you wanna try to sleep now, I'll still sit with you," Ty offered.

"I don't want to sleep but I'm so tired," Jaycee said. Every time she closed her eyes she could see the other car speeding towards them, she could hear Milo's screams, she could feel her car caving in around them. As much as she longed for the escape sleep provided, she didn't want to relive the crash over and over again. Tears formed at the corners of her eyes but she tried her hardest to hold them back. She didn't want to cry in front of Ty. "Gibbs, could I have a Kleenex?"

Gibbs retrieved a handful of tissues and wiped her eyes before handing the rest to her. "It's okay, Sweetheart," he said as he rested his hand on her forehead. "Just try to relax. I don't think Ty minds if you cry."

"No Sir, not at all," Ty confirmed.

"But I don't want to," Jaycee said.

"I know but you've had a really tough day," Gibbs said. "You can't keep all those emotions bottled up inside you. They're gonna come out eventually."

"I cried when I heard about your wreck," Ty said trying to make her feel better. "Marcus had to send me on break so I could pull myself together." He hadn't technically cried but he did need a moment to pull himself together. He just didn't want Jaycee to feel ashamed or be embarrassed. He took one of the tissues from her hand and gently dabbed at her tears.

"I think I wanna try to sleep now," Jaycee said.

"Want me to go?" Ty asked. He didn't want to leave but if Jaycee wanted him to then he'd respect that.

"No, please stay," Jaycee said reaching for his hand.

Gibbs leaned over and kissed her forehead before returning to his chair. Ty held Jaycee's hand while she tried to sleep. It took her a little while but she finally managed to drift off to a restless sleep. Ty stayed at her side, holding her hand and watching over her. He'd never felt so helpless. He'd gladly trade places with her but since that wasn't possible he'd do everything he could to comfort her.

"Hey Kiddo," Gibbs said, "I don't mean to butt in but I don't want you to miss your curfew."

Ty looked at his watch and sighed. "You're not gonna leave her alone, right?"

"Wouldn't dream of it," Gibbs said.

"Will you tell her I'll call her tomorrow?" Ty asked.

"Yep," Gibbs said.

The teenager looked nervously at Gibbs, contemplating his next question. He decided to just go for it. "Do you think it would be okay if I kissed Jaycee goodnight?" he asked.

"Does Jaycee let you kiss her goodnight?" Gibbs asked.

Fear crossed Ty's face. He didn't have a clue how to answer. Was it a trick question? If he answered truthfully would Gibbs be angry? Was it some kind of test?

"I'm not asking so I can yell at ya," Gibbs said seeing the panic on the boy's face.

"She lets me kiss her on the cheek," Ty answered honestly.

"I think it'd be okay if you kissed her cheek," Gibbs said.

Ty gave Jaycee a quick peck on the cheek before saying goodbye to Gibbs and leaving. Not long after he left, Jaycee was startled awake again. The room was quiet and the door was closed to keep noises from the hallway out so Gibbs suspected she was having nightmares.

"Having trouble sleeping?" he asked.

Jaycee hesitated before nodding reluctantly. She didn't like to show any weakness to anyone. She was always the mature one, she was always the adult, it was her job to always be okay and that was a hard habit to break. "Where's Ty?" she asked quietly.

"He had to get home," Gibbs answered. "He said he'd call you tomorrow. I even let him kiss your cheek."

Jaycee smiled as she reached for her cheek. "Thank you."

"You're welcome."

A nurse came in and gave Jaycee more pain medicine and something to help her sleep. After recording her vitals she left to see her next patient. Jaycee turned the TV on and started flipping channels again while Gibbs relaxed in the chair next to her bed. It wasn't long before she was dozing off again but just like every other time she'd tried to sleep that night, she jerked herself awake causing more pain and soreness.

Gibbs reached over and held her hand, hoping his presence might help but the night continued as it had been. Midnight was fast approaching and Jaycee couldn't take it any longer. Silent cries turned to loud, uncontrollable sobs. Gibbs scooted her over in the bed as gently as he could and climbed in next to her. He wrapped his arms around her and let her cry as long and as hard as she needed to. He hoped Sam was having better luck with Milo and was grateful Tony was there in case she needed help.

Jaycee cried herself to sleep in Gibbs' arms. He held her as she twitched and jerked and soothed her back to sleep whenever she woke. His presence didn't take away the nightmares but somehow she felt safer.

///////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////

Kylee was the first one up the following morning. The five year old had an internal clock and always got herself up and ready for school. She quietly made her way down to the bathroom then tiptoed back to her bedroom to get herself dressed. Gracie woke when she heard Kylee moving around and decided it was time to feed her baby doll. After feeding it, she changed its diaper and clothes. Once her doll was taken care of she found one of her many princess dresses and put it on.

"That's for dress up, Gracie," Kylee told her.

"So," Gracie shot back.

Kylee shrugged it off and started brushing her hair. By the time Sam came in, Gracie was rocking her baby doll back to sleep while she sang it a song and Kylee was struggling to do her hair.

"Good morning girlies," she greeted cheerfully. "How are we today?"

"Good," both answered in harmony.

"I need help, Mommy," Kylee said handing her hairbrush to Sam.

"It looks like you were doing a fantastic job all by yourself, Baby Girl," Sam said as she took the brush, "but I would love to help you finish up. What do you think about a ponytail today?"

"Whenever I have a ponytail the boy behind me pulls it," Kylee said.

"Then how about we do pigtails," Sam suggested, "and I'll have a little chat with your teacher about the boy pulling your hair."

Kylee nodded happily. She loved pigtails.

Once Kylee's hair was done Sam opened the bedroom door and nearly got run over by the twins streaking down the hall. Lucas was in the lead for a change and although Sam could see that Milo was a little stiff, both boys were giggling and having a great time. Tony was right behind them, chasing after them. He stopped in front of Sam and did his best to look composed and in control.

"Everything's under control here," he said.

"I can see that," Sam said with a grin as the agent took off after the boys. Must be a Wednesday, she thought. "Come on, ladies, it's breakfast time."

Tony caught up with the twins in the bathroom. He waited for them to finish peeing then snatched them up before they could escape. "I know there's some rule about clothes around here," he said. "Do either of you two remember what it is?"

Milo sighed and Lucas rolled his eyes. "We have to wear our undies 'cause the girls don't wanna see our booties," Lucas said.

"That's the one," Tony said with a wink.

He knew the rule but it was fun to trick the boys into telling him. He wished it was that easy to trip criminals up. It would make his job a whole lot easier. He took the boys out to the hall and stood them on the floor with an arm around both of their midsections. "Last one to get his underwear on is a rotten egg," he said. "On your mark, get set, go!" He let them go and watched as they scurried off towards their bedroom.

He was enjoying being the father figure for a little while. He'd spent so many years telling himself he couldn't do it and worrying he'd turn out like his own dad that he'd avoided children at all cost but this was different. The boys were fun and almost as high energy as he was and the girls were sweet and cuddly. He realized he was more than capable of caring for children and that he actually enjoyed it.

It took a couple minutes for the boys to choose which cartoon character they wanted on their underwear that day but before long both of them were racing back down the hall towards Tony. Tony held his arms out and stopped them from running into the wall behind him by pulling them into a hug.

"I win!" both screamed at once.

"I think that was a tie!" Tony said. "You know what that means?"

"What?" Lucas asked.

"That means you both win!" Tony said. "No rotten eggs today."

"Yay!" the twins cheered.

Breakfast was as wild as ever but between Sam and Tony they got all four little ones fed and cleaned up. The twins headed into the living room and dumped the blocks out everywhere. Gracie found a fun game where an alligator bit her fingers whenever she pushed on the wrong tooth. Sam threw together a quick lunch for Kylee while Tony helped the little girl get her shoes tied.

"Are you going to be okay here until Jethro gets home?" Sam asked.

"Don't worry about us," Tony said. "We'll be fine."

Gibbs' team had been taken off the rotation until things settled down. Tim and Ziva would head to the office that morning and start on their case reports. Tony would show up later on after Gibbs made it home and Gibbs would either come in or not come in depending on how the kids were feeling. The team always dropped everything in a heartbeat if one of them was in trouble. Mike's unspoken rule was to do what you had to for family and all of them lived by it. Something about facing death every day helped them see what was important.

"Okay, Mommy's going to work now," Sam said as she entered the living room. "Who has hugs and kisses for me?"

Gracie stood back and let the twins go first. She knew if she didn't they'd run her over. Milo and Lucas were in Sam's arms in an instant. She hugged them close and kissed all over their heads dramatically. The boys ate it up. They may have thought they were little tough guys but they couldn't get enough of her hugs and kisses.

"You guys listen to Tony, do what he says," Sam said. "Understood?"

"Understood," Lucas said.

"As long as Mia doesn't come here then I will be a good boy," Milo said.

Sam smiled and kissed his cheek once more. "Three years old and you're already a heart breaker," she said with a laugh. She put the boys down and picked Gracie up. "You have a good day, Sweetie Pie," she said. "Papa will be home with Jaycee soon."

"I will be a good helper," Gracie said.

"I know you will, Babe," Sam said. She kissed Gracie's cheek then put her down. "I love you guys and I'll see you all tonight."

There was a chorus of 'bye mommy's' as Sam took Kylee's hand and led her out to the car. Sam sang songs with Kylee on the way to school like they did every morning after they dropped Jaycee off. With only one school to go to, they got there earlier than usual.

"Who's gonna pick me up today?" Kylee asked.

"I'm not sure if it'll be Papa or me," Sam said, "but one of us will be here. Do you have everything you need?"

"Yeah," Kylee said. "When I get home is Jaycee gonna be there?"

"As far as I know," Sam said.

Kylee and Jaycee were very close. Jaycee was more like a mother to the little girl than a sister. She'd taken care of her her whole life. It was difficult to adjust to Jaycee being gone on dates or working or out with friends but having Gibbs and Sam made it a little easier.

"Have a wonderful day, Sweetheart," Sam said as she pulled up in front of the school. "See ya later, alligator."

"After a while, crocodile," Kylee said with a big grin. She got out of the car and turned to wave before disappearing inside the school.

Sam had about an hour before she had to be at work so she stopped and got Gibbs and Jaycee some breakfast then hurried to the hospital. Gibbs was just coming out of the bathroom after having changed into the jeans and t-shirt she'd packed him.

"Good morning," Sam said before pressing her lips to his. "I guess I forgot your razor," she said.

"I can shave when I get home," Gibbs said as he took the food.

"Don't," Sam said. "I like a little stubble every once in awhile." She ran her fingers down his jaw line and winked at him. Gibbs smiled and kissed her again. "How'd you guys do last night?"

"It was rough," Gibbs said. "Jaycee had a hard time sleeping but they finally got her pain under control."

"At least we've conquered one battle," Sam said running her hand over Jaycee's hair.

"Gibbs even let Ty visit me," Jaycee said happily, "and he let him kiss my cheek."

"I told you he was a big softy," Sam said rubbing Gibbs' belly.

"How were things on your end last night?" Gibbs asked.

"Entertaining to say the least," Sam answered. "Milo was exhausted and not acting like himself so Lucas was convinced we'd broken him. He fell asleep in his ketchup so Tony and Abby thought it looked like fake blood. Ziva had to scold them for that. Let's see, Ziva got to bathe Lucas although I'm not sure who ended up bathing who. They were both pretty wet."

"Who did Milo?" Jaycee asked.

"Tony did Milo but he pretty much slept through the whole thing so Tony didn't get the full experience," Sam said. "Ziva played dress up with the girls. Tony took Milo's place causing mischief with Lucas. It was all kinds of fun."

"How'd Milo sleep?" Gibbs asked.

"Like a rock," Sam said. "The boys slept together on one bed like they usually do and Tony slept in there with them on the other bed. I didn't hear a peep out of any of them all night."

"I'm surprised the twins didn't end up in bed with Tony," Gibbs said.

"They may have," Sam said. "They were all up before I had a chance to peek in on them. Gracie decided to serenade us this morning—actually she was singing to her baby doll but I'm pretty sure everybody in the house could hear her."

Gibbs smiled as he pictured it. The four year old was so carefree and happy and she loved to sing. "I'm sorry I missed it," he said.

Sam sat down on the bed next to Jaycee and wrapped her arms around her. "How are you feeling, Baby?" she asked before kissing her head.

"I'm okay… kind of," Jaycee said with obvious hesitation.

Sam kissed her head again and smiled at her. "Just kind of?" she asked sympathetically. "You look like you're moving around a little better."

"I'm just really tired," Jaycee admitted.

"Nightmares bothering you?" Sam asked. Jaycee nodded. "They'll pass," Sam said. "Your body's coming out of shock. Things will be a little rough for a while but it'll get better, I promise. You know you can always talk to Jethro and I, right?"

Jaycee nodded again as she rested in Sam's arms. "Is Milo okay? I mean, he's not having the same problems, is he?"

"He's young enough he can't really comprehend what could've happened," Sam said. "We sit back and analyze every possible horrific outcome. We think about all the what-ifs and worse case scenarios and it scares us. Milo understands that you guys got hurt and maybe to a certain extent understands you could've died but he knows everybody's okay and because of his age he has an easier time moving on."

"That makes me feel better," Jaycee said.

Sam patted her shoulder then looked at her watch. "I've gotta get going. I'll see you guys tonight. Rest, relax, try to have a good day. I love you both." She kissed them both then left for work.

///////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////

After Jaycee was discharged, a nurse helped her change into the clothes Sam had sent over the night before. Jaycee slowly limped out to the parking lot with Gibbs. As much as she wanted to leave the hospital and go home, she didn't want to get in the car. Gibbs could sense her hesitation and fear. He wrapped his arm around her shoulders as they walked.

"It's alright, Sweetheart," he said gently. "I know you're scared but everything's going to be okay."

Jaycee looked up at him and released a shuddery breath as she nodded her head.

Gibbs opened the door for her and helped her into the car. Jaycee fastened her seatbelt and made sure it was pulled tight. The two talked during the ride which helped a little but Jaycee was still alert and on edge. When Gibbs parked the car in the driveway, she couldn't get out fast enough. Gibbs smiled as he grabbed their things from the backseat.

As soon as they entered the house they were hit with a wall of noise. Tony and the kids were so involved in their game they didn't even realize anyone had come in. They'd pulled the couch out from the wall and Tony and Gracie were behind it. The underwear clad twins were hunkered down behind the coffee table which had been flipped on its side and there were balled up socks flying back and forth between the two groups.

Gibbs cleared his throat to get their attention but there was so much laughter and yelling that they didn't hear him. He finally got their attention with an ear piercing whistle.

"Oh, hey Boss," Tony said looking out from behind the couch. "I didn't hear you come in. Welcome home."

"I don't think you guys could've heard anything over all this noise," Gibbs said.

"Oh, this," Tony said trying to come up with an explanation. "Well, you see, Lucas decided he was tired of wearing socks so he took them off and tossed them over his shoulder. One of them landed on Gracie's head and she threw it back and things just kind of snowballed from there."

"Incoming!" Milo yelled before launching a sock in Tony's direction and nailing him in the side of the head.

"It looks like you've got every single sock in the house down here," Gibbs said taking in the war zone.

"Not exactly every sock," Tony said.

"We didn't get you or Mommy's dress up socks," Gracie explained.

"She means dress socks, but yeah," Tony said.

"Well, I'm sure you guys will have a lot of fun putting the matches back together when you're done playing," Gibbs said.

Tony looked at his three little partners in crime and realized clean up would fall mainly on his shoulders. He was almost starting to regret their game. He hated matching socks when he did his own laundry. The living room was scattered with an array of different colored and sized socks for seven people plus the pair he'd taken off and launched at the twins. It was going to be a long day.

"It's not as bad as you think," Jaycee said as if she were reading his mind. "I'll help you."

Gracie, Milo and Lucas collected the socks and unballed them then put them in a pile on the couch for Tony and Jaycee to match. While Tony and the kids worked on cleaning up, Gibbs headed upstairs for a shower and a shave. After the socks had been sorted and Gibbs had gotten cleaned up and had a cup of coffee in hand, he decided to head to the Navy Yard. He'd take the little ones with him and put them in daycare for a couple hours but Jaycee decided she wanted to stay put.

Gibbs kissed her goodbye, Tony helped him get the kids ready then they were off. Milo didn't seem to be bothered by being in the car. He was singing songs with his siblings and pretending to drive just like he always did.

After dropping the kids off at daycare, Gibbs headed to the bullpen and found his team working. They liked to screw around and he had to work hard to keep them in line sometimes but they were also very good at their jobs and knew when it was time to get to work.

"How are the children?" Ziva asked.

"Jaycee's pretty sore and shaken up but they'll be okay," Gibbs answered.

"Is Milo feeling better?" Tim asked. "He was pretty tuckered out last night."

"I think a good night sleep cured him," Tony said. "I woke up with him and Lucas sitting on my chest pulling my eyelids open."

Ziva laughed and Gibbs smirked. Tony may have finally met his match in the three year old boys. After Gibbs had a chance to get settled in, Tim handed him his case report to be signed off on.

"You're done already?" Tony asked. "Talk about a teacher's pet!"

"At least I got to work on time," Tim shot back.

"Hey, I was babysitting!" Tony said. "That happens to be a very important job."

"Settle down," Gibbs said. "You were both where you were supposed to be."

Tony and Tim made faces at each other as Tim returned to his desk. Ziva rolled her eyes at both of them.

By the time Gibbs finished Tim's report and signed off on it, Ziva was handing him hers. Tony was grumbling under his breath as he worked on his. He hated writing reports. It always made him feel like he was back in school. Ziva watched him for a moment with a smile on her face.

"Problems, Tony?" she asked.

"Not at all, Zee-vah," Tony replied. He winked at her as she laughed.

Gibbs only stayed at work a couple hours before returning home. He knew Jaycee would be okay but he didn't want to leave her alone for too long. The large cut on her leg made it difficult for her to move around and her nightmares were really scaring her and even though Milo was running around like a wild man, Gibbs knew he was still sore too. It would be a good night to take it easy in front of the TV with a giant batch of popcorn.

Chapter Text

Jaycee returned to school the day after she was released from the hospital. She was still a little sore and had a significant limp but she really wanted to get back into the swing of things. Staying home alone for the couple hours Gibbs was at work the previous day had just about driven her crazy. She wasn't used to silence and couldn't imagine a whole day of quiet and boredom. She was desperate for any distraction from what had happened.

She was on her way to her third hour class when two well-built football players blocked her path in the crowded hall. She tried to walk around them but they wouldn't let her.

"Excuse me," she said as friendly as she could despite her nerves. She had a bad feeling about what the guys were up to.

"Are you the one that was in that wreck?" one of the guys asked. It wasn't much of a secret. The wreck had been all over the news and Jaycee had airbag burns all over her face.

Jaycee silently shrugged her shoulders.

"You killed our friend," the other guy said.

"I didn't kill anybody." Jaycee's usual confidence was absent. She was tired and shaky. She hated being scared of everything but didn't know how to change it.

"Ever heard of defensive driving?" the first guy asked snidely.

"I don't— I just— I didn't…"

The football players pushed Jaycee to the ground as she stumbled over her words. "Shawn didn't deserve to die. Unlike you he was gonna make something of his life."

"You're a murderer," the other guys said. "You'll get what's coming to you."

///////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////

Gibbs was in Abby's lab getting an update on their case when he got a call from Jaycee's counselor. A student had found her crying in the bathroom and told one of the teachers who'd told her counselor. Jaycee wouldn't tell them what happened but she was obviously very upset. Gibbs hurried to the school and was escorted to the counselor's office.

"Hey Kiddo," he said resting his hand on Jaycee's back as she sat slumped over in the chair.

"I told them not to call you," Jaycee said. She didn't want to bother him at work. She didn't want to be an inconvenience.

"You're my top priority, Jaycee," Gibbs said. "What's going on? What happened?"

"I don't wanna talk about it," Jaycee said. Tattling would only make things worse. Besides, what if the wreck really was her fault? What if she had murdered Shawn? The thought terrified her. "Can I go now?" she asked as she stood to leave. As soon as she took a step towards the door her leg buckled and she fell to the floor.

"Looks like you're bleeding," Gibbs said as he knelt by her side. "Did one of your stitches come out?"

"I don't know," Jaycee moaned as Gibbs helped her to her feet. "Please, I just wanna go."

Gibbs looked at the teenager on the verge of tears and wasn't sure how to get her to open up. "Yeah Baby," he said, "I'm gonna take you with me."

"Agent Gibbs, can I have a word with you in private before you go?" the counselor asked.

Gibbs nodded and helped Jaycee back to the chair. The counselor made sure the teenager knew she wasn't in trouble before taking Gibbs to a small room next door to her office. She introduced herself as Mary Lou since they'd never formally met. Gibbs had met her husband, Marcus, when they'd worked out the deal on the car but never her.

""How much information were you given about the others involved in the wreck?" Mary Lou asked.

"I was told it was two teenagers who ran a red light and one of them was thrown from the car and died," Gibbs said. He'd been so focused on his kids that he hadn't asked for any more information.

"Shawn, the boy who died, went to school here," Mary Lou said. "He was very popular, rich, quarterback of the football team, well-liked. The kids are taking it pretty hard. We've brought in some grief counselors but you know teenagers, they bottle things up. I'm afraid—"

"The kids are blaming Jaycee, aren't they?" Gibbs asked when the counselor hesitated.

"I don't know for sure and she's not talking but I've heard some grumbles as I've walked the halls," Mary Lou said. "Jaycee's a tough kid who can hold her own but right now she's a scared and broken little girl. She closing herself off and I'm worried."

Gibbs rubbed his brow as the counselor's words sank in. "Sam's a psychologist. I'll talk to her and we'll get something figured out."

"I don't mean to butt in," Mary Lou said. "Jaycee is a very special girl and I just want to see her happy."

"She sure is," Gibbs said. "We appreciate all you've done for her."

After a trip to the emergency room to get Jaycee's leg stitched up again, Gibbs headed to the Pentagon to pick Sam up. They'd already planned on having lunch together and with Jaycee having such a rough time it couldn't have worked out better. Gibbs called Sam as he pulled into the parking lot and she headed out to meet him.

"Hi Love," she said as she got into the car. She leaned over to kiss him before putting her seatbelt on. "How was your morning?"

"Mine? Not bad," Gibbs said, "but somebody else is having a rough day." He turned and looked at Jaycee and Sam did the same.

"Oh, hey Baby," Sam said with a perky smile. "I didn't realize you were back there. Why aren't you at school? Did something happen?"

Jaycee shrugged as she looked blankly at Sam. She didn't want to talk about it. Sam reached around and patted her leg then turned to Gibbs for an explanation.

"For starters she ripped a couple stitches," he said. "We just came from the ER. She doesn't want to tell us how though."

"Talk to us, Jaycee," Sam said as she turned to face her, "stitches don't just fall out, Baby."

"I fell," Jaycee said with a shrug. It wasn't a lie and they didn't need to know she'd been pushed.

"Is that why your counselor found you hiding in the bathroom?" Gibbs asked.

Jaycee started squirming around nervously in the backseat. She was starting to get upset and angry and really didn't want to talk about it. She took a calming breath like Sam had taught her before answering. "I guess it was just too soon to try to go back to school. Can we please go home?"

Gibbs and Sam looked at Jaycee then each other. "Sure Baby," Sam said.

///////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////

Jaycee ended up staying home from school on Friday as well but she did go back to work. Work was different. Her coworkers supported her. They were her friends.

She hadn't gotten very far into her shift when she dropped a tray full of drinks on an older gentleman. Between her bad leg and her nerves, she was having a difficult time holding it together. Marcus stepped in when the man started yelling at her and diffused the situation.

After Marcus got the customer settled down, he gave Jaycee a pep talk and reassigned her to be greeter until her leg healed up. Although Jaycee didn't mind being reassigned, she was still mad at herself about what had happened. In her mind it was just another failure on her part.

Saturday morning brought the same chaos every weekend did. Sam was making breakfast while Gibbs got a shower. Saturday was the one day of the week the kids got to pick what they wanted for breakfast and she would make it for them. She'd made Kylee's favorite blueberry oatmeal, Gracie's bowl of Lucky Charms and had just finished the twins' chocolate chip pancakes but they'd disappeared.

Gibbs had just gone into the bathroom for his shower when the door swung open and the twins came in.

"What are you doin'?" Lucas asked.

"What does it look like I'm doing?" Gibbs asked.

"You are peeing!" Milo said.

"You guessed it," Gibbs said. "What are you two doing? You gettin' into trouble already?"

"No," Milo giggled.

Lucas found the bottle of shaving cream sitting on the sink and before Gibbs could stop him, he had it sprayed all over himself and his brother. "Oopsy," he said grinning up at Gibbs.

"What is this stuff?" Milo asked excitedly as he smeared his hands in it. It felt funny and the more he smeared it around, the more it seemed to grow.

"Jethro, have you seen—" Sam stopped short when she opened the bathroom door and saw the boys.

"Missing someone?" Gibbs asked as he flushed the toilet.

Sam tried not to laugh but failed miserably. "Do you want me to get them cleaned up?" she offered.

"Nah, we'll have a shaving lesson then they can get in the shower with me," Gibbs said wrapping a towel around his waist.

Gibbs removed the blades from two of his razors as he explained the rules of shaving to the boys. He never left razors in their reach but made sure they knew they could only shave if he was there and could only use the special razors. He lathered up his face then put a little on the boys' cheeks and they mimicked him as he shaved. Sam couldn't resist and snuck back in to take a picture. She'd frame it later and display it in the bathroom. It was too cute to pass up.

Once they were finished shaving, they got in the shower. The boys hated baths but were curious about the shower. Milo got in with no hesitation. He loved playing in the rain. In his mind the shower was even better because it was warm and he got to be naked. Lucas was a little more hesitant. Gibbs lifted him in the got in behind him.

"Help! It's in my face!" Lucas yelled trying to bat the water away and escape from the spray. "Let me out!"

"Hang on, Kiddo," Gibbs said picking him so the shower wasn't spraying him in the face. "Let's get you cleaned up."

"I like takin' showers!" Milo said happily.

"I'm glad to hear that," Gibbs said as he got Lucas cleaned up. Showers might be a simple solution for the dreaded bath time but Milo was a little bit too small and Gibbs had no intention of sharing his shower time with the rambunctious three year old every morning.

"Okay Lucas, you're all done, Buddy," Gibbs said. "I can't keep holding you. Do you want to stand by Milo or do you want out?"

"I want out," Lucas said without hesitation. Unlike Milo he didn't like the water spraying him or hitting his face.

Gibbs dried Lucas off and sent him on his way. He knew he'd run into Sam eventually and she'd get him dressed. Until then it wasn't unusual for him to be streaking through the house.

After playing under the water, all the shaving cream had been washed off of Milo but the little boy was having way too much fun to get out so Gibbs let him stay.

"Daddy, why is there no puddles in here?" Milo asked.

"'Cause the water's going down the drain," Gibbs answered as he put shampoo in his hair.

"But I want to splash in the puddles," Milo said.

"If I plug the drain the tub's gonna fill up and it'll be just like taking a bath," Gibbs said.

"Oh. I don't wanna take a baff," Milo said.

With no puddles to stomp in, Milo decided to sing in the rain instead. It wasn't often Gibbs had entertainment during his shower and he couldn't help but smile at the little boy's song about fat ducks quacking in the pond. Trying to get Milo to share the water with him was the biggest challenge but luckily he had the height advantage.

Once they were done in the shower, while Gibbs started getting dressed, Milo found a pair of handcuffs in the drawer of Gibbs' nightstand along with his badge and ID. A knock at the door pulled Gibbs' attention. He zipped and buttoned his pants then opened the bedroom door.

"Mornin' Jaycee," he said.

"Sam sent me to get Milo dressed so you could get dressed in peace," Jaycee said. She'd just gotten up and Sam was making her a smoothie and scrambled eggs for breakfast.

"Thanks Kiddo," Gibbs said. "Milo, come here. Jaycee's gonna help you get dressed."

"Boys don't wear clothes," Milo reminded him from the opposite side of the bed. Would Daddy and Mommy ever learn?

"Come on, Milo," Gibbs said. "You need to at least put some underwear on."

"I can't," Milo said. "I'm stuck."

"How are you stuck?" Gibbs walked over to the opposite side of the bed and saw that Milo had handcuffed himself to the bed frame. The little boy was lying on his back giggling up at Gibbs. "What am I gonna do with you?" Gibbs asked shaking his head.

"I don't know," Milo giggled.

"What are you gonna do when you get hungry or have to go potty or when everybody else is playing and you can't get up?" Gibbs asked.

Milo stopped giggling and his eyes widened as he thought about what Gibbs was saying. He realized that maybe he hadn't thought things through all the way before handcuffing himself to the bed.

"Lucky for you I've got the key," Gibbs said before Milo could worry too much. He freed Milo then put the handcuffs out of reach on top of his dresser and sent Milo off with Jaycee.

"Uh, Gibbs, Mac called this morning and asked if I could sleep over tonight. Sam said to check with you. Do you think it would be okay?"

"You already talked to Mackenzie this morning?" Gibbs asked. "You just woke up, sleepyhead."

"She kinda woke me up," Jaycee said with a smile.

"I see," Gibbs said. "As long as you're feeling okay I don't see a problem."

"For real?" Jaycee asked. "Thanks!" She was surprised at how easy it had been to lie to both Gibbs and Sam. She hated to do it but felt like she had to. Mackenzie's older sister had invited them to a party at her sorority house. Mac was looking forward to a fun party and she was sure it would cheer Jaycee up. As far as Gibbs and Sam knew, the girls would be at Mac's house and as far as Mac's parents knew the girls were going out to dinner and a movie. In their minds it was the perfect plan.

///////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////

Gibbs spent the morning at the barber shop and grocery store with the twins while Sam took the girls out to be pampered. Jaycee had to work at 11:00 but they'd gotten an early enough start that there was plenty of time to get their hair and nails done.

The afternoon was spent at the playground. After dropping Jaycee off at work, Gibbs and Sam took the little ones to a local park. It was a little cool but the sun was shining and there wasn't a cloud in the sky. It was a beautiful day to spend outside letting the kids work off some of their excess energy. Gibbs and Sam chased the kids around, pushed them on the swings, helped them slide down the fire poles and played in the sand with them. An hour and a half later they headed home for lunch and a nap.

Sam picked Jaycee up from work and dropped her off at Mackenzie's house. While she spent the night with her friend, Tony, Tim, Ziva and Abby were coming over to have a movie night at Gibbs' house. Sam stopped and picked up several pizzas on the way back from dropping Jaycee off. The team was bringing snacks.

Tony was the first one to arrive at Gibbs' house. The twins were at his side as soon as he walked in the door. They took the shopping bag from him and disappeared into the living room to see what he'd brought. Tony kicked his shoes off then scooped Gracie into his arms.

"Hi Princess," he said before kissing her cheek. "You having a good day?"

Gracie smiled and nodded her head. "We went to the park."

"And you didn't invite me?" Tony asked pretending to be offended. "You should ask Papa to build you a playground in your backyard. He's really good at building stuff."

"Maybe in the spring," Gibbs said coming down the stairs holding Kylee's hand.

"Hi Sweetie," Tony said as he brushed his thumb over Kylee's cheek. The five year old was the shyest of the kids but was starting to open up to the team. Tony loved to make her smile.

Kylee giggled quietly and hid her face in Tony's leg.

"Wanna play dress up with us?" Gracie asked.

"You're not gonna make me wear a dress, are you?" Tony asked.

"No, you silly," Gracie said. "Boys don't wear dresses!"

"Alright, let's go," Tony said.

Gracie all but dragged Tony up to her room with Kylee following close behind. Gracie put on a vintage dress Abby had given her, chose a matching purse and pair of heels. Kylee decided on a baseball uniform top and a large, floppy Easter hat and Tony chose one of Gibbs' old uniforms since that was the only thing that would fit him.

"Let's play house," Gracie said. "You could be our husband."

"Two wives?" Tony asked. "Sounds like double trouble to me!"

Gracie giggled as she went over to where the dolls were. "We have some kids too," she said. "This is Jasmine and Missy and Dolly and Ella and Lucy and Minnie—"

"That's a lot of kids," Tony said as Gracie piled the dolls in his arms.

Kylee decided she wanted to be the dog. "Arf! Arf!" she barked as she crawled around Tony's feet.

"Uh-oh, the doggy wants you to pet her," Gracie said patting Kylee's head. "Good doggy. Wait a minute! You are not the doggy. You are the other wife!"

"Come here, other wife," Tony said putting the dolls aside and picking Kylee up, "you can sit on my lap."

"It's time for Jasmine to eat dinner," Gracie said retrieving a bottle. "Kylee, you can feed her and Tony will change her poopy diaper."

"How'd I get stuck on diaper duty?" Tony asked.

Gracie shrugged as she grabbed another bottle. "I will feed Ella then they have to go to school so we can go to work."

"I work at a baseball field," Kylee said.

"I work at a hospital where they deliver babies," Gracie said. "Tony, you got to tell your boss that you can't go to war, 'cause you have to stay here with us."

"That should go over well," Tony said taking the doll Kylee handed him. "I'll let him know."

Before the game could go any further, Sam came up to get them for dinner. Tony escorted his wives down to the dining room, helped them into their seats then pushed them up to the table while everyone else watched.

"Is there something you want to tell us, Tony?" Ziva asked.

"Boss, I have some news," Tony said as seriously as he could. "Gracie and Kylee and I got married. Don't worry though, I'll take good care of them."

"Hey, that's our dress up clothes!" Lucas said.

"I was just borrowing it," Tony said, "in case I had to go off to war."

"Two wives, you might have a war in your house, DiNozzo," Gibbs said.

"That or I'll be begging to go off to war," Tony joked.

"You have two very beautiful wives, Tony," Sam said as she put a piece of pizza on each other the girls' plates and kissed their heads. "Just make sure Gracie eats her veggies and they both get to bed at a decent hour."

After dinner they all headed into the living room to watch a movie. Gibbs sat down on the couch with Milo in his lap and Sam and Abby cuddled into him on both sides. Tony squeezed in on the other side of Abby with Kylee in his lap. Ziva sat down in front of them with Lucas and Tim sat in the recliner with Gracie. Everybody had a bowl of popcorn with candy mixed into it to snack on.

"Tony?" Kylee whispered.

"Hmm?"

"Are you really mine and Gracie's husband?"

"No, that was just pretend," Tony whispered. "You're too little to have a husband."

"But you still love us, right?" Kylee asked.

"Always and forever, Munchkin," Tony said as he kissed her head.

///////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////

The party was more intimidating than Jaycee thought it would be. It was loud, the attendees were all older than her and Mackenzie and there were things going on that she wasn't quite sure what to make of. She'd seen a lot of things in her life but had never watched someone slurp jell-o off somebody else's belly. Mackenzie's sister had helped both girls with their hair, makeup and outfits so they would look older than they were. Nobody thought anything strange about them.

"You two are looking way too tense," one of the guys said, "this is a party!" He offered them both a bottle of beer. "This'll loosen you up."

The girls exchanged glances before taking the alcohol. Both figured they were there to have fun and one beer wasn't going to hurt anything. They introduced themselves to the guy and got to know him as they drank. Before they knew it, they'd consumed more alcohol than they'd intended. Jaycee followed Bradley, the guy that had been flirting with her, upstairs to an empty bedroom without a second thought. The alcohol was working wonders. She had never felt so relaxed and carefree in her life.

After making out with Bradley for a little while, he was ready to take things to next level. His hands slipped under her shirt and moved to the button of her pants. Jaycee didn't protest until he tried to push her pants down over her hips. Something clicked inside her and she panicked.

"No, I can't— I don't want to do this," she said quickly refastening the button. "I'm sorry," she called over her shoulder as she raced out of the bedroom and back down the stairs. Suddenly the noise was overwhelming and there were far too many people in the house. Jaycee hurried outside for some fresh air but the partygoers had spread out onto the front lawn.

She ran as fast as she could on her sore leg in her alcohol induced haze and made it a few blocks away before collapsing under a light pole. The night was dark, the air was cold and she was scared. She tried to shake the haze clouding her mind but couldn't. She knew she had to call someone, she just had to figure out who.

The last person she wanted to call was Ty. She didn't want to tell him what happened and she couldn't lie to him. She considered going back to the party to find Mackenzie but the last she'd seen of her friend she was too drunk to think straight let alone drive. Gibbs and Sam would be beyond mad if they found out but there was no one else to call. She was sure they were going to kick her out but she hoped she could convince them to let her siblings stay. She couldn't believe how quickly one party had screwed everything up.

Sam answered the phone and after a brief conversation with Jaycee, told her to stay put and headed out to pick her up. It took her longer than she would've liked but she finally found the teenager hunched over under the light pole.

"Are you mad?" Jaycee asked as Sam helped her to her feet.

"Very," Sam said lovingly as she took her coat off and wrapped it around Jaycee's shoulders, "but more than that, I'm terrified." She helped her into the passenger seat then buckled her seatbelt for her before getting into the driver's seat.

"Does Gibbs have to know about this?" Jaycee asked.

"We're gonna have to tell him, Baby," Sam said as she drove. "It's our responsibility to keep you safe."

"He's gonna kill me," Jaycee mumbled. "Do you think he'll kick me out?"

"Never," Sam said. "Do you want to know why?" Jaycee shrugged as Sam smiled at her and patted her arm. "Because we love you unconditionally. No mistake you make will ever cause either of us to stop loving you."

By the time they got home the little ones were in bed and the team had gone home. Gibbs was waiting on the couch, coffee in hand.

"Go sit down by Jethro, Sweetheart," Sam said as she hung her coat up.

Jaycee couldn't bring herself to make eye contact with Gibbs as she sat next to him. She was careful not to get too close and tried to look confident but knew she wasn't fooling anyone. Gibbs could see she was shivering. He wasn't sure if it was from fear or cold so he wrapped the blanket on the back of the couch around her shoulders.

"Aren't you gonna yell at me?" Jaycee asked, her voice barely audible.

"No," Gibbs answered calmly, "I don't think that would help anything."

"Could I go to bed then?" Jaycee asked hopefully.

"Oh, we're still gonna talk," Gibbs said.

"Here you go, Baby," Sam said handing Jaycee a glass of water and a large mixing bowl.

"What's this for?" Jaycee asked.

"The water's to keep you hydrated," Sam explained. "Alcohol dehydrates you quickly. The bowl's for when you start throwing up. You're looking a little green around the edges."

"I wasn't drinking," Jaycee said.

"If you start lying to us then I might start yelling, Kiddo," Gibbs said. "It's obvious that you've had more to drink tonight than I've had all week."

"Sorry," Jaycee said, sinking down into the couch.

"What were you thinking, Jaycee?" Gibbs asked.

"I was— It's just that… I-I guess I thought maybe it would take my mind off stuff," Jaycee said.

"What would take your mind off stuff?" Gibbs asked. "Alcohol and making out with college boys?"

Jaycee frowned and hung her head. "I didn't mean to."

"Jaycee, Baby, that boy could've gone to jail," Sam said.

"He thought I was nineteen," Jaycee said. "He's only twenty two."

"Doesn't matter," Sam said. "The legal age of consent in Virginia is eighteen. It doesn't matter how old that boy thought you were. It doesn't even matter if it was consensual. If you guys had done anything sexual and I mean anything he would've been in big trouble."

Gibbs let what Sam said sink in before he started. "Let's talk about the drinking," he said. "Not only is it illegal for you to be drinking, it's dangerous."

Jaycee sank even further into the couch. She wished they would just hug her and kiss her and tell her they loved her and that everything would be okay. She hated that she'd messed up and even more than that, she hated that she'd disappointed them. "I wasn't gonna drive," she said.

"Well, I'm glad to hear that," Gibbs said, "but I'm thinking more along the lines of alcohol poisoning and that's not to mention mixing alcohol with those painkillers you're on for your leg. You very easily could've landed yourself in the hospital."

"I'm sorry," Jaycee said as tears spilled out onto her cheeks. "I'm sorry!"

"You're smarter than this, Jaycee," Sam said softening her tone as she rubbed the teenager's back. "Jethro and I love you very much and we don't want to see you getting your stomach pumped, we don't want to see you in jail or raped or even in the hospital. We don't want anything bad to happen to you."

"At least nothing bad did happen," Jaycee said trying to put a positive spin on things.

"Let's wait until tomorrow morning and see if you still feel that way," Gibbs said. He knew she was going to have a bad hangover.

"What does that mean?" Jaycee asked.

Sam smiled over at Gibbs then looked down at Jaycee. "We wouldn't want to ruin the surprise," she said. "Take a drink of your water."

Jaycee had seen her mother after a night of drinking. She knew about the passing out and the throwing up but she'd had the flu before and assumed it wasn't any worse than that. Out of everything that had happened that night, a hangover was the least of her concerns.

"Jethro and I are going to talk," Sam said. "We'll give you your punishment in the morning. Why don't you go up and take a shower and head to bed." She pulled the girl into her arms and kissed her head then Gibbs did the same.

"We love you, Jaycee," he said.

Jaycee just nodded her head in response. She felt completely undeserving of their love after having let them down. She wished she could just runaway and never look back. Ever since the car wreck nothing had been going right for her and the more she tried to make things better, the more she screwed up. She headed upstairs to get cleaned up and cry some more.

"Were you able to get a hold of Mac's mom?" Gibbs asked.

"Yep," Sam said scooting over next to Gibbs, "she was not happy to say the least." Normally they wouldn't have butted in like that but knowing the girls were underage, both felt it was the responsible thing to do. They didn't want to see Mackenzie hurt or any of the college students stuck in a bad situation.

"What are we gonna with your daughter?" Sam asked resting her head on Gibbs' shoulder and her hand on his chest.

"Oh, she's my daughter now?" Gibbs asked with a slight laugh.

"When she's in trouble, yes," Sam answered with a smile.

Gibbs pulled Sam's hand to his lips and kissed it before putting it back on his chest while he considered a punishment for Jaycee. "I'd say ground her for the next year," he said. "I think that sounds reasonable."

"I was thinking more along the lines of a month," Sam said. "She goes to school, work and spends the rest of her time here with us. No going over to Mac's, no dates with Ty."

"No phone either," Gibbs added. "She can call us but I don't want her spending all day on the phone with her friends. Since we won't be home to monitor it, we'll go by the honor system, start building some trust up again."

"That's a good idea," Sam said with a sigh.

Gibbs rubbed his thumb over her shoulder as he held her and rested his chin on top of her head.

"I feel like we're losing her, Jethro," Sam said quietly. "Things are spiraling out of control. We can put a roof over her head and love her and give her every good thing but we can't protect her from the irresponsible drivers, the bullies, the parties, the pain. It seems like all the bad is winning out right now. It's scaring me."

Gibbs kissed the top of her head then rested his head on hers as he stroked the side of her face. "I'm scared too," he admitted quietly.

Chapter Text

Gibbs was downstairs working on his boat when he heard footsteps above him. The kids had all gone to bed and Sam was lying down in their bedroom reading. He headed upstairs to investigate and found Jaycee getting herself a cup of water. She jumped and dropped her cup on the floor when Gibbs turned the light on.

"Relax Kiddo," he said, "it's just me."

"Sorry," Jaycee said. "I just wanted some— some—" Before she could complete her sentence she was hurrying to the sink to throw up.

Gibbs ignored the mess and held Jaycee's hair out of the way until she was done vomiting.

"I feel like crap," she moaned holding her stomach.

"Oh, you're just getting started, Kiddo," Gibbs said. "Settle in, you're in for the long haul."

"But there's only so much in my stomach I can throw up, right?" Jaycee asked a little confused by what Gibbs meant.

Gibbs just smiled and kissed the top of her head. "Go sit down on the couch. I'll bring you some water." Jaycee pointed at the water she'd spilled but Gibbs waved her off. "I'll take care of that."

The cup Jaycee dropped was plastic so all Gibbs had to do was wipe up the water with a towel. Once the mess was cleaned up he got her some water, grabbed a bottle of Tylenol, some crackers and a large bowl in case she had to throw up again then headed into the living room.

"Thought you were mad at me," Jaycee said as she took the water from Gibbs. When her mom was mad at her she didn't even want to be in the same room with her but her mom got upset for totally different reasons, like the time Gracie had an ear infection and Jaycee said she needed medicine or the time her class was going on a field trip and she needed $1.25 to participate.

"I was disappointed but that doesn't mean I stopped loving you," Gibbs said shaking a couple Tylenol in his hand. "Take these."

Jaycee took the Tylenol, trying to figure out why Gibbs was taking care of her when she'd screwed up so bad. Tony was right, he was a mystery.

"Try to eat a couple of these," Gibbs said handing her the crackers, "they'll help settle your tummy."

Jaycee took the crackers and relaxed into the couch as Gibbs sat down next to her.

"Everybody makes mistakes, Jaycee," he said after a brief pause. "This isn't about punishing you as much as it's about teaching you that your actions have consequences. What you did tonight has a ripple effect on a lot of people."

"You mean like that guy going to jail?" Jaycee asked.

"That's a start," Gibbs said gently. "If he'd gone to jail that would've had an impact on his family and friends. You could've gone to jail too, Kiddo, for underage drinking. Think about how that would've affected your siblings. Think about Ty. How's he gonna feel if and when he finds out what happened?"

"Are-are you gonna tell him?" Jaycee asked.

"No," Gibbs said. "It's not my place."

Jaycee nibbled quietly on a cracker while Gibbs' words sank in. She was beginning to understand the magnitude of trouble she could've both caused and gotten into.

"I know you're having a hard time with all these changes," Gibbs said. "Putting a roof over your head and some food in your belly doesn't fix all the problems, does it?"

"Not like I thought it would," Jaycee admitted.

"There's a right way and a wrong way to handle things, Jaycee," Gibbs said. "The wrong way is almost always easier and quicker but it usually catches up to you. The right way might be hard and maybe a little scary but it's always worth it." He lovingly tugged on a lock of her hair and smiled at her when she looked at him. "Sam and I will always be here to help you but in the end you're the one that has to decide which road you want to go down."

"I just wanted to escape for a little while," Jaycee admitted.

"I know, Baby," Gibbs said pulling her to his side and kissing her head, "but the bottom of a beer bottle isn't a good place to hide from your problems."

"Do you think I should tell Ty?"

"I'm not very good at relationships," Gibbs said, "but I do know trust is pretty important. You know that guilty feeling that's eating away at you right now?"

"Yeah."

"That'll go away if you tell him," Gibbs said. "Won't be easy though. Things might not turn out like you want."

"I wish I could start today over again," Jaycee said.

"Why? You wanna see Milo's naked butt handcuffed to the bed again?" Gibbs asked trying to lighten the mood. Jaycee laughed. "You can't undo what you've already done," Gibbs said getting serious again, "but tomorrow's a new day."

"Yeah," Jaycee said. The fact that Gibbs took the time to sit down and talk to her after everything she'd done meant the world to her.

"Do you want me to tuck you into bed?" Gibbs offered.

"Could I sit here for a little while?" Jaycee asked. "Every time I lay down my stomach hurts."

Gibbs nodded and retrieved the blanket from the back of the couch. He wrapped Jaycee up then cuddled her into his side and let her rest her head on his shoulder. It wasn't long before she was sound asleep and drooling all over his shirt.

///////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////

A knock at the door woke Gibbs at 6:30 on Sunday morning. He got out of bed and grabbed a t-shirt to put on as he headed downstairs. He saw Ty on the other side of the door and groaned. It wasn't until he opened the door that he realized how upset the teenager was.

"Mornin' Bud," Gibbs said as cheerfully as he could despite being woken up.

"Is Jaycee here?" Ty asked almost as if he were afraid of the answer.

"She's upstairs sleeping," Gibbs said.

Ty looked at Gibbs like he wanted to say more but didn't know if he should. He wondered if Jaycee was really upstairs or if she'd snuck out without Gibbs' knowledge. "I was just wondering… are you—did you, I mean, is she for sure in her bed?"

"Come on in, Ty," Gibbs said moving aside.

"I don't want to get Jaycee in trouble," Ty said as he stepped into the house, "and I didn't mean to wake you, it's just that Mackenzie called me last night. They were—uh, somewhere—and I guess Jaycee ran away because some guy was messing with her. Mac thought she was with me but I haven't seen her. I've been looking for her all night. I tried to call her but she didn't answer."

"I know about the party, Son," Gibbs said as he led Ty into the kitchen. He needed coffee. "Sam picked her up after she ran off."

Ty breathed an audible sigh of relief and his tense muscles nearly turned to jell-o. "I've been so worried about her with the wreck and those boys bullying her and the—"

"Wait," Gibbs interrupted, "what boys?"

"She didn't tell you?" Ty asked. "But, I thought you picked her up from school that day."

Milo wandered into the kitchen still half asleep and walked over to Ty with his arms lifted into the air.

"Good morning," Ty said as he picked the twin up. He wasn't sure which one it was.

"Hey, you're not Daddy!" Milo said opening his eyes and smiling at Ty. He gasped when he realized who was holding him and started snickering. "You're Jaycee's boyfriend!"

"Come here, you little goofball," Gibbs said taking the little boy from Ty and kissing his forehead.

"I heared somebody knockin' on the door," Milo said.

"Sorry," Ty said more to Gibbs than Milo.

"Don't worry about it," Gibbs said pulling a sippy cup out of the cupboard. "They're always up early. You want something to drink, Ty?" he offered as he filled the sippy cup with orange juice. "We've got orange juice, milk, kool-aid, coffee, water and maybe some soda."

"I'll have some orange juice, if that's okay," Ty said.

"Mm-hmm." Gibbs poured Ty a glass of juice then they went to the dining to sit down. Milo sat peacefully in Gibbs' lap. He was usually calm and quiet in the mornings unless his brother got him going. Any other time of day Milo was the instigator but in the morning he liked to be cuddled. "Tell me about these bullies," Gibbs said.

Ty hoped Jaycee wouldn't be mad at him for telling. He didn't realize she hadn't told them. "You know the day some of Jaycee's stitches came out? These two football players knocked her down and were blaming her for the wreck and for killing their friend."

"I got in a wreck," Milo said trying to take part in the conversation. "Some people came and rescued me."

Gibbs ran his hand over Milo's hair as the little boy took a big swig of his juice.

"Agent Gibbs, did that boy try to rape Jaycee last night?" Ty asked. "Is that why she ran?"

"You're gonna have to talk to Jaycee about what happened, Kiddo, but I wouldn't be this calm if something like that had happened," Gibbs said.

"Can I see her?" Ty asked.

"Technically she's grounded but I'll tell you what," Gibbs said, "you can stay and have breakfast with us. If she gets up before it's over you two can talk, if not, you'll have to wait till this afternoon at work."

"Deal," Ty said.

"You also have to help me cook," Gibbs said.

Ty smiled at Gibbs as he nodded. Every time he went over there he felt more and more like part of the family and he loved it.

Ty may have worked in a restaurant but it quickly became clear to Gibbs that he knew very little about cooking. Most people thought he couldn't cook either but after years of living alone he was actually a very good cook.

"Wait till the pancakes get little bubbles on the surface before you try to flip 'em," Gibbs said. "Your griddle's still warming up so it's gonna take a little longer."

"Sorry," Ty said. He was trying really hard not to screw up.

"Relax, you're doing fine," Gibbs said patting him on the back. He cracked several eggs into a bowl and called Gracie in to help him beat them. He liked getting the kids involved in whatever he was doing. With Gracie working on the eggs, Gibbs flipped the bacon and stirred the hash browns.

"Hi Baby," Sam said hugging Gracie from behind and leaning down to kiss her. "Morning Love," she said rubbing Gibbs' back.

Gibbs paused what he was doing and leaned over to kiss Sam. "Mornin'," he said.

"Good morning, Ty," Sam said. "You doing okay?"

"Just trying not to mess up these pancakes," Ty said.

"They look delicious, Honey," Sam said peeking over his shoulder. "Can I help you cook these eggs, Little Miss Gracie?"

"You have to ask Papa," Gracie said.

Sam smiled as she rubbed her hand over Gracie's head. "Papa, can I help Gracie cook the eggs?"

"Yes, please. I'd appreciate that," Gibbs said with a smile.

After breakfast was ready and everyone was called to the table, Gibbs and Sam realized Kylee and Jaycee were missing. They weren't surprised about Jaycee but Kylee was always one of the first ones up. Gibbs headed up to check on her while Sam sat down with the kids.

Gibbs found both girls still in bed asleep. He sat down next to Kylee and rested his hand on her forehead to see if she was running a fever. Kylee pushed Gibbs' hand away and yawned before opening her eyes.

"Mornin' Sweet Pea," Gibbs said as he picked her up. "You feeling okay?"

Kylee nodded as she nestled into Gibbs' chest. She closed her eyes again as he pressed a kiss to her temple.

"Why are you so tired?" he asked brushing her hair out of her face.

"Jaycee didn't come home till late," Kylee said.

"Did you wait up for her?" Gibbs asked. Kylee nodded. Gibbs wasn't really surprised. Kylee was still having a rough time when Jaycee wasn't home. "Okay, do you want to come downstairs with me or go back to sleep?"

"Go with you," Kylee said.

Ty enjoyed having breakfast with the family. He was bummed that Jaycee never came down but knew he'd see her later on. He answered all the silly questions the kids asked him, thoroughly enjoying the fun and excitement. His parents were strict and his house was almost always quiet.

After breakfast, while Gibbs got the kids cleaned up and dressed, Ty helped Sam with the dishes. Part of it was because he was still hoping to see Jaycee but he was having such a good time hanging out that he didn't want it to end. Sam was busy drying a plate when she heard little footsteps barreling towards her. She barely had time to brace herself before someone crashed into her.

"Hi Mommy," Milo said with a wide grin.

"Hi Milo," Sam said.

"Pick me up!" he begged raising his arms and jumping up and down in front of her.

"Why?" Sam asked suspiciously. "You gonna give me a wet willy?"

"No," Milo said with a giggle.

"You gonna pick my nose?"

"Nu-uh."

"Pull my hair?"

"No, I gonna give you a kiss!" Milo said.

"You have a kiss for me?" Sam asked excitedly.

Milo nodded his head excitedly and pursed his lips to show her. Sam picked him up and he planted a big, wet kiss on her cheek then she did the same to him.

"What we are doing today?" Milo asked as he rubbed his hand over Sam's hair like he'd seen his daddy do.

"Remember Tony and Tim?" Sam asked. Milo nodded excitedly. "They're gonna take you bowling this afternoon after your nap."

"Wow!" Milo said happily. "Wait, are you trickin' me?"

"Nope," Sam said. "Not a trick."

Milo gasped and smiled. "Put me down! I gotta go tell Lucas!"

Sam put him down and patted his butt as he took off then turned her attention back to the dishes.

"Any chance you guys could adopt me too," Ty joked.

"There's always room for one more," Sam said, "but I think your parents would miss you if you left."

"Yeah, I guess," Ty mumbled handing her another plate.

"You don't think so?" Sam asked.

Ty shrugged as he glanced over at her. "I dunno. They're kinda hard on me. Mom's always nagging me about my grades. If I don't get at least a 3.8, it's not good enough for her and Dad's always on me about baseball. I love to play but he wants me to get a scholarship so he pushes really hard. I'm not allowed to make a mistake. It's just not as much fun as it used to be."

"Sweetie, when we demand perfection from ourselves or somebody else does, nothing is as much fun," Sam said putting a stack of plates in the cupboard. "Nobody's perfect. Making mistakes is part of life and certainly not the end of the world."

"Baseball's my hobby," Ty said. "I don't wanna go pro. I wish Dad could understand that."

"What do you want to do when you grow up, Ty?" Sam asked.

"I want to be a nurse," Ty answered quietly, almost as if he were ashamed of admitting it, "but I'm not gay and it's not 'cause I want to see naked people."

"Sweetheart," Sam said with a little laugh, "there are lots male nurses who aren't gay and I'm sure if you just wanted to see naked people you would've come up with a better career choice—strip club manager or something."

"I get teased sometimes," Ty said with a shrug. "Mom wants me to be a doctor and my friends just don't get it."

"Ty, you're getting ready to graduate from high school and go out into the world on your own," Sam said. "I would encourage you to do what makes you happy and not worry about what your friends think. Nursing is an admirable profession."

"What about my parents though?" Ty asked.

"Being an only child can be rough," Sam said. "Parents often have dreams and ambitions for their children and the more children they have, the more they can spread those goals out. Being an only child means there's nobody to share them with, but Baby, you've gotta find what makes you happy. Most parents just want to see their children succeed. Have you talked to them about this?"

Ty shook his head. "I don't want them to be disappointed."

"There's nothing disappointing about wanting to be a nurse," Sam said hoping Ty's parents would feel the same way. "You get to help lots of people and you make pretty good money. It's a hard job but it can be very rewarding."

"I wanna make enough money to have a lot of kids," Ty said.

"I'd recommend waiting a little while before you start working on kids," Sam said with a laugh.

"Do you think Jaycee wants lots of kids?" Ty asked. "'Cause I wanna have them with her."

"Hey, hey, hey!" Gibbs said sternly as he walked into the kitchen.

"Whoa, Agent Gibbs, that's not wanted it sounded like!" Ty said. "You didn't hear the whole conversation. Jaycee and I haven't even kissed on the lips yet!"

"Good, let's keep it that way until you're both fifty," Gibbs said.

"Fifty?" Ty said with a smile. "Come on, Agent Gibbs, don't you want some cute little grandkids running around here?"

"Not right now," Gibbs answered.

"I bet when Milo and Lucas are older and leaving for college, you'll be lonely, then you'll want grandkids," Ty said.

"It's gonna be awhile before that happens," Gibbs said.

"DADDY!" Lucas screamed.

"The boys and I are going on a walk," Gibbs told Sam. "We're looking for worms."

Sam laughed as she patted his chest. "Just don't bring any home with you."

Gibbs saluted her before leaning in and kissing her. "Ty, nice to see you, Son. Thanks for the pancakes."

"Thanks for letting me hang out," Ty said.

Gibbs disappeared with the twins and Sam turned her attention back to the dishes. She and Ty were almost finished then it was on to the laundry.

"Will you tell Jaycee I'm worried about her?" Ty asked as he slipped his shoes on.

"I sure will," Sam said.

"Thanks for the talk and everything else," Ty said. "I love hanging out with you guys."

"Anytime," Sam said patting his shoulder. She showed Ty out then headed upstairs to collect the laundry.

Sam woke Jaycee towards the middle of the morning. The teenager had spent a good part of the night up throwing up and she was miserable. Her head throbbed and a wave of nausea hit every time she saw, smelled or thought about food. Moving didn't help either. She managed to get some dry cheerios down but the twins' fire engine noises mixed in with Sam and Gracie's tea party and Kylee reading a book to Gibbs was torture. She would've done anything for some peace and quiet.

Tony and Tim showed up mid-afternoon to pick the kids up for bowing. One of the local bowling alleys was doing dollar days—everything from the shoes to the games to the hot dogs to the drinks was only a dollar. With Jaycee at work, that left Gibbs and Sam an afternoon to themselves.

"I forgot what free time feels like," Gibbs joked, plopping down on the couch next to Sam. "I don't know what we're gonna do all afternoon."

Sam leaned into him and kissed his cheek. "I can think of a few things," she said mysteriously.

Gibbs turned to her and raised his eyebrows. Sam leaned in and kissed him again as he pulled her into his lap. "You can, can you?" he asked softly before kissing her again.

Sam pulled back and smiled at him, not even trying to hide the fact that she was checking him out. "Oh yeah," she said pulling his shirt over his head before leaning in for another kiss.

///////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////

After spending the majority of the afternoon in the bedroom, Gibbs and Sam were hungry. They decided to treat themselves to dinner out and headed to the restaurant Jaycee worked at.

The teenager still looked like hell and both Gibbs and Sam assumed it was the after affects of her night of drinking but she started sobbing as soon as they walked in.

"What's wrong, Sweetheart?" Sam asked concerned.

"I want to go home!" Jaycee cried.

"I'll cover for her," the other girl greeting with her said sympathetically. Gibbs and Sam took Jaycee to a bench outside to get her some fresh air and try to figure out what was going on.

"Ty said he needs space," Jaycee cried into Sam's shoulder. "I told him what happened."

Gibbs rubbed Jaycee's back while Sam held her.

"I'm sorry, Baby," Sam said before kissing her head. "I'm proud of you for telling him the truth."

"Will you take me home?" Jaycee begged.

"You still have a couple hours left on your shift," Sam said. "I think it'd be good for you to try to stick it out."

"Sam and I are gonna have dinner," Gibbs said. "We'll check on you when we're done, okay?"

Jaycee cuddled into Gibbs' when he pulled her into a hug. Sam wiped the teenager's tears and coached her through a few deep, calming breaths then they headed back into the restaurant. Jaycee seated them before returning to the front. Gibbs and Sam looked at their menus quietly while they waited for their waiter.

"Welcome, my name is—" Ty froze when he saw who was sitting at the table. "Uh, hi, um…"

"Sit down for a minute, Baby," Sam said scooting over and patting the bench next to her. She could see the boy was uncomfortable and wanted to make sure he was okay as well.

"Are you mad at me?" Ty asked as he sat.

"No, not at all," Sam said. "We just want to make sure you're okay."

"Really?" Ty asked.

Sam nodded. "We know what happened last night and I'm sure it can't be easy on you."

"I still love her," Ty admitted. "I just, I need some time. I know alcohol makes you do stupid stuff but we haven't even kissed yet. She didn't want to end up like her mom and then she goes and makes out with some stranger."

"I know, Honey," Sam said. "You take all the time you need. Do what you have to do."

"Are you mad, Agent Gibbs?" Ty asked.

"No, Kiddo," Gibbs said. "I commend you for handling the situation like a mature, responsible adult."

"You're just glad you don't have to worry about grandkids for awhile now," Ty halfheartedly joked.

"That doesn't hurt either," Gibbs said with a smile and a wink.

Ty got a kiss from Sam then took their drink orders and left them to look at their menus.

///////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////

After begging and pleading, Gibbs and Sam agreed to let Jaycee stay home from school on Monday. It wasn't so much to pacify Jaycee as it was to deal with the bullying situation. After learning what had happened from Ty, Sam had set up an appointment with Jaycee's counselor to discuss it. The teenager was on a downward spiral and they were desperately trying to help her.

Gibbs left Milo, Lucas and Gracie home with Jaycee at the teenager's request. Jaycee didn't like silence and Gibbs didn't want her sitting around dwelling on her problems all day. The day was going smoothly until naptime. The kids had kept her busy and entertained but there were no distractions while they slept. Jaycee sat on the couch and cried the entire time.

She thought about all the mistakes she'd made and all the people she'd let down. She could see Milo trapped in the car after the accident. She could feel the bullies pushing her to the ground and accusing her of killing Shawn. The more she thought about it, the more she realized it probably was her fault. It took two cars to get in a wreck, after all. What if she'd done something differently? Someone was dead and she was responsible. She'd almost killed her brother as well.

She thought about the party, the drinking, making out with Bradley and nearly getting him sent to jail. She almost wished the cops had come and taken her away. Then she wouldn't be able to hurt anybody anymore. She thought about disappointing Gibbs and Sam but their encouraging words escaped her.

She thought about Ty and the look of betrayal on his face when she'd told him what she'd done. He hadn't screamed and yelled at her. He'd just turned and walked away, not even letting her hug him or apologize for the thousandth time. With the exception of practically passing out from all the alcohol, she hadn't slept since before the wreck. She was exhausted and her mind was playing tricks on her. She was overwhelmed and there didn't seem to be any way to fix anything.

She had the day off work but she knew she'd have to return to both work and school the following day. She'd have to walk the halls while everybody stared at her, judged her, hated her without even knowing her. She'd have to go back to work and face Ty, see the hurt in his eyes and know that she'd caused it.

All her life her mother had tortured her, not physically but indirectly through her actions. Jaycee realized she was doing the same thing. She'd worked so hard to not turn out like her mother but it was happening anyways. She was hurting everybody she loved. The more she cried and the more she thought about it, the more she realized the world was better off without her. It wasn't the first time she'd contemplated suicide but she'd always had her siblings to look after before. They had a home now. Gibbs and Sam would take far better care of them than she ever could.

While the little ones slept, through tear filled eyes, she came up with a plan to end her life. She'd seen it on TV before. She knew what to do. She just had to wait until closer to the time Gibbs and Sam would get home so the kids wouldn't be alone too long. She didn't want anything to happen to them.

Chapter Text

Gibbs pulled in the driveway right after Sam did on Monday night. Kylee hopped out of Sam's car and Gibbs was there waiting to scoop her up.

"How was your day, Baby Girl?" he asked before kissing her cheek.

"Good," Kylee said as Gibbs shared a kiss with Sam.

"I'm gonna check the mail," Sam said. "I'll be in in a minute."

"K," Gibbs said as he headed for the house with Kylee still in his arms.

The welcoming committee was nowhere to be found when Gibbs entered the house. Usually the twins were both waiting anxiously to greet anyone who walked through the door. Gibbs tossed his keys onto the small table by the front door then looked up to see Lucas coming down the stairs.

"Hey Buddy," he greeted, noting that the three year old was looking a little guilty.

"Daddy," Lucas said much quieter than normal, "Jaycee got a owwie."

Gibbs looked at Lucas closer and saw he had blood on his feet. He realized the child didn't look guilty, he looked frightened. He loosened his grip on Kylee and the little girl slid down his body as his heart rose to his throat. "Where is she?" he asked.

Lucas turned and pointed upstairs. Gibbs hurried by him and followed the bloody footprints into the bathroom. He found Jaycee in the bathtub overflowing with water.

"Sam!" he yelled as he turned the water off. He pulled Jaycee out of the cold water and laid her down on the floor. The slits in her wrists weren't gushing but she was bleeding. "Jaycee, wake up," he said grabbing a couple t-shirts out of the laundry to use as tourniquets.

"Jethro, why are Lucas' feet bloo— oh no," she said when she made it to the bathroom. She pulled Lucas' head to her chest so he couldn't see what was happening.

"Jaycee!" Kylee called out as she raced up the stairs to greet her sister. She made it to the bathroom before Sam could grab her and screamed. Sam quickly pulled her away from the door as Gibbs called out for her to call 911.

Sam called 911 as she got the kids corralled in the twins' room. She calmly told them they needed to play in there until someone came to get them but the kids sensed something was wrong. As much as she wanted to comfort them she knew Jaycee's situation was life or death so she conjured up the best smile she could manage before leaving, pulling the door closed behind her.

After putting a tourniquet on both arms, Gibbs smacked Jaycee's cheek to try to rouse her. He'd already felt her pulse and was watching her chest rise and fall as he worked so he knew she was alive. There water in the tub was pink and there was a good amount of blood on the floor but he knew from experience that there wasn't too much... she still had a chance.

"Open your eyes for me, Jaycee," he said as he smacked her cheek again.

Jaycee opened her eyes just barely and saw Gibbs kneeling over her.

"Atta girl," Gibbs said smiling at her. "Stay with me, Kiddo," he said lifting her eyelids with his thumb.

"I hurt," Jaycee groaned.

"I know, Baby," Gibbs said, tears stinging his eyes. "I know."

Sam showed the paramedics to the bathroom and they worked quickly to get the teenager strapped to the backboard so they could get her down the stairs and out to the ambulance. Gibbs had stopped the bleeding so they were able to load her in their rig quickly and hurry off to the hospital. Sam left in the ambulance with Jaycee and Gibbs stayed at the house with the little ones.

He walked back inside after watching the ambulance disappear down the street. He paused in the entryway as he was hit with a wave of emotion. "Damn it!" he said hitting the wall so hard he left an indentation in the drywall.

"Sir?" There were two police officers waiting to talk to him but Gibbs was more concerned about the kids.

"Hang on," he said. He pulled his phone out and called Tony as he hurried up the stairs. "DiNozzo, I need you," he said, hanging up before Tony could even get a word out.

Gibbs opened the door to the boys' bedroom and found all four kids still in there. Kylee was sobbing so hard she was having a difficult time breathing. Gracie was crying because of how upset her sister was. Lucas was sitting on his bed, dangling his feet over the edge and Milo was halfheartedly pushing his fire truck around. He'd gotten it out when he heard the sirens outside.

Gibbs sat down on the floor and pulled both girls into his lap. He had to find it in himself to comfort them when he felt like screaming himself. He was just as scared as them but he had to ease their fears, he had to be strong for them. He held Kylee tighter as her entire body started shaking. Her little fingers were digging into his side and back but he didn't mind the discomfort.

"Daddy," Lucas said, his voice shaky and unsure. He hopped off the bed and moved over in front of Gibbs. "Where's Jaycee?"

"The ambulance came to take her to the hospital to fix her owwie," Gibbs said, doing his best to explain it in terms they would understand without scaring them.

Milo paused what he was doing and just watched. He didn't have a clue what was going on but his tummy had weird feeling.

A single tear escaped and rolled down Gibbs' cheek before dropping onto Kylee's head. Gibbs kissed both girls as he held them tight.

"Why are you crying, Daddy?" Lucas asked tracing the path of the tear down Gibbs' cheek with his finger.

"Because I'm sad," Gibbs said doing his best to keep it together. He wrapped an arm around Lucas and pulled the little boy to his side so he could kiss his cheek.

"Sir?" one of the police officers said. Both were standing at the door until Tony all but knocked them out of the way.

"Boss?" Tony asked in sheer panic. The cryptic phone call was unsettling but arriving at Gibbs' house to find police cruisers with flashing lights in his driveway was beyond disturbing.

"DiNozzo," Gibbs said, a hint of relief in his voice. He was happy to just have another adult in the house. "Will you stay with them for a minute?"

"Yeah," Tony said still confused. He took the girls from Gibbs and watched as his boss disappeared into the hallway and pulled the door closed.

Gibbs couldn't tell the officers very much. He'd just arrived home and found Jaycee like that. It was obvious what had happened but he knew they still had to investigate. He tried to be patient with them while they did their jobs so they could leave.

Gibbs explained that Jaycee had been having some problems and had been a little down lately but he'd never suspected she was in crisis or he obviously wouldn't have left her. He told them she was a foster child and gave them D'Arcy's name and number, knowing they'd have to get a hold of her at some point. Once Gibbs was done answering their questions, he called Lucas out. He knew the little boy had been the one who'd found Jaycee.

The last thing Lucas wanted to do was talk to the police. Jaycee had taught all the kids to never talk to the cops and the little boy had never had anything but bad experiences when it came to the police. He'd been ripped from his sister's arms and taken to live with strangers, seen his mother dragged away in handcuffs and even seen the police get violent with some of his mother's boyfriends. In his mind, cops were scary.

"Can you tell me what happened to your sister?" one of the officers asked.

Lucas stared at the man, not saying a word.

Gibbs suspected he knew what was going through the boy's head. "He doesn't want to take you away, Buddy," he explained holding the little boy close. "He's just trying to help Jaycee. You're safe here."

"I don't have to leave?" Lucas asked.

"Never," Gibbs said shaking his head. "Can you tell me what happened?"

"I had to go pee badder and badder but Jaycee wouldn't come out so I had to go in and she was hurted and then you comed home and I goed pee pee in my undies," Lucas said.

"Thanks Kiddo," the officer said. "You've been a big help. You can go play with your brothers and sisters now."

"They ain't playing," Lucas said. "They're crying 'cause they's scared."

"It's okay to be scared," Gibbs said rubbing Lucas' back. "Go sit with Tony for me. I'll be there in a minute." He kissed Lucas then sent him back to the room and pulled the door closed.

"We'll get a hold of Jaycee's caseworker on our way over to the hospital, talk to your wife and the doctor and go from there," one of the officers said.

Gibbs nodded, not even bothering to correct them about Sam. He just wanted them gone so he could take care of his family. He left the officers to show themselves out and headed back into the room with Tony and the kids.

"Boss?" Tony asked. He'd been waiting patiently but he had to know what was going on.

"Jaycee, um…" Gibbs paused to try to figure out what to tell Tony in front of the kids, "Jaycee attempted S-U-I-C-I-D-E," he spelled out. "Sam went with her to the hospital. That's all I know."

"Go," Tony said without hesitation. "I can take care of them for as long as you need me to. We'll be fine."

Gibbs didn't hesitate to take Tony up on his offer. He knew the young agent could call in any of the others to help if needed. He quickly changed out of his bloodied clothes and cleaned himself up then he said goodbye to Tony and the kids and hurried out.

Despite his worry and fear, Tony turned on his goofy charm for the kids' sake. Kylee had calmed and instead of crying, she was just hanging onto him. Gracie calmed when he sister did. She remembered when Jaycee had to go to the hospital before and everything had been fine. She didn't see any reason why it wouldn't be the same way that time. Milo and Lucas were just thrilled Tony was making food. Chaos was nothing new in their young lives; they were hungry.

Tony dug through Gibbs' cupboards and decided on spaghetti. It was quick and easy and what kid didn't like spaghetti? He searched the freezer for garlic bread and when he didn't find any he pulled out a bag of French fries. In his mind they were kind of like garlic bread without the garlic. It was perfect—well, almost.

While he was making some spaghetti for the kids to eat for dinner he called Abby and filled her in on the situation. He knew he could do it by himself but he also knew with four little ones it wouldn't hurt to have another set of hands. By the time Abby arrived, Tony was just sitting the kids down at the table. She gave tight hugs and long kisses but, like Tony, did her best to remain positive and upbeat.

"Pasghetti and French fries and milk?" Gracie asked making a silly face at the food on her plate.

"Yep!" Tony said proudly. "Looks yummy, huh?"

"Uh-huh!" Mile said around a mouthful of French fries.

Tony laughed as he scooted the little boy's chair closer to the table. After the kids were scooted in and their spaghetti had been cut up, Abby wrapped her arms around Tony. She needed to be held. She needed his strength. Tony squeezed her tight and dropped a kiss on her head. He knew if they both focused on the kids they would be too busy to think about anything else until bedtime.

"The bathroom could use a good clean," he said quietly. "If you'll watch the kids—"

"I'll do it," Abby interrupted. She disappeared before Tony could say anything else. He could see she was upset. He was too. It took some time to process what had happened. Nothing like that had ever hit so close to home for either of them before.

Abby froze at the bathroom door. The bathroom resembled some of the crime scene photos she looked at everyday but this wasn't a crime scene, this was Gibbs' house and Jaycee's blood. She let her tears fall freely as she got to work. She hadn't had time to cry yet. She knew getting the tears out would allow her to get through the rest of the evening.

With Abby upstairs, getting the kids to eat fell on Tony's shoulders. The boys were devouring their food, slurping noodles, pretending to smoke their French fries and blowing bubbles in their milk then giggling at all the silly noises. Gracie was using her silverware and doing her best to not get messy while eating and Kylee was sitting staring at her food. Seeing her sister unconscious on the bathroom floor terrified her. Her mom was always passed out. She would disappear for days on end and leave them to fend for themselves. She'd bring home candy bars and cookies when they were starving for real food but Jaycee was always there.

Jaycee always got them food, she bathed them, played with them, and made their boo boos better. She covered them up each night and was there every morning when they woke up. Jaycee was the one constant in their life. Kylee knew she could always count on her big sister but now her big sister was doing some of the same stuff their mom did. Kylee didn't understand what had happened. She knew her big sister was hurt but she couldn't put all the pieces together. She didn't understand why or how. Would Jaycee be back? Was this going to happen again? Was Jaycee going to start acting like her mom? Who was going to take care of her now? Who was going to take care of her when it was time to leave Gibbs' house? The stress proved to be all too much for the five year old and she started crying again.

"Oh Kylee, everything's gonna be okay, Sweetie," Tony said as he picked her up and sat down with her in his lap. "Can you tell me what's wrong?" Kylee tried to stop crying as Tony brushed the tears from her cheek. "Are you scared?" When he got no response to any of his questions, Tony kissed the top of her head and turned her around to face her plate. He hoped he could get her to eat between crying spells.

"Will you eat with me?" Tony asked. "I'll take a bite then you take a bite."

"My tummy hurts," Kylee said.

Tony rested his hand against her forehead even though he was sure it was her nerves causing problems. "Maybe some pasta will help it feel better," he said. He took a bite and made a big deal about how good it tasted then offered Kylee a bite. Kylee stared at it for a long time before reluctantly eating it. He ended up eating more of what was on her plate than she did but was satisfied with the amount she'd eaten.

When Abby was done cleaning the bathroom and dinner was cleaned up they got started on bath time. Abby tried to take the girls upstairs but Kylee refused to leave Tony's side.

"I'll still be here when you come out, Sweet Pea," Tony assured her but Kylee only tightened her grip on him. He was her security blanket.

"You wanna do the girls and I'll do the boys?" Abby suggested.

"Works for me," Tony said.

Gracie showed Tony where the bubble bath was and how much to put in, which bath toys they played with and which color towels and washcloths were theirs. Tony had a little trouble keeping the water out of their eyes when he helped them rinse their hair and Gracie didn't mind telling him that but bath time was trouble free otherwise.

The twins on the other hand definitely gave Abby a run for her money. It took her almost a half an hour to get them from the couch to the bathroom then they spent the entire time they were in the tub trying to bribe her to let them out and fighting against her every step of the way. It took her nearly an hour to get them bathed and she was drenched by the time they were done.

She borrowed one of Gibbs' t-shirts and a pair of his sleep pants, knowing he wouldn't mind. Once they were out of the tub, the boys were ready to behave themselves and wanted to cuddle with her. They waited for her to get changed then each hugged a leg and batted their eyelashes up at her.

"Oh, do you two love me again now that bath time's over?" Abby asked patting their heads.

"We always love you," Lucas said.

"We just don't like baffs," Milo said. "Boys ain't supposed to take baffs, those are the rules."

"Sometimes we have to follow other people's rules," Abby explained as she scooped both boys up in one sweep. "It's not very much fun but it has to be done."

Milo rolled his eyes as Abby kissed his cheek then his brother's. She took the boys back downstairs and found Kylee cuddled in Tony's lap while Gracie did his hair.

"I dig the new look, Tony," Abby teased as she put the boys down.

Both boys stood in front of him and stared with their mouths hanging open. "What is going on here?" Lucas asked.

"I'm doing Tony's hair 'cause Kylee won't let me do hers," Gracie said.

"But boys don't wear hair things," Milo said taking stock of the barrettes adorning Tony's head.

"We're just playing," Tony said. "Nobody has to know about this, right?"

"Wrong!" Abby said snapping a picture. Tony's hair was sticking up in every direction possible and being held in place by brightly colored barrettes. It wasn't exactly a picture he wanted floating around anywhere.

"Come on, Abs," Tony objected. "Are you really gonna do this to me here, now?"

Abby smiled as she looked at the picture on her phone. "You're so beautiful, Tony," she teased. "This'll make the perfect wallpaper for my phone!"

"Great," Tony muttered. "I can already see this isn't going to end well."

"Kylee, how are you doing, Baby Girl?" Abby asked kneeling in front of her. She was still in Tony's lap and still not saying much although it wasn't unusual for her to be quiet.

"When is Jaycee coming home?" Kylee asked.

"I don't know," Abby said. "We'll have to ask Mom and Dad when they get home."

"Everything's gonna be okay, Kylee," Tony said. He didn't know what was going on or how bad things were but he knew they'd get through it. Gibbs was tough and his 'never leave a man behind' mentality always pulled everybody through.

////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////

When Gibbs arrived at the hospital he found Sam sitting at Jaycee's bedside, holding her hand. The teenager's eyes were closed but the monitors hooked up to her body ensured life. Gibbs moved over to the opposite side of her bed and lifted Jaycee's hand into his. Her skin was cool and clammy to the touch, her eyes were sunken and surrounded by dark circles and her face was pale.

Sam watched as Gibbs pressed a kiss to Jaycee's hand before resting it back on the bed. He ran his fingers through her hair and watched her chest rise and fall with each breath. He kept his eyes on Jaycee for several minutes before finally making eye contact with Sam.

"What'd the doctor say?" he asked quietly.

Sam motioned for him to follow her into the hall so they didn't disturb the teenager. "She's going to be okay," she said as they watched Jaycee through the window. "She lost some blood but they're running fluids into her to get her blood volume back up. You saved her life, Jethro."

Gibbs was feeling less than heroic under the circumstances. He may have saved her life but he couldn't help but blame himself for the situation Jaycee was in. He was convinced there must have been something else he could've done, something to stop the situation from getting that bad. He sighed as he closed his eyes and ran his hand over his face. "Has she been awake all?"

"A little bit," Sam said. "She just cried and begged us to let her go. She's pretty despondent. They gave her something to calm her down and help her sleep."

"What happens next?"

"She'll be moved to Hope Springs in the morning, to the adolescent psych ward," Sam said. "They'll hold her for at least 72 hours, keep a close eye on her, do some individual and group therapy sessions, she'll meet with a psychiatrist—they'll be able to help her."

"How long will they keep her?" Gibbs asked. He knew about 72 hour holds but he also knew they could keep people longer.

"Until they feel she's not a threat to herself anymore," Sam answered.

"You're a psychologist," Gibbs said unable to hide his frustration. "Why can't they just release her to you?" He'd dealt with similar circumstances many times over the length of his career but he'd never gone through it with a loved one. He knew the answers to his questions but was desperate for a loophole that would allow him to take Jaycee home. He was sure he could get her the help she needed. The last thing he wanted to do was send her away.

"I'm not a clinical psychologist, Jethro," Sam said. "I don't want to leave her anymore than you do, trust me, but she's going to get care in that hospital that you and I just can't give her at home. There will be a team of doctors and nurses there who've been specifically trained to help people in her situation."

Sam was emotionally drained. She wanted nothing more than to curl up in the corner and cry for days but she knew she had to be strong for Jaycee and hold it together for Gibbs. D'Arcy and the psych doctor who had been covering the ER that night had made the decision to send Jaycee to Hope Springs and even though Sam knew that was the best place for her she couldn't help but feel like she was abandoning the girl when she needed her most.

"Hey, come here," Gibbs said softly as he wrapped his arms around her. "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to— I just—"

Hearing Gibbs' apology pushed Sam over the edge. She couldn't hold back her tears anymore. Gibbs held her as she cried, shedding a few tears of his own.

"We'll get through this," Gibbs said rubbing Sam's back. "Are we allowed to visit her after she's moved?"

"Visiting hours are from 2:00 to 3:00 and 6:00 to 7:00 each day," Sam said, "but we can't take the kids."

"Okay," Gibbs said taking a deep breath, "we can do this. Everything's gonna be okay."

Sam nodded her head in agreement as she brushed the tears from her face. They decided she'd stay at the hospital with Jaycee that night and Gibbs would go home and be with the kids. He'd return in the morning before she was transported to Hope Springs then bring Sam home. Neither were going to work the following day.

When Gibbs walked in the front door he found Tony stretched out on the couch with his feet propped up on the coffee table and Kylee lying across his chest. Abby was cuddled up next to him with Gracie who was sleeping on her chest and the twins were sitting on the other side of her watching TV.

"Sorry Boss," Tony whispered. "We tried to put them to bed but Kylee's been crying and every time she starts Gracie starts and the boys were running around all over the place and we just—we tried."

"It's okay, guys," Gibbs said. "Sam and I really appreciate your help."

Abby looked worriedly at Gibbs before deciding to ask the question both she and Tony were afraid to ask. "How is she?"

"Jaycee's gonna be okay," he said, relief evident in his voice. Every time he said it, it reassured him as well as whomever he was talking to. "She'll have to stay in the hospital for a couple days but she's going to be just fine."

Only Tony and Abby could understand the enormity of the news. For the younger ones, the concept of death or Jaycee just not being there anymore was beyond their grasp. Jaycee had always been there. That's just how things were.

"Kylee, did you hear what I said, Baby?" Gibbs asked running his fingers through her hair as she rested against Tony's chest. "Jaycee's gonna be okay. The doctors are helping her and she'll be home in a few days."

A long, shuddery sigh was the only response Gibbs got as the five year old cuddled herself impossibly further into Tony's embrace. It was after 11:00 and well past the kids' bedtime.

"She won't let me out of her sight, Boss," Tony said. "I don't want to leave her. Is it okay if I stick around here tonight?"

"Me too," Abby said.

Gibbs nodded as he rubbed Gracie's back. All the kids were calm and quiet. As much as Gibbs wanted to keep them up so he could give them an endless amount of hugs and kisses, he knew it was time to get them to bed. "Do you guys want to lie down with them or are you thinkin' of sleeping on the couch or what?"

"I'm about to take Gracie up to bed," Abby said. "She's been sleeping awhile but I didn't want to leave her up there by herself."

"I might move up to bed later but I think right now we're just going to stay right here if that's okay," Tony said.

"I'll bring you down a couple blankets and her baby doll, Tony," Gibbs said.

Gibbs tucked Abby and Gracie in then kissed them both on the forehead before heading across the hall with the twins. The boys were so tired they didn't put up much of a fight when Gibbs laid them down in their beds. Milo's stuffed dog got tucked in next to him and both got a kiss on the cheek before the nightlight was turned on and Gibbs left them to sleep.

He retrieved a couple blankets from the hall closet so Tony didn't get cold no matter where he decided to sleep and headed back downstairs. Kylee was fading fast as Tony rubbed his hand slowly over her head and down her back. Gibbs wrapped the blankets around them then gave Kylee a long kiss on the head before nodding good night to Tony and heading back upstairs. He was hoping a hot shower might help him feel a little better.

As he stood in the shower, letting the water rain down over his face he thought back to the events of the past few weeks. He tried to figure out what he'd missed, what warning signs he might not have seen. He was sure he could've done something to prevent what had happened.

He knew Jaycee had been having problems but didn't realize how hopeless she'd felt. He'd given her love and guidance, discipline and set limits. He'd provided for her needs, both physical and emotional in the only way he knew how. He wracked his brain trying to figure out where he went wrong, what he could've done to stop it.

A little hand pulled the shower curtain back and Milo peeked his head in at Gibbs, clutching his dog at his side. "Daddy, where's Mommy?" he asked. "She didn't give me hugs and kisses tonight."

"Mommy's at the hospital with Jaycee, Kiddo," Gibbs said. "That way she won't get lonely."

"But she didn't give me hugs and kisses," Milo said. "Is this new mommy gonna leave me too?"

"No Buddy," Gibbs said shutting the water off and stepping out of the shower. He wrapped a towel around his waist then lifted Milo into his arms. "Mommy will be home tomorrow morning and I'm sure she'll give you extra hugs and kisses to make up for tonight."

"Daddy, you're getting me wet," Milo said.

Gibbs smiled as he stood Milo on the floor in front of him. "Would you like to sleep with me tonight? Would that make you feel better?"

Milo smiled up at Gibbs and nodded his head.

"Okay, you go get the bed warmed up and I'll be there in a minute," Gibbs said tousling the little boy's hair.

After putting on a pair of pajama pants and brushing his teeth and hair, Gibbs headed into his bedroom to find both of the twins in his bed waiting for him. He didn't question it. He just climbed into bed with them and turned the lamp off. He kissed them both as he cuddled them into his side then closed his eyes and willed his body to sleep.

Chapter Text

"I don't wanna go," Jaycee told Sam as Gibbs walked into her hospital room.

"I'm sorry, Baby Girl," Sam said. "I had no say in the decision."

Gibbs sat down on the bed and wrapped his arms around Jaycee. "Mornin' Kiddo," he said kissing her temple.

"Gibbs, please save me," Jaycee begged. "Don't make me go to that place."

"There's gonne be a lot of nice people there who are gonna work with you and help you feel better," Gibbs said. He wanted nothing more than to take her home but he knew he couldn't and knew he needed to be positive for Jaycee's sake.

"I do feel better," Jaycee insisted. "I won't do it again. I swear it!"

Gibbs kissed the top of her head as he held her and smiled over at Sam. "Listen to me," he said, "I need you to go over there and do what you gotta do, listen to the nurses, socialize with the other patients, make the best of things and you'll be home before you know it."

"You don't want me anymore?" Jaycee asked even though she knew in her heart that it wasn't true.

"Oh, we both want you," Gibbs assured her. "You're not getting away from us that easy."

A hint of a smile played on Jaycee's lips as Gibbs held her tightly to him. She'd never been told she was wanted before. Gibbs and Sam made her feel so loved.

"I brought you some things from home to make it a little more comfortable there," Gibbs said holding up the backpack he'd packed. "You've got some clothes in there, a couple books so you don't get bored, a notebook in case you want to journal and Kylee sent along her favorite baby doll so you can think of her whenever you get lonely."

Jaycee smiled sadly as she hugged the backpack. "How long do I have to stay there?"

"They're gonna hold you for three days to start with," Sam said. "They'll evaluate you while you're there and based on a few different factors, they'll decide whether you can come home or need to stay longer."

"Is that why you told me to listen to the nurses?" Jaycee asked looking up at Gibbs.

"Uh-huh," Gibbs said with a smile, "and I've got a surprise for you when you get out."

"What surprise?" Jaycee asked.

"I'm not gonna tell you," Gibbs said. "It'll be something for you to look forward to."

"I still don't wanna go," Jaycee said.

"I know, Baby," Gibbs said kissing the top of her head again. "It'll be okay though and I have a little something for you before you leave." He handed her the smoothie he'd snuck in, knowing how much she loved them. Sam always made her a smoothie on Saturday mornings.

"Thank you," Jaycee said.

Gibbs and Sam sat with Jaycee until it was time for her to be transported to Hope Springs. They did their best to encourage her and love on her and help her make the best of the situation. Both gave her enough hugs and kisses to get her through until that night when they could visit. Because of when she was getting there, they'd have to skip the afternoon visit so the hospital could start working with her and give her time to get settled.

//////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////

The twins barely let Sam get in the front door before attaching themselves to her legs. They hadn't had their hugs and kisses the previous night and they weren't going to let her do anything until they got them that morning.

"How are my two favorite little guys?" Sam asked as she scooped them up.

"We missed you, Mommy," Milo said.

"Never ever leave us again," Lucas said.

"Well, I had to stay with Jaycee, Sweet Boy," Sam said. "We don't want her to get lonely, do we?"

"Well, she could be here with us too!" Lucas said.

"You've got an answer for everything, don't you?" Sam asked with a smile. "You're one smart cookie."

"Cookies?" Lucas asked.

"Did somebody say cookies?" Tony asked, coming out of the kitchen holding Kylee.

"Maybe for snack," Sam said with a laugh. She kissed the twins then tried to put them down so she could greet the girls but they weren't ready to give her up yet.

"You didn't kiss our tummies," Milo said sticking his little belly out as far as he could.

"You're right," Sam said, turning on the silly charm she knew the boys thrived on. She blew raspberries on each of their bellies then gave them several more kisses before handing them off to Gibbs. "Now, where are my two favorite little girls?" she asked. "I missed you guys."

"We missed you too, Mommy," Gracie said as Sam sat down on the couch with them cuddled in her lap.

"Where's Jaycee?" Kylee asked.

"Jaycee went to a very special hospital where they're gonna help her feel a whole lot better," Sam answered.

"Remember we talked about this when you helped me pack her bag this morning?" Gibbs asked.

"Yeah," Kylee sighed. "I just want her to come home right now."

"I know, Baby," Sam said. "I think we all want that but Jaycee's gotta stay at the hospital for a couple days so the doctors can help her."

//////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////

Gibbs arrived at Hope Springs just before 12:00 that afternoon. When they were helping the boys brush their teeth that morning he realized he hadn't packed Jaycee's toothbrush. Sam had suggested just taking it that night but Gibbs decided he didn't want to wait any longer. He reasoned that she hadn't gotten to brush her teeth that morning but both knew it was just because he wanted to be close to the teenager. He knew he wouldn't be allowed to see her but in a roundabout way he would be able to check on her.

"I've got a toothbrush for Jaycee," Gibbs said handing the nurse the toothbrush holder with the toothbrush in it.

"Okay, I'll add this to the list of her personal effects and make sure she gets it," the nurse said. "Wait, Jaycee Burton?"

"Yeah, why? Did something happen?" Gibbs asked.

"Not with her but there's a young man here insisting on seeing her," the nurse said. "He started getting a little violent. We had to call security."

"What?" Gibbs asked. He already suspected the young man was Ty but nothing else the nurse had said was making much sense.

"When I told him all visitors have to be eighteen he threw a fit," the nurse explained. "He charged us, trying to get through then started screaming and yelling and making a big scene."

"Where is he?" Gibbs asked. "Can I talk to him?"

"He refused to leave so we ended up putting him in the room with padded walls until he calmed down," the nurse said. "I wouldn't recommend going in there."

"Look, I'm a Special Agent with NCIS," Gibbs explained, "and I know him. I can calm him down."

The nurse reluctantly agreed to let Gibbs see Ty. The boy was out of control and had some muscle on him. She'd seen out of control 90 pound girls take down their biggest security guards so she was always cautious about the safety of visitors and patients but since Gibbs was an officer of the law she figured he knew what he was getting into.

They peeked in the window of the door and saw Ty standing in the middle of the room screaming. Gibbs motioned to let him in and the security guard unlocked the door.

"Jaycee!" Ty screamed before realizing the door was opened and Gibbs was there.

"You can scream for Jaycee all you want, Kiddo, but this room is soundproof," Gibbs said. "She's not gonna hear you."

"You have to get them to let me out," Ty pleaded. "I have to see Jaycee."

"I don't have any authority here, Ty," Gibbs said. "I can't even see her right now."

Ty looked from Gibbs to the large man standing at the door and decided to try to make a break for it again. Gibbs grabbed him before he could make it to the door and held him back until he calmed again.

"Calm down," he said. "Relax. Let's you and I talk."

The security guard left them alone and closed the door to give them some privacy.

"I'm not mentally disturbed," Ty said angrily. "I don't even know why I got locked in this place!" he screamed.

"Relax," Gibbs soothed. "I hate to say it but you're acting a little mentally disturbed at the moment. You can't come in here and tackle their biggest security guard and make a big scene and expect them not to do anything."

"I should've played football instead of baseball," Ty said. "I could've taken that guy!"

"Calm down," Gibbs said. He'd never seen Ty that worked up before. He let the teenager go and the first thing Ty did was throw himself at the padded wall. He had so much anger and frustration built up and had no outlet for it. Gibbs watched as he paced the room and screamed some more. When the boy finally wore himself out he moved over in front of Gibbs and just started sobbing uncontrollably.

"I know," Gibbs said catching him as he collapsed and lowering him to the floor. "I know."

"It's my fault," Ty cried.

"No," Gibbs said firmly. "No it's not."

"I broke up with her," Ty said.

"Ty, this is so much more complicated than just one thing," Gibbs said.

Ty pulled out of Gibbs' embrace and sat facing the man. He wiped the tears from his cheeks and took several deep breaths to calm himself down. "Why?" he asked. "Why? Why did she do this?"

"Ty, there have been so many changes for her and they happened so fast," Gibbs explained. "She got overwhelmed. Then, on top of that there was the car accident and everything that stemmed from that. Plus, she hasn't been sleeping. Sleep deprivation messes with your mind."

"But she doesn't have to live on the street anymore," Ty reasoned. "You rescued her."

"Having a place to live doesn't fix everything, Son," Gibbs said. "Think about the worries and struggles you deal with everyday."

Ty nodded his head as what Gibbs said clicked. "I get it," he said. "She just has different problems now. I wish I could fix everything for her. I feel so damn helpless."

Gibbs smiled as he put his arm around Ty and pulled him into half a hug. "Sam would tell you you're being such a guy," he said, "but I know how you feel because I feel the same way."

"So what do we do?" Ty asked.

"All we can do is love her," Gibbs said, "be a friend. Believe it or not that's a whole lot more than anybody else has ever done for her."

"Doesn't feel like enough," Ty said. "I really want to tell her I'm sorry and I love her. Why can't I go in there?"

"I don't know, Bud," Gibbs said. "Those are just their rules. You know what, Sam's gonna have the kiddos make Jaycee some get well cards once they get up from their nap. Why don't you come over and make one too? We'll bring it to her tonight."

"You mean I don't have to stay in here?" Ty asked.

"Do you want to stay in here?" Gibbs asked.

A devious smile crossed Ty's face. "I was kinda hopin' they might admit me then I could be with Jaycee."

Gibbs couldn't help but be amused. At least the boy had a plan. "I'll go talk to the nurse, get you out of here."

//////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////

Tony and Abby headed to NCIS after Gibbs and Sam got home and had a chance to get settled. The morning had been spent cuddling and playing. When Gibbs returned from Hope Springs, while the little ones napped, Sam took Kylee out and bought brightly colored paper, markers, colored pencils, stencils and stickers. She hoped the kids' cards would remind Jaycee that she was loved.

After nap and snack time, the art supplies were spread out across the table and the kids got to work. Ty arrived not too long after they started and was greeted with a warm embrace from Sam. All seven of them worked on their cards. The kids drew pictures, traced stencils and added several stickers. Gibbs and Sam helped them write their messages then coached them through signing their names. Gibbs, Sam and Ty wrote longer messages of love and encouragement on their neatly decorated cards.

As the kids finished they went off to play, leaving Ty at the table with Gibbs and Sam.

"Ty, Baby, Jethro told me what happened this morning," Sam said.

"I just wanted to see her," Ty said slightly embarrassed about his behavior. "I wanna get back together. I never should've broken up with her."

"Why Baby?" Sam asked. "Tell me why you want to get back together with her."

Ty hesitated slightly, looking from Gibbs to Sam. Why were they asking him that? Did they not like him? Did they not want him to get back together with her? "'Cause when I heard about what happened and thought about what it would've been like, you know, if she wasn't here anymore, I realized I can't live without her. I'm gonna ask her to marry me so she never has to be alone again."

"Slow down, Stud," Gibbs said, keeping his tone light and friendly. "First grandkids, now marriage? You two've only known each other for a couple months."

Sam rested her hand on Gibbs' arm as she started speaking again. "Ty, Jaycee didn't do this so you would get back together with her—"

"I know," Ty interrupted.

"We just want to make sure you're doing this for the right reasons," Sam said.

"I am, I swear," Ty insisted. "I love her and I want to marry her and take care of her and have babies with her and—"

"Slow down. Slow down," Sam interrupted. "You guys are still in high school. There's no need to rush things. You both have a lot of life ahead of you. If getting married is meant to be you can wait a little while. Take a deep breath, Baby."

Ty took a deep breath that turned into a slight laugh. "My parents would kill me if I told 'em I was gettin' married."

"I promise, Ty, there's a lot of time for you two to be in love," Sam said, "a lot of time for you guys to date and be married and have babies. Don't rush it."

"Yeah, okay, I guess," Ty said. "I just want to start living my own life, our life. My house is so lonely and empty and quiet and I see you guys and there's always something fun going on over here. You guys are always laughing and playing and being happy."

"You should stop by when it's time to give the twins their baths," Gibbs joked.

"Yeah, but it's still fun," Ty insisted. "Who doesn't like chasing butt naked kids through the house and trying to wrestle them into the tub?"

Gibbs looked at Sam and smiled. "You know, I think we should move this boy in with us," he said. "He could be a real asset around here."

Sam just laughed. "It is fun, Ty, lots and lots of fun and we wouldn't trade any of this for anything but it's also tiring and it can be frustrating and it certainly tries your patience. When you have kids, you can pretty much say goodbye to free time. Date night with Jaycee won't be as easy either. You've gotta save you money and get a sitter. You can kiss sleep goodbye. Whenever there's a thunderstorm, Jethro and I are sharing the bed with four little ones and I use the term sharing lightly. The kids are bed hogs. There's no more sleeping in either. Kylee's always up at 6:00 and the twins get up not long after that and when the twins are up, everybody's up."

"I get it," Ty said. "I guess I can wait."

"Whenever you need to get your fill of taking care of little ones, you just come right on over here," Sam said as she stood. "We could always use the help." She dropped a kiss on his head then headed to the kitchen to warm up her coffee and refill Gibbs'.

//////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////

It seemed like it took forever for 6:00 to come around. Tim and Ziva had come over after work to stay with the little ones so both Gibbs and Sam could go visit Jaycee. They walked into the hospital shortly before 6:00 and the nurse took them to Jaycee's room. The teenager was lying in bed reading one of the books Gibbs had packed for her.

"Hey Kiddo," Gibbs said.

"Hi Babe," Sam greeted immediately sitting by Jaycee and pulling her into a hug.

"You guys have to get me out of here, please," Jaycee pleaded.

"What's wrong?" Sam asked.

"I just hate it here," Jaycee said.

"I'm sorry, Baby," Sam said. "We can't. The doctor has to make the decision about when you get out."

"Just follow their rules, Jaycee," Gibbs said. "You'll get out sooner. Are you socializing with the others and eating your food and stuff?"

"Yeah," Jaycee said. "I only just came in here to read and wait for you guys. We played bingo earlier and did group therapy and I saw a counselor or some person and I got the nicest nurse here but I just wanna come home."

"Sounds like you did well today," Gibbs said pulling her into a hug once Sam finally let her go. "You've got one day under your belt, let's hope for just two more. Did you get the toothbrush I brought by earlier?"

"Yeah," Jaycee said.

"The kids made you some cards," Sam said. "Ty made you one too."

"Ty? He knows?" Jaycee asked.

"Mac called him after you called her," Sam said.

"I'm so embarrassed," Jaycee muttered under her breath.

"You have nothing to be embarrassed about," Sam told her.

"Everybody goes through weak moments," Gibbs said. "Believe it or not I've been in your position before. I considered ending my life after I lost my wife and daughter."

"Really? Did you have to stay in a place like this?" Jaycee asked.

"There was nobody around to save me," Gibbs said.

"But you're still here," Jaycee said.

"Yeah," Gibbs said. "I had a moment of weakness but I got through it and you will too. You're just getting a little more help than I did."

Jaycee gave them a short tour of the hospital. It was a small building set up almost like a house. Everything was on one floor. The boys' rooms were on one end of the building and the girls' rooms were on the opposite side separated by a kitchen, dining room and an area set up to resemble a living room. There were enough beds to house ten adolescents but only seven of them were filled, two boys and five girls.

Gibbs and Sam met Jaycee's roommate who seemed like a sweet girl. She came off as shy and hurting but not crazy like one might think someone in that situation would behave. The world's perception of what happened behind the closed doors of a mental hospital was far different than what was happening at Hope Springs. Both Gibbs and Sam knew there were bad psychiatric care facilities out there and were thankful Jaycee had gotten into a good one. Hope Springs had a great reputation and as they looked at the facility it seemed to be a place where kids could escape from their problems and focus on healing.

As visiting hours were nearing their end, Jaycee rested with her head in Sam's lap while Gibbs stroked her hair. She realized how much they really did care about her and hated herself even more for what she'd done.

"We'll be back to see you during both visiting times tomorrow," Sam said. "You just focus on what you've gotta do."

"We love you, Jaycee," Gibbs said. "Hang tight, you'll be home before you know it."

Tears spilled out as they both hugged her goodbye. She didn't want them to leave. She wanted to go home with them. She was sorry for what she'd done and wished everybody would just believe her so she could get back to her normal life.

Sam kissed her cheek and Gibbs kissed her forehead then they left the teary eyed teenager to her nightly activities. They didn't want to go anymore than she wanted them to and the fact that she was standing there crying only made it that much harder but they didn't have a choice.

"We're doing the right thing," Sam said to herself as much as Gibbs. "She's getting the help she needs here."

"That doesn't seem to be making this any easier on any of us," Gibbs said as they walked to the car.

Sam whacked him across the chest and glared at him. "You're not helping," she scolded playfully.

"I know," Gibbs said. "I know this is where she needs to be but that doesn't make my urge to plan a breakout any less powerful."

Sam smiled as she pictured Gibbs helping Jaycee escape from the hospital. She had no doubt he would do it if he had any less self-control. He was a man that liked to take care of his own but he seemed to understand that the care that Jaycee needed was beyond him. He could love her and care for her but healing would have to come from someone who'd been extensively trained in the inner workings of the human mind and human behavior. Regardless, neither of them could wait until they had their baby home with them.

Chapter Text

Kylee was propped up against Tim on the couch while Gracie sat cuddled in his lap. They were all watching Ziva chase the twins around the living room. The two near naked three year olds were giving her a run for her money but she knew once bedtime rolled around they around they would sleep well. The boys loved to play and Ziva loved to listen to them giggle. Tim and the girls were enjoying watching the fun. Kylee had been feeling down the entire day and clinging to anybody who was near.

"Time out, boys," Ziva said holding her hands up in surrender. "Time out, I have to visit the ladies room."

Milo and Lucas looked at each other in confusion. "Why?" Lucas asked.

"Because I need to use the potty," Ziva explained.

"In the girls' room?" Milo asked cocking his head in confusion.

Tim laughed at the miscommunication. "The ladies room is another name for the bathroom, guys," he said. "She's not going to the girls' bedroom."

Ziva disappeared down the hall and Tim called the boys over to where he was sitting. "You guys wanna play a new game?" he asked keeping his tone quiet. Both nodded eagerly. "Let's play hide and seek. Hurry and hide while Ziva's in the bathroom." He put his finger to his lips to remind them to be quiet.

The boys hurried off to hide, not doing a very good job of being quiet. Ziva returned to the living room and looked around confused.

"Where did the boys go?" she asked.

"I think they wanna play hide and seek now," Tim said. "I saw 'em head upstairs."

"They don't have a chance!" Ziva said immediately getting into the spirit. She loved hide and seek. She played with her siblings often when they were little.

As soon as Ziva disappeared upstairs, Tim took the girls and hid. The twins were hiding in the pantry with the canned goods but Tim knew he needed time to get the girls and himself hidden so he sent Ziva upstairs looking for them.

"Are you sure they're up there?" Ziva asked as she came down the stairs. "I couldn't find…" she walked into the living room and realized Tim had duped her. "Alright, you guys wanna play this game," she muttered. "We can play this game."

She moved through the downstairs silently, searching for anything out of place and listening for any noises. How quite could four little kids be? Giggles alerted her to Gracie's hiding place under the table. Tim's large shoe was sticking out from behind the couch in the dining room and she peeked behind to find both him and Kylee.

"Three down, two to go," she said satisfied with making quick work of finding Tim and the girls.

Giggles from the kitchen pulled her focus and she went to investigate. She peeked under and around objects then started opening cabinet doors. When she got to the tall pantry, the giggling started again.

"Gotcha!" she said as she swung the doors open and revealed the twins.

The twins squealed and giggled as they jumped out of the cupboard at her. Ziva pulled them close to her and kissed their cheeks.

After another round of hide and seek with Tim being the seeker, he and Ziva got started on baths. By the time Gibbs and Sam got home from visiting Jaycee the kids were bathed and sitting in the living room snacking on some trail mix while they watched TV and calmed down for bed.

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Jaycee was released from Hope Springs on Monday morning. Over the prior three days she'd done everything that was asked of her. She'd started out doing it just so she could get released but realized it was actually helping. Being around other people her age, talking about her problems and learning coping mechanisms helped her feel in control again and prepared her for the next time things seemed overwhelming.

Gibbs and Sam decided to let Kylee stay home from school on Monday. She'd missed the previous Friday with everything that was going on but she was only in Kindergarten and very smart. Missing a couple days wasn't going to hurt her. They felt it was more important for her to see her sister.

Gibbs took Kylee with him to pick Jaycee up that morning while Sam stayed home with the others. Jaycee was waiting at the front door and threw her arms around Gibbs as soon as he walked in the door. She was so relieved to finally be going home that she nearly started crying. Gibbs hugged her back and kissed her head then the teenager turned her attention to her little sister. She picked Kylee up and squeezed her tight.

"Can we wait in the car?" Jaycee asked.

"Can't get outta here fast enough, huh?" Gibbs asked with a smirk.

Jaycee nodded before disappearing out the front door. Gibbs had a quick word with the nurse who'd been assigned to Jaycee then signed her out and they were off. Jaycee sat in the backseat, holding Kylee's hand on the way home.

Jaycee received a warm welcome from the others when she arrived home. Sam had hung a welcome home banner and everyone was gathered around waiting to give her hugs and kisses. Once the excitement died down the younger kids returned to their toys but Kylee didn't want to leave Jaycee's side.

"Can I take a shower?" Jaycee asked.

"Yeah Baby," Sam said. "You don't have to ask."

"I just wanna wash up and shave and not have anybody walk in on me while I'm doing it," Jaycee said. "Then I'm gonna put on clothes that don't smell like that stinky hospital."

"Kylee, can you keep me company for a little while so Jaycee can get a shower, Babe?" Gibbs asked.

"No," Kylee said. "I wanna go with her."

"Sweetie Pie, she wants a little bit of privacy," Gibbs said. "She'll be upstairs the whole time. She's not going anywhere. Why don't you and I paint a picture together?"

"No," Kylee whined.

"Can we have a tea party?" Gibbs asked.

"Uh-uh," Kylee muttered.

Gibbs picked Kylee up and cuddled her. "Will you read me a story?"

Kylee looked over at Jaycee then back at Gibbs. "Then Jaycee will come out?" she asked.

"Jaycee will be right back after her shower," Gibbs answered, "but we're not gonna rush her."

"Okay," Kylee reluctantly agreed. Gibbs kissed her cheek and Kylee watched as her sister disappeared up the stairs. "Daddy, I don't want Jaycee to leave again."

"Well, we're not gonna lock her up in the house all day," Gibbs said, "but she'll always come home at night."

"Daddy, will you read me a story instead?" Kylee asked around a yawn. She'd had a hard time sleeping without Jaycee being there but now that her sister was home she felt more relaxed than she had in awhile.

"Sure Baby," Gibbs said, knowing she'd most likely be sound asleep by the time the story was over.

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Sam stirred the macaroni and cheese she was making for lunch as she watched the twins out the back window. They were playing in the backyard with Gibbs but he'd come in for a quick bathroom break and coffee refill. Milo came in not long after Gibbs, holding his closed fist out to Sam.

"Mommy, look what I finded," he said happily.

"What did you find, Baby?" Sam asked turning the boiling water down.

Milo opened his fist and Sam jumped in surprise at the large black bug in his hand. "I don't know what it is," Milo said.

"That's a beetle, a big one," Sam said. "Can you take him back outside please, Sweetheart?"

"But I wanna keep him," Milo whined. "I will call him Petey."

"Well, Sweetheart, Petey can't stay in the house," Sam said peeking out at Lucas. "Where's the bucket Papa gave you to keep your bugs in?"

"Out there," Milo said pointing at the door.

"You know what I bet Petey would really like? I bet he'd like it if you built him his very own house outside," Sam said.

Milo's face lit up with a smile. He liked that idea. "Okay," he said before hurrying off outside once again.

"What's Milo up to?" Gibbs asked, coming into the kitchen.

"He made a new friend," Sam said handing Gibbs a cup of steaming coffee. "Make sure you ask to meet Petey."

Gibbs took his coffee with a smile and kissed Sam before returning to the backyard with the boys.

Once lunch was ready, Sam headed upstairs to wake Jaycee and Kylee. Both were exhausted and had laid down to nap together. Sam sat down in the lower bunk next to them and brushed her hand across their foreheads and down their cheeks.

"Are you girls ready for some lunch?" she asked when they started to stir.

"Real food," Jaycee sighed happily, "with flavor and texture." She smiled contentedly. The food in the hospital left a lot to be desired. Not even salt helped the taste.

The girls headed downstairs and the family enjoyed the meal together. It hadn't been the same having Jaycee absent over the past few days. After lunch, Gibbs helped put the little ones down for their nap before turning his attention to Jaycee. The teenager was clean, rested and had a full belly.

"Do you remember I told you I had a surprise for you once you got out of the hospital?" he asked sitting down on the couch next to her.

"Yeah," Jaycee said as she played with Kylee's hair while the five year old colored a picture at the coffee table.

"You ready to go see what it is?" Gibbs asked. It wasn't a traditional surprise but he hoped it would provide some measure of peace and closure that would help Jaycee heal and move on.

Jaycee looked at Gibbs and nodded cautiously. She could sense his seriousness and was a little apprehensive about what was getting ready to happen but she trusted both Gibbs and Sam. Kylee begged to go with her big sister and Gibbs agreed, knowing how lost the five year old had been without her. They said goodbye to Sam, piled in the car then headed out.

Ducky had just finished brewing a pot of tea when there was a knock at his door. He put the teapot in the middle of the table and went to let his guests in.

"Jethro," he greeted warmly. "Come on in. Welcome girls."

"Is this your house?" Kylee asked. She knew Ducky from Gibbs' work but had never been to his house.

"Yes it is," Ducky said, "and I have a special surprise for you in the kitchen."

"Did you get it?" Gibbs asked.

"I picked it up this morning," Ducky answered, "coffee table." He turned his attention to Kylee and smiled at the little girl. "Now, young lady, what do you say you and I have a little tea party while Jethro talks to your sister?"

Kylee looked from Gibbs to Jaycee, unsure about what was happening.

"It's okay, Sweet Pea," Gibbs assured her. "We'll be there in a minute. Ducky makes really good tea, a lot better than I do."

Ducky offered Kylee his hand and after one last look at Gibbs, the little girl put her hand in his and followed him into the kitchen while Gibbs and Jaycee headed into the living room.

"I had Ducky do some checking around for me," Gibbs said picking up the urn that was sitting on the coffee table, "for you actually, and he was able to find Reagan's remains." He watched her closely as he spoke, unsure of how she was going to react.

Jaycee stared at the urn in Gibbs' hands. "My sister's in there?" she asked.

"Yeah," Gibbs said with a nod, "she was cremated."

Jaycee reached for the urn but hesitated and pulled her hand back. "Is this some sort of trick?" she asked. "Are you just trying to make me feel better?"

"This isn't a trick, Sweetheart," Gibbs said. "These really are Reagan's remains."

Jaycee touched the urn before taking it from Gibbs and staring at it. "What do I do with them?"

"Well, people do different things," Gibbs said. "Some people keep them, some people scatter them somewhere that has a special meaning. It's just personal preference. There is no right or wrong answer."

There was a long silence while Jaycee stared at the urn. "I don't know what to do with her… with them… these."

"Why don't you hang onto them and think about it," Gibbs suggested. "Take as long as you need. I'm sure you'll figure out what to do."

"Thank you," Jaycee said. "It's nice to know she's not in some dump somewhere. It's nice to have her back with me."

"There's nothing I can do to take away the pain of losing Reagan, but I can try to help you get some closure," Gibbs said as he pulled her into a hug and kissed her cheek. "Now, Ducky's not gonna let us out of here until we have some tea with him."

////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////

Gracie was the first one up from her nap that afternoon. Sam suspected she hadn't actually slept but didn't say anything. The four year old had been quiet and stayed in her room and with everything else going on that would have to do. The little girl clomped down the stairs in a pair of Gibbs' tennis shoes, wearing a baseball uniform and carrying one of her baby dolls. She didn't say a word as she climbed into Sam's lap.

"Hi Baby Girl," Sam said, combing her fingers through Gracie's hair. "Are you a baseball player this afternoon?"

"Yeah, but it's only pretend," Gracie said as Sam kissed her head. "Where's Daddy? Did Jaycee go away again?"

"Daddy and Jaycee and Kylee will be back in a little while," Sam said. "Can you help me make snack?"

"Ooo," Gracie said perking up, "can we have pizza?"

"How about we do pizza for dinner and have some cheesy tater tots for snack," Sam suggested.

"I like tater tots," Gracie said.

Gibbs arrived home with Jaycee and Kylee in time to help Sam get the twins up from their nap then everybody enjoyed the cheesy tater tots Sam and Gracie had made. Ty showed up while they were snacking and joined them. He would've come earlier but he'd skipped several classes on Friday to try to see Jaycee at the hospital and his parents hadn't been happy when they'd found out. He knew he'd be grounded if he did it again. He and Jaycee talked in the living room while the others finished their snack.

"I'm so sorry for everything, Jaycee," Ty said. "Please forgive me."

"No, I'm sorry," Jaycee said. "I was just— I was so— I—I'm sorry."

Ty pulled Jaycee into a hug and she returned it. "Can we just start over?" he asked as he held her.

"I'd like that," Jaycee said pulling back and looking at him.

Ty took Jaycee's hand in his and smiled at her. "Jaycee, would you be my girlfriend?"

"I'd like that," Jaycee said, smiling back at him. "Wanna help me finish my tater tots?"

"I love tater tots," Ty said. The teenagers headed into the dining room with the others. "Would it be okay if I hung out here this afternoon?" Ty asked.

"Sure Baby," Sam said as she added more tater tots to Jaycee's plate for the two of them to share. "We'd love to have you for as long as you'd like to stay."

"Actually, Sam and I need to go car shopping," Gibbs said. "What do you guys think of babysitting for a little while?"

"Really?" Ty asked barely letting Gibbs finish. "That would be awesome! What do you think, Jaycee?"

"Of course," Jaycee said. "I don't mind at all." It felt good to know Gibbs and Sam still trusted her to both stay home alone and care for her younger siblings.

"Are you sure, Kiddo?" Gibbs asked watching her closely. "We can take them with us or work something else out."

"We don't want you to be overwhelmed, Baby," Sam added also watching her closely.

"I'm okay," Jaycee assured them. "I promise. It'll be nice to spend some time with them."

"Alright," Gibbs said. "You guys call if you need anything. We shouldn't be gone too long."

After snack had been cleaned up and the kids were settled, Gibbs and Sam headed out, confident that everything would be okay at the house. They were a little apprehensive about leaving Jaycee but knew Ty wouldn't let anything happen. They'd had enough conversations with him to know he had his head on right. They had confidence in both teenagers.

Car shopping went better than either Gibbs or Sam had expected. They found a very nice, eight passenger minivan in excellent condition. By the time they'd worked out a deal, the car salesman was on edge and sweating from haggling over the price but Gibbs was calm and relaxed. They left with a new van for an excellent price.

"You were gold!" Sam said after parking the car in the driveway and getting out to meet Gibbs.

"You weren't bad yourself, Doc," Gibbs said with a smirk. It turned out NCIS's top interrogator and the government's head brain gamer made a great team of negotiators. "Let's get the kids and go for a ride."

"I promised Gracie pizza for dinner," Sam said. "Do you want to take the kids out?"

"That's a good idea," Gibbs said. "We'll take 'em to that really good pizza buffet in Annandale. Ty can come too."

Ty and Jaycee got the twins dressed while Gibbs and Sam helped Kylee and Gracie get their shoes and coats on. Once everybody was ready they piled in the new minivan and made the short trip to Annandale for dinner. The pizza buffet was cheap and had excellent pizza and soft serve ice cream with a wide variety of toppings. The buffet allowed the kids to eat as much as they wanted. Once everyone had full bellies, they piled back in the van and Gibbs took a detour on the drive home so they could all enjoy the new van.

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Jaycee sat on the couch, wrapped in Gibbs' arms while Sam made her a cup of hot cocoa. Ty had gone home after dinner and all the little ones were in bed. Jaycee was enjoying being home and surrounded by her family.

"Reagan loved the mountains," she said.

"Hmm?" Gibbs asked, rubbing his thumb over her shoulder.

"We could see the mountains from our house in Wyoming," Jaycee said. "Reagan used to dream of escaping to them when Mom was… you know."

"Did you ever go?" Gibbs asked.

Jaycee shook her head. "We drove through some in Tennessee but we never went way up high."

Sam brought Jaycee her hot chocolate and sat down on the opposite side of her.

"We're talking about how much Reagan loved mountains," Gibbs explained as Jaycee sipped her drink.

"Could we… do you think it would be okay if we went to some mountain somewhere, sometime and scatted her ashes there?" Jaycee asked hesitantly. She knew they'd have to drive a ways to get to the mountains and wasn't sure if Gibbs and Sam would mind or not.

"I think that sounds like a good idea," Gibbs said.

"Thanksgiving's coming up in a couple weeks," Sam said. "Why don't we take a long weekend and rent a cabin up in the Blue Ridge Mountains, get away from the city for a little while? Do you think you could get the time off work, Jethro?"

"Considering my team usually works every holiday, that shouldn't be a problem," Gibbs said. "That sounds like fun. What do you think, Kiddo?"

"If it's not too much of an inconvenience," Jaycee said.

"Not at all," Sam assured her.

"I think it'd be fun for everybody," Gibbs said.

Chapter Text

The family getaway ended up including Ty, Tony, Tim, Ziva and Abby. The team was thrilled to finally have a holiday off although they weren't quite sure what to do with it. Their closest family was each other and they almost always spent holidays together. All of them readily accepted Gibbs and Sam's invitation to come with them. Ty's parents reluctantly agreed to let him go as well. His mom was against the idea but his dad convinced her.

After a three hour drive to the western side of the state, the group pulled up in front of the large cabin they'd reserved. It would be a tight squeeze come bedtime but there was plenty of room in the four bedroom cabin for fun and activities. Unloading the cars was a team effort. Rooms were divided up and belongings were unpacked. Gibbs and Sam would be sharing a room with the twins. Tony, Tim and Ty got the room across the hall. Ziva and Gracie were in the room next to them and Abby, Jaycee and Kylee got the other room.

After a long day at school and work and a long drive across the state, everybody was ready to take it easy. Sam gave the boys a quick bath and Abby did the girls while Gibbs built a fire and Tony and Ziva fought over making popcorn. Tim made everyone some hot chocolate, rolling his eyes at Tony and Ziva's bickering. After everyone got settled they put a movie in.

Gracie was so tired she fell asleep in Tony's lap and not long after that Milo was sleeping in Gibbs' arms. One by one the little ones fell asleep and were put to bed. Gibbs and Sam headed to the master bathroom for a soak in the tub, leaving Ty and Jaycee up with the team.

///////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////

Thanksgiving morning came early for Gibbs and Sam. Not only were the twins jumping on the bed while they were trying to sleep, Kylee was crawling all over them, trying to avoid her bouncing brothers. She hadn't been able to wake Jaycee or Abby after their late night so she'd headed off in search of Dad and Mom. Gibbs swept the boys off their feet then leaned over to kiss Sam before they could get back up. As soon as the twins got back up they tackled Gibbs and Sam.

"Ow, you're squishing me," Kylee whined pushing Milo's knee out of her gut.

"Are you getting knocked around, Sweet Pea?" Gibbs asked, pulling her out of range of the giggling toddlers. He and Sam got up with the kids and headed down to the living room.

"Hey, where is everybody?" Milo asked looking around the empty room.

"They're still sleeping," Sam answered. "They probably stayed up too late."

"Can you guys find something quiet to play with while Mom and I make breakfast?" Gibbs asked. They'd brought some of the kids' toys along to entertain them.

"Okay," Lucas said.

Sam got out some granola bars and cut up some fruit for breakfast while Gibbs got the turkey in the oven for lunch. It was the biggest turkey he'd ever seen before but it would feed them all. They'd considered cheating a little on Thanksgiving dinner but figured the kids' mom had cheated them out of enough in their lives so they'd planned a traditional feast.

After breakfast was ready and the turkey was in the oven, Gibbs and Sam each got a cup of coffee. They could hear war noises and the sounds of explosions coming from the living room.

"Sounds like we need to go check on the kiddos," Gibbs said.

"They started early this morning," Sam said after swallowing a mouthful of coffee.

They returned to the living room to find the floor scattered with army men and G.I. Joes. Kylee was sitting in the middle of the warzone reading a book.

"Let's get you out of here, Babe," Gibbs said picking Kylee up and sitting her on his lap. "Will you read to me?'

"Want me to start the story over?" Kylee asked.

"Nope," Gibbs said, "you can continue right where you were."

The group woke one by one and made their way to the living room. The rowdy kids made it impossible to wake slowly but coffee along with the excitement of not having to work kept everyone in a good mood. After everyone had gotten dressed and had some breakfast Gibbs, Tony, Tim, Ziva and Ty took the little ones outside to explore while Sam, Abby and Jaycee worked on lunch.

"So, how have you been feeling, Jaycee?" Abby asked gently as she flipped through the recipe cards searching for the one for stuffing.

"A lot better," Jaycee answered as she peeled potatoes. "I've met some really nice people at my therapy groups."

"Oh, I didn't realize you were doing group therapy," Abby said

"She does both," Sam said proudly, "group therapy on Tuesdays and individual therapy on Thursdays."

"That's really cool," Abby said. "Facing your fears and your problems is hard to do but it'll make you stronger."

Jaycee smiled at Sam and Abby. "I feel like I'm getting stronger every day."

"I'm really glad to hear that," Abby said. "You know I'm always here if you need me, right? Gibbs and Sam are your family but so are all the rest of us and we take care of our own. Never leave a man behind. Gibbs taught us that."

"I'm still trying to get used to that," Jaycee admitted. "I know it sounds weird but I'm not used to being around people who care."

"It doesn't sound weird," Abby said. "You should talk to Tony. He grew up under a little different circumstances but I think you guys have a lot in common."

Jaycee nodded as she finished peeling the last of the potatoes. "What do I do with these now?" she asked.

"You can either slice them or cube them, then put them in water so they don't turn black," Sam said. "We'll turn them on in a little while."

Sam was in the middle of making bread when Gibbs returned. "Do you remember where we packed the band-aids?" he asked.

"They're in with my toiletries," Sam answered. "Let me guess, one of the boys?"

"Uh… yeah," Gibbs said.

"Milo," Sam guessed. Gibbs smiled and shook his head. "Lucas," Sam cooncluded.

"DiNozzo," Gibbs said. "He was chasing a deer with the twins and tripped over a downed tree."

"Ouch," Sam said.

"He's okay but his knee's bleeding pretty good," Gibbs said.

"I'll get him patched up if you want to head back out," Sam said.

"Thank you," Gibbs said, leaning in to kiss her.

Sam took a break from cooking and retrieved the box of band-aids and antiseptic from her room then headed to the living room where Tony was sitting on the couch with his leg propped up on the coffee table. "You must not have been wearing your tube socks today, huh?" she asked.

"How'd you hear about that?" Tony asked.

Sam just smiled as she put a band-aid on his knee.

"Must've been Gibbs," Tony said.

"Sit tight, I'll get you an ice pack so it doesn't swell up," Sam said.

After cleaning him up, she headed back to the kitchen and sent Jaycee out with an ice pack, hoping the teenager would take Abby's advice and talk to Tony about his past. She knew it would be good for both of them.

Jaycee gave Tony the ice pack then returned to the kitchen. She felt a little awkward about starting such a personal conversation with Tony. She'd hung out with him enough to know he was goofy and fun-loving but digging into his past seemed a little wrong. She didn't want him to be upset with her or think she was rude. As soon as she returned to the kitchen, Sam took her back out into the living room with Tony.

"What's up?" Tony asked looking at them.

"We were wondering if you'd mind talking to Jaycee about what's it's like when parents put other priorities over their children," Sam said.

"Um, I'm not very good at talks like this but yeah, I know what that's like," Tony said. "Pop a squat, Munchkin."

"Huh?" Jaycee asked.

"Uh, have a seat," Tony said.

"Sorry you have to do this," Jaycee said. "It wasn't my idea."

"Ah, it's not a problem," Tony said. "What started all this?"

"I was just saying how it's weird being around people who actually care," Jaycee said. "Abby said I should talk to you." The teenager shrugged, a little embarrassed and uncomfortable.

"Well, you and I pretty much grew up in totally different worlds," Tony said as he relaxed into the couch, "but we're still a lot alike. My dad sent me off to boarding school after my mom died 'cause he cared more about his business than he did me. I always felt like I was in the way and not important. I tried really hard to earn his approval but he didn't even notice. He never really paid attention to me when I was little."

"I've always had to be the adult," Jaycee said. "I had to take care of my brothers and sisters while Mom screwed every guy who smiled at her and just kept popping out more kids."

"My dad had a lot of girlfriends too," Tony said, "and when I say girlfriends I mean one night stands."

"You got brothers or sisters?"

Tony shook his head. "As far as I know it's just me."

"Every time Mom got pregnant I used to hope and wish that that was the kid who was gonna make her wake up and be responsible," Jaycee said. "Never happened though. I delivered all my brothers and sisters. Occasionally Mom would buy 'em a new toy or bring candy bars home or something to buy their love and affection but she never changed a dirty diaper or gave a bath or tucked 'em in or anything a mother's supposed to do."

Tony stared straight ahead as he listened to Jaycee. He wrapped his arm around Jaycee and pulled her to his side, feeling a stronger connection her. His father was under the impression he could buy his love as well. "Money's the most important thing to my dad. He thinks he can just buy his way out of any situation. He also thinks if he leaves me a big enough inheritance it'll make me love him more."

"Will it?" Jaycee asked.

Tony looked down at Jaycee and smiled. "I don't care about money," he said. "Money's nice and it's cool to be able to buy nice things but the important things are the things you can't put a price tag on, like spending time with somebody. I would've loved to have been able to go to a baseball game with my dad or go camping or build something together. He was always too busy though. I was just in the way."

"At least your dad's trying to leave you money to have a better life," Jaycee said.

Tony chuckled slightly as he squeezed Jaycee tighter against him. "Senior has good intentions but the man doesn't have hardly a penny to his name," he explained. "He buys super expensive clothes, rides around in really nice cars, goes on exotic vacations, lives in a mansion… he blows all his money almost as soon as he gets it."

"How are you so happy all the time then?" Jaycee asked. "You're always laughing and telling jokes and stuff."

"You just gotta find a way to cope," Tony explained. "I love my dad, even with all his faults. I mean, we all have faults, right? I just, I found another family to make up for his shortcomings. Gibbs is always there for me, for all of us. He may not be the most sensitive guy but he always knows what to say or do and somehow he always knows what you need. I'll take that over my absentee father any day!"

"Is it dumb if I kinda love my mom still?" Jaycee asked.

"Nope, not dumb at all," Tony answered. "We love the parts of 'em that are lovable. Your mom and my dad are just a little screwed up. They don't understand what's important but we can always hope that maybe one day they'll figure it out."

"I'm glad Gibbs found me," Jaycee said. "I'm glad you guys let us be part of your family now."

"Me too, Kiddo," Tony said giving her a quick kiss on the head. "Now, let's head to the kitchen and graze a little before lunch. That food smells too good not to eat." Jaycee giggled as they stood from the couch. "The important thing is to not get caught," Tony whispered. "If you do you risk a wooden spoon across your knuckles."

///////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////

Thanksgiving dinner was every bit as fun and exciting as everyone expected. It was a tight fit but all twelve of them crammed around the dining room table, half of them sitting on mismatched furniture they'd pulled in. While Gibbs carved the meat they went around the table and everyone said at least one thing they were thankful for. The adults helped the younger ones fill their plates then the dishes got passed around and they filled their own plates. Once everyone had a plateful they dug in.

Laughter, teasing and joking filled the room as they ate. Ty played footsy with Jaycee, turning her cheeks a light shade of red but putting a smile on her face. The twins had a hard time remembering to use their silverware with all the delicious food on their plates. They couldn't eat it fast enough. Tim helped Gracie cut up her meat. She and Kylee were always very neat no matter what they were doing. They'd do anything to avoid getting messy.

"Do we have to take a nap today?" Gracie asked.

"Just a short one, Baby," Sam answered. "You'll feel better tonight if you do. I promise."

"Aw," Gracie whined.

"I'll lay down with you," Abby said. "It won't be that bad."

"With us too?" Milo asked with a handful of mashed potatoes.

"Yes, with you too," Abby answered.

"Milo, I need you to eat with you fork and spoon, Baby," Sam said.

"It takes too long," Milo whined.

"It's the polite thing to do," Gibbs said. "Remember we've talked about being polite boys?"

"Being plight's no fun," Lucas said.

Gibbs ruffled Lucas' hair and smiled at both boys. He knew they weren't thrilled about naptime but he also knew it would be worse later if they didn't take a nap. "You guys just enjoy your meal and don't worry about naps."

"A turkey says gobble, gobble!" Milo announced, tucking his hands in his armpits and flapping his elbows as if they were his wings.

"We learn that at daycare," Lucas said around his mouthful of turkey.

"You're right," Jaycee said. "I can't believe how smart you guys are getting. You're growing up so fast."

"Soon we'll be big and tough and strong like Daddy," Milo said proudly.

"Only if you eat your veggies," Sam said. "Take a bite of your green beans. I put a little bacon in them to make them taste yummy."

After lunch, Abby took Gracie and the twins to lie down for a nap. The rest of the group relaxed in front of the TV except for Gibbs and Sam who headed out in search of a place to scatter Reagan's ashes. Although they loved being surrounded by family and craziness, it was also nice to get away together for a little while.

They drove to an area higher up in the mountains that Gibbs had thought would be a good place and after a short hike they discovered a breathtaking view.

"I think this place is perfect," Sam said.

"It's beautiful up here," Gibbs said, "so peaceful. The perfect place to escape, which is what Jaycee said Reagan always dreamed of."

The two enjoyed the view for a little while longer before heading back to the cabin.

///////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////

Friday afternoon everyone piled in the cars and headed back up the mountain to the spot Gibbs and Sam had scouted out the day before. Jaycee was the quietest, holding onto her sister's ashes and remembering all the good and bad times they'd been through together. It had been less than a year since she'd lost her. It was her first Thanksgiving without her and it was strange.

Sam put her arm around Jaycee as they walked the short distance up the mountain after parking. Gibbs rested his hand on her back, offering some silent support.

"You okay, Baby?" Sam asked quietly.

Jaycee nodded as she leaned into Sam. "Just thinking… remembering stuff."

Sam kissed the top of her head and held her tighter.

"We are up high," Gracie said.

"We're on a mountain," Jaycee said. "Remember how much Reagan loved mountains?"

"I do!" Kylee said.

"We came up here today to say goodbye to Reagan," Sam explained.

"Like a funeral?" Kylee asked.

"Yep, like a funeral," Sam said.

"But where is the box where she is laying?" Milo asked.

"Well, some people get put into a coffin and buried in the ground when they die," Sam said, "but other people get put in the special room where their body gets turned into ashes. Reagan's body got turned into ashes and we're gonna spread them out up here so she can be where she always wanted to be."

"I like that idea," Milo said.

"Reagan will be very happy," Lucas added.

The kids took turns talking about Reagan, sharing their favorite memories, favorite things to do with her and how much they missed her. Jaycee went last and even though she had a lot on her mind she didn't speak much. Ty stood by her side, offering any support he could while Sam stood on her other side and Gibbs and the team made sure the younger kids were doing okay.

They scattered Reagan's ashes and watched as they disappeared with the wind. Just before they left, Gibbs pulled Jaycee into a hug and kissed the top of her head.

"She's happy now," Jaycee said as the tears started flowing. "Now she can really rest in peace. It's so hard to say goodbye though. I wish she was still here. She was my best friend."

"I know, Sweetheart," Gibbs whispered as he rubbed her back while he held her close to him. "It's okay to miss her. It's okay to be angry that she's gone. It's okay to be emotional. The important thing to remember is there are a lot of people who love you and care about you and will do anything they can to help you. We can't take away the pain of loss but it'll lessen in time. Just hold onto those happy memories."

"Do you still think about your family that died?" Jaycee asked.

"Every day, Kiddo," Gibbs answered. "I miss 'em every day but I have more family now too and their love and patience and friendship gets me through."

"I'm not suicidal," Jaycee said wiping her tears. "I don't want you to think 'cause I'm crying that I'm suicidal. I don't wanna go back to one of those hospitals. I don't wanna be sent away."

"Shh," Gibbs said. "I think you're doing just fine, Baby. You're allowed to cry without worrying about being sent away."

Abby joined the hug and Sam stroked Jaycee's hair. They all said a final goodbye to Reagan and promised to come back and visit then headed back down the mountain.

Chapter Text

Gibbs parked his car in the driveway, turned it off and sat for a moment. It was Saturday evening and his team had been working nonstop for the last six days. He was exhausted and he missed his family. He'd seen the kids long enough to give them hugs and kisses but that was it. No shared meals, no bedtime stories, no bath time drama, no part of the chaotic home life he loved so much. After a moment alone in the car to relax and switch from federal agent mode to family man mode, he grabbed his belongings out of the passenger seat and headed inside.

The wave of music as soon as he opened the front door made him wonder if he was entering Abby's lab rather than his house. Kylee, Gracie, Milo and Lucas were in the living room dancing—at least that's what he assumed they were doing. Their dance moves were unlike any he'd ever seen before. He watched them for a moment before sneaking up behind Gracie and sweeping her off her feet. She squealed excitedly as he pulled her to him and kissed all over her face.

"Daddy!" she cheered. "Are you home?"

"I am," Gibbs said as he put her down and turned his attention to the other three kids who were hanging onto his legs. He dropped kisses on their heads as he wrapped them in his arms. Life was more complicated with family but he loved coming home to a house full of little ones and noise and excitement and a wonderful woman he adored.

The kids followed him to the kitchen where Sam and Jaycee were dancing while they baked cookies. The small boom box on the counter was blasting music almost as loud as Abby did in her lab. They were using wooden spoons as microphones, singing at the top of their lungs, completely oblivious to his presence. Gibbs couldn't help but smile. He moved over behind Sam and wrapped his hands around her waist, smiling when she screamed in surprise.

"Hey," he said.

"Hi Love," she replied, turning to kiss him as her heart rate slowed. "Case closed or just popping in?"

"Case is closed," Gibbs answered. She immediately noticed he was much more relaxed than he had been over the past several days. "How are things going around here?"

"Couldn't be better," Sam said. "Jaycee and I are just baking some cookies."

"Looks like you turned the house into a karaoke bar," Gibbs teased, playfully tugging a lock of Jaycee's hair.

"Life's too short to not dance around your kitchen and pretend like you're the lead singer in a popular band," Sam said with a sweet smile.

"Well, I'm not into music much but I'd pay to see you guys," Gibbs said.

"Thank you, Honey," Sam said with a laugh as she patted his chest. "Have you had dinner? Would you like me to make you something?"

"You don't have to go to any trouble," Gibbs said. "I'm gonna change then I'll come find something."

"I made everybody bacon, egg and cheese sandwiches," Jaycee said. "Want me to make you one?"

Gibbs could see how excited she was. She enjoyed cooking so much she'd decided she wanted to be a chef. He knew she'd be thrilled if he said yes. "That sounds delicious," he said. "Thank you Sweetheart."

The twins followed Gibbs upstairs and talked his ear off while he changed into a pair of sweatpants and a t-shirt before using the bathroom. When he came out of the bathroom, he found them jumping on the bed.

"What have Mommy and I told you two about jumping on the beds?" he asked.

"Not to," Lucas said with a smile.

"That's right," Gibbs said, "so why are we doing it?"

"Uhhh," Lucas said.

"We dunno," Milo said.

"No more jumping on the beds," Gibbs said scooping them into his arms. "I don't wanna have to put you in timeout but I will if you can't follow the rules."

"We will be good boys," Milo said quickly as he wrapped his arms around Gibbs and laid his head on his shoulder.

"We don't need time out," Lucas added kissing Gibbs' cheek. Both were masters at charming their way out of trouble and even though they hated it when Sam called them her little sweethearts, she couldn't have been more right.

Gibbs took the boys back downstairs with him and got them busy playing with their dinosaurs then headed into the kitchen where the music had been turned down and there was a cup of steaming coffee and glass of orange juice on the table waiting for him.

"Your sandwich is almost done," Jaycee said.

"Thanks Baby," Gibbs said as he sat. "What'd you guys do today?"

"We did a little grocery shopping then Jaycee and I took the little ones to the playground before she had to go to work," Sam answered.

"How was work, Jaycee?" Gibbs asked.

"Good," Jaycee said. "I made some really good tips today."

"Good. How's Ty doing?" Gibbs asked as she put his sandwich in front of him. "Thank you."

"Welcome," Jaycee said. "Ty wasn't there today. He had a baseball game."

"Why don't you tell him the other good news you got today," Sam encouraged.

"I got accepted to the University of Virginia," Jaycee said.

"Congratulations, Baby," Gibbs said standing to hug her. "I'm so proud of you."

"She even got a scholarship," Sam added. "It won't cover everything but we still have several out there."

"I'm so happy for you," Gibbs said kissing her head. "Which campus are you gonna go to?"

"Well, the Virginia Beach campus is the only one that has the culinary arts program," Jaycee said, "but I'm kinda scared to go so far away."

"Whatcha scared of, Kiddo?" Gibbs asked as he started eating.

Jaycee shrugged as she sat with him. "I've never been so far away from my brothers and sisters before," she said.

"We'll take good care of them," Gibbs said.

"I know," Jaycee said. "It'll just be weird but Ty said if I got in, he's gonna go to Virginia Beach too. He wants to do the nursing program and they offer that at all their campuses."

"That'll be nice," Gibbs said. "You guys can head down there together."

"Yeah," Jaycee said. "I'm just nervous."

"Why don't I get the team to entertain the little ones one weekend and Sam and I will take you and Ty, if he wants to come, down to check out the campus, talk to a counselor and have a look around."

"Really?" Jaycee asked. "It's like, almost four hours away though."

"That's not far at all," Sam said. "Jethro and I want to make sure you're happy and safe. We're not just gonna kick you out the front door and leave you to fend for yourself."

"That's what Mom would've done," Jaycee said with a slight laugh.

"Well, we'll do everything we can to make sure you're comfortable," Gibbs said. "We want nothing but the best for you."

"I think going for a visit would make me feel better," Jaycee said.

"Talk to Ty, see if he wants to go, talk to your boss, see if you can get some time off work and we'll see if we can set up a day to head over there," Gibbs said.

"Thanks," Jaycee said wrapping her arms around Gibbs' shoulders and giving him a hug. Gibbs kissed her cheek then she went back to making cookies while Gibbs ate his dinner.

/////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////

Gibbs and Sam relaxed on the couch together after all the little ones were sleeping. There was no music playing, the TV wasn't on, no books or newspapers were open; it was just them. They hadn't gotten to spend much time together over the past several days with Gibbs' crazy work schedule so the two were enjoying just being close. Sam was wrapped in Gibbs' arms, rubbing his belly while he rubbed her shoulder and kissed her head every several minutes. They could see and hear Jaycee pacing around the kitchen as she talked to Ty on the phone but other than that it was silent.

"We missed you," Sam said quietly. "I missed you."

"I missed you," Gibbs said kissing her head, "all of you."

Sam untucked his shirt so she could slip her hand underneath, skin on skin. She loved touching him. Gibbs rested his cheek on her head and breathed in her scent.

"I couldn't do this without you," he said. "I wouldn't want to."

Sam smiled at the admission. She loved it when he got sentimental. It didn't happen often. "I'm glad you chose me," she said.

"Who else would I choose?" Gibbs joked. "It's not like I have a long list of women hidden away somewhere."

"You're a handsome guy," Sam said. "I'm sure you could have any woman you wanted."

"I want you," Gibbs whispered into her ear.

Sam turned and pressed her lips to his. There was no doubt in her mind, she loved him. She realized she was starting to depend on him. She could stand on her own but life was so much better with a partner, a partner she could love and trust. She was part of a team and Gibbs valued and cherished her. She wished they were eighteen again. She wished they could fall in love young and experience all the things couples experience throughout the years. She wished there weren't memories of her ex plaguing her thoughts, causing doubts and fears that held her back. She kissed Gibbs again as she wrapped her arm around him.

"Are you guys gonna have sex?" Jaycee asked.

"Maybe," Sam said with a wink.

"Ew," Jaycee teased.

"What's up, Kiddo?" Gibbs asked with a laugh.

"I dunno," Jaycee said. "Kinda bored."

"I wish we had enough room you could have your own space," Gibbs said.

"I don't mind sharing," Jaycee said. "I don't think I could sleep without Gracie singing in her sleep every night or Kylee tossing and turning and shaking the bed." Jaycee slept on the top bunk and could feel almost every movement Kylee made under her.

"You're gonna make a great mother one day, Baby," Sam said. The love just radiated off her. Her brothers and sisters were her top priority and not because they had to be but because she made it that way.

"I hope so," Jaycee said. "Ty wants lots of kids."

"What do you want?" Gibbs asked.

Jaycee thought for a moment before answering. "I can't imagine not being surrounded by a bunch of kids," she said. "I mean, they're hard work but it's so rewarding."

"Yes it is," Gibbs said.

"If I make some popcorn, will you guys watch a movie with me?" Jaycee asked.

"You gotta bring me a beer too," Gibbs said with a wink.

"Alright," Jaycee said. "Sam?"

"I think I'd like some ice water," Sam said. "Do you want me to help you?"

"No thanks! I got it," Jaycee called out, already on her way to the kitchen.

Gibbs and Sam watched the teenager hurry into the kitchen. She'd made remarkable improvements over the past several months. In November she'd tried to end her life but it was the beginning of April and life was going great. She'd been accepted into a good university, she was getting ready to graduate from high school, she had a good job, good friends and therapy was going well. Her life finally seemed to have taken a turn for the better. They couldn't have been more proud.

/////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////

Jaycee and Ty were on break from work when one of the other waitresses came out to get Jaycee. Someone was there asking for her. The teenager jumped up from the curb where she'd been sitting next to Ty and hurried back inside assuming it was Gibbs or Sam or one of the team surprising her. They stopped by occasionally and always asked to be seated at one of her tables and they always left her a generous tip. She loved it when they came in.

She made her way through the kitchen and stepped out into the dining room, scanning over the tables in her section for any familiar faces. When she looked towards the booth in the corner her heart stopped. Her mother waved excitedly at her from her spot in the booth. The woman looked as frail as ever and she was holding a baby. Jaycee knew instantly that she was still on drugs. She reluctantly walked over to the booth, her face straight, her eyes disapproving.

"Hi," she said plainly, "what are you doing here?"

"I thought you might want to meet your new little brother!" Faye said excitedly.

"My brother," Jaycee said. She wasn't surprised. The only difference between her mother and a prostitute was prostitutes got paid and were responsible with their birth control. "What's his name?"

"Brady Joseph," Faye said. "You gonna offer us something to eat?"

"I don't know," Jaycee said. "You got money?"

"I didn't think I needed any," Faye said. "Come on, you work here. I'm sure they let you eat for free. Help your momma out."

"Fine," Jaycee said. It'd come out of her pocket but she couldn't turn her back on the woman. "What would you like?"

"This looks like a pretty fancy place," Faye said looking around. "How about a steak with some mashed potatoes and I'm feeling healthy today so how about some peas with lots of butter in them."

"Anything else?" Jaycee asked, wondering if her mom was going to order anything for the little boy sitting in her lap.

"Nope, that's good," Faye said, "but I'll probably order some dessert when I'm done!"

"I'll go put your order in," Jaycee said. "Be right back."

Jaycee put her mother's order in and added some macaroni and cheese and apple sauce her brother. The kid didn't look that old but he appeared to be old enough to eat some solid foods and knowing her mother Jaycee was pretty sure the boy hadn't had a good meal in awhile.

After putting the order in, she found her boss and explained the situation. He told her to take as long as she needed. They weren't very busy yet and Jaycee was an excellent employee. He had all the patience in the world with her. He wished he could have several more employees just like her.

Jaycee hung around in the kitchen until her mom's order was up. She really didn't want to talk to the woman any longer than she had to. She took the food out to her mother and sat down in the booth across from her.

"I got Brady some mac and cheese and applesauce," she said.

"You're such a good big sis!" Faye squealed shoveling potatoes into her mouth. She was starving. "Here, hold him while I eat," she said handing him across the table.

Jaycee took the boy and started feeding him some macaroni and cheese. "How old is he?" she asked making conversation.

"Just turned nine months," Faye said. "He was born July 2."

"Where's his dad?" Jaycee asked. She knew her mom didn't know but she asked anyways.

"Who's his dad is more like it," Faye joked. "Am I right?"

"When are you gonna grow up, Mom?" Jaycee asked with just a hint of anger in her voice.

"Aw, come on," Faye said around a mouthful of steak, "I'm the fun mom, remember?"

"I remember starving in rat infested drug houses that got raided by the police all the time," Jaycee said. "I remember your boyfriends—the ones you insisted were the 'love of your life', coming into our room at night and me having to fight them off so me and Reagan and Gracie and Kylee didn't get raped. I remember you disappearing for days on end, no money, no food, no idea where you were, when or even if you were coming back. I remember my sister dying in a youth facility because you got hauled off to jail and we had nowhere to go. I remember—"

"That's enough!" Faye said slamming her fists down on the table. "Your life may not have been perfect but I did my best for you kids."

"Yeah, right," Jaycee scoffed. The only reason she wasn't crying was because she was too angry.

"Excuse me," Faith said, standing from the table. "I need to use the bathroom."

/////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////

Gibbs was home alone on Sunday afternoon when the telephone rang. Ziva and Abby were out with Gracie and Kylee buying more dress up clothes and Sam had taken the twins get haircuts. Gibbs had been tasked with fixing the runny toilet which he'd accomplished quickly. He picked the phone up and tucked it between his ear and shoulder so he could straighten up the coffee table while he talked.

"Gibbs," he said into the receiver.

"Gibbs," Jaycee's voice was shaky. She was on the verge of tears. "I need you."

"What happened?" Gibbs asked panic rising inside him. "Are you okay?"

"No," Jaycee said. She sniffed her nose and the tears started.

"I'm coming, Baby," Gibbs said. "Hang on. I'll be there in a minute."

He grabbed his car keys and wallet then hurried out to the car and sped off down the street. Things were going so well. He hadn't heard Jaycee sound that broken since before Thanksgiving. He made it to the restaurant in record time, parked in the near empty parking lot and hurried inside.

"Where's Jaycee?" he asked the teenager who was greeting diners.

"I'll call Marcus for you," the girl said.

Gibbs paced impatiently while he waited for Jaycee's boss to come out.

"Agent Gibbs," Marcus said, "please come with me. Jaycee's outside getting some fresh air."

"What happened?" Gibbs asked.

"Her mother showed up," Marcus said.

Gibbs felt his stomach drop. What little he knew about the woman wasn't good. He followed Marcus through the kitchen out to the break area behind the restaurant where Ty was sitting on the curb next to Jaycee with his arms around her.

"Ty, since Agent Gibbs is here can you head back out on the floor for me, please?" Marcus asked. "Dinner rush is gonna start soon. I need ya."

"Of course," Ty said. "I'm sorry, Jaycee. You know I'm here for you though."

Jaycee nodded and Ty stood, letting Gibbs take his place. Gibbs wrapped his arms around Jaycee and pulled her to his chest. Wrapped securely in Gibbs' arms, the tears started again. Gibbs kissed her head and stroked her hair as he held her and let her cry.

"I hear your mom stopped by," he said.

Jaycee nodded, sniffing back tears. "She hasn't changed," she said. "Actually, I take it back, she got meaner, but I was mean to her so I guess I deserved it."

"Can you tell me what happened?" Gibbs asked still stroking his fingers through her hair.

"You're gonna hate me," Jaycee said.

"Never," Gibbs assured her. "Never ever."

"She—she had another kid with her," Jaycee said, "a baby, a boy, my—my brother."

"Mm-hmm," Gibbs said so she knew he was listening.

"We got into a fight," Jaycee said. "She started talking about being a fun mother and I don't know what happened. Something inside me just snapped and I yelled at her about what us kids went through while she was out being fun. She said she had to go to the bathroom. She never came back. She left Brady with me and she disappeared."

Gibbs wasn't sure what to say or do. Her mother had come and dumped another child on her. He knew even if they hadn't had the fight, the reason for her mom's visit was most likely to leave the kid with her so she could continue her partying lifestyle. "Where's Brady?" he asked.

"Mary Lou has him," Marcus answered. His wife, Jaycee's guidance counselor at school, had stopped by right in the middle of all the drama. "They're in my office."

Jaycee wouldn't admit to it but she didn't want to start bonding with the boy. She knew he'd have to be given up for adoption. There was no more room in Gibbs' house. It was overflowing already and she was sure neither Gibbs nor Sam wanted to add to the craziness.

"I realize there are some obvious answers but what has you the most upset right now?" Gibbs asked Jaycee.

"I'm just tired of cleaning up after my mom," Jaycee said angrily. "I'm seventeen and I've raised four kids and now she just dumped another one on me. What am I supposed to do? What about me? What about my life? What about my future? When do I get to stop acting like her mother and live my own life? I love my brothers and sisters. I will fight for them until I can't fight anymore but when does it stop? How many more kids is she gonna have? What am I supposed to do with another kid? I want kids of my own. I want kids with Ty! If she keeps bringing me all her kids I'm never gonna get the chance to have any of my own 'cause I'll be too busy taking care of hers!"

"Okay, okay," Gibbs said trying to calm her. Her tears had once again turned to anger. "You have a bright future ahead of you, Kiddo. I'm not gonna let anybody steal that from you. You and Ty will have your babies, as many as you guys want."

"I don't even mind that Mom brought Brady here," Jaycee said, calming once again. "I wouldn't want any kid to be stuck with her for a mom but I'm scared. If she keeps having kids, I'm not gonna be able to take care of them all. I can't even take care of Brady. I don't want you and Sam to get fed up with all the drama either. I'm scared you're gonna get tired of it and walk away."

"Hey, I'm frustrated along with you and for you but not at you," Gibbs said. "Neither Sam nor I will ever turn our backs on any of you kids. I don't care what your mom does. We're gonna take Brady home and he'll be the newest member of our family. We'll make room. We'll figure out what to do about your mom later."

"There is nothing you can do about Mom," Jaycee said. "She always does whatever she wants."

"Don't have so little faith in me," Gibbs said with a wink. "What do you know about Brady?"

"His name is Brady Joseph," Jaycee said. "He has light brown hair and blue eyes and he was born on July 2. Oh, and he's super skinny, no baby fat like normal kids should have. That's it."

"Well, it's a start," Gibbs said. He kissed Jaycee's head then stood and offered her his hand. Jaycee let Gibbs pull her up then brushed the leftover tears from her face. "Are you gonna stay here and finish out your shift?"

Jaycee shrugged indifferently. "I don't want you to have to take care of my brother," she said. "I should be there to help."

"Ah, we'll be fine," Gibbs said.

"Really?" Jaycee asked. Gibbs smiled at her and nodded. "Okay, 'cause I kinda need to work off that $30 meal my mom had."

"I'm sorry, Baby," Gibbs said. "Will you let me give you $30?"

"No way," Jaycee said.

"That's what I thought," Gibbs said with a smile. The teenager was stubborn. "I'll go get Brady. You go back to work."

"Thank you Gibbs," Jaycee said. "You always fix everything. Someday I hope to be like you."

"You already are, Kiddo," Gibbs said. "All your life you've done nothing but fix everything for your mom and your siblings."

Jaycee smiled gratefully and took Gibbs back to Marcus' office before heading back out onto the floor. The dinner rush had already started and she was needed.

Gibbs and Mary Lou talked for a little while about the situation and what effect it was having on Jaycee. Mary Lou took Gibbs to a nearby store to get a car seat and a few other essentials. The booster seats he had in the van wouldn't provide enough support for a nine month old so he sat in the back holding the child while Mary Lou drove. He was grateful for the woman's help and encouraged by all the support she gave Jaycee.

Once they were done at the store and both went their separate ways, Gibbs pulled out his phone to call Sam.

"Hello," Sam answered in her normal, perky tone.

"It's me," Gibbs said.

"Oh, hi Love," Sam said cheerfully, "I was wondering what happened to you."

"I uh," Gibbs hesitated, "are you sitting down?"

"No," Sam said. "I'm playing hide and seek with the twins. I'm the seeker."

"You might wanna sit down," Gibbs said.

"Jethro, you're scaring me," Sam said, her tone turning serious. "Where are you? What's going on?"

"The kids' mom showed up at the restaurant where Jaycee works," Gibbs said.

"Oh no," Sam said. "Is Jaycee okay?"

"I think so," Gibbs said. "Unfortunately she's used to this. There's more though. She had another kid. Left him with Jaycee and disappeared. I guess we've got another one."

Chapter Text

Sam stood at the front window and watched as Gibbs got the baby out of the van. She couldn't believe that woman was still having children. Then again, she could believe it. That was the sad part. Even sadder, she'd abandoned the boy with her teenage daughter.

"Mommy!" Lucas called out from his hiding spot. "Are you comin' to seek us?"

The phone call with Gibbs had distracted Sam from the game. They were playing hide and seek and she forgot she was seeking. "Daddy's home, guys," she called back.

Just as she'd hoped both boys were barreling towards the front door to greet Gibbs, their game completely forgotten. Gibbs made it in and gave Sam a quick peck on the lips before the twins made it to him.

"Why did you get another baby?" Milo asked stopping dead in his tracks.

"This is Brady, guys. He needs a place to live and a family to love him," Gibbs said as he stood the little one on the floor in front of him. "Do you think we could help with that?"

Milo walked over and tugged on the baby's pants and diaper so he could peek inside. "It haves a wiener," he said happily. "That's a boy!"

"You're right," Gibbs said with a smirk.

"We could help," Milo concluded. After all, you could never have too many brothers.

"He could live in our room," Lucas added.

"Thank you boys," Sam said.

The girls came through the front door, chatting excitedly about their finds at thrift shops and vintage clothing stores. Kylee and Gracie had the best dress up clothes of any kid in DC. Ziva and Abby were always on the lookout for fun and unique outfits and every so often they'd pick the girls up for the day and scour the city together.

"What's that?" Gracie asked pointing to Brady.

"It's a baby," Sam answered picking the little boy up. "Brady's your new brother."

"Aw man," Kylee whined. "Can you make the next one a girl? Boys are a pain in my butt!"

"Hey!" Lucas said.

"We're not a pain in your butt!" Milo said. "You're a pain in a butt!"

"Alright, alright," Gibbs said. "Let's not start arguing."

"Where did he come from?" Abby asked letting Brady hold onto her finger.

"He was, um, dropped off at the restaurant Jaycee works at," Gibbs answered cryptically.

"But who would just drop their baby—oh," Abby said. It took her a minute but she was pretty sure she knew what had happened.

"Was Mom here?" Gracie asked quietly. She was starting to put the pieces together in her head. She missed her mom and thought about her sometimes even though she loved living with Gibbs and Sam.

"Your mom visited Jaycee at work, Sweetheart, but she didn't stay very long," Gibbs answered as he picked the four year old up.

"How come she didn't come see me?" Gracie asked obviously very hurt.

"I don't know, Baby," Gibbs said. "I wish I had an answer for you."

Gracie was quiet while she tried to figure out why her mom didn't come see her. Did her mom not love her? Had she done something to make her mom mad? Maybe her mom just didn't know where she was. "Could I go to my room?" she asked sadly.

"Sure," Gibbs said. "Do you want me to keep you company?" Gracie shook her head, not making eye contact with anyone. Gibbs kissed her cheek and put her down. "I love you, Gracie."

"Love you," Gracie muttered before disappearing up the stairs.

"Should I go with her anyways?" Gibbs asked.

"Let's give her some time to process what's going on," Sam suggested. "We'll go check on her in a little while."

"I think another shopping trip's in order," Abby said excitedly.

"That sounds like a great idea," Ziva said.

"Are you gonna be okay if I go with them this time?" Sam asked. "We'll take Brady with us."

"And me too!" Kylee said. "Me too!"

"And Kylee too," Sam said rubbing the little girl's head.

"Yeah," Gibbs said. "We'll be fine. I think I'm gonna order a pizza for dinner for me and the boys. I don't know if you guys wanna get something while you're out."

"That sounds like a good idea, Love," Sam said. "Is there a car seat in the van?"

"Yeah, I put it between Milo and Lucas'," Gibbs said.

"Hey, boys don't go shopping!" Milo said. "Brady has to stay here and play with us!"

"We need Brady to come this time because he needs to try on the clothes," Sam said. "You'll have lots of time to play with him, Sweet Boy."

"I'm gonna go check on Gracie," Gibbs said, "see if she wants to go, make sure she's okay." Out of all the kids Gracie talked about her mom the most. Gibbs knew if the woman ever walked back through the door, Gracie would welcome her with open arms. Kylee took her cues from Jaycee and was leery about their mother. The twins were young enough they were happy just about anywhere with anyone.

Gibbs took the stairs two at a time and headed down the hall to the girls' room. He knocked and when he didn't get a response he entered. Gracie was sitting on the edge of her bed staring into space, her feet hanging over the side.

"Hi Baby Girl," he said softly as he sat down next to her. "Whatcha thinkin' about?"

"I think Mommy is mad at me 'cause I didn't put my shoes on fast enough," Gracie said.

"When did you not put your shoes on fast enough, Baby?" Gibbs asked stroking his long fingers through her strawberry blonde curls.

"When the cops came," Gracie said. "Mommy said put your shoes on while I flush my medicine in the toilet. We were supposed to run away like the other times but my shoe got a knot and I couldn't get my foot in."

"What happened next?" Gibbs asked.

"They taked Mommy to jail and we went to live with other people and then we went to live with Grandma," Gracie said. "Grandma and Jaycee said Mommy was in trouble. Is it my fault, Papa? Is that why she didn't see me?"

Gibbs picked Gracie up and cuddled her into his chest. He kissed her head as he ran his hand soothingly over her back. Sam walked in and sat quietly next to him, brushing her fingers over the little girl's leg.

"Gracie, Mommy was doing some bad things, Sweetheart," Gibbs said, "that's why the police came and took her to jail. It wasn't because of anything you did. It wasn't your fault."

"But why didn't she come see me?" Gracie asked.

Gibbs looked at Sam, wondering if she had an answer for the four year old. He was at a loss. He didn't want to say anything negative about the little girl's mother but he also didn't want to lie to her or get her hopes up.

"Sweetie Pie, we didn't get to see your mom," Sam said. "We're not really sure why she didn't come see you."

"Oh well," Gracie said. She tried to brush it off but both Gibbs and Sam could see she was still upset. Gibbs hugged her tight and Sam kissed her head, wishing they could say or do something to make her feel better.

"The girls are gonna take Brady out and go shopping again," Gibbs said. "Would you like to go?"

"Are you stayin' here?" Gracie asked.

"Yep," Gibbs answered. "I'm gonna stay here with Milo and Lucas. You can either stay or go."

"I wanna stay here," Gracie said. If her mom showed up at the house she didn't want to miss it.

"Okay," Gibbs said. "Will you come downstairs with me? Maybe you can help me keep your brothers out of trouble."

Gracie nodded her head as she wrapped her arms around Gibbs' neck. She smiled when Gibbs picked her up and cuddled her as he followed Sam downstairs. She liked shopping but a night at home cuddling with Daddy didn't sound bad either.

////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////

Sam curled up and tucked herself right into Gibbs' side, using his chest as a pillow. Gibbs wrapped an arm around her as he laid in bed staring at the ceiling. The shopping had been done, the house baby proofed and the kids fed, bathed and put to bed. Gibbs had set Kelly's old crib up in the twins' bedroom. Originally they were going to set it up in their bedroom but the twins had begged so they'd agreed to see how it went. Sam had talked to D'Arcy while Ducky had examined Brady. Gibbs and Sam had spent the evening calming and reassuring Jaycee and it was finally time for some alone time.

"Are you upset?" Gibbs asked quietly.

"About what?" Sam asked.

"Me bringing Brady home without talking to you," Gibbs said.

"What else were you going to do, Love?" Sam asked understandingly. "I would've done the same thing."

"What are we gonna do with another kid?" Gibbs asked.

"Love him," Sam answered simply. Both understood the enormity of the situation but they were still trying to work things out in their own minds as they talked it out with each other.

"I was gonna ignore their mom and just leave well enough alone," Gibbs said, "but I can't let her keep popping babies out and dropping 'em in Jaycee's lap. I've gotta find her."

"What can we do once we find her?" Sam asked. She knew there was no way they could prevent her from having more babies.

"Well, I'm thinking we can have her brought up on child endangerment, neglect and abandonment charges," Gibbs said. "Those charges times seven kids should be enough to keep her in jail for awhile if we get the right judge."

"That's a start at least," Sam said.

"Brady seems like a good kid," Gibbs said.

"Oh, he's a sweetheart, just like his brothers," Sam said.

The two laid quietly for awhile longer. Sam was starting to wonder if Gibbs had fallen asleep but she could feel the tension in his body and knew he was just deep in thought.

"What's on your mind?" she asked scraping her fingernails gently across his chest.

Gibbs shook his head as he let out a deep sigh. "I just don't understand how that woman can put her kids through everything she did," he said.

"There are a lot of messed up people in the world," Sam said softly, "but she gave us six wonderful children. Let's try to focus on the good and teach the kids to do the same."

"Yeah, that's a good idea," Gibbs said. "I've got several connections at Metro PD. I'll head over there tomorrow and get something worked out and we'll get a warrant out for her arrest. Hopefully we can find her before she skips town."

Sam rubbed her hand over Gibbs' chest and abs while he rubbed her back. He kissed her head and she pressed a kiss to his chest. Both were enjoying the peace. Both were completely relaxed and comfortable with each other.

"Will you take your shirt off?" Sam asked pushing it up his chest so she could touch his stomach.

"Mm-hmm," Gibbs hummed pulling it over his head and tossing it onto the floor. "Should I take my pants off too or—ow!" he shrieked rubbing at the spot on his chest where she'd pinched him.

"You deserved that," she teased.

Gibbs smiled as he pulled her closer and slipped his hand under her shirt to rub her bare back.

"Jethro," Sam said quietly, "I think I'm falling in love with you. Actually, I think I already fell in love with you. Why couldn't I have found you when I was eighteen?"

"Our pasts make us who we are," Gibbs said. "I'm not the same person I was at eighteen. You might not have liked me back then."

"I can't imagine not liking you," Sam said.

"Couldn't be that hard," Gibbs said with a quiet chuckle. "I'm a bastard."

"Yeah, yeah, your second 'b'," Sam said with a laugh. "I'm not buying it. You are the most loving and gentle soul I've ever met."

"Sam," Gibbs whispered after a brief pause, "I love you too."

"You're not just saying that because I said it first, right?" Sam asked.

"I would never do that," Gibbs promised her as she lifted herself up and looked at him.

Sam pressed a series of kisses to Gibbs' lips. Gibbs framed her face with his hands and gently pulled her head to his for a long, passionate kiss. The gentle, romantic kiss turned wet and hungry. The layer of clothes separating them were quickly removed and their bodies became one.

////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////

Gibbs and Sam got all the kids piled into the van then headed out. Ty had a big baseball game and they were going to cheer him on. Gibbs, Sam and Jaycee all had the day off work and the weather was perfect. It was a great day to be outside and let the kids run. Tony, Abby, Tim and Ziva were meeting them at the ball field. All four of them regularly hung out with the kids at the house and frequented the restaurant Ty and Jaycee worked at. The kids were theirs as much as they were Gibbs and Sam's. They wanted to be there to cheer Ty on and hang out with the others.

After a quick stop at the gas station to get a bag of ice for the cooler, Gibbs made the short drive to the ballpark. Both teams were already out on the field warming up. Tony and Tim were waiting to help get the kids out while Abby and Ziva reserved some seats on the bleachers.

"If somebody will get it out I can pull the cooler," Jaycee said.

"I'll get it out for you," Tony offered.

"I wanna hold your hand, Jaycee," Kylee said.

"I have two hands," Jaycee said. "I can hold your hand and pull the cooler."

"Jaycee!" Ty yelled as he ran over towards them. "Jaycee, hey."

"Hey," Jaycee said. "Aren't you supposed to be warming up?"

"I need a good luck kiss," Ty said.

Jaycee glanced back at Gibbs, still a little self-conscious about kissing Ty in front of him but at his nod she kissed her boyfriend.

"Hit a homerun for me, Ty," Tony said.

"Good luck, Bud," Sam said.

"Thanks guys!" Ty said before hurrying back to his team.

They got everything set up on the bleachers then Tony, Abby, Ziva and Tim took Kylee, Gracie, Brady and the twins to the playground, leaving Jaycee on the bleachers with Gibbs and Sam.

"Have you found my mom yet?" Jaycee asked.

"Not yet, Baby," Gibbs said, "but we're looking." He'd talked to Jaycee about what was going on with her mother. The teenager seemed to be relieved more than anything at the news. As rough as jail might be, it was actually the best place for her mother. It was harder to get drugs and there were no men to occupy her time with. She would be forced to take on a little responsibility and there was psychological help available to her if she chose to take advantage of it.

"I'm sure she'll show up," Sam said, "and whatever happens we'll deal with it together. Everything's gonna be okay."

"What do you say we go get some popcorn before the game starts," Gibbs said. They'd brought drinks and some other snacks but hot popcorn from the concession stand was a must.

"I'll go with you," Jaycee said.

The two headed off to get their snack and returned just in time for the National Anthem. The others had returned from the playground and the adults helped the little ones put their hands over their hearts as The Star Spangled Banner was sung by one of the choir students. As soon as the song was over Milo shouted 'play ball' pulling giggles from many in the crowd.

Popcorn kept the little ones entertained for the first couple innings then Gibbs took them back to the playground. Brady was content to be passed from person to person and play with the toys Sam had packed in his diaper bag. He was the most easygoing baby any of them had ever met. He rarely cried, had no trouble occupying himself and was a good eater. It wasn't really talked about but everyone knew it was because his mom didn't pay much attention to him.

Everyone went back and forth between the playground and the bleachers, playing, snacking and watching Ty for the remainder of the game. Gibbs and Sam got an opportunity to get to know Ty's parents as well. They were definitely as strict as Ty portrayed them but it was obvious they wanted only the best for their son.

Ty's parents and the team were invited over that evening for the first cookout of the season. Things would be crazy and the house would be packed to the brim but Gibbs and Sam were getting to be pros at dealing with chaos. As they were rounding the kids up, Jaycee hurried over to Gibbs and Sam beaming with excitement.

"Can I please go with Ty?" she asked. "We wanna go get some ice cream to celebrate the win."

"Sure Baby," Gibbs said after a glance at Sam to make sure it was okay with her. "Don't eat too much. We're havin' a big cookout for dinner."

"Thank you!" Jaycee said. "Ty's invited to the cookout, right?"

"Absolutely," Sam said. "His parents will be there too. You guys be safe and have fun. Do you need some money?"

"No, we're good," Jaycee said. "Thanks!"

Kisses were exchanged then Jaycee took off to wait for Ty and everybody else piled into their vehicles to head home.

////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////

"Your parents are coming over for dinner," Jaycee said as she walked into the ice cream shop hand in hand with Ty.

Ty grunted disapprovingly but smiled when Jaycee squeezed his hand.

"They'll probably be so busy talking to Gibbs and Sam they won't even know you're there," Jaycee said.

"Oh they'll know," Ty said. "They know everything."

"Kinda sounds like Gibbs," Jaycee said with a chuckle.

"Your parents are—I mean, Gibbs and Sam are so different than my parents," Ty said. "I like escaping from my parents."

"Things are gonna be way crazy with everybody there," Jaycee said. "You know how it is when everyone's over."

"That's true," Ty said. "Wanna share a banana split with me?"

"If you let me have the cherry," Jaycee said.

"I'll ask for extra cherries and you can have 'em all," Ty said.

The lovebirds ordered their treat, Ty still dressed in his baseball uniform and Jaycee hanging proudly on his arm. They didn't finish their ice cream because both wanted to save room for dinner. They knew Gibbs was grilling and the man had a special talent cooking meat over an open fire. The team had given him a wood burning grill for Father's Day a few years prior and he always managed to get an amazing flavor out of everything from the cheapest hot dog to the most expensive steak.

Ty and Jaycee finished their snack and returned to the house just in time to witness the twins' meltdown over Kylee and Gracie putting makeup all over Brady's face. The girls had snuck into Sam's makeup and the boys were very upset at seeing their brother covered in girly stuff.

"I'll get him cleaned up," Tim said lifting Brady into his arms.

"The twins and I will go out back and help Dad grill," Tony said grabbing the boys' hands.

"Then I'll go upstairs and get the girls cleaned up," Sam said. They'd put makeup on themselves before turning to youngest brother. "Welcome home, guys," she said to Ty and Jaycee on her way up the stairs.

Gibbs got the ribs on early so he could cook them slowly over a low heat. He would put the chicken on closer to time to eat. It wouldn't take as long. While he kept an eye on the meat he played with kids in the backyard. Tony and Tim had them running around kicking the soccer ball and chasing the Frisbee. Brady was scooting around happily under the watchful eye of Ty. He could stand and take a couple steps if he had something to hold onto but he was much quicker crawling on his hands and knees or scooting along on his butt.

While the guys played out back Abby and Ziva made a potato salad and Jaycee created a pasta salad she was hoping would turn out okay. She'd come up with the recipe in her head and Sam had bought her everything she'd requested. Jaycee knew if it didn't taste good there would be plenty of other food for everyone to enjoy. Sam had made baked beans from scratch that were baking slowly in the oven, Gibbs was grilling corn which Abby was making a Cajun butter for and Sam was making homemade rolls. Closer to the time dinner would be ready Ziva would makes some seasoned fries.

Ty's parents arrived with a cake for dessert as the meal was being finished up and were escorted out to sit on the back deck with the others. A small picnic table for the kids would allow them to eat outside and get as messy as they wanted while the adults sat on patio furniture and the ground. Once the meal was set out, plates were filled for the kids and they were situated then the adults made plates for themselves. Gibbs fed Brady while he ate his own meal and Abby sat near the kids to help them as needed.

Piles of napkins were gone through as everyone feasted on the ribs Gibbs had made. Jaycee's pasta salad was a big hit as well and not because they were just being nice to her, it was genuinely good. She would make a fine chef. When all that was left was bones, empty bowls and full bellies, Ty and Jaycee took care of the cleanup. Help was offered but they turned it down.

The parents talked about their kids' college plans and the upcoming visit as well as graduation which was only weeks away. The little ones ran wild with Ty and Jaycee and the team. In the middle of all the fun the backdoor opened and a very thin woman stepped out onto the porch. Her hair was cry and stringy, her eyes sunken but she still had a perky smile on her face. Before Gibbs could introduce himself to the stranger Gracie whizzed by him, her arms outstretched and a beaming smile on her face screaming 'mommy.'

Chapter Text

Everyone in the backyard went silent. All eyes were on the stranger. Faye scooped Gracie into her arms and kissed her cheek while the little girl clung to her. Jaycee grabbed onto Gibbs' arm, her entire body vibrating with fear. Why was her mother there? How had she found them? Would she try to take the kids away? Were the cops going to come and make a big scene in front of the little ones?

Gibbs took the teenager's arm and led her over next to Sam so he could introduce himself. "Jethro Gibbs," he said extending his arm to shake Faye's hand.

"Faye Burton, though I've had a lot of last names over the years if you know what I mean," Faye joked. No one else laughed but she didn't seem to mind.

"You're only supposed to take the guy's last name if you get married, Mom," Jaycee said. "You never made it that far."

"I rang the bell but no one answered," Faye said, ignoring Jaycee's comment as Sam shushed the teenager. "I kinda followed the voices out here."

Kylee disappeared behind a bush but the twins walked over to greet the woman. They weren't excited but didn't seem upset either. It appeared they were indifferent.

"Hi boys, do you remember me?" Faye asked happily.

"You are the old mommy," Milo said.

"We have a better mommy now," Lucas added.

There was an awkward silence before Ty's dad spoke up. "I think we'd better get going. Thank you for having us over," he said. "Dinner was delicious and we had a great evening. Ty, Son, you ready?"

"No," Ty said. He didn't want to leave Jaycee. He'd seen what state she was in the last time her mother had come around.

"Tyler, now please," his dad said more firmly this time. "It's time to go."

"But Dad! You don't underst—"

"Ty," Gibbs interrupted, "listen to your dad, Son. Come on, I'll walk you guys out."

Ty said goodbye to Jaycee then reluctantly followed his parents and Gibbs into the house not even trying to hide the angry scowl on his face.

"Relax," Gibbs said draping an arm across Ty's shoulders. "Everything's gonna be okay, I promise."

"What if she tries to take them?" Ty asked. "What if I never see Jaycee again?"

"Jaycee's not going anywhere, Kiddo," Gibbs said with a little laugh. "Trust me, everything will be okay. I'll tell Jaycee to call you tonight."

"Do you need us to take the kids?" Ty's mom asked with a hint of concern in her voice. She didn't want to pry but had some idea about the situation.

"Nah," Gibbs said, "they'll be okay but thanks for the offer."

Ty's family left and after a quick phone call to Metro Detective Sportelli, Gibbs returned to the backyard where Faye was sitting in one of the chairs talking to Sam and Gracie while Abby watched her like a hawk. Tony and Tim were playing with the twins and Ziva was entertaining Brady.

"Where's Kylee?" Gibbs asked, noting one of the kids was missing.

Sam pointed towards the bush the five year old had retreated to upon her mother's arrival.

"I don't know why she's hiding," Faye said. "She's actin' as if I beat her. I never hurt any one of my kids."

Gibbs rolled his eyes even though his back was to her as he made his way over to Kylee. The woman just didn't get it. She may not have laid a hand on her kids but she'd most definitely done some damage. When Gibbs couldn't coax Kylee out from behind the bush he sat down next to her and wrapped his arm around her protectively.

"I don't wanna go out there," Kylee whispered.

"Okay," Gibbs said.

"I want her to leave," Kylee said.

"Soon," Gibbs said. "She's gonna leave in a couple minutes. Can you do me a favor and hang out with Tony and Tim for a little while? They're gonna take you upstairs with your brothers and sisters." Gibbs was determined not to make a big scene in front of the kids. He wanted them upstairs so if Faye tried to make a scene they wouldn't have to witness it. He was slightly worried about the possibility of yelling and screaming but a radio would mask most of that.

"Okay," Kylee agreed.

Gibbs carried her over and handed her off to Tony. When he asked Tony and Tim to keep the kids occupied upstairs and turn the radio on, both understood what was happening. They managed to get all the kids except for Gracie away from their mother. The four year old refused to leave her mother's side. Abby followed the guys to help with the kids and Ziva stayed behind in hopes of getting Gracie upstairs before the police showed up.

"What can we do for you, Faye?" Sam asked as friendly as she could.

"Just wanted to see my kids," Faye answered. "Ya know, hug 'em, kiss 'em, love on 'em. I really miss them but I can see you guys are takin' real good care of them." The woman laughed before getting serious. "I'm workin' on getting my life together," she said.

"Yeah right," Jaycee scoffed.

Sam held her tighter as Gibbs patted her leg.

"Look, Jaycee, I feel horrible asking but do you think I could just borrow a couple bucks for some food?" Faye asked. "I'll pay you back when I can, it's just that I don't have any now and, well, you know."

"You don't want money for food, Mom," Jaycee said, "you want it for drugs."

"Jaycee actually doesn't have any extra money right now," Sam lied. "She spent her extra money on that steak you ate at the restaurant last week." Jaycee had extra money but Sam wasn't going to let her mother take advantage of her anymore.

A text message to Gibbs' phone let him know Sportelli was out front. They were working together to get her arrested with little incident.

"Gracie, will you come answer the door with me?" Gibbs asked. "I think somebody's here to see us."

"No," Gracie said clinging tighter to her mother.

Gibbs smiled patiently at the little girl and headed for the front door anyways. He realized whatever happened was going to be hard on Gracie and there wasn't much he could do about it. He let Sportelli and his partner in and explained he still had one kid out back. They usually didn't have an abundance of patience when arresting someone but they'd definitely make an exception for the kids' sakes.

Gibbs led them out back and glanced over at Sam and Jaycee before looking at Faye and Gracie.

"Faye, this is Detective Sportelli and his partner," Gibbs said.

"I don't have no drugs!" Faye said defensively. "You can search me."

"That's not why we're here, Ma'am," Sportelli said.

Faye looked completely lost, as if she couldn't come up with any other reason the police would pay her a visit. "Are you arresting me?"

Sportelli nodded. "I need you to give the little one to someone else then we can go discuss this out front."

"Let's not put the kids through anything else, Faye," Gibbs said.

"But I don't understand!" Faye said starting to get really upset. Ziva pried Gracie away from her mother kicking and screaming and crying and disappeared into the house with her while Gibbs and Sportelli practically dragged Faye out front. Sam stayed with Jaycee, holding her tight and reassuring her.

"Why are you doing this to me?" Faye cried.

"Faye Burton, you're under arrest for child neglect, child endangerment and child abandonment," Sportelli said as he put the handcuffs on her. He did his best to read her her rights while she tried to yell over him.

"I didn't abandon my kids!" Faye said. "I left 'em with Jaycee!"

"Jaycee's just a kid herself," Gibbs said.

"This is all because you want my kids!" Faye accused. "You can have 'em! I'll sign whatever I have to sign, just please, let me go. I promise you'll never see me again."

When Faye couldn't use her kids as leverage to get out of going to jail, the threats started. She threatened to have them taken away but Gibbs knew she'd forfeited her parental rights when she abandoned the children. She wouldn't have much, if any, say about what happened to them.

Sportelli put her in the back of his police cruiser and as he turned to talk to Gibbs the woman started slamming her head into the window as she screamed at them. Sportelli opened the car door, his patience gone. "Look, if you start acting like an animal, I'm gonna treat you like an animal. Keep banging your head on this window and you're gonna get hogtied. Don't believe me? Try it!"

The string of expletives that came out of the woman's mouth had Gibbs looking around to see if any of the neighborhood children were out. Luckily there weren't.

"Thanks Gibbs," Sportelli said, "you did all the work for me on this case."

"No, thank you," Gibbs said shaking the detective's hand. "Having her behind bars is gonna give us a lot of peace of mind."

"I do hope your little one's okay," Sportelli said.

"Yeah," Gibbs said, "I better go check on her. Enjoy your ride back."

Sportelli and his partner both laughed as they got into their car. It was going to be a long ride back to DC. The more cases they had like this, the more it seemed like tranquilizer guns should be a part of every officer's gear. Then again, at least they didn't have to deal with them in booking. Maybe a short car ride wasn't so bad after all.

Gibbs headed back inside and found Gracie screaming in the corner and Jaycee brewing on the couch. The teenager was quiet but Gibbs knew her well enough to know her anger wasn't far from the surface.

"Jethro," Sam said when he started towards Gracie. Gibbs looked at Sam and she shook her head. "Give her a minute, Love."

Gibbs nodded and sat down on the other side of Jaycee instead. Jaycee leaned into him and he wrapped his arms around her. "How ya doing, Baby?" he asked before kissing her temple.

"Angry and embarrassed," Jaycee grumbled.

"Well, there's no need to feel embarrassed," Gibbs said. "The only one who should be embarrassed is your mother."

"I know but did she have to show up in front of Ty's parents?" Jaycee asked. "They probably think I'm a loser now."

"You're not a loser," Gibbs said firmly, "and they don't think that. When I walked them out they were very understanding."

"Really?" Jaycee asked. "They don't hate me?"

"No Baby," Gibbs said before kissing her again.

Jaycee looked over at Gracie, still screaming in the corner then turned back to Gibbs. Despite her sister's meltdown the teenager lowered her voice so Gracie didn't overhear. "I hate her," she said, "I'm glad she's in jail and I hope she never gets out." She blinked back her tears then her eyes met Gibbs. "And I hate myself for hating her."

Gibbs pulled her into a hug while Sam rubbed her back."Everything you're feeling is normal. It's okay to be angry but you've got to work really hard on not letting that anger control you."

"I'm trying to just learn from her mistakes so I don't make the same ones," Jaycee said, "but when she shows up here and gets everybody all upset and acts like a fool… I just don't know how handle that."

"It's handled," Gibbs said. "She's gone and she can't come back."

"Hopefully for a long time," Jaycee said.

"Mm-hmm," Gibbs hummed into Jaycee's hair before kissing her again. "I told Ty you'd call him, so whenever you feel up to it I'm sure he'd like to hear that you're okay. I'm gonna see if I can calm Gracie down, okay?"

Jaycee nodded. "Thanks."

"I'll get started on baths," Sam said. "I think I'll recruit the team for help."

Gibbs nodded at Sam before turning his attention to the four year old. "Gracie, will you come talk to me?"

When Gracie didn't pause her crying to answer, Gibbs leaned down and picked her up. Gracie screamed even louder and started hitting Gibbs' chest to try to get away.

"Hey, I know you're upset but we don't hit in this house," Gibbs gently scolded.

Gibbs took Gracie up to his bedroom to talk while the team helped Sam with the other kids. Gracie threw herself on the bed and scooted as far away from Gibbs as she could get. Gibbs laid down on his side of the bed and let her cry until she ran out of tears.

"Are you mad at me?" Gibbs asked once her tears slowed.

"You maked Mommy go away," Gracie stuttered.

"Why do you think I made Mommy go away, Sweet Pea?" Gibbs asked.

"'Cause you're the bad police," Gracie answered.

"Gracie, I didn't want to make your mommy go away but I couldn't let her keep hurting people," Gibbs said.

"How come you can't just spank her butt?" Gracie asked.

Gibbs smiled at the simplicity of Gracie's solution. "Spankings might work for kids but they don't work for adults, Sweet Pea," he explained. "You know how sometimes I send you to timeout to think about what you did?" He waited for Gracie to nod before continuing. "Mommy kinda has to do the same thing."

"Does Mommy have to stay in time out for a long time?" Gracie asked, her tone indicating she already knew the answer.

Gibbs nodded as he reached over and poked Gracie's belly where her shirt had ridden up just slightly. Any bare skin was in danger of being tickled. Gracie tried to hide her smile as she squirmed away but failed. Gibbs rested his hand against the side of her face and brushed his thumb lovingly across her cheek.

"I wish Mommy would stop being bad," Gracie said. "She keeps on not learning her lesson and then she has to go to timeout."

"I know, Sweetheart," Gibbs said.

When Sam walked into the room with the twins, Gracie was sprawled out across Gibbs' chest, resting peacefully as he rubbed her back. She and Gibbs exchanged smiles as she headed into the bathroom with the boys. Tony and Ziva were giving Kylee a bath in the other bathroom while Tim and Abby played with Brady.

Not long after Sam walked through, Jaycee appeared in the bedroom. She looked at her sister, finally calm on Gibbs' chest and climbed into bed next to them. Gibbs wrapped his arm around her and kissed her head as she rested it on his shoulder. He could hear the twins whining about taking a bath and Sam shushing them. Abby was down the hall singing to Brady. All was peaceful for the moment.

///////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////

As soon as Sam said the word both twins were out of the tub. They didn't bother waiting for her to get them dried off. They knew Daddy was lying in bed right outside the door. Gibbs' peaceful relaxation with the girls turned wet and wild in a matter of seconds. The boys squealed and giggled as they jumped around on the bed, dodging Gibbs' arms as he tried to catch them. Both Gracie and Jaycee hurried out of the bed so they wouldn't get wet or be jumped on.

"You two are soaking wet," Gibbs said as he finally got his arms around Lucas.

Sam wrapped the three year old in a towel while Gibbs wrangled Milo and did the same.

"At least they let me get the soap washed off before they escaped," Sam said with an amused smile.

"Lemme outta here!" Milo said when Gibbs covered his head with the towel to dry his hair.

Gibbs took advantage of his inability to see and tickled his belly. Milo giggled and tried to catch Gibbs' finger but couldn't. He pulled the towel off his head then jumped on Gibbs and tried to tickle him. As soon as Lucas was free he joined his brother.

"What's all this racket in here?" Abby asked coming into the room with Tim and Brady.

"I'll give you two guesses," Gibbs said gaining the upper hand in the tickle war he was having with the twins.

Gracie walked over to Tim and raised her arms to be picked up.

"Feelin' better?" Tim asked as he lifted her up.

Gracie shrugged as she watched all the excitement in the room. It had been a long day with a stressful end and she was tired and feeling a little down.

"Know what helps me feel better after a rough day?" Tim asked. "A nice long soak in the tub. How does that sound?"

Gracie shrugged, feeling indifferent about pretty much everything.

"Come on," Abby encouraged. "Mom and Dad can take care of Brady and we'll all go together. What do you think?"

"I want Daddy," Gracie finally said.

Gibbs was a little surprised considering the four year old blamed him for making her mother go away but he was more than happy to oblige. He stopped the tickle war and sent the twins off to get some underwear on then took Gracie from Tim.

"Do you still love me?" he asked nuzzling her hair with his nose.

Gracie smiled and squirmed at the ticklish sensation. She looked at Gibbs and nodded her head.

"I love you too, Gracie," he whispered. "I'll always love you." He kissed her cheek as she wrapped an arm around his neck in a half hug. Sam patted his back as he walked by with Gracie and headed for the bathroom.

///////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////

The house was finally quiet, the kids in bed, the team home, and Faye in jail where she belonged. Sam had sat in the basement with Gibbs while he worked on his boat, watching, waiting and finally listening as he opened up about the emotionally taxing evening then went even further and talked about how having six children was effecting him.

After sanding the boat together for awhile, Gibbs' hands on top of Sam's, his body pressed into hers, they'd headed up to bed. Gibbs felt surprisingly relaxed. He loved woodworking with his lover and opening up about his feelings seemed to have lifted a burden from his soul.

He reminisced about life with Shannon. He'd talked openly with her and he was much happier then. Happier because he was with his soul mate, his lover, his best friend, his partner in life. That piece of him that had died with Shannon seemed to be coming back to life as he let Sam in, slowly but surely. It seemed every day he was relaxing more and more into his new role as both father and partner.

He'd considered himself pretty good at those things before but as he got more comfortable with his new life he realized his previous shortcomings; the secrets he'd kept buried, the emotions he'd pushed back, the large pieces of himself he'd kept hidden. He may have been a good lover physically but his soul still belonged to Shannon. That was all changing.

Instead of waiting for Sam to cuddle into him, Gibbs took the initiative and scooted over to her side of the bed. She hummed happily as he wrapped her in his arms and pulled her close to him.

"You seem," Sam paused, searching for the right word, "at peace."

"It's weird," Gibbs admitted. "Today's been crazy. Tonight's not exactly how I would've wanted things to turn out but I feel more at peace now than I have in years."

"That's because your life is complete. I complete you," Sam teased.

Gibbs smiled, holding her tighter. He knew she was being playful but there was truth to what she was saying. "You're right," he said.

As they settled comfortably into their pillows, the bedroom door creaked open. They looked over to and could just barely make out Kylee's outline in the door.

"What is it, Sugar?" Sam asked.

"Gracie's being loud and she woke me up," Kylee said.

"How's she being loud?" Gibbs asked rolling out of bed as Sam did the same.

Kylee shrugged as Sam scooped her up on their way out the room. When they made it to the girls' room, Gracie was flipping around restlessly in bed and muttering something in her sleep.

"I think she's just dreaming, Love," Sam told Kylee. "Let's get you tucked in and I think Papa and I are gonna take Gracie with us for tonight."

Gibbs sat on the bed next to Gracie resting a hand on her chest to still her and brushing his fingers over her forehead to try to wake her. "Gracie," he whispered.

Gracie stopped rolling around and took a deep breath. Whatever dream she was having seemed to have ended but she wasn't quite awake yet either. Gibbs lifted her into his arms and Sam grabbed the baby doll she was sleeping with then they headed back down the hall with the four year old.

"Where're we going?" Gracie mumbled into Gibbs' neck.

"We're gonna let you sleep with Momma and I tonight," Gibbs whispered. "Did you have a bad dream?"

Gracie shrugged her shoulders then nestled into Gibbs' shoulder and yawned. She couldn't remember and was too tired to care. Gibbs and Sam got her tucked in between them, shared one last kiss then settled in for sleep themselves.

Chapter Text

Sam was surprised when she woke and Gibbs was still sound asleep next to her. He was almost always up first and usually showered, dressed and had a cup of coffee in his hand. Opening up and actually talking about what was going on inside his head the night before must've really put him at peace.

He was rolled on his side with Gracie nearly wedged under him, his arm wrapped around her and her head resting on his bicep. In Sam's mind it was a beautiful picture. Gibbs looked so peaceful when he slept and Gracie looked like a little angel, her anger from the previous night completely gone.

Sam knew if she didn't get up the twins would be in soon and would wake everyone. She wanted Gibbs especially to sleep as long as he could. She used the bathroom, put her robe on then headed down the hall. Brady was sitting up in his crib, gumming his fingers. He was hungry but never cried. He was such an easy baby. Lucas was driving one of his cars around on the floor and Milo was just starting to wake.

Sam freed Brady from his crib then sat by Milo and rubbed his belly. He was so quiet and peaceful in the morning, very different from the wild man who was so full of energy later on in the day.

"I want my kisses," he said quietly.

Sam picked him up and kissed him gently and he smiled and cuddled into her. "You ready to get up?" she asked. "Brady's hungry. If I don't get him something to eat, he's gonna start eating your toys."

"You can't eat toys," Milo giggled. "Mommy?"

"Hmm?"

"Will you make us pancakes for breakfast?" Milo asked. As far as he was concerned Mommy made the best pancakes in the world. He would eat them every day if he could.

"Well, since today is Sunday and we get to stay home together all day, I think we can manage some pancakes for breakfast," Sam said.

Milo smiled brightly and rubbed his eyes. Sam kissed him once more then stood him on the floor and picked Brady up. "Alright guys," she said, "Daddy's still sleeping so we're gonna go downstairs and play and try to be quiet until he wakes up."

"Is he sick?" Lucas asked. Daddy never slept in.

"No, Sweet Boy," Sam said, "he's just really tired."

Sam fed Brady then once he was taken care of she got to work on the pancakes. She loved letting the children wake to the smell of breakfast cooking and having them come down to a hot meal. A fresh pot of coffee brewing added to the aromas. Jaycee and Kylee were the next ones down, both still in their pajamas sporting hair styled by their pillows.

"Where's Gibbs?" Jaycee asked as Sam pressed a kiss to her forehead.

"He's still sleeping," Sam answered before kissing Kylee and turning back to her pancakes.

"Is he sick?" Jaycee asked.

"No, Love," Sam said. "He's just relaxed. He's at peace."

Jaycee wasn't sure she totally understood what Sam was saying but she grasped the basic concept and the thought of it put a smile on her face. "Becka sent me a text late last night and asked me to cover her shift today. I said I would. Is that okay?"

"If you want the extra hours then that's fine, Baby," Sam said. "What time do you have to go in?"

"Eleven," Jaycee said. "She was supposed to work the lunch shift."

"That's gonna be a long day for you," Sam said. She knew the teenager was already scheduled to work the dinner shift. "Make sure you don't forget to eat and drink lots of water."

"I will," Jaycee said with a smile. She was saving as much money as she could for college and the kids and emergencies and whatever might happen that would require money. She couldn't get enough hours to work but school and homework got in the way a lot of times. "I'll set the table."

"Thanks, Baby," Sam said. "Why don't you see if you can get the twins to help?" Gibbs and Sam didn't require the little ones to do a whole lot of chores but they liked to get them involved and have them help out on occasion. In their mind it was teaching them responsibility and good values. They were perfectly capable of making their beds, cleaning up their toys and helping to set the table.

Gracie appeared as the pancakes were finishing up but Gibbs was still MIA. Sam got the kids settled with breakfast then headed upstairs to check on him. She sat down on the bed next to him and rested the back of her hand on his forehead to make sure he wasn't getting sick.

Gibbs yawned and started to stir at the gentle touch. Sam leaned in and kissed him and he opened his eyes and smiled up at her.

"Mornin'," she said.

"Mornin'," Gibbs said wrapping his hand around the back of her neck and guiding her in for another kiss. "I like waking up like that," he said once they broke apart.

"You do, do you?" Sam asked patting his chest. "I was starting to get worried. You never sleep this late."

"What time is it?" Gibbs asked.

"After 8:30," Sam answered.

Gibbs opened his eyes a little wider, surprised he'd slept that late. "Where are the kids? Why didn't you get me up?"

"They're eating breakfast," Sam answered. "You looked so peaceful. I wanted to let you sleep."

"I haven't slept that well in a long time," Gibbs said as Sam brushed her fingers through his hair.

"Lots of things are changing around here," Sam said smiling down at him. "You're one of 'em." She smiled and leaned in for another kiss before standing. "I saved you some pancakes, whenever you're ready for them."

Gibbs watched her walk away and crossed his arms behind his head. He looked at the sunshine coming in the window that both Shannon and Sam loved so much as he pondered what she'd said. Was he changing? He did feel different but why? How? What was happening?

He didn't have much time to think about it before his bedroom door flew open and there was a three year old covered in sticky syrup sitting on top of him.

"Mornin' Milo," he said.

"Hi Daddy," Milo said with a smile. "Guess what? Mommy made pancakes!"

"Yummy," Gibbs said. "Did you have syrup on yours?"

Milo nodded his head. "And strawberries in 'em!"

"Mmm. You've got sticky fingers, Little Boy," Gibbs said.

Milo smiled and started trying to lick the syrup off his fingers. Gibbs patted the little boy's chest and realized he'd somehow gotten syrup there too. He just shook his head.

"There's a lady here," Milo said in between licking his fingers.

"What lady?" Gibbs asked. He hadn't heard the doorbell and wasn't expecting any company.

"I dunno," Milo said with a shrug.

"What's the lady doing?"

"Eatin' Momma's pancakes," Milo said.

Gibbs decided on a quick shower before he went downstairs. If it was important Sam would've come up or sent one of the kids to get him. "You wanna take a shower with me today?" he asked. "We'll see if we can get some of that syrup off of you."

"Yeah!" Milo said happily. He absolutely loved shower time with Papa but it didn't happen very often.

Gibbs made quick work of washing Milo up then let him play in the rain, as the three year old liked to call it, while he got himself cleaned up. He skipped shaving, curious to find out who was downstairs, dressed himself and Milo then headed down feeling fresh, clean and relaxed. He paused in the living room to give the kids hugs and kisses then continued to the kitchen.

"Oh, hi D'Arcy," he greeted.

"Good morning, Agent Gibbs," D'Arcy greeted.

"You know, you can call me Jethro," Gibbs said filling a cup with coffee.

"Jethro," D'Arcy said with a smile.

"You ready for some pancakes, Love?" Sam asked.

"If I'm not too late," Gibbs said.

"Nope, I saved you some," Sam said opening the microwave and pulling a plate out. "There's strawberries in 'em and whip cream or heated syrup to go on top."

"Thank you," Gibbs said. "What can we do for you D'Arcy? Did you get something to eat?"

"I did," D'Arcy said. "Sam's a fantastic cook! I don't know where she finds the time to do it with all these little ones."

"I don't either," Gibbs said smiling over at Sam. "She's an amazing woman, isn't she? I'm very lucky to have her."

"Yes you are," Sam teased setting a glass of milk next to his plate and rubbing his back.

"I hate to bother you guys this early on a Sunday," D'Arcy said, "but something important has come up. We got a new supervisor, one who's a very 'by the rules' kinda woman."

"Uh-oh," Gibbs said. "What rules have we bent?"

"Technically you should only have two kids per room," D'Arcy said. "It'll all be official tomorrow. You guys will have thirty days to find a bigger place or we'll have to take a couple of the kids until you can."

The adults quietly exchanged looks, none of them really knowing what to say. Moving in thirty days was nearly impossible when they hadn't even been looking for a house. Jaycee sat out of sight on the other side of the wall, listening to every word and trying not to let fear overwhelm her.

"So we would need at least a five bedroom house," Gibbs said. "Two rooms for the girls, two for the boys and one for us."

"I'm afraid so," D'Arcy said. "I am so sorry, guys. If I could give you more notice or more time, I would. Believe me. I'll help you do anything. I can babysit while you guys go looking, I'll help you pack and move, I'll help with meals, transportation, anything."

"Thanks D'Arcy," Gibbs said. "We'll get it all worked out. There's no need for you to feel bad or blame yourself."

"It's hard not to," D'Arcy said, "and I realize this is a sticky situation. I wish I had an extra million dollars lying around to give you."

"We'll figure something out," Gibbs assured her. "Thanks for the heads up."

"I wish I didn't have to ruin your Sunday," D'Arcy said. "I'll get out of your hair though. Thanks for breakfast and as always, it's wonderful to see you guys."

Sam showed D'Arcy out while Gibbs finished up his breakfast and tried to come up with a plan of action. Getting preapproved for a mortgage wouldn't be a problem. He had excellent credit. If they could find a house that had been foreclosed on there was a chance they could get in before their thirty days were up and they might be able to get a little bit of a discount on the property. If they moved a little father from the city they could hopefully find something in their price range.

"Gibbs?" Jaycee's voice was weak and shaky as she slowly made her way to him.

"Hi Baby," Gibbs said cheerfully. "What's going on?"

"This is for you," Jaycee said holding out an old pencil box. Gibbs took the box and opened it to find a wad of cash inside. 'It's only $500 but I have more in the bank. You can have all that too."

"You keep $500 in the house," Gibbs asked surprised.

"In case of emergency," Jaycee explained.

"Why are you trying to give me all your money, Sweet Pea?" Gibbs asked setting the box on the counter.

"I overheard what D'Arcy said," Jaycee said meekly. "I might've been listening in. I'm sorry."

Gibbs smiled and wrapped his arm around her. "Sam and I will figure something out. I don't want you to worry about it and thank you for the offer but you keep your money. You worked hard for it."

"Yeah, but they're my brothers and sisters and you—"

"Shh, no worrying," Gibbs said gently. "That's my job, remember?"

"But I got you into this mess," Jaycee said. "It's all my fault."

"None of this is your fault, Baby Girl," Gibbs said as he hugged her, "and it isn't a mess. Might be a little complication but Sam and I love you guys and we'll move mountains to give you everything you need."

Sam came into the kitchen and ran her hand over Jaycee's hair. She smiled at Gibbs before kissing the teenager.

"I'll tell you what," Gibbs said, "if we need a little extra money, we'll ask you to borrow some but until then you hang onto it and I'm not sure if you need $500 for emergencies. I think I'd keep $100 at most. We can always get you to the bank. We can look into getting you a checking account or a debit card if you want but if you put that money in the bank it'll earn interest."

"Okay," Jaycee said. "I can get extra jobs and stuff and I don't have to go to college. I can wait that way I can work and help pay for stuff. I don't mind."

"Sam and I are both very proud of you, Jaycee," Gibbs said. "You're very responsible and selfless and we want you to go to college and have fun and learn everything you can."

"You live your life, Baby," Sam added. "Jethro and I will always love and support you and your brothers and sisters. We have good jobs and the state helps us take care of you kids so you don't need to worry."

"I love you guys," Jaycee said. "I love you guys more than I've ever loved anybody."

"We love you too, Baby," Gibbs said kissing her head.

"Yes we do," Sam added, kissing her as well.

////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////

Sam spent the morning on her laptop searching for houses in their price range while Gibbs entertained the kids. They'd each come up with a few wants and don't wants but with so little time there wasn't room to be picky. Luckily they were both pretty easygoing. Sam found a few houses in Annandale and copied the information so they could set up a time to look at them.

Gibbs was hoping for an easy week at work so he could get some things taken care of. He'd have to go to the bank to see about getting preapproved for a mortgage and was hoping to look at a few houses with Sam. Being forced to move was a complication he really didn't need at the moment. He and Sam were supposed to take Ty and Jaycee to Virginia Beach the following weekend to check out the University of Virginia and the teenagers were graduating from high school in three short weeks. Apparently there was some truth to the saying when it rains it pours.

"I can feel you staring," Gibbs said. All the kids had been put down for a nap, including Kylee who hadn't slept well the night before after the surprise visit from her mother.

"I can see you thinking," Sam replied as she looked at Gibbs all stretched out in his recliner with his eyes closed. She walked over and scooted into the chair next to him, practically on top of him. He welcomed her with open arms and a kiss. "Everything's going to work out," she said softly.

"I know," Gibbs said. "It's just inconvenient."

"That's how life usually works," Sam said.

She was right. It was an unwritten rule of life but they could handle it. "I love you, Sam."

"I love you, Jethro," Sam said with a smile.

"You're cute when you smile," Gibbs said running his thumb across her cheek. "Did you know that?"

Sam felt herself blushing but only widened her smile. "You've got a cute smile too," she replied. "You should wear it more often."

"I love you," Gibbs repeated.

"I love you too," Sam said.

////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////

Gibbs spent most of Monday morning at the bank getting preapproved for a mortgage. They preapproved him for a lot more than he wanted to spend but he was glad to know they'd have more than enough to get a house. Sam contacted a few realtors and set up some times to look at the houses she'd found on the internet the previous day. Just as Gibbs was finishing up at the bank his phone rang.

"Gibbs," he answered.

"Boss, we got a call out," Tony said. "Dead sailor was pulled out of the Anacostia about an hour ago."

"Alright," Gibbs said, "call Ducky. I'll meet you there." So much for an easy week.

The rest of Monday was spent collecting and analyzing evidence. His team ended up staying late into the night talking to witnesses and the dead petty officer's shipmates. Ducky's preliminary conclusion was the man had overdosed on narcotics but the official test results wouldn't be available until the following morning.

Once they'd accomplished all they could for the day, Gibbs sent them home. They'd pick up where they left off the following day. By the time he walked through his front door it was pushing midnight. Sam was sitting on the couch in her pajamas rocking Brady while she watched a late night talk show.

"Hi, Love," she greeted quietly. "Long day?"

Gibbs just nodded as he sank down into the couch next to her. "How was your day?" he whispered running his fingertips through Brady's hair.

"Not bad," Sam said. "That house I looked at was a no go." She'd asked Gibbs about looking at it with her but there was no way he could get off work so they'd agreed Sam would look at it and if it was nice they'd set up a time to go back and look together.

"No?" Gibbs asked. "What was wrong with it?"

Brady started fussing and held his arms out towards Gibbs so Sam passed the infant off. "It needed a lot of work," she said leaning into her lover. "The ceiling was caving in in one of the bedrooms. The kitchen floor was cheap linoleum and peeling up all over the place. The shower in one of the bathrooms was almost completely rusted out. It smelled of cat urine or something awful. It was bad."

"Well, that was just the first one," Gibbs said trying to be positive. "You never wanna buy the first one anyways, right?"

"Right," Sam said with a smile.

"When are you looking at the others?"

"I'm looking at one of them tomorrow at lunchtime if you can sneak away," Sam said. "Then one more on Thursday."

"I'll do my best," Gibbs said.

"Are you hungry?" Sam asked. "Do you want me to heat you up some dinner? Jaycee made herb crusted pork tenderloin."

"I'm not gonna let that girl go off to college if she keeps cooking like that," Gibbs joked. The teenager almost always had Mondays off and absolutely loved cooking for her family. "I'll take a little. I don't want to eat too much before bed."

"Okay, I'll heat you up a plate if you'll work on getting Brady to sleep," Sam said. "For some reason he's just not wanting to give up the fight tonight."

"Thank you," Gibbs said.

As soon as Sam disappeared into the kitchen the twins poked their heads around the corner. Gibbs smiled at them and crooked his finger for them to come to him. He hated not being able to see the kids before bed. Working late had never bothered him before but now that he had a family he wanted to be home to spend the evenings with them.

"What are you two doing out of bed?" he asked quietly.

"We want to see you," Lucas said.

"We miss you, Daddy," Milo added doing his best to look neglected.

Gibbs brushed his thumb over Lucas' cheek and tapped Milo's nose. "If you guys help me get my shoes off you can sit up with me for a couple minutes."

Helping Daddy get his work boots off at night was an honor for the kids. They often fought over who got to do it despite the somewhat smelly and odd job. Each twin sat at one of Gibbs' feet and they unlaced his boots all the way down before easily slipping it off his foot. Lucas stuck his nose inside, just as he always did, then tossed it towards the front door and scurried up next to Gibbs. Milo skipped smelling the boot and tossed his away then climbed up next to his brother and both rested their head on Gibbs' thigh, lying side by side.

Sam returned with Gibbs' dinner to find him rocking Brady in one arm and rubbing the boys' bellies with the other. "They missed you," she said.

"I missed them," Gibbs replied. "I don't like being away from you guys."

"With your job it's unavoidable," Sam said. "Just make sure you stay safe so you can come home to us at the end of each case."

She was always so understanding. Gibbs had no idea how he'd gotten so lucky. He leaned over for a kiss then Sam started feeding him his dinner while he held the kids.

Once Daddy made it home all was right in Brady's world and he finally gave in to sleep. Lying next to each other on the couch, listening to Mommy and Daddy talk softly while Daddy rubbed their bellies lulled the twins back to sleep as well. Gibbs kissed Brady's forehead then handed him off to Sam so he could get Milo and Lucas.

Once the twins were tucked in, Sam headed down to their bedroom while Gibbs went in to kiss the girls goodnight. He never went to bed without kissing the kids, even if they were already asleep. He kissed Kylee then stepped on the lower bunk so he could reach Jaycee. She always slept pressed up against the guardrail. She smiled in her sleep when Gibbs kissed her but didn't wake.

He moved on to Gracie, straightening her blankets and tucking her baby doll in next to her before leaning over and pressing his lips to her cheek.

"Daddy," Gracie whispered.

"Yeah, it's just me, Baby," Gibbs said softly. "Go back to sleep." He rested his hand on her forehead until her breaths deepened and she fell back into sleep. "I love you guys," he whispered even though none of them were awake to hear him.

When he made it to his room Sam was sitting in bed, her back propped up against the headboard. He didn't even bother changing. He just sat down next to her and wrapped his arms around her. "Thank you for taking care of the kids tonight," he said.

"You don't have to thank me every time you work late, Jethro," Sam said contentedly.

"I just to make sure you know that I don't take you for granted," Gibbs said.

"I know," Sam said. "It is nice to hear. It just seems weird since it's part of my job as their mother and your partner." She rolled over so she was straddling him and smiled down at him. "I love you," she said, leaning in to press her lips to his before he could respond.

"Mmm, I love you," Gibbs said once their kiss broke.

Sam undid his pants and untucked his t-shirt and polo. Gibbs inhaled a deep breath and relaxed under her touch. She peppered his body with kisses as she undressed him, her fingers exploring, her eyes roaming every inch of him as she revealed more and more of his body. Gibbs pulled her close and held her tight, rocking up into her as he met her in a passionate kiss.

Chapter Text

Sam lay awake in the middle of the night staring at the ceiling. Gibbs had fallen asleep after they'd made love while Sam ran her fingers through his hair but she'd had trouble falling asleep. She watched the minutes turn to hours on the bedside clock and finally decided to just get up. She obviously wasn't going to fall asleep anyways. She slipped out of bed, put her robe on and crept out of her room and down the hall.

A lamp in the living room provided a little soft light. Sam sat in the corner of the couch and worked on sorting through her thoughts. She usually didn't have time to think, didn't give herself time. The more serious things got with Gibbs, the more fear starting creeping in. She never let people get that close to her—never but she was letting her guard down. Earlier that night she'd been the one to initiate their love making. Gibbs was probably tired enough he would've just fallen asleep but she'd climbed into his lap. She'd peeled his clothes away. The walls she'd built up to protect herself were slowly coming down. Gibbs was getting dangerously close and she was letting him.

She realized that for the first time in more years than she could remember the sex hadn't been just to fulfill that basic primal need. It had meant so much more. She concluded that was the true love people often talked about that seemed to evade her. She had an overwhelming love for the man upstairs. What would happen if—when—he decided she wasn't the one for him? What would happen when he found out she was damaged?

She pulled her knees to her chest and sighed heavily. How had an evening that had been so romantic turned into her sitting alone on the couch? She hid her face in her knees, hoping for clarity to come to her thoughts.

"Sam?"

She wasn't sure if she heard his voice or felt his hand on her back first but he'd startled her and she jumped.

"What's the matter?" Gibbs asked as he sat next to her. "Is it me? Did I do something wrong?"

"It's not you, Jethro," Sam said curling into his embrace.

Gibbs kissed the top of her head as he held her close. "Is this one of those woman things where you need time alone with your thoughts or something? Do you want me to go?"

She wasn't sure if it's what Gibbs was going for but Sam smiled. "Please stay. I couldn't sleep."

Gibbs leaned back into the couch with his feet propped up on the coffee table then pulled Sam down to rest on his chest while he held her.

"Jethro?"

"Hmm?"

"Do you want kids?"

"Um, we've got six of 'em asleep upstairs," Gibbs said curious about where she was going with the question.

"But do you want kids with your DNA, with your looks… kids that you had a part in creating?" Sam asked.

"Are you trying to tell me you're pregnant?" Gibbs asked.

"No," Sam said, "it's just a question."

"Well, I'm happy with the kids we have now but if you want a child of our own that's definitely something we can discuss. I want you to be happy, Sam. I'll give you whatever you want."

"It doesn't really matter what I want," Sam said.

"It matters to me," Gibbs said brushing his fingertips over her shoulder.

"You don't understand," Sam said.

"Help me understand. Explain it to me." He hated how hard it was to get information out of her sometimes but he understood her need to protect herself from any further hurt.

"You probably figured out that my ex was violent," Sam said.

"I assumed," Gibbs said.

"He got drunk one night," Sam said, "and when he got drunk he got violent and jealous. He saw things that weren't there. He thought I liked someone else, one of his friends who was over at our house, better than I liked him. Give me your finger."

Gibbs offered her one of his hands and she took his finger and slipped it under her pajama pants and underwear. She traced his finger over the two inch scar hidden beneath the hair.

"He stabbed me," she whispered. "I almost died. The doctors had a hard time stopping the bleeding. They had to take my uterus. I lost my womb, Jethro."

"I'm so sorry, Sam," Gibbs said pulling her into his arms once again. "I'm sorry you had to go through that. Did our making love earlier trigger a memory?"

"No," Sam said. "You're so different from him. You're the first person I've ever had meaningful sex with. With you it's a whole body experience rather than an empty act. I've never experienced anything like it. I was just afraid you'd find out I couldn't give you children and you'd find some way to dump me. I know guys don't usually go for imperfect women."

"Sam, I guess we haven't been properly introduced," Gibbs said with a hint of lightness in his tone. "I'm Jethro Gibbs, married four times, divorced three, former Marine sniper, workaholic, addicted to coffee, been known to be a little too gruff. I'm as far from perfect as you're gonna find, Baby. I love your scars just as much as I love the rest of you. They make you who you are and I love who you are."

"Why?" Sam asked. She wasn't trying to get him to dote all over her. She wasn't that kind of person. She honestly wondered why.

"Because you're lovable," Gibbs said. "You are beautiful, inside and out."

"I love you too, Jethro," Sam said. "I love you so much it scares me."

"You don't have to be scared," Gibbs said. "I'm not that guy, Sam. I'm not gonna hurt you. Not physically, not emotionally."

Sam just smiled and relaxed into Gibbs' chest. Her secret was out. Gibbs knew the one thing about her that almost nobody else on the planet knew and it hadn't scared him off. She realized she was a fool for doubting him.

"Is that why your ex is in jail?" Gibbs asked quietly as he held her.

"No," Sam said, "well, kind of. I actually got off easy. The friend he thought I liked… he castrated him then tortured him to death. I think he thought I was dead too. That's probably the only reason I lived."

"I can't imagine you not being here," Gibbs said.

"You wouldn't miss me if you'd never met me," Sam pointed out.

"I have met you," Gibbs said, "and I'm not letting you go."

///////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////

After a very short night the sound of the alarm was brutal. Between Gibbs and Sam one of them usually beat the alarm up and turned it off before they had to endure the vile noise but after spending most of the night up, both were still sleeping soundly when it went off.

Gibbs groaned as he rolled over in bed, swatting at the nightstand trying to find the offending noisemaker. He squinted his eyes open, turned the alarm off then flopped back into bed next to Sam. Sam curled into him and nestled against his chest, not wanting to get up either. Spending the day in bed sounded like a much better idea than work.

"How ya feeling?" Gibbs asked groggily as he rubbed her back.

"Tired but good," Sam said. "You're probably exhausted. I'm sorry."

"Don't be," Gibbs said around a yawn. "I've functioned on less sleep. You're my top priority." He kissed the top of her head and she kissed his chest.

"Thanks, Love," Sam said. "I'll go get the coffee going and start getting the kids up if you want to get in the shower first."

Gibbs watched Sam disappear out the door then rolled out of bed and headed for the shower. It was going to be another long day. He showered and shaved then put his boxers on while the iron heated up. He was nearly done ironing his pants when the door flew open and the twins came flying in.

"Daddy!" Milo cheered happily.

"Mornin' boys," Gibbs said. "I need you guys to go put some shorts and t-shirts on."

"But you're only wearing your underwear, Daddy," Lucas pointed out.

"That's because I'm ironing my clothes, smarty pants," Gibbs said. "Go get dressed. We've gotta go to school today."

"Aw man!" Milo whined.

"But we goed to school yesterday," Lucas reasoned.

"Yep," Gibbs said, "and we're going today and tomorrow and the next day and the day after that."

Milo sighed dramatically, leaning against Gibbs and wrapping his little arm around Gibbs' leg. "I wish that we could just stay home for all those days."

"Me too, Buddy," Gibbs said ruffling his hair, "but you guys like school. You get to play with your friends and all those toys. You'll have lots of fun." He patted their butts to get them moving in the direction of the door. "Hurry up. We don't want to be late."

The boys passed Sam in the hall and they all paused to make faces at each other before Sam patted their heads and they continued on their way.

"Kylee can't go to school today," she said pulling the bedroom door closed behind her.

"Is she sick?" Gibbs asked putting his freshly ironed pants on.

"No," Sam said, "water main break."

"Ah," Gibbs said. "I'll take her with me today. I should be able to find something for her to do."

"Are you sure?" Sam asked. She knew the daycare would take Kylee but they only planned activities for the older kids on scheduled days off school and over summer vacation.

"I'm sure," Gibbs said. "I know you've got meetings all day. Hopefully I can spend some time with her despite this case."

"Why don't you have her pack a few things to play with," Sam suggested.

"Good idea," Gibbs said.

The two went about their morning routine, getting themselves and the kids ready. Lunches were made, breakfast was served, the adults made sure the kids had everything they needed then, after a final round of hugs and kisses they were off. Sam took Jaycee and headed for the high school. The teenager still didn't like driving although she had driven a couple times since the accident. She could do it and she would do it, she just didn't like to do it anymore.

Gibbs took the younger kids and headed for NCIS. On his way down the hall towards the daycare he got a phone call from Tony instructing him to stop by Abby's lab. He signed Gracie, Brady and the twins in then took Kylee and headed for the lab.

"I'll find you something to do so you're not bored all day," Gibbs told Kylee as the two walked down the hall hand in hand.

"I like coming to work with you," Kylee said. Watching Daddy wasn't boring at all. Plus she had the team to keep her entertained and her brothers and sisters weren't around to steal all the attention.

"I like having you here," Gibbs said. "You can be my partner today, okay?"

"Okay," Kylee said with a grin.

"I'll have Abby issue you your badge and ID."

"Whose badge and ID?" Abby asked as Gibbs and Kylee entered her lab. "Do we have a new employee?"

"We sure do," Gibbs said picking Kylee up.

"Oh, welcome to the team, Kylee," Abby said. "It's wonderful to have you here." She covered the spikes around her neck and leaned in to kiss the five year old's cheek. "Was it her school that had the water main break? I heard it on the radio on my way to work."

"Yep," Gibbs said. "What do ya got?"

"Something not for these little ears," Abby said patting Kylee's head.

"Kylee, can you come with me to the cafeteria and help me pick out something for breakfast?" Tony asked.

Kylee glanced up at Gibbs and he smiled at her. "I'll see you in a minute, Sweet Pea," he said handing her off to Tony.

"We'll get you something for breakfast too," Tony said.

"But I already ate," Kylee said.

"You can eat twice," Tony said, "or we can get you something for a snack later."

"Okay," Kylee said.

Tony kissed her cheek then stepped onto the elevator.

"What do ya got, Abs?" Gibbs asked again once they were gone.

"This," Abby said handing Gibbs a piece of paper. "Our dead sailor killed himself. His CO found the note in his mailbox this morning. Apparently he forgot to check it yesterday. He could've saved us all a late night."

"His wife divorced him, took their kid and disappeared," Gibbs said reading the suicide note.

"Yeah," Abby said sadly.

"Has his mom been notified?" Gibbs asked handing the letter back to Abby.

"Not about the suicide," Abby answered.

"Alright," Gibbs said, "I'll head down to Newport News and tell her myself."

"Want me to watch Kylee for you?" Abby asked.

"Nah," Gibbs said. "I'll take her with me. DiNozzo and I will go. I'll leave McGee and Ziva here to hold down the fort."

///////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////

Gibbs was worried Kylee would be bored in the car but she seemed more than happy to be going along on the trip. They stopped at a gas station to get drinks and snacks then they were off. Tony started a game of I Spy then Gibbs let Kylee listen to her favorite radio station. The radio didn't last long before Kylee started talking their ears off. The shy little girl that rarely said a word chattered on for almost the entire three hour trip.

"You're just a little chatter box once I get you away from your brothers and sisters, aren't you?" Gibbs asked as he pulled off the interstate.

"'Cause it's my turn now," Kylee said getting shy.

"You're turn for what, Sweet Pea?" Gibbs asked.

"To talk to you," Kylee said.

"You don't have to wait for a turn to talk to me, Baby," Gibbs said. "You can talk to me whenever you want."

"But what if it's somebody else's turn?"

"What do you mean?" Gibbs asked.

"I mean they are talkin' and talkin' and talkin'," Kylee said.

"And you can't get a word in edgewise, can you?" Gibbs asked. He felt bad he hadn't realized it sooner. Her siblings talked right over her and she was so shy she just let them. "We won't let that happen anymore, Kylee, okay?"

"'kay," Kylee said.

"Okay," Gibbs said. "I've gotta go in this house and talk to this lady for a couple minutes. Tony's gonna sit out here with you."

"Okay," Kylee said.

"I'm gonna leave you guys the keys," Gibbs said handing them over to Tony. "This car had better be parked right here when I come out. No funny business."

"Yes Boss," Tony said taking the keys. He watched as Gibbs walked up the driveway and knocked on the woman's door. As soon as Gibbs entered, Tony turned around and looked at Kylee. "Wanna play a trick on Dad?"

Kylee smiled and shrugged. "What kinda trick?"

"Let's move the car," Tony suggested.

"But he said not to," Kylee said.

"Yeah and that just makes me wanna do it even more," Tony said sliding into the driver seat. "We'll just move it across the street."

Kylee giggled as Tony turned the car around and parked it on the opposite side of the street. "Daddy is gonna spank your head."

"Probably," Tony agreed with a laugh. "Does Daddy ever spank your head?"

"No," Kylee said, "but sometimes he spanks Lucas and Milo's butt when they're playin'."

"I bet he does," Tony said.

"Tony, my tummy is hungry for not junk food," Kylee said.

"Mine is too," Tony said glancing at his watch. "I guess it is lunch time. When Dad comes out we'll have to find somewhere to eat."

"Guess what, it's almost summer vacation!" Kylee said excitedly. "And then when I go back to school I'll be in first grade."

"Wow!" Tony said matching her excitement. "That is way cool, Little Lady! I'm super duper proud of you! What are you gonna do all summer?"

"I don't know," Kylee said.

"What do you want to do?" Tony asked.

"Uh, I wanna play and go swimming and hang out with Jaycee and catch butterflies and paint pictures of them and have cook overs with everybody there and, Tony, do you think I'm old enough to cook?"

"How old are you? Five?"

"Yeah," Kylee answered.

"I think you're old enough to cook some things if Dad or Mom or Jaycee are there with you so they can do the dangerous stuff," Tony said. "Do you want to cook because that's what Jaycee likes to do?"

"Uh-huh, I wanna be just like her," Kylee said.

"Jaycee's a good big sister," Tony said. "I used to wish I had a big sister."

"I could ask Jaycee if she'll be your big sister if you want," Kylee offered.

"Aw, would you do that for me?" Tony asked.

Before Kylee could answer Gibbs slipped into the driver's seat and immediately reached over and smacked the back of Tony's head.

"I should've locked the door and made you promise not to whack me before I let you in," Tony said rubbing the back of his head while Kylee giggled in the backseat. "How'd it go in there?"

"As good as could be expected," Gibbs said starting the car. "How are you guys doing?"

"Good," Kylee answered. "I'm gonna ask Jaycee if she could be Tony's big sister."

"She'll have her hands full with him," Gibbs said.

"Daddy, me and Tony are hungry."

"I'm hungry too," Gibbs said. "Let's see if we can find somewhere to get some lunch. What do you guys want?"

"I don't know," Tony said wanting to give Kylee a chance to choose. "Kylee?"

"I don't care," Kylee said, "but I just want real food."

"We're getting' tired of junk food," Tony explained.

"You?" Gibbs asked raising his eyebrows. "Tired of junk food?"

"Kylee's getting tired of junk food," Tony clarified, "but I am too actually. I need something with substance like that Captain D's over there."

"That does sound good," Gibbs said. "Kylee, how do you feel about fish sticks for lunch?"

"Is there white sauce?" Kylee asked.

"Tartar sauce, I'm sure there is, Sweet Pea," Gibbs said.

"And French fries?"

"And French fries," Gibbs said, "and some hush puppies too."

"Mmm."

Gibbs pulled into Captain D's and they all headed inside for lunch. The fast food joint was pretty scarce in the DC area so it was a nice treat. They ordered their meal then found a quiet booth in the corner to eat.

"Are you having a good day, Sweet Pea?" Gibbs asked rubbing his hand over Kylee's head.

"Yeah," Kylee said around a mouthful of fish. "I wish I can come to work with you every single day."

"I wish you could too," Gibbs said.

"You really like that fish, don't you?" Tony asked watching the five year old devour the piece of fish on her plate.

"It's yummier than fish sticks," Kylee said.

"Taste some of mine," Gibbs said. "It's a little different. This is tilapia."

Kylee took the bite Gibbs offered and made a funny face while chewing it up. "It's okay I guess but I like mine better," she said.

Tony fed her a piece of his shrimp and she decided she didn't like that at all. They took their time eating their meal then decided to share a piece of chocolate cake for dessert. Gibbs called Tim to check in with them then they headed out.

"You know, Boss, I know it's out of the way but we should take Kylee through one of the underwater tunnels," Tony said. "The Monitor-Merrimac isn't far from here."

"I think we have time for a detour," Gibbs said.

The underwater tunnel wasn't really a big deal for those that drove it daily but for first timers it was thrilling and Kylee proved to be no exception. She was thrilled to drive in the ocean and when Papa turned the car around and drove back the opposite way she was just as excited. Her only complaint was that the walls weren't see through.

The trip back to the city was filled with just as much fun and laughter as the trip down had been. There were games and lots of conversations and some much appreciated one on one time for Kylee. She never got Daddy all to herself and she absolutely adored Tony ever since the night he'd spent with her after Jaycee had tried to end her life.

"Okay, Kylee," Gibbs said parking at NCIS headquarters, "we've gotta go in here, check on the others, I need to do a little more work then we'll pick up your brothers and sister and go home. How does that sound?"

"Good," Kylee said.

///////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////

Sam walked in the door and was immediately greeted by the twins. She dropped her bags and gave them hugs and kisses before stealing their noses and letting them steal hers. Gracie was lying on her belly in front of the TV answering all the questions Dora asked and Kylee had her care bears spread out in one corner of the living room. Both girls got kisses before Sam headed into the kitchen where she found Gibbs making spaghetti and entertaining Brady.

Gibbs gasped and widened his eyes at the nine month old settled on his hip. "Look who's home. Mommy's home!"

Sam made a surprised face at Brady then tickled his sides before kissing him.

"How was your day?" Gibbs asked leaning in for a kiss.

"Busy," Sam said going after a second kiss.

"I'll take care of everything tonight," Gibbs said. "You just relax."

"Sounds good," Sam said. "Do I have time to change before dinner?"

"You have about ten minutes," Gibbs answered.

"Plenty of time," Sam said. "Ty's gonna bring Jaycee home after work."

Sam changed out of her work clothes then she and Gibbs went through the messy task of feeding the kids spaghetti. The boys loved slurping their noodles up and making silly noises. They always somehow managed to get their entire upper bodies from their hair down to their waist covered in noodles and sauce. Gibbs and Sam never bothered with bibs since the two never wore clothes. They just wiped the noodles off then took them directly to the bathtub after dinner. The girls stayed much cleaner while they ate. Their noodles were cut into bite size pieces and they used their napkins.

After dinner and baths Sam gathered the kids around the table to make goo. In reality it was nothing more than silly putty but goo sounded so much more fun. They'd made play-doh before but never silly putty and all the kids loved it. Sam sat at the head of the table with Brady in her lap while Gibbs stood over her and rubbed her shoulders as they watched the kids play.

"Put your butt in the seat, Lucas," Gibbs said. "Don't stand in the chair."

Lucas flopped down immediately. "Can I make mine a different color now?" he asked.

"If you add another color, it's not gonna look very pretty, Baby," Sam explained. "What color do you want?"

"I want red," Lucas said.

"Why don't you ask Gracie if she wants to trade her red one for your yellow one?" Sam suggested.

"I will," Gracie volunteered. She'd wanted pink but put too much food coloring in and it had ended up red. She didn't mind trading for yellow.

After the kids were done playing with their goo, Gibbs and Sam gathered them together on the couch to talk to them. They hadn't yet told them they were moving. They were still trying to wrap their minds around the idea themselves.

"Alright kiddos," Sam said, "Papa and I have something to tell you but it's nothing bad and it's nothing to be scared about. Real soon we're gonna be moving to another house, a bigger house but we're all still gonna live together and you guys are still going to be safe and have everything you need."

"Is everybody coming?" Kylee asked.

"Everybody's coming," Gibbs answered.

"Can we get a kitty?" Kylee asked.

"A kitty," Gibbs said with a chuckle. Just what they needed, more chaos. "We'll have to see about that."

"What about our toys?" Milo asked. They always had to leave their toys behind when they moved before. He didn't want to do that.

"We'll bring all our things with us," Sam said. "Our toys and clothes and furniture, everything. This is just another adventure for you guys but it's gonna be a fun one."

"Can me and Milo still sleep in the same room?" Lucas asked.

"Yep, you guys'll have a new room to share," Gibbs said. "Hopefully it'll be a little bigger."

"And Brady too?" Milo asked.

"Brady's gonna have his own room with all his baby things in there," Sam said.

"When are we leaving?" Gracie asked.

"Daddy and I are working real hard to find the perfect house," Sam said. "As soon as we find it we'll move. It won't be long."

The kids asked all their questions then watched a short show on TV before Gibbs and Sam tucked them into their beds for the night. Not long after the kids went to bed, Jaycee arrived home. They could tell just by looking at her that she'd had a rough day.

"Are you okay, Babe?" Sam asked.

"No," Jaycee muttered. "Well, I am now but I'm really grumpy."

"What happened?" Gibbs asked.

"I got this stupid lady in my section tonight," Jaycee grumbled plopping down on the couch next to Gibbs. "No matter what I did I couldn't make her happy. I probably could've served a platter with a million dollars on it and she still would've complained."

"I'm sorry, Baby," Gibbs said wrapping an arm around her and pulling her to his side. "Once you're the chef you won't have to deal with people like that as much."

"I can't wait," Jaycee said. "Actually, I like being a waitress. I like talking to people and stuff. It's just those loser customers that drive me crazy."

"Did she leave you a tip?" Sam asked.

"A dollar," Jaycee said. "She ordered fifty dollars worth of food—there were other people with her—and she left me one lousy dollar but I don't really care. I would've paid her to leave if I wouldn't get in trouble for it."

Gibbs couldn't help but laugh even though Jaycee was all worked up. He rarely saw her like that. "You want me to make you some dinner?" he offered.

Jaycee shrugged. "What'd you guys have?"

"Spaghetti and meatballs," Gibbs said. "Nothing like that pork tenderloin you made last night."

"You liked that?" Jaycee asked perking up.

"I told Sam if you keep cooking like that I'm never gonna let you leave," Gibbs said.

Jaycee giggled, beaming with pride. "I love you, Gibbs."

"I love you, Baby," Gibbs said kissing her head. "You want some sketti?"

"Yes please," Jaycee said.

Jaycee cuddled with Sam while Gibbs heated up a plate of dinner for her. Being within weeks of graduation meant no homework so she enjoyed a peaceful evening unwinding with Gibbs and Sam before she disappeared to take a shower and go to bed.

With all the kids settled Gibbs turned his attention to Sam. He gave her a back massage while she told him all about the house she'd looked at over her lunch break. It wasn't as bad as the first house she'd seen but it still wasn't for them. They discussed their fears of not being able to find somewhere in time and what options they had if they couldn't.

They decided in case of a worst case scenario, Sam would take a couple kids back to her place and they'd live separately until they could find a place. Neither were at all thrilled with that option but it was better than the kids being sent off to live with a stranger.

Once the discussion about the house was over Sam leaned back against Gibbs and he wrapped his arms around her.

"Sam, do you think the twins are ever gonna wear clothes without us forcing them?" he asked.

"Where's this coming from?" Sam asked with a chuckle.

"I don't know," Gibbs said. "I've just been thinking. I know they're little and innocent now and I don't care if they run around here in their underwear but I'll tell you what, two naked teenagers running around the house will not be okay with me."

Sam was all out laughing at that. "Relax, Love," she said. "It's natural. They'll grow out of it, probably not before they have Brady doing it but yeah. They're going to go through other, a lot more embarrassing stages. Enjoy their innocence and freedom while it lasts." She cuddled in closer and ran her hands up and down Gibbs' legs on either side of her. "Were you a nudist during your younger years?"

"I'll never tell," Gibbs said with a smirk. "Not that I remember and not based on the pictures I've seen."

"There's no naked baby pictures for me to look at?" Sam asked mocking disappointment.

"Oh, there are naked baby pictures," Gibbs said.

"Where are they?" Sam asked.

"I hid 'em."

"Where?"

"In my room," Gibbs said, "in Stillwater. I pulled up a plank in my floor when I was going through one of my awkward puberty stages. I put the pictures under there so no one could find them. What about you?"

"No," Sam said, "no pictures of me. I did not come from a family of photographers. I think there's the picture the hospital takes shortly after you're born and then school pictures and that's pretty much it."

"We should take more pictures of the kids," Gibbs said. "It'll be fun to look back at them and remember."

"We should," Sam agreed. "Maybe I'll have Abby help me pick out a digital camera."

"She's a good one to ask," Gibbs said around a yawn.

"Are you sleepy already?" Sam asked.

"I am," Gibbs said. He hadn't had much sleep the night before and keeping up with the kids always required a lot of energy.

Sam stood and offered her hand then led Gibbs upstairs. The two changed then laid down together to sleep.

Chapter Text

Tony sat on the corner of the couch with Kylee cradled in his lap, her head resting against his chest and her little hand wound tightly into his t-shirt. She'd just finished crying, or maybe she'd just gotten tired, he wasn't sure which. She was quiet. That's all that mattered. Gibbs and Sam were gone for the weekend with Jaycee and Ty which had upset Kylee terribly. She didn't like it when everybody wasn't home. It stressed her out.

Tony watched as Tim and Abby chased the twins through the living room, around the dining room table, back through the living room and out to the entryway. They'd made the mistake of mentioning bath time within earshot of the boys and the boys weren't going down without a fight. Ziva was upstairs finishing up Gracie's bath. Kylee had already been done.

Abby caught up with Lucas and swung him into the air and blew raspberries on his bare belly then let him wiggle away from her again. Their attempt to evade bath time could've been ended with a firm warning but Tim and Abby were hoping the game of chase would wear the twins out and make bedtime a little easier.

Ziva walked into the living room with Gracie and plopped the four year old down on the couch next to Tony then grabbed Brady from where he was playing on the floor and joined them to watch the show. Milo scurried over to the couch and tried to burrow behind Tony for cover. Tony let him then proceeded to squish him into the back of the couch.

"Gotcha!" Abby said as she grabbed the three year old.

Milo screamed in surprise as he was pulled into Abby's arms. "Help! Somebody! She got me!"

The screaming got Lucas' attention and gave Tim a chance to catch up to him and grab him as well.

"Uh-oh," Tony teased. "They caught you guys. Looks like you're gonna have to take a bath after all."

"Boys don't take baffs," Milo said as Abby carried him up the stairs.

"Timmy takes baths all the time," Abby countered, "long bubble baths."

"I don't wanna take a long bubble bath," Milo said his silliness turning to seriousness.

"You just have to stay in the tub long enough to get clean," Abby said.

"Fine, but I ain't gonna be happy about it," Milo said puffing his lower lip into a pout.

"Then why are you giggling?" Abby asked poking at his belly.

"No," Milo squealed, "you're making me laugh. I'm mad. I'm mad!" he yelled in a fit of giggles.

"You don't sound mad," Abby teased.

While Tim and Abby took care of the twins, Tony and Ziva made everyone a snack. The kids could enjoy a bowl of ice cream and a short movie then it was off to bed for them. The team wanted them in bed at a decent hour so they'd all get a good night's sleep and be well rested for their trip to the aquarium the following day.

//////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////

Sam wrapped her hand around Gibbs' arm as he pushed the down button on the elevator. They'd dropped Ty and Jaycee off at the University of Virginia and part of their visit included an overnight stay in the dorms with some of the current college students. They'd get to talk to counselors, schedule classes, tour the campus and experience what it would be like to live there leaving Gibbs and Sam an evening free all children—something that never happened.

With an evening to themselves, they'd decided to get dressed up and go out for a nice dinner.

"What time are our reservations?" Sam asked stepping into the elevator car with Gibbs. It was nice enough out that she could get away with a sleeveless black summer dress and a shawl to cover her shoulders. Gibbs was in one of his nicest suits. He'd chosen the gray one that she loved so much on him.

"8:00," Gibbs answered.

"I've never been wined and dined before," Sam said excitedly.

"I'm pretty rusty," Gibbs said. "I hope I live up to you expectations."

"I'm just happy to be alone with you," Sam said. "You could take me to McDonalds and I'd be thrilled."

Gibbs opened the car door for her and helped her in. He leaned in for a kiss before closing the door and going around to the driver's side. They had plenty of time to get to the restaurant even with the somewhat crowded streets.

An hour later their meal was being served.

"What do you think the kids are doing?" Sam asked.

"Hopefully sleeping," Gibbs answered, "but whatever they're doing, I'm sure they're fine." They'd talked to them on the phone nearly two hours prior and although Kylee had shed a few tears, Abby had assured them that everything was going fine. Both had a nagging worry about the kids in the backs of their minds but were trying not to think about it. They knew they were in good hands.

Their worries about the kids turned to worries about finding a house. There were a lot of whys and hows and what ifs to work out. On top of that, Jaycee was graduating in two short weeks. There was so much going on in such a short amount of time it was easy to feel overwhelmed. Their house was one step away from crazy without all the added excitement but they'd take it one day at a time just like everything else they'd gone through in their lives. Their only hope was that things would settle down once they got moved.

As their main course was served they left their worries behind and focused on each other.

//////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////

Any hopes that the kids would go to bed easily were quickly squashed. The twins were up and down, jumping on their beds, peeking out of the door, running around in the hallway and hiding under their beds and in the closet whenever they heard somebody coming. All the excitement was keeping Brady up. Kylee had found more tears and was once again crying for Jaycee or Mommy or Daddy. Gracie couldn't sleep with all the crying so she was talking to her dolls.

The team had tried stories and songs, they'd rubbed backs and bellies, they'd threatened punishment and attempted to bribe the kids but none of it seemed to be helping. The kids may not have planned it, but they seemed to be teaming up against the agents and they were winning.

"I say we just ignore them," Ziva suggested. "I mean, they've gotta wear themselves out eventually, right?"

"I doubt it," Tim said. "Those kids have more energy than Abby after she's been pumped full of Caf-Pow."

"We just have to team up against them and regain control here," Tony said confidently.

"Let's lay down with them until they fall asleep," Abby said. "Everybody pick a kid. Just don't fall asleep before you get your kid to sleep! That could be a disaster."

"I'll take Kylee," Tony said. "I think I can get her calmed down."

"I'll take Milo," Ziva said. "I am up for the challenge."

"I'll do Lucas," Tim said. "He and I kind of bonded during bath time."

"That leaves me and Gracie," Abby said. "We'll meet back here as soon as the kids are asleep."

They all split up and headed for their assigned bedrooms, determined to get the kids to sleep. They had a newfound respect for what Gibbs and Sam went through each night.

"Alright, no more fun and games, you two," Tim told the twins as he and Ziva walked into their room. The boys stared at them like deer caught in the headlights. Both were sitting on the floor playing with their toy fire engines. Tim scooped Lucas up and pushed the trucks out of the way with his foot as Ziva lifted Milo into her arms. She laid the little boy down then went over to the crib and laid Brady down.

"Good night, Brady," she whispered. "It's time for you to go to sleep." As soon as she turned around, she saw Milo out of bed again.

"Wait!" he cried when she picked him up.

"It's bedtime, Sweetheart," she said. "I'm going to lay down with you."

"I need my doggy," Milo whined stretching his arm out to where the stuffed toy was in the corner of the room.

Ziva retrieved the dog then tucked Milo into bed and laid down next to him. She and Tim cuddled the boys, rubbing their backs to settle them.

Across the hall, Tony was humming the soft lullaby his mother used to sing to him when he was little. He couldn't remember the words but he'd never forget the melody. It had always calmed him as a boy and he was hoping it'd do the same for Kylee as he held her close and brushed his fingers through her tear streaked hair. Abby rubbed Gracie's back and both of them listened to Tony's lullaby. Thirty minutes later all five kids were finally asleep.

//////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////

The team arrived at the aquarium with the kids just after the doors opened. They were hoping it wouldn't be as busy first thing in the morning and all the kids had been up since shortly after 6:00 asking repeatedly if it was time to go yet. Saturday morning cartoons and breakfast distracted them long enough the team could get ready then they were off.

"Alright, what do we want to see first?" Tony asked after they'd paid and made their way into the building.

"Sharks!" the twins said.

"Occopusses," Gracie said.

"The fish," Kylee said.

"Five kids and only three different answers," Tim said. "Better than I expected."

"Why don't we just start right here at the beginning," Abby suggested. "That way we can make sure we don't miss anything."

Tony pushed Brady's stroller behind the group with Kylee holding onto his wrist. Ziva had her work cut out for her keeping the twins corralled and Abby and Tim each held onto one of Gracie's hands. They started out with the fish, all of them brightly colored and fascinating to look at. The seahorse seemed to be favorite, especially for Gracie.

Next came the giant octopus, starfish and jellyfish. Gracie's favorite changed to the starfish while the twins couldn't peel their eyes away from the jellyfish. After that there were frogs and snakes, alligators and turtles to look at. Kylee loved the turtles and Gracie's favorite changed to the pretty blue frog. The twins started begging for a pet snake. They liked the bright green one and couldn't understand why they couldn't take it home with them.

After the reptiles came the sharks. The twins were mesmerized. Kylee nearly cut off circulation to Tony's hand from squeezing his wrist so tightly. Gracie thought the sharks were ugly and mean. She didn't like them at all and had no problem telling them as much.

By lunchtime they'd seen all the exhibits a couple times and the aquarium was starting to fill up. They took the kids to the gift shop to let them each pick out a souvenir. The boys each got a very long plush snake and even though it wasn't alive like the other one they'd seen earlier they were satisfied. Kylee chose a stuffed turtle and after much contemplation Gracie finally settled on a stuffed seahorse. Abby helped Brady pick a large stuffed alligator and the little boy loved it. It was as big as he was.

After a fun and busy morning, they got the kids home in enough time to feed them lunch and put them down for a nap.

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Gibbs and Sam picked Ty and Jaycee up from the college late Saturday morning. Both kids looked like they hadn't gotten much sleep but both had smiles on their faces. They put their backpacks in the trunk then climbed into the car.

"Hey kiddos," Sam said, "how was it?"

"Good," Ty said.

"Fun," Jaycee added.

"Well tell us more," Sam said being playfully impatient. "We wanna hear all about it."

"First we got a tour," Jaycee started out. "The school is huge but each program has their own little wing. Nursing and culinary arts aren't very far away from each other." The teenagers shared a smile before Jaycee continued. "Then we signed up for fall classes and we got to ask our counselors whatever questions we had."

"After that they took us to the cafeteria for dinner," Ty continued, "and then to the dorms and we met out buddies for the night. The college students planned a whole big party for us but there wasn't any drinking or anything. We had a bonfire and roasted marshmallows and hotdogs and candy bars and vegetables and all kinds of stuff."

"We played games to get to know each other better and this one guy brought his guitar and played some music for us," Jaycee said. "Then we went back to the dorms and hung out in the common area, eating snacks and watching movies and playing board games and stuff."

"We didn't go to bed till after 3:00 this morning," Ty said. He was thrilled. He'd never had that much freedom under his parents' roof.

"Sounds like you guys got a lot accomplished as far as preparing for school and had a lot of fun as well," Sam said. "We're very happy for both of you."

"How'd you do without all your siblings around, Jaycee?" Gibbs asked. They'd had conversations before about her fears of leaving her brothers and sisters.

"It wasn't as bad as I thought," Jaycee said. "I missed 'em and I can't wait to get home and give them hugs and kisses but I did okay without them."

"Good," Gibbs said. "Ty, how'd you do without your parents?"

"I didn't miss them," Ty said. "Maybe only a tiny bit. It was nice to get away from their strict rules."

"They love you, Baby," Sam said turning to pat his knee. "They're just trying to keep you safe."

"Or smother me," Ty muttered.

"Can I give you some advice?" Gibbs asked.

"Sure," Ty said.

"Don't tell them about the party," Gibbs suggested. "Tell them you went to a bonfire. It's the same thing but they might not panic as much of you put it that way. College parties have bad reputations."

"Cool, thanks," Ty said.

"Mm-hmm. What do you guys want for lunch?" Gibbs asked.

"Can we have Taco Bell?" Jaycee asked.

"We can stop there," Gibbs said, "or there's a pretty good Mexican restaurant on this side of Richmond if you guys can wait."

"Even better," Jaycee said around a yawn.

"Why don't you two take a short nap," Sam suggested. "We'll wake you when we get there."

"I'm not really sleepy," Jaycee said even though her eyes were closing as the words came out. Her head found Ty's shoulders and a mile down the road she was sound asleep.

Ty rested his head against the seat and closed his eyes and it didn't take long for him to fall asleep either.

Sam reached over and held Gibbs' hand as he drove. They talked quietly so they didn't disturb the teenagers. When they got to the Mexican restaurant they woke Ty and Jaycee and enjoyed a nice lunch. As soon as they got back in the car, the teenagers went right back to sleep. Gibbs and Sam enjoyed the peaceful ride back to Alexandria.

"I wonder how the gang did with the kids," Sam said softly as they pulled off the interstate.

"They were only outnumbered by one so hopefully they survived," Gibbs said with a grin.

"Hopefully the house survived," Sam said with a chuckle.

After dropping Ty off at his house they headed home to their own. Jaycee was awake again and anxious to see her siblings. Gibbs grabbed her backpack out of the trunk then followed Jaycee and Sam into the house. Jaycee had both the girls wrapped around her and Sam was giving the twins their long awaited hugs and kisses. Gibbs took Brady from Abby and made a silly face at him. Brady giggled and waved his arms excitedly at his daddy.

"Are you happy to see us?" Gibbs asked him. The little boy gurgled and reached out towards Gibbs and Gibbs nipped at his fingers. "How were they?" he asked.

"Good," Abby answered.

"We had a really fun weekend," Tim said.

The kids went from person to person to get hugs and kisses. The team told them all about their weekend and the kids showed off their new toys. Jaycee talked about her experience at the college and Gibbs and Sam kept the details of their weekend private. After they'd visited for awhile, the team headed home and Gibbs and Sam got the kids busy playing.

//////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////

Gibbs sat at the table with Milo cuddled in his lap and the homes for sale section of the Sunday newspaper spread out in front of him. Lucas was crawling around under the table playing quietly with one of his toy police cars. Sam was sitting next to Gibbs feeding Brady his breakfast. The ten month old was starting to pick things up with his thumb and forefinger so Sam was letting him feed himself cheerios while she kept a close eye on him to make sure he didn't choke.

"Here's one," Gibbs said. "It's in Arlington, five bedrooms, two baths and only 1,800 square feet. Never mind. Wishful thinking."

Sunday was a big day for open houses. They were hoping to find several prospective houses to check out and hopefully choose one. With only three weeks to get moved the pressure was on.

"Here's another one," Gibbs said perking up. "It's in Alexandria, about a mile from here. Five bedrooms, four bathrooms, master suite with a wood burning fireplace—"

"You're not cooking steak in the fireplace in our bedroom," Sam said with a smirk.

"I could feed you dinner in bed instead of breakfast," Gibbs said. "I'll woo you."

"You already wooed me, Love," Sam said.

"What does that mean?" Jaycee asked.

"Mornin' Babe," Gibbs said ignoring her question.

"I don't wanna know, do I?" Jaycee asked.

"Probably not," Sam said with a wink.

"Eww," Jaycee said scrunching her nose up.

"Come here, Baby," Sam said. All the kids got love in the morning, no matter how calm or busy things were. Losing his first family had taught Gibbs and after living for so long in an abusive relationship Sam knew the value of expressing and sharing love. "How many square feet?" she asked as Jaycee sat on the opposite knee of Brady.

"3,000," Gibbs said. "It's a two story house, has a colonial period look to it and it's in our price range."

"Perfect," Sam said, "add it to the list."

By the time all the kids made it downstairs, Gibbs and Sam had a list of six open houses they wanted to look at that day. Jaycee called Ty and the teenagers were excited to babysit meaning Gibbs and Sam could look without disruptions. Pancakes for breakfast got everyone off to a good start. Sam took Jaycee and the twins out to do some grocery shopping leaving Gibbs home with Brady, Gracie and Kylee.

"Alright, ladies," Gibbs said, "let's see if we can get this house cleaned up."

"How come?" Gracie asked. "It will just get messy again."

"The same reason we feed you when you're just gonna get hungry again, silly," Gibbs teased. "Can you guys straighten up the things on the coffee table and I'll get you both a rag to dust with." The girls loved to dust for some unknown reason that both Gibbs and Sam refused to question. "I'll vacuum while you guys do that."

With everyone pitching in it didn't take long for them to get the house presentable. Once the house was cleaned, the girls decided they wanted to play dress up. Gibbs retrieved a couple of Brady's toys to keep him occupied then headed to the girls' room with them. They were thrilled to have Daddy playing with them.

With Daddy sitting on the floor letting them do whatever they wanted to him, both Kylee and Gracie took full advantage. His hair got shampooed and styled, his eyebrows waxed with scotch tape and his nails done. When he took Brady into the next room to change his diaper, he realized his nails really had been colored.

"Alright, girls," he said once he returned with Brady, "what'd you put on my nails?"

"Nail polish," Gracie answered.

"Doesn't smell like nail polish," Gibbs said. "Can I see the bottle?"

Gracie retrieved the bottle and handed it proudly to Gibbs. "Do you like it, Daddy? It's very beautiful, huh?"

Gibbs looked down at his bright pink nails and nodded. "I love it," he said, doing his best to sound enthusiastic. "Where did you guys get this?"

"From Mommy," Kylee answered.

"What about Mommy?" Sam asked walking into the room.

"When did you get the girls real makeup?" Gibbs asked.

Sam gasped dramatically and took Gibbs' hand in hers. "You guys did Daddy's nails and you did such a good job!" she praised. "They're very beautiful."

"We did his hair and his eyelashes too!" Gracie said with a bright smile.

"I see that," Sam said. "You guys made Daddy very beautiful."

The twins walked into the room and froze, both their mouths hanging open.

"What is going on in here?" Milo asked.

"What happened to Daddy?" Lucas asked looking Gibbs over as if he was an alien life form.

"They made him very beautiful," Sam said.

"But he's Daddy," Milo said. "Daddies don't supposed to wear girl things."

Lucas pulled a barrette out of Gibbs' hair, taking a lock of hair with it. Gibbs cringed and Sam rubbed his head to soothe the stinging.

"Daddy, you gotta get outta here before they do something else," Lucas said grabbing his arm and trying to pull him.

"Daddy likes playing with us and he looks beautiful!" Gracie told Lucas angrily with her hands on her hips.

"Daddy likes playing with all of you," Gibbs assured them.

"Yes he does," Sam said, "but Daddy and I have to go look at houses right now so he needs to go get ready. Ty and Jaycee are gonna play with you guys."

"Whoa, digging the pink polish, Agent Gibbs," Ty teased as Jaycee stood next to him in the doorway giggling.

Gibbs gave the boy a teasing slap on the back of the head as he walked by.

"Alright, girls, you know the rules," Sam said. "Time to put the nail polish away." They were only allowed to play with it if she or Gibbs were there and so far they'd respected the rule. The nail polish was made specifically for kids and completely non-toxic and water based. It was perfectly safe and washable so if they did decide to push the boundaries it wouldn't be too big of a disaster.

She followed Gibbs into their bedroom and smiled at him. She loved how patient he was with the kids. "Sit down," she said. "I'll get you cleaned up."

"What is that stuff?" Gibbs asked sitting on the edge of the bed and giving Sam his hand.

"It's nail polish for kids," Sam said. "Perfectly safe and easy to remove. Are you mad?"

"Not at all," Gibbs said, "just surprised and I was a little worried about where they got it."

"I'm sorry, I thought I'd told you I bought it for them," Sam said. "You didn't notice what they were doing?"

"Not until Brady started stinking," Gibbs said. "They put a beauty mask on my face. I couldn't see and I didn't smell nail polish."

"Well, they're thrilled to death that you played with them," Sam said, "but I'm not sure if the twins'll forgive you. Did you see their faces?"

"Those two are so dramatic," Gibbs said with a chuckle as Sam went to work on his other hand.

Sam finished getting the nail polish off then ran her fingers through his hair to make sure they hadn't left anymore hair things in. After that Gibbs got a kiss just for being him then they got ready to leave.

That Sunday was the best day of house hunting they'd had so far. Out of the six houses they looked at they found two they really liked, the five bedroom house only a mile from their current location and a six bedroom house in McLean, Virginia. Sam was going to call their realtor to make an offer first thing Monday morning. Things were finally looking up.

Chapter Text

Gibbs' phone started going off what felt like seconds after he'd fallen asleep. He looked at the bedside clock as he grabbed the phone. 2:30. He'd been asleep for a half an hour. Sam stirred next to him and he rubbed her stomach as he flipped his phone open.

"Gibbs," he said.

"Gibbs!" Abby shrieked. "Are you watching the news?! Did you see? Oh my gosh!"

"Abby," Gibbs grumbled,

"I couldn't sleep again," Abby explained, "so I turned on the TV and I was flipping channels and the news was on and there was this huge fire so I stopped to see what was burning and it's Tony's apartment building, Gibbs! Is he okay? I tried to call him but he didn't answer. I figured if he was okay he'd call you. Did he call you? Is he okay? Have you heard from him?"

"I haven't heard from him," Gibbs said sitting up. Sam reached out and rested her hand on his leg. "I'll head over there and see what's up. I'll call you as soon as I know something."

"Don't call me if it's bad," Abby said tearfully. "I don't wanna know. If it's bad just make it all better, Gibbs, please. It can't be bad. Don't let it be bad."

"It'll be okay, Abs," Gibbs said fighting off the worry creeping into his gut. He hung up the phone and turned to Sam. "That was Abby," he said, "DiNozzo's apartment building is on fire. I need to go check on him."

"Oh no," Sam said. "Do you want me to come with you? Jaycee can stay with the kids."

"I'll be okay," Gibbs said leaning in and kissing her temple. "I love you. I'll call you as soon as I know something."

"Be careful," Sam said as she watched him dress.

"Always," Gibbs said. He threw a few clothes on, gave Sam another kiss then he was gone.

////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////

Tony was sitting on the bumper of one of the fire trucks staring at the blaze. People were scurrying by all around him but he was in such a daze he barely noticed. Instead of the noise all around him, he heard the cries of Jason as he pulled him out of that burning building all those years ago and his sister whom he'd had to leave. For some incomprehensible reason his mind was floating back and forth between that fire and this fire.

"Sir? Sir?" The paramedic tapped on Tony's shoulder as she called out to him but got no response. She moved slowly in between him and the fire to try to refocus his attention but Tony still appeared to be staring blankly through her. "Sir, I need to check your vitals." The young woman reached out and touched his arm but Tony pulled it away.

"No," he mumbled. He didn't want to be touched. He didn't need to be checked out.

He wasn't sure how much time passed or what happened but the next thing he knew Gibbs was kneeling in front of him gently smacking his cheek as he called his name.

"Boss," Tony said, his eyes finally focusing on the familiar face.

"Are ya with us?" Gibbs asked.

"I'm here," Tony said turning once again to the blaze and remembering the little one he hadn't been able to save.

"Hey," Gibbs said turning Tony's face back to his, "look at me. Focus on me." He knew what flashbacks were like. He knew how easy it was to get stuck in your head—to relive the past. "Ashley's gonna check you out then we'll get out of here."

"No," Tony grumbled.

"She's just gonna check your vitals," Gibbs coaxed as Tony stared into the fire. He seemed mesmerized.

"Don't wanna be touched," Tony said.

"Then I'm gonna have Ducky take a look at you," Gibbs said reaching for Tony's wrist to check his pulse, "but somebody's gonna check you out." His pulse was strong and a little fast but that was expected.

"No," Tony said.

"Come on," Gibbs said. "You're startin' to sound like the twins."

"I wanna go home," Tony said. "My home. Look at my home, Boss."

"Let's get you out of here," Gibbs said helping Tony stand. "His doctor makes house calls," he explained to the medic. "I'll make sure he gets checked out."

Gibbs led Tony to his car and after Tony signed the forming stating he was leaving against medical advice the two were out of there. Gibbs called Sam to let her know Tony was okay and asked her to call Abby then he dialed Ducky's number. While he was on the phone with Ducky, Tony started striping in the front seat.

"See ya in a minute, Duck," Gibbs said before hanging up the phone. "What're you doing, Tony?"

"I smell smoke," Tony said. "It smells like smoke."

"Yeah," Gibbs said, "I'm sure it's on your clothes."

"I don't like it," Tony said. It was a struggle to get his sweat pants off while in his seatbelt but Tony was determined and managed to do it.

Next thing Gibbs knew the clothes were being tossed out the window. It might've been funny had Tony not been so out of it. "You can't throw your clothes out the window, Tony," he said stopping the car. He kept his voice calm and even. He had no idea how to snap Tony out of it.

"I don't wanna smell it," Tony said.

Gibbs retrieved the clothes and put them in the trunk then continued on. "If we get pulled over, you're gonna have some explaining to do."

Not even the jokes made Tony crack a smile. Gibbs was hoping it wouldn't take Ducky too long to get there but it was a pretty good drive from Georgetown to Alexandria. He pulled the car in his driveway and saw the living room light on. Sam was up waiting for them. He and Tony headed for the house and Sam greeted them at the door.

"Hi Baby," she said pulling Tony into a hug. "We were so worried. Are you okay?"

"I smell smoke," Tony said.

"It's probably in your nose, Sweetheart," Sam said grabbing the box of Kleenex from the coffee table. "Blow your nose and I think a shower'll help you get the smell outta your hair and off your skin. Where are you clothes?"

"Trunk," Gibbs said.

"Ok, I'll get those washed up for you," Sam said. "Go on upstairs. Jethro will bring you a towel."

Tony disappeared up the stairs wearing nothing but his boxers and flip flops. Gibbs pulled Sam into a hug knowing he probably needed to feel her arms around him more than she needed the embrace.

"He'll be okay," Sam assured Gibbs as she held him close and rubbed his back.

"I know," Gibbs said. "I'll go get his clothes outta the trunk then take him a towel if you'll wait for Ducky."

"Okay," Sam said.

Sam started a pot of coffee then threw Tony's clothes in the washer. Gibbs headed upstairs and retrieved a fresh towel for Tony then grabbed the pack of boxers Sam had bought for him that he hadn't opened yet and a pair of sweatpants and a t-shirt. He and Tony were close enough to the same size it would do for a night.

"You doing okay in here, Tony?" he asked as he stacked the towel and clothes on the counter.

"I'm okay," Tony said.

"Come downstairs when you're done," Gibbs said. "Ducky's coming over to check you out."

"'kay," Tony said around a yawn.

The shower seemed to be helping some. Tony was no longer babbling incomprehensibly. By the time the young man made it downstairs Gibbs, Sam and Ducky were sitting around the living room talking quietly.

"I really am fine," Tony insisted. "I just wanna sleep."

"We're not taking any chances after your little bout with the plague," Ducky said.

"It wasn't a little bout," Tony said. "I almost died."

"Precisely," Ducky said. "Have a seat. Let me have a quick look at you."

Tony grumbled but obeyed. He sat patiently while Ducky checked his vitals and took extra time listening to his lungs. When Ducky was done, Gibbs sent Tony up to bed while he and Sam saw the doctor out.

"If he starts coughing at all, call me," Ducky said. "His lungs sound clear but it's impossible to know how much smoke he inhaled."

"Thanks Duck," Gibbs said.

"Anything for Anthony," Ducky said. "Enjoy what's left of your night."

"You too, Doctor," Sam said.

After Ducky left, they headed back upstairs and peeked into the twins' room. The boys always ended up in the same bed during the night but to Gibbs and Sam's surprise Tony had curled up in the bed with the boys instead of the empty one. Gibbs covered them up then brushed the blonde curls away from Lucas' face and kissed him and his brother. He rested his hand on Tony's head and kissed his temple as well. The scare of nearly losing him was reason enough to show a little affection even though Tony was sound asleep. It was more for his own sake than Tony's anyways. Brady got a kiss as well then Sam took his hand and led him back to bed.

Gibbs laid down and Sam wrapped him in her arms. She pressed a kiss to the top of his head as he rested it on her chest.

"Are you okay?" she asked.

"Yeah," Gibbs said. "Just gets ya thinking, you know?"

"I know," Sam said, "but he's safe. They're all safe."

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Friday morning came just as early as it always did for Gibbs. He was up, showered and had a cup of coffee in his hand before the alarm even went off. He sat down in bed next to Sam and brushed his fingers through her hair to wake her. She'd been drifting in and out ever since he'd gotten up.

"Morning Love," she said softly.

"Mornin'," Gibbs replied with a smile as he leaned in for a kiss.

"I think I'm gonna stay home with Tony today," Sam said. Gibbs had told her the night before that he was going to insist Tony take the day off work after everything that had happened. "I want to make sure he's doing okay. If you want to leave the little ones home that's fine."

"Okay," Gibbs said. "I'll take Kylee and Jaycee to school on my way to work. If nothing comes up I'm gonna send everybody home early. Don't be surprised if we have a houseful tonight." He knew the others would most likely end up over there to check on Tony.

"I wouldn't expect anything less," Sam said with a grin.

"Daddy! Daddy!" Lucas yelled as he flung the bedroom door open.

"What? What?" Gibbs asked matching his excitement.

"Tony is in our bed!" Lucas said. Milo wandered sleepily over to Sam and she pulled him into her lap and covered him in kisses. She loved wild man Milo but she also loved cuddly Milo. She wished she had more mornings to relax with him.

"He is?" Gibbs asked. "I wonder how he got there."

"I don't know," Lucas said shrugging his shoulders. "I try to ask him but he said he's sleepy."

Gibbs picked Lucas up and kissed his cheek. "Tony came over last night. He's gonna be staying with us for a little while because his home got burned."

"His home got burned?" Lucas asked. "How?"

"I don't know," Gibbs said. "Let's let him sleep for a little while and then maybe he'll feel like playing. You guys are gonna stay home with Mommy and Tony today."

"How come not you?" Lucas asked.

"I have to go to work, Buddy," Gibbs said. "I'll be home later though and tomorrow's the weekend."

"I wish you can just quit your job and play with me all day long," Lucas said.

"Me too, Kiddo," Gibbs said, "but we need money to buy food and clothes and toys."

"I will miss you, Daddy," Lucas said, his little green eyes meeting Gibbs' blue ones.

"I'll miss you too," Gibbs said before kissing his cheek.

He put Lucas down in bed with Sam and Milo then headed to the girls' room to start getting them up. Kylee was already up, dressed and working on her hair. He brushed his hand across her cheek and smiled at her.

"Mornin', Sweet Pea," he said softly.

"Good morning, Daddy," Kylee said.

He decided to let Gracie sleep and stepped up onto the edge of Kylee's bed so he could see Jaycee in the top bunk.

"Jaycee, it's time to wake up," he said rubbing her back.

"I wanna sleep," Jaycee mumbled.

"One more week then you can sleep all you want, Baby," Gibbs said.

"Where's Sam?" Jaycee asked.

"She's with the boys," Gibbs answered. "Tony's here too this morning. His apartment building burned last night."

"What?" Jaycee asked now fully awake. "How? Why? What happened? Where is he?"

"Don't know the hows or the whys yet but he's okay," Gibbs said. "He's sleeping. It was a long night."

"You shoulda woke me," Jaycee said stretching her arms. "I could've done something."

"Didn't want you to be tired today," Gibbs said. "Sam's gonna stay home with the little ones. I'm gonna take you and Kylee to school. Okay? Are you up?"

"I'm up," Jaycee said.

Gibbs turned to Kylee, still struggling with her hair. "Can Daddy try to help you with your hair, Baby Girl?" he asked.

Kylee nodded and handed him her brush and the hair tie she'd chosen.

"How do you want it today? Ponytail? Braids?"

"Ponytail," Kylee said.

"Ponytail or pig tails?"

"Uh, only one," Kylee answered.

Gibbs worked his long, slender fingers easily through Kylee's hair. He'd had a lot of practice with Kelly and the motions had come back with ease. One ponytail later and he headed out so Jaycee could get dressed. He went across the hall and got Brady then headed downstairs.

Gibbs looked at the lunch menu hanging on the fridge and was happy to see it was something Kylee liked. He could give her some lunch money and she'd be taken care of. Jaycee always bought lunch at school. Not having to make lunches that morning was one less thing he had to do.

"What do you want for breakfast, Brady?" he asked. "You're doing pretty good with those cheerios."

"Dadadadadada," Brady gurgled before poking his little tongue out of his mouth. It was his favorite word and sometimes it went on forever. Gibbs settled him in his high chair then poured a handful of cheerios on his tray.

Sam came down and took over feeding Brady while Gibbs whipped up a big pan of cheesy scrambled eggs and one of bacon for the other kids to eat. It was an easy warm meal to fill their bellies with and get their day started on the right foot. The twins told the girls all about Tony being in their bed and Kylee disappeared upstairs to see for herself. Once breakfast was ready and the others were eating, Gibbs went upstairs to get her. Tony was awake and talking to her while she played with his fingers.

"Breakfast is ready, Baby," Gibbs said patting her head. "Can you go downstairs and eat for me?"

Kylee nodded and smiled at Tony. She brushed her hand across Gibbs' legs on her way out.

"How ya feeling?" Gibbs asked once he and Tony were alone.

"I dunno," Tony said. "Kinda is shock that my apartment's gone."

"Do you remember what happened?"

"I was sleepin' and the fire alarm woke me up," Tony said. "At first I thought somebody burned their food or something but then I realized that wouldn't set the whole building off. The firemen were there and getting' everybody out but I don't really remember much to be honest."

"You were pretty out of it last night," Gibbs said with a smirk.

"Why? What'd I say?" Tony asked when he saw the look on Gibbs' face.

"It's more of what you did," Gibbs said. "You about stripped yourself naked in my car then tossed you clothes out the window."

"No I didn't," Tony said with a disbelieving laugh. He lifted the blankets up and looked down at his outfit. "Why am I wearing your clothes?"

"Sam's trying to get the smoke smell out of yours," Gibbs answered.

"Whose underwear am I wearing?"

"Mine," Gibbs said. He let Tony panic for a minute before continuing. "Don't worry. They're new. You opened the package yourself."

"Did I really strip in your car?"

"Everything but your boxers and your flip flops," Gibbs answered.

"Oh man, I'm turning into the twins," Tony muttered. He wasn't sure whether to be embarrassed or ashamed or maybe just laugh at himself. Of all the people to witness the craziness it had to be Gibbs.

"Just get yourself dressed before you come down to breakfast," Gibbs teased.

"I'm already dressed," Tony said.

Gibbs told Tony he was leaving him home with Sam and the kids and after some objection, Tony finally agreed. He needed to call his insurance company anyways and it wasn't like he had any work clothes or any other clothes for that matter. He was angry at the situation but happy to be alive and unharmed.

According to the news no one had been seriously injured in the fire so that was a relief. Tony guessed the crazy lady in the ground floor apartment had forgotten to turn off her oxygen tank before lighting up a cigarette but the reports hadn't been released yet.

He found he didn't have much of an appetite but picked at the toast Sam had insisted he eat. She wanted something in his belly and he knew he needed to eat. It was nice to be around people who cared and took an active interest in his wellbeing.

Gibbs took Jaycee and Kylee and headed out for the day, wanting nothing more than to be able to stay home with the rest of his family.

Chapter Text

Tony spent over an hour on the phone with his insurance company Friday morning. He was seated on the floor at the coffee table with a pen in his hand and a notebook in front of him. While he talked on the phone, Gracie set up a tea party around him. There were saucers and cups surrounding a teapot and a vase with some flowers in it. She put a large, floppy Easter hat on Tony's head and draped one of her daddy's neckties around his neck. There were also a few baby dolls waiting to have tea with them.

Sam kept a close eye on the four year old to make sure she didn't disturb Tony but he seemed to like the attention. He'd tweak her nose and give her kisses every time she passed. The twins were upstairs refusing to make their beds. Sam would check on them periodically and find them sitting in bed in protest. The concept of just getting it over with was lost to them.

She took a very smelly Brady up to change his diaper forty five minutes after she'd sent the twins up and found they were still protesting. Milo was standing on his hands leaning against the bed for support while he sang a song and Lucas was flopping around impatiently on his bed. The more minutes that passed the more upset he got. He just wanted to play.

He rolled out of bed and wandered over to Sam. As she got Brady's diaper off he wrapped his arms around her leg and looked up at her with the same sad green eyes she'd seen the last time she'd checked on them.

"What is it, Sweet Boy?" she asked.

"I wanna play," Lucas said.

"As soon as you make your bed you can play all day," Sam told him.

"I don't wanna make my bed," he whined. "I can't. It's hard."

"You can do anything you set your mind to, Baby," Sam said. "It doesn't have to be perfect. I just want you to try."

"It takes me too long," Lucas said. "I need your help."

"It doesn't take long at all," Sam told him as she cleaned Brady up. "If you would've done it forty five minutes ago when I asked you to you would've been done and playing like Gracie."

"Gracie gets to play?" Lucas asked. He didn't like that at all.

"Gracie already made her bed," Sam said. "You could've already had yours made too."

Something finally seemed to click with the three year old and he relented. Sam watched as he struggled to get the blankets straight and the pillow perfectly centered. He straightened and straightened again until he had it like he wanted. When he was finished he sighed heavily as if he'd just completed the most difficult task he'd ever been given.

Sam sat Brady down on the floor and wrapped Lucas in her arms. She kissed his cheek as she held him close to her. "I'm proud of you, Baby Boy," she whispered. "You did a very good job."

"Thank you," Lucas said quietly. "Could I have another kiss?"

Sam happily obliged then turned her attention to Milo who was now lying on his bed with his feet on the wall. Sam laid down next to him with her feet hanging over the side of the bed and looked at him. "Are you gonna lay in bed and pout all day?"

Milo shrugged, looking at Sam with a bright smile on his face. He reached out and traced his fingers over across her face before stroking her hair. "I love you, Mommy," he said.

"I love you too, Milo, but you still have to make your bed," Sam said tapping the end of his nose. "We're gonna go downstairs and play. You can come down as soon as you make your bed."

Milo watched as everyone left him alone. It wasn't so bad when he had Lucas in there to talk to but he didn't like to be by himself. "Stupid bed," he said before throwing his pillow across the room and flopping back down.

Gracie's vintage, lacy black dress and baseball hat outfit had been completed with Tony's flip flops by the time Sam got back downstairs with two of the boys. Gracie got to wear her dad and mom's shoes all the time but Tony's were new and she couldn't resist.

Tony was done on the phone and making some final notes in his notebook.

"How'd it go with the insurance agency?" Sam asked.

"As good as it could I guess," Tony said reaching out for Sam to give him Brady. "They're gonna do their thing and send me a check as long as they don't find anything hinky."

"Well, you'll stay with us until everything gets worked out," Sam said.

"Are you sure?" Tony asked. "You guys already have a house full. They'll put me up in a hotel."

"Hotels don't have the same comforts of home, Sweetheart," Sam said. "There's always room for one more around here. Jethro and I already talked it over. We want you with us."

"I really appreciate that," Tony said.

"Do you want muffins or spaghetti with your tea?" Gracie asked. She'd waited a long time for Tony to play with her and she didn't want to wait any longer. Adults talked too much.

"Spaghetti," Tony answered.

Sam patted his head as she made her way to the kitchen. She wanted to do some baking while she had the chance. With his brother still protesting his chores and Tony playing with Brady and Gracie, Lucas decided to help Mommy. He pushed a chair into the kitchen and climbed up next to her.

"Hi," she said.

"Hi," Lucas replied. "Could I help you make something?"

"What would you like to make?" Sam asked.

Lucas thought real hard about his answer. "Cookies," he finally decided.

"Mmm," Sam hummed. "What kind of cookies?"

"Chocolate," Lucas said. "Can we put frosting on 'em?"

"How about we make homemade Oreos," Sam suggested. "Chocolate cookies with frosting in the middle."

Lucas nodded excitedly. "And I can eat 'em?" he asked.

"Well we're not just stare at 'em!" Sam teased poking at his belly. "Of course you can eat them but we're gonna share with your brothers and sisters too."

"I like sharing," Lucas said.

"I know you do, Baby," Sam said. "Let's wash our hands and get started."

Sam helped Lucas measure, pour and mix the ingredients. The three year old had a blast getting his fingers covered in chocolate and licking it off only to do it again as soon as Sam got his hands washed. They finally managed to get a batch on the cookie sheet and had just put them in the oven when Milo appeared. "I'm done, Mommy," he said.

"Let's go have a look, Baby," Sam said. "Lucas, I want you to sit with Tony till I come back."

She got Lucas away from the hot oven then went upstairs with Milo. It wasn't exactly the neatest job but it was obvious he'd done his best. Sam picked him up and gave him a kiss. "You did a good job, Sweetheart," she said. "I'm very proud of you."

Milo beamed with pride and curled into Sam as she hugged him. "What're you doin' with Lucas?"

"We're making homemade Oreo cookies," Sam said.

"Can you make something with me too?" Milo asked hopefully.

"Sure," Sam said. "What would you like to make?"

Milo shrugged his shoulders as he tinkered with the necklace hanging around her neck. "Something yummy."

"You think about what you wanna make and when Lucas and I are done, you and I will make something," Sam said.

Sam took Milo downstairs and sat him in the living room with Tony then disappeared into the kitchen with Lucas again.

Tony pulled Milo into his lap and ruffled his hair. "Did ya finally decide to make your bed?"

Milo nodded and looked back at Tony. "It was hard work."

"I bet it was," Tony said leaning down and kissing his forehead. "As soon as the tea party's over, you and I can go outside and look for bugs if you want."

"I want to!" Milo said excitedly.

"Alright, go put some clothes on," Tony said standing him up and pointing him towards the stairs.

"How come you wanna look for bugs?" Gracie asked. "Bugs are yucky."

"Yeah, but boys like bugs," Tony explained.

"Boys are yucky," Gracie concluded.

"I'm a boy," Tony said. "Am I yucky?"

Gracie looked at Tony as she considered the question. "Sometimes," she answered.

"I appreciate your honesty," Tony said with a laugh. "I'll try not to be too yucky. Would it be yucky to give you a kiss?"

"No," Gracie said.

Tony kissed her cheek and Gracie returned the kiss. She plopped down in his lap to finish her tea, her baby dolls long forgotten.

"Tony, when it's naptime will you sing to me till I'm asleep?" Gracie asked.

"It would be my honor," Tony said.

Brady crawled over and used Tony to pull himself up. He could stand on his own very well and could cruise along if he had something to hold onto but he hadn't taken a step by himself yet. Tony wrapped an arm around him to steady him and Gracie played peek-a-boo with him, using Tony to hide behind.

Every time Gracie disappeared, Brady's mouth dropped open in surprise. Every time she reappeared he giggled and bounced excitedly. When Milo made it back downstairs he joined in the game as well. Peek-a-boo quickly turned into hide and seek with Gracie and Milo hiding and Tony and Brady seeking.

Sam listened as the living room erupted in a fit of squeals and giggles. It was music to her ears. Lucas was having so much fun making cookies with Momma that not even the noise in the living room could distract him.

When Lucas was done making cookies, Sam called Milo into the kitchen and the two made a big batch of gooey macaroni and cheese for lunch. While that was baking, she showed the three year old how to make octopus hotdogs. After their recent trip to the aquarium, Milo was extra excited about the fun hotdogs. They made a pitcher of Kool-Aid then everybody sat down together to eat lunch.

After lunch it was naptime and a little peace and quiet for Sam and Tony.

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At quarter after two Gibbs sent his team home and headed out to pick Kylee up from school. It had been a long day. He'd pushed his team so they could all get out early. After the long week they'd had and hearing the news about Tony, they wanted to get out of there as much as he did.

He quickly packed his things and headed for Kylee's school to pick her up, calling Sam on the way to let her know he was on his way home and would pick the girls up. He parked the car at Kylee's school and headed in to get her.

"Hi Baby," he said kneeling down so he could kiss her. "Where's your backpack?"

"It's too heavy," Kylee said. "We had to pack some of our stuff up and now I can't carry it." School was nearing its end which meant it was time for supplies that were usually kept there to be brought home.

"Let's see if I can pick it up," Gibbs said taking her hand and walking over to the table she sat at.

He grunted and groaned as he picked the bag up, making a big scene about how heavy it was before finally getting it flung over one arm. Kylee giggled as she watched then took Gibbs' hand and they left and headed for the high school to get Jaycee.

"Daddy, can we go to Dairy Queen for snack today?" Kylee asked.

"Mommy's at home today and she made you something special for snack," Gibbs said.

"What?"

"It's a surprise," Gibbs answered, glancing at her in the rear view mirror, "you're gonna have to wait and see."

"I bet it'll be yummy!" Kylee said excitedly.

"I bet it will be too," Gibbs agreed. "Mommy's a good cook."

They didn't have to wait long at the high school before Jaycee came out. She said goodbye to her friends then hurried to the car.

"I got my cap and gown today!" she said showing off the clear plastic package to Gibbs.

"Nice," Gibbs said. "Next week's the big day."

"I never thought I would graduate from high school," she said truthfully.

"I knew you could do it," Gibbs said. "Sam and I are really proud of you." He wrapped his arm around her and pulled her close enough he could give her a kiss.

"Thanks Gibbs," she said, "that means a lot to me."

Gibbs put the car in gear and got in line to get out of the parking lot. "I didn't look at the schedule on the fridge. Do you have to work today?"

"Yeah, Ty's picking me up at 4:00 or uh, 1400 hours?" Jaycee tried.

"1600," Gibbs corrected. "1400 is 2:00."

"Aw man, I always mess that up," Jaycee grumbled.

"You'll get it," Gibbs said. "You just add whatever time in the afternoon to twelve and that's it. So what time is 7:00?"

"Seven plus twelve?" Jaycee asked.

Gibbs nodded as he pulled out onto the main road.

"Nineteen," Jaycee said, "so it'd be 1900 hours?"

"You got it," Gibbs said. "What time would 3:00 be?"

"1300 hours? No, wait! 1500 hours!" Jaycee said with a bright smile.

"Right," Gibbs said.

"Jaycee, guess what," Kylee said from the back seat. "Mommy made us a snack today."

"Cool," Jaycee said. "I bet it's something super good. I should've stayed home sick today so I could make stuff with her."

"You don't want to start skipping so close to the end," Gibbs told the teenager. "I'm sure Sam will make stuff with you this weekend if you want."

"It just feels like a waste," Jaycee said. "We're not even doing any work at school. I'm ready to be done."

"Almost Kiddo," Gibbs said. "Just try to relax and enjoy the easy days. Sam must be gone," he said noting the van was missing as he pulled into the driveway.

"I wonder if Tony's home," Jaycee said seeing his car in the driveway.

They all got out and headed for the house and were surprised to find it so quiet. Soft voices coming from the kitchen were all that could be heard. Kylee hurried in that direction in search of Tony but found Sam and Gracie instead. Sam scooped her into her arms and Kylee told her all about packing up her school things and her backpack being so heavy that Daddy could barely carry it out. Jaycee got a hug and kiss as well while Gracie got some attention from Gibbs.

"Where's Tony?" Gibbs asked leaning in to give Sam a kiss.

"Shopping for some new clothes," Sam said. "He took Milo and Lucas with him."

Gibbs just laughed at the thought. Crazy didn't even come close to describing what shopping with the boys was like.

"I warned him," Sam said with a laugh.

"Daddy said you made us a yummy snack!" Kylee said. She was anxious to find out what it was.

"I did," Sam said, "actually Lucas helped me. We made homemade Oreo cookies. Go sit down at the table and I'll bring you some."

"Me too?" Gracie asked.

"You too," Sam said.

Gracie wiggled herself out of Gibbs' arms then hurried to the table with her sisters. Gibbs wrapped his arms around Sam and rocked her gently back and forth as placed a series of kisses on top of her head. It was nice to be home and he absolutely loved the mothering side of her.

Sam rubbed his chest as she leaned in and pressed their lips together. "Go get yourself changed," she said softly. "I have some good news for you when you get back."

"What kind of good news?" Gibbs asked.

"It's a surprise," Sam said. "And would you get Brady up while you're up there? He's still sleeping."

Gibbs squeezed her tight and kissed her once more before he headed upstairs. He peeked into the boys' room and found Brady just starting to wake up.

"Hey there, little guy," he cooed gently rubbing the little boy's belly.

Brady blinked his eyes a few times before smiling up at Gibbs. "Dadadada," he said around a yawn.

Gibbs picked him up and kissed his cheek as he felt his diaper. It was heavy; he definitely needed to be changed. "Let's change your diaper," he said taking him over to the changing table.

He grabbed a new diaper and unfastened the infant's onesy while he cooed at him and talked to him. Brady talked back in his own garbled language as he grabbed at his feet and wiggled around. As soon as Gibbs removed the soiled diaper, Brady decided he wasn't finished yet and started peeing again. Gibbs didn't even realized what was happening until he felt the front of his shirt get wet and hot.

"You could've warned me you weren't finished yet," he told Brady as he covered him up with the clean diaper.

"Dadadadadadada," Brady giggled.

"You got Dada all wet," Gibbs said looking down at his shirt.

"Wa," Brady said.

"We-t," Gibbs sounded out.

"Wa!" Brady cheered.

"You'll be talking in no time," Gibbs said. "Say Mama. Ma-ma."

"Wa," Brady said. "Wawawawa. Da. Dadada."

"Ma-ma," Gibbs repeated. "Mama."

Brady reached for Gibbs, watching his mouth and listening to his words before he lost interest and just started kicking his feet and babbling in his own language again. Gibbs got his diaper changed then took Brady to his room so he could change. Once he was cleaned up and in weekend clothes, they headed downstairs.

"I got baby pee on my shirt," he said holding out his polo to Sam.

Sam laughed as she took it from him and rinsed it out in the sink. "He gotcha, huh?" she asked. "The cool air on their little things makes 'em go pee pee."

"Thanks for the warning," Gibbs joked. "You're about ten minutes too late."

Sam just laughed as she tossed his shirt over by the washing machine.

"Brady," Gibbs said. "Ma-ma," he said pointing towards Sam. "Maa-maa."

Brady moved his mouth silently a few times before he tried to mimic Gibbs. "Mu."

"Maa," Gibbs said.

"Maaaaama," Brady said. "Maamaamamama. Da. Dadada. Mamamamama."

Sam smiled brightly at Gibbs as she whisked Brady from his arms. "Mama," she said pointing towards herself.

"Mamama," Brady said with a giggle.

"Oh Jethro, I can't believe it," Sam said happily. "This is turning out to be a good day all around."

"What'd you guys do all day?" Gibbs asked, still smiling over Brady's newly learned word. He grabbed a coffee cup from the cupboard and poured himself a cup.

"Lucas and I made Oreos this morning," Sam said. "Milo and I made mac and cheese and octopus hotdogs for lunch. Gracie and I made pizza dough for dinner. Lots and lots of pizza dough. Brady spoke! Tony got everything all worked with his insurance company then we went over and got his car. It's been a busy day."

"What's my surprise good news?" Gibbs asked as he sipped his coffee.

"The house inspector called," Sam said moving over in front of Gibbs as he leaned against the kitchen counter. "He had a cancellation so he was able to fit our house in. We passed with flying colors."

"That's a huge relief," Gibbs said with a genuine smile. They were in the process of buying the house that was only a mile away. They'd looked at it the previous weekend and loved it. Their realtor knew how quickly they needed to be moved so she was trying to hurrying the process along for them. The previous owners had moved out before they put the house on the market but with all the inspections and paperwork and everything else they had to get done it was still a question mark if they were going to be able to get in within the one month deadline child service's had given them.

"We close next Thursday," Sam said. "I went ahead and set it up while I had them on the phone. "We sign the papers at 9:00."

"0900 hours," Jaycee said with a smile as she came into the kitchen.

"Are you joining the military?" Sam asked pulling the teenager into a one armed hug.

"No," Jaycee said. "It's just fun. Those cookies were delicious."

"Thank you, Baby," Sam said. "They were Lucas' idea. He wanted cookies with frosting."

"Lucas would put frosting on everything if we let him," Jaycee joked.

"What's wrong with that?" Gibbs asked with a straight face.

"Looks like we're gonna have to keep an eye on this one too," Sam teased poking at Gibbs' belly.

Jaycee laughed as she leaned into Gibbs.

Gibbs wrapped an arm around her and kissed the top of her head. She may not have verbalized it but he knew she loved the hugs and kisses. She hadn't gotten many growing up and he and Sam were trying to make up for it. "I'm gonna head out and get some boxes so we can start packing this weekend," he said.

"We got the house?" Jaycee asked. "I mean, you got the house?"

"We got the house," Gibbs said with a wink. "It's yours too, Babe."

"So we don't have to go live with strangers?"

"Never," Sam answered. "Jethro and I aren't gonna let anybody take you guys away from us."

"Can I have another cookie and more milk please?" Gracie asked waving her plate around as she walked into the kitchen. She had chocolate and frosting all over her face and hands.

"No more cookie and milk for you, Sweetie Pie," Gibbs said snatching her plate before she dropped it.

"But I said please!" Gracie said.

"I know you did," Gibbs said, "but I don't want your tummy to hurt. Let's get you cleaned up." He wet a paper towel and wiped her face and hands off. "You wanna go to the hardware store with me to get a few things?" he asked.

"Hardware store. Is that the one with the tools and stuff?" Gracie asked.

"That's the one," Gibbs said.

"Okay but I just have to go change!" Gracie said racing off towards the stairs.

"That girl has an outfit for everything," Gibbs said. "Jaycee, I probably won't see you before you leave for work so have a good evening. Have lots of fun and I'll see you when you get home."

"I will," Jaycee said. "I need to go change too."

"Are you gonna be okay here with Kylee and Brady or do you want me to take one or both of them?" Gibbs asked.

"We'll be fine," Sam said. "Kylee and I can finish up the pizzas for supper tonight. What time are you expecting the team?"

"With them it's no telling," Gibbs said, "but it probably won't be long."

Gracie returned to the kitchen wearing a pair of carpenter pants with the twins' toy hammer hanging out of the hammer loop and a wrench stuffed in the tiny pocket on the other side. The t-shirt Jaycee had helped her pick out said 'Daddy's Little Helper' on it.

Gibbs just smiled at the appropriate outfit. Gracie really did have an outfit for everything. He gave everyone a kiss then took Gracie and left. It was a new rule—another unspoken one. He never left without giving everyone a kiss. Cliché or not, life was too short not to make sure his family knew he loved them.

////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////

By the time Gibbs and Gracie returned home, the driveway as well as the house was full. Gibbs left the boxes and other packing supplies in the truck, grabbed Gracie and they headed inside. Abby was sitting on Tony's lap with her arm wrapped around him, relieved that he was alive. Kylee was on Abby's lap, also wanting to be close to Tony. Tim was holding onto Brady's hands, helping him walk around the living room. Ziva was in the kitchen helping Sam with dinner and the twins were nowhere in sight.

"Hey Boss," Tony said.

"Hi guys," Gibbs said. "Where're the boys?"

"In the backyard, hunting for bugs," Abby answered.

"Eww!" Gracie said turning her nose up. "Those boys are yucky."

"They're just being boys, Sweet Pea," Gibbs said standing her on the floor and patting her head. "Why don't you go change into your pizza eating, movie watching clothes and make sure you put the boys' tools back where you got 'em."

"Okay Daddy," Gracie said as she disappeared up the stairs.

Gibbs greeted everyone, making his way through to the kitchen. Sam and Ziva had several pizzas laid out on the counter and were putting different toppings on all of them. Gibbs snatched a pepperoni away before Sam could swat his hand.

"I saw that," Sam said.

"I'm hungry," Gibbs said kissing her temple.

Sam turned and pressed her lips to his, a smile on her face. "If you can wait about a half an hour I'll take care of that problem," she said.

"I might be able to wait," he replied grabbing a mushroom.

That time Sam did manage to smack his hand but he still managed to pop it into his mouth. "There's not gonna be anything to feed everybody if you keep eating it all," she scolded playfully. "Why don't you eat one of the Oreos, Love?"

Gibbs paused to drop a kiss on Ziva's head before finding the bag of homemade Oreos. "I'm gonna go sit out back with the boys for a little while," he said.

"Have fun," Sam said. "I'll call you when dinner's almost ready."

Gibbs stepped out onto the back patio and watched as the twins scavenged through bushes and looked under rocks in search of any bugs or worms they could find. Both had dirt and mud all over their feet and legs, their shorts, their bare bellies and their hands. They were so focused on their task they didn't even notice they were being watched.

Gibbs snuck up to them and leaned down behind them. "What're we looking for?" he asked softly.

Milo screamed and Lucas jumped in surprise. "Daddy, you scared us!" Lucas scolded.

"Boo," Gibbs said.

"Hey, is that cookie for us?" Milo asked looking at the nearly gone Oreo in Gibbs' hand.

Gibbs smiled, pulled it in two and put half in each of their mouths. "You two are filthy. Look at you."

They looked down their bodies and shrugged. They didn't know what the big deal was. They were boys and boys were supposed to be filthy.

"Look what we found," Milo said holding up the little bug box Gibbs had made from scrap lumber and some extra screen left over from when he'd rescreened his front door.

"Looks like you've got a beetle and a worm in there," Gibbs said. "Lucas, what'd you find, Buddy?"

Lucas held his bug box up and Gibbs saw a cricket and a few ants crawling around. Both went back to searching and Gibbs helped. He loved how sweet and cuddly the girls were but he also enjoyed getting down and dirty with the boys. It wasn't long before Tony joined them.

"You finally get the girls off your lap?" Gibbs asked.

"Yeah," Tony said with a laugh, "I promised to look for bugs with Milo this morning but we never got around to it."

When Sam poked her head out the backdoor to call the guys in for dinner, she found four very messy family members.

"Did you guys go mud wrestling out here? Why are you all so dirty?" she asked.

"We finded lots and lots of bugs, Mommy!" Milo said, proudly showing off his collection.

"I see that, Baby," Sam said. "Are you ready for some pizza?"

"Yeah!" Milo yelled.

"I am," Lucas said.

"Okay," Sam walked outside over the water hose. It was warm enough they could be sprayed down outside. Water was much easier to wipe off the floors than dirt and mud. "Line up, all four of you."

"Are you really gonna spray us down before we can go inside?" Gibbs asked.

"I mopped the floors earlier," Sam said turning the water on.

Milo was first in line to be rinsed off. Gibbs helped wipe the dirt away while Sam sprayed him. Next came Lucas and they went through the same process. When it was Gibbs' turn some of the water deflected off his hands to the front of his pants making him jerk away in surprise.

"Careful," he said, his eyes wide, "that's… cold."

"Sorry," Sam said angling the hose downwards more.

When it was Tony's turn he stepped in front of her with his hands covering himself. "Spraying Jethro was an accident, Sweetheart, but if you hold your hands there I probably will get your crotch," Sam told him. "Come on, I'll be careful. Move your hands."

Tony gave in and Sam sprayed his hands and legs off then they all went inside. The twins were out of their shorts in an instant and in line to get some food while Gibbs and Tony went upstairs to put on dry clothes before eating.

The evening was spent eating pizza and popcorn while watching movies all curled up together in the living room. When Jaycee and Ty got out of work they joined the fun. Ty called his parents and got permission to hang out for a little while.

Tragedies often had a way of bringing people together and encouraging them to make sure their loved ones knew they were loved and for Gibbs and his family it was no different. They faced danger every day. There could never be too many I love yous or hugs and kisses exchanged.

Chapter Text

Ty woke on Saturday morning, a little uncomfortable and surrounded by arms, legs and heads. He rubbed his eyes as he tried to piece together the events of the previous evening and suddenly had a feeling of pure dread in his stomach. He'd called and asked if he could hang out with the Gibbses but he hadn't gotten permission to spend the night. His parents were going to kill him.

He unclenched Milo's fist from his shirt and moved Lucas' foot off his chest—or maybe it was Lucas' fist and Milo's foot, he wasn't sure. Then he carefully lifted Tony's head from his leg and shoved a pillow under it so he could stand.

"Mornin' Kiddo," Gibbs said softly.

Ty jumped as he turned to face Gibbs standing there watching him with Brady tucked under one arm. "My parents are gonna kill me!" he said in a panic.

"No they're not," Gibbs said. "I called 'em last night after you fell asleep."

"Thanks," Ty said letting out a deep sigh of relief. "You really saved my butt."

"I got your back," Gibbs said stepping around the bodies on the floor so he could get to the kitchen.

Gibbs had decided to just let Sam sleep as long as she could. He'd noticed she'd been sleeping much more peacefully as time wore on. The violent struggles she used to have in her sleep had given way to peaceful, deeper sleep as she settled in to family life.

Jaycee walked into the kitchen and smiled at Ty as she made her way over to Gibbs and took Brady from him. She cuddled up against Gibbs as he poured himself a cup of coffee and smiled at her baby brother.

Gibbs dropped a kiss on her head and wrapped his arm around her. "Mornin' Baby," he said.

"Good morning," Jaycee said. "Could I have some of your coffee?"

"Sure," Gibbs said. "Tony probably has some creamer in the fridge."

"I wanna drink it like you," Jaycee said. "I've decided since I'm almost a high school graduate I should learn how to drink coffee."

"You should only drink coffee if you enjoy it, Sweet Pea," Gibbs said handing her his cup.

Jaycee took a little drink and swished it around in her mouth for a moment before swallowing then took another drink and repeated the process. "I don't see what the big deal is," she said handing the cup back to Gibbs.

"What do you mean?" Gibbs asked.

"Everybody's always freaking out about how strong your coffee is and stuff," Jaycee said. "I think it's good."

"I knew there was a reason I liked having you around," Gibbs teased kissing her temple. "How about you guys help me make breakfast today?"

Gibbs, Jaycee and Ty worked together to make breakfast for everybody. It wouldn't be long before there was a hungry mob waiting to be fed. Gibbs worked the griddle making bacon and sausage while Jaycee made hash browns in a pan on the stove and Ty worked on the biscuits and gravy. As the others got up and made their way to the kitchen they helped get breakfast ready then they all sat down together to eat.

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After breakfast and everyone had left, Gibbs and Sam got their crew busy packing. The kids were excited about their new adventure after being constantly reassured that everyone was staying together. They'd get new, bigger rooms, a bigger backyard with a swimming pool and Daddy had promised to build them a playground as well. Moving was nothing new to them but they were thrilled they got to bring their things along this time and didn't have to sneak out in the middle of the night.

The girls took great care packing their things while the twins turned it into a game of basketball, tossing things into boxes from across the room. Sam kept an eye on the girls while starting to pack in her room and Gibbs and Tony did their best to keep the twins under control.

"Tony, I want you to stay here," Gibbs said.

"Stay here? What do you mean?" Tony asked.

"In the house," Gibbs said. "You can live here, if you'd like."

"But Boss," Tony objected. "I can't, I couldn't. This is your house—your home."

"We're moving," Gibbs said.

"But… but… it would feel too weird," Tony said. "This is where you lived with Shannon and Kelly and you built your boats here and—" He sighed, knowing he wasn't really making much sense but he was shocked. Gibbs' house was almost like sacred ground, it was like sitting at his desk at NCIS, driving his car. You just didn't do certain things and Tony wasn't sure if living in Gibbs' house was one of them.

"It's either you or I sell it to a stranger," Gibbs pointed out.

"Are you sure?" Tony asked in a whisper.

Gibbs nodded with the hint of a smile on his lips.

"I insist on paying rent," Tony said.

"Alright," Gibbs said. He understood Tony's need to pay rent. He would've insisted if he'd been in Tony's shoes too. "How's $500 a month sound?" The house had been paid off for years. Money wasn't important to him. What was important was knowing Tony had a safe and affordable place to live.

"$500?!" Tony screeched. "That's like half of what I was paying for that place in DC!"

"Well, places in the city are always more expensive," Gibbs said, "and you'll still have to pay your own utilities. It's gonna cost more to heat this big ole house than it did your apartment."

Tony was quiet as he packed the majority of the boys' books away. "Under one condition," he said, "if you let the kids come visit me sometimes. I don't wanna be in this big house all alone all the time."

Gibbs smiled as he tipped his head in amusement. He held his hand out to Tony and the two shook on the deal. He would much rather his longtime friend and surrogate son live there than sell it to a stranger. Despite the loss of Tony's apartment and all his stuff, things were working out nicely.

"Thank you, Boss," Tony said, "and I really mean that. I'm honored and grateful and all those emotions that men don't talk about. Yeah. I'm all those."

Gibbs bumped his shoulder into Tony's in a show of affection then they continued helping the boys pack.

////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////

Thursday was quite possibly the craziest day Gibbs and Sam had had yet but with six kids in the house they'd become masters at dealing with crazy.

"We sign the papers for the house at 9:00, right," Gibbs clarified as he tucked his t-shirt into his jeans.

"Yes," Sam said.

"Jaycee graduates at 7:30 tonight," Gibbs said.

"And we need to have her there by 6:30," Sam said.

"The team is meeting us over at the new place around 10:00," Gibbs said. "Hopefully closing won't take much longer than that."

The moving van had been packed and was parked in Gibbs' driveway. While the kids were at school and daycare, the team was coming over to help them unpack at their new house. Child services was coming over the following Monday to make sure everything was suitable for the kids. They were in a major time crunch.

"Abby's gonna be late," Sam said. "I forgot to tell you. She called last night and said she'd be there around noon."

"She okay?" Gibbs asked furrowing his brow.

"I guess," Sam said. "She said not to worry. I'll go downstairs and help Tony with breakfast if you'll peek in on Jaycee before we leave."

Gibbs headed into the girls' room and wasn't surprised in the least to find Jaycee still asleep. She'd had a half day of school the previous day and no school that day. She'd been looking forward to sleeping in a little and Gibbs hated to wake her but he also didn't like to leave without saying goodbye to the kids.

"Jaycee," he whispered softly as he rubbed her back.

The girl opened her eyes just enough to see Gibbs' face and smiled. Her first full day of freedom.

"Sam and I are getting ready to leave to take the little ones to school and daycare," Gibbs said. "You gonna ride over to the house with Tony when he comes?"

Jaycee nodded as she brushed the sleep out of her eyes.

"If you want we can leave you a car and you come over whenever you feel like it," Gibbs offered brushing his thumb across her cheek.

"I'll come with Tony," Jaycee said. "I really wanna help. Ty's coming over too."

"Good," Gibbs said, "we'll put that testosterone to good use."

"Gibbs?"

"Hmm?"

"I know you're only gonna be gone for a little while but could I have a kiss?"

"Have I ever left here without giving you a kiss?" Gibbs asked leaning over the rail and pressing his lips to her forehead.

"No," Jaycee said with a smile.

"I'm so proud of you, Baby," he said as he tucked a strand of her hair behind her ear. "Sam and I both are. We wish we could spend the day celebrating your achievements but we're gonna make it up to you. Okay?"

"Just having a warm safe place to call home is more than I could ever ask for," Jaycee said.

"Everybody should have a place to call home, Kiddo," Gibbs said. "We wanna do more than that for you because we love you."

"As long as you know you don't have to," Jaycee said. "I'm not expecting anything."

"We know you're not," Gibbs said, "but you're worth it, you deserve it and so much more."

Jaycee gave a playful roll of her eyes, knowing Gibbs wasn't going to back down. "Will you give me a piggyback ride downstairs?" she asked.

"Sure," Gibbs said with a smile.

Jaycee crawled out of the top bunk and Gibbs hoisted her thin body onto his back then headed down to the kitchen and put her down by Sam. Sam wrapped the teenager in her arms and kissed her forehead as she rubbed her back.

"Morning Love," she said. "I just told Jethro to tell you were leaving, not haul you out of bed."

"I asked him to give me a piggyback ride," Jaycee laughed.

"Hey Kiddo," Tony said pausing to kiss the top of her head before stuffing the granola bar and pop-tart wrappers in the garbage can. "We're taking you out to breakfast to celebrate so don't eat anything."

"We?" Jaycee asked.

"Abby, Timmy, Ziva and I," Tony said. "Ty's coming too. He just doesn't know it yet."

"Really?" Jaycee asked with a wide smile.

"Yep," Tony said. "Now, unless you wanna go in your jammies, which would be fine with me by the way, you'd better go get changed."

Jaycee threw her arms around Tony and squeezed him tight before kissing everybody goodbye and hurrying back upstairs. Even though Gibbs and Sam always went out of their way to spoil her, she still wasn't used to people doing special things with and for her.

"What's going on with Abby?" Gibbs asked moving over in front of Tony. He still had an uneasy feeling about her being late but if she was meeting them for breakfast he suspected she might be up to something. He also realized she'd called Sam instead of him because if she'd called him he would've questioned her until she told him what was going on. Abby wasn't very good at keeping secrets from him.

"Abby? Uh, I dunno what you're talking about, Boss," Tony said, obviously lying.

Gibbs narrowed his eyes at the younger man, knowing he was lying but if Tony knew what was up that meant it was nothing bad and as long as it was nothing bad Gibbs could deal with whatever it was.

////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////

Tony picked Tim up since he lived close to Ty then they headed over and picked Ty up. His parents had already been contacted and knew what was going on. He and his girlfriend were getting a special breakfast in honor of their graduation then they were going to spend the day helping unpack the moving van before the ceremony that night.

Both teenagers were put in the backseat and blindfolded then they were off. Marcus, their boss, was opening the restaurant early and brining in a chef just for them. They could have whatever they wanted and Marcus himself would serve them. They were great employees and he'd be sad to see them go in the fall. Jaycee had overcome incredible obstacles and it was rare to find a teenager as loving and committed as Ty was. The world needed more young people like them.

Abby and Ziva were waiting at the restaurant when Tony and Tim arrived. The girls helped Jaycee in and the guys led Ty in. Marcus seated them at the table Ty and Jaycee had eaten dinner at the night they'd met then they let them take their blindfolds off.

"Sammie's in the kitchen waitin' to make you guys whatever you want," Marcus said.

"But we're not open for breakfast," Jaycee said.

"We are today," Marcus said, "only for you guys. I've got a kitchen full of ingredients, be creative. Go wild."

"How'd you guys get Marcus to open early?" Ty asked.

"We're his best customers," Tony said. "He jumped at the chance!"

Ty looked at Tony skeptically. The team did come in often when Ty and Jaycee were working but opening the restaurant early for one table was a big deal.

"We just asked," Tim said. "He was glad to do it."

"He loves you guys," Abby added. "We all do."

"I'm thinking ice cream for breakfast!" Tony said excitedly.

////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////

Gibbs and Sam couldn't wait to get out of the title office. Signing for their new home seemed to have taken forever and being called into the office late didn't help matters either. The stressful process ended at 10:30, about a half an hour later than they would've liked but it was over and they were now the proud new owners of a home large enough to house all their little ones. They got in the car and headed for their new house, both of them all smiles.

"I've never been a homeowner before," Sam said. "It's exciting."

"It's got its perks," Gibbs said. "I wanted to talk to you about something else before we get to the house."

"What is it, Love?" Sam asked resting a hand on his forearm as he drove.

"With Jaycee graduating and getting ready to turn eighteen in a couple months, I was thinking about adopting the kids, Jaycee included," Gibbs said. "When she goes off to college I want her to know she always has a place to come home to and people who love her."

"I think that'd be good for her," Sam said, "good for all of them."

Gibbs took Sam's hand in his and rubbed his thumb over her fingers. "I want you to do it with me, Sam," he said. "I want to marry you and raise this big, crazy family together. I know this isn't the most romantic proposal and I'm not down on my knee. Hell, I don't even have a ring to give you yet but I'll get you one. I promise. Will you marry me, Samantha?"

Their eyes met as Gibbs stopped the car at a red light. Sam reached over and touched his cheek with her free hand as she searched his eyes. "This is all from your heart, isn't it, Baby?" she asked.

"Yeah," Gibbs said softly. "I'm not very good at all the romantic gestures. If I was I'd have a ring to put on your finger and some flowers to give you. We'd be in some fancy restaurant instead of sitting in traffic. I'd be wearing a tux and you'd be in one of those beautiful evening gowns I get to see you in on rare occasions. The truth is I love you, Sam, and I wanna spend the rest of my life showing you and taking care of you and raising our kids together and being pampered by you and holding you and kissing you."

"I don't pamper you anywhere near as much as I should," Sam said with a shaky voice as tears threatened to overwhelm her. "The kids keep me too busy but that's no excuse and I'm gonna change that."

Gibbs squeezed her hand, patiently waiting while she rambled.

"Yes, Jethro, yes, I will marry you," Sam said, "and for the record, that was the most romantic proposal ever. I don't want a big show. I don't want you to do what society expects. I want to look into your eyes and hear the words coming right from your heart."

The car behind them honked its horn angrily and Gibbs realized the light was green. He squeezed Sam's hand tightly as he stepped on the gas.

"I love you, Jethro," Sam said.

"I love you," Gibbs said.

"Why don't you ever say too?" Sam asked gently.

"Hmm?"

"Why don't you ever say I love you too when I say it first?" she clarified.

Gibbs shrugged as he turned down their new street. "Because to me that makes it sound like I'm only saying it because you said it first."

"How were you divorced three times?" Sam asked. "You're so romantic."

"I'm not romantic," Gibbs said with a laugh.

"Sure you are," Sam said. "You just have to get past that rough exterior."

Gibbs parked the car in the street in front of the house and Tony, Tim, Ziva, Jaycee and Ty got out to greet them. They all immediately noticed it looked like Sam had been crying but none of them wanted to say anything. Tony looked back at the others and decided if they weren't going to ask, he would.

"What happened?" he asked, unsure if he wanted to know the answer. "Did we not get the house?"

"We got the house," Gibbs said rattling the keys in the air.

"I'm no longer Jethro's girlfriend," Sam said, doing her best not to smile at the horrified look on Tony's face, "I'm his fiancé! We're engaged!"

By the time Tony processed what she'd said Jaycee was throwing her arms around Sam before leaping into Gibbs' arms. Ty hugged both Gibbs and Sam and got a kiss from Sam then Tony, Tim and Ziva did the same.

"Jaycee gradates, you guys got a new house and now you two are getting married," Tim said. "I'm not sure if this day could handle any more good news. Congratulations!"

"Just wait till Abby finds out," Ziva said.

"Where is Abby?" Gibbs asked.

"She told you she's gonna be late," Tony said. "She's fine. I promise. Let's start getting this stuff unloaded."

The guys spent the next hour and a half unloading boxes into the garage. They needed to get the truck emptied so they could return to the old house and pack the beds. It would be easier to bring a few boxes at a time into the house and get them put away rather than being surrounded by boxes. While they did that Sam, Ziva and Jaycee got started taking boxes to the correct rooms and unpacking them.

"Sam!" Gibbs called out when they'd finished unloading the truck.

"I'm right here, Love," she answered coming around the corner from the kitchen.

"Oh, didn't mean to yell," Gibbs said. "I didn't realize you were right there."

"What's up?" Sam asked before giving him a quick kiss.

"We're done unloading the truck," Gibbs said. "I'm gonna take Tony, Tim and Ty and we're gonna head back to the house and start taking beds apart so we can get them over here. Do you ladies wanna take a break and grab some lunch together or go our separate ways or what? We can get pizza delivered or I can go grab some burgers—"

"I think we should get pizza delivered and all wait here for it to come," Tony interrupted as he nervously glanced at his watch.

"If we get pizza delivered it's gonna be to the other house so we can work while we're waiting," Gibbs said. "We don't have time to wait around."

"Uh, okay, I just have to hit the head before we go," Tony said before hurrying off.

"What is going on with him today?" Gibbs asked watching as the young agent disappeared.

"I don't know," Sam said curiously. "He is acting strange. I think we'll wait until Abby gets here to do lunch. I don't want her to be left out so if you guys wanna get whatever you want on your way over to the house that's fine."

Gibbs wrapped his arms around her and pulled her into a tight hug.

"Welcome home," Sam said cuddling into him as he kissed her forehead.

"You too," Gibbs said.

"Agent Gibbs?"

"What's up, Ty?" Gibbs asked not letting go of Sam.

"Well, Tim and I were just wondering what's going on, like if we should come in and do something or… something," Ty said.

"We're just waiting on Tony to get out of the bathroom," Gibbs said. He kissed Sam one more time then let her go. "Have you unpacked anything to drink out of?"

"Yep and I already ran some dishwater and washed a few cups for you guys but you're stuck with lukewarm tap water for the time being," Sam said.

"I'll take it," Gibbs said grabbing a cup. "Ty, are you thirsty, Buddy?"

"Yeah," Ty said.

Gibbs filled a glass with water for Ty then called Tim into the house and got him some water as well. Once Tony had been in the bathroom for fifteen minutes, he was really starting to get impatient.

"What is he doing in there?" Gibbs asked obviously frustrated.

"I'll go," Sam said grabbing Gibbs' arm as he tried to leave to go check on Tony. "Stay here, drink your water."

Sam left the others in the dining room and headed for the downstairs bathroom. "Tony," she called as she knocked on the door, "are you okay, Honey? Are you sick? Do you need some medicine?"

"I'm okay," Tony said. "Really. Everything's fine in here."

"What's going on, Baby? You're acting kind of strange today. Is something bothering you?"

Tony opened the door with a charming smile on his face. "I'm fine," he assured her. "I just had to go potty before we left."

"Fifteen minutes in there and you didn't even flush the toilet," Sam observed already knowing he'd been lying.

"Oh, right," Tony said flushing the toilet. "There we go."

"DiNozzo!" Gibbs called.

"Abby's here!" Tim called.

"Abby!" Tony said excitedly. "Come on," he said hurrying Sam along.

Sam just shook her head as she followed Tony back down the hall and through the house to where the others were. They made it just as the door was opening and the new arrivals stepped in.

"Dad," Gibbs said in shock. "What are you doing here?"

"I believe I have some grandkids I've never met," Jack said with a cheerful smile. "I hear there's a graduation ceremony tonight. What kind of grandpa would I be if I missed that?"

Gibbs smiled, completely in shock as he hugged his dad. "Sam, this is my dad, Jack."

"Very nice to meet you, Jack," Sam said.

"Sheesh, Abs!" Tony scolded. "What took you so long? I almost couldn't stall any longer."

"Sorry," Abby said. "I got a tiny bit lost."

"Lost?" Tony said. "All you had to do was look for the ginormous moving van in the driveway!"

"We were one street over," Abby said. "We couldn't see it."

"Relax Sweetheart," Sam said patting Tony's shoulder. "They're here now."

"And Gibbs is pis—uh, mad," he looked around and realized there were no children present, "Gibbs is pissed and you think I'm sick and this wasn't how it was supposed to be."

Abby walked over to Tony and gave him a big hug and didn't let go until he hugged her back.

"We appreciate your sacrifice," Sam said. "Everything's fine now."

"If you feel up to it we've got some beds to take apart at the old place, Dad," Gibbs said. "You can watch or whatever you feel up to doing."

"I still know my way around a wrench," Jack said.

"Let me go get Jaycee," Gibbs said with a smile. "She's the oldest. She's graduating tonight."

"I'm not going anywhere," Jack said.

"She's in the twins' room," Sam told Gibbs before turning back to Jack. "Wait till you meet those two. They're a riot!"

"Looking forward to it," Jack said.

Gibbs took the stairs two at a time and made his way to what would be the twins' new room. Jaycee had it almost all arranged for them, the bookcase and toy box in one corner, their dressers in another and a spot for their beds on the wall opposite of the windows. She was working on unpacking books, clothes and toys when Gibbs came in and turned her radio off.

"Are we leaving?" she asked.

"No, come here," Gibbs said. "There's someone I want you to meet."

"Who?" Jaycee asked nervously.

"Come on," Gibbs said. "It's a surprise."

Jaycee took Gibbs' hand and let him lead her down the stairs into the kitchen where everybody was. She immediately spotted the stranger smiling brightly at her.

"Jaycee, this is my dad, Jack," Gibbs said. "Dad, this is Jaycee."

"It's very nice to meet you, Jaycee," Jack said extending his hand for a formal handshake.

"Get in there and hug him," Abby encouraged nudging Jaycee over to him. "Grandpa Jack gives the best hugs."

"You smell like Gibbs," Jaycee said as she hugged Jack.

"He smells like me," Jack corrected with a wink. "I didn't realize you guys were moving until Abby picked me up at the airport."

"We could use the extra set of hands," Gibbs said. "We have until Monday to get this place looking like a home."

"Abby told me," Jack said. "I'm happy to help."

"If you didn't know we were moving, how come you came?" Jaycee asked.

"I heard that a very special young lady is graduating from high school tonight," Jack said wrapping an arm around her and pulling her into his side.

Jaycee smiled as Gibbs winked at her.

"I hate to break this up but we really do need to get going," Gibbs said. "I'd like to have the last load of stuff over here and drop the van off on the way to pick Kylee up from school."

The guys went one way, Tony already on the phone with a nearby pizza joint getting a few pizzas delivered and the girls loaded up in Abby's car and headed out to pick up some subs. Sam bought a few cookies for the little ones to snack on since she wouldn't be able to make them anything like she usually did if she was home. They had been planning on leaving the kids in daycare until that evening but with Jack around those plans could change and she wanted to be prepared for whatever happened. It wasn't like the cookies would go to waste.

After lunch it was back to work for everybody.

Chapter Text

Gibbs and Tony pulled into Kylee's school just as the final bell was ringing. Gassing up the moving van and dropping it off had taken longer than expected.

"Be right back," Gibbs told Tony.

He hurried into the kindergarten wing of the elementary school hoping Kylee hadn't started to panic yet. He and Sam always tried to arrive before the bell rang to keep her from worrying. He stepped around the other kids and their parents and found Kylee helping clean the dry erase board.

"Look who's here," her teacher said.

Kylee turned and smiled from ear to ear. "Daddy!" she said racing into Gibbs' arms. "I got to help clean the board!"

"Wow!" Gibbs said kissing her cheek. "That sounds pretty special. Did you have a good day?"

"Uh-huh."

"Guess who's waiting for us in the car," Gibbs said.

"Jaycee or Mommy?" Kylee guessed.

"Nope, they're waiting for us at home," Gibbs said, "Tony's in the car."

"He is?" Kylee asked excitedly. "Let's go! Let's go!"

"Hold on, Sweet Pea," Gibbs said, turning to her teacher. "Is she gonna miss anything if she doesn't come tomorrow?"

Kylee's teacher shook her head. "We're just going to be playing some games, eating some treats, saying our goodbyes, just taking it easy."

"I'm not sure if she'll be here or not," Gibbs said. "Her sister's graduating tonight and we have an out of town visitor."

"How fun," the teacher said. "In that case I'd like my hug today in case I don't get to see you tomorrow, Sweetie. Have fun in first grade. I'm gonna miss you. You were a pleasure to have in class."

Kylee hugged her teacher then grabbed a hold of Gibbs' hand and drug him out of the building. She spotted Tony standing on the sidewalk next to their van and raced into his outstretched arms.

"Hey Baby Girl," he said picking her up and swinging her around. "How was school?"

"I got to help clean the board!" Kylee said happily.

"That is awesome!" Tony said kissing her forehead. "Let's get you all buckled in then we're going to pick up Gracie and your brothers."

"What home are we going to now?" Kylee asked.

"We're going to the new one," Gibbs said fastening his seatbelt before starting the van.

"But Tony still lives with us, right?" Kylee asked.

"Yep," Gibbs said. "Tony's gonna stay with us for a little while until he can get some furniture to put in his house."

"I hope he never gets furniture and then he can live with us forever," Kylee said.

Gibbs smirked as Tony turned and patted Kylee's leg. "I'm gonna live a lot closer to you than I used to," he said. "We'll be able to hang out all the time, Munchkin."

///////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////

Jaycee came out to help Gibbs and Tony get the little ones inside when she saw the van pull up. The twins freed themselves from their booster seats and raced past all the boxes in the garage into the kitchen.

"We're home, Mommy!" Lucas screamed.

"We need out hugs and kisses!" Milo added.

"I'm in here, boys," Sam called. "Follow my voice."

"Marco," Milo said.

"Polo," Lucas finished.

"You're not supposed to say Polo, Mommy is," Milo said. "Marco!"

"Polo," Sam called.

Milo took one step towards Sam's voice. "Marco."

"Polo," Sam called.

Lucas decided he wasn't going to wait around and raced right by Milo in search of Sam. Milo took off after him and they found Sam in the living room. Both of them took a flying leap onto the couch and scurried into her lap. She kissed them all over, tickled their bellies and ruffled their hair before Lucas saw someone out of the corner of his eye.

"Who is you?" he asked looking at Jack.

"This is your grandpa," Sam answered. "This is your daddy's dad."

"Grandpa?" Lucas asked walking over to the chair Jack was sitting in. "I didn't know we haved a grandpa."

"You did too, Silly," Sam said. "Papa told you about Grandpa at Christmas, remember? We made him Christmas cards?"

"Oh!" Lucas said. "Now I remember."

Tony came in carrying Brady and Kylee and Gibbs carrying Gracie who was in full pout mode.

"What's the matter with Little Miss Gracie?" Sam asked rubbing her back.

"She's upset with me because I told her she couldn't go swimming in our new pool today," Gibbs answered handing the four year old off to Sam.

"We have too much to do today, Baby," Sam said, "but we'll get to go swimming soon. It's not even summer yet so there's plenty of time."

"Who's he?" Gracie asked looking at Jack over Sam's shoulder.

"That's your grandpa," Sam answered. "He came to see you guys."

"How am I supposed to tell you fellas apart?" Jack asked looking down at the twins who'd crawled into his lap.

"Lucas has a scar just below his hairline," Gibbs said showing Jack the mark. "Once you get to know them it's pretty easy. This is Gracie and Kylee and Tony has Brady."

"It might take me some time to learn everybody's name," Jack said.

"Took us awhile too, Dad," Gibbs joked. "Where are the others?"

"Upstairs," Sam answered. "Abby's helping Jaycee in her room and Ziva and Tim are putting beds together." Gibbs and Tony had dropped Ty off on their way to pick the kids up.

"Okay, I'm gonna go help them, see if we can start getting this place in shape," Gibbs said. "Do we have everything we need for Jaycee's graduation tonight?"

"Yes," Sam said, "That's in the car so I know where to find it."

"Smart," Gibbs said with a smiled. He leaned in and kissed her then headed for the stairs with Tony right behind him.

///////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////

The parking lot surrounding the auditorium that Jaycee's graduation was being held in was bustling with activity when Gibbs, Sam and Jack arrived with the nervous teenager. The team was home with the younger kids, knowing a long commencement ceremony would be too much for them to handle.

"Oh my gosh, there's Ty!" Jaycee said bouncing in her seat and pointing. "Will you let me out? I wanna walk in with him."

"Sure Kiddo," Gibbs said. He beeped the horn at Ty then let Jaycee out before heading off to find a parking spot. It took a little bit of patience but he finally managed to get one close to the door so his dad wouldn't have to walk as far. They made their way into the auditorium and sat down in the closest seats they could get.

They passed the hour long wait with conversation about what Jack had been up to, how the kids were and Sam getting to know Jack a little better. It had been a crazy day with the move and they hadn't had much of an opportunity to just talk. Gibbs told his dad of their engagement and about adopting the kids and Jack couldn't have been happier for his son.

The group sat patiently through the introductions and speeches and watched as the other seniors crossed the stage to receive their diplomas. When it was Jaycee's turn they cheered and whistled loudly, making sure she heard them. They'd known her for less than a year but they'd been through enough with her in that time period to make it seem like they'd known her a lifetime. They were just as proud if not prouder than the other parents.

Jaycee was so different than the girl Gibbs had found huddled behind the dumpster in the rainstorm. She had a real chance at life, at happiness and at fulfilling her dreams. There was no doubt in Gibbs and Sam's minds that she'd be the best chef in whatever city or town she decided to settle in although both hoped she'd stay close to home. Gibbs knew it wouldn't be long before he was walking her down the aisle and giving her to Ty either. He wasn't much of a sentimental guy but he quickly wiped the stray tear from the corner of his eye before it could escape and when Sam held tighter to his hand he knew she'd seen it.

"You did a good job with her," she whispered.

"So did you," Gibbs replied before giving her a quick kiss.

They sat patiently through the rest of the ceremony, making a big deal out of Ty crossing the stage as well then found their teenagers milling around in the lobby. Jaycee hugged both Gibbs and Sam tightly. She was so proud of her accomplishment and still in disbelief that she was a high school graduate. Ty got a firm handshake from Gibbs and a big hug from Sam. Jack congratulated both of them. They took lots of pictures to remember the special occasion then headed back to the house.

///////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////

Even though neither of them were going to work that day, both Gibbs and Sam got up with Tony. Sam made him a filling breakfast which he'd learned to eat ever since he'd moved in with them. The days of breakfast burritos from the nearby fast food joints or skipping the meal completely were over but Tony didn't mind. He loved to eat and Sam was a good cook.

Gibbs made the coffee then sat at the table with Tony and went over what he needed to accomplish that day in his head. The main thing was getting the kids' rooms looking like kids rooms and the rest of the house at least presentable. If the garage was still filled with boxes on Monday when Child Services showed up then so be it. He just needed to have enough done that they wouldn't take the kids.

"I'm coming with you this morning, Tony," Gibbs said as the young man finished up his omelet.

"Huh? Thought you weren't working today," Tony said.

"I'm not," Gibbs said. "Sam and I got Jaycee a graduation gift. I need you to drop me off so I can pick it up."

Tony looked around to make sure they were alone then leaned closer to Gibbs. "If I'm only dropping you off that can only mean one thing—car?"

Gibbs smiled and nodded. "Shh."

Tony zipped his lips and tossed the imaginary key away.

"Have a good day at work, Honey," Sam said patting Tony's shoulder. "You guys stay outta trouble. And you, Mister," she said resting both hands on Gibbs' shoulders, "I love you. Hurry back." She leaned down and hugged him, nuzzling into him and inhaling his unique scent.

"I love you," Gibbs said, "and I will." He and Sam shared a kiss then he and Tony headed out.

///////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////

Sam was busy rinsing the dishes she'd just unpacked so she could get them put away when Gibbs reappeared at the house. They were clean when she packed them but after wrapping them in newspaper they needed to be washed before being put away. The kids were still sleeping with the exception of Gracie who was reading the morning paper with Grandpa.

"Jaycee up yet?" Gibbs asked.

"Nope," Sam answered. "Just Gracie reading to Grandpa."

"I see," Gibbs said smiling at the two. "Anything interesting going on in the world today?"

"Well, the neighbor cat got married to the other neighbor dog, there's a sale on flowers at the library and the ice cream shop is giving away free ice cream to Jaycee and her sisters since she graduated last night," Jack said with a wink.

"All kinds of fun stuff," Gibbs said rubbing his hand over Gracie's messy curls.

Gracie lifted her arms to her dad and he lifted her up and kissed her cheek. She returned the favor and added a hug.

"How'd you sleep in your new room?" Gibbs asked.

"Good," Gracie said, "'cept Kylee cried."

"How come?"

"She wanted Jaycee," Gracie said rubbing her fingers over Gibbs' stubbly chin.

"I was wondering why she was still sleeping," Sam said. Kylee was usually one of the first ones up.

"I'll talk to her when she gets up," Gibbs said.

"Since you're home I'm gonna go take a quick shower before everybody else gets up," Sam said.

Gibbs watched her leave then handed Gracie back to his dad. "Can you watch her for a second?" he asked. "I'll be right back."

"Don't make too much noise up there," Jack said with an amused chuckle.

"Dad!" Gibbs said. "That's not exactly what I had planned. Behave yourself," he scolded playfully.

Gibbs took the stairs two at a time and hurried down the hall towards their bedroom. He found Sam in the bathroom just finishing up brushing her teeth.

"Something wrong, Love?" she asked.

"No," Gibbs said taking her hand and leading her out to the window seat in their room. It was the only place to sit besides their bed. "I went by the jewelry store this morning after I picked up Jaycee's car."

Sam smiled at Gibbs as she reached out and rested her hand on his knee. He pulled a little black box out his pocket, hoping it'd be good enough for her. He hadn't chosen the most expensive ring in the shop. It wasn't the biggest or fanciest. He knew Sam didn't want big and showy. She preferred honest and heartfelt. He opened the box to reveal a white gold band with a beautiful diamond arrangement.

"I'm sorry I didn't have this yesterday when I proposed," he said softly as he took the ring out of the box.

Sam brushed a shaky hand down the side of Gibbs' face as she stared at the ring. "It's beautiful," she whispered as Gibbs slipped it onto her finger.

"I love you," Gibbs said framing her face in his hands and leaning in for a kiss.

"I love you, Jethro," Sam said.

"Take your shower," Gibbs said with a smile. "I'll see you downstairs."

"Don't let Jaycee see the car before I get there," Sam said. She leaned in and kissed him then she went back into the bathroom and he headed back down the hall.

Gibbs heard movement in Gracie and Kylee's room and decided to check on the five year old. He and Sam had given her the choice of going to school that day or staying home with everybody and she'd decided to stay home. He peeked in and saw her face buried in her pillow and her body shaking horribly.

"Kylee," he said sitting down next to her and resting a hand on her back.

"Daddy!" Kylee sobbed.

"What's the matter, Baby?" Gibbs asked picking her up.

Kylee wrapped her arms around Gibbs' midsection and held on for dear life as she continued crying into his shirt. Gibbs kissed her head and rocked her back and forth trying to calm her.

"Where is everybody?" Kylee finally managed to get out.

"Mommy's in the shower, the boys are still sleeping, Jaycee's still sleeping and Gracie's downstairs with Grandpa," Gibbs answered. "Were you afraid we left you here?"

"I don't know," Kylee said. "Where's Jaycee?"

"She's sleeping down the hall in her room," Gibbs answered. He knew it would be an adjustment for Kylee but it was a nice baby step for when Jaycee moved out completely to go to college. He wasn't looking forward to that. "Everybody's here, everything's okay. Moving to a new house takes some getting used to." He wiped the tears from her cheeks then pulled her close and kissed her head again. "You wanna come downstairs with me?"

Kylee nodded her head and Gibbs stood with her in his arms and headed downstairs where Jack and Gracie were having a bowl of cereal. He poured himself another cup of coffee and made Kylee a bowl of cereal then sat down at the table.

"Everything okay?" Jack asked when he realized Kylee had been crying.

"Yeah," Gibbs said stroking Kylee's hair. "We're just trying to get used to new rooms and different roommates."

"Perfectly understandable," Jack said.

Jaycee was the next one to appear in the breakfast nook of the dining room. She sat down next to Kylee and wrapped her arm around her little sister. "Missed ya last night," she said with a smile.

"I missed you too," Kylee said. "I thought you left me."

"Nah," Jaycee said, "I wouldn't do that to you."

"Want some of my cereal?" Kylee offered.

"No thanks," Jaycee said looking at the soggy honeycombs floating around in the milk. "Do we know where the granola bars or pop-tarts are, Gibbs?"

"I think I saw a box of granola bars next to the cereal," Gibbs said. "Sit tight, I'll get you one."

"Thank you."

Sam came downstairs with all three boys after her shower and Gibbs helped her get breakfast ready for them then he fed Brady while she ate. They were still gathered around the table when D'Arcy rang the doorbell.

"Thought we had till Monday," Gibbs teased.

"You do," D'Arcy said. "I thought I'd let you have a peek at the checklist we'll be using."

"That'd be a huge help," Gibbs said taking the paper from her. "Come on in, I need to find my glasses. Want some breakfast?"

"No thank you," D'Arcy said before greeting all the children. Gibbs introduced her to his dad while he searched the kitchen counter for his glasses. He'd had them earlier that morning when he'd picked up Jaycee's car.

"If you're looking for your glasses they're in here, Love," Sam called.

"I knew that," Gibbs said with a smirk.

"Mm-hmm," Sam hummed handing them to him.

Gibbs went over the list then passed it off to Sam. It wasn't anything they couldn't handle. The kids' rooms were well on their way and to the naked eye the rest of the house was looking good too. There may not have been any movies in the TV cabinet or books in the bookshelves but the furniture was all put together and where it needed to be and they had a couple days and a lot of help to get boxes unpacked.

"I think this is all doable," Gibbs said. "Obviously we have clothes, books and toys for the kids. It's just a matter of unpacking them and now we have enough room. We should be all set. Is it gonna be a problem if my dad's here? We have him in Brady's room but it's not permanent. He's just visiting. I can send him and Tony to the old house if you think we need to."

"Shouldn't be a problem at all," D'Arcy said. "You might even get bonus points for having a loving, involved family."

"Thank you so much all your help through this, D'Arcy," Sam said. "There was a time I was worried it wasn't gonna happen but we did it—well, almost."

"You guys are miracle workers," D'Arcy said, "and I'm not talking about just getting yourselves moved; I'm talking about taking in five children off the street and adding another one to the mix months later."

"We couldn't imagine life without them," Gibbs said.

"I wish I could stay and help but I've got an obscene amount of work waiting for me," D'Arcy said. "I'll see you guys soon."

"Thanks D'Arcy," Sam said.

Gibbs showed the woman out then rejoined his family. Once the kids finished eating and breakfast was cleaned up they decided it was time to give Jaycee her gift.

"Alright, Jaycee," Gibbs said, "Sam and I have your graduation present all ready for you but we couldn't find the wrapping paper in this mess so we're gonna blindfold you and take you to it, okay?"

"Okay," Jaycee said, "but you really didn't have to get me anything."

"We wanted to," Sam said.

Gibbs grabbed an old scarf he'd set aside that morning and turned it into a blindfold. Once he was sure Jaycee couldn't see he guided her towards the front door with her clinging tightly to him.

"Relax, Baby, I'm not gonna let you run into anything," he said. He opened the front door and helped her get down the few steps without falling then stood her in the driveway next to the vehicle. Sam, Jack and the little ones all gathered around, laughing and giggling in excitement.

"Alright, take your blindfold off," Gibbs said.

Jaycee hesitated briefly before pulling the scarf away from her eyes. Her mouth fell open and she couldn't seem to get any words out as she stared at the bright red Jeep Cherokee. After her previous accident Gibbs had wanted something a little bigger than a car. The four wheel drive would be good for winter driving and the car was well-built and would keep her safe. He'd gotten a really good deal on it too.

"What-what if wreck this car too?" Jaycee asked, feeling very unworthy of her gift. She still wasn't thrilled about driving and only drove when she had to.

"If something happens to this one we'll just get you another one," Sam said. "It's not a big deal. You're a good driver, Baby. It's all those other nuts out on the road we have to worry about."

"Come on, let's take it for a spin," Gibbs said handing the key to her.

Jaycee chewed on her lower lip as she looked back and forth from the key to Gibbs. "I'm sorry I'm scared," she said. "I really do like the car and I appreciate it. I just don't wanna mess it up."

"You're not gonna mess anything up, Babe," Gibbs said. "You and I are gonna do a lot of driving this summer because when you leave for school in the fall I want you to have your confidence back. I don't want you to be afraid to go places or do things because you've gotta drive there. You're a good driver."

Jaycee nodded and took the key and Gibbs pulled her into a hug before they climbed into the car. The two took a quick trip around the block then returned home to continue working. Gibbs and Sam both wrapped an arm around her and hugged her to them.

"I really do love the Jeep," she said. "Thank you."

"You're welcome, Baby," Sam said. "Now, let's get some more unpacking done."

Chapter Text

"Alright, Kiddo, you and me," Tony said as he grabbed a hand basket from the entrance of the store, "let's get what we need and go home."

"Do I have to drive home too?" Jaycee asked.

"Yes," Tony said, "Dad wants you—Gibbs, Gibbs wants you driving but don't worry about that too much. It'll be okay."

"How come you call him dad?" Jaycee asked.

"I dunno," Tony said with a shrug. "I do it around the little kids because that's who they know him as. If I started saying Gibbs they probably wouldn't know who I was talking about but he's kinda like a dad to me. Actually he's a lot like a dad to me, a lot more than my own dad was. What are we talking about?"

Jaycee giggled at Tony's attempt to change the conversation. He wasn't very good at sharing his feelings. "Spaghetti sauce," she said. "You're teaching me your top secret spaghetti sauce recipe."

"That's right," Tony said. "First, we need veggies. Pick whatever veggies you want. Peppers, onions, mushrooms, hel—ck, uh, you could probably even put some squash in there if you wanted."

Jaycee giggled even louder at Tony's slip up. "You can say hell around me, you know. I've heard worse."

"I know," Tony said, "but you're little—er than me. I'm trying to be a good influence."

"Mushrooms, portabella mushrooms!" Jaycee said. "And red bell pepper. No onions 'cause the little kids won't eat onions."

"That it?" Tony asked, bagging up a red bell pepper.

"Yeah," Jaycee said gathering the mushrooms. "One thing I've learned working at the restaurant is to keep it simple. Too many flavors complicate the dish unnecessarily and then your taste buds just get confused."

"Well, we can't have any confused taste buds," Tony said.

"Tony, when I get my own restaurant, could I use this recipe?" Jaycee asked.

"If you name it after me," Tony said with a wink.

"The restaurant or the dish?" Jaycee clarified.

"Both," Tony said but he was unable to keep a straight face. "I'm kidding. You can use the recipe. You don't have to name it after me."

"I kinda want to name the dish after you," Jaycee said. "I think that's a cool idea."

"I'd like that," Tony said wrapping an arm around her and pulling her to his side. "Let's get the rest of this stuff and get outta here."

The two gathered all the needed ingredients, laughing and joking and teasing each other as they roamed the store. Once they had everything they checked out, paid for their purchases and headed back to the house. It had been a long weekend of unpacking but with a lot of help the house was finally ready for Child Services to see it the following day.

Since all the excitement had died down, Tony decided he was going to teach Jaycee how to make spaghetti sauce for dinner. It was no secret how much she loved to cook and he'd spent years perfecting the recipe and was excited to pass it on to her.

Back at the house Gibbs was working on chlorinating and cleaning the pool, trying to get it useable while Sam and Jack played with the younger children in the backyard.

"Let's hope they play out there for awhile," Tony said, looking out the back window at the others.

"Why?" Jaycee asked.

"'Cause this is gonna get loud and messy," Tony said. "First, let's run these tomatoes through the blender and get 'em nice and saucy."

"Do you remember where we put the blender?" Jaycee asked standing in the middle of the kitchen looking at all the cabinets.

"I was hoping you did," Tony said.

"You start over there, I'll start over here," Jaycee said.

The two blended and chopped, measured and poured, stirred and tasted until they had their sauce just the way they wanted it. Before they could start getting the mess cleaned up the others made it back in the house. Gibbs just looked around the kitchen silently before pouring himself a glass of lemonade. Sam smelled the sauce, humming in delight at the aroma and Kylee immediately attached herself to Tony's leg.

"Don't worry, we'll clean this up," Tony assured Gibbs.

"I know," Gibbs said rubbing his hand over Jaycee's head on his way out of the kitchen.

"Sam, do you think maybe sometime we could get a pasta press so I could learn how to make pasta noodles?" Jaycee asked.

"That'd be fun," Sam said, "and you know what, that new home goods store that just opened had them on sale."

"I'll get this cleaned up if you guys wanna go check it out," Tony offered. "The sauce has to simmer for awhile to let all the flavors blend."

"You sure?" Sam asked.

"As long as I don't have to do the dishes after dinner too," Tony said with a smile. "Kylee and I will tackle this mess and it'll be clean before you know it."

"Thanks Tony!" Jaycee said. "I'll do the dishes after dinner. Can you also take the cupcakes out of the oven when the timer goes off?"

"Certainly," Tony said.

Sam told Gibbs what was going on then headed out with Jaycee.

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Gracie hopped down the stairs then walked backwards into the living room where Gibbs, Jack and Tony were sitting with Kylee, Brady and the twins. She spun around ballerina style then walked over to Gibbs and leaned against him while he made silly faces at Brady.

"Why are you wearing your swimsuit, Sweet Pea?" Gibbs asked.

"'Cause I'm waiting for the pool to be ready," Gracie answered.

"I just put lots and lots of chlorine in it," Gibbs said. "It's not gonna be ready to swim in today. Maybe tomorrow evening."

Gracie turned her lower lip into an exaggerated pout and Gibbs smiled as he gently tugged on it.

"Daddy, I like our new house and my new room," the four year old said as she pulled herself into Gibbs' lap with her baby brother.

"I'm happy to hear that," Gibbs said before kissing the top of her head.

"Do you think we could stay here for awhile?"

"What do you mean?" Gibbs asked.

"Before we have to go somewhere else," Gracie said.

"Hopefully we can stay here for a long, long time and never have to go anywhere else," Gibbs said.

"Anybody need a refill while I'm up?" Jack asked holding up his coffee cup.

"If you're offering," Gibbs said. "Thanks Dad."

"I'm good," Tony said.

Jack refilled his coffee and his son's then returned to the living room. "Are those muffins ready, Tony?" he asked as he handed Gibbs his coffee.

"Muffins?" Tony asked.

"The ones on the counter," Jack said.

"Oh, yeah, I forgot. Jaycee made those," Tony said. "They should be ready. Might make a good snack to hold us over till dinner."

"That's what I was thinking," Jack said. "You hungry, Leroy?"

"I could go for a muffin," Gibbs said. "Kids, do you guys want a muffin?"

All the kids abandoned what they were doing and followed the guys into the kitchen. Gibbs and Jack got them settled at the table while Tony passed out muffins.

"These are the yummiest muffins I ever had," Milo said with his mouthful.

"I keep telling Jaycee I'm not gonna let her leave if she keeps cooking like this," Gibbs commented.

"Can I have another one?" Lucas asked.

The group ate their way through all of one tray and part of the other then headed back into the living room to continue playing. Kylee read a story to Grandpa, Tony, Gracie and Brady while Gibbs laid down on the floor and helped the twins build a castle with their Legos and blocks.

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It took Sam and Jaycee a little longer than they intended at the store but when they returned home they had everything they needed to make a few different types of pasta. The two grabbed their bags and headed inside.

"Do you think the others will mind waiting while I try to make these spaghetti noodles?" Jaycee asked.

"We'll feed 'em a snack," Sam said. "They'll be okay. I'll help you with the noodles."

"Thanks."

"How're we doing, guys?" Sam asked.

"Just getting' our brains sucked out through the boob tube," Tony answered from where he was lying on the couch under Kylee.

"It's gonna take us a minute to get these noodles made so how about I make you guys a sna—"

"What happened to my cupcakes?" Jaycee asked.

Sam looked over at one empty pan and another nearly empty but the living room remained unusually quiet. They either didn't hear her or didn't want to answer.

"Tony?!" Jaycee said a little louder. "What happened to the cupcakes?"

"What cupcakes?" Tony asked standing and laying Jaycee on the couch so he could go into the kitchen.

"These cupcakes," Jaycee said showing him the empty pan.

Tony laughed uncomfortably before nibbling on his lower lip. "We thought those were muffins," he mumbled.

"Muffins?! I told you they were cupcakes!" Jaycee couldn't help the hint of annoyance in her voice.

"I guess I wasn't listening," Tony said. "Next time you make cupcakes, how about you bake them in a cupcake pan instead of a muffin pan then I'll know the difference."

"Cupcake pan? What are you talking about?"

"You know," Tony teased picking up the pan. "This is a muffin pan so really there was no way I could've known they were cupcakes."

"They're the same thing!" Jaycee said.

"I know," Tony said. "I really am sorry. What can I do to make it up to you?"

"What happened?" Gibbs asked.

"Tony ate all my cupcakes," Jaycee sighed as Gibbs pulled her into his arms.

Gibbs looked at Tony over Jaycee's head as he realized what had happened.

"Wasn't just me," Tony said. "I had a little help."

Jaycee pulled back from Gibbs and looked up at him, trying to read the guilt or innocence in his face.

"They were the best muffins I've ever had," Gibbs said before kissing her forehead.

"They weren't muffins!" Jaycee said, he frustration turning to a smile.

"I guess since you guys had a snack, you won't mind waiting a little while for dinner," Sam said. "Did you two share your muffins with the kids?"

"Of course we shared," Gibbs said. "We even saved you guys some."

"Thanks Love," Sam said. "Jaycee and I are gonna make some homemade noodles. You go relax, it's been a long day."

"Sorry 'bout the muffins, Jaycee," Gibbs said giving her another hug.

Jaycee hugged him back, cuddling into him as he kissed her head. "That's okay. I'm glad you guys enjoyed them."

"Love you, Baby."

"I love you too, Gibbs."

"Still love me as well?" Tony asked with the most pathetic look he could muster on his face.

"I guess," Jaycee teased. Gibbs let her go and she went to Tony and wrapped her arms around him. "Of course I do. I would never let a cupcake come between us."

Tony smiled and kissed the top of her head before letting her go. "In that case I think I'll have one more," he said swiping another one off the counter before hurrying off to the living room.

"I can see why he gets so many head slaps," Jaycee told Gibbs.

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Gibbs and Sam both took a late lunch so they could be at the house when the Child Services woman showed up. They'd accomplished everything they needed to do and even gotten a sneak peak at the list the social worker would have but there was still that uneasy feeling in the back of both their minds. The idea of losing even one of the children was unacceptable for both of them. Unfortunately the woman was running late which only added to their anxiety.

"Where is she?" Gibbs groaned. "I don't see how you can keep somebody waiting like this."

"Calm down, Love," Sam said rubbing his back, "try to relax. It's not gonna do anybody any good if we're all worked up when she gets here."

Gibbs flopped down in his recliner and sighed heavily.

"What would you two think of leaving the kids home with me tomorrow?" Jack asked trying to refocus his son's mind.

"I think that's a lot of kids, Dad," Gibbs said.

"Are you hinting I can't handle it, Leroy?" Jack asked with a raised eyebrow. "I raised you after all."

"I was one kid!" Gibbs said defensively.

"One kid who gave me a run for my money," Jack said.

"Dad, those kids wear me out," Gibbs said changing the topic from him back to the kids. "I just don't want you to be overwhelmed."

"Jaycee doesn't work until later on in the afternoon," Jack said. "I'll have her as backup. I'll call if I have any trouble. We'll be fine."

"Okay," Gibbs agreed, "but don't say I didn't warn you."

Gibbs stood from his chair and once again started pacing, making frequent trips out to the entryway to see if any cars had pulled up. "She better not cancel," he grumbled, "not after we did all that work. I don't want this hanging over my head."

Sam sat down next to Jack on the couch and they both watched Gibbs pace. She'd tried to calm him and reassure him but it was quickly becoming clear that wasn't going to happen. He needed an outlet for his pent-up energy.

"If that woman doesn't get here soon you're gonna wear a hole in the carpet," Jack said.

Gibbs just rolled his eyes and continued pacing. Not long after that the doorbell rang. Gibbs took a deep breath and shook off the nervous energy then answered it with Sam by his side.

"Agent Gibbs, Sam," D'Arcy greeted, "sorry we're late. This is Mindy, my new supervisor."

"Nice to meet you, Mindy," Sam said warmly as she shook the woman's hand.

"Please come in," Gibbs said stepping aside. He ignored the urge to ask her if her watch broken.

Gibbs and Sam showed Mindy and D'Arcy around the house. Mindy went through everything from clothes and toys to books and movies. It was obvious she was strict and a very by the book type of person.

"Where are the children now?" Mindy asked scribbling away on her clipboard.

"Jaycee's at work," Sam answered, "and the little ones are at daycare."

"Is that lock on the gate leading to the pool going to stay?" Mindy asked.

"Yes," Gibbs answered, trying to hide his annoyance at the ridiculous question. "There's also a lock on the back door of the house that the little ones can't reach. We've taken every precaution."

"Is your dad living with you as well?" Mindy asked.

"No," Gibbs answered, "Grandpa came to see Jaycee graduate."

"That was so sweet of him," D'Arcy piped in.

"Do the children call you guys grandpa and dad and mom?" Mindy asked.

Gibbs rolled his eyes as Sam answered the question. "The little ones do but Jaycee doesn't."

"Well, the house meets all the requirements," Mindy finally admitted. "You guys have passed this inspection. You're subject to surprise visits at any time to check on the wellbeing of the children but it sounds like they're doing well."

"Thank you Mindy," Sam said warmly. She knew Gibbs' blood was boiling at the way Mindy had acted but they'd passed. That was the important thing. She showed their guests to the door and waved as they backed out of the driveway before returning to the living room. "She's just doing her job, Baby," she told Gibbs as she ran her fingers through his hair. "Think about the horrors she sees and what she has to deal with."

"I guess," Gibbs sighed. "I'm just glad it's over and I wouldn't mind if I never had to see her again."

"Well, as soon as the adoption paperwork goes through we won't have to see her again," Sam pointed out. D'Arcy was hurrying things along as best as she could for them but with her new supervisor she had to be very careful about which rules she bent. "Alright, Love, are you okay? Calmed down?"

"I'm fine," Gibbs said.

"Okay, I'm going back to work," Sam said. "I'll see you tonight. I love you."

"I love you," Gibbs said sharing a kiss with her before she left. "You doing okay here by yourself, Dad?"

"I'm fine, Leroy," Jack said. "Just watching a little TV. Might cook dinner for you guys, if that's okay."

"That'd be great, Dad," Gibbs said. "Jaycee should be home in about an hour. She might like it if you taught her how to make your meatloaf."

"That'd be fun," Jack said. "We might do just that."

"When she asks about the inspection just tell her we passed," Gibbs said. "I'm going back to work. Call if you need anything."

"Have a good afternoon, Son," Jack said.

Chapter Text

Sam twirled her fingers through the hair on Gibbs' chest as they laid in their bed. The two had decided to go to bed earlier than normal not so much to sleep as to just enjoy a little privacy. With the exception of Tony all the others were already in bed, including Jack.

"I hate to bring this up," Sam said, "but we haven't picked a wedding date yet."

"Why would you hate to bring that up?" Gibbs asked trailing his fingers down her spine.

Sam shrugged. "Things have been so hectic with the move, the inspection, Jaycee's graduation, your dad visiting... I could go on."

"Ah, that's just life happening," Gibbs said, his smile evident in his voice. "When would you like to get married?"

"Soon," Sam answered. "I don't want a big wedding, Jethro. I don't want it to be a big deal. In fact, I wouldn't be opposed to getting married at the courthouse."

"I wouldn't feel right doing it at the courthouse," Gibbs said. "I would feel like I'm cheating you out of something special. You're special, Sam, and you deserve the wedding of your dreams whether it's a tiny gathering somewhere or some huge thing that half of DC is invited to."

The moonlight illuminated the smile on Sam's face as she rested her hand against Gibbs' cheek. She tried to figure out the perfect thing to say but her brain was no longer functioning properly so she put all her passion into a kiss.

"I love you so much," she said when they pulled apart.

"I love you," Gibbs said. "No one's made me this happy in a long, long time." He leaned over and kissed her then held her tightly to his side.

"I'd like to have the wedding before Jaycee leaves," Sam said. "Maybe we could just do it in our backyard?"

Gibbs thought over the idea. The backyard was big enough and it could be decorated nicely. "I like that idea," he said, "and I agree. I want Jaycee here."

"Are you sure you wanna do this?" Sam asked quietly. "I don't want you to feel pressured or feel like it's something we have to do."

Gibbs chuckled softly. "If you've been pressuring me I haven't noticed," he said turning to her with an amused smirk.

She playfully cuffed him on the top of the head and he leaned in to kiss her.

"Sam, I wouldn't have asked you to marry me if I didn't want to marry you," Gibbs said getting serious again. "I don't have any doubts. I love you. It's as simple as that."

"Doubting is just a natural part of my personality," Sam said with a sigh.

"I know," Gibbs said. "You're not the only one who can read people, you know."

Sam laughed. "Alright, try me."

Gibbs propped himself up on one elbow so he could look into her eyes. "You feel unlovable, undeserving, unworthy. You think that good things can't happen to you, they only happen to the others around you. You think that no one could possibly understand the pain and the hurt that you keep hidden away so carefully and that if they ever found out your secrets they'd run away. You know what else?"

"Hmm?"

"You're wrong," Gibbs said. "You are so, so wrong." He smiled as he leaned in and gave her a gentle kiss.

Sam rested her hands against his cheeks, holding him to her as she deepened the kiss. Gibbs rolled over on top of her, knowing exactly where things were heading.

Sam smiled as they broke apart. "Show me how much you love me," she said softly.

"I'm not sure if that's possible," Gibbs said, "but I'll start now and spend the rest of my life trying."

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Jack smiled as his son whistled a happy tune while making the morning coffee. It had been ages since he'd seen him that happy, laughing and smiling, joking and teasing… loving. His boy had a reason to get up in the morning again. His purpose in life went beyond helping people in their times of greatest need. He had a family; a fiancée and children, baby children and grown children who needed him and loved him back.

The truth was his team had always loved him and always needed him but they were grown; they were on their own and Gibbs had a hard time fully comprehending just how much they depended on him, just how much they needed his love and approval. Gibbs was a man who'd experienced horrific loss but he was also a man who was loved deeply; who was needed greatly and accepted unconditionally.

Milo shuffled his feet as he wandered over to his grandpa into the kitchen. He pulled himself up into Jack's lap and cuddled in as Grandpa kissed him good morning and hugged him tightly.

"Mornin' partner," Jack said running his hand over the three year olds head.

"Hi," Milo mumbled.

Gibbs put a cup of coffee in front of his dad then rubbed his hand roughly over Milo's head. "Mornin' buddy," he said before dropping a kiss on his soon to be son's head. Milo was already his son but it'd be official soon.

"'m sleepy," Milo yawned.

"Ya didn't have to get up, Kiddo," Gibbs said. "Coulda stayed in bed."

"Lucas waked me up," Milo said. "His monster truck ranned me over."

"Ouch," Gibbs said. "Sounds like I'm gonna have to have a talk with him."

"Talk with who?" Sam asked walking into the kitchen carrying Brady.

"Lucas ran Milo over with his monster truck this morning," Gibbs answered.

"Ouch," Sam said. "Is that true?" she asked when she saw Lucas peeking around the corner.

Lucas shrugged even though they couldn't see his shoulders.

"Don't you lie to us, Mister," Gibbs warned gently.

"Um, I think that I maybe could've," Lucas confessed as he stepped into the room.

"I think that you maybe owe your brother an apology," Sam said.

"Nu-uh," Lucas said. "Pologies are for weakness signs."

Sam shot Gibbs a glare as he tried to hide his smirk. "Not between friends and family, Little Man," he said as he scooped the little boy into his arms. He'd have to explain that rule to the kids when they were older and could understand it a little better. "You wouldn't like it very much if Milo ran you over, would you?"

"No," Lucas said drawing out the word. He knew where this was heading. "I'm sorry."

"Don't apologize to me," Gibbs said as he tapped his nose. "Milo's over there with Grandpa."

"I'm sorry, Milo," Lucas said. "I won't run you over no more."

"That's okay," Milo said, still sleepy and enjoying his time with his grandpa.

"No more back talking Momma either," Gibbs said. "If she asks you to do something, you need to do it."

"Sorry," Lucas said.

"We still love you, Baby," Sam said kissing his head as Gibbs kissed his cheek.

Lucas smiled brightly at them, happy he wasn't in too much trouble.

"My boys are starting to lose their curls," Sam said combing her fingers through Lucas' hair.

"Where they're going?" Lucas asked.

"They're falling out," Sam said, "sometimes it happens when you grow up although if Daddy takes you to get a haircut today they might come back a little bit."

"They are needin' a haircut, aren't they?" Gibbs asked.

"You wanna do that while I do the grocery shopping?" Sam asked.

"Sure," Gibbs said. "Dad, you need a haircut?"

"Probably wouldn't hurt," Jack said tugging at his hair to judge the length. "Maybe a shave too. Does your barber do that?"

"Yep," Gibbs said, "even uses a straight razor."

"Perfect," Jack said.

The adults worked on breakfast while the little ones played. Kylee and Gracie came downstairs when they started smelling coffee, bacon and eggs. The girls watched Saturday morning cartoons while the boys raced their cars around on the living room floor and furniture.

By the time they all gathered around the table to eat, Jaycee was still nowhere to be found. Sam disappeared upstairs to check on her while Gibbs and Jack ate with the little ones. Gibbs was a couple bites into his breakfast when Sam returned, alone.

"Your daughter needs you," she said. "She says she sick but when I asked she couldn't tell me what didn't feel good."

Gibbs narrowed his eyes in confusion. That wasn't like Jaycee. "Alright, I'll go see what I can get out of her."

He headed up the stairs and rant into Tony in the hall. "Got some breakfast going downstairs if you're hungry," Gibbs told him.

Tony laughed. "Asking a DiNozzo if they're hungry is like asking a Gibbs if they need coffee to survive," he joked.

"Well if you hurry you might get some," Gibbs said smiling as Tony raced off. There was plenty of food but he enjoyed teasing Tony. He continued down the hall to Jaycee's room. Sam had left her door open and he could see she was still in bed. He knocked lightly on the door then entered.

"Sam sent you, huh?" Jaycee asked.

"Just came to check on ya," Gibbs said sitting on the edge of her bed. "You sick?"

Jaycee nodded. "I have a headache—a migraine."

"A migraine, huh?" Gibbs asked. "You're not a very good liar." Jaycee gave Gibbs a confused look and he just smiled. "The sun's shining practically right in your eyes and we're both talking in a normal tone. If you had a migraine a whisper would be too loud and the sun would be unbearable."

"Oh," Jaycee said chewing on her lower lip.

"What's going on, Babe? Why are you feigning illness on a Saturday?" Gibbs brushed his fingers gently through her hair pushing it away from her eyes and off her forehead.

"Feigning?"

"Faking," Gibbs explained.

"Well, the migraine was a lie," Jaycee admitted, "but I really don't feel good. Not sick like sick, sick, just, um, sick."

"I don't follow, Kiddo," Gibbs said. "What hurts?"

Jaycee thought for a moment. "My emotions?" It was more of a question than a statement. She didn't know how to describe what she was feeling.

"Are you nervous about something?" Gibbs asked.

"Kinda… Maybe… I guess," Jaycee answered.

"Whatcha nervous about?"

"I don't want you to be mad," Jaycee said.

"I'm not mad," Gibbs said, "and I promise I won't get mad. Well, unless you tell me ya hid a dead body in my trunk."

Jaycee smiled. Gibbs could always make her smile. "I don't wanna go to college," she said.

"How come?" Gibbs asked.

"I just don't," Jaycee said with a shrug.

"It wasn't too long ago that you were filling out every scholarship application you get your hands on," Gibbs said. "That's all you've been talking about since you were accepted. What happened?"

"Sometimes people just change their minds," Jaycee answered vaguely.

"But they almost always have a reason," Gibbs said.

The two stared at each other, both waiting for the other to crack. Jaycee was the first to start fidgeting. She knew she was no match for Gibbs but she wouldn't let him win easily. She sat up in the bed and Gibbs turned his body so he was sitting next to her.

"I know I'm being greedy and selfish but for the first time in… well… ever I finally have a dad and a mom, like a real one," Jaycee said. "I'll call you dad."

"Jaycee, Sweetheart, I don't want you to call me dad to try to get me to do something for you," Gibbs said. "I don't want you to do it out of obligation or manipulation. I love you and I think of you as a daughter. I always will, no matter what you call me."

"I don't wanna leave," Jaycee whispered. She didn't want to give up the comforts and securities of finally having a stable home with loving parents. She wasn't ready. She was jealous of her siblings. They'd have Gibbs and Sam for most of their lives but she'd only gotten them for such a short period. "I love you."

Gibbs smiled and pulled her tightly to him. "I love you, Baby," he whispered into her hair. "I always will and you'll always have a home here—always but you know what I think?"

"I still have to leave?" Jaycee asked.

"I think you should give college a shot," Gibbs said. "Get out on your own without the responsibilities of five siblings. Enjoy your youth and your freedom. Enjoy the beach and learning all about cooking. I want you to try it for one semester. Do it for me and if you don't like it we'll find a school closer to DC so you can live at home again. Deal?"

"How long is a semester?" Jaycee asked.

"Usually from the middle of August to the middle of December," Gibbs answered.

"What do I do when I'm not in school?"

"All kinds of stuff," Gibbs answered. "There will be ball games you can go to, clubs you can join, you can get another job, hang out with Ty, study, just relax and watch TV. You can do whatever you want."

"It'll be weird being all alone," Jaycee said.

"It'll be weird not having your brothers and sisters around but you won't be all alone," Gibbs said. "Ty will be there with you and you're gonna make all kinds of friends."

"If I don't like it after a semester I can come back here?"

"Yes," Gibbs said. "You can come home."

"And I can still call you guys on the phone?"

"Day or night."

Jaycee let out a long, deep breath. "Okay, I'll try it but I'm still kinda nervous."

"That's my girl," Gibbs said. "I'm gonna tell you something that'll hopefully help you feel a little more secure."

"What?"

"Sam and I have already talked to D'Arcy and filled out all the paperwork to get the ball rolling on adopting you and your brothers and your sisters."

"Really?" Jaycee asked. She hadn't been expecting that. "But then you won't get money from the state for them anymore."

"We don't need the money," Gibbs said. "We'd rather have the peace of mind of knowing no one can take you guys from us and giving each of you the peace of mind of knowing that no matter where you go or what happens you'll always have a home and a family right here with us."

"That does help," Jaycee said cuddling into Gibbs more, "more than you could know."

/////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////

"Cannonball!" Tony screamed seconds before disappearing under the water.

"Ugh!" Ziva huffed as Tony surfaced. "Tony, you got my book wet!"

"Good," Tony said. "Pool parties are for swimming, not for reading."

"Cannonballs!" Milo said, mimicking Tony as he jumped into the pool. His floaties kept his head above the surface of the water but that didn't take away the fun for the three year old.

"It's cannonball, goofy, not cannonballs," Tony teased as he reached out and grabbed Milo. "And next time, jump in a little closer to Ziva that way you can splash her."

"I heard that!" Ziva snapped.

Abby came out of the house wearing her bathing suit and immediately headed for the pool. "Cannonball!" she yelled jumping into the pool with the others.

Ziva closed her book and tossed it behind her as she rolled her eyes.

"Not a lot of reading gets accomplished in this house anymore, Ziver," Gibbs said picking up her book and handing it to her.

"I noticed," Ziva said with a smile. "Since I am already wet I guess I might as well get in the pool. Are you coming in?"

"Maybe after a bit," Gibbs said. "I need to get the steaks going."

"I'll cook," Jack said. "You go have fun."

"You sure?"

Jack nodded. "Go on. Have fun. Jaycee's going to teach me how to make corn on the cob on the grill anyways."

"She makes good corn on the grill," Gibbs said. "It's buttery and spicy and bursting with all kinds of flavor." He paused, thinking about how lucky he was to be surrounded with such an amazing family. "Thanks Dad."

Gibbs headed inside and helped Sam get Gracie and Kylee into their bathing suits then changed into his. While Ducky, Jack, Sam and Jaycee worked on dinner, Gibbs, the kids, Ty, Tony, Ziva, Tim, Abby and Jimmy played in the water. There were beach balls flying and pool noodles flopping around. People were jumping in and being thrown through the air. The water was still a little chilly but their bodies adjusted quickly and they were having too much to really notice anyways.

Dinner was served in the backyard and the group feasted until there was hardly anything left. All the swimming had made them hungry. By the time they were done eating the sun was quickly disappearing and it was too cold to return to the water.

Abby took Gracie, Kylee and the twins upstairs to continue their pool party in Daddy and Mommy's extra large bathtub while Gibbs bathed Brady and the others got dinner cleaned up and popcorn popped for their movie night. It was the first weekend in the new house and they couldn't think of a better way to commemorate it than relaxing together and enjoying family time.

Chapter Text

"Tony, are you ready to go, Love?" Sam hollered up the stairs.

"Coming!" Tony yelled down. Moments later he was racing down the stairs with Kylee firmly attached to his back. "I thought you only called Gibbs Love."

"No," Sam said. "You guys are all my loves, all my darlings, my babies, my sweetie pies unless that makes you uncomfortable. If it does I apologize and I'll stop calling you that."

"No!" Tony answered a little too quickly. "I mean," he laughed uncomfortably, "uh, well, my mom died when I was little and uh, well, it's just that sometimes I kind of see you as a mother figure and, I don't know, I like it. I like it when you mother me. You never overdo it but you're always there and you always know what to say or do. I like it."

"I'm glad, Baby," Sam said kissing his cheek. "Now, what is going on with your back?"

"I woke up with this growth on my back this morning," Tony said while Kylee giggled. "I've tried everything but I think it's there to stay."

"Well, growth or not we gotta get going," Sam said playfully pinching Kylee's cheek. "Why don't you and your growth go get in the car while I go tell Jethro we're leaving."

"'kay," Tony said heading out the front door.

Sam made her way through the house out to the backyard where Gibbs, Jaycee and Ty were swimming with Brady, the twins and Gracie. "Jethro, we're getting ready to leave. Kylee's coming with us."

"Okay," Gibbs said hopping out of the pool. "Have fun. Are you sure you don't need me to tag along?"

"I'm sure, Baby," Sam said. "I promise not to pick out anything too crazy." Tony had finally received the insurance money from his apartment fire and was picking out some new furniture. Sam was tagging along to pick out some new furniture for their house as well. The couch and two armchairs weren't enough for their family and the slew of friends they often had over.

"Okay," Gibbs said holding his arms out as if her were going to hug her.

"Don't you dare," Sam warned playfully. She planted her hand on his chest to keep him from getting her all wet.

"You don't love me anymore?" Gibbs mock whined.

"Please Jethro," Sam begged with a laugh. "I don't wanna have to change again."

"Okay, I won't get you wet," Gibbs conceded, "but I do want a kiss."

He leaned in and they shared a kiss eliciting a chorus of 'ewws' from the pool. The two smiled at each other as they pulled apart.

"I love you," Gibbs said.

"I love you," Sam said. "Do try to stay out of trouble."

"What fun would that be?" Gibbs asked mischievously. "I want another kiss."

Sam leaned in and kissed him again then headed for the house. "Jaycee, keep your dad outta trouble," she called over her shoulder.

//////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////

Tony, Sam and Kylee made their way through the first floor of the furniture store looking at couches and chairs, sectionals and recliners, ottomans and coffee tables, end tables and TV cabinets. There was so much to choose from that it was almost overwhelming but it was arranged in such a way that made it easier to take in.

Tony knew he wanted to go a little higher end, leather, something nice as well as comfortable. He decided on a couch and a recliner instead of replacing his massage chair. The massage chair had seemed like a good idea at the time but it really wasn't worth the extra money. Once he'd discovered that sleeping on it wasn't the best idea he didn't use it as often.

Sam had her eye on a couch and loveseat set as well as a sectional and matching chair and a half. Both were durable, stain resistant and a nice neutral color that go perfectly in their living room. After a phone call to Gibbs they both decided on the couch and loveseat. It would give them more options for arranging their living room and wouldn't have the kids sitting on top of each other as much as they would on the sectional.

They continued through the store and Sam and Kylee helped Tony choose furniture and accessories for his bedroom, kitchen and dining room as well as electronics. He wouldn't have enough furniture to fill the house but he'd have more than enough to be comfortable and make it homey.

Once they had everything they needed, they checked out, set up a time to have the items delivered and headed for a home goods store so Tony could pick out bedding, appliances and any other necessities.

//////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////

Gibbs got his waterlogged group out of the pool just in time for lunch. The kids absolutely loved being in the water and were quickly picking up swimming, wading and floating skills. They loved whacking each other with the pool noodles, hitting the beach ball back and forth and playing with the solar fish that floated on the surface of the water.

"If you two will get them changed I'll get some lunch going," Gibbs told Jaycee and Ty.

"Okay," both teenagers said.

While they herded the little ones up the stairs, Gibbs dried off and pulled his t-shirt over his head then headed for the kitchen. He decided on grilled cheese and tater tots for lunch. After getting the tater tots in the oven he pulled the griddle out and started buttering bread. The next thing he knew he had the twins running circles around him squealing.

"Did you two escape?" Gibbs asked.

"No," Milo said obviously lying.

"Why are you naked? You two know the rules. Go put some underwear on."

"There you two are," Ty said after racing into the kitchen. "I only turned my back for two seconds to get their clothes out."

"They're quick," Gibbs said with a smile. "You still want kids of your own?"

"Someday," Ty said grabbing the boys' hands. "I can see the value in waiting though."

"Good boy," Gibbs said.

"Daddy, I need help," Gracie said.

"What do you need, Baby Girl?" Gibbs asked as Ty disappeared with the twins.

"Jaycee never does my hair right," Gracie said. "She keeps pulling it. Will you do it?"

"What do you say?" Gibbs asked.

"Please," Gracie said.

"Alright, quick, quick," Gibbs said sitting her on the counter. "Don't touch the griddle. It's hot."

"What're ya makin'?"

"Grilled cheese and tater tots," Gibbs answered. "Sound good?"

"Yummy! Could I help set the table?"

"That'd be a big help," Gibbs said making quick work of her hair. "Thank you."

Gibbs got lunch finished up while the others set the table then they sat down together and ate. The kids were exhausted after spending the morning in the pool and were starting to get grumpy. By the time the meal was over they were snapping at each other.

"Alright Munchkins, let's get our plates in the dishwasher, hands washed, go pee pee and then it's naptime," Gibbs said.

"No," all three kids whined as Gibbs got Brady out of his high chair.

"Yes," Gibbs said, mimicking their whiny voices.

Gibbs put Brady down in his crib then laid down with Gracie while Ty and Jaycee laid down with Lucas and Milo. Kylee sat in the beanbag chair in the girls' room just to be close to Gibbs while he put Gracie to sleep.

Once the little ones were asleep Ty and Jaycee left for work and Gibbs cuddled with Gracie on the couch to watch a little TV.

//////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////

"What do you think?" Gibbs asked.

"It's empty," Tony said standing in the living room of Gibbs' old house. "Really empty and kinda freaky."

"When your furniture gets delivered that'll help," Gibbs pointed out. "I'll get my boat outta here as soon as—"

"No!" Tony said. "I mean, uh, you could leave it if you wanted. You could come work on it sometime or maybe teach me some stuff or something."

"You okay?"

"Yeah," Tony said with a laugh. "It just wouldn't be your basement if there wasn't a boat down there."

"It's not my basement anymore," Gibbs said. "It's yours."

"Feels like yours though, Boss. Don't get me wrong, I'm honored that you're lettin' me live here. It's just gonna take some getting used to."

"I understand," Gibbs said. "I want you to make this your home, Tony. I want you to be happy here. I want you to feel comfortable here. If you want me to leave my boat I will. I can start another project at the new house. If you wanna work on the boat together sometimes, I don't have a problem with that either but if you want it gone you just say the word."

"You can leave it," Tony said with a relaxed smile.

"When's the furniture getting delivered?"

"Next Saturday between 10:00 and noon."

"Bet ya can't wait to have some space to yourself again," Gibbs said.

"It's gonna be weird. Probably take me some time to get used to the quiet and not waking up with the twins on top of me. I'll definitely miss Jaycee's cooking, yours and Sam's too. I really appreciate you letting me stay with you, Boss."

"Any time," Gibbs said. "You're welcome to come over whenever you want."

"And don't forget, you promised to let the kids come hang out here sometimes too."

"Just say when."

The two of them went through the house, looking everything over. Gibbs had given Tony permission to paint or make any other changes he wanted but in the end Tony decided he liked it like it was. The house had already been cleaned and with the exception of the boat in the basement, it was empty.

Tony planned out where he wanted to put his new furniture to make delivery day go a little easier. He was looking forward to having his independence again as well as a little privacy. Some things had been a little difficult to adjust to but he loved the kids and had enjoyed every minute he'd spent with them. He was glad they accepted him as part of the family so easily. He had no children of his own and no siblings which meant no nieces and nephews. He enjoyed the responsibility of being such an important part of Gibbs and Sam's kids' lives.

//////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////

Everyone was sitting around the table eating the lasagna Tony had made when Kylee started screaming. Sam was at her side in an instant trying to calm her so she could figure out what happened. The tears told her Kylee wasn't choking but she couldn't for the life of her figure out what could've happened.

"Kylee, Baby, talk to us," Sam said. "What's the matter?"

"My tooth falled out!" Kylee wailed, opening her hand and revealing the tooth.

"Oh," Sam said. She smiled at her little girl as she lifted her into her arms. "That's supposed to happen when you're little."

"You know what that means?" Tony asked excitedly.

"We're gonna have a visit from the tooth fairy tonight," Gibbs said.

Kylee's wails turned to whimpers and her tears slowed as the adults' excitement filled the room. "Who's a tooth fairy?"

"Whenever you lose a tooth you put it under your pillow before you go to bed and sometime during the night the tooth fairy will come and take your tooth and leave you a surprise," Sam said.

"What kind of surprise?" Kylee asked.

"You're just gonna have to wait and find out," Gibbs said.

"But how will she find me?"

"She's magic," Tony said. He'd never been a part of the tooth fairy excitement so he was thrilled he got to be there for it.

"Are all my teeth gonna fall out?"

"Your baby teeth will," Sam said, "and then your adult teeth will come in. Let me see the hole this tooth came out of."

Kylee opened her mouth and Sam brushed her finger across the fresh hole. "Your adult tooth is already starting to come in. It probably helped pushed this tooth out."

"I want a visit from a tooth fairy," Milo said.

"Don't get any smart ideas, Mister," Gibbs said. "You're teeth will fall out soon enough and then she'll come see you." He wouldn't put it past either of the boys to try to pull their teeth out. He didn't think they'd be successful but he really didn't want them trying.

"Let's put your tooth right here on your napkin then we can finish eating dinner," Sam said sitting Kylee back in her chair. "You okay now?"

Kylee nodded and picked up her fork. Her tooth had been loose for some time but she hadn't said anything to anyone. She assumed it would just fix itself. No one had ever told her about the tooth fairy but she couldn't wait to go to bed and find out what was going to happen.

//////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////

It was the middle of the night when Gibbs' cell phone went off. Sam started to stir next to him as he reached over and grabbed it off the end table. It was dispatch calling him into work. Not much of a surprise. That was usually the only reason his phone rang in the middle of the night.

"I gotta go to work," Gibbs told Sam, kissing her before he rolled out of bed.

"Do you want me to make you some coffee?" Sam asked around a yawn. She reached over and turned the bedside lamp on, knowing Gibbs wouldn't. He'd get dressed in the dark so as not to disturb her.

"Nah, we'll stop on the way in," Gibbs answered.

"Be safe, Jethro."

"Always," Gibbs said. "I love you. I'll call you later and let you know what's going on."

"I love you, Baby."

The two shared one last kiss before Gibbs turned the lamp off and disappeared. He headed down the hall to the twins room to get Tony up. Not surprisingly Milo and Lucas were piled on top of him. There were three twin size beds in the room but all three of them almost always woke up in the same bed. The boys loved having Tony there and Tony loved cuddling with them.

Gibbs picked Milo up and put him back in his own bed then grabbed Lucas. "Tony, wake up."

Tony rolled around then settled back into sleep. Gibbs tucked Lucas into his bed then went back to Tony.

"Tony, we gotta go to work, come on."

"Time's it?"

"0200."

"I'm up."

"See ya downstairs," Gibbs said before leaving him to get dressed.

Gibbs checked on Jaycee, Kylee and Gracie and Brady before heading downstairs. It didn't take Tony long to appear dressed and ready to go. Middle of the night calls meant a more casual dress which for Gibbs was jeans and a polo and for Tony meant jeans and a button down shirt which he'd forgotten to tuck in. Gibbs smiled to himself at the young agent's unkempt appearance. Mornings weren't his favorite and it didn't help when morning came at 2:00 on a Sunday but it was the nature of their job.

"Ready?"

"Ready. Please tell me we're stopping for coffee."

"We're stopping for coffee."

"Good. I'm definitely ready for coffee. Whadda we got?"

"Remember Kevin Niles?"

"Marine, sent to Leavenworth last year after he was convicted of first degree murder."

"He's escaped," Gibbs said.

"This is gonna get ugly, isn't it?"

"It already has," Gibbs said as he pulled into the coffee shop.

"Who?" Tony asked. He knew someone had most likely been murdered if they were being called in in the middle of the night.

"One of the prosecution's star witnesses," Gibbs answered, "Petty Officer Second Class Virginia Freedman."

"It's gonna be a long day."

//////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////

Sam made sure she was the first one up on Sunday morning. She and Gibbs had traded Kylee's tooth for a couple crisp one dollar bills the night before and she wanted to be up when Kylee discovered what the tooth fairy had left her. After dressing she got Brady and headed downstairs to start the coffee and pancakes. She always made pancakes for breakfast on Sunday and the kids loved it. She decided on red velvet pancakes that week. They were more of a dessert but what was life if you didn't indulge every now and again. She only wished Gibbs and Tony could be there with them. She put Brady in his high chair with some formula and some cheerios then got to work.

She'd just finished mixing the batter when she heard a faint knock at the door. She glanced at the clock and wondered who would be knocking on their door at 6:30 in the morning. When she made it to the entryway she could see Ty standing there.

"Good morning, Baby," she greeted.

"Hope I didn't wake you," Ty mumbled. Something was obviously wrong. Besides the early hour, Ty looked like crap.

"I was already up. Come on in, Honey. What's going on?"

"Nothing," Ty said with a shrug.

"Mm-hmm. Come with me." Sam took Ty into the kitchen and pulled a pitcher out of the refrigerator. She filled a glass with ice then poured the chilled coffee over it before mixing a little coffee creamer in it. "Iced coffee. Jaycee loves it. Might perk you up a little bit." She grabbed a straw from the box she kept in the drawer and popped it in the glass sitting in front of Ty. The teenager looked like he was on the verge of tears.

"Where is everybody?" Ty whispered.

"Jethro and Tony got called into work early this morning and the others are still asleep. Talk to me, Baby. What's the matter?"

Ty shrugged. He knew if he spoke the tears would come and that was the last thing he wanted. He never cried—never.

"Da!" Brady called from his high chair. "Dada!"

"Daddy's at work, Brady," Sam said retrieving a couple toys. Brady could entertain himself for long periods of time. He was an easy baby.

"Ma."

"Mommy," Sam said with a smile.

She handed Brady his toys and kissed his head as the little boy had already refocused his attention. Instead of returning to the kitchen she moved over to the bar next to where Ty was sitting. The bar stool put him at the perfect height for Sam to wrap him in a loving embrace and as soon as she did the teenager lost it. Tears just started pouring out of him which alarmed Sam because Ty wasn't one to cry.

Sam just held him tight and rubbed his back while he cried. She waited until he calmed before she continued talking to him.

"Do your parents know where you are, Sweetheart?" she asked.

Ty shrugged.

"Did something happen with your parents? Is that the reason you're so upset?"

Another shrug but Sam felt Ty start to relax in her arms.

Sam knew Ty's parents were strict and that he was desperate to have a little more freedom but she knew something big must've happened for Ty to be having a meltdown. He'd come to Gibbs and Sam angry and frustrated before, trying to work through things but he hadn't been that upset since Jaycee had tried to kill herself. She just needed to get him to open up to her.

Before Sam could ask another question, the door leading from the kitchen to the garage opened and Gibbs and Tony walked in.

"Hi boys, didn't expect you back so soon," Sam said.

"Got lucky," Gibbs said leaning in for a kiss. Their escaped con had ended up dead after a high speed chase with DC Metro. After processing the scene Gibbs had sent his team home for the rest of the weekend. There was no doubt Niles had killed their Petty Officer so with the exception of notifying the Freedman's family, which was being done, everything else could wait until the following day. "What's happening?"

"Trying to figure that out."

"I gotta go," Ty said, sniffing his nose and trying to wipe all evidence of tears from his face.

"Stay, Baby," Sam said. "I know you came over for a reason. Talk to us."

"Jaycee's gonna be up soon," Ty said. "She can't see me like this."

"Why don't you and Jethro go upstairs to our room and chat and I'll make some breakfast. The flavor of the week is red velvet."

"Red velvet pancakes?" Tony asked excitedly. "It's a good thing we made it home for breakfast, Boss!"

Gibbs smiled at Tony's excitement as he patted Ty's back to get him moving. The two made it up the stairs and down the hall to the master bedroom without any of the other kids seeing them. Gibbs pushed the door closed then he and Ty sat down on the couch in the sitting area.

"What's going on, Kiddo?" Gibbs asked, making himself comfortable. He rested his arm on the back of the couch and squeezed Ty's shoulder.

Ty took several deep breaths, willing his body to calm while Gibbs waited patiently. As soon as Ty opened his mouth to speak, a yawn overwhelmed him. Gibbs could tell just by looking at him that he'd gotten very little, if any sleep.

"What happened, Ty? What's got you so upset, Bud?"

"My mom left this morning," Ty said.

"Where'd she go?" Gibbs asked when Ty didn't continue on his own.

"I don't know," Ty said quietly, "but she's not coming back."

"Do you know why?"

"Her and my dad were fighting all night about money and my dad working too much and about me but I don't know what about me. I don't know what I did."

"Okay," Gibbs said resting his hand on Ty's shoulder. He didn't want him getting all worked up again. "I'm not sure what's going on but you're not to blame, Son. What happened this morning after Mom left?"

"Dad and I got in a fight. I told him I hated him and I was leaving and I was never ever coming back."

"Where you gonna go?" Gibbs asked, curious to know if Ty had a plan.

"I will live in my car," Ty said and judging by the determination in his voice, Gibbs suspected he'd do it.

"What'd Dad say?"

"He said he didn't care what I did anymore. I graduated and he doesn't have the energy to argue with me anymore."

"Ty, if he was up fighting with your mom all night, he's probably emotionally and physically drained—"

"He doesn't want me anymore," Ty interrupted. "I'm free. I'm finally free."

"Ty, listen to me," Gibbs said firmly. "Parents make mistakes sometimes. I've met your dad and he is strict but I think he loves you."

"Please don't make me go back there," Ty begged.

"I'm not gonna make you do anything but I am going to encourage you to not give up on him. I don't think you should cut him out of your life."

"I'm so pissed off."

"I know and that's okay but he's still your dad. They're still your parents. It sounds like they're going through a rough time right now but they still love you. It sounds like maybe you guys need a little space. You're welcome to stay here but I am gonna call your dad and tell him where you are. I don't want him worrying."

"Can you please not tell him anything I said though?"

"Sure Kiddo." Gibbs watched as Ty yawned again. It looked like he was about ready to pass out at any moment. "Why don't you lie down and get a little rest. You can sleep on our bed."

"Will there be any pancakes left?"

"I'll save you a plate. Get some sleep. I'll see you in a little while."

"Agent Gibbs," Ty said as Gibbs stood to leave. Gibbs turned to face him. "Thank you."

"You're welcome, Son."

Gibbs headed back downstairs and was immediately greeted by Kylee waving her dollar bills at him.

"Look, Daddy! The tooth fairy gave me some dollars!"

"Cool," Gibbs said swinging her into his arms. "That's pretty special."

"Mommy says I can spend it or save it."

"Sounds like you have a big decision to make."

After giving her a kiss on the cheek he passed her off to Tony and headed into the kitchen. Sam put a stack of pancakes in front of him then sat down at the table across from him.

"Sounds like his parents are splitting up," Gibbs said softly before taking a bite of his pancakes.

"Oh no," Sam said. "Is he okay?"

"He's angry," Gibbs said, "and exhausted. I told him he could lie down on our bed. I also told him he could stay here until things get sorted out. He had a fight with his dad after his mom left and it sounds like they could use some space."

"Poor kid."

"Yeah," Gibbs said. "Did the kids already eat?"

"Yep."

"Is there anything left for Ty? I told him we'd save him a plate."

"Already done."

"I love you."

"I love you. I'm glad you're home."

Chapter Text

While the little ones ran around in the backyard with Jaycee, Tony took Brady and headed for the kitchen. He knew Gibbs and Sam were talking about Ty while they cleaned up after breakfast and he had some input of his own.

"Does Brady need to be changed?" Sam asked.

"No," Tony said. "I was hoping I could talk to you guys about something."

"What is it, Baby?" Sam asked as she pulled the plug, letting the dishwater drain from the sink.

"I was thinking, depending on how long Ty's planning on avoiding his house, he could stay with me once I move," Tony said. "I'll have that big house and the kid's pretty much self-sufficient. I know you probably don't want to tempt fate leaving Ty and Jaycee alone here."

"What's going on with you, Tony?" Gibbs asked.

"Nothin' Boss."

Gibbs studied Tony's expression. "I don't believe you."

"Um—"

"Da?" Brady said.

"Daddy's over there," Tony cooed.

Tony passed Brady across the table and Gibbs cuddled the infant. Brady quickly busied himself with the buttons on Gibbs' polo shirt and Gibbs turned his attention back to Tony.

"Two things," Tony said. "First, living here with you guys for these past several weeks has kinda got me thinking about what's really important and family and mushy stuff like that. I see how you've opened your home to six little kids, well, five little kids and one troubled teenager and I guess it's inspired me."

"And second?" Gibbs asked, rubbing Brady's gums with his finger while the little boy chewed on it.

"Secondly, I know what it's like to have a troubled home life," Tony said. "I know I don't even need to explain that to you guys. I think I can help Ty; get him off on the right foot."

"I think you're right," Gibbs said. "You got yourself off on the right foot despite everything you went through. I think you'd be a good match for Ty. Sam?"

"I think it's a wonderful idea," Sam said, "as long as Ty doesn't feel unwanted. I don't want him to think we're sending him away or that we don't love him."

"We could always let him choose," Tony suggested. "He can come stay at my bachelor pad or stick around here."

"You do realize that there's a strong possibility that he'll choose to stay here with Jaycee," Sam said.

"It's a risk I'm willing to take," Tony said. "I don't want him to feel like you guys don't want him and I don't want to feel like I'm taking him away from where he wants to be. I hope he gives it a shot but I want everybody to be happy."

"I know you're grown and probably don't want me getting all mushy on you but I'm proud of you, Sweetheart," Sam said patting Tony's hand. "You're not half the playboy you want everyone to think you are."

Tony blushed and looked away but smiled at her words. She was a lot like Gibbs. She could see right through him. It felt good to make someone proud though and Tony found himself seeking Sam's approval in much the same way he sought Gibbs' approval on a daily basis.

"We'll sit down and talk to Ty later," Gibbs said as he stood. "Brady may not have needed to be changed earlier but he sure does now." He bumped Tony's arm on his way by as a nonverbal show of the pride he was also feeling in his senior field agent and surrogate son then disappeared upstairs with Brady.

///////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////

By the time Ty woke, the little ones were down for their nap, Kylee was at the store with Tony helping him replace the rather large movie collection he'd lost in the fire and Jaycee was cuddled between Gibbs and Sam on the couch watching a movie. As soon as Ty walked into the living room, Jaycee jumped to her feet in shock.

"What are you doing here?"

"Uh, sleeping?" Ty was obviously still groggy but looked much better than he had that morning.

"Come on, Baby," Sam said patting the seat next to her.

Ty sat down and rubbed his eyes as Sam pulled him close so she could kiss his head.

"You guys didn't tell Jaycee I was here?" Ty asked.

"Not our story to tell, Bud," Gibbs answered.

"You guys knew he was here?" Jaycee was beyond confused about what was going on.

"Well he didn't just sneak through the bedroom window," Gibbs teased.

"What happened? Why is he here? Why are you here, Ty?"

"Um, well, some stuff happened and I didn't know what to do and Gibbs and Sam are always really good at helping me understand stuff so I came here."

"What happened?" Jaycee asked in a whisper.

Ty looked from Sam to Jaycee to Gibbs. He knew he'd have to tell her eventually, he just wasn't sure if he could get the words out. At least he didn't feel like balling his eyes out anymore. "Mom left this morning. She's not coming back."

"Oh," Jaycee said, unsure about how to respond. "I'm sorry to hear that, Ty. Is there anything I could do? I know some stuff about parents breaking up. Most of the guys my mom was with weren't around long enough to be considered 'dad' but I still maybe kinda know what it's like. I could listen at least."

"Thanks. I don't really want to talk about it anymore right now."

"Okay," Jaycee said.

"Are there any more of those pancakes?" Ty asked hopefully.

"Yeah, Baby, we made you a plate," Sam answered.

"I'll heat 'em up for you!" Jaycee said popping up again. She wanted to do anything to help make her boyfriend feel a little better.

"How ya feeling, Kiddo?" Gibbs asked once Jaycee had disappeared to the kitchen.

"Well, I never had a hangover before but I can't help but I'm thinking this is what it must feel like."

"You're not puking," Gibbs said lightly. "Hangovers are much worse."

"Jaycee, can bring Ty the bottle of Ibuprofen please?" Sam called into the kitchen.

"Did you talk to my dad?" Ty asked.

Gibbs nodded. "He and I talked for a little while."

"Is he pis—angry?"

"He's hurting," Gibbs said. "What's happening is rough on all of you."

"It's his own stupid fault," Ty muttered.

"It takes two people to fight, Ty," Sam said gently.

Jaycee returned with the medicine and a glass of milk then hurried back to the kitchen and retrieved the plate of piping hot pancakes with the cool, creamy cream cheese icing drizzled over them. They all continued watching TV while Ty ate. Both teenagers had a lot of questions that they were too scared to ask.

Ty was curious about what his father had said and what was going to happen next. The last time he'd run away from home he was eight years old and it had only lasted one hour and fourteen minutes. Jaycee was curious about everything. Why was Ty there? How long was he staying? What was going on? There were a lot of blanks.

When Ty was finished eating Jaycee took his plate into the kitchen for him. She loved waiting on him. It helped her feel like she was helping.

"What's gonna happen to me?" Ty asked quietly while Jaycee was in the kitchen.

"We'll talk later when Tony gets home, Baby," Sam said pulling Ty to her side. "We're gonna make sure you're taken care of no matter what happens. You just relax. Enjoy the craziness."

///////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////

Gibbs looked down at the twins, both standing in the backyard wearing shorts, socks, shoes and their toy tool belts. They were spending the afternoon helping Gibbs and Tony build a playground in their backyard.

"Hammer?" Gibbs asked.

Both boys looked down at the toy tools on their belts and found their hammers. "Check!" they said.

"Screwdriver?"

"Check!"

"Wrench?"

"Check!"

"Drill?"

"Check!"

"Saw?"

"Check!"

"Pizza?" Tony asked.

"Check!"

"Hey! Wait a minute. This is not pizza eatin' time," Milo said wagging his finger at Tony.

"It's building a playground time," Lucas said. "You can't put pizza on your tool belt anyways."

"Sorry, thought it was snack time," Tony teased.

"We just eated snack," Lucas said. "Mommy maked us apples and dip. Member?"

"I don't know how I could've forgotten that," Tony said.

Gibbs and Tony let the twins help them get everything laid out then got to work building. Milo and Lucas used their plastic tools to mimic everything Gibbs and Tony were doing and before long the playground was starting to take shape. It wasn't the fanciest playground. There were four swings and two towers with a swinging bridge connecting them and a slide coming down from one of the towers. There were gymnastic rings, a balance beam and even a small fire pole. To complete it there was a sandbox for the kids to play in.

Sam kept the guys hydrated with ice cold lemonade while they worked and kept the girls entertained with a tea party. The twins were more than enough help. Gibbs could easily work around them and get his project accomplished but adding two more to the mix would really slow things down so the girls got special Mommy time while the boys helped Daddy. Jaycee and Ty spent the afternoon entertaining Brady. Watching the baby learn and grow was both fascinating and exciting.

///////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////

Once the little ones were all in bed for the evening, Gibbs, Sam and Tony sat down to talk to Ty. Jaycee was taking a shower and Gibbs and Sam were hoping she'd stay in there as long as she usually did. They wanted Ty to make his decision about where he wanted to stay without feeling pressured.

"Something bad's getting ready to happen, huh?" Ty asked.

"Not unless you know something we don't," Sam teased. "Why would you think that?"

"'Cause whenever my dad sits like that on the coffee table it means he's about to get super strict and I'm gonna be miserable."

Sam looked over at Gibbs who was sitting on the coffee table in front of Ty. "Jethro can certainly be super strict when he wants to be but you have nothing to worry about."

"I just sat here so I could see you better, Kiddo," Gibbs said.

"What did my dad say when you talked to him?" Ty asked.

"He understands you're angry," Gibbs said, "and he understands that you need some space while you try to work things out."

"Space?" Ty asked.

"Mm-hmm and he's willing to give it to you," Gibbs said.

"Where'm I supposed to go?"

"That's what we're gonna talk about," Sam said. "You know you're always welcome here with us. It's pretty crazy around here but there's always room for one more and Jethro and I both love you like you're our own."

"I'm sensing there's another option," Ty said.

"There is," Tony said. "Next Saturday I'm moving into Gibbs' old house, the ultimate bachelor pad. I'd love to have a roommate."

"Roommate?" Ty asked with a smile. He liked how that sounded. It sounded independent, like he was his own person and he and Tony were just hanging out together and living under the same roof rather someone bossing him around and controlling every aspect of his life.

"Yeah," Tony said. "We'll still have to be responsible and stuff but we could have lots of fun."

"But will Jaycee be upset if I don't stay?" Ty asked.

"Jaycee doesn't know we're giving you a choice, Bud," Gibbs said.

"This is your decision, Honey," Sam added. "You pick what you want to do. Nobody's going to be upset with you. You're a member of this crazy family as much as the rest of us are. We don't get to be together all the time but the love is always there and that's what's important."

"If I decide to go with Tony then where'm I gonna live till Saturday?"

"Here, with us and Tony," Gibbs answered.

Ty nibbled on his lower lip while he contemplated his options. "I'm kinda afraid if I live with Jaycee then I won't wanna go back to living separately and I know if we start living together then stuff's gonna happen," he admitted. "Not fighting stuff 'cause we've fought before. I mean like other stuff. Like the kind of stuff Gibbs would murder me in my sleep for."

Gibbs couldn't hide his smile. He loved Ty's honesty. Ty was an open book. He always told them the truth and they always respected him for it.

"I think I wanna go hang out at Tony's bachelor pad."

"Not mine, ours," Tony corrected.

"Wow," Ty said. "This is gonna be awesome, isn't it?"

"Rock your socks off awesome," Tony said, knowing it made absolutely no sense at all.

"What's going on?" Jaycee asked.

"We're just talking," Gibbs said. "Come on in. Have a seat because this next part applies to you too."

Jaycee sat on the couch next to Sam with Ty and Tony.

"Ty's gonna be moving in with Tony next weekend but he'll be staying here this week so we need to go over some rules," Gibbs said.

"What kind of rules?" Ty asked.

"We'll start with curfew," Gibbs said. "You'll have the same as Jaycee which is midnight. We also need to know where you are and who you're with and I want your phone on at all times so we can get a hold of you if we need to."

"It's not as bad as he's making it seem," Jaycee said. "It's not like he's gonna call you a hundred times and ask where you are."

"Hey, my curfew was 9:00 on school nights and weekends," Ty said. "I can live with midnight and telling you guys what I'm up to."

"In-house rules," Gibbs said. "Jaycee, are you paying attention?"

"I'm listening."

"We don't mind if you guys hold hands, hug, kiss, cuddle up on the couch and watch a movie," Gibbs said, "but it goes no further than that. We don't want to see any making out, groping, rubbing, anything like that. We don't want you guys in each other's rooms, or any other room for that matter, with the door closed. Ty, the twins are the only ones in this house who are allowed to run around in their underwear. No coming down for breakfast in your boxers."

Ty laughed but nodded.

"I don't think this needs to be said but I'm gonna say it anyways. Absolutely never ever, under any circumstances do we want to catch you two in bed together," Gibbs said firmly, "clothed or naked. You two both have good heads on your shoulders but living together might make some things a little more tempting than you've experienced in the past. That's why we're making our expectations known up front."

"If you guys have any questions we don't mind at all if you come to us and ask," Sam said. "We'd much rather you do that than just assume. If you want to discuss a rule that you think is unfair or you think should be changed, Jethro and I will listen to you with an open mind but we do get the final say. We want you guys to be happy, have fun and grow as young adults who are moving towards independence but until you head off to college it's still our job to teach you and help you on your journey. Sound reasonable?"

"Yeah," Jaycee said.

"I'll follow the rules," Ty said. "I'll make you guys proud. I promise."

"We're already proud of you, Ty," Sam said. "We both love you bunches, Baby. You know that, right?"

Ty nodded and smiled.

"Your dad's expecting to see you at some point tonight, Ty," Gibbs said. "He knows you need to pack some things."

"I was thinking I could just do that tomorrow, when he's at work."

"Avoidance isn't the best way to deal with things, Kiddo," Gibbs said. "Would it really be so bad to see him for a few minutes? He's much calmer than when you left this morning."

"I'll go with you," Jaycee offered.

"Okay," Ty agreed, "but you gotta wait in the car. I don't know what he's gonna be like and I don't want him to be grumpy with you."

"Okay."

The two teenagers left, no doubt with a lot to talk about. Ty was hurting from the trouble going on in his family life but the excitement and comfort of staying with the Gibbses and then moving with Tony provided a distraction from all that.

Tony talked Gibbs and Sam into watching a movie with him. Gibbs and Sam had some time to themselves while Tony was in the kitchen to making popcorn. She looked at Gibbs and patted her lap. She knew he was exhausted after his early morning wakeup call. The craziness of life in their house rarely left any downtime.

Gibbs stretched out on the couch, moaning as his muscles protested. He rested his head in Sam's lap and she immediately started combing her fingers through his hair.

"Did you hear Ty? He wants to make us proud?" Sam said.

"I caught that," Gibbs said letting his eyes fall closed. "I think he's spent his whole life trying to make his dad proud and always felt like he's never measured up."

"It's hard when your parents have such high expectations for you," Sam said. She remembered conversations with Ty about his dad demanding perfection when he was playing baseball and wanting his son to be a doctor even though Ty preferred to play baseball for fun and had chosen to go into nursing in order to have a more hands on job. Ty was a good kid that would make any parent proud but his father seemed to have a hard time expressing that pride and instead only put more expectations on him.

Sam looked down and realized Gibbs had dozed off. She smiled as she kissed her fingers and pressed them to his forehead. She loved seeing him so relaxed and at peace with his head in her lap. Gibbs had no interest in movies but he'd started watching TV with the kids and Tony on occasion. He'd do anything to spend time with his family. For him it was a good excuse to cuddle with the kids or sit with Tony and they got to spend time with Dad which would never get old. Sam knew Gibbs would wake when the movie started and with the kids in bed it would be her turn to cuddle with Gibbs. After an unexpectedly crazy day it was finally time to relax.

Chapter Text

Despite Gibbs' best attempts to calm him, Brady continued to fuss and cry. It was the middle of the night and everyone else was in bed but Gibbs had awakened when he heard their youngest crying. Brady had started teething and the discomfort was making him fussy.

"I can't give you any more pain reliever, Kiddo," Gibbs cooed.

Brady swung his arms and kicked his legs as Gibbs brushed the tears from his face and replaced them with kisses. He swaddled Brady in his favorite blanket and tucked him close to his chest with his little one's ear directly over his heart. Once Brady was comfortable, Gibbs eased his finger into the infant's mouth and gently rubbed at his sore gums.

The crying finally slowed and Brady settled in. Brady's tears turned to yawns as Gibbs' finger worked magic on his gums. The sound of Daddy's heart beating beneath his ear was like a soft lullaby and soon lulled him back to sleep. No sooner had Gibbs gotten Brady back to sleep did Gracie appear in the living room.

"What's the matter, Baby? What are you doing out of bed?"

"My throat hurts," Gracie said, "and my head and my nose and my eyes and my ears."

Gibbs could tell by her raspy voice that she did have a sore throat. He reached out and felt the lymph nodes in her neck and realized they were swollen. He wasn't sure if it was a summer cold or her allergies but he had meds that would help. He put Brady in his playpen in the living room to sleep the lifted Gracie into his arms and headed for the kitchen.

"Let's get you a little medicine to help you feel better."

"Is it the yucky kind?"

"I don't know," Gibbs said pulling the bottle out of the cupboard. "Is this the yucky one?"

"Yeah," Gracie said as Gibbs sat her on the counter. "Only the pink one isn't yucky."

"I don't think we have the pink one, Sweet Pea," Gibbs said. He wasn't too sure which medicine she was talking about but he was fairly certain they didn't have whatever it was.

"It's in a fridge."

"Oh, you're talking about the amoxicillin. That's not the right kind of medicine for sore throats." Gibbs pulled out the oral syringe and sucked up the correct dosage of medicine. As soon as he looked at Gracie she made a disapproving face. "I know it doesn't taste the best but it'll help you feel better," he said sympathetically. "Open up."

Gracie looked at the syringe and then up at Gibbs. She opened her mouth and helped Gibbs pushed the medicine in. By the looks of her face she obviously didn't like it but she swallowed it.

"Good girl," Gibbs praised, tossing the syringe into the sink before scooping his little girl into his arms and kissing her cheek.

"Daddy?"

"What Baby?"

"Will you sing me a song?"

"Sure," Gibbs said. He took Gracie back into the living room and settled in on the couch with her. He knew if he laid her down that being so congested would make it hard for her to breathe. He was hoping she'd be able to get some sleep propped up on his chest.

Gracie cuddled into Gibbs' warmth and snuggled under the blanket with him. He combed his fingers soothingly through her hair and sang an old lullaby he remembered from long ago. As Gracie's eyelids drooped, she poked her hand out from under the blanket and rested it against Gibbs' cheek. Gibbs took her hand and pressed a kiss to her palm then returned it to his cheek. As she drifted off to sleep, his singing turned to humming before he drifted off to sleep too.

////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////

Gibbs woke to two giggling little boys standing next to the couch staring at him. Gracie was still sleeping soundly on his chest and judging by the wet spot he felt, drooling. He could hear Sam coming down the stairs and the shower upstairs running.

"What're you two giggle butts laughing at?" he asked around a yawn.

"Your hair is messy," Milo said while Lucas rubbed his hands over Gibbs' hair.

"That's what your hair usually looks like when you wake up too," Gibbs pointed out. He wrapped one arm around both boys and tugged them close enough he could give them each a kiss.

"What did Mommy ask you guys to do?" Sam asked, entering the living room.

"Put our show and tells in out book bags," Lucas said.

"Then why are your show and tells on the floor over here?"

"'cause we found Daddy," Milo said as if it were the most obvious answer in the world.

"Well now that you've said good morning to Daddy can you please do what I asked you?"

"Yeah," both boys said.

Sam patted their heads as they walked by then walked over to the couch.

"You should've woke me," Gibbs said as Sam kissed his forehead and then Gracie's.

"You looked so peaceful and I wasn't sure how much sleep you got last night," Sam replied.

"I think we slept pretty good. I'm gonna stay home with her and Brady today. Tony can take Kylee and the twins to daycare."

"Do you want me to stay home with them?"

"Nah. We're not working a case right now. I can skip a day."

Gibbs got up and laid Gracie on the couch so he could help Sam get everyone ready and out the door. Mornings were the craziest time in their house and they had to work together to get everyone where they needed to be on time. Sam made breakfast while Gibbs made lunches and Tony helped corral the kids at the table.

After breakfast, Gibbs helped Tony get Kylee and the twins into the car and saw them off then kissed his fiancé goodbye and saw her off before returning to the house with the rest of the kids. He put Gracie in her own bed then headed into his room to take a shower before the kids woke up.

////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////

Ty wandered down the stairs shortly after 8:00 that morning and was surprised to see Gibbs sitting on the couch. Brady was in his lap, gnawing on Gibbs' finger and drooling all down the front of himself.

"Did you stay home to spy in Jaycee and me?" Ty asked as he plopped down on the couch next to Gibbs.

"Nope," Gibbs said. "Got some sick kiddos."

"What's wrong with him?"

"He's just fussy because he's teething. Gracie's upstairs, she's got allergies or a cold. I'm not sure which."

"Oh. I didn't really think you were here to spy on us. You'd probably have Timmy set up surveillance cameras if you were gonna do that, huh?"

"I'm not gonna spy on you, Bud. You want some breakfast?"

"Not yet. I'm too tired to eat."

The two sat in a companionable silence for a short while before Gibbs spoke again. "How ya doing?" And don't just say 'good'." He was curious about how the teenager was adjusting to the new, very different, environment as well as dealing with what was going on with his parents.

"I love it here," Ty said. "I love the noise and having people to talk to that don't always just want me to do stuff for them and having people to play with and everything else. I wish I could've grown up here."

"I don't think living here would've been quite the cake walk you think."

"But you guys let me do stuff and you're always fair."

"We try, Ty, but we all make mistakes. Your parents were trying their best with you and they did a good job. You're a great kid, excuse me, young man. They probably could've given you a little more freedom but I understand the fear that comes with that and not wanting to let go."

"Could I tell you something?" Ty asked.

"Anything."

"I'm kinda scared."

"Whatcha scared of?"

Ty hesitated and stared at his lap. "Being alone," he whispered.

"You're not alone, Son," Gibbs said. "I know it might not feel like it but your parents still love you. They'll always love you and they'll always be there for you. You always have a place here too. I think Sam and I both gave you our phone numbers. You can call anytime for any reason."

"Tony gave me his number too."

"You're loved, Kiddo. You're not as alone as you think you are."

////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////

Gibbs waited until Brady went down for a mid-morning nap then took Gracie upstairs for a warm bath hoping it might help her feel better. Ty was lounged out on the couch and Jaycee was still in bed. Gibbs sent Gracie into the bathroom to get undressed while he checked on his oldest.

He pushed the door to Jaycee's room open and saw he still buried under the blankets. He pulled the covers away from her face then sat down on the edge of the bed next to her.

"You planning on staying in bed all day?" he asked as he brushed her hair away from her eyes.

"No," Jaycee said. "I was reading a really good book last night and I couldn't go to sleep till I finished it. What are you doing home?"

"Brady's sore from teething and Gracie's pretty congested."

Jaycee yawned and cuddled closer to Gibbs.

Gibbs smiled, wishing he could cuddle with her all day. He kissed her temple and rubbed her back. "You can go back to sleep if you want," he said. "I just wanted to make sure you were getting sick or anything."

"I'll be down in a little while."

"Okay. I'm gonna give Gracie a bath. Brady's sleeping and Ty's watching The Price is Right or something like that."

Gibbs left Jaycee's room and headed back down the hall towards the bathroom the girls usually used. Gracie had gotten herself undressed and was standing in the middle of the bathroom staring into space. Gibbs patted her head as he walked by to bring her out of her daze.

"I'm cold, Daddy," Gracie said cuddling up against Gibbs when he sat down on the edge of the tub.

"We're gonna take a nice warm bath," Gibbs said turning the water on. "That should warm you up and hopefully help you breathe a little better too. Do you want to pick out some toys?"

Gracie shook her head and laid it in Gibbs' lap. A night of coughing, sneezing and sniffing her nose had obviously worn her out. Gibbs picked her up and cuddled her to him while he waited for the bathtub to fill then settled her in the water.

"Daddy, will you come in here with me?"

"I already had my shower, Sweetheart," Gibbs said.

"But I want you to hold me," Gracie said. Her teeth were chattering despite the heated water.

"How about I hold your hand then when you get out of the tub I'll hold you."

"Okay," Gracie agreed.

Gibbs held Gracie's hand and tried to get her interested in playing with some of her bath toys but didn't have much luck. She'd been bathed the night before so she wasn't dirty. Gibbs was just hoping it might help her feel a little better. When he couldn't get her interested in any of the toys, Gibbs made up a story to entertain her. Gracie settled in and listened with interest until he was done then Gibbs got her out, dried her off and got her dressed.

The two headed downstairs to find Jaycee making some homemade chicken noodle soup for lunch and a cup of hot tea with a little bit of honey in it for Gracie. Ty had just finished changing Brady's diaper and was sitting at the kitchen island, watching Jaycee cook.

"We could watch them, Gibbs, if you wanna go to work," Jaycee offered.

"I know and I know you guys would do a good job but Sam and I didn't want to leave it all on you."

The five of them sat down and ate lunch together then Ty and Jaycee decided to go swimming while Gibbs put Brady down for a nap and let Gracie sleep propped up on his chest once again. After being up off and on all night, he decided he might take a short nap too.

////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////

"Promise me something, Jethro," Sam said as Gibbs made love to her.

"Hmm?" Gibbs ran his fingers through her hair as he looked deep into her eyes.

"Promise me that no matter how crazy things are, we'll always make time for each other… for this."

Gibbs pressed a gentle kiss to Sam's lips. "I promise," he said before leaning in for a more passionate kiss.

The two had snuck off for a little quality time once the little ones had fallen asleep. After watching Gibbs cuddle and care for Gracie and Brady and still make time for the others, Sam knew exactly how she wanted to spend the evening. Watching him love on their children filler her with an overwhelming love for the man she would soon marry and she couldn't think of a more powerful way to express that love to him.

"I love you," Gibbs said as their bodies stilled.

"I love you too, Jethro. You're my knight in shining armor."

Gibbs laughed and gave a playful eye roll. "I don't know about that," he said.

"I'm serious. I didn't think it was possible to be this happy in life. I've never felt so satisfied, so fulfilled."

"I never thought I'd find this kind of happiness again either," Gibbs admitted. "You and the kids are my world."

"I don't wanna go to bed yet," Sam said with a smile that told her lover she knew exactly what she wanted to do.

"And what would you like to do?" Gibbs asked.

"Let's soak in the tub together," Sam suggested. They had a very large bathtub in the master bathroom and loved taking advantage of it whenever they could, which wasn't often.

"Another opportunity for naked cuddling? I'm in."

////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////

Friday night seemed to come quickly and brought a lot of happiness. Brady's tooth was starting to come through and the discomfort was going away. Gracie's allergies were finally clearing up and she was feeling much better. Tony and Ty, although sad to be moving out of Gibbs' house, were excited about moving into their own place the following day. Being only a short mile away was almost not like moving at all. They knew they could visit often for any reason they wanted or no reason at all.

Tony had decided to stay in for the evening and was curled up with Kylee in the recliner watching a movie. Gibbs and Sam had Milo, Lucas and Gracie piled on top of them. Brady was already sound asleep but they'd decided to let the little ones stay up to finish the movie Tony had rented for them to watch. They'd already had their baths and were in their pajamas and all three of them were getting sleepy. It wouldn't be hard to get them to sleep once the movie was over.

Ty and Jaycee were out on a date. The teenagers had worked all afternoon at the restaurant and had the evening to themselves. They'd decided to go bowling. One of the local bowling alleys was running a good special. Ty was enjoying his newfound freedom and Jaycee loved having her boyfriend close.

"I wish you didn't have to go tomorrow," Jaycee told Ty.

"I know but we'll only live a mile apart now. Plus I won't have my parents breathing down my neck so we'll be able to see each other a lot more."

"Yeah, that'll be nice," Jaycee said. She gave him a quick peck on the cheek and smiled at him.

"What was that for?" Ty asked with a laugh.

Jaycee shrugged. "I dunno. For being you."

Ty returned the kiss on his way up to bowl. The evening was going perfectly. There was some friendly competition with the bowling, good food from the snack bar and most importantly they were together.

Once they finished bowling they decided to head home despite it still being early. Just because they were allowed to stay out until midnight didn't mean they had to. They arrived just as Gibbs, Sam and Tony were coming downstairs from putting the little ones to bed. Jaycee gave Sam a warm hug and Ty went and stood in front of Gibbs as if he were expecting something to happen.

"Hi," Ty said.

"Hi," Gibbs mimicked.

"I'm home."

"I see that."

"Don't you have some sort of test for me?" Ty asked. It was obvious he was uncomfortable.

"What kind of test?"

Ty shrugged his shoulders, holding eye contact with Gibbs. "Like breathing on you or walking in a straight line or I could say my alphabet backwards."

"Ty, I'm not a traffic cop and I didn't pull you over for drunk driving," Gibbs said with a smirk. He was sad that Ty felt he had to work so hard to gain his trust and respect but slightly amused with the way the boy was going about doing it.

"Did your parents have a test for you when you got home, Honey?" Sam asked.

"Yeah."

"I trust ya, Kiddo," Gibbs said. "You don't have to pass any test to prove anything to me."

"So, I could just go upstairs and put my baseball shorts on?" It was obvious Ty was still unsure.

"Were you expecting me to search you too?" Gibbs asked.

Ty shrugged again.

Gibbs could see that his muscles were tense and his shoulders were tight. "Ty, relax, Son. There's no inspection. We trust you."

Ty slowly walked towards the stairs expecting Gibbs to change his mind and call him back any second but he never did. Jaycee sat down on the couch between Gibbs and Sam and cuddled up with both of them.

"Did you guys have fun?" Gibbs asked.

"Yeah, lots," Jaycee answered. "I won the first round of bowling and Ty won the second so it was totally fair and we pigged out on breaded fried mushrooms."

"We're glad you guys had fun," Sam said.

Gibbs rubbed his thumb over Jaycee's shoulder and kissed her temple when she rested her head on his shoulder.

"I didn't realize how strict Ty's parents were," Jaycee said. "I knew they were strict but searching him and questioning him seems like an invasion of privacy."

"It's a scary world out there," Sam said, "but you have to be able to trust your parenting skills and your kids to make good decisions."

"Yep," Gibbs agreed, "and Sam and I trust you guys. We don't need to put you though an inspection or interrogation to see if you've been lying to us."

"I'm glad," Jaycee said.

"Wanna go swimming, Jaycee?" Ty asked when he came back downstairs.

"Can we?" Jaycee asked.

Gibbs nodded.

"Just don't get too loud," Sam said. "The boys' windows are open. I don't want to wake them."

"We'll be quiet," Ty said.

The teenagers disappeared out back leaving Gibbs, Sam and Tony alone in the living room. Tony put another movie in and Sam popped some popcorn and they all settled down for a quiet, relaxing evening.

Chapter Text

Tony paid the pizza delivery man and tossed their dinner onto the coffee table. While Ty changed out of his work clothes, Tony grabbed a beer for himself and a soda for Ty. The two had been living together for a little over a week and things were going great. Ty was such an easy kid and probably one of the most responsible teens in all of DC. His stability had been rocked recently with his parent's separation and he was looking to Tony to provide that stability for him once again. Tony was doing his best to do just that as well as be a strong male role model for the impressionable teen in his own very special, fun-loving way.

"How was work?" Tony asked as he sat down next to Ty on their couch.

"Meh, I made good tips but I worked hard for them. We had a big retirement party tonight, thirty seven people."

"That's a lot of people," Tony agreed.

"And a really big tip," Ty said happily. "How was your day?"

"Well, the Caf-Pow machine was out of order so, as you can imagine, that made Abby crazy and when Abby's crazy, everybody's crazy."

"Abby on caffeine is fun," Ty said with a laugh.

"Yes, but Abby off caffeine is miserable," Tony said.

"Hopefully they'll have the machine fixed by tomorrow," Ty said as he grabbed a piece of pizza. "I finally saw the preview for that new Bond movie."

"Doesn't it look awesome? It's gonna be great!"

"Yup."

"Anything else happen today?" Tony asked. The TV was on but Tony preferred talking to Ty.

Ty sat quietly for a long moment, contemplating whether or not to bring up the rest of his day. "Mom called," he finally said which made Tony perk right up. "She wants to see me."

"Yeah? You gonna do it?"

"Don't know," Ty said quietly. "Mom and I have always been close but I'm kinda mad at her for leaving."

"That's perfectly understandable," Tony said. "Did your parents fight a lot, Ty?"

"Never in front of me," Ty said. "They liked to keep up this perfect image but I did hear them fighting at night, after they sent me to bed. Why?"

"Just curious," Tony said. He sensed Ty had more to say and that if he just sat quietly and waited him out, he'd talk and he was right.

"I guess I'm not surprised they split. I think they only stayed together for me." Ty paused and tossed his crust into the lid of the box. "I think they only got married 'cause of me. My birth date is right after their wedding date."

Tony gave a halfhearted smile, knowing that Ty had most likely been carrying around that weight for quite some time. "Wouldn't be the first time something like that happened."

"Maybe it was my fault. Maybe this whole big mess is all my fault. I challenged their rules. I fought them to let me do stuff. I—"

"No way, Ty," Tony interrupted. "If there's one thing I've learned about parents, it's that they always do what they want to do. Your parents are the ones who decided to get married and stay together. You had no say in that."

Ty grabbed another piece of pizza and took a bite. "I guess I will see my mom. Can't hurt to see what she has to say, right?"

"I think that'd be a good idea," Tony said.

///////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////

The warm Saturday evening in the middle of June turned out to be a perfect day to celebrate Gracie's fifth birthday. The team was over to celebrate with them and Jaycee and Ty both had the evening off work. Gracie had had a party at daycare with her friends earlier that week; this one was for their family.

Gibbs was busy grilling chicken, Gracie's favorite, while the others played on the playground he and Tony had built for the kids. Jaycee had just set up a boom box on the patio and she and Ty were dancing to music it was blasting. Sam came out the back door with the hotdogs and danced her way past Ty and Jaycee over to the grill where Gibbs was standing. She leaned in and kissed his cheek and he turned to kiss her lips.

"Ready for the hotdogs?" she asked.

"Almost," he said. "You can leave 'em out here. How's it coming inside?"

"Ziva's mashing the taters and everything else is ready. It's all lined up on the kitchen island. I figure people can go through the line and take their plate out back to eat."

"Good idea."

"One more kiss before I go back inside," Sam requested. She put her finger on his chin and turned his face to hers so she could kiss him.

As soon as she turned to head for the house, Gibbs playfully smacked her butt. Sam turned and glared at him but the glare quickly turned to bedroom eyes and Gibbs found himself wishing they weren't in the middle of a birthday party.

The kids made quick work of their dinner, knowing they got to get in the pool after their meal. If Gibbs and Sam were getting them all amped up on sugar they wanted to tire them out before bedtime and swimming would do the trick. By the time the adults got the little ones into their suits and got floaties on all of them, it had been long enough after eating to prevent tummy aches.

"I'm glad we chose a house that has a pool," Sam said sitting down on the edge of the pool next to Gibbs.

Gibbs was watching all the kids like a hawk. The team was in the pool with the little ones as well as Ty and Jaycee but Gibbs wanted to be able to see all of them. "I was worried at first but I'm glad too. The kids like it and it's good exercise for them."

"Are you getting in?" Sam asked. She hopped off the ledge into the water. It felt warm against the cooling evening air.

"I think I'm gonna watch for a little while."

"Everybody's okay, Love," Sam said standing right in front of Gibbs with her hands resting on his knees. "There's a lot of eyes on them."

"I know," Gibbs said. "It's hard to let your guard down."

"Well, I'm not leaving you over here by yourself," Sam said turning around and leaning her back against him. "I'll watch with you."

Gibbs wrapped his arms around Sam and kissed her head as they watched the others play. Their kids were getting pretty good at swimming, Kylee especially. Learning seemed to come easily for her. They watched as Gracie threw the underwater torpedo and Tony swam after it. Milo and Lucas had water guns and were shooting everybody and everything with the help of Jimmy and Ziva and Kylee was hitting the beach ball back and forth with Tim and Abby. Ducky had Brady and was letting him splash around in the water. Ty and Jaycee were off in the corner of the pool talking and teasing and looking for any reason to touch each other. Both Gibbs and Sam were glad they didn't have to worry about anything inappropriate between the two of them even though it was a thought that was always in the backs of their heads.

Milo pulled himself out of the pool and walked around to where Gibbs was sitting on the ledge. "How come you're not playing, Daddy?" he asked.

"I'm watching you play," Gibbs answered. "Whatcha doin' out of the water?"

"I have to pee pee."

"Oh, come on, I'll go with you," Gibbs said as he stood.

"Can we pee pee in the yard?" Milo asked.

"What?" Gibbs asked, wondering where Milo had come up with that idea.

"Jacob at my daycare, his daddy taked him camping in their backyard and Jacob said that he got to pee in the backyard. I wanna in the backyard too."

"We're not camping and there're too many girls around," Gibbs said.

"Aw man!" Milo whined.

Gibbs laughed to himself as he swung his little one into his arms and headed for the house. Not long after Gibbs and Milo disappeared inside, Gracie paddled over to Sam.

"What's going on with the birthday girl?" Sam asked as she pulled Gracie into a hug. "Are you having fun making Tony chase that torpedo?"

"Lots and lots of fun! Where's Daddy?"

"Daddy took Milo inside to go potty."

"When can we have cake and ice cream and presents?" Gracie asked.

"Whenever you'd like. Are you ready now?"

Gracie nodded her head excitedly. Everyone got out of the pool and helped the little ones change into dry clothes before changing themselves. Gibbs stood Gracie in one of the chairs at the kitchen table and Sam brought the cake in all lit up with candles. They'd bought a sheet cake from the store decorated with large, colorful flowers and the words 'Happy Birthday Gracie' in the middle.

The others sang happy birthday then Gracie made her wish and blew out her candles. Sam cut the cake and after Gracie had her piece the others delivered cake to the rest of the little ones. Presents were opened after the cake had been eaten then their guests started leaving. It had been an evening full of fun and excitement but it was time to start unwinding.

///////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////

Gibbs headed down to the kitchen early on Sunday morning to start the coffee. Sam was awake but hadn't gotten out of bed yet and as far as Gibbs knew everyone else was still asleep. When he got to the kitchen he found Jaycee standing there staring at him like a deer in the headlights with a piece of cake in her hand.

"What're ya doin'?" Gibbs asked.

"Uh, eatin' cake?"

Gibbs smiled at the teenager. Her tongue was blue from the blue flower frosting and she had crumbs all over her shirt.

"Nobody else has to know about this, right?" Jaycee asked.

"Depends."

"On?"

"On how fast you can cut me a piece," Gibbs said with a grin.

Jaycee's smile lit up her face and she quickly cut Gibbs a piece of cake while he started a pot of coffee. The two sat down together and took their time enjoying their breakfast. The sheet cake was good and a rare treat. It wasn't long before they heard footsteps upstairs.

Gibbs looked up at the ceiling then over at Jaycee. "Sam's up," he said. "Hurry."

He and Jaycee shoved the rest of their cake into their mouths and tried to get it down before Sam made it down the stairs. Jaycee put their plates in the dishwasher and Gibbs poured the coffee and they were both back at the table by the time Sam walked into the kitchen.

"What's up, guys?" Sam asked looking at the suspiciously. Everything looked normal but there was a lot of rushing around and banging going on and both of them were breathing heavy.

"Nothin'," both Gibbs and Jaycee answered.

Sam looked from one of them to the other then poured herself a cup of coffee. She spotted the crumbs on the counter by the cake box and smiled to herself before returning to the table and kissing Gibbs. "You two were in the birthday cake, weren't you?"

"We're not admitting to anything," Gibbs said.

"You don't have to," Sam said wiping his lip. "You have frosting on you lip."

Gibbs and Jaycee exchanged looks. Both knew they were busted.

"Jaycee made me do it," Gibbs said.

Jaycee's mouth fell open in shock. "Whatever! You bribed me!"

"I just might have to spank both of you," Sam teased.

///////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////

Gibbs had just finished his Monday morning briefing with Director Vance when his cell phone went off. "Gibbs," he said as he descended the steps towards the squad room.

"Hello, this is Maggie," the woman on the other end said. "I found a cell phone at Ballston Common and I'm not sure who it belongs to but you were listed as Dad."

Cell phone—Dad—Jaycee, Gibbs thought. He smiled when he learned she'd marked him as dad in her phone. Jaycee and Kylee had planned on going to the mall that morning to pick out a housewarming gift for Tony and Ty. Jaycee had been saving her money so she could get them something nice and finally felt like she had enough. "Thank you Maggie," he said. "I'll be right there. I really appreciate it."

"Not a problem," Maggie said with an obvious smile. "I'll leave the phone with security."

Gibbs hung up and looked at his caller ID. Sure enough, the woman had called from Jaycee's phone. He told his agents he'd be back then left.

Gibbs got to the mall in Alexandria and found Jaycee's phone with the security guards. They paged her over the intercom but the teenager never showed up. Gibbs' gut was starting to turn but he wrote it off. Jaycee had probably just dropped her phone unknowingly. He got in his car and drove around the mall parking lot, looking for Jaycee's Jeep but didn't see it. She didn't have to work that day and Ty was at work so he figured she'd headed home. He pulled out onto the road and headed for the house, unwilling to let it go until he found her.

Gibbs smiled when he saw Jaycee's Jeep in the driveway. He let himself relax as he parked the car and headed inside.

"Jaycee! Kylee!" he called, tossing his keys onto the table by the door.

Neither of the girls answered. Gibbs looked out back and swept through the downstairs but didn't see them. He headed upstairs and peeked in Kylee's room then in Jaycee's but still couldn't find them.

"Girls? Are ya home?" He looked in his room, the twin's room and Brady's room but still no sign of them. "Jaycee, Kylee, it's dad. Where are you guys?"

Gibbs was starting to worry and the worry was quickly turning to frustration. If Jaycee's Jeep was there that meant they weren't far but where were they? He pulled out his cell phone and called Ty, just in case he'd gotten off work early and they were with him.

"Ty, Bud, it's Gibbs. Is Jaycee with you? Have you heard from her today?"

"No, she's not here. She doesn't work today. Is something wrong?"

"No, I don't think so. She went to the mall this morning and dropped her cell phone. I'm just trying to track her down." He didn't want to lie to Ty but he didn't want to worry him either, especially not when he was at work.

"Could you tell her to call me when you find her, that way I know she's okay?"

"Sure Kiddo," Gibbs said. "Have a good day. I'll talk to you later."

"Bye."

Gibbs realized he hadn't checked the basement and hurried down two flights of stairs to find it empty as well. He called out for the girls but still got no answer. He went back upstairs and checked in the backyard then decided to drive around the neighborhood just in case they'd decided to take a walk.

After driving around their new neighborhood and over to the old one there was still no sign of the girls. Fear and frustration were building as Gibbs returned to the house. He checked Jaycee's Jeep for any sign of the girls or something being off but found nothing. He went back inside and started checking any place they might be hiding, closets, behind furniture, in the pantry, under beds, everywhere.

When he opened the door to Jaycee's closet, he nearly got hit with the baseball bat that came barreling out towards him. He grabbed onto the end of the bat and pushed the clothes out of the way to find both girls cowering in the closet. Jaycee was practically sitting on top of Kylee in an effort to protect her but as soon as she saw Gibbs, she was in his arms.

"What's going on, Baby?" Gibbs asked as he hugged her. "Why are you guys in the closet? Didn't you hear me calling you?"

Jaycee couldn't do anything but cry in relief as Gibbs held her.

"Kylee, come here, Sweet Pea," Gibbs said gently. When the five year old curled farther into herself, Gibbs picked her up and hugged her tight then wrapped his arms around Jaycee and led her over to the bed. "Jaycee, can you tell me what happened?"

"You don't know?" Jaycee cried, wondering what Gibbs was doing there and how he'd found her if he didn't know what had happened.

"No, Baby. I got a call from a woman at the mall who found your phone. I picked that up then came looking for you two."

Jaycee took a long, deep breath, trying to calm down as Gibbs held her. Both girls were shaking and Gibbs knew something was horribly wrong.

"Kylee and I were at the mall," Jaycee started. "I was looking at the directory thingy. Kylee called my name and I turned around and this guy was trying to grab her hand. I kicked him in the nuts, grabbed Kylee and ran."

Gibbs was both shocked and speechless but he knew he had to stay calm for the girls. "Was the man trying to take Kylee?" He had to ask, had to get his facts straight.

"Yeah, I'm pretty sure," Jaycee answered. "He gave me a creepy feeling."

"Okay, did he look familiar? Had he been following you? Have you seen him anywhere else like maybe at work?"

"No, I don't think I've ever seen him anywhere," Jaycee said, "but after I kicked him in the nuts, I got Kylee in the car and we came home and I thought he might try to follow us and I maybe might've run a red light."

"Was there an accident?"

"No," Jaycee said, "but somebody honked."

"Okay, was the guy that tried to take Kylee following you?"

"I don't know," Jaycee said, tearing up again. "I got the baseball bat Ty left here and we hid in the closet. I was gonna call you but I couldn't find my phone."

"I'm here now," Gibbs assured her. "You're safe. You did everything right. Kylee, are you okay?"

Kylee didn't speak. She just tightened her grip on her Daddy. Gibbs kissed both girls then pulled out his phone. He called Sam to come home and Tony to take the team and head to the mall after explaining the situation to him. He had to juggle being an investigator with being a dad; his rage at the person who'd tried to steal his child with comfort for his frightened daughters. He had to keep his head on straight and not let the personal nature of the case interfere in any way. When they caught the man, and they would catch him, Gibbs wanted to be sure he'd rot in jail for a long time.

With Tony and the team on their way to the mall and Sam on her way to the house, Gibbs turned his attention back to his girls. He wasn't exactly sure what to do to calm them down and assure them that they were safe so he did the only thing he knew how—he loved them.

"Let's go downstairs, girls," he said. "Mom's on her way home. Tony, Tim and Ziva are on their way to the mall. We're gonna get this guy. You're safe. Jaycee, can you tell me what he looked like?"

"He was wearing a lot of black but not like Abby. He wasn't Goth. He had a hoodie on and sunglasses and he was wearing a hat under his hood."

"What happened after you kicked him?"

"He fell down and after that I don't know. I ran away."

"Alright, you did good, Kiddo."

///////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////

Tony hung up with Gibbs almost feeling as if he'd just been prank called. He repeated their conversation over and over in his head. Gibbs wasn't one for small talk and true to his form he'd given his senior field agent the facts, assigned him a task and hung up. Tony stared blankly ahead in shock.

"Tony?" Ziva asked.

No response.

"Earth to Tony," Tim called a little louder. "What'd Gibbs say?"

"He said somebody tried grab Kylee when she and Jaycee were at the mall this morning," Tony said, still in shock at the situation. He'd seen that kind of thing before. It was his job but this was hitting way too close home. Kylee was his baby. He loved all the kids but he had a special place in his heart for Kylee.

"What?" Ziva asked.

"Is this another one of your jokes?" Tim asked skeptically. "Because if it is, it's not funny."

"It is most definitely in poor taste, Tony," Ziva agreed, not wanting to believe what her partner was saying.

"It's not a joke, not a prank and I didn't make it up," Tony said. "Gibbs wants us over at Ballston Common investigating."

Tony grabbed his things and headed for the elevator, not even turning around to see if Tim and Ziva were following. Tim and Ziva exchanged glances, finally grasping the seriousness of the situation. Both of them grabbed their bags and hurried after Tony. None of the agents wanted to believe it but it really was happening.

///////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////

Sam hurried through the front door, dropping her purse in the entryway as she made a beeline for Gibbs and the girls on the couch. She didn't say a word to the already quiet group as she threw her arms around her family and kissed both children before giving Gibbs a questioning look.

"What happened?" Gibbs had told her a little bit on the phone but like the rest of them, she was in disbelief.

"DiNozzo, Ziva and McGee are on the way to the mall to try to figure that out," Gibbs said. "I didn't want to leave them."

Part of Sam wanted to insist they were never leaving the girls alone again but she knew that wasn't rational. She was in full blown protective momma mode. She felt a murderous rage toward the man who'd tried to hurt her baby and an overwhelming urge to almost smother all their children with her protective intentions so no one could touch them and nothing bad could happen to them. Before they could continue the conversation any further, Gibbs' phone started buzzing.

"Gibbs."

"Hey Boss," Tony said. "We're at the mall. I'm in the security office right now. Someone definitely tried to grab Kylee."

"Who?"

"He must've known where the security cameras were because he never looked in that direction. He's wearing a plain black hoodie. Could be anybody."

"Process the scene," Gibbs said. "Get the security footage over to Abby."

"Will do, Boss," Tony replied. "How are the girls?"

"Pretty shaken up," and with that Gibbs hung up the phone. He looked over at Sam and the look on his face told her all she needed to know. This was no game, no mistake, not a simple misunderstanding. Someone had threatened their family. The question left in their minds was who. Was it a random act? Was it revenge for a previous case Gibbs had worked or fallout from a decision Sam had made in her job? Was it personal? Was it somehow connected to the kids' biological mother who, as far as they knew, was still in jail? The question that came after that was an even scarier one. Would they try again?

The look Gibbs and Sam shared turned from one of 'yes, this really is happening to us,' to one of all out protection over the six children they'd been entrusted with.

Chapter Text

Sam sat on the couch holding Jaycee tightly and dropping an occasional kiss on her head. The teenager hadn't left her or Gibbs' side all afternoon. Gibbs was upstairs lying down with Kylee. He had been for over an hour. The team had spent the day working with DC Metro to find the mystery man from the mall but hadn't found much to go on yet. Tension was high. Even the little ones could sense it.

Gibbs came downstairs with Kylee cradled in one arm and sat down on the other side of Sam. The two shared a look but didn't speak. Sam reached over and rubbed Kylee's belly before brushing her fingers across Gibbs' cheek. It was going to be a long night.

"What're we gonna do with you guys?" Gibbs asked as he reached behind Sam's shoulder and lovingly squeezed Jaycee's shoulder.

"What if that guy comes back?" Jaycee asked quietly.

"He doesn't know where we live, Honey," Sam said.

"We're not gonna let anybody anywhere near you guys," Gibbs assured both girls.

Jaycee let out a big yawn. She was exhausted. It had been a long day. She'd been questioned by Ziva while one of the Metro officers looked on. Kylee had been clinging to her as much as she'd clung to Gibbs and Sam that afternoon. Gibbs and Sam were upset and worried. The little ones knew something was off and were acting out because of it and Jaycee was feeding off of everyone else's emotions as well as trying to deal with her own. She put up her best brave front and unwrapped herself from Sam.

"I think I'm gonna go to bed," she said.

"Alright Baby," Sam said.

Jaycee leaned down and hugged Gibbs, enjoying the warmth and safety of having his arm around her for a moment.

"Good night, Sweet Pea," Gibbs said before kissing her forehead. "We'll be right down the hall if you need anything or even if you just get scared."

"Okay," Jaycee said. "Good night, Kylee." She waited for her sister to respond but she never did. She patted Kylee on the head then headed for the stairs.

Gibbs wrapped his arm around Sam and pulled her close. Kylee was still cradled to his chest and had fisted her hand into his shirt, holding on for dear life. Sam stretched the little girl's legs out into her lap so she'd be more comfortable then rested her head on Gibbs' shoulder.

"Kylee," Gibbs said, "will you talk to Mommy and I?"

Kylee turned her head so that her face was buried in Gibbs' chest. She didn't want to talk. She was too scared to say or do anything.

"You're safe here, Love," Sam said gently squeezing Kylee's leg. "Daddy and I won't let anything happen to you."

Gibbs could feel Kylee's body shaking in his arm then felt his shirt getting damp and realized Kylee was crying again. He turned her head so she could breathe and kissed her forehead. "Do you want to sleep with Mommy and I tonight?" he asked. "Would that help you feel a little better?"

Kylee gave a slight nod of her head and Gibbs smiled at her.

"You ready to go bed?" Gibbs asked as he turned to face Sam.

"Yeah, it's been a long day. I don't think it would hurt to go to bed early tonight."

Gibbs carried Kylee around with him while he double checked to make sure all the doors were locked, hoping that would provide a little extra reassurance. He took the little one upstairs and left her with Sam while he headed to the bathroom to change into a pair of sweatpants and a t-shirt. Sam got Kylee settled in the middle of their bed with her favorite stuffed cat.

"Jethro, will you go get Kylee's nightlight before you come to bed, please?" Sam asked. "I grabbed her kitty but I forgot her nightlight."

"Sure."

Gibbs headed down the hall and checked on Brady and then the twins before going into the girls' room. Gracie was sleeping peacefully. Gibbs knew she wasn't afraid of the dark so he wasn't worried about taking the nightlight. He kissed his youngest daughter then grabbed the nightlight before peeking in at Jaycee. He found the teenager sitting in her bed with the closet light on, holding Ty's baseball bat.

"Thought you were going to bed," Gibbs said as he sat down next to her.

"Couldn't sleep."

Gibbs took the bat from Jaycee and leaned it against the side of the bed. "You need to sleep, Baby." He knew she was exhausted and hated that she didn't even feel safe in her own house. He wasn't sure how to reassure her anymore than he already had. "Kylee's gonna sleep with us tonight. Do you wanna sleep in there too?"

Jaycee thought about the offer for a moment. She didn't want Gibbs to think she was a wimp but she didn't exactly want to sit in her room alone all night either. "Okay."

Gibbs flipped the closet light off then headed back down the hall with Jaycee. "Room for one more?" he asked Sam as he plugged the nightlight in.

"Always," Sam answered with a welcoming smile.

Jaycee decided to sleep at the foot of the bed. She waited for Gibbs to climb in and get settled then laid down on top of the covers and covered herself with the blanket they always kept at the end of their bed. Gibbs handed her a pillow and she put it on top of his legs and got comfortable. It was cramped but there was no doubt in her mind that she was safe.

///////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////

Both Gibbs and Sam returned to work the following day. Gibbs wanted to get caught up on the case and Sam had several important meetings she couldn't blow off. They knew it was best for the little ones to carry on with their normal routine. Jaycee was spending the day with Ty until everyone else returned home that evening and the little ones had been dropped off at daycare with the exception of Kylee who'd thrown a fit when Gibbs tried to leave.

"I need to go talk to Abby about some work stuff, Kylee," Gibbs said as he walked along the hall leading from the daycare to the rest of the building, carrying Kylee. "Can you stay with Tony till I get back?"

"Okay," Kylee said softly.

Gibbs looked down at her and smiled. "Did you decide to start talking again?"

Kylee turned shy again and hid her face in Gibbs' chest. Gibbs rubbed his hand over her head and kissed her. He took Kylee up to the bullpen and left her with Tony then stopped and got a Caf-Pow for Abby before heading to the lab.

"What do we got, Abs?" Gibbs asked handing her the drink.

Abby accepted the drink and took a long drink before answering. "I've got the security footage from the mall," she said cueing up the video. "Ducky and I watched it together yesterday and we both came to the same conclusion. This guy was definitely after Kylee. He follows them from the entrance, down the hall, around the corner and then when Jaycee pauses to look at the map he makes his move."

Gibbs watched as the figure dressed in the dark hoodie tried to persuade Kylee to go with him before Jaycee incapacitated him with a firm kick to the groin. The girls took off and once the man was finally able to stand again he left too. Unfortunately it was early in the morning and there weren't many people around.

"You taught her well, Gibbs," Abby said when she saw him tensing up.

"I didn't teach her that," Gibbs said. "She learned that from life on the street."

"Either way she's safe, they both are."

"So, is this guy after Kylee specifically or did he just show up at the mall yesterday morning and pick her out of the crowd?" Gibbs asked.

"Impossible to tell from the video," Abby said sadly. "How are the girls?"

"Scared," Gibbs answered. "They both slept with Sam and I last night."

"We'll get this guy, Gibbs," Abby said confidently.

"Thanks Abs," Gibbs said. He kissed her cheek then headed back to the squad room where his team was waiting to report. He nodded for them to start as he walked over to his desk and sat down. He'd just arrived at work and he was already feeling the pressure.

"We spent all day at the mall yesterday, Boss," Tony said, "couldn't find any witnesses, no trace evidence and no security cameras in the parking lot. Besides the footage Abby has, we have nothing."

"Where the hell were the security guards when all this was happening?" Gibbs asked angrily. "It's not like the mall was that busy and they were needed somewhere else."

"They had a staff meeting before work," Tim said. "It ran late."

"Are you mad, Daddy?" Kylee asked. She was sitting next to him at his desk, coloring a picture and listening to everything that was being said.

"I'm mad at the bad guy, Babe, but not at you," Gibbs answered. He turned his attention back to the team. "Any similar kidnappings or attempts in DC or the surrounding areas?"

"We went back a month and couldn't find anything related," Tony said.

"A couple runaways, one parental kidnapping and the other one the guy was caught when his getaway car ended up with a flat tire," Ziva said.

"We also checked on bio mom," Tony said, hoping Gibbs would know he was talking about the kids' biological mother, "she's still in prison."

"Daddy, I colored you a picture," Kylee said waving it in front of him.

Gibbs took the picture and pulled Kylee into his lap. "Thank you, Sweet Pea. I love it. I'm gonna hang it on my bulletin board so I can look at it every day." He kissed his little girl and held her tight and silently vowed to do anything he had to in order to keep her safe.

///////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////

"Thanks for not making fun of me for being chicken," Jaycee said as Ty drove them to work.

"You aren't being chicken," Ty said. "Some guy tried to take Kylee."

"I know," Jaycee said. "My Mom never took anything seriously. She would've blown this whole thing off."

"Sometimes I really hate parents," Ty grumbled.

The two started their work day, checking over the tables in their section to make sure everything was ready before the doors opened to the lunch crowd. Marcus did his morning rounds and checked in with each of his employees. The teenagers couldn't have had a better first boss. Everything was going normal until the middle of the lunch rush. Even on the weekdays the restaurant stayed busy.

"Welcome, Sir," Jaycee said as she put a coaster in front of the man at the table in her section. "Can I get you something to drink?"

"I think I'd rather start with something to eat," the man said. He avoided eye contact with Jaycee which was fine with the teenager but she didn't like the way the man was leering at her.

"Okay," Jaycee said, her tone still friendly and light. She took out her pad and pen. "What can I get for you?"

"You can get me that cute little sister of yours, Kylee," the man said. "She looked real tasty or I suppose Grace would do too. I'm not really into boys but I'd take Milo or Lucas. They're young enough there's not much of a difference. Or you could always be a good big sister and sacrifice yourself for them. I'm not really picky."

Ty came out of nowhere and slammed his fist into the mystery man's jaw. The man grabbed Ty's arm and twisted as he stood from the table. He backhanded the teenager then disappeared from the restaurant as Jaycee dropped to her knees next to her boyfriend.

Marcus was out in an instant once he noticed the commotion. The other diners looked on in shock as Marcus helped Ty to his feet then took Jaycee by the hand and led them to the back. Once he got them to his office he got one of his managers started on damage control while he sat down with the teenagers.

"What happened, guys?" Marcus asked. He tried to look at Ty's face but the angry teenager quickly batted his hand away.

"Was that the guy from the mall?" Ty asked Jaycee, ignoring Marcus' question.

Jaycee shrugged her shoulders as she sat shaking in the chair in front of Marcus' desk.

"What guy from the mall?" Marcus asked patiently.

Ty explained what had happened the previous day and Marcus immediately called Gibbs. He got some ice for Ty's swollen face and did his best to keep them calm while they waited for Gibbs to arrive.

///////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////

Gibbs parked in front of the restaurant and rushed inside. Everyone knew him as Jaycee's dad so he had no problem walking through the kitchen area back to Marcus' office. He knocked before pushing the door open. He immediately wrapped his arms around Jaycee while he looked at Ty. The boy looked like hell. His cheek was cut open and bleeding, his nose was bloody and his lip was swollen and bleeding. On top of that his arm was bruised.

Gibbs kissed the top of Jaycee's head then moved over in front of Ty. Ty grabbed onto Gibbs' wrist when he reached towards him to examine his face.

"Let me look, Kiddo," Gibbs said gently. "You're a little busted up. Let's make sure it's nothing serious."

Ty reluctantly let go of Gibbs' arm and endured being poked at. He tried not to wince but Gibbs' gentle touches were really hurting.

"We're gonna have to go to the hospital, Son," Gibbs concluded.

"No, please," Ty begged. "I'm okay."

"I wanna make sure your cheek's not broken and it looks like you might need a couple stitches," Gibbs said. "Tell me what happened."

"I was kinda watching Jaycee today 'cause of what happened yesterday," Ty said. "She gets this weird look on her face when something's wrong. I saw the look and I came over to check on her I heard the guy at the table saying perverted things about Jaycee and her brothers and sisters so I punched him and he hit me back. I think he was wearing a ring."

"What kind of perverted things?" Gibbs asked.

"He said Kylee looked tasty and Grace would do," Jaycee said. "He said he wasn't into boys but he'd take Milo and Lucas or I could be a good sister and sacrifice myself for them."

"Grace?" Gibbs asked.

"Yeah," Jaycee said, "Gracie."

"Did he say Grace or Gracie?"

"He said Grace."

"Did anybody ever call her Grace?" Gibbs asked.

Jaycee shook her head. She didn't know what Gibbs was thinking but it was obviously something. "Mom always introduced her as Gracie and that's what everybody called her."

Gibbs nodded, tucking that piece of information away. He wasn't sure what it meant yet but he was sure it meant something. "Was it the guy from the mall?"

"I don't know," Jaycee said, "probably but he was covered by a hoodie at the mall and I didn't get a good look."

"Do you have video surveillance in here, Marcus?" Gibbs asked.

Marcus shook his head regretfully. "Only in the back alley where my employees take their breaks."

"Alright," Gibbs said, "I've got a couple agents in your dining room taking witness statements. I'm gonna take Jaycee to NCIS and have her work with Abby on a computer sketch of this guy and take Ty to the Emergency Room to get some x-rays."

"Please let me know if there's anything I can do," Marcus said.

"Thank you," Gibbs said shaking the man's hand.

///////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////

Ty found a seat in the waiting room of the Emergency Room and unhappily plopped down while Gibbs checked him in. Gibbs knew he didn't want to be there but he also knew it was necessary. The receptionist took one look at the boy and moved him to the front of the line just as she did with every other bleeding patient.

"Ty," Gibbs called. "Tyler, come on, Bud."

"Sorry," Ty said, "I thought we'd have to wait."

"They don't want you to bleed all over their waiting room," Gibbs teased with a wink.

The two were taken to an exam room and left to wait but they didn't have to wait long.

"Tyler Sherwood?"

"It's Ty," Ty corrected. Only his parents called him Tyler and it usually meant he was in trouble.

"Ty," the doctor corrected. "I'm Dr. Parker, this is Carla, your nurse. Can you tell me what happened?"

"I got in a fight," Ty answered.

"He got backhanded," Gibbs elaborated. "Looks like the perp was wearing a ring." He turned Ty's face so he could take another look but Ty pulled his hand away again.

"Are you Dad or the police?" Dr. Parker asked.

"Special Agent Gibbs, NCIS."

Dr. Parker nodded as he put a pair of gloves on. "If you look this bad, I'd hate to see the other guy."

"I don't think I got him as good as he got me," Ty said, resisting the urge to push the doctor's hand away.

Gibbs squeezed the back of Ty's neck, knowing the boy was having a hard time just sitting there while everybody poked him and talked about him. The nurse recorded Ty's vitals while the doctor inspected his injuries. Dr. Parker decided to take x-rays and sent Ty upstairs with Carla while Gibbs headed out to the waiting room to make a couple phone calls. It wasn't long before Dr. Parker brought Ty out to Gibbs.

"No broken bones," he said, handing Gibbs a copy of his report, knowing he'd need it. "We glued up the cut on his cheek. As long as he doesn't pick at it, it should heal just fine. Some over the counter pain pills should be enough to keep his pain manageable. Make sure to keep some ice on those wounds to keep the swelling down, fifteen minutes on, fifteen off. If it gets any worse, don't hesitate to come back, Ty."

"I won't be back," Ty said firmly.

Gibbs smiled as he squeezed Ty's shoulder. "Thanks Doc. Let's get outta here, Ty."

"You don't have to tell me twice," Ty said.

///////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////

Jaycee sat with her chin propped up in her hands, staring at the computer on Abby's desk. She was having trouble with the police sketch of the mystery man. He'd never really looked up at her but a sketch of the top of his head wasn't going to help catch him. On top of that she was stressed and tired.

"Could I call Sam?" she asked.

"Sure," Abby said scooting the phone closer to Jaycee.

"Thanks," Jaycee muttered. She wasn't trying to be rude. She was just having a difficult time dealing with everything that was happening. She picked up the phone and dialed Sam's cell phone number.

"Hello," Sam answered.

"Sam, I need somebody."

"Your dad already called me, Baby," Sam said. "I'm on my way. I should be there in less than ten minutes."

"Hurry," Jaycee pleaded.

Sam could hear the exhaustion and tears in her daughter's voice and her heart broke. She pushed a little harder on the gas, hoping there were no cops hiding along her route. "I'm coming, Baby."

Jaycee buried her face in her arms and let her tears flow free.

Abby took the phone out of Jaycee's hand and hung it up then hugged the teenager. "Do you wanna talk about it?"

"Everything's so messed up," Jaycee sobbed. "He tried to take Kylee and he hit Ty. What it Ty's face is broken? What if this guy comes back and tries something again? How did he know my name and my brothers' and sisters' names? What does he want?"

"We're gonna keep you safe," Abby said, "all of you. I can guarantee Gibbs isn't going to let him get anywhere near any of you guys again."

"I'm tired," Jaycee cried around a yawn.

"Why don't you try to get some sleep," Abby suggested. "I'm not going anywhere. It's safe here."

"I don't wanna close my eyes," Jaycee said tiredly. "Every time I do I see bad stuff in my head."

"I know what that's like," Abby said hugging the teenager a little tighter.

///////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////

Sam checked in and got her visitor badge at NCIS then headed for the squad room. Tony was sitting at his desk with Kylee sleeping soundly on his chest. Tim and Ziva were sitting there looking on. The whole group looked tired and Sam felt for them.

"Is Jethro still at the hospital with Ty?" she asked kissing Tony's head and then Kylee's.

"Yeah," Tony said softly.

"How are you guys holding up?" Sam moved over to Ziva and gave her a warm hug.

"We are okay," Ziva said. "We should probably be the ones asking you that though."

"We'll get through this," Sam said. "It's just another bump in the road. Tim, how are you doing, Sweetheart?" He got a kiss on his head similar to the one Tony had received.

"Frustrated," Tim admitted. "This guy's right under our nose but we can't get a fix on him. He's struck twice and all we know is he's in his thirties and he has short brown hair."

"He's smart guys and yes, right now he does have the upper hand but we're still getting our bearings," Sam said. "He's given us more information than you think though. We know he knows the kids' names. We know it's not a random attack and we know he's bold, not afraid of crowds. That's going to help us protect the kids and believe it or not, it could end up helping a lot more than a physical description to catch this guy."

"Leave it to the brain gamer…" Tony joked lightly.

"That's right," Sam said with a wink. "You guys knew that. We're all just stressed because this is personal. Now, where's Jaycee?"

"Downstairs with Abby," Tim answered.

"Then that's where I'll be," Sam said. "Tony, you okay with Kylee?"

"Yeah," Tony said. "You can try to take her from me but I might have to fight you."

"I don't want to have to hurt you so I'll just go downstairs and check on Jaycee," Sam said with a grin.

"Yeah, yeah," Tony said as Sam headed for the elevator.

Sam smiled to herself as she took the elevator down to Abby's lab. Even in a tense situation they could all take a little time out to smile.

Abby was sitting next to Jaycee in her office just holding her while the teenager rested her head on Abby's desk. Neither spoke, they just found comfort in each other's touch. Sam ran her hand over the back of Abby's head and rested the other on Jaycee's back.

"Hi ladies," she said softly. "How're we doing?"

"We're having a rough time," Abby answered when Jaycee stayed quiet.

Sam smiled gratefully at Abby before turning her focus to Jaycee. "Talk to me, Jaycee. Tell me what you're thinking."

"I'm thinking this is all my fault but I don't know how to stop it 'cause I don't know what I did or what he wants," Jaycee said. "Kylee's scared and Ty's all beat up and I just want to lock everybody up forever somewhere safe."

"This isn't all your fault, Love," Sam said. She pulled Jaycee out of her chair and hugged her child tight. "The reason you can't figure out what you did is because you didn't do anything. This has nothing to do with you. It's all in this guy's warped, demented mind."

"How do I make him go away?" Jaycee asked.

"We catch him," Gibbs said as he entered, "but the team and I will take care of that."

"Oh Sweetheart," Sam said looking at Ty's face, "he really got you good, didn't he?"

Ty pushed Sam's hand away before it got too close to his face. He was hurting and all the touching was making it worse.

"I'm sorry, Ty," Jaycee said as she hugged him.

"It's okay," Ty said. "It's not your fault."

Gibbs pulled Sam into a hug and kissed her forehead while Abby looked on and smiled.

"Aw, it's like a little family reunion right here in my lab."

"How are we doing on the sketch?" Gibbs asked still holding onto Sam.

Abby shook her head, silently telling Gibbs it wasn't going well. "Jaycee said he never looked up at her so she didn't really get a look at his face."

"That's okay," Gibbs said trying to reassure Jaycee. He was upset they hadn't caught a break but didn't want to make Jaycee feel any worse than she already did. It wasn't her fault and stressing her out more than she already was wouldn't help the situation at all.

"Agent Gibbs."

Gibbs turned to see Vance standing at the entrance to Abby's lab watching them.

"A moment please?"

"Be right back," Gibbs said before following Vance into the waiting elevator.

Vance started the elevator and as soon as the doors closed and it started moving, he pushed the emergency stop. "How are they?"

"Jaycee's upset and scared. Ty's beat up, angry, frustrated. Sam and I are a combination of all of that."

"I don't suppose you'd take some time off," Vance ventured.

Gibbs looked over at his boss and shook his head. Now wasn't the time to take time off.

"Didn't think so," Vance said. "I just got off the phone with DC Metro. We're putting you guys up in a safe house—a hotel actually. You'll have round the clock protection too."

"We don't need to go to a safe house, Leon. This guy hasn't threatened us at our house."

"And we're not going to wait for that to happen," Vance said firmly. "He obviously knew where to find Jaycee today. He knows the kids' names. It's very likely he knows where you live as well."

Gibbs rubbed his brow in a show of frustration. He didn't want this criminal to force them out of their home but Vance was right. His family had been threatened and it would be foolish not to take that seriously. "Alright," he agreed, "we'll go."

Vance nodded, satisfied with Gibbs' answer. He'd expected more of a fight but was glad it hadn't come to that. "We got you a suite, fully equipped with a kitchen area. I know it won't be home but hopefully it'll be comfortable enough until we can get you home."

"Thanks Leon."

"We'll get this guy, Gibbs," Vance vowed.

"Yes we will, Leon. Yes we will."

Chapter Text

"What's the matter, Love?" Sam asked. The little ones had been asleep for some time and Jaycee was sprawled out on the couch watching TV. All of them seemed more relaxed. Their vacation, as Gibbs and Sam were calling it, was a fun new adventure. Unlike the kids, Gibbs was tense. Sam could see it in his body and his face as she sat across from him at the table in the dining room area of their hotel room.

"Nothin'," Gibbs said in an attempt to blow it off. He took a sip of his coffee and tried to put up an appearance of being fine.

"Mm-mmm," Sam said shaking her head. "Something's bothering you."

"Grace," Gibbs said.

"What about her?"

"Jaycee said this guy called her Grace not Gracie," Gibbs said. He thought back over the conversation he'd had with the teenagers at the restaurant and something else clicked. "Jaycee, did this guy mention Brady?"

Jaycee looked over the back of the couch at Gibbs and Sam and thought back to earlier to that day. "No, he didn't. Why?"

"Just trying to figure out what's going on," Gibbs said with a reassuring smile. "Watch your movie."

"He spoke about the kids in a sexual way," Sam pointed out quietly. "Molestation of infants is rare compared to other age groups."

"I feel like there's something there but I just can't grasp it yet," Gibbs said. "It's like when you have something on the tip of your tongue but can't quite spit it out."

"Don't try too hard, Babe," Sam said. "Stress and trying to force it are only going to make things worse."

"I'm frustrated," Gibbs said with a heavy sigh.

"I know. I am too." Sam stood and walked over behind Gibbs. She wrapped her arms around him and gave him a hug and a kiss then started massaging his shoulders.

"Feels good," Gibbs mumbled trying to settle down.

"Relax," Sam coaxed as she worked her way up the back of his neck and massaged his scalp.

Gibbs closed his eyes and focused on letting Sam help him calm down. She worked the knots and tension out of his muscles until he was a little more relaxed. She knew he wouldn't be able to relax fully until the threat was gone but she hoped he was at peace enough to get a little bit of sleep.

Once she felt Gibbs relaxing, Sam sat down in his lap and wrapped her arms around him. Gibbs leaned in and kissed her as he held her close. Any other night it would've been pretext to other physical activities but in a hotel suite with all the kids and the stress of the past two days, cuddling would be as far as they went that night.

////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////

Tony was awakened out of a deep sleep when he heard a crashing sound downstairs. He hopped out of bed and pulled on a pair of sweatpants. He grabbed his gun and flashlight then headed down the hall. Ty's bedroom door was closed and Tony could hear him snoring away in his room so he kept going. He clicked his flashlight on and scanned the stairs then cautiously headed down. He cleared the entryway before heading into the living room. The large bay window was busted and there was a rock and shattered glass all over the floor. Tony stepped around that and cleared the dining room, kitchen and basement before determining nobody was in the house with them. Someone had just thrown a rock through the window.

He headed back up to the first floor, flipped the living room light on and assessed the damage. The living room was a mess. There was glass everywhere and the blinds that had been hanging in front of the window were damaged beyond repair. Tony took a closer look at the rock and noticed it had writing on it. He put his shoes on so he could walk through the glass and read the words.

You take my family—I'm gonna take yours.

The early morning hour and rude wakeup call had Tony a little off his game and he couldn't make sense of the note. He had no family to take except Senior and he somehow doubted the message was referring to Senior.

He pulled out his phone and looked at the time—just after 2:00. He decided to go ahead and call Gibbs. He could wait until the morning but he knew Gibbs would be upset if he did.

"Gibbs."

"Boss, it's DiNozzo. Sorry to wake you but somebody just threw a rock through the front window."

"What?"

"There's a message on it too. You take my family—I'm gonna take yours. I don't understand it though."

Gibbs sat up in bed and rubbed his hand roughly over his face. What on earth was going on? "I think that message was meant for me, not you, Tony."

"Do you think it's the guy that's been harassing the kids?" Tony asked.

"You know how I feel about coincidences, DiNozzo," Gibbs said. "Are you guys okay?"

"Yeah," Tony answered. "It spooked me. Ty slept through it."

"I want you guys to come get a room in the hotel we're in. I don't want you staying there." Gibbs didn't even want to risk saying the name of the hotel over the phone but Tony knew where they were.

"Alright," Tony said. "I'll get Ty up and we'll be over in a bit."

"Why don't you put that rock in a Ziploc bag and take it by NCIS on the way," Gibbs said. "With any luck Abby'll find some prints."

"You got it, Boss."

The two hung up and Tony collected the rock as evidence. He doubted a criminal who had been smart so far had been dumb enough to leave his fingerprints on it but it'd be foolish not to check it out. He ignored the rest of the mess and headed back upstairs to Ty's room. He knocked before entering and found Ty still sound asleep. The teenager had taken some nighttime pain relievers which had no doubt helped him sleep through everything but it was time to get him up.

"Ty," Tony said, "wake up."

Ty shifted in the bed and tried to ignore the noise.

"Ty, come on, man."

"It's still dark out," the teenager grumbled.

"I know and I'm sorry but we've gotta go. You can go back to sleep later."

"Why?" Ty asked starting to wake. Why did Tony have to leave and why did he have to go with him? Even in his haze Ty knew something was wrong.

"Some fool threw a rock through the downstairs window," Tony said. "Gibbs doesn't want us staying here."

"Is there somebody in the house? Where are we gonna go?" Ty sat up in bed trying to stay calm but his heart rate was speeding up and he couldn't help but breathe heavier.

"Nobody's here," Tony said. "I checked. We're gonna go to the same hotel Gibbs is at and get a room. Pack a bag with a few things. I don't know how long we'll be gone."

"Okay," Ty said.

"Good man." Tony patted Ty's head before he left him to get dressed and pack.

////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////

Gibbs and Sam woke to two giggling little boys jumping on their bed. Gibbs reached out and snatched Lucas up before the three year old even knew he was awake. Lucas squealed as he was pulled backwards through the air before being cradled to his daddy's chest. Milo leaped on top of his brother, landing with a grunt. Sam startled tickling both boys which only added to the chaos. The sound of their children laughing was like a natural stress reliever for both of them. It was the perfect way to start their day.

"I'll take care of Brady if you wanna hop in the shower first," Gibbs told Sam.

"Sounds like a plan," Sam said. She leaned over and kissed Gibbs and the twins groaned.

"That's yucky, Mommy!" Milo said with a giggle.

"Oh yeah?" Sam asked as she snatched the little boy into her arms. She kissed all over Milo's face and belly while he tried unsuccessfully to squirm away. Lucas knew he would be next if he didn't hurry up and get out of reach. He hopped off the bed and giggled at his twin from just out of reach.

Once Sam was done tickling and kissing Milo she rolled out of bed, pretending she was just heading for the shower but instead snatched Lucas up and starting kissing and tickling him as well. She knew both boys loved the game of chase and the kisses and tickling and she loved playing the game with them.

Gibbs got Brady out of the crib and changed his diaper. The eleven month old was turning into quite the chatterbox. Minus the occasional 'da' or 'ma' Gibbs didn't understand a word he was saying but he loved to listen to him go on and on. Once his diaper had been changed, Gibbs grabbed his baby food and settled in on the couch between the twins who were watching cartoons while Sam showered.

"Is it breakfast time for Brady?" Lucas asked.

"Yep," Gibbs said, "and after Brady, it'll be breakfast time for everybody else."

"Is Mommy making pancakes today?" Milo asked.

"Not today, Buddy," Gibbs said. "Mommy and I have to go to work and you guys have to go to school. I think it's gonna be cereal or pop-tarts today."

"Is there s'mores?" Lucas asked.

"Do you think we'd go anywhere without your s'mores pop-tarts?" Gibbs teased as he pulled Lucas to his side.

Lucas giggled and hugged his daddy's arm.

Just as Gibbs was finishing up feeding Brady, there was a knock at their door. An agent had been assigned to stand guard and Gibbs knew he was somewhere close but Gibbs was still on high alert. He stood with Brady and headed over to the door. A look through the peephole revealed Tony standing there. Gibbs unlocked and opened the door.

"Hi guys," he said.

"Hey Boss," Tony said snatching Brady out of his hands on his way by. "Hi baby." He mouthed the infant's fingers and made goofy faces at him as he made his way to the living room where the twins were engrossed in cartoons.

"Mornin' Ty," Gibbs said as the teenager walked past him.

"Hi," Ty grumbled.

"How ya feeling?"

"Sore. My face feels like it's a hundred times bigger than my body."

"You taking some pain killers for that?"

"Yeah. They're helping some."

"Good. Make yourself at home."

"Thank you. Is Jaycee up yet?"

"Nope. The boys are up and Sam's in the shower. The girls are still sleeping."

Tony got the kids started on breakfast while Ty plopped down on the couch. Being disturbed in the middle of the night had really cut into his sleep. On top of that he didn't feel good but he was happy to be with Tony and the Gibbs family. He felt content with them, like he actually belonged. They respected him as a young man, spreading his wings into adulthood unlike his parents who just wanted to smother him with their rules.

Sam came out of the bathroom showered, dressed and ready to go. She gave Ty a kiss as she passed by the couch and said good morning to Tony on her way over to the bed where Gibbs was getting some clothes out to put on after his shower.

"I'm calling in today," Sam said. "I'm gonna go to work with you, see if we can figure this out."

"Are they gonna miss you?"

"People always miss me when I'm gone," Sam teased as she poked his chest.

Gibbs smiled. He'd set that one up perfectly. "I don't want you to get in trouble."

"I won't. It's fine."

Gibbs gave her a quick kiss on his way to the bathroom for his shower. He was anxious to get to work. He wanted this case solved as quickly as possible. If he didn't have Sam and the kids at home, he'd work until it was solved. He showered and shaved and got dressed, missing having at least one of the kids barging in on him. It was so much fun to have little ones running around again. By the time he was done in the bathroom the girls were out of bed, dressed and were finishing up their breakfast.

"Jaycee, Ty, I don't want you guys going anywhere without Agent Hunter," Gibbs said firmly. "Ty, do you have to work today?"

"I was supposed to but Marcus gave me the week off 'cause of what happened yesterday," Ty said. "He called me last night."

"He called me too," Jaycee told Ty. "I don't have to work for the rest of the week either."

"Alright, you two behave yourselves. Be safe, be alert, don't go anywhere without Agent Hunter. He'll be outside the door."

"Call us if you need anything," Sam said. "You guys have fun. We left some money on the counter for you to order a pizza or go get some burgers or something for lunch. We should be home by dinner."

"Thank you," Jaycee said as she got a hug and a kiss from both Gibbs and Sam and then Tony.

Ty got another kiss from Sam and a gentle pat on the head and shoulder from Gibbs and Tony. He was so tired he was nearly falling asleep. Jaycee helped the little kids get their shoes on then Gibbs, Sam and Tony left with the kids, leaving the teenagers alone.

"Are you okay?" Jaycee asked.

Ty nodded sleepily. "I'm just tired. Tony woke me up in the middle of the night and we had to go to the Navy Yard and then come here. I didn't get a lot of sleep."

"Wanna lay down for a little while? You could take a nap."

"You mean, lay down with you?" Ty clarified. His mind was racing with all the things that could possibly happen if the two of them laid down together.

"You could put your head in my lap and sleep while I watch TV. Gibbs said we could cuddle on the couch."

"Right," Ty said. He grabbed one of the decorative pillows and put it in Jaycee's lap then spread out on the couch. He was so tired and so sore. He just wanted to sleep, which is exactly what he did almost as soon as his head hit the pillow.

Jaycee ran her fingers through his hair the way she'd watch Sam do to Gibbs on occasion. She felt so much love for him and guilt about what had happened. He'd gotten hurt because he was protecting her. She'd do anything to help him feel better. She flipped channels until she found a TV show that looked interesting then relaxed and watched TV while Ty slept on her lap.

////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////

Gibbs, his team and Sam were all gathered together in the bullpen. Abby was there to report her findings on the rock Tony had dropped off in the middle of the night, Ducky was there to offer any psychological profiling he could and Jimmy was there for moral support. He was as much a part of the team as the rest of them and even though they teased him, none of them could imagine life without him.

"What'd the rock tell you, Abby?" Gibbs asked.

"Nothing," Abby said. "No prints, no trace evidence; just your average, ordinary, everyday rock. The message was written in black crayon. That's all I can tell you."

"Disappointing but not surprising," Ducky said. "He's been smart thus far. I doubt he'll slip up so soon."

"What are you thinking, Boss?" Tony asked.

"I'm thinking whatever this guy is using as a source for his information, it's not personal. He said Grace, not Gracie like she's been called all her life. It's also an old source. There was never any mention of Brady. Brady was born last July. I'm also betting the rock through the window last night was meant for me, not Tony. That would mean whoever did this doesn't know we've moved."

"But the attack against you is personal, Jethro," Ducky pointed out. "The message on the rock is very personal. He's blaming you for taking his family so he's retaliating by trying to take your family. Judging by the lengths he's already gone to to threaten and terrorize, I doubt he'll let up until he gets what he wants or he's caught."

"He tried to snatch Kylee on Monday, visited Jaycee at work yesterday and threw the rock through the window early this morning," Sam said. "It's no telling what he'll try next."

"The kids are all safe," Gibbs said. "We don't leave them alone again until this guy's caught. The daycare's on alert just in case he somehow manages to slip into the building. Tony, Ziva, head over to the prison and question Faye Chambers, the kids' birth mother. See if she knows anything about this. McGee, Abs, start checking into old case files. Look for anyone with a motive, people who've lost kids, spouses or both directly related to one of our investigations."

"On it, Boss," his agents said as they jumped into action.

"How's everyone holding up?" Ducky asked once Tony, Ziva, Tim and Abby had gone to complete their assigned tasks.

"The little ones are oblivious to the danger," Sam said. "I think Jaycee did better last night at the hotel," she said looking to Gibbs for his opinion.

"I think so too," Gibbs agreed. "I think she finally got a little sleep."

"Good," Ducky said. "Lack of sleep will only make things worse."

Gibbs looked at Sam, clearly worried about something. "Was is stupid to leave Jaycee and Ty alone in that hotel room?"

"Maybe," Sam said, "but I don't think so. They both have good heads on their shoulders. Jaycee's seen what a promiscuous lifestyle leads to and Ty's scared to death of what you'd do to him if he did anything to Jaycee. Besides, they're gonna be going away to college in a little over a month. They'll have the freedom to do whatever they want. I think some baby steps towards that freedom are wise."

Before Gibbs could respond his phone rang. He looked at the caller ID and saw Jaycee's name. He showed it to Sam before answering. "What's up, Baby?"

"I remembered something but I don't know if it's important," Jaycee said softly. Ty was still sleeping in her lap and she didn't want to wake him.

"What'd you remember?" Gibbs asked.

"Mom had this one boyfriend who did call Gracie 'Grace'. He's the only person who's ever called her that."

"Do you remember his name?"

"I don't remember his first name but his last name was Parsons. I remember 'cause Reagen and I used to make fun of it—Parsons, Persons. It's dumb but I remember me and her calling him that behind his back and laughing."

"Could it have been him at the mall and the restaurant?" Gibbs asked.

"I don't know," Jaycee said. "Mom brought so many guys home all their faces just started running together. I'm pretty sure that boyfriend had blonde hair though and the guy at the restaurant had brown but he coulda dyed it, right?"

"Right," Gibbs said proudly. If his kid wasn't going to culinary school she would've made a fine investigator. "Where was this boyfriend from? Were you guys in DC yet or somewhere else?"

"We were in DC," Jaycee answered. "I think he came along not too long after we got here."

"Alright, Kiddo," Gibbs said. "That's very helpful. We'll find him and see what's up. Are you guys behaving?" Sam smacked Gibbs but he couldn't help it. He had to ask.

"Yeah, I'm watching TV and Ty's sleeping. He's tired. We're on the couch and his head is on my lap on a pillow. Is that okay?"

"Yeah Baby, that's okay. I love you. Call if you remember anything else or have any problems."

"I will," Jaycee said, "and I love you too."

"What do we got?" Sam asked, mimicking the words Gibbs often said to his team.

Gibbs looked at her and smiled at her impression of him. "A lead."

Chapter Text

The car ride to the diner was quiet. Ty sat in the passenger seat, deep in thought while Gibbs drove. After hearing about the incident at the restaurant, Ty's mother was anxious to see her son so he'd agreed to meet her for lunch and get it over with. Gibbs didn't think Ty was a target but he was being overly cautious. He also wanted to be there for moral support since Tony was still at the prison with Ziva.

"You okay?" Gibbs asked as he pulled into the parking lot of his diner. He'd been thrilled when he learned that was the meeting place.

"I just wanna get this over with," Ty said. He'd napped just about all morning. He'd been a having wonderfully relaxing day with Jaycee until his mom had called.

"Take a deep breath," Gibbs said. He waited for Ty to obey before he continued. "That's your mom in there, Kiddo. Moms are people too. They make mistakes just like everybody else. My mom left when I was little so I know what you're going through."

"Why'd she leave?" Ty was happy to talk about someone else's problems rather than his own.

"She was sick," Gibbs answered hesitantly. "She… it was real complicated, Ty."

"Were you mad at her?"

"Oh yeah," Gibbs answered. "I was mad at her and my dad, hell, I was mad at the whole world and I carried that anger around for a long time."

"How did you make it go away?"

"I forgave them, Ty. I shoulda done it a long time before I did."

"You think I should forgive my mom?"

"I think you should listen to what she has to say with an open mind. Hanging onto that anger is only gonna destroy your life."

Ty nodded and opened the car door to get out. He was ready. Gibbs followed the teenager into the diner and waved at his mother and the man sitting next to her before sitting down at the counter on the opposite side of the restaurant to give them some privacy.

Ty walked over to where his mother was sitting, accepted her hug then sat down in the booth across from her and the man she was with.

///////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////

Neither Tony nor Ziva were too thrilled about spending all morning at the prison. Faye had apparently gone missing sometime over the past weekend and no one had bothered to notify Gibbs and Sam. Tony and Ziva had spent the day going through Faye's cell and interviewing the other inmates. It had been a long morning and they didn't have much to show for it. Faye appeared to have just vanished.

"Wanna stop for a burger?" Tony asked as he drove back towards DC.

"I'd rather have a salad," Ziva replied.

"I'm hungry, Ziva, for actual food. Salad is rabbit food."

"Salad is good and healthy," Ziva argued.

"Ugh!" Tony tightened his grip on the steering wheel. "How about we compromise and get a sub?"

"How about Subway? They have subs and salads."

"Perfect," Tony said. A big, fat steak sub sounded really good.

///////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////

Jaycee shook her head as Abby flipped through picture after picture of men with the last name Parsons. They were making an educated guess that he had a criminal record and was in the system for something. Gibbs was hoping Jaycee would be able to pick him out of the many mug shots. She was hanging out at NCIS while Ty was at lunch with his mother.

"Why don't we take a break," Sam suggested. "I think your eyes could use a rest. Let's go get something to drink."

"Okay," Jaycee said. She really was trying to help. She wanted to stop this guy just as much as the rest of them but Ty's meeting with his mother was stressing her out and she'd hadn't exactly been sleeping the best. On top of that all the faces she was looking at were starting to look the same.

"What'd Ziva say when she called?" Jaycee asked as she headed for the break room with Sam.

"She said your mother has disappeared," Sam answered. "She escaped sometime this past weekend."

"Right before all this stuff started happening," Jaycee concluded. "Do you think she's trying to steal us back?"

"I think she's upset Jethro put her in jail," Sam said. "Just like she's done her whole life, she's trying to use you kids as leverage but we're not gonna let that happen. She won't get anywhere near you guys."

"Are you and Gibbs still gonna get married a week from Saturday?"

"Planning on it," Sam said. "We can't let the bad guys steal our joy. We'd never have any fun."

"I'm excited."

"Me too, Sweetheart."

"We should take Abby back a Caf-Pow," Jaycee said with a smile.

"Good idea. What would you like?"

"I think I want a Caf-Pow too. I need some energy!"

"Oh boy," Sam teased. "Dealing with you two hyped up on caffeine should be fun."

Jaycee giggled as she filled two cups, one for herself and one for Abby. Sam got a bottle of water out of the vending machine then they headed back. The short break was nice and had reenergized Jaycee. She was ready to look at more pictures.

///////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////

"Are you having fun with the Gibbses?" Ty's mother asked.

"Lots of fun," Ty answered. "They actually let me do stuff." He cringed at the bite in his tone. He didn't mean to be short with his mother. It was just the anger oozing out. "Sorry… I, yeah, I'm having fun."

"Your dad and I only did what we thought was best for you, Ty," his mom said. "Maybe we could've let you have a little more freedom."

"I got it now." Ty put the last bite of his chicken strip in his mouth then took a long drink of his coke. "Why'd you ask me here, Mom?" They'd been there almost an hour and hadn't talked about anything important. Ty had met his mom's new boyfriend. He didn't like the fact that less than two weeks after she'd left, she already had a boyfriend but he bit his tongue and didn't say anything. They'd talked about work and college. Ty had refused to talk about the mystery man who was threatening them but his mom hadn't said anything of great importance.

"I just wanted to see you, Honey," she said. "I wanted to make sure you knew that I love you and I didn't walk away from you. I walked away from your father."

"I was there too, Mom. You walked away from me too."

"That wasn't my intention. You can come live with me at my new place if you want. Brandon and I have a really nice place. You'd have your own bedroom."

"No way." There was no way Ty was going to move in with his mother and her new boyfriend. He suspected his mother had been with Brandon for a lot longer than the two weeks she'd been a free woman but he wasn't going to ask. He didn't want to know. "I gotta go, Mom. I have stuff to do. Thanks for lunch though."

"Do you have another hug for me?"

Ty shrugged and let his mother hug him then left without saying a word to Brandon. Gibbs gave a friendly wave goodbye to Ty's mother then followed the boy out to the car.

"I don't wanna talk about it," Ty said as he and Gibbs buckled up.

"Okay," Gibbs said. He started the car and backed out of the parking spot.

"Mom's living with her boyfriend," Ty said. It was clear from his tone that he wasn't happy about it. "She probably met him when she was still with my dad, right? I mean, you don't just meet someone and move in with them in less than two weeks, do you?"

"I suppose it happens," Gibbs said, "but it's rare."

"That's probably where she went to when she left, huh?"

"I don't know, Ty. You can ask her."

"No. I don't wanna know. I just wanna forget all about them. I don't want to think about them ever again."

"They're your family, Ty. You can't forget all about 'em."

"Well I don't wanna see 'em anymore."

"Okay. You need space. That's understandable." Gibbs could tell Ty was closing himself off. He was worried about all the anger he was bottling up. "Tyler, listen to me," he said gently. "Your parents separated. That's a hard thing to deal with no matter what age you are. Your mom may have been having an affair. I don't know and you won't know unless you decide you wanna ask her. Your dad's personality is one that makes him tend to take his anger out on others. That's not fair either. None of this is fair, Son but we've gotta find a way for you to work though this anger because if you keep holding onto it, it's gonna eat at you and make you miserable."

"I'm sorry," Ty said. He didn't even know what he was sorry for. He was just sorry. Everything felt like his fault. Maybe if he would've been a better kid, his parents wouldn't have split up. Maybe if he'd been stronger or hit that guy harder, Jaycee wouldn't be in danger.

"You have nothing to be sorry for," Gibbs said. "You haven't done anything wrong."

Gibbs parked the car at NCIS and got out. Tony and Ziva pulled in right next to them, obviously arguing about something but one stern look from Gibbs put an end to whatever fight they were having. Gibbs opened the passenger door for Ty when he didn't get out on his own. Ty pulled himself out of the car and looked dejectedly up at Gibbs. Gibbs wrapped an arm around him and squeezed him tight.

"Stop thinkin' you're all alone, Boy," Gibbs said playfully.

"What's wrong?" Tony asked. One look at Ty and he knew something had happened.

"I'm just so pissed off," Ty said.

Tony rested his arm on top of Gibbs' around Ty's shoulders. You could never feel too loved. He could both see and feel the tension in his roommate. "I got an idea. Boss, may we have an hour for lunch?"

"We already ate lunch," Ziva pointed out.

"So did I," Ty said.

"Sure," Gibbs answered. He suspected Tony wasn't taking Ty to get anything to eat. "I'll help Ziva with the evidence you guys brought back. You two get outta here."

///////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////

"Put these on," Tony said tossing a pair of boxing gloves to Ty.

Ty caught the gloves and pulled them on as he glanced around the NCIS gym. "Wow, you guys have your own gym."

"Yep," Tony said pulling on a pair of boxing gloves. "You ever box before?"

"Not for real. Just a little fake sparring in the locker room."

"Alight," Tony said. "This is gonna be fun. Climb in. Show me whatcha got. No face shots and stay away from my groin. I'm not wearing a cup and neither are you."

"'kay."

Ty danced around Tony, throwing a couple punches that Tony easily deflected. He mimicked the moves he's seen in a few fight films but didn't have any success landing a punch. Tony got a few shots at Ty but moved slow and took it easy on him. He could sense Ty was holding back.

"Watch my eyes, not my hands, Ty," Tony said. "Ninety nine percent of the time, when someone's getting ready to throw a punch their eyes dilate. Don't be gentle either. Gibbs kicks my ass down here all the time. Show me whatcha got."

Ty smiled as he picked up the pace. This was fun. He managed to dodge Tony's swings and even land a few of his own. Boxing quickly turned to wrestling when Tony knocked Ty's feet out from under him but Tony didn't have the upper hand for long. Ty had a little experience wrestling. After rolling around on the mats for a little while Tony let Ty go at one of the punching bags while he held it for him. Ty put all his anger and frustration into the bag until he was so tired he had to stop.

By the time they were finished Ty was smiling and laughing again. Tony could tell just by looking at him that he felt much better. He took him to the gift shop and bought him a change of clothes then the two hit the showers. They had ten minutes before Gibbs was expecting them back.

///////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////

"Who's that?" Tony asked running a comb through his wet hair as he walked over to the screen where everyone was gathered around.

"Luke Parsons," Gibbs answered.

"Is that the guy?" Ty asked. He took the comb when Tony was done and ran it through his hair.

"Yeah," Jaycee said. "Why are you all wet?"

"Tony and I were working out and stuff and we took a shower but we had to hurry so we weren't late," Ty explained.

"Feel better?" Gibbs asked.

"Much," Ty answered with a genuine smile.

"Okay, I want a BOLO out on Parsons," Gibbs said. "He's has no car registered to his name, no known relatives, no employment or tax records. It might be a long shot but it's a start."

"You guys are all welcome over at the hotel tonight as our guests," Sam said. "We'll order some pizzas then hang out in the pool for awhile. I think there's a hot tub too. You guys look like you need to have a little fun and relax. Jethro, I'm gonna take Jaycee and Ty and head out. I'll see you tonight. Try not to be too late, Baby."

"Alright," Gibbs said. "You guys have fun. Watch each other's backs. Take Agent Hunter with you. I'll see you tonight. I love you."

"I love you."

Gibbs and Sam shared a kiss then Sam took the teenagers and left with Agent Hunter and Gibbs and his agents got back to work. Gibbs and Tony headed to Parsons' last known place of employment and Tim and Ziva headed for his last known address. All the information they had on him was a few years old but it was the only thing they had to go on. Jaycee had said the mystery man smelled clean and looked well kempt so it was doubtful he was living on the streets. They just had to figure out where he was and they knew they'd most likely find Faye with him.

///////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////

Sam sat perched on Gibbs' lap, facing him in the hot tub. Everyone else was playing in the pool. One of the wonderful things about having the team around was they all had their favorite child and whenever they came over they always wanted to play with the kids. It was a nice break for Gibbs and Sam.

Gibbs wrapped his arms around Sam and held her close. He kissed her collarbone just before she rested her head on his shoulder. She lowered herself into his lap and could feel his erection through the thin material of their bathing suits. Gibbs sucked in a sharp intake of air and his hands found her hips, stilling her.

"What're ya doin' to me?" he asked softly.

"I miss you," Sam said.

Gibbs smiled and brought one hand up to caress her cheek. "I miss you too but we can't do this here." The others were so engrossed in what they were doing they might've been able to manage a quickie but it wasn't worth the risk. Not with the kids around.

Sam moved back further on Gibbs' legs and smiled at him. She traced invisible patterns across his chest while he rested his hands against her sides. His thumb moving over her abs sent light tickling sensations through her and she couldn't help but squirm.

"Hey Boss Man! Hi Sam!" Abby said cheerfully.

"Hi Abs," Gibbs said.

"I brought brownies for everybody to snack on tonight but they still need to be baked," Abby said. "They're already made up and in the pan. It just has to go in the oven for a half an hour. Would you guys mind baking them and then we'll bring the kids up in a half an hour?"

Gibbs could hear the sneaky tone in her voice and knew what she was up to. She was trying to give him and Sam an opportunity to spend a little quality time together. Abby was a lot like him, she saw everything. She'd most likely seen them in the hot tub and known what they were up to. He realized he should probably be embarrassed but instead he just felt grateful.

"I think we can manage that," Gibbs said as he stole a glance at Sam.

"Oven on 350 and put them in for a half an hour?" Sam asked Abby.

"Yep!" Abby said. "Thanks! You guys are the best." Abby smiled brightly before diving into the pool again and swimming over to the group.

"She knows, doesn't she?" Sam asked.

"Probably," Gibbs answered. "I'm glad my towel is right here," he said. He adjusted himself so everyone they passed in the hall wouldn't see how excited he was then got out and wrapped his towel around his waist and followed Sam towards the elevator.

Gibbs grabbed Sam's butt while they waited for the elevator. Sam let out a surprised shriek and turned to face Gibbs who was standing there looking innocent. The elevator dinged and opened, saving him from being scolded. As soon as the doors closed and they were alone, the two turned into horny teenagers, kissing and grabbing each other, rubbing and touching. When the elevator stopped on their floor they hurried out and headed down the hall, still grabbing at each other until one of the other guests came out of their room.

Gibbs' impatience didn't help when he was trying to get the door open so Sam snatched the key card out of his hand and did it for him. They decided on the shower just in case the others came back early for some reason. It would be a little less awkward.

They were just getting ready to get into the shower when Gibbs remembered the reason they'd come to the room. "The brownies!" he said. "I'll be right back."

"Don't be long," Sam said.

Gibbs turned the oven on and tossed the pan of brownie batter in then hurried back to the shower. He and Sam spent the next half hour sharing their love. The two would've been happy to spend all night in there but they knew the others would be back soon.

"I really needed that," Sam said as they stepped out of the shower. "I love you so much."

"I love you," Gibbs said as he dressed. "Thank you. I feel a lot better."

Right after Gibbs left Sam in the bathroom to finish getting dressed, the door to their room opened and the others piled in. They were all hyped up from their fun evening and Gibbs started planning how he was going to get them calmed.

"Are the brownies ready?" Abby asked.

"Just getting ready to check 'em," Gibbs said.

"After we eat brownies can I go back to Tony and Ty's room with the others?" Jaycee asked. "We're gonna stay up and watch movies and play games and stuff."

"Yeah," Gibbs said, "I want you back here by midnight."

"Thank you."

"Mm-hmm, I don't want you walking back alone either."

"I will walk her back," Ziva offered.

"Alright," Gibbs said. "Looks like these are done so everybody find a seat and I'll grab some plates."

Sam came out of the bathroom and poured cups of milk while Gibbs cut and passed out the brownies. The group enjoyed their snack together then Ty and Jaycee left with Tony, Tim, Abby and Ziva and Gibbs and Sam started getting the little ones bathed, settled down and in bed. Not only had it been a fun evening, it had been relaxing and everyone was feeling refreshed.

Chapter Text

Kylee, Gracie, Milo and Lucas were sitting at the coffee table eating breakfast and watching cartoons. After staying up late the night before, they were moving slow. Gibbs was changing his shirt after Brady had spit up all over him and Sam was entertaining Brady while she watched the other kids. As soon as Gibbs pulled his dirty shirt off, his cell phone rang.

"Gibbs," he answered while searching for a clean shirt to match his pants.

"Jethro, it's D'Arcy. I'm sorry to call so early but I have some good news and I figured after everything that's happened you could use some good news."

"I can always use some good news, D'Arcy," Gibbs said as Sam handed him a charcoal gray polo to compliment his black slacks.

"You and Sam have your final appointment at Family Court one week from today," D'Arcy said. "As long as all goes as planned, the kids will officially be yours."

"That's wonderful news, D'Arcy. Thank you. What time is the appointment?"

"It's set for 9:30 but knowing how things run over there, they'll most likely be running late."

"We can live with that. Thanks for the call."

"Not a problem. I'll see you guys then."

Gibbs hung up with D'Arcy and put on the clean shirt Sam had chosen. "The adoption of the kids'll be finalized next Friday. We have to be at the courthouse at 9:30."

"Oh that's wonderful," Sam said. "Adopt the kids on Friday, get married on Saturday then everything will be official. I can't wait."

"Everything's falling into place," Gibbs said happily. "We just need to catch Parsons, find Faye and hope to God this is the last we hear from her."

"The kids' last names are getting ready to change and we've moved. We're starting to distance them from her. This'll be over soon."

"I hope so."

"Why don't you go get Jaycee up and I'll start getting shoes on the kids," Sam said. "Tony and Ty are probably on their way."

Gibbs tucked his shirt in and fastened his pants and belt then headed over to where Jaycee was sleeping. He couldn't wait until they could go home. The hotel suite wasn't so bad when they were spending most of the day at work and daycare but the weekend was coming up and there wasn't much room for the eight of them to stretch out.

"Jaycee, wake up, Baby. Ty's gonna be here soon."

Jaycee yawned and cuddled up to Gibbs. "I just wanna sleep."

"I know, Sweetheart."

"Can we just pretend none of this is happening today then you and Sam can stay home and I can sleep and then we can just do fun stuff?"

"That sounds great but how about I go to work today and catch this guy so we can go home and get back to normal," Gibbs said. "You and Ty can stay here and relax and enjoy some peace and quiet."

"It doesn't feel like you're ever gonna catch him though."

"I know but we're getting close. He had the upper hand a few days ago but now it's our turn."

"Okay, I'm awake."

"Attagirl." Gibbs kissed her forehead then left her to get up and get dressed while he helped Sam with the kids' shoes.

It wasn't long before Tony and Ty arrived. Sam headed to the Pentagon and Gibbs and Tony took the little ones and headed for the Navy Yard.

//////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////

Gibbs had just booted up his computer when his cell phone went off. The day had barely begun and his phone was already ringing off the hook, although D'Arcy's call that morning had been good news. He answered and the caller identified himself as Officer Hodges.

"I just saw your BOLO on Luke Parsons," Hodges said. "I was patrolling in Southeast DC last night and I actually spoke with Parsons and a couple of his friends. I didn't know you were looking for him but I can give you the address."

"Great," Gibbs said as he grabbed a pen and notepad. "What'd you stop him for?"

"I was actually looking for someone else. Parson's wasn't any help but I didn't really expect him to be."

"Was there a woman with him?"

"No, three other men. No one else was around."

Hodges gave Gibbs the street and block where he'd seen Parsons then they ended their call. Gibbs would take any lead he could get and this one sounded promising. He gathered his team and they headed out. Gibbs and Ziva were in one car, watching from the north end of the block while Tony and Tim sat in another car and watched the south end. There wasn't much to see that morning; a few guys wearing gang colors, a kid running towards the nearby school with a backpack on his back, a mother cautiously looking around before she hurried her young daughter to their beat up, old car. There was no sign of Parsons or Faye.

While they watched and waited Gibbs took a call from Vance and learned that Metro had handed the case over to them. Gibbs didn't care who was officially investigating the case, his family had been threatened and there was no way he was sitting it out. Vance could deal with all the official mumbo jumbo.

Tony and Tim were having a conversation about why he hadn't published any books lately when Tony saw a familiar face coming down the street. When the man walked by their car Tony opened his door into him, knocking the man to the ground.

"What the hell?"

"Skinner," Tony said with a bright smile. Skinner had been one of his informants in Baltimore. Tony looked the other way on a few minor drug possession charges in exchange for his cooperation. Skinner wasn't happy with the arrangement but it was better than doing time.

"DiNozzo," the man said, clearly unhappy to see him.

"Did ya miss me?" Tony asked.

"Not particularly," Skinner said as he stood and brushed himself off. "Who you after?"

"These two," Tony said handing him a picture of Parsons and Faye. "Seen 'em?"

"Nope," Skinner said barely sparing a glance at the photographs.

"Look closer, Skinner. I can think of a bunch of reasons to search you right now and I'm sure if that happened you'd end up in a DC Metro holding cell."

Skinner made a face at Tony as he snatched the pictures out of his hand. "This is Luke Parsons and his old lady."

"Good," Tony coaxed. "Where are they?"

"Come on, man," Skinner complained.

"McGee, did you bring your cuffs with you?" Tony asked nonchalantly.

"Alright, alright," Skinner said. "They been stayin' in that green house right there," he said pointing down the street. "You didn't hear it from me."

"They living there alone?"

"Yeah. They're probably sleeping now. Quite the night owls, those two."

"Thank you Skinner," Tony said. "Have a nice day, friend."

Skinner walked off grumbling something under his breath and Tony just laughed. He got on the radio and told Gibbs what they'd just learned. Gibbs called Abby to find out who owned the house and learned it was a rental property. He called legal and got a search warrant then he and his team got ready to go in. There weren't many people around and if their suspects were asleep that meant they could catch them off guard.

"Let's get this bastard," Gibbs said.

With Ziva and Tim in position in the back of the house and him and Tony ready at the front, Gibbs knocked then they immediately entered. They found Parsons in the living room, frantically digging around under the couch cushions. Gibbs and Tony grabbed him by the arms and slammed him to the nearby wall. Gibbs pushed his forearm into the man's neck so tight Parsons had to stand on his tiptoes just so he could breathe.

"You must be a real tough guy to pick on a couple little kids," Gibbs growled.

"Don't know what you're talking about," Parsons snarled.

Tim and Ziva brought Faye down the stairs. The woman was obviously drugged up. She couldn't walk straight, could barely stand up on her own and was giggling.

Gibbs released his grip on Parsons and Tony turned him around, slammed him into the wall again and cuffed him.

"Ow!" Parsons complained. "Those are too tight."

"Don't know what you're talking about," Tony said with a smirk.

Gibbs looked down at the coffee table and saw pictures of him, Sam, Jaycee, Kylee, Gracie and the twins as well as his old house. He put some gloves on then flipped through the photos, looking closer.

"Got something against babies?" he asked, wondering why Brady was missing.

"Babies are no fun on long trips," Parsons said.

Gibbs nodded. Once prisoner transport came and took Parsons and Faye back to NCIS, he and his team got to work going over the house. They found an exorbitant amount of drugs, a couple firearms—including a shotgun in the couch where Parsons had been digging when they walked in and more surveillance pictures. There were pictures of Gibbs and Sam's van, truck and car as well as Jaycee's Jeep and Gibbs' company car. There were photos of the restaurant Jaycee worked at and the entrance to the Navy Yard. They found Faye's prison issued clothes and a map of Wyoming.

"It's no secret what those two were planning," Tony said as he looked over the evidence.

Gibbs looked up at Tony and then back at everything they'd collected. He was glad they hadn't had to chase them across the US. "Let's get this stuff back to Abby and see what we can get out of our suspects."

//////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////

"Where did you meet Faye?" Gibbs asked.

Parsons sat in silence with a cocky grin on his face. Gibbs had no problem reading him. The man was arrogant and most likely proud of what he'd accomplished. Gibbs would appeal to that to get him to confess.

"Were you a cop in your last life?" Gibbs asked. "This is some quality surveillance." He laid out the photographs they'd found at his house.

"It was either junkie or cop," Parsons said looking over his work. "I decided to use my powers for evil instead of good."

"So what was the plan?" Gibbs asked. "Snatch Faye's kids and head back to Wyoming?"

"Wyoming was Faye's idea," Parsons said. "She's from there."

"What about the kids?"

"Faye insisted on getting her kids back. She wouldn't leave without them. I talked her outta taking the baby right away, promised I'd come back for him once we got settled."

"Why the sexual interest in the kids?"

"What?" Parsons asked, turning his nose up in disgust.

Gibbs flipped through his notes, in search of the statement Jaycee had given after Parsons visited the restaurant. "You can get me that cute little sister of yours, Kylee," Gibbs read. "She looked real tasty. Grace would do too. I'm not really into boys but I'd take Milo or Lucas. They're young enough there's not much of a difference. Or you could always be a good big sister and sacrifice yourself for them." He looked over at Parsons. "Sound familiar?"

"I don't need to bang no little kids. I was banging their momma," Parsons said. "I just said that to throw Jaycee off her game. I figured if I scared her it'd be easier to grab her and the others."

"How'd Faye get out of jail?" Gibbs asked.

"It's minimum security," Parsons said with a laugh. "They might as well leave the front door unlocked!"

"So she broke out of jail, you were waiting for her, you guys hatched this plan to get the kids and head for Wyoming?" Gibbs recapped.

Parsons shrugged. "Pretty much. The part about getting the kids was harder than either of us imagined. Faye said they would come to me with no problem but she was wrong. All I got was a foot to the balls and a fist to the face."

Gibbs smiled on the inside but didn't let Parsons see. He was proud of his kids. "It's gonna be worse in prison."

Parsons laughed arrogantly. "It's only attempted kidnapping, man. I'll be out before you know it. Considering how overcrowded the prisons are, I may not do any time at all. I'm willing to strike a deal."

"There are no deals for people like you, Parsons," Gibbs said. He would tack on as many charges as he could. There was proof of stalking, he'd assaulted Ty, aided and abetted an escaped convict, thrown a rock through Tony's front window; Gibbs could come up with all kinds of charges to add and he had some pull with what consequences Parsons faced. He wasn't feeling very compassionate.

Gibbs collected the photos and papers he'd brought in and tucked them back into his folder, stood and left. Faye was in the prison ward of the hospital, detoxing from all the drugs in her system. She was so out of it she didn't have a clue what was going on so Gibbs didn't waste his time speaking with her. He knew where to find her the following week. He let himself breathe a sigh of relief after exiting the interrogation room. It was finally over.

//////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////

Gibbs picked the little ones up from daycare that evening and headed to the hotel. Sam was already there. She and Jaycee had most of the room packed. They were all thrilled to be going home. When Gibbs arrived Ty headed back to his room, knowing Tony would there soon and they could leave as well. Things were finally getting back to normal.

Sam took the girls and stopped by the grocery store on the way home and Gibbs took the boys and stopped by Tony's house to check out the new window. Milo and Lucas ran around the house, checking out all the new furniture and taking in how different it looked while Gibbs held Brady and talked to Tony and Ty.

"The place is looking good, guys," he said.

"Thanks Boss," Tony said. "We both really love it here."

"Yep," Ty agreed. He flopped down on the couch and flipped the TV on.

"Want a beer, Boss?" Tony offered.

"I do!" Ty said.

"Nice try," Tony said. "There's pop in the fridge for you."

"You're just saying that 'cause Gibbs is here, right?" Ty asked. "After he leaves you and I will throw back a couple beers."

"I don't think so!" Tony said, hoping Gibbs didn't think he let Ty drink. "I don't know what he's talking about, Boss. I do not let him drink."

"I know. It's probably those pain pills making him goofy," Gibbs said as he winked at Ty. He looked back at Tony and smiled. "I need a favor."

"From me?" Tony asked.

"Yeah, who else?"

"Anything."

"Sam and I decided not to do anything too fancy as far as the wedding's concerned but I'd still like to get a nice suit—"

"On it, Boss!" Tony interrupted.

Gibbs smacked the back of Tony's head for cutting him off.

"I know just the place," Tony continued, ignoring the head slap. "We'll get you all fixed up for a really good price. You came to the right man, Boss. You're in good hands."

"Uh-huh," Gibbs said. "I'll pick you up tomorrow at 0900."

"9:00? Boss, tomorrow's Saturday. Most people sleep in on Saturdays."

"There is no sleeping in when you have five little kids," Gibbs pointed out. "I'll pick you up at 1000 hours."

"10:00 is much better," Tony said. He was thrilled and honored that Gibbs had come to him.

"Milo, Lucas! Time to go, guys," Gibbs called. He heard both boys barreling towards him. "Thanks, Tony."

"Any time, Boss."

//////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////

All the stress Parsons had caused was easily replaced by the excitement of the upcoming wedding. Jack was flying down from Stillwater at the end of the week and the team had been invited to the celebration. The ceremony was going to be small and informal and held in Gibbs and Sam's backyard. Their honeymoon would consist of a weekend away while they others stayed with the kids. It wasn't the big, elaborate celebration many planned but it was perfect for them.

Gibbs picked Tony and Ty up on Saturday morning and they headed off to one of Tony's frequently visited men's stores. Tim and Abby picked up the twins, Kylee and Gracie and took them to get nice outfits and Sam, Ziva, Jaycee and Brady headed out to get their dresses and something for Brady.

Gibbs and Sam were both more excited than they were nervous. Not much was changing. They were just making things a little more permanent. By Saturday afternoon everyone in the house would share Gibbs' last name. It had been a long journey to get them to that point but they'd made it. Both knew there would be more struggles in the future but they'd face them together, as a family.

"Did you want any particular color?" Tony asked as he searched the racks.

"Nothing too crazy," Gibbs said a little overwhelmed by the large selection. He wasn't quite sure where to start.

"Black is always a good bet, especially for the groom." Tony rifled through the racks and pulled a pair of dress pants and a matching jacket off and handed them to Gibbs.

"How'd you know my size?" Gibbs asked, raising an eyebrow at Tony.

"Boss, I'm a crime scene sketch expert," Tony said as he looked for a dress shirt. "I know my job and I know clothes."

"What do you think of this, Tony?" Ty asked holding up a navy blue suit jacket and pair of tan pants.

"Kinda reads prep school," Tony said. "I'd go with the same color for the jacket and pants. I'm thinking the navy blue."

"Thanks," Ty said before hurrying off. He was thrilled that he finally got to pick out his own clothes. Freedom and independence were the best gifts he ever could've been given.

"Here ya go," Tony said handing Gibbs a light blue dress shirt. "Do you need a belt? Shoes?"

"I got a belt," Gibbs answered, "probably need shoes."

"'kay. Go try those on and I'll find you some shoes and if you would be so kind, please come out of the dressing room so I can see how it looks."

"Okay but if you're not standing there, I'm not gonna wander all over this store looking for you."

"Don't get your panties in a twist," Tony teased. "I'll be here."

Gibbs reached over and smacked the back of Tony's head.

"Thank you, Boss," Tony said.

"I found this black suit instead," Ty said after Gibbs disappeared into the dressing room. "Is only the groom allowed to wear black though?"

"We're guys, Ty," Tony said. "Only chicks get huffy over colors and matching and stuff. That's a sharp suit. I bet it'll look good on you. Go try it on."

"Awesome," Ty said.

Tony scanned the shoes and quickly located a pair for Gibbs. He grabbed the right size and headed back over to the dressing room just as Gibbs was stepping out.

"What do you think?" Tony asked.

Gibbs shrugged. He liked it well enough but he was trying to trust Tony's style and judgment. He wasn't exactly the most fashionable guy and he knew it. "What do you think?"

"I think it looks sharp," Tony said. "The blue in that shirt really brings out your eyes."

Just after Gibbs headed off to pick out a tie to complete his look, Ty came out of the dressing room in his suit. Tony whistled loudly when he saw the teenager. "That's my man!" he said excitedly. Ty had a good sense of fashion. "Go pick yourself out a pair of dress shoes. Nothing too shiny but not too dull either."

"Alright," Ty said grinning from ear to ear.

Ty retrieved a pair of dress shoes and modeled them for Tony. Tony approved of the outfit and gave Ty a high five.

"How's this?" Gibbs asked with a simple, modern black tie draped around his neck.

Tony let out another whistle and nodded in approval. "Perfect. Looking good, Boss. Try these on." He handed Gibbs the shoes he'd chosen for him and Gibbs slipped them on. Tony walked around Gibbs, analyzing every part of the suit. He decided he was more than happy with it and led Gibbs over to the mirror so he could see for himself.

"What do you think, Ty?" Gibbs asked.

"I like it!" Ty said. "What about mine?"

"Lookin' sharp," Gibbs said with a smile.

"Ty, you are looking so good, Jaycee'll be ready to marry you as soon—OW!"

"Knock it off, DiNozzo," Gibbs said after smacking his head.

"I think we're breaking the record for number of head slaps in one day," Tony said rubbing the back of his head.

"What can I say? Your mouth is in rare form today."

Ty giggled but retreated back to the dressing room to get changed before Tony could swat him. Gibbs headed back to his dressing room and changed then they paid for their items and left.

//////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////

After a little shopping around, Sam found a reasonably priced, white bridal sundress. It was far from a fancy wedding dress but still elegant and perfect for their simple ceremony in the backyard. Ziva and Jaycee also chose sundresses. They were colorful and lightweight making them perfect for the warm summer days and they showed off their figures nicely. Jaycee chose a very nice pair of flip flops to go with her dress and Sam and Ziva both chose sandals.

Once they had everything they needed, they headed to a nearby baby boutique to shop for Brady. All three of them had fun picking out outfits for him. When they started getting hungry, they all agreed on one, paid for it and headed out.

After shopping, everybody met back at Gibbs' house for lunch then the team headed home and Gibbs and Sam put the little ones down for their naps. Once the kids were sleeping, Gibbs and Sam met in the hall and gave each other a hug. Everything was getting back to normal again.

Chapter Text

D'Arcy sat on the front row in the courtroom, bouncing the one twin on each leg in an effort to keep them quiet. Adoption hearings usually didn't take quite as long as Gibbs and Sam's was but adopting six children at once was rare.

"When can we go?" Lucas asked resting his hand against D'Arcy's cheek.

"Shh, we're almost done, Baby, then we'll go," D'Arcy whispered.

"But this is boring," Milo whined.

Gibbs turned in his chair and looked at his boys. "I need you guys to be quiet for a little while longer, please."

"Psst, can I sit on your lap, Daddy?" Lucas whispered loudly.

Gibbs nodded his head and lifted Lucas over the partial wall that was separating them. Lucas busied himself twisting the ring on Gibbs' finger and poking the calluses on his hands. Sam ran her fingers through the little boy's hair while they listened to the judge.

After talking to Jaycee, D'Arcy and going through D'Arcy's progress reports and recommendations, the judge finalized the adoption of all six kids. They officially belonged to Gibbs and Sam. Ducky, Jimmy, Tony, Tim, Ziva and Abby all cheered as soon as the judge sounded the gavel. The kids didn't really understand exactly what was happening but they cheered too, just because the adults were. Hugs and kisses were given before they filtered out of the courtroom so the next case could be heard.

"Thanks for coming, guys," Sam said as she hugged the team again. "We'll see you all tomorrow."

"Congratulations again," Ducky said before the group headed off. Gibbs and Sam both had the day off for the adoption hearing and to get things ready for their wedding the following day but the team had to go back to work.

"I realize this is a crazy question," D'Arcy said, "but I need to ask so I can update your file. Are you guys interested in taking on any more foster children?"

Gibbs glanced over at Sam. They were pretty good at reading each other and neither wanted to make the decision without the other's approval.

"I think if you have a child that needs emergency placement for a night or so we could definitely open our home to them," Gibbs said watching as Sam nodded her head in agreement. "I'm not sure it'd be fair to any of the kids to try to take another child long term. We've got a lot going on and we definitely don't want any of the kids to be shorted on their time with us or the activities they want to do but, as Sam likes to say, there's always room for one more. We'll make it work."

"I'm marrying a wonderful man tomorrow," Sam said, smiling proudly at Gibbs.

"You're both wonderful people," D'Arcy said. "I wish I had more of you. I wish the foster children of DC had more of you."

"Thanks D'Arcy," Gibbs said. "I need to get to the airport and pick my dad up. What are you planning on doing this afternoon?"

"I've got some things around the house to do," Sam said.

"Jaycee, do you have to work today?" Gibbs asked.

"Yeah," Jaycee said. "Marcus said if the trial thingy gets done and I feel like coming in that I could. I'm gonna go home and change and then go over to Ty's and ride in with him. I should have enough time."

"Sounds like a plan," Gibbs said. "Sam, do you wanna take the boys with you and I'll take the girls?" The twins running around the airport terminal wasn't exactly something Gibbs wanted to deal with. After sitting in court all morning he figured they'd be happier running around the house anyways.

"I can do that," Sam said taking Brady from Gibbs. "Lucas Gibbs, Milo Gibbs, Brady Gibbs, Jaycee Gibbs, into the van.

"What 'bout us?" Gracie asked.

"Gracie Gibbs and Kylee Gibbs, you guys can get in Daddy's car. You're gonna go with him to pick Grandpa up at the airport."

The kids all scurried off to their assigned cars, Gibbs and Sam kissed goodbye then they went their separate ways.

//////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////

Jaycee parked her Jeep in front of Ty's house, got out and hurried to the door. She couldn't wait to share the news with him. She knocked on the door and Ty answered.

"It's official," Jaycee said with a smile. "My name is Jaycee Rose Gibbs. I'm a Gibbs!"

Ty wrapped his arms around his girlfriend and swung her through the air. "I'm so happy for you!"

"It's weird," Jaycee said. "It's just a last name but it's like it implies so much. I'm still not theirs by blood but they gave me their last name. That's like the ultimate gift you could give somebody."

"I'm gonna give you my last name someday," Ty said. "I can't wait to make you Jaycee Sherwood."

"I can't wait to be Jaycee Sherwood," Jaycee said. "This is the best day of my life."

"We should celebrate," Ty said.

"I don't know if I can tonight," Jaycee said. "Jack's flying down from Stillwater and I'm helping cook for the wedding tomorrow and there's so much stuff to do."

"You guys aren't getting it catered?" Ty asked.

"They got the cake professionally made but that's it. Gibbs is grilling steaks and I'm making some stuff to go with it. I asked if I could."

"You're better than any caterer anyways," Ty said.

Jaycee smiled at the remark and gave him another hug and he kissed her cheek.

"We better go or we're gonna be late," Jaycee said.

//////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////

Gibbs parked the car in short term parking, got the girls out then they all headed for the airport. The girls bounced and skipped while Gibbs held their hands and kept them out of danger of moving cars and hurried passengers. Dulles Airport was huge and always busy. They headed to the correct terminal, checked the monitors to see the flight had just arrived then waited.

"When is he coming?" Kylee asked.

"Should be soon," Gibbs said. He knelt down, wrapped an arm around each child and lifted them up. "See that big plane out there?" Both girls nodded. "That's Grandpa's plane. He should be coming out of those doors right there any minute."

"I hope he hurries," Gracie said.

"Me too," Gibbs said before kissing both girls on the cheek.

"Daddy, is Jaycee gonna have a baby?" Gracie asked.

Gibbs froze. "What do you mean?"

"Mommy had lots of boyfriends and lots of babies and Jaycee has a boyfriend but no babies," Gracie explained.

"Jaycee and Ty are gonna wait until they can take care of a baby before they have one, Sweet Pea."

"The baby could live with us and then Jaycee can stay there forever," Kylee said.

"Jaycee's always going to have a home with us, girls, but there's gonna come a time where she moves out and starts a family. Then you guys are gonna be aunts."

"Hello everybody," Jack said.

"Dad, hi," Gibbs said. He hadn't noticed the passengers deplaning.

"Grandpa!" Gracie said stretching out her arms to Jack.

Jack took Gracie and hugged her tight. He leaned in and gave Kylee a kiss and Gibbs a one armed hug then they headed for baggage claim. Kylee disappeared back into her shell while Gracie talked on and on about staying in a hotel recently, her pretty new dress for Daddy and Mommy's wedding and her morning in court.

Gibbs rubbed his nose against Kylee's and smiled at his little girl. "Whatcha thinking about?" he asked softly.

"Nothin'," Kylee said.

"I don't believe you," Gibbs said with a smile.

"I don't want Jaycee to go away and have more babies and forget about me," Kylee said.

"Jaycee's never gonna forget about you, Kylee. She'll still visit and you'll still have Mommy and I and your brothers and sister and Grandpa will still come to visit and Tony lives right down the street and Abby, Tim and Ziva will still come over. We'll see Jaycee lots and have lots of fun with everybody else too. Everything'll be okay."

"'kay."

Gibbs could tell Kylee didn't believe him. He hugged her tighter and kissed her again. It was going to be a big adjustment for all the little ones when Jaycee went away to college. He helped his dad grab his bag off the carousel then they headed for the car. They'd missed lunch and Gibbs knew the girls had to be hungry because he was getting hungry.

"Have you had lunch, Dad?"

"They gave us pretzels on the plane," Jack answered. "That's all I've had."

"We haven't eaten either. If I know Sam she'll have something waiting for us."

"How'd it go at court this morning?"

"It was long," Gibbs said, "but it's done and the kids are ours."

"Congratulations, Son. I'm happy for all of you."

"Congratulations to you too, Dad. You now have six grandkids to spoil."

"In that case take me home, Son. I better get started right away."

//////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////

Sam pulled the twins' bedroom door closed after putting them down for their nap then heard Brady fussing. She headed back down the hall to the nursery and saw him standing in his crib holding onto the rail.

"What are you doing up, Sweet Boy?" she asked. "It's nap time."

"Ma. Mama. Mamamamama."

"Come here, you," Sam said as she lifted him out of his crib. "You can help me clean until Daddy gets home. Maybe he can get you to sleep."

"Da?"

"Yeah, Daddy."

Sam took Brady downstairs and started in on the kitchen. With Brady tucked under one arm she started some dishwater and loaded up the sink. Brady grabbed onto her lower lip and she nibbled on his fingers making him squeal. She wiped the countertop off and then the table and chairs.

"We're back," Gibbs said.

"Did you miss us, Mommy?" Gracie asked.

"I always miss you when you're gone, Sweetie Pie. Are you guys hungry?"

"Starving!" Gracie said.

"Hi Jack. We're so glad you could come."

"Happy to be here!" Jack said.

"What's going on with you, Little Miss Kylee? Why are we being so quiet?"

Kylee shrugged.

"We'll talk later," Gibbs said kissing Sam. "What's going on with Brady?"

"He slept for about five minutes and then decided it was time to get up," Sam said, "or maybe he was just faking me out. I don't know."

"I take it you haven't been able to get much accomplished?"

"You took it right. You guys sit down. I'll get you some lunch."

Gibbs took Brady from Sam and she got the fish sticks and fries out of the oven. She washed the dishes while the others ate then the girls talked Jack into playing Chutes and Ladders with them and Gibbs took Brady upstairs to try to rock him to sleep so Sam could do the things she wanted to do.

//////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////

"Jaycee, come here!" Ty said. He grabbed his girlfriend's hand and hurried her off to one side of the kitchen. It was the end of their shift and Ty had waited all afternoon to surprise her.

"Ty, what're you doing?" Jaycee asked with a giggle.

"Nothing, come on. I have to show you something."

Ty opened a box lid and revealed a small cake with decorative frosting that was a little sloppy but perfect in Jaycee's eyes. It said 'congrats' and had a heart on top.

"You made this?" Jaycee asked.

"I had a little bit of help but I did most of it, including the frosting. Hopefully it'll make up for not being able to hang out tonight."

"Thanks, Ty! I love it so much and I love you!"

"Welcome. I love you too."

"Wanna share it with me?" Jaycee asked. "We could eat it right now."

"Sure."

"I wanna take a picture of it first."

Jaycee snapped a picture of the cake with her phone then she and Ty alternated between feeding each other and feeding themselves, teasing and giggling the whole time. Once they were done with their treat, they got in Ty's car and headed home.

"I'll see you tomorrow," Ty said. "I can't wait for you to see me in my suit. Not braggin' or anything but Tony says I look good."

"I'm sure you do," Jaycee said with a giggle. She let Ty kiss her goodbye then got into her Jeep and headed home. Ty watched until her taillights disappeared into the darkness then headed inside.

"Look at you two being all cute," Tony teased.

"Stop," Ty said with a shy smile.

"Go get changed," Tony said. "You and I are going out."

"Where?"

"Dinner. I'm starving and I don't feel like cooking and I want something more than pizza. Maybe we'll pick up some hot chicks along the way."

"I already have a hot chick," Ty said.

"Well maybe I'll get lucky."

"Should I drive separate? Are you gonna ditch me if you meet someone?"

"No way but just so we're clear right now, you do know that if there's ever a sock on my doorknob that pretty much means do not disturb."

Ty rolled his eyes and laughed as he headed up the stairs to change his clothes.

//////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////

Sam stood at the back sliding glass door in her sundress, looking out at the others. There was trail lined with beautiful flower arrangements leading through a couple rows of chairs where the kids were sitting with Jack, Ty and the team. Gibbs was standing at the end of the trail by the preacher they'd hired. Everybody was ready, it was time.

Sam stepped out the back door and made eye contact with Tony who was waiting to play a classical piece on his guitar while she made her way to her groom. The music started and Sam followed the path through the chairs to Gibbs. She was all smiles, waving back when the little ones waved to her and winking at Jaycee and Ty who were holding hands as they watched.

When she made it to the front Gibbs took her hands and smiled brightly at her. His eyes were twinkling and he looked genuinely happy. Tony stopped playing, put his guitar on the stand then went to sit and enjoy the ceremony. The preacher went through the vows with Gibbs and Sam, led them through exchanging rings then let them close the ceremony with a kiss. It didn't last long. Neither Gibbs nor Sam wanted a long, drawn out, formal ceremony.

As Gibbs and Sam walked back down the aisle, the kids tossed rice then chased after them. Ty and Jaycee stood and Jaycee hugged both her parents.

"Congratulations, Dad and Mom," she said.

Gibbs and Sam both pulled back and looked at her.

"That's my wedding present to you," Jaycee explained. "From now on I'm gonna call you Dad and Mom."

"That's wonderful if that's what you want, Baby. Jethro and I would be honored but we don't want you to feel like you have to call us that."

"I know and I don't," Jaycee said. "I want to. You guys are like real parents. You're the only people who've ever been parents to me."

"We love you, Baby," Gibbs said pulling her close enough he could kiss the top of her head. "And I don't think I've told you yet today that you look beautiful. Save a dance for me, okay?"

"Thank you," Jaycee said shyly. "I will."

Gibbs and Sam got hugs from the team and photographs were taken. The preacher filled out the paperwork to make everything official and Gibbs and Sam signed it then he left and Gibbs got the grill going. Sam brought a radio outside and everybody danced. Gibbs watched Ty and Jaycee dance and knew their wedding wouldn't be too far down the road. The teenagers were madly in love. While he waited for the coals to burn white, Gibbs headed over to where the two were dancing.

"Mind if I cut in?" he asked.

"Sure," Ty said.

Gibbs took one of Jaycee's hands in his and rested his other hand on her hip and the two danced. "Pretty soon you're gonna be dancing with your husband and you and I will be doing the father daughter dance."

Jaycee smiled brightly up at Gibbs. "You think so? Feels like we've been dating forever."

"Try not to rush through life, Baby. You've been through so much. You grew up so fast but there's still lots of time for teenager things and lots of time for adult things."

Jaycee wrapped her arms around Gibbs and hugged him as they continued dancing. Gibbs kissed the top of her head and enjoyed the moment. When the song ended he waved Ty over and handed his daughter off then headed inside to prep the steaks.

Sam followed Gibbs inside and stood behind him. She wrapped her arms around his waist and kissed the back of his neck.

"You know what that does to me," Gibbs growled.

"Mm-hmm," Sam hummed, a hint of sneakiness in her tone. She leaned in and kissed him again and Gibbs moaned.

"If you keep doing that, nobody's gonna get lunch."

"Okay, I suppose I can wait until tonight," Sam said.

Gibbs wrapped his arm around her waist and pulled her in front of him. He smiled as he leaned in to kiss her.

"Eww!" Milo said.

"Get a room," Lucas said.

Gibbs pulled back and both him and Sam glared at the twins.

"Where did you hear that?" Gibbs asked.

"From Tony," Lucas said.

Gibbs just shook his head as he looked out the back window at where Tony was dancing with Kylee.

"Is there a reason you two came in here or are you just spying?" Sam asked.

"We came to see if you leaved," Milo said.

"We wouldn't leave without saying goodbye to you guys," Sam assured them. "Daddy and I aren't leaving for a couple hours."

"Okay," Lucas said. Both boys were satisfied with that answer and hurried back outside with the others. Gibbs and Sam weren't actually going anywhere. Instead of traveling they'd opted to spend the money on a very fancy hotel in the city. They didn't want to leave the kids for too long but it would be a special getaway for them.

While Gibbs put the steaks on the grill, Sam got the salads that Jaycee had made out. It wasn't long before Jaycee was in the kitchen helping. There was potato salad, pasta salad and garden salad. Jaycee chopped and sautéed some mushrooms and onions to go with the steaks while Sam made some punch to drink.

Lunch was eaten outside then the cake was cut and passed out. Gibbs and Sam danced together then they danced with the kids. Tony and Abby took it on themselves to clean up after lunch and Jack rocked Brady. Gracie wasn't taking naps anymore and Gibbs and Sam had decided the twins could skip their naps but Brady was young enough he still needed to be put down.

After dancing, the group played a game of charades. The adults helped the kids wanting everyone to be able to join in the fun. Once Brady woke up from his nap, Gibbs and Sam said their goodbyes and headed out while the others got ready to go swimming. Gibbs grabbed their overnight bag, took Sam's hand and led her out to the car.

"I don't know how we're gonna function without kids barging in on us, messes, screaming, crying, two little boys jumping on the bed, baby food flying…"

"I'm gonna miss 'em too," Sam said with a smile as she patted Gibbs' hand.

"Are you happy?" Gibbs asked.

"I've never been happier," Sam said. "My life is complete is a way I never thought was possible."

Gibbs smiled as he took her hand in his. He was so happy with the way everything had worked out. He thought back to the night he'd found the kids at the market; all of them wet and cold from the rain, dressed in rags and underweight. When he'd piled them in his car that night, he had no idea how much they'd change his life. Sam coming alongside him and agreeing to be his partner in the new adventure gave him a confidence he wouldn't have had if it was just him trying to raise six little ones. She was a natural mother and Gibbs had seen such a difference in her after the children had come into their lives. Despite the insecurities that still crept up on rare occasions, their family felt natural. They all had a place, they all belonged and even with as many of them as there were, if one were taken from the equation they would surely be missed.

Gibbs pulled up in front of their hotel and got out. He opened Sam's door for her and helped her out while the bellboy got their luggage out. While the valet parked their car, Gibbs and Sam checked in. The two were given their room key, Gibbs thanked the bellboy and tipped him and took their bag up himself. He wanted Sam and the room all to himself with no interruptions.

"I've never stayed in a honeymoon suite before," Sam said as they rode the elevator up. "I've never stayed in a hotel this nice before."

"I haven't either," Gibbs said. He was a simple man who enjoyed the simple things in life but both he and Sam were excited about their weekend of luxury.

They stepped off the elevator and found their room. Gibbs opened the door and let Sam go in first. The room was beautiful. It was very spacious with a large comfortable bed. There was a Jacuzzi, an inviting sitting area and a balcony with a nice view of the city. On the table was a vase with flowers, a bottle of champagne in an ice bucket and a tray of hors d'oeuvres. The two looked around and picked at the hors d'oeuvres. Gibbs popped the champagne and they toasted to their future.

"I would say this room is definitely worth the obscene amount of money we paid for it," Sam said. "It's beautiful."

"Not as beautiful as you," Gibbs said with a grin.

"Stop."

"No. It's the truth," Gibbs said, "and before we slip into these oversized, fluffy robes and order room service, I'm going to show you how you beautiful you are."

Gibbs took Sam's empty champagne glass and set it next to his on the table then led her over to the bed. He wrapped his arms around her and pulled her body to his. The two shared a passionate kiss and let their hands explore each other's bodies. It had been months since they'd truly been alone.

"I love you," Sam said when the kiss broke.

"I love you," Gibbs said as he started pulling her dress up. As beautiful as she looked in it, he couldn't wait to get it off of her.

Sam pushed Gibbs' suit jacket off his shoulders and draped it over the chair then started in on the buttons of his dress shirt. The two took their time undressing each other and exploring their bodies, kissing and touching. There was no rush, no fear of being walked in on, nothing that needed their immediate attention and they took full advantage of it.

It was a celebration of the beginning of their new life together; of how far they'd come and how much they'd overcome. Despite living together as man and wife with all their little ones for so many months, everything was finally official. They were truly a family now, not only in their hearts but also on paper. Nothing and no one would ever be able to separate them.

The End