Making An Impression
So I re-watched Hiatus(I&II) and discovered gapping holes in the timeline and events, so I re-wrote part of this to better reflect canon. Nothing of significant has changed, the main thing being that the memorial service was after Gibbs woke up from his coma and came home (almost a month after the deaths) and that Willow was eight at the time - the same age as Gibbs' daughter, Kelly.
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Title: Making An Impression
Tth100 Prompt: 68 – Hero
Disclaimer: I make no claims on either show. They belong to their respective studios and creators.
Summary: Willow remembers the past.
Spoilers: Buffy – none NCIS – Hiatus(I&II)(references, not timeline)
Timeline: Buffy – After Oz left, before Tara
NCIS – mid-second season
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Willow shifted from foot to foot in front of a perfectly innocuous door, hesitant to announce her presence. She wondered if he'd recognize her, even after so long. Almost fifteen years had passed since they'd seen each other, but Willow knew she'd recognize him anywhere.
Leroy Jethro Gibbs was not someone you easily forgot, despite the herculean effort her family had put into the task.
Willow remembered the last time she'd seen him, the man who'd married her mother's baby sister against the wishes of her family. It had been at the funeral for Aunt Shannon and her cousin Kelly, and he'd been snubbed even then. Even after death, the family couldn't forgive Shannon for marrying a marine – an enlisted one, at that. “If she's going to debase herself by marrying a common soldier, the least she could have done was catch herself an officer!”
But that wasn't how a young Willow had seen him. The memory of his imposing, solid form next to the graves of his wife and daughter, still stuck with her to this day. He'd been tall and solemn in his dress uniform, surrounded by a few similarly-dressed friends.
He'd remained silent and controlled throughout the short ceremony and the condolences and the hateful tirades of a grieving family who blamed him for the loss of their beloved angel. Blamed him for not being informed immediately, instead finding out a month later. Even when an eight year old Willow had cringed in embarrassment and shame at her family, her quiet uncle had remained unmoved.
To others he looked uncaring, but Willow had seen the pain in his eyes and understood that he'd lost his entire world. He hadn't been there to protect his family, instead he'd been over in Kuwait serving his country, and then he'd been in a coma for almost three weeks. His frustration and anger at himself outweighed whatever his wife's family could throw at him.
She remembered hiding in one of the closets at the memorial service, trying to escape the all consuming anger that filled the house. Fifteen years ago, she hadn't understood why everyone was being so mean and hateful. Her aunt and cousin were dead – they should be sad, not angry at Uncle Jethro; he'd lost them, too. And then there he was, crouching down in front of her, taking up most of the doorway.
He'd been so kind, speaking to her like what she said mattered. Like she mattered. Like she was important. It was a feeling she had always associated with him, because even before aunt Shannon and Kelly had died, he'd always made her feel like one of his family.
Family she hadn't seen in almost a decade and a half.“She's not yours! Don't try to replace your child with mine!”
The words still echoed in her head years after they'd been shouted at Uncle Jethro when Willow's mother had found them – her curled up in the corner of an old closet and him crouched down trying to coax her out. It had been the last time she'd seen him, and after four years and even more arguments, Willow had learned to stop asking to visit. But she hadn't learned how to stop wanting and missing him.
What stuck out the most, was the way he'd argued right back at her mother, without ever raising his voice. Looking back on it now, Willow had to smile at how his quiet and hard voice had sent Sheila Rosenberg into an even greater rage. If there was one thing Sheila hated, it was not being the calm and controlled one in an argument.
But the way he'd stood up to her mother had forever sealed him in her heart.
He'd become the hero of an eight year old, and never even knew it.
And after fifteen years, it was time to reconnect with her family.Ding dong.
It was definitely time.