- Rough Draft
- Work in Progress
- *No Site Warnings Apply
- Alternate Universe
- Canon Divergence
Jethro Gibbs looked at the young woman in the car with him. He regretted that it had come to this, the car filling with water and no way out. He was glad she was unconscious, so she wouldn’t see death coming the way he did. Seeing Maddie Tyler all grown up brought home to him how much time had passed since he lost his family. Would he see his girls as he died? He hoped so.
Underwater. It was a death he could appreciate. He had been the only non-Merrow of his little family unit. The times he could see them swim freely in the crystal blue waters of the Caribbean the few times they got away as a family were some of his most cherished memories.
Shannon and Kelly had been Gilled, the both of them. He never begrudged the underwater adventures they had. So maybe the manner of his death would help them find him again. He wasn’t a man of faith, but in a rapidly filling car, he thought maybe if he could see Shannon and Kelly again it would have been worth it.
A dark shadow passed overhead, and Gibbs looked up to see his SFA swimming strongly toward him. Suitcoat gone, and shirt rucked up, there were bubbles trailing out from under his shirt. It twigged in his memory. Shannon and Kelly trailed bubbles like that. Tony was a Mer?
Tony met his eyes through the glass, and Gibbs took a couple of deep breaths before nodding his head.
Tony smashed the car’s window glass next to Maddie and pulled at her. Gibbs released her belt and pushed from behind. Together they maneuvered her out of the car. Tony’s breathing was steady as he held out a hand for Gibbs to take. He guided Gibbs hand to his belt. Tony’s “Hold on” was garbled underwater, but Gibbs got the message. Nodding, Tony shifted to look towards the surface and pushed Maddie ahead of him as they went up towards the surface.
Breaking the surface Gibbs gasped a big breath and Tony towed the two of them to the pier and with Gibbs’ help steadying Maddie’s limp form, pulled first himself, then Maddie, then Gibbs up out of the water. A deep clearing exhale, water streamed down his sides as his alternate physiology switched from water breathing to air breathing. Tony had Maddie rolled on her back and started chest compressions.
Gibbs breathed for a minute, a little shocked to have left the water so easily.
“C’mon, Maddie. Don’t give up on me now.” Tony cajoled between counting compressions. This spurred Gibbs into action and he scrambled over to check for breath sounds. Tilting her head back he breathed into her mouth when Tony paused. Her chest didn’t rise, so working together they rolled her to her side and tried to clear her airway.
It was moments later that Maddie started to spit up water and breathe.
Much later, when Gibbs was allowed the time to process what he’d learned, he wondered how he’d missed it. His SFA was a Mer. Gibbs was home in his basement, methodically hand planeing the wooden ribs of the current boat. He’d built boat after boat because working with the wood was nearly meditative for Gibbs. He never could bear to see them set to sea, though. Not without Shannon and Kelly. It had been a family dream – to set to sea in a boat and allow Shannon and Kelly the freedom of the open ocean for a few days or weeks. To island or reef hop to the communities that were both above the waves and below.
Shannon jokingly called herself a Merrow – or Mermaid when she was in the mood to be flirty. They’d had some good times in and around the water when he was on leave. The Florida Keys were one of Shannon’s favorite spots. There was a vibrant Gilled border community there near the barrier reef that always treated them well. Especially after Kelly was born, Gilled children were precious, and even if he wasn’t Gilled Gibbs proved he was an ally.
He’d known before they married that if they chose to have children there was a good chance they’d have a Gilled child – He’d had a grandparent that was Gilled, so it was a possibility he was a carrier. When Kelly was on the way, Shannon opted for a water birth – just in case. Shannon had cited a study that concluded Mer babies did better if their first moments out of the womb were in water. They had an easier transition. And if the babe wasn’t a Mer the water birth shouldn’t do any harm. Gibbs hadn’t even thought about protesting. Shannon’s body was nurturing his child, he would let her choose where she wanted to give birth.
Her doula had also been a Mer, so Gibbs had been the only one in the ocean-water birthing pool in any kind of underwater gear. He’d opted for a weighted belt and tank, so he could assist as much as he was able, but knew going in that he wouldn’t do much but be there in case Shannon needed a hand to crush in hers.
The water birth had been a lot easier on Shannon – she was able to breathe deeply and smoothly as her buoyancy relieved the strain on her body. When Kelly had arrived in a cloud of blood, she had quite obviously been Gilled. Her first breaths cut free from her connection to her mother were underwater. In fact, she didn’t surface for almost fifteen minutes as the doula and Shannon breathed with the baby. Shannon had finished with the afterbirth as Gibbs supported her body with his own, one hand curled protectively around his daughter’s head, carefully avoiding the wide open gills wrapping around her sides at the bottom of her rib cage.
It was a beautiful moment for his little family, one he cherished and kept close to his heart.
True to her heritage, Kelly had been a water baby. She took to swimming so strongly, Gibbs contemplated moving his small family to one of the border communities that were as much on land as they were under the water. Before he could, Shannon and Kelly were killed and he left the Marines behind.
Tony was a Mer. It threw a little bit of what he knew about his SFA into question. True, Tony was a master of masks and misdirection. But hiding something like being Amphibious – that was on a whole other level. He wondered who else knew. Ducky, probably. And Kate had been there through the entirety of Tony’s hospitalization for the plague, so it was likely she knew before she was killed. It wasn’t in his records, so Morrow and now Shepherd likely did not know.
And Gibbs was sure that if it was a surprise to him, McGee and Ziva were also in the dark.
McGee because, for all of the training Tony had been doing with McGee, if it wasn’t findable in cyberspace he didn’t notice until it smacked him in the face, and Ziva, well, Ziva was a whole other issue. He knew if she’d known she would have lorded it over Tony with that knowledge and it wouldn’t remain a secret very long. Abby. Well, Abby was another one who sometimes spoke before she thought. Gibbs frowned. She had a good heart, but Abby didn’t know, he was almost certain.
The constant beach vacations made more sense now. And the “frat buddies” were more likely other Mer.
It didn’t affect Tony’s ability to do his job, so Gibbs decided to let it go. He didn’t need to know. The memories it dredged up of his lost family were bittersweet, but he relished the ability to think of them in happier times. He smiled a little to himself as the wood smoothed out under the blade of the plane. Maybe it was time to build a boat that he could put in the water.
Maybe it was time.