"So, this is the place." Mac jammed his hands in his coat pockets and looked at the house. It wasn't quite a farmhouse, though they had a few acres of land attached. "It looks ... homey, Jet. I can see you probably had a great time here with your folks." Both of them had been only children, but Mac had grown up in the city, while this was countrified living at its best. Or worst. He could tell why Jet had enlisted to get out.
Mac wrapped his arms around Jethro, being careful of his arm and the cast that encased it. "I'm sorry you don't have them any more, babe. If I could spend every day letting you know you're loved and have a family with me, I would. You'll see how different my home is."
"It's ok, Mac, just being here brings back a lot of memories." Jethro looked at the small porch that used to hold a rocking chair for his mother to sit in, and the darkened windows. It wasn't the same as he remembered, smaller and more dingy, and he could only imagine how it looked to someone who didn't grow up there.
"You know, we knew that we were losing my dad, it was very obvious he was sick before he ever was diagnosed. It's what happens when you work the mines as long as he did. But the accident that took my mom and her friend, that was so sudden. Dad, he wasn't ever the same, and within six months he was gone. It just made it that much easier to walk away and not look back."
Mac stroked Jethro's hair. "I can't imagine. My folks are a little older ... and I've often wondered how long they'll be around, but an accident, that doesn't touch age, Jet. That could happen at any time." He liked the house, a lot.
"It looks like a home, it looks like a comfortable place, Jet. A real home. They raised you well, I'm sure you were so loved. Oh, beautiful boy, you've had a lot of loss for a young guy. You've got me for life, okay?"
"I'm going to hold you to that. I take care of Shannon, her mom was in the car with mine, and her dad was useless. Drinking himself to death before his wife was killed. She won't say, but I'm pretty sure he hit on her too. But she's kind of like family, in a little sister who grew a whole bunch of curves she doesn't know what to do with." They had talked about Shan a little bit, how she lived off base and gave him a place to get away. They were romantically involved to a point, when it suited them. He hadn't told her that he was stateside yet, she wouldn't understand that he needed to be alone to start with.
"I know. You guys haven't had it easy. I can see where you'd want to spread your wings and fly. We still spending New Years with her? What do you want to do for Christmas? Hotel? Just the two of us?"
"Yeah, she'll be surprised, but I'd like you to meet her. She's important to me, the only family I have left." Which was true. He didn't want to see Shannon hurt and he wouldn't abandon her. "Don't you want to spend Christmas with your folks? You won't always be able to, and since you have the time, I thought you'd want to stay there."
Mac nudged Jet's shoulder. "I'm family too. You have a brother now. And I want to spend Christmas with you. Since you're dealing with my family for Thanksgiving, we'll do whatever you want for Christmas. Think about it, sweet boy."
"I will. Something fun, maybe someplace warm. A quiet beach, a cooler of beers and no one else in the world to bother us. Sounds pretty good to me."
"Oh yeah. Sounds good to me too. Both of us could use some sun. If your cast is off by then, we could drive to Miami or the Keys in a day or two. Pretty different from the Windy City."
"We'll find someplace, although the Windy City might not be so bad either. You might be able to convince me I could be a city boy."
"Maybe someday, but not a city like Chicago. You're more an Iowa or South Dakota city boy. I guess we'll find out, huh?"
"Iowa has cities? Come on, I do okay It's not like I've never been out in the world. I'm sure Chicago isn't that bad. You love it here and you've got pretty good taste."
"Yeah, I do. I fell for you."
"Now you're going to make me blush. All the compliments are going to go to my head."
Mac sighed, rubbing Jet's back. "You ready? We have a long drive and until you get that cast off, you don't get to take the wheel. I'll let you work the radio, but none of that country crap. Mom wants us there for dinner tonight. She wants to fuss over us." What Mac didn't say was that he was feeling this urgency to get home.
"Yeah, I'm ready. And all you're going to get down here is country crap, baby." Since he'd left, two more country stations had popped up and still not a rock station to be found. "You're in the country, so you get what you get. By time we hit Ohio, we might find something you like. If you're lucky."
Meeting the parents, that wasn't something Jet was really looking forward to. He knew it wasn't like Mac was taking him home for approval, but it still made him nervous. He was pretty sure that Mrs. Taylor was only being nice in allowing him to tag along and would rather it was just Mac coming to visit. "You know, if you think your mom isn't going to really want me there, I can stay here and meet back up with you on base. I don't want to do anything to mess up the time you have with your family."
"Jet, both my mom and dad want to meet you. Trust me, Mom'll complain that I'm too thin and try to fatten me up and she'll fall in love with you. All they'll ever know is that we served and were injured together. But my folks know that I don't make friends easily and that you're someone special. It'll mean a lot for them to have someone else to spoil. Don't worry, Jet. We're very casual."
"If you say so. But seriously, Mac, if she gets sick of me, just let me know. I can come back here or fly back to base and meet up with you when you report back. I know how important your parents are to you and I want you to get all the time you need with them. But we'll play it by ear, okay?"
Jet would try not to worry, even though he had a full day's ride to think about what was going to happen. "You could use a couple of pounds, your mom is right. She's going to think they don't feed us. Which is partially true, the food sucks and neither of us are great cooks. A home-cooked meal is going to be great."
"And trust me, sweet boy, they respect limits. They've had to, they had me with my head buried in a book forever. And yeah, if I could gain, I wouldn't be so thin, but I have a high metabolism. When I hit forty, I'll probably slow down and gain three hundred pounds or something."
"I doubt it. You're too active to put on that kind of weight. But five pounds so that your hip bones aren't sticking out so prominently, sure, that would be sexy."
"Hey, I'll do what I can. Not all of us can be the former quarterback with the killer abs."
"The former quarterback works hard to make sure he doesn't put on any weight. Not all of us have a naturally high metabolism. I actually have to exercise to try and keep up with you."
"You look good. Damn good, Jet. Not scrawny like me."
Mac drove in silence for a few hours, and by mid-afternoon, they were approaching his house. "Ready, babe?"
"As I'm ever going to be." Jet opened the door, and grabbed the bouquet of flowers he'd made Mac stop for at the local grocery. His mother would have skinned him if he had showed up without flowers for the hostess, even if her son said it wasn't necessary. "Last chance to put me on a plane and send me home."
"Never, Jet. Never, sweet boy. I love you, my forever boy, my oxygen." He left the bags in the car for now and motioned Jet toward the door of the pretty nondescript house. "Mom? Dad?" He eased the door open, wishing his parents would lock up.
They were standing, moving toward him, and Mac felt a rush of gratitude. His mother clasped him around the waist and rested her cheek on his chest and he gasped in pain when she brushed against the injured area.
His father gave him a serious look and cupped his head in his hands, kissing his forehead.
"Welcome home, MacKai, my boy. Emily, I think that's where he was hurt. Be careful."
"It's okay, Dad. Really." Mac gently disengaged himself and motioned Jet over. "Mom, Dad, this is Lance Corporal Gibbs, Jethro Gibbs, he likes to be called Jet. He's more than a friend, he's a brother to me after all we've gone through, so please treat him like the brother you deprived me of."
"Jet, my folks, Keith and Emily Taylor."
"Ma'am, it's a pleasure to meet you." Holding the flowers out to her, he was pleased at the smile he received.
"Call me Emily, please, Jethro. Ma'am makes me sound older then I already am." Taking the flowers, she handed them to her husband before hugging her son's friend. "Could you please put these in water for me, darling? I want to get to know MacKai's friend better. It's such an honor to have you join us for the holiday. When we heard that you were taking care of our boy, we insisted he bring you to meet us. He's not the easiest child to get along with, and any friend of his we want to get to know."
"He took good care of me as well, Ma ... Emily. We both needed some quiet time away from the world to heal. It was nice to have the company of someone who understood what I'd been through." Jet didn't want to speak too much about what had happened, that was for Mac to tell his parents, not him. "He's been a good friend and I appreciate the invitation this weekend. Mac has told me all about how wonderful his parents are and I can't see that he was exaggerating any."
"And you me, Jet. You helped me more than you know, bea—buddy."
.... There is more of this story ...