Summary: She might not be the love of his life, but he is the love of hers and she loves him enough for the both of them.
Disclaimer: Not mine, played with for fun only!
Warnings: Unbeta'd - apologies for any errors.
By the time she meets Leroy Jethro Gibbs there are a few too many strands of grey mingled in amongst the red hair she'd been so proud of in her youth.
She's been married and divorced once; to man that didn't deserve the titles husband and father.
The children she'd had have grown up and left the nest like all children do when they reach that certain age. Now their busy with their own families.
She has a certain notoriety within NCIS as his sixth wife; seventh she always mentally corrects them, Shannon and Kelly never very far from her mind.
It had been a long time ago that she'd accepted being married to Jethro would mean being married to his ghosts too.
Everyone has things in their past that haunts them. It just so happens that his ghosts happen to be his first wife and only daughter.
Instead of keeping them locked away she brings them out into the open, into the bright light of day, refusing to let them fester away out of sight but never out of mind.
Homemade Christmas decorations belonging to Kelly join those of their grandchildren on the Christmas tree.
Old pictures of the three of them join a collage of framed photo's in the hallway next to more recent vacation pictures.
Shannon's beloved vase, a gift on their honeymoon from her new husband sits safe and secure in the glass cabinet on display in their front room.
They'd had fights about it.
Over the way she has brought his old life into his new one.
She weathers the silence and anger and eventually it gives way to bittersweet memories and her husband begins to focus on the good memories once again and not just the pain of their loss.
She understands his obsession with his job. That by closing each case he is assigned he is giving families the same closure that he himself desperately needed all those years ago.
He teaches her how to shot a gun and she feeds his family when they turn up to talk, or just for company in the middle of the night during or after a particularly harrowing case.
She learns that sometimes he needs to be alone, working on his boat in the basement, only the sound of his tools breaking the silence or occasionally old cassette tapes of Kelly and Shannon.
When the pipes burst and the flood the basement she says a silent prayer of thanks that the week before she'd had the cassettes and old video recorder tapes transferred on CD and DVD.
He gets home one night several weeks after the home emergency to find a basic CD player sitting on his work bench with an unnamed CD inside.
He doesn't listen to the tapes in an attempt to hurt her.
Just the same as she doesn't deliberately try to hurt him by flinching away from him in the middle of an argument when he moves his hand too suddenly.
The experiences of their pasts makes of each of them the people they are today.
"He loves me." She explains to her granddaughter while they are in the kitchen making a salad. The seventeen year old has just broken up with her first serious boyfriend (she later finds out from Jethro that he'd dumped her when she'd refused to have sex with him and all she can think is thank god Casey has her head screwed on) and their seems to be no end in sight.
"Be strong." She tells her. "Miller women always are. You will meet another boy, and you will love again. It will just be in a different way. Just the same as Jethro's love for me is different to his love for Shannon."
That knowledge, that strength is why they are celebrating their tenth wedding anniversary that afternoon in the presence of friends and family.
It's why she has lasted longer than all of his other ex-wives combined.
She might not be the love of his life, but he is the love of hers and she loves him enough for the both of them.