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Paper Town

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Prologue

Once upon a time…

Gibbs was tired after a long day of work. He hated coming home at three in the morning, but it really had been a long shoot and they’d managed to wrap the shooting of the episode, which meant that he would have a couple of days off before they needed to start again. He was seriously looking forward to crawling into bed and curling his exhausted body around Shannon.

It had been a while since he’d had downtime and Shannon had been busy with the movie that she was working on. She’d scored a small part in a movie directed by up and coming director Tobias Fornell. Gibbs knew him slightly, he did good enough work. But Shannon had been kept even busier than he’d thought she would be for the number of lines that she had for the role. But a job was a job. Things changed, scripts changed, Gibbs knew how that was.

He also knew that he missed Shannon because they hadn’t seemed to have had a chance to connect properly in the last few months. She was always on her way out as he came in, or he was leaving when she came home. She’d been occupied the last few weekends that he’d been free. Tobias was shooting extra scenes or something. Gibbs didn’t know. He hoped that Shannon would get extra compensation for all the extra work she was doing. It was only fair, given the amount of time she was putting into the job.

He kicked his shoes off and left them by the front door, locking it behind him. He padded upstairs in his socked feet and started unbuttoning his shirt. He wouldn’t leave a trail of clothes all the way to the bedroom, because Shannon hated it when he did that. But he really was so tired. Quietly, he ducked into the bedroom and went straight to the bathroom, brushing his teeth and shucking off the rest of his clothes into the laundry hamper, leaving on his boxers.

After he turned the bathroom light off, he waited a minute for his eyes to be used to the darkness before making his way to the bed. He could see Shannon’s body under the covers, and he sighed as he got into bed and carefully spooned her, dropping a soft kiss on the back of her neck. It felt like it had been too long since he got to curl his body around hers. He sighed, nuzzling the back of her neck, not trying to wake her, but just wanting to feel her skin against his.

“Gibbs?” Shannon mumbled.

“Shh, didn’t mean to wake you. Go on back to sleep, babe,” Gibbs whispered, kissing her neck.

Shannon’s body started shaking and Gibbs realized that she was crying.

“Babe, what’s wrong?” he asked, panic building in his gut. Shannon was one of the strongest people he knew. They’d met at that train station all those years ago, gotten married so young, and she’d stuck by him while he was deployed, and through the injury and physical therapy and PTSD years. She was his good luck charm, the only reason that he’d made it out of Iraq alive. She was the strongest person he knew, and it gutted him to hear her crying.

Shannon turned and buried her face in his chest, sobbing quietly.

“Hush, baby, it’s OK. I got you,” he whispered, over and over, running his hands up and down her back, trying to soothe her. “Whatever it is, we’ll get through it.” It was what Shannon had always said to him. They would get through it. Together. He firmly believed it.

It took a long time for Shannon to stop crying. Finally, she was calm again.

“What is it, babe?” Gibbs asked, keeping his tone gentle.

“I’m pregnant,” she hiccupped at him, eyes down. And then she began crying again, seemingly unable to control her tears.

“But that’s awesome!” Gibbs gasped.

A child! They’d consciously decided not to have children while he was actively deployed, not wanting to chance Shannon having to be a single parent should something happen to Gibbs overseas. A Marine’s life had absolutely no guarantees. Besides, Gibbs wanted to be there and be around while his kid grew up. He didn’t want to be away for months on end, only seeing his kid once a year if he was lucky. So they’d waited until he was done with being on active duty. But once he’d come home, it had taken a long time for him to get used to being home, and the whole injury, physical therapy and PTSD thing didn’t make things any easier for his transition, so they had somehow just stopped talking about children. Not that Gibbs didn’t want a child, of course he did. It had just not been a priority for them. But now, somehow, they were about to have a baby. This was a gift. A son or a daughter! His heart soared at the thought of a baby, half him and half Shannon. Would the baby have Shannon’s gorgeous red hair? He hoped so.

“We haven’t talked about it in so long,” Shannon whispered hesitantly. “I didn’t know how you felt about kids now.”

“I know… I just wanted for us to be in the right place. But kids, Shan, we’ve wanted them for a while, right?”

She nodded, face still buried in Gibbs’ chest.

“This is amazing news, Shan,” Gibbs whispered.

“Yeah?”

“Absolutely,” he assured her. “I love you so much, babe.”

Shannon’s tears started again.

“Oh, baby. This is a good thing. Why are you crying?”

She shrugged, still sobbing into his chest.

“It’ll be OK, babe. We’ll make it work. Mike will be excited for us, your mom and my dad will just be over the moon! This is a good thing, babe. I know we haven’t talked about it…”

“We didn’t plan for this to happen…”

“I know. But it’ll work out.”

“OK,” she sighed. “OK.”

“Good.”

“You’d be such a great dad,” she whispered.

“I hope so,” he smiled, kissing the top of her head. “I really hope so. And you’d be an amazing mom.”

He held Shannon until her breaths evened out and she fell asleep. When he pulled back, he saw how swollen her face was. She’d been crying about it all night, until he got home. He didn’t really understand why she’d been so upset about being pregnant, but he’d heard people talking about pregnancy hormones. Maybe it was hormonal and it upset her for whatever reason. It didn’t really matter, as long as she wasn’t upset anymore.

Gibbs found himself lying there, wide awake despite his earlier exhaustion and sleepiness. He was going to be a father! He couldn’t wait. He didn’t even care if the baby was a boy or a girl, he was already in love with it. He laid there, Shannon tucked into his side. He had one arm around her shoulder, curling his hand down so his palm was pressed against her still-flat belly. It was going to be the best damned experience of his life. He couldn’t wait for it to be morning so he could call his father and let him know the good news. The old codger had been bugging him and Shannon for a grandbaby ever since they’d started dating. He knew that Jackson’s friends had a pool going to see how long Jackson would have to wait to get a grandchild and that Jackson had waited a long time for this, for Gibbs to become a father.

He smiled to himself, imagining himself taking his child to soccer and baseball, piano recitals, teaching them woodworking, helping them to ride a bike. He also imagined him and Shannon up all night with a crying baby, the endless diaper changes, and temper tantrums. He was so excited to embrace it all, the good and the bad. He was going to be the best dad that he could possibly be. It was going to be the best thing ever.

A week later, when he came home from the last day of shooting the next episode, he found Shannon sitting on their bed, fully dressed, suitcases packed and waiting by the front door.

“Shan?” he walked in, frowning. “Are you taking a trip? Is everything OK?”

She took a deep breath. “I’m leaving you,” she told him.

“What?” he grinned, thinking she had to be kidding. Maybe she’d planned a weekend away for them, some place romantic. Couples were encouraged to spend time together before the baby arrived, right?

“Gibbs… you have to listen to me and take me seriously.”

He nodded, eyes wide with worry now.

“I’ve been cheating on you,” Shannon told him baldly. That was the kind of person she’d always been. Forthright and up front. Not that this was ever anything Gibbs thought would come out of his wife’s mouth. “I’m pregnant but you’re not the baby’s father.”

What?” Gibbs spat out.

“I’m eight weeks along and we haven’t had sex in over three months.”

They hadn’t had sex in over three months? Could that be true? How could that have happened? Gibbs’ mind began whirling.

“But last week… you told me…”

“I told you I was pregnant. I never said you were the baby’s father.”

Gibbs swallowed and focused on keeping his breathing even and his face impassive. “So, you were crying because…?”

“The baby’s father didn’t take the news of my pregnancy well.”

“Ah,” Gibbs nodded, pursing his lips, even as his heart was breaking. “And now?”

“And now he’s had time to think about it and he’s changed his tune.”

“Ah,” Gibbs nodded again. “So last week you were fine with letting me think I was having a baby with you, but now you’re telling me the truth? If this asshole hadn’t decided to step up and do right by you and the baby, would you have ever told me that this child isn’t mine?”

Shannon looked down, and Gibbs could read shame in her body language.

He nodded. “Fine. You’re absolutely right. You should leave.”

“I am sorry,” Shannon sighed, looking up again, her eyes filled with tears.

“I don’t care,” Gibbs said shortly. “I’m going out for the night. I can’t stand to look at your face right now. Get your stuff out of here. You’d better not be here tomorrow. Don’t leave anything of yours here. If I see anything you’ve missed, they’ll be in a bonfire by tomorrow night.”

“OK,” Shannon said in a small voice.

Gibbs turned and started stalking away.

“Gibbs,” Shannon whispered.

He stopped and turned his head. “What?”

“I never meant to hurt you.”

“I don’t fucking care.”

She sighed.

“I really hope he turns out to be a lumberjack,” Gibbs gritted out before he left the room and the house. He ended up driving around for a couple of hours before going to sleep in his trailer at work.

The next day, Mike called to let him know that Coleoptera had been canceled. Their numbers had been good, and critics and audiences loved the show, but the network had wanted to go ‘in a different direction’. Also, Gibbs saw on TMZ that director Tobias Fornell was seen out and about with his new girlfriend, Shannon Gibbs.

Gibbs got good and mad, and trashed his trailer before he went home to an empty house. Shannon had taken almost everything, leaving him with his clothes and were those his golf clubs in the hall closet? Fuck. When did he buy golf clubs? He didn’t even like golf. The story of his life.

The network executives called him with their fake sympathy, fake optimistic voices, and their false, false hearts and another wave of rage went through Gibbs. This world he lived in sucked. He thought longingly about re-enlisting with the Marine Corps and praying that some bad guy somewhere in the world would put a bullet in his head and end his misery, but he’d washed out after his last deployment. He officially numbered as one of the injured veterans of the Corps. He wouldn’t be able to pass the physical. His knee was held together artificially, and he still had that scar in his chest where the last bullet had pierced him.

For the first time in his life, Gibbs wondered why the hell that bullet hadn’t hit three inches to the left and just killed him outright. Because this? What Shannon had done to him? A thousand times worse. She’d ripped his heart right out, not just withdrawing her love, but dangling the possibility of a child at him and then so cruelly taking it away from him.

After being alone in his empty house and blind drunk for a week straight, Mike came over and offered him his beach house in Mexico and he took it, going down and living there for two months, never shaving, barely even showering, truth be told. Mostly, he drank. Until Mike came down and told him to suck it up, move forward, and stop drinking himself to death. So Gibbs pulled himself out of the abyss and went home to the house that felt as empty as his heart.

Jenny called, having lined up a few auditions for him. He went back to work, but this time, he had nothing left to lose. Fuck Hollywood. Fuck the industry. He couldn’t give two shits now. Full of assholes, heartbreakers, dream killers, wife stealers and soulless people who only wanted to make money. And without Shannon to soften his edges, he refused to pretend to be anything that he wasn’t, going back to his drill sergeant days.

Those had been good days when people just ran screaming from him. If they weren’t saying “Sir, yes sir” to him, he didn’t want to or have to hear it. And that was how he was going to live his life from now on.

He had no illusions about himself. There was no way he would continue to make it in Hollywood, of all places. He asked Jenny to find him the most ruthless divorce lawyer, not wanting to give Shannon a cent more than she deserved. No more Mr Nice Gibbs. And once the divorce was final and he was run out of town for his terrible attitude, he’d figure out his next steps at that point.

Until then, fuck Shannon, fuck Tobias Fornell, fuck all of their careers, fuck this stupid godforsaken paper town and fuck the horse it rode in on.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Hollywood Gossip – Fans of the hit science fiction TV show Coleoptera are outraged when it was unexpectedly cancelled over the weekend. The network’s “going in a different direction” explanation falls flat. We can’t help but wonder if there was internal strife, or other things at work here? Especially since Shannon Gibbs, wife of Coleoptera star LJ Gibbs, reportedly left him and is now being seen on the arms of director Tobias Fornell, and the delicious Captain Shiny Boots has supposedly trashed his house in a fit of anger and run away for a Mexican hiatus. What the heck is going on here?