A DOG'S LIFE
The team arrives at work one day to find a surprising new addition.
An established relationship story.
Written: November 2007. Word count. 8,122.
Tony walked into the squad room. He was a bit surprised to see that, although it wasn't that early comparatively, none of the his team, even Gibbs, were in yet. Not that he minded the absence of his boss, as it gave him a few minutes to – "What the . . . ?" He pulled back and stared down at his chair.
He glanced around, none of the other early arrivers seemed to be paying him any attention. What was worse was that none of them were deliberately avoiding paying him any attention. That could mean only one thing: this wasn't a hoax.
He moved nearer and reached out his hand. "Nice doggy," he said cautiously. He was greeted by several licks and a short tail wagging so violently that the whole back-end of the dog moved. "Good, boy," he said, patting russet colored head.
He glanced around him again. "Where did you come from?" he whispered. And then it hit him. Of course! Moving quickly, because he knew that Gibbs could arrive at any moment, he scooped the dog up, tried to avoid it from licking his nose, and ran for the elevator. Halfway there he stopped, changed his mind and headed for the stairs instead.
When he reached his destination, he pushed the door open and cautiously looked around him: Gibbs could be down there. But it seemed as if luck was on Tony's side, thus far. With one more glance, he slid between the door and the frame, hurried across the empty corridor and stopped outside the doors, that automatically opened as he got near to them. "Ducky," he hissed, still glancing around him.
Ducky, in the process of putting on his white coat didn't turn around. Instead he simply called, "Oh, good morning, Anthony, and another fine morning it is, is it not? A little chilly, but rather –"
"Ducky, come here," Tony hissed again.
"Oh, Anthony, I am a little later than usual and I haven't got time for games today. In fact I was unable to enjoy my usual cup of tea this morning. Unfortunately –"
Tony interrupted him. "Please, Ducky, come here."
He heard Ducky sigh, but then watched him turn and limp towards the door. "Well, Anthony, what is it you wish to – Oh," he said, as he finally saw what Tony was holding. "Where on earth did you –"
"He was sitting on my chair when I got to work this morning." Tony held the dog out towards Ducky.
Automatically Ducky took it. "Firstly, Anthony," he said, after a swift glance, "he is a she. And secondly, why have you given her to me?"
"Because she's yours."
"Well, your mom's."
Ducky eyes widened and he frowned. "Anthony, in the first place, this is not a Welsh Corgi, it is a Norfolk Terrier. And in the second place, even if it were a Welsh Corgi, what makes you think it belongs to Mother?"
Tony stared. "She's got dogs," was the only explanation he could suddenly think of.
Ducky frowned again. "Indeed she has, four of them. And I assure you they were all safely ensconced in Mother's room watching Jeopardy with her, when I left for work. But even if they hadn't been, what do you think happened? Do you think one of them not only jumped into the car, but that I managed the entire journey here without noticing that I had a companion? I may be older than you, Anthony, but I am not like my mother." Ducky's tone was crisp, and his stare was not his usual friendly one.
"Sorry, Ducky," Tony said quickly. "Guess it was a bit . . ."
"Indeed. Now, you had better take her back upstairs and attempt to find out to whom she belongs." Ducky held the dog back out towards Tony.
"Er, Ducky, couldn't you . . ."
"Couldn't I what?"
"Well you know about dogs, they like you. Besides . . ."
"Well, Gibbs'll probably be in by now, and I –"
"I assure you, Jethro is indeed in the building."
"Oh," Tony looked around him. "He's been down to see you, has he?"
Ducky simply looked at him. "No, he has not. He was kind enough to give me a lift to work this morning. And that, is another reason why, even if this dog were a Welsh Corgi, it could not belong to Mother. I may possibly, just possibly, have missed seeing it in the car; however, I assure you that Jethro would not have done so. Now, come along." He swept off, still carrying the dog, towards the elevators. Tony ran to catch up with him.
"There you are, DiNozzo. Where the hell have you – Oh, hey, Duck."
Tony hid a wistful sigh as he heard the complete change in Gibbs's voice, and in his look, when he noticed Ducky.
"Good morning again, my dear Jethro," Ducky said placidly. "And to you too, Timothy and Ziva. Oh, and Abigail," he added, as Abby bounced into the room carrying some papers.
"Morning, Duckman. Ooh, how sweet. Is it yours?" Abby dropped the papers on Gibbs's desk and ran over to where Ducky and Tony stood. At least to where Ducky stood; Tony was attempting to slide away from Ducky's side.
"Stay, Anthony," Ducky said quietly, but firmly. Tony swallowed and obeyed; just as he would have done had the order come from Gibbs himself.
Without giving Ducky a chance to answer, Abby tugged the dog from his arms and called, "Look, Gibbs, Ducky's got a dog."
"Can see that, Abbs," Gibbs answered, joining the small group. Tony noticed that both McGee and Ziva had also followed Gibbs.
"Isn't it cute?" Abby demanded.
To Tony's surprise, Ziva reached out and patted the dog's head. She received the same 'reward' as Tony had earlier: a healthy licking. "He is indeed very," Ziva paused. "Cute," she managed.
"He's a she, Ziva," Tony said quickly.
Ziva blinked. "Oh. In that case she is exceptionally cute."
"Do you know what breed it is, boss?" Tony asked.
"Yep. Do you, DiNozzo?"
Tony swallowed. "Yes, it's a . . ." He paused. Damn, what had Ducky called it?
"A Norfolk Terrier, Anthony. I did tell you," Ducky said, his eyes twinkled as he looked up at Gibbs.
"That's it, boss, a Norfolk Terrier." Tony's reward was one of Gibbs's icy, withering looks.
Then Gibbs turned from Tony back to Ducky. "Er, Duck," he asked, his tone gentle but curious. "Why have you got a Norfolk Terrier? Is there something you haven't –"
"Oh, no, Jethro. She isn't mine."
"Then whose is she, Duck?"
"We don't know, boss."
Gibbs again turned to him. "You don't know, DiNozzo?" He loomed over Tony; quite a feat given that Tony was actually two inches taller than his boss.
"Apparently, Anthony found her sitting on his chair when he arrived this morning," Ducky obligingly told Gibbs. "And he brought her down to me, because he believed that –"
"Yeah, thanks, Ducky. Don't think Gibbs needs to – Thank you, boss." Tony winced. One of these days he just might remember never to say, or do, anything to, or about, Ducky that Gibbs just might conceivably see as a slight.
"You took her down to Ducky because?"
Tony swallowed. "Because I thought it, er, he, er, she, was oneofDucky'smom'sdogs." Gibbs just continued to stare at him, unblinkingly. "Sorry, boss," Tony said, deciding to play safe.
Ziva frowned. "I do not understand," she said.
Ducky beamed and turned to her. Tony groaned silently. "Mother has Welsh Corgis Ziva, four of them. Apparently Anthony mistook our visitor for one of them."
Ziva began to laugh. "You thought this was a Corgi?" she pointed at the dog now comfortably snuggled down in Abby's arms.
"She's the same color," Tony managed, weakly.
"She is nothing like a Corgi."
"And how would you know, Officer David?"
"Because I have seen pictures of them. Your Queen has several, has she not?" she turned to Ducky.
"Why, yes, Ziva, she does. In fact –"
"Yes, Jethro?" Ducky gave no hint of irritation that Gibbs had interrupted him; but then he rarely, if ever did.
"Fascinating as this is, someone," Gibbs took the dog from Abby's arms, she pouted, spent a fleeting second fussing it, before putting it firmly into Tony's arms. "Has to find who owns her. And as you, DiNozzo, found her. You can do it."
"Maybe she's a stray, Gibbs," Abby said, sidling around Gibbs and beginning to stroke the dog again. Gibbs stared at her. "Well, she isn't wearing a collar."
"Oh, I know, McGee can have her. You wanted a dog, didn't you, Probie?" Tony started to hand the dog over, but froze as he caught Gibbs's eye. "Well, he did."
"Yes, Tony," McGee said, speaking for the first time; he tone was wistful. "I did. But I realized that it wasn't fair on the dog, leaving it alone all day. It's not that I work regular hours."
"It wouldn't be fair on a dog even if you did work regular hours, Timothy," Ducky said quietly, with just a mere hint of reproof in his tone.
McGee looked at him. "I know that, Ducky. Really I do. I just wanted –"
"Something to go home and snuggle with. I told you, Probie, try to get a girl-friend. Oww. Thank you, boss."
Ducky sighed and looked up at Gibbs. "If you wish me to, Jethro, I can –"
"Er, Special Agent Gibbs?" The voice, female, was hesitant, and came from behind the group.
Gibbs turned round. "Who are you?" His tone was not friendly, or inviting.
"I'm Director Shepard's assistant. Well, her temporary assistant. Cynthia has . . ." She trailed off under the hard stare and swallowed. "Er, Director Shepard was called away two hours ago to an urgent meeting and –"
Gibbs rolled his eyes. "Where was the director called to?"
The girl swallowed and looked down at her notebook, flicking through it frantically. "I don't know, sir. I'm sorry, I – Um . . . Oh, I . . ."
Ducky put him hand on her arm. "It's all right," he said, his tone soothing. "Special Agent Gibbs doesn't bite. Now take a deep breath and tell him what it is Director Shepard told you to tell him."
The girl swallowed again, took a deep breath, then another, looked down at her notebook, frowned, looked up frantically at Gibbs who just stared at her, glanced at Ducky again, who was still smiling patiently at her. "Oh, yes, it's here. She said . . . She said 'Tell Agent Gibbs to take care of Lacey'." She looked hopefully at Gibbs.
Gibbs continued to stare down at her. "And who the hell is Lacey?" he growled.
"Er, boss," Tony said, as the dog looked up, her attention now firmly on Gibbs. "I think . . . " He trailed off.
"You think what, DiNozzo?"
"I think that she," he nodded at the dog in his arms. "Might be Lacey."
On cue the dog barked and began to wag her tail excitedly.
All eyes turned towards Tony and his wriggling bundle.
Gibbs stared. "That's Lacey?" he asked, his tone one of incredulity.
Again the dog barked and wagged her tail even harder. She gazed up adoringly at Gibbs, her mouth slightly open.
Silence fell over the group.
Finally, it was McGee who broke it. "Has the director got a dog?" he asked.
"Um," the girl, who Tony hadn't realized was still there, spoke. "I er, found this in Director Shepard's office," she said, and held up a red collar and lead.
Once again silence descended over the group.
Oddly it was Ducky who broke it. "Yes, Jennifer never did realize that redheads really should not wear red themselves."
Before anyone could speak, Jimmy came up behind the group. "Oh, there you are, Doctor. I was – oh, how lovely. Is she yours, Agent DiNozzo?" He hurried over to Tony and began to stroke Lacey.
"No," Tony said quickly.
"We believe that she belongs to Director Shepard."
"Really?" Jimmy turned to look at Ducky, his eyes wide. "What's she doing here?"
"That, Palmer," Gibbs answered, "is a very good question."
"I've got a better one, boss. What are we going to do with her?"
"Take care of her until the director comes back, of course, Tony," Abby said firmly. "Isn't that right, Gibbs?" She beamed at him.
Gibbs glanced at Abby, then at Tony. "Guess so," he said, his tone dubious.
"In that case, someone else can hold her," Tony said firmly, holding Lacey out.
"Ooh, let me," Abby said, about to take Lacey from Tony's arms.
However, before she could do so, Gibbs took her himself. Abby pouted. He ignored her. Holding Lacey who happily settled down and began to lick Gibbs's hand, Gibbs snapped orders. "Abbs, go up to the director's office and see if you can find any other dog stuff, a bed or something."
"Yes, Gibbs." She turned on her heel and bounced off across the office.
"McGee do some surfboarding and find out what you can about Norfolk Terriers."
"On it, boss." McGee hurried back to his desk.
"Ziva, go and clear that corner, under that spare desk. She can sit there for now. It's out of the way and free from draughts."
"Yes, Gibbs." She nodded and turned away.
Tony began to back away. "As, there's nothing for me to do. I'll just get on with some -"
"Anthony," Ducky's quiet voice stopped him.
"Er, yeah, Ducky?"
However, it wasn't Tony who Ducky answered; instead he answered Gibbs's raised eyebrow. "I believe Jethro that it might be judicious for someone to take Lacey outside. The young lady, oh, has she gone?" Quite when Director Shepard's temporary assistant had vanished, Tony didn't know, but vanished she had. Ducky shrugged slightly and went on as if he hadn't paused. "Did say that Jennifer left a couple of hours ago, did she not? And we do not know for how long before that she -"
"Oh, yes. Good idea, Duck. Here, DiNozzo," Gibbs put Lacey on the ground, crouched down to slip the collar and lead on her and held it out towards Tony.
"Take her outside."
Ducky sighed. "Anthony, I am sure by now that Lacey would appreciate the opportunity to relieve herself."
Tony just stared. "You mean you want me to . . . ?"
"Yes." Gibbs's tone was the one that even Tony didn't argue with. After a brief second, Tony took the lead from Gibbs, looked down at the dog who was patiently waiting and sighed. "Come on then, Lacey," he said, trying to sound less reluctant than he felt. She seemed to understand as she began to wag her short tail and almost dance on the spot. He began to lead her away
"Oh, just a moment, Anthony." Once again Ducky's voice stopped him. Tony turned back round. "You had better take this." Ducky held out a plastic bag towards Tony.
Tony stared at it, as it dawned on him why Ducky was giving it to him. "Boss," he pleaded.
Gibbs simply looked at him; the look was not an inviting one. Knowing he was beaten, Tony took the bag, tightened his grip slightly on the lead and led the excited Lacey away. He couldn't swear to it, but he thought he might have heard Ducky chuckling softly.
"Now, Jimmy," Ducky said, turning to his assistant. "Run down to the cafeteria and ask for a bowl, not too big mind, keep in mind she's a small dog, and fill it with water so that Lacey can have a drink when Tony brings her back."
"Yes, Doctor," Jimmy replied, and but ran off.
"What is it, Jethro?" Ducky asked, after a moment or two of silence.
"Not sure, Duck. I guess I can't imagine Jenn having a dog and being so irresponsible, that's all. Just to go off like that and leave her here, expecting us to look after it. And why haven't we seen her before?"
"Maybe she normally has a pet sitter to take care of Lacey, but the person is on holiday. From what the young lady said, Jennifer's departure was both unexpected and urgent. As such, she acted responsibly and left her dog with the people she knew she could trust – you and your team."
Gibbs frowned. "You defending Jenn, Duck?"
Ducky smiled. "Maybe a little, my dear. And you do have to admit, Lacey is a very appealing dog."
Gibbs shrugged. "She's okay."
"Okay, okay. She's appealing, just don't tell anyone I said so."
Ducky chuckled gently. "The secret of your soft side is quite safe with me," he said.
For a second or two the harsh dark glare faded and became warm and gentle. "What are we going to do with her tonight? I don't suppose –"
Ducky shook his head. "I'm afraid not, my dear. The Corgis are extremely territorial; they would not appreciate another dog being in the house."
Gibbs sighed. "Guess that means I'm going to have to take her home with me."
Ducky moved a little closer. "I will be more than happy to help you care for Lacey, if you would like the company," he said. "I am certain that Helen would be more than happy to spend a few days with Mother. She said only the other day that it has been a while since they spent any real time together."
Before Gibbs could answer, not that he needed to do so, Ducky knew exactly what his lover would have said, the rest of the team appeared.
"Nothing else in the director's office, Gibbs. Well nothing that was doggy related." Abby reported.
"I have found an old blanket, Gibbs, and a cushion. I am sure Lacey will be comfortable."
"Here's the water, Doctor. Ooops."
"Jimmy, do be careful." Abby steadied the bowl of water and took it from Jimmy.
"Well she peed, but nothing else. Felt a right fool standing out there. You can take her next time, Probie."
"Boss, I've found all sorts of information about the Norfolk Terrier. There's a great site if you want to –" Under Gibbs's stead stare, McGee came to a halt. "Well they're easy to care for, hardy dogs, good eaters, friendly."
"She is certainly friendly," Ziva said, as she crouched down to pet Lacey; seconds later she was joined by Abby and Jimmy.
Gibbs rolled his eyes and whistled sharply. His team all looked at him. "Ziva, put Lacey under the desk with the water and keep an eye on her. The rest of you, get on with your work. Now," he added when no one seemed inclined to move.
As one they all, with the exception of Ducky who stayed where he was, perched on the edge of Gibbs's desk, obeyed.
Ducky waited until Abby and Jimmy, the former no doubt for her lab, the latter to hover by the elevators waiting for Ducky, had departed, and Ziva, DiNozzo and McGee were seated at their desk before standing up himself. "I'll see you later, Jethro," he said, and with a smile walked across to join Jimmy.
Gibbs watched him go, before turning his attention to the files on his desk.
The rest of the morning went by in typical we-haven't-got-a-new-case fashion, with the exception that Abby seemed to find several excuses for coming up to the squad room, and on the two occasions he left to visit the head and get coffee, when he returned his field team were hurrying back to their desks.
Lacey herself didn't cause any problems, she curled up under the desk on the blanket Ziva had found for her and went to sleep. At least she did until each time DiNozzo left the office; then she trotted out, across the room and hopped up onto his chair.
"Boss," he protested, the third time it happened.
Gibbs just stared at his senior field agent until DiNozzo picked Lacey up and returned her to her blanket
For the first time in a long time, all the kids decided to go out for lunch. Gibbs didn't particularly wonder why, until one by one they returned.
DiNozzo arrived back first, carrying, as well as the sandwich Gibbs had asked him to fetch, a dog's bed, a extremely luxurious looking dog's bed. Gibbs raised his eyebrows.
"Thought it might keep her out of my chair. And she'll need something to sleep in overnight," DiNozzo explained hurriedly.
Abby and McGee arrived together with an assortment of toys, a vast assortment of toys, which they assured Gibbs (who hadn't asked) were all safe for small dogs. Abby also had a new collar and lead – black. Apparently like Ducky she didn't think that redheads should wear red; Gibbs was just pleased to see that the collar didn't match Abby's own spiked one.
"Isn't that better, Lacey?" Abby cooed, as she put the new collar around Lacey's neck. "Oh, and Gibbs, we also got her an identity disc."
"Why?" Gibbs asked.
"In case she runs away. People will know to bring her back here." Abby beamed at Gibbs. "See, look, isn't that cool"? She scooped Lacey up and brought her over to Gibbs's desk, putting her down on Gibbs's lap, where Lacey immediately settled down, so while Abby showed him the disc.
Ziva's 'offering' was, predictably, not toys. "I have bought Lacey two bowls, one for her food and another for her water. And some food; the man in the pet shop assured me that this particular dry food mix is the best, as it does not contain anything to which she might be allergic. He also assured me that it was the safest brand, as we do not know anything about her eating habits."
"And I've got this," Palmer said, arriving suddenly. "It's a crate," he said, holding the large box up. "In case we all have to go out. We can put her in there and she'll be safe."
"Oh, that's clever, Jimmy."
Palmer blushed furiously at Abby's words.
"Also as we don't know what she's like in a car, I thought it would be safer to put her in it for Agent Gibbs to take home."
Gibbs eyed the crate. "Not sure it'll fit in the sedan, Palmer," he said, keeping his tone fairly gentle.
"Yes, it is a little on the large size, Jimmy." Ducky said, as he too joining the group. The fact he was still wearing his hat and coat told Gibbs that his lover had also been out. He wondered idly what Ducky had brought back for Lacey, who now appeared to be asleep on his lap.
"Oh, dear." Palmer looked at the crate and then at Gibbs and Lacey. "I didn't want to get one that was too small. I didn't know how . . . Oh, dear, Special Agent Gibbs, sir, I'm sorry. Maybe I could . . ."
Ducky moved across to him and touched his arm. "It's all right, Jimmy," he said. "I am sure Jethro will manage. And it's better to have it a little too large than too small." He smiled encouragingly at Palmer, who after a moment or two looked less concerned.
"So what have you bought her, Duck?" Gibbs asked.
"I don't know what you mean, Jethro. I merely . . . Oh, very well," Ducky said,
smiling as Gibbs stared at him. "I have a variety of things: a box of small
biscuits, I'm sure she must be allowed the odd treat; and a bone of the type the
Corgis love, it's the kind that is good for a dog's teeth; a brush and comb and
"We have to groom her?"
"Oh, yes, Jethro. From looking at and feeling her coat, Lacey is clearly well cared for. We cannot let her coat get matted whilst Jennifer is away, now can we?"
Gibbs just sat and stared at his lover in bemusement. "That it?" he said finally.
"Well, I did also purchase a small soft toy. But I can see that she has no need for that, so –"
"Ooh, no, Ducky," Abby exclaimed, hurrying over to Ducky. "A girl can never have too many toys, can they Ziva?"
Ziva blinked and looked at Abby. "I suppose not," she said slowly, after a moment or two.
LATER THAT NIGHT
"Where is Lacey going to sleep?" Ducky asked, as they stood on the backdoor step waiting for their temporary 'guest' to finish exploring Jethro's garden.
Jethro shrugged. "Hadn't thought about it. Kitchen, I guess."
"Are you sure, my dear? After all we do not know where she sleeps at home. She must be missing Jennifer, maybe we should –"
"She's not sleeping in the bedroom."
"Oh, but why not, Jethro? She's so little."
"Little or not. No. I'm not used to a third party in the bedroom, Duck. I've had to share you all evening. I want you to myself."
"Oh, Jethro, really. You make poor Lacey sound –"
"Sound what? Duck, I had to carry her down to the basement and –"
"Well, you couldn't expect her to go down the steps on her own. It must have been a terribly daunting sight for standing there, looking down. She is a very small dog, Jethro."
"She'll be fine in the kitchen." Jethro spoke firmly.
Ducky sighed. "Very well, my dear," he said compliantly, after a moment or two. "At least she shouldn't be cold. The bed Anthony bought for her is excellent. I don't think I want to even begin to consider how much it must have cost him."
"That's DiNozzo." At that moment, Lacey came bouncing back to the door, tail wagging so fast, Jethro could hardly see it. She trotted past them, jumped into her bed, turned round twice, lay down and gazed up at them. Jethro squatted down and stroked her head. "Good dog," he said, as she licked his hand.
Ducky joined him, and for a minute of two they both petted Lacey, until her eyes began to close. "Goodnight, Lacey," Ducky said softly. "Sleep well."
Jethro stood up and offered his hand to help Ducky to his feet, before slipping his arm around Ducky's shoulders and moving towards the door. "Leave it open a bit," he said swiftly, as Ducky began to close it.
"Just in case she cries of anything. You said it yourself, Duck, we don't know what she's used to. Strange house, strange bed, strangers looking after her, she might . . . What?" he demanded as Ducky looked up at him.
"Oh, my dear Jethro. I am quite certain no one would believe me if I told them the truth about you."
"Which you're not going to do."
"Of course not. I intend to keep that side of you entirely to myself, and I shall enjoy doing so." With those words, Ducky slipped his arms around Jethro's neck and lightly tugged his head down for a kiss.
A COUPLE OF HOURS LATER
Pleasantly tired and completely relaxed after a fairly lengthy session of non-frenetic lovemaking, Jethro gently kissed his sleeping lover's nose, before switching off the bedside light and settling down to sleep.
As the light vanished from the room, he thought he caught sight of a small shadow and he also thought he'd heard a soft snuffling noise. He frowned, blinked a few times, waiting for his eyes to adjust to the darkness and looked towards the corner of the room. He made out a shape; the shape they had left downstairs curled up in her bed over two hours ago. At least he thought he did.
For a second he considered getting out of bed and taking Lacey back to her bed. But the idea of leaving the warm cocoon of the covers and Ducky's arms convinced him that she wasn't doing any harm. And anyway, he still wasn't certain he'd seen her; maybe he was imagining it. After all, why would she leave a nice, soft comfortable bed to come and lay on a hard floor? No, he'd imagined it. As Ducky moved slightly, Jethro turned his thoughts away from Norfolk Terriers and to the man he still held in his arms.
DAWN - THE NEXT MORNING
As the first light of dawn shone in through the window, Jethro awoke and glanced over to the corner of the room.
There curled up, her nose tucked inside her paws, on the sweater he'd dropped on the floor the evening before, was Lacey. As he looked she opened her eyes and met his gaze; she seemed to be asking him a question. He just nodded at her, heard her sigh gently, and watched as she reburied her nose under her paws and settled back down.
He glanced at the clock, saw that there was a couple of hours before they needed to get back up, rearranged the covers around Ducky's shoulders and let himself drift back to sleep. He'd just act surprised to see her there when Ducky woke up.
TWO HOURS LATER
Of course Ducky didn't buy the 'innocent oh-look-there's-Lacey act', but nor did he make an issue of it. He simply dispatched Jethro and Lacey, reminding Jethro to carry her down the stairs, so that Lacey could go out into the garden, and Jethro could make a pot of tea, and another of coffee.
As he stood in his kitchen about to pour hot water onto the tea leaves, after remembering to warm the pot, Jethro pondered that while the nights he spent alone without Ducky might be less complicated, he'd far rather do without them.
The next two days went by pretty much as normal, Lacey's presence excepted. They did get called out on a case, but not only did Lacey go into her crate quite contentedly, she was still curled up, asleep, seemingly happy, when they returned. One of their coworkers had kindly taken her outside a couple of times and given her a drink, but apparently as soon as she'd lapped up some water, she had trotted back into her crate and settled down.
The second and third nights Lacey had spent at his home, Gibbs had given in and had taken her bed upstairs. Not that she slept in it; she preferred to curl up on whatever item of clothing he had dropped on the floor. Ducky seemed highly amused by Gibbs's behavior, but he had kept his counsel and said nothing.
Somehow, and Gibbs would have sworn they'd appeared by osmosis, Lacey had gained yet more toys and other 'belongs' during her stay with them. He just hoped Jenn appreciated how well they had looked after her pet.
He didn't even tell Ducky, but he was going to miss the terrier when Jenn came back. It was going to seem strange not settling down with Ducky by his side and Lacey on his knee. Maybe when Ducky and he finally retired, they could think about getting a dog of their own.
It was an hour before Jenny was due back and one by one the non-field team had drifted up to the squad room. They all had good reasons for being there, although the need for Palmer to accompany Ducky, in order to give Gibbs a report on the Marine he'd recently autopsied, seemed to stretch things a bit, but Gibbs didn't complain.
Seeming to pick up on something being different, Lacey hopped out of her bed, shook herself, and trotted over to Gibbs's desk. Once there she stood up on her hind legs and tapped his leg until he bent down automatically and picked her up. He could have sworn he heard his lover begin to chuckle softly; he flashed a glance at him, but Ducky just stared back in his innocent way.
"Er, boss, can I have a look at your computer now?" McGee asked, suddenly appearing by Gibbs's side. Some kind of update to their email program had been scheduled, and McGee had taken it upon himself to ensure that the team's computers were duly updated and more importantly, still working properly.
Still holding Lacey, Gibbs stood up and moved across to join Ducky. "Well, Lacey, your mistress will be back soon. I'm sure you'll be pleased to see her, won't you?" Ducky asked, stroking Lacey's head, she licked his hand. Then he said quietly, looking up at Gibbs, "Are you going to miss her as much as I am, Jethro?"
Gibbs smiled, had it been anyone other than Ducky who'd asked, he probably wouldn't have been honest. "Yeah," he said softly. "Reckon I am, Duck. You know I was –"
Gibbs turned round to look at McGee; his agent looked troubled. "What's up, McGee? Didn't the update thingy bob update?"
"Er, yes, boss. That's fine. I think you'd better come and look at this, though." McGee's tone matched his voice.
Handing Lacey to Ducky, Gibbs strode back to his desk, waved McGee back into his chair, and instead leaned over his shoulder. "What am I looking at, McGee?"
"This message, boss. And this one." McGee pointed to two unread messages. The first one was from Jenny and the subject line said 'Lacey Ceeley'. The second was from 'Lacey Ceeley'. Gibbs glanced at Ducky and Lacey and then at McGee.
"I wasn't being nosy, boss. I had to –"
"It's all right, McGee," Gibbs squeezed McGee's shoulder. He clicked on the first message, sent five days ago, to open it. "Shit," he swore softly.
"The Director's temporary assistant must have gotten the message wrong, boss. She only wrote down 'Lacey'. And as the dog was here and Ms. Ceeley wasn't, then we just . . ." McGee trailed off.
"Yeah, McGee. And I should have checked my emails. Where the hell is Ms. Ceeley, anyway?" He opened the second message. "Guess that explains it. Damn." He looked up; not surprisingly the rest of his team was watching him.
Ducky, still holding the dog, moved towards him. "If this is not Lacey," he said, "then what is her name?"
"Got a couple of better questions, Duck: Who the hell does she belong to? And what's she doing in my office?"
"That would me, I am afraid, Agent Gibbs. And rather co-incidentally, Dr. Mallard, her name is Lacey."
Frowning, Gibbs turned around to see who'd spoken. "And who the hell are you?" he demanded, glaring down at a woman in a wheelchair
"Jethro," Ducky murmured softly, putting a hand on his arm.
The woman, however, despite looking extremely tired and pale, seemed unperturbed by his tone. Instead she held out her right hand to him. "I'm Nicola Harrington, but everyone calls me Nikki. I am the Administration Manager," she said. Her voice was steady, low, and as British as Ducky's. "And I am extremely sorry for an inconvenience Lacey may have caused you and your team."
"Oh, she hasn't caused us any inconvenience at all, my dear Nicola. She's been extremely good, has she not, Jethro?"
Before Gibbs could answer, Abby hurried over. "How do we know she's yours?" she demanded.
Nikki, however, just smiled. "I see you train all the members of your team well, Agent Gibbs. Here," she handed some papers to Gibbs. "Proof that Lacey is indeed my dog."
Gibbs glanced at the papers, not that he had any real doubt. He nodded and handed the papers back.
"Thank you. May I, Doctor?"
"What? Oh, yes of course. Here. And please do call me Ducky." Carefully Ducky put Lacey into Nikki's lap.
"Thank you," she said softly, as she gathered Lacey into her arms.
Had Gibbs harbored any doubts at all they would have fled in the second the dog greeted her owner. Against his will, he found himself smiling as he watched the pair. Then he frowned again and demanded, "We know who she is, who she belongs to, but that still doesn't explain what the hell she's doing in my office."
"Jethro." This time Ducky's voice was both louder and firmer. Gibbs glanced at him. "Do stop towering over the poor girl like that." He tugged Gibbs's arm, dragging him back to perch on the edge of his own desk and sitting down next to him.
"Sorry," Gibbs muttered; he felt the surprise race around his team.
Nikki looked at him. "It is I who should apologize, Agent Gibbs."
"Why don't you just tell us, Nicola," Ducky said quietly,
"My husband usually looks after Lacey during the day. However, he was invited to take part in some clinical trials, and has been away for the last three days. Lacey has never been left alone, at least not for more than the odd hour or two. If you have a dog, you cannot leave it alone for hours at a time, it simply isn't fair. Oh, I'm sorry," she said, blushing slightly.
"Oh, I do so agree with you, my dear," Ducky said, learning forward slightly. "In fact I believe that –"
"I am sorry, do please continue, Nicola."
"I had arranged to take Wednesday and Thursday as leave, but I simply had to come into the office on Tuesday, partly because of the virulent bug that has been going around. It has rather decimated my staff, and I needed to ensure that there was adequate cover. I decided to bring Lacey into the office with me for the day. She is very well behaved, and I knew she'd be quite happy to simply curl up in the corner of my office and go to sleep."
"What happened?" Gibbs asked.
"I left my office for a minute or two to get myself a cup of coffee, and the next thing I remember is regaining consciousness late last night in hospital. I had obviously contracted the bug and –"
"It hits that quickly?" Gibbs turned to Ducky.
Ducky nodded. "Yes, Jethro. Indeed what Nicola says is quite true. In fact I believe that is why Cynthia has been absent."
Nikki nodded. "Yes, it is. Anyway when I came round, my first thought was for Lacey."
"What about your husband?" DiNozzo interrupted her. "Didn't he wonder where you were when he couldn't contact you?"
Nikki turned to look at DiNozzo. "Had it been any other time, yes, of course he would have done. However, one of the conditions of the clinical trials was that those involved would not have any contact with the outside world for the duration of the trial. He phoned me when he arrived, but other than that, there would have been no calls."
"Oh. Sorry, boss," DiNozzo added swiftly. "Just wanted to . . . Sorry, boss. Go on, Nikki."
"As I said, my first concern was for Lacey. However, the nurses didn't seem inclined to take my concerns overly seriously. Thus, it was not until this morning that I was able to phone my assistant, who had been out of the office herself until this morning. She made a few enquires and told me that Agent Gibbs and his team were looking after a dog, whom they believed to be the Director's. I don't believe in coincidences," she looked at Gibbs, and he saw a faint smile touch her lips. "So I discharged myself from the hospital, took a taxi to our home, collected some evidence that I was Lacey's owner, as I know all about Agent Gibbs's reputation, and came here. I am very sorry, so very sorry. I know I shouldn't have brought Lacey to the office and what happened –"
"Was not your fault, was it, Jethro?" Ducky spoke firmly.
"Guess not. No, it wasn't," Gibbs added as Ducky, who was sitting close enough to him to touch, pressed his arm firmly against Gibbs's. "As Ducky said, she hasn't been any trouble." He smiled at Nikki, and watched the relief appear on her face.
"Thank you, Agent Gibbs," she said softly. Then she looked away from him and at each member of Gibbs's team. "Thank you all," she said. "I am more than happy to reimburse you for any expenses you incurred. I realize that I left Lace with nothing."
DiNozzo opened his mouth and closed it again swiftly as Gibbs glared at him. "Nah, no need. It was just a few dog biscuits and the odd toy."
Nikki's gaze moved to the desk under which Lacey had spent her days, at least when she wasn't sitting on DiNozzo's chair, or begging Gibbs to pick her up. Her eyes widened. "The odd toy?" she said, and smiled. "Agent Gibbs, you really must let me –"
"No," Gibbs said, adopting 'this matter is not for discussion' tone. "In fact you might as well take that lot with you. After all, we got them for Lacey."
"Thank you," Nikki said slowly. "I shall have to . . ." She trailed off. "I'm just not sure how –"
"I know," Ducky said brightly. "Jethro and I will bring them to your home later for you. That will save you having to try to take them in a taxi."
"Oh, really, Dr. Mallard, I couldn't expect you to –"
"It's no trouble, my dear. Is it, Jethro?" Ducky turned to look at Gibbs.
Gibbs knew when he was beaten. "Course not," he said. Then he dug into his pocket, pulled out his car keys and threw them at DiNozzo. "You and McGee can start taking the stuff down to my car now, DiNozzo." The 'before the Director gets back', hung in the air.
"On it, boss." DiNozzo leaped to his feet. "Well come on then, Probie." He detoured to where Nikki and Lacey sat, patted the dog several times, sighed impatiently as McGee paused to do the same thing, and then hurried off to obey Gibbs.
Abby moved over to Nikki. "I'm sorry if you thought I doubted you," she said, squatting down by the side of Nikki's wheelchair and beginning to stroke Lacey.
"That's all right, Abby. I quite understand. In fact I'm pleased that you would ask, rather than give Lacey away to what, in all intents and purposes is a complete stranger."
"You know if you ever need to bring her to work again, I'm sure Gibbs wouldn't mind," Abby said quietly, stroking Lacey's ears.
"What? Well you wouldn't. You enjoyed having Lacey here, didn't you?" she demanded.
Nikki smiled. "Agent Gibbs might not mind, Abby, but I suspect Director Shepard might."
"We won't tell her. You can bring her to my lab."
"Give it up, Jethro," Ducky murmured. "You won't win. However, I am certain you have no need to worry; Nicola doesn't strike me as the kind of lady who is comfortable breaking rules." He spoke quietly, so quietly Gibbs doubted if Nikki or Abby, who had now also been joined by Palmer and Ziva, would have heard him.
"Oh, I don't know, Duck. It's the ones who don't strike you as rule breakers you have to watch out for."
Ducky smiled. Then he said, equally quietly, "I think maybe you should find something for the children to do so that Nicola can go home; she is looking very tired. She should be resting, not having to hunt down her missing dog."
Before Gibbs could speak, however, Nikki looked up. "I do hope that none of you think I'm being rude, but I'm afraid I really do need to go home and rest."
Ducky stood up. "I'm certain that no one thinks that at all, my dear." He walked over to Nikki and patted her shoulder.
"Thank you all again," Nikki said, smiling at them in turn.
"It's been our pleasure," Ducky said. "Please do allow me to see you safely out of the building. I can carry Lacey for you, I'm sure that would make life a little easier."
"There's no need, Dr. Mallard. I . . . Thank you. I'd appreciate that very much."
"Would you like me to call a cab for you?" Ziva asked.
"Thank you, but I asked the man to wait for me. It seemed more prudent that way. Not all taxies are able to take this kind of wheelchair."
Ducky lifted Lacey from Nikki's lap and waited as she began to maneuver her chair around.
Suddenly something occurred to Gibbs. He moved across the room, "Just wondering, why wasn't Lacey wearing a collar? It would have saved a lot of worry."
Nikki stopped and looked up at him. "Oh, Lacey is a show dog, as such apart from when she is being walked or in the show ring, she doesn't wear a collar as it tends to make the hair around her neck tangle."
"You show her?"
"Well, I don't, but yes, we do. She finished her championship two years ago, but as she enjoys the ring so much we do still show her."
"Oh, now that is interesting. Mother used to show her Corgis. Of course that was many, many years ago, but I remember it well. I would be interested in knowing how showing in America differs from showing in Britain. Perhaps you'd be kind enough to allow me to buy you a cup of tea one afternoon and we could talk about it?"
"I'd like that, Dr. Mallard, thank you." Nikki smiled at him.
"It's Ducky, my dear, Ducky."
"I'd like that, Ducky," Nikki smiled again. Then she turned to the others who were now gathered together, DiNozzo and McGee having finally completely their treks up and down to Gibbs's car. "Goodbye," she said. "And thank you all again. I do hope that Director Shepard will not be too annoyed with you."
"Nah," Gibbs said dismissively.
"Come along then, my dear," Ducky said. "Let us get you and Lacey safely into the taxi."
"I'll pop down and see you soon, Nikki," Abby called. "We can talk about you know what." She beamed.
Gibbs rolled his eyes and shook his head.
Nikki offered a half smile, before moving her wheelchair slowly across the office towards one of the elevators.
One by one the kids returned to their desks, and Abby and Palmer headed for the other elevator. Gibbs stood and watched until the elevator doors had closed on Ducky, Nikki and Lacey, before returning to his desk and beginning to plan just what he could say to Jenn to explain the mix-up between Lacey the dog, and Lacey Ceeley.
But even as he found himself wondering what to say, his attention turned to Ducky. While Lacey had been staying with Gibbs, Ducky too had spent each night at Gibbs's home, paying only brief visits to his own home to assure himself that his mother, Helen, and the nurse were all still intact. And given that Gibbs had, himself, spent Monday evening at Ducky's home, that meant they'd been together for four consecutive nights – more than they usually were.
He realized that he didn't want to go home to an empty house any longer; he wanted to be with Ducky, or have Ducky with him, every night. He wanted it very badly, even if it meant him moving into Ducky's Reston home, it'd be unfair to expect Mrs. Mallard to move at her age, that is what he intended to do. He'd tell Ducky later, he had no doubt at all that his lover would be more than happy to comply.
LATER THAT NIGHT
"Was Jennifer very angry, my dear?" Ducky asked, as he snuggled closer into Jethro's embrace.
"Nah. In fact she was more amused than anything. She reminded me that a good agent reads his email at the very least on a daily basis, but other than that, she was fine. Odd really, makes you wonder if it really was a conference she had to race off to. She certainly seemed very relaxed."
"Maybe our Director has a secret lover," Ducky replied, as he offered Jethro his mouth.
"Talking of secret lovers," Jethro said, several minutes later. He'd been looking for a opening all evening to tell Ducky his plans, but nothing suitable had presented itself.
Ducky blinked up at him. "Dearest?"
AN HOUR LATER
Jethro had been correct; Ducky had indeed been more than happy to comply with Jethro's suggestion. Considerably more than happy – at least he had been once Jethro had dealt with each and every one of the 'objections' Ducky had felt obliged to raise.
As he turned off the light and tugged the bedclothes around them both, Jethro hoped that Jenny's good mood would continue, when he told her of his change of status and address.
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