BLAME IT ON THE HOUSE ELVES
The computer system is completely messed up. Everyone is frustrated, however, Ducky is worried. Finally, Gibbs sets out to find just what is on his old friend's mind and why he looks so troubled and jumpy every time Gibbs appears.
A first time story.
Written: November 2010. Word count: 4,400.
McGee was in a very good mood as he rode the elevator up to the squad room. It was a beautiful day, neither too hot nor too cold, Sarah had called to let him know she'd passed her finals and he'd received an email from Lyndi praising the draft of his latest book, calling it 'your best ever'.
He still had a smile on his face when the elevator doors opened on - chaos. The smile faded as he began to walk towards Gibbs's area of the squad room. As he passed desks people were muttering, shaking their heads, punching keys on their keyboards, running their hands through their hair and glaring - at him! What had he done? No one actually said anything to him, but he heard his name mentioned several times.
"Hey, boss," he said as he finally reached his desk. "What's -"
"There you are, McScrew-up." McGee blinked at the viciousness in DiNozzo's tone. Normally his 'Mc' names were said light-heartedly, with humor, affection even. But not today.
"Shut it, DiNozzo," Gibbs growled.
"But, boss, I -"
"I said shut it." Gibbs stood up and glared across at DiNozzo.
"Shutting it, boss," DiNozzo muttered his tone mildly mutinous. He glared at McGee and went back to shaking his head and pounding on his keyboard.
McGee was about to tell him to stop, to tell him he'd break it when he saw Gibbs was staring at him. The look was steady; not exactly angry, but nor was it friendly. However, it clearly said one thing: 'get the hell over here - now'.
McGee obeyed. "Hey, boss," he said for the second time. "What's going on?"
Gibbs continued to stare at him for a moment, before jerking his head. Again the order was clear 'get the hell around here'. McGee hurried around to the other side of Gibbs's desk and followed the direction of Gibbs's gaze. "Boss?" he managed, looking away from the computer screen into Gibbs's dark eyes. "But that's . . ."
"Stationery requisition reports. Yeah, noticed that, McGee."
"But why have you -" McGee came to an abrupt halt as a thought, a thought so horrific and scary it chilled him, came into his mind. It was so horrific and scary that without waiting for Gibbs to give permission, he dropped his bag down onto Gibbs's desk and hurried over to DiNozzo.
Without waiting for DiNozzo to move or acknowledge him, McGee leaned over DiNozzo and quickly tapped the keyboard. He stared at the screen. "Oh, no," he whispered. He could feel DiNozzo's anger radiating from his body, so he moved away and returned to face Gibbs. "Boss? Is it . . . Is everyone . . . ?"
Gibbs nodded once. "Yep. The whole building."
He heard DiNozzo's smothered comment, but ignored it just as Gibbs, apart from glancing at DiNozzo, was ignoring it. "Boss," he said, feeling sweat break out on his back. "I swear this isn't my fault!"
"Then whose is it, McInnocent?"
"DiNozzo," Gibbs growled again.
"But, boss. He's the one who -"
"Shutting up now, boss."
"It wasn't me, boss," McGee said. "It isn't my fault."
Gibbs still stared at him. "Never said it was, McGee. I don't care whose fault it is. What I want to know is how you're going to fix it?"
Gibbs nodded. Now his stare became hard. "You're our computer expert. You fix it."
"But, boss, we have . . ." Under Gibbs's steady stare McGee fell silent. Then he sighed inwardly and said, "I - I'll fix it, boss." Grabbing his bag from Gibbs's desk and ignoring the look DiNozzo was giving him, McGee hurried to his desk. He turned on his own computer to find Abby's reports awaiting him. He groaned. What had happened?
His fingers flew over his keyboard, as his mind churned over what could have happened to cause all the information on everyone's machines end up on other peoples. "Damn it," he muttered, as for the third time his own password, which should have over-ridden everything, failed to let him get any further.
He grabbed his phone and hit a number. "Abbs, I need your password." Silence greeted him and he groaned inwardly. "Look, I can make a guess at it, but I don't want to waste time. Abby, come on, it's not my fault. I'm not responsible."
"I know you're not, McGee. It's just that -" Abby fell silent.
For a moment the situation was pushed to one side as McGee realized how flat Abby's voice was. "Just that?" he pressed.
Abby sighed. "It doesn't matter. I guess I always knew I couldn’t hide it totally."
And McGee guessed what she meant. He glanced at Gibbs who had turned off his computer and was making a phone call. He'd always known Abby was too responsible, too committed, too professional to destroy the report she'd written on Pedro Hernandez. He put his lips closer to the phone and said softly, "It's okay, Abbs, your stuff's on my computer. You can trust me, Abby."
"Oh, Timmy." He heard the relief in her voice. "I couldn't - well, you know. You do know, don't you?"
"Yeah, Abbs. I know."
"So I hid it. It wouldn't be that easy to find, but -"
"Abby, I said I know. Now your password . . . Thanks. Catch you later." And he hung up. But even using Abby's password to close everything down and log-out didn't allow him to log back in under his own password. His computer wasn't behaving as 'his' computer; he needed a deeper level of access.
He stood up. "Boss, I'm going to have to go to the computer center. I need -"
"Hang on, Fornell. Just do it, McGee. Don't need to know the details." Gibbs nodded and turned his attention back to the phone.
"Right, boss." McGee hurried off. He wished there was another way to get out of the squad room as he once again had to run the gauntlet of people staring at him, glaring at him and muttering about him.
He reached the elevators just as the doors to one opened. Ducky stepped out. "Ah, Timothy," he said.
"Ducky. This isn't my fault." McGee spoke swiftly and forcefully, hoping to avoid a long speech.
Ducky blinked up at him. "I never for one moment thought it was, Timothy. You do not need to be so defensive," he glanced around the room. "At least not with me," he added, quickly patting McGee's arm.
"Thanks, Ducky. Look, I have to get on. I need to try and sort this out."
"Yes, yes, of course. I understand. It's just . . ." Ducky trailed off and glanced around him. He took a step nearer to McGee. "Well, I was wondering if there was anyway of determining exactly whose information has gone to whom?"
"Er, to be honest, Ducky, I don't know. I wouldn't have thought so, not easily. Have you got some important reports you were in the middle of?"
McGee couldn’t be sure, but he thought Ducky looked a little flustered. He certainly glanced away from McGee for a moment before looking back at him. "Something like that, yes. It doesn't matter, Timothy. Really. I'll just -"
"Hey, Duck. Was just on my way down to see you. Do you want to -"
"Jethro!" Now McGee was sure. Ducky was flustered and more than a little. His voice had gone up an octave, his eyes were wide and there was a hint of panic in them. He looked wary and as McGee watched he saw Ducky swallow several times.
Gibbs had obviously picked up on Ducky's 'oddness' too as he frowned, put his hand on Ducky's shoulder and said, his tone gentle, "You okay, Duck?"
As Gibbs touched Ducky, McGee saw Ducky flinch and all but back away from him. Although Ducky covered the movements well, it had happened. "Yes, yes. I'm quite well, thank you, Jethro. Now I really must get back to Autopsy and see what . . . Goodbye, Jethro. Timothy." And McGee watched as Ducky turned, saw none of the elevators were available, and hurried towards the stairs.
"But, Duck, I . . ." Gibbs fell silent. Then he glanced at McGee.
"I think Ducky's a bit worried about his reports," McGee said, meeting the stare that contained a hint of puzzlement.
"Reckon a lot of people are, McGee." Gibbs's tone wasn't hard or angry. It wasn't as soft as it had been when he'd spoken to Ducky, but then it never was. Gibbs never spoke to anyone in the same tone as he used when he spoke to Ducky, even when Ducky was rambling Gibbs still spoke to him fondly.
"Yes, boss. I'll sort it, boss. I promise." McGee turned to go.
"Know you will, Tim," Gibbs said.
McGee was touched by the faith Gibbs had in him, a belief that came over clearly in Gibbs's tone. "I wish you'd tell DiNozzo and the others that," he said without thinking. "Sorry, boss. I . . . Sorry. Thank you, boss. I'm -" And he turned and hurried into an elevator that had just arrived.
Gibbs stood for a moment and stared around the squad room, shaking his head at how panicked everyone seemed to be and at how they seemed to be behaving as though the world was about to end. It was only a few messed up files after all. It wasn't as if everything had been lost - at least he didn't think it could have been. McGee would do his 'thing' and it'd all be sorted. Honestly, if people couldn't cope with such a small problem, how did they cope with the larger stuff? How would they manage a real disaster?
He made his way back to his desk to find DiNozzo still pounding on his keyboard. "Hey, DiNozzo. Stop that. It's not helping."
DiNozzo paused and looked up at him. "But, boss . . ." He trailed off as Gibbs continued to stare at him. "Stopping now, boss," he muttered, pushing the keyboard out of the way so violently it knocked his coffee off the desk. Gibbs rolled his eyes as DiNozzo grabbed for the cup - and missed.
Although she kept staring at her screen and frowning, Ziva seemed less perturbed by the mix-up than most people and had taken a pad out and was writing on it. Gibbs assumed she was writing up notes from their most recent case, which reminded him of something he hadn't double checked. "Be in Autopsy," he said, grabbing the remainder of his coffee and leaving the squad room.
The doors swished open and after draining his coffee and tossing the cup away he strode in. "Hey, Duck, have you -"
"Jethro!" Ducky literally jumped and stared wide-eyed at Gibbs. Suddenly Gibbs recalled the incident by the elevators.
He moved towards Ducky and was more than a bit surprised to see Ducky force himself to remain where he was. "You okay, Duck?" he asked, stopping well within what most people regarded as personal space, but not as close as he normally got to Ducky.
He watched Ducky swallow hard. "Yes, of course I am, Jethro. Why would I not be?"
Gibbs shrugged. "Just wondered. You seem a bit . . . Jumpy," he said finally.
"You are imagining things. I am perfectly well. I'm just a little concerned as to who might have the contents of my computer, that is all. Some of my reports really are very sensitive."
Gibbs frowned. As an excuse it was lame and he could see that Ducky knew it. A great deal of the material the agency produced was 'sensitive'. "It's all in-house, Duck," he said finally.
"Yes, I am aware of that, Jethro. But even so - it's very worrying that something like this could happen. The idea that anyone could currently be reading what I had -" Ducky came to an abrupt halt and Gibbs could have sworn a faint color touched his cheeks.
Gibbs leaned back against a table and said, his tone his hill-billy one. "You know, Duck, if you were DiNozzo I could understand why you're so -"
"What does that mean?" Ducky's tone was sharp.
Gibbs shrugged. "Come on, Duck, everyone knows what kind of websites DiNozzo's got earmarked, or whatever it's called. And you bet your life he's got some things on his computer he wouldn't want other people seeing."
Ducky frowned. "That is an assumption, Jethro, and one to which you should not jump. You do not know what Anthony has on his computer."
Gibbs felt his eyes widen at Ducky's hard tone. Something was very wrong with his friend. Finally he said, "I know DiNozzo."
Ducky stared at him. "Maybe you just think you do, Jethro. Even you with your omniscience cannot possibly know everything about everyone. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have an important matter of which I need to take care." And without saying goodbye or anything remotely 'usual' Ducky, his back rigid, his limp in more evidence than it usually was and moving faster than Gibbs knew was good for him, left Gibbs alone.
Gibbs just stared after him. "What the -" He stopped as his phone began to burble. He pulled it out. "Gibbs, yeah? . . . Got McGee working on it. He's confident he'll sort it out . . . Yeah . . . Yeah, rattled a lot of people . . . Maybe you should introduce a regular 'spot check 'on people's computers, find out just why they're so jumpy . . . You can, but I'll deny it . . . Yeah, yeah, okay, Leon." He ended the call.
FOUR HOURS LATER
A drained McGee who felt if he ever saw a computer screen again it would be too soon, moved around the squad room, going from desk to desk checking that everything was back to how it should be. He still didn't know exactly how what had happened, had happened. It shouldn't have happened; it should have been impossible. It was impossible. But it had happened; he'd witnessed it - first hand. Somehow the data had gotten mixed up and everyone had gotten other people's files and information.
He was advising everyone to change their password - if only because he knew it was one of the things everyone understood and thus they'd feel something was being done. Although as he watched more than one person type in 'newpassword' as their new password he wondered just why he'd bothered.
The only computer he hadn't checked was the Autopsy one and after a quick visit to the men's room he headed down there. "Hey, Ducky," he called as the doors opened. "Everything should be okay now with your computer, but I just want to check it is. Ducky?" he said again, after a few seconds of silence had gone by. "Are you okay? Is everything okay with your computer?"
"What? Oh, Timothy, do forgive me, I was . . . I'm sorry, what did you say?" Ducky looked harassed, his hair was mussed as if he'd been running his hand through it, his bowtie was crooked and he was frowning.
McGee hurried across to him. "I asked you if everything was okay with your computer. You've got your reports and stuff back, have you?"
"What? Oh, yes. Yes, everything is where it should be. At least . . . Timothy?"
"Is it possible that when you did whatever you did to sort this problem out that not everything did return to where it should be? That something someone created was actually still with someone else?"
McGee stared at Ducky who, most unlike Ducky, wasn't meeting McGee's eyes. He shook his head. "No, Ducky," he said confidently. "The way data storage works means that - No, Ducky," he repeated. "Everyone either has all their stuff back or nothing. Why have you lost a report?"
"Not exactly. Not a report. Something - Timothy," now Ducky did look at McGee. "Are you absolutely positive it could not still be on someone else's machine?"
McGee nodded. "Yeah, Ducky. I am." He smiled at Ducky.
"Oh, in that case I must have deleted it after all." Ducky spoke quietly, but McGee heard him.
"You deleted something you want? I could always try and recover it for you. I've
got some great new software I've been wanting to try out. And -"
"No! I mean, no, thank you, Timothy. Please don't put yourself to any trouble." Ducky stood up. He sounded agitated and again he wasn't meeting McGee's eye.
"It wouldn't be any trouble, Ducky." McGee smiled again.
"I said no thank you, Timothy." Ducky's tone was sharp; McGee was stunned. Then Ducky briefly closed his eyes and said, his tone softer, more like his usual one, "Really, it isn't important. Not at all. It was just a . . . A poem I started, that is all. And I can easily recall it. Not that it was very good, not like your own writing. But . . . Forgive me, Timothy, I am rambling. Now you came to check that everything was okay with my machine, did you not?"
McGee nodded. "Yeah, is it okay if I . . ." he waved his hand at the computer.
"Oh, yes, of course. Do you need me to log out?"
"No, that's fine, Ducky." McGee sat down and let his fingers race over the keyboard doing the same basic checks he'd carried out on every machine. "That's all fine," he said, standing up. "I suggest you change your password," he smiled at Ducky. "Just to be . . . You know."
Ducky smiled. "Yes, I'll do that right away. And thank you, Timothy, thank you so much." He patted McGee on the arm and smiled.
"You're welcome, Ducky." McGee stood for a moment or two, before nodding at Ducky. "Bye, Ducky."
"Goodbye, Timothy and thank you again." McGee waved his hand and left Autopsy.
RESTON HOUSE LATER THAT NIGHT
Ducky sat in front of the fire, reading his book. Mozart played in the background and he had a glass of fine scotch on the table next to his chair. Suddenly the sound of the doorbell shattered his peace. Pausing only long enough to slip his bookmark into his book he hurried to the door, switched the outside light on and opened the door. "Jethro," he exclaimed, feeling any hint of the irritation he'd felt at the thought of being interrupted fade as he smiled up at his friend. "What a lovely surprise, do come in."
"You okay, Duck?" Jethro asked coming into Ducky's house and shutting the door behind him.
"Of course I am, Jethro. Why do you ask?"
Jethro shrugged. "Just you've been a bit," he paused and shrugged. "Wondered if I'd done something to piss you off, that's all."
Ducky smiled. "Not at all. I don't know - oh, I understand. Yes, oh, Jethro, please do forgive me for the way I behaved during the day. It really was so very foolish. I - Come and have a drink." And without waiting for Jethro to reply, Ducky headed towards the sitting room, fully expecting Jethro to follow him.
"Thanks, Duck." Jethro took the glass of scotch. "So everything's okay?"
"Of course it is, Jethro. Everything is perfectly fine. Well, do sit down." Ducky sat back down in his chair and smiled at Jethro. "Your good health," he said, once Jethro was seated.
"Cheers, Duck." Jethro took a sip of the scotch. "It's good."
Ducky chuckled. "It should be, given its age. So is Anthony happy again."
Jethro shrugged. "You know DiNozzo."
"Yes, yes, I do. Jethro, I really do wish to -"
"What was it, Duck?"
"What was it you were worried someone would see?"
Ducky glanced away from the penetrating stare. "I do not know what you mean, Jethro. Why should I be troubled that someone might see something?"
Jethro shrugged. "Been wondering that myself. But you were." The final three words were said softly. Ducky opened his mouth and closed it again. He couldn't lie to Jethro; they never had lied to one another; okay, so both of them had omitted to tell the other things, but neither had ever lied to the other. "Was it some test someone asked you to carry out?" Jethro asked, before Ducky could decide what to say. "Like when Jenn asked you to -"
Ducky stared at his oldest friend. It was an out. But again, he couldn’t take it, he couldn't lie. He shook his head. "No," he said quietly. "No, it wasn't anything like that."
Jethro sat forward on the chair, leaning towards Ducky. He put his glass down and to Ducky's surprise snagged Ducky's glass from his hand and put that down. "Then what was it, Duck? Whatever it is, you can tell me." To Ducky's surprise Jethro took his hand and held it. "It wasn't something about you, was it? You're not sick?"
"Oh, no, no, Jethro, I'm perfectly healthy," Ducky said, covering Jethro's hand with his other hand and squeezing it. For several seconds they sat in silence, hands joined, gazing at one another.
Finally, Jethro broke the silence. "So?" he said, his tone was soft, but firm.
Ducky groaned inwardly; he knew that tone. Jethro would not stop until he had the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Nonetheless he prevaricated. "It was nothing," he said. "Really, it was just something I'd . . . It was nothing, Jethro."
Jethro gazed at him. "Seemed like something to me. Still does," he added quietly, "given you won't tell me. Thought we didn't have secrets from one another, Duck."
Ducky shook his head. "At one point I believed that to be true. However, neither of us can claim it to be, can we?" He spoke quietly and his tone contained a hint of sadness.
Jethro gave a half shrug; he was still holding Ducky's hand. "Guess not. But that's the past, right?"
Ducky closed his eyes for a moment. "It was a poem," he said, reaching for his glass and taking a large swallow.
Jethro's eyes widened. "A poem?"
"Well part of one."
"A poem? You've been acting so . . . Because of a poem?"
Ducky very nearly laughed at the incredulity that was on Jethro's face and in his voice. "Yes," he said.
"But . . . A poem? I didn't know you wrote poetry."
Ducky shrugged. "I don't, not often that is. It's not as though it was a very good poem."
However, Jethro didn't appear to be listening. "What kind of poem?"
Ducky sighed. Normally he admired Jethro's tenacity, but just occasionally he wished . . . "It was a love poem," he said, knowing there was no way out of it.
To his amazement he saw a look of what he thought could be irritation and jealousy race across Jethro's face. "How young's this one?"
"Jethro!" Ducky tried to pull his hand away.
But Jethro held it tightly. "Sorry, Duck, didn't mean to . . . Do I know her?"
"In a way."
Jethro frowned. "What's that meant to mean?" Ducky just stared at him. They didn't need words to communicate. "Duck?" Jethro finally said his voice little more than a whisper. "Are you . . . ? You mean . . . ?"
Ducky nodded. "Yes," he said. "I am afraid I do, my dear."
Jethro let go of Ducky's hand with one of his hands, grabbed his glass and took a deep swallow of the scotch. "But you've never said anything."
Ducky almost laughed. "And what exactly are you suggesting I might have said?"
Jethro was silent for a moment and Ducky could almost hear him thinking. Then he shrugged and said, his tone light, "'Jethro, I'm in love with you', comes to mind."
Ducky stared at his friend, trying to read the dark blue gaze, trying to ascertain Jethro's mood. He was stunned by how nonchalant Jethro looked, how relaxed, how at ease, how . . . But he couldn't, could he? Well there was one way to find out. "Jethro, I am in love with you," Ducky said, his tone formal. He gasped at the look that crossed Jethro's face. "Oh," was all he could manage. "Jethro, are you . . . ? Do you . . . ? Jethro?"
Suddenly he found himself pulled to his feet, gathered into Jethro's arms and his mouth covered by Jethro's own. As Jethro's tongue flickered over Ducky's lower lip, Ducky parted his lips and moaned into the kiss as Jethro slipped his tone inside. Ducky pushed his body nearer to Jethro's feeling Jethro's arousal brush against his own.
Jethro slid one hand into Ducky's hair and the other up under his jacket; he began to caress Ducky's back through his clothing, causing Ducky to moan even more deeply as he felt his shorts dampen. Seconds later he felt Jethro's fingers at his waistband tugging Ducky's shirt and undershirt as far as possible, given Ducky's suspenders, out until finally he was able to touch Ducky's naked skin with his fingers. Ducky gasped as Jethro's cool fingers began to caress his flesh and pulled back a little, breaking the kiss and taking several deep breaths.
"Come to bed, Jethro," Ducky managed, letting his gaze travel down Jethro's body until it came to rest over Jethro's clear arousal. He longed to touch it, but he wanted to make love in his bed and he knew if he touched Jethro so intimately the chances were fairly limited that they'd make it that far.
Jethro pulled Ducky back into his arms and kissed him again briefly, before releasing him and taking his hand. Pausing long enough so that Ducky could bolt the already locked front door, they made their way up to Ducky's bedroom where Jethro took an inordinate amount of time stripping Ducky.
SEVERAL HOURS LATER
"Could get used to this," Jethro said, pushing himself up on one elbow and tracing around Ducky's face with his forefinger.
Ducky smiled. "Do you wish to?" he asked.
Jethro paused. "What do you think?" his voice was husky.
"That you should answer the question which has been asked, Agent Gibbs."
Jethro laughed. "Very well, Dr. Mallard, I shall." He kissed the tip of Ducky's nose. "Yeah, Duck, yeah, I do." The laughter had faded and he spoke solemnly. "Want it more than I've wanted anything, wanted anyone, since . . . Love you, Duck." Ducky wasn't surprised to hear the faint tremble in Jethro's voice. He pulled Jethro's head down again and kissed him.
TWENTY MINUTES LATER
"So this poem of yours."
"Was it any good?"
Ducky shrugged. "I don't think so. However, I am not sure I am the best person to evaluate it," he said.
"You remember it?"
Ducky shrugged. "I told you, I hadn't completed it."
Jethro rolled his eyes. "You remember what you'd written so far?"
The silence stretched between them. Finally Jethro said, his tone his fondly exasperated one. "You going to tell me it?"
Ducky smiled and put his lips to Jethro's ear.
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