Disclaimer: No of these characters belong to me, they belong to Belasarius Productions.
In retrospect leaving Assistant Director Swanson in charge for a fortnight was not the best idea. Director Shephard and her most senior agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs were invited to attend a national conference on counter-terrorism and combined agency operations.
Director Shephard insisted that Special Agent Gibbs accompany her.
Special Agent Gibbs insisted that he could not leave his team leaderless.
Director Shepherd stated that Special Agent DiNozzo had to step up some time and this would be good experience for him.
Special Agent Gibb insisted that the meeting was a waste of time.
Director Shepherd stated that if anyone needed to learn to cooperate with other government agencies it was Special Agent Gibbs.
Then when Special Agent Gibbs started to insist on yet another point, Director Shepherd said it was an order and that was that.
Assistant Director Swanson was considered a safe option to temporarily fill Director Shepherd's shoes. He could be counted on to perform his duties in a calm, stable and above all boring manner. Archibald Swanson could lift the spirits of everyone in room simply by leaving.
It was fortunate indeed that Swanson was married to an accountant and had been for the past fifteen years. Fifteen long, uninteresting and repetitive years. That is not to say that they were unhappy, to be unhappy would have required Assistant Director and Mrs Swanson to show some sign of imagination, which they did not have. They simply could not imagine life being any better.
Mrs Swanson was doubly cursed. One, she was an accountant and two she was obsessive. Her schedule and hence her husbands was rigid, unchangeable and religiously followed.
At exactly 0530 hours every morning, except Sundays when they rose at 0630 hours. After performing their morning ablutions they sat down to a breakfast of cereal (high fibre), juice (all natural) and toast (wholemeal). At exactly 0630 hours Assistant Director Shepherd kissed his wife on the cheek (right) and drove to work in his conservative, roomy, yet economical sedan (domestic).
On the properly designated date Assistant Director and Mrs Swanson drove to Florida where they spent their holidays in the same motel they had for every year of their marriage.
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Special Agent Anthony (Tony) DiNozzo was not a creature of habit. Those habits he did appear to possess Assistant Director Swanson would not approve of, erratic, a practical joker and a womaniser.
Appearances were however deceiving and many of his habits were merely a façade which he used over the years to distance himself from others and ensure that others underestimated him.
Where Assistant Director Swanson was unassuming and quiet, Special Agent DiNozzo was boastful and loud. Assistant Director Swanson somehow arrived at the 1950's found a look he liked and stuck with it. Special Agent DiNozzo dressed stylishly, if not always in fashion or fashionably. This combined with his looks and a killer smile was enough to melt the hearts of ladies of all ages.
It should not come as a surprise to anyone then that Assistant Director Swanson and Special Agent DiNozzo clashed.
And in the middle of the bullpen.
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Leroy Jethro Gibbs was not in the best of moods. He had spent 2 week at a seminar of dubious value, his hot water system had exploded while he was away flooding portions of his house and his favourite coffee shop had been closed for renovations when he had stopped for regular morning caffeine fix.
If asked Gibbs' colleagues would tell anyone who would listen that Leroy Jethro Gibbs' moods ran the full spectrum from bear with sore head to a near homicidal crankiness that promised punishment of biblical proportions to any who dared cross him.
It was not surprising then that as he entered the NCIS building that people stepped aside to let him pass. If he had been closer to the bear end of the mood spectrum than the biblical he may have noticed that people were making more than the usual effort to avoid him.
It fact it was not until he arrived at the area of the bullpen where his teamed worked, some said lived, that he noticed something was awry. Gibbs' head rotated like the turret on a warship taking in the three abandoned desks where the members of his team usually sat.
He stood in silence, the already tight grip with which he held the paper cup of inferior quality coffee threatened to explode covering Gibbs, the floor and the nearby furniture in coffee.
His mood now settled even closer to the biblical end of the scale. He moved quickly and purposefully to his desk where he had observed Doctor Donald Mallard, Ducky to his friends, sitting patiently waiting.
This was unusual.
This was not unusual because Gibbs' noticed him, Gibbs was quite observant. Rather it was unusual because Dr. Mallard rarely ventured, unless invited, from his office and the morgue.
"Good morning Jethro" Dr. Mallard greeted Gibbs as he took his seat.
"Ducky" Gibbs growled as he glared at the empty desks.
"Ah yes" Ducky began "I suppose you're wondering about the absence of Tony, Ziva and Timothy."
"Sorry Jethro" Ducky apologised then raised his hand "I know, I know don't apologise it's a sign of weakness. Now where to begin?"
"The beginning Duck"
Before Ducky could continue Director Shepherd interrupted "Where is everyone?"
"Good morning Jennifer" Ducky smiled.
"Director" Gibbs offered grumpily.
"Someone got up on the wrong side of the bed this morning" quipped Director Shepherd who had obviously had the benefit of hot water and a decent cup of coffee.
Gibbs' ignored the good humour of his superior and turned his attention to Ducky.
"Monday" Ducky began "went remarkably well. Apart from the triple homicide. Terribly unfortunate, a very nice young Lieutenant, his wife and daughter."
"Ducky" Gibbs prompted.
"Well anyway Tony did a remarkable job, you would have been proud" Ducky smiled. "Timothy and Ziva were a little shocked actually. You would think by now they would have seen past that façade Tony insists upon by now but…"
"Ducky" Gibbs growled threateningly.
"Sorry" Ducky paused "so case solved, arrests made by midday Tuesday, paperwork completed, JAG prosecutor briefed by Tuesday night.
"Wednesday morning" Ducky continued gravely, head bowed "Tony and Assistant Director Swanson had a shouting match in the middle of the office."
"About what?" interrupted Director Shepherd.
"Um Abby, but that's not really important at this point" Ducky replied "What is important is that Swanson fired Tony."
"HE WHAT?" bellowed Gibbs.
Director Shepherd who had remained standing watched as the entire floor emptied. Agents were literally and figuratively falling over themselves and each other to vacate the area.
Director Shepherd, Jen to her friends, moved not an inch. It was not that Jen was made of sterner stuff; it was a combination of;
1.If she moved it would attract attention to herself,
2.A horrible fascination of where this story would end, and
3.She was the director and directors were supposedly made of sterner stuff.
"He fired Tony."
Jen felt a moment of admiration for Ducky able to deliver such news to Jethro without flinching.
Gibb's turned his gaze to Jen giving his best 'I told you so' glare.
"As you can well imagine this did not go over well with the rest of the team."
Jen felt that this was a good moment to interject and offer a comment that may in some small way let Gibbs know she was on his side.
"I'd hope so."
Gibb's once again turned his gaze to Jen this time skewering her with his 'it's all your fault' gaze.
"Ziva" Ducky pronounced this louder than necessary to return Gibbs' attention to himself, for which Jen mouthed a silent thank you, "was particularly vocal. I think it was at the point where she started swearing at Assistant Director Swanson in several different languages that he fired her as well."
"He fired Ziva?" asked an obviously shocked Jen.
"Well that's nice" Gibb's muttered sarcastically "you didn't seem too concerned about Tony."
Jen bravely decided that discretion was the better part of valour and wisely kept silent and motioned for Ducky to continue.
"Young Timothy was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time. Tony and Ziva had left Timothy said excuse me and Assistant Director Swanson fired Timothy as well."
"Of course I didn't find out about any of this until after Abby was escorted from the building."
"Abby too?" Jen was rapidly moving towards speechless.
"Constant and continuous flouting of the dress code I believe is the official reason, which is what started the whole thing in the first place."
"Threats of physical violence against the person of the Acting Director."
Gibbs smiled "Good for her."
"Jethro" Jen admonished before becoming sorry she had opened her mouth as Gibbs once again turned his 'it's all your fault' stare on her.
"It was at this point I felt it necessary to remonstrate with the Acting Director myself." Ducky sighed "Unfortunately that did not go well."
"Et tu Ducky."
"I am afraid so" Ducky nodded solemnly.
"For?" prompted Jen.
"Inflicting grievous bodily harm upon the person of the Acting Director."
"You didn't" gasped Jen.
"I broke his nose."
"Hah!" Gibbs crowed rocking back in his chair, a smile gracing his features for the first time that day.
"I was" Ducky stated proudly "considered quite a competent pugilist in my university days."
Gibbs took a long deep breath.
"So, where are they now Ducky?"
"Why do I get the impression this doesn't get any better."
"Well it depends on your point of view."
"I wish my point of view was from another country" Jen muttered not quietly enough to avoid another death stare from Gibbs.
"Well as I said Tony and Ziva left together."
"No you said they left" Gibbs corrected.
"Yes well, Tony packed his gear, tried to calm Ziva down as she started to swear at Assistant Director Swanson and left with her when she was fired. It was somewhere between the elevator and their motor vehicles that they decided that since they were unemployed Rule 12 no longer applied to them."
Jen risked a look at Gibbs, noted that his face had achieved a brilliant shade of red usually associated with fire engines and post boxes and noticed he was once again turning to favour her with another of his stares.
In attempt to forestall such action she asked "You know this because?"
"They paid my bail."
"Assistant Director Swanson had me arrested after our little" Ducky paused "discussion."
Jen rested her forehead in the palm of her hand "I am so sorry Ducky."
"Don't be my dear girl I found the whole experience quite invigorating."
"Tony and Ziva?" prompted Gibbs.
"Oh, yes. Well I was lucky to catch them really, they were just on their way to the airport.
Ducky from the expression on his face, Jen realised, had arrived a point in the story that for some reason he was reluctant to divulge.
"To Las Vegas.
"To Vegas" Gibbs raged" why in God's name would they go to …"
Gibbs' voice faded.
Ducky gave an embarrassed smile "to get married. I would have gone with them, but I am afraid that as part of my bail conditions I am unable to leave the state."
Jen covered her mouth, which was threatening to turn upwards at the ends, with her hand.
"Married Thursday afternoon. They emailed me photographs. I've taken the liberty of printing a few out if you would like to see."
Ducky produced an envelope and passed it to a Gibbs that was wavering between resignation and homicidal rage. Gibbs thumbed through the pictures muttering to himself before passing them to Jen who mad a great show of looking disapproving at the offending pictures.
Ducky looked sorrowful.
"I am afraid young Timothy is in a spot of bother."
"Define bother in twenty-five words or less."
Ducky thought for a moment and started counting words off on his fingers.
"Stopped for fuel. Mistaken for robber. Fired at by police, On the run from police from six states. FBI's most wanted. Public enemy number one."
Gibbs' turned on Jen "Now do you see what happens when we both go away at the same time."
Jen was beginning to have trouble coping with the whole situation asked "Abby?" hoping for a simple explanation.
"She's become a roadie."
"A what?" Gibbs asked.
"Some form of manual labourer for an" Ducky stopped trying to get the words right in his head "experimental death metal folk group."
"What?" asked Gibbs whose knowledge of music encompassed the three major groups of country, western and marching bands.
"From what I gather" Ducky said "they are a fusion, not my word, of traditional Louisiana Bayou folk music, electric guitars, large amplifiers, leather, spikes, chains and tattoos. They are extremely.."
"Good" offered Jen.
"Loud" concluded Ducky.
Ducky stood, offered his seat to Jen and took a neatly folded sheet of paper from his pocket "Phone numbers." He smiled at Jen "I'll just go find Mr Palmer and Ms Lee and let them know it's safe to come out of hiding."
"Ducky" Jen's voice caught him before he disappeared.
"I know" he said "I'll get right back to work."
"Thank you Ducky."
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Jen watched quietly as Gibbs phoned the first number on the list. The phone rang for a few moments and once the call was accepted he did not give the person at the other end a chance to speak.
"DiNozzo" Gibbs yelled "you have one hour to get your butt into the office or…..."
Gibbs paused as the person at the other end began to speak, Jen could see the veins at Gibbs' temple begin to throb.
"Mrs DiNozzo then."
Jen suppressed a smile.
"You and Mr DiNozzo have 1 hour" Gibbs paused as he listened to a moment "OK five hours to get in or Mr DiNozzo won't have the equipment to enjoy a honeymoon with."
Jen could hear the person on the end of the phone, obviously Ziva, speak and watched as Gibbs' paled, his eyes widening, finally dropping the phone on the desk as if it was poisonous.
"Let's hope the next phone call goes as well" Jen said.
Gibb's looked at Jen, the phone and back to Jen.
"Oh come on Jethro don't you think it's even a little bit funny?"
Gibbs didn't speak, he passed the phone list and the phone to Jen and strode purposefully towards the elevator.
"Leroy Jethro Gibbs where do you think you're going?"
"Coffee." The elevator chimed to signal it's arrival "maybe something stronger."