Spoilers/warnings: No major spoilers, but slight references to Kill Ari and Bloodbath. Takes place late season 4. Also, according to my beta this might actually make you feel sorry for Mann.
Disclaimer: Until my bid for world domination succeeds, NCIS is not mine.
A/N: I can't believe I wrote Mann. Not happy!Mann, of course, but still I don't like having her in my head. Thanks to dragonessasmith for the beta'ing.
She asked him once why he never locked the front door.
"Don't have anything here to protect," he answered with a shrug. Given the fact that he had no art and few collectibles, didn't even own a computers and his TV was ten years old, she had to agree. His boat was probably the one thing he most cared about in the house, and it wasn't like anyone was going to steal that.
"But what if they come here for reasons other than theft?"
"Then they deserve what they get." There was a look in his eyes that reminded her of men in the middle of battle, and for an instant she felt sorry for anyone who thought to confront Jethro Gibbs on his own territory.
Nearly thirty years in the service made her a little leery of the slack security that unlock door represented, but she learned to appreciate it. It meant not grappling for keys when she arrived with bags of takeout. It meant she could walk right in, welcome, and only had to shout out a greeting when she reached the top of the basement steps. He was always in the basement. Sometimes she wondered why he even bothered with furnishing the rest of the house, other than the bedroom. It wasn't like they ever sat on the couch in the living room and they rarely ate at the dining room table.
Of course she wasn't the only person who felt at ease walking through the front door. She had yet to meet a neighbor, somehow doubting that any of them came knocking on Jethro's door to borrow a cup of sugar. Jethro's team, however, was a different matter. Agent McGee was the only one she had ever heard knocking. Agent DiNozzo had sauntered in once, complaining that Gibbs had turned off his phones again, and that they had a case.
Ducky was the most regular guest, appearing with bottles of wine or the ingredients for home cooked meals. Sometimes he bowed out gracefully when he saw that she was there. Sometimes he stayed and made dinner for the three of them, sharing stories and asking questions. He was always polite, even friendly, but his smiles never quite made it to his eyes. He called her Hollis, but she was never comfortable calling him Ducky.
Once she had arrived at the house before Jethro and found Ziva David in the basement, running her hand along the boat. She had left in a hurry, claiming that what ever she had to tell Gibbs could wait until the next day. She paused at the top of the stairs and glanced at an empty space in the middle of the floor before setting her jaw grimly and disappearing through the doorway. A moment later the front door slammed closed. There was a faint stain on the floor that Hollis had never noticed before, and she had the feeling David knew exactly what had made it.
It was a warm summer evening, the air hanging heavy with humidity, when she tried to turn the handle and found the door was locked. Thinking that maybe the wood of the door was swollen she tried again but it stayed firmly shut. In any other relationship she would have had her own house key by now, but it had never seemed necessary so she had never brought it up. It felt strange to have to knock on the door after all these months of just walking in.
"Your door is locked," she stated obviously when a t-shirt and jeans clad Gibbs answered the door.
"Yeah, it is." He took the bag of take out from her, carried it into the kitchen. "Abby's upstairs."
"Abby?" She tried to understand what Abby being upstairs had to do with the door being locked.
"Mowher's trying to appeal his case. Abbs had to be in court today, and it was rough on her. She didn't need to be alone tonight."
"But why..." With a wrench of her gut she understood. Why don't you lock your door, she had asked him once. Don't have anything to protect. He never locked the door when she came over, not even when she spent the night.
He locked the door for Abby.
"If Abby's had such a bad day she probably doesn't need a third person around. I think maybe it would be better if I go."
"You don't have to. There's enough food here for three, and Abby won't mind you being here."
Abby won't mind? She had trouble believing that he was that naive. Didn't he notice that every time she visited the NCIS lab the temperature in the room dropped ten degrees?
"No thanks, I really should..." Should get her head examined, she thought sardonically. "I'll call you tomorrow."
"Okay." He walked her to the door, and though he kissed her goodbye she could tell his mind was on other things.
When he closed the door behind her she could hear the sound of the dead-bolt being turned.