Author's Note: The final chapter... so fluffy I can actually feel a hairball at the back of my throat. *lol* No flashbacks in this one, just tying up the present a little. And I can't believe I'm finishing this so soon after Acta... now Unmistakable's my only WIP. It's kinda strange... XD And yeah, I gotta say it again - I love you guys! You make writing so easy. :)
14th April, 2021
Abby sighs, as if mourning all the Caf-Pow!s that might have been. "Life really sucks sometimes."
Amused, Gibbs takes her empty coffee mug from her lap and sets it down on the table. "Ya think?"
For a few seconds they lapse into comfortable silence, and he decides now's as good a time to ask as any. "So when is it?"
He feels her stiffen a little in his arms, and smiles inwardly. She really is too easy to read, sometimes.
"The surprise retirement party you think I don't know about."
Abby groans, punching his arm with good-natured frustration. "Damn it, Gibbs! How did you know?"
"I'm retiring. You know about it. It's a pretty easy conclusion to come to, Abbs."
"Damn it," she repeats under her breath, dropping her head onto his shoulder. "I owe Tony fifty bucks."
"Stupid bet to make," he points out, and she smiles sheepishly, conceding the point. "So, when?"
For a second she bites her lip, weighing up the pros and cons of a lie. As he raises a knowing eyebrow, she sighs and mutters, "Thursday night."
He has to hand it to her – she was thinking tactically when she made the arrangements. His last day in the office is tomorrow, a Friday, and he'd have expected her to opt for then or Saturday for a party. By next Thursday, he'd have dropped his guard – not completely, but a little. She knows him too well. "Not bad."
She catches his drift and brightens a bit. "Thanks." After pausing for a second to absorb the praise, she gets back on topic. "Promise you'll still act surprised?"
Gibbs looks at her askance, and she rolls her eyes. "Okay, okay. Pointless request." Curling closer to him, she frowns. "I just can't believe you're retiring. That makes me feel so old, y'know?"
"It makes you feel old?" He can't quite believe it himself. Time seemed to pass so slowly when he was a kid. Once he moved away from Stillwater, it began to trickle away faster and faster, so that before he knew it he had a wife and eight-year-old child. For a time, things deadened and slowed again, as he struggled to deal with the void his family had inhabited, but after a while it speeded up again, through three divorces, countless cases, comradeship, tragedy and… Abby.
The subject of his thoughts speaks, drawing him back into the moment. "You know what I mean. I keep thinking how weird it is that we're in 2021 and there are no flying cars yet, y'know? I feel kinda cheated. And my mind still thinks it's 2005 or something, and now you're leaving NCIS and it's just… hinky."
He laughs softly. "You'll get used to it. And it's not like you're not gonna see me every day anyway."
"But you're gonna go stir-crazy," she points out, not for the first time. "I mean, there are only so many hours a day you can work on a boat."
Gibbs glances at the clock, spying the chance for a segue. They've been reminiscing for around an hour – to postpone this any longer would be unfair. "I'll have things to occupy me."
"Coffee-making, boat-building, going to the shooting range," she lists sceptically, counting each activity off on a finger. "What else?"
"Head down to the basement and find out." He smiles a little despite himself as her gaze becomes more focused, her brow creasing a little as her mind works overtime.
"You built a bar down there and set up sleeping bags for Franks and Fornell, didn't you?"
He returns her stare impassively, suppressing the laughter that tries to rise within him, and she rolls her eyes, jumping up from the couch. "Okay, okay, so I'm full of insatiable curiosity."
"That's why I married you," he tells her, getting up with her and giving her a little push toward the door. "Go on…"
With a final curious glance back at him, Abby succumbs to her inquisitive nature, venturing into the kitchen. "Why is the basement door shut? It's never shut when I'm not playing music…"
"Abbs, if you stopped questioning me and went down there, you'd already know."
"Hmm, good point." She opens the door and pokes her head around it, snapping on the light. "Can't see anything new… are we gonna have to play 'hot-or-cold'?"
Grinning, Gibbs puts two fingers to his lips and blows a short, sharp whistle. With a yip and a patter of paws, something races from underneath the boat and up the basement steps.
Abby gasps, dropping to her knees to meet the puppy that skids to a stop at her feet. "Hey there, little cutie!"
For a few minutes, she's completely absorbed in lavishing attention on the chocolate Labrador/spaniel crossbreed, scratching behind his ears and letting him lick her free hand all over. Then, beaming up at Gibbs, she asks, "Where did he come from?"
"Sarah McGee," he says, and she straightens to give his arm another light punch, shaking her head in disbelieving admiration at his methods.
"Tabasco had puppies?! You got everyone at work to keep that from me, didn't you?"
Gibbs doesn't need to say more. The puppy, starved of attention, whines plaintively, and Abby's focus snaps back to him. Rolling him over onto his side, she rubs his belly, addressing Gibbs without looking up. "He's gorgeous… Did Sarah give him a name?"
Abby gathers the pup into her arms and stands up, her eyes shining. "I never figured you for the pet-loving type, Gibbs. I mean, I know animals like you, but I never thought you'd wanna own one yourself."
"Always wanted a dog," he admits, watching the puppy busily set to work washing Abby's face. Giggling, she turns her head to deflect the worst of its licks from her lips as he continues, "Old man wouldn't let me have one as a kid. Then I joined the Corps... Shannon was allergic, and then when I joined NCIS I worked too much. Wouldn't have been fair."
He runs a hand over the pup's head, and the creature turns its enthusiastic tongue to his fingers. "Gonna name him?"
"You should do it," she says, her eyes intrigued as she absorbs the new information he's given her. "What would you have called your childhood dog?"
It's so far back that he can't even recall. Shaking his head to dismiss the question, he regards the panting, wriggling puppy thoughtfully. "Kinda reminds me of when DiNozzo was a probie…"
Abby sets the dog down, trying to keep a straight face. "Be nice…"
"Nice?" he asks, arching an eyebrow.
Amusement lacing her voice, she accuses, "You're just gonna miss yelling 'DiNozzo!' twenty times a day. That's what this entire thing's about."
While the puppy treats everything at floor-level to a thorough sniffing, she steps into Gibbs' arms, laughing softly. "He's perfect-"
A muffled yip interrupts her response, and they both turn to watch their new pet return to their feet, dragging one of Abby's bras in its mouth. In the corner, the basket of laundry waiting to be washed has been upset, and clothing is strewn about the floor.
"What did I tell you?" Gibbs asks, as Abby bends down to retrieve the garment. "DiNozzo."