Rating and notes: 15, post-DH and fairly AU; canon twists for NCIS and generally twisted timeline. Mikee gave me this bunny.
Summary: Every single cloud has a silver lining.
Disclaimer: I'm just playing with other people's toys and nothing you think you know is mine. May I be forgiven in my next incarnation! Flamers and thieves will be adopted by my blood relatives (if you don't believe it's a threat... too bad for you!).
'The people and events you are about to read about are fiction. Any resemblance to actual people or places is purely coincidental.'
Editor: Mikee. The remaining mistakes are all mine, and I apologize for those.
IMPORTANT NOTE: I'm still writing this story; I need to format scenes to post them here. Stay tuned.
Dr Mallard was mumbling.
This was beginning to worry Mr Palmer seriously because a mumbling Ducky was always the first sign of the apocalypse.
All right, certainly not the Apocalypse, capital a, with the monsters and everything, but… you know. Palmer knew when it was bad.
Palmer did what he thought best: he called Abby.
As if drawn to the morgue, Gibbs arrived a few seconds after Abby. The genius lab tech was frozen on the spot on the threshold.
Abby had understood that the symptoms Palmer had noticed were more serious than her young colleague had anticipated.
Gibbs stopped shoulder to shoulder with Abby.
'He's freaking me out,' Palmer whispered to the two visitors.
'Yeah, me too,' Abby said. 'That reminds me of…'
'Ten years ago,' Gibbs finished for her.
Abby nodded madly, her pigtails following the movement.
'What happened ten years ago?' Palmer asked.
Abby turned to him and said, 'Believe me, Jimmy, you don't want to know what happened ten years ago if you don't want to start having awful nightmares.'
Palmer blinked and looked at Gibbs, who merely nodded once to confirm Abby's statement.
'What should I do?' Palmer inquired.
'Go to my desk and chat with Ziva, or read the news on my computer,' Gibbs answered.
Palmer was really feeling the odd vibes in the room. He knew when to flee, and he did – fast, taking the stairs, and not waiting for the elevator.
Abby and Gibbs traded looks. Ducky had not acknowledged their arrival; he was still mumbling over the magazine that he was reading – that alone indicated how bad the situation was.
Gibbs offered his hand, and Abby took it; they walked together to their old friend.
'Ducky?' Gibbs called.
Ducky kept mumbling.
'Ducky!' Abby called.
He still didn't react.
'Ducky!' Gibbs growled with his best Marine voice.
Ducky turned around and blinked.
'What's going on?' Abby inquired.
'You managed to spook Palmer. Not that it's that difficult, but he'd improved over the past months,' Gibbs added.
Ducky blinked again, as he took in what his friends had just told him. 'I am so sorry, my dear friends,' he said. He pointed at the magazine that was on his desk and said, 'I'm sure I read this article a few years ago.'
Abby and Gibbs traded another look, it was happening again.
'D'you want me to help you?' Abby asked her old friend.
'Would you?' Ducky asked in answer.
Abby wrapped her arms around Ducky's neck, which made the Medical Examiner smile widely.
Ten years ago, Abby's computer was good, but not as good as the one she had today, and even though Abby had always been a computer genius, she'd gained experience since the last time Ducky had needed the kind of help he needed now.
Ten years ago, the entire Master thesis of a student Ducky knew had been shamelessly stolen by the poor student's teacher. Ducky had been aware of the issue because the student had contacted Ducky and shown him two-thirds of his thesis; when Ducky saw the exact same words published under another name, he'd worked to expose and denounce the culprit. It had been a nasty fight because the professor lived in a country where plagiarism was common practice.
Ten years ago, while Ducky was fighting, Abby and Gibbs discovered that one of Ducky's school fellows had stolen one exposé during their last year of secondary school, and Ducky had never forgotten or forgiven his fellow. Ducky fought for the wronged student as if he were fighting for himself.
"Which article is it?" Abby asked.
"This one," Ducky said, pointing at a page.
Abby looked at it and said, "Chemistry? This should be easy."
She took the magazine and went to her lab to find a copy of it online or to scan it.
Ducky looked at Gibbs and said softly, 'Sorry.'
Gibbs put a hand on his friend's shoulder and said, 'We all have one thing that makes us react like that.'
'It is so unfair,' Ducky declared.
'Let's go watch Abby do her magic,' Gibbs said.
Ducky nodded, and they went to buy her usual Caffpow.
As soon as they entered Abby's lab with Gibbs's traditional encouragement in caffeine, the two men knew that there was something wrong.
First, McGee was typing as feverishly as Abby on one of the keyboards, and then Palmer, DiNozzo and Ziva were in the lab, too. They were all chatting like mad birds in a cage.
They were all so animated that neither Gibbs nor Ducky could make out what they were saying – or what the problem seemed to be.
Gibbs whistled, and silence instantly fell in the room.
'What's going on?' Gibbs demanded.
'The article is accessible online,' Abby said.
'We logged into my account to this magazine,' McGee added.
'But we can't find another, earlier reference online,' Abby said.
'Abby asked me to come and help,' McGee said.
'I'm sure we'll find it somewhere, Ducky,' Abby promised, her green eyes shining as if her own honour was at stake.
'Maybe there's no such article,' Ziva said.
All the others turned towards her as if she's just sprouted a second head.
'What? We all make mistakes,' Ziva stated.
'If Ducky says he's read the article before, he has,' Abby said as if she were mentioning a law.
McGee turned to Ducky and asked, 'Do you remember the name of the magazine where you read it originally?'
Ducky's brows knitted as he tried to remember. 'I was in Edinburgh for a symposium, and when I took a cab to go back to my hotel, I sat on a crinkled, half-torn magazine. There was a comparison that caught my eye,' he said. He pointed at a sentence on the screen in the article that was recently published; it was particular enough to catch the attention of anyone who knew elementary chemistry, and therefore Abby, McGee and Palmer nodded to indicate that they agreed that this was enough recognizable.
Ducky went on, 'I'm sorry, Tim, but I don't remember the name of that publication.'
'We don't have access to all European publications, but we have connections to National Archives, so we'll eventually find it,' McGee said.
Ducky looked at McGee in a strange way – well, weirder than by usual Ducky standards. Then he said, 'I know where I put the magazine. That would certainly help you.'
'Where did you put it?' Gibbs asked.
'In one of our old suitcases in the attic,' Ducky said.
'All right, let's go!' Gibbs declared.
Ducky took one step towards the door, but the others didn't move.
'Are you waiting for an engraved invitation?' Gibbs growled. 'DiNozzo, McGee, Ziva, let's go!' Without even turning around to look in her direction, he told Abby that they'd call her from the Mallards'.
The agents obeyed instantly.
Five seconds later, Abby was alone with Palmer in her lab.
'Do you really think Dr Mallard is on to something important?' he asked.
She glared at him and said, 'When Ducky is in that state, it's really bad, Jimmy. Got that?'
Palmer nodded nervously. 'What should I do?' he asked.
'Go back to the morgue if you've got something to finish, or go home. The only case for the day is that stolen article,' Abby answered.
Palmer nodded and went back to the morgue to file his latest report.
Gibbs was driving Ducky and his agents, and he managed to give a slight fright even to Ziva, which said a lot.
When they parked in front of the Mallards' house, Ducky gave his friend his trademark smile and said, 'It wasn't going to disappear, you know.'
'I hate seeing you like that,' Gibbs said very softly.
'We should try to avoid Mother, or we'll never get to the attic before she goes to bed,' Ducky said.
McGee noticed that DiNozzo was particularly quiet. 'Are you okay, Tony?' he asked.
DiNozzo sighed deeply and said, 'The last time I was here was with Kate.'
McGee nodded to show that he understood his colleague's uneasiness; Ziva surprised him by squeezing his arm. DiNozzo merely nodded at both.
The whole party managed to sneak past Mrs Mallard and her dogs.
Ducky's attic was dusty, but it was well organized – and he knew where he put everything.
Within three minutes, he'd located the right suitcase, had opened it and found the old magazine that dated from six years ago.
'Exact same words,' McGee declared after comparing the article in the Scottish magazine with the new version he'd uploaded on his PDA.
'And there's no way it can be the same person. Even if the lady got married in the past six years, there would have been no point in changing her name's initial,' Ducky pointed out.
'Besides,' Ziva added, 'I thought most female researchers who got married kept their family names or hyphenated.'
'A lot, but not all of them. It depends on their career and the state of their publications when they tie the knot, or on their own conviction about married life. There are many possibilities, my dear,' Ducky told her.
'It could be a typo,' Gibbs pointed out.
'You're right. S. Prince could well be Tina Toransenn now, but I have this odd feeling that tells me that something fishy is going on,' Ducky said.
'And I'm not a man to scorn such a feeling,' Gibbs said.
While they were talking, McGee had sent additional information to Abby, and she'd found who Miss Toransenn was.
'There's definitely something fishy going on,' McGee declared.
They all turned to him and waited.
'Unless she's suddenly grown the brain of a genius, there's no way she's the actual author of that paper. Abby has tracked her record down, and she's seriously average. This article is simply brilliant,' McGee explained. 'And she would have been just nineteen when the first article was published,' he added.
'Then we need to locate S. Prince,' Gibbs declared.
'Abbs is on it, Boss,' McGee answered.
While Abby was working on her computer, they explored Ducky's attic and found several things that launched Ducky into exotic explanations, which they all loved.
However, after twenty minutes, Gibbs called Abby himself. His favourite hacker was seriously frustrated because she'd found absolutely no record for an "S. Prince" anywhere in Scotland or in Europe.
'It's a pity we don't have the cover or back of the magazine, but we'll locate the editor. He can tell us where to find S. Prince,' McGee said.
DiNozzo sighed again. It was the saddest sound any of them had ever heard him produce.
'DiNozzo?' Gibbs said.
'Probie won't find it. Not even Abby would find it,' he said.
'Why?' Ducky inquired gently.
'Because it's a Wizarding magazine,' DiNozzo explained.
(Next scene as soon as possible. It's typed and edited… I "just" need to format it for here)