A/N: I am slowly running out of completed fics to post, hence the slow updates - once my dissertation and a few other assignments are complete, my brain might be able to handle ficage again.
For Erica. Happy birthday!
Young at Heart
We'll never get old, friend – we'll just get younger at heart.
Ducky hummed to himself as he strolled into Autopsy shortly after daybreak. His mother had spent the night with a friend, today was Friday and everything was rosy.
The week had gone well. Only a few minor cases – it was as though the world had put its petty feuds on hold and everyone was enjoying themselves. Ducky had taken the time to go through the store cupboard with Mr. Palmer, ready for the next case.
Upstairs, Jethro's team had been taking advantage of the quiet to catch up with paperwork, which automatically meant they were climbing the walls. Ziva had been spotted chasing Anthony around the building after he had disparaged her knife skills. Timothy and Abigail had been playing around with the computer network, making Ducky feel incredibly glad he did not rely on a computer. Jethro had kept everyone's nose to the grindstone.
And the Director. She had continued to work her insanely long hours, burying herself in work. It hadn't helped that the FBI had tried to muscle in on a long-term undercover operation, something the entire agency had discovered when Agent Sacks had stormed in and started yelling in the middle of the squad room.
Quite how she had handled that to everyone's satisfaction was beyond Ducky's knowledge.
And yet she had. It was a testament to her skill as a politician.
But what concerned him the most was that he had not seen much of Jennifer over the past few months. The Director, yes – the agency had been running like clockwork. Jennifer – the mischievous, lovely young woman – had disappeared under the Director's cold exterior.
Ducky knew he wasn't the only one thinking the same way. Jethro had been watching his old partner silently for long enough to be aware she was drowning herself in her work. And both of them knew something had to be done.
As if on cue, the doors to Autopsy swished open and the man in his thoughts appeared.
"I'm pranking Jenny," he announced, out of the blue. "You in?"
Ducky did not have to think twice. Something to end the boredom and hopefully cheer the redhead up. "Of course. What did you have in mind?"
Jethro looked rather sheepish.
"Ah. You have yet to come up with a plan," Ducky deduced.
Jethro nodded sharply, glanced at his watch and headed back to the elevator. Presumably his team were due to arrive soon.
Ducky smiled to himself. If today continued to be quiet, he could take some time to come up with a plan. Or he could sleep on it…
Sleep… that was it. Pausing quickly to think it over, Ducky nodded to himself, before dashing for the elevator. He needed to tell Jethro this.
Leroy Jethro Gibbs had not found it a challenge to come up with an excuse to get Jenny to a bar. He had simply marched into her office at the end of the day, forced her to gather her belongings and personally driven her to the nearest bar.
Nothing like the direct approach.
As he had escorted Jenny from the building, he had seen Ducky crossing the catwalk, about to put his part of the prank into action. By now, all the calendars in Jenny's office should be a day ahead.
He himself would alter the ones at her house while she slept.
A challenge to see who could hold their alcohol better was currently getting Jenny drunk. Especially as he knew she hadn't had anything to eat since breakfast. The alcohol was going straight to her head. Coupled with her not expecting anything to happen – she had loosened up and had yet to notice he wasn't keeping up with the drinks.
He watched as she tipped the new glass of bourbon straight back, admiring the long line of her neck. She spotted him out of the corner of her eye, grinning widely.
"See something you like?"
He should have known better. She was way too teasing when she was drunk. Time to steer this into safer waters.
"You're drunk," he pointed out.
She pouted, acting so cute he was half tempted to laugh. "Since when have you been a gentleman?"
He glared at her, aware if this was any other night he would be seriously considering what she was offering. But he couldn't let Ducky down. Another night, perhaps…
"Need a top-up?" he questioned, searching for a change of topic.
She let him off the hook, glancing around the bar as though looking for someone. He watched cautiously as her eyes settled on someone and her whole face lit up.
Vowing to never allow Jenny to drink so much in a public place again, he rose to his feet. "Time to go."
"You can go," she smiled, the mischief in her eyes something he hadn't seen since their days together in Paris. "I'm going to stay a little while longer."
"Then your security detail will have to accompany you," he pointed out. "Or I can just take you home."
She frowned, everything taking longer to process through the alcohol fog. "Okay."
He took her proffered hand, leading her carefully from the bar. Even if she tried to kick him out of the house, he was sleeping on the couch. Someone had to be around when she thought she was missing a whole day…
Jennifer Shepard woke to a pounding in her head and several gaps in her memory.
First things first. At least she was in her own bed. One less thing to worry about.
Slowly but surely, memories started coming back to her. Going to a bar with Jethro. Getting rather drunk. Practically throwing herself at him…
Ignoring the nausea, she forced her eyes open and checked her bed. She wasn't sure whether to be relieved or disappointed she was alone. Always the gentleman, however much she teased him.
Closing her eyes, she nuzzled back on the pillow. Saturday. She had a little paperwork back in her office to deal with. A movie night planned with Ziva and Abby, both convinced she was burning herself out.
Truth be told, she knew she was. She smiled softly, glad her friends were around to help her notice and get out of the rut.
Sighing, she decided it was time to get up, hangover be damned. There was aspirin in her medicine cabinet if she could get there. Pleased she could walk in a vaguely straight line, even if her fingers were trailing along the wall for support, she started to get ready to go into the office.
The nauseating smell of coffee wasn't a complete surprise. Jethro had definitely been a gentleman last night then, putting her to bed and staying on the couch. Besides, her couch was more comfortable than the concrete under his boat.
Taking the stairs slowly, she made her way into the kitchen, determined to eat some toast. Jethro glanced at her, seemingly a little confused. She decided to chalk it up to her dressing less formally than usual and hunted for the bread.
"You okay?" he asked.
"I'll live," she replied, trying to decide whether she wanted her toast burnt or cremated. She really needed to buy a new toaster before her current one got bored with its current two settings and burnt the whole house down instead.
"You really needed the sleep," he noted, sipping his coffee and looking surprisingly alert for someone who'd drank the same amount she had.
She frowned. "I don't feel like I slept."
It was his turn to frown. "Jen, it's Sunday."
Ducky smiled softly to himself. Right now, everything was going to plan. When this all went wrong, as he knew it would, he would happily blame Jethro.
Standing in her office with Jethro and Jennifer, he observed her unobtrusively. She was unlike her usual self – disheveled and slightly distracted. The younger man had done a good job, getting Jennifer very drunk and somehow persuading her that she had lost a whole day. She had insisted on coming into work, as they had been sure she would. And so he had left his mother in the care of her nurse and come in to witness the fallout.
And the look on Jennifer's face.
"How did I manage to sleep through a whole day?" the redhead worried. "I haven't done that since college. What if SecNav had called? What if World War Three had broken out?"
"I would have got you up," Jethro noted quietly. Ducky silently agreed; if anything had gone seriously wrong, Jethro would have done his job.
Jennifer seemed not to have heard him. "I have so much work to do this weekend and now I've lost a day? I'm going to be here all night at this rate –"
The phone on her desk began to ring and Ducky watched as she picked it up effortlessly and answered with her standard greeting.
The two men shared smirks as she listened to whoever it was. This was going well.
"Ziva! I'm so sorry I missed movie night last night, but I somehow managed to sleep all day yesterday…"
This time the looks shared were ones of men about to be caught with their hands in the cookie jar. Slowly they started edging for the door.
"What do you mean, it's Saturday?"
Ducky and Jethro ran.
Ziva David had thoroughly enjoyed her weekend. Saturday night with Abby and Jenny, a girly night with pizza, a few movies and a lot of nail polish. Sunday night had been spent practicing her martial arts.
And threatening to kill Tony.
She looked up as the person in question sauntered into the squad room. "Gibbs on a coffee run?" he asked as he flopped into his seat.
She smiled her 'I know something and I am not going to tell you' smile. "Perhaps."
"Spill!" he demanded.
She shook her head. "Female confidences," she teased.
Tony grinned wickedly. "Does this mean he and the Director are currently –"
"Hey Ducky." She smiled at the older man, glad he was around. He was a good friend. It also helped to have talked to Jenny the other night.
"Good morning, my dears." No one could ever call Ducky impolite. "Have either of you seen Mr. Palmer on your travels?"
She shook her head, glancing across at Tony to see him doing the same thing.
Ducky sighed. "I appear to have… mislaid a body."
Ziva fought to keep herself from laughing. Tony however had no clue and piped up. "You lost a body?"
"I put him on the table," Ducky recalled. "And Abby called. I went up to explain the blood tests I needed and when I returned…" He spread his hands. "Corporal Holton was not there."
The Israeli did not want to know where Jenny had left the body, but hopefully it would be found before it began to smell too badly.
"Is Jethro around?"
She looked up at Ducky's question. "He is at the FBI." She did not miss the brief shadow of disappoint cross Tony's face.
"What have they done this time?" Ducky sighed.
"No, he is there for a communications seminar," Ziva corrected his assumption. "The Director feels he needs to improve in this particular area and decided to take urgent action."
She could see Ducky's brain working. He had to know how was behind this…
"If you see Mr. Palmer, please inform him I need him downstairs immediately," the doctor concluded. Ziva watched as he disappeared towards the back elevator, his posture that of a harried man.
"Gibbs?" Tony inquired. "In a communications seminar? At the FBI?"
"I think he'll snap and kill them all."