Disclaimer: I do not own NCIS or any of its characters.
Author's note: I have a guilty conscience, so I have to admit the idea with the car wash in the last chapter came from IMSLES. Hopefully that's my karma fixed now. If not, I fully retract my confession. Please continue.
Taylor waited until everyone had finished dinner before making her announcement. "It's the seventeenth tomorrow."
"Is it?" Her father reached for his coffee.
"Yep. March Seventeenth." She narrowed her eyes and watched him carefully trying to figure out if he'd forgotten.
Her mom was sitting beside her, and patted her hand. "I'd forgotten all about that. Jethro how could we forget that tomorrow is St Patrick's day?"
Taylor glared at her, but said nothing.
"It's alright Taylor we haven't forgotten your birthday." Her dad reassured her, before taking another sip of coffee.
"You sure about that?"
"Your present is all wrapped up and waiting."
"That's okay then. I was just checking."
Taylor stood up and made her way round to her dad, slipping onto his lap, snuggling into him. "You know you don't really want me to be grounded on my birthday, that wouldn't be very nice."
When he didn't speak she opened his hand and measured hers up against his. "You gotta admit, I have been good."
"That is true."
Taylor could sense him weakening. "You have to be tired of me following you about all day." She innocently tapped his wedding ring. "Must be cramping your style."
Across the table Patricia choked on her coffee.
"She's got you there, Leroy." Her grandpa added in support of Taylors reasoning.
"Hmm….. if I lift your grounding are you going to stay out of trouble?" Jethro asked his daughter.
"Course I am!" Taylor protested as if getting into trouble was the last thing she'd do. Then figured she'd change that statement to something closer to the truth and more believable. "Well, I'd try my best."
"What do you think?" Gibbs asked Patricia. "Do you believe her?"
Taylor looked expectantly at her mom.
"I think so, and we wouldn't want to cramp your style any more."
Jethro let out an exaggerated sigh. "Alright, but you're still on parole."
Taylor gave him a quick kiss on his cheek. "Thanks dad." Before happily going in search of Vicky.
Taylor was figuring out how to work her new iphone the next morning as she looked after the store. Her grandpa hadn't returned from his walk, Vicky was still in bed, and her mom and dad were across the road in the coffee shop. She didn't mind being alone, not after her every move had been watched over the past few days, and besides, as soon as her grandpa came back she was free again.
She spun round when the back door of the store opened. Ethan took a few steps towards her, allowing the door to swing closed behind him.
"What do you want?" Taylor tried not to sound scared.
He sneered at her. "Didn't want to see you stuck in here all on your own."
"Who says I'm on my own?"
"Let me see if I can guess where everyone is. Vicky is probably with Patrick, your mom and dad are across the street in the coffee shop, and your grandpa, well I just happen to know that right now he's with my dad."
Taylor backed up a little, even though the counter was between them. The fact that he knew there was no one else around hit her like a punch in the stomach.
"Go away Ethan, find someone else to pick on!"
"Now why would I do that? You're the reason I'm going to military school." Raising his arm he swept a row of cans off the shelf beside him, and they clattered across the floor.
"It's not my fault you're an asshole!"
Instead of answering he cleared another shelf.
Taylor slipped her birthday present into her pocket and came out from behind the counter, but she kept her distance. "What the f*** are you playin' at? Pack it in!"
"Or what?" He looked at her in disgust. "You gonna tell your daddy?"
She glared at him.
"He's gonna be awful pissed when he sees the mess you made when he wasn't around." Ethan tutted and shook his head. "Naughty girl."
"Like he won't believe me when I tell him it was you." Taylor spat back at him.
"My word against yours. I think I'll risk it. I mean, what are they going to do anyway, send me to military school twice?"
He cast his eyes around the store, and his gaze stopped on something behind her. Ethan pushed past, and strode purposely behind the counter.
"Bet you're not allowed to touch this, are you?" He lifted the rifle down off the wall. "Oh look, it's even loaded. I wonder what they'd do to you if you fired it?"
Taylor didn't answer.
"Maybe they'll spank your ass, or, if they're really pissed, they might just send you to the same school as me. Now wouldn't that be fun?"
Taylor backed away a bit more, eyes locked on the gun. Not sure what Ethan was capable of right now.
"Now, what would make a good target?" He swung the gun round, and Taylor ducked as he aimed at her. He shook his head. "No, too messy."
Glancing behind her, she prayed for someone, anyone to walk in through the door.
Without warning, Ethan pulled the trigger and the gunshot filled the normally quiet store. Taylor's ears were still ringing when Ethan walked towards her, rifle in hand. At first she thought he was going to hit her with it. He didn't. Instead he calmly took her hand and placed the weapon in it, squeezing her fingers round the barrel.
"Good luck, you're gonna need it." He laughed, before sprinting back out the way he'd come in, through the house.
Taylor was so shocked, she just stood there, mouth open, staring after him.
She was still trying to figure out what the hell had just happened, when her dad burst through the door, closely followed by her mom.
Both froze at the scene before them. Milk splashing all over the floor, where the cartons had been pierced by the bullet, cans scattered everywhere, and to top it off their daughter was standing in the middle of it all, gun in hand.
Taylor had to force herself not to run when she saw the expression on her dad's face. She held the rifle out for him to take.
"It wasn't me. It was Ethan."
"Ethan?" He took the gun from her. "Where is he then?"
Taylor pointed to the door at the back of the store. "He went that way."
She could tell by the way he was looking at her that he didn't believe a word she was saying.
"Come on dad, if it had been me, would I still be standing here? He snuck in the back way, and just sorta .." Taylor gestured at the mess surrounding her. "went nuts!"
When her father slammed the rifle down on the counter, grabbed her arm and began to drag her towards the stairs, Taylor knew for sure he wasn't buying it.
"I told you it wasn't me!" She protested as she found herself being dragged up the stairs. "Daaaaa…d!"
He didn't look back at her. "Didn't see anyone else standing there with a gun in their hand!"
"He went out back!" Panic was beginning to set in. It was bad enough when she was actually guilty, but this was SO not good. "I thought you could tell when I was lying!"
"I thought so too." They were in his bedroom now, his hand still clamped on her arm.
Taylor wasn't quite sure what they were doing in there until he opened a drawer and pulled out the strap. Now she knew.
"Drop them!" He ordered, nodding at her jeans.
"You can't! It was Ethan. He wants me to get into trouble so you'd send me to military school like him!"
Gibbs tossed the strap onto the bed, and knelt in front of her. "He told you about military school?" No one but himself, the sheriff and Ethan knew about that.
Taylor nodded. "It was Ethan, I swear."
He searched her face, looking for any trace of a lie. Nothing.
Relieved her father finally believed her, she sat down on the bed.
Feeling guilty now, Jethro sat down too, putting his arm his daughter. He kissed the top of her head. "I'm sorry."
"I think the cheese must have slid off his cracker."
"Ethan's lost the plot, dad." She looked up at him. "Please don't go after him."
He hadn't expected that. "Why?"
"Because at least now he thinks he's won, so he'll leave me alone now."
"I'm not sure about that." The boy had to be stopped.
"But we've only got a few days left before we go home, and I don't want to spend it waiting for him to sneak up on me. Please dad."
"Tell you what, I'll talk it over with your mom, but I'm going to have to tell his father eventually, you do know that don't you?
He hugged her, before standing up, and walking towards the door. "How good are you with a mop?"
"I don't believe you're gonna make me mop up milk on my birthday!" She complained, but followed him anyway. "You could least walk a bit slower, and give mom the chance to clean it up before we get there!"
Taylor was curled up on the couch beside her grandpa, watching the clock with interest. Now she was twelve she was curious to find out if she got to stay up later. When the hands showed nine thirty though, her mom gave her the usual reminder.
"Time for bed Taylor."
"Aww, come on, I'm a year older now, I should have a later bedtime."
Patricia just smiled at her. "That's not how it works. When you're not tired at nine thirty we'll think about changing your bedtime.
"Who says I'm tired?" Taylor asked, accusingly. Then yawned. Talk about bad timing.
Her mom just held out her hand. "Come on. When you've got your pyjamas on you can show me what this new iPhone of yours can do.
Taylor tried to get her yawn under control, but couldn't, and realising there was no way now that she could argue that she wasn't tired, took her mom's hand and followed her upstairs. Betrayed by her own body she thought. Maybe it was about time to start drinking coffee.
The rest of the vacation passed smoothly, and before they knew it, it was time to head back to DC. Plans were made though. Vicky promised to email Patrick at least twice a day. Taylor could see that lasting for at least a whole week, before someone else caught her eye. Patricia promised they'd be back during the summer, Jack in turn promised to visit them for a few weekends in between and Taylor, as usual promised to be good and stay out of trouble. Jethro however didn't make any promises or plans as they climbed into the car, he was just relieved both his family and Stillwater had survived another one of their visits.