Author's Note: Just a little something for my lovely friend, Psycho Maddy, because I couldn't get her a birthday card and I wanted to do something to remind her that I love her very much. So MatteaAM and I plotted birthday fics behind her back lol. I wish you a happy belated birthday, Amanda, and I hope you enjoy this... and yes, I do know that towards the end you are going to laugh hysterically. That's exactly the point ;)
Many thanks to MatteaAM for the beta!
"Where's mommy?" Sitting at the kitchen table, munching on a mouthful of cereal, five-year-old Avery Gibbs took her eyes off the TV screen – her favourite cartoon was on, but this was more important, she told herself, looking expectantly at her father.
"She left early this morning. Eat your cereal, Ave, we're gonna be late." Gibbs dropped his daughter's backpack on a chair and smiled as Avery mumbled "Okay," and focused all her attention back to the television.
He turned to the counter and poured himself a cup of coffee, blocking out Donald Duck's loud babble as he thought about earlier that morning, when Jenny had left for work.
She had been in a foul mood, and when he'd tried to talk her into staying in bed for a bit longer she had given him her 'unimpressed director' look and just left.
He had to grin at the memory of how cute she looked when she'd glared at him.
"Daddy?" Commercial break, and suddenly Avery's voice was forcing him out of his thoughts.
"What?" He noticed her bowl was still half-full and inwardly rolled his eyes, ready for the next question.
"Do I really have to go to school today?" Avery asked, stirring her breakfast with practiced movements that would make her gain some time.
Gibbs almost smiled at her antics, "Yes, Ave, you do."
Avery's face lit up with a hopeful smile, "'Cause it's mommy's birthday?" She tried, looking up at Gibbs with her big green eyes, and this time he couldn't fight the smile that spread on his face.
Try as he might, he could never resist his daughter's puppy eyes.
"Ha ha, nice try, kiddo, but it won't work. Finish your breakfast now." He said after a moment, placing a kiss on Avery's brown hair.
She looked up again, her eyebrows scrunched up together, "Why won't it work, daddy?"
Gibbs drank a sip of his coffee and sighed, "Because that's not a good enough reason to skip school."
Avery huffed, "I'll tell mommy you said her birthday isn't important." She mumbled, stuffing her mouth with cereal and glaring at Gibbs out of the corner of her eyes.
He laughed, "'Course you will… little monster." He leant down to nuzzle her cheek and she giggled, despite her show of being so mad at him.
"Do I really, really have to go, daddy?" She placed her little hands on his cheeks, framing his face as she looked right into his eyes, her lower lip sticking out.
Gibbs smiled, "Yep… But I asked Abby to pick you up and take you to my work after school, so you can spend some time with mommy…" He watched as Avery's face lost the sad look and continued, "…and then you'll spend the night at Abby's, remember?"
As the little girl processed his words, her face lit up and she grinned, "Right!" She pressed a big kiss on his mouth and returned to her breakfast, frantically eating her food.
"Good girl. Finish here, I gotta go get something."
"Okay." Avery nodded, then her eyes landed on the backpack sitting on the nearby chair, "Is that my stuff, daddy?"
Gibbs stopped on the doorway and looked at her, "Yeah. What do you need?"
"My Bert jammies?"
"Already in there, princess."
Avery grinned, "Good daddy." She praised, and he chuckled on his way out of the kitchen.
Today, Jenny Shepard thought as she took off her glasses and rubbed her eyes, wasn't a good day.
Truth be told, her birthday stopped being a nice event after she hit thirty, but really, she just couldn't imagine why people thought she would want to celebrate her forty-seventh birthday. Hadn't she celebrated enough birthdays to last her a lifetime? And what was so special about turning forty-seven, anyway?
Her husband's attempt to keep her in bed that morning had been nice, and a good reminder that he still found her attractive, even though she was old, but she hadn't been really in the mood, too busy thinking about the meeting with SecNav scheduled for 0700. She had probably killed Jethro's spirits and he would be irritated by the way she left, but she had work to do, and he would have to put up with it.
The meeting had gone fairly well, however, and Jenny would have been perfectly happy if the Secretary of the Navy himself hadn't gone to all the trouble to have his secretary remind him of her birthday so that he could personally wish her a happy birthday and politely – informally – ask about her plans for the day.
She cringed at the memory. Why did people feel the need to be nice and polite to one another?
Rolling her eyes, Jenny turned to the computer and opened the browser to access her e-mail account.
As the page loaded, she stared at the screen in disbelief for a moment, before she scoffed irritably, "No, I don't want to send Jenny Shepard a card for her birthday, thank you very much." She muttered, shaking her head, "Dear God, how sad is that?"
A knock on her office door interrupted her quiet monologue on the concerning state of humanity in the computer era – and as she stopped mumbling to herself, she had to admit that she was starting to sound exactly like her husband where technology was concerned. She didn't know whether to laugh at the realization or be scared.
"Come in." She called with a sigh.
The door opened slightly to reveal the gentle smile of Dr. Donald Mallard, "May I really? You do appear to be in distress, director. Should I come back later?"
Jenny's face opened in a warm smile despite everything, and she got to her feet to greet the older man, "No no, come in, Ducky. I was just… never mind, it's not important."
Ducky smiled knowingly, "Ah, I see. Well, my dear, I just stopped by to give you a little something…" He walked into the office and closed the door, handing Jenny a large bouquet of purple orchids, "Happy birthday, Jennifer." He said, leaning over to kiss her cheek.
"These are beautiful, Ducky, thank you." Jenny smiled, overwhelmed by her friend's affection and too enchanted by the flowers to complain about the mention of her birthday, for once. "I'll ask Cynthia to find a vase." She added, still looking at the flowers with a grin.
"I'm glad you like them, my dear." Ducky smiled, "And this," he said, placing a small, black box on her desk, "is from Abby."
After admiring the elegant square box for a moment, Jenny lifted the lid slowly, careful not to undo the red ribbon placed on top of it.
Inside the box was a beautifully decorated cupcake with a single candle stuck in the middle, and on the bottom of the box sat a small card: 'Happy birthday, director. I hope the chocolate makes you smile. Abby :)'.
Jenny chuckled: of course Abby would know how she felt about her birthday. God bless her.
She turned to Ducky and walked around her desk to give him a hug, "Thanks, Ducky. For the flowers and for delivering this."
Ducky smiled, "My pleasure, dear. I shall leave you to your work now, and return to mine. You have a nice day and try to enjoy it, hmm?" He patted her shoulder before he left the office, and Jenny sat back at her desk with a smile, looking at the cupcake in front of her and the flowers next to it.
Finally something to make her smile on this terrible, terrible day.
Her eyes closed in pure bliss, the dark chocolate filling her senses, Jenny growled in frustration as her cell-phone rang obnoxiously, successfully ruining her moment of peace. After waiting so long to finally eat the cupcake Abby had sent her, just when the chocolate was already working on her brain to relax her entire body, someone had to go and ruin it by calling her.
What was so important anyway? Couldn't they have waited just another ten minutes?
She debated not answering, but the sensible part of her took over and she opened one eye to glare at the offending item. A quick glance at the caller ID and she immediately softened when she read her husband's name.
"Hey Jen, it's me." Gibbs' voice sounded far away, almost covered by the loud traffic in the background, but Jenny grinned as the normality in it warmed her heart. He must have taken the cold treatment of this morning better than she expected.
"Hi, Jethro." She held the phone with her left hand and licked the chocolate off her right index finger, "Where are you?"
"Alexandria, we got a lead on the case. How are you doing?" The sound of a car door closing followed his words, and Jenny smiled.
"Good, good… well, better than I was this morning. Sorry about that, by the way." She brushed some chocolate off the top of the cupcake and stuck her finger in her mouth, releasing it with a small pop.
"Don't go around breaking my rules, Jen… and what was that?"
Jenny chuckled, "I'm eating a cupcake that Abby sent me. And I think your new rule fifty-one applies to my situation."
Gibbs smirked, "If you say so yourself…"
Rolling her eyes at his smug tone, Jenny fought back a smile, "I do, but we're not mentioning it again." She picked up the cupcake and bit into it, chewing slowly, "Is Avery at school?"
"Yeah, I dropped her off and Abby will pick her up." He smiled, "Do you think you can leave the office early tonight?"
Jenny nodded, licking some more chocolate off her fingers, "Probably, why?"
"Go home and wear something comfortable, then meet me at the dock at 7."
"Okay…where are we going?"
Gibbs grinned, "Nowhere. I'll see you later, I gotta go."
Jenny frowned, her lips curling in a confused smile, "All right, see you later. Be careful." She waited a beat and almost heard him smile at her words before they both hung up and she returned to eating her cupcake in peace, speculating on whatever he had planned for the night.
"So, captain…you going to tell me where we're headed?" Shivering slightly in the cool September evening breeze, Jenny smiled as Gibbs helped her onto the boat.
The tank top and thin cotton sweater she was wearing over her faded blue jeans did little to keep out the coolness of the air, and Gibbs saw her shiver again, knowing that the humidity was already getting to her. Nevertheless, as soon as she set foot on board, Jenny discarded her shoes, smirking as he gave her an approving look.
"I'm always good at following all of your rules, Jethro." She whispered, stepping closer to him to place a kiss on his lips.
Gibbs smiled and wrapped his arms around her smaller frame, passing some of his warmth onto her, and she sighed at the contact, snuggling even more into him.
"Always is not the word I'd use…" He murmured into her hair and she chuckled against his chest, as he pressed a kiss on the top of her head and tilted her face to look at her, "Sit down and relax, I'll get us some food before we have to leave." He kissed her softly and broke the embrace, disappearing inside the boat and leaving her to sit down on the deck.
A few minutes later, he reappeared with two plates and a bottle of red wine. He handed Jenny the plates and she grinned, "God, I do hope nobody's gonna die tonight."
"That's not in my plans, Jen." Gibbs smirked and uncorked the bottle, pouring some wine into two glasses and handing her one, as he took a seat next to her. "Happy birthday."
She smiled and clinked her glass with his, taking a sip of wine before she put her glass down. An amused look appeared on her face as she looked at their plates, "Why do I have all the asparagus on my plate?" She asked, the hint of laughter in her voice making him smile.
"Would you rather steal it from mine?"
"'Course I would." With a mischievous grin she dropped some asparagus onto his plate and leant over to kiss him, "Enjoy."
They ate in silence for a while, no need for words to express how peaceful and relaxed they both felt, and how much they appreciated being able to just be with each other. Once their plates were empty – and after Jenny had stolen the last of the asparagus from Gibbs' plate – she got to her feet to clean up while he turned on the engines.
As the boat started the move, Jenny grabbed a couple of pillows and a thin blanket, lying down next to her husband and just enjoying the ride, the gentle rocking of the boat lulling her into a blissful numbness.
After what felt like hours, Jenny realized she must have fallen asleep, because the next thing she knew was they were slowing down and the coast looked much farther than it was the last time she'd seen it.
"Are we there? Wherever it is that you're taking me?" She asked quietly, stretching her arms over her head.
"Mmhmm." Gibbs nodded and smirked, watching as she yawned and rubbed her eyes.
"So what's so special about- What the hell was that?" A loud screeching sound, apparently coming from under the boat made Jenny sit up at once, her eyes wide in shock.
"That's what we came to see." Gibbs turned off the engines and left the helm, moving towards the bow. The familiar sound of the anchor engine reached Jenny's ears, and she got up, taking a look overboard.
The sight before her eyes took her breath away.
Dozens and dozens of dolphins were swimming in the water, not two feet away from the side of their boat. Their glistening backs arched off the water rhythmically, and some of the animals were jumping right out of the ocean, all the while communicating with each other, making sounds and swimming together.
It was the most magical scene Jenny had her ever witnessed, and as she turned to look at Gibbs, her eyes sparkled in a way that made his heart swell.
God, she was so beautiful.
He moved closer to her and wrapped his arms around her waist, looking over her shoulder at the dolphins as she kept on watching them in awe.
"What do you think?" He whispered into her ear, brushing his lips against her neck. She shivered in his arms, whether from the cool breeze or his actions he wouldn't know, and pressed her back against his chest, turning her head to look at him.
"It's amazing…magical." She said, her answer no more than a breathless whisper. "How did you know?"
Gibbs smirked, "I don't play nice with the Coast Guard for nothing." She giggled and he kissed her lips, nuzzling her cheek and neck, placing small kisses on her soft skin as she turned back to look over the sea.
With her right hand laid on top of his on her stomach, Jenny squeezed his fingers lightly as two dolphins swam next to the boat, so close she thought she could touch them. If possible, her grin turned even bigger when she realized it was a mother with its baby, and she turned to look at Gibbs with the happiest look on her face, "Have you seen that?"
"Yeah, beautiful." He answered, smiling at her excitement, but in his mind he thought that the dolphins really couldn't compete with her beauty. As he looked at her, saw the sparkle in her eyes, the grin on her face, Gibbs wanted to be able to make her so happy every day of her life.
"You're not even looking at it!" Jenny laughed, kissing his lips tenderly.
"I'm looking." He whispered as she turned her head again, returning to kissing her neck. He smirked against her skin when her hand instinctively went to his head, her fingers weaving into his short hair as a soft moan escaped her lips.
"Jethro… I-" She murmured, her eyes closing for a brief moment as she stopped speaking. The situation was perfect enough, with the dolphins swimming all around them, jumping and making their happy sounds, there was no need for her to say it. As the dolphins, they too had their own special means of communication.
A gentle smile appeared on her lips and she turned to look right into his eyes, "Thank you." She simply said, and her eyes did the rest.