This is my twenty-fifth NCIS Mystery and the fifth of my Third Season, excluding numerous stand-alone and one-shot stories. The list got so extensive I moved it, with summaries, to my profile.
The usual legal disclaimers apply. I don't own anyone except Rev. Siobhan McGee, SSA Kevin Lamb, SAs Janet Levy, Lisa DuBois and other original Agents.
Rating: T or NCis-17.
Leroy Jethro Gibbs is surprised to step off the elevator into the 3rd floor Operations Division and see Abby Sciuto pacing the entrance to his team's bullpen. He reaches the entry as the white-coated scientist completes a circuit and turns back for another pass. "Abby?"
"Gibbs! Thank goodness!" She runs to him, grabs his arms tightly. "Have you heard anything? What happened? Where are they? Why aren't they here? They have to be here! Today! Now!"
"Calm down, Abby, where are who?" He shifts the large hot coffee cup from right to left hand, further away from her. In her state, he doesn't want her near a 'Caf-Pow!' either, she seems to have inhaled several already, a significant feat for 0645.
"They! Them! The main gate called me sixteen and a half minutes ago. They checked in and never came. Gibbs, you've gotta find them, they could be–" When the elevator's chime announces the car's return, she shifts him sharply to the side so she can look past him. "McGEES!" she cries and Gibbs yanks the coffee, and himself, aside as she charges past, her white lab coat flying like a cape.
He turns in time to see Tim McGee and his bride virtually leapt upon, neither managing to get clear before being captured in an ecstatic hug. Gibbs can see only their faces, Abby's lab coat covers the pair like a shroud and each looks taken aback by the over-enthused welcome.
"Oh, I've missed you two so much. You have no idea what it's been like here. Air-tight bedroom, car driven off a cliff, stolen fake Van Gogh, PO2 with 30 boa constrictors that got away and terrorized Norfolk Elementary how was Ireland how was the honeymoon tell me everything!"
Tim, on her left, manages to wheeze "Abby, air becoming an issue."
"Oh! Sorry," she releases them as abruptly as she'd captured them and each tries to withdraw a step out of range, "It's just that I missed you."
"Got that," he assures her, regaining his breath. He's wearing a traditional white Irish cable-knit sweater over brown trousers, Siobhan is in her 'work attire' of long black skirt, light blue clerical blouse with two inch high band of stiff white encircling her throat. Gibbs can now see they're each laden with shopping bags that'd been hidden by Abby's lab coat.
"Thank you, Abby," Siobhan says, her brogue stronger than Gibbs remembers it. "That's about the most enthusiastic greeting we've had."
To Gibbs it sounds like she isn't looking forward to it being bettered. Movement behind him makes him glance back to find DiNozzo, David and Palmer gathered at the bullpen entrance, waiting to welcome their partner and his new wife back until it's safe to do so.
The travelers reach the bullpen and their waiting friends, whose greetings, while as heartfelt, are more subdued than Abby's. But Tim halts in mid-word when he sees what's been done to his desk.
The workstation is covered, nearly buried, with balloons, flowers, ribbons, banners, stars, streamers, signs, rainbows, cards, dolls, shamrocks and bunting of all imaginable colors. He's not certain but he trusts there is a desk somewhere in that Mardi Gras float.
"Do you like it?" Abby asks with enthusiastic pride. "Michelle and I arranged it."
"Three days after you left," Tony enjoys his partner's somewhat stunned expression.
"It's very ... nice," Siobhan says.
"You shouldn't have," Tim says, trying to sound appropriately grateful rather than letting his true feelings color his words.
None of the agents are quick to warn Siobhan of what awaits her in her 4th floor office. While Gibbs had restrained the ebullient scientist's efforts in the bullpen, she had turned her festive imagination loose with élan upon the upstairs office. Gibbs had told her to make sure the priest could open the door, but Michelle hopes he doesn't learn how near a thing it will be.
"So, how was the honeymoon?" Michelle asks to divert attention from the float and the upcoming discovery of the reviewing stand.
"Yeah, McGee," Tony urges, "tell us the details."
Tim doesn't need his wife's brief headshake. "Not a chance."
"You're glowing," Michelle tells Siobhan, who for a moment isn't sure the witch isn't referring to some mystical aura thing. "You have that new bride glow," she elaborates.
"Yes," Ziva says. "It suits you very well."
"You're glowing too, Probie," DiNozzo says and for a moment Tim is afraid the man is going to bring up that 'Feminine Glow' cream incident, but Tony does nothing more than give a smirk, as though reading his beleaguered friend's mind - or his fears.
"Well, two weeks in Ireland will do that. I hear you're a celebrity," Tim tells Abby, hoping to distract their friends from being too curious about either this or the honeymoon details, either way they being things the group will never learn.
Abby smiles broadly, pleased that fame - such as it may be - has preceded her. "Not quite yet, but soon I guess, at least maybe in the Forensics community." She gives up striving for humility, she can't manage it yet. "Last week I hosted a segment on the Science Channel on the 'History of Forensics, 1901 to 2000'."
"When does it air?" Siobhan asks.
"The end of the week."
"I look forward to it."
"I guess everyone's going to be coming to you for your autograph," Tim says, seeing she can't contain an anticipatory smile. "How's your houseguest?" he asks instead.
"Sammy's great. She sends her love, she has a concert this evening so she's at rehearsal or she'd be here to greet you."
"We'll see her soon," he assures her, knowing he has to take things in stages. Abby Sciuto and Samantha Sky at their most enthusiastic at the same time is something few man can survive. Instead he turns to Michelle. "And your husband's a doctor now."
"Yeah!" She still hasn't gotten beyond the thrill, supposing it'll take a long while to wear off and hoping it never will. "He passed his tests last week. They're having a formal graduation ceremony at GWU but yes, he's as effectively now Doctor Palmer."
"And you're slightly proud," he teases. No one could have misinterpreted that tone.
"So," Siobhan wants to know, "how is it being married to an MD?"
"Every night he plays doctor."
She grins. "Gives you an Internal?"
"You should see his probe. And he's got instruments that–"
"Hey, hey! Enough with the powder room talk!"
"Sorry, Tony." Siobhan says it, but he doubts she is, for she leans an inch closer to Michelle to say in a stage whisper "We'll talk more newlywed secrets later."
"Count on it," Michelle assures her in as false a whisper. "I've gotta tell you about this new thing Jimmy got for us to share; it'll curl your hair." She glances significantly, not at Siobhan's head, but...
"Hey come on I said!"
"Never took you for a prude, Tony," Tim taunts.
"I'm not a prude - I just think there's an appropriate place for this talk."
Siobhan sobers, for now, but the look she exchanges with Michelle makes it clear they'll talk a lot more frankly - or explicitly - when there are no men around to interfere. "We'll drop down later to congratulate James properly," she assures Michelle, who hopes it's while she's still in a good mood - before she sees her office.
"We brought you all some presents," Siobhan announces, hefting her two shopping bags as Tim sets his own two at his feet. She draws from one bag a brown meter-plus-long, green paper wrapped rod. "This is for you, Jethro."
Gibbs hides mild surprise. Ever since meeting her, and particularly for the months she's been with NCIS, he's been 'Agent Gibbs' to her, and he supposes this defines a new level of relationship between them. When he tears off the paper the shillelagh, a deep brown walking stick, is gnarled in the traditional manner, the highly polished wood never being carved straight. The front of it, inches down from the knobbed head, is laser etched with the Gibbs Arms, three upright battle axes, middle one lowest.
"Thank you," he says, not quite knowing when he'll make use of it. He anticipates – and in this job has every expectation of it happening – being dead before reaching the age or condition when he needs a cane.
"It has a traditional use as a motivator that'll help save your hand," Siobhan tells him with an almost-smirk.
Gibbs looks to DiNozzo, his smile growing as he realizes the gift does indeed have a very practical use. "Thank you," he tells the priest.
"Yeah, thanks a lot," Tony says. "I'll take Last Rites now and get it over with."
"Not yet, Tony," Tim demurs. "Got a long way to go."
"Yeah, DiNozzo, if you're lucky," Gibbs assures him, rapping the rounded top into his left hand, his expression deadly.
"And for Michelle," Tim reaches deep into the bag, roots about for a moment and pulls out - a silver stapler.
Michelle laughs delightedly, flashing back more than a year ago to Tony DiNozzo's return from a conference in Germany, when he'd completely forgotten a gift for the newest team member. "You're never gonna let me forget that, are you?"
"But this," Siobhan says, pulling a ten inch high white box from one of her bags, "we think you'll appreciate more."
When Michelle opens it she pulls out a white marble statue of 'Venus on the Half-Shell' set upon a sea of tiny green shamrocks.
"Thank you." The petite woman espouses both Christian and Wiccan faiths and prays to the Goddess she never names to her partners, but she considers Venus to be her particular patroness.
"Abby, we thought of you when we saw this." Tim hands her a rolled cloth the color of parchment. When the woman unrolls it she finds it to be a wall hanging decorated with a myriad of arcane symbols and ancient calligraphic text.
"The Book of the Kells," Abby exclaims in delight, turning to show it to Michelle, the one other person who might appreciate it to the fullest. "Do you know what this is?"
"I know," she says, unable to hide the envious feeling.
"It was actually a toss-up," Tim admits, "as to which of you would appreciate it more," he reaches into his bag, "so we decided not even to try to choose." He unrolls a similar though not identical hanging.
"Thank you," Michelle exclaims in delight, hugging him.
"Watch it, kid," Siobhan admonishes with a wide grin, "don't get too familiar. He's mine; you've one of your own."
"Don't worry," Michelle says happily. "Tim just can't compete."
"Ziva," Siobhan says, mostly to save her new husband as she hands Ziva a foot square white box about an inch high, from which the woman withdraws a large white linen decorated primarily in green shamrocks, silver stars and Irish knots, the large scarf almost reminiscent of a tallis. Ziva draws it over her shoulders, appreciating the fine decorative work. She kisses Tim and Siobhan.
"Tony, we decided this was perfect for you," Tim announces, handing his partner a rectangular package that turns out to be a book.
"Some of yours were getting a bit stale."
"Not anymore," Tony assures his favorite target.
"So," Tony says broadly to Siobhan, always a bad sign for those who know him, "did McGee get you anything special in Ireland?"
"As a matter of fact he did. Three beautifully tailored cassocks, in the Anglican style."
This isn't exactly what Tony had been anticipating. "He took you to Ireland and got you vestments?" He turns to Tim. "You and I are gonna have a talk."
"You said Anglican style," Michelle cuts in. "Is there a difference?"
"Oh, yes. Anglican style is cut differently, especially for women, with a wide black sash about the waist. When I wear it, as Shania Twain sings: 'man, I feel like a woman."
"But wait," Tony says, trying to stay on track and definitely not to think of this with his partner's wife, "I thought you were in south Ireland."
"Oh, we were; three rustic Bed and Breakfasts in Wicklow, Sligo and Cork. No big cities for me, we O'Mallorys were farmers before we emigrated."
"But where would you find Anglican things there? I mean, forgive my ignorance–"
"Frequently," Gibbs quips.
"Heh heh. Anyway, I wouldn't think–"
Siobhan cuts in before anyone can take advantage of that unguarded opening. "Actually, he bought them here, through Almy, and had them shipped ahead to Cork, knowing I'd be more surprised."
"Heh, who'd've thought McNally would be such a devious world traveler?"
"Oh, that reminds me." She puts her hand to Tony's cheek and says kindly, "I know you and my husband have an interesting friendship, but it's taken me a very long time and the only Mc I am is Gee."
He tries to assure her in expression and sincere tone that "I would never play that."
"Good," she says sweetly, stroking his cheek, "because the first time you do, I'll borrow back Jethro's shillelagh to practice my golf swing."
Michelle and Ziva have the best laugh at DiNozzo's expression.
"Well, I should get upstairs," Siobhan says, gathering her two bags with items to give to her particular friends, hurrying out while riding high. "Time to get to work, I probably have a hundred messages waiting,"
No one warns her about what to expect. Tony, never having learned the exact limits of her sense of humor, is relieved by the woman's departure. He does, however, know what awaits her in that office and starts doing a mental countdown for how long it'll take for her phone call to come down.
"Your wife's right about one thing," Gibbs says after the elevator takes the woman away.
"Time to get to work," he says with faux severity – this time.
"Right." McGee turns and is brought short, again, by the sight of his desk. 'So much for thinking how little things change.' He looks to Abby, standing beside him, finding her beaming with pride at her handiwork. "Thanks, but you really shouldn't have."
"Have fun, Tim," she says, gives him a quick hug and heads back to the elevator.
Tim again surveys the desk, not wanting to think of hurting his friend's feelings by boxing everything up right away. Perhaps he can just clear enough space to do some work? Maybe.
Turning on his computer, he clears his keyboard of the tiny figures that embellish it, many of them in tuxedos and wedding gowns, and signs on to his NCIS account, which he's ignored for half a month. He tries not to cringe at the vast number of emails.
But before he can open any, an entry on a list to the right of the screen catches his eye. He has a special filter which searches public news articles for references to NCIS, and ninth of ten in the list is a mild surprise. He turns to the woman at the desk to his right. "Michelle?"
"What've you been doing?"
The question - and its tone - is enough to capture all the agents' attentions.
She shrugs, not feeling particularly guilty. Except for her participation in the three cases he'd missed; "Not a lot."
"We're gonna discuss that later," Gibbs quips in his ultra-serious, deadpan manner.
Michelle, still in her festive mood, presses her teeth together to block herself from sticking her tongue out at her boss. It may be festive, but not smart. "Why?" she settles for asking Tim.
"Guess who's trending."
She thinks it over, shrugs again. "I have no idea what trending even is."
"Greatest series of hits on the Internet. I have a filter on my system that checks for references to NCIS, and you're trending."
"I'm whatting?" It sounds like this could be slightly obscene.
"Well, I admit I stole that idea from Yahoo, but the point is that there are a more references to NCIS than I've seen in months, what's up with that? But the one with the most hits in personal names this morning is Michelle Palmer."
"You're kidding." She's away from her desk, comes around his and into his space and now the other agents' attentions are riveted on them. She sees that numbers one through eight on the list on the right side of the screen are apparently official or cable crime related references and probably have to do with things like 'The Real NCIS' Crime Show on TruTV, but "Number nine?" she asks, slightly deflated.
"Out of three hundred forty eight NCIS references?" Having no idea of the real figure, he throws out the number to illustrate the scale.
"Oh ... Well ... three hundred forty eight, I guess that's better." Her faux casualness is overwhelmed by anticipatory enthusiasm. "Well, so show me, show me, what do three hundred and forty eight people want with me?"
McGee grins, that hadn't been the point, but he clicks on her name and the link opens a list of links to files and websites. "Not only you; the Director, Melanie Kelman, Ziva ... Janet Levy...Kim Martin...Susan Bourne…Lisa DuBois…Tina Larsen…."
"Oh, who cares about them?" she smirks, fascinated. Ziva shoots her a crinkled-nose look. "Open one. I want to see what's so fascinating."
As Gibbs, Tony and Ziva look on, unable to see McGee's screen, he selects a link and it leads to a list of files. The first is a JPEG file which opens a picture on his screen. His eyes widen and his mouth falls open as Michelle stares, more deeply shocked. "Holy Mother of God," he breathes when he can say anything.
Michelle staggers backward into his partition counter, her face white.
Her shriek slices through Operations.
The startled agents, already half on their feet in response to McGee's whispered distress, converge behind or across McGee's overly-decorated desk to where they can see the monitor.
Michelle's scream has raised every Agent in Operations to his and her feet and, weapons drawn, they rapidly search for the reason for the cry. Palmer's pressed against the shelf of Tim's partition, almost toppling it.
On the screen, in appalling detail, Michelle sits on a cushioned stool, clothed only in a smile. Her crotch is shaved and the fingertips of her right hand touch her labia.
"Get it off! Get it off! GET IT OFF!"
Tim collapses the window and turns back to his panting, white-faced friend backed against his partition. Their teammates crowded about the desk are no less appalled.