A/N: Probie: The Continuing Tail contains the rest of the fics written in the Probie-verse, including the sequel and small one-shots. I will reorganize it into a chronological reading order once the actual sequel is complete.
A/N: Written for gibbsgirlabby for the 2011 Halloween Tibbs Ficathon on LJ. The prompt is at the end.
Oh, and this is part of the Probie-verse. This story is supposed to take place during/after the sequel, where Tony moves in with Gibbs and Probie. I wanted to write spooky, but it ended up being sweet and fluffy and not spooky at all *fail*…
Tony shifted on his feet waiting for the door to open after ringing the doorbell. He'd been hitting up the few neighbors he hadn't met with homemade baked goods all day and this was the last house on Gibbs' street, situated on the left of a cul-de-sac at the end of the street. The other side of the cul-de-sac opened up to a long park down to the next block.
Tony had been baking oatmeal raisin cookies and pumpkin loaves all morning, despite the headshakes and eye-rolls he'd gotten from his lover. After trying unsuccessfully to convince Tony to relax with a cuddle on the swing, Gibbs had decided to leave him to his endeavours and take Probie out to the store to grab a few things. It was almost Halloween, and while Gibbs wasn't in the habit of decorating for the seasons, he made a point of buying some candy in case the neighborhood kids came around.
It'd been almost a month since Tony had moved in with Gibbs, and while they'd been comfortable as a couple at home and around friends, Tony had no idea how Gibbs' neighbors would react to a homosexual couple living on their street.
Dave, who lived across the street, and Stacey, their next door neighbor, had both been exceptionally open minded, but that didn't mean the rest of them would be just as tolerant. Tony hadn't had the chance to talk to the most of his new neighbors, so Gibbs had proposed to invite everyone over for one last barbecue before it got too cold.
While Tony had given Gibbs permission to out them as a couple to their neighbors as part of their invitation, Tony had been anxious about the whole thing. He was worried about how the new neighbors would think about him and about them being together. He'd met a few of them, but he was sure they all thought he was just a good friend, nothing more.
Tony had fussed over everything as the day of the barbecue approached. He knew it drove Gibbs insane but he couldn't help it. Even Probie had become a bit growly towards Tony after Tony tripped over his tail with the vacuum for the third time that week.
"Tony, will ya stop for a minute?" Gibbs had sighed, grabbing Tony's wrists and taking away the rag the younger man had been using to clean the bookshelves. With a sharp pull of his arm, Gibbs took Tony into his arms, resting his chin on his lover's shoulder with his hands splayed over Tony's navel as he whispered. "It's going to be fine. They'll love you. They're good people, like Dave and Stacey."
"But—" Tony began to protest, wiggling in Gibbs' arms, trying to get free.
"No 'but's." Gibbs nuzzled Tony's neck before placing a small kiss just behind Tony's ear, making the younger man shiver. "It'll be fine! Now, bed. You've been at it all day. It's time for bed."
That had been the last weekend. The barbecue had gone well, and the neighbors were, like Gibbs had promised him, nothing short of welcoming towards Tony. It had been a great relief for Tony.
Tony shook his head and pressed the doorbell again. Maybe he should've asked Gibbs to leave Probie with him. People would usually be more receptive to those with pets.
The door creaked open and a young face appeared behind the screen in the gap between the door and the frame. "Can I help you?"
"Hi! I'm Tony," Tony began, the big grin and the entirely too cheerful tone of voice betrayed his nervousness. "I just moved in down the street from you guys, thought I'd drop by and say 'hi' with some goodies." He motioned with the box in his hand.
Tony eyed the girl who had pulled the door open wider. She had to be in her mid-teens, wearing a striped polo shirt, a pair of skinny jeans and slippers. The girl had a freckled face, a wide smile and strawberry-blonde hair pulled up into a ponytail.
"Down the street?" The girl eyed him cautiously with an arched brow.
"Yeah, I'm… uh… Jethro Gibbs'…" Tony pursed his lips looking for the right word. Boyfriend? No. Husband? Not quite and probably never. Roommate? Hell no. "Uh… Partner." Tony finally decided.
The girl squinted at Tony, before her blue eyes and smile grew wide. "Oh! I've heard Stacey talk about you guys awhile back! I'm so sorry. We've been away and apparently missed Mr. Gibbs' get together last weekend."
Opening the screen door and sticking out her hand, the girl finally introduced herself. "I'm Pippy—like Pippy Longstocking? I know. What were my parents thinking, right? Very nice to meet you, Tony. Welcome to the neighborhood."
Tony chuckled at Pippy's self-introduction. "Very nice to meet you too, Pippy. I was wondering because I didn't recognize you."
"You wanna come in?" Pippy shrugged, nodding towards the door in invitation.
"Your parents aren't home?" Tony asked.
Pippy nodded with a shrug, the look of indifference on her face. "Yeah, they're… out, busy."
"Probably not a good idea then," Tony said regrettably.
"Heh. Probably." Pippy gave him a quick grin.
"Here, tell your parents I dropped by to say 'hi'." Tony shoved the box of cookies and pumpkin loaf into Pippy's hands. "And you are welcome anytime at our place. Probie would love some company."
"Our dog." Tony took out his phone and pulled up a recent picture of Probie for Pippy to see.
"Oh cute!" Pippy exclaimed. "I'll make sure I do that!"
"All right, gotta run. Jethro will be home soon. I'll see you around?"
"Yup! For sure!" Pippy waved her hand cheerfully as Tony bounced down the front steps. "See you around, Tony."
Tony eyed the small park that began from the cul-de-sac at the end of the street before giving Probie's leash a gentle tug, turning the dog towards the park. He'd gone out for a run with Probie around the neighbourhood. He was drenched, but he didn't want to go home yet. Gibbs was working down in the basement, and he thought he'd let his lover have some well deserved quiet time after the week they had.
Probie barked, then growled when Tony tugged at the leash to silence him, as they approached Pippy's house.
"Hey, Probster! Chill! What's the matter?" Tony crouched down, grabbing the feathers on either side of Probie's face and tugged gently before rubbing his hands all over Probie's head.
Tony turned his head around, and smiled when he saw Pippy. "Hey Pippy. How are ya?"
"Okay, I guess." Pippy shrugged in a way that only teenagers would.
"C'mere. This is Probie." Tony gestured Pippy to come crouch next to him. "Probie, be nice."
Probie whined a couple of times before tucking his tail and bowed his head. Pippy ran a hand over Probie's head a few times. "Hey, Probie!"
"I don't know why he's so restless today." Tony shook his head as Probie settled a bit more with him stroking his fur.
Pippy didn't comment. Instead, she looked over to Tony, her expression unreadable. "Tony, you work with Mr. Gibbs right? Stacey had mentioned that you guys work together and you were both cops."
Tony nodded. "Well, I guess we are Navy cops. And I work for him at NCIS. Why?"
Pippy looked up at the setting sun quietly. "Uhm…"
"Pippy? Is everything all right?" asked Tony, noticing the uncertain look on Pippy's face.
Pippy gave Tony a smile that felt forced. "I was wondering if you could do me a favor."
"Depends on what it is, but I don't see why not?"
"I need to find someone." Pippy reached into her back pocket and produced a small black and white photograph. From the paper and the way it was printed Tony could tell that the picture was quite old. "That's my gram and her best friend in high school. Her name is Esther Miles. When Gram lost her parents, she went to live with the Mileses until she graduated and found a job."
"You kinda look like your gram," Tony noted.
"Yeah, everyone says that." Pippy laughed, then her features turned serious, tinged with sadness. "They were like family to Gram. She tried to keep in touch, but with both of she and Esther moving for jobs and marriage, it just wasn't possible. Gram's in the hospital, on her last leg, and she really wants to thank her again."
Tony looked at the young girl, his eyes softened at her request. He really shouldn't misuse government resources like that, but then he couldn't and didn't want to say no to Pippy either. It was a harmless request, like when they helped Ducky put together that show and tell for Magnus…
"Okay." Tony nodded, smiling when he saw Pippy's face light up. "Where was your Gram originally from?"
"Hartford, Connecticut," Pippy answered as she scritched Probie behind the ears absentmindedly.
"That's pretty far to move for a job," Tony commented as he note down the information on his phone.
"Well, she originally worked in Philly, where she met my grandfather. My grandfather Tom Langston was a naval aviator, after they got married they moved to DC because of his posting." Pippy smiled, looking at the picture fondly.
"Her maiden name?"
"McPherson. Phillipa McPherson. I think she was born July 24th, either in '34 or '35."
"Okay. You mind if I hang on to that picture?" Tony pointed to Pippy's hand.
"Sure." Pippy shrugged, handing the picture over along with an envelope. "I don't know if Esther is still alive. If she is, can you give her this letter? Gram wrote it but had no address to send it to."
"I gotta run. Thanks, Tony." Pippy gave Tony a warm smile before she turned and left.
Tony tugged at Probie and shivered slightly at the chill breeze. It'd gotten a bit cold the week before and the running jacket he had put on earlier was not enough to block the wind. "Come on, Probie. Let's go home."
The next morning, Tony began running a naval personnel search as soon as he got to the office. The search turned up information on Pippy's grandparents, but nothing else. Most of the records from back then were incomplete at best, and Tony was having a tough time finding even the old work records of Phillipa Langston from Philly. He had to call up an old marker from when he worked in Philly to do some digging. He sighed, hanging up the phone and walked back to the bullpen with a slight frown. Who knew it would be so hard to find records of a woman from the fifties?
Gibbs eyed his lover with concern, but didn't say much. He knew something was occupying Tony's mind, but the younger man had been reluctant in telling him what was wrong. Gibbs didn't want to push him, so he decided that he'd ask when they got home later if Tony wanted to talk, or when whatever was preoccupying Tony's mind began to affect his work.
They didn't catch a case that day, and was working on cold cases. Tony had been uncharacteristically quiet the entire day, spending most of his time on the phone. Tony on the phone when reviewing cold cases wasn't unusual. Tony not complaining at all when reviewing cold cases, however, was usually cause for concern. It made Ziva and McGee nervous, not knowing if Tony was quiet because he was planning some prank on them again.
Gibbs sent the team home precisely at 1700. It had been a Friday, and there were looks of relief on both McGee and Ziva's face when he told them to go and have a good weekend. Tony rode in with him, so as soon as he had his desk organized, Gibbs looked over to Tony and arched an eyebrow.
"I'll be done in five."
Gibbs nodded before heading upstairs to drop off some paperwork for the Director. Tony was packed and ready to go by the time he came back down.
They drove home in near silence. It wasn't unusual, since Gibbs hadn't been a big talker, but it somehow felt different.
"Tony?" Gibbs asked as he took the jar of satay sauce Tony wanted out of the fridge. It was stir-fry night and he knew Tony liked the extra kick from the satay sauce. He'd resisted asking the entire way home, but when the younger man had remained quiet even after they got home, he decided to approach Tony. "What's going on?"
"What do you mean?" Tony looked over to Gibbs, confused, as he helped washing and dicing the vegetables. Probie was dozing under the kitchen table after the men made it clear that he wasn't going to get anything.
"You've got something on your mind." Gibbs said as a statement, instead of a question. Tony sighed.
"Was it that obvious?" Tony winced. "I swear I didn't goof off. Just…thinking about something."
"Didn't say you were. What's bothering you, Tony?" Gibbs' tone was that of pure concern. He knew Tony had been doing his job, even in his preoccupied state. Tony had made some very enlightening notes on a few cold cases that no one else had caught.
Tony worked his lower lip between his teeth, debating on what to tell Gibbs. He didn't like keeping secrets from Gibbs, but he didn't know how to tell him that he agreed to help a girl that he'd known for less than a week. "It's not important."
Gibbs scowled at him with a small frown, but then sighed. Seeing as how Tony didn't want to talk about it, Gibbs decided to let it go, for now. He knew better than to force his lover.
Gibbs had hoped that Tony would work through whatever had been bothering him quickly, but when Tony didn't come to bed at their usual bedtime the following day, Gibbs finally decided that enough was enough.
He went down stairs only to find Tony sitting on the couch Indian style, with thick stacks of paper strewn all over the rest of the couch and the coffee table. Probie was dozing at Tony's feet, looking decisively bored.
"Tony, what the hell?" Gibbs shook his head at the mess, but he was concerned more than angry.
Tony looked up at Gibbs, his eyes clouded by mild confusion, like he didn't understand the older man's words.
Gibbs sighed. He'd known that once Tony was focused on something, it was easy for him to forget everything else. He was the same way himself; it was what made them a good investigators. He walked over, gently took the pages out from Tony's hands, put them and the papers on his lap in a pile and left them on the coffee table. Pulling the younger man up to standing, Gibbs leaned in to peck a kiss to Tony's temple as he rubbed the small of his back. "Time for bed."
"No buts," Gibbs cupped Tony's face and held his gaze. "Time. For. Bed."
"Okay." Tony sighed, nodding his agreement as Gibbs held him closer.
Once they were settled under the covers, with Tony curling up against Gibbs, the older man finally asked, his hand stroking up and down Tony's spine. "Tony, what's going on? Please, tell me."
Tony sucked in a breath and let it out slowly. "It's nothing…"
"Come on, tell me." His tone was as close to begging as Gibbs had ever used.
"You'll think it's stupid." Tony sighed, his breath tickling Gibbs' bare chest.
Gibbs stilled his hand and lifted his head slightly, staring down at the top of Tony's head. "Why would I think that? Nevermind, don't answer that. Just tell me what's bothering you."
"It's silly…" Tony hesitated, but he knew Gibbs was worried. "A… uh… friend, wanted my help tracking down an old family friend that they'd lost touch with a long time ago." Tony explained Pippy's story, but left out Pippy's name. "It's been really hard even finding records from that long ago."
Gibbs didn't comment on Tony doing some side project during work hours. Instead, he nodded and asked. "So, let me get this straight. All you have to do is find this person and deliver a letter?"
"Yeah. I've got some of the records downstairs. They're all paper scans so I have to manually go through them." Tony sighed. "Like I said, it's silly, but…"
"Okay," Gibbs said simply, not needing further explanation. "We'll go over the records together tomorrow. I've got a friend who works for the IRS. I'll give him a call and see if he could help. They keep everything and they have the best records."
"What? Jethro, you don't have to…" Tony lifted his head to look at Gibbs.
"No, but I want to." Gibbs stroked Tony's face gently with his knuckles. "Because it's important to you."
"I don't… I…Thank you."
"You're welcome." Gibbs smiled, drawing Tony in for a kiss. "Now sleep. We've got work to do tomorrow."
True to his word, Gibbs called up his contact and went through all of the files with Tony the entire next day, and by mid-day Monday they had a pretty good idea of where Esther Miles had gone. She had apparently married locally to an engineer, and had moved across the country with her husband when he got hired by a company on the west coast.
"DiNozzo," Gibbs walked through the bullpen from out of nowhere. He'd been gone for the last little while, giving no explanation of where he was going. Not that he had to, Gibbs thought to himself, privilege of being the boss. "With me."
"Boss?" Tony shrugged on his jacket and picked up his badge and weapon.
"C'mon," Gibbs nodded his head in the direction of the elevator.
"On your six."
Once in the elevator, Gibbs held out a piece of paper to Tony. "Here."
"What is it?" Tony unfolded the note. On the note were a phone number and an address.
"Esther Bennett, formerly Esther Miles," Gibbs said, giving Tony a quick glance.
"How did you…" Tony whipped his head around to gawk at Gibbs. He swore that the man had superpowers.
"Buddy at the IRS came through. Once we gave him that social security number, he was able to back trace where her pension cheques were going to." Gibbs grinned at Tony.
"And you found her?"
"Yup. She's been living in Philly with her daughter for the past five years," Gibbs said as they reached the ground floor. "Come on. Call them now and make sure they're home. We'll stop to grab something to eat and head out so we don't hit traffic on the way into Philly."
"What? Now?" Tony's eyes grew wide.
"Yeah, now." Gibbs gave him a 20% strength headslap but Tony yelped anyways. Gibbs rolled his eyes before continuing. "I cleared it with Vance. It's not like we have any active cases."
"Have I ever told you I love you?" Tony gave Gibbs his trademark grin as they got into the car. "Because I don't think I say that enough."
"You can thank me all you want when we get home tonight." Gibbs quipped back with a smirk.
A middle-aged woman answered the door a few seconds after Tony rang the bell. "Can I help you?"
"Hi, uh, we called earlier…" Tony fumbled with his identification. "I'm… Special Agent Anthony DiNozzo, and this is Special Agent Gibbs. We're here to see Esther Bennett?"
"Oh, right! You are the agents from what was it, NC…"
"NCIS, yes, ma'am." Tony gave her a bright smile.
"Come on in. My mother's in the living room. Right this way" The woman opened her door wide, ushering the men in. "I'm Leanne, by the way."
"Thank you, Leanne."
"Mom? Those federal agents I told you about are here." Leanne patted her mother's hand lightly, directing the old woman's attention to the two men standing at the entrance to the living room. On the TV, a talk show was on but the sound had been turned down.
"Oh, well, hello there." Esther smiled. "So nice of you to visit. What's this about?"
"Ma'am." Gibbs nodded his greetings, letting Tony do the talking.
"Mrs. Bennett?" Tony sat down next to Esther after getting an okay from Leanne. "Hi, I'm Tony."
"Tony's a nice name. My late husband's brother's named Tony." Esther sat up straighter, putting knitting needles she had in her hand down into the basket at her feet. "So?"
"I was wondering if you knew a Phillipa McPherson."
"Phillipa? Yes, we grew up together. Although, oh, I haven't seen her in ages. We've lost touch with each other a while back when I moved out west." Esther gave Tony a small smile, reminiscing the good ol' days. "Oh, I missed her. She was like a sister to me. Why do you ask?"
"It's… a long story." Tony recited his story to Esther, whose eyes began to water halfway through.
"Oh, Phillipa." Esther took out a small handkerchief to dab at her eyes.
"She wanted you to have this." Tony took out the letter Pippy had given him. "I'll give her granddaughter your number so they can contact you."
"Thank you." Esther wrapped Tony in a hug as tight as a woman of her age could. "Thank you, Tony."
"You're welcome." Tony smiled, looking up at Gibbs, who gave him a smile too. Behind Gibbs, he could see Leanne's eyes shine with unshed tears as well.
They ended up staying and chatting with the mother and daughter for a bit, but they couldn't stay long if they wanted to make it back to DC at a decent time.
"Agent DiNozzo, Agent Gibbs." Leanne met them at the door. "Thank you so much for coming today. My mother had told me about Phillipa ever since I was a little girl. I've always wished that there was some way of finding her again so they can reunite. Never thought we'd get that chance."
"It was our pleasure." Tony said, giving her hand a firm shake when she offered.
"Have a safe drive home." She waved them out the door.
"Will do!" Tony turned and gave her a smile. Elbowing Gibbs, Tony whispered. "Drive safer."
Gibbs glared at Tony briefly before raising a hand to ruffle Tony's hair.
"Hey, I think Pippy's family's home." Tony squinted at the light coming from houses down Gibbs's street. "We should go say hi and tell her we found Esther. They'd be thrilled."
"Sure, why not." Gibbs shrugged. "Let me go grab Probie. We can go for a quick walk before dinner."
Tony knocked on the door and waited. Gibbs had Probie in a leash waiting at the foot of the steps. A woman in her mid-twenties answered the door. "Can I help you?"
"Hi, is Pippy home?"
"Pippy? Grandma Pippy?" the woman asked, sounding confused. Her eyes were a little red around the rim.
"Yeah, Pippy. Phillipa Langston's granddaughter?" Tony narrowed his eyes.
"I am Phillipa Langston's granddaughter. Pippy's my gram's nickname." The woman gave Tony a weird look. "What the hell's going on?"
"Uh…" Tony had no idea. "Uhm, you know where we can find Mrs. Langston?"
The woman sighed and bit her lips. "My grandmother passed away late last Thursday. I'm here to pack her stuff and see what's to keep and what's to throw away."
"I'm so sorry to hear that." Tony winced, his tone apologetic.
"It's okay. She's been sick for a while. We knew it was coming." The woman gave him a sad smile and held out her hand. "Name's Esther."
"She named you after her best friend." Tony realized.
"Yes, how did you know?"
"Long story." Tony felt his heart beat faster as he considered one possibility.
The younger Esther shrugged. "You know, it was okay. She went peacefully in her sleep. She had a few confused moments here and there, saying something about she's found help and to tell someone named Tony thanks. I'm just glad that she's not in pain anymore."
Tony barely suppressed the yelp in his throat. He swallowed, taking a deep breath to calm himself before asking Esther. "Will you let us know when the service will be? I'd like to come pay my respects. We live just down the street." Tony wrote down his number for Esther on a sheet from his note pad.
"Sorry for disturbing you. You have a good night." Tony said finally.
Gibbs gave Tony a weird look as the younger man came down to meet him.
"Long story." Tony shivered. "I'll tell you about it when we get home."
Prompts were: 1) Gibbs and Tony in a creepy haunted house-spooky but funny; 2) Gibbs and Tony encounter a ghost who needs them to do something for it. Could be a stranger ghost, or someone we knew. Didn't quite use the first prompt though…