This started out as a vague speculation on my part that turned into a monster bunny - without my permission, I might add. I'm having a very busy and somewhat stressful time at work, so I decided I could use a more fun and whimsical story to work on before turning my attention back to the FIOverse. Updates will be unpredictable - could be fast or slow, depending on what's happening at work. Many thanks to gosgirl and HidingLight for the read on this chapter!

1: Surprise

Abby

Abby loved her lab.

She loved the security of it, the knowledge that as soon as she stepped in that room, she was all-powerful and all-knowing. It was her bastion against chaos, her contribution to order in a disordered universe. The lab was where she always found the answers. She'd occasionally had her doubts, been met with challenges that initially shook her confidence, but she'd overcome them all.

The lab was where Gibbs came to her for the truth. They all did – the entire team. She'd never let them down yet, and every day when she set out from home to work, she promised herself that today wouldn't be the day it happened.

The previous night had been difficult. Carol had called, needing to talk about her nephew; his mother was being deployed again, and Fisher was old enough now to be angry about her leaving. Carol wasn't sure how to handle him. Abby'd helped as best she could, but this was one of those times when not being a mother put her at a disadvantage.

Peace descended on her as she entered her domain; she stood for a moment, smiling and drinking in her haven with all her senses, her arms stretched wide as she hugged her technological army in her mind. Sighing in satisfaction, she moved to the inner sanctum, only to be brought up short by the sight of Tony pacing back and forth, muttering to himself and running his hand through his hair.

Tony being in her lab this early in the day was strange enough; his agitation was even stranger. He usually had much better control than that.

Even more out of place, however, was the beautiful black and silver fox sitting in the middle of her desk, bushy tail curled around its legs, eyes following Tony's every move. Abby's quickly indrawn breath drew its attention, and the silky head turned toward her, piercing blue eyes seeing right to her soul.

"Gibbs?!"

Tony and the Fox

Tony whirled around at the sound of her voice.

"What?" He looked back at the fox, then at her, his expression panicked. "No, Abs. Not just no, hell no. Take it back!"

Abby stood still, staring at the fox, who stared right back, shifting his legs a bit as he got more comfortable. She finally managed to tear her gaze away from the fox, and frowned at Tony.

"Of course he's Gibbs! Look at his eyes. Those are Gibbs' eyes, Tony."

Tony stared at her, then marched over to stand by her side, staring at the fox. The fox calmly shifted his gaze to stare back at Tony, who swore softly when he saw the slightly amused look in the blue eyes.

"Okay, I admit, those look a lot like Gibbs' eyes. But come on, Abby! Gibbs can't just turn into a fox. There has to be some other explanation."

Abby raised her eyebrows at him. "Why'd you bring him here, if you really don't believe he's Gibbs?" She waited, but got no response as Tony stubbornly stared at the floor, his arms crossed over his chest.

Abby stepped forward, moving next to the fox and holding out a hand for him to sniff. The fox leaned forward, his nose moving delicately over her skin while holding her gaze in his. He then raised his head up to her face, licking her on the cheek.

"See! That's Gibbs! Gibbs kisses me on the cheek."

Tony dropped his head into his hands. "Abby, please. It's not possible."

Abby looked at the fox, who looked back. They rolled their eyes simultaneously. Abby giggled and sat on the desk next to the fox, who shifted over a bit to give her room and went back to staring at Tony.

"Where did you find him?"

Tony muttered something under his breath.

"What was that? I couldn't hear you."

He glared at her. "Basement. Under the boat."

"Uh huh. Anything else under there?"

Tony turned his glare to the fox. "Gibbs' clothes."

"Really?! So is he a boxers or briefs guy?"

The fox growled low in his throat. Abby suppressed a smile. "Forget I asked."

Tony just shook his head. "There has to be a logical explanation. Maybe it's just a fox who likes bourbon."

The fox sighed.

Abby smiled and reached up to scratch the fox behind the ears. Her eyes widened. "Wow. Do you think his human hair is this soft?" The fox tolerated the petting for about another millisecond, then let out a pained whine and stood, shaking his whole body like a wet dog to settle the hair back into place. She dropped her hand and looked at him thoughtfully. "How about we prove to him that you're Gibbs?"

The fox tilted his head and gazed at her. Abby grinned. "Show me what Gibbs brings me every day as a token of his esteem."

The fox stood, stretched, then jumped carefully off the table to the floor, trotting out of the inner room to the refrigerator. He stood in front of the appliance, then looked back at Tony and barked once.

Tony stared at him. "Kind of a high pitched bark for the bossman, don't ya think, Abs?"

The fox growled.

"That's more like it," Tony muttered. He strode to the fridge and opened the door. The fox put his front feet on the lowest shelf, stretched up, and grabbed a Caff-Pow in his jaws, holding it gingerly by the cup's rim. He backed up and out of the fridge, then trotted over to Abby, who reached down and took the cup from him.

"Thanks, Gibbs!" She drank a bit through the straw, then held the cup up next to her face, raising her eyebrows and tilting her head while smiling at Tony.

Tony looked from her to the fox, who was once again watching him with that piercing stare.

"Crap. It's Gibbs."