AUTHOR: Ashleigh Anpilova
CHARACTERS: Team Gibbs
SUMMARY: It's Christmas Eve and Team Gibbs is forced to spend the night at the office.
WORD COUNT: 4,120
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Written for sharpiesgal: S - Sleep over (17/41)
DISCLAIMER: I don't own these characters, nor am I making any money from them. I merely borrow them from time to time.
His part of the report finally finished Gibbs took his glasses off and rubbed the bridge of his nose. It had been a long, hard, tedious and distressing case - but thankfully it was over and all the loose ends had been tied up.
He leaned back in his chair and looked around his part of the squad room, letting his gaze come to rest for a moment or two on each member of his field team. They were all still working hard; McGee's fingers flew over his keyboard as he stared at the screen; Ziva was also typing, but not as quickly as McGee, and she paused from time to time to check something with the file that was open on her desk; DiNozzo was sorting a pile of files and ticking things off against a list on his computer.
He was proud of them all; in fact he was damned proud of them - not that he'd ever tell them, but he was. When Vance had told the entire agency they could go home at lunch time, Gibbs had asked his field team if they'd mind staying to finish up the paperwork on the case. And for once he had asked, he hadn't insisted; they'd already put in far more hours than any even close to normal working week. None of them had even hesitated; they'd all just sat down at their desks and started to work.
Yeah, he was proud of them; he really was. Maybe he should tell them, but that wasn't him. Sure he did the 'good job' or gave them a pat on the back from time to time, but that was as far as it went. Well, they were going to meet up with Ducky, Jimmy and Abby later for a Christmas Eve drink and meal - maybe he could find a way to show them then; to thank them.
"Oh-oooh," Gibbs turned his attention to McGee who'd stopped typing and was staring at the TV screen.
"This is not good, boss," DiNozzo called as he grabbed the remote control and turned the volume up.
Gibbs looked at the TV screen as well and swore as the newscaster talked about 'an unexpectedly heavy snowfall' 'hazardous conditions' 'not driving unless you had to' 'cars already getting stuck and buried'.
"Er, boss," DiNozzo called from the window. "You'd better come and see this."
Gibbs, followed by both McGee and Ziva, went over to the window and stared out. "Damn it," Gibbs said as he stared down at the snow that covered the sidewalk and road and realized he couldn't see the walls that surrounded the navy yard. He'd seen deep snow before, he'd driven in it; if you knew what you were doing it was fine. But even he hadn't seen anything like this. He estimated a good two foot of snow had fallen in a very short space of time.
He stared at half buried cars, watched a couple of hardy souls try to make their way along where the sidewalk should have been, struggling through snow that was up to their knees. As he stared he realized no one was going anywhere - even he couldn't drive in those conditions and all the cars would be half buried anyway.
"Guess we won't be going anywhere tonight," he said looking at the others.
"We could try, boss. Maybe it’s not as bad as it looks."
Gibbs just gave DiNozzo one of his withering stares and strode back to his desk and sat down. McGee, Ziva and in particular DiNozzo moved more slowly, but in turn they left the window, returned to their desks and sat down.
Gibbs picked up the phone. "I'd better call Ducky, make sure he got home all right and tell him we won't be meeting up tonight." He pressed a button and listened to the sound of Ducky's cell phone ring for a second or two before it was answered. "Hey, Duck," he said, "it's me. Did you get home okay?" To his surprise Ducky was silent for a moment, "Duck? You okay?"
"Um, yes, my dear, I am quite well. However, as a matter of fact I am not at home."
"You're not stuck in the snow are you, Duck?" Immediately Gibbs was thinking about ways of digging his truck out of the snow and finding a way to get to Ducky - the Morgan in snow such as what was outside would be not be a good place to be.
"Oh, no, Jethro, I can assure you I am not stuck in the snow."
Gibbs blinked. "Where are you then, Duck? Did you go home with Abbs or Palmer?" Maybe they'd all decided to stay together given they were due to meet up later that night.
"Er, not exactly, Jethro. I am, however, with Abigail and Mr. Palmer."
"Duck! Where the hell are you?"
"Er, boss," McGee said slowly. "Look."
Gibbs turned to glare at him. "McGee. I'm . . ." he came to a halt as he stared in the direction McGee was looking. "What the -" The handset still in his hand he stood up and stared across the squad room to where Ducky, his cell phone still to his ear stood; on one side of him stood a beaming Abby, on the other a somewhat flustered and nervous looking Palmer. "Duck?"
"Yes, Jethro, it is indeed I."
"But -" Suddenly Gibbs realized he was still talking to Ducky via the phone and slammed it down and glared; what the hell were Ducky, Abby and Palmer still doing there? He'd told them they could go when the rest of the agency had gone home.
He stood and just glared as Ducky with Abby by his side and Palmer now slightly behind him, came across the squad room. "Hello, Jethro," he said brightly as they reached Gibbs's area of the room. And then in true Ducky fashion he glanced away from Gibbs and greeted the others smiling at each of them in turn, "Ziva, Timothy, Anthony."
"Hello, Ducky," McGee said after glancing quickly at Gibbs.
"Hey, Ducky, come and sit down." DiNozzo jumped to his feet and all but dragged Ducky to his chair which he pulled out from behind his desk and pushed him down into it.
"Good afternoon, Ducky," Ziva said and smiled.
"Thank you, Anthony," Ducky said sitting down in the chair and smiling at DiNozzo. Abby went and sat on McGee's desk and after a moment or two's hesitation Palmer crept over to Ziva's desk and after glancing at Ziva and obtaining permission perched on the very edge of it.
"Well," Ducky said beaming around at all of them. "This is nice, is it not? All of us here together."
Abby nodded. "Yes, it is. Well," she demanded looking around at them all. "Isn't it?" One by one the rest of the kids nodded or murmured their agreement. Finally Abby looked at Gibbs. "Gibbs, don't you think it's nice?"
Gibbs was still glaring at Ducky who was sitting quite comfortably in DiNozzo's chair calmly meeting Gibbs's glare. "The thing is," Gibbs said, leaving his desk and walking towards Ducky where he stood, arms folded glowering down at Ducky who just continued to gaze up placidly at him.
He might have known the intimidation wouldn't work; it never did with Ducky - especially as he knew full well that while he was glaring and glowering, it was only in the way he ever glared at Ducky. He sighed and unfolded his arms, "The thing is we aren't all meant to be together - are we, Duck?"
"Well, my dear, we had made arrangements to go out to dine together tonight, do you not remember?"
Gibbs sighed and sat down on the edge of DiNozzo's desk. "Gee, Duck, let me think, do I remember saying to you, after I'd told you Vance was sending everyone home, 'see you later tonight, Duck'? You know, what I do remember."
Ducky beamed. "Oh, good, that's all right then."
Gibbs shook his head. "Just tell me one thing, Duck."
"Why are you, Abby and Palmer still here? Why didn't you go home when I told you to?"
"Ah," Ducky said and glanced away from Gibbs for a moment. Gibbs was aware the rest of the team were all watching and listening to the exchange - and were all completely silent, which had to almost rank as a first. "You see, my dear, the thing is . . ."
"Well, the thing is, I know what you can be like at times. And when you told me that you, dear Ziva, Timothy and Anthony were all going to stay and finish the reports on the Anderson case, I . . . Well, I . . ." He broke off and to Gibbs's surprise his cheeks became a little flushed.
"You . . .?"
Ducky sighed. "I wanted to ensure that you would not choose to go home and leave the rest of us without your company; that is all. And well, there was work that I had to do."
"On Christmas Eve?"
"Well, I confess it could have waited, but given I had put it off for some time, I felt and . . . Well, then Mr. Palmer volunteered to stay and help, did you not, Jimmy?"
Palmer jumped and his cheeks became very red. He began to nod vigorously. "Oh, yes, Agent Gibbs, I did; I really did. Dr. Mallard told me that I could go, but I wanted to stay and help him."
"And you may have needed to check something with us about the autopsies," Ducky said swiftly.
"Yeah, right, Duck. You mean something that wasn't in your comprehensive report?" Ducky didn't reply, he just glanced away again for a moment. "And you, Abbs?"
"Me? Um, well, I went down to see Ducky to check what time we were meeting up and . . . Well, I decided to stay and help him and Jimmy." She beamed.
"And a great help, you were too, Abigail," Ducky said smiling at Abby.
"Aww, thank you, Ducky." And Abby jumped off of McGee's desk, hurried across the room, bent over Ducky and hugged him.
"Give me strength," Gibbs muttered, rolling his eyes.
"Is there a particular problem with us still being here?" Ducky asked, shifting slightly in the chair and once more turning his full attention onto Gibbs.
"No, Duck, course there isn't."
"What about the snow?"
"Gee, DiNozzo, I wonder if Ducky noticed the snow?"
"Sorry, boss." DiNozzo flushed and looked away.
To his surprise Gibbs felt a flash of guilt pass through him. "Nah, DiNozzo, you're not the one who needs to apologize. Didn't mean to - Sorry," he muttered. Then he looked at Ducky, "You have seen what it's like outside, haven't you, Duck?"
"Yes, my dear, I confess I, well we," he indicated Abby and Palmer, "have indeed seen what it is like. I am sorry, Jethro," he said, leaning forward and touching Gibbs's knee.
"For behaving like a foolish old man and insisting on staying behind."
Gibbs opened his mouth but a chorus of, "You're not old, Ducky/Dr. Mallard," drowned him out.
Ducky chuckled softly and smiled at each of the kids in turn. "That is very gratifying, my dears," he said, "But I did behave somewhat foolishly and in doing so have condemned you Abby," he looked at Abby, "as well as you Jimmy," he glanced at Jimmy, "to spending a night here. I am sorry, my dears." And then before either of them could reply, he looked at Gibbs, "I am correct, am I not, Jethro? There isn't any chance of us being able to leave the building tonight, is there?"
Gibbs shook his head. "Not unless we get a sudden heat-wave, which given the moon's now out, I can't see happening. We're stuck here for tonight at least." Ducky sighed and looked so despondent that Gibbs leaned forward and squeezed his arm. "Wasn't your fault, Duck," he said.
Ducky gave him a weak smile. "It is very kind of you to say so, my dear, but it was my fault. I really am so very sorry, Abby and Jimmy."
Abby jumped up and hurried over to hug Ducky again. "Well, I'm not," she said, kissing his cheek. "Are you, Jimmy?"
Jimmy slid off of Ziva's desk and joined Abby by Ducky and shook his head. "No," he said firmly. "I'm not."
Ducky blinked. "Are you not?" Abby and Jimmy both shook their heads. "But why on earth are you not?"
"Because," Abby said, kissing Ducky's cheek again before putting one arm through Jimmy's and the other through DiNozzo's, "we're all together. Okay, so it's not the way we’d planned to be together on Christmas Eve, but the thing that matters is that we are all together. Right?" She looked at the others.
McGee and Ziva both got up and joined the rest of the group. Ziva put one arm through DiNozzo's and the other through McGee's and they both smiled. "Abby's right, Ducky," McGee said, "that's what matters."
"It sure is," DiNozzo said without any hesitation.
Palmers was once again nodding vigorously.
"It is indeed what matters." Ziva spoke softly. "And I know that Christmas is not my holiday, but I am very glad, very grateful to be here with my," she paused and said softly, "family."
To his surprise Gibbs felt the his throat become tight and his eyes prickled as he looked at the kids all gathered in a semi-circle around Ducky; he watched as Ducky touched Palmer's hand and squeezed it; Palmer beamed.
Gibbs was giving serious consideration to leaving the squad room and going to the head to splash cold water on his face when Ducky held out his other hand. "Jethro?" he said quietly. The kids all turned to look at Gibbs.
Gibbs swallowed hard before moving towards Ducky and taking his hand. "Yeah, you know what? You're all of you right. That is what matters."
They stood for a moment just content to be close to one another, joined to one another in some way or another. It was Gibbs who broke the tableau. "Okay, so what exactly are we going to do now that we are all together?"
"Charades," called Abby.
"Truth or dare," DiNozzo suggested.
"I meant for food and bedding," Gibbs said silencing them.
"There'll be blankets and stuff in the stores," McGee said. "Or at least something we can use. Come on, Tony, Palmer, let's go and see what we can find," and they hurried off together.
"Ooh, and remember the heads of the other agencies were due to meet with Vance today? Well it was cancelled and I'm sure the lunch wasn't. It's probably in the conference room. Come on, Ziva, let's go and see." Abby took Ziva's hand and together they half ran, half walked across the squad room.
"And I have a case of wine down in Autopsy," Ducky said about to stand up.
Gibbs put his hand on his shoulder. "You stay there, Duck, I'll get it. Er, Duck, why have you got a case of wine in Autopsy?"
"I always have it delivered here, Jethro, well since Mother . . . There would be no point having it delivered to my home given I am never there during the day."
"Good point. You sure you want to open it?"
"Oh, yes, of course I am, Jethro. And you'll find a cork-screw in the top drawer of my desk, the right hand side."
Gibbs smiled at him. "Ah, Duck," he said giving Ducky's hair a quick ruffle.
Ducky beamed at him. "Well, for what are you waiting?"
"Oh, it, Duck," Gibbs said and smiling headed off to Autopsy.
Abby had been right; the lunch ordered for the agency heads hadn't been cancelled and was still in excellent condition, having been left covered. It took Abby and Ziva several trips to bring all the food down to the squad room - and they were helped by DiNozzo, McGee and Palmer who returned with plenty of blankets, even some pillows and, to Gibbs's surprise, a few blow-up beds.
He wasn’t bothered for himself or really any of the kids; they were all used to roughing it at times, and all of them had slept in various places at the office on more than one occasion - but he was concerned about making sure Ducky could get as comfortable as possible and support his leg.
They ate and drank and chatted away; Abby and McGee did their 'thing' and before long Christmas carols and other Christmas music was coming from McGee's computer. They even, after Abby remembered for some unremembered reason that there was a box of Trivial Pursuit in the evidence lock-up and, without explaining to Gibbs how she'd be able to get in, hurried off to fetch it, played games.
They spent some time arguing gently as to how they'd team up; girls against boys was ruled to be unfair, as was the field team versus the non-field team. Finally Abby proposed they pair up with the exception of Ducky who knew everything about everything and as such was as good as two people on his own.
Blushing and insisting that wasn't the case it was just that he was older, thus had experienced more, Ducky agreed. Thus, Gibbs found himself paired with Palmer, while Abby and DiNozzo paired up and McGee and Ziva joined forces. It had been Gibbs himself who'd suggested that split, saying he couldn’t stand an evening spent with Ziva and DiNozzo bickering all the time over every single answer, which they would have done had they been paired together.
In the end it was Ducky who prevailed and won the game, although it had been a very hard fought game and very close and everyone had correctly answered a lot of questions. With DiNozzo leading the applause and Abby handing round more wine, they became more and more animated.
As he sat and watched and listened to the others laugh and joke and gently tease one another, Gibbs realized he couldn't remember the last time he'd enjoyed a Christmas Eve so much.
"Tell us a story, Ducky," Abby said suddenly.
"Oh, yes, please do, Dr. Mallard," Palmer beamed. Ducky had given up telling Palmer to call him Ducky rather than Dr. Mallard.
"Yeah, go on, Ducky," DiNozzo said.
"Oh, I'm sure you don't want to listen to my rambles."
"Yes, we do, Ducky," McGee said and then added swiftly, "not that I'm saying you ramble."
Everyone laughed, including Ducky and McGee's face grew very red.
"Please tell us something, Ducky," Ziva said softly.
Ducky glanced at Gibbs who shrugged. "You know me, Duck, always happy to listen to your stories."
Ducky's eyes gleamed. "In that case why is it that you interrupt me so often, Jethro?"
Once more they all laughed. "He's got you there, boss," DiNozzo called.
Gibbs nodded. "Sure have."
Ducky smiled and looked around at them all. "Well," he said, "as it is getting quite late, rather than a story, may I recite a poem to you? It has a tradition in the Mallard household. It is a poem my mother first read to me when I was, oh, I can't recall how old I was exactly, but I was very young. And thereafter every Christmas Eve she would read it and later on, I learnt the words and for a few years it became my 'party piece'. Even much later on, right up until her death, I would recite the poem to her - even when she no longer understood or remembered the tradition; I still did it. Oh, dear," he said, looking around the now silent group. "I am sorry, my dears, I have quite spoilt the mood of the evening, have I not?"
Gibbs shook his head. "No, Duck, you haven't. And reckon the kids got their story after all, even if it was one of your shorter ones." He hoped his tone and words were right: light enough to break the somewhat somber mood, but deep enough to let Ducky know how much they cared. "And I'd like to hear the poem."
"Yes, Ducky, please. Please. Please. Please."
"Come on, Ducky, tell us."
"Yes, please, do, Dr. Mallard."
"I would very much like to hear it, Ducky."
Ducky looked around and smiled. "Very well then," he said. "Some of you may know it, or at least part of it, as it is quite well known. It is 'Twas The Night Before Christmas. Otherwise known as A Visit From St. Nick by Clement Clarke Moore. Although some people believe it was in fact written by - but that is of no importance at the moment."
"I've heard of it," DiNozzo said. "There's a mouse in it, right? Or something like that."
"I know the first few lines," McGee said.
Abby nodded. "Me too."
"I read it once, but I can't remember it," Palmer said flushing slightly.
"I have never heard of it," Ziva said slowly, frowning slightly.
Ducky smiled. "Shall I begin?" The others nodded. "There are quite s few verses, so if you'd rather I didn't bore you with all of them, I can just tell you the first couple."
"Oh, no, we want it all, don't we?" Abby said quickly looking around at the others. The kids all nodded vigorously.
"Would you like me to find it on the web and print it out for you, Ducky?" McGee said about to stand up.
Ducky smiled. "That's very kind and thoughtful of you, Timothy, but there is no need. I assure you that even though it is quite long, I do indeed know it by heart."
The kids all gathered around Ducky and looked expectantly at him. Gibbs stayed where he was sitting on the edge of this desk and watched his oldest, closest friend and the five men and women who somewhere along the line had become like five children to him and smiled. He was happy; he was content; he was actually glad the snow had forced them to spend the evening at the Navy yard. He listened as Ducky began to recite a poem he remembered from his childhood; well he remembered parts of it.
"'Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
in hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there.
The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
while visions of sugar plums danced in their heads.
And Mama in her 'kerchief, and I in my cap,
had just settled our brains for a long winter's nap.
When out on the roof there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from my bed to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I flew like a flash,
tore open the shutter, and threw up the sash.
The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow
gave the lustre of midday to objects below,
when, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
but a miniature sleigh and eight tiny reindeer."
Ducky continued to recite several more verses as Gibbs just sat and listened and watched his family. Not one of the kids moved or made a sound; they just listened seemingly spell-bound to Ducky's beautiful, hypnotic voice.
Finally Ducky said softly, "He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.
But I heard him exclaim, 'ere he drove out of sight,
"Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night!
And that, my dears, is it; that is my Christmas Eve traditional poem. I do hope you all enjoyed it and thank you for indulging me."
"It was beautiful, Ducky," Abby said and the others agreed.
"Right," Gibbs said standing up and clapping his hand. "Time we all settled down and got some sleep."
It took about half an hour before they were all settled on chairs, the floor or the blow-up beds. Gibbs wasn't the only person who had insisted on putting Ducky's comfort before his own and he was pleased to see all the kids fussed around Ducky and made sure he was quite comfortable and his leg was well supported before they all settled down.
It was left to Gibbs to switch the final light off: his desk lamp. Before he did he looked around once more at his family and smiled. "Sleep well," he murmured, before plunging the room into darkness.