AUTHOR: Ashleigh Anpilova
CHARACTERS: Donald 'Ducky' Mallard and Abigail Sciuto (with two wee appearances by Gibbs)
SUMMARY: Abby and Ducky have a secret.
WORD COUNT: 2,600
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Written for doylebaby: S - Smart. There are some images at the end of this story that will help to illustrate it.
DISCLAIMER: I don't own these characters, nor am I making any money from them. I merely borrow them from time to time.
"Hey, Duckman," Abby called, as she bounced into Autopsy. "Have you -" She came to an abrupt stop as Ducky hastily turned his computer screen off and stood up.
"Abigail. You really should not creep up on people," he said, his tone slightly sharp in a way it rarely was.
She blinked and looked at him. To her eyes he seemed very slightly flustered; he pushed back his hair from his forehead, repositioned his glasses and even tweaked his bowtie. Abby also thought she could see faint flush on his cheeks. "What are you up to, Ducky?" she asked, moving nearer to him and for once ignoring the fact he'd called her 'Abigail'.
"Nothing." However, Ducky's gaze skittered away from Abby to his computer and back again.
She smiled and moved even nearer to him. "You so are, Ducky."
"I do not know what you mean, Abigail. Now what may I do for you?" Ducky began to move away from his desk and across Autopsy.
However, by virtue of making herself as large as she could, Abby stopped him. Ignoring his 'what may I do for you', she said, "You turned your computer screen off when I arrived. What were you looking at Ducky?"
He frowned and moved away in the opposite direction. "I do not know what you mean, Abby. Why on earth would I turn off my computer screen, just because you had arrived? I turned it off because I had finished what I was doing."
She put her hands on her hips and stared at his retreating back. He was lying to her, Ducky was lying to her! It was almost as bad as Gibbs raising his voice to her. "Show me," she demanded.
He turned around. "There's nothing to show, Abby. Really, it's all in your mind. A simple coincidence, that is all."
"There's no such thing as coincidences," Abby quoted.
Ducky rolled his eyes and then said, his voice gentler, "My dear Abigail, I hate to disillusion you, but Jethro is not always correct in everything he says or believes."
"Are you going to tell him that or shall I?" She beamed and he laughed. For a moment the incident was forgotten and it was all perfectly normal; Ducky was Ducky.
But Abby was Abby; she didn't let go of anything. In her job it was a good thing, she knew that. She knew the team could rely on her to follow things through until the bitter end, no matter what the cost.
For a moment memories of just what that cost could be sobered her. Then she pushed them aside; they were in the past, they had happened, she couldn't unhappen them - something Ducky was always fond of saying. Well, Ducky didn't use 'unhappen', of course, but the sentiment was the same.
So she closed the gap between her and Ducky again and slipped her arm through his. "Come on, Duckman," she wheedled. "Tell me, please," she added.
He turned and looked up at her and sighed. "Abby, really, you are making a fuss about nothing. It was just something someone sent to me, that is all." To Abby's surprise Ducky's cheeks reddened again.
Her mind went into overdrive as she tried to imagine quite what could be causing Ducky such embarrassment. Suddenly one thought came to her mind, but no, not Ducky, surely? Before she could stop herself she blurted out, "It wasn't Tony, was it?"
"What wasn't Anthony?" Ducky looked puzzled.
"Who sent you whatever it was. No, of course it wouldn't be Tony, because he'd send you - and well, that's not . . . I mean. It's okay, Ducky, we all do it."
Ducky pulled his arm away and turned to face her. "Abigail, what on earth do you think I was sent?" His tone was firm; a faint hint of steel touched it. His gaze was hard, almost cold; the pale blue seemed to have become grey.
Abby swallowed, suddenly slightly unnerved by Ducky. "Um, nothing, Ducky. Just . . . Nothing. Look, I'm sorry; it's none of my business. I'll just . . ."
Ducky sighed and shook his head. And to Abby's relief his eyes began to twinkle and the steely stare softened. Then he chuckled softly and took her hand. "Oh, Abby, Abby, Abby," he said. "Come along, let me show you." They walked back to his computer and he turned on the screen.
She looked at it, not sure quite what to expect. But what ever she might have had in mind, it wasn't this. "Oh," she said. "It's . . ." She trailed off; she didn’t quite know what it was. "Very nice," she added.
Ducky began to chuckle again. "I know; it does look very simplistic, does it not?"
"Um," Abby said. Then because she was honest and it was Ducky said quietly, "A bit."
"That is what I thought to begin with. Indeed, I very nearly dismissed it totally, but I don't know there was something about him," he pointed towards the green wormlike creature with the big eye, "that intrigued me. That and also the fact my Godson asked me to see beyond the first impression and try it. So I did. And I assure you it is not simplistic. Oh, well it is at one level, it's a game that could be played by someone fairly young, but also by intelligent adults." As he spoke, Ducky's voice took on his storytelling and teaching tone.
Abby, however, still wasn't completely convinced. It looked so . . . So basic. "What do you have to do?" she asked, more out of politeness than anything else.
"Well, in essence you have to make words. It's rather like a combination of a word search puzzle and Scrabble. More the former than the latter, as you have to use letters that adjoin one another. But also like Scrabble it has bonus tiles and your score is higher if you are able to use them. Oh, and it has bonus words - now they really push your score up. Although sometimes you find you are concentrating so hard on making one that you miss a burning tile, and suddenly your entire library is burnt." Ducky was completely animated now.
Ducky nodded. "Yes, they drop at intervals. I haven't yet figured out quite what triggers them, because sometimes Bookworm here can tell you how well you have done and give you a bonus tile and yet a burning tile is released at the same time. It is very strange indeed. I am sure that your good self and Timothy could possibly figure the programming out and see what triggered it, but - Do forgive me, I'm rambling."
Abby smiled; she had rarely seen Ducky so excited about something. "Show me," she said. "Go on, show me how it works."
Ducky smiled. "I am sure you are not really interested, Abigail."
"Yes, I am. Please, Ducky." She slipped her arm through his again and smiled her 'Ducky smile'.
He patted her hand and laughed. "Ah, Abby, I know what Jethro means when he says how hard it is to say no to you."
However, Ducky moved quickly to his chair and ignored her question. "Be warned, it is very addictive. At first I played via the on-line version, but I found myself staying here until far too late in the evening, because I couldn't save a game and didn't want to abandon it. So I bought a copy. Of course, like all games, there are elements about it that are somewhat irksome."
"Really?" Abby asked out of courtesy not interest. She was anxious to get on with seeing the game, not talking about it.
However, Ducky nodded and continued to talk. "Oh, yes. The spelling for one thing."
"Yes. I know it was invented by an American and produced by an American company, but you would have thought it might be a little more worldly, would you not? Of course there are some non-American spellings, but I would have expected more. And it's not just the spelling, but a lack of knowledge of words. In many ways it has quite an extensive dictionary, indeed I myself have learnt the odd word or two - although how many of them are actual words, I am not entirely certain. But there are other words, ones I have used or known for most of my life that simply aren't there."
"Oh," Abby said, trying to peer around Ducky to actually get on with playing the game.
"Indeed, I even took the liberty of emailing those who produced the game to ask if there was any way of editing the dictionary, I explained why. However, sadly there is not. They did say they understood my frustration and would take my comments on board for the next release. Whether they will or not is highly debatable. But at least they took the time to respond, a courtesy that not everyone shows these days. So that impressed me considerably. It was good of them, was it not?"
"Yeah, very good, Ducky. Look, can I see the game now, please."
"Oh, of course, my dear Abigail. Do please forgive me." And Ducky turned his attention to his computer. "Right, we'll start here. Let's see what we can make. It's a minimum of three letters, but you should try for at least four, that does seem to delay the burning tiles. Now, let me see. We have a W an I an N a-"
"T," Abby interrupted. "And an E and R. 'Winter'."
"Ah, we can do slightly better than that," Ducky said, glancing up at her. "Look to the left rather than the right."
"Ooh, yes, another E and a D. 'Wintered'."
Ducky clicked on each tile, then clicked a second time on the last one. The tiles disappeared, seeming to fly towards the Bookworm who ate them. Abby giggled as he burped.
"Oh, dear. I must confess that is one of the slightly embarrassing aspects about this."
"No, it's not, Duckman. It's fun. It's like Bert." She beamed.
"Ah, yes, Bert." Ducky looked at her. "Now you can see other tiles have dropped down, so we just continue to make words.
For the next ten minutes they happily created words together, coming up with five, six, seven and even ten letter words. Then suddenly, just after Bookworm had told them 'excellent' and turned one of the tiles yellow, a red N appeared at the top of one of the columns. "Is that the burning tile?" Abby asked. By now she was sitting on Ducky's desk, totally engrossed in the game.
Ducky nodded. "Yes. Now we have to use it as soon as possible." He stared at the screen. One hand on his shoulder Abby leaned nearer also staring at the screen. "Oh, dear," he said. "We are not going to be able to use it this time or indeed for the next few moves, not unless something useful drops. We can, of course, scramble, but that does tend to drop more burning tiles. It is not something one should do too often. Oh, look, right at the bottom, we can make 'Now'. We'll have to do that if nothing else appears."
"What happens if we can't use it? You say the library burns down."
"Show me. Oh, please, Ducky," she added, as he looked at her.
"Oh, but, Abby, we have a very good score. Perhaps . . . Oh, very well," he said.
She beamed. "That's my Duckman," she bounced on the desk. "Ow." Ducky just looked at her and shook his head. His look seemed to be questioning quite how intelligent she really was. She ginned back at him.
She watched in fascination as the tile in effect ate its way down the screen. When it got to the bottom, Bookworm started to sweat and warned them. But Ducky, even though he hesitated for a second, ignored 'Now' and made another word. The next moment the entire library turned black and charred, before their score, just over a quarter of a million, showed. "That is so cool," Abby said. "I have to -"
"Hey, what are you two up to?" Gibbs strode into Autopsy. Ducky hastily turned off the screen and stood up and Abby jumped down from his desk.
"Hey, Gibbs," she said, beaming at him.
"Good afternoon, Jethro." Ducky turned to look at Jethro.
"Been looking for you, Abbs."
"I've been here."
"Yeah, see that. What are you doing?"
"Nothing. I just came to give Ducky these," Abby said quickly, handing over a file to Ducky. "It's the results on Petty Officer Simpson. Catch you later, Ducky," she added, before bouncing her way across Autopsy. She stopped as she reached Gibbs. "You said you'd been looking for me, bossman?"
"Yeah, need you to trace something for me. Left it with McGee in your lab."
She smiled. "Thanks, Gibbs," and she hurried out of Autopsy.
FOUR HOURS LATER
Her work done, Abby did a quick on-line search and found a link and downloaded Bookworm. Casting a quick glance over her shoulder to make sure the door was shut, she began to play.
Her score was creeping up towards a million when a noise behind her made her jump. "Ooh," she said, "Ducky! You shouldn't creep on someone like that." He raised an eyebrow and looked at her, his lips twitching with amusement. She remembered: he had said the same thing to her earlier in the day. "Look," she said. "I'm almost at a million. You're right, Ducky, it is addictive and you're right about it not being simplistic. I thought I was pretty smart but -"
"You are, my dear. In fact you are very smart," Ducky said, perching on the edge of one of the tall stools Abby had in her lab.
"Aww, thank you, Duckman. And so are you."
"Why, thank you, Abigail."
"You two done with the mutual appreciation society."
"Gibbs!" Abby hastily switched to another program.
"Good evening, Jethro." Ducky spoke calmly. "Hasn't it been a lovely day?"
Gibbs looked from Ducky to Abby and back again. "You okay, Duck?"
"I'm perfectly all right, thank you, Jethro. Why do you ask?"
Gibbs stared at him and shrugged.
"What can I do for you, Gibbs?" Abby said brightly.
He shook his head and looked at Ducky. "After Ducky, actually."
Ducky stood up and moved nearer to Gibbs. "What may I do for you, Jethro?"
Gibbs glanced at Abby, who now stood in front of her computer, and frowned. She simply beamed at him until he turned his attention back to Ducky. "Need you to do your thing for me, Duck." He handed Ducky a file.
Ducky glanced at it. "Shall we return to Autopsy, there is more room there?" He put his arm around Gibbs's back and still talking to him, guided him out of Autopsy.
Abby stood and watched until they'd gone. Once she heard the elevator depart, she flipped back to Bookworm and began to play again.
Finally, with the clock showing a quarter past ten and her score at just over two million her library burned down. She pouted; oh, well, it was time she went home.
As she tugged on her coat and gloves, she decided that like Ducky she would buy the game, that way she could save it. Then she and Ducky could have a competition to see who could get the highest scores and the longest words. It could be their secret addiction. She grinned to herself as she turned the lights off and left her lab. Ducky had a far wider vocabulary than she did, but she looked forward to the challenge.
Bookworm can be found and tried here.
An in progress game with no burning tiles.
An in progress game showing bonus tiles as well as burning tiles and Bookworm 'eating' a word.
A game that has come to the end. A burning tile got to the bottom without it being possible to make a word.
This shows the final score and level reached.
The second and fourth images are mine taken from games, the first comes from PopCap's website, the third one is snaffled from Google images.