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Paws for Christmas
by: taylorgibbs (Send Feedback)
Series: - No Series - #1
Chapters: 001 Word Count: 1737
Character(s): Jethro Gibbs, Tony DiNozzo, Jenny Shepard
Category(ies): Holiday, Hurt/Comfort
Summary: When Tony investigates Gibbs' mysterious disappearances, he discovers his lover has a house full of responsibilities.
Author Notes: Thanks to Hilde for the beta. Written for the Tibbs abandoned animal Christmas challenge on the chat list.
Though Tony’s relationship with Gibbs was getting more serious by the day, they rarely spent a whole night together. Gibbs would come over to Tony’s place, they’d eat dinner and mess around, and then Gibbs would leave by midnight. Tony didn’t understand why, but he wasn’t too worried yet. They were together on weekdays, they had to work in the morning and Gibbs would need fresh clothes and his own coffee; Tony could justify and understood.
The one night Gibbs had stayed over, he’d made a couple of apologetic phone calls. Tony hadn’t been able to hear the words, but the tone was foreign and so un-Gibbs-like that it worried Tony. He’d questioned it, but Gibbs had brushed him off.
But today…it was a Saturday, only seven pm. Gibbs could have stayed over if he wanted to—and Tony could see in Gibbs’ eyes that the last thing he wanted to do was leave his bed. Something was going on and Tony wanted answers.
He gave Gibbs fifteen minutes head start before he jumped in his car. Tony had a gut feeling that whatever was going on with Gibbs started at the house. Gibbs had begun locking his door; Abby had stopped by last week and she couldn’t get in. That wasn’t like Gibbs; he never locked up like that. His door was always open.
Tony drove the familiar streets, breathing out a sigh of relief and satisfaction when he saw Gibbs’ car was in the driveway. He’d been right; Gibbs had gone right home! Tony stepped out of the car, turning toward the house.
“No!” Gibbs yelled just as someone attacked Tony. He went down hard, his ankle twisting under him, back and head thunking against the driveway hard enough for him to see stars. Tony reached for his gun, but he was pinned by someone—no something—huge and furry.
“Bubbles, get over here. Now!”
Bubbles? Tony shook off his dizziness and started to stand, using the car door for leverage. His ankle was throbbing, his head hurt worse than after one of Gibbs’ slaps, and…
“Bubbles?” Tony asked incredulously.
A huge dog—maybe a husky—was standing beside Gibbs now, leash wrapped tightly in his boss’ hand.
“Yeah, Bubbles,” Gibbs said, shaking his head. “You okay, Tony?”
“Twisted my ankle,” Tony admitted, shrugging off Gibbs’ help. As he started limping toward the house, behind Gibbs and Bubbles, Tony had to ask. “When did you get a dog and why did you name it Bubbles?” With the hours they worked, having a dog was insane.
“Not mine and the name came with her. I’ll explain when we’re inside and you’re sitting down. Be careful. Don’t let anyone out.”
“Anyone?” Tony asked, confused. He eased the door open, moving ahead of Gibbs and the dog, but nobody was standing by it.
“Den,” Gibbs gestured, shrugging off his coat. “Bubbles needs water and you need an ice pack. Get your shoe off.”
“On it, Boss,” Tony muttered, completely mystified. There was something different about the house—more than just the dog. There was a presence he couldn’t identify—one that didn’t seem sinister or threatening, but was still there.
As Tony hobbled his way into the den and a small ball of fluff dodged around him, he realized what it was. There were more animals than just the dog here. That had to be a cat and…Tony stopped and looked around the den, staring. It was unbelievable.
Across the room from a tattered and partially destroyed Christmas tree, there were six cats lounging on the sofa, the recliner, and what had to be a pet bed. Tony blinked a few times before gingerly shifting one of the animals—a beautiful Siamese--aside and sitting on the couch. The cat blinked at him a few times and put its head down, some tinsel held in its paws, the claws working in and out of their hiding place idly.
Tony’s eyes were drawn to the cat on the recliner, a brown and black animal that had a strange wildcat pattern of darker swirls with lighter ones inside. It almost looked like a small leopard and it wasn’t like any animal he’d seen outside of the zoo. Compelled to get closer, Tony stood, moving slowly over to the sleeping cat. He reached a hand out, remembering that animals were supposed to get used to a human’s scent.
“Like him?” Gibbs asked, and Tony jumped, startled. He looked at Gibbs guiltily, but Gibbs just gave him a faint smile. “Sit down, Tony. Gotta ice the ankle.”
“Where’s the monster?”
“She drank. Now she’s outside.”
“What…” Tony gestured around the room as he settled back on the couch. “You’ve never been an animal guy, Dr. Doolittle. Good movies. Eddie Murphy or Rex Harrison. Probably the Rex Harrison is more your style.”
Gibbs let Tony talk until he was done, a small smile on his face. He scooped up a tiny gray and white kitten, nudged aside the Siamese, and sat next to Tony. Even though Tony wanted to pepper Gibbs with more questions, he waited, knowing Gibbs would talk in his own time.
Gibbs settled the kitten on his lap and lifted Tony’s foot so that it was draped between his knees. Tony leaned back against the arm of the couch and watched Gibbs apply the ice pack to his ankle, resting the kitten against the other side of his foot as well. The animal was purring and Tony tried not to chuckle, even though it was ticklish.
“The purr of a cat can help to heal,” Gibbs said suddenly.
“Yup.” Gibbs fell silent then and Tony looked at all the different cats, studying the sleek musculature of the Siamese to the fluffiness of the cat purring against his ankle, to the wild-looking one he’d almost petted.
“Still in contact with a lot of my friends from the Corps,” Gibbs said, breaking the silence.
Tony nodded, staying uncharacteristically quiet. This was going somewhere and he didn’t want to derail it.
“Lot of ‘em sent off to Iraq and Afghanistan. Lot of ‘em don’t have much family.” Gibbs’ tone was conversational, but Tony picked up on a thread of emotion growing. “The pet charities are overwhelmed with abandoned and sick animals with the economy. Even the ones that find homes for pets of soldiers are overwhelmed.”
Tony nodded again. All charities were stretched to their limits these days.
“Be a damned shame for these soldiers to lose their pets because they’re going off to war. All the usual groups in the area have too many pets to handle, so one of my buddies asked me to help out. Big house, big fenced-in yard.”
Now it all made sense. Gibbs couldn’t stay overnight; he’d have to walk the dog. “What about when we’re on big cases?” Tony asked. The cats were self sufficient, but the dog would have to be walked regularly.
“Mrs. Murphy next door checks on them. The night I stayed with you, her daughter Gretchen stayed over.”
Tony nodded. “Your friends, they’re lucky to have you.”
Gibbs just shrugged.
“How long will you have these guys?”
A shadow passed across Gibbs’ face then and Tony wondered if he’d said the wrong thing. “Bubbles, Jasmine, Terry, and Brown go home in April.” Tony followed Gibbs’ finger as he pointed to a black and white cat, a nearly completely white one, and a sleek dark furred animal sleeping together in the pet bed.
“Okay,” Tony said, knowing there was more, knowing he had to say something here.
“But Smoke, Sheba, and Gunny,” Gibbs motioned to the cat curled against Tony’s leg, the Siamese, and then the cat in the recliner. “Their owner died in the line of duty. They’re officially abandoned.”
“What are you gonna do?” Tony asked, the words slipping out before he could stop them. The kitten cuddled against his foot was cute, and Tony was fascinated by the wild-looking one. He didn’t want to think of any of them—not even the dog—going someplace where they’d be stuck in a cage…or worse.
“Keep them.” There was a slightly bemused expression on Gibbs’ face, as if he was completely confused by why Tony would ask such a question.
Tony nodded, feeling like an idiot all of a sudden. “What kind of cat is that one? It looks…wild.”
“Called a Bengal, thinks he’s a dog.” Gibbs clicked his fingers. “Gunny,” he called, patting his very full lap. The cat lifted his head and licked a paw. “Gunny!” Gibbs said again, injecting that tone of command that made Tony shiver, into his voice. The cat ambled to his feet and came over to the couch, springing onto it and walking across Gibbs’ lap to Tony’s. He stood there, eyeing Tony curiously, big intelligent green eyes fixed on him.
“Scratch him under the chin. He loves that.” Tony did as requested and the cat extended its neck, settling in between them.
“His fur is the softest I’ve seen.”
“Trait of the breed. I have a book here about them, if you’re interested. “Smoke here is a Silver Bengal. Silver spots on lighter silver fur. And Sheba is a Siamese.
“You’re really gonna keep ‘em.”
“Yeah,” Gibbs said, and then paused, clearly getting ready to say more. Tony waited expectantly, nodding. “Lot of work. Feeding, litter boxes…” He smiled when Gunny pulled Tony’s hand down, delicately snagging Tony’s hand in his paws.
“Petting, too,” Tony finished.
“Yeah. Might need some help.” A small smile was playing over Gibbs’ mouth. “Think ya might wanna spend more time here?”
“Is that an offer?”
“Yup. Ya interested?”
Tony took a second to consider the question, aware that his answer meant a great deal. The comfort and calmness he felt relaxing on the couch with Gibbs and these animals gave him peace—a peace Tony had always felt eluded him. Before he answered, the brown cat came over, meowed in his ear, and flopped down on Tony’s lap and he suddenly found the right words.
“You think I’m gonna leave you…this?”
“Glad you said that.”
MTAC - NCIS Fic