Friday, July 11, 2014

Shards To A Whole: Mallard Manor

McGee-centric character study/romance. Want to start at the beginning? Click here.

Chapter 354: Mallard Manor

On Friday night, Ducky and Penny stay late post-Shabbos.

They didn't plan it, didn't need to. Conspiracy, apparently, comes naturally to these three.

Once he had the second round of dishes all in the dishwasher (can't get an entire dinner's worth, at least, not dinner for nine adults and one toddler, in addition to pots and pans in one go) Gibbs fetches a file filled with real estate listings.

He doesn't much like computers.

However he likes real estate agents even less. And his other best idea for how to do this was to call DiNozzo Sr. up and see if he could find something, but… Even if this is 'officially' a vacation house for their family, he's got a sense of the kind of place he's comfortable with, and then there's the kind of place Senior would come up with and those two places are not only not even remotely similar to each other, they're also in vastly different neighborhoods.

So, given the assignment of 'find a place on the water,' Gibbs decided to do some googling.

And for as much as he doesn't love computers, he'd have to say that was a hell of a lot less painful than trying to find the house he's currently sitting in.

Penny and Ducky are on the sofa, and he pulls an armchair over, and lays out a collection of pictures of places on the water.

Penny and Ducky look at them, nodding, sorting through, nodding again, and he's having a hard time reading those looks. He feels like he's got a pretty good collection there, but they don't seem pleased by this. They aren't really reading the listings, they're mostly just flipping through.

As Penny tidily stacks them on top of each other, Ducky says, "Jethro, I think you may be missing the scale of what we were thinking of for this."

Penny nods, as she tucks all the listings back into the manila folder. "At least five bedrooms, seven is better, nine would be optimal, but we're unlikely to find it."

The cabins he'd found were all in the two to four bedroom range, and he'd been nervous about the four bedroom one, it was so expensive it made him want to blush.

So, it takes him a moment to stop staring, dumbstruck, at both of them and inquire, "Duck, Penny, did you look at the prices on those?"

Penny nods. Ducky says, "Indeed."

"We have money, Jethro."

"At least five bedrooms, similar number of bathrooms, seven bedrooms is even better because that'll give the youngest members some room to themselves and lets us set up a girls and boys room. Nine would be perfect because if Jimmy and Breena have their way, there are going to be a lot of children running around this place. It needs enough land to be private. As you know, it has to be on the water. It needs a pier and boat house of some sort, because we have to keep Shannon in good shape."

Gibbs still can't find words. He blinks and exhales and finally says, "That's gonna cost a ton."

"We know," Penny says, definitively.

Jethro shakes his head, he can't even think of how much that'll cost. The beat to hell up four bedroom he'd found had topped out at $650,000. "You've got to give me a price range then."

"Three point six million," Ducky says, calmly.

"Duck!" That takes Gibbs' breath away.

"We can put in that much. Though it would be a good idea not to put all of that into the real estate, a place like that will need furnishings, and we'll need to build some sort of trust to pay the property taxes on it. Call it two point seven, less if it needs extensive repair. The market was still hot when I sold the home I shared with Mother. That money has been sitting around collecting interest and dust for a long time. It'd be nice to do something interesting with it."

Penny adds in, "Likewise, the home I shared with Nelson sold well. I traveled but it would have taken years to burn off that sort of money. I'm a tenured professor. They pay me very well, and I live quite below my means."

"As Penny said, Jethro, we have money."

"We've been talking about it more. You're retired. Ducky won't be staying around for more than a few months. Jimmy, Tim, and Abby will all be running their own departments, Tony running his own team. Ziva at home. You won't be seeing each other every day anymore."

"The Navy Yard is no longer our home. And we need one. This needs to be a space for our whole family. Where we can all be together, at once. It will need to be big, at least one bedroom per couple. No matter what else we do with it, it has to be a comfortable space for all of us. Do you remember the home I shared with Mother?"

Gibbs nods.

Meant to be a family estate.
"That was meant to be a family estate, Jethro. It was meant to have multiple generations of people who called it home. A testament in stone and wood to people who valued and loved each other. Children and grandchildren were meant to grow there. That didn't work out, and it was vastly too large for two people and eight corgis. But, we can do this. We have the money, and it may be late for us, but we can build a home for our family."

"Mallard Manor?" Gibbs says with a slight laugh.

"Something like that," Penny says wryly. "One of the things Nelson and I had wanted, one thing we had envied Terri's parents for, was that they had a family home. We were going to build one. A place where, no matter what, our children and grandkids could come in out of the storm. It didn't happen. But that doesn't mean that it cannot happen."

"So, would this space be open to Sarah and…" Gibbs doesn't know exactly how many grandkids and great-grandkids Penny has, but he does know John was one of four children, and that his surviving brothers had married and had kids, too.

Penny shakes her head. "Sarah, maybe, in that she lives here and seems to be getting closer to the rest of this group. But not the rest of the grandchildren. Can't have nine other people and their spouses and kids wandering in and out of the place, not with what we're talking about doing with it."

"Will that cause problems?"

Penny shrugs. "It's possible. But Tim's the only one I see on a weekly basis. I see Sarah monthly. The rest send me emails for my birthday, and drop by if they're in the greater DC area. If they're mercenary enough to feel like they deserve a chunk of the cash, then they can come and visit me on occasion, too. At this point I'm much closer to Tony, Ziva, Jimmy, and Breena than I am to any of my grandchildren besides Tim."

"Okay." Calling DiNozzo Sr. just went on his to-do list. Apparently Penny and Ducky's idea of this place is right down the street from Senior's idea of the place. "How's your end of it going?"

Penny shrugs. "Less concrete moving forward. I joined the Amnesty International group on campus, as well as well as a pro-immigration one. So far I'm just getting a good idea of who is who. Most of the 'do-gooder feminist' groups" she laces his term with some heavy sarcasm, "focus on women here, but there's a Mosque in Georgetown that one of the groups works with to help Muslim women here in the US, and I'm getting to know the woman who runs that outreach. Since most of the women that program works with are here legally, but weren't born here, she may have a clue as to who to talk to."

Gibbs nods at that.

"I've found us a lawyer," Ducky says. "Jason Ramsey is the brother of Alton Ramsey, the ME for the District of Colombia. He's something of a political gadfly. Active in pro-legal immigration circles. Penny and I had lunch with him, on the books, as clients," Gibbs appreciates that, as best he knows, if you actually hire the lawyer, everything you say to him is in confidence, "explained what we were thinking about. He's very pleased and has agreed to take us on retainer."

"Better yet," Penny's smiling at this, "the retainer is just to cover costs, he'll do the work pro-bono."

Gibbs blinks. He doesn't like lawyers, and the idea of one doing this… "So, he just gave us a blank check for all the legal wrangling we may need?"

"We'd have to cover expenses, court filings and the like, bailing you out if need be, and along with a trust to cover the expenses on the house, we're setting up a trust for that, but yes, he's willing to donate his time to any defense we may need. Granted, he would prefer we didn't get caught."

"Since it'll me my ass in jail, I'd 'prefer we didn't get caught,' too." Gibbs says, dryly. "I'm not going to try to get caught. The whole plan is to not get caught. Looks like Mike did this for more than five years, no one ever got close to him, and I'm a hell of a lot more careful than he was."

You sure about that, Probie?

My network doesn't involve literally hundreds of people, Mike. And I'm not blackmailing them so none of them might decide they're just done with me and report me just to get rid of me.

"There was one other protection that Mr. Ramsey recommended to us, and it's something we'd like your help with," Ducky says, bringing Gibbs back to the conversation with the living people around his coffee table.

"Okay, what?"

With a smile, gently squeezing Penny's hand, Ducky asks, "Would you be the witness for our marriage? That way we cannot be compelled to testify against each other."

A night of surprises all around, apparently. "First of all, yes. Second of all, you two cannot just sneak off the Justice of the Peace and do it in secret. All six of them will whine and bitch at me if I let you two get married and don't do something to celebrate it."

Ducky checks the clock. "Then you have a bit under fourteen hours to do something because our appointment with the Justice of the Peace is at noon tomorrow."

"You're killing me, Duck. Both of you."

"We didn't see any reason to make a big deal out of it," Penny says.

"Or necessarily mention it, for that matter. Not getting married was about how it was easier in regards to our estates, so why that would suddenly change will cause questions that we do not have a good answer for."

"Easiest way to lie is to not have to tell one in the first place. And you of all people should know that."

Gibbs shrugs, that makes sense, and he's sure they've had a lawyer or accountant or someone go over everything… But he also knows that when one of them dies and it comes out that they got married and that it's his signature on the marriage license, he's going to be in deep, hot water for not telling anyone about it.

He squints at both of them, licking his lips, shaking his head, able to imagine in glorious Technicolor detail the level of crap Abby and Breena are going to dump on him if he keeps this secret. "Couldn't it just be… I don't know… Valentine's Day romance or something?"

There's something of a glint in Ducky's eye. Something… Gibbs doesn't know what it is, but he trusts it. There's a level here he's not seeing, yet. "Trust me, Jethro, it will be easier this way."

"Okay, Duck."

And so, on February 13th, 2016, at 12:14, Leroy Jethro Gibbs signs, with no fanfare, the marriage certificate of Donald Mallard and Penelope Langston.

He takes them out for a celebratory lunch, after, and when Penny excuses herself for a moment, he says to Ducky, "You damn well better have something so romantic planned that I do not end up with Abby and Breena crying on me because they didn't get invited to your wedding."

Ducky grins at him, eyes sparkling. There's definitely something in the works. "Trust me Jethro, I will not leave you open to the weeping of distressed women."

Gibbs narrows his eyes, shooting his best I mean it look at Ducky. "Good."


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