Though Gibbs was not usually one to do his drinking anywhere else but in the comfort of his home, on his couch and in front of the television, he had (begrudgingly) found himself seated at the marble bar of The Poison Arrow. And while the establishment wasn’t as obnoxiously pretentious or as overpriced as he had feared it might be, given that it seemed to be a popular haunt for the artistic types, it was still far too refined and stuffy for his tastes. For not only were the drinks served in name-brand glasses, so too were they spotlessly clean and watered down by over-obedient cooperate drones. Had it not been for Abby, and her absurdly irresistible pleas, he might never have stepped foot into such a place.
“May I refill your glass?”
Pulled from his silent condemnation of the bar by the prompt return of the barkeeper, Gibbs grunted his approval and allowed the young man to top his beverage off.
“Would you like to send another round to your companions?”
Knowing full-well that the majority of his agents had already had more than enough to drink, particularly Tony and Kate, Gibbs shooed the bartender away with his hands and turned in his chair to better view the festivities said group was currently engaged in. Because while he sure as hell wasn’t of a mind to join them, their youthful energy not to his taste, he had certainly promised Abby at least a minimal amount of participation.
Much to Gibbs’s consternation, but not his surprise, he found Abby to be in much the same position she had been in before he had turned his back to have his glass refilled. Grinning and glassy-eyed, and her nose tinged pink from where her foundation had rubbed off, the Goth girl in question stood pressed up against her fiancé’s back, her boney arms wrapped tightly about Tim’s belly as she nuzzled her face into his already makeup smeared shirt.
But if the lovestruck Tim even noticed, much less minded, he showed no signs of such. Rather, the aspiring author seemed to embraced the close contact, using one large hand to press his future bride’s fingers even further into his stomach. Nobly resisting the urge to march across the room and headslap the rouge agent, as well as demand he get his hands grubby hands off his second-favorite agent, Gibbs bit his tongue and turned to survey his boy in action.
Laughing unreservedly, for what was sure to be the first time in months, Tony was notably swaying on his feet as he tried (and failed) to distract Tim with several clumsy pokes to his ribcage in order to ensure that the future groom missed his shot. Seeing as a lot was riding on his winning of the game, namely the unalterable right to be allowed to commit a wedding prank of his choosing without consequences, Tony only tried all the harder to sabotage Tim as he moved to throw his second dart.
As Kate, well, she seemed more than happy enough to find herself play the referee, just so long as she was continually payed for her service with shots of alcohol and overly-crispy French fries. And even though the woman was helplessly drunk, with a nasty predilection for allowing a myriad of cheap shots to be made by the players, neither Tim nor Tony saw it fit to ask for her replacement – even though literally anyone else would have been more fit for the job in question. Perhaps even Jimmy himself, who was doing nothing else worthwhile save for bombarding an amused Ducky with half-a-hundred photos of his ‘grandchild,’ Victoria.
Allowing himself a small smile, seeing as he was in no real danger of anyone he cared about detecting it, Gibbs leaned back in his chair and inwardly prayed that Tim would make his next shot. If not for his own sake, then at the very least for Abby and her relative peace of mind. For knowing Tony, as he did, his impending victory would all but ensure that the happy couple’s getaway car would be vandalized the morning of their nuptials.
Looking back several years ago, it was with a small chuckle that Gibbs recalled his own experience with such customary wedding pranks. Shit-faced well before the ceremony had even started, and just as mischievous as ever, his elder cousin had inexplicably managed to break into his truck and pour half-a-gallon of glitter into all the vents and fans available to him. And while Shannon had found the prank anything but funny at the time, several bits of the brightly-colored glitter having flown into her eyes, Gibbs had nearly pissed himself laughing as hard as he had.
“May I refresh your beverage?”
Annoyed to find himself startled away from such fond memories, Gibbs turned in his barstool to glower at the stick-thin barkeeper.
“No.” He growled, pushing away his empty glass. “You can refill hers though.”
Having seemed largely unaware of Gibb’s presence up until then, the slender blonde next to him startled at his generous directive.
“Oh, thank you!” She breathed, looking absurdly ingratiated. “You shouldn’t have!”
Figuring she was a safe enough conversational partner, as she had absolutely no trace of red in her flaxen eyes, Gibbs shrugged his shoulder and made his reply.
“Yeah, well, I’m in a celebratory mood.”
“Would you mind if I asked why?”
Though she was a complete stranger, Gibbs found himself answer her.
“Two of my agents are getting married next month.”
And with that, Gibbs glanced away to stare at the couple in question. To his great chagrin, but not surprise, he found the couple still interlocked – only this time Abby was pressing her fiancée’s head to her chest as she planted row after row of purple kisses to his blushing face. His missed shot all but forgotten as the lipstick stained his skin, Tim grinned dopily and leaned into the embrace, blissfully ignorant even as Tony stumbled forward and made a bullseye.
“And you’re only now celebrating?”
When Gibbs turned back to address the stranger, he found the expression in her dark brown eyes to be one of bemused mirth.
“Well,” Gibbs grunted, “The bride finally found her dress.”
The happy news brought forth a set of dimples on the stranger’s cheeks when she smiled, and for a long moment Gibbs found himself unable to look away.
“May I ask which one is the bride?”
Startled back into the moment by the question, Gibbs blinked twice and gestured toward his small group of agents. Now embraced by her husband, instead of vice versa, Abby was giggling loudly as Tony tried (and failed) to playfully separate the two lovers.
“The one in black is the bride.”
“She’s pretty.” His neighbor appraised with an easy smile. “Her groom is a lucky man.”
Noticing that her eyes had fallen on Tony, instead of Tim, Gibbs set out to disabuse her of such a silly assumption.
“Oh no.” Gibbs smirked. “That one isn’t her groom. The one clinging to her is.”
“The other man must be her brother then.” She reasonably assumed, giggling softly as she watched Tony steal a kiss from Abby.
“You’re not all that far off.” Gibbs allowed, smiling freely at his agents. “But Tony is her ‘Man of Honor,’ not her brother.”
Though he felt utterly ridiculous giving voice to such an unmanly title, Gibbs forced the words out and was promptly rewarded with yet another dimple-producing smile.
“Your boy must be very special to her.”
Knowing that he would never see the woman again, Gibbs took the liberty of allowing himself to pretend that Tony actually was his biological son and not just his favorite agent.
“Yeah.” Gibbs grunted. “They’re very close.”
Suddenly wishing that he hadn’t forbade the barkeeper from refilling his glass, as he was feeling decidedly nervous without anything to fiddle with, Gibbs cleared with throat a few times and briefly contemplated pulling his phone out with the intent of pretending someone had texted him.
“I’m glad things have changed.” The blonde woman commented, resting an impossibly soft hand atop his own to regain his attention. “I mean, could you imagine a bride having a Man of Honor back in our day?”
Having assumed the woman to be at least 10 years his junior, if not more, Gibbs was taken aback to hear her insinuate she was of an age with him. For aside from the merest suggestion of crow’s feet, the likes of which he had to squint to see, there was not the slightest indication she was anywhere near his age.
“It wouldn’t have happened.” Gibbs assured, absurdly pleased that he was able to agree with the blonde stranger.
“Call me silly, but I think it’s sweet that men can be more involved in weddings now.”
Not wishing to draw the ire of the woman by disagreeing with her, and secretly espousing the same beliefs himself, Gibbs nodded obediently.
“It also brings in a lot of business for me.” The stranger added, clearly hoping to draw a few more words out of Gibbs.
“You some sort of baker?” He queried, happily obliging her.
“I’m a seamstress.” She clarified.
Thanking his lucky stars for so fortuitous an encounter, Gibbs grinned freely at the stranger.
“That’s great.” He effused, blushing slightly as the words came out more forcefully than intended.
“Don’t go getting too excited.” The blonde teased. “I’ve never made an outfit for anyone famous.”
Blusher harder yet at his lack of composure, Gibbs silently cursed himself and vowed to do better.
“No, it’s not that.” He finally managed, stumbling a bit over the words. “It’s just that Abby…Abby needs a seamstress.”
“What does she need done?” His neighbor queried, a slight frown playing at her lips. “A month doesn’t give her very much time to have major alterations done.”
Not well versed in all the things a person could do to a garment, aside from taking or letting out the seams, Gibbs had to rack his brain for an answer that wouldn’t make him sound so helplessly incompetent.
“She said something about the lace.” Gibbs supplied. “Apparently the last seamstress ruined it.”
“How can a person ruin lace?” The stranger questioned, her frown only deepening.
Wishing for nothing more than that frown to be gone, Gibbs hastily supplied yet another answer.
“Apparently the seamstress in question took the liberty of bleaching it white.”
“And I take it the lace was black beforehand?” The blonde supplied, casting a glance at the wronged bride-to-be.
“Bingo.” Gibbs confirmed, relieved to see the frown vanish.
A proper smile now returned her comely face, the nameless woman reached into her purple purse and pulled free her wallet.
“I’ll give her my card.” She declared, tugging free from her wallet a small bit of paper.
Having hoped for a stealthy way to gain access to her phone number, should his nerves prove to powerful for him to claim it in the proper way, Gibbs held his hand out for the lavender rectangle.
“Let me do that for you.” He offered.
Tugging the paper away from him with a playful smile, the skinny little temptress slipped from the barstool and tucked the object safely away in the pocket of her dress.
“I prefer to meet the brides myself.” She clarified. “It helps me weed out the bridezillas.”
Slipping out of his own barstool, Gibbs nearly stood toe-to-toe with the blonde.
“Abby isn’t a bridezilla.” He assured, reaching for her purse.
“I’d rather see that for myself.” She grinned, gently swatting his hand away.
Knowing enough to know when he had been defeated, Gibbs held up his hands in surrender and backed away, nearly tripping over his feet as he did so. Quickly recovering and praying to God that the blonde had not noticed, he cleared his throat and held his hand out to the woman.
“Will you at least let me introduce you?” He bargained.
“You may.” She graciously allowed, happily accepting his arm.
Ignoring the powerful tingle that raced up his arm at the contact, Gibbs swallowed his nerves down and lead them forward at a leisurely pace, wishing to savor as much of the moment as he could before they were forced to part.
“You know, I never got your name.” He announced, inwardly cursing himself for the neglect.
“Partheny.” She pronounced, a slight tinge of pink coloring her cheeks. “My name is Partheny.”
Not knowing quite how to reply, but understanding that she expected an answer, Gibbs allowed the first words in his mind to flow out of his mouth.
“Old-fashioned.” He blurted, when he had meant to say classic. “But pretty.” He quickly added, catching sight of the start of a frown. “Very pretty.”
Seeming appeased with the reconciliatory words, at least for the moment, Partheny tilted her head up at him and raised a perfectly-groomed brow.
“You never told me what your name was, either.” She reminded him.
“Most people just call me Gibbs.” He grunted, expertly steering her away from a careless elbow.
“I’m not most people.” She retorted with a cheeky grin.
Momentarily distracted by her dimples once more, Gibbs nearly tripped over an abandoned shoe lying in the middle of the floor.
“Jethro.” He confessed, still a bit flustered. “My name is Jethro.”
“Biblical.” She remarked, sounding a bit flustered herself.
“Is it?” Gibbs queried, suddenly sweaty and hyper-aware of such.
Blissfully oblivious to his sweat, or at least graciously pretending to be, Partheny nodded.
“I believe he was Moses’s Father-In-Law.”
“Sounds right to me.” Gibbs nodded. “But I was named for my father’s Father-In-Law.”
Why he could have just said ‘grandfather,’ instead of the mouthful he had given her, he would never know.
“How sweet.” Partheny cooed, pressing nearer to him to avoid a stumbling drunkard.
“I think that decision had more to do with tradition.”
Cursing himself for the unnecessary gruffness, Gibbs opened his mouth to apologize, only to be interrupted by the impromptu appearance of a thoroughly drunken Tony.
“Gibbs,” He whined, leaning heavily into his side, “Tell Kate’s she’s gots the rules all wrong.”
Bracing himself to better tolerate the younger man’s weight, Gibbs firmly planted his feet and wrapped his free arm around the boy he considered his own.
“You’re a little too old for me to be fighting your battles, kid.” He gently reprimanded, speaking into his agent’s ears so that he couldn’t be overheard.
Frowning at the disappointing answer, Tony childishly let his head drop to Gibbs’s shoulder.
“Who’s this?” The young agent slurred, gazing at Partheny with bleary eyes.
“I found Abby a seamstress.” Gibbs informed, struggling to keep his boy upright.
“A seamstress?” Tony parroted, eyes fluttering shut. “That’s great! Abby needs a seamstress.”
Though Partheny had giggled at his antics, Gibbs still felt a twinge of embarrassment at his boy’s behavior.
“You had best not get this drunk at Abby’s wedding, Anthony Angelo.” Gibbs scolded.
“Yes sir.” Tony warbled, casting him a sloppy salute before stumbling off toward a more accommodating Abby.
“You’ll have to excuse the boy.” Gibbs apologized, once Tony was safely in the company of his peers. “He’s not usually so poorly behaved.”
“Oh, never you worry.” Partheny soothed, patting his shoulder. “I’m sure he’s always well-behaved.”
Gibbs couldn’t help but grin, the innocent remark far too ridiculous for him to refrain.
“I wouldn’t go quite that far.”