Issums Bunny

Gibbs hurried down the stairs, ignoring the looks he was getting. It had been half an hour, now, and he still had no idea what had gone wrong. Still had no idea how to make it right, again. He saw Kate and Tim at their desks, working diligently. They might have got some leads by now, but nothing they could tell him would answer the immediate question.

He shifted his grip, holding on tightly. "Easy, now," he said, keeping his tone calm and soothing. He wasn't about to make the day even worse by chasing a frightened rabbit through the NCIS office.

Not if he could *help* it. Last time he'd ended up underneath Mrs. Saunders' desk, wielding a carrot and a canvas bag.

As he went past Kate's desk, he saw her look up -- then she was on her feet, following him. "What happened?"

"I don't know, exactly," Gibbs told her. McGee was standing now, as well, and coming over -- but from the confusion on his face Gibbs knew he didn't have a clue why Kate would be worried about the rabbit in his arms.

Well, now wasn't a good time to explain. Rather, it was probably the perfect time but he didn't feel like explaining anything. Gibbs continued to his own desk, kicking the chair back from the desk with his foot and sitting down without losing his grip. Kate knelt down beside him and rubbed the rabbit's head.

"Hey, it's ok," she said, and kept talking. The same reassurances Gibbs had been saying the entire drive over -- and wasn't that an experience to be missed, driving with one hand firmly gripping the furry neck of a rabbit that was trying to hide under the seats.

Gibbs would have let him, but the last time Gibbs had let him hide down there, he'd ended up under the damn brake and nearly got them both killed.

"I need a carrier for my car," Gibbs said. "This is the third time--" He stopped and looked up at McGee, who was standing on the other side of Gibbs' desk, staring open-mouthed.

He sighed.

"Yes, McGee?" He should just explain, but it would be interesting to see what McGee came up with, as his first question.

"You... have a rabbit," McGee finally said. It was obvious he thought that maybe he was seeing things, and Gibbs didn't have a rabbit in his lap.

"I do. And he's still a rabbit, which is the part that worries me." He rubbed the furry head, fingers sliding in beside Kate's. Huge brown eyes stared back at him.

"Maybe I can...?" Kate asked, and she held out her hands. Gibbs nodded. She picked the rabbit up and cradled him like an infant. She kept petting him for a moment, then stopped and said, "You had better not change back while you're nuzzling my breast, DiNozzo."

McGee made a strangled noise, which Gibbs ignored. It wasn't working -- Tony was clearly still agitated, and being held by Kate was just making him struggle more. Gibbs reached over and grabbed him by the scruff of the neck, and took him back. Tony calmed down a little; at least he wasn't struggling to get away.

"Sorry," Kate said.

"It's OK. If I knew what had set him off this time, maybe we could..." He sighed again. "Yes, McGee?"

McGee eeped. His jaw moved slowly up and down, but nothing more came out.

Kate finally took pity on him. "Yes, it's Tony. He's a small, cute, furry bunny rabbit. You're welcome to tease him about it whenever you want -- except most of the time it isn't very funny." She frowned at Tony again, still worried.

"Isn't funny?" McGee repeated. "Why?"

"It's a fear-response," Kate said quietly. "Totally involuntary -- changing, as well as changing back."

There was no comment from McGee, so Gibbs looked up. Tony was burrowing in his arms, clearly more content to be held by him than Kate -- but he was still very obviously a rabbit.

McGee looked confused. At Gibbs' silent query, he said, "Not that I don't think this is an elaborate prank, but... as an NCIS agent, and a cop before that, wouldn't Tony have... um... changed into a rabbit almost every day?"

The expression on his face said that he clearly thought this was a poorly thought out prank. Gibbs could see his thought processes churning. Gibbs was in on it, so it couldn't be poorly thought out. But it was illogical. Which meant either they weren't lying, or the illogic of it was a ruse to make him think it wasn't a prank.

He waited until McGee settled on not having a clue. Then he said, "You're right. Except it isn't a response to just 'fear'. It's only when... it gets too bad."

And what the hell had happened to frighten him so badly? He and Tony had gone to question Mrs. Delany about her son's activities before he'd joined the Navy a month ago. The interview hadn't turned up anything unusual, so they'd left. Tony had run across the street to the car while Gibbs had tried to escape Mrs. Delany's last-ditch attempts to keep them there -- grief and loneliness had made her offer them coffee, cookies, even lunch and maybe she'd thought of just one more thing about her son, wouldn't they like to come back inside and talk.

But she hadn't had anything, she'd just wanted someone there. No other family to speak of and neighbors who didn't know or care that she'd lost her son. He'd felt sorry for her, but they had a murderer to catch.

Gibbs had tried to be polite while extracting his arm from her hand, then he'd finally got away and turned to follow Tony. He'd waited for traffic to clear, then jogged over.

To find a small, brown rabbit hiding behind the front wheel of the car.

"It isn't just being scared," Kate elaborated. "It's when he's terrified. Like, the most terrified he ever gets. It's only happened four times since he became a cop." She grinned, very slightly. "Before that, I understand it used to happen during finals week every semester."

"You... you people are serious, aren't you?" McGee said, narrowing his eyes.

"This isn't working," Gibbs said.

"Abby?" Kate asked, standing up. Gibbs nodded.

"Abby."

~~~~~

McGee followed them down to forensics. He didn't say anything, and Gibbs had no idea if he'd decided to believe them or not. Tony could explain it to him, later.

If they could get him changed back.

They found Abby with her head down over one of her scopes, music as always blaring. Tony jumped in his arms, and Gibbs had to squeeze tight to keep him from getting away.

Kate hurried over and tapped Abby on the shoulder; Abby turned and started to grin. Then she leapt off the stool and ran over.

"Oh, Tony! Poor baby!" She scooped him out of Gibbs' arms and cuddled him. Gibbs was glad he couldn't hear what she was saying, but he expected it included 'iddles' and 'oobie's.

The music stopped suddenly, and Gibbs nodded his thanks to McGee. McGee came back over and frowned at Abby.

"This... is beginning to look a lot less like a joke."

Abby glared at him, fiercely. "It's not a joke! Poor Tony. What scared you, huh?" She nuzzled him -- and Gibbs told himself he was not going to snatch Tony back out of her arms. The whole idea was that maybe Abby could make him feel safe again. If that didn't work, it was McGee's turn.

Gibbs unclenched his fists and waited. Much as he wanted to be the one -- the only one -- holding onto him, it hadn't done any good.

He decided he didn't want to think about that particular thought, at all.

~~~~~

Soon enough they'd realised it wasn't going to happen any time soon. McGee had taken to sitting across the room and watching Tony with suspicion while Abby and Kate gossiped about people whose names Gibbs didn't recognise.

Gibbs had finally taken Tony back from Abby and sat down on the floor, leaning against the wall. He'd asked them each to update him on their progress, but they didn't uncover any new or useful leads while they exchanged theories. All they knew was that Thomas Delany had been killed by a sniper, and that there was nothing in his past that would explain it. Finally Kate volunteered to go down to the cafeteria and get them all lunch, since it was clear none of them were going anywhere soon.

Gibbs couldn't tell if Tony was calmer, but at least he wasn't trying to get away. He seemed content to sit in Gibbs' arms and play with the sleeve of Gibbs' jacket.

"You chew a hole in that and you're buying me a new one," Gibbs told him, idly.

Brown eyes just blinked at him. Gibbs sighed.

"I have lunch," Kate announced, as she walked back into the lab. She handed Abby a small white sack, another to McGee, and brought over two more sacks and a covered plate.

"I got him a salad," she said, setting the plate down and removing the cover. Tony's nose twitched, but he didn't make a move towards the food. Kate picked up a leaf of lettuce and held it out to him -- and Tony began to nibble.

"Apparently he just wanted to be hand-fed," Gibbs teased.

"Then here," Kate replied, handing him the leaf. Gibbs just took it, and held it out for Tony. Tony began eating in earnest, nibbling quickly on the lettuce.

"Probably the only time we'll get him to eat his vegetables," Kate said, settling down on the floor and unwrapping a sandwich. She held it out to Gibbs, but he shook his head.

She gave him a frown, but set the sandwich aside and took out her own lunch. "Still no ideas?"

"Nothing." Gibbs shook his head.

Then he suddenly had a lapful of human-Tony, who was burying his head against Gibbs' shoulder. Gibbs' arms went around him almost reflexively, and for a moment he heard himself saying the same reassuring whispers he'd said when he'd first picked up a terrified rabbit by his car.

"There was..." Tony began.

"There was what?" Gibbs asked gently.

He felt Tony take a deep breath, then he said, "A sniper. I saw... the light... on your back and then there was a van and I couldn't tell if he'd fired and then I didn't see you at all--"

Tony was shaking and for a second Gibbs thought the memory was going to yank Tony back into leporine form. But he stayed human, and for a moment Gibbs didn't say anything. He rubbed Tony's back, trying to make sure he stayed calm enough to stay human.

"There wasn't a shot fired," Gibbs said, calmly. As though he hadn't just nearly been killed.

"Yeah," Tony agreed, exhaling sharply. "Yeah." He relaxed, then, collapsing against Gibbs. Gibbs held onto him and determinedly ignored the way Abby was giving him a high sign.

Behind her, McGee was staring again.

"I hate to say I told you so," Gibbs said lightly, looking at McGee.

McGee shook his head. "Yes, boss," he said, distractedly. Staring at Tony, and Gibbs realised that pretty soon he was going to have to get Tony out of his arms or there would be a whole other round of questions he didn't want to answer.

Not that the entire building didn't already know how Gibbs' nearly -- or not so nearly -- getting himself killed made Tony turn into a rabbit. But that didn't mean Gibbs liked talking about it, or answering nosy questions from people who didn't know better than to stare.

Or maybe it was just that Tony was completely naked. Gibbs looked over at Abby. "Can we borrow a jumpsuit?"

Abby pouted. "Aww!"

It was Tony who flipped her off, but he also gave her a small, and vaguely smug, grin.

Kate, who was still sitting beside them, raised an eyebrow. "It's rabbit-sized."

Tony jumped off Gibbs' lap and onto Kate, who squealed and hit him with her lunch. Gibbs just picked up his sandwich and began to eat.


Next Story: Deadlier Than the Mail