Dishing it Out

by Juli

June 2004

“Table for one?” The host asked the customer who’d just entered the restaurant.

“No, I’m meeting friends - the reservation should be under ‘Gibbs.’”

If the maitre de was flustered by that penetrating blue gaze, he hid it well. “But, of course. Follow me, please. The rest of your party is already seated.”

He led the newcomer through a maze of tables and past tray-laden waiters, finally reaching a quiet alcove towards the back of the restaurant. Sure enough, two other diners were already seated.

“And here you are.” The maitre de graciously accepted the bare nod of thanks and left - not envying *this* table’s waiter, not one little bit.

“Babs, you made it!”

Barbara Gibbs did her best not to roll her eyes. She’d asked - repeatedly - for the youngest member of their exclusive little club to not use that particular nickname. She couldn’t decide if Colleen really was that bubble-headed or if she was just pushing Barbara’s buttons.

“Yeah, you’re late,” the final member of the trio spoke up. “And after you insisted we meet this Friday instead of our normal third Friday of the month.”

“I think, girls, when you find out what I have to say, you’ll see that it’s worth a minor schedule change,” Barbara replied coolly.

The three women had exactly two things in common. One, they were all redheads, although of various hues and intensities. Two, they’d all married, and then divorced, a certain Leroy Jethro Gibbs. The last commonality was enough of a trial to have inspired these monthly get-togethers.

Barbara was the original Mrs. Gibbs and tended to be the leader of their trio. Her vibrant red hair had mellowed in age, the way it was threaded with gray earmarking her as a contemporary in age with her ex-husband.

“Spill, Babs!”

Colleen was the youngest and most recent of the Mrs. Gibbs. Her “new penny” copper hair was up in a ponytail and she had a habit of swinging it when she was excited. Since she tended to be excitable, it was often in motion.

“Do tell,” their companion’s sultry voice purred. “Being close-mouthed is more Leroy’s style than yours.”

Jane Gibbs had a mane of hair in a mahogany shade of red that most likely came out of a bottle. When Jane had first married Jethro, Barbara had often thought the fake hair color fitting for the second Mrs. Gibbs - it went well with the woman’s silicone chest and collagen-enhanced lips. It was only after she got to know Jane better, which took place only after Jane’s divorce became final from Jethro, that Barbara came to appreciate the keen intelligence hidden behind the vamp act.

“C’mon, Babs, don’t tease! What’s LJ done now?” Colleen asked again.

Barbara waited until Jane had poured her a drink from the pitcher of margaritas that had already been ordered. Alcohol, they’d found, was almost a necessity when discussing their ex-husband.

“Jethro,” Barbara said after fortifying herself with several sips of her drink, “has a new love interest. A serious one.”

“Are you sure?” Colleen asked, a frown line wrinkling her forehead.

Barbara allowed herself a small smile. Since the younger woman was the most recent Mrs. Gibbs, she’d had a feeling Colleen would take the news the hardest. It didn’t matter how your marriage to Jethro ended, the man tended to generate strong feelings long after the ink on the divorce papers was dry.

“Yes, I’m sure,” she responded firmly. She understood Colleen’s feelings, but having been in that same position when Jethro first became involved with Jane and then Colleen, she didn’t have a lot of sympathy. “It came from an impeccable source.”

“It’s not fair that Ducky still talks to you,” Colleen pouted.

“He has to, he’s family,” Barbara reminded her.

In fact, Donald Mallard was her mother’s cousin and had introduced her to Gibbs. That hadn’t stopped him from siding with Jethro during the divorce, however. Barbara only saw him at large family events, like graduations or weddings. When their paths crossed, Donny seemed to take great pleasure in telling her how well Jethro had moved on with his life. The latest bombshell had been delivered with downright glee. Suffice it to say that Donald Mallard was not Barbara Gibbs’ most favorite relative.

“Don’t worry about it, sweetie,” Jane said. “Even if Leroy ends up marrying his new squeeze, all it means to us is that we’ll eventually have a new face at our little get-togethers.”

Colleen turned hurt eyes onto Barbara. “You said he was serious with this one. How serious? Did Ducky say?”

Barbara took a long gulp out of her drink, the burn of the tequila going down her throat a welcome distraction. “They’ve been together almost two years.”

“That long,” Jane murmured, while Colleen shook her head.

“That’s not like LJ,” she said. “You know how he is about being honorable. If he’s going to be with someone for that long, he’d insist on being married.”

“Not this time,” Barbara claimed. “Girls, you better brace yourselves, this is going to be rather shocking.”

“Really?” Jane asked, one eyebrow cocked skeptically. She’d found that Barbara had a different definition of ‘shocking’ than she did. “What’s Leroy gone and done now - fallen in with a married woman? No? I’ve got it - he’s shacked up with a blonde!”

Colleen giggled and, as always, the sound irritated Barbara. She could never imagine Jethro being seriously involved with a woman that giggled.

“Actually, it’s a brunette, I believe,” she said, beginning to enjoy drawing her news out a little. “Quite a looker, too.”

“Well, there you go,” Jane lifted her glass to salute an absent Gibbs. “Even an old seadog can learn new tricks.”

Barbara choked, spewing liquid clear across the table. The other woman looked shocked at her wild laughter, it was an uncharacteristic of her as it was for their ex-husband. Jane patted the front of her blouse dry while Colleen solicitously pressed a glass of water into Barbara’s hand. They waited, with varying degrees of patience, until the older woman regained her composure.

“You want to tell us what that was all about?” Jane glared at her predecessor as Barbara dabbed at her eyes with the cloth napkin.

“Yes, what’s so funny?” Colleen asked.

“Jethro… and new tricks,” Barbara replied. “You see, girls, Jethro’s new love interest is not only NOT a redhead, he’s also not a woman.”

The other two looked at each other in confusion and then, synchronized, turned back to look at Barbara.

“Excuse me,” Jane said. “Did you just imply that Leroy is doing the horizontal mambo with a man?”

“Oh, I didn’t imply, dear, I came right out and said it plainly.” Barbara corrected. “Jethro’s new lover is a man. One Anthony DiNozzo, according to Donny.”

Stunned silence met her statement.

“Maybe…. maybe it’s an Antoinette, not an Anthony,” Colleen suggested hesitantly. “You know, Toni with an ‘i’ and not Tony with a ‘y’ and you just misunderstood.”

“I saw a photo, Colleen.” Barbara said, no longer enjoying her companions’ consternation. “There’s no doubt, Anthony DiNozzo is 100% male.”

The silence at that comment wasn’t quite as stunned as the younger women processed the information.

“Well, that explains a few things,” Colleen finally said.

“Like what?” Jane asked in an accusing tone, as though Colleen were at fault.

“Like how he could go for days without sex,” Colleen said promptly. “I always thought it was because he was older than me but now, I’m not so sure.”

Jane’s expression cleared as she put more thought into the idea. “Or how he’d always get so horny after watching football. I always thought it was adrenaline from watching the game.”

“Maybe it was, just not the way you thought,” Colleen giggled. “Maybe he got hot watching all those tight butts in those football pants. I know I do.”

“Well, he always did prefer doing it doggy style,” Jane added.

“Ladies,” Barbara interrupted, slapping a hand down on the table a little more loudly than she’d intended. Perhaps she’d fortified herself with a little too much tequila. “There is such a thing as too much information.”

“Sorry, Barbara,” Jane said sweetly, by her tone, not the least apologetic.

“So, did Ducky say how they met?” Colleen asked quickly. She’d learned it was necessary, sometimes, to intercede before the older women started sniping at one another.

“At work,” Barbara replied, shooting one last glare Jane’s way before settling down. “Apparently, this DiNozzo works for Jethro.”

“He’s NCIS?” Colleen squeaked.

“But… but that breaks Rule #12,” Jane sputtered.

Barbara looked at both of them in disgust. “Honestly, you two. You seem more shocked by that than by the fact that our former husband is in a sexual relationship with another man.”

“It is the twenty-first century, Babs,” Colleen responded. “Being gay is fashionable.”

“Since when have you known Jethro Gibbs to give a rat’s ass about being fashionable?” Barbara retorted.

“Never,” Jane responded, her eyes glittering. “But you’ve got to admit, it’s hot.”

Barbara frowned. “Excuse me?”

“The thought of Leroy and some hunk kissing, man to man,” Jane’s voice dropped to a hoarse whisper. “C’mon, admit it. Just thinking about it is enough to make your panties moist.”

Neither of her companions responded but the way both of them squirmed in their chairs made it clear that they were thinking about it very hard indeed.

“Poor LJ,” Colleen said.

“What do you mean?” Jane asked. “The man was married to you for all of six months and you said you cried almost every day.”

“I know,” Colleen shrugged, “but having to hide what you are all the time, no wonder he was so snarly.”

“He’s still a bastard,” Jane grumbled. Being turned on at the thought of Gibbs with a man didn’t change the fact that she was still almost as mad at him as the day she’d went after him with a golf club.

“Yes, but he’s a good man,” Barbara surprised herself by saying. “I tend to agree with Colleen - no one should have to hide what they are. Even Jethro.”

“It kind of lets us off the hook, too,” Colleen added. “I mean, we didn’t fail. Our marriages didn’t fail because of something we did.”

Jane smiled reluctantly. “Yeah, there is that. I almost feel sorry for this Tony DiNozzo guy. He’s gonna need all the help he can get.”

“You suppose we should invite him to lunch?” Colleen asked.

Even Barbara laughed at that idea. “No, my dear. As tempting as it would be to give Jethro a heart attack just by the asking, I’d rather keep our gatherings women only.”

“Besides,” Jane added. “Sounds like he and Leroy are still together. That means he’s not eligible yet.”

It was odd, but the news that her former husband was in a relationship with a man and was, at the very least, bisexual, freed Barbara Gibbs from much of her long-simmering anger towards the man. She actually found herself hoping that Gibbs would finally find happiness.

Lifting her glass, Barbara proposed a toast. “To Gibbs and Tony.”

“To Gibbs and Tony,” Colleen said, lifting her glass to toast without any hesitation.

“What the hell,” Jane said, lifting her glass to join the other two. “I guess I can’t stay mad forever. To Gibbs and Tony.”

And if the chiming sound their glasses made as they touched together had a ring of finality to it, none of the three women gathered was willing to admit it.

~ the end ~


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