Monday, June 24, 2013
The End of Innocence
Nick came back from his early lunch earlier than expected. He burst into the newsroom, charged straight through to his office without yelling at or even looking at anyone, and slammed the door behind him. The staff watched the office door warily, waiting for the boss’s re-emergence and explosion. But tense minutes dragged by without so much as a bark from Nick, or any sound at all.
As one, the staff transferred their stares to Ziva.
She had no answers for them. She thought she’d seen her mate’s features harbor every conceivable expression, but that look of stark horror on his pale face had been new. What had he seen out there on the streets? What new disaster had decided to visit Talbot’s Peak?
She held up her hand to forestall the barrage of questions. “I’ll take care of it.”
Cautiously Ziva knocked, and even more cautiously entered the office. Nick could snap anybody else’s head off if he chose, but Ziva would snap back and he knew it. Braced for the worst, she looked around. The office appeared to be empty. “Nick?”
A small sound, like the whimper of a kicked puppy, oozed out from under Nick’s treasured hardwood teacher’s desk. Ziva stepped around the desk. Somehow, Nick had managed to cram his broad-shouldered body into the leg well. He had his arms wrapped around his knees and his face hidden by both.
Ziva knelt beside Nick’s hiding place. “Honey, are you okay?”
“No,” Nick growled. “I’m not okay. I’ll never be okay again.”
“Can you tell me what happened?”
“I’m tough,” Ziva assured him. “I can take it.”
“Yeah?” He lifted his head from his knees. Some color, mostly red, had returned to his face. “Fine. I went over to the Grease ‘N’ Grill for lunch, and to see Dad. It wasn't open yet, so I went in the back. I heard these sounds coming from the office. I thought maybe he’d fallen or something. He’s getting up there, you know.”
Ziva nodded, and waited. After a deep breath, Nick continued. “So I get to the office, and he’s in there. With her. That herbivore he insists on calling his wife.”
“She is his wife,” Ziva said. “Her name is Elly, and she’s a good woman and a fine lady. She’s good for your father.”
“Good, yeah. Good enough to pin him up against the wall and—head butt him. You know, bighorn style.”
“They were--?” The light dawned. “Oh. Oh.”
“And she was making this noise. Like a bleat, but … sexy. A sexy bleat.” He moved his hands as well as he could in the cramped space, like he was trying to see, hear and speak no evil all at the same time. “Lupa help me, why didn’t I just go blind when I had the chance?” He glowered up at Ziva. “Are you laughing? You’d better not be laughing.”
“I’m not laughing. Sweetie, it’s a perfectly natural act between two people who truly love each other. And a lot of fun, as you should know.”
“But he’s my father. He’s so old. He’ll break something. Or,” he snarled in a dark voice, “she’ll break something off.”
“No, she won’t. Miss Elly takes good care of your dad. I’d say today was the proof.”
“You’re not helping.”
“Then look at it this way: now you know what you’ll be like in forty years or so. And what you’ll be capable of. Somehow I don’t think that apple’s going to roll too far from the tree.”
“She’s his wife,” Ziva said gently, “and he loves her. Married people do those things, even at that age. Even your dad. You’re just going to have to suck it up and accept it.”
“Accept my dad humping a herbie? If I wanted to hump a herbie, would you be so friggin’ understanding?”
“Of course not. I’d rip the bitch’s throat out. But that’s a different situation. You’re not married. Yet. Now, are you going to come out from under that desk, or do I have to come in after you?” Nick didn’t move. “Don’t make me get the ruler.”
“Okay, okay.” Ziva scooted back so Nick could climb out. He straightened with obvious discomfort. “Ow. Don’t tell me Dad can handle that, um, level of activity at his age. He should—”
“He should do whatever he wants, and you should be happy for him.” Ziva picked up a ruler and tapped it warningly against the edge of the desk. “Are you going to be all right, or do I need to hang around?”
“I’m fine. I’m dealing. Look how well I’m dealing.” He eyed the ruler longingly. “Maybe just a swat.”
“Maybe after you’ve calmed down.” Ziva darted in to give his neck a quick lick. “So I can get you all hot and bothered again.”
After Ziva left him Nick stood beside the desk, alternately shaking and seething. His whole existence had just been turned inside out. Nobody did that to an alpha wolf with impugnity. He couldn’t punish his father or even his father’s wife. But he had to make somebody miserable.
A slow, evil smile took over Nick’s face. He grabbed for his phone. He had several unlisted numbers on speed dial, in case of family emergency. He hit one now.
“Hannibal,” he purred when the bighorn picked up. “I just saw your ma. Guess what she was doing?”