By: Vanessa Sgroi
“Aww, Abs, do I have to?” moaned Tony DiNozzo.
“Yes!” Abby exclaimed.
Tony dropped his head into his hand. “But I don’t want to go to a petting zoo,” Tony grumbled, a definite whine sliding into his tone.
“Tony,” chided Abby, “you promised we could spend the whole day together and that we could do anything—ANYTHING—I wanted to do on Saturday!”
“Yeah,” Tony agreed albeit rather reluctantly, “but that was when I thought it would be something normal like skydiving or mountain climbing.”
“It’ll be fun,” assured Abby, “we’ll go to the petting zoo and then we’ll go to lunch—my treat!—then maybe we’ll go roller skating.”
“Roller skating?” squeaked DiNozzo. “Abs…I don’t think…”
“DiNozzo, don’t disappoint Abby, just go to the petting zoo,” directed Gibbs.
Tony perked up. “You want join us?” he queried hopefully.
Gibbs shook his head and smirked, countering, “Not on your life.”
DiNozzo leaned back in his chair and ran a hand through his hair. “Okay, Abs,” he sighed, “if I agree to go to the petting zoo, can we forego even another mention of roller skating?”
“I guess so,” returned Abby grudgingly. “But we still get to do something, right?”
“Is it skydiving or mountain climbing?” he asked with a raised eyebrow.
“Then yes,” Tony granted, “We can still do something.”
“Yay!” squealed Abby, wrapping her arms around him in a tight hug. “Now remember, you’re picking me up at 8:00 o’clock sharp!”
“Eight o’clock,” he rumbled. He mustered up his best enthusiastic grin. “I’ll be there.”
They arrived at Buckleberry Farm bright and early; a mere 15 minutes after the petting zoo and park had opened for business. Tony was surprised to see the number of childless adults that were enthusiastically planning their day’s activities. Clearly, this petting zoo thing had its admirers. Who knew?
Abby snapped a map into his line of vision. “I think we should start here—at the goat pen,” she avidly advised. “We’ll start there and just go in a big circle.”
Tony acceded to her directive and followed the forensic technician deeper into the park. They came to the enclosure housing the goats and Abby began immediately oohing and awing and calling the animals to her, most by name.
Curious, DiNozzo murmured, “How often do you come here, Abs? I mean, you know all their names and they…” He paused as one goat in particular demanded undivided attention. “They seem to know you.”
“I come every couple of months.” Abby shrugged. “It’s fun. Sometimes I even volunteer if they need the help.” She squatted down next to the fence. “Ooohh, aren’t you just the cutest little thing,” she cooed to one of the many babies milling around the fence.
“Abby,” DiNozzo hissed, nudging Abby’s shoulder, “I don’t like the way that one goat’s eyeballing me.”
Straightening, Abby smiled. “Which one?”
“That one right there,” Tony responded, pointing. The white-bearded goat tilted its head and placidly stared back.
“Oh, Mr. George? You don’t have to worry about Mr. George.”
“He looks grumpy,” the senior field agent intoned.
Abby called the goat in question over and made kissing noises. She rubbed the goat’s head. “You’re not grumpy, are you, Mr. George? Not grumpy at all.” Mr. George seemed to relish the attention judging by the blissful look stealing across his face.
“You want to feed him?” she asked.
“Uhhh…sure…I guess?” Tony capitulated warily.
“Here…” Abby grabbed DiNozzo’s arm and led him to a red gumball-type machine attached to the fence. “Just put this quarter in, put your hand there—under the chute—and turn the handle.”
Tony did as instructed and his outstretched hand filled with cracked corn.
“Now just put your hand in front of Mr. George,” Abby advised. “He’ll eat right out of your hand.”
Mr. George snuffled at Tony’s palm and gently vacuumed up the food until it was gone. He butted Tony’s hand for more.
Tony patted Mr. George’s side. “Nuh uh, good buddy,” he reproved, “It looks like you get more than enough.”
Abby grinned at Tony. “See—he’s a lover-boy! Now the one you have to watch out for is Lulubelle the llama. SHE’S grumpy,” announced Abby.
They moved on from the goats to the sheep then to the pigs, potbellied and otherwise. By the time they reached the miniature donkeys, Tony realized that he was actually truly enjoying himself. The animals’ interactions with Abby were cute and sometimes downright funny as they all vied for her attention and by extension his attention. He promptly obliged and DiNozzo found himself smiling and laughing far more than he thought he would.
“Hey,” Tony crowed, bending over to scratch one of the tiny donkeys behind the ear, “did you tell Tim they have a miniature donkey here named Delilah?”
“Sure I did!” asserted Abby. “He even sent a picture of her to his Delilah.”
After visiting the miniature donkeys, they proceeded to the alpacas and then finally ended up at the llama compound.
“Now remember, Tony,” warned Abby, “Lola, Lucy, and Lily are all pretty sweet. But Lulubelle can be pretty grumpy. I can’t promise she won’t spit.” Abby whistled and called out to the llamas that were lounging in various parts of their enclosure. Three trotted over to Abby right away while a fourth sauntered slowly behind them. That llama turned and sidled toward DiNozzo.
“Lemme guess—Lulubelle is the one with the pink bow on her head,” Tony murmured. “The one that’s heading straight for me.”
“You got it.”
The llama reached Tony, stopped, and stared. Her eyelids dropped to half-mast.
“Now, Lulubelle, you behave,” cautioned DiNozzo, “I won’t spit on you so don’t you spit on me.” He flinched slightly when the bow-bedecked llama thrust her head over the fence. The llama bumped her head gently into his shoulder a few times and then burrowed her head into the crook of his neck and snuffled. Tony was astonished.
So was Abby. “Tony,” marveled Abby. “Lulubelle likes you! She really likes you!”
Scratching Lulubelle’s neck, Tony grinned. “Well, I always have been a chick magnet.”
“I’m going to start calling you the Llama Whisperer or something. Wait till I tell Sammy—one of the caretakers. He’ll be amazed…and maybe a little jealous,” joked Abby.
Laughing, Tony took a selfie with his new girl to post to Instagram later that evening.
Promising a heartbroken Lulubelle he’d return some day, Tony and Abby left the llamas and made their final stop of the morning to pet the warren of rabbits near the park exit. Abby pointed out all her favorites and shared funny stories about each of them. She gave one last stroke to a cute little brown-and-white bunny named Rumball and put him down. Utilizing a nearby hand sanitizing station, she turned to Tony. “So—time for lunch!” she declared. “Where to?”
“I don’t care. You pick.”
“I was thinking we could go to that place we saw down the road—Happy’s Hideaway.”
“Sounds good to me,” Tony concurred. “Though think about it—if Happy’s so happy why does he need a hideaway?” he mused.
Abby made her way through the turnstile and sailed toward the parking lot. “Lunch…and then I thought we could head over to the Psychic Fair…”
“Psychic Fair…ohh, nooo. Abby!”
The dark-haired technician laughed. “Just kidding, Tony! There’s a double feature over at the Arcadian I thought we could catch. You spring for the popcorn!”