It's a wallow in Yuletide, and is an actual Yuletide, angst-free story.
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TITLE: Yuletide Celebrations
AUTHOR: Ashleigh Anpilova
PAIRING: Leroy Jethro Gibbs/Donald 'Ducky' Mallard
SUB-GENRE: Established Relationship. Team fic. Humour. Ducky story-telling.
SUMMARY: This is the sixth story in my Occasions Universe. Following the success of Thanksgiving, Ducky persuades Jethro to invite the team over to their home for a season celebration. Determined not to offend any member of the team, the event is not the typical Christmas party. Instead Ducky introduces the team to the history of the Solstice and Saturnalia.
WORD COUNT: 11,729
DISCLAIMER: I don't own these characters, nor am I making any money from them. I merely borrow them from time to time.
As Ducky had his back to him, Jethro didn’t need to hide the smile that crept on to his face. He knew that tone; he knew it very well. His lover was about to ask him something; something that he knew Jethro wouldn’t choose to agree to, but something that Jethro would agree to. “Yeah, Duck,” he said, crossing the room and slipping his arms around Ducky from behind, pulling him back a little to rest against his body.
Ducky gave a sigh of pleasure and settled back, putting his hands on Jethro’s and stroking them lightly. “You know how successful our Thanksgiving dinner was.”
“Well, I was wondering if . . . Of course it’s entirely up to you, dearest. I don’t want you to think that -“
“When do you want them over, Duck?”
Jethro gave a mock growl and turned Ducky around in his arms. "Don't use that fake innocent tone with me, Dr. Mallard, I can see through it." He tried, and failed, to keep the stern look on his face, and instead joined Ducky, who had unsuccessfully attempted to maintain his innocent look, in laughter. "Ah, Duck," he said, after a moment of two of shared chuckles. "Come here." And he tugged Ducky into just the right position that allowed him easy access to his mouth.
"So when?" he asked, several moments later, when they were sitting on the sofa with a glass of good whiskey in their hands.
"I thought that the best time might actually be 22nd or 23rd December."
"Any particular reason? Other than that's a Friday or Saturday."
"The Winter Solstice falls on 21st December, at least in most parts in the world, including America. In Western and Central Europe it actually slips over into 22nd, and in New Zealand and Australia it is actually . . . but that is hardly relevant. What is, is that I feel that it might be more appropriate to hold a party around that date."
"Well, of course a Friday or Saturday night is a better time to hold a party than a Thursday, especially as, emergencies not withstanding, we will not be expected to go into he office on Saturday, but I believe that there will be other events which people wish to attend on Saturday. However, that is not my main reason for suggesting 22nd. You see, I do not wish to upset or offend anyone by making it specifically pertaining to Christmas, especially with Ziva being Jewish, and as the Solstice this year is on a Friday, I felt that might be the best time. We can make it a seasonal celebration, a Yuletide event rather than anything tied to one religion or another. Also, celebrations relating to the Winter Solstice were enjoyed around the world long before the Christian calendar decided to make Christmas pertain to the birth of Jesus."
"Really?" Jethro said automatically.
"Yes, dear. And many of the rituals, customs, lore and symbols associated with Christmas, actually have their origins in, and are linked to, the Winters Solstice celebrations carried out by ancient Pagan cultures. Hence the Christian mythology that has been interwoven with the more contemporary observations of this particular holiday time, still has a rich and clear Pagan nature. There are some lovely traditions, relating to this time of year, and I believe that we could incorporate several of them into our party. In some ways it's going to be a little like Saturnalia."
"Saturnalia. It was the Winter Solstice celebration in Pagan Rome."
Knowing that he'd walked into Ducky's deliberate or non-deliberate trap, but equally knowing that there was no way out, well none that he wouldn't end up feeling guilty over, Jethro asked, "And this would relate to our party, how?"
Ducky moved a little closer to him, pressing against him and letting Jethro know how pleased he was that he'd asked. "A lot what we know and do today stems from this time, although very few people have heard of Saturnalia."
"Yeah, me for one."
"It was the most popular holiday of the Roman year, just as for many people today, Christmas is their favorite time."
"And others hate it, for various reasons."
"Indeed." Ducky moved away from Jethro slightly and sat forward so that he could see his face. "You don't, do you, dearest? I confess that I have always assumed that, given that you have never said anything to the contrary, that you -"
"No, Duck. I don't hate it," Jethro hastened to reassure his lover. "Really," he added, as Ducky continued to stare unblinkingly at him. "Go on with what you were telling me. But come back here first," he tugged gently and pulled Ducky back, this time slipping his arm around his shoulders and pulling him into a loose embrace.
"Very well, my dear. Saturnalia was an extremely large holiday. Businesses, schools and courts were all closed for several days; the army was rested, and even the execution of criminals was halted. There were lavish banquets and parties, people visited family and close friends, and gifts were exchanged."
"We're giving the kids gifts?"
"But of course, my dear. Don't worry, I'll deal with everything; all you have to do is to be here."
Despite the fact that Ducky's voice contained no hint of irritation or even expectation that Jethro would object to his words, together with the fact that he knew Ducky so well that he knew Ducky wasn't making a sly dig at him, Jethro felt irrationally guilty. Mainly because that was pretty much what he would do.
Then to his surprise he also found himself feeling a little put out that he wouldn't have anything to do. "There must be something I can do, Duck," he heard himself saying. "I know I'm not at my best in the kitchen or buying gifts or stuff like that, but we are partners in this. I'd like to do a bit more than just help pay for it and being here on the night."
"Really, dear?" Ducky sounded as if Jethro had just given him an early Christmas present.
"Yeah, really, Duck. Just tell me what you want me to do, and I'll do it."
"You can certainly come with me to buy a tree, and maybe you wouldn't mind helping with some of the decorations? I know how worried you get if I climb on stools or ladders."
"That's only because you don't always concentrate on what you're doing, Duck. Instead you're thinking about something else as well. You can leave scrambling about on things to me. Did you say tree?"
"Yes, dear. And holly branches, ivy, pinecones, laurel and evergreen wreaths; the evergreen symbolizes life's continuity "
"What about mistletoe?"
Ducky positively beamed. "Oh, yes, dearest, definitely mistletoe, and not necessarily just in the public rooms."
Jethro smiled back at him and kissed him for several moments.
Finally, they broke away. Ducky sighed with pleasure and said, "Now, where was I? Ah, yes, even the tradition of carol singing can be said to have its origins from Saturnalia. Although, in those days, the people who went around the streets carrying lit candles and singing holiday songs were quite often nude."
"Duck, you're not . . ." Jethro came to a spluttering halt.
"No, dearest. There is a limit to how far I wish to go with recreating the old traditions."
"Thank God for that."
"Although, in a way we will be continuing one of the most popular customs of the day, the one where the slaves and owners swapped roles, and everyone feasted together, and the slaves were given gifts. Not that I am, of course, calling the children your slaves, but you are their boss. Thus there will be a hint of the custom being continued."
"Better not mention that bit to the kids, Duck. They might be offended."
"Indeed, my dear. So is it agreed, then?"
"That either 22nd or 23rd would be the most suitable time to hold the party, and that we make it a Yuletide celebration and continue some of the traditions, customs and rituals?"
Oh, yes, they hadn't decided on the date. Yet again they'd somehow gotten sidetracked. Jethro shrugged. "Sure, Duck. Whatever you want. Just promise me one thing."
"No party games and no wearing silly hats."
"That's actually two things," Ducky said pedantically.
"I am sorry, Jethro. I promise, no silly hats and no party games. Although, the thought of playing sardines with you, is not without its merit."
"Since when did you need to play a game to get close to me? Besides, knowing my luck, I'd end up with Jenn or DiNozzo."
"I thought you told me that you and Jennifer had reached a truce, my dear."
"Yeah, I did. But . . . I don't know, Duck. It's hard to go from not trusting someone to trusting them overnight."
"You used to trust her." Ducky spoke softly, and all hints of lightness had vanished from his voice.
Jethro sighed, slipped his arm around Ducky and pulled him nearer to him. "I know," he said simply. "But that was before . . . Oh, let's not talk about her, Duck. As you said, we've agreed a truce. I take it that means she's on the guest list?"
"Unless you have any strong objection, my dear, yes."
"No, guess I don't."
"Good." Ducky turned within the loose embrace and smiled. Unable not to, Jethro smiled back at his lover.
"So who else is on the guest list?"
"The children, naturally; Jennifer as agreed; Tobias, if you think he'd like to come along, and you don't think the children would object."
"It's our party, we can invite who we want. Anyway, if Tobias comes, it'll give me someone to talk to while your doing your host thing. And the kids don't exactly dislike him."
"Good, Tobias it is then. And I was wondering about Agent Lee. After all she and Jimmy do seem to be getting along rather well."
"She's not really one of us, is she?"
"She was part of the team for several months, Jethro. Whilst -"
"I was in Mexico, yeah, I know. And she did a good job as that poor Chinese kid's sister. I suppose as long as she doesn't start lecturing me about search warrants and other legal stuff, and she and Palmer don't spend all their time in a clinch, why not. What about Gerald Jackson?"
Ducky shifted slightly under Jethro's arm, until he was settled more comfortably. "I did consider Gerald. However, the last time I spoke with him, I got the feeling that for quite understandable reasons, he does not wish to renew his associations with NCIS. I think the shooting was far more painful, in more than just the literal sense, than any of us realized."
"That bastard." Jethro's tone was grim, as he recalled the whole Ari affair.
"Indeed. Also, I believe that Jimmy might be a little intimidated and uneasy in Gerald's presence. He is not the most confident of young men, as I'm sure you know. I hope that his relationship with Ms. Lee might help him somewhat in that respect."
"Okay, so that makes the kids, Jenn, Tobias and Agent Lee, what is her name, Duck?"
"Michelle. However, on second thoughts, I'm not entirely certain whether inviting her is a good idea."
"I do not believe that her relationship with Mr. Palmer is commonly known about, thus it might appear a little strange if we do invite her. As you pointed out, she is no longer a member of our team, and it also might look strange to her colleagues in the legal department, if we invite her and no one else. Although . . . " Ducky trailed off.
Aware that his lover could go on arguing with himself for quite some time, Jethro said, "Tell you what, Duck, as long as you're not going to invite the whole building, why don't you decide and just let me know."
"Very well, dear," Ducky said obligingly. His tone, however, told Jethro that he wasn't getting out of it that simply. "I had better start planning and buying things, and brushing up on my knowledge of the customs and history."
"Yeah, we don't want you getting anything wrong when you start to tell us your stories."
"Jethro?" Again Ducky turned to look at him, his pale eyes were wide and a faint smile touched his lips.
"Admit it, Duck, you just want another chance to educate us all."
"The thought hadn't crossed my mind, my dear. However, now that you mention it, I believe -"
Jethro silenced Ducky in his favorite way.
30TH NOVEMBER - 21ST DECEMBER
As the weeks between Jethro agreeing to another team party and the actual gathering went by, he began to think that he ought to ask McGee to show him how to hack into Ducky's schedule, so that he could program some time for him.
At home Ducky was spending more time than usual in the kitchen, often shooing Jethro out of the way and telling him to go and work on his boat. Or suggesting, if he were bored, that he invite Tobias over. Jethro felt like telling him that as fond of Tobias as he was, it was Ducky he wanted to spend time with, not his second oldest friend.
However, he put up with it, in a good natured way, or at least good natured for him, as he knew that unless Ducky felt that everything was perfect, he wouldn't be happy. Besides, decades of loving Ducky meant that Jethro knew several methods of dragging Ducky away from his planning and into his arms.
Unlike with the Thanksgiving invitations, Ducky had gone around to all the members of the team and personally invited all of them to the party. Jethro suspected this was done so that Ducky could reassure them, especially Ziva, that it wasn't a Christmas event. One thing in particular pleased him, Ziva no longer shied away from Ducky, or looked at him as if he was going to jump her. As embarrassing as it had been to have been caught kissing Ducky by the Mossad agent, if it convinced Ziva that Jethro was all Ducky wanted, then it had been worth it.
Jenn had again presented her apologizes, but had explained that she was already committed to a dinner, apparently to be held at the White House, for all Agency Directors. Despite their agreement and the fact that both sides had adhered to it, and that relations between them was better than they'd been since she'd returned, Jethro found himself relieved to hear the news.
After several arguments with himself, well he did involve Jethro, but all he was required to do was to say 'Yes, Duck', 'No, Duck', 'Whatever you think, Duck', at the appropriate moments, Ducky decided not to invite Agent Lee to their gathering.
Tobias had reluctantly refused, as it was the evening he'd planned to have his Christmas with Emily; the little girl was spending the rest of the Christmas period with her mother. Before Jethro had realized what was happening, he was agreeing with Ducky that their old friend should spend Christmas Day with them. Tobias had tried, not very convincingly, to refuse, but his desire to be with them was clear for all to see. Therefore Christmas Day had increased to three; if he had to spend time with someone other than just Ducky, Tobias would be the person Jethro would have chosen. And it wasn't as though he had to worry about sitting too near to Ducky or touching him, Tobias had seen far more than a friendly hug and kiss. It had been after that, that even Jethro had agreed that locking the front door really was a habit worth adopting.
Go to Part Two