AUTHOR: Ashleigh Anpilova
PAIRING: Leroy Jethro Gibbs/Donald 'Ducky' Mallard
SUB-GENRE: Established Relationship
SUMMARY: Written for Challenge #27 - 'Titles'. There is change at the office.
SPOILERS: The end of Season Four and the beginning of Season Five.
WORD COUNT: 1,567
DISCLAIMER: I don't own these characters, nor am I making any money from them. I merely borrow them from time to time.
McGee rode up in the elevator with Ziva; he noticed she looked a little different. He hesitated to use the word 'excited' in connection with Ziva, but it came close. There was almost a sparkle about her, together with an air of anticipation.
The doors opened and Ziva strode out ahead of him. "Oh," she exclaimed softly, coming to an abrupt halt.
McGee just managed to avoid running into her and thus upsetting his coffee. He followed her stare and frowned. "Wasn't Tony due back today?" He glanced at Ziva.
She nodded. "Yes." She spoke flatly, and under McGee's eyes she seemed to lose the air of anticipation.
"That's odd," McGee said, continuing on his way to his desk. "I thought he'd be in by now, wanting to catch up on two week's worth of emails and all his other stuff."
"As did I."
"Gibbs'll be surprised."
"About what, McGee?"
McGee jumped and turned around. "Morning, boss. Morning, Ducky," he added. He wasn't surprised to see Ducky by Gibbs's side; they tended to arrive at work together these days.
Four months ago Mrs. Mallard had died and Gibbs had told the team he was staying with Ducky for a few days to 'help out'. As far as McGee knew those 'few days' weren't up yet.
"Good morning, Timothy. Good morning, Ziva."
Ziva glanced at Ducky and gave him a half smile and nod. "Good morning, Dr. Mallard."
"Well, McGee, I'm waiting," Gibbs said, his tone terse.
"Sorry, boss." For a moment McGee had forgotten exactly what it was Gibbs was waiting for.
Gibbs rolled his eyes and strode across to his own desk. "What will I be surprised about?" he asked, as he pulled his coat off and tossed it over the low filing cabinet behind his desk. He ignored the pseudo-pained look Ducky cast his way.
"Er." McGee glanced at Ziva.
She looked at Gibbs. "We are surprised Tony is not here. He was due back today."
Gibbs, in the process of putting his Sig into the drawer, paused and glanced at Ziva. "You his mother or just his keeper, David?"
Under the stare she flushed.
"Jethro," Ducky chided softly.
Gibbs glanced away from Ziva and instead looked at Ducky. McGee saw the change in his gaze as it settled on Ducky. It went from the usual 'pissed Gibbs' glare to the 'gentle for Gibbs' gaze he only ever bestowed on Ducky.
McGee watched them communicate by looks alone. It wasn't the first time he'd watched them 'talk' to one another this way, but it never ceased to move him.
After a moment or two, Gibbs gave a half shrug and turned his attention away from Ducky. "DiNozzo's not coming back," he said, sitting down at his desk.
Ziva hurried across the room. "What? Why not? Has something happened to him? Is he –"
"He got married," Gibbs said, grabbing his phone and pushing some buttons.
"Married?" Ziva's voice became almost shrill.
After glancing once more at Gibbs, who was now talking into the phone, Ducky sighed softly and moved towards Ziva. He took her arm and guided her back to her desk. When he spoke, his tone was gentle "He has married the young lady who was part of his undercover operation, Ziva."
Ducky nodded. "Yes. They spent Anthony's leave together, and last night he rang to tell Jethro the news. They were married by special license two days ago."
"Wow," McGee said, sitting on his desk. "I guess he really did love her after all."
"Yes, Timothy, it appears he did." Ducky touched Ziva's arm. "Are you all right, my dear?" he asked quietly.
Ziva looked at him. "Of course, Ducky. Why would I not be? I was just a little surprised, that it all. I am fine," she said.
"Hey. You two planning on working today?"
"Yes, boss. Right away, boss."
"Of course, Gibbs."
As one McGee and Ziva hurried to comply. McGee noticed that Ducky kept his eyes on Ziva.
"Hey, Duck. Got a minute?"
Ducky turned. "Of course, my dear," he said, and moved back to Gibbs's desk.
Fingers flying over the keyboard, McGee noticed how the 'my dear' to Ziva and the 'my dear' to Gibbs had been quite different; it was a subtle, but also extremely obvious, difference.
Out of the corner of his eye he caught sight of Gibbs moving out from behind his desk and leading Ducky a little further away from his field team.
McGee risked a quick glance and wasn't surprised to see them standing close together, completely within one another's personal space – as they always did. Gibbs had bent the brim of Ducky's hat back and had lowered his head slightly; even from this distance McGee could see how they looked at one another. I wonder if anyone will ever look at me in that way? he mused, before hastily returning to his work.
She smiled a little. "Ducky."
He smiled. "Ziva."
"Is Palmer here today?"
Ducky shook his head. "No. We are quite alone. Here," he took her arm and led her across the room. "I have just made a pot of tea."
"Thank you," she said, as he handed her a mug.
They sat in silence for several moments. Ziva cradled her mug; she seemed to get some kind of comfort from the warmth. Ducky sipped his tea and silently watched her.
Finally she spoke. "Do you really believe Tony loves her?"
He looked at her. "Yes, my dear. I do."
"But what will he do? Why? Why, Ducky? Why would he be prepared to become Tony DiNardo? Why would he give up his life just for . . ." she trailed off.
Ducky put his hand on her knee and patted it. "Ah, Ziva," he said, his voice soft. "We cannot choose with whom we fall in love."
She was silent again and looked away. Then said, her voice unlike any Ducky had heard her use before, "I thought . . . I hoped . . . I . . ." Again she fell silent. Then she looked back up, meeting Ducky's stare. "Does Gibbs know you love him?"
Ducky smiled a little. "Yes. Of course he does. He has always known."
She frowned. "Always?"
He nodded. "Ah, Ziva. I am afraid that your report on Jethro was, shall we say, incomplete."
Her eyes widened; then she frowned and shook her head. "And Gibbs?"
"What about him?"
"Does he love you?"
"Were it anyone other than Jethro, I might suggest that to get a wholly accurate answer to your question, you should ask the person concerned. However, I do not think you would do that. So to the best of my knowledge the answer to your question is 'yes'."
She looked at him. "Then why does he treat you like he does? And why do you put up with it?"
Ducky blinked and for a moment was silent. He had witnessed Ziva's bluntness and her penchant for speaking aloud things people tended not to say, but this surprised him a little. And yet, he understood; he'd suspected for some time now she'd fallen in love with Tony. Thus the news of his marriage had come as more than just a surprise to her; it had come as a shock and a disappointment.
Before he could find an answer, he saw a flush creep up her face. "I am sorry, Dr. Mallard," she said formally. "I should not have asked such a thing. Please forgive me. I must go."
He caught her hand and pulled her back down, noting that she didn't try to resist. "It's all right, Ziva. You needn't apologize; I understand. It is I who am sorry."
She looked at him, before glancing away. "Is it that obvious?"
"I think I can safely say 'only to me'."
"Does Gibbs know?"
Ducky shook his head. "No. Nor will he find out from me."
She gave him a half-smile. "Gibbs is a lucky man," she said, standing up again. This time Ducky let her. She turned around, hesitated for a moment, but then walked away without saying anything else.
At the door she stopped. "Does Tony really love her?" she asked again, looking back at him.
He stood up. "Yes, Ziva. That is why he has done what he has done. That is why he will put up with being Tony DiNardo. That is why he was prepared to give up his job, to leave his family and friends. He made a choice, Ziva. That's what people in love do."
She looked at him, shook her head slightly as if almost puzzled by her words, before turning and walking away.
LATER THAT NIGHT
"You know, Duck, never thought DiNozzo had it in him."
"Did you not, my dear?"
"Oh, yes," Ducky said, settling back against Jethro.
They sat in silence for a little while, sipping whiskey and enjoying the closeness of one another.
It was Jethro who broke it. "Oh, meant to tell you, I put my house up for sale today."
Ducky sat forward a little. "Jethro?"
"Also told Jenn my 'temporary' change of address was permanent."
Ducky, to his chagrin, found the back of his throat become tight. "Oh, Jethro," he managed.
With ease that spoke of decades of doing it, Jethro gathered Ducky into his arms and kissed him.