AUTHOR: Ashleigh Anpilova
PAIRING: Leroy Jethro Gibbs/Donald 'Ducky' Mallard
PROMPT: 'The kids find out'
SUMMARY: A sequel to My Life. The children arrive at Reston House.
WORD COUNT: 4,180
DISCLAIMER: I don't own these characters, nor am I making any money from them. I merely borrow them from time to time.
At precisely eight o'clock, the front door bell rang.
As Jethro passed Ducky, who had spent the last three-quarters of an hour hurrying back and forth between the kitchen and the sitting room, because he'd insisted on putting together a 'few' nibbles for the children, feeling sure they wouldn't have eaten, he paused and dropped a light kiss on the end of Ducky's nose. "Reckon the kids'll think you look flushed because of the cooking, not because of the fact you spent the afternoon making love," he said, laughing aloud at the look on Ducky's face.
He left Ducky spluttering his name and strode to answer the door. "Hey," he said, as he opened it to find five people huddled closely together, all looking anxious.
Silence greeted him and the kids all looked at one another, shooting 'you say something' looks. Finally, as in the squad room some eight hours earlier it fell to DiNozzo. "Boss?" The question mark at the end of the single word was clear.
Jethro sighed and held the door open further. "Not any longer, DiNozzo. Would have thought you'd know that by now. Well," he said, as the kids continued to just stare at one another. "You going to stand there all night or are you going to come in? Duck's made a few nibbles and things," he added, hoping that might give them an incentive to actually come inside.
It worked. The five faces brightened slightly and DiNozzo rubbed his hands. "Food! I didn't have time for dinner."
"You see, Jethro, that is what I told you," Ducky said, hurrying along the hall. "Hello, my dears," he said, opening his hands. "Do come in and let us shut out the cold."
It was Abby who hurried in first. "Ducky?" she said, a tremor in her voice as she came to a halt in front of Ducky, moving so close she forced Ducky to tip his head back to look up at her. "Is it true? Have you and Gibbs both resigned?"
Ducky glanced at Jethro who shrugged. "Let us go through to the sitting room, I've lit a nice fire, and we can all have a drink and something to eat and get comfortable."
"Abbs," Jethro growled softly.
She frowned at him, but fell silent.
Ducky fussed around the kids, insisting on taking their coats and then handing them to Jethro to hang up, before leading Abby, Ziva, McGee and Palmer into the sitting room. As he was about to hang the final coat up, Jethro caught sight of DiNozzo looking at him.
"Got something you want to say, DiNozzo?" he asked.
DiNozzo shook his head. "No, bo- er, Gibbs. Just . . ." He trailed off and pointedly looked at the coat Jethro still held.
"Duck doesn't like mess," Jethro said simply, hanging the coat up and then walking past DiNozzo and into the sitting room. He was aware that DiNozzo followed him.
"Hey, Duck, want me to -" He came to an abrupt stop. "DiNozzo!" he growled, turning around and glaring at DiNozzo who'd run right into him. He ignored the fact it was his own fault, given he'd just stopped dead inside the room.
Nonetheless, DiNozzo responded as Jethro had expected. "Sorry, boss." Then he caught sight of what had caused Jethro to stop physically and verbally. "Wow!" he exclaimed, hurrying past Jethro. "I thought you said a 'few' nibbles, Ducky?" He rubbed his hand and his eyes were wide as he stared at the vast array of food that covered two large coffee tables.
Abby, Ziva and McGee were already filling their plates, while Palmer hovered with an empty plate and napkin in his hand, seemingly not certain as to what he should do. Ducky was on the opposite side of the room filling glasses with wine, so Jethro took it upon himself to address Palmer's hesitation.
"Better get stuck in, Palmer," he said, "before DiNozzo here helps himself to everything."
"Boss!" At least that's what Jethro thought DiNozzo had said; it'd been more than a little difficult to work it out given that DiNozzo had a sausage roll stuffed in his mouth. The others laughed.
"Yes, Jimmy, do help yourself," Ducky called, looking over his shoulder. "Ah, there you are, my dear. Perhaps you'd be kind enough to take over from me and pour the children some wine - unless, Anthony, you'd rather have beer?"
Jethro watched DiNozzo swallow hard and fast before wiping the back of his hand over his mouth. "Wine's fine, Ducky," he managed, before beginning to cough.
Jethro just shook his head and strode across the room to continue filling glasses for Ducky, who after pausing briefly to again encourage Palmer to help himself, vanished again.
When he returned he was carrying another two plates; one of sandwiches, the other of filled pastry cases. "Oh, dear," Ducky said, looking down at the full tables. "Where am I going to put these?"
"I'll take one, Ducky," DiNozzo said, having recovered from his coughing fit.
"Maybe we could have another table. Jethro?"
"Would you be kind enough to bring another table over, please? Yes, that one will do splendidly," Ducky said, as temporarily abandoning his wine pouring duties, Jethro picked up a medium sized side table. As he brought it to where Ducky still stood, he vaguely wondered, given they had spent most of the afternoon in bed or in the shower, just how Ducky had managed to produce so many 'nibbles' in so short a time.
"Were you a boy scout, Duck?" he asked, already knowing the answer.
Ducky put the plates on the table and looked up at Jethro, his eyes were bright. "Why, yes, Jethro, as a matter of fact I was. Why do you ask?"
"No reason." Jethro shrugged, glanced somewhat pointedly at all the food, before returning to the wine.
He heard Ducky sigh extravagantly. "Ignore him, my dears," he said. "Now has everyone got enough to eat for now?"
Four voices and a muffled sound filtered through to Jethro, as the kids assured Ducky they did indeed have enough on their plates.
After he'd handed out the wine, Jethro grabbed a plate and piled it with food before joining Ducky on the couch; he was extremely hungry, having missed both lunch and dinner. As he crammed a sandwich into his mouth, swallowed it and ate another one, he wondered if that was why Ducky's 'few nibbles' had turned out to be a fairly substantial 'meal'.
Swallowing his third sandwich and washing it down with a mouthful of wine, he glanced at Ducky who was watching him, a faint smile on his face. As Jethro looked at Ducky he saw the love his lover had for him blazing so clearly, it almost lit Ducky up. As he looked at his lover, he realized that what he'd thought was Ducky's clear declaration of affection for him when in public before that day hadn't been even half of what Ducky really felt. He swallowed hard and without conscious thought touched Ducky's cheek with his fingertips.
For the best part of half an hour, they all ate and drank and shared the odd comment or two, mostly related to the food and how good it was. However, finally, even DiNozzo refused sixths and sat back in his chair with his glass half full of red wine.
"That was great, Ducky," DiNozzo said. "Thanks."
McGee, Abby and Ziva also thanked Ducky.
Then Palmer, who'd been finishing his final sandwich, spoke. "Yes, thank you, Dr. Mallard, Agent Gibbs. What?" he said, as everyone turned to look at him. "What have I . . . Oh." He fell silent and began to blush.
Ducky leaned forward and lightly patted Palmer's knee. "It's all right, Jimmy," he said, his tone reassuring. "As a matter of fact it was rather an apposite comment, I feel. Do you not?" he glanced around at the others and smiled.
"It means appropriate, Tony," McGee said.
"I knew that!"
"Children. Children." Ducky spoke a little more loudly than he normally did, and his tone was the one that no one, not even Jethro himself, argued with. Everyone fell silent.
This time it was Abby who broke the silence. "So it's true?" she said softly.
Ducky glanced at Jethro, who gave a half shrug. "Yes, Abigail, it is true."
Again Ducky and Jethro exchanged glances. "What did Vance tell you, Abbs?" Jethro asked.
"Only that you'd both resigned with immediate effect and you'd tell us why."
"That sounds like Leon."
"Jethro." Ducky touched his knee. "It is better it come from us, do you not think?"
"Guess so." And Ducky was correct; it was better. It was just that Jethro didn't quite know how to begin to tell the kids. Not that he thought for a moment they'd be upset or angry or disgusted or troubled. Even DiNozzo with the way he'd teased McGee more than once about being gay, and the way he'd behaved when he discovered the lovely women he'd kissed had actually been a man, wasn't homophobic. He wouldn't still be on Jethro's team - he wouldn't have been on Jethro's team - had that been the case. It was just he wasn't entirely certain what to say. It hadn't arisen before.
Ducky cleared his throat a little and Jethro pulled himself out of his thoughts.
"So why did you both resign?" Again it was Abby who asked the question. Her voice was steady, lower than it normally was, and she held Jethro's gaze.
He glanced at Ducky, who nodded his head very slightly. Gee, thanks, Duck, Jethro thought, when Ducky clearly handed the mantel to him. He mentally shrugged and decided there was only one way; if he prevaricated, to borrow Ducky's term, it would imply he was the one who was bothered. "Duck and I are involved," he said. "We're lovers," he added, just to make things certain. He waited.
"Well, yes, we know that. But why did you resign?"
Jethro glanced swiftly at Ducky who gave him the equivalent of a surprised shrug with his eyes, before looking at Abby. "You knew?"
Now she glanced away for a moment, looking at her wineglass and twirling it around. "I didn't know," she said, now looking back up. "I just well, suspected. Didn't you?" She looked around the group. All but Palmer shook their heads.
"No, Abby, I didn't," McGee said.
"Nor did I." Ziva spoke quietly.
Then everyone turned their attention to DiNozzo. "What?" he said. "Why are you all looking at me?"
Abby sighed. "Did you know about Gibbs and Ducky, Tony? Did you suspect?" she added.
"No. Why would I?"
"And you lot call yourself investigators," Jethro said, his tone light. The three field agents flushed to varying degrees. Out of the corner of his eye, Jethro saw Palmer press himself further back into his chair, as if trying to make himself invisible. It seemed to work, as none of the other kids asked him; Ducky on the other hand had a faint smile on his face.
Jethro wasn't surprised that Palmer, like Abby, appeared to have guessed. If there was one place he and Duck had been even less discreet, in their non-indiscreet way, it had been Autopsy. For all his nervousness and sometimes clumsiness, Palmer was astute and did notice things. Also, he had a habit of merging into the background so that you kind of forgot he was around.
"So, you and Ducky are involved," DiNozzo said, now sitting forward. "I still don't get why you resigned?"
"I believe Director Vance felt for us to both remain on the same team was not in the best interests of the agency. I think he felt compelled to -"
"Make me choose."
"Jethro. I -"
"No, Duck. That's what he did. Dress it up all you like. Vance gave me a choice. I made it."
"Yes, but, I do feel that maybe he felt his hands were shall we say tied. That . . ." Ducky trailed off under Jethro's stare.
"But that's not fair!! Abby declared. "There are other gay people working for NCIS."
"That may be true, Abigail. However, they are not involved in investigations or field work in any way, are they?"
"Well, no, but . . . It's not fair." Abby repeated the words. "Is it?" she demanded, looking around at the others. They shook their heads and agreed with her. She turned to Jethro. "How could Vance do that to you, after all these years?"
"Well, I'm definitely not staying."
She turned to McGee. "What's the point? The team's split up again. I only ever stayed because of the team. Because of all of you - my family." She opened her arms and waved them in a gathering gesture. "And with us split up, there's no reason for me to stay, is there?"
McGee opened his mouth, but Jethro beat him to it. "What's Vance done to you all?" He looked at McGee. "Tim?"
"He's sent me back to Cyber Crimes. I don't mind that much. If I can't be a field agent on your team, boss, then I'm not sure I want to be one."
Jethro nodded. McGee's words didn't surprise him. McGee had been, could still be, an excellent field agent and over the years his skills had improved beyond measure. However, Jethro had often thought McGee was far happier doing the computer investigation side of things. But he'd never have said anything as he liked working for Gibbs; liked being part of 'Team Gibbs'; part of the family.
"So I'll still be around, Abby," McGee said, looking at her again. "And so will Ziva."
Jethro looked at Ziva and raised an eyebrow.
"Director Vance has reassigned me to Agent Phelps's team."
"He's a good agent."
"Of that I have little doubt. However, he is not you. And his team is known for being involved in the less dangerous aspects of cases. I believe Director Vance might be attempting to find a way to reunite me with my father. Nonetheless," she continued to speak, "I shall stay with NCIS, at least for the time being. I owe them - I owe you, Gibbs. If it were not for you and the Director, I would not be here tonight." She stared at Jethro intently for several seconds, before lowering her gaze and reaching for her almost empty glass of wine.
"Tony?" Jethro turned to the most senior of the agents who'd worked for him.
"Agent afloat, again," he said, his tone bitter.
"It is promotion, DiNozzo," Jethro said softly.
DiNozzo glared at him. "But I don't want to be stuck on a ship, Gibbs. It's okay for you, you were a Marine; you liked that kind of life. I don't. I'm going to go back to police work." He paused for a moment and then spoke directly to Jethro again. "Why did you do it?" He sat forward and stared hard at Jethro.
"Tell Vance about you and Ducky."
"He asked, DiNozzo."
"Yeah, but you didn't have to tell him the truth, did you. Why didn't you . . ." He trailed off and made a gesture with his hand.
"Lie?" Jethro asked, his tone low and flat.
"Yes!" DiNozzo all but spat the word.
Four voices, two male, two female, exclaimed DiNozzo's name simultaneously. And the other four kids stared at him with shocked expressions. By Jethro's side Ducky sat still and silent, although Jethro did catch the very faint hint of a sigh and felt Ducky arm press against his.
"What?" DiNozzo demanded, looking around at the others, before turning his now accusatory look back to Jethro. "It's your fault we've been split up, Gibbs. You -"
"Anthony!" Once again Ducky spoke a little more loudly than he normally did; again his tone was the one that no one, not even Jethro himself, argued with. "I know you are upset, however, can you honestly say you would have wished Jethro to have lied? Is that the man for whom you have worked for eight years? Is that the man whom you respect in the way you respect no other? Is he the kind of man who would tell that kind of a lie? Is he the man you would want to tell that kind of lie? Well?" he demanded, his tone now flint-like as DiNozzo didn't instantly answer.
DiNozzo who had paled somewhat under what for Ducky could be called a tirade, glanced at Jethro, then back to Ducky. "No," he said softly, looking down at his lap. "No. Sorry, boss." He looked back at Jethro. "I didn't mean . . . I didn't think."
"So what's new, DiNozzo," Jethro quipped. Everyone, including DiNozzo laughed.
"And what about you, Jimmy?" Ducky asked, turning to Palmer, who had barely spoken all evening.
"Um, I'm not sure, Doctor. Director Vance said it would be up to the new ME. But he felt it might be better to have an assistant who was qualified for vacation and sickness cover. I . . ." He trailed off and looked intently at Ducky. "Doctor . . ."
Ducky stood up. "I've just remembered there's another plate of canapés and some small desert dishes in the kitchen." His hand was on Jethro's shoulder and Jethro easily understood. "I wonder, Jimmy my boy, if you'd be kind enough to help me bring them in?"
Jimmy hastily stood up, managed to avoid knocking over the side table that wasn't even that near to him and hurried towards Ducky. "Of course, Doctor," he said.
Ducky and Palmer returned in less than five minutes, carrying a tray each. Jethro saw that Jimmy looked vastly relieved and more at ease than he'd done all evening. As Ducky offered the deserts around and Jimmy put the savory canapé dish on one of the tables, Jethro found himself idly wondering if any of the others guessed Ducky was funding Palmer's time at Med School. He strongly suspected the young man would now be attending on a full-time rather than a part-time basis.
The chatter was general for a few minutes, then Abby put her dish down and spoke again, her tone was intense as was the looks she gave them all. "We won't lose touch, will we?" she demanded. "Gibbs, Ducky, you'll let us come and visit you, won't you? And, Timmy, we'll still have lunch, and, Ziva, we can go shopping, and, Jimmy, we'll do something and, Tony, -" Her voice got shriller and eyes began to brim with tears.
Gently Jethro interrupted her. "Abbs," he said gently. "We're not going to lose touch."
"Promise," she demanded.
He nodded. "I promise."
"You may come and visit Jethro and myself whenever you wish to. All of you will always be welcome at any time."
Jethro glanced at him. "Not sure about the 'any time', Duck. If you're not careful we'll end up with a houseful overnight," he quipped.
Again everyone laughed. "We'll make sure we call before we come over," DiNozzo assured them.
"You're sure about not taking the NCIS Agent Afloat job?"
DiNozzo nodded. "Yeah, Gibbs, I am. It was different before. I knew you'd get us back. But with you gone and Ducky gone and Tim and Ziva reassigned and Jimmy being pushed out, even if Abby stays there's no 'us' anymore; at least not as far as NCIS goes. It's time I moved on. Eight year's a long time to be in one job for me."
"I have a suggestion," Ducky said quietly.
DiNozzo looked at him. "You know someone who'll give me a good job where I don't have to work hard but get paid a lot?" he laughed.
Ducky chuckled softly. "Alas, I am afraid not, Tony. No, my suggestion was that we set up a regular date, say once a month, when you will all come here for the evening - or at least as many of you who can make it. That doesn't mean you are not welcome at other times, not at all. But at least we'll have -"
"Something to look forward to?" Abby bounced and her eyes once again gleamed with pleasure.
"That's a very good way of putting it, Abigail."
"I think that is an excellent idea, Ducky. I would like that very much indeed. Thank you."
"It's my pleasure, Ziva dear. Shall we say between seven-thirty and eight on the second Wednesday of every month? Work or studies permitting, of course."
Everyone nodded and smiled and began to talk at once. Jethro wasn't at all surprised to see McGee and Abby pull out their digital personal organizers and add the dates. As he looked around at his family, he suddenly realized that everyone, Ducky included, seemed to just assume that he'd be moving in with Ducky. Or at least more likely to be at Reston House than his own home. In truth he hadn't thought about it, but he liked the idea; he liked the idea very much. He just hoped he hadn't misunderstood Ducky.
Another half an hour passed in general conversation, before the kids decided it was time they went home. Following rounds of hugs and kisses and the odd tear, they all left promising to return on the second Wednesday of the following month - if not before.
Jethro shut the door behind them and locked and bolted it before turning to Ducky and tugging him into his arms. "You okay, Duck?" he asked softly.
"Yes, my dear. I am. And you? I suspect it was all harder on you than on me."
Jethro pushed him away a little and looked down at him. "What makes you say that, Duck?"
Ducky sighed softly and gazed up at Jethro as he stroked Jethro's cheek. "Because you had more to give up than I did," he said, his tone solemn.
Jethro swallowed hard; sometimes the depths to which Ducky knew him almost scared him. "Ah, Duck," he said, brushing his hand over Ducky's head. "I'd have given up a hell of a lot more before I gave you up."
Ducky smiled, just a little sadly. "I know that, dearest. But . . . I just hope you won't have any regrets."
Jethro shook his head. "How could I have?" he asked. "I've got you, Duck. That's enough for me."
"Is it?" Ducky looked somewhat hesitant. "I like to think so, but -"
Jethro silenced Ducky in his preferred way. "We did the right thing, Duck," he said, when he took his mouth from Ducky's. "I did the right thing. Now," he added, "talking about giving things up . . ."
"Yes?" Ducky looked hopeful.
Hoping he had read things correctly, Jethro said, "Well, it's just that everyone including you seemed to assume I'd be here. You talked about the kids visiting us, here."
Ducky smiled and then under Jethro's gaze blushed a little. "I did hope that as there was nothing any longer to prevent us from being open about our relationship, that you might be affable, that you might consider, moving in with me. However, if you'd rather just spend a few nights here and maintain your house and -"
Once again Jethro silenced his lover. "That answer your question?" he asked, when again with reluctance, but necessity, he took his mouth from Ducky's.
Ducky looked utterly content and his eyes blazed with even more love then they had done earlier as well as with a hint of desire. The latter, given they'd spent most of the afternoon in bed, Jethro was a little surprised to see. But then again, there were times when their lovemaking didn't end with climaxes, so maybe he shouldn't be surprised. And to his slight chagrin, he was aware he was slightly aroused.
Thus despite the relative earliness of the night, he asked somewhat nonchalantly, "You ready for bed, Duck?"
Ducky's smile deepened and his eyes twinkled. "Well, I really should clear things away. However, given there is no chance of us being woken up in the middle of the night and dragged from our nice warm, comfortable bed and tomorrow with dawn with no rush to get to the office, I believe everything can wait until the morning. Although," he said quickly, brushing his lips over Jethro's and moving out of Jethro's arms. "I will just put the fire guard up and make sure it isn't burning too brightly before I come up." He began to move towards the living room, but Jethro stopped him.
"I'll do that. You go and brush your teeth or something. But don't get undressed."
Ducky cocked an eyebrow at him and then deliberately looked Jethro up and down before saying, his voice sultry, "I do believe that is an order which I am quite happy to obey." And with one more up and down look, he turned away and headed towards the stairs.