TITLE: Will You?
AUTHOR: Ashleigh Anpilova
PAIRING: Leroy Jethro Gibbs/Donald 'Ducky' Mallard
SUMMARY: A sequel to Last Christmas. Jethro gives Ducky his special gift.
WORD COUNT: 2,228
DISCLAIMER: I don't own these characters, nor am I making any money from them. I merely borrow them from time to time.
CHRISTMAS EVE 2010
The more he thought about it, the more Jethro reluctantly began to think his planned 'special Christmas gift' for Ducky hadn't been such a good idea. Oh, not the gift itself or the sentiment behind it, but the planned timing. His plan had been to give Ducky the gift on Christmas morning, before dinner. The rest of the gifts they would exchange later, but this one he wanted Ducky to have before then.
He guessed he could give it to Ducky that evening, but that wasn't what he wanted to do. Not many people would call him a romantic man, but somehow Ducky brought out that side in him. And Christmas Day was the perfect time. Or so he'd thought until Ducky had started to talk about all the things that would need doing, which he'd be doing, on Christmas Day.
He had then realized he'd omitted to pick up a second box of after dinner mints and despite Jethro's assurance that after one of Ducky's Christmas dinners, no one would have room for more than a mint if that, Ducky had gently but firmly 'bullied' Jethro into going out into the bitterly cold and snowy day to buy a second box. In fact he'd declared, just as Jethro was leaving, Jethro had better get an extra two boxes.
During his unplanned and unintended and unwanted trip, Jethro had gone through in his mind all the things Ducky had mentioned that he'd be doing the following day. And the more he'd thought, the more he'd began to doubt unless he took up permanent residence in the kitchen that he'd be lucky if he got to see Ducky for more than a minute or two.
As he 'forgot' he was meant to be a gentleman and grabbed the last two boxes of after dinner mints just as a tall female had hurried up to the display and made an abortive attempt to grab one, he decided there had to be a way. He was an investigator; he was used to solving problems; he'd just have to figure it out.
He returned home from the last minute errand to find his lover sitting at the dining room table writing what he saw was a detailed, highly intricate timing plan for the following day. A quick glance at it showed Jethro that Ducky had accounted for virtually every minute of the morning from the moment they got up, until the kids arrived for Christmas dinner - and even after their arrival, until the time the main course was to be served.
"Is something the matter, my dear?" Ducky asked, gazing up at Jethro and tipping his head back even further than he normally did; the gesture was a clear invitation to be greeted with a kiss. Jethro duly obliged; then delivered a second one for good measure.
"No, Duck, why should anything be wrong?" he asked, pulling off his coat and tossing it over an armchair.
"It's just that you were frowning somewhat. Did you not manage to get the mints?"
"No. I mean, yeah. I mean, I got them, Duck."
"Oh, good. Then what is the matter?"
"Just looking at your timing whatsit." Jethro waved his hand at the piece of paper Ducky was writing on.
"My timing plan? Oh, it may seem a foolish thing to do, especially when I'm cooking something I've done many times. However, my grandmamma always used to tell me that the secret to the perfect meal, especially one with so many elements to it, was in the timing."
Jethro snagged two glasses and a bottle of whiskey from the sideboard. "Did she now?" he asked, holding the bottle up and looking inquiringly at Ducky.
Ducky nodded. "Thank you, I would like a small dram. And yes, she did. In truth, Christmas luncheon is a remarkably simple meal really. There are no complex sauces, nothing needs to be flash fried, nothing requires dozens of ingredients, and nothing requires constant attention for a considerable time. It really is awfully simple."
Jethro handed Ducky a glass. "To you maybe," he said dubiously, turning a chair around and straddling it. "I wouldn't attempt it."
"Ah, but I assure you that if you had my timing plan, e- you could manage it."
"You mean 'even' me?" Jethro said, having caught the hastily covered up beginning of a word. He laughed as Ducky flushed slightly.
"I'm sorry, my dear."
"Don't be, Duck. We both know kitchens and me don’t get on."
"Hmmm," Ducky leaned back in his chair a little, sipped his drink and looked at Jethro over the rim of it. "I am sometimes convinced you are not as helpless as you pretend to be."
Jethro cast his lover a wide-eyed 'innocent' look. "Me? Would I lie to you?"
Ducky chuckled softly. "No, of course not. But you might, shall we say, elaborate a little; just as I might do with the odd thing."
"Oh, yeah?" Jethro raised an eyebrow. "Such as?"
Ducky blinked innocently at him. "Well now, dearest, there are some things that even lovers should keep secret from one another."
"Are there now?" Jethro leaned forward and kissed Ducky.
"Mmm," Ducky managed, once they parted. "Although I'm beginning to wonder why on earth I might have thought that."
"Reckon you need a bit more 'persuading' then," Jethro leaned nearer to Ducky again.
However, after a much briefer kiss than the first one, Ducky broke away and moved back a little. "I hate to disappoint you, Jethro," he said, his tone and the look in his eyes confirming his words. "However, there are things I really do need to be doing for tomorrow. And that includes finishing my timing plan."
"Have you got any time when you're not going to be tied to the kitchen?" Jethro inquired, his tone nonchalant.
Ducky glanced at the plan. "Why, yes. From 11:00 to 11:30, there is nothing I need to be doing.
Jethro reached over, snagged the pen from Ducky's hand and pulled the paper towards him. Then between 10:30 'Assemble starter' and 11:30 'Par-boil' potatoes, he scrawled 'LJG'. He pushed the paper back towards Ducky who read what Jethro had written.
He looked at Jethro and raised his eyebrow. "My dear?"
"Want to make sure I get some of your time tomorrow," Jethro said, his tone serious.
Ducky smiled at him. "Ah, my dear Jethro, you are always welcome to my time whenever you want it."
"Yeah, but I don't want to share it with the goose or potatoes, Duck. I want you all for myself."
"Do you now?" Ducky's voice and his look were sultry.
"Thought there were things you had to do," Jethro said.
"Yes, there are."
"Then you better not look at me like that again, or whatever it is that had to be done, won't get done."
Ducky chuckled. "Ah," he said. "In that case . . ."
Jethro laughed. "Want me to light the fire?"
Ducky smiled at him. "That would be very nice. You do do it so very well."
Jethro glanced at his lover suspiciously for a moment or two, before shrugging, standing up and going to the fire.
In spite of everything that, according to Ducky, needed doing, they were still able to enjoy a fairly leisurely breakfast of home baked ham and home made pork pie, and toast and coffee - for both of them. Once they'd finished breakfast, Ducky left Jethro to load the dishwasher while he got out the table clothes, napkins, place mats, coasters, silverware, glasses, napkin rings and a table decoration, all of which Jethro would need in order to set the table.
As he laid everything out, Jethro felt pleased there was something he could actually do. He'd already, under Ducky's instructions, changed into a suit, dress shirt and red and green festively stripped tie. He kept glancing at his watch to make sure everything was going according to Ducky's plan.
At 10:50 he strode into the kitchen. "How's it all going, Duck?" he inquired, already enjoying the scents of the roasting goose.
Ducky looked up from arranging lettuce and smoked salmon on plates and smiled. "Very well, Jethro, thank you for asking. Have you -"
"Yep. Table's all set. You can give it the 'Ducky look over' later. So you're on schedule, are you? Timing-wise," he added.
Ducky nodded. "Actually, as a matter of fact, I am slightly ahead of schedule. I seem to have allocated a wee bit too much time for the starters. In fact I just need to," he tweaked a couple of plates and then stepped back and looked at them. "There, all done. Perhaps, as you are here, you'd be kind of enough to pop them into the pantry. It'll be cool enough in there and it's better than putting them back into the fridge."
Jethro duly obliged and took the tray into the pantry. "Does that mean I get you for an extra few minutes?" he asked, when he returned.
Ducky laughed. "Yes, dearest," he said, solemnly. "Just let me alter the timer." And he pressed several buttons. "There. Now I am all yours for thirty-seven minutes." He beamed at Jethro.
"Thirty-seven minutes? Not forty."
Ducky looked askance. "My dear Jethro, those three minutes could . . ." But he couldn't keep the serious tone in his voice or on his face and instead he began to laugh. "Oh, Jethro," he said, moving nearer to Jethro. "I do love you, my dear."
"Love you too, Duck. Now come on, before I lose any of my minutes."
He took Ducky's hand and led him out of the kitchen and into the sitting room where he'd already lit the fire. The Christmas tree lights were on, a CD of classical Christmas music played softly in the background and over on the sideboard, out of sight, stood a tray with a wine cooler, a bottle of champagne and two glasses. Everything was ready. Everything was perfect.
He swallowed hard, suddenly realizing the one part of this he hadn't planned was what to say. He glanced at Ducky and saw his lover was watching him carefully, his head on one side, a speculative look on his face.
He took Ducky's hand, suddenly realizing that he didn't need to plan what to say; he just had to say it. "Duck," he said softly.
"Jethro?" Ducky's voice was low.
"Got something to ask you." He put his hand into his jacket pocket and pulled out the special gift, for a moment he kept it enclosed in his hand. "You know I love you. You know there's no one else and there won't ever be. On this day last year you changed my life for the better. You gave me the best gift I'd ever had. The best gift I could ever want. You - ah, Duck, I'm not good at this."
"I think you're doing an extremely good job, Jethro," Ducky said, his voice still low.
Jethro flashed him a smile, bent his head to brush his lips over Ducky's and then straightened back up. He brought his hand into Ducky's view, turned it over and opened his fingers. "Duck," he paused. "Donald Mallard, would you -" He broke off; it was no good, the pretty words wouldn't come. "Will you marry me, Duck?" he asked, holding the simple gold band between his thumb and forefinger.
"Oh, Jethro," Ducky said softly, a hint of a tremble in his voice. "You have . . . You told me this Christmas would be even better than last year's. And I confess I didn't see how it could be; I truly did not, could not, see how anything could surpass the day I finally got to take you in my arms as a lover, not just a friend. But you were, of course, correct. This really is so much better." He beamed at Jethro.
"Er, that a yes, Duck?" Jethro wanted to be completely certain, before he put the gold band on Ducky's hand. And he wanted Ducky to wear it from that moment. He didn't want to wait to put it onto Ducky's finger.
Ducky smiled. "Yes. Oh, yes. Leroy Jethro Gibbs, I would be honored and delighted to marry you. Yes, Jethro." And he smiled more broadly.
Jethro sighed with happiness and relief and with great solemnity, slowly and carefully pushed the ring onto Ducky's hand. Then he bent his head and lightly kissed Ducky's lips, before slipping his arms around Ducky and holding him. "Forever, Duck," he said quietly. "You're mine forever."
Ducky sighed, the sound was one of complete pleasure and happiness. "I believe I like the sound of that," he said. "In fact I like the sound of it very much indeed." And he put his own arms around Jethro's neck and offered up his mouth for another kiss.
Eleven o'clock had gone by without either of them noticing it; as did 11:10 and 11: 20. In fact had it not been for Ducky's timer informing him that it was 11:30 and time to par-boil the potatoes, Jethro suspected the kids might have arrived to the smell of burnt cooking.
As he kissed his husband one last time and let him go, Jethro realized he had never been quite as happy as he was at that moment.