TITLE: Photos Say It All
PAIRING: Leroy Jethro Gibbs/Donald 'Ducky' Mallard
SUB-GENRE: Established Relationship
SUMMARY: The photos Abby took on Christmas day are printed and why did Jackson Gibbs handle the news of his son's sexuality so well?
RATING: NC17 (Overall)
WARNINGS: Part includes short story about homophobia with mentioned deaths.
WORD COUNT: 5008
Part 1 - Part 2 - Part 3 - Part 4 - Part 5 - Part 6
With the body down in autopsy, Tony and Ziva off following up some leads and McGee going through some records, Gibbs made his way down to Abby's lab.
As much as he wanted to, he knew that he couldn't immediately go straight to autopsy when no doubt Ducky and Jimmy would be half way through their work and they had no time for disruptions.
"What you got for me, Abbs?"
"Well I'm still awaiting stuff from autopsy, but I am running some samples I found inside the petty officer's car." she tapped away at her keyboard several times before continuing,
"With a bit of luck, there should be a ding any moment now. I have however got the photos from Christmas day."
She proffered the photos with a smile.
"You printed them already?"
Gibbs took the wallet and immediately started going through them, unable to ignore there were a lot of sneaky pictures of him and Ducky that had been taken without either of them noticing.
"Of course, you know how efficient I am. I meant to ask you, Gibbs...about the angel on the tree. Is it?"
"Kelly's? Yeah. Ducky put it on there."
His browsing stopped on a photo of him and Ducky at the moment he'd placed the bracelet on Ducky's wrist.
"You two are so perfect together, you know."
"Yeah...Yeah, I know." He smiled at her, his words confident.
"Do you think you two will get married?"
Much to his relief, Major Mass Pec let out a ding, which distracted her for a moment and she hurried about pressing buttons again and printing off the data sheet.
"Well, the stuff under his fingernails is definitely manure. Horse dung to be exact."
"Then turns up at Quantico?"
"Maybe there are flowerbeds near Quantico that use it as compost?"
"Good thinking, Abbs. I'll send someone onto that for ya."
"Make sure they take a sample from each flowerbed so I can cross check it."
"I'm sure hand prints in the dirt will also be a clue."
Leaving a kiss on her temple, Gibbs stopped in the doorway as she spoke again.
"True. Oh, and Gibbs. Don't think I've forgotten about wanting an answer to my question."
He smiled but still didn't answer, taking safe refuge in the lift. The thought had been weighing heavily on his mind of late. Was it too soon? Many who'd known them long enough would say that twenty years to get to know each other was definitely too long.
For now he'd have to push it to the back of his mind and focus on the case. Returning to the bullpen, he stopped in front of Tim's desk.
"Boss. I've been digging through the naval database but I'm not getting anywhere." he said, flustered, "I'm sorry, I'm trying and I'll try harder, I promise."
"Sign of weakness, Tim, and leave it for now cause I've got another job for you."
"Go find agent Dorneget, go to Quantico and the surrounding areas and take samples from any flowerbeds you find. There was horse manure under the dead petty officer's fingernails and Abby needs samples."
"Right boss. Will do."
Grabbing his bag and relief evident on his face, he hot-footed it to the lift, almost crashing into Tobias Fornell as the lift door slid open.
"In a hurry, agent McGee?"
"Got horse manure to trace."
"You NCIS guys have all the fun." he said with a grin.
Still smiling, Tobias approached Gibbs' desk.
"Hey Tobias. What did I do wrong now?"
With a laugh, Tobias sat down on the corner of the desk. He knew he hated him doing that so made a point of doing it whenever possible.
"Why do you assume every time I come to NCIS I'm directly coming to see you?"
"Don't see ya all that often these days, and get your butt offa my desk!"
"I stopped by your house a week ago and a few weeks before that but you were nowhere to be seen."
It was then that it dawned on him that Tobias still didn't know about the recent changes. He felt a little guilty having not told him since he was one of his closest friends, but then they never really made it a big habit of meeting up since they were both mostly busy.
Grabbing the man by his arm, Gibbs lead him towards the elevator. Once it started moving, he flipped the emergency switch.
"Is there a reason you've pulled me into here? Okay, look, I did come to see you, but only after I see Director Vance. Your latest body is going to creep into FBI jurisdiction. Happy now?"
"Somewhat," Gibbs said with a coy smile, "but that's not why I dragged you here. I should have told you a while ago but...I'm in a relationship."
"Is that all? I thought it was bad news. So who's the new one? She a red-head too?"
"No, it's...not at all what you're thinking." he said, smiling as he rested his head against the metal panel behind him, staring up at the lights above them. "It's...Ducky."
There was a momentary silence as Tobias took in the words before letting out a small laugh, nodding his head.
"Good one, Jethro. Now seriously, what have you been up to?"
Reaching into his inner jacket pocket, Gibbs pulled out the photo wallet Abby had given him and flicked through the photos until he found the one Abby took of them in the kitchen that evening, handing it over.
"Is this a joke? We doing April fools early?"
Gibbs merely shook his head.
Tobias remained silent as he stared at the photo. He knew how close the two of them were over the years, but he never thought they'd take their relationship to something as serious as this.
"Well I'll be damned. How though?"
"I dunno, it just happened. I love him, Tobias. He knows me for better or worse, he's understanding, and somehow...he's helping me heal."
"He's got the patience of a damn saint, that's all I can say. He always has."
When Tobias' hand reached for the wallet with a brief "May I?" he handed the rest over and let him go through them.
"Jeez louise. You celebrated Christmas? Do you know how many years I had to listen to Diane bitching about how you flatly refused to be a part of it when you two were together? And yet..."
Gibbs could do nothing but smile.
"And you bought him a bracelet?"
"Diane would be sick as a pig if she found out. She expected me to buy her one of them once, but those things are damn expensive."
"Yeah, I know."
Tobias' mind was spinning as he took in the new revelation. The old phrase 'A picture paints a thousand words' came to mind, and each photo of them together clearly showed that there was a very strong bond of love between them. In one of them, the way Ducky was looking at Gibbs was a look Tobias had seen many times before, but he'd never really taken notice of how much love was projected through eye contact alone.
"You really are serious about him, aren't you?"
"Yeah. Come on, Tobias. You think I'd buy him that if I wasn't? Hell, I couldn't even have started something with Ducky unless I knew that it was what I wanted to do...I know I can be a bastard, but I wouldn't hurt him like that."
"This is all...rather surprising...but I guess if you're both serious and happy then who am I to say you can't? Mazel tov, my friend."
Relief flowed through Gibbs' body as they shook hands and he smiled again.
"Wait, so you don't live at your house anymore?"
"I'm working on moving my stuff over to Duck's. Slow progress but...it's hard."
"Moving on is never easy. Well, unless you've got Diane throwing your stuff at you as you leave. Right, was that all? Cause I gotta go see Vance, then I'll meet you down in autopsy for update on the body?"
Tobias handed the photos back with a grin.
"Just don't be doing anything you shouldn't be when I get down there."
"Jeez, Tobias." Gibbs said, laughing as he flicked the lift switch back on.
Part of him wished he could see Diane's face when Tobias told her the news. Whilst a part of him said he should be the one to tell her, she was his ex, and it was certainly none of her business who he dated now.
The main bedroom was bare, and it had been for many years. He never felt right sleeping in that room since Shannon's death. Since then, it was nothing more than a storage room; a room filled with memories purely of her.
Any woman who stayed the night, whether they slept together or not had never set foot in that room. Even his following wives were told that it was a storage room, and would remain so no matter what.
But now, everything was going to change. He was going to leave this house behind and a lot of memories inside it. Sitting down on the bed, he browsed the contents of one of the boxes.
Pulling out a photo album, he flicked through the pictures and felt memories and his emotions overwhelm him. Photos of him with Kelly, looking happy and playing together. He remembered her tears as he left that day, promising he'd be back in no time and not knowing it would be the last time he'd ever seen him again. After a few more pages he closed the album back up and put it down.
"Look at you, probie." a husky voice said.
Like a strange part of his consciousness, Mike Franks stood in the doorway.
"All those years of guilt and dead end marriages, and now this is the direction you're taking."
"Wondered when you was gonna turn up."
"I always knew there was something between you and him. From the day he was introduced as our new medical examiner, there was a spark. You shook his hand, and smiled at him. Then he told you to call him 'Ducky' and you immediately took to it, even dropping the 'y' in no time."
Gibbs smiled at the memory. Even to this day, he was the only one who was allowed to drop the 'y'.
"Weird, I never saw you two actually getting together being the end result."
"You and me both, Mike." he chucked to himself, "You and me both."
Reaching for an empty box, he picked it up and wrote 'PRIVATE' on every side of it with a large black sharpie pen and placed the photo albums inside it. He knew that Ducky would
understand not to touch it.
After packing up a few boxes, the private one was put in the trunk of his car and he locked the place up. It's contents were some of the most valuable to him, so bringing this one with him first was priority.
Parking up at Ducky's, he carried the box with him. Much to his delight, Ducky was already standing at the front door. He'd obviously heard his car in the driveway.
"There you are, Jethro. I was worried you wouldn't be home in time."
"Yeah, sorry about that, Duck." he leaned down for a brief kiss, "I've been sorting out my stuff ready to be brought here."
They returned into the warmth, the smell of food filling Gibbs' senses and making his stomach growl.
" I will try to sort out some space in the attic for you for anything you'd rather store."
Ducky's eyes fell upon the box and read the writing on it, looking Gibbs in the eyes and instantly nodding his understanding.
He placed the box down out of the way for the moment and pulled out the photo wallet from his jacket.
"Abby had those photos printed off for us."
"Already? Ooh, let's see them."
Taking the photos, Ducky's grin grew wider and wider as he flicked from one photo to the next, of course picking out the most precious one of the two of them.
"They're wonderful. This one definitely needs framing. Maybe we should have one printed off for your father?"
Ducky sensed his lover's wistful tone, reaching up to cup his face.
"Jethro? What's wrong?"
Gibbs sighed, wrapped his arms around the smaller man, pulling him close and kissing the top of his head.
"You make me so happy...Please don't ever leave me."
"No need to worry about that, my dear, I don't think I could stand losing you either."
The hug tightened for a moment before Gibbs suddenly started laughing.
"What a pair of soppy bastards we've become." he said, kissing Ducky's head again.
"True, my dear, but you're my soppy bastard."
"Love you, Duck. Always will."
"And I you. Now, I must get back to dinner. It's lamb casserole."
The two of them headed for the kitchen still with an arm wrapped around each other's waists where Jackson sat doing a crossword, his glasses hanging off the end of his nose and a frown of concentration as he tried to work out 9 down. Shaking his head, he let it drop, as his son entered the room.
"Hey there, Leroy. I've had a call from the Jeffersons. You know, the couple who own the small grocers?"
"Oh yeah. How they doing?"
"They're well. Their son has returned home for Iraq to celebrate New Year's. They also sent us an invite, but I imagine you'd rather be here with Donald."
He smiled at them, having noticed that their embrace hadn't broken in his presence.
"Thought so, but I plan on going back home tomorrow so that I can enjoy it with them...If you don't mind."
"Of course not." Gibbs thought for a moment, "I'll see what I can do and I might be able to drive you home."
"Don't worry, Jethro, I can drive your father home."
"You sure, Duck?"
"Mr Palmer can survive one afternoon without me, I'm sure. That is if?"
With a smile, Jackson nodded.
"I'd like that, Donald, thank you."
The next morning as planned Ducky had made arrangements for Palmer to hold the fort whilst he took Jackson back to Stillwater.
In preparation for the busy day ahead, he cooked the three of them a mixed grill breakfast, much to everyone's approval.
"Duck, this is superb." Gibbs said with a grin and kissing Ducky's cheek, leaving a smudge of ketchup behind.
Ducky chuckled, still finishing off the last of his bacon and smiling at Jackson who suddenly burped.
"Pardon me. Donald, I can't remember the last time I had such a delicious breakfast. You didn't have to go to all this trouble."
"No trouble at all."
Gibbs, having shovelled down his breakfast already, put his plate and cutlery in the dishwasher rack and checked his watch.
"Right, I'd better get going."
As Jackson got to his feet, his son pulled him into a prolonged hug.
"Bye dad, thanks for coming. Maybe next Christmas you could come early and join us for Christmas day?"
"That would be wonderful. Thanks for having me. You remember what I said the other night about relationships and work."
They parted and Gibbs patted him gently on the back before turning to Ducky.
"Bye Jethro. Take care, my dear."
"I always do. Let me know that you got there safely and then again when you get back here."
Gibbs pulled Ducky close and kissed him softly before pulling him closer still and deeply taking in a breath of the man's scent.
"I'll see you tonight then, honey." the back of his hand gently stroked down the clean side of Ducky's face, "Love you."
"Love you too."
"Oh, and you might wanna wipe that ketchup off your cheek." he said over his shoulder with a laugh as he left.
"Jethro!" Ducky exclaimed, wiping at it with his hand but laughing all the same.
On the road back to Stillwater, the two men shared a companionable silence, and Ducky reached for the radio.
"I hope you don't mind?" he asked.
"Not at all. It's gonna be a long trip so I like a bit of music for background noise."
Turning it on, the familiar piano symphony of Debussy's 'Claire De Lune' played.
"Is there a particular station you'd prefer?"
Whilst Ducky was asking out of politeness, he would rather have kept the station where it was, even just for the rest of the piece. It was much to his relief that Jackson had no issue with the choice in music.
"I tell you, Donald, I just don't get the music of today. More noise than it is actual music."
"Oh, don't get me started. Dear young Abigail has tried to get me to listen to what she calls her 'lab jams'. I do it merely to humor her. Jethro is the same though, although I feel he may do the same for me and my appreciation of the classics."
"It's amazing you know, the effect you have on him. He's been smiling a lot more, and they're genuinely happy smiles. He's been through so much. Losing Shannon almost killed him, and the fact he remarried several times. He wanted to find another Shannon so desperately, and he just got hurt time and time again."
"Well I'm certainly no Shannon."
"I know. Wasn't saying you was. Him being with you, it's like he's finally moving on, and I'm glad. Donald, I'm not going to be around much longer; I can feel it in my bones, but I want to know that he's happy before that time comes. I can tell he's happy with you if he was willing to properly celebrate the holidays for the first time in years."
"I can only do so much and believe me, I'm trying to do whatever I can to help and make him happy. Sometimes though, I wonder if it's enough."
"You've known him long enough to know how challenging he can be."
"I have and there have been times that he's been very trying, but more often than not, the things he does are with good intentions. And then there are the times when I see the softer and caring side of him, I see the man I love."
They returned to silence for a while, the radio playing the dramatic opening of Beethoven's 5th Symphony in C Minor. Other small things were discussed and the miles soon racked up. Traffic built up a bit in some major areas but quickly thinned out again.
By early afternoon, they made it into Stillwater.
"Park up here a second," Jackson said suddenly, "I wanna show you something."
Pulling over near the train station, he followed where Jackson was pointing.
"See the benches just there outside the train station?"
"That there is where Leroy and Shannon first met. They were getting the same train out of town. He called me on the other end and told me all about her and how she was glad he wasn't a lumberjack." he laughed, "She was just as strange as he was about making rules to live by."
"He probably picked up the habit from her."
"Most likely. Anyway, I just wanted to show you."
They drove on, a few more minutes but again they stopped.
"That's my store just over there." he pointed to the large store on their right, "And just there, that shop with the dresses in, that's where Shannon used to work before she and Leroy got together. The amount of times I watched him stop and watch her through the window. Never actually talked to her though until that time they met at the station."
"I can imagine he was shy. Even from the photos I've seen of her with Kelly, she was truly a beautiful woman."
Again they drove on and finally parked up outside the Gibbs household; a nice, small, and bright white bungalow. Jackson's old truck sat on the driveway, looking like it hadn't been driven in a while.
"Leroy wouldn't allow me to drive it anymore. Said it was for the best. Almost ran over someone a couple of months ago, wasn't my fault though, the guy ran out without looking, but my reaction time was slower than I expected and...I decided maybe he was right."
"The time comes for us all. Jethro says once he moves in, he'll drive us both, but I like taking my Morgan for a drive, even if it is just for a drive with no real destination. Here, I'll take your cases in."
"Thanks Donald." he opened the front door and gestured inside, "Why don't cha come in for a bit? Relax for a while before you have to make the drive back."
He had time, and he did need to stretch his legs a bit since the drive had started to make his knees protest at their position they were stuck in for so long.
"Thank you, I'd be delighted to."
As he entered the living room, a photo on the mantelpiece caught his eye. Picking up the framed photo, he smiled. Gibbs looked so young, smiling and hugging Shannon close to him; her stomach distended. It was obviously taken around the time they were expecting Kelly.
Reaching into his pocket, he took out the photo of him and Gibbs from Christmas day; he could easily ask Abby to print out another one.
"I do love that photo of them. He was so happy when he told me they were expecting. Then when Shannon gave birth at three in the morning, he called and told me. She was a sweet kid. Both she and her mother were." He smiled sadly, then noticed the photo in Ducky's hand.
"I...wanted to give you this."
Handing it over, he felt slightly nervous for some reason. Maybe he feared the picture wouldn't be accepted, and he certainly didn't expect it to sit upon the mantelpiece.
Jackson looked at the photo, a smile growing on his face.
"He looks so genuinely happy. You both do. Thank you for this." he stood the photo up near the one Ducky had just been looking at. "Amelia Rowntree owns a photo printing and framing shop in town. I'm sure she'll know just the frame for it. Take a seat and I'll go get us some tea."
Releasing a breath he didn't know he'd been holding, he sat down onto the very soft and comfy couch where he gazed at other photos that sat on shelves. One was obviously of Kelly around 5 years or so, another was of Gibbs looking much younger and dressed in military uniform, but still with the ever present slight scowl on his face.
As Jackson returned with tea, Ducky took his mug with a word of thanks and immediately took a tentative sip.
"I'm glad that you've taken this all so well." Ducky said with a smile, "Jethro was rather concerned that you wouldn't approve."
"But would he have broken things off with you if I didn't?"
"He said he wouldn't have, but I know it would have eaten away at him. Of course not that he would have ever admitted it."
"It's not a problem though. Everything is fine."
"If I may ask...why? You took the news far better than we were expecting."
Placing his half empty mug down on the table beside his armchair, Jackson sighed slightly.
"Well Donald, if you have the time, I have a story to tell. I've never told Leroy or really anyone up till now."
Ducky nodded, happy to hear someone tell him a story for once instead of vise versa. Jackson stood and approached the liquor cabinet and removing the bottle of scotch and a tumbler.
"Hope you don't mind, but I need something a little stronger."
"No problem at all."
Pouring himself half a glass, he knocked it back, taking a breath.
"When I was in my early twenties, I knew a guy by the name of Harold Snickett. He was a good man, and a very good friend of mine. He was considered odd by most people, and I could sense there was something different about him. I didn't know what it was at first; I just couldn't put my finger on it. Then one day, I walked into the restroom of the factory I used to work in and...there he was in the arms of another man, kissing."
He paused, for a moment, gathering his thoughts and topping up his glass.
"Even now I can see their faces. The fear of being caught and found out. I didn't know what to make of it at first, but I knew that Harold, despite this, was still one of my best friends. I told them that I wouldn't say anything, and I kept that promise to them. Then one day, Harold turned up on my doorstep in tears. His lover had been brutally beaten and murdered. It was, of course, a homophobic attack, and they were out to kill Harold too. I let him stay at my place a few weeks to lay low, and then set about a plan to get him outta town to somewhere safe. I had sorted out a few things like transport for him and possible places to stay, but then...I came home from work and..."
Tears built up in his eyes and he sipped from his glass before wiping his eyes with his hanky.
Ducky rested his hand on Jackson's arm, knowing that this story was going to end badly.
"My front door had been smashed in, and in the bedroom he'd been staying in...the walls were covered in his blood. His body on the floor, his head barely attached to his spine. I don't know who told him where he was, but after that...Well, I knew I had to get myself outta there. I didn't want to take a chance in case they were gonna go after me next for being a sympathizer."
"That's awful...I don't know what I would do if someone...My father most certainly wouldn't have accepted my sexuality, so I never showed it. My mother on the other hand, she knew, and she didn't seem at all bothered. I imagine you walking in on Jethro and I in the kitchen brought that memory back."
"Sure did. I just hope that you two don't..." he couldn't finish his sentence.
"Things have changed. No there are still people who oppose our choice in life, but there's less chance now that either of us will be killed just because of our sexuality. You are a wonderful person, Jackson, and I'm sure Harold and his partner were grateful for your understanding and support. Just as much as Jethro and I appreciate it now."
Jackson patted Ducky on the shoulder, smiling.
"Of all the men he could have fallen for, he's chosen well. I know it's probably all too soon to say this, but I'm proud to call you my son-in-law."
Without another word, the two men stood and embraced.
"Maybe sometime in the new year, Jethro and I will book a bit of holiday time and come stay here with you."
"I'd like that very much."
Ducky let out a contented sigh and looked at the clock on the mantelpiece.
"As much as I hate to say it, I think it is time for me to take my leave."
"It's been wonderful spending time with you. I really do hope we do it again soon."
"As do I."
Ducky retrieved his coat and hat, feeling he wanted to stay longer but knew that traffic would probably be a bit hectic if he left it too long. At the front door, they shared another but more brief hug.
"Take care of each other."
"I promise. I hope you enjoy the new year celebrations with the Pattersons, and we will both see you next year."
"Definitely. Drive safely."
When he arrived back home, he was surprised to see Gibbs' car already in the driveway. Opening the front door his senses were aroused by the smell of cinnamon.
Removing his coat and hat, he smiled as arms wrapped around his waist, gently pulling him back against the body behind him. Soft lips kissed along the side of his face and stopped beside his ear.
"Hello my dear." he turned in the arms around him, returning the embrace.
"My dad okay?"
Their lips met in a series of brief kisses.
"Very much so. I enjoyed my time with him. What's all this then?" he asked, noticing the front room was mostly dark apart from the reading lamp in the corner and the fireplace that was alight and the source of the smell.
"Just cooking us some steak."
"I must confess I'm slightly relieved you're not cooking them on the fireplace."
"No offense, Duck, but I don't like your fireplace as a cooking appliance. Put some cinnamon on the fire instead to make the place smell nice. Think I threw too much on though."
Ducky shook his head, one hand reaching into Gibbs' hair to stroke gently.
"I think it's perfect. A truly wonderful thing to come home to. Thank you, my dear sweet Jethro."
"After a long drive I didn't think you'd be up to cooking."
"You thought correctly, I was going to suggest we went out to eat, but this just fine. Is there anything I can help you with?"
"Nope, I'm good. Go relax for now, honey."
Ducky sat with the tumbler of gin in his hand and smiled to himself. First being called 'honey' twice in one day and now dinner? After all these years it still surprised him to see the man that Leroy Jethro Gibbs could really be when love came into the equation.