A FITTING TRIBUTE
This is the first story in my Occasions Universe.
It's 25th January. Ducky takes a day's leave from work and promises Jethro something special. Why then is Jethro's 'alert' button activated?
An established relationship story.
Written: October 2004. Word count: 3,417.
"Hi, Duck, I'm home," Jethro called, kicking the door shut and dropping his briefcase onto the floor.
Moments later his long-time lover appeared, a loving smile on his face, and most oddly some kind of kitchen implement in his hand. His hair was mussed in the way that it rarely was outside of the bedroom, and a savory aroma seemed to follow him. "Jethro my dear," he said, and moved into Jethro's arms, sliding his arms up and around Jethro's neck as he always did.
"Ouch," Jethro said, jerking back from the kiss he'd been about to share with Ducky. "Duck," he half-growled, as he released his two handed hug and rubbed the back of his head. His hand encountered a metal object. "Give me that," he ordered, tugging the implement that Ducky had been holding out of his lover's hand. Ducky obeyed, and his pale blue eyes twinkled.
"I am sorry, my dear," he said placidly, and again offered his mouth for a kiss.
Now that Jethro had the ‘thing' in his hand, he didn't know what to do with it, so he tossed it to the floor.
"Jeth -" Ducky started to say, but Jethro swallowed the word with a kiss, which went on for a considerably long time.
"Now," Jethro said, pulling away and idly wondering, not for the first time, how on earth Ducky could still turn him on so easily after such a long time together. "Are you going to explain to me why you insisted on taking a day's leave, and just what you've got planned?"
Ducky's eyes twinkled again and Jethro groaned silently. He knew that look. He knew it only too well. "Duck," he growled. "I'm tired. It's been a hell of a day. I'm -" This time Ducky silenced him.
By the time they parted, Jethro had forgotten what he'd been going to say; in fact he no longer felt tired, just mellow and accepting. Damn Ducky; he could do that to him every time.
"Go and have a shower, Jethro, and I'll pour you a drink," Ducky said, and patted Jethro's arm.
Jethro glanced down at him, saw the same look and resigned himself. Just occasionally he felt years, decades even, older than Ducky - but he wouldn't change a thing. "Okay, Duck," he said, bending down to pick the ‘thing' up before Ducky could do so. "You've convinced me." Then feeling suddenly wicked, he added, "That is unless I can convince you to join me in the shower."
"Jethro," Ducky said in his own fondly exasperated way.
Jethro chuckled, grabbed his briefcase, paused to kiss Ducky again, and made his way up the stairs. A shower would be good. A shower and a drink would be very good. A shower with Ducky would be even better, but . . . After all, he had been promised a ‘special supper', so that was something at least. Except there had been something about Ducky when he'd told Jethro of his plans for the meal. Something that Jethro couldn't quite put his finger on what it was - only that it made his ‘alert' button begin to twitch, albeit infinitesimally.
He walked naked from the bathroom to their bedroom, and was only faintly surprised to see Ducky waiting there. He had a glass, a quarter filled with amber colored liquid, in each hand; they were their best crystal glasses.
Jethro smiled and purloined one of the glasses, took a swallow, and blinked. "Wow!" he said, glancing at Ducky. "That's good." Ducky just smiled. Jethro put his glass on his nightstand and opened his arms. "Come here," he said, lowering his voice.
To his surprise and faint amusement, Ducky took a step backwards and held up the hand that wasn't holding his glass. "Oh, no, dearest," he said, and smiled to soften the words. "If I come into your arms now, supper will be ruined."
Jethro sighed melodramatically, and turned to dig clean shorts and an undershirt from his chest of drawers. "Do I need to dress up?" he asked, as he pulled the underwear on.
"No, my dear, of course not," Ducky said softly. However, the tone said something else. Jethro glanced at his lover, Ducky was somewhat ‘dressed up', including a bow tie that Jethro could have sworn he'd never seen before. The pale blue eyes watched him with deep affection, and a just hint of wistfulness.
Everyone thought that it was Jethro who always got his own way in the relationship; he certainly appeared to. But it wasn't true. Ducky could manipulate him in ways that no one else had ever been able to, or had ever dared to try to do. And the odd thing was that Jethro let his lover manipulate him, again something he had never done with anyone else. Ducky's manipulation was subtle, so subtle that it had taken Jethro some years to actually realize what his friend was doing. But by the time he had worked it out, he was so deeply in love with Ducky, that he didn't mind.
Sighing exaggeratedly though, as he always did, he compromised and pulled on a set of clothes similar to those he wore every day, choosing a smart white shirt rather than one of his usual short sleeve more causal ones. He drew the line at adding a tie, however; there were some things even Ducky couldn't get him to do. Except Jethro knew full well that if Ducky asked, and gave him ‘the' look, that Jethro would be tying one. Sometimes the power his oldest friend had over him worried him, or rather it worried him that it didn't worry him.
"Okay?" he said, as he tugged on his jacket. Ducky beamed, and that made Jethro feel warm inside. "Now will you come here?" he asked, again opening his arms. This time Ducky didn't hesitate.
"Are you sure you want to eat, Duck?" Jethro asked a few minutes later.
Ducky tilted his head back and met Jethro's gaze. "Yes, my dear," he said, in the tone that even Jethro knew was to be obeyed.
"Okay," Jethro said, slightly bemused. Then he became marginally concerned as his ‘alert' button chimed again. He ruffled Ducky's hair, and grinned as Ducky cast him an I'd-just-tidied-that look. "Come on then," he grabbed Ducky's hand. "Come and feed me. I'm starving." Pausing long enough to collect both now empty glasses, he led Ducky out of their bedroom.
Jethro was in the middle of telling Ducky about DiNozzo's latest annoyance, when his ears were assaulted by the sound of distressed wailing - it was coming from their dining room. He glanced down at Ducky. "Ducky, what the hell is that din?" he asked.
"Ah, yes. I am afraid that they don't sound as effective or enjoyable this way. Now the real things, that is something to -"
"What doesn't, Duck?" Jethro asked, striding into the dining room and hitting the off switch on their stereo system. He breathed a sigh of relief as the demented howling came to a halt.
"Bagpipes," Ducky answered, following Jethro into the room.
"Yes. A traditional Scottish instrument. Although, actually contrary to popular belief, the bagpipes are not of Scottish origin. The first version of the instrument can be traced back to the Middle East, well over two thousand years ago. Then, it was most likely a rather crude instrument comprised of reeds stuck into a goatskin bag. It is likely that-"
Jethro held up his hand. "Duck," he said, in his fondly exasperated voice. "I do know what bagpipes are. What I don't know is why they're playing in our dining room?"
He waited a little longer, but no further explanation seemed to be forthcoming. "Duck?" he said gently.
"It traditional on Burns Night, Jethro."
"Yes. As in Robert Burn, the Scottish poet. It's an institution of Scottish life, a night to celebrate the life and genius of the national Bard."
Jethro shook his head. It wasn't the first time Ducky's words didn't make any sense to him, but normally when they didn't, there were a lot more of them. "We're not in Scotland," he said finally, moving from Ducky's side to where a bottle of whisky, expensive, single malt whisky, sat on the sideboard. He brought it back with him and poured a generous measure into their glasses.
Ducky sighed. "No, my dear," he said quietly. "I know."
Jethro took a sip of his whisky; again he admired the taste. Then he carefully put the glass down, perched on the edge of the table, reached out and snagged Ducky's hand, and tugged him towards him.
After a moment or two he had his lover arranged ‘just so', with Ducky standing between his parted legs, and his arms locked behind Ducky's back. This way he was on an eye-level with his lover without Ducky having to tip his head back. "Explain," he said gently.
Ducky sighed softly and momentarily glanced away. Then he met Jethro's eyes and slipped his arms loosely around Jethro's neck. "It goes back to when I was a young medical student in Edinburgh. My first-year tutor was an exceptional man. He -" he broke off, frowned for a moment, then went on again. "He taught me that it wasn't wrong to prefer other men to women."
"He was your lover?"
Ducky shook his head. "No. But I did love him. As a dear friend though, nothing more."
"Go on," Jethro said, trying to keep any hint of the preposterous and hypocritical jealousy from sounding in his voice.
"Oh, Jethro my dear," Ducky said; he smiled and shook his head. "He used to take us to Burns Night celebrations. Ah, Jethro, they were special. They had real bagpipers, and the sound was extraordinary. We were all piped into the room where we were to eat. The Chairman welcomed us, and then as the meal was brought in he said The Selkirk Grace, and then after we'd partaken of the soup course, the pipers would pipe in the haggis. We all had to stand to welcome it, and clap in time to the music, until the haggis reached its destination. And a particularly honored guest would have the duty of both addressing the haggis, and making the first incision into it. Of course a canny chef will ensure that a small cut has already been made in the skin to prevent it from bursting, and possibly scalding people, when the incision is made. The addresser raises the haggis in triumph during the final line of the address, and everyone applauds. It is then toasted - with whisky, of course - and served along with the customary companions of ‘neeps' and ‘tatties', and more traditional music is played during the meal."
Jethro just stared at Ducky. His friend had, as always during one of his rambling tales, become animated and locked in a world of his own. Well, as least it isn't a story I've heard twenty times before, Jethro thought - unlike most of his lover's ramblings. He suddenly realized that Ducky had stopped talking. "And all this goes on in homes across Scotland every year?" Jethro said in bemused amazement.
"Oh, no, my dear. This is just how things are done at big formal events that are full of pomp and ceremony. Of course, I am not giving you a true picture. You really do have to be there to appreciate the sights, sounds, scents and tastes, and to drink in the whole atmosphere. However, a cut-down version of this does take place in many Scottish homes; the meal at least, and of course the whisky."
Jethro unlinked one of his hands from behind Ducky's back and reached for his glass. He took a large sip then passed it to Ducky to empty. "Duck," he said carefully, his antennae still twitching. "Forgive my ignorance, but what has this to do with us? You're not Scottish, I know you went to University there, but you didn't have to take out Scottish nationalship, or whatever the hell it's called, did you?"
Ducky chuckled gently. "No, Jethro."
"I received news a few days ago that my old Professor had died, and I thought it would be a nice way to remember him. Maybe it was foolish of me."
"Ah, Duck. I'm sorry. Why didn't you say? How close were you? You haven't mentioned him before. Were you in touch regularly?" Again he fought the irrational feeling of jealousy, and hoped that his firing of short, sharp questions hadn't come over as the interrogation it had sounded like to his own ears.
Ducky smiled gently. "I think you could compare our relationship, in many ways, to the one you have with some of your ex-Commanders. Of the kind where you know that if you needed something, the other person would do whatever he could, even if it meant bending or breaking a few rules to help you. And yet you weren't necessarily in touch with the person even from one year to the next. When I told him that I had met someone special, he told me to contact him again if anything went wrong."
"He loved you," Jethro said softly. "He was in love with you."
Ducky held his gaze. "Yes, my dear. I believe he was. But it would have been terribly inappropriate. Not to mention the fact that he was more than three decades older than me; he and my mother were of an age. Twelve years is one thing, Jethro. Thirty-two would have been wrong."
"For him or you?" Jethro asked, before he could prevent the words from slipping out.
"Ah, Jethro," Ducky said simply, and moved closer to Jethro and kissed him. He broke away, stared deeply into Jethro's eyes, and said, "I loved him, Jethro. I was never in love with him. I never loved him, or anyone else, the way I love you."
This time Jethro bit back his enquiry about whether Ducky would have slept with the man, in love or not. After all, love and sex didn't have to have anything to do with one another - Jethro himself could attest to that!
However Ducky, who always seemed to know exactly where Jethro was, even if he had his back to him, now confirmed, as Jethro had often suspected, that he was also telepathic, said softly, "No, my dear, I wouldn't have done."
Jethro was momentarily speechless. Then he shook himself, reached this time for Ducky's glass, half drained it and passed it to his lover to empty. Ducky shook his head. "You finish it, Jethro. I had one or two small tots whilst preparing supper. Which we are going to eat, are we not?"
Jethro read his lover as well as Ducky read him. "Sure, Duck," he said, tossing back the rest of the whisky and briefly kissing Ducky before releasing him. "Just tell me one thing, what is haggis?"
Ducky, who had begun to move towards the door leading to the kitchen, paused and glanced back. "Try it first, my dear. It's better that way."
Jethro moved towards him. "Duck."
Ducky sighed, tipped his head back, Jethro had moved rather closer than he had originally intended, and looked mildly exasperated. "Jethro Gibbs, you eat hours-old cold pizza. You drink, to quote our friend Tobias, ‘paint stripper'. Your coffee is so strong that it could probably lift the entire NCIS building on its own. You were a Marine who saw active duty on more than one occasion. You ate what you could, when you could, and did not ask too many questions. Trust me. Try it first; I'll tell you what it is later."
Jethro held the pale blue gaze that, despite its mild exasperation and determination, held all the love and affection Ducky had always shown for him. Jethro shrugged, resigned to his fate. "Well, I've trusted you for nearly thirty years, Duck, I don't see why I should stop now. Go on then, feed me."
"Yes, Jethro," Ducky said. "Go and sit down." He began to move towards the door again.
Jethro stopped him. "Er, Duck," he said, carefully. "Just how far are we going with the tradition?" Ducky cocked an eyebrow. "I mean are we going to have that thing warbling at us while we eat? And are you going to make me clap when you bring the haggis in?"
Ducky smiled. "No, my dear. The food and whisky will be enough. I too find that I cannot bear to listen to that version of the sound I grew to love. But I would ask you one small indulgence."
"That you allow me to recite the traditional Selkirk Grace before we eat."
Jethro shrugged. Neither of them was particularly religious; although both had been brought up to attend church regularly. Ducky occasionally attended services and seemed more inclined towards the whole thing than Jethro himself, despite him lighting the occasional candle, but even that seemed more out of tradition than anything else. "Of course," he said.
Ducky smiled, and this time did leave the room.
He returned with two soup bowls, put one down in front of Jethro, one on his own mat, and said solemnly, a hint of a Scottish accent in his voice, "Some hae meat and canna eat, And some wad eat that want it; But we hae meat and we can eat, And sae the Lord be thankit."
Unsure whether he was meant to murmur, ‘Amen', Jethro just cleared his throat.
They began to eat the traditional Burns Night meal, and Ducky obligingly told Jethro what everything was.
They began with cock-a-leekie soup, which Ducky assured him was homemade; not that Jethro needed the assurance. Despite never having tasted that particular flavor of soup before, and despite not having, according to his lover, a ‘particularly sophisticated palate', even he could tell homemade soup over shop bought.
Then they moved on to the haggis, ‘neeps' and ‘tatties', which were apparently mashed swede and mashed potatoes. Although Ducky still didn't seem inclined to explain exactly what haggis was.
They then had something that Ducky declared to be ‘Typsy Laird', but in Jethro's opinion was a sherry trifle, albeit a very good sherry trifle - he could see where the ‘tipsy' came from.
Then as he was convinced he wouldn't need to eat for another week, Ducky brought in cheese and what Ducky told him were ‘bannocks' or oatcakes.
"Well?" Ducky demanded, as they sat in front of the fire sipping coffee and yet more whisky. Jethro was glad that the next day was Saturday, and that precluding sudden deaths or other ‘hinky' things happening to naval personnel, neither he nor Ducky needed to go to the office.
"Very well, thank you, Duck," Jethro said, beginning to play with a strand of Ducky's silky, thick hair, that tumbled over his own shoulder, where Ducky's head had come to rest. "That was some meal you cooked. Where on earth did you get everything from?"
"I have my sources, Jethro," Ducky said, a twinkle in his voice.
Yes, he did, Jethro knew that. If Ducky wanted something badly enough, Ducky seemed able to find someone to send it to him. "Are you okay, Duck?" he asked after a moment or two of silence.
"Yes, my dear. I am fine. It was a fitting tribute to a great man. I think he would have been pleased, even without the music." Ducky turned his head on Jethro's shoulder and smiled. "Let us go to bed, Jethro," he said softly.
"Duck, as much as I hate to admit it, I'm not sure that I'm up for anything after all that food, not to mention the whisky you kept giving me," Jethro said, a tad ruefully.
Ducky chuckled gently. "Ah, Jethro my dear," he said. "When have we ever needed to actually make love, in order to make love? Come," he moved out of Jethro's embrace, pushed himself to his feet, and offered his hand to help Jethro to his feet.
Comfortably ensconced in one another's arms following their usual night-time pre-bed ritual, they simply enjoyed being together, holding one another and sharing affectionate kisses and gentle non-arousing caresses.
As Jethro felt his eyes grow heavy, he suddenly remembered. "Hey, Duck," he managed, wondering if the words sounded as slurred to Ducky as they did to him. "What exactly is haggis?"
LINKS TO ALL THE STORIES IN THE OCCASIONS UNIVERSE
A Fitting Tribute
There Be No Dragons
Upon That Night
A Ghostly Tale
Here We Go A-Caroling
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