THERE BE NO DRAGONS
This is the third story in my Occasions Universe.
It's 23rd April. Ducky awakes to find the bed empty and noises coming from the kitchen.
He ventures downstairs to discover that Jethro has prepared a cooked breakfast for them and seems to be in an expectant mood.
An established relationship story.
Written: April 2006. Word count: 2,542.
Ducky stretched as he woke up, blinking in an effort to focus his eyes.
Beside him the bed was empty; given how cool the covers were, it had been so for a while. Not that Ducky was particularly bothered, a glance across the bed to the far nightstand showed that Jethro's gun was still in place. Thus his lover hadn't gone out to face death and destruction without telling Ducky. Not that Jethro would do that anyway.
And early morning lovemaking had never particularly appealed to Ducky, at least not before he had a chance to visit the bathroom for his normal morning routine. Fortunately, Jethro shared the same opinion.
Not that there weren't times when they didn't return to their bed afterwards; even now there were occasions when . . . Ducky smiled to himself. He was secure in the knowledge that if he went down to the basement, where Jethro was no doubt working on his boat, he could, should he chose to do so, entice his lover back to bed.
Just as he was pondering whether in due course to do that or not, faint noises coming from the direction of the kitchen alerted him to the fact that Jethro wasn't in the basement. No doubt he was refilling his coffee mug.
However, the noises from the kitchen influenced other parts of Ducky's body, and his mind turned from gentle lovemaking to tea and toast.
Chuckling softly to himself, he climbed slowly from the bed. He spent a few moments exercising his leg, it was always much stiffer in the morning than at any other time, and then made his way to the bathroom.
About forty minutes after he'd first opened his eyes, Ducky made his way down the stairs. To his surprise, noises were still coming from the kitchen.
"Hey, Duck," said Jethro, suddenly appearing. "I was beginning to wonder if you were ever getting up."
"It is the weekend, Jethro and -" Ducky's next words were interrupted as Jethro tugged him into his arms and kissed him. Jethro tasted, as he always seemed to do, of coffee and the Old Spice shaving lotion he'd used for as long as Ducky had known him.
Ducky swore that even after Jethro had brushed his teeth, he tasted of coffee. But Jethro always countered the comment with the fact that Ducky was constantly surrounded, even after he had just showered, or indeed while showering, by a lingering scent of Formaldehyde.
In Jethro's arms, his favorite place to be, kissing and being kissed by him, Ducky's thoughts returned to the possibility of enticing his lover back to their bed.
Just as he was weighing up whether lovemaking was preferable to breakfast, Jethro gently broke the kiss, put his arm around Ducky's shoulders and led him into the dining room.
"Jethro!" Ducky came to a stop inside the door and stared at the rather formally set table. "Are we expecting guests?"
"No. I just thought it'd be nice for a change to actually sit down and enjoy breakfast, rather than grab something quick." Jethro guided Ducky to a chair and waited for him to sit down. His lover sounded far too innocent for Ducky's liking.
Running quickly through all the possibilities, Jethro had somehow scratched Ducky's Morgan; DiNozzo's heating was broken again and Jethro had given in and 'invited' the agent to stay; Jethro had resigned; Jennifer Shepard had decided that Ducky would retire, and several other more bizarre options for Jethro's actions, Ducky realized that none really fitted. Jethro didn't play games, at least not with Ducky.
Ducky was pulled from his musings as Jethro dropped a fleeting kiss on the top of his head and went back into the kitchen. A moment later he reappeared with a pot of tea and another of coffee He then made a further trip and brought in plates of scrambled eggs, bacon, tomatoes and mushrooms. A final one was needed for the toast, butter and marmalade.
Suddenly the only possibility that couldn't be entirely dismissed was that someone Jethro had damaged the Morgan. But even so. Jethro's behavior still seemed somewhat odd. Surely he'd just tell Ducky what he'd done and apologize. Then they'd fix the problem. Together. As they always did.
However, deciding that whatever it was could wait, and the piping hot breakfast couldn't, Ducky picked up his knife and fork and began to eat.
For several minutes the two men just ate. They exchanged the odd day-to-day comment about nothing in particular and everything in general.
Finally the plates had been cleared and taken away. Jethro refilled Ducky's teacup, pushed the toast and butter towards him, and looked at him, his attentive expectant look on his face.
Ducky took a sip of the tea; it was very good. For someone who never drank tea, unless he was forced to, and who proclaimed he hated it, Jethro made it perfectly. Ducky spread a slice of toast with butter and marmalade and looked across the table at his lover. Jethro appeared to be waiting for something. Ducky just didn't know what it was. And for reasons best known to himself, it appeared as though Jethro wasn't in a hurry to enlighten him.
"That was very nice, my dear," Ducky said after a moment or two. "But why?"
Jethro smiled, the one that he reserved solely for Ducky. "I decided that a good breakfast was needed."
"Yes, before you lecture me and tell me what we're going to do today."
Ignoring the urge to place his hand on his lover's forehead, Ducky frowned slightly and raised an eyebrow. "My dear?"
Jethro sighed dramatically. He poured himself another cup of coffee, took a bite of toast and said, "It's April 23rd, Duck." Before Ducky could say anything, Jethro continued. "St. George's Day. St. George, the guy who slayed the dragon. The Patron Saint of England. Your Patron Saint."
"Well I figured that as we'd done Burns Night, Scottish, to tie in with where you went to University. And St. David's Day because it's possible that your real grandfather was Welsh, that as you're English, we'd do St. George's Day. So I'm waiting."
"For you to tell me all about him and his life. What the English do to celebrate the day, and what we're going to do or eat. Well, come on, I've had a good meal, I've got plenty of coffee, give me his life story. Well maybe the Reader's Digest version. But keep in the dragon."
For a moment Ducky couldn't speak. It was rare that anything or anyone, especially Jethro moved him to silence. But the simplicity and intensity of what his lover had done, touched him in a way that even the most expensive gift couldn't have done.
"Ah, Jethro," he finally said, reaching across and capturing one of the gun calloused hands. "I do love you, my dear."
"Love you too, Duck. Now come on, tell me. Are we going dragon hunting somewhere?"
Ducky chuckled. "Actually, my dear," he said gently, releasing Jethro's hand and settling more comfortably into his chair, "it is very unlikely that he ever fought a dragon."
"But I've seen pictures."
"Indeed. However it is merely a story of knights and bravery with which to entertain children. And you have to admit, the gallant English knight astride a horse, become carrying a shield and slaying a fire breathing, dragon, thus saving the beautiful maiden, is certainly an interesting story. One that tied in very well with English ideals of honor, bravery and gallantry. The truth is far less exciting. In fact," he swallowed another mouthful of tea and smiled softly at Jethro. "The truth is, my dear, not only was George actually not English, it is very unlikely that he ever visited England."
"No. Nor is England the only country of whom he is the Patron Saint. Others include Aragon, Catalonia, Georgia, Lithuania, Palestine and Portugal. And each of them celebrate him on a different day. And not content with countries, he is also the Patron Saint of soldiers, archers, cavalry and chivalry, farmers and field workers, riders and saddlers. Oh, and it is believed that he also helps those suffering from plague, leprosy and syphilis."
"If he wasn't English, what was he?"
"He was born in Turkey, in Cappadocia to be exact, in the last quarter of the third century. His parents were Christian, and he became a Roman soldier. He was later imprisoned and tortured because he dared to speak out against Rome's persecution of Christians. Despite the dreadful and appalling torture he would have suffered, he did remain true to his beliefs and religion. Thus there is every reason to believe that he was a genuine martyr. He was executed in Lydda, near to the beginning of the fourth century. He -" Aware that Jethro's eyes had started to glaze over slightly, Ducky stopped speaking.
Jethro took a long swallow of coffee, flashed a smile at Ducky and said, "Okay, so your Patron Saint isn't English, or even unique to England, but he's still your Patron Saint. So tell me about the day. What do people do? Eat? Where do they go?"
Ducky sipped his tea and sighed softly. "Actually, my dear, the English do not tend to celebrate the day."
"They don't?" Jethro sounded aghast.
"No. Oh, there are those who do get involved in things. Mummers Plays, for example. But even they aren't reserved solely for St. George's Day. They also take place at Easter and Christmas."
"They are folk dramas based on the legend of St. George. He appears in them, and he slays the dragon."
"The mythical dragon that never existed?"
"Who performs these whatsit plays?
"Mummers. Morris Dancers often do. They make it part of their St. George's Day entertainment. They dance and perform the play."
"They're the guys who dress up in weird clothes and wave hankies around, or try to bash one another with sticks?"
Ducky chuckled. "I don't think you had better describe them in those terms, my dear, if you ever meet any."
"And that's it? That's all England does?"
"Well some people do wear a red rose, the national symbol, in their button hole. And gradually I believe some towns and cities are starting to have parades and events, but it nothing compared to the kind of celebrations that go on in Welsh, Scottish and Irish communities on their Saints days. And certainly nothing like your own 4th July celebrations. In fact in 2003 in some of the larger English cities, following the largest St. Patrick's Day celebrations in the cities history, St. George's Day was virtually ignored. And although he has been the Patron Saint since the thirteenth century, a somewhat alarmingly high proportion of English people do not know who their Patron Saint is, or indeed when his day is."
"But why? Is it just that you English are so reserved and aloof? Sorry, Duck, I didn't mean you personally." Jethro reached across the table, took Ducky's hand and squeezed it.
Ducky smiled gently and returned the grip. "That's quite all right my dear. I believe that some people feel that the lack of fuss surrounding the day is a positive reflection on the English character. So, it would seem that our reserve has something to do with it. But that isn't the only reason."
"What else? Because he's not English?"
"Again, yes, to an extent, for some people. However, it seems to be mainly political."
Ducky nodded. "It is not considered by many 'politically correct' to celebrate Englishness. As well as what could be perceived of as being a specific 'faith tradition', in what is a multi-cultural society. The Cross of Saint George, which has become the Flag of England, is a red cross on a white background. Displaying it is believed to be insensitive and racist."
Ducky smiled. "Ah, my dear Jethro. As I have said before neither you nor I are overly endowed with political correctness and equality. We are from a different generation, a different time. It's a far greater division than the cultural one."
"Is that why I've never seen you wearing the red rose? Or why you aren't giving them out to the women at the office?"
"Could you imagine Officer David's reaction if I gave her a red rose? Given her hesitation to actually enter Autopsy after I had given her a bouquet of daffodils, and the side looks she gave me for several days after that, I suspect she might consider shooting me." Ducky chuckled again. "Don't frown, my dear. I was merely joking."
"How long have we got to put up with her, do you think?"
"As long as Jennifer deems it to be in her best interest."
"Whose? Jenn's or David's?"
"Ah," was all Ducky said. "But don't let us talk about such things. Monday will arrive soon enough, my dear." He patted Jethro's hand.
Jethro drained his coffee cup.
After a moment of two, he looked at Ducky. "So now that you've completely disillusioned me, what are we going to do today?" His dark eyes were soft as they gazed at Ducky, and a faint smile touched his lips.
Ducky pushed himself to his feet and moved around the table. "Well, my dear," he said, his voice low. "We could always return to bed." It was after all the weekend.
The burbling of Jethro's cell phone broke into the kiss and embrace.
It was several hours later when Jethro drove them home.
Used to his lover's high-speed driving, and somewhat wearied from being on his feet for most of the day, Ducky settled back into his seat and let his eyes drift shut.
It was only when the car stopped, far sooner than even Jethro's speediest drive could have accounted for, that he opened his eyes. "Jeth -"
But Jethro had left the car.
Ducky decided he was too tired to worry. He knew his lover, could sense his mood, and the aura he was getting from him wasn't one that implied danger, or indeed anything about which Ducky should be concerned. He closed his eyes again.
Minutes later the sound of Jethro's door opening and closing filtered into the rather pleasant half-dream, half-muse he'd been having. He opened his eyes and turned his head to look at his lover. He blinked at what Jethro had in his hand.
"English or not, it's your symbol. Here," Jethro passed his gift to Ducky.
"Oh, my dear Jethro," Ducky managed, around a throat that suddenly seemed to constrict. Other than that he said nothing, struck speechless by his lover for the second time that day.
Jethro glanced swiftly around him, before leaning towards Ducky and brushing Ducky's lips with his own.
The next moment the engine was fired up again, and tires screaming Jethro pulled away from the curb. "Close you eyes, Duck. We'll be home soon."
"Yes, dear," Ducky murmured, letting his eyelids fall as he settled back again into the seat. In his hands he carefully held the single red rose.
He wondered if Leroy Jethro Gibbs would ever stop surprising him.
He hoped not.
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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