A DINNER DATE

 

By

 

Ashleigh Anpilova

 

Set immediately after Knockout.

Gibbs keeps his promise to Ducky.

A first time story.

Written: March 2009. Word count: 2,531.

 

 

Once again he paused, his fingers hovering over the opening to the envelope. He was annoyed with himself; indecision like this was not usually in his character.

 

He knew he had to open the envelope. He had known that from the moment Ducky had appeared to give him the news about Tyler's detached retina surgery. You've known from the moment Kort gave you the file, that you'd have to open it. He snarled silently at the voice in his mind. Damn it, but it was right; he had known.

 

At the time he'd told himself it wasn't of any importance. Saving Ducky was all that had mattered when Kort had given him the second file, which is why he'd just tossed it into the drawer and ignored it. But once Ducky had been saved, including from himself, Gibbs hadn't forgotten about Vance's file; he'd just chosen to ignore it. But he couldn't do that any longer.

 

Once he opened the envelope, it would change everything. Shut up! He snarled at the nagging voice that was about to tell him 'everything' had changed when Kort had given him the file.

 

Yes, he had to open it - he knew that. He accepted that. But not now. Not here. Not tonight. Tonight he had something else he could do. The file had waited for weeks in his basement and even longer in the CIA archives. It could wait for another night.

 

Decision made, he pushed it into his briefcase, snatched up his coat and shrugged into it, grabbed his Sig from his drawer, turned off his desk lamp and headed for the elevators. As the car carried him downwards he wondered if he was too late. He wondered if Ducky would have gone home. Somehow he doubted it; he doubted that his friend would have gone without saying 'goodnight' to him.

 

"It's been far too long since you and I had dinner." Ducky's words came racing back to him, came racing back as clearly as if his old friend was there by his side.

 

"Yeah, Duck. It has," he murmured, as the elevator doors parted.

 

Autopsy was almost, but not quite he was relieved to see, dark. He moved to the doors and they parted for him. "Hey, Duck," he called out softly.

 

Ducky was in the process of putting his own coat and hat on and turned as Gibbs called his name.

 

"Jethro," he said, pleasure and affection showing on his face, as it always did. "Is there something I can do for you?"

 

"Yeah. There is. Well, something I can do for you."

 

Ducky looked at him quizzically. "Jethro?"

 

"Reckon I owe you a dinner, Dr. Mallard. That was the 'deal' wasnít it?"

 

Ducky had begun to smile at the first sentence. But under Gibbs's gaze the smile vanished and Ducky turned away from him.

 

"Duck?" he said, crossing the room in quick strides and putting his hand on Ducky's shoulder. "What is it?"

 

"It's nothing, Jethro." But Ducky's tone did not agree with his words.

 

"Doesn't sound like 'nothing' to me. Don't you want to go out to dinner with me? It was, I recall, your idea."

 

Ducky was silent for a moment. Then he said, his tone rather formal, "It isn't that."

 

"Then what is it? Duck, come on." Now Gibbs deliberately used the advantages of age, height and strength and, taking care not to jolt Ducky, he turned him towards him. "Well," he said, letting his briefcase fall to the ground so that he could bend the brim of Ducky's hat back with his other hand, thus allowing him to see Ducky's eyes. "You going to tell me, or are we going to stand here all night?" he finally asked.

 

Ducky lowered his gaze. "I hadn't realized you regarded going out to dinner with me as part of some 'deal'; some bargain you had to fulfill." Ducky's tone was low and flat.

 

Gibbs blinked. Shit. "Duck, that's not -"

 

"If that's how you feel about having dinner with me, Jethro, then let's just forget it." His tone became colder and more formal as he spoken. When he went on the faintest hint of steel touched it. "Thank you for the offer, Agent Gibbs. However, I'm rather fatigued. I shall see you in the morning."

 

Except Ducky wasn't going anywhere; not now Gibbs had a hand on each shoulder. He held his old friend in place quite easily. He was somewhat perturbed by Ducky's words, by his thoughts. This wasn't the Donald 'Ducky' Mallard he'd known for so long. Had the revelation about Ducky's time in Afghanistan affected Ducky more than he'd shown? Was that, plus having to put his mother into a home, all too much for him?

 

But any 'excuse' aside, with anyone else he would be, had indeed been, irritated, angry even, at what was almost akin to emotional blackmail. But with Ducky, he wasn't. And it wasn't just because he knew Ducky never resorted to that, but also because he knew Ducky wasn't even aware that was how his words sounded. "You know, Duck," he said quietly. "That's not what I meant."

 

"Is it not?" A tinge of hope touched Ducky's voice.

 

Gibbs sighed softly and squeezed Ducky's shoulders. "Nah. Reckon what I said came out wrong." Except a few months ago, Ducky would have understood, would have replied with something like 'Yes, Agent Gibbs, I believe we did'. "I just meant - Ah, Duck, not sure what I meant really. Other than, you were right what you said earlier. It has been too long, far, far too long since we had dinner. So, come on. Let's go and put that right now. And don't forget, I'm paying." He squeezed Ducky's shoulders again.

 

Now Ducky sighed and looked up at him. "Oh, my dear Jethro," he said. "Do please forgive me."

 

"Wasn't aware there was anything to forgive, Duck."

 

"I reacted foolishly, childishly even. It's just . . . Oh, I don't know. I saw Mother last night and . . . Oh, it doesn't matter."

 

"Is that all it is?"

 

Ducky shrugged and was silent for a moment. Then he sighed again and said, "I also have to confess that I am not particularly keen on reliving Jennifer's misuse of her power and having another director who over-steps the bounds of his authority."

 

"Ah, Duck. Don't worry. I won't stand by and let that happen again. Now, come on. Dinner. We'll forget about Leon Vance and the whole case and NCIS and even the kids for tonight. Deal?"

 

Ducky smiled and his eyes began to regain some of their usual glint. "You have a deal, Agent Gibbs," he said.

 

"Good." Gibbs bent to pick his briefcase back up, waited for Ducky to collect his and then one hand on Ducky's lower back guided him out of Autopsy.

 

A COUPLE OF HOURS LATER

 

The food and drink had been good; the company even better.

 

Under Jethro's gaze he had watched the years fall from Ducky's face and shoulders, as bit by bit his old friend relaxed and settled down to enjoy himself. As he listened to one of Ducky's stories, one he felt sure he actually hadn't heard, he tried to remember the last time they had had dinner together.

 

With a degree of horror and shame, he realized it must be ten months or so and that had been at Reston House, in the company of Ducky's mom. They last time they'd been out to dinner, or had dinner alone was even longer. And for that he had to take more than half the 'blame'.

 

He silently vowed not to leave it another ten months. Sharing dinner with Ducky was always enjoyable, was one of the most enjoyable things he did. In fact apart from working on his boat and sex he couldn't think of anything more enjoyable than being in Ducky's company.

 

Suddenly more of Ducky's words came flooding back to him; not just Ducky's his own.

 

"We had dinner."

 

"Well, that does tend to alter a relationship."

 

He reached for his glass of bourbon and swallowed some, aware of how dry his mouth was and how his body was suddenly starting to feel charged with the kind of reaction he'd never had before in Ducky's company.

 

"Well, that does tend to alter a relationship." Again the words came. He shook himself; was he thinking what he thought he was thinking?

 

"Duck." He spoke without conscious thought, interrupting whatever it was Ducky had been saying.

 

His tone must have been sharper than he'd intended, as Ducky started slightly, blinked, frowned and looked at him almost warily. "Jethro?" How could one word say so many things? Ask so many questions?

 

Jethro swallowed hard, glanced around him, then reached across the table and put his hand over Ducky's. Ducky's eyes widened, but he didn't attempt to withdraw his hand.

 

Jethro licked his lips and saw a flash of something he'd always denied and ignored pass through Ducky's eyes. "Duck," he said again.

 

"Jethro?" Now Ducky's tone was slightly guarded.

 

"You know what you said earlier?"

 

Ducky chuckled softly. "Ah, my dear Jethro. No doubt I said many things earlier, I do have a tendency to be verbose, do I not?" His gaze invited Jethro's 'pet' 'you think', but Jethro avoided saying it.

 

"It was when we were talking about me resolving things with Vance. You said 'Well, that does tend to alter a relationship.' Do you, remember? It was after I said Vance and I'd had dinner."

 

Ducky nodded. "Yes, I do. And -"

 

"How would you feel about our relationship being altered?"

 

"Jethro?"

 

"Well, we've had dinner and as you rightly pointed out, and I agreed, it's been far too long since the last time."

 

"Ah, you wish to make it a more regular thing?" Were Jethro's ears deceiving him or did he notice a slight wistfulness, disappointment even, in Ducky's tone?"

 

"No. Well, yeah, actually. But that's not what I really meant, Duck."

 

"Is it not?"

 

Jethro shook his head. "No. No, Duck, it's not."

 

Ducky swallowed. "In that case, what did you mean?" he asked, his tone low.

 

Jethro looked at him, gazing into his eyes. "Donít you know, Duck?" he said softly. "Or," he said, now leaning even nearer and holding Ducky's hand between both of his. "Are you afraid to believe?"

 

"I . . . Why don't you just tell me, Jethro?" Ducky said the words softly, and his unblinking gaze never left Jethro's.

 

Jethro was about to 'remind' Ducky they were sitting in a restaurant; albeit an empty, apart from another couple who were so far away and so wrapped up in one another to the point of feeding one another food from their forks they probably wouldn't have noticed if the place blew up around them, restaurant when it hit him. If he really wanted to alter their relationship in the way he thought he did, why the hell was he bothered about who might hear him.

 

He licked his lips again. "Let me put it this way, Duck. I'm tired of going home to an empty house. I'm tied of sleeping alone every night. I'm tired of waking up alone. I'm tired of having nothing in my life but a boat. I don't want to just see you at the office each day. I don't just want to go out to dinner with you now and then. I want . . . I want more, Duck. A hell of a lot more. I want you. I want you and me to be together. That's the way I want to alter our relationship," he said.

 

"Is it, now?" Ducky said softly; his tone gave nothing away.

 

Jethro swallowed. Shit had he misjudged everything? Had he just screwed up the best relationship he'd ever had? He knew he couldn't just sit there saying nothing. So avoiding the near over-whelming desire to grab his glass and drain it, he said, "Yeah. Yeah, it is, Duck. It really is." And then because he decided it was better to resolve things one way or another said quietly, "And I hoped, I thought, I - Oh, hell, Duck, okay, I presumed, that you wanted it too."

 

"Oh, you did, did you?" Still Ducky's tone gave nothing away. Nor, very unusually, did his eyes.

 

His mouth so dry he couldn't even swallow, Jethro nodded. "Yeah. I did, Duck. Look if I . . ." he trailed off as Ducky's gaze was no longer closed to him, no longer gave nothing away. "Dear God," he whispered, unintentionally saying the words aloud. Okay, so he'd 'presumed' had thought, Ducky wanted the change, wanted him, but he now knew he'd had no real idea. He'd had no real idea of just how much Ducky wanted him.

 

As the steady gaze that had always looked at him with deep affection and a love he'd never, in truth, felt worthy of, met his, his body began to react to the desire, the passion, the love and the lust. "Shit," he muttered and to his amusement Ducky chuckled softly. "Take that as a 'yes', shall I, Dr. Mallard," he managed, deliberately using Ducky's title, if only to stop himself from grabbing him and kissing him, and to put an infinitesimal distance between them, if only of humor.

 

Ducky seemed to understand, as he partly, but only partly, shuttered his gaze a little; bringing it back to their normal pre-this-dinner look - but it still went way beyond that. Jethro doubted now he'd let the genie out of the bottle, Ducky could ever fully return to simply showing chaste affection for him. "Oh, yes, Agent Gibbs," he said, following Jethro's lead in respect of titles. "You certainly should."

 

"Good," Jethro managed. "Well, guess I'd better settle the check and we can go home and -" He stopped that thought, aware that while the other couple might not be paying them any attention, he still had to summon a waiter, pay the check and walk out of the restaurant and then drive them home.

 

TEN MINUTES LATER

 

He opened the door of his car for Ducky and waited for him to get in and settle in his seat before shutting the door and going around the hood to get into the driver's side.

 

"Your place or mine?" Ducky asked softly, once Jethro had closed his door.

 

"Oh, yours, Duck. You strike me as a man who likes to make love in his own bed," Jethro answered. He swallowed - hard - again. Damn it, he shouldn't have actually said 'make love'. He glanced out of the window; it was dark, there were no street lights and no cars nearby. To hell with it.

 

He leaned across the small gap that separated them, cupped Ducky's face and lightly, briefly, chastely, kissed his lips, once, twice, three times, before with reluctance, dropping his hands and settling back into his own seat.

 

Halfway during the drive to Reston House, Ducky calmly put his hand on Jethro's knee and let it rest there. Never once did he chide Jethro about the speed he was driving at.

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