ALL YOU HAVE TO DO IS ASK
Gibbs and Ducky have a formal ceremony to celebrate their unofficial marriage. They then join the team at the NCIS New Year's Eve party.
An established relationship story.
Abby/McGee as a couple also appear in this story.
Written: December 2007. Word count: 4,418.
Nothing is more beautiful than a love that has survived the weathered journey of life.
NEW YEAR'S EVE
"What are you doing, Tony?"
Ziva widened her eyes. "Why?"
"Just wanted to be sure this is real."
Ziva blinked. "I do not understand?"
Tony glanced around him. "Us. You know, us sitting here waiting for Gibbs to . . . Do you think he'll turn up?"
"Of course he will, Tony," Abby said, her tone hard. "Why wouldn't he?"
"You know, fifth time and all that. Not that this is a marriage. I mean it's just "
"It is my understanding that Gibbs regards this in exactly the same way as he regarded his other four marriages." Ziva's tone was forceful.
Tony swallowed. "I sure hope not."
"Why?" Ziva demanded.
"Well look how they ended. Three of them at least."
Ziva stared at him. "Tony, do you have a problem with Gibbs marrying Ducky?"
"No. No of course I don't. I don't. Not at all. I just . . ."
He glanced around again and muttered, "Don'twantotseeDuckyhurt."
Ziva frowned, but Abby leaned forward and kissed Tony. "Oh, Tony, that's so sweet," she said, kissing him again.
"What did he say?" Ziva asked Abby.
"That he didn't want Ducky to be hurt."
"Why should Dr. Mallard be hurt?" It was Palmer who asked the question, but the look on Ziva's face told Tony she'd been about to ask the same thing.
Thus it was Ziva he answered. "Three ex-wives, Ziva."
"But this is different," Ziva said.
"Yeah, this isn't real. Not in legal terms."
"It is perfectly real to Gibbs and Ducky, Tony. Just because unlike some countries yours refuses, as yet, to generally recognize marriages between people of the same gender, does not make this kind of ceremony any less real for those taking part in it."
"Least Gibbs won't have to pay a fourth Ow, thank you, bo- Fornell?" Tony exclaimed, rubbing his head and looking up at the FBI agent, who loomed over him. And then he realized what Tobias Fornell's presence signified. "They're here?"
Fornell was flexing his hand. "Yes, DiNozzo. They are here. So watch what you say." Ice dripped from Fornell's gaze as he stared at Tony. As he looked at Gibbs's FBI counterpart, Tony wondered if Senior Federal Agents were sent on courses to learn that look.
He swallowed. "Sorry," he muttered. Then he added with sincerity, "I didn't mean anything, Fornell. It doesn't bother me that Gibbs and Ducky are . . ." He trailed off.
"Marrying," Abby offered, her glare almost as cold as Fornell's.
Tony mentally shrugged. If that's what his coworkers, more importantly, he guessed, if that's what Gibbs and Ducky, wanted to call it, then he supposed it would have to do. "Marrying," he finished.
For another second or two, Fornell continued to look at Tony.
Then the frozen gaze began to melt, and the older-than-his-years face relaxed. "Yeah, I know that, DiNozzo. Jethro wouldn't have invited you if you did. Now shut up."
"Yes, boss," Tony answered automatically there must be a course for tones too. As well as one for being able to loom over people who are taller than you are. Of course he was sitting down, so that meant that, strictly speaking Fornell, who was still standing, was always going to appear taller, but that wasn't the point he'd seen both Gibbs and Fornell do it to people taller than themselves. Around him he heard Abby, Ziva, McGee, Palmer, even Fornell laugh softly.
Fornell then nodded at Gibbs's team, turned and left the room.
He reappeared a moment or two later along with Gibbs, Ducky and an unknown woman. Sedately, quietly, the four moved to the front of the small room.
It was the woman who first addressed them all. "Hello. My name is Anna. I am here with you today because Jethro and Ducky have done me the honor of inviting me to preside over their ceremony. A ceremony that they wished to share with the people who, in their own words, are closest to them." She looked from one to the other of them, smiling at each of them in turn.
As she looked at them all, Tony felt a sense of peace settle over the room.
After a moment, she turned her attention to Gibbs and Ducky. "Jethro, would you like to make your vows now?" Anna said gently.
For a moment Gibbs was both silent and still. Then he took Ducky's hand, holding it with great care, and to Tony's surprise looked at his audience' rather than Ducky. "I can't marry, Ducky, not in the accepted meaning of the word and maybe I don't need to. At least DC recognizes our relationship in other legal ways. But I, but we," he said, glancing at Ducky and smiling, "wanted to do something in front of you. Our friends. Our family." He fell silent again as he looked from Abby to McGee to Tony to Ziva to Palmer and finally to Fornell, who stood by his side. The room was silent; no one spoke, they just sat and looked at Gibbs and Ducky.
Now Gibbs did turn and face Ducky, and he caught Ducky's other hand and held it. He swallowed once, smiled down at Ducky and began to speak. "Duck, meeting you changed my life; it gave it meaning. I'm just sorry it's taken me so long to really acknowledge that change, and what it meant to me. I stand before you with little to offer but my love for you. A love that is unconditional, true, honest, and most of all absolute. I will never be unfaithful to you, Duck. I couldn't be. I am yours for better or for worse, no matter what happens, until death parts us. And if there's any justice beyond that. You're my past, my present, and God willing my future. I give you all that I am."
As his boss spoke the simple words, Tony felt the silence become even more absolute. No one was moving; no one was fidgeting; no one was talking; in fact no one seemed to be breathing. Even Ducky seemed stunned by the words Gibbs had spoken to him.
But Gibbs hadn't finished, not quite. He turned to Fornell and took a ring from Fornell's left hand. Then still with great care he let go of Ducky's right hand, changed his grip on his left and pushed the gold band onto the third finger of Ducky's left hand. "This ring is a circle that is never ending, just like my love for you, Duck. I give it to you as a small expression of that love." He smiled gently and fell silent himself.
Finally the silence amongst the kids was broken as Abby sniffed.
"Tony, give me your handkerchief," Ziva whispered.
Tony glanced at her quickly and then at Abby, who was accepting the handkerchief McGee held out to her. "But Abby's already got McGee's," he hissed back.
"It is not for Abby," she said, her tone still low. Now he looked back at Ziva, he was stunned to see that her eyes were misty and that she was blinking very quickly. "Tony," she hissed again. This time he fumbled in his pocket and handed the white linen over to her.
"Ducky," Anna said quietly, touching Ducky's shoulder. "It's your turn."
However, Ducky still seemed spellbound by Gibbs's words. Tony couldn't blame him; he hadn't realized his boss had it in him. And for another moment or two Ducky still continued to just stare up at Gibbs.
Then Ducky glanced at Anna, glanced to where the team sat, looked around Gibbs to Fornell, before returning his gaze to Gibbs. Slowly he changed the grip Gibbs had on his hand so that he was holding it, while he captured Gibbs's right hand from where it hung loosely at his side.
He opened his mouth, closed it again without saying anything, frowned, then shook his head once before again opening his mouth. This time he did speak. "My dearest Jethro, you are my life. You always have been thus, and you always will be. From the moment I met you there has been no one else for me, and there never will, never could, be. My love, my heart, my truth, and myself, I give freely to you. For now and forever, into and beyond death, I am yours."
Tony blinked; he was surprised. He'd expected, especially after hearing what Gibbs had to say, Ducky to be more eloquent, to have far more to say. And then he realized: Gibbs and Ducky hadn't shared their vows before the ceremony. What Gibbs had said to Ducky had come as a complete surprise to him (as well as to everyone else). And that surprise had rendered Ducky incapable of a fully coherent response. He realized something else too: although no doubt the sentiment behind what Ducky had planned to say was the same as what he did say; what he said was composed there and then as he stood looking at up Gibbs.
Not that Gibbs seemed in the least troubled by the simplicity and brevity of Ducky's speech; not at all. Quite the opposite, in fact, if the softness of his gaze and the gentle smile was anything to go by.
Ducky let go of Gibbs's right hand, and looked at Fornell, who obliging offered a second gold band, this time from his right hand. Ducky flashed him a half smile of thanks. He then, like Gibbs a few moments before, changed his grip on Gibbs's left hand, and carefully, reverently almost, pushed the ring onto the third finger of Gibbs's left hand. "Circles cannot be broken and do not end," he said softly. "This ring I give to you will not break, nor has it an end, just like my love for you, my dear, dear, beloved Jethro."
This time Tony didn't bother to wait for Ziva to request his handkerchief again, he just pushed it into her hands and hissed, "Keep it."
Anna now placed her hands over Gibbs and Ducky's joined hands, bowed her head for a moment and then looked back up. "I wish it were within my power to legally pronounce you husband and husband. However, it is my firm belief that what I have witnessed today is the union of two people who do not need a legal sanction. You may not be married in the eyes of the law, but in the eyes of those who matter, you and your family and friends," Anna paused and looked around at the same group, "you are married. I therefore do pronounce you husband and husband. You may now "
"Kiss," Abby cried, leaping to her feet and producing, from where Tony had no idea, a piece of mistletoe. She hurried to where Gibbs and Ducky stood, their hands still joined, staring at her. "Well," she declared, holding it over their heads.
"What? What?" she demanded again, glaring at Gibbs. She lowered the mistletoe and put her hands on her hips. He just stared back at her.
Yeah, thought Tony, somewhat wistfully. It's true what Ziva said; she is the favorite. If that'd been me . . . He cut off that thought instantly.
"Well?" Abby went on, when neither Gibbs nor Ducky answered her. Then suddenly her tone changed and became wielding and pleading. "Come on, Gibbs, you just stood in front of us and told us how much you love Ducky. You've put a ring on his finger. You're holding his hand. Tomorrow you're going away on honeymoon together. When you come back you're going to live together openly live together. We all know, Gibbs, you invited us here. What's wrong? Are you ashamed to kiss Ducky in front of us?" By now the pleading and wielding tone had again given way to fierceness, even indignation.
"You keep out of this, Duckman." Abby's tone, like her gaze, was less fierce as she spared Ducky a quick glance.
From where he sat, Tony could see that Ducky's eyes were now twinkling in mirth, and that he was fighting to keep from laughing.
"Well?" She rounded on Gibbs again.
"Course I'm not ashamed, Abby."
She shrugged. "Well then, what are you waiting for?" Once again she held the mistletoe up over their heads.
Gibbs just stared at Abby for another moment or two, before turning his gaze and looking down at Ducky. As he watched, Tony saw them converse with nothing but their eyes, something he'd seen many times before. But never had their conversation been quite so easy to read.
The next second he saw Gibbs's, already for him, soft countenance soften even more, as he put one arm around Ducky's shoulders, tugged him slightly nearer to him, lowered his head and brushed his lips over Ducky's.
As kisses went it was the most chaste and brief kiss Tony had ever witnessed. Hell, he'd even kissed some of his Italian relatives less chastely albeit those kisses had been on the cheeks. But chasteness notwithstanding it was also the most beautiful, tender, loving, intense, honest, real and true kiss Tony had ever witnessed or experienced. Even at the height of his love for, and relationship with, Jeanne, he knew he had never kissed her in the way Gibbs had kissed Ducky. To his half shame, half bemusement, he found himself blinking hard, very hard, very hard indeed, several times.
The kiss might have been brief, but when Gibbs raised his head, the steady non-verbal exchange between them wasn't. Gibbs still held Ducky's hand as he gazed at him with a look that made Tony once again blink, and then swallow hard once, twice - and then again. If he'd thought the kiss had shown the love Gibbs and Ducky had for one another, he'd been wrong. He'd been very wrong.
He'd never seen anyone look at another person in the way his boss and Ducky were looking at one another. He didn't bother hoping for the day when someone would look at him in that way, because he knew it would never come. The kind of love he and the others were witnessing was not something that happened to everyone; in fact it was something that happened to barely anyone.
And he knew at that very second that he didn't have to worry that Ducky might be hurt; he wouldn't be. At least not unless He stopped that thought too. That was a day he never wanted to see, that day - or the reverse. But today was not the day to be thinking of death. Today was the day to be thinking of, and celebrating, life and love.
As the two men continued to stare at one another, their hands still entwined, it was Tony himself who stood up and led the applause that finally broke the tableau. He noticed though that Gibbs still didn't let go of Ducky's hand, not until he finally had Ducky settled in the passenger seat of his car.
LATER THAT EVENING
Jethro leaned back in his chair, a glass of wine in one hand, his other arm along the back of the chair where Ducky would have been sitting, had he not now been squiring Ziva around the dance floor.
It had been a good day, the best day he'd ever known, everyone, nearly everyone, that mattered to him had been present at the ceremony. The two exceptions had been Helen and Charlie Patterson, who were away on a cruise that had been Charlie's surprise Christmas present to his grandmother. Both had been genuinely upset, when Jethro and Ducky had invited them to join the small party, by their already arranged absence. So upset that they had even gone as far as to say they'd cancel their arrangements. It had been Ducky who had finally talked them out of doing so, promising them that the four of them could share a special meal when they returned to celebrate the marriage.
He still wasn't certain how a sedate lunch with the kids and Tobias had turned into Ducky persuading him to attend the usual NCIS New Year's Eve party, rather than just go home and . . . But they were there.
Nor was he certain why Tobias had not only accompanied them, but was still there. After all he knew that his second closest friend hated these kinds of things as much as Jethro himself did. Perhaps he regarded his duties as best man as being for the whole day. Whatever his reason, Jethro was glad Tobias had stayed, it gave him someone to talk to when Ducky was off dancing with first one woman then another then another then another. Jethro reckoned that by the end of the evening, Ducky would have danced with every woman in the room at least once. And some, namely Abby and Ziva, more than once.
Jethro himself had danced three times: once with Abby, once with Ziva and once with Jenny; other than that, he'd spent the evening sitting down. Either talking to Ducky when he condescended to join the group, or watching him as he completely ignored the frenetic, modern dancing going on around him, and formally danced his partners around the floor. Ducky was an excellent dancer, and despite having to make slight amendments to some of them steps he'd learned as a young man, to fit the music, never once got into difficulties, not even when he was dancing with women who clearly had no idea what the quickstep, the waltz, or any of the other dances Ducky knew, was.
Dancing aside, the eight of them had stayed together throughout the evening, from the moment they'd arrived. And thanks to some deft movements by DiNozzo, they had succeeded in grabbing not only eight chairs, but also one of the few tables that were available. Jethro never had understood why whoever arranged these kinds of parties failed to provide adequate seating and tables but they always did.
At the moment there was only himself and McGee at the table. Ducky was leading Ziva around the floor, swinging her around elegantly; Tobias had been 'invited' by Jenny to dance; Palmer was across the far side of the room with Agent Lee; and Abby and DiNozzo were in the middle of the floor doing something that Jethro supposed passed for dancing.
He put down his empty glass and snagged the bottle of wine. As he did, he caught sight of McGee's face as he watched Abby. For a moment or two he just looked at McGee, then he glanced at his dear Abby again, back at McGee and he knew what he'd always known: it wasn't going to change.
He slid across to Ducky's empty chair and leaned closer to McGee. Putting his lips near to McGee's ear, the music was loud as well as fast, he said, "You know, Tim, all you have to do is ask. I did." He looked down at the ring on his finger and then up Ducky who, at that very moment, looked away from Ziva towards him.
McGee looked at him, eyes wide. "Boss?"
"I'm hardly the best person to give advice on love and marriage, Tim. But no matter what messes I got myself into, I've always known love when I see it. And I know something else too: life's too short. Don't do what I did. Don't wait for over thirty years."
"But what, McGee?"
"What about Rule 12."
Jethro just looked at him and raised an eyebrow.
McGee's face reddened and he said. "I guess that wasn't the brightest thing I've ever said."
McGee smiled ruefully. He looked at Abby again and then back at Jethro. "I can't, boss," he said.
"Well for one thing, I haven't got a ring. And I can't . . ."
Jethro looked at his young agent for a moment or two. Then he glanced at his surrogate daughter, and smiled to himself. He put his hand inside his trouser pocket and pulled out a small velvet pouch; he always carried it. He always had done. It reminded him of the only person, apart from Ducky, who had loved him unconditionally.
He opened the pouch and took out the ring; a band of tiny diamonds and sapphires set in dark gold. He rubbed it on his jacket sleeve and then held it out to McGee. "Now you do," he said.
McGee's mouth fell open. "Boss?"
"It was my grandmother's. She gave it to me just before she died and told me to give it to the right person. Promised me I'd know who that person was." He glanced away from McGee to where Ducky and Ziva still danced. "Can't do that," he said softly.
"But what about Shannon? Didn't you Oh, boss, I am sorry. Please forgive me. I didn't mean to . . ."
Jethro put his hand on McGee's shoulder and squeezed it. "Don't apologize, Tim, and not because I say it's a sign of weakness, between you and me and only you and me, it isn't. No, I didn't offer it to Shannon. Don't really know why, wanted to give her something new, maybe. Always thought vaguely I might give it to her as an eternity ring. But . . ." He trailed off. "Never would have done," he added quietly, so quietly he doubted if McGee had heard it. Then he added, less softly, "Probably would have given it to Kelly when she was old enough."
But then McGee looked at him and Jethro knew he had heard everything he'd said. He mentally shrugged. "Here," he said. "Go. Rescue Abby from DiNozzo and ask her."
"Just like that, boss?"
"Yeah, Tim. Just like that."
A COUPLE OF HOURS LATER
The evening was coming to a close, as these things always do, with the fast, booming tempo reducing to slow, soft melodies; the lights had also been dimmed.
Jethro sat with his arm around the back of Ducky's chair where Ducky now sat. He could feel Ducky's arm pressed against him, and he knew that nothing had ever felt so right. He glanced at the dance floor where couples were entwined in one another's arms. Some were pressed so closely together there wasn't even space to slip a dollar bill between them; others held one another less tightly; all moved slowly in time, or not, to the music.
Tobias had finally made his goodbyes a short while before, saying that he had to go and play Father Christmas for Emily, or rather Father New Year, as Diane had taken Emily away for Christmas and this was the first chance Tobias would have to see his daughter. From his pocket Ducky had produced a small box, which Jethro knew contained a locket, a gift from Ducky and himself for the young girl, and had given it to Tobias.
He saw DiNozzo and Ziva dancing together. He had his arms wrapped loosely around her lower back, she had her hands linked around his neck and her head was slightly bowed, brushing against, but not quite resting on, DiNozzo's shoulder; they were moving in near-perfect synchronization, just as they did on the job. To his eyes it looked as though another two members of his team were about to break his Rule 12. Maybe it was just the wine, the day, his feeling of complete and utter contentment, Ducky's closeness, but it didn't bother him; maybe it should, but it didn't.
Near to them were Palmer and Michelle Lee (Ducky had kindly reminded him of the diminutive agent's name). To Jethro's eyes, they made an odd couple, at least in appearance; Palmer was so tall and thin, and Michelle much slighter and shorter. They were pressed more tightly together than DiNozzo and Ziva were, but they weren't moving with anywhere near the same grace and synchrony as the other couple was. Even from where he sat, with the dim lights, Jethro could see that Palmer had his goofy smile on his face.
Further away were Jenny and a man he didn't recognize, but had caught sight of several times during the evening. He presumed he was Jenny's escort for the party, and from the way they were holding one another, again not tightly, but nonetheless in a way that spoke of more than a casual one-night's acquaintance, he guessed the man would also be escorting her home, and joining her the next day for breakfast at the very least.
McGee stood waiting for Abby who'd gotten caught by yet another female demanding to see and admire her ring. A second or two later she appeared, her eyes were alive and shining and she hadn't stopped smiling from the second McGee had asked her to marry him. Jethro watched McGee take her by one hand and put his other arm around her back, ready to lead her on to the dance floor.
Jethro glanced at Ducky who was also watching the dance floor. He wished . . . But that was impossible.
Suddenly McGee leaned down to him, put his mouth to Jethro's ear and said, "You know, boss, all you have to do is ask. I did." And with those words, he shepherded Abby onto the floor where they joined the swaying, slow moving couples. As with DiNozzo and Ziva, they moved in perfect time and motion with one another.
Jethro swallowed. McGee was right. To hell with it.
He took his arm away from around the chair and stood up. Ducky looked up at him and silently asked a question.
Jethro held out his hand. "Will you dance with me, Duck?" he said simply.
For a second or two Ducky just looked up at him, the surprise evident.
Then a gentle smile lit up his face and he offered his hand and let Jethro help him to his feet. He sighed softly as Jethro slipped his other arm around him, and led him onto the dance floor.
Once there, Jethro gathered Ducky into his embrace, slipping his arms around Ducky's back while Ducky put his hands onto his shoulders, curling his fingers over them. "Ready?" Jethro said softly, lowering his head and placing a soft kiss on Ducky's ear.
"Oh, yes, dearest," Ducky murmured, now letting his head come to rest against Jethro's shoulder.
They found their own perfect rhythm, and as one began to slowly move around the floor.
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