FAMILY SOLIDARITY

 

By

 

Ashleigh Anpilova

 

Set during and after Silent Night.

Ducky, concerned about his young assistant, manages to find time to pop around to his apartment. Later both Jimmy and Jethro surprise Ducky, albeit in different ways, as the team show just what a family they are.

An established relationship story.

Written: December 2008. Word count: 5,128.

 

 

 

24TH DECEMBER 2008 - AUTOPSY

 

"Autopsy." Ducky knew a smile had appeared on his face when he saw the identity of the caller. Really, just seeing his lover's name shouldn't make him feel so happy, especially not after three decades of being together, but it always did. And whether that was foolish or not, Ducky didn't care.

 

"Hey, Duck. Thought you'd want to know, Abbs has just told me Palmer had to be sent home in a cab." Although he knew Jethro was rushed and occupied with the case, Ducky could hear 'his' special tone, the one Jethro only used with him.

 

Ducky sighed; this was not what he'd hoped to hear. "Oh, not again. Jethro, sometimes that young man is -"

 

"I know, Duck. You going to go round to his place?"

 

"Yes, I think I should. Will you excuse me for a short time?" Ducky was concerned, but also just a little irritated. He and Jimmy had had a long talk about this after last year, and he had felt confident that Jimmy would be sensible this year. However, it seemed as though once again he hadn't been.

 

"Sure."

 

"How are things going?" Ducky suspected there was little chance of seeing his lover that evening, and although they'd already spent more time alone together at work than on some days, he wanted to prolong this contact just a little. And he knew if Jethro really didn't have the time, he'd say so.

 

"You were right."

 

"I was?"

 

"Yeah. DiNozzo called. Quinn did go to the Wall; I'm just on my way there now. "

 

"In that case, I won't hold you up any longer, my dear."

 

"See you later, Duck."

 

"Jethro," Ducky paused. He knew what going to the Wall meant to his lover; how it always affected him. How it made him remember not just those with whom who he'd served and lost, but how he'd survived. 'Survivor's guilt', there was a lot of it around. "Take care," he said simply, knowing Jethro would understand.

 

"Always do, Duck." Jethro's tone let Ducky know that he had indeed understood.

 

JIMMY'S APARTMENT

 

Outside Jimmy's apartment Ducky rang the bell and waited.

 

He rang it for the second time and waited.

 

After the third time he dug into his pocket. He hadn't been friends with Jethro for so many years without picking up a tip or two. In a far slower time than he knew it would have taken Jethro to achieve the same aim, he opened Jimmy's front door and let himself in.

 

"Mr. Palmer?" he called. Silence greeted him. "Jimmy?" Now more than just 'somewhat' concerned, he moved further into the apartment. "Jimmy, are you - Oh, there you are."

 

Jimmy blinked owlishly at him. "Dr. Mallard? Did I let you in?"

 

Ducky shook his head, but otherwise by-passed the question. "I thought we'd agreed you would be more careful this year, Jimmy," he said, his tone a little firm.

 

"I was, Doctor. I was. Ooops." Even though he was standing completely still, somehow Jimmy managed to trip over his own feet and land in a tangled mess in a chair.

 

Ducky sat down in a chair opposite him and looked at his young assistant. "If you were careful, Mr. Palmer, how come you had to be sent home in a taxi - yet again?"

 

Jimmy looked down at the floor. "I don't know," he said, after giving the matter careful consideration.

 

"You did as we agreed? You kept your drink with you at all times?"

 

Jimmy nodded, winced and stopped moving his head. "Yes, Doctor. At all times. Well, except for when I had to -" He broke off and a flush crept over his face. "You know."

 

"Go to the loo?"

 

The flush crept further up Jimmy's face. "Yes. I couldn't take it with me, that's unhgy . . . unhgey . . .  unhingic . . . not right. So I left it. But I made sure it was hidden, Doctor. And I took a careful note of the amount in the glass."

 

Ducky sighed and briefly closed his eyes. "Oh, Jimmy," he said softly.

 

"I've let you down again, haven't I, Doctor? I was determined this year I'd make you proud of me. I was determined I wouldn't let you down and I have. I'm a failure at everything." Jimmy's tone was mournful.

 

Ducky sighed silently and shook his head. "No, Jimmy," he said. "You are not." He leaned forward and touched Jimmy's knee. "And you didn't let me down," he added. "It wasn't your fault." And in truth, despite Jimmy's foolishness it wasn't.

 

If Ducky could get the person or persons alone who thought it was 'fun' to spike people's drinks, he would . . . Well, he might not be a Special Agent, he might not carry a gun, but he had far more deadly tools - and he wasn't talking about his autopsy knives.

 

"Besides," he said gently, "I am proud of you."

 

Jimmy's eyes widened. "You are?" He looked as if all his birthdays and Christmases had come at once.

 

Moved, Ducky swallowed hard and nodded. "Yes. There aren't many young people who would work as hard as you do at NCIS whilst also attending Medical School and keeping in regular touch with their mother. And even fewer who wouldn't have found a way to let slip -"

 

"I would never do that, Dr. Mallard. Never. No matter what anyone did to me. No matter if they tortured me. I'll never tell." Jimmy sat forward, his gaze firmly affixed on Ducky's face; he gripped the arms of his chair as he stared at Ducky.

 

Ducky smiled. "I know, Jimmy. I know. And that also makes me very proud. Now, have you checked your insulin levels since getting home?"

 

Jimmy nodded. "Yes, Doctor."

 

"And are they all right?"

 

Jimmy nodded again, but less forcefully. "Yes, Doctor."

 

"Good. And have you been drinking plenty of fluids? Water for preference."

 

"Oh, yes, Doctor."

 

"Good, lad. Well, I'm going back to work now. You look after yourself."

 

"Yes, Doctor. Thank you, Doctor."

 

Ducky stood up and began to walk out of the room.

 

Jimmy's voice stopped him. "Oh, and, Doctor?"

 

Ducky turned around. "Yes, Jimmy?"

 

"Next year, next year I promise, Dr. Mallard. Next year I really will make you proud of me."

 

Ducky smiled. "I know, Jimmy," he said, before leaving the apartment.

 

He had another year to try to track down the culprits who thought it was 'a lark' to see people so drunk they could hardly stand up. Whose so called 'funny cheap shots' could one day lead to something far worse than merely having to be sent home in a taxi.

 

"I won't let you down this time, Jimmy," he vowed, as he relocked the door behind him.

 

25TH DECEMBER 2008 - MTAC

 

"Hey, Duck." Ducky, who had been engrossed in what Anthony had described as 'the best Christmas movie ever', jumped very slightly as the hand he knew so well was put on his shoulder, and lips he knew extremely well, touched his ear.

 

"Jethro," he murmured, as his lover slid into the seat next to him and settled down, quite deliberately moving a little nearer to Ducky. "This is a very pleasant surprise. I wasn't expecting you to appear."

 

He felt Jethro's shrug and then warm lips touched his ear again. "Got another one for you; well two, but one's for later, when we get home."

 

Ducky turned to face his lover and found his lips in worryingly close proximity with Jethro's. He forced himself to move back just a little, and silently cursed the smug look that crossed the handsome face.

 

Before he could say anything, Abby suddenly glanced around. "Gibbs!" she cried. "Tony, Tony, Tony. Stop the movie. Gibbs is here!" But without waiting for Tony to do that thing, she leaped to her feet and ran across MTAC.

 

"No, Abbs, it's -" But the movie was indeed stopped. As everyone turned to face Jethro, Ducky felt just a twinge of annoyance. He had been enjoying the few intimate moments with Jethro - well as intimate as you could get in a room with four other people. But instantly he felt contrite too; after all Jethro had said 'when we get home'.

 

And as if Jethro had read his mind, he turned to look at Ducky and offered his special smile. Then he stood up and shrugged off his coat. "Where's the food, then?" he demanded.

 

"Um, caramel popcorn?" Tony asked, offering the mere remains of the bowl.

 

"Tony!" Ziva exclaimed. "That was half full ten minutes ago."

 

"It's was McGee," Tony said quickly.

 

"Was not!"

 

"Was so."

 

"How could McGee have -"

 

"Tony, don't be unfair."

 

"Tony. I -"

 

Jethro's whistle cut through the argument. Like the obliging lambs they could be at times, as one the four younger team members instantly stopped talking and looked at Jethro. "This part of the 'DiNozzo tradition'?" he asked, looking hard at Tony.

 

"Boss, I - No, boss. Sorry, boss. Sorry, McGee. Guess I ate more than my share."

 

"No, Tony, it wasn't just you," Abby slipped her arm through his. "Was it?" she demanded, looking hard at Ziva and McGee.

 

Ducky was pleased to see she wasn't attempting to include him in her subterfuge. He'd accepted two maybe three pieces of the sickly sweet 'treat', and that had been to dispel the look of hurt that had crossed Tony's face when he'd initially tried to refuse.

 

Like the family they were, Ziva and McGee instantly turned from denying having eaten much to agreeing with Abby. Suddenly Ducky found himself having to swallow very hard as he looked around at the people who meant the most to him in the world; all bar two were there. One, his beloved Mother, couldn't be, but -

 

"Oh," he said, as the door opened again.

 

"There you are, Palmer," Jethro said, moving away from the group and striding towards the door. "Thought you'd got lost."

 

"Sorry, Agent Gibbs, I was just . . . Why are you all looking at me?" he asked. "Have I got something on my face?"

 

"Nah, it's not you they're looking at, Palmer, it's what you're carrying." And Jethro deftly started to take some of the cartons Palmer was carrying. "Guessed the 'DiNozzo tradition' wouldn't include any real food, so we came prepared. Take-out Christmas dinner - and don't look at me like that, Duck. It was that or Chinese."

 

Ducky hid a smile and chuckled silently to himself as five pairs of eyes had swiveled from Jethro to Ducky and back to Jethro again as his lover had spoken. It wasn't quite so much the words, but the fact that Jethro had had his back to Ducky when he'd spoken them; but had, in fact, been quite correct in what he'd said.

 

Unable to keep the chuckles silent, Ducky gave in and began to laugh softly. After a moment or two Jethro and then one by one the children joined in.

 

"I didn't think you were going to come, Jimmy," Abby said, breaking into the silence that had spread across the team as they tucked into the, what Ducky considered, 'plastic' food.

 

"Thought you'd be too embarrassed. Four years now, isnít it? Oww! Bo - Ducky?" Tony's eyes were wide with shock as well as surprise as he stared at Ducky and began to rub the back of his head.

 

Ducky forced himself not to cradle his hand; maybe he should ask his lover just how he managed to head-slap the boys and not hurt himself. "Apologize, DiNozzo," he said, his tone stern. He saw Tony's gaze flash to Jethro who clearly offered him nothing, as he turned back, looked at Jimmy and opened him mouth.

 

But Jimmy beat him to it. "No, it's all right, Doctor. But thank you. It's I who should apologize to you all. I've let you all down, each year. I've shown myself up and as I'm a member of - at least I hope I am, I know I'm not around as much as I was with going to Med School, and I know I'm not the greatest at . . . well, anything really, but I hope I can call myself a team member."

 

Ducky put his hand on Jimmy's. "Of course you can, Jimmy," he said firmly.

 

"Yes, Jimmy. And you are good at things, isn't he?" Abby looked around the group.

 

The agreement took a little longer in coming than when she'd demanded support from Tony, but it came.

 

As Ducky saw Jimmy's face, he realized the young man had really now just been given the best Christmas gift he'd ever received. He leaned over and patted his hand. "Go on, Jimmy," he said encouragingly. "You were saying something."

 

"Oh, yes. In showing myself up, I've shown you all up and I'm sorry. But," he broke off and glanced at Ducky. "But it wasn't my fault. Well, it was, but it wasn't. That is, I mean - Doctor?"

 

"Just tell them, Jimmy," Ducky said softly, his tone was still encouraging.

 

He watched Jimmy swallow hard; his larynx was very prominent when he swallowed. "You see. It wasn't that I drank too much."

 

"DiNozzo." Jethro spoke the warning very quietly, Ducky doubted if his lover's voice would have penetrated Jimmy's now intense concentration. However, he heard it and more importantly Tony did, as he quickly closed his mouth again. Ducky really was beginning to see just why Jethro slapped his senior field agent so often; the young man never seemed to learn.

 

"It was because," Jimmy went on. Then he looked down at his lap and said softly, "My drinks were spiked."

 

Ducky watched Abby's eyes widen. "Are you telling us the truth, Jimmy?" she asked.

 

Jimmy nodded. "Yes," he said.

 

"But why did you not tell us before?"

 

Jimmy looked away. "I . . . I . . . I thought you'd all think less of me," he finally managed. "I thought that if you all thought I'd -"

 

"Gotten drunk?"

 

Jimmy nodded. "Yes. That you'd -"

 

"Think more of you than if we knew you'd been the victim of some nasty practical joke?" Tony's voice was quite hard, but Ducky could tell the harshness was not directed at Jimmy.

 

Jimmy, who was still looking down at his lap, nodded. "Yes," he said.

 

"Oh, Jimmy, you are silly." Abby flung her arms around him and kissed him on the cheek; she left behind the evidence of the kiss. "Of course we wouldn't, would we, guys?"

 

"No, we certainly wouldn't." Again Tony's voice was harsh. "Who was it, Jimmy?" he demanded. Ducky couldn't remember ever hearing Tony use Jimmy's given name before.

 

"I don't know. Really, I don't. Dr. Mallard -"

 

"Ducky knew?"

 

Ducky nodded. "Yes. I am afraid that the first year it happened, I had occasion to berate Jimmy somewhat. I was concerned that it would upset his diabetes, mild as it is. And he told me the truth, but asked me not to make it general knowledge."

 

"And this year we, Dr. Mallard and I, thought we'd worked out a plan so it couldn't happen. But . . . I messed up again. But next year will be different. I promise. I won't let you down again, Doctor. I won't let any of you down. I won't."

 

"And we'll all help," Abby said firmly. "One of us will make sure we're with you all the time, won't we?"

 

The agreement from the other three younger team members came swiftly and Jimmy began to smile.

 

Ducky glanced at his silent lover and they shared one of their many lingering looks. He wondered how long it would be before they could escape and go home and - Abruptly, as he saw the look in Jethro's gaze change, he stopped his thoughts. Jethro smiled and winked at him.

 

"Ooh, presents!" Abby suddenly cried, bouncing to her feet and hurrying across the room. "I haven't given you," she glanced at Gibbs, "or Jimmy your presents yet."

 

"Abbs, I -"

 

"Here." And smiling proudly Abby handed over a gift. As with the other gifts it was wrapped in stapled and sellotaped together disposable hats.

 

"Um, thanks, Abbs." Jethro took the oddly wrapped gift and glanced at Ducky who just smiled.

 

"Open it, then!" Abby demanded, as she all but bounced on the spot.

 

After another swift glance at Ducky, Jethro did that thing. Ducky could see that his lover was prepared for the standard 'thanks, Abbs'. But the silence that befell Jethro as the soft wrapping fell away told Ducky, even before he saw the gift, that as with his own cufflinks, Abby had made something very appropriate.

 

"Well," she demanded. "Do you know what it is?"

 

Ducky smiled to himself as Jethro looked up at his favorite. "Course I do, Abbs. It's . . . " out of the corner of his eye, Ducky saw Jethro swallow hard. As he looked at the Eagle, Globe and Anchor, made out of more spent cartridges and what looked like gold colored paper-clips, Ducky could see why. It was as near a perfect depiction of the Marine emblem as Ducky had seen. And fittingly Abby had chosen to make it all in 'gold' as befitted an enlisted man. "Thank you, Abby." Without looking at Ducky, Jethro passed the gift to him to hold as he stood up and gathered Abby into his arms. "It's perfect," Ducky saw, rather than heard, his lover say, as he kissed Abby.

 

She returned the hug and when she pulled away, Ducky didn't think he'd ever seen her smile quite so much. "And now - Jimmy. Here," she handed him a fairly large, flat parcel.

 

He took it from her and began to carefully open it. As the wrappings fell away, Ducky saw the digestive tract, but not any digestive tract, but one showing years of abuse, blown up to six times the size. It wasn't a present he would have liked, but from the gleam in Jimmy's eyes and the smile on his face he clearly loved it.

 

"Remember the John Doe you had two weeks ago?" Abby said, her eyes also gleaming. Jimmy nodded. "Well, that's him. See, that's where the bullet went. Cool, isn't it?"

 

"That's not what I'd call it." Ducky heard Tony mutter under his breath. But from the looks on their faces, the way they were talking animatedly and holding the picture this way and that, nether Jimmy nor Abby had heard him.

 

As with everyone else's present, Abby's gift to Jimmy was clearly chosen with more care and affection than had she just gone out and bought something.

 

"So what did she give you?" Jethro asked, putting his hand on Ducky's back, letting the touch linger for a moment or two longer than was necessary. Ducky tugged his jacket sleeve up a little and showed off his cufflinks. Jethro smiled. "Yeah," he said. "Makes sense."

 

"Do you like them, Gibbs?" Abby called, suddenly turning around.

 

"Yeah, Abbs. But before you get any ideas of my present next year, remember, I don't wear that kind of shirt."

 

"Show Gibbs your present, Tony. And you Ziva and Timmy." She beamed as she looked around them.

 

"Very nice," Gibbs said, as he looked at Ziva's unique bouquet of cotton balls.

 

Then he looked at Tony and blinked. "Er, what is it?" He looked at the stuffed latex glove that was stuck to a flat base.

 

Before Tony could answer, Abby explained. "It's a glove."

 

"Can see that, Abbs."

 

"But not just any glove, boss."

 

"It's Tony's." Abby beamed.

 

Jethro glanced at Ducky and raised an eyebrow. "Apparently, dear Abigail has reproduced Anthony's fingerprints -"

 

"Which I had on file from the time Chip tried to frame him," Abby said.

 

"And?"

 

"And, I've put them on the fingers of the gloves. See," she grabbed the glove from Tony and handed it to Gibbs. He took it and looked at it. "No," she said. "Feel it. Touch the fingers. Like this," and she grabbed one of Jethro's hands and ran his index finger over the fingers of the glove. "Can you feel the ridges and whorls?" she demanded.

 

"Um," Jethro managed, again glancing at Ducky, who hid another smile. "Yeah, very nice, Abbs. Very . . ."

 

"Tony." Abby was beaming again.

 

Jethro laughed. "Yeah, very DiNozzo."

 

"And now Timmy." And before McGee could move, Abby ran to him and started to unbutton his shirt.

 

He pulled away. "Abby, I can undo my own buttons."

 

"That's not what you said last week," Abby retorted.

 

Ducky watched the color flare up McGee's cheeks as his fingers fumbled with his shirt buttons.

 

Finally, he managed to undo them, tugged his shirt out of his trousers and pulled the edges apart as he faced Jethro.

 

Ducky saw his lover look at the mass of zeros through nines and As through Fs that covered the white tee-shirt McGee wore. He could imagine what Jethro's thoughts were, as he stared at the black symbols.

 

"Isn't it great, boss?" McGee said, his eyes gleaming.

 

"Er, yeah, McGee. Very nice."

 

"Do you know what it is?" Abby demanded. "Tell him, Tim," she went on, before Gibbs could answer.

 

"It's hexadecimal."

 

"Is it?"

 

McGee nodded. "You know, boss. It's a human friendly representation of binary coded values."

 

"Is it, McGee?"

 

"Yes, boss."

 

"It's used in digital computing -"

 

"To represent bytes. Because all other attempts to -"

 

"Depict the two hundred and fifth six possible byte values -"

 

"Have led to problems. But with hexadecimal you can -"

 

Jethro whistled again, effectively silencing Abby and McGee, who stopped talking as one person and stared at him. "Does it say anything?"

 

"Of course it does, Gibbs." Abby sounded hurt.

 

"What?"

 

McGee's face flushed a little more and he glanced down at his feet. "Um, it's the first code Abby and I used together to crack the first computer we worked on," he stammered.

 

Jethro just shook his head. "I'm going to call it a night," he said. "You coming, Duck?"

 

Ducky blinked, but otherwise hid his surprise at the question. He glanced up at Jethro and silently tried to question him, but his lover's gaze was still shielded, even from him. He was suddenly aware that the room had fallen silent and everyone was waiting for him to answer. "Well, if Tony will forgive me from leaving before the end of the film, then . . . Well, yes, I confess I am a little . . . "

 

"Oooh, Ducky, before you go. I've got this for your mom." Ducky watched as Abby hurried across the room and grabbed another parcel; one that was more traditionally wrapped. She came back to him and thrust it into his arms. "It's George," she said beaming.

 

"George?"

 

"Well, we've already got a Bert, so I thought George was good and fitting. George. Albert. Bertie. Bert. And with your mom being British," she looked at him expectantly.

 

Ducky smiled and moved the parcel to one arm as with the other he took her arm and reached up on his toes to kiss her. "Thank you, Abigail," he said. "Mother will love him. I'm not sure what the nurses will think, but Mother will love him." He glanced around the room and saw the looks of confusion on all faces except Jethro's. "I'll leave it to you, my dear," he said softly, but loud enough for the others to hear him, "to decide whether to put them out of their misery or not."

 

And after accepting Jethro's offer to help him on with his overcoat, he and Jethro left the children to 'discuss' whether they should start It's A Wonderful Life from the beginning again, as Jimmy was now there or not.

 

They reached the door when Jethro stopped and turned back. "Oh, meant to tell you, as we all worked through today, the director has agreed we can have tomorrow off." And before anyone could react to the news, he simply put his arm around Ducky's shoulders and urged him out of MTAC.

 

RESTON HOUSE

 

By the time Ducky arrived at his Reston home, muted lights were already showing. He and Jethro had engaged in a gentle argument outside the office as to whether Ducky should leave the Morgan and go home with in Jethro's car, or if they should take both cars.

 

Finally, Ducky had declared that he did not wish to leave the Morgan ungaraged for over twenty-four hours and thus he would follow Jethro back to Reston. It hadn't been long before the tail lights from the sedan had vanished into the distance.

 

Jethro must have been listening for him, because by the time he'd put the Morgan into the garage and made his way carefully, it had been snowing quite a lot, around the house, Jethro was standing on the porch waiting for him.

 

Once inside, he snagged Ducky's hat from his head, pulled him into his arms and kissed him.

 

"That's better," he murmured several minutes later. "Been wanting to do that since I sat down next to you."

 

"Well, that would have given the children quite a shock, had you done so," Ducky said, as he turned to let Jethro help him off with his coat.

 

"You think so?"

 

Ducky turned back and gazed at his lover. "Jethro?"

 

"Ah, come on, Duck. You really think they don't know?"

 

"Well, I . . . I haven't really given it any thought. But I can't imagine why they would -"

 

"Can't you? Can't you really, Duck?" Jethro's tone was soft, as he returned from hanging Ducky's coat up and put his arm around him and guided him into the sitting room. "Why do you think no one passed comment when I asked if you were coming with me?"

 

"Well, I . . . I just thought . . . We are somewhat older than them all. I merely though they would think that - Jethro?" Ducky came to a dead stop inside the sitting room door and looked from the box of tools that stood on a sheet on the far side of the room to Jethro.

 

"Told you I had a surprise for you."

 

"Yes, you did. In fact you said you had two. I assume the first was Jimmy?"

 

Jethro nodded. "Yeah. It was after I spoke to Dad -"

 

"You spoke to your father?"

 

"Yeah. Called him to wish him Merry Christmas and tell him . . ."

 

"And tell him?"

 

But Jethro didn't answer the question. Instead he went on with what he'd been saying about Jimmy as if Ducky hadn't spoken. "Thought it wasn't right for Palmer to be on his own. He is part of the team, Duck. I think we all, well not you of course, but the rest of us, forget that at times, but he is. He's an important part of it and Christmas is family, and you and Abbs are always telling me that we're family, so . . . I went to see him and persuaded him to come with me."

 

"Did you also persuade him to tell the others about the fact his drinks had been spiked?"

 

Jethro shook his head. "No. He came up with that. I did tell him that the fact it'd happened didn't reflect badly on him, but on the bastards who'd done it. And that no one who mattered liked that kind of thing. But it was his idea. You can be sure it won't happen again. And don't forget, my lot are used to investigating, reckon they might even track down those responsible."

 

"Do you really think they'd go to all that trouble? I know that they seemed angry tonight, but -"

 

"Spiking drinks is something even DiNozzo wouldn't do, Duck." Jethro put his other arm around Ducky and looked down at him.

 

Ducky gazed back up into the now completely unshielded dark gaze. He lifted one hand and touched Jethro's cheek. "And tell him?" he said softly.

 

"Oh, that I . . . That I . . . um . . ."

 

"Have a new address?" Ducky found himself holding his breath as he said the words. He couldn't think of any other reason why Jethro's tool box would be in his sitting room and why Jethro was suddenly finding it hard to finish his sentences. He just hoped he hadn't misread the situation.

 

Jethro gathered him closely to him and rested his chin on Ducky's head. "If that's okay, Duck?" he said, now moving and putting his lips on Ducky's ear. "We've always talked about it, you know when - And I know that your mom's still . . . But I thought . . . I hoped . . . I haven't got it wrong, have I, Duck?"

 

Ducky sighed with sheer pleasure as he moved back far enough to allow Jethro to see his face and his eyes, which his lover always told him were even more talkative than he was. "Oh, no, dearest," he said, smiling. "Oh, no," he repeated. "Not at all." He tilted his head back; a scant second later he felt Jethro's lips on his.

 

26th DECEMBER 2008

 

Christmas Day had slipped over into what Ducky still regarded as Boxing Day two hours earlier, but both he and Jethro were still awake, cuddled together in what was now 'their' bed. Ducky felt complete, content and happier than he could ever remember being.

 

He finally had what he had longed for for years; for decades. He had Jethro for himself - and just for himself. He knew there would now be no one else in Jethro's life when it came to romance, love and sex. He knew his lover would be faithful to him. He knew that, not just because Jethro had told him so in as many words, but because he knew Jethro would not have moved into Reston house with him had he not intended it to be thus. And he knew it because of the simple gold band which had been resting on his pillow when they finally made their way up to the bedroom. The gold band which Jethro had placed on his finger.

 

A circle which had no ending. A circle which would never be broken. It wasn't a formal joining, not in the legal sense, it couldnít be. But that didn't matter, because it was a formal joining in every other sense.

 

As he snuggled further into Jethro's embrace and finally allowed his eyelids to shut out the light, Ducky decided that 2008 had been his best Christmas ever.

 

 

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