ONCE A CHILD
It's Easter Sunday and Ducky is preparing an Easter egg hunt for the McGee twins and Emily Fornell. Gibbs is intrigued as to why there are quite so many eggs.
An established relationship story.
Written: March 2013. Word count: 2,675.
Gibbs woke up and stretched before turning to look at the bed next to him; it was empty. He frowned and touched the sheet; it was cold. He glanced at the clock and blinked twice before looking at it again; it was early, far earlier than even Ducky normally got up on a Sunday.
And then he remembered; it wasn't just any Sunday, it was Easter Sunday and this year Ducky had decreed the McGee twins were old enough to enjoy an Easter egg hunt. Thus he had set out, with great pleasure, to organize one. It happened that it was Fornell's turn to have Emily for Easter and so Ducky had invited her to join in the Easter egg hunt as well. According to Fornell who'd called to thank Ducky for the invitation but had spoken to Gibbs, Emily was not only excited and happy but apparently very touched as well to be included.
Of course Ducky being Ducky had felt he couldn't just invite the McGees and Fornell and Emily to Reston House, that wouldn't he fair. As such he had invited the rest of the team as well and had promised them all lunch. Gibbs sighed again, but also smiled to himself as he got out of bed and headed for the bathroom. Ducky wasn't going to change after all these years and in all honesty Gibbs wouldn't want his long-term lover to change. He loved Ducky just as he was and if that meant giving up a precious Sunday alone with Ducky, the Sunday papers, a bottle of wine and a well cooked lunch, then that's what he'd do.
Half an hour later, dressed in scruffy trousers and an old NIS sweat-shirt (even though he knew Ducky would insist that he change before their guests arrived) he went downstairs, paused to wind the grandfather clock up (which had been his job long before he had moved permanently into Reston House) before heading towards the kitchen drawn by the scent of strong coffee brewing and bacon cooking.
He smiled to himself as he pushed open the door and saw Ducky breaking eggs into a bowl. "Morning, Duck," he said, going over to Ducky, slipping his arms around him and nuzzling his neck. Ducky smelled as he'd always smelled of old-fashioned cologne, almond soap and a freshness Gibbs had always admired all mingled with the faintest tinge of formaldehyde.
He heard Ducky sigh softly with pleasure, before he put down the egg he'd been about to crack and turned in Gibbs's arms. "Good morning, my dear," he said, offering his mouth for Gibbs to kiss. "I thought you would enjoy a cooked breakfast."
Gibbs lowered his head and kissed Ducky; Ducky tasted as he smelled with the addition of peppermint. "You always know how to get round me, don't you?" he said in a teasing tone as he lifted his head from Ducky's.
Ducky laughed softly and turned back around to begin beating the eggs together with some herbs and salt and pepper. "Well I should do, Jethro, after all these years." He paused and looked at Gibbs. "You aren't too unhappy about the children coming to visit us today, are you?"
Gibbs shook his head as he headed over to the coffee machine. "Nah," he said. "It'll be fun seeing Tommy, Benny and Emily hunting. You're not going to make it too difficult, are you, Duck?" He poured himself a mug of coffee and took a sip and sighed with pleasure. Ducky might be British, might prefer tea to coffee (and when he did drink coffee it was nowhere near as strong as Gibbs's) but he really knew how to make it - at least he knew how to make it to Gibbs's own exacting standards.
"Of course, not, Jethro, that would take some of the pleasure out of it for them. I won't make it too easy, because that too would defeat the object of them hunting, but for the twins and dear Emily, it will be relatively simple."
"That's my Duck," Gibbs said, taking another deep swallow of coffee as he leaned against the counter and watched Ducky. "Need a hand?" he asked.
"With breakfast or with hiding the eggs?"
Gibbs shrugged. "Either. Both."
Ducky smiled. "Well, I have breakfast quite under control. The bacon needs about another five minutes and then we can eat."
"See you've already set the table."
"But of course," Ducky said in his mock-offended voice.
Gibbs laughed and topped up his coffee. "So can I help hide the eggs?"
Ducky hesitated for no more than a moment or two before nodding and smiling at Gibbs. "Yes, you certainly may, Jethro. I do believe that will make it even more pleasurable."
"Good. So where are they?"
"I left them in the dining room, as it is somewhat cooler than other rooms."
"Want me to fetch them?"
Ducky shook his head. "Thank you, but I believe it will be better to leave them until after we have eaten breakfast; we can then go out into the garden and prepare." He beamed at Gibbs.
"Whatever you want, Duck," Gibbs said, moving away from the counter and sitting down at the table.
They enjoyed a fairly leisurely breakfast, but not as leisurely as their Sunday breakfasts tended to be. Once they'd eaten the bacon and scrambled eggs which were followed by toast and marmalade and drunk the coffee and tea, Gibbs loaded the dishwasher while Ducky put things away and went off to brush his teeth.
When he returned Gibbs was just shutting the door of the dishwasher and wiping his hands on a tea-towel. "Want me to fetch the eggs now, Duck?"
"I'll come with you."
Gibbs frowned, not so much because of Ducky's words but because he wouldn't quite meet Gibbs's eyes. "Duck?" he said, "what have you done? You know Abbs asked you not to go over-board with eggs for the twins and if Emily ends up getting sick, Fornell and I will never hear the last of it from Diane."
"Oh, I haven't, Jethro, really I haven't," Ducky hastened to say.
"Oh, okay. Well, what's up then?"
"Nothing. Nothing, my dear Jethro, is 'up'. Now shall we do and fetch the eggs?" Ducky's tone was bright and Gibbs glanced at him sharply but merely received a loving smile in return.
Mentally shrugging he put Ducky's slightly strange behavior down to Ducky being . . . Well, Ducky.
That is until they reached the dining room and went in. "Duck!" he exclaimed staring at the array of eggs, of all sizes, that sat in a large basket on the dining room table. "I thought you said you hadn't gone over-board."
"Oh, I haven't, Jethro, really I haven't. You see, my dear, not all of these eggs are for Thomas, Benjamin and Emily."
Gibbs blinked. "Oh," he said and then frowned. "You invited some other people with kids?"
"Um, not exactly, my dear."
"What does 'not exactly' mean, Duck?"
"Well, that is to say, no. No, Jethro, I have not invited any other people with children - surely you know me well enough to know I would not do that, at least not without asking you first."
"Or informing me," Gibbs quipped.
"Jethro!" Ducky sounded almost hurt, but Gibbs knew it was just an act as Ducky's eyes twinkled.
He laughed and put his arm around Ducky. "Okay, Duck, so yeah, I know you wouldn't invite anyone else without tell- asking me first." He kissed Ducky's cheek lightly.
"Good. I am reassured that you know that."
"Well, in that case just who are the other -" He broke off as Ducky's ' but for the twins and dear Emily, it will be relatively simple' comment, a comment he hadn't really paid any attention to when Ducky had said it, came back to him. "You haven't?" he said turning Ducky around, putting his hands on his shoulders and gazing down at his lover. "Tell me you haven't gone and bought eggs for the kids and that you intend to hide them as well as the ones for Tommy, Benny and Emily."
Ducky sighed. "Very well, Jethro, I shall not tell you that."
Gibbs didn't know whether to laugh or . . . Or what to do. He settled for saying, "You have! Ducky - you really have."
Ducky's cheeks flushed a little. "Very well, yes, my dear, I have. Look, Jethro, we could hardly invite the children and not give them something, could we?"
"They're getting lunch."
Ducky sighed. "Yes, Jethro, I know. But - Well, I thought . . . One is never too old for chocolate, is one?"
Gibbs shrugged. "Guess not. Okay, I get you buying them Easter eggs, but why have they got to hunt for them?"
Ducky sighed and then glanced away from Gibbs. He suddenly looked a little embarrassed and even upset. Gibbs slipped his hands from Ducky's shoulders and pulled Ducky towards him. "I've been a foolish old man, have I not?" Ducky murmured, as he leaned against Gibbs.
"You're not old, Duck, and you know it."
"Well, I am hardly young any longer, am I? But one thing we cannot debate is the fact that I have been foolish. I really thought that . . . But of course they wouldn't want to hunt for eggs; that was a really silly idea of mine. They are far too old for that - can you imagine dear Ziva in particular wishing to do so? I believe she thinks the tradition more than a little strange as it is. No, you are quite right. We will hide the eggs for Thomas, Benjamin and Emily and just give the others theirs." He sighed a little.
Gibbs frowned; he hated Ducky to be upset, but surely this time . . . And then he thought back to the previous afternoon in the squad room when he'd arrived back from court somewhat earlier than expected to find not DiNozzo, McGee and Ziva involved in some kind of squabble over who had 'won' whatever game they'd been playing; a game which had clearly involved wads of paper (both dry and wet) paperclips, erasers and colored pens. If they could do that, surely they wouldn't object to an Easter egg hunt - especially as it involved getting something at the end. And Abby and Palmer would always do whatever Ducky wanted them to.
He smiled and kissed the top of Ducky's head. "You know what, Duck, I reckon it's a great idea."
Ducky moved back and stared up at Gibbs, his eyes were slightly wide and he had a hopeful look on his face. "You do? You really do? You're not just saying that to make me feel better, are you? You aren't going along with it merely to appease me? You are not suddenly going to find an excuse to leave the room and call the children and tell them they have to do it to make me happy, are you?"
Gibbs shook his head. "No, Duck. Wouldn't do that to you - and I reckon you know that, don't you?" Maybe it wasn't strictly true; there were things he would do to ensure Ducky was happy, but they didn't tend to involve other people as such.
"Well," Ducky said slowly as he went on staring up at Gibbs and then he smiled, reached up to pull Gibbs's head down and kissed him lightly on the lips. "I believe I do know, my dear."
"Good. Well come on then, we'd better get started. That's a lot of eggs to hide, Ducky."
Ducky glanced at the basket of eggs. "Do you think I have maybe bought one or two too many?"
"With DiNozzo coming? Nah, Duck. Not at all."
Fornell and Emily were the first to arrive and ten minutes later two cars, one with the four McGees and the other containing DiNozzo, Ziva and Palmer, pulled into the driveway. As soon as Emily saw the McGee twins she took their hands and with all three of them laughing and talking at high speed she led them into the garden. Meanwhile the kids greeted Gibbs, Ducky and Fornell.
"The boys are really looking forward to this, Ducky," Abby said, putting her arm through Ducky's. "It's so kind of you and Gibbs to organize it."
"Don't look at me," Gibbs said. "It was all Duck's idea; he did all the hard work, I just helped hide the eggs."
"I've never had an Easter egg hunt," DiNozzo suddenly said.
"Nor have I."
"Well, yes, Ziva, but then I grew up here you didn't."
She frowned slightly. "I do not see -"
"Children; children," Ducky said raising his voice a little. "There is to be no arguing today - no, Anthony, I mean it. We are all going to get along and play nicely together. Yes, thank you, Jethro." Ducky turned to frown at Gibbs who had muttered something under his breath to Fornell - something he was quite certain, given the relative distance between him and Duck, that Ducky couldn't possibly have heard. But then again Ducky did know him so very well.
"Sorry, Duck," he muttered and Ducky turned back to the others.
"Well now, Anthony, Ziva," Ducky said looking from one to the other, "I believe that I may be able to rectify that omission in your upbringing," he beamed.
Gibbs watched the kids look at each another and noticed how delighted they all appeared to be. "Ducky," DiNozzo said his voice suddenly sounded considerably younger than his actual age. "Are you saying . . . That we get to Easter egg hunt as well?"
Ducky smiled and nodded. "Yes, Anthony, I certainly am. That is of course unless any of you think it is far too juvenile and childish for you to wish to -"
Five eager voices reassured him they certainly did not think that.
"When can we start?" DiNozzo demanded.
"Shortly, there are just a couple of things I need to tell you first. The area off to the left of the garden nearest to the house is where we have hidden the eggs for Thomas, Benjamin and Emily - so that area is out of bounds for you, do you understand?"
"Yes, Ducky," they all intoned.
Ducky beamed. "And theirs have not been hidden quite as well as the eggs for which you will be hunting have been hidden - it seemed only fair given the differences between their age and yours." This time Gibbs chose not to make a comment to Fornell, he did, however, glance at him and they both hid smiles. "Oh and one more thing; whilst the smaller eggs may be consumed by whosoever finds them, the larger ones will be collected together and divided out amongst you at the end of the day. That is only fair, I believe."
"But we get points, don't we, Ducky? for finding them? We'll know who found the most? What?" Abby demanded as the others turned to look at her. "I didn't said I'd never been on an Easter egg hunt, did I?"
Everyone laughed. "Well?" DiNozzo demanded. "Can we start?"
"Oh, yes, please, Ducky. Please. Please. Please." Abby began to bounce. Even McGee, Palmer and Ziva looked more than ready to get started.
Gibbs smiled and shook his head; why had he ever thought they wouldn't want to join in? "Come on, then," he said, "let's get started. You want to hunt for eggs, Tobias? Or you want to keep me and Ducky company?"
"Do I get an egg at the end whatever I do?"
Gibbs stared at his second oldest friend, as Ducky said, "Yes, of course you do, Tobias."
"In that case, I'll stay with you two and help you keep an eye on the kids - and I'm not talking about the McGee twins or Emily."
Everyone laughed and with the kids hurrying in front they all made their way around the house and into the garden.
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