STARTING ANEW

 

By

 

Ashleigh Anpilova

 

Ducky surprises Jethro on New Years' Eve and gives him something to think about.

A first time story.

Written: December 2009. Word count: 5,638.

 

 

NCIS 28TH DECEMBER

 

"Ah, there you are, Jethro. I have been looking for you."

 

Not bothering to remind Ducky (t was Ducky's way; for some reason most of the time he wanted to see Gibbs, he would physically track him down)  that given he always had his cell phone with him, so Ducky could simply ring that, Gibbs just smiled at his friend. "Got a problem, Duck?"

 

Ducky shook his head. "Oh, no, quite the opposite." He smiled up at Gibbs. "Now, you will be joining me at Reston House on New Year's Eve." He continued to smile up at Gibbs.

 

"Ah, Duck, I -"

 

"Let me re-phrase it, Jethro. You will be joining me at Reston House on New Year's Eve."

 

Gibbs blinked at the firmness of Ducky's tone as well as at the clear order. Then he mentally shrugged. Why not? It was better than spending it alone with a bottle. And there was no one he'd rather spend time with than Ducky. "Sure, Duck, that'll be good."

 

Ducky's smile broadened and his eyes shone with happiness. "Good. And do bring a change of clothes, etc., there's no need for you to drive home. You can stay overnight and we'll also have lunch on New Year's Day."

 

Again Gibbs saw no reason to object. After all, who with any sense would object to two home cooked Ducky meals? "Sure, Duck. Anything else?"

 

Ducky shook his head. "No. That's all. Shall we say, 7:00 p.m?"

 

"Whatever you say, Duck," Gibbs said.

 

Ducky beamed at him and put his hand on Gibbs's arm. "Good. I shall look forward to it."

 

"Me too, Duck," Gibbs said, suddenly realizing he spoke the truth.

 

RESTON HOUSE NEW YEAR'S EVE

 

Juggling overnight bag, a bottle of wine and another of whiskey, at the appointed 7:00 p.m., Jethro rang the doorbell of Ducky's Reston home. Ducky had given him a key many years before 'just in case', but Jethro rarely used it. He might let anyone and everyone walk into his own home, but despite the closeness of his friendship with Ducky, he respected his old friend's boundaries. "Hey, Duck," he said, as the door was opened. "Happy New Year's Eve to you."

 

Ducky smiled. "And the same to you, my dear. Do please come in and get warm again." He stepped back from the door and Jethro went inside.

 

"Hadn't realized how cold it was," Jethro said, dropping his bag onto the floor and handing the two bottles to Ducky, before tugging of his coat and hanging it up.

 

"'Cold enough for snow', my grandmamma used to say."

 

"Reckon she'd be right."

 

"I confess it would be rather nice if it did snow tonight. I always think there's something special about snow on New Year's Eve."

 

Jethro looked at Ducky. "Do you?"

 

"Oh, yes. New Year Eve is somewhat of a magical time. The end of the old year, the beginning of the new. A time when - Oh, but I'm babbling. And I haven't thanked you for these yet," he nodded at the bottles he held. "There really was no need," he said.

 

Jethro shrugged. "Wanted to. Besides, thought it was customary to take a bottle when you were invited to dinner."

 

Ducky chuckled softly. "Ah, but one could say, I didn't quite 'invite' you, could one not?"

 

Jethro laughed. "Guess one could. Just glad you did, Duck," he said quietly.

 

"Are you?"

 

Jethro nodded. "Yeah, Duck. Very glad."

 

"In that case, do come along and let us get comfortable. I took the liberty of deciding on a cold and relatively light supper, especially as we will have a good luncheon tomorrow. I do hope that will suit you?"

 

"Whatever you give me, Duck, is great."

 

"Well, let us hope you'll feel that way later," Duck said, somewhat cryptically. However, before Jethro could comment, Ducky had turned and was walking along the hall.

 

Jethro followed him into the dining room, where Ducky put the bottles down on the sideboard. He stopped inside the door and looked at the table. "You invited anyone else, Duck?" he asked. As he spoke he realized he really hoped Ducky's answer was 'no'.

 

Ducky glanced at him. "Oh, no, Jethro. Just you. Why do you ask?"

 

"Thought you said 'light supper'?"

 

"Strictly speaking, my dear," Ducky said, with a twinkle in his eyes; it was the one Jethro knew well. "I said 'relatively'. I assure you that everything on the table fits that description. Now, as I have taken most of it out of the refrigerator fairly recently, I think a pre-supper drink is called for before we eat." Then he looked at Jethro, "Would you have liked me to have invited anyone else?"

 

Jethro shook his head. "No, not at all, Duck. Quite the opposite," he added.

 

Ducky smiled. "Good. Now, do come along into the sitting room and we can sit by the fire and enjoy a drink."

 

They sat side-by-side on the couch in front of the fire, Ducky with a dry sherry, Jethro with a malt whiskey. As always when he was in Ducky's company, in Ducky's home, Jethro felt a  kind of peace and contentment he never found anywhere else. He was more relaxed with his oldest friend than with anyone else - and even when he'd been married to his three ex-wives, that had been the case. Ducky was an easy person to be around, even when he was in his rambling story-telling moods. Despite his penchant for talking, Ducky wasn't the kind of person who had to fill every single second of silence with speech, something Jethro was very grateful for.

 

The time with Ducky seemed to go by very quickly, thus he wasn't that surprised when he glanced at his watch to find it was 7:55 p.m. Ducky must have seen the movement, because he too glanced at his watch. "I think it's time we went and ate, do you not?" He started to stand up. "Things should now be the ideal temperature to give us the full benefit of their taste.

 

Then to Jethro's surprise, he laughed softly. "Want to share the joke, Duck?" he asked, also standing up.

 

"Oh, do forgive me, my dear. I'm afraid my laughter was somewhat at your expense." Jethro cocked an eyebrow. "Well," Ducky said, tucking his arm inside Jethro's and moving towards the dining room. "It is just that here I am concerned about not letting the food get too warm or eating it whilst it is too cold, so as not to spoil the taste when you . . . Well, let me just say 'hours old cold pizza'." He stopped walking and turned slightly to gaze up at Jethro. His eyes shone with humor, deep affection and what Jethro thought was almost speculation. "I do hope you are not too annoyed with me, Jethro."

 

"What for telling the truth? Nah, Duck. Never could be annoyed with you anyway," Jethro said, brushing Ducky's hair back from his forehead as he stared down at his old friend.

 

To his surprise, Ducky repeated the words he'd said earlier. His tone was low, somewhat serious as he said, "Well, let us hope you'll feel that way later." This time, before Jethro could say anything, Ducky began to walk again. As he was still holding Jethro's arm, Jethro was obliged to match his step.

 

AN HOUR AND A HALF LATER

 

Despite the amount of food he'd eaten and wine he'd drunk, Jethro had to admit Ducky had been right: the food had been light. He didn't feel over full or stuffed. One 'problem' with Ducky's cooking was that it was so good, saying 'no, thanks', when offered more had always been difficult. Sometimes Jethro had had to admit to himself (although not to Ducky) that he did feel uncomfortably full for a while after enjoying one of Ducky's dinners. But not tonight.

 

"That was really great, Duck," he said, wiping his mouth for the final time on the napkin and putting it down next to his empty plate. "Never even realized I liked salmon so much."

 

Ducky smiled and put his hand over Jethro's. "Thank you, my dear. I'm so glad you enjoyed it. Now, why do you not go and sit by the fire again and pour us a drink, I think I'd like brandy after the sherry and wine, but you know where everything is, do help yourself. I'll just clear things away and put plates, etc. into the dishwasher and - Jethro? What are you doing?"

 

"Giving you a hand. Then we can go and sit by the fire."

 

"Oh, but, Jethro, you are my guest."

 

Jethro frowned at him. "No," he said firmly. "I'm your friend." And before Ducky could answer, he gathered up several plates and strode out of the room, heading for the large kitchen.

 

HALF AN HOUR LATER

 

They once again sat on the couch in front of the fire. Ducky had a brandy glass with a good helping of Napoleon brandy; Jethro had a heavy crystal tumbler nearly a third full of Tamdhu scotch. It was one he'd first tasted in Ducky's presence and one that, somewhat surprisingly given his taste for strong bourbon, he really enjoyed.

 

On the way back from the kitchen, Ducky had looked outside into the night and been delighted, in an almost childlike way, to see it was indeed snowing. And Jethro had found himself just as happy, because Ducky was so very happy.

 

"Cheers, Duck." Jethro held his glass up and touched it against Ducky's. "Two hours left of the year. You know I swear the older I get the quicker they go by."

 

Ducky laughed softly. "Your good health, my dear," he said. "And I would concur with what you have just said." He sipped his drink and for a moment they again sat in the comfortable silence Jethro enjoyed.

 

Then Ducky spoke again. "Thank you for coming tonight," he said. "Even if my invitation was more of an -"

 

"Order?" Jethro said innocently.

 

Ducky laughed. "That will suffice."

 

"As I said, Duck. I'm glad to be here."

 

"Good." Ducky put his glass down on the coffee table. Then for the third time that night he spoke the same words. "Well let us hope you'll feel that way later." This time as he said them, he took Jethro's glass from his hand and put it down on the table.

 

"Duck?" Jethro looked as his friend. "Is something -"

 

But Ducky spoke again. "Tonight is New Year's Eve," he said. "The end of a year. Tomorrow we begin a new year; we can start anew, start afresh. Anything that has happened during the year can be forgotten, pushed away, let go of. Especially anything that happens tonight. It stays with tonight; it stays with the old year. It does not have to carry over into the new year. And do not forget, it is snowing."

 

"Duck?"

 

"Anything that happens on New Year's Eve can stay with the old year. It does not have to be carried over into the New Year. It can be forgotten, wiped out. It can be as if it never happened." Ducky said the words again as he stared unblinkingly at Jethro. "Do you understand?" he asked quietly.

 

Jethro swallowed hard as he met Ducky's gaze. It was the same look Ducky always gave him and yet it wasn't. There was something else, something he couldn't identify; something that he couldn't begin to figure out. "Don't know, Duck," he said honestly.

 

Ducky nodded. "Well then, let me see if I can show you," he said. And with those words he moved forward slightly, put his mouth on Jethro's and began to kiss him.

 

For a moment Jethro wasn't sure if he should hit Ducky, push him away, or kiss him back. However, given he'd never in a million years hit Ducky and pushing him away could still hurt him, not to mention Ducky knew how to kiss, he went for the third option and began to return the kiss.

 

Far too soon, Ducky took his mouth away and sat back upright. "Well," he said, watching Jethro carefully, "given that you have not hit me, called me names, shouted at me or strode out of my home in disgust, it seems you may have understood what I was saying."

 

Startling clarity suddenly hit Jethro. "You mean if we go to bed and make love tonight, then it's just about tonight? Tomorrow it'll be as if it never happened?"

 

Ducky nodded. "It can be, yes. It's part of the magic of New Year's Eve."

 

Jethro frowned. "Not sure I believe in magic of any kind, Duck."

 

Ducky shrugged. "Well, choose some other word, then. It doesn't matter what you call it, it just is. The old year will end in just under two hours and anything we do can end too." He spoke quietly, simply, without any animation in his voice.

 

Jethro frowned. "You want that?"

 

Ducky gave him a small wry smile. "I want you," he said simply.

 

Jethro opened his mouth and closed it again. Then tried again, "Duck, I -"

 

This time Ducky silenced him in another way. This time Ducky put his arms around him. This time the kiss went on for a lot, lot longer than the first one. This time Jethro felt his body begin to react to the kiss; to the way Ducky was caressing the back of his neck; to the feel of Ducky in his arms; to the taste of Ducky; to the scent of Ducky; to the small noises of pleasure Ducky was making; to the look of sheer happiness he'd caught sight of as Ducky had moved in to kiss him.

 

This time, when they parted, he knew exactly what his answer would be.

 

HALF AN HOUR LATER

 

They stood in Ducky's bedroom, once again in one another's arms, once again kissing. When they finally parted Ducky looked up at Jethro and said simply, "Let me make love to you, Jethro." He didn't wait for an answer; instead he began to remove Jethro's clothes and his own, before turning back the bed clothes and taking Jethro's hand urged him to get into bed.

 

As skilled hands, lips and a tongue moved over every inch of Jethro's body, Jethro gave himself up completely to the sensations Ducky was giving him. He'd shared a bed with many women, he'd been made love to by women he would have called skilled, but nothing had prepared him for the experiences Ducky was giving him; the sensations he was feeling as Ducky made love to him.

 

When he climaxed, he wasn't entirely certain just what Ducky had been doing to him, he'd been loved so intensely, stimulated to a level that he'd never even dreamed of, that his entire body felt electrically charged. The only two things he was sure of were that he wanted more and that he'd called out Ducky's name - something he had never done - as he'd climaxed.

 

He sprawled on his back, breathing heavily, feeling his heart pounding and racing, blinking as he tried to focus on the man who'd taken him to such heights. "Duck?" he managed, lifting what he wasn't surprised to see was a shaking hand to cup Ducky's cheek.

 

"Yes, dearest," Ducky said, leaning down to lightly kiss Jethro. "It is I."

 

"Good," Jethro said. "Good." He slid his hand from Ducky's cheek around Ducky's head, pulled it down and began to kiss Ducky again. As he pulled Ducky partly on top of him, he felt Ducky's erection brush against his thigh and without pausing to consider what he was doing, he reached for it, enclosed it in his hand and began to stroke Ducky.

 

Ducky pulled back slightly, or tried to, Jethro tightened his grip around Ducky's hand and guided him back. "Jethro, you don't hav-" Jethro silenced him with another kiss, as he went on moving his hand over Ducky. He knew he was somewhat clumsy, despite all the years of self-stimulation, stroking another man was awkward. It wasn't unpleasant; not something he was doing purely because he felt obliged to, just awkward as it was something he'd never done before and the angle was different. He vaguely recalled the first time he'd had sex with a woman, and how awkward that had been.

 

Despite the awkward angle and the fact he felt somewhat clumsy, especially when he recalled Ducky's touches, he was enjoying what he was doing. He was enjoying it very much indeed; he'd never touched another man so intimately before, had never thought he would, but now he wanted to go on touching Ducky. And awkward or not, it was clearly giving Ducky immense pleasure if the moans, the way his hand was slick, the passionate way Ducky was kissing him, and the way his body trembled was anything to go by.

 

And yet, Jethro sensed something wasn't quite right; something seemed slightly amiss with Ducky. Seconds after he sensed it, he realized what it was. Taking his lips from Ducky's he put them to Ducky's ear instead. "It's okay, Duck," he said softly. "You don't have to fight it. You can come like this. Want you to," he added, before beginning to nibble and suck Ducky's ear.

 

Seconds later, he was given his wish, as warm, sticky liquid flowed into his hand and Ducky cried his name aloud as his trembling increased. "Oh, Jethro, Jethro, Jethro," he murmured. "I do love you."

 

Still holding Ducky, even though he'd begun to soften and continuing to embrace him with his other arm, Jethro spoke softly. "Know you do, Duck." And he kissed Ducky.

 

After another few minutes, Ducky moved so he was lying next to Jethro rather than half on top of him and began to lightly stroke Jethro's chest and kiss his neck. As his kisses and caresses became more intimate and moved further afield, Jethro felt himself begin to harden again.

 

He gasped slightly, as Ducky's hand brushed over his arousal. "I was right," Ducky murmured to himself. He kissed Jethro's lips, before sitting up a little and reaching into the drawer of his nightstand. He fumbled for a moment or two, before pulling his hand back and handing a small tube to Jethro.

 

Automatically Jethro took it and glanced at it. "Duck?" he asked.

 

Ducky shook his head. "Come now, Jethro. You may never have been to bed with a man before, but even you will be aware of how men," he paused and gazed at Jethro; the look was almost speculative. Jethro found himself holding his breath, almost willing Ducky not to say what would be a logical, normal term.

 

Then Ducky gave a half-shrug and said simply, "Have intercourse."

 

"You want me to . . . ?"

 

Ducky nodded. "Very much so."

 

Jethro swallowed hard. "But I don't want to hurt you," he blurted out.

 

Ducky stroked his face with his fingertips. "I won't lie to you and say you won't, because there always is a degree of pain. However, if you are willing and prepared to follow instructions, then we can limit the pain considerably."

 

Jethro frowned. "Duck, I don't want to hurt you at all."

 

"Ah, Jethro, that is very sweet of you. But I assure you the pleasure will outweigh any discomfort I might feel."

 

Jethro looked at him uncertainly. "You sure?"

 

Ducky nodded. "Yes, my dear. I am positive. However, I repeat you will have to do as I tell you and you will have to -" Abruptly Ducky cut himself off.

 

"I'll have to . . . ?"

 

Ducky flushed slightly. "You yourself have mentioned, more than once, that your ex-wives accused you of . . . Shall we say lacking in the area of . . ." Again he trailed off. Then he sighed and said flatly. "You will have to take your time, Jethro. It was been many years since I experienced intercourse and you will not be able to rush - not given your desire not to hurt me."

 

Jethro stared at his dearest friend. Just for a moment he was tempted to say they should forget it, just make love as they'd done before. But the altruist in him wanted to give Ducky what he so clearly wanted; while the bastard in him remembered that he'd heard, more than once, how good, how tight, penetrating a gay man was. So instead of putting the tube down, he said, his tone low, "I'm in your hands, Duck. Tell me what to do and I'll do it."

 

And he did.

 

He lost track of time as he followed Ducky's quiet, calm instructions as to how he should prepare Ducky, especially as more than once when Ducky told him to move on, he found he wanted to make completely sure before he did. He also found it hard not to pause to kiss Ducky, or run his hands over Ducky's smooth, silky skin. In fact he soon gave up trying not to kiss and caress Ducky; he was enjoying it too much. Never had be spent so long making sure his bed partner was ready for him.

 

Finally, following repeated assurances by Ducky that he was as ready as he was going to be, he slowly began to penetrate Ducky as gently as he could. A gasp from Ducky stopped him, but a slightly harsh order to keep moving had him obeying, until finally he knew they were both experiencing an intense pleasure.

 

This time when his climax hit him he could have sworn he saw stars in front of his eyes and the entire world seemed to tilt and vanish into a maelstrom of such intense sensations that he wasn't entirely certain he had control over any part of his body.

 

He vaguely remembered Ducky gently instructing him as he began to pull out. He seemed to have some recollection of Ducky cleaning him with a warm wash cloth. And he definitely recalled gathering Ducky into his arms, finding Ducky's mouth with his own. And quite possibly he even murmured a half slurred 'Love you, Duck'.

 

NEW YEAR'S DAY

 

Jethro awoke and instantly knew he wasn't in his own bed. Just for a half second he was puzzled, but then the wonders of the night before came back and he let his body, which had become tense and on alert, relax back into the mattress.

 

Smiling to himself he reached out, but to his surprise, his hand only encountered a cool sheet. He turned his head. "Duck?" But no one was next to him. If it hadn't been for the fact that firstly it was Ducky's bed he was in, secondly, he didn't have the imagination to dream up what had happened last night, thirdly he was naked, and fourthly the bed's scent told him what had happened, he might have doubted he'd spent several hours making love to and with his oldest, dearest, most cherished friend.

 

And then it hit him: he was meant to have, if not 'forgotten', then let it go. Ducky's words about what happened in the old year staying in the old year and starting anew in the new year came back to him.

 

He sat up and let the covers fall to his waist. A glance across the room showed him that Ducky had brought his overnight bag into the bedroom. Thus, he got up, went to the bathroom, peed, showered, shaved, dressed in clean clothes and went downstairs and into the kitchen guided by the enticing scents of bacon and coffee.

 

"Hey, Duck."

 

Ducky turned around and smiled at him. Jethro studied him, trying to see if there was anything even slightly different in the way Ducky was looking at him; there wasn't. "Good morning, my dear Jethro," Ducky said, now hurrying over to Jethro. "A very Happy New Year to you."

 

"Happy New Year, Duck," Jethro replied, putting his arms around Ducky and hugging him. For a fleeting second he thought he felt Ducky hesitate. But then Ducky's arms went around him and returned the embrace and Jethro told himself he must have imagined the hesitation.

 

"Something smells good," he said when, after a moment or two, they parted.

 

"I thought that we would have a proper breakfast and maybe luncheon a little later than I had originally planned, if that is all right with you, of course? Unless you have other plans for the day?" Ducky looked up at Jethro.

 

Jethro shook his head. "No other plans, Duck. Whatever you suggest is good." He flashed Ducky a smile and drifted over to where the coffee percolator had just finished burbling away. Standing next to it were two white china mugs. He grabbed one, filled it with the hot, dark liquid and took a long swallow and then a second. "This is great, Duck," he said, after his third swallow.

 

He glanced around to find Ducky smiling indulgently at him. "I'm glad you like it, Jethro. Maybe you'd be kind enough to pour me a mug?"

 

"Ah, hell, Duck. Sorry. Just didn't . . . Here." Quickly he poured coffee into the other mug and handed it to Ducky; then he topped his own mug back up and took another mouthful. "This really is good."

 

"I'm glad. Now, poached or scrambled?"

 

"Huh?"

 

"Eggs. With your bacon. How would you like them?"

 

Jethro shrugged. "Don't mind, Duck. But if you'd like them scrambled, I'll cook them."

 

Ducky beamed at him. "I was rather hoping you might suggest that," he said.

 

"And you couldn't just have asked?"

 

"My dear Jethro, you are my guest." Ducky tried and failed to look slightly horrified; instead they both began to laugh.

 

"Ah, Duck," Jethro brushed his hand over Ducky's hair, pushing it back from his forehead. For a moment he waited, wondering if Ducky was going to say anything about the previous evening. But his friend remained silent. After one more swallow, he set about scrambling eggs for them; it was one of the few dishes he cooked well.

 

 

After they had shared a leisurely breakfast and Ducky, with Jethro leaning against a work surface talking to him, had carried out some preparations for lunch, Ducky suggested they go for a short walk.

 

Jethro frowned. "You sure, Duck? Reckon it'll be slippery out there after the snow last night. It was freezing when I got here." As he spoke he looked directly at Ducky, staring unblinkingly at him. It was the first time the previous evening had been mentioned.

 

He didn't know what, if anything, he'd been expecting, but he was nonetheless somewhat disappointed when the look on Ducky's face didnít change, nor did he comment on the 'last night'. Instead he just replied to Jethro's question. "I think it will be fine, Jethro. If we take care. I confess I would like a little fresh air and the snow will be untouched around the house. It'll look so very beautiful. However, if you'd rather not go out, then -"

 

"Oh, no," Jethro said swiftly. If Ducky was venturing out onto slippery ground, he was going with him. "If you're going, I'm coming with you."

 

Ducky blinked and Jethro realized his tone had been somewhat forceful. "I assure you, my dear, I am quite able to go out on my own."

"Know that, Duck. It's just -"

 

"Just?" Ducky asked politely.

 

Jethro shook his head. "Nothing. Anyway, you're right, a walk'll be good."

 

So they donned coats, gloves, scarves and hats - Ducky insisting that Jethro borrow a hat. When Jethro had tried to decline, Ducky simply started a lecture about how much warmth is lost through the head. Jethro gave in and put on the borrowed hat. It was only when they were a short way from Ducky's home that he remembered he had his NCIS cap in his car.

 

Ducky had been right; the snow was untouched for some way around Ducky's house and it was indeed, as Ducky has said it would be, very beautiful. It had fallen fairly heavily overnight, and while slippery in patches, was fairly easy to walk on for the rest of the way. On one particular slippery patch, point Ducky slid his arm inside Jethro's and it remained there for the duration of their walk. Just as they reached the bottom of the steps leading to Ducky's home, it began to snow heavily.

 

 

After enjoying a very good three course meal, plus cheese, and quite a lot of alcohol, they once again sat in Ducky's sitting room in front of the fire. Ducky had a brandy balloon in his hand, Jethro a heavy whiskey tumbler; low, unobtrusive, classical music played in the background and apart from the fire, the only lights were those of the Christmas tree and several wall lights. The curtains had been closed and the room was warm. Jethro was happy just to be where he was, in the company of the most important person in his life. A new year; a new beginning; a time to start anew; a time to begin; a time to change; a time to start afresh - that was what Ducky had said.

 

He drained his glass and instantly Ducky pushed the bottle towards him. "Another one?" he asked.

 

It gave Jethro the opening he'd been hoping for. "That depends, Duck," he said, leaning back further into the corner of the couch and gazing at Ducky.

 

"On what exactly?"

 

"On whether you're going to offer me a bed for the night again," Jethro said. And then, before Ducky could reply he went on. "Thing is, Duck, I'm full, warm and comfortable. It's snowing and cold out there, it's freezing in fact and it's already dark. I really don't want to drive home and if I have another drink I'm going to want it even less. I know it's not exactly late, but . . ." He deliberately trailed off and waited for Ducky to reply.

 

"You are more than welcome to stay the night, Jethro. You're always quite welcome," Ducky replied. For the first time that day Jethro noticed that Ducky's look wasn't quite his 'usual' one. He seemed very slightly guarded and as if he was waiting for something.

 

"Am I?" he asked quietly.

 

Ducky blinked and frowned a little. "Of course you are." Jethro just continued to stare at Ducky. "Jethro?" Ducky said, after a moment or two. "Is there something on your mind? Something you wish to say?"

 

For a fraction of a second Jethro paused, was there? Yes, there was. "Yeah, Duck," he said. "There is." He leaned forward and caught one of Ducky's hands.

 

Ducky's eyes widened. "Jethro?"

 

"Duck. About last night. I -"

 

"Jethro. I told you what happens during a year, especially on New Year's Eve stays with the old year and doesn't carry over into the new. It's forgotten; wiped out. It's as if it never happened." Ducky spoke quickly.

 

Jethro shook his head. "Actually, Duck. That's not quite right."

 

Ducky's eyes widened again. "I assure you, Jethro, that -"

 

"No, Duck. It's not quite right," Jethro repeated. "You see what you actually said was that it didn't have to carry over into the new year. That it can be forgotten, etc. That's right, isn't it? You did say that?"

 

"Well, yes, now that you . . . But, Jethro, it's essentially the same thing."

 

"Don't think so, Duck. There's subtle difference between them."

 

"I . . ."

 

"Straight question, Duck." He paused and swallowed. "Do you want what happened last night to be forgotten, wiped out? Do you want it to be as if it never happened?"

 

"I . . ." Ducky glanced away from him.

 

"It's an easy question, Duck. Just requires a simple 'yes' or 'no'. Do you, you, Ducky, want the fact we spent several hours last night making love to be wiped away now that we're in a new year? Well," he urged, when Ducky didn't instantly answer.

 

Ducky briefly closed his eyes. Then he reopened them, stared directly at Jethro and shook his head. "No," he said quietly. "No, Jethro, I do not." He tried to pull his hand away, but Jethro held firm. "I'm sorry, Jethro," he said quietly. "I will not lie to you."

 

Jethro watched his oldest friend and saw a quiet acceptance in the steady gaze. "You spoke about starting anew, Duck," he said softly, now moving very slightly along the gap that separated them.

 

Ducky nodded. "Yes, I did. But -"

 

"So we can do that, can't we? We can start anew. You and me?"

 

Ducky looked somewhat puzzled. "I don't think, I -"

 

Jethro closed the last bit of the gap, leaned towards Ducky and kissed his lips. "We can start afresh as lovers, Duck," he said quietly, lifting his head and looking down at his oldest friend; his newest lover.

 

Ducky blinked. "Jethro, are you . . . ?"

 

Jethro nodded. "Yeah, Duck, I am. We don't forget last night; we don't let it be wiped out; we don't pretend it never happened. We use it as the start of something new. You and me, Duck." He smiled and this time gathered Ducky into his arms before kissing him again.

 

 

For some time they sat on the couch, Ducky under Jethro's arm, his head resting against Jethro's should while Jethro played with Ducky's hair, sharing kisses and enjoying being at peace with one another and the world. In some ways nothing had changed; in other ways everything had changed.

 

Finally, when both felt able to, they took their drinks with them and made their way up to Ducky's bedroom where Jethro spent that night and every night thereafter in Ducky's bed.

 

 

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