The time has come for Ducky to retire.
An established relationship story.
Written: June 2009. Word count: 1,000.
"Jethro, it's all right. Do not look like that. We knew the day would come. In many ways I've been living on borrowed time for some years."
"Don't say that, Duck." Gibbs caught his hand.
Ignoring the fact they were standing in Autopsy, Ducky put his hand on Gibbs's cheek and stroked it. "I did not mean it like that, my dear. Just that I am sixty-seven. I'm not surprised Director Vance has asked me to retire."
"Yeah, I know but . . ." Gibbs glanced away.
"But?" Ducky touched his arm.
Gibbs looked back at Ducky. "It's just I reckon it's his way of getting at me."
"For what exactly?"
"For making it clear I don't trust him. He's right, Duck. Don't know why, but I -"
"Maybe because of the file Trent Kort gave you. You did read it, did you not; despite what you told the SecNav and Director Vance." Ducky's tone made it clear it wasn't a question.
Gibbs looked down into Ducky's steady gaze. "Yeah, I did. But no, it's not the file. It's something else; felt it before the file. I don't trust him, Duck. And he knows it."
"Do you think it might possibly . . ."
"Have something to do with the way his predecessor behaved. You cannot deny that Jennifer's duplicity affected you."
Gibbs frowned. "I guess, but - Ah, I don't know, Duck. Maybe I'm being foolish. It's just - Forget it. Look, you want me to try fighting this?"
Ducky shook his head. "No, thank you, Jethro. I have thought about it and I believe it is time. I am aware sixty-seven is not old, and I don't feel my age -"
"Noticed that," Gibbs quipped, smiling when Ducky flushed slightly.
"Jethro," Ducky admonished slightly. "As I was saying I may not feel my age, but I would like to spend time doing what I want to. Our work takes up a considerable amount of time and well, I have many other interests. I think - Jethro? What is the matter?"
"Nothing." Again Gibbs looked away from Ducky.
Ducky sighed. "Ah, Jethro, Jethro, Jethro. Travelling around the world again is not one of the interests I intend to pursue, not until -" The sound of Gibbs's phone ringing silenced him.
Gibbs flipped it open. "Gibbs. Yeah?" He listened. "On my way." He closed the phone. "Got to go, Duck. See you later."
A MONTH LATER
Vance had hosted a formal retirement party for Ducky dutifully attended by everyone, including Team Gibbs.
However, for the team that hadn't been their party. They were having one of their own; they were going out to dinner. Just the six of them.
As Jethro knotted his tie and put on his suit jacket, he momentarily spared a thought for the 'absent' member of their team. He hoped she was well and he hoped she would one day remember who she could trust. When he'd told Vance he wasn't choosing another person for the team, he'd believed she would return. But now he wasn't sure. Beside it wasn't -
"Ah, Jethro, there you are," Ducky hurried into the bedroom. "The taxi is here. Are you ready?"
"Sure, Duck. Hang on though," Jethro caught Ducky's arm, pulled him into a loose embrace and kissed him briefly. "Now," he said, brushing a strand of Ducky's hair back from his forehead, "I'm ready."
Ducky smiled at him; his soft, loving, gentle smile.
They arrived at the restaurant and were led to the private function room where Abby, McGee, Palmer and DiNozzo awaited them. Abby had taken full responsibility for arranging the dinner and decorating the room. To Jethro's surprise the decorations were remarkably sedate - for Abby.
"Duckman!" Abby cried, hurrying across the room to throw her arms around Duck. "Hey, Gibbs," she added.
Ducky embraced Abby in return and then stepped back, gently gripped her arms and stretched up on this toes to kiss her. "Now, Abigail," he chided gently. "I've told you, this is not the end; it's the beginning."
"I know, Ducky, but . . . I'll miss you. We'll miss you. Won't we, guys?" she said, looking around her and sniffing. The three younger men joined them and agreed with Abby.
Ducky smiled at them. "I am very touched, my dears. But I assure you I won't allow you to miss me. Now, I think it is time we all stopped looking and feeling so glum and enjoyed our dinner, do you not? I happen to know this restaurant has a particular fine wine cellar and superb food."
It was clear from the laughter and chatter that everyone enjoyed the evening. Once again Ducky was given gifts, which he accepted in his own very personal way, showering his thanks and affection on the kids.
Finally, Jethro knew it was time. He cleared his throat and everyone looked at him. "I've got something to say to all of you." He turned to Ducky and took his hand; Ducky raised an eyebrow, but linked his hand with Jethro's. "I'm not good with words, not like Duck is, so I'll just say it. I'm retiring too. Immediately." He waited.
To his surprise, McGee and DiNozzo looked and one another, smiled broadly and nodded. Palmer grinned, and Abby, although her eyes were once again misty, managed to smile.
Only Ducky looked stunned. "Jethro? Are you -"
"Never been more certain, Duck. All those things you want to do, well, I want to do them with you. And I don't want to wait two years. So unless you have any objection to me being under your feet each day . . ." Jethro trailed off. He suddenly realized this was the first time he'd thought that.
Ducky's smile reassured him.
With extended promises to the kids they wouldn't be strangers, another round of celebratory drinks, and a multitude of hugs and kisses, Jethro and Ducky finally left the restaurant and returned to Reston House.
As they settled down to sleep, after some gentle love-making, Jethro spoke quietly. "You're right, Duck. It's not the end. It is just the beginning."
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