TIES

 

By

 

Ashleigh Anpilova

 

Set a little while after Mother's Day.

Gibbs overhears the kids talking and it gets him thinking. He goes to talk to Ducky and is stunned by what Ducky tells him; so stunned he decides to do something about it.

A first time story.

Note: This story was written and shared on Live Journal before Double Identity aired.

Written: March 2010. Word count: 6,132.

 

 

 

As Gibbs came out of the elevator he saw the kids in a huddle around McGee's desk. That didn't particularly surprise him, although he did wonder about the presence of Abby and Palmer.

 

He was about to go to his desk when he heard the word 'Ducky'. Instinctively, he moved back a little so that they wouldn't see him and began to concentrate on what they were saying.

 

"Maybe he just wanted a change," DiNozzo was saying.

 

Abby shook her head, making her pigtails fly. "But that's not like Ducky. Is it, Ziva?"

 

"I confess that I do find it a little surprising. Ducky is a man of habit; he is not given to change."

 

"He told me that change was a good thing, as long as it was motivated by the person making the change," Palmer said.

 

"Yeah, and I guess at his age there's not much he can change. What?" DiNozzo demanded, as everyone fell silent and just stared at him, looks of horror on their faces.

 

"Tony!" Abby exclaimed, hastily looking around. Without consciously thinking about it, Gibbs ducked below the screen.

 

"What?"

 

Gibbs could no longer see Abby, but he could easily imagine her expression. "You tell him, Tim," she said.

 

"Go on then, McTell-All."

 

"Don't you know, Tony?"

 

"Apparently not."

 

"What's Gibbs's most important rule?" McGee's tone was his very slightly smug one; the one Gibbs approved off. The fact that McGee now stood up to DiNozzo and was prepared to stand up for himself and not just put up with the way DiNozzo treated him made Gibbs pleased. And once DiNozzo had realized McGee wasn't just going to roll over, he'd stopped the constant teasing and pranks, and now the two younger men were closer than they'd ever been and were equals.

 

"Never go anywhere without a knife?"

 

"No."

 

"Never, ever bother Gibbs in interrogation?"

 

"No."

 

"Er . . . Ah, got it! Never mess with a Marine's coffee." Gibbs heard the confidence in DiNozzo's tone.

 

"No!" This time all the other voices spoke simultaneously.

 

DiNozzo sighed. "Well, go on, then. Tell me. What is Gibbs's most important rule?"

 

"Never say anything about Ducky that Gibbs might take to be an insult." Four voices chanted, almost as one.

 

"Oh, that rule," DiNozzo said; Gibbs heard a slight tremble in DiNozzo's voice.

 

"Yes! The one that doesn't have a number; it's that important."

 

"But I didn't -"

 

"Yes, Tony, you did." Ziva spoke firmly.

 

"Well, okay, but Ducky is . . . Older," Gibbs heard DiNozzo say. "Besides Gibbs isn't here, is he?" Gibbs heard the note of panic in DiNozzo's voice.

 

Ziva sighed. "Tony. If Gibbs was in Norfolk -"

 

"Or in LA." Abby chimed in.

 

"Or on the other side of the world," McGee added.

 

"Or on the moon," Palmer declared.

 

There was silence for a moment. Then Palmer said, "Men have been on the moon; there's no reason why -"

 

"Yes, Jimmy," Abby said hastily. "The point it -"

 

"No matter where Gibbs is -"

 

"If you say anything about Ducky he -

 

"Could take as an insult -"

 

"He would know about it." Again four voices spoke together.

 

Silence fell again and Gibbs was thinking about standing up and going to his desk, but then DiNozzo spoke. "Hah! But that means all of us are going to be in trouble!" he declared, his tone happy.

 

"And how do you work that one out, Tony?" Ziva asked.

 

"Because," DiNozzo said, "we've all been talking about why Ducky has changed his bowties for normal ones! So there."

 

"But discussing Ducky's choice of tie is not an insult," Ziva said.

 

That was what it was about, Ducky's choice of tie? About to go to his desk, Gibbs heard DiNozzo answer Ziva; his tone was patient and almost condescending. Gibbs made a mental note to check how many weapons Ziva was carrying that day.

 

"But, Very Special Probationary Agent Ziva David, in Gibbs's world anything can be taken as an insult about Ducky. Isn't that right?"

 

Now Gibbs did stand up and saw them all looking at one another. Abby, McGee and Palmer were nodding. "Tony's right, Ziva," Abby said quietly.

 

"Agent Gibbs is very protective of Dr. Mallard."

 

"But ties?"

 

At that moment the elevator doors opened again and four heads swiveled in that direction. Gibbs used the second to take two strides and appear to be just coming out of the elevator. As he headed for his desk, he watched the five scatter - Palmer and Abby to no doubt return to their own areas and the other three to sit at their desks.

 

Ties? he thought, as he tugged his overcoat off and took a long swallow of coffee. Ties? And then he realized something: Ducky had changed his traditional and trademark bowtie for an ordinary one.

 

In spite of himself, Gibbs now found himself pondering as to just why Ducky would change the habit of all the years they'd known one another. He switched on his computer screen and pressed the email icon. He was pleased to see the number of unread emails still remained at eighty-three, as it had for more than two weeks now. It looked as if finally people had accepted emailing him was not going to get a response.

 

Deciding that was his computer duties fulfilled, he pulled a file from the pile that had been left on his desk, opened it and began to read. He prided himself on his concentration and also for not getting caught up in the day-to-day things that seemed to obsess everyone else - even Ziva these days. However, after he'd read the same line four times, he realized he was not going to be able to put the subject of Ducky's neckwear out of his mind.

 

He sighed silently to himself and stood up abruptly. Feeling three pairs of eyes swivel in his direction, he strode across the squad room and took the elevator down to Autopsy.

 

NCIS : Gibbs/Ducky : Twenty Questions

 

"Hey, Duck," he called, as the doors swished open and he went inside.

 

"Jethro!" Ducky sounded surprised to see him.

 

"Yeah, that's me."

 

Ducky gave him a faint smile. "I am aware of that fact, Jethro. However, as we have no body for you, I - Mr. Palmer." Ducky's tone changed as he turned from Gibbs to look at Palmer who appeared, to Gibbs's eyes, to be attempting to merge into the walls on the other side of the room.

 

"Er, yes, Doctor?"

 

"We haven't got any guests, have we?"

 

"No, Doctor," Palmer said, frantically shaking his head.

 

"You are certain of that fact?"

 

"Of course, Doctor!" Now Palmer sounded hurt.

 

Ducky continued to stare at Palmer, who was again trying to meld into the walls. "Very well," Ducky said, turning back to Gibbs. "In that case, Jethro, to what do I owe the pleasure of your visit?"

 

Ah. "Palmer!"

 

"Yes, Special Agent Gibbs, sir, I - Oh, dear," Palmer muttered, dropping to his knees and beginning to gather the pile of stainless steel bowls he'd knocked over in his haste to move towards Gibbs, while simultaneously moving away from him.

 

Ducky closed his eyes and shook his head. Under cover of Palmer's attention being directed to the bowls that seemed to have minds of their own and Ducky not looking at him, Gibbs took the opportunity to study his friend. Ducky looked tired, very tired. He looked almost grey and far nearer to his actual age than he normally looked. His hair appeared flat, and even as he stood, he favored his bad leg. But most of Gibbs's focus was on the red and gold tie Ducky was wearing. It was no good; he didn't like it - he didn't like seeing Ducky in ordinary ties. It wasn't . . . It wasn't Ducky!

 

When Ducky opened his eyes, Gibbs bit back a gasp when he saw how dull Ducky's usually twinkling, especially when they looked at him, eyes were. "Leave those, Jimmy," Ducky said.

 

"Leave them, Doctor?"

 

"Yes. Leave them. And go and -"

 

"Talk to Abby," Gibbs said quickly. He saw the surprise on Ducky's face; it was echoed on Palmer's. Ducky also raised an eyebrow and looked at Gibbs in a questioning way.

 

Meanwhile Palmer beamed. "Can I?" he asked.

 

Gibbs cut off what he knew would have been Ducky's automatic correction. "Yeah, Palmer," he said, now moving towards Palmer. "Go. Now," he added, deliberately looming over the younger man who was actually a couple of inches taller than he was. Palmer didn't need telling twice - well, three times - as he turned away and, only tripping once and without knocking anything else over, left Autopsy at a run.

 

Behind him Gibbs heard Ducky sigh. "You all right, Duck?" he asked, touching Ducky's arm.

 

Ducky smiled at him, but the weariness showed in his smile. "Just a little tired, my dear," he replied. "I foolishly thought it would get easier once Mother had passed away. However . . ." he trailed off and shook his head. "Anyway, you never did tell me why you had come to visit me when I do not have a body for you to pace around."

 

"Do I need a reason to visit my friend?" Gibbs asked.

 

Ducky frowned and touched Gibbs's arm. "No, of course you do not. It's just that - Would you mind if we sat down? Assuming you are planning on staying for a few minutes." The wistful tone of Ducky's voice had Gibbs silently vowing that nothing short of World War III would drag him away from Autopsy.

 

"Sure," he said, slipping his arm around Ducky's shoulders. After a fraction of a second, Ducky put his arm around Gibbs and slowly, Gibbs taking more of Ducky's weight than he'd done in the past, they walked towards Ducky's desk, where Ducky sank down onto his chair.

 

Gibbs grabbed the other chair and pulled it close to Ducky. "You want a cup of tea, Duck?"

 

Ducky shook his head. "No, what I want is for you to tell me why you have come to see me. As pleasant as it is, and believe me, Jethro, it is very pleasant, I am somewhat at a loss as to what has brought you down here. Your, for you, relaxed nature implies you do not want my opinion on a file, nor do you wish me to conduct a psychological autopsy, nor is it related to a case." He gazed at Gibbs expectantly.

 

Suddenly Gibbs realized how foolish it was going to sound. He also realized he couldn't think of anything else to say other than the truth. "Your ties," he muttered, glancing away from Ducky as he spoke.

 

"My what?" Gibbs felt Ducky's cool hand on his forehead and the fingers of his other hand closed around his wrist. "Jethro, are you -"

 

"Perfectly okay, Duck. Just noticed you'd changed recently, over the last couple of months. You've stopped wearing your bowties. Wondered why, that's all?"

 

Ducky removed his hand from Gibbs's forehead, but continued to hold his wrist for a moment or two. The touch was warm, soft, and not at all unwelcome - in fact quite the opposite. Gibbs didn't realize quite how welcome Ducky's hand on his had been until slowly Ducky took it away. "You noticed?" he asked, his tone heavy with surprise. "You noticed that I had swapped my bowties for ordinary ones?"

 

In all the years they'd been friends, Gibbs had never lied to Ducky. About to confess he'd overheard the kids, he suddenly realized he had noticed; he just hadn't consciously noticed until he'd heard the kids. Thus he felt fine about saying, "Yeah, Duck. I did. So you want to tell me why?"

 

Ducky looked at him. "Is it really of that much importance?" he asked.

 

Gibbs shrugged. "Probably not, least not until you started avoiding answering the question."

 

"Jethro, I was not . . . Well, I was just . . . I felt like a change, that is all," he said, his gaze however skittered away from Gibbs's making it clear that wasn't the whole story.

 

"And was that change for you?" Gibbs asked, remembering what Palmer had said.

 

"What?" Now Ducky looked flustered and Gibbs began to wonder just what was going on. What had started out as something light-hearted, had almost taken on a sinister hint.

 

He took Ducky's hand. "Duck," he said softly. "You've been wearing bowties since the day we met."

 

"Well, quite. Time for a change then," Ducky said, his tone falsely bright. Then under Gibbs's stare he sagged slightly. "Oh, very well. Let us just say that someone suggested wearing bowties made me seem somewhat of a fuddy-duddy."

 

Gibbs glared. "Who the fuck'd dare to say something like that. You tell me, Duck and I'll -"

 

"Jethro, Jethro, Jethro," Ducky's voice was soothing, and he squeezed Gibbs's hand. "It was said good-naturedly, my dear. The person did not intend any harm."

 

"Still waiting to hear who it was."

 

Ducky sighed. "It was no one here, Jethro. It was no one over whom you have control; thus no one whom you can intimidate. Don't worry about it, really. It didn't bother me at all; it was, well . . . Meant to be . . ."

 

"Insulting?"

 

"No! No," Ducky repeated, his voice lower. "Not at all; it was intended as a light-hearted comment, even a compliment, I believe."

 

Gibbs looked at him. "Okay, I know your knowledge of English is far better than mine, so you want to explain how you get a compliment out of that?"

 

Ducky sighed. "It's not a big deal, Jethro."

 

"Yeah, right. And you still haven't told me who said it to you."

 

Ducky frowned and again he glanced away from Gibbs for a moment. Then he looked back at him. "Doesn't Anthony need you to go and slap him?" he asked lightly.

 

Gibbs laughed. "Probably, but I'm not going. Come on, Duck. Why make such a big deal out of it?"

 

"I," Ducky said sitting up straighter, "wasn't. That honor belongs to someone sitting not a million miles from me."

 

Gibbs smiled. "Ah, Duck," he said, now brushing the hair from Ducky's forehead. "Way you're behaving, I'm going to think you've got a secret lover." He laughed again and instantly fell silent as he saw Ducky's face flush and felt Ducky tug his hand away from his. Gibbs, however, held onto Ducky. "Duck?" he whispered. "You're telling me you have got a . . ." he trailed off.

 

Ducky glanced at their still joined hands and then stared at Gibbs. The look was colder than it normally was. "Would it surprise you if I had?"

 

"No!" Gibbs replied, far, far too quickly.

 

"Thank you," Ducky said, his tone now icy cold as was the look he flashed at Gibbs.

 

"Ah, Duck, I didn't mean -"

 

"I may be somewhat older than a lot of people, but I am not incapacitated." His tone was still cold and also clipped as he deliberately said each word.

 

"Never thought you were," Gibbs said honestly. "Just -" He sopped speaking abruptly, deciding that going on would not be the best thing for him to do.

 

"Do you not believe that anyone could find me attractive?" Ducky spoke sharply.

 

Shit. It was one of those questions. The kind Gibbs hated, as he could never figure them out. He should have found a way by now, given how long they'd known one another for, but somehow just when he thought he had, Ducky would throw him again. "Um," he said, mentally tossing between 'yes' and 'no'. He was fairly sure it was 'no', but not certain.

 

Then under his gaze Ducky sagged a little and sighed. When he spoke his tone was no longer cold or clipped. "Oh, Jethro, forgive me, my dear. No, I do not have a lover, secret or otherwise. I couldn't not when -" Now Ducky stopped speaking abruptly and once again glanced away from Gibbs.

 

Gibbs waited for a moment or two, but Ducky didn't seem inclined to continue. "Not when?" he asked, sure Ducky wasn't going to answer.

 

Ducky just shook his head. "It doesn't matter," he said.

 

"Hmmm. So this non-secret, non-lover of yours," he stopped as a smile touched Ducky's lips. Encouraged he went on. "This non-secret, non-lover of yours suggested you changed your ties because bowties were 'fuddy-duddy'?"

 

Ducky gave a half-shrug and nodded. "Essentially, yes. But I don't see the -"

 

"Must have made quite an impression on you."

 

Ducky closed his eyes for a moment. "I should have known," he said quietly. "Very well. No, I do not have a lover. However, I do have the occasional guest to stay with me."

 

"Guest?"

 

Ducky nodded. "Yes."

 

"Why? I mean given you've just said you don't . . ."

 

Ducky smiled and chuckled softly; Gibbs was pleased to see his old friend reappearing. "I get lonely, Jethro. It's as simple as that. Reston House without Mother, even though she has been gone for many months now, is lonely. And with her death, it has got lonelier. As foolish as it may sound, as foolish as it is, part of me kept thinking . . ."

 

"That you'd be able to bring her home again?" Gibbs spoke softly and squeezed the hand he still held.

 

Ducky glances away. "Yes," he said quietly. "I said it was foolish."

 

"Sounds human to me," Gibbs said, his voice also quiet.

 

Ducky shrugged. "That is as may be. I knew it could never happen, but . . . Anyway when she died, it was final and I was completely alone. I needed company, I realized for the first time ever I actually needed company. So I took to inviting a friend over to stay."

 

"These friends, male or female?"

 

Ducky opened his mouth; then closed it again. "Female," he said softly. "And some years younger than me. Which I know makes me a somewhat sad, elderly man, but . . . I enjoy the company, Jethro, and it's without any strings."

 

"You sure about that?"

 

Ducky blinked. "Jethro, we may not ever have openly talked about it, however, we both know that I am -"

 

"That's not what I meant, Duck."

 

"Oh."

 

"Meant are you sure there's no strings on their side."

 

"Well, yes. We talk, we listen to music, we read together, we go to the opera, the theatre, the art galleries, we play chess and just occasionally I . . . We . . . Everyone needs to be held from time to time, Jethro, even if it is not sexual. Jordan and Anna -"

 

"Jordan? As in Hampton?"

 

Ducky nodded. "Well, yes. In fact it was she who -"

 

"I bet it was. And does she still call you Donny?" Gibbs realized he was snarling. He couldn't help it; he'd never taken to the woman, who had seemed far too at home in Ducky's house; far too comfortable and far too intimate. And as for Donny . . .

 

"I'm afraid she does. I should have said something the first time. But I didn't and it got more difficult to. I can ignore it. She's really quite pleasant company, that aside."

 

"She's a gold-digger." The words were out before Gibbs even consciously though them.

 

"Jethro!"

 

"Sorry, Duck. But she is. I know her type."

 

When Ducky answered, his voice was laden with ice. "Do you really think I am so unattractive, so repulsive I have to resort to paying for company?"

 

Shit. "No, Duck. Course not," Gibbs hastened to say, now holding Ducky's hand between both of his. "Didn't mean that at all. It's just . . . I don't like her, Duck. And more, I don't trust her."

 

To his surprise, Ducky began to smile. "Ah, Jethro," he said, the ice melting. "You, my dear, do not like anyone who might possibly usurp your position in my affections," he said quietly. His tone was matter-of-fact, but it was also said with a surety Gibbs wasn't sure he liked. And he disliked it because there was more than a hint of truth in it.

 

He started to object. "That's not -"

"But I assure you no one will ever, could ever, do that. Now, I believe you have left the children alone for quite long enough and I think poor Abigail may like a break from Mr. Palmer. He really is a lovely young man, very caring, very loyal, very attentive, he will make and excellent doctor one day. However, he can be just a little bit 'too much' at times."

 

"You telling me to go, Dr. Mallard?"

 

Ducky smiled. "Why yes, Agent Gibbs, I believe I am." And after another squeeze, Ducky purposefully pulled his hand from Gibbs's.

 

The remainder of the day went by very slowly. There wasn't a new case and Gibbs had done all his paperwork for the last three cases. He almost got to the stage where he considered reading some of the eighty-three unread emails. However, he decided that was going too far.

 

Thus instead he turned his mind to Ducky and what he'd told him. He hadn't realized, he hadn't thought about it if he was honest, that Ducky was lonely. In fact it surprised him a little that his friend would admit to being thus. And to be so desperate for company, he took to inviting that woman round, just didn't seem right. If Ducky had wanted company, why hadn't he asked Gibbs to go round or suggest they went out to dinner? Why ask someone he'd known five minutes and not someone he'd known for years? That part was easy: Ducky never asked anything of Gibbs. So it was up to Gibbs to do something about it.

 

"Hey, McGee," he called.

 

McGee looked at him. "Boss?"

 

"Do your thing and book me two seats at the theater for next week," he said, throwing his credit card across to McGee.

 

McGee caught it - just - and he began to tap the keyboard. "What do you want to see, boss?" he asked.

 

"I don't know. Choose something you reckon Ducky'll like."

 

"Ducky?" As McGee echoed the name, DiNozzo and Ziva both looked up and stared at Gibbs.

 

"Yeah, Ducky. Works in Autopsy. Tells a lot of stories."

 

McGee flushed slightly, before looking away from Gibbs and continuing to tap the keyboard. "Oh, this looks good," he said, after a minute or two. "Ducky would like that, I'm sure. It's -"

 

"Just book it, McGee. I don't need to know what it is."

 

Gibbs saw McGee glance quickly at DiNozzo and Ziva, before returning his gaze back to his computer screen. "On it, boss," he said softly.

 

A few minutes later McGee returned Gibbs's credit card to him. Well that took care of one night. A quick phone call to a restaurant they'd visited several times took care of another. Now all that was left was to do something about Ducky's 'visitors'.

 

LATER THAT NIGHT

 

"Jethro!" Ducky exclaimed as he opened his door.

 

"Hey, Duck. Not interrupting anything, am I?" Jethro asked, wondering for the first time since he'd thrown an overnight bag into his car and driven to Ducky's Reston home, what he'd say if someone was there.

 

Ducky shook his head and smiled. "No, not at all. Do come in."

 

For a moment Jethro hesitated. "You're alone, then?"

 

Ducky smiled. "Yes, Jethro. I am quite alone."

 

"Good," Jethro said, without really thinking. "Ah, Duck," he added quickly, as he saw a strange look pass over Ducky's face. "Didnít mean that the way it sounded."

 

"Did you not?" Ducky asked; his voice was low and his tone gave nothing away.

 

Jethro shrugged. "Guess I did."

 

To his relief, Ducky began to laugh softly. "Ah, Jethro," he said. "There really is no one else quite like you." Not entirely sure if Ducky meant the words as a compliment or not, Jethro just shrugged. "Well, are you going to come in or stand on the porch all night?" Ducky asked and he moved back into the house. "Oh!" he exclaimed, his surprise clear, as Jethro dropped his overnight bag on the floor. "Jethro?"

 

As he locked and bolted the front door, Jethro said, "Told me you got lonely; thought I'd come and spend the night. If that's okay?" he turned and looked at Ducky who was staring at him as if he hadn't seen him before. The silence stretched between them and suddenly Jethro feared he'd made a mistake. "Er, that is okay, isn't it, Duck?"

 

"What? Oh, yes. Yes, of course it is, my dear. You are always more than welcome, you should know that. It's just . . ."

 

"Just?"

 

"Oh, nothing. I'm just surprised that's all. Shall we go and have a drink?"

 

"Sure, Duck. That'd be good. Hang on, though. Got something for you." Jethro pulled out a small parcel from his overcoat pocket and handed it to Ducky.

 

"Jethro?" Ducky raised an eyebrow as he took the plainly wrapped parcel. "It's not my birthday or -"

 

"Just open it, Duck."

 

After looking at Jethro for a second for two longer, Ducky carefully opened the parcel. "Oh," he said, softly, as he held the dark sapphire blue, decorated with a dark midnight blue pattern, bowtie in his hand. "Jethro?"

 

"Put it on."

 

"What?"

 

"Put it on, Duck."

 

"Jethro, I . . ." Ducky trailed off, shrugged and after a moment of just looking at Jethro, he pulled off the ordinary tie he wore, slipped the bowtie under his collar and, eyes never once leaving Jethro's, tied it deftly and perfectly.

 

"That's better," Jethro said, snatching the other tie from where Ducky had draped it over his arm, scrunching  it up and pushing it into his pocket.

 

"Jethro!"

 

"Yeah?" Jethro said, his tone his innocent one.

 

"I - Nothing. I just . . . Thank you. It's beautiful," Ducky added, as he looked in the mirror that hung on one of the walls. He tweaked it very slightly and Jethro saw him smile. "It's very kind of you. Thank you," he said again.

 

Jethro shrugged. "My pleasure. Suits you. Bowties suit you," he said, his tone slightly forceful. "Now," he added, when Ducky opened his mouth. "You mentioned a drink?" And before Ducky could say something, he put his arm around Ducky's shoulders and guided him into the living room, where he poured two glasses of whiskey. "Cheers," he said, after he'd handed one to Ducky and sat down next to him on the couch.

 

Ducky touched his glass against Jethro's. "Your good health."

 

For a minute or two they sat in silence broken only by the sound of the crackling fire. "So what do you want to do?" Jethro asked.

 

Ducky turned to look at him. "Do?"

 

"Yeah. You said you and your guests listened to music, played chess, talked about art, read to one another, that kind of thing. So what do you want to do? Although tell you now, chess isn't my game. And I don't know much about the music you like. And guess I don't know much about arty stuff -"

 

"Jethro -"

 

But Jethro ignored him. "But there is one thing I'm good at," he said, putting his drink down on the coffee table.

 

Ducky looked at him. "There is?"

 

"Oh, yeah." And before Ducky could ask what that might be, Jethro snagged Ducky's glass, put that down on the coffee table and moved slightly nearer to Ducky. "This is what I'm good at, Duck," he said, cupping Ducky's face between his hands and gently kissing Ducky's lips.

 

Ducky was the first man Jethro had kissed; the only man he'd ever thought about kissing - and he had thought about it, more than once. But as he kissed Ducky, as he took pleasure in feeling lips unadulterated by lipstick or lip-gloss, as he felt the softness and warmth of Ducky's lips, he realized it wasn't about kissing a man; it was about kissing Ducky. The fact that Ducky was another man, didn't matter, didn't make any difference. He was kissing the person he cared about more than anyone else alive; he was kissing the most important person in the world to him; he was kissing the person he loved.

 

He kept the kiss relatively brief and chaste as he could feel Ducky's surprise and he got the feeling it was only the hold he had on Ducky's face that kept Ducky from bolting. Thus far sooner than he wanted to, he took his mouth from Ducky's, moved back a little and gazed at his friend.

 

"Jethro?"

 

"Mmm?" Jethro said, letting the fingers of one hand trail over Ducky's face, before slipping under his hair.

 

"You kissed me."

 

"Yeah, noticed that," Jethro murmured, his attention somewhat caught up in the way the firelight and light from the wall lamps made Ducky's hair and eyes glow.

 

"But why?"

 

"Huh?" Jethro let his gaze move from the shimmering dark gold hair and once again looked at Ducky. He was pleased to see Ducky was now smiling and the apprehension Jethro now realized had been on his face when the kiss had ended had almost gone.

 

"I asked you why you kissed me." Ducky's voice was now low and a little sensual, as he put one hand on Jethro's cheek and stroked it.

 

Jethro thought for a second before he answered. All the things he'd like to say, he knew he couldn't; he wouldn't begin to know how to say them. Ducky would; but he didn't. So he just said simply, "Because I wanted to, Duck."

 

"Oh."

 

Jethro waited for a moment, but Ducky didn't say anything else. "Why, is there a problem with me kissing you?"

 

Ducky shook his head. "Oh, no, my dear, not at all, quite the opposite in fact - as you well know." He said the final four words far more softly than the previous ones.

 

"Then why are we talking about it?" Jethro asked politely.

 

At that Ducky actually laughed aloud. "Do you know what, Jethro? I honestly don't know." This time Ducky moved nearer to Jethro and kissed him.

 

For several minutes they just sat kissing, embracing, caressing necks, cheeks and hair; Jethro found the feel of Ducky's heavy, silky hair intoxicating and kept one hand loosely tangled in the heaviness. Kissing Ducky was good; no, kissing Ducky was wonderful and he wanted more, more kisses and more intimacy.

 

"Hey," Jethro said, gazing down at Ducky who was partly reclined on the couch, his bowtie slightly askew, his hair more than a little mussed. "You remember what you said about everyone wanting to be held from time to time?"

 

Ducky nodded. "Yes. I do."

 

"You want to go upstairs and get more comfortable and let me hold you properly?"

 

Ducky smiled. "I'd like that very much indeed."

 

"Good. Because as good as holding you clothed is, I reckon unclothed would be even better."

 

Ducky's eyes widened a little. "You want to hold me unclothed?" he asked softly.

 

"Sure do and," Jethro said, bending down and kissing Ducky's nose, "not just hold you." And then just in case Ducky hadn't followed his meaning he said quietly, "Want to make love to you, Duck." And then something came to him; something he wasn't entirely certain how to ask. Given he could see Ducky was somewhat aroused, as he was, he thought he knew the answer, but somehow he still had to ask. "I mean if that's . . . If you . . . Don't take this the wrong way, Duck . . . But can . . . I mean -"

 

Ducky pulled his head down and claimed his lips in a deep, intimate, passionate kiss. His tongue flicked over Jethro's lips, until Jethro parted them and then Ducky's tongue was in his mouth, flicking over Jethro's tongue and moving around his mouth, loving him, joining with him.

 

By the time Ducky finally released him and had let him sit back up, Jethro wasn't just somewhat aroused, he was highly aroused. "The answer to your question, dearest, is 'yes'," he said, before pulling Jethro's head back down and kissing him again. "I can," he said, when he again took his mouth from Jethro's. Then he quite deliberately took one of Jethro's hands and put it on his now far more than somewhat arousal.

 

"Oh, God," Jethro murmured, as he touched Ducky, letting his fingers encircle the firmness as much as possible. "That's good."

 

"Mmm," Ducky managed. "It is." He let Jethro touch him for a second or two longer, before firmly taking Jethro's hand away from him. "Come," he said, pushing Jethro up, "let us go to bed. I want to be held properly."

 

Jethro smiled. "Do you now?"

 

"Yes, very much so."

 

 

Once in Ducky's bedroom, Jethro pulled Ducky back into his arms and again kissed him, pulling him closer and closer until their bodies were pressed tightly together.

 

"You know you're mine now, don't you?" he asked, as he began to undress Ducky, starting with his jacket. "And only mine," he added.

 

"Am I now?" Ducky didn't sound at all troubled by the announcement; quite the opposite in fact. He sounded thoroughly delighted by the prospect.

 

"Uh huh." With one hand Jethro undid Ducky's bowtie, while the other began to unbutton his shirt. "So no more overnight guests," he said, pushing down Ducky's suspenders and tossing tie and shirt, once he'd quickly undone Ducky's cuff-links, to join Ducky's jacket on a nearby chair.

 

"None?" Ducky asked, gazing up at Jethro, as Jethro began to lightly caress his nipples through his undershirt.

 

"Well, one," Jethro said, putting his mouth on Ducky's neck and beginning to kiss and suck.

 

"Oooh," Ducky moaned in pleasure.

 

"Yeah, except not sure 'guest' will fit." Jethro stood upright again and now pulled Ducky's undershirt off, before bending his head and spending a few moments sucking and kissing Ducky's nipples before undoing Ducky's trousers.

 

"Will it not?" Ducky managed, swaying very slightly as Jethro's hands roamed over his naked chest and over his clothed groin.

 

"Nah. But we'll talk about that later. For now -" And with a few more deft movements, Jethro had Ducky completely naked and in bed where, after stripping himself quickly, he joined him.

 

SOME TIME LATER

 

"Meant to tell you," Jethro said, as he rested on one elbow gazing down at a very well loved Ducky.

 

"You did?" Ducky replied, the forefinger of one hand flirting with Jethro's chest.

 

"Yeah."

 

"You meant to tell me what?" Ducky asked politely, after a few moment of silence, during which they simply gazed at one another. Jethro wondered if he looked at soppy and as in love as Ducky did. He suspected he did - he hoped he did, because he wanted Ducky to know just how much he loved him; how much he'd always love him.

 

"Huh? Oh, yeah. Bowties."

 

"What about them?"

 

"Well apart from them making you look damned sexy," Jethro laughed softly at the look of surprise and flush of pleasure that appeared on Ducky's face. "They're so much easier to undo than normal ones."

 

"Mmm, yes I do recall you managed it extremely well."

 

"So, no more normal ties, okay? You know you donít really like them, do you?"

 

Ducky looked at him. "As a matter of fact I confess it did feel somewhat wrong when I wore them, and they do seem to get in the way more. Also, although this may sound somewhat odd, they simply did not feel as comfortable as my bowties do."

 

"There you are then," Jethro said, making a mental note to get rid of any ordinary ties Ducky may have acquired. "Bowties it is. Deal?"

 

Ducky smiled and laughed softly. "Deal," he said and sighed with contentment.

 

"And no overnight guests," Jethro said, now lying down next to Ducky and tugging him back into his arms.

 

"Oh, definitely no more overnight guests - well except one, who -" Jethro silenced him.

 

 

And that was the end of Ducky wearing ordinary ties. Gibbs knew the kids discussed, more than once, why Ducky had returned to wearing his bowties and he wondered once or twice quite what Ducky would say if one of them got up the nerve to actually mention it to him.

 

Not that they did.

 

Just as no one said anything when Gibbs and Ducky began arriving at the office together more and more often and Gibbs started to go home at a reasonable time most evenings.

 

And the only comment, made of course by DiNozzo, when Gibbs mentioned his house was up for sale was 'when's the house-warming party'.

 

 

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