THANKSGIVING AT RESTON HOUSE
Gibbs notices how unhappy Ducky is and sets out to solve the problem.
An established relationship story.
Written: November 2012. Word count: 6,583.
Briefcase in hand, his overcoat on Gibbs strode into Autopsy. "Hey, Duck," he called. "Yours or mine tonight? Oh, hey, Palmer," he added as Palmer appeared from the store cupboard.
"Hello Agent Gibbs," Palmer said and beamed at him.
Gibbs flashed him a smile; he'd given up reminding Palmer to drop the 'Agent' and Ducky's young assistant was getting better - he did manage just Gibbs some of the time. Palmer flushed slightly and hurried off across the room as Gibbs turned his attention to Ducky and smiled what he knew was a tender, loving smile. "Hey, Duck," he said again, his tone quite different from the tone he used when he spoke to anyone else.
"Hello, Jethro," Ducky replied moving from his desk to the coat stand where he began to put on his overcoat.
In three strides Gibbs was by Ducky's side and holding the coat for Ducky. "So yours or mine?" he asked again.
"Thank you, my dear," Ducky settled his overcoat onto his shoulders and smiled up at Gibbs. "Oh, yours I think."
Gibbs frowned as he looked down at Ducky. "You sure, Duck? We were at mine last night and the night before and -"
"Well, if you do not wish me to come to your home again, Jethro, why give me the choice?" Ducky's eyes twinkled as he gazed up at Gibbs and his tone was tinged with humor.
Gibbs laughed. "Didn't mean that, Duck. Just thought - Fine, mine it is. You ready?"
Ducky nodded. "I'll just get my - Oh, thank you." But rather than hand Ducky's briefcase over to him Gibbs kept hold of it and even offered his arm to Ducky. He'd watched his lover walk from his desk to the coat stand and saw how badly he was limping, not to mention the fact that Ducky looked more than a little weary. The doctor may have cleared Ducky to return to work, but Gibbs knew Ducky was still not completely recovered from the heart attack that had almost taken him from Gibbs.
Ducky hesitated for only a second before he slipped his arm through Gibbs's and let Gibbs support him. "Goodnight, Mr. Palmer," he called as Gibbs began to walk, moderating his stride to Ducky's. "Don't stay too late, my boy."
"I won't. Goodnight Dr. Mallard; good night, Agent Gibbs," Palmer called.
"Night, Palmer." Gibbs glanced at Palmer and gave him a half-nod; he saw Palmer was beaming at Ducky and him and watching them, well probably Ducky, with a very fond, protective even look on his face.
THREE DAYS LATER
As they left the Navy Yard for the day, Gibbs didn't ask Ducky whose house he wanted to go to, instead he just turned the car and headed for Ducky's house in Georgetown. As they pulled up outside and he turned the engine off, he didn't fail to hear Ducky's deep sigh nor did he miss the look of displeasure that flashed across Ducky's face as he stared at the brownstone he lived in.
"Duck," he said softly, putting his hand on Ducky's knee and drawing Ducky's attention away from the building to him. As Ducky turned his head and looked at Gibbs he smiled and his eyes softened. He put his head on one side slightly and silently asked Gibbs a question. "You okay?"
For a fraction of a second Ducky hesitated. Then he beamed and said in a clearly false and overly-bright tone, "Yes, Jethro, of course I am. Now I believe we should go out to dinner tonight, do you not?"
And before Gibbs could reply, Ducky had opened the car door and climbed out. "Oh, Duck," Gibbs murmured softly as he opened his own door and got out. He opened the backdoor took out both briefcases and headed to Ducky's house where he used his own key to open up.
They stayed in Ducky's house for no longer than it took them each to pay a quick visit to the bathroom and for Gibbs to put a tie on before Ducky was standing by the front door his overcoat on, his hat in his hand, a slightly impatient look on his face.
Swallowing an irrational burst of irritation at having to go out again and go to a restaurant when all he wanted to do was collapse on the couch with a large whiskey in one hand and Ducky in the other, Gibbs pulled his own overcoat back on, smiled at his lover and followed Ducky out of his house.
THE NEXT MORNING
As he stood in his trousers, socks and undershirt making a pot of tea for Ducky and a pot of coffee for himself, Gibbs decided it was time he had a talk with Ducky.
"Good morning again, my dear," Ducky said hurrying into the kitchen already fully dressed, apart from his suit jacket, for the office. "And another beautiful day it is too." He moved to Gibbs and put his hand on Gibbs's arm before reaching up and kissing Gibbs's cheek.
Taking advantage of the fact that Ducky was right next to him plus he had only just poured the boiling water onto the tealeaves, Gibbs turned and gathered Ducky into his arms as he lowered his head and put his mouth on Ducky's.
"Duck," he said softly, after a couple of very pleasant minutes had gone by. He moved back a little and held Ducky in a loose embrace.
Ducky gazed up at him. "Yes, my dear?"
"You don't like here, do you?" Gibbs spoke softly.
Ducky gave a half smile. "What in your arms? Why, Jethro, there is no place I would rather be than . . ." He trailed off as Gibbs gave him the glare he reserved for Ducky and sighed softly. Gently he pulled himself out of Gibbs's arms and turned around to take the tealeaf holder out of the teapot. "No, my dear," he said, his voice low. "I do not. Oh, Jethro," he turned back around, "I do not believe I have ever made a bigger mistake in my entire life. I never should have sold Reston House; I never should have got rid of Tyson and the others and I certainly never should have brought this place." He voice had got slightly louder and harsher as he spoke and as he said the final two words he could, based on his tone and the look on his face, have been saying something insulting.
"Ah, Duck," Gibbs said, putting his arms around Ducky from behind and pulling him back to rest against him; he could feel how tense Ducky's body was and he almost wished he hadn't said anything. And then he suddenly had an idea; well in truth it wasn't 'sudden' it had been on his mind for quite some time now; he'd just been waiting for the right time to ask. "Look," he said, turning Ducky around, "how about we both sell up and buy somewhere else together?"
Ducky's mouth parted but he didn't speak, however, the look of complete happiness on his face told Gibbs he had said exactly the right thing. "Oh, Jethro, that would be - That would be wonderful. But are you quite certain, my dear? Are you quite sure you wish to leave your -"
Gibbs brushed his lips over Ducky's. "Yeah, Duck," he said softly. "I am." Well he was almost certain; in truth he doubted he'd ever be one hundred percent certain he was ready to completely let go of the home he'd once shared with Shannon and Kelly. But he was as certain as he could be; far more certain than he'd ever been before. He couldn't stand to see Ducky so unhappy, so morose any longer.
"In that case, my dear, I would be delighted. Oh, to have a home again rather than just a house. Thank you, my dear. You have made me so very happy."
And he again reached up and lightly kissed Gibbs. As Gibbs felt Ducky's soft lips brush his he knew that had he been slightly uncertain before, he no longer was. To see Ducky smile so genuinely, to see the light back in his eyes, to hear his true voice again was more than enough to make him certain.
"Well," he said, finally letting Ducky move from his arms and pouring a mug of coffee, "guess we'd better get on with putting this place and my house on the market and start looking around for something we both like."
HALF AN HOUR LATER
They drove towards the Navy Yard mostly in silence until out of the blue Ducky said softly, "I wonder if there would be any other property for sale in Reston?"
Gibbs turned his head to look at Ducky, but at the moment his cell phone rang. Pulling it out of his pocket, he glanced at the caller ID, saw it was McGee and tossed the phone to Ducky to answer. Even as heard Ducky saying, "Good morning, Timothy," he had pressed his foot down on the accelerator and was dodging in and out between slower moving cars.
LATER THAT DAY
The case had proved to be one of simplest Gibbs had ever worked on. By the time the team got back to the Navy Yard the murderer was waiting for them, not only willing but also eager to confess.
As he sat at his desk prior to beginning his report, Gibbs's mind went back to what Ducky had said to him in the car before his phone had rung. He glanced up and saw that only McGee was at his desk; in an instant he made a decision. "McGee," he called.
McGee's head shot up. "Yes, boss?"
Gibbs stood up, went over to McGee's desk and sat on the edge of it. "Need you to do something for me, Tim," he said.
"Anything, boss." McGee's fingers were already poised over his keyboard, anticipating whatever it was Gibbs wanted him to do would involve his technical prowess.
Gibbs paused for a second or two, silently arguing with himself that this wasn't agency business and he really shouldn't take McGee away from his work while at the same time telling himself that McGee's part of the report was already sitting on his desk, perfectly typed, spell-checked and quite correct grammatically and factually. "Need you to find the realtor who sold Ducky's house," he said. "The one in Reston," he added quickly.
McGee simply nodded. "I'll get onto it straight away, Gibbs. Er, do you have any idea what firm he used?"
Gibbs frowned and thought for a moment. There was something; something Ducky had told him, but he couldn't quite recall it. Then he did. "Don't know the firm, but the woman he used was called Sophie," he said. "And she helped him buy his new place in Georgetown as well as handling the sale of Reston House. Sorry," he added as McGee looked at him. "Know that's not a lot to go on."
McGee gave him a quick smile and turned back to his computer. "It's a start," he said, "and given the size of Reston House, I can easily rule out a lot of the smaller companies; places that wouldn't deal with such a . . ." His voice trailed off as his fingers flew over the keyboard and his full attention was centered on the screen. Gibbs hesitated for another moment or two, before he stood up and went back to his own desk.
TWO DAYS LATER
Gibbs was in the head when the door opened and McGee came in. As he always did, McGee quite deliberately looked away from Gibbs. "I've got some information for you, boss," he said, "about Ducky's house," he added. "Quite a bit of information," he added.
Gibbs raised an eyebrow, zipped himself up and moved to the sinks to wash his hands. "How about a cup of coffee from the coffee shop on the corner?" he said as he dried his hands.
McGee's eyes widened. "I didn't think you liked the coffee from there, Gibbs."
Gibbs shrugged. "Can make an exception this once."
They sat in at a corner table their coffees in front of them and Gibbs looked at McGee. "Okay, well the name of the firm is Appleby & Gordon. Ms. Sophie Carlton no longer works for them; she left shortly after Reston House was sold." McGee paused and took a sip of his coffee; Gibbs waited, he knew McGee wouldn't have agreed to leaving the office if that was all he had to tell him. "And," McGee said, putting his coffee back down, "it's back on the market?"
"Reston House?" Gibbs asked.
McGee nodded. "And it was put back on the market less than a month after Ducky sold it."
"Ah, well, boss, that's the interesting bit." McGee looked around him and leaned forward over the table. "You see," and to Gibbs's surprise he saw McGee's cheeks color slightly.
"Yes?" he said when McGee didn't instantly go on.
McGee again glanced around him. "The thing is, boss, the new owners believe the place is haunted."
McGee nodded. "Yes, boss. And that's why they want to sell it."
"What do you mean haunted?"
"Well, they claim that furniture gets moved around." Gibbs just stared at his agent. "I know; I know, it sounds implausible, but they are convinced. They go to bed and something is in one room; when they get up the next day it's been moved. And they swear they hear tapping on the floors - dog's paws," McGee added quietly.
Gibbs continued to stare at McGee; he couldn’t quite believe what he was being told. Then he frowned and said, "How did you find this out, Tim?"
McGee's cheeks flushed even more. "You really don't want to know, boss," he said swiftly. "There's more."
McGee nodded. "They have had a lot of interest in the house, which isn't surprising given they keep dropping the price and the starting price was more than eighty thousand lower than they price they paid for it. But no one goes back for a second viewing and some only stay in the house a minute or two - if that."
Gibbs shook his head. "I'm probably going to regret this, but do you know why?"
McGee nodded and looked almost offended. "Of course I do. Whenever anyone goes to view the house the place becomes really cold and unwelcoming."
"In what way unwelcoming?"
"Strange smells; noises; things suddenly falling out of cupboards; one person even said she was touched by someone or something. No one wants to buy the house, boss, and the owners are so desperate they have reduced the price to less than half what they paid for it and are talking seriously about just abandoning the place and moving into rented accommodation. They're sure no one will ever buy it."
"And you believe them?" Gibbs asked sitting back in his chair and taking a long swallow of the coffee he'd ordered.
McGee's cheeks flushed again and he glanced away from Gibbs before looking back at his coffee, picking it up, taking a sip, then another, before putting it back carefully on the table. Gibbs bit back an urge to snap at McGee and tell him to hurry up, but instinct told him not to.
Finally McGee looked him straight in the eyes. "Boss," he said quietly and firmly, "I'm not Abby, I don't believe in ghosts or things that go bump in the night or crop circles or the supernatural or any of the things she believes in. However," he paused and swallowed hard. "Yes," he said softly, "I do believe them. And I'll tell you why."
Gibbs waited. "Go on," he urged after a minute or two.
"Well, the thing is, I um, well, the thing is, I went there."
"To Reston House?"
McGee nodded. "Not that it's called that any longer; it's called Frobisher House - that's the name of the couple who bought it. Anyway, I turned up and said I'd seen the place was for sale and I knew I didn't have an appointment but as I was in the area, I wondered if I might see around."
"They couldn't get me inside fast enough." Again McGee paused.
"Well. When the owner shut the door behind me the temperature dropped by several degrees, boss. It wasn't a slight drop, it really plummeted and I felt as if ice had been poured over me and the whole place felt strange, unpleasant, nasty and spine tingling even. And then the next second suddenly everything warmed up again and the place felt like it used to feel when Ducky and his mom were there. It was as if -" McGee stopped speaking abruptly and looked away from Gibbs again before saying softly, "It was as if the house . . . Knew me; knew that I knew Ducky; knew that . . ." He was silent for a moment before looking back at Gibbs and saying softly, "Sorry, boss, you must think I'm going insane or something."
Gibbs was about to say something, to tell McGee he didn't think that at all when his cell phone rang. "Gibbs, yeah?" he listened. "On our way back." As one he and McGee pushed their chairs back, pulled their overcoats on and headed back to the Navy Yard.
THE FOLLOWING DAY
"You have remembered I shall not be home until quite late tonight, have you not, Jethro?" Ducky said as they put their overcoats on.
"Course I have, Duck," Gibbs said swiftly and then joined Ducky in laughter as Ducky just looked at him. "Okay, so I forgot until just now. It's your bridge tournament night, isn't it? You're partnering whatshisname."
"Tom Hubbard, yes I am, I'm afraid to say. I know I vowed after the last time I would never agree to partner him again, but - oh, Jethro, had I not agreed he would not have played as no one else would partner him. And I could not let that happen."
Gibbs smiled and put his arms around Ducky. "That's my Duck," he said before he kissed Ducky's head.
LATER THAT EVENING
Gibbs sat opposite Fornell eating the pasta dish Fornell had cooked. "This really is good," he said.
"It's an old family recipe. So what's up, Jethro? Or have you just got used to company in the evening?"
Gibbs grinned. "Guess I have, but no, it's not that - but it is about Ducky."
"He's not ill, is he?" Fornell's voice was genuinely concerned.
Gibbs shook his head. "No, he's doing great. It's just -" And he told Fornell all about how much Ducky regretted selling Reston House and moving to the brownstone, how he hated even being there, how they spent most of their time at Gibbs's home and finally about Reston House itself, how it was up for sale and all the problems the current owners were having.
Sometime before he'd finished they'd moved from the table and were now sitting on the couch with a glass of whiskey in their hands. "And do you believe McGee?" Fornell finally asked.
Gibbs shrugged. "Yeah, Tobias, I do," he said quietly. "Oh, hell, I know that sounds as if we're both insane but . . ."
"'There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.' Shakespeare," Fornell said. "Hamlet."
"Yeah, know that, Tobias. You saying you believe it too?"
Fornell shrugged and took a swallow of whiskey. "If it had been one person or just the owners and something had happened once - or had it been DiNozzo who had told you - then maybe not. But we're talking about McGee and multiple people, so yes, I do. I only met Mrs. Mallard a couple of times but she was quite a character."
Gibbs laughed. "That's one way of putting it," he said.
"So what are you going to do?"
"Buy the place."
"Just like that?"
Gibbs sighed and emptied his glass. "Not quite. Hell, Tobias, I love Ducky, I'd do anything to make him happy but I can't afford to buy the place - not even at the price it's currently on the market for."
"Oh, yeah, Ducky could. But I want it to be a surprise for him."
"Jethro, dinner out is a surprise, a new book or CD or bowtie is a surprise a house is . . . Okay, I see you’ve made your mind up. So what are you going to do?"
"McGee said the current owners were getting so desperate they'd take almost anything for it. But -"
"You can't just offer to buy it for an unrealistic price?" Fornell said quietly.
Gibbs gave him a rueful look. "Even if I could, Duck wouldn't approve."
"Well, what are you going to do then?"
"Go and see them, offer an initial house swap, Reston House for mine, empty my savings account and add that and tell them I'll pay the rest of the market value after Thanksgiving."
"When Ducky knows about it?"
Gibbs nodded. "Yeah. Does it sound crazy to you?"
"Just a bit, but then I'm not being haunted by Mrs. Mallard. But is it feasible, Jethro? Even if they agree, what excuse are you going to make to Ducky about your house?"
"That it's being redecorated before I put it up for sale. That it has dry-rot. That the plumbing has stopped working; I'll think of something."
"And he'll believe you? Come on, Jethro, why would you pay someone to decorate for you? Ducky knows you like to do things like that yourself."
Gibbs glared at him. "You're not helping, Tobias."
Fornell gave an apologetic shrug and poured some more whiskey into both glasses. "Sorry," he said. "I just think it would be easier if you just told Ducky the house is on the market and let him buy it."
Gibbs sighed. "I know it would. But -"
"You want it to be a surprise. Okay, okay. What can I do to help?"
A WEEK LATER
As he let himself into Reston House, pausing in the hallway to enjoy the familiar warm feeling, Gibbs still couldn't believe how easy it had been - at least as far as the place now being his went.
The people who had bought the house from Ducky had been almost pathetically willing to agree to anything - in fact they'd have quite happily just have accepted the house swap, despite the substantial difference in value and indeed that was what, against both their lawyers and Gibbs's recommendations, the hastily drawn up legal document stated. They had even refused to take Gibbs's savings. However, Gibbs was determined they would accept the rest of the value of the house - after all he knew Ducky and just how persuasive he could be.
What hadn't gone quite so simply was trying to explain to Ducky why they would be spending all their time in Ducky's Georgetown house rather than at Gibbs's house. As Fornell had predicted, Ducky had wanted to know quite why Gibbs would choose to pay people to decorate his house when he was more than capable of doing it himself.
Finally Gibbs had resorted to asking Ducky if he was bored of his company, given he seemed to be trying to keep Gibbs out of the house in the evenings and weekends. Ducky had responded as Gibbs had expected him to which had led to . . . Gibbs pulled his mind away from memories of that evening and turned it to his plans for getting Ducky back into his rightful home.
As he walked around the house, though familiar rooms he felt a sense of well-being, of warmth, of approval, of peace and contentment of rightness. He had a week until Thanksgiving; a week to put his plans into action. A week - it wasn't long and he knew he couldn't do it alone, but then he'd never intended to do so.
THE FOLLOWING EVENING
Gibbs, the kids and Vance all gathered in Fornell's living room. Thanks to Palmer who had volunteered to call Dr. Tom Hubbard and ask him to invite Ducky to an evening of bridge, Gibbs had been able to get out of the house without arousing Ducky's suspicions. And of course Ducky had once again said 'yes' to Tom Hubbard, even if he had again spent a good ten minutes bemoaning what a terrible bridge player he was.
"I still can't believe Ducky doesn't suspect anything, boss," DiNozzo said for at least the sixth time.
"I still can't believe you did what you did," Fornell said, handing around glasses of wine. "Those poor owners must have been desperate."
"They were," Gibbs said accepting a glass of wine even though he'd rather have had whiskey. "Anyway, we have a week until -"
"Six days," Palmer muttered, turning bright red as Gibbs glared at him.
"Six days," Gibbs said "until -"
"Operation Thanksgiving at Reston House!" Abby beamed as everyone turned to look at her. "What? It's the perfect name, because that's what it is. All of us," she waved her hand around the group, "having Thanksgiving at Reston House."
"Yeah, boss, I've been meaning to talk to you about that. You see Dad -"
"But -" DiNozzo shut his mouth quickly. "He's invited," he said pulling out his cell phone and tapping something into it. "On it, boss."
"Later, DiNozzo," Gibbs said grabbing the phone from DiNozzo's hand.
"As I was saying before I was - Yes, Palmer?"
"Um, well, si- er, Spec- er, Age- er, Gibbs," Palmer's ears and face were bright red. Gibbs just waited. "I was just wondering if -"
"Course she is," Gibbs said trying and failing to hide a smile at the sight of Palmer's face lighting up. Then he turned to Vance, "Are you sure Jackie doesn’t mind spending Thanksgiving with your coworkers, Leon?"
Vance shook his head. "She's really looking forward to it as are the kids. And she's already started to cook desserts."
Before Gibbs could say anything Fornell said, "And Emily can't wait to see Uncle Ducky again - she's even persuaded Diane to help her make a Thanksgiving banner or it might be a 'Welcome to your new home' banner or a 'Welcome back to your home' banner - I kind of lost track. And Ziva, Palmer and I are taking care of the turkey and things."
"And Timmy and I are going to do the entrees," Abby said. "Well," she added glancing at McGee, "we'll probably buy them."
"I can cook," McGee said. "Well a bit."
Suddenly everyone looked at DiNozzo. "Er," he said, "Wine?"
"And Breena could do a few nice flower arrangements," Palmer said. "She's been going to classes and she's really good."
Abby beamed. "So that's it, Gibbs, everything is sorted. All you have to do is to figure out how to get Ducky to Reston House on Thanksgiving."
To his surprise and mild embarrassment Gibbs found he couldn't actually instantly reply as his throat was suddenly constricted. He'd always known how popular Ducky was, how much the team in particular cared about him, but this level of caring, of love, because that's what it was, went beyond anything he'd realized before - or could even have imagined.
He looked around at them one by one, letting his gaze linger, trying to show them quite how moved and grateful he was. But when it came to words he went for simplicity. "Thank you," he said quietly but sincerely. "All of you."
"We're family," Abby said, putting her arm through McGee's.
Fornell stood up and raised his glass. "To family," he said.
"To family," the others echoed.
"But, Jethro, I really do not wish to dress up and go out for Thanksgiving lunch. I do not wish to spend the day with perfect strangers; that is not what Thanksgiving is about. Now if only -"
Gibbs silenced him with a kiss. "Come on, Duck, it'll be fun." He had to stop himself from laughing aloud at the incredulous look on Ducky's face. He pulled Ducky closer to him, "Please," he said softly, kissing Ducky's ear.
He felt Ducky sigh as he rested his head against his shoulder. "Oh, very well, Jethro, as for some reason it seems important to you that we go out, I shall go and change." And with a sharp look at Gibbs, Ducky left the room.
Gibbs quickly pulled out his cell phone and pushed a button. "We'll be leaving in about fifteen minutes," he said to McGee and hung up swiftly.
"Jethro, why are we heading towards Reston? There aren't any restaurants in that area."
Gibbs cursed silently; he'd hoped that by taking a complicated, circular route that Ducky wouldn't notice where they were heading - but he should have known his lover would notice. "We're a bit early," he said, "so I thought we could have a drive around."
Out of the corner of his eye he saw Ducky turn in his seat and stare at him. "Leroy Jethro Gibbs, what is going on?"
Gibbs sighed; he'd always known this would be the hardest part, maybe he should just tell Ducky the truth now, but he didn't want to. He'd got this far, surely he could manage a little longer. He glanced at Ducky and said softly, "You do trust me, don't you, Duck?"
"What a foolish question. Of course I do, my dear."
Gibbs glanced at Ducky again. "Good. Well trust me, Duck. I know what I'm doing."
Ducky sighed and then smiled his loving smile. "Very well, Jethro. I've trusted you from the day we met; I hardly think I'm going to stop now."
"Good." Gibbs took one hand from the steering wheel and squeezed Ducky's knee.
They drove on in silence for another few minutes before after glancing at Ducky to see he was looking out of the passenger window Gibbs quickly felt in his pocket for his cell phone and pressed a button. When McGee answered his agent said nothing, he just hung up after a second or two. Message received and understood.
Gibbs returned his hand to the steering wheel again and continued to drive. The next minute would be the hardest.
"Jeth-" Ducky started to say as Gibbs indicated and turned into the short road that would take them to Reston House's driveway. But even as he began to speak, he fell silent.
As he turned into the driveway of Reston House Gibbs had a moment of concern; what if he had been wrong, what if Ducky although missing Reston House and having said he wished he hadn't sold it really hadn't meant it? Well he'd find out soon enough.
He brought the car to a stop and turned to look at Ducky who was sitting frozen in place just staring at the ten adults who stood on the porch and the three children who stood at the bottom of the steps holding a banner declaring 'Welcome Home Dr. Mallard!'
"Jethro?" Ducky finally whispered, as he dragged his gaze away and looked at Gibbs.
Gibbs swallowed hard. "Happy Thanksgiving, Duck," he said simply and leaned over to kiss Ducky's cheek.
"But, Jethro . . . What . . . ? How . . . ? Jethro, is it . . . ? Are you . . . ? Jethro?"
Before Gibbs could answer Ducky's door was opened and Palmer stood there beaming. "Happy Thanksgiving, Dr. Mallard," he said holding out his hand.
Ducky took it and let Palmer help him from the car where he was instantly surrounded by the three children all talking at once and the adults who were all smiling. Ducky looked slightly bemused and confused but given Palmer had tucked Ducky's arm through his and Emily had grabbed Ducky's other hand and they were both leading him towards his home he really hadn't any choice but to go along with them.
"Reckon Ducky's a bit shocked," Fornell said, hanging back a little to wait for Gibbs.
"You think?" Gibbs said and grinned. "He'll be okay after a drink or two."
Fornell put his hand on Gibbs's arm. "Um, Jethro," he said.
Gibbs looked at Fornell. "Tobias?"
"Ducky's not the only one who might need a drink or two," Fornell said. "You see -" He fell silent as two men came out of Reston House before the others reached it.
"Dad?" Gibbs said softly. "And L. J.? But - Tobias . . ."
"It wasn't me, Jethro."
"It was me, boss." McGee suddenly appeared at Gibbs's elbow.
"You?" Gibbs turned at stared at McGee who swallowed hard but held his ground.
"Well you see after we'd all had the meeting at Fornell's house it occurred to me that you might not have . . ." He trailed off. "Um, so I," he swallowed and moistened his lips before going on, "called Jackson and invited him to join us," he said quickly. "He told me his old friend was staying with him for a while and so I suggested they both came."
"Did you, McGee?"
"Yes, boss." McGee's voice had a slight quiver in it. "I thought -"
"Exactly the right thing, Tim," Gibbs said patting McGee's hand before striding off and calling, "Dad! Good to see you. You too, L. J."
With fourteen adults and three children lunch was a very loud and happy time with everyone talking and laughing and bit by bit the story about how Gibbs had bought Reston House and the background to why it had been put back on the market came out.
As Gibbs had expected, Ducky immediately insisted that he would visit the people who had bought the house from him who were now living in Gibbs's house and give them a check to make up the difference between the value of Gibbs's house and Reston House. In fact at one point Ducky was all for going there and then, but he was persuaded that another day wouldn't matter.
Even though he was delighted to see his dad and L. J. had regained their close friendship and really pleased to see L. J., Gibbs had been a little concerned as to whether he'd feel left out at all as he knew no one else apart from Jackson and Gibbs. However, Gibbs hadn't counted on DiNozzo Snr and the two men seemed to strike up an instant friendship and had been talking together for quite some time.
Lunch was also exceptionally good and of course even with seventeen people to feed there was still far too much food and drink - DiNozzo seemed to have bought the contents of an entire liquor store. There would be plenty for everyone to take home and Gibbs suspected Ducky wouldn't have to cook for several days.
After everyone had finally eaten all they could manage Abby, Ziva and Breena went off to make coffee, the children ran off to play in one of the other rooms and Ducky firmly insisted the washing up could wait. Thus they all sat down and carried on talking.
Gibbs noticed that no one sat on the large two-seater couch, just about everyone paused by it as if they were about to sit down, but they always moved on and sat elsewhere. He'd had a strange feeling a few times during lunch and had thought more than once he'd seen something out of the corner of his eye, but he'd dismissed it.
Now as he sat by Ducky's side listening to Ducky and his dad talk he stared at the empty couch and bit off a gasp. He blinked, sat forward and stared; he wasn't mistaken. Seventeen had become twenty.
Fornell said something to him and he turned his attention away from the three figures on the couch, the older lady with her arm around the little girl, holding her close and stroking her hair and the younger lady smiling at how happy her daughter was.
From time to time during the afternoon his gaze returned to the couch and Mrs. Mallard, Shannon and Kelly were still there, laughing, talking, smiling, sitting close together, clearly happy - just like a family.
Suddenly Gibbs felt Ducky's hand on his arm and heard Ducky say softly, "They really are there, are they not, my dear?"
Gibbs looked at his lover who was staring at the supposedly empty couch. "Yeah, Duck," he said quietly. "They are."
Ducky smiled and said again softly. "So Mother finally gets her wish."
"A grandchild," Ducky said his voice was only a little wistful.
Gibbs put his arm around Ducky's shoulders and tugged him towards him for a moment. "Ah, Duck," he said and then added his own voice only a little sad, "And Kelly gets a grandmother." He let his arm fall from around Ducky's shoulders, took his hand and squeezed it before lightly kissing it.
SEVERAL HOURS LATER
Finally everyone, laden down with food and wine, had left - Ducky had invited Jackson and L. J. to stay but apparently they had already made arrangements with DiNozzo Snr and so after kisses, hugs, handshakes and Ducky thanking everyone who had been involved at least four times, everyone left Gibbs and Ducky alone.
The last three to depart were Mrs. Mallard, Shannon and Kelly and as he watched his daughter walk away laughing as she held Shannon's hand with one hand and Mrs. Mallard's with the other Gibbs knew he would never see Shannon or Kelly again. He had no need to see them and they had no need to worry about him.
They stood on the porch, Gibbs's arm around Ducky's shoulders, waving goodbye until everyone was out of sight. Then Gibbs led Ducky back inside, closed the door and locked and bolted it before taking Ducky into his arms. He was sure the house felt just that little warmer and even more contented than it had been earlier. He had no worries that they'd wake up to find furniture in a different place from where it had been or any cold areas of the house - Mrs. Mallard and the house were at peace because things were back to how they should be.
"Happy, Duck?" he said softly.
Ducky smiled up at him. "Yes, my dearest Jethro," he said, standing up on his toes and brushing his lips over Gibbs's. "Very. I honestly don't know how to say 'thank you' for what you did. I just . . ."
"Never known you lost for words, Duck," Gibbs said and laughed.
Ducky put his hand on Gibbs's cheek and said his tone solemn, "I love you, Leroy Jethro Gibbs." The love, affection, happiness and gratitude that shone in Ducky's eyes made Gibbs swallow hard - he'd always known Ducky loved him, but in all the years they'd known one another Ducky had never shown him quite so much love.
"Love you too, Duck," Gibbs said his voice a little rough as he lowered his head and kissed Ducky. "Happy Thanksgiving, Duck," he added after several minutes of them just kissing and holding one another passed.
"Happy Thanksgiving, Jethro," Ducky said and smiled.
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