This is the second story in my Occasions Universe.
It's 28th February. Jethro wonders just why Ducky arrives home carrying a very large bunch of daffodils.
An established relationship story.
Written: February 2006. Word count: 4,410.
Jethro took another swig of the whiskey he kept in the basement and nearly choked, as the fiery liquid hit the back of his throat. Damnit, but Ducky and Tobias were right; it was awful. He'd become too accustomed recently to better stuff. Resisting the urge to spit the partial mouthful he still had left out, he swallowed quickly, coughed and grabbed his half-filled mug of cold, and fairly aged coffee. It tasted grim, but at least it took the burning away. One mouthful, however, was enough; maybe he was just getting soft. Maybe . . .
The sound of a car engine coming to a stop above him interrupted his thoughts, and immediately he began to smile. He'd recognize Ducky's Morgan anywhere, and not just because he was the only person Jethro knew who drove a car with a transmission gearbox.
Even before he heard the sound of the car door shutting, Jethro had put down his sander and was taking the stairs from the basement two at a time. He had the front door open before his lover had time to put his key into the lock. Another difference: now he lived with Ducky, these days the front door was always locked.
"Hey, Duck," Jethro said, and smiled. Not that Ducky would see the smile from beneath the brim of his hat, but having his lover home safe and sound always made Jethro smile. Come to think of it, pretty much anything connected with Ducky made Jethro smile. He was getting soft!
"Jethro my dear." Ducky moved nearer, tipped his head back, relying on Jethro to catch the hat that tumbled off, and met the smile. He offered his mouth for a kiss.
Without even worrying what the neighbors, if indeed any were watching, might have thought, Jethro lowered his head and brushed Ducky's lips with his own. The kiss was brief, a mere greeting, but as always it made Jethro feel whole, and gave him a reason for being. He slipped his arm around Ducky's shoulders and ushered him into the lit hallway.
That was when he noticed.
"Er, Duck," he said, still holding Ducky's hat. "What are those?"
Ducky smiled brightly; his pale eyes twinkled with mirth. "Well, Agent Gibbs, these are a flower known as the daffodil, otherwise known as Narcissus pseudo-Narcissus or in Latin the Affodillus."
Jethro took advantage of what was a, when Ducky was in explanation mode, rare pause. "Er, yeah, I know what they are, Duck. What I meant was why are you carrying a bunch? And such a large one at that. They're not for me, are they?" He winced as he heard the words. Squeezing Ducky's shoulder he said, "Sorry, Duck. I didn't mean that the way it came out."
Ducky tipped his head back again and smiled. "That's all right, Jethro my dear. I know you do not like gifts of which you have to take care. Although you are very good at taking care of things; me for example." He turned around and let Jethro remove his coat.
"I don't take care of you, Duck. You're perfectly capable of doing that for yourself." Jethro hung Ducky's coat and hat on the hat stand.
"Yes, I know, dear. But you do take care of me. Just as I take care of you. Which is how it should be. Now you take these and put them in the sink with a little water, not too much, just enough. Then you may pour me a glass of whiskey, something decent though. Not what you've been drinking. Then when I come back, I'll tell you why I'm carrying a bunch of daffodils." Ducky handed Jethro the extremely large bunch of bright yellow flowers and turned towards the stairs.
Jethro eyed the flowers dubiously; he half expected them to wither in his hands. "And you're going?"
"To the bathroom." Ducky smiled, and left Jethro standing holding the paper wrapped flowers.
Jethro stood for a moment, then shaking his head went into the kitchen. Ducky was correct: they did take care of one another, and had been doing so since the day Jethro had rescued Ducky from a gang intent on injuring him. As he recalled the sight of a blond man on the ground being kicked by four thugs, he shivered. A few minutes later and -
A rustling sound alerted him to the fact that he was squeezing the daffodils he still held very tightly. He glanced down and saw that the paper was indeed crumbled, and the bottoms of the stems were somewhat battered. Damn.
He had a vague memory of some girlfriend or other telling him that flattening the stems of flowers before putting them into water was a good thing, as it increased the life of the flowers. He had no idea whether it was true or not, he'd never tried it.
Engrossed in trying to unwrinkle the paper, he didn't hear Ducky until the voice he never tired of listening to spoke. "Jethro, what are you doing?"
Jethro started. One of the disadvantages of living with Ducky had been a reduction in his own alert button, when actually in the house behind locked doors. Until he had moved into Reston house with Ducky, no one, not even his long-term lover, would have been able to creep up on him unheard - and Ducky wouldn't have been creeping. Living with the person he loved had lulled Jethro into a sense of security that sometimes he wished he didn't have.
And yet one look at Ducky's face, one touch of his hand, one thought as to how much fuller his life had become, and Jethro knew he would rather jump from time to time than return to the chill of his empty life and house. "Sorry, Duck," he murmured, letting Ducky take the flowers from him.
Ducky barely spared them a glance, before gently pushing Jethro out of the way and letting water run into the sink; at least Jethro now knew what 'just enough' was. "So what horrific memory was going through your mind this time, my dear?"
Jethro blinked, but wasn't really surprised by Ducky's words. Their ability to finish one another's sentences, or to know exactly where the other was, even through closed doors, and their verbal shorthand, caused his team a mixture of amusement and bewilderment. So rather than deny it, he said simply, "I was remembering the day we met."
"Ah, Jethro," Ducky said, patting his arm and tilting his head back, offering his mouth for another kiss. Ducky liked to be kissed; he liked to be kissed a great deal, and Jethro never had a problem with obliging, especially when Ducky looked up at him in a certain way.
His only worry was that one of these days Ducky was going to look up at him in 'that way' in the office, and Jethro would act on instinct and kiss him. Oh, well, if he did. He did. He'd long given up worrying about people knowing that he and Ducky were lovers.
The kiss, like all the ones they shared, was a mixture of affection and the kind of love and passion that only lovers of nearly three decades knew. The ardor between them was still there, despite the fact that they no longer had a frenetic sex life; not that their sex life could ever really have been described as frenetic. But more and more, especially on a work night, sleeping together meant just that.
Despite that, Jethro was more satisfied with Ducky than he'd been with any of his other lovers. Besides, if either man was in the mood, he knew exactly how to arouse his partner to the point where work the next day or not, the place they headed was their bedroom - and not to sleep. Their relationship was as perfect as any could be. It was right. Why it had taken him four marriages to finally realize what Ducky had known from almost the day they'd met, Jethro sometimes still wondered.
Arousal, however, didn't appear to be on Ducky's mind, as the kiss didn't alter in its intensity, it merely remained true, honest and caring. However, when they broke apart, one look at Ducky's lips and eyes would have told anyone exactly what he'd been doing; Jethro knew his own face would betray the same things.
"Now, about that drink, my dear," Ducky said, letting his arms fall from around Jethro's neck, before turning to make his way into their sitting room. His tread as always by the end of the day was more uneven than at the start of it.
Slipping his arm around Ducky's shoulders, Jethro allowed his lover to lean on him a little, without it being obvious that was what he was doing. Not that Ducky would be fooled, but it was one of their many little games that hurt no one.
He left Ducky to settle into his armchair and moved across to the drinks' cabinet to poor his lover a drink. He poured one for himself too; somehow he sensed that the explanation for Ducky arriving home with a bouquet of daffodils wasn't going to be a short one.
"So." He handed Ducky a glass and sat on the sofa. "Why the flowers?"
"Tomorrow is St. David's Day." Ducky sipped his drink and smiled at Jethro.
"He was the Patron Saint of Wales," Ducky added, after a moment or two.
"I know who he was, Duck."
"Ah, good. You see, my dear, sometimes I am not certain just how much of your claiming not to know things is merely an act, designed for your own benefit in order to lull people into thinking that you are not as intelligent as you really are. And don't look at me like that, Jethro Gibbs. You cannot deny it. I happen to know that it's the truth."
Jethro rolled his eyes and grimaced. "Fair enough. But not with you, Duck. I don't play games with you. I never have done. Ducky!" he added, when the look in the blue eyes became somewhat speculative. "I don't."
"So you really do not know what haggis is?"
"No. And come to think of it, you never did tell me."
"Are you certain, dearest, that you really want to know? After all, you did say how much you enjoyed the meal, and later said that you'd be quite happy to partake of it again sometime. Was that not the truth?"
"Of course it was, Duck. I don't lie to you either. You know that. Don't you?"
"Of course I do, Jethro. But there are lies and lies. And -"
"Duck." Jethro didn't resort to his office fondly exasperated tone very often, but now was one of those times.
Ducky smiled. Not for the first time Jethro was hit with the vague feeling that Ducky's ramblings were, at least sometimes, deliberately aimed at getting Jethro to react in such a way.
Jethro decided to forgo further discussions about what haggis was, after all if he really wanted to know, there were other ways of finding out. He could always Goggle it, or whatever the hell it was the Abby and McGee kept suggesting he did. "Okay, so tomorrow is St. David's Day, but - What did you say?"
"That in Welsh he is know as Dewi Sant."
Jethro blinked. Why did he suddenly have a sinking feeling that unless he was careful or clever, he was going to be treated to the entire history of the dead man? With a half nod and smile, he continued as though Ducky hadn't spoken. "But you still haven't told me why you've brought half a flower shop home with you."
"Dewi lived in the sixth century. He was a Celtic monk, abbot and bishop; in fact he became the Archbishop of Wales. He was one of many early saints who helped to spread Christianity among the pagan Celtic tribes of western Britain."
The sinking feeling became deeper. "Er, Duck, you hungry?"
"Not that much is known about his life really. And due to the length of time that elapsed between his death in the sixth century, and the production of his biography, Buchedd Dewi, in the eleventh century, together with further details that appeared in a book in the twelfth century, it is not clear how much of the history of Dewi's life is legend rather than fact. We can, however, be relatively certain that he was a very gentle person who lived a frugal life and ate a meager diet. Yet in spite of this, it is also reported that he was tall and physically strong. But I am rambling again, am I not, my dear? As well as failing to answer your question."
"It's not that I'm not interested in his life story, Duck. Just -"
"That you're not interested." Ducky eyes twinkled with mirth.
"I'm not disinterested," Jethro said a little weakly.
Ducky chuckled. "There are ways of getting me to stop talking."
"I don't like to keep snapping 'Duck' at you, no matter how fondly I do it," Jethro said. And it was true, he didn't. At the office he was Ducky's boss, Ducky did what he asked him to. At home he didn't want any hint of that relationship to be seen.
"I wasn't thinking of you 'snapping' at me, my dear." Ducky's voice was soft; again his eyes twinkled.
Jethro laughed. "Is that your way of telling me you want another kiss?" He stood up and moved over to Ducky's chair. Ducky smiled softly. Rather than make his lover stand up, Jethro knelt in front of him and cupped his face, finding Ducky's lips with the ease of nearly thirty years of practice.
When they parted Jethro said ruefully, "You know, Duck, one of these days I'm going to do that at the office rather than snap 'Duck' at you."
"Hmmm," said Ducky, still holding Jethro's hand. "In that case, my dear, I had better start brushing up on some of my longer and less interesting stories."
Both men laughed.
Jethro stood up; the floor was getting rather hard. He was getting soft. He held out his hand to Ducky. "Come over here with me. It's easier for me to shut you up if you're closer." Ducky chuckled again and let Jethro help him to his feet.
Jethro Gibbs, you are not only getting soft; you're getting soppy, he told himself, refilling their glasses once they'd both sat down again. Except he wasn't, not really. As far as his relationship with Ducky went, apart from the men now sharing a home, nothing had really changed. Jethro always had been 'soft', for want of a better term in his dealings with Ducky. There was something about his lover that made people want to treat him gently and with respect. At least most people. Some -
"Dearest." Ducky's tone was a little strained.
Jethro shook himself mentally and glanced at Ducky who looked slightly pale. Then Jethro was aware that he was gripping Ducky's hand tightly, so tightly that both it and Jethro's own had turned white. "Sorry, Duck." He loosened the fierce hold and tugging Ducky's hand between his own hands began to rub it.
"Where was your mind this time?" Ducky's tone was low.
"It doesn't matter, Duck. It's not important. Go on with telling me why we have a sink full of daffodils."
For a moment or two the pale blue eyes just gazed at him, studying him in the way he'd seen Ducky, and Abby, study a test. Then Ducky smiled and shook his head once. "Ah, Jethro," he said simply, leaning forward to brush his lips over Jethro's. "I sometimes think that my ghosts are worse for you than they are for me. In fact," he added softly, "I know they are."
And they were.
"Okay, Duck. Go on telling me why the flowers are here."
"I'm going to take them to the office tomorrow and give them to the ladies of our team."
It wasn't unlike Ducky to do little things like this, but Jethro still wanted to know why. "But why, Duck?"
"The celebrations of St. David's Day are a wonderful sight to behold, my dear. Societies from all over Wales hold special meetings and events, such as a thousand strong male voice choirs. In fact some choirs are flown out to all places of the globe, merely to entertain Welsh communities. Many Welsh people wear one or both of the national emblems of Wales on their lapel to celebrate Saint David: the daffodil, which is the generic Welsh symbol, or the leek which is Saint David's personal symbol, on this day. School children dress in the traditional Welsh costumes that -" Ducky broke off and smiled gently. "I'm sorry, Jethro. I'm getting carried away again, aren't I?"
"I don't mind, Duck. I can listen to you any time. I guess I still don't understand why. I got the Scottish link with you going to University there and your old Professor, but you're English, so why Wales?"
"Ah. Well you see, my dear, I may have a small amount of Welsh blood within me." Ducky's eyes twinkled. "Mother was always more than a little reticent and hesitant when talking about her father. I always wondered why. From reading some letters that I discovered only very recently, it appears that the man I always believed to have been my maternal Grandfather, might not have actually been that, at least not biologically."
"You're saying that your grandmother . . ." Jethro trailed off. He couldn't bring himself to say anything more. They were talking about people two generations older than them, and neither Ducky nor he was in the first flush of youth. He'd always thought that people of that era behaved more properly.
Some of this must have shown on his face, because to Jethro's surprise Ducky chuckled softly and touched his hand. "Ah, Jethro my dear. There is no need for you to be uncomfortable about what you are thinking. People have always been people and have always behaved in the same way; it is merely that they are more open about it today and we are more aware of it. After all homosexuality was illegal well into the last century, and still is in certain countries, but do you think that ever stopped people? Oscar Wilde for example, went to prison for his 'sins'."
Even after all their years together, Ducky was still able to occasionally surprise Jethro; and yet he shouldn't be astonished, not really. After all he had known and loved Ducky for nearly thirty years, his friend hadn't changed in that time, not in the ways that mattered. "So Grandfather Harrington may have been Grandfather Thomas or something? He might have been Welsh?"
"Yes, my dear." Ducky smiled, tilted his head slightly and waited for Jethro to kiss him - which he did. "But whether or not my assumption is accurate, it is a good excuse to brighten up the office."
"Ah, Duck," said Jethro, and hugged his lover.
Ziva arrived in Gibbs's office carrying a bouquet of bright yellow daffodils. She looked extremely disconcerted and uncertain as to what to do with them.
"Wow, they're nice, Ziva. Where did you get them? Got a secret admirer?"
"Dr. Mallard gave them to me." Ziva held the bunch as though they contained a hand grenade.
"Ducky gave you flowers? Does Gibbs know? Ow! Guess he does. Sorry, boss. I just wondered if - Ouch!" DiNozzo rubbed his head.
"But why has Dr. Mallard given me flowers?"
"Because he knows that I don't like gifts I have to take care off. Autopsy, all of you. Now."
"Is that true, Tony?"
"What Gibbs not liking gifts he has to care for? Sure."
"Did Dr. Mallard buy them for Gibbs? I know they . . . "
"Live together, is the term, Ziva."
"I know. But even so, do they do that kind of thing? Is Dr. Mallard likely to have bought Gibbs flowers?"
"I gave up trying to figure Gibbs and Ducky out years ago. Ducky's eccentric. He could do anything."
"But flowers for Gibbs? Would you buy him flowers?"
"Well, no, but then I'm not - Thank you, boss."
The four field members of the team arrived in Autopsy.
Ziva hung back, letting the men precede her, and then slunk in and hovered by the door. She looked ready to flee, and her hand was poised near to where she kept her gun.
Jethro sighed. "Ducky, tell Ziva that you're not trying to seduce her."
"Now why would you think that, Jethro?" Ducky's eyes twinkled.
Jethro rolled his eyes. "Duck!" Then added, "Call it almost thirty years of knowledge." For a moment he let the shield he habitually wore outside of their home fall from his eyes, and they said something completely different. They spoke of a different kind of intimate knowledge that mere years alone couldn't explain.
"I'm sorry, Jethro. Ziva, I assure you I am not trying to seduce you. You are quite safe. You are not about to be accosted by some old man."
"You're not old, Ducky." Three male voices said in synchrony.
Ducky beamed. "Why, Jethro, you have trained your boys well."
Jethro rolled his eyes again. "At this rate by the time you explain why we're here, I will be though."
Ducky just smiled. Then said very formally, "I do apologize, Agent Gibbs."
Jethro glared, as much that is as he ever did when looking at Ducky. "Oh, for heavens sake tell her, Duck. And maybe I'll get some peace."
"It's because it's St. David's day." Abby's voice was heard over the doors swishing open. "Thank you, Ducky. They're beautiful." She bounded over to Ducky and kissed him, leaving, as she always did, a faint black-mauve mark on his cheek. Without thinking about it Jethro had his handkerchief out and had handed it over to Ducky.
"He gave you some too?" DiNozzo's voice was heavy with disbelief.
"Of course." Abby beamed.
"And you like them?" Now DiNozzo sounded like a child who has just been told that Santa Claus did not exist.
"But they're not black. You only like black flowers."
"Ah, but the Duckman gave them to me. That makes the difference."
"St. David's Day?" Ziva interrupted, finally taking a step away from the door.
"He's the patron Saint of Wales." Abby beamed.
"Yes, he was a very gentle person who lived a frugal life, ate a meager diet and lived and died in the sixth century. He was a Celtic monk, abbot and bishop, who became the Archbishop of Wales." Gibbs intoned.
"Why, Jethro, you were listening to me." Ducky's blue eyes sparkled, and as always betrayed all of his feelings for Jethro.
"I always listen to you, Duck." It was true, Jethro did always listen, even if he didn't want to, or didn't intend to. Even when he interrupted his friend in his fondly exasperated way, he still listened to him. He could listen to Ducky read the phone book. Not that he'd ever reveal that to anyone, probably not even to Ducky, he had some standards and a reputation to maintain.
"He quotes you too. Thank you, Ducky. They are lovely." Jenn Shepard, her perfume as always preceding her, came into Autopsy, and like Abby want across to kiss Ducky on his cheek.
Jethro felt his eyes grow so wide they hurt. Over her shoulder he mimed, much as he'd done when they'd carried out their silent exchange about Dr. Burns. You gave some to her?
I had to. It was only fair. I had given some to both Abby and Ziva, was Ducky's response.
Waiting until Jenn and Abby had left, the heavy scent of Jenn's perfume lingering and mingling with the usual, and to his nose much-preferred, Autopsy odors, Jethro said, "So, Duck, why exactly did you call us down here?"
Jethro strode back into the office, a cup of coffee in one hand, his mind already on work. He and Ducky had grabbed some time to have lunch together, and upon their return Jethro had been called to MTAC. "DiNozzo, I want you and McGee to . . ." he trailed off, and looked at the small bunch of daffodils occupying a space on DiNozzo's desk. A glance at McGee's showed him a matching vase.
"Ducky decided that it was discriminatory to only give flowers to the girls, so he gave McGee and me some too, the Aut - er, Palmer got some as well I believe."
"Oh." Jethro glanced at his own desk, wondering just how long Ducky expected him to keep them alive for. There was nothing resembling yellow horns in sight.
"Er, he didn't bring any for you, boss." DiNozzo sounded slightly hesitant.
"But he did leave you a package." McGee spoke quickly. Jethro again glanced at his desk; he couldn't see anything. He looked at McGee. "Er, he left it on your chair." Jethro continued to stare at his agent. "I had to, um, go over to your desk to see if -"
"Who's been sneaking then, McGee? You - Ow!" Jethro moved towards McGee.
His youngest agent went slightly pink and explained, "An important virus update came through, boss, and I wanted to check you'd left your machine on."
"Thanks, McGee." Jethro ruffled his hair.
He strode to his desk, picked up the box and stared at it, aware that DiNozzo, McGee and Ziva were watching him. If it had contained anything that Ducky didn't intend anyone else to see, he'd never have left it in the office. Jethro pulled out his knife, flipped it open and slit the paper. It fell away.
A small card tumbled to his desk. Picking it up, he blinked several times to focus and read the words written in Ducky's old-fashioned hand.
I know how little you like gifts of which you need to take care. This needs you to do nothing to preserve its life. It will continue to bloom even if you ignore it.
Jethro began to smile. "Ah, Duck," he murmured softly, as he pulled out the single yellow silk daffodil, already standing in its own delicate vase, and placed it with great care on his desk.
LINKS TO ALL THE STORIES IN THE OCCASIONS UNIVERSE
A Fitting Tribute
There Be No Dragons
Upon That Night
A Ghostly Tale
Here We Go A-Caroling
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