DECORATING RESTON HOUSE
The kids have something special to do.
An established relationship story.
Written: December 2009. Word count: 1,747.
THE SQUAD ROOM
"Hey, guys." Abby appeared in the squad room, Palmer in tow. "Grab your gear."
"Huh?" DiNozzo asked.
"We have a case."
"Huh?" DiNozzo repeated.
"Well, it's more of an assignment really. We have: 'Operation Decorating Reston House'." Abby beamed around at them. "Well," she demanded. "What are you waiting for?"
"Er, Abby, it's the middle of the day. We're meant to be working." This time it was McGee who spoke to her.
Abby beamed. "All sorted. You three are on call, but Vance says it's okay."
DiNozzo's mouth fell open. "He does? How did you manage that?"
"I explained." Her tone was that of someone addressing a child or a somewhat simple person.
"Explained what, Abby?" McGee asked.
Before Abby could answer, Ziva spoke. "But Abby is it not inappropriate? Ducky and Gibbs are at Ducky's mom's funeral and we are going to decorate their home? Do you not think -"
"Gibbs knows. It was his idea. He gave me his key." Abby held it out.
Ziva blinked and put her head on one side. "Does Ducky know?"
"No. It's a surprise for him."
"I'm not sure it's an appropriate one, Abby," McGee said.
She frowned. "He wants it."
"He does?" McGee sounded dubious.
"Yes. He told Gibbs he wants it all be as it usually is when we go round on Christmas Day. But Gibbs is worried Ducky'll do too much. He hasn't stopped since his mom died. So he asked me to organize the Christmas decorations."
Also frowning, Ziva said, "But his mother -"
"Actually," Palmer spoke for the first time. "It's a relief for Dr. Mallard and Mrs. Mallard. She was suffering a lot. It wasn't just her mind that had gone, she'd . . ." He trailed off and blushed slightly. "Dr. Mallard hated to see her suffer. And Agent Gibbs hated to see Dr. Mallard suffering."
"Jimmy's right," Abby said quietly. "It's been very hard for Ducky over the last few months. We couldn't do anything to help, but we can do this. So grab your gear." She smiled.
Abby unlocked the door and led the others inside. Carefully she shut the door behind her and locked it. "Does this feel as strange to you guys as it does to me?" she asked, her voice little more than a whisper.
"You mean being here without either Ducky or Gibbs?" DiNozzo asked. Abby nodded. "Yeah. It's a bit like the first time as a kid you came home and your mom and dad weren't there." He gazed around him. "Guess we'd better get started, there's a lot to do."
Abby nodded. "Gibbs said he'd moved all the decorations to the front of the left attic while Ducky was making phone calls.
"Okay. Palmer, McGee with me. Ziva, Abby . . ." DiNozzo trailed off. "Sorry," he said. "Habit. You know when Gibbs is not around -"
"We know, Tony, you're the senior field agent," McGee said, his tone gently teasing. "But this isn't the field. I think Ziva should be in charge,"
"But why me? And if you say because I am female, McGee, I will . . ." Her look was threat enough. The others laughed as McGee's ears turned pink.
"Er, actually," Palmer said, his face red. "I think I should . . . Um, you know. When I was younger, Mom always used to leave me in charge of organizing the decorating of the old people's home she worked for."
DiNozzo clapped him on the shoulder. "Palmer it is then. We are yours to command." From his coat pocket he pulled out his NCIS cap and put it on Palmer's head. "If we take off his glasses," he tugged them off, "and get him a coffee and squint a bit, then he could be Gibbs. Well, apart from the hair's the wrong color, and -"
"Ziva?" He dragged her name out in the way he often did.
"This is not getting us anywhere. If we continue like this,
Ducky and Gibbs will be back before we have even begun."
Abby widened her eyes. "Ziva's right. Gibbs said we needed to make sure we've finished by 3:00 and it's 12:00 now. Come on," and grabbing Ziva by one hand and Palmer by the other she headed up the stairs.
TWO HOURS LATER
The hall, dining room and living room had been decorated. Garlands hung from the banisters and from picture to picture. A set of twelve days of Christmas ducks stood on one bookcase; another more traditional, and clearly old but in excellent condition, set stood on another; a nativity scene stood on yet another bookcase. There were candles, ribbons, and far more things than any of them had seen even in the most highly decorated store - and it was clearly all of excellent quality.
The only thing missing was the tree. Gibbs had left a note saying he'd arranged for it and some holly, ivy and mistletoe to be delivered at 1:30. However, it still hadn't arrived. Instead the man had called to say his truck had broken down and that he'd be delayed.
DiNozzo breathing hard, like all of them, wiped his hand over his forehead. "We're not going to do it," he said. "Even if the -" The door bell silenced him.
"It's here," Abby cried, running from the room.
Ten minutes later after DiNozzo had in effect bribed the delivery man into helping them, the tree stood tall and horribly bare in the hall. On the floor around it were boxes of lights, baubles, a star and an angel, tinsel, and other tree decorations.
"We're not going to do it," DiNozzo repeated.
"We have to!"
"Abby. In fifty minutes Gibbs and Ducky are going to be here. The tree's over ten foot, there's no way . . ." Under Abby's gaze he quelled. "Okay, okay. Come on. Palmer. Direct."
"Tony and McGee, you start on the lights. You need to lay them out and test them first."
"That'll take extra time," DiNozzo objected.
Palmer nodded. "I know. But if you put them on the tree and they don't work, it'll take even longer to find the faulty one." He spoke firmly and with an air of authority no one had ever seen from him before. For the last two hours he'd ordered them about in almost military-like fashion; Gibbs would have been impressed. And it was down to his knowledge, his eye for color and arrangement, and his quiet relentlessness that 'that'll do' would not 'do', that had Reston House looking as good as it did.
"Okay. Come on, McGeek. Lights."
"Abby and Ziva. You start dividing the baubles and other decorations up into colors. We need to get the lights on first and then the other things. We can each take a color and make sure we don't have all red in one place and all gold in another."
"Tony is right, Abby," Ziva said, as she knelt down and began to sort red from gold from green from blue. We are not going to get it finished."
"We have to," Abby wailed. "It has to be done for Ducky."
"Abby. I want it to be finished too. But we have to be realis-" The sound of Abby's cell phone burbling silenced Ziva.
"It's Gibbs!" Abby grabbed her phone. "Gib-" she stared to say. But fell silent. The others watched her, all frozen in place. "Yes!" she said, as she pushed the phone into her pocket. "We've got some extra time. An hour. Come on," she said.
Working under Palmer's instructions, only occasionally tripping over one another, or bumping into each other, they got the lights and decorations onto the tree. Leaving Palmer to tweak the odd bauble here and piece of tinsel there, and Abby and Ziva to put up some of the greenery, DiNozzo and McGee took empty boxes back to the attic - it took several trips to get them all back.
"Star or angel?" Palmer asked, looking at Ziva and Abby.
They looked at one another and back at Palmer and then together said, "Star."
Palmer beamed. "That's what I thought. I wonder where Dr. Mallard got the angel from. It's clearly a very old one."
"It's probably his mom's," Abby said. "Come on, Jimmy, you get to put the star on top of the tree. But wait a minute. Tony, Timmy!" she cried. "Get back down here now."
"But, Abby, we're -"
"Now!" she yelled.
Seconds later they appeared. "What?" DiNozzo demanded.
"Go on, Jimmy," Abby said, urging Palmer towards the step ladder. As Palmer made his way up the steps, the other four collectively held their breath, until the star was in position, Palmer had twisted two lights so they shone upwards and lit the star from below and was once again on the ground.
They all stood and looked around them. "You know what, it looks good," McGee said. "We've done -"
"Car!" DiNozzo suddenly called.
They all looked around them. "Back-door," Abby cried, grabbing her coat and heading for the kitchen.
"But we can't lock it behind us," Palmer said.
"Gibbs'll check. Come on."
"I do believe Mother would have been - Oh!" Ducky came to an abrupt halt in the hallway of their home and just stared. "Jethro?" There was a very faint trembling in his voice.
In two strides Jethro was by Ducky's side and had pulled him into his arms and was holding him, rocking him gently and murmuring words into his hair.
"Oh, Jethro," Ducky breathed, and began to cry.
As he held his lover tightly, securely, protectively, Jethro breathed a silent sigh of relief. Finally, Ducky was crying. For the first time since the middle-of-the-night phone call to tell them of Mrs. Mallard's death, Ducky was crying.
Throughout all the funeral preparations and phone calls and letters and the funeral itself Ducky hadn't shed a single tear and that had worried Jethro. It had concerned him very much. He'd known Ducky had needed to cry; he'd known that until he did he wasn't going to begin to heal; he'd known that until Ducky showed his grief, it wouldn't be right. Ducky wouldn't be right.
But now he was crying and now everything would be all right. He wrapped his arms a little bit more tightly around Ducky and pulled him impossibly nearer to him and went on holding him, rocking him, and murmuring to him.
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