IT MIGHT HAVE SOMETHING TO DO WITH
Leaving the kids to all go back in one car, tired of their squabbling, Gibbs choose to drives just Ducky back from a conference. Ducky, having been given the map, navigates them via the pretty route, which would have been fine, except Gibbs's car skids of the road and breaks down; and his cell phone won't work in the area. He suggests that the kids will wonder where they are, and his oldest and closet friend's answer stuns him and makes him re-evaluate their relationship.
A first time story.
Written: February 2007. Word count: 4,223.
"Jethro, don't you think it was a little unfair to insist that all the children traveled back in one car? Poor Mr. Palmer -"
"Will have a great time. He's in the back between Abby and Ziva, it'll make his day."
"Mmm, whilst I have no doubt that he'll be happy being so near to Abigail, I am afraid that his fear of Ziva is second only to his fear of you."
Gibbs took his eyes off the road for a moment and glanced at Ducky. "You trying to tell me something, Duck?"
"Isn't my company enough for you?"
Ducky sighed. "Oh, Jethro, really. Not at all, indeed I welcome the opportunity for us to spend some time together, alone like this. We haven't had many opportunities lately, not since -"
"I dated her half a dozen times, Duck. That's all."
"Dated or bedded?"
"Ducky!" Again Gibbs took his eyes from the road. Ducky had turned his head towards him and was staring at him in his impassive, impossible to read way.
"You really should keep your eyes on the road. You have just missed the turning we should have taken."
"Damn," Gibbs slammed the brakes on, glanced in the rearview mirror and backed up. He paused before turning and frowned. "You sure it's this way, Duck?"
"You did give me the map, my dear."
"Right. Okay," and with a half shrug, Gibbs made the turn.
Ten minutes later he again glanced at his friend. "You know, Duck," he said carefully, "I'm really not sure that this is - Shit." The front wheels suddenly went into a violent skid, turning the car around, as Gibbs fought for control. Seconds later the car hit something very hard and stuttered to a halt. "You okay, Duck?" Gibbs asked swiftly, putting his hand on Ducky's arm, his concern for his friend far greater than his concern for himself or the car.
"Yes, thank you, Jethro. I am fine. What happened? What caused us to skid?"
"Don't know. I didn't see anything. You sure you're okay? Didn't hit your head or anything?"
"Jethro, I am fine, really." Ducky patted Gibbs's hand, where it still rested on his arm.
"I'll see what the damage is. You stay there."
"Actually, my dear, I think I'll join you. It will do me good to stretch my leg a little."
Side by side they stood and looked at firstly the road, although that, in Gibbs's judgment was a vast overstatement it was more like a track, and then at the car. In the fading sunlight the pool of oil glinted on the road. The skid had caused them to hit a tree; the front bumper was smashed and one front tire had a clear, jagged puncture.
Gibbs crouched down and prodded the other one; he had a sinking feeling that it too had been damaged, and he only had one spare. He glanced up at Ducky who was standing quietly looking down at him.
"I am sorry, Jethro. It is entirely my fault. This clearly wasn't the right turning. Oh, dear, maybe Mr. Palmer is correct when he blames me for getting us lost."
Gibbs stood up and moved nearer to Ducky, who was now looking more than a little troubled. He slung his arm around his friend's shoulders and hugged him. "Don't worry, Duck. I'm not blaming you, besides it's a lot prettier than the way we came."
Ducky leaned against him for a moment, before moving out of the embrace and glancing up at Gibbs. For a moment Gibbs saw something in Ducky's gaze that he couldn't identify, that was almost . . . But then it had gone. "Well, guess I'd better get the tire changed and see if she'll start."
"And if you'll just excuse me for a moment, I think I'll take advantage of the tree cover."
Gibbs glanced towards the trees; there were a lot of them and they had grown closely together, cutting off all of the fading sunlight. "You be careful, I don't want you tripping over." The last thing he wanted, especially as he hadn't liked the whine the car had made when she'd shuddered to the halt, was an injured Ducky.
"Yes, dear," Ducky murmured moving away from him. Gibbs watched him and cursed silently; his old friend was now limping quite badly, which implied that, despite his reassurance that he wasn't hurt, the crash had jolted him. Ducky's wellbeing tended to make Gibbs fuss in a way he otherwise scorned, and he was about to call out and tell Ducky not to go any further under the trees, when telepathy, or maybe it was just Ducky being sensible, came into play, as Ducky stopped just under the cover of the edge of trees.
Gibbs stared at his friend's back for another second or two, before shaking himself and moving to open the trunk. He pulled the spare tire out, but decided that before he went to the trouble of changing it, he'd try the engine.
It coughed and spluttered twice, made some kind of grinding noise that made Gibbs's teeth ache, before falling silent. Oh, great, that was all they needed. He was pulling out his cell phone as Ducky began his return journey.
"Fuck it." Gibbs shook the phone.
"Can't get a signal." He tried hitting it on his hand, but that didn't work either. "Got yours?" He guessed it was a futile hope, but just occasionally one phone worked when another didn't.
This was not one of those occasions.
He was about to toss Ducky's phone back into the car and curse again, when he caught sight of Ducky's face. "Ah, Duck, don't," he said, moving swiftly to again put his arm around his old friend. "It's not your fault."
"Oh, but it is, Jethro. If I had been paying more attention to the map and -"
"And if I'd been paying more attention to the road," Jethro said firmly. "Standing here blaming ourselves isn't going to get us anywhere, let's have a look at the map and see if we can - Oh, hell, that's all we need," he added, hurriedly opening the passenger door and hustling Ducky inside, before striding around the car to get into it himself, as the sudden flash rainfall threw down drops that bounced off the hood. The sun still shone, in fact it was now even brighter than it had been moments before, the sky was clear, but the rain became more torrential.
"Guess I'm not going anywhere for a bit," Gibbs said, taking the map from Ducky and frowning at it. "Oh, well, maybe the kids'll be worried and send out a search party for us."
"I doubt that, my dear. They'll probably just think that we've stopped somewhere to conoddle."
"Yeah, guess - Huh? What did you say?" Gibbs looked up and stared at his friend.
Ducky repeated what he'd said.
For a moment Gibbs just continued to stare at him. Then, tossing the map into the backseat, he put his hand on Ducky's forehead; it was cool. Ducky just sat and watched him, his calm, blue gaze steady and unwavering. "Are you saying that the kids think we're . . ."
"Lovers? Yes, dear."
Now Gibbs took Ducky's wrist and put his hand back on his forehead. "Are you sure you're okay, Duck?" He said with concern.
"I am fine, Jethro. Really, I am. There is no need for you to play 'doctor', although, you really should know by now that if you are going to take someone's pulse, you do not use your thumb. Here," and with the hand Gibbs wasn't holding, he lifted Gibbs's hand and placed his fingers over his pulse. "You see, it's quite steady." Which was more than Gibbs's suddenly was.
After several seconds of sitting frozen to the spot, just holding Ducky's wrist, feeling the regular beat of his heart under his fingers, staring into the steady, now somewhat bemused gaze, Gibbs finally let Ducky's hand go and slumped back in his seat.
His mind was a jumble of thoughts as he tried to process just what Ducky had said. As he forced himself to sort them out, he realized, to his surprise, that what the team thought didn't bother him; instead he was simple curious as to why they thought it.
Finally, he forced his brain and mouth to cooperate. "Why?" Ducky cocked his head. "Why do they think that? And how do you know?"
"Ah. Well, the answer to your first question is several-fold." Ducky smiled gently.
Gibbs just waited.
"Duck." He finally growled his irritation; immediately he felt guilty.
To his surprise, Ducky beamed. "It might have something to do with what you have just said."
"The way you shorten my name to your own personal version of it."
"That's just decades of friendship."
"Hmm, oh, I know that. But there is also the fact that you do not get irritated with me and snap at me, as you do with the children. Well, you do, you do get irritated and you do snap at me, but when you do, you do it in a completely different way from when you snap at the children."
Ducky nodded. "Oh, yes. 'Fondly exasperated' would be the best way to describe it. And then there is the fact that, whilst it is perfectly acceptable for you to interrupt me, to snap at me, to tease me, to ask me if I have done things you know I would have already done, to tell me we don't have time for stories, if anyone else dares to do so, well . . ."
"Have you ever read Wodehouse?"
"P. G. Wodehouse. His writing is . . . Oh, yes. I am sorry. In one of his books his main character, Bertie Wooster, is telling a tale about how he, when at Cannes . . . Or was it in the wonderful television series instead? Hugh Laurie gave a superb rendition of Bertie, together with Stephen Fry as his man, Jeeves. Yes, it may well have been in the series, rather than the book, or even both. A friend of mine from England, knowing my fondness for . . . Ah, where was I? Oh, yes, Bertie was at Cannes, and young lady, whom he knew vaguely, was passing disparaging remarks about her young man, and she sought Bertie's agreement. Bertie is the kind of young gentleman who tries to please everyone, so wishing to show his solidarity with the young lady, he not only agreed with her, but also went on to add a few similar remarks of his own. He was rather pleased with himself, but at that point she became extremely upset and angry with him, and she slapped him. It was just like the lioness with her cubs. Jethro, what are doing? I've told you, I'm fine." Ducky took Gibbs's hand firmly from his forehead, but rather than let go of it, he held it in a loose grip.
Gibbs shook his head. "Maybe it's me who isn't," he said, putting his other hand on his own brow. It felt faintly warm, and he was sure his heart rate had increased.
Now Ducky looked concerned. "Does you head hurt? Do you feel nauseous? Gidddy? Did you hit your head? Are you - "
"I'm fine, Duck. I just . . . What you said didn't make sense, that's all."
"Oh, dear. Yes, I did rather loose the point."
Ducky smiled. "What I was trying to say, my dear, is that whilst it is perfectly acceptable to you that you should interrupt me, etc. it is not acceptable that anyone else do so. And you have a tendency to make it very clear to the people concerned. I suspect this, let us call it 'protectiveness' even 'possessiveness' for want of better words, might also have something to do with the children's belief."
Gibbs blinked. "That's not a lot to go on."
"Well, not by itself, no. However, then there is the way that you look at me."
"The way I look at you?"
"Mmm, it is quite different from the way you look at other people."
"Why, yes. As I believe is the way I look at you."
Gibbs opened his mouth to question it, but closed it again. Ducky was right in what he said, he did look at Gibbs in a completely different way from the way he looked at other people, even Abby who he cared about a great deal. "Anything else?"
Ducky nodded. "A few things, yes. For instance the habit I have of calling you 'my dear'."
"Now that's not just with me. You use that a lot. I've heard you. Just the other day, you called Ziva 'my dear'."
"Yes, that is true, to an extent. However, you are the only man I address that way. I am not entirely certain what Anthony would say if I called him 'my dear Anthony'."
"You about to?"
Ducky shook his head.
"Good," Gibbs said, before he thought about it.
The steady pale gaze widened slightly, and then Ducky said slowly, "And there is the way and frequency in which you touch me, indeed the way that I touch you. And our lack of personal space, and . . ." He trailed off.
"And?" Gibbs managed.
Ducky shook himself, visibly. "And . . . Ah, yes, I think that it might also have something to do with the time you . . ." He glanced away from Gibbs, and looked more than a little sad.
"Retired," Ducky said firmly, and then hurried on. "Or rather when you came back and how . . . "
"Pissed you were with me?"
Ducky nodded. "Yes," he said softly, tightening the grip he still had on Gibbs's hand, the grip until that moment Gibbs hadn't realized was still there. "In fact I understand that the way we behaved towards one another during those months, was enough to convince people who had hitherto laughed at the idea that we might be . . . "
"Lovers." Gibbs spoke softly.
Ducky nodded. "Indeed. Um, that people who had hitherto poured scorn on the idea, now believe that it is in fact true."
"Yes, I agree, it is. But apparently they felt that the only reason we would be so distant, so cold, so cruel towards one another, was if we had been involved, and you had left me."
"Which I did," Gibbs said quietly. He lifted his other hand and brushed a strand of hair from Ducky's forehead. "Ah, Duck, I am sorry for that. I behaved like a -" He broke off when Ducky shook his head.
"We've said everything that needs saying on that subject, Jethro."
For a moment they simply sat and looked at one another. Then Gibbs said, "So anything else? Any more evidence?" To his astonishment, Ducky flushed slightly and glanced down at his lap. "Duck?"
"Oh, dear. I am afraid that I was more than a little indiscrete at the last Christmas party. I -" He came to an abrupt halt and fell into silence.
"You might as well tell me, Duck," Gibbs said after a moment or two. "And look at me. Whatever it is, it can't be that bad."
"I don't know about that, my dear. You see, I told Abigail that I wished to kiss you."
"Yes, well, not as bluntly as that. You see the children were discussing which of our colleagues they would most like to kiss, and Abigail asked me the question. I'm afraid that I spoke without thought, and said 'Jethro'. At which point Abby laughed, put her arm around me and said, 'No, Ducky, someone other than Gibbs. Someone you haven't kissed'. And then before I could say anything, not that I could actually think of anything to say, Timothy dragged her off to dance. So I am ashamed to have to confess, that I believe that my own lack of guarding my feelings and my tongue, might have had something to do with why the children think . . ."
"Yes. Oh, Jethro, I am so very sorry. I -"
"You wanted to kiss me?"
"You wanted to kiss me?"
"Um," Ducky looked out of the window, at the rain that still tumbled onto the car and ground. "Yes," he said, after several moments.
"How? Like this," Gibbs leaned across the gap between the seats and gently kissed Ducky's forehead. "Or," he added, before his friend could say anything, "more like this." This time he brushed his lips over Ducky's own.
"Well," he said softly, as Ducky just sat and stared in silence at him. "How, Duck? Like this?" again he leaned towards Ducky and kissed his forehead. "Or like this?" This time as he put his own lips onto Ducky's, he lingered for a moment longer. "Show me, Duck?" he murmured, after another moment of two of stunned silence.
Some ten minutes later Gibbs reluctantly let Ducky settle back in his seat. He then took Ducky's hand and asked, "Did that live up to your expectations?"
Ducky chuckled softly. "Oh, yes, my dear, and far more."
Gibbs smiled. "Good." He was about to sit back in his own seat, as something hit him. "Hey, Duck, you never told me how come you knew the kids suspected that we were lovers anyway? Did someone tell you?"
Ducky shook his head. "Oh, no, well, at least not directly. But people talk and I listen. It is quite surprising what you can pick up without people realizing. And there are some of our colleagues, not the children I must add, who seem to think that as I am somewhat older than most, that my hearing must be rather diminished. Also, I am a great studier of people, as you know, and I've seen the way we are looked at and watched from time to time. People give a great deal away with their eyes and body language, almost as much as they do with their actual words."
"Hmm. How come I don't hear these things?"
"Well, my dear, you aren't the kind of person to really listen to gossip now, are you?"
"Guess that's true," Gibbs said, before leaning across the small gap than separated him from Ducky and kissing him again.
"Hey, Duck," he said, a few minutes later. "You ever made love in a car?" He still leaned near to Ducky and was lightly caressing his face and neck.
"No, Jethro. I have not, and at my age I am not about to change that. I assure you that your bed will be far more satisfying and comfortable. Besides, my dear, as much as I would be happy to spend several hours kissing you, the rain has now stopped."
"Has it? Oh, right. Damn, guess I'd better -" The blaring of a car horn shattered the moment.
Gibbs frowned and moved back from Ducky. "What the . . . ?"
"I believe the cavalry has arrived," Ducky said, his tone wry, as he let go of Gibbs's hand and placed it back on Gibbs's own thigh.
And indeed the black sedan that DiNozzo had been driving pulled up behind them. Not sure whether he was happy or annoyed, Gibbs opened his car door and got out.
Ziva's voice carried to where he stood. "You see, Tony, I told you that they wouldn't -"
"Hey, boss. Had an accident?"
"Gee, DiNozzo, whatever gave you that idea?" The next second he staggered backwards under the onslaught of Abby flinging herself at him. "Hey, Abbs. We're okay," he said, as he steadied her and himself.
She pulled back and stared at him. "Are you sure?" Then she turned and hurried across to fling her arms around Ducky, albeit more sedately than the way she'd hugged Gibbs.
"Yes, Abby, we are fine," Ducky said, as he patted Abby's back. "How did you find us?"
"Jimmy." Abby turned towards Ducky's assistant and smiled brightly.
Gibbs glanced at the young man. "Palmer?"
He flushed and started a stammering explanation. "Yes, sir, er, Special Agent Gibbs. I'm used to driving Dr. Mallard, you see, and I know that he . . . That is . . . What I mean is . . ."
"I think what Jimmy is too polite to say, my dear, is that he is used to me getting us lost, and so knows my habits, and the kind of mistake I am likely to make."
"Hah, so it is Ducky who - Sorry, boss. Thank you, boss." DiNozzo rubbed the back of his head.
Gibbs caught sight of Abby who was beaming and looking at McGee with a knowing look. He then glanced at Ducky who was smiling, the look in his eyes and on his face clearly said, 'I told you so'.
"So what happened, Gibbs?" Abby asked suddenly.
It was Ducky, however, who answered. "I'm afraid it is mostly my fault. I misdirected Jethro, and the road, as I'm sure you noticed, is not exactly . . ."
"A road?" DiNozzo glanced at Gibbs and shut up quickly.
Gibbs carried on. "I was trying to avoid as many of the pot-holes as I could and didn't see that pool of oil. Car skidded and we hit the tree, two flats and the car won't start. I was going to go for help when it started to rain, heavily."
"Why didn't you just use your cell phone and call for help?"
"Gee, McGee, guess I didn't think of that." McGee flushed. Gibbs changed his tone. "I couldn't get a signal. What?" he added, as McGee glanced down.
"It's just that, well . . . Er . . . "
Gibbs looked at the phone McGee was holding. He frowned. "Well, I couldn't get one earlier, on my phone or Ducky's."
"Yes, that's quite correct, Timothy."
Gibbs pulled out his own phone and flipped it on. The signal came through quite clearly. He shrugged. "Must have been the rain."
"The rain, boss?"
"Yeah, it did something to the whatsit. That can happen in a storm, can't it, McGee?"
"Well, yes, boss, it can, but -"
"Yes! That's what it was." Abby beamed her pussycat smile.
"I do not remember there -"
"That's what is was, Ziva." Now Abby glared at Ziva.
"Anyway, we're all safe and sound and together again," DiNozzo declared. As one the rest of the team stared at him. After a moment or two, he shifted his feet slightly and hurried on. "Right, so Probie and Palmer, you can wait here for the recovery truck, Gibbs can drive us back, and I'll look after you two lovely ladies in the back." He moved towards Abby and Ziva and put an arm around each of them.
"I'll drive," Ziva said swiftly, moving away slightly.
"You can't drive, Ziva. You can't expect Gibbs or Ducky to sit in the back."
"I assure you, Anthony, that I'd be more than happy to share the back seat with Abigail and Ziva," Ducky's eyes twinkled.
Gibbs put an end to the discussion. "DiNozzo, Ziva, wait for the truck. McGee, Abby, Palmer, back seat, now - in that order. Duck," he opened the passenger door for Ducky, who beamed at him and climbed in.
"But, boss, that's not -" DiNozzo shut up as Gibbs just stared at him. "Right, boss."
"Why do I have to -" Ziva also became quiet as Gibbs turned his attention to her.
Leaving DiNozzo to arrange for the car, as well as Ziva and himself to be collected, Gibbs backed up carefully until he found a place to turn around safely, and drove off. "McGee," he said, "you can navigate. You don't mind do you, Duck?" he glanced swiftly at his friend.
"Oh, no, my dear Jethro, I think that is an eminently sensible idea. Besides, I am going to close my eyes and take the opportunity to have a little rest now. I think that would be sensible, don't you?" He looked at Gibbs with his wide-eyed innocent look.
Gibbs swallowed hard and shifted slightly on his seat. "Yeah, Duck. I do. I certainly do." He wondered idly how quickly he could get back to the office, drop the kids off and then get home.
Ducky was right, as usual. His bed would be a far better place for them to make the kid's belief an accurate one, than the car. If he was honest, Ducky wasn't the only one of them too old to make love in a car; not that for one moment he thought that Ducky was old. And had Ducky agreed he would more than happy for Ducky and him to make love. But given the arrival of the 'cavalry', it was probably a good idea they hadn't actually . . . The kids thinking them lovers was one thing; the kids having it confirmed under their eyes was another.
As he followed McGee's precise and accurate directions, Gibbs did wonder about the cell phones and the lack of signal. Maybe . . .
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