TIME TO CELEBRATE
Set after Heartland.
Gibbs returns and goes straight to see Ducky. He has more than one thing to tell him.
A first time story.
Written: October 2008. Word count: 2,197.
As he drove back from Stillwater to DC, Jethro found himself smiling more and more.
It wasn't just the car that made him smile; although she was good. She was very good. His dad had done a good job, a far better job than the teenager Leroy would have done. He doubted he'd drive her all that often; his choice of color at age seventeen was not what he'd have chosen today. But for now, he took the opportunity of driving her fast, pushing her well over the speed limit on more than one occasion and simply enjoying being in her.
He had to confess he was also pleased to be alone and not with the four kids who would have bickered the entire way back. Apart from the bickering, they'd also have asked him more and more questions about his home town, his dad, and his life back then. At least DiNozzo and probably Abby would have done. McGee and Ziva, while as eager to learn about the younger Gibbs, were more reticent and less obvious and pushy about it.
He was also happy to have finally made the first steps towards regaining his relationship with his dad. He'd never, not even for one moment, not even when he hated him, stopped loving him - but he hadn't liked him for far too long. If this case hadn't come along when it had maybe - He stopped the thought from forming. This wasn't a time for such thoughts, this was a time to be happy; a time to celebrate - yes, celebrate - the found-again relationship.
In fact a quiet low key 'celebration' was what was called for, and there was only one person who he wanted to spend the evening with: Ducky. As he reached the Virginia state border, he headed in the direction of Ducky's Reston home.
Even if things hadn't in the end worked out between his dad and himself, he would still have gone to see Ducky in order to give him a brief update of the visit. It wouldn't have been right for his oldest, closest, dearest friend to be the only one not to know that 'Gibbs had a dad', and what had gone on between them. He had no doubt that the sole topic of conversation in the car DiNozzo was driving was Leroy Jethro and Jackson Gibbs.
By now DiNozzo and Abby would know as much as McGee and Ziva did - including the less than savory bickering and downright nasty barbs he and his dad had traded and thrown at one another. No, if they all knew - and they would, it was too much to expect either McGee or Ziva to keep quiet over something so 'juicy' - Duck had to know. And he had to hear it from Jethro himself, not from Abby or one of the others.
It was still early evening when he pulled up outside Ducky's Reston home; the Morgan standing in the driveway told him Ducky was already home. As he climbed out of the car, he made a mental note to ask Ducky if he'd done any digging into just why Corporal Taylor already had a broken rib. It was probably nothing sinister, but the young man would almost certainly still have been alive today had he not already have had an injury. And he knew Ducky well enough to know that even though he wasn't an official investigator, Ducky would not have left a loose end like that untied. No, he was certain his friend would have some things to share with him.
Before he reached the door, Ducky opened it and came out onto the porch. "Ah, Jethro," he said, his tone warm with affection. "It is very . . ." And then under Jethro's gaze, Ducky trailed off and stared, literally open-mouthed, at the banana yellow car that stood next to the Morgan.
"Hey, Duck. Like my car?"
"Um. It is very - Your car?" Ducky's eyes were wide as they swiveled from Jethro to the car and back again.
"Yeah. Bought her as a wreck when I was a kid. Always intended to fix her up, get her going, but never did. Thought dad had long since gotten rid of her. But he hadn't. Instead, he'd fixed her up; just as I'd planned." As he'd done when he's stood with his father looking at the car, he felt his throat tighten and his eyes prickle. He swallowed hard.
Now Ducky came down the porch steps and moved towards him. "I assume then that you and your father have made up?" His tone was gentle and he stopped in front of Jethro and looked up at him.
Jethro frowned for a moment. "What makes you think we needed to make up? Oh, has Abby called you?" He'd have a few words to say to her if she had.
But Ducky shook his head. "No, my dear, I assure you no one has called. It was just more than a little obvious, that is all. You never talked about him; you never talked about your mother; you never talked about your home town; you never . . . Well talked about very much. I simply put two and two together and worked out that something must have caused a rift between you. I hope the presence of the car, restored in the exact way you had planned to do, has at the very least begun to heal that rift." Now he put his hand on Jethro's arm.
"You know, Duck, I sometime reckon you're doing the wrong job. You should be a field agent."
Ducky chuckled. "Ah, Jethro. I think my time for running around shooting and being shot at, interrogating people, digging through rubbish, etc. is long past. No, I much prefer my more leisurely, shall we say, investigations. You know I read people, I always have done, and some people more than others. If someone is important to me - as you always have been - I am afraid I 'dig' a little more than I should, maybe. Does it bother you that I always suspected?"
"Bit late now, isn't it, Duck?" Jethro was merely teasing, but the look on Ducky's face hastened him to go on. "Sorry, Duck. Don't look like that. I was just," he shrugged. "Course it doesnít. It's a good thing, really."
"Yeah . . ." Jethro wanted to say more, but not right now. And not here.
Ducky looked up at him, his head slightly on one side. His gaze was quizzical and as always heavy with deep affection. He smiled and now took Jethro's arm. "Assuming you did not drive here merely to show off your car to me, do allow me to offer you a drink."
"Thanks. But, how about we go out instead?"
"Yeah. Have dinner somewhere. I'll tell you about Jackson Gibbs, my dad, and the past and what happened in Stillwater and what that means now. Yes, we have 'made up', at least partly. Not sure you can go from not having spoken in seventeen years to suddenly being a real father and son again. But, we're getting there; we'll get there. It was good to see him. I'm glad the case took me back."
Again Ducky looked quizzical; he almost appeared to be studying Jethro. "Dinner would be very pleasant," he said, after a moment or two.
"What about your mom? Can Helen -"
"Helen fortuitously happens to already be here. So yes, I'm sure she'll be happy to stay with Mother. Now come in and have a drink, whilst I tidy up a little." Now Ducky put his arm through Jethro's and together they walked to his house.
"This is very pleasant," Ducky said, a couple of hours later as they sat at a table enjoying a post dinner drink.
"Yeah," Jethro said. "It is, isn't it?" He had, as promised, told Ducky about his dad and his mom. He'd also told him about what a bastard he'd been, and how this dinner was partly about celebrating the fact that he had re-found his father. When Ducky had asked 'and partly about what else?' he'd changed the subject. But now he wanted to return to it; he just wasn't quite certain how to bring it up.
He swallowed some more of his bourbon. "Duck," he said.
"Yes, Jethro." Ducky looked attentively at him.
"You know you and I have always been friends, close friends."
Ducky waited for a moment. Then with a slight frown creasing his brow, touched Jethro's hand and said, "Yes, Jethro."
"Well, I didn't just see you as a friend. I think, no, I'm sure, part of me, not even consciously, well I don't think it was consciously, although I guess it must have been, if I . . ." He trailed off realizing he probably wasn't making any sense.
Ducky had stilled completely and was now watching him; the look one Jethro had never seen before. It was partly speculative, partly hesitant, partly concerned and partly affectionate - as it always was - but there was something else in the look too. Something Jethro couldn't identify.
Jethro swallowed again. "Sorry. Not really making sense. What I'm trying to say, Duck, is I think part of me saw you as a surrogate father."
"I see." Ducky's tone was not quite as Jethro expected. It seemed harder, more distant and . . . Disappointed.
He hastened on. "Oh, God, that came out wrong. I mean I never saw you as a replacement father as such and certainly not in age. You're only twelve years older than me. I just saw you in other terms, in the way you made me . . . Oh, hell, Duck. I'm not saying what I want to say."
"Are you not?"
"No. You see -" He stopped abruptly and swallowed once more before glancing around him. The restaurant was quiet, in fact they were the only customers there, even the waiting staff weren't around. Yet even so, maybe he should suggest they went back to his house and finished the conversation. But he had a feeling Ducky might insist on going straight home. Besides, if he stopped now, he might never start again. "You see," he repeated. "I always knew you . . ." God this was hard. He tried again. "I always knew your feelings for me weren't just those of friendship. I always knew you . . ."
"Fancied you?" Ducky said softly.
Jethro chuckled quietly. "Was going say attracted to me, or better still 'were in love with me'. Because you were, weren't you, Duck? You still are, arenít you?"
Ducky glanced down at the table. When he looked back up, he stared unblinkingly at Jethro. "Yes," he said. "I am."
"Thank God for that," Jethro muttered.
"You see, Duck. For a while now, I don't know how long, but we're talking years, many years, I've started to, well, feel the same way. But I couldn't say anything because of the fact I also saw you in part as -"
Jethro breathed out. "Yeah. I mean that would have been -" He shook himself. "But now, dad and I are reunited and I've gotten over, mostly, what drove us apart. Well now I don't need you as a father. I need you, I want you, as something else. If you still want me, that is, especially after the mess I've just made of it all." Ducky was silent for a moment and Jethro found himself saying, "Do you? Do you still want me?"
Ducky licked his lips very lightly with the tip of his tongue and let his steady, open gaze give Jethro the answer. Then he leaned forward a little, and put his hand on Jethro's. "I suggest we leave here, go back to your home and I'll show you what the answer to your question is," he murmured.
As he drove his new car, once again well over the speed limit, back to his house, with Ducky's hand resting quite comfortably, quite naturally, on his knee, Jethro knew that he now had yet another cause for celebration.
In one day he'd re-found his father, gained a new car, and most importantly of all, gained a new, never to be let go of, lover.
Once inside Jethro's house, it was Jethro himself who, for the first time in far too many years, locked and bolted the front door, then he turned to Ducky and smiled down at him.
As he tugged him into an embrace, his arms going around Ducky as if he'd been doing it for years and years and years, which in one way he had, and bent his head so his mouth could meet Ducky's all tenuous hints of paternal affection for Ducky fled and in their place blazed a new kind of love. A love that would not fade, a love that would not die, a love that would never end. Finally, Ducky was where he belonged; was where he should have been from the day the two men met.
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