AUTHOR: Ashleigh Anpilova
PAIRING: Leroy Jethro Gibbs/Donald 'Ducky' Mallard
SUB-GENRE: Established Relationship
SUMMARY: Vance gives Gibbs some news that neither he nor Ducky will want. However, there is nothing Vance can do about it. Thus, Gibbs decides to find a way to help Ducky pass his time and give him something to keep him company while Gibbs is at work.
WORD COUNT: 4,485
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Written for timetiger: P - Puppies
DISCLAIMER: I don't own these characters, nor am I making any money from them. I merely borrow them from time to time.
"You wanted to see me, Leon?" Gibbs strode into Vance's office and stood in front of his desk.
After continuing to study the file he'd been reading when Gibbs had entered, Vance looked up. "Yes, Jethro," he said. "Take a seat."
Gibbs narrowed his eyes and hesitated for a moment before snagging a chair from the conference table; he pulled it over to Vance's desk and sat down. The use of his first name made him sure Vance was about to tell him something he didn't want to hear. "I'm sitting down. So come on, Leon, what's it about?"
Vance folded his hands in front of him and stared directly into Gibbs's eyes. "Dr. Mallard," he said.
Gibbs was more than a little surprised. "Ducky?" he heard himself say.
Vance nodded. "Yes."
"What's he done? Or hasn't done? Or someone said he's done? Or -"
"It's nothing like that, Gibbs." Again Vance paused.
"Well, what the hell is it, Leon?" Gibbs raised his voice a little.
Vance glanced down at the file on his desk before looking back at Gibbs and holding his gaze. "I'm afraid he has to retire."
Gibbs couldn't believe what he was hearing. "You're making Ducky retire?"
Vance shook his head. "No, Gibbs, not me."
"Our new SecNav."
"What's it to do with her?"
"Jethro. Dr. Mallard is well past retirement age."
Gibbs shrugged. "So what? He's not a field agent."
For the first time Vance looked a little annoyed. "I am aware of that, Gibbs. However, he should have retired some years ago. And now the SecNav is insisting and she has the support of HR."
"You're the director."
Vance nodded. "I know and believe me, Gibbs, I have done everything I can." Gibbs stared hard at Vance who met the stare unblinkingly. Gibbs had always prided himself on being able to read people and to know whether they were lying or not. Vance wasn't lying.
"But why? What's Ducky done to piss off the Madam Secretary?"
"As far as I know nothing. It's just she feels his methods, his way of working might be somewhat out-dated."
"Leon, come on this is Ducky we're talking about. When it comes out ways of working, Ducky's more up to date than I am. He uses a computer and even reads his email. And he's not just an ME; don't forget he does his psychological stuff as well. We need him."
Vance nodded. "I know all of that, Gibbs. I told you I have done everything I can. I have told her how useful Dr. Mallard is; how his skills are not just related to dissecting bodies; how he's an important part of the team."
"But she won't listen." Gibbs didn't make it a question.
"I'm afraid she won't."
Suddenly something came to Gibbs and he narrowed his eyes again as he looked at Vance. "Off the record," he said, "just between you and me?" Vance hesitated for a second or two before nodding. "This anything to do with Duck and me living together? Does the repeal of don't ask, don't tell not suit Madam Secretary?"
Vance shook his head. "No, Jethro, it has nothing to do with that."
"How can you be sure?"
"Because, Gibbs, in case you've forgotten, you and Dr. Mallard have shared a home for considerably longer than don't ask, don't tell has been repealed."
"Yeah, but, she's a new SecNav."
"I assure you, Gibbs, it isn't that. It really is all about Dr. Mallard's age."
"Come on, Leon, you must be able to do something. Ducky was going to retire in six months anyway, when I did. Can't you spin the paperwork or whatever out until then?"
"I wish I could, Gibbs. Believe me when I say I really wish I could. But that's also been taken out of my hands. Dr. Mallard retries as off the end of this week. I'm sorry," Vance added softly.
"The end of this week?" Vance nodded. "But that's three days time."
"I know it is."
"But what about Autopsy? Palmer can't manage on his own, especially as he's in his last year at Med School. Or is she getting rid of Palmer as well?"
"No. A temporary ME will be appointed until Palmer has qualified at which point he will be offered the position."
"At least Ducky'll have something to be pleased about. Palmer's good. Duck taught him well." Then he shook his head and said, "Three days. That's it; three days and - It's not right, Leon."
"I know it isn't, Jethro." Vance sighed.
"But it's out of your hands. Yeah, Leon, got that. When are you planning on telling Ducky?" Vance stared directly at Gibbs. "Oh, no. No, Director Vance. No. That's your job; that's one of the reasons you sit in the big chair."
Vance shrugged and sighed, as he once more looked at the file on his desk. "Very well, Gibbs. I just thought it might be -"
"Better coming from me? Yeah, right. 'Hey, Duck, just come to tell you you've got to retire on Friday. Catch you later'. Much better." Vance glared at him, closed the file and stood up and turned towards the door. Gibbs had rarely seen him quite so angry. "Hang on, Leon," he said, as he also stood up. "You're right."
Vance stopped and turned to look at Gibbs. "I am?"
"Yeah. You are. I'll tell him."
The two men stood and looked at one another for a moment, before Vance nodded and returned to his desk and put the file back down. Then he looked at Gibbs again. "I am sorry, Jethro," he said.
Gibbs sighed and nodded. "Yeah, Leon. Know you are."
LATER THAT NIGHT
"Why don't you just tell me, Jethro?" Ducky said, putting his knife and fork down and patting his mouth with his napkin.
"Huh?" Gibbs silently berated himself for being so stupid. He'd really done a great job of not arousing Ducky's suspicions now.
However, Ducky smiled and reached across the table to put his hand on Gibbs's. "Oh, my dear Jethro," he said, "surely you know by now that you cannot keep things from me. You may be able to fool the children and other people, but I always know."
Gibbs sighed, put his own knife and fork onto the plate and turned his hand over so he could link his fingers with Ducky's. "You're right, Duck. I have got something to tell you."
"Well?" Ducky asked after a moment or two during which they just say in silence. "Are you going to tell me or are we going to play a guessing game?" He smiled.
Gibbs managed a half grin. "Not sure how to say it, Duck."
Suddenly Ducky frowned and looked a little concerned. "You aren't about to tell me you're," he paused and Gibbs saw he was trying to decide what to say, "getting married again, are you?" he asked, with forced humor.
"Duck! Come on, don't say things like that. You know I -"
"Yes, I do, my dear. I'm sorry, it is just that you look so serious and if I might be so bold so concerned. And you tell me you're not sure how to tell me whatever it is you need to tell me. Thus . . ." He shrugged.
Yeah, he was really doing a great job. "Saw Vance today," he said. Ducky simply stared at him. "He told me - Oh, hell, Duck, there's no easy way to say this, so I'll just say it, okay?"
"That's perfectly all right me with, Jethro."
"SecNav's insisting you retire." Ducky was silent for a moment, "HR back her up. Vance swears he's done everything he can - and I believe him, Duck. Duck, where are you going?"
Ducky stood up and began to pile the plates together. "I thought as we both seem to have finished eating, I would take these to the kitchen and start to put things into the dishwasher."
"You did hear what I just said, didn't you?" Gibbs was more than a little confused.
"Oh, yes, Jethro. I may be old but I can still hear quite clearly. I am to retire at the orders of our new Madam Secretary."
"You're not old, Duck."
Ducky stopped with the plates in his hand and sighed. "A minute ago I would have agreed with you, my dear. But now . . . Oh, do forgive me, Jethro. I really should not be in effect shooting the messenger." He came back to the table and put the plates back down. "If I am honest I have been half expecting this for oh, at least a couple of years now. Thus, I don't know why I am so . . ."
"Surprised?" Ducky shrugged. "Upset?" Ducky gave him a faint smile. "Angry? You should be angry, Duck. Look, maybe Vance didn't try everything. Maybe - I still have some favors I can call in, Duck. After all you were going to retire with me in six months, so I'm sure I can -"
"Duck?" Gibbs put his hand on Ducky's.
"No, Jethro. If the lady wishes me to retire, then retire I shall. We will not give her the satisfaction of in effect begging. Just tell me one thing, Mr. Palmer -"
"Will be fine. They'll appoint a temporary ME until he qualifies and then he'll be offered the job. Vance told me."
Ducky smiled. "I am delighted to hear that. He will make an excellent ME. NCIS will be lucky to have him."
"He should. You taught him."
"Well, yes, my dear. However, not everyone one teaches learns from one."
Gibbs grinned. "Guess that makes sense to you."
Ducky's smile became more intense. "Perfect sense. Now why do you not give me a hand to take things through to the kitchen and then maybe, given I am clearly so old and need a lot of rest, we could have an early night." His eyes twinkled.
Gibbs laughed, stood up and put his arms around Ducky. "Rest, eh, Duck?"
Ducky sighed softly and moved nearer to Gibbs. "Well, I shall be lying down at least."
"Love you, Duck," Gibbs said softly, as he lowered his head and kissed Ducky.
For a few minutes they simply stood by the table, arms around one another kissing, until Ducky broke the kiss and stared up at Gibbs. "And I, my dear Jethro, love you. Now, let us put things into the dishwasher."
"Just a second, Duck."
"Are you really sure you don't want me to at least try?"
Ducky nodded. "Yes, Jethro. I am quite, quite certain. Don't worry; I shall have plenty to do to keep me occupied during the days." He smiled reassuringly at Gibbs.
However, Gibbs wasn't entirely reassured. But he knew his Ducky and clearly Ducky had made up his mind and would not be swayed. He would retire at the end of the week and NCIS would be so much the poorer without him there.
TWO WEEKS LATER
"Duck, I'm -" Gibbs came to an abrupt halt with one hand on the door as he stared at the hall. For a moment he considered going outside and checking he was in the right house.
However, the next second Ducky hurried out into the hall. "Jethro!" he cried. "You are home nice and early tonight."
"Er, yeah, Duck. Was quiet so I left DiNozzo and McGee finishing off the paperwork on the latest case and - Ducky, what have you been doing?"
"Just moving a few things."
"Well, maybe more than just a few. However, I think the hall looks a lot better, do you not?"
Gibbs hadn't thought there was anything wrong with the hall before, after all it was only a hall. You didn't spend much time in it. However, if Ducky thought it looked better, who was he to argue. "Sure," he said, finally closing the front door and going over to Ducky to put his arms around him and kiss him. He put his arms around him and then stopped. "You didn't do it yourself, did you, Duck?"
Ducky smiled. "No, my dear. I assure you I did not. Charles and one of his friends happened to be visiting Helen, and were kind enough to pop up to see me. And . . . Well, I may have mentioned I had been thinking about making some changes . . . And, well you know how kind dear Charles is, do you not? I didn't ask him, I wouldn't. He just . . . Well, they were kind enough to offer."
Gibbs pulled Ducky a little nearer to him. Of course Charlie had offered; he knew Ducky well enough to know that if he hadn't, then Ducky would have tried to move things himself and - He stopped that thought and returned to what he had planned to do when he'd taken Ducky into his arms: kiss him.
A WEEK LATER
"Hey, Duck, I'm home," Gibbs called, closing the front door behind him and dropping his briefcase onto the table which stood just inside the front door. There was a tantalizing smell coming from the kitchen, a very tantalizing smell, so after pulling off his overcoat he headed towards the kitchen, the wonderful smell and Ducky.
He pushed opened the door and came to an abrupt halt as his gaze took in the large kitchen table, the work surfaces, the top of the freezer and hob. Every surface was covered with food and food containers.
Ducky who had been putting a lid on one of the containers, looked up as Gibbs went into the kitchen and smiled. "Hello, my dear," he said.
Gibbs tore his gaze away from the door and looked at Ducky. "We having a party you forgot to tell me about, Duck?"
"What? Oh, no. Do not worry. I wouldn't do that, Jethro. No, I merely decided after you had gone to the office to do a little cooking."
"A little?" Gibbs once again stared around the food covered kitchen.
"Well, once I had prepared and cooked out meal for tonight, it's in the oven heating up, I decided it would be a good idea if I did a little cooking for the freezer, just so we had a few dishes that only needed thawing and heating up, or even just heating up. As much as I enjoy cooking, there are days when I would rather spend my time doing something else. And it's always good to have one or two things in the freezer, for emergencies or in case anyone drops by unexpectedly."
Gibbs nodded. "Reckon the entire office could drop by unexpectedly and you'd not only be able to feed them all, but you'd still have plenty left over."
"Now, Jethro, you are exaggerating, just a little."
Gibbs really wasn't certain he was. "You sure we can get all of this in the freezers, Duck?"
Ducky glanced away from Gibbs, picked up a tea towel and wiped his hands, before looking back at Gibbs. "Well, actually, no. I confess I may have cooked a little more than I had really intended to do. So . . . Well, a new freezer is arriving tomorrow. This will all be fine until then."
"A new freezer as in it's going to replace one of the two we already have?"
Ducky glanced away from Gibbs again for a moment before looking back at him and saying, "Actually, no. It will be in addition to the two we already have. But just think, Jethro, of how much time we will save. How nice it will be to have a wide choice of what we want to eat." He beamed at Gibbs.
"Ah, Duck," Gibbs moved carefully - some of the containers were very precariously balanced - towards Ducky and put his arms around him. "How about we go out to dinner tonight? You've been cooking all day; reckon you could do with a break."
"But dinner is already in the oven."
"Take it out then, it'll keep. And if not, well, reckon we have more than enough to replace it, don't we?"
Ducky glanced around the kitchen. "Well, yes," he said, his tone a little dubious. And then he smiled up at Gibbs and said, "Actually, Jethro, I would very much like to go out to dinner. Thank you, my dear."
"Good. Go and grab a shower and I'll take the dish out of the oven and," he paused as he glanced around the kitchen. "Find somewhere to put it," he said, wondering quite where, but deciding if he really couldn't find anywhere, he'd just leave it in the oven once he'd turned it off.
"Very well, my dear," Ducky said and left Gibbs alone in the kitchen. Except how could anyone be alone with enough food to feed the marines?
A WEEK LATER
Gibbs opened the front door and wondered what Ducky would have found to do that day; what changes he would have made. Two days ago he'd arrived home to find Ducky looking at estimates to have the whole place redecorated - there had been quotes from five different companies. It had taken Gibbs over an hour to convince Ducky that as the whole house had been redecorated less than a year ago, it didn't need doing.
"Hey, Duck," he called, as he closed the front door. When he turned around it wasn't Ducky who stood behind him, but Charlie Patterson and a man who looked to be about the same age as Charlie who Gibbs hadn't met before. They both looked rater grubby, dusty, hot and disheveled.
Gibbs sighed silently and said, "Hey, Charlie."
Charlie smiled. "Hello, Jethro," he said and held out his hand. Gibbs glanced down at it and Charlie pulled it back and wiped it on his jeans and looked at it. "I think we should skip handshaking," he said. "This is Bartholomew Johnson. He's a friend and coworker of mine. Bart, this is Agent Jethro Gibbs."
Bart glanced at his own hands and then shrugged and smiled and nodded at Gibbs instead. "Agent Gibbs," he said. "I've heard a lot about you from Charlie. It's a pleasure to meet you, sir."
Gibbs nodded. "Nice to meet you too, Bart, and don't sir me." Then he turned to Charlie. "What's Ducky got you to do this time?"
Charlie and Bart looked at one another. "We don't mind, Jethro," Charlie said quickly, "do we, Bart?"
"No, Agent Gibbs. We don't."
"Never thought you did, Charlie. So what have you been up to?"
"Well, Dr. Mallard -"
"Ducky," Gibbs said firmly. It had taken Charlie a long time to stop calling him Agent Gibbs and while he did managed to call Ducky 'Ducky' at times, old habits clearly died hard with him.
"Ducky," Charlie repeated obdiently, "decided that that it might be better, given it's nearer to the kitchen, to use the library as a dining room and then the dining room could become the library." He took a step nearer to Gibbs, glanced around him and said in a lower voice, "He has a lot of books, doesn't he? Well, you both do, he added swiftly.
"Most of them are Duck's, and yeah he does."
Charlie smiled. "And they get pretty dusty."
"Yes, I am very sorry about that, Charles, Bartholomew. I really hadn't realized quite how long it had been since they had a thorough dusting. Hello, Jethro," Ducky, his bow-tie askew, his hair messed in a way it only tended to get after Gibbs had run his hands through it, and his own hands fairly grubby came out into the hall.
"Hey, Duck. Charlie's been telling me you've moved some more rooms around."
Ducky glanced at Charlie who muttered something about Bart and him moving the final bookcase and all but dragged Bart away with him. "Well, it does make sense; the library was nearer to the kitchen than the dining room. So I thought -"
"I know, Duck. I know. Sure it will be better." Gibbs put his arms around Ducky and held him in a loose embrace as he gazed down at him. He knew what the problem was; why Ducky kept moving things; why he cooked so much; why he had wanted to have the place redecorated and all the other things he did. He was bored and he was missing work and more than that, he was missing company.
"But?" Ducky said softly.
"But nothing, Duck. Look why don't you ask Charlie and Bart if they want to grab a shower and you go and get one too while I dig something out of the freezer for dinner. Reckon we owe them a good meal."
Ducky nodded. "They have both worked incredibly hard; I truly didn't realize it would be such a major task. I quite forgot how long it takes to move things and how few books one can carry at a time. And, no, before you ask, I have not moved that many - the boys would not allow me to. I have helped a little, but only a little."
Gibbs had no doubt at all that Ducky spoke the truth. He knew Charlie would not have allowed Ducky to do much. "Go and shower, Duck; I'll tell Charlie and Bart the guest room's en suite's all theirs."
Yes, dear," Ducky said, turning and going up the stairs.
Gibbs stood and watched until Ducky was out of sight and he sighed. This had to stop; he had to find something to occupy Ducky, something that would make him feel useful, something that would give him company, something that would help fill the endless hours while he was at work. And he knew just what that something was.
A WEEK LATER
"Hey, Duck!" Gibbs called as he opened the front door, making sure he didn't drop what he was holding. "Got something for you. Duck?" he called again, closing the door and putting the sturdy cardboard box down onto the table. "Duck?" he called again. He really hoped Ducky hadn't decided to go and visit Helen or someone else.
"I'm here, Jethro," Ducky said hurrying out of the new library and coming towards Gibbs. "I was on the phone."
"Sorry, Duck. Didn't mean to drag you away."
"Oh, please don't apologize, my dear. I was talking to Frank Wilson and you know how he likes to talk. I was quite glad to find an excuse to get away - as awful as that might sound."
"Nah, not awful. Come here, Duck," Gibbs held out his hand and Ducky went over to him.
Gibbs put his hands on Ducky's shoulders and stared down at Ducky. He really hoped he'd done the right thing; it had felt right when he'd planned it. But now suddenly he wasn't sure. What if Ducky didn't want the responsibility? What if actually despite all the changes and cooking and other things he actually wasn't bored and in fact enjoyed his days as they were? Maybe he shouldn't have done it. But he had and he couldn't just leave the box where it was.
"My dear?" Ducky gazed up at him.
"Got something for you."
"Yeah. Look, Ducky, I hope you're okay with it, but if not, you have to say so. Okay? Promise me if I've done the wrong thing and you don't want them you'll say so."
"Jethro?" Ducky sounded as puzzled as he looked.
"Promise me, Duck."
"Very well, Jethro, I promise."
"Good. Well, come on." And Gibbs put his arm around Ducky's shoulders and led him to where the box sat on the table. "There," he said, putting his hands into the box and carefully picking up two of the puppies; one white and one black. He handed one of them to Ducky and held the other one.
"Jethro! Oh, my dear, dear Jethro. Are these really for me?" Ducky sounded utterly delighted.
Gibbs breathed a sigh of relief. "Yeah, Duck. They really are for you - got two more in the box. Reckoned four was a nice number. You sure you're okay with it?"
"I'm far more than 'okay', Jethro. I'm -" Ducky held the Westie up and looked at it. "What a beautiful little girl you are," he said.
"Got all bitches," Gibbs said. "Hope that was okay?"
"Oh, yes. Perfectly. And did you say there were two more?" Ducky sounded as excited as a child on Christmas Day.
"Yep. Got two Westies and two Scotties; thought they'd be good together and suit you."
Ducky hurried over the box and looked down. "Oh, they are all adorable, Jethro, they really are. I've always loved those breeds, but with Mother preferring Corgis as she did, I never really thought I'd have any. Here." He handed the Westie Gibbs had given him back to Gibbs and scooped the other two puppies out of the box. "Oh, I am going to have such fun naming them - I'm sorry, we can have fun naming them. I think we should wait a day or two though to see what they personalities are. If that's all right with you?"
"Sure, Duck. Whatever you want. Whatever you think is best. You know more about dogs than I do."
Ducky lifted his head from where he'd been nuzzling the two puppies and looked at Gibbs. "They will be our dogs, will they not, Jethro?"
"Course they will, Duck. I'd hardly get them if I didn't want them, would I. Always wanted a dog, but with working the hours I do, it never seemed fair. But now -"
"Now that I'm retired and at home, they won't be left alone. It's perfect, Jethro. It really is. I hate to admit it, especially as I never thought it would be the case, but I was getting just a little bored during the day."
"Can't say I'd noticed," Gibbs said.
Ducky shot him a look of disbelief and they both began to laugh. The Westie which Ducky held barked once. "Oh, she's joining in," Ducky said and they laughed some more. The puppy began to wriggle in Ducky's hand and he bent and put her down.
As soon as her paws made contact with the floor she squatted and peed. "Reckon we should take them out into the garden," Gibbs said, already making his way towards the kitchen.
"I do believe that would be apposite. And then I'll come back and clear up and we'll have to find them somewhere to sleep and some bedding and - Oh, this is going to be such fun, Jethro. Thank you so very much."
"My pleasure, Duck. My pleasure," said Gibbs and he really meant it. Finally, for the first time since he'd told Ducky he had to retire, Ducky was truly happy.