AUTHOR: Ashleigh Anpilova
PAIRING: Leroy Jethro Gibbs/Donald 'Ducky' Mallard
SUB-GENRE: Established Relationship
SUMMARY: NCIS take on the FBI at baseball.
WORD COUNT: 4,900
AUTHOR'S NOTE 1: Written for birggitt: M - Magic
AUTHOR'S NOTE 2: My sincere thanks to murgy31 for her 'Baseball 101' lesson and for giving the story the once over both in terms of 'approving' my changes to the rules and also the odd typo. Thank you so much, Murgy.
DISCLAIMER: I don't own these characters, nor am I making any money from them. I merely borrow them from time to time.
"Come on, Palmer, you have to play."
"But, Tony, I keep telling you I'm not any good."
"Look even McGee's playing."
McGee nudged Tony. "Hey, less of the 'even', Tony. I told you I was -"
Tony spared him a glance. "Yeah, yeah, I know." He looked back at Palmer. "We're letting the girls play so -"
"Letting?" McGee's voice rose.
Tony glanced at him again. "Um, yeah. Maybe that came out wrong."
McGee shook his head. "You think, DiNozzo?" he said in a fair approximation of Gibbs's voice.
Tony laughed. "Very good, boss," he said. "Just don't tell them I said that; please, Tim?" He grinned at McGee who rolled his eyes and nodded. No doubt if he did let it slip, Abby and Ziva would find some way to turn it around so that he too was implicated in Tony's gaff. Tony gave him another grin and then turned back to Palmer. "Look, Jimmy," his tone took on a wheedling edge. "It's only going to be a friendly game and -"
"That the same 'friendly' game Fornell told me about?"
Tony spun around as Gibbs and Ducky came into Autopsy. "Hey, boss. Hey, Ducky. How do you know about it?"
Gibbs just looked at him. "Fornell called me as soon as Sachs told him he'd called you and arranged a game between the two agencies. Thought I should know. Thought that way we might be able to keep it 'friendly'."
"Oh, right. So it's okay then?"
Gibbs shrugged. "Fine with me."
"Good." Tony turned back to Palmer again. "See, Jimmy, a nice friendly game. Team Gibbs versus Team Fornell," he paused and looked at Gibbs. "Does Fornell have a team?" Gibbs just rolled his eyes. Again Tony turned his attention back to Palmer. "Anyway, nice and friendly, no pressure." Palmer was still looking skeptical. "Ah, come on, Palmer. I've already got to find one more player as Sachs insisted on seven players. If you don't play then I've got to find two more and - Sorry, Ducky, did you say something?" Tony hastily turned his attention to Ducky who up until now had stood silently by Gibbs's side.
"Yes, Anthony, I did. I asked why you had to find another player, assuming Mr. Palmer does play, which I am sure he will."
"Oh, yes, Doctor, of course I will," Palmer hastened to say, moving forwards and backwards at the same time and grabbing an autopsy table in order to stay on his feet.
Tony groaned softly, then looked at Ducky again. "Er, well, we only have six. Gibbs, McGeek, Abby, Ziva," he looked at Gibbs. "We're letting the -" McGee nudged him hard. "Forget that. Gibbs, McGeek, Abby, Ziva, me and Palmer here. That's six. We need seven. I'll have to . . ." He trailed off as realization dawned on him. "You?" he asked. "You want to play?"
Ducky smiled. "But of course. I am, after all, part of," he paused and glanced up at Gibbs who turned his attention from Tony to Ducky, "Team Gibbs, am I not?"
"Of course you are, Ducky." Tony spoke at speed.
"In that case . . ." Ducky trailed off.
Tony glanced at Gibbs, then at Ducky, then at McGee. "Er, but Ducky you're -" McGee watched as Tony clamped his lips together. He saw sheer panic in Tony's gaze as he sought to find a suitable word.
Gibbs continued to stare at him, but now it had become a glare. Palmer was also staring at Tony, his eyes wide, only Ducky seemed unconcerned. After a few seconds, seconds that seemed like hours, Ducky said calmly, "British?"
"Yes!" Tony said, grabbing the lifeline with both hands. "You're British."
Ducky's eyes twinkled behind his glasses and McGee hid a smile. "Although strictly speaking, I have duel citizenship - British and American."
"Right," Tony said, after Ducky fell silent.
"And of course whilst I have not played baseball, do not forget I played cricket - I am used to ball and bat games."
"Yeah, but that was -" Again Tony fell silent. Again everyone looked at him.
"When I was at school?" Ducky said brightly. This time Tony just nodded and twitched his lips in a faint half smile.
"Duck." McGee heard Gibbs's voice, even though it was little more than a murmured whisper. However, he doubted either Tony or Palmer would have heard it.
Ducky turned to look up at Gibbs and smiled. Then he turned back to Tony. "I am sorry, Anthony, I should not tease you. I know how serious this 'fun' match is to you, not least because of who suggested it. So to that end I have a suggestion, which I think will meet with your approval."
"You do?" Tony said brightly.
Ducky nodded. "Yes. I confess I am not as young as I once was, nor am I as energetic." McGee couldn't have been sure, certainly he wouldn't have sworn to it under oath, but he thought Gibbs had muttered something or cleared his throat or something. Certainly Ducky turned to once again look up at Gibbs and raise an eyebrow. However, when Gibbs didn't say anything, Ducky looked back at Tony. "As I was saying, Anthony, I am aware that I am not as energetic as I once was. However, my hand/eye co-ordination is still as good as it ever was, as I can demonstrate if you wish."
"Don't think that'll be necessary, Duck," Gibbs put his hand on Ducky's arm.
"Oh, very well. Anyway, my proposal, Anthony is this: I bat and Jimmy here runs for me. If that would be all right with you, Mr. Palmer?"
Palmer beamed. "Oh, yes, Doctor. That would be fine. I can run very well. I just can't hit a ball." Unfortunately, his actions slightly belied his words as he once again tried to move in two directions at once and again nearly tripped over.
"What do you think, Anthony? Would that arrangement suffice?"
Tony blinked and glanced at Gibbs. McGee knew that even if it didn't, Tony wouldn't dare say so. "Yeah, Ducky, that'd be great - unless anyone from the FBI objects."
"They won't." Gibbs's tone was firm, definite.
"Right. So that's me, McGeek, Gibbs, Abby, Ziva and Ducky/Jimmy. We still need a seventh person. Does anyone know anyone on the staff who has played baseball?"
At that moment the doors swished open. "I thought I'd find you all here."
"Director Vance we were just -"
"Discussing the baseball game against the FBI. Yes, I know. Director Kierson called me to tell me about it. Are you captain, Gibbs?"
Gibbs shook his head several times. "Hell, no. That'll be DiNozzo."
"Me?" Tony's voice was quite high. "But, boss, I thought -"
"Thought wrong. I'll play. But that's all. It's up to you to sort it all out. McGee here will be your vice-captain."
"Agent Phillips," Vance said, handing Tony a piece of paper. "He played baseball in High School and college; he's your man. You'll need him." His tone was dry.
Tony blanched. "I knew Sachs was up to something when he insisted on seven players. He's got a ringer, hasn't he? Right. We'll have to set up a proper schedule for practices and -"
"It's only a friendly game, Anthony."
"Yeah, Duck," Gibbs said his tone soft, as it always was when he spoke to Ducky. "And our director's bet with Fornell's director is only dinner. Right, Leon?"
Vance looked at Gibbs. "One day, Gibbs," he said, turning to go. "I'll figure it out. Gentlemen," he added and then left Autopsy.
RESTON HOUSE LATER THAT NIGHT
"What's that you said about not being energetic?" Jethro asked, kissing the tip of Ducky's nose.
Ducky gazed up at him, pleased by how sated Jethro looked, at how well loved he looked. He wouldn't confess it, but he did feel just the tiniest bit smug that at the age of sixty-eight, he could still satisfy his twelve years younger lover. More than satisfy. "There is a difference between running around a field and lying in bed," he said.
"Yeah, right." Jethro replied, settling back down next to Ducky and tugging him into a loose embrace, holding him as he always did, with great care.
"Just how serious is this game to Anthony and Agent Sachs?" Jethro gave a harsh laugh. "Oh, dear," Ducky said and sighed. "And I had hoped it could be a fun evening. It's been far too long since the team did anything together - not since last Thanksgiving, in fact."
"Reckon 'fun' is the last thing DiNozzo and Sachs'll have on their minds."
"And the rest of our team? You? Tobias? His people?"
"I'll do what I can to curb DiNozzo. Tobias'll do the same with Sachs. As for the rest . . . You ever seen Abbs bowl?"
"Oh, dear," Ducky said again.
"We'll have fun, Duck," Jethro said, tugging him a little nearer. "Promise." He kissed Ducky's forehead before turning of the lamp on the nightstand and settling down to sleep. After only a minute or two, his soft, rhythmic snoring filled the room.
THE SQUAD ROOM THE FOLLOWING DAY
When Gibbs and Ducky arrived in the squad room they found the rest of the team gathered around DiNozzo's desk. DiNozzo looked up. "Hey, boss, Ducky. Are you free tonight?" Gibbs, in the process of taking off his coat, paused and looked at DiNozzo. He raised his eyebrow. "I'm trying to set up practice sessions."
"The baseball game."
Gibbs shook his head and dumped his coat on the filing cabinet behind his desk and his Sig in the top drawer. "DiNozzo, it's a friendly game. I'm not wasting my evenings."
"But, boss." Gibbs turned to stare at DiNozzo who backed down. "Ducky?" His tone offered no hope of an affirmative answer.
Ducky smiled at him. "I think that even after all these years, Anthony, I can remember how to hit a ball that is bowled to me."
DiNozzo groaned. "It's pitched, Ducky. The pitcher pitches the ball to you. Pitched," he said again.
"Oh, yes, so it is. Do forgive me." Gibbs hid a smile at the innocence of Ducky's tone, as once again he gently teased DiNozzo. "Well, if that is settled, it's time Mr. Palmer and I returned to Autopsy." Ducky looked at Gibbs and smiled. Gibbs smiled back.
DiNozzo spoke quickly. "Hang on just a minute, Ducky. So, Palmer, you're okay for tonight?"
"Er, well. Do you really need me, Tony? After all, I'm only going to be Dr. Mallard's runner. I don't need to practice that, do I?"
DiNozzo opened his mouth, but it was Ducky who spoke. "You know, Jimmy, I think Anthony would appreciate it if you did go along. Besides, it will do you good to have an evening away from your books."
"Of course, Dr. Mallard." Jimmy beamed at his boss, before turning to DiNozzo. "I'll be there, Tony."
DiNozzo nodded at Ducky and said, "Thanks, Palmer."
Ducky turned to go, but this time Gibbs stopped him. "Just a minute, Duck. DiNozzo, you and Sachs agreed on the rules for this game yet?"
"Agreed on the rules?" Ziva said. "I thought the rules of baseball were very clear. What is there to agree?"
"The rules are a lot more fluid when it's not a professional match, Ziva. For this kind of game the teams usually agree on changes; most often in the number of players, as we have, and also the length of the game. Nine innings is a lot for a friendly game," McGee explained.
"Ah, I see. Thank you, McGee."
"You're very welcome, Ziva."
"If I may," DiNozzo said. "Yeah, we have, finally. Spent two hours going over it last night. Sachs drives a hard bargain. First, we won't need Agent Phillips. Sachs apparently can only get five other people to play, so six per side it is."
"Well, Anthony, if you'd rather have Agent Phillips, from what our director said he is a good baseball player, I would -"
"No, Ducky," DiNozzo interrupted Ducky. "You're part of our team - you and Palmer. You're playing."
Ducky smiled. "Thank you, Anthony."
"So, six per team; Sachs finally agreed that Ducky would bat and Palmer run for him, but said we can only use one of you on the field. We agreed we'd play a maximum of two hours or three innings depending on which comes first, but also a maximum number of balls per innings. Oh, and Sachs suggested to make it more interesting that a home run counted double. Directors Vance and Kierson will be umpires. Oh, and we'll toss as to who bats first. The rest is pretty much the same as the pro game. That okay with you, boss?"
Gibbs shrugged. "Seems fine. Right you lot, work." He clapped his hands and the group dispersed. Ducky and Palmer headed for Autopsy, Abby for her lab, while McGee and Ziva returned to their desks. DiNozzo sat at his computer and sighed heavily. "It's just a game, DiNozzo," Gibbs said.
DiNozzo looked at him. "Yeah, boss. I know that."
RESTON HOUSE LATER THAT NIGHT
Jethro and Ducky sat side by side on the sofa in front of the fire. It was really slightly too warm to light a fire, but both men enjoyed one, so they'd lit the first one of the year. Now they sat, mostly in silence, close enough to brush against the other, sharing one another's company and glasses of Ducky's fine malt scotch.
Jethro began to play with a strand of Ducky's hair. "Glad you decided against selling this place, Duck," he said, his voice soft.
Ducky turned to look at him. "As am I. Thank you for shall we say talking me out of it."
Jethro shrugged. "Didn't do much, just pointed out a few things."
Ducky chuckled. "Yes, I remember." He looked across at the Corgis curled up together in front of the fire. "And I am also glad you persuaded me not to get rid of Mother's dogs. I confess I do feel somewhat guilty leaving them here every day. But I would miss them, even if they are not my favorite breed."
"Duck, you pay someone to come and walk them and spend time with them. They aren't alone that much, besides they have each other."
"Yes, I know, but - Oh, ignore me, they are quite happy, I can tell that." Ducky took another sip of his drink. "I wonder how the children are getting on? Do you think we -"
"No." Jethro spoke firmly.
Ducky sighed. "I do worry that Anthony is getting more than a little obsessed about this game. I know he and Agent Sachs have a 'history', but it is only a game."
Jethro shrugged. "Not sure baseball is ever 'only' a game to us Americans, Duck. Least not to those like DiNozzo."
"Probably not. I just hope he doesn't drive the others too hard and that he can remember to enjoy himself. Talking of enjoyment." Jethro glanced at Ducky and raised an eyebrow. Ducky rolled his eyes. "I didn't mean that, Jethro. At least," he added, putting a hand on Jethro's thigh, "not just yet. No, I was thinking it would be nice to invite everyone back here after the game. What do you think?"
Jethro shrugged. "Your house," he said, putting his hand over Ducky's and lifting it to his mouth where he took one of Ducky's fingers into his mouth and gently sucked.
All discussion about the children, the baseball match and whether or not to have a post-match party were forgotten for the rest of the night.
HAVERSTONE PARK TWO WEEKS LATER
Gibbs took Ducky, Palmer and McGee in his car, DiNozzo took Abby and Ziva. Gibbs arrived several minutes before DiNozzo but as they'd pre-arranged he and the others waited until DiNozzo appeared.
Together the seven of them made their way to where the FBI team was gathered. DiNozzo took point, Abby and Ziva were just behind them, along with Palmer, Gibbs and Ducky brought up the rear.
"See you've really gone for friendly." Sachs had a smirk on his face. DiNozzo looked at him. "Well, I see you've got girls and the - Autopsy Gremlin, isn't it?" Sachs let the smirk increase; his voice was loud and Gibbs saw Fornell turn, frown and begin the head towards them. The other members of Sachs's team looked down at the ground.
DiNozzo took a half step forward. "Now look here, Sachs, we -"
"Anthony, do allow me." Ducky gently pushed his way between Abby and Ziva, patting both on the arm as they bristled under Sachs's 'got girls', nodding reassuringly to Jimmy, whose cheeks were flushed. Ducky moved past DiNozzo. "And don't forget me," he said. "I trust you know who I am?"
Sachs glanced at Ducky then at DiNozzo. "Ducky Mallard," he said with a shrug.
"Doctor Ducky Mallard," Ducky said, his tone now tinged with ice. "I am NCIS's Medical Examiner." He took another step towards Sachs and then a third, tilted his head back and gazed up at the other man. "I am very apt with a knife," he said.
Sachs looked at Ducky with a mixture of incredulity and scorn. Then he glanced up to see Gibbs had slowly made his way to stand just behind Ducky to his right; DiNozzo still stood slightly behind Ducky to his left. "Hey, Gibbs," Sachs said.
Ducky was still staring unblinkingly at Sachs, who glanced back down at him and shifted slightly. "I guess we better get started," he said finally.
"Yes, I think that would be an eminently suitable idea," Ducky said. Then he spotted Fornell. "Tobias!" he called, the difference in his tone was considerable. "Are you not playing tonight?" Fornell was dressed in his usual working clothes.
"Hey, Ducky. Jethro. No, I think Sachs here's idea of friendly is a bit different from DiNozzo's." Fornell nodded an acknowledgement to DiNozzo.
"Oh, dear, that is a shame. However, I do hope you'll join us afterwards, Tobias, back at Reston House for a post-match party. You and any member of your team you deem suitable," Ducky added.
Sachs swallowed hard and shifted again. Gibbs got the impression he desperately wanted to escape but he was trapped with Ducky, Gibbs and DiNozzo in front of him and Fornell behind him.
"Thanks, Ducky, I'd like that."
"Good. Well, I suppose it is time we began. Nice talking to you, Agent Sachs." And to Sachs's apparent horror, Ducky held out his hand, which after a second or two, Sachs took and shook briefly, maintaining contact for a minimal amount of time before dropping Ducky's hand.
After the brief handshake Sachs turned around. Gibbs couldn't help himself. "Hey, Tobias, you ever tell your lot about Duck, the French flic and the cliff?" Sachs froze.
"Nah, never seemed worth it. I'm sure they wouldn't be interested.
As if pre-arranged, Ziva's clear voice was heard. "Well, I would be interested. I do not believe I have ever heard that story."
"You see, Ziva," DiNozzo said, slinging on arm around Ziva's shoulders and the other around Abby's and walking off with them. His voice, however, carried well in the clear, quiet evening. "One time in France this French cop pissed Ducky off so much that Ducky pushed him off a cliff."
"Anthony, do not forget there was a lake below." Ducky called, hurrying off after them.
Sachs seemed frozen to the spot, looking after Ducky with wide-eyes. Gibbs saw him swallow hard and glance at his team. He took a step towards them.
"You reckon Ducky knew there was a lake below before he pushed that guy off the cliff?"
Gibbs deliberately didn't answer immediately; instead he watched Sachs hurry his team away across the field.
"Run, Palmer!" Tony yelled, as Ducky smacked the ball Sachs had pitched at him well over Sachs head. "Keep going," he shouted, one eye on the ball, the other on Palmer. "Yes!" he grabbed McGee and hugged him as Palmer stumbled over the final base, just before the ball reached it. "Nice one, Ducky!" he called, glancing at Sachs who glowered at him and cast Ducky a look McGee hoped Gibbs didn't see.
For the first innings 'Team Gibbs' seemed to have luck, magic even on their side. They'd got the FBI team out with relative ease and when they came to bat ball after ball was hit either for home runs or comfortable get to base runs. Tony was jumping up and down and rubbing his hands. Sachs seemed to be getting more irritated, especially when Ducky, Abby or Ziva hit a good shot.
McGee was trying not to get as carried away as Tony was; it was only one innings - there was still a long way to go; the magic had to run out sometime. Finally, Ziva missed a particular lethal pitch, thus ending the first innings.
"We can do this," Tony said, gulping down some water. "We're going to win. We're going to beat Sachs."
"DiNozzo," Gibbs cautioned. "The game's a long way from over."
"I know, boss, but we can't lose. Everything's going our way. Did you see Sachs's face when Ducky hit that ball over his head? That'll teach him to rubbish my team."
"Um, your team, boss. Our team. The team. Us." Even Gibbs laughed, as Tony came ran out of words.
"Just don't get over-confident, DiNozzo."
"I won't, boss." Tony turned away and so didn't catch the look Gibbs and Ducky exchanged.
As McGee had feared and Gibbs had cautioned, luck, skill, magic or whatever it was that had given them such a good first innings did begin to desert them and slowly Sachs's team began to close the gap in the scores and then overtake NCIS. Tony was looking despondent; Sachs's smirk was back.
"Okay," DiNozzo said, putting his arm over Ducky's shoulders, "you can do it, Ducky. All we need is a home run. You've done it four times, Ducky, you can do it again." It was the final ball and Ducky was all that stood between NCIS winning or losing. Sachs's team was one run ahead, so nothing but a home run would do. McGee thought Ducky looked tired and he was flexing his hand, the hand he'd been stabbed in two years before.
Ducky smiled up at Tony. "I shall do my best, Anthony. But remember, my dear boy, it is only a game."
Tony's smile was forced. "Yeah, of course it is Ducky."
"You okay, Duck?" McGee heard Gibbs ask, as Tony turned away.
"Yes, Jethro. I am quite well. It's been an enjoyable evening. I just - Don't worry about me." He patted Gibbs's hand and turned to face Sachs. "I am quite ready, Agent Sachs," he called, taking the position.
As Sachs got ready to pitch, McGee felt a chill pass through him. He opened his mouth to call Ducky's name, just as Ducky gasped in pain, dropped the bat and cradled his wrist.
"Foul!" McGee heard Vance call.
"What the hell are you playing at, Agent Sachs?" Director Kierson's voice cut across all the others. "That was a deliberate mis-pitch."
"No, it wasn't, sir, I was just -"
"Get off the field." Kierson pointed to his left.
Sachs just stared at his director. "But I'm -"
"I said, get off the field, Agent Sachs."
Sachs flashed a look of sheer hatred at the NCIS team who were now all gathered around Ducky, before throwing down his pitching glove and storming off.
"Duck? What happened?"
"There's no way that was an accident, boss," Tony said. "Sachs pitched that at Ducky's wrist deliberately."
"Aware of that, DiNozzo. Is it broken, Duck? Let me look."
"It's all right, Jethro. No, nothing is broken. I'm sorry to make such a fuss. It was more the shock than anything. I'm sure I could - ow." Ducky gave up any pretence and once again cradled his wrist with his other hand. He was shaking slightly and had turned very pale. McGee pulled his jacket off and put it around Ducky's shoulders. Ducky smiled his thanks.
"Are you all right, Dr. Mallard?"
Ducky looked up at Kierson. "I will be, thank you, Director Kierson," he said.
"I'm sorry for Sachs's attitude and behavior."
"Yeah, we all are." Gibbs growled, pulling himself up to his full height and glaring down at Kierson.
"Agent Gibbs," Vance said his tone stern. "So what happens now?" he asked, looking at Tony. "I'm assuming Dr. Mallard will be unable to continue?"
"I'm afraid I won't," Ducky said. "I cannot even hold the bat, let alone hit anything. I am so very sorry."
"Not your fault, Duck."
"Well, Agent DiNozzo?"
"Palmer," DiNozzo's tone was one of total despondency. "Sachs insisted and I had to agree. If either Ducky or Palmer were injured, the other had to play on in the full role. Palmer gets the final pitch."
"Me?" Palmer squeaked, his tone one of horror. "But, I can't . . . I can't . . . I can't." He looked around the group.
Ducky gently shook Gibbs's arm from around his shoulders and moved to Palmer. "Jimmy," he said, taking Palmer's hand with his good hand. "Listen to me."
Palmer glanced at him. "Yes, Doctor."
"You can do this, Jimmy. You've watched us all. All you have to do is to hit the ball as hard as you can. And Jimmy, all you can do is your best. No one will think any less of you whatever happens, is that not correct, Anthony?"
DiNozzo swallowed hard. "Yeah, Pal- Yeah, Jimmy, Ducky's right. Just do your best."
Palmer swallowed hard, opened his mouth, shut it again, looked around him as if seeking a way to flee. Then nodded. "Okay. I'm ready."
In fairness to Palmer, Vance and Kierson allowed him three practice pitches before the real pitch. He missed all three. By his side McGee heard Tony groan softly. Palmer was shaking; the others were all silent, all except Ducky who was still giving Palmer encouragement.
Finally, Agent Nicks pitched the ball that would determine the outcome. McGee was almost certain Palmer had closed his eyes. Indeed, he wasn't watching, he couldn't. But he heard. The bat made contact with the ball in a clean, crisp way. McGee looked up to see the fielders chasing the ball. "Run, Jimmy!" he yelled, as Palmer seemed frozen. "Run!"
Palmer glanced at him, slipped, then began to run. Team Gibbs screamed and yelled Jimmy's name, telling him not to stop, just to keep running and over their voices, McGee heard another voice. He glanced away for a second to see Fornell on his feet, calling for Palmer.
Halfway between the final two bases, Palmer slipped again. Everyone groaned; DiNozzo was no longer watching, he had his head buried in McGee's shoulder. But Palmer stumbled to his feet and went on running. Nonetheless, it wouldn't do any good, the ball was whizzing towards the base catcher; there was no way he'd miss; no way Palmer could get there before the ball did. But a little bit of the magic must have still been around, as watching the ball not his base, the catcher went back too far and tripped. He and Palmer landed in a sprawl - the ball missed the base.
"He did it!" McGee yelled. "Tony! Tony! You can look. You can look. He did it."
"Oh God," Tony yelled, heading towards a stunned Palmer. "I could kiss you, Jimmy. I could kiss all of you. What?" he said, glancing at Gibbs, "I'm Italian." In the end he settled for kissing Abby and Ziva and hugging Palmer so tightly he started to go blue, before hugging McGee nearly as tightly, Gibbs briefly and finally Ducky - McGee as glad to see Tony remembered Ducky's injury.
BACK AT RESTON HOUSE
"Here, let me fix that, Duck." Jethro strode into Ducky's bedroom.
"Oh, I'm sure I can - Thank you, my dear. I confess I was wondering quite how I was going to - Oh, is that all I get?" Ducky asked after the brief kiss.
"For now," Jethro said, squatting down in front of Ducky and beginning to put the bandage on Ducky's hand. He laughed as Ducky sighed. "Unless you want me to go and turf everyone out?"
Ducky laughed gently. Not unexpectedly despite the incident and Ducky's earlier words to Fornell, Ducky had invited all members of both teams back to Reston House - along with the two directors and Fornell - including Sachs who had looked stunned to be included. Jethro was sure no one, not even his coworkers, expected or even wanted his company, but that was Ducky through and through.
Jethro had to admit to a small grudging respect for Sachs when he'd thanked Ducky, but cited a previous engagement and declined the invitation. "Done," he said, standing up and offering Ducky his hand. "Is it okay? Comfortable?"
Ducky took Jethro's hand and let him help him to his feet. "It's fine, Jethro," he said. "Now we had better go and join our guests."
"Guess we had, Duck." Jethro kissed Ducky once again, just a quick, gentle kiss, before putting his arm over Ducky's shoulders and moving towards the door.
Ducky paused, turning so he could gaze up at Jethro. "It was a good evening, was it not, Jethro?"
Jethro looked down at Ducky and allowed himself to forget Sachs, his attitude and what he'd done to Ducky. "Yeah, Duck," he kissed the top of Ducky's head. "It was."
Jethro laughed. "Yeah, that too, Duck."