Summary: At a New Year's Eve party with his coworkers, Gibbs recalls what happened seven years ago on that very night.
NEW YEAR'S EVE, 2012
Jethro leaned back against the wall, swallowed another mouthful of wine, and looked around the room.
His gaze came to settle, as he'd known it would, on his lover. He was on the opposite side of the room, talking animatedly to Abby and McGee, smiling and laughing with them; clearly Ducky was enjoying the occasion.
As he watched his beloved Ducky, Jethro let his mind wander back in time. Tonight was their anniversary, their seventh to be exact.
Seven years ago on this very night, he and Ducky had made love for the first time. It was an occasion Jethro had never forgotten, indeed the night was so clear in his memory, that he swore he could hear, feel, see, smell and taste the evening.
They had been friends for over twenty-five years, and Jethro had always known the truth about Ducky's sexual preferences, as well as about his love for Jethro himself, and it had never been an issue. Indeed, he had, somewhat foolishly, following the breakdown of his marriage to Diane, persuaded Ducky to take him to bed. It had been a disaster, one of Jethro's own making. Thus when, some fifteen years after that night, Jethro had known that he was ready to love Ducky in the way that Ducky had always wanted, the way he had always deserved, he had thought his wish would never become a reality.
But it had.
Somehow Ducky had known what Jethro had wanted, and he had sought Jethro out, invited himself to Jethro's home and . . .
Jethro could still remember Ducky's simple words, 'Why don't we just stop pretending and go to bed now'. And how stunned he'd been, but how when, moments later, Ducky had invited him to kiss him, how perfect, moving, beautiful, intense, unreal and yet completely real it had been.
And when they finally found themselves in Jethro's bed and . . .
Jethro groaned silently to himself and yanked his mind back from that evening before his body followed where his mind had gone, and he became visibly aroused.
Seven years ago they should both have been at a similar New Year's Eve party, but neither had gone. Tonight, when they maybe should be celebrating their seventh anniversary alone at home, Jethro had agreed to attend the NCIS New Year's Eve party. Ducky had seemed surprised, but more than happy to go along with Jethro's wishes, but then all too often he was. But Jethro had his reasons; he just hadn't told them to Ducky yet.
Still staring at the man he loved more than life itself, Jethro realized that he was, if it were possible, even more in love with Ducky now than he had been seven years ago. In fact what he felt wasn't just love, it was something far more than love; it was . . . Except Jethro couldn't find a word for it; no doubt his lover could. Ducky always seemed to be able to find the right word for anything and everything.
"You look very happy, my dear."
Jethro jumped slightly. Once again lost in the memory of their first night together, he'd missed the fact that Ducky had left Abby and McGee and had moved across the room to his side. Jethro slipped his hand onto Ducky's shoulder and looked down into the pale blue, glowing with open affection and devotion, eyes that gazed up at him.
For a moment he just stood there and gazed down at Ducky. Then he said softly, "I'm just remembering seven years ago, Duck."
Ducky smiled. "Yes, it was a memorable night, was it not?"
"That's an understatement, Duck." Jethro brushed a stand of Ducky's hair from his forehead and smiled down at him. Then something hit him. "God, Duck, if you hadn't -"
"But I did, dearest." As he so often did, Ducky seemed to know what was going on in Jethro's mind.
Around them the sounds of people preparing for the countdown to midnight infiltrated Jethro's hearing. He glanced up and looked around the room.
McGee had his arm around Abby, holding her tightly and possessively. A year ago the couple had finally admitted, what Jethro had known for years, that they were happier together than with other people, and six months ago they had married. Jethro had given his beloved surrogate daughter away, and apart from times with Ducky, he couldn't remember ever having been happier, prouder. He might not have been Abby's biological father, but on that day he truly felt as if he were. McGee would make her happy; Jethro knew that, and more, he'd take care of her. His dear Abby was in safe hands.
Jimmy Palmer, now a newly qualified doctor, was standing with Agent Lee (Jethro never could remember her first name); they were holding hands. It surprised him somewhat as, despite Ducky's stories about secret rendezvous, part of him always thought that the young man was either terrified of the opposite sex, or indeed gay.
DiNozzo had his arm around Ziva, who had returned for the party, her period of liaison officer had been over for more than two years, although she hadn't returned to her home country, she was still somewhere in the States. She seemed to be making an attempt to shake his arm off, but as Jethro watched, he could see it was only a half-hearted one; if Ziva really wanted to get away, she could do so. DiNozzo was finally ready for a team of his own, and over the last few months he'd made it clear to anyone prepared to listen, and those who weren't, that he was just waiting for his chance. He wondered idly whether there was anything between DiNozzo and Ziva, but what did it matter anymore if there were? She wasn't part of his team; and maybe she'd provide the final bit of growing up that DiNozzo needed to make a first class team leader.
Jenny stood with Senator Bob whatever his name was; he had his arm around her waist, and she was leaning against him. Jethro and Jenny had, over the last few years, slipped into a more settled relationship; he'd stopped undermining her and treating her like a junior agent; she stopped flirting with him and interfering with his team and his investigations. He still regretted their affair, but he tried to follow Ducky's advice that regrets are futile, as there is nothing one can do. Maybe Bob was the one who could finally make Jenny happy; suddenly Jethro found himself hoping that he was.
All of them paired off, waiting to join the rest of the room in the countdown. All waiting for the final number so that they could turn, embrace and kiss their partner, all open and acceptable and -
It's not fair.
The fact that I can't kiss Ducky.
Why can't you?
What would people think?
Since when have you cared about that?
True. But Ducky might not like it.
You know he would.
So do it. What does it matter anymore?
Slipping the hand that still rested on Ducky's shoulder around his neck, in one fluid movement, with the ease of seven year's experience, Jethro turned Ducky towards him, slipped his other hand around Ducky's body, lowered his head and found Ducky's mouth.
For a fleeting second he felt Ducky's surprise; felt him pull back. But the second passed, and under his mouth he found Ducky's lips willing, soft, warm and loving.
The kiss was brief, tender, poignant, and beyond explanation.
"Jethro?" Ducky asked softly, when they broke the kiss. The surprise and question in the blue eyes was matched by the love and pure happiness that shone like a beacon.
Jethro glanced over Ducky's head; no one was watching them, no one looked shocked or disgusted; they were all far too wrapped up in kissing and hugging one another. "Later, Duck," he murmured, pulling Ducky back into a tight embrace.
He'd explain later, when they got home, that he'd finally decided that the New Year called for a new beginning, just as it had done seven years ago. And that he, Special Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs, was no longer a special agent, but just plain old Mr. Leroy Jethro Gibbs. He liked the sound of it; he liked the sound of it very much.
Ducky would too; Jethro knew that. His lover, forced to retire a year earlier, had often spoken of the long hours he spent alone in their home, even though some of those long hours were spent 'visiting' Dr. Palmer in what used to be Ducky's old lair.
"Love you, Duck," he murmured above the sounds of the still-continuing celebrations.
"I love you too, my dearest Jethro," Ducky replied, and to Jethro's joy snuggled even further into the embrace.