Thanksgiving was approximately three weeks away and this year, Ducky Mallard was determined not to have his dinner be a “Plan B” for his NCIS family. Things had been extremely busy for the team. There had been what, at first, appeared to be a murder – suicide of a Marine and his sailor lover, but his autopsy results and Abby’s test results pointed to a double murder hate crime.
That changed everything and Gibbs had pushed his team to identify who amongst their shipmates, friends and acquaintances might have had a motive for murder. There were several who seemed to fit the bill, but Ziva had managed to figure out the final piece of the puzzle and when confronted by the overwhelming evidence, her suspect broke down and confessed. Interestingly enough, it was not hatred that had fueled the crime, but jealousy.
Jimmy was on his phone to Breena. It had been another long, long day and he was tired and preparing to go home. He walked over to Ducky’s desk and asked, “Dr. Mallard, I’ve finished cleaning up, is there anything else you need from me before I go?”
Ducky looked up from the report he was writing and replied, “Not at all, Mr. Palmer! Go home to that lovely wife of yours. I’ll see you tomorrow.” He turned back to the task at hand. He sensed that his young assistant was still hovering. He turned to face him. “Is there something else?”
“Yes, um, well, yes. I was, uh, uh, I was wondering what your plans are for Thanksgiving?”
Ducky sighed and put his pen down. “Mr. Palmer, this will be your first Thanksgiving as a married man. I imagine that your wife plans to make dinner for just the two of you.”
Jimmy smiled and replied, “Yes, yes, she does, but I had mentioned to her that I wanted to invite you if you had no other plans and she would love for you to come. We both would.”
“My dear boy, your invitation is very much appreciated, but unnecessary. Please, do not concern yourself with my holiday plans; just enjoy your own.”
Dr. Mallard has the most pleasant way of telling someone to mind his own business. “Right. Right. Okay, Doctor, goodnight. If you should change your mind…” Ducky turned around and glared at the younger man. “Good, okay, goodnight,” Jimmy stammered before heading to the locker room.
Tony was playing his favorite computer game at his desk with one eye and looking out for Gibbs with the other. Ziva sat at her desk watching him. “Tony, may I ask you something?
“What, Ziva? I’m zeroing in on my highest score ever.”
“Has Ducky invited you to his home for Thanksgiving?”
“No, why? Is he supposed to?”
“Not really, but every year he cooks and invites us and we usually already have plans. This year, I have made no plans so I can accept Ducky’s invitation and so far, he has said nothing.”
Suddenly, a familiar voice growled, “You two are going to be working on Thanksgiving if I don’t get my paperwork! DiNozzo, get rid of that game!”
Tony was shouting, “Yes, Boss!” at the same time Ziva was saying, “Yes, Gibbs!”
They couldn’t see the smirk on his face as he sat at his desk. If McGee were here, he might actually be shocked that I’m checking my email without being threatened. Tim was at a two day seminar on computer forensics and would not be back in the office until Monday. He glanced at his two agents to see them working diligently and grinned again. Ziva’s right, Ducky hasn’t said anything about Thanksgiving. Wonder if he will.
Four days later, Abby was hunched over her desk concentrating on something when Gibbs walked into her lab. She jumped up shouting, “Gibbs, Gibbs, Gibbs!” and ran toward him with a huge grin on her face. Just before she was about to hug him, she stopped and pointed at his empty hands. “No Caf – Pow?”
“No case. No evidence to interpret or breakdown. No Caf – Pow.” He glanced over her shoulder and asked, “What are you workin’ on, Abbs?”
“I invited Kyle to have Thanksgiving with me, so I’m comparing cornbread stuffing recipes to determine which will be the most flavorful. I’m almost there!”
Gibbs kissed her cheek and then turned around to leave. “Gibbs, wait! Why did you come to see me?”
“To ask a question. Got my answer. See ya.”
Confused, she watched him walk out the lab. She murmured as she went back to her recipes, “Glad I could help!”
“Jethro!” Ducky called out when he saw him come through the doors, “You’re just in time. I was about to regale Mr. Palmer with the story of how I came to know Lord Mountbatten, Prince Charles’ favorite uncle.”
“Another time, Duck. I want to talk to you.” He turned and stared at Jimmy until the younger man realized what Gibbs was saying non – verbally.
“I, I need to… check something with Abby. I’ll be back soon, Doctor.” And with that, he practically scurried from the room.
Ducky looked on disapprovingly. “Really, Jethro; Mr. Palmer confided in me some time ago that he believes you have no use or respect for him and I am starting to concur.”
“I’ll worry about Jimmy Palmer’s hurt feelings some other time, Duck. I came here to ask you what you’re doing for Thanksgiving.”
“What I’m doing for Thanksgiving? Jethro, I asked you once where you go on Thanksgiving and you never answered me. And now you ask me what I’m doing. I find that rather ironic.”
Gibbs leaned against an autopsy table. “I know that you have not extended your usual dinner invitation to Ziva, DiNozzo and Abby.”
“No, I have not! Since having my heart attack, I’ve been reassessing my priorities. I know the team cares about me, Jethro, but they take me for granted. I decided; not this year. I refuse to be a fallback plan for everyone. I made other plans. Interestingly enough, they might include you.”
“Yes. I have been invited to Stillwater to spend the holiday with your father.”
Gibbs was flabbergasted. “What?” he growled as he moved closer and stared hard at the shorter man, an aggressive move that struck unease, if not downright fear, into many people, but not Ducky, who just lifted his chin and stared serenely back at him.
“You heard me. When you had me come to your house to see if I could ascertain if your father might be suffering the beginnings of dementia, I told you then I thought your father a lovely man with whom I could talk about things that people our age like to discuss. We began to chat every six to eight weeks via telephone, each time saying we should get together and, of course, never making plans to do so.”
“The last time we spoke I told him about my heart attack and he insisted that I join him for Thanksgiving this year and I agreed.”
“And, how might your plans include me, Duck?”
Ducky sighed as he stood and prepared to leave. “Oh, Jethro,” he said, “None of us is getting any younger, especially me, so I’m going to visit my newest friend. Maybe you should think about visiting your old Dad.”
Gibbs started to leave, but then turned around and asked Ducky, “How are you getting there?”
“I plan to drive.”
“That drive’s four hours long.” He lowered his head and thought for a few seconds. “I’ll drive, Duck. What time does he expect you?”
“Two o’clock, but Jethro you don’t have to…”
“I’m going that way anyway, Duck.”
“Oh, I didn’t realize you are going to your father’s,” Ducky replied just as Gibbs went out the Autopsy doors. “Why didn’t you just say so?”
Thanksgiving morning found Ducky sitting in the living room of his home waiting for Jethro to arrive. When he heard the car horn blow at nine, he hurried into the kitchen quickly to check once more that everything was off, grabbed his bags and went outside. He placed his valise in the trunk after Gibbs popped it open from inside and then got in the car. “Good morning, Jethro! Here you go!” he said cheerily as he handed Gibbs a commuter cup full of black coffee.
“Thanks, Duck. Just for that, I’ll wait for you to buckle your seatbelt before I start driving.”
They drove in companionable silence for a half – hour before Ducky asked, “Jethro, why did you want to leave so early? I thought we would leave closer to ten.”
“I have a stop to make before we go to Jack’s.” He didn’t elaborate so Ducky let the matter drop.
The miles went by uneventfully and neither man felt compelled to make small talk. They were now in Pennsylvania and Ducky observed that the road signs were indicating they were headed toward Orangeville. Soon, Gibbs pulled into the Laurel Hill Cemetery and for the first time since they left DC, slowed down as he wound his way through the beautifully tended grounds. When he finally parked, he turned to Ducky and said, “Come on.”
The two men walked down a gently sloping hill until they came to a well – kept grave. Ducky read the headstone:
Shannon Marie Fielding – Gibbs
October 15, 1955 – February 28, 1991
Kelly Denise Gibbs
February 10, 1984 – February 28, 1991
Beloved wife and daughter of Leroy Jethro Gibbs
I love you, I miss you, I will never forget you.
“You asked me where I go on Thanksgiving. I come here every year I can. When I came to your house for dinner with the saltines, I had driven here early that morning and straight back to DC. Thanksgiving was Shannon’s favorite holiday.” He pointed to the spot to the immediate right of their grave. “That’s my plot. One of the many reasons my second wife divorced me is that I refused to sell it.”
“When my Dad and I weren’t speaking at all, I would come here and then check into a hotel near here, drink until I passed out and drive home the next day. The last couple of years, I’d call him from the hotel before I started drinking.”
Ducky listened as Gibbs spoke without interrupting. When he stopped speaking, Ducky stepped up to the grave, removed his hat and said, “It is an honor to finally meet you, Shannon and Kelly. Jethro is a good man; I am proud to call him Friend.” He turned to look at the younger man. “Will you be dropping me at your father’s and continuing on to the hotel, or will you spend Thanksgiving with your living family?”
Gibbs pulled Ducky into a hug. He spoke directly into the shorter man’s ear and said, “This year, Duck, after everything that’s happened, I want to be with the living.” He let go of Ducky. Looking at the grave he said, “Love you guys. See you next year.” He started walking toward the car. “Come on, Duck; we have to get to Jack’s before he burns the green bean casserole.”