Lunching with Ducky
“This was lovely, Ducky. Thank you so much for inviting me.”
Donald Mallard looked across the table at his pretty red-haired dining companion. Jenny Shepard hardly appeared a day older than when he’d first met her, years ago when she’d been Jethro’s protégé. The two friends had just sat down to a delightful lunch.
“You’re welcome, my dear,” he responded gallantly. “It’s hardly a chore to share a meal with an attractive lady.”
Jenny chuckled and shook a finger at him in mock severity. “Oh, you’re a sly one. With your cute English accent and that twinkle in your eye, you’re quite the ladies man. DiNozzo could learn a thing or two from you.”
Ah, the very opening he’d been looking for.
“Speaking of young Anthony,” Ducky stated as casually as he could. “What do you think of him?”
The smile abruptly left his lunch partner’s face. “I’m not impressed. The man is a sexual harassment suit just waiting to happen.”
She stabbed her fork into her salad with much more force than was necessary. A cherry tomato popped, flinging seeds upward and outward. Ducky waited for her to delicately wipe her face before continuing the conversation.
“Oh, Jenny,” Ducky commented, voice shaded with disappointment. “I thought Jethro taught you better than that.”
“What do you mean?” She was very deliberately not looking at him.
“There is a term, I believe, that refers to someone engaging in an activity rather obviously and obnoxiously with the sole intent of masking their true inclinations,” Ducky recited. “It’s called ‘a beard.’” When she didn’t respond, he added, “A disguise, so to speak.”
“I know what it means,” Jenny retorted sharply. “But I hardly think that DiNozzo….”
“Of course you do,” Ducky interrupted her. “Otherwise you wouldn’t dislike him so much.”
Jenny put her fork down, folded her hands in her lap and looked at Ducky squarely in the face. “Jethro can do better.”
Ducky just shook his head. “Before Caitlin’s unfortunate murder, Jethro was the happiest I’ve ever seen him. Young Anthony suits him; he brings light to Jethro’s dark places. Jethro needs that now more than ever.”
The new Director’s face got a mulish _expression on it. “NCIS regulations forbid romantic involvement between agents.”
“Not exactly,” Ducky refuted. “NCIS regulations indicate that two agents on the same team cannot be married to one another. Given the nature of this otherwise enlightened country’s laws about same-sex marriages, we both know that’s not going to happen.”
“You’re forgetting about Rule 12,” Jenny countered smugly.
“Am I?” Ducky asked. “Jethro came up with that cockamamie rule in the first place because of you. The poor man needed to protect his heart after you shattered it.”
“Do you really think that Jethro is better off with an immature, shallow gigolo that he can never publicly acknowledge?” Jenny challenged him. “Or a mature woman who shares his same values and career goals?”
“I think that Jethro is better off with the man who’s stuck by him for the last three years than the woman who left him for a better job opportunity,” Ducky responded firmly. “And if you think that Jethro’s career goals include throwing love over for his job or taking a promotion that would make people call him sir, then you don’t know him nearly as well as you think you do.”
Jenny opened her mouth to say something, but Ducky was on a roll and talked right over her. “As for Anthony being shallow or immature, poppycock. There’s more to him that meets the eye; a lot more. If you would only make a concerted effort to look beyond your jealousy and observe Tony more objectively, you would come to the same conclusion.”
“I’m not jealous,” Jenny claimed. “I’m just making sure that my staff is beyond reproach.”
“Just as you attempted to make Abigail conform to the NCIS dress code?” Ducky questioned her. “Yes, I know about that and so does Jethro. You know as well as I do how that ended up, Abby is once again garbed in her beloved black. Back off from Mr. DiNozzo, Jenny, because Jethro will defend him more fiercely even than he did Abby.” His face hardened. “And in the unlikely event that he doesn’t, I will.”
“Are you threatening me, Ducky?” The Director’s face was flushed, but her voice was cold.
Ducky didn’t flinch. “If you have to ask, I’m not being clear enough. I’ll try again and will speak more slowly so that you can understand. Leave. Tony. Alone. Stop baiting him; stop giving him the most unpleasant tasks, those that should by rights go to the newest member of the team; stop drooling all over Jethro or luring him into inappropriate situations. I’ll remind you that sexual harassment suits can be lodged against women as easily as men – and they don’t always have to be filed by the victim. Jethro is too much of a gentleman to protest you pawing him, but I’m not. Am I making myself clear?”
“Crystal,” Jenny grated out. “I can have your license for filing a false harassment claim, you know.”
“Given my service with NCIS, I doubt it,” Ducky stated coolly. “You were an excellent agent, my dear, and you have the makings to be a good Director, but I think that should you attempt to pit your reputation against mine, you would find yourself coming up short.” He shrugged. “Besides, are you so sure that if I filed a claim that you were harassing Jethro, that it would be found to be false?”
She threw her napkin down on the table and abruptly got up. “If you’ll excuse me, Doctor, I’ve lost my appetite. I trust you can find your own way back to the office.”
She left before he could answer.
Ducky sat back in his chair and blew out deep sigh. That was one bridge that was definitely burned, but it had been worth it. He’d meant what he said about Tony making Jethro happy. With all the guilt that was no doubt plaguing his dear friend since Kate’s death, Jethro needed Tony more than ever and Ducky had every intention of making sure that Jethro kept him. The ex-Marine wasn’t the only one, after all, who was protective of the people he considered “his.” Ducky hadn’t protected Kate from Ari. Even though logically he knew that there was nothing he could have done to prevent her death, he wasn’t about to fail again. If Jethro needed Tony, then Jethro would have Tony and the Director be damned.
Suddenly beset by a hearty appetite, Ducky tucked into the meal that had been forgotten in his spat with Jenny Shepard. Being an assertive bastard was really quite strenuous; however did Jethro manage it?
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