Hello, New Year
Set a week after the events in I'll be Home for Christmas, written as a SeSa gift for Taylorgibbs.
Gibbs gave the wall a critical look as he tossed the roller into the paint tray. After nearly a week of work, the store was ready for the new shelves. He'd never seen his hometown pull together like they had after a grenade destroyed his father's store. His dad hadn't been in the store at the time of the blast, he'd still been in the hospital after standing up to a drug dealer. Instead, the near casualty had almost cost him his heart, tucked away in the guise of Timothy McGee.
He couldn't remember exactly when he'd fallen in love with the other man, but now he couldn't imagine a life without him. These days since they'd admitted their feelings were the best he'd had in many years. His father's acceptance of Tim had not come as much of a surprise. No matter how strained their relationship had been at times, Jackson had only wanted his son to find love again. Ducky, of course, had watched the two oblivious men for years and was thrilled for them. The biggest surprise had been his hometown. Small towns in the middle of coal country were not known for their tolerance of alternative lifestyles. Tim's steadfast support of Jackson's fight against the gang of drug dealers that had terrorized Stillwater had endeared him to the town. It wasn't until the last moment, but when it had counted the townsfolk had pulled together and captured the remaining fugitive moments after he had lobbed the grenade through the front of the store.
Tomorrow was New Years Eve and the renovated store would be the site for the first annual Stillwater New Years celebration. Everyone who had worked to help repair the store would be coming for a noontime celebration. That meant most of the town, so Ducky was hard at work organizing the food. Over a dozen families were contributing to the buffet, but that hadn't slowed down Ducky and Jackson in the kitchen. Gibbs was pretty sure the two men were up to something, but he was in too good of a mood to spoil their fun.
"Hey, Gibbs." Tim walked in, stepping around the ladders and painting equipment. He handed Gibbs a cup and received a kiss in return. "It's looking good, was that the last coat?"
"Yep. It'll finish drying today and then in the morning we can move the tables in here for the food." He reached out and pulled Tim against him. "How are you feeling? You were pretty restless last night."
"Better," he helped himself to Gibbs' coffee with a smile. "I'll just be glad to get the all clear from the doctors. Ducky won't let me lift anything and I haven't been for a run since the car wreck."
Gibbs certainly wasn't complaining that Ducky was being conservative with Tim's recovery. Two brushes with death were almost more than Gibbs could bear. "Let me wash up my brushes and rollers and we'll take a walk. How does that sound?"
Ducky and Jackson were putting the finishing touches on their plan for Jethro and Tim. Jackson finished on the computer and carefully erased his user history. Having a new son-in-law that was a computer forensic expert had made their plans a little more difficult to pull off.
"Is everything confirmed?
Jackson smiled at his partner in crime. "Reservations are all taken care of. Private cottage with a feather bed and fireplace. Have you got a car for them?"
"Rental agency is delivering it tomorrow afternoon." Ducky was rather pleased with himself. "They don't have to turn it in until they return to DC. Timothy's insurance company has authorized it, they and the FBI will be jointly settling with him for the destruction of his car."
"That's great, Ducky. I hate the idea that he took such a loss because he was helping me." The fact that Tim came so close to dying was the elephant in the room. He and Ducky suspected how bad it was, but neither had seen the car, nor had they persuaded Gibbs to tell them any details. "He and Jethro can go car shopping after they get home."
"Yes, well I don't believe Timothy will be letting Jethro do any of the test driving while they're at it." Ducky checked several pots on the stove before turning down the heat and replacing the lids. He expected a retort from Jackson about his dig, and when there was silence, he turned to check. Jackson was staring out the window, a smile on his face. Ducky moved to take a look and saw the two men they'd been discussing walking down the street, shoulder to shoulder. He looked closer and could tell that their little fingers were laced together.
The morning of December 31st dawned cold and clear, but inside the general store was warm and cheerful. Tables borrowed from the school lined the walls, filled with platters and bowls of food. Tim was nearly cross-eyed trying to keep everyone straight he was introduced to. Gibbs stayed at his elbow, whispering details into his ear. Thus, McGee knew who belonged to whom, who went to school with Gibbs and whose meatballs to leave alone at the buffet. Things didn't get excited until Chuck Winslow decided to open the first bottle of champagne just before noon.
"I know it's not the stroke of midnight, but for us, it'll work to use the stroke of noon. Now, all I've got to do is get these darn bottles open in time." Apparently it was an ongoing joke as all the women who were taking the foil and cages off the bottles started laughing. Chuck opened the first bottle out on the sidewalk, spraying and spilling almost half the bottle onto the cement.
Feeling adventurous, Tim picked up another bottle and a large chef's knife from the main table. "Hey, Ducky, have you ever sabered a bottle of champagne?"
"No, I can't say that I have." Ducky, Jackson and Gibbs followed Tim outside, the rest of the crowd moving to the window to watch. Tim stepped up next to Chuck as he shook the worst of the sticky fluid off his hands.
"Mind if I open a bottle or two?"
Winslow raised an eyebrow and shrugged his shoulders. "With a knife? This I've got to see."
Grinning even wider, Tim turned the bottle so the faint seam in the glass was facing up. Next, he started scraping the back of the knife against the glass, starting at the wide portion and sliding up to the neck, gently at first and then increasing both the speed and the pressure. On the fourth pass, he hit the blade against the ridge of the bottle top and it popped off, cork and all, spilling only a few drops of champagne. The applause behind him startled Tim and he spun around while Gibbs and Jackson laughed.
Winslow was the first to say anything. "You have got to teach me that." Ducky had the same idea because he already had another knife and another bottle. Before long all of the town fathers and their guests could saber a champagne bottle.
Gibbs leaned against the brick wall, enjoying the show as he watched McGee interact with his hometown. Tim's eyes were shining and he was laughing as he supervised old man Tyler open the last bottle. The fact that Mr. Tyler was ninety-three and had never had a drop of liquor didn't seem to faze the old man as he joyfully hit the bottle and watched the top of it fly off.
As the last bottle top rolled to a stop in the curb outside the store, a Lexus pulled up, parking across the street. The woman climbed out and crossed the street, looking down at the scattered glass ringed corks as she walked up to McGee. "Are you Agent McGee?"
"Yes," Tim was slightly cautious, He knew she wasn't an FBI agent and he had no interest in speaking to a reporter. She held out the keys in her hand.
"I'm Lisa from the rental agency. Mr. Gibbs and Dr. Mallard arranged for me to drop off your rental car." She pulled a clipboard from her oversized shoulder bag. "If you could just sign these papers, you can be on your way."
When she said 'Mr. Gibbs' Tim looked over his shoulder at Gibbs who shrugged his shoulders before they both looked at Jackson and Ducky who both seemed rather pleased with themselves. A half-dozen signatures and McGee had a car for the next four days. Even better, it would be turned in at the rental agency location in DC, giving them a way home. Once she left, he and Gibbs confronted the two co-conspirators.
"What are you two up to?" The older Gibbs just smiled at the younger one's question while Ducky pulled back the tarp on the back of a nearby truck. Inside was all their luggage.
Jackson pulled his son into a hug. "It's time for you to get on with your life, Jethro. I'm fine, the store is going to reopen on time and you promised your young man a special New Years Eve, I believe." He pulled back and slipped an envelope in Gibbs' inside jacket pocket. "Now you boys head south and don't open that up until you've hit the county line. Is that understood?"
"The basketball team is going to install all the shelving this afternoon. After that, we just wait on the delivery truck. Go on, get out of here."
A few more hugs from Jackson for both of them, a slap on the back from Ducky, and they were on the road, the entire town waving them off. Tim didn't relax until they were safely out of the city limits. When Gibbs gave him a questioning look he explained with a laugh. "I was afraid they were going to tie empty cans on the back bumper."
Gibbs leaned back against the headrest and closed his eyes, remembering leaving on his honeymoon with ex-wife number two. "We should be more worried about what they did to our bags." Tim almost ran off the road.
Just a few miles past the county line was a small restaurant Gibbs remembered, famous for its Dutch apple pie. They were still open, so that's where the two men stopped. Once their order was placed, Gibbs pulled out the envelope and opened it, whistling when he did.
"What is it?" They were sitting across from each other and both leaned over the papers, heads almost touching. Gibbs turned the colored printout so Tim could read it. "They rented us a private cottage at a bed and breakfast?" He continued to read, smiling as he did. "Wow, king size, feather bed and a fireplace and we have it until the check out on the second."
"Guess you weren't that far off worrying about them tying cans to the bumper." Gibbs read the hand written note Ducky had slipped into the pile of papers and almost choked on his pie.
"Later." Not telling McGee anything else, Gibbs folded the note and stuck it in his shirt pocket. McGee was so surprised to see his ears turn red that he didn't argue.
Once the pie was done and paid for, they went back out to the car. Gibbs handed Tim the note and pointed to the trunk. Tim used the key nob to open the trunk as he read Ducky's note before looking up at Gibbs. "He got us what we need and it's in your bag. What does that mean?"
Gibbs checked his overnight bag and found a small plastic bag with the logo from a drug store on the side. Sure enough, inside was a box of condoms and a large bottle of Astroglide. Without saying a word, he showed the contents to McGee. They grinned at each other and then Gibbs closed the trunk and they climbed back into the car. McGee paused as he put the key in the ignition. "Please tell me that Ducky went shopping for us and not your dad." Even the waitress heard their laughter.