I didn't think it could happen again
I'm just too old and set in my ways
I was convinced I would always be lonely
All of the rest of my days
Maybe I gave up on romance
In my longing to give up the pain
I just didn't believe I would ever love again

Hollis smiles through her tears as she listens to the song on the radio. The lyrics remind her so much of her time with Gibbs. She literally put her heart on the line with the man only to have him shut her down. She doesn't know how to get through to him and she can't help but wonder whether the loss of his first family has hardened his heart that much.

I was like one who had shut myself in
Closed the windows, locked all the doors
Afraid of the dark and the beat of my heart
Yet knowing there had to be more
Though it sounds like a great contradiction
Its the easiest thing to explain
You see, I was afraid I might never love again

Gibbs sighs as he thinks about the night ahead. A long night, in a cold bed, one he'd once shared with Hollis Mann. But the blonde had given him an ultimatum and he still had a job to do, criminals to catch, terrorists to put behind bars. So he'd turned her down and then, seeing the dejection in her shoulders he'd waited a few minutes not wanting her to see him follow her to the airport as she left DC and his empty arms.

A shuffle behind him has him looking up the stairs into the weathered face and watery blue eyes of his best friend.

"What's wrong Duck?"

"I was about to ask you that Jethro. Missing our retired colonel are you?"

Gibbs is about to shake his head when he feels himself nodding instead. Ducky takes a few more steps down, a few steps closer to the man who hides his heart in a basement. The boats are testimonies of the master craftsman who builds them. The ME isn't sure exactly what the testimonies are, but they are definitely works of art. He can see extreme love in the building of the current project at hand. Ducky puts his hand on The Kelly, admiring the workmanship.

"You've done an admirable job on her my friend. Who gets her when she's done?"

"Dunno yet Duck. I've yet to figure that one out."

"Hmm, well, while you're figuring that out, what are you going to do about the colonel Jethro?"

What does it take for a blind man to see
That there's more there than just meets the eye
What are the ways that the magic comes in
That can turn a song into a sigh

She never thought she'd be desperate enough to go back to him, to ask him one more time to come with her, if only for a short time. But this is something she has to do. She has to know for certain that the love she thought she'd seen in his eyes was not just a reflection of her own love for the man, or was he instead a man who was hiding his love out of …what? fear of losing yet another wife, lover and friend? Decision made, Hollis picks up the phone and makes a reservation for the next flight to DC.

Sometimes I think that I'm dreaming
Or maybe I'm going insane
Or maybe it's just that I'm falling in love again

Ducky's cell phone rings and he looks at Gibbs who just waves at him to answer it. "Hello, Dr. Mallard here…oh hello my dear…yes, I'd be delighted…don't worry, I'll make sure to be there…have a pleasant trip."

Ducky smiles and turns to Gibbs who has picked up a sanding block and is gently buffing out a rough spot he'd found. Ducky watches him silently for a few minutes, before putting a hand on Gibbs shoulder.

"You need to talk to her Jethro. She wasn't just another pretty face."

"I know Duck." Gibbs admits sadly. Hollis really wasn't just another cheap thrill or pretty face. In the grand scheme of things, she'd captured his heart for the first time in years.

"She actually liked coming to have tea with mother. Mother of course didn't know her from Adam, but still, she was unusually well behaved when the colonel was around."

Gibbs sighs as he finishes buffing the rough edge out and turns to face his friend. "You got a point to all this Duck?"

"Only that you might need a friend someday Jethro. And Hollis is someone that you can lean on if I'm no longer around. You might want to keep that in mind." Ducky wasn't a fool and knew that old age had been creeping up on him slowly. He'd been feeling the tell tale creaky bones and aches on top of worsening eyesight and as loathe as he was to admit it, his ears seemed to be growing too.

Gibbs looks up and stares at him; guileless blue eyes stare back at him, and he puts his hands on Ducky's shoulders. "You are going to be okay, for a few more years at least, right?"

"What? Oh, yes dear boy. I am so sorry, Jethro. I didn't mean to worry you. I just meant that eventually we must all die. But no, I'm not planning on keeling over at anytime in the near future. I'm an old man now though, my friend and I'm not going to be here forever. I shall however, try and keep this old body going for a few years yet." For all the haste he uses in trying to reassure Gibbs of his own survival, he's not sure that he's succeeded; a feeling that is confirmed by his closest friend's next statement.

"Good! I don't give you permission to die Duck."

Ducky smiles at him, "I have no intention of dying this early in life Jethro. There's still too much to do, and too many stories to tell. Why this reminds me of something that…"

Gibbs tunes him out as he goes back to work on the Kelly. The old bard, knowing that Gibbs isn't actually ignoring him continues on with his tale. He knows that Gibbs might not appear to appreciate the stories that he has to tell, but sometimes it's the tone of voice, the pitch or volume that can help soothe a troubled mind.

Time passes and the two men head upstairs for a light supper. Ducky's cell rings and he smiles as he looks at the number on it.

"Got a hot date tonight Duck?"

"Not really Jethro; just a friend coming in to town. I promised to be there and I called the airport authorities earlier asking them to confirm the flight being on time."

"Do you need a ride?"

"No, I'll be just fine. I do thank you for the fine company tonight Jethro. Try not to work on your beautiful craft all night will you? You do need to get some sleep."

"I'll try Duck, but I won't make any promises." He hadn't had a real night's sleep since Hollis had left but he wasn't going to give Ducky anymore ammunition. Ducky pats him on the shoulder and hastens over to his Morgan. He knows this late there won't be a lot of traffic on the road but he wants to be at the airport early so that he can get decent parking, not to mention all the security checks that he or Hollis might be subjected to.

Hollis Mann can feel herself almost grinning when she sees the familiar trench coat and derby that signify the arrival of Donald Mallard. She's always felt a kinship with the old man; he reminds her of someone from her past, even though she's not certain just who it might be. He is however a welcome sight to her travel-weary eyes and she walks into his arms accepting his warm hug.

"Welcome back my dear. How was your flight?"

"Long, but it was worth it to see your welcoming smile waiting to greet me."

"Ahh, you do know how to warm the cockles of this old man's heart my dear. Now, forgive me for being an interfering old man, but, have you much luggage and do you want to go straight to Jethro's or would you rather spend the night with me and mother before heading over in the morning?"

Hollis smiles at his none-too-subtle approach to how she plans to spend her night. She sighs, not sure if she should go straight to Gibbs' house but then looks at Ducky.

"May I still call for a ride if he tells me to go?"

"All you have to do is ask, and I shall be there my dear. However, if my conversation with him earlier this evening is any indication, I do believe you might have a warmer welcome than you originally anticipated."

Hollis smiles and hoists her small carry-on over her shoulder. "Then, my dear Dr. Mallard, may I ask for a ride to see if you are correct?"

"But of course my dear; this way if you please."

Here I am standing beside you
Oh life's such a wonderful game

Footfalls on his front porch have him briefly shouting up the stairs. "Still down here Duck."

But it's not the Scottish ME who is standing there at the top of the stairway. He can barely make out her silhouette, but he's seen it enough times to know who it is and he doesn't even know that he's bounding up the stairs two at a time until he stands in front of her.


"Hello Jethro."

Emotions swarm over both of them, the longing to be in each other's arms, the yearning to be held again has both of them hesitating.

"Do I tell Ducky to stay or go?"

"You can stay. If I know that romantic old fool he's already gone." He looks out the window and sure enough the Morgan is at the end of the street. He looks beside the door and Hollis's small bag is just inside the entryway. He raises an eyebrow as her arms slip around his waist.

"Come to bed Jethro."

He puts an arm around her shoulders, leading her up the stairs. A few hours later, he listens to the quiet sound of her breathing as she sleeps. He kisses the top of her head, still not sure where their lives will lead, but for now, he's content to have her back in his life again.

Look at me now, I'm falling in love
Look at me now, I'm falling in love
Look at me now, I'm falling in love again