The three men met at the desk of NCIS Special Agent Anthony DiNozzo. They drew no attention; nothing special to a casual observer. History was inhaling, waiting…

"Hey, Ducky! I'd like you to meet my uncle, dad's brother Lee DiNozzo.'

The two older men took stock of one another and reached across for the expected handshake as Tony made the introductions.

"Lee, this is Dr. Mallard, but everyone calls him Ducky. Lee is actually dad's step brother, but you'd never know they aren't related."

There was a gleam in the man's eyes, his handshake firm. Ducky noted a smile full of mischief and a certain joie de vivre that spoke of a life spent in pursuit of pleasurable moments.

"I am happy to meet you…Lee. Are you here visiting Tony, perhaps, or on business?"

The owner of the smile took in the smaller man, nodding in the direction of his "nephew". Standing in the lower level here at NCIS, the scene was playing out as other agents and employees passed by.

"Dr. Mallard…'

"No, Ducky, please…"

"Ducky…'

He was still smiling

"I was flying in from London, and decided someone needed a few hours of attention from an uncle, even a step-uncle.'

He paused.

"Tony and I are having drinks and dinner later at the Ritz-Carlton, where I always stay. Perhaps you would join us."

Tony was surprised at the invitation, but pleased that the two men might get along.

"Yeah, Ducky, that would be great."

Lee flashed a smile that flooded the room with light.

"Besides, I'm partial to blue eyes and foreign accents."

They all three laughed, Ducky's glasses not disguising his appreciation of the comment. His eyes could still sparkle with the proper stimulation.

"And Dr. Mallard has very nice eyes. I wouldn't mind looking into them over dinner, for the sake of amitie'."

Tony's brain was busy translating the French word…friendship

"If that is an invitation, then I accept. I haven't been courted in quite some time, and the last young lady I dated didn't like my bow ties. You like my tie, don't you…Lee?"

They all laughed, but only Lee replied.

"I think it's … dashing."

A scandalous wink from the older American went unseen by the usually observant NCIS agent. The doctor chuckled; his memories were still vivid, as was his ability to recount them. Ah, the stories he might tell…

"So, we have a date. Shall we pick you up, or…"

Ducky shook his head, causing some hair to fall onto his forehead. Now that did seem like old times.

"Oh, no…no. I shall drive myself. You and Tony must take some time to catch up, after all. It may be better to not be in the same car, in case we run into anyone else we know."

Lee considered that for a moment, then nodded in agreement. One could never anticipate completely how an evening might progress.

"All right, we'll see you at eight then.

They parted ways, both with a shiver of anticipation at prospects they had grown cautious of entertaining amidst their daily obligations. Some days Ducky's youth seemed like a dream, and the life he had created his only reality.

How many years had it been since they first met?

They had spent many of them learning each other's habits and responses, how to stay alive simply by depending on the other man's ability to do so.

How long had it taken them to know?

Dinner went well, with rousing conversation and more than a few knowing glances.

For now Lee was attempting to converse with his 'nephew'. It appeared that the young man couldn't hold his liquor, at least not tonight.

"Are you sure you can drive, Tony? I don't want to hear about an accident."

Just another innocent? You're so clever at manipulating them.

"I think so, although it might be better if you drive, Lee. I hate to break up the party, but…Gibbs will be unhappy if anything happens… Whoa…happening now, I think…"

The preamble to departure was about to begin when Ducky's attention was drawn to the front of the restaurant. Ziva was standing alone, but appeared to be dressed for an occasion. She said something to the maitre'd who directed her to their table.

"Good evening, gentlemen. I hope I am not interrupting your meal."

"No, good heavens Ziva. Please, join us. Are you here alone?"

He loved Ziva; he understood her.

Introductions were not necessary, as she had already met the elder DiNozzo. She explained that she had mistakenly arrived for a date on the wrong night, and was relieved to find her friends; having come by taxi, perhaps they might drive her home.

"As it happens, Ziva, Tony is the one in need of a lift. Perhaps you can drive him home? Lee and I will finish our evening and settle the bill. Is that agreeable to you, Tony?"

Ducky's offer to pay was nice, and Tony was agreeable to just about anything right now. Ziva was nice, too. Even Ziva was agreeable, and that was saying something.

The two older men helped the younger DiNozzo to stand, and then linked his arm into that of the lovely Israeli spy. She winked to the handsome pair of men as she escorted her charge out into the night.

Her curiosity was assuaged only a little by Ducky's explanation, the request to join them still mysterious considering the outcome.

The two men settled back down at the table, taking some time before their eyes met. Both of them smiled now, eyes alight with memories and affection that had not waned over the many years.

Ducky spoke first, searching for words he hadn't dared to utter for decades. Instead, and contrary to his usually glib demeanor, he only got out a bare observation.

"That went well."

So, you haven't changed so much, after all, thought Lee. His friend remained enigmatic in spite of the new clothes and profession.

"I thought they'd never leave," he replied.

Wistful and refusing to entertain remorse, Ducky spoke for them both as a familiar burr invaded the façade of the practiced brogue.

"I only wish you didn't have to."