Gibbs stood on the back porch, leaning on the railing with a bottle of beer clasped loosely in his hands. The night was warm and even though today was the first day of September, the summer weather hadn't yet left them and he found himself basking in the evening warmth. A breeze rustled through the trees drawing his eyes upwards to the clear, starry sky and he let his mind wander to the night he remembered fondly as he lay on a blanket in the yard with his lover gazing at the stars. It was one of the most beautiful and relaxed things he had ever done, and he always found himself hoping that they would share more nights like that. His eyes were drawn to a shooting star and he watched it streak across the sky in all its glory as his memories infused him with comfort and a deep sense of belonging.
"What do you see when you look at them?" Gibbs always wondered what went through Tim's mind. In some ways, he liked the simple things in life and that was something Gibbs could connect with because he was never one for complications. In others, Tim was so complex, that it left Gibb's mind spinning with wonder and awe. He knew that his lover had a brain like a computer, but somehow he always knew how to use it just right…minus the geek speek.
"In what way?" Gibbs remembered the question that Tim replied with clearly and never did figure out what answer Tim was looking for. All he knew was that when he turned and looked at his younger lover, the stars reflected in his eyes, making them glitter beautifully.
"They mean different things to different people. I look at them and they're just stars."
"I look at them, and see a whole universe spread before us. To think that we're just one small planet in a small galaxy is kind of awe inspiring." Tim's answer still surprised him. It was philosophical, scientific, and so Tim. His calculating mind was always filled with endless possibilities and a thirst for expanding the wisdom and knowledge that he held.
"Huh…when you put it like that, Tim. Yes it is."
"You know, there are many different stories about how the Milky Way was born and even though I've got a scientific mind that likes fact and figures, I still like the old myths and legends behind it. There's something…I don't know if this is the right word…romantic about them."
He took a swig of his beer and swallowed. It was funny, but that night, Tim had told him so many stories about how the Milky Way was born, and each and every one of them had left him looking at the stars in a totally new light. To him, they were a constant that were always there. Every time a good person died, he liked to believe that a new star was born and that they were looking down on them. Sure, he still felt that way, but the myths helped him connect with them a little bit more. Of course, the fact that it had been Tim's smooth, soothing voice that had told the tales was a big part of it. He started to recite the stories back before feeling strong, familiar arms wrap around his waist.
"Penny for them?" Tim's low, sultry voice whispered in his ear. He felt Tim's chin rest on his shoulder lovingly.
"Just remembering the night you told me about the stars." He let his head rest against Tim's and sighed. "How do you know so much?"
Tim chuckled. "I read Jethro. Okay, how about I go and get the blanket so I can tell you more."
"You know more?" Gibbs joked and ducked the headslap that only Tim was allowed to issue. "Okay okay! Sounds like one of the best offers I've had today. Jet in his bed?"
"Yeah." Tim kissed the rugged cheek and moved away leaving him feeling cool in the night air. When Tim walked back carrying a thermos of coffee and two cushions from the couch, he followed his lover down to the lawn and helped lay it all out before laying back. He reached over and took Tim's hand feeling completely relaxed as Tim started to talk.
"There are hundreds of stories about the stars. Some aren't very nice, but all in all, they all have a meaning and romanticism that enthralls me. I used to sit with my dad and read about them. The Khosian people of the Kalahari Desert in South Africa believe that back in ancient times, there were no stars and the pitch-blackness of night stopped them from going anywhere. There was a lonely girl who wanted to visit other people, and so she took the embers from a fire and threw them into the sky creating the Milky Way. That way, she she could light up the sky and use the stars to guide her."
Gibbs squeezed Tim's hand tenderly and smiled. Once again the stars were reflecting in his eyes, making them dance with wonder and awe at the universe that stretched out before them. It was nights like these that made him feel as though he could disconnect from the horror and despair of the world that they lived, only to connect with something more beautiful than he could ever have imagined. It had been a long time since someone had made him feel that way and it was something he cherished deeply.
"She had a goal." Gibbs said softly. "Gotta admire her for that."
"Yeah." Tim sighed heavily. "You really interested in these stories?"
Gibbs frowned and nodded his head. "Why wouldn't I be?"
"Well, don't get me wrong here, but It's not exactly your thing. You're not all about stories and romanticism." Tim shied away slightly from the head slap he was expecting and when it didn't come, he sat up and looked at his lover. Gibbs was laying there looking at him warily.
"We've been together for three years and you still can't see that side of me?"
"I can, but this? This is just silly folklore from other cultures and I know how much Ducky bugs you with his stories."
Gibbs sat up and shook his head. "Ducky always tells 'em at the wrong time. I don't let my guard down for many people and you are literally the second person who has ever seen this side of me. There's a time, and a place for stories, Tim. You know…" Gibbs laughed softly. "When we did this the first time, it felt right and I didn't want that night to end. I can listen to you talk all night, and still want more."
"Okay. Wow, I…I'm…" Tim stammered his reply and lay back down on the blanket to compose himself. "What do you remember the most from last time we did this?"
"All of them. My favorites are the Cherokee, Greek and eastern Asian."
Tim laughed warmly. "Pretty much the ones I told you about then?"
"Yeah. Tell them again."
Tim reached out once again and grasped Gibbs hand. "The Greek actually have two myths surrounding this. The first, is the newer of the two. Their name for the Milky way is Galaxias which comes from the Greek word γάλα."
"Milk." Gibbs supplied confidently because the last time Tim told this story came back to him.
"Uh huh. The legend says that it was Heracles who created the Milky Way. Zeus had fathered the boy with a mortal woman…Alcmene. As a God, he was fond of his son and wanted to endow him with godlike qualities. In a bid to give his son this, he waited until his wife was asleep and let Heracles suckle on her."
"Hera?" Gibbs asked softly. "If I remember right, she was married to Zeus."
"She was. Anyway, when Hera woke up and realized that she was breast-feeding an unknown child, she pushed him away. The milk that spurted from her breast became the milky way."
"That's nice." He smiled as Tim shuffled round and rested his head on Gibbs stomach giving the older access to his hair. Gibbs chuckled and gently started to card his fingers through.
"I love mythology." Tim replied and closed his eyes. "You know, Hindu's have a collection of stories called Bhagavata Purana. They liken all the stars and planets moving through space to a dolphin that swims through water. It's kind of nice because they call the heavens śiśumãra cakra, the dolphin disc."
Gibbs wondered where Tim was going with this one and couldn't remember it from last time they did this. "Where does the dolphin fit into the Milky way?"
"Our little galaxy forms the abdomen of the dolphin. They call it the Akasaganga or the Ganges River of the sky."
"That's a new one. I think it's just been added to my favourites."
"Jethro, do you like all of the stories I tell?" Tim rolled over so that he was lying on his side gazing up at his lover. "You're just biased."
Gibbs traced Tim's handsome, young face with his finger and smiled. "No. I'm not. I just don't let everyone see my softer side."
Tim laughed and stood up. "No you don't. Stay there."
"Where are you going?" Gibbs frowned and sat up watching the lean figure of his lovers body walk back into the house. With a sigh, he stood up and moved to the loungers on the decking. He sat down and relaxed against the back whilst he waited for Tim to come back. He didn't have to wait long and opened his eyes at the voice that warmed his heart.
"Yeah. Thought we'd be more comfortable up here." Tim nodded and nudged Gibbs' leg with his knee. "Let me sit down."
Gibbs moved his leg and let Tim straddle the bottom of the lounger so he could face the man he loved. Gibbs noticed the way that Tim kept his hands behind his back and cocked his head with interest.
"Hmm...I see that investigator brain of yours has kicked in there." Tim said mischievously and pulled his right hand out. "Happy birthday, Jethro."
Gibbs sat there stunned and took the envelope. "It's not my birthday until tomorrow."
"It's 0100. It's your birthday." Tim replied and nodded towards the envelope. "Open it."
With a curious glint in his eye, Gibbs gently peeled back the flap and pulled out a card. On the front was a picture of a white sanded beach and clear, turquoise water. "That's nice."
"I thought so." Tim reached over and opened the card to reveal two tickets. Gibbs' eyes widened when he saw them and his breath hitched slightly. "Tim?"
"Read the card." Gibbs pulled out the tickets and read the familiar, neat missive inside.
I know life has been hard and you have had things thrown at you that should never have happened. Now is the time to start afresh and whilst we never forget the people we have loved and lost, we can only move forward and try and find ourselves once again.
The past three years have been both the most frightening, and the most beautiful of my life and I love you dearly for the time we have shared. If anything, it has made me realise what it is that I want out of life and today is the perfect opportunity to do that.
The first part of your surprise is a two-week vacation in Greece. I know how much you like hearing about the mythology, so it seemed fitting somehow. I hope you don't mind, but I have already cleared it at work, so we fly out on the third. Tomorrow is your day, and I know you need your family around you.
I guess what I'm trying to say here, is Happy 60th Birthday. Let's make it one to remember.
Ps...The second part? Jethro, look up..."
Gibbs glanced up and felt his eyes widen further. He hadn't noticed Tim stand up because the holiday had taken him by surprise. It was a beautiful gesture that left him feeling stunned and as if he was the luckiest man alive. Of course, that was only the beginning and right now, he was looking at the trees in the garden with total wonder.
"Do you like them?" Tim asked from his side. Gibbs nodded and smiled at the trees as the sparkled and twinkled beautifully. "I put the lights on them the other night."
"I really do. They're beautiful."
"Good. Jethro, move round." Gibbs frowned, but did as he was asked and sat to the side of the lounger. He leaned forward on his knees and grinned at his lover.
"Much." Tim hesitated briefly before huffing out a short laugh and finally doing what he had purposely set out to do. With trepidation, He got down on one knee. "I know it's corny, but I want to do this properly." He held out a box and handed it to his lover. When Gibbs opened it, he gasped at the platinum, patterned band that sat in there. "Jethro, you know how Washington DC has finally made it legal for us to marry? Well it made me think about what I want out of life. I never thought that I would find the one special person who completes me, but I have. So...Leroy Jethro Gibbs, will you marry me?"
Gibbs sat there stunned and for the first time he found himself at a complete loss as to what to say. Tim took his silence as a no and felt his heart drop. He reached over and took the box from his hand. "Sorry. I should have known."
"What? Tim, you...You just caught me by surprise, that's all. I love you and would love to marry you." He leaned over and kissed his lover deeply. "I'm sorry I made you think otherwise."
Tim nodded sighed with relief. "I've had this planned or a while. I even had the rings custom made."
Gibbs reached over and took the box once again. This time, he looked closer at the pattern around them. "What does it mean?"
"It's a Greek symbol that represents infinity and unity. I thought it was fitting." Gibbs nodded his agreement. "Do you like it? If you don't, I can change them."
"No. You won't. Tim, you chose these for a reason, and the fact that you put so much thought into it makes it special. I love the ring. It's perfect. Is yours the same?"
"Yeah. I wanted them to be the same because somehow, it's another thing to unite us. It's silly, but it just felt right."
Gibbs nodded as he reached over to stroke Tim's cheek. He looked deep into the green eyes he adored and smiled. "Not silly. Beautiful."
" Jethro..." Tim hesitated and in the soft glow of the porch light, Gibbs could see his lover blush. "The vacation isn't just a vacation. It's...um...well, it's our honeymoon. I was hoping you were going to say yes because I wanted to give you a 60th birthday that you'd truly remember."
"You mean...? What?" He just knew what Tim was suggesting and loved the excitement that pooled in his gut.
"I wanted to surprise you, so I've spent the past two months arranging the wedding. Abby helped to. Jethro, tomorrow, we get married."
"Really? I mean...I don't have a suit?"
Tim chuckled and pushed his husband to be back down on the lounger before settling between his legs and leaning back against his chest. "You do know me, right? I organised it."
Gibbs couldn't help but laugh loudly knowing that his lover and husband to be was meticulous in his endeavours. "So..."
"Tony's bringing the Tux's round tomorrow morning unless he gets a call from me tonight." Tim admitted. Gibbs didn't miss the slight edge of sadness at the thought of him saying no.
"I wouldn't tell you no, Tim. I love ya too much for that."
"Thank you." Tim whispered.
"For loving me enough and for marrying me." Tim sighed happily and grasped the hands that were wrapped round his chest. "I love you."
Gibbs squeezed Tim lovingly and rested his head against Tim's. He loved and cherished this man with everything he possessed and right now, he felt like the luckiest man alive and would always hold moments like these close to his heart.