The dogs were quiet when he came home at night. Well, Queenie would let her know with a soft wuff that he was home. That was her cue to wait until she was sure he was ensconced on the couch, sipping his tea as he pondered his day. She felt like she couldn't fit in his world anymore, the way her mind tended to wander from subject to subject, place to place, and it was so very frustrating to her. She who used to be so articulate and precise about what to say and how to say it, now reduced to babbling like an idiot and usually in front of the one man she loved so very much.

Her son, that talented Donald Mallard, Medical Examiner, was sleeping when she went out to check on him. He'd barely managed to get his tie off tonight and she couldn't help worrying about him. She had the dogs help her push his legs up onto the couch, and then she covered him with the afghan that once upon a time, when her mind wasn't clouded with all this other junk, she'd crocheted by hand.

All she wanted was one more chance to tell him how she felt, how much love and respect she had for him. And now due to this disease which had overtaken her mind, she couldn't even do that much. She blinked back the tears as she caressed his face, remembering with difficulty how much it had changed over the years. Not for the first time she wished she could at least remember where her journal was, so she could attempt to write down those three little words. So that he could know that she loved him.

Tyson growled and she turned to hush him when she saw the faint shadow in the corner of the living room. The shadow didn't scare her though, which was unusual as most shadows tended to prey on her dementia and make her terrified to move. This one however didn't do that. Instead it exuded a warmth that comforted her and she moved closer to it.

The dogs, including Tyson, followed her as the shadow led her to the scroll top desk and a pad of paper. When she sat down in the chair, she felt a hand brush over her own, and she smiled as for the first time in years clarity brushed her mind.

"Who are you?" She whispered softly, and an equally soft whisper replied

"I'm a friend. I know what it means to watch a loved one and not be able to tell them of your love."

"What are you doing here?"

"I can help you write that letter to your son. I can't stay long however. An hour, maybe two as I'm not supposed to be here."

Victoria nodded not comprehending what the shadow really meant. She turned to look up at it, "Are you death?"

"No, ma'am. My name is Ricky and I'm a ghost." That was when she took a closer look and saw that the shadow was the form of a young man not much older than his late teens or early twenties.

"Thank you Richard for giving me this assistance. Can you tell me about yourself whilst I write?" She didn't expect him to reply and was pleasantly surprised when he did.

Over the course of the next two hours, while Victoria wrote to Donald about the love and respect she had for him, she learned that Richard was the only son of a Marine and a Navy officer. That his father had died before he was even born and that Richard himself had been a victim of a hit and run driver. His mother had never been able to hold him as she'd lost him due to miscarriage.

Victoria sniffled a bit when she heard that; she'd suffered several miscarriages during her lifetime and Donald was the only baby she'd ever carried to full term. She wrote that down too, so that he would know that she and his father had tried to give him brothers and sisters but that the fates had not granted her even that small wish.

"You must miss your mother very much then Richard." She whispered as she finished her letter and placed it in her son's journal where one day soon he'd be able to find it and know just how much he really had been loved.

"I get to watch over her, sometimes. Dad is now because she's in a warzone and he doesn't like it when her team gets put in harms way."

Victoria nodded and Ricky placed a hand on hers yet again. She looked up into his hazel blue eyes and he told her, "When the time is right, and you have to leave him behind as you go on your final journey, I can come and escort you up if you'd like."

Victoria smiled at him, blinking away tears at the thought of leaving her son alone. As the clouds started closing in again, she heard a soft voice saying

"Don't worry, he won't be alone. He'll have his NCIS family to watch over him and later, after the transition, you can watch over him too."

The voice faded away and the shadow left too. The dogs remained quiet however, not disturbing what little clarity still existed. She ran a hand over Donald's hair, remembering when it had been a beautiful shade of golden blonde. So long ago now, so very long ago.

She wandered to the hall closet and pulled out two pillows and a soft blanket. Donald's hair really did need cutting but for tonight he needed to sleep. She gently tucked one of the pillows under his head, and placed a kiss on his forehead.

"Goodnight, Mother," he muttered in his sleep and she smiled at him.

"Goodnight my beloved son." She replied as she placed her pillow and blanket on the other couch. She then lay down on the couch opposite him, covering herself with the blanket as she watched him breathe in and out, in and out. Her eyes closed and she fell into a deep restful sleep for the first time in years.

Shortly after Victoria's death, Ducky pulled out his journal intent on relaying his thoughts when a letter fell out and dropped to the floor. He picked up the letter and saw his mother's writing. Sitting heavily in the chair, he shakily opened up the envelope and blinked back tears as he read the message within.

My Dearest Donald,

Oh my son, I wish I had all the time in the world to tell you everything that I feel, that I have felt, that I will feel for all the days to come. I only have a few hours of clarity tonight, and so I shall endeavor to make the best of them.

I know that it has been hard on you, watching over me as the dementia slowly eats away at my mind and I want you to know that I love you for putting up with me and the weird meanderings that have ensued due to the disease that is incapacitating me.

But do you really know how much I love you? How much I have loved you ever since that first day in the womb when I finally felt you move? That's when I knew that you would survive at least long enough for me to hold you in my arms and tell you that I love you. Your father would laugh as I told you stories, stories he said that you couldn't hear as you weren't even born yet, but I knew you enjoyed them. I heard you start telling them to some of the others over the years especially that nice young friend of yours; the one that my mind insists on calling Matthew but I know is actually Jethro.

When you were young, a child in shorts you always made me proud no matter the grade on the paper or the sports you participated in. I was so excited that day when you decided to follow your father into medicine. And even when you went into war and whatever it was changed your mind from being a medical doctor to a medical examiner, I want you to know that it never changed my feelings for you. I love you my son, I always have and I always will.

I hate that I cannot always convey these feelings to you. I feel so alone sometimes, watching you from that space within my mind that still has a little bit of clarity, but nothing comes out correctly anymore. So with that in mind, I just want to say, to reiterate once again, that I love you and will always love you.

I know that in a few weeks or months that we will have to separate as you cannot continue to wear yourself down, trying to care for me. Yes my son, you have my blessing to take me to a place that can provide better care than what you have been trained for and know that I will love you more for it even if I am unable to show it.

I hope you won't feel too guilty about it, but knowing you and your tender heart, you probably will, but know that part of loving someone is knowing when to let go. And when it comes time for our final goodbye, remember always that I love you Donald Mallard. You have always been a good son and if you question yourself about it I want to remind you about the times you've tried to bolster my feelings and the best example was the Christmas that you brought home the Corgis. They were a wonderful gift all those years ago, and did wonders to bring me out of my depression when your father passed away and I love you for that.

God Bless You and Keep You,

Your Loving Mother

Victoria Mallard

PS. If you want to keep the Corgis I will bless you for it, but it is not necessary for you to do so once I am gone as I know they can be a handful when you have to work late as you so very often do.

Donald "Ducky" Mallard stood up and looked around. The only Corgi he still has is Contessa, having had to give the others to good homes shortly after he'd put his mother in the nursing home. That patient animal was standing by his side, waiting for his next move and he brushed away a tear as he thought about his mother and the letter in his hands.

He put the letter on the end table closest to his easy chair and then he moved into the kitchen and made himself a fresh cup of tea. He then carried the tea into the living room and after he put the cup on table beside his letter he sat down, and motioned for Contessa to join him in the chair. She settled in beside him, and put her head in his lap. She instinctively knew that he needed the contact and she did too.

Ducky then picked up the letter, but instead of reading it again, he took off his glasses and clasped the letter to his chest, mentally recalling the words his mother had written to him. He fell asleep while thinking about the love his mother had expressed and never knew when Contessa's ears perked up. The corgi wuffed silently as she felt the spirit of Victoria Mallard gently touch her ears and watched as Victoria pressed a final loving kiss to her son's brow. Then Victoria smiled as Ricky appeared and gallantly presented his arm to her as he escorted her to the Pearly Gates and the gentle souls within.


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