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With a Little Help From My Friends (Sequel to 'Help, I Need Somebody')

by: BuffyAngel68 (Send Feedback)

Series: - No Series - #2
Chapters: 065 Word Count: 103164
Rating: ADULT
Warning(s): Disturbing Imagery or Content, Violence
Character(s): Jethro Gibbs, Tony DiNozzo, Abby Sciuto, Timothy McGee, Ensemble, Caitlyn (Kate) Todd, Tobias Fornell, Gerald, Kelly Gibbs, Jeanne Benoit
Category(ies): Action/Adventure, Angst/Drama, Established Relationship, Humor, Hurt/Comfort, New Character, Romance
Pairing(s): Gibbs/DiNozzo, Abby/McGee, Ducky/Gerald
Episode(s): 3-12 Boxed In
Summary: As Gibbs and Tony grow closer, an outside force is working to destroy the younger man. Meanwhile the rest of the team find their joy in varied and interesting places...

Chapters: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14 | 15 | 16 | 17 | 18 | 19 | 20 | 21 | 22 | 23 | 24 | 25 | 26 | 27 | 28 | 29 | 30 | 31 | 32 | 33 | 34 | 35 | 36 | 37 | 38 | 39 | 40 | 41 | 42 | 43 | 44 | 45 | 46 | 47 | 48 | 49 | 50 | 51 | 52 | 53 | 54 | 55 | 56 | 57 | 58 | 59 | 60 | 61 | 62 | 63 | 64 | 65

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8

With a Little Help 8/?

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8:00 SUNDAY MORNING

Moving carefully down the stairs with a towel draped across his wet hair and hanging over his eyes, Tony halted and sniffed appreciatively. His sensitive nose told him his favorite blend of coffee was on and that breakfast would soon be in the offing, bringing a smile to his covered face. He'd felt an upsurge of energy that morning and decided to double the mileage on his usual run and now his body was screaming for his gas tank to be refilled. As he stepped off the last riser and onto the floor, an amused voice greeted him,

"Well, well. Good morning whoever you may be."

but it wasn't the one he was expecting and the surprise caused him to stumble slightly. Regaining his balance, he peered out as the front of the towel was lifted and a face gazed in at him, confirming his suspicion and making his heart leap.

"Oh, I see. Let me correct myself... good morning, Tony."

Whipping the towel off and tossing it aside, Tony wrapped his friend in a gentle, joyful hug.

"Ducky! Hey, it's good to see you!" he told him, frowning a bit when he pulled back. "What are you doing here so early on a Sunday?"

"I thought I might come and have a bite of something with you and Jethro. Then... I was hoping you and I could take a little drive."

Hearing a familiar sound, Ducky tilted slightly to look around Tony and consequently tried to get him out of the line of fire, but couldn't speak fast enough. "Ah, do take care, dear boy, or you may be... eating standing up. Good Lord..." he said, grimacing when his warning came too late. Tony rubbed his stinging butt and turned, outraged, to find Jethro holding the wet towel that the younger man had carelessly dropped to the hardwood floor.

"Gibbs!"

"Put it in the laundry chute next time." He responded wryly, doing the task himself before heading into the kitchen. "Grub's on. Both of you get in here and eat, or it'll be cold."

Ducky led the way to the kitchen and dropped cautiously into a chair. After a long moment of hesitation, spent waiting for his butt to cool off, Tony followed suit, resuming their conversation as Gibbs started placing dishes of food on the table.

"So you said a drive. Where to?"

"Mmmm. I wasn't sure about broaching this subject to you. My heart tells me that it's very much the right thing to do... but I'm concerned about how you might react to the suggestion..."

Tony reached out and squeezed Ducky's hand briefly.

"It's okay. I know you only have my best interests at heart. Whatever it is, just tell me."

"Yes, well... if you're amenable... I'd dearly love to take you to church."

"Church? Praise the Lord and pass the collection plate... open your hymnals to page ninety-five... church?" Tony replied uncertainly.

"Something along those lines, yes. It's really quite an experience, Tony. I believe you'll enjoy yourself immensely."

"Wow... uh, let me think about it while we chow down, okay?"

"Absolutely."

The conversation over the course of the meal was relaxed and happy and by the time they'd finished, Tony had made up his mind about Ducky's proposal. Before he could speak up, however, Jethro stood and grabbed his place setting and Tony's.

"You helping me with dishes?"

Tony's smile, lowered eyes and intense blush confused Ducky, but he quickly decided it wasn't anything he needed to know. It took several seconds for the young man to compose himself, but eventually he looked up and answered both men, one after the other.

"Uh... don't think so. Maybe when I, uh... when I get home. If you're sure you wanna take me, Ducky... I'll give it a shot."

"Excellent." He replied, handing Tony his keys and rising to his feet as well. "Why don't you go out and get the car warm?"

"Oookay.... what's up?"

"Nothing, my boy, nothing. I simply wanted to talk to Jethro alone for a moment."

Tony hesitated, but after a moment he also stood and moved off to grab his heavy winter coat. Once he was sure Tony was out the door, Ducky turned his focus to Gibbs, who was piling items carefully into the sink. "Jethro... you are aware of what today's date is, aren't you?"

"Huh? Yeah, of course. February twelfth."

"And that would make Tuesday...."

"The fourteenth."

Ducky sighed loudly. He knew the problem wasn't just his friend's normal, if rare, denseness, but the fact that he hadn't truly loved anyone in so many years. Lack of emotional connection made romantic holidays irrelevant. This fact earned him near-infinite patience.

"And the fourteenth of February would be..."

Finally, Gibbs whipped around to face his best friend, eyes wide and mouth working fruitlessly. Ducky smiled and patted him on the cheek. "Good. I see I've gotten through. You might want to spend your free time today making plans and tomorrow executing them. I'll deliver the boy safe and sound early this afternoon, my word of honor."

Ducky walked away with a light step, softly humming one of his favorite hymns. Dishes abandoned and his head spinning, Gibbs pulled a pad of paper and a pen from a drawer, dropped back into his chair and slowly began to write.

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9:45

Sitting in the padded wooden pew beside Ducky, Tony made a concerted effort not to do what his brain insisted on labeling as "gawking", but the sanctuary where they waited for the service to begin was stunning and he couldn't seem to help it. Every window sill held craft projects, obviously made by the youngest members of the congregation, the walls were hung with various handmade pieces created by the adults and the ceiling, constructed of antique tin panels painted a soft cream, soared above him, continually drawing his eyes. Watching as his young friend fought to pull his head down one more time, Ducky laughed and spoke up quietly.

"It's alright, Tony, really. Everyone viewing this place for the first time does a bit of... well, I like to call it sightseeing. There's nothing wrong with it."

"I don't mean to, I swear. It's just... this isn't anything like what I expected."

"In what way?"

"I don't know... I guess I always pictured the church my parents went to as being sterile and formal and totally silent... like a library run by a priest, you know? One word and everybody in the room frowns and turns to look and does that shush gesture, but without actually making any noise. This place... you know real people go here. I keep hearing conversation, babies laughing and yelling... and nobody minds. I could be comfortable here. It's warm and happy... and alive."

"A lovely description, my boy. Yes, this church is indeed full of joy and life. That's one of the reasons I love it so. You said 'pictured'... were you never allowed to attend?"

"No." Tony replied, his tone saying details might emerge later, but that for the moment, he wasn't going to discuss it further. "One of the reasons?" he asked, offering a change of subject.

"One of many. You're about to see the biggest." He said pointing to the raised dais at the front of the room. Tony raised his head to look at the spot Ducky had indicated and felt his mouth drop open in shock as a beautiful dark-haired woman, draped in white robes and a multi-colored stole, rose to her feet and approached the lectern.

"Good morning!" she enthused, a bright grin on her face. The congregation echoed her greeting with just as much energy. "Welcome to the worship of God here at the First Federated Church of Georgetown. Whoever you are and wherever you are on life's journey, we want you to know that you are welcome here. If you're new or visiting, please take a second to sign one of the guest books by either door at the back, so we'll be able to get in touch if you ever need us..."

As she continued with the morning announcements, Tony got his mouth closed at last and swore silently, digging out the hymnal and opening his bulletin to seek out the tunes they were expected to sing. Luckily, most were vaguely familiar and he felt somewhat confident with attempting to sing them, but he was still grateful that he'd have the words in front of him. As the organist began playing and the pair rose alongside everyone else, Ducky grinned and squeezed Tony's forearm in reassurance.

"You aren't auditioning for the choir, Tony. Just do your best, alright? One of the other things I adore about this place is that absolutely nobody is perfect, we all know it and we don't expect it of anyone else... newcomers or not."

"Thanks."

"Surely. Now sing..."

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11:15

Tony released a deep sigh of relief as he watched the last of the congregation file past him and toward the doors and staircases that led to the small entrance hall one level below. Several people had stopped to speak with Ducky on their way out and, suddenly realizing he wasn't ready to either be addressed by strangers or to respond to them, Tony had done his best impression of the invisible man until the threat had passed him by, causing Ducky to gaze at him with empathy.

"I do apologize, Tony. I'm known quite well by the people here... even so, they wouldn't normally *all* stop by to say hello. I'm afraid many of them, especially the younger women, felt the need to indulge their curiosity..."

Tony chuckled in response, scrubbing his face with his hands.

"It's okay. I survived. God, I only spent two weeks in the damn hospital. You'd think I'd been in there most of my life the way I reacted..."

Ducky didn't respond immediately and Tony could almost feel the tension and emotion flooding the area around where they sat. Just as he was about to speak again, asking what he'd said wrong, Ducky finally cleared his throat and replied.

"I'm sure you must feel as if everyone can see straight through... as if they've been witness to all you've endured the past few weeks. That can be terrifying and inhibiting, I know... but I pray you won't let it drive you back into yourself. You are loved and needed, Tony... please believe that. Your family will do everything possible to keep you here with us and to keep you feeling positive about yourself... but nothing we do will ever be enough if you cease trying..."

Tony half turned in his spot to face Ducky and grasped one of the coroner's hands gently.

"Whoa, whoa... Duck, where is this coming from?"

"Bitter experience, I'm afraid."

"But you're not ready to talk about it yet?"

"No, not yet. Soon, perhaps... in fact, it might help both of us... one in the telling and one in the hearing. It's not a story... well, let's just say that unlike the other tales of my madcap, adventurous life, this is one that very few people have heard."

"I understand."

"I know you do, dear boy... I know you do." Ducky said quietly then seemed to shake himself a little. "Maudlin is highly over-rated as a state of mind. What do you say to a random drive to nowhere in particular and then a hearty lunch that would cause our cardiologists to have tantrums?"

"Sounds fantastic."

"I thought you'd approve. Can you withstand another few moments among the throng? I should at least make an appearance down in the vestry, if only long enough to grab a coffee and run."

"Coffee... any chance of something to go with it? Like cookies... or brownies, maybe?"

"Something in that vein always shows up. I'm sure we can satisfactorily indulge your sweet tooth."

"Don't be so sure..."

BEDTIME: THE HOUSE

"So?"

"So..." Tony teased lightly, knowing exactly what Gibbs was asking about. He got a mild tap on the back of the head for his trouble, but it was accompanied by a soft chuckle.

"When you left here this morning anybody woulda thought you were headed for the gas chamber, not church."

"Hey, I'd never been, not even as a kid. I had no idea what I was in for."

"Never?"

"My parents went once in a while... and always on Christmas and Easter, but it was just for the "see and be seen" factor. They had no reason to show me off... so I stayed home. I wanted to go... really bad, actually. Guess they couldn't be bothered with all they questions they knew I'd have..."

Gibbs arm briefly tightened around him and Tony smiled and snuggled closer, reveling in the silent love and solidarity the older man was trying to convey.

"Go on. Tell me about today."

"It was... good. Strange, but good. Knowing Ducky I was kind of expecting Catholic, maybe Anglican..."

"What, 'cause he's a Brit?"

"No!" Tony protested mildly, adding a gentle elbow back into Jethro's midsection. "I try not to make judgments like that. It's because he's so traditional and old-fashioned. When he took me to that combo church..."

"Combo? You get communion with fries and a soda?" Gibbs interrupted again. This time Tony flipped over to face him, glaring faintly. "Okay, okay. Shutting up now."

"Thank you." the younger man said, sealing his acceptance with a quick peck on the lips. "Combo just means it's half one denomination and half another. Ducky's is Methodist and UCC. It's a really beautiful place... over three hundred years old, according to him. I was trying so hard to take in everything at once... I know my jaw was on the floor most of the time. I'll be able to give you details later, when I've had time to process it all. I did pay attention to the pastor, though. Boy... her you couldn't possibly forget."

"Her?"

"I know, made me take a step back too, but she's funny and totally cool. It's not like I have anything to compare her style to... but just in general, she's a fantastic speaker. In the little bulletin you get on the way in, they didn't call it a sermon, which really surprised me. It was 'the message'. What she was saying, it hit me pretty hard. Felt like somebody knew exactly what I needed to hear today. The whole thing was about trust... and how hard it can be to get back when you've been hurt. She said the best way is to rebuild it in steps. Learn to trust and love yourself, then you can trust and love other people, which leads you back to trusting and loving God. When we got out... I told Ducky I thought it might take a long time for me to make it to the last stage, since I didn't know who God was. He got that smile on his face... the one where you know you said exactly what he was hoping to hear?"

"I don't do that too often, so I'm only vaguely familiar."

"Me either. It was nice to see, for once. Anyway, I agreed to start going with him every week. He's gonna introduce me to the pastor, get me into his bible study group... It's all happening so fast, I should be terrified. Instead... I'm excited."

"Natural. You said yourself that church was something you craved as a kid, but never got to experience. Now you're free to go as much as you want... get all your questions answered."

"Maybe you could come with us next week?"

"I haven't been to church in fifteen years, Tony..."

"That doesn't mean you can't try again. The pastor, she said something right at the beginning of the service... 'Whoever you are and wherever you are on life's journey, you're welcome here.' I could tell it wasn't just a slogan to her. She meant it."

"I'll think about it, okay? Now settle down and get some sleep."

"Later. Gotta tell you about the spread they put on after church... oh yeah, and the little place Ducky took me for lunch..."

"Tony. Work tomorrow, remember? Maybe you can make it just fine on two hours of shuteye..."

"... but you can't. Okay, I'll quit, but we're going out for a beer tomorrow night so I can tell you everything."

Gibbs sighed through a grin, pulled Tony close to him and closed his eyes.

-----------------------------

TBC.......

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