Doctor Mallard watched as water gushed unceremoniously from the large tub to his tile floor. It wouldn't surprise him if by the end of this bed time routine his upstairs bathroom became wet enough to serve as his own miniature aquarium. He had asked Jethro that the boys be bathed and in their pajamas before they came for their visit but apparently Gibbs had forgotten.
Soaking wet washcloths were draped over edge of the tub, adding to the puddles. T-shirts, socks, pants, sneakers and two pairs of batman underwear were scattered over the floor. The over -sized pink towels his mother insisted on buying were stacked neatly on the counter near the sink. Beside that, a stuffed animal was placed carefully out of harms way. It had been quite the battle convincing Anthony that while most penguins could swim, this particular bird would not do well in the water.
Plunk! Slosh! Splish!
"Rubber Ducky, you're the one. You make baftime lotsa fun. Rubber Ducky, I'm Awf'lly fond of you. Boop Boop dee Doo," Tony sang as the orange and yellow creature bobbed happily beside their boats, plastic frogs and a few transformers.
"Ducky, ducky, ducky. Doo, Doo. Doo," Tim tried to sing along.
Although the three year old could be difficult when it came to washing, Tim was much more cooperative when taking a bath with his brother. Fortunately for Ducky, Tony didn't seem to mind sharing a tub with the younger lad. It was fairly certain that over the course of the year the five year old would become more modest and opt to have bath time alone but for now it was fine to let the boys be boys.
Hysterical laughter and a shower of water broke him out of his thoughts. Tony had started another rousing chorus of his favorite bathtime song with slightly different words.
"Uncle Ducky," the boy giggled, "you're the one. You make baftime lotsa fun. Uncle Ducky, I'm Awf'lly fond of you!" he finished song with a celebratory splash, smiling up at the older man cheekily. The duck bopped merrily in agreement.
Ducky chuckled, "Very nice, Anthony. Thank you."
"Issa yelloh duckie," Tim stated proudly, not wanting to be left out.
"Clever lad," Ducky praised, " And do you know what sound a duck makes, Timothy?"
"Ducky say'd, Quack, quack, quack, quack!" the newly turned three year old shouted, reaching haphazardly for the plastic animal.
Tony helpfully handed his brother the bath toy before he could fall over. " 'Cept this one, right Timmy? It says, squeak, squeak, squeak! "
"Skeek Skeek!" Tim echoed.
Splash! Back into the tub went the rubber duck.
Little Anthony had adapted to having a younger sibling rather quickly. Unfortunately, Ducky thought sadly, assimilating quickly into new family structures was probably just another one of the many 'habits' Tony had picked up in his first few years of life. It was heartbreaking to think that the boy didn't have anyone to depend on until Jethro. Still, there was a protectiveness and willingness to teach in Anthony that made Ducky quite proud. For Tim's part, the young lad became attached to the older boy almost immediately, much faster than he had to Jethro or himself. Although Athony wasn't particularly... gentle, Timothy toddled after him with a determination to keep up and be included. After 8 months they were adequetly adjusted into the role of brotherly companions.
"Hey! That's mine!"
Or so he thought.
"NO! Don' touch! My fog, Tony!" the toddler cried, trying his best to keep the bath toy out of his older brother's reach.
"Is not! Mine's the red one. Yours's the green frog," Tony shouted, trying to tug it out of Tim's little hands.
"No! No g'een fog. My whed fog!"
Tim held on for dear life but Tony, being three years his senior, wasn't having much trouble prying the plastic amphibian from his brother's grip. Face red with rage, Timothy sunk sharp baby teeth into Tony's hand. Tony let go of the beloved frog with a howl.
" OW! You dummy!" Tony raised a little fist with every intention of bopping his younger brother on the head.
Ducky intervened before it could go any further, "Anthony, don't you dare. "
The five year old stopped immediately, wincing at the use of his full name. "Timmy bited me!" he whined, pointing an accusatory finger at his 'attacker'.
"Timothy, we don't bite. That's very naughty. You could hurt your brother," Ducky scolded severely, "Give me the frog."
The 3 year old clutched the toy to his chest and shook his head. "No!"
"Give me the toy right now, young man. You didn't share nicely so now the frog is being put away."
"NO!" Tim shouted
"Do you need a time out also, Timothy?" he warned
"Noo," the boy wailed.
"I'm counting to three," Duck said, " 1..."
Eyes wide, Tim quickly placed the 'fog' in his uncle's outstretched palm before he could even reach the number 2.
Tony smiled smugly and held his hand out for the toy only to be shot down by Ducky's disapproving look.
"No fair," he pouted.
Ducky stood up from the edge of the tub, his patience stretched paper thin,"Bath time is over, gentlemen."
Judging by their temperament his two nephews were tired, cranky and in dire need of a good night's sleep. Heaven knows Ducky needed it.
"Everybody out," the older man ordered.
"Nooooooo," came a wail from the two.
"5 more minutes, please? We're still playin'," Anthony pleaded.
"Ah'like pay'in," Timothy added, nodding his head convincingly.
"5 minutes and not a second more," he relented, "and no frogs."
"Yes!" Tony cheered.
"Yes!" Tim echoed.
For all his lectures to Gibbs on consistency and proper discipline he really was, what most parental figures would call, a big softie. Especially where Anthony and Timothy were concerned.
The splashing and roughhousing started anew, previous bathtime injustices forgotten.
"You two remind me of me and my cousin David when we were young lads," Ducky told them, "In fact, Tony, you look quite a bit like Cousin David. Well, the hair color isn't exactly the same of course but your eyes-"
"-Uncle Ducky," Anthony interrupted, poking a wet finger into his side.
"How come you can talk so much?" the boy asked with a curious expression.
Ducky laughed at the innocent question, "Well, practice, I suppose."
Tony thought to himself momentarily before responding.
"Oh. That's how come you tell good bedtime stories?"
Ducky knew wheedling when he heard it, no matter how subtle. Realizing that this could be used to his advantage, he smiled.
"Would you like to hear a story about the time Cousin David and I tried to build our own sailboat?"
Anthony nodded readily, "Let's go to bed right now," and started to climb out.
"Me too," Timothy said, quickly following behind.
"Uncle Ducky," Anthony started again hesitantly, "When's the boss comin' ta pick us up?"
The five year old's eyes flashed with concern, before ducking his head into one of Mother's fluffy towels.
"Gibbs-" Ducky started to say.
"Gib?... Daddy?" Timmy looked around worriedly, suddenly realizing the man was missing. "My Gib..." the 3 year old sniffled and his eyes filled with tears.
"Don't cry, Timmy," Tony pulled the three year old to him, "Gibbs'll come back soon... right?"
Hopeful eyes looked at him for confirmation over Timothy's head .
Whenever the team needed to work late (or in Jethro's case, over night,) the boys slept over at Ducky's. Although they had done so on a number of occasions, it still took some time to reassure both boys that their visit was just a visit. A fear of abandonment was not easy to overcome. Even after living with Jethro for over almost two years, it still was constant effort on their part to convince Tony that he was staying with 'his boss' permanently and unconditionally. He wasn't sure if Timothy subconsciously picked up on Anthony's fear or if it was memories of his own birth father's departure that gave him such anxiety but Ducky sought to comfort them both just the same.
"Jethro will be back at 9:30 tomorrow morning, boys, I promise," he said gently.
"9:30 AM?" Tony asked suspiciously.
"9:30 AM on the dot," Ducky agreed. Not matter how stressed, ragged or tired, Jethro would make sure he was there on time.
Tony pulled a rocket ship pajama top over Tim's head. "An' then we have pancakes," he said with confidence.
Ducky rolled his eyes fondly. "You will get your pancakes, Anthony. Don't you worry."
Ducky knew boys Timothy's age couldn't really grasp the concept of time but seeing Tony relaxed was enough reassurance to Tim that all was well.
" Ah'like pancapes, huh Tony?" Tim asked as Ducky quickly ran a comb through his hair.
" 'Course you do, Squirt," Tony smiled.
"kay," Tim nodded.
Ducky sighed with relief as another crisis was averted.
Teeth brushed and pajama clad, the boys were being ushered out of room by Uncle Ducky's gentle hand, when Tony turned around abruptly. At first Ducky thought he was going back for that damn frog.
"Gus! He can't go to sleep in the bafroom," the boy cried, pulling the stuffed penguin off the counter top, "He wants to hear 'bout the sailboat too."
He held the toy up for his uncle's consideration. Ducky bent down so he was eye level with the toy.
"Yes, of course, Gus," he smiled at the stuffed animal, "Anything for my favorite penguin. "
"Issa my brodder's Gus," Timothy interjected firmly.
"You're so right, Timothy, and what a lovely penguin he is." He turned back to the stuffed animal, "Gus, you look rather sleepy. Would you like to lie down in the comfy bed next to Tony and Tim while I share the rest of my story ?"
Tony hugged the plushy to his chest. "He said yes."
"Alright then," Ducky said, taking each child's hand in his and leading them out the door, "Well, our plan, actually it was David's idea mostly, was to build the boat entirely out of cardbord and masking tape, which turned out to be a very poor decision indeed..."