AUTHOR: Ashleigh Anpilova
PAIRING: Leroy Jethro Gibbs/Donald 'Ducky' Mallard
SUB-GENRE: Established Relationship
SUMMARY: I wrote this for the words_fly_up challenge. Set after the episode Doppelgänger. Gibbs turns up at Ducky's home. However, for once Ducky isn't pleased to see him. It was inspired by my chosen Shakespeare quote: The web of our life is of a mingled yarn, good and ill together. Which is from All's Well That Ends Well
DISCLAIMER: I don't own these characters, nor am I making any money from them. I merely borrow them from time to time.
“Jethro.” Ducky’s tone was cool and flat.
The two men stared at one another.
Gibbs looked into the pale blue eyes that held his own unblinkingly. Unusually they were shrouded from him. Shields that Ducky rarely, if ever, erected around him were present, allowing him to read nothing. Also absent was the fond affection that Ducky always displayed, even when he was a little exasperated with Gibbs for asking impossible questions and making unattainable demands. You’ve really screwed up this time, Jethro Gibbs, he told himself. He’s beyond just being pissed off at you.
They continued to stand there.
Ducky with one hand on the barely open door, his body shielding the way in.
Gibbs with his hands buried deeply in his overcoat pockets. Working on the ‘if you don’t ask, you don’t get’ principle, he said, “Can I come in, Duck?”
A flicker of something moved across the face he’d known for more than twenty-five years. Gibbs wasn’t certain he wanted to identify what the something was. “It’s rather late, Jethro.” The cool, flat tone was still present in Ducky’s voice.
“It’s only 9:00 p.m., Duck.” Gibbs was surprised at the use of the lame excuse. “I just want to -“
“Donald dear, who’s at the door at this time of night?” Mrs. Mallard demanded, her tone heavy with irritation. Before Ducky could answer, she had pulled the door open further and was peering out into the night. As she saw who was standing there, her face lit up and her tone altered. “Jethro dear, it’s you. How nice.”
“Good evening, Mrs. Mallard ma’am.” Gibbs smiled down at the elderly woman. “And how are you tonight?”
“I’ve very well, Jethro dear, thank you. But why are you still standing on the doorstep like one of those door-to-door salesmen? You’ve come to see Donald I assume?”
“Yes, ma’am, I had. But -“
“It’s quite late, Mother.” Ducky spoke quickly, his tone firm.
“Nonsense. Of course it isn’t. You come in, Jethro. Just ignore Donald; he’s been in a bad mood all day. I can’t imagine why. Can you?”
“Mother!” Ducky snapped.
“Well you have, Donald,” his mother replied firmly. “Now move out of the way and let dear Jethro in.”
Looking as though the last person he wanted at that moment to let in was ‘dear Jethro’, Ducky complied; albeit slowly. He closed the door firmly and dropped the latch. However, unusually he didn’t put the bolts into place.
“Bolts, Donald. Bolts,” the clearly-more-lucid-than-normal woman ordered.
After a second or two when once more Ducky met Gibbs’s gaze, held it, and then looked away, Ducky obeyed the second order. “There, Mother,” he said, when they were firmly in place.
His tone, like the look, made it clear to Gibbs that it was only Mrs. Mallard’s insistence that had got him into the house and behind a bolted door. He suddenly wondered whether coming here tonight had been a wise move after all. “Er, maybe Du . . . Donald’s right, Mrs. Mallard. It is kind of late. Maybe I should just -“
“Nonsense,” she said firmly, and hobbled off in the direction of her sitting room. “Come and pour me a drink, Jethro. You had better pour one for that son of mine too, it might cheer him up.”
Casting what he hoped was an apologetic look, together with a ‘what can I do?’ question at Ducky, Gibbs followed the limping woman. He dutifully obliged Mrs. Mallard, smiling as he passed her a glass consisting of three-quarters gin and a quarter tonic.
He handed a glass to Ducky and prevented himself from flinching as Ducky’s fingers clearly avoided making contact with his. “Duck?” he said softly. His friend ignored him. Maybe he hadn’t heard. Gibbs had said it very quietly, and Ducky had turned his back on him. But . .
“Now, you boys run along and play,” Mrs. Mallard ordered brightly, after draining half of her glass and holding it out majestically for Gibbs to refill.
“Mother! We are not five year olds!” Ducky snapped.
Gibbs blinked, and again rued his decision to come here. For Ducky, the mildest of men, the man who normally around his mother had the patience of a saint, or at least he did in Gibbs’s opinion, to snap at his mother twice inside ten minutes was not a good sign at all.
“Then stop behaving like one, Donald!” Mrs. Mallard snapped back. She turned away from them, picked up the remote control and turned the television on - at full blast.
After several seconds, during which he just stood and stared at his mother, Ducky turned sharply on his heel, wincing as he did, and moved from the room.
Gibbs watched him go, noticing that his friend was limping far more than he normally did. Gibbs flashed a quick smile in the direction of the woman who was now ignoring him, and followed Ducky.
He half expected the front door to be standing open. But it wasn’t. For the first time since he’d arrived at the door a tiny seed of hope began to germinate inside him.
“Well don’t just stand there, Jethro. You know where to go,” Ducky said, appearing from the direction of the kitchen. The seed began to wither at the steely frozen look in the pale eyes. The only thing that he could find any degree of comfort in, was that Ducky hadn’t resorted to calling him ‘Gibbs’ or even ‘Agent Gibbs’.
He headed for the stairs.
It was a good five minutes before Ducky appeared in the doorway of his bedroom.
Gibbs still stood, coat on, one hand in the pocket, the other holding his glass. He hadn’t liked to sit down - not even on the chair - and he certainly hadn’t presumed to remove his coat.
Ducky came in and closed the door firmly. He limped towards Gibbs, stopping just inside his personal space, tipped his head back and said coldly, “I don’t know who disgusts me more at times like this, Jethro, you, or myself.” He turned away.
Unable to stop himself, Gibbs caught his friend’s arm. Ducky became rigid under his fingers, but he didn’t try to break away. “Duck,” he said, anguish clear in his voice. “Don’t. Don’t ever think that about yourself.” Pausing long enough to push his glass onto the nightstand, Gibbs put his other hand around Ducky’s shoulders and slowly turned him.
For a moment Ducky did resist, but then he allowed himself to be turned. It didn’t escape Gibbs’s attention that ‘allowed’ was the correct word. That despite the six extra inches, twelve fewer years, and the Marine training he had over Ducky, his friend had permitted himself to be maneuvered. Gibbs had not moved Ducky by himself.
He looked down into the now dull blue eyes. “Don’t, Duck,” he whispered. “Hate me. Be disgusted with me. But don’t feel that way about yourself. You’re too good, Ducky. Too strong.”
Ducky said nothing for a long time. Then finally he sighed and spoke; his tone was heavy with something else Gibbs didn’t want to identify. “If I were either of those things, my dear, I’d have told you where to go years ago.” Gibbs was nearly certain that the ‘my dear,’ was nothing more than Ducky’s in-built automatic conditioning, rather than something Ducky had intended to say.
Then Ducky sighed again, and for a brief moment let his head come to rest on Gibbs's shoulder. Gibbs kept the hold he had on Ducky loose, not wanting to presume permission to embrace his lover. "Oh, Jethro," Ducky said, and sighed again. "Mother is quite correct. I am behaving like a five year old. The only thing she missed out was 'spoilt'. I'm sorry, my dear."
This time the 'my dear' was clearly said intentionally. Jethro swallowed hard and dared to tighten his grip slightly. For a second Ducky tensed under the embrace, then he sighed for a third time, and moved closer to Jethro, settling into the embrace. However, he still didn't return it. He just stood still with his head resting, more heavily now, against Jethro's shoulder, and his arms hanging loosely by his body.
"I'm the one who should be apologizing, Duck, not you." Gibbs lowered his head slightly and brushed his lips across the top of Ducky's head; the touch was so light that he doubted Ducky would have felt it.
"Ah, Jethro," Ducky spoke quietly. "We always agreed you never had to. And why should you? You've never made any promises of exclusiveness to me."
And Gibbs hadn't.
He had made that promise to three women, knowing each time, as he did, that he was lying. And he'd also implied it to other women.
The one person to whom he would never make the promise unless he truly meant it, was the person he held in his arms. The person who loved him unconditionally, who put up with everything Gibbs threw at him and was still there. "I love you, Duck," he said softly.
"I know, dearest," was Ducky's simple response. Then he moved slightly, tipped his head back and met Gibbs's gaze. As he stared down into the still slightly dull gaze, Gibbs watched the shields that Ducky had erected begin to tumble away, leaving the love and affection they always showed, blazing clearly in the pale blue gaze. "If I had ever doubted that, I would have sent you away a long, long time ago." Now he slipped his arms into their customary position around Gibbs's neck, letting them rest there loosely.
"I often wonder why you go on loving me," Gibbs murmured.
"Hush, Jethro. We've had the same conversation many times. I keep telling you, love isn't something you necessarily choose. And when I fall in love, it lasts a lifetime."
"Unlike me, you mean?"
Ducky chuckled. "Hardly. Not unless you've been lying to me all these years."
"Which I haven't."
"Which you haven't," Ducky confirmed, this time tugging Gibbs's head down and kissing him gently.
Several minutes later Gibbs asked, "Why can't I just stick with you, Ducky?"
"That, my dear, is one of the great mysteries of life," Ducky said, a twinkle in his eyes and his voice. "But I have no doubt that one day you will."
"You really believe that?"
"Yes. If I didn't, love or not, I wouldn't still be around. Now kiss me, Jethro."
Jethro did so.