AUTHOR: Ashleigh Anpilova
PAIRING: Leroy Jethro Gibbs/Donald 'Ducky' Mallard. Also a reference to Abby/McGee
SUB-GENRE: Established Relationship
WARNING: Major character death
SUMMARY: The team attend a funeral.
DISCLAIMER: I don't own these characters, nor am I making any money from them. I merely borrow them from time to time.
"Dust to dust. Ashes to Ashes. In the sure and . . . "
Jethro Gibbs barely heard the words.
At the same time he was acutely aware of everything around him.
He stood still and silent. His hands were pushed deeply into the pockets of his black overcoat, the collar of which was turned up against the rain, hail and wind. None of which he felt.
He wondered if he would ever feel anything again.
Around him stood his team.
Abby was sobbing silently in McGee's arms; her tears leaving black streaks as they ran down her face. McGee's own eyes were also far from dry.
Jimmy Palmer, tears slipping from his own eyes, stood with Gerald Jackson. Gerald seemed to be suffering even more than the time he had when Ari had put a bullet in him.
Ziva David, whom Jethro was surprised to see, given that she had left NCIS when Jenn had been fired for incompetence several months earlier, was subdued. She also seemed to be somewhat embarrassed by the outpouring of grief that surrounded her. However she also appeared quite happy to have DiNozzo's arm around her shoulders. DiNozzo himself was withdrawn and pale; he sniffed quietly from time to time.
Nearest to Jethro, standing as still and silent as he was, were Tobias Fornell and Tom Morrow. The latter had been recalled to the Directorship of NCIS upon Jenn's dismissal.
Glancing at Abby, Jethro envied her and the others their ability to cry and show their grief. He wished he could do the same. But he couldn't. Not because he was ashamed of tears, either in public or private, but because the pain was too deep. His loss was too devastating to allow him to cry.
Finally now he understood why Ducky hadn't shed a single tear when his beloved mother had died the previous year. Not at the time of her death, nor at the funeral, or even since, had he cried. On the face of it, to an outside observer, Jethro was more upset than Ducky himself. Jethro had eventually asked his long-time lover why that had been so. Ducky had said simply, "Ah, Jethro dearest, some things are too deep for tears."
Jethro had never told Ducky, but he hadn't really understood what his friend meant. After all he recalled the way he had cried on Ducky's shoulder, both literally and metaphorically, at the time of the death and funeral, of Shannon and Kelly. Now, however, he did understand.
He understood only too well.
Part of him couldn't understand why the death of the man he'd loved and been loved by for over thirty years was hitting him so hard. He had always known that the chances of Ducky dying before him, even given his choice of careers, were high. Ducky was, had been, twelve years older than Jethro himself. But Mrs. Mallard had lived to be nearly ninety-eight, and so Jethro had thought . . .
He recalled the night it had happened as clearly as if it had occurred only minutes earlier.
Now living together in Ducky's Reston home, they had been enjoying a late supper holding hands across the table like young lovers, when Ducky, his eyes widening, had gripped Jethro's hand more tightly, and said softly, "Oh, Jethro my dear." Before Jethro could react, move, think or reply Ducky had slid from his chair, hitting the floor with a sickening thud.
Jethro's reactions had been swift and automatic. Well trained in first aid, he'd administered CPR, only stopping when the paramedics arrived to take his place. But despite his, their, and the emergency room staffs' best and exhaustive efforts, Ducky was pronounced dead on arrival.
And Jethro was left to face the pain of burying his lover.
He swore that if one more person said 'at least it was quick', that he'd pull out his Sig and shoot them. And yet he knew they were correct in what they said. Jethro wouldn't have wanted his lover to suffer a long-drawn out illness, and he knew that Ducky had feared ever becoming a burden to Jethro. No amount of reassurances by Jethro that he never would be had ever stopped that concern. And the doctors had told Jethro that had Ducky lived, he would never have been the same man. He would have been little more than a -
"Jethro," a low voice said, dragging him from his memories.
He glanced to his right. Tobias was touching his arm. The service had finished.
It was over.
Ducky had truly gone.
He had finally been taken from Jethro.
And yet . . .
Nodding briefly to the others who one by one, with great reluctance, began to move away, Jethro turned and stared down at the mound of earth. "Soon, Duck," he whispered, and with one more wish for tears, he moved away from the grave.
He walked slowly to join Tobias who, unlike everyone else who had sensibly made for shelter, stood waiting for him.
And it would be soon. For Jethro Gibbs had received his own death-sentence just the day before.
With treatment, the doctor told him, he had about eighteen months.
Without it he had six, maybe nine at the most, months.
There would be no treatment.
The main thing he needed to do in the months he had left was to decide just how to divide up the money that had left him an extremely wealthy man - more so than he could ever have imagined being. More so than he'd had any idea he'd become. He'd known that Ducky had come from a wealthy family; knew that his old friend had no need to work, but even he had been stunned when the lawyer had handed him the will.
SEVEN MONTHS LATER
"Dust to dust. Ashes to Ashes. In the sure and . . . "
Tom Morrow pulled his attention away from the preacher and instead glanced around the graveyard.
Abigail McGee, now heavily pregnant, stood cradled in her husband's arms. Timothy McGee himself looked pale yet determined. Jimmy Palmer, who had remained at NCIS, rather to the surprise of Tom, after the death of his tutor, stood mere inches away from the McGees with Tony DiNozzo. The latter looked positively ghastly. Jethro's death had probably hit DiNozzo harder than anyone. He had looked up to his boss as a father and mentor. And now he'd gone. For the first time in nearly four years, DiNozzo didn't have anyone to tell him what to do.
Tom's eyes met those of Tobias Fornell, the only person to look even worse than DiNozzo did. And he had known. Jethro had told his second oldest friend, at the same time he'd told his boss, inviting them both to his home for a drink and swearing both men to secrecy. In the exhausted glance Tom saw no reserves, no hiding. For maybe the first time ever, he saw just how close Jethro and Tobias had been.
They'd hidden behind their respective agencies and roles; even arguing from time to time; sniping at one another, running one another down, but their friendship had been firm. Both men had put their lives and careers on the line on more than one occasion for the other. Tobias would miss Jethro. And losing a friend when you were in your fifties was far, far harder than when you were younger. Yes, Jethro's team would grieve, would miss their boss, but the loss would become less more quickly than it would for Tobias.
As he looked at Jethro's team, Tom was hit with the sudden knowledge that the team was no more. NCIS had just lost the best group of people it had ever employed.
McGee, about to become a father, wouldn't want to face possible death every day and leave Abigail without a husband, and their son, to be named Donald Jethro, without a father.
For Abby herself, no matter how much she loved Forensics and proving the once unprovable, for her NCIS had always been more about 'her' men, her fellow team members, than about that specific job. Besides, she had told Tom when she'd announced her pregnancy, that she had every intention of being a full time mother for the first few years at least. And given that Jethro had left the McGees the home in Reston, and a substantial amount of money, some in trust for the baby, she would never need to work, unless she wished to. He wondered whether they would ever see a novel bearing the name of Timothy McGee; he hoped so.
Tony DiNozzo always had been a drifter, as far as his work went, and now that Jethro had died, he too would leave NCIS and go . . . Tom wasn't certain what the young man would do next. Clearly still not trusting him to have grown up, the money Jethro had left to his senior field agent was in trust until DiNozzo turned forty.
Jimmy Palmer, another beneficiary of the Mallard money, had decided to use the knowledge and experience he had gained from his time working with Ducky. Tom wished him well, and hoped that his time in Medical School would help him gain some much-needed self-confidence. He had the ability; Ducky had told Tom that himself.
Tobias Fornell wouldn't he assisting NCIS anymore. He was now able, thanks to Jethro, to take early retirement. To their general surprise, he had also willed Jethro's boat. Tobias had further surprised Tom, given his scathing comments about it while Jethro was alive, by saying that he intended to finish the boat, in the way that Jethro would have wanted.
And as for Tom Morrow himself? He'd stay at NCIS. They needed him; now more than ever. But things would never be the same. The men and woman he had lost today and seven months earlier, were never going to be replaced.
At least not in spirit.
Yes, there would be a new ME and assistant. A new Forensics expert. A 'new' Leroy Jethro Gibbs and his field agents. However, Tom knew that no team would ever gel as well or as deeply as the one that Jethro had commanded.
And maybe that was actually a good thing.
As the preacher spoke the final words, Tom bowed his head. "Rest in peace, Jethro. Rest in peace, Ducky," he murmured. He threw a handful of earth into the newly opened grave where both men would now rest.
Now together in death.
As they had been in life.