TITLE: Lain To Rest
AUTHOR: Ashleigh Anpilova
PAIRING: Leroy Jethro Gibbs/Donald 'Ducky' Mallard
SUB-GENRE: First time. Episode related. Angst.
SUMMARY: Set after Requiem. Gibbs realizes he needs to talk to someone about what happened.
WORD COUNT: 3,625
NOTE: The first scene and the final scene are written in a different POV style from the rest of the story; this is intentional.
DISCLAIMER: I don't own these characters, nor am I making any money from them. I merely borrow them from time to time.
He comes back inside from reburying Kelly and Maddie's time capsule, wipes the dirt from his hands, and stares around him.
The basement looks strange without a boat.
Maybe it's time.
Time he started a new one.
But first there is something else he has to do.
Something else he needs to do.
He has to talk to someone about what he experienced.
And there is only one person he can turn to.
Only one person who will listen, understand, not laugh and maybe, just maybe, even explain.
"Hey, Duck. Can I come in?"
"Of course you may, my dear." Ducky moved back a little and let Jethro pass by. He then closed and relocked the door.
When he turned back to face Jethro, he moved nearer, tilted back his head, looked up and frowned slightly. "Come along upstairs," he said, after a moment or two. "I'll pour us both a drink."
"Thanks, Duck." And that was another reason why he'd gone to Ducky and not anyone else. Apart from the fact there was no one else he would go to, Jethro knew that, after more than thirty years of friendship, Ducky could read him so well; knew him so well. He wouldn't push him to explain why he was there, not until Jethro was ready.
"Thanks," he said again, several moments later, when Ducky handed him a heavy, cut-glass tumbler, half full of whiskey. The amount surprised him a little; then he looked, he really looked, at Ducky.
His old friend wasn't the only one who knew how to read people, especially one particular person.
In an instance Jethro had put his glass on the coffee table, taken Ducky's own glass from his hand, and gathered Ducky into his arms, holding him tightly, as he'd done many times before. "I'm okay, Duck," he murmured, after a moment or two, his lips on Ducky's ear, "I'm okay," he repeated, as he continued to hold Ducky, who was now shaking, albeit almost imperceptibly, against him.
Ducky's head rested against his shoulder; his arms gripped Jethro more firmly than they usually did when the two men embraced. And against his chest, Jethro could feel the slightly too fast heartbeat.
He said nothing. He simply continued to stand there, holding Ducky, hoping that his presence, their close contact, would soothe and calm and reassure.
He shouldn't be, he wasn't, surprised at Ducky's reaction. Even DiNozzo had looked ashen and shaky when Jethro had finally opened his eyes and focused on the man who had saved the lives of Maddie and himself. And although his senior field agent had attempted to make a jokey comment about 'needing therapy after having to kiss his boss,' six years of working with Tony DiNozzo meant Jethro saw beneath the cock-sure, arrogant, juvenile man, DiNozzo all too often tried to be. If DiNozzo had been shaken by Jethro's brush with death, God alone knew what Ducky must be feeling.
If he could give his oldest, dearest friend some comfort, then Jethro knew he would be prepared to stand there all night if necessary. And the comfort went both ways: having Ducky in his arms always made his world feel a little better. Ducky fitted into his embrace in a way that no one else Jethro had ever held had ever fitted. Holding Ducky had always felt right, natural, peaceful, safe.
After a few more minutes, Ducky suddenly pulled back and out of Jethro's embrace. "I am sorry, my dear. You didn't come here tonight to have me fall apart on you. Please forgive me. Here," he picked up both glasses and handed one to Jethro.
Jethro took it. "Nothing to forgive, Duck," he said slowly, and there wasn't, quite the opposite in fact. He was, however, a little surprised by the abrupt way Ducky had broken the embrace. "You okay?" he asked, touching Ducky's shoulder.
Ducky smiled, but to Jethro's eyes it seemed a little strained. "I believe I should be the one asking you that."
"I'm fine, Duck. Chest's a bit sore and back of my throat seems rough, and in a crazy way I still feel wet, but other than that, I'm fine. Really," he added.
"Here," he said a second later as Ducky just appraised him. "Feel." He offered Ducky his wrist. The faint smile that touched Ducky's lips this time was more than a little self-depreciating. Nonetheless it didn't stop Ducky from taking his wrist and putting his fingers on Jethro's pulse. "See, perfectly normal." Ducky's strong, surgeon's fingers felt warm and relatively smooth on his wrist.
"Come on," he said, moments later. "Let's sit down and enjoy the drink. Unless you want to take my temperature and blood pressure and whatever else you need to reassure yourself." He kept his tone gentle, and free from any hint of flippancy. If that's what Ducky wanted, what he needed, then he'd be happy to put up with it.
However, Ducky shook his head, smiled again and released Jethro's wrist; it suddenly felt cold. "I am sorry, Jethro," he said again. "I am being foolish. Please ignore me."
This time Ducky laughed softly. Then moving a little more slowly and stiffly than he usually did, his leg appeared to be causing him more pain than usual, he carefully sat down on the sofa. Jethro waited until he'd settled back before joining him.
After a moment or two Ducky spoke. "You know that you really should have allowed Anthony to take you to the hospital, do you not." It wasn't a question.
Jethro shrugged. "No need."
Ducky frowned. "Jethro, you nearly – Indeed according to poor Anthony you did. Jethro . . ." He trailed off.
"What, Duck?" Jethro kept his tone low.
"Why did you do it? Why did you deliberately drive off the pier? Why, Jethro?" Ducky didn't raise his voice, didn't snap, indeed his tone was perfectly normal, relaxed even. However, the steady, suddenly shielded pale gaze spoke volumes to Jethro; even if those volumes were, for once, blank pages.
Well it was as good a place to start as any, Jethro guessed. "Reckoned it was the best way, Duck."
"I wasn't armed. They were. There were two of them, Duck. Two with a hell of an incentive to stop me. Reckoned if I wasted time turning the car around, it’d give them more of an opportunity to stop us. To kill me. Kill Maddie. Whatever. Thought I'd have more chance in the water. I was going in backwards, the impact wouldn't affect the front of the car. I'd be able to get us both out and safe."
"What went wrong?"
"Don't know. That's just it, Duck. I don’t know. Steering wheel collapsed on me. Shouldn't have done, not going in backwards. But it did. I was trapped. Maddie was unconscious. I couldn’t break the windscreen or open the door. I'd gambled and lost. My only thought had been to keep Maddie alive, and it looked like she was going to die anyway. And it'd been me who'd killed her. Then DiNozzo appeared, got Maddie and –" Jethro stopped speaking and took a long swallow of whiskey. Then another. Then a third, draining his glass.
Ducky looked at him as he sat there holding the empty glass in his hands. "The bed in the spare room has been aired," he said quietly.
Jethro accepted the offer with a nod. "Thanks, Duck." He stood up, strode to the drinks cabinet and grabbed the bottle of whiskey Ducky had poured their drinks from. He poured another generous measure into the glass, and turned around holding up the bottle. "Want a top-up?"
Ducky shook his head. Then, just as Jethro was about to put the bottle down and return to the sofa, nodded. "I believe I will have a small top-up, please. Thank you," he said, once Jethro had poured a medium amount into his glass.
Ducky waited until Jethro sat back down before saying, his voice still low, "Maybe you heard Anthony."
"Maybe you heard Anthony's car and knew there would be someone to help you, rescue you."
Jethro shook his head. "No, Duck," he said firmly. "Didn't. I didn't hear anything. I was too intent on trying to get Maddie to safety. In trying to persuade Coyle and Judd to let me have her in exchange for the other bag of money."
"You may not consciously have heard it. You –"
"No. Ducky, I'm sorry, but I didn't. Couldn't have done." He put one hand over Ducky's to soften the hard words. "When I drove off the pier, Duck, I believed I was the only one who could save Maddie. Just me. And I didn’t. I was a bloody fool. You were right, Duck," he said suddenly.
"When you asked me earlier who I was trying to save. I wasn't trying to save Maddie, well, I was, of course, but . . . What was it you said, Duck? 'Some things just can't be undone'? Well you were right. Realize that in the end. Me saving Maddie wasn't going to bring Kelly back, was it?"
"No, Jethro. It wasn't. But you know that. You always knew it."
"Yes." Ducky spoke firmly, his voice louder than it had been. He covered the hand Jethro still had over his with his other hand and squeezed it.
They sat in silence for several minutes.
Then Jethro spoke again. "Why'd it happen, Duck?"
"Why did the steering wheel collapse? It shouldn't have done. No way should it have done. Why did it?"
Ducky shook his head. "Jethro, there are some things in this world for which there is no answer. I do not know why it happened. I do not pretend to know. Maybe –"
"I saw her." Jethro's voice was low and he looked down at where their hands rested on Ducky's knee.
"Kelly." Now Jethro looked up. Looked up and straight at Ducky. "I saw Kelly, Duck. I saw her. She was there. Her and Shannon."
"It was after DiNozzo had rescued Maddie. Couldn't hold out any longer, Duck. Couldn't hold my breath. I knew I was going to die. And that was okay. Maddie was safe. At least I had to believe she was. But there was no way DiNozzo was going to get back for me. It was over. I knew that."
"Jethro, please." Ducky sounded distressed.
But Jethro couldn't stop. Not now. Not even for Ducky. Instead he linked his fingers with Ducky's and held his hand, held on to the firm, warm, non-gun-callused hand, held on to his dearest friend, the person who had always meant the world to him; had always meant more than his own life. More than most other people, in fact more than anyone save his Kelly. Even, given that she'd been dead for more than fifteen years and Ducky had been with him, more than Shannon.
"It's all right, Duck," he murmured softly, putting his lips on Ducky's soft hair, he shifted on the sofa, moving nearer to Ducky, until he was touching him. "It's all right." Next to him, pressed against him, he felt Ducky shiver a little, as he held onto Jethro's hand. "She was there, Duck. She was. And I don't mean I was having a flashback; I'd had those all day, but this was different."
"How?" It was clear to Jethro that Ducky had forced the word out.
"She was laughing. Smiling. Happy. Peaceful. Not like she'd been all day. I kept seeing her. I kept seeing her as I saw her that last time. Crying, sobbing, begging me, begging me, Duck, begging me not to go. She was beyond being consoled; I could see that. Shannon was holding her, but Kelly –" He stopped as something suddenly hit him.
"It was as she knew. Knew she'd never see me again. Knew . . . But that's stupid. Course she didn't. She was just upset. And yet . . . She'd never been as upset as she was that day. She was used to her daddy going away. This was different. That's my last memory of her, Duck, sobbing, trying to cling to me, begging me, pleading with me. That's what I kept seeing, kept remembering, all day. Her so unhappy. But then she wasn't. And she spoke to me."
"What did she say?"
"She told me she loved me, she told me it was okay and she told me . . . She told me to go back, Duck. She let me go. And she was telling me, I'm sure of it, she was telling me it was time to let her go. To let her and Shannon rest in peace. Telling me to finally lay them to rest. And then she'd gone, and the next thing I knew was being on the pier holding Maddie's hand with DiNozzo dripping all over us. She sent me back, Duck."
"I believe I might have been incorrect in what I said earlier."
"When I told you that some things cannot be undone."
"She was there, Duck."
Ducky looked at him. "I believe you, my dear," he said, his voice low.
"But she couldn't have been, could she?"
"Jethro, as Shakespeare himself said 'There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.' I cannot begin to even attempt to explain it, any of it. I'm not even certain we should try. For some reason your car disobeyed the laws of logic and your daughter reappeared to save you and . . ." He glanced away.
"Release me?" Jethro said quietly. "Duck."
It was several moments before Ducky looked up and at Jethro. "Yes, Jethro." The steady gaze was now wary, and Ducky was watching Jethro intently.
Jethro swallowed. "Duck. This might not be the best time. In fact it's probably the worst time. But if today taught me anything it was not to waste what you have. And that makes it the best time. It makes it the only time. If I let this moment pass, it won't happen and that would be wrong. That would be letting Kelly down."
Ducky moved back a little and Jethro felt him try to pull his hand away from Jethro's tight grip, while, Jethro could tell, making it clear he was trying to hide the movement. "I do believe that you might have been spending too much time with me, my dear. You are starting to – Jethro!"
The look in Ducky's eyes was akin to the look that often appeared in Palmer’s, and sometimes in McGee's: like a deer caught in the headlights of a car. For a scant second Jethro felt guilty, but guilt was a useless, a pointless, emotion as well as one that wasted time. Nonetheless he didn't want to risk losing Ducky by being too forceful; by rushing too much.
Slowly he lifted his hand and gently stroked Ducky's cheek. "It's all right, Duck," he said, in what he hoped was a soothing tone. "It's all right," he repeated. "It's time," he said. "You know it too. Least you would if you stopped to think. We've been heading here for years, decades. Come on, Duck, you know I'm right."
"Jethro, I . . . Why now?"
Jethro was glad to see that Ducky had ceased to back away from him and that the deer caught in the headlights look was fading. He still looked uncertain, hesitant, but even that was fading and he was once again holding Jethro's hand, rather than merely let his hand be held. "Has to be now, Duck. You know that, don't you? It's right."
"I am not certain, my dear. You . . . You have –"
"To live again. To let go. To move on. Really move on; really live; really let go. Not like I've been doing all these years. That's what Kelly meant. That's what she wanted."
"I'm not certain that Kelly would approve of –"
Once again Jethro silenced Ducky.
This time, for a few seconds, Ducky returned the kiss, going so far as to let his lips part a little. Jethro stroked the inside of Ducky's bottom lip with his tongue, teasing it, making love to it, before breaking the gentle, almost chaste kiss. "Reckon she would, Duck. Know she would. It's time for me to stop messing around."
"Do you really believe what you're saying?"
"Which bit? That I've let them go?"
"Yeah. Yeah I do, Duck. Wouldn't do this otherwise. Couldn't do that to you. You've wanted me for too long for me to mess you about."
"And you believe we've always been heading here?" Now Ducky sounded dubious.
Jethro nodded. "Yeah. That too. Just didn’t realize it. Know it, until today."
"But why today?"
Jethro shrugged. "What was it you said Shakespeare said? Oh, yeah, 'there's more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.' I don't know why now, Duck. I can't explain it. Just as you, as we, can't explain the car, and Kelly being there. Even of her being so distraught that last time I left her. I just know. I know, Duck. Okay? I know what I want and that's you. Simple as that."
"I'm not entirely certain it is that simple, Jethro."
Jethro shrugged. "Do you love me, Ducky?"
Ducky nodded. "Yes."
"Do you want me?"
Again Ducky nodded. "Yes."
"Well I love you and want you too. So it's simple. Right?"
He saw Ducky's eyes gentle even more than they usually did when they looked at him, and he smiled softly. He shook his head a little and then chuckled softly. "Ah, my dearest, dearest Jethro."
He waited a little longer. "Er, that it, Duck? That your answer?"
"Oh, no, dear. This is my answer."
This time Jethro found his mouth claimed by Ducky's.
This time the kiss wasn't quick or chaste.
This time they didn't break away.
This time Ducky's hands began to wander over Jethro's body.
It was at least half an hour before they broke away long enough to move from Ducky's sofa to Ducky's bed.
As he slowly and carefully removed Ducky's last item of clothing, Jethro knew he was finally at peace. At peace with himself and with the world.
What had happened that day had happened for a reason.
It had had to happen.
It had been time.
He gathered Ducky closer to him and began to live.
Whist Jethro sleeps, Ducky watches over him. He is pleasantly tired from their lovemaking, however, his is, as yet, unable, even unwilling, to sleep.
Their lovemaking had been good. Better than good. Much better than good. Much, much better than good. Much better than he could ever have hoped for, believed possible, given that not only was it their first time together, but that it was Jethro’s first time with another man. As friends they had always been intimate with one another, but even so. The intimacy of friends and the intimacy of lovers are two different things, at least Ducky has always believed them to be thus.
However, it is not the beauty, the near perfection, of their lovemaking that keeps Ducky awake. Instead it is something else. Something he is not certain he will ever tell Jethro. It is about Tony.
Earlier in the day he had visited Ducky and had poured out the truth to him. Poured out his shame, his guilt, his self-anger, most of all his surprise, shock and confusion.
He had not saved Jethro nor Maddie. He had messed up the CPR. He told Ducky how he’d all but fallen apart. How he’d forgotten many of the details of CPR. How he’d forgotten to tilt their heads back. How he hadn’t covered their mouths properly, thus sealing in the air he was trying to give them. How he’d left them on their backs. How he hadn’t checked their airways.
Tony hadn't known why it had happened to him. It shouldn't have done. He was a Federal Agent, trained in CPR, and it wasn't the first time he'd had to perform it. And this time it had been more important to him than on any previous occasion. He should have done it better. He should have got it right. He should have been the one to save them.
But he hadn't saved them.
Jethro had been dead.
When Tony had turned away from him back to Maddie, Jethro had been dead. Of that Tony had been certain.
He had not saved them.
He had not saved Jethro.
Yet they both lived.
Yet Jethro lived.
Who had saved them?
Had Tony merely been wrong in his assumption? Had be been playing down his role?
Ducky doesn’t believe that. He is certain Tony would not have gone to him unless he had truly believed what he had told Ducky. He would not have confessed to Ducky what had happened. He had been troubled, deeply troubled, by his actions, and by the fact they lived.
Tony DiNozzo firmly believes that neither Maddie nor Jethro, especially Jethro, should be alive.
But they are.
So who had saved them?
As with the car and Kelly, Ducky has no answer.
He just knows.
Knows that Jethro is alive.
Knows that Jethro is his.
Know that Jethro is his forever.
Knows that Jethro has lain to rest his ghosts.
Knows that Jethro has lain to rest his past.
Knows there is more, far, far more, on heaven and earth than anyone will ever understand.
Knows he will now sleep.