AUTHOR: Ashleigh Anpilova
PAIRING: Leroy Jethro Gibbs/Donald 'Ducky' Mallard
SUB-GENRE: First Time. Episode Related. Song Fic. Series
SUMMARY: A sequel to Ducky's Dilemma and Gibbs's Gut. Set during Lt. Jane Doe. Finally, Gibbs and Ducky realize what the other has been trying to tell him. Written for Challenge #27 - 'Titles'.
SPOILERS: Lt. Jane Doe
WORD COUNT: 3,697
DISCLAIMER: I don't own these characters, nor am I making any money from them. I merely borrow them from time to time.
Now And Forever by Richard Marx (Click title to download).
Whenever I'm weary
From the battles that raged in my head
You made sense of madness
When my sanity hangs by a thread
I lose my way, but still you
Seem to understand
Now and forever,
I will be your man
Gibbs stood and watched Ducky limp across the squad room.
You’ve been holding out on me, Doctor.
Yes, Agent Gibbs. I have.
The exchange, so unlike anything they'd ever had, came to his mind so clearly he almost thought they were replaying the scene. 'Doctor' 'Agent Gibbs' when had that happened?
Around him he could sense the surprise of Abby, Kate, DiNozzo and McGee; he could understand it. Ducky had confessed to what, in Gibbs's book, was a major 'crime' and Gibbs had reacted with silence, other than the 'holding out on me' and Ducky's reply, that still kept beating in his mind. Silence and turning the brim of his hat back and just staring down at him, while Ducky gazed back up at him.
God, what had he been thinking? That kind of gesture was an intimate one; one that went beyond friendship, Gibbs was aware of that. He'd done it automatically; he'd wanted to see Ducky's eyes, the one sure barometer of his feelings, his emotions. Six inches taller than Ducky meant he couldn't see his friend's face because of the hat he always wore whenever he went out. So he'd acted on instinct; he wanted to see Ducky's eyes; the brim of his hat was in the way; so he simply got it out of the way.
Looking back though, it had been a dangerous thing to do – for more than one reason. As he'd stood staring down at Ducky, astonished by his actions, he had found himself coming closer than he'd done since admitting his feelings for Ducky went well beyond friendship to telling Ducky how he felt. And not telling him, but also coming close, very close, extremely close to kissing him.
Whether it had been the troubled look in Ducky's eyes, the hesitation as he looked at Gibbs, the flash of insecurity, the . . . Whatever it had been. Gibbs couldn't actually put a word to it. Or could he? Over the months he'd believed, but then dismissed, that Ducky wanted more than friendship from him. And despite telling himself that Ducky didn't want him, couldn't want him, his wishes hadn't gone away. But seeing Ducky standing there, gazing up at him, Gibbs had seen with a clarity that surprised him that Ducky wanted him to kiss him. At least he thought he had; was almost sure he had.
That was why when Ducky had turned away and walked away, he hadn't stopped him. Gibbs kept his feelings under control, extremely under control, at least one of his ex-wives claimed he hadn't got any. He was the master of self-control; he only did something if he wanted to do it. But he knew had he not let Ducky walk away, he would have kissed him. There. Then. In front of the kids and anyone else who happened to be watching. And to hell with what anyone may have thought.
This couldn't go on.
He couldn't keep feeling like this.
Acting like this.
He had to say something.
Whatever it meant to his friendship with Ducky.
Whatever it did to the friendship.
He had to say something.
And he would.
But first, he needed to find out just why Ducky had acted so unprofessionally. Why the one person he would have bet his life on not holding out on him, on not lying to him, had done just that.
Ignoring the kids, he strode off after Ducky.
Ducky, still wearing his hat and coat, was standing by one of the open Autopsy drawers. Gibbs knew, even from the door it was their 'Lieutenant Jane Doe'. As he looked at his old friend, he saw that Ducky seemed suddenly to have aged, to have shrunk; he appeared very vulnerable.
Fighting his desire to just go to his old friend and take him in his arms, Gibbs forced himself to be professional. Case first, he told himself. "Doctor Mallard."
Ducky glanced at him, then looked away, before once again looking up. For several moments they simply looked at one another in silence.
Finally Ducky beckoned him to join him on his side of the open drawer. Gibbs moved around to where Ducky was standing and looked down, as Ducky was doing, at the victim's neck. He moved close, as he always did, brushing against Ducky, partly because it was the normal thing to do, partly to try to offer Ducky some silent . . . Something.
He looked at her neck and saw a trident carved into the skin. And he knew. "That’s not the first trident you’ve seen carved in the neck of a victim, is it?" His tone was soft, but contained a firm rebuke; dear friend of not, Ducky had behaved badly. As he finished speaking the words, he moved away around to the other side of the open drawer, he was too close to Ducky to think clearly.
For a brief second, Ducky was silent, as he once more looked away from Gibbs, instead starting back at the dead girl's neck. Then he sighed softly and answered the rhetorical question. "No. I shouldn’t have held out on you. But I wasn’t sure it was the same until I did the autopsy."
For a moment Gibbs looked down; he didn’t want to see in Ducky's eyes, on his face, as well as hear, the almost blatant lie. He leaned his arms on the edge of the open drawer. "You weren’t sure when you saw the trident on her neck at the crime scene?"
Ducky's tone was firm, even a little harsh. "Unlike you, Agent Gibbs, I prefer to rely on forensic evidence and not my gut."
Now he did keep his eyes on Ducky and he spoke quite slowly. Forming each sentence precisely, making sure Ducky heard each word. "We’re a team, Doctor. Team members don’t hold out." There it was again: 'Agent Gibbs' 'Doctor'. What the hell was wrong with them?
For some moments they simply stared at one another across the open drawer.
Ducky was the first one to break the stare and the silence. "Yes. You . . . You’re right. It was . . . unprofessional. I’m still hoping that Abby doesn’t get a match and all this is just some macabre coincidence." He started to push the tray away; Gibbs helped him and watched as Ducky shut the door.
Then Ducky looked at Gibbs. "Forgive me, Jethro."
With those simple words, together with the look that was on Ducky's face, all anger, all confusion, all the conflicting thoughts that he should be angry with Ducky vanished. He should be very angry with him, and yet he couldn't be because Ducky was Ducky, his dearest, oldest, closet friend, thus all of his angry feelings fled. They fled leaving the kind of peace that he only ever felt when he was with Ducky. And Ducky's words, his explanation, the reason why he did what he did, why he behaved as he had done, why he'd held out on the team made sense now. At least they did to Gibbs, and that was that mattered.
He held out one arm, inviting Ducky to come near, inviting him to come and be held; to come and be hugged.
Ducky, moving more quickly now, did so willingly. Gibbs gripped his shoulder briefly, then slid his arm around Ducky's shoulders.
Once under Gibbs's arm, Ducky put his own arm around Gibbs's back, and together they started to walk.
Realizing how right, how perfect holding Ducky, having Ducky's arm around him felt, Gibbs said quietly, "Tell me about that other case."
"Well, it was ten years ago . . ."
Sometimes I just hold you
Too caught up in me to see
I'm holding a fortune
That Heaven has given to me
I'll try to show you
Each and every way I can
Now and forever,
I will be your man
They walked the length of Autopsy, arms around one another, wrapped in what could only be described as an embrace.
And as they walked Ducky began to explain to him about the other case. And as he listened to Ducky tell him the story, it hit Gibbs. It hit him harder than the frying pan, the seven iron, or the baseball bat had hit him. Ducky did want him. Ducky did love him as more than just a friend. And Ducky was telling him so. Had been telling him so for months now.
It was just that Jethro hadn't really paid attention to it. He'd been so caught up in his own thoughts, his own wishes, his own uncertainties, that he'd failed to notice what was in his arms. Ducky was the most precious, the most dear, the most beloved person Jethro had ever known.
Even as Ducky was explaining in more detail, telling him about the profiler's opinion, showing him the paperwork, part of Gibbs's mind was still focused on the personal side of things.
Fate had brought them together. A British doctor who just happened to be in the same city, in the same street, on the same night, at the same time, as the young Jethro had a three day pass, on the same night that Mary-Beth had dumped him.
Fate had given Ducky to him, and he'd so very nearly blown it. He'd so very nearly lost his chance. He'd so very nearly lost Ducky. He'd failed to see what was under his nose, what was in his arms. Some investigator he was!
But now he'd realized.
Now he knew.
He'd make up for it.
He'd tell Ducky, he'd show Ducky, he'd tell him and show him in any and every way he could. Hell, if it meant romancing, he could do that. Just because he didn't, it didn't mean he couldn't. He knew what Ducky liked, that was part of the beauty of it. He didn't have to worry whether it was the right restaurant, the right wine, the right whiskey, it would be, because he knew Ducky so well.
Ducky had taken his hat and coat off and had returned to his desk, returned to where Gibbs was looking at the paperwork. Ducky sat down on the edge of the desk, he was near; he was so near. Gibbs could smell his personal scent that always surrounded him, the forest, the sea and formaldehyde, all of those things spoke of one thing, one person: Ducky.
Ducky leaned ever nearer, as he continued to talk about the old case, and showed him a note the killer had left. A note saying 'I'll be back', which had been discovered at the scene three days after the body had been found.
As soon as this case was over he would make his move. He didn't really want to wait, but he knew he had to wait until the case was over. More than two decades of knowing Ducky told him clearly that his old friend had to get this sorted before he would allow himself to enjoy himself. To relax. The story Ducky was telling him was obviously painful to Ducky. But still he didn't know one thing.
Gibbs stood up straight and looked down at Ducky. "I’ve got one question for you, Ducky. Why is this case so personal?"
Ducky sighed and looked up at Gibbs. Then he stood up and moved towards the door leading to the supply room. As he did he answered Gibbs. "Did you know that Leonardo Da Vinci never gave the Mona Lisa to the patron who commissioned it?"
Gibbs sat down at Ducky's desk. "Nope." Like he was expected to know such a thing?
"Instead, he carried the painting with him for the rest of his life." Ducky came back to the desk; he was carrying a small oblong, golden casket. He held it out slightly, showing it to Gibbs. "She’s been with me for ten years, Jethro. She’s the only Jane Doe I never identified. The only one whose family has no closure. The only one who never went home."
Ducky sounded so woebegone now, that Jethro decided to hell with waiting. He was going to –
The sound of the phone cut into his thoughts. He looked up at Ducky, but Ducky made no move to answer it. It rang twice, three times. With a firm, silent promise of 'later' Gibbs finally grabbed it. "Autopsy."
Abby's voice answered him. "Ducky?"
"Do I sound like Ducky?" He half-growled the words at her.
"No. Actually, these days he sounds more like you, Gibbs.
"I’m not in the mood, Abbs." And he wasn't. It wasn't often he was short with Abby, but he needed to focus on Ducky for now, Abby would be understand.
Undeterred, he often thought Abby was indefatigable, Abby went on brightly. "Well, maybe this will brighten your . . . Spirits. The semen sample from Jane Doe’s murderer . . . matches the sample that Ducky gave me!" Abby fell silent, clearly waiting for Gibbs to say something; to be pleased. When he didn't, she spoke again, this time more hesitantly. "This is good news, right?"
"Abbs, that semen is from a ten year old cold case." He hung up. He heard Ducky sigh with a hint of despair.
"He’s back, isn’t he? Not again, Jethro." Ducky leaned forward, getting close to Gibbs, invading every inch of his personal space. "We can’t let him escape again." His voice told Jethro even more than the fierce plea did.
"We won't, Duck," Jethro said softly, as he put his hands either side of Ducky's face. "We won't," he said again, a little more firmly. "I promise."
"Jethro?" Ducky looked and sounded puzzled.
"Later, Duck. When this is over. There's something I have to tell you."
"Can't you tell me now?"
Jethro shook his head. "Nope. Later. Come on, let's go and tell the kids the full facts." He stood up, guided Ducky to straighten up and again put his arm around his shoulders.
Now I can rest my worries
And always be sure
That I won't be alone, anymore
If I'd only known you were there
All the time,
All this time.
Jethro waited patiently in the car while Ducky said his goodbyes to his Jane Doe, and finally laid her to rest.
He then headed towards his home. Earlier on, once the case had been solved, he'd called Helen Patterson who had agreed quite happily to go to Ducky's home and keep Mrs. Mallard company for the evening; she had even been more than amenable to spending the night.
During the drive they chatted from time to time about the case, Ducky's mom, the office in general, the kind of thing they normally talked about. There were also stretches of silence, the kind of non-threatening silence that only friends of their long-standing and closeness could share.
Once they arrived at his home, Jethro locked the car and ushered Ducky inside his house. He saw the surprise on Ducky's face as he turned and locked the front door. He ignored the look and instead took Ducky's hat and coat and hung them up. "Come on, Duck. Let's have a drink."
"This is very pleasant, Jethro," Ducky said, a few minutes later as they sat side-by-side on Jethro's couch drinking some of the decent whiskey Jethro owned. "Now what is it you wish to tell me?"
Jethro swallowed some more whiskey, put his glass down on the coffee table, turned slightly so he was facing Ducky, and took his hand. Apart from raising an eyebrow at him, Ducky said nothing. More importantly, he made no attempt to pull his hand away; instead Jethro felt a very slight pressure as Ducky tightened the grip a little.
He'd thought about this several times, most recently while waiting for Ducky at the cemetery, trying to decide what to say to Ducky, how to say it, and he really wasn't any nearer to a decision. Fancy speeches and pretty words didn't come naturally to him, nor did long drawn out, convoluted speeches. Now Ducky on the other hand was good at that kind of stuff.
He mentally shrugged and went with, "Duck, I love you." He waited.
To his surprise and disappointment, Ducky didn't say anything. He simply put his head slightly to one side, again raised an eyebrow and waited. Damn it. Well, he guessed it wasn't the most revealing of things to say. Okay, so he'd never said it before, but he'd loved Ducky for years, and Ducky knew that; just as he knew Ducky loved him. But that had been friendship; this was something else.
He licked his lips. Did he imagine it, or did the look on Ducky's face change slightly? Was there a very faint flush? Had his pupils dilated infinitesimally? "Okay, Duck, I'm probably going to make a fool of myself. I just hope it doesn't ruin our friendship. But . . . I love you, Duck. Not as a friend, well that as well, but as more. I want you," he added. "Have done for some time now. I thought I'd showed you, thought I was obvious about it. Thought you might have guessed. Might have . . . I know you probably don't feel the same; I mean why would you? What have I got to offer you? Nothing, except me. And that's – Did you say something?"
"Yes," Ducky said placidly.
Ducky simply stared at him, his eyes soft, his gaze full of love.
Silently muttering about 'hardly the time to choose to be literal', Jethro asked, "What did you say?"
Ducky smiled and chuckled softly. "I am sorry, my dear," and now the grip he had on Jethro's hand definitely tightened. "I told you that I love you too."
"Like I love you?" Jethro wanted to make sure.
"Oh, yes." Ducky leaned forward a little and put his hand on Jethro's cheek. "Ah, my dear, dear Jethro, I have loved you for almost as long as I have known you."
"You have?" Jethro's tone was incredulous.
Ducky nodded. "You didn't notice?"
Jethro shook his head. "No. Over the past months, year or so, I'd let myself think, wish, that maybe you did. But as I said, I thought I was being so obvious about how I felt about you, that if you had felt the same, you'd have made a move. Said something, or done something. But you didn't do or say anything."
"I merely thought my love for you had become so intense that I was projecting my feelings onto you. That I was misreading the heightened intimacy, the touches, the looks, the closeness; I told myself it was just another step in our friendship."
"You know many friends who do this?" And Jethro repeated the gesture he'd made several months ago, cupping Ducky's cheek, patting it, feeling only a very faint hint of stubble beneath his hand. Ducky moaned very quietly and leaned forward even more, deliberately moving into the touch.
"Now that you mention it, maybe not quite like that, no. Ah, but, Jethro, you must understand. For me to have spent twenty-nine years loving you and being in love with you, and knowing that nothing could come of my feelings, because you were not interested in men, it wasn't easy for me to suddenly assume that your touches, the way you looked at me, watched me, sought me out even more than you usually did, was you trying to –"
Jethro had had enough. He loved listening to Ducky, he could listen to him for hours, but there was something else he wanted. Letting go of Ducky's hand, he swiftly brought his other hand up to mirror the one still caressing Ducky's cheek, cupped Ducky's face between both hands, leaned forward and down and put his mouth to Ducky's.
It was sweet, it was the sweetest, most beautiful, most intense, most chaste kiss Jethro had ever known. It felt right too, in a world that rarely seemed right to him anymore, this felt right. It felt so right; he slipped one hand around Ducky's head and gently gathered Ducky into an embrace. As he did so, he deepened the kiss moving it from the chaste to something more.
Ducky went willingly, moving his arms to encircle Jethro, learning against him, opening his mouth for Jethro to slip his tongue inside.
For what seemed like hours, they rested on the couch simply kissing, before slowly, gently, reverently almost, they began to explore one another's bodies. Not completely sure what to do, or what Ducky might like, Jethro found himself following Ducky's lead, mirroring the touches, the strokes, the caresses of his lover.
He carried on like that until he felt a little bolder, then he began to explore on his own. He undid Ducky's bowtie and top two buttons of Ducky's shirt and after fluttering his fingertips over the exposed skin for a moment or two, he turned his attention to licking and sucking Ducky's neck.
"Oooh, Jethro," Ducky gasped, putting his head back and giving Jethro more access.
As he kissed and sucked, Jethro began to move his hand down Ducky's body, flirting with his chest, feeling his nipples harden through two layers of cloth, before finally letting his hand come to rest in Ducky's lap.
Again, Ducky groaned, more loudly this time and parted his legs more as Jethro began to stroke and cup the hardness under his hand; he very much enjoyed the way Ducky pushed up into his palm.
He wanted more. He wanted a lot more. He wanted to give Ducky so much more.
With reluctance he finally pulled back and gazed at Ducky who looked at him with a mixture of emotions. "Want to take this upstairs, Duck?"
Ducky smiled. "I thought you'd never ask," he said, nonetheless making it clear that before moving he wanted another kiss.
Hours later Ducky shifted slightly and gazed up at Jethro. His lips were swollen and red, his cheeks flushed, his eyes far more black than blue, his hair damp on his forehead, his body warm and soft where it pressed against Jethro's. He seemed to want to say something, ask something, but didn't know how.
"Go on, Duck, just ask," Jethro said softly, leaning down and lightly kissing Ducky's lips.
Ducky shook his head. "No, it's nothing."
"Ask, or else I'll . . . " Jethro slipped his fingers to Ducky's waist and let the tips hover over the skin. He'd discovered, purely accidentally, that his lover was ticklish, almost painfully so.
"Simple choice, Duck: ask or . . ." He let his fingertips make contact for a brief second.
Ducky caught his hand. "Very well. Forgive me, my dear, but I have to know. Was this a one-off for you? Or . . . ?" Now he trailed off.
Jethro shook his head. "Nope. 'Fraid not, Duck. You've got me for as long as you want me."
Ducky's sigh was a mixture of relief and pleasure, as he reached for Jethro's head and pulled it back down to once again meet his lips with his own.
Just before their mouths met, Jethro felt certain he heard Ducky murmur, "That will be forever then."
Forever suited Jethro. It suited him very much. It suited him very much indeed. He was more than content to be Ducky's now and forever.
Until the day the ocean
Doesn't touch the sand
Now and forever
I will be your man
Now and forever,
I will be your man.