TITLE: The Final Choice
AUTHOR: Ashleigh Anpilova
PAIRING: Leroy Jethro Gibbs/Donald 'Ducky' Mallard
SUMMARY: A sequel to ashley_pitt's I Never Knew. Gibbs is distracted by Ducky's letter to him and finds his old friend is on his mind all the time.
WORD COUNT: 600
WARNINGS: Major character death.
DISCLAIMER: I don't own these characters, nor am I making any money from them. I merely borrow them from time to time.
“My God, Ducky, I never knew.” Gibbs repeated the words again and again, both aloud and in his mind.
Why hadn't he known?
Why hadn't Ducky told him?
Why hadn't he noticed? Some investigator he was.
He didn't sleep that night. He just sat in the darkness holding Ducky's letter and thinking.
Thinking and remembering.
"Why, Duck?" he whispered, as dawn began to creep into the room.
For three days he went to the office.
He did his job.
He listened to the kids squabble.
He rarely visited Abby.
He never went down to Autopsy.
Ducky's letter was in his pocket. Wherever he went, it went.
He found it hard to concentrate.
Thoughts of Ducky kept infiltrating his mind.
He found it hard to concentrate on anything except Ducky.
It should have been a straightforward call out.
It should have been straightforward but it wasn't.
The cries rang out simultaneously, almost, but not quite, drowning out the gunfire.
He felt the bullets hit him.
He felt the bullets tear into him.
He felt them burning inside him.
He fell to the ground as more gunfire raged around him.
Then there was silence.
Then the sound of people running.
His sight was fading; everything was a blur.
His hearing seemed dull; everything was distant.
The burning pain was no longer there; nothing was.
And then suddenly.
Suddenly he could see and hear them clearly.
Ziva on her knees by his head; tears, which she ignored, falling down her face.
McGee staring in horror, reaching for his cell phone.
DiNozzo about to start CPR.
But Palmer pushed him out of the way.
Palmer took over.
It was Palmer who breathed air into him.
It was Palmer who pressed down on his chest, hard enough to break his ribs.
It was Palmer who told McGee to call 911.
It was Palmer who snapped out orders.
Ducky would have been so proud of him.
He looked away from the kids and saw him.
His dearest friend; he should have been so much more.
Ducky just standing, silently watching him.
He looked peaceful, relaxed, younger than he normally looked, free from any pain or worries. The steady, loving look he'd always looked at Gibbs with, still on his face, in his eyes. Only this time Gibbs saw it for what it was. Saw the truth.
He looked at Ducky.
He looked back at the kids.
He heard Palmer gasp, "He's still not breathing."
He heard the wail of the ambulance.
He looked at Ducky again.
Still Ducky didn't move; still he didn’t speak.
And then slowly, hesitantly almost, Ducky held out a hand.
And he knew.
He knew he had a choice to make.
He glanced at the kids again.
The wailing was getting louder.
Palmer was shaking his head, but still relentlessly carrying on. His face was wet; he looked exhausted, grey almost. But still he carried on.
Tears still fell from Ziva's eyes.
Tears now fell from McGee's eyes.
DiNozzo stood rigid, tall, his hand not quite on Palmer, but alert, ready, waiting to obey Palmer; just as he'd always obeyed Gibbs. His loyal Lieutenant.
He looked away from them and looked back at Ducky.
There was no choice.
There never had been.
He reached out his hand and entwined it with Ducky's.
"Ah, Jethro my dear," he heard Ducky murmur, and he smiled.
To the sounds of Ziva singing the same mournful song she'd sung when she'd killed her half-brother to save his life, Gibbs walked away, hand-in-hand with Ducky.