AUTHOR: Ashleigh Anpilova
PAIRING: Leroy Jethro Gibbs/Donald 'Ducky' Mallard
SUB-GENRE: Established Relationship. Song Fic
SUMMARY: Written for Challenge #29 - 'Fortune Cookie'. Gibbs can't sleep as he has a lot on his mind and a serious decision to make.
SPOILERS: Potentially for Jugdment Day.
WORD COUNT: 2,089
DISCLAIMER: I don't own these characters, nor am I making any money from them. I merely borrow them from time to time.
Crossroads by Don McLean (Click title to download song).
I’ve got nothing on my mind: nothing to remember,
Nothing to forget. and I’ve got nothing to regret,
But I’m all tied up on the inside,
No one knows quite what I’ve got;
And I know that on the outside
What I used to be, I’m not anymore.
Leaving Ducky sleeping, Jethro slid out of bed taking care not to wake his lover, and quietly walked across to the window.
The drapes were still half-open letting the moonlight, which he'd made love to Ducky by, filter into the room.
He couldn't sleep. He should be able to, given the evening he'd had, but he couldn't.
It had started with an elaborate Chinese meal, organized and planned as well as any military operation by Abby and Palmer, to 'celebrate' Ducky's retirement. Jethro wasn't certain 'celebrate' was the word Ducky would have used, but as always his lover had gone along with the whole thing. He had showed great pleasure, genuine enjoyment, and the hint of reticence he always showed when he was being showered with love, affection, praise and attention. Jethro had no doubt Ducky had enjoyed the evening; it was just what the evening had signified.
Ducky hadn't wanted to retire, of that Jethro was certain. However, Jenn's replacement, which hadn't been Leon Vance as everyone had expected, had taken one look at Ducky's personnel file and had immediately informed him he had to retire. Both Ducky and Jethro had argued the case long and hard, but the new Director was adamant. And so Ducky had no choice but to concede and retire, and Abby and Palmer had taken it upon themselves to make sure he wasn't going to go without the best send-off they could give him.
The evening had been a good one, a very good one and a special one. Only the team had been in attendance, Ducky's 'official' retirement party having taken place at the offices two days before, and Ducky was left in no doubt how much he was loved and how much he would be missed.
Following on from the hours long eating and drinking, they'd returned to Ducky's Reston home and spent the next couple of hours making love.
So he should be tired.
He should be able to sleep.
But he couldn't.
He couldn't because he had so much on his mind. He was torn inside. He was facing what he'd always known he'd have to face, but he didn't know what he wanted to do. Or maybe he did, he just wasn't certain it was the right thing. He wasn’t certain he could do it. Because he wasn't sure that doing it would be who he was.
But then who was he?
He'd changed over the years. He knew everybody did, but he often felt he'd changed more than most.
Some days he felt he'd changed so much he didn't know who he was anymore; didn't recognize himself.
And now he was considering the biggest change of all.
Should he retire now as well?
Should he say to hell with it all and simply move in with Ducky?
Should he make their relationship public?
Should he do all three?
Ducky hadn't said anything, he never did, never would, but with his mom dead, Jethro feared that Ducky just might want to start traveling around the world again. He'd certainly commented, more than once, on how much he'd enjoyed the places he'd visited – well most of them. And he had once offered to take Jethro to a cricket match – but not just at any old cricket ground, oh, no, it had to be at Lords. And he couldn't do that in an afternoon!
He loved Ducky.
He wanted Ducky.
He needed Ducky.
He wanted to be with Ducky.
But could he do it?
Could he give up work? Could he give up having more than one lover at a time and commit himself wholly and fully to Ducky?
What if he did and it destroyed their relationship?
Okay, so since Mrs. Mallard's death he'd been mostly living at Ducky's home. And the 'more than one lover' had not been true since he'd made the stupid mistake of bedding Hollis Mann in what he'd thought was a one off 'thank you' screw.
But if he did retire, did move in with Ducky, did make their relationship public, would that change him beyond all recognition?
And if it did, did it matter?
He was different anyway.
You know I’ve heard about people like me,
But I never made the connection.
They walk one road to set them free
And find they’ve gone the wrong direction.
But there’s no need for turning back
`cause all roads lead to where I stand.
And I believe I’ll walk them all
No matter what I may have planned.
He knew he wasn't the cock-sure Marine who Ducky had met over thirty years ago.
Or the passionate young man who, despite never having even thought about sleeping with a man, had set out to seduce Ducky and get into his bed.
Or the slightly older man who, despite having a lover he cared about, loved beyond reason and knew he'd grow old with, had fallen in love with the fiery, redhead Shannon O'Neill, pursued her, married her, fathered a baby with her, and then so very nearly taken his own life when he'd lost both of his girls. But he hadn't done so, he hadn't pulled the trigger, because doing so would have destroyed Ducky. And he couldn't do that to the man he loved so much it . . . .
His depth of love for Ducky had scared him. It had shaken him.
He'd lost Shannon and Kelly and survived it. However, he'd feared he wouldn't survive losing Ducky. So he'd done what other people who feared such things do, he'd set out along a path that led to misery, heartache, pain and a depleted bank account.
Three more times he'd married.
Three times he'd divorced.
And what had he to show for it? Apart from scars?
And most damningly, the knowledge that they'd all been worthless; they'd all been wrong. That he'd made the wrong decision over and over again.
He'd never intended to hurt Ducky in the way he had hurt him.
He'd never planned to be the kind of man who cheated on a lover.
And yet it was what he was. It was who he was.
Ducky had told him 'regrets are futile' and finally he could understand that.
Whatever he had done he'd done for a reason, even if he didn't know what that reason was.
Whatever he had done had brought him here.
To this place.
To this night.
To this night when he couldn't sleep.
To this night when he knew he had to face the biggest decision in his life.
To this night when he finally had to face the ultimate question.
And he didn't know if he knew which way to go.
His heart was heavy; he felt everything weighing down on him.
He felt alone.
He felt as if he were standing on the edge of an abyss. Or in a dark cavern.
He had come to a crossroads and he didn't know which way to go.
He felt that whatever decision he made, whichever way he turned, it would be the wrong one.
He shouldn’t feel like that. He had no reason to.
He had everything he'd ever wanted.
For more than three decades he'd had everything he'd ever wanted and so many times he had nearly lost it.
Everything he'd touched over the years had gone wrong.
Everything except Ducky.
And now, now, if he touched Ducky in the way he was thinking of touching him, would he destroy Ducky? Would that go wrong too?
Can you remember who I was? Can you still feel it?
Can you find my pain? Can you heal it?
Then lay your hands upon me now
And cast this darkness from my soul.
You alone can light my way.
You alone can make me whole once again.
He glanced at the bed where Ducky still lay peacefully sleeping, snoring softly, his face lit by the moonlight. He looked peaceful, he looked at peace, he looked content.
For a moment Jethro wanted to wake him up.
Wanted to ask Ducky what to do.
Wanted to ask Ducky if he knew who he was.
Wanted to ask his lover to make him whole.
And that was something Ducky always could do.
We’ve walked both sides of every street
Through all kinds of windy weather.
But that was never our defeat
As long as we could walk together.
Whatever had happened in his life, Ducky had been there for him.
He'd been there in the good times and the bad.
He'd stood by Jethro throughout four marriages and countless affairs.
He'd helped him cover up evidence.
He'd helped him be underhand at times.
He'd helped him bring Jenn down.
He'd been there, never judging, never condemning, never asking for more than he knew Jethro could give.
Together they were stronger than apart; Jethro knew that. He'd always known it.
Together nothing and no one could bring them down – and more than one person had tried to do that thing. They had tried and failed.
So there’s no need for turning back
`cause all roads lead to where we stand.
And I believe we’ll walk them all
No matter what we may have planned.
There was no choice, not really.
There was no need to look back at what he'd done, what he'd done wrong, at the man he'd been.
Okay, so things might not have gone the way he and Ducky had planned – not that he remembered them ever planning anything, not really.
But whatever he'd done, he'd done it with Ducky.
Whichever path he'd chosen, Ducky had been involved in the decision, not necessarily in an 'ask Ducky' way or even in a conscious way. But he knew now, consciously knew, for the first time in their relationship, that every single thing he'd done, every choice he'd made, he'd done it and made it with Ducky in mind.
Yes, he'd tried to hide from the depth of love Ducky had for him. From the depth of love he had for Ducky.
Yes, it had scared him – and in all honesty it still did scare him a bit.
But he'd never escaped it, he'd never wanted to, not really. Because if he had done so, he could have escaped. He could have walked away. He could have ended things.
But he hadn't.
He hadn't because he liked the constant in his life: Ducky.
By the light of the moon, he glanced again at the scrap of paper that had been in his fortune cookie; or rather the two scraps of paper. By some fluke his cookie had contained two 'fortunes'. 'Decide what you want and go for it,' was one. 'The time has come to allow your heart to guide you,' was the other.
He hadn't intended to read his 'fortune' he never did. But something had made him glance at the paper.
No one else had expected him to read it; he realized that now, as no one had asked him what it had said. The kids had all shared theirs, giggling and talking at once, passing them back and forth across the table. But no one had asked him – not even Ducky. In fact thinking about it, he didn’t know what Ducky's had said either.
'Decide what you want and go for it.'
'The time has come to allow your heart to guide you.'
The words had stuck in his mind and had just been another reason he was still awake when he should be asleep.
He had decided what he wanted: Ducky. And he had let his heart guide him.
So he would retire.
He would move in, properly, to Ducky's Reston home.
He would make their relationship public and formal.
And he'd do it all as soon as was humanly possible.
Suddenly weariness and sleepiness overwhelmed him, and staggering very slightly he made his way back to the bed and climbed in.
He was about to snuggle up to Ducky's warmth, when it hit him: decision made he had to tell Ducky. So feeling a little of the cad, he gently shook his lover. "Wake up, Duck," he murmured, brushing Ducky's long fringe off his forehead and kissing his cheek. "There's something I need to tell you."