AUTHOR: Ashleigh Anpilova
PAIRING: Leroy Jethro Gibbs/Donald 'Ducky' Mallard
SUB-GENRE: Established relationship
SUMMARY: Behind cut as it contains spoilers for Hiatus Part 1. It's set at the end of Hiatus Part 1, and explains some of the happenings in the episode.
DISCLAIMER: I don't own these characters, nor am I making any money from them. I merely borrow them from time to time.
SUMMARY: This story was spawned from the one line (Ducky denying that he knew about Jethro's previous coma and that, despite them being close friends, he knew little about Jethro's life before they had met) in Hiatus Part 1, which shook the little universe I had carefully created. Thus, I did what any respectable fanfic writer does at times like this, I wrote a story, to fix it for me. (Yes, this is pure self-indulgence). It's set at the very end of Hiatus Part 1, as Jethro wakes up, looks at Ducky and says 'I don't know him'. The story explains why Jethro is saying that. It's very angst heavy. And contains spoilers for Hiatus Part 1. I'm hoping that I've managed to write it so that no matter what happens in Part 2, it won't be contradicted. But... one can never tell what TPTB will come up with.
“I don’t know him.”
Ducky sighed to himself and raised his emotional shields.
It had happened again. As he’d feared.
When he’d been told that his beloved was in a coma, Ducky had tried to prepare himself. When Tony had mentioned REM, Ducky had tried even harder.
But you can’t totally prepare yourself for something so devastating. Not when a small part of you allows yourself to hope.
Ducky had lied to the doctor when he said he hadn’t known about Jethro’s previous coma. Of course he had. Hadn’t he known Jethro for nearly thirty years? Hadn’t he loved him for that long?
But they’d made a pact. A bargain. Jethro had made Ducky promise. To promise that if that time was ever mentioned, that Ducky would say he hadn’t know about it. And Ducky always kept his promises to Jethro, no matter how uneasy lying to a fellow medic made him feel. But it wasn’t as though him saying anything would have helped, not really. At least that is how Ducky justified the lie.
Fifteen years ago Jethro had also laid in a coma for nineteen endless days. A coma from which he hadn’t wanted to wake up. Not even for Ducky. A coma that protected him from the world. From himself. From his self hatred. From love.
He blamed himself for Shannon and Kelly’s death. Blamed himself because he hadn’t loved them enough to remain faithful to them. Blamed himself because he was so happy, and he thought that no one had the right to be that happy. Blamed himself because although he was happy with Shannon and Kelly, they weren’t enough.
And Ducky had blamed himself too. Blamed himself for not being stronger. For not doing as he said and leaving Jethro. For not walking away and letting the marriage be.
But Jethro had threatened and used emotional blackmail. Oh very gentle blackmail, but blackmail nonetheless. He’d simply told Ducky that if he left him, then he’d follow him and bring him back.
And Ducky couldn’t do that.
Couldn’t do it to the woman he loved in his own way.
The child he adored like a favorite niece.
The man he would kill for; die for; fight for; lie for. The man who . . .
The man who was Leroy Jethro Gibbs.
And if he was honest, which, sometimes in the dark of the night when even though he was safe in Jethro’s arms he was unable to sleep, he was, he couldn’t do it to himself.
Everyone thought that Dr. Donald Mallard, affable, rambling, friendly, affectionate Ducky was a honorable man. A good one. A man you could trust. A man who didn’t lie. But that wasn’t how Ducky always saw himself.
Jethro had once asked him whether he believed it was possible to love, to truly love, two people at the same time. Ducky had known what Jethro had wanted to hear, so he’d said ‘yes’. At the time he wasn’t certain his words had been true. But as the years went on and he saw how happy Shannon and Kelly made Jethro, and how happy he, Ducky, made Jethro, he had to accept that maybe some people could indeed love two people.
Or maybe, as occurred to him in the dark, awful moments of his being, Jethro was fooling himself. After all, he had married Shannon because she had been pregnant. But Ducky was prepared to admit that it might just be his sub-conscious doing a little wishful thinking. Which had always made him feel guilty, as really he didn't want to deprive Kelly of her father. Or even Shannon of her husband.
And then Jethro had gone away to fight in the conflict that became known as Desert Storm. Gone away to be injured and receive his Purple Heart, which, like all of his medals or awards, gathered dust. Some Ducky had. Some Jethro kept in some dark, forgotten place. Some, for some unfathomable reason, Anthony DiNozzo kept locked in a box in his desk drawer.
Jethro said his goodbyes to the three people he loved, and had gone.
In some ways never to return.
When Jethro had opened his eyes fifteen years ago and Ducky had been with him, Jethro’s first words had been ‘I don’t know him’.
It had been the mind’s way of coping.
Of dealing with what he couldn’t deal with.
Wouldn’t deal with.
And it wasn’t just that fact that he blamed himself, that made him blot Ducky out. It was because he was desperate to protect Ducky - he always was. Jethro was honest to himself, and Ducky, about his adultery. He was prepared to admit to being an adulterer. In fact Ducky had known that had their secret ever come out, Jethro would not have been particularly bothered for himself. But he would never have wanted Ducky to have been branded ‘the other woman’.
So blanking Ducky out, blocking out their years together, blotting out their love, kept Ducky safe. And helped keep Jethro sane.
So the old friends were deliberately vague about how long they’d known one another. Never actually saying five years, ten, fifteen, twenty, more. And Ducky knew that in the eyes of Jethro’s young team, any friendship that lasted for more than a few years was an ‘old friendship’.
He did think that Jethro had once nearly undone what he had striven so hard to keep a secret. It was during what had become known in the office as ‘The Meat Puzzle’. Jethro had been worried beyond measure, but was trying to keep it to a normal Jethro Gibbs level, trying not to let the team see the soft side of him. As he told Ducky, he had been distracted when Kate had asked, ‘What did Ducky look like when he was younger?’ And his automatic response of ‘Illya Kuryakin,’ could easily have told anyone who had recognized the name, that Jethro had known Ducky when Ducky was in his 30s; because after all, Jethro wasn’t the type to sit around looking at family photographs.
And now another head injury.
Another near death experience.
And Jethro was taken back fifteen years.
Taken back to when he lost his wife and daughter.
And also taken back to a time when he’d taken the law into his own hands and had killed their killer.
That was something about which he and Ducky never spoke. Ducky didn’t because he knew that if anything had happened to him when he had been kidnapped, if Jethro hadn’t rescued him from the jaws of death, that Jethro would now be in prison for murder.
So now Jethro’s mind was doing the same thing it had done fifteen year ago.
The similarities in the injuries had worked on the mind and had dragged Jethro into the past. Shannon and Kelly were dead. Jethro felt guilty. And so Jethro blotted out the memories of the truth.
As before, Ducky kept telling himself, Jethro’s memory would return. And he would be Ducky’s again. And they could go through the recovery again. The self blame. The self hatred.
But as difficult as this was. As difficult as it would be. In many ways it was like a birth. Their relationship would be born again, and just as fifteen years ago, it would become even stronger. Ultimately nothing could separate them.
Or no one.
Over the years Jethro had tried marriage again.
Ducky had tried leaving the US and working in different countries.
But nothing had worked.
Because in truth neither man wanted it to.
Because it was impossible.
No matter what, no matter how, why or where, they were one another’s past, present and future.
So until then, Ducky would be there for Jethro. He would talk to him, if asked remind him of their friendship, their friendship post-Shannon. Let Jethro talk, or not. And if Shannon and Kelly were mentioned, Ducky would act as though his friend was telling him something he didn’t know.
As painful as it would be for Ducky, he’d take his lead from Jethro. He would let Jethro live in the past as long as Jethro needed to. And at the end of it, Ducky would still be there. As he always had been. As he always would be.
SOME TIME LATER
“Yes, my dear?”
“Is this likely to happen again?”
“I can’t be certain, Jethro. I am not an expert in the mind. No one is really. No one can truly know what might trip a memory, or when a blow to the head is shrugged off with an Aspirin and maybe a few stitches. Although of course any blow to the head -“
Jethro silenced in him his usual non-office way.
“I’m sorry, my dear,” Ducky said, when the kiss ended and he again settled into Jethro’s embrace. “You were asking me a serious question, and I began to ramble again.”
Jethro chuckled. “You wouldn’t be my Duck, if you didn’t. And you are, you know?”
“I am what?”
”My Duck. Mine. I’m sorry, Ducky. It must have been hell for you. I don’t want to put your through it again.”
“Well, dearest, unless you are planning to retire, or tie yourself to your desk and never leave the office, unfortunately I do not think there is any guarantee of it never happening again.”
Jethro tugged Ducky even closer to him. “You’d never leave me, would you? I mean even if . . .”
“No, my dear. I’ll never leave you. I couldn’t. Now, has your memory of me returned sufficiently for you to remember how to - Ah, Jethro.”