AUTHOR: Ashleigh Anpilova
PAIRING: Leroy Jethro Gibbs/Donald 'Ducky' Mallard
SUB-GENRE: Pre-Slash. Angst. Episode Tag
SUMMARY: Set after Mother's Day. Gibbs is hurt and angry; he wants to see no one. However, Ducky isn't just anyone. But he is not there to simply sympathize.
SPOILERS: Potentially for Mother's Day
RATING: PG (for language)
WORD COUNT: 2,590
DISCLAIMER: I don't own these characters, nor am I making any money from them. I merely borrow them from time to time.
"Damn her!" Gibbs snarled, viciously throwing the top of his bourbon bottle across the basement before putting the bottle to his mouth and taking a deep swallow. Half-choking for a moment as the fiery liquid hit the back of his throat, he took the bottle from his mouth, spluttered several times and wiped his mouth with the back of his hand, before putting the bottle to his lips again and taking another swallow. The second swallow went one went down so much easier; the third even more easily.
He paused before taking a fourth. "Damn her!" he cursed again, slamming the bottle down on the workbench and wiping his eyes. "Damn her. How dare she? How dare the bitch -" He stopped abruptly, as he heard a noise upstairs. Grabbing the gun he kept under the workbench, he headed for the bottom of the stairs.
However, as he reached them, he heard footsteps at the top. "Stop right there. I've got a gun and I won't hesitate to use it," he snarled, cocking the gun and daring the person to move.
"Yes, my dear, I know you have." At the sound of Ducky's cool, calm, untroubled by Gibbs's threat, voice Gibbs uncocked the gun and put it on the workbench.
Seconds later Ducky appeared, one hand half-raised, the other gripping the banister. "Yes, Jethro, it is I." Once he saw Gibbs no longer had a gun in his hand, Ducky lowered his half-raised hand.
Gibbs blinked. He knew he'd locked the front door; he remembered doing it. "But how -"
"Did I get in?" Ducky asked, his tone still cool and calm.
"Yeah?" And then despite remembering locking the door, Gibbs asked, "The door was locked, wasn't it?"
Ducky nodded. "Oh, yes."
"Then how'd'you get in?"
Ducky smiled. "I seem to remember a certain young special agent teaching me the basics of housebreaking," he said placidly.
Gibbs gave a half-nod, turned away and grabbed the bottle from his bench. He was about to take another swallow, but paused and raised it in Ducky's direction. "You want a swig?"
Ducky shook his head. "No, thank you."
Gibbs shrugged. "Suit yourself," he said, before once again putting the bottle to his mouth and swallowing. "What?" he said, after a single swallow; he glared at Ducky.
"I didn’t say anything." Ducky's tone was still placid.
Gibbs frowned. "You were thinking it though."
Ducky sighed. "Ah, Jethro. I assure you I was not thinking anything; at least not the kind of thing to which you refer."
Gibbs shrugged. "Whatever," he said, pointedly taking another deep swallow of the liquid that again burned the back of his throat. He coughed harshly, put the bottle down and again wiped the back of his hand over his mouth. "What are you doing here?"
"Do I need a specific reason to visit my closest friend?" Ducky stared up at him.
"Cut the crap, Duck," he said forcefully. "I'm too tried for games. Either tell me what you want or get the -" He stopped abruptly as his brain reminded him it was Ducky standing opposite him. Ducky his oldest, closest, most loyal and most beloved friend. Ducky; not DiNozzo or anyone else he could threaten or be cruel to. He sighed, briefly closed his eyes before opening them again and saying, his tone somewhat softer, "What do you want, Duck?"
Ducky was silent for a moment and let his gaze skitter away, before he looked back at Gibbs. "Anthony told me about Shannon's mother."
"And you've come to sympathize with me? Yeah, well, thanks, Duck, but I don't need your - What did you say?" Gibbs moved nearer to Ducky, and for the first time ever in all the years they'd known one enough he quite deliberately used his height in an attempt to intimidate the man who was some six inches shorter than him.
"Given you are now attempting to do to me what I have seen you do to criminals, the children and even on occasions Tobias, I suspect you heard exactly what I said." Ducky spoke calmly and held his ground, doing nothing more than tipping his head back even further in order to maintain eye contact with Gibbs.
"How can you say that? What the fuck gives you the right to say that?" Gibbs pulled himself up to his full height and continued to loom over Ducky.
Still Ducky didn't move; he didn't even seem troubled. "Friendship," he said quietly. "The close friendship we have."
Gibbs shook his head. "There are some things even friendship doesn’t allow," he snarled. "You have no fucking right."
Ducky shrugged. "Maybe I don’t have the 'right', as you call it. But it needed to be said, Jethro. Someone needed to say it and the only person who could was I."
"Get out!" Gibbs yelled. "Get the hell out of my house and don't ever bother coming back." He grabbed Ducky's arm.
Apart from a bitten off gasp, still Ducky betrayed not hint of concern or fear; Gibbs doubted any of his agents, not even Ziva, would still be standing their ground and refusing to succumb to his will. "No," Ducky said, his tone still low, but now it was tinged with the steel Gibbs had heard only half a dozen or so times in all the years they had known one another. "No, Jethro, I am not going anywhere. And neither are you," he added, as Gibbs let go of his arm and began to stride towards the stairs.
Again no one else would have dared to order him about like that, and no one else would have stopped him. But stop he did. He stood with his back to Ducky fighting to get himself back under control before he turned back to face the man who meant so much to him. Ducky was rubbing his arm where Gibbs had gripped him and Gibbs felt a wave of self-hate disgust race through him at what he'd done. He'd gripped Ducky tightly, very tightly and had done so deliberately, just for a second wanting to cause him pain. Yeah, he really was a bastard; no matter what Ducky'd said, he was Gibbs's friend and he hadn't deserved that. "Ducky, look," he said, his tone lower. "Go home, okay? Just go home and -"
"What forget? No, Jethro. I will not. It's time you . . ." He trailed off then spoke again, this time his voice while still firm was softer and filled with just a hint of compassion, along with the clear fact that he didn't enjoy saying what he was saying. But, nonetheless, he still intended to say it. "Jethro they are dead. They have been dead for nineteen years. They are dead. And there is nothing you can do or say to bring them back. No amount of self-blame or self-hatred or hatred of everyone else in the world will bring them back. They are dead. You are not. But if you go on like this you might as well be." Ducky paused and took a step nearer to Gibbs and then to Gibbs's surprise, he lifted his hand and cupped Gibbs's cheek. "Ah, Jethro. Three marriages and I don't know how many other relationships. You've destroyed them all."
"Thought you always said it took two to do that."
Ducky shook his head and made a soft noise that sounded like a half-chuckle. He moved his palm a little over Gibbs's cheek. "Of all the times you decide to listen to me, nay, quote me to me, you choose now. Yes, I have always said that and it does. And resorting to violence was not the answer, nor was invading your privacy or trying to force your hand or change you or all the other things the women in your life did. But," Ducky paused again and swallowed. When he spoke again it was with determination and the steel was back. "But you never gave them a chance. Not really. You couldn't because you were still in love with Shannon."
"I killed her," Gibbs whispered.
Ducky frowned. "No, Jethro. You did not. Shannon's mother was quite wrong, so very wrong and so very stupid to say such a thing to you. You did not kill your wife and daughter; you were not responsible for their deaths. Pedro Hernandez killed them and you killed him."
Gibbs felt his mouth part and hastily shut it. "How did you - Duck," he said quietly, "how did you know?"
"Because I know you, my dear," Ducky said simply. "I know you. He killed them; they are dead, Jethro. Dead. He killed them and you killed him. And you have to face that. You have to accept that. You have to let them rest in peace. You have to. You cannot go on like this. Nineteen years is enough, more than enough, far more than enough for you to mourn them in the way you have been. You have to stop You have to let go. You have to live again."
Gibbs realized that as well as Ducky's hand still cupping his cheek, Ducky had also taken his hand and was holding it. "Don't know if I know how to, Duck," he said, speaking the words until that second he hadn't consciously admitted. "Oh, my God," he staggered slightly, leaning back against the workbench, puling Ducky with him. "Duck?"
Ducky sighed. "Finally," he murmured.
"Shannon'd be angry with me," Gibbs said, not really talking to Ducky. "God she could get angry. She'd tell me what a damn fool I was. Tell me it hadn't been my fault. Tell me she moved away with me because she loved me. Tell me to get over it and . . ." As the tears that he'd shed after his ex-mother-in-law had verbally attacked him, began to fill his eyes, he sobbed twice. "She wouldn't want this, would she?" he whispered.
Now Ducky let go off his hand and cupped his face with both hands. "No, Jethro. She would not."
"I loved her."
"I loved her so much."
"I loved Kelly."
"I know," Ducky said for the third time.
"Yes, Jethro, they have gone."
Ducky sighed, the sound almost one of relief and approval. "Yes, my dear Jethro," he said, tightening the grip he had on Gibbs's face. "They are dead."
"Got to let them go."
Ducky nodded. "Yes."
"Should have done it a long time ago. It got harder, not easier. Instead it got easier just to . . . You know."
"Go on as you had been?" Ducky's voice was soft and he gazed up at Gibbs.
Gibbs nodded. "Yeah. Duck?"
"Will you . . ." He trailed off; he didn't know how to ask.
To his stunned surprise, he felt Ducky tug his head down a little and brush his lips over his own. The contact was brief, chaste; it was an answer but also a question, it seemed to be offering him so much and yet expecting nothing. "Duck?" he whispered when Ducky stood back a little. "What was that?"
Ducky looked at him. "Whatever you want it be, Jethro. Entirely what you wish it to be. A promise. An affirmation. An offer. Just a way of one friend acknowledging another's friend's pain. Anything you'd like it to be and nothing you wouldn't like."
Gibbs realized he'd subconsciously linked his arms around Ducky and was now holding him in a loose embrace. "You know many friends who kiss just out of friendship?" he asked gently.
Ducky's eyes twinkled and Gibbs groaned inwardly realizing that Ducky was going to take the question literally. "Well, now, Jethro. You know the modern thing is for two friends to . . ." He trailed off under Gibbs's half glare and smiled. "I'm sorry, my dear," he said, not sounding the least bit apologetic. "What I should have said is how many people have the close friendship that you and I share?"
Gibbs couldn't argue with that. "Why now?" he said simply.
Ducky glanced away for a moment, before looking back up at him. "Because you weren't ready before," he said quietly. "And neither was I."
Gibbs frowned. "Not sure I get the second bit, Duck."
Ducky again glanced away and shifted slightly in Gibbs's embrace, as if seeking a way to escape without actually doing so. The silence continued for some time; so long that Gibbs began to think Ducky wasn't going to answer. However, finally Ducky looked back at him. "I wasn't ready to risk being treated as you treated your other . . . The women in your life."
Gibbs frowned. "Wouldn't have done, Duck."
"Maybe, maybe not. However, that isn't really the point. The point is . ." He trailed off and Gibbs watched him frown. "The point is . . ." Again he trailed.
"The point is that you've forgotten what the point is?" Gibbs asked.
Ducky smiled. "That does indeed seem to be the case, yes."
"What happens now?" Gibbs asked.
Ducky shrugged. "As I said, that is entirely up to you. I can say goodnight and go home now. Or we can go to the sitting room and you can pour me a glass of decent whiskey. Or we could," he paused and swallowed. "Or we could go to bed and . . . Well that once again is up to you. We could simply sleep, as you, my dear Jethro, appear not to have slept properly for quite some time. Or . . ." Once more he trailed off and shrugged. "Whatever you wish."
Gibbs looked down at the man who still rested in his light embrace. With startling clarity he knew what he wanted; he also knew he didn't want it that night. It would be wrong somehow; well it wouldn't be right. It wouldn't be right for him, for Ducky, for either of them. He didn't just want one night; he didn't just want to sleep with Ducky because he was there and was someone, not that he would, but he didn't want to even consider it might be that. He wanted Ducky, and he knew now he'd wanted him for quite some time. But not tonight.
Tonight was about doing what he'd said earlier and letting go. Tonight was about friendship; tonight was about putting his ex-mother-in-law - not the mention that damned lawyer bitch - out of his mind. Tonight was for nothing more than holding and being held. And Ducky was right; he couldn't remember the last time he had a decent night's sleep.
Carefully he tugged Ducky a little nearer to him, lowered his own head and echoed the gesture Ducky had made some minutes earlier as he brushed his lips over Ducky's. "Hope you won't be offended or anything, Duck," he said, because it felt the thing to say, not because he thought Ducky would be. "But sleep seems like a damn good idea to me. Let's go and have a drink first and then get some sleep."
"You want me to stay?" Ducky asked, his voice low.
"Course I do. Want you to stay tonight and tomorrow and the next and the next and . . . You get the picture."
Ducky beamed at him. "I think I do, my dear," and once more he stood up on his toes to brush his lips over Gibbs's before letting Gibbs put his arm around him and guide him towards the stairs.