AUTHOR: Ashleigh Anpilova
PAIRING: Leroy Jethro Gibbs/Donald 'Ducky' Mallard (Pre-slash)
SUMMARY: A sequel to Making A Mistake and a companion piece to Making Ducky Think. Gibbs thinks about what he said to Ducky and why he kissed him.
SPOILERS: Mild for Double Identity.
WORD COUNT: 4,279
AUTHOR'S NOTE: This is very much an introspective piece, mainly Gibbs thinking about what happened and what he feels. And the name of the Real Estate Agency is one I made up.
DISCLAIMER: I don't own these characters, nor am I making any money from them. I merely borrow them from time to time.
Upon arriving home, Gibbs locked the front door and without even bothering to remove his coat went down to the basement where he kept his high proof bourbon. Snagging the bottle, he went back upstairs, poured a large measure into a glass and slumped down on the couch. He downed half the glass, before he shrugged out of his coat, topped the glass back up and took another swallow.
Leaning back against the couch he closed his eyes and sighed. "Ah, Duck," he said. "What're we going to do?" Again he thought back to what he'd said to Ducky, what he'd done to Ducky, and also to what Ducky had said to him.
He never thought he'd see the day when Ducky would have spoken to him as he had done. He never thought he'd see the day when Ducky had ordered him out of his house. "I think you had better go before I say something that I will regret, something that may damage our friendship in a way that is irreparable." The words came back to him; Ducky's words, the words that, despite, Gibbs's own anger, despite what he'd been saying to Ducky, had shocked Gibbs beyond measure.
The words that, now he thought about it, had been more than partly responsible for making Gibbs kiss Ducky. The kiss; the single most cruel, most dreadful, most bastardly thing Gibbs had ever done - and he'd done some dreadful things in his time. If he could take back one thing in his life, it would have been kissing Ducky. Would you? The words suddenly sounded inside his head.
"Of course I would," he snarled, emptying his glass and pouring another large measure. It wasn't as though he'd wanted to kiss Ducky; it wasn't as though he cared for him, loved him even, in that way; it wasn't as though he was attracted to Ducky. He couldn't be; that wasn't the kind of man he was. No, he'd kissed Ducky for one reason and one reason only: "To make a point."
He groaned aloud as the words, words that were even more damning, even more cruel than the kiss had been, came flooding back to him. "To make a point." They echoed around the room and seemed to taunt him. He'd actually said them? He'd said them to Ducky? He'd said them to the man who meant more to him than anyone alive? He'd said them to the man whom, if for some reason he could only keep one member of his team, he would without hesitation keep by his side - at the cost of anyone and everyone? He'd actually said them to Ducky.
And why? Had it just been 'to prove a point'? Or was there some other, darker, even less salubrious meaning? In the near darkness of his living room he had to face a dreadful fact: he was jealous. He was jealous of Sophie; jealous of how much Ducky seemed to like her; jealous of the fact Ducky seemed happy with her; jealous that she had known about Ducky's mom dying and he hadn't. He was jealous that she seemed to have replaced him in Ducky's affections. Or had she? After all, Ducky had kissed him back - as Gibbs had known he would.
Because despite what Ducky had said, what he'd insisted on, Ducky hadn't changed - and why would he want to? That's what Gibbs couldn't figure out. It wasn't as if it had been one thing, it hadn't; it had been so many - and so many important ones. Had it just been the ties and the lunch breaks, maybe he wouldn't have been so forceful with Ducky. But he'd meant what he'd said, he couldn't stand by and let Ducky sell his house, move to some Georgetown brownstone and get rid of the Corgis - he couldn't. He was Ducky's friend, his closest friend; someone had to make him see sense. Someone had to stop him from giving up things he loved, things he couldn't just get back. Someone had to, because Ducky seemed incapable of seeing things for what they were, and that someone had to be Gibbs himself.
He thought about Sophie. What hold had the woman got over Ducky? And why a woman anyway? Gibbs could have, at least in part, understood it had Sophie been Stephen, but a woman? And a woman young enough to be Ducky's daughter? What the hell was going on there?
He had to do something, just in case his words hadn't got through to Ducky. And he knew what that something would be. He had four days, because Ducky's long weekend began the following day. And he knew exactly what he'd do. He'd spend part of that time digging into the background of Ms. Real Estate Agent and see just what he could find out about her and just what kind of hold she could possibly have over Ducky. If he did turn something up, then maybe Ducky would never forgive him, hell if Ducky somehow found out he had been investigating Sophie, then maybe he'd never forgive Gibbs. But Gibbs wasn't entirely certain Ducky would forgive him anyway for the kiss and the brutal reason he'd given for the kiss. So what did it matter?
"Ah, Duck. Just hope my words got through to you," he said, downing the remainder of his drink and standing up. "Just hope they make you stop and think." He wasn't convinced they would, but he had to hope - apart from the investigating, hope was pretty much all he had.
And in the meantime, maybe you should stop and think about the real reason you kissed him. He snarled at the voice in his mind. What the hell did it mean? He'd explained why he'd kissed Ducky. He had done it to try to get through to Ducky, to shake him, to make him see he hadn't changed. To make him realize he didn't want Sophie, but instead wante-
"What the hell?" he spluttered. Where has the last bit come from? That hadn't been part of the reason he'd kissed Ducky. He shook his head and headed for the stairs. He needed some sleep; that's all it was - that and the bourbon. He'd drunk more than even he usually did on an empty stomach; it was making him think crazy things.
That's what it is, is it? The little voice asked him, its tone more than a little sarcastic.
"Yes!" he snarled, climbing the stairs and heading for his bedroom. He ignored the voice that hinted that 'the lady might be protesting too much'. He ignored it, just as he ignored Ducky quietly and with amusement in his voice 'correcting' him and pointing out the actual words. He ignored that and he deliberately stopped thinking about kissing Ducky and the reason he'd done it.
Twenty minutes later, he got into bed and turned off the light.
His dreams, much to his chagrin, surprise and hint of annoyance in the morning, had been of Ducky and how the Judas kiss he'd delivered had been a kiss for a totally different reason.
THE NEXT DAY
As he stood under the shower, Gibbs forced himself not to think about the dreams - after all, he told himself, they'd been the result of too much bourbon. He also forced himself not to recall the conversation he and Ducky had had at Ducky's home, but instead to remember the one they'd had in Autopsy. And he concentrated not just on remembering the words, but also the way Ducky had looked at him and yet somehow not looked at him.
As the hot water cleansed his body, he realized the way Ducky had looked at him and yet not looked at him, confirmed what he'd thought the previous evening: Ducky wasn't happy and Ducky was fooling himself; he just didn't realize it. And that was the problem.
In the cold light of day he was prepared to admit that it wasn't that he didn't want Ducky to be happy, of course he did. Ducky was his oldest and closest friend; it was time he was happy. He deserved to be happy. He'd selflessly given so much of himself and so much of his time to his mom over the last year or so, he needed some time and some happiness for himself.
It wasn't even that he didn't want Ducky to have someone else who mattered more than Gibbs himself did, well, he was fairly sure it was that. No, it was just that he wanted to be certain that Ducky was genuinely happy. And he couldn't see how he could be; not with someone who was trying to change him so much.
But maybe he wasn't getting the full picture, maybe he'd over-reacted. Maybe the hurt he'd felt over Ducky not telling him that his mom had died had affected him more than he'd thought. Maybe his jealousy over Sophie was blinding him to Ducky's happiness.
As he dried himself and began to dress he decided that if he could prove that Sophie really did care for Ducky and that Ducky actually was happy with the changes, then whether he liked them or not and whether he though Ducky was doing the right thing or not, and no matter how much he didn't like being surpassed in Ducky's affections, then he'd try to be happy for Ducky.
Except you won't be, will you? He paused with one sock on and frowned as the voice in his head went on. You don't want Ducky to be happy with anyone other than you, do you? He groaned as he realized the voice in his head was more honest than he was being. Bastard that he was, he didn't want Ducky to be happy with anyone but him - but in all honesty, and he was being honest, he didn't know what 'with him' meant. He didn't know if it was just for their relationship to continue as it always had, or . . .
Ten minutes later, he slammed the front door behind him, locked it, got into his car and drove off, tires squealing towards the Navy Yard. As he drove he thought about one thing: digging into Sophie's history. And again he told himself that no matter how much it might hurt him, no matter how much he might not like it, if she was right for Ducky then he'd . . . He'd put on an act and at least pretend to be happy for Ducky. If she checked out and Ducky wanted her, wanted that kind of life, then he had to let Ducky do what he wanted. Or at least he'd try, because given he didn't know what 'with him' meant, what else did he have to offer Ducky?
He strode into the squad room, coffee in one hand, his briefcase in his other. As he'd hoped, McGee was there alone; the young man was already intent on whatever he was doing on his computer.
Pausing only long enough to put his briefcase down and take his coat off, he went to McGee's desk and sat down on the edge of it on the same side as McGee.
McGee looked up at him. "Boss?"
"Need you to do something for me, McGee," Gibbs said.
"Of course, boss. Anything."
"Need you to trace someone."
McGee nodded. "Sure."
"Her name's Sophie and she's a real estate agent." Gibbs stood up.
McGee stared at him. "Er, boss," he said slightly slowly.
Gibbs shrugged. "Don’t know."
"Oh, right. Do you -"
Gibbs shook his head. "No. Don't know that either. But it'll be local; dealing with property in Georgetown, stuff on the Historic Registry. And," he paused, hesitating for a moment. Was it his information to share? His story to tell? McGee continued to watch him and he made a decision, it was important information and as such he had to tell McGee. After all, more than one real estate agency might deal with brownstone properties in Georgetown that were on the Historic Register. However, only one would have Reston House on their books. He took another swallow of coffee. "And" he said, now looking directly at McGee, "they'll be selling Reston House." He waited.
McGee's eyes widened. "Ducky's selling his home?" he said, his voice higher than it normally was and heavy with shock.
"Not if I have anything to do with it." The words came out before Gibbs had a chance to think about them. So much for being prepared to 'be happy for Ducky'; so much for 'letting him do what he wanted'. "I mean . . ." He trailed off. What the hell did he mean? Damn it, what had he done? What would McGee think? So instead he just went to his own desk. He could feel McGee's gaze following him. He sat down at his desk and met the stare.
For a moment or two he thought McGee was going to say something. But then he reminded himself that it was McGee he was speaking to; not DiNozzo. McGee just nodded and said quietly, "Understood, boss." He then looked away from Gibbs and returned his attention to his computer screen.
Gibbs paused for a moment then said, "Oh, and, McGee." He knew what he was about to say was unnecessary - because it was McGee and not DiNozzo - but it was important enough for him to say them nonetheless.
"Confidential? Yes, boss. I guessed that. You can trust me."
"Yeah, Tim. I know."
He'd wait until McGee tracked Sophie down, because Gibbs had no doubt he'd do so. Then he'd investigate her. Then he'd talk to Ducky; assuming that was that Ducky still wanted to talk to him after the way they'd parted the night before. If only to say 'sorry, Duck and I'm happy for you'. Yeah, like those words are going to come easily. Again he frowned at the voice in his head.
They had four days, for someone of McGee's abilities with a computer and also because once he got on the scent of something he didn't let go, even if it meant him working twenty-four hours a day, it should be more than enough. With a bit of luck and a lot of skill, by the time Ducky returned to work Gibbs should at least have some idea as to the background and possible intentions of Sophie. He'd lost too many people in his life that he'd cared about, he wasn't about to lose Ducky.
THE NEXT DAY
Gibbs was in the men's room when he heard the door open. Instinct kicked in and he glanced up to see McGee, a notebook in his hand slip inside the door. To Gibbs's partial surprise he then heard McGee flick the lock on the door. He raised an eyebrow, "McGee?"
"Sorry, boss, I just thought this was the best place to speak to you alone." McGee moved over and stood near to Gibbs. However, to his bemusement, Gibbs noticed hat McGee pointedly kept his back turned. Sometimes he did wonder about the younger of his two male field agents and just how much a man of the world he was.
"Always my office," he said, zipping his fly up and moving to wash his hands.
"I thought Tony might wonder if we disappeared into the elevator, boss. And you know what he's like. I didn't want him to start to get suspicious and keep badgering me as to what I was up to."
As he dried his hands, Gibbs stopped himself from pointing out that locking himself in the men's room with Gibbs might look even more suspicious than going off to the elevator. For a man who'd studied science and was an out and out geek, McGee's logic sometimes made Gibbs smile. "Well?" he said, "what have you got?"
"Sophie Leigh Delgado. Born February 29th 1972 in Ohio. Graduated from Ohio State University with a fairly low grade history degree, in 1995 and went straight into real estate agency. Her parents and younger brother died in a house fire the same year. Ms. Delgado reported blamed herself as she'd persuaded her parents to sell the family home and move to a new one as part of helping her get established. She's had a high number of jobs and has worked in more than a dozen states, she doesn't seem to stay put for more than a year at most. She moved to DC about eight months ago, apparently to be near her grandfather, her only living relative, who was in," McGee paused and looked at Gibbs for the first time. "Allington Grove Retirement Home," he said quietly, before looking back at his notebook. "She works for a downtown agency - Llyod and Foster - I um, er," McGee paused and flushed slightly.
"Go on, Tim," Gibbs said, putting his hand on McGee's shoulder. "You . . ."
"I know someone who works there. Well, I don't really know her as in knowing her. But she and I play the same - But you don't need to know that. Anyway, I mentioned Sophie to her and um . . . It turns out that things weren't working out that well for her until she arrived at work one day and announced she'd taken instructions to sell Reston House, and also had someone interested in a Georgetown brownstone that had been on the market for quite some time without much interest. I hope you don't mind, boss?"
Gibbs shook his head. "Nah."
"I just thought that . . . Well, I guessed that you were going to . . . That is . . ."
"Said I don't mind, McGee. So is that it?"
McGee glanced at his notebook again. "Pretty much, boss. Yes. Oh, apart from something else, my 'friend', that is the person I -"
"Know from one of your on-line games, yeah, got that Elf Lord. What about her?"
McGee flushed again. "Well, according to Lindsey, Sophie has fairly recently, in the last month or so, started to take a lunch break every day and go out of the office."
"Is that unusual?" Gibbs asked.
McGee shrugged. "Apparently, yes. The agency has this unwritten policy that their realtors spend at least half their lunch breaks each week in the office, as they can get walk in business that way. But Sophie was adamant and with her bringing in Reston House . . ."
Gibbs nodded. "Yeah, got it. Thanks, Tim. You've done a good job." He patted McGee on the shoulder
McGee flushed again and beamed. "Thank you, boss," he said, then quickly tore of not only the page of the notebook he'd written on, but the two others beneath it and handed them to Gibbs. Gibbs took the written on page and the blank sheets and pushed them into his jacket pocket. He was mildly amused at the lengths McGee had gone to in order to ensure that the whole thing was kept strictly between the two of them. What did he think DiNozzo was going to do? Rub a pencil over the blank notebook pages and see if he could read the indentations?
Still again he said nothing, he just flashed a half smile and went to the door and unlocked it. Amazingly no one was waiting outside, ready to wonder just why he and McGee had locked themselves in the men's room.
It was the night before Ducky was due to return to work and Gibbs sat on his couch looking over the sparse notes he'd made on Sophie Leigh Delgado. To his annoyance there had been very little to add to the information McGee had dug up.
There was nothing to say she was anything or anyone other than the woman she seemed to be. If he'd been expecting to find information that she was a gold-digger who had a history of taking up with elderly men who had recently lost someone about whom they cared, he was disappointed.
His gut was telling him there was more to her than what he and McGee had turned up, but for once he didn't trust his gut. He didn't trust it, because it involved Ducky and where Ducky was involved, Gibbs did tend to be somewhat less logical than usual. And he freely admitted this time he was being even less, one might say, sensible than he normally was.
He had nothing to tell Ducky, nothing to show him, that would point to Sophie being a gold-digger or a crook or anything other than the real estate agent she was. He sighed and pinched the bridge of his nose. Even if he had found something, what would he have done? How would he have gone about showing it to Ducky? He still wasn't sure Ducky was ever going to speak to him again.
Sure Ducky had told him to go before he risked their friendship by saying something he'd regret, but that had been before Gibbs had kissed him. Would Ducky, could Ducky, forgive him for that blatant betrayal of friendship? Maybe had Gibbs had some evidence that Sophie wasn't all she was meant to be, then maybe Ducky could have understood, could have accepted, could have forgiven Gibbs for kissing him - and for his cruel words. But as it was . . .
The four days of Ducky's long weekend hadn't been particularly busy, in fact they hadn't had a new case much to, Gibbs reckoned, the disappointment of Palmer. Thus, Gibbs had spent the four days digging into Ms. Dalgado's past, and also thinking about Ducky and how they were going to mend their friendship, how they were going to make things right again. And also, he was finally prepared to admit, about the kiss.
The kiss that he'd delivered to 'prove a point'.
The kiss he'd dreamed about for four nights.
The kiss he'd thought about more than once every day.
The kiss he'd even fleetingly fanaticized about.
The kiss that he now knew had not only been delivered 'to prove a point' but because he had wanted to kiss Ducky.
He gave a bitten off self-mocking half-laugh. Of all the times to suddenly realize that it was quite possible he did have feelings for Ducky above and beyond those of friendship.
The first time the thought had come into his mind, he'd dismissed it and put it down to just him trying to justify what he'd done.
The second time he'd simply ignored the thought.
The third he'd allowed himself a fleeting 'what if' moment.
The fourth he'd reluctantly admitted that maybe he actually did like Ducky beyond that of a friend, but it didn't mean anything.
The fifth he gave up arguing with himself and accepted it for what it was: he'd wanted to kiss Ducky and had wanted to do so for quite some time.
Now with only the flames of the fire and the glass of bourbon for company, he realized how ironic it was. Why hadn't he realized - admitted - his feelings had changed before now? If he had, it would have saved a lot of pain, a lot of jealously, a lot of anguish. Ducky would have told him, and not Sophie, about his mom. But not only that, he'd never have dreamed of selling Reston House or changing his bowties of getting rid of the Corgis or running around with a woman not only young enough to be his daughter, but almost young enough to be his granddaughter. They'd never have had the argument and Gibbs would never have kissed him 'to prove a point'.
But he hadn't realized it; he hadn't admitted it. So what had happened had happened and it couldn't unhappen. The only thing now was what did he do?
What did he say to Ducky when he returned? Even assuming Ducky was prepared to speak to him again, outside of the 'I have the results for you, Agent Gibbs' and the normal day-to-day exchanges he'd have with Gibbs, how did Gibbs tell him? And even if he could find a way to say something, would Ducky believe him? Or would he just put it down to Gibbs playing games with him?
Gibbs sighed. Apparently admitting his feelings had been the easy part. Doing anything about them was the difficult one. All he could do was to see how Ducky behaved around him, how he treated him, what he said, how he looked and take it from there.
Maybe he and Sophie had had a dreadful weekend, maybe Ducky had woken up to what Gibbs had said to him four nights ago, woken up and realized he had been fooling himself and was making a mistake. Maybe he'd seek Gibbs out and find a way to tell him that he and Sophie had broken up and that he was back to being 'Ducky' and all that went with it and that he forgave Gibbs and understood why he'd done what he'd done and said what he'd said.
Gibbs gave another self-mocking laugh. He'd never believed in fairy tales, so why, at the age of fifty-six, would he start now? No, the best he could hope for was that he and Ducky could find a way to rebuild the friendship they had and get back to trusting one another again. Anything else wasn't going to happen.
He sighed and emptied his glass again. "Ah, Duck," he said softly. "Wish I could tell you." But he knew he wouldn't; he knew he couldn't. It wasn't enough; what he had to offer just wasn't enough.