TITLE: Earth To Earth
AUTHOR: Ashleigh Anpilova
PAIRING: Leroy Jethro Gibbs/Donald 'Ducky' Mallard
SUB-GENRE: Established Relationship.
WARNING: Major character death.
SUMMARY: The past does tend to catch up with one.
DISCLAIMER: I don't own these characters, nor am I making any money from them. I merely borrow them from time to time.
"Earth to earth. Ashes to Ashes. Dust to Dust."
"I never wanted her dead, Duck."
"I know, my dear."
"I just wanted her out of my life. Out of our lives."
"I know, dearest."
"I knew she was lying in Paris. My gut told me so. But I covered it up."
"She was your partner. A member of your team. It's what you do."
"Was it just that, Duck?"
Ducky moved away a little, turned, tipped his head back and looked up at Jethro. For a moment he didn't speak. When he did his voice was low, but decisive. "Yes, Jethro."
"How can you be sure, Duck?"
"Because I know you. Now, hush."
The interment dragged on. Minutes passed like hours, as they always did at these things.
The wind cut through the heavy coat Jethro wore. Why were funerals always so cold? Why did these places always seem so desolate?
He glanced around. Not that he needed to. He already knew what he'd see.
Besides himself, Ducky, and for some reason Tobias Fornell, the only other person present was the priest who was performing the ceremony.
Glancing around again, this time at the raised mounds of earth just waiting to go on top of the coffin, Gibbs blocked out the interminable voice saying the words he'd heard far too many times, and let his mind slip back a day or two.
He hadn't made attendance mandatory; he'd left it to each member of his team. Abby, McGee, DiNozzo and Palmer had stood in silence looking from one to the other, shuffling their feet, each hoping the other would speak.
Finally it had been Abby who had voiced what he'd known everyone else was feeling. "It'd be hypocritical, Gibbs. None of us liked her. None of us even respected her." The second comment had been said more quietly, with reluctance and a touch of embarrassment. And as she'd spoken Abby's pale cheeks had flushed slightly. "I'm sorry, Gibbs", she'd added.
He'd shaken his head. "No need to apologize, Abbs."
"We'll come with you if you want us too, boss." DiNozzo had broken another heavy silence.
Before Gibbs had a chance to say anything, Ducky had spoken. "There is no need, Anthony. I shall be accompanying Jethro."
One by one the team members had returned to their desks, leaving Ducky and Gibbs standing together.
"Sir." The priest's voice broke into Gibbs's thoughts. He glanced at the man.
However, before anyone could speak, Ducky bent down, picked up a handful of earth and let it fall onto the coffin lid.
After a fraction of a second, Gibbs echoed the gesture. As the dark earth fell onto the pale coffin, he brushed his hands together, stepped back and pushed them into his pockets.
The priest stood for another moment or two, then nodded at the small party and slowly moved away.
For a moment the three old friends stood in silence.
"I'll wait in the car."
"We'll be there in a minute, Tobias."
Fornell nodded briefly, turned and walked off.
"Maybe if I hadn't covered up for her, then -"
"Life is too short for maybes, dearest. Jennifer made a choice in Paris. Finally she has paid the price. The past is always there, Jethro. We can never truly outrun it."
Gibbs sighed softly and looked down at the open grave, which was beginning to be filled with the dark earth.
For the first time since the news that Jenny had been gunned down in an alleyway, he felt something more than guilty relief that she was no longer around to make every minute of every working day feel like an hour.
He had cared for her, at one point he'd told himself he'd loved her, even if he didn't particularly like her. And whatever she had done, she'd touched him and his life. Not always in a good way, not always in a way he cared to remember, but she had done so. Half of the time since her return to NCIS, he'd felt like slapping her or wringing her neck. But he never wished her dead; not really dead. She'd been a member of his team.
For a second he closed his eyes. Choosing the darkness of his vision over the darkness of the earth.
The next moment he felt Ducky slip his hand inside his arm. "Come, dearest." Ducky's voice was soft, calming, touching, healing, forgiving. "Let us go and join Tobias. And then we can go home."
"Yeah, Duck. Home would be good."
"Say goodbye, Jethro." Although still soft, calm, touching, healing and forgiving, Ducky's voice contained what it rarely did, an order.
"Bye, Jenn." There was nothing else to say. He hoped his words had penetrated the dark earth that continued to cover her.
"May you find the peace in death that you never truly found in life, Jennifer." As always Ducky knew exactly what to say.
With Ducky's arm still in his, Gibbs, regulating his stride to the shorter and slower one of his lover, began to move towards the gates of the cemetery.
Home was indeed where he wanted to be.
Home with Ducky.
I'm sorry that it isn't what some of you may have hoped for.