NOW IS ALL THAT MATTERS
A sequel to Just A Game.
Ducky explains just why he took Jethro back so easily.
An established relationship story.
Written: August 2005. Word count: 1,680.
"Yes, Jethro my dear," Ducky answered, moving even closer to his lover and offering his mouth for another kiss. Jethro chuckled and obliged. After a moment or two, his hands began to stroke Ducky's body. That suited Ducky; he didn't feel like talking at the moment. There were plenty of other things to be doing.
Ducky felt wonderful. It was 11:00 a.m., a Wednesday morning, and they were still in bed, and Ducky didn't feel in the slightest bit guilty. The last time he'd gotten up later than 6:00 a.m., had been over three years ago, when he and Jethro had enjoyed a rare Sunday off together.
It had been two weeks since Jethro had returned, and the two men had barely been apart for more than a few minutes at a time. It wasn't that Ducky didn't trust Jethro, he did. In fact he was surer of his long-term lover now than he had been during their twenty-five year relationship. Surer, that is, that Jethro was now his alone, unshared and unconditionally. It was just that from the day Jethro had left the Corps, until the day after Kate's death, the longest the two old friends and lovers had gone without seeing one another, even as just colleagues and friends, had been two weeks at a time when Jethro went on each of his honeymoons. Three years therefore was a lifetime.
Their lives had once more meshed into one another's with barely any hesitation. Jethro had declared that, for the time being at least, he'd like to work with Ducky, in Ducky's charity, doing whatever he could. And he had done. In the short time he'd worked there, he'd managed to ‘persuade' the two members of staff whom Stephen had been trying to convince his boss to fire for over two years, to leave. But Ducky was too kind, even if he was Donald at that time, and had kept making excuses. He didn't know exactly how Jethro had persuaded them to leave, but he had, and it had won him the undying gratitude of Stephen; the rest of the staff was pleased too.
No one had batted an eyelid over Jethro's presence, nor the clear and obvious relationship he had with the charity owner, something for which Ducky was immensely pleased. Jethro, in one of his slightly cynical moments had suggested that it was because they didn't want to lose their jobs. However, Ducky read human beings well, very well, and he knew that wasn't the case at all. Just as he knew that Jethro had been teasing him.
Stephen, in particular, seemed completely taken with Jethro, but then Ducky's lover always had known how to use his charm, when he'd wanted to. In fact, had Ducky been a jealous man, or had he not known that the only man in whom Leroy Jethro Gibbs had ever, or would ever, have any interest was Ducky himself, he might have been keeping a close eye on his young assistant.
As wonderful as it was having Jethro around at the office, it did interfere somewhat with Ducky's own work - not that he could blame Jethro entirely. For a man of nearly sixty-five, Dr. Donald Mallard was aware that he was behaving more like a teenager in love for the first time; in fact he had never been as manic as he was at the moment. He found it increasingly difficult to keep his hands off Jethro, even when they were in the office. It was only after poor Stephen had interrupted an embrace for the third time, that Ducky had taken pity on everyone and declared that he and Jethro were taking a three-week holiday. He hoped by the time they returned that they could at least get through the day without the need to connect so intimately.
Stephen's face had been a picture when Ducky had announced his intentions of taking a holiday. Given that during the time he'd been running the charity, Ducky had worked a ten or twelve hour day, seven days a week, three hundred and sixty five days a year, he wasn't surprised his assistant had been stunned. Ducky knew his business was perfectly safe in Stephen's hands, and so for five days now, Jethro and he had barely ventured from their bed, let alone the house, and the answer machine hadn't once been switched off.
"Duck," Jethro said again.
Ducky glanced over Jethro's shoulder at the clock on the nightstand. It was now 11:45 a.m.
"Yes, Jethro my dear," he repeated, and smiled up at his lover.
"Why did you forgive and take me back so easily?" The dark blue eyes held his, and the look in them told Ducky that this time Jethro wouldn't be distracted.
Ducky sighed to himself and moved away slightly, tugging Jethro down so that he was lying and Ducky was propped up on one arm. He had wondered how long it would be before his lover asked the question.
"Is that how it seemed?"
Jethro nodded gently and reached up to touch Ducky's face. "Yes," he whispered.
This time Ducky sighed audibly. "Ah, Jethro," he said. "What would you have had me do? Did you want me to tell you to go away? Did you want me to ‘play hard to get?' Did you want me to make you ‘win me back?' Did you want me to make you suffer? To make you run around in circles? Did you want me to make you beg for my forgiveness? Is that what you wanted, my dear?"
Jethro shook his head. "Well, no. But . . . I would have done it, Duck. I'd have done whatever you'd wanted. If you'd have demanded I win you back, beg you to take me back, I would have done so."
"I know, Jethro," Ducky said simply, stroking Jethro's shoulder. He met the navy gaze and held it unblinkingly, saying everything else without words, as had been their wont on many occasion. "What is it?" he said softly, a moment later when Jethro's eyes flickered away.
"It's just that I . . ."
"Feel you deserved me to make it difficult for you? Oh, Jethro. Please don't. You said you'd forgiven yourself. Were they just words?" Ducky held his breath. He didn't think they were, but he had to know.
"No, Duck. No, they weren't. I meant them. I have forgiven myself, really. That's why I stayed away for three years. I had to be certain. It's just . . . I don't know. Oh, Duck, I didn't treat you very well over the years, did I? Or any of them," he added.
"Jethro my dear, you gave me what you could. What you were able to give. I knew what I was getting when I became involved with you. I knew that until you were ready I'd have to share you. I accepted that because I loved you."
"But I made you stand by me three times while I took the vows I knew at the time I wouldn't keep. What does that make me?"
"Can I do anything wrong in your eyes, Duck?"
"You can, and have done, several things ‘wrong,' Jethro. But that doesn't mean that I haven't, can't, or won't forgive you, understand you, and still love you. Love isn't something that I can turn on and off, my dear. When I fell in love with the brash, cocky, young Marine, I knew that that love would last forever."
"So you don't see me through rose-colored glasses?"
"No. I see you as you are. And I love you for it. I'm not denying that you hurt me three years ago, Jethro. You did. You hurt me more than I believed it was possible for me to be hurt. More than I ever believed you would or could hurt me. The letter -"
"I couldn't do it any other way, Duck. If I'd seen you, told you, I wouldn't have gone. And I couldn't stay. I couldn't face watching you die."
Ducky shook his head slowly and pulled Jethro closer into his arms. "So many years," he murmured.
"We wasted so many years. And wasting time is never a good thing. And at my age -"
"You're not old, Ducky."
"I'll be, as you well know, sixty-five next month, Jethro. I do not want to waste any more time playing games to which I know the outcome."
"From the second I looked up at you, Jethro, standing in my office, looking as though you were broken, I knew I would take you back. If I'm honest I always knew that if you ever came back to me that I'd take you back, even if I wasn't prepared to admit it to myself. Why then should I put us both through any more hell, just to ‘get my own back?' That, my dear, is not my way. I'm a doctor; I heal. I don't cause pain."
"I love you, Ducky," Jethro said simply.
"I know, Jethro. And I love you too. Now, kindly stop your mind working, come here, and let us continue to make up for the last three years." As Jethro moved slightly, Ducky stopped him. "Wait, one moment, Jethro. I want a promise from you."
"That you won't mention this again. What happened, happened. We can't turn the clock back. All we can do is to accept it as the past, and get on with the here and now. That is what matters, Jethro my dear. Now is all that matters. Now is all that can matter. Do I have your word?"
Jethro smiled, his true, honest smile; the one that touched his eyes and softened his sometimes-harsh countenance; the smile he had only ever reserved for Ducky. He began to gather Ducky back into his embrace. "Yes, Ducky my love," he said softly, a gruff tone touching his voice. "You have my word."
It was some time before they decided to discover just what edible stuff Ducky had in the icebox.
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