Ashleigh Anpilova


Set after The Meat Puzzle.

Close to losing his dearest friend, Gibbs is forced to admit something to himself that he'd been trying to ignore. He then decides to confess to Ducky. 

A first time story. 

Written: August 2006. Word count: 2,296.




Jethro Gibbs sat by Ducky's hospital bedside, holding Ducky's hand and staring at his sleeping friend. "Oh, Duck," he murmured softly, "I'm sorry." The image of Ducky lying strapped to the table, a large needle stuck into his neck, blood running into a trough, raced back into his mind for what seemed like the hundredth time since he'd seen it.


Ducky made a noise in his sleep and turned his head on the pillow; he seemed distressed. Jethro leaned across and brushed the heavy hair off Ducky's damp forehead, moving his hand gently and soothingly. It seemed to work, as once again Ducky fell silent and still. Jethro however, continued to stroke his friend's forehead for another few minutes, before moving his hand and settling back into the chair.


As he looked at Ducky, as he held his hand, as his touched him, he knew. He knew what he'd been trying to ignore for so long now, he could no longer remember how long. He could no longer ignore it, no longer wished to ignore it. If this case had taught him anything, it was how important, how vital, his oldest, dearest and closest friend was to him. It was time to talk to Ducky, to tell him; as soon as Ducky woke up, he'd do that.


Under his gaze, Ducky's eyes opened and he blinked at Jethro. "Jethro my dear," he murmured, his voice was hoarse, his tone one of pleasure and surprise. He smiled, and his eyes, as they always did, showed Jethro how much he was cared for.


"Hey, Duck." Jethro stood up and moved to the bed, sat down carefully, and again brushed the hair off Ducky's forehead. "How are you feeling?"


"I'm fine, my dear. As I tried to tell the young doctor, there really was no need to admit me, but they insisted. I could quite easily have returned home."


"Ducky, you needed a blood transfusion," Jethro said firmly.


"That didn't necessitate me remaining here overnight."


Jethro smiled and shook his head. "I'd always heard that doctors and nurses made the worse patients. It's only for a few hours, I'll take you home as soon as they let me."


Ducky sighed resignedly. Then he frowned slightly. "Jethro, not that I'm objecting, but why are here? Or more importantly, how did you get in to see me?"


Jethro shrugged. "Persuasion."


"Jethro, you didn't threaten anyone, did you?"


Jethro smiled. "Nah, just told them that you needed the protection of a Federal Agent. That we needed to be certain that no one else was seeking revenge."


"And they believed you?"


"I can be very persuasive."


Ducky chuckled softly and squeezed Jethro's hand. "Yes, I know."


For a moment they remained in silence; Jethro looking down into the blue eyes that had captivated him over twenty-five years ago; Ducky gazing tenderly, as was his want, up at him. For the first time since the hell had started, Jethro finally felt at ease. Ducky was safe, the bastards threatening him were either dead or locked up, and all would be well.


Jethro realized that he was still stroking Ducky's forehead, but Ducky didn't seem to mind. "Do you need anything, Duck?" he asked. "Want me to get you anything?"


"I must confess that I would appreciate the opportunity to wash my hands and face, swill my mouth out, and relieve myself."


"Sure. Let me help you. Unless you'd rather I fetched a nurse?" Jethro stood up, but kept Ducky's hand in his.


"If you are willing, my dear, I see no need to disturb the nursing staff. I'm sure they have more than enough to do."


"Course I'm willing, Duck. Come on, take it slowly, you've been lying down for a while, you might feel a bit giddy."


Ducky smiled and, with Jethro's help, sat up and moved towards the edge of the bed. "We'll make a doctor out of you yet, Jethro." He slowly swung his legs out of bed, waited for a moment before he tried to stand up; all the time Jethro hovered over him, watching for the first signs of - "Oh, dear." Ducky sat back down again quickly as Jethro grabbed him.


"Duck, you okay?" He glanced at the call button on the wall.


But Ducky patted his hand. "Yes, dear. I just tried to move rather quickly. I'll be all right now."


"You sure? I can fetch you a whatsit. Might be safer."


"No, thank you, Jethro. I'm fine now. My head is much clearer."


Jethro frowned and studied Ducky carefully. "If you feel dizzy again, you are getting back into bed, and that's that."


"Yes, dear," Ducky said patiently. Leaning on Jethro's arm he again tried to stand up. This time he was successful.


Jethro stood for a moment or two, holding Ducky in a loose embrace, before sliding his arm around Ducky's shoulders and gripping him tightly. Once Ducky had his own arm around Jethro's waist, Jethro began to move towards the bathroom.


To his surprise and slight concern, Ducky didn't attempt to suggest that Jethro left him to deal with his needs, not that Jethro had intended to do so anyway. Instead he seemed grateful to have someone to lean against, and to steady him.


Feeling oddly paternal, Jethro found himself watching Ducky intently as he carried out everything he said he'd wished to do. If Ducky was going to feel dizzy again, Jethro was determined that he'd know before Ducky did.


However, by the time Ducky had relieved himself, washed his hands and face, and swilled his mouth out several times, even Jethro had to admit that his dearest friend looked considerably better.


The trip back to Ducky's bed was faster than the trip to the bathroom, and once Ducky was safely ensconced under the covers, he insisted that he wished to sit up.


"Why don't you just go back to sleep, Duck?" Jethro said, as he arranged the covers around Ducky.


"Because I am not tired, my dear. I wish to sit up." Ducky spoke firmly in his 'for once I'm going to get my own way' tone. So Jethro did as he was instructed, before sitting back down on the bed and again taking Ducky's hand. He made the gesture without really thinking about it; he just knew that, despite knowing that Ducky was now safe, he needed to remain connected with his friend.


Ducky glanced briefly down at their joined hands, before settling back against the pillows, and smiling at Jethro.


Again the kind of companionable, peaceful silence they often shared filled the room. But silence wasn't what Jethro wanted. It was time he spoke.


"Duck, there's something I want to tell you."


"Yes, dear?" Ducky gazed at him attentively.


Jethro swallowed, then moved his other hand so that he was holding Ducky's hand between both of his. "I love you, Duck," he said simply, relieved at how easy it had been to say it.


For a fleeting moment a look, the likes of which Jethro had never seen before in the pale blue gaze, passed through Ducky's eyes. Then it had gone and the 'normal' Jethro look was back. Ducky smiled and said softly, "I know you do, my dear. I love you too. It is only natural after so many year of close friendship."


Jethro shook his head. "No, Duck. That's not what I meant. Well, it is. I mean I do love you like that, but I also love you. I'm in love with you."


"Jethro, I -"


"Let me finish, Duck. I want to kiss you, to touch you, to take you to bed, to make love to you, to hold you, to . . . Everything. I love you, Ducky." Jethro spoke quickly and intently; as he did he moved one hand and cupped the side of Ducky's face, letting his fingertips brush Ducky's cheek.


He waited. Suddenly uncertain what to expect. Until he'd voiced it, he'd felt sure of what Ducky would say and do. Now he wasn't.


For a moment Ducky just sat in silence, looking at Jethro. Then he smiled put his own hand over the one that cupped his face and spoke, his tone was marginally sad. "Ah, Jethro my dear. I know that you were worried by my capture and injury, but you don't have to -"


"Wait a minute. You think I'm only telling you I love you because I nearly lost you?"


Ducky nodded. "It is a common reaction to this kind of event, my dear. I remember -"


"No, Duck. No. You're wrong." Again Jethro interrupted Ducky, putting his fingers over his lips as well as speaking over his friend. He tightened his grip on Ducky's hand, squeezing tightly, and pulling it towards his body. "You're wrong," he repeated, more quietly. "So wrong."


Ducky blinked and looked at him. "Am I?" He sounded uncertain.


Jethro again gripped Ducky's hand with both of his. "Yes, Duck. Yes. I've loved you for . . . Oh, I don't know, years now."


"Years?" Now Ducky sounded astounded. Jethro couldn't really blame him.


Jethro nodded. "Yeah, Duck. Years. Since well before Diane."


Ducky opened his mouth, but not a word came out. He shut it again and just stared at Jethro, a mixture of emotions crossing his face and eyes.


"If I'm honest, I was attracted to you from the first day I met you. But I ignored it. I told myself I couldn't be, that it was just . . ." He broke off and shrugged. "Guess I wasn't brave enough to . . . You know."


Ducky nodded slowly. "Yes," he whispered. "But, Jethro, why . . ." Now he trailed off.


"Wait so long?" Ducky nodded. "Because I was trying to ignore it." No you weren't. "No, that's not right either. I wasn't. I just didn't know how to tell you. What to say."


"'Ducky I love you,' might have been a start." Now Ducky sounded faintly amused.


"I know, but . . ."


"Or you could have used the famous Jethro Gibbs technique. The one I've seen you use on more than one occasion. What?" Ducky added, as Jethro shook his head firmly.




"Why not? I assure you that it would have worked on me."


"You mean too much to me. I . . ." Jethro broke off, realizing what he had just admitted.


Now Ducky's smile became softer, and his eyes seemed to light up. All the love and devotion he had always shown for Jethro, quadrupled in intensity. "Oh, Jethro," he said quietly, lifting his own hand to caress Jethro's face.


Captivated by the touch and look, Jethro stared at Ducky and waited. But Ducky didn't speak, he just continued to stroke, and smile, and gaze tenderly at Jethro.


Suddenly the uncertainty that had filtered into his body came to him with a fierce force. "Er, Duck," he said, hating himself for having to ask. "You do -" He broke off swiftly. He'd never in his life asked anyone if they loved him. He couldn't start now. He wouldn't. He opened his mouth to ask.


"Yes, dearest. I do. I love you very, very much. I always have done. I just never dared to allow myself to . . . I love you, Leroy Jethro Gibbs. I love you." He touched Jethro's lips with his fingers, Jethro shivered, and his whole body felt alive and warm. "And just in case you need me to tell you, that love isn't just friendship. I'm in love with you, and I want you, more I think than I can ever truly express. Certainly far more than I have ever loved or wanted anyone."


Again Ducky had read his mind. Jethro just sat and looked into the tender gaze. "Can I kiss you, Duck?" he said, after a moment or two.


Ducky smiled and nodded. "Please do," he said, tilting his head back into the pillows slightly and offering his mouth.


Jethro moved forward, slipped one hand behind Ducky's head and, taking care not to hurt his neck, held him in a lose embrace, as he lowered his head and brushed his lips over Ducky's. Part of him had always intended it to be little more than a gentle connecting kiss, but once he'd met Ducky's lips, his intentions fled, and the kiss went on, until he had to stop it in order to breathe.


"Duck?" he said in wonderment, as he realized there was none of the hesitancy he might have expected, none of the awkwardness that can accompany kissing someone for the first time. The kiss was new, yet decades old; novel and well known; taking and giving; demanding and simple. It spoke of love beyond passion and desire, beyond mere physical want and need, beyond the levels of attraction that he'd known before. It told of contentment, or surety, of security, of a future, of home, of sharing, of fondness; of things he'd long since given up thought he'd ever finding; long since thought he even wanted. It assured him of Ducky's love, and it promised commitment and forever; if that was what he wanted.


He bent his head again, reclaimed the lips he'd always known, and gave the same promise and surety to his lover. He had waited so many years; they both had; it was the right thing to do. It was what he wanted to do. It was what he needed to do. The finer details of quite what it meant, they could sort out later, for now . . .


For now, he'd just concentrate on kissing Ducky, and making plans for taking him home. He had, after all, asked Mrs. Patterson if she'd stay with Ducky's mother for a few days.



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