Ashleigh Anpilova


Jethro and Ducky finally realize what has been obvious to both of them, had they thought about it, for thirty years.

A first time story.

Written: June 2006. Word count: 12,898





You were always there to talk to

And I was always hanging around

You were always there to pick me up

After love let me down


I never would have made it without you

I almost waited too late to see

That all the time I was leaning on you

You were leaning on me.




"Hey, give that back!" Jethro Gibbs took off and raced after two youths who had snatched a hat from another man's head, and were running away laughing.


They ran quickly. But he had an advantage over them. For one he was taller, for another, he was a trained Marine. It didn't take him long to catch them, persuade them that handing over the hat was in their best interests, threaten them with all kinds of things he'd never really do, and jog back to where the man stood watching.


He held out the hat. "Here you are, sir." The ‘sir' came automatically, and he wasn't surprised when he saw the sapphire blue eyes twinkle with mirth.


"Thank you," the man said, taking the hat. He was blond, about six inches shorter than Jethro, and probably about five or six years older than him. The man held out his other hand. "I'm Dr. Mallard, Dr. Donald Mallard to be precise, but everyone calls me Ducky. Thank you again, that was a kind thing to do."


Jethro took the proffered hand. "You're English?" Jethro could have slapped himself. Talk about stating the obvious.


Again the man smiled, with both his lips and his eyes. "Indeed I am. Although I have a great affinity for Scotland where I did my medical training. It is a beautiful country. Have you ever visited it, Mr. . . ?"


"Gibbs. Jethro Gibbs. Well, Leroy Jethro Gibbs, actually, but no one ever calls me Leroy. And no, I haven't. Until I joined the Marines I'd never been out of the country."


"A Marine? That must be an interesting life."


"It's okay. I'm a Sergeant now. I wasn't the class jock, but nor was I top academically. Dad died when I was young, Mom took it hard. I was left to my own devices. Didn't know for a while what to do, then I attended a recruitment lecture and decided it'd suit me." Jethro mentally shook himself. Here he was standing in the street, talking to someone he'd only just met, someone he'd never see again, and telling him far more than he told most people he'd known for months.


"You are on leave, I assume?"


"Yeah. Got two more days. What about you? Why are you here?"


The man smiled again. "After I finished my training, I spent a short time in a hospital, then decided that I would take my knowledge and skills and travel around the world. There is always call for a doctor's services. I finally reached America. So far I have liked what I've seen. It's quite different from Britain. Certainly the medical service is completely different." So maybe he was older than he looked.


"Do you think you'll stay here?" Again Jethro mentally shook himself. What was wrong with him? Why did he care? He should end the conversation and go. He was due to meet Mary-Beth in an hour or so. "Sorry. Look I should go. I have to - You are okay, aren't you? I mean it must have shaken you up a bit to have your hat snatched like that. Kids. They don't get enough discipline."


"I'm fine thank you. And thank you again for recovering my hat for me. It's one of my favorite ones; I shouldn't have liked to lose it." He smiled.


For a moment they just stood there on the pavement, being jostled slightly as people edged by them.


Jethro was just about to say goodbye and go, when the man spoke. "I don't suppose you'd allow me to buy you a drink or a cup or tea to say thank you?"


"Well, I -"


"I'm sorry. Forgive me; you did say that you had to go."


And he did.


And he would.


"Sure, a drink would be nice. There's a decent bar round the corner. If that's okay for you? It's nothing special, just ordinary."


"When you have visited some of the places I've visited, believe me anything that has tables and chairs, as well as glasses to drink from, would seem like Buckingham Palace. Shall we go?"


"Sure." They began to walk. As they did, Jethro noticed that his companion was limping slightly; he regulated his stride so he didn't rush ahead. "Did you say people call you ‘Ducky', Doctor Mallard?"


"Yes. I'm afraid so. It is a name that I was given whilst at Eton. But I rather like it now. Please feel free to use the name, Doctor Mallard is so formal."


"Ducky is it then." He must remember to call Mary-Beth when they got to the bar.



Jethro settled into the bed in Ducky's spare room. Quite why he'd ended up telling the man, who it turned out was actually thirty-three, some twelve years older than Jethro himself, so much about himself, he didn't know.


Nor was he certain why he'd ended up back at Ducky's house, rather than going home to his own rented apartment. But somehow he had. Somehow they'd started to talk, a quick ‘thank you' beer had turned into another, which had led to dinner, which had led to more drinks. And although they'd talked throughout the meal, and Ducky had started to tell Jethro more about himself, his upbringing - the man was wealthy - and his meanderings around the world, they found that they were still talking when the tired looking waiter had told them the restaurant was closing. Ducky had suggested they take a cab to his home.


And they had. Where they'd sat for another couple of hours, sipping remarkably good whiskey, while Ducky told Jethro tales of his exploits.


As he was about to fall asleep, Jethro realized that he never had made the call to Mary-Beth.






"Hey, Duck. Can I come in?"


"Of course, my dear." Ducky moved away from the door.


About to enter, Jethro paused. "I'm not disturbing you am I? You haven't got anyone here?"


"No, Jethro. Do come in."




Ducky led the way into the sitting room. "Drink? Or have you had enough all ready?"


"I drove here."


Ducky looked at him, the clear blue eyes examining him. Jethro met the gaze. "Very well." Ducky poured him a drink and handed it to him.


Jethro sank down into an armchair. "Cheers, Duck," he said, his tone heavy with irony. Ducky cocked an eyebrow, as he sat down, with slightly more care, into the opposite chair. "Well that was a waste of time."




"And money. What's wrong with me, Duck?"


"My dear?"


"It can't just be the job. Other Marines get married, set up home. They find girls willing to cope with the long separations; so it must be me."


"Jethro, you're only twenty-four. That's a little young to be worrying. I'm thirty-six and you don't see me complaining."


"Hmm." Was all Jethro said, as he sipped his drink. One thing, on a purely basic level, his friendship with the somewhat eccentric Medical Examiner had brought him was good whiskey.


Ducky sighed softly and smiled gently. "Jethro, I assure you that there is nothing wrong with you. You simply haven't met the right lady yet. That is all."


Jethro stared at his friend, who was watching him, his eyes soft and heavy with the open affection Jethro knew he had for him. "If you say so," he finally said, albeit with reluctance.


"I do. And I'm correct. Now I take it you wish to spend the night here."


"If that's okay?"


"Isn't it always?" Ducky said placidly.


And it was.


Which was maybe strange. But Jethro had never stopped to question why whenever he turned up at Ducky's door, Ducky was always alone. Or whenever he called him and asked if he could come over, usually after his latest girl had dumped him, Ducky always said yes. Maybe it was just that he kept the time when Jethro was home on leave, free. The spare bedroom was always ready and waiting for him, so much so that Jethro even kept a change of clothes there.




"Jethro." Ducky stood in the doorway of his house.


"Hey, Duck."


"You look happy."


"I am, Duck. I am."


"What is her name?" Was it Jethro's imagination, or did Ducky sound slightly tired or bored or . . . ?


"Shannon. And this is it, Duck. She's the one. She's perfect." Jethro smiled broadly.


For a moment Ducky didn't say anything. Then he too smiled, the blue eyes twinkling in the light from the streetlamps as well as from the hall lights that flared behind him. "Good. I'm glad. Do you wish to come in?"


"Course. I don't just come to you when I'm pissed off." Or did he? No, he didn't. Jethro was sure of that. "Do I?" Ducky chuckled and moved back slightly. He winced once, and Jethro moved swiftly to his side and put his arm around him. "You been overdoing it, Duck? Standing too long?" His excitement faded as his concern for his friend increased.


"A little, my dear. It has been a long day." Ducky accepted Jethro's help, slipping his own arm around his waist, and limping slightly he moved slowly into the sitting room.


Jethro made sure he was settled into his armchair then poured him a drink. He crouched down in front of Ducky and looked at him. "Is that all it is, Duck?"


"Yes, dear. Really."


"You sure. No one has - "


"No, Jethro. I don't believe anyone would dare. Let us say that there are some kinds of gossip that I do not mind."


"You would tell me?" Jethro took Ducky's hand and held it tightly.


"Yes, dear."


"Promise?" He stared at Ducky.


"Yes, Jethro."


"Good. Because if -"


"Jethro. Why don't you pour yourself a drink, sit down and tell me about Shannon?"


"Can I still stay?"


Ducky chuckled again. "Ah, Jethro. Of course."




"So will you?"


"Of course, my dear. I would be delighted. Unless you feel you should ask one of your fellow Marines? Might it not be more apposite?"


Jethro blinked. "Ducky. It's my wedding. I've got to put up with inviting some people because it's appropriate, see I do know what apposite means, I'm damned if I'm going to let myself be influenced into picking who's my best man. You're my closest friend, Duck. I couldn't get married without you by my side. I couldn't."


"I'm honored you should think so, Jethro. But really all you need are yourself and Shannon."


"And you." Jethro spoke firmly. "And for once, Dr. Mallard. I'm right."


Ducky smiled. "Very well."



Jethro looked around the room he regarded as ‘his'. It would seem strange not coming here, not spending the odd night with in Ducky's house. Not turning to Ducky as his first port of call. The room had always been his sanctuary; the one place he felt truly at home; truly at peace; completely secure.


He moved to the chest of drawers where more than one change of clothes now resided. He opened the top drawer and touched the underwear. He should take them out. Pack them away. No doubt Ducky would be glad to have the room back. But . . .


Suddenly aware that Ducky had come into the room and was standing there still and silent, he turned around. Ducky held a white rosebud in his hand, and wore a matching one in his buttonhole. Slowly he moved towards Jethro, and with steady hands affixed the rose to Jethro.


Jethro caught one of Ducky's hands before he could withdraw it, just holding it in a steady, lose grip. Ducky didn't move. His head was slightly bowed, hiding the revealing eyes from Jethro, and the sunlight shimmered off of the lightish blond hair. "Duck . . ."


Ducky looked up and smiled. "Why do you not leave your things here, Jethro? Unless of course you need them. After all, I don't need the room."


How had Ducky guessed what was going through his head? "If you're sure, Duck."


"Of course, my dear. Now let us go. It's time."




"Ah, Jethro my dear."


"It hurts, Duck."


"I know."


"Why does it hurt so much?"


But Ducky apparently for once didn't have an answer. Instead he simple pulled Jethro into his arms and held him.


And Jethro let him. Let his dearest and closest friend comfort him. Opened up in a way he never had done, not even with Shannon, cried for his wife and daughter, for what might and been and now never could be. Cried for his own lack of courage at not being able to take his own life. Cried for all the innocent people who lost their lives. Cried for those who had to live through what he lived through.


And Ducky just held him. Dear, beloved Ducky. His one anchor. His one true friend. Held him and murmured constant words, some of which Jethro heard, all of which he knew were honest, true, genuine. Not like the platitudes other people had spoken. The things he'd said himself from time to time. Of course they meant them, as far as they could.


But Ducky's words said so much more, meant so much more. He'd actually known Shannon and Kelly, had been Kelly's Godfather. He'd loved them too in his own way. And whilst he might not truly know what Jethro was going through, how could he? He hadn't just lost his wife and daughter so senselessly - and Jethro prayed he never would have to go through it - he knew as much as it was possible to know.


Finally the tears stopped and Jethro raised his head, took the handkerchief Ducky calmly handed him, and looked into the soft blue eyes that always showed Ducky's feelings and emotions. Saw the flash of pain the Ducky himself felt; pain at his own loss, but much more pain for Jethro's loss.


"I don't know if I can go on, Duck," he said flatly and honestly, again looking into the brilliant blue eyes, lighter than his own, and far more revealing.


"Yes, my dear Jethro, you can." Firm. Gentle. Honest.


And that was that.


Ducky was correct.


Ducky was always correct.


"Make me one promise, Duck."


"My dear?"


"We never mention them again."


"But, Jethro -"


"No, Duck. Please. I don't want anyone else to know about them. They're our secret. Yours and mine. If anything ever happens and you're asked, tell me you'll lie. Please, Duck."


Ducky looked at him. Silent for a long, long time; one of the longest amounts of time Jethro had heard him be silent. He looked troubled and sad. He studied Jethro; he seemed to be looking inside of him, searching for something.


Finally he said quietly, sadly, simply, "Yes, my dear. I promise."




Jethro pulled into the NCIS car park, glanced at the cars, failed to spot Ducky's Morgan and breathed sigh of relief. His friend wasn't there, well it was extremely early, and it was a Saturday. There was no reason for Ducky to be there.


Now all he had to do was to get into the building, collect the paperwork he needed and get out again. He –


The sound of the Morgan, he'd know it anywhere, few people drove cars with transmission gearboxes; in fact Jethro couldn't think of anyone else. Damn. Thank God. The two thoughts raced through his brain simultaneously.


The single burst from Ducky's horn, sedate, classy, very Duckyish, told Jethro that his friend had seen him. Now he had no excuse, he had to wait there and greet Ducky. You didn't really want one. If you had have done, you'd have stayed home.


"Good morning, my dear Jethro, and a beautiful one it is – Dear God, Jethro, what has happened do you?" Ducky's steady placid gait changed, and he hurried to Jethro's side, dropping his case onto the bonnet of Jethro's car, and touching Jethro's head with one hand. "Jethro?"


Jethro paused for a split second. To tell the truth or to lie? You've never once lied to him before, you can't start now.


He took a deep breath. "Marie hit me."


Ducky's mouth fell open and his eyes widened. "With what?"


"A frying pan."


Ducky stared at him, one hand still touching his scalp, the other around his wrist. For a moment he said nothing, then he picked his case back up, slipped his arm around Jethro's waist and turned, heading back to his car. "Come, Jethro," was all he said.


"Where are we going?"




Jethro came to a stop. "No, Duck. I don't think that would be a good idea. She –"


"I didn't say your home, my dear. You are coming with me to mine. You can stay with me until you decide what you are going to do." He began to walk again.


"But, Duck, I have things to do."


"Yes, indeed you do, Jethro. You need to listen to and obey me."




Jethro heard the doorbell ring for the second time. But just as he'd heard it ring the first time, he could do nothing about it.


He was backed into a corner, his hands raised, trying to prevent Alice was smashing him around the head with a seven-iron for the third time. He could feel the blood trickling down his face, see it as it dripped off his forehead and momentarily obscured his vision.


She was screaming at him hysterically. He hadn't understood a word of what she'd said apart from ‘you bastard', for nearly five minutes. He suspected she was now crazy enough with anger to actually kill him, if she got the chance, without necessarily intending to.


He knew who was at the door. He and Ducky had a long-standing arrangement to have dinner together. Alice had meant to be away visiting some relative or other, and Ducky had insisted on picking Jethro up.


He was torn between hoping that Ducky would use the key he'd insisted on giving him, when he and Alice had moved into the house, and hoping that Ducky would simply think that Jethro had forgotten or got held up at the office and go away. The latter was a forlorn hope; he might be a bastard generally, but never where Ducky was concerned. Ducky would know only too well that had Jethro got held up, he would have called.


Ducky, I need you, his mind cried against his will. He cursed silently. He didn't need anyone. Except Ducky. He ignored the voice.


Then suddenly another voice, one he'd known for so long, one he would know anywhere and under any circumstances, one that he could count on, rely on, trust, sounded. "Alice, give that club to me, at once."


And Ducky was there, by Alice's side, shock and anger resting on his face, as he reached out and grabbed the club from her hand, wrenching it away with such ferocity that Jethro had not doubt it must have hurt her.


As her weapon was torn from her hand, she screamed again, turned and launched herself at Ducky.


"Duck!" Jethro cried, trying to move to go to his friend's aid.


But he had no need to worry, as the fury reached for him, Ducky lifted one hand and slapped Alice, hard, very hard if the resounding sound was anything to go by, around the face. She took a gasp of air, clutched her cheek, stared in shock and hatred at Ducky, before spitting at him, and racing from the room.


Jethro suddenly discovered that he was sitting on the floor, leaning against the wall, letting it take his weight. His breathing was finally beginning to return to normal.


Then Ducky was there by his side, crouching down in front of him, Jethro wanted to tell him not to, his leg wouldn't like it, gently but thoroughly examining Jethro. And Jethro let him. Let him take charge, happy to lean on Ducky. Happy to let him handle things. It was only with Ducky that he ever did this. Because Ducky was the only person he truly trusted.


"Look at me, Jethro."


"Hey, Duck."


"How do you feel?"


"My head hurts."


Ducky smiled fleetingly. "I'm not surprised. However, it does, despite the amount of blood, appear to be fairly superficial. If you think you can get up, I'll clean it and see if it will need suturing."


"Don't want to stay here."


"I wasn't going to allow you too. Now can you get to your feet, my dear?"


"Yeah." And Jethro found that he could. Ducky had, as always, made it right.




"Good God, Jethro. What on earth . . .? No, don't answer that. I know. What was it with this time?" As Ducky spoke he was hurrying across Autopsy, moving far faster than he should, given his long-time damaged leg, towards where Jethro leaned against the door.


It was taking Jethro all his strength to remain on his feet, and his vision kept flickering in and out, becoming double on occasions, his head throbbed and he felt sick. His hearing also seemed to be at fault, because although he could hear Ducky, the voice seemed to be coming from a very long way away. Plus, Ducky seemed to be moving incredibly slowly.


Then a secure arm was slipped around his waist, and his own arm was tugged until it rested around Ducky's shoulders. Then very slowly, Ducky began to move towards one of the empty autopsy tables, guiding Jethro as he did.


Jethro tried not to let too much of his weight fall onto Ducky, it wasn't fair on his friend. But despite his gritted determination, Jethro found that he was leaning on Ducky far more than he had intended to.


Finally, after what seemed like hours, but could only have been less than a minute, Ducky backed him up against the table and helped Jethro up onto it. He began to examine Jethro, his touch decisive and knowledgeable, but also soothing.


"Look at me, Jethro."


Jethro did.


"Follow my finger."


Jethro did, well sort of.


Ducky frowned. "Do you feel sick?"


"A bit," Jethro confessed. Although he did now feel better than he had done when he'd arrived.


"Is your vision blurred?"


"I guess."


"Are you seeing double?"


"Now and then." Jethro didn't lie to Ducky about his health; it wasn't worth it. Besides, he wasn't that stupid. He knew you didn't mess around with head injuries.


Ducky sighed. "So with what did she hit you?" He left Jethro and moved to collect warm water and the other necessities for stitching Jethro up.


"Baseball bat."




"I don't know, Duck. Not really. Other than I was probably being the bastard I always am."


"Ah, Jethro my dear," Ducky said softly, coming back to stand in front of Jethro. He patted Jethro's shoulder and then took his hand, holding it for a moment or two before moving his fingers to take Jethro's pulse.


He seemed about to say something else, but then apparently changed his mind, and instead turned his attention to stitching the wound on Jethro's head.


"Can I come home with you?" Jethro asked, after a moment or two. He felt oddly vulnerable, a feeling he didn't normally particularly like, yet it bothered him less to feel that way when he was with Ducky.


"Of course, my dear. Where else would you go?"




"Jethro, is everything all right?" Ducky stood in the doorway of his home, dressed in his pajamas and dressing gown.


Jethro glanced at his watch. Shit. It 3:00 a.m. "Sorry, Duck," he murmured. "I'll go."


Ducky sighed and caught Jethro's arm and stopped him. "Don't be silly, Jethro. You clearly came here for a reason. And as I'm awake anyway, you had better come in and tell me what that reason was."


Jethro stood for a moment. "You sure, Duck? Because I can -"


"Come in, Jethro." Ducky's tone was forceful; in a way it rarely was when he spoke to Jethro. He saved it for dealing with idiotic people who messed up 'his' crime scenes. He tugged  Jethro's arm again, then put his own arm around Jethro and led him into the dimly lit hallway. Once there he tipped his head back and looked up at Jethro and studied him. "Come upstairs, my dear. That way we can be certain we won't disturb Mother or the Corgis." Again he put his arm around Jethro, effectively preventing any argument.


He led Jethro into his upstairs sitting room, switched on the light and again looked at Jethro. "Sit down," he ordered, as he moved to the drinks' cabinet. "Here." Moments later he handed Jethro a glass.


"Thanks." Jethro took it and drained it in one.


Ducky sighed again. "Well the spare room is ready." He took the glass and poured another measure.


"Thought it always was," Jethro said.


Ducky chucked softly. "It is," he said. "Now, tell me. What's happened?"


Instead of answering, Jethro dug into his pocket and pulled out a screwed up letter. He handed it across to Ducky.


Ducky took it, glanced at it and said, "Are you certain you wish me to read this, my dear?"


"Yes." Jethro's tone was firm. He sipped his drink; he was fairly certain Ducky wouldn't offer him a third at this time of night, day, whatever. After all, he did have to be at work in a few hours time. He sat in silence and watched Ducky quickly read the letter.


When Ducky had finished, he folded it up neatly, stared at it for a moment before looking up and meeting Jethro's gaze. "Ah, my dear," he said. "I am sorry." But to Jethro's ears, and he was very attuned to Ducky's voice, the usual sincere sentiment was slightly lacking.


Jethro wasn't that surprised, Ducky had never really seemed to 'approve' of his affair with Jenny Shepard. He wasn't certain whether it was because of the woman herself, or because Jethro was cheating on Diane. Even though the marriage had effectively been over from the moment she'd attacked him with the baseball bat, plus as they both knew, Diane herself was seeing other men. Maybe Ducky did still feel something for the woman he'd introduced to Jethro. Although given how many times he'd apologized for introducing them, Jethro wasn't sure it was that. Maybe it was just that he didn't approve of Jethro breaking his own Rule 12.


Then Ducky said something that surprised Jethro; something he'd never asked before. "Did you love her?"


Jethro blinked. Torn between honesty and a lie. He shook himself; what was he thinking? He had never lied to Ducky, why start now? "No," he said quietly. And then he went on, because somehow Ducky always brought the totally honest Leroy Jethro Gibbs out, "In fact sometimes I'm not sure I even liked her that much." He paused, expecting Ducky to say something, or to react. But to his faint surprise the pale blue eyes just held his, the look calm, unsurprised and full of Ducky's open affection for him.


He stood up and moved across the room. "Not sure I liked myself all that much either. Christ, Duck, what the hell was I thinking of? Why did I do it? God knows how we didn't screw the case up totally. Jesus, Duck, I'm forty-six, I've been married four times. I'm not some sex-crazed teenager who has suddenly discovered sex and has to fuck ten times a day for fear of not getting enough. I - " He broke off and shook his head. "Well, I'm not," he said firmly.


"I never said you were, my dear," Ducky said quietly; he sounded mildly amused.


"I suppose you're wondering why I turned up on your doorstep at 3:00 a.m., and why it's bothering me, aren't you?" Jethro knew he sounded defensive.


Ducky looked up at him. "Actually, Jethro, I believe I know. But why don't you tell me. It might help."


Jethro frowned. Then sighed and went to sit down again. "Why do you want to tell me something you say you already know?"


"Because, dear, whilst I believe I know, I am not certain that I know. And anyway as I said -"


"It might help. Yeah, I heard you. The reason it bothers me is that it's yet another one, isn't it? Yet more proof that I can't maintain any kind of relationship for more than a few months or a year or two at best. That I am a bastard and not worth bothering about. There, does that make you happy."


Ducky sighed. "Leroy Jethro Gibbs, you are 'worth bothering about'. You may well be a bastard at times, but that isn't who or what you are deep down. And as for maintaining a relationship, what do you think we've had for over twenty years? Or does that not count?" Ducky's tone was a mixture of reassurance, mild anger and a degree of hurt.


Jethro winced. Shit. "Told you I was a bastard. Ah, Duck. Of course it counts. Christ, it's the best relationship I've ever had, as well as being the longest lasting one. I'm sorry. I didn't mean to hurt you. I meant - Oh, fuck it, Ducky, even you have to admit that my track-record with women is hardly one to write home about."


Ducky looked at him, his eyes once again softening. When he spoke all traces of anger had gone from his tone. "Maybe -" he broke off and shook his head.


"Maybe what?" Jethro said warily. He suspected he knew what Ducky had been about to say. He'd been about to mention the thing they never mentioned. And yet . . . Ducky never had before, so why now?


"It doesn't matter, my dear. Really. Why don't you go to bed? I'm sure things will look much better in the morning."


Jethro smiled. "Doctor's orders?"


Ducky smiled too. He stood up. "Come along, my dear. I'll show you to your room."


"I think I know the way by now, Duck," Jethro said with a soft laugh. He felt better already; but Ducky always made him feel better.


"I know you do, but - oh," Ducky had begun to turn around, but now stopped and gripped the back of his chair with one hand, and his thigh with the other.


Jethro was by his side in an instant and had his arms around him. "Duck? Are you okay? Want me to call a doctor?"


In spite of the clear discomfort Ducky was feeling, his friend chuckled softly. "No, my dear. I'll be quite all right in a moment. I just moved a little awkwardly, that's all." He rested against Jethro, leaning into the embrace.


Jethro took the extra weight, shifting his stance slightly and making his grip more secure. He let Ducky rest against him, taking a degree of pleasure and security from his friend's closeness.


After a few minutes Ducky said quietly, "I believe I shall be able to move now."


Jethro moved one of his arms from around Ducky, allowing him to turn slightly, but kept the other tightly wrapped around Ducky's shoulders. Ducky took a tentative step, then another, Jethro kept pace with him, regulating his stride to Ducky's. "Come on then, Duck, he said, as they reached the door and he turned off the light. "Think I'll be the one putting you to bed for once."


"I don't believe I said anything about putting you to bed, my dear." Ducky's voice was amused.


"Same thing," Jethro said, continuing to move slowly.


And he was as good as his word.




Just as he was about to enter the woman, the phone rang. "Damnit," he swore. Just for a fleeting second he contemplated ignoring it. But he'd been a Special Agent for too many years. He grabbed it, not bothering for once to look at the caller display. "Gibbs?" he snapped.


For a moment there was silence. "I'm sorry, Jethro. I've called at a bad time. I'll -"


Jethro rolled away from the woman. "No, Ducky. It's okay. Sorry. I didn't realize it was you. What's up?"


"Mother has had a fall. And -"


"What happened and where are you?" Jethro interrupted him. All thoughts of the woman had fled as he listened to Ducky. With one hand he tugged off the condom - he hated the things anyway - with the other he started to pull some clean underwear out of his chest of drawers. He completely ignored the sighs and mutterings that were coming from behind him.


Then the mutterings got louder. Breaking off from digging through the drawers, he turned around and growled, "Shut up!"


Ducky stopped speaking. "Not you, Duck. And before you - be quiet, Ducky! I'll be there as quickly as I can. Yes. Yes. Yes." He clicked the phone off and turned around. He was about to pull on his undershirt, when he paused and decided to grab a quick shower. "You can see yourself out." He moved towards the door.


"Where are you going?"


"To the hospital."




"Ducky's mom's had a fall." He continued to walk.




He paused. "And he needs me."


"What on earth for? He's the doctor, not you."


He turned around and strode back to the bed, looming over her. He glared down at her, watching her eyes widen and her throat tremble. "You really are a bitch, aren't you?" Again he turned and left.


This time he didn't stop.


"Don't bother calling me again," she screamed after him.


"Wasn't planning to."



"I'm sorry, my dear. I shouldn't have bothered you."


"It's no bother, Duck. And who else are you going to call?"


"It's just . . . Well, after all what can you do?"


"Keep you company. Here." Jethro held out a cup of greyish-brown liquid. "It's not Earl Grey, but it's wet and warm."


"Thank you." Ducky took the cup from him; his hand was shaking slightly. Jethro put his own hand around Ducky's and held it for a moment. Once he felt the trembles stop, he sat down next to Ducky, tugging his chair slightly closer to Ducky's.


"I'm sorry," Ducky said again, after a moment or two. "You must think I'm behaving very foolishly. I am, after all, a doctor."


"Doctor or not, she's your mom."


"I know, but even so . . . I am sorry though for interrupting you, my dear. Was she very angry?"


Jethro shrugged. "Doesn't matter, Duck. She wasn't important. And even if she had been, you're -"


"Dr. Mallard?" A nurse entered the room. Ducky stood up, flinching a little. Jethro joined him, taking Ducky's arm to steady him. "I'm afraid your mother's hip is definitely broken, Doctor. We've made her comfortable and we'll be operating shortly. I have some consent forms that need to be signed." She came across with them and held them out to Ducky.


"Thank you," he said, after signing his name.


"Thank you, Doctor." She took the forms. "Do you wish to wait here until after the operation?"


Ducky looked up at Jethro.


"It's up to you, Duck," he said gently.


Ducky was silent for a moment. "This is going to sound dreadful, my dear, but I really think I'd rather go home. There isn't anything that I can do here. Sitting and waiting is not going to help Mother. And - But as I say, it's selfish of me. No, I'll stay."


Before Jethro could say anything, the nurse spoke. "It's not selfish at all, Dr. Mallard. If you ask me, it's only sensible. Your mother's in good hands, the best. And as you quite rightly say, there isn't anything you can do. Why don't you let your," for a split second she paused, let her eyes flicker to Jethro, then hurried on, "friend, take you home?"


"Yeah, come on, Duck. Let's go home. You can't do anything here."


"Very well, dear, if you think so." Ducky looked up at Jethro again.


The nurse smiled, nodded and left.


It was unlike Ducky to be so indecisive and so needy, but on the other hand, Jethro wasn't surprised really. It was his mother after all. And she's all he has. Jethro shook his head. What the hell was he thinking? Ducky had him. Ducky had Abby too. But it's not the same.


He realized he was still holding Ducky's arm, and that Ducky was still resting against him. "Come on, Duck," he said again, letting go of Ducky's arm and instead putting his arm around Ducky's shoulders. "Home."


"Yes, dear," Ducky said obediently.



"Jethro, what are you doing?"


"Coming to stay for a few days," Jethro said, bringing his bags into the hallway.

"But why?"


"Because your mom's coming home today, and if I leave you alone with her, I'll be visiting you in hospital. And I don't want to do that."


"I have employed a nurse, dear."


"I know. But I also know you. You'll be the one making her cups of tea and making sure she's okay. So I'm staying." Jethro shut the door with a resounding bang. "Right?"


Ducky blinked up at him. He looked tired. He looked very tired. He was also limping a lot more than he normally did. And Jethro didn't like that. He didn't like it at all. He couldn't do a lot to help, but he could do this. Ducky needed him. And he'd been there enough for Jethro throughout the years. It was only fair that Jethro was there for him.


But you always have been. He's always relied on you. He's just been more subtle about it. The thought hit Jethro like the baseball bat Diane had used on him, and he came to a halt at the bottom of the stairs.


"Are you all right, Jethro?" Ducky asked, his voice showing concern.


Jethro shook himself. "Er, sure, Duck. Sorry. I'll just take these bags up. Then I'll make you some tea." He started up the stairs, then paused and glanced back down. "You haven't put that nurse in my room, have you?"


Ducky smiled. It was the first genuine smile to cross his face for far too long. "No, my dear. Of course I haven't."


"Good." Jethro continued up the stairs.


Friends, that's what we've been

Is friends, through thick and thin

We've been friends, and our love begins

And who makes better lovers than friends


Friends should always be something special

You never know where friendship will lead

You are sailing high on the sea of love

And forever we'll be

(And forever we'll be)




"Good evening, Jethro."


"Hey, Duck."


"I thought you were going out tonight with -"


"I was. But she got a call from work, just after she picked me up. Apparently she had to go and see a client or something. She had to come by here, so I told her to drop me off. You don't mind, do you?"


"Have I ever?"


"Guess not. But . . ."


"Are you actually going to come in, Jethro? Or were you planning on standing outside all night."  Ducky moved back slightly from the door and let Jethro come inside. Jethro touched Ducky's shoulder as he moved past him.


As he locked the door behind Jethro, Ducky paused and asked, "Am I to assume that you wish to stay here tonight?"


"If that's okay. I can always call a cab. But I thought I'd ride in with you tomorrow and pick my car up then."


"Of course it is okay, my dear."


"Here, let me." Jethro stopped Ducky, who was about to bend down to bolt the door. He smiled as he gently pushed Ducky out of the way. "You know maybe you should think about getting these moved, Duck. Bring the bottom one up a bit, stop you having to bend down so far. If you want, I'll bring some tools over and do it for you at the weekend. Okay?"


"Well, I don't want to -"


"Fine. I'll be over on Saturday, unless we get called in, around 11:00." Jethro's tone was the one he knew Ducky never argued with.


"Thank you, Jethro."


"Good. By the way, I hired a new team member today?"


"Ah, I did wonder."






"Duck, you sure you haven't bugged me at some time or other?"


Ducky smiled. "No, dear. I merely read the signs. You were impressed with Ms. Todd, very impressed. I'm sure she will make a good addition to the team. Who knows, she might even be able to get the better of Anthony."


"She certainly doesn't lack spirit."


"No. Perhaps it's as well she isn't a redhead." Ducky's eyes twinkled.


"I told you, Duck. Never again. I'm not breaking Rule 12 again." Jethro spoke emphatically.






"Hey, Duck. Not disturbing you, am I?"


"No, my dear. Do come in."


"Thanks." Jethro went into Ducky's house.


"To what do I owe the pleasure?"


"Went and told DiNozzo he could come and stay with me while his heating gets fixed." Jethro shrugged off his coat and hung it on the hat stand.


"Ah." Ducky looked up at him, mild amusement in the soft blue eyes.


"Yeah. He turned up two hours ago. God, Ducky, what was I thinking of?"


"Come along and have a drink. You'll feel better." Ducky turned and headed towards the sitting room, his limp, as always at night, very much in evidence.


"Didn't think doctors were meant to prescribe alcohol as a means of 'making the patient feel better'." Jethro followed Ducky into the tranquil room and sank down onto the sofa.


Ducky just chuckled. "You may come and stay with me for the duration, if you wish, Jethro. You know that." He came to sit next to Jethro, lowering himself more slowly and carefully.


"Yeah, thanks, Duck, I do. But I'm not sure I like the idea of DiNozzo alone in my house. Besides what excuse do I give him?"


"Simply that you're staying with a friend?"


"Knowing DiNozzo, he'll interpret that as me getting married again, and the next thing I know he'll produce a wedding present. No. I'll put up with him. I don't suppose you know a way of inducing laryngitis, do you? Or some kind of anti-juvenile injection you could give him?"


Ducky smiled and patted Jethro's arm. "Ah, if only I did, my dear. If only I did.



"I really don't think that's a good thing to do, my dear." Ducky moved slowly across the basement and took the gun from Jethro.


For a second Jethro tried to stop him, but then with a sigh he let the gun be taken. "Seemed like a good idea at the time," he said, his tone bitter.


"How are you feeling, Jethro?"


"How do you think?" Jethro snapped, glaring at Ducky, who just stood and looked at him. "Oh, shit, sorry, Duck." With his good arm, he took and held Ducky's arm, tugging him a little closer to him. He wasn't surprised when Ducky slipped his own arm around his shoulders. Jethro leaned into the half embrace, and for a second let his head come to rest on Ducky's shoulder.


Then he sat back up, but didn't move away from the embrace, and looked at Ducky. "More importantly, how are you, Duck? Did he hurt you?"


Ducky shook his head. "No, dear. Not in the way you mean. He merely tried to frighten me with threats. It is poor Gerald who is hurting."


"How is he? Will he be okay?"


"It's too soon to say. I shall know more after I have visited him later in the week. However, I suspect that I shall need to look for a new assistant. Gerald will be unlikely to return to work in the near future, if at all."


"Oh, Duck. At least -" Jethro stopped himself. It wasn't a fair thing he'd been about to say.


Ducky merely sighed. No doubt he'd guessed what Jethro's words were to have been. "Come along, dear, let us go upstairs to the comfort of your sitting room. I think we could both do with a drink, and I really do not enjoy the brand you keep down here."


Jethro did as he was told.


"Here," Ducky handed Jethro two white pills and a glass of water. "And don't look at me like that, I know you haven't taken them. Now swallow them, or do I have to resort to force-feeding?"


Jethro blinked. He was surprised at Ducky's words and tone, as well as the fact he was handing over tablets, when he'd already poured two large whiskies. "Er, didn't think you doctors approved of mixing pain pills and alcohol?"


"Normally we don't. But when has that ever stopped you, Jethro? Besides, I'm staying here with you tonight, so I can ensure that you are quite well."


Jethro swallowed the pills. "What about your mom?"


"Mrs. Patterson has kindly agreed to spend the night at my house."


"Good," Jethro said softly. Suddenly aware that Ducky's presence was what he wanted. What he needed.



Jethro opened his eyes and blinked. His neck felt uncomfortable and his body was slightly twisted. It was as if . . .


Ducky came into focus. And Jethro realized what had happened. At some point, no doubt from the combination of whiskey and pain pills Ducky had fed him, plus the fact that Jethro hadn't bothered to get himself any supper, he must have fallen asleep, with his head on Ducky's shoulder.


He remembered Ducky sitting down next to him on the sofa; he remembered feeling that was the best thing that had happened to him all day; he remembered feeling sleepy; he remembered Ducky telling him one of his endless stories; he remembered thinking he'd just close his eyes for a minute and listen to Ducky's voice. From the faint light of dawn that was creeping in through the curtains, and his neck, a ‘few minutes' had become significantly longer.


He sat up, rubbing his neck with his good hand. Then he realized that not only had he fallen asleep on Ducky's shoulder, but that Ducky had his arm around him, and was now rubbing that as well as flexing and straightening his leg.


"Good morning, Jethro my dear," Ducky said softly.


"Morning, Duck. What happened?"


"Ah, I am afraid that is partly my fault. I clearly hadn't fully taken into account the fact that you hadn't eaten, and how tired you already were before I gave you the painkillers and the whiskey. It had been my intention all along, once you became tired to get you to bed and keep an eye on you there. However, you feel asleep far more quickly than I had anticipated, and as you seemed so peaceful, no doubt for the first time all day, I felt it better to let you sleep. How do you feel?"


Jethro thought for a moment. Apart from his neck which barely hurt at all now and his arm that had reduced to a bearable throb, he felt better than he had done for quite some time. "Oddly enough fine, thanks, Duck. You okay? You should have woke me. It can't have been comfortable for you."


"Don't worry about me, my dear. I am quite all right. Really. Although I would appreciate it if you were able to assist me to stand up, as comfortable as your sofa is, it is slightly low. Thank you," he added, as Jethro tugged him up. "Now, I assume that you still have tea in your kitchen?"


And before Jethro could say anything, Ducky limping badly for a moment or two, left the room.



"Here we are, Duck. You sure you don't want me to come in with you?"


"No, my dear. You didn't 'know' the young lady. I believe this is something I need to do on my own."


"You okay?"


"Yes, Jethro. I may not be able to return this one to her family, but I can now lay her to rest in the knowledge that we have in effect caught her murderer. And, thanks to you, we were able to send the other young lady home. We were able to bring closure to one family."


"How come you never mentioned her, Duck? It clearly upset you enough for you to carry her ashes around and to -" Jethro broke off. Damn.


"Hold out on you?"

"I didn't mean that, Duck. I'm sorry."


"There's no need to apologize, my dear. It is after all the truth. I should have told you as soon as I saw the trident on her neck. I certainly should have told you before I went to gather evidence. I regret it very much. I took advantage of our friendship and -"


"No, Duck. You didn't." Jethro slipped his arm around Ducky's shoulders and squeezed them. "I over-reacted. I was just so surprised, I guess. Reckon the team were too. 'Dr. Mallard' and 'Agent Gibbs', you could hear their shock."


Ducky smiled gently. "I believe they were even more shocked later, my dear, when you were so calm about it. Well calm is a relative term. Let me say you had clearly forgiven me for what was a serious breach of protocol. And not only that, you drove them far harder than they might have expected to be pushed for what was in effect one murder and a cold case."


Jethro shrugged. "Yeah, well. You were upset. You were hurting. I couldn't do much to fix that, but I reckoned that finding the bastard might help."


"And it did, my dear. It does. Very much." Ducky put his hand on Jethro's thigh and let it rest there. "Thank you."


"I don't need you to thank me, Duck. I was only doing my job." Jethro now covered Ducky's hand with his own and patted it.


"Yes, dear," Ducky said, a smile in his voice.


"So why didn't you tell me?"


"You were away on secondment when it happened and . . . Oh, I don't know, Jethro. When you returned it didn't seem important. And you had just met Marie and -"


"Was about to fall headlong into yet other mistake. Why didn't I listen to you, Duck?"


"Maybe because I never actually said anything, Jethro."


"Hmm. Well that should have told me something. You never did, you know?"


"Did what?"


"Say anything. About any of them."






For a moment they sat in silence. Ducky's hand was still resting on this thigh, it felt warm and reassuring, and Jethro's hand still covered it, while his arm still rested lightly on Ducky's shoulders.


"I think it is time I took the young lady to her final resting place," Ducky said, after another moment.


"Okay. You sure about going in alone?" Jethro looked at Ducky, staring into his eyes and trying to read what Ducky was feeling. But there seemed to be little there other than peace and the usual 'Jethro-affection'.


"Yes, my dear." Ducky moved his hand away from Jethro's leg. Suddenly it felt chilly.


"I'll wait here then." Jethro took his arm from around Ducky's shoulders and settled into his seat.


"You don't have to. I can easily -"


"I'll wait here." Jethro said in his Special Agent Gibbs tone.


Ducky merely smiled.




"Hey, Duck. Have I missed anything?"


"Jethro. What are you doing here?" Ducky looked astonished; Jethro wasn't surprised.


"Kate couldn't come. Thought it was time I saw an opera thingy, so . . . It's okay, isn't it? I mean you haven't found someone else to come with?" He looked around, but Ducky seemed to be alone.


Ducky smiled and handed Jethro his glass that was half-full of red wine. "No, my dear. Opera is not to everyone's tastes, I decided to come on my own. Are you sure you wish to sit through it? We can always forget about the tickets and go out to dinner."


"Nah. Do me good to try something different." Jethro drained Ducky's glass of wine, and put the empty glass on to a nearby table. He glanced around him; the place was full of people in small groups, laughing, chatting, and drinking. Opera must be more popular than he'd thought.


Someone jostled against Ducky, knocking him off-balance. Instantly Jethro caught his arm and held it firmly, supporting Ducky and glaring at the man, who to be fair did mutter an apology. "You okay, Duck."


"Yes, Jethro. Thank you."


However, it was still another minute or two before Jethro let go of Ducky's arm, and he remained where he was, effectively shielding Ducky from the bustling groups. "You're sure you're okay, Duck?"


"Yes, dear. You have extremely quick reflexes."


"Didn't mean that. I meant about Dr. Whatshername."


"Of course, Jethro. I simply took a fellow professional out for dinner, we had a very nice time, one we agreed we would like to repeat. But it was just dinner. If you are tactfully trying to ascertain whether I had any romantic feelings towards her, and as such whether I am upset by what we discovered, I can assure you that the relationship, not that something so short-lived can actually be called a relationship, was purely one of, well I won't say friendship, two people who share similar interests."






"Careful, Duck. Don't move."




"Yeah, it's me, Duck."


Ducky opened his eyes, blinking quickly, and looked at Jethro. His hair had fallen over his forehead and was dangling into his eyes; Jethro gently brushed it back, letting his hand linger in the heavy, soft strands. "How you feeling?" he said softly.


"As though someone recently stuck a large needle into my neck," Ducky said.


Jethro felt an almost overwhelming desire to hit someone or something, as his anger, fear and near hatred welled up inside him. Something must have shown on his face, because Ducky reached for his hand. "Don't, my dear." His tone was soft, caring, reassuring. He tugged on Jethro's hand, pulling gently until Jethro sat down on the edge of his bed. "It wasn't your fault."


"Then who the fuck's was it? Duck, I -"


"Hush, Jethro."


"Don't hush me, Ducky. I screwed up. I nearly lost you. I trusted you and your mom to a junior agent."


"Who was used to guarding the President of the United States. Caitlin is a good agent."


"Yeah, but I shouldn't have trusted you to her. I should have - Christ, Duck. I had McGee and DiNozzo, I should have put one of them here too. It's not as though I don't know your mom. I -"


"Is Mother all right?"


"What? Oh, yeah. Fine. I took her and the Corgis over to Mrs. Patterson's. She'll be fine there for a few days. And that'll give me time to get McGee to install a proper alarm system here."


"Jethro, I -"


"He's going to sort everything out and come as soon as he can. I told him it was a priority. Until then, I am staying here. With you."


"Jethro, I -"


"If you don't feel well enough to go into the office, and God knows you probably won't, then I'll take leave or get some paperwork sent here. But I am not letting you out of my sight."


"Jethro, I -"


"Not for one minute. Do you hear me, Duck? Not for a minute. I am not going to risk losing you. I can't."


"Jethro, I -"


"It was stupid of me. I should have - huh? Sorry, Duck, did you want something?" Jethro looked down at Ducky who was staring at him, a look of mild bemusement, as well as the usual affection on his face.


"Yes, dear. I need to visit the bathroom."


"Oh, right. Sorry. Come on then." Jethro stood up, pulled the bedclothes back and offered Ducky his hand.


"Thank you. My leg is somewhat stiff. I believe I might need your assistance, until it has had a moment to loosen up.


By the time they'd reached the bathroom Ducky was walking more freely, albeit with a more pronounced limp than usual. "Thank you, Jethro. I'll be fine now. Jethro!"


Jethro followed him inside the room. "I told you, Duck. I am not letting you out of my sight." He pushed the door shut, leaned back against with his arms folded, and just stared at Ducky.


"Jethro, this room is on the first floor. The window is not large. There is nothing on this side of the house that anyone could use to enable them to climb up. I assure you that it will be quite safe for me to be in here alone. You can wait for me outside the door, if you really feel that is necessary."


Jethro continued to just stand there and look at Ducky. Ducky frowned and stared back. For a moment or two they locked gazes and a silent battle commenced.


It ended with Ducky's eyes softening, him shaking his head slightly, sighing and moving across the room to deal with his needs.



"Jethro, do stop fussing," he said moments later, when Jethro 'helped' him back into bed. "I am quite capable arranging my own bedclothes. I am not an invalid."


"Sorry, Duck," Jethro said, and let go of the covers. "Why don't you settle down and go back to sleep. You've had a tiring time. I'm sure you'll feel better in the morning."


"That, Dr. Gibbs, is just what I was intending to do." Ducky smiled, and Jethro managed to laugh gently.


"Sorry," he repeated, leaning forward to touch Ducky's hand.


He waited until Ducky had settled down, before he sat down in the nearby chair.


Ducky looked at him and sighed. "Jethro, go your room. You cannot sleep in the chair. It's most uncomfortable," then to Jethro's surprise he laughed softly. Jethro raised his eyebrows. "I was merely thinking that given your proclivity for sleeping on my autopsy tables from time to time, that the chair must actually feel rather like a feather bed, in comparison that is."


Jethro smiled again and briefly joined Ducky in his laughter. "Go to sleep, Duck. I'm staying here. And I'm not planning on sleeping anyway."


Ducky sighed. "Jethro, if you really insist on this foolishness, then come and lay down next to me. There's plenty of room. At least that way you will be able to rest whilst you are not sleeping. Come along." Now he used his firm tone, the one that even Jethro never argued with. The kind of tone that no one else would dare to use with him.


Still he hesitated. "I don't want to -"


"You won't."


So taking great care not to jostle Ducky, Jethro kicked off his shoes and settled down on the bed next to Ducky.


Several hours later Jethro woke up. He felt warm, secure and at peace. He was surprised to discover that a blanket, for some reason Ducky seemed to prefer sheets, blankets and eiderdowns to quilts, had been half pulled over him. He tried to blink the sleep away. Sleep? He shouldn't be waking up he should be . . .


Suddenly he became aware of two pale blue eyes, rich with gentle humor and deep affection, looking at him, and a warm body under his arm. He glanced away from the gaze and saw that he was on his side, close to Ducky's body, and he had one arm thrown in what was definitely a very possessive manner across Ducky.


He sat up quickly and dragged his hand through his hair. "Sorry, Duck," he said swiftly.


"That's quite all right, my dear. I haven't been awake that long myself. I must confess that I haven't slept that well for quite some time. Usually my leg wakes me up once or twice during each night. And as I wasn't in any particularly discomfort, nor did I have a pressing need to visit the bathroom again, I decided that as you looked so peaceful, I wouldn't awaken you."


Jethro shook himself mentally. "But I wasn't going to go to sleep, Duck. I should have -"


"Been awake, waiting for people who are either dead or safely locked up to come and spirit me away? Or do you think that the people of Washington and Virginia are queuing up to threaten me? My dear. I am quite safe. And I will continue to be. After all, I do have you to take care of me. Now, I am afraid that the need to visit the bathroom is now a pressing one. Do you intend to again accompany me and watch over me whilst I shower and other things? Or are you going to relax and make yourself some coffee and me some tea?"



"Ducky?" Jethro opened his front door to find Ducky standing on his doorstep.


"Good evening, Jethro. I believe we need to talk." Ducky moved determinedly past Jethro into the hall, pausing to close the door behind him. He then took a step closer to Jethro, tilted his head back, looked up and waited.


Jethro looked down at him. "Do you really think so, Duck? I doubt it myself. I think we need to do this." He cupped Ducky's face between his hands, lowered his head, and with an accuracy that amazed him, found Ducky's mouth with his own.


He kept the contact fairly brief, just in case he had completely misread everything. However, when he pulled away to look at Ducky, the look in the soft blue eyes told him he most certainly hadn't.


Ducky took advantage of the break to slip his arms around Jethro's neck, tug Jethro's head down and offer his mouth for another kiss. Jethro put his arms around Ducky, pulled him closer to his body and accepted the offer.


"So, Duck," he said a few minutes later, when they had paused for air. Ducky was still in his arms, resting against his body, his head against Jethro's shoulder. "Do you still think we need to talk?"


Ducky chuckled, moved back a little, looked up at Jethro through passion-filled eyes and said softly, "Oh, no, dearest, what we need to do is to go to your bed and make love. But," he added swiftly, as Jethro bent to kiss him again, "after you have locked your front door."



Naked, they lay in Jethro's bed in one another's arms, holding one another and kissing from time to time.


Jethro began to caress Ducky's cheek and jaw with his fingertips, and was pleased when Ducky moaned softly and shifted under the touch. "You know, Duck," he said, pausing to kiss Ducky's nose. "I've always thought you were beautiful." He pushed himself up onto one arm and looked down at Ducky, gazing into his eyes, the all-too-revealing eyes that without the cover of the glasses he normally wore were even more revealing.


To his surprise, Ducky blushed slightly. "Thank you, my dear. And I confess that I have always found you a very handsome man."


Jethro smiled, and began to run his fingers over Ducky's chest. "You think we've been heading here all along?"


"I think that somewhere along the line friendship turned into something more, but that at that time neither of us were able or willing to admit it. Although I believe, my dear, that in all respects except this one, we have in effect been lovers for many years."


"I do love you, Duck. You know that, don't you? I've loved you for more years than I can remember. I just didn't - Well you know."


"I do indeed, my dearest Jethro. And I love you too. Very much. And I too have loved you for many, many years."


"You know it was thirty years ago today that we met, don't you?"


Ducky looked surprised. "I do, yes."


"But you're surprised I remembered," Jethro sounded a little rueful. "I do remember the important things, Duck. And you are very important." He lowered his head and began to kiss Ducky again, this time deepening the kiss. Ducky's mouth opened beneath his, and he slipped his tongue into the warm, moist sanctuary.


As he kissed Ducky, he continued to explore Ducky's body, letting his hand slip further and further down Ducky's body, feeling the thrill of excitement and pleasure race through his body as he did.


He wanted to see Ducky, to gauge his reactions, so letting the kiss slow down, he finally stopped it. Ducky looked happy, utterly and completely content. There was little, if any, blue remaining in his eyes; instead they had become the color of ebony. Jethro let his hand slip even lower.


Ducky gasped slightly and said quietly, "Do you know what you are doing, dearest?"


Jethro smiled. "Not really, Duck. I just know what feels good. And at the moment touching you feels incredibly good."


Ducky gasped again and sighed with evident pleasure as he moved very slightly. "Ah, Jethro," he murmured.


Jethro kissed him again. "I take it you do know what you're doing, Duck?"


Ducky met his gaze, answering the question with his eyes, rather than his mouth. When he did speak, he simply said, "What I know, my dear, is that if you continue to do what you are doing, you are shortly going to discover just how good what you are doing is."


Jethro smiled again, "I hope so, Duck. I hope so. Tell me though what you like. Let me make it even better for you. Is this okay? Is it how you like it?" Maybe he should feel embarrassed asking the question, but it was Ducky; he'd seen Ducky do just about everything it was possible to see another person do. He never had been embarrassed with Ducky, not at any time.


Ducky said, his voice heavy with the arousal his eyes showed and his body was betraying, "I like it gentle, dearest, and slow."


Well Jethro could do both. He was glad Ducky had said ‘gentle'. Although that was what he would have expected the man who was both a gentle man and a gentleman to like, he hadn't actually known.


Ducky was correct. It wasn't much longer before he discovered how good he'd made Ducky feel. Ducky's climax seemed to happen with his entire body, and Jethro felt it in more ways that the physically obvious. "Oh, Jethro," was all Ducky murmured, and he sighed with sheer contentment.


Jethro continued to hold his lover, murmuring things he never thought he'd say, things he wouldn't dream of saying to anyone else, until after a few moments, Ducky's eyes opened and he gazed up at Jethro with open adoration. "Thank you, my dearest," he said, his tone solemn and sweet.


Jethro swallowed hard.


Whether it was his skilled surgeon's hands, his experience of loving other men, or just because he had already known Jethro so intimately long before they ventured into bed together, or simple love, or a combination of all of them, Jethro didn't know, but as Ducky made love to him, showed him with his hands and mouth how much he loved Jethro, Jethro felt himself taken to places he had never before visited.


They kept it incredibly simple, although Ducky had offered more, much more. "Another time, Duck," Jethro said gently, as he stopped Ducky from sliding down the bed. "I want you up here with me this time."




"Happy Anniversary, Duck," Jethro said, bending to kiss his lover.


"Happy Anniversary, my dearest." Ducky kissed Jethro back, the contact warming and secure, as it always was.


A lot had happened in the ten years since they first found themselves in one another's arms, beyond the fraternal level they had shared for thirty years.


They and the team had survived much together: Kate's death; Ziva being foisted on them; Jennifer Shepard returning and making a blatant attempt to entice Jethro back into her bed; McGee and DiNozzo under suspicion and facing dismissal, or worse; their beloved Abby's life being threatened; having to employ a nurse to help look after Mrs. Mallard; Mrs. Mallard's death.


And the worst thing of all.


It still upset Jethro at times to remember the time when he'd being yanked back into the past, when he'd forgotten his dearest Ducky, when all he could do was relive his time with Shannon and Kelly, and face their deaths again.


And then, just as he'd started to remember, he was hit with the what he'd considered blatant betrayal of everything he'd believed in, which had led to him walking out of NCIS. Walking out on the team; his career; his life; his Ducky.


Except he hadn't walked out on Ducky. Not really.


He remembered standing in the airport, Ducky in his arms, not giving a damn what the people who walked by thought, his head on Ducky's just holding him, gently stroking his back, rocking him, and murmuring to him promises of love and forevers. And Ducky had forgave Jethro for leaving, even before Jethro had asked - not that he would have asked.


That was when he'd asked Ducky. "When I come back, Duck, you'll marry me." As a proposal went, it wasn't the most romantic, nor the most honorable, given that he was just about to leave the man he loved. But it had sufficed. He had felt Ducky relax against him, moving even nearer to him, snuggling further and deeper into the embrace. He hadn't got a ring, not then, that would have to wait. So instead he tugged the Purple Heart from his pocket, the medal he'd all but abandoned over the years and pushed it into Ducky's hand. Then wiping the tears that flowed from both his eyes and Ducky's, and lightly placing a fleeting kiss on Ducky's cheek, he had gone. Gone away to recover. To rebuild himself. Gone away so that he could come back and find his life again, his life with Ducky.


He hadn't stayed away for long, not really. In fact he was ready to return after the first day. He missed Ducky so much. But a swift phone call to Ducky to tell him he was coming home, changed his mind. Ducky had gently but firmly told him that he wasn't ready, had all but forbade him to return. And Jethro had obeyed his lover. Obeyed his friend. Obeyed the man who meant more to him than life itself.


And then one day it was right. He had woken up and the past was back where it should be. Not to be feared. Not to be forgotten. But not to be replayed and relived. At least not the parts that were dead.


He had returned.


Returned to Washington.


Returned to Ducky.


Returned to his life.


And he kept his promise.


He returned with two rings, and immediately went through a ceremony with Ducky.


He also returned to NCIS. To the team. What he had said to Mike was true; you could fight the bastards better from within.


But even the team was no more. Ziva, recalled by Mossad, had left within months of his return. To his surprise, as he hadn't realized that she was capable of such feelings, Jenny had left with Ziva.


The new Director had been of the ‘Tom Morrow School', and once more Jethro was left to do his job in his way without interference.


The new Director had obliging turned a blind eye to the fact that Ducky should retire, and so even when he reached the age of sixty-seven, he was still running Autopsy, telling his stories and letting everyone know in such a clear way he might as well have shouted it from the roof-tops, of his love for Jethro.


And things were going well. Ducky was in good health, excellent health; even his leg seemed to trouble his less. Their romance, because Jethro had to admit that to his amusement and mild embarrassment, or rather he felt he should be embarrassed, but wasn't, was still going strong. They had an excellent gently passionate, albeit non-frantic, physical relationship, and everything seemed rosy.


And then Jethro had been shot.


It had been one of those things. Impossible to predict, something that no one could have prevented: his gun had jammed. It hadn't been serious; indeed only one shot had hit him, as McGee had taken the perpetrator out with a single fatal shot to his head, the very next second.


But it had shaken Ducky. Far more than Jethro had realized.


That night as they sat holding hands, Ducky had simply said, "I can't do it anymore, my dear. I've buried my mother, I can't live day-to-day fearing that I'll bury you."


Jethro had handed his notice in the very next day. His and Ducky's.


And this time he hadn't looked back.


And nor had Ducky.


And now they traveled as they wished to, were together, at least in the same house, for twenty-four hours a day, and never once tired of one another, not in any way.


The team had in effect dissolved upon their retirement.


Tony DiNozzo had drifted off into another job, another State, where no doubt he'd chase and bed as many women as he possibly could. He sent the odd postcard from time to time, and Jethro hoped that one day the young man would grow up and find whatever it was he had spent his adult life searching for.


Abby and McGee had married, and now had two sons who came to break up the peace and quiet of Jethro and Ducky's Reston home at least once a month. Both had resigned from NCIS and both now wrote; Abby Forensic Science books, McGee his detective novels. Neither had wanted their children to grow up with nannies and child minders, and neither had wanted the risk of Abby and the children one day being husbandless and fatherless. They were happy, more than happy, they too were content, and like Ducky and himself still very much in love.


Abby was still his darling surrogate daughter; still threw herself into his arms every time she visited, as though she feared she'd never get another chance.


Ducky now used a stick to help him walk when they left their home, but other than that, was still not showing his age, still looked several younger than he was, and could still more than satisfy Jethro in every way possible. And he still unwittingly told the world about their intimacy, and still told Jethro about his love and devotion, in such clear detail, that Jethro often felt unworthy.


Jimmy Palmer had qualified as a Medical Examiner and had taken Ducky's place at NCIS. He too visited Jethro and Ducky, was still klutzy around Jethro, still from time to time called his ‘sir', and had started to retell some of Ducky's own stories. Last month he had very hesitantly asked if he could bring someone with him when he visited. The man had been several years older than him, also a doctor, and if Jethro could read doctors, and he believed he could, Jimmy had finally found peace and a home for himself.


Yes, everything had worked out perfectly.


"Here," he handed Ducky an envelope and a small box.


Ducky cocked an eyebrow. "My dear?"


"Open it."


Ducky smiled, and slowly and very carefully, so slowly and carefully that Jethro felt like screaming, removed the paper. "Jethro?" With great reverence he removed the antique cuff links each set with a tasteful, elegant ruby, from the box.


Jethro crouched down in front of him, took his hand, looked up at him and said softly, "It was you, my love, who told me that we'd been lovers in every sense of the word but one for thirty years before we went to bed together. That makes it our fortieth anniversary, and that's ruby. Happy Anniversary, Duck." He repeated his earlier greeting and reached up to kiss Ducky.


"Ah, my own dearest Jethro," Ducky said, the emotion heavy in his voice. He stood up, tugging Jethro to his feet and let himself be gathered into Jethro's embrace, where he nestled in clear and obvious pleasure.


What started as gentle, loving, almost chaste kisses, ended up with them still in bed several hours later.


Ducky had never got around to opening the envelope. But that could wait until the morning. The tickets weren't for another two weeks anyway. Well Ducky had always promised to show Jethro Great Britain.


"Love you, Ducky my love,"


"I love you too, my dearest Jethro."


And sleep finally claimed them both.


Friends, that's what we've been

Is friends, through thick and thin

We've been friends, and our love begins

And who makes better lovers than friends


Friends, that's what we've been

Is friends, through thick and thin

We've been friends, and our love begins

And who makes better lovers than friends



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