After a talk with Charlie Patterson, Ducky makes a decision, and a New Year's resolution. However, it is not without a degree of trepidation that he goes to see Jethro.
An established relationship story.
Written: January 2007. Word count: 3,030.
It was twelfth night and Ducky, aided by Charlie Patterson, was taking down the decorations. As with other years he wondered why he left them up for so long, in fact, given there were no children in the house, he occasionally wondered why he even bothered to put them up. But his mother liked them, they gave her such pleasure and, if Ducky was honest, he liked them too. Christmas had always been a very special time in the Mallard house when he was a child in Great Britain and even though he was decades beyond childhood and in a different country, he still enjoyed the season and the festivities.
"I'm surprised Agent Gibbs isn't helping you, Doctor," Charlie said, as he unhooked another garland.
"I am afraid that Jethro views such things as Christmas decorations as rather a waste of time and money. That isn't to say he doesn't enjoy them when he sees them, but he really isn't interested in them beyond that. I know that if I asked him, he would not hesitate to come and assist me in taking them down, or indeed put them up, as he did this year. In fact had you not been able to help me and I failed to ask him, he would have been quite angry with me. He seems to get upset if I climb about on ladders and stools. I can't imagine why. However, it was very kind of you, Charlie, to come over."
"No worries, Dr. Mallard. I was going to drive Grandma over to see your mother anyway. She doesn't enjoy driving at night when the roads are icy."
"She's very sensible. Here, let me take that from you." He took another garland from Charlie and began to carefully pack it away.
Several moments of silence went by before Charlie spoke again. "Is Agent Gibbs at home tonight?"
Ducky glanced at the young man. There had been something slightly unusual in Charlie's tone; he got the distinct impression that the young man was doing more than simply making conversation. He had sounded entirely too innocent for Ducky's liking. In fact, he sounded a little like Jimmy Palmer did at times, such as when he was returning from one of his 'secret' rendezvous with Agent Lee. "I believe so, yes. Why do you ask?"
Charlie shrugged. "No reason."
Now he definitely did sound far too innocent. "Charles." Ducky fixed the young man with his steely gaze; the one that even worked on Jethro.
Nonetheless, to Ducky's surprise, Charlie didn't answer. Instead he moved across the room to begin taking the holly from behind the pictures. "This lasted really well, didn't it, Doctor? It still looks as fresh as the day you put it up."
"Charles," Ducky repeated, limping across the room to look up at the young man. "Why did you enquire as to whether Jethro was at home tonight?"
"It doesn't matter, Dr. Mallard. Forget it. I shouldn't have said anything."
Ducky let silence fill the room, as he continued to stare at Charlie. After a minute or two he said, his tone conversational, "Did I ever tell you about the time I pushed a French policeman off a cliff?"
He kept the smile from showing as Charlie's mouth fell open and his eyes widened. "You pushed a French cop off a cliff?" he finally asked, his tone askance.
"Yes," Ducky said brightly.
"Oh, he messed up the crime scene."
"Charles Patterson. As a Law student I am surprised at you. You should know the importance of preserving the evidence of a crime scene."
"Sorry, Doctor. I do, of course I do. It's just that . . . "
"You wouldn't have thought I could do such a thing?"
"Oh, I can surprise people, when I put my mind to it. Everyone thinks that Jethro is the one who should not be crossed; they see me as a mild mannered, elderly man who tells long, rambling stories. Whereas, in reality . . . " He deliberately let his words trail off.
Under his steady gaze, Charlie flushed. "All right, I'll tell you. But please don't tell Grandma, she'll be furious with me for even mentioning it." He swallowed hard and spoke again, "I just don't know why you put up with it, that's all."
Ducky blinked. "Put up with what?"
"Agent Gibbs. How he . . . The women."
"Ah. Oh, dear, is our relationship that obvious?"
"Pretty much, yes. You only have to be in the same room as the two of you to see that . . . Well that you care for one another more than just as friends. And even when you speak his name, your . . . I'm sorry, Dr. Mallard, I shouldn't have said anything. Grandma said it's none of my business."
"Your grandmother knows?"
"Sure. Your mother told her. But Grandma had worked it long before that."
"And it doesn't bother her?"
"Why should it?" Charlie's surprised expression was completely genuine. "Look, Doctor, really I'm sorry I said anything. It isn't any of my business; it's yours and Agent Gibbs's. And if you can put up with it, well . . . Unless, do you have an open relationship? I mean do you . . . ? Sorry, Doctor. Please, do ignore me."
Ducky looked at Charlie. Suddenly he felt the need to talk to someone, and he was extremely fond of the young man. "No, Charles, we do not. Not as such. Firstly, I'm the type of person who falls in love with one person for life. Secondly, Jethro would never stand for it. I know, I know," he said, smiling at the look of incredulity on Charlie's face. "I honestly do not believe that Jethro is aware that he is capable of feelings of jealousy, but he is."
"He loves you." Charlie spoke the words as a simple statement not a question, his tone soft but decisive.
"Yes, I know. And that is why I 'put up with it', Charles. That and as I just told you when I fall in love, I fall in love for a lifetime."
"You shouldn't have to 'put up with it'," Charlie said, his tone passionate.
Ducky smiled gently and patted Charlie's arm. "No, Charles, in an ideal world, you are correct, I shouldn't have to. But the world is rarely, if ever, ideal, as you must already know."
Charlie glanced down and swallowed. "Yeah, Doctor. I guess I do. I guess I do at that."
Ducky knew he was thinking of his own life, how his parents had, apart from in a financial sense, abandoned him as a tiny child. How they had missed his High School Graduation, forgot birthdays, both his and his grandmother's, how he already knew they would not attend his College Graduation, or even be interested when he passed the Bar exam. But Charlie had his grandmother, they were incredibly close; he enjoyed spending time with her, and although she did spoil him to an extent, they both knew what the boundaries were and Charlie never crossed them. Given the way he had been treated by his parents, Charles Patterson was an amazingly well balanced, extremely caring, giving young man. Ducky was proud and pleased to number him amongst his friends.
"Come on, Charles," he said, after a moment or two of silence. "Let's take these last few decorations down and then go and join the ladies for a drink."
Charlie, who never seemed fazed by anything for long, looked up and smiled, a genuine, honest smile, at Ducky. "I'd like that, Doctor," he said. "And, Doctor, I'm -"
Ducky cut into his words. "It's all right, Charlie, really it is. Thank you for caring. Now come along," he spoke firmly, but softly. Charlie's caring genuinely touched him, even if the young man's words, and the announcement that both he and his grandmother knew the true nature of Ducky's relationship with Jethro, had surprised him.
LATER THAT NIGHT
You shouldn't have to put up with it. Charlie's words echoed in his head.
The young man was correct; Ducky knew that. Had known it for years, for decades, but it wasn't that simple. Or was it? Was it finally time that he did the one thing he'd always sworn he'd never do?
After all, it was a new year, and one was supposed to make New Year's resolutions. Over the years Ducky had rarely bothered; there had never been anything he wanted to have, well at least nothing that realistically he knew he could obtain, or give up, passionately enough to take the time to make them. But maybe . . .
And yet . . .
He fell asleep with the quiet argument, interspersed with Charlie's words, racing around in his head.
"Duck!" Jethro sounded and looked genuine pleased, and a little taken aback to see Ducky. "Come in," he said, opening the door wider and taking Ducky's arm.
Ducky wasn't surprised that Jethro had been astonished to see him there. He rarely, if ever, just turned up at Jethro's home unannounced. He might know that Jethro saw and slept with women, in fact he did know, Jethro always made a point of telling him, but he had no intention of seeing his lover in the arms of a woman.
Once Ducky was inside and the door had been shut again, Jethro tugged him into his arms and held him, lowering his head to nuzzle Ducky's ear. "It's good to see you, Duck. Is everything okay?"
"Yes, my dear," Ducky said, resting in the embrace of the man he loved. "Everything is fine. Mother sends her regards."
"That's nice of her. Now come here." And before Ducky could object, not that he was planning to, Jethro had pushed him away just enough to allow him to lower his head and kiss him.
After several minutes of gentle and contented kissing, Jethro led Ducky into the sitting room and offered him a glass of whiskey; the good pure malt scotch, not the paint stripper he tended to drink when alone.
"Thank you, my dear," Ducky said, sitting down on the sofa before taking the glass.
Jethro sat down next to him. "Cheers," he said, slipping his arm around Ducky's shoulders and pulling Ducky a little closer to him.
"Your good health, Jethro," Ducky replied.
And for the next fifteen minutes they sat content, peaceful, idly chatting from time to time, simply enjoying the company of one another and the whiskey.
"Want that topped up, Duck?"
Ducky paused for a moment before answering the real question. It was Jethro's way of asking him whether he was staying the night or not. Two nights ago, his answer would have been instantaneous, but now . . .
He swallowed hard. "I don't know, my dear," he said quietly, answering the unasked part of the question. "Perhaps you had better hear what I have to say before you make the offer."
Jethro looked at him, his face wary and full of concern. "Duck? What's happened? What's the matter?" He gripped Ducky's hand tightly, as concern was replaced with a hint of fear. "What is it, Duck? Tell me."
Ducky looked into the dark blue eyes and read Jethro's open emotion. He patted his lover's hand, in what he hoped was a reassuring way as he quickly attempted to decide what to say. Ever since he had made his resolution he had run through endless ways of telling Jethro, but none of them had seemed just right. He didn't want to just be blunt, Jethro deserved more than that, Ducky himself deserved more than that, their whole relationship did. However, nor did he wish to launch into a long, rambling explanation, mainly because he knew that, as much as Jethro loved him, and he did love him, Ducky knew that, his lover did tend to switch off during Ducky's more loquacious accounts.
So he compromised. Slipping his hand into Jethro's he said quietly, "For how long have been lovers, Jethro?"
Jethro blinked and looked a little confused; Ducky wasn't surprised. "Just over thirty years, Duck. But you know that, why ask me?"
Ducky ignored the question. "Indeed, a little over thirty years. More than enough time for you to have made a decision. And, today, my dear the time has come for you to do so."
"Jethro," Ducky said, giving himself another half a second. "The time has come, my dearest, for you to choose."
"Choose? Choose what, Ducky?"
"Not what, dear. Whom. It's a simple choice, Jethro, them or me. Your lady friends or me," he added, when the confusion failed to clear from the dark gaze.
For a moment Jethro said nothing, as his eye widened in surprise. "Duck?" he finally managed.
Ducky sighed. "For over thirty years, Jethro, I have put up with your marriages and your affairs. I have stood by you, literally on four occasions. I have been there for you, whenever you have wanted or needed me, and I have never once made any demands on you. I have never done, what maybe I should have done years, decades ago, and told you that it was they or I, and I believed I never would. However, I shall be sixty-five this year, you'll be fifty-three, it is long past the time for games, Jethro. You should know what you want. And it's time that I knew too. It is time that I stopped waiting, hoping, expecting, I won't say stop loving, as that will never happen. However, if you wish to continue to date and bed women, then say so now, say so and, I will then know what it is I have to do. You won't lose me, my dear, not as a friend, not unless you wish to. But I'm getting older; I need some peace, some surety in my life. I need . . . Resolution, seems as good a word as any, given the time of year. I'm not looking to find another lover, I couldn't. But I need to know where I stand with you. I'm not suggesting that we make it officially known, although I believe that several of the children already suspect. Nor am I suggesting that we live together; it wouldn't be possible with Mother being as she is. Not that, as you know, she doesn't know about us, but you couldn't live in the same house as her all of the time and . . ." Finally, Ducky ran out of words, and came to a halt.
Jethro, who hadn't blinked once during Ducky's long, rambling explanation, now did so. "You finished, Duck?" he said softly.
Ducky nodded. "Yes, dear."
"You know some people would say that you should have said this years, decades ago."
"And what do you say?"
"That I love you."
Ducky opened his mouth to give his standard reply to the words, frowned and closed it again. "Jethro," he said, his tone testy.
"Sorry, Duck." Jethro smiled and brushed the hair back from Ducky's forehead. "Ah, Ducky, Ducky, Ducky. You're right, you know? In everything you've said. I've been a bastard all these years. But that's over."
Ducky frowned. "It is?" He knew he sounded incredulous, and he felt his cheeks flush slightly.
Jethro chuckled. "Good point, Duck. Okay, what I should have said is it's over with you."
Ducky felt as though the blood had suddenly drained from his body; his chest felt tight and his throat constricted. To his horror, he felt himself clutch Jethro's hands, his resolution suddenly fleeing, as he was about to tell Jethro that he hadn't meant what he'd said. But even as he opened his mouth to do so, he knew that he couldn't take back his words. It wouldn't be right, for either of them.
Suddenly he felt himself tugged into Jethro's arms and held tightly. The shaking, that he hadn't even noticed, began to fade as the security Jethro always gave him began to seep back into him. "Shit, see that was some great resolution, wasn't it? Seems I've broken it already."
"I meant, Ducky, that I wasn't going to be a bastard to you any longer, that was over, not us. That'll, we'll, never be over, my love, never; we couldn't be. You see I'd already decided, made my own resolution if you want to call it that, that there would be no more women. That it's time I proved to you that I loved you, rather than just tell you."
Ducky moved back a little so that he could see his beloved's eyes and face. "Jethro. Are you certain?"
"Never more so, Duck. Never more so. Have been for God knows how long now. Just never . . . I love you, Duck. It's as simple as that. And as for not making it officially known, well if you don't want to, then that's fine. But as far as I'm concerned, I don't care who knows. In fact the more people who do know the better. And those who can't handle it, well, tough, that's there problem, not ours. And as for not being able to live with your mom. Well . . . But we can talk about that some other time, can't we, Duck?"
"Oh, Jethro." Now that he had what he had always wanted, what he had come to Jethro's home hoping and praying for, Ducky found that he couldn't speak.
Which was fine, because Jethro found something else for him to do with his mouth.
It seemed as though several hours had passed by the time Jethro released Ducky's mouth for more than the second or two necessary to allow both men to claim some much needed oxygen. However, a glance at Jethro's watch showed him that in reality only a little over five minutes had passed.
Jethro gently and chastely kissed Ducky one more time, and again brushed his hair back from his head. Then he nodded at Ducky's glass. ""Want that topped up, Duck?"
"Yes, please, my dearest," Ducky said, and smiled.
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