Set the same evening as Bête Noire.
Ducky goes to Gibbs home to find his old friend and lover ruing his failure to kill Ari.
An established relationship story.
Written: October 2005. Word count: 2,049.
"Go home, Ducky."
"I said, go home." Gibbs swung the gun around and pointed it directly at his friend.
Ducky remained where he was, and simply stared at Gibbs. "And I said, no, Jethro."
Gibbs met the stare and held it, determined to stare Ducky down. Instead it was him who blinked first and glanced away. He lowered the gun. "I don't want you here," he said, his tone slightly softer than before.
"Maybe not, but you need me," Ducky said, his voice firm, yet quiet.
Gibbs's head came up as though pulled by elastic and he sneered at Ducky. "Need you? What could I possibly need you for, Dr. Mallard? I suppose I could always fuck you and get rid of some tension that way. Is that the kind of ‘need' you had in mind?" He glared.
Ducky again met the stare and didn't move. "If that's what you want, Jethro. Then yes," he said quietly.
Gibbs groaned and lowered his head to his chest. "Ah, shit, Duck," he said after a moment or two. "I didn't mean it. You know that, don't you?"
"Of course, my dear," Ducky said.
"Come here," Jethro said, holding out his uninjured arm. Ducky moved towards him, and Jethro tugged him into a one-armed embrace. "I'm sorry," he said gruffly, burying his mouth and nose in his lover's silky, thick hair.
"I know," Ducky said, slipping his own arms around Jethro and completing the embrace.
"How can you do it, Duck?" Jethro raised his head and pulled back slightly, allowing him to once more look into the pale-blue eyed gaze, which as always blazed with the deep affection Ducky had for him.
"Do what?" Ducky asked, shifting slightly in the embrace, no doubt moving more of his weight onto his undamaged leg.
Jethro knew he should let him go, offer him the stool upon which he was perched, but he needed - damn Ducky, he was right again - to hold Ducky. Somehow his eccentric Medical Examiner was the once piece of sanity in Jethro's otherwise insane world. "Bring out both the best and the worst in me," Jethro said ruefully.
"Probably because I am the only person with whom you can truly be yourself. The only person you don't need to pretend with, or hide yourself from." Ducky said firmly.
"Which means that treating you like shit, is part of my real character?"
Ducky smiled. "No, my dear. But we all need a release valve; I'm yours. And as I've told you before, it is better me than the whiskey bottle."
"You always hurt the ones you love?" Jethro murmured.
"Indeed," Ducky said softly. For a minute he let his head come to rest on Jethro's shoulder. Then he lifted it, looked directly into Jethro's eyes and said firmly, "You shouldn't blame yourself, my dear."
"Then who the hell am I supposed to blame, Duck?" Jethro said exasperatedly. "I had the bastard cold. He should be lying on your table now. Not out there somewhere laughing at us. I should have gone for a headshot; he was close enough. But I let him goad me, Duck. Me. I've been doing this job for twenty years, I was trained to kill long before that. Trained to handle this kind of taunting, and I let him dictate to me. That's what bothers me, far more than him getting away."
"I know," Ducky said quietly, again shifting slightly in Jethro's embrace. Again, Jethro knew he should let him go. Again he knew he couldn't. "You were the one who always told me that the body is the best place for which to aim."
Jethro sighed. "I know. But I should have suspected something wasn't ‘right.' How many terrorists do you know who give someone a loaded gun and insist that person, the person that they have just declared an excellent shot, shoots them?"
"He kept insisting he wasn't a terrorist." Ducky's tone was matter-of-fact.
"And you believed him?"
"No," Ducky said. "But then my judgment may be more than a little impaired. After all," he moved back slightly, and the look in the steady gaze was troubled. Jethro tensed instinctively, he knew that look, and he never liked to see it. "I was responsible for Gerald being shot."
Jethro blinked. "Duck?"
Ducky sighed softly. "I entered into a ridiculous façade with Caitlin. I followed her lead and called her ‘Abby.' I should not have done that. He had already warned me what would happen if we tried to trick him. As I said to him when he had the gun pointed at Gerald's shoulder, it wasn't Caitlin's fault; she didn't know the rules. But as he reminded me, I did. So in fact Gerald's injury is my fault."
This time Jethro pushed Ducky away and held him at arm's length. "No, Duck. It isn't. It's that bastard's fault, no one else's. You couldn't have known he'd see Kate's gun."
"Maybe not. But I did know that he was already suspicious. I am afraid that I am not terribly good at subterfuge, my dear. I would never have made a Special Agent. What?" he asked, as Jethro gave a loud chuckle.
"Ah, Ducky. Only you can make me laugh when I want to kill someone," Jethro tugged Ducky back into the one-armed embrace, and this time kissed him.
"Jethro?" Ducky asked, when they broke for air.
"Sorry, Duck. It's just your comment about not being ‘terribly good at subterfuge.' Given the fact that one aspect of our relationship for the last twenty-six years has remained undetected, I'd say you were more than damned good at subterfuge."
"That's different," Ducky said, after contemplating Jethro's words. He smiled gently.
"Maybe. But you've got to stop those thoughts, Duck. You aren't to blame for Gerald. You did what you could, what you thought best at the time. If you'd have called Kate ‘Kate', she'd have definitely ended up inside Autopsy, and maybe she'd be on your table now."
"I know," Ducky said after a moment or two. "You are of course correct, my dear. I know that intellectually at least. But -"
"I know, I know. ‘Knowing something intellectually isn't the same as knowing it emotionally.'"
"Oh, dear, have I told you that before, Jethro?" Ducky looked genuinely curious.
"Once or twice, Duck." Jethro smiled.
"Ah." Again Ducky shifted.
This time Jethro's guilt outweighed his own needs. He stood up, taking care not to jolt Ducky. "Here," he said, urging Ducky down onto the stool. "Sit down."
Ducky's lack of attempting to argue, told Jethro just how uncomfortable his lover had been. "Thank you, my dear."
"Drink?" Jethro asked.
Ducky tipped his head back and frowned. "I'm not sure," he said.
"It's the decent stuff."
"In that case, yes, please."
Jethro moved to find the bottle. "We'll have to share though," he said, coming back with the said bottle, and nodding towards the single mug that stood on the bench.
Ducky shrugged. "I don't believe that will be a problem."
Jethro poured a large amount of whiskey into the cleanish mug, tossed half of it back and held out the rest for Ducky. "I still should have killed the bastard."
"I do not believe you are the only person feeling that tonight, Jethro," Ducky said after a moment or two.
Ducky sighed, drained the mug and reached for the bottle to pour some more whiskey, and handed it to Jethro. "Jethro my dear, there is something I have to tell you. This probably isn't the best time, but I doubt if they'll ever be a good time. So . . ." he trailed off.
"Caitlin, I am sure is no doubt also feeling the way you do. She believes that she had a chance to kill the bastard and failed."
"But she too was taunted. I tried to tell her, but you know Kate. Sometimes she is too determined to prove that she is as good as any man, better in fact, that she's foolhardy. And what was my advice worth anyway? I'm only an elderly Medical Examiner, not a Special Agent. How could I possible know?"
"Ducky, I'm sure Kate nor anyone else feels that. In fact if they do I'll –"
"Yes, my dear," Ducky patted Jethro's arm. "I know. Forgive me, I didn't mean to imply that Caitlin does feel that. I was merely -"
"Trying to avoid finishing a story - that's my job, Duck. Not yours."
Ducky smiled faintly. "Caitlin had the half-opportunity to stab him with a dissecting knife. But when it came to it, she couldn't do it. What is frightening, Jethro, is that he knew she wouldn't be able to."
"And?" Jethro demanded, moving directly into Ducky's personal space and forcibly, albeit gently, tilting Ducky's head back.
"And?" Ducky repeated, meeting Jethro's gaze.
"There's more. Come on, Duck, I know you too well. I can read you like a book."
Ducky sighed again. "And he also knew that given the chance I would not have hesitated to kill him." Jethro knew he'd failed to hide his stunned reaction when Ducky offered a faint rueful smile. "However," he said softly, looking away from Jethro. "He also said he knew that I would have regretted it."
"And you would have done." It wasn't a question. Jethro knew his lover far too well.
"Yes, my dear," Ducky said softly. "I was going to argue with him, tell him that I wouldn't have regret it, that it would be his repayment for shooting Gerald. But it would have been a lie. I could have killed him, Jethro, but I don't think either you or I would have liked the results of my doing so. And if Caitlin had stabbed him -"
"You'd have done what you could to save his life." Again it wasn't a question.
"Yes," Ducky said softly.
"Ah, Duck. Don't," Jethro tugged Ducky back into his arm again. "You're a doctor. You're trained to save lives, not take them. Didn't you tell me that you treated dozens of the enemy when you did your tour in Nam?" This time he made it a question, but it was a rhetorical one.
"What will you say to Kate?"
Jethro was silent for a moment. "Nothing. For now at least. If she's feeling even half as bloody as I am, I don't need to. But I can't let it go unmentioned for too long, Duck. You know that."
"I'll let the dust settle for a while. Besides, he was wearing a vest, unless she'd gone for his neck, it wouldn't have made a difference. Except maybe -" Jethro broke off.
"Indeed," Ducky said softly, meeting Jethro's gaze and confirming that he knew exactly what Jethro had stopped himself from saying.
For a moment they settled into silence, just holding one another and seeking the solace they always gave each other.
"It wasn't Kate's fault," Jethro murmured a few minutes later.
"No, my dear," Ducky said, tipping his head back and gazing up, the look steady, affectionate and incisive. "And nor was it yours."
Jethro just shrugged and then winced as a sharp pain coursed through his shoulder. Ducky noticed it immediately because he said, "Why don't you go to bed, my dear Jethro. You can't do anything else tonight. Unless you want to sit here and waste bullets on shooting pictures and replaying what you believe you should have done."
Jethro glanced down. "No one else would dare to say that," he said.
Ducky smiled. "I know," he said. "It's one of the privileges of loving you. Now come along," he slipped off the stool, took Jethro's good hand and limped slowly towards the stairs.
"Can you stay, Duck?" Jethro asked, as he allowed his lover to lead him up the stairs.
"If you wish me to."
"Yeah. I do. But I don't think I can make love to you. I wouldn't trust myself," he added softly.
They reached the top of the stairs, and Ducky flicked the light switch, plunging the basement into an eerie darkness. "That is up to you, dearest. Just know that I trust you."
Still holding Jethro's hand, Ducky led him towards the main staircase and up to Jethro's bedroom.
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