WHY DIDN'T I NOTICE?
Set immediately after Thirst.
Gibbs drives Ducky home.
A pre-slash story.
Written: October 2011. Word count: 1,515.
Ducky was silent as they drove out of the Navy Yard. Apart from telling Gibbs he was ready when he'd appeared in the squad room, he'd been quiet ever since he'd asked Gibbs to give him a few minutes alone.
As he drove, Gibbs kept turning his gaze from the road to glance at Ducky. If he didn't know his old friend any better, he would have said Ducky was brooding. He really did wish he knew what to say, but he didn't. Not only because giving verbal comfort wasn't his thing, but also because the whole fact that Mary had existed in Ducky's life in a romantic sense still surprised him. Yet Ducky was his closest friend, he owed him to at least try.
"Why didn't you tell me about Mary?" he asked and instantly regretted the question.
Out of the corner of his eye he saw Ducky turn away from where he'd been staring out of the side window to look at him. "Since when did the personal lives of other people interest you?"
Okay, so he'd asked for that. "You're not 'other people', Duck," he said, sparing Ducky a glance before turning back to the road again.
"Am I not?"
"No." Gibbs spoke empathically.
The silence stretched between them again. This time Gibbs decided not to break it. He almost jumped when Ducky's soft voice began to speak. "And what would you have said had I told you about Mary?" A quick glance told Gibbs that Ducky was once again looking at him.
Fuck. Gibbs shrugged. "Don't know," he said.
"Don't you?" Ducky asked; there was a very faint hint of what sounded almost like amusement in his tone. "I think you do, Jethro."
"Duck, I -"
Much to his relief, Ducky interrupted him. "Why didn't I notice? I should have noticed, Jethro. I am trained to notice, I am qualified to notice. And yet I failed to see what was under my very nose. Of course looking back, it is easy to see the signs, but at the time I . . ." Ducky trailed off and sighed softly.
"Maybe you didn't want to notice," Gibbs said quietly. "Maybe you told yourself if you didn't admit it, it'd just go away. Maybe -"
"We are still talking about me, are we not, Jethro?" Once again Ducky sounded mildly amused, but there was also a touch of sorrow in his tone.
Gibbs took one hand of the wheel and squeezed Ducky's knee. He felt Ducky's hand cover his and felt Ducky's fingers slip between his for a moment, before Ducky took his hand away. After a moment Gibbs put his own hand back on the steering wheel.
Again the silence stretched between them. Finally Gibbs spoke. "I notice, Duck," he said quietly, keeping his tone neutral as he forced himself not to look at Ducky.
For a moment he thought Ducky wasn't going to reply. But then Ducky spoke. "Do you now?"
"Yeah. Always have." Now Gibbs did glance at Ducky again; he saw that Ducky was looking at him. Not that it was easy to make anything out in the darkness, broken only by other cars' headlights.
"I see," Ducky said, after another few moments of silence. Gibbs didn't know what to say, so again he said nothing. Suddenly Ducky spoke again. "I do not wish to go home."
"Huh? Why not?"
"I do not wish to go home to an empty place, a place that I -" Ducky broke off for a moment, then sighed softly and said, "A place to wish I never should have moved. It is not just the Corgis I miss," he added.
Gibbs wasn't sure what Ducky was referring to, some conversation he hadn't been involved in - at least he hoped he hadn't been involved. "Where do you want to go?" he asked, glancing at Ducky.
"To your house. If you do not mind of course," Ducky added, in true Ducky fashion.
"Course I don't mind. Why would I?" But Ducky didn't answer him. "Not sure I've got any decent whiskey though," he said, glancing over his shoulder before turning the car around and driving back the way they'd come.
"I am sure you can find somewhere open from where we can purchase something drinkable."
Gibbs glances again at Ducky. "You planning on getting drunk, Duck?" he quipped.
Through the semi-darkness he saw Ducky nod. "Oh, yes, Jethro," he said. "Very drunk. Unless of course you have any objections?"
Gibbs shrugged. "Nah," he said. "Just hate to see you so messed up over some woman," he added. "She's not worth it." He bit his lip hard; he hadn't meant to add the last few words.
After a moment Ducky spoke, his voice was flat. "No, I imagine she is not. But then, is anyone?" he asked.
Gibbs didn't have a reply. So he just drove, concentrating completely on the road, rather than glance at Ducky.
Nearing his home, he found a late night store and grabbed a bottle of Macallan, which he knew Ducky liked.
Once inside Gibbs's house, Gibbs locked the front door, pulled the curtains, lit a couple of lamps and dug out two glasses. Ducky had already lowered himself onto the sofa and was sitting just staring into the distance. "Here," Gibbs held out a healthy measure of Macallan.
Ducky took it. "Thank you, Jethro," he said. "Are you going to join me? Or are you doing to drink your usual?"
Gibbs shrugged. "Join you, if you don't mind."
Ducky smiled and gave a soft chuckle. "Ah, Jethro my dear, if you are merely joining me in order to ensure I do not consume the entire bottle, rest assured I shall not. Two or three or maybe four of these," he held up his glass, "will do the job. However, do not let me stop you from actually drinking something decent for a change. In fact be my guest."
A COUPLE OF HOURS LATER
"Why is it when one wishes to get inebriated, one cannot?" Ducky asked, leaning heavily against Gibbs as Gibbs guided him up the stairs.
"Don't know, Duck," Gibbs said. "Careful now." It was true Ducky wasn't drunk - anyone who could say 'inebriated' so clearly couldn't be. But nor was he completely sober and he was taking exaggerated care when putting one foot in front of the other.
They reached the landing and he put his arm around Ducky, tugging him nearer until Ducky was resting against him. He realized just how perfectly Ducky fitted under his arm, just how right it felt to have Ducky in his arms.
Maybe he should . . . Maybe he could . . . Ducky would like it and it wouldn't bother him. But he couldn’t; he wouldn't; he wouldn't betray Ducky's trust, his friendship, his love. It would be far too easy and all that would happen was that Ducky would be hurt, badly hurt. And more than hurt, he'd be betrayed by the one person in the world he would never expect to betray him. Ducky would get over Mary, it'd probably take him a bit of time, but he would get over her. However, he would never get over Gibbs betraying him.
Gibbs guided Duck into his bedroom and lowered him down onto the bed and squatted down to tug Ducky's shoes off. "You want to get undressed, Duck?" he asked.
Ducky patted his hand. "No, thank you. I'll just lie down and rest for a few minutes and then I'll be fine." He sagged sideways and put his head on the pillow.
Gibbs tugged the cover out from under him and put them over Ducky. "Sure you will, Duck," he said, sitting down on the edge of the bed. "Here," he added, carefully taking Ducky's glasses off and putting them on the nightstand.
"Will you keep them safe for me?" Ducky asked, gazing up at Gibbs.
Memories of Ducky about to undergo an operation on his hand flooded back and Gibbs found he had to swallow hard. "Always, Duck," he said, taking Ducky's hand.
"Just as you always keep me safe," Ducky murmured, closing his eyes.
"Yeah, Duck," Gibbs said as soft snores drifted into the room. "And I always will. Promise you." He bent over Ducky and lightly kissed his head. "Promise you something else, Duck. One day; one day soon, I'll give you what you want. Because you know what, Duck? It's what I want too. Just have to find a way to tell you. Just have to find a way to trust myself not to hurt you." He kissed Ducky again.
Ducky murmured in his sleep and shifted across the bed a little, leaving space for Gibbs to join him if he so wished. After a moment or two's thought, Gibbs let go of Ducky's hand long enough to pull his shoes off. Then moving carefully he lay down next to Ducky and put his arm over him. "You sleep, Duck," he said, kissing Ducky for a third time. "I'll keep you safe."
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