Ducky goes home from the office as he is feeling unwell.
An established relationship story.
Written: March 2007. Word count: 2,933.
"Ziva, start tracing the license plate. McGee, help Abby. DiNozzo -"
"Boss." DiNozzo interrupted him.
"What, DiNozzo?" Gibbs snapped, irritated. DiNozzo nodded over Gibbs's shoulder and frowning, Gibbs turned around. The frown deepened as he saw his lover standing by his desk wearing his hat and coat, with Palmer hovering by his side.
DiNozzo and the others momentarily forgotten, Gibbs turned, and in two strides was by Ducky's side. "Hey, Duck. Something wrong?" He bent the brim of Ducky's hat back so that he could see his face and eyes. His lover looked very pale, the pale blue gaze was dull and flat, and he seemed to have shrunk into himself
"I'm afraid I am going to have to go home, Jethro. I am feeling a little unwell."
The two phrases: 'have to go home' and 'a little unwell' did not mesh in Gibbs's mind. With no thought for who might be watching, his team knew anyway, he put his hand on Ducky's forehead. "You've got a temperature, Duck," he said, stating what Ducky obviously knew. "Want me to call a doctor for you?" The lack of Ducky's customary retort of 'I am a doctor' did not help the unease Gibbs had started to feel. He knew he tended to fuss where Ducky's health and well-being was concerned, but had long ago stopped worrying about it.
Instead of commenting or even smiling, Ducky just shook his head slightly. "No, thank you, Jethro. I'll be fine. It's just a stomach bug, I'm sure. I'll go home and go to bed. I'm certain I shall feel better in the morning."
"Want me to drive you?"
Again Ducky shook his head. "No, dear. You are far too busy." Which was true, but that wouldn't stop Gibbs. "Jimmy has kindly offered. However, as he has never driven a car with a transmission gearbox before, I wondered if we might borrow the sedan?"
"Course, Duck. DiNozzo, keys for the sedan. Now," Gibbs called, without turning around. "You sure though. The kids can - here." Reacting speedily to the evidence on Ducky's face, he grabbed the nearest receptacle, his trashcan, and held it as his lover was sick. He put his other arm around Ducky and steadied him as Ducky slumped against him.
"Oh, dear. I wouldn't have thought it was possible for me to still be able to be sick. I am so sorry, Jethro. I -"
"Hush. Come on, Duck. Sit down for a minute." Still holding the trashcan, Gibbs helped Ducky to his own chair and lowered him down into it, his arm still around Ducky's shoulders. As Ducky sank back, he closed his eyes and moaned quietly.
"Here you are, Ducky. Swill your mouth out." Quietly, Ziva appeared holding a cup of water.
Ducky opened his eyes, blinked and reached a shaking hand for the cup. "Thank you, Ziva dear," he murmured, obeying the instruction, and then drinking a little water.
"Give that to me, Gibbs," she instructed further.
"Oh, no, Ziva, you can't -" But Ziva simply took the trashcan from Gibbs's hand and walked away with it. "Oh, dear," Ducky said. "I am so very sorry, Jethro, I really thought . . . Oh, dear. Poor Ziva."
Gibbs squatted down next to the chair and took his lover's hand. "Ducky, there's no need to apologize," he said firmly. "You couldn't help being sick. There's no need to worry. Now, I really think you should let me drive you home."
"No, Jethro." Ducky spoke firmly. "Really, my dear. You have work to do, a case to solve. Jimmy will take good care of me, I assure you."
Once again torn between the fact that he really couldn't spare the time, not when there was someone more than competent to do so, and the fact that it was his lover who was sick, Gibbs hesitated. "All right, Duck," he said finally. "You win. Are you ready to go now?"
"Yes, thank you."
"Come on then." Gibbs stood up and helped a now slightly shaking Ducky to his feet. He put his arm around his lover. "I'm come down to the garage with you, make sure Palmer gets the right car." As an excuse, it was a lame one, but no one argued.
"Here, boss," DiNozzo said, holding out the keys. "Oh, and, maybe it'd be a good idea if you took one of these, Ducky." He held out a strong paper bag.
Ducky managed to dredge up a faint smile as Gibbs took it from DiNozzo. "Thank you, Anthony," he said, his tone sincere.
"Hope you feel better soon, Ducky," said DiNozzo.
"I hope so too, Ducky," McGee added, as slowly, taking a fair amount of Ducky's weight as his lover leaned against him, Gibbs passed his other agent.
"Thank you, both," Ducky said softly.
Once he had Ducky safely settled in the car, Gibbs handed the keys to Palmer. "Drive carefully, Palmer. Get him home safely and make sure he goes to bed. If he's any worse, you call a doctor, okay? Whatever he says."
"Yes, sir, Special Agent Gibbs, sir. Which doctor?"
Gibbs paused. Damn. "Call me, I'll sort it."
"Yes, sir, Special Agent Gibbs, sir."
"And come and report to me as soon as you get back."
"Yes, sir, Special Agent Gibbs, sir."
For a moment Gibbs felt slightly guilty as Palmer, for the third time, stumbled the words out. He was being intimidating, far more than he usually was, he knew that. He was making poor hapless Palmer more afraid of him than he usually was. He sighed silently and tried to stop himself. He was trusting Ducky to Palmer, that should tell the young man something. But all he saw was apprehension and concern on Palmer's face; the first no doubt directed at Gibbs himself, the second for was Ducky, who, Gibbs knew, Palmer was very fond of.
Gibbs just nodded, then turned away and pulled open the car door to talk to Ducky again. "You sure, Duck?" he said, for the final time.
"Yes, my dear," Ducky said wearily. "Go back to work, go and scare the children and leave poor Jimmy alone. I'll be fine with him, really."
"Know you will," Gibbs said quietly. "Promise you'll call me if you feel any worse." He spoke firmly; it was not a request.
"I promise, my dearest."
"Good." Gibbs brushed his fingertips across Ducky's cheek, squeezed his shoulder and then carefully closed the door.
He waited until the car, being driven at well below the speed limit, had completely disappeared before he returned to the squad room.
Jethro quietly let himself into the home he and Ducky shared, taking care to relock the door after him. It had been a battle, but one which Ducky had won; Jethro did now lock the front door. He smiled to himself at the memory of just how his lover had persuaded him.
He put his briefcase on floor and headed quickly, but quietly up the stairs and into their bedroom. He felt faintly reassured by the lack of a phone call from Ducky, as well as by Palmer's assurances that he had stayed until Ducky was in bed, that Ducky hadn't been sick again, and that he seemed a little better once he was home. However, until he saw his lover with his own eyes and spoke to him, Jethro didn't trust anyone.
Ducky was asleep, and to Jethro's eyes, he did look a little better; the pasty color he'd been when he'd left the office had lessened, in fact he now looked slightly flushed, but not overly so. Jethro moved softly to stand by the bed, letting his hand hover an inch or two from Ducky's forehead, wanting to touch to reassure himself further, but not wanting to wake his lover.
For several minutes he just stood and watched Ducky sleep, listening to his even breathing, soaking up the peace that their bedroom always emanated; it had been a tough day, Ducky's illness aside, and Jethro was tried.
Finally, after telling himself that he really couldn't stand there any longer and just watch Ducky, he turned to leave.
"Jethro?" Ducky's sleep-heavy, soft voice stopped him.
"Hey, Duck." Jethro moved back to bed, and smiled down into the pale eyes that were blinking heavily up at him. "How you feeling?" Now he did put his hand on his lover's forehead and was rewarded by a faint smile. It was still warm, but not in the clammy, warm way it had been earlier in the day.
"A little better thank you, dearest," Ducky answered, as he took Jethro's hand and pulled gently.
Jethro let himself be pulled down to sit on the bed, and bent to kiss Ducky's forehead, the tip of his nose and his lips. "Good," he said, straightening up and brushing Ducky's heavy fringe back. "Are you sure though," he added, as he continued to hold Ducky's hand and stroke his head.
"Yes, Jethro, I'm certain."
"Been sick again?"
Ducky shook his head. "No, I'm pleased to say. Jethro, I . . ." he trailed off, as Jethro just stared at him, his Ducky-fake-stern stare, silencing what he knew would be another apology.
"That's good," he said again. "Do you want anything?"
"As a matter of fact, there is something I would like. But I'm not certain you'll -"
"I can make you tea; I know how to. You taught me."
Ducky smiled, it wasn't quite his usual smile, but it was better than earlier in the day. "You now make tea very well, Jethro. However, for once that was not what I was going to say. I really do not think it would be wise, and I confess that I actually do not want a cup."
Jethro looked hard at his lover; that was most un-Ducky-like. He stopped stroking Ducky's hair and again put his hand properly on Ducky's forehead, as he slipped his hand from holding Ducky's to put his fingers on Ducky's pulse. His lover sighed softly; again it wasn't his usual fondly exasperated sigh, the kind he usually gave when Jethro fussed over him, but it was something.
"What I would like, my dearest, what I would like very much, is to brush my teeth, a shower, a change of pajamas and fresh bed-linen. Please," he added, looking up at Jethro with the gentle, intimate gaze that always got him his own way.
Nonetheless, Jethro hesitated. "Duck, I don't know, you're -"
"Please, beloved." Oh, Ducky could fight dirty at times. "You're here, you can keep your eye on me, indeed you could shower with me. "Oh, please, Jethro."
Jethro had lost and he knew it. He sighed resignedly, bent to briefly kiss Ducky one more time, and stood up. "Okay, Duck, you win. But we'll keep it quick. And you'll wait here until I've got the shower running and warm the bathroom up a bit."
Now that he had his own way, Ducky was compliant. "Of course, dear. Anything you say, dear."
Jethro rolled his eyes and left the room.
It was half an hour later before he supported a by then clearly exhausted Ducky back to their bedroom. He was about the help his lover back into bed, when Ducky looked up at him, his gaze pleading. Against his better judgment, Jethro instead settled Ducky into the armchair that stood in one corner of the large room, tucked a blanket around him, and went into the hall to collect clean bed linen.
One talent the Marine Corps had taught him was bed making, and in a few minutes, he had replaced the sheets, using perfect hospital corners, pillow slips, blankets and eiderdown. Ducky preferred the more old-fashioned bed linen to quilts, and Jethro not really worrying, had never argued.
Dumping the dirty linen on the floor, he'd take it to the linen basket later, he went back to Ducky and held out his hands. "Come on, Duck. Back to bed," he said, gently but firmly.
Ducky took his hands and let him help him to his feet, across the room and into bed. As Jethro rearranged the covers around his lover, he realized that Ducky was watching him, his look pensive and tinged with sorrow. "What is it, Duck?" he asked, letting, as he'd done earlier, Ducky pull him down to sit on the edge of the bed. He brushed a strand of hair from Ducky's cheek.
Ducky shook his head. "It's nothing, my dear. Just . . ."
"Just what, Duck?" Suddenly to his horror, he saw tears in Ducky's eyes. "Ducky my love, what is it? Do you feel worse? I'm going to call a doctor." He went to stand up, but Ducky's hand on his thigh stopped him. Frowning, he stared at Ducky and then because his lover looked so sad, gathered him into his arms and held him. "Hey," he said, kissing the top of Ducky's head. "Tell me."
"It's foolish," Ducky mumbled, from the vicinity of Jethro's shoulder.
"Foolish or not, you're going to tell me."
"I don't want to make you angry."
Now Jethro pushed Ducky away and again turned to 'doctoring' with his hand on Ducky's forehead and his other on his wrist. But both were fine. "You could never make me angry. Just tell me, Duck."
"Very well." Ducky sighed. "I think I have just truly appreciated and understood what a wonderful father you were to Kelly." He spoke softly and a little hesitantly.
Against his will, Jethro's mind flashed back in time, and he saw his little girl, sick as Ducky had been, with him putting her to bed and tucking her in. Sitting with her, stroking her hair, talking to her, looking after her. And another image of him bathing her, cleaning her, cleaning up after her; Shannon had always had a phobia about people being sick, and it had always been Jethro himself who'd had to deal with it. They were fortunate, with him away so often, that really Kelly wasn't a sickly baby or child.
And he was doing it all again; doing it with Ducky. Looking after him, caring for him, tucking him into bed; showing him how much he loved him. Damnit, he thought as he felt his own eyes prickle. He tried to force the tears away; it wasn't fair; Kelly was his past; he had Ducky now. He shouldn't . . .
It was Ducky who gently pulled him into his embrace; Ducky who held him as he wrapped his arms around Ducky, holding Ducky, rocking Ducky, or was it the other way around? Suddenly who was hurting and who was giving comfort became impossible to distinguish. But it didn't matter; nothing mattered but the man in his arms, the man in whose arms he was. For a second or two, no more, he allowed himself to grieve again for his daughter and his wife, allowed himself to grieve for the past.
Then he pushed the memories back away and returned his attention, his comfort, his affection, his love back to the here and now, and to the future. "Come on, Duck," he said, his voice steady. "Settle back now." Gently he guided Ducky back to rest against the pillows. "I do love you, you know."
Ducky smiled, he looked weary, but he no longer had tears in his eyes. "I know, my dearest. Just as you know, do you not, that I love you."
"Yeah, Duck. Always known that. Now, you shut your eyes. I'm going to clean up here, grab something to eat, then I'll come back. Unless, you'd rather I slept in one of the spare rooms tonight?"
Ducky shook his head. "No, my dear. I would rather you slept with me as normal; unless you'd rather be certain you'll get some rest. I might disturb you in the night."
"Doubt I would rest, Duck. Be too worried about you. Probably spend half the night creeping in and out to see if you were okay," Jethro said, a little self-effacingly.
Ducky smiled, as his eyes began to close. "Good," he murmured, as he settled back further into the pillows. And with the single word he fell asleep; he fell asleep still holding Jethro's hand. His grip quite a tight one.
Oh, well, the dirty linen wasn't going anywhere, and he wasn't all that hungry anyway. His worries over his lover were fading, they hadn't gone completely, but they were fading. It did seem as if Ducky, the doctor, had been correct; it had only been a stomach bug.
Half an hour went by before Ducky's grip loosened enough to allow Jethro to risk taking his hand away and stand up. He spent a few moments gathering the sheets and pillowcases from the floor and dumping them in the linen basket, then quickly brushed his teeth, relieved himself, before returning to their bedroom and stripping down to his shorts. Somehow the idea of going downstairs to get something to eat didn't appeal. Instead what appealed was getting into bed with his lover, getting into bed with Ducky and being near to him.
Taking care not to wake his still sleeping lover, Jethro slid between the pristine sheets, feeling the warmth from Ducky's body filter through to his own. As he settled down on his own side of the bed, Ducky shifted, murmured, "Jethro," and moved into his arms where he sighed contentedly and once again feel deeply asleep. He was still in Jethro's arms, when Jethro finally allowed himself to fall asleep.
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