SOMETIMES SECOND BEST WILL DO
After Gibbs's death, Fornell goes to see Ducky.
A first time story.
Gibbs/Ducky are also mentioned in this story.
Warning: Major character death.
Written: May 2009. Word count: 1,302.
The sound of the doorbell pulled Ducky's attention from his book. Just for a moment his heart skipped a beat, as he - He shook himself. He was not only getting old; he was also getting foolish. It had been six months now, surely he should be getting used to it. Besides, it had been many years since Jethro had rung the bell.
Slowly he made his way to the front door and opened it. "Tobias?" Ducky was surprised to see the man standing outside his door.
"Hey, Ducky. I was just passing and -" Under Ducky's gaze, he saw Tobias's cheeks flush slightly at the clear lie. "I came to see how you were," he said instead. Then he went on before Ducky could reply, "Which in itself is stupid. I know how you are. Look, Ducky, I'll -"
"Come inside, Tobias, and have a drink," Ducky said quietly.
"Are you sure?"
Ducky nodded. "Yes. It will help assuage the guilt I sometimes feel when I have spent another evening drinking alone."
Once inside Tobias took his coat off and hung it up. "Don't the kids come to see you?" he asked, following Ducky through into the sitting room.
Ducky paused on his way to the drinks cabinet and sighed. "Yes, they do. From time to time, at least. However, oh, dear, this will sound utterly selfish and somewhat callous but . . ." He closed his eyes for a moment and sighed again. "Do sit down, Tobias," he nodded towards an armchair and continued his journey to the drinks cabinet where he pulled out a bottle of Macallan and two glasses, before returning to join Tobias.
"You see," he said, pouring two healthy measures and handing one to Tobias, "it is very difficult. Timothy still cannot forgive himself, and I am not sure he ever will. As such he finds it difficult to meet my eye and spends his time trying to apologize. Dear Abigail has still not come to terms with the loss of her surrogate father and expects me to comfort her. Anthony, sadly, cannot forgive Timothy and seems angry towards everyone, including Jethro for," he hesitated, and took a large swallow of the malt, before saying, flatly, "dying. Jimmy, I believe, feels guilty that he now has my place as Medical Examiner, even though it had been my choice to leave, and I who recommended him for the position. And Ziva, Ziva I believe has yet to decide what emotion she is feeling and how to offer me her condolences. She is also angry with Anthony, Timothy and Abigail and does not understand them. So all in all . . ." He shrugged and trailed off. "I assume you get the picture."
"Yeah," Tobias said. "I do. I guess some people think that any company is good company. Whereas . . ."
Ducky glanced away from the steady gaze. "I do not mean to sound ungrateful," he hastened to say. "It is just I cannot handle their emotions. I cannot handle their guilt, their anger, their grief. I cannot handle it, because -"
"You still haven't come to terms with your own?" Tobias spoke softly.
Ducky swallowed and nodded. "No. I have not," he said simply. "I always hoped, I prayed, that I would be the one to go first. Which again is so selfish, I know. But . . And despite Jethro's job, I always believed that given our respective ages that I would die before he did. Part of me, whenever he went out on a job, waited for the news to come to tell me that - But I never truly expected it. And now - I am sorry, Tobias. I shouldn't be talking like this to you. I know you -"
"How's your mom?" Tobias cut in suddenly.
Ducky blinked. "Oh, Mother is actually doing amazingly well. Her health is good, she has finally settled into the home and her periods of lucidity are very rare indeed. She could easily live for another year or two, three, even four more years." Ducky hoped he didn't sound as he felt when he said those words. To cover up any hint that he resented the fact his mother wasn't likely to die tomorrow, he grabbed the bottle that stood between them on the coffee table and without asking, poured some more into Tobias's glass.
Tobias nodded his thanks. "Does she know?" he asked quietly.
Ducky shook his head. "I do not know how to tell her," he said frankly. "She has asked, a few times, where Jethro is, but . . . I cannot bring myself to tell her. She was another person who loved him dearly. I do not want to tell her," he added simply.
They sat in silence for several minutes.
Finally Ducky broke it. Looking directly at Tobias he said quietly, "Jethro never knew. And I never told him." His look dared Tobias to lie to him.
Instead Tobias just closed his eyes for a moment, nodded once and said, his tone gruff, "Thanks, Ducky."
Ducky just nodded. Once again they sat in silence.
This time Tobias broke it. "Ducky?"
Tobias shook his head. "It doesn't matter." Ducky held his gaze. "I don't know how to say it."
"You could try emulating Jethro," Ducky said quietly. "Straight out," he added, when Tobias frowned slightly.
"It's stupid. Thoughtless. Insensitive. I know the answer." Ducky continued to look at him. "Look you loved him, hell I know you still love him. And I - Well you know. You miss him. I miss him. You're," he paused and swallowed some of his scotch. "Lonely," he said quietly. "I know I'd only be second best - I mean I know I could never replace him. And I'm not trying to do that. Really, I'm not, Ducky. It's just -" He broke off again, as Ducky poured another measure into his glass. "If I drink that," he said quietly, "I won't be driving home tonight."
"I know," Ducky said equally quietly.
TWO HOURS LATER
Tobias lay next to Ducky in Ducky's bed watching him sleep. He found himself wondering how many times Jethro had done the same thing.
He wasn't sure that in the eyes of most people what they'd shared would constitute 'making love'. They'd kissed, but it had somehow remained more than a little chaste, they'd touched one another gently, intimately, yet it had been more about friendship, more about comfort, more about shared feelings of loss, more about reaching out to someone, than about fulfillment. And yet to his mind they'd been closer than he'd been to some of the women he'd dated.
He thought Jethro would approve. His friend had once confessed to him that he didn't know what Ducky would do if he died first, how he'd cope. He's even half-jokingly suggested that maybe Tobias could take care of him. Well, Tobias would do that thing, assuming Ducky wanted him to do so, and he didn't have Ducky pegged as a one-night stand kind of man.
He'd do that thing until Mrs. Mallard died and then - He pushed that thought from his mind. As Ducky had said, that could be a year two, three or longer. He knew Ducky would never love him, not in the way he'd loved Jethro and he would never love Ducky in the way he had loved Jethro. But they were both over sixty, both mature men, they liked one another, cared for one another, again he knew he wouldn't be in Ducky's bed now if Ducky hadn't cared. That could be enough. Second best wasn't always a bad thing - not when it went both ways.
"Night, Ducky," he said, brushing his lips over Ducky's forehead as he made himself comfortable. "Sleep well."
The sequel to this story is: What Now?
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