FINDING ONE ANOTHER
Following an event that touches them both deeply, Gibbs and Jimmy find comfort in one another.
A pre-slash story.
Warning: Major character death mentioned.
Written: July 2010. Word count: 1,000.
It was midnight when Gibbs walked into the squad room. The place was in near darkness; only the faint light from a few desk lamps showed.
He didn't need light to find his way. He did it so often in daylight, in twilight, in darkness; he'd even be able to find his way blindfolded.
He reached his desk and turned on his lamp. "Palmer!" he exclaimed, as the young man sat up with a start.
"Special Agent Gibbs, sir, I . . ." Palmer stumbled to his feet, nearly tripping over.
"Don't call me 'sir', Palmer." Gibbs steadied Palmer.
"No, sir. I mean, Special Age-"
"Just Gibbs'll do, Jimmy," Gibbs said wearily, gently pushing Palmer back down. "Try it: 'No, Gibbs'." He didn't hold out much hope Palmer would manage it.
However, after blinking frantically and opening and shutting his mouth several times, Palmer managed, "No, Gibbs."
"Thatta boy." Gibbs squeezed Palmer's shoulder and sat down on the edge of his desk. "What're you doing here, Jimmy?"
Palmer's gaze skittered away from him. When he looked back, Gibbs saw tears in the already reddened eyes. "I couldn't go home. I wanted to be somewhere he'd always been. I couldn't go to Autopsy, because that was too . . . So I came up here. Because . . . You don't mind, do you, Gibbs?"
Gibbs shook his head. "No," he said quietly. "I didn't want to go home either. Wanted to be . . . You know, like you."
"He didn't suffer, did he?" Palmer gazed up at him, a pleading look in his eyes.
Gibbs patted his shoulder. "You're the doctor, Jimmy, not me."
"They said he didn't."
"In that case he didn't. Here," Gibbs pulled his hip flask from his coat pocket and handed it to Palmer. "Drink," he said firmly. "Drink to Ducky."
Palmer hesitated briefly, before taking the flask and swallowing a mouthful. "To Ducky," he said quietly, handing it back to Gibbs.
Gibbs swallowed a mouthful. "Ducky."
"I'll never forget him, Gibbs. None of us will."
"Know that, Jimmy."
"And you most of all. You must be . . . It wasn't as if you and he were just close friends. You were . . ." Palmer trailed off and his face reddened.
"Ducky and I were . . . What, Jimmy?"
"We all thought so, not just me, everyone. It was so . . . You were, weren't you?"
Gibbs gave a rueful smile and shook his head. "No, Jimmy. We were extremely close friends, but never lovers."
"Oh," Palmer said, glancing away." His tone sounded regretful.
"You got a problem with us not being lovers, Jimmy?" Gibbs asked quietly, moving slightly nearer to Palmer.
"No! Well, that is . . . It's just that . . . If you had have been then . . . Maybe you wouldn't have minded if I'd -"
Gibbs waited to see if Palmer would finish. When he didn't he said softly, "Wouldn't have minded if you'd . . . ?"
Palmer shook his head. "Nothing, Special Agent Gibbs sir," he said.
Gibbs stood up and pulled Palmer up with him. Then gently he gathered Palmer into his arms and held him. For a moment or two Palmer stiffened and tried to pull away, but Gibbs held him firmly until Palmer put his own arms around him, grabbed handfuls of Gibbs's coat, rested his head on his shoulder and began to sob.
Gibbs held Palmer, not bothering to stop the tears that fell from his own eyes. No, he'd never forget Ducky. Ducky: the person in the world who'd meant the most to him. Ducky: who'd loved him as a dear friend and who'd been loved by Gibbs in return. Ducky: his best friend. Ducky: the man who'd never once tried to change him. Ducky: friend, teacher, story teller, confidante; the man who'd always tried to see good in everyone. "I'll always remember you, Duck." He spoke so softly he knew Palmer couldn't have heard.
When Palmer's sobs quietened, Gibbs put his lips to Palmer's ear and said quietly, "Were you going to say wouldn't have minded if you kissed me?"
Palmer gasped and pulled back a little. He stared at Gibbs, eyes wide, lips slightly parted. Then he swallowed and said, his tone soft, but firmer than Gibbs had ever heard it, "Yes, Gibbs." Gibbs heard him swallow. "Yes, Jethro."
"Wouldn't mind at all, Jimmy. But the squad room's not the place. Let's go to my house." He put his arm around Palmer's back and guided him across the room and into the elevator.
Palmer was quiet during the drive to Gibbs's house, so quiet Gibbs wondered if he'd fallen asleep. He glanced to his side and saw Palmer sitting bolt upright, staring out of the window. "If you want me to take you home, Jimmy, just say, and I will."
Palmer jumped at Gibbs's voice and turned to look at him. Gibbs saw him shake his head. "No, Jethro," he said swiftly, putting one hand on Gibbs's knee and squeezing it quickly. "It's not that."
"What is it then?" Gibbs asked, idly noticing that 'Jethro' had come much easier than 'Gibbs' had done.
"I was just . . . Thinking and wondering what . . ."
Gibbs had returned his gaze to the road ahead of him, but he could guess what Palmer was thinking. "What Ducky would say?"
Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Palmer nod once. "Yes. Do you think he'd . . . You know . . ."
"Yes. Or do you think he'd be angry?"
Gibbs thought for a moment; words weren't his thing, but he knew he had one chance to get this right, or he might as well take Palmer home. "Duck loved us both, Jimmy, as friends, family, whatever. He'd want us both to find someone we could be happy with, you know that. He'd be pleased for us."
"Are you sure, Jethro?"
"Yeah, Jimmy, I am."
"But what about -"
"Rule Twelve?" Again Gibbs glanced at Palmer.
Palmer nodded. "Yes."
"Rule Fifty-One," Gibbs said quietly. "Sometimes - you are wrong."
"Oh. That's okay then, isn't it?"
"Yeah, Jimmy. It's more than okay." Gibbs took Palmer's hand and put it back on his knee.
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