A sequel to Shattered Illusions.
Still feeling guilty and bad, for more than one reason, following his revelation to Jenny, Ducky decides to go and see Jethro.
An established relationship story.
Written: March 2006. Word count: 2,346.
"Hey, Duck." Jethro was delighted, but also surprised to see his long time lover standing outside his front door.
Ducky rarely if ever visited him unannounced, something Jethro suspected that had more to do with self-preservation than anything else. Not that Ducky would ever have found Jethro with one of his women. Jethro was always scrupulously honest - at least as far as Ducky was concerned. He had always told his lover if he had a visitor, even though he knew that the news would no doubt hurt Ducky.
Not that there had been any women in Jethro's life for quite some time, and Ducky knew that. But long-standing habits are hard to break, and despite Jethro reiterating that Ducky was more than welcome to visit him at any time, his lover still usually arranged things with Jethro beforehand, rather than just arriving.
Unusually Ducky made no move to enter the house, so Jethro reached out and tugged him inside, shutting the door firmly behind them and bolting it. Then he turned, grabbed Ducky's hat off his head, lowered his head and kissed him.
Not for the first time he wished that Ducky coming home to him, or him going home to Ducky, could become a permanent thing, but that wasn't possible while Mrs. Mallard was still alive. It wasn't that she didn't know about her son's relationship with his oldest friend, nor did she disapprove. However, Ducky had decided that it wasn't fair on anyone for Jethro to move in with his mother and him, or for them to move to Jethro's house. Jethro occasionally wondered how much of it was Ducky's mother, and how much was the fact that Ducky knew Jethro's track record of successfully living with people had to be one of the lowest in existence.
So for now he just enjoyed being able to kiss the man he loved. Then something hit him. Despite the fact that Ducky had, as was his want, slipped his arms around Jethro's neck and met the kiss, something wasn't quite right. Ducky might well be kissing Jethro, but he was distracted.
Jethro broke away. "Duck?" He tried to meet the blue gaze, always a barometer of what Ducky was feeling, but Ducky lowered his head slightly, making the six-inch height difference even more apparent. His unease button beginning to click in, Jethro squeezed Ducky's shoulder and gently tried to tilt his head back. "Are you okay, Duck?" he asked softly. And then suddenly a thought hit him. "It's not your mother, is it? Nothing's happened to her?" It was a foolish question, if anything had happened, Ducky would have called him; he wouldn't have turned up on his doorstep.
"No. Mother is fine. Thank you for asking, Jethro."
Jethro was relieved to hear the news, but somewhat troubled by the formality of Ducky's tone. The fact that Ducky hadn't moved to take his coat off, or to go further into the house, also bothered him. "Glad to hear it. So what's wrong, Ducky?"
Ducky looked up. "Oh, my dear, I've done something awful."
Jethro blinked. The idea of Ducky doing something 'awful' was too ridiculous to be true. "What did you do, forget to say goodnight to one of your corpses?" He laughed.
Jethro found himself taking a step back from the ferocity in Ducky's tone. "Sorry, Duck," he murmured, moving nearer again. "I didn't mean to upset you. Look come and sit down."
Still Ducky didn't move.
So Jethro decided to take matters into his own hands, after all he was very adept at undressing Ducky. In a swift movement that spoke of year's of practice, he'd tugged Ducky's overcoat off, thrown it over the banister, put Ducky's hat on the table and had led his lover into the sitting room.
Jethro opened the bottle of decent whiskey he kept for when Ducky visited him and paused. "Are you staying?" Ducky's answer would tell him how much to pour.
For a moment Ducky didn't answer. When he did, his reply surprised Jethro. "I don't know." His voice was soft.
Jethro turned around and frowned. Ducky stood just inside the door, exactly where Jethro had left him. "Is anyone with your mother?" he finally asked.
Ducky nodded. "Mrs. Patterson came over. Her grandson is holding another party at her house."
Which meant she'd be spending the night at the Mallard residence. "Then you're staying." Jethro poured a large whiskey. "What did you say?" Ducky's quiet voice had been drowned out by the bottle clinking against the glass.
"I said that I'm not certain you'll want me to."
Jethro had had enough. "Ducky. What is the matter? Tell me." He made it a clear order, and was pleased when a faint smile touched Ducky's lips, as it always did when Jethro used that tone outside of the office.
However, the smile faded far too quickly for Jethro's liking. "And sit down," he said, again making it an instruction. He watched as Ducky limped towards his favorite armchair and lowered himself carefully into it.
Jethro handed him his drink and perched on the edge of the sofa, his own glass between his hands. "Come on, Duck. Tell me what you've done that's so awful. Whatever it is, we can fix it. Have you made a mistake over some evidence? Did you mix up some samples when you sent them to Abby? Have you . . . " He trailed off. He'd been about to say 'lost a body' when he realized that Ducky wouldn't appreciate the humor. He honestly could not imagine what Ducky could possibly have done that was making his old friend look so morose and so troubled.
There was one sure fire way to get Ducky to tell him, and Jethro wasn't adverse to a little gentle emotional blackmail when it suited him. "Come on, Duck, tell me. You're worrying me."
Ducky looked up at his words, and again the faint smile touched his lips and his eyes softened. "Ah, my dear Jethro," he said simply. He sipped his drink and was again silent for a moment. When he spoke again, his voice was quiet. "Jennifer came to see me today."
"And what did the bitch say this time?" Jethro waited for Ducky's admonishing 'Jethro' at the term. But it didn't come. Stunned by the completely-out-of-character lack of chivalry, Jethro got up, moved over to where Ducky sat stiffly and crouched down in front of his lover. He brushed Ducky's hair off his face. "Tell me," he said simply.
"Oh, Jethro," and to Jethro's horror, the pale eyes misted over. With a swift move, he rose from the floor, and sat on the arm of Ducky's chair, put his arm around his lover and pulled him into a firm embrace. He'd sort Ms. Shepard out once and for all.
He should have done so years ago.
Ducky didn't fight the embrace; rather he went into it willingly and settled against Jethro. "She told me that I wouldn't keep you. And that one day soon you would wake up and realize what a fool you were to have got involved with my depravity and something so disgusting. And that you would leave me, as you have left all your other lovers."
I'll kill her. Were Jethro's thoughts. And at that moment the thoughts weren't just words. If he could get his hands around that pretty throat of hers, he'd . . . "Oh, Ducky my love," he pulled Ducky even closer and kissed the top of his head. "You know it's not true. None of it's true. None of it," he repeated firmly. "If you haven't managed to get rid of me in thirty years, you're hardly likely to do it now." His words were meant to be comforting, so he was stunned when Ducky stiffened in his embrace and tried to pull away.
Jethro, however, was stronger and younger, and his height difference was far greater from where he sat on the arm. Ducky wasn't going anywhere. "Duck?"
"Oh, Jethro. I'm afraid that is what I said to her. I told her just that. Well not those exact words, but I told her that . . . Oh, my dear Jethro, I am so sorry. I didn't mean to. It just . . . I'm not a cruel man, but . . . It wasn't just her words either. Those were bad enough, but people have said far worse to me over the years. But no one has ever shown such utter contempt and venom as she did this afternoon. I'm afraid that I just snapped. I shouldn't have done. I know. It was wrong. But . . ."
Jethro waited patiently for the words to finally peter out. "Duck," he said gently. "Is this the 'awful' thing you're done?"
"Yes," Ducky whispered.
Jethro shook his head. Only Ducky could feel this way about giving someone exactly what she deserved. "Ah, Duck," he said softly, and again kissed the top of Ducky's head. "Don't worry." As words they were inadequate, but at least they were something. "What you said was the only the truth."
"But we always agreed we'd never -"
"No, Duck. You agreed that. I never did."
"Yes, but -"
"But nothing. I keep telling you, Ducky, I don't give a damn what anyone, except for you, thinks of me. Stop trying to protect what I don't particularly care about."
"But I do." Ducky sounded plaintive.
"I know, Duck. I know. But we can't change the truth, just because we might want to. I'm an adulterer, plain and simple."
"Jethro." But the objection was more out of habit than anything else; Jethro knew that. His lover was an intelligent man, a very intelligent one, even if he did seem to have a blind spot when it came to Jethro.
"Come on, Duck. Forget it, huh? You've told me. I don't care. It's fixed. Over and done with. Let it go. She can't hurt me. She can't hurt us. No one can."
"It isn't just what I said, my dear," Ducky said after a moment or two. "That was bad enough. But it was the fact that for a moment, a fleeting second, I enjoyed hurting her. It gave me pleasure to see her suffer. And the way I said it, Jethro, I hardly recognized my own voice. I was cruel, Jethro. Vicious."
"Like she was."
"Yes, but, that doesn't mean I had the right to . . . "
Jethro moved from the arm of the chair and once again crouched down in front of his lover. He put his hands on Ducky's shoulders and gripped them, holding them tightly until Ducky met his gaze. "Ducky, Jennifer Shepard is a cold, cruel, heartless, unfeeling bitch, who thinks of no one but herself. Who enjoys hurting people, and who'll stop at nothing to further her career. Trust me, I know. Don't waste your sympathy or guilt on her." He waited for Ducky to admonish him for his words, but the unblinking, pale gaze just held his. There was also a slightly quizzical, contemplative look in the steady stare.
"That is the first time I've heard you call her anything other than Jenn, when you were referring to her by name, that is."
Jethro shrugged. "Come on, Duck. Forget about her. Don't worry about it anymore. She won't hurt you again, I'll make sure of that."
"No, she won't." Ducky's tone was soft, but firm.
Jethro stood up and held out his hand. When Ducky took it, Jethro tugged him to his feet, gathered him into his arms and kissed him. This time Ducky wasn't distracted. This time Jethro knew exactly where Ducky's full attention was.
When they parted Ducky looked as he always did after Jethro had kissed him. It was a look that Jethro loved. "Better?" he asked, unnecessarily. Ducky nodded and smiled. Jethro lowered his head and nuzzled under Ducky's hair and kissed his ear. "I know how to make it even better," he whispered. And he did.
A lengthy session of gentle lovemaking would solve all the problems and heal all ills, it always had done. It had always been their way, their affirmation of more than love, more than sex, more than life even.
Ducky pressing even closer against him and making a murmuring sound against his shoulder gave Jethro his answer. Pausing only long enough to kiss Ducky again, he slipped his hand into his lover's and led Ducky from the room, up the stairs and into his bedroom.
Several hours later Ducky was asleep, tired out after the lovemaking during which Jethro had shown his oldest friend and lover in every way possible just how much he loved him. His own pleasure was secondary to Ducky's, but then his own pleasure was achieved by pleasing Ducky. It was how it had always been, for both of them.
Ducky lay in Jethro's arms, his hair spilling out over the pillow, the soft glow from the lamp taking away some of the lines on his face; not that the lines bothered Jethro, rather they reassured him. Ducky was his and had always been and would always be.
Gently kissing his sleeping lover, Jethro settled down to sleep himself. The lamp would have to stay on, if he tried to turn it off the movement would definitely wake Ducky.
Jethro knew what he had to do.
What he should have done five years ago.
It was his fault that Jennifer Shepard was now the Director of NCIS. His fault that she had the chance to hurt Ducky. His fault that for the first time ever he hated going into the office.
Doing what he had to do might cost him. It almost certainly would. But it didn't matter. It would be an acceptable cost. All were. With one exception: losing Ducky.
Tomorrow he'd call Tom Morrow.
Kissing Ducky gently one more time, Jethro closed his eyes and slipped into sleep.
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