Vance asks Gibbs a question.
An established relationship story.
Written: December 2009. Word count: 1,910.
There was something in Vance's tone that instantly put Gibbs on alert. "Director Vance," he replied, using, for one of the few times, his boss's title.
"Some information has come my way." Despite his obvious attempt not to, Vance looked ill at ease.
"Take it it's not related to a case." Gibbs didn't make it a question.
Vance sighed. "No."
"It concerns you."
"Kind of guessed that, Leon."
"And Dr. Mallard."
Vance frowned at him. "Is that all you have to say, Agent Gibbs?" he snapped the words.
Gibbs widened his eyes slightly. "What do you want me to say, Director?"
"Is it true?" Vance glared at Gibbs now. His look seemed to be daring Gibbs to say either 'yes' or 'no'.
Gibbs briefly looked up at the ceiling. He could let the charade continue and suggest that as Vance hadn't actually told him what the information was, how could he answer the question. But he couldn't be bothered. He was out of time; he knew it. He'd always known the day would come when someone would ask the question. It wasn't as if he and Ducky were that discreet; not that they were indiscreet, not really; they were just . . . Them. But he'd always wondered when someone would put two and two together and make four. If he'd seen two people behaving towards and around one another as he and Ducky always had and always did, he'd know they were 'more than just good friends'.
He looked back at Vance. "You mean are we sleeping together?" He spoke quietly, flatly, with no intonation in his voice.
Vance's frown became deeper and his glare became a scowl. He stood staring at Gibbs for so long, Gibbs wondered if he was going to answer. Finally, he did. "If you want to put it that way."
Gibbs shook his head. "How else do you want me to put it, Leon. Yes, Ducky and I are . . ." For a moment he paused, trying to come up with the right term to describe what he and Ducky were, had. But a single term didn't exist. He shrugged. "Involved. Lovers. Partners. Together. Whatever the hell term you want to use."
"I see." Vance's tone was clipped. "I thought you had a rule about that."
Gibbs sighed. "Guess I do," he said. "Duck's not a Field Agent, he -"
"But he goes out to crime scenes with you." Vance's tone was now cold.
Gibbs nodded. "Yes."
"And he works for you."
Gibbs frowned. "In theory. I guess -"
"In practice." Vance spoke forcefully.
"Your point?" Gibbs's tone was now icy.
"It compromises the team, your team. It could compromise the agency."
Gibbs shrugged. "Hasn't done yet," he said, his voice once again flat and toneless.
"How long has this . . . Relationship been going on?"
Once again Gibbs was tempted to ask Vance to clarify the question. He smiled to himself; that was the kind of thing Ducky would do. He shrugged. "Does it matter? A day. A week, A month. A year. Five years. What difference does it make, Leon?"
Vance glanced away from him for a moment, looking down at his desk and straightening a pencil. He looked back up. "It ends now."
"Yes." The single word was spoken with venom. "Or . . ." Vance trailed off.
"Do I need to spell it out for you, Gibbs?"
Gibbs sighed and again glanced up at the ceiling. For a moment he thought of the kids; thought of the team; thought of the agency; thought of his job; thought of the good he did. Then he thought of Ducky. There was no contest.
He sighed again, this time allowing a hint of the regret he felt to be heard. He dug into his pocket and pulled out his shield and ID. "No," he said, dropping the wallet that held them onto Vance's desk. Then he took the gun, he hadn't returned to his desk drawer from his belt, ejected the clip and laid both on Vance's desk.
Vance's eyes widened as he looked from the gun and ID to Gibbs and back again. Just for a moment Gibbs saw, or thought he saw, in Vance's gaze a flash of . . . Regret? Compassion? Sorrow? All of those things? None of them. Vance reached for the disowned Sig and clip, picked them up, opened his top desk drawer and put them inside. "Very well," he said. "But this time there's no way back, Gibbs. This time your resignation, retirement, call it what you want, is final. Do you understand?"
Gibbs nodded. "Yes."
Vance now reached for Gibbs's ID. Before he picked that up, he looked at Gibbs. The steady gaze did what Vance seemed unable to do: they asked a question. Gibbs paused for a fraction of a second, before nodding curtly. "Yes," he said softly, confirming the nod.
Vance's fingers closed around Gibbs's ID and dropped it into his drawer to join the gun and clip. He closed the drawer, locked it and put the key into his pocket; his movements were slow, deliberate, purposeful. And then to Gibbs's surprise, he held out his right hand towards Gibbs.
After a infinitesimal hesitation, Gibbs took it. Vance's handshake was cool, firm, oddly formal and affable at the same time. His dark unreadable gaze appraised Gibbs, and then for a fleeting second or two, whatever shields Vance was hiding behind slipped, and Gibbs definitely saw a flash of compassion and also of approval at the choice Gibbs had made.
Letting the shields he always erected at the office also fall for a moment, Gibbs acknowledged and accepted what Vance was saying. He tightened his grip on Vance's hand for a second or two, found the extra tightening met, before letting go. He nodded once at Vance. "Leon," he said, turning on his heel and heading for the door.
"Jethro." Gibbs stopped, but didn't turn back. "Good luck." Still without turning around Gibbs nodded once, before leaving Vance's office for what he knew would be the last time.
As he headed for the elevator he came face to face with Ducky. "Ah, there you are, Jethro. Timothy did say you were with our Director. I - Jethro? What on earth's the matter, my dear?" Ducky put his hand on Jethro's arm, as he looked up at him, deep concern evident on his face and in his gaze.
Gibbs swallowed hard as he looked down into the face of the man he loved above everything and everyone. Looked down and saw the deep, intense love Ducky had for him, a love he'd never hidden; a love that for years must have been seen by most as purely friendship. "Get your hat and coat, Duck, I'll tell you when we get home."
Ducky blinked and now took Gibbs's hand as he continued to gaze up at Gibbs. "Jethro?"
"Just do it, Duck," Gibbs said quietly, but firmly.
Ducky frowned for a moment, opened his mouth as if to say something, closed it again and nodded. "Very well, my dear," he said, squeezing Gibbs's hand. "I'll meet you by the car shortly."
Gibbs brushed a strand of hair back from Ducky's forehead, letting his fingertips linger for a moment on Ducky's smooth skin. "Love you, Duck," he said softly.
"Garage. Five minutes." And with that, Gibbs turned on his heel and strode away. Taking the stairs two at a time he went down to the squad room and crossed to what had been his desk. He pulled on his coat, grabbed his briefcase, pulled out some papers, picked up the photograph that stood on the filing cabinet behind his desk and pushed it into his briefcase, added the bottle of whiskey he kept in his second drawer and a couple of other personal things, before closing his case and looking up. Three pairs of eyes were staring at him, all wide.
He watched them as they looked away, glanced at one another, before looking back at him. "Boss?" DiNozzo ventured.
"Eight o'clock, Reston House, tell Abbs and Palmer," he said. Without another word, he turned and left the squad room for the last time.
"But why, Jethro?" Ducky asked, as he stood in the hall just staring up in shock at Jethro.
Jethro shrugged. "Vance asked; I answered."
"But, Jethro, why did you -"
"Tell him the truth?" Now Jethro pulled Ducky into his arms and held him in a loose embrace.
"Because it is the truth, Duck. I'm not ashamed of you, of us, of what we had. Always knew this day'd come, you know that. Always knew one day I'd run out of time and have to stop pretending."
"Yes, but . . . Surely you could have . . ."
"Could have what, Duck?" Jethro spoke softly, as he maneuvered Ducky a little nearer to him. "Lied?" he asked softly.
Ducky's arms were around him, completing the embrace. "Well, prevaricated, maybe?"
Gibbs gave a short laugh. "That's your field, Duck. No. Couldn't do that."
"Well, at least you could have maybe . . ."
"Given you up?" Jethro shook his head. "No, Duck. Wouldn't do that. Couldn't do that."
Ducky sighed. The sound a mixture of pleasure and sorrow. "But, my dear Jethro, NCIS is your life. What -"
Jethro shook his head. "No, Duck," he said, making the embrace tighter. "No," he repeated. "No. You're my life. You, Dr. Donald Ducky Mallard, are my life. You. Maybe NCIS was at one time, but it hasn't been for a long time."
"But the children -"
"Will be here at eight."
"What?" Ducky blinked in clear surprise.
"Reckon we owe them the truth, don't you?" Jethro spoke softly.
Ducky nodded, albeit somewhat distractedly. "Well, yes, of course. But . . . Oh, Jethro, are you quite, quite certain?"
Jethro lowered his head and kissed Ducky lightly. "Never more so, Duck," he said. "Told you, I love you."
Ducky sighed, this time only with pleasure. "And I love you too, my dearest Jethro," he said, now leaning against Jethro and letting his head come to rest, as it often did, against Jethro's shoulder. "So very much," he added softly.
"Good," Jethro said, tightening the embrace even more and rocking Ducky very slightly. He rested his head on the top of Ducky's and kissed the heavy, silky, sweet smelling hair, that tasted of jasmine and the forest and the ever-present hints of formaldehyde - not that he'd smell or taste the last thing for much longer.
"So," he said, now pushing Ducky back a little and once more lowering his head to kiss Ducky; this time the kiss went on for quite a lot longer. "The kids'll be here at eight," he repeated. "It's just gone twelve now, so I reckon that gives us plenty of time to . . ." He put his lips to Ducky's ear and whispered.
"Leroy Jethro Gibbs," Ducky exclaimed lightly, with a chuckle in his voice.
"What?" Jethro demanded. "You got something else you should be doing?"
Ducky smiled, stretched up on his toes to kiss Jethro. "No, my dear," he said, "absolutely nothing at all."
"In that case . . ."
After another passionate kiss, Jethro took Ducky's hand, checked the front door was locked and bolted and hand-in-hand they went up to the bedroom.
Affirmation is the sequel to this story.
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