AT FIRST IT SEEMED STRANGE
The third story in the At First series.
Ducky and Gibbs are getting ready for their first date.
A first time story.
Written: June 2009. Word count: 5,173.
Don't say we aren't right for each other. The way I see it, we aren't right for anyone else.
At first it seemed strange showering and dressing in preparation for a date with Jethro.
Jethro, his oldest, dearest, closest and most beloved friend; the man he had loved for so many years. The man he had yearned for, but never dared he would ever, could ever, have. They had been out to dinner with one another, or shared dinners at their respective homes - mostly Ducky's it has to be said - many times. So why should tonight be any different? Well, it was and it wasn't. It was different because it was a 'date' as opposed to two old friends going out to dinner. And it wasn't different because at the end of the day it was still two old friends going out to dinner.
In the shower Ducky allowed mildly erotic thoughts to slip into his mind. He thought of Jethro's hands on him; his mouth pressed against Ducky's own; his - He stopped the thoughts there; what was he doing? He was a mature, adult man, well into his sixties, having that kind of deliberate erotic thought, mild or not, whilst showering was not something he should be doing. Besides - Again he stopped the thought before it could even begin to form.
It was a date; that was all. A date. A first date. It didn't mean they would end up kissing, although he admitted to himself he did hope they would kiss, let alone anything else. He pointedly ignored the beginnings of the erection which had been the result of his cut off thoughts. On the off chance they did more than eat dinner and chat and whatever else one did on a date with someone one knew as well as one knew oneself, and moved even beyond kissing . . . Well, he may not be old, but he knew is own body.
Once he'd finished showering and had dried himself, he went into his bedroom where he dressed with even more care than he usually took. He took a considerable amount of time deciding on which of his array of bowties he would wear, wondering which Jethro would like best.
At first it seemed strange showering and dressing in preparation for a date with Ducky.
Ducky, his oldest, closest and most loyal friend, the one person in the world who'd never wanted to change him. Ducky, the man he'd loved for more years than he cared to remember, albeit until very recently only in a fraternal way. It wasn't the first time, by some way, they'd been out to dinner with one another, or shared a dinner at one of their homes - usually Ducky's, well, Duck was the cook, not Jethro himself. So why was tonight any different? It was different and yet it wasn't. It was different because it was a 'date', not just two old friends going out together. Yet it wasn't different because, when it came down to it, it was just two old friends going out together.
In the shower Jethro allowed thoughts of a naked Ducky under his hands to creep into his mind. He imagined Ducky's hands on his body, touching him, caressing him - Duck would know exactly how to touch him, he knew that. He also imagined Ducky's mouth opening beneath his and - He stopped the thought from forming any further. What the hell was he doing? He was well into his fifties, the last time he'd had such erotic thoughts about someone while showering had been a hell of a long time ago. He really shouldn't be thinking about Ducky like that. Not yet, anyway.
Hell, it was a date; that was all. A date. A first date. It didn't mean they'd end up in bed together or even kissing, although he hoped it'd get at least that far. And if he knew his Duck like he knew he knew his Duck he doubted if Ducky was a first date kind of guy. Not even when the first date was with someone he knew so well. No, the chances were they'd have dinner, chat and whatever else you did on a date with someone you knew so well, maybe kiss, but nothing more. And yet - For a moment he considered ignoring the erection that had begun to form as he'd imagined Ducky's hands on his body, and his on Ducky's. But then he realized the signs: if he ignored it, he'd end up on edge all evening. Besides, on the off chance that they did progress beyond eating, talking and kissing, well . . . He did know his own body.
Once he'd finished showering and had dried himself, he went into his bedroom where he dressed with far more care and effort than he usually did. Normally his criterion was: is it clean? Tonight, however, he spent quite some time choosing which of his three suits and half a dozen ties he thought Ducky would like most.
At first it seemed strange, once he was fully dressed and ready, to be waiting for Jethro to pick him up.
On most previous occasions when they'd been out for a meal together, they had taken separate cars. On the occasions they did travel in the same car, it was usually when they had gone out straight from the office when Jethro had said it made sense to just take his car and he'd drop Ducky at the Navy Yard once they'd eaten.
However, now Ducky was in his home, ready far too early, just waiting to be picked up. It was that realization more than anything else that made Ducky fully aware that it really was a date. He tried to settle down and read one of his books, but even the lightest of reads seemed beyond him. He put one of his favorite Mozart CDs on and sat down, closed his eyes, and prepared to let the soothing cords of The Clarinet Concerto wash over him and help to relax him - because relaxed was far from what he was!
It was ridiculous for him to be so wound up. It was Jethro, for heaven's sake. Jethro, a man who might call himself a bastard, and at times (even Ducky had to admit it) who lived up to his self label, but he was a man who had never shown Ducky anything other than respect and caring. What on earth was he so worried about?
Was it that reality might not, could not even, live up to his fantasies? And he had had many fantasies over the years, even though he sometimes felt guilty for allowing the indulgence.
Was it that they might end up in bed together? Would Jethro, used to the nubile, female form be turned off by Ducky's body?
Was it that they might not end up in bed together? What if, after everything, Jethro wasn't attracted to Ducky after all?
Was it that he was worried that one, or both of them, would behave differently? That they might struggle to converse, struggle to connect, struggle to get on?
Was it that they actually knew one another so well, that 'normal' first date propensities did not, could not, apply?
Was it that in the cold light of day (Ducky ignored the fact it was night-time) they actually weren't right for one another?
Was it that when it came down to it, Ducky knew that deep down they weren't right for anyone else?
Was it that they might not have a second date?
Was it that they might have a second date?
Was it -
Annoyed with himself, one shouldn't waste Mozart like this, Ducky stood up and walked to the stereo system and turned the CD off. For a moment he considered starting it again, sitting back down, deliberately emptying his mind and letting the music sooth him. But he knew it would be a fruitless thing to do.
He considered pouring himself a small drink, a dry sherry or even a wee dram of fine scotch, but decided against it. He didn't want Jethro thinking he needed Dutch courage to go out on a date with him.
A date. That was it. That was the whole problem. One word. Four letters. The effect on him was debilitating. He had wanted this for so long that now he had it, it was scaring him. Not because he feared it couldn't live up to his fantasies, of course it could, but because it could, it would, change everything between them.
Whether they only had the one date and realized, separately or together, that it was a mistake (Ducky knew it wouldn't be for him, but for Jethro . . .) or whether they had a second and a third and a fourth and whatever happened after that, things would change. As his maternal grandmother had told him, on more than one occasion, once Pandora's Box has been opened, it could not be closed; just as you cannot put the genie back into the bottle. Clichés, they may be, but they were truisms as well.
Maybe he should ring Jethro and say - And say what?
That he was sick? Yes, lying to his oldest friend was obviously the right thing to do! He shook his head for allowing such a thought to even penetrate his mind.
That he didn't want to date Jethro? Yet another lie.
Maybe he could ask if they could just go out to dinner and not call it a date? That at least wasn't a lie, but once again it fitted the clichés - a date had been mentioned; Jethro had said he wanted to date Ducky. The words could not be unsaid.
No, there was nothing he could do. He would just wait for Jethro to arrive and then, hopefully with his friend by his side everything would right itself. All his foolish thoughts would flee and they could enjoy their dinner just as they always did - with the additional knowledge it was more than just dinner.
At first it seemed strange, once he was fully dressed and ready, to be waiting for the time to come when he would leave to go and pick Ducky up.
Usually, in the past, when they'd been out to dinner together, they'd driven to the restaurant separately, or if they'd gone out straight from the office, he'd drive Ducky and drop him back at the Navy Yard once they'd had their meal.
However, here he was with a good half an hour to go - more if he drove at his normal speed - ready and waiting just to leave to pick Ducky up. It made him suddenly aware, in a way he hadn't been before, that this really was a date. It seemed strange somehow. Also he didn't really know how to fill the half an hour. His usual option wasn't open to him. He could hardly go down to the basement and work on his boat given what he was wearing. He had McGee's latest book, which he'd started (and was secretly enjoying) but he didn't feel like getting stuck into the world of L. J. Tibbs right now. He wondered about making a pot of coffee, but decided against that. He'd already had more than even he normally drank, and he was wound up enough as it was; any more caffeine just might make him even more jittery.
It was crazy letting himself get so on edge. It was Ducky he was going out to dinner with; Ducky the man who saw him for what he was, didn't try to change him, and loved him for all his faults. What the hell was there to get wound up about?
Was it that from the moment he'd admitted to himself he wanted Ducky, he'd done nothing but think about it, imagine it? And as such what actually happened couldn't be like his imagination?
Was it that they might end up in bed together? He'd never been with a man before, what if he couldn't go through with it?
Was it that they might not end up in bed together? And not just because Ducky might not be a 'first night' guy, but because the attraction wasn't really there?
Was it that he worried he would try to act differently because it was a date? Or that Ducky might? Would they have anything to say to one another, with them already knowing each other so intimately?
Was it that because they did know one another so well, they couldn't have a 'normal' first date - if such a thing existed?
Was it that, when it came down it, they really weren't right for one another beyond friendship?
Was it that, if he paid attention to his gut, he knew that in truth they weren't right for anyone else?
Was it that they might not have a second date?
Was it that they might have a second date?
Was it -
Annoyed with himself for behaving like such an idiot, he started to head for the stairs to the basement. But stopped; he couldn't go down there in his suit. For a moment he regretted putting it on - even though he knew Ducky liked to see him dressed up.
He thought about pouring himself a good slug of bourbon, but that didn't really seem to be a good plan; he didn't want to arrive at Ducky's house smelling of alcohol. He didn't want Ducky thinking he needed Dutch courage to go out on a date with him.
A date. That was it. That was the whole problem. It was what they were calling it. Not the fact they were going out to dinner, but they were doing out on a date. It wasn't any of the reasons he'd listed in his mind that was making him jittery, it was the fact that whatever happened, things would change between them.
Whether they had this one date and it went wrong, or had this one date and everything went so right they had another and then another and then another and all that went with that, things would change. Their relationship would change. And that scared Jethro more than anything else had ever done. Because once they'd done this, they couldn't go back. As his mom's mom had told him more than once, you can never go back. He and Duck wouldn't, couldn't go back to how they'd been before this night.
Maybe he should call Ducky and say - And say what?
That something had come up? Yeah, right. Start lying to Ducky; that was a great idea.
That he didn't want to date Ducky. Another lie.
Suggest they just go out to dinner and not call it a date? Not a lie, but not doable. He'd used the word 'date', he'd told Ducky he wanted to date him. And he did, he really did.
No, there was nothing he could do. He'd just have to wait until it was time to go and pick Ducky up and hope that when he was there, with Ducky by his side, things would right themselves and his stupid thoughts would vanish. And then they'd just go out to dinner and it'd be as it always was - with the extra bit of knowledge that it was something more than just dinner.
At first it seemed strange, as the hands of the clock on his sideboard finally showed ten minutes before Jethro would arrive, to be planning what he'd do once his friend arrived.
Finally, Ducky had spoken firmly to himself and had worked out just why he was so worried, so on edge. It wasn't because he was getting his dearest wish: a date with Jethro, it was the whole anticipation thing. The dinner, the date, wasn't the problem; it was what would be going through Ducky's mind during the dinner, the date.
He might not be a man who slept with someone on a first date; often he didn't even get beyond a very chaste kiss, if that. But with Jethro, a man he'd known for so many years, had wanted for the same number of years and loved for nearly all that time, that simply would not apply. The whole 'what if they didn't end up in bed together' was ridiculous - Of course they would. Or at the very least they would end up in one another's arms, kissing and not chastely. Jethro's job was a dangerous one; anything could happen, and Ducky was not about to shake Jethro's hand or give him a chaste kiss, thank him for the date and arrange another one. Of course he wasn't. He was going to kiss Jethro and hopefully so much more
And that was what was going to be on his mind throughout the dinner. Just how they did move from finishing dinner, returning to Ducky's house, sharing a post-dinner drink onto the next stage? Ducky didn't want to spend the evening wondering, planning even, how it would happen; he didn't want that at all.
So, what he would do, once Jethro arrived, would be to skip to the kissing stage. He'd simply kiss Jethro, they'd get that out of the way, they'd go out to dinner, enjoy a meal, talk as they usually did, return to Reston House, enjoy a post-dinner drink and move seamlessly into one another's arms again.
Yes, it was simple. Now he'd really thought about, now he'd worked it out, it would be so very simple. As the huge weight lifted from Ducky's shoulders, he realized just how much he was now looking forward to the evening, and just how foolish he'd been to worry about it.
At first it seemed strange, as the hands of the clock on his dashboard finally showed ten minutes before he would arrive at Reston House to pick Ducky up, to be planning what he'd do once he got there.
Finally, just before he'd left his house, Jethro had given himself a mental head-slap and had worked out why he was so jittery. It wasn't because he was taking Ducky out on a date; it was the whole 'what happens afterwards'; that was the problem. What would be going through his mind as he sat across the table from Ducky.
Okay, so he reckoned Ducky wasn't the kind of man who slept with someone on the first date; hell, maybe he didn't even kiss, at least not much. But Jethro wasn't just any man. Jethro was someone Ducky had known for many years, the man he had wanted (because Jethro had known for longer than he cared to admit that Ducky wanted him) for all that time, and who had loved him for longer than Jethro could remember. Not to be cocky, but Jethro knew the 'I don't on a first date' wouldn't apply to him. And his own 'what if we end up in bed together and I can't', was a stupid thing to think. If he didn't really believe he could kiss Ducky, touch Ducky, he'd never had told Ducky he wanted to date him. So they would end up in bed, or at least they'd end up kissing and not chastely. With the job he did, Jethro knew anything could happen. Ducky wasn't going to just kiss him on the cheek, shake his hand, thank him for a lovely evening and wait for a second date. Of course he wasn't. At least he hoped that was the case; if he was honest, there was still a small part of him that felt Ducky's 'not on the first date' might be too ingrained to break, even for him.
And the thought of kissing Ducky or touching Ducky was what was going to be going through Jethro's mind during dinner. Or more how they got from the end of dinner, the return to Ducky's home, a post-dinner drink to kissing and beyond. He didn't want to spend the evening thinking about it, planning it even, he'd always enjoyed his dinners with Ducky, and he didn't want to spoil this one.
So this is what he'd do: he'd get to Ducky's house and they'd skip to the kissing stage. He'd get there, go in, take Ducky into his arms and simply kiss him. That was they'd get that awkward first kiss out of the way, they'd then go out to dinner, have a good evening (as they always did) return to Ducky's Reston home, have a drink, talk and then kissing Ducky for the second time would be easy.
Yeah, it was that simple. Once he'd really thought about it, once he'd pulled himself back on track, it would be very simple. He felt a weight lift from him and realized he was looking forward to an evening with Ducky, and that he'd been stupid to worry about it.
"Good evening, Jethro." Ducky smiled up at Jethro. It was his usual 'for Jethro' smile, but with an added something.
"Hey, Duck." Even by the lights of the porch light Jethro realized how beautiful his old friend really was. It was as if he was seeing him for the first time.
"Would you like to come in and maybe have a drink? Or do we have to leave straight away?"
Pleased that Ducky had, in effect, played right into his hands, Jethro said, "We've got plenty of time."
"Oh, good." Was Jethro imagining it or did Ducky look doubly pleased with himself? "In that case, my dear, do come in."
"Thanks, Duck." Jethro went into the house he knew well; almost as well as his own.
He heard Ducky shut the door behind him and lock it - but Ducky always kept his house locked up whether he was in it or not. He tugged his coat off and hung it up before turning to face Ducky.
"Oh, I hope you don't mind my saying how handsome you look tonight, Jethro," Ducky said, moving slightly towards Jethro.
Jethro shrugged a little; he'd never done well with compliments. "Thanks, Duck. You look good too - love the bowtie."
"Thank you. I had hoped you would like it." Ducky spoke quietly, his voice a little husky, and he took another step towards Jethro.
"Yeah, I do. Suits you." Jethro moistened his lips.
"Good." Ducky took another step nearer to him. "Jethro -"
They said the words at the same time.
"After you," Ducky said, ever the gentleman.
"Nah, you go on."
Ducky shook his head. "No, I insist," Ducky tilted his head back and gazed up with adoration at Jethro.
"Okay. Well, it's not so much what I want to say as . . ." And with that, he gathered Ducky into his arms and held him for a moment or two. Ducky's arms went around his body in return and he heard Ducky sigh with obvious pleasure.
Despite his confident plan, despite the fact that from the way Ducky was pressing against him, the little noises of contentment he was making, he seemed to be more than a willing participant, Jethro found he couldn't bring himself to just kiss Ducky. Instead he lowered his head, put his mouth to Ducky's ear and whispered, "Would it be okay if I kissed you, Duck?"
As his mouth touched Ducky's ear, he felt Ducky shiver and knew it was with happiness. Even before Ducky answered him, he found himself pressing his lips to Ducky's ear and lightly kissing it. This time Ducky murmured and pressed even nearer to him.
As pleasant as it was, Jethro desperately wanted more. He wanted his mouth on Ducky's. "Take that as a yes, can I, Duck?" he whispered.
"Oh, yes, Jethro. Yes. A most definite yes."
Jethro smiled to himself. "Good." And after once again brushing his lips over Ducky's ear, he pushed him away just far enough so that he could again lower his head, and this time put his mouth onto Ducky's and kiss him.
At first it seemed strange actually kissing Ducky, kissing his dearest, closest, oldest friend, kissing a man. But that strangeness lasted for less than a heartbeat and quickly turned into something so right, no natural, so normal, so usual that Jethro momentarily believed they'd been kissing for years, had been lovers for years, and he'd somehow, until this moment, had forgotten it.
They did finally get to the restaurant, even if Ducky had to close his eyes once or twice during the drive, where they had a very enjoyable and extremely indulgent meal. It was just like every other meal they'd shared, while at the same time being completely different.
It was the same because it was Jethro with whom he was sharing the exceptionally good meal. Jethro a man he'd been out to dinner with so many times. Jethro a man he knew so very well. Jethro his friend; his dearest friend.
It was completely different because they gazed, there was no other word for it, into one another's eyes all the time they weren't looking at menus or at their plates. Their hands brushed one another's and on more than one occasion their fingers actually linked together for a few seconds. They'd always been tactile with one another, they'd hugged on plenty of occasions, Jethro had patted his cheek, cupped his neck, brushed his hair from his face, and many other such touches. He'd smoothed Jethro's lapel down, he'd touched Jethro's face, put his arm around him, brushed his hand over his, and many other such touches. But to Ducky the way their hands and fingers flirted with one another was the most intimate they had ever been. Indeed, it was the most intimate Ducky had ever been with anyone, including the men he had slept with.
Ducky was certain it was clear to anyone who looked at them what their relationship was; he felt they were exuding their love for one another, broadcasting it to anyone who cared to listen or look. And yet at the same time he knew that in truth really they weren't looking at one another that much differently from the way they usually did. Yes, their hands were touching more, their fingers linking together, but when it came down to it, maybe it wasn't that much different from their usual interaction.
For himself he didn’t mind if they were obvious and given the way Jethro was looking at him, more than once Ducky felt himself flush at the look in Jethro's eyes, and the unconcerned way he touched Ducky's hand and didn't pull his away when the waiters appeared, Ducky knew that Jethro was not bothered either.
Jethro's obvious lack of concern didn't surprise Ducky. Despite having a romantic involvement with Ducky, another man, being new to Jethro, Ducky knew that his oldest friend paid little, if any, attention to what people might think. He might well be a bastard at times, but he was an honest one, and not an underhand one - well, apart from at times in his job.
Finally, they'd eaten and drunk their fill; Jethro had paid the check and was standing and offering Ducky his hand to help him up. Ducky didn't really need the help, but he took Jethro's hand anyway. It was Jethro who took Ducky's coat from the hat and coat check girl and held it for Ducky to put on, and Jethro who kept his hand in the small of Ducky's back to guide him out of the restaurant. And Jethro who, once in the car, leaned across the small gap separating them and had kissed Ducky. And of course Ducky had kissed him back. Why would he do anything else? Not only had he got his dearest wish, but he was already addicted to Jethro's kisses, and if the way Jethro kissed him, together with the frequency of the kisses was anything to go by, Jethro felt the same way.
"Guess we'd better get going, hadn't we?" Jethro said, finally breaking away and settling back in his seat. However, he still kept Ducky's hand in his.
Ducky nodded. "Yes, Jethro," he said, hoping he didn't sound quite as negative as he thought he sounded.
"You sure, 'cause, we could . . ." Jethro trailed off.
Ducky chuckled softly. "No, my dear, we could not. We are both, do forgive me, too old to make love in a car. I assure you my bed will be far more comfortable." As he said the words, Ducky felt a little wicked at being quite so blatant about what he expected to happen next.
"That an offer, Duck?" Jethro's voice sounded somewhat husky and to Ducky's astonishment a little surprised.
He patted Jethro's hand. "Of course it is, Jethro. Unless of course," he added hastily, "that is not what you want." Had he presumed too much? Had he read too much into the kisses and the way Jethro looked at him and the intimate way he'd flirted with Ducky's fingers and hand with his own?
"Oh, it's what I want, Duck." Jethro spoke quickly, and his tone left Ducky tingling with anticipation.
"Good. Then why, may I ask, did you sound quite so surprised?"
Jethro muttered something that most people wouldn't have caught. But attuned as he was to Jethro's voice, together with the somewhat out of ordinary silent night surrounding them, Ducky caught what he said.
He smiled to himself, pleased by Jethro's mutterings. He then leaned across the gap separating them and whispered in Jethro's ear. "No. Not with anyone else, my dear. But with you . . ." And then daringly he nibbled Jethro's ear for a moment, kissed it twice, before settling back in his seat.
"Well," he said, after a moment or two when Jethro didn't move. "What on earth are you waiting for? Home James," he added and laughed.
Jethro laughed too, turned on the engine and drove off into the night.
At first it seemed strange having Jethro in his bed, having his dearest, closest, oldest friend, the man he'd always wanted to be there, in his bed. But that strangeness lasted for less than a heartbeat and quickly turned into something so right, so natural, so normal, so usual that Ducky momentarily believed he'd had Jethro in his bed for years; that they'd been lovers for years and he'd somehow, until this moment, forgotten about it.
Finally, after a couple of hours of gentle lovemaking, of learning bodies they already knew, of discovering what one another liked, what touches moved, excited, calmed, what caresses gave the most pleasure, how much both enjoyed kissing and being kissed, still in one another's arms, they settled down to sleep.
"I love you, Duck," Jethro whispered.
Ducky swallowed hard, his joy almost overcoming his ability to speak. "I love you too, my dearest Jethro."
"Good." And with that Jethro kissed Ducky's nose and almost as one they drifted into sleep.
LINKS TO ALL THE STORIES IN THE AT FIRST SERIES
At First He Told Himself
At First He Didn't Believe
At First It Seemed Strange
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