MAKING A MISTAKE
The first part in the Testing Friendship Series.
Set after Double Identity and before Jurisdiction.
Gibbs is blunt.
A pre-slash story.
Written: March 2010. Word count: 2,098.
"Jethro!" Ducky surprise at seeing Gibbs standing on his porch was clear. "I didn't expect to -"
"You're making a mistake." Without waiting for Ducky to invite him in, Gibbs strode into Reston House and shut the door behind him.
Ducky frowned; he seemed more than a little taken aback my Gibbs's words and actions. But Gibbs didn't particularly care.. "About what, may I ask?"
"How about everything?"
"What, Duck? Okay, let's start with you selling this place and moving to a brownstone in Georgetown. That's not you, Duck. This is you. This is your home. This is where you belong. This is you. Let the sale go through on this place and you'll regret it."
"Will I?" Ducky's tone was low and flat.
"Yeah. You will. You might not think so now, but you will."
Ducky shrugged. "It's a large house, Jethro. A very large house. Far too large for one person. Besides, I'm not sure I wish to be -"
"Reminded of your mom? Well, you know what, Duck, you will be. Every minute of every day. But you know that already, don't you?"
Ducky glanced away from him, the gesture confirmed Gibbs's words. "I . . . Jethro -"
"And what about the Corgis? I know you've called them yapping creatures in the past, but you liked them. I know. I've seen you with them. Why get rid of them?"
"I . . ." Ducky glanced away from him for a moment. Then he looked back at him. "Is it really any business of yours?" There was just a hint of coldness in his tone.
Gibbs shrugged. "Guess not. But you've just answered my question."
"Have I?" Now Ducky's tone was very cold.
"Yeah, you have. Tell me, Duck," Gibbs moved closer to Ducky, invading his personal space even more than he usually did. "She persuade you to sell the house too?"
Ducky took a step back and stared up at Gibbs. "How dare you! What gives you the right to ask such a question?"
Gibbs shrugged. "Was going to say 'friendship', but I'm not sure it's apt."
Ducky's eyes widened as he stared at Gibbs. "What the hell do you mean?"
Gibbs shook his head, amazed that Ducky had to ask. "You gave me enough grief over me not telling you about Shannon and Kelly, and yet when your mom dies, you don't even tell me."
Ducky glanced away from him, but not before Gibbs saw a hint of guilt flash through his eyes. "That was completely different." Ducky spoke softly, but his tone contained a hint of that fact that he didn't quite believe his own words.
"Was it?" Gibbs demanded; he wasn't prepared to let this go. He wasn't going to admit it to Ducky, hell he'd barely admitted it to himself, but when Abby had been the one to tell him that Ducky's mom had not only died, but had died some time before, he'd felt very hurt by the fact Ducky hadn't told him. They were meant to be close friends, very close friends. Best friends in fact. But now it was as if Ducky was a stranger to him; everything about him was totally out of character, and Gibbs did not like it. He didn't like it at all; it worried and troubled him.
Ducky sighed, and when he spoke his tone was gentler and more Ducky-like than Gibbs had heard since he walked into Ducky's home. "Yes, Jethro, it was. They were your wife and daughter. My loss - I told you, I explained to you why I didn't tell you. I had hoped you'd respect my decision, or at the very least try to understand it."
Gibbs shrugged again. "Tried. Failed. It's not you, Duck."
"Is it not?" Ducky's tone was flat and without any intonation.
"No. It's not you. These ties aren't you. Getting rid of the dogs isn't you. Selling this place isn't you. Going out to lunch every day isn't you. Not telling me that your mom had died isn't you." Damn, he hadn't meant that to slip out; he hoped Ducky hadn't heard the tinge of hurt in his tone as he said that last one.
However, from Ducky's reaction, it seemed that he hadn't heard it, or if he had, he wasn't going to comment on it. Instead he just stared up at Gibbs and drew himself up to his full height. "Oh, why stop there? Why not add 'and spending time with a woman young enough to be your daughter isn't you'? Well? Go on, Gibbs. Say it, because that's what it's all about, isn't it? It's not about my ties, or me moving or getting rid of the Corgis or actually taking daily lunch breaks, is it? It's about Sophie." Ducky paused. "Well? At least do me the courtesy of answering me."
Gibbs shrugged. "You want to spend time with a woman, Duck, that's your business. Not mine."
"I see. It seems somewhat strange where you draw the line between what you consider to be your business and mine. My ties, my dogs, my house, my lunch breaks are apparently all your business; but my friendship with Sophie isn't. Some might say she is somewhat more of your business than my home is."
"Just trying to stop you from making mistakes you can't undo, that's all."
"Oh, do go on. Enlighten me, do." The hint of sarcasm in Ducky's tone was something Gibbs had never heard before; he didn't like it. It was just one more thing about the Ducky standing in front of him that he didnít like.
"You can change your mind about Sophie next week. You can go back to wearing your proper ties tomorrow. You sell this place and get rid of the Corgis and that's final, Duck. You can't just turn around next month and decide you want them back. That's all I'm saying. Stop the sale; withdraw your offer on the brownstone, and keep the Corgis. Wait a bit before you do something I know you'll regret. Don't let some woman you've known for a month or two tell you what to do. Told you once you can't let any woman affect you like this. It makes me wonder what she is -" He stopped speaking abruptly.
Ducky stared at him in silence for a moment. Then he shook his head once. "I think you had better go," he said, his tone level.
Gibbs stared. "What?" he said, certain he couldn't have heard Ducky properly.
Ducky sighed. "I think you had better go before I say something that I will regret, something that may damage our friendship in a way that is irreparable."
Stunned by Ducky's words, tone and the look on his face, even more than anything else Ducky had done, Gibbs shook his head. He put one hand on Ducky's shoulder and felt the how tense it was. "What's she done to you, Duck?" he said softly.
Ducky's gaze skittered away for a second, before returning and holding Gibbs's own. The blue eyes were cold, hidden and free from any emotion. "She has changed me, Jethro. For the better," he added.
"Has she now? Well, let's see shall we?" And swiftly, Gibbs moved his hand from Ducky's shoulder to grip the back of Ducky's neck as he lowered his head, put his mouth on Ducky's and kissed him - kissed him hard. He went on kissing him, until Ducky gave in and began to kiss him back. The instant Ducky began to return the kiss, Gibbs stopped, yanked his mouth away, wiped the back of his hand over his swollen lips and shook his head. "Yeah, Duck. She's really changed you," he sneered.
The look of shock that changed to hatred in Ducky's eyes actually warmed him. It was the first honest emotion he'd seen Ducky display for far too long. "You bastard," Ducky snarled. "You utter bastard."
Gibbs shrugged. "Yep, that's me."
"Why?" Ducky's tone was now little more than a whisper, and despite himself Gibbs could see that, Ducky had begun to tremble slightly and the hatred in his eyes had begun to turn to anguish.
Gibbs shrugged and forcing himself to ignore the anguish and tremble answered Ducky's question. "To make a point."
Ducky's gasp of shock was only half-bitten off. He shook his head as he stared at Gibbs. "You -"
"Bastard. Yeah, so you said - twice."
"Get out," Ducky said quietly. "Get out of my house and -" He stopped abruptly and sagged against the wall.
"Sure," Gibbs said. "Never been one to stay where I'm not wanted. Just remember though, Duck. She hasn't changed you. The ties, the lunches, even getting rid of the dogs and your house, it's all just window dressing. You're still you. And that'll never change."
Ducky looked at him. "Let's see about that, shall we?" The cold, steely tone, riddled with the hate Gibbs had seen in Ducky's eyes was back.
Gibbs nodded. "Yeah, Duck. Let's. Don't worry, I can see myself out. Done it before." And with that he strode towards the front door, pulled it open, went out onto the porch and slammed it behind him.
He stood and waited until he heard the lock being turned and the bolts being pushed on, before he sagged back against the wall, physically shaking. Seconds later he bent over the edge of the porch railing and spat out a mouthful of bile, dug out his handkerchief and wiped his mouth with it, before making his way, one step at a time, down to his car.
He leaned against it and shut his eyes. What had he done? What the hell had he done? "Oh, Duck," he said, sliding down and sitting on the gravel, his back pressed against the car. "Don't know if you'll ever forgive me. I had to do it though." And he wasn't totally sure he'd ever forgive himself, but that was another matter entirely.
When Ducky had come into Autopsy to find him sleeping there and waiting for him and had told him about his mom and his plans and Sophie, Gibbs had really studied Ducky, really looked at him. He'd also called on all his skills as the expert special agent he was and recalled Ducky's whole being, his tone, his eyes, his body language in particular over the last couple of days and in general over the last few months.
And what he'd realized had shaken him; was that it was all an act. For some reason Ducky was trying to convince himself and everyone else he was happy. But he wasn't. Gibbs had known Ducky for too many years to be fooled. Except he knew Ducky was fooled; Ducky wasn't fooling himself, not consciously, but he was fooled.
He didn't know what would happen after what he'd just said and done and the done was just about the worst thing he could have done. He's always known how Ducky had felt about him, just as he'd always known that Ducky was gay, and he'd never taken advantage of it. Not even after his failed marriage and relationships, when his whole being had wanted to reach out to someone who would love him unconditionally, not even when he'd wanted to reach out to Ducky, had he done so. That would have been an utter betrayal of what they were. To cross that line, as he'd just done, was the riskiest thing he had ever done in his life.
He'd kissed Ducky. He'd kissed his closest friend. He'd kissed the man who loved him; the man who had loved him for more years than Gibbs cared to recall. He'd kissed the man he'd always vowed never to hurt. He'd kissed the man he loved; just not in the way Ducky wanted him to love him. He'd kissed Ducky. And he'd done so for all the wrong reasons. He just hoped the wrong reasons turned out the right result.
He hoped it would shake Ducky, hoped it would make him think about what he was doing. But if he was wrong all he was doing was to push Ducky more into Sophie's arms. He could have lost Ducky for good.
"Had to do it, Duck," he murmured. "Someone's got to stop you from making the biggest lot of mistakes of your life." Finally, he pushed himself to his feet, opened the car door, looked back at Reston House, wondering if it was the last time he'd see it, got into the car and drove off.
LINKS TO ALL THE STORIES IN THE TESTING FRIENDSHIP SERIES
Making A Mistake
Making Ducky Think
Making Gibbs Think
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