ANOTHER LOVED ONE LOST
Set after Swan Song.
Ducky has to tell Gibbs the results of his autopsy.
An established relationship story.
Written: May 2001. Word count: 1,000.
"I've finished, Doctor." Jimmy's voice was quieter than normal; it was if he didn't want to risk awakening Mike.
Ducky made his way to where Jimmy had been stitching Mike up following the autopsy. "Oh," he murmured, looking down at Mike's chest. Now he knew why it'd taken Jimmy longer than it normally did to close a body.
"I knew Agent Gibbs would want to see the body again," Jimmy said, not meeting Ducky's gaze. Instead he looked anywhere and everywhere else, as if afraid Ducky would criticize him or tell him he'd wasted time.
But Ducky was anything but annoyed by Jimmy's show of respect; he was touched by it and knew Jethro would be too, even if he couldn't say so. He patted Jimmy's arm, keeping his hand in place until Jimmy met his gaze. "I know Jethro, like I do, will appreciate it, Jimmy, even if -" He stopped speaking as the doors parted and Jethro entered.
Ducky immediately turned his attention from his assistant to his lover. He wished he could go across and take Jethro into his arms, thus giving him some small degree of comfort. But they'd agreed long ago they would keep the true nature of their relationship apart from the job and while as Jethro's closest friend he could do it, he knew it wouldn’t be right.
Instead he simply touched Jethro's hand and gazed up at him, telling him with his touch and eyes what he wouldn't voice in public. Jethro swallowed hard and gave a half nod, before squeezing Ducky's shoulder and moving to the table.
"Doctor, would it be all right, it I took a short break?"
Ducky turned to Jimmy. "Yes, of course, Mr. Palmer," he said. Jimmy nodded his thanks and turned to go.
The single word stopped Jimmy in his tracks. He glanced at Ducky before looking at Jethro. "Yes, si- Er, Special Agent Gibbs, sir," he spluttered.
Ducky turned his attention from the pale Jimmy to Jethro. He watched Jethro carefully, watched him swallow again and then watched the hard, closed gaze become somewhat softer as Jethro stared at Jimmy. He saw Jethro give a half nod, before turning his attention back to Mike's body.
Jimmy seemed frozen in place as he looked from Jethro to Ducky. Ducky nodded in what he hoped was a confirmatory way. Despite the sadness that hung in the air, he couldn't help smiling as Jimmy beamed and reddened, before he hurried towards the doors and left.
Ducky moved quietly to Jethro's side and touched his hand, still he didn't show any other affection, they might be alone but the security cameras were still in place. "Jethro," he said quietly, momentarily linking his fingers with those of his lover, the gesture wouldn't be seen. "There is something I have to tell you." He hoped it might help at least a little. "Mike," he paused for a second. "Mike was dying," he said quietly. "He had lung cancer; it had developed to such an extent there would be chance of him surviving. Added to that, his liver . . . Well, let me say I am not sure which would have killed him first."
The look on Jethro's face didn't change. "Heard him cough; saw he'd lost weight, but I thought . . . I never . . . Do you think he knew?"
"Oh, yes," Ducky said firmly. "I am certainly he knew. That is why he came here, that is why he - That is why he picked a fight with Cobb."
Jethro increased the pressure of their joined hands. "You really think he did?"
Ducky nodded. "Yes, my dear," He said decisively. "I am quite certain. Mike hadn't much time left. There was little he could do to help you, except -"
"Try to protect me?"
Ducky nodded. "Yes," he said softly.
"He died for me?" Before Ducky could answer, Jethro pulled his hand away and moved across the Ducky's desk. He picked up the calendar. "Need to change the date," he said, tearing the page off and throwing it into the bin. "It's gone midnight."
Ducky joined him at the desk and took the calendar from his hand, putting it back down carefully. It had been a gift from Jethro himself. "You would have done the same," he said quietly.
Jethro gave a half nod in acknowledgement before sinking down onto the edge of the desk. "Doesn't seem like five minutes since I opened my door to him, yet it also seems like days, weeks even." Before Ducky could comment, Jethro went on. "He gave me a box, told me it contained Decker's insurance policy. Something that kept Mike in Vance's good books."
"I see," Ducky said, because it was clear Jethro expected him to say something.
"It wasn't his decision, Vance's."
"To bring EJ in to run the port-to-port case here."
Ducky stared at Jethro; he felt his eyes widen in surprise. "Then whose was it?"
Jethro stared at him. "Who do you think?" he said, his tone flat.
"That, Duck, is what I want to know." Before Ducky could answer, Jethro put his hands on his shoulders. "Nothing you want to tell me, is there Duck?"
Ducky blinked. He sensed Jethro had changed the subject, but wasn't completely sure to what. "About what exactly, my dear?"
"You're not ill, are you? You're not going to die on me, are you?"
Ducky put his hand on Jethro's cheek. "Ah, Jethro," he said softly. Now wasn't the time to point out that logically, despite the nature of Jethro's job, Ducky would one day 'die on Jethro'. Instead he said simply, "I am as I have been for many years, my dear, in excellent heath."
"And you'll tell me if - You won't just . . ." Jethro trailed off. Then he said softly, his tone somewhat harsh with the unshed tears that now stood in his eyes, "I can't lose you, Duck. You hear me? I can't lose you. I won't lose you. Understood." It wasn't a question.
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