Gibbs needs Ducky to do something for him, something that only Ducky can do. Ducky is not overly happy about it, but friendship wins out and he agrees. Neither man could possibly have expected what happened next.
A first time story.
Written: August 2006. Word count: 9,890.
"Jethro." Ducky was surprised but very pleased to see his oldest and dearest friend.
"Hey, Duck." Jethro stood on the porch, his hands in his pockets, his shoulders hunched, not meeting Ducky's eyes.
Nearly thirty years of knowing the man sent Ducky's alert button into overdrive. "My dear, is there something wrong?" He took a step forward and took Jethro's arm. For a moment he thought that Jethro had tensed, flinched almost. But that was impossible; he pushed the thought away, it was just because he was concerned.
Jethro finally looked up at him, and Ducky's alert button went into critical mode. Normally when Jethro looked at Ducky, spoke to him, interacted with him, he allowed the shields, he habitually erected every day, to slip a little; and when they were alone, the shields fell completely. However, now, they were there in full force. In fact they were doubled in intensity.
Ducky felt a chill sweep through him and he had to force himself not to shiver. Instead he gripped Jethro's arm more tightly and pulled. "Come inside, Jethro," he ordered. His tone was the one he rarely used, but the one he knew that when he did always worked, even with Jethro.
For a second the shields covering the dark blue eyes did drop and Jethro's eyes widened in surprise, but seconds later the barriers were back in place. However, as he always did when Ducky resorted to that tone, Jethro obeyed him. He allowed himself to be led into Ducky's hallway.
Ducky shut, locked and bolted the front door, before returning to stand in front of his friend. He moved into Jethro's personal space, gripped both of Jethro's arms, in what he hoped was a reassuring hold, tipped his head back and looked up at Jethro, meeting the closed gaze and holding it unblinkingly. "My dear Jethro, tell me, please. Has something happened? Are you . . ." He swallowed and forced himself to go on. "Hurt? Sick? Jethro, please, you're worrying me."
Jethro sagged in Ducky's embrace, forcing Ducky to take more of his weight and move nearer to his oldest friend. Jethro's head had fallen forwards, but now he raised it. "Sorry, Duck," he said, his voice also lacking the intimacy it usually contained when he spoke to Ducky. He lifted one hand and brushed a lock of Ducky's hair off his forehead, letting his fingers linger for a moment. "I shouldn't have come here. Didn't mean to worry you. I'll go."
"No, you will not." Again Ducky used his forceful tone. "My dear, whatever it is, you can tell me. I can help you." He kept his grip on Jethro's arms.
Jethro gave a harsh laugh; it wasn't pleasant. "Can you, Duck?"
"Of course," Ducky said quietly. "I'll do anything I can, you know that. You only have to ask."
Jethro repeated the noise. "You might wish you hadn't said that."
"Jethro. You really are worrying me, I -"
"Donald? Oh, hello, Jethro dear. I didn't know that we were expecting you. You didn't tell me, Donald. That was very naughty of you." Ducky's mother appeared from her room, four bouncing, yapping Corgis at her feet. Not for the first time Ducky wondered how his mother avoided tripping over them.
Jethro shook himself and turned. "Hello, Mrs. Mallard, ma'am, how are you tonight?"
Ducky moved to his friend's side and glanced at Jethro. To his mother's eyes, Jethro would have looked perfectly normal; only Ducky could see what it was costing him to appear that way.
"I'm very well, Jethro. Would you like to come and join me for a drink?" It wasn't a question, not really.
However, Ducky spoke quickly. "I'm afraid Jethro can't tonight, Mother. He has come to talk to me about a case we are working on. Why don't I come and pour you a drink, and then you can settle down and watch some television. I believe there is some wrestling on tonight."
"Oh, yes, so there is. I really don't want to miss that. You don't mind do you, dear?" She looked at Jethro.
"No, ma'am. As Du - Donald said, we do have things to talk about."
"Come along then, Mother. Jethro, why don't you go into the sitting room and pour yourself a drink? I'll be along in a moment." Ducky waited until Jethro had taken a step, then a second one towards the sitting room, before taking his mother's arm and leading her back to her own room. However, she shook his off. "Mother!" she spoke sharply to her; more sharply than he'd intended.
She seemed not to hear though. "I don't want you to pour me a drink, Donald. You make it far too weak. Jethro," she called in her imperious tone. "You will come and pour me a drink."
But Jethro turned, smiled and moved towards Ducky and his mother. He offered the elderly lady his arm, and she took it. "It'd be a pleasure, Mrs. Mallard," he said, tucking her arm safely into his and covering it with his other hand.
Ducky stood and watched them. He wasn't needed; he never was. There were times when he was certain his mother preferred Jethro to him. He decided against going into the sitting room to wait for Jethro. The mood his friend was in, Ducky wouldn't be surprised if Jethro didn't just decide to leave, albeit calling to Ducky on his way out, so that Ducky could go and lock up after him. He rested against the wall opposite his mother's room and waited.
Five minutes later Jethro reappeared, shutting the door carefully behind him. To Ducky's eyes the smile and Jethro's whole personae seemed slightly less forced, less un-Jethro like than it had been five minutes earlier.
Ducky took his friend's arm. "Come and have a drink, Jethro," he said quietly, and led his friend into the sitting room.
Jethro sank down into an armchair, leaned his head back and closed his eyes.
Still concerned, but now trying to hide it, Ducky poured them both large whiskies and handed one to Jethro. "Here, drink this."
"Thanks, Duck." Jethro swallowed half of the liquid in one gulp.
Ducky decided it wasn't the time to remind his friend that one didn't treat good whiskey that way. In silence he sipped his own drink and waited; his pleas hadn't worked, maybe quietness would.
It seemed to. Jethro downed the other half of the glass, stood up, strode across the room and helped himself to another drink, swallowed half of that, turned and moved back to Ducky. "Duck. I've got something to ask you. But I don't know how. And you won't like it." He sank back down into his chair, now sitting on the edge, his glass held between his knees; he looked directly at Ducky.
Ducky met the stare. "What is it, Jethro? Do you want my resignation? Have I told too many stories?"
"Don't, Ducky. Don't. Don't even joke about it." Jethro snarled the words and glared at Ducky. For a half second a look of almost panic crossed his face.
"I'm sorry, my dear," Ducky said softly. "I didn't mean to . . . I was just trying to . . . "
"Yeah, I know, Duck. Sorry. Shouldn't have snapped at you." Jethro ran his hand over his head, closed his eyes and squeezed the bridge of his nose; he then cursed under his breath.
Ducky moved to the other end of the sofa, reached across the small gap, wrapped his hand around one of Jethro's and said quietly, "Jethro my dear, we have known one another and been friends for three decades now. Surely there is nothing that you cannot ask me."
He couldn't begin to imagine what was wrong with his friend. In thirty years he had never seen Jethro so hesitant, so uncertain, so unconfident. The nearest he could recall was the time that Jethro has asked him to be his best man when he'd married Diane. His reluctance then, Ducky knew, was due to the fierce vow his friend had made after his marriage to Alice had fallen apart. Surely Jethro wasn't about to ask him to do the same duty for the fifth time?
And then it hit him. Jethro was going to marry Jennifer Shepard - it was the only thing of which Ducky could think. The only person who would make Jethro so hesitant, because he knew that as courteous as Ducky was to Jennifer, their relationship was barely cordial. Asking Ducky to be his best man when he married Jennifer, would hurt Ducky, but Jethro knew that not asking Ducky would also hurt his friend.
For a moment Ducky closed his own eyes, swallowed hard and said simply, "Ask me, my dear." He braced himself.
Jethro opened his eyes and looked down at their still joined hands. He swallowed hard, drained his glass again, put it carefully on the table, then to Ducky's surprise moved his other hand so that he was holding Ducky's hand between both of his. "Duck," he said and stopped.
Ducky just waited, hoping that his face wasn't betraying anything.
"Duck," Jethro repeated. Then he swallowed once more, glanced away for a moment, and then returned his eyes to Ducky. Even before he began to speak, Ducky knew that the time had come. Again he braced himself, certain now that he knew what Jethro was about to ask.
"Duck, I need you to take me to bed."
Ducky felt his mouth fall open, but found he had no words to say. He just sat and stared at his friend in stunned silence. In fact to say he was stunned was the biggest understatement of his entire life.
Jethro sat and watched his friend, concentrating intently, trying to read Ducky's mind, attempting to understand the blue eyes that stared at him, wide and unblinking. But all he read was surprise and shock. He never thought he'd see the day when his dearest friend was lost for words, and he certainly never thought he'd be the cause of such silence. He should say something, but what?
Finally it was Ducky who broke the strained silence. "Why?" he asked, shaking his head. The confusion and, to Jethro's horror, pain was evident in his tone. "Why, Gibbs?" he demanded, when Jethro didn't immediately answer. He pulled, he tried to pull, his hand away, but Jethro held on to it. "What sick game are you playing with me?"
Jethro moved from his chair, dropping to his knees in front of Ducky. He took one hand from Ducky's and gripped his chin instead. "None, Duck. None. I wouldn't. Oh, God, you don't think . . . Do you?" The last two words were a mere whisper.
Ducky sighed and closed his eyes. Then to Jethro's relief, he leaned into Jethro's hand, squeezed the one Jethro held, and brought his other hand up to touch Jethro's shoulder. "No, my dear," he said softly, opening his eyes and looking at Jethro. "I don't. I am sorry, Jethro. You just surprised me, that is all. We had always agreed . . ."
"That we'd never talk about it. I know, Duck. I know. And believe me, I wouldn't be now if it wasn't essential. Oh, Duck. I shouldn't have come here. There has to be another way. Look, I'll go, okay. And maybe we can forget tonight ever happened. Do you think we can, Duck? Do you think you can forgive me?" He stared into Ducky's eyes and moved to stand up.
But Ducky put pressure on his shoulder, pushing him back down. "Why don't you just explain it to me, Jethro?"
"Yes." Ducky's eyes said something else; but Jethro forced himself to listen to his friend's voice. "And do get up off the floor, Jethro. It cannot be very comfortable. Come and sit down here." Ducky touched the seat next to him on the sofa.
Still holding Ducky's hand, afraid if he let go that his friend might vanish into thin air, Jethro moved. "I am sorry, Duck. Please believe me."
"I do, dear. Now just tell me."
"Short version: I have to go undercover as a gay man. I might have to," he broke off and waved his hand. "I need to have some idea what I'm doing. I need to know that if a bloke touches me, I'm not going to run a mile. I thought that . . . But it was stupid of me, cruel. Wrong. I'm sorry, Duck. I really am. Really." Again he gripped Ducky's hand with both of his, intensifying the hold, as well as the way he stared at Ducky. "Look, I'm going. I'm going now. I'll see you at the office tomorrow and . . . Oh, God, Ducky, please, forgive me. Please. I never meant to . . ."
He shook his head, squeezed Ducky's hand one more time, stood up and strode to the door. He was certain he'd just lost the best and most loyal friend he had ever had.
He reached the door and grabbed the handle.
"Jethro." Ducky's voice was low; in fact it barely carried across the room. It was also flat, emotionless; like nothing Jethro had ever heard Ducky use before. But it stopped him.
"Yeah." He didn't turn around. He braced himself to hear Ducky end their friendship. He had, after all, just crossed the line.
"Turn around." Still Ducky's voice contained no inflection. Still Jethro could hear nothing of the man he knew so well.
He hesitated for a moment. He'd rather not be looking at Ducky when he delivered the coup de grâce. But he owed it to Ducky. He owed it to thirty years of friendship; love; affection; devotion; to everything they had been.
Slowly he turned around.
He blinked to see that Ducky was not only standing, but had moved halfway towards him. As he watched, Ducky took another step, then another, then another, until he was close enough to Jethro to have to tip his head back slightly in order to maintain eye contact.
Ducky swallowed and then ran his tongue over his bottom lip. "I have to believe that you only asked me to do this because it is so important. I have to believe that you considered it for a long time; that what you asked me did not come easily to you. No, Jethro, let me finish. I have to believe that. And I do. I trust you, Jethro, and that is what matters most of all. Above all the other feelings I have for you, implicit trust is the one that must be unshakable. And it is. There have been moments when I haven't particularly liked you, when I've been angry with you, when . . . But I've never for one second ceased to trust you. And I still do so now. Even though you have broken a promise we made all those years ago; I trust you. I know you wouldn't have done that lightly." He closed his eyes for a moment and lowered his head.
Jethro stood frozen to the spot, barely even breathing, waiting for Ducky to continue. Instinct, gained over the years, told him not to interrupt.
Ducky raised his head and opened his eyes. "Very well," he said. "I'll do as you ask, Jethro, because I cannot bare to think of what the alternative might be if I do not. But I make two conditions."
"Duck . . . "
Ducky shook his head once, and Jethro lapsed into silence. "One: I'll do as you ask. I'll show you whatever you need to know. I'll teach you about making love to a man. But that is it, Jethro. It never happened. We do not speak of tonight. We do no mention it again. Ever. We go on as if . . . " He broke off. "Well? Do I have your word?"
"Duck." Jethro dared to move his hand and touch Ducky's arm. Ducky didn't move away. "Forget it, okay? It's okay, Duck. I'll manage. I mean, it's not as if I'm not used to a man touching me. You do. I touch you. I hug you. I've touched McGee and DiNozzo. I'll be fine."
"Ah, Jethro. There is rather a large difference between the kind of hug we share and sexual contact. And considerably more between a hair ruffle or head slap or even a pat on the back, and touching someone with the intent to give sexual pleasure. No, my dear. If there is a possibility that you might have to sleep with a man, your cover must be as good as it can be."
"Maybe I could . . ."
"Find someone else? I don't think so, Jethro. No. I will do it. Really." Now Ducky moved another step nearer. "Just give me your word as I asked you to."
"Sure, Duck. I promise. And the second condition?"
Now Ducky glanced away. "That you spend the entire night with me. I don't think I could go through with it if you walked out after we'd . . ."
"Oh, Ducky." Jethro threw caution to the wind and pulled Ducky into his arms. "I'd never do that to you," he said, resting his head on the top of Ducky's.
After a moment or two, Ducky put his own arms around Jethro, thus completing the embrace. He let his head come to rest, as it had done on other occasions, against Jethro's shoulder. "In that case, my dear, we have a deal."
As he held Ducky in his arms, Jethro's thoughts and emotions were ones of conflict. On the one hand he was relieved; on the other, scared that it might, after all, destroy their friendship.
For several moments he just held Ducky in silence, enjoying the moment, taking comfort in the familiarity of having Ducky in his arms. He tried to hold on to the feeling, because he knew that once they did what he'd come to Ducky's house to do, he'd never be able to hold his old friend in quite the same way again. Healso knew, without having to ask, that Ducky would be feeling the same.
Finally, because if he didn't he wasn't sure that Ducky would, Jethro pulled back a little. "So what do we do next, Duck?"
Ducky looked up at him. "I shall go and see if Mother is settled for the evening and then . . . And then we go upstairs." He stared at Jethro for another moment, before letting his arms fall away and beginning to turn.
"Duck." Jethro caught his arm.
"Are you sure? Really sure?"
Ducky looked at him, studying for a moment. Then he nodded once. "Yes." His tone spoke of finality.
Half an hour later they were in Ducky's bedroom.
It wasn't the first time Jethro had been there, but suddenly it all looked and felt completely new to him. He felt ill at ease for the first time ever in his oldest friend's company, and if he could read Ducky, and he normally could, his friend was feeling the same. "So," he said, more loudly than he'd intended.
To his surprise Ducky smiled. "So," he repeated. Then he moved nearer to Jethro and put his hand on his arm. "Kiss me," he said softly.
Jethro blinked. "Huh?" Oh, bright, Jethro, bright.
But Ducky chuckled. "I said kiss me." He slid his arms around Jethro's neck, not pulling him nearer, not moving any closer to Jethro himself, but nonetheless making the intimacy of the new embrace obvious.
"Do gay men kiss?" Jethro found himself asking, and cursed silently.
Again Ducky smiled. "I do," he said simply, as he tilted his head back further and offered Jethro his mouth.
After a split second's hesitancy, Jethro lowered his own head and let his lips find Ducky's.
He wasn't entirely certain what he'd been expecting, but whatever it was, it was nothing like his expectations. Ducky's mouth was soft and pliant, but firm and assured; it wasn't tainted with lipstick or worse lip-gloss, it was natural. And what was equally natural was the fact that he was kissing Ducky. Ducky's scent was familiar, he'd lived with it for thirty years, and comforting; it made him feel secure. So when Ducky parted his lips slightly and invited Jethro into his mouth, his taste was how Jethro knew it would be. Ducky's mouth was warm and moist, both familiar and new, and it offered Jethro whatever it was he wished to take.
Finally, he had to admit that he did after all need to breathe, and, with more reluctance than he'd ever felt before, he broke the kiss. "Duck?" he said in wonder, after he'd inhaled some much needed air. "Oh, Duck," and he lowered his head and once again found Ducky's mouth.
For over ten minutes they simply stood there, embracing and kissing. Jethro knew that Ducky was aiming to put him at his ease, and he'd done that. But now Jethro wanted more; needed more. "Duck?" he said, when the kiss again ended.
Ducky looked up at him, and Jethro saw nothing but love and contentment on the now slightly flushed face. Slowly Ducky moved one hand, letting it slide down Jethro's body, touching his chest, his stomach and finally coming to rest over Jethro's groin. His touch was light but made with surety, and Jethro felt his arousal press against Ducky's fingers. He didn't hide the moan of pleasure that the touch caused.
Ducky smiled. "Touch me," he said softly. "That's it." He nodded in approval as Jethro mirrored the gesture Ducky himself had made. For a second Jethro paused at Ducky's waist, but Ducky just locked his gaze on him and began to speak, his voice almost hypnotic, lulling Jethro into security. "There's nothing you haven't got, my dear. You touch yourself; there are no surprises. That's it, Jethro. That's . . . Oooh."
Jethro could have sworn that Ducky had not intended to make such a clear expression of his pleasure. "Let me undress you, Duck," he murmured, moving his hand again, stroking Ducky along his growing arousal. "Please, I want to see you. I want to touch you properly. Let me, Duck."
Ducky nodded as he gazed into Jethro's eyes; the blue gaze confirmed how aroused Ducky was, as well as how deeply in love with him Ducky was. He lowered his head and again kissed Ducky, before beginning to undress his friend.
He took his time, letting his fingertips caress each part of Ducky's body as it was revealed to him. It wouldn't be the first time he'd seen Ducky naked, but as the clothing dropped to the floor, it was as if he were seeing Ducky's body, seeing Ducky, for the first time.
When all that Ducky had left was his shorts, Jethro bent his head again and kissed Ducky's throat, licking into the hollow, while letting his hand flirt with Ducky's back. Ducky put his head back, giving him more access to his neck; again he moaned his desire as his ever growing arousal pressed against Jethro's thigh.
Stopping just short of actually marking Ducky, Jethro lifted his head, brushed his lips over Ducky's, took a breath, and then slid Ducky's shorts down his thighs. The erection, freed from its confines brushed his hand, and his fingers automatically closed around it.
Ducky swayed slightly and Jethro released his hold to support him. "Bed, please, dearest," Ducky murmured.
Jethro nodded, guided Ducky down to the bed and began to strip off his own clothes; no doubt his own erection would also be pleased to be freed.
Naked now he turned around to face Ducky who still sat on the bed, quietly but intently watching him. He took Jethro's hand and tugged him down, until they were seated side by side, then he kissed Jethro again, while letting one hand wander over Jethro's thigh before his fingertips touched Jethro's naked erection. This time is was Jethro who moaned aloud.
Ducky smiled as he moved back a little; then slowly, his eyes never leaving Jethro's own, slid into bed. Jethro followed him, and took Ducky, a naked Ducky into his arms; the gesture seemed as natural as breathing; as old as their friendship.
He had thought that being in bed with a man, even if that man was Ducky, would cause him to be awkward, hesitant, to not know what to do. However, to his surprise, and yet not, he found himself caressing Ducky, stroking his body, kissing his face, neck and chest, moving against him and with him, as though they'd been doing it for years.
In turn Ducky caressed and touched him, seeming to know exactly what pressure to apply, exactly where and how to put his hands, seeming to know precisely all of Jethro's pleasure zones. As he ran his fingers along Jethro's spine, Jethro groaned and threw back his head and pushed his lower body down, meeting Ducky's, as naked, heated erections brushed against one another. Instinctively Jethro pushed down again, "Duck," he moaned, wanting more, wanting to touch, to hold, needing now to bring Ducky total pleasure.
He moved off Ducky and settled down on the bed next to him, looked deeply into the now almost black gaze, moved his hand down, cupped Ducky's erection and began to move his hand. "How?" he asked.
"A little slower, my dear, and not quite as tight. That's it. Oh, Jethro."
"You like that?"
"Mmmm," was Ducky's answer.
Jethro kissed him and continued to touch him; his strokes became more assured as he concentrated on one thing: bringing Ducky to the completion he knew his friend wanted and needed.
Suddenly Ducky put his own hand over Jethro's and said, his tone one of clear warning, "Jethro."
But Jethro had known anyway. How he'd known, he knew not, but he had. He kissed Ducky's lips again, hoping to reassure him, and quickened his strokes marginally. Seconds later, with an intake of breath and murmuring 'Jethro', Ducky reached his completion. Jethro stilled his hand and smiled at Ducky.
After a moment or two he began to move his hand away, but Ducky spoke, "Please."
"Please hold me for a little longer, my dear. If you don't mind, that is," he hastened to add.
Jethro most certainly did not mind.
"Was that okay?" he asked several minutes later.
Ducky smiled and nodded. "Oh, yes, dearest, and far more than merely okay. Now," he broke off, and for a second looked troubled.
"It is just that if you wish to have penetrative sex with me now, then you will have to be very careful. It has been some time since I . . ." Ducky trailed off.
Jethro blinked and then looked down into the eyes that held his unblinkingly. He shook his head once, lowered his head, kissed Ducky's nose and said softly, "Just touch me, Duck. Make love to me like that."
Like his kisses earlier, Ducky's touch showed knowledge and experience; it also showed love and affection; it was tender and sweet. He held Jethro in a sure, firm grip, moving his hand and fingers in just the way Jethro liked, touching him with the kind of surety that no woman had ever done.
It didn't take long; making love to Ducky had pushed Jethro closer to the edge than he'd realized, and it was mere moments before he felt his climax gather in his body. Like Ducky had done, he spoke his lover's name, not once, not twice, but over and over again. Ducky brought him to the ultimate pleasure, took him to new heights and showed him things he'd never imagined possible. Somehow he found the co-ordination to tug Ducky's head down, and as he found Ducky's mouth with his own, he completed the circle they had formed. Not a part of them was unjoined, untouched.
It wasn't the only time they made love that night, and the second time was even sweeter, even deeper and more moving than the first. And with each kiss, each touch, each caress, Jethro's confidence to love Ducky, to make love to him, to show him how he felt, grew. He had been right to go to Ducky; his fears were allayed. It would be all right. Things would be all right. They would be all right.
With Ducky in his arms, Jethro snuggled down into the bed and felt himself begin to drift off to sleep.
Moments later, as Morpheus enticed him even nearer, Jethro felt dampness on his shoulder. Forcing his hand to move, he touched Ducky's cheek and felt tears. He tugged Ducky a little closer and murmured, "Don't cry, Duck. I'm here. I'm here," he patted Ducky's arm and kissed Ducky's head.
As Morpheus gripped him he heard Ducky say softly, "I know. That's why I'm crying." He knew that Ducky had not intended for him to hear the words.
FOUR MONTHS LATER
"Jethro." Ducky was surprised to see Jethro on his doorstep. It was the first time since the evening they weren't talking about, that he had seen his old friend outside of the office. For the first time ever, Ducky didn't know whether he was pleased or not to see Jethro.
"Hey, Duck." Jethro stood on the porch, his hands in his pockets, his shoulders hunched, not meeting Ducky's eyes. Jethro seemed as unsure, as uneasy as Ducky felt. Then, as if they had been pulled by a string, Jethro raised his head and shoulders and met Ducky's eyes. "Can I come in, Duck?" It was asked as a question, but the sudden change to Jethro's body language and look, spoke of a surety that bypassed the need for asking.
Even so, Ducky hesitated for a moment. Then he shook himself; he was being ridiculous, "Of course, Jethro," he said, and moved away from the door to allow Jethro to enter.
Jethro brushed past him; Ducky was sure that the touch was deliberate. It made him want to . . . He pushed that thought from his mind.
He shut and locked the front door, and then followed Jethro into the sitting room. He was surprised to see that his friend was standing in the middle of the room and that he hadn't helped himself to a drink.
"Let me get you a drink, Jethro."
"In a minute. There's something I have to say to you, Duck."
Ducky froze on his way across the room. There was something in Jethro's tone that had tweaked his 'alert' button. For a moment the thing that he'd been dreading from the night four months ago raced into his mind.
He turned around. "Jethro -"
But Jethro started talking. "Duck. I'm about to break my promise to you - again. But I hope that you'll forgive me. I have to, Ducky. I have to. It's driving me mad."
"Since that night I spent in your bed, I haven't been able to . . . other than on the case. Not at all, Ducky." Jethro began to pace around the room, still speaking, not given Ducky a chance to say anything. "After the case, which was fine, as you know. I did have to go to bed with him, nothing heavy, just . . . But I couldn't have done it without you. I know that." Ducky had known the bare basics about the successful outcome of the case, but hadn't been able to ask for details - he couldn't. "So thank you. I don't know if I ever said that, Duck. But thanks."
"So the night after that night undercover, I took this girl out. You know what, Duck? She was a blonde. Me, take a blonde out."
"Well it was pointless. We went back to her place and -"
"Jethro, please -" Ducky tried desperately to interrupt his friend.
But Jethro went on, as if he hadn't heard Ducky's attempts. "Put simply, Duck. I couldn't. I couldn't."
Against his conscious choice, the instinct to reassure his friend kicked in. "Jethro my dear, that kind of thing happens to everyone from time to time. I'm sure there is no need for you to -"
Jethro shook his head. "Never happened to me before, Duck. Not once. Even when I've been too pissed to stand up properly, I've never not been able to. So I did something else I'd never done before. I -"
"Jethro, do let me pour you a drink." Ducky moved swiftly, ignoring the shooting pain in his leg, to the drinks' cabinet. He hastily poured two very large measures of whiskey into two glasses, ignoring the fact that some sloshed over the side, grabbed both, re-crossed the room and pushed one into Jethro's hand. "Here."
Jethro glanced down at the glass, as if he didn't know how it got there. "Huh? Oh, thanks, Duck," he said. "I thought of you. God, I've never done that, Duck. Never. You don't go to bed with one person and think of someone else. I may be a bastard, but there are some things even I don't do. But I did. And you what?"
No, and I don't want to know. Please, Jethro, shut up. Ducky opened his mouth to say something, but again Jethro pressed on. Not only did he seem not to hear Ducky, but he seemed not to know Ducky was even there, except for the fact that he kept addressing him.
"It worked. Well, for just long enough until I touched her that is. And then . . . My mind might have fooled my body, but my hand couldn't, I -"
"Jethro!" Ducky raised his voice and all but shouted his friend's name.
"Huh? Oh, sorry, Duck. Whiskey's fine, thanks. I left her then. Can't remember what I told her, but I had to get away. So then I told myself that it was just too soon after going to bed with that guy. I should have waited. So I did. I waited another week. Took another girl out - another blonde. Same thing. I couldn't. Twice, Duck. Twice."
"Jethro," Ducky sank down onto the sofa and ran his hand over his head. He was exhausted.
"Yeah, Duck? What?" Jethro looked down at Ducky, waiting expectantly for Ducky to speak.
Now that his friend had finally stopped speaking, Ducky found that he didn't know what to say. He just stared up at Jethro and shook his head.
Jethro frowned, then smiled, patted Ducky's shoulder, turned and strode away; and he carried on speaking. "Tried it with two more women, redheads this time. Told myself, they'd work. They didn't. Still couldn't. By then -"
Ducky had a thought. "Maybe you aren't well, Jethro. Maybe you have an infection or bug or something." Then a thought hit him, so hard it made him shake. He stood up quickly, far too quickly, ignored the screaming pain from his leg and the fact he nearly fell back down again, and moved to where Jethro had once again paced.
He caught Jethro's arm, suddenly realizing that it was the first touch he had initiated since that night. "Oh, my dear," he said, trying to keep the dread and fear out of his voice. "You did . . . " He swallowed and tried again. "You were careful, weren't you? When you went to bed with that man? You did . . . ?"
"What? Oh, yeah, Duck. Don't worry. Never got that far anyway. It's all right." Jethro patted Ducky's arm and smiled reassuringly at him.
Thank God for that. Ducky closed his eyes and offered up the silent prayer.
Again Jethro raced on. "Anyway, it's not that kind of problem. I can do myself quite easily." He beamed at Ducky.
"Oh, good," Ducky found himself saying, suddenly realizing that he'd found out more about his oldest friend's sex life in less than ten minutes, than he'd previously discovered in thirty years.
"It's just with women I can't. So I decided that maybe I should try a man." Again Jethro whirled on his heel, and began to pace around the room.
"Mmm, thought that maybe I'd been gay or bi or something all my life, and only just found out. That can happen, can't it, Duck?" He came to a stop and looked at Ducky.
"Um. Well, yes, there have been people who have woken up to, or admitted, their true sexuality later in life, Jethro. But -"
"Thought so. So I went to that gay bar in DC." He began to walk again.
"You went to a gay bar?"
"Yeah. It's nice. You ever been there?" Jethro however didn't wait for Ducky to answer. "Sat on my own for a while. Then this guy came over. He was older than a lot of the men there, a few years older than me. We talked. I want home with him."
"Jethro, please." The women had been bad enough; Ducky really couldn't face hearing about Jethro and another man.
But again Jethro pressed on. For a fleeting second Ducky entertained the idea of grabbing Jethro's gun and threatening him with it until he stopped speaking. But the idea was ludicrous, even if he could get the gun, he'd never point it at his dearest friend. Never. "We talked some more, he was nice enough. I felt at ease; even found myself . . . which was interesting. Then he suggested that we went to bed."
"Jethro!" Ducky tried again.
"I was about to say yes, when he added, 'or you could just go and tell him how you feel'. I sat looking at him, didn't know what to say. So he talked, said it was clear to him that there was something else, someone I . . . So why didn't I do something about it, rather than mess around trying to find a substitute. So I am. That's why I'm here."
Jethro put his glass, which he hadn't touched, down onto the coffee table, and moved across the room to where Ducky stood. He snagged Ducky's glass from his hand, put it down on the arm of a chair and took Ducky's hands in his own. "Ducky, I can't stop thinking about you. I've realized that I love you. I'm in love with you. I want to go to bed with you again. I want to kiss you. To touch you. To make love to and with you. To . . . I want you. Duck, I need you. Ducky? Ducky? Say something, Duck, please."
But Ducky just stood and stared up at his friend, utterly lost for words.
Finally he managed, "Jethro . . . I'm sorry, my dear, but I don't believe I know what to say." He pulled his hands from Jethro's grip and moved away from his friend.
He couldn't stand being so close to the man he'd loved for thirty years; the man he yearned for; the man he wanted beyond any level of passion he'd ever known; the man who haunted all of his dreams and waking moments. He couldn't stand there, letting Jethro's unique scent wrap itself around him, reassure him, make him feel safe, whole. Couldn't look into the dark blue eyes that always looked at him with affection. Couldn't bear to be near the 'link' they seemed to share. Couldn't . . . He couldn't.
"Duck, please." He felt Jethro's hands on his shoulders.
Again he moved away. "Don't, Jethro, please."
There was silence, but it wasn't comforting or comfortable.
Then Jethro spoke again, his voice low, but desperate. "Duck, please, say something. Tell me that I haven't just made an utter fool of myself. Tell me something. Anything. Please."
The pleading touched Ducky. He turned around, composing himself, or attempting to. "Oh, Jethro," he said simply. "Oh, my dear, dear Jethro. I . . . Sit down."
"Please. I need to do so, and I cannot bear it if you are hovering over me, or pacing around the room. Sit down, please." He waited for a moment until Jethro moved slowly to do as he said. Then Ducky took a step forward; he couldn't prevent himself from gasping and reaching out for . . .
The next second Jethro had his arm around him, and was holding Ducky's arm and guiding him to the sofa. It was the most natural thing to take place in the Mallard house that evening.
"Thank you," he managed, once Jethro had helped him sit down and fetched him his drink. He took a deep swallow, then looked up at his friend, holding the dark gaze, until Jethro turned and moved towards an armchair and finally sat down.
Ducky watched his dearest friend perch on the edge of the chair, and his heart went out to him. Jethro looked uncomfortable, worried, forlorn almost - very un-Leroy Jethro Gibbs like. Every instinct in Ducky screamed at him to go to his friend, to comfort him, to 'heal' him, to make everything right. But for once in their thirty year friendship, he forced himself to put his own needs before Jethro's.
"My dear Jethro," he began, falling back on normality; his voice was soft, his tone gentle, as he attempted to put his skittish friend at ease. "I do not quite know what you expected from me after you made your pronouncement. I don't know if you expected me to simply fall into your arms and . . ." He broke off as the dark gaze skittered away, and a faint flush touched Jethro's cheeks.
"No, dearest. You had your say, please allow me the same courtesy." He ignored the fact that he had tried, several times, to interrupt his friend; he rather suspected that Jethro hadn't heard his pleas anyway.
"Sorry." Jethro reached for his drink and sipped it.
"Jethro. I love you. I've loved you for almost the entire time we've known one another, and that love is, as you know, as a lover would love, as well as as a friend. I also desire you, and have done from the second we met. My longing for you, has not faded over the years; if anything it has grown more intense. I believe it is safe to say that I am more attracted to you now than I was thirty years ago. When I said that it had been some time since I had experienced penetrative sex, I confess that I was being more than a little generous with my choice of words. It has not been merely some time, it has been a considerable time. Indeed, as we seem to be being honest, I have not actually slept with anyone for many, many years now. And don't look so horrified, my dear, or shocked. I never have been a man who has wanted or needed sex purely for the physical release; that is easy, as you yourself said, one can achieve that by oneself. For me, sex always has been about love, or at least fondness. The deeper in love I fell with you, the more impossible it was for me to seek out another sexual partner."
Jethro just stared at him, his mouth slightly open. He blinked, opened his mouth as if to speak, shook his head and closed it again.
Ducky smiled. "I seem to have rendered you incapable of speech for once. And, please, my dear, before you start to let your mind wander off on a guilt trip, don't. I made a conscious choice, and believe me when I say that I have been perfectly content and happy with my decision. You fulfilled all of my wants and needs, expect one, and that's merely a transitory, passing, physical thing, that anyone can achieve. I've always known how much you've cared about me, you've never hidden that; you've even given me physical affection, and have never been troubled about doing so. And I have always known that, as much as my homosexuality didn't bother you, that I would never have your love, or you, in that way. And I accepted that, my dear. I accepted it thirty years ago. Indeed, had I not done so, I doubt very much if I would have been able to remain around you day in, day out, wanting, needing, hoping, dreaming. Of course, part of me has done those things, one cannot control one's sub-conscious, but consciously I have always known that your love for me would be a fraternal, friendship level of love." Ducky noticed that Jethro had emptied his glass. "Oh, do allow me to refill that for you."
Jethro shook his head. "You stay there; I'll get the bottle." He rose quickly, crossed the room and returned with the bottle of whiskey in his hand. He nodded towards Ducky's glass and raised one eyebrow in enquiry.
"Thank you, my dear. I should indeed like a top-up." Ducky smiled up at Jethro who, after a second or two, returned the gesture.
He sat back down after splashing generous measures into both glasses. "Duck -"
"Please, my dear. I have almost finished." Ducky smiled again to soften his words. Jethro subsided into silence. "As I said I had got used to the fact that I knew I would never have you in the way I truly wished to, and believe me, dearest, I was happy with that knowledge. Really, I was. When you came to me four months ago and asked me to take you to bed, I confess that I came very close to refusing you. In the end, the only reason I agreed, was because I feared what might happen if I did not. You would either have to go to someone else, a prostitute maybe, or go in cold. Either way you could end up getting badly hurt, or worse; I could not allow either thing to happen. So I said yes. I knew that I would pay a price for that night. However," Ducky broke off, as he heard his voice start to tremble slightly."
"Duck." Jethro moved from his chair and dropped down to his knees by Ducky, took his hand and squeezed it gently but firmly.
Duck allowed the touch. After a moment or two he was able to go on. "However, even I had no idea just how much that one night would cost me. I . . . Oh, Jethro my dear, dear Jethro. I . . ." He couldn't find the words; not even in his vast vocabulary. So again he subsided into silence, hoping that his friend wouldn't, for the moment at least, speak.
The telepathy they had developed over the years came into play, as Jethro said nothing. He simply remained on his knees, holding Ducky's hand. Ducky let his head fall back against the sofa cushion, closed his eyes and forced himself to regain his composure.
When he opened his eyes again, Jethro was still on the floor, still holding his hand, and was simply watching him, concern, pain, self-loathing and fear present in the steady gaze. Ducky sat up straighter, reached forward and, for a moment, let his hand rest on Jethro's cheek. Then he dropped the hand to cover Jethro's own hand.
He began to speak, his voice quieter, his tone tired, but determined. "I cannot do it again, my dear. Not unless I am certain. It cost me far too much, Jethro, far, far more than I could ever have imagined."
"Certain of what, Duck?" Jethro said slowly. "Because, I know how I feel. I know -"
Ducky shook his head, cutting Jethro off. "I don't disbelieve you for a moment, my dear. Really, I don't. I told you that I trust you, and I do. I believe that at this moment you do love and want me, and I believe that you believe that will last forever. But -"
"You're not sure if you can believe that bit. And you need to be sure. And how can you be given my history?" Jethro sounded bitter, but Ducky knew it was not directed at him. "Oh, Duck, what can I say? Tell me what I can say or do to convince you?"
Ducky smiled again and said, his tone rueful, "My dearest Jethro, if I could do that thing, I would. But I don't know. I simply don't know. And that is absurd to say that least."
But Jethro shook his head and squeezed the hand he still held. With his other hand he cupped Ducky's face. Ducky found himself leaning into the touch, having to fight his need to moan with pleasure. "No, Duck. You know, it's not. It's not at all. For what it's worth, I understand. I wish I could say the right thing. I wish I could find the words to reassure you, but . . . I love you, Ducky. I do. I do want you. And I do need you, and that's something I've never said before. Something I've never even expected to say. But it's words; all bar the need, it's things I've said before. Damnit, things you've heard me say. I'm no orator and never will be. If I thought it would help, I'd take you into my arms and kiss you; I'd show you that way how much you mean to me. But it won't help. I know that. So . . ." He stopped speaking and swallowed hard. He closed his eyes for a moment, then reopened them, gazed at Ducky with totally unshielded eyes, raised Ducky's hand to his lips, kissed it, and then stood up.
"I'm going, Duck. I'm going home now. We'll go to the office tomorrow and go on as if this never happened, because after all, nothing really did happen, did it? Not in any true sense. I'm going home and . . . Well, if you ever, be it next week, next month, next year, whenever, decide what I can do or say, then come to me, and I'll do it and say it. Until then . . . " He trailed off. Then looked at Ducky, and said quietly, "I'll see you, Duck. I do love you." He spoke the last few words so quietly, that Ducky barely heard them. He did however, hear, how broken Jethro's tone had become, but how hard his friend was trying to keep it from showing.
Then, before Ducky could speak or move, Jethro whirled around, coat flying out and strode out of the room.
Seconds later, Ducky heard the front door click shut. It was then he let a tear fall from each eye.
Jethro slammed his front door behind him and went into his sitting room, poured himself a large drink, well it was Sunday tomorrow, and sank down into an armchair. "Oh, Duck," he murmured, tossing back half the drink. "What have I done?"
He leaned back against the chair and looked up at the ceiling. If he was being completely honest, given that he'd known for the entire length of their friendship how Ducky felt about him, he had been expecting Ducky, if not quite to fall into his arms, then at least to be pleased.
However, if he was also being completely honest, Ducky's response made perfect sense. He could understand why Ducky wasn't prepared to open himself up to the kind of hurt he'd feel, if Jethro loved him and left him. "But I wouldn't Duck. I know I wouldn't."
You thought that at least three other times.
Yeah, but, that was different.
Because they weren't Ducky.
He downed the other half of his glass, snagged the bottle and poured himself another drink. What the hell? If he got a hangover, he got a hangover - he might as well at least enjoy it.
Two hours later the sound of a car pulling up outside his house woke him up. And not only a car, but Ducky's car; or at least Jethro didn't know anyone else who drove a car with a transmission gearbox.
Tossing back the remains of his whiskey, he needed something to take the dryness out of his mouth, he stood up and strode towards the front door. He pulled it open just as Ducky was about to raise his hand to ring the bell. That was his Ducky, other people walked in, Ducky always rang the bell.
"Hey, Duck," he said, looking down at his friend.
"Good evening again, my dear." Ducky looked up at him, tipping his head back far enough to allow him to see from under the brim of his hat. As always when he did that, the hat tumbled off his head; also as always Jethro caught it.
"Is everything okay, Duck?" he asked, holding the hat in his hand. "Nothings happened, has it? Is your mom all right?" It was the only reason he could think of for why Ducky would turn up on his doorstep, about three hours after Jethro had walked out of Ducky's home.
"Everything is fine, thank you, my dear. Well, are we going to stand here all evening, or may I come in?"
Jethro blinked. "Er, sure, Duck." He took a step backwards.
"Thank you. Now if you'll be so kind to take this, please." Ducky handed Jethro a small bag; a bag that looked remarkably like an overnight bag.
So surprised by what was being held out to him, Jethro just took it. He then simply stood there, Ducky's hat in one hand, his bag in the other, looking at his friend who was calming removing his overcoat and locking and bolting the front door.
"That's better. Now shall we go through to your sitting room, dear? Or would you like to go straight to bed?" He beamed up at Jethro.
"Duck," Jethro managed, after several moments of confused silence.
"Am I awake?"
"I think so. I certainly hope so."
"Yes, my dear. If you like, I can pinch you."
"Yeah, that'd be good. Thanks. Ouch. Okay, so I am awake."
Ducky smiled, patted Jethro's arm, then slipped his arm through it, and began to move. "I think perhaps the sitting room first. Come along, Jethro."
Still certain that he must be dreaming, or had fallen down the rabbit hole, Jethro let himself be led into his own sitting room.
Once there, Ducky picked up the bottle of whiskey Jethro had been drinking, looked up at Jethro and frowned. "Have you drunk all of this tonight?"
Jethro shook his head. "No, Duck. Christ, I'd be unconscious. I just had a couple."
"Oh, well, you did say that alcohol never caused you a problem, didn't you? We can put that to the test."
Jethro shook his head, trying to clear it. Maybe it was all an alcohol induced vision; maybe he'd drunk more than he thought. "Er, Duck," he said. "Why are you here?"
Ducky frowned slightly. "Do you not wish me to be here, Jethro?"
"Course I do, it's just that . . . " He trailed off and sat down. "Duck. I left you less than three hours ago. I . . . "
"Yes, I know, dearest. Forgive me, for making you wait so long; I had to arrange for Mrs. Patterson to come and look after Mother. However, her car had broken down, which necessitated me taking Mother and the Corgis to stay with Mrs. Patterson. And getting Mother -"
"Yes, dear?" Ducky blinked at him.
"I need a drink." He reached for the bottle.
"Are you sure, dear? I don't want to -"
"Yes!" Jethro's tone was firm. He poured himself another shot of whiskey. "Now," he said, after swallowing half of it and automatically handing the glass across to Ducky; it seemed simpler than getting up and fetching another glass. "Ducky, would you just tell me why you're here, please? In plain English," he added.
Ducky smiled at him. Then under Jethro's gaze, he turned the glass around until he found the exact place Jethro had been drinking from and drank himself.
Jethro forced himself not to moan aloud in pleasure at the intimate, erotic gesture. It was made all the more intimate and erotic by the way Ducky was looking at him over the rim of the glass. "Duck!" he found himself snapping.
Ducky looked suitably chastised. "I am sorry, dearest," he said, leaning across the small gap that separated them and putting his hand on Jethro's knee. "I am a little afraid, I think, that you might have changed your mind, since I so foolishly rejected you and let you walk out of my home. Trying to keep things light seemed a good idea. However, I am aware that I am annoying you, so I shall cease to do so."
Jethro covered Ducky's hand with his own. "No, Duck," he said softly but firmly. "You aren't annoying me. Confusing me, but not annoying me. Hang on," he said, as Ducky's words finally impinged on his tired brain. "Changed my mind? You mean . . . Duck?" he whispered.
Ducky sighed softly. "Oh, my dear Jethro. I behaved like a fool. Like a child. Like a virgin bride. Like -"
"Duck." This time Jethro almost pleaded.
"I am sorry, dearest. I realized as soon as you had left how foolish I'd been. There are no guarantees in this life, well there are, but very few. The only ones of which I can think are that the sun will rise each morning, and that everyone will die. But other than that . . . Jethro, I could die tomorrow, so why would I pass up the chance of getting what I have always wanted? You. So if you still want me, I am yours. If that is for tonight, for a week, a month, a year a -"
Jethro shook his head and put his fingers on Ducky's lips. "Try forever, Duck. And you're wrong about one thing."
"There's something else that's a certainty. You loving and trusting me unconditionally."
"Oh, Jethro," Ducky's eyes became misty, and he smiled with pure affection at Jethro.
Jethro moved from his chair, tugged Ducky to his feet, pulled him into his arms, cupped Ducky's face between his hands and kissed him.
"I see that you were correct about one thing, dearest," Ducky said, when the kiss ended.
"What's that, Duck?"
"That alcohol does not cause a problem for you."
Jethro smiled. "Right about something else too." He stroked Ducky's face.
"That ‘my problem' would vanish as soon as I had you in my arms again."
"Oh, Jethro." Ducky offered his mouth for another kiss.
SEVERAL HOURS LATER
"Tell me, my dear, if you don't mind, what would you have done had I not come to my senses?"
Jethro looked down into the soft blue and black eyes of his lover that looked at him with utter devotion. "You said it yourself, Duck," he stroked Ducky's nose. "Sex without love is pointless." He lowered his head, and kissed his lover once again.
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