BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU WISH FOR
For the first time in their three decade friendship, there is serious conflict between the two old friends. So serious, that unless Gibbs can find a way to put things right, the friendship could not survive. As he tries to undo the wrong he caused, Gibbs discovers there is something that he has long wanted, even though he wasn't consciously aware of it, until now.
A first time story.
Written: August 2006. Word count: 5,245.
Was it Jethro's imagination, or did Ducky sound slightly strange? He told himself it was just his imagination. "Hey, Duck." He smiled down at his friend. After a split second, Ducky smiled back.
For a moment there was silence.
The back of Jethro's neck began to twitch. And his 'Ducky sense' began to hint that something wasn't quite right. Then he realized what it was: Ducky hadn't invited him in. More to the point, Ducky hadn't simply moved away from the door and let Jethro enter. They'd long since got past the 'do come in stage'.
"Er. Can I come in, Duck?" Jethro finally asked.
For a moment an odd look, or what seemed like an odd look, flashed across Ducky's face, but maybe it was just the light. "I am sorry, my dear, of course you may. Please, come in. I was just a little surprised to see you, that is all. I thought . . . But it doesn't matter." Ducky moved back from the door and let Jethro go into the house.
Tossing his coat over the banister, and dropping his car keys onto the hall table, Jethro began to move towards the sitting room.
"Jethro," Ducky called.
"Yeah, Duck?" Jethro answered, continuing to walk towards the room.
"Oh." Jethro came to a dead stop as he went into the room.
On the far side, next to the window, another man stood. His jacket was tossed over the arm of the sofa, and he had a glass in his hand containing amber liquid. He looked at Jethro for a moment or two. Then he moved across the room, held out his hand and said, "Hello, I'm Andrew Benson, you must be Jethro."
For a second Jethro just stood there and stared at the man. Then he took the proffered hand, shook it for a scant second, and let it fall.
Ducky came up to them and touched Jethro lightly on the arm. "Let me pour you a drink, Jethro." He began to move towards the drinks' cabinet.
"Don't bother, Duck. I can't stay. I -"
"You can stay and have a drink, Jethro."
Jethro wondered who was the more surprised by the flint in Ducky's tone, as well as the clear order - for that is what it was - Jethro, Benson, or Ducky himself.
However, he gave nothing away, at least nothing that Benson would have seen. "A quick one then," he said, his tone grudging.
Ducky met his gaze and held it for a second or two. There was none of the usual softness, which Ducky's eyes always contained when he looked at Jethro, in the now frozen grey stare. Then he turned and limped away, away from Jethro, across the room.
Jethro felt like a bastard. He wanted to go after Ducky, to touch him, to say something, anything. But Benson's presence stopped him.
Ducky returned with a glass and held it out for Jethro to take. Blinking at the unusually large amount in the glass, he took it from his friend. To his surprise, Ducky made sure that his fingers did not brush against Jethro's own.
The silence was heavy; oppressive; threatening; dark; nauseating; and the tension flared around the room.
Jethro could think of nothing to say.
Or rather he could, but nothing he wished to say in front of Benson.
Or rather nothing that he wouldn't regret as soon as he'd said it.
He took a long swallow of the liquid; it was good. But then Ducky's whiskey always was.
Still the silence prevailed.
He glanced at Ducky, who was now watching him. The ice in Ducky's eyes had begun to thaw, but as he read the sadness and hurt that had replaced it, Jethro wished it would return. An angry Ducky he could cope with, even when the anger was directed at him; a hurt Ducky was something he hated. Especially when he'd caused the hurt.
He mentally shook himself; it wasn't his fault. He hadn't said or done anything. You always were good at lying to yourself. He ignored the voice.
Finally Benson, who seemed the least affected by the tense silence, and who had been watching, without appearing to, Jethro and Ducky, began to speak. "Well, I -"
"Donald." The voice of Mrs. Mallard carried into the room.
For a second Ducky hesitated, glanced at Jethro, then at Benson, before he turned and moved towards the door. "Coming, Mother," he called, as he limped from the room. It was clear to Jethro, as clear as if he'd spoken aloud, that the last thing Ducky wanted to do was to go and leave the other two men alone.
For a moment Jethro considered going with him. Mrs. Mallard liked him, a great deal, and he was equally fond of the elderly woman. He might be able to help Ducky, but then he realized that he'd left it too late. To walk out now would be an insult beyond those he'd delivered thus far.
Again the silence stretched between them.
Suddenly, somewhat absurdly, feeling as though he was the host, Jethro forced himself to say something. "How long have you know Ducky for?"
"About twelve years on and off." Benson sipped his drink; he seemed to be appraising Jethro.
"Ducky's never mentioned you."
Benson shrugged. "Why would he?"
"But he's told you about me?"
"Let's say that your name tends to come up, several times, each time I see Ducky, or speak to him on the phone. Oh, don't worry, Special Agent Gibbs, nothing even remotely confidential. He hasn't given away any state secrets."
"I'd never have thought otherwise." Jethro snapped, as he glared at the other man.
"I'm glad," Benson said, and smiled faintly.
Jethro had had enough. He was damned if he was going to stand there any longer and make polite conversation with Ducky's . . . Whatever the man was. Tossing the remaining three-quarters of the whiskey back, he fought to stop himself from choking, as he swallowed too much, too quickly, and put the glass down on the coffee table.
"May I refill that for you?" Benson enquired, politely.
Seething, Jethro forced himself not to snap at the man. "No, thanks. As I told Ducky, I can't stay." As he heard the faint sound of the door to Mrs. Mallard's room being closed, he strode quickly across the sitting room; he was determined to get out into the hall before Ducky came back in.
"Nice to have finally met you, Jethro," Benson said quietly. "Have a good evening."
His hand on the door handle, Jethro just made a noise, before pulling the door open and going out in the hall.
"Jethro?" Ducky, about to re-enter the room, came to a stop and looked up at him.
"Got to go, Duck." Jethro tried to avoid looking down at his friend.
"I see." Ducky's tone became flat. "Very well. Allow me to see you out." Before Jethro could say anything, Ducky had turned and was moving towards the front door.
Pausing long enough to grab his coat from where he'd thrown it over the banister, and his keys from the hall table, Jethro followed him. Opening his mouth to say goodnight, Jethro found himself growling, "Why the hell didn't you tell me, Ducky?"
Ducky blinked. "Tell you what, Jethro?" he frowned.
"That you'd . . . Fuck it, Ducky. Knowing you're gay is one thing, seeing it's something else. Don't ever do that to me again."
Ducky took a step back from him and then looked up at him. As Jethro watched, a range of conflicting emotions passed across the pale face. Silently he cursed himself, what was he doing? What was he saying? He put his hand out to touch Ducky's shoulder; to his horror Ducky pulled back from him.
"Duck . . ." He started to say, trailing off as he realized that beyond his oldest friend's name, he couldn't think of anything to say. Or at least not anything that wouldn't damage their friendship. If you haven't done that all ready, said the voice. It's not my fault. He argued. "Duck," he said again.
But Ducky just shook his head and said, his voice soft and flat, "I'm sorry, Jethro." The words were ambiguous, and to Jethro's shock, he felt Ducky begin to move away from him, albeit not in the physical sense.
In desperation, Jethro tried again. "Duck, I -"
"I think you had better go, Jethro." Now Ducky's tone was firmer, decisive even, and the eyes that looked up at Jethro were once again grey and cold.
For a second Jethro thought to argue, but he knew there was no point. "Yeah, I better had," he said. "Leave you to -"
"I'll see you tomorrow, Jethro." Ducky cut into Jethro's words.
Jethro was glad that he had. "Yeah, tomorrow. Night, Duck."
But this time Ducky said nothing. He simply stared unblinkingly up at Jethro, and held the door determinedly.
After another half-pause, Jethro turned and strode off into the dark night. Tires and engine screaming in protest, he pulled away from Ducky's Reston home.
Once he was out of sight of the house, he turned off the lights and drove the car into a clearing under some trees. He made sure he was far enough away from the road not to be seen, but that he was still close enough for him to see.
As he turned off the engine, he rested his head on the steering wheel and cursed himself violently. "You really are a Grade-A bastard, aren't you, Jethro Gibbs? What the fuck have you done this time?" he asked himself.
He decided he didn't want to answer the question, for fear of what it might make him face.
After a moment or two he lifted his head from the wheel, and settled back into the seat. He was determined to wait there, all night if necessary, until he saw Benson's car, the car he'd missed when he'd arrived, only catching sight of as he'd drove away, leave. And then he'd . . . Quite what he'd do, he didn't know. But somehow he had to repair the damage he'd done, before he lost the best and dearest friend he'd ever had.
Ducky leaned against the front door for several moments, attempting to compose himself. He tried to tell himself that what had just happened, hadn't happened; that it had all been a ghastly nightmare. He had never seen Jethro so . . . He couldn't even sum up what it was. He'd never dreamed that the day would come when Jethro would behave like he had done, at least not towards Ducky himself.
It was true that they had never discussed Ducky's preferences. Outside of Ducky's, 'There's something I need to tell you, Jethro, I'm gay'. And Jethro's own completely honest and genuine, 'So what? Doesn't bother me', they hadn't mentioned it. Well, why would they? Neither of them was a Tony DiNozzo; neither of them believed that their love or sex lives were anyone's business but their own. Besides, Ducky had another reason for not wishing to bring the subject up with Jethro; his friend was far too astute an investigator.
He shook his head, wishing he could take back the last fifteen minutes, wishing he'd have told Jethro some lie or other, and not allowed him into his house. Wishing . . . Wishing anything but what had just happened. But that was crazy; he wasn't to blame; he wasn't at fault; he wasn't the one who should feel guilty. He sighed, pushed himself away from the door and moved slowly towards the sitting room.
When he went back into the room, he was only half surprised to see that Andrew had finished his drink and had put his jacket back on. "You're leaving?" He made it a question.
Andrew moved towards him and looked down at him, the dark brown eyes were soft, as well as being full of compassion and deep affection. "I think it's for the best, don't you, Ducky?"
Ducky closed his eyes for a moment. "I am sorry, Andrew," he said quietly.
Andrew touched his arm; the contact was warm and reassuring. "It's all right, Ducky. I always knew you didn't, couldn't, love me."
"I'm very fond of you, Andrew," Ducky said, gazing up into the gentle gaze.
"I know you are, Ducky. Just not as fond of me as I am of you. Or as you are of -"
"I'm sorry." For a moment there was silence, then Andrew spoke again. "You know, Ducky, I kept telling myself that maybe . . ." He broke off and shrugged. "Guess I've always been good at fooling myself. But then maybe you are too."
Ducky frowned. "What?"
"I thought you told me that he doesn't want you."
"He doesn't. Jethro's very fond of me. Loves me even, but not like that. He doesn't want me," Ducky repeated.
"That's not what it looked like to me. He wants you, Ducky. I don't think he's necessarily aware of it himself, but he wants you. He wouldn't have behaved like a . . ."
Andrew laughed softly. "Actually, I was going to say jealous lover, but yes, spoiled child will do too."
"I am sorry, Andrew. I really don't know what possessed Jethro tonight. He had never behaved like that before. Never."
"Has he ever met one of your lovers before?"
Ducky shook his head quickly. "No." He didn't need to point out to Andrew that 'one of' was a somewhat superfluous term. Nor that for the past twelve years, Andrew Benson had been Ducky's only lover, and then the term was not, strictly speaking an accurate one, nor could their relationship really be called a regular or frequent one.
"I rest my case."
"You're wrong, Andrew. Jethro Gibbs is one of the most heterosexual men I've ever met. Oh, don't get me wrong, despite that little performance, he is not in any way homophobic, we couldn't have remained friends all these years if he had have been."
"That wasn't a display of homophobia, Ducky. That was a display of jealousy," Andrew said quietly.
Ducky sighed and shook his head. "No, Andrew. I assure you that friendship is all he feels for me. Do not forget he has been married three times, and there have been various other women; that should be evidence enough."
"I'd say it is," Andrew said. "But evidence of what, exactly?"
Now Andrew slipped his arm around Ducky's shoulders and pulled him nearer to him. "You know, Ducky, I've always felt sorry for you, wanting what you could never have. I loved you enough to actually wish that you'd get it. But now, I'm not sure if I feel more or less sorry for you. Jethro Gibbs does want you, Ducky. Whether he'll ever act on it, I don't know. But he wants you. And maybe when the hurt he's caused you tonight has gone, maybe when you've had a chance to think about it, really think about that little show he put on, then maybe you'll see I'm right."
"Part of me wants to find him and shake him hard for the way he's hurt you; to tell him to stay out of your life. The other part of me wants to find him and shake him hard and tell him to wake up and stop searching for something that is under his very nose."
"You wouldn't?" Ducky moved away from the half embrace and caught Andrew's arm.
"No, Ducky. I wouldn't. If for no other reason than I strongly suspect that I'd come off second best."
"I'm afraid you would. Jethro is -"
"The only man you'll ever truly love."
"Hush, Ducky. It's all right," he pulled Ducky back into a loose embrace; this time Ducky returned it.
"You are wrong you know, Andrew," he said finally, regretting the near-desperation that appeared in his voice.
Andrew sighed, pushed Ducky away from him and held him at arms' length. Then he bent his head, kissed Ducky lightly on the forehead, and said softly, "Yeah, I probably am, Ducky. Guess I'm the one behaving like the jealous lover now. Sorry."
"Andrew, I . . ." Ducky trailed off for a moment. Then he said softly, regret and sincerity heavy in his tone, "I am sorry, Andrew."
"No need to be, Ducky, really. You take care, okay?" This time Andrew brushed his lips over Ducky's, before he pulled away, squeezed Ducky's shoulder and walked towards the door. Neither man needed to voice what they both knew: their relationship, such as it was, was over.
As Ducky closed and bolted his front door, he marveled that Andrew had stayed around for twelve years, had put up with Ducky and his . . . You've been doing it for thirty years. He ignored the voice.
Jethro watched the car drive by him. He was both surprised and relieved to see it leave so soon. However, he was also somewhat unhappy that it had; it meant that he now had to make a decision.
"Jethro." Surprise, wariness, disappointment, and anger warred in Ducky's tone.
Jethro swallowed. "Duck," he said, looking at Ducky, trying to read Ducky's eyes. However, they were shuttered to him, in a way they had never before been.
They stood there in the same tense silence that had filled the sitting room less than an hour before.
Finally, it was Jethro who broke it. "Er, can I come in, Duck?"
For a moment he feared that Ducky would say no; tell him to go to hell, which is what he deserved. And given that he still didn't know how to begin to put things right, maybe it would be the best thing for both of them. For their friendship. But he knew with a sudden and shattering clarity, that if he walked away now, if Ducky let him walk away, then the chances of them being able to salvage anything from their friendship were remote.
Still Ducky didn't speak. However, he moved back from the door and allowed Jethro to again enter the house. The silence continued as Ducky locked and bolted the door, and then led the way back into the sitting room.
Once they were both inside, he closed the door firmly and stood against it, arms folded. For a moment he just stared up at Jethro, the cold, empty, grey eyes penetrating so far inside Jethro, that he had to stop himself from physically shivering.
Then Ducky moved away from the door and, limping very badly, moved across to the drinks' cabinet. Still the silence remained. It continued to permeate the room as Jethro watched Ducky pour a large drink, and then swallow it in two gulps. He then poured a second one, and after a brief moment, poured an equal amount into a second glass.
He picked both up, and moved back to Jethro, still silent, still cold, still distant. He held out one of the glasses towards Jethro. For a moment Jethro was thrown by the normality of the gesture. Except there was nothing even remotely normal in the stiff body, the frozen eyes, the coldness that Ducky exuded, nor in the distance - both physical and emotional. No, nothing normal at all.
Ducky continued to hold out the glass, at arms' length; his hand was steady, not even a hint of a tremble was present. Realizing that if he didn't take the glass, Ducky just might stand there all night, Jethro lifted his own hand and slipped it around the glass. He didn't fail to notice that for only the second time in their relationship, that Ducky deliberately ensured their hands did not touch.
Jethro swallowed half of the drink and thought frantically. It seemed that Ducky was prepared to wait in silence; a rare occurrence. And why shouldn't he? After all it was Jethro himself who'd behaved like a fool, and worse. Jethro who needed to apologize. He took another sip of the what he knew to be extremely good whiskey, but what at the moment tasted like water, ran his tongue around his lips, and opened his mouth. "Duck, I -"
"What the fuck did you think you were doing, Gibbs?" Ducky's voice was low, but the fury was evident, as was the hurt that Ducky was clearly trying to hide.
Jethro blinked, momentarily stunned as he always was on the rare occasion when Ducky resorted to such crudities. "I -"
"I never believed the day would come when you would behave like such a . . . " Ducky broke off; he seemed unable to find a suitable word.
"Bastard?" Jethro supplied, and immediately regretted it.
If he had thought Ducky's eyes had been cold before, he had been wrong.
Suddenly there wasn't any distance between them, at least not of the physical kind. For the first time ever in their relationship, Jethro had to use every ounce of his training not to back away from the pure intimidation that Ducky exuded. He had to tell himself that he was the one who was twelve years younger, six inches taller, and marine trained; not Ducky. Because as he looked at Ducky, he himself was the one who felt the shorter and the non-marine trained man.
"How dare you?" Ducky said. His tone now contained only anger.
Then under Jethro's eyes, Ducky sagged, turned away and let his head fall forward; a faint tremble shook his body.
For a moment he was silent. Then he began to speak. "You don't want me, but you don't want anyone else to have me either." There was no anger in his voice now, only pure hurt and confusion.
Jethro had to fight his instinct to react to the tone and body language, and pull his friend into his arms and hold him in a desperate attempt to take away the pain. But thirty years of knowing Ducky told him it would be a ghastly mistake.
Then to his surprise, Ducky turned around again, this time swiftly; the move was far quicker than was good for him. He bit back a gasp of pain, which this time Jethro knew had come from his leg, glared at Jethro, daring him to offer support, and took several deep breaths before straightening up again.
He looked at Jethro, studying him intently. "Or maybe you do want me? Andrew thinks you do. He said you behaved like a jealous lover. Is that it, Gibbs? Do you want me? Or don't you know? Well, why don't we find out? Why don't you come upstairs with me and fuck me, see if you enjoy it. I'm sure you will. It's been a hell of a long time for me, so it'll be even tighter for you. Just pretend that I'm some redhead, and you'll be able to -"
"Shut up!" Jethro yelled, dropping his now empty glass onto the carpet, and closing the gap between them in one stride. He grabbed Ducky's arms and shook him hard. "Shut up or I'll . . . Oh, my God," he whispered, as he looked down at Ducky.
There was no fear in Ducky's face, nor in the body he still shook. Shock, surprise, apprehension, and something Jethro had ignored for thirty years. But not fear. It warmed him, where only seconds before he'd been chilled by his own actions. Clearly, even at the worst moment of their entire friendship, when all the odds were against it, Ducky still trusted him, at a time when Jethro didn't even trust himself.
Then a fission of something coursed through his body. It made his pulse began to race, and sent emotions and feelings and desires he hadn't even been aware he had, into his veins, organs and skin. And as he felt it rush through him, he knew the same something had poured through Ducky's body.
And that was when Jethro saw the fear on Ducky's face. That was when he felt it in the arms he still gripped. But the fear wasn't directed at him; it was internal to Ducky himself.
He was only half surprised when Ducky wrenched himself from his grip. It must have hurt his friend, because it certainly hurt Jethro; the pull had been so violent and swift, he'd felt as though his hands had been burned.
Ducky turned swiftly, again fought to keep his balance, before moving off quickly and jerkily across the room.
"Duck, I . . ."
"You had better go, Jethro." Ducky's voice was soft, heavy with anguish, as well as with the trepidation Jethro had felt and seen.
"But I -"
"Please, Jethro. Please, my dear. Go. Go home. And we'll forget tonight ever happened. Please, Jethro, if our friendship means anything to you, go."
Jethro simply stood there, stunned by Ducky's words, cut by the distress in the voice he knew so well. "I never thought I'd see the day that you'd fight dirty, Duck," he finally said, his own voice low.
Ducky began to shake. "Nor did I," he whispered. "But then, I never thought I'd see a lot of things. Please, Jethro, go. You have to."
Jethro shook his head. Ducky wouldn't see it, but it came naturally. "No," he said softly but firmly, as he took a step towards Ducky. "No, Duck." He took another step. Ducky tensed again, but he had nowhere left to flee to. "No," Jethro said for the third time, once again moving. "I don't think that would be a good idea."
"Staying would be an even worse one," Ducky said, panic still evident in his voice.
Jethro had reached where Ducky stood. He knew his friend had sensed him, as the trembling that had started to creep through Ducky's body, increased. "Why, Duck?" he said softly, letting his hand hover over Ducky's shoulder.
Ducky was silent.
Jethro let his hand drop an inch or two, and closed it lightly around the shaking shoulder. "Why, Duck?" he asked again.
This time Ducky sighed. His head drooped forward even further for a moment, before he brought it up and pulled his frame back to its full height. The trembling became barely perceptible. Jethro waited, ready for whatever Ducky might do or say next. At least he thought he was.
When all Ducky did was to turn around, cover Jethro's hand with his own, tilt his head back and let the shutters fall from his eyes, Jethro wasn't certain whether he was relieved or disappointed.
When Ducky spoke, his voice had lost all hint of the anger or fear that had touched it. "Because my dear, dear Jethro, if you stay we shall end up in my bed. And for one night I'll get the thing I have wanted for nearly half my life. And I will then spend the remainder of my life regretting it."
Jethro blinked. "Er, Duck, maybe I missed something, but why would you regret it? You do want me, don't you? You do love me?"
Ducky smiled. "Oh, yes, Jethro. I do and I do, more than you realize. However, it is better not to have had at all, than to have had and lost."
"I think you've got that a bit wrong, Duck. Besides, what makes you think . . . What do you think I'm going to do, Duck? Fuck you and walk away?"
Ducky shook his head. "No. That I could almost cope with. I fear that you would make love to me, and then walk away."
Jethro wasn't certain, but he thought he'd just been insulted. "I didn't realize you had such a poor opinion of me, Duck." He tried, and failed, to keep the hurt from his voice.
"Ah, Jethro. I don't, my dear. I am sorry. I didn't mean to imply -"
"Sounded a bit more than an 'imply' to me, Duck."
Again silence filled the room; but it had changed; it was no longer oppressive or dark. Instead it was more questioning.
"Jethro, I love you. I want you, so very much. I . . . But I cannot, will not, go to bed with you for one night. I cannot spend a night in your arms and then . . ."
"Watch me walk away? Yep, we're back to the poor opinion. Ducky, what the hell makes you think I would walk away? Can't you believe that I just might want more than one night myself?"
Ducky shook his head, but Jethro knew he wasn't answering Jethro's question. The shake was too full of confusion for it to be an answer. "Jethro, you have never thought of me in any way other than as your friend. Suddenly you see me with someone whom you believe is my lover, and for some reason you react -"
"Like a jealous lover? Besides, Duck, you're wrong."
"About me never having thought of you as anything other than a friend. I have, many times."
"Just not consciously."
Jethro was almost amused at the confusion in Ducky's tone. He put his other hand on Ducky's other shoulder. "I must have done," he went on, gently pulling Ducky nearer to him. "Otherwise I wouldn't be standing here like this. I wouldn't have acted as I did earlier. Wi - Andrew's right; I did behave like a jealous lover. I saw you with him, and do you want to know what I thought?"
"I don't know, do I?" Ducky now sounded as though he wasn't certain he was in reality anymore.
Jethro took advantage of it and tugged Ducky even nearer, until he was definitely holding his dearest friend in his arms. He smiled to himself, as Ducky, seemingly acting automatically, lifted his arms and returned the embrace. "Yeah, you do. Well, whether you do or not, I'm going to tell you. I thought, 'You can't have him; he's mine. Ducky's mine'. Now I'd hardly have thought that, if I hadn't thought about you in a way other than as a friend, would I? You're the one who's spent thirty years telling me about the sub-conscious, aren't you, Dr. Mallard?"
Ducky moved back a little, tilted his head back, and gazed up at Jethro, a faint smile touched his lips; his eyes were soft with love, devotion and affection. Every hint of the fear, pain and uncertainly had fled. "Why, yes, Agent Gibbs, I believe I am."
Then the lightness faded for a moment, and Ducky loosened the embrace even more, as seriousness touched him again. "One final chance, Jethro. You can still walk away now, and our friendship can go on as it has done for three decades. I won't mention tonight, we'll forget it ever happened. You go now, and we'll go on just as we always have done."
Jethro smiled, tightened his own hold on Ducky, pulled him back to where he wanted him, lowered his head and let his mouth find Ducky's own. Just before his lips touched Ducky's slightly parted ones, Jethro whispered earnestly, "Oh, I don't want to do that, Duck. I most certainly don't want to do that."
And then there was a lengthy silence as one kiss became a second, which became a third, which became . . . So many that Jethro lost count.
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