BEGINNING OF THE END
Set after Broken Bird (which at the time of writing had not been aired).
Gibbs knows it's over - but can it ever truly be?
An established relationship story.
Warning: A very dark, desolate story with major character death.
Written: January 2009. Word count: 1,526.
It was the beginning of the end.
Gibbs knows it and he knows Ducky knows it.
What they had has gone - not the love, but everything else.
He tried to tell himself it was no big deal. He tried to tell himself Ducky did what he had to do. He tried to tell himself it was a war zone; people do things in war they wouldn't do at other times. He tried to tell himself he had done similar things. He tried to tell himself he understood. He tried to tell himself it was the same as him murdering Shannon and Kelly's killer. He tried to tell himself that what Ducky did had saved many, many lives; 'the needs of the many'. He tried to tell himself they would be okay; they could work through this. He tried to tell himself they had survived so much over their decades together; they could survive this. He tried to tell himself - He tried to tell himself so many things.
But none of them did any good.
It was over.
Ducky had tortured a man to death. Ducky, his Ducky, his Duck, the mild mannered, courteous, polite, never-had-a-bad-word-for-anyone - except those who messed up his crime scene - Dr. Donald call-me-Ducky Mallard, had tortured a man to death. The death bit he could live with; that was easy, well not easy but acceptable. It was war. Ducky would have known he might have to kill, and Gibbs had done it more times than he cared to remember. No, the death wasn't the problem. It was the torture.
It didn't matter that he had done some, if not out and out torture then, less than salubrious things in his time to get evidence; to get people to crack. It didn't matter that only a couple of weeks ago he had stood by and watched, without saying a word, a woman confess to the murder she hadn't committed, thus letting the real murderer walk 'free'. It didn't matter that he had sent a gang leader to his death, deliberately drove him to where his men were waiting to kill him. It didn't matter that he had covered up things, tampered with evidence. It didn't matter. He tried to tell himself it did.
But it didn't.
No, he and Ducky were over. They were.
Except he wasn't brave enough to walk away. He, Leroy Jethro Gibbs, decorated Marine, who could break anyone, who was capable of killing on a regular basis, who had killed many men, strong, unflinching, fearless Gibbs, wasn't brave enough to end it.
So it wasn't over, not in the final sense. They would go on living together; sleeping together; making love together. But it wouldn't be the same. It would never be the same again. It couldn't be. He would go back to spending even more hours at the office or working on his boat, and Ducky would go back to doing whatever it was he did on the nights he and Gibbs weren't together before Gibbs had moved into Reston House. And that's how it would be for the next how ever many years, the next how ever many decades. It would be that way until one of the finally died. And then -
But he wasn't reckoning on Ducky's bravery.
He came home to find Ducky standing in the hall two suitcases at his feet, his overcoat on, his hat on the nearby table. Everything fled, everything except the fear that Ducky was leaving him. He opened his mouth.
But Ducky spoke first. Never had he heard such a toneless, emotionless, dead voice before. "Don't, Jethro. Don't say anything and don't look at me like that. We both know it's over. It was over the second I was stabbed. You have given me the happiest, the most contented, the most blessed years of my life. And for that I thank you. I will never regret, for me, the day we met. But for you, for you, my dear, dear, dear, beloved Jethro, I will regret that day for the rest of my life."
He acted on instinct, pure instinct, and in two strides he'd crossed the gaping space between them and pulled Ducky into a fierce embrace, burying his head in Ducky's thick hair and letting the tears flow. "I love you, Duck," he said, his voice choked. "I love you. I will always love you. Always. Always." And he would. The love would never die. The liking, the respect, the trust - they had all died. But the love never would. It never could.
Ducky's voice came from where his head rested against his shoulder. It was now as choked as Gibbs's own, but still utterly, totally, completely dead. "I know, my dear. And do not doubt I will do the same. I once told you I believed I loved you before we even met and that I would love you up until, and long beyond, death. Nothing will ever, nothing could ever, change that."
For what seemed like hours and also like seconds they stood, both letting tears, tears that often cleansed, but these didn't, flow down their cheeks. Gibbs had never cried like this in his life; not even over Shannon and Kelly.
Finally Ducky shifted and he let him go in order to dig into his pocket and pull out his handkerchief. "Come to bed with me," he said. "Please. Let me make love one to you one last time. Please."
And they did.
It was the most beautiful, the most intense, the most tender, the most devastating perfect lovemaking they had ever shared. They were closer than they had ever been in all their years together. And yet at the same time they were farther apart than their respective countries of birth.
SIX MONTHS LATER
"We have to tell him."
"Because he has a right to know. They were together for so long and he never stopped - But that aside, he is still Gibbs's next of kin; Gibbs never changed that."
"Then you call him, Ziva. I never want to speak to him again."
She shook her head. "Gibbs forgave him. Why can you not?"
"Because if it wasn't for him walking out on the boss, Gibbs wouldn't be dead. And if he hadn't done what he did in Afghanistan he'd never have walked out on Gibbs. I never want to hear his name again. I never want to think of him again. I wish he were dead. I wish he'd never been born."
"Oh, Tony," she said, putting her hand on his arm. She looked at Tim, but she knew he could not make the call. Not for the same reasons as Tony, at least she did not think so, but because . . .
Her mind flashed back to the scene. It raced over Gibbs deliberately, quite deliberately, putting himself between the bullets meant to take Tim's life and taking them himself.
It came to settle on the final few moments.
Gibbs on the floor, blood pouring out of him, clearly unseeing, far from lucid, as Jimmy tried so hard to staunch the flow of blood.
Gibbs reaching out, his hand groping for someone's. But not just anyone's.
Gibbs calling, "Duck."
Her trying to calm him, taking his hand. Him shaking it off.
Just as he shook of Tony's and then Tim's.
Until finally his fingers found Jimmy's wrist, felt the material of the coverall he wore. This time the 'Duck' was hesitant, questioning, as if he knew, but couldn't accept it. His hand closed around Jimmy's wrist and a faint, half smile touched his lips as he once more spoke the name.
"Duck. Love you, Duck. I forgive you, Duck. Duck. Ducky?" They were the final words he ever spoke.
She shook herself, pulling herself back to the here and now.
"I will make the call."
He replaced the receiver, the movement slow, precise, careful, and for a moment he closed his eyes.
He had known, as soon as he had heard Ziva's voice he had known. In truth he had known even before she had called.
She had told him everything. How Jethro had willing given his life to save Timothy's, and what his final words had been.
She had told him if he ever wanted someone to talk to, he knew where she was.
She had told him she understood.
She had told him she did not offer forgiveness from herself, as to her mind there was nothing for which he had to seek forgiveness.
She had told him she was his friend.
And before she had put the phone down, she had once again told him what Jethro's final words had been.
He walked to his study, took a piece of paper from his desk and wrote a short note. Put it together with a copy of his will and then made his way to his bedroom.
They found him a week later.
His death had not been an easy one; nor a quick one; nor a painless one. As a doctor he had made quite certain of that.
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