Set after Hiatus.
Tobias goes to visit Jethro in Mexico.
An established relationship story.
Written: May 2006. Word count: 1,411
A friend is someone who won't stop until he finds you and brings you home.
Manhunt, Due South: Bob Fraser in his journal, 13th February.
WASHINGTON, SEPTEMBER 2006
It was raining.
MEXICO, SEPTEMBER 2006
It was raining.
Tobias Fornell turned the collar of his overcoat up, the overcoat he was now glad he had worn, and sighed heavily. He was tired. And wet.
He'd left Washington over nine hours ago - left it in the rain. And now what did he find after traveling all those miles? That it was still raining. It was just his luck.
What would be more of his luck, would be that Jethro would refuse to speak to him. Not that Tobias needed Jethro to speak; he needed him to listen.
Another wet journey, the roof of the cab was leaking, and Tobias arrived near the beach where he understood his friend to be living.
Now he was there, he was almost tempted to turn round and return home - back to the rain. But he didn't. Someone had to be there. And really he was the only person who could be. The only person Jethro couldn't just walk away from and ignore or slap around the head or shout at - at least that's what Tobias hoped.
Now if he could just work out what to say, things would be much better. He'd been trying for at least a week now, ever since he made the decision to take the trip, and he still hadn't decided on what to say. It had to be short and to the point.
Despite being sure, well fairly sure, that Jethro wouldn't tell him to fuck off the second he saw him, or threaten him with a gun - assuming, and Tobias was assuming that, he actually had one -he knew he wouldn't get long with his old friend. The man he owed his career, reputation and probably even his life to. The man he fought with, argued with, bitched about, disparaged, appeared to hate. The man who was his friend. His closest friend; even if neither of them actually liked to admit to it. The man -
"It's raining." He answered automatically, while ordering his pulse to stop racing. Damnit, but Gibbs was good. Was still good.
Jethro Gibbs stood with his hands on his hips, looming - there was no other word for it - over Tobias. His face, as it always was, except for with one person, closed and hidden to the world. The dark blue eyes were heavily shuttered and cold. A frown creased his weather-tanned face, that was even more weather-tanned than when Tobias had last seen it.
I've missed you. He pushed the unbidden thought from his head. That was not how their relationship went. That was not how they played the game. It was not part of the rules.
As he looked up at his friend, Tobias realized that in all respects but one, Leroy Jethro Gibbs essentially looked the same as he'd looked the last time he had seen him. "Always thought it'd suit you longer. It doesn't."
Gibbs shrugged. "You came all this way to tell me that?"
Tobias bit back the words that were welling up inside of him. No, you bastard. I came all this way to say goodbye. Something you never bothered to do. But he wasn't there for him. And even if he were, that too was not how they played their game. So instead he said coolly, "Nope."
"So why are you here, Fornell? And let's cut the crap and get down to it. In fact, why don't I spare you the effort and just tell you I'm not coming back."
He stood for another moment, then turned around. As Tobias opened his mouth to stop him, Gibbs turned back. "Goodbye, Tobias," he said, his tone suddenly softer. He held out his hand. "Didn't get the chance to say it before I went. I should have done." He squeezed Tobias's hand, the hand that had automatically reacted to the offer of the handshake, holding it for a fraction of a second longer than was strictly necessary.
As he did, he partially and briefly lifted the shutters that covered the cold eyes, but it was so partial and so brief, that in a blink of the eye, they were down again, and doubled in intensity. Then he nodded once, dropped Tobias's hand and turned.
All the fine words, the speeches Tobias had run through in his mind, the appeals to Jethro's duties as an agent, etc. fled. He had one chance. He'd never get another. No one would. "Ducky needs you."
Gibbs stopped. For a moment he appeared frozen in time and space. Then slowly he turned around. "What?"
"Ducky needs you." Tobias repeated the words. Keeping his tone flat and steady.
"Why? Is he ill?"
"Is his mother worse?"
"Not as far as I know."
"Is he in some trouble at work? Has Jenn -"
"In some other kind of trouble?"
"Then what, Fornell? How the fuck does he 'need' me? Does he know you're here?"
"No. Didn't tell him. He'd have tried to stop me."
"How is he?"
"What's that meant to mean?"
"What it says. He's alive. He goes to work. He tells his rambling stories, but even they're getting fewer and fewer and less rambling. He does his job. He talks to DiNozzo, Abby and the rest, when they talk to him. He goes home. Oh, and he's asked to retire."
"He's done what?"
"Asked to retire."
"But he can't. Ducky can't retire. God knows what spending all day with his mother'll do to him. Besides what'll I -"
"Do when you come back?"
"I don't think Ducky would like that." Tobias took a chance and held his breath.
"As much as we hate to admit it, Jethro, we are friends. Of course I know."
"Does it matter?"
"So are you coming home?"
"Why are you doing this?"
"I pay my debts."
"Thought that was settled a long time ago."
Tobias shrugged. Took a deep breath and began to speak. "You can't stay here, Gibbs. It'll destroy you. You're not meant for a life of fishing and feeling sorry for yourself. Now I don't know what really made you leave NCIS, and I don't need to know. I do know it was more than what happened in MTAC. But whatever it is, Jethro, let it go. You have to. For you. And for Ducky."
"I didn't think -"
"He'd miss you that much? Christ, Gibbs. You were screwed up when you left. I've always known you were a bastard, but the one person I never thought you'd show that to, the one person I never believed you'd hurt was Ducky. But you did. And you have."
Gibbs seemed to ignore the second half of Tobias's comment; Tobias wasn't really surprised. Maybe he had overstepped the mark. "Yeah, I was, Tobias. I am sorry I never came to say goodbye."
"So am I. Might have been able to talk some sense into you. That way I could have saved myself the airfare and a soaking. Why are we still standing in the rain, Gibbs?"
Gibbs blinked and looked up at the sky, as though he'd completely forgotten it was still raining.
Tobias took his chance and asked again. "So are you coming home with me?"
Gibbs turned away; looked at the ocean, looked at the beach, the sky, looked around him. Then looked back at Tobias. "Yes," he said simply. "Yeah, Tobias, I am. Just tell me this, why have you really done this?"
Tobias shrugged. "One time only deal, Jethro, no rules. No games."
"Friendship. It's what friends do. Whatever it takes, whatever it costs, a friend will do whatever he can to help another friend."
"Thank you," Jethro said simply.
Tobias nodded. "Well, come on then. Tell me how the hell I find another cab in this godforsaken place."
WASHINGTON, SEPTEMBER 2006
Reclining in his bed with Ducky in his arms, listening to the rain rattling on the windows and roof, Jethro Gibbs realized just how lucky he was.
"Love you, Duck," he murmured, lowering his head to kiss Ducky's already kiss-swollen mouth. And then with his hands, mouth and body set out to show his lover just how true his words were.
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