FINALLY AT PEACE
Jethro gives his second closet friend what he has always wanted. But he had good reason to do so.
An established relationship story.
Gibbs/Fornell as a couple also appear in this story.
Warning: Major character death.
Written: February 2009. Word count: 2,071.
Finally the last ravages of death left Tobias's body. With an almost detached efficiency Jethro dealt with it all, settled Tobias back onto clean sheets, ran his hand over the now totally bald head and gently placed a kiss on his friend's forehead. "Oh, Tobias," he whispered, letting the tears that he'd been fighting for what seemed like hours fall from his eyes. "I'm going to miss you."
After a moment of two of silent grieving, he dug into his pocket, pulled out his cell phone and hit two on the speed-dial. "It's over," he said, as soon as the call was answered.
"Oh, my dear Jethro, I am so sorry. Would you like me to come over?"
About to say 'no', Jethro found himself instead saying, "Yeah, Duck. I would."
"Very well. I'll be there as soon as I possibly can."
"Drive carefully, Duck. No rush. We're not going anywhere."
He heard the very smallest hint of a half chuckle, then Ducky said, "Yes, dear." And ended the call.
As he sat on the bed, still lightly stroking Tobias's head, Jethro let his mind slip back to the evening before.
"Jethro?" Tobias's surprise was clear.
"Hey, Tobias. Thought I'd come and see you." Jethro forced himself to smile and not to gasp in shock at just how far his friend had deteriorated in the two weeks since he'd last seen him. The cancer that had been in remission had returned with a vengeance, and the never over-weight body looked so thin and ravished that Jethro feared a light breeze would knock it over.
"Any particular reason? Or have you just come to say goodbye?" For a fleeting second there was a flash of the game they always played in Tobias's pain-filled gaze. But then it fled, as if pretending was too tiring. "I'm glad to see you, Jethro," Tobias said, his tone gruff, he put his hand on Jethro's arm.
Jethro felt the bony grip and the shaking that accompanied it and swallowed hard, pushing away the grief he felt. It wasn't time for shows of grief or sadness; it was time for something else. Something until that very second he hadn't been certain, no matter what he'd said, he could go through with.
But now standing in Tobias's hall seeing the man his friend had been turned into, seeing what Tobias had always tried to hide from him, had succeeded in hiding from him, he knew he could go through with it and do so easily. And not because he'd promised, but because he wanted to.
"So what do I owe this -"
As carefully as he'd gather a child into his arms, Jethro gently pulled Tobias into his embrace, lowered his head and found Tobias's dry lips. The kiss lasted less than half a minute before he felt Tobias begin to sway in his embrace and felt him struggle for breath. He took his mouth away, but didn't let go of his friend.
After gulping in mouthfuls of air and coughing for several seconds, all the time leaning against Jethro, letting him take what weight he had left, Tobias gazed up at him. "Jethro?" he whispered. "What . . . ?" he trailed off.
Jethro broke the embrace, instead sliding one arm around Tobias's frail shoulders and turning him towards the stairs. "Hush," he said, when Tobias tried to say something. "Don't say anything, Tobias, just let me take you to bed and make love to you."
Despite the what seemed now to be considerably more than three inches height difference, the now vast amount of weight difference, and the fact that while Tobias was a trained Federal Agent, Jethro had been trained by the Marines, Tobias was able to stop the forward motion.
He turned in Jethro's half embrace and looked up at him. In the dull gaze Jethro saw a mixture of shock, surprise, confusion and joy tinged with a hint of desire. "But what about Ducky?" Tobias managed.
Jethro simply kissed him again. He wouldn't, he couldn't, tell Tobias that it had been Ducky's idea.
So instead after another fairly short kiss, he simply led Tobias up the stairs, undressed him, forcing himself not to shudder at the sight of his friend's bones merely covered with a thin, translucent layer of skin and all the bruises, settled Tobias into the bed before clinically stripping himself and getting into bed where he once again gathered Tobias into his arms.
There for the best part of two hours he lay simply stroking and caressing Tobias, kissing him lightly, never speaking, just calming and loving and caring. Even with the skill he had, he couldn't get Tobias to achieve more than half an erection, but from the look in Tobias's eyes, that didn't matter. All that mattered was the finally he was getting what he'd wanted for so many years.
And as he made love to Tobias, as he held him, caressed him, coaxed him, kissed him, touched him, Jethro watched some of the pain leave Tobias's eyes, watched a hint of color touch his sunken, sallow cheeks, watched as he stopped fighting death and instead embraced it, welcomed it, reached out for it.
Jethro watched as peace descended over his old friend, as a kind of contentment settled on him and began to move through him. He knew what was happening, Tobias was finally letting go of the fine grasp he had on life. He was shutting down, he was saying goodbye, he was finally going to be free from pain and suffering.
As Tobias closed his eyes for what Jethro knew would be the final time, as he slipped into what would first be a sleep, then unconsciousness and finally death, Tobias spoke for the first time since they'd gone into the bedroom. "Thank Ducky for me, Jethro," he said, cupping Jethro's cheek with his hand, before sinking back into the depths of the bed.
Jethro just watched and waited.
Watched and waited, noting the move from sleep to unconsciousness until finally Tobias gave one faint gasp of breath and then no more.
Watched and waited until the pulse stopped beating and every hint of life left his body.
Watched and waited until death finally finished with Tobias's body.
He sensed Ducky rather than heard him, sensed him in the way that only lovers of more than three decades can sense one another. Ducky stood in the doorway of Tobias's bedroom silently watching Jethro who still lightly and gently stoked Tobias's head. Jethro didn't bother asking how Ducky had gotten into a locked house - he wasn't the only one who had house-breaking skills.
"Oh, Duck," he said, suddenly aware that the tears were running down his face and given how wet he realized his shirt was they'd been flowing unnoticed for quite some time.
"It's all right, Jethro," Ducky said hurrying across the short distance and wrapping his arms around Jethro, pulling him against his body, letting him rest his head against his chest. "It's all right, my dear. Hush now. Ducky's here, it will be all right."
Jethro wrapped his arms around Ducky and let his lover hold and sooth him, let him rock him gently, let him love him, let him calm him, let him take care of him, just as he'd taken care of his other old friend.
Valentine's Day wasn't the ideal day for a funeral, yet Jethro couldn't think of a more suitable day. Valentine's Day was about love, thus it was a fitting time for the man who had been loved by his daughter and, even if they'd never openly admitted it, by Jethro himself. And in turn Jethro, who was due, to Diane's refusal to attend, the chief mourner, was loved and loved deeply by Ducky, as well as, if he was prepared to admit it, in their own way by the children, who stood huddled together in a small tightly-knitted group. In another group, larger and less tightly-knit, stood Tobias's FBI co-workers.
Jethro had one arm through Ducky's and his other hand on Emily's shoulder; in turn Ducky had his hand on Emily's other shoulder as she stood in front of them holding a single red rose.
Jethro had been pleased when Diane had refused to take Emily to the funeral as it had been Tobias's wish that Jethro and Ducky take his darling daughter. He'd gone to see Diane, prepared for an argument, only to have her in effect wash her hands of the whole thing, instead demanding to know what she had been left.
Jethro had taken intense pleasure in telling her she'd been left nothing. Tobias had left everything, bar one item, to Emily. Some in trust until she turned twenty-one, some, his FBI pension, to keep her until she became of age. And Jethro had been left as executor to both; there was no way Diane could touch a cent of Tobias's money - Tobias had made damn sure of that.
The one thing not left to Emily had been Tobias's hip flask. That now rested in Jethro's overcoat pocket, filled with MacCallum, the scotch his old friend had enjoyed so much.
It was bitterly cold, snow lay on the ground and the wind was like a knife as it cut through the air. But as they stood listening to the priest saying the words Jethro knew far too well, no one moved. No one, not even little Emily, gave any indication they were chilled through.
Finally the priest spoke his last words and glanced at Jethro. He tightened his grip on Emily's shoulder, slipped his arm from inside Ducky's and bent his head. "Give your rose to Daddy now, Emily, and say goodbye," he said softly, feeling her begin to tremble for the first time. "Want me to come with you?"
She nodded. "And Uncle Ducky," she whispered, turning to Ducky and taking his hand. With Jethro's hand still on her shoulder the three of them moved forward a few steps.
She stopped by the edge of the gaping hole and looked down, ten years old, small for her age, wiry like her father had been. Gently, carefully, she dropped the rose onto the dark coffin. "Goodbye, Daddy," she said. "I love you." Then finally everything became too much for her and she turned and threw herself against Jethro sobbing as if her heart would break.
Because it was easier for him, being so much taller than the little girl, Jethro simply scooped her up into his arms and cuddled her, rocking her back and forth, kissing her hair and whispering soothing words and promises to her, until finally her sobs faded away and she accepted with great solemnity the handkerchief Ducky handed her.
Two hours later they took Emily home and promised her they would visit her and take her out like he daddy used to do. If he had to drag it through the Courts, Jethro was determined he would fulfill Tobias's wish that he and Ducky do so.
In truth, he didn't think Diane would object too much, as she'd recently found a new boyfriend. When Jethro had gone to tell her about the death of her ex-husband, she had been more concerned by the inconvenience of not being able to get Emily out of the house than any hint of possible sorrow over the death of a man she had once loved; a man who had been the father of her daughter.
When they left Emily, it was Ducky who calmly took the sedan's keys from Jethro's hand and had driven them home. Once there he locked and bolted the front door, left the answer-phone turned on and led Jethro upstairs and into their bedroom. There he spent several hours simply making love to him in his own gentle, caring, healing way.
Finally, as they were settling down to sleep Jethro said quietly, "I'm glad I did what I did, Duck. I'll miss him."
"I know, Jethro. And so will I. And I too am glad you did what you did - I am sure it gave Tobias peace."
"Reckon it did at that. Night, Duck. Love you."
"Goodnight, Jethro my dear. I love you too. Now, sleep." And with those final words, Ducky lightly kissed Jethro once more, before turning off the bedside lamps and taking Jethro in his arms.
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