Set several months after Till Death Do Us Part.
After much thought Ducky makes a decision. But what will Gibbs's reaction be?
A first time story.
Written: October 2012. Word count: 1,748.
Ducky sat on a bench well wrapped up against the brisk albeit sunny October weather; he was enjoying the scents and colors of autumn and he was enjoying the peace. As he sat there he knew; he had finally reached his decision and it was the right one. He sighed softly, stood up and using his cane to help support him he made his way out of the park and hailed a cab to take him to the Navy Yard.
"Are you quite sure, Dr. Mallard?"
Ducky nodded. "Yes, Director Vance, I am quite certain. It's the right thing to do; it's the right time."
Vance stared at him for a moment. "Well, I won't deny you will be missed, but I can understand your decision. I wish you good luck for the future," he paused for a second then added softly, "Ducky."
Ducky smiled. "Why, thank you, Leon." He stood up and held out his hand.
"Just one thing, if you don't mind, Doctor. In your opinion is Palmer up to taking over from you? It was one thing him standing in while you were on sick-leave, but now . . ."
Ducky nodded. "I assure you, Director, Jimmy Palmer will make an excellent Medical Examiner. I could not leave the position in better hands. He is more than up to the job." He smiled again, once more shook Vance's hand and left Vance's office.
He paused to glance over the railing to see if Jethro had returned to his desk, but he had not. Thus, he made his way out of the Navy Yard just as he had made his way in, without anyone but the security guard seeing him. He slipped back out into the autumn sunshine realizing that it was almost certainly the last time he would leave the building.
LATER THAT NIGHT
"Hey, Duck," Jethro came into Ducky's sitting room having let himself in with the key Ducky had long ago given him. "Got your message. Is everything all right? You're not feeling unwell are you?"
Ducky smiled up at him. "I am quite well, thank you, Jethro. I just have something to tell you. Now pour yourself a drink and sit down; supper will be ready in half an hour."
Jethro pulled off his coat and threw it onto a chair, poured himself a whiskey, sat down and looked at Ducky expectantly. Ducky hesitated for only a second before he told his old friend what he'd invited him to his home to tell him.
"Leaving?" Ducky nodded. "America as well as NCIS?" Ducky nodded again. "But why?"
"It's time, Jethro. If my heart-attack taught me anything it was what in truth I have always known: life is too short. I no longer wish to go on working eight, nine, ten or more hours a day; I do not wish to get called out in the middle of the night. I have no desire to go on spending hour upon hour standing and cutting into dead bodies to discover just what they wish to tell me. I will soon be seventy and it is past time I retired. And as I told you on more than one occasion it was always highly likely that once I retired I would return to Britain. Of course that was when Mother was alive, but I want to go home, Jethro. As much as I love America, you and the children, I miss my home. I am going home, Jethro. It's time I went home."
Jethro gulped some whiskey and looked at Ducky. "But what about . . . ?"
"What about what, Jethro?" Ducky spoke softly as he watched his old friend trying to come to terms with what he had just told him.
Jethro glanced away and stared at the floor. "You know. I always thought . . . Well that you loved me."
Ducky sighed softly. "I do, Jethro. I always have and I always will. But I think it's also past time I stopped waiting for what I know I will never get."
Jethro looked back at him. "I love you, Duck," he said softly.
Ducky smiled. "I know, my dear. I've always known that you love me. It's just not in the way I love you. It's -"
"Actually, Duck, it is." Jethro's voice was low and now he stared directly into Ducky's eyes.
Ducky blinked, surprised by Jethro's words. "Jethro?"
"Realized it when you were lying in hospital. But I didn't want to say anything in case you thought it was just because of you nearly dying."
"Well, that would be an understandable reaction giving for how long we have been such close friends and given you have always known how I have felt about you."
"Yeah. Also didn't want to say anything in case it was just because you nearly died and I lost you." Jethro emptied his glass and put it down onto the coffee table. "It wasn't," he said quietly, once more looking intensely at Ducky.
"Was it not?" Ducky asked quietly.
Jethro shook his head. "No. No, it wasn't, Duck. I love you, Duck. I love you like you've always wanted me to."
Ducky was silent for a moment as he stared into Jethro's steady gaze. "I see," he said softly. "Well, my dear Jethro, I confess this does come of something of a surprise to me, a pleasant one, a very pleasant one indeed, but nonetheless a surprise. What exactly do you expect me to do?"
Jethro stood up and poured himself another drink. "Don't know, Duck," he said. "Haven't exactly had time to think about it."
"May I ask you something?"
"Were you going to tell me? Had I not announced I was leaving NCIS and America were you actually planning on sharing your revelation with me? Jethro?" he asked as he saw a hint of color touch Jethro's cheeks.
Jethro looked at him a little ruefully. "Yeah, Duck, I was. Had it all planned out."
"Oh, I am sorry."
Jethro smiled. "No, this is a better way. When did we ever need detailed plans?"
Ducky smiled. "That is true; however, it may have been rather nice."
Jethro shrugged. "Can still do it, less the bit I tell you I love you."
"Oh, I don't know, Jethro. I doubt I would ever tire of hearing you say that to me." Ducky spoke softly and a little wistfully.
They sat in silence for a minute or two. Finally Jethro broke it. "You're not going to change your mind though, are you, Duck? You're going to still leave America?"
Ducky sighed again. "Yes, my dear," he said. "I believe I am. I know you have just given me everything I have wanted from the moment I met you and part of me cannot believe I am still intent on leaving. But . . ."
"Staying would be wrong?"
"Let us say it wouldn't be right." Ducky reached forward and held out his hand; Jethro took it and held it.
Again they sat in silence; again it was Jethro who broke it. "You once told me I'd like Britain," he said.
Ducky nodded. "I did and I am quite certain you would - I believe they even have good coffee shops there now."
Jethro laughed. "Got a fair bit of leave due to me."
"I imagine you have, given you never take any."
"Maybe I could -"
"Come and visit me?"
"Was going to say come with you; keep you company on the flight. And stay -"
"For a while?"
Jethro got up from his chair and dropped to the floor in front of Ducky. "How about forever?" he said softly.
Ducky blinked. "Jethro?" he was a little annoyed to hear his voice was shaking slightly.
"What have I got in America?"
"Going to have to retire soon myself."
"Can come and visit - now I know he'd like that - and it's not as if I see him every week, is it? And America's not a million miles away from Britain; I can come back and visit him if the trip is too much for him."
"Can also come and visit. Anyway, he'll be retiring soon himself and more than once he's mentioned leaving DC and taking Emily to somewhere nicer, a better, healthier place for her to grow up."
"Diane would allow him full custody?"
"Apparently she would, yes."
Ducky had run out of reasons that might possibly keep Jethro in America. "But . . . Jethro, you haven't . . . I mean . . . Jethro, do you really mean it? Is it possible you mean it?"
Jethro put his hand on Ducky's cheek. "You know me, Duck, I don't tend to think about things for long."
"Well, yes," Ducky said, enjoying the feel of Jethro's gun and tool calloused hand as it lightly caressed his cheek. "But this is somewhat of a major decision. It's not like buying a new shirt."
Jethro shrugged. "No, it's easier. You're my best friend, Duck; you're the man I love; you're the main reason to stay in America and with you going . . . Look, if you don't want me to -"
"Of course I do, Jethro," Ducky said swiftly. "I just don't wish you to wake up one day and realize you have made a mistake."
"You mean like I did with Diane, Stephanie and -"
"Yes," Ducky said softly.
"Won't. This isn't a short lived thing, Duck. It's not as if I met you yesterday, is it?"
"Well, no, but . . ."
"Duck, part of my plan was suggesting we moved in together. Now does it matter if we do that here or in Britain?"
"Well, I suppose it doesn't really, but . . ."
"No buts. Duck. Just answer me yes or no. Do you want me to come to Britain with you?"
Ducky smiled and put his hand on Jethro's cheek. "Yes, Jethro," he said softly. "Yes, my dear, I do; I want it very much."
Jethro smiled. "Good. That's settled then. I'll tell Vance tomorrow that I'm retiring and we can tell the kids together. Now, I reckon from what you said earlier that there's about ten minutes left before supper will be ready, so how can we fill the time?" And before Ducky had a chance to answer, he found himself pulled into Jethro's arms and kissed soundly.
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