Ashleigh Anpilova


Jethro turns up at Ducky's house the night wife number three leaves him.  

He's seeking more than just friendship. What does Ducky do? 

A first time story. 

 Written: July 2005. Word count: 5,678.



 "Jethro?" Ducky opened the door and stared up into the eyes of his closest friend.


"Hiya, Duck." Jethro Gibbs sounded unnaturally bright; he was clearly attempting to be cheerful. Seconds later it appeared to be too much for him, as he slumped against the doorframe and said softly, "Can I come in?"


"Yes, of course, my dear friend," Ducky said, moving back slightly. He waited, watching with growing concern as Jethro extracted himself from where he rested, and moved forwards. As he brushed against Ducky, the Medical Examiner was hit by the scent of brandy. He blinked, it was unlike Jethro to overindulge, and when he drank brandy rather than his usual whiskey, it was not a good sign. "Jethro?" he touched the taller man's arm. "Are you well?"


"Never been better, Duck. Never been better," Jethro exclaimed loudly, the false bright tone returning. Then he stopped and clasped a hand over his mouth. "Sorry," he said, in a stage whisper. "Is she asleep?"


Ducky closed the door, locking and bolting it. "Mother is in hospital for a few days, Jethro. I did tell you," he said, his voice free from any hint of accusation.


Jethro caught his arms and said, "Oh, hell, Duck. I'm sorry. You did tell me. In fact, didn't I . . .? Oh, shit, I promised I'd go and visit her with you tonight, didn't I? Ah, Ducky, why didn't you call me?"


"It's all right, my friend," Ducky said reassuring, patting Jethro's arm. "Jethro?" he said as he found his hand covered by that of his friend's. The touch was warm and secure, as Jethro's touch always was. However, abnormally, the hand that covered his shook, albeit infinitesimally. "Why don't you tell me?" He stared up into the dark blue eyes, noticing that the shadows that habitually hung under the Special Agent's eyes were denser and darker than usual. "Jethro?" he said softly, once again speaking his friend's name.


Jethro moved away from him and turned his back on Ducky. "She left me, Ducky," was all he said.


"Ahh," Ducky responded, as he moved nearer to his friend. "Come," he said, slipping his arm around Jethro's back, turning him and guiding him into the sitting room. He led the taller man to the sofa and urged him to sit down.


For a moment he stared at the bent shoulders, as the friend did battle with the doctor. The friend won out. After all Ducky had no intention of letting Jethro go home again that evening. "Here," he said, handing over a generous measure of rich brandy – mixing drinks was never a good idea. The amber color twinkled through the cut glass crystal "Drink it," he urged. After a moment or two, Jethro obeyed the clear, albeit gentle order.


Ducky sat down carefully next to his friend and waited for what he knew would come. What he knew would happen from the day Leroy Jethro Gibbs asked him, once again, to be his best man. He sipped from his own glass of the same brandy, and sat very still and silent, hoping his presence alone would help his friend. It usually did.


"Why did you introduce us, Duck?" Jethro finally asked, raising his head and looking into Ducky's eyes.


Ducky sighed. Ignoring the question, he instead asked one of his own. "Why did you marry her, Jethro?"


His friend's reply surprised Ducky, and he'd thought that nothing Jethro did or said could astonish him any more. "Because you introduced us." The words were said simply, calmly, flatly -Jethro might have been announcing the weather.


For a fleeting second Ducky felt a well of irritation rise within him. However, that vanished as speedily as it arrived, leaving instead a mixture of awe and sorrow. "Ah, Jethro," was all he said, and squeezed his dearest friend's shoulder.


They sat there for several minutes, Ducky's hand resting on Jethro who seemed to lean into the contact and draw strength from it. Words had never been a necessity between them; instead they often just sat and enjoyed one another's company.


Eventually Jethro broke the silence. He looked deeply into Ducky's eyes, in a way he had rarely done before and asked softly, "Why haven't you ever married, Ducky?" When Ducky didn't immediately respond, Jethro asked, "And please don't say you've never found the right woman."


Ducky took another sip of his brandy and said slowly, "Oh, I have met the right person, Jethro. But marriage is impossible."


"Married already, huh? Well, Ducky, from someone who is just about to get divorced for the third time, let me tell you, that marriage isn't for life. If you want her, go for it. I'm sure you'd make her happy."


Ducky smiled gently, and glanced away from the suddenly very penetrating stare that emanated from the dark blue eyes. "It isn't that simple, Jethro," he said.


The dark eyes appraised him. They seemed to be staring into his soul and searching there for something. Ducky once more kept quite still, glad, not for the first time, for the glasses that shielded, at least to an extent, his eyes that all too often revealed far too much.


When Jethro spoke, his voice was different, slower and more questioning. And yet he made a statement. "No, I guess it wouldn't be for you, Ducky." Then he added, "Did I ever tell you that you're too honorable, too nice?"


Ducky didn't have an answer. At that moment he felt neither honorable nor nice.


The two friends sat in silence for a long time. It wasn't their usual companionable silence, something was infiltrating that, something was encroaching. Ducky was growing more and more uneasy. It was a credit to his years as a Medical Examiner that he knew he wasn't letting it show.


Finally Jethro spoke. His voice was uncertain, and so completely unlike the self-assured bastard that Special Agent Gibbs was called by another of his oldest friends, that Ducky's unease went into overdrive. "Can I ask you something, Duck?"


Ducky fought the instinct to say no. "Yes, of course, Jethro." He waited.


Jethro looked at him, frowning slightly and staring deeply into Ducky's eyes, once more trying to get past the shields that Ducky had erected. The quizzical look told Ducky that Jethro had seen the barriers, and was now wondering why his closest friend had raised them. "Have you ever slept with a man?"


Ducky momentarily forgot how to breathe. Still the voice was not that of the NCIS agent, nor the oft-times cocky Marine Sergeant he had met some twenty-two years ago. Going on the defensive, Ducky said, his own tone no longer that of dear friend, "Are you asking as my friend or my boss, Special Agent Gibbs?"


He felt a faint and fleeting air of achievement, as the dark eyes widened and Jethro's mouth parted. The surprise, hurt, and shock on the handsome face immediately pushed the triumph away, as Ducky's sense of honor and ‘old world charm,' as his friend so pleasantly put it, overwhelmed the baser feeling.


Ducky was about to speak again, when Jethro spoke. His voice contained the surprise and pain Ducky had seen on his face. "Is that what you think of me as, Duck? Your boss?"


Ducky sighed and moved forward, patting Jethro's arm and saying reassuringly, "No, my friend. But that doesn't negate the fact that in many respects, strictly speaking you are. I may not be one of your agents, but at the end of the day I do answer to you. I do do as you tell me." He met the dark navy gaze and held it. He hated seeing Jethro vulnerable; a state that Jethro's agents would deny fervently that their boss could be.


"Well then?" Jethro pushed.


Ducky sighed again. "Why do you wish to know, Jethro?" he asked. He hoped that the brandy had dulled the razor sharp mind just enough, so that Jethro would fail to spot that Ducky was avoiding the question.


Jethro stared deeply again, before placing his glass very carefully on the coffee table and sliding an inch or two nearer to Ducky. "Because," he said, reaching out and putting one hand on Ducky's shoulder, and the other firmly behind his head. "I would have liked to have known what your reaction would be before I did this." He exerted just enough pressure to pull Ducky forward, and with unerring accuracy found Ducky's mouth with his own.


For a moment Ducky was so startled he did nothing except sit there and let Jethro kiss him. Then years of longing, wanting, loving, yearning, and needing slipped in, and he slid his own arms around his dearest friend and began to meet the kiss.


Jethro tasted of brandy, salt, the old-fashioned cologne he had worn for over twenty-two years, and sawdust. Ducky always associated the scent of sawdust with Jethro Gibbs. Jethro's mouth was soft, yet firm, warm, yet cool, and more beautiful and desirable than Ducky had ever allowed himself to imagine. The kiss was platonic and yet sensual; passionate and yet chaste; a question and also an answer. It was everything that Ducky had dreamed and fantasized about, and yet nothing like his imaginings. It gave him more than anyone had ever given him, and took far more than any kiss had ever taken.


It was Jethro who broke the kiss, dragging in air desperately through his mouth and looking at Ducky as if not seeing him. "Duck?" he breathed, before leaning forward and repeating the kiss.


Once more Ducky accepted what Jethro was giving. Once more he knew he wasn't strong enough, honorable enough, nice enough, to stop it. And then the hand that had been gripping his shoulder moved, down to Ducky's lap. The touch sobered him, like nothing before ever had. He pulled back as though Jethro had burnt him. Where he got the strength to break the younger man's by now powerful hold, he would never know. "No," he said sharply, stumbling to his feet and moving away from the sofa.


"Duck?" The look of confusion and deep pain that crossed Jethro's face made the man-who-could-face-the-worst-things-that-one-human-could-do-to-another-and-not-react, groan silently. He lowered his eyes, tearing his gaze away from the aching one.


A slight noise made him glance up. There before him stood Special Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs – Dr. Donald Mallard's superior. "I am sorry, Doctor," the Special Agent said, formally. "I thought . . ." He broke off and lowered his head, his shoulders sagging. "I guess I was wrong." He turned towards the door.


Ducky, moving more quickly than his long-time damaged leg liked him to move, was there before his friend. "Jethro," he caught the taller man's quivering arm and gripped it tightly. Jethro stopped and looked down at Ducky's hand, then glanced at Ducky. His eyes asked a question, his body language echoed it. "Don't go," Ducky finally said.


The Special Agent still hovered behind the hurting friend. "Was I wrong?" the agent demanded.


Ducky briefly closed his eyes, before opening them and looking firmly into the dark gaze. He shook his head. "No," he said softly.


Confusion warred once again. "Then why?" The Special Agent had fled, and the hurting friend gained ascendancy.


Ducky slipped his arm around the taller frame. "Come and sit down, Jethro," he said, leading his friend back to the sofa. Exerting some gentle pressure he encouraged Jethro to sit back down, keeping an eye on him while he poured more brandy into their glasses. "Drink this," he said firmly, pushing Jethro's glass into this hand.


"Friend or doctor, Duck?" Jethro asked, his tone slightly edged.


Ducky sighed. "Both, Jethro. Drink." It was a clear order and earned him a half smile in response, as Jethro obeyed.


Ducky sat down carefully, keeping a small distance away from Jethro, but still remaining within his friend's personal space. "Jethro," he said carefully.


Jethro glanced at him. "Please don't give me the other cliché, Duck." Ducky cocked an eyebrow. "'It's not you, it's me.'"


Ducky nodded once noncommittally. "Jethro," he said again, giving himself a few extra seconds to compose his thoughts and words. "If you had come to me a month ago, six months ago, a year, five years, fifteen years, when we first met –"


"My honorable discharge would have been dishonorable," Jethro said ruefully, but his tone held a hint of amusement. "Sorry," he said as Ducky just looked at him. "Go on." Then before Ducky had a chance to speak, he added, "Wait a minute. Are you implying . . . ?" Ducky nodded. "But . . . "


"You're the one who labeled me ‘too nice and too honorable,' Jethro. I didn't."


"Shit," Jethro declared. Ducky just raised an eyebrow again. Jethro didn't elucidate. "So why not now?" he demanded.


"Because, Jethro my dear, you're hurting. No, don't deny it. Don't give me ‘I don't feel things' spiel. Save that for other people. Those who don't know you as I do." Jethro was silent; his eyes wide, his mouth slightly parted. Ducky wasn't entirely surprised; it was rare for him to be forceful, especially with Jethro. It must have been quite a shock for his old friend to be basically be told to ‘be quiet.'


Being forceful, however, wasn't really Ducky's natural style. Although he could do it when he needed to and did, he recalled many an occasion when . . . He pushed his rambling thoughts away, and returned to the here and now. "You are now wondering, yet again, what you have done. What is wrong with you. Why you can't sustain a relationship for longer than a year or so. Am I not correct?"


Jethro nodded. "I didn't know they taught Medical Examiners how to mind read, Duck," he said ruefully.


"They don't, Jethro," Ducky's tone was soft, and he met and held Jethro's gaze. Saying everything else with his eyes. "But you can sustain a relationship. For how long have we been friends?" The question was rhetorical, as both men knew. "And," he added, "many of your ex-commanders speak very highly of you, and do things for you they wouldn't otherwise necessarily do – you are respected, Jethro."


"Do you know why we're still friends?"


Ducky didn't answer. Instead he asked his own question. "Do you?"


Jethro frowned. Then said, his voice flat, "Sometimes I think it's because you let me have my own way all the time. That you never stand up to me. That what I want, I get. That you put up with all the shit I throw at you, and come back for more. That you don't expect or demand anything from me."


Ducky was silent for a moment. It was no more than he expected, and he knew that Jethro didn't really believe his own words. But nonetheless the words hurt.


Proving that mind reading wasn't just the purview of Medical Examiners, or even Ducky, Jethro ran his hand over his face. "Oh, hell," he cursed. "See? I've done it again. I'm sorry, Duck."


"I know," Ducky touched his friend's arm and let his hand remain there, allowing himself the indulgence. "Do you really believe what you just said, Jethro?"


Jethro shook his head. "No. Or at least not all of it. Or rather not as it sounded. Or I should say it's not the only reason. If you really were as insipid as I've just made you sound, I don't think we would still be friends. But there is some truth in it, isn't there?"


Ducky couldn't deny it. Yes, there was some truth in Jethro's words. He was more easygoing than the Special Agent. He did let Jethro rail at him, but only because it was better him than anyone or anything else. "I think the overriding reason our relationship has survived all these years, Jethro, is down to one main thing: I accept you as you are. I do not try to change you. But you don't always get your own way, my friend. I just let you think you have. Besides," Ducky said, smiling, and finally drawing his hand away from where it had rested. "Like all relationships, ours is a two-way thing. You give as well as take, my dear friend. You put up with my idiosyncrasies."


Jethro offered a half-smile. "You mean your stories and talking to the bodies?"


Ducky nodded. "I know that there are many times when you would like to interrupt one of my stories, a while before you actually do so. I know that more than occasionally I irritate you with my ramblings. But you let me be, you indulge me. Don't think I haven't seen the looks your agents share when I am in a particularly rambling mood, and you are particularly hyped up. They clearly expect you to explode or snap at me. They don't expect to hear the fondly exasperated ‘Duck,' nor do they expect the smile that you always try to hide. So you see, my friend, it works both ways. That is why our friendship has survived for so many years, and why it will continue to survive. And that is why none of your marriages have lasted. All of your wives tried to change you. I could have told them, maybe I should have told them, what the result would be."


"You're right, Duck. But then you usually are. You do manipulate me in ways that no one else ever has. In ways that no one else would get away with."


"But you let me, Jethro. Just as I let you do things, I wouldn't necessarily let others do. It works for us and that, my dear, is all that matters."


Jethro sighed and took another sip of his brandy. "As insightful as that was, Duck, I don't see what it has to do with why you won't . . ." he trailed off and shrugged.


"It has everything to do with it, Jethro. If I take you to bed now," Ducky had no compunction at speaking the words. "It would be wrong of me. Because your rationale for wanting it, for believing you want it, is false."


Jethro frowned. "I do know what I want, Duck," he said his tone hinging on irritation.


"But I don't, Jethro," Ducky said simply. "And I need to know."


Jethro stared at him, his dark blue eyes darker than usual and heavy with exhaustion. "It makes a mockery of what I said a few minutes ago, doesn't it? About you always letting me have my own way. Ironic really. Sorry, Duck. I shouldn't have presumed."


"We're already covered that, Jethro. There was no presumption. I want you, my friend. I love you and have done for more years than I sometimes wish to remember. " Ducky spoke the words quietly, easily; now he might have been announcing the weather.


And Ducky did want Jethro.


It had taken him more than he cared to reveal, to turn away from his friend's demand. And not just because he wanted Jethro, but because it was always his nature to give Jethro what he wanted, to ease pain, not cause it, to soothe and reassure. It was his love for Jethro that had prevented him from taking the younger man upstairs; a love that had it been any less deep would now have resulted in them being in his bed. Sometimes he feared he loved Jethro Gibbs too much for either of their own good.


"I'll make you an offer, Jethro." Jethro raised an eyebrow. "If in three months you still feel the same way about me, then I won't turn you away. If not, then we'll forget the whole thing and continue with our friendship as it is. If that is," he went on. "You would wish to remain friends with me now that you know what kind of man I am, and know how I feel about you."


Jethro just stared at him, unblinkingly. "And I thought that each of them hurt me. I was wrong. They just hurt my pride. Christ, Duck. You really can drive the knife in and twist it when you try."




Jethro shook his head and continued to stare at Ducky. "Do you really think so little of me?" he finally asked. The kind of hurt Ducky had never heard, nor ever wished to hear again, was clear in the normally strong voice.


Ducky closed his eyes briefly. Then opened them again and looked into the dark ones that held him captive. "No, Jethro," he said firmly. "No. I do not." He didn't add ‘I promise' or ‘I swear.' Any such thing would make a mockery of what they were. Instead he relied on simply meeting the puzzled gaze and once more saying things that way.


Jethro seemed to accept the words and the look, as his own gaze became less cool. He touched Ducky's shoulder. "Do you think that little of yourself?" Ducky shook his head. Jethro nodded once. "Good," he said.


Seconds later he seemed to have dismissed the words. "So I come back in three months, right? And you'll go to bed with me?"


Ducky hid his amusement at the assured tone Jethro had adopted. The cock-sure bastard his friend could be, was clearly back in residence. He dismissed the idea of a long, complex speech and instead said simply, "Yes, Jethro." He could deal with the pain later. "Now," he said standing up and offering his hand. "Come upstairs." At Jethro's partly stunned, partly pleased look, he added, swiftly. "To sleep. The guest room is prepared. You are staying here tonight." His tone brooked no argument.

Jethro made none. Until, that is, they reached the top of the stairs, and Ducky turned to guide Jethro to the guest room. His friend came to a stop, glanced at Ducky, and then away swiftly, he appeared to be studying the handrail.


"Yes, Jethro," Ducky said after several moments of silence.


Jethro shook his head. "It doesn't matter. Night, Duck," he made as if to move past Ducky, but Ducky stopped him.




Again Jethro shook his head. "It doesn't matter," he repeated. All signs of the cock-sure bastard were now completely absent. "It's stupid," he added, as Ducky let the silence continue. Silence was a good weapon at times, better even than the gun Jethro carried - people often felt the need to fill it. Jethro opened his mouth, seeming about to say something else.


Instead Ducky took his hand and moved towards his own room, tugging Jethro along with him. "Yes, Jethro," he said softly. "You may sleep in my bed."




Jethro Gibbs stood outside Ducky's house, waiting for his friend to answer the door. He hadn't seen Ducky for several days, his oldest friend being away attending a Medical Examiners' conference. It had flashed through Jethro's mind that the timing was very convenient, maybe too convenient. However, he'd dismissed that thought immediately. As highly respected and liked as Dr. Mallard was by his fellow professionals, Jethro didn't think that even Ducky could have arranged such a conference – especially at such short notice.


The door finally opened and Ducky stood there. "Duck."


"Jethro." Ducky's tone gave nothing away, nor, most unusually, did his eyes. Thus for only the second time in their long acquaintance, Jethro, when trying, couldn't be certain what Ducky was thinking or feeling. Was he surprised to see Jethro? Happy? However, despite not being able to read his oldest friend, Jethro had known him long enough to be almost certain that Ducky was happy, but surprised. The latter sentiment upset Jethro, not for himself, but for Ducky. He would have liked to have thought that Ducky had had the same sense of surety as Jethro had had these past months: that Jethro would return to Ducky's house as arranged.


The two men stood there for several moments, neither making the first move. Normally Jethro didn't wait to be invited in, he just entered – but then normally Ducky didn't keep him waiting. It seemed as though Ducky picked up on those thoughts, because with a slight shake of his head, he took a step backwards and said, his tone still non-revealing, "I am sorry. Do come in, Jethro."


Jethro did so. "Is your mother here?" he asked, as he moved inside.


Ducky shook his head. "No. Whilst I was away at the conference, she and the Corgis have been with Mrs. Patterson."


The conference, as Jethro knew because he'd checked, had finished before lunchtime, thus allowing Ducky to arrive home by mid-afternoon. So why had he not collected his mother? Had he after all expected Jethro? Or had he just been hopeful that Jethro would turn up? Whatever the reason, it suited Jethro perfectly.


"Good," he said firmly, pushing the door shut with one hand, and reaching out to reel Ducky in with the other. Seconds later, deliberately using his height advantage, he had his oldest friend in his arms and had found Ducky's mouth with his own.


The kiss was like coming home for Jethro. As much as he'd enjoyed kissing Ducky three months ago, he realized now that it hadn't completely registered with him. The kiss was like nothing he had before known, but then he'd never known the person he was kissing as well, or for as long, as he'd known Ducky. He already liked, respected, cared for, even loved Ducky as a dear friend and colleague, loving him in another way was just another step in their continuing relationship.


Breaking away finally to draw in some much needed oxygen, Jethro glanced down at his friend. Ducky looked stunned. It was the only word Jethro could think of, and more content than Jethro had ever seen him. Determined to keep him in both states, Jethro tugged Ducky back into an embrace and kissed him again.


"Now," he said moments later, once more remembering how to breathe. "We can make love here on the floor, or we can go up to your bed. I don't know about you, but personally I think I'm too old for the floor, but if that's what you'd like then that's what we'll do. But take it from me, Dr. Mallard, we are going to make love." And as if to prove it, he let go of Ducky and whirled around to push the bolts into place and turn the key. "Well?" he demanded, turning back to look at Ducky, who was smiling, but who still looked faintly surprised.


"Jethro. Do you not think we should talk first? I mean this is . . . Jethro! What are you doing?" Ducky grabbed Jethro's arms. He looked slightly panicked, as Jethro's own hands gripped Ducky upper arms, and one leg had moved as if to trip the shorter man.


Jethro just grinned at the shock that registered on the revealing face. He had never had any intention of dropping Ducky to the floor, and deep down he knew his friend also knew that, despite the fact that Jethro could have done so in a blink of an eye. "I told you, Duck: floor or bed, your choice. I simply thought you'd made it." Jethro composed his face into its ‘innocent' look. It didn't, as he knew, fool his friend.


"Ah, Jethro," Ducky said, this time chuckling, the pale blue eyes twinkled. "Come then," he let go of Jethro's arms and moved out of the grip, held out his hand, and after Jethro had taken it moved towards the stairs.


Once in Ducky's bedroom, Jethro suddenly came to a dead stop. Sheer determination had carried his this far and now for the first time since he'd walked into the house three months ago, he was uncertain. Not of what he wanted, he now knew he'd been sure of that for much longer than he cared to admit. No, he was in doubt of what to do next, and Jethro Gibbs never enjoyed that feeling.


He liked to be in control. To know what he was going to do. To know what was expected of him – even if he choose not to do the expected. One of his wives had called him a control freak, and he couldn't deny that she had been correct. In all bar one, and that had been over thirty years ago, of his previous sexual encounters, he'd been in charge. He was the one with experience, the knowledge – just like everything else in his life. Only this time he wasn't, and it made him a little uncomfortable. He knew in theory about gay sex, but theory had never been his favorite thing.


"Jethro." He suddenly became aware that Ducky was speaking his name. From the tone, it wasn't the first time his friend had said it.


He turned and looked at Ducky, blinking hard. "Huh?" he managed.


Ducky smiled gently. "We do not have to do this, Jethro. We can go back downstairs and have a drink and supper. You can tell me what I have missed during the last few days, and I can tell you some of my stories." The smile was soft and loving.


Jethro caught Ducky's arm. "No," he said firmly. "I want to, Duck. I do. I wouldn't have come here if I hadn't. You know that, don't you? Come on, you've known me long enough. Have you ever known me to willingly do anything I didn't want to do? Well, have you?" he demanded, when Ducky didn't respond speedily enough.


Ducky took a step closer to him, tipping his head further back and looking up. "No, my friend," he said softly. Then he reached up and tugged Jethro's head down and began to kiss him. Any uncertainty that Jethro had been feeling fled as he found himself back in his oldest friend's arms, and felt the lips to which he was already addicted on his own.


But then as suddenly as the kiss had begun, it stopped. "Duck," Jethro growled, staring down at the flushed face of his friend. Ducky's pupils were enlarged and his lips were reddened. As he held his friend, Jethro became aware that Ducky was trembling slightly, clearly fighting for self-control. Well self-control wasn't what Jethro had in mind; once more he bent his head. This time, however, he was stopped. "Ducky?" he fought against exasperation and the unpleasant words that raced into his mind.


"I'm sorry, Jethro my dear, but there is something I must say."


"Go on."


"Only this. If we do this, it will change things forever. Have you considered that?"


"Look, Ducky, I'm old enough and secure enough in myself not to be freaked by it. I don't think I'm suddenly going to . . . What?" he asked, as Ducky shook his head.


"For once, my friend. I was not talking about you, "Ducky said mildly, his tone one of amusement. "I meant it will change things for me." Jethro frowned. Ducky sighed. "Jethro, wanting something that one believes one will never have is one thing, it's something that you learn to live with. It's almost a comfort, reassuring even to know that it's unattainable. It's a surety in an uncertain world. However, once you –"


"Duck, please don't start philosophizing with me." Jethro cut into the speech that he knew, from experience, could go on for several minutes – and by the end of it he'd probably have as much of an idea as to what Ducky had said as he'd had at the beginning.


Ducky smiled slightly. "I'm just trying to say, Jethro, that I have become used to loving you and knowing that you will never be mine, other than as a friend. If we go to bed, everything will change for me. Jethro I cannot make love with you tonight, and return to how things have always been tomorrow."


"You mean if we become lovers then we can't be friends?" Jethro was confused.


"No, my dear. I will always be your friend, whatever we do or do not do. But that friendship will have changed, it will no longer stretch to certain things."


"Such as?"


"Such as me being your best man for the forth time."


"Ducky, the last thing I'm going to be looking for is wife number four."


"You said something similar to that, as I recall, after number two," Ducky said softly. Jethro felt his face flush slightly. The words were true.


"Do you want some sort of commitment from me?"


Ducky shook his head. The look on his face, however, was wistful. "The only commitment I would ask for, my friend, is your remaining friendship, and to know that you won't -"


Jethro lowered his head and kissed Ducky's forehead. "Duck, if I ever look as though I'm planning on number four, you have my permission to take my gun and shoot me. Besides, why would I want to look for another woman, when I'll have you?"


"Ah, Jethro. You're always so certain."


"Only about you, Duck. Only about you. Besides, you did tell me that you had met the right person. Now have we talked for long enough?"


"Yes, Jethro," Ducky said, and once again he reached up and tugged Jethro's head down, and initiated a long kiss.


Jethro couldn't be certain how it happened, and yet he'd never forget a single second of it, but he found himself in Ducky's bed, back in Ducky's arms, his mouth on Ducky's again. The only difference being that this time, they were both naked.


As his hands and lips moved over his friend's body, and he was kissed and caressed in turn, Jethro realized that fundamentally loving was loving. It was about pleasing the other person; about letting the other person please you; it was about sharing; of learning and teaching; of caring and showing you cared. It wasn't about mechanics and technique; it wasn't about sexual knowledge and experience; it wasn't anything to do with his concerns. It was just to do with love.



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