Ashleigh Anpilova


Set about six months after Twilight.

Gibbs has been called into work; Ducky is at home musing and waiting for his return.

An established relationship story.

Written: August 2005. Word count: 1,423.



The clock strikes midnight and still you are not home. Of course ‘home' is a somewhat inaccurate term, as this is not, strictly speaking, your home. It is mine. However, in the last few months since Caitlin's death, you have spent more time here with Mother and myself than you have working on your boat. You claim it's simply because you wish to be with me, and whilst I know that, at least in part, to be true, I also know that you have another reason. A darker, more sinister one; one that you will not admit to anyone, not even to me.


The reason, my dear, is that you are afraid. Not for yourself, but for me. You blame yourself for Caitlin's death, and you fear that I will be Ari's next victim. No one else knows how you feel; no one else would believe it. You have worked hard over the years at building and maintaining your ‘callous distant bastard' façade, so hard that virtually everyone is fooled by it. However, my dear, you never could fool me; I know you too well. I love you too deeply.


It was 7:00 p.m. when the call came, and we had just finished supper. I still do not know why you willingly sit through meals with Mother, but you do, and it doesn't seem to trouble you that everything she eats is little better than baby food. In fact I sometimes think that you are more at ease with Mother than I am; certainly she seems to respond to you better some days than she does to me.


Mother had taken the Corgis off to watch some dreadful TV show, leaving us to clear away and decide how to spend the rest of the evening, when your cell phone rang. After two or three typical Jethro Gibbs exchanges, you flipped it closed, grabbed your coat, paused long enough to kiss me and ruffle my hair, and with a ‘won't be long, Duck,' you'd gone. You didn't even tell me where you were going or why, and I didn't ask.


That was five hours ago, and even by your terms the ‘won't be long,' has clearly been surpassed. It is not the first time I have sat up and waited for you, sat up and worried, because I do worry, my dear. I know that you are a fine agent and a first-class shot. I know that you can and do take care of yourself - most of the time at least, we won't mention frying pans, seven irons and baseball bats.


I know that if something had happened to you, that someone would have called me by now, because long ago, even before she left you, you had included instructions to that effect in your personnel file. And since Caitlin's death, our ‘more than just good friends' relationship has become common knowledge amongst our colleagues. But knowing these things intellectually does not stop me from being concerned; the emotions and the intellect are two quite separate things.


It is also the time: midnight. ‘The witching hour,' as Abby calls it. The time when night officially slips into morning, when the calendar slips over into another day, when human bodies become weary, when minds become tired, when imaginations take over.


It is the time in hospitals when the patients should all be asleep, either by natural or artificial means, when the night staff can finally dim all the lights and begin their vigil. It is not officially considered, by most nurses and doctors, to be the worst hour - that comes at around 3:00 a.m. That seems to be the time when those whose link with life is too tenuous to continue, finally let go. Or at least that is how it seemed to me when I was a young medical student and doctor. But I have never liked midnight; it has always seemed to take away more than it gives. It takes another day and those days become weeks that in turn become months and years and decades, and suddenly you have fewer years left to live than you have lived. Fewer days to share with the person whom you love, fewer occasions from which memories can be created.


I'm getting maudlin, I know that, but that is what this time does to me. At least it does when I'm alone, when I don't know where you are. If you were here with me, my thoughts would not be of years passing and time speeding away, of loss or fear. If I knew you were safely ensconced at your desk, or conducting an interrogation, my thoughts would not be so dark. You don't know that I have these concerns, and despite everything we share, I'll never tell you. I don't want you to be even sub-consciously distracted when you need to be fully aware. Over the years we've been together, I have become an expert at keeping secrets, but I have never enjoyed keeping them from you.


My cell phone sits quietly, too quietly, on the nightstand. The damned thing that I hate, that I let you bully me into buying. ‘You need one, Duck, how else can I contact you when you're not at home or at work?' was your reason. I didn't point out to you that on the rare occasion I wasn't at home or at work, then I was likely to be with you somewhere else.


I hate the thing and the way it burbles at me, but you like me to have it. You have become more obsessed about me carrying it at all times since Caitlin's death. So I let you have your way, just as I let you have your way in so many things. Or at least that is how, I know, it appears to most people. And if that is what they chose to believe, then let them. I'm too old to be concerned as to what other people think about us, about me really, we know and that is all that matters. Like any two people in a long-term close relationship of the kind we share, what is right is what works for us, what we want; what we know, not what other people think.


I glare at it, willing it, rather than the house phone, to ring. Like always when I want it to make noises at me, it fails. Unlike the times I wish it to be silent and it chirrups away at me. I could go to bed, but I won't. I've waited this long, I'll wait a little longer. And you just might call to request my professional presence, and I find that redressing once I have retired to bed lost any of the charm that it might once have had, many years ago.


I re-read the same page, the one that I have been reading for the past ten minutes, of my latest medical journal, in the futile hope that it might this time make sense - it doesn't. I'll leave it until the morning. I choose to ignore the little ‘but it already is,' comment that flashes into my mind. I'll just –


The noise that I have been waiting for begins to sound, and it's no longer an irritating burble, but as welcome as the Mozart concert to which you took me for my birthday earlier this year. The one you sat through very politely and attentively, claiming at the end that at least you hadn't been deafened by the sounds.


"Hiya, Duck," you say cheerfully, but you sound tired. "Sorry I've been so long. Tell you about it later. I'll be home in thirty. Get the bed warm. Love you." The click sounds in my ear and I smile. Even with me you rarely say goodbye, or use any of the other courteous words that most people use before hanging up. But who needs a ‘goodbye' when the voice you love above all others says the words with which you always end a phone call to me when you're alone?


I continue to smile as I undress; indeed I begin to hum. Thirty minutes will give me just enough time to take a quick shower, and warm the bed up as you instructed. It is one order I will never tire of obeying. And maybe, as you were working so late, maybe we can allow ourselves a little extra time before we need to get up in the morning and comply with the call of duty.



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