PAID IN FULL
DiNozzo is running a book on how long Gibbs's yet-to-happen marriage to Hollis Mann will last.
An established relationship story.
Written: October 2007. Word count: 1,556.
"I really don't think it's a good idea, Tony."
"I agree with McGee. It is not a good idea."
"Come on, it's only a bit of fun. Gibbs won't find out."
"Dear me, Anthony. You of all people should know that Jethro always knows what is going on."
"Huh? Oh, hey, Ducky." Tony pushed the notebook he'd been writing in under a pile of reports.
"Good morning, Anthony, Timothy, Ziva." Ducky smiled at each of them in turn, and they returned the greeting. "So what it is this time that you believe Jethro will not find out about."
"Oh, nothing, Ducky. Just –"
"He is running a book on how long Gibbs's marriage to Colonel Mann will last."
"Ziva!" Tony glared at her.
"What? What, Tony? Do you think Ducky is going to tell Gibbs?" She glared back.
For a split second Tony said nothing. Then he hastened to reply, laughing to cover his hesitation. "Of course not, Ziva. It's just –"
"Anthony has never quite forgiven me for winning the last book he ran, Ziva. He still believes that Jethro and I conspired, in order for me to win the money."
Tony laughed again; it sounded slightly false even to his ears. "No, Ducky, of course I don't." Ducky just looked at him, unblinkingly. For a fleeting moment Tony could have sworn that the gaze that held him captive was Gibbs's. He coughed and Ducky blinked. The steel vanished, if indeed it had even been there, and instead Ducky eyes twinkled as they always did. "So, Ducky, you want to place a bet?" He pulled the book back out from under the files. "I can give you good odds on –"
"Oh, I don't think so, Anthony. Thank you. There would be little point."
"Why's that, Ducky?"
"Because, Timothy, Jethro will not marry Colonel Mann. Now if you'll excuse me, I had better go down to Autopsy and see what Mr. Palmer has been up to. Ah good morning, Jethro," he added, raising his voice a little, but not looking away from McGee.
Tony glanced up swiftly. To his surprise he saw his boss striding into the squad room, briefcase in one hand, coffee cup in the other. How had Ducky known?
"Hey, Duck. You want me for something?" Gibbs ignored the 'Morning, boss, Good morning, Gibbs' greetings, and continued walking towards his desk, stopping only when he reached Ducky's side.
Tony saw Ducky tilt his head back and look up at Gibbs; the soft gaze much the same as it usually was when he looked at Gibbs, with maybe a slight . . . Tony couldn't put his finger on it, but it wasn't a look he could recall Ducky giving Gibbs, or anyone else for that matter, before. It was almost calculating. But no, that wasn't right. But there was something; he'd swear to it.
"No, Jethro. Not at the moment. I merely came to say good morning to the children." Ducky smiled. "And now I must go. Mr. Palmer will, no doubt, be waiting for me. I shall see you later."
"Yeah, sure, Duck." Gibbs sounded slightly puzzled. But then as Tony watched he flashed Ducky a smile and finished the journey to his desk.
THREE WEEKS LATER
Gibbs was early, even for him, and there was no one else at their desks when he arrived. He dumped his briefcase and coat, put his Sig in his desk drawer, sat down and took a long swallow of coffee.
Then he looked at his desk.
There in the middle was a white envelope with his name on it. It had been hand-delivered, but stamped, by the mailroom, to show it had nonetheless been checked and cleared. Frowning, he slit the envelope, pulled out the letter and began to read.
I'm sorry that I'm writing to you rather than telling you in person. However, I was unable to reach you by phone and there was not time to come and see you.
By the time you read this I will have left Washington. I have just received an offer of a new job, the kind of offer that only comes once in a lifetime – if that – and I have decided to accept. It had the condition that I was able to take up the position immediately, and, having no ties, I'm able to do that.
I think it's best all round, don't you? I was never going to make you happy, and we were never going to have the kind of relationship that I wanted, I realize that now. We had a good time together, but the last thing I wanted was to have ended up as another of your mistakes.
I do hope that one day, Jethro, you will find happiness with someone.
With best wishes to you for the future.
He pushed the letter back into the envelope, took another swallow of coffee, and turned his attention to the reports DiNozzo had left on his desk.
As 'Dear John' letters went it wasn't bad; far better than the one Jenn had sent him. And he found, only partly to his surprise, that he wasn't bothered by it at all. Hollis was right: he wasn't going to give her what she wanted, the kind of relationship, marriage, man she wanted and deserved.
It was better this way; far better than a fourth divorce. "Hope you do too, Holl," he said softly, before he turned his full attention back to correcting DiNozzo's reports for the third time.
LATER THAT EVENING
"So, Duck, who won?"
Ducky blinked up at him. "Won what, my dear?"
"Don't come the innocent with me, Duck. Won the book DiNozzo was running on how long my marriage to Hollis would last. And don't tell me you didn't know about it," he said swiftly.
Ducky chuckled softly. "Very well, Jethro. As a matter of fact no one won. Technically speaking, had I placed a bet with Anthony, it would have been me, as I said you would not marry Colonel Mann."
"So why didn't you have a bet?"
"I felt it was rather unfair. After all, I did have inside information," Ducky said, and smiled.
For a moment Jethro just looked at him. Then he said, "Ducky, what –"
However, he was silenced by Ducky's lips meeting his. As well known hands began to skillfully and knowledgeably caress his body, he found that all thoughts of Hollis and anyone other than the man making love to him fled.
Once he was certain he had loved Jethro asleep, Ducky carefully slipped from the bed, tucking the covers back around his lover.
He moved quietly across the room and, using a small key that he kept on his key ring, opened a box that sat on the top of his chest of drawers. From it he took a small black book.
He opened it and, by the light of the moon shining in through the yet-to-be-pulled curtains, crossed out a name and wrote 'Paid in full' by the side of it.
Over the years Ducky had collected a number of 'debts', some from extremely prominent people. He had done favors, literally saved lives or reputations, and gradually had amassed several 'markers' on which he could collect.
Not that he did the favors for that reason, not at all. Indeed, it was only if the person concerned was insistent, as some were, did Ducky put their names into his little black book. The little black book that had been given to him by the very first person whom he had helped in such a way. The person concerned had gone as far, not only to buy the book Ducky now held, but also to write his own name in it, just so that Ducky would not forget the debt he owed him.
The person, now an extremely prominent man with considerable power and influence, had been so grateful for the, what was to Ducky a relatively small sum of money, that Ducky had lent him when no one else would take a chance on him, he had insisted that Ducky must promise him if the day ever came when he could do something for Ducky, that Ducky must let him know.
Ducky had done so.
He wished Hollis Mann well in her new career and in her life. He had never liked her, had always known that she was wrong, in so many ways, for Jethro, but he had never wished any harm to come to her. Had she stayed in Washington, she would almost certainly have 'persuaded' Jethro to marry her. Then a month or two or three, or maybe more down the line, she would realize her mistake, and Jethro would end up with a fourth ex-wife, a fourth set of alimony payments and another scar, and Hollis would be hurt and bitter and angry and resentful.
No, it was far better this way – for everyone. And it was certainly better for Ducky himself.
Jethro moving slightly had him hurrying back across the room to slide back into bed and allow himself to be tugged into his lover's arms.
Yes, once again for a time, Jethro was Ducky's and only Ducky's. And maybe this time, it just might remain that way for the rest of their lives.
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