THE TRUTH WILL OUT
After forty years of lying to himself and others, Gibbs makes a conscious decision. Once made, he sets out to see Ducky. But he has more barriers to break down than just his own.
A first time story.
Written: April 2007. Word count: 3,708.
This above all: to thine own self be true,
And it must follow as the night the day
Thou canst not then be false to any man.
Hamlet Act I Scene III William Shakespeare
For forty years Leroy Jethro Gibbs had hidden the truth about himself.
He had lied to his parents.
He had lied to his school mates.
He had lied to his friends.
He had lied to his wives.
He had lied to his girl friends.
He had lied to the Marine Corps.
He had lied to his employers.
And more importantly than all of those, he had lied to himself.
For forty years, he had lived a lie. And he was not proud of it.
He had told no one the truth. The simple, yet deadly truth. The simple, yet deadly truth that he preferred the company of men to women.
He had never admitted to anyone that four disastrous marriages - because the one to Shannon was doomed before she and Kelly had died - and countless affairs, had been his desperate attempts to pretend, to convince the world and himself, that he was normal'.
He'd had one homosexual encounter, if you could call it that, with his closest childhood friend. Jamie Harper had been gay, and had not hidden it, nor had he been ashamed of it. On one never-to-be-forgotten summer afternoon, he had shown Jethro what love could be like. He had done nothing more than put his hand on Jethro, and it had all been over very quickly - well they were only fifteen. But to his day Jethro could still remember Jamie's hand on his burning erection, and Jamie's mouth on his own.
Jamie had thought, had hoped, had even expected, that Jethro would . . . But he hadn't.
Instead, he had made excuses and he had turned his back on his friend. Not as a friend, never as a friend, but as a potential lover. Instead he had chosen to let Jamie believe that it had just happened because he had been horny and Jamie had been available.
By the next summer, Jamie was dead. And Jethro had never forgiven himself.
At the age of sixteen, in some ways immature for his age, in other ways far more mature than any other sixteen year old, he really had believed that he had had killed Jamie. That he had somehow, in some way, been responsible for the cancer that had raced through the delicate frame and eaten away the boy he had known and loved.
Forty years later it was time he stopped pretending.
Time he forgave himself.
Time he let go of the past.
And time he gave his now best friend of the last thirty odd years what he had always wanted. What he deserved.
"Jethro, my dear." Ducky looked surprised to see Jethro.
"Hey, Duck." Jethro smiled down at his old friend.
"Is something the matter?"
"No, Duck. Just thought I'd come and see you. If I'm not disturbing you, that is."
"Of course not. Do come in."
"Thanks." Jethro smiled again and followed Ducky back into his house.
Before he could accept Ducky's invitation of a drink, Mrs. Mallard and her Corgis appeared. "Jethro my dear, how lovely to see you. Do come and join me for a drink." And before he could say anything, she took his arm and led him into her sitting room.
For the next twenty minutes, Jethro was forced to talk to the old woman and attempt to follow her leaps in time and occasion. As he listened to her and nodded and answered her he was fully aware that if he didn't get to speak to Ducky soon, he might change his mind and just go home.
"Now, Mother," Ducky suddenly said. "Isn't it time for Jeopardy?"
"Yes," Ducky said patiently.
"Oh, in that case I can't sit around talking to you boys. Go away and play quietly somewhere. I do not wish to be disturbed." And with that, Mrs. Mallard picked up the remote control for the television set, and seconds later raucous laughter blasted out.
"Come along, Jethro." Ducky took his arm and led him from the room. "We shall not be able to hear it in my sitting room."
Still holding Jethro's arm, he moved across the hallway, up the stairs and into the peace and tranquility of his sitting room. Once there he let his hand fall from Jethro's arm, switched on the wall and table lamps and moved to his drinks' cabinet, where, without bothering to ask Jethro what he wanted, he poured two large whiskies and brought them back to where Jethro stood by the sofa.
Jethro took both glasses and waited until Ducky sat down before joining him and handing over one of the two glasses. Then he sipped his whiskey, as always it was excellent, leaned back and let the warmth wash over him, both inside and out.
Ducky smiled at him and after a moment or two of moving around, in a clear attempt to make himself comfortable, also settled against the soft cushioned back of the sofa and sipped his own drink.
For several moments they just, as they often did, sat in silence; simply enjoying one another's company.
But silence and simply enjoying his oldest friend's company had not been Jethro's plan for the evening.
Thus after another few minutes of peace, he said, "Duck?"
"Yes, my dear?" Ducky looked at him and waited.
Jethro swallowed another sip of whiskey, looked directly into the pale blue gaze and said, "When did you know you were gay?"
"How old were you? Did you know? Or was it . . ." Jethro trailed off.
Ducky shifted slightly in his seat and looked at Jethro; his puzzlement was clear. "I always knew," he said finally. "I realized at a fairly early age that I was different from other boys. I never wanted to tease a girl, I never wanted to attract her attention, and when puberty came, I found that I didn't look at girls in the way my friends did. I am not certain that I rationalized at the time what that made me, but instinctively I knew that I would never marry. Indeed that I would never be involved at an emotional or sexual level with a young lady."
"I was fifteen."
"What?" Ducky sounded bewildered.
"When I realized. When I admitted it. Not that I did, not really, but I knew."
"Jethro, I "
But Jethro went on speaking. He knew that if he didn't take this chance, he'd spend another forty years, if he lived that long, in silence. "He was my closest friend then; a bit like you and me are now, but no where near as intense. Well, you aren't intense when you're fifteen, are you?"
"Jethro my dear, I "
"It was one weekend, mom and dad had left me alone, as they usually did, and Jamie came over. He'd done it many times before, visited me that is, but this time something was different. We were different. No, I was different. He . . . I don't know how it started, Duck, but . . . It was good; more than good. He . . . I . . . It was simple, barely nothing. But . . . It was probably the best ever. And I knew then, but, I couldn't handle it. Jamie could. He'd known for years before that, he told me. I think I loved him, not that at fifteen you know what love is, but. . ."
"Jethro, I really don't "
"I knew I cared about him. I knew that what we'd done, despite being wrong in most people's eyes was the rightist thing I'd ever done. The most honest, the most beautiful, but also the most dangerous. And as I held him, as he touched me and we kissed, I knew what I'd do."
"And what was that?" Ducky now sounded almost fascinated, although still as if he was part of a dream.
"I turned my back on him, Duck. Not as a friend. But I let him believe that it was all a mistake. That is was just something two horny teenagers do."
"Maybe it was."
Jethro shook his head. "No. No, it wasn't. I knew that. But I was scared, Duck. Hell, no, that's an understatement. I was petrified. I knew that I wanted to be a Marine and that they'd never take me if I were gay. And I knew that my father would kill me if he found out."
"I doubt that, my dear."
Jethro grabbed Ducky's hand and held it, tightening the grip until the eyes that held his widened, and a look of pain appeared on the face he knew so well. "Don't doubt it, Ducky. Don't ever doubt it." Jethro loosened his grasp and instead rubbed the hand he had gripped so tightly it had turned white. "I let him down, Duck." He let go of Ducky's hand.
"My dear, I "
"But that's not the worst. He died the next year."
"Oh, Jethro." Ducky slipped his hand back into Jethro's, and held it firmly. "Did he . . ."
Jethro shook his head. "No. It was cancer. I blamed myself. For years I blamed myself. Told myself that I'd caused it."
"Jethro, that's "
"Not possible. Yeah, I know, but . . . It wasn't me, was it, Duck? Please, tell me it wasn't?" Jethro shook himself, amazed at his plea, at the pain in his voice. Stunned that forty years on, he still believed, deep down he still thought, that it was his fault. That somehow he, Leroy Jethro Gibbs, had given his best friend cancer.
Ducky touched his face. "Oh, Jethro. Oh, my dear, dear, Jethro. No, of course it wasn't your fault."
"Then why do I still feel it was?"
"Because you are a good man, a caring man."
"Don't know about that, Duck. I let Jamie down. And over the years I've let everyone down who's cared for me."
"Jethro, don't say that."
"Why not, it's the truth. Didn't you ever suspect?"
Ducky shook his head. "No."
"What else did you put four failed marriages and countless affairs down to?"
"There were only three failed marriages, my dear. And I thought that your obsession with redheads and your need to keep remarrying and have someone in your life, was due to Shannon's death. I thought that part of you was always seeking to replace her."
"Four, Duck. Shannon and I wouldn't have lasted."
"Kelly was our saving grace, but even so. I knew. She knew. We both knew. It was just that neither of us was prepared to admit it."
"Oh." Was all Ducky said.
"I played the game, Duck, because I was scared. I married and re-married and screwed countless women, all because I couldn't face what I really was. Most of the time I hated the sex, and that was all it was: sex, fucking. But it wasn't me. It wasn't what I was."
"Have you ever . . . ?"
Jethro shook his head. "No. Only that once."
"Jethro, you were fifteen years old. And if you haven't been with a man since that time, then it is more than possible, probable even, that it was all just something that people go through."
Jethro shook his head. "No. It wasn't. Come on, Duck, don't tell me that it's impossible. Don't tell me that you don't know, or know of, other blokes who've done what I've done. Know what they are, but hidden it."
"Yes, of course I have. It isn't that unusual, my dear. But . . ."
"Have you ever slept with a woman?"
Ducky shook his head. "No."
"So all your stories about them, are just that, stories?" Ducky nodded. "Then aren't you hiding too?"
"It's not the same."
"Do you love me?"
"What?" Ducky looked surprised, and it also showed in his tone.
"Do you love me?"
After a moment or two, Ducky said softly, "Yes. You know I do."
"As a friend, yes. But that's not what I mean, Duck, and you know it." Jethro again tightened his grip on the hand he still held.
Ducky sighed. "I'm sorry. Yes, you are quite right, Jethro. I do know it isn't what you meant. Yes, my dear, I do love you as more than a friend. I have done so for over three decades."
"And you want me?"
Ducky nodded slowly. "Since the day I met you, yes."
"Good. Because I want you too, and have done for God knows how long."
"Jethro, I "
"So, Duck, why don't we both stop being unhappy and go to bed?"
Ducky just stared at him, wide eyed, mouth very slightly parted. Jethro had to fight his urge to slip his finger between the parted lips.
For what seemed like an eternity, but in reality was a minute at the most, there was silence. Then Ducky said softly, "Oh, my dear, it isn't as simple as that."
For a moment Jethro just stared at his friend. Then he smiled, took Ducky's hand and said, "Sure it is, Duck. It's just sex. Sex is simple; I'm good at it. And I'll make it good for you. I promise." He tried to pull Ducky nearer to him.
To his surprise, however, Ducky not only moved back, he deliberately pulled his hand from Jethro's, before capturing Jethro's hand in his own, holding it gently and lightly stroking it. He looked at Jethro; the pale eyes suddenly looked sad. "I'm sure you are, my dear. And I have absolutely no doubt that you would make it very good for me." Ducky spoke softly.
"Then what's the problem? Or do you want me to go and find another man to fuck?"
Ducky sighed and looked at him. "Oh, my dear, dear, Jethro. That is the problem."
"I do not wish to have sex with you. I do not wish you to 'fuck' me."
Jethro stared. "You said you wanted me."
"Yes," Ducky nodded. "I do. I want you very much, my dear. However, I want to make love to and with you. I want you to make love to me. I do not wish to merely have sex with you."
Jethro frowned. "Don't play semantics with me, Duck. I don't like it."
"I'm not, Jethro. Lovemaking and sex are two entirely different things. If you do not, if you cannot, understand that then . . . Then I am sorry, my dear, but I cannot give you what you want."
"But I love you," Jethro said, shaking his head slightly, as he tried to follow his dearest friend's logic.
"Yes, my dear, dear, Jethro, I know that. And I love you, more I think than you could ever understand. But -" Ducky broke off and shook his own head. Then he sighed and, moving more quickly than Jethro had seen him do for some years, closed the gap between them, took Jethro's head in his hands and pulled it towards him. "Come here," he murmured, as he met Jethro's mouth with his own.
The feel of another male's lips on his own instantly yanked Jethro back forty years into the past. But just as quickly the memory fled, as he knew that the lips that were kissing him were those of a man, not of a boy. That they were those of someone who was dearer, more important, to him than his own life was. And as he met, accepted and returned Ducky's kiss, he knew that as soppy and unrealistic as it may sound, he had finally found perfection.
Everything that Jamie had showed him, taught him, in that one afternoon had led him here. Had led him into the arms of the man he'd loved from almost the moment he'd met him. And as Ducky gave himself to Jethro in his kiss, he touched Jethro beyond measure, beyond words, beyond explanation, beyond definition. The years he had spent lying to everyone who knew him, of lying to himself, fell away in the moment of almost overwhelming, but nonetheless welcome, truth and honesty.
And as he accepted the kiss, deepened it, gave and took more, sought for more, he felt a fission of what was a mixture of love, adoration, acceptance, a tinge of fear, but most of all pure and unadulterated contentment, the like of which he had never before known.
"Duck?" he managed, when the kiss finally ended.
Ducky looked dazed; ebony had all but covered the pale blue, and what blue did remain was no longer pale, but had deepened to the almost sapphire blue it had been when Jethro had first met his friend. His lips were swollen and reddened; his cheeks were flushed; his hair was ruffled, and he appeared almost boneless as he gazed at Jethro. The look on his face and in the vocal eyes was a mass of contradictions, and he seemed almost dazed, if not confused.
Slightly worried now, Jethro gripped Ducky's arms and repeated, "Duck?"
Then his friend shook his head a little, and the dazed look began to fade. "Now do you see?" he asked softly, raising one slightly shaky hand to touch Jethro's face. "Now do you understand?"
Ducky was right.
It wasn't that simple.
And not just because of the sex versus lovemaking, Jethro got the difference now. Indeed in many ways that was the simple part.
What they'd just shared was lovemaking; in fact at a basic level what they shared every day was lovemaking. Jethro had said it himself, he was used to sex, to fucking; he didn't know what it was like to make love to someone, to really make love to someone with everything that the words entailed.
And he regretted that.
Yes, he had been good at sex, damn good. Despite not enjoying most of his liaisons with the women he'd bedded, he had nonetheless been good at what he did. He had given them pleasure, at least at a physical level. But he'd known nothing about making love. Not beyond the one simple afternoon of bliss he and Jamie had shared. And that fell woefully short compared to what he and Ducky had just shared.
He could make love to Ducky and with Ducky. He wanted to. He wanted to very much. He yearned to do so. He needed to do so. But it went far beyond that.
And that was what was not simple.
If they went to bed now, then it sealed both of them into a relationship that went beyond that of friendship, beyond that of love, and beyond that of lovers. It would not be a one-time deal. It would be about commitment and exclusivity. About give and take. About sharing. About accepting it was all right to let go of control and hand it over to someone else; and about doing so. It would be about trusting. About loving. Caring. Needing. Wanting. Respecting. Equality, not at the keep a tally level, but at a level Jethro wasn't sure he could even properly begin to explain.
If he took Ducky to bed now, made love to him, then his freedom was over.
But hadn't that been so for years anyway?
And what was freedom?
Did screwing countless women, slinking off as soon as you'd fucked them because you couldn't bear to stay the night constitute freedom?
Given that he had lived a lie since he was fifteen, he could hardly say he was free. Quite the opposite in fact.
Coming here tonight, confessing to Ducky, kissing Ducky, accepting what he was, admitting what he felt had freed him. Surely taking it further could only increase that freedom? And yet, when he'd made his decision to go and see Ducky, to tell him, the only thought on his mind had been to take Ducky to bed.
His had been a very simple agenda:
- Go to Ducky.
- Tell Ducky the truth.
- Kiss Ducky.
- Take Ducky to bed.
But now, as he really thought about it, that had been laughable. It had never been, was never going to be, as simple as that, because the way he'd thought it out, had excluded all emotional attachment to his dearest friend. And that was an impossibility.
For more than thirty years, if he were truly honest, his life had to some degree at least, revolved around Ducky. Their friendship, a friendship between what was, on the face of it, two completely opposite in just about everything, people, had only gotten stronger, more intimate, more exclusive over the years.
He swallowed hard and looked into the steady gaze that just watched him.
After a moment or two, he again reversed the grip Ducky had on his hand, capturing once more and squeezing Ducky's own hand. Then he stood up, gently pulling Ducky, who continued to watch him in silence, to his feet with him.
Once they were standing, he took Ducky's hand between both of his own, and matched the intense stare. "Yes, Duck," he said softly. "I understand. I understand completely. Now why don't you let me take you to bed and make love to you?"
Ducky's eyes shone and he smiled; for a second Jethro felt him lean into an embrace. But then he stopped himself and put his other hand over Jethro's. "Are you certain, my dear?" he asked softly. "Are you really quite, quite certain?" His gaze was again intense, and it told Jethro, if he'd needed telling, that he was not talking about lovemaking.
It was his final chance.
His very last opportunity.
He could walk away now.
Or . . .
But there was no 'or'.
There never had been.
Not from the moment he had made his decision and left his home.
He just smiled gently down at the man he loved. "Oh, yes, Duck," he said, loosening one hand so that he could stroke Ducky's cheek. "I am sure. In fact I'm more than sure."
And then deciding that he'd said all the he could say with mere words, he gathered Ducky into his arms, lowered his head and again found the mouth he already knew he'd never tire of kissing. The mouth he was already addicted to.
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