TIME IS PRECIOUS
Ducky is faced with the hardest decision he has ever had to make; whatever he decides he will hurt someone and believe he has failed someone.
An established relationship story.
Written: February 2013. Word count: 4,875.
"Please, Donald." Ducky's mother caught his hand and held it tightly as she gazed appealing up at him.
He put her gin and tonic down onto the table and took her hand between both of his. "Mother, I -"
"Donald, you always promised me you would take me home to Britain before I died. I want to go home, Donald. Please, please, take me home."
Ducky sighed softly and released his double-handed grip and put one hand on her shoulder as he stared down into the face of the woman who had given him life, the woman whom he loved, the woman who had been part of his life for so many years, the woman who had moved to America with him, the woman to whom he had made the promise.
It didn't matter that in five, ten, fifteen minutes time she would most likely have forgotten asking him to take her home. It didn't matter that her lucidity was fading fast and that most of the time she didn't even know where she was and certainly wouldn't have remembered a promise he had made to her more than ten years ago. It didn't matter that if he went ahead and made plans to take her home she'd ask him where home was. None of that mattered; all that mattered was that he had made a promise to her - and he had never in his entire life broken a promise.
"This has too much tonic in it," she snapped, holding out the glass to him. "You always put too much tonic in it."
"Yes, Mother," he said taking the glass from her.
"Why can't you make it in the way Charlie makes it? He never puts too much tonic in it."
"Where is Charlie? Did he visit me today?"
Ducky sighed softly again. "Yes, Mother, he took you and Helen out to tea, don't you remember?" He gave her a gentle smile.
She frowned and narrowed her eyes as she looked at him. "Oh, yes," she said suddenly. "He took us to . . . That nice little tearoom you take me to. I can't quite remember the name, but you know where I mean, do you not, Donald?"
Ducky smiled and nodded. "Yes, Mother, I do," he hoped he managed to hide his surprise that she had remembered where they had gone, even if she couldn't recall the name of the tearoom. He didn't bother to tell her the name because he could see from her eyes that the tearoom, and quite possibly even Charlie, was forgotten and if he told her, she'd only ask him why he was telling her. "I'll put some more gin into this," he said, patting her hand and turning away.
As he opened the gin bottle he paused for just a moment as the doctor kicked in, the doctor who 'lectured' him about the amount of alcohol his mother consumed. But he ignored it; what did it matter? His mother was in her late nineties; she didn't have many pleasures left in life, a nice strong gin and tonic was one of them - why should he curtail her pleasure?
It wasn't as if he blamed Charlie, he had merely learned how to make the perfect Mrs. Mallard gin and tonic from Jethro. At the thought of his lover Ducky sighed again and remembered a second promise he had made - a promise never to leave Jethro. One way or another he had to break one of the promises he had made to the two most important people in his life.
"Here you are, Mother," he said handing her the topped up glass, "just as Charlie makes it."
She took a sip and smiled her pleasure. "And Jethro," she said suddenly. And before Ducky could answer she looked around her, "Where is Jethro? I haven't seen him recently."
Ducky sighed softly for a third time. "He's working, Mother," he said.
"He's always working these days."
"You boys haven't had a falling out, have you?"
He was completely used to his mother's state of mind; as such the sudden switch from talking about Jethro as a man to talking about him (and Ducky himself) as a boy didn't faze Ducky. "No, Mother," he reassured her. "Jethro and I haven't fallen out."
"Good. He's a nice boy. Not of our class, but nonetheless very nice. He has good manners and is well behaved, I am quite happy for him to come and play with you."
"Thank you, Mother." Ducky smiled.
"Will he be coming over again soon?"
Ducky paused; he couldn't exactly tell his mother than after the last time Jethro had visited and Ducky's mother had marched into Ducky's room when they had been . . . (Ducky hadn't even realized his mother was still capable of getting up and down the stairs) that Jethro had been reluctant to visit Ducky's home again, preferring Ducky to go to his. Ducky couldn't blame Jethro, he really couldn't blame him. It still made his cheeks flush a little when he remembered seeing his mother standing in the doorway.
Ducky jumped slightly. "Yes, Mother?"
"I asked you a question. Really, I thought we had brought you better than that. Mind you boys of today - I really do not know what will become of the world. Now when I was a girl . . ."
"I am sorry, Mother," Ducky said swiftly interrupting what he knew would turn into a diatribe. "I am not quite certain when Jethro will be visiting us again, but he has asked me to go to his house tonight - if that would be all right with you?"
She frowned at him. "Donald, you are a grown man since when did you need my permission to go out?"
Ducky forced a smile onto his face. No matter how used he was to the way his mother's reality shifted and how fast at times it shifted, it still upset him a little. "Helen is going to pop over and stay with you," he said, deliberately ignoring the question as in all honesty he didn't have an answer for it.
"Oh, good - will Charlie be coming with her?"
"I don't know, Mother. I believe he will drive her here, but I don't know if he'll be able to stay, he probably has plans."
She sighed. "A grandson is a wonderful thing," she said.
Ducky swallowed hard. "Yes, Mother," he said, feeling as he always did when she mentioned grandchildren; just a little guilty that he was never able to give her any.
She took his hand. "Oh, don't look so upset, Donald, I always knew I'd never have grandchildren." Even for his mother the speed with which she was changing realities was quite something and rather tiring.
Ducky bent over her and kissed her cheek, taking a moment to smell the familiar scent of Chanel No. 5 which his mother loved so much. "I'll go and get my things, Mother," he said.
"Are you spending the night with Jethro?"
Ducky nodded. "Yes, Mother." This time he forced himself not to seek her permission.
She nodded. "Good," she said briskly. "Oh, that will be Helen and Charlie. I'll go, Donald," she declared as, moving far faster than a woman of her age should be able to move, she got out of her chair and leaning on her stick hurried out into the hall to answer the door.
Ducky stood for a moment and heard her say, "Charlie! It's lovely to see you; do come in and make me a gin and tonic, please. Donald did make me one, but he always puts too much tonic in it, doesn’t he Helen?" Ducky didn't wait to hear what either Charlie or Helen said; instead he hurried from the room, went up to his bedroom and picked up his case.
A FEW HOURS LATER
"I really don't know what I'm going to do, Jethro," Ducky said, shifting a little in Jethro's arms so he could easily see his lover's face. "Her moments of lucidity are getting rarer and rarer and yet when she is lucid she is still so much the woman I have always known."
Jethro brushed his lips over Ducky's. "You have to do what you have to do, Duck," he said softly.
Ducky sighed and snuggled back against Jethro, pushing aside the need to make a decision for the moment and enjoying what over the last few months had become a rare moment of quietness and closeness with his lover.
With the demands his mother put on him, with her senility increasing so rapidly, Ducky had found himself unable, unwilling even to leave her alone and he didn't really want to leave her with Helen - not because he didn't trust Helen, he did, he knew his mother would always be safe with her friend. No, it was because he felt it was unfair on Helen. And no matter how often Helen told him she really didn't mind, no matter how often it was Helen who offered to stay with his mother, no matter how often Helen told him he had to make some time for himself, no matter how often, in her lucid moments, his mother echoed Helen's sentiments, Ducky still felt he was being unfair to both his mother and to Helen.
It had been a little easier over the summer as Charlie had been home from university and seemed quite happy to act as escort to his grandmother and Ducky's mother. He had a very natural way of talking to and handling Ducky's mother, that reminded Ducky more than a little of the way Jethro spoke to her and handled her. And his mother certainly responded to Charlie, just as she did to Jethro.
But even though Charlie seemed happy, even though Charlie assured Ducky he was happy to take his grandmother and Ducky's mother out to tea or shopping or anywhere else they wanted to go, Ducky felt guilty. Charlie was young; he should be spending his vacations with his friends, doing things young men of the day did, not playing escort to two elderly ladies - no matter how happy he seemed to be to do so. Given he was studying to become a lawyer, Ducky felt he should be enjoying life now while he could, as all too soon he'd be tied down by the law.
And yet even though he felt guilty, even though he did try to argue with Charlie and Helen, he found himself accepting their offer more often than he didn't, because he valued the far too infrequent moments (like that night) with Jethro.
"The thing is even if I do take her home, take her back to Britain, I don't know if I'll be doing the right thing. I don't know how aware she will be of where she is. But if I don't take her home -"
Jethro silenced him by kissing him and Ducky was happy to be silenced because even as he parted his mouth for Jethro and pressed his body against Jethro's he knew he had made his decision; he knew which promise he would be breaking. He had always known. But for now he would just cling onto each rare moment of being in Jethro's arms, in Jethro's company, of having Jethro's mouth on his, of having his body caressed by Jethro.
As Jethro's kiss became more demanding and deeper and his hand began to move down Ducky's body until it found and closed around Ducky's growing erection and began stroking him in just the way Ducky liked, Ducky pushed all thoughts other than the joy he was being given from his mind, and let his entire focus fall onto the man he loved, the man in whose arms he was being held, the man who knew just how to love him, how to touch him, how to make him happy, how to -
"Jethro!" he cried as his body shook with the force of his climax. "Oh, Jethro," He murmured softly, "I do so love you, my dear."
Jethro wiped his hand on the sheet and kissed Ducky gently. "Love you too, Duck. Always will," he added softly.
THE NEXT DAY
By the time Ducky had finished showering and dressing, Jethro had gone downstairs and when Ducky joined him he found tea and toast waiting for him. He settled down at the table and poured himself a cup of tea; in turn Jethro drank his coffee and stole a piece of toast once Ducky had buttered it. He gave Jethro a mock frown as the piece of toast was snatched from his hand; Jethro just laughed and turned the other chair around so he could sit on it.
He ate the toast and stared at Ducky. "You're going back to Britain, aren't you?" he said, when he'd finished the toast and wiped his fingers on a napkin.
Ducky sighed softly and for a moment looked away from Jethro, down at his plate where he concentrated on spreading butter on another piece of toast. He felt his hand covered and Jethro took the knife from him and squeezed his hand. Ducky looked up into Jethro's steady blue gaze that looked at him in the fond way he always looked at Ducky. "Yes, my dear," Ducky said softly, "I . . . I am indeed going to keep my promise to Mother and take her home. I am sorry," he added.
Jethro shrugged and shook his head. "Nothing to be sorry about, Duck," he said firmly, "she's your mom."
"I know. But - Jethro, I made you a promise and I am about to break it."
"You know, Duck, no matter how much you want to, no matter how hard you try, just sometimes there are promises you have to break."
Ducky swallowed hard. "Oh, Jethro," he murmured. "I wish -"
"I know, Duck. I know. Okay, so when are you going?"
"Are you that eager to get rid of me?" Ducky teased, deliberately forcing some humor into the situation before the tension and pain he was feeling over-whelmed him.
As he stared into Jethro's eyes he saw conflicting emotions flash through the steady gaze and for a fleeting second wondered if his humor really had been misplaced. Then to his relief Jethro just grinned - however, he didn't respond with a light-hearted reply. He just tightened the grip he had on Ducky's hand and let his eyes tell Ducky things he rarely spoke of.
"Just thought that as I've got so much of it, I'd take a few days leave, spend it with you, before you left," he said after they'd just sat in silence for a short time. "If you want me too," he added.
Ducky rolled his eyes and smiled. "I would love you to, Jethro. But I do recommend ensuring the children are all sitting down - Director Vance too - before you tell them you are voluntarily taking leave."
This time Jethro actually laughed aloud as he once again tightened his grip on Ducky's hand.
TWO WEEKS LATER
Helen and Charlie kept Ducky's mother entertained while Ducky and Jethro said goodbye - well goodbye again. They had already said a very private goodbye in Jethro's house a few hours earlier, but in some ways Ducky felt, as Jethro hugged him, this was so much harder.
Once he had made his decision to take his mother home, everything had happened very quickly - having money can help in many ways - and as he didn't have to sell his home and as Director Vance had been very accommodating and even more understanding and as the children had all helped out in their own way, it had only taken two weeks from making the decision to him standing in the airport waiting for board the plane that would take his mother and he back to Britain.
Jethro had been as good as his word and had taken several days leave. Upon hearing about it, Helen and Charlie had insisted on moving into Reston House to care for Ducky's mother while he spent those precious few days with Jethro.
The days had gone far too quickly, even though they'd barely spent a moment of them apart and now Ducky was almost wishing Director Vance hadn't been so accommodating and understanding, that the children hadn't all helped out, that he had had to sell Reston House. He had a mere few moments left with Jethro and those were to be spent in a public airport.
"Going to miss you, Duck," Jethro said as he brushed Ducky's hair from his forehead. His voice was slightly gravelly and Ducky knew he wasn't the only one fighting tears.
"I will miss you too, my dearest Jethro," Ducky said softly; he was no longer in the least concerned that Jethro was still holding him in a loose embrace - after all no one was paying any attention to them, they were all too busy, all far too wrapped up in their own lives; their own worlds. "I'm going to miss you so very much."
"Well, my dear, you know if you ask Timothy nicely I'm sure he'll show you how to use email properly and you could email me - that way you need never worry about the time difference."
Jethro gave him a rueful smile. "Already asked him, Duck," he said softly. "He's going to get me set up with a computer at home."
Ducky widened his eyes and smiled even as he forced himself to swallow around the large lump in his throat. To many people the words would have been nothing; after all didn't everyone have a computer at home? Didn't everyone use email? But for Jethro to say such a thing - well, it was like someone else skywriting how much they loved you.
At that moment Ducky's flight was called and he felt Jethro tighten the embrace and pull him just a little nearer to him as he lowered his head and completely uncaring brushed his lips over Ducky's head. "You take care, Duck, and if you need anything - anything at all - call me or email me or whatever. I mean it, any time night or day - you need me, you contact me. Promise?"
Ducky nodded. "I promise, my dear. And you must promise me that you will take care of yourself. And," he said swiftly, moving back a little so that he could see Jethro's face, "do not tell me you always take care of yourself; remember how well I know you." He stared up at Jethro and touched his face, letting his fingers linger for a moment or two. "Please take care, my dear."
Jethro swallowed hard. "I promise, Duck."
"Thank you. And look after the children." Jethro just nodded and pulled Ducky back into his arms."
"Er, Dr. Mallard?"
Ducky looked up and smiled at Charlie. "I'm just coming, Charles," he said. as he let his arms fall from around Jethro. He looked up to see Helen standing with his mother. This really was it. He smiled at Charlie, "Do take care of yourself and your grandmother, Charles." He held out his hand and Charlie took it.
"I will, Dr. Mallard," he said, "and I'll email you. Let you know how we are and how the law is going." Ducky smiled.
He swallowed again, straightened himself upright and went to where his mother and Helen stood. He kissed Helen's cheek and squeezed her hand. "Goodbye, Helen," he said, "and thank you for all you, for all you and Charlie, have done for Mother - and for me."
"It's been a pleasure, Donald. And I, we," she glanced at Charlie, "will miss you."
"I'll miss you too, Helen, both of you."
He knew Helen and Charlie had already said their goodbyes to his Mother. Thus, he put his arm through hers. "Come along, Mother," he said. "We have to get onto the plane now."
"Are we really going home, Donald?" She sounded almost like an excited young girl and her eyes were bright; she had been lucid ever since they'd got up.
"Yes, Mother; we are."
"You are such a good son, Donald. You are so very kind to me. And in case I forget to say it later, thank you for taking me home."
Ducky swallowed hard. "It's my pleasure, Mother," he said. "Now come along. No," he said gently as Jethro, Helen and Charlie started to go with them. "Please, don't come any further," he smiled, letting his gaze move from Helen to Charlie and finally coming to rest on Jethro where it lingered for a moment or two longer than it had stayed on Helen and Charlie.
Then he turned around again and with his arm still through his Mother's and matching her speed they walked away.
NINE MONTHS LATER
Ducky sat in his study overlooking the sea, sipping a cup of tea and enjoying a rare moment of peace.
For the first six months after they'd returned home, his mother had seemed so much better - she was lucid far more often than she had been, and they were able to go out quite a lot and she'd told him stories he'd never heard before about her life before she'd met and married his father as well as stories about their early years together. It had been a very happy six months.
But then it was as if a light had been turned off and suddenly they were paying for those months. And now she was barely lucid; days could go by and she never, not even for a minute, moved from her world into the real world. She could no longer be left alone, not even for a moment or two, and although Ducky employed several nurses, whom he paid handsomely, she was happier and calmer when he was with her.
Thus his time alone became a rare thing indeed; the only times he knew he'd have a few hours of peace were after she had fallen asleep for the night. He didn't begrudge her his time or his attention, but he did crave his moments alone and they were becoming fewer and fewer.
Putting her into a home had been discussed, but he couldn't do that - at least not yet. Despite her advanced senility she could still, albeit under the watchful eyes of the nurses, bathe and dress herself as well as deal with other personal things - and for that Ducky was grateful; he would have hated for her to lose her dignity. Of course the likelihood of that happening eventually was high and he was quite certain that the day would come when he would have to seriously consider how much longer she could remain at home. But while she was able to care for herself to an extent and while she did still have the odd moment of lucidity he wasn't prepared to do that.
Most of his moments alone were spent on the computer where he always had emails to reply to. The children emailed him daily, even if it was only to send on a joke or some picture or say 'hello'; Tobias emailed him once a week; Charlie emailed him several times a week, as did Helen; Jethro emailed him several times a day - for the most part they were little more than a line or two if that, but they never ceased to make Ducky smile.
They did also speak on the phone, usually late at night Ducky's time. Email was a wonderful tool, but it couldn't replace the spoken voice - at least it couldn't for Ducky - and he looked forward to the calls which happened at least once a week and sometimes more often.
Jethro had called the night before and had told him not to worry if he didn't hear from him for a day or so as he had to go somewhere and wouldn't have easy access to email. Ducky had, as he told him every time they spoke, simply told him to take care and that he would save up any news he had to share with Jethro once he returned.
Now he turned his attention away from the sea and looked at his email; he smiled to see two emails from Jimmy, three from Abby and one each from Timothy, Tony and Ziva, as well as one from Helen and two from Charlie. He was really quite excited as he clicked on the first one - photos of Abby's latest 'art' for her lab and upon finally reading what it was, he smiled.
He was just about to read the first one from Jimmy when the doorbell rang. He stood up and hurried out into the hall. "It's all right, Mrs. Jameson," he said to the housekeeper, "I'll answer it." She smiled and turned to return to the kitchen.
Ducky went to the front door and opened it and just stood staring. "Jethro!" he
finally managed as a wave of emotion washed over him.
"Hey, Duck," Jethro said as he smiled down at Ducky. "Er, can I come in?" he asked after several seconds had gone by during which Ducky just stared up at him.
"Oh, goodness me, yes, of course, my dear, do forgive me, I was just so - Come in, come in." He moved away from the door and Jethro went in, pushing the door shut behind him. He put down the bags he'd been carrying, looked at Ducky and raised an eyebrow.
Ducky smiled, nodded and hurried to close the small distance between them and let Jethro pull him into a fierce embrace. "I've missed you, Duck," he whispered, his lips on Ducky's ear.
"I've missed you too, my dear. I've missed you so very much. Oh, Jethro, why did you not tell me you were coming to visit?"
Before Jethro could answer, the door to his mother's sitting room opened and his mother along with Alison (one of her nurses) came out. "I told you, I want to see who rang the doorbell," she said firmly. "Donald, who - Jethro!" she exclaimed to Ducky's surprise. "Oh, Jethro," and she pulled her arm away from Alison, actually dropped her stick and began to hurry towards Jethro. She tottered and would have fallen, but for the fact that as soon as she'd called his name, Jethro had let go of Ducky and had been moving towards her.
Now he caught her and swept her into his arms and hugged her. "Hello, Mrs. Mallard," he said, bending his head to kiss her cheek. "How have you been?"
"I would have been better if Donald here didn't insist on making my gin and tonics so weak - you never make them too weak. In fact you can make me one now."
"Mother it's only -" But Ducky fell silent; what did it matter what the time was?
"Well, come along then, Jethro, for what are you waiting?"
"Nothing, ma'am," Jethro said, offering his arm to her.
She took it and slowly they walked towards her sitting room. "Oh," she said as they reached Alison, "this is, Alison, one of my so-called nurses."
"Mother," Ducky murmured, but Alison just smiled.
"And this is Jethro Gibbs; he's Donald's boyfriend." Ducky groaned silently and glanced at Alison who didn't seem in the least bit perturbed by the news. "He will be staying here for -" She turned and looked up at Jethro. "For how long are you staying Jethro?"
Jethro glanced at Ducky and for a moment Ducky thought he looked a little uncertain. "Well, Mrs. Mallard, ma'am," he said slowly, "if it's all right with you and Du- Donald, I've come to stay for good."
Ducky just stared at his lover who stared back and silently confirmed his words. "I've retired, Duck," he added softly. "Told you I missed you." Ducky just swallowed hard, certain if he replied, he'd let the tears he was fighting show.
"Well that's splendid news," his mother declared. "And now we can play bridge. Well, do come along, Jethro, I want my gin and tonic."
Jethro glanced at Ducky and smiled his special, intimate smile that promised so much and made Ducky shiver with anticipation. Then he turned away and slowly led Ducky's mother back into her sitting room.
Ducky exchanged a smile with Alison; he knew the sudden lucidity wouldn't last, knew that it couldn't last and he even knew it was possible this sudden burst was the last she would ever have - but he wasn't going to worry about that, not at the moment. It didn't matter for how long it lasted; it didn't matter if it was the time she returned to this reality. It simply didn't matter.
All that mattered right now was that his mother was his mother and his lover was here to stay - he was no longer alone.
"Donald! Alison, for what are you waiting? We are going to play bridge."
"Coming, Mother," Ducky called and he and Alison joined Jethro and his mother.
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