TRUTH AND CONFESSIONS
Gibbs turns up in Autopsy after his third wife hit him with a baseball bat. Ducky patches him up and persuades Jethro to tell him why his wife had attacked him. Jethro's reluctant explanation leads to a confession by Ducky.
A first time story.
Written: August 2005. Word count: 3,936.
"Now let's see if we can't make you a little more comfortable, before I put you away for the night. You see -"
"I'll be with you in a moment, Jethro. I just need to -"
"Duck." This time the tone of his friend's voice registered in Ducky's brain; it wasn't Jethro's usual one.
He turned towards the door and gasped in horror when he saw Jethro standing there, or rather leaning heavily against the door, as though it were the only thing keeping him on his feet. "Good God, Jethro my dear. What on earth has happened to you?" Ducky hurried across the room, put his arm around Jethro's back, urged his friend to put one of his arms around Ducky's shoulders, and, after waiting while the taller man retrieved his balance, led him slowly across the room, and helped him up onto one of the autopsy tables.
Slipping seamlessly from friend to doctor mode, Ducky began to run his fingers carefully, but thoroughly over Jethro's scalp, and around the wound that had been bleeding, if the dried blood around it was any indication, copiously. As careful as he was, Ducky felt his friend flinch more than once, but Jethro neither spoke nor make a sound.
Turning his attention to Jethro's eyes, Ducky repeated his question. "What happened, Jethro?" he said softly, pausing his ministrations and looking steadily into the dark blue, slightly unfocussed eyes.
"I came off second best from a run in with a baseball bat," Jethro finally said.
Ducky blinked, and a slight tingling sensation began to creep up his spine. "Who was on the other end of it?" he asked, after a moment or two. When Jethro said nothing and tried to glance away, Ducky added softly, "Or don't I need to ask?" At his friend's continued silence, he sighed and said simply, "Oh, Jethro." For a moment he let the friend become dominant again, and he put one hand on Jethro's shoulder and let the other slip down to his hand, which he noticed was also grimy with blood.
While his hand was touching Jethro's, Ducky also took the opportunity to take his friend's pulse. It was somewhat faster than usual, but that was hardly surprising. Slipping his hand away, and patting Jethro's shoulder, Ducky, after reassuring himself that Jethro didn't need his support to remain upright, moved to collect a bowl which he filled with warm water and antiseptic liquid, and a needle and some sutures.
"Why did she do it?" he asked after several moments of silence, as he worked on Jethro's head.
"It doesn't matter."
"I said it doesn't matter. Just leave it, Duck. Please."
"Leroy Jethro Gibbs, you really can be the most infuriating man. Tell me, my friend, if our situations were reversed would you ‘just leave it?'"
"I wouldn't make a very good doctor, Duck," Jethro quipped, but his heart clearly wasn't in it.
"Jethro," Ducky warned. The dark gaze met his and held it. "Fine," Ducky said after a second or two. "But do not think you are working tomorrow."
"Ducky! You can't -"
"Oh, yes, I can, Special Agent Gibbs. And I shall."
Jethro sighed and ran a hand wearily over his head, wincing again as it came close to the laceration; Ducky gently moved the wandering hand away. "Fine, you win. She thinks I'm seeing someone else."
Ducky blinked. "But that's preposterous. If you aren't at home, you're here working, sometimes until ridiculous hours, I must add. And if you aren't here, you are with me. When would you have the time to see anyone else? Let me drive you home. I'll talk to her. Reassure her. After all I did -"
"No!" The word echoed around the room and Ducky took an involuntary step backwards.
"Sorry, Duck. I didn't mean to yell at you. It's just that it wouldn't be a good idea."
"She was throwing things when I left. I don't want . . ." he trailed off.
Ducky held the almost panic-filled stare for another moment, then shook his head and returned to his task. "It's strange," he said conversationally a few moments later.
"Well, just that in the past you've always told me about your problems with your wives. Quite often in graphic detail. I just find it a little odd that this time you seem unable, or unwilling to share your problems. There. I've finished. You don't appear to have concussion, although I would prefer it if someone were going to be with you tonight, just to be certain. Nor, thankfully, do you appear to have any lasting damage. As you know the amount of blood lost through a head wound does not always bear any resemblance to the severity of the wound. I remember -"
"All right. All right. You win - again." Jethro held one hand up and caught Ducky's wrist with the other.
"Don't do your innocent act with me, Ducky. It doesn't work any longer. The reason it wouldn't be a good idea for you to come home with me to ‘explain,' is that -" Jethro broke off, swallowed, and brought the hand he'd been holding up in surrender down to Ducky's shoulder; the movement consciously or sub-consciously echoing Ducky's own actions earlier. Then he said softly, "Is that it's you she thinks I'm seeing."
"But you are. We're due to go out to dinner."
"Ducky. That's not what I meant." Jethro's tone was a mixture of weariness, vexation, fondness, bemusement and something that Ducky couldn't immediately identify.
"Oh," Ducky said, suddenly realizing how stupid he'd sounded. "She thinks we're . . ."
"Yes. Apparently she believes that you're in love with me."
"I see," Ducky said, lowering his gaze from the dark one.
"I told her she was being stupid and had it all wrong. Christ, she knows how long we've been friends. She should understand . . . Duck? Ducky, look at me. Duck?" Jethro moved the hand that had been holding Ducky's and gripped Ducky's chin. It took him quite a lot of effort, but he eventually managed to tilt Ducky's head back. "Duck?" he whispered. "Is she right?" Ducky said nothing; he didn't even try to pull away. Instead he stared over Jethro's shoulder. "Are you in love with me?" Jethro finally asked.
"An old master at Eton once told me ‘never ask a question, Mallard, unless you're certain you really want the answer,'" Ducky said. "You see I always was an inquisitive child. I always had to know why, what, how, when, who. It was never enough simply knowing that something -"
"Ducky!" Jethro shook the shoulder he was still gripping, hard, while tightening his hold on Ducky's chin. Still Ducky wouldn't meet his eyes. "Are you in love with me?" Jethro said softly.
Now Ducky did turn his stare onto Jethro. He met the dark gaze and held it unblinkingly. "Yes," he said softly, but firmly. "Now if you'll excuse me, please, Gibbs. I need to call Stanley." Proving that Jethro's grip may not have been as firm as the ex-Marine might have thought, Ducky extracted himself and moved across the room. As always when particularly tired, stressed, worried, or distracted, his limp was more pronounced.
"Stanley? As in Burley?"
"Because, my de . . . Gibbs. As your doctor I am not going to allow you to be alone tonight. I do not believe you are concussed, but I still don't want you falling asleep without anyone to wake you. I'm not going to send you home to her. Staying with me is not an option you'll wish to pursue, thus Stanley is the logical choice." Ducky picked up the receiver and pressed two buttons.
The next second the former was taken from him and firmly replaced; the sound echoed around the room. He didn't turn around. Not even when two hands were placed on his shoulders and force used to move him. It was only when Jethro, clearly using every inch of his extra height, the twelve fewer years he had on Ducky, and the strength he'd gained in the Marines, increased the pressure, that Ducky complied.
He hadn't realized quite how close Jethro had moved to him; the increased proximity forced him to tilt his head back even further than he usually had to in order to meet the steady gaze. "You love me?"
"You're in love with me?"
"As in . . ." Jethro broke off for a moment. He frowned, stared down into Ducky's eyes, peering deeply as if trying to read the answer without having to ask the question. Then sighing and rolling his eyes he said softly, "As in you want to go to bed with me?"
Now Ducky sighed, heavily. "Yes," he said finally.
"But why didn't you ever tell me? I thought we were friends?" Jethro sounded hurt; had the ‘being gay' part alone come out, Ducky would almost be amused.
"And when exactly, Jethro, do you think I should have mentioned these facts? When you were a cocky Marine who would have run a mile from anyone who might even, by association, have disgraced the uniform? When I was cleaning you up after wife number one decided to attack you? When I was being your best man for wife number two? When I arrived at your house to find said wife number two waving a seven iron over your head? Or as we stood waiting for wife number three to make her appearance? Or maybe during one of the cases we've worked on? Or perhaps in the middle of a staff conference? Would any of those occasions been appropriate, do you think, Jethro?"
"Well, no. But you had other chances. And I wouldn't have done."
"Would not have done what?"
"Run a mile as you suggested. I'm not homophobic, Duck."
"I'm sorry, Jethro. I know you aren't. I didn't mean to imply anything else. It is just that you were such a passionate young Marine. I didn't want to spoil our growing friendship, and after that, it just got more difficult to tell you that I preferred the company of men to that of women. I'm sorry," Ducky said, not entirely certain for what he was apologizing, only knowing he had to.
Ducky sighed again. "I wanted to take you to bed the first time I met you, Jethro. Love came during the first year we knew one another. Now, will you please let go of me? Your hands are hurting my shoulders, and from the look of them, you are in danger of losing the blood supply to them. Let me call Stanley, he can take you home with him. And tomorrow -"
"And tomorrow what?"
"You can tell Director Morrow that you'd prefer a new Medical Examiner."
"You make it sound as simple as me ordering a new stapler. Ducky you can't just . . . Well, you can't."
Ducky raised an eyebrow. "I love you, Jethro," he said flatly. "I love you in a way you were taught by the Marines that a man shouldn't love another man. I want to take you to bed. I want to make love to you, Jethro. I want to kiss you. To touch you. To caress you. Would you like me to go into detail of what I'd like to do to you? And have you do to me. Would you like me to -"
He came to a spluttering halt as Jethro found the perfect way to silence him. Stunned by the sheer power and passion of the kiss, Ducky momentarily found himself doing nothing more than letting his lips be crushed by the ones he dreamed about.
As Jethro's arms tightened around him and a questing tongue began to flicker over Ducky's lower lip, Ducky dredged up enough strength from somewhere within himself to break away. "No!" he said, backing away. "No." Then staring up at Jethro who looked far from stunned, shocked, disgusted, horrified, or any of the other hundred and one emotions Ducky always imaged would cross the handsome face should what just happened, ever happen, he said softly. "Jethro?"
"Hmm, now that's a far more interesting way of getting you to stop talking. I wish I'd thought of it sooner."
"Oh, yes, Jethro. It's just the kind of thing you could do in front of your agents." For a moment Ducky slipped into their banter. Then realization hit him. "Just why the hell did you do it, Gibbs?"
Jethro blinked at the harsh tone. Then smiled his soft gentle smile, the one that Ducky knew his friend reserved just for him. The one that touched his eyes and softened his countenance, the smile that had always made Ducky feel cherished. "Why do you think, Duck?" he drawled, reaching out and gathering Ducky back into his embrace.
Once again Ducky tugged himself away. "I can think of several reasons, Jethro," he said. "But I don't think you're that much of a bastard, no matter how much you try to convince people you are. So I'm left with assuming that your bang on the head has done you more damage than I first thought, in which case I think I should take you to the local hospital. Or . . . Or that you're even kinder than I've always known you to be."
Jethro blinked several times, and Ducky could see him following the somewhat convoluted speech. "Actually, Duck, I am the bastard I try to convince people I am. I'm just not with you. My head is fine thank you. Throbbing somewhat, but I assure you that I'm in full possession of my faculties. And I'm not offering you a mercy fuck, if that's what you mean by me being ‘even kinder than you'd always known me to be.' I'm not that altruistic, Duck. Not even for you." He frowned, cocked his head to one side and asked, "Do you really think I'd do that?"
Ducky nodded, then shook his head, then shrugged. Once more he discovered that he was back in Jethro's arms, but he had no memory of being pulled back there. He allowed himself a moment or two's respite, and didn't fight to escape. "I don't know what to think anymore, Jethro. I have never envisaged us having this conversation. Or rather I had, but it usually ended badly."
"I never wanted to lose your friendship, Jethro. It's been the best thing in my life for the past twenty-two years."
"You really thought I'd just walk away from you if I found out you were gay?" Jethro sounded saddened and perplexed.
Ducky shook his head hastily, determined to reassure his friend. "No," he said softly. "But if you found out how I felt about you. Well, I did then imagine that you would . . . Shall we say put some distance between us, emotionally if not physically. It's one thing to discover that your best friend prefers the company of men, quite another to discover said best friend is in love with you. You are only human, Jethro my dear, not matter how you try to convince your agents and the world otherwise. You would have detached yourself from me."
"I don't think I call this detaching myself," Jethro said softly, once more lowering his head and searching for Ducky's mouth.
This time Ducky not only allowed and didn't try to fight the kiss, he returned it for a second or two. Pulling back with more regret than he'd felt in his life, he said softly, "No, indeed, it doesn't seem as though you are. And that is what confuses me, Jethro. What do you want from me? Why are you kissing me? Why are you -"
"See I told you it was a much more pleasant way of shutting you up. I could get used to doing it."
"Don't, Jethro," Ducky said, his tone sharp. "Don't tease me like this. It is not worthy of you."
"I need to sit back down. Come on." Leaning heavily on Ducky again Jethro moved back to the spare autopsy table and sank down onto it. "That's better," he said, a few moments later, after his color began to return to something like his normal weather-tanned hue. "Stop fussing," he added, as Ducky once more began to take his pulse and shine a light into his eyes. "I'm fine."
"Maybe I should take you to the hospital," Ducky said.
"Duck. I've got my own doctor here. I'm fine, I tell you. Look it's not the first time I've been hit on the head and I doubt it'll be the last. Trust me. I may push my luck, and do daft things with my health and body, but I'm not that stupid. I know the dangers of head injuries. I had them drummed into me long before you came along to tell me the gory details. Believe me, Duck, I am okay. Now come here." Again, he tugged and rearranged Ducky, until the latter was standing between Jethro's spread legs, with Jethro's arms linked behind his back. Ducky let himself be organized, too tired now emotionally as well as physically to fight his friend any longer.
Jethro began to speak again. "What you said about me distancing myself would, I'm ashamed to have to admit it, almost certainly have been true at one stage. You're right, Duck. I don't think I'd have handled finding out that you were in love me all that well. And maybe I wouldn't even have been that good at managing being told you were gay, but I think - at least I hope - I would have been okay with that. But that would have been nearly a couple of decades ago, Duck."
Ducky blinked. "Oh," was all he could manage.
"I care for you, Ducky. You know that. Damn it, everyone knows that. It's hardly uncommon knowledge that you get away with stuff no one else would even dare to think of trying with me. I've seen Stan and the others just waiting for me to explode when you start one of your rambling stories, and how shocked they are when all I manage is my exasperated ‘Duck.'"
"Fondly exasperated, if you please, Jethro. Let us get these things correct."
Jethro smiled. "Yeah. Fondly exasperated. You know more about me than any of ‘them' did, do, or even want to. I've known for a hell of a long time that I don't want to lose you or your friendship. The whole situation with your mother worries me for selfish reasons. I keep expecting you to walk in here one day and hand your notice in. And not only will that mean we'll lose the best damned ME this country has, I'd lose the best friend I've ever had. There are some days, Duck, when the only reason I keep coming back to this place, is because I know you'll be here. I tire of it sometimes. No matter what we do, no matter how many hours a day we work, it's not enough. Today we solve a murder and put the person responsible behind bars, tomorrow someone else comes along and wham, it all starts again."
"I didn't know you felt like that, Jethro my dear. You've never said. Never even hinted."
"No, well, as I said it's not all that often. But I get those days, probably no more than any other worker does. At least I have a reason to come to work."
"You wouldn't lose my friendship, Jethro, just because I no longer worked here."
"No, I know. But it wouldn't be the same. Besides, you once told me that when you retired you wanted to return to England. Now that would put a distance between us."
"Jethro, that was over twenty years ago when I told you that. I haven't thought of it since. No, my friend, my life is now here, in your country. I may go and visit Britain again, but to live? No. There are too many things to which I have grown accustomed over here. For instance -"
"Ducky. Will you shut up for a moment and let me finish. I'm trying to tell you that I think I love you."
"Okay. I know. I just didn't know what that meant. If it meant anything more than friendship and companionship kind of love."
"Jethro, I really do not think that you are -"
"Actually, I am, Ducky. When she should there screaming at me, waving the bat around, throwing her accusations at me, shall I tell you what went through my mind?"
"How do I get out of the way, might have been a good thought to have had, Jethro. Better still to have acted on it."
Jethro shook his head. "No. My thought was ‘My God, I wish she was right.' And that's how I ended up getting hit. I'd dodged her pretty well until then, but as she threw the ‘Ducky's in love with you,' at me, I lost concentration and wham. She hit me."
"You wanted me to be in love with you?"
"Why do you think? Come on, Duck. You've been to one of the best schools in England; you've got a medical degree, and at least two others that I know about; you're far brighter than me. You should be able to figure it out."
"I think I'm just having problems believing it, Jethro."
"Well, we can do something about that," Jethro said with a smile. And he did.
"Better?" he asked several minutes later. "Believe me now?"
"I'm still not certain," Ducky said and smiled. "Maybe you should convince me some more."
"Mmm, maybe I should. But how about somewhere other than a cold autopsy table, with a dead body for company."
"Oh, dear. I'd quite forgotten about poor Mr. Lamb. What must he think?"
"A far more important question is, what will your mother think if you take me home with you, and I spend the night with you in your bed?"
"Mother likes you, Jethro. A lot. She's always saying that we don't see enough of you. She told me off quite severely you know for introducing you to . . . Jethro about -"
"Don't worry about it, Duck. The marriage was over months ago. She's been seeing someone else. The whole episode tonight was just a build up to her way of walking out on me, and saving face when she does so. She's probably got a bag or two packed and stored away."
"Are you certain, my dear?"
"Yep. Got the evidence."
"You had her followed?" Ducky was surprised.
"Nope. Didn't need to. I found a pregnancy test in the bathroom. It was positive."
"I always knew I made the right decision all those years ago."
"You never told me about what you discovered."
"Didn't like to. After all, you did introduce us. I was waiting for the right moment. She preempted it. Now, Dr. Mallard, why don't you get your hat and coat and drive me home. Then you can put me to bed and keep your eye on me. And maybe you could show me some of the things you'd like to do to me, and for me to do to you. As you know, I'm a much more of a practical than theory man."
This time Ducky pulled Jethro's head towards him.
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