Ashleigh Anpilova


Set immediately after Shalom.

 Ducky realizes the truth and wonders how long it will be before his beloved is able to do the same.

 An established relationship story.

 Written: September 2006. Word count: 1,748.



Ducky lay awake in his bed, he really should be asleep; he was emotionally and physically drained, but he could not sleep.


It wasn't as though his mind was whirring. It wasn't as though he wasn't at peace, he was; he was more at peace now than he had been since Jethro had left for Mexico. It wasn't even that the fierce embrace in which he was held, far tighter and considerably more demanding than any sleeping embrace Jethro had ever delivered, was suffocating. It wasn't. It was simply that he didn't wish to sleep.


He glanced at the clock; they would have to get up in a couple of hours anyway so that Ducky could drive Jethro to the airport, and watch him get on a plane. A plane that would again take him away from Ducky, take him back to Mexico. Ducky wondered just how many more times he would have to make the journey, before Jethro gave in and admitted what was as clear as the perfect summer's sky to Ducky: that he belonged back in Washington, back at NCIS, back with Ducky.


Jethro wasn't happy in Mexico; he wasn't the kind of man who could be. Ducky felt sorry for Mike Franks; the poor man could not have envisaged that his mercy trip back to Washington, would result in his peaceful existence being shattered by the arrival of one Leroy Jethro Gibbs, his former Probie.


Jethro had told Ducky all the things he'd done, was doing, to ‘improve' Mike's shack and way of living. From what Jethro had said, Ducky wouldn't be surprised to discover that Franks was himself contacting NCIS, and begging them to find cases that needed Jethro's assistance.


As Jethro had gone on insisting over and over again that he was only back to ‘help a friend' and that he wasn't staying, the words ‘protest' ‘lady' and ‘too much' had come to Ducky's mind, and he had wondered just who Jethro was trying to fool. Ducky firmly believed that it was Jethro himself, his lover was trying to fool. Because had he really meant his words, saying them once would have been enough. As it was . . .


Jethro made a mumbling noise in his sleep, he sounded almost distressed, and tugged Ducky impossibly closer to him, tightening the already life-raft tight grip even more. Ducky stroked his lover's arm, murmuring soothing words, and let his head snuggle closer into Jethro's shoulder. After a few moments, the distress faded away, the mumbling ceased, Jethro sighed, and his breathing returned to normal.


Ducky's mind again returned to earlier in the day.


It had been one of the most emotionally traumatic days he could remember. Firstly, Tony had, with such clear reluctance that for a moment Ducky believed that the young agent did know the truth about his relationship with Jethro, told Ducky that they believed Jethro and Ziva had been killed, in a trap laid for Ziva.


Ducky had heard Tony's words, but for a moment he hadn't been able to compute them. Surely not? Surely Jethro hadn't returned to Washington only for Ducky not to be able to see him alive. He trusted in Jethro; trusted in his abilities; in his gut; in his sense of awareness; surely even after three months these aptitudes would still exist?


And so Ducky had waited; had stood staring out of the windows seeing nothing, feeling little, just waiting. Waiting for the news that would tell him his future. Waiting. Watching. Waiting until . . .


Maybe he'd been a little unfair to Tony, to allow him to pass some less than complimentary comments about Jethro, when he, Ducky, knew that Jethro was behind Tony. But Jethro's eyes had told Ducky not to speak, so he hadn't. And Tony had been so wrapped up in what he was saying, he wouldn't have noticed that Ducky's whole being would have changed, how his own eyes would have betrayed him, how he would have lit up, how he would have become the man Tony had known and worked with for almost five years.


And then his beloved had appeared, and Tony had hugged him. For a moment Ducky had wanted to grab the younger man, pull him off of his Jethro and say ‘he's mine'. But he didn't. Instead he'd just stood and gazed at Jethro over Tony's shoulder. Watched as Jethro's clear surprise did, to Ducky's slight astonishment, battle with his equally clear unease.


Jethro had returned the embrace, but Ducky knew it was out of a sense of 'duty' and an automatic response, more than really wishing to do so. Maybe it was just because Tony had been the one to all but throw himself at Jethro, rather than anything else. After all, Jethro Gibbs was a tactile man, he'd never shown any problems with touching, with embracing even, other men. And it wasn't as though Tony was a stranger; so Jethro's reluctance, had surprised Ducky. Or maybe it was because Jethro had felt guilty that it was Tony who had greeted him first, rather than his oldest friend. Whatever the reason, Ducky saw no point in pursuing it.


And then Jethro had his arm around Ducky and was hugging him, and everything was right again. And there was no reluctance, so hesitation in that embrace; rather, in fact, just the opposite. The contact was brief, far, far too brief; but Ducky knew why it had been so. Had Jethro held on for a second longer, Ducky was sure that neither man could have broken away, and Tony would have seen exactly what their true relationship was.


He had stood there, already looking forward to the evening, to the future, when Jethro had said the fatal words, ‘I'm not back, Duck'. For a fleeting second Ducky had hated him; hated him with a ferocity of which he hadn't believed himself possible. Nothing Jethro had done to him over the years, not the four marriages, not Jennifer Shepard, not the other redheads, not even him going to Mexico had hurt him as badly. But the hate had quickly fled; leaving the deep love that he had always felt for Jethro. A love that surpassed everything Ducky had believed he would ever, could ever, feel. A love that went beyond the emotional, beyond the physical, a love that was deeper than mere desire, deeper than affection. A love that was beyond definition.


And then it was over; Ziva was safe, cleared of suspicion and - and Jethro had gone. Gone without saying goodbye to anyone. And the pain was back.


Somehow Ducky had got through the rest of the afternoon, reassured Jimmy that going to Medical School was the right thing to do, and that of course he was able enough to go, more than able.


Finally he had gone home. There he had spent half an hour listening to his mother complaining about her latest nurse, and another half an hour to the nurse telling him about his mother's day, before he could finally escape to the sanctity of his own room.


The sound of the doorbell had brought him back downstairs, only to find Jethro already standing in the hallway. His hands in his pockets, his head bowed, his body language wary.


Ducky couldn't remember for how long the embrace had gone on, or even who had initiated it; didn't know whether both of them had shed tears, neither of them, or only one of them. All he remembered was the feeling of serenity washing over him.


With no concern for what the nurse might think, Ducky had led his beloved to his room. He wasn't certain what he'd expected their lovemaking, the first for more than three months, to be like. Over the years they had been apart, and they had gone, for longer than three months without making love, but even so . . . This time it was different.


But now as he recalled it, he knew that it was in fact exactly what he had been expecting. It was, as their joinings always were, pure and simple lovemaking. They'd spent hours touching, kissing, caressing, relearning, sharing in the familiar, murmuring words of love, affection and forever, moving one another to heights they always reached. In essence just loving. Somewhere along the way there had been climaxes, but they'd never mattered, not really. Their love had always been beyond desire.


During their hours long loving, several things had become clear to Ducky.


One, that he could keep Jethro here now; that if he asked Jethro to stay, then Jethro would.


Two, that Jethro wanted him to ask him to stay.


Three, that Jethro hoped he wouldn't ask.


And four, that Ducky wouldn't, couldn't, do that to his lover.


And the most important thing of all, was when the moment came when Ducky knew, really knew. Knew that the feeling he'd had all day hadn't just been wishful thinking.


That was when he knew that Jethro would one day be returning to him properly, finally, completely. It might not be tomorrow, next week, next month; he might come back to ‘help a friend' one, two, eight, a dozen times more, and each time Ducky would be there, waiting, willing to drive him back to the airport. Willing to stand and watch the plane take his lover away from him, certain and confident that one day it would bring Jethro back to him for good.


He could live with that. It wouldn't be easy; but he loved Jethro enough not to make it more difficult for him.


So soon he would wake his beloved up so that they could spend a little more time in one another's arms, making silent promises and reaffirming vows. Then they'd get ready, just as they'd done on all the other occasions when Jethro had spent the night with Ducky. Then Ducky would drive Jethro to the airport, embrace him, hold him tightly, whispering and hearing words of ‘take care' and ‘I love you'; would then watch until the plane was out of sight. At which point he would return to his car and drive back to NCIS, and another day would begin.


And that is how it would be until the day Jethro stopped protesting and accepted what, deep down he already knew.


"I love you, my dearest Jethro," Ducky whispered, dropping a gentle kiss on his sleeping lover's face. "And I always shall. No matter what."



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