WHEN BLOOD STOPS FLOWING

 

By

 

Ashleigh Anpilova

 

Set during Judgment Day (which at the time of writing had not been aired).

Gibbs faces the consequence of his lack of action.

An established relationship story.

Written: May 2008. Word count: 1,685.

 

 

"If you think you can protect them forever, Jethro, you are mistaken. There's already been one casualty. There will be more."

 

He stared down at the body, sprawled in a pool of blood as Assistant Director Vance's words came back to him. They came back to haunt him.

 

As he watched Ducky bend down and fruitlessly place his fingers on the carotid artery, he bit the inside of his mouth, biting hard enough to draw blood.

 

This wasn't meant to happen.

 

It shouldn't have gone down like this.

 

"He's dead, Jethro," Ducky said softly. Speaking the words he didn't need to speak; they'd both known as soon as they'd seen the body. "The poor boy," he added, letting his fingertips brush over DiNozzo's forehead. "It would have been quick, Jethro. I promise you that."

 

Gibbs offered his hand and tugged Ducky to his feet. Once there, he didn't let go of the loose grip, he needed to keep the contact with his lover. Just for a moment, he needed to hold on to reality. He needed the silent reassurance of someone who'd tell him it wasn't his fault. That he couldn't have prevented it.

 

Except he could have done.

 

"If you think you can protect them forever, Jethro, you are mistaken. There's already been one casualty. There will be more."

 

He stared down at the man who on a daily basis had irritated the hell out of him. The man who had driven him more than once to question why on earth he'd taken him onto his team. The man who, beneath the pranks and sometimes cruel and juvenile behavior, had been a damn good agent.  A man he had trusted with his life. A man who would have willingly given his own life to save a member of the team.

 

He stared down at him and wondered why he couldn't feel anything other than anger. After all DiNozzo was the longest standing member of his field team; the third longest standing member of his team.

 

"You couldn't have known," Ducky said, turning slightly to face Gibbs, his hand still in Gibbs's.

 

"Known what, Duck? That Jeanne was going to avenge her father? That DiNozzo would play hero and save Jenny? That Jenny was responsible for The Frog's death? That the man Jenny killed in Paris wasn't an accident? That the man she killed there was the start of all this? Is that what I couldn't have known?" His tone was bitter, harsh, chilled; far harsher and colder than when he normally spoke to Ducky.

 

Ducky looked up at him, his calm gaze steady and unwavering under the bitterness of Gibbs's tone. "It doesn't suit you, Jethro," he said, his tone flat.

 

Gibbs frowned. "What doesn't suit me?"

 

"Self-blame."

 

Gibbs frowned again and took a step closer to Ducky, deliberately, for the first time ever in all their years together, using his height to try to intimidate. As he moved though, he was aware he still held Ducky's hand and rather than loosen, the grip had become tighter. "You think I'm blaming myself, Dr. Mallard?"

 

Ducky tilted his head back a little further. "It certainly sounds like it to me, Special Agent Gibbs." He met and echoed the coolness together with the use of their titles.

 

"If you think you can protect them forever, Jethro, you are mistaken. There's already been one casualty. There will be more."

 

"Jethro?" Ducky's tone was questioning.

 

"It's what Leon said to me."

 

"And is that what you are doing? Protecting Jennifer? Is that why Mike has been carrying out research for you? Is the why you were at her house?"

 

"You got me bugged, Duck?"

 

Ducky shrugged. "I know you, Jethro," he said quietly.

 

"Do you, Duck? You sure about that?"

 

Ducky frowned and sighed. "Ah, Jethro," he said, his voice still low. "I am sure that had you had any proof of Jennifer's guilt, that you would not have protected her."

 

"If you think you can protect them forever, Jethro, you are mistaken. There's already been one casualty. There will be more."

 

Gibbs let go of Ducky's hand and moved away from him. He looked down, he was standing in DiNozzo's blood; blood that had long since stopped flowing; blood that was now beginning to congeal. Odd that, he hadn't realized they'd been standing there so long.

 

"Jethro." His arm was taken and he was turned forcibly around. "Jethro?" This time Ducky made his name a question. He gripped Gibbs's arm. Gibbs kept staring down; kept staring down at the blood; the blood that had once flowed through the veins of a man he'd known; a man he'd cared about. "Tell me."

 

No one else could do it. Save Tom Morrow, Mike Franks, and a few of his old commanders. Odd that Ducky, the mildest of men, who wasn't known to give orders, to raise his voice, outside of the odd messed up crime scene, could.

 

He felt himself almost snap to attention, before relaxing slightly and staring down into Ducky's eyes. "The Frog didn't take her gun. I remember the scene. He put it back on her desk before he left. Her dad's alive that's who you've been running tests on."

 

"But she told me "

 

"Told you what?"

 

Ducky shook his head. "It doesn't matter, not for now. Go on."

 

"The Frog was right about Jasper Shepard. He did take the bribe, and more."

 

"Oh, dear God. Jennifer was . . ."

 

"Yeah. Reckon so."

 

"But how do you know all of this?"

 

"Fornell's report. He showed it to me. I said I'd help him 'investigate' her. I still didn't believe it, Duck. There was so much that still wasn't hard proof, was circumstantial."

"You wanted to prove her innocence?"

 

Gibbs shrugged. "Not sure anymore, Duck. Not sure I ever was. If she was guilty then I wanted to " Abruptly he stopped speaking and glanced down at the bloodied ground again.

 

Now Ducky slipped his hand down Gibbs's arm and took his hand. "Be the one responsible for bringing her to justice because of "

 

"What she'd dared to do to my team. Mine, Duck." He squeezed Ducky's hand tightly and gripped his arm with his other hand. "She risked their lives, all of them, yours included. She sent Tony undercover for what? Her own personal vendetta. And it's that vendetta that's led to him lying there. Jeanne didn't kill him, Jenny did. Oh, Jeanne pulled the damn trigger, but it was Jenny's fault. Tony died trying to save her life. And now I'm going to -"

 

"Do what exactly, Jethro? Do you have the proof yet? Can you prove what she has done? After all, Agent Kort accepted responsibility on behalf of the CIA for La Grenouille's death. If you say La Grenouille left the gun at Jennifer's house and she claims he took it with him, it is your word against hers. Do you have more? Or are you merely relying on your gut? Because if so -"

 

"Mike's bringing Jasper Shepard in. He'll be here," he glanced at his watch. "In about five minutes."

 

Ducky briefly closed his eyes. "So that is why you left both Timothy and Ziva guarding Jennifer, despite Jeanne being in custody."

 

"Also told Ziva to remove her weapon, without her knowing."

 

"Do you think she will? Jennifer and she were close at one time. She might "

 

"You questioning my judgment, Duck?" But Gibbs knew Ducky wasn't, not really. He was merely adopting the role he'd taken many times.

 

"You know me better than that, Jethro." Ducky's tone was mild.

 

"Yeah, I do." Gibbs let go of Ducky's arm and for a brief second let his fingertips brush over Ducky's face. Then he let go of Ducky's hand, turned and said, "I'd better go and meet Mike."

 

"And I will ensure Anthony is well cared for." Ducky took out his cell phone.

 

As Gibbs moved towards the door, he heard him telling Palmer to join him. He was about to leave when Ducky called his name. He turned, "Yeah, Duck?"

 

"Do take care, my dear. I " He broke off.

 

For a moment Gibbs waited for him to go on. But Ducky just shook his head once and then turned his steady gaze onto Gibbs, telling him the things that he couldn't, wouldn't, voice. Gibbs answered him the same way, adding quietly, "I will, Duck." He left the room, his Sig already in his hand.

 

 

"No!" Jethro was jerked violently awake. His heart was pounding and he coughed as the taste of iron flowed into his mouth.

 

"Jethro?" Next to him the bedside light was switched on and Ducky sat up. "What is it, Jethro? What happened?"

 

"Duck?"

 

"Who else were you expecting?" Ducky asked softly, as he put his fingers on Jethro's lip and wiped away the blood.

 

Jethro shook his head, trying to clear it. "I No one, Duck. Forget it. It was just a dream. It wasn't real." Or was it? Had it already happened? Had he somehow forgotten? Had something gone wrong? Had

 

But as his heart rate began to calm down, and Ducky's steady, cool fingers continued to caress his lip, he knew it hadn't. It had been a nightmare, nothing more. DiNozzo was alive and well, and probably still re-writing the latest batch of reports Jethro'd thrown at him before leaving for the evening.

 

"Do you want to tell me?" Ducky asked, his fingers moving from Jethro's lips and beginning to lightly stroke Jethro's cheek.

 

Jethro shook his head. "Nah, Duck," he said. "But as you're awake . . ."

 

THE NEXT DAY

 

"Assistant Director Vance asked you to go to his office as soon as you arrived, boss," DiNozzo said, looking up as Gibbs, coffee in hand, strode into the office.

 

"If you think you can protect them forever, Jethro, you are mistaken. There's already been one casualty. There will be more."

 

As he dropped his briefcase and coat and headed for the stairs, Gibbs closed his ears on the words he could hear so clearly in his mind.

 

 

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