AUTHOR: Ashleigh Anpilova
PAIRING: Leroy Jethro Gibbs/Donald 'Ducky' Mallard
SUMMARY: Set after Till Death Does Us Part. Gibbs goes to visit Ducky in the hospital.
WORD COUNT: 500
SPOILERS: Till Death Do Us Part
AUTHOR'S NOTE: There will be a sequel to this story.
DISCLAIMER: I don't own these characters, nor am I making any money from them. I merely borrow them from time to time.
Gibbs heard the television as he entered Ducky's hospital room; he guessed it hadn't been Ducky's choice to have it on. "Hey, Duck. How're you feeling?" He put his hand on Ducky's shoulder.
Ducky looked at him. "Good afternoon, Jethro. I have been better."
Gibbs had to prevent himself from showing the surprise he felt at Ducky's reply. He'd seen Ducky sick and injured before and Ducky'd always made light of it; so his honesty troubled Gibbs.
It not only troubled him, it threw him; for the first time ever he didn't know what to say to his old friend. "You want that on?" he nodded towards the television.
Ducky gave a half-shrug. "It's company."
Gibbs bit back the 'but I'm here now' and instead strode to the television and turned it off. "I'll turn it back on when I go." Ducky gave another shrug and turned away from Gibbs. He went back to the bed and sat down. "Duck." Again he put his hand on Ducky's shoulder.
Slowly Ducky turned his head. "Yes, Jethro?" Ducky's eyes were normally warm, full of life and spoke volumes, especially when they looked at Gibbs. Today they were dull, lifeless and silent.
Gibbs sighed and then decided to be honest. "I don't know what to say, Duck."
To his surprise Ducky smiled a little and reached for Gibbs's hand; Gibbs took and held it. "Thank you for being honest, Jethro. It makes a pleasant change."
"Oh, Duck." Gibbs took his hand from Ducky's shoulder and brushed his hair from his forehead. "What have the doctor's said?"
"That I will live. However, my recovery will take some time and I may never -" For a moment Ducky fell silent. Then he sighed softly; to Gibbs's horror he saw tears appear in Ducky's eyes. "I may never be the man I once was." He looked away from Gibbs who watched a tear slip down his cheek.
"We'll manage, Duck," he said, once again feeling helpless.
Ducky looked back at him. "We?" he said, his tone flat.
Gibbs swallowed. "Look, I've never told you before, Duck, but I love you. And when you get out of here I'll . . ." He trailed off at the look that appeared on Ducky's face. "Duck?"
"I do not want nor do I need your pity, Jethro."
"Ducky, it's not -"
"Then why now?" Why tell me now what I have always wanted to hear? Why wait until I - Why, Jethro?" The final two words were whispered.
"Because - Oh, hell, Duck. I didn't realize quite how much I cared until you - Until I nearly lost you. Just tell me it's not too late."
Ducky sighed. "I'm tired, Jethro. I need to sleep. Go home; think about what you have said and what I told you about maybe never being the man I once was."
"Please go, Jethro. And turn the television back on before you leave." With those words Ducky shook his hand free from Gibbs's, turned his head and closed his eyes.