AUTHOR: Ashleigh Anpilova
PAIRING: Leroy Jethro Gibbs/Donald 'Ducky' Mallard
SUB-GENRE: Established Relationship
SUMMARY: Set after Phoenix. Ducky is somewhat quiet and upset by what DiNozzo called him. Gibbs wonders if there is something more to DiNozzo's behavior than him just being DiNozzo.
WORD COUNT: 2,312
DISCLAIMER: I don't own these characters, nor am I making any money from them. I merely borrow them from time to time.
"Hey, Duck, I'm home." Jethro strode into Ducky's house, put his briefcase down on an arm chair, bent over the chair Ducky was sitting in and kissed Ducky before helping Ducky to his feet and putting his arms around him. "That's better," he said, kissing the top of Ducky's head as Ducky put his arms around him and leaned against him. "Been wanting to do this all day."
To his surprise Ducky didn't reply, he just moved a little nearer to Jethro and tightened the grip he had on him. "Hey, Duck? You okay?" Jethro asked, moving back a little so that he could gaze down at Ducky. He frowned when he saw that Ducky wasn't smiling, nor was he meeting his eyes. "Come on, Duck, what's up?"
Ducky sighed softly and again moved nearer so Jethro could no longer see his face and more importantly his eyes. "It's nothing, my dear," he said softly, now resting his head against Jethro's shoulder.
Jethro frowned. "Yeah, right, Duck. Thousands might believe you, but I don't. So tell me what the something the nothing is."
Ducky lifted his head and moved back a little so he could now look up at Jethro and he smiled; Jethro noticed, however, it didn't touch his eyes. "That, my dear, was not particularly good English," he said. "In fact I might go as far as to say it was very po-"
"You were saying?" Jethro asked after several moments had gone by. Over the years he'd known Ducky he'd often wished he had a way, rather than snapping 'Duck' albeit in his fondly exasperated way, of bringing an end to Ducky's ramblings. Now that he had finally seen sense and admitted just how much Ducky meant to him, he had a way - he had a very pleasant way. Not that he could use that way at the office - well he didn't really think he could - but it worked when they were alone.
They weren't actually living together yet, but since he'd confessed to Ducky how much he meant to him and how deeply he loved him and how he wanted to be with him for as long as they both had left, they'd barely spent a night apart. In fact Jethro had considered more than once suggesting to Ducky that they stop messing around and decide which home they'd share - or maybe they could even buy a new one together. Of course that would mean telling Vance and the kids, but that, in Jethro's opinion was a good thing not a bad thing.
"You know, Duck," he said, forgetting for a moment Ducky was meant to be answering his question, "I reckon it's time we stopped driving back and forth between our houses and moved in together. Then we could tell Vance and the kids and -"
"Oh, I don't think we should tell the children, Jethro." Ducky's tone was quite firm and to Jethro's surprise he pulled himself out of the embrace and limping quite badly he made his way to the couch and sat down.
Jethro followed him, sat down next to him and put his arm around him. "What is the matter, Duck?" he said firmly. "And don't tell me 'nothing'. Something's the matter with you. It's not being cleared to come back to work, is it? I thought you missed it?"
Ducky shook his head. "No, it's not that, Jethro, well not exactly. And yes, I did; as you know I did get more than a little bored."
"Noticed that," Jethro said. "So . . . ?"
Ducky sighed and once more settled into Jethro's embrace. "I'm being foolish," he said softly. "I'm being a foolish old man."
"You're not old, Duck."
"According to DiNozzo I am." Ducky's voice was low and hard, but Jethro noticed quite clearly the hurt in it. "Indeed I am an 'old coot', am I not?"
"And it's not only that; in some ways I do not mind being called 'old', as I know to someone of DiNozzo's age I must seem ancient. No, Jethro, what I do object to, I object to very much, is the fact he actually believed I would sink so low as to planting the poison myself simply because I was bored."
"He didn’t mean it, Duck. You know what DiNozzo's like."
Ducky pulled away from Jethro. "Are you defending him, Jethro?"
Jethro shook his head. "No, Duck, I'm not. I wouldn't. You're right; he was totally out of order. But I really believe the comment about you planting the poison was just him messing about."
"Which he does far too often."
Jethro sighed. "Yeah, Duck. He does." And he put his arm back around Ducky.
"And he did not give me the respect he should have whilst I was leading the case, shall we say. I know all of the children, with the exception of dear Abigail found it hard to believe that you would let me take charge. However, Ziva and Timothy once they realized you were serious did at least treat me as I would have expected them to have done; as they treat you. But Tony -" Ducky broke off, sighed and then settled back into Jethro's embrace. "Anthony DiNozzo is many things and respectful to most people is not one of those things. However, I had always believed that he respected me almost as much as he respects you. Clearly I was wrong. But then it seems I have been wrong about a number of things, well people, recently."
Jethro was puzzled. "Duck?"
"Mr. Palmer, for example. Look at what he had to say to you when he came to see you, about me issuing orders like Attila the Hun."
Jethro swallowed. "Duck," he said softly. "You sure it wasn't just a case of you being jealous, shall we say, that Palmer was doing your job while you couldn't. And doing it -"
"Very well. Oh, Jethro," Ducky sighed. "You are of course quite correct, as much as it pains me to admit to it, yes, I am quite certain that was the case. Oh dear me. I believe I owe Mr. Palmer an apology. I have behaved quite foolishly. He is perfectly correct I did raise my voice to him and I did indeed give him orders - although I still think Attila the Hun was as lightly exaggeration. Indeed I -"
Jethro pulled Ducky a little nearer to him and turned his head so that he could kiss Ducky lightly. "I'm sure Palmer will understand, Duck."
Ducky returned the kiss and for a moment or two there was silence. Then he took his mouth from Jethro's and smiled at him. "I do hope so. After all, he was rather pleased and somewhat relieved I must say when I told him I had been cleared for duty. I shall apologize to him in the morning."
"Not sure you need to, Duck. But I know you will," Jethro said quickly. "If you want I'll get DiNozzo to apologize to you."
Ducky shook his head. "No thank you, my dear. An apology that has to be coerced or ordered is not worth anything. I have no doubt if you told Anthony to apologize to me, he would do so - he may even make it sound genuine, but . . ." Ducky sighed.
Jethro could see how upset Ducky was by DiNozzo's words and treatment of him during the case. At the time he hadn't realized, he hadn't, if he was hones, paid that much attention to it. But now, yes, Ducky was deeply upset and hurt. And the more he thought about it, the more Jethro began to wonder if all was well with DiNozzo. Yes, he was a fool, he was inconsiderate a lot of the time, he often spoke without thinking before the words left his mouth, he was at times unpleasant, cruel even - but . . .
"You know, Duck," he said slowly, "I'm beginning to wonder if DiNozzo isn't still suffering some kind of after effect of the bombing."
Ducky looked sharply at him. "What on earth makes you think that?"
"Well, what he said about you and how he treated you for one thing. You're right, Duck. He's not the most respectful person I know - far from it - but I know he respects you, he respects you a hell of a lot. It was a bit out of character for him to say what he said and behave like he did."
"Oh, come now, Jethro. We all know Anthony has on occasions got rather irritated with me and my endless stories."
"Yeah, but this was different. And it's not just what he said to you."
"Is it not?" Despite Ducky's somewhat clipped tone, Jethro could see he had his full attention and that Ducky was curious as to what was on Jethro's mind.
"No. Later on he was making fun of and laughing McGee -"
"Which again is nothing new. I do sometimes wonder how poor Timothy puts up with the complete lack of respect Anthony shows him."
"True. But this was different, Duck. I see it more than you do and yeah, he does tease McGee a lot and there are times he goes too far. But this was different. It was almost to a level of hysteria; as if he wanted to stop laughing, but couldn't. Does that make any sense?"
Ducky turned and looked at Jethro. "I understand what you are saying, Jethro, yes. I have seen that kind of thing many times. But are you sure you are not just . . ."
"Making excuses? Nah, Duck, I don't think so." And he wasn't; he was sure he wasn't.
"But why is he suffering so much?"
"You know he and Ziva got stuck in the elevator, don't you?"
"Yes. I do and I must say I was appalled that such seasoned law enforcement personnel would do something as utterly foolish as to take an elevator during - Oh, do forgive me, my dear, I am rambling again."
Jethro brushed his hand over Ducky's head and then pushed his hair back from his forehead. "Thing is, Duck, it was DiNozzo who suggested they take the elevator. In fact he pretty much forced Ziva into it, from what I understand."
Ducky sighed. "As much as I hate to say it, that does not surprise me. As I said I was shocked that they would do so, but given they had, I was quite certain the suggestion to take the elevator rather than the stairs would have come from Anthony and not Ziva. She is far too sensible."
"Yeah, that was my guess too. And DiNozzo confirmed it."
"Did he now?" Surprise was evident in Ducky's tone.
"Yeah. I was surprised too. We all know how DiNozzo will blame anyone but himself. So I was just wondering if -"
"The fact he may have been instrumental in causing Ziva's death, should the worst have happened, is still preying on his mind?" Ducky spoke softly.
"Yeah. And that's making him behave like he did during this case. Made him how disrespectful he was to and about you and how he went overboard laughing at McGee. Could that be the case, Duck?"
Ducky was silent for a moment then he extracted himself from Jethro's embrace, stood up and went to the drink's cabinet where he poured a small amount scotch into one glass and a larger amount of bourbon into the other. He brought both glasses back to Jethro and handed him the fuller one before sitting back down and sipping his own drink. "Yes, Jethro," he said softly, "it could be that. Or it could just be -"
"DiNozzo being DiNozzo?" Jethro said his tone light.
Ducky chuckled softly. "Indeed," he said.
"Guess all we can do is to keep an eye on him and see if he carries on behaving like this."
Ducky nodded. "Yes, my dear, I believe that is all we can do. Were it Abigail or Timothy or even Ziva I might suggest a quiet word with them, but we both know that approach will not work with Anthony. Now, are you ready for supper?"
Jethro nodded. "Sure am, Duck. You want me to get a carry-out?"
Ducky stared at him. "I most certainly do not," he said his tone clipped, but his eyes twinkled as he spoke. "I prepared and cooked something earlier, it merely needs reheating, which I shall go and do now." Using Jethro's knee to help him, he stood up.
Jethro caught his hand. "Duck?" He stood up as well.
"You quite sure you don't want me to tell DiNozzo to apologize to you? He really should."
Ducky smiled and stood up on his toes to kiss Jethro's cheek. "No, my dear," he said softly. "Thank you for the thought, but as I said that kind of apology simply is not worth it." He kissed Jethro lightly again before, with his glass in his hand, he left the room.
Jethro watched him go. He wasn't sure Ducky was right; maybe he'd find a way of letting DiNozzo know how out of order he'd been anyway even if he didn't insist on DiNozzo apologizing. He emptied the glass of bourbon and poured himself another one, maybe when Ducky came back he'd talk to him again about them moving into the same house and telling Vance and the kids about their relationship. He was sure Ducky wanted it really - in fact he knew he did, and he could be very persuasive . . .
He smiled to himself as he thought of just what he could do to persuade Ducky - whether what he did worked or not, it'd certainly be pleasant for both of them.