AUTHOR: Ashleigh Anpilova
PAIRING: Leroy Jethro Gibbs/Donald 'Ducky' Mallard
SUB-GENRE: First Time
SUMMARY: At an interagency party Gibbs sees Ducky being chatted up by an FBI man. His gut troubles him and despite Fornell assuring him the man is nice, Gibbs decides to keep an eye on Ducky just in case his old friend needs his help.
WORD COUNT: 5,045
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Written for duckys_lady: B - Because of you (07/41)
DISCLAIMER: I don't own these characters, nor am I making any money from them. I merely borrow them from time to time.
Gibbs leaned back against wall and took another swallow of the red wine he was drinking. It was about the only good thing going for the interagency party they'd all be told they would be attending - well, that and the food. Whoever had been in charge of the food and drink had clearly realized most people at the party would be there because they had to be, not because they wanted to be, and so had decided to at least give them something good to eat and drink.
He glanced around as he'd done several times, his gaze coming to rest on each member of Team Gibbs before moving onto the next one. DiNozzo, McGee and Ziva were talking quite happily, even laughing at times, with three FBI agents - Gibbs suspected the six of them were exchanging stories about him and Fornell. Meanwhile Abby and Palmer were talking with a guy from the CIA and a woman from ICE - yes, the alphabet soup was out in force.
He had been talking to Ducky, which had made the party more bearable, but when he'd come back from visiting the head he'd found Ducky talking to a man he didn't know, a man who was at least ten years younger than Gibbs and from the way they were talking Gibbs got the impression they didn't want to be interrupted.
He didn't know why, but as he stood and stared at the man, the man who was making Ducky laugh, the man who had his hand on Ducky's arm, he felt his gut begin to churn. To hell with whether they wanted to be interrupted or not, he was going to go and -
"Evening, Jethro." Gibbs turned and looked at Fornell who not only had a glass of red wine in one hand he had a bottle in the other. "More?" he asked, holding up the bottle.
Gibbs nodded. "Thanks, Tobias."
Gibbs rolled his eyes. "What do you think?"
"Thought as much. The kids seem to be," Fornell emptied his glass and refilled it.
Gibbs again glanced first at DiNozzo, McGee and Ziva who if anything were talking to their opposite numbers at the FBI even more animatedly, before looking at Abby and Jimmy who also seemed quite happy. "Yeah," he said, "they do."
Fornell took another swallow his wine and then said in a tone one Gibbs couldn't instantly work out, "Ducky seems quite happy too."
Gibbs glanced at Ducky and the strange man and again he didn't like what his gut was telling him. "Who is he?" he demanded.
"Frank Jefferson; he joined us a few months ago."
"And what, Jethro?"
"And anything." Gibbs didn’t look at Fornell; his attention was still on Jefferson and Ducky. He really didn't like the possessive way Jefferson had his hand on Ducky's arm.
Fornell looked hard at Gibbs then shrugged and said quietly, "Yes, he's gay. Until about nine months ago he was in a long-term relationship."
"His lover died. He came to DC."
"And?" Now Gibbs did look at Fornell, in fact he glared down at him.
Fornell sighed as he stared at Gibbs. "Oh," he said softly. "Well, well, well."
"You're jealous, Jethro."
"What the f-" As several people turned to look at him, Gibbs hastily bit off the curse he'd been about to make and lowered his voice. It didn't help that Ducky hadn't been one of the people to turn around; he was still far too deeply engrossed in whatever the hell Jefferson was saying. "What do you mean, Fornell?" he growled.
Fornell shrugged. "Not what you're thinking," he paused for a second or two and then said, once more in the tone Gibbs couldn't instantly identify, "well maybe not. Look, come on, Jethro, you're used to being the center of Ducky's world, the focus of his attention. At these things he's always by your side. You don't want him for yourself, but you don't want anyone else to have him."
Gibbs stared at Fornell; it was the stare that had caused more than one criminal (and a couple of junior agents over the years) to need a change of clothing. Fornell however just met the stare and held it. "I'm not," Gibbs said. "It's just -"
"Just what, Jethro?" The slightly teasing note in Fornell's voice had faded and Gibbs wondered quite what Fornell had seen on his face.
He shrugged. "It doesn't matter. How about another drink?"
Fornell stared at him for a moment then gave a half-shrug and said softly, "How about a proper drink?" And he opened his jacket slightly to show Gibbs the flask tucked in his inside pocket.
Gibbs smiled. "Sounds good to me, Tobias." At that moment he saw Ducky nod and saw him hand over a card to Jefferson before holding out his hand. Jefferson took it and shook it for longer than Gibbs thought necessary before Ducky smiled again, turned and walked over to Gibbs and Fornell.
"I do apologize, Jethro," he said smiling up at Gibbs. "It was most ill-mannered of me to simply abandon you like that."
Gibbs forced a shrug. "That's all right, Duck. Tobias here kept me company."
Ducky smiled and turned to Fornell. "Agent Fornell," he said his eye twinkling with mirth.
"Dr. Mallard," Fornell matched his tone and the look in his eyes.
Gibbs rolled his eyes. "Tobias and I were going to have a real drink, Duck. You want to join us?"
Ducky beamed and for a moment looked like a mischievous school boy. "Yes, please," he said.
LATER THAT NIGHT
As Gibbs got ready for bed he thought back to what Fornell had said. As much as he hated to admit it, Fornell had been right. He had been, damn it, he was jealous. He was so used to Ducky being around, to paying him attention, to just being there; he was so used to coming first in Ducky's life (especially now that his mom had died) that he didn't want anyone to come between them.
But it wasn't just that. It was more than that. He didn't know why, but he did not trust Frank Jefferson. He couldn't even explain why, the man had looked pleasant enough, innocuous enough; Fornell had spoken highly of him, seemed to like him, thought he was a good agent. But something troubled Gibbs and it was more than just jealously - of that he was certain. His gut, which had saved not only his ass, but his team's too on more than one occasion, told him not to trust him.
A WEEK LATER
"Hey, Duck, want to go out to dinner tonight?"
To Gibbs's surprise he saw Ducky's cheeks flush slightly and just for a second Ducky glanced away from him before looking back and smiling up at Gibbs in the way he always did. "I would have loved to, Jethro, but I am afraid I have already made arrangements for this evening."
Ducky shifted slightly and again glanced away from Gibbs for a moment. "As a matter of fact, no. In fact I am actually going out to dinner."
"Oh, right." Gibbs forced himself to sound polite. "Another night, then? How about tomorrow?"
"That would be lovely, my dear Jethro. I shall look forward to that." And Ducky put his hand on Gibbs's arm and squeezed it as he smiled up at him.
"Me too," Gibbs said keeping his tone neutral. "Better go. See you later, Duck." And after squeezing Ducky's shoulder Gibbs strode off.
LATER THAT DAY
Gibbs had been in a bad temper ever since his conversation with Ducky and by mid-afternoon, DiNozzo, McGee and Ziva were all avoiding him; even Abby had called to say she didn't have anything for him so there wasn't any point him going down to her lab.
His stomach and head physically hurt and no matter how hard to he tried to convince himself he really was imagining it and that Ducky was a good judge of character, he could not let go of the feeling that Jefferson was not to be trusted.
Finally, hours before he normally went home, he stood up, grabbed his coat and briefcase, turned off his computer screens and without even saying 'goodnight' strode out of the squad room. One glance at the car park told him what he needed to know: Ducky had gone, thus he turned, strode back inside and headed for Autopsy.
"Do you know where Dr. Mallard is, Palmer?"
Palmer glanced up from scrubbing one of the tables. "I think he went out with -"
"I know who he’s with. I want to know where they went."
Palmer's cheeks turned red and he began to twist the cloth he was holding. However he faced Gibbs and said, "I’m sorry, sir. He didn’t say."
"Don't call me 'sir'," Gibbs said automatically as he silently cursed himself; why hadn't he asked Ducky where he was going? It would have been a perfectly natural question for one close friend to ask another. He glanced at Ducky's desk hoping inspiration might strike and his eyes fell on Ducky's diary - even better. He strode across the room and was about to pick the diary up, but to his surprise, astonishment even, Palmer was there before him.
"No, Agent Gibbs. That’s private." Palmer snatched the book from the desk before Gibbs could put his hand on it.
Gibbs took a deep breath and quickly counted to five - shouting at Palmer wouldn't help. "Jimmy," he said his tone earnest. "I believe that Dr. Mallard is in danger."
Wide-eyed Palmer stared at him. "Danger, sir? But . . But . . . How do you know? What makes you believe that?"
For several moments Palmer just stared at him. Then with clear reluctance he handed over the diary. "Agent Gibbs, if Dr. Mallard -"
"Don’t worry, Palmer, I won’t tell him you gave me his diary. He'll just think I found it and looked in it. He won’t be angry with you. He’ll be angry with me." He put his hand on Palmer's shoulder and squeezed it for a moment before turning and striding out of Autopsy.
He reached his car, got in, turned the engine on and then paused for a second. What if he was wrong? What if it really was all about him being jealous? What if - What if he was right and did nothing? Decision made, he gunned the engine and drove off in the direction of the restaurant Ducky had written in his diary - it was one they had never been to.
TWO HOURS LATER
From across the street Gibbs saw Ducky and Jefferson come out of the restaurant; Jefferson had his hand under Ducky's elbow and instantly the anger began to rise in Gibbs. He watched as Jefferson opened the passenger door of the car he presumed to be Jefferson's for Ducky to get in, before he got into the driver's side and drove off.
Without even thinking about it, Gibbs turned his car engine on and followed. As he drove staring through the windshield to keep the car in sight, he frowned and again his gut began to churn. Ducky had apparently got into the car quite happily, but there had been something, something he couldn't quite put his finger on or even explain; something that just made Gibbs feel that Ducky was not one hundred percent happy.
Jefferson was easy to follow and after about forty minutes he indicated and turned into the drive of what looked like a fairly large house. Gibbs stopped outside, killed the engine and quickly got out of the car and moved carefully to stand by the high wall at the bottom of Jefferson's drive and carefully peered around it.
Jefferson had automatic sensor lights and Gibbs could see quite clearly as Jefferson got out of the car, went around to the passenger side, opened the door and held out his hand to Ducky. He watched Ducky get out and he watched him turn and look up at Jefferson; clearly he said something, but Gibbs couldn't hear what. And just as clearly Jefferson was going to ignore whatever it was Ducky said, because Gibbs saw him shake his head and then once more put his hand under Ducky's elbow and lead him - somewhat forcefully Gibbs felt - into the house.
As soon as they were inside Gibbs made his way silently, staying in the shadows up the drive to the house. All the curtains were pulled and he could see nothing. He thought for a moment, then pulled out his cell and pressed the button he'd got McGee to assign to Ducky. Ducky's phone rang several times, but there was no answer - it just switched to voice mail. Gibbs hesitated for a moment then punched in the number of Ducky's cell phone rather than using the speed dial. Again it rang and rang before switching to voice mail.
Gibbs swallowed and made a decision. If he was wrong it could easily cost him his friendship with Ducky. But if he was right, and he was certain he was, he could be saving Ducky's life. Silently, calmly, quickly but not hastily he broke into Jefferson's house. The fact it took him a good fifteen minutes to get inside added to his feeling that something was wrong; no one had need of that level of security, surely? At least they didn't unless they had something to hide.
He stood in the hallway and listened for a moment before carefully moving to one door and then the next before moving onto the third and fourth; he put his ear to each of them and listened. In less than a minute he was quite certain no one was on the first floor.
Silently he took the stairs two at a time and that was when he heard a faint noise coming from what he presumed to be one of the bedrooms. He hesitated for long enough to tell himself he could be about to embarrass three people and lose the best friendship he ever had before he kicked open the door and Sig in hand burst into the room.
Jefferson, a pair of handcuffs in one hand, whirled around from the bed where Ducky had already had one hand cuffed to the bedstead. Without consciously thinking about it, Gibbs put two bullets into Jefferson's shoulder, before grabbing the handcuffs from his hand and using them on Jefferson.
He then turned to Ducky who sat, eyes wide, bowtie crooked, his bottom lip bleeding, his glasses lying smashed on the night-stand, gazing at Gibbs. "Jethro," he murmured softly, "oh, my dear Jethro."
Gibbs was by his side in two strides and pulled him into his arms. "Oh, God, Duck," he murmured, his lips on Ducky's head. "Oh, Duck." Then he pushed him a way a little and demanded, "Are you all right? Did he -"
Ducky shook his head and then quickly nodded. "I am quite well, thank you, Jethro. A little bruised in places and somewhat scared, but otherwise I'm fine."
Gibbs stared at him. "You sure, Duck? You want me to call a doctor?"
"I am quite certain, my dear. Thanks to you, I am quite all right. And, no, I most certainly do not want you to call a doctor. I would, however, appreciate it if you could find the key to these and release me. And then . . . And then I suggest you call Tobias and together you pay a visit to the cellar."
Gibbs was digging in the night-stand drawer to see if he could find the keys to the handcuffs when he paused, "The cellar?"
Ducky nodded. "Yes, Mr. Jefferson is quite a boastful man as well as a rather, I hate to say it but it is nonetheless the case, clever and deceitful one."
"Duck?" Gibbs had found a set of keys and taking care not to hurt Ducky's wrist, which he could see was more than a little red and bruised from the cuffs, began to unlock them.
"I believe you will not only find the body of the man he talked about as his 'long-term lover', but the bodies of several more men. Um, eight in all, I believe he mentioned. I may have lost track a little as I was concentrating on the car lights that I dared to hope were following us during our drive here."
Gibbs paused and for a second his hand moved towards the Sig he'd dropped on the bed next to Ducky when he'd gone to Ducky's side. However, Ducky just shook his head and held his gaze. Gibbs glanced at Jefferson who was still on the floor, his shoulder bleeding, his eyes wide with what Gibbs wasn't sure was fear or madness - but whatever it was the bastard would be locked up for life. After looking at Jefferson for a moment or two, Gibbs turned his attention back to uncuffing Ducky. Then with his arm around Ducky's shoulder he pressed another button on his cell phone and briefly filled Fornell in.
Fornell arrived with three of his senior agents; it was, however, Gibbs who went down to the cellar with him. There were indeed, as Ducky had said, eight bodies. As he saw them Gibbs felt his entire body begin to tremble with what he knew was both rage and fear - if he hadn't . . .
He felt Fornell's hand on his arm. "Come on," he said, "I'll drive you and Ducky home." And without giving Gibbs a chance to object and after barking orders to his agents and telling them he'd be back as soon as he could be, he drove Ducky and Gibbs back to Gibbs's home.
Gibbs and Fornell, glasses of whiskey in their hands, stood in Gibbs's living room, listening to the sound of the shower Ducky had requested he might take. "I'm sorry, Jethro," Fornell said, after swallowing half of his whiskey. Gibbs raised an eyebrow. "I should have listened to you and trusted your gut."
Gibbs shrugged. "Wasn't your fault, Tobias. And," he paused, drained his glass, grabbed the bottle and refilled it; he raised an eyebrow at Fornell who shook his head.
"Thanks, but I've still got to drive back and I've got a crime scene to work."
Gibbs nodded briefly. "You were right. About what you said at the party. I was jealous. I am used to Ducky being there when I want him. Didn't want anyone else to take my place."
Fornell stared up at him and shook his head as he drained his glass. "No one could, Jethro - and if you don't know that, you're a bigger fool than I sometimes think you are." Gibbs just stared at his second closest friend. "I take it Ducky will be staying here tonight?"
Gibbs nodded. "Oh, yeah," he said his tone grim; he didn't care what Ducky's view on that might be, Ducky was going to spend the night in Gibbs's house. Hell, if he had to resort to locking the front door and hiding the key he would; he'd even consider handcuffing Ducky to make him stay.
Fornell nodded. "Good. Well, thanks for the drink, Jethro; I better get back. Give Ducky my regards," he added, as Gibbs followed him to the front door.
"I will. Night, Tobias and thanks."
"De nada," Fornell said, turning the collar of his overcoat up and heading towards his car.
Gibbs stood on the doorstep and watched until Fornell was in his car. Then he shut and locked the front door and put the key in his jacket pocket.
He'd just returned to the living room and picked up his glass again when he heard footsteps on the stairs.
"Yes, it's the good stuff," he said, holding out a glass as Ducky came into the room. His hair was dark from the shower and his bowtie hung untied beneath his collar.
He smiled at Gibbs. "Thank you, my dear," he said, taking the glass and taking a deep swallow. "Mmm, now that is good. I suspect it's the bottle Tobias gave you for Christmas, is it not?"
Gibbs grinned. "Sure is. You want to sit down, Duck?"
Ducky who had been about to sit on the couch, turned and frowned slightly. "Jethro, it is I; please do not start treating me like any other guest." He sat down on the couch and settled back.
"Sorry, Duck, didn't mean to. I just . . ." He shrugged and sat down next to Ducky.
For a moment they sat in silence and then Ducky took Gibbs's hand in his and turned to look at Gibbs. "Thank you, Jethro," he said softly, his tone more than a little formal. "It is because of you, it is thanks to you, that I am sitting here right now." Gibbs squeezed Ducky's hand, swallowed, but didn't really know what to say. So instead he just stared into Ducky's eyes. Ducky held the gaze and once more they sat in silence for a moment or two before Ducky spoke again. "Jethro?"
"Do you mind if I ask quite what made you follow me? Indeed how you knew with whom and where I was dining? Please do not be offended, I clearly do not mind, quite the opposite, but I just wondered why? What made you . . ."
Gibbs swallowed some more whiskey; Ducky's hand was warm in his and he had no inclination to let go of it. "I didn't trust Jefferson," he said, "didn't trust him from the moment I saw him."
Ducky put his head on one side. "But why did you not trust him?"
Gibbs shrugged. "My gut." Ducky continued to stare at him. "Don't know, Duck. Really don't. I just saw him talking to you, saw him - and I didn't like it." He shook himself; he hadn't meant to say that. Ducky was still staring at him. "There was just something about him that I didn't like, didn't trust. Don't ask me, Duck, you know me."
Ducky nodded slowly. "Yes, my dear, I do. And I am immensely grateful I know you; tonight even more so than I usually am."
Gibbs shrugged again. He didn't handle compliments well. "More whiskey?" he asked, reaching for the bottle.
Ducky nodded. "Yes, please. Thank you," he said when Gibbs poured a good measure into his glass. He took a sip and once more turned his full attention onto Gibbs. "You still have not told me how you knew where I was having dinner."
"Saw your diary on your desk," Gibbs said swiftly.
Ducky smiled. "I shall have to remember to thank Mr. Palmer tomorrow," he said quietly.
"Duck?" Gibbs put his glass on the table, turned to face Ducky even more and took Ducky's hand between both of his.
"Yes, my dear."
"You are okay, aren't you? I mean I know he hit you a couple of times, but he didn't -"
Ducky smiled. "No, Jethro, he did not do anything else and the bruises really do not hurt any more and they will fade quickly. Again it is because of you and your timely arrival that he did not get to do anything else."
Gibbs stared hard at him. "Are you sure, Duck? Because if he did -"
"I am quite certain, Jethro. You do not need to worry and you do not need to plan any kind of revenge against him. I am perfectly fine, really I am. I have experienced and seen far, far worse. And now I do believe we have talked about it quite enough. At some point I will, no doubt, have to relive, at least verbally, what he told me and what he did and what he threatened to do to me, but now I simply want to forget it and put it behind me."
Gibbs stared at Ducky; he'd expected nothing less. Ducky wasn't a person to need or want counseling formal or informal. He never had been. "That's fine with me, Duck."
"Good. Now, do I presume you intend for me to stay here tonight?" Ducky smiled as he said the words and his eyes twinkled.
Gibbs didn't miss the phrasing and he grinned back at Ducky. "Something like that," he said.
Ducky chuckled softly. "In that case, you may pour us both some more whiskey.
Gibbs laughed, took one hand from Ducky's and did just that. "You can have the bed," he said, "I'll sleep down here."
Ducky sighed and frowned. "I think we are both old enough, secure enough and good enough friends to share your bed, do you not? After all, it is not as if it will be the first time."
Gibbs nodded. "Sure, Duck," he said.
Gibbs found an old pair of thin sweat pants and over-sized tee-shirt that he reckoned would be okay for Ducky to sleep in and he gave them to Ducky before he headed for the bathroom.
He grabbed a quick shower and as he dried himself he finally let his mind go to a place he'd deliberately been keeping it from going ever since the night of the interagency party when he'd seen Ducky with Jefferson and ever since Fornell had accused him of being jealous. As he rubbed the towel over his head he heard again Fornell's ' Not what you're thinking, well maybe not' and his 'You don't want him for yourself, but you don't want anyone else to have him'.
Why had Fornell said that? And why hadn't he been bothered by it? Had the jealousy he'd felt just been because he didn't want to be replaced in Ducky's friendship or was it something else? He'd always known Ducky's love for him went somewhat deeper and was a little different from the love he had for Ducky and it had never bothered him, not even for a second. As he pulled on his own sweat pants and brushed his teeth he wondered if that was usual; how many men wouldn't be bothered by their best friend loving them in the way Ducky loved him?
He stared hard at his reflection in the mirror and frowned. "Well, I'll be damned," he murmured as he realized with a startling clarity that the jealousy he'd felt hadn't been just because he might be replaced as a friend, but that he'd been jealous in the way a lover, for want of a better word, would be jealous. And it wasn't a case of him not wanting Ducky, but not wanting anyone else to have him; he did want Ducky!
As he swilled his mouth out and then swished mouth-wash around his mouth, he realized something else: whatever it was he felt it went back further than just the interagency party - he'd just never allowed himself to admit it; he'd never allowed himself to consciously even think about it.
Okay, fine, so now he'd admitted it; now that'd he'd realized; no, now that he'd accepted his feelings for Ducky went deeper than those of just friendship, what the hell did he do? Ducky liked romantic gestures; at least he reckoned he would. Ducky wasn't the kind of man you just grabbed and kissed; the kind of man you - Ducky was the kind of man you took out to dinner and paid compliments to - and all other things Gibbs didn't do.
Except when he thought about it, over the years they'd been friends they had done a lot of the things people who dated did. They did dine together, they spent some evenings together, Ducky had even more than once persuaded him to go to the theatre, although he had drawn the line at the opera, and he had complimented Ducky more than once.
He spat the mouth-wash out and wiped his mouth on the towel as he again stared in the mirror. "Reckon we've done the dating bit," he said.
"Why, yes, Jethro, I do believe we have." Ducky's voice came from the doorway and Gibbs glanced around to see him leaning against the doorframe.
"How long you been there, Duck?"
Ducky shrugged. "I minute or two, no more. I am more than a little surprised you did not realize I was here."
So was he; except he wasn't, because he felt quite safe with Ducky, having Ducky around seemed natural. And then suddenly he realized what Ducky had said, he blinked and stared hard at Ducky. "What did you say, Duck?"
Ducky sighed. "You heard me quite clearly, Jethro. I think we are a little two old for playing such games, do you not?"
Gibbs went on staring. "Um," he said. Then he frowned and asked, "How long have you known?"
Ducky shrugged. "Known about a second," he smiled and Gibbs swallowed hard at the intimacy of the smile and the look in Ducky's eyes. Ducky had always looked at him in a way he'd never looked at anyone else; had always let Gibbs see how much he loved him and in what way - but the look that blazed in his eyes now was quite different, and Gibbs saw that Ducky was, after all, capable of controlling his gaze. "Suspected, however, is quite a different thing."
Gibbs took a step towards Ducky. "Do I want to know how different?"
Ducky smiled and chuckled softly. "Perhaps not," he said softly, holding out his hand to Gibbs who took it and tugged Ducky towards him and into his arms.
Ducky went quite happily and put his arms around Gibbs and for a minute or two they embraced as they'd embraced on many occasions. Then Ducky pulled back a little, gazed up at Gibbs and said, "Your bed is really quite comfortable, you know."
Gibbs laughed. "Yeah," he said softly. "Know that, but -" And he lowered his head and put his mouth on Ducky's and kissed him and went on kissing him until they finally broke away in order to breathe. At which point he took Ducky's hand in his and led him into the bedroom.