AUTHOR: Ashleigh Anpilova
PAIRING: Leroy Jethro Gibbs/Donald 'Ducky' Mallard
SUB-GENRE: Established Relationship
SUMMARY: Following an event which changes his life, Gibbs makes a decision.
WORD COUNT: 2,215
WARNING: Major character death.
DISCLAIMER: I don't own these characters, nor am I making any money from them. I merely borrow them from time to time.
One second Gibbs was leaning against the kitchen table, a bottle of beer in his hand, watching Ducky prepare dinner and listening to Ducky telling him a story which amazingly Gibbs had never heard before.
The next second there was a crash as Ducky dropped the bowl and spoon he was holding, gasped loudly, clutched his chest and fell to the floor.
The next second Gibbs was on his knees next to Ducky performing CPR, somehow knowing even as he did, it was pointless. He paused long enough to call 911 before returning to trying to resuscitate Ducky even though he knew Ducky was dead. Ducky had left him. He couldn't have explained how he knew, but he did.
Even when he moved away to let the paramedics with all their experience and kit work on Ducky, he knew it was pointless. As he stood and watched the two professionals work he felt as if he was watching a play, as if he was watching something happening to someone else.
An hour later a doctor at the hospital to which the paramedics had taken Ducky, officially proclaimed Ducky dead. "I'm sorry, Mr. Gibbs, there was nothing we could do for him," the doctor said. "If it's any consolation, I am quite certain he did not suffer. The evidence all points to death being instantaneous."
Gibbs nodded; he wasn't surprised to hear the doctor say that. It wasn't of any particular comfort, because whether he had suffered for minutes or longer or not, the outcome was the same: Ducky was dead. Ducky had left him. "Thank you, Dr. Henderson," he said, glancing at the name badge the man wore. "I know you and the paramedics did all you could.
The doctor gave him a faint smile. "Would you like to see him?"
Gibbs hesitated for a moment and then nodded. "Yes, please."
FIVE DAYS LATER
Gibbs stood in the completely silent Reston House and looked around him. There was no noise; he couldn't even hear the bird singing. The place was eerily quiet, quiet in a way that even in the middle of the night it hadn't been quiet.
As soon as he'd returned from the hospital Gibbs had stopped the grandfather clock that had never, not in all the years (more than two decades) he had known Ducky, been silent. It had been his job, initially at the insistence of Mrs. Mallard who claimed her son never wound it up properly, to wind the clock to ensure it kept going.
Even after Mrs. Mallard had died and he'd moved into Ducky's home, he had been the one to continue to keep the clock wound up. He had always enjoyed the reassuring tick-tock and the four times an hour chimes, but when he'd walked through the front door on the evening his whole life had changed, the sound of the tick-tock and the chimes had annoyed him; so he'd stopped it.
The Corgis were currently living with Helen and Charlie Patterson, two of them stayed with Helen during the day whereas Charlie took the other two to work with him. Gibbs wondered quite what his clients (or other members of the law firm) thought to the presence of two Corgis, but it appeared that no one had complained.
It had been Helen who, when Gibbs had rung her to tell her the news, had arrived with Charlie (and half a dozen containers holding food for Gibbs to put in the freezer) and had insisted on taking the Corgis away. Gibbs hadn't argued.
It wasn't that he didn't like dogs; he did, he liked them a lot. It wasn't that he didn't like the Corgis - who all had known something was wrong and had followed him everywhere - he did. It was just that like the clock their constant noise, be it claws on the wooden floors or their barking at strange and sudden sounds and their snuffling or snoring annoyed him.
He'd even turned off the ringer on the house telephone and made it so that anyone who called would automatically get the answer-phone. And his cell phone was switched to voice mail. He did listen to the messages and one or two he even returned - but only because he knew if he didn't, the kids and Fornell would arrive on his doorstep and he didn't want to see anyone.
Over the years he'd thought about Ducky's death, of course he had, especially after Ducky's first heart attack and he'd known he'd miss him, he'd miss him a considerable amount, he'd miss him as he missed Shannon and Kelly. However, he'd believed he was prepared, well as prepared as anyone could be, to deal with it, to keep his grief, his feelings of loss in proportion.
Thus, the nearly over-whelming, gut-wrenching, obliterating pain and sense of loss hit him so hard he'd been physically shocked by it. For five days he'd done the things he had to do to prepare for the funeral he discovered Ducky had planned down to the nth degree and beyond. However, as he did the things he felt as he'd felt when he'd stood and watched the paramedics trying to revive Ducky: he felt as if he were watching a play, as if he was watching something happening to someone else.
Ducky was dead. Ducky had left him. He was alone. And everything that had mattered, suddenly didn't matter any longer. Ducky had been his world; he realized that now. Ducky had represented all that was good in his life. And suddenly he wasn't certain there would be, there could be, any good in his life any more. Ducky was dead. Ducky had left him.
And as he stood in the eerie, oppressive silence he made a decision.
TWO DAYS LATER
"Are you quite certain, Jethro? You can take some more time off; take as much as you like."
"Appreciate it, Leon. But no, thanks. I'm sure. I'm retiring."
Vance held his hand out and Gibbs took it and shook it. "You'll be missed, you know that." Gibbs shrugged. "And," Vance said, "you'll be a hard act to follow."
Gibbs gave a half nod. "About that."
Gibbs shook his head and tried not to smile at the look of surprise that flashed across Vance's face. "No, not Tony. He doesn't really want it and it'd be wrong for the agency. He's old school, Leon, you told me that. He'll just go on doing things my way - and that's not the future."
Gibbs nodded. "Yeah. Tim's the right person; he's modern; he's new school."
"He's worked under you for a long time. Are you sure he'll be able to let go of your way of doing things?"
Gibbs nodded. "Yeah. I know he will."
"DiNozzo won't want to work under him, will he?"
Gibbs shook his head. "No. And I wouldn’t expect him to. Lenton's retiring next month, isn't he?" Vance nodded. "Move DiNozzo into his position; he'll be good there. He'll be very good."
Vance stared at Gibbs for a moment and then shrugged. "Well, no one knows your team like you do. Okay, Jethro, I'll give them both a chance."
"What about Ziva, have you any plans for her?"
Gibbs managed a half-smile. "Reckon McGee'll need someone experienced to watch his back." Vance just nodded and they stood in silence for a moment. Finally, Gibbs said, "Palmer . . . ?"
"I confirmed his appointment as Medical Examiner this morning."
Gibbs swallowed and gave Vance a quick smile. "Thank you, Leon. It's what Ducky would have wanted."
"And the best thing for the agency," Vance said, but his tone was a little gruff and Gibbs knew what he was saying.
He held out his hand again. "I'll go and tell the team now," he said.
Vance took his hand and shook it. "You take care, Jethro, and . . . Well, we're always here - remember that."
Gibbs held Vance's hand for a moment or two longer as he nodded. "Appreciate it, Leon."
Then he turned and left Vance's office.
He went into the elevator and made three quick calls, ending both before anyone could ask him any questions.
AUTOPSY - FIFTEEN MINUTES LATER
"Gibbs!" Abby cried, hurrying across the room and throwing her arms around him. "How are you?"
Gibbs embraced her for a moment and kissed her cheek before gently pushing her away from him. "Pleased to see you all," he said, ignoring the slight frown that creased Abby's brow. "Got something to tell you," he paused for a second, knowing that once he said the words they really were real. He swallowed and hesitated for another split second before saying, "I'm retiring."
For a second there was only looks of surprise and shock on the faces that stared at him. And then the silence ended as voices began to talk at once.
"What? Boss, how -"
"But, boss, surely -"
"Gibbs, I am certain -"
Only Palmer said nothing. He simply stared at Gibbs, silently holding his gaze and in the steady stare Gibbs knew that Palmer understood. That of all of the kids, the one he'd been the least close to (not that he cared any less about Palmer than he did about the others, it was just he didn't work as closely with him) understood. But then it was Palmer who had seen Gibbs and Ducky interact far more than the others had. Was it that surprising that Palmer was the one who seemed to know, seemed to understand, just what Ducky had meant to Gibbs? Just how Gibbs's world had changed with his death? How Palmer was the one who understood Gibbs couldn't stay at NCIS; stay in DC? No, it wasn't.
He held up his hands and they fell silent. "I'm retiring," he said again. "Today. Now."
"But, Gibbs," Abby said softly, and then fell silent and just stared at him, tears shining in her eyes.
"What will you do, boss?"
Gibbs looked at McGee. "I'm going home," he said quietly. "Back to Stillwater," he added.
"You're retiring to Stillwater?"
"Yes, DiNozzo, I am."
"We can come and visit, can't we?" Abby asked quickly.
Gibbs nodded. "Yeah," he said. "Sure Dad'd love to see all of you."
Gibbs looked at Ziva. "Me too, Ziva," he said softly and he meant it.
"Who's -" DiNozzo fell silent and Gibbs stared at him and saw in DiNozzo's eyes that he had done the right thing.
"McGee," he said quietly. He didn't miss that gasp of surprise from McGee, Ziva and Abby, nor did he miss the flash of 'thank god' in DiNozzo's eyes, and as he glanced at Palmer he saw a complete lack of surprise.
"M. . . M . . . Me, boss?"
"Yep, Tim. You." Gibbs held out his hand. "Congratulations."
"But what about -" McGee fell silent and looked at DiNozzo. "I mean, Tony's -"
"Glad." The next moment DiNozzo had thrown his arms around McGee and was hugging him hard. "Congratulations, Probie," he said, "you're the best man for the job."
"But nothing. You'll be great. Won't he?" And DiNozzo looked at Ziva, Abby and Palmer in turn.
All of them nodded and agreed with DiNozzo.
"And you, Tony," Gibbs said, "are taking over from Lenton when he retires next month." He was pleased and a little relieved to see the broad smile that appeared on DiNozzo's face.
"Thank you, boss," DiNozzo said.
"I would like to remain with McGee," she said quickly. "If of course you and Director Vance and Tim all agree."
McGee nodded vigorously and Gibbs said. "Done. Vance wants to see you in twenty minutes, Tim, to decide on the other two members of your team." He stared at McGee whose cheeks were slightly flushed. "Reckon I know who one of them might be."
McGee looked back at him. "Dornie," he said firmly and Gibbs nodded.
For a moment they all just stood in silence then Abby said, "When are you leaving, Gibbs? When are you going back to Stillwater?" she added.
"Day after tomorrow."
"Are you quite certain? I mean do you really think you're doing the right thing? It's not the . . . Well, you know. You really do want to do this, don't you?" She sounded far more serious than Gibbs had ever heard her, and she looked just as serious.
He nodded. "Yeah, Abbs," he said softly. "I'm sure." He thought about saying something else, about trying to explain how he could no longer stay at NCIS, in DC, in Reston House without Ducky. How Ducky had been his life, how without Ducky in it he didn't want to stay around and see the same people and do the same things. How with Ducky's death a part of him had died too. But even as he gave fleeting consideration to trying to find a way to explain, he knew he wouldn't; he knew he couldn't.
TWO DAYS LATER
"Hello, son." Jackson held out his hand.
Gibbs took it. "Hello, Dad."
"Welcome home, Jethro."
"Glad to be here, Dad."
Side by side the Gibbses walked into the store where L. J. was waiting for them.