Series: Amnesic Gibbs #7
Chapters: 001 Word Count: 7016
Character(s): Jethro Gibbs, Ducky Mallard
Category(ies): Angst/Drama, Established Relationship, Friendship, General
Summary: A sequel to This Is It and Now Or Never. Gibbs finally gets to talk to Ducky. And he asks him whether what he is seeing in his mind are memories or not.
Before I could change my mind, I hurriedly donned hat and coat, grabbed my car keys and headed for my front door. However, before I reached it the sound of the bell penetrated my otherwise silent house.
For the first time in my life I considered not answering the door, and instead pretending not to be in. Maybe if I did that, then the person outside, whom I almost certainly had no interest in seeing or speaking to, would give up and go away. It was probably just someone collecting for some charity or other, or someone else I did not wish to see.
Then a thought hit me: what if it were Charles or Helen outside? Maybe something had happened and they needed my help. With everything they had done for me, and more importantly for my mother, I could not just ignore them. Had it not been for Helen Patterson and her willingness to spend time, often at a moment's notice, with my late mother, I would have had to have employed a nurse long before I did do so. And the memories of my mother and her nurses were not good ones.
I ignored the little voice that said, But Helen or Charles would have phoned, they wouldn't just turn up, and instead completed my journey to the front door, pulling back the bolts and unlocking it.
I was already prepared to explain politely, or less than politely if whoever (I really didnít believe it was either of the Pattersons) was on the other side didnít get the message, that I was on my way out and that I was in a hurry. Thus, when I pulled open the door and stared into the darkness at my caller, my surprise must have been clear for anyone to see.
"Jethro," I exclaimed, suddenly unable to think of anything else to say; afraid that I might, if I were not careful, give my true feelings away. The impulse to reach out and pull Jethro into my house, into my arms and kiss him, was nearly too overwhelming to ignore. This was the first time since his accident that our meeting had been an unscheduled one, at least outside of the office. At least there I had grown used, over the years, to hiding, at least to an extent, the true nature of my feelings for my friend. However, I had never hidden them from him when we were alone.
Suddenly aware that I was just standing there, head tipped back, drinking in the sight of the man I loved, I said, "This is a surprise." I then added hastily, "But a very pleasant one." And then, because it was the only reason I could think of for my beloved's surprise appearance, I asked, "Is something the matter, my dear? Has something happened? Are you ill? Or have you -" I stopped myself quickly and glanced down, now fully aware that I was gazing in what I knew had to be open adoration up at Jethro. "Would you like to come in, Jethro," I added very formally.
"Sure it's not too late?" Jethro spoke for the first time.
"No, of course not. Come in, please."
Jethro took a step forward and then stopped and frowned, as he seemed to take in my appearance for the first time. "Were you going out?"
"No. Well, that is, yes, I was. However, I was . . . I was coming to see you."
"Oh." His look brightened. "Seems like I've saved you the trouble." He moved into my house, closing the front door behind him, and locking it for me.
"Yes. Not that it was any trouble," I hastened to add. I then cursed myself for behaving as if our relationship was newly formed, not decades old. Except it is new. At least it is to Jethro.
"So, good conference?" Jethro took his coat off and draped it over the banisters.
"You know what these things - Oh, Jethro. I am sorry. I didn't mean -" I broke off as I found myself pulled into his strong embrace and held tightly. Automatically, my own arms wrapped themselves around my beloved's body, as he pulled me even tighter into his arms.
"Missed you, Duck," I heard him whisper. "Know it sounds pathetic, but I did. Felt so odd without you. I felt so odd. Was as though -" And then he broke off, knocked my hat from my head, and rested his own head against mine.
As his lips brushed the top of my ear, my memory flashed back to a similar embrace; the one that had taken in the office, in full view of several of our colleagues, when we had 'made up' after Mexico. But our 'making up' hadn't ended there, nor had it stopped with Jethro's lips on my ear, or fully clothed bodies pressed against one another. Then it had led to a faster-than-even-Jethro-normally-drove trip to his home, which was the nearer, and lips finding lips before the front door had even been shut, let alone locked. And then . . .
I yanked my mind away from 'and then'. I was fully aware that my body was beginning to tingle in the way that always warned me of my imminent arousal. However, pulling my mind away wasn't enough; this was the first time in five weeks that Jethro had held me so tightly, so closely, so 'normally'. It wasn't the first time I'd been in my beloved's arms, but the embraces had tended to be quick ones, and without the closeness. This was far too like pre-amnesic Jethro's hugs for my own peace of mind. For my own sanity.
Knowing that if I didn't get out of the arms I longed never to leave within seconds, that my body, my mouth, indeed I myself, would betray me, and Jethro, I shifted slightly. Then gently but firmly pulled away, bending down to pick up my hat and tutting at Jethro for his caviler treatment of it. Then, once I'd taken off my own overcoat and hung it up properly, I turned and walked into the sitting room.
"Come and have a drink, Jethro," I called, as I switched the wall lights on, and then for safety's sake also turned the ceiling light on.
I stood and just watched Ducky limp away from me.
Guess that answers it, I thought sadly. If there had been any truth to the scenes I'd been seeing for the last five weeks, the hug we'd just shared would have not ended with Ducky pulling away from me.
Christ, I'd done everything but let my arousal become clear, and kiss Ducky. What else did I have to do? For a moment I closed my eyes.
"I can't," I growled quietly.
You came here to ask him, do it. You have to.
And as I stood there still trying to work out what had happened, I knew the voice in my head spoke the truth. I did have to. For my own sanity.
"Jethro? Are you going to join me for a drink, or are you planning on remaining in the hall all evening?" Ducky's calm voice cut into my thoughts, and I quickly opened my eyes and looked at him standing in the doorway.
"Sorry, Duck," I said, torn between turning on my heel and leaving, grabbing Ducky and kissing him senseless, and going into the sitting room and having a drink.
I chose the last option.
He handed me a heavy glass containing a very generous measure of what I knew would be excellent whiskey. "Thanks, Duck."
"You are very welcome, Jethro. Now why do we not sit down?" And with that, Ducky turned and moved to the sofa and carefully sat down.
As I moved to follow my friend I noticed just how carefully he had sat. "Leg hurting you a lot, Duck?" I asked as I joined him on the sofa.
"A little more than usual, my dear. It's just the combination of too many long hours sat listening to my fellow professionals talk, plus the drive there and back, and a bed that wasn't particularly comfortable. Hopefully after a good night's rest, it will feel better."
Wishing that Ducky hadn't mentioned 'bed' and 'night', I forced myself not to react. Instead I said, "If you want me to drive you to work tomorrow, you know you only have to ask, don't you? I'll be more than happy to do that."
He smiled. "Thank you, Jethro. That is a very kind offer."
"Going to accept it?" I asked, expecting the answer to be 'no, thank you'.
"As a matter of fact, if you really do not mind, then, yes, I think I shall. If, of course, you are certain you do not mind driving all the way over here."
Pushing my mind away from how much easier it would be if I were to stay the night, I hastened to answer. "Course I don't." Then I frowned and said, "It's really playing you up, isn't it? Why don't I move to the armchair, then you can put your feet up." I was about to stand up when he caught my hand.
"No, please don't move, Jethro. Really. I'm quite comfortable like this." He let his hand linger on mine for a moment or two longer than might have been strictly necessary, before slowly withdrawing it.
Just for a second, it gave me hope. I swallowed some of the whiskey, it was good, and asked, "So was it a good conference? Useful?"
I wasn't sure if I imagined it, but Ducky looked almost slightly ill at ease as he hastened to answer. "Oh, very much the same as always, I'm afraid. Some of my esteemed colleagues can talk at considerable length. Indeed, even more so than I myself. I must confess that I do find them a little boring at times." He chuckled.
"You're not boring." I spoke the truth. Quite the opposite. It had been Ducky who had almost single-handedly kept me sane and 'entertained' over the weeks since my accident.
"That's kind of you to say, Jethro. But when you've heard the same stories time and time again, well . . . " He broke off, shrugged and sipped his own whiskey.
"Duck," I said suddenly.
I swallowed hard. "There's something I want to ask you. I'm just not sure how to."
He frowned. "Surely you know you can ask me anything, Jethro. Anything at all."
"This is a bit different. I don't want to . . ." I glanced away from the steady pale blue gaze.
He touched my hand, it was as if a bolt of electricity had sparked through me, and said quietly, "Just ask me. Whatever it is I promise you that you can ask me."
"Duck. Are we, I mean were we," I swallowed the last drop of whiskey, put the glass down on the table and looked up, directly into the unblinking stare. "Duck, before I lost my memory, were we lovers?" There I'd said it. I'd asked. Now all I had to do was to wait. Wait and learn my fate. I tensed without trying to make it obvious I was doing so, as I waited for him to answer.
When he did it wasn't quite what I had expected to hear. "Why do you ask, Jethro?" His tone gave nothing away; nor did his eyes; nor his body language. The one thing that gave me an ounce of hope was the fact that he hadn't taken his hand away from where it still rested on mine.
"Because ever since I got out of hospital, I've been getting . . . I donít know what to call them. Flashbacks, images, memories even, of you and me. Together. And it's been as more than just friends, if you follow. And it's not just while I'm awake, I'm getting dreams too. Vivid ones. Damn vivid, and the results are . . . "
"A little embarrassing?"
"Yeah, just a bit." I spoke without really thinking. Then his words really impinged on my brain. "Duck?" I said carefully. "Are you saying . . . " I trailed off.
Ducky now interlinked his fingers with my own and looked directly into my eyes. "Yes, my dearest," he said softly. "Yes, Jethro. Yes, I am. We were indeed lovers."
I heard the words.
I processed them.
They didn't surprise me.
But I still sat there, uncertain what to say. And as I sat there, differing reactions to the confirmation raced through my mind.
One was simply to grab Ducky and kiss him and see what happened from there.
Another was to get angry and demand to know just why the hell he hadn't told me.
Another was to ask question - which is pretty much all I had been doing for the past five weeks.
I ruled out option two; getting angry with Ducky wasn't going to accomplish anything. And as much as I wanted to go for option one, I decided I could wait. I wanted to know more, then maybe I could get around to why he hadn't bothered to mention the fact to me, and then even to the kissing.
I watched a myriad of emotions cross over my beloved's face, as he waited for me to say or do something. I was more than a little tempted to move nearer to him and simply kiss him, thus negating the need for him to do or say anything, other than kiss me back that is.
However, as much as I wanted to do that, I choose to wait; for one thing I wasn't certain how Jethro was going to react to the news. It is one thing to have flashbacks, or whatever, showing the possibility of you being in a homosexual relationship with another man, quite another to have it confirmed. Besides the doctor in me was interested to discover just whether he had regained any other kind of memory, or had flashbacks about anything else.
So I waited. I sat just holding Jethro's hand. My grip was loose enough for my beloved to pull his own away, should he wish to, thus far he hadn't seemed to wish to, but tight enough so that he would feel it. In fact I didn't think it was my imagination, but rather than take his hand away, my dearest, had actually tightened his own grip.
Finally, he spoke. "How long?"
"Our thirtieth anniversary was the week after your accident." I spoke quietly, never once taking my eyes off him. I wasn't certain how my friend would take the news.
His reply surprised me. I had considered, what I had imagined to be, all possibilities to the news. However, clearly I had missed one. "You mean I cheated on you with my wives and all the other women?" Jethro sounded appalled.
"Actually, my dear," I said, trying not to laugh. "I think your wives, indeed even some of your other women, Jennifer for one, would say that you cheated on them."
"But thirty years, that was before . . ."
"Yes," I said quietly. "We met and became lovers before you met and married Shannon." I watched as my beloved ran the hand that wasn't now gripping mine so tightly that I could definitely no longer deny that he was holding it, over his head several times. As he did so, he continued to just stare at me in what could only be read as stunned amazement mixed with various other emotions, including, I was sorry to say, self-disgust.
"But why?" He finally managed.
"Why did you marry whilst you were involved with me? Or why did I 'let' you?"
"The first question, dearest, I am not really in a position to answer, at least not from an insider's perspective. I am only able to answer it from my own, an outsiderís, perspective, from knowing and loving you. And it was that view that really ties in with, and answers, your second question. I made no opposition to your marriages or affairs because I loved you enough not to. I knew that, although you loved me and of that I have never had any doubt, you were not ready to commit yourself to me and only me. Although, you did badly want the commitment of a relationship, for reasons that are tied in with your childhood, and those are for another occasion. You wanted something that for years I was unable to give you, or at least that is putting it incredibly simply. Jethro, I cannot cover thirty years in a few minutes. However, trust me when I say that I always knew that if I wished to remain in your life as friend and lover, and wished not to hurt you - which indeed was always my desire - then I had to allow you to make your mistakes. And I did so with the knowledge that one day you would be mine and mine alone. I always knew that. It was that knowledge that did allow me to allow you to take vows that we both knew you would have no intention of keeping."
"You mean I cheated on you by marrying women, knowing that I'd cheat on them?" Jethro's self-disgust seemed to get more intense.
I wished I could take the pain my beloved was now feeling away; but I couldn't. I could only sit and show and tell Jethro how loved he was. "Yes, dear. I am sorry that you have to hear this. And I am sorry that I was party to the faÁade."
"You're sorry for loving me?"
I shook my head. "No. Never that. I have never regretted that. I just wish that . . . But, dearest, we have been all through this before, and it hurt you so much then. Trust me, now is not the time to rehash that part of your past. We cannot undo what happened; we cannot change it; we cannot take it back; and I am not certain that even if we could, that it would be right to do so. I loved you then. I love you now. I shall always love you. For now, let that be enough. Please, my dear."
"Am I still cheating on you?"
I shook my head. "No. Two years ago you realized, were able to accept, decided, whatever it was, that that side of your life was over. It was just after Mother died and you . . ." I broke off and swallowed hard.
"So we've been exclusive for two years?"
"Then how come you live here and I live in my house?"
"Oh, dear? Ducky. Tell me."
"Well, my dearest, you see it was like this. Once you had regained consciousness and it became clear that your memory loss was not suddenly going to disappear overnight. And once the doctors talked about releasing you. . . Well you see . . ."
"I am afraid I did."
"For the same reason I did not actually tell you about our relationship when I was telling you about so much else of your past and who you are."
"And that was?"
"For the same reason I did not oppose your marriages. I loved you enough. Jethro, you were in a very difficult situation, you had woken up with no knowledge of your past or anything or anyone. I felt, partly as a doctor, that to tell you that you were involved in a relationship with another man that went beyond the boundaries of friendship -"
"You mean I had a male lover," Jethro cut into my explanation. His voice was soft, and lighter than it had been, and most of the self-hatred seemed to have faded.
I smiled. "Yes, dear. That you had a male lover, that it might be too great a shock to you. After all, despite changes, not only to the law but to public opinion, homosexual relationships, not that you are a homosexual. I myself am, but -"
"Duck!" The tone was so familiar of the olden days, the pre-amnesic Jethro days, when my beloved would cut into my rambling explanations, by snapping my name in his unique just-for-me-fondly-exasperated way, that for a second I allowed myself to hope. But the hope quickly faded, as I realized that Jethro's memory hadn't suddenly and miraculously reappeared.
"I am sorry, dearest," I said. "Now where was I?"
"Explaining to me how I'm not gay, but you are. But why don't you instead go back to explaining why you hadn't thought to tell me the truth about us?"
I couldn't stop a gasp from escaping at the harshness of Jethro's tone. I knew that he had every right to be angry. But even so it hurt me. "Oh, Jethro, I -"
"No, Duck. Don't say you're sorry. I'm the one who's sorry. That came out wrong."
"Yes." Jethro spoke firmly and took my hand between both of his, holding it tightly, protectively, and looking at me. "You had my best interests are heart, didn't you? That's what you're trying to say. Just as you did for all those years."
"Yes, Jethro. That is indeed the reason. I really did think it was for the best; I didn't want to cause you any more pain or worries or stress. In retrospect I am not certain that it was the correct thing to do, but at the time it seemed the right thing to do. What?" I asked, noticing the way that he was looking at me.
"Ducky, Ducky, Ducky. I don't know whether to laugh, shake you, or kiss you," he said softly, as he moved his other hand up to my shoulder. From there he began to lightly stroke my face, allowing his fingertips to flirt with my cheek.
I swallowed. "Well, dearest, if I have a choice, then I'd -"
I was silenced by Jethro leaning forward and making the choice. The very one that I would have chosen.
As my lips found Ducky's everything that had been wrong during the last few weeks was made right. Every question Iíd had was answered. Every fear I'd had dispelled. And as I deepened the kiss, seeking to get closer to him, to join with him, to become one with him, I realized what the biggest of those fears had been.
Yes, I'd had flashback of Duck and me together. Yes, I'd been turned on by them, hell I'd had wet dreams. Yes, I'd come to his house wanting to know, having to know, needing to know, wanting my dreams, my images to be real. But along with that, a small part of me had been afraid that had it all been true, I'd have freaked. That I wouldn't have been able to cope with it. Afraid that I wouldn't be able to kiss and be kissed by another man. And now I saw exactly why Duck hadn't told me.
But as his mouth parted for me, and as I slipped my tongue inside the warmth and sweetness I knew I'd come home. I'd found reality, truth, honesty, peace; I had what I wanted. But it wasn't enough; kissing him wasn't going to be enough. I wanted more; I needed more. I deepened the kiss even more, and tightened my embrace. And, as I did I felt him swallow a gasp as he accepted everything I offered, gave me so much more back, and demanded more.
Finally, just as I felt my head began to swim, I broke the kiss, but not the embrace. As I sucked in air, I heard Ducky doing the same thing, and as I held him I felt him tremble. "Duck?" I pulled back enough to look at him.
His face was flushed, his lips reddened from my kiss, that made me feel so good, and his look was one of . . . I can't describe it; I haven't got the words. Happiness? Peace? Contentment? Joy? All of those, and so many more.
And then I saw something else. Saw it in the expressive blue eyes that had deepened in color, he asked me a question. And that same question became apparent in his body and on his face.
I answered it. Not with words, but with a gesture. I took one of his hands and put it on my groin. If that didnít answer it for him, didn't reassure him, nothing would.
He gasped aloud this time, and under my hand his moved. His fingers curling slightly, gripping me, touching me, stroking me; pushing my already intense arousal up several notches. It was my turn to moan, and I did, as I pushed up into the touch, wanting more from him. But not like this; not on his sofa; that wasn't good enough. "Bed," I managed, before I leaned nearer to him and again kissed him.
I don't know how long it took us to get to his bedroom, or how many kisses and hugs we shared; I lost count. But as I stood there, holding him in one arm, a sense of the known of the familiar swept over me. I didn't recognize the room, the bed, the furniture, anything, but instinct, something, told me that I had been there before.
"Don't," I said firmly, as he moved to turn out the light.
"Don't. I want to see you."
I silenced his objections.
"Here, let me. Please," I added after another several minutes had passed, catching his hands as they began to untie his bowtie. And I undressed him, slowly, intimately, pausing to kiss and nuzzle every part of his body as it was unveiled. Tasting and smelling skin that somehow I knew, but couldn't recall. But suddenly it didn't matter that I couldn't remember; nothing mattered anymore. It didn't matter that I didn't have a past, because I had a future. I had Ducky. And Ducky was my future.
I undressed myself far more quickly, letting my clothes fall to the floor and kicking them out of the way, enjoying the amused look that crossed his face as he watched me. But it wasn't just amusement that was in the sultry gaze; his eyes told me so much more. They told me how much he wanted me; how much he wanted me to want him. And I did.
And then he touched me again; this time moving his hand of his own accord. His touch through my clothing had been intense; his touch on my naked, heated flesh was beyond that. Somehow I knew that, despite all the women he'd told me I'd had, no one had ever touched me quite like Ducky did. No one had ever kissed me like he did; moved me like he did; touched me beyond the physical.
His sheets were cool on my heated skin as I settled onto the bed and pulled him into my arms, kissing him, caressing him, stroking him, touching him. I couldn't kiss or touch him enough; and I knew I never would be able to. "Want you, Duck," I murmured. Not even sure as I said the words exactly what I meant.
"You have me, dearest. And you always will have."
"I love you, Duck," I murmured; knowing that the words I spoke were true.
He smiled at me, the look so tender, it brought a lump to my throat. "And I, my dearest, dearest Jethro, love you. And I always shall."
And apart from murmurs and sounds of pleasure, and the odd word or two that barely made sense, but was clear to us, neither of us spoke for the next two hours or so as hands, bodies, lips, tongues, mouths joined in total and perfect tender lovemaking.
"Where you going?" I asked, when finally we slipped into merely holding, sharing the odd kiss and caress, as he began to move from my embrace.
"To the bathroom. Why? Do you wish to come with me and hold my hand?" He smiled softly at me.
For a second I was tempted to say yes. Call it stupid, but now that I'd found him again, I didn't want to let him out of my sight. But that was pathetic, and I was comfortable. His bed, our bed I suddenly realized, was extremely comfortable, far more so than the one at my house had been. "Maybe another time," I managed, looking up at him, and seeing him smile. Knowing that he'd read exactly what was on my mind.
I watched him pull on his robe, it brought out the color of his eyes. "Someone else in the house you haven't told me about?" I quipped, as I saw the almost blemish free flesh covered up by what appeared to be heavy silk.
He smiled. "No, we are quite alone, my dear. However, I thought I would go downstairs and fetch us a drink."
"Good idea," I said, suddenly realizing that I was thirsty, and somehow also knowing that for me to tell him that I'd go wouldn't be right. So instead I watched him limp from the room and settled back onto the pillows, putting my hands behind my head and looking around me, trying to see if anything seemed more memorable than anything else.
And then . . .
Then something made me pull open the drawer in the nightstand on my side of the bed.
When Ducky came back, I was sitting up, alert and waiting for him.
He came into the room with a tray containing two glasses and a bottle. I ignored it.
"What's this?" I said, holding the object out to him.
He didn't answer immediately. Instead he made his way to his side of the bed; put the tray down; poured two drinks; handed one to me, waiting pointedly until I took it; before taking off his robe and climbing back into bed.
"Well?" I demanded.
"It's a wedding ring," he said calmly, sipping his drink.
"Can see that."
"Then why ask?"
I frowned. "You know what I mean, Duck. Don't play games."
He sighed. "Very well, my dear. It is your wedding ring. Here," he put down his glass, leaned over, pulled out the drawer from his own nightstand, and took something out. "This is mine," he said placidly, showing me an identical in appearance gold band.
"We were married?"
"In effect. Yes."
"Then how come this is here?" I nodded at the ring I still held. "Or did you take it from me when I was in a coma?" I tried hard to keep the accusatory note, that wanted to make its presence felt, from my voice.
He sighed and shook his head. "No."
"You never wore it at work."
"Because you once saw one of your colleagues lose his finger when his ring was caught in some kind of mechanism. Thus every morning the penultimate thing you did before we left the house, was to take off your ring and put it in your drawer. And every evening when we returned, you would immediately, well almost immediately, come back up here and put it on."
"Did you wear yours?"
He nodded. "Yes. I wasn't playing with dangerous toys."
I laughed and slipped my arm around him, pulling him against me. "Don't know so much about that, Duck. Some of the 'toys' you use in Autopsy seem damn dangerous to me. Sorry," I added, tugging him even nearer, as I realized how sharp I'd been with him.
"There is no need to apologize, dearest."
"Yeah, there is. Guess you took yours off when . . ."
"Yes," he said quietly. "It seemed simpler to do so. I hadn't realized quite how much I would miss wearing it though. It felt as though -"
"Part of you was missing?"
He lifted his head from where it had come to rest on my shoulder and looked at me, frowning slightly. "Yes," he spoke quietly. "That is exactly how I felt. But how do you . . . Jethro, has your . . ."
He broke off as I shook my head. "No, sorry, Duck. At least not in the way you mean. More . . ." Now I broke off and shrugged; once again unable to find the words to describe how I felt. Then I asked, "So what was the last thing I did before we left home?"
"To kiss me, of course."
"Of course." I did so then.
He settled back into my embrace, again putting his head on my shoulder, and I tightened my grip on him. "Did people know? About us, I mean?"
I felt his heavy, silky hair move against my bare shoulder. "Oh, yes, dear. Everyone knew. In fact -"
I waited. "In fact what?"
"The children, that is what we tend to call Abigail, Timothy, Jimmy, Anthony and Ziva; or rather I do, you use the more prosaic form 'kids'. Indeed, more than once you said that you felt like a High School Principal. In fact, I seem to remember one occasion when you said that that was being too generous, and that it was more as if you were a kindergarten teacher. I am not able to quite -"
"You were telling me something."
"I was? Oh, yes. Forgive me. I am a little tired; although I cannot imagine why that might be." I felt him chuckle soundlessly. "The children, Tobias, even Jennifer, although why on earth she would do such a thing. Although it is fair to say that she has finally mellowed since her return to NCIS. I think she finally realized that her eyelash fluttering, her low-cut blouses, her overt flirting, and her rather pathetic 'oh, Jethro, what shall I do?' wasn't actually going to get her anywhere with you. I believe that she had accepted that you would not be returning to her, even before we announced the fact that you were going to come and live with me, and that we would be 'marrying'. I sometimes -"
"Oh, yes. I am sorry. I was saying -"
"Yeah, you were."
"The children, Tobias and Jennifer all said that I should tell you of our relationship, of the true nature of our relationship. They urged me to, encouraged me to, indeed Abigail even offered to tell you for me. Naturally I said 'no'."
"Oh, Jethro. I am sorry. I really did believe -"
This time I moved and silenced him with another kiss. "Been there. Done that, Duck. I understand why you did it."
"You do?" He looked at me.
"Yeah." And I did. Truly I did.
"So what do we do now?" He asked after a moment of two of silence when we just looked at one another, during which I let my fingertips stroke his face.
"Firstly," I said, taking the ring from his hand. "We do this." I took the third finger of his left hand and pushed his ring back into place.
"Secondly, this." I offered him the ring I'd found in my nightstand drawer, and sat while he pushed it, slowly, reverently, gently back into place.
"Thirdly, tomorrow you can come to the place I've been living, and help me move back the stuff you thought fit to take over there back here. Then you can help me put it back where it belongs." I glanced around the room and nodded in the general direction of the wardrobe and chest of drawers.
"And fourthly . . . "
Fourthly occupied us for another hour or so.
It must have been around three when I knew I couldn't, as much as I wanted to, fight my drowsiness any longer. Ducky was safely and securely wrapped in my arms, his warm body pressed against mine, his silky hair brushing my skin, his hands languidly flirting with my body from time to time. He seemed as sleepy as I felt.
But before I allowed us to settle down to sleep, there was something else I had to say. Something else I needed to say.
I moved just enough to allow me to see his eyes. "Duck, there's something I have to tell you."
He looked at me, and for a moment his look became troubled. "My dear?"
I swallowed hard. What I was about to say wasn't a spur of the moment thing. I'd thought about it for the last couple of weeks, and knew it was right. In some ways finding out that Duck and I were lovers made it easier. In others so much harder.
For a moment I didn't know how to say it. Then I decided that straightforwardness was the best way. "I'm going to retire from NCIS, Duck."
"Yes. I know."
"I've been thinking about it for a couple of weeks now. And it makes sense. I know the doctors thought that going back would help me, but it's doing the opposite. It's hard; Duck, too hard. It's too damned hard to be around people that I know I should know and yet not know them. To be working somewhere doing something I should know, that I know I know, but don't, is tiring, painful, unpleasant. I see people looking at me, watching me, and waiting. They ask me how I am, and I'm tired of it. I want to - what did you say?" His words suddenly hit me.
"I said that I know."
He smiled tenderly. "More than thirty years of knowing and loving you, dearest. I could see it in your face, in your eyes; I could sense it in you. I felt it. I felt your unease, your uncertainty, your frustration. I saw what the daily interaction was doing to you."
I breathed a sigh of relief. "I want to get away. Somewhere where I'm not known. Where I don't know people. Where I don't have to worry about not knowing them. Where I don't have to wonder what part they played in my past. So will you?"
"Will I what, my dear?"
"Retire with me? Come with me?"
He smiled at me; the look more tender than ever. "Of course I will, my dearest. Of course I will." He touched my face, letting his fingers linger as they outlined my features.
"You won't miss it? Miss the people?"
"Yes, I shall. Of course I shall. But not enough to prevent me from leaving. Indeed, my dear, the only reason I have remained at NCIS for the last few years, is because of you. Please don't get me wrong, I love my work, I love the children, but . . . I love you far, far more. I stayed to be near you; to be able to spend time with you that I otherwise would not be able to spend with you. I love you, Jethro. Wherever you go, I shall happily go too. So where would you like to go? Have you given it any thought?"
I had. I just hadn't realized it. Hadn't allowed myself to realize it until tonight. "Britain." I spoke firmly, decisively.
"Britain? Are you certain, my dear?"
"Sure am, Duck. You've talked fondly about it over the last few weeks. Thought we could go there, and you could show me some of the places you grew up, went to school, university. Didn't you say you still had a house there?"
Ducky nodded. "Yes, as a matter of fact I do. Actually, I have two. One in England and one in Scotland. They are not, I hasten to add, the size of this house. However, I am certain that we will be comfortable in either of them. Or indeed, in both. In fact . . ." He trailed off and offered me a Ďoh, dear, Iím rambling again, forgive meí, look.
I kissed him fleetingly and continued to talk. "And you're still a British citizen, got your passport and everything?"
Ducky nodded. "Yes. I was granted American citizenship well over a decade ago. However, I never gave my British citizenship up."
"So, there's nothing to stop us, right?"
He smiled. "When you put it like that, my dear. No. There isn't. How soon do you wish to leave?"
"Tomorrow too soon," I said joking, but only slightly.
"I think that might be a little difficult. There are things to be taken care of, people to whom I, at least, must say goodbye. Not to mention the fact that Jennifer would have to approve our retirements. Not that money is an issue, but we are bound by contracts."
"All right. Next month then. I just want to get away, Duck. I want to get away with you. I don't think I'm ever going to get my memory back. So my past is dead; but my future isn't. And my future's you."
"Oh, my dearest," Ducky said, and I watched as the beautiful blue gaze became slightly misty. He lifted his mouth to mine and I kissed him.
Several minutes were spent in the pleasant task of more gentle kissing and light caressing, before I knew that I really couldn't keep my eyes open any longer. I shifted slightly, rearranging Ducky so that we were both more comfortable, without letting him go from my arms.
Just as I was about to slip over the edge into sleep, something hit me. "Duck?"
"Yes, my dear?" His voice was heavy with sleep.
"Why were you coming to see me?"
"I had decided that it was time that I told you the truth about our relationship," he said quietly.
That made me feel even happier, even more content, even more fulfilled and even more at peace. I tugged him a tiny bit nearer, planted one final kiss on his nose and fell asleep.