AUTHOR: Ashleigh Anpilova
PAIRING: Leroy Jethro Gibbs/Donald 'Ducky' Mallard
CHARACTERS: Ducky, Gibbs, Kate
GENRE: Slash. Established Relationship. Friendship
SUMMARY: Ducky had always believed he would take his secret to his grave. However, he recalls the day that circumstances conspired to ensure this did not happen.
CHALLENGE Secrets And Lies
WORD COUNT: 2,095
DISCLAIMER: I don't own these characters, nor am I making any money from them. I merely borrow them from time to time.
I always believed that I would take one particular secret to my grave. It was the one thing I knew that I could never, would never, tell you. I hated having to keep my secret for many reasons; the main one being that, to my mind, it was too close to a lie for me to be comfortable. And we had an unwritten, indeed undiscussed, rule never to lie to one another. However, in order to keep your friendship, which I valued even over my own life, I knew that I would have to keep my secret, no matter how much it pained me.
And then came the day that changed not only my life, but yours too. The day when I discovered that I was not the only one who had been keeping a secret.
As I rest next to you in our bed, just watching you sleep, counting your steady breaths, reveling in the way we fit together, in the security I feel, the love I have for you, that day comes flooding back to me. And with sudden clarity I can remember it all, as clearly as it happened yesterday, rather than over ten years ago.
The call came, a dead Marine had been found and our presence was required. As always you, Anthony, Caitlin and Timothy left before Mr. Palmer and myself, and by the time we were on the road, your van had vanished.
As so often happened, Mr. Palmer managed to get us lost. He always insists that it is not he, but I who gets us lost; after all, he claims, I am the one who has the map. But as I always tell him, he gives it to me, therefore is it not his fault?
I saw you and the boys standing together a short distance away from where we parked, whilst Caitlin was photographing something on the ground. I left Mr. Palmer to get the gurney out of the back of the van, and walked across to speak to Kate.
"Hey, Ducky, Palmer get you lost again?" She smiled at me.
"Yes, my dear, I am afraid so. I do hope that Jethro is not too displeased with me." As I spoke, I looked across at you, and at that precise second you looked up. For a fleeting moment the frown that you habitually wore when we were presented with a dead body fled, and you smiled at me.
I was about to move across to you when, out of the corner of my eye, I saw him. From where he had come, I knew not; nor did I know how none of you had seen him. But none of that mattered. All that mattered was that he was moving towards Kate and myself, he had a gun in his hand, and his finger was already squeezing the trigger.
A splint second after I saw him, Timothy caught sight of him too, and he yelled. "Shooter."
As one all of you began to draw your weapons; but for Caitlin I knew it would be too late. The camera around her neck caused a momentarily hesitation, as it caught on her hand, and that is all it takes. Without thought other than to save her life, I pushed her out of the way, down onto the ground to safety. My chivalrous, protect the women, streak came into play.
As she fell I felt the bullets hit my body, and I crumpled to the ground. I felt as though I was falling in slow motion; I could no longer see, but I could hear.
I heard your desperate cry. "Duck." I heard it over the sounds of three, then a forth, guns being fired. I know that all Sig-Sauers should sound the same, but I swear I know the sound of the one you carry, over those belonging to the children. You emptied yours; the sound of the bullets leaving the chamber got nearer, as my hearing began to fade.
I wanted to admonish you for wasting bullets; to tell you that the man would already be dead, as you are such an accurate shooter, not to mention the fact that your three highly trained agents were also all firing.
I wanted to tell you that you didn't need to fire so many shots.
I wanted to tell you . . .
I wanted to tell you so very much.
But I couldn't.
I could no longer feel.
I could no longer hear.
I could no longer even smell the scent of cordite that had to hang in the air.
All my sense were black, and I was being pulled into the dark. Into the cold Into . . .
And then for a second I did feel something. I felt your hand on my neck and your tears on my face. I felt you whisper my name.
And then . . .
I felt numb, painless, weightless, as though I had been wrapped in cotton wool; whether that was good or bad, I knew not.
I did, however, know where I was. The constant beeping of machinery told me, and a slight tightness on the back of my right hand confirmed it.
But over the beeps I heard something else. I heard your voice. It was broken, you were crying, your words were barely audible. I had only once before heard that tone; when you had come to me to tell me that your beloved Shannon and Kelly had been pointlessly murdered. Shannon was a secret we shared, a secret that no one else, save one person, knew about. A convoluted secret.
Just as convoluted as the second secret we shared: the amount of years for which we had been friends. I am not certain that I ever fully understood your insistence that we, if not lie, then at least not be completely honest about that. I never really understood your need for the secret, but you asked me to keep it, and I did. And I always would.
I tried to focus on your words, attempted to make sense of them; and then I realized: you were praying. We'd never really discussed religion or God, or belief or faith or prayer. And yet somehow I'd always thought that if you had ever believed, that you had lost that belief when you had lost your girls.
But now, sitting by my bedside, holding my hand, I realized that you did pray. Or at least you were doing so now. I could not hear the actual words; I am not even certain you could. All I could hear was the general sense, the pain you felt.
And then the prayer stopped and you lifted my hand, gently, carefully, as gently as if you were touching a butterfly. I felt something fall onto it, and then a second drop, and again I knew you were crying.
I wanted to tell you not to cry. That I was alive. That I was here. But I couldn't. I couldn't speak. I couldn't move. I couldn't even squeeze your hand. Suddenly I wondered if I really were alive. Surely you wouldn't be shedding tears for me if I were?
Then you spoke again. Your voice was still broken, still full of pain and tears. "Oh, Duck. Why? Why did I wait? Why didn't I tell you before I lost you? Why didn't I tell you? Why couldn't I tell you that I'm in love with you? That I love you beyond that of a friend? Why, Duck?" And then you returned to your prayer.
So I was dead? But surely I couldn't be? I could hear you. I couldn't be dead. If I were, I wouldn't be able to hear you, and I certainly wouldn't be able to hear the damn machines that interfered with your voice.
I would speak to you. I would reassure you. I had to. I couldn't bear your pain. Your suffering.
"Gibbs? I . . . " It was Caitlin's voice. I wanted to tell you not to blame her. It wasn't her fault. She didn't ask me to push her out of the way. I did that of my own accord. I acted on instinct. I acted like the foolish old man I can be.
"It's not your fault, Kate."
"Is he . . . ?"
"The doctors . . ."
"Say there's no hope." You didn't even try to hide the tears from your voice.
"There's always hope, Gibbs. You have to believe that. Faith can -" And then Kate stopped speaking. "I'm sorry," she said, her voice a mere whisper, and full of the tears I had heard in your voice.
I had to speak to you.
I had to.
I . . .
This time I felt pain. The numbness had lifted. The feeling of cotton wool was less. I felt heavy. I felt. That had to be good, surely?
The beeping noises were still there. The tightness on the back of my right hand too. And my left hand was still being held. You still held it. And your voice, now sounding hoarse as well as broken, was still speaking.
"Kept it a secret, Duck. Don't know why. Shouldn't have done. I know how short life can be. I should have . . ." And then where there had hitherto only been pain and the sound of tears, sobs overtook your voice, and I felt you shudder.
I could not let you suffer. I could not. Fighting against the tube in my mouth, I managed to croak a single word. "Jethro."
The time for secrets was over.
You had told me yours.
It was time for me to tell you mine.
After what seemed like the twentieth group of doctors, nurses, medical students, as well as the children, all of whom proclaimed it to be 'a miracle', left us alone, I looked up at you. I looked into your eyes, tried to see beyond the sheer exhaustion, and shared my secret.
"I love you, Jethro," I said simply.
"I love you, my dearest." And I deliberately let fall the shields that I had constructed over the years, the ones that covered up the non-fraternal love that I had for you.
"Oh, Duck. Love you too." This time the tear that fell was not of pain.
Since then we have shared a great deal of happiness as well as some pain. We have shared a great deal of laughter and joy, together with some tears and sorrow. Our love and our friendship have both been tested; but both survived, and both have become all the stronger for it.
Our individual secrets became a shared one, as we kept our love from becoming public knowledge. Not that it was difficult, as with one, what is after all a very small exception, nothing really had changed.
Our friendship, our relationship, was already very intimate; the way you looked at me, spoke to me, were different from the way you looked at and spoke to anyone else. I had never hidden my love for you, just my desire. We had always been tactile with one another; we had always had what the children regarded as a telepathic relationship; we had always finished one another’s sentences; understood one another; indulged one another. None of that had changed. All we had done was to add a layer, one that meant that when alone, we extended our intimacy, behaved somewhat differently than we'd hitherto done; but when in public, nothing had changed.
Tobias has always known the truth. We felt that someone should know; just in case.
It was an easy secret to keep. And yet it would also have been an easy one for someone to find out. After all we had always agreed that whilst we might keep our true relationship a secret, we would not lie about it. To do so would have dishonored us; would have despoiled what we had; would have make it out to be something distasteful; wrong; and it wasn't.
Secrets are one thing.
Lies are something else.
One day soon, very soon now as you will shortly be joining me in retirement, there will not be a secret to keep. As the day you retire, will be the day you will marry me, in front of all the children and our other friends.
I find myself looking forward to a time where there will be no more secrets; no more lies.