AUTHOR: Ashleigh Anpilova
PAIRING: Leroy Jethro Gibbs/Donald 'Ducky' Mallard
WORD COUNT: 2,051
SUMMARY: A sequel to What Makes You Stay. Ducky was aware that Jethro was outside. Now Ducky is left to ponder what his lover leaving without seeing him means.
WARNINGS: Spoilers for 'Ex-File'. As with What Makes You Stay, there isn't a smidgen of sweetness in this.
DISCLAIMER: I don't own these characters, nor am I making any money from them. I merely borrow them from time to time.
Jethro was here tonight; of that I am certain.
I did not see him; it was too dark. But I know he was here. Outside. Standing in the darkness watching the house.
Do not ask me how I know; I just know.
I know in the same way as I know when it is he who enters Autopsy, and when it is one of the children, or someone else.
I just know.
I have known him, loved him and have been his lover for over three decades. Maybe it is this that gives me a sixth sense of being able to know, without seeing him, without hearing him, without catching a hint of his scent, that he is nearby.
Maybe tonight, however, it was something else.
Maybe tonight, however it was my conscience.
They say to err is human. Well I have never claimed not to be human, and what I did was most definitely to err. In fact 'err' is far too gentle a word, even its synonyms are gentle. What I did, not to put a fine point on it, was to fuck up – badly. Very badly. Very badly indeed. In fact I do not recall a time when I have ever done so as badly as I did today.
I have no defense. Not really. Indeed not at all.
Yes, Lieutenant Colonel Hollis Mann is a good interrogator. But I have been interrogated by far better than she. Or maybe I merely think that I have. Maybe she really is that good, and part of her skill is making herself appear to be less so. However, I do not think so.
Yes, she caught me off guard. I confess that I believed, once more people than myself knew about Jethro's secret, that he would no longer keep it a secret, thus when she commented that she knew he had been married three times, it did come as I surprise to me. But I have been caught off guard before, and have not talked.
For more than three decades I have kept the secret that Jethro and I were 'more than just old, very close friends.
For more than two decades I kept the secret of Shannon and Kelly.
For more than two decades I kept the secret of how Shannon and Kelly's murderer died.
And of those secrets the most damning of all, the one that would have caused a great deal of trouble, not least Jethro’s dishonorable discharge, is the fact that Jethro and I were lovers. And yet I kept the secret. I never once told anyone, I never once let myself slip. I never did. Not once.
Not even throughout three further marriages, countless affairs, the pain he caused me, did I let the truth about our relationship become known.
I note I say 'were lovers’, for I no longer know if I am able to use the present tense. I fear I cannot. I fear I shall never be able to do so again.
And even if I allow myself to use either of the excuses I mentioned, that Hollis Mann is a good interrogator or that she caught me off guard, the question still remains: what was my motivation for telling her? Why did I do it?
I know it was not because I believed that in order for her and Jethro to have a future together that she should have known about all of his marriages. I know this, because I know that she and Jethro do not have a future together. She is wrong for him, in so many ways.
Was it because I am tired of it all? Tired of being treated as second best by Jethro? Tired of being the one to do all the giving, all the forgiving? Tired of being 'the other woman? Tired of being the one to wait for him to tire of his current woman and return to my arms? Tired of not being able to talk of our relationship openly? Tired of not being able to show how much I love him? Tired of not having him to myself?
Did I deliberately tell her about Shannon in the hope that she would be so angry that he, in effect, lied to her that she would leave him?
Is it within me to do such a thing?
I would have said 'no'. Indeed I would have believed it to be an impossibility and not part of my nature. And consciously I know that it is not. But maybe subconsciously it is. Maybe my inner self took over and . . .
Yet again, as much as I would like to use that as an excuse, it does not tie in with the rest of my life. I have never, at least I do not believe I have ever, allowed my subconscious to behave in such a way. I know that the argument is weak, after all the whole purpose of the subconscious is that it behaves outside of a person's control, and yet . . . I am too weary to explain further; it would take too long. The mind is far too complex a thing to be defined by hard and inflexible terms and rigid constants.
Or was my telling her about Shannon a way of making him choose? Of telling him that I had finally had enough, and that it was time he made his choice?
I confess that, of late, that thought has gone through my mind on more than one occasion. It has done so over the years, but recently more so than ever before. In the past months, since his return from Mexico, I have felt the near over-whelming urge to tell him that it is time for him to, once and for all, decide whether it is I he wants, or women.
I have always believed, I have always allowed myself to believe, that the day would come when he would choose me. That the day would come when we would no longer hide our relationship. That the day would come when he would not treat me as second best. That the day would come when I would not be the one to do all the giving, all the forgiving. That the day would come when I would no longer be 'the other woman'. That the day would come when I would no longer have to wait for him to tire of his current woman and return to my arms. That the day would come when we were able to talk openly of our relationship. That the day would come when I would be able to show how much I loved him. That the day would come when I would have him to myself.
However, maybe I have always been under an illusion to believe such things. Maybe it is just that I wanted, that I needed, to believe them in order to allow myself to remain in the relationship.
I believe that I could spend the rest of the night, indeed the rest of my life, attempting to analysis my motivation, if in fact I had one, for telling Hollis Mann about Shannon and Kelly, and I still would not be able to explain it.
And if I am honest the why I did it really does not matter. Not in the grand scale of things.
I did it.
I cannot undo it.
As much as I wish I could do so. As much as I wish I could stop time and replay at scene again. I cannot.
I cannot change what has happened.
What is done is done.
What is done cannot be undone.
I have to accept that.
I have to. I must. I have no other choice.
Thus my motivation is not really of any importance.
What is: is what happens now?
The other part of the adage is: 'to forgive Devine'.
Well, Jethro is not, despite what the children think God; he may be omniscient, but he too is human. And as such, I have no idea whether he will be able to forgive me for what I did.
I should have known that she would ask him about it, and I use the term 'ask' advisedly. Jethro once told me, when he was acting-Director and Cynthia was harassing him, that he couldn't stand a 'nagging woman'. It was on the tip of my tongue to ask him why, in that case, was he still dating Hollis Mann. A more nagging woman with her 'you should want me' 'you didn't call me' 'why do you work so late' ' why don't you spend more time with me' I have never known. Even Diane and Stephanie were not that shrewish, they merely resorted to violence.
We do not, we have never, talked about Hollis Mann and why Jethro is still seeing her. I believe I know why, but I cannot tell him, not unless he is prepared to admit it. The simple fact is Leroy Jethro Gibbs is unable to tell a woman to 'go away'. He has to drive them to leave him, or he will drive them to violence so that then, and only then, can he finally walk away. If something does not happen soon, I foresee that I will be standing at his side for a fifth time waiting for him –
But no, I said 'will be'. If he marries Lieutenant Colonel Hollis Mann, I do not believe it will be I who is at his side.
I am not certain I will ever be at his side again.
Jethro does not say he is sorry, at least not often, he sees it as a sign of weakness. Actually, it isn't; it is quite the opposite. However, there are some things you do not tell Leroy Jethro Gibbs; he is a stubborn man at times. Nor does he forgive easily, if at all. And to expect him to forgive the magnitude of my 'erring' is quite possibly more than I could humanly expect.
I knew he would come to my home tonight.
I did not know he would come and leave without seeing me.
That is hard, that is even harder than his anger, to accept, to understand.
Our relationship has never been perfect, what relationship is? We have, on occasions, argued, but we have always made up. My grandmother once told me 'never go to sleep on a quarrel, Donald.' I have, over the years, always made certain that I followed her advice.
So whilst it is true that Jethro and I have not quarreled, we are nonetheless going to bed, to separate beds, without resolving anything.
Maybe that is right and just. Maybe it is what I deserve for letting him down, for betraying him. I do not believe that I am being melodramatic when I use the word 'betray'.
Maybe it is the right, the just, payment for letting down the one person whom I believed I would never let down.
Maybe it is the right, the just, payment for breaking my promise to him.
Of course I could argue that technically, as others now know about Shannon and Kelly, that the promise was no longer in force. However, it would be a hollow argument, as I do not believe it myself. And I am certain Jethro does not.
If he had been able to find it in himself to forgive me, I believe he would have rung the doorbell or used his key. The fact that he walked away, and he would have known that I would have sensed his presence really does give me my answer.
My beloved, for that is what he will always be whether we are together of not, is just a man. He is human. He is not Devine.
I too am human; and as human I have erred. But I will not, of that I am now certain, be forgiven.
And even if Jethro finds it within him to forgive me, I am not certain that I shall ever be able to forgive myself. And if I cannot do that thing, it will, in time, destroy our relationship.
Oh, Jethro. My dearest, dearest, most beloved Jethro. What have I done?
What will tomorrow bring? And how soon will it come?