*I do not own NCIS. Aren't we lucky?
The Night You Saved My Life
A fast, heavy rain was falling on the parking complex, the day Donald Mallard returned to work. He sat in the bench seat of his Morgan for a little while, watching the rain, fiddling with his hat in his lap, feeling the felt in his fingers. Thunder rumbled distantly over the sound of the traffic, when he at last kicked his door open, stepping out into the downpour, purposely forgetting his umbrella in the seat.
The puddles looked fuzzy with the strikes of raindrops as he avoided then, the heels of his shoes clipping along in a steady rhythm, even with his breathing. He passed Tony's red Mustang, Ziva's European-looking Mini Cooper. It was odd how little things changed, on the outside.
He crossed the small, cement bridge to the main building, at last finding shelter from the rain through the parking exit. It was easier, this way- he simply had to scan his identification badge, not present it in the lobby. Less people, this way.
Ducky stepped into the elevator without hindrance, passing only a woman preparing her umbrella to go outside. As the steel doors slowly slid shut with a bright ding, and he flapped the wet from his overcoat, pausing for a moment to let out a slow, jagged sigh, shutting his eyes. It was all the same; it was he, that had changed.
All too soon, there registered another ding, and he had reached the morgue sublevel. Ducky swallowed, his shaking hands clenching into fists in the pockets of his coat. The doors slid away, revealing him, and he wanted to hide.
Silence, as he stared into the morgue, a gathering of his coworkers watching him in return, "Pardon me," Ducky said at last, a smile creeping onto his face, "I do believe I have the wrong floor."
Laughter erupted, shattering the tense quiet, and Abby burst forward, into the elevator, "Ducky!" she choked, happy tears glistening in her eyes, and she squeezed him tightly, "welcome back!"
Ducky tensed his arms around her, swallowing back another lump in his throat, "Thank you, my little lotus blossom."
She seemed unwilling to release his arm as he emerged into the morgue, grinning abashedly at the cheers and laughter, and Ziva was the next to approach him, "Ducky," she said, flashing a perfect smile, "Shalom. How are you feeling?"
"Very well, Ziva. Better still, seeing the lot of you," he replied.
She stooped slightly to place a kiss on his cheek, murmuring, "Welcome back."
"Duckster!" Tony burst forward, grabbing his hand to wring it thoroughly, a brash, charming grin fixed on his bright face, "how's the old ticker?"
Ducky blinked for a moment in confusion, then nodded, "Ah, yes, never better."
"Didn't know if the whole surprise thing would, you know-" Tony gripped at his own shirt, sticking his tongue out and cocking his head, "Aaaaargh!"
Ducky laughed, "I see you still speak in such delicate tones, Anthony. This is all quite wonderful of all of you," Ducky pulled himself free of Abby to shake Tim's hand, when there was a clatter of surgical equipment.
Jimmy turned scarlet as he stooped to collect them, "S-sorry, Dr. Mallard! I kept everything like it was, when you left- I-I mean, not everything, I had to use some of it, but then I put it right back..." he returned the implements and tray to the counter as Ducky approached him, "Um, welcome back, Dr. Mallard," he offered his hand, swallowing nervously.
Ducky took his hand, shaking it, "Thank you, Mr. Palmer." They stared at one another for a few moments, before Ducky began to chuckle, pulling him into a hug, "I'm glad to see you, m'boy."
"Uh, you too, Dr. Mallard."
"Sorry Gibbs couldn't be here, Ducky," Tim said, and Ducky seized in his motions.
"Not a problem, Timothy," Ducky replied with another fake smile.
"I'm sure he would be, if he wasn't-"
"As I said, it's quite alright. I say- there's cake?"
Gibbs was watching the rain from the front porch when headlights flashed off of the front door, and Ducky' car pulled around the corner of the driveway, the gravel crunching quietly as he pulled into the garage. The engine quit, and the rain resumed.
Gibbs lifted himself from the wicker armchair with a small grunt of effort; he hadn't been sitting in the cold too long, he had been right to assume Ducky would return home directly after work. His long coat shifted in the dark silently as he slipped in the front door, locking it behind himself.
The house smelled of old wood polish and dust, and the air was very still. However cold, it seemed to close around his face and ears claustrophobically as he crept quietly into the living room, taking up his post beside the window, watching the kitchen. The furniture appeared as white, ghostly shapes, draped in painters cloths and plastic.
There was a metallic rattling as the kitchen door lock twisted open, and Ducky's silhouette emerged in the twilighting, jiggling his key free of the door as he removed his hat, hanging it on the rack beside the door. He doffed the keys onto the sheet-covered kitchen table as he shut the door behind himself, and stood for a moment in the cold, dark silence. His breath fogged as he let out a sigh.
Gibbs continued to watch him, wondering if his silver hair could be seen, in the fading light, and breathed slowly, so that his own breath would not show.
The kitchen light flicked on, and Gibbs squinted, his eyes painful for a few moments. He remained in the shadow of the book case, as Ducky began to tug away the protective coverings of his kitchen furniture, dust flaring in the clear air. Ducky crossed the kitchen to the entryway to stand on his tip-toes and squint at the thermostat, twisting on the dormant heating system and setting the desired temperature. Then, he returned to the kitchen door, going to the garage for the rest of his things.
Gibbs moved silently from his post, stepping into the light of the kitchen to lean against the doorway into the living room, waiting.
The door banged open again as Ducky shuffled inside, shaking rain free of his glasses and juggling three tall, brown grocery bags in his arms. One tipped forward, and Ducky exclaimed, and in a flurry of movement, Gibbs caught it, straightening to look down at the doctor, "Let me help you with that, Duck."
Ducky blinked for a moment in shock and surprise, before his face tightened with anger, and his response tore from him throat raggedly, "Get out."
Gibbs settled the bag on the counter, perusing the contents, "Strawberry ice cream and ginger chips? Not very healthy. And sponges, I guess..."
"I said get out. Get the hell out of my house." Gibbs turned to see him still standing in the doorway, his small frame trembling with anger, "Leave."
"How was work? Did Abby get to see you? She's been counting down the days until you came back."
Ducky slammed the groceries down on the table, storming into the living room, and Gibbs followed after him, as he snatched up the receiver of the telephone, lifting in to his ear and jabbing at the numbers, "What are you doing, Duck?" Gibbs sighed.
"I'm calling the police to have you removed."
Gibbs reached around him to grab the phone, "The phones have been disconnected-" He exclaimed as Ducky brought a right cross to his jaw, sending him stumbling onto the carpet, the telephone ringing as it clattered on the floor.
"Get out of here, you son of a bitch!" Ducky snarled, barring his teeth, "I swear to god, I'll thrash you, Jethro!"
"Don't call me that! Don't call me anything! Get out of my sight!"
Gibbs collected himself from the floor, cracking his jaw straight as he rose to his feet, holding his hands open in front of himself, "Calm down."
"No! GET OUT!"
Ducky's hand dove into his pocket for his cell phone, and Gibb's face fell with sadness, and he lowered his hands, "Donald," he said quietly.
Ducky looked away as he bit the inside of his cheek, his face twisting with pain. "I begged you, Jethro," he whispered, his voice breaking, "I begged you not to let them take me..." he looked back at him, his eyes glistening with tears, "I begged you to save me."
Gibb's voice was soft, "Duck, you were hurting yourself..."
"I wasn't crazy, Jethro! I'm not crazy!" Ducky coughed, tears boiling over as he yelled, "You let them take me to that god-forsaken place!"
"You needed help," Gibbs replied, softer still.
"And for a year I wrote you, for a year I begged you to get me out of there, and for a year I was alone, no letters, no visits... You let me die in there!" Ducky smeared the tears away from his face with a trembling hand, pushing his glasses onto his forehead, "I can't sleep, after what they've done, I can't eat... I can't let myself think, without being afraid..."
"Why, Jethro?" He looked up at him, his eyes glossy and red.
Gibb's brows furrowed with concern, "Because I love you."
"Rubbish!" Ducky spat, anger returning to his face, "If you'd have loved me, you would have saved me!"
Gibbs steeped forward and Ducky recoiled from him, before he gripped Ducky's wrist, yanking it up and ripping down his shirtsleeve, "I did save you," he growled, and Ducky winced away from his own, jagged, vertical scars, "No, look at them. You made them, you selfish bastard, you can look at them. Is this better?"
"Get off of me! You haven't the faintest comprehension of-"
"Of what? Of pain? You think I haven't been there? With a gun in my mouth, wondering what a bullet would taste like?" his grip tightened on his arm until it bruised, and Ducky was pulling away, as Gibbs barred his teeth, "I'm not sorry."
Ducky's features flexed and his eyes flared with wild hate, and he drew back for another punch, before Gibbs stepped into him, closing his hand around his clenched fist and stilling it before he could strike, "Get off of me! Don't touch me!" Ducky cried, struggling to get out of his grip.
Gibbs stared down into his face sternly, until he grew still, a raspy sob escaping him. Gibbs quietly drew him in, wrapping him in his arms and nestling his face in his hair. Ducky's hands clenched the back of Gibb's coat as he shook.
"I love you, Duck," Gibbs whispered, and kissed his ear, "I didn't want you to die."
"That made one of us," Ducky rasped with a small smile.
"Do you still want to?" Gibbs questioned softly.
Ducky was quiet for a few moments, "No."
The rain was quiet outside for a few moments, and inside the kitchen, the ice cream was melting.