Title: Anguis In Herba
Genre: Slash. Established Relationship. Slight angst.
Summary: Red Cell missing scene of sorts.
Spoilers: Red Cell.
Prompt: #1 Broken over at 30_angsts
A/N: Anguis In Herba – Snake in the grass. Finally, finally finished: special thanks to Ren on this one.
“What’s the verdict then, Jethro?” Ducky called with a smile to himself as he heard the doors to autopsy behind him open with a rush of air. Familiar footsteps sounded softly on the floor. You could call it sixth sense – you could call it whatever the hell you wanted to – but the fact of the matter was that a lot of it came down to knowing someone inside out. Knowing their habits, their expectations, their strengths and their weaknesses. Knowing that when a case was closed Gibbs would be down to see him the instant an appropriate opportunity presented itself and not a moment sooner. The pattern of his footfall, the smell of his cologne, these were the pointers that stemmed from intimate knowledge. Knowledge was his sixth sense.
“I need ice,” Gibbs offered to the other man’s back, approaching the tables now empty for the night and wondering whether or not he’d manage to get himself sat on one. He eyed the height carefully, knowing that sitting was preferable to standing at that precise moment in time, a variety of aches and pains telling him as much.
Not the answer he was expecting, Ducky straightened from signing off on his reports and turned, registering his lover’s faint hiss of pain as he settled himself tentatively on cold metal. Frown marring his features, he headed towards where a somewhat awkward looking Gibbs remained.
“Jethro?” Ducky asked, a number of questions hidden in the way he said his name as he crossed to him, limp more prominent after a day on his feet. Rounding the corner of the table, Gibbs stiffly looked up to meet his approach and Ducky’s eyes widened slightly as he took in the burgeoning technicolour hue of his left cheek, forehead and jaw. “Dear God, what happened to you?”
Making the last few feet he automatically came to a halt between his legs, right hand running the length of his arm as the left took his chin and carefully turned his face to the light for closer inspection.
“Run in with the NROTC Gunnery Sergeant – Turner and Blake found out he was forcing Midshipman Simmons to have sex with him. Killed ‘em both when he realised she’d talked – ow,” Gibbs winced as gentle fingers probed at increasingly tender flesh beneath his eye. Ducky offered a distracted but heartfelt ‘sorry’ as he continued examining the damage inflicted by fists. Finally content that there was little more to the wounds than what could be seen, the older man pulled back slightly. He gestured towards his cheek and jaw.
“You’ll need ice on those,”
Gibbs resisted the urge to roll his eyes having made that diagnosis for himself.
“Where else are you hurt?”
Jethro offered him a one armed shrug which in reality told Ducky all he needed to know, but he still wanted to hear the words. It had been one of their few long-standing battles over the years; fraught with dangers as his career had been, there had been no less than four instances of hospitalisation and a further two incidents during his time in the marines that, truth be told, should have seen him under the watchful eye of a fully-equipped emergency room for at least 48 hours. In his time with NCIS the hospital visits had thankfully been fewer and far between, but the battle of wills had re-emerged the night wife number 3 had smacked him over the head with a baseball bat. Appearing in autopsy at some god-forsaken hour of the night, Gibbs had refused all attempts to get him to an ER, insisting instead – despite what turned out to be a more severe concussion than Ducky had anticipated - that the M.E stitch him up and take him home. Having promptly passed out again whilst getting him ready for bed, waking him every hour throughout the night and asking him what his name was had been an experience he did not want to repeat. The last answer given that night, the fifth time he had been woken, had consisted of two words, and had been short and very much to the point. He hadn’t sworn directly at Ducky before or since, at least not in anger.
“They’re just bruises, Duck,” Gibbs offered, reading the growing determination in his lover’s eyes and hoping to head him off at the pass. All he really wanted was to go home, take a bath and relax, preferably wrapped in the other man’s arms. Ducky frowned again.
“As a forensic pathologist, I am perfectly capable of telling you that the cut on your forehead is the result of having to head-butt someone,” his gaze dared the other man to deny it as he continued, “If you had to head-butt this marine, odds are you were being pinned tightly at the time and looking at the position and angle of the cut, it was most likely to the floor. If you were pinned to the floor, that begs the question of how you ended up there in the first place,” he paused, eyes softening slightly, “Do I really need to continue, my love?”
“I don’t need a doctor, Duck, I need a hot bath and a tub of Tiger Balm,” he stated with conviction. “Warm hands rubbing it in wouldn’t go amiss either,” he added, conjuring a smile from somewhere that didn’t pull at the split in his lip. Stood before him, Ducky very deliberately folded his arms. Knowing he was beaten – literally and figuratively - Gibbs’ smile faded somewhat, but affection lingered in his gaze and tempered his impatience.
“He threw me,”
“Ah,” was all Ducky said in response.
“A couple of times,” Gibbs conceded when nothing more was forthcoming. With that, Ducky allowed the stiffness in his posture to ebb away and nodded, hands smoothly reaching out to begin easing his jacket from his shoulders. Between them it was removed and folded neatly on the end of the table, before shirt was added and Ducky grasped the hem of his tee to pull it upwards.
“Hope you haven’t forgotten there are cameras in here,” Jethro murmured with a tinge of humour as the cotton was lifted to reveal his stomach and chest and a bruise threatening to take over the entirety of his right pectoral. Whatever else he planned to say was cut off when hands pressed more firmly than he’d anticipated, causing him to flinch, a hiss escaping even as he clamped his jaw shut.
“I need to check there’s nothing broken. I should have warned you it might hurt my dear, but then I thought you’d probably already know that…” he soothed, hands and heart satisfied that there was no give, nothing moving that shouldn’t be. His firm, warm touch slid further upwards, briefly exploring the ridge of collarbone on both sides before running across the tops of his shoulders, feeling nothing more sinister than tension there. In bed one night not long after their sexual relationship had begun, Gibbs had told him he’d been surprised at the range of touch his hands were capable of; feather-light caresses that aroused, firmer touches that not only brought pleasure but spoke of love and affection in other situations. Mostly he was surprised by the strength. Strength that had saved lives and brought dignity and closure to those who could no longer be physically saved. The strength in his touch had never been in keeping with his appearance.
His back firmly in the cameras’ line of sight, Ducky allowed himself a gentle caress of warm skin beneath cotton as he withdrew his hands and brought the T-shirt back down with them, a soft smile turning the corners of his mouth as Gibbs shivered very slightly in response.
“I want to take a look at your back. If the rest of you is anything to go by there’s nothing to worry about though,”
Although the room had eyes, it had yet to develop permanent ears and as such there was a definite freedom of speech for them in autopsy. But the habit, the routine they’d established while working together often prevented them from saying what they really wanted to even alone in the bowels of the Navy Yard. If the words themselves were mundane though, the sentiments that underpinned their relationship were allowed free rein in a way that for a long time had only ever been achieved behind safely locked doors in their respective homes. As always his tone said everything his words didn’t. I love you, I want you, I need you. I worry about you.
Once certain he was at least relatively unharmed, the temptation at times like this was to berate. Not because Ducky was angry, but because fear had always underpinned the M.E’s side of the relationship. Losing Jethro was an all-consuming, gut-wrenching fear that he had never been able to quieten and when the threat of that loss became more real…in the aftermath he had a penchant for lecturing a little more sternly than was usually his way with his other half. Anger itself was reserved for when Gibbs’ more self-destructive tendencies came to the fore; when he took unnecessary risks, was hurt needlessly, driven by the darker emotions that lurked in his soul. Guilt was usually the main culprit there, the night of Ari Haswari’s infiltration of autopsy as good an example as any. Yes, the threat to Ducky and the others had been very real. Yes, Gerald had been severely injured. Yes, Ari had been wearing a bullet proof vest, had goaded him into taking a body shot, but Gibbs wasn’t to have known that. Firing a gun in a nice residential area in the early hours of the morning was not the brightest idea the other man had ever had. Having insisted – quite politely - on searching the house, the local law enforcement had agreed as much.
Ducky had seen them out with a sigh of relief that they were willing to let the issue go given Gibbs was not only a federal agent but also injured, and although he might have slightly over-played the level of pain medication he was under, it was for the greater good. Shutting Gibbs’ front door and locking it as the squad car had pulled away, he had then wordlessly escorted Jethro upstairs and settled them both back into bed. Exhausted by the day’s events and held securely by Gibbs’ good arm, he had fallen asleep quickly the first time round, unaware that sleep was alluding Jethro until he’d woken to find his side of the bed distinctly cold and empty.
“He could have killed you…”
Hearing the words spoken with such fear - an emotion he rarely saw in his lover - as he climbed back into bed for the second time that night, he had firmly but gently eased him onto his back before making love to him with the inherent passion that few would have guessed he possessed. He made his point through his actions, affirming the fact that whilst Jethro was right he was still very much alive; both men had lost themselves in the sensations the other elicited as they moved together, Gibbs coming first before Ducky quickly followed him over the edge. Awareness had returned with the feel of fingers threaded through his hair, half-lying across the younger man’s chest, and with concern he’d realised he was on top of Jethro’s damaged arm, but Gibbs had refused to let him move.
“I love you,”
Only when he’d said that, had the declaration returned and kissed him until they were both breathless again had he let Ducky ease to the side. They had both slept then, his head pillowed on Gibbs’ good shoulder, arm draped across his stomach and their legs entwined.
“You’ll have to move back for me, Jethro,” Ducky stated as he rounded the table and came to a stop directly behind Gibbs, reaching out to help him slide nearer the edge of the slab before tugging his tee up once more. For a moment there was silence and the touch Gibbs had been expecting never came, prompting him to glance over his shoulder. Ducky appraised the livid marks revealed, face darkening, before he glanced up and blue eyes met blue.
“I assume you had back-up. Where were Kate and DiNozzo while you were getting half-beaten to death?”
His tone had taken on a sharp edge, one that Gibbs had thankfully only had aimed at him twice over the years, although he’d deserved to hear it more often than that. Ducky had skipped angry and was heading for homicidal.
“It wasn’t their fault Duck,” he stiffened slightly as the touch began, “Tony and Kate were taking her to the car when I realised it was him. By the time they found out and tried to warn me it was too late,”
He didn’t add that he’d be giving DiNozzo lessons on how to break down doors more efficiently the first chance he got, starting his demonstration with the front door to his apartment. His only real criticism over what had happened was that his agents had waited too long before shooting the lock out. That should have happened when it didn’t give after the first kick not the tenth, it would have saved him some pain. And if things had turned out differently it could quite possibly have saved his life.
He was capable in hand-to-hand, more than capable in some respects because he hadn’t just learnt it, he’d used it repeatedly over the years, but Leeka had been bigger, stronger and younger than him. The first two weren’t necessarily factors in the equation; the old adage of the ‘bigger they are, the harder they fall’ had held true on dozens of occasions when he’d been called on to defend himself. The ‘younger’ part had almost been his undoing though. He kept himself in shape, ran, sparred, did all the things he needed to keep himself fit for field work but today it almost hadn’t been enough. The palm of Ducky’s hand coming to rest upon the front of his shoulder distracted him.
“Breathe in for me,” he instructed softly from behind him and off slightly to one side, anger temporarily replaced by clinical concern. The space from below his left shoulder to just above his hip was a mottled mass of purple. “This really will hurt,” he added as Gibbs obeyed and the M.E pressed firmly against the bruises, using his hand on his chest to prevent him from shying away from the pain. He worked quickly, aware of how much he was hurting his lover but needing to do it all the same. If there was a fracture and they didn’t know, one slight knock and it wasn’t far to a punctured lung or worse. “Almost there…”
Gibbs heard his words through a haze and wondered vaguely if for the first time ever he was about to pass out, but then the pressure and pain eased and he released the breath he’d been holding, bending forward slightly and relying on Ducky’s grip to hold him there for a moment. Out of sight of the camera, Ducky rubbed soothingly at the undamaged side of his back, “I’m done now my love,”
Opening his eyes, Gibbs sat up and took a deep breath, the pain continuing to abate. He’d had broken bones that had hurt him less than that…
“I don’t think there’s any permanent damage, nothing broken, but you are going to be sore for quite a while, Jethro,” Ducky murmured gently, hand still rubbing in small circles as he spoke. The irony of doctors having to cause pain had never been lost on him.
The reply was muffled by the way Gibbs’ chin was pressed into his chest but carried none of the sarcasm others would expect. Instead it spoke of fatigue and still abating pain and in turn attested to the depth of their relationship. With one last caress of his back, Ducky eased the T-shirt back down, his hand lingering lightly at his hip before he drew away and returned to stand in front of Gibbs. For a long moment he silently studied his lover, eyes soft with affection but sharp in their appraisal.
“A snake in the grass, Jethro,” he offered softly, “You couldn’t have known,”
Lifting his head, Gibbs stared into Ducky’s eyes as if searching for something before eventually nodding.
“Maybe not, but I should have…” Jethro stated quietly, wistfully.
“Come on, let’s get you home,” he stepped to one side and beckoned for Gibbs to slide from the table, surreptitiously poised to lend a hand as necessary. “I believe the doctor prescribed a hot bath and tiger balm,”