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Whiskey Tango Foxtrott ... over?

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There was nothing better than the smell of freshly brewed coffee. Usually it calmed him. That and the matunial silence in his house.
Usually.
Not today.
Today everything was different. And nothing, Gibbs knew that, nothing would ever be the same as it were before.
He had never been the cuddly tiype. The only one he had kissed awake in the morning had been Shannon – after her, no one. So it wasn’t hardly surprising that he was now standing in his kitchen, trying to occupy himself with making coffee while upstairs having a woman in his bed.
A woman who made him feel the most alive he had been for years.

His eyes fell onto the sugar box he hadn’t even bothered to put away anymore. That thing had been used a lot more often in the past weeks than years before. Used by her. She who had crept into his life, his house, his soul. And now in his bed.

Actually, “crept” was the wrong expression. More like “bursting”. And he had let her.
Gibbs took a deep breath and placed the two coffee mugs on the counter. As the hot liquid gushed into the first mug, he stared at its deep brown and glinting color. Since she had stumbled into his life coffee had a different, much more important presence and value for him than it already had been.
Coffee reminded him of her. The sugar she put in hers – she was just as sweet and dangerous. The caffeine it contained – it made him alive, addictive. The taste of it – smooth and strong and hearty.
He wouldn’t lie to himself anymore. He had grown just as addictive to her as he had to coffee.
He had always tried to distinguish the color of her eyes and it was a challenge for him. It wasn’t just simply brown. It was neither just chocolate or chestnut, it seemed to either change with her mood or the lights made it impossible to describe. All he knew was they had glowed cognac-golden in the open fire they had been sitting at yesterday.

Her eyes had been the reason. The way her eyes had been burning with passion, desire and nervousness, devotion and love.
Love.
His heart jumped at the thought of this meaningful word.
He had no idea how to describe this, whatever it was between them. It had just happened. But it had felt like the best thing that had happened to him in the past years.

Until now. Now he had no idea how he should feel.
From time to time she had faltered, almost resembeling to insecurity, but whenever he had stopped and asked her if she was okay she had nodded and smiled and kissed his sorrows away. Or touched.
Cause that was what she was best at – making people feel better. She was pleasant to be around.
So why the hell did he catch himself being not only nervous but also scared while climbing the stairs and thinking about facing her?
Maybe because he had no idea what to say.

All he did was stop in his tracks as he stepped through the bedroom door and took some time to just look at her. She was on her stomach, head turned towards the door, and due to the relaxed image she was exudig he guessed she was still sleeping.
Gibbs tried to ignore the feeling in his stomach that told him to do a thousand different things to do which all weren’t combinable. Tentative and cautious about not making a sound to wake her he stepped closer. She must have gotten up somewhere in the middle of the night since now she was wearing one of his t-shirts, the grey and soft one he just wore after showering. It probably even smelled like his shampoo. Now, he was sure, it would be her smell clinging on it. And the thought about it made his stomach jump and twist. He would never be able to wear that thing without thinking about her. About their morning after.
Maybe that was it. Maybe that was the nagging feeling inside of him, he felt guilty for letting her do it and making the impression he didn’t care about her after they had sex. He had not only not even realized her getting up – she obviously wasn’t comfortable lying in his bed being completely exposed. He stepped closer so now he could look at her profile.
The butterflies in his stomach returned as he let his eyes travel over her features, her eyelashed which were so exceptionally dark for a blonde, her nose, her perfect lips.
They hadn’t simply had sex.
They had made love – and this, probably, was the thing he was constantly thinking about, the reason why he felt how he felt. The honey colored hair with caramel assets sprayled out on the darkblue bed sheets. It had grown in the past weeks, now it was almost as long as it had been two years ago, but lighter, she wore it straight more often. Her bronze skin seemed smooth and delicate against the cold and gruff surroundings. She didn’t belong here. She wasn’t made for this.
Bullshit, his brain mentioned. YOU are not made for this. You are not made to give this beautiful amazing woman the life she deserves. SHE can fit into everything, you are the problem.

He looked around, thought about putting the coffee down and doing something more productive and less creepy than staring at her, as he heard the sheets ruffle.
„Gibbs?“
Her voice send shivers through his whole body and he tensed.
Of course he had known the conversion was uneviatable, of course he would have to look her in the eyes, of course he would need to work with her and trying to not constantly thinking about what they had done last night, how she had whispered his name, how she had felt under his fingertips.
He knew the consequences. But he wasn’t ready.
Nevertheless he turned around.
She was sitting upright now and looking at him. The smile on her lips was faint, shy and a little tired, but her brown eyes were sparkeling. God, those eyes …
Those eyes had been the major catalyst. The reason that had finally broken his resolve, had made him go for it. They wouldn’t have ended up naked in his bed if she hadn’t been looking at him like that, with those sparkeling eyes and the whit and the sassy but cute smile.
„Since when are you awake?“, she asked.
He jolted back to the present.
„Couple of minutes“, he said, hoping his appreance didn’t mirror the heat which had formed itself inside him. The way she had felt against him, her soft and smooth skin, touching her, kissing her …
„I made coffee.“ He extended his right arm and handed her the green mug. He could make out the sugar even by the smell. It still amazed him how she could drink that.
„You know green’s my favorite color?“ She lifted one eyebrow before taking a sip, the smile mirroring in her eyes.
He shrugged. „Doesn’t surprise me.“
“And what’s yours?” She took another gulp before placing it into her lap. “Blue?” A little smirk. “Navyblue?”
“Kinda”, he said before drinking out of his own one.
Her following silence disheveled him. She didn’t appear to him as a non-morning-person.
„How are you?“, he decided to ask as nothing came back – no sassy Jacqueline-Sloane-comment he silently loved her for, no grin, nothing. All she did was stare into the cup … until he asked her.
„I’m good.“ Her nod became invisible and she seemed to stare into nowhere for a while until a faint reddish color crossed her face. „Actually …“ She bit her lip and smiled sheepishly. „I’m really good.”
Never ever had she looked more adorable – wearing his oversized shirt and showing off her shoulder, sitting crossleged, a cup of coffee in her hands and messy hair. Even though she wasn’t wearing any makeup she looked younger than she had ever before. Young and exceptionally beautiful. „YOU were good.“
He laughed, sheepishly turning his head to avoid her burning gaze. „Not the youngest anymore“, he held against it, trying to hide his redding cheeks.
„Didn’t notice that yesterday“, she went on, a playing but provocative undertone in her voice.
He swallowed. „I …“ He scratched the back of his head. „I’m not good talking about stuff like that.“
She raised her eyebrow. „With „stuff“ you mean sex?“ There it was. That was the Jack he knew.
„Doesn’t matter.“
He wanted to avoid her gaze but nevertheless felt her eyes on him. Luckily she seemed to be done with teasing him and all she did was tapping on the mattress next to her. He followed and sat down beside her.
„How are you?“, she asked his question back.
He had no idea how to answer that. The easiest would be to kiss her and relive last night’s doings, but she wasn’t like that. THIS wasn’t like that. She wasn’t just a one-night-stand or a beautiful woman to get laid. She was so much more to him … and that scared him.
She sensed his uneasiness and cleared her throat while turning away from him. „I think I should get dressed. At least … a little more.“ With that she got up, placing the cup on his nightstand.
He wondered. He wondered and he wondered WHY he wondered. She could have handed the cup to him since he was standing close enough …

What was he suddenly doing? Where the hell had he grown so attentive, so analyzing?
And how the hell did he have the right to feel offended if HE was the one to not answer her question?
„You okay?“ He asked before he had even realize he indeed was confused.
Jack turned around. „Hm? Yeah. Why not?“
He didn’t shrug. He just stated it. „Yesterday you didn’t have any problem at all about exposing.“
Jack’s cheeks turned pink. „That was inevitable for our doings.“
He lifted his eyebrow. She squinted hers and shook her head. „Okay, shit, that came out wrong.“ She signed. „I mean …“ She put her hand in her hair and brushed it back. „For me there is a difference between stripping down for sex and walking around naked. I …“ He saw her biting her lip. As she faced him again, the look in her face was showing insecurity. „I don’t feel comfortable with that.“
He forced a smile. „Won’t force you to anything”, he said, voice soft.
She nodded and gave him a slight smile. „Thank you.“
She didn’t move. Suddenly he felt extremely uncomfortable. As the though came into his mind his heart cramped.
„Hey, if I forced you to anything last night, I’m …“
„Don’t.“ I seconds she was back at him and put her finger on his lips. „No need to apologize. You didn’t do anything wrong.“
Wow. He almost broke his rule for her.
Stupid. He had already broken Rule 12 for her, and he was damn ready to do it all over again and to act out Rule 5.
Just then Jack locked eyes with him. For a short moment the look reminded him of yesterday. Of her, whenever she was ready to go for it, whenever she was either angry or in for a new tease, or just …
„I wanted you to see me. To touch me.” She was whispering. He swallowed. Her voice had always done something to him, and now that voice was linked with very lively memories of certain physical activities. „Thank you for avoiding the scars.“
The aura shifted. As fast as she had gone into sultry-seductive-mode, she had changed back to an unusual timide-self of her. A version of hers he had never seen before.
He nodded. „Already guessed that would be a no-go.“
„Does it bother you?“ The question was asked in pure honesty. For a while he was speechless, had no idea what he should say. It wasn’t just the obvious importance of that particulat question he could hear in her tone, no, there was something else in it … hurt. Not especially shame, but … as if she was scared about his answer.
He shook his head, not quiet believing what she wanted t express with that – and what scared her. „What? Why should it?“
She shrugged.
He started another attempt. „Jack?“
„Nothing. It’s nothing.“ Her voice came out sharp, making him lean back. It made him feel nervous seeing her mood changing so rapidly. Something wasn’t going well here …
„Sorry“, she mumbled, having sensed his reaction. She roamed her hand through her hair. „I just … don’t want to talk about it. At least not now.“
He nodded. „That’s okay.“ He wondered where the nagging feeling in his guts came from. He was a keeper himself, so why did he suddenly feel offended that she didn’t confess whatever was bothering her to him? He had no right to. She wasn’t his property.

Somewhen she disappeared into the bathroom while he kept drinking his coffee. As she came back – hair combed, sleep rid off her face and dressed in her own clothes – she sat back next to him. And they fell silent. Again.
„Do you regret it?“
He wondered why he didn’t even flinch at the question. He listened to his guts, to what his insides were saying. And there was no other option. „I don’t know. Do you?“
„Me neither.“ Her reaction made his skin prickle. He would have expected something different, to be honest, but he wouldn’t dare to close in on her.

„I didn’t expect it to be this awkward.“ Again it was Jack who spoke again, nervously running one hand through her perfect hair.
„Well, we didn’t exactly plan it“, he started.
„I’m not blaming you“, Jack cut him off, sounding tense. „I probably even played a bigger part in getting us up here.” She signed while staring at the ceiling.
He didn’t bother to try to ask her what she meant because he knew and they both knew she was right. Not because she had been postulating, but because HE would have never had the guts for the first step. So she did.
Her loud sign made him look at her. Her eyes were closed and she seemed as if she were fighting with herself. “I just don’t want it to stay awkward between us. I … I care too much for you, Gibbs. I don’t want to throw this away.”
He nodded. “Same goes with me, Jack.” He fought for words, but again, there was nothing. The room drowned in silence again.
„I should leave“, she mumbled while already getting up a second time.
„Yeah“, he mumbled, still staring into nothing.
The situation shifted as Jack stopped like frozen. She stared at him, pure hurt reflecting in her eyes. „Wow.“ The words were a bare whisper. „So now I know how you feel.“
That was the moment he realized what he had just done. What he said. He bit back a curse and closed his eyes for a moment. Clenching his fist he thought about what he should say to desecalate the situation, but too late – those seconds were enough for Jack to rush past him and out of the bedroom.
„Jack!“ He got up and followed her who was already meters ahead, literally running down the stairs.
„I didn’t mean it like that!“
Jack, arriving at the final step, stopped and turned. „Oh you did, Gibbs“, she said, neither sounding sad nor angry, more like a dead mixture between both of those. „Otherwise you wouldn’t have said that.“
He signed and followed her, jaw clenched. He wasn’t good with words, had never been, and more than everything he hated being in an argument where he was wrong and was confronted with someone he actually liked. And he liked Jack. God, he more than liked her. He wouldn’t have done what he had done the last night with a woman he didn’t like.
So he straightened and forced himself to. „Jack, please, listen“, he started. „Let … let’s talk.“
„Oh, NOW you wanna talk?“ Her head shot up and she gave him the deadliest glare he had ever seen on her face. „There’s nothing to talk about. I think you made your position very clear.“
That was enough. He wouldn’t let her get away with that. „You know my reputation!“, he shouted. He wondered where his sudden anger towards her came from. „You know who I am, you knew what you were dealing with!“
Jack literally stomped her heel in the ground as she had pulled the second one on. Her eyes were glazy and burning like lazerblades as if someone had just lit up a fire behind them.
„So you’re blaming me now? Because I didn’t desensitize myself enough?“ She threw her hair back angrily. For a moment a flashback came rushing over him. The way she had done that yesterday, climbing on his lap, arching her back, their lips crushing together …
„No! I simply mean …“
„Yes, THAT’s what you simply mean!“, she cut him off. „That’s the point.“ She straightened her back and lifted her chin, staring at him with cold, dark eyes. „And I did see it coming, believe me. I knew it would be hard, I knew you wouldn’t let me in that easily, but it was worth a risk.“ She snorted, then shook her head. All of a sudden the anger seemed to be gone, now replaced by hurt. Her shoulders fell and she averted his eyes. “At least I though so.”
Tentative, he stepped closer. He wasn’t angry at her, either, not anymore. He barely got to make the third step as she looked at him again. And he frowned at the heartbroken expression in her face.
„I just never thought of you being a guy who’d throw a woman out after a good fuck.“
And with that, she took her bag and her clothes, slammed the door open and rushed out. Leaving back a stunned Jethro Gibbs who knew he had just really fucked things up.

It took him an eternity to move and release his eyes to be fixed on the door. After endless previous fights and failed marriages, one should think he was used to arguments.
But it always cut deep. And this time he felt as if Jack had just ripped his heart into pieces.
He had no idea how he had gotten upstairs as he found himself in the bedroom again. His eyes fixed themselves on the touseled sheets. With one thing she was right – it had been good. Great, actually.
He had fancied about that woman for months, it still felt surreal they had actually done it.

 

*

“Take me upstairs, Cowboy”, she whispered as they broke apart.
He groaled. “With pleasure.”
Somehow, he wondered how, they made it up into his room. Within seconds their clothes were spread out somewhere on the floor, moments later he was hovering above her, staring into her beautiful eyes, her beautiful face, and a smile holding forbidden promises. She placed her hands on his face to pull him down, finger lithe and warm against his skin.
She took him by complete surprise as she somehow had managed to sneak her hand downwards to grab him. He let out a growl and pulled back, staring at her. The smile on her lips was wicked, and then she bit her lip.
That lip-bite, that glaze in her eyes, was his undoing. He kissed a path along her throat, her shoulder, down to her breast, gently massaging them. Jack threw her head back, arching her spine. His hands traveled lower, one on her lower back, the other rubbing circles along her thigh, closer and closer to her center.
She was a mixture between being gigglish and knowing exactly what she wanted, and that combination alone was an on-turner. She had no problem in showing him exactly where she liked to be touched, didn’t conceal a single thing. There was one spot on her stomach, under her ribcage, where she was ticklish. He forced himself to remind it, he knew he could torture her and made her writhe under him if he just used this spot and specific others at the same time …
The first time she moaned made his heart stop for a moment. He softly sank his teeth into the delicate skin between her throat and her collarbone. Her reaction was a sign, a sign so sweet and innocent it send shivers along his body. Her nails were scraping along his back, silently asking him to go on with anything he wanted, just to not stop. And he didn’t. He wanted to tell her how beautiful she was, what she was doing to him, what she meant to him … he didn’t.
She let out a high-pitched sign as he slid inside of her, and he stilled despite the burning feeling of desperate relief. He wanted, he needed to make sure she was okay. She was the most sensual and beautiful thing he had seen in years, and he would have done everything to capture the moment.
As he felt her leg clasp around his hip, holding him tight, he knew the answer. He reached for her hand and gave another thrust, making her whimper. His mind clouded, he felt his heart pound, feeling more alive since … he couldn’t remember.
She was his undoing. And the way her lips opened for a silent scream as he reached that special spot, he knew he was hers, too.

*

 

He took a deep breath and tried to clear his mind.
He thought about how he had whipped away her strands of hair out of her face, how her gentle laugh had sounded afterwards, both of them still breathless. Her eyes more radiant and sparkeling than ever, a tired but satisfied smile on her lips as she closer her lids and nuzzled into the pillow.
He had wished to wake up next to her, to put his arms around her, to feel her breath and her soft hair tickeling his chest. He had imagined to kiss her all over again.
None of it had happened. Instead she had stormed out of his house, tears in her eyes, and him … hurt.
It hurt. It hurt so much he hadn’t thought it ever could.
Shit, he loved her. It was undeniable. He loved her and he had hurt her.
And suddenly Jethro Gibbs had no idea where they should go on from here. If there even was an option.
And that … that was a very big IF.

Whiskey Tango foxtrot.
He could only hope it wasn't OVER.

Chapter Text

She stared at the road in front of her, feeling her pounding heartbeat in her ears.
She didn’t cry and she wondered why. All she did was …
Realizing she hadn’t set the car into motion already she made a noise, a more angry than upset one, and slammed against the wheel with her flat hand. Stupid idea. Very stupid idea. Now it wasn’t just her heart that hurt.
“Damnit”, she cursed, suddenly the urge to crush something, to hit anything, to get rid of her – yeah, angriness.
And the weirdest thing was – she had no idea if she should be angry with him or with herself.

She should run, not drive back home. Exploiting. She could only hope she wouldn’t get into an accident … a mad Jack Sloane was dangerous.

“Stupid freakin streetlights”, she groaned as she had to hit the brakes as green turned into red. Yes, people always needed a catalyzer. Hers … was the traffic.

Probably having vocalized more cursewords within those minutes driving than in the past three years, she finally arrived at home. Jack tossed her bag onto the cough, left her shoes somewhere in the hall and made her way to the washingmaschine. She needed to get out of those clothes. Now.

As if something invisible had forced her to stop her feet stood still. Jack felt her chest heaving, tears threatening to come up.
And then she screamed. She just let it out, bursting out of her lungs, and hammered against the wall. Because she had always been like this. Impulsive. Whenever she was angry, she turned it into aggression.

What did she expect? That he had changed? That they would stand a chance against both of their nature?
That SHE had changed?
Yes. She had hoped, at least for herself. She felt safe with him, there was something about his quietness that gave her the feeling of a solid shoulder to lean on, someone she could spill all her deepest darkest secrets to, but apparently … apparently that wasn’t enough.
Still wasn’t enough.
His quietness and her fear. Deadly combination. If not even the worst to imagine.

She knew he hadn’t meant it. At least not exactly like he had said. She knew how he was, hell, she knew HIM.
But she also knew herself. And no one, not even Leon, had an idea about certain demons lingering inside her soul. And sometimes she wondered if she would ever be freed of those.
When hope is a ghost, fear survives.
She faintly remembered those lyrics from a song, a song that was so familiar, a song describing her own feelings. She had tried to cast out her fear with hope. That had always been her favorite “uplifting move” whenever it came to helping fellow soldiers. ‘ Keep on fighting. Keep on believing. If something terrible happens, look up. The sky will always be there for you, endless, filled with answers. You only need to keep on looking. ‘
But there was still one fear she couldn’t get rid. That fear … that fear she hadn’t really bothered about getting rid of, and now it haunted her.

Hell. She wasn’t angry with him. She was angry with herself.
Everyone knew Gibbs’ was a keeper, a closed-up person. But no one expected her to be one.
He had no idea. And she hadn’t even given him a chance to.

Maybe this HAS been a mistake. Not because she didn’t lo … didn’t feel something for him, because she did.
That was the reason it hurt so much.
It was because both of them had no idea how to react, how to go on with this – they weren’t familiar enough with each other. They didnt get a chance to figure out what this all meant, what it would mean for them, to think about the impact it would have on their relationship. If she would have taken her time and had tried to explain, to tell him about what she had no one ever told before, maybe … maybe that would have spared them the fight.
But she couldn’t undo the past.

Chapter Text

Usually he didn’t have that sort of sixth sence but today, on this certain Monday morning, there was a tension laying in the room he just couldn’t ignore. Gibbs was quiet as usual – but it was some really weird quietness. Very, very disturbing. Not that he wasn’t daunting even when doing nothing than staring at the display, but today it seemed as if … if he were lost in his own thoughts. Nick hadn’t even imagined Gibbs had something like “own thoughts” apart from “How to get my boat neat and pretty and fast and fitting for the atlantic”-kind of stuff.
The boss almost seemed as if he were lost enough to ignore any stupid things he’d do or say, and THAT was so untypical Gibbs like he had never seen him before.
And there was something else. A very big something. Actually the something more present than Gibbs' stoic silence.
Jack.
Jack without shouting a warm “Good morning” and asking about all of their weekends.
Jack without smiling was like Summer without Sun. Burger without sauce.
And since then he hadn't seen her for the whole day as if she had barricaded herself in her office. It was almost as if …
She was avoiding being down here.
As if she were avoiding someone.
Even if Bishop and McGee wouldn’t have greeted and smiled at her like usual he would have bet his favorite pullover for that the person was no one other than Leroy Jethro Gibbs.
As certain person got up without any other word to go get his usual coffee, he took the chance. As soon as the elevator doors had closed behind him, Nick got up.
„Guys.“ He stepped closer and waited until Ellie and Tim looked at him. „Is it just me or does Sloane seem off?“
Ellie nodded. „Yeah. Strange. I have never seen her that way.”
“I’ve been asking myself, too. She seemed to … tense. And sad.” McGee stared at Ellie and him as if he were waiting for someone to tell him wrong. No one did. Because he was right.
“You know what I think is weird?”, Nick started. “If she were angry with anything work related she wouldn’t play it down. I mean, do you remember that thing with Izzy?”
McGee nodded. “Hell yeah, she doesn’t avoid an argument.”
Just then he caught Ellie biting her lip. He squinted his eyes, literally forcing her to spit it out. She singed. „I … I actually didn’t wanna mention it, but now since we’re having this conversation …“
„You know something?“ He felt excitement grow inside himself.
Ellie shook her head. „No, it’s just that I think Gibbs is different, too.“
„Noticed that, too“, McGee joined in. „He’s not aggressive like usually. Way calmer.“
Aha. So he wasn’t the only one to realize.
What the heck was going on here?
„You think their behaviors are linked? Maybe THEY had a big fight?“ Ohhh this was getting interesting.
“Would explain her constant absence”, Ellie suggested, nodding.
McGee turned his head. „But shouldn’t he be angry in that case? To me he seems more like a scared off puppy. And I would have never imagined saying that about Gibbs ever.” He shook his head as if he couldn’t believe he had just said that.
“Well, fact is.” Nick rubbed his hands. “We need to find out what’s going on. I don’t know what you’re gonna do guys, but I …” He let his voice trail of and did a slight nod upstairs.
„If you’re planning on asking her, I promise I’ll remember and cherish you in eternity, my friend.“ McGee’s voice was deadflat and without anything containing humor.
Nick couldn’t help but laugh. „What’s that suppose to mean?“
The agent gave him a look. Glaring deadly serious. „Nick. Jack is just as lethal as she can be sweet. Asking her about her moods is similar to suicide.“
He shrugged, hoping the two wouldn’t see through his mask – that he indeed knew what McGee was implefying and he really didn’t want to be in one room with Angry-Sloane. „It can’t be worse than asking Gibbs.“
„Nothing deadlier than an angry woman, Nick.“ Ellie gave him a look. „And remember what this one has been through. She probably has a lot more secrets and deadly skills than we all think.“
“And overall, Gibbs is controlled. He CAN keep his coolness. I’m …” McGee pursed his lips. “I’m not so sure about Jack.”
Nick shrugged. „Doesn’t discourage me. I don’t like our ball of sunshine being sad and in a bad state.“
„You think we do?“ Tim’s eyes indicated sadness. „If I knew how, I’d help. But if she wants to she is a keeper just as Gibbs.“
„The only one who she’d possibly confess to would be Vance I guess“, Ellie said.
„And we’re definitaly not asking him to spy for us“, McGee joined in.
Nick didn’t really pay attention to both of them anymore. Heading to his desk he already had made his decision.
He wasn’t afraid of Jack. At least … he thought so.
He knocked at her door and patiently awaited the „Come in“. As the final words resounded he rushed in.
„Nick.“ The smile on her face was warm and welcoming as usual but her eyes didn’t reflect it. She definitely was far from okay. And Nick wondered what the hell had trown her off the track that much to be visible for all of them. „What can I do for you?“
„Actually“, he closed the door and rubbed his hands while making his way towards her desk. „I came here to ask you what I can do. IF I can do anything.“
He took a deep breath, then just blurted it out before he could change his mind. „Are you okay?“
Tentative, he watched her reaction – all he got was a rising eyebrow. „Okay, no, strike that.“ He rowed back. „You’re not, and that’s why I’m here.“
She slowly squinted her eyelids. Nick held his breath. Then Jack signed and leaned back in her chair. „Nick, what do you want to know?“
He didn’t know if it was aggressiveness in her voice or if he should see it as a good start that she might not block him out.
He shrugged. „Anything you’d like to confess.”
She snorted. “What makes you think I need to CONFESS something?”
Aha. So she was avoiding.
He tried another move. „Come on. I miss my sunny and smiley friend. Tell me how I can …”
„Well I’m out of joyfulness right now.“ Her sharp bite made him freeze in his tracks.
Shit, she was hurt. She wasn’t just angry, she was hurt.
And that was even more encouraging for Nick Toress to only dig deeper. He took a step forward, watching Jack’s bodylanguage.
„Just tell me what happened.” He changed his voice to go soft, hoping to come across as caring and not just being curious. Hell, of course he was curious. But moreover he cared.
He saw her swallow, jaw clenching, posture upright. Her fingers curled into the other hands, probably leaving cresent marks.
“Something … something with your family?”
No reaction. Not even a nod. Nick pursed his lips.
He knew it was risky. But he dared the jump over the cliff.
“Stupid guy? Date gone wrong?” The glare she gave him was a perfect fit for nightmares. He swallowed and stepped back. “Hey, wow, easy. Okay, I won’t go there.”
THAT he hadn’t expected. Not that he wouldnt expected Jack Sloane to have a date, he would wonder if she hadnt since she was a damn gorgeous and smart woman, but that THIS was the actual triggerpoint ...
Her dark eyes grew menaching. Nick felt as if he would melt under her gaze, his throat was dry and his body in full on alarm mode.
“I think it would be better if you would go OUT of here.”
He clenched his jaw, ignoring the beating of his heart. “Got it, Jack. Sorry.” He stepped back until he reached the door. “I … I’m sorry. Really. I just …”
And then Jack Sloane dishevel him even more. She DID smile. At least … a very faint one. The little smile she shot him was the fakest he had ever seen. Her eyes still had more similarity to dark razorblades than soft marbles.
“Okay, Nick”, she said.
But he knew it wasn’t. And like a scared little boy he sneaked out of her office.

“So apparently someone made Sloane angry”, he said while strolling into the bullpen. Gladly he had regained his strength and selfcontrole which had shrunk to a nothing back in Jack’s office. He would NEVER want mess with her, that was just prove.
Ellie stared at him in disbelieve, eyes so wide he feared they could fall out every moments. “You really just asked her?” Her voice was that high pitched he could only hope they other agents didn’t hear it.
“Kind of”, he nodded.
McGee’s eyes had turned into the same amount of hugeness but it was more amazement in his gaze. “And she didn’t rip you in pieces?”
Nick grinned. “Well, the look she gave me indicated that she probably would have wanted too …” He shook his head. “That woman can kill with a good stare.”
Ellie straightened herself up. “And what did she tell you? I’m sure she didn’t confess her boyfriend had been an asshole.”
“Well, she didn’t really say anything”, he said, lowering his voice. “At least not verbally. But based on the reaction of my question if it was a date gone wrong I guess I pretty much hit the bullseye.”
He ignored the puzzled stares once again.
“You really think Sloane would be the type of woman let relationship crisis churn her up?” McGee sounded sceptic and Nick couldn’t blame him.
“If it was bad enough, yeah”, Ellie then said.
“Apparently, yes”, Nick nodded. And then he stilled as a thought came into his mind. Well … actually it had crossed his mind a lot more often before. “Oh god, guys.” The two looked at him. “What?” “A date gone wrong. And she’s avoiding and Gibbs’ is shy. Does that mean …” “You think they are DATING?”, Ellie could barely hold the excitement back, even though it was mixed with being horrified. “Well, I wouldn’t call it “dating” …”, he started, biting his lip. “At least it would match for the missing piece in the puzzle.” McGee nodded even though he was clearly uncomfortable talking about this. And he conformed it. “I really don’t wanna go there. I don’t want to have anything to do with their personal lifes.” “Yikes.” Nick shuddered. “You think I want to? But apparently we are in this, too.” Ellie signed. “As much as I dislike that, I guess you’re right, Nick.” “I see that, guys.” McGee clenched his jaw. “But … what should we do with it? I am NOT daring to ask Gibbs OR Jack.” “Oh me neither.” Ellie shook her head. “We are close, but not that close that I could say I’m not scared of her in her angry state.” Suddenly Nick felt lost and helpless. He wasn’t used to caring that much about someone, especially not his boss, but … they WERE a family. “There has to be SOMETHING we can do.” He signed. But based on Ellie’s and Tim’s downcasted faces, they couldn’t let a solution appear from their pockets, either.

Chapter Text

He knew he needed to talk to her, even though he had no idea what to say. But he would figure that out when the time had come. All he was sure about was the he HAD to open his mouth and not silence it again. He had made that mistake way to often in his life.
He knew the team knew. He was pretty sure Jack hadn’t spilled anything, but there was something in the air as he came back with his coffee in hands. Even though they were trying to not make him aware of it, they were failing gloriously. Well, he didn’t care.

At four he realized there wasn’t a case going to spare him from the inevitable, so he braced himself and stood up. He could literally feel the burning glances in his back as he made his way along the staircase, feeling being watched. But he had better things to do than glare back at them. Actually … they had a right to gossip by now. He hadn’t only broken Rule 12, no, he had allowed his team to be sucked into this mess. And that couldn’t go on like this.
THEY couldn’t go on like this. Jack meant more to him than he would confess himself, but he knew he needed to fix this. And he would. No matter what.

He knocked at her door and waited patiently – even though his heart was clenching and beating and telling him to run.
And as his eyes fell on hers he realized this was going to be one of the most challenging encounters he had ever had in his life. And only made him realize that THIS woman had a power over him no other ever had.

“We can’t go on like this”, he started.
She just nodded, still sitting behind her desk. He wasn’t sure if she did that because that desk kept him at distance, like a wall between them. “Well I agree.” Her voice was cold as ice.
“I can’t let work suffer. And I won’t let the team gossip about it.“ The second the words were out he regretted them. But Jack cut him off before he could retourt anything.
„You know what bothers and amazes me about you the most?” She got up, slowly making her way towards him. There was something extremely intimidating about her … and on the same hand it was sexy. “You just can’t express what you’re feeling. It’s almost as if you don’t even know it. Instead of saying „I can’t stand us being at each other’s throats“ you say something like „Oh, it’s bad for working conditions, rule I-still-don’t-know-which-one says so.” As if everything could be explained with work.”
She stopped about a meter before him and stared straight into his eyes. As she spoke, the tone in her voice was almost threatening, yet sarcastic. “Work is more important to you than a relationship, right? It’s more important than me.“
He swallowed. „Jack, now you’re being childish and hypersensitive.“ Well, she actually was like that since that morning …
„No. I’m right.“
„You ARE important to me, Jack.” He took a step forward, eyes burning into hers. “Way more important than I thought any woman would be again. And that’s why …“ He couldn’t finish the sentence. He had no idea what to say.
„That’s why you told me it would be best if I left?“ Her voice was calm again. Calm and silent and sad. Broken.
He closed his eyes, signed. No. Yes.
In the middle of his inner fight for an explanation he heard her voice, this time soft and silent. And … defeated.
„Gibbs.” She shook her head. „You hurt the people you love, and I can recreate why, but I don’t understand.“ Her brown eyes got glazy. „You’ve gone through so much. I just don’t understand why you don’t even want to try to make things work. You deserve to be happy, and I think you want to be happy, but … if you go on like this you’ll never find it.“
He swallowed. Oh, how right she was. „Why didn’t you let me explain?“ He stepped closer. „Usually you listen to whatever anyone has to say, why not this time?“
Now she was the one swallowing. The expression in her face seemed to change but he had no time to analyze it.
„If you would let me explain you’d realize I DO want to make this work.“
„What if I don’t?“ Within a second, a brief moment, her resolve was down, as well as her walls. The look in her eyes was unmistakably – it showed fear.
He stared at her in disbelieve, trying to process what he just heard. He was way to baffled to do anything else, to move, to hug her. „What … do you mean?“
„What if I can’t?“
Ok now he didn’t understand A THING. “What the hell are you talking about? Wasn’t it you who told me I …”
He saw her trembeling while he spoke and then she just interrupted him. „Now it’s better if you leave. Would you mind?“
He stared at her, not believing that she had just said that. Hell, yeah.
He tried again. „Jack …“
„Gibbs, get out, please!“ Even though tears were coming up again in her eyes there was a threat in her words. As he didn’t move right away she literally stormed towards the door.
But he was faster. He reacted before his brain send the information to his consciousness. He grabbed the door handle to prevent her from reaching it and opening.
He saw and literally felt her frown. Her eyes travelled from the door handle up into his face – menaching and horrified at once. „What the …“
„What are you talking about, Jack?“ He shook his head. „First you’re pissed I misspoke myself and claim I don’t care, but now you are the one who’s avoiding!“
„I’m not!“ She tried grabbing the door handle and pull it open but he resisted. He saw her clench her jaw and how the tears came back.
He knew he should tell her to calm down and just speak her mind. But … the frustration was stronger as realization hit him,
„You’re scared too, isn’t that so?“ He continued gazing at her even though he knew she clearly felt comfortable. Trapped. „Something happened and you can’t or won’t handle it, right?“ She didn’t even look at him, averted his gaze. He started a last attempt. „But If you don’t tell me I can’t change anything, Jack!“
„Just get out!“, she screamed at him.
He frowned, even jumped. Then clenched his jaw. „If that’s what you want?“
He turned to go, pushed the door handle. Realized it opened without great efford. Great.
Stepping back into the hallway, he gave her a last look. He had no idea what she saw in his face but there was no reason to covering up.
“I don’t want to fight with you, Jack. But remember. This time it was YOU who said it.”

Chapter Text

He could hear the thuds of her playing darts when it was complete silence around him. So it was no wonder Leon Vance nearly jumped in shock as he heard her yell out of a sudden. He couldn’t make out WHAT she was yelling, nor what the content of their conversation was – gladly – but what he was sure about was hearing the distinctive voice of one certain agent.
Even though he cursed himself for it he stilled between his doings and listened. Nothing. His trained ears faintly made out the sound of a door shutting, and then there was complete silence again.
His throat constricted. Whatever just happened … it didn’t concern him.
At least not as director. But it was Jack. And everything that caused Jack screaming at someone WAS his business.

He got up just a minute later, telling Cynthia to not tell anyone where he went – he just hoped she hadn’t heard their inhouse psychologist screaming.
He knocked but didn’t bother to wait for her to tell him to come it since he was kinda sure she wasn’t fond of seeing anyone right now.
„Jack, you have a moment?“ He peaked his head through the door.
The sight in front of him hurt so deeply he was once again reminded of his affection towards this woman. The way he cared for her wasn’t simply because they were friends – there had been so many things happening between them in the past, things and moments he had never shared with anyone, and that bond they had … it only seemed to grow stronger after every horrifying or hurtful event.
She was leaning against her desk, arms crossed, head bent down. Even out of distance he could make out the tenseness in her body. She looked as if she could explode every second.
He stepped closer. „What is going on?“, he tentatively asked while closing the door.
She roled her eyes but without looking at him. „Nick sqeuled to you?“, she snorted.
He blinked, confused. The voice hadn’t been Nick Toress’ ones. “What?”
“Forget it.” She shrugged. But he didn’t miss the pissed tone in her voice.
“I heard you yell. You okay?”
Her bodylanguage changed. Now she was back to pissed-Jack-mode.
“Do I LOOK okay?”
Snorting, she turned towards her couch.

Leon just lifted his eyebrows. She didn’t scare him, not anymore. He had seen her way more often like this, he knew to handle her just as he knew how no one else could stand being in one room with her whenever she was this kind of attitude. She really could be a little monster.
„You won’t get me out of here, Jack, not me. Whatever Agent Toress might have done, you will not scare me off.”
He stepped closer, his voice growing soft.
„Talk to me. Please.“
She let herself fall down on the couch, folding her hands. Then, an eternity later, she shook her head. „If I tell you, you’re gonna go ballistic. And I don’t need another man being mad at me.“
Oh so that was the thing.
„This makes me want to know it even more.“ Without hesitation he took a seat next to her. Not to close, since he knew the usual affection of physical contact wasn’t the best idea in that kind of state his friend was in.
A smirk on his face he nudged her shoulder with his. “Hm? Come on.”

She didn’t reply so he took his time to just look at her. Her jaw was clenched, head lowered, and she was playing with her fingernails. Then she took a deep breath. As she looked up, Leon saw the tears in her eyes.
„Oh Jack.“ His voice and expression grew softer and compassionate in a second. He kind of wanted to hug her, but something inside of him told him not to but to wait.

„I slept with him“, she panted out. He straightened his back. Not that this wasn’t a normal thing, he wouldn’t have expected it. As she didn’t went on with some kind of heartbreaking or shocking story, he tentatively asked: „Who?“
„Leon!“ The word was full of agony. „Don’t make this any harder than it already is.“
„I am just trying to find out.“ Even though he was dying about the name of her partner he decided it would be more gainful knowing about the circumstances that clearly still had her in chains of pain.
„We had sex and he more or less told me to leave.“
His heart cramped. He knew that happened a lot more than he would have liked it to, but knowing that one of those woman was Jack …
„Who’s the bastard to think he can treat you like that?“ Only as he caught Jack’s look he realized he had said it out loud.
She snorted. “Bastard’s a good word.”
He opened his mouth to return something as a thought came crushing into his mind. He literally felt the blood rush in his ears.
So … if he wasn’t blind and his mind hadn’t played tricks …
„Is it Gibbs?“
He stole a glance at her. Her demeanor grew tense and she bit her lip.
No words needed.
He signed. „Okay. This is getting more complicated than I though.“
“You don’t seem shocked”, she said, sounding almost like a sceptic. As if she REALLY didn’t know why he wasn’t surprised.
He would have chuckled if the situation were another one. “Well. Let’s say …” He tilted his head, trying to find words. “I did see it coming, even though I’m not completely fond of it if I may say so.” Jack let out a snort but it sounded more like a cry. “That means the others know it too.”
“Well being honest you weren’t suptle about your affection …”, he started. She didn’t bite back at that, which confused him. No. It concerned him. As long as Jack spoke, one could sort things out with her. But as soon as bubbly Sloane closed up … this was a hard state to go on from.
„I know I’m being unfair”, she suddenly said instead. He lifted his eyebrow and she signed. “He’s trying to get my attention and to talk about it, but … I’m just still angry. I’m hurt.“
Aha. Now he got it. Her strange behavior. “So you’ve decided to sulk and give him the cold shoulder?” The look she gave him was similar to a death glare, but he knew her. She always used that devil-impersonation-state whenever she wanted to scare someone off, but that didn’t work with him.
“Jack, you made Jethro Gibbs having a bad conscious. You made him run after you. That is a completely new thing no one has ever managed to do.”
She tilted her head, suddenly back into aggressive-mode. “What are you trying to tell me, Leon? That I should forgive him because he feels sorry?” She looked at him in disbelieve. “YOU were the one just telling me you don’t like the idea of us two.”
“Yes, because I don’t want you to get hurt. Because I know he’s a difficult one. But I also think that guy really cares for you, Jack.” And it’s not that you aren’t difficult, too, he thought but knew if he would bring this up she probably WOULD freak out and slap him.
„How did I allow myself to fall in love with him?“ Her words hit him deep. She sounded so … helpless.
“Maybe … because you need someone? Because you trust him?”
“I trust you too. You’re my best friend Leon, I … I usually don’t need that many people.”
“Yeah, but you don’t want to sleep with me.” His expression grew hoorified. “Or do you?”
Jack twisted her lips. “God, no”, she said in playful disgust.
He couldn’t help the chuckle escaping, and to his relief, a little smile came creeping over Jack’s features, too.

He stretched out his arm. “Come here.” Now her smile was real. She sat closer and leaned into his embrace, her hugged her tight. Jack signed deeply and nuzzled her nose into his shirt. It was familiar, so very familiar and crucial in their friendship he couldt imagine it to be without it. She had always been one of those “touchy-people” but when it came to him, it sometimes was so obvious they hadn’t seldomly been mistaken for being a couple.
Couple. That was the keyword.

„You need to talk to him.“
She nodded. “I know.” Another sing. This time it was desperate. “But I don’t want to. I … I can’t.”
That was no good sign. If Jack didn’t want to talk, which was a 10 percent chance to ever witness, it was almost impossible to get to her. He would have never thought to think that – but suddenly he kinda felt bad for Agent Gibbs.
“And why is that?” He played with a strand of her hair and let his voice go silent. “A Jack Sloane doesn’t run away.”
A rumbling sound came from deep down in her throat. “She does. She runs away from love, because she’s scared of it.”
“So tell him.” Leon’s grip grew tighter. “Tell him exactly what you feel and how you’ve reacted how you reacted. I’m sure he’ll understand.”
Just then he felt her stiffen. “What if he doesn’t?” She sounded scared.
“Now you sound like teenager”, Leon smirked. “You’re smarted than that, Jack. You know that.”
“I need time, Leon. I just …”
“Its okay, Jack.” He kissed the top of her head and pulled her in for another hug. “It’s okay.”

Chapter Text

How could they have not seen that coming?
Well, he hadn’t missed the little touches and glances and the fact Gibbs was smiling a lot more often since Jack was around.
But neither Ellie or Nick nor him had seen the trouble coming.

They had heard it. Better, Ellie had, on her way along the upper floor.
Jack yelling. Gibbs speeding out of her office. It had been luck from heaven he hadn’t seen her.
They should probably tell one of them her door didn’t close properly enough anymore, but that could get them him into serious trouble about how they KNEW.

If he were Tony he would sort out a plan. If he were Tony he would probably sneak around to find out what the heck was going on with Gibbs and Jack. If he were Tony he would have a bet going on that their moods were linked. If he were Tony he would send in a third person to shake things up to release the tension.

But because he wasn’t Tony but Tim McGee he found himself spilling everything to his wife over dinner.

“So let me get this straight.” Delilah placed the knife and fork on the table and folded her hands. “Ellie heard them arguing. Apparently, Jack speakes in riddles which are contradictiory and Gibbs suddenly wants to work this relationship out.”
Tim nodded. “At least we think it’s something like that.”
“And you are plotting how to get them together.”
“We don’t know if they ever were together, just …”
“That’s not the point, Tim.” She smiled. Knowlingly. McGee squinted his eyes. He really didn’t want to imagine that.
“How about … making Jack aware that he indeed is sorry and that she can trust him.”
“She knows she can trust him. That’s the thing. I think she wants it, too, but she just … can’t.” He shook his head. “God, WHY am I analyzing her?
“Then make her to do. Force her.”
He looked at her. “How should we get to?”
Delilah bit her lip and stared at the ceiling. “Well, how about making her jealous? Often helps people to wake up and realize how much the other person means to them.”
She smirked and took his hands, trailing patterns all over. “How about an ex? Some flirting here and now.”
Tim signed. “The thing is, all his exes won’t flirt with him anymore, more like telling Jack to get away from him, and that isn’t …” He fell silent. A thought came into his mind. An idea.
An either really good or terrible idea that could mess EVERYTHING up.
“Yes, Tim?”, Delilah probed.
“Oh god.” He stared at her. “I think I know someone.”
Delilah smiled. “Well, good.” She nodded. “So call her.”
That was what made his eyes widen. “He is going to kill me if he finds out.”
“So make sure he doesn’t.” Delilah smiled but stated as if there was nothing more to argue about.
“I don’t even know if she will approve”, he went on.
“Then find out.”
Tim signed, again, but realized all Delilah was saying was right.
“I … I need to talk to Ellie.” Delilah nodded. She roled grabbed the phone from the kitchen counter and handed it to him.

He wasn’t Tony. That was why he didn’t call her – but videocalled Bishop and Toress even before they had finished dinner.
And while he was explaining his – or better, Delilah’s plan – he started growing more nervous and agitated the second.

Chapter Text

“I’m not sure about this, McGee.” Ellie bit her cheek.
He was calling her to a videochat, together with Toress – one to brief him about the newest member of their “Operation Slibbs” and two to include him in the plan.
“Me neither, Ellie”, the agent said. “But I think Delilah is right.”
“But what if it backfires and Jack thinks he uses her to get over it?”, Ellie contemplated.
Tim nodded. “I thought about that too.”
“The good thing about chosing HER is she still cares about him and she doesn’t even need to act”, Ellie then said. “At least we don’t have to tell her what she should do. The last time we saw her she still was literally undressing him with looks. I didn’t quiet believe Tony as he told me they had broken up.”
“She’s married”, McGee said.
“I know, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t still a spark between them. And there IS.”
“We need to try it, guys.” Nick spoke with encouragement.
Ellie snorted. “Don’t say anything, Nick, you don’t even know her.”
“Oh but I’m pleased to meet her.” He grinned. “After everything you’ve told me she sounds pretty interesting.”
“Yeah. And she has the deadliest green eyed stare in the universe”, Tim mumbled.
He knew they NEEDED to do something. If they ever wanted to feel comfortable in a room with Gibbs and Jack together again, they had to put words into action.

After about ten more minutes he shut the computer and stared into nothing. Slowly he shook his head.
“I still cant believe we really just did that.” Out of the corner of his eye he saw Delilah turn towards him.
“Because you care for your boss and your friend and try to figure something out to help them?”
“Because were are in the middle of texting his ex in order for her to dig and report us what’s bothering him and Jack”, he spoke through clenched teeth.
“You know Tim.” Delilah placed her hand on his arm and gave him a comforting smile. “Sometimes “taking a risk” is the only option.”

Chapter Text

Ellie actually thought her eyes might pop out of her head and she could loose her jaw. She couldn’t believe what her eyes just made her see. Or better – who.

The next second McGee who had been walking next to her drew her aside to make her stop in between tracks.
“Did you call her already?”, he asked her, eyes darting nervously.
“No”, she said, shaking her head.
Together they turned their heads. Torres was just getting up from behind his desk to welcome the “visitor”.
As they shook hands and the blonde woman clearly introduced herself, he shot them a look. He was just as confused as they were.
“So either this is the greatest timing ever or …”
“Or she has a sixth sense”, Tim ended her sentence, still not capable of turning away.
“One with a gut and one with a sense”, Ellie mumbled.
Now Hollis followed Nick’s gaze. Ellie smiled, even though she had no idea if she could suppress the nervousness. The former colonel reciprocated and nodded, then turned to face Torres again.
“So should we … just let it flow?”, McGee asked as they slowly made their way towards their desk.
Ellie shrugged. “Well we can’t do anything else. Now we don’t even have to lie if Jack gets suspicious.”
“And it’s not even our fault if something goes wrong.” McGee’s face fell. “Lets just hope Hollis won’t react like Jenny.”
Ellie bit her lip. She didn’t know the former director Jenny Shepard, but from all the stories and mysteries she heard about her she had a pretty clear picture of what McGee was implying.

She hoped they had regained some of their coolness as they stepped into the bullpen – even though as she felt Hollis’ big, bright eyes on her, she suddenly felt like a freshmen again.
“Agent Mann”, McGee spoke first and she was glad for him to do so.
“Agent McGee, Agent Bishop.” She flashed them a smile. “It’s been a long time.”
Even though her appearance was warm and there was still something intimidating about her. Maybe it was her eyes, her upright posture …
She shouldn’t wonder. This woman had made it very far up in the hierachie of the United States military, therefore in the army where it could be hard for a woman to be accepted, she knew. No wonder she brought that sort of radiation with her.

“Where’s Gibbs? I guess he won’t be very pleased if I brief you without him knowing.” According to the smirk McGee couldn’t hide he seemed to be sure that wasn’t something the woman usually bothered about.
“Ah, he … he is …” Ellie had no idea why she was brabbling. Hollis focused on her.
Okay. It definitely was her eyes. Even though they were soft and gentle they were twinkeling like swordblades.
“Yes?”
Put yourself together, Bishop.
“I guess he’s downstairs. I’m sure he’ll be there in a minute.”
Hollis nodded. That seemed to comply with her. “I’ve got time.” She turned on the heel of her cognac colored boots and gave them a way. “Don’t let my presence disturb you.” With that she leaned against Gibbs’ desk, ancles crossed and flipped the file she had brought open.
Ellie shot McGee and Torres a look and took a deep breath.
The game had begun.

Chapter Text

He had thought about letting it slide, for Jack to sort herself out, to give her some time and freedom, but that exactly would make the impression as if he didn’t care. They hadn’t really spoken for four days now, the encounter the day before didn’t count - and it was torture. She had never screamed at him. He hadn’t showed her, but that had cut deep.
It felt like an eternity. Not only did he crave her presence – he craved everything. Her voice, her laugh, her smile, her sent.
He just needed her back. Immediately. But he had no idea how.

As he saw Hollis standing there, leaning against his table, without any warning, he first though this was a bad joke.
This was the worst timing ever. He knew there still was a spark between them, a spark no one could unsee and the thing he wanted least was for Jack to think he was compensating their “problems” with another woman … with his EX. For sure she wouldn’t buy the “She’s married and that part is over”-card.

The second he set foot into the bullpen her eyes met his. He couldn’t do anything for the smile creeping up on his face.
“Jethro.” She uncrossed her legs and stood up, but her green eyes grew tense the second he was standing before her. “You don’t look like you’re happy to see me.”
“Let’s say it’s unexpected.” It wasn’t her fault, he reminded himself. He really didn’t need to scare of another woman within just four days. Especially after he had already done that with her in the past.
“What brings you here?”, he decided to ask.
Hollis tilted her head, eyeing him. He knew if they were somewhere else she would ask, make him to tell, what was wrong and what was bothering him, but since they had three agents silently observing the two of them interacting, she decided to let it slide.
“A case, if you believe it or not.” Instead of handing him the folder, she practically pushed it onto his chest. He grabbed it, noticing the smirk on her lips which finally had come up again. She had always made him smile. Her bossiness had been and still was one of those many devilish things that made her so attractive. Bold and caring.
“And of course DoD send you”, he couldn’t help to let the little tease slip.
Hollis grinned, her eyes twinkeling in that special way of hers. “They know and appreciate my links to NCIS”, she said, taking off a fluff ball on his jacket. “And as you know” Her eyes caught his. “Links are always good.”
Now he smiled, too. For a brief moment he forgot about his heartbreak and decided to focus on her and the fact that she still, no matter what, could get a smile out of him. “And it’s always good to see you.”

Chapter Text

She had known something was off the second Agent Nick Torres’ smile had turned into confusion and gave Ellie and McGee that look after she had introducted herself. They didn’t seem to be innocent, either – whatever it was it had something to do with her. She was sure about that.
Jethro was weird, too. Not that he had ever been a talker or someone to welcome one with open arms and a warm attitude, but in a brief moment he had looked as if he had seen a ghost. Even though he claimed to be anreadable, she had always been able to look through the surface.
She wouldn’t ask about it HERE – not with the burning gazes of three curious agents in their backs. But she knew something was wrong and she wouldn’t let him off the hook until she knew.

She barely got to tell him about why she was here as his phone rang.
“Yeah?” The usual greeting. Hollis couldn’t help but chuckle. “I’ll be right there.” He flipped the phone shut and gave her an almost apologizing look. “Kasie has got something for me. Be right back.” And he was gone, again, as fast as he had appeared.

Hollis looked after him and with every ongoing second the tension grew thicker until it was worse than a vaccum. She roled her eyes and signed, loud enough for the three to hear.
“Ok what is happening here?” She turned around, granted with three gloriously failing poker faces of feigned innocence. Hadn’t they learned anything from Leroy Jethro Gibbs?
Agent McGee really asked her “What do you mean?”
“Oh don’t play innocent, Tim. Come on.” She stepped closer, a nonverbal posture to force them to spill what was on their minds. “You three have been giving Jethro and me looks since I’ve arrived. But mostly it seems as if I were the object of your silent objection.” She crossed her arms. Suddenly she wished her ACU’s back. Soldier’s uniformes seemed to always have an impact on intimidating others. Not that she had ever had a problem with confronting people. “So would you please explain to me what I’ve done wrong?”
Agent Torres open his mouth. “You know, the things is …” Ellie pushed him into the shoulder and gave him a deadly glare. Like a hawk Hollis focused her eyes on her.
“Ellie?”
But this time the young agents stood tall – more or less. She signed again, this time it was desperation. “Seriously guys, I can also just ask Gibbs if you’re not willing to tell me. But I know that …”
She trailed off as she realized Ellie’s and McGee’s were locked somewhere else than on hers. She groaned. “Am I boring you?”
As no one answered and Nick Torres looked above his shoulder, too, she turned her head, interested at what had caught their attention.
It was a “who”. A woman with blonde hair, dressed in black high heels and a black dress, was strolling along the upper floor, a file in her hands. She seemed to be occupied with reading but stole glances down from time to time. As her dark eyes caught hers, Hollis felt the hairs in her neck stand up. Just a moment later the woman turned around, disappearing fully.
Her brain needed exactly two seconds as realization hit her. “I see. THAT is the thing.” She nodded, staring after her. “How long has she been standing there?”
“Long enough, I guess”, Nick deadpanned next to her. She looked at him since he was the one standing the closest.
“Jacqueline Sloane. Our psychologist”, he explained, suddenly avoiding her gaze.
She decided there was no need to talk around the obvious. “Long enough for her to see me picking fluff off Jethro’s jacket, I guess?”
The three shared looks. A mixture between anxiety, unsettledness and as if they had just been caught.
She held up her hands. “Hey. I have no desire to cause any drama here, okay?”
“We know that, Hollis.” That was the first time McGee spoke her first name and it felt kind of fitting in the situation. “The thing is …” He looked at Bishop, who nodded, and Torres who did they same. “There is something we wanted to talk you about.”

Tim briefly told her a little about Jacqueline, or Jack, about how Gibbs was different since she worked here. What they had heard, what they thought was going on.
“And we thought maybe you could …”, Ellie started but then fell silent and turned white, hurrying back to her desk.

“Suspect was seen on third street, ten minutes from here.” She would have known even without the barking voice interrupting them that Jethro was back. The agents grabbed their bags and Hollis met Tim’s eyes. She gave him a small nod.
She didn’t need to hear more. And she also didn’t need any encouragement.
“So, Hol, about the DoD’s case …”, Jethro spoke as he stepped next to her, putting on his coat.
“Eight o’clock in the Ship’s Inn?”
He nodded. “Okay. See you there.” And he was gone, rushing to the elevator, McGee following shortly.
She stepped back to give Ellie and Torres space but met their eyes once again.
“Let me see what I can do”, she said, loud enough for them to hear, low enough for noone else’s ears. The two young agents nodded, little smiles on their faces. She could see how that drama was effecting them, and she had to admit, it was sweet how they cared about Jethro and Sloane.

She watched the team follow their boss into the elevator, leaving her alone in the bullpen. She leaned against the dividing wall, rerunning McGee’s words in her mind.
She had no intend to just talk about the case tonight.

Chapter Text

She had never been the jealous type. But what she felt came damn close to that right now. And she had no RIGHT to be since SHE was the one responsible for all that drama.

She should be the one to make him or laugh. Instead she had hurt him and shut him out – for his sake and her own, she debated it, but even though she dreaded it she know it was more like a selfdefense. That was the curse of being a psychologist – one could analyse himself, too. And it drove her crazy.

She knew his reaction had been out of instinct. But what she had done, what she was doing, it was intentional.

She felt a sting inside her guts as he saw them standing close oppsite each other, way to close. She clenched her jaw as she saw the blonde woman picking at Jethro’s jacket, them smiling at each other.
They were way too comfortable around each other than just two people being friends. She wasn’t a redhead but she had never really bought that thing anyway, and this woman seemed to be EXACTLY his type.
An upright posture, everything but reserved, conceiling nothing. A strong attitude, almost bold. Cunning. They way she slammed the folder into his chest was like a little teasing movement, and she didn’t back away even as Jethro turned around and his shoulder almost touched hers.
This woman wasn’t just a friend or another agent. Those two had HISTORY.
“History”. A very close one.

She had to admit she was attractive. From the brief moment she had met her eyes, she made out the exquisite color, lightgreen and big and bright. She had had some sort of radiating energy, walking around the bullpen as if she had been there a thousand times before, yet no intruding.
But she WAS intruding. She was intruding Jethro’s private space, just as SHE had always done it.
How she had used to do.

 

Back in her office she slammed the door shut. She could only hope the woman would be gone later, she knew she couldn’t keep a straight face if their paths would cross.
For a brief moment the thought of asking Leon if he knew about an attractive blonde in Gibbs’ age with lightgreen eyes who also seemed to know McGee and Ellie.
The second later she shook her head at the silliness of it.

Yes, she was jealous.
She was jealous and that only showed her how much she WANTED him, needed him, craved him. SHE wanted to be the one to make him smile, she wanted to be the one to touch him, to be held by him.
Jack signed and let herself down on the chair, face buried in her hands.

She knew she had messed up.
And she also knew she really really needed to do something about it if she ever wanted him and her to be happy again.
Screw her past. She needed to face those demons.

Chapter Text

She had always been one of those people who were either punctual as hell or had already been at a certain meeting point a few minutes early.
He found her sitting at the counter on one of the barchairs, still in work clothes - black jeans, white blouse and those knee-length boots which looked really good on her, a glass a water in front of her.
He approached her in silence and, as if she had sensed his presence, she looked up. As their eyes met, she flashed him a smile and held up to fingers at the bartender, and he would lie if he weren’t the least amazed at the fact the guy brought them exactly her and his favorite beer just seconds later.
“You a frequenter here?”, he asked her while sliding on his seat.
“Rick’s friends at work recommended it”, she said and they clicked bottles.
“How are things between you both?”, he asked, sensing she was off to something. She was always quieter when she was planning something.
“Good”, she said, taking another sip. “Very good.” Then she tilted her head. “You should meet some day.” Apparently the look he was giving her was funny enough to make her chuckle. “I think you two are mature enough to handle it.”
“Speaking of handling”, he smoothly changed the subject, not asking the question if her husband knew who she was meeting with. “You gonna tell me about that case or what?”
Hollis nodded and handed him the file. “I actually just need your signature and some knowledge about one certain Commander Daniel P. Jennings. Got Vance’s already.”
With that she handed him a pen.
He did as she told him and told her he’d send her the information.
“Oh not a problem”, she said. “I can come by tomorrow and get it myself. DoD doesn’t like documents send by fax.”
He flipped the file shut and stared at her. “And you couldn’t have done that today?” He focused his gaze on her. “Could have asked Vance for that, too.”
“That is right”, she nodded. “But … there is something else I wanted to talk to you about.”

And then they sat in silence. It was a long, stretching silence, until he saw Hollis turn around and look at him. “What is your problem?”
He gave her a raised eyebrow. “Excuse me?”
“Okay, I correct myself. What is THE problem.”
He forced his look to get even more bewildered even though he had a vague idea about …
“Jacqueline Sloane and you.”
He groaned.
He would kill them.
“About what you have done wrong and what you think she has done wrong.”
He turned towards her. “What makes you think one of us has done anything wrong?”
As usual Hollis wasn’t they slightest intimdated by his sudden aggressiveness. “We should always look at both sides of the story. Sometimes reliving the other person’s reaction helps us finding out about the real issue. Only then we can solve it and sheds light on where the turning point is.”
“When did you turn into a psychologist?”
She roled her eyes. “Okay stop doing this.”
“What?”
“Exactly THAT.” She slammed her hand on the counter and her eyes blazed. “Answering my questions with more questions. I know why you do this, Jethro. To avoid you needing to give answers. You always try to avoid that by making the other person answer. And when that doesn’t work, both of you get silent.” She shook her head. “This isn’t how communication works.”
He snorted. “Yeah.”
She chuckeld. What the hell was funny about that? “I know you’re not good with speeches, Gunny, but I guess you need to churn things up if you don’t want to lose her.”
“I TRIED to talk to her. She doesn’t listen. And she doesn’t tell me.”
“I think she will. But if it is really some kind of fear or bonding or something similar, she needs prove” She pointer her finger at him. “that she can lean on you.”
He swallowed. “She can. She has done a thousand times before.”
Hollis nodded. “Yes. So remind her of that. Remind her of those times you two have been there for each other. Tell her why she is different to anyone else. Tell her why she’s different to me.”
His eyes grew guarded and he gave her a look. “Holly I …”
“No, Jethro. Don’t.” She shook her head. “This isn’t about us.” She seemed to lean in closer, staring right into his soul. “This is about you and her. And your future.”
He took a deep breath. “Hollis, the fact is – she. doesn’t. listen. Whenever I try to tell her why I said what I said she just shrugges it off and puts up walls.”
“Well then try to find out why she acts like that.” Hollis seemed to grow frustrated. “After everything your agents have told me she isn’t one to bite down her feelings and block out.”
That took him off guard. “You talked about Jack?”
Hollis raised an eyebrow and that was the second he realized his mistake. “Oh so this is what bothers you?”
Yep. Now he had no chance of getting out of this anymore. And still he tried one last defense.
“Why are you so invested in this?”
She looked at him. Right into his eyes, his soul. Her turquoise earrings only contributed to the flashing green her eyes exuded. “Because I care about you, Jethro. I did and I always will, no matter what. Because I have an interested in how you feel.” Her softness and care grew into something he only faintly could describe as tentative awareness. “And because I saw that look in Jack Sloane’s face as she caught me cleaning you up from fissles.”
His jaw clenched. He hadn’t even realized her. Was he already in the second step of closing up and shutting her out?
“There is nothing else you can do apart from using “Do you want to talk” rather then “Let me explain?” Maybe she feels as if you’d force her.”
So she had the same thought. Just as much as he was sure about Jack was hiding something, and that something was responsible for everything. “Holly. I don’t know what happened. I don’t know why the fact that we slept together has … changed everything.”
Only as his thoughts had turned into spoken words he realized how much that hurt.
Then Hollis did something unexpected. She placed her hand on his and gave it a squeeze. The way her hand rested there let him feel the warmth spreading from her. There was something in her touch that relived the urge in him to reach out and grab it. Somehow it felt as if he had gotten closer to Hollis since they had lived themselves apart … as if he had needed to realize how valuable a friend she was.
“Sex really has its way to either bring two people closer together or rip them apart.”
The cold blooded honesty. It had always been a thing of hers.
And the horrible truth about it was – she was totally right.
“I don’t know what I’ve done wrong”, he mumbled.
“Maybe you didn’t.” Her voice was soft and silent. Just like in the old days. “But that is something only you two can discuss and bring closure to. Can’t help you with that.”
He nodded. As much as he had wanted her to have an answer on this, he also knew she couldn’t.

They sat in silence again, both of them drinking their beer and Hollis emptying her glas of water, but this time his mind was spinning.
“Jethro.” She turned to fully face him. “Ever heard of that the things that bother you most about other people are manners you posses yourself?” He opened his mouth but Hollis wasn’t finished. “You want her to open up, right? So do it yourself, for god’s sake. Tell her why you reacted how you reacted in order for her to lay her armor down. It doesn’t change anything if SHE does and you keep on shutting her out.”
“I HAVE changed.” He gazed back at her.
“I know.” Her soft voice was enriched with such persuation he couldn’t help but blink in confusion.
“You do?”
She smiled. “Oh yes. I do. Otherwise you wouldn’t sit here and listen to me telling you how to win this woman back. You would simply go down to your basement and get drunk.” Her smile faded and her features were clouded by severity. “But the thing is you need to prove it to her. And you need to stay true to it.”
“I don’t know if I … can tell her that.” He hated the way he sounded.
“Then try it on a different level. You know there are other ways than talking to communicate.”
Gibbs gave her a look turning into a suggestive stare. She roled her eyes.
“And no. I don’t mean sex or innapropriate touching.”
He couldn’t help it. “Says you.”
Hollis bit her lip. For a few seconds it was as if they had been transported back into time. Her big, bright eyes burning into his, both of them getting lost in each other’s thougths.
As she caught the smug grin that was stealing itself on his lips, he shook her head.
“Don’t do that. Don’t distract.”
He shrugged, innocently. “Simply stating the facts.”
Hollis licked her lips, then shook her head and smirked.
As she looked at him again, she placed her elbow on the counter and her chin rest in her palm. “Ever heard of paper and a pen?”
He snorted. “So you’re suggesting I write a loveletter?”
She didn’t mind his sarcasm. “Ask yourself. Have you really done and tried everything to get her back? Because if you love her you don’t give up just because you think something is childish. People often handle things better or find it easier to deal with emotions if they don’t have to look the person in the eyes.”
He wasn’t sure if he should be amazed or confused. Was this really the same woman? “Who’s the psychologist here?”
She shrugged. “I might have made some … experiences.”

He took a deep breath. “I don’t know what …”
“Oh you damn well know what you want or need to tell her.” The way she stared at him told him there was no way he could back out of this.
“Just write on every single thought that comes to your mind. Even if it seems unnecessary for you. You can also strike it. Just tell her. SHOW her. Sit down and let it flow.”
He fell silent – not that he hadn’t done that a lot of times in the past before.

He had no idea how much time had passed as he felt her padding his shoulder. “I need to go. My husband’s probably wondering where I am. I don’t want him to have dinner alone.” She slid from the chair and shouldered her bag.
“Hollis.”
She stopped. He turned towards her and caught her eyes. “He’s a lucky guy.”
She smiled. She had always been beautiful when she was smiling. “See. That’s a start. You CAN be quiet cute if you want to.”
He roled his eyes. Based on her grin she had already forseen his reaction.
“Send him my regards.”
Now she lifted her eyebrow. “And another step into the right direction.”
Somehow he had to smirk. “What does that mean?”
“You start asking about other people’s lifes. You start expressing your care for them instead of just thinking it.”
She leaned forward and pressed a kiss on his temple. “Have a good night, Jethro. See you tomorrow.”
And with that she left him alone.

His brain was running in circles, actually speeding. What Hollis said was right. Maybe he had forced her. He had definitely driven her into a corner, and he should have known that that was the WORST thing for her. Being trapped.
Of course she had put up her wall.
Jesus, one time in his life he had thought so much about getting out the right words that he hadn’t realized what was in front of him and what the other person was saying or doing. That much for his gut-instinct and his ability to read people.
She was scared.
He had no idea why, but she was scared. There was something about this whole relationship-thing that made her incredibly uncomfortable.
What the hell could make Jack Sloane keep her mouth shut and close up everyone around her?
He didn’t want to imagine.
He could try asking Leon, of course. But first – he doubted the director would tell him anything, IF he even knew, and second – that would make him a coward.
It was worse enough he had needed a push from his ex-girlfriend to finally lift his ass and get into motion.

He needed Jack to know he was there for her, regardless of any situation. He had to prove to her that he CARED.
Maybe Hollis idea really wasn’t so bad. He definitely had nothing to lose.

Chapter Text

She had barely slept and she knew why. Tossing and turning around had occupied her from finding any sleep, and it was her own freakin fault.

The day went smooth. She didn’t even need to try to avoid anyone, it almost seemed as if everyone was leaving her alone anyways. She didn’t blame them. Sometimes, she could really be a pain in the ass.
It was around late afternoon as someone nodded on her door. Jack stilled in between her work.
It sounded … different. Everyone had a different type of knocking she had made out in the last few weeks. And she didn’t know this one.
“Yes?”, she called, looking up, a little confused. The door opened. And her smile faded.

She only hoped she could pull off SOME kind of pokerface, which she was pretty sure didn’t work at all.
Good god. Anyone, just not her.

“Agent Sloane?” Hollis Mann gave her a smile before she fully stepped in and closed the door behind her. Jack straightened her back, forcing herself to at least TRY to not show what was bugging her. “I wanted to say goodbye.”
That surprised her. Her eyebrow went up. “We haven’t even spoken.” She tried to cover the sarcasm with a smile but she was pretty sure the older woman didn’t buy it.
“Yes, I know.” Hollis nodded. “But that doesn’t mean anything. We just … didn’t have the time.”
“Seems to.”
And then Hollis stopped in front of her desk, both of them falling silent. Jack felt her spine tickle. Suddenly she felt incredibly uncomfortable. As if she sensed something was off …

“He cares about you, you know.”
The sudden sentence took her off guard. She blinked.
“Excuse me?”
Hollis caught her eyes. Light green burning into chocolate brown. No wonder this woman came this far in the military. “Gibbs. He cares about you.”

Aha.
So he WAS the reason she was here.

Jack bit her lip to prevent herself from saying anything she would regret lateron.
“I know him. I guess I know him better than his team. And I see how his eyes change whenever he talks about you.”
She almost thought about replying a “Yeah, I bet you do” as she realized what Hollis said.
“Wait, what?” She tilted her head, watching her. “How do you …”
The smirk appearing on her lips made her fall silent. “Agent Sloane.” Smiling, she shook her head. “I’m not blind. And even if I were I could see it.”

Okay, NOW she grew nervous. She had no idea if Gibbs had told her anything about what had happened, or how close they were, and all of those insecurities and unsolved questions only made it more confusing.
“Give both of you a chance, okay?” Hollis’ voice was soft all of a sudden, and something inside of her told Jack she really meant it. “I have never seen him behave like this, and it just proves that he means it.”
With that, she took some steps back. Jack opened her mouth but had no idea what to say. So she just stared after her, watched as she grabbed the door handle. Hollis opened it, but before finally stepping through, she stilled. Turned. Gave Jack a comforting, yet “Get your ass up and talk to him”-kind of smile.
“Oorah, Agent Sloane.”

And with that, Hollis Mann left Jack Sloane with more questions then answeres. And something she could only faintly describe as “hope”.

Chapter Text

Hollis Mann confused her. She was a damn hard to solve and read mystery. She felt the urge to visit Leon and ask him straight ahead about what he knew about her, but she couldn’t do that. She wasn’t that kind of a scaredy cat, and overall she wasn’t THIS jealous.
Actually … after Hollis had visited her, the jealousy she had felt all day through had vanished. Instead it was replaced with … confusion? Jack didn’t know.
All she knew was she needed to talk to Gibbs. She couldn’t go on like that, THEY couldn’t. Sooner or later it would affect the team, and she couldn’t risk that. She was responsible for breaking her own heart of her misery, but she shouldn’t let the team get roped into it.

Hours later she closed the file she had been working on and got up. She had hoped they had already gone home and Gibbs would be the only one left. But to her disappointment, the bullpen was empty.
She clenched her jaw and caught herself staring at his desk.

She had no idea how much time had passed until she was able to pull her gaze off the empty seat and walk back to grab her stuff.
What should she do? Drive home? Visit him? Explain herself? Call him?

She squinted her eyes. She hadn’t left her door open, she could have sworn. And who the hell was THAT obvious he had been to her office?
She halfway steadied herself to face someone, but it never got that far.
The only thing drawing her attention towards it was a neatly folded piece of paper on her desk. Paffled, Jack took another look around. She couldn’t see anyone. So she closed the door, rushed to her desk and grabbed the paper without bothering to sit down.
As she recognized the handwriting, her heart started pounding and she felt her hands shaking.

 

My dearest Jack

I can’t talk. Simply stated. But you already now that. So I thought I might try this out. Hope it will work.
And yes. It wasn’t my idea. Thought about every possibility to make you listen to what I want, what I try to tell you, and someone suggested this type of … talking.
So, yeah, that’s me, sitting in the basement trying to put my thoughts into sentences.
You know why I said what I said? Because I had no idea how to deal with the situation. I didn’t know what to do. And I reacted how human beings react when being in panic – their instincts take over.
Bad timing, I guess. I wasn’t panicking because of what we’ve done, don’t get me wrong. I was scared that I might ruin this, too.
With “this” I mean “US”.
Because for me, there is a us. This wasn’t just some one night stand – thing, Jack, not for me. With you, never. I always know what to do. Just not when it comes to people I really, deeply care about.
And I don’t only care about you, Jack.
I run away when someone gets to close to me. Ya know my rules. Freakin hard to get rid of it.
I’m not perfect. I’m far from perfect. But I’m ready to at least try to change, for you.
I don’t wanna mess this up. I really don’t want to.
Jack, please tell me what I can do. What I should do. What I did wrong. Because I DON’T KNOW.
And by the way. I thought about your question - if I’d regret it.
The answer is no.
I love you Jack. And all I regret is that I didn’t tell you earlier.
I won’t push you. Whenever you are ready, I am ready.

Jethro

 

Only as her eyes landed on the last word, the name, she realized she was crying. She let out a sob, wiped the tears away and read the whole thing once again. And again.

The words stayed the same.
This wasn’t a dream.

Jack felt her legs giving in and she sat down, letter still in her hands. Her breath came in shallow rages, she felt as if she were shortly before hyperventilating.
And she cried, again, heavy, ugly tears of relief, and regret, and the damn feeling of a bad conscious. What had she done?
How could she NOT have seen it?
It took her a whole solid ten minutes to get up. She put the letter into her bag, grabbed her keys and literally sprinted out of her office, into the elevator, to her car.

She wouldn’t go home tonight. At least not to hers.