Leroy Jethro Gibbs sat down in his basement on the stool beside his workbench with the bottle of bourbon sitting next to him. He starred at the hull of the boat he'd been slowly crafting for months now. His team had seen parts of it, sharing quiet conversation over the name. Hollis had inquired if Kelly was an old girlfriend, and he hadn't responded much past a glare that she missed. Stephanie had seen the boat and had given him a knowing smile and quiet comment that angered Hollis more, but it had been another woman's soft sigh over the name that had finally gotten rid of his bottle-blonde girlfriend.
Jennifer Shepard had stopped by his house one evening much to Hollis' surprise, but not his own. She had said she needed his signature for something, and it was needed quickly. He told her she knew where to find him, and so her turning up on the steps to the basement was nothing more than a surety, a slightly awkward one, but he was happy to see her, especially with the form she needed his signature for. She had taken it upon herself to settle matters with Maddie Taylor's school regarding her absence and medical leave for two weeks. The school hadn't believed the young girl's story, and Gibbs had been just short of starting a significant fight, so Jenny had intervened. When she came down the stairs she greeted Hollis as nicely as she was capable of, Hollis returned the greeting and went upstairs to eavesdrop from the doorway.
"I really needed the signature now, I should've called," she said.
"It's fine, where do I sign?" Jenny pointed out the spots, and he read through the papers quickly. "This is a letter of recommendation for Vet School," he commented, noticing the last piece of paper.
"Oh… Maddie's medical leave might affect her chances of getting into Cornell, so I thought I would make it perfectly clear that this was a one-time thing and that she is a very hard worker, I wouldn't want her decision to seek help affecting the rest of her life. It's already something she won't be forgetting for a while."
"Well, I have a friend who scouts for schools, and they mentioned her name in passing. It can't hurt."
"Thank you, Jen." She smiled enigmatically.
"You're almost done with the boat," she commented. "You didn't name it after Stephanie, did you?" She asked teasingly.
"I felt bad about burning wood when there aren't so many rain forests left." She glanced at him, shocked. "Okay, Abby yelled at me for wasting precious resources."
"Well, whatever floats your boat, no pun intended," she responded, walking toward the stairs. He saw her glanced back over her shoulder and catch the name on the back of the boat. She stopped in place, and he felt her eyes go from the boat to him and back. She sighed softly and smiled at him. "See you, Monday Jethro."
As he remembered it, Hollis had inquired if Jenny knew who Kelly was, and he hadn't answered. Hollis had left that night. It wasn't a complete loss, Hollis had been somewhat of a way to drag Jenny or Jen out of hiding, to hurt Jenny, and to make Jen jealous. It had succeeded slightly, but that was a few months ago. Now the New Year had arrived, and there had been a team get together where Abby always insisted on inviting the Director. She came to a few but usually left about the same time he did, not much into Abby's idea of drinking games. Gibbs often left about the same time she did, generally walking her to her car even if it was a few feet from the door. Sometimes they talked, sometimes they didn't, but it made him always think about her long after she left. He would have been lying if he said he wasn't still attracted to her, she was a gorgeous woman, and he cared about her enough to make sure she didn't do something stupid and throw her career away. Still, it always came down to the same question every time they parted ways, and he never paused for more than a second, still rationalizing that it had never been. She was just too complicated. They were too complicated. He wasn't sure how anything could ever work or how it did work, to begin with, especially when he was dealing with three different women wrapped up in the same package.
There was Jen. Jen was the friend, the adventurous one, the tough as nails, paybacks' a bitch woman. Jen was the one who'd convinced him that making out in an alley was a good idea, who was ambitious, and a brilliant politician as much as it pained him to admit it. Jen was feisty, all redhead temper, that was displayed to remarkable levels. Jen had been the one to commandeer a boat to smuggle him and Ducky out of France, and it was Jen who wrote that Goddamn letter. At least sometimes he thought it was Jen other times he thought it might be what later became the Director.
Jen protected Jenny. Jenny was the caring, loving, passionate woman who had gotten under his skin and wouldn't leave. Jenny was the one who held him at night when nightmares came and who knew how to kiss away the nightmares so he could sleep for the night. Jenny was fragile as she was strong and felt everything deeply. Jenny was the one who was scared of thunderstorms, Jenny was the one he made love to, and Jenny was the one he wanted to protect and hold and keep away anyone who dared to suffocate her. Needless to say, sometimes he and Jen didn't get along, but that was okay too.
It had all been okay until three years ago another woman had emerged. The Director. He did not like the Director at all. She was in short a bitch, stubborn, and manipulative, and incredibly desirable in a Mata Hari kind of way. At first, she'd occasionally come out, when Jen would get the idea to grab her gun and rush to a school he was being held hostage in, it was the Director who had pinned her down. It had been the Director who went up against the FBI, but with Jen's flair and Jenny's kind touch. It wasn't until he went to Mexico that Jenny got utterly subdued. He never saw Jenny once he got back. Sometimes Jen snuck out in a witty comment or suggestive statement, but mostly he dealt with the Director. The Director had been the one to send Tony undercover, in the end, justifies the means kind of way. The Director had been the one to send Ducky into the line of fire, the Director was the one who wanted to shoot the frog in her study. Sure it had been Jenny's pain that had prompted Jen's protective instinct to seek out the frog, but it was the Director who killed him. It was also the Director who drank Jenny into oblivion and wrestled with Jen's control.
Gibbs thought that maybe after the frog Jen would at least come back, he wasn't going to hold out much hope for Jenny, but he missed his friend too, and he could live with the loss of the lover. Well, he would try to live with that loss. It almost worked.
Jen had come out full force in the Director's tone when dealing with that idiot Commander who sent them to the Chimera. Jen had reappeared when his ex-wife did in her teasing commentary, and he thought she might be there to stay, and she did for a little bit. He'd seen a brief glimpse of Jenny during the case with Maddie before Jen had got control of her, and then it had been Jen for quite a while, till the kid came.
The Mini-DiNozzo had brought out Jen's fun side again and had relaxed her to the point where Jenny had slipped through to the front. It had been Jenny who had opened the door to him that night, Jenny, who had watched him with the kid, Jenny that had stood in front of him and asked him what went wrong. He worried that his answer of no may have pushed Jenny back into submission but the following day after the child was reunited with his parents. It was Jenny's smile he was looking at, and it was Jenny that caused him to smile. Jen had come back after that, but even she didn't stick around for long. The Director quickly returned and usurped control, sending Jenny as far into the recess as she could. He couldn't call her Jenny after that.
Sometimes he had. Sometimes it slipped his control, and he wanted so badly to be talking to Jenny that he would use her name and the same with Jen. Lately, however, all he saw was the Director, and so it was Director that stuck. After three years of working together, he was exhausted trying to drag Jenny out of herself, and he was too tired to cross swords with Jen, so he let the Director win, and he hated himself every day for it.
Until today. Today the Director had been in rare form. She was cold, numb, completely unfeeling in every way, and if Gibbs hadn't cared about the other parts of her so much, he would have hit her. In an almost cosmic form of punishment, she'd slipped in her heels coming back from a meeting and had bumped her head on the stair rail. At first, he really thought it was nothing, she'd probably just stumbled a bit, nothing to worry about as Senior Agent. It was really Tony slinking his way towards his desk, the rest of the team had disappeared suspiciously, which made him realize it might be more than a bump to the head.
"The Director is unconscious," Tony said, trying to sound reasonable and hide the fear. "Ducky says…"
"She's unconscious?" Gibbs echoed. If the Director was unconscious, that meant Jen and Jenny were to and that he couldn't handle. He'd moved quickly to the stairwell finding Ducky and a member of her security detail standing alongside him, the Director lying there as if asleep. Well, asleep minus the large bump to the corner of her head. He thought she was too still…too still and too quiet, and that's when he came to the unfortunate conclusion that if anything happened to the Director, he wouldn't handle it well judging by the bile rising in his throat. The Director was part of the woman he lov…cared for whether he liked it or not. Would getting rid of the Director equal out to losing Jenny for good? No.
"Ah Jethro, she's fine, just a bit out of it at the moment. Came to moments ago, refusing to go to the hospital."
"Of course she would," Gibbs remarked, angry that the stunt had forced him to admit things he'd instead left alone.
"Jethro, shut up," she said groggily. She sat up unsteadily, Ducky immediately fussing over her, but Gibbs took one look in her eyes and turned to leave. Sometimes knocking sense into people worked; other times, it had the opposite effect. He was up the stairs and back through to the bullpen in no time, leaving a curious Ducky watching as the Director of NCIS bit back a sob.
Gibbs cared if the Director was hurt. He did. He just didn't want to have to stare at her all the time, knowing that he couldn't comfort Jenny. He also didn't want to have to watch the Director push even Jen away.
"Boss is the Director, alright?"
"Fine, I'm sure," Gibbs answered irritated, glaring at DiNozzo, who slunk away and retreated to the safety of Abby's lab. He watched minutes later as the Director crossed the catwalk to her office, disappearing within. He was not going to admit that he was happy she was alright.
Just three hours later, the building was walking on eggshells. The Director, perhaps being more irritated with the bump to the head, had ripped one team a new one for a considerable infraction on the rules, yelled at a four-star general who was withholding a suspect and berated a Senator who had stopped to ask her for lunch. Admittedly Gibbs was happy that the Senator had been sent on his way, but the rest of it, he was not thrilled about. His team had long ago run out of reasons to hide in Abby's lab or autopsy, Ducky was refusing to deal with her like this, and as far as the team could tell the one person who might consider reigning her in, didn't seem to care. Gibbs had listened as the team very quietly and casually brought up the fact the Director seemed upset, and maybe someone should talk to her or check on her after her incident with the stairs. Ziva had given him a very pointed look, which he'd promptly ignored. McGee had tried subtly; Abby had come up to use her favorite position, commenting angrily that she really didn't like it when Daddy and Mommy fought. It was left to DiNozzo to finally try and get the Boss attention. Gibbs was eagerly awaiting the opportunity to slap him silly.
"Well, the Director sure is in rare form today," Tony commented. He received answering nods from his teammates. "Time of the month, maybe?"
"Tony, I wouldn't let her hear you say that," Ziva warned, trying to keep up appearances, both surprised Gibbs hadn't put an end to it.
"Well, maybe someone should go and talk to her, tell her she's scaring her agents, even the assassin," Tony suggested.
"Sure, go ahead, Tony," McGee agreed.
"Not me, someone experienced in dealing with…redheads," Tony tried, unable to come up with another descriptive term that wouldn't get him knocked to kingdom come. "Otherwise, there won't be any NCIS agents tomorrow, and without agents, there is no Director."
"I would be perfectly happy if the Director left and never came back," Gibbs inserted after a minute. There were collective jaw-dropping and one gasp that had not been successfully masked as a figure came to stand behind Gibbs.
"Excuse me?" The Director almost growled low enough to let Gibbs know she was going to kill him and loud enough to have the team scampering for safety near Ziva.
"Well, if the Director's gone," Gibbs began. "Maybe Jenny will finally come back." He stood up, sliding past her and heading for the elevator. The Director sent a glare that caused the team to flinch and stalked off in her heels to catch Gibbs. She found him waiting at the elevator, and he seemed to ignore her, but she'd be damned if she let him.
"You know if you don't like working for me so much, you can always quit," she snapped as they both stepped on the elevator.
"I have no problem working for Jen or Jenny, the Director, on the other hand, she's a bitch."
"I'm a bitch now?" She exclaimed slightly surprised that Gibbs had called her that, and part of her was devastated even.
"The Director can be bitch," he amended. "I never said Jenny was or Jen for that matter." She raised an eyebrow, confused, and gently probed the bump on her head. Did I hit myself harder than I thought? Did he hit his head?
"You want to explain that, in non-Gibbs speak for a minute?" She inquired.
"Maybe, but I want to talk to Jenny or Jen, not the Director." She stared at him for a moment as a fleeting thought passed through her mind. Did he meet another woman named Jen? That thought, for some reason, was utterly unbearable.
"And where exactly would I find them?"
"Ask yourself, I've been looking for three years, still can't find them," he responded, stepping off the floor at autopsy. She stood frozen in place temporarily before jumping to follow him and entering autopsy as Gibbs surveyed a corpse.
"Director, how's the head?" Ducky inquired. It occurred to her then that Ducky never called her Jenny, hadn't since she became Director. She pushed the thought away.
"It's fine, but I think Gibbs needs to be checked out."
"Oh, I'm fine," Gibbs assured the good doctor. "She's just being taken over."
"Uh, huh," Ducky paused, glancing between the two. "Who started this one?"
"He did," Ducky watched as they glared at each other. "Ducky, do you happen to know who Jenny is?" Ducky looked at her in surprise. Maybe that bump is worse than I thought.
"Dear, that's you."
"No, he's asking to speak to Jenny, if I'm Jenny then why isn't he talking to me?" She posed the question.
"Cause you're not Jenny, at least not at this particular moment." Ducky looked towards his friend and questioned his sanity for a moment.
"If she's not Jenny, Jethro, then what's her name?"
"At this moment in time?" Ducky nodded. "Director."
"Ah…I see," Ducky murmured. He had heard of people coping with difficult issues in different ways, and apparently, Gibbs' approach was to split the poor Director into three different women. "Jethro, perhaps you should take the Director home?"
"I don't need to go home," the redhead protested. "Especially with him." She didn't have much of a choice as it turned out. He grabbed her arm tightly and pulled her along after him. "Let go, Jethro," she demanded as they waited for the elevator.
"No." She moved her heel slightly, ready to connect with his foot if he didn't let her go within the next six seconds. "I'll pick you up and carry you," he threatened.
"Like hell, you would."
"Don't tempt me." He dragged her into the elevator with him and let go of her to flip and guard the emergency switch.
"You're going to hold the Director of NCIS hostage in the elevator. Nicely done, Jethro."
"You're holding Jenny hostage. And Jen," he growled, glaring at her.
"I have no idea what you're talking about," she bit back. He took a step closer to her, and she backed up, not liking the idea of being trapped in a small space with an irritated Gibbs.
"Yes, you do," he answered, taking another step and backing her into the corner like prey.
"Jethro take one more step, and I will make sure your jaw is bruised again," she warned, her hands tightening to fists. He smirked and took another step closer. "Jethro, I swear to God I'll…"
"You swear…good things happen when you do that," he baited.
"You son of a…" the last words were smothered by his lips as he pressed his to hers, silencing her for a minute. It had taken him by surprise that he'd closed the distance between them so quickly and apparently shocked her as she was frozen in front of him. He wasn't sure why he kissed her, maybe three years of wanting to finally took a toll on his control, or perhaps it was because when she swore to God, it was Jen, usually threatening bodily harm if he didn't kiss her. Yea, likely excuse. He deepened the kiss, his hands running up her arms and curling over her shoulders, he felt her hands fall to his hips as she molded to him. He traced his tongue along her lips, seeking the entrance that she gave, and then he felt it. She bit back. Literally. She caught his lower lip in between her pearly white teeth, usually something she did when she really wanted his attention, but this was enough of a shock to pull back. He held her tight, sure if he let go, she might do something drastic or painful or both. As his eyes met her hesitantly expecting to see red flames flickering in the bright green orbs, he found they had a mischievous glint. Jen was back.
"Hi Jen," he said as if it was an everyday greeting, and he hadn't just kissed her enough to make her lips swollen. She glared at him quickly, the Director trying to reassert herself, but Gibbs was having none of it and tightened his grip on her leaning in to nuzzle her neck as a distraction to keep Jen in place.
"You better have…" her breath hitched as he nibbled on her pulse point. "A damn good reason for that."
"None immediately come to mind," he mumbled, continuing on his distraction. He was pleased it was working as she hadn't pushed him away yet.
"Keep it up, and I'll bite you again," she tried to sound dangerous and wasn't sure if she came out desperate.
"Is that a threat or a promise?" He inquired. Her eyes widened, he was definitely out of his mind to say that. He went back to attacking her neck, and she smirked. If he was going to use weak spots against her, she could damn well do the same. He kissed her first, she rationalized as she trailed her finger up his chest. He was too focused on his task to really notice.
"You remember rule nine?" She asked sweetly as her tongue lapped at his neck.
"Which rule is that?" He quickly felt which rule it was as a blade came perilously close to parts he wished to keep. Oh Yea, Jen's back.
"Always carry a knife."
"No, it would be too much of a mess."
"So, you're going to drop it, right?"
"Hell no," she whispered against his lips, using her weight to push him back. She reached for the emergency switch and flicked it back on. "You're going to walk straight to my office, not one move that I don't let you make, and then you're going to explain."
"Not that great with words, Jen."
"Well then, we'll play twenty questions hm…like that time in Serbia."
"You banished me to the couch!"
"I'll do a hell of a lot worse this time," she replied as the doors opened.
"You should probably go first."
"Move it, Jethro." He did as told, worried that perhaps he pissed her off in his attempt to bring her back. Gibbs glanced out the corner of his eye to find his team watching eyes wide as the Director stood carefully behind him. She had the knife to his side away from view. He vaguely wondered if he taught her that. They stopped at the entrance, and she gestured for him to go in. He did, watching as she turned to her assistant. "Cynthia, I'll be leaving soon, why don't you go home for the day?"
"Are you sure?"
"Yes, I'll be fine, we'll pick up tomorrow."
"Alright, thank you, Director." Jenny nodded, closing the door and locking it.
"Sit." He sat in the chair across from her desk and watched as she walked around him to sit at hers. He watched as she sat down at her desk and turned to her computer screen, slipping her glasses on. Damn, don't tell me the Director's back already , Gibbs groaned. Not good. "Anytime you want to start talking."
"What shall we talk about the weather? The cases? Ducky? The team."
"Start with why I shouldn't castrate you and go from there."
"Well, I would think you of all people wouldn't…" she turned to glare at him.
"We agreed no off the job."
"Noooo the Director put out that statement, I want to know what Jen thinks about it, or Jenny for that matter, Jen never did like being controlled."
"You have to be the most irritating man I've ever met."
"Well, at least I'm interesting," he responded happily that the statement had sounded somewhat like Jen. "So are you going to answer the question."
"Since my explanation is much longer and complicated, …you should go first."
"It might help if I understood the question," she sighed.
"Simple you as Director made that ridiculous statement that I should've disagreed with, but Jen and Jenny didn't get a say."
"Jethro, I'm one person. Not three," she stated.
"Are you? Because if that's true, then I really don't like this new, improved Jennifer Shepard."
"Cause I said I would castrate you?" She asked in amusement.
"No, although that's not exactly a plus for you, it's more like everything good about you is gone." Gibbs recognized the emotions flicker through her eyes and saw the tears forming in them. And there's Jenny. Don't cry, please don't cry. The amusement had faded, and if he didn't know better, he would swear she looked like she'd just been slapped. He watched her swallow and tried to come up with some way to take back the words he'd said.
"Well, thank you for clarifying that, Agent Gibbs. You can go," she responded, her voice going flat.
"You may leave," she barked, and he wasn't thrilled to see the Director take firm control. He got up to go to the door and had his hand on the handle when he took a deep breath, he really should make sure she wasn't armed, but he wasn't going to give up on Jen and Jenny quite yet, one more shot and she'd either kill him, fire him, kick him out, or kiss him. He was going to hope for the latter.
"Get out, Jethro. Now."
"We're going to have a little talk, Director," he replied, leaning against the door.
"No, Jethro, we're not," she answered. "You're going to leave right now before I do kill you."
"Now, now, you wouldn't want to get blood all over your carpet or your nice suit," he shot back. He stayed against the door blocking her exit. "Let's play that question game you like so much."
"I don't want to play games."
"I could really kill you."
"You could, but you won't," he assured. She raised an eyebrow.
"What makes you so sure?"
"Oh, Jenny won't let you. She hates to kill people."
"I am Jenny, and trust me, I have no qualms about putting a bullet through your heart."
"No, you're not Jenny. Jenny is scared of thunderstorms, Jenny is the one who still remembers the first person she ever killed, and Jenny is the one who cries at night when she's lonely or at the end of a sappy movie."
"I do not cry at the end of sappy movies."
"I did not cry!"
"See that's Jen."
"What?" She wasn't sure how he'd walked her in this grand circle or how he even knew she still remembered that one person she'd killed the very first time.
"That's Jen, denying the crying part. Jen doesn't cry, she's tough, ambitious…"
"And ambition is a bad thing?" She interrupted.
"No, at least not for Jen. Jenny doesn't like it that much, I suspect." He smirked lightly. "Oh, and Jen is fun."
"And Jenny isn't?"
"No, she is. She's just different fun. Jen's the one who suggests insane ideas, Jenny's the one who usually makes them seem rational."
"Those insane ideas saved your ass once or twice."
"And I'm forever grateful. Really!" She watched him from her chair, his words still stung, and for whatever reason, she was ready to tear him to shreds for them. She really shouldn't care, she wasn't supposed to care, but oh did she. "But you …you're not like that anymore."
"I'm ten years older, I'd like to think I grew out of that childish behavior," she snapped.
"Into an Ice Queen, maybe," he mumbled.
"Ice Queen?" She echoed.
"You've just shut yourself off to everything. You weren't this bad when you became Director. What changed?"
"Maybe I'm just finally growing up."
"No. I think they finally go to you."
"Whatever or whoever it is that destroyed you."
"You mean you?" She replied, standing up, deciding she needed to be on level ground with him. "You know why I burned my copy of Casablanca, cause I couldn't stand to watch it anymore. I realize you hate me, I get that, and I've tried to come to terms with it, but damn-it I never claimed to not remember any of it."
"I don't hate you, Jen," he said gently. "I just don't particularly like the fact that you're suppressing everything you are."
"I am the Director of NCIS."
"You're also a human being Jenny, who's allowed to feel different things."
"You haven't called me Jenny in months or Jen for that matter, why the sudden change?" She demanded, sidestepping the emotions comment.
"Because you haven't been Jenny or Jen in months."
"I'm not so sure I like the fact you've split me into three different people."
"Oh, I know you're all part of the same woman, believe me, I know. It's just easier to contain different aspects in categories."
"You are a strange man. Who still needs to leave. Now."
"No." He leaned over the desk, keeping an eye on her, knowing if she tried to go to the door, he'd get her first. "If I ask you a question, will you answer it?"
"Perhaps," she replied, leaning over.
"You say Gibbs...first thing that comes to mind?"
"Bastard," She shot back, intending it to be a sarcastic par, but it had quite the opposite effect.
"Knew you were going to say that," he sounded so very sure of himself, but the knowing look made her think. He was splitting her into three different pieces, hadn't she done the same to herself. As if reading her mind, he tried again. "How about Director?"
"Yea …should've guessed that one too. Jenny?"
"You." He looked at her in surprise, one eyebrow raised. "What?" She demanded. He shrugged his shoulders. "You're the only person who's ever called me Jen."
"Really?" He asked. She nodded.
"It's always been, Jenny. I hated being called Jen."
"You respond to it."
"Well, I got used to it," she answered. "Irritating as it was." He looked puzzled for a moment.
"You never called me Leroy."
"Oh, believe me, I've thought about it."
"Hm…I don't think I ever considered calling you Jennifer."
"I have?" He looked somewhat surprised at that too.
"You were exceptionally pissed off, and the whole name came out like a jealous husband." He cocked his head to the side, bringing up the memory before smiling like the Cheshire cat. She glared at him even more angered with the fact that she couldn't remember why she wanted to castrate him. Oh, the kiss, that's right. She glanced at her computer. M aybe I can leave. Go home, and tomorrow it'll be like this never happened.
"Please tell me you're not contemplating my demise," he teased, trying to get her focus back.
"Not on my list of things to do at the moment."
"So, what is?"
"The work I have to finish," she responded, her voice losing its teasing tones. "I really should be getting home," she said, hoping he would let her leave. He studied her for a moment before shaking his head.
"No? No, what?"
"No, you're not going home."
"Excuse me?" She exclaimed. "Who died and made you my boss?"
"I'm not about to let you run away so you can permanently get rid of Jenny or Jen. I happen to like them."
"This isn't about you. It's my life!"
"And you're going to live it alone if you keep this up."
"You're one to talk!" She snapped her fury rising again. "You push everyone away!"
"And I'm okay with that."
"You're lying," she bit back, "And don't even try to deny it. I know you, Jethro."
"I know." She stopped in her tirade at that answer; it wasn't quite what she was expecting, and the look he was giving her was too intense for her to meet. "That's what I'm trying to get out of you," he said after a minute of silence. "I want Jen back, you want to destroy Jenny fine. But don't destroy them both. Jen's the part of you that's the partner and friend; we used to have a good friendship, even when you first became Director before the Director took over permanently."
"Why are you doing this?" Jenny whispered, brokenly trying to hold herself together.
"Because you did it to me first, Jenny."
"You already said you didn't like what I'd become and at the same time you don't want to suffocate me if all of that is true, why are you trying to change me back?"
"Because it's not changing you back, it's just dragging out the parts you don't want the world to know about." He stepped around her desk, leaning against and pulling her to him, keeping his hands on her shoulders. "But I know they're there, Jen."
"You are such an irritating bastard!"
"Yea, I know," he replied, pulling her closer into an almost hug.
"I can still castrate you."
"Eh…you won't." He stood brushing against her and shut off her monitor. "C'mon I'll buy you dinner." She heard her stomach growl and felt the blush run to her cheeks. "Did Ducky want to check your head before you left?"
"Only if I was driving."
"Well leave your car, I'll drive you home," he said, grabbing her arm gently and her coat with his free hand. They found his team and Abby lingering in the squad room, probably to make sure Gibbs hadn't killed the Director or vice versa. Gibbs told them he'd see them in the morning and that Ducky had told him to take the Director home. Abby wished Jenny well and hurried to catch the elevator with them but missed it. The car ride was a discussion of food, and they finally settled on steak au poivre, which was just as good as Jen always remembered it being. Over dinner, they talked about the case, about some of the missions going on, and Gibbs occasionally brought up one of the ones they'd been on, trying to keep Jen there and the Director out of the conversation. They talked well past midnight, surprising both when the clock tolled two.
Jen had offered up her guest room as they'd both had two glasses of bourbon, and it was late. Gibbs had commented that it was better than the couch, and she smirked before sending him on his way to get his seabag out of the car. It was thus that Gibbs fell asleep in her guest bedroom, and Jen had gone back to her study for another sleepless night per usual. It was only as the clock hit two-forty-five that she realized Jethro would know if she hadn't slept, and she wouldn't mind putting her head down on her fluffy pillows as opposed to her desk. She quietly crept back up the stairs taking great care to avoid the creaky boards. When she reached the guest bedroom, she peeked in to check just to make sure everything was alright. What she saw however, tore at her heart. Jethro was twisting and turning in his sleep, haunted by some ghost or another, and she was just about to leave unable to watch it anymore when she heard her name.
"Jenny!" It was a ragged whisper full of pain and agony. "Jenny no….Jen…" She couldn't bear it, and she wasn't sure if it had been the bourbon that had boosted her courage or her own weakness, but she crept into the room as he continued to whisper her name and knelt down on the bed beside him.
"Jethro," she whispered gently, smoothing the wrinkles on his forehead with her fingertips.
"Jenny…" he was in pain; she could tell that much.
"Shh, …it's okay. I'm right here," she soothed, using words she had years ago. She stretched herself out alongside him, spooning him from behind, wrapping her arms around him, holding him as she had once upon a time. "It's okay, sleep now."
"Shh…" She coaxed, trying to get rid of the lines on his forehead. She felt his hand searching for her as he usually did. She lightly brushed his, but it was enough as he gripped her hand and pulled it to his chest. She used her free hand to run through his hair in a comforting manner watching as he relaxed before her.
"Jenny…love you," came a ragged whisper just before his breath evened out again. She froze where she was her hand pausing mid-action. She said nothing in response, just snuggled closer and let the sleep take her. It seemed like barely minutes later when she felt a sharp pain in her arm, followed by immediate relief and warmth surrounding her. "Jenny….Jen wake up."
"Just went to sleep," she mumbled.
"You better not have, it's almost five."
"Five more minutes," she murmured, moving closer to the warm object as she was freezing.
"You're freezing!" Came the exclamation from above her as blankets got wrapped around her quickly. She felt the poking again. "Jen?"
"Do you know where you are?"
"Home," she answered tiredly.
"Yea, okay technically," he replied, choosing to take it as she meant she was in her own house. Not that home was with him, that would have been way too nice. "You need to wake up."
"Sleeping in." There was a heavy sigh.
"Jenny, the coffee machine is broken," she heard whispered into her ear. Her eyes went wide, and she sat straight up.
"Kidding," came the very amused response from behind her.
"Leroy Jethro Gibbs, I'm going to kill you!" She snapped, going to kick him but found she couldn't. She tugged her legs again and felt a firm grip on her knee.
"Don't even think it, Jenny," came the warning.
"Think about what?" She glanced down to find they somehow tangled their legs together, and if she moved her knee, she'd be inflicting severe pain on him. Her eyes went wide for a second as she glanced down to make sure she was still clothed and sighed in relief as memories started to come back to her.
"So…not that this isn't a lovely surprise, don't you have your own room?"
"Oh…I sleepwalk," she lied.
"Fine. I did some more work and just went on autopilot. Sometimes I sleep in the guest room, sometimes in my room. Depends on the mood," she tried again, hoping that sounded more believable.
"And you didn't notice you didn't have blankets?"
"Obviously not." She tried to move again. "Would you mind letting me up?"
"But you wanted to sleep two minutes ago?"
"As you pointed out, I have my own bed."
"Tell you what, I promise not to disturb you, and you just lay back down and go to sleep." She eyed him suspiciously.
"Alright." She lay back down and closed her eyes again. She felt the lights go off again, and Jethro settled down beside her. She wrapped her hands around each other, trying to keep her instinct of reaching to touch him to herself. She slowly dozed off and fell into a deep sleep where she found herself running down her stairs only to see herself kissing Jethro. It was her and not her all at the same time, and the words he spoke to her caused tears to trail down her cheeks because it wasn't to her he spoke; it was the look alike. She wanted to run but felt trapped, and then a gentle touch to her cheek was wiping away the tears.
"Jenny, Jen…what's wrong? Jenny? You okay?" the words were spoken softly so as not to inflict any more pain, and she automatically wound her arms around her comforter seeking more of the comfort. She was surprised to feel solid warm arms surrounded her and hold her in a protective embrace. "Jenny… Jenny" She finally opened her eyes to find her face buried in Jethro's chest, her hair draping around her. His one hand brushing the tears away, his other rubbing soothing circles down her back. "Jenny?"
"You okay?" He could hear the sniffle and clear her throat, Jen taking control.
"Yea, it must have been a bad dream," she replied. "Sorry." She went to pull away, but he tightened his grip.
"Don't apologize, now tell me what happened?"
"I don't remember," she mumbled.
"Liar. But that's okay, we're not going anywhere for a while. Besides, I hear it helps to talk about it." She chuckled.
"Cheater. You're not allowed to use my words against me."
"Oh, so you're who told me that…" he feigned amazement.
"Smartass." He just grinned enigmatically, holding her and watching her smile. The silence was comfortable as they both rested against each other, smiling and enjoying the closeness. It was just as Jen started to doze off again that she realized his hand was still tracing patterns on her back. "We should probably get up," she yawned, trying not to let her voice show the disappointment she felt at leaving this embrace.
"You're the Boss, we could just call in sick." She placed her hand on his forehead staring at him.
"You don't feel like you have a fever, but you must." He looked at her questioningly. "It's usually a cold day in hell when Leroy Jethro Gibbs wants to call in sick.
"I've taken days off before!" Gibbs protested.
"Yes, you had a whole Margarita safari," she teased gently, making sure her voice was light and not accusing. He glared at her slightly, and she bit her lip to withhold laughter. Sometimes he could just be too damn amusing.
"You ever going to let up on that?"
"Hm...nope," she replied, smiling even wider. To her great surprise, he stopped glaring at her and cracked a knowing grin. Gibbs considered telling her she should come the next time, but he didn't want to think about what a next time might do to their relationship...friendship...whatever it was between them.
"Well, then I guess I'll have to tell Ziva how you failed your first autopsy."
"You already did," she countered, giving her own version of a Gibbs' glare. "Which, by the way, I was not happy about."
"You weren't thrilled then either."
"That's because I had an irritating bastard of a boss."
"Yea, but you loved me," he laughed, and she felt a stab in her heart at his words. She knew they were unconscious. He was good at subtle but never that obvious, and it was just a phrase, but all that tumbled around in her mind were the words Yes I did and do . She knew those words weren't likely to pass her lips in reference to him. She schooled her features, hoping he hadn't caught her moment of pain and forced a teasing smile. If he noticed he hadn't given any indication.
"Still, we should probably get up, get ready for work."
"Spoilsport," he muttered as she tried to slip out of his grip. He tightened his grip fractionally, not ready to lose her closeness, not prepared to break the spell of this morning.
"Let go," she ordered. Gibbs didn't relent and instead let his fingers trace the outside of her abs and found her squirming and trying not to giggle.
"You're still ticklish?" He inquired in amusement.
"Jethro...let go!" She tried to move away, but he wouldn't let her.
"Say that magic word."
"Please! Please let go!" She cried breathlessly in between her laughs. He didn't relent rather enjoying the sound of her laughter, which had been so foreign to his ears for so long. Gibbs moved closer to her tickling her gently, trying to ignore her squirming body so close to his own. Her body shook with laughter, and her bright green eyes were full of life and sparkling again, and he couldn't help the smile that spread across his face. Gibbs wanted to capture this moment and put it away someplace under guard so it could never be lost or destroyed. Jenny ...he thought content. He was sure that even her hair was a more vibrant red at this point.
Jenny, on the other hand, had had quite enough and began to fight back. She knew she could never win a tickling war, only his neck was ticklish, and her hands were too busy fending off his. Yet she had other methods to resolve these wars, in the past, it had been distraction tactics but every now and then she knew she could surprise and she earnestly hoped this was one of those times. She pushed her body forward and up, forcing him to his back and ending up sprawled across his chest one hand of his pinned under hers above his head. She knocked the air out of both of them, and he was surprised that he just stared at her a deer in the headlight look. She then carefully trailed one of her hands to his neck and tickled him.
"Humph, see how you like it," she announced. Gibbs tried valiantly to grab her hands, but she was too quick. She giggled as he tried to fight back and kept up her assault.
"Jenny!" He gasped, trying to move away.
"I'll stop if you do," she bargained, trying to move away from his hand. He was having too much fun to actually stop, and her laughter wasn't something he wanted to end. So he resorted to what he usually considered a last resource, especially with her, he used his strength against her. Before she could blink, he had her pinned under him, her hands pinned above her head.
"No, you're defeated."
"Am I?" She inquired. She butted her head forehead, and they bumped foreheads. "Oww..." She let her head fall back and brought her hand to the forehead.
"You're still hard-headed, Jen," he groaned as he probed his forehead.
"It's from all those head slaps," she muttered. He looked down at her, surprised.
"I never laid a hand on you..." She met his gaze. "Well, that...I mean your head..." Her eyes narrowed. "You know what I meant." He placed his hand over hers on her forehead. "You okay?"
"Just peachy," she sighed. "You really are hard-headed." Gibbs nodded slightly before he realized where he was and quickly pushed himself up slightly.
"You sure you're okay?" He asked.
"Fine, except the killer headache."
"Well, we can't have that," he replied, moving to the side of the bed. "You still keep your aspirin in the medicine cabinet in the bathroom?" He asked, going to get up.
"I'm fine. I don't need an aspirin. Your head's not that hard." She responded, closing her eyes as her head sank back into the pillow. She felt him move back closer to her.
"Jen...thanks for letting me stay."
"Just so we're clear, I could have thrown you out," she informed, looking up at him through her lowered eyelashes.
"Yea, I know...Believe me, I have no desire to feel your right hook anytime soon."
"But you still have to apologize." She could feel his glare slicing through her.
"Never say you're sorry..."
"It's a sign of weakness, and you know I don't think you're weak."
"It's better to seek forgiveness than ask permission," he replied. She tilted her head up.
"Very good. But you're not seeking forgiveness."
"Well, we could start with you holding me in that elevator..." she trailed off, avoiding his eyes. "Or the comment in front of your team...or the..."
"I get the point, Jen," Gibbs sighed, knowing he was dealing with Jen in protective mode. Jenny usually had no problem forgiving him, but Jen would make him work for it. "About what I said...I didn't mean it the way it came out."
"And that makes it okay?"
"No...no it doesn't Jenny. I...about all the good things in you being gone," he paused. "It's not true, I mean it's mostly true, being the Director has made you...different, but there's still the loyalty, and the dedication to the job and those are all good things. Plus you're good at what you do, well I think you're good at what you do, but I don't suppose my opinion counts for much."
"It matters to me," she said quietly.
"It's just that sometimes you get...well lately you've been dangerous. It's not always about getting the job done Jen, it's about making sure your assets don't almost get killed in the process..."
"Don't you think I know that?" She snapped, irritated.
"I know you know that. The question is, does the Director even care?"
"You know one of these days you're going to have to accept the fact that I'm one person, and you can't just compartmentalize me!"
"You're the one that's put up all these facades...I just gave them names."
"Fine. Fine. You're still pissed about Tony. I know. I am actually surprised you still speak to me after that."
"Jen...I know you did..."
"No. I don't want to hear it. End of discussion."
"It's not the end of it permanently, but going back to our previous topic..." He paused, and she looked at him, waiting for him to continue. "Do you want me to be sincere in this? Cause I'm really not sure, I could seek forgiveness on something I'm not entirely sure I regret." She looked at him with something akin to shock, and he held his breath.
"Why not what?"
"Why don't you regret it?"
"Cause it didn't seem wrong. Well, aside from the holding you hostage aspect, that really didn't enter my mind at the moment. I just wanted...I don't know...it just seemed like a good idea at the time."
"Oh yes, a good idea..." she snorted in disbelief.
"You didn't seem to mind at the time," he recalled, sounding slightly accusing. She said nothing. "Jenny, I would...it doesn't matter."
"It matters to me, Jethro!" She said, raising her voice. "I gave you an opening, I tried to drop hints...you ignored them all! You can't just have things when you want them."
"And I suppose that's different for you because now I suddenly fit into your five-point plan," he retorted.
"That's not fair!" She argued back, pushing herself into a sitting position.
"And it was fair to me to find you gone, left with only a letter and your coat!"
"I tried to tell you, you wouldn't listen. You never listen!"
"I think I would have remembered that conversation."
"It wouldn't have changed anything!"
"I wouldn't have let you go!"
"It wasn't your decision to make!" She snapped. "And on top of that, I told you where I was going, which by the way got me in serious trouble, and what did I get? A letter from Fornell five months later that you were getting married! How do you think I felt?"
"You left me a letter, and what expected me to come after you?"
"I left you every means of contacting me, you could have come after me, you could have sent me a letter, you could have called me! I left it entirely up to you, and you went and married Stephanie." She took a deep breath, trying to regain control of herself and her emotions and watched as he did the same. If she hazards to guess, she was pretty sure he was going to hit something, most likely her wall.
"I don't like to be a mind reader Jen."
"Well, gee, neither do I! At least we have something in common," she bit back.
"Fine!" They were on opposite sides of the bed, now yelling across it. "This is generally the part where you leave."
"You're guarding my wallet," he grumbled, motioning to the nightstand she was standing by. She angrily grabbed it and prepared to chuck it when something sticking out of it caught her eye. It was one thing that the wallet was Italian leather, and she was pretty sure she had bought it for him at some point during their partnership, but it was quite another that there was a photo just peeking out of it. She knew with him standing there it was probably not the best idea she'd ever had, but she opened the wallet and to her surprise found an old worn picture of her. She stared at the young woman in the photo for a minute, almost insanely jealous of her. She flipped the photo over and read the small script on the back Jenny, Positano 1998. To her, that seemed like a lifetime ago, but she could still remember the day the picture was taken as if it had just happened. She stared at the image again, wondering when he thought of 'Jenny' if this is what he saw. She barely recognized the unconcealed love that showed from her eyes and the happiness in her smile. She tore her eyes away from the image, shoving it back in the wallet. She stormed over to him, pushed the wallet into his hands, and stormed out of the room with a last...
"I'm not her anymore!" Over her shoulder. He heard her bedroom door slam down the hallway a few seconds later. He sighed as he placed the wallet back down on the bed. Not going well, an inner voice told him. Gibbs walked down the hall, carefully staying quiet and pressed his ear to the door, hearing an escaping sob that he knew would be followed by tears. He pushed open her door and found her lying face down on her bed, her head buried in the pillows. There were some things he was better at than others, leaving Jenny to be when she was in tears was not one of them. He moved over to the bed carefully; for all, he knew she could have her gun and lay down beside her, pulling her into him.
"Jenny... Jen...I'm... I'm sorry," he whispered. He wasn't sure if she heard or not, he wasn't sure it mattered, all that mattered was that he could pull her close to him and hold her for a second.
"You're not, though," she replied after a minute. "You meant everything you said...And you were right," she cried. He tightened his hold on her.
"I can fix this," he told her, soothing her like he had once upon a time.
"No one can fix this except me."
"Yea, but I can help," he assured, running his hand down her back. "We don't have to get rid of anything. All it is is learning to cope with the different pieces. Take a break from being the Director, just be Jen or Jenny."
"Which would you prefer?" She asked, her voice shaky from the tears. He bit his tongue, Which did he prefer? Jenny, the lover, the caretaker, the beautiful amazing woman or Jen, the friend, partner, also a beautifully amazing woman that he loved just as fiercely as he did Jenny.
"I don't have a preference. If I had my way I'd want Jenny and Jen, but if wishes were fishes...well you get the idea...so I think I would have to go with Jen."
"You wouldn't care if Jenny just left."
"I would care, but if I had to pick between losing Jen and Jenny and keeping the Director or losing just one or the other, I would pick Jen...at least then I could try and drag Jenny out." He stretched his legs out slightly. "I really missed you, Jen," he told her, his hand toying with strands of her red hair. He tilted her head up slightly and gently kissed her lips. It was a light kiss, a bare brush of his lips against hers, but she wasn't going to let it end there. Her hands ran through his hair, pulling him closer as his hands ran around her neck, one hand cradling her head as he deepened the kiss. It was how they had always been, one minute fighting the next kissing up. Her hands cupped his face as he pulled her closer, never letting his lips leave her skin. The kiss broke for much-needed air, and he trailed his lips along her jawline and neck, having forgotten the effect she had on him. She intoxicated him, made him an addict where she was his drug, and he couldn't get enough of her smooth, silky skin.
"Jethro..." her voice was a breathy whisper that sent shivers through him and a flash of pride that he could still bring that sound out. He rolled them to let her be on top, giving her the control to end this because he wasn't sure he could. It's hard to not reach out and hold on to something you desire when it's handed to you on a silver platter. Her change of position didn't seem to both her as she stretched out on top of him and continued placing butterfly kisses on his skin.
"Jenny..." He felt her nip at his ear before placing a soothing kiss, her slightly heavy breathing blowing against it.
"I'm your Jenny," she whispered against his ear. "And I'm not going anywhere," she assured as her lips found his and sealed her promise with a kiss that made the kiss in the elevator seem innocent.
"I can live with that," he agreed as she let him breathe.