"They arrested the agent later that night – spent the next few months bringing down the rest of the cell. That's when it came out that although they'd realized I was onto them, they still only thought I was working for the Secret Service." He bit his lip before continuing. "But by the time it was safe to say anything six months had passed. You'd have been grieving too long not to feel betrayed if I showed up again."

"What do you mean safe?" Her voice was dumbfounded.

"C.J. – there was a group of men at large, all of whom would have finished what that agent started in a heartbeat. Saying I was dead is what saved my life."

There was a long hesitation before her next question, as she considered whether or not she actually wanted to hear the answer. When the question did come, it was barely audible. "How bad were you actually hurt?"

"The first bullet went through a lung, the others through the sternum. One stayed there, the other apparently missed the spine by an inch." His voice was matter-of-fact with no emotion whatsoever. "They said later that the lung collapsed. Twice."

C.J. shut her eyes. "They said..."

"I was completely unconscious the first week. In and out the next. I kind of had to take their word for it." He smiled slightly for a moment before sobering again.

"Was it the agent, who pulled the trigger?" C.J. asked softly.

He bit his lip. It had been, but he would never be allowed to say that. "The whole case is still classified," he answered quietly. "Hard to say when or if that will change."

It was the wrong thing to say. The change that came over her face was akin to closing a door. In a tight voice she said, "Bottom line is that the man I cared about, the man I grieved over didn't die – he just never existed in the first place."

"C.J., I'm not expecting you to forgive me today – or ever. But seeing you here meant you deserved an explanation."

She stood up and walked over to the window, staring out for several minutes without saying a word. Finally she turned back to him. "Don't call."

The words were what he'd expected, braced himself for, and yet they still hurt more than the bullets he'd taken in the grocery store. He watched, silently as she walked towards the door, then stopped and turned back.

"What's your real name?" she asked. "Who are you really?"

His voice was quiet as he answered. "Special Agent Jethro Gibbs, Naval Criminal Investigative Service."


Author's Notes: I just want to say a big thank-you to those on the Simon/CJ fanfiction list, whose comments on the similarities between Simon Donovan and Jethro Gibbs gave me the idea for this story. Sorry for the lack of Shipperness for the ending, but I didn't really want them to end up together after the way C.J. was to him throughout the time he was protecting her.

Simon/Gibbs' thoughts as he's losing consciousness are based on my actual experience when I was caught in a bomb threat and thought the building would explode before we could evacuate.

Special Agent Josée Strug was Vivian Blackadder's predecessor, and transferred over to the NCIS Cold Case Division in March, 2003.

To quote Paul Harvey, "And now you know the rest of the story."