Title: Outcomes of Projection
Spoilers: up to the end of 30 Rock season 3 (also in Authors Notes!); and minor spoilers for NCIS, mid season 5.
Summary: While at a ball in Washington DC, Jethro Gibbs and Liz Lemon realise how much they have in common…
Pairings: Jethro/Jenny, Jack/Liz
Disclaimer: I do not own the 30 Rock or NCIS characters used here. I'm just borrowing them because my brain comes up with these crazy scenarios to put them in.
A/N: As you have no doubt figured from the spoiler warning, summary, pairings and disclaimer, this is an NCIS/30 Rock crossover. Why? Well, because I woke up this morning with it in my head. It's longer than anticipated, and angstier, but it was fun to write. I hope you enjoy it. I know it can be awkward reading a crossover if you don't watch both shows, so I understand if you give up now. And thank you to those who wish to persevere :-)
Very brief intro to the characters in case you only watch one show:
30 Rock – Jack Donaghy was head of East Coast programming for NBC, and was Liz Lemon's boss. He now works in Washington DC for homeland security, amongst other things. He is portrayed by Alec Baldwin. Liz Lemon is played by Tina Fey, and is head writer on her comedy sketch show TGS with Tracy Jordan, for NBC.
NCIS – Leroy Jethro Gibbs (known as Jethro, or Gibbs) is an agent with Naval Criminal Investigative Service. He is played by Mark Harmon. Lauren Holly plays the Director of NCIS, Jennifer Shepard – who approx 9 years ago was Jethro's partner, and lover. They were then apart for several years before she turned up as the new Director.
Gibbs watched as Jenny was twirled round the dance floor in the arms of some politician. The guy's hand was settled on her back, holding her close to him as they moved around the room. If his thumb were to move an inch higher it would touch the smooth skin of her back; her deep blue dress sitting just below her shoulder blades. But it seemed this one was a gentleman, and his fingers had not yet strayed anywhere they shouldn't.
Jenny laughed at something he said to her – for the seventeenth time in the last five minutes – and Gibbs forced himself to look away. Yes, her security was his job tonight, but that meant he also had to be aware of what was going on around her – not just with her. It would kill him if something happened because he had been indulging in fantasies of what might have been.
He surveyed the room, noting how many people were at the bar, how far Jenny was from each exit, the path he would have to follow if he needed to reach her quickly. He also noted where each of the other members of her security detail were positioned and received a brief nod from each one to confirm they had not seen anything suspicious.
As he took in the room to his right, he realised that he was not the only one taking an interest in that particular couple on the dance floor. At the next table sat a dark-haired woman, probably mid-thirties, dressed beautifully in a long red gown. Her chin was rested on one hand and she looked completely bored; but her eyes were totally focussed on Jenny and her partner – and Gibbs could recognise longing when he saw it.
He moved round his table and sat down so that he was beside her.
"Not your kind of party?" he asked her.
She seemed startled and he reasoned that she must have been too lost in her own thoughts to notice that he had moved. She glanced towards him, looking ready to dismiss him instantly for a lame chat up line, but she stopped before she spoke the words. "Oh," she said instead. "Yeah. Not really my first choice for a Saturday night."
"Friend of yours?" he asked next, tilting his head in the direction of the dancing couple.
She nodded. "My boss… Well, former boss… Well, possibly future… He's a friend," she stated after rambling through what seemed very confusing for her.
Gibbs nodded, smirking knowingly to himself. "Date?" he asked her.
"Yeah. In theory. But it's nothing… We're not… So it doesn't matter who he dances with."
Gibbs couldn't help but feel that it was herself she was trying to convince and not him. He nodded again. "I see."
"She a friend of yours?" she asked him. "I noticed you were watching them."
"My boss," he replied, then smiling he added, "Well, former partner, current boss, former…"
It had the desired effect and she smiled. "You making fun of me?"
"Of course not," he smiled back.
"Is she your date this evening?"
"No. No… I'm her security detail tonight. Well, part of it," he said, waving to Myers who was directly across the room from him. Myers frowned, as Gibbs had known he would, but he waved back.
"Oh," his companion said. "Wow… Well, that certainly explains it."
Gibbs watched Jenny laugh again, then said, "Explains what?"
"Well, no offence to your boss, but he usually goes for younger women… Supermodels and the like… Or women with power."
"Ah," Gibbs smiled.
"So, what is she? Congresswoman? Senator? First lady? – because I wouldn't put that past him!" She smiled at her own joke, obviously trying to make herself feel better and Gibbs laughed.
"No. Director of a federal agency."
Her eyes widened. "Wow!"
"You've said that," Gibbs told her.
"Well she deserves two wows. Power, guns and politics. Not to mention that she's gorgeous! Hell she deserves a whole truck load of wows."
Gibbs took in the sadness in her eyes as she spoke these words. All the time she had been looking at Jenny's dance partner, and she was clearly thinking that she couldn't possibly compete.
"You should cut in," he suggested.
She turned to him quickly. "Oh no… I'd probably step on his feet and then where would that leave us?" She smiled, but it seemed false.
"Closer than you are now," Gibbs pointed out.
She held his gaze and said, "We're not… We're just – "
"He's your boss, former boss, possibly future…" He trailed off allowing his expression to say what he assumed the end of that utterance was.
"Oh no… Boss. I was going to say possibly future boss. He'll come back."
"Uh huh," Gibbs nodded, his eyes doing another sweep of the room.
"Well what was the end of your sentence?" she asked him. "Former partner, current boss, former…?"
He turned back to her. "Boss. There was a spell when I left."
She nodded once. "Uh huh," she echoed his words and dubious tone.
They both returned their attention to the couple on the dance floor, now well into their third dance, and for several seconds they just watched each step, each twirl, each smile and laugh.
"Maybe you should cut in?" she said to him eventually.
He shook his head. "It wouldn't be appropriate."
She nodded and they fell into silence again. Gibbs continued to do his occasional sweeps of the room, checking in with the others; but could not refrain from spending most of his time focussed on how relaxed Jenny looked and the way her dress clung to all the right places. He was just drifting into a memory of exactly what was underneath that fabric when the woman beside him suddenly exclaimed:
"Jennifer Shepard! Of course. I knew I'd seen her before… Sorry," she added, and Gibbs realised he probably looked shocked at her outburst.
"You follow these things?" he asked her.
She nodded. "I have to. I work for NBC in New York. I write comedy sketches. Got to be up to speed on current affairs."
"Ah," Gibbs nodded. "Is that what he does?"
"No… He's something to do with homeland security and the war on poverty…"
Gibbs frowned, not seeing how that could possibly make him her boss. She must have realised why he was confused.
"Oh that's his job now. He moved to DC. Before that he was head of East Coast Programming for NBC. That's how I know him."
"Ah," Gibbs said again.
"You know," she said, pointing at Jenny, "I gotta say she is even hotter in real life." She looked almost surprised at her own words and looked away from him. "Sorry. This is why these parties aren't really my thing."
Gibbs laughed. "No. I totally agree with you," he said, looking back at Jenny.
In the corner of his eye he saw her also return her attention to the dancing.
"I guess nothing can happen between the two of you because she's your boss?" she asked him, and he nodded before he even realised he was supposed to be denying his feelings. Her smile widened, and then it fell and she said, seriously, "It's a shame."
Gibbs looked at her again and said, "And if he's not currently your boss, what's standing in your way?"
She looked back out at the dancers. "Well I'm not twenty-one, a supermodel or in a position of power. For starters."
"You're not twenty-one?" he asked with a grin, and as hoped she laughed properly and out loud.
"She's missing out," she told him as she calmed down.
"So is he," he told her honestly. "Have you tried telling him how you feel?"
"Have you?" she countered.
"She knows. Always has done." It was true. He had never been good at hiding his feelings from Jenny; she always knew how he really felt. What she did with the information was entirely up to her.
"Ah… Well, no. I haven't told him. And I won't. I can live without that humiliation."
"You might be surprised."
"Unlikely. He has told me on several occasions that I am not the sort of woman he dates."
"And yet you're here," he stated.
She shrugged. "I was available."
"Were you in town?"
She frowned and shook her head.
"Ah. So he asked you to come all the way to DC just to accompany him this evening? Even though you no longer work together and you live miles apart?"
"He couldn't find anyone else."
"I think that may have been a lie. I'd say he's in denial as much as you are."
She shook her head. "You don't know Jack." Gibbs eyes widened and she quickly explained, "No, not... That's his name. Jack Donaghy."
"Ah… Well, you do know him. Can you say definitively that it isn't possible that he has feelings for you?"
"Yes! He's told me."
She thought about that for a moment. "No."
"And has he been seeing anyone else recently?"
Her brow furrowed. "No."
"And how often do you speak to each other since he moved to DC?"
"Well, every day but that's just because – "
He held his hand up a little to stop her. "This is what we're going to do. I'm going to cut in under the guise of discussing security issues with Director Shepard. You're going to dance with Jack. Just dance. You don't have to tell him anything you don't want to… But you came all this way, and you bought a nice dress, you might as well dance at least."
She looked unsure and then she said, "Actually, he bought this dress for me."
Gibbs grinned knowingly, then gestured towards the dance floor. "Let's go."
They crossed the room and Gibbs gently placed his hand on Jenny's shoulder. "May I cut in?" he asked with what he knew she could read as his 'we need to talk' face.
"Sure," Jenny smiled at him. "Excuse me."
"Certainly," the man he now knew as Jack Donaghy replied to her.
As he escorted Jenny away, he heard Jack's voice say, "Lemon!", and turning around, figured out that must either be a nickname or the woman's name. He realised he had never asked.
"Something wrong, Jethro?" Jenny asked as he settled an arm around her waist, and his hand around hers, and began to move them gently with the music.
"Not anymore," he smiled as he watched Jack and 'Lemon' dancing.
Jenny frowned. "It looked like you had something to discuss with me when you interrupted my dancing."
"Did I spoil your fun?" he asked her, and it came out slightly more hostile than he had expected it to.
"Jealous, Jethro?" she smirked.
His eyes caught sight of Jack and 'Lemon' again and wistfully he answered her, "A little."
He sensed her frown, more than saw it, and she turned round to see where his attention was.
"I saw you talking to her," she said when she turned back to him. "You seemed to be enjoying yourself."
"Jealous, Jenny?" he retorted.
She rolled her eyes at him. "You're not here to enjoy yourself, Jethro."
"Then we should stop dancing," he said, smiling when she tightened her grip on his hand.
"Not so fast. This is nice. It's been too long since we danced."
He wholeheartedly agreed. It had been far too long.
"So," she continued, "Am I to conclude that you've become a hopeless romantic?"
He frowned, not quite understanding where the question had come from.
"I take it you intervened with me and Jack so that he could dance with your friend?"
He nodded. "I think they have some things to discuss."
Jenny smiled. "Is her name Liz?"
"I don't know," he said, watching the other couple again.
"You don't know? You were talking and laughing with her for ages."
This got Gibbs full attention. "You noticed a lot considering you were enjoying your dances."
"I noticed that you spent a lot of time watching me," she came back with.
"It's my job," he responded.
One corner of her mouth curled into a half smile. "Right."
"So was he not your type then?" he asked her. "Mustn't have been if your eyes had time to wander."
She shook her head. "No, I prefer my men not to be totally smitten with someone else."
Gibbs raised an eyebrow, prompting her to tell him more.
"If you're friend is 'Liz', then I'd say he's now dancing with the only woman he's actually wanted to be dancing with all night. He spoke of nothing and no one else."
Gibbs smiled at this.
"See, I knew it! You are a hopeless romantic. She told you how she feels about him and you intervened to set them up. Oh, you should hope this never gets back to Tony," she grinned, mischief sparkling in her eyes.
He shifted his hand on her back so that his thumb brushed her skin just above her dress. Her eyes widened and the mischief vanished. He smirked and she narrowed her eyes at him.
"Don't think that'll stop me telling him," she informed him.
He pulled her closer to him and watched the blush rise from her chest. He lowered his lips to beside her ear and whispered, "I'm pretty sure he'll be more interested in what Myers has to say about this."
She pulled back to an appropriate distance. "Okay. I won't tell him… But, seriously, Jethro, you played matchmaker… That's sweet," she smiled.
He rolled his eyes. "I just gave her some advice."
She nodded. "You didn't tell her how many divorces you've had, did you?"
He smiled and twirled her round. "No, I didn't."
Meanwhile on the other side of the dance floor…
"Thank you for coming with me tonight, Lemon… I know it's a lot to ask for you to come out here."
Liz shrugged. "It's a few days away."
"Yes but I know how you like your evenings in with Star Wars, a bottle of wine and a bag of Sabor de Soledad. I want you to know that I appreciate you being here."
Liz watched him curiously, she still wasn't buying it that Jack had feelings for her. Her unnamed 'friend' had never even met Jack, how could he possibly know how he felt better than she did? And yet, she found herself wanting him to have been right… And – terrifyingly - wanting to find out if he was.
"Well, I appreciate you asking me. I know there must be hundreds of young, or powerful, women in DC."
"Well of course there are, Lemon… But in truth, I didn't even consider asking anyone else."
Liz tripped over her own feet and stumbled into Jack; her eyes wide and her throat clogged with surprise at his admission.
He steadied her with one hand on her elbow and the other round her waist. "Are you all right?" His brow was furrowed I concern.
"Yeah… I… My heel caught on the floor," she lied.
He nodded as she straightened herself out, but she could tell by the look in his eyes that he thought there was something she wasn't saying.
They settled back into their stance for dancing and reconnected with the music.
Silence covered them for a few bars and their dancing took them into proximity of Liz's 'friend' and Director Shepard. She met his eyes as they approached, and he smiled to her. Then he brought his partner closer and leaned in to whisper to Liz.
"Watch how he reacts now," he told her. "Pretend I said something funny."
He smiled as he danced away and Liz laughed at the insanity of it all. As if Jack would react jealously.
"Friend of yours?" Jack asked her. "I saw you speaking with him earlier."
"Jealous, Jack?" she quipped, jokingly, still wondering how she ever ended up in this crazy situation.
This time it was Jack who caused Liz to stumble, when he stopped dancing.
"What's the matter?" she asked him.
"Oh. Nothing," he said, "Could we sit down for a moment, I could do with a drink."
"Sure," she smiled, uncertainly.
Jack smiled very briefly and then turned and began to lead her back to their table. Liz turned to glare at her 'friend' for causing this weirdness, but Jack decided to stop again, and she ended up walking into him. Turning round she found that he was facing her once again.
"Actually, Lemon," he was saying, seemingly oblivious to the fact that she had collided with him, and looking at her with what looked like adoration, "You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you."
Liz frowned, she was pretty sure that was a line from Pride and Prejudice. She shook her head to clear it and focus on what he was actually saying. "What did you say?"
"Oh never mind, I was trying to use someone else's words because mine fail me…"
Liz's eyes were wide with what felt distinctly like fear. What the hell was going on?
"Lemon, I invited you here tonight because I miss you," he said softly.
At the same time relieved and disappointed that he hadn't admitted anything more than that, she felt a sappy smile creep onto her face. "Aww, Jack, that's sweet…"
"No. Not 'aww, Jack', Lemon. Not because I miss my friend. But because I miss you. I miss your thick, shiny, food-catching hair; I miss your lame jokes and your bad outfits…"
She was just starting to glare at him for the insulting nature of what she thought should have been compliments when he took her hands and pulled her closer to him.
"I invited you here because I miss seeing you every day… and then I danced with other women all night because I'm a fool, Lemon. I picked up the phone sixteen times before I actually dialled your number to ask you to come – I managed to build up the courage to do that, and then when you got here, when I saw you, I lost it all again. I'm sorry I left you sitting at that table alone. I should have guessed that you would find someone else. You look absolutely devastatingly beautiful in that dress – as I knew you would – how could any man resist you?"
Liz's heart was beating rapidly in her chest, and her mind was still trying to process everything that he had said. Her immediate reaction, inconveniently, was to laugh. Which she did. Out loud.
Jack's face dropped and though she felt awful for doing it, she couldn't stop laughing. She clamped a hand across her mouth and shook her head apologetically; her eyes watering with the force of trying to restrain her laughter.
"I'm sorry," she told him. "I'm not laughing at you… It's just… This is…" Then it occurred to her, and the disappointment that accompanied her epiphany called an end to the laughing. "Is this some sort of wind up?" she asked him. "Is Jenna behind this, or Tracy?"
Jack's spirit seemed to fall even further. "No, Lemon. And I must take responsibility for you thinking that it must be. I've hidden my feelings for so long, why would you believe me? I'm sorry, Lemon." And with that he turned and walked off the dance floor.
"Jack!" she called after him, but he didn't stop.
And across the dance floor…
"Well, that looks like that went to plan," Jenny said to Jethro as they watched Jack Donaghy walk away from the woman they had deduced was called Liz Lemon.
"It's never good to laugh when someone tells you they love you," Gibbs said, watching Liz glance around unsure of what to do. Her eyes caught his and held, and he nodded his head forwards to indicate that she should go after Jack. She looked at him questioningly and he gave her a reassuring nod. Then she nodded, more to herself than to him, he could tell, and ran from the room in the same direction Jack had gone.
When he looked back to Jenny she was frowning at him, but smiling.
"What?" he asked.
Her smile widened. "Why do they matter so much to you?" she asked him. "You just met her."
He shrugged. "She was nice. She deserves – "
Her look told him that she knew it was more than that.
He looked into her concerned eyes and decided he should practise what he preached. "She was watching the two of you dance with the same expression I probably was wearing."
Jenny smiled sadly, and nodded understandingly. "And you can't do anything about our… 'situation', but you could do something about theirs," she stated.
Then Jenny nodded. "Okay."
And then she started to walk away.
"Where are you going?" he asked, panicked that he had scared her away.
She stopped and turned to him. "Don't you want to see how it ends?" she grinned.
He laughed and they both ran from the room.
They found Liz coming back down the corridor towards the hall where the ball was. She had her hands on her hips and was panting for breath and muttering something about a treadmill.
"What happened?" Gibbs asked her.
"I can't find him… He's been to this hotel hundreds of times he probably knows all sorts of secret passageways."
"There are no secret passageways," Gibbs assured her, "Believe me, I have to know these things for security reasons… So where have you not looked?"
At that moment, the rest of Jenny's security detail emerged from the ballroom, but she assured them everything was fine and instructed them to go back in.
"I've been all along this corridor," Liz was answering Gibbs, "He wasn't that far ahead of me, so I figured he must have gone into one of these rooms."
"Did you check the balcony?" Gibbs asked.
He smiled. "There's a balcony runs the length of that side of the corridor. He probably slipped through one room and out there."
"Blerg!" Liz exclaimed – or at least that's what it sounded like she said, "He probably thinks I didn't follow him." And then she ran through the nearest door and Jethro and Jenny followed her.
Liz ran through the party that – she had discovered when she briefly popped in minutes earlier – it turned out was a Star Wars themed fancy dress, pizza party. The fact that the only thing she wanted to do was find Jack affirmed for her that she was in love with him.
She weaved through a group of storm troopers, and narrowly missed a collision with Darth Vader before she finally reached the other side of the room and could see a door to the balcony.
Pushing it open, she burst into the cool night air, and there, right in front of her was Jack. His hands were out in front of him, leaning on the railing and his back was to her.
"Jack," she breathed, and he turned round.
"Lemon…," he said, his tone and eyes full of sadness, "I thought that a Star Wars costume party would be the last place you would look for me."
Liz was about to laugh but managed to stop herself. "Well, luckily I made friends with a federal agent this evening and he helped me find you."
"I've always said it's who you know, Lemon, not what you know," he said, turning back to gaze out over the vast hotel grounds.
She stepped up beside him and looked at his disheartened profile. "Jack, I'm sorry for laughing… I wasn't laughing at you. I was laughing at us being in that situation. It's not what we do. It took me by surprise."
"That's understandable, Lemon, I've told you at every opportunity that you aren't the type of woman I date; you weren't to know that somewhere along the river of my denial I had fallen in love with you."
Liz's heart skipped to actually hear him say it, and as she felt her insides melt into a puddle of goo, she concluded that she definitely felt the same way.
"Jack," she said, stepping closer to him and placing her hand atop his on the railing, "Er…" She took a deep breath then told him shyly, "I love you too."
His eyes lit up as he turned towards her. "Really?"
She grinned uncontrollably. "Really… I guess somewhere along my river of denial I fell in love with you."
Jack's hands grasped her face and his lips met hers with a force that caused Liz to stumble backwards, but Jack's arms moved to catch her, and he backed her up to lean against the railing. As his tongue danced mellifluously with hers and his hands traced gentle patterns either side of her spine, she realised that the support was certainly required. Her legs felt completely like jello from hip to toe. It was the heels, and the running, and the absolutely awesome way that Jack's touch affected her.
She kissed him back full force, marvelling at how right it felt. For all she had laughed fifteen minutes ago because it all seemed insane; what she was experiencing now was perfection.
Jethro and Jenny wore identical happy grins as they watched Jack and Liz's exchange from just inside the door to the balcony. They couldn't hear what had been said, but they saw the outcome.
"I told her so," Jethro said, confidently.
"I think it was a lucky guess," Jenny countered. "You projected your feelings onto her and – " She stopped, obviously realising what the end of her sentence would be.
"And?" Jethro asked.
Jenny looked up at him, a familiar glean of regret in her eyes, and she sighed sadly. "And my feelings onto him."
"No, Jen… I gave him the feelings I hoped that you have. I've never known how you really feel," he told her honestly.
She frowned. "I just thought – "
He shook his head. "I've hoped. But I never could tell. One minute it's 'no outside of work', next minute you're flirting with me and standing in my personal space, then you're cutting me out and keeping secrets. I've been gathering the clues Jenny, but they're not leading to any sort of conclusion."
"Well," she said, looking out onto the balcony where Jack and Liz were still embroiled in their passionate embrace, "Now you know."
She kept her attention on them a few seconds longer and then angled her head to look up at Jethro. "Does it make a difference? We still can't – "
He dropped his head forward and captured her lips with his. She hesitated for a mere split second before her lips moved beneath his and her arms wrapped round him, bringing them closer together.
He ran his tongue along her lower lip, requesting entry that was instantly granted, and hers met his in a dance familiar from all those years ago.
His hands stroked the skin above her dress; across her shoulder blades, down her spine and she shivered, her lips smiling against his. That broke the momentum of their kiss, and it morphed into slower, more gentle kisses, gradually winding down to the point where they rested their foreheads together and caught their breath.
"It makes a difference," he told her, "I've missed you, Jenny."
She smiled and kissed him once more, before whispering. "Now what?"
He shrugged. He honestly didn't know, but he wasn't about to carry on pretending there was nothing between them. "We'll figure it out."
Jenny laughed and Gibbs' eyes widened.
"Are you laughing when I've just admitted I'm in love with you?"
She laughed even more. "What if I am?"
And Gibbs laughed with her. "You'll have to be punished."