Title: Rules of Engagement
Disclaimer: I definitely shouldn't be doing this... sorry.
A/N - so I wrote this a while ago and Elflordsmistress insisted that I post it before the season finale in case - well, she insisted.
"There's been talk." Jen Shepard paused in the act of packing away her papers and gazed across the conference room at the Secretary of the Navy. She'd been picking up on his odd mood throughout the meeting, had expected him to raise a difficult subject. It seemed he'd waited until the end to do so and now he looked distinctly uncomfortable.
"About?" She queried lightly, not overly concerned - yet.
"Your relationship with Agent Gibbs." For a moment she was genuinely floored, couldn't think what he meant.
"I haven't killed him and hidden his body, if that's what you're worried about." She didn't add there were times when she was sorely tempted.
"People say you're too close to him,"
"Do 'people' have a specific concern?"
"They wonder if you can be objective about him, because of your personal relationship."
"He was my partner," she responded coolly, refusing to acknowledge any other possible interpretation of his remark. "He's a damn good agent."
"He angers other agencies and you protect him."
"He gets results."
"You're relationship with him makes you vulnerable to suggestions of impropriety."
"I went to bat with the FBI for Agent Cain last week – am I supposed to be sleeping with him as well? Or is it just Gibbs?" He squirmed under her unflinching glare – not questioning her interpretation of what the poison poured into his ear had really been about.
"You're a single woman, attractive – there are rumours about your social life. If you were seeing someone suitable…" It would be wrong to eviscerate the Secretary of the Navy she reminded herself, there were rules about that. It would also be wrong to point out that she worked ridiculous hours, which scarcely left her time for a relationship – with someone suitable or not. She took a breath, assessing his mood, calculating what she could do to end this.
"What do you want me to tell you?" They'd known each other for years, she'd thought he trusted her judgement. But he was a politician and she knew that he would act to minimise his own exposure to damage and censure – if it came to that.
"I suppose I want you to reassure me that you and Agent Gibbs are not involved, won't be involved."
"No," she said firmly, "I'm not prepared to discuss my relationships in this context – not unless there is some actual evidence of my judgement being impaired, or of some impropriety?"
He sighed and she knew that he had been expecting her to react like this - and that he had nothing, other than rumours. He'd been married for over thirty years – his personal life was squeaky clean – there was no way he could possibly understand how she felt. "You've worked so hard to get here, Jenny. All I'm doing is warning you; if something happens, I won't be able to protect you."
"I'm not asking for your protection – I don't require it and my private life is just that…private."
"You're being naïve. I'm surprised you're reacting like this, unless there is really something going on between you?" She was far too wise to fall for that, her only response was to raise an eyebrow and wait him out. "My wife wanted me to invite you to dinner, her nephew is in town – he's a cardiologist and…"
"I'm very busy at the moment," she closed her briefcase with a snap. "Some other time perhaps. But please thank Colleen for the invitation." There was no way that her boss' wife was arranging a blind date for her – she wasn't a charity case. She had a suspicion that Colleen would prefer it if she was safely involved with someone – so she wouldn't have to worry what her husband and his younger, female subordinate got up to behind closed doors. But she wasn't interested in reassuring the paranoid wives of men she had no interest in.
"At least think about what I've said – and, be careful." She nodded, appreciating the warning but knowing he had washed his hands of the situation. If something blew up she would take the flak and he would be able to say that he had warned her of the consequences. She was on her own and Gibbs would probably say that was when she worked best.
She seethed all the way back to the Navy Yard. Not sure if she was angry with Sec Nav for raising the issue, with Gibbs for exposing her to scrutiny in the first place or herself for not giving the denial that would have put this whole situation to rest.
She could have given it easily – whatever was between them was in the past – mostly. And she knew that it was a bad idea to get involved with one of her own agents – even if other people seemed to think she didn't. And anyway, he'd never forgiven her leaving and for having dared to be successful without him.
So she could have given SecNav the reassurance – but she hadn't - because it was insulting that he required it and because the criticism that she gave Gibbs preferential treatment had stung. If she was drawn into his cases more than those of other agents it was because of the kind of cases his team picked up – high profile and complicated.
He was a brilliant investigator but a lousy politician and she shuddered to think about the damage he could do to relationships with other agencies without her to manage the fall out. But she had enemies of her own – and they were circling now – exploiting SecNav's nervousness, using her past with Gibbs to undermine her. Well, they were going to have to do a lot better than this.
She was calmer when she got back to her office, but not in the best of moods with the men who surrounded her. She'd been considering adding a female agent to her personal detail for a while now and she made a mental note to have Cynthia look into it – as a matter of priority. At least having a female Director seemed to have encouraged increased applications from women wanting to join NCIS. The building she walked around was far less male dominated than it had been when she'd returned three years ago. And that had been a huge improvement to the male female ratio of the agency she had joined as a junior agent.
She could still remember the expression of distrust on Jethro's face when she had been assigned to his team. He hadn't been at all happy about having to train a probie and a female probie at that; she'd had to work so hard to prove herself to him – McGee and DiNozzo didn't know they were born.
But, she wasn't Gibbs' probie agent any longer – she was the Director and she needed to concentrate on the messages and paperwork that had accumulated in her absence – and hope that for once Gibbs had managed to stay out of trouble.
"Need your help with a warrant." He hadn't knocked, of course – he never knocked, preferring to just barge into her office. And he wasn't making a request either. But this was how they worked and he saw no reason to change an approach that meant he usually got what he wanted. She looked up from the file she was reading and held out her hand for the paper he was waving around.
"What does Agent Lee say?" He'd expected this as well – he found her reliance on the judgement of the legal probie irritating.
"Haven't spoken to her, I came straight to you, Director."
"Without even stopping to knock," she flipped through the file – giving him an opportunity to observe her. There was something; he narrowed his eyes, looking more closely; taking in the way she was drumming her nails on the desk, the twist of her mouth. He knew her very well, though sometimes it was easier not to acknowledge that, and he recognised her irritation. Although he was fairly sure he wasn't to blame this time.
"Who's gotten on your nerves?"
"Apart from you?"
"Jen?" She dropped the papers he'd given her onto the desk and looked up at him.
"I'll make a couple of calls."
"That wasn't what I was asking." Strong emotion flickered in her eyes, almost making him smirk – because he knew how passionate she was, what it took her to maintain an icy and controlled exterior. Whatever it was had disappeared in less time than it took him to blink and he spared a fleeting moment of sympathy for whoever had pissed her off.
"Sec Nav is concerned that I'm not objective when it comes to you, he thinks my judgement might be compromised and he'd like to me to confirm that I have no plans to sleep with you." He winced, wondering if he should check if the man was suddenly speaking a couple of octaves higher.
"Do I get a say in this?"
"This isn't a joke Jethro," she got up and turned to face the windows looking out over the yard. "It's damn insulting that he doesn't trust me." He wasn't surprised she was mad as hell – she hated having her judgement questioned.
"What did you tell him?"
"To mind his own business – unless he actually had some evidence." Well, that was interesting.
"You shouldn't let it get to you, the man's an idiot. Just tell him what he wants to hear and forget about it."
"No," her voice was low – but determined.
"It's not as though it's going to happen," with the mystery of her mood solved his mind was already on the warrant and the case. So he didn't really think about the way that must have sounded.
"It's the principle." He shrugged, forgetting for the moment all the times when he had flouted authority to get to the truth. Certainly not making the connection between his ability to raise the hackles of those he came into contact with and the questions that had been raised about her.
"Sounds like it's just going to annoy you, don't you have enough to do?"
"When I need your advice Jethro, I'll ask for it." She turned away from the windows and slid back into her chair.
"I'll let you know when I have something."
She watched him leave; the anger that she had so carefully controlled bubbling back to the surface. So, she should just let it go? If something bothered him, he got obsessive and trampled down anything in his path. If someone criticised him he insulted them, fought back – but, she should just forget about this? Because it was not going to happen?
Well, she'd see about that.
Gibbs and Sec Nav had no clue who they were dealing with. Had no idea what she could do when she put her mind to it and she had decided to put her mind to it.
She reached for her cell phone and found the number she was looking for, as she dialled it a decidedly evil smile crossed her lips. "Colleen? Jenny Shepard. I was talking to your husband earlier and he said something about dinner? No, well – my plans have changed – I'd love to. Tomorrow? Perfect. I'll see you then."
A cardiologist wasn't a bad place to start she decided – she could use the practice.
"Cynthia," she pressed the intercom to speak to her assistant, "can you see if you can make me a couple of hours space in my diary? And then book me a hairdressers appointment?"