One Last Time
Disclaimer: NCIS is not mine.
A/N Well, I had to write something after the season finale. And I still have many more splats that I want to write, also.
Warnings: SPOILERS for Judgment Day Part 1 & 2
Summary: It was a nightmare, it had to be.
"Oh, you wouldn't believe it, Cyn," Marie Harlow, assistant to the Director of the FBI exclaimed over the phone to her good friend and fellow assistant, Cynthia Sumner.
Cynthia smiled and lent back in her desk chair. "Why don't you tell me all about it?"
"Well, I heard from the . . ." Cynthia let Marie continue. By the tone of Marie's voice, it sounded like it would be something that would bring a smile to her face. Ever since Deputy Director Leon Vance had temporarily taken over NCIS during the Director's personal absence, Cynthia had found little to smile about. She had not taken to the Deputy Director and was counting down the days until the real director came back.
". . . And you'll never guess who!" Marie finished triumphantly. Cynthia could almost hear the grin on the younger woman's face. Marie was well known inside the assistant circle for her enthusiastic and over-the-top personality.
"Who?" Cynthia replied dutifully. As Marie started to respond, the door to the director's office opened and Leon Vance strolled out with an odd look on his face. Cynthia looked at him curiously as he stepped past her desk. There was something unreadable expressed on his face and he looked almost, well, shocked.
"Is everything okay, Deputy Director?" she asked innocently as she covered the end of the receiver, making him pause as he reached for the door handle.
"Oh, Ms. Sumner," he said as he turned to look at her, his hand still positioned over the door handle. He was silent for a moment, as if he were battling with himself.
"Yes?" Cynthia hesitated. Whatever Vance was not saying was starting to unnerve her.
"I, uh, just got a call from the SecNav," he started.
"And?" There is something about his voice that Cynthia does not like.
"And, Director Shepard has been – shot," Vance finished calmly.
"Shot?!" Cynthia is not sure if she had heard correctly. There was no way . . . "What do you mean shot?"
Vance sighed. "I mean, shot with a gun. Multiple times . . ."
Cynthia could not help herself as she gasped. "S-so, you mean that, that . . ."
Leon Vance looked sadden for a moment as he turned the door handle. "I am afraid that she is dead, Ms. Sumner," he replied, turning the doorknob and hastily vacating the room without saying another word.
The phone in Cynthia's hand clattered to the desk as she lost her grip on it. She sat there, stunned, as Vance's words circulated her head.
No. She would not believe it, could not believe it. No. There was no way the Director was dead, things did not happen like that. Ever. Just . . . no.
"Hey, Cyn, you there?" Marie spoke over the phone. But Cynthia did not hear her; she could not hear much of anything.
"Cynthia?" Marie tried again, sounding a little worried. "Is everything all right down your way?"
Cynthia heard this last comment and wanted to scream, 'No, everything was not okay down my end!' But she didn't. She didn't say anything at all.
Cynthia blocked out all other sounds, and didn't realise she was shaking until she looked down at her hands. She closed her eyes, hoping that this was all a terrible nightmare. That she would wake up in her bed, return to work the following morning and find a to-do-list in the Director's neat writing waiting for her with a cup of coffee.
But no, this was not a nightmare. It was reality. She stiffened and willed herself not to cry. It could not be true, could it?
As Cynthia remained silent, staring at the phone on her desk, Marie repeated from the other end of the phone, "Cyn? Cynthia? Cynthia?"
It was as though time had stood still. But in reality, it had been a couple of hours since Deputy Director Vance, no Director Vance, as Cynthia unwillingly assumed, had told her the news that her boss was dead.
Marie had given up when Cynthia hadn't answered her, and had hung up. That was two hours ago and now; Cynthia was still sitting numbly at her desk. She was almost childishly waiting for the door to open and for the Director, the real director, to step through and demand to know if she'd missed any calls.
Cynthia sighed and rubbed her temples. This had to be a bad dream. Heads of federal agencies did not get shot and killed, but Cynthia knew she as kidding herself. If anything, heads of federal agencies were even more of a prime target; hence the reason Officer David and Agent DiNozzo had accompanied her to the funeral.
Her eyes narrowed. Where was the protection detail while the Director was getting shot? What were they doing? Maybe if they had been better . . . Cynthia shook her head. She couldn't blame Officer David and Agent DiNozzo. She liked Agent DiNozzo and Officer David, and they were good agents. They would have done everything in their power to stop it.
At least, she thinks they would have. Cynthia berated herself for even thinking that. Officer David and Agent DiNozzo are two of the Director's most trusted agents. The Director and Officer David had worked anti-terror ops together, and she and Agent DiNozzo had gotten close during the undercover mission.
There was no way they would have let anything happen to her on purpose. No way, not in a million years. But then again, Cynthia thought she's be working for the Director for a million years, or at least until the Director retired at a ripe old age.
That was never going to happen now. The Director was not going to retire, was not going to age. She had been gunned down in her prime and it was a tragedy, there was no other word that Cynthia could think of to describe the event.
A real life tragedy.
A tear trickled down Cynthia's cheek and landed gracefully on the wooden desk beneath her. She likes to think that she and the Director are friends . . . were friends. There was a lot Cynthia knew about the Director that she assumed was not common knowledge. Cynthia knew her little habits, what she liked and disliked.
Like the crystal glass locked in her bottom drawer, a present from her father. And the unlabeled bottle of bourbon. Her secret comfort. Only two people had keys to the draw, the Director and herself. And Cynthia had become accustomed to reading the Director's face, knowing when to unlock the draw and slide the bottle from its resting place. She would remove the glass and pour the exact amount of liquor into it. And then she would close the draw and exit, leaving the glass on the desk.
And as the Director left for the day, she would smile at Cynthia as she tapped away on her keyboard. There was no need for thank yous; it was just something that Cynthia did and the Director accepted. A mutual understanding, respect, friendship.
But now, there would be no more bourbon filled crystal glasses, she knew for a fact that Vance did not share the same tastes as the Director. No more knowing smiles, silent gratitude. Would she still have a job? Or would Vance bring in his own secretary.
Cynthia found herself not minding the fact that she might be fired. After all, she was the Director's, brought in from day one and there until the end. This was the end, Cynthia mused. As melodramatic as it sounded, Cynthia didn't care. It was the end of an era, the end of things as she knew it, the end of the Director.
Another tear fell onto the wooden desk. She didn't want things to end just yet. She liked her job, actually, loved her job. The people, the familiarity, even Agent Gibbs' outbursts. It was all part of her job, a job she might no longer have, might no longer want.
How could she be the Director's assistant when the Director was not even the director any more. Vance was the Director now, and Cynthia hated, truly hated, the thought of Vance sitting at the Director's desk, using her computer, sitting in her chair, doing the Director's job.
The Director was Jennifer Shepard, and Jennifer Shepard was the Director. At least, that was how it was always going to be for her.
Later, Cynthia found herself sitting on the floor of the Director's office, leaning against the desk. Her tears had dried up, but she did not feel like going home. So she sat, sat on the floor of her Director's office and mourned.
She moved her hand and clasped the object sitting on the floor next to her. At first, she had been disgusted with what she was doing, but then, something changed. She felt, somehow, that the Director had given her permission, permission to do it one last time.
Cynthia raised the glass to her lips and silently saluted her director one final time.
To Jennifer Shepard,
May you find happiness, wherever you are.