Five Months later….

How's Jethro?" Annie Evans asked her husband over a late breakfast.

Will shrugged.

"It's been a rough couple of months."

His wife looked at him with a sad smile.

"I don't think anyone is harder on Jethro than Jethro. Has he ever actually said anything to you?"

Will shook his head.

"No. And not for want of my asking either. You know Jethro .. plays it close to the chest."

"I'm worried about him."

"I know."

"And how's Jenny doing? Really?" Annie asked.

"As far as I can tell she's doing fine."

"Has she settled into her new role?"

Will smiled and nodded.

"Head of Intelligence suits her talents. She'll do a great job. We were lucky to get her back. I was sure we'd lost her. Still have no idea what changed her mind though."

"Maybe it was what you said to her" Annie said after a moment's thought.

"Maybe ..." her husband replied, his thoughts drifting back to the conversation he'd had with Jen where he'd told her that when someone made a difference like she did they just didn't quit.

"Are you worried about her?" Annie asked, breaking into his thoughts.

"Not as worried as I am about Jethro" he admitted.

"Is his work suffering?"

Will shook his head.

"Quite the opposite. If anything he's even more driven than he was before. Whatever's there is beneath the surface. But it's there. He's a natural protector, Annie. With what he perceives as huge failings in that department. He couldn't save Shannon and Kelly. He never got a chance to save Agent Todd. And he's not used to being protected. What Jen did doesn't fall into his frame of reference. I just .. I feel like he needs her to give him absolution or something."

"But she doesn't feel she needs to, does she?"

"No, she doesn't. And the thing is ... she's right. He did the job Morrow sent him to do. And he wasn't in the know about a lot of things. But try telling that to Jethro."

"I think we need to have him over here for lunch over the weekend" Annie said. "Get some good food into him. God knows he probably hasn't left that basement in months."

Will looked up.

"That might be a good idea" he said. "It'll give me a chance to talk to him properly. It's not that easy to pin him down at the office."

Annie looked at him and smiled.

"Good luck with that" she said as she cleared the table.

"You can't keep doing this to yourself, Jethro" Will said a few days later as he handed him another beer.

Gibbs raised his eyebrows at him as he took it, twisting the lid off and pouring half of it down his throat in one swift, fluid movement.

"Seriously, Jethro. This isn't healthy. Not that you and healthy go together in the same sentence but .. you know what I mean."

Will smiled gently, trying to coax out the light hearted side of Gibbs.

"Yeah ..." Gibbs said, anxious to have this stop.

"Leave him alone, Will" Annie bustled through from the kitchen. "And go put on something decent. The others will be here soon and I need you to make a run to the store first."

"What have you forgotten now?" Will said, shaking his head at Gibbs.

"We're out of bourbon" she said, looking pointedly at Gibbs. "And you know how this man loves my bread pudding souffle' with whisky sauce."

"In that case ..."

Will put his beer down on the railing and pushed himself off it.

"You comin' Gunny?"

"No. He's not" Annie said, shoving a bowl of salad into Gibbs' hands. "Set that on the table, Jethro. And when you're done I have a few more things that need doing."

Will patted Gibbs on the shoulder as he walked inside.

"Better you than me" he said with a chuckle. "I'll be back as soon as I can to save you from her clutches."

Gibbs angled his head and smiled a bit. He finished his beer slowly and then trotted down the steps to the table in the garden.

Will paused by the kitchen long enough to give Annie a squeeze. He kissed her on top of the head.

"You, Mrs. Evans, are incorrigible."

She looked at him in amusement.

"As are you, Director Evans. Now go. And don't come back too quickly" she called as he exited through the mud room door.

Annie looked out of the kitchen window and saw Gibbs coming back up the steps. She smiled as she glanced at the clock and heard the doorbell ring. She opened the oven and busied herself with basting its contents.

"Jethro .. get the door" she shouted out to him.

Gibbs set his bottle down on the kitchen table and walked through the house.

The rest of the world blurred around the edges as he pulled the door open and found two large green eyes looking straight at him. His pulse elevated to such a rate that it throbbed almost painfully in his neck, making it hard to swallow.

Jennifer Shepard stared at him, her eyes wide with what he thought might be shock. She could feel a faint blush blossoming on her cheek bones. The one person she had been assured wouldn't be at the luncheon was standing right in front of her, looking as shocked as she felt. And she was struck dumb. All the things she had wanted to say to him over the past few months came flooding back in a raging torrent, and she knew that if she opened her mouth she would babble incoherently. So she said nothing and continued to stare at him.

She took a small step backwards when he shifted on his feet.

"Agent Gibbs .." she finally said.

He cleared his throat awkwardly.

"How're you doing?"

He hadn't missed that fact that one shoulder moved slightly less than the other.

"I'm fine. Or at least I will be" she replied, looking down.

His eyes followed her gaze and landed at her feet. Instantly he was back on the bench in Arizona, her small foot pressing almost insistently at his groin. She looked up, her eyes meeting his full of knowing, and the blush that had dissipated was back.

Jen's gaze shifted from his eyes to behind him and he turned around to find Annie grinning wryly at them.

"If you two are just going to stare at each other, you might as well go."

She placed Gibbs' coat unceremoniously into his hands, and tossed his car keys at Jen.

"We have guests coming for lunch and I don't want you hogging the conversation."

She gave Gibbs a push out of the door and closed it behind him.

Jen bent down and picked the keys off the grass. She handed them to Gibbs and hoisted her bag back onto her shoulder.

"Where's your car?" he asked, looking around.

"I took a taxi" she said, pulling out a cell phone.

Gibbs placed a hand on hers to stop her from calling for another one, and she turned towards him.

"Buy you a cup of coffee?" he asked. And Jen smiled gently because she could see the earnestness in his eyes.

"If you want."

The drive to the coffee shop was quiet, the tension palpable. And he couldn't tell if it was just his tension or a mixture of both of theirs. He kept stealing glances at her out of the corner of his eye. She stared out of the window. He noticed the way her hand rested on her knee, and every now and then her fingers would twitch, as if she was absentmindedly rubbing something off her pants. Part of him longed to lift his hand and place it over hers, to make sure she was fine; to make sure she was really there. But the last fifteen minutes had been among the most surreal he had ever lived through, and he was at a loss over what to do. Five minutes later he gave up trying to fight the urge and lifted his hand. She seemed to sense his movement and moved her hand upwards to her hair, tucking a strand behind her ear. She crossed her arms over her chest, shooting him a quick glance before settling her gaze outside the window again.

"How are Agent McGee and Officer David?" she asked out of the blue.

Her voice was quiet but it sounded loud in the silence of the car.

"They're fine" he replied.

"I never thanked you." She turned to look at him, her large mesmerizing eyes filled with gratitude. "For sending Mike to help me."

"Mike and I go back a long way" he said, shrugging off her thanks. "I'm sure he'd appreciate hearing from you."

Jen looked at him with a small smile.

"Mike's been very good to me" she replied.

Gibbs' gaze flicked to her in confusion.

"If it hadn't been for him I might not have come back to the States at all."

Gibbs frowned at the road, his mind whirring.

"You came back for the job ..." Gibbs said. he'd heard through the grapevine that she had taken a short leave of absence before returning to NCIS to take up a position created just for her, but had no idea she'd been in Mexico at all.

She ignored the question in his sentence.

"I needed a hiatus amidst everything that happened" she said instead.

He wanted to tell her she didn't need to explain. He wanted to tell her he would have done the same in her place. But the words wouldn't come – and he wondered if it was because he felt the sting of what felt suspiciously like betrayal on the part of the man who had told him to leave well alone.

"Margarita safari, huh?" he said instead.

Jen searched his face, but he was giving very little away.

"In a way .." she said, lowering her eyes a moment later.

Gibbs pulled into the coffee shop car park and turned off the engine. Silence filled the car and all he could hear was the steady intake of breath from Jen, and his own blood pounding in his ears.

"We don't have to do this if you don't wa-"

"I want to" Jen said, touching his hand briefly as it rested on the steering wheel.

He stared at their hands for a second and then nodded. He got out and walked round to open Jen's door. He leant down to help her and she gently shrugged him off.

"I'm okay, Agent Gibbs" she said, grimacing fractionally as she pulled herself upright and stood in front of him.

"What happened to dispensing with formalities?" he asked as he reached round her and closed the door.

Her lips parted slightly as he drew near.

"I'm okay ... Jethro" she said with a smile.

He nodded towards the coffee house and she pushed herself off the car. She looked at him in amusement as he held the door open for her, but didn't protest. Gibbs placed a gentle yet firm hand on her lower back as he guided her in. She couldn't help the faint shiver than ran through her body at the contact and stepped surreptitiously away from it, not wanting to give away the fact that she was craving his touch far too much.

She gazed up at the board and concentrated on ordering.

"I'll have the same" she said after he'd placed his order - and the corners of her mouth twitched at the surprised look he shot her.

Jen wrapped her hands around her cup as he sat down almost next to her.

"So ..." she said awkwardly as she looked around her. "Pleasantries first. What have you been up to?"

"Same old same old" he said with a shrug.

"You're doing it again" she said – and he could hear laughter in her tone.

"I know" he said, lowering his eyes from her mouth.

She took a large gulp of coffee, welcoming the scalding heat as it distracted her from the presence of Gibbs sitting too close and yet not close enough. She wrinkled her nose at the temperature and glared slightly at the small laugh that escaped him.

"You OK?" he asked, indicating the coffee.

"It could do with some bourbon" she said, lifting the cup to her lips again.

"I've got some at home" he replied.

She stared at him, and for a second every emotion he could name ran across her face. She pushed them back as she smirked slightly at him.

"Are you trying to get me into bed, Jethro?"

It was his turn to stare. He drank in her image. The manicured fingers wrapped around the cup, the full lips curled in a small smile, the eyes large and intoxicating.

"That wasn't me in Arizona" she continued softly. Knowing that it was something that had to be said. "It wasn't the real me. At least not all of it. Jenny Shepard and Agent Shepard are two very different people. For the most part."

"I know that, Jen" he replied just as quietly. "And no ... I wasn't trying to get you into bed."

She wasn't expecting him to lift her hand to his lips. Neither was she expecting the kiss he placed on her knuckles. For a second she gave into the tug and subconsciously leant into the touch. Then she pulled her hand back and immediately mourned the loss of contact. She tried to ignore the chill his lips had left against her skin and shifted in her seat.

Gibbs moved again, lifting his hand to her shoulder where one of her straps had slipped down. His fingers grazed her skin as he pulled it back up, and froze on the newly healed scar that was knotted at the base of her neck. Guilt flashed across his face and she immediately covered his hand with hers.

"It's okay, Jethro" she said softly, moving her head to force him to look in her eyes.

"No Jen .. it's not."

His hand trembled on her shoulder and her fingers closed around his wrist. She stared at him as her fingers hovered over his pulse point, and his blue eyes drew her in. She gave his arm a small pull and leant forward, covering her lips with his before she lost her nerve and backed out. Not knowing how else to make him see it was fine; that it had been her choice; and she would do it again in a heartbeat if it meant that he still had a life ahead of him.

The kiss was gentle, chaste. Full of reassurance. He pulled away and leant forward even more, his lips resting millimeters from the scar.

"Come home with me" he whispered, his breath tickling her skin.

She didn't hide the shiver this time as she pulled away, her eyes answering for her as she reached under the table for her bag. He pulled her up from the table with one hand and fumbled in his pocket for a few bills to toss on the table top.

"Lets walk" he suggested. "It's not far."

Her hand slipped into his as they walked the couple of blocks back to his house. It was soft and warm and felt like it belonged there. His hand slipped from hers suddenly, and she glanced at him - suddenly worried that she had overstepped her boundaries. But he smiled reassuringly at her and slipped an arm around her waist. Pulling her firmly against his side.

The door closed behind her with a soft snick and she looked up at him expectantly.

"Now that you've lured me here with your sweet talk ..." she baited humorously.

"Hey! You kissed me" he reminded her.

"And I'm about to do it again" she said, her eyes sparkling.

Her good arm wound around his neck, the other around his waist, pulling him firmly against her body. The hand around the back of his neck curled into his hair, raising goosebumps over every inch of skin just before his resolve snapped. He cupped her face in his hands and deepened the kiss she'd started - his tongue running along the inside of her mouth. A moan escaped his throat and she swallowed it, the hand around his waist tugging him closer by his belt loops.

All the reserve, the awkwardness, the tension from earlier had dissipated, leaving unfettered want and need in its wake. The world spun and suddenly Jen's back was up against the door, the hard lines of his body pinning her against the wood. A leg slipped between hers and she couldn't help herself. She rolled her hips, groaning low in her throat. She arched into him, quickening the pace of the kiss, reveling in the way he rolled his hips into her and the feel of him, hard, against her thigh. His fingers slipped down her sides, skimming the edge of her breasts before sliding under her top and splaying out across her back, pressing her even closer to him, so close that he felt her nipples pebble against his chest.

He rocked, almost helplessly, against her – his desperation to touch her spurring him on. Until he felt her grimace against his mouth, and realized that the doorknob was pushing into the small of her back. He changed their positions, and leaned back against the door himself. Jen's eyes slid closed for a moment as she rested her head against him. She ran a hand down his cheek, feeling the smooth skin and stubble against her palm.

"Let's give it a moment, huh?" he said gently.

"I may not be fully recovered, but I won't break Jethro" she murmured.

"It's not really you I was thinking of" he said, smiling against her hair.

"You still going to offer me bourbon or was that really just a ruse?" she asked.

"Bourbon's downstairs" he said, leading her down to the basement.

Jen's eyes fell on the boat that lay in the middle of the room. The smell of sawdust hit her and she stumbled slightly. He caught her elbow and she shrugged him off again, walking towards the wooden hull. Her fingers rested almost tentatively on the smooth wood. She glanced at him, silently asking permission to touch.

He smiled at her and then turned away to look for the alcohol.

Jen laid her hand flat against it, her fingers flexing. Feeling the warmth of the wood beneath her hand. She tugged her bottom lip between her teeth, concentrating fully on the masterpiece in front of her. She didn't hear him pour drinks, but he took her hand and wrapped her fingers around a chipped mug. She smiled briefly at him, hugging the mug to her like it was coffee, and continued to walk around the boat.

She ran a hand down it, smiling almost absentmindedly to herself.

Gibbs watched in silence as she bonded with the wood. The way her fingers ran along the length of the hull made his stomach muscles contract and lust stir low in his belly. He watched as she walked round the whole boat, drinking in every detail, every tool mark. Until she came to the stern. He stepped forward to block her, suddenly afraid she would bolt. But she looked at him, her large green eyes questioning and brimming with tears.

"It's called Jenny" she said, the question of why lingering in the air.

He stared at her for a moment.

"I missed you Jen" was the only thing he could think of to say.

He reached out for her and pulled her close. Jen blinked away tears and didn't resist. She stood on tiptoes and placed a kiss at the corner of his mouth.

"I missed you before I knew you" she replied quietly.

Gibbs wormed a hand between them and pulled the mug from her. Placing it on the sideboard behind him as his other arm pulled her firmly against his chest.

"Touch me like you touch your boat" she begged.

He pushed her gently against the side of the boat and looked at her intensely before he took one of her legs and hooked it around his own. Pulling her hips closer. His hands ran over her face for a moment before trailing down to her shoulder. He froze again when he encountered the scar.

"Jethro ..." she said, stretching up to kiss him. Knowing she had to take over.

Moving a hand between them, she popped open the top button of his jeans and slid her hand inside. Her palm brushed against his stomach and her fingers curled around him. He let out a small sound from the back of his throat, halfway between a moan and Jen, and dragged his mouth away from hers; placing open mouth kisses along her neck and shoulder until she arched into him.

"You asked me if I had ever met anyone who turned my palms clammy just by thinking about her, who made my breath quicken when she crossed my mind, who I wanted to possess."

Her hand stilled for a second.

"She isn't me ..."

"I know. But it's me. You do that. For me" he carried on, nibbling gently on her collar bone until she moved her fingers again, earning herself a hitch in his breath.

Their position was awkward and her hand could do no more than tease.

"You know…" he murmured, placing a kiss behind her ear, noting her shudder and filing it away for later use. "There's a bed upstairs."

Her eyes were still closed when she answered.

"And how often do you sleep there?"

He looked at her in question, wondering why she would ask such a thing.

Her eyes slid open and the look in them was nearly enough to make him forget everything apart from his need to touch her, to be inside her.

"I usually sleep here."

"Here then."

His hand popped open the button on her jeans, and as he dragged them down her thighs she knew was done with slow and deliberate. She wanted to be naked, wanted Gibbs to be naked, wanted to wrap her legs around him as he lost himself in her.

She shrugged out of her top and fumbled with his shirt before ripping it open. His eyes went wide in amusement as she pulled him down with her, the heat from his body seeping into her skin.

"Floor's cold" he whispered into her ear.

"Don't care."

Gibbs lifted himself onto his forearms and looked down at her, almost in worship - his arms shaking as he leant down and kissed her again, slowly and deeply, until she wrapped a leg around his and arched her hips into him. His hand snaked around her back and deftly undid her bra. Slipping out of it, she scuttled it across the room, plastering herself back to him as his fingers played with the waistband of her panties.

The plea she pulled all the way from her toes seemed to spur him on and he hooked a finger into the lace and trailed it down her legs. She shivered as he pulled away to rid her of the material, whether from the cold of the basement of loss of his skin contact she wasn't sure, but she was spared having to think when he was suddenly back, crowding her every sense.

Her legs went back around his waist as a hand travelled up her inner thigh, caressing the smooth skin before dipping into her. Her whole body bucked under his touch. Heat blossomed from his fingers. Up through her stomach and spine. Sending tingles down the backs of her legs. She clutched at any part of him she could reach, fingers digging into skin; certainly leaving bruises that neither of them cared about.

The pathetic whimper that escaped her when he pulled out his fingers was replaced by a moan when he positioned himself on top of her and slowly lowered himself in. She breathed out with him and ran a hand down his spine as he paused to catch his breath.

It had been too long. Too long since he had felt like this, he thought. He had fantasized about Jen, about making her come apart under his hands, since that first meeting in Arizona. But nothing compared to the actual sight of her under him, eyes almost black with desire, throat exposed, red hair spilling onto the ground.

He moved almost imperceptibly, a tiny movement that caused sparks to explode behind her eyeslids.


She breathed his name and he knew he would never get tired of hearing it from her lips. It sounded so different; almost like a prayer. He picked up the pace as her fingers dug into his arms, and she matched his rhythm effortlessly. He shifted, lifting one hand to hers and pinning it above her head - effectively intertwining their fingers. His rhythm faltered slightly as he gently bit down on her shoulder, and in a millisecond her whole body was tensing; begging him for harder, faster, just more. And then she was clenching around him, his name spilling from her lips. He thrust once, twice more, and then followed her over the edge. His arms shook again from the effort, and she wound hers around his neck and pulled him down gently; resting his head on her shoulder as she ran a hand down his back, the skin slick beneath her fingers.

Gibbs didn't want to move but he knew that lying on the cold, dank floor wasn't an option either. He sat up and she narrowed her eyes worriedly at him. He smiled and reached under the boat for a blanket. He wrapped it around their tired bodies and laid them both down, pulling her safely against him. He listened as her breathing evened out, knowing that he needed to sleep too. Too many sleepless nights down here with only inert desire keeping him company had taken their toll.

It wasn't long before the chill rose from the floor and crept into his bones. He looked down at Jen and wanted to roll on top of her. Kiss her awake and worship her body all over again. He settled for running his fingers down her arm, and she shifted and sighed.

"I'm hungry" she murmured against his skin.

He chuckled slightly and tightened his grip on her. She placed a kiss on his collar bone, tongue darting out and in. But he was tired. Spent, and comfortably numb.

Wanna go out?" he asked gently, and felt her shake her head.

She lifted herself onto an elbow, her hair falling over one shoulder, trailing over his skin.

"Lets order in" she said with a smile.

He lifted his hand and cupped her face, his thumb grazing over her cheekbone, running along her lower lip. She leant into the touch.

"What'd you have in mind?"

Jen rolled onto her stomach and looked at him from underneath a curtain of hair.

"Oh I don't know" she said mischievously. "How would you feel about ... sushi?"

Here be the end of Lovers Leap. We hope you have enjoyed it as much as we enjoyed writing it. Thank you for all the reviews and PM's.

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