A/N - well, this is it folks. Thank you so much for all of your reviews.
Six months later…
The first indication McGee had that his coffee date had arrived was the man in a dark suit who appeared at the door of the coffee shop. They exchanged nods – having become accustomed to each other over the last few months. But the coffee shop was busy and, even though it was DC, the security detail drew attention. McGee wasn't the only person who looked at the door in time to see a woman with red hair, wearing a bright green coat come striding through it – moving implausibly quickly given the size of her heels.
Jenny smiled at him as she slid into the booth, reaching for the coffee he'd already ordered for her. Her first question was about the imminent publication of his new book and before he knew it he was telling her about his latest struggle with his publisher over his refusal to undertake any promotion.
This woman knew him as well as anyone else – and in a completely different way to most people in his life. His natural reticence had kicked in the first time they'd met after she'd renewed her relationship with Gibbs but it had taken her about 10 minutes to cast that aside; to reassure him that she could be his friend as well as Gibbs' lover. Now he wasn't sure why he had ever doubted her.
Her confidence in him was infectious; his shooting was better, he was offering more ideas and suggestions during investigations and even Tony seemed to have noticed and backed off the teasing - a little. But the change wasn't one-sided. The woman before him was light years away from the woman he'd first met six months before. He couldn't see the weight of her job in her face any longer; instead she seemed freer and happier. Though he was sure a lot of that was down to Gibbs, he allowed himself a little of the credit.
"I have something for you," he was slightly nervous, it had seemed like such a good idea when it had first occurred to him. He placed one of the first copies of his new book on the table – it was fresh from the printers.
"Oh – is this it!" She reached eagerly for the book, "can I ask you to sign it for me?" She looked up at him, her expression slightly worried, "tell me I'm not in it?"
"You're not," he reassured, "well – you do make a very small guest appearance."
"I'd better not." She opened the book and as she read the first page her expression changed. She covered her mouth with her hand – shocked, surprised and moved. He'd signed his name in one corner, but it wasn't that which almost made her cry. It was the book's dedication, which read,
'For Jenny – you can rescue me whenever you like.'
"Your girlfriend is driving me crazy," Gibbs didn't look up from working on the boat as Fornell descended the steps to the basement. He certainly didn't point out that Jen drove him crazy as well, because he doubted that they were talking about the same thing at all. He did smile a little at the thought of the woman in question and wondered if the fact that Fornell was here meant that she was finished for the night – or if he'd done something that involved her having to work late.
Although Tobias grumbled about her, there was little of the spite that had characterised his description of Jenny six months earlier. He'd come to terms with her - more or less. Gibbs was sympathetic, since he was sure she was a nightmare to work for; not least because she knew all the tricks and appeared to have invented a few of her own along the way.
But he didn't work for her and over the last six months they'd gradually eased into a relationship that made him - happy. He and Jenny were careful of one another, protective of what they had and discrete when it came to the outside world. They weren't hiding anything, but they valued their privacy and tried hard to hold onto it.
His team had been, bemused to learn he was involved with someone – and were still getting over the identity of the woman in question. Except for McGee of course, who had followed him into the elevator a few days after he and Jenny had got back together and told him quite bluntly that she was his friend, would continue to be his friend and if Gibbs didn't like it that was too bad. In response Gibbs had shrugged and told him that it wasn't a problem, which was more or less the truth.
The Director had been worried, at least initially. But, with Fornell back at work, Jen had wisely decided that he would continue to handle any liaison between the two agencies.
"Have a drink," Gibbs offered – trying to distract Tobias, because he wasn't going to stand here and listen to him bitch.
"Emily wants to know if you're bringing Jenny to her birthday party." Gibbs grinned, knowing that Emily's father was probably hoping the answer was 'no'. It had to be his worst nightmare, Emily adored Jenny and whenever she was around followed her every move with big eyes.
"Planning to." Emily wasn't the only who'd been charmed by her. She'd won Abby over, Tony thought she was hot, Ducky made no secret of the fact that he believed she was very good news and a couple of weeks ago he'd found her discussing guns with Ziva.
For a woman who had struggled to build relationships with her own agents she was doing a pretty good job with his. But he supposed the fact that she wasn't their boss helped.
The FBI had come around as well. Somehow several agents who had previously worked with Jenny had been transferred to DC and their trust and respect for her had encouraged others to see her in the same light. Gibbs had detected Fornell's hand in those transfers – but knew better than to ask him about it.
"I can't get over how much Emily likes her."
"She's good with kids," Gibbs pointed out.
"Yeah – you wouldn't consider knocking her up would you, keep her off my back for a couple of months?" Gibbs stilled at the words and then made himself turn round to Fornell, who looked mortified. "Can we just forget I said that?"
Not surprised to find the front door was unlocked, Jenny slipped into the house, dropping her briefcase and bag on the kitchen table and carefully depositing the take out she'd picked up.
Her gaze lingered on her bag, where the book Tim had given her was safely tucked away. She'd been extremely touched by the gesture; he was a very good friend – and not just because he'd introduced her to the difficult, charming and altogether complicated man she'd spend the last six months getting to know. A man who she was fairly certain was downstairs in the basement.
Their relationship wasn't without complications – people still felt the need to tell her about his reputation for being difficult, especially with other agencies. And he struggled with the intimacy – even though he probably wouldn't describe it in those terms. It wasn't the physical intimacy, she was having the best sex she'd had in years, but emotionally he could be – remote. At least she knew the cause for that now, understood that it wasn't her. But it didn't make it any easier.
She was happy and she wished she could be certain that he would even allow himself to feel anything close to the same.
Gibbs smiled as she wandered down into the basement – glad to see her, enjoying the way she fit into his surroundings. They spent a lot of their time at his place – though he liked her apartment more than he'd expected to. He liked the sofa and fireplace in the living room, the large bed and he was even fond of the double shower in her bathroom. Of course it was just conceivable that he liked being around her and that the location didn't matter too much, as long as she was there.
Sometimes when he caught himself feeling happy, he didn't know what to do. He felt guilty about going on with his life and always before it had been that guilt which had made him pull away. But this time he was fighting to hold on, to find a way to accommodate his past, his present and his future. He wasn't sure if Jenny realised how different she was from anyone else who had come into his life since Shannon and knew that somehow he should find a way to tell her.
But maybe not right now. She ran a warm hand over his back and pressed her body into his side when he lifted an arm to wrap around her shoulders, drawing her close. He pressed a kiss to the top of her head as her hand travelled down his spine, pausing for a moment at the back pocket of his jeans, before insinuating itself around the inside of his thigh in a way that make him suck in a breath.
He smiled into her hair – she was surprisingly tactile, touching him frequently when they were together, even when there were other people present. He loved it, but wasn't planning on telling her so – there was no knowing what she would be encouraged to do if she knew that. He'd discovered that she had a decidedly wicked streak.
"I brought food," she murmured, "you hungry?"
"Yeah," but he didn't let her go and she didn't seem in any hurry to move.
"Visitor?" She asked, nodded to the second glass on the workbench.
"Fornell dropped by."
"Singing my praises no doubt?" He didn't respond to that, since they both knew it was unlikely. Tobias didn't sing anyone's praises.
"He wanted to know if we're going to make it to Emily's birthday party?"
"I'm hoping to, though it depends on whether Emily's father behaves himself and doesn't add to my workload. I picked her up a present a couple of days ago – something she's been asking for."
"Jen, tell me you haven't brought her a kitten?" He said looking down at her, not putting it past her for a second and knowing that Tobias and Diane would go crazy.
"I haven't brought her a kitten, besides – she wants a pony now," she said, smiling mischievously at him and slipping out of his embrace.
"If you've brought her a pony you're definitely on your own."
"I haven't brought her a pony either – I promise. Wouldn't want to send Fornell back to hospital."
"You're as bad as each other," he said reaching for the remains of his bourbon, "he wanted to know if I could get you pregnant so he could have a couple of months break."
He hadn't really planned to repeat that comment, but since they were joking about Fornell it had just slipped out. When she didn't reply straight away he turned to look at her.
"I admire his optimism," she said carefully, "but I doubt he'd survive the pregnancy hormones." But the response had taken her a second too long, there was an almost catch in her voice that seemed to mirror something he'd seen in her eyes for a fraction of a second. He didn't know if he should ask her about it, but the mood had shifted and he didn't completely understand why. "I think I'll go and sort out the food."
He listened to her footsteps as he put away his tools, cleaned away and poured another drink. His mind strayed back two months or so, to the night he'd told her about Shannon and Kelly.
She hadn't reacted like anyone else, certainly not like Diane, who'd been angry that he had left it so long to tell her, or Stephanie, who'd cried. Jenny had listened to him quietly, slipping her hand into his at one point – letting him know she was there. When he got to the end she'd told him how sorry she was for his loss and that she was glad he'd told her. And then later, when it should have been time for bed, she'd called her detail and had them pick her up to take her home.
She'd stayed away for several nights, not calling him, making no attempt to keep in touch. He'd given her the space she seemed to need – but wasn't sure what he'd do if she never came back. He was on the point of asking McGee, of all people, if he knew what was happening – when she came back.
They hadn't mentioned it, he assumed she was coming to terms with his history and appreciated the fact that she didn't seem to be pushing him to open up more. It was one of the things that made him think that he might actually be able to talk to her. But now he wondered what else had been going on for her, what else she'd been dealing with.
She was taking Chinese food out of containers as he reached the kitchen, "do we need to talk about this?" he asked. He wasn't a man who found it easy to talk, so he hoped she appreciated what he was offering.
"There's nothing to talk about."
"Jen," his arms around her made it difficult to maintain the façade. "I didn't mean to upset you," he told her. "I didn't know you wanted kids." She stiffened in his arms and he knew that he'd guessed right.
"It's too late," she said quietly, "I'm too old – I could just do without the reminder, that's all." She had spent several nights not too long ago coming to terms with the fact that being serious about him meant giving up on the idea of children of her own. She hadn't been holding out much hope anyway, knew she'd left it too late, putting her career first for all these years. She didn't regret her decisions, didn't even regret this one. And that was why she'd come back to him.
He tightened his hold on her, "you're not too old – and I thought we'd agreed that we weren't going to assume."
"You didn't have children with any of your ex-wives," she pointed out - because if she'd assumed it hadn't exactly been without evidence. He couldn't argue with her, it was true - even if he hadn't ever actually made that decision; or even thought about it in those terms.
"Things change." He surprised himself by being prepared to admit that and by realising that he meant it.
She turned around in his arms, trying to work out what he was telling her – not sure if he knew himself. "So, we could talk about it?" she suggested, almost shyly. He couldn't let that pass.
"If we must, but I'm pretty sure talking alone isn't what's needed in this situation." The comment made her roll her eyes but it also meant that the seriousness of their conversation dissolved into something different, something uniquely theirs. She could stand here and talk about it, try to understand what had brought about the change – or she could accept it and be happy. It took her a very short time to chose the latter course.
"I'm aware of that." She wrapped an arm around his neck, bringing their bodies into close contact. "We aren't getting any younger," she whispered, letting her other hand drift along the fastening of his shirt – caressing the buttons but not unfastening them, "we shouldn't waste any time."
She slipped out of his grasp, heading towards the door, not at all surprised when he caught her after just a few steps, drawing her into a kiss that was passionate as well as tender. He practically pulled her up the stairs to his bedroom, though she needed little persuasion to follow him.
On their way she caught sight of herself in a mirror and traced the existence of the smiling, laughing women reflected there to a Sunday afternoon, when she had helped a stranger. It had definitely been one of her better decisions.
Coming next... look out for a Xmas fic collaboration