Hi lovely people who decided to open up this web page. Do you all remember Ducky's story in Smoked? Where the French police issued a warrant for his arrest. Well.... Ta Da! I had slight problems with the timeline and couldn't exactly figure out when this happened, so I decided to put it after Gibbs gets the Dear John, but not long afterwards. Jenny is still in Europe and Ducky and Gibbs have come in from the US. So without further ado, I present to you Chapter One! (applause please)

Disclaimer: I don't own any characters, locations or plots from NCIS. I have the utmost respect for the writers, producers and directors and do not intend to infringe any copyright laws. I am writing this for my enjoyment and the enjoyment of others.


Chapter One

7 August 2000

Hotel D'Arago, Paris

9.15 p.m. (2015 GMT)

A surprisingly solemn and silent, summer night greeted the Parisians as the sun set over the horizon and a chilly breeze had begun to set in. A Monday night it was, yet there was still an unusual amount of calm in the air across the city. The lit skyline of Paris was even more breathtaking by night, it's nickname of 'La Ville-Lumière' or 'The Light City' well earned. But it was the crisp evening air, after a temperature drop from twenty-six degrees Celsius to thirteen that sent chills down everybody's spines.

It was these chills that ate away at the instincts of Leroy Jethro Gibbs. His intuition, or gut feeling as he referred to it so often as, was suggestive of grim event ahead. And his gut never let him down.

"Cool night, Jethro?" Gibbs' comrade, Dr. Donald Mallard, more affectionately known as Ducky, asked from inside their shared one-bedroom suite.

Gibbs was standing outside on the balcony, his arms crossed comfortably as he leant against the railing, basking in the beauty of the cityscape, constantly reminding himself that there would be no time for sight-seeing tomorrow. "A bit cooler, Duck," he called back inside. Drawing himself away from the few vehicles on the street in front of him, he took the giant step back into the warmer refuge of their hotel suite.

"One bed?" Gibbs questioned needlessly, staring at the structure in the centre of the room. He looked around, taking in the features and sites of their sanctuary for the next few days. He was pleased to locate a couch next to the desk, one that bore a striking resemblance to a settee, but he would make do.

"This is Europe, Jethro," Ducky pointed out with a small smile creeping across his lips.

"Yeah, well, I'll take the couch," Gibbs announced begrudgingly. To further his point, he heaved his body down on to the couch and pulled a file out of his black briefcase. How he managed to remove the one file from the case without disturbing the mess surrounding it was beyond the grasp of Ducky's knowledge. But then again, Gibbs had his own expert, yet unorthodox, way of doing things and he was not about to question them.

Gibbs, with a pen resting above his left ear, was intent on studying the case file he'd received almost as soon as his flight had landed three hours ago until he could recite it from memory. The file was made up of intelligence reports from his agency, the Naval Criminal Investigative Service or simply NCIS, as well as the NSA and CIA. It also included documentation from Interpol on a homicide case. The murder of NCIS Special Agent Matthew Bellings right here in Paris. NCIS were attempting to investigate the case, but could not cut through the red tape stapled up by the French National Police.

So it was up to Special Agent Gibbs and Chief Medical Examiner Mallard to investigate the case outside the borders and jurisdiction of NCIS and probably without the help of the French Authorities. Unfortunately for Gibbs, he knew that it was likely to involve some illicit activity.

Gibbs was so engrossed in the file he was reading that he did not even notice his colleague step into the bathroom for a shower and re-emerge, refreshed, half an hour later. The file outlined as much as possible the operation Bellings was working on in Paris as well as past missions and his life back in the United States. His current mission was centred on the illegal arms trade across the Mediterranean and his main focus was the movement of said weapons through France to Cannes and across the French Riviera. There were agents in Rota, Marseille, Monaco, Dubrovnik and a few other ports of call.

"Did you know, Jethro, that the name of this place is the Hotel d'Arago?" Ducky asked, interrupting Gibbs' thoughts as he took a seat on the edge of the bed. He spoke with an attempt at a good French accent, but it was muddled by his English.

"I did know that, Duck," Gibbs answered without looking up from his reading. "I paid for it."

"Yes, well, I don't expect you to understand the significance. It refers to the Arago Rose Line, more commonly known as the Paris Meridian."

"Is that so?" Gibbs asked inattentively. He was far more concerned with the history of their former colleague and victim than the Parisian history of the hotel.

"Yes, it runs north to south and is distinguished on land by bronze plates," Ducky continued. He stood up and walked outside on to the balcony. Calling back inside to Gibbs, he near-shouted, "I can see two outside, Jethro. Marvellous, really. It was named after the French astronomer, Francois Arago and was a challenger of the Greenwich Meridian. Of course, the Rose Line was popularised by Priory of Sion mythology..."

Gibbs tuned out as his older English friend continued his great tale of the 1967 Priory of Sion document, Au Pays de la Reine Blanche. Bellings had reported the crooked dealings of officers in the Federal Police and illegal merchant dealers from across the Riviera. It seemed that there was a lot of money involved in arms trading across the Mediterranean Sea. Gibbs could not help but wonder where these weapons were sold to after they'd reached their buyers in the Mediterranean ports. Were they sold on to terrorist groups, militants or illicit spy rings? Would they be responsible for the deaths of hundreds of American soldiers and other NATO troops in the Kosovo war?

"Something troubling you?" Ducky asked as he re-entered the suite and locked the door behind him. The cold draught that had followed him in immediately fell away when the door was shut. Gibbs could feel the warmth coming back to his extremities.

"Just unanswered questions, Duck," Gibbs replied solemnly. He placed the file down on the desk and leaned back against the wall. "You should get some sleep. We'll have an early start in the morning. I need you to go to the Central Directorate of Judicial Police and petition for the case files on Special Agent Bellings' death."

"Ah, the Direction Centrale de la Police Judiciaire," Ducky reminisced, once again trying his hand at a French accent. "Why me?"

"Your credentials are better for this than my own," Gibbs answered shortly. "The last thing we need is for the Police Nationale to have reason to arrest foreign spies operating on French soil."

"Ah yes," Ducky agreed, but Gibbs got up and walked into the bathroom before he could launch into another account of his dealings with or knowledge about the French judicial system.

"Get some sleep, Ducky," Gibbs ordered from behind the bathroom door. "We'll have a long day tomorrow."

Ducky smiled as he heard Gibbs squeak on the taps in the shower. He closed his eyes and laid down on the bed, drifting off with the peaceful silence that engulfed the room.

---

7 August 2000

Jerez Airport, Spain

10.40 p.m. (2140 GMT)

The air in the southern Spanish region of Cadiz was distinguished by a comfortable warm breeze. It was a busy night in Jerez de la Frontera, but NCIS Special Agent Jennifer Shepard had plans to leave it all behind for the cooler winds of the country's northern neighbour. She'd just completed the thirty kilometre trip from the Rota US Naval Base, where she was currently stationed, to the nearest international airport and was catching one of the few flights that left that evening for Paris.

Her ex-mentor and ex-lover had arrived in the romantic city where they'd first met earlier than she expected. In a way, she was glad that she didn't have to meet him and his colleague, a Dr. Donald Mallard, that night, giving her one more day to present herself to the man she had hoped not to see again for a long while. In fact, she'd hoped that her heart would never again be disturbed by him. But fate had other plans for her. It seemed that Special Agent Gibbs was set to make a stir in her life once more and she couldn't even fault him for it. It was not his fault that he was in Paris, nor was it hers that she was sent there too. She was the most senior NCIS agent in Southern Europe and Bellings was one of her agents. And who better to send to investigate it than the legendary Leroy Jethro Gibbs and his medical examiner?

Yet all the pleasant reasons in the world could not deter Jenny from laying the blame with Gibbs for coming back to Europe. She had ended their relationship in pursuit of greater things with NCIS. She'd hoped that he would understand. But she knew that he wouldn't. His pride and stubbornness would not allow him to shed any light on her situation. He had tunnel vision and it only let him see one light in the world.

The urgent Spanish-speaking voice of a high-strung woman came over the P.A. system in the departures terminal. "Last call for Air France flight 218 to Paris." Picking up her ready bag, Jenny finally decided to accept her fate and board the aircraft. She was going to see Gibbs again.


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