Disclaimer: See Chapter 1.

Chapter Twelve

11 August 2000

English Channel, 26 miles from Portsmouth

6.46 p.m. (1846 GMT)

Luck or divine intervention, whatever you wanted to call it, they managed to escape Le Havre harbour miles ahead of the French Coast Guard, putting them in a good position to disembark in Portsmouth, safely out of the reach of Corentin and his disciples. The calm waters coupled with the relaxing notion that they were finally a safe distance from the edge of the cliff brought a great deal of tranquillity to the boat, but Jenny knew better than to take such peacefulness at face value.

They were at the eye of the storm. The worst was still to come if they could not convince Europol to intervene. The French state has sovereignty after all, and no outside organisation has the perceived right to intervene unless they can establish that right. Unless Jenny could establish an ongoing, illicit and international operation placing Didier Raoul Corentin, a section chief for the DCPJ, at the centre of it, there was no guarantee of intervention, either by the part of Europol or the EU, or the French government, which meant that that whole party, including DuPonte's death, was for nothing.

The back-to-back action of the past few days had left little time for Jenny to contemplate her original orders. "We cannot afford to damage the ties we have with the French government," Director Morrow had told her explicitly. She'd spent too much time with Gibbs and she knew it— bending the rules to get results. Well, her actions definitely damaged something in the French government, and it was probably their ego in the international community. A senior police official, a navy captain and experienced politician all involved in the same mishap. This certainly would not look good for the French government and it would be even worse for them if Europol or the European Union had to intervene on the behalf of justice and arrest each man independently. Yes, Jenny knew, ties with the government will definitely be soured, if they hadn't already. Then there was all the illegal activity that she'd been involved in over the past few days... Jenny didn't even want to go into that.

"You okay?"

The deeper, male voice broke a gaping hole through the thoughts that were ravaging her conscience and mind. She should've known that he was there before he announced himself, sensed his arrival through some bizarre form of intuition or at least heard his loud breathing, but she did not. It was a mark of how much she'd closed herself off to the outside world.

"Just in my own little world, Jethro," Jenny answered bristly. She was still sitting on the wooden deck on the bow, her back and head resting against the frame of the ship.

Gibbs sighed and joined her on the floor. "You thinking of DuPonte? He seemed like a nice guy. Shame about what happened to him."

"Alexandre knew what he was getting into," Jenny told him, convincing herself of that at the same time as Gibbs. "He was prepared to do whatever was necessary to bring Corentin and his men to justice, even if it led to his death."

"Brave man," Gibbs commented. An awkward pause then gripped their conversation, a deafening silence rippling through the yacht, reiterating the dread of the eye of the storm. Gibbs was biting the interior of his lower lip nervously. He wanted to ask Jenny something, actually, a few somethings, but he couldn't quite find the words.

"Spit it out, Jethro, before it gags you," Jenny warned darkly. Her intuition served her well when it came to Gibbs and what he was thinking.

"Who was that man on the wharf that you were staring at?"

"Why does it matter to you?"

"He nearly stopped you from doing your job and I want to know why," Gibbs replied coldly.

"I did my job," Jenny retorted with a dark laugh. "And you don't need to pretend to worry about me anymore, Jethro. I'm not your concern or responsibility anymore." She stood up to walk away and glanced back at his solemn form on the floor. "You'll return to DC as soon as we get to Portsmouth and I'll probably go on to The Hague. After today, this will all just be a bad memory." And with that, she walked away from him.

They arrived in Portsmouth not long after and were escorted into the port by British Royal Navy assault crafts. At first, Jenny was concerned that they would be arrested by the British and handed over to the French, but her concerns went away when she saw a very familiar African American man standing idly by in the centre of the wharf as Gibbs and Ducky moored their yacht.

"You stole a boat, Jenny?" the man asked as she disembarked.

"Commandeered, Leon," Jenny answered, her expression proving that rather ecstatic by his presence. "Nautical term."

"Of course. Agent Gibbs, Doctor Mallard." Vance nodded to each of them and then turned her attention back to Jenny as they walked in pairs towards the central terminal. "Do you have any idea what sort of international incident you caused?"

"I have evidence implicating several members of the French upper echelon in an arms smuggling scheme," Jenny answered, pulling a file out of her dampened ready bag. "Capitaine Andrè Foucaine, French Navy, Jean-Baptiste de Larcy, National Assembly and the man we suspect to be at the head of the operation, Didier Roaul Corentin from the Central Directorate of Judicial Police. He's the section chief of the Sub-Directorate of Criminal Businesses. I only found that part out when he was chasing us so vehemently."

"I know that you've had an interesting day today," Vance agreed, taking the file from her hands and flicking through the photographs she'd taken earlier that day with DuPonte. "What happened to the French Intelligence officer that was with you?"

"Alexandre DuPonte. He was shot dead by Corentin as we fled from Le Havre."

Vance nodded but did not offer his sympathies, even though he could sense that Jenny had grown attached to him. "We are flying to The Hague tonight. Jethro, Doctor Mallard, your orders are to return DC tonight. I have booked charted flights for all of us leaving Southampton Airport in an hour, so we need to get a move on."

Jenny nodded, inwardly thinking how much she wanted a shower before briefing the Europol agents, but she knew they had no time to waste. By now, Corentin and his men could have flown somewhere with no extradition and they would lose them forever. After DuPonte gave his life, Jenny could not let that happen.

The hour-long car journey to the airport was a quiet one. Vance asked them all questions about their investigation, where they'd gone and who they met. He asked Gibbs and Ducky about their time in French custody and Jenny about her experiences at the warehouse, typing it all into an email that he was going to send to the Director. Jenny hadn't spoken to Gibbs since she walked away from him, but she knew that he was etching to say something.

As they filed through Customs at the small airport terminal, with Jenny finally using her own name on official documentation, the time was fast approaching for them to go their separate ways. Using the excuse of a desperately required trip to the bathroom, Jenny slipped away from the group and stumbled into the empty bathroom, grateful for the few moments she would get to herself. But the bathroom did not remain empty for long. Gibbs had followed her in, ignoring the laws of social etiquette to get a few words in with Jenny before they departed.

"I don't want things to end like this between us, Jenny," he told her, pinning her body between his and the basin.

"We are going our separate ways," Jenny reiterated. "This is what is best for the both of us. Now, please, move out of my way." She was blinking back tears and he knew it, because in a flash, he was cupping her cheek and wiping the only falling tear from her cheek.

"I don't want to lose you," he whispered softly.

She was doing her best to stay strong, but his voice was pleading. Regardless of her weakness, she managed to summon the required strength to push him away, the walls around her heart shooting up as the facade she so often tried to maintain took hold. Jenny looked him square in the eye and threw back an angry retort. "You have already lost me."

Gibbs doubled back, shock and disappointment rife inside him as he slackened his grip on the basin and let her pass. Jenny stormed out of the bathroom and he knew that was the last straw between them, but she had one final blow to deal.

"I never want to see you again."


So I do hope that this story was enjoyable to all of you that read it. I would also like to let you know that I am co-writing with a friend of mine on a series of JIBBS pre-series Europe fics. Our pen name is Future Ex-Wives 5 and 6 and the first fic, with a working title of Crash Course in Polite Conversation, should be up within a fortnight or so. Expect a lot of romance, drama, action and hot, hot scenes (both in and out of the bedroom).

Anyway, thank you so much for reading this story and please write me one last review. Even if you've never reviewed on this story before, I'd love to hear your thoughts.