Disclaimer: Do I really have to say this again?
Epilogue: Not As It Seems: The last time case file 54 crossed her desk, Paula Ravenwood had a closet for an office and an NCIS partner. Now, just shy of eight years later, she had a real office as DESI's head of foreign and domestic relations, and no partner at all.
Nash had managed to escape a year ago, and while there had been an effort to recapture him, it hadn't been a priority because he'd stayed quiet. Until now, anyway. Two days before, Alan Greer's body had been found in the Delaware River, not too far from the Walt Whitman Bridge in Philadelphia. At his house, local cops had found a note, unsigned, that read, I hear the Delaware's chilly this time of year.
If Nash had found Greer, it was safe to assume he knew Paula's true identity – and Jenny's. If that was the case, both of them were in danger. But she knew she wouldn't be able to tell Jenny, not yet. Hasling was having her watched. You'd think he would have learned by now that you can't monitor a telepath without her knowing about it. But knowing didn't change the fact that she had no way to let Jenny know without alerting Hasling's spies. What she needed was some sort of excuse to spill the beans.
Two Months Later
Jenny sat at the desk in her study, staring off into space. It hadn't been easy watching Carson leave with his father, though she was glad that the boy and his family had a happy ending. Something about having him in her house, and the conversation with Jethro that night, had dredged up old memories of a mission no one else knew about. Memories of an old woman who cornered two red-haired agents in a New Orleans alley and warned them about their futures. The palm reader had been right, at least about her. She'd reached the top, but somehow, it no longer seemed worth the price she'd paid.
Shaking her head to clear it, she began sorting through the papers on her desk. She frowned when she noticed a folded piece of paper that she was sure hadn't been there before. She unfolded it and read what was written there. Ready to go swimming in the Potomac?
Nash. It had to be. When had he gotten out? And why hadn't she been told? Scowling, she reached for the phone. She had a call to make.
Paula's phone rang, and she glanced at the caller ID. It was Jenny. "Hello?"
"Were you ever going to tell me that Nash escaped?"
"If you gave me an excuse."
"Hasling was watching."
"Oh, of course. Isn't he retiring soon?"
"Yes, thank God. Jen, what are you going to do? I mean, it's not like you can tell anyone about this new threat."
"I could just say I've been threatened, and not give any more information. I could pretend I don't know anything else. I'd still be allowed to increase my detail."
"Jenny, you know a larger detail won't be enough to stop him."
"So I should just let him kill me?"
"No… but you could make him think he's too late."
"Fake my death, you mean? Isn't that a little drastic?"
"Well, maybe," Paula conceded. "It's up to you. But I suggest having a plan in place."
"All right. So, let's say I agree. Then what? A car accident?"
"Or a fall down the stairs, though a crash is probably better. Easier to set up, plus if the car explodes, there's no evidence. What are you going to do?"
"I don't know yet. I'll let you know.
Five Weeks Later
The past five weeks had been hell for Jenny, culminating in her learning that William Decker had died in California. Prior to that, she'd had a health scare, Jethro interrogating her about said health scare, and the FBI invading her agency and accusing her of murdering the Frog. She hadn't, though half of her wished she had. Then she'd have the satisfaction as well as the hassle.
She'd taken two weeks off, and she was going back to work tomorrow. Decker's funeral was in two days, which was why she hadn't sent Vance packing yet. He would cover for her one final time before returning to San Diego.
Or at least, that was the plan until she saw another folded note on the desk. Swallowing hard, she picked it up and opened it. You don't want to swim, 'Jessica'? Well, that's fine, I'll pick someone else, like that pretty little sister of yours, or maybe your old partner. There's a few more choices too… This should be fun.
She was pretty sure her heart stopped for a moment. Before, she hadn't been scared, at least not very. People gunning for her, while not an everyday occurrence, was acceptable in her book. People gunning for the ones she cared about, however… No, that was not allowed. And it was all because of her. This meant only one thing. She had to take herself out of the equation.
She poured herself a glass of bourbon and called Paula.
"I've decided to go through with your plan to play dead," Jenny said flatly. No second-guessing herself now, not when she didn't know what Nash might do next.
"All right. How and when?" Paula didn't bother to question her; she just went straight to the practicalities.
"Car accident, like we discussed. As for when, I'm flying out to L.A. in two days for a funeral, so we'll set it up once I come back."
"OK." And then, because she had to ask, Paula added, "Are you sure about this?"
"He's threatened to target people I care about. So yeah, I'm sure."
"Well, then we'll get to work when you come back from California."
"Fine. Just one thing. Alex has to know the truth."
"I wouldn't dream of keeping it from her. Anyone else?"
"No, there's no one. Alex only has to know because she'd take it hard if I died."
"And no one else would? I find that hard to believe."
"Trust me; I know what I'm talking about." And her tone allowed for no argument. As much as she wished things were different, they weren't. She'd done it to herself, which only made it worse.
They hung up after that. Paula got herself a glass of vodka and took a sip, thinking about who to call. Her gaze landed on her calendar. She had to be in London in two days anyway to talk to James Lester about sending one of his people to D.C. to assist in DESI's new anomaly program, and it would give her the perfect excuse to talk to Ashley. Ashley Stafford, the Torchwood agent who owed her a favor. Maybe it was time to call that in.
Jenny drained her glass and filled it again, staring at the blank sheet of paper on her desk. Picking up her pen, she wondered for the thousandth time what to write. She'd spent the last three years trying to find the words for this, it seemed. She knew who the letter was for, at least; she could write that much.
Two Days Later
Oshimaida. A word Jenny had hoped she'd never hear. She'd had her suspicions when Will had turned up dead, but she'd prayed she was wrong. But she hadn't been, as some part of her had already known. And now that her past was coming back to haunt her yet again – as though Nash wasn't enough! – well… Now it ended. One way or another.
"Still worried I'm going to run this place into the ground, Paula?"
"No, Cole, I know Gemini Investigations is safe in your hands. I just like to swing by now and then."
"Maybe you should 'swing by' the Manor more often," Phoebe commented archly.
"Or you lot could come to D.C.," Paula shot back irritably.
"Ease down, ladies," Cole cut in.
"Sorry," Paula told them both. "It's just…" She thought about how to say it. "I've got a new op starting, and it's stressing me out." Which was all true, as far as it went.
"Is that why you're playing with your pocketknife?" Phoebe asked, plucking the closed knife from Paula's hand. "Because it's really ann – " She stopped abruptly, her eyes glazing over as a premonition hit.
Her eyes cleared a moment later and she dropped the knife, her face pale. "Paula, where'd you get that knife?"
"My friend Jenny," Paula said with a sick feeling in the pit of her stomach. "Why?"
"Red hair, green eyes, early to mid-forties?"
"Yeah, that's her. Phoebe, what did you see?"
"I think she's in trouble."
Three Days Later
"So, Leon, how does it feel to be Director?" Paula asked.
Vance glared at the sunglasses-wearing redhead. "I'm not sure this is a good idea. I'm still a DESI shadow agent, as you well know."
"Look at it as a trial run. You're Hasling's heir apparent; this is good practice for you."
"Right," he said dryly. "So, did Nash or his accomplice show up?"
"Not that I could tell. My sister didn't pick anything up either."
"Is she a telepath too?"
"Oh. Are you even sure he has an accomplice?"
"The identities of the agents involved in his arrest were top secret. Yeah, he has someone on the inside, either here or at NCIS. Especially since we know he's also the one who fed that Russian woman the names she needed."
"Great. But they weren't here, so do they know we're on to them?"
"They may have been here. Nash is a projective null, and he's good at disguises or we'd have found him by now."
"Wonderful." His gaze traveled over the mourners, landing on one woman in particular, a woman whose hands held a folded flag in a white-knuckled grip. "You might have finally made an enemy of Alex, you know," he observed quietly.
Paula glanced over at Alex Shepard, who was now being led away by a man she recognized from SGC files as Jonas Quinn. The older woman turned her head and met Paula's gaze head-on, her bright green eyes blazing with anger. "She knows it was necessary."
"Maybe, but that may just make her even angrier. I was her mentor when she was first recruited, hell, I recruited her myself. I know her."
"Then you talk to her."
Vance scowled. "Is there anything else, Ravenwood?" he snapped.
"Just the one thing." She kept her eyes on the people now leaving Arlington, focusing on one group in particular. She'd thought it out, and there really was nothing else she could do. Vance, following her line of sight, sighed.
"Gibbs' team," he said tiredly. "You want them split up."
"Temporarily. Just to distract them, make sure they don't have time to come up with awkward questions. I don't want them digging. Do you?"
"No." Vance didn't even want to think about the disaster that would be. Which was why he'd come to the same conclusion. It was just one more reason to move the players around. "It's already done. I'm telling them today."
Paula grinned. She should have known Vance would pick up on the risks. "All right. Well, I'd better go before Phoebe gets angry with me."
She went to her sister's side and they left the cemetery together. On the way out they passed Gibbs' team. Paula ignored the niggling guilt she felt when she saw them, even when Dr. Mallard shot her an angry glare.
However, she couldn't ignore Phoebe's sharp intake of breath when they passed. Her sister looked like she'd been punched in the stomach. "Phoebe?"
"In the car. Now."
OK, so maybe bringing an empath to a funeral was a form of cruel and unusual punishment, but she'd needed another pair of psychic 'eyes', so to speak. And Phoebe could have said no. Considering her sisters' dislike of her job, she hadn't expected her to agree.
"What's up, Phoebe?" she asked once they were in the car. Surely the mole wasn't on Gibbs' team – or Gibbs himself. The way Jenny had talked about them over the years…
"Tell me you didn't know, Paula."
Huh? "Didn't know what?"
"How much your friend's 'death' would affect that one group."
Oh. Paula sighed. "You always know someone will be hurt. Most people have at least one person to grieve for them."
"Don't you care?"
"It's better than the alternative. The person's not really dead, and usually that's revealed in time."
"So you're going to tell them?"
Shit. "This early in the game? I just don't know." Then there was the fact that Jenny had asked her not to, but she didn't think it was a good idea to bring that up.
"You have to," Phoebe asserted. "She's part of their family. And…"
"The man with the silver hair and really blue eyes? He loves her, and he's lost people he loved before. It's not fair, Paula."
She'd picked up on that too, damn it. She'd picked up on everything her sister had said. And her heart had hurt for them and for Jenny, who for whatever reason wasn't aware that they felt so strongly about her. But there just wasn't anything she could do about it. Sometimes she really felt as though she were the oldest sister, rather than half of the youngest pair. She seemed to be the only one who understood that sometimes you had to do things that seemed wrong, even cruel. "No, it's not. But I've done all I can right now. Later… It all depends."
"Maybe, but that's how it is." Cold, but true.
"No, it's being practical."
"You have to tell them."
Paula glanced over. Phoebe's expression was stubborn, but Paula could be just as determined as her sisters.
"That's not your call."
"You like hurting them, don't you?"
"No, I don't. I'm doing the best I can for all concerned. And the fact that you would even ask that makes me wonder just how well you actually know me."
The rest of the drive was silent. Paula blocked Phoebe's thoughts from her mind, focusing on what was coming. Jenny was more or less settled in London, Vance would see to it that Gibbs and company would be kept busy for a while, and Dr. Mallard had reluctantly agreed to keep Jenny's secret.
As for what was going to happen… Paula didn't know. It was too soon to tell, but she had a feeling that whatever happened, it was going to be one hell of a ride. She just didn't know if that was a good thing or a bad one.
A/N: And that, my friends, concludes Paradigm Shift, but the story continues in Off the Grid, available in my profile. Thanks for reading and I hope you check out the sequel. Also, there are three tag fics for this story, To Do No Harm, Need to Know, and The Magic of Hot Chocolate, so check them out too.