MONDAY MORNING – JAG HQ

"I thought Marines never backed off from anything" said Harm.

"We don't." Mac replied quickly. "But going into the Admiral's office and telling him he has lipstick on his earlobe isn't a problem Harm, it's a suicide mission."

NCIS – THE PREVIOUS FRIDAY AFTERNOON

It had all started innocently enough. Admiral Albert Jethro (AJ) Chegwidden was attending a function at the White House and needed an escort. Now, being an unmarried male in Washington was one thing, but to add to the spice was the fact that he's over 6ft tall, has a devilish smile, gorgeous brown eyes, oozes sex appeal and looks spectacular in uniform. And none of his current "friends" would fit the bill for this so-called 'date'. What he needed was someone who was well-versed in the intricacies of dancing, politics and self-defence. He'd serious thought about asking Mac to accompany him, but when he'd casually thrown this forthcoming event into the conversation she expertly steered the subject in another direction. Clayton Webb would definitely be there and after their recent bust-up, the White House wasn't the place for a rematch.

And, that's why today AJ Chegwidden is paying a visit to NCIS. He wants to 'borrow' Ziva. A Mossad-trained assassin who's multi-lingual and adept at handling herself in tight situations is just what he needs. He's pretty sure that Director Vance will see things his way. Of course, Gibbs might be problematic but AJ is sure that he can persuade him round to his way of thinking. Naturally, Ziva will do as she's told. He's read her file from cover to cover and while it's not thick, it does contain a lot of information. "Yep", he thinks, "she's the girl to help me get to Ardilles".

His Escalade draws up to the NCIS security barrier and he shows his JAG ID. After a brief call from the gate to the Director's office he's passed through and parks in the visitor's section. He gets out and walks smartly into the building, where he meets Cynthia at the elevator. She takes him inside and they're whisked to Vance's floor.

A bored Tony is idly staring up towards MTAC when Cynthia comes into his line of sight. He sits up further when he sees the 2 Star Admiral walking beside her. It takes him all of 5 seconds to process who the Admiral is. With a quiet "Gibbs" he catches his boss's attention and nods in the direction of the gallery. Gibbs looks up, sees the two people and his eyebrows raise. He flicks back to Tony and shrugs his shoulders. "Probably just playing a courtesy visit to the new guy" he says and starts re-reading the cold case file.

Ziva hears the exchange, checks out the people and then returns to her file. The Admiral is unknown to her but she quietly files his face away for future reference. The Bishop case has her undivided attention for the time being.

Gibbs's phone rings. He listens for a moment, murmurs a brief assent and hangs up. "David, with me."

Ziva gets up and follows Gibbs, making a face at Tony as she passes. Tim is also a little confused. Why does the Director need to see Gibbs? What's Ziva got to do with it? Why aren't they all in on the briefing? Tim returns to the job in hand – replacing the sound card in his computer – wondering if anybody will tell any of them anything, but secretly hoping that this weekend will be work-free. He's almost at the end of his new book and 2 days of peace should see it finished. Providing, of course, Gibbs, Ziva and Vance co-operate.

A few minutes later Tim's hopes are dashed as an irate Gibbs takes the stairs 2 at a time, grabs his jacket and heads for the lifts. He's definitely off on a coffee run, he's definitely not happy, and Tim and Tony look at each other. Ziva storms downstairs, throws herself into a chair, and starts to mutter in a mixture of languages. Neither man is aware of what she's saying but both instinctively know it's not good. A few words in Spanish are easily translated by Tony – and they're not polite. He mouths "Abby" towards Tim and they both rise and go to the stairs, that way avoiding the possibility of running into Gibbs on the return. Neither of them look back and see Vance and AJ stand on the Gallery and watch the scene unfold. And neither of them hear the rapid, rude Hebrew spouted forth by their incandescent workmate.

"Going to be difficult AJ" says Vance. "Ziva's English isn't top-notch, she's mad at being ordered to attend a party with you, Gibbs is unhappy that you're not sharing the intel, and the rest of the team are in the firing line".

Drawing himself up to his full 6ft 3ins height AJ looks Vance in the eye and says "I don't need Ziva's English to be top-notch; as long as her French, Spanish and Italian are ok that's all I need. If Gibbs is unhappy with the way I'm running things then tough. He'll take orders from you, and the same will go for his team. And, judging by the way Ziva's ranting on down there, I've picked the right one. No-one in my office has the requisite language skills, her firearms certification went through fine last week, she can handle herself in awkward situations and she's highly presentable. That's all I need. Someone who'll pass muster."

Vance raises an eyebrow: "AJ, she's got to be 20 years your junior …." His words are cut off by an impatient grunt from the Admiral.

"I'm not asking her to marry me. I just need to take her to a party; get Ardilles interested, then steal his keycard and get out. We'll be there at 8 and if it all goes to plan, she'll be home by midnight. End of story". AJ clamped his cover on his head, spun around and headed for the stairs. He blew past a still-swearing Ziva, nodded at Gibbs who just exited the elevator and took the next car down to the exit and his Escalade.

AJ is a man of action, a man who plans thoroughly. He's erudite, clever, and meticulous; he leaves nothing to chance and plans for as many contingencies as he can think of. However, this time his planning, action and foresight will come to nothing when he's thwarted by a broken shoe strap, and an unwelcome face from the past.