By Gunnery Sergeant
Regrets, I've had a few
But then again, too few to mention
I did what I had to do
And saw it through without exemption
I planned each charted course
Each careful step along the byway
But more, much more than this
I did it my way
The notes of Frank Sinatra's "My Way" filled her study as Jennifer Shepard poured herself a shot of bourbon.
That night, that well-known song was touching a cord inside her and, for the first time in years, she found herself thinking about her regrets.
For a long time, Jenny had thought that all the sacrifices she had made in her life had reached their ends, as the song said, each careful step would bring her to the goal she had set for herself at the end of her five-point-plan. That once she had reached her objective she would feel fulfilled, and think, "Yes, I did it my way and I'm happy."
Now, after what she had heard and seen, she was no longer sure her choices had been for the best and 'the what-ifs' were crowding her mind, making her feel restless and anguished. As she sipped her bourbon, Jenny turned to look out of her window and thought of the events of the past two days…
Jenny put down the receiver and took a deep breath to calm herself. Tom Morrow's call had shaken her.
No, not shaken—it had filled her with excitement.
"Jenny, jump on the first plane to Washington. I've got big news for you," the NCIS Director had said, and now she couldn't contain the expectation bubbling inside her. Jenny had an idea of what kind of news she would receive once in Washington.
She might be the supervisor of NCIS operations in Europe, and she might no have set a foot in America for the past five years, but her net of contacts in the capital was very strong.
Her sources had told her Morrow had been offered the position of Deputy Director of Homeland Security and that Jenny's only real rival for the position of NCIS Director wasn't interested in the office—which didn't surprise her very much if this agent was the man she thought him to be.
Jenny wondered what it would feel like to see him again after seven years and to be his boss. Would he accept it? Or would he make her life difficult by questioning all her orders? Was he still angry with her? Did he still love her as, deep inside, she still loved him?
She pushed that thought away. What did it matter? She had decided long ago that Leroy Jethro Gibbs had no place in her private life, and that hadn't changed over the years.
Jenny had always wanted to be successful at everything she did: at school, at college, at work. She was ambitious and career-driven and when, after being hired by NCIS, she was assigned as Gibbs' junior agent, she had smirked in triumph. Despite going on his own only two years before, Gibbs was already considered the best senior field agent of the agency and having him as her mentor had been a stroke of luck.
Working with Gibbs in Europe had been a great formative experience, and so had been falling in love with Jethro—until Jenny realized that a twice divorced former-Marine that would rather shoot politicians than talk with them wasn't a good match for her. A woman like her needed a man that would support her career choices and ambitions, not someone who didn't know the meaning of politically correct.
Thus, when she and Gibbs were recalled to America at the end of their European assignment, she had gone behind his back and asked– no, insisted that she be reassigned. She had left Jethro at the Charles De Gaulle airport in Paris with her coat and a 'Dear John' letter, and moved to an administrative post in London. After all, she had never planned to be a field agent for long. Field agents didn't go very far in the ranks unless they had other skills, being them social, administrative or – to Jethro's great horror – technological.
Of course, it hadn't been a walk in the park. There were moments when, alone in her bed at night, Jenny longed for the warmth and comfort of strong arms wrapped around her, but they were only fleeting thoughts that disappeared in the light of the morning and the prospect of another day at work. She was married to her career and now her demanding spouse was about to give her the greatest reward: to be the first female director of a US armed agency.
Jenny smiled and raising the receiver, asked her secretary to book her a seat of the first flight to Washington.
As soon as Jenny arrived at the NCIS Headquarters in the Navy Yard, she was met by Morrow's assistant and led inside MTAC.
The room was darkened and several people were witnessing to some kind of operation on the big screens. Morrow was sitting in the back row and stood up when he saw her.
"Jenny," he said with a smile as they shook hands.
"Sir," she answered.
Morrow motioned her to sit at his side. He looked ahead as a car on the main screen was hit by a missile and exploded. Cheers and congratulations rose in the room.
Jenny applauded along with the others as Morrow turned to face her. "Jenny, you did a great job in Europe. We were all impressed by how well you worked with foreign agencies. This is why we have decided to promote you to Chief Supervisor of NCIS Special Operation here in America. We- the SecNav, the Director, and I— agree that the net of contacts you created in Europe will be useful to coordinate our international intel."
"The Director?" Jenny asked with a tightly controlled voice, not wanting Morrow to detect her crushing disappointment.
"Yes," Morrow said with a big smile. "The man I felt was destined to this position since the first time I met him—even if it took me and the SecNav months to convince him to accept the job," he shook his head, probably at some kind of memory, then continued. "I'm sure you remember him."
As if on cue a tall man stood up a couple of rows in front of her and it took all of Jenny's self control not to open her mouth in surprise when she recognized him.
"Hello Jen," his low, husky, never forgotten voice said as he stepped near her.
"Jethro," she whispered, standing up. Then she recovered her wits and corrected herself, "Director Gibbs, it's a pleasure to see you again."
Even in the dim light she could see his eyes narrow. He had sensed her insincerity—and really, she hadn't expected anything else from him.
"Walk with me, Special Agent Shepard," Jethro commanded, "we need to talk."
Seeing that Tom Morrow had disappeared during their awkward exchange, Jenny couldn't do anything but obey and follow him outside of MTAC to his new office, which was still pretty bare.
Jethro closed the door, offered her a drink that she refused, and leaned back against his desk as he looked at her, arms crossed over his chest. "So Jen, spit out whatever you want to say, so we can clear the air now and put this matter at rest," Jethro said, not mincing words as usual, blue eyes boring into hers.
She studied him for a moment then nodded curtly. "Why, Jethro? Why did you accept this position? I thought you hated politics."
"I do, but I can play the game if I must—and, apparently, both Tom and the SecNav think I must. They believe I'm the best man for this office, that no one knows NCIS and our job as well as I do, and that it's about time the directors of whole alphabet soup of agencies is shaken up by someone that's street-smart and not book-smart, and who climbed the ladder working on the streets and not warming a chair. This is just the summarized version of what they said during more conversations I care to remember," Jethro smirked, before sobering again. "And you know the truth, Jen? After thinking about what they said, I've realized they are right. For a long time I've believed this agency and its agents would benefit from some changes—and now I'll have the power to make them."
"But you always told me you would never want to be chained to a desk…" Jenny protested, feebly.
"I won't be. Well, not always," Jethro smiled, his blue eyes shining, "As I said one of the perks of being the director is that I can change a thing or two. Do you remember Stan Burley?"
"Steve?" Jenny asked, remembering how Jethro kept on calling the poor man before he finally learned his name was Stanley.
"Yeah. He has been injured while in Italy and he no longer can be on active field duty. So I've asked him to come back here and be my personal assistant—and he has accepted. As you may remember, Stan used to work for a senator before joining NCIS and he still knows how to move in the political minefield. He will deal with most of the paperwork. This will allow me to keep on working on the field—not always, of course, but often enough to keep me happy. My team will still be my team."
"And the SecNav approved this?"
Jethro raised his left hand to rub his nose and the metallic glint of a wedding band attracted Jenny's attention.
"Are you married?" she asked, pointing at the ring.
Jethro smiled broadly, "Yeah."
"For how long?"
"Five years and counting."
"What does she say about your job?"
Jenny knew that Jethro's previous marriages had failed mostly because he put his job above his wives and they couldn't understand his devotion to his duty. Jenny wondered who his wife was, and if she was somehow connected to Jethro's appointment as director. Jenny imagined her as a sophisticated, classy redhead, that would look terrific at her husband's side during public ceremonies and official dinners. She probably also had the knowledge to play the political game her husband hadn't. After all, wasn't it often said that behind every great man there was a greater woman?
"Nothing. She's as much of a workaholic as me and doesn't mind if I don't go home for days while I'm working on a case. She accepts me—the good, not so good and the bad—as I accept her."
Just in that moment there was a knock on the door and a woman dressed with one of the shortest skirts Jenny had ever seen, platform boots, a black t-shirt with a white skull on it and leather bracelets entered the room waving a sheet of paper.
"Gibbs!" she called aloud, then saw Jenny and corrected herself, "I mean, Director Gibbs… Sir…Boss…I still have to get this right..."
Jethro smiled, "Don't worry, Abs. What do you have for me?"
"The DNA results for the Paulson case."
Jethro gestured with a hand and Jenny watched as the raven-haired, green-eyed young woman crossed the office to give him the papers. She couldn't believe NCIS allowed their forensic technician to go at work dressed like what. And what was that dark stuff on her neck? Jenny squinted at her eyes it only to widen them in shock when she realized the dark mark was a tattooed spider web.
"Good job, Abby!" Jethro exclaimed after checking the DNA results. "Bring these down to DiNozzo and tell him and Kate to go and take in Paulson's brother. Then tell McGee to check the man's bank account and credit card records."
"All right Boss-man!" Abby took the papers and was about to move, when Jethro stopped her by putting an arm around her shoulders and pulling her against his side.
"Jenny," Jethro said looking at her, "let me introduce you our Forensic and Ballistic expert, Abigail Sciuto-Gibbs. Abby, this is Jennifer Shepard, an old friend and colleague, and our new Chief Supervisor of Special Ops."
Jenny shook hands with Abby almost in autopilot. She was stunned by Jethro's latest revelation, although not dazzled enough not to see the look of pure love and devotion husband and wife exchanged…
Jenny returned to the present and gulped down all her bourbon, before refilling the glass. She felt like screaming and shouting it wasn't fair that Jethro had landed her dream job without having to give up anything to get it, while she, who had renounced the love of her life and the field job she had liked so much had been left with nothing.
She couldn't believe it. She didn't want to believe it—but she had to.
And maybe it was she who wasn't fair, for Jethro deserved that position more than she did—he had always done his job to the best of his abilities, not because it was the right thing to do for him, but it was the right thing to do for the others, for the sailors and marines he protected and for the country they all served. She instead, had done was had been right for her career—or so she had thought. She should have followed her heart, not her mind… but it was now too late.
For the first time since she had left Paris for London and Jethro for her ambition, Jennifer Shepard buried her face in her hands and wept.