Disclaimer: Paula is mine, that's it.
A/N: This is part of my AMTBR series, so if you're interested in more, check out my profile.
To Do No Harm: It never got easier. At his age, Ducky had lost many friends, but the pain never lessened. And Jennifer… She hadn't been happy, that much had been painfully clear. He knew she'd sacrificed a lot for her career; in his mind it had been too much. But he'd never quite had the nerve to tell her so. Perhaps he should have.
All in all, he was in no mood to deal with the strange redhead leaning against his Morgan. "Dr. Mallard?"
"If you're here about autopsy results, I'm afraid you'll have to wait for the official report, or at least until business hours."
"I can't risk coming during business hours and there's no report because you haven't gotten the body yet."
He frowned at her. "Who are you?"
"Special Agent Paula Ravenwood, from DESI. I'm here about Jennifer Shepard."
Ducky stiffened. "What possible reason could you have – ?"
"She's not dead," Ravenwood cut him off smoothly.
He just stared at her."I – What?"
Ravenwood's lips twitched. "She's not dead. Look, I did some research on you, I know you worked with Jack Harkness once, on a Torchwood job. DESI's America's Torchwood. We faked Jenny's death."
Harkness? He was still alive? Ignoring that, Ducky focused on the rest of Ravenwood's statement. "What does Jennifer have to do with you?"
"She and I worked together once, years ago. Thanks to the incompetence of some of my fellow agents, the job's come back to bite us in the ass and to prevent anyone else from getting tangled in the mess, Jenny decided to fake her death."
"So she knew that someone was trying to kill her?"
"No, we didn't know about that. The original plan was to stage a car crash. I just… appropriated the shootout. It works just as well."
Ducky studied her carefully. Remembering his previous experience with Torchwood, he knew it was possible. They had means the rest of the world couldn't even imagine. He believed her, and yet…
"If you could fool Tony and Ziva – the agents who found her – why not simply fool me too?" After all, telling him this was not something an agent from DESI – an agency notorious for secrecy – would do lightly.
"I know who DiNozzo and David are. And the method I used was visual only; it wouldn't have stood up to an autopsy. There's something I could have done to fool you, but I… I prefer to avoid that where possible."
"And 'that' is?"
"Something you don't really want to know about."
Ducky considered pressing for more information on the matter, but in all honesty, it was likely that he didn't want to know. And anyway, there were more important things to discuss. "Who knows about this?"
"Me, my partner Ashley, Jenny's sister Alex – she's a DESI agent, I couldn't not tell her – and now you. And I'm going to have to ask that you keep this to yourself."
He'd been expecting that. However, he wasn't sure he could do it. He thought of Abby's horror and Timothy's shell-shock after he'd gotten off the phone with Jethro, of the guilt Tony and Ziva must be experiencing. And as for Jethro, especially in light of what had been revealed after the explosion… How could he not tell Jethro that the woman he still loved – much as he tried to hide it – was alive?
"I think there are some others who have a right to know," he said sharply.
"No," Ravenwood said flatly.
"You have no idea how – " Ducky began heatedly, before the DESI agent cut him off.
"You're right. I don't. but I do know that Jenny doesn't want Agent Gibbs and his team to get caught up in this. Do you honestly think they'll stay away if they know the truth?"
No, he didn't. but he didn't want to admit it. "Can you please move away from my car so I can leave?" he asked.
"Are you going to keep quiet?"
"Yes, as much as I hate this."
Ravenwood nodded, pushing herself off of the car. "Fair enough. And for the record, Dr. Mallard, I don't much like this either."
Perhaps the redheaded DESI agent was uncomfortable with the situation, but she certainly wasn't feeling the guilt he was. Not when he was the one watching Jethro rest a hand on 'Jennifer's' body, praying he wouldn't unzip the body bag. Ravenwood had been right – visually, whatever she had done was convincing. If Jethro opened the bag, he'd see a body that looked like Jennifer's. If that happened, Ducky wasn't sure he could keep his mouth shut. Half of him almost wanted the excuse, but he didn't want to take that risk. Enough care had gone into this subterfuge to prove that it clearly was serious.
Jethro left without another word, and without opening the bag. Ducky sank into his chair, rubbing his temples. "Jennifer, what could possibly have happened to warrant this?" he wondered aloud.
He couldn't tell Jethro – or anyone else – the truth. But he wasn't sure he was cut out for this deception. And yet there seemed no alternative. For now. But the second he thought he did have a choice, he would speak up.