Disclaimer: Alex is mine, that's about it.
A/N: For anyone who thinks this looks familiar, a revised version was posted under the name 'Explanations Can Wait' as a submission for The Jibbsfest Memorial. This is the original, and the ending's nowhere near as happy, unfortunately. This is part of my AMTBR series; if you want to know more, the other stories are available on my profile.
Need to Know: He'd been here before. He'd stood and watched before as a woman he loved was lowered into the ground. And this time the regrets were almost choking him.
"Once I would have asked you to stay. And I wouldn't have taken no for an answer."
Maybe he should have stayed. If not that night – considering that there had been a nine-year-old in the house – then another night. He'd wanted to, but he hadn't been able to trust her. Hadn't been able to believe she meant it, or if she did, that she wanted more than one night. He couldn't have handled it if he'd stayed and found all she'd wanted was a one night stand.
But she'd given him the chance with that comment, the chance to reopen the question she'd answered on the stairs. Would there be any 'off-the-job'? And he'd been the one to reject it. And now there wouldn't be any chance to change that. He'd always thought there'd be time. He should have known better.
In an odd way, he was glad that the day was sunny and clear. The cheerfulness of it seemed to mock him, but if it had been raining, that would have been worse. Rain always made him think of her, think of running into a Marseilles attic to escape a sudden downpour. That had been the day of their first kiss, and the first time they'd made love. And he didn't want the reminder today.
He stared at the casket draped in the American flag, but he couldn't see it. All he could see were three years of lost chances, three years of regrets. He should have stayed.
Alexandra Shepard left Arlington quickly, doing her best to keep a hold on her temper. Her boyfriend, Jonas, held her hand tightly in his, both to show support and to keep her from doing something rash.
She hadn't even wanted to come to this thing, not when she knew it was all for show, but she hadn't had a choice. People would have been suspicious if Jennifer Shepard's own sister hadn't come to her funeral. As much as she hated the situation, she wouldn't jeopardize Jen's safety like that.
It was the only reason she was willing to go along with the cover-up. She'd read the file and she knew what they were up against. She played along, but she didn't have to like it.
When they reached the car, she got into the driver's seat while Jonas went for the front passenger seat. He could drive, but he was still new enough at it that since he'd never been to D.C. before, they'd agreed she should drive. Instead of turning the car on, however, she pulled out her cell and hit speed dial #5, labeled London in her contact list.
"Hello?" came the voice on the other end of the line.
"I've just left your funeral."
"Oh? How was it?"
"Cute, very cute," Alex snapped.
"What?" Jenny asked reasonably. "I'm curious. I assume you got my flag."
"Yeah. The service was nice, I guess. So are you ever gonna tell him?"
"You mean them, as in the team."
"No, I mean him, as in Gibbs."
"Jenny, you still love him, and judging from the look in his eyes today, he still loves you."
"I can't tell him."
"You told me. Or rather, you had Ravenwood tell me, but the point remains."
"I get that you and Paula wanted legit reactions, but the funeral's over."
"It doesn't matter."
"Think about what you'd do if Jonas or the members of SG1 were threatened. If you were in my place, you'd do exactly what I have."
"Not like this, I wouldn't."
"Alex, I have to go."
"Jen – " The dial tone cut her off. Alex glared at the phone.
"You just don't want to admit I'm right," she told the dial tone. Jonas gave her a concerned look.
"I'm guessing she's still determined to keep her survival a secret?"
"Yeah," Alex said grimly as she turned the car on and drove away.
Why did she have to keep pressing the point? Jennifer Shepard – now known as Samantha James – didn't understand what good her sister thought it would do, when everything was already over. But then, Alex had always been like that.
She knew her sister resented that no one had told her what was going on until it was all over. Never mind that Jenny herself hadn't known that the L.A. shootout would be used until she'd woken up in a London hospital. Had the original plan gone through, Alex would have known sooner.
As for Jethro, there was no reason for him – or anyone else – to know. Alex had to be wrong; after everything that had happened it was highly unlikely that he still cared about her. She still remembered his parting shot the last time they'd spoken in private. "Long live the Queen." She didn't think she'd ever be able to forget the near-hatred in his eyes.
And even if that had just been in the heat of the moment and he did still care a little, it didn't matter. She refused to involve him or his team in her problems. She'd done that once, and it had been a disaster. She wouldn't risk them getting hurt because of her. She didn't think she could handle it. And if it was Jethro who got hurt… that would kill her for sure.
So she'd 'died' to make sure that wouldn't happen. She'd keep the people she loved safe, no matter what the cost to her was – and she knew that some of Alex's anger came from the knowledge that Jenny was protecting her too. The truth was that they were better off without her, and no one – especially Jethro – needed to know it was all a lie.