Disclaimer: Not mine.

Chapter 9 – No Calm Before the Storm: "Therefore, given the current circumstances, my recommendation is that the civilians, both anomaly team and Americans, divide amongst the three SAS teams, so that we can all be prepared whenever Helen and Nash choose to strike." Ashley spoke formally, the best way to behave with Lester when she was officially acting as liaison.

"And why doesn't Torchwood handle the presumed attack on their outpost?" Lester demanded.

"Apparently, sir, you told Captain Harkness that you wanted him to stay out of this. He's simply acceding to your request."

Lester scowled. "For once, you mean. And of course, he waits until it's extremely inconvenient for him to do so."

"Well, yes, that is his usual MO," Ashley pointed out. "Look, the Captain's advice is sound, and to be honest, I don't see any problems with what he said. If I know Becker, Ryan, and Lyle, they've already got things planned out."

"Fine. But since you're so supportive of this, then you can tell the SAS captains, and you can be in charge of coordinating this. Harkness is refusing to allow Torchwood to take proper responsibility, but as you are Torchwood, you can make up for his laziness."

Ashley just managed to keep from rolling her eyes, though she couldn't keep the insolent tone from her voice. "Whatever you say, sir." Then she rose and left the office, letting the door slam behind her. At this point, she didn't care if such behavior was unprofessional. She was too pissed off at both of her bosses to give a damn.

She made her way to the gym that the SAS men had managed to get installed, at least until the anomaly project was moved. There was talk of a building of their own, one that would likely have the name of the ARC, just like the facility in the other reality. Nick had not been happy, but Lester hadn't cared. But until – and if, because apparently the Prime Minister thought it might cost too much – they got their own facility, they had to make do here.

Luckily for her, all three SAS captains were here, along with Stephen, who seemed to be distracted by his own workout by Ryan's exertions. Copying the gesture she'd already observed Agent Gibbs use a couple of times, she slapped Stephen upside the head.

"What was that for?" he grumbled.

"Eye up your boyfriend on your own time, Hart. We've got trouble."

"What's wrong with you, Eowyn?" Lyle asked. Ashley rolled her eyes.

"Torchwood agents have proof that Helen and Nash are planning to set us up in three different places," she began, before outlining all that Jack had told her and Paula earlier.

"Wonderful," Becker grumbled. He hadn't had that much to do with Helen – the
SAS officers had not been present when the warehouse incident had gone down – but he'd heard more than enough to be very irritated at the thought of having to deal with her. "So, what's the plan?"

"I was hoping you lot had decided which of us civilians would be attached to each of your teams when the time came," Ashley explained.

The soldiers exchanged grins. "Well, Becker's laid claim to DiNozzo and David," Ryan said, "and I've got Gibbs since we knew each other in Desert Storm."

"Did you really?" Ashley cut in, surprised.

"Apparently yes," Stephen said. "Lyle said he'd take Jenny because of how tense things are with her and Gibbs."

"OK," Ashley said, nodding. "Well, Ryan, why don't Nick and I go with you – I know you still don't trust him running off on his own? Becker can take Claudia and Paula, while McGee and Connor can go with Lyle."

"I'm with Lyle as well," Stephen said. "Something about Lester wanting to play down the office romance while we're being watched."

"Oh, lovely," Ashley muttered. "Well, I'd best tell the others, and I guess you'll want to tell your men. We don't know when the calls will come in."

Jenny went back outside after the briefing, wanting a chance to think. This was it, finally. After Nash was taken out, she would be free to do… What? To go back to her life? Could she still do that, after all this time? Did she even want to? And if she didn't go back, what was she supposed to do with the rest of her life?

She heard footsteps behind her but didn't even bother to turn. She knew who it was.

"You know, I still don't get it," Jethro said as he came up next to her.

"Don't get what, Jethro?"

"It just seems like a lot of trouble to go to, for one guy. Faking your death, hiding away in London… Why didn't you or Ravenwood just take this guy out in the first place, if he's that dangerous?"

Jenny scowled. "It wasn't my place to make that call," she told him evenly. "I wasn't the lead on the mission. Rule 38: Your case, your lead."

"Don't quote my damn rules back at me, Jen."

"Is there anything else you wanted to know?"

"Yeah, actually. The Frog."

"What about him?"

"Did you kill him?"


He rolled his eyes. "He was shot with your gun, and unlike what you told Fornell, you didn't give it to him."

"I noticed you didn't correct me at the time."

"Jenny… Don't play games with me."

"Like I said, I didn't kill him. I came down to the study the next morning and the gun was gone. I don't know what happened to it, and I haven't got a clue where it is now. I didn't mention it because it sounds ridiculous."

"You're right, it does. If someone broke in, wouldn't your alarm have gone off?"

"No one broke in, that's the thing. I checked, and it didn't even look like the lock had been picked."

"Who else had a key?"


"So did she kill him?"

Jenny shook her head. "Considering that she never agreed with my decision to hunt Grenouille down, and she tried to talk me out of putting Tony in deep cover, I highly doubt it."

"Then who took the gun?"

"I told you, I have no idea." She narrowed her eyes at him. "Why are you interrogating me about this?"

"I want to know what happened."

"No you don't," she challenged. "You don't care about Grenouille at all. You're just pushing me on this because you don't want to ask whatever it is that you really want to know. So what is it?"

She stepped forward, invading his personal space. Once, it would have been an invitation. Now it was all but a threat. She knew she was inviting a brutal response, but honestly she didn't give a damn anymore. None of them knew if they were coming out of this, and it just didn't seem to matter.

"Why did you leave?" he said finally, his voice low and more than a little ragged. Somehow she knew he wasn't talking about her latest stunt, but about a different leave-taking, in the city across the Channel from London.

She looked at him, considering what to say. And in the end, she answered with another question, because it was the reason, in the end. Beyond all the excuses of work and everything else she'd told herself, there really was only one reason why she'd walked away. "Why didn't you give me a reason to stay?"

He just stared at her, and at any other time the sight of Leroy Jethro Gibbs stunned speechless would have amused her. But he didn't get a chance to recover, and she didn't get a chance to say anything else, because they were interrupted.

"Hey," Ashley said. "Apparently Jack got to us just in time – they've made their move and we're heading out. Come on."

A/N: Ashley needs a vacation... And Jenny and Gibbs clearly need time for a good long talk, yes?