Epilogue: One Month Later
Special Agent Gibbs strolled quietly down the dimly lit halls of NCIS headquarters one late evening. A large, white-paper bag clenched in his left hand gave off the crisp, unmistakable scent of Chinese takeout. He leisurely climbed the stairs, noting as he did that Cynthia must have already left for the evening. Jenny's door was slightly ajar.
She looked up briefly as he entered. Then she flashed him a strained smile and glanced enviously at the bag that he held before bringing her concentration back to the papers on the desk in front of her.
"No. No no," she said firmly into the phone held closely to her right ear, "That won't--"
Gibbs threw her a pitying glance, that she thankfully did not see, and then sat down on the couch. He dropped the paper bag on the floor, relaxed back into the cushions, and prepared to wait for a very long time.
Jenny propped one elbow up in front of her and dropped her forehead onto her palm. "I cannot allow--" her calm voice gave away nothing of the irritation that Gibbs could clearly see as she was cut off once again. She absentmindedly twirled a strand of her deep red hair around one finger, pulling on it tightly.
He simply watched her silently. Hopefully she would finish this conference soon enough, but if not he was prepared to wait. Forever, if necessary. The events of a month ago were still too vivid for him to be able to ignore or brush aside. Had four spirits really visited him? He still didn't know. But he did know that he got lucky. She was here, and he was here, and even if they weren't "together" it was still good.
He frowned slightly as he considered their relationship. He wasn't sure exactly what it was. Were they just friends, or something more? He felt fairly certain that "just friends" didn't insert a GPS tracker into the other's watch the day after the Christmas holidays ended, cross the width of the United States on a faint suspicion of danger, track the other with highly classified surveillance tactics involving bribing an extremely intelligent forensic scientist over the phone, stalk a dark SUV that might or might not hold several hitmen, jump into the midst of a violent shootout, and then, after saving the other's life, decide to hug said "friend" as if their life depended on it before kissing them for several minutes until the arrival of an unsuspecting and frantic Mossad officer and NCIS agent bursting through the doorway made the "just friends" jump backwards so quickly that one of them tripped backwards over a corpse. Hypothetically speaking, of course.
"Absolutely not!" Jenny snapped, still on the phone to the unknown politician, "The risks outweigh any possible--" But being cut off mid-sentence for several hours was too much for the Director of NCIS. "I will never agree to that," she finished calmly before setting the phone gently down on its base and dropping her head into her hands.
Gibbs didn't say a word, knowing that in her place there simply wouldn't be anything that he could say. Several moments later she lifted her head back up and looked at him, catching the trace of a smile that flitted across his face.
"I'll pay for that tomorrow, and I am not looking forward to it," she muttered, "What's so funny?"
"Nothing," he said.
He remembered the comment he had made about politicians, Kate's rebuttal, and what she had shown him. They'd both been right. Jenny had changed, but it wasn't all bad. And, if NCIS had to have and work with politicians, there was no one he'd rather have backing him up than Jen Shepard.
She stood up, stretched, and crossed the room, falling into the couch beside him. Kicking off her high heels, she opened the white bag.
"How much do you think I eat?" she murmured as she set out several courses upon the table.
"Most of it's mine," he replied smoothly.
And then suddenly it was back again. The slightly awkward feeling that crept its way into their conversation when they were alone. Gibbs, never an eloquent speaker, couldn't think of anything that seemed right to say. Jenny could think of a dozen sentences, but none of them included what she wanted to say.
"So, what about Tony and Ziva?" she finally settled on asking.
Gibbs gave a little snort, "What about them?"
Jenny rolled her eyes and motioned with her left hand as her mouth was full of chicken.
"Told them I didn't want to see anything, and to keep it out of the office."
"Plausible deniability," Jenny murmured after she'd finished her mouthful.
"Yeah, and that it's just plain nauseating," Gibbs countered.
"Yes, of course."
Silence reigned again. Jenny thoughtfully licked her fork clean.
"They're smart. They can keep it underneath the radar, so to speak," she said.
"Yeah," he returned finally, "Wonder how it will work out."
"Because they're so different?" she asked.
"But somehow they're right for each other," she mused, "I've never met two agents who could work so well together. They know what the other's always thinking. There's no other way that they could know exactly how to best irritate each other without that."
"And they care a lot about each other. They'll take care of themselves."
There was another long pause.
"Yes, it will be fine," Jenny continued a little too quickly, "I don't know why I'm so worried."
He nodded again.
"Will you knock that off?" she snapped in mock annoyance, finally succeeding in breaking the tension.
Gibbs nodded one more time, before smirking and returning to his food. With a fork-full of rice halfway to his mouth, he paused as his gaze brushed the far wall. Then his peaceful expression hardened.
Across the room, the wraith-like not-Jenny stood watching them. Her expression was as malevolent as ever.
Jenny followed his gaze, but could see nothing. "What is it?"
Gibbs felt a shiver of something that was disturbingly close to fear. He watched the spirit carefully as he subconsciously grabbed the hand of the woman beside him and held on tightly, curling his fingers around the back of her hand.
The not-Jenny smirked then. However, this smile was different than the others. It started off quite the same, but instead of remaining piercing and cruel, it slowly morphed into something else. Imperceptibly, the eyes and lips lightened, the cheeks filled out, and the expression softened. Soon, there was nothing to differentiate the not-Jenny from the one beside him.
She smiled again, but this time it was not forced. Then she dissolved into a brilliant sparkling light that he could not look at, and that was gone nearly as soon as it had come. Even Jenny could see it.
"Fire?" she demanded, rising to her feet.
Gibbs pulled her back down to the couch, "Nope." He seemed to realize that he still held her hand and made himself let go.
She studied the wall carefully, checking for any remaining sight of flame before turning her face back towards him, head cocked slightly to one side. "Okay," she said finally, knowing from long experience that trying to get him to say anything more would be like pulling teeth. "So you're not going to get on them about your Rule 12?"
"No. They'd call me hypocritical."
The words didn't sink in for several moments, but when they did Jenny's heart nearly stopped. "Hypocritical?" she asked calmly, pressing for more detail.
"Yup," he replied casually, serving himself more rice and chicken.
"Because of McGee and Abby a couple years back?"
"Or... because of us, all that time ago?" she prodded him.
He glanced up in amusement. "Are you fishing, Jen?"
"Mmm," she muttered noncommittally, embarrassed.
Gibbs stared at her until she forced her gaze back up to his face. "Why bother fishing," he asked, "if you've already caught the fish?"
Already caught...? She froze. Did this mean what she thought it might? There was a chance... She slowly raised her eyes to his. Green eyes met blue ones as she stared at him for seconds that dragged to nearly a minute. She caught her breath as she realized that his words had truly held the meaning that she had inferred.
He stood up and stretched briefly, "I have to go. Promised Abby that I'd visit her to make up for missing the Christmas party. You plan to work late tomorrow again?"
"Yeah," she admitted.
"See you then," he responded, before slipping on his coat and heading out the door.
Jenny sat quite still for a moment as the door swung shut. Then she jumped up and eased the door open, stepping silently to the catwalk railing. Though she'd made no sound and Gibbs was already to the elevator, he knew that she was there.
He did not turn around, but calmly pressed the down arrow on the panel. She watched him, never for one moment taking her eyes off his retreating figure until the doors slid closed. As the elevator began its descent, a slow, wide smile appeared on Gibbs' face. High above, at the edge of the catwalk, another just as sincere smile broke out upon the face of Jenny Shepard. She put her hands up to her cheeks, as if feeling the strangeness of something so foreign and unusual as a genuine smile, before slowly turning and reentering her office. Tomorrow might actually be a good day.
And cut to the cheesy ending. I'm finally done! My first halfway-decent multi-chapter story. Thanks so very much to everyone who has read this, and particularly those who have reviewed. If anyone has any idea for a general improvement in my writing, I would greatly appreciate it. There's no way that criticism (even if it is only a tiny bit constructive) will ever bother me.