Disclaimers: Anything recognizable, sadly, is not mine; this includes the title, which I shamelessly "borrowed" from Green River Ordinance.

Author's Note: Hello all! I suppose I'm still relatively new around here; I've been skulking about since early August '09, which is when my sister finally converted me to the awesomeness that is NCIS. I was very saddened to learn that the pairing I immediately preferred was ultimately doomed in canon, and so I proceeded to take a crash-course into everything NCIS…including diving into as many Jibbs stories as I could peruse in order to gain a little more insight into their relationship (not to mention read some very brilliant stories, and in turn, meet some wonderful people).

This idea was originally borne back in August, after a day of researching, watching "Judgment Day" and "Dog Tags" for the first time, and happening across the amazing song Endlessly by Green River Ordinance.

Many thanks, flowers, and cookies must go out to madame alexandra and elflordsmistress for taking this probie under wing, and their much appreciated support, assistance, and unwavering patience during the creation of this story—without you two, this probably wouldn't have seen the light of day!

So without further adieu, please enjoy.

Endlessly
by, la the dreary puppett

Rain pattered against the basement windows above, driven in sheets by the intensifying wind and broken only by the occasional rumble of thunder; the tumultuous serenade a physical manifestation of the internal battle he now found himself waging. Bathed in the weak glow of the bare, overhead light bulb, Jethro stared at the jar of bourbon he currently twirled atop the dusty workbench, periodically stopping to take a swig of amber liquid. It was well past midnight, and he had lost count of how many times he had refilled the makeshift tumbler since wandering down for a bit of therapeutic sanding. After several half-hearted attempts at productivity, he resigned to the more welcoming arms of alcohol to abate his restlessness; this, he found, only served to fuel his brooding, and eventually he began focusing on the biting burn accompanying each swallow, hoping the pain might finally quiet his thoughts.

He knew he had long since relinquished the right to inquire after her personal affairs, whether it had been her doing or his own no longer mattered, but after their exchange in the elevator hours earlier, he was damned if he was going to let the conversation rest. He was worried. It wasn't as if he had expected her to be immediately forthcoming upon his query—had in fact anticipated her annoyance at his prying—though a bold-faced lie from her had certainly surprised him. No, it had terrified him. And that was an emotion Jethro did not take lightly, as the thought of losing Jen in some permanent way possessed an ability like no other to tear away every scrap of resolve within him.

She was different—had always been.

It hadn't taken long to realize the effect she held over him, and at first the guilt had been all consuming, to the point he had fought any tender emotions she provoked. Such an undertaking only proved futile, for despite his best efforts, she had burrowed herself into his life completely and irrevocably. Unknowingly victorious when others before and since had failed, it was she who quieted the ache, coaxing his soul from the shadows to which he had succumbed.

And once, they had had it all.

Despite its tired, kitschy moniker as "The City of Love," Paris was truly synonymous with their romance, the stage upon which they alone danced…and, ultimately, it was the site of their downfall. Marseille, Positano, Serbia—they were mere stepping-stones along the path, guiding, preparing them for the sudden shift of their relationship, catapulting what at first they pretended to be an innocent fling into more profound territory. To say neither anticipated the depth of their emotions would have been a lie, but at first, the novelty proved all consuming, while the nature of their undercover work only reinforced the notion that it was they against the world. Alone in that fairytale they remained, for a time blissfully unaware of what lay ahead, until the waters became too deep for them to ignore. The realization of just how much each meant to the other frightened them both, the implication behind which as alluring as it was daunting, and they could not help but feel blindsided by its magnitude.

He loved her in a way in which he could not pretend to comprehend—she knew, understood, him better than anyone, hell, if he were honest, sometimes more than he himself. It was unnerving how in a single, fleeting look they could communicate volumes, confirming what they possessed transcended mere partnership. And when she had walked out of his life without a backward glance, the loss proved profound, manifesting in an incurable, lingering ache that resided still within him.

When alcohol and work could not alleviate the pain, he had thrown himself into another, brief marriage in a desperate attempt to get over her. But whatever emotions he harbored for Stephanie, as surely he must have loved her on some level, she could not fill the gaping chasm that emerged in Jen's wake. By six years' time he had reconstructed the fortress round his battle-scarred heart, vowing its presence eternal, only to watch it crumble at her unexpected return.

He had come close to eating his own bullet upon facing a life without Shannon and Kelly, and somehow in that darkest hour, he found the strength to carry on. A life without Jen…

With a resigned sigh, Jethro pushed away the empty jar, glancing at the basement's sole timepiece above the television as he stood, carefully gauging his level of sobriety. If the lack of lightheadedness hadn't informed him of how little alcohol he had actually consumed, a quick check of the bottle confirmed the suspicion. Upon his first swig, he thought surely this night would result in a full-fledged bender—his original intent was to forget, escape from the images that had been plaguing him all afternoon. Now, he realized he had failed utterly.

The nagging urge to confront Jen once more proved only to be stronger, despite the late hour, undeniably fueled by the lingering tendrils of bourbon coursing through his bloodstream. He couldn't leave things in the way they had earlier, whether the reason behind his conviction was his own selfishness or the unwillingness to let her go through such an ordeal alone, he had to try once more. If still she resisted, he might finally acquiesce to her wishes of solitude, but for now, he refused to accept neither her obstinacy nor her deception.

Polite manners and logic told him he should wait until morning to arrive on her doorstep, though even on a good day Jethro ignored both, preferring to rely solely on gut instinct. If he waited, the possibility he might change his mind would undoubtedly increase, as the protective side of his psyche rebelled at knowing the truth. To actually have his worst fears vocalized—Ducky's reaction upon questioning left little skepticism to the nature of her illness—would make this terrible conjecture tangible, and he wasn't sure if that was something he could face.

Another glimpse of the clock informed him that daylight was steadily approaching, apathetic to his plight, reinforcing his need to hear her voice, to hold her in his arms.

Another sigh, "Damn it."

He drove on autopilot, his thoughts thousands of miles away from the shower-washed streets of Georgetown, the journey lasting far longer than it would normally as the desire to depress the accelerator to the floor was markedly absent. The steady beat of the windscreen wipers against the chaotic, whispering melody of raindrops lulling his senses, allowing him solace in memories if only for a moment.

Too soon the familiar line of townhouses came into view, and he realized, against the screaming of his subconscious, he now stood at the point of no return. Her windows, at first, appeared dark, but as he reached for the gear lever, he hesitated at the flickering glow emanating behind the living room curtains. A fleeting image of her curled up with a book and bourbon tugged his lips into a sad smile, and he wished with every fiber of his being that in this moment she was happy.

Heavy steps carried him to the stoop, where his last ounce of resolve faltered and he could do nothing but stare at the oaken barrier, torturously near her warm embrace and yet so very far. He closed his eyes, and rapped his knuckles against the door.

"Jethro," her soft voice caressed his name, hovering somewhere between a question and a statement, inadvertently expressing her speculation that he might arrive at her doorstep.

Words failed him, all the greetings with which he could respond suddenly sounding clichéd, threatening to shatter the tentative ambiance of the moment. In the muted lamplight of the hallway, he studied her, not surprised in the least to find her still clothed in work attire despite the ungodly hour, her hair loose around her shoulders. The expression she wore was carefully guarded, but lacked the steely determination so palpable in their earlier encounter—her defenses lowered, but not absent completely. Impulse directed his hand, and he felt rather than saw her slight intake of breath as his palm brushed her cheek with a feather-light touch, his searching gaze lingering upon her lips, upturned in a ghost of a sad smile.

Neither attempted to move, each as hesitant as the other at the prospect of another row, and only when he detected a thrill pass through her at a sudden draft did he drop his arm to his side. Silently, she pushed the door back further, allowing him entrance, and he paused until she secured the deadbolt and reengaged the alarm before continuing toward the lounge. Acutely aware she had no intention of taking the lead, for it was he who had shown up on her doorstep, he desperately sought an opening, cursing himself for being so ill prepared. He was, admittedly, glad she neglected to demand an explanation of his presence, thanking the heavens once again for their unspoken communication.

Glancing into the room, he spied a rumpled afghan and half-filled goblet of red wine near the hearthstones, an ottoman looming above littered with stationery, and her heels discarded neatly beside. He smiled slightly at the sight of her footwear, the topic of many discussions in her probie days—he arguing their impairment as she defended them—for little did she know how much they amused him. They were quintessentially Jen. His Jen. Never would he have classified her as being "girly," but he could not deny the way she exuded femininity in her every action. An alluring dichotomy she possessed, the constant battle between her tough-as-nails exterior and the gentle constitution he knew she buried deep within.

He turned, eyebrows quirked in questioning and a smirk pulling at his lips, a gesture she interpreted correctly and to which she responded with a half-shrug. Without a word, he made his way to her makeshift pallet, forgoing the comfort of the sofa with the intention of draining the goblet in the same manner with which she pilfered his coffee. A relatively trivial gesture to onlookers, it was all a part of the game they played, a tacit nod to the old days, and more heavily nuanced than either wanted to acknowledge.

A silvery glint from the ottoman stopped him, and he stooped to retrieve a small object serving as paperweight to the leaf below—recognition flooding his senses when his fingers contacted the delicate band of platinum filigree. He felt the weight of her gaze as long-buried images assaulted his mind's eye, and he briefly wondered if she was currently lost in the same visions of Paris as he.

"There they are," Jenny stated, lowering her coffee cup and preparing to gather her things.

Jethro threw her an annoyed look, clearly unconvinced with the situation—she had, apparently, neglected to inform him they were meeting their inside-woman at a high end, Parisian jewelry shop. Reluctantly, he stood to pull out her chair and offer his hand, which she accepted with a smile, and helped her into her jacket before snaking an arm around her waist.

"And why did you two decide to meet here?" He asked, casually steering her toward a row of buildings across the street from the café they had just departed.

She shrugged flippantly, leaning further into his embrace at a sudden burst of cool breeze. "When I spoke with Emily, she said the best opportunity for a 'chance,'" she emphasized with air quotations, "encounter today would be here. They're supposed to be picking out her engagement ring, and I thought that if you and I posed as customers, she might be able to bring us into the conversation. Then, if she and I appeared to hit it off, we'd have an in."

At her explanation, Jethro couldn't help but be impressed, even if he detested the thought of watching two grown women fawn over jewelry for an extended amount of time. Upon reaching the door, he paused, inclining his head and brushing his lips against her ear, whispering, "Is this a hint for your birthday?"

"Whatever do you mean, Special Agent Gibbs?" She murmured, reaching up to press a chaste kiss to his jaw before slipping away and continuing into the shop, a devilishly innocent smile gracing her features.

Jenny was already halfway across the room by the time he stepped past the threshold, making a point to approach a display in the opposite corner of their target. Outwardly, Agent Emily Myles appeared to barely register their entrance, though Jethro caught the slight turn of her head toward Jenny's direction, confirming their presence in the shop. She continued speaking animatedly to an attendant, while their target, Emily's 'fiancé,' watched the scene in amusement. Truth be told, had Cillian Mason not in fact been selling state secrets to the highest bidder, Jethro would have considered the man a decent human being—and that was saying a lot.

With his own assessment completed, Jethro made his way to where Jenny was conversing in fluent French with a matronly attendant, contented when he noticed the glass case before him did not contain wedding bands or anything else that might constitute marriage. His relief, however, was short lived. It was evident he hadn't imagined the redhead's utterance of 'il ne parle pas français' in the flurry of conversation, indicating his obliviousness to the content of their discussion; he grew instantly suspicious when Jenny laughed lightly and the matron responded with a conspiratorial wink, glancing at Jethro in the process.

"If you will follow me, Mademoiselle, Monsieur." The woman responded in perfect English, smiling politely, and indicated a row of displays nearer Emily and Cillian.

Jenny flashed him a clear 'I win' smirk at the sight of his scowl, entwining her arm with his and giving him a shove with her hip when he showed no sign of abiding the request.

"Don't make me make you sleep on the couch tonight, Jethro." She warned softly, grinning sweetly, and he wondered how idle of a threat it really was. Deciding it best not to take a chance—that couch was damn short and, more importantly, lacked a certain redhead's company—he acquiesced without further complaint.

He congratulated himself on a full five and a half minutes without losing interest; mostly this was due to the quality of Jenny's acting, though he had a sneaking suspicion that it was not entirely a charade, considering a few contemplative expressions that had flitted across her face. This little undercover detail was going to cost him somehow, of which he was certain, and he wasn't entirely sure if it would only be monetarily.

A soft gasp brought him out of his reverie, and his attention turned to Jenny once more, finding her staring openmouthed at a tiny band situated between two diamond monstrosities. The matron evidently caught her gaze, for in one fluid movement she removed the item in question from the case and slid it off its stand, holding it out for Jenny to try on.

Blushing lightly when she noticed Jethro's rapt interest, Jenny cautiously slipped the band on her right ring finger, and he was surprised when he found himself wishing she had adorned her wedding finger with the intricately filigreed ring.

"Monsieur, what do you think? It suits her, no?" The matron queried, wearing a knowing grin.

Jethro reached out to grasp her hand, their eyes meeting for one breathless moment as he ran his thumb across the delicate metal, savoring the sensation of her skin against his. His hands moved independently, removing the band and switching it to the mirrored finger, a smirk playing about his lips at her surprised, shaky inhalation as she realized what he was doing. Even if it were only for a moment, he wanted to see how it looked.

"It's perfect."

Blinking back the memories that sprang to mind, he attempted to swallow the lump that had formed in his throat, determinedly shifting his focus to the ivory sheet below. Two words leapt from the page: Dear Jethro.

Confusion, anguish, a myriad of emotion spiraled through him on a wave of anger as those words, more than anything, confirmed what he feared most: she was leaving him, and this time neither had a say in the matter.

It was not lost upon him, the similarity of the two letters—both a prelude to heartache. The first, innocently concealed within the folds of her coat—another of his gifts to her—the ring tucked securely in its envelope, as though she were physically purging herself of their relationship. His initial reaction had been to dispose of the items, the memories associated forever laced with bitterness, until each attempt concluded in failure. For a while, he pretended that malice alone had directed his request for Ducky's aid in returning them, as he didn't want to admit the hope he harbored that the deed might spur her homecoming. Though his silent appeal had gone unanswered, he had been unable to quash the niggling sense of promise at the flash of platinum upon her finger six years later.

All those years before, it had been of her own accord to run, and while he had masked his sorrow with indignation, it had, ultimately, been his decision alone to not follow. Easier had it been to lay the blame entirely at her feet—which he had done for so long after her departure—but even he recognized the injustice of such an action. Each were guilty of their relationship's demise, of what offence belonged to the other no longer mattered, because all that was left comprised of the here and now. This time, however, he refused to let her go without a fight, regardless of whether he was to battle against an army of shadows. For her, he would.

Unconsciously, his grip tightened on the band within his palm as he took a deep breath, and finally he turned, finding her still hovering about the doorway, reluctant to meet his gaze.

"Why?" Barely a whisper, though he was sure she caught it, he felt no need to mask the pain in his voice, for boundaries had been crossed too many times, and by now the lines had been blurred.

Understanding the complexity of the question, he could not fault her for remaining silent. Why she had left, why he had let her, why they had danced around each other these past few years, why she felt she could not trust him with the news of her illness—that three-lettered word encapsulated a wealth of unknowns, belying its insignificance.

He closed the distance between them with determined steps, taking her hand as he once had in that tiny shop in Paris, aware his actions elicited a similar reaction as he slipped the band upon her finger.

Gently, he lifted her chin, "I'm here, Jen."

A beat.

"Please."

The plea in his voice indicated he was holding nothing back, allowing his anguish to bleed through, for only to this display of pure honesty would she grant him an answer. Though he harbored no subterfuge, he realized the likelihood of an undeniable, catastrophic failure should he continue to strong-arm her. They were both stubborn, and the direct approach usually got him nowhere, certainly in regard to her personal life, and with relations between them strained lately, such a method would only result in her closing down.

Moments passed, the air between them tense as he watched her battle against his provocation.

And suddenly, there it was—a chink in her armor.

The breath she drew was as unsteady as his own, escaping in a resigned sigh before she finally allowed herself to fall into his waiting, willing embrace. Closing his eyes, he buried his nose in her hair, reacquainting himself with her intoxicating bouquet, and pressing his lips to her crown in an effort to reassure them both. Despite their physical proximity, he was all too aware of the distance between them, the sensation only amplifying when, at length, she pulled away. His only response was to guide her to the sofa, grateful for her acquiescence.

Neither quite willing to be the first to venture into the impending conversation, they sat in silence, shoulder to shoulder, watching the flames dance within the grate.

"Ducky told me you knew." Her tone was light, lacking the accusation he had been expecting.

"He didn't say anything…didn't have to," he began, shrugging at her puzzled expression. "It was the way he kept quiet…he was sad for me." Pausing, he shook his head and laughed ruefully, "I've been on the receiving end of that look enough times, I should be able to recognize it when I see it."

He couldn't look at her, his words exposing wounds never properly healed, wounds that promised to grow only deeper with time, and he would have given anything to halt the second hand's march.

Jenny shifted beside him, tearing him from his dark line of thought, and instinctively his muscles grew taut, anticipating what was certainly to be unwelcome news.

Her delivery was perfunctory, clinical, and it unnerved him to the core, "They've ruled out Huntington's, and are now looking at ALS, which has the same poor prognosis. Best-case scenario, they say, would be polymyositis, but even I can tell that's unlikely. You don't just jump from one terminal disease to the next if it wasn't something serious." She paused, laughing bitterly, "At this point they're actually suggesting MS as a better," she spat the word, "alternative."

He barely had a moment to process the information before her entire demeanor shifted into anger, "But they don't know anything! I've had so many procedures I've lost count, but they still don't know a damn thing—just that it's likely neurological and degenerative. It doesn't matter which acronym they throw out—ALS, CIDP, MS—it's basically the same, 'sorry, Jenny, it looks like your number's up.'"

Jethro stared at her in stunned silence, refusing to accept her words, and struggled unsuccessfully to quash the immediate sense of panic blossoming in his chest. Instinctively, he reached out to take her hand, an action intended to display support, but one he could not refuse was a selfish attempt on his part for comfort.

"Jen..." he began, but was cut off when she started violently, pushing herself up and away, retreating to the opposite corner of the room.

"Don't."

She stood with her back to him, head down and arms crossed tightly against her chest, only the slight quiver of her shoulders betraying her tears, the firelight casting an ethereal glow about her figure.

He knew she was a master of compartmentalizing, burying her emotions until reaching an inevitable breaking point, of which typically manifested in indignation. Rage was tangible, something she could easily control—rage was impersonal, whereas tears were unequivocally intimate.

The need to announce his presence was unnecessary, and his fingers stopped short of making contact with her skin, hovering dangerously close to their destination as he battled against his resolve. Every fiber of his being wanted nothing more than to pull her forthright into his arms, to brush away her tears while murmuring soothing platitudes. And yet, he waited.

"I don't need you to save me, Jethro."

Nothing more than a whisper, it was, but he wished that she had shouted, for fury he could accept, while the resignation coloring her words was something with which he could not cope.

And with that, the spell was broken. Pausing not to gain admittance, he followed through with his wishes, drawing her into a crushing embrace, thankful when her arms encircled his waist in response.

The ballot cast, his decision made: he would not fail her again.

She sniffed, pulling slightly away in order to look him in the eye. "It never was right for us, was it?" Her voice was soft, brimming with the very remorse echoed in his soul.

He brushed away a stray, saline droplet, and she shifted in his arms as he instinctively drew her closer. Kissing her temple, he murmured, "I'm not going anywhere, Jen. I swear."

she is my rock and my rolling thunder
i've been the spell she was under
i, i love that girl
she is my cigarettes and champagne
she's got me strong but i'm not running
i, i love that girl
i, i love that girl

she is the days i can't get over
she is the nights that i call home
endlessly
for you i'll always wait
caught in the waves of hesitation
lost in the sea of my own doubt
endlessly
for you I'll always wait
for you I'll always wait

she is the flame in the fire, she's raging
i've been the spark in the war she's waging
i, i love that girl
she came along and she spoke so sweetly
changed everything, took my heart completely
i, i love that girl
i, i love that girl

she is the days i can't get over
she is the nights that i call home
endlessly
for you i'll always wait
caught in the waves of hesitation
lost in the sea of my own doubt
endlessly
for you I'll always wait

in city bars and empty cars
it's 3am, i wonder where you are
and the crooked smiles
and the worn out miles between us
and i wonder where you are

she is the days i can't get over
she is the nights that i call home
endlessly
for you i'll always wait
caught in the waves of hesitation
lost in the sea of my own doubt
endlessly
for you i'll always wait
for you i'll always wait
for you i'll always wait.