A/N: My Round 5 entry in NCIS-LFWS over at LiveJournal, which I survived. The prompt was a picture of two red dice tossed onto a craps table, with a limit of 1000 words:

Crap Shoot

By Lizabeth S. Tucker

The telephone rang shrilly, startling both of the bedroom's sleeping occupants. The man rolled over, checking the caller id. He grimaced when he recognized the number revealed on it. Turning the bedside lamp on, he squinted at the sudden brightness. He sat up before answering. "Yes, sir. What can I do for you?"

The ensuing conversation was primarily one-sided, the now wide-awake man adding only the barest acknowledgments. "I should be able to get there in less than three hours by car, sir. I understand."

Once he replaced the handset into its cradle, he turned to face his wife.

"What's wrong, Leon?"

"Jen Shepard has been murdered."

"What! How?"

"A shoot-out, according to the Secretary." He got to his feet.

"I told you that D.C. was dangerous."

"That may be, but she wasn't killed there. The Director was in Los Angeles attending the funeral of a former agent." Assistant Director Leon Vance was packing a small suitcase as he spoke, wearing only his boxers.

"And what does Secretary Davenport want you to do?" Jackie Vance asked as she belted her purple wrapper over the lilac nightgown. She took over the packing, shooing him into the bathroom.

"Control the investigation. Protect NCIS from scandal." He hesitated. "Take command as Acting Director again."

"Oh, Leon, not another trip so away."

"I know, babe, I know," he called over the noise of the shower. "But I can't turn this down. It's part of my job."

His wife acknowledged that fact. "Of course. Finish getting ready. I'll make breakfast."

The flight to D.C. on the Secretary of the Navy's Jetstream gave Leon Vance time to organize his thoughts. While he would eventually meet face to face with Secretary Phillip Davenport on Shepard's death as well as the private search for a suspected mole within NCIS, he still needed to brief SecNav by phone. He took a deep breath before activating the secure line.

"Leon, bring me up to date."

"Yes, sir. Director Shepard was killed in a firefight with multiple unknowns. We believe she managed to kill all of them except for one. We are currently searching for the identities of them."

"Do we know why she went to this godforsaken part of the country?"

"No, sir, not really. However, we did discover that the diner where the firefight occurred was owned by former Special Agent Decker."

"The man whose funeral she was attending?"

"Yes, sir."

"Was Shepard alone?"

"We believe so. She ordered her security personnel off-duty, refusing to allow them to accompany her after the funeral."

"Leon, we need to keep this quiet until we know what happened. Is there any possibility this could be tied to Shepard's earlier obsession with Rene Benoit?"

"We have no way of knowing, Secretary Davenport, but my initial assessment is that there is no connection. I'll know more once we've had time to investigate further."

Dead air had Vance wondering if the SecNav had hung up, but he decided to wait for a bit longer before disconnecting. A succinct bit of profanity soon made him glad he had delayed.

"That damn woman has seriously hurt NCIS' reputation, both on the Hill as well as with her sister federal agencies. We need someone strong enough to take the reins and clean up the mess Shepard made."

"I understand, sir."

"I don't think you do, Leon. I want you to become the new Director of NCIS."

Now the dead air came from Vance's shock. "Sir, Secretary Davenport, that's … I'm honored, but considering the level of scrutiny any Directorial candidate would face, I don't think that's a good idea."

"Your record is honorable. Any discrepancies can be explained, if necessary, to those individuals with top clearance."

"It would be a crap shoot, Mr. Secretary."

"I don't think so. In fact, I think it would be a sure thing."

Vance heard Davenport chuckle.

"Are you familiar with the game of craps? Or just using that term?"

"Yes, sir, I've played it."

"Well, I want you to be my boxman. I want you to guard the chips and supervise my dealers. NCIS' house needs to be cleaned up. I need someone able to do the job and I consider you to be my optimal bet. Understand?"

"I do."

"Do you need time to consider it, talk to Jackie?"

Leon Vance didn't hesitate. "No, sir. I will accept the position and the tasks you have given me. I won't let you down, Phillip."

"See in you in the Capitol."

"Yes, sir." Vance heard the click of the phone as SecNav hung up. Glancing at his watch, he realized he had just enough time to call his wife to tell her of the pending promotion.

"Jackie? I have some news for you."

March 2010