This chapter is all new, written in response to readers' requests for a live and in-person Jack, not just mention of him. I hope you like what I added.
Review: Jethro has seen Jack at the Kinsey press conference. This chapter is about what happens the next day.
On the drive home the next day, Jethro's thoughts were all over the place. It had been a strange couple of days with the media pundits and people at NCIS gossiping about Kinsey and Jack, Director Morrow still pushing him to choose at least one more probie, two unwelcome phone calls from his second ex-wife, Ducky had been on one of his tangents, Abby had been in court and Tony had been in class. This time it was sensitivity training, or actually a second repeat of the class since he'd failed miserably the first two times. Gibbs had never heard of anyone failing, until Tony, that is, and he had decided that it was because the man openly, deliberately and wantonly treated women differently than men, both in the office and in the field. The instructor had been a woman the first time and a man taught the second and both had refused to sign off for DiNozzo, telling the human resources manager that he'd have to take the class again, and again if necessary. Gibbs had let it go, knowing that Tony would have to figure it out for himself and he would only get involved if the agent failed a third time.
He'd just turned onto the main side street in his neighborhood when the phone rang and he winced before pulling it out. Hoping he didn't need to go back to the Navy Yard or to a crime scene, Gibbs glared at the display and grumbled, "Aw hell," before answering, just knowing it was the FBI or CIA or somebody calling from a restricted line in a different agency.
"Yeah, GIBBS," he barked as a green Jeep sped around him.
"Hey Jethro, it's Jack O'Neill. You hungry?"
Gibbs smiled because it wasn't the FBI or CIA calling. It was Jack, which both surprised and pleased him. The man sounded good, and yes, he was hungry. He'd thought about stopping to get something, but then he had decided to warm up leftover chili when he got home.
"Starving," he admitted honestly. "What do you have in mind?"
"You're almost home so I'll come to you," Jack stated good naturedly.
What? How did Jack know that he was almost home? It wasn't a rookie mistake; nobody had been following him. Maybe Jack was pulling his leg.
Jack filled in the blanks before Gibbs responded. "Jethro. It's been 22 minutes since you left the Navy Yard. I know that because I just missed you there."
Gibbs chuckled, "Okay." He heard Jack sigh through the phone and he grinned, knowing that his friend was getting a kick out of tailing him.
"I was four cars back when you turned off. There are no food places between that corner and your house."
Jack didn't say anything else for a few seconds while Gibbs was busy thinking and glancing in his rear view mirror. How had he not noticed the vehicle with him the entire way? And where was Jack now? Damn, he'd been preoccupied or he was slipping, but that didn't explain where the mystery car was now.
Jack announced enthusiastically, "See you in a few. I'm bringing food."
Jethro wouldn't expect him to talk. He would ask questions, but he wouldn't push or try to force responses. And the man was an excellent listener, knowing when to stay quiet and just be a friend. The arrest and incarceration had been brutal, and after his release he had looked forward to getting home and resuming missions throught the stargate. Unfortunately, Kinsey, the Joint Chiefs and even the President had had other ideas and Jack had returned to D.C. so the public and the press could see him and Kinsey together. And as long as he was in the District, Hammond had arranged for him to attend some other meetings. Jack was tired and as long as he couldn't get out of D.C. until later the second night, he wanted good company, his kind of company.
Gibbs dipped his chicken strip in the honey mustard sauce and then took a generous bite. It was tender and juicy with just the right amount of crunch and he chewed eagerly. His stomach was feeling pretty comfortable, but everything was so good that he wasn't ready to stop eating. He dipped the last of the chicken strip in buffalo sauce and popped it into is mouth. He loved Chick-Fil-A. Smiling, he watched his friend snag the last whole waffle fry and dip it into ketchup before munching on it. He didn't mind that Jack had taken it because he had eaten plenty already, and there were still a few pieces and crumbs left. The man had brought a feast from the Chick-Fil-A and feast was not an understatement: Double order of Chicken-n-Strips, big box of chicken nuggets, double order of waffle potato fries, double large carrot and raisin salad, large coleslaw and a whole lemon pie. Jack had announced that it was cheaper to buy the whole pie than four slices, and it would stay good frozen for a while.
Sipping his beer, Gibbs leaned back into his chair and looked at his friend, who was taking a bite of pie. He appeared tired and a little pale, and the slightly yellow-greenish shadows on his jaw, neck and hands were easily noticeable as he twirled his fork in the yellow filling like a kid. Jack was an imposing figure which made Gibbs wonder about his injuries, so he stated casually, "Those are some impressive bruises," and he saw Jack's jaw clench, his shoulders tighten, and if the fork in his hand had been plastic, it would have snapped into pieces.
Knowing he'd hit a nerve, or two or three, and suddenly regretting it, Gibbs spoke quickly to reassure his friend. "Don't worry. They aren't that noticeable."
It was a fib, but he was feeling bad that he'd mentioned the bruises, which had to be a few days old since they were no longer blue, black or purple. Jack put down his fork, shifted his backside around in the chair and looked right at Jethro like he knew what he was going to ask. Jack wasn't stupid. In fact he was far from it and he probably did know, so Gibbs went ahead and asked, "Who?" The question was generic, sort of, but Gibbs knew it had to have been military or civilian police, FBI, other prisoners, jail guards or the secret organization that hadn't let him visit Jack in the D.C. jail.
Dropping his gaze, Jack half sighed and tugged his shirt collar up around the front of his neck. When he was satisfied with that he pulled the cuffs of his shirt sleeves down to cover his wrists a little more and it was then that Gibbs noticed he wasn't wearing a watch. Jack had always worn a watch. The silence between them stretched for a bit and Gibbs waited. There wasn't any rush. He put a fork full of carrot salad into his mouth and chewed, relishing the crunch and sweetness while Jack sat, silent, but not still. One of his feet lightly tapped the table leg a few times, then stopped before starting again. Jack had been under a lot of stress and it was showing, and when he still hadn't replied or gone back to eating his dinner after what seemed like a couple of minutes, Gibbs changed the subject. Sort of.
"I would have put money on you being on the first plane out after that press conference." He had been surprised when Jack had called him and even more surprised to learn that he was still in the area.
Jack's shoulders relaxed and he murmured, "Yeah," as he closed his eyes for several seconds. Gibbs recognized the technique and waited for him to push back the memories. Finally, he saw Jack's lids open and his gaze lifted to reveal eyes so dark that they were almost black instead of brown.
Barely above a whisper, Jacl said, "I know you tried to see me... at the.. ," but he couldn't get out the word jail.
Locked up for days, accused of a crime he hadn't committed, beaten up, and who knew what else? Gibbs couldn't blame him and he dipped his head once in acknowledgment before taking a bite of his own piece of lemon pie. It was still half frozen, smooth and delicious. Licking the fork, he waited. Jack wasn't finished, but he also wasn't one to spew, and there wasn't any hurry. Gibbs knew why Jack had come to see him. They were different, but so alike.
"I wasn't allowed visitors," Jack admitted, then added, "Not anyone I wanted to see anyway."
Gibbs had known that Jack had been kept in segregation, but he had been held by civilian authority, not military, so why after arraignment would they have restricted his visitors? And under whose authority?
"How'd they do that?" And then realizing he was going to repeat a question that Jack hadn't answered, Gibbs asked anyway. It was the same, yet different. "Who did that?" He knew Jack either didn't know or did know and wouldn't tell him, but he asked anyway.
Sometimes the truth, or something close to the truth was the easiest way to answer a question and still keep a secret... secret. Jack looked like he had a bad taste in his mouth when he replied, "An organization that answers to the Senate Oversight Committee," and Gibbs knew that the look wasn't from the lemon pie or anything else he'd eaten.
Jethro stared at him, at his features and in his eyes, trying to decide if it was the truth, and he decided that it was, but Jack hadn't answered the how. Or Gibbs decided, maybe he had. Robert Kinsey had been Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee and when he was 'dead' it made sense that his fellow senators would flex their muscles. And they had a long reach, probably into secret organizations and they probably had ties to other groups, powerful groups that most people had never heard about. And he hadn't yet considered political corruption. He wasn't going to get anymore information from his friend, at least not right then so Gibbs had to decide, and it took himhalf a second to accept Jack's answer.
With dishes washed and leftovers, and there weren't a lot of them, in the refrigerator upstairs, Gibbs and his guest were downstairs in the basement with comfortably full stomachs. So comfortably full that they didn't want beer or anything else. They had perched themselves on stools in the stillness of the dungeon, staring at the unfinished wooden boat displayed under the soft lighting.
Jack asked in an approving way, "What are you going to call this one?"
"Don't know yet." Gibbs discreetly studied his friend, glad to see that he had relaxed. It was time to get him talking a bit more. Not a lot more, but it wouldn't hurt for him to open up a little. Gibbs knew that Jack probably couldn't tell him much about what had actually happened in the Kinsey shooting, but he could get him talking about other things.
"What have you been doing since that thing yesterday?" Even Gibbs couldn't say press conference or bring up Kinsey's name. The man appeared to be smarmy and if Jack didn't like him or trust him, then that was good enough for him.
Fiddling with the sand paper on the block in his hand, Jack took a while to respond. He silently composed the litany in his head and started with, "Pentagon."
He brushed the rough surface against the palm of his hand several times and said, "White House."
He set down the sanding block and picked up a chisel, saying, "Gym."
He turned the chisel over and over and then end to end, looking at it closely and admitted, "Slept."
The chisel went down on the bench as he looked for something else, and grumbled, "Pentagon."
Selecting a plane, he examined the 25 degree angle and carefully readjusted the cutting depth, before quipping, "Smithsonian."
Gibbs tossed a big scrap piece of wood over to Jack, who placed it onto the bench with the plane on top of it. He glanced at Jethro and joked, "More Smithsonian," before muttering, "It's a big place."
Then he pushed the tool across the wood block a dozen times, mesmerized by the curled wood shavings and declared, "Firing range."
Turning over the block, he did the same to the opposite side. Then breaking up the ribbons of wood with his fingers, Jack beamed, "Followed you."
They spent the next hour working on the boat, engaging in very little small talk, and soon it was time for Jack to leave. He said he had to return the staff car and catch a flight, and on the way up the stairs from the basement, which took much longer than going down, Gibbs teased, "Your knees are making a lot of 'not so good' grinding noises, Jack."
Chuckling, Jack quipped back, "Between your bad knee, Jethro, and both of mine, I think it was stereo."
Gibbs cracked up laughing, pleased that his friend seemed much more relaxed than when he had arrived.
"Hey wait, you need a snack for the plane. You should take some of those leftovers."
"Naw, you keep 'em. I'll be fine and home before you know it."
When Gibbs laid down to sleep that night he thought about Jack and wondered if his flight had left on time. The plane would still be in the air with arrival scheduled at about 1:30AM in Colorado. Before drifting off to sleep, Jethro whispered "I miss you guys" for Shannon and Kelly, and "Take care of yourself" for Jack. The two men didn't talk often and saw each other even less, but their friendship was solid.
Above Colorado Springs, Jack was waiting for Thor to set the coordinates. It took only a few seconds and he barely had time to utter, "Tha..." before he was deposited into his living room. Thor appeared a few seconds later, his hologram shimmering.
"You spoke, O'Neill?"
Jack grinned. "I did." Gazing at his Asgard friend, knowing that the little alien wouldn't be so patient much longer, he repeated, "Thanks for the ride."
"You are welcome, O'Neill." And then the little guy's hologram winked out.
An hour later, before drifting off to sleep, Jack whispered, "I miss you, Sport," for Charlie, "I owe you, Buddy," for Thor and "Take care of yourself" for Jethro.
Okay, that's it. I hope this turned out alright for those of you who wanted Jack. Thanks very much for reading and please review.