A/N: Welcome to another of my literary puns that includes fun with Jibbs. Why does the caged redhead sing, indeed?
Simle plot: There is a threat to Jenny's life. Jethro and a merry band of agents protect her. Sinister things happen. Unforseen things as well. Story ends. I'm back.
"Her Feet are Tied" [One]
The Director of NCIS sighed pointedly.
In the front seat of the armored black suburban, two suited agents, Special Agent Stan Kowalski and Special Agent Sydney Carton, gave each other brief, uncomfortable/apprehensive looks. Things boded well for no one—particularly them—when the headstrong redhead started vocalizing her opinion via loaded sighs.
Said redhead, quite sharply aware of her surroundings, did not miss the look her protection detail shared, and was sure to focus a narrow, rude glare on them unbeknownst to them before she returned to re-arranging the dates and appointments on her fashionable PDA.
Jennifer Shepard was currently not speaking to either of the big guys she usually got on pretty well with. Aside from the fact that they more often than not attempted to treat her like an intelligence-challenged five-year-old, she rather liked Carton and Kowalski and referred to them frequently by their given names.
At this point in time, though, the bastards had forsaken that honor in favor of overreacting. Meaning: She had been packing up her things neatly, eager to get home and relax in her study, when the two of them had calmly informed her that, in light of recent security breaches and an increase of threats, she was not allowed at her own house and was being transported to a safe house for the time being.
To say she was displeased with this turn of events was like saying World War two was just a little skirmish. She failed to see why, simply because a few people didn't like her assertive anti-terrorism programs and vocals on Capitol Hill, she had to be uprooted from her very likeable residence and sequestered away.
Thus, she sat stiffly and silently in the back seat after being quite nearly dragged from the NCIS premises, PDA in hand, blackberry on her knee, fuming wordlessly and refusing to speak. She couldn't even see out the damn windows of this…hearse.
Hmm. Perhaps hearse was an overdramatic description.
Regardless. She was being forced to postpone meetings, cancel lunches, and push back budget negotiations just because there happened to have been a security breach in which someone had sent a recorded tape to her security team and described to them exactly what she was doing in her house while she was doing it.
Jenny tried not to consider the fact that the aforementioned occurrence had in fact occurred once a day for a week, and it was starting to make her uneasy. She preferred to ignore the feeling of fear that sent chills down her spine and growl about the overprotective situation she was being trapped in.
She scoffed quietly under her breath, and noticed Kowalski and Carton exchange another apprehensive look.
They were going to die if they kept doing that as if she didn't notice.
"We can feel your animosity, Director," Carton announced suddenly.
"I am very glad my efforts to make you feel disliked are not going unrewarded," she responded icily.
"It is for your own safety, Ma'am," he attempted.
"That, Agent Carton, is what I have a gun for."
"A gun won't help you if some maniac blows up your house," Kowalski remarked mildly.
"What would we do without the almighty genius of your input, Stan?" snapped Jenny.
"She's in a bad mood," Kowalski remarked solemnly to Carton. Carton grinned. Jenny glared at them, raining down silent curses upon their heads as they attempted to lighten the atmosphere. Humor was going to get them nowhere. The two smug idiots simultaneously refused to tell her to which safe house she was being taken and deprived her of a peaceful evening reading over mission reports in her luxurious bath.
She glanced up through her eyelashes, closing the calendar on her PDA. She crossed her legs rigidly and eyed the back of Kowalski's head suspiciously.
"Do you have reason to believe someone is going to incinerate my house?" she asked through gritted teeth. The offhand comment concerned her. She had heard no threats to turn her house into a mushroom cloud, but if they had, she'd like to be prepared.
"Now that we have your fearful attention…" began Carton wryly.
Jenny narrowed her eyes.
"The two of you are infantile," she decided in a growl, turning her nose up and her eyes towards the darkly tinted windows. She compressed her lips and squinted, trying to discern where they were going. She was having a hard time doing so, considering the ridiculous tint, and gave a small noise of discontent.
Kowalski and Carton had barely given her time to throw a toothbrush in a bag before they ushered her away from her house, leaving her third security man—usually the one on the prowl at night—Robbie Turner to lurk around her house for a while.
She was used to threats. Every high profile government official got them. Receiving them via detailed recording of her activities was daunting, but she loathed being sheltered in this way and she despised the idea of anyone thinking she was hiding.
It also annoyed her that whoever was behind this had not only pulled off leaving no forensic evidence on his tapes, envelopes, or stamps, but had apparently managed to observe her doings in her brownstone right under the nose of the very security guards who claimed to be protecting her.
The fading daylight outside was negatively contributing to her ability to see where they were heading, and after a moment, she broke her silence, unable to stomach being kept in the dark (literally and figuratively) about her temporary residence any longer.
"Where exactly is this safe house, if I may ask?" she inquired tightly.
"It's best if we don't disclose the exact location."
"Dammit, Kowalski," she growled.
"For your safety, Director," Carton repeated, for the five millionth time today.
"And if I get lost on the way there because no one will tell me where it is?"
"Don't be silly, ma'am, one of us will be driving you at all times."
It seemed as if they'd been driving for half an hour, but knowing those two, they had simply taken some odd, unique route to be safe, or just drive around for a few minutes so she wouldn't guess a location. She knew any drive anywhere in DC pretty impressively well.
Her two goons fell silent, until Kowalski muttered something affirmative and the car slowed as they turned into a driveway. Jenny narrowed her eyes pointedly, still attempting to make out her surroundings.
"Why didn't you just blindfold me?" she asked balefully, almost under her breath.
"We can't have too much fun on the job, it's against the rules," Carton responded cheerily. Both of them unbuckled, Kowalski killed the engine, and their doors opened in tandem as they got out.
Jenny undid her own seatbelt and waited stubbornly in the backseat. They tended to get antsy if she tried to let herself out of the car. Sighing tiredly, Jenny brushed a few stray hairs from her forehead and swallowed, desperately wishing she had the chance to just curl up in her own familiar bed.
Carton opened the door and Kowalski glanced around on the other side importantly.
Jenny lifted her head and took in her what she could see of her surroundings.
Her eyes narrowed, her mouth went dry, and her heart pretty much refused to continue beating once she realized the house they had brought her to contained a bed that was probably about as familiar as her own was.
She shook her head and froze, turning threatening a look on the bodyguards.
"You have got to be kidding me."
It was no secret to Leroy Jethro Gibbs that high profile jobs came with threats and security issues. That threats against Jenny had escalated to the point of this kind of seriousness angered him, even in light of their somewhat precariously cordial relationship.
When Agent Kowalski and Agent Carton had informed him of what was going on, he had immediately set Abby on the tapes and any letters/e-mails that may be connected with them. As irritating as it was that Jenny was on her high horse twenty-four-seven, he did not want anyone to shoot her down.
Her security team had decided it was best she be kept from her house for the next few days so they could strip it down, search for bugs, and install a fancy guard system, in the meantime hopefully making leeway on the case of who the hell was watching her so closely.
They wanted her close to work, somewhere familiar and easily accessible, and somewhere safe that would require no extra vetting. That was precisely why Gibbs had spent two hours of his work morning going over security details and contingency plans for his house.
Therefore, he was expecting Agent Kowalski when the man walked down the basement stairs and cleared his throat.
Gibbs paused in sanding and looked up, eyeing the other agent carefully.
"The Director refuses to get out of the car," Kowalski announced bluntly.
Gibbs prevented himself from grinning. How original of Jen to simply refuse to get out of the car because she didn't want to be here. As tense as things had been between them since she landed the job as Director, Gibbs couldn't help but relish the idea of being in charge of a captive Jenny Shepard.
He gave a shrug.
"Lock her in."
Gibbs glared at Kowalski pointedly.
"Do I stutter?"
Kowalski stared at him, giving Agent Carton time to hop halfway down the stairs.
"She threatened to castrate me again," he muttered to his partner.
Gibbs snorted under her breath.
"Agent Gibbs wants us to lock her in the SUV," Kowalski informed Carton solemnly. Carton looked at Gibbs with surprise. Gibbs continued sanding as if nothing odd was going on.
"That won't make her come out," Carton said. "It will just piss her off."
"It's November," Gibbs growled. "It's cold. She'll freeze, and she'll want out," he said calmly, fairly positive Jenny would not hold out longer than ten minutes if they locked her in with leather-interior in Washington DC's winter.
Carton grinned. The agents traipsed back up the stairs dutifully.
Gibbs turned away from the boat and poured a mason jar of bourbon.
It was going to be a long 'unspecified amount of time'.
She felt it was very underhanded and rude to freeze her into agreeing to coming inside Gibb's house.
Regardless of how she felt about it, she was here, perched on his living room couch like someone's errant teenage daughter, while Gibbs stared at her and Kowalski and Carton outlined her rules for the next few days.
She hoped they were having fun pretending they were secret service agents. She was busy ignoring them while she glared through narrowed eyes at her former partner, ex-lover, and the general bane of her NCIS existence.
He was enjoying this way too much. Sure, he was glaring at her with that no-nonsense, spooky, bad ass glare, and yes, he looked stern and foreboding, but she knew that behind those icy blue eyes he was laughing his ass off while she was plotting to personally kick it.
These so-called security precautions were ridiculous. They didn't want her out past midnight. They wanted her in contact with as few people as possible. They wanted her—
"What?" she asked sharply, turning a fearsome glare on Agent Carton.
"Your blackberry, Director. We want to see if it's been tapped. You can have it back when it's cleared."
"How long is that going to take, Sydney?" she asked, lifting her eyebrows. He better have a very good answer.
"Forty-eight hours at the most."
"We've told Miss Sciuto to put a rush on it, as you need it—"
"I certainly do need it," Jenny interrupted tightly. "Perhaps you haven't noticed that I run a federal agency via my blackberry. I can be reached on it—and only on it—by several high ranking government officials including the President. Now. Would you care to run your demand by me again?"
She glared at Carton. He glanced at Agent Kowalski and then gave her a small shrug.
"I still have to take it from you."
Jenny grit her teeth unhappily and stiffly handed over her precious sleek blackberry, biting her tongue as Kowalski took it and promptly placed a much more primitive cellular device in her palm.
She arched an eyebrow.
"Are you mocking me, Stan?"
"No ma'am," he answered seriously, smirking just a little. "That's a burn phone. A select few people have the number. Do not make calls on it or give the number out. It is solely to communicate with us should an issue arise—"
"I am familiar with the function of burn phones. I became very cozy with them in my undercover work."
Carton nodded curtly.
"Do you have any questions, ma'am?" he asked curiously.
She gave him a look.
"Actually, don't answer that," Kowalski said wryly, inclining his head. He exchanged a look with Gibbs and moved away. "Carton and I are going to settle for the night in our positions. She's all yours, Agent Gibbs."
Gibbs nodded, starting forward to follow them out. He paused, off the right of Jenny, planted near her as he watched the bodyguards leave.
"Cronies," Jenny called mildly, running her thumb over the phone she'd been given. She looked up, intending to look back at them, but she caught Gibbs' eye instead, and was hooked.
"I do have one question. Did Robbie find anything at my house?" she posed offhandedly, her eyes on Gibbs. She tried to ignore the chill that scrambled up her spine and all under her skin when she thought of how invasively the tapes implied she'd been watched lately.
There was the briefest hesitation from her two well-meaning goons. Then:
"No. Not yet."
She nodded, and swallowed, her eyes still on Gibbs. She heard them leave, and she was still staring at him even after they were left alone.
Stuck in this house, with him whom she'd left so abruptly and so underhandedly six years ago, she had a hard time deciding if she'd rather be watched by his hard eyes or the eyes of some unknown stalker.
Leroy Jethro Gibbs answered curtly to affirm he was aware of the statement, and hung up his cell phone, tossing it amongst his tools and mason jars. He eyed his Sig Sauer possessively and turned back to the boat; listening to his Director's muted footsteps above him.
Trust Jenny Shepard to have been Director for all of three months and since piss someone off so royally that they were attempting to kill her. Hell, even presidents usually went a few years.
He paused in driving a nail into the hull of his boat when he heard her start down the stairs. He had to admit; he was surprised she'd opt to seek him out. Since the outcome of Paris, he'd chalked her up to being a woman who avoided difficult situations.
"Lonely, Jen?" he drawled when she'd made it about half-way down. He felt her scowl hit the back of his head and smirk.
"Your guest room smells like mothballs," she informed him snippily. "Do you ever make use of it or are you just that unpopular?"
"I like to think it's the unpopular one," he responded casually, setting his hammer down nonchalantly.
She muttered something under her breath and looked around, coming forward, crossing her arms across her chest. She wore jeans and a fitted sweatshirt, and her hair was wet from a shower and swept up in a twist.
He only glanced at her from the corner of his eye. He noted she seemed to still be comfortable around him in disarray. She wore no make-up.
She eyed a stool reluctantly and then rolled her eyes and sat down with a frustrated sigh.
"Spare some alcohol?" she asked bitterly.
"You need it too?" he returned in the same tone, slinging a mason jar towards him with two fingers and filling it for her. It was so habitual. He had no idea what was going through her mind; he was just doing his job.
When the Director's security told him to protect her because he knew her better, he couldn't say no. They figured he'd be able to anticipate any escape moves she might try.
His remark seemed to subdue her. She looked at him and then looked away, just staring at the workbench.
It was undeniably uncomfortable. The two of them had barely managed to carry on a civil, unloaded conversation since she'd taken up the post as Director. They had unfinished business. Their affair in Europe had been quick and intense, and the emotions had run deep, but her misguided attempt to 'do no harm' in breaking it off "clean" had damaged them both.
She knew Gibbs was best to put in charge of her protection. She just didn't want to be around him.
She looked over hesitantly to watch him work, fingering the mason jar.
"Any new details on the Strahle cas—"
"Huh-uh," he interrupted abruptly.
"Basement is a no-case zone," he informed her gruffly.
She arched an eyebrow, and scoffed.
"Since when?" she challenged, remembering quite a few nights they'd knocked around strategy down here before they'd gone on their Op.
"Since I figured mixing business and pleasure was a bad idea," he answered.
She narrowed her eyes, and bit down on her lip.
The words hurt, even if he had a right to them. This was why she'd rather be anywhere but here. Her pride was too great to allow her to be humble, but the look in his eyes sometimes made her feel like the lowest of low.
"Learned that from you, Jen," he remarked coolly.
"Jesus Jethro, tell me how you really feel," she snapped, slamming her jar down. She had been in the process of taking a drink.
His head jerked in her direction and he gave her a stony gaze.
"You sure as hell didn't hesitate."
She glared at him. Of all the things from him, she had not expected this. She wondered how long he had bottled this up, or if he had simply been waiting for her to bring it up first. She didn't think he wanted to talk about it, at any rate. He just wanted her to hurt.
She grit her teeth and downed the entire small jar of bourbon, hardly even blinking at the sting. She'd never admit to him it was the first glass she'd had since the last glass they shared.
"I hesitated for six months," she snapped suddenly, standing up. She made sure he looked back at her, and looked surprised. "And when I stopped hesitating, you made a joke of it," she hissed.
He gave her an impassive, narrow look.
"Goodnight, Jethro," she said icily.
He turned toward the booth and braced his arms up on it, looking down at the wood.
That'll be the day.
He flinched, and pushed away from the boat when he heard the stairs creak under her feet. He made a decision, and jogged up next to her, touching her shoulder as he moved past.
"You don't have to sleep in that room," he said shortly. Kelly's old room had a bathroom, anyway, and she'd be more at ease if she didn't have to go back and forth in the hall to get ready in the mornings.
He hadn't wanted to put her in there, but she was right. That old guest room hadn't been used in years and he wasn't the type to keep it clean for the hell of it; he left Kelly's door open when no one was in the house, and he spent time in her old room sometimes.
He showed her into the bigger room, a room that had once been a nursery, and then an eight-year-old's imaginary wonderland, and was now just a white-painted room with a bed and some furniture and a wide window.
She looked around.
"I've never been in here," she remarked.
"Never had a reason," he said. "You always slept with me," he added.
She remained silent for a minute, and then glanced at him, lifting a brow. She smiled through a bitten lip.
"Are you going to make some joke about me sleeping with you tonight?" she asked.
"Didn't think it'd be funny," he answered with a shrug. "I'll get your stuff."
He left her feeling guilty, and brought back her leather bag a moment later, clutching her ID and her keys and a few other trinkets in his other hand. He placed them on the bed.
"Where's your Sig, Jenny?" he asked sharply, examining the lack of gun among her belongings.
She silently pulled up the hem of her sweatshirt and turned slightly. It was tucked into the small of her back, snug in her jeans. He nodded approvingly.
"I'm in the basement," he said gruffly, removing himself from the room. She noticed he avoided adding 'if you need anything'. He was avoiding a snarky remark.
Jethro left the door cracked, allowing her to choose whether she wanted it shut at her own discretion. He prowled down the hall, listening alertly, until he reached his front door. He opened it and stepped onto the dark porch, making sure Agents Kowalski and Carton were at their posts.
He was unsure if Agent Turner had returned as of yet.
He went back inside, shut the door, and in an unprecedented motion, locked his door.
If you are as obsessed with lit-er-ah-ture as I am, then, given the names of Jenny's three guards, you maybe be able to discern the character traits of each of them, and what part they may play as the mystery unfolds-and perhaps you won't even fall for the twist.