Meet the Parents by DD Agent
I do not own NCIS or any of its characters, or its settings - all belongs to the lovely folks at CBS.
I was talking to Calliatra on the NFA forum about whether there were any fics where Jasper Shepard is actually alive, and this came out. Took me all evening to edit as it just wouldn't cooperate! Still - done now. As always, hope you enjoy!
Jenny Shepard had come in from work late, and had immediately rushed through her front door and up the stairs to get ready for the dinner date she had that evening. Work had been a nightmare - it seemed that every one of her agents were determined to anger her in some way that week, and she didn't need it on top of everything that was going on in her personal life.
Pushing open the door to her bedroom, the one that used to belong to her parents, she collapsed on the bed. Tonight was going to be a nightmare, and she truly wasn't prepared for it. Groaning, Jenny picked herself up off the bed and headed into the adjacent bathroom to take a shower. The water pounding on her shoulders helped loosen her muscles, but the growing pit of dread in her stomach stopped her from enjoying the shower in the way she needed to.
Back in her bedroom, Jenny towelled off and found the pale green dress she was wearing to dinner. She was brushing out her now dry red hair when there was a knock at her door. It swung open to reveal a man who loved her more than life itself. But sometimes she doubted his proclamations, as she still couldn't look at him without wanting to hurt him for breaking her heart.
"You look lovely," Jasper Shepard stated, looking at his all grown up daughter getting ready for their dinner out. "That necklace used to be your grandmothers."
"I know," Jenny whispered. She was having trouble with the clasp, she always did. Her father left the doorway and moved to fix it around his daughter's neck. He pressed a kiss to her cheek that Jenny tried hard not to flinch from.
Jasper noticed his daughter's resistance to him, and he moved over to her bed. The room that used to be his and his wife's looked completely different. It was warmer in the room then he remembered, and NCIS files were scattered over most of the surfaces. There were no photographs of him in the room - however there was one with her favourite NCIS team on the dresser. On her bedside table was one of her and her boyfriend.
"So? Do I pass the suitability test for tonight's dinner?" Jasper asked his daughter. He thought about dressing in his old uniform, but as he no longer held that rank he had stuck with a shirt and a dinner jacket. There was a tie sticking out of his back pocket that he would put on just before they left the house.
Jenny smiled upon seeing the tie, remembering going out for dinner with her parents as a young child. She had always stolen her father's tie out of his pocket, and he had had to chase her into his study to get it back from the adorable redheaded girl. Too much had happened between them for Jenny to bring up such an innocent memory.
"You look great, Dad," Jenny whispered, turning back to the mirror. She reached for her makeup, once again seeing her father staring at her. "Something on your mind?"
"I don't like him."
"You've met him twice, Dad. You don't know Jethro like I do."
Jasper groaned and moved up to rest his hands on his daughter's bare shoulders. "The first time I met him he pointed a gun at me. The second time he looked like he was ready to kill me with his bare hands. Doesn't exactly endear him to me, Jen."
She flinched once again, this time at the use of her abbreviated name, and Jasper Shepard gave up. He pressed a kiss to the top of her head and headed out of her room and into his own bedroom - which used to be his daughter's.
Sitting down in his bare room, only personalised by the bookshelf full of military works, Jasper sighed. He thought time would help his relationship with Jenny, that within a few months of him returning to her she would welcome him back with open arms, and it would be like old times. However, in his absence something had happened to his daughter. She had become focussed on revenge at any cost, and it had nearly cost her everything.
Once again, Jasper wondered if he had broken his daughter's soul.
Dinner was at a hotel restaurant specialised for those who had their own security detail. Jenny had been there several times to eat with friends, or to attend business meetings. She didn't tend to bring dates there unless they had their own security. She and the occasional Senator would go there, but she always turned down their invitation to go upstairs into the hotel itself.
Her security detail pulled up outside the hotel, and her father went around the other side of the car to open the door for her. The weather was still cold in June, and Jenny was wearing the coat Jethro had given her for Christmas - a touching tribute to the one she had left behind on the plane so many years ago. The tie was still in her father's back pocket.
Entering the hotel, she nodded to a few people who she recognised. Her father recognised them too; people whose positions he would have met in his former life, but would never have got the same smiles from. He was proud of what his daughter had achieved, the status she had accumulated for herself. Of course Jasper knew that a lot of the men were staring because his daughter had become a stunning public figure. However, he was determined that none of these men would get close to his daughter; he knew their type too well.
It didn't matter though, in the long run. His Jenny only had eyes for one man.
Leroy Jethro Gibbs was waiting at their table with his father, Jackson. He had never met Jackson Gibbs before, but immediately took a dislike to anyone who had spawned the man who had nearly put a bullet in him. The feeling was mutual between them, Gibbs had no love for him either and the only reason they had planned this dinner was for Jenny's sake.
"You look amazing," he heard Gibbs say to his daughter, and Jasper watched as he placed a light kiss on Jenny's cheek. Gibbs' father stood up next, and enveloped Jenny in a warm hug which she eagerly returned.
"So glad you could come Jackson. This is my father, Jasper Shepard," Jenny introduced, putting a hand on his arm.
Jackson offered his hand and Jasper reached to shake it, gripping the other man's hand tightly. He was surprised to feel such a hard handshake in return from Gibbs' father, and that loosened his opinion of the man slightly. Nothing would change his opinion of the boy, of course. He was twelve years older than his Jenny, was notoriously bad in relationships and his anger over spilled too much for Jasper Shepard's liking. Not a good man for her at all.
Jenny moved forward to the table, and while both Gibbs and Jasper were eying each other up, it was Jackson who pulled the chair out for her to sit. Jethro and Jasper sat either side of her, Jackson across from her. Considering it was supposed to be a friendly dinner to meet each other's only remaining family, everyone was turning to Jenny.
Two waiters came over and presented the table with menus. One of them stayed and asked about drink orders from the bar.
"Dad?" Gibbs asked, turning to his father.
"Beer would be nice, thank you," Jackson smiled, turning his eyes to the menu.
The waiter turned to Jenny. "And you, Director?" They knew her well.
"Scotch, and make that two."
"Bourbon, two please."
The waiter looked confused at the two different drink orders, and turned to Jenny for clarification. She was regretting the decision to put together this dinner, as it looked from the off that she would be taking sides. Out of the two drinks, she really wanted a glass of bourbon. However she knew her father would get upset by such an obvious disregard of him, and while he deserved the pain after what he had put her through, she was trying to repair their relationship. Choosing scotch was out of the question, too. Jethro would frown through the entire meal, and she would probably end up downing his glass when both men went to the bathroom anyway.
Jenny sighed. "I'll have a beer."
Conversation was varied and muffled - the only people who were really talking were her and Jackson. Jethro's hand was resting lightly on her thigh, trying to relax himself. One of her father's own hands was resting on the crook of her chair, looking downwards as if to catch Jethro doing something unspeakable to his daughter. Jenny just took another hard swallow of her third beer, this time just asking for the bottle.
"Food's here," Jethro announced and they looked to see the waiters bringing out the main course. Her lover looked uncomfortable in the hotel restaurant, but she rested her hand on top of his, squeezing. Everything would be okay.
Everyone on the table had ordered steak in various forms, with both Jenny and Jethro ordering steak au poivre. As was their custom, Jethro moved the asparagus over to Jenny's plate before she had a chance to steal it for herself. She kissed him on the cheek in thanks.
Her father looked at them dispassionately. "Steak au poivre, bourbon?" He nodded to Jethro's glass that Jenny was edging ever closer to. "Gibbs, what exactly have you got my daughter into?"
Jackson chuckled, but his son didn't see it as a joke. Jenny wished she had taken up Abby's offer to go see Blood Puppets that night instead of next Friday when they were going instead. She felt Gibbs stiffen, and she turned her head to her lover. He was trying to regroup from her father's accusations.
"When we worked together in Paris, I got her into a few bad habits," Jethro smirked, his hand moving higher on her leg when he said the word 'bad'. She pushed a couple of her nails into his hand and he backed away, smirking. Usually she had no problem with secret affection, but not when both their fathers were at the table.
Jasper Shepard coughed, and took a deep drag of his scotch. "So which wife was that between?"
"It was about four years after you faked your own suicide."
Before they could start slinging more insults at each other, Jenny stood up and rested her napkin next to her barely touched plate.
"If you'll excuse me, I need to go to the bathroom."
All three men watched as Jenny left the table and headed towards the bathroom. However, once she got to the door she took a detour and sat outside in the garden, her hands resting underneath a bench to try and steady herself. A few moments later someone sat down next to her and wrapped an arm around her shoulders. She leant into the touch, trying not to cry.
"Tonight is a disaster. I thought if they started talking then everything would be fine but it's just not going to happen. They're never going to get along."
Jackson Gibbs pressed a kiss to Jenny's temple. Meeting her for the first time, Jackson had enjoyed the look of happiness on his son's face, and he had eventually grown to love her for himself. She was family, and in that moment needed someone to talk to other than the two men who also loved her. He tried to be that someone.
"I know it's hard Jenny, but you've got to understand that both of them are just trying to stop the other from hurting you. They care too much about you."
Jenny nodded. "I know, Jackson, I get it. But too much has happened between me and my father and me and Jethro for this to be a normal relationship, a normal argument between a boyfriend and a father. I just can't take it."
There was a pause and Jackson held onto her. "You having second thoughts about things, Jenny? About Jethro?"
Jenny shook her head viciously. "No, Jackson, never. I love him. I'm just thinking about all the what ifs. I've had my father back for two years and most of that time I've spent wondering what would have happened if he had just stayed. Everything would be so different."
"How so, sweetheart?"
"I joined NCIS to catch my father's killer. If he hadn't have left, then I would have probably ended up working in an embassy somewhere, married with kids." She saw Jackson's frown and she put a hand over his to reassure him. "I love Jethro, but when we were first together I was so consumed by finding my father's killer that I gave him up. Maybe if my father had stayed and me and Jethro had still met…we could have had a family together."
"You still could."
"Jethro doesn't want to get married again. And I've come to terms with that." Jenny sighed. "Sorry for loading you with all this Jackson, you don't want to hear this."
"It's okay," Jackson replied. He put his hand under Jenny's chin to make her look at him. "Now listen to me. You can go round and round in circles about what might have happened, but it's just going to drive you crazy. Don't give up on my boy just yet, Jenny. He may surprise you."
She smiled at Jackson, who gave her a hug. "Now, how about we go back and finish dinner, hmm? I don't know about you, but they look like they've got some good desserts."
In the hotel restaurant, once Jackson had gone to make sure Jenny was alright, the two men sat, not talking at all. Jasper was not touching his food, just sipping on his third glass of scotch. Jethro was on his second glass of bourbon, trying hard to avoid his gaze.
Three years ago someone had blown up a conference where Jenny had been giving a speech. Jethro had sworn to track down the villain responsible - even going so far as to call on Rene Benoit to see if he had heard anything on his side of the bars about the attacks. All the former arms dealer could give him was that someone was going after Jasper rather than Jenny. At first Jethro had thought that Benoit had gone crazy from the time spent in prison, but that was before Jasper Shepard had turned up in his daughter's hospital room.
Gibbs had never forgiven him for faking his suicide, and for risking his daughter's life. But Jasper had stayed out of his way after that case had been resolved, and he'd never given Jasper Shepard a second thought until he had kissed his daughter in her office, unwilling to spend another moment without her. Then things had become complicated.
Finally Jasper Shepard broke the silence. "You think she's alright?"
"She'll be fine. She's tough - has had to be."
The empty glass of scotch dropped to the table. "I never meant to hurt Jenny. What I did, I did to protect her."
Jethro turned to him. "No, you did it to protect yourself because of treason charges. Don't pretend you did something honourable for her."
Jasper gestured to the waiter for another drink. "You're nowhere near good enough for her, you know that? Marine who's been divorced three times. Her employee as well."
"You think she'll ruin her life with me?" Jethro asked, wanting an honest answer from the former Colonel. He already knew what he thought; he just wanted him to say the words.
To Jethro's surprise, the man just sighed. "She loves you; I've never seen her love so hard. And if it ever came down to a choice between us, I'm under no illusions that she'd choose you. But if you ever hurt my daughter, Gibbs…heaven help you."
"Guess it's only blood relatives who are allowed to break her heart."
Both men quietened as Jenny and Jackson headed back to the table. She looked like she had been crying a little, and Jethro had to resist the urge to reach up and hold her. Jasper Shepard squeezed her shoulder as she sat back down.
"Foods getting cold," Jenny whispered, and all four of them turned to their dinner.
Piercing asparagus, Jenny turned to Jethro. He smiled at her and brushed a runaway tear from her cheek. Jasper frowned at the personal gesture, but looked at Jackson smiling at the two of them with pride. His new drink arrived, and he took a sip. He could feel Jenny slowly slipping away, no matter how hard he tried to make things right. All he wanted was not to lose her again.
Both father and boyfriend had fought to pay the bill, and in the end Jenny had covered it, rolling her eyes to a chuckling Jackson. She left the restaurant on his arm, happy that he had come to dinner. If it had just been her and the two men refusing to converse behind her, she thought she might have screamed.
Outside, one of her security detail pulled the car around. Jackson put a hand on Jasper's shoulder. "Jasper, do you want to go get a drink? Leave the two kids to it?"
Jenny looked at her father, hoping he would take up Jackson's offer. He had warmed up significantly to Jackson Gibbs over the evening, which was a good thing, even if his relationship with Jethro was still arctic. He smiled sweetly at his daughter, and turned to Jackson.
"I'd love to."
Jethro waved away the detail; they were going to walk for a bit. Jenny reached over and kissed Jackson on the cheek, before reaching up to hug and kiss her father. He clung onto her for a little longer, until eventually he let her go.
"Keep safe, Jenny."
"Semper Fi," she whispered to her father, brushing his cheek with her thumb.
Jethro hugged his father and nodded at Jasper before putting an arm around Jenny's waist and leading her down the pavement together. As they moved out of the crowded areas, Jethro's hand slipped down to hers, enjoying the time they spent just the two of them.
"You think it was a good idea leaving your father with mine?" Jenny asked, pulling Jethro to sit next to her on a bench. He wrapped an arm around her shoulders and she leant into him.
"My Dad can take care of himself. It's you I'm worried about. Do you really think having your father in the same house is good for either of you?"
Jenny put her hands on her knees. "I don't know. He's my Dad, Jethro. He's the man who held me tight after my grandmother died, the man who would chase me around the house when I stole his tie." Her face grew sad. "He's also the man who faked his own suicide and had to stop me just in time before I killed Rene Benoit. I was so close to pulling that trigger, Jethro."
"But you didn't." He smiled at her, leaning over to stroke her face. "Instead, you've got him fighting with your boyfriend." He grimaced. "I hate that word. I think I'm a little too old to be your 'boyfriend'."
Jenny nodded, moving closer to him. "You don't seem the boyfriend type, anyway. Not the type to bring me flowers and try and get on the right side of my Dad."
"No. I bring you bourbon and pull a gun on your Dad when he turns up in your hospital room."
Jenny giggled, and Jethro started to chuckle. As much as he hated to admit it, ever since Jasper Shepard had come back into Jenny's life it was as if some great weight had been lifted off of her shoulders. She smiled more, she wasn't as consumed. Jenny gripped on tighter to him, afraid of letting him go. He kissed the top of her head - she needed to realise he was never letting her go again.
"How bout fiancé? How does that sound?"
Her previous conversation with Jackson hit her hard, and she looked up to see Jethro holding a ring in the palm of his hand. He reached out for her and placed the ring on her finger, stroking the skin as he did so. He started to grin.
"I thought…you said plenty of times you'd never get married again."
He moved into kiss her. "Yeah, well I didn't think I ever would find someone to do it properly with. Then I got into work one morning; saw you standing on the catwalk and all I could think about was how much I wanted to be with you, every day for the rest of my life."
Her fingers stroked the smile she found. "Leroy Jethro Gibbs, you are a strange man."
"Yeah, so? Will you marry me?"
She giggled. "Yes."
They kissed, Jenny's hands sliding from his face to caress the back of his neck. His hand lingered on the curve of her chin as their lips overlapped, softening their approach for a gentle kiss. Jethro's other hand started on her thigh, stroking the fabric of her dress. Eventually they broke apart, her eyes sparkling. She placed another light kiss to his lips before leaning against him once more.
"You do realise that you are going to have to tell my father we're getting married. And SecNav."
Jethro looked at Jenny, toying with the curls of her hair. He didn't think he could take telling SecNav that the Agent in charge of the MCRT was going to marry the Director of NCIS. Telling her father would be a pleasure, of course, even though it could make their relationship worse than it already was. He grinned as an idea came to him. "We'll elope."
"Still need witnesses."
"Abby and Ducky."
Jenny laughed as she curled up against Jethro: the idea was tempting. She shivered a little, and he brought her closer to him. They shared another kiss before both of them stared at the engagement ring she had on her hand, neither quite believing how far they had come and how much they still loved each other after everything they had been through.
"You know, something your father said has been bugging me. He said if it came down to a choice between him and me, you'd choose me. Is that true?"
Jenny smiled before leaning in to kiss her fiancé. "Semper Fi."